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: http://www.parks.state.co.us/parks/roxborough/Pages/RoxboroughStatePark.aspx

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)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Reality of Anti-Blasphemy Laws

Really good article in the Daily Beast about the whole "anti-blasphemy" law push that is happening across the world.  I know that conservatives and born-again Christians will come out against what is happening at the United Nations in regard this whole issue.  However, those people need to understand that they are as responsible for all of this as are the Islamic fanatics.  Who can forget the outrage of Pat Roberston and Jerry Falwell when some ante garde artist did something like depicting Jesus or Mary in blood or poop or something like that.  Get over it folks - everything should be fair game for criticism - whether it is Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Buddist, Jain - whatever.

This is a big issue with me, because all of these efforts on whatever religions behalf are just reasons for freedom across the world to be taken away and it needs to be stop.  The most irreverent of us must be able to criticism whatever we like - whether it be religion, political speech or scientific thought.  Criticism of an idea never hurts anyone!

The Reality of Anti-Blasphemy Laws - The Daily Beast

"After all the grandstanding by various Muslim leaders at the recent U.N. General Assembly meeting, and by the Organization of Islamic Conference, on the need for global anti-blasphemy laws, the Egyptian legal system has been thoughtful enough to provide us with a timely demonstration of what such restrictions look like in practice. Two Coptic Christian children Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, and Mina Nady Farag, 9, were arrested yesterday on charges of "insulting religion" in the governorate of Beni Suef. The two children are being held in a juvenile detention center awaiting further investigation and possible criminal prosecution."

For the entire article at the Daily Beast please click on the link above.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Late Night Ramblings

It's late at night and I am not sleeping.  Thoughts of the day are keeping me awake when I should be asleep as my first meeting of Thursday is only 4.25 hours away.

In no particular order here are the thoughts that are going through my mind at this time:

- I am very fearful that the douche bag, tax dodger Mitt Romney is going to win the presidential election.

- Even if the douche bag, tax dodger Mitt Romney wins the election of 2012, I am sure that Democratic majorities will be returned to the US House of Representatives and Senate in 2014.  Democrats will also win the US Presidency in 2016 even if they field a mass murder or drag queen as their candidate.

- I have a love hate relationship with my physical therapists.  I hate them because the amount of pain they cause me.  I love them because they are solving the basic issues with my body that caused the stress fracture in my leg and the herniated discs in my back.

- Work sucks. 

- For the entire extent of my 10+ year career with IBM I have been faking it.  I am not sure how I have gotten promoted, been rated as one of the top performing executives and gotten good raises and bonuses when I have no clue what I am doing.

- Though I like sleeping, I feel it is highly overrated.  Sleep is for pussies.  Give me 4 hours of sleep per night and I will be certain to sleep through at least one 5AM meeting per week.  Oops!  (And yes that really happened this morning, as I didn't wake up until 5:27AM.  I meekly dialed into my 5AM conference call and pretended I had been on the call all along.  Damn you Mark Baker for figuring it out!)

- My son is the greatest thing in my entire life.  Without a doubt worrying about him does enough to keep me awake that I probably will never sleep in my life again.

- Zack will make a great contribution to some arcane field of science in his life.  Before he is 50 he will have a Wikipedia entry describing his contributions to a very unique branch of physics.  Despite his geekiness he will find a "chicka" who is turned on by the size of his brain and will have at least  5 children to make for the fact that he didn't have a brother or sister.

- I love my dogs so much and wish I could actually talk to them.  Lex I wish you could tell me what you are thinking.

- Lex, though you might not want to admit it, I think Finnegan has a slightly higher IQ than you.  Face it old pup, Finn figured out to try both the door into the kitchen and basement to see where I was and you will only ever try one.

- I really, really want my contractor to finish the remaining 3 things that need to be done with my kitchen/family room model.

- Move over Natalie Portman, Emily Blunt has now been added to my "Celebrity Free Pass" list.  That is...  I have added Emily Blunt to the list of celebrities to whom I will tell my partner I can have sex with and it not be considered cheating. 

- The Great American Beer Festival is only 1 week and 1 day away!  My goal for this year's festival is to sample at least 80 different beers.  I intend to keep track this year.

- It's 1;15AM and I think I am actually starting to get sleepy!  Yeah - it is time to get some z's and check out for the rest of the night.

- I am currently dating the hottest mamacita in the Denver Metro area.

Thanks so much - please add comments with whatever you are thinking as you read this post.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Weekend Hiking Adventures

It's been a bit - almost a year since I have been able to write a blog entry that has describe any serious hiking that Zack and I have done.  We did manage to hike to Devil's Head in July but we didn't follow that up with any other kinds of hikes.

This past weekend we hiked two days in a row!  Slowly but surely I am working through the back and leg pain enough to allow me to get out and do some actual hikes.

Our first hike came as soon as Zack got home from school on Friday.  He had nothing taking place after school, so as soon as he got off the bus we hopped in the car and made our get away to the hills.  Our destination for this hike was Waterton Canyon on the far south western side of the Denver Metro area.

Waterton Canyon is where the South Platte River finally leaves the mountains and emerges on to the plains.  It is a very important location as most of Denver's drinking water comes from Waterton Canyon in one form or another.  Much of the water from Denver's holdings on the Western side of the continental divide eventually flows through the Waterton Canyon.  In the case of water coming from Summit County on the western side of the divide, the water is taken out of Lake Dillon and then pumped through the Roberts Tunnel to be dumped in the North Fork of South Platte river not far from Kenosha pass.  This water then follows the route of the South Platte and enters Waterton Canyon near Sprontia Springs Dam.  The Sprontia Springs Dam stands at the top of Waterton Canyon and serves as the last reservoir for Denver's water before being put into the city's water pipes.  The water that is not put into the city pipelines is eventually released from the Sprontia Springs Reservoir and flows through Waterton Canyon. From there it is caught in the reservoir formed by the dam at Chatfield State Park before eventually flowing the whole way through Littleton, Englewood, Sheridan and into Denver.

Hiking Waterton Canyon is an easy proposition as the hike is along the road used by Denver Water to access Sprontia Springs Dam.  That is not to say that the hike is not beautiful as it is.  A short distance after you start into the canyon you tend to forget that you are near civilization as you are absorbed into the gash in the earth surrounded by the high walls of the canyon sides.  There is a large amount of wild life to be found in the canyon from small chipmunks to the much more majestic big horned sheep, bears and the occasional mountain lion. 

The Waterton Canyon trail is also the starting point for the Colorado trail.  This trail run across the western 2/3 of the state and after approx 470 miles it terminates near Durango.  Each time Zack and I walk into Waterton Canyon I tease him saying that we are starting on the Colorado trail and we won't be home for another 2 months.  He is now old enough that he doesn't bite at that joke anymore but I still have to try.

Our planned trip for Friday was to hike in about 1.8 miles or so and then turn around and come back.  The hike went exactly as planned except for the fact that Zack didn't bring sunglasses and we were walking directly into the sun.  As a responsible, loving parent - you can imagine where things went.  Yes - that's right, I gave Zack my sunglasses and he wore them most of the time and I ended up with sore eyes.  Teenagers!!!

Throughout the hike I kept my eye peeled to see if we could spy any big horn sheep, but luck and the fact that the sheep don't come down to the river until later in the evening prevented us from seeing any.  Oh well - it's not like we haven't seen hundreds in the past.  We had a great time for the hike as there were hardly anyone around.  The weekdays are the most enjoyable time to hike Waterton Canyon as on the weekend, the place is crawling with tons of people.

The hike wasn't anything fantastic but it was sure a lot of fun to get out there and enjoy the outside.  I have been missing that for so long.  I can't go back to not exercising - it has to be a constant in my life again.  Despite the continuous pain I have from my back injury I will press through it so that I can be in the outdoors!

That was our hiking experience for Friday!

Our experience on Saturday was combination yearly adventure and hike.  Every Autumn I always try and have at least one Saturday or Sunday to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and experience the autumn leaves and the elk rut.  To ensure we could get there and have some really good sun for photos we got up early and were on the road by 6:30AM.  I had to take care of feeding the eating machine (Zack) and getting gas for the Explorer, so by the time all that was done the time was closer to 7:00AM when we were headed north on I-25.  The drive was simple and easy with absolutely no problems.  We took I-25 until we reached Colorado Route 66 a little past Longmont.  Heading West on Colorado 66 we traveled about 15 minutes until we reached the small town of Lyons.  From there we joined up with highway 36 that would take us directly into Estes Park.  Given the early hour of the day we did not run into any traffic problems at all.

Arriving in Estes Park we quickly noticed the signs for the Estes Park Elk Fest.  Needless to say we had no desire to get involved in that as it was just a giant draw for crowds.  Instead we headed straight for the park and entered via the Fall River Entrance Station.  My National Park Pass expired in July so I was expecting to buy another.  The ranger at the entrance station informed me that Saturday was a free day for the park - so we didn't even have to spend a cent to get in.

Driving through the Sheep Lakes area things were very quiet as it was early and there were no elk around.  Heading up to the Deer Ridge Junction we came across a bull and his harem of 10 or so female elk and a yearling.  They were contently grazing in small meadow among the pine trees.  Given that these guys were what we were here to see, we pulled over and spent about the next 20 minutes hanging around taking pictures and just observing.  The big bull was keeping farther from the road and it made it difficult to get a picture of him.  The best I could do was to see his huge rack as he was bent down grazing away.

After a bit we moved on towards the Beaver Meadows and Morraine Park areas.  Along the way we came across another big bull just sitting among the trees.  He didn't have a harem with him and he just looked like he didn't want to be messed with.  However, stupid tourists being stupid tourists there were a number of people getting within 20 feet or so of him and he was showing his displeasure - moving his ears, jerking his head around as they moved towards him etc.  Why do people have to be so stupid to try and get close to these magnificent animals?  Messing with an elk could get you really hurt!  Thankfully the offending tourists were quickly drawn away by something else and left the area.  That allowed the rest of us the opportunity to snap some fantastic photos of the elk.  I was using my zoom lens on my landscape camera, so I think I got some really good photos of him.  The light wasn't optimal as he was in the shadows but I still think they came out pretty good.

The main road to Bear Lake was only open to park shuttle buses because of construction, so Zack and I headed as far into Morraine Park as we could go.  Eventually the road ended at the parking lot for the Fern Lake Trail Head.  We knew we wanted to take a hike so given the Fern Lake Trail was right a head of us, we decided what the heck.  I hadn't hiked this trail before but I had heard that it was quite beautiful and lead to some wonderful overlooks of the Big Thompson River.

Looking at the topo map at the trail head we decided that we would hike 1.7 miles in to the "The Pool".  We didn't really know what this geological feature was, but the name sounded neat so we decided to go for it.

Immediately after leaving the parking lot, the trail begins to run parallel to a medium size stream that is the head waters of the Big Thompson River.  For the first 3/4 of a mile the sound of the stream fills the air as you hike to the west.  Eventually the trail separates from the stream and enters and area filled with huge boulders.  These boulders are massive with each one being as big as a house.

After the giant boulder field the trail leveled out and we spent the rest of the hike weaving in and out of standing of aspen and pine trees.  With all the colorful leaves cloaking the aspen trees the hike was beautiful.  To top it off the temperature was perfect!  Neither Zack or I broke a sweat even though we were moving at a good pace and most of the hike was up hill.

Forty minutes into our hike we reach "The Pool".  This hydrological feature is a pool of deep clear water after the river has gone through a series of cascades and waterfalls.  It was beautiful and I am sure in the middle of summer it must be a wonderful place to wade or swim.  However the water appeared to be a bit cold and we had no desire to climb down the rocks and take a plunge.

A sturdy bridge crossed the river at The Pool.  It was a great place to stop and admire the beauty of the river and Zack and I hung out there for awhile.  Staying in the same place for 15 minutes allowed us to see how busy the trail was.  Numerous parties of hikers passed by us continuing further up the trail.

We spent 20 minutes hanging out by the bridge before we started back down the trail to the parking area.  The hike back to the car went quickly as most of it was down hill.  Despite some of the pain I was feeling in my lower back and hip, it felt wonderful to be out on the trail again.

Returning to the car we packed up and headed into Estes Park for some lunch.  We ate at the normal pizza joint on Elkhorn Avenue that we normally eat at when we are in Estes Park.  I have no idea of what the name of the place is, I just know where it is and that Zack and I like the pizza.

Afterwards we headed back home.  We took a different route home as we headed down Colorado Highway 7.  Zack didn't really care which way we went as he had his nose in his Nintendo DS but I was interested in seeing some more scenery.  Taking Highway 7 offered me the opportunity to stop and take some pictures of "The Chapel on the Rock" near Allenspark, Colorado.  This chapel is a great photographic location and I really enjoy shooting pictures there.

Here are some of the photos that I took on our day of hiking, elk watching and leave gazing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was quite a nice weekend and it was quite nice for me to actually get out into the wilderness for a change.  Though I do continue to deal with lots of pain in my back I am not going to let it keep me from doing the things that I want.

The week ahead will be pretty nondescript as we don't have much going on other than school and work.  We are into the midst of the "fall slog" as we have a good 4 weeks until we reach Zack's fall break from school.  Between now and fall break we won't be having any days off, so we just have to slog through each work/school day after another until we can get to our next break.

We hope everyone has a great week!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.