Sunday, January 26, 2014


Well, what seemed like a good snow year shaping up around Christmas has turned into what the Wasatch Weather Weenies just called the "winter of our discontent." Still, there's been enough snow around for decent skiing (much more than in, say, Montana or California, which has seen an epic drought), and none of the Wasatch races had to be canceled or moved. My second and final race of the season was a 10K classic. (Classic means kicking and gliding in the tracks — the old-school style of skiing that most people erroneously assume still dominates the sport today. In most people's heads, it's still 1960 ...)

Thanks to two gurus a training session with Laurie's masters' group, and waxing guidance from Gary — I had a good race. In fact, it turns out that, all along, I was meant to be a classic specialist, just like Kris Freeman. I was really looking forward to concentrating only on heart rate, not time; I blew up in the first race by stupidly getting my heart rate into the 160s on the first lap and never dialing it back. So the plan this time around was to do the first half in the 150s and only then throw down the hammer. Only problem is ... a few days before the race, after 6 years, I finally lost my cherished Garmin 405, my most trusted and wonderful companion after J. Rest in peace mint green 405. So I had no choice but to go out and just ski reasonably hard and let the chips fall. I didn't manage to ski as fast as Gary, but for the first time ever, I beat Dru and Paul, which I take as a significant accomplishment. (I mean, Paul's son in a junior national Nordic Combined skier, so those are some serious genes.) During the race I couldn't tell where I was in my age group, and I thought I had a shot at a medal when I learned at the finish line that the pack I chased unsuccessfully the last 4k was full of 30-somethings ... but in the end it was 4th place for me. But it felt great to be back on the age-group podium bubble -- without any back pain. 

Obviously a 4th place age group finish called for some beers, and as luck would have it, the night after the race (and after our Kuchenpause) was guys' cabin night. What could me more manly that drinking 11 percent beer in front of taxidermy (and a great barley wine in Cockeyed Cooper at that)?

Except maybe sharing salads beforehand with a bunch of Utah 3.2 beers?

Apologies, Cedar, for an old joke, but that's some sweet radicchio. 

By the time we rolled into the nearby town the next morning for our espressos we were seasoned badasses.

 Hide the women and children.

Soon thereafter it was time to head back — as in back to Kansas. It's good to be back in the land of 60 degrees at 3 pm + 40 mile per hour winds come through = 7 degrees the next morning (which is what's happening as I type). Of course, Manhattan always takes some getting used to after breaks. It's not many places where college students sit in coffee shops and, seriously (Jane, I feel like using CAPS), stream Fox News while simultaneously reading Reagan, In his Own Hand. I mean, who could make that up? I almost had visual evidence, but he started reading his Reagan book just before I snapped the photo. I had no chance to ask him about the consumption function. 

And you thought I was partisan. Anyone out there make a point of watching Rachel Maddow while reading Paul Krugman [no, the equivalent would be a intellectual lightweight liberal politician, so let's say LBJ) when they hit a coffee house?

Speaking of the need to mitigate hyper and over-the-top partisanship, thank you to everyone who has Facebook liked my friend and office-mate Jim Sherow's congressional exploratory page. If you haven't liked his page, I promise he won't spam you with lots of content, so click here. If you can afford to donate, go here. And if you want to read more about Jim, please read my previous entry

The above isn't going to win any entry of the year awards, so I think I'll leave you with a guaranteed crowd pleaser: one of the best-ever photos of Gigi. I dare you not to be in a better mood now.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's Not the Matter With Kansas

Well, it's not every day that your officemate may run for Congress. (Ok, we don't sit side by side, but we share a two-office suite with the same front door, and Jim has to walk through my office to get to his.) More specifically, my friend and colleague Jim Sherow has formed an exploratory committee to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from the First Congressional District of Kansas, the massive district in green below. Time to get the truck an oil change.
The Kansas First is currently "represented" by Tim Huelskamp, one of the most die-hard Tea Partiers in Congress. Huelskamp is so radical (he has a ZERO rating from Americans for Democratic Action) that the House Republican leadership recently kicked him off the Agricultural Committee (and mind you, the Kansas First is, by some measures, the largest agricultural producing congressional district in the nation). He's one of those Tea Partiers who vowed to find a way to shut down the government ... even after the compromise was reached to reopen it. The Boston Globe reported:

"Huelskamp, a two-term Republican congressman, is known, more than anything else, as a major irritant in Congress — a stubborn, hard-headed opponent of just about everything except bigger budget cuts. He’s so unwilling to compromise that even House ­Republicans removed him from his high-profile committee assignments. Huelskamp embodies the new intransigence that has invaded Washington, making it almost impossible to cut deals, bringing the capital to a grinding halt."

January 29 update: after the State of the Union address, Huelskamp called the president "lawless" and a "dictator." Charming.

Putting aside how poisonous radical lawmakers like Huelskamp are, Jim would be a great Congressman. Now, it's a given that this is a biased entry. After all, I wouldn't have agreed to share close quarters with Jim if I didn't think he was a great guy (hmm, then again, many in the K-State history department have windowless offices, unlike ours, so maybe I would have regardless ...). But let me just state that Jim is one of the most decent and honest people that I know. You know the type ... the kind of guy who annoyingly won't use an office envelope to pay a personal bill. (Put another way, I don't think as Mayor of Manhattan he ordered any traffic jam-ups in his detractors' neighborhoods). He also knows more about agriculture and water the great issues facing western and central Kansas than just about anybody I know. And nobody nobody loves Kansas any more than he does. Which doesn't mean that he romanticizes the place. I don't think he ever did, given that his grandfather's general store in a small KS town failed before he was ever born.

Jim's a true moderate, politically and temperamentally. If he runs, the Tea Party will of course try to paint him as a leftist, but he's essentially a Progressive in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt (whom he famously portrayed, pictured here, at the reopening of Manhattan's historic Union Pacific Depot).

In other words, Jim believes that business is, most of the time, a wonderful force for making us richer and happier, but that it also needs various checks. He understands, like T.R., that conserving natural resources is one of the key engines of economic growth. Socially, he's quite old-fashioned in some ways, but he also has the libertarian streak of an Air Force radio operator turned 1970s bartender in Wyoming (don't think T.R. ever did that). 

Obviously this is an uphill battle. East coasters reading this might consider the Kansas First the ultimate flyover country, and might not be able to name a single city in the district besides Manhattan. (If you like Wyatt Earp movies, Dodge City is in the district.) We're a district over from the Koch Brothers in Wichita, but, needless to say, they still have lots of influence around here. Still, Jim has several things going for him, besides his basic decency and intelligence and competence. Huelskamp is a very unpopular representative hence the "Anybody but Huelskamp" signs appearing in western Kansas. I'm also not convinced that he supports the Constitution; at the least, he's confused about property and contract rights. Last time I checked, free speech was protected in this country, and people had the right to protest and make a stink and say unpopular things and take their business where they want to. But remarkably, one of Huelskamp's recent mailers complains that "ideological opponents of traditional marriage and the family are targeting conservative businesses, such as Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, with boycotts and negative publicity." Oh no you mean people chose where to spend their money ... and gasp publicized what they believed in?!!

Make no mistake Jim needs your help. As one of the astronauts said in The Right Stuff, "No bucks, no Buck Rodgers." I can't seem to embed the clip from The Right Stuff, but click here for it, and perhaps Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maquire will do just as well:

I don't need to tell you that the incumbent is going to raise more money than Jim, and if we want to build national momentum and press, we need to raise a lot of money early in the game. Please visit and please consider donating.

Also, if you are on Facebook, please like the campaign page here:

To progressives across the country, if you have that nagging sensation that liking groups and causes on Facebook isn't quite enough (but please like Jim's page ...), here's a chance to contribute to something concrete and interesting and exciting in a random part of the country. And please let me make a special appeal here to the independents, liberal Republicans, and moderate Republicans reading this. If you, like 80% of Americans, oppose the Tea Party, and are sick and tired of the excessive partisanship in Washington, and the fact that blue areas are becoming bluer, and red areas redder, then here's your chance to take a stand for the center. Let's take back this office -- for all Kansans and all Americans ... and so I can have my own office all to myself. Thanks for your time and help. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Down the Drainage

Over the weekend J and John and Brian and Katie and I headed for a relaxing ski-/snowshoe-in weekend in an undisclosed yurt in an undisclosed Utah mountain range.

We had two options for reaching the yurt: a) skiing on a closed and pretty much idiot-proof road or b) a short pleasant ski on a trail followed by a long bushwhack up a creek drainage. Needless to say, we chose the latter. Humans are incorrigible optimists, and thus, regardless of how many times in the past John had turned a pleasant stroll into a white-knuckle adventure, we trusted him when he wrote in an email just before we left:

"I'm not seeing a coffee shop in XXX ... how about let's meet at 1:00 PM at the bridge where XXX Highway crosses the XXX? This should get us to the yurt before dark with plenty of margin for error."

Flash forward, pictured here, to said margin of error circa 6:30 p.m. Friday (hint: we haven't arrived at the yurt yet): 

I'm all for the time-honored tradition of finding a supreme and properly short pre-trail espresso, but maybe instead of worrying about that we should have spent a little time with the map. 

But actually, if you're wondering why we seem so happy in the above photo, this is because it captured the best moment of the trip: the instant when we reached the path on the way to the yurt and thus finally knew for sure that we weren't going to spend the night in the woods walking 50 minutes per hour to prevent frostbite (says the guy who has already had frostbite). John was so happy that he shotgunned a beer before proceeding. Let's just say that we had a little more adventure than we bargained for.

The afternoon had started out with a beautiful ski. Though maybe, as shown by his expression here in the parking lot, John might have had a sense things would go awry from the outset.

After a mile or so of actually kicking and gliding it was time to leave the trail and switch from skis to snowshoes. No problem so far, especially after a WheatThinspause, to invent a German word.

As you can tell, J is accustomed to stopping for Wheat Thins in strange places. The slog went fine for a while, until it dawned on us that breaking track on snowshoes is hard work -- despite the relatively poor snow year, it was over a foot deep in most places and at some points up to J's waist -- and especially when some of us were carrying very heavy telemark skis. And especially when we were bushwhacking up steep hills full of crappy brush and small trees. When we turned off the trail, we were only about 3/4ths of a mile from our destination, but, after establishing a pace of about a half-hour per tenth of a mile, it was pretty clear we weren't going to make it in by nightfall. Of course, there are advantages to staying out on the trail too late ...

After a bit farther we made the decision to ditch our skis, which at least gave us the chance of sleeping before midnight. Look, J and I love winter hiking with headlamps and full packs carrying skis somewhat lost as much as anyone (it's hard with a GPS to be really lost, of course), but the low-point was definitely the scramble up one last steep, snow-free hill -- but at least here we learned that snowshoes are pretty effective on mud. Sometimes the best laid plans do down the drain(age) ... Finally, however, we reached the awesomeness (pictured the next morning).

And it's funny how steaks and quadruple ales in a yurt can make up for almost anything.

The steaks were tremendous. Not sure what John was reacting to here. 

It's also funny that the yurt had a disco ball.

Dirty socks and smoky air always make for good photos.

It's also funny -- or tragic -- that the biggest downside of the weekend ended up being not bushwhacking with headlamps in the cold but the unbelievably poor sleeping conditions. It seemed on the surface that the bunks had nice pads on them, but these pads turned out to be the hardest surface known to humans -- I think they were 1970s foam mattresses left to freeze in the yurt for 40 years. Between the rock-hard pads, and the resultant incessant human shuffling, and the snoring, and the temperature vacillating between 75 and 19 degrees (the latter when the fire went out), "this might be the worst night's sleep of the century," as I announced at 12:45, maybe 9 minutes after falling asleep for the first time, an hour before screaming, in response to John's snoring, "Hit him!", three hours before, bizarrely, I successfully and instantaneously shut John up with the simple command "John, stop snoring!", four hours before J said "the whole left side of my body is asleep, but the right isn't," and five hours before John said "I can feel every rib in my body." How strange and bad were the pads? Katie decided that she preferred to sleep on the floor, under the table. As she moved from the pad to the floor, Brian left the yurt -- and when he returned, apparently I asked in all seriousness, "Is that a moose at the door?" Later when I turned on my headlamp, Katie asked similarly whether there was a car outside.

The next morning, the men chivalrously set out to retrieve the skis. I mean, how manly is it when three guys stare at a GPS screen to make sure they don't get lost, and one guy points optimistically in the general direction to be taken? 

Speaking of groups of men, soon after we headed out we came across two surprisingly social male moose (sorry, small camera only).

Luckily the skis were no worse for the wear.

At this point, John could no longer take it, so he bailed back to his car via the flats, while Brian and I set out on the last bushwhack up to the yurt.

At this point, we had the option of a) another sleepless night, albeit in a gorgeous setting or b) an easy ski down the road, an espresso, a stop at a smoked trout shop, a warm restaurant, and what became, as predicted, no exaggeration, a 12-hour sleep at home. We chose b. The weather changed during the ski from snowstorm to too sunny for good photos. 

It was unfortunate that Katie missed the moose in the woods, but the restaurant made up for that.

After trudging up those hills in the snow, we have new-found respect for moose -- and a new aversion to the word drainage.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Entry With No Theme

Happy 2014 everyone.

Well, I made it to 43 entries last year. I didn't quite reach my goal, which was 52 -- Sam says that in order to be worth its salt, a blog needs to average an entry a week -- but at least I'm ahead of that pace so far this year, even if I can't think of a theme for this one beyond "what I've been up to the past few weeks."

I don't remember a lot from early December, though I remember the holiday colors.

Tallgrass Brewery has a fun open house every so often where one can wander around the brewery and drink. It's like a little bit of Portland in Manhattan. Not sure what Carla was holding me back from.

Velvet Rooster is my current Tallgrass favorite, though Brent's Belgian is just as good (and 8-Bit is pretty good, too). Forget about 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Think 9900 cans of beer on the wall.

Arriving in Salt Lake meant endless delectable Italian cookies by J.

And the Christmas week meant cioppino with the Maloneys, Sam and Carla's butternut squash and sage tart (pictured) with the Regehrs, puzzles with the Berrys, the absurdly decorated house in the Aves (what pollution?), and -- new baby alert! -- brunch with Ben.

But it was also time to get serious ... at least about the one and only skating race I'll do this season. As a training dork, I was extremely curious about how I'd do in the 15K given I haven't been running (whereas last ski season I was coming off the marathon). TUNA seemed to be all-knowing, however, as they seeded me and Gary right after one another ...

and, in fact, Gary and I finished right after one another. (Remember Senator Paul Simon and his bow tie? I am proud to wear the TUNA Lycra racing suit with the fish on it ...) More precisely, I doggedly pursued Gary during the final kilometer and then took him in a sprint during the final 100 meters, leaving the throngs of fans speechless (and look, who's counting the fact that he started two minutes after me?). The short answer to how I did was ... about the same as last year. My fitness was much worse -- all those running intervals do in fact do something -- but my skiing was better, thanks to West Yellowstone and Laurie, our former Olympian guru. Now the truncated classic race season starts.

While we're talking about ski racing, how cool is that an American male -- Simi Hamilton -- won a World Cup race for the first time in 30 years, with two bad ass moves in the final 30 seconds to boot? The EuroSport announcers suggested, correctly I think, that the margin of difference was shaving his Movember stache. Kristen and Jay, show Will the final starting at about 38:30:

I miss Switzerland. Martin, do you have any friends in Lenzerheide we could stay with?

photo credit:, a great blog with tons of European dessert porn

I'm willing to go out on a limb and claim that the air in Lenzerheide is cleaner than ours even if, once in a while, we can muster a decent sunset.

Photo credit: John Regehr
Um, it's not like our esteemed legislators can't see the inversions
If anyone is frustrated by national politics and wants to do something local, head on over to Breath Utah. 

Sorry for the boring entry ... if J were the blogger, she could tell you about private showings of Winslow Homer paintings in Bermuda.

But you're stuck with me. Still, I promise in an interesting announcement soon.