Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Eight Stories of 2010

I wanted to post this a week ago but I couldn't get to it until today.  Maybe I should resolve not to do things at the last minute in 2011.  Anyhow, here are my personal best stories from 2011.

Number 8 - Our Last Daughter in the House Started Driving -  This is cool because it signals the beginning of the end.  We are unchained from the responsibility of being personal chauffeurs, meaning she can drive herself to school, work or the mall.  Lots more time for me and Mom.

Number 7 - The Release of the 33 Chilean Miners - That was cool to see those men extracted in a pod from half a mile in the earth after 70 days underground. 

Number 6 - Rappelling in Southern Utah - We went camping this summer and my nephew brought rappelling gear.  We saddled up some ropes on top of a fin and I put on all the gear.  I was a little nervous, I had trouble completing the rock climbing wall at REI one year.  I pushed off backwards and slowly made my way down the slope, about 60 feet to the ground.  It was so fun I did it again. 

Number 5 - Elk Hunt - This year I went Elk Hunting and shot an Elk.  I cleaned it.  This was a far more spiritual experience than I was expecting.  I had a moment of connection to the animal, the land and some longing for a lost art; that of providing your own food.  I felt grounded and connected to the earth that day.

Number 4 - Volunteering at the TOU - We volunteered for the Tour of Utah this year, as we did last year.  We helped at three events and for one we got to follow the day's winner to the doping trailer.  We were in the thick of it, much more than a spectator.  I have found that volunteering for events like this make a much more satisfying experience than paying for a ticket.  It also helps others. 

Number 3 - Any of My Motorcycle Trips - This year I spent a lot of time on a motorcycle.  I rode to Death Valley and back in March along the "Loneliest Highway in America", we spent a week in Canyon Country exploring the area just north of Canyonlands National Park in April, I rode along the old Pony Express trail into Western Nevada along mostly dirt trails in May,and in September I spent a week riding trails from Barcelona Spain into the Pyrenees and to the Mediterranean Sea.  All in all a motorcycle has afforded me much more an intimate look at our world than I could have gotten by being a tourist. 

Number 2 - My Colonoscopy - I am over 50 and this year I vowed to do it.  I put it off until the end of the year.  I kept seeing those commericals about Doug Miller and I finally broke down and made the appointment.  The procedure was a relative breeze and I am free for 10 years.  That gave me a lot of piece of mind.

The Number 1 Event for Me of 2010 - The Birth of My 7th Grandchild - I know this is an easy one and when most people ask for top events they exclude children or grandchildren as too easy, but this is my blog so I am using it.  Our seventh gift from God is a wonderful, sweet boy.  He is just like all the others, perfect in every way.  If I had known grandkids would be this great, I would have skipped the kids and gone right to the grandkids. 

Well, I hope your year was as full with blessings as mine was.  I wish you continued love, sensory satisfaction and prosperity for 2011. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

True Grit

I am a fan of the Coen Brothers but even if you aren't, their latest offering, True Grit, is a great movie.

My wife and I wanted to see a movie.  We heard the Coen Brothers remake of John Wayne's 1969 movie True Grit was good.  That 's a huge underestatement.

The Coen Brothers are true to their reputations as the best film makers around.  This is much more than a western.  The cinematography is phenominal, the acting is superb and the music, as usual, makes the movie.

Jeff Bridges is not the Dude from the Big Lebowski in this film.  He is rough, crude, solvenly and thinking about himself first.  OK that also describes the Dude, but you have to see his performance to see what I mean.  He brings something extra to a part that John Wayne won an Oscar for.  Like Wayne's character, you both loath and like him all at once. 

The newcomer who plays Mattie Ross, the 14 year old who hires Rooster Cogburn to avenge the death of her father, is perfect.  She is tough but still 14.  Her command of the fine art of haggling when selling back the horses her father bought before his untimely death, made me laugh. 

The cast is rounded out by Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.  Both provide substantial support to the lead actors and make the movie fun to watch. 

Like most Coen Brothers movies the dialogue is key to the success of the movie.  It's rich without being confusing.  It is believeable but at the same time it seems period correct.  Some of the idioms sound out of place in the 21st century, but they seem right at home in the late 1800s. 

The other thing the Coen Brothers do so well, and it is perfect in this movie, is the setting for the scenes.  You feel like you are there more than other movies.  The visual pleasure of this movie really lends a lot to the story.  The characters are dirty but not clownish, the inside of the dugout they bust into is rough but you believe someone in the 1800s would live there.  It doesn't look made up, it looks real, and so does the rest of the movie.

The Coen Brothers have also managed to bring something new to this classic.  Their interpretation of True Grit is much fuller than the original but there are a few nods to the original that bring a familiarity to their movie. There is the scene where Rooster Cogburn falls off his horse, Rooster and Mattie lay in wait for the bad guys outside the dugout and the famous scene where Rooster Cogburn rides toward 4 bad guys with both guns blazing.  All these scenes are both familiar and yet have somthing new.  In each there is a new twist that makes the scene.

This is one of the best westerns I have seen.  I highly recommend it to everyone over the age of 16.  There isn't any cussing, no nudity and the bloodshed isn't excessive, but when it is there it is real.  You feel like this could have happened a few years ago.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Renovation Realities

My wife got a wild hair this past month and decided we needed to update the rooms on the main floor before Christmas.

We put on a second story to our house about 5 years ago.  Since then the old part of the house has looked a bit dull next to the new part of the house.  We matched the common areas because of a 2 story great room, but the inside each of the rooms was still without much character. 

The door and base trim was vintage, the windows had tile for sills and there was no crown.  The lights had been removed from the center ceiling and the switch was re-routed to a plug for a floor lamp in each of the rooms, very 60s.  No matter how updated we made the paint scheme, the rooms still looked out dated.

Enter supermom.  She hired an electrician who put center lights and updated all the plugs.  Then our son-in-law who is terrific at home renovations put on sills, base, moundling and crown.  She did all the painting.  I tried to keep out of the way.  I did some of the mechanical things but I hate to paint. 

Its not all finished yet but already it looks great.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ever Wonder

Ever wonder why advertisers use people with English accents to represent their product?  I don't have a definitive answer just observations.

Maybe it is because we as Americans think the British are smarter?

Maybe we think it's more exotic than when an American tells you to buy the product.  Remember when manufacturers used (or maybe they still do) say that something is European or sold all over Europe, now available in the first time in the US?

Any other suggestions?

Friday, December 17, 2010

All I Hear is Blah, Blah, Blah

Congress voted on extending the tax reforms providing tax relief to the wealthiest Americans.  This will cost billions of dollars.  The theory is that wealthy people will create jobs.

I am not referring to the extension of the unemployment benefits.  That is a whole different discussion and benefits Joe Worker not the wealthy. 

There was a lot of posturing by members of Congress after the mid-term defeat of the Democrats that it was time to stop the outlandish spending spree.  They said we needed to get fiscally responsible and if elected they would (Mr. or Ms. Congress Person Elect) to get things done.  They would save the economy from the spend thrifts.

Apparently it was just a bunch of hot air.  The Senate passed the tax relief extension bill 81 to 19 and it is expected to pass through the House but not after a vote.  This gives the do-nothings more time to complain but won't change the outcome.

When I hear a Congress Person talking now all I hear is Blah, Blah, Blah (I want to save my high paying, benefit filled job). 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Elk Hunting

I went Elk hunting with my friends last weekend.  I had a tag for a cow Elk and I borrowed all the gear necessary for a successful hunt.

While I was eating Elk steak last summer at my friend's house he casually mentioned we would have a better chance at success this hunting season if he put me in for a tag.  I agreed and in November I received a notice from the Utah Division of Wildlife Management announcing that I had been successful in securing a tag to harvest a cow Elk for the 2010 season.  We had from December 1 to 15 to fulfill the permit.

I haven't been Elk hunting ever and the last time I went deer hunting was about 30 years ago.  I figured if nothing else I would get a good winter camp experience and we might see some wildlife.

I started telling people I had this permit and brothers in hunting started coming out of the woodwork. They offered to lend me all sorts of gear (rifle, stand, camo backpack, range finder, binocs, cow caller) and give me all sorts of tips. 

We went into the wilderness two weekends ago and had a nice winter camp.  One of my friends has a really nice camper so we didn't have to tent it.  We hiked all day and then enjoyed dinner and our beverages in a very warm camper along with movie night (Yes Man, Wild Hogs, The Shootist - John Wayne's last movie and Easy Rider).  We saw a lot of Elk and shot at them but I am rusty after so long and we didn't hit anything.

Last weekend we were determined not to come home empty handed.  We devised a plan to find the Elk herd and have one of us push them toward the others who would have walked up to the ridge in the foot deep snow so we would be in position.  As things often happen we were distracted by our intense planning when I looked out the window and saw a herd about 300 years to our left on the hillside. 

We took our positions and I placed the rifle on the hood of the truck.  The Elk moved off a little but then they stopped.  Majestically posing broadside to get a better listen to us.  I pointed the gun and slightly squeezed the trigger.  The animal I was aiming for stumbled, walked about 10 yards and fell.  It was over in an instant.  I used the range finder to lock the distance from the truck to the cow at 367 yards. 

The wounded cow then tried to get up.  She stumbled and rolled down the slope toward us.  She ended up in a tree about 100 yards from the truck.  All in all it was a lot easier than the stories I heard of having to butcher the animal on the mountain in the dark and then take the meat out by sled. 

Since I shot it, it was my duty to clean it.  I had done it a long time before when I shot a deer.  There is something primal about cleaning an animal you've shot.  You can identify all the organs.  You feel the animals body heat and you get "up close and personal" as my friend says when you disembowel the animal.

I left that experience with a renewed respect for animals and the sustenance they provide us.  In our regular life we are so removed from that connection to securing food that we don't even think about where the meat under plastic wrap in the super market came from. 

I fear we will loose some part of our humanity if we don't have this connection, as we do when we remove ourselves from interpersonal relationships with others or the land.  This is an integral part of who we are and we can't replace it with virtual images.

I didn't eat part of the liver or smear my face with the blood but I did see and smell things that I don't usually get a chance to experience.  I feel bad for the fear and pain the animal had to go through.  I will use the meat and be reverent about the animal that gave its life so I could have this experience.    

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Instant Karma

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.  On this date in 1980 John Lennon was shot to death by a durranged fan outside his home in New York City.   We lost a musical genius, and a cultural icon who was truly ahead of his time.  For those of us who remember his influence on the world first hand we long for a simpler time when "All we are saying is give peace a chance".

I guess in honor of this austire day a bit of good karma came my way.  It started when I went to lunch and pulled my computer bag out of the back seat of the car. 

In the winter I carry a few things in the car just in case; a blanket, a shovel and a hat and gloves.  The hat I have in my car is one I picked up in Scotland a few years ago.  Besides being part of my winter kit, it is a treasured piece of memoribilia for me.

When I came out of the resturant, about an hour and a half later, I put my computer in the back seat and got into the driver's side seat.  On my windshield was my Scottish hat and gloves.  I had dropped them when I went in and someone was kind enough to pick them up and put them on my windshield.  For that I am gratetful.

In John Lennon's world that is the way it should have been.  In my cynical way of thinking I was very lucky the kind sumaritan didn't need a really nice hat and gloves.

I'm sure God and John Lennon are having a laugh over this.