Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The life list

Today I had the pleasure of crossing an item off the list of things to do in my life. This item was not especially hard to accomplish, but nonetheless satisfying to achieve. Accomplishment only required a forty mile drive and and three dollars (two for a PBR and one for a tip). Drinking one PBR was not my goal, the location was. And that location was the Moonshine Gulch Saloon in Rochford, SD. The Moonshine Gulch is one of those rare places that is more a holdover from gold rush days than it is a member of the 21st century. It's really a miracle that the place is still in business given that the population of Rochford is about 20, with a peak population of one thousand in the early 1880s. The atmosphere and uniqueness of the Saloon didn't fail to deliver. I was the one and only customer, joined by the barmaid who had owned the place for 30 years, and her dog. The pictures tell the rest of the story (a couple here and a couple on flickr: check out he sweet collection of hats and decaying business cards plastered all over the ceiling).


Monday, December 10, 2007

Dodgeball update

Since I claimed in a past post that I would reclaim dodgeball glory I thought that an update was in order. My initial claim was to re-capture glory in the game immediately following my post. Well, that didn't happen. I was a bit off the mark and captured mediocrity instead. Try as I might I still couldn't catch that damn ball - for what it's worth neither could the rest of my team. We noticed that fat people could catch the ball a lot better than we could. To lift our spirits we agreed that as a team of slim people we simply didn't have the midriff cushion to absorb the impact of the ball. The ball just kept bouncing off our bodies before we could wrap our arms around it. Dubious theory I know, but at least it made us feel better.

My team won the first game of the season, before I was recruited to play. Since I had joined we were winless. The last night of the season was upon us. Things didn't look good because we only had four players which put us at a sever handicap versus the normal six player teams. Of course we lost the first game of the night even though we recruited a ringer. The second game was just four of us against a team that even had subs for its six starting players. I thought "subs, what the hell, this is f****** dodgeball." Naturally, being the last game of the season, not having won a game for weeks, and being significantly shorthanded...we won. We were catching fools and we really put the onion into our throws. At several points our prospects looked dim, but someone always came up with a crucial play (and yes I reclaimed glory by finishing off the remaining two players on the other team singlehandedly...twice)

The playoffs start this week. The way I figure it we're peaking just when we need to, haha.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The man isn't keeping me down

For the last month I've been battling the SD Department of Labor to obtain unemployment benefits. I figured that if I'm already swallowing most of my pride by living with the parents and volunteering I might as well swallow the rest and get "my money for nothin' and my checks for free." The D of L didn't think it was so cool that I was volunteering 40 hours a week while claiming that I was still able to search for and accept work if offered (I have to prove that I have applied for two jobs a week to qualify for benefits). So the D of L determined that I was ineligible for benefits. I appealed the determination. After all, I'm volunteering for one reason, and that is to increase my marketability and qualifications, which should be quite congruent with the goals of the D of L. Amazingly enough, my arguments convinced a judge to rule in my favor over the belly-aching of a peon of the D of L who was present to argue against me. The whole process was a bit weird, culminating with the "hearing" conducted via conference call. So to get to the whole point of this post...SUCK IT SD Department of Labor.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

We're so cool

If hacking up flem is cool, then you can consider me and the rest of the fam Miles Davis. The Oh*** crew has come down with some sort of head/chest plague. Personally I think someone put a curse upon our heads Old Testament style. I've never seen my dad so sick. He laid around the house for several days making weird breathing-esque noises. I'm lobbying for burning the couch and the TV remotes to cleanse the house. I immediately started taking a whole regiment of vitamins, Zicam, and fruit juices. I seemed to ward off the worst of the symptoms but nonetheless succumbed to the flem. To bolster my "curse upon our heads" theory, my mom found out that she is allergic to everything from wheat to milk. And the consequence of eating these food is - you guessed it - flem. So, if anyone wants to make some quick money, buy all Kleenex stock you can afford.* On the upside though, my voice periodically falls an octave lower and obtains a gravelly tone that would make Johnny Cash jealous.

* Following the financial advice of the author should be done at your own considerable risk, considering his complete lack of knowledge of all things financial.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving food hangover

Probably the best holiday has come and gone. But it was a good one.

Continued traditions:
1. A fine three part liquid concoction of the Emerald Isle
2. All the usual good foods

New endeavors:
1. Four sweet potato pies (five pounds of sweet potatoes goes a long way)
2. Making thin bread (see pic)

Things missed:
1. Rekishi Ninja's green bean casserole (I only had it once, two years ago. It was that good)
2. A second orange-haired sibling

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Jump" doesn't start with "D"

An unexpected invitation arrived in my voicemail last week. A few fire crew buddies had started a dodgeball team in the local city recreational league. They needed an extra player. I was more than happy to oblige. You see, my last two dodgeball memories are dripping with glory. The scene: typical middle school gymnasium: lacquered plywood bleachers folded against the wall, basketball hoops, lots of white tile, eighth grade. It was the last day of school. The gym teacher let us play three team dodgeball. I was still a scrawny four-foot-something nerd. The bigger kids were putting some serious steam on that playground ball. I suddenly found myself holding that red rubber sphere of destiny in my hand with only a few minutes of class left. I had nothing too loose. I sighted across the gym from me a big, fat, jerk of a kid I had never liked throughout childhood (incidentally he just walked into the coffee shop I am at, I haven't seen him since high school). Some inner strength I didn't know I had welled up and I put every muscle in my body into throwing that ball. A red streak sped across the gym, nearly breaking the sound barrier. The missile beaned the jerk square in the face. My gut jumped with equal parts elation and fear. I had just smoked the biggest kid in the class. In a state of near shock at being hit with a ball moving at a speed only he thought he could produce, he asked "Who threw that?" I said, as nonchalantly as I could, "I did." The whole class looked at me with a newfound respect. Now that's the way to finish off eighth grade.

My second brush with dodgeball glory came as a senior in high school. I had to satisfy my PE requirements as a senior because I had been to busy the previous years with studly things like marching band. Again it was three team dodgeball. I was the last one standing on my team. I managed to avoid all the balls thrown at me until, once again, a big burly kid was the only other player left. At least by this time I had grown a couple feet, but I couldn't be described as anything but a beanpole in stature. The big kid ran straight at me and hurled the ball with all his might at very close proximity. Somehow I caught the ball and put him out. He yelled in astonishment and, being a bit more confident, I raised the ball toward the sky and paraded around the gym.

As you can see I must have some innate dodgeball talent. At least that's what I thought before the big game last Tuesday night. I sucked. I was out quicker than I thought possible. My problem? I was trying to jump over balls thrown at me. Now if you remember your "Five D's of dodgeball" from the movie Dodgeball, players should avoid being hit by employing the Five D's. The D's instruct you to dodge, dive, duck, dip, and dodge. Jump is not a part of the Five D's. Hence my poor performance. Next week I reclaim glory.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Battle of the Generations

Since the holidays are rolling around, conversation among the extended family has inevitably moved toward preparations for various celebrations. My dad and I joined my grandma for dinner on Friday night since my mom was away at a retreat. We talked about the same things we always talk about, and every good Midwestern family should talk about: food, work, and family. Aas it always does this time of year, the conversation turned to that traditional Scandinavian delicacy, lutefisk . Christmas Eve, the day we all had to prepare ourselves to reckon with the galatinous fishy blob, was only a month and a half away. We all knew that lutefisk is cod, or at least it used to be cod. My grandmother and I were sure that the cod was preserved with lye and then dried until it was stiff as a board. It would later be reconstituted with water to soften it and remove the lye, thus making it edible, if not tasty. My dad countered that lutefisk was dried and salted to preserve it, then later reconstituted with lye. The dispute was over the use of lye in the preservation/reconstitution process. We agreed to disagree (as a side note not particularly relevant to the debate, my dad insisted that dried cod, destined to become lutefisk, would be propped up on the sides of small country stores for dogs to pee on. I don't know what to attribute the recurrence of this claim to). As usual, my research confirmed that my dad was right. The lye is used to reconstitute the dried cod and remove the salt, making it edible and somewhat "fresh" looking. There is a whole separate debate on the repulsiveness vs. tastiness of lutefisk, but that will have to wait for another post. One can only handle so much fun in one day.

A lutefisk drying rack.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I bit the bullett

It's official, I'm going to be a bona fide volunteer at Mt. Rushmore. The responsibility of building experience in the NPS sent the life of a ski bum running away with its tail between its legs. In the end, I simply couldn't justify giving up the opportunity to get more experience in the hopes that I will be able to determine my future with the NPS that much sooner. Not that I wasn't sad to see the defeated option retreating, quite the opposite. I will miss that lifestyle for sure and I hope it will be back sometime in the future. Overall, it feels great to have the weight of decision making off of my shoulders, but I'm sure the weight will be replaced by some gloomy days as I ponder the life of a 28 year old living at home. I'm confident though that it is temporary and that I can make RC a decent place to spend a winter saving money. So, I know that hundreds of you out there have burning questions about Mt. Rushmore. Whip those questions into shape and ask me in a couple weeks. I know you can't wait. With that, my belly-aching posts are done. Thank goodness for that.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Zero hour

The culmination of the last five weeks is at hand. I have to make up my mind, no more beating around the bush. The options: 1. Stay in RC, live with my parents, swallow pride, volunteer at Mt. Rushmore, get loads of good NPS experience, become a hermit to save money, learn to play the harmonica. 2. Move back to Bend, earn money, have fun, prepare self to wow NPS hiring officials in the spring.

I've been ruminating on these two options for about three solid weeks. I've made lists, pounded my head against the wall, and played devil's advocate. Both options are about equal with pluses and minuses which is why I can't make up my mind. Neither choice is obviously better than the other one. I have to make up my mind by tomorrow afternoon though, as people in Bend need to know if I'm going to show up. So, if anyone has any magic "Best Decision" potion send it my way because I have a feeling that if I flipped a coin it would land on edge.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

At Last

For anyone who gives two bits, I've put up a Flickr link/picture viewer thing on my blog. Look to the right and down.

I've always wanted to say "two bits." The day is a success.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Old?

KFR's usual astute observations and comments, this time on the process of aging, got me thinking. The idea that stasis becomes an increasingly attractive state of being as one ages seems particularly accurate as do the comments on the growing importance of close friends. I've tried to avoid stasis in my life so far. But to be honest, the idea is gaining steam with me. The ability to put some roots down somewhere and foster those roots for more than a six month period would be nice. It seems to me that the challenge would be to combine stasis with a healthy dose of willingness to step out of one's comfort zone and embrace a little change. As I've been back in RC for about a month now, I've noticed some people around town from my childhood. Some of these people have not changed in the slightest, except for the normal aging process. They dress the same, act the same, and do the same things. That permanence is really quite scary. I can't imagine that there is much excitement in their life (don't get me wrong though, I thoroughly look forward to the day that I sit in the open garage on a riding lawn mower and shake my fist at the neighbor kids). Perhaps they like it that way, and perhaps that will become more and more attractive as I age. For now though, I wish everyone happy aging with a perfect mix of stasis and change.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good music goes a long way

The last few weeks, the responsible Mr. Matthew. D. Ohl** has been waging a full scale war of attrition on the car-bomb-drinking, bluegrass-dancing, backseat-of-the-Cutlass-drunken-sleeping, dead-end-job-working, purple-wig-wearing, every six-month moving person known in various geographic regions as "The Governor," "The Mother," "The Conqueror, and "Ranger Babyface." But the alter-egos of Mr. Responsible are holding their own. Obviously I am having some sort of early-life crisis. As much as I have tried to avoid it, I think that I have finally woken up to the fact that perhaps I should do a bit more planning for some sort of a career. More details on this raging battle will be forthcoming once one side gets an upper hand on the other.

In the meantime, I have found good music a must for maintaining my sanity on a daily basis. My current favorite has been provided via a good old mix tape given to my bro by a co-worker. I figured it is fair game to "borrow" things belonging to family members if they are out of the country for the near future (thanks Bri). On said tape is a song I consider to epitomize a nearly perfect bluegrass song. The artist is Old Crow Medicine Show and the song is Wagon Wheel. The song has great twang, appropriately interesting and folksy lyrics, a danceable beat, and good musicianship. It puts me in a good mood, and like a security blanket reminds me that "everything will be alright." Thanks Old Crow Medicine Show.

Responsibility vs...



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rural fun

The third weekend of October brings in the opening weekend of pheasant hunting in SD. One of SD's few claims to fame (besides dead white guys on a mountain) is fantastic pheasant hunting. Pheasant hunting is a lot of fun. You can't start hunting until noon, you get to walk a lot, you are actually supposed to be noisy, and pheasants are darn good eatin.' Plus, you get to hang out on a ranch for three days. To make it even better, the owner of the ranch is nicknamed "Tex" for good reason. This is seriously rural, I even slept in the bunkhouse. The hunting wasn't that great this year, but still a lot of fun. One highlight of the weekend is the soup feed put on by the Hamil riding club. The feed takes place in the community center which was made of what looks like a giant stainless steel culvert cut in half lengthwise and placed on the ground. The whole thing is big enough to accommodate a basketball court and kitchen. Everyone from miles around shows up to support the riding club. There were more cowboys and cowgirls than you could shake a stick at. In the central part of the state, where Hamil is located, the family farm/ranch still abounds. The soup feed made this readily apparent. It was a good feeling to see this part of America alive and well. Of course, most of the people there are highly subsidized by the feds, but on the flip side it's easy to see that they still have an uphill battle to scrape together a living off the land. If I had a hat on, I would tip it to them.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My haircutting place has a myspace page

I got my hair cut today at a place in RC called the Factory. It is a very eclectic hole in the wall place. It's even hard to find. There is very little street front signage compared to the glaring awnings and sandwich boards of the nearby stores. I've been to this place about five times now, it has gotten trendier each time I've been there. Not trendy in the frat boy sense, but trendy in the hip, urban sense. The place even has their own DJ, not to mention its own myspace page. I really like going there, its like an adventure. I never know what it's going to be like. For instance, the last time I went, I had a serious conversation with Dawn, the person who cuts my hair, about getting some red highlights. At least I acted serious. She brought the subject up today, but I convinced her that my money would be better spent getting a new tattoo - an idea she wholeheartedly supported. Plus, my hair looks different each time I leave. It always manages to find its way back to the good old usual way I have it, but for an afternoon I'm a rockstar. Getting a haircut is also relaxing. The chairs go up and down, you get to wear a poncho, and people regularly run with scissors. What's not to like? Now if I could just get my hair to grow faster.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pro and Cons

Whenever I find myself at a transition point, usually in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, I often have a lot of time on my hands and a long mental list of things to accomplish. The problem is that items on my mental list come and go without always being accomplished. Knowing this, the struggle to keep them on the mental list before they escape can produce the illusion that I have much more to do than I really do. Enter the paper list...my new best friend. I'm carrying around my new best friend in my pocket right now. According to Herb (my current list's name) I still have to:
1. Drink the rest of my latte (Herb is a stickler for details)
2. Get an idea of the cost of plane tickets to Chile
3. Run
4. Get the slow leak in my tire fixed

The thing about lists, is that if I write something down a) I don't have to worry about remembering it, and b) I usually accomplish the tasks because I wrote them down, thus making them seem more important.

All of my lists, of which there have been many, are inspired by the be all end all of lists that my sister and I concocted one summer. We were both home for the summer and had many things we wanted to do together that we had talked about doing for several years but had not accomplished. We titled the list "The Summer of George" after a Seinfeld episode in which George was going to do all the things he always wanted to do. The list took form on a giant poster board, keenly decorated by my younger sibling. I think the size really helped drive home the urgency of crossing off its items. Needless to say, we had a great summer thanks to the giant list hung on the wall.

A form of list that I have grown fond of over the years is the pro and con list. I have found it invaluable in making decisions. As an ode to the pro and con list...

Pros of being at home in RC: leftovers, Onyx the dog, Fox the cat, no rent, sweet AV system

Cons of being at home in RC: too much time to reflect on being at home, the subtle hints about good life decisions, Miller Genuine Draft Lite in the fridge

My latte is almost gone. Herbs usefulness is waning...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Like the Plague






Since my last post I have been extremely busy avoiding the reality of living in my parents' house in good ol' RC SD. I left the Tower for my final time early the morning of Sept. 29 and drove to RC. Upon arrival I went through a typical Ohlen last-second packing frenzy getting ready for an 8 day fly fishing trip to Yellowstone. I then jumped in the car with an uncle and drove to Bozeman to start fishing the Madison the following day. The next eight days were great. They included...
1. Big browns on dries
2. A 30+ fish day
3. Drinking with the patriarchs of the fam
4. Being the baddest-ass fishermen on the river (or the only ones dumb enough to fish for six hours in a snow storm)
5. Wolves running, wolves howling, bears eating, elk bugling
6. My favorite hot springs in the world
7. Eating corn dogs and rootbeer shakes at a genuine drive-in
8. Lots of "Extreme Hunter" two-gun action at the K-Bar in Gardner, MT

After getting back to RC I assisted my brother in preparing for his winter in S. America. By "assisting" I mean laying around watching Lord of the Rings while giving him advice on packing. He and I also managed to get in a good day of climbing and a night on the town. The average bar patron in RC can be found under the Webster's definition for "tool shed" but we had fun whispering about them and generally feeling superior. Then, since I am unemployed, I volunteered to drive him to Denver to fly out. He flew out on Sat. and I hung out with my aunt and uncle for a day then decided to drive to Gunnison, CO, where I am right now, to talk to a man about a job. I'm heading back to SD tomorrow. It will be a long haul, but it wouldn't offseason without at least one ridiculously long drive.

Fortunately, I do not have to return to RC, SD with no prospect of leaving. Before leaving to Denver I was offered a job in Telluride, CO. I am super excited to have that opportunity. I am also eying an NPS job in Gunnison, CO though the chances of that are slim. I feel like I should pursue the NPS job (hence my presence in Gunnison) for career purposes, but deep down I really just want to play in the snow this winter in Telluride.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Coin Purse

As I stand at the visitor center desk, which includes the cash register for the Devils Tower Natural History Assoc. bookstore, I have had the opportunity to observe thousands of people pay for merchandise. It amazes me the complexity some people put into as simple of a task as paying for a book. First of all, the amount of people who still pay with cash amazes me. To be fair, a high percentage of people who have visited the bookstore lately are old. Old people use cash much more than do younger people, likely due to the relatively recent explosion in the use of credit cards. The old people also amaze me in their use of a device I though surely went out with the passing of the age of 9. This device is the coin purse. I've seen all manner of coin purses (I'm strictly talking about a small container made to hold coins here, mind you). My favorite style is one made of leather in a spiral pattern that collapses down on coins laid flatly in its center. Now, old people have been around for a long time. They've probably learned a thing or two in their day. I think they may be on to something in their use of coin purses. Personally I just keep coins in my pocket for a day and then throw them on my dresser that night before bed. I never put them back in my pocket to use the following day. I've probably lost dollars upon dollars because I lose the coins or put them in a receptacle with the never-accomplished goal of exchanging them at the bank.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Save Me

My inner parent keeps whispering in my ear, "get a real job this winter." To satisfy the voice, though I am still giving my all to ignore it, I am taking a break from filling out NPS applications for winter positions in the desert Southwest. I'm pulling for Death Valley. I want to establish a trend of working at the parks with the most morbid names.

In a decidedly non-morbid announcement, check out the blog of the coolest, smartest, Jew I know...Smurf This.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The regularity of my blogging seems to follow a general pattern - When I move somewhere new, I have lots of time on my hands and I blog with some frequency. As my tenure at any given location continues, my time is increasingly occupied by the various things one does as the socially awkward phase of meeting people transitions to that of membership in a community. While this has happened as the summer has progressed, the departure of many of the seasonal employees at the Tower has given me some more free time. The problem is, my internet access is provided by an open wireless connection at a local tourist trap. The catch is that you have to sit outside on picnic tables where the deer and antelope quite literally play. As the equinox approaches I have found myself on various occasions, checking my email in the dark with a hat a gloves on. The cold, darkness, and be-gloved hands have combined to zap what were good intentions to blog. Never fear though, I will be making a move somewhere new in the next couple months, so my blogging frequency should increase. I still have no clear place to go. So I will do what I normally do...get in my truck and drive around the west pretending I have the money to be unemployed until I get something figured out. Yellowstone is on the docket of travel destinations, hopefully for a week, and hopefully with a lot of fishing involved.

As for other travelers, I have to give a shout out to three cool cats who have initiated blogs to document their travels - My bro heading for the southern-most tip of S. America, his intrepid and eloquent girlfriend researching an MA thesis in Guatemala, and my bro's former roommate, mutual friend, and all around good chap learning to speak the local lingo in Taiwan. Oh to be young again.

Friday, August 31, 2007

What's next?

The recent spate of employee departures from the Tower has signaled the beginning of my usual late summer musings about the upcoming winter. Of course I have lots of schemes but nothing planned concretely. The original plan was to join my brother in some tiny mountain town in Colorado featuring a ski resort and lots of snow. This still may happen, but he has received a job offer not to be turned down in Patagonia, Chile. Those pesky visa requirements stand in the way though, and preclude him and thus me from making any concrete plans in the near future. There is also the opportunity to go back to Bend, OR. I would enjoy that, but I am also lusting after some dry Rocky Mountain snow. And finally, there are of course NPS jobs for the winter season. There is much pondering, fretting, and nail biting to be done in the next few weeks.

On another note, I finally summited the Tower via the Durrance route. Its quite a climb. Considering my infantile crack climbing skills my success was due more to brute force and a lot of heavy breathing than to efficient technique. The reality of the climb struck me most on a move called the "jump traverse." The traverse requires a horizontal move across a gap that descends through three hundred feet of air to the ground. The trick is there are not good foot holds, so one has to rely on rather small hand holds. The move is not that physically hard, but the mental aspect is a whole different matter. Nonetheless, standing on the top of the Tower was satisfying if rather anti-climatic. You see, the summit is about the size of a football field, slightly dome shaped featuring a prairie landscape. If you sit in the middle of the summit, it is impossible to tell that you are in fact on top of a tower. It looks more like you are on the top of a gently sloping hill. Sitting on the very edge, dangling your feet over and gazing down at waving tourists 700 feet below is more exhilarating.

I had the chance to climb the Durrance route a second time as well. But this time I was paid for it. On two successive nights, I observed the Tower get pounded by lightning. The day after the second storm, a local climbing guide reported that a large boulder had been blasted apart and a refrigerator sized rock was in danger of falling. This was quite significant since a boulder has not fallen off of the tower in recorded history. Despite or efforts to coax it off during a "rock falling" party, the boulder remained perched two thirds of the way up the tower. So I was recruited, along with one of the climbing rangers, to climb to the boulder, inspect it and take pictures. My technique proved more efficient this time and we accomplished our goal. Much to our dread though, a large thunderstorm approached rapidly and we made a narrow escape to terra firma under lightning and hard rain.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hog Wrestlin'

This weekend marks the annual start of the Crook County Fair in Sundance, WY. As a temporary resident of Crook County I did my civic duty and attended the hog wrestlin' event last night. To get prepped for the fair, I was treated to a favorite local song on the way to the fair. The song is titled "CCCS'er," pronounced Triple C S'er. The acronym means Campbell County Cock Sucker. Campbell County is an adjacent county home to Gillette, Wyoming. Gillette is a modern-day western boom town. The area surrounding Gillette has every energy producing substance you can imagine, from oil, to natural gas, to coal. There is currently a huge natural gas boom. There are not enough people to fill the jobs. Even McDonalds is paying $10/hr. to start. In consequence, Gillette is a the largest town around, and its residents, according to the song "make 50 grand a year, but are 200,000 in debt." They also drive "2006 Tahoes."

With my Crook County pride sufficiently stoked, I attended the annual pig wrestling event. There is a circular area about 30 feet in diameter fenced off with a large bucket in the middle. The whole area is covered with bentonite, which, when wet, makes regular mud seem like concrete. Teams of 4 are set loose chasing a pig around this muddy enclosure. The team has 1 minute to capture the pig and drop it in the bucket. The little kids went first, with little pigs and a little bucket. Then came the men's and women's divisions. Each team was bid on by the crowd, with the winning bidders of the top two teams receiving cash. With the adult divisions, the pigs are about 220 pounds for the men, and 160 for the women. The bucket in the center of the ring becomes a 55 gallon drum. One women's team was "purchased" for $2000, the top men's team going for around $1000. The fastest time was an astounding 13 seconds set by a men's team. Several teams failed to catch the pig at all. The pigs had much better traction in the bentonite, and were lubed up with mud (KY was also rumored to be used). The best part was the squealing the pigs made when they were almost caught. Good old fashioned fun.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Rumble Begins

It is still a week before the Sturgis motorcycle rally officially starts, bringing as many as 600,000 leather clad bikers to the Black Hills area. But the early-birds have already arrived. I am sitting outside utilizing the free wireless at a local gift shop and restaurant inundated by bikers and the constant rumble of their Harleys or custom choppers. For better or for worse, the next two weeks will be filled with this deafening roar. The sound is novel for about the first ten minutes, then you realize that every overweight middle aged biker who only rides their bike two weeks out of the year finds endless joy in revving their engine for no good reason. On the upside though, the bikes make so much noise that the interp staff at the Tower doesn't have to give talks because we can't be heard. So we simply walk around and talk to people. The bikers are quite interesting one on one, but when there are so many of them the scene becomes a bit annoying.
The Tower had a visit from another, more impressive, noise creating group last week. The Blue Angels did about ten flyby's of the Tower to take photos. Seeing and hearing these fighter planes fly low with the Tower in the background was awesome. I had a momentary relapse to boyhood and a desire to become a fighter pilot. Instead, I just ran around the yard with my arms outstretched like wings. Just kidding.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Distractions

Try as I might, it was an impossibility to change my work schedule to accommodate a quick trip to Bozeman for some sought after socialization and celebration with a posse of current and former Oregonians that I have been yearning to see. If anything good came out of my inability to make my schedule work it is the knowledge of how one needs to go about "officially" requesting days of. You see, the federal government must keep record of everything, including leave requests from the grunts in the trenches like me. Some other grunts knew this and asked Uncle Sam for their days off before I did. With that disappointment, and the inherent drama that stems from a bunch of strangers thrown into close proximity for a few months and expected to be fast friends, I needed a break from the tower. Spearfish, SD to the rescue.

I met my mom and sis in Spearfish yesterday. We hiked to a place called Devils Bathtub (I can only go places now that have the name "devil" in them) in Spearfish Canyon. A little creek forms a series of pools at the base of small falls. The pools lend themselves perfectly to relaxing in the water and splashing around. My dad then met us for some fly fishing. I redeemed myself from our last outing - I was skunked. I caught quite a few fish this time, ranging from a whopping four inches to a respectable 13. Not exactly Moby Dick, but at least I smelled like a fish when I was done.

Today finds me back in Spearfish eagerly awaiting a haircut at a place that purportedly breaks out a cold beer for you when you sit down in the big chair. This sounds almost as good as an ice cold PBR in a hot shower.

I also had a weird realization while hanging out with my mom and dad: they are old. It hit me all at once. Last I remember, they were relatively spry. They ran around, seemed limber, jumped over things and generally seemed physically fit. To be fair, my dad is over sixty and my mom is getting close, but all of a sudden they seem more like paper clips - breakable if bent to far- rather than silly putty. Wow, with that great analogy I better be off for my haircut.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A bad combination

The heat has returned to north-eastern Wyoming. I don't mind heat that much. But I have come down with some sort of stomach bug for the last few days that makes enduring the heat that much more annoying. I'm attributing my stomach problems to a serving of macaroni salad, the thought of which makes me queasy. I thought I had made a recovery yesterday so I went to the lake and spent far too long in the sun for a pigment-challenged person like me. I'm not now devoid of color, but a nice painful shade of red. The lake was fun though, swimming, jumping, and a photo-op with a mermaid Barbi doll. The day was topped off with a viewing of Blazing Saddles, chicken Alfredo, and the return of Old Man Nausea. At least I have a good excuse to nap now.

To make matters worse, some clever fellow employee requested the weekend of July 27-29 off before I did. So as of right now I am high and dry for time off. Shitty.

To conclude on a better note I'm hoping to see Harry Potter tonight.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Six dollars of Satisfaction


I had a very fruitful visit to the Spearfish, SD Salvation Army a few days ago. I'm not normally one to be susceptible to impulse buys, but the novelty of the items and their cheap price combined to break down my willpower. I've always disliked the idea of wearing a robe because I couldn't get past the feeling that any robe I wore was intrinsically dirty no matter how many times it had been washed. To be clear, I have no problem with other people wearing robes. In fact I have always been rather jealous of those who can pull off a robe. Now that I have bought and worn a robe I am starting to like it (though, like sweatpants and my Uggs, I will never wear it in public). The fork adds a hint of class I think, kind of like a trident but not as cool.


Not pictured: an elementary-school-style Dick Tracy plastic lunch box complete with thermos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

As the Tower Turns

Well, as you might have assumed from my lack of blog postings (despite my intentions of the opposite) that I have somehow managed to fill what I thought were endless idle hours with activity. This is at least partially true, because my ability to fritter away the days has grown substantially. If I can break out of this pattern I hope to re-engage in the pursuit of some worthy goals. I know what they are, I just have to execute.

The job continues to be enjoyable. I like observing people on vacation, they have some very interesting behavior. I especially enjoy the propensity for people on vacation to wear fishing vests when they are nowhere near the water. Apparently for some people when they are on vacation the contents of their pants pockets multiplies to the extent that they need fifteen or twenty pockets off different shapes and sizes. But who likes a simple khaki vest? That's where the patches come in.

On the plus side though, the groundwork for another winter in the mountains seems to be set - much to the chagrin of my parents given the tone of their recent comments. The process of my brother and I narrowing down our choices of places to live has begun. It's a good problem to have.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Props

I have to give huge props to all the recent blog posts from the current and former Eugene posse. Good musings and good pics. On the other hand, my blog has seen an inexcusable dearth of attention despite my large amount of free time at the Tower. My ever-fragile Dell computer, which I managed to kill on my road trip, is still under warranty - much to my surprise. I was all revved up to give Dell an ear full in hopes of getting some sort of free repair but it was unnecessary. When I get it back in a week or so I will really have no excuse not to blog.

Work at the Tower has been good. I'm enjoying in a lot. People tend to be friendly and in a good mood while on vacation. I've even gotten a couple questions about NPS management. I spouted out more about NPS history and management to that poor guy than he probably ever wanted to know. The typical question is "where's the bathroom," so I really have to take advantage of those substantive questions. I've also started my program schedule full-swing. I have three programs that I give routinely. One is a guided walk around the tower, another is a short twenty minute talk, and the last is an evening Powerpoint presentation at the amphitheater. All have gone well so far. My favorite is the short talk. In it I have a great story about a guy who parachuted to the top of the Tower and got stranded up there for six days in 1941. One suggestion to get him down was to drop him a bottle of whiskey. If he were to drink it, then the ordeal would be over because "God knows what to do with drunks."

Life in a town with a population of 408 continues to be interesting. I've gotten to know the locals and had a good time fraternizing with them, though I can't go as far as claiming to like Bud Lite and Copenhagen long cut. I gave both the old college try, with predictable results.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Greenery

It has been very rainy here lately. Uncommonly rainy, at least when compared to the last few drought stricken years. In consequence, the countryside is beautifully green and verdant. The deer are starting to fatten up, lots of birds are singing, and even the skunks look pleasant.

Now that it is June, many important Native American ceremonies take place. They are particularly centered around the solstice. But on the first of June, there was a guy playing a drum and singing in Lakota up on the boulder field below the tower. His was singing in the distance, so it sounded almost as if you were imagining things. The experience of hearing him was really cool. After that, the interp staff had a discussion with some Lakota Sioux elders about the sacredness of Devils Tower, or Bear's Lodge more accurately. This old Indian couple had some of the most profound things to say about respect, peace, and making your way in the world. The tolerance this couple had for other points of view (provided they were respectful) was really inspiring. For most of the day, they simply told stories that served to teach many of the lessons that were imparted to them as youngsters. It was often hard get them to answer questions in a pointed or specific way, but nonetheless I learned a lot and was reminded how far simple respect can go towards solving complex problems.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Week 4

I'm about to start week four at Devils Tower. My duties have not been fully implemented yet. The first two weeks were training - partially useful, partially mind-numbing. Fortunately in week three I started working at the visitor center and finally getting to wear my uniform. I actually really like wearing the uniform, especially the hat. Unfortunately though, we can't wear our hats indoors. I've found that people will believe almost anything you say if you have a uniform on. Working at the visitor center consists of standing behind a desk and answering questions. Most of the questions are about how to get somewhere or where the bathrooms are. But thankfully there are some people who ask substantive questions that actually take some explanation. I've found my week point to be birding questions. For example: "I just saw a stunning species of thrush. It had two wing bars, a grey breast, a darker back, and a shrill call. What's its name?" The only accurate response I could give was, "Yes, you definitely saw a bird."

When I'm not at the visitor center I have "project time" to work on my program. I've enjoyed this process this far, as I am allowed a lot of leeway in choosing a topic. My topic is NPS history and the challenge to balance preservation and use in the parks. Designing the program has been a nice opportunity to do some writing and research. I'm excited about the program, but I don't think it will be the most enthralling for the visitors unless they share my interest in it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Settling In

Memorial Day weekend treated me well. I had four days off of work, and I'm now getting paid. I drove to the southern Black Hills to attend a wedding. The whole fam showed up and we had a good time hanging out. The younger generation of the family got in some good climbing on Sunday and some good partying on Saturday night. The wedding was Renaissance style, which was really entertaining since the wedding party all wore Renaissance era costumes. The reception though was certainly 21st century. The roast pig was abundant and the wine and beer flowed freely. A fun time dancing was had by all. The most exciting experience of the night came on the walk home. My sister and I stayed at the reception later than the rest of the Ohlens so we had to walk back to her cabin a half mile away. It was about midnight, and quite dark by the time we stumbled down the road. We had only walked about two hundred yards when a big black shape in front of us that had not attracted our attention up to that point quickly sprang around to face us. The big black shape was a large bull buffalo so close to us that we could see the moonlight gleaming in its beady little eye which was set in its extremely non-beady head. In a stroke a pure brotherly genius I said "Oh, we better cross to the other side of the street." Apparently I assumed that the buffalo would be unwilling to risk crossing a double yellow line in order to gore us. Fortunately for us, a friend pulled up in a car just as we were executing my foolproof plan. We piled in the back seat and were whisked off to the cabin.



Life at Devils Tower has proven to be interesting, if not as exciting. The locals are particularly colorful. I met the former mayor at the bar. He was so drunk that you could re-introduce yourself to him several times, receiving a shot each time in return for your good natured friendliness. All establishments have at least three or four animal heads mounted on the wall. In fact, one restaurant I ate at was a combo hunting lodge-cafe-gun shop. It's a great experience eating country fried steak with twenty five dead animals staring at you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Still catching up

As per Jeff and E's observation, I will elaborate on a bit of the Vegas trip. It's been such a whirlwind, I've had a hard time remembering what all I did in the last couple months. Basically Vegas amounted to an orgy of debauchery and spending money (I hesitate to use the term "orgy" since an actual orgy didn't happen. But if it ever were to, it seems like Vegas would be a likely place for it to occur). The organizer and several of the attendants of the bachelor party are established businessmen, and have the salaries that go along with such positions. Fortunately another friend of mine attended who is in similar financial status as I am. So, he and I shared a room in the Frontier (home of bikini mechanical bull riding and female mud wrestling - neither of which I saw). The Frontier is not known for its world-class amenities. Nevertheless it was across the street from the Wynn, which is world-class, and the base for debauchery. The base of operations at the Wynn was a suite with one wall comprised totally of windows overlooking the city. The stay was short enough that I was able to pretend that I had lots of money and thus foot the bill for lots of things I probably won't have an excuse to do again in a long time. Some of the highlights were

1. Fantastic and expensive meals at an Asian restaurant called Tao and a steak house called Nine
2. Bypassing a huge line to get into Ghost Bar on the top of the Palms because we were "VIP's" and hence ushered in by men wearing dark glasses, black suits, and ear pieces.
3. Private table at said bar, with a view over the strip.
4. Simply ordering bottles of liquor and having unlimited mixers brought to the table rather than going drink by drink...yum.
5. Limo rides to the clubs
6. Walking through what we later found out to be Vegas's worst homeless/crime ridden neighborhood at 5:oo am passing passed out naked hookers and tent cities before we found a cab (actually that was a low point, but we were all too drunk to realize it at the time).
7. Laying by the pool recovering.

I didn't gamble because I found many other more entertaining ways to blow my money in Vegas. The strip was amazing, in a gaudy sort of way. It was one of three things that made my jaw drop on the whole trip, the other two being the redwoods and the Narrows in Zion. All in all, I had a great time, but 48 hours was plenty. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty contributing to the extreme unsustainability and over consumption of that oasis in the desert. But it was a great time.

On a more mundane note, I'm now getting paid to sit in training. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Devils Tower

I finally made it to Devils Tower. I arrived on Sunday afternoon, after accumulating 4,900 miles over the previous month on the road. It's nice to not be living out of a suitcase, but I certainly wasn't sick of traveling yet. The trip ended on a good note at Brian's graduation from the U of Idaho. The whole trip was great, largely thanks to all of you who I was able to hang out with. I saw some great new country, especially that of Zion National Park. If you ever have a chance to hike the Narrows, I would highly recommend it. Some pictures of the desert portion of the trip are at my buddy Matt's flickr site. I will try to get some pics up soon too, but my computer is down for the count after bumping around in the back seat of my truck for the last month.

Devils Tower has been good so far. I'm learning how the NPS defines "interpretation" and what they expect from interpretive programs. Soon I will get to design my own programs on a topic of my choosing - provided that it fits with the park's broad interpretive goals. Unfortunately, though, my background check is stuck in a log-jam of paperwork in some government office. So, I have to volunteer until the check comes through. I'm hoping it will come through tomorrow.

Living in the park promises to be peaceful. No TV, but lots of deer, rabbits, and porcupines roaming around. I even saw a family of 6 red foxes today. All the little foxes were laying out in the sun by their den.

I'm off to my den now, featuring a bunk bed, a tiny bathroom, asbestos sealed under the floor, and lead paint a few layers under the existing paint. Yum.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

City Observations

I made it to Seattle last night in good shape and in good time. The drive was good, lots of new scenery and some freshly picked asparagus, yum. I've done a few Seattle-ish things so far. Standing in the rain, getting stuck in traffic, and hanging out in a coffee shop in the University District are a few of them. I was really amused while crawling through a traffic jam on the interstate yesterday to observe two different drivers reading while they were driving. They weren't going fast, probably 15-20 mph, but I had a good laugh nonetheless. One was reading a fully unfolded newspaper and the other was reading a bunch of papers all on a clipboard. I figured that if you drink enough good Seattle coffee that your multitasking capabilities go through the roof. My multitasking capabilities have not yet seen such an increase. I did find out though, that the goofy hats NPS employees have to wear cost $54, and that's without the required embossed hat band. Nifty. Another unique purchase of late was a 64 oz hip flask (if it can still be called a hip flask) to present to the soon-to-be-married bachelor whose party I will be attending in Vegas. Luckily, I'm not responsible for filling it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm leaving in a green truck (to the tune of "Leaving on a jet plane")

The time has finally come, my ETD is less than 24 hours. At this time tomorrow I should be cruising through the home territory of E, otherwise known as Yakima in wonderful eastern Washington. I'm starting to get excited as I can feel the open road calling. I should really get back to packing. So with that, it's farewell to Bend. I'm looking forward to seeing many of your smiling faces soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Internet Cops

The internet cops at Clearwire found out that my household was stealing the internet. One of my roommates formerly worked for Clearwire and was able to create a dummy account and procure the wireless modem. But now we have been propelled back into the twentieth century. At least I'm moving out in a few days. The lack of internet at home, and a way too big cup of coffee has gotten me out of the house and motivated me to get a lot of stuff done. Every once in awhile I have a day when I accomplish lots of things on my to do list. Unfortunately, on a typical day I manage to work around my to do list and go to bed wondering how I managed to get next to nothing done.

Brace yourself for my accomplishments today...
1. Snowboarding in the morning
2. Haircut
3. Get fingerprints taken
4. Send heinous background forms back to Devil's Tower
5. Send in goggles for warranty
6. Purchase temporary health insurance
7. Send emails
8. Update blog

Things yet to be done
1. Buy book about Devil's Tower (I should probably know a thing or two about it before I get there)
2. More packing.

Plus, today I obtained a unique perspective on my life that comes too infrequently. Every once in a while I find myself able to focus on my life and its path (past present and future) on the scale of years. I cease to be concerned with the trivial tasks and worries that come about on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and instead can see the decisions and patterns in my life that are propelling me in a certain way. The broad picture I saw pleased me. Lets hope it stays that way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Final Countdown

My final week in Bend has started. Much to my delight, Old Man Winter decided to show up for one last storm on the mountain. The snow was good in the morning, and there was enough of it to formally call it a powder day. The rest of my day was very boring. Thanks to the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security, I had to spend hours upon hours this afternoon filling out forms with my background information so that I can be cleared to work for the NPS. The worst part is that I'm not done yet. I had to provide names of friends, co-workers and people who knew me at each place that I have resided in the last five years. Not one fragment of time can be unaccounted for. Those of you who are reading this must have some interest in my life, and thus qualify as a friend. So, you made it onto my background form and you may be getting a call from some shady federal spy agent checking up on my background information. What a pain in the ass. I wish I could have remembered the names of all those old ladies that I've helped across the street.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

?

Apparently complaining, cussing, and being angry in general helps resolve situations in a positive way. The NPS must have finally heard through the grapevine that I was deriding their hiring practices left and right to anyone who would listen. They were mortified enough to give me a job at Devil's Tower National Monument. Or maybe it was the fact that my Devil's Tower application was one of the last I submitted and I was thus so sick of being denied that I slicked back my hair, put on a bad suit and let my inner used car salesmen come out and sell myself in no uncertain terms. So, as of May 14 all are invited to come to beautiful northeastern Wyoming and laugh at me in a funny uniform (see computer generated pic of my in 25 years) and listen to me drawl on about "America's first National Monument."
This news was the highpoint of my week. I was really excited to get the offer, especially since getting denied over and over again for a job that I knew I could do well was beginning to feel like getting repeatedly kicked in my boy parts.

Other reasons why this week has been a good one...

1. I sold a bike on ebay for fifty dollars more than I paid for it two years ago
2. Bluegrass
3. Only one week of work left
4. Big tax refund and b-day check from the parents
5. Bowling and Mexican tonight

Low points of the week...

1. I have something in my eye that is really annoying
2. I can't get it out

Monday, April 02, 2007

Coming soon to a city near you...probably

Well, I'm getting the itch to be on the road. I put my two weeks notice in at both of my jobs. I've consulted my atlas, my bank account, and my destinations. Everything seems in order. I'll be leaving on the 17th of April and heading to Seattle. From there The direction will be south. I always feel like I'm going down hill when I'm heading south. I'll be hitting Eugene, Fortuna, Santa Cruz, Vegas, and various places in the desert southwest before going north to Moscow, ID. From there, it looks like good old SD will be the destination for the summer unless something miraculous happens. A few thousand miles, lots of time in the car, and the promise of some camping...sounds like a typical Ohlen trip.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is it that time already

Holy Shit! I got an email for my 10 year highschool reunion this summer. Yikes. I almost gagged from the prospect of getting old and the prospect of what a reunion might entail. The email started..."Can you believe you are STILL cool after all these years? So much for cool, who can judge that anymore...although I'm sure there are a few peeps (no names) who still think they can." Wow, what a way to make me want to go hang out with them. I suppose it could be fun, they do provide a drunk bus and babysitters. I wouldn't mind gloating that I have no kids and have actually made it out of the state. Many of my class did make it out of the state, but while visiting the bars in RC it is terribly obvious that some of the people from highschool have spent the last ten years in the same city going to the same bars. Moving sucks, but thank goodness I'm still willing to do it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm Bitter

Actually annoyed is an understatement. Right now I would like to rent a plane and write "Fuck You NPS" in the sky. I am incredibly sick and tired of the federal government's bass-ackward way of hiring people. If the hiring system facilitated the most qualified candidates getting jobs I would be okay with it. But I'm reasonably sure that I am more qualified (from an educational standpoint) than many of the people working at the NPS. But I've heard time and time again that I don't rank in the "highly qualified" category because I have no experience being an Interpretive Ranger specifically. My question is then: "how the fuck do you get a job in the first place? At some point a person with no experience has to be hired." Granted, I was aware of this method of hiring when I decided to put my applications in but I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. I do have several parks yet to hear from that I should have fairly good chances with, but my recent experience has not made me very confident. On top of that, it is nearly impossible to talk to anyone who does the hiring. In some instances candidates are simply not allowed to talk to the hiring official. In other cases it is just impossible to catch the person in their offices. Of course they don't return calls. Well I guess that's enough bitching for now....wait....shit, damn, donkey balls....okay now I feel better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It only took 20 years


I used to watch Star Trek the Next Generation a lot. The android character, Data, at one point acquires emotions, including a sense of humor. He gets this weird look on his face, and starts laughing hysterically for no apparent reason. When asked why he was laughing, he says that he just got a joke that was told to him several years before. Though I am not an android (some might simply call me a "machine" ha ha ha), I recently just understood a one liner that my dad would use when I was just a kid - probably about 20 years ago. Whenever someone, usually me, did something stupid, my dad would say "Smooth move, exlax." From childhood until three weeks ago, I just assumed that exlax was just a funny, slightly derogatory name to call someone. I never thought it had any connection to the phrase "smooth move" even though I knew what exlax was meant to do. So, I was simply minding my own business cleaning my room a few weeks back and the phrase "smooth move, exlax" popped into my head. I immediately made the connection between the two parts of the one liner. I burst into laughter. It was sheer delight to make that connection, just 20 years too late.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Recap

Mine and Brian's interpretation of a Cabella's ad.





The last week and half has been a whirlwind. On Wednesday I drove to Moscow, ID to visit the bro. We spent a few days eating good food, snowboarding, putting my truck through the paces in the snow, and packing for the big backcountry trip. The trip went great. The snow conditions weren't ideal, sticky one day, ice the next, but the scenery and company more than made up for it. Even with the snow conditions I had the most exhilirating run of my life. The group boot packed up to a ridge above a big bowl that started with a couple big couliers. The whole scene was above tree-line. The wind was blowing at the top of the ridge and no one was sure if the snow was going to be nice and soft or a sheet of ice. If it was icy there was serious potential to slide hundreds of feet down the slope if you wrecked. I have ridden steeper slopes before, but being in the backcountry, hours from any road put the consequences of any mistake at the forefront of my mind. With some giant butterflies in my stomach I dropped in to the run and then instinct took over. I sailed down the slope, making some huge turns in about two inches of new snow that provided just enough edge grab and softness to provide a smooth ride. This run was a dream come true. I've always wanted to make huge sweeping turns down a slope with no trees or rocks or other skiers to obstruct me. I was giddy when I got to the bottom. The group did one more run down this slope and these two runs made the whole trip worth it. Other fun moments included...
I. Themed drink nights
A. Mexican night - Margarits made with snow, Crystal Light lemonade mix, and tequila
B. Island night - (choose any exotic sounding island where drinks with little umbrellas would be served) - Mango rum in orange Tang.
C. Eastern European - Vodka with a choice of Crystal Light or Tang.
II. Games of 31 in the late 1800s mining cabin
III. Dogs chasing skiers down the slope
IV. A couple bottles of Terminal Gravity in Joseph, OR after getting off the mountain
V. Incredible scenery
VI. Isn't this outline format fun?

E's recent blog post about sharing pictures, including those of feet inspired the posting of this picture of my spindly, ghostly white feet.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Vacation

The stress of a four day work week finally caught up with me, so I'm taking a vacation. I drove yesterday from Bend to Moscow, ID to visit Brian. I am spending a few days here before we both go to the Wallowa mountains in northeast OR to do some backcountry snowboarding. I'm really excited to get out in the mountains, but the weather has gotten really warm so I'm worried about the snow conditions. Ideally, the temperature would stay about 20 in order to keep the snow light and dry. Plus at that temperature you don't get wet from melting snow.

I've been attacking a cold that I got on Monday in hopes of kicking it before Sunday when we hike into the yurt. So far, it's going well, thanks in part to the supposed wonder drug Zicam. It has lived up to its claim to shorten and lessen the effects of the common cold though it leaves you a little spacey. With that, I'm off to drink some more orange juice.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting Stoked

Tonight I went to a screening of the most recent Warn Miller ski film Off the Grid. As usual, the film showed some incredible ski and snowboard footage. Warn Miller gets the best shots and has the cheesiest lines. For example, while covering a Japanese professional snowball fight, the film dubbed English over the Japanese referee's voice. The voice in English said "Are your balls frozen? OK...go." Or "check the diameter of that guy's balls." Ha ha ha. There was also the requisite wrecks, jumps, and wacky people in neon one piece ski suits (or "romper suits" as they are apparently called in the UK, seriously, see this site). As a prelude to watching the ski film I had a great day on the mountain. There has been a few feet of snow in the last week. Monday was the day to be at the mountain, but alas I was at work. But there were still great tracks to be made today, and most importantly I found the ultimate music to listen to while snowboarding. The group Tool presents melodious tunes in a hard rock fashion. It's a great combo. You get pumped up but in a smooth, flowing way that perfectly lends itself to riding powder.

Enjoy the links in my blog, I only find the motivation to put them in every third blog or so.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Night

Since the network that carries the Oscars doesn't come in on any of the televisions available for my viewing The Big Lebowski was used as a worthy substitute. In fact, The Big Lebowski was probably more entertaining than the awards show. The main character, Jeff Lebowski, or more commonly known as The Dude, is an inspiring character. He is totally at ease with himself, confident in his lifestyle, and able to occupy large amounts of free time walking around in jellies and a robe. I wish that I could occupy my time as easily as lazily as The Dude. I feel like I am wasting time if I am not doing something productive, going somewhere, or out of the house in general. For example, I can't listen to music as an end in itself. I have to be doing something else at the same time. So, to all who long to waste a little time on something totally unproductive, mix yourself a Caucasian and turn up the tunes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Random Happenings of Late

Winter has finally returned to Central Oregon. Snow is even falling in town today. Unfortunately, some poor scheduling on my part has me stranded at home while my truck has its weary rear shocks replaced today. But I did get two great days on the mountain this week. I hadn't ridden in powder for over a month so I felt like a rusty gate at first, but I eventually got my form back.

On a sad note, my ever-comfortable and dear to my heart, inflatable mattress has sprung a slow leak. The leak developed while I enjoyed myself in Eugene. I naively hoped that it simply needed more air. The condition of the bed has deteriorated to the point that I have to pump it up every couple of nights. I'm hoping that there isn't a huge flood during a night which the pressure is low. This could seriously hinder my escape to higher ground while snug in my bed.

Some people put on two different color socks in the morning. I can't recall doing this in years. Apparently I was saving up for a bigger faux-pas. I put on two different colored shoes. Granted they are the same model of shoe, just different colors. I didn't notice my mistake until I returned home from running errands all morning.
Also a big shout out to Trust in Steel for joining the world of blogs. The web needs a good enforcer.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yelling

I've been enjoying the act of yelling lately. Usually I yell when I am alone, I'm not a big public yeller. That may change though. I yell a lot in the car, mostly out of enthusiasm, sometimes out of frustration at other drivers. I am particularly enthusiastic these days about an upcoming backcountry snowboard trip in the Wallowas with my bro, cracking PBR's after work, and as of today, fish tacos. I have never had a fish taco before. The employees of Skjersaa's put in a big order at a local burrito joint. My order was screwed up and I got fish tacos instead. Thank goodness for that, a whole new world has opened up for me.

Back to yelling though. As per a recent conversation with my sister, I was reminded of an awkward yelling faze I went through when I was about her age, 19. As she is experiencing now, I experienced the inability to determine my natural yelling pitch. I experimented with high yells (too girly) and low yells (too fake/angry). I couldn't find a middle ground that expressed enthusiasm and felt natural. Fortunately I am past that. I feel confident enough now to give a high pitched "wooohoooo" at a concert or a natural tenor "yeah" when fantasizing about shredding some deep pow in the mountains. I think there will be growth in my utilization of yelling in the near future.

In other developments I haven't eaten breakfast cereal in three months. This is huge.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Eugene Fix

I'm back at home in Bend safe and sound after a great weekend in Eugene. I remembered how much I like the former town of Prefontaine (who I thought was a band when I first moved there). The moisture, the greenery, the eclectic mix of people, the university, and the overall character of of the town are all a fantastic contrast to Bend. Bend has its good qualities and I'm having a good winter, but its no Eugene. Of course the high point of the trip was spending time with good friends. Much good food was consumed, a lot of alcohol was indulged in, and at least one cup of super strong coffee courtesy of Elizabeth rocked my world.

Here's a shout out to my homies in Eugene for providing good times and places to stay.

Friday, February 09, 2007

In the Valley

I made the short, but all to infrequent drive over the mountains last night to arrive in the Eden that is Eugene. It really feels like a garden here. Everything is green, moist, and alive. In Bend it is dry and dead this time of year. It feels good to be back in the valley, strolling around campus, sipping coffee, and making fun of the undergrads who can't get it together enough to put on anything else but sweatpants before their morning classes.

I was greeted last night by the members of the history posse who remain in Eugene and Fernando who made the drive up from N. CA. It was a fantastic way to be welcomed back to Eugene and could only have been made better by the presence of the departed members of the history posse. We actually were a posse, Old West Style. We were deputized (GTFs) by the sheriff (Profs), chased villains (un-interested undergrads), and doled out punishment when we could ("it's is not the same is its...no A for you). Furthermore, like the torch and pitch fork wielding members of any Old West posse, we weren't doing it for the money as the Sheriff would, we were doing it because we thought it was the right thing to do.

Campus was beautiful as usual, Rebecca gave me some good natured ribbing, and those people who were always at the library reading newspapers for the last two years are still there. It seems life at the U of O continues much as it did when I was there. Even now as I type this I sit in my old office, though at Kungfuramone's former desk. Jeff now occupies the office and has lent it to me as he is off translating the shit out of a Greek test for fifty minutes. I think he'll need a beer afterwards. I'll be happy to supply it.


In short, you can't beat hanging with good people even if there were no pitchforks or torches to be found.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Central Oregon

Ever since I moved to Central Oregon (the term Central Oregon is inescapable here) I have noticed the preponderance of jacked up pick-up trucks. It is really amazing how many people have bought trucks and then spent thousands of dollars on aftermarket tires, wheels, shocks, and detail packages. It actually pisses me off because gas is really expensive in Bend and tons of people are making their gas guzzling trucks even less fuel efficient. If the money they spent on the extra gas they have to buy was combined with what they spent on raising the trucks in the first place and instead spent on something more community/environmentally friendly the results could be quite staggering. Very few of these trucks goes offroad or actually makes use of the increased clearance. It is really just a social statement. I've never seen so many people trying to identify themselves with a particular region in such a way. After just a few years here, a typically normal person seems to become infected with the need to jack their truck up. I hope I'm immune.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's not worthy

The chorizo turned out well, considering I was adding it to a boxed jambalaya mix. It added a great kick and zest. With that success, I was on the prowl for more meat products. When I do cook, it is not often with meat because it is a pain in the ass to prepare, especially for one. But tonight I am biting the bullet and making chili. This chili will be nowhere near the quality of E's sausage etc...chili mind you (possibly the best food in the world). This chili is straight out of Betty Cracker's cook book. Betty Cracker is a great resource, especially for hearkening back to my casserole eating, potluck attending, Great Plains taste buds. Just don't expect an adventure for your palette from old Betty.

Once the chili eating is done, I am going to attend the Bend Winterfest. I made an appearance there last night. I was totally underwhelmed. There was a "fire dancer" that just ended up being an old hippie playing with flip sticks that were on fire at each end. And he dropped them. The ice carving was OK but the snowboard and ski jib-fest was lame. The ramp to the rail was not high enough, so must people wrecked, the rail was too steep, and snow had to be trucked in from the mountain. On top of that drinks were expensive. The Winterfest promises to be better tonight, if for no other reason than the festivities are slated to end and or begin at a local Martini bar.

If anyone has any snow (ahem, Denver) feel free to send some of it this way.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chorizo

Tonight is my first foray into cooking with Chorizo. It smells great right now, but with a cracker like me cooking it who knows how it will come out. Fern gave me some good tips, including the validation of my opinion that the chorizo initially looked like something the dog left in the front yard. No matter though, if it tastes half as good as it smells I'll be happy. Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My socks have been blown off

I'm easily entertained, not very critical, and usually generous with praise. I usually have something good to say about most live music that I go to see. So it comes as no surprise that I really liked last night's show by the Avett Brothers. But this was different, I really really really enjoyed it. The show blew away everything else I have recently seen despite my usual protestations of excellence after each show. The Avett Brothers are based in bluegrass (a banjo, guitar, bass viol, bass drum, and cymbal) but their music ranges wide. There are tastes of punk, ragtime, and folk, but with a bluegrass foundation. Regardless of the music, the energy that the trio brought to the stage was incredible. They weren't the best singers I've ever heard, but the songwriting made up for that and more. I knew it was a good show when halfway through I realized I hadn't even thought about going to get a beer. Crazy.

I had a twenty dollar ticket for the Keller Williams show that overlapped the Avett Brothers' show. I couldn't bring myself to leave the Abott Brothers early, so I only caught the second set of Keller's. He was good too, a better musician, but the energy and passion wasn't there, so I had that long awaited brew.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Skiing

Today I skied for the first time in a decade. Normally I cuss under my breath as I try to fly past skiers who are taking up the whole run. Today I was one of those skiers and I was certainly taking up the whole run. I had my first troubles before I even got on the lift. I managed to get tangled up in an entry gate to the lift area. Once I got the assistance of a lift operator I freed myself and got on the lift. I chose an easy run that I can do in my sleep on my board. Once I was on the run I was cussing myself out for getting into what seemed like a certain death situation. I managed to get down the run simply due to my inner Norwegianness that simply requires the ability to ski. Nevertheless I humbly made my way to the really easy runs. I got my feet under me in five or six runs and went back to conquer the seemingly near vertical blue run that got the best of me earlier. I kicked its ass and went home feeling quite good about myself. I will soon be off to hear some good twangy bluegrass and hopefully dance the evening away.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm an expert at everything

Unfortunately, modesty is not a character trait that gets you far with NPS applications. While filling out apps over the last few weeks I thought that I was selling myself quite well, while still maintaining a fair appraisal of my abilities. Apparently the extra dose of modesty I received from wherever such things are doled out got the better of me. Today I was told by the hiring official at Black Canyon National Park in CO that I should have ranked much higher than I ended up ranking. This likely resulted, the official said, from selling my abilities short. So from here on out, I'm not going to make the same mistake again. Can I tame a wild bear? Sure I've done it many times. How about delivering interpretive programs about the grandeur of Yosemite NP? Shit, my middle name is John Muir. Can I replace the propeller on boat motors (an actual question on one application)? Yes, I spent my youth exploring the South Pacific with Jacques Cousteau.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Going to the dump

I finally managed to take down my Christmas tree today. It was a really easy task given the scant amount of decorations on it. Nevertheless, there now seems to be a hole in the room where the tree once resided. The tree had one more gift to give though. After I hurled it off the balcony to the driveway below I pulled the truck up to tie it down to the roof and haul it away. I observed that my neighbors had a tree sitting in their driveway too. I knocked on the door to ask if they wanted me to take it away. No one answered so I decided to take it away anyway. As I was putting both trees on top of the truck, another neighbor whom I have never met walked by with his white pit bull. He excitedly asked if I was taking the trees to the dump. When I answered in the affirmative, he offered to give me ten dollars to take his to the dump as well. I quickly agreed and struck up a conversation with him. He turned out to be an ex pot grower from Alaska. I was really surprised, since I took him to be the meth tweaker type at first. He was really interested in my roommate's snowmobile because it was similar to one that he "borrowed" while he lived in Alaska. As I finished taking with him, the first neighbor, whose Christmas tree I had put on top of the truck, approached with her and her roommates' three dogs. She introduced herself and the dogs while they fought over which one got to put their nose on my butt. I think I managed to mutter some coherent sentences while trying to ward off the dogs. Anyway, I was happy that my Christmas tree prompted the meeting of two interesting neighbors. I should make a habit of lingering in the driveway more often - stoop sitting you might call it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Off the hook until 2012


Being my day off, I rose late today, and began making the most important decision of the day-what should I have for breakfast. One requirement of all my breakfasts on days off is that they involve eggs. I love eggs, thus I love the idea of omelette's. The problem is that I don't like the actual omelet at all (at least the omelette's I make), only the idea of an omelet. It just sounds so good, like a calzone, but with a fluffy egg crust. About five years ago I figured out that I don't like the omelette's I make. I then stopped trying to convince myself to like them and simply stopped making them altogether. It has taken me five years to forget why I didn't like them and to re-convince myself that an omelet would taste good. So I made one this morning with red bell peppers, mesquite turkey, onions, cheese, Tobasco, and salsa. I love all of these things independently, but together the reaction was quite the opposite. The way I figure it I have now relieved myself of the need to make another omelet for five years. Hopefully 2012 will yield better results, I want to like omelette's oh so badly.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Heck Yes!

I can confidently say that Saturday was one of the best, if not the best, of my days in Central Oregon. I had three "firsts" on Saturday.

1. I called in sick to work without actually being sick
2. I drove a snowmobile (thousands of rednecks can't be wrong...can they)
3. I made some real backcountry turns on my snowboard.

I would normally be elated to experience just one of these three "firsts" on any single day, but to have three of them is a real treat. My roommate, Matt, recently bought a snowmobile. He made it known to me that he was going snowmobiling on Saturday. I figured that "I came to Bend to do one thing, snowboard," so to be true to my goals I had to skip work. I felt terribly guilty, but I got over it as soon as I strapped on my snowshoes.

On the drive to the trailhead, the thermometer in the truck registered -22. But that was no reason not to have a good time. Riding bitch on a snowmobile is also not a reason to have a bad time (though close). Overall, the experience of being out in cold temps all day, blazing your own trails, and gazining stupidly at a crater on the top of a volcanic butte (duh, its the Northewest after all) is a recipe for a great day. Fresh tracks were made, snowmobiles were dug out, disasters were averted, and good times were had all around.

I hope to continue a least two of my "firsts."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Do one thing and do it well

I've been enjoying living with a nice dog named Charlie for the last couple months. She belongs to my roommate. She's part chocolate lab and part Chesapeake Bay retreiver. It's great having a pooch around to play with and pet. She has warmed up to me quite well. But lately my role in her life has been pingeonholed. I used to be a multi-purpose petter, normally of the ear and neck area. I was even good for a tasty morsel from time to time. Now, though, she approaches me and when I reach out my hand to pat her on the head she immeaditely turns and faces her butt at me. She loves the butt scratches more than anything else and apparently thinks I should provide her with them to the exclusion of all else. I guess that I am glad that she likes my scratches the best, but it is kind of like being a garbage man. Everyone agrees that the job has to be done, but no one really wants to do it. Here's to all the garbage men, ditch diggers, etc...