Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First Thanksgiving in 4 Years

While driving up the hill through Prescott Valley into Prescott fond memories and images of my eventful past flooded through my mind. All that I could recall jumbled through my brain, old friends long since gone, jobs worked, stores and places visited. Recollections of driving my own Saturn from 5 or 6 years ago meshed almost seamlessly with the view of the highway I traveled now. A whole host of new strip malls, subdivisions and big box chain stores littered the traffic choked state highway, a cancerous blight slowly consuming what remained of the beautiful Arizona high country and prime habitat for the disappearing antelope.

Anyways, it was great to see Grandad and Evorine! While it was raining when we arrived, I was more than pleased to catch up with Grandad and Evorine. Noelle, Seth, and now Seth Andrew would arrive sometime later tonght. They now reside in Tuscon, where Seth finishes his graduate program at the University of Arizona. It'll be great to see them too!

The cold wind chills the sweat on my forehead as I run up Copper Basin Road. For the dozens of times I've hiked, biked, ran, and driven this path I still don't recognize much of what I see now. Bark beatles, droughts and forest fires, the first invading armies of climate change have slain many of the tall, stately Ponderosas that once stood proudly in this forest. Some hardy trees still stand defiant, stubbornly refusing to yield to the powerful minions of global warming that have taken so many of their kin.

Then it started raining on me and let me tell you it was cold! This time of year they usually get snow, and running faster was pretty much the only way to stay warm. Fortunately there were some towels outside in the garage waiting for me when I got home, as well as Evorine's good home cooking.

Seriously though, we all had a pretty good time. I hadn't had a proper Thanksgiving meal with family in four years. Fortunately, the Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie all taste much as I remembered. I got some Christmas shopping done and gave my nephew Seth Andrew a big yellow dump truck/excavator for him to play with. He seemed to like it, playing with it for most of the rest of the morning. I had fun chatting with everybody and catching up. At this point I don't know if I'll see them again before I leave for Korea. Whether I do or not, I'll remember this Thanksgiving as a good one.Now I travel to Korea soon. While I don't know exactly when, I know a whole host of new holidays, celebrations, and customs are just waiting for me to learn about and experience.

New Mexico

As the holiday season began approaching, I decided to join my parents on their road trip through New Mexico and Arizona, culminating in Thanksgiving dinner with my grandparents in Prescott, AZ. But my parents decided to stop and visit the Cook family in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I personally couldn't recall seeing Ed Cook and his clan since I was in grade School in Denver. Like my own family, the Cooks were longtime members of Bear Valley Church in Lakewood. I have numerous memories of running around the church building with his son after Sunday school classes.

Fortunately for my dad, he gets to keep in touch with the Cooks through Servicemaster, as they bought a franchise in Albuquerque. We stayed the evening with them and went out to a nice dinner at some trendy new restaurant.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Springing to Life

My lethargic, unemployment-induced unstructured routine has come to a sudden, abrupt halt with news about when and where I'll be shipping off to Korea. I got word from my new employer to ship out before Christmas, and I must book a ticket as soon as possible: before Christmas preferably.

All those tasks and chores I've put off so long suddenly take on new urgency. What to throw away? What to sell? What to donate to the Salvation Army? What to take with me to the Korean Peninsula?

Other things with no question about them: Write the blog entries I've been meaning to get done; Watch and return videos to Ed Cook; clean room; make necessary purchases for Korea; finish scanning old photographs; get Christmas presents for people, etc.

In many ways, its good. Its been so long since I've put in an honest day's work that I've forgotten how good it can feel at times. As I'm sure many people are no doubt finding in the current economic crisis, unemployment saps you, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I'm coming to realize that people (myself included) need a purpose or at least tasks to accomplish in order to be healthy and happy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Northern Arizona, 1999-2001

A collection of scans and photos from my time in Prescott, Arizona and my first semester at Northern Arizona University. I spent two years at Yavapai College living with my grandparents in Prescott. During this time I explored most of the surrounding wilderness and outdoor areas. These photos are all over the place.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Note on the Windshield

Going to they Littleton Family YMCA every day, I'm meeting some of the folks there. I'm not making any long term friends or anything (not that I'm avoiding it, I'm just focused on working out, like most everybody else at the facility).

Upon getting up to leave, I noticed a note on the car, which another guy had left. He mentioned his name and asked, "Do you remember me? We spoke in the whirlpool last week?" I instantly connected his Hispanic name to a guy I'd briefly chatted with in the whirlpool last week. He and I smiled and nodded at each other, exchanging brief pleasantries and introductions and making small talk for a bit about the Broncos and our jobs or whatnot while we both unwinded from a workout.

Like most people in that situation, I thought nothing of it. He or I got up and left and we both carried on with our lives. Then I recieve this note on the windshield, of a guy asking to be my friend and hang out together. He'd left a phone number and an email address.

I decided not to pursue the offer of friendship for a number of reasons. He knew my vehicle, so had seen me int the parking lot: naturally my first inclination was to wonder if he was stalking me. He's also obviously lacking in social skills. How concerned should I be? This peculiar offer from a awkward guy I'd met in the men's restroom at the YMCA?

Plus, I'd be leaving for South Korea in the coming weeks, what sort of friendship could I possibly offer? Go get beers or once or twice and then say, "So long"? I threw the note away a few days ago and didn't think much of it.

Lately I've been wondering though: What if? I've always been socially awkward at times. At this junction in my life, I'm not exactly Mr. Sociable myself, with a big network of friends in the area I can lean on and tap into. Social encounters have twisted me up into dense, . Had my life taken a few slightly less fortunate twists and turns, might I be as shy and timid as he was? How easily could that have been me in a different life?

But I've been thinking lately. Perhaps he isn't some deranged psycho. Maybe he's just a lonely guy who needs a friend. How many alienated folks exist out there, deprived of the basic human need for companionship and association? Perhaps he's just like me.

Littleton Family YMCA

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Book

I've been going through old things as I clear out old junk and ran across this book, Motivating Students Who Don't Care, by Allen N Mendler. As I recall my friend Dan Assink gave the book to me, but by the time I got it I was far too busy to get around to reading it and it hasn't turned up till now!

Dan taught social studies in the high school at our school in Kuwait, and was always a really nice guy. His wife taught math with me in the middle school. I always admired Dan for his endlessly positive attitude.

On a few occasions, I sought him out for advice, and he ended up giving me this book one time. Unfortunately I never had a chance to read it when I was there, nor did I get a chance to return it to him. But its nice that I'll have a chance to read it now.

I've always had mixed results reading these sorts of books and trying to improve my teaching through them. For whatever reason I haven't always found them helpful. We'll see. Perhaps this one will be better. Any of my readers familiar with this book please let me know.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thailand & Cambodia Album

Here is my album from my trip to Thailand & Cambodia. I went here during my first Winter vacation when I was living in Japan. Despite having to steer clear of Phuket during the 2004 Tsunami (I was a day away from heading there when it hit) I had a great time. The icing on the cake was making it overland to Ankor Wat temple in Cambodia, which became the highlight of the trip.

I also managed to get my diving certificate in Koh Chang, a small island off the coast of Eastern Thailand & Western Cambodia. I've seen much better diving since, but the warm, calm water of the Sea of Thailand (not to mention the exchange rate) makes Thailand the perfect location to learn SCUBA diving.

I'm kind of embarrassed to look at the pictures. I didn't know what I was doing with photoshop at the time, and kind of screwed a lot of these up by messing with the hue and saturation too much. Unfortunately I didn't back them up, so while some pictures are alright, others are kind of... interesting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Conspiracy Theories New & Old

An old friend of mine from college has recently been sending me news items via e-mail from an obscure news outlet. The subject of all these pieces center around a lawsuit alleging that Barack Obama is not eligible to be president due to questions about his birth certificate and citizenship. After reviewing things through mainstream news outlets,, and some other sources, I've come to conclude the lawsuit has little merit besides raising awareness of the fact that there isn't really any consistent process for determining the qualifications for presidential candidates, particularly the obscure clause about presidents being "native born citizens."

But the lawsuit continued and my friend wholeheartedly believes that Obama and his cronies are illegally hiding this disqualification. This, my friends, is the latest in a long line of garden variety conspiracy theories. I suspect this lawsuit will be thrown out soon enough.

My real question and curiosity centers around the conspiracy theory itself. I suspect people believe conspiracies because they offer simple, dramatic, and clear explanations for bad events that are too difficult or too complex to understand. 9/11, the Communist Red Scare, and the JFK assassination all generated numerous conspiracy theories. Europeans during and after World War I all came up with wild explanations for the events that transpired.

Conspiracy theories all seem to have a similar set of features. They all try and explain events or happenings that are difficult to comprehend or put in context. Economic downturns, terrorist attacks from distant, misunderstood cultures that are out of context, the random assassination of JFK, etc. Not only do conspiracy theories offer believers a supposedly better understanding of the event, but they also offer people an understanding of the event that they prefer to mainstream explanations. Conspiracy theories are always simpler, more dramatic stories that casts the believer as a good guy fighting some shadowy group of "conspirators."

The other feature that seems to persist in conspiracy theories is that the conspirators are usually invisible people who can't easily be held accountable to evidence. The conspiracy theory offers as an explanation of evidence but rarely can it be proven (which is why people should be suspicious of them). Despite the official account of JFK's assassination, people persist in linking it to everything from mob ties in labor unions, shadowy figures in the military industrial complex, or even the Freemasons. The conspiracy theory at its core too often proves irrational and paranoid and serves to ease the mind of the believer more than be a call to action or something to indict wrongdoers. It can't indict anyone of wrongdoing because the figures are all invisible and the theory of course can never be proven. THAT is probably why these theories persist long after they've been disproven. Society doesn't need the theory, THE BELIEVERS DO.

In this latest instance, I read all sorts of accounts about the Obama team conspiring with State legislators, the DNC and others. Crazy tales about people dipping birth certificate paper in special acids to melt the print off an official birth certificate for forgeries abound all over right wing blogs. Predictably, in all the instances, the claims made are fairly simple and straightforward despite their outlandish nature. Most claims are relatively unverifiable as well. So just like UFOs in Roswell, even if the doubters had Obama's official birth certificate in hand I could almost guarantee most of these bloggers would never believe it despite all evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps for some it is easier to buy into a conspiracy theory than it is to face facts about the changing social, political, cultural, and economic realities of America today. It is easier to think that a small group of people are up to no good than it is to absorb and digest complex socio- economic trends and labrynthine institutional paradigms that are completely out of one's control. Conspiracists find it more convenient to point fingers at a familiar face on the evening news and blame them for tragedy. Wrapping one's head around the often puzzling ambiguities of reality proves more difficult. People like the revelatory eloquence of a generated fiction to the often unsatisfying bewilderment of life.

Obama and his team seem to be media savvy enough to know that responding to this lawsuit risks exacerbating it. The Obama campaign appear to have done all that can be reasonably expected to show Obama meets constitutional qualifications. They know the increased media attention resulting from an overly active response could backfire. The mainstream media may not follow some obscure lawsuit, but they WILL take up anything the president-elect discusses at a press conference. Had Obama responded, more people would come to believe it carries weight as a legitimate issue. They also know any response won't satisfy doubters and haters if they aren't satisfied already. The mainstream press is also wise to avoid reporting and commenting on this train wreck of a lawsuit.

The tragedy in pursuing this nonsense will be the resulting disfavor and suspicion that it will bring to the truly legitimate and reliable voices in the conservative blog-o-sphere. While those responsible for these accusations ultimately shoot their own credibility in the foot, they deserve as much. But what of the many sensible and responsible conservative bloggers, journalists, and other right leaning voices around? What of the educated and informed conservative folks with very reasonable and valid criticisms of Obama? The real tragedy is that these other people risk losing credibility with them. Simple guilt by association may ultimately taint the Republican party and conservatives in general through connection to these rumors and it will ultimately prove detrimental to their own cause.

Think of it this way through a similar but related issue: Why should I take anyone seriously on any issue of public conern who is so uninformed as to still think that Barack Obama is a Muslim (23% of Texans as of Oct in a UT Poll)? Unless the conservative movement severs its ties from such appalling ignorance and preposterous conspiracies it risks not only jeopardizing its own political and intellectual efficacy but also threatens its very necessary role as the loyal opposition. As liberal as I am, I do think we need a check on the unrestrained power of the left. Without the voice of sensible and reasoned conservative opposition to liberal ideas, a lot of poor policy making decisions could come about. If conservative voices completely destroy the political capital that stems from credibility and their good reputations as intelligent responsible citizens, who remains to give voice to legitimate problems and concerns with potentially bad policy proposals from the left?

Any thoughts or input readers?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Climbing in the Paradise Forks

The Paradise Forks Area forms the remote upper end of Oak Creek Northern Arizona. It isn't too far from Williams, Arizona. Created by volcanic activity many moons ago, The narrow, basalt canyons offer climbers wonderful opportunities to tear up and bloody their hands jamming them into vertical cracks all day. No, really, its great fun.

It eventually pours into the West Fork of Oak Creek. Someday I'd like to explore it from this end and take it all the way there. The stately Ponderosa Pines create a wonderful backdrop for camping, and it makes an all around wonderful place, secluded from most everybody except a few other climbers.

I first journeyed there with my father and his friend and colleague, Danny Cox. We spent a couple of days climbing and camping out and had a wonderful time. I only returned two or three other times, and wish I'd gotten out there more often. As you can see below, we had a great time and got some wonderful technical shots showing off the different routes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some Rock Climbing Albums From Way Back

I realized that I could put these picture albums in slide shows for everyone. So here's a couple more albums and their descriptions.

I climbed Sedona's famous Bell Rock with my college friend Jake Dayley in April of 2002. It was a great climb. Perfect Weather and everything went off without a hitch. After a very exposed approach, its one easy pitch of 5.8. Be careful though, because the rock's quality is substandard at best.

This one goes WAY back to 1998. I climbed Devil's Tower in Wyoming with my father and his friend Jeff Jackson during a long weekend. I was still a senior in High School at the time. Excellent granite cracks on a unique and imposing climb. At 400 feet, this was also the first time I led a climb with multiple pitches.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whole Albums

As I've promised a couple readers of mine, I'm uploading a few albums of some old pictures I've tediously scanned onto my hard drive.
Bryce Canyon Spring 2002
This first album includes myself and my good friend Paul Brodar in Utah's stunning Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove up here in February of all months. We thought we could beat the crowds. Looks like we beat the heat as well. While camping that night, the temperature dropped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. We used a road flare to get the fire started in the snow.
Climbing with Melissa McCann and Paul B, Paradise Forks, March 2002
The second album includes Paul Brodar as well as Melissa McCann, an ex from my days at NAU. We took these at the Paradise Forks climbing area, so these pictures should hopefully solidify my 'cred with the rock climbers. If you're in Northern Arizona and love basalt cracks, this is the place for you. As I understand it, these remote bluffs form the upper end of the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. So these slot canyons eventually empty into Oak Creek and down towards Sedona. But this particular area is closer to the sleepy little town of Williams.
Regardless of where it is, the place is beautiful and remote.

The Simple Living Manifesto

After I started reading an article in Slate Magazine, I found the link to this website. I don't remember what I was originally reading, as I found this one far more interesting. The Simple Living Manifesto gives 72 Ways for you to simplify your life. I found the simplified version especially amusing in its two parts:
1. Identify what's important to you.
2. Eliminate Everything else.

Reading through it, I also couldn't help but fondly remember my friend Richard that I met in Koriyama. Richard (center in the picture) was leaving when I originally arrived, having taught English on a remote Japanese island out in the Pacific Ocean with a population in the hundreds.
For those who knew him, Richard became the paragon of the "simple life." For personal, environmental, and philosophical reasons, he abdicated removal of all but the most necessary of material possessions from his life. He also seemed genuinely seemed happier for it. I heard stories about his empty apartment and his instructions to "bring your own chairs" when he held a party or social event there.

Luckily during my second year in Japan, Richard left the island and returned to teach at Koriyama 6th JHS and we were neighbors for a year or so. He got all his books from the library at the International Salon, and I got to see for myself the austere life he led. Upon moving into his apartment, he bought bedding, blankets, pillows, a trash can, a pot, a frying pan with spatula, a bowl, a plate, a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a pair of chopsticks. No furniture filled his apartment. No pictures adorned his walls. Absolutely none of the endless heap of equipment and clutter that so often fill our lives that we grow so attached to.

His only real material possession was a very impressive racing bicycle, with a titanium frame and top notch components. He had a small pack that he could disassemble the bike into for transport on a bus or for air travel (which he would then re-assemble upon arrival and use as his main mode of transportation. But biking was his real passion in life. He had identified what was important to him, (cycling) and eliminated everything else. Hey, it made perfect sense to him!

Excluding the cookware, everything else he owned he could carry in his backpack, which was small enough for carry-on at the airport. His computer, clothes (there weren't many of them) and other items wouldn't even completely fill the pack. As I moved from Japan, I especially envied his mobility, as I had accumulated a shocking array of things I wanted to transport home with me and had spent hours figuring which items to discard, which to ship back, and which to pack in my suitcase. He could conceivably pack up and leave his home in under 10 minutes. And yet, I couldn't say that Richard was any less happy than myself or any of my friends. When he did finally leave Koriyama, he spent some 3-6 months cycling around Australia, a favorite destination of his. It probably wasn't any trouble to take all his worldly possessions either!

As I ponder my eventual move to Korea, thinking ahead about what to bring and what to leave, I always think back and wonder about Richard. What should I keep, and what should go? What should I hoard and stockpile and what should I donate to the Salvation Army? And while I doubt I would ever have the courage to live life as unencumbered as he does, I do see some wisdom behind his choices.

The Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ways to Simplify Your Life.

Here's to you Richard if you ever read this!

Finally Somebody Says What We're All Thinking

Somebody finally said it. While I'd like to think I'm not the opinionated loudmouth pundit this guy
is, I'm glad to discover with this video that I'm not the only one thinking the bailout isn't being handled well. Always nice to know you aren't the only one who thinks treasury secretary Henry Paulson isn't doing a bang up job.

Jim Jubak: Fire the Treasury Secretary

Other readers, tell me I'm not the only one thinking along these same lines. If too many of you respond that I am then I'll take this post down.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Working Out at the YMCA

I spent the afternoon at the Littleton Family YMCA today. I've been spending quite a bit of time there lately and trying out a lot of new exercises. I also finally feel I'm making some progress on my physical fitness goals.

One day I typically work chest, legs, shoulders, and biceps. The following day, I'll typically work shoulders, triceps, back, and abdominal muscles. This has been my typical routine since I lived in Japan, but with the extra time, I can be more complete and comprehensive, particularly with the chest. Since the last time I carefully expressed my goals, I've achieved some of them, while some are still eluding me.

The goals I've achieved since the last time I spoke of them are:
1. Slightly larger, more defined shoulders (although the increased definition is very slight).

2. I also set a goal to do 3 sets of 15 chin-ups/pull ups. I can now proudly say I've achieved this goal and am working toward 4 sets of 18, with varying arm positions. I've also started doing the "side to side" pullup. In this, you spread your arms further apart than your shoulders, and then bring your chin up to the right or left hand. You lower yourself down, then bring your chin to touch your hand, then alternate to the other hand. Supposedly this is a great way to get that, "V-shaped" torso. We'll see.

Still, some of my goals are now irrelevant and/or have eluded me.

So, I am officially reformulating my fitness goals below:

1. Maintain and further increase muscle definition in the shoulders/arms. I'm going to try working other exersizes into my routine to challenge my muscles in different ways. We'll see.

2. Decrease size of the waist and abdominal muscles and area while increasing definition. I'll do this three ways. First and foremost, I've begun emphasizing ab exercises more. MORE CRUNCHES! MORE VARIED EXERSIZES! Secondly, I've altered my diet a fair amount and will try to alter it to make it even more conducive to definition in the abs. Less fat, particularly ice cream and less carbohydrates, particularly at night. I've already done away with eating popcorn after dinner. Thirdly, I've changed the timing of my cardio exersizes. I'm going to try and get my run in early in the morning. I've recently read a study that showed running and exersizing in the morning will increase the metabolism and fat burning hormones and compounds throughout the day.

Last, I've begun taking CLA supplements, a dietary supplement shown to be vital to metabolizing fat.
3. Increase strength and muscle definition in the legs. This is one area I ignored quite a bit prior to coming to the YMCA in Littleton, so I've got quite a bit of catching up to do. Its easier for me to do it now, as I have more time, but we'll see what happens when I'm working full time again.

4. Prepare for another thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. That's right folks, I haven't given up on it yet, and in a few years I hope to be back with a vengeance! That trail will have nothing on me! I'm stating my plan below to achieve success:

A. My hardened bones will crush the dirt beneath my feet after a year of taking calcium supplements! Hopefully a daily supplement with Calcium and Vitamin D in conjunction with increased training will help increase bone density to help prevent the ankle problems that plagued me on the Colorado Trail. I'm also using the very popular glucosamine joint supplements regularly as well.

B. I've already started training my leg muscles during my weight training, something I've ignored for quite some time. This will hopefully help increase the stability and strength of my joints. My dad has reported that his knees feel much better since he's been doing lunges and squats. We'll see.

C. While I'm usually wary of fads, I'm guessing that's roundboard will help train and strengthen stability muscles in my ankles. I began using it weekly sometime after finishing the Colorado Trail and I'm getting better at it.

First Snow of 2008

I Woke up this morning to the first snow in the Denver area this winter. Just a light dusting with only a couple of inches. Its 10:00 in the morning and the streets are already dry again. As I haven't seen any snow since I left Japan, I found it quite nice.

But since I'm too lazy to drive out and take an actual photograph of this rather un-photogenic neighborhood (and because I don't want readers to know exactly where I am), I thought I'd just leave you with some OTHER pictures of snow. Here's some scans of snowy peaks, snow, and winter.
Me on Signal Hill, the highest point in Arkansas. When I was younger, Jake Dayley inspired me to climb the high points of the 50 states. Here's proof that I stood on top of Arkansas. January 2002.
From the top of Wolf Creek Pass Ski Area. I think I took this during my student teaching in Pagosa Springs. Winter 2004.
Snow covers some Anasazi Ruins in Butler Wash, Southern Utah. Spring 2003.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some More Pictures

A mountain goat high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Summer 2000.
Jake Dayley on the summit of Mount Humphreys, the highest peak in Arizona. Winter 2001.
Me on the Summit of Mt. Humphreys again. This time in the winter with Jake Dayley in the winter of 2001. The winds were like 50+ mph. That was the most intense I'd ever seen it.
Paul Brodar belays me on a crack in the Paradise Forks, outside Williams, Arizona.


I've been hitting the gym pretty hard lately. One thing I've been using is NOXplode, a pre-workout supplement that's helping me get some results. Its primarily nitric oxide, and what it does is dilate your blood vessels, allowing more oxygen to flow to the muscles during exercise, and is especially noticeable when weight lifting.

If you try it, you'll definitely notice it gives you a good boost while working out. Although if you do try it, I STRONGLY ADVISE AGAINST taking it with a full stomach. You'll feel terrible.

Here's a Quote

From Northern Arizona, 2003

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Corn Based Ethanol

An interesting read about the oil industry and refining technology and why corn ethanol won't solve America's (or anyone's energy problems).

This article posits that because corn based ethanol only replaces gasoline, it won't solve the energy crisis because refiners only produce gasoline as one of many products that emerge from the refinery, and that growth in the demand for diesel will pretty much negate any of the supposed benefits causes by supplanting corn-based ethanol for petroleum.

But as most of my readers might be aware, this is only one of many reasons why corn-based ethanol isn't the answer to the country's energy problems.

The Corn Isn't Green

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Renewed Faith in the Human Spirit

My opinion of humanity in general went up a notch today, although I must admit it still has a long way to go.

Still, this small victory for the better shouldn't be discounted too easily.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two Environmental Links Reviewed

The Story of Stuff

Watch an amusing short film and resources about how our production and consumption model is destroying our planet. The film lays out how this model simply didn't evolve by default, but was designed and constructed by the companies that sell stuff to you and benefit from this model. It shows an especially compelling quote of retail psychologist Victor Lebeau and his colleagues who actively created a societal model where we all "seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption."

The video gives an excellent response to any politician or captain of industry who frames the environmental debate as a conflict between protecting the environment and economic development. It shows not only the economic and moral failure of the conventional economic model through its unsustainability, but also by showing the growing consequences and the "externalized costs" of our consumer society. The Story of Stuff also tries to inspire people to create alternatives to the consumer model of our society, culture and economy.

Cosmetic Database

All my lady readers ever wondered how much lead was in your lipstick? Guys! Wanna know what's in your shaving cream? Learn about all the carcinogens, neuro-toxins, hormones, metals, and other not-so-wholesome things in whatever you smear on your face every morning.

Seriously though, this site has a search function that lets you look up your favorite deodorants, makeups, lotions and whatever else and see it indexed for toxicity and safety. Very open and transparent about their rating system and has good explanations for why government regulators are failing at this task.

Horizons & Futures

As many of you may or may not know, I've been searching for work and have been unemployed these last few months. Until recently, I had no idea where my life would take me from this point forward.

Ever since being born, I'd always had some big thing, duty, obligation, event, or commitment in front of me. When I entered kinder garden it was looking forward to first grade, and subsequent grades. Then it was entering Middle and High School. Moving to Tennessee from Colorado with my family. Then choosing and attending colleges. There was always some event visible on the horizon or just over the horizon in my life. It never seemed to occur to me how much I controlled these choices and decisions.

As far as grade school goes, there wasn't much choice in the matter for me at all. And while I chose to attend school at Yavapai and Northern Arizona University, the influence and choices I had in the matter never really struck me as my own. Of course I made those choices, but they were always big things looming on the horizon. In Japanese, they have a word called "giri" which means something along the line of duty. 'Something you have to do.'

I applied for my student teaching job and job in Japan before I'd ever finished up my previous engagement (college or whatnot). The same happened when I finished in Japan, I had a big new thing ahead of me (Kuwait). I'd planned the Colorado Trail for when I'd finish in Kuwait, but had nothing after that point.

Then, for the first time ever, there was absolutely nothing in front of me. Nothing was waiting for me or beckoning me or otherwise pressuring me to move forward in some uncharted direction. I could sit in front of the computer all day. I could go hiking or climbing. I could lift weights till I was too sore to move. It was all up to me.

I realized also, that my future was all up to me, and that I, and only I control my future and my destiny. If I don't like something or don't want to do something, I don't really have to. If I want to stay somewhere or move somewhere new, I can (provided the choice is feasible). Whether this is the first time I've had this power over my destiny or just a thundering epiphany about it I can't be certain. Probably some mixture of the two.

Coming back to my parents and rooting through all my worldly possessions, writing my resume, and looking at my skills, talents, gifts, mementos, photographs, blog entries, book titles, camping gear, and cluttered miscellany of my life, I realize my life is mine to own. And I like my life, and the choices I've made so far. I'm happy and content with them.

So I'm going to keep journeying and wandering. I'm looking forward to my next big episode in South Korea. Wandering further down this path will no doubt close some doors over the years, but it will also open some new ones. Forks in the road today will fade in the distance behind me, while the paths I take today will eventually bring me new opportunities and decisions for tomorrow. And I'm happy and excited about the direction I'm headed in. So I'm staying on this path of travel, exploring new countries, peoples, and cultures. I'm not changing my course, for the time being, anyways.
From Northern Arizona, 2003

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Picture Highlights.

Some more old scans from this crazy epic adventure that we call life.
I'll send 10 USD to anybody who can give me the location of this picture within 40 miles. December 2000.
Friends from Friendly Pines Camp. Prescott, AZ. Summer 2001.

"Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.."

Still here. I'm waiting on paperwork to come through for my visa application, getting pre-occupied by how long things are taking. There is a surprising number of things that need to get done, get gathered, and get sent out to Korea.

Then more sitting and waiting. Then I have to do some stuff. Then more sitting and waiting.

Oh well though, still trying to stay positive and stay busy. As you can plainly see, I've scanned thousands of old pictures from back in the day and hope to have some albums up soon. I'll keep you posted on developments in the Korea department as best I can though.

With the election finished, I have less to read and pre-occupy myself with. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to everyone who has done that already.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

OK, Last Scan Post (For Today at Least)

The last scans for today. Mostly earlier pictures. My apologies for the lack of context.

Paul Brodar and Jake Dayley near Upper Lake Mary. We saw about 300 Elk that day displaced by the Rodeo Chedesky Fire that took place in the summer of 2002.
Road trippin' through Mexico, Spring 2001.
Bluffs above the lower part of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. Spring 2000.
Backpacking with my Uncle David and my cousin Jonathan. As I recall we went into the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Look how big our packs are. Glad I learned to go much lighter.

Scans Ad Nauseam

OK, so I'm doing a lot more scans than I thought I would. Here's some more pictures to look at.
My first 10K race in Koriyama City. Taken in the spring of 2005 I believe. Chloe and John from the Koriyama Board of Education raced with me that day.
Ah, Sedona, Arizona. Spring 2002. Taken by Jake Dayley.
Will Turnage climbing in the Granite Dells. Prescott, Arizona. 2001.
Friendly Pines Camp Staff picture taken in the Summer of 2001.
Can you find me?

A Few More Scans

Some more scans.
Jeremiah Geronimo Gentry. No matter how hard you may try, you'll never be as cool as this guy.
Balloon and Reflection in Pagosa Springs, September 2001.
B-24 Liberator wreck on Arizona's Mount Humphreys, Fall 2003.
My Grandfather, Dr. Richard Beal. He's in Ensenada, Mexico in December, 2001 They took the whole family down there to help them celebrate their anniversary.
My Aunt Dee and my sister Noelle at our old house in Germantown. Fall 2000?

Scanning Old Pictures

I've spent some time scanning many, many old pictures of mine from back in the day. I never got a digital camera until 2004, so I'm scanning a lot of old stuff before they start fading.
A goat overlooking Chicago Basin in the early morning. I took this in the summer of 2000 during my trip to Chicago basin in Colorado's San Juans with the Hansons.
One of the more foolish things I've ever done. I went camping with some NAU intervarsity people and jumped off this dam in the Verde Valley. 50 feet up and about 10-15 feet of jagged rocks to clear at the bottom. No margin for error.
A Bahamian dolphin in the spring of 2002. I think this was one of the better shots I got on that trip. Other than this, I didn't too many good shots from the Bahamas.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Generation Jones/ Generation X

A reader of this blog pointed out that Barack Obama doesn't exactly belong under the Generation X label that I've applied to him. Instead, he more aptly fits into the mold of "Generation Jones." Having never heard this term used, I grew extremely distressed about potential gaps in my education or a potentially outdated one. Could my mental paradigm of socio-economic, demographic, and cultural trends be growing increasingly outmoded? Help! I'm not even thirty yet and I'm already irrelevant!
Turns out there's no real cause for alarm. A quick search in wikipedia tells me that Generation Jones is demographically part of the Baby Boomers, but culturally more often identify with the distinctive attributes of Generation X.

Barack Obama may be demographically part of the whole baby boom "arc," but generationally, he wasn't really a part of it. As the whole conversation about Weather Underground radical William Ayers aptly illustrates, Obama was eight years old while Ayers plotted his late 60's war protest bombings. Unfortunately for young Barack, he missed out on the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War protests. Too bad for him that all the exciting events of the 1960's that characterized the Baby Boomers, (like Woodstock!) took place after Obama's early bedtime on school nights.

The most classic illustration of baby boomers shows hippies in the late 1960's protesting the Vietnam War and fighting for Civil Rights. Through their sheer overwhelming demographic might, their mood in many ways reflects the mood of America as a whole. Their heroes: MLK, JFK, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and John Lennon perhaps.

By contrast, Generation X grew up in the 1980's, a much smaller generation demographically and is more known for resenting the cultural, political and economic dominance of their boomer progenitors. They grew up with the reputation of apathetic slackers, playing Atari and Nintendo. Time Magazine aptly summed them up as "influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits." Their Heroes: Steve Jobs, Kurt Cobain, and...well... nobody else I can think of.

Social commentators have beaten these generational differences to death, so I won't go into more of that. Still, I'm reassured that I wasn't too far off to identify Barack Obama as a member of Generation-X. And despite the video of talking heads provided to me by my reader, I would posit that Barack Obama, and at least the cultural aspects of Gen-Jones, had more in common with Generation-X than their Boomer forebears. Dark and angry punk rockers like the Sex Pistols, perhaps an icon of the Gen-Jonesers, certainly had more in common with Nirvana than they ever did with The Beatles. I would also posit that Obama's background as the son of a single mother working as a community organizer in Chicago's housing projects perfectly exemplifies the issues GenXers struggle with. So I would argue that Obama at least, culturally leans more toward Generation X. But perhaps its harder to say with the rest of the Gen-Jonesers

More importantly as a Gen-Xer, Barack Obama placed greater emphasis on more postmodern political themes like consensus building, organizational action, compromise, unity, and transformational leadership, contrasting sharply with the poll-driven politics and 60's style activism political schools characteristic of his baby-boomer predecessors, especially the Clintons. Rarely did Obama change his message and rarely did he ever change his positions on major issues, at least when compared to his opponents. More importantly, Obama's primary support base consisted of young, recently activated voters and highly motivated volunteers through which he branched into and swallowed up the larger Democratic Party.

During the presidential campaign, their operational styles characterized their generational differences as well. Barack Obama focused on building a grass roots support network through a keen understanding of internet and communications technology. Obama's team skillfully utilized these tools to effectively communicate a powerful message specifically designed to appeal to the often dismissed and often ignored Generation-X. So while John McCain and Hillary Clinton wrote off millions of voters as apathetic slackers, Barack Obama and his team were busy completely reconstructing the political landscape. Obama's recognition of the potential of the youth vote and keen understanding into tapping its potential amounts to a paradigm shift in American politics that probably only happens once in a generation. Ironically, his team flawlessly executed this goal with the ruthless cutthroat precision indicative of Generation-X's distinctively merciless modus operandi in the corporate world.

His two most formidable opponents were boomers: Hillary Clinton & John McCain (He fought in Vietnam and I would argue that despite his age he would fit in with baby boomers). Both engaged in the more traditional campaign strategies of activating conventional party bases and blocs of supporters, reacting to polls, and experimenting with different messages. And while Obama couldn't have been successful without these activities as well, his success stemmed from his uniquely generational outlook and understanding of the young voters he brought to his campaign in a unique way.

I suspect these generational differences were also a factor in McCain's choosing of Sarah Palin. At 44 she would also qualify as a member of Generation Jones or Generation X. And while the pundits all debate her effect on his campaign, positive or negative, I would speculate that McCain selected her at least in part to bring younger voters into his camp. Her effect though, was undoubtedly to energize the conservative base, so time and history will tell what the McCain team's true motives were. And despite the interesting remarks made about her on Fox News, people will probably speculate whether she might be a major party leader in the future.

Anyways, what can we speculate about these generational differences and their effects on politics? Besides the Joneser Barack Obama, who might be some future, more distinctively Generation X leaders for this country?

Anyways, enough social history. Somebody help me think of more Generation X heroes! How about film-maker Kevin Smith? Marilyn Manson perhaps, or is he too late?

Also, who agrees with me that Generation Jones has more in common with Generation X than the Baby Boomers? Or am I simply seeing this through my own tinted perspective?

The Video of Pundits CultureJunkie gave me:

And just for fun....

Going to Korea

Many of you now know I've accepted an ESL teaching job in Korea. I will certainly be telling all of you more about this in the coming days, but to sum things up I will say that: 1. I am getting excited and think this will be a wonderful opportunity. 2. I'm concerned about getting certain things together for my visa application.

For those of you looking for details, I'll be going to a town called Changwon. I'll also be working in a job somewhat similar to what I did in Japan.

I've seen pictures of the area, which is a fairly large city on the coast of South Korea. Like much of Korea, the city is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains. I hope to post pictures of the area soon.

My Father's Epic Rafting Trip

My Dad recently returned from a two and a half week rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. He went with our longtime family friend Jerry Driesens. I'm getting quite eager to hear his stories when he returns from Arizona. But for the moment, I'm just going to have to be satisfied with the picture albums and videos he's posted on his blog.

By all accounts, he had a wonderful time and you can read about their trip on my Dad's blog or Jerry Driesen's site.

Here are some of them.

A before shot.
An After shot.
A video of Jerry Driesens running the epic mother of all river rapids: Lava Falls.

Jerry Driesens has been a longtime family friend from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He's also struggled with cancer most of his adult life and as I understand, will be resuming treatment following the trip. I'm sure I speak for everyone when I ask all my readers to keep this wonderful, generous and all around cool guy in their prayers.

As I understand it, this marks my father's third River Rafting trip down the Grand Canyon.