Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year in Review - 2012

A long time ago some one told me not to look for changes in life on a day-day basis but instead on a longer time frame like a month or a year.  And so it is with my life.  As the final hours of 2012 slowly fade away I am stepping back from today and looking at where I was a year ago.  The changes that have occurred since December 31, 2011 are drastic and amazing.  For the first time since the late summer of 2005 I feel as though I have attained a calm, serene and content life.  There are no drastic pressures pushing me in one way or another.  My personal life is calm and drama free.  I am physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than at any other time since before Patty's illness and death.  In general I feel happy, content, secure, strong and looking forward to the future and new meaningful experiences.

So how was my life a year ago?  Let's look at what was happening to Zack and me.  First off, I could hardly move.  My back was a mess and the pain levels I experienced every day were out of this world.  On top of all that I was mentally and emotionally a wreck.  My life for the previous two years had been horrendous but I was too stupid to see it.  I had started a relationship with a person who was more interested in the trappings of a relationship as opposed to being a partner.  It was a mess and it had only end about 2 months before and I hadn't yet gotten my emotional and mental state righted.

Lastly Zack was suffering greatly from his episodes with anxiety and OCD.  As 2011 came to an end he was beginning a downward spiral into what I call the "black hole" of anxiety. 

We were struggling to make it through the everyday things we needed to do.  It was rough and I felt like I was at a breaking point.

The situation is so much different at the end of 2012.  Most important of all, Zack has been anxiety and OCD free for almost an entire year!  As the anxiety started to take a hold of him in early January, I sought out any kind of ideas from his psychologists and his psychiatrist.  This time as opposed to the many times in the past, a new medication was suggested and put in place.  Within a week of the introduction of the new medication, Zack had climbed out of the "anxiety black hole" and was back to his normal self.  And what was even more tremendous, was that his normal self was without any anxiety.  This time there were no small lingering effects of the anxiety - he was finally free of all that had plagued him since Patty's death.  By the end of January of 2012 my son finally had his life back after suffering for years from traumatic levels of anxiety and OCD.

On top of that tremendously positive change, I am now mostly free of the pain that wracked my back for so long.  It took 3 surgeries and countless (still ongoing) hours of physical therapy, but I live without pain medications and with only minor episodes of pain.  Coupled with the decreased pain, I have gained back 1/2 inch in height that I lost because of my herniated discs and as my activity levels have increased I have reduced my weight to a level I had not seen in 5 years.  Physically I am looking forward to the new year for lots of hiking, biking, snow shoeing and even running.  Once again tales of many hikes and bike rides taken will fill the pages of this blog!

My personal life is also much calmer and full of peace.  In late April I met Lisa and we have hung out since then.  Everything between us has been exceedingly low-key, serene and laid-back.  We have a good time being together but we can also do our own things - so it is all good.

There are too many other things that happened this year than I can even mention.  Some of the more notable ones for us have been trips to Costa Rica and Iceland.  A new kitchen and a family room really changed our home in a positive way.  Zack and I also worked hard at putting a new set of order in place in our home.  Now instead of it being a disorganized mess the clutter is mostly gone and everything is in it's place.  Well - I still have several major projects to complete before I can totally declare victory in my quest to organize the house.   But so much work has already been done it seem like a new home.

Attached are a few of the pictures that high-light the activities of our year.

(In Puerto Limon during March trip to Costa Rica)

 (Zack on the beach in Costa Rica)

(Beautiful seascape on the Eastern Coast of Costa Rica)

 (Zack and Cole in Rocky Mountain National Park in April)

 (Long Peak in RMNP)

(Zack the King of the Garden Gnomes!)

(High up in the Eastern Fjords of Iceland in July)
(A beautiful waterfall not far from Iceland's Eastern Coast)

(On our way to Papey Island off Iceland's Eastern Atlantic Coast.)

(Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth in late August)

(Aspens on the slopes above Georgetown.)

 (On the Golden Gate Bridge in September)

 (Point Bonita in the Marin Headlands to the North of San Francisco)

(Hanging with Lisa in San Francisco.  Yes - that's me in the sparkly costume.... not!  Just a street performer.)

As this year comes to a close I really hope that for all of you the year has been good to you and that 2013 will bring you many good things!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And A Merry And Happy Christmas To All!

To each and everyone I want to wish a happy, wonderful, joyous and merry Christmas!  It is a wonderful day and I hope that each and every person who reads this has been able to be with their family, friends and loved ones on this day.

Christmas is such a quiet and peaceful day.  It is the one day each year in which much of world seems to slow down and even stop for a little bit.  Most stores are closed, there seems to be less traffic on the streets and there is just a slow, low key aspect to this day.  I hope the peace and quiet of this day has been part of everyone's day!

For us it has been a great day.  We hosted a Christmas Eve get together last night that was a lot of fun.  We had some excellent food, numerous bottles of wine and vodka were drunk and several rousing rounds of the game "Apples to Apples" were played.  We kept things going rather late and when the time came for everyone to go home, I think a good time had been had by all.  It was certainly the most lively Christmas Eve this house has seen since 2005!

Today has been much quieter with only Zack, Nancy and me here.  We exchanged gifts as soon as we awoke and have just taken the time to hang out together and enjoy each others company.  A big change from prior years was the time we arose.  You can definitely tell that Zack is now officially a teenager as he didn't get out of bed until 9:00AM!  I could have slept until noon I am sure as I stayed up late cleaning up the house after our Christmas Eve gathering and then started the work to wrap Christmas presents at 1:00AM.  Sleep didn't come for me until 3:00AM, so perhaps a nap is in order this afternoon.

Right now Zack and I are sharing some time together in the comfort of the warm basement.  There's a delightful fire burning in the fireplace so we are warm and cozy.  Zack is going back and forth between watching some TV and exploring all the features of his new laptop.  As he is going into high school in the 2013/2014 school year I felt it was time for him to have his own laptop.  This was his major gift for Christmas.

A little later today the three of us will head over to my brother's house for Christmas dinner.  We'll hang out there for much of the late afternoon and early evening.  Once I get Zack and Nancy back home, I'll head over to Lisa's house to spend the rest of the evening hanging out with her and her sons.

All-in-all this is the best Christmas that we have had in many years.  The best part of it has been spending the time with those who I love.

I really hope that everyone has been able to experience the warmth and joy of being with their loved ones on this wonderful day.

Merry Christmas! ~ J.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Repulsive, Digusting and Unbelievable

Today the National Rifle Association held a press conference to offer their "meaningful" contribution to the national dialogue that has taken place since Sandy Hook.  Their statement was grotesque, disgusting and unbelievable in light of the horrible tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary.  The essence of their response was "Everything else is responsible for this tragedy other than guns and to ensure safety in our schools we should have armed police or volunteers in every school."  For more details on what the NRA said, please see this article on NBCNews.Com -

What an absolutely arrogant and horrible response to the death of those innocents.  When tragedies like this have occurred in other countries there has been meaningful action taken by all to limit the prevalence of guns and ensure that guns are not easily accessible.  Only in the United States do we have such a vocal minority who think that gun ownership is the answer to stopping violence and will do anything in their power to ensure that no limits are ever placed on any kind of gun ownership.

A tragedy similar to Sandy Hook happened in the UK in 1996 when an armed man entered the Dunblane primary school and murdered 16 five and six year old students and one teacher.  In response to this horrific event several laws were enacted that effectively ended the private ownership of hand guns in the UK.  (Please note: The guns that were outlawed were guns that were meant to kill people.  Rifles and shotguns used in hunting were not outlawed.)  This has had a very obvious effect on the overall number of murders in the UK and the number of murders by gun.  In 2008, which is the last year for which I could find statistics, there were a total of 648 murders in the UK of which only 39 were committed by guns.  In the United State for 2009 there were 15,241 total murders of which 9,146 were caused by guns.  Granted the UK only has about 1/5 the population of the United States, so you would expect the numbers to be lower.  However extrapolating the UK murder rates on a population the size of the United States the murder rate would be 3240 of which only 195 would be caused by guns. (Please see this website for background on the analysis

The restriction on gun ownership has had a dramatic impact on the number of murders by guns in the UK.  In most other developed countries in the world, gun ownership is restricted or even outlawed.  Why do we have to be so different?  Why can't organizations like the NRA and many on the right wing realize that the abundance of guns in our society makes it so much easier for tragedies like Sandy Hook to occur?  Without the number of guns in our society it would be difficult for day-to-day arguments or break-ins to escalate to the point of murder.  Madmen like the Sandy Hook killer would find it difficult to acquire weapons in they weren't just laying around in so many homes.  Think too of the impact on suicides if guns weren't readily available.  Without a doubt the number of people who commit suicide based upon impulsive thoughts would certainly diminish.

I can only hope the voice of reason will win out in the coming debate of limiting the proliferation of guns in our society.  And as for the NRA - I hope that somewhere along the line they learned the stupidity of their position and realize how disrespectful what they advocate is to the memories of those who were murdered a week ago.

There is bound to be significant disagreement with my thoughts on this subject and I am will to hear it out.  So bring on your comments and tell me where I am wrong.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts about Parenting in Light of Sandy Hook

The entire country has been focused on the horrible shooting in Connecticut.  There are so many different angles that you can think about this shooting and comment upon.  Many of you know my stands on guns.  I hate them.  A childhood friend of mine was shot to death when we were 18 years old.  It wasn't a hunting accident or anything like that - he was murdered so that he couldn't testify in a court case.  Growing up in a rural area there were several occasions when I had guns aimed at me and once I was shot at by a hunter with a shotgun.  So in general I hate guns and think that they should be banned.  But that isn't the point of this post.

The point is just to love your children.  There is a blog post going around the web these days from a woman who is afraid her son could turn into one of these mass killers.  She describes all the horrible things her son has done and yet how she still loves him.  If you want to read her blog post you can find it at:

As a read her blog post I couldn't help but think of Zack.  He is one of those people who is obviously brilliant but sometimes has difficulty socializing and relating to people.  He likes to think of himself as a geek or a nerd.  Despite it all, there isn't a mean bone in this boy's body and over the years he has gone out of his way to demonstrate his love and concern for people and animals.

So as much as I get frustrated by Zack's silly and nerdy ways, I can't help but think how lucky I am to have such a loving and caring son.  He learned that trait from his mom who was in my opinion one of the most loving and gentle people who has ever walked this earth.  Zack got the best of her traits and still has them in him even after she left his life so many years ago. 

Zack and I have often talked about his feelings about violence, guns and much of the attitude that seems to take over kids as they become teenagers.  And though he does exhibit some teenager mentality and attitude he is forever against violence and guns.  He describes himself as a pacifist and says he would never use violence unless someone was hurting another person or an animal.

I love my son very deeply and though he may not be perfect he has a very good heart.  Sometimes it is very important to remind myself of that as I can too often get angry and annoyed by him getting a bad grade or doing something dorkish.  He still exhibits that innocence and goodness that those sweet 6 and 7 year old massacred by the mad man had.  It makes me sick to think of someone hurting and killing those precious little children.  Yes - he was a madman because no one who is sane or rational could get it in their mind to bring such harm to innocents!

For me the whole thing is just a wake up call to show my son I love him even more than usual and let him know that he is the best thing that ever happened to me!  I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be one of those parents whose child will never come home again.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Kitchen Reveal

Despite the fact that the work on my kitchen has been done for quite a while I have resisted posting pictures of it either here or on Facebook.  My reasoning for doing this has been simply, I wanted to have everything absolutely 100% complete.  Unfortunately I am still looking for several pieces of furniture that will make the space "perfect".  Given how particular I am about the pieces of furniture for which I am looking, it might take me another several months to find them.  Therefore, I am going to go ahead and do the big reveal of what the kitchen looks like.

Without further adieu here are a number of pictures that show the layout and style of the kitchen.  You'll quickly be able to tell one of the reasons it took so long for this work to complete is the exceedingly intricate and extensive amount of tile and natural rock that was used throughout.  Sometimes I think the tile/rock guys were going insane due to the amount of "puzzle" solving they needed to do to put it all together.  In the end the beauty and functionality of the kitchen have been well worth the amount of time and effort that it took to complete this project.

(View towards the fireplace.)

(The image on the TV is there because I was using the flash on my camera.  The couch on the left is going to go into the TV area in the basement and I am going to get a set of chairs for that spot.)

(View towards the stove.)

(This area used to be mostly enclosed and was my pantry.  Now it is open and is used as a "butler's pantry". )

(I will say...  I love the refrigerator!) 

(The stove - it is a dual cavity gas stove.)

(The wine on the table is a Christmas gift from my cleaning ladies.  Note the sliding glass door - prior to the construction that was a box window seat.  There used to be two other doors, one to the immediate right of the sliding glass door and one to the left of the stove.  Those areas have been walled in and windows used to replace the upper half of what was the door.)

(Finn taking a break in one of his favorite spots.  This area needs more furniture and art work on the wall to make it complete.)

There are lots of stylistic comments that can be made about the kitchen.  Many of you will not like the style and decor that I have utilized in this space.  Regardless it works for Zack and me!

We are very happy with this new space in our house.  It has totally transformed the entire look and feel of almost the entire house.  Besides modernizing the look it is also inspiring me to keep the rest of the house almost spotless on a day-to-day basis.  I am doing a lot more house work than I have ever done before!

There is more that I want to write about the house in general as there have been some tremendous transformations in the place in the last year.  But I will save those updates for a later date.

It's now Thursday evening and I am utterly exhausted by a week of very early morning conference calls and not enough sleep.  I am sure I will sleep like a rock this evening as I am having a hard time keeping my eyes open even as I type.

Despite being tired I managed to catch up with an old friend of mine who is in town on work this evening.  Rahul and I have known each other for about 8 years as we started working together in 2004.  Back then we were in very different positions as he was based in India and I had a totally different set of responsibilities with my company.  It is so good when I can catch up with old friends as that doesn't happen too often.  Most of my close friends are spread out all over the world so getting the chance to spend time with one of them is fantastic!

Well - I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead.  I know Zack and I are definitely looking forward to it.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finishing Some Unfinished Business

In November of 2010 I signed up for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team-in-Training fund raising effort.  It had only been 2 years since we had lost Patty to Acute Lymphocyte Leukemia and I wanted to do something that would help me raise money to fight that horrible disease and I also wanted to do something that involved me in an activity greater than myself.  When I signed up for Team-in-Training, my goal was to raise over $4000 and train hard enough to complete the Canyonlands Half Marathon on March 19, 2011 in Moab, Utah.  I accomplished one of those two goals.  Through a little bit of self promotion and bugging the hell out of people I managed to raise $4600 for the cause.  However I never finished the half-marathon.

In the weeks leading up to race day I had experienced some pretty significant pain in my left leg.  No caring to think that there could possibly be anything significantly wrong, I continued my training as normal and just ran through the pain.  The day of the race my leg felt pretty good, but that quickly changed as I began to run.  Within a mile and a half of starting the race I felt a pop in my leg and then an excruciating rush of pain.  Being the utter idiot that I am, I decided to continue to run through the pain.  I could only make it for another 2 miles before I had to stop as I couldn't even stand due to the severe muscle spasms and pain that was running through my left leg.  As I sat by the side of the road waiting for the "sweep van" to pick me up I had no idea of the damage I had done to my leg and the long journey of recovery that lay ahead.

 Self-portrait of me from race day 2011 - about 30 minutes before I broke my fibula.

 Of course for those who have followed this blog since then, you are aware that pop I felt was the second largest bone in my calf - "the fibula" snapping in half.  Due to a bio-mechanical issue with my running gait, I had put so much pressure on my left leg throughout my training that I caused a severe stress fracture that sheared the bone the whole way through.  The impact of this broken bone cascaded throughout my body and eventually caused two discs in my back to herniate.

Almost two years after this injury I am still in the process of putting my body back together.  But there is some unfinished business of which I must take care, regardless of the condition of my body.  The 2013 Canyonlands Half Marathon is approximately 100 days away and today I found out that I had been selected through their lottery process to be one of the 4000 runners who compete in the race.  I am going back to Moab on March 16, 2013 and I am going to finish my unfinished business and complete the race.

The Canyonlands Half Marathon is a very popular run and the number of prospective runners is in excess of the 4000 slots that are available.  To ensure a fair shake for everyone, a lottery process is used to determine who gets the 4000 spots.  I submitted my application a while a go and the lottery took place within the last 24 hours and I was one of those selected.  This time around I will be running the race on my own without the support of the Team-in-Training program.  (For whatever reason TnT is not working with Canyonlands this year.

Perhaps it is stupid that I am attempting to run this race again.  But for me it is an important step to prove to myself that I am on my way to recovery from the the pain and suffering of the last two years.  I will cross the finish line this time.  There is not one doubt in my mind that I will reach my goal!

I hope that everyone is having a great week and is starting to look forward to the holidays.  We might finally get some weather here in Colorado that makes you think the holidays and winter are coming.  For most of the last month the temperatures have been running in the sixties and we haven't had a trace of snow but this weekend there is the possibility we might see up to six inches of snow in the Denver area.  We can only hope, as the drought conditions here in Colorado are getting worse and worse!

As always - thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Still Blogging!

Time sure does fly when you are having fun!  Umm...  Well - time sure does fly whether you are having fun or not!  It's been a bit since I have updated the blog so I thought I would just put a short post out to say "I am still alive and blogging". 

For whatever reason the inspiration to write has just been missing in the last several weeks.  There hasn't been anything wrong, I just haven't felt like writing.  Instead of spending my free time in front of my laptop penning blog posts, I have been spending my free time working on the house and doing something really stupid - playing a video game.  World of Tanks has been calling my name for the last two weeks and when I am not working for my employer, doing things for Zack or working like a fiend to organize and improve the house, I have found myself trying to out fox my adversaries in a game of WWII tank battles.  It hasn't been a very productive way to spend my time, but it is fun.

The big news for this week is that Zack is way on his school trip to Washington DC.  The trip was originally scheduled for his fall break in October.  However due to the Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy, the trip was postponed.  We found out about 2 weeks ago that it was re-scheduled for this week.  Zack was extremely happy to hear that he would miss two days of school because of the trip.

Since dropping Zack off at the airport on Thursday morning at 5AM, I have had the house to myself.  I thought I would be inspired to do all kinds of things.  Instead I have used the majority of the time to lounge around and do basically nothing.  Don't get me wrong I have gotten something things done.  Actually I have gotten a lot done, but I have been no where near as productive as I figured I would be, either in terms of doing fun things or in terms of getting work done.

Zack will return on Sunday evening and has to be at school on Monday morning.  He is going to be one very tired young man I figure.  But he has to go to school - that was one of the conditions of the kids getting to go on the trip on a school week.

Hopefully my inspiration to write will shortly be back.  There are a couple of things about which I want to write.  Til then - I hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Four Years of Blogging

When I started this blog, I didn't realize that I was starting it on Veteran's Day!  So before anything else - a profound Thank You to veterans on this day and every day.  Your service has kept us free and has allowed us to prosper.  Thank you to everyone who has served!

Four years ago today, I started this blog as a way to continue the writing and communicating I had done during the difficult time from May 8, 2007 to July 14, 2008.  During those times all the writing that I did was on Patty's Caringbridge site and it was exclusively focused on writing about her situation and how we were all surviving it.  I kept writing on Caringbridge in the days, weeks and months after Patty's death but I realized I wanted to draw a separation from that time.  And so on November 11, 2008 I started this blog on Blogger.  Back then Blogger was an independent entity.  Some time over the last 4 years it was purchased lock stock and barrel and integrated into the Goggle empire.

When I started this blog I really had no idea what it was to become.  The thought that 4 years would pass and I would still be writing it wasn't even something that I considered.  Yet here I am still plugging away at this thing.  To-date I have written almost 600 blog entries and received just shy of 90,000 page views.  I have written exactly 603 blog entries of which I have published 582 - the other 21 have never been published and are private entries that only I can see.  I don't anticipate ever publishing them.  All-in-all I don't think the numbers (entries and page views) are too bad but then again they aren't necessarily too great.  But it's really about the writing not the page views.

Now that I have been at it for so long I guess I am just going to keep it up.  Hopefully in another 4 years I will be writing to celebrate my 8 year anniversary of authoring this blog.  Though my subjects have varied tremendously over the years there has always been one central point - I write what I feel passionate about.  For me to write a good blog entry there has to be some strong thought in my mind that I need to get out.  I'll always try and keep that passion flowing.  When I cease to have that passion about what I write, then I will need to take a break from this.

On the 5 year anniversary of this blog I will be publishing all of my writing into a book.  Over the last several years there have been a number of services that have sprung up that will take your blog and turn it into a printed book.  I anticipate doing that in November of 2013.  No - I will not be selling it, the book will strictly be for me and Zack.  In advance of that date, I am beginning an effort to go back and edit all of the blog entries I have written.  My editing will focus strictly on grammatical errors.  There will be no revision of history.  Whatever I originally wrote back then will be what I publish into the book. 

Thanks to everyone who has continued to read along.  I know there are a bunch of people who have been reading my writing from that first entry on Caringbridge on May 8, 2007.  I no longer have a clear memory of writing that entry but I remember the day very clearly.  That wasn't a great day.  I also remember the day I founded this blog - and it was a tab bit more joy that is for sure!

For anyone interested here is a link to that first blog entry I wrote back on November 11, 2008.

Please continue to read along.  Hopefully my writing will improve and it will keep you interested and involved.  Today as I mark this anniversary I have 115 followers.  It will be interesting to see where I am in another four years.

Thanks so much for reading and being my audience.  Without you all this won't be fun, it won't be interesting and it won't be worth the effort.  Thank you so much for being part of my life.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Amazing Discovery

Today astronomers announced the discovery of a planet that could sustain life in forms that are similar to those that exist on Earth.  The planet known as "HD 40307g" was found in a star system named HD 40307 that is roughly 42 light years distance from our solar system.

This planet is defined as a "super-terran" planet as it is up to 7 times larger than the earth.  Despite it's size the planet is rocky in nature and has been found in an orbit around it's star that would support liquid water - the key ingredient in life.  Through the work of astronomers and physicists a total of 847 exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) have been discovered to-date.  There are another 2320 possibilities that have been identified by NASA's orbital Kepler Space Telescope.  Of the 847 exoplanets confirmed to exist, only 7 have been identified as habitable.  Still with the small amount of our galaxy surveyed so far, the fact that 7 habitable planets have been identified speaks volumes.  This indicates that habitable planets like Earth are not oddities and in fact are relatively common.  Opportunities for life to have arisen or to arise in the future must therefore also be common.

 (Artist's rendition of the planet HD 40307g)

For more information on this amazing discovery please see one of the links below.

Planetary Habitable Laboratory

Fox News

Time: Space and Science

The fact that it is possible to find these planets that are so far away is an amazing feat of scientific achievement.  Telescopes that can peer trillions upon trillions of miles across the galaxy are not simply the kind that you set up in your backyard.  These are finely honed, massive pieces of equipment that generate terabytes of data that must be processed by supercomputers.  The most advanced of these telescopes is the Kepler Space Telescope.  Kepler was launched on March 7, 2009 and was placed into a heliocentric (around the sun as opposed to around earth) orbit far from Earth that allows for gravitational and light disturbances to be minimized. 

(Image of the Kepler Space Telescope)

Discoveries like this are simply amazing to me.  The fact that there is technology that allow us to see such vast distances and to determine the chemical makeup of a planet that far away is remarkable.  Eventually we will have the technology to determine if there are indicator gases like methane and oxygen in the planet's atmosphere that show the presence of life.  The technology to determine if there is intelligent life on these planets using radio technology is still not yet available to us.  Perhaps it will in time be available to us so that we could attempt to build a radio device to communicate with any alien species found.  The likelihood that we would ever be able to travel to one of these far-away planets is next to zero as with any imaginable technology it would take ten or hundreds of thousands of years to reach even the closest star.  Voyager I, the furthest made-man object from earth is just now leaving our solar system after a voyage of over 35 years.  I was 11 years old when this space craft began it's journey and it is still

This is just something that caught my attention today in my routine scan of websites and I wanted to write about it.

The weekend is almost here.  The weather in Colorado is supposed to be cold, snowy and not so good.  Friday night I am hoping to get us tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show Quidam at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield.  Saturday my nephew is part of his high school play at Regis so we will be attending the 2PM showing of that.  Sunday is supposed to be the worst day of the weekend so my plan is to build a nice warm fire in the basement fireplace, turn on some football and spend the day cleaning and organizing the "craft room".  This is one of two rooms in the house that I still have a major cleaning job to do.  As I have organized and de-cluttered the entire house over the last year, I have used the craft room as the place for the more difficult stuff to deal with.  I have been working on this room on and off for the last several months but I really want to get it totally cleaned.  Sunday sounds like a perfect day to do this.

Zack is off of school tomorrow and is planning on having a bunch of friends over to spend the day with him.  I think I'll go and hide some where as it will be loud and boisterous I am certain.

We hope everyone has a great Friday ahead!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election - Its Over at Last

Well it is finally over - the election that is.  Throughout the election cycle I have little doubt about where I stand and I will readily admit that I am happy about the results.  With that said, I am not writing this post to gloat.  Instead I am writing this to point out the issues that divide us as a nation and give the people who voted for Romney something to think about.

What were some of the most significant issues that seemed to effect the election?  Let's first address the economy.  The economy was listed as the number one priority for many voters in exit polls.  Where do the difference lie between Romney voters and Obama voters concerning the economy?  The key difference seems to be that Romney voters blame Obama for the poor state of the economy.  Let's face a key fact - there is very little politician do that can improve the economy.  If we realize that fact then we have a point from which to start a discussion.  Realizing that politicians don't have any real impact on the economy, you then have to ask what was the true difference between Obama and Romney.  The difference was in their tax policy.  Romney believed that the wealthiest members of society should be taxed less on their earnings so that they could use the money to create jobs.  Obama on the other hand believe that the larger share of the tax burden should be carried by wealthy.  This tax burden would be used to provide essential programs and pay down the debt.  Ask yourself what is fair?  The middle class and poor bearing a greater part of the tax burden or the wealthy?  I think the answer is obvious - the wealthy should bear the larger portion of the tax burden.  And I say this as someone who will clearly be taxed at a much higher rate under Obama then I would have been taxed under Romney.  I believe that I should have to pay the higher tax rates.

Another major issue that divided the electorate was on the issue of healthcare.  Romney supporters strongly believed that the Affordable Healthcare Act should be repealed.  Why?  What is so inherently wrong about the Affordable Healthcare Act that it should be repealed?  The current healthcare system is failing.  Costs are continuing to rise without any likelihood that the price increases will cease.  More and more people are losing their health insurance.  It is obvious that something needs to be done to change the dynamics of the system.  We cannot continue to let the status quo continue or eventually more and more people will be without healthcare.  The system is broken.  Why is it so preposterous to implement the Affordable Health Care Act and change things? Let's try something new and see if it works.  It's not socialism it just a more coordinated attempt to get people insured and control rising costs.

The national debt was another issue that divided voters.  Romney voters made a significant issue about that debt.  Granted the debt is a massive problem.  But to rectify the debt we will eventually need to reach a point where the government is collecting more money than it is spending.  We need to realize that we were in that situation in 2001 and instead of continuing to collect the additional money, George W. Bush decided we needed tax cuts instead.  Those tax rates have never gone back to the point that they were prior to those "temporary tax cuts".

The argument that Obama is "wasting" so much money doesn't really hold water.  Yes - Obama has overseen some of the largest deficits in American history.  But those deficits have been driven by decreased revenue collected because of the economic problems as opposed to massive spending increases.  The most significant issues associated with spending have been the massive amounts of money spent on wars.  What has been gained from those wars?  To be frank - not too much.  Yes - we did get Osama bin Laden which was very important.  But despite the amounts of money spent both Iraq and Afghanistan are still basket case societies.  In fact there is a growing trend of countries slipping into chaos that has been accelerating in recent years.  Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya the list continues to grow each year.  The United States can't stop this trend and we need other countries to step up and help out.

I guess I could go on and on - but there really isn't that much of a point.  I would ask the people who voted for Romney to give it a chance.  During the George W years those of us on the left had to just suck it up and roll with the punches.  We got a lot of things thrown our way that we didn't want but we didn't revolt.  We just tried a lot harder to win the elections and as a result we did in 2008.  So it's time get together - solve our problems and if you don't like the what we the Democratic party/progressives/liberals put on the table then make sure your guys get elected in 2016.

In the end run Barack Obama was re-elected and the sun has risen on another day.  As much as everyone on the right seems to think it's the end of the world, it really is not.  The world will still be here and the United States will still be standing when the next election day comes around in 4 years.

And with that I will leave the subject of politics for the foreseeable future!

We got some news today about Zack's trip to Washington DC.  It has been rescheduled to take place from November 29 to December 2.  Based upon what I know of the school calendar he will get to miss two days of school for the trip.  He is so broken up about that thought!  No - not really!

Life is very low-key for us these days which is perhaps why I haven't had a lot to write about.  We are doing the normal every day stuff without too much difference every day.  One potential little hiccup has been thrown into my schedule as there is a good possibility I will have to head to India the week after Thanksgiving.  This would be over the same time that Zack is in Washington DC.  It's not yet certain as it is for a series of conferences and meetings in Delhi and we still don't know if we are going to get funding for these conferences or not.  Given that we are nearing the end of the year, there is an effort to cut down on costs to better improve my employers financial results for the remainder of the year.  Hopefully I will find out with some certainty this week whether that trip will be necessary or not.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Finally Over!

With a title like "Finally Over" I am sure everyone is thinking that I am talking about the election.  As a matter of fact I am.... not!  Just had to add that for dramatic effect.  What I am actually talking about today is that the work on my kitchen/family room  is finally done.  The work completed on Friday when the contractor finished some painting that needed to be done as a result of the unexpected leak from the upstairs bathroom.  The final payment has now been handed over to the contractor and their lock box has been removed from my front door.  I am quite happy that it is finally done.  The work was supposed to take between 6 and 10 weeks instead of the 24 weeks that it took.   Some of my decisions contributed to the delay.  But the majority of the delay came from very small little things like a custom stainless steel cover for the ventilation from the over the stove fan and replacement of 2 warped doors on the cabinets.

Though Friday was the official end of the project we have been able to use the kitchen since August so it really hasn't been that big of a deal.  The more significant pain in the butt was having to schedule the continued presence of contractors in the house.  Over the last several weeks there hasn't been that much activity but I have had to watch out so that the dogs were kept in the basement and so forth.

I have decided not to publish any pictures of the completed project yet.  There are still a number of things that need to be done like hanging pictures on the wall and deciding what other furniture I am going to put in the family room.  So far we have two couches and the area rug in the family room.  The smaller of the two couches is going into the basement and there will be two chairs in it's place.  Table lamps, end tables and a coffee table are are also needed.  Zack and I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year so I am going to do my darnedest to have all this additional work done by then.

On to the other issue that is "finally over".  Yes - that is the presidential election campaign.  Voting on the East Coast will begin in less than 10 hours!  So that means we will be hearing our final campaign ads and getting the final robo-calls within the next few hours if that hasn't happened already.   Colorado has been ground zero for the most intense campaigning.  Literally I have received hundreds of robo-calls and every night during the 10PM newscast I see at least a dozen campaign ads or more!

With the campaigning pretty much done and the voting and litigating to do, things look pretty rosy for my candidate - Barack Obama.  According to the reliable and well respected poll handicapping service "RealClearPolitics.Com" President Obama has a .7% lead in their poll of polls and he has a distinct 68 electoral vote advantage (303 to 235) over Romney.  Of course these estimates are based upon the algorithms that they use to weight the various polls on both a national and state level.  However, I have been following this website since the election of 2000 and they have been remarkably accurate in predicting the outcome of just about every election since then.

In the end run whoever is going to win is going to win, I can only hope the election will be free and fair.  If President Obama wins we may finally see an overall shift back to a more liberal viewpoint within the electorate of the United States.  It should  mean that the Affordable Care Act will never be repealed.  With Obama in the White House the earliest opportunity it could be overturned is in early 2017.  By then most provisions of the law will have been in force for at least 2 years and it will be very hard for anyone to take those away once they are fully in place.  There will be no going back!!

On other notes - Zack is back at school after a so-so week of fall break.  It was only so-so because his trip to Washington DC was of course cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.  He was supposed to leave Denver on Saturday, October 27th at 7:20AM.  We only found out that the trip was cancelled on Friday evening at 7:30PM.  He was disappointed at first but that passed pretty quickly.  The other down side to the week off was that he got sick and then I got sick.  Tuesday night his stomach started feeling bad and by 8:00PM that night he was throwing up and sick as a dog.  I got sick later that evening.  He recovered by Wednesday afternoon whereas I didn't get back to feeling normal until Thursday night.

We have continued to get out and hike as much as humanly possible since I last posted to the blog.  We did a major hike at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday October 27th.  The place is amazing as there are so many animals there and they are not very afraid of people!  In addition to this hike we have been spending a lot of time racking up distance on the Douglas County East-West Regional trail.  I've written about this trail before.  It is a relatively new trail having only been around for the last 5 or 6 years and is still in the process of being built.  Eventually it will go all the way from Chatfield State Park in the west to Castlewood Canyon State Park in the east.  So far the trail has been constructed from Chatfield to I-25, so it about 1/2 way done.  Our goal for now is to hike the roughly 20 miles of completed trail.

My back seems to have finally turned some kind of positive corner.  With all the hiking and walking that I have been doing it seems like I have regained a lot of strength.  As such the amount of pain that I am feeling in my hip and back has started to diminish in the last 2 weeks.  In addition to the exercise I am doing the physical therapy really seems to be making positive changes.  The pain isn't totally gone, but it is much better.

Thanks so much for reading.  I know my writing has been somewhat sporadic recently and I will continue to try and write more in the coming days.

For all of you who are American citizens please do your civic duty and get out there and vote tomorrow.  I will never discourage anyone from voting even if they intend to vote against my candidate.  Regardless of that fact, just get out there and vote!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HIking Roxborough State Park

This past Sunday offered yet another wonderful weekend day to get out and take a hike.  The weather was absolutely fantastic with lots of sun and warm temperatures.  Instead of heading to an open space, we decided it was time to visit one of Colorado's beautiful state parks.  Our destination was Roxborough State Park where the plains meet the mountains and home to some amazing red rock formations.

The Colorado State Park website describes the park's striking red rock formations in this way. "The most striking feature for visitors to Roxborough is the dramatic Fountain Formation.  This spectacular tilted sandstone began over 300 million years ago with the gradual erosion of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.  Today these red sandstones stand beautifully at Roxborugh at a sixty degree angle and are the result of millions of years of uplift and erosion."  For more information on the park, see their website at:

This formation of red rock is seen throughout the front range from the Famous Red Rock Amphitheater to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.  There are numerous other places that it pops up as it seems to underlie much of the area of transition from the plains to the mountains.

For another weekend we took it easy in terms of getting up.  Zack of course was awake at 7:00AM but I didn't manage to roll out of bed until 9:00AM.  I use the weekends to catch up on the sleep that I lose because of my weird work hours so I tend not to get up too early these on weekend mornings.  We were in the car and headed towards Roxborough by 10:00AM.  The drive is only about 15 miles so we were in the parking lot by 10:30AM.   Once we passed the entrance booth to the park we spied a large herd of elk grazing on the prairie that marks the transition from the plains to the mountains.  (A side note concerning this - 3 weeks ago there was a very large bull elk poached in the Plum Creek drainage about 2 miles to the southeast of the spot we saw the herd.  It's highly likely that the bull was part of that herd.  It is so sickening that people poach elk in the way this animal was killed.  First off - it isn't elk season.  Elk hunting doesn't start until November. Secondly, this animal was killed strictly for it's head and rack as the rest of it was left to rot.  Hunting serves a vital purpose since we don't have large numbers of predators in Colorado.  But to kill an animal out of season and only take it's head is purely despicable.)

Striking out on the trails I decided that we were going to hike up the flank of the highest point in the park - Carpenter Peak.  This peak is part of the hogback that forms the first ridge of the Rockies.  Though it is considered a "peak" it really isn't that tall by Colorado standards as it is only 7160 feet above sea level.  I know this sounds gigantic by east coast and mid-west standards, but when the average elevation in Colorado is over 5000 a peak of 7160 feet isn't that particularly tall.

There are several large "loop" hikes throughout the park.  The first part of our hike started on one of those loops as we took the eastern edge of the South Rim Loop Trail.  We hiked about 1/2 of a mile before we hit the Willow Creek trail that we used to cross through the center of the park to the western edge of the South Rim Trail.  From there we started the steep uphill climb on the Elk Valley Trail that would eventually connect into the Carpenter Peak Trail.  Given the state of my back's recovery, I did not plan to hike the whole way to the top of Carpenter Peak as that would have involved a hike of over 6 miles.  My endurance and strength need to recovery a little more before I start pushing myself beyond 5 mile hikes.

The hike up the flanks for Carpenter peak wasn't too bad except for the fact that it was so hot.  Temperatures running near 80 degrees are just not normal or expected in mid-October!  Thankfully we were dressed for the weather - wearing only shorts and T-shirts.  We hiked about 1.5 miles up the side of the mountain before I decided that my thighs and calves had had enough.  Though we didn't go the whole way to the top we got some fantastic views as we hiked upward.

The park was packed with people on this beautiful day.  There was still some color left in the leaves and given the fact the Broncos weren't playing, everyone and their brother seemed to be out and about.  It was so packed that when we went back to our car there wasn't one parking space left in the lot.

(This kind of terrain is typical of the transition between the plains and the mountains.)

(My intrepid hiking buddy Zack taking a break to cool off and rehydrate.)

(Red rock formations that make the park so notable.)

(Looking out on to the plains from up on the flank of Carpenter Peak.)

(More red rock formations)

 (Zack hiking through the scrub oak.)

As we left the park we saw the elk lying in the grass taking it easy in the heat of the day.  I will definitely be going back to the park once the snow flies as I would like to see the elk in the snow as that is always a wonderful sight!

The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful except for Friday night.  On Friday night Lisa and I went out to a nice restaurant in Greenwood Village called Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse.  I've heard lots of comments about the place but in my 17 years of living in Colorado I have never been there.  Everything was great!  We had a good time and enjoyed some really good food.

This week is the last week of school for Zack before Fall Break.  This coming Saturday - October 26th he will be traveling with a group of 51 other 8th graders to Washington DC.  This is the first time he has traveled so far from home without me.  He is really looking forward to the trip and I am looking forward to him demonstrating the maturity that he needs on a trip like this.  All-in-all I think it will be a very good experience for him.  The trip lasts 4 days and 3 nights and he will arrive back home on Tuesday evening.  This will be the longest that he has been away from home.  I don't know that I have ever had the house to myself for this long of a period...  not sure what I am going to do with myself.  Ah...  actually not, I am quite sure I will figure out what to do!

That's about it for today.  I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Last Weekend - Jerfferson County Open Space Meyer's Ranch Hike and other things

Slowly but surely the pace of my return to hiking is picking up.  With the arrival of each weekend, I plan out at least one decent hike for us to take.  This past weekend it was a hike through the Jefferson County Open Space called Meyer's Ranch.

This open space property is located off of Highway 285 a little to the east of the town of Aspen Park.  I've driven by Meyer's Ranch more times than I can count but I have never stopped and hiked there.  Recently, I made a list of all the open space properties in Jefferson, Douglas and Boulder counties.  Realizing there were quite a few I have yet to hike, I concluded that I needed to start visiting these places.

The weather last Saturday was rainy and cold, so our hike got pushed out until Sunday.  I didn't get out of bed until around 9:30AM.  Once I was up, Zack and I took our time and didn't leave the house until 10:45AM. 

The drive took about 30 minutes with us arriving at the main trail head for the open space around 11:15AM.  There is a map of the property at the trail head so we quickly took a look at it and decided the route we were going to hike.

We choose to do a modified loop that included a part that was an "out and back".  There are several different loop trails located throughout the open space and our route was going to take a little over 3 miles. 

The trail head is at the bottom of a ridge and all the trails lead up the ridge towards the summit.  So for the first part of our hike we were heading up hill the entire time.  This would normally be OK, but I am still building up my leg strength after having laid off hiking for over a year.  As a result, it wasn't long before the backs of my calves were feeling the burn of the climb.  Zack was looking at me in a funny light as he realized I was having to stop every so often to let my body rest.  He is used to me "slave driving" him up hills and mountains and he wasn't used to seeing me lacking for stamina!

We hiked out about 1.5 mile to a rock pavilion at the junction of two trails.  Zack wanted to have a snack so we sat down and he ate the Wheat Thins that he had brought along.  While we were there a woman riding a horse came up the trail from the other direction.  Given his love of all animals, Zack asked the woman if he could pet the horse - and she agreed.  She dismounted and let Zack give the horse all of his attention.  The woman told us the story of the horse and how she had saved it from a slaughter house.  The horse was in bad shape when she bought her, but had really come around with proper care and love.  This was the first time she had taken the horse out trail riding.

As the woman was getting back on the horse to ride onward, another group of hikers with a dog came down the trail.  They scared the horse and it reared up on it's two back legs.  Thankfully the rider hadn't gotten the whole way on the horse and was able to get off and out of the way.  It was pretty impressive to see this large horse rearing up like that - though it was also kind of scary.  In the end, the woman managed to get the horse calmed down and rode off in the opposite direction of the hikers and their dog.

Zack and I resumed our hike and headed back down the trail the way we had come.  When we reached the next trail junction we went the opposite way that we had originally come so that we could turn the hike into a loop.

Despite the fact that there has been rain and snow, we still managed to see some nice autumn colors.  Here are some of the pictures that I took during our hike.

We had a good hike and I really enjoyed getting out and working the muscles that I haven't worked in so long.  The pain levels I felt in my back while hiking were manageable, but the sad fact is the pain is still there.

As for the state of my injured back, I continue to go to physical therapy.  The things that the therapists do to me aren't that pleasant but they do bring some temporary relief to the pain and stiffness.  The thing that seems to bring the most relief is one of the most interesting things they do to me.  It is called "needling" and it is kind of like acupuncture.  However, instead of sticking needles into your body to hit nerves, the stick these very large, very thick needles into various "trigger points" in your muscles.  Once the needles are firmly embedded in your muscles the therapist then manipulates them to induce your muscles to spasm.  The spasm that is created in your muscle then releases the tension and tightness that causes much of the pain.  When the needle goes into your muscle it doesn't feel that bad, however the muscle spasm that occurs as a result of the needling is pretty darn painful.

On top of the normal physical therapy with the needling, they also having me doing at least one hard core Pilates session per week.  The whole point of the Pilates is to try and retrain my body to move in the correct manner.  Because of the injury to my back, my body adopted different ways of moving to protect the injured area.  As a result of that compensation in my movement, I am moving in ways that cause my muscles to be stiff and tense - hence causing most of the pain I feel.  To solve this root cause of the pain in my back and hips I really need to move in different ways.  Right now I am doing physical therapy and several other things to try and solve my back pain.  However, if things aren't better by the end of the year then I will look to see if more surgery is necessary.

The work on the kitchen/family was essentially done a month ago.  I am still waiting on the installation of blinds and I am also going to buy some more furniture before I take pictures and post them here.  Unfortunately, the state of completeness of the kitchen changed last Sunday evening.

At 10:00PM on Sunday evening I was sitting around watching TV when I started to hear a repetitious sound.  It took me a few minutes to realize that it was dripping water.  Turning on the light I discovered that there was water dripping from one of the can lights!  I managed to get the dripping water to stop by turning off the water main to the house.   First thing Monday morning I called the general contractor who did the work on the kitchen/family room.  He came to the house at 1:00PM that afternoon with a plumber and they began the process of solving the problem.  Two hours later I had 5 huge holes in the ceiling but the leaking water was stopped.  The offending water line was the cold water going into the main bathroom on the second floor.  The leak was not at a point they had directly worked upon during the re-construction, but it was very close.  In all likelihood the work on the line had caused an old joint to wiggle loose and cause the leak.  The repair to the ceiling will be done by my general contractor, but now it will be several more weeks until the work is done - as we need to wait for the space to dry out.

Another weekend has almost arrived.  It is supposed to be a nice weekend in this part of Colorado and we are hoping to get out and do some hiking and possibly some horse back riding.  It should be a good weekend ahead.

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Great American Beef Festival (GABF) 2012

The day that I describe as a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas finally arrived Friday - the 2012 edition of the Great American Beer Festival.  This is by far one of the more fun days of my year!

My history of going to the Great American Beer Festival started back in 2009.  At that time I was in the process of transcribing the book "1001 Things To Do Before You Die" into an Excel spreadsheet.  I was doing this tedious task so that I could track how many of the 1001 Things in the book I had done.  As I came to the United States section of the book, I found that attending the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) was one of the items in the book.  Given that the GABF takes place in Denver every fall, it was a no-brainer that I had to go to this event.  Little did I know that it was to become an ongoing pursuit of mine.

That first year the festival was already sold out before I made the decision to attend.  To get a ticket I had to turn to Craigslist.  I ended up paying $90 that year for a $65 face value ticket.  Regardless it was well worth the price as I attended the Festival that year and I discovered how much fun it was.

Though I have tried year after year to buy tickets through the normal channels it is almost impossible.  This year the tickets sold out in record time - 1 hour!  I managed to get 4 tickets via Craigslist from a guy who wasn't going to be in town for the weekend.  I had to pay a bit of a premium, but to me it is worth it to get the tickets.  The four lucky attendees were of course me, my brother, Lisa and her oldest son.

We arrived at the Denver Convention Center at 5:25PM - 5 minutes before the 5:30PM start time.  At the time we arrived the line to get in stretched from the entrance of the convention center the whole way around the building and back to the entrance again!  We didn't realize that when we got there and we walked the whole 1/2 mile around the building.  It was crazy how long the line was!

Despite the length of the line, it moved very quickly.  In fact, it seemed it took us longer to walk to the end of the line than it took us to walk in the line back to the entrance.  When all was said and done, we entered the convention center around 5:50PM. That was not too bad for a 1/2 mile long line.

At the entrance to the convention center, your id and ticket are checked to make sure that you are over 21 and have a proper ticket. You received an arm band at the ticket check to show that you were a legitimate ticket holder and then you proceed up the escalator to the main exhibition hall on the second floor.  Walking into the exhibition hall you are overwhelmed with the number of breweries that are set up there.  The entire hall of several hundred thousand square feet was full of tables.  All told there were over 4700 beers on exhibit at this year's GABF.  4700!!

You receive your sample cup when you walk through the door.  The armband and your ticket serve as the marker for you to receive your beer glass.  With beer glass in hand, you then can begin sampling to your hearts content.

All told this year I sampled around 40 different beers.  Each beer is poured into your glass by a volunteer server.  You are only supposed to be given beer one ounce at a time, but many of the servers clearly poured more than one ounce.  In general I was disappointed by this year's crop of beers.  In the past there have been some really remarkable beers made with some unusual ingredients.  My all time favorite that I sampled at the GABF was a green chili lager.  It was fantastic.  (That was last year.) This year there weren't any beers that really stood out.  One of the more unusual beers that I had this year was a Chocolate Pilsener.  It definitely had a chocolate taste and was pretty good.  But it wasn't totally remarkable that I would order a case of beer from the brewery.  Another one that was fairly good was a Lemonade Shandy.  I could have drunk a lot of that beer, however the sweetness of it would have gotten to me after a while.

As is the normal situation each year there were quite a number of people dressed up in costumes.  We didn't do any costumes but we made sure we had our pretzel necklaces.  During my first year at the GABF in 2009 I had wondered why all these people were wearing pretzel necklaces as we waited in line to get in.  I quickly found out that the purpose of the pretzel necklace so that you can eat a pretzel after each beer to clear your palate.  Since that first year I have never gone to the GABF without a proper pretzel necklace.

Some of the more unique costumes we saw this year were several people dressed up as characters from the Mario Brothers computer games.  We also saw plenty of people in kilts and in traditional German dress.  There were also several characters that I can only describe as being dressed up like professional wrestlers.  It was quite the colorful crowd!

 (The Mario Gang - I have not idea who the other guy is with the pretzel necklace.  Just happened to be there when I took this photo.)

We had a great time and none of us got drunk.  I think we all got a little buzzed but to be honest it is hard to get really drunk unless you try.  If you are there to have an enjoyable time with friends it's hard to get drunk.  By 9:00PM we were beered out and headed for the exit.  We only had to wait about 5 minutes to catch a light rail train headed in our direction.  We transferred lines at the DU stop as we didn't want to wait at either Broadway or Southmoor and before you knew we were home and another GABF was over!

Hope everyone has had a great weekend!  Hope you all have a good week ahead.

Thanks and peace to al1! ~J.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Geography Challenge

Geography has always been one of those things that interests me.  I am not exactly sure why I have always like geography but I have.

When we are in grade school we are taught the names of the states that make up the United States.  Depending upon the school we go to, we may even be required to learn the names of the capitals of all the 50 states.  One thing children in the United States never seem to have to learn are all the countries that exist in the world today.

The number of countries that exist is an every changing number.  Since 1990 there have been approximately 30 new countries that have come into existence.  The largest number of these came about as the result of the split of the Soviet Union.  Those countries that were created when the Soviet Union split were: Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldavia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.  Another large group of countries came to be when Yugoslavia split into seven different countries.  Those countries are: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia the Former Yugoslav Republic (that's its actual name!), Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.    The most recent country come into existence was South Sudan on July 9, 2011.  South Sudan owes its existence to a longer term civil war fought within Sudan.  The peace treaty that ended that war allowed the people of South Sudan to vote in a plebiscite to determine if they were to become an independent country.

In future years it appears likely that further countries will become independent.  Some of these do not seem to be likely now, but the possibilities of splits are high.  For example, there is a high possibility that Scotland is going to separate from the United Kingdom and become it's own sovereign country.  Another country that might split is Belgium.  There is growing pressure for the country to split into a French speaking part and a Dutch speaking part.  Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Congo are countries in which future splits are also seen.

This weekend, I challenged myself to see how many of the capitals of the roughly 196 countries of the world I could identify.  I had no particular reason to take this challenge other than the fact that it I thought it was something interesting to do.  I didn't do that great as I could only identify the capitals of 72 countries.  How about you?  Can you name the capitals of these countries?  Give it a try?

Attached is a complete list of all the countries that are currently identified by various world entities like the UN.  There is even conflict about this list as political realities drive what countries and territories are on this list.  For example in many place the Palestinian Territories would be on this list.  Due to the political situation between the United States, Israel and Arab world, you will not find the Palestinian Territories listed on the "official" list of countries that the United States recognize.

 The dates that follows each country is the date that they entered the United Nations.  How many can you name?

Afghanistan -- (19 Nov. 1946)
Albania -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Algeria -- (8 Oct. 1962)
Andorra -- (28 July 1993)
Angola -- (1 Dec. 1976)
Antigua and Barbuda -- (11 Nov. 1981)
Argentina -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Armenia -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Australia -- (1 Nov. 1945)
Austria-- (14 Dec. 1955)
Azerbaijan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Bahamas -- (18 Sep. 1973)
Bahrain -- (21 Sep. 1971)
Bangladesh -- (17 Sep. 1974)
Barbados -- (9 Dec. 1966)
Belarus -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Belgium -- (27 Dec. 1945)
Belize -- (25 Sep. 1981)
Benin -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Bhutan -- (21 Sep. 1971)
Bolivia -- (14 Nov. 1945)
Bosnia and Herzegovina -- (22 May 1992)
Botswana -- (17 Oct. 1966)
Brazil -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Brunei Darussalam -- (21 Sep. 1984)
Bulgaria -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Burkina Faso -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Burundi -- (18 Sep. 1962)
Cambodia -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Cameroon -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Canada -- (9 Nov. 1945)
Cape Verde -- (16 Sep. 1975)
Central African Republic -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Chad -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Chile -- (24 Oct. 1945)
China -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Colombia -- (5 Nov. 1945)
Comoros -- (12 Nov. 1975)
Congo -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Costa Rica -- (2 Nov. 1945)
Côte d'Ivoire -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Croatia -- (22 May 1992)
Cuba -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Cyprus -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Czech Republic -- (19 Jan. 1993)
Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Democratic Republic of the Congo -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Denmark -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Djibouti -- (20 Sep. 1977)
Dominica -- (18 Dec. 1978)
Dominican Republic -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Ecuador -- (21 Dec. 1945)
Egypt -- (24 Oct. 1945)
El Salvador -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Equatorial Guinea -- (12 Nov. 1968)
Eritrea -- (28 May 1993)
Estonia -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Ethiopia -- (13 Nov. 1945)
Fiji -- (13 Oct. 1970)
Finland -- (14 Dec. 1955)
France-- (24 Oct. 1945)
Gabon -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Gambia -- (21 Sep. 1965)
Georgia -- (31 July 1992)
Germany -- (18 Sep. 1973)
Ghana -- (8 Mar. 1957)
Greece -- (25 Oct. 1945)
Grenada -- (17 Sep. 1974)
Guatemala -- (21 Nov. 1945)
Guinea -- (12 Dec. 1958)
Guinea-Bissau -- (17 Sep. 1974)
Guyana -- (20 Sep. 1966)
Haiti -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Honduras -- (17 Dec. 1945)
Hungary -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Iceland -- (19 Nov. 1946)
India -- (30 Oct. 1945)
Indonesia -- (28 Sep. 1950)
Iran (Islamic Republic of) -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Iraq -- (21 Dec. 1945)
Ireland -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Israel -- (11 May 1949)
Italy -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Jamaica -- (18 Sep. 1962)
Japan -- (18 Dec. 1956)
Jordan -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Kazakhstan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Kenya -- (16 Dec. 1963)
Kiribati -- (14 Sept. 1999)
Kuwait -- (14 May 1963)
Kyrgyzstan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Lao People's Democratic Republic -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Latvia -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Lebanon -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Lesotho -- (17 Oct. 1966)
Liberia -- (2 Nov. 1945)
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Liechtenstein-- (18 Sep. 1990)
Lithuania -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Luxembourg-- (24 Oct. 1945)
Madagascar -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Malawi -- (1 Dec. 1964)
Malaysia-- (17 Sep. 1957)
Maldives-- (21 Sep. 1965)
Mali -- (28 Sep. 1960)
Malta -- (1 Dec. 1964)
Marshall Islands -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Mauritania -- (27 Oct. 1961)
Mauritius -- (24 Apr. 1968)
Mexico -- (7 Nov. 1945)
Micronesia (Federated States of) -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Monaco -- (28 May 1993)
Mongolia -- (27 Oct. 1961)
Montenegro (1 Nov 2006)
Morocco -- (12 Nov. 1956)
Mozambique -- (16 Sep. 1975)
Myanmar -- (19 Apr. 1948)
Namibia -- (23 Apr. 1990)
Nauru -- (14 Sept. 1999)
Nepal -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Netherlands -- (10 Dec. 1945)
New Zealand -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Nicaragua -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Niger -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Nigeria -- (7 Oct. 1960)
Norway -- (27 Nov. 1945)
Oman -- (7 Oct. 1971)
Pakistan -- (30 Sep. 1947)
Palau -- (15 Dec. 1994)
Palestinian Territories
Panama -- (13 Nov. 1945)
Papua New Guinea -- (10 Oct. 1975)
Paraguay -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Peru -- (31 Oct. 1945)
Philippines -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Poland -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Portugal -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Qatar -- (21 Sep. 1971)
Republic of Korea -- (17 Sep. 1991)
Republic of Moldova -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Romania -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Russian Federation -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Rwanda -- (18 Sep. 1962)
Saint Kitts and Nevis -- (23 Sep. 1983)
Saint Lucia -- (18 Sep. 1979)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines -- (16 Sep. 1980)
Samoa -- (15 Dec. 1976)
San Marino -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Sao Tome and Principe -- (16 Sep. 1975)
Saudi Arabia -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Senegal -- (28 Sep. 1960)
Serbia (1 Nov. 2006)
Seychelles -- (21 Sep. 1976)
Sierra Leone -- (27 Sep. 1961)
Singapore -- (21 Sep. 1965)
Slovakia -- (19 Jan. 1993)
Slovenia -- (22 May 1992)
Solomon Islands -- (19 Sep. 1978)
Somalia -- (20 Sep. 1960)
South Africa -- (7 Nov. 1945)
South Sudan
Spain -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Sri Lanka -- (14 Dec. 1955)
Sudan -- (12 Nov. 1956)
Suriname -- (4 Dec. 1975)
Swaziland -- (24 Sep. 1968)
Sweden -- (19 Nov. 1946)
Switzerland -- (10 Sep. 2002)
Syrian Arab Republic -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Tajikistan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Thailand -- (16 Dec. 1946)
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia -- (8 Apr. 1993)
Timor-Leste -- (27 Sep. 2002)
Togo -- (20 Sep. 1960)
Tonga -- (14 Sep. 1999)
Trinidad and Tobago -- (18 Sep. 1962)
Tunisia -- (12 Nov. 1956)
Turkey -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Turkmenistan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Tuvalu -- (5 Sept. 2000)
Uganda -- (25 Oct. 1962)
Ukraine-- (24 Oct. 1945)
United Arab Emirates -- (9 Dec. 1971)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland-- (24 Oct. 1945)
United Republic of Tanzania -- (14 Dec. 1961)
United States of America -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Uruguay -- (18 Dec. 1945)
Uzbekistan -- (2 Mar. 1992)
Vanuatu -- (15 Sep. 1981)
Venezuela -- (15 Nov. 1945)
Viet Nam -- (20 Sep. 1977)
Yemen -- (30 Sep. 1947)
Zambia -- (1 Dec. 1964)
Zimbabwe -- (25 Aug. 1980)

I suppose some of you won't find this that interesting.  But it was something that I found quite interesting.

It's now Sunday night another weekend is coming to an end.  It seems like the weekend was just starting and here we are at the end already.  It's been quite a busy weekend as it seemed that we were on the go pretty much the entire time.

We got our first snow of the season in Denver on Thursday night and the entire weekend has been pretty cold.  Due to the change in the season and the extent to which Zack has grown, I had to go out this weekend and buy him all new long pants.  He will be much happier going to school in the morning as he will no longer have to wear shorts every day.  But then again - he still wants to wear shorts every day, so it might no make that much of a difference!  It seems pretty much every boy in 8th grade wears shorts to school everyday.

The work on my kitchen has finally been finished.  The last things that needed to be done were also completed on Thursday.  I have also ordered the window treatments and they will arrive within the next 2 weeks.  There is still a bunch of work that I need to do regarding the artwork and furniture.  Once the window treatments are hung - I will go a head and post pictures of the new kitchen and family room.

I hope everyone has a great week ahead!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Panama -- (13 Nov. 1945)