Tag Archives: Chit-Chat

Please read this and spread it: Plastics are not as safe as you think

If there is one thing that defines ubiquitous in our society, it’s plastic. Look around and you’ll see it everywhere. There’s no doubt that without plastics our world would be very different, and most likely a lot more primitive. Food, medicine, and electronics come to mind as areas where plastics are particularly crucial.

It’s the food area that really concerns me, and should concern all of us. Recent exposes on a particular chemical, Bisphenol-A, used widely in many plastics that hold our food, have revealed that plastics, especially when heated, are not nearly as safe as we have been led to believe. It is present in almost all food packaging, including water bottles, microwave meal containers, food storage containers, and the linings of all food and beverage cans.

This chemical, which appeared to be safe the low levels present in our food packaging, has been discovered to be and endocrine disruptor, which means that it can in fact be be harmful in very small amounts. Here are a couple of  links to information on Bisphenol-A:

I won’t write a big long article on this, as there is plenty of info out there. But I will give you my takes on this:

  1. Do not heat anything in plastic if you can help it. Heating plastic is a sure way to release chemicals from it. Use glass if you have to microwave. I bought a bunch of glass storage containers and if I want to heat a microwave meal, I take the food out of its plastic container and put it into the glass one or into a regular bowl or on a plate before heating it.
  2. Switch your water bottle out for a BPA-free bottle. Many companies, including Nalgene and Camelbak have already committed to BPA free bottles.
  3. Don’t reuse store bought water bottles. If you want to reduce waste, buy a BPA free bottle and refill it.
  4. Babies and children are particularly affected by these kinds of chemicals, so make sure your baby bottles are glass or BPA-free plastic.
  5. Replace all of your plastic food storage containers with glass containers. You can buy these pretty cheaply at department and grocery stores.

Here is a link to a very good PBS documentary news piece on the subject, that provides some very good information. Please take the time to watch it, it is a very informative and well put together piece that is highly relevant to all of us. After all, BPA is estimated to be present in measurable quantities in 93% of our population!

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05232008/watch2.html

Is it a coincidence that many types of cancers related to the endocrine system (prostate cancer, breast cancer) are on the rise? Maybe. Maybe not. I’d rather not wait and see…

I am Iceman

I went to Bisbee last weekend to compete in a unique local race, among other things. Every year, on the 3rd Saturday in October, the small mountain town hosts the Bisbee 1000 and the Iceman Challenge, 2 races featuring something Bisbee has quite a bit of: stairs.

freaklucha_librerunner_waterThe Bisbee 1000, a.k.a. The Great Stair Climb, is the main event. The course consists of 1000+ stairs and 5k of running, and is, quite honestly, one of the most brutal race courses out there. It has become quite popular, with around 1500 participants each year. Elite runners, walkers, and a generous helping of people in costumes all take to the stairs. Musicians set up at the tops of the stairways and play tunes to spur the runners on and ease their pain.

singer

At an elevation of around 5500 feet, ascending flights of over 200 stairs at anything more than a walk can be downright painful. Imagine arriving at the top of one of these flights of stairs: you’ve come up as fast as you could, and your legs are now made of wood and jello. Your lungs are on fire, your heart is coming out the top of your head, and you feel like you might just go ahead and puke in front of all these people. But instead you must try to summon the energy and leg control to run down the windy road. Repeat this process 8 times and you have the sweet agony of the Bisbee 1000.

I’ve run this race many times over the years and have done fairly well on occasion. I won my age group and got 7th overall one time. The sheer brutality of trying to run it competitively is daunting, though, and the second event is much shorter and the payout is better. Some feel that not running the main race first gives me an unfair advantage in the second race. I totally agree about the advantage part. After running the Bisbee 1000 your legs are cooked, no doubt about it. Unfair? Anyone who wants to forgo the big race along with me to even the playing field is always welcome to do so.

The Iceman Challenge is held after the Bisbee 1000. The race is a throwback to the old days when people kept their food cold in iceboxes and “Icemen” would deliver blocks of ice by running them up to the houses perched on the steep hillsides, accessible only by long flights of stairs.

Unlike the first race, this one is very short and is all about pure sprinting power instead of hardcore endurance. The Iceman is an all out sprint up a single flight of 155 stairs, with one twist: you have to carry a 10lb block of ice held by a pair or old-fashioned ice tongs all the way up. People go one at a time, and the fastest 3 men and fastest 3 women win prize money. While short, this race is nothing easy. By about halfway up, you start to go anaerobic, which is a fancy word for running out of gas, but still pushing as hard as you can. That’s the when the railing comes in handy.

me_stairs

This year I won handily with a time of 22.5 seconds, which turned out to be a new course record. The second place finisher came in at 25.05, third place was 25.62 seconds. For my brief efforts I got $100 and a hug from Smokey the Bear. Smokey was there because of the recent wildfires in the hills above Bisbee, and he seemed uncomfortably warm in his bear costume. It felt great to win because winning is fun, but also because Bisbee is my home town and that flight of stairs is very familiar to me. It leads to High Road, where I grew up, and I used to run up them when I got off the bus from school. I’ve won this event several times now, and I plan on owning it for as long as I’m able!

me_iceme_smokey

We Are Made of Stars

Well the remnants of exploded stars, technically.

This is one of those fantastic truths that we may not think about much in our daily lives, but that, when fully considered, tends to make one stop for a moment and wonder at it all.

The short version of the story, which is accepted as basic fact by scientists and astronomers, goes that every element in the universe heavier than hydrogen and helium was forged in the nuclear furnaces that we call stars. By definition, then, all of the elements that make up our planet, from carbon to iron to uranium were created inside of stars and, since our bodies can only be made of things found on the planet we live on, we are all made of these same elements. We are, in fact, made of stardust!

Rather than try to explain it all myself, allow me to be lazy and let the bona fide geeks do it with video:

Is that not mind blowingly fascinating? C’mon people, are you with me on this? Me. You. Your mom. Your cat/dog/girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend/garden/car/computer/pizza/cell phone/shampoo/shoes/breath. All made from stars. All of it. Wow!

What I Listen to Every Friday Morning

So I guess the unintentional theme this week is “music that I rock out to”.

Fair enough. I may as well point you to the source of both of those fantastic tunes that I posted previously.
btrain_sm
You see my good friend Noah has a radio show called “The B Train” Friday mornings from 8am-10am in Bisbee, AZ. A couple of years ago Bisbee fired up its first local radio station in years: a non-profit, community-run, low power outfit with the call numbers 96.1 KBRP LP.

Being a low power station, the signal reaches the local Bisbee area (and only parts of it at that), but no further, since there are so many mountains. Luckily for those of us who don’t live in Old Bisbee, there are these newfangled things called the internets, where signals can be magically broadcast instantly around the world.

So if you want to hear a fantastic homegrown radio show with an eclectic mix of great new music, most of which you’ve never heard before, follow this link: http://kbrpradio.com Friday mornings between 8-10am, Arizona time (MST, never changes). Click the “Program Stream” button on the right and you’ll be rocking out to The B Train in no time.

Aside:

The above artwork was created by none other than P. Eric Waldmann, a fantastic fine artist and another lifetime member of the My Good Friends Club. See more of his work here: http://pericwaldmann.com.

Just to toot my own horn a little bit, I took the artwork (which was hand drawn and then digitized on a single layer), separated things out into layers, added the text and the B and mountain (I know, pretty awesome artwork there…), and eventually created the color separations necessary for screen printing. The design was then printed on t-shirts which are sold to benefit the radio station. Doesn’t sound like much, and I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details, but I tell you it takes some skillz. Really, it does.

Durango = Yes

So I have a pretty good job.

I’m a full-time, salaried graphic designer. I’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s taken a lot of believing during the lean times. While It may be a 9-5 (8-5 with an hour lunch, to be exact) office job for the most part, last week I found myself hiking and running through some of the most breathtaking scenery on earth, taking pictures, getting to know great people, and all of it on the payroll.

Each year the company I work for has a photo shoot to get new images for their product catalog, which is updated yearly. So, being the designer of said catalog for 2009, I got the privilege of a week-long expenses paid trip to Durango, Colorado to assist with the shoot. Though I am a photographer of sorts, the photography would be handled by a world-class adventure photography team: Patitucci Photo. I would be there to make sure that we got the kind of shots needed for our website and catalog.

Fly or drive? I’ll ride, thanks.

I was given the choice of flying or driving to Durango, which is about 500 miles to the northeast, so naturally I chose neither. I have a motorcycle and was in serious need of an adventure, so I packed it up and headed north. It was a fantastic ride. I saw some beautiful country, from the Mogollon Rim to Monument Valley, all of which had recently received a good dose of monsoon rain, which showed in lush growth, flowing rivers, and fresh air. I had my usual uncannily good luck with the weather: there were almost always storms nearby, but they always moved off before I got there, or closed in after I passed through.

Mormon Lake, AZ


There’s something about seeing things from the saddle of a motorcycle that is so much more satisfying than a car. You get to pass through and make your destinations just as fast, but you have views in all directions and the air is always rushing by, giving you a taste of what’s around. It could be the invigoratingly wild, herbaceous smells of desert plants in full bloom or a dead skunk, but either way, seeing the country from the saddle of a motorcycle is just plain nice.

On top of all that, the act of riding a motorcycle with skill and grace is a great feeling, especially when you’re taking corners at twice the speed suggested by those little yellow signs—leaning over, taking the perfect line, accelerating out of the curve…

You can disregard that last bit, mom.

Durango

What a great place! Set in a high valley with a river running through it, surrounded by alpine wilderness, with an athletic community and a perfect summer climate, Durango is my kind of town.

It’s a small town to be sure, with about 15,000 residents. Just a bit bigger than my native Bisbee, AZ, and from the looks of the downtown architecture, just as old.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of Durango proper. I know, what was I thinking? I guess I’ll just have to go back…

Hard Work

So once I settled in, my accommodations being a very new and nice horse trailer with living quarters, electricity and a comfy bed, it was time to get to work. I tell you, it sure was tough: work consisted of getting up at sunrise to be greeted with crisp mountain air and amazing surroundings. Then, after sipping coffee and munching a little bit, it was time to start shooting photos.


After a few days of shooting horses for the catalog, I was free to spend the rest of the week with the Patituccis. They had some work to do, shooting various subjects for their business, and they asked me to be in the photos. That’s right, you can now add camping/hiking/running model to my list of odd jobs! We went to several amazing locations, the most spectacular being the Red Mountain area above Silverton.

This last one is a shot from a day “off”, when the photographers were scouting a new location and I was free to explore.
So yes, this was my work trip. It’s OK that you’re jealous. I understand. But know this: I have worked hard and suffered through many low-paying, non-fun jobs to get to this point, all the time believing that I could make a good living doing something I truly enjoyed. And it doesn’t stop here…

Bananas & Beer

bananas-n-beer

My friends, today I found what I believe to the best possible after run snack, and I felt compelled to share it with you: a banana and a beer.

I’ve experienced the benefits of each one on its own after a hard workout, and they are both fantastic recovery supplements. The banana is an easy-to-digest fruit with lots of potassium and fiber, and beer, well, is in a class by itself. It is the only beverage that I know of that has the 3 key components: food, water, and medicine.

Go forth, my friends, and try this revolutionary combination!


My New All-Time Favorite Podcast

Deke McLelland is the Man

I’ve been reading his books and watching his tutorials on all things Photoshop for years. He’s a bona fide* guru of graphics, and on top of that he’s pretty damn funny. I encourage everyone (even you non-designers might get a kick out of it) to check out dekePod:

“…what dekePod lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in a lack of tact.”

http://www.deke.com/dekepod

Awesome. He ranks right up there with Alton Brown on my list of dorks that I wish I was friends with.

(You can also find it on iTunes if you’re a bona fide* podcaster)

*bo·na fide
Pronunciation: \ˈbō-nə-ˌfīd, ˈbä-; ˌbō-nə-ˈfī-dē, -ˈfī-də\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin, literally, in good faith
Date: 1632
1 : made in good faith without fraud or deceit
2 : made with earnest intent
3 : neither specious nor counterfeit

The Eternal Question

(warning: raw emotional content ahead)

Why?

gull11If we know that something isn’t quite working out, why do we keep at it, day after day, month after month, year after year, until finally something gives (again) and we just can’t take it anymore?

Why do we ignore the warning signs in a relationship? We postpone the inevitable, tell ourselves there is a way to make it work, that these basic differences can be fixed. We pretend everything is OK and lose ourselves in day-to-day routine and comfort, thus ensuring that when the paths do finally diverge (and they will), things are so complicated, so intertwined, with so much time and emotion and energy invested, that the reality of parting seems insurmountable, impossible.

Why do we knowingly do this to ourselves? And it is knowingly. As much as we hide from it and push it down, the truth is always there, waiting for us.

These are rhetorical questions, really. The short answer to all of them is, you guessed it, fear. There are seemingly endless things to fear in letting go of a relationship: fear of being alone, fear of emotional pain, fear of hurting someone we care for deeply, fear of losing something that we can never get back, fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of the unknown…what the hell am I supposed to do with myself after 7 and a half years of being with the same person?

So, even in the face of it, when it is undeniably time to make the change, we struggle and grasp for reasons why it could work, concessions we could make, changes that could occur that would make everything OK. For brief, ignorant moments, small feelings of relief and familiar comfort seep in, before being swallowed up by the twisting knot in our stomach and replaced by the dull ache of acceptance. Over and over this circle of dim false hope followed certain grief and despair repeats itself, like waves crashing into the sand.

But this is only one side of the story, one chapter. And while this very real, very powerful and very necessary chapter is being written down, scratched out, and rewritten, another story is simultaneously beginning to unfold. This story tells of freedom, excitement, and joy. It describes following dreams, bliss, and doing what we love no matter what. It details the refinement of our purpose, and the shedding of old, outdated thought patterns. It tells of this incredible gift that we call life.

Bisbee, part 1 of many – July 4th, 2008

Bisbee - 1916

Bisbee is an odd little town. Set in a geologically fascinating canyon that juxtaposes gray limestone bluffs, crumbly red hills, and solid granite mountains, the town has a surreal, foreign feel to it. The streets wind up and down the hillsides, many only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. Wooden houses built in the early 1900s with corrugated tin roofs perch one above the other, some accessible only by the many long concrete stairways that ascend Bisbee’s steep canyon walls. I could write a book about Bisbee. I was born there and have fantastic memories of being young and free to explore the quirky old nooks, shady, dead-end streets, and beautiful wilderness, literally out my back door. In the photo above, my dad’s house is circled in red. As far as we can tell it was built sometime around 1903. I was born in this house, and I love it.

I’ve been meaning to write about the last 4th of July since, well, the 4th of July. 2 weeks later and I’m still in draft mode…ah such is my blogging life when my job involves sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours each week. It doesn’t exactly make me excited to run home and blog my fingers off. But enough of my whinging. Lets talk about the 4th of July in Bisbee. [Big, slightly fake open mouth smile + thumbs up]

I should give some account of all the cool stuff that goes on on the 4th in Bisbee, like the coaster races in the morning, the stupid parade that comes after that is just a bunch of local kids riding around in pickups and on flatbed trailers throwing candy to the spectators. But the real reason I want to talk about this last 4th is because of me. Me, me, me. I won $250 on the 4th. I knew I was going to win something, and I actually really needed the money to finance my funtime 4th party weekend. Gas, eating out, booze, it all takes its toll on the ducatry, the cheddar, the dollar-dollar-bill y’all onetime-onetime, if you will.

gulch_crowdYou see in addition to all of the other fun things, Bisbee hosts some unique contests, feats of strength, on the 4th. Around 2pm everyone gathers in the Gulch, which is an area down near the center of town where the seediest and oldest bar in town, St. Elmo’s (aka “Smellmo’s”), is located. The street is blocked off, bleachers go up, and drinking in the street is permitted. A giant granite rock, flat on top and bottom, sits on top of a flatbed. Men compete to see who can drill the deepest hole with nothing but a hammer and chisel bit in 10 minutes. It is a grueling contest, but the winner can expect as much as $1000, so people take this contest seriously.

thepileThe next feat of strength is the mucking contest, and this is what I have come for. Eli and I have placed well in this event before, so we feel confident. Mucking is a dirty sounding word for shovelling. Teams of 2 guys (sometimes girls) compete to see who can fill up an old ore cart with rock gravel in the fastest time. Winning times are usually around 1 minute 15 seconds or so, and again the winners can expect in the neighborhood of $800, with money being paid down to 5th or 6th place.

noah_muckGabe_shovel3This year there were 17 teams in the mucking contest. Eli and I took 4th place with a time of 1 minute 20.3 seconds, winning $500 between the 2 of us. Not bad for a minutes worth of work, but I will say that the last 40 seconds are some of the longest, most difficult seconds of my life. My lungs burn, my back screams, my legs feel like wood, and I wouldn’t mind vomiting. But I would like to win a couple hundred bucks, so I reach back and pull out everything I have left. I throw the shovel down and stagger away when the whistle finally blows, oblivious to the pats on the back and cheers from the drunken crown. As I catch my breath and hear our time announced over the PA, I smile. Were were the last team to go, and I know we placed 4th and made some money. I laugh and say “You’re welcome” to my good friend Noah, because he and his partner came in .5 seconds ahead of us. He had asked us to please not to beat his time…

winners_all2