Thursday, September 29, 2005

current iTunes: Bright Eyes, "Lua"

Does drinking coffee, doing crossword puzzles, watching Six Feet Under, listening to Red Sox games on the radio, and translating Gabriel García Márquez qualify as being a productive member of society? I think not, but it sure is a great way to spend the fall.

By the way, my trip to L.A. was sweet. In addition to taking me on a tour of Paramount, Erik brought me to this creepy restaurant in the middle of downtown in an old converted dining car. It's a throwback, but not a self-conscious one. It genuinely seems to have no idea that the world has moved on since the 1950s. The waiters wear jackets and ties, the menu is meat and potatoes and creamed spinach, the decor is green velvet and yellow light and dark wood paneling, and the bartender has been working there for like 40 years. Not the best place for vegetarians (or cheapskates), but highly recommended for nostalgics.

We went to Six Flags too, and rode, like, six roller coasters.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

a joke from my brother Will

A drunk had been at a pub all night. At last call, the drunk stood up to leave and fell flat on his face. He tried to stand one more time, to the same result.

He figured he'd crawl outside to get some fresh air, since maybe that would sober him up. Once outside, he stood up and fell flat on his face. So he decided to crawl the four blocks to his house.

When he arrived at the door he stood up and again fell flat on his face.

He crawled through the door and into his bedroom. When he reached his bed he tried one more time to stand up.

This time he managed to pull himself upright, but he quickly fell right into bed and was sound asleep the second his head hit the pillow.

He was awakened the next morning by his wife shouting, "So you've been out drinking again, have you?!"

"No! What makes you say that?" he asked, putting on his best innocent expression.

"The pub called... you forgot your wheelchair again."

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Writing this from the airport in Minneapolis, halfway home from San Diego. After our training camp in Chula Vista ended on Thursday, I rented a car (a little black Chevy called the Cobalt — shouldn't they all be blue?) and drove up to Los Angeles. Erik, an old friend from middle school, lives in Altadena, right in the foothills at the northern edge of the megalopolis with his wife Melanie; I attended their wedding in July. He does lighting for movies and TV, and he's currently the gaffer for the UPN TV show Everybody Hates Chris, created and voice-overed by Chris Rock.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Katrina first-hand

A little after-the-fact, but I'm glad I stumbled upon this.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Good on ya, Dartmouth

They invited Sarah Billmeier to speek at Convocation!

Three Notches summary

I got back from my little White Mountain adventure on Wednesday evening. I would say it was a big success, both in terms of being a fun and challenging experience and raising some money to benefit Northeast Passage. Thanks to all of you who donated, I raised $125 more than my goal.

For the first leg of the ride, on Monday, we rode west from the base of Loon Mountain ski area, north through the town of Lincoln, and up some hills into Franconia Notch before stopping for lunch at the base of Cannon Mountain ski area. Then we rode through north through the town of Twin Mountain and east to the Appalachian Mountain Club's new lodge, the Highland Center — 38 miles in all. There's a pretty extensive network of paved bike paths running through the national forest in Franconia Notch, but riding them was unexpectedly much more tiring than riding on the road; since they're not graded for car traffic, they constantly dip up and down. You end up using short bursts of anaerobic energy rather than getting a long-term, controlled aerobic workout... although come to think of it, that's actually pretty optimal training for alpine ski racing.

The lodge at the Highland Center is a neat place. Unlike most of the AMC's network of mountain huts, it's just off a major road (Route 302), it's capable of housing hundreds of people, and it has such modern amenities as trash cans, flush toilets, numerous hot showers, comfy leather couches, and even an (i.e., one) Internet connection. And the bunk rooms are small, holding 2 to 6 people each rather than 20 or 30. But it's still a nice alternative to a hotel for people who want to experience the mountains in a somewhat traditional way: no TV, a strong emphasis on conservation, and good food served family-style at big, long tables. The building itself is beautifully designed, with a really high, barn-style beamed ceiling in the dining room. (Click here for a panoramic view if you have the Java plug-in.) And since it's so new (I think it was completed in 2004), it's fully ADA-compliant, which was nice for a group that included six wheelchair users. The other big group at the Center that night was the reunion of a dozen or so hikers in their 60s and 70s who come there from around the Eastern U.S. every year, having first met on a trip through the Presidentials 20 years ago. That's pretty damn cool.

I had met almost everyone on the trip for the first time on Monday morning. Seeing people out of their cycling clothes that evening, new sides of them seemed to emerge, and it was possible to see style differences within a group that had looked pretty uniform all decked out in Lycra. The only people I already knew were Craig, a retired wheelchair athlete in his 40s or early 50s who introduced me to handcycling years ago, and Jeff, a monoskier, downhill off-road wheelchair racer and ski instructor whom I vaguely new from past ski events. Jeff's roommate in Lincoln, N.H. happens to be Andy Parr, a visually impaired ski racer originally from Maine who has been on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, on and off, for the past four or five years. Although he's only in his late twenties, is in very good athletic shape, and has some real ski racing talent, he just recently announced he was retiring from the team for good because he can't afford it. Expenses for visually impaired ski racers in the United States are essentially doubled because they have to pay for all their guides' expenses as well as their own. Andy showed up on his bike to join us for most of the ride on both Monday and Wednesday. He's a really strong rider and a hilarious, profane guy with short, bright-orange hair, which he sometimes wears in a black skull-and-crossbones 'do-rag. He bears a passing resemblance to a shorter, more compact Josh Homme with a Downeast Maine accent.

On the second day, we had an easy ride: about 25 miles east, and most of it downhill. We began with a gorgeous, breakneck descent through Crawford Notch and through towns like Bartlett before stopping for lunch at Story Land, which every New Hampshire resident knows for its cloying radio spots. The park was closed, so we couldn't get on any of the kiddie rides, but hey, they did give us free ice cream. From there it was a short ride into North Conway, where we checked into a bland new hotel adjoining a mega-complex of outlet stores.

After testing out the pool and Jacuzzi, a bunch of us congregated in the hotel's back yard, which features two horseshoe pits. Someone bought a bunch of light beer in plastic bottles and smuggled it past the glaring hotel staff, and we contented ourselves with playing horseshoes for a while. Dinner was pasta with the world's heaviest Alfredo sauce, served in a hotel conference room while the Northeast Passage staff and the event's sponsors thanked us for participating. It wasn't so bad.

The third day was certainly the most grueling ride. First we rode south a few miles, over back roads and two covered bridges, to the Kancamagus Highway. If you've lived in northern New England, you probably know the Kanc. (You probably don't know it's technically N.H. Rte. 112.) Beginning in Conway, near the Maine border, it runs west through one of the more rugged and remote sections of the White Mountains, climbs over the Kancamagus Pass, and passes by the base of Loon (where we began) before ending in Lincoln at Interstate 93. It's one of the only east-west routes through that part of New Hampshire, and driving it in winter can sometimes be quite sketchy. I'm happy to report that in mid-September, it's absolutely beautiful. After 10 or 15 rolling miles (one or two of them torn-up for repaving), we stopped for lunch. Shortly thereafter, the road started up a constant incline of about 7 or 8% grade — not ridiculously steep, but consistently challenging. The thing is, it seemed like it would never end. Most long hill climbs have dips and rises, but not the Kanc. Around the next curve is, inevitably, more of the same. It continues uphill like this for maybe 8 miles, and the last three were some of the toughest riding I've ever done. Even at a slow, consistent pace (try 3 m.p.h.), it was exhausting. I was determined to make it up without stopping to rest, so I had to resort to mental tricks like counting my revolutions, counting down from ten over and over again. After more than two hours, I made it to the top (second to arrive out of the four handcyclists), and I drank a lot of water and smiled a lot and took a lot of pictures of people. It sure was worth it — beautiful view up there, and a killer ride down the back side to Loon.

Pictures will be up on my Flickr page shortly.

OTC, San Diego

I'm writing this post on a flight from Detroit to San Diego. The ski team is meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Cal., for about a week for the quarterly testing and conditioning camp we usually do at the OTC in Colorado Springs. It was raining steadily in Maine this morning, but now the air below us looks hot and dry, and the land is brown, wrinkly, and mountainous. We must be crossing Arizona or New Mexico about now. I was looking at an aerial view of Chula Vista on Google Earth, and it looks like the place is really in the middle of the desert. This is pretty unfamiliar territory to me.

I just spent two days at home in Maine, moving my stuff out of our house in Cape Elizabeth for the last time. In case I haven't mentioned it, my parents have sold the house where I've lived since I was four and bought a new one just a couple of miles away, in South Portland. (For now, at least until I move back from Colorado at the end of next ski season, most of my stuff is residing in a storage unit. I'm going to refrain from speculating on whether that's an apt metaphor for anything else in my life.) Although our old house is gorgeous, I've been in favor of the move for some time. Now that my brother Will is away at Brandeis, neither of us will be living at home most of the time, so it hardly makes sense for my parents to occupy a house as big as the one in Cape. Besides, it will be so refreshing for my parents to live in a neighborhood (Knightville) where they can easily walk to a local grocery store, several restaurants and shops, and a post office. Downtown Portland is just a quick bike ride across the bridge. And the new house is right on the water — albeit more of a tidal backwater than the ocean proper. Its address is 3 D St., the terseness of which inspired my mom to ask me to try sending a postcard from New Zealand to "K.E. & N.B., 3D, S.P., ME 04106, U.S.A." It worked.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Three Notches ride

I just decided to take part in a really cool event next week, a cycling ride in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It's run by and for Northeast Passage, which is a nonprofit based at UNH that does some really great disabled sports and outdoor programs. Over three days (Sept. 12-14), we'll cover about 100 miles through Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, and the Kancamagus Highway. There will be six or seven of us handcyclists and maybe a dozen able-bodied cyclists as well.

Northeast Passage provides us with meals, accommodations, the works — in exchange for us riders helping them raise some funds. Because I'm registering late (I just found out about this trip after I got back from New Zealand last week), they're cutting me some slack and I only need to raise $500 rather than the usual $1000. But I don't have much time to do it... less than a week! That, of course, is where you loyal blog-readers come in. Any amount you could donate toward helping me reach that goal would be huge. You can donate online and it only takes a minute or two. Just click on this link.

Finally, whether or not you can contribute anything, be sure to check out my photo gallery after the ride to see what it was like.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Friday, September 02, 2005

a good place to find free mp3s

is here. There's a new one every day, and they tend to be pretty well selected. Make sure to check out the "archive" link as well.
It's nice to see a judge help someone take a stand against one of the RIAA's more ridiculous lawsuits. (thanks to Sam)