Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Succotash, Anyone?

The only thing I'd like to say about Thanksgiving is that I'm sincerely thankful I will not be eating succotash or venison or trout or johnny cakes this year. That, dear reader, is what I ate for Thanksgiving dinner last year at a very festive Let's-Pretend-That-We-Just-Arrived-on-the-Mayflower Thanksgiving Extravaganza. Aside from the noticeable lack of Native Americans at the table, the dinner was designed to replicate the original Thanksgiving dinner glorified in 5th-grade history books. And I thought the whole purpose of recording history was to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. Alas. What do I know? Lucky for me, though, last year's reliance on 17th-century American food staples was just "for fun" (translation: educational experience). Everybody went home that night to their microfiber recliners, bowls of kettle corn, and flat-panel television sets and fell asleep to visions of black Friday ninety-nine-cent digital cameras dancing through their heads.

For too many, though, the post-Thanksgiving reality is harsh. I think of some of the men and women I recently read about in Underground America, a collection of narratives from undocumented immigrants. They live on leftover chicken livers from the processing plants that employ them. They sleep in storage units and send their five-dollar-an-hour wages home to their destitute and aged parents abroad. Remarkably, though, most of them say they are not sorry they came: "It's still better here." They have hope for their children and for the opportunities that lie ahead.

I imagine the original Thanksgiving diners, immigrants of another type, had similar feelings. They weathered harsh conditions and built homes on an unfamiliar landscape that threatened to swallow them into oblivion. They lost children and contracted diseases, and yet they survived. More importantly, they could sincerely say, "It's still better here."

And it was.

I guess I wouldn't mind eating succotash every once in a while to remember that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Screening Room

I know. I haven't updated in a while. I suppose it's because nothing particularly blog-worthy has happened lately. Sure, I could write about how I thought for a couple of days that donating plasma would be a great way to save money for Christmas (you can earn $160 a month!) and how I ultimately decided that it's inappropriate to donate blood products for money because, well, I hate needles. I probably should have posted a video of Alex walking, who decided to take up bipedalism during the middle of a Dia de los Muertos celebration at a colleague's house. (Alex, who had previously and consistently refused to bear his own weight, stood up and walked across the room as if he had been walking for months. I suppressed the Olympic enthusiasm welling inside me so as not to disturb the more sophisticated discussions going on around me.) I also should have written that Alex has abidcated himself from the throne of chub. He is now merely in the 55th percentile for weight. Mediocrity never seemed so good; I'm hoping the combination of Alex's walking and slowing growth will bring lower back pain relief.

But I digress. (From what, I don't know. In fact, I don't know if this is technically a digression since I was never going anywhere with this post.)

I watched a delightful movie last night: The Station Agent. The summary on the back of the Netflix envelope reads like an enthusiastic Beyond Balderdash player's winning entry:

"When his only friend dies, a young dwarf named Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) relocates to an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, intent on living the life of a hermit. But his solitude is soon interrupted by his colorful neighbors, which include a struggling artist (Patricia Clarkson) coping with the recent death of her young son and a talkative Cuban hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale)."

See what I mean? What's not to love? Have you ever known anyone named Finbar? And was he a dwarf? If not, aren't you curious about Finbar? The makers of this movie know what character development means. It's like a snapshot of three lives meeting at a crossroads, a la Little Miss Sunshine, Everything is Illuminated, and the like. Watch it.

Also playing at our house: Mad Men, season 1. We haven't finished it yet, but we love it. I especially love the music and the graphics that play at the beginning of each episode. I will never tire of them. Fantastic design and evocative music. And what characters! I never knew men could be quite so dispicable and women so helpless.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Culture Shock

Someone call Disneyland, two of the "It's A Small World" androids escaped and ended up in Utah:

I am fully aware that our costumes do not match. Alex is a Chinese boy, and I am an Indian woman. I understand that China and India are not the same place. I understand they speak different languages. It's okay. I don't intend for our costumes to ever, ever match. Oh, and a big thanks to the folks at the Spanish Fork Krishna temple (you read that right: a Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, Utah), who showed me how to properly wrap a sari several years ago--I finally wore mine.

Kendall dressed up as a ghost. His costume was so convincing that he didn't show up in any of the photos. Alex, though, seemed to be seeing ghosts everywhere; he refused to look at the camera:

Yes, there is a sleeping cousin on the ground next to Alex in the photo above. Kayden fell asleep while posing for a picture.

In totally unrelated news, Alex has learned the significance of reuse and recycle. We will be adding this Cheerios box to Alex's hat collection:

And beware of the sudden, open-mouthed, slobbery kiss. One minute you're lying on the ground, playing with your toddler:

And then, slurp, glurp, smack (no, Alex does not usually kiss people on the mouth--who knows where he got it?):

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lingua Strana

It turns out I'm a mutant with special super-powers. It's only fitting; I come from a long line of Ripley's Believe It Or Not aspirants. My mother can close one eye while maintaining the other perfectly open and relaxed, and (at the same time, if you want) she can clasp her hands together and use her arms as a jump rope. My sister has Siamese-twin toes. Or maybe she has one toe with two heads--it's hard to tell. But she was proud to show them off when she was a kid because my mom called them "special." Word has it that my great grandma could touch her nose with her tongue. Anyway, you get the idea.

however, am a super-taster. I've suspected as much ever since my aunt made a gelatin dessert by combining three different flavors of Jell-o, and I was the only one who could name cherry, strawberry, and lime after one bite. And now it's pseudo-scientifically confirmed; I have more taste-buds than the average person, which means that I can taste things with great intensity. In other words, every bite is a mosh pit in my mouth.

And this, at last, explains my cocktail party problem, which surfaced during an otherwise blissful summer in New York City. I fully believed that I, a 23-year-old law student living in Mormon suburbia, could blend into the sexy New York law firm scene even if I had never had sushi, didn't know what "still water" meant (and that it cost money), thought Greenwich Village was an environmentally-friendly Wiccan gathering place, and didn't drink alcohol. But Mormon suburbia, where the word "drink" triggers images of red Kool-Aid and Sprite in Dixie cups, had ill prepared me for my first obligatory work-related cocktail hour.

The law school career placement office had thankfully etched the internationally-recognized cocktail hour rules in my mind. Players must always have a drink, and keep it in their left hand. The point of having a drink in hand, as I understand it, is to absolve the holder of any responsibility for the direction of the conversation. If the conversation dead ends in a bunch of lawyers muttering "M-hm. Very interesting . . . ", participants rush to take a drink and thereby assert, "Not me!" The last one to do so must introduce a new topic of conversation.

So, as you can imgaine, I was very careful to keep a drink in my hand. My drink of choice? Orange juice. The bar offered an infinite supply of natural, fresh-squeezed orange juice. (Must. Always. Have. Drink.) But it was all too much for my sensitive tastebuds--the sharp citrus notes (when guzzled in gallon increments) set off a reaction that did not end well. The orange juice started to taste like hot peppers, and, in a matter of minutes, I was sweating profusely as I tried to quench the heat with even more orange juice. I imagine the other cocktail-party guests thought I had ingested a little too much alcohol for the night. A good first impression, I'm sure. Since then, I stick to water, which makes me the most boring cocktail party guest in the world, but if it keeps my tastebuds out of overdrive . . .

I know I'm a super-taster for a reason--I probably will save the world someday. But until then, being different will be hard. There are so many misconceptions and falsehoods out there about super-tasters. We are not picky eaters. We are not food snobs. We're just trying to make it in this world. Are you a super-taster, too? Join me in my quest to raise super-tasting awareness. Embrace your super-power. Use it for good. The world might depend on it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin' in Comparison

First of all, I try to hold my political views relatively close to my chest--this post is not an endorsement of any candidate or party, just my observations as I watch McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin, make a splash amongst the American public. She's at least made the race to the finish extremely entertaining for me (and of course I could focus on the guffaws of politicians from both sides of the aisle, but Sarah Palin is new and entertaining, and they're just old news).

Sarah Palin debated Joe Biden last night. I'd have to say that Palin won the debate in a landslide based on the way I scored it:

  • Number of winks directly to the camera during a nationally televised debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Level of down-home folksiness exhibited by repeated use of the term "nucular" - no contest; winner = Palin
  • Number of references to soccer moms in the first 30 seconds of the debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Number of shoutouts made to audience members during the debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Number of uses of the phrase "greed and corruption on Wall Street": Palin 7 (by my count), Biden 1 (again by my count); winner = Palin
She basically cleaned the floor with him. But the real winner of the debate? It's got to be Tina Fey.

In all seriousness, Palin did better than I expected (which was not much, mind you), turning in an adequate performance. She was able to string together memorized phrases in a mostly coherent way. Of course, according to the unofficial rules of the debate, Biden wasn't allowed to attack the less-experienced Palin in any way that would turn female voters against him. Palin used the opportunity as a platform to lobby for granting the VP more power and to show off her down-home flavor with words like "heckuva", "get 'em", "you betcha", "you're darn right" that appeal to the voters she's trying to help McCain pull in.

Still, I can't help but reflect on some of her previous blunders over the last 3 weeks...

Asked what Supreme Court decisions (beyond Roe v Wade) she disagrees with, she replied:
"Well, let's see. There's, of course, in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are, those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ...."

Asked again to name another decision she disagreed with, Palin replied: "Well, I could think of, of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today."

As for what Palin reads to keep herself abreast of the latest issues:

“When it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” Couric asked.

“I’ve read most of them,” Palin responded, “again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.”

“What, specifically?” Couric followed.

“Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years,” Palin said.

Couric pressed: “Can you name a few?”

Palin then spun her answer as if Couric was taking a jab at Alaska. “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too,” she said. “Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?’ Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.”

Sarah Palin's view on the Bush Doctrine?

Charlie Gibson: "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

"In what respect, Charlie?" the Alaska governor said after an awkward pause and a shift in her seat.

"The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?" Gibson challenged.

"His world view?" Palin queried.

"No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war," Gibson said.

"I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation," Palin responded.

Gibson countered: "The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us."

So what does all of this mean?

In the Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Oct 2, 60% of those surveyed said Palin did not have "the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, if that became necessary." That's up from 45% in early September. Her unfavorables have jumped from 28% to 40% over the same period. In early September, 19% said they were less likely to vote for McCain because of his selection of Palin. That number is now 32%.

Ironically, I think the best course of action came from once-McCain-VP-hopeful Mitt Romney, who said,
"Holding Sarah Palin to just three interviews and microscopically focusing on each interview I think has been a mistake. I think they'd be a lot wiser to let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let her talk to the media, let her talk to people."

Mitt is right - the appeal of Sarah Palin is her folksiness, her outsider attitude, and her funny accent. Let her talk! (please, if only for me... I need the entertainment)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The "Bailout"

Here's my understanding of why the so-called bailout is the right move.

Mortgage/lending companies made irresponsible loans to sub-prime customers and the government provided no legislation to prevent this type of risky activity. These loans, along with others, were repackaged into securities (take a small percentage of 20 mortgages and call it a security) and traded between financial institutions (changing hands several times). Financial institutions used extremely sophisticated financial models to value this new class of assets--unfortunately, they got the valuation wrong. But before they knew that, they saw the market declining, and based on the models, saw an arbitration opportunity to buy more of the assets at a lower price only to sell them later at a higher price. So they levered up (borrowed to purchase more of the assets) and bought more of this asset class, putting them in a risky financial position. The trick is that the models they used were extremely reliable based on lots of years of data, but they didn't accurately forecast the risk.

Now they have lots of assets on their books, but no one really knows how to accurately value these assets, and no one has the capital / desire to purchase the assets at the moment. What that means is that although the bank has assets, they don't have cash, and subsequently can't meet federal standards. So a bank fails, then more people get nervous and want to pull money out of banks. The capital market dries up, and then small and medium size business can't get loans to grow and/or continue doing business. This eventually hits the consumer side when people like you and me can't buy things because we're nervous for the future so we sit on our cash and/or our small and mid-size business start having problems and jobs get scarce and unemployment goes up. It's ugly.

As for the real estate market--it is in trouble because getting access to loans is harder, so that slows the market and causes housing prices to decline. Slowing the market means that the distressed assets lose even more value, so that causes more banks to fail, which causes less capital available for mortgage loans. It's a vicious cycle.

Thus, the government decides to step in and purchase $700 Billion worth of these distressed securities, knowing that they have value, but no one knows exactly how much. The government will be able to resell them at a later date, but may lose some of the $700 billion they're investing. On the other hand, that will free up capital that banks can use to start giving loans and thaw the capital freeze in the market. This will avert a lot of pain for people who had nothing to do with the problems in the first place, in my opinion. And to top it off, the banks that sold their assets to the government will cover any losses that the government has after five years.

I think that whoever called this a "bailout" was pretty smart to frame the discussion that way. It seems that Frank Luntz must have been involved (the guy who changed the argument from "Estate Tax" to "Death Tax"). No one cares about an estate tax--that's for rich people. But a death tax, on the other hand--that makes me mad because no one should be taxed just for dying! The bailout is the same issue. It should have been called the "capital infusion bill" or something like that instead.

They better pass a bill like this soon. Roughly $1 Trillion of value in the stock market was lost just today. Makes $700B seem like a bargain.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ich bin ein Beijinger

Kendall obviously learned a lot of interesting and important facts about China during our trip, and I encourage you to print out his tidbits and make Trivial Pursuit study flashcards, but since spouses were explicitly forbidden from joining the students at their sessions with very important and rich people, I explored a different side of China. I have a treasury of truly trivial trivia for you to digest.

First, Shanghai has apparently settled on Gumby as the official mascot of the 2010 World Expo. Either that, or Gumby underwent a cloning procedure, and his almost-identical-clone-twins (who unfortunately suffered a genetic mutation that gave them a propensity to gain excessive weight) populate every corner of Shanghai.

This is Gumby back then.

A little stouter, and a new hairdo. Long time, no see, Gumby!

That's exactly what I think of when I look at this mascot: "the capacity to create wonderful lives and enjoy the fruits of our work" and "the ocean, the future and technology."

Second, the Chinese people need to watch more Mexican soap operas and a few episodes of Sabado Gigante. I don't think any of these people had ever encountered the bodily proportions stereotypical of Latinas. The tailor that made me and Kendall suits was unaffected by the first few measurements. But then, when her assistant measured my, um, derriere, and called out a number that, in China, only accountants for very large and important companies have ever encountered, the tailor raised her eyebrows, said the Chinese equivalent of "No way!" and ordered the assistant to measure again. And again. And again. Until Kendall explained that I was from South America and that I was normal there. And then everyone laughed. Except me. I finally understood why random Chinese folks had been asking to take pictures of me during the week.

I don't even want to speculate as to what the caption to this photograph in this Chinese woman's scrapbook will say.

Third, the Ritz Carlton in Shanghai (the hotel cost was part of Kendall's tuition--we did not choose to stay at the Ritz, but I did not complain one bit) has a "Bath Butler." And there's a "Bath Menu" in the bathroom. Select from the assortment of aromatherapeutic, romance-inspiring, and skin-softening marinades offered in the menu, and the bath butler will come up to your room, sprinkle rose petals all over the floor, put magic potions into your bath, and leave a champaign bottle. My one regret is not having ordered a bath.

I don't have any pictures of the Ritz, but just look at how beautiful all of these new buildings are. (Okay, I know that China probably tore down lots of great historical buildings to replace them with these, and for that I am sad. But still, these are really nice.)

No matter how crowded Shanghai is, there's always room for a Dairy Queen.

(Third, continued) Massages, however, there were a-plenty. Convinced that the massage prices at the hotel were not representative of the prices that locals pay for massages, a friend and I ventured to a massage parlor where nobody spoke English. Body language and simple gestures (that I now realize would have gotten me into a lot of trouble if I had been mistaken about the nature of the establishment I had entered) resulted in 2 hours of massage (1 hour of foot massage and 1 hour of full body massage) for $10. I returned the next day. The foot massager commented (with gestures, of course) on the enormity of my feet.

I have no way of linking this photograph to anything on this post, except that this little boy was playing on Tiananmen Square, which is where Mao's preserved body is on display--see next paragraph.

Fourth, Chairman Mao's embalmed remains glow. Really, they do. It looks like he was embalmed in radioactive chemicals. I believe his body is the core of an enormous nuclear reactor from which all of China derives its power. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed (This I found out from a too-helpful, self-proclaimed Olympic volunteer whose "official Olympic volunteer shirt" actually said "Volunteer Blood Donor.") But I don't think my camera could have captured that wavelength of light anyway.

If I had brought a prohibited camera into the Mao Memorial Hall, I would have had to answer to these guys.

Here's the beautiful Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is completely unrelated to anything else on this post.

Finally, business cards are of utmost importance to the non-Chinese tourist in China. Here in the States, I take a business card, enter the information into my email contacts and throw away the card. In China, you should laminate every business card you get, wear it on a gold chain around your neck, and take pride in being a walking Rolodex. Choose the business card for the establishment you wish to visit, show it to the taxi driver, and voila, you're there, without ever having to practice a word of Mandarin. Of course, it might be helpful to have a rudimentary understanding of the language, because then you would know that the cab driver, who is laughing hysterically, is explaining that the hotel on the business card you just gave him is literally 50 meters away, and then maybe you and your friend wouldn't stay in the cab and pay the minimum cab fare for a 30-second ride up the hotel driveway. Unfortunately, all I knew how to say was, "Excuse me, where is the bathroom," and that took me the entire 12-hour flight to China to learn.

When Kendall was around, he used his Chinese skills to negotiate with taxi drivers and van drivers.

Kendall's amazing Chinese skills allowed us and some friends to visit the Great Wall in a private van on our own time. We arrived at this particular part of the Wall early in the morning, and just as we left, the tour buses and their eager passengers started to arrive.

Kendall's Chinese also came in handy when bargaining for completely unnecessary souvenir trinkets. However, one of Kendall's classmates, Wade, seems to have managed to purchase one of everything, including a special edition Chinese back scratcher, without Kendall's help.

In sum, I give Beijing and Shanghai four-and-a-half stars. That last half star is awaiting the adoption of Western style toilets, including toilet paper, in all public restrooms.

A monk at the Forbidden City.

A building at the Forbidden City (I can't remember the purpose of this building. . . .)

The serenity of the Summer Palace. . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Simply Red

Carolina and I made a trek to Shanghai and Beijing with my Wharton MBA class to learn some of the ins and outs of doings business in China (well, that's what I was there to do - Carolina was there to have fun and relax - she got a 1 hr. full body massage and a 1 hr. foot massage for a whopping $10 while I was touring a sweltering GM factory, and she spent hours haggling over pearls and handbags while I visited with government officials). My Mandarin was pretty rusty at first, but I was feeling good about my ability to communicate by the end of the trip (even though people in Beijing tend to speak with a really thick, pirate-like accent).

Biggest surprises:

Shanghai is an incredibly modern, world-class city. It makes New York feel small.

I was amazed to discover that China is about to surpass the US to become the #1 luxury goods market in the world. It seemed like every time we turned around in Shanghai there was a Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or some other fancy store I can't afford to shop in.

The business world is a little different in China... Buick is the top-selling car line and KFC is more popular than McDonalds!

The Chinese leaders we met with were extremely sharp and echoed the type of market approaches you'd hear on Wall Street. I was very impressed with their approach to economic issues.

There will soon be over 200 cities in China with over 1M people in them. The economic base is growing incredibly rapidly--it's amazing that they can keep up with the infrastructure needs. Truly remarkable.

Check out a few of our pics:

A view from the summer palace, where the emperor used to
hang out in... you guessed it... the summer.

The guys that hung out together on the trip: Cameron, me, Casey, and Wade
The ladies: Carolina, Amy, and Marsha (now Cameron's fiance... congrats guys!)

A gate on Tiananmen square

Zhujiajiao - a canal town... a Chinese version of Venice, I guess,
sans the Rialto Bridge

This little Travelocity gnome guy is everywhere!
We found him here in a museum (created ~400 AD)... he looked
a little more spry in his younger days.

The Great Wall... way steeper than I imagined... way more formidable.

Here we are at the Great Wall.

I'm haggling for ties at the Yashow Clothing Market.
I ended up paying about 3% of her original asking price!
Oh, and we got some great cashmere wool blend suits custom tailored
here for an amazing deal.

Cool pic Carolina took that captures the juxtaposition
of ancient and modern China.

Here we are at the Forbidden City, where the Emperor lived in Beijing.

This gives you a rough idea of the scope / size of Shanghai.
It really does make NYC seem small.

I was thrilled to discover that China (not just Taiwan) has green pea ice cream!
Casey was brave enough to give it a try after my glowing reviews. Delicious.

Love the communist flavor of this sculpture in Tiananmen Square.

There's a place in Beijing affectionately called "Snack Street" that sells, among other culinary delights, Fried Silk Worms on a Stick, Scorpions on a Stick, Seahorses, and more...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Like Erin Brockovich

One of my secret (and now, not-so-secret) indulgences in life is an occasional bowl of Malt-O-Meal's Berry Colossal Crunch ("BCC"). For you, it might be a glass of wine after filing a brief, a bowl of ice cream after putting your child to bed, watching Grey's Anatomy, or reading Us Weekly. For Denny Crane and Alan Shore of Boston Legal (William Shatner's true calling in life), it was a glass of scotch. All I need is a bowl of budget imitation cereal. With 11 vitamins and minerals, 0 g of trans fat, naturally cholesteral free, and laced with yellows #5 and #6, what more could I ask for?

Imagine my disillusionment when, a few weeks ago, I settled into my very uncomfortable home office chair, ready to stalk the blogs of my unsuspecting "blog-crushes" (A post for another time: do you have blog-crushes, too? Have you found a blog that you adored so much that you read all the archives and checked multiple times a day for updates?), only to have my utopic bliss soured by a single mushy "berry" in my mouthful of BCC cereal. This is an anomaly, I assured myself. But repeated taste-testing confirmed the horrible truth: The purple berries, and only the purple ones, were lacking the familiar crunch I longed for. They were soggy--like wet Kleenex--even though the rest of the cereal seemed perfectly normal.

Today I called Malt-O-Meal. I explained the situation in great detail. Through my handset, the uber-trained customer-relations voice repeated my words: "Only the purple ones? [Typing rhythmically. ] Mhmmm. When did you buy this? Mushy? [More typing.] After adding milk? Mhmmm. I'm sorry to hear that."

And then, vindication: "Yes, we've actually had a few complaints about this very issue . . ."

And then in a slightly amused tone: ". . .although you're the only one who has specified a certain color of berry. I'll have to take note of that. [Mad typing. Pause. Single click. Almost inaudible grunt of satisfaction.]

Fantastic. She just emailed the entire customer care department: I have a nutcase on the line who claims that there is something wrong with the purple berries--only the purple ones!

End result? I get a booklet of coupons for free Malt-O-Meal products, and Malt-O-Meal is probably busy questioning Gertrude, whose sole job on the assembly line is to add a mysterious packet of "crunch" to the purple berry mixer. I know there are closet BCC fans out there, and you're welcome. I've been an advocate for your interests. While Malt-O-Meal works out the glitches, I think I'll go have a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles. They better be chocolatey.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The New 20

Thirty years ago, Kendall made his grand debut in this world. The last of 8 children, born a full 11 years after his next-oldest sibling, and the first in his family to wear disposable diapers, Kendall escorted his parents into a brave new world of modernity. Kendall would be the one to introduce them to MTV, Atari, Nintendo, and graphing calculators, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, mixed tapes, high-top Nikes, CDs, and the Internet (still an ongoing process).

Proof that 30 is the new 20 (or maybe 14?): Kendall still wears the Nike high-tops of his youth to mow the lawn. He has the original Nintendo and occasionally asks me if I want to join him in a friendly Mike Tyson Punchout tournament. Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and the Fresh Prince still grace his iPod playlists--for their historical value, of course. And the Internet is still Kendall's sandbox--at least twice a week I hear a giddy voice call from the study, "Carolina, come check this out!" (Some of the better finds over the years: Yelp, Google Maps, Wayback Machine, Twitter, LastFM. Some of my least favorites: CougarBoard, CougarBoard, CougarBoard.)

Of course, some change is inevitable. Obviously, Kendall no longer wears disposable diapers (he finds that organic cotton causes less irritation), and the stone-washed tapered jeans of yesteryear are gone, gone, gone, thank goodness.  I'm also pleased to report that he feels very differently about George W. Bush than he did in his early 20s (hallelujah).

There's no one else with whom I'd rather listen to ridiculous 80s music or debate on foreign policy.  Happy birthday, Kendall.*  You're still crazy after all these years:

* I have, quite graciously, I think, omitted pictures from the mid-teens (happy birthday, darling), and I hope anyone would do the same for me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

King of the Hill

Carolina and I climbed the tallest mountain in Utah on Wednesday. King's Peak, located in Utah's Uinta Mountains, is 13,528 feet tall. A colleague of mine at work, Kenny Freestone, and I had been talking about going on this hike together for a few years, and we finally worked it into our schedules. I convinced Carolina to come along--her first major outdoor adventure since having Alex.

We left Provo about 12:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday and hiked about 7 miles in and camped near Dollar Lake, where we whipped up some dinner on the Jet Boil stove (first time I've ever tried Mountain House meals--they were pretty tasty). We spent a long, relatively-sleepless cold night--lots of frost on the tent fly by morning--at camp, then hit the trail at 7:30am the next morning (after some minor complications with our water purification devices). A few hours later we made our way up Gunsight Pass, dropped into another valley, then worked our way up to Anderson Pass, where we began heading up the ridgeline to the top of King's Peak--the final 1,000 feet of elevation gain is really grueling, requiring scrambling over lots of large rock and boulders. We made the summit by about 3pm. The hike back seemed really, really long--we underestimated the difficulty of pulling off the whole 28 miler in just 1.5 days. We got back to the camp at about 6:30, grabbed some food and finished packing up, trying to get going in time to be back to the trailhead before dark. Unfortunately, we didn't make it--at about 9pm God turned out the lights, and our headlamps helped us four straggling, exhausted hikers make our way down to the parking lot by 10pm, and utlimately back to our house by 2am (thanks to Kenny for driving). That was a very long, draining day--lots of pain! But we conquered King's Peak.

Kenny, his brother Dave, me, and Carolina - all fresh at the trailhead

Our camp near Dollar Lake--you can see King's peak in the background (looks short in the middle of the trees)

Kenny looking good

The nasty scramble up to the top of the peak--the last 1,000 feet of vertical elevation are tough and slow (unless you're part mountain goat)

Carolina has second thoughts after a false summit

Summit! The top of Utah!

The shows the scale of the scramble down from the peak (Carolina and I are both in this picture--can you find us?)

You can check out all of the photos here: