Sunday, May 25, 2008

go forth and be creepy

while creepiness and crawliness are qualities most often associated with insects, worms, and other little beasties, they are attributes which i have frequently adopted and even sought to develop for most of my life. slinking undetected through shadows and occasional stealthful prowling have long been pastimes of mine (most of you know what i'm talking about...john, brandon) and have come to serve me well. now, with a concrete goal and set parameters, i encourage you all to channel your inner ninja and join in the creepy crawly fun.

the proposed application of these aforementioned skills is a game called geocaching. the modern incarnation of the activity started in 2000 when the US government made GPS satellite signals more widely accessible to the public and a computer consultant and GPS hobbyist from portland, oregon decided to test the capabilities of this new access. he hid a bucket in the woods near beaver creek, oregon filled with books, software, money, and other shwag, then posted the GPS coordinates on an internet newsgroup. david ulmer's bucket, deemed "the great american GPS stash hunt," gave instant rise to the sport now called geocaching.

there are over 580,000 registered caches hidden all over the world and most of them are listed at the game works like this: a player hides a cache (which contains, at minimum, a log book) and posts the coordinates and description online for other players to access. another player then finds the cache using the coordinates. once the cache is found, the rules are simple. sign the log book, replace the cache exactly where you found it, report that you found it back on the website. if the cache is big enough to house goodies and you want to partake, you must leave something in return. aside from those simple guidelines, the game has very few limitations.
caches range in size from very large, like a 5-gallon bucket, to very tiny, like a keyring pill holder. some are submerged, some cleverly camouflaged to fit surroundings, and some are magnetized and affixed to any number of the metallic surfaces all around us. you could potentially be using the government's multi-billion dollar GPS satellites to find someone's old tupperware! the only restriction on container type is the player's imagination.

also included in the sport of geocaching are benchmarks, virtual caches, multi-caches, theme caches, puzzle caches, webcam caches, earth caches, and letterbox caches. again, the imagination is the only limit and the sport continues to evolve. one such evolution was the advent of traveling, trackable gamepieces called travel bugs. travel bugs are serialized tags attached to items that hitchhike from cache to cache. most have "personalities," objectives, and destinations. when found, the player's obligation is to try to obey the "bug's" mission and then to move it along to the next cache. we found the smurf pirate pictured here back in wheaton, maryland. he was "born" in austria and released into the game in malta back in 2004. his objective was to see as many coastal places as possible, to someday return to the mediterranean, and to have his picture taken on beaches, ships, or anything pirate-related. we obliged.

the creepy crawliness i spoke of before comes into play while actually retrieving and replacing the cache. most caches are hidden right out in the open and those not familiar with geocaching (commonly referred to among cachers as "muggles" (borrowed from the harry potter series)) will often become suspicious if they witness a geocaching transaction. these "muggles" will sometimes find/plunder/remove/destroy the cache so it is imperative that stealth and discretion be used while caching. let the secret agent within you flourish!

cachers are a fun-loving, social, and responsible group. caching advocates respect for the environment, promoting the "cache in, trash out" mentality, and does abide by a certain ethical code to, among other purposes, help preserve the sport. the challenge and reward of a treasure hunt provides a simultaneously relaxing and exciting respite from one's daily nonsense and it's a great way to get out and enjoy areas you might not otherwise experience.

except for the newsiness of the reporters, this video gives a pretty concise orientation.

it's free (except for a GPS if you decide to use one...they're not necessary but they sure help), it's fun, it's exciting, it can be done 24 hours a day, in any weather, and it's easy. try it and you'll be hooked. go here, type in your address, and be amazed at how many there are around you right now just waiting for you to find them. so go forth and be creepy!


Monday, May 19, 2008

happiness is...

lennon and mccartney would have us believe that happiness is..."a warm gun," ("bang bang, shoot shoot") but it was six years earlier, in 1962, when cartoonist charles schulz wrote a small book proclaiming that happiness is..."a warm puppy." it's this perspective that i'm subscribing to (today...because sometimes the gun thing is spot on too!) and i think the world deserves to experience the warm-puppy-happiness vicariously through this blog. without further ado, here is our icon of warm-puppiness, ryder.

she's about six months old and was billed as an australian cattle dog mix when we rescued her from the humane society nearly three months ago. from her appearance and the vet's speculation, the "mix" seems to include some percentage of pit bull and whippet. she's full of puppy verve and never fails to bring excitement wherever she goes.

she loves to run, she loves playing in water, she loves ALL fruits and vegetables (with a few toxic exceptions), she loves to go rock climbing, and she's brilliant.

she's into her second week of intermediate level training at petsmart (which we highly recommend) and has learned to sit/stay/come/lay down/roll over/shake hands/high five/double high five/ring a bell to be let out/and...our crowning achievement...she'll fall over "dead" when you shoot her with your finger and say "bang!"

after having her for three months, the only issue that concerns us is.....her drinking problem :-)

we'll continue to work on it.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

3 minutes of proof that a tiny asian kid is cooler than me

it's just not fair. you'll see what i mean. the sound and video aren't perfectly matched up but it's close enough.

dammit. i gotta go practice now.

*walks sulking to his guitar*


Saturday, May 10, 2008

indulge the monkey

i've often advocated here paying attention to what's going on around you. today, that philosophy thrust me into what seems to be the aftermath of a crime. (short dramatic interlude)

from the window of the classroom where i've spent everyday for the past 10 weeks, i can see the roof of the building next door. about two weeks ago, as i fought boredom and brain atrophy by gazing at the mountain community just beyond the glass, i noticed a blue duffel bag on the roof that was not there the week before. for nearly two weeks that bag taunted me from afar and practically dared me to climb up there and find out what was inside. was it money? garbage? severed heads? a litter of kittens? call it training, instinct, or some strange kind of intuition, but the beckoning somehow conveyed to me that the bag had more of a story than just a forgotten bag or jettisoned trash.

just after lunch on friday, the call became too loud for me to ignore. on a break from my studies, i indulged the monkey inside of me and shinnied up a set of gas pipes attached to the building's exterior and climbed onto the roof to finally examine that mysterious bag. while i'd love to be able to say that is WAS actually filled with severed heads or gold bullion or priceless artifacts, what i DID find may be worth more in story-telling potential. the blue bag is actually an aerobed and proved unremarkable on it's own. the real discovery was the photo album that was laying a few feet away from the aerobed.

the cover to the album was gone and, based on the recent weather trends and the condition of the album's pages and pictures, i'd estimate that it'd been up there for about two weeks. some of the pictures are curled from moisture exposure and some of the ball point ink inscriptions on the bottom margins of some of the photos are smudged but most of them are still salvageable. nearly all of the pictures are black and white and are mounted on thick black construction paper pages. looking through the pictures, it isn't hard to see that this album is clearly very special to someone and i strongly believe it was taken from them during some sort of burglary and tossed onto the roof by the criminal(s). the photos are well-shot perspectives of places and times and it's eerie and strangely fascinating to try to imagine oneself looking through the viewfinder when the shutter snapped on the original scene in the picture.

here's an awesome picture taken of The Needles in South Dakota back in 1940...
a buffalo sunset....and a couple others pictures that i thought conveyed the personal, journal-like qualities of the album.

oh....and my personal favorite....the unfinished Mt. Rushmore!

i'm undertaking a full-scale effort to get this album and these great pictures back to their owner. though even a sleuth of my unparalleled investigatory prowess may not be able to solve whatever event may or may not have brought these items into my hands, returning them to whoever lost them may assuage the sense of loss and victimization they're likely feeling. i welcome any and all ideas about how best to find the owner and i'll surely keep you posted on the progress.

until then, keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to indulge the monkey when you must :-)


it's my blog and i'll do what i want to

although i remain passionate about the culinary arts, i decided at the outset that this blog wouldn't creep too far into the "foodie" category. however, there are times when my level of success and feeling of utter triumph prevail and compel me to share with the world. sad, i know, but true.

transplanting from the DC metro area where the population (and subsequently the restaurant selection) is so amazingly diverse to the more remote and decidedly more homogeneous colorado springs has left us in want of some of the ethnic cuisines we'd come to know and love. also surprising is the lack of restaurants here that cater to vegans. those two conditions have forced us to cook and eat at home almost exclusively and we're happy to say we're the better for it.

one of the food items we'd been missing the most was samosas. my task was laid before me. i was a little intimidated at first but i did some research and pulled from several different recipes until i came up with the knowledge and courage to try it for myself. i made both the dough and filling from scratch and, with a little help from Manjula (see below), my samosas were awesome!

[non foodie types may skip to the pictures at this point :-)]

i'll spare all the gory details but the dough was flour (white and wheat all purpose), water, veg oil, salt, and my secret ingredient...smoked paprika. the filling was potatoes, peas, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, caraway, cardamom, and cayenne. my sous-chef :-) prepared a simple yet divine dipping sauce by blending cilantro, coconut milk, jalapeno, lemon, and a little raw sugar. look!

they came together so perfectly. hooray for homemade vegan samosas! look out we come!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

missing the mark

i know they meant well and probably didn't write their copy with an overly critical vegan in mind but, as i'll explain, a local radio station announced a call-in contest this week that caused me to raise my eyebrow in wtf-ness. as is my morning commute custom, i was listening to the local talk-radio station this morning on my way to work and i heard, shoved in there between the obligatory presidential campaign update and, "...traffic and weather together on the fives...," the aforementioned "be caller number three" contest prize that evoked in me that dog-with-head-cocked-to-one-side reaction. the prize was four tickets to a fund-raiser to benefit Big Cats of Serenity Springs. let that settle in.... so there is point of silliness #1 - FREE tickets to a fund-raiser. i'm not the best with money but isn't the whole point of selling tickets to a fund-raiser to generate revenue for the cause? right. digressing on point of silliness #1 to bring promptly forth...

point of silliness #2.
the radio personality charged with awarding these free tickets and pitching this fund-raiser told us listeners what a great time this shindig would be and implored us to "come on out....and enjoy the spaghetti and meatballs, shrimp cocktail, and pulled pork barbecue," that are to be served at this fantastic event. now i'm not one of those indignant, preachy vegans who looks down their vitamin b-12 deficient nose at all you vile flesh-eaters (kidding, kidding), but i couldn't help tripping over the irony here. lets give money to an organization that claims promoting care and compassion for animals as their mission but serves hot dogs, meatballs, shrimp cocktail, salmon, chicken burritos, and pulled pork barbecue to the attendees of it's fund-raiser. who says you need meat to get enough IRONy in your diet? :-)


Friday, May 2, 2008

just for fun

so this has been a pretty taxing week and, as a celebration of it finally dragging to an end, i present to you, my adoring fans, a couple things to help promote a healthy weekend mentality. the first is the story of what happened to me in the bathroom early this week. i was standing in a public restroom on monday and was under the impression that i was alone when, from behind one of the stall doors, a voice entreated,..."hey. how do you spell liquor?" not having expected the early morning spelling pee (relax....i can hear the groans of bad-pun-disapproval) but always eager to help, i offered, "L-I-Q-U-O-R." there was a period of silence as the inquirer paused to reflect and then the voice said, "man, i was WAY off!"

it was one of those did-that-really-just-happen? sort of moments and i didn't really stick around to help my quiz administrator with any of his other academic issues but the story makes for pretty good blog fodder.

the second promotion of a healthy weekend mentality is one of the best examples of creative writing i've ever seen. for those of you who are not "family guy" fans or who aren't familiar with this particular episode, allow me to set the stage: stewie (the maladjusted and misanthropic toddler you'll see in the bed) believes he has cancer and enlists brian (the family's talking dog) to write his final thoughts....pure comedy genius.

i really can't think of much that gets ME more into a fun-having mood than that.

off to enjoy my weekend,