Santa, India Style

My aunt Gayle and uncle Don are in Chennai, India. My uncle is there for a six month work project.

They started a blog to chronicle the experience. Plenty of funny moments as these middle-aged Americans experience a place so very different from home. Gayle was thrilled to finally find diet pepsi. The traffic is crazy, bugs get in everything, there are wet and dry toilets, the power goes out a lot, they haven't yet grown an appreciation for the local food, etc. But they are managing, and even enjoying some sight-seeing.

There is a small Mormon congregation there and they had a Christmas party. The highlight was this Indian take on Santa Claus:

I have a new nightmare.

Rider Of The Year

MTB Action is doing a make your own rider of the year cover thing and it got me thinking, what was the most outstanding ride this year? It's been a good year, but my dear wife breaking her leg up on the Ridge trail was certainly the most memorable, just not in a good way. So I grabbed the template and did a little image editing to make the image above.

She dealt with it well, however you can see the look of resignation in the photo. That was a sad day.

The visit to the doctor last week wasn't the good news. She was hoping to start walking, but the bone growth / fusion isn't far enough along so more crutches. She was bummed. Hopefully the next check up will be better news.

And now for something completely different, a mash-up of Lionel Richie, A-ha and The Cure.

Favorite Books Of 2010

I read a fair number of books this year, here are the ones I most enjoyed (in no particular order).

Brave New World - An engaging story set in a possible future. Well written, engaging and thoughtful.

A Confederacy of Dunces - A most odd protagonist bumbles along causing chaos in his wake, yet somehow it makes sense.

Ghostopolis - Written for pre-teens but the story is so imaginative it's appealing to all. A few plot problems, but forgivable. The illustrations of this graphic novel are excellent - dramatic, expressive, art.

More Information Than You Require - Hodgman's humor doesn't work for everyone, but if it does this book is a treat. The audiobook is read by Hodgman and includes many guests, which elevates the material and makes it a fantastic performance piece.

Snowcrash - A full story with action, intrigue, inventive technology and strong characters. My first cyberpunk book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Neuromancer - The grand daddy of cyberpunk and rightfully so. Fast-moving story, sparce and precise writing, intriguing characters, novel concepts and depth. Not a breezy read, Gibson expects you to pay attention and rewards you for doing so.

Peace Like a River - Take the expressiveness of poetry and tell a big story. Just delicious to read.

Straight Man - If I told you the plot it would sound dull. Kind of like if I summarized the movie "As Good As It Gets". Russo takes a mundane story and makes it fun and funny; I laughed a lot.

The Corrections - I almost aborted this book. Franzen aptly and deeply paints his characters, with all their destructive quirks. Enid's relentless, guilt-inducing nagging repulsed me. Yet the writing is brilliant and reveals real humanity, even if it's often ugly. There is a lot of truth in this book, about how we live in this age and what we care about.

Heart of Darkness - Not the most accessible story, but it serves as a canvas to explore what drives people and where it takes them. It's hard for me to stay tuned into these older styles of writing, yet Conrad several times nails an expression so perfectly that I was in awe.

Les Miserables - I listened to the abridged version and was enthralled. Stripped down to the main story it's amazing how strong and exciting it is. This is a classic that anyone can, and everyone should, read. You'll be entertained and it will stick with you a long time.

A Briefer History of Time - An excellent introduction to modern physics. The explanations are clear, and many are the best I've read. "A Brief History of Time" was good, this update is better. The concepts are often strange, counter-intuitive and difficult to grasp. But even if you understand only a little you'll have new wonder for the tiny subatomic world and the enormous sprawl of the universe. And it's only 176 pages.

A Walk in the Woods - Bryson tells his tale of hiking the Appalachian trail so well, you'll feel like you were there. And plenty of humor, thanks to his buddy Katz.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Another Bryson. This time it's his childhood recollections of growing up in 1950s. Magical and entertaining.

I enjoyed putting this list together and being reminded of how much I enjoyed reading these books. I've got a pretty long list of books I want to read but feel free to make suggestions or comment on the books above.

Polyoutdoor Utah

Alex and I have been bouncing trip ideas around for a while. Tuesday schedules coincided.

Alex picked me up before dawn and we drove to Castle Dale then 20 miles on an excellent dirt road to The Wedge to ride the Good Water Rim trail. The view into Little Grand Canyon is spectacular.

That's the San Rafael River down there.

The trail hugs the rim of Good Water Canyon and it's several forks. It's 15 miles of mostly flat with lots of turns (think slaloming). It's a nice middle ring cruise. Some rocks to bump over, but nothing technical.

It was cold-ish but with layers we were comfortable.

We went from the south trail head to the north end and back for a 30 mile ride. The views are always changing and often dramatic, and it's nice to stretch the legs, but I wish it had more technical stuff to spice it up. Riding a new trail is always fun, but I doubt I'll return to this one since it's off the main travel routes and there isn't much else to ride in the area.

After the ride we drove down Buckhorn Wash to check out the rock art. It was impressive and well worth the short 10 mile drive.

Then we drove to Price to ride Luke's trail. We had just enough daylight for an out-n-back ride. Neither of us had done any of the Price trails and we were both impressed with Luke's. It also winds along a rim, but has more technical features which made the trail more fun to ride.

I'd like to go back to Price and ride more of the trails in the area. The word is, if a storm comes from the north it usually doesn't snow in Price, so it's like a mini St. George with half the drive.

(This is the top of Luke's and isn't a good representation of the trail. It's much more interesting.)

Today I went skiing at Brighton with Mark. The $20 lift ticket (if you bring a donation for the food bank) is irresistible. And 8 inches of fresh powder made it a no-brainer.

We got first tracks over on the south boundary. Delightfully fluffy powder. Like skiing on a cloud.

And it was my first time with my Salomon Foil skis and new boots. The boots were comfortable all day and the right amount of flex. The Foils were fun, fun, fun. The moderately wide skis floated in the powder, the short length made turning easier and quicker, and they carve through chop way better than any skis I've ever had (which is nice because I struggle skiing chop).

The Foils are twin tips and I thought about trying to ski backwards, but we were too busy skiing the fresh snow. Maybe next time.

With 40 miles of mountain biking the day before I was concerned my legs would die fast. But skiing must use different muscles because my legs did OK.

We skied all over the resort and I had a great time.

So many places have a more limited climate, terrain, etc. But Utah has lots of desert for dirt sports, a fair amount of lakes and rivers for water sports, and good mountains for snow sports. And it's all close enough to do what I did: mountain bike one day, ski the next. (It would even be possible to do both, or even all three, in the same day.) What a pretty, great state! I love living here. Forget polygamy, the many outdoor sports and recreation is the real poly in Utah.

Review: Bacon Cheddar

I try to keep the sandwiches I make for lunch interesting, so when I saw bacon flavored cheddar cheese in the grocery store, I had to try it. I like cheese + I like bacon = buy.

And the package looks inviting enough:

When I opened the first slice, the appearance was, well, not what I'd call appetizing:

The smooth texture of processed cheese with pinkish red splotches, which are the bacon flavor, I guess. I paused, hesitated, but pressed on.

The smell is pretty good - smells like cheese and bacon, but on the artificial side.

I broke off a corner and tasted it. Pretty yummy, for processed cheese. Nice cheddar flavor. And the bacon is there, but definitely on the artificial side - like Hickory Farms.

Tangent - Where did all the Hickory Farms stores go? There use to be one in the University Mall for like, forever. As a kid I'd graze on the samples. The store always had that smoked cheese smell that was inviting yet vaguely fake. We had several variety packs over the years at home - either ones we bought or were given to us. It was fun to unwrap those tiny rounds of cheese and try each one. Spread some on crackers. Then add a slice of sausage to the cracker. It seemed exotic as a kid, but now there's the cheese counter at Super Harmons.

It tasted OK on my basic sandwich. The cheddar and bacon flavors came through.

But really, is there any substitute for real bacon? OK, those bac-o-bits are kinda tasty. But now you can buy pre-cooked bacon that you just warm up in the microwave, there's no excuse not to have the real thing - which I will be doing from time to time for my sandwiches.

Sorry, Cache Valley, this is my one and only pack of bacon cheddar cheese.

Thus ends the great bacon flavored cheese experiment.

Kade Is Eight

Our youngest turned eight today. One of his presents was a(nother) Nerf gun. He likes it. We're glad he's keeping frags to a minimum.

I went for a road ride Saturday. Overcast, hazy and cold. I went up Provo Canyon on the paved trail - hardly anyone on it so I could go fast. Went up South Fork and saw at least 40 wild turkeys near the end of the road.


Saturday I decided to go for a mountain bike ride. At 2 pm. I think locals will spot the problem. Not sure why I didn't. My defense: I really wanted to ride my mountain bike. The water tank road was fine at first, then I hit mud at the last pitch of the climb. The tires balled up and the drive train was gravy. I bailed down the Cliff trail and I was relieved it only had a few spots of mud. When I got down I dunked the bike in the Provo River to wash off the mud - I was there 10 minutes and plenty of mud remained, but the drive train was clean. Yeah, bad call, a road ride would have been the way to go.

On the way back I saw a hawk dive on a mouse not 20 feet from me. The hawk dropped off the top of a telephone pole, tucked back it's wings and dropped swift and silent right on the poor rodent. Not as cool as a Golden Eagle taking a snake, but I got a kick out of it.

I went for a road ride Tuesday at lunch. It was sunny and 45. I enjoyed the ride even though the decline in my fitness is significant and disappointing.

I also rode today at lunch. Not as nice. Overcast, hazy and 42. But the forecast looks like rain the next 3 days so I figured I better take it. As always it felt good to pedal and move on down the road, but I sure don't have much kick. Oh well, still plenty to like about riding.

One of the kids got Ghostopolis (a graphic novel) at the library. I picked it up on a whim and couldn't put it down. The story is unusually imaginative and fun (although it does have some problems). The illustrations are fantastic and excellent. I finished it in under an hour. Everyone in our family read it and liked it. The 8 year-old loved it (he skipped the big words, the pictures helped). A fun story with cool pictures. A movie version is in the works starring Hugh Jackman - the story would work for a movie, hopefully they do a good job with it.

I'm having some gadget lust for the NookColor. I fondled, er, evaluated one at Best Buy. Very portable, screen looks good, web browsing, and of course ebooks. I like the idea of ebooks, but at the current prices I doubt I'll buy many. The library has 2,300 titles available, but not many best sellers on the list. There are plenty of free classics available. The kicker is it can now be rooted so you can run any Android app on it. That makes it the cheapest tablet available. So tempting.

Jolene's broken leg still hurts. She's getting around on the crutches pretty good, but when she's up for a few hours her foot and ankle swell up and turn purple. This doesn't sound right. We see the doctor next week so we'll see what he says.

Friday Frisking

A week ago Friday I tried to fix the alarm system at work. It indicated it couldn't call out so I figured I'd clear the error. I found some info on the internet and decided to give it a go.

I set off the alarm but figured since it couldn't call out so it wasn't a problem. I tried several things but couldn't clear the error. I was about to give up when I heard a tap at the front door.

I couldn't see through the tinted glass but unlocked the door anyway. It was a Bluffdale policeman. He asked me to step outside, face away from him and take a wide stance. Then he frisked me.

I was flummoxed but eventually gathered my wits and asked him if it was about the alarm. After he seemed sure I wasn't a criminal he told me they got an alarm code indicating people at our office were being held by armed assailants. Well, that explains his wariness.

He had me sit in the squad car (locked in the back seat cage) while he checked the building. He asked if anyone else was in the building, I told him there was one other guy, the CEO.

This is what the CEO told me: the officer called up the stairs identifying himself as a police officer and telling him to come down. He thought it was me joking around so he blew it off. The officer called up again and as the CEO came down the stairs and turned the corner he sees the policeman with his drawn gun pointed at the ground. The CEO raises his hands and says "Whoooa!". Then the officer frisks him and they walk through the building so the officer can see there is no one else there and everything is OK.

So, me screwing around with the alarm gets me frisked and put in squad car and the CEO facing a drawn gun and then frisked. I'm not sure why I still have a job.