Sunday, December 24, 2006


Kadin is still very enamored of the computer game Civilization where you set up civilizations and they evolve. A year ago he was telling me about how he had invented the alphabet (even though he couldn't read) and pottery and the wheel and so forth. The game is quite sophisticated and word intensive, so I don't know how he gets so much out of it. It has, in fact, taught him to read and much of his worldview comes from this game. When we traveled to England last summer our little preschooler would come up with statements that surprised us such as: "Elizabeth is queen of England. England has a monarchy." We realized he knew this from the game, and in the game it was Elizabeth I, not Elizabeth II, but we weren't about to burst his bubble.

Then there was the time he was playing at a friend's house and his friend's mother was telling them the Hanukkah story about the Macabees and the oil lamp that miraculously burned for eight days. "Now wait a minute," she told me Kadin had said, "Was this in the Middle Ages or the industrial ages? Because they didn't have oil until the industrial ages." She said it stopped her right in her tracks, and she didn't know. Okay, so they didn't have geological oil for energy in the middle ages, but they did have plant and animal oils for lighting. But when were the Macabees?

And then there was the other day when Kadin's civilization was really getting quite advanced. He was in the modern times and was building a space ship. "Dad," said our serious kindergartner as he came out of the office, "I have lots of research labs. They are very useful you know."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Do women’s hands do heavy duty?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Probably not, but you should.

I was out cutting juniper bushes for a garland and after all the landscaping I did this fall, I needed a new pair of gloves. So I went to the hardware store and looked and looked, but I could not find any gloves labeled “heavy duty” in women's sizes. There were these great, inexpensive, heavy-duty gardening gloves in men's medium or large (there is no men's small, apparently) but nothing comparable in women’s. I was sure I just wasn't seeing correctly, so when a female employee passed and asked if I needed any help, I asked her where the heavy-duty women's gloves were. She sighed and said she had worked as a landscaper for ten years and the glove issue was a constant frustration. You could get either reasonably priced men's gloves that fell off all the time, or expensive women's gloves that didn’t last. She said they just didn't make heavy-duty women's gloves in anything but the $20 version. Even then, she said, the quality was not good and they did not last as long as the same men's gloves. You can get heavy-duty men's gloves for about $5, so could wear out four pair of those for every one of the women's. All the women's gloves were labeled "medium duty” or “light duty.” What is up with that?

I decided on the cheaper pair of men's mediums, picked up a couple other items and went to check out. The guy at the register asked me if I had found everything I needed. "Yes," I said, "Everything except heavy-duty women's gloves."

"I know," he said, "Isn't it crazy how sexist the glove industry is? The manager at the store I used to work in was a woman and she looked everywhere for some heavy-duty women's gloves and wrote to all the manufacturers. They just don't make them."

I had no idea. I guess men don’t do “small” and women don’t do “heavy duty.” Maybe there would be a market if we changed the words. It's time to start a campaign. If anybody out there finds reasonably priced women’s gloves labeled “high intensity,” or some such, that would be great. Small men’s gloves labeled “firm fit” would be fine too.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote of the night

Rees just came in and put his head on my shoulder. I said he looked tired and should go to bed. He protested that he was too tired. "Too tired for bed?" I ask, then say, "Rees, do you know what the best way to stop being tired is?" I'm thinking a five letter word. He thinks for a minute then his eyes light up and he triumphantly calls out, "Tea!"

Oh boy, we're in trouble. I have never seen anybody fight sleep like that boy!


Recent articles in the local paper have really clarified for me the extent of athleticism in this town. The first article that really stuck with me was about an annual race in honor of an athlete named Daniel. The race is called the Danielesque. The idea is to celebrate a Danielesque way of life: When you have lost the path, "choose the trail that is the furthest, steepest, and most challenging…Charging up some monstrous hill in the midst of a blizzard, that's Danielesque. Putting your head down and pedaling harder against a raging head wind, that's Danielesque…Danielesque also means handling adversity with equanimity, and always paying attention to the needs of others."

What most people would consider "extreme" sports are actually mainstream here. Normal people make physical activity a way of life. Athletic ones do 72-hour marathons. Running a regular marathon—only 26 miles—is normal. Not running is pretty lax.

Then there was the gift-giving guide that highlighted a certain backpack as a nice gift. The selling points of this backpack included, according the paper, special dedicated pockets for your avalanche shovel and probe. That was an eye opener for me. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, take care to avoid avalanche prone areas and think that if you are the kind of person that finds it necessary to carry an avalanche shovel and probe on a regular basis, you are not long on this earth. But these matter-of-fact gift ideas—yes! that's exactly what I've been looking for!—make you question if not spending every weekend high on avalanche prone slopes means you are missing out.

Then there was another article about trail running at night. A seasonal kind of activity it seems. Yes, in Boulder, people don't just run on tracks or roads or treadmills, they run on hiking trails and they run up mountains. And, as if this wasn't enough, they do this at night. My humble opinion? That is a true addict. But as addictions go, at least it has a healthy aspect to it. It's better than being surrounded by alcoholics or compulsive gamblers.

And then there was the hike I did last week up to Bear Peak for the second part of my birthday, when Greg came back in town. Hiking Bear Peak is something I have wanted to do since we moved here. I can see the summit right outside my window and the trail practically starts at our front door. It’s not super high, but above 8,000 ft, and a good 2,000 ft above where we live. We went a long, gradual back route. After hiking for over 3 miles and gaining quite a bit of elevation, we came to a sign that said, “Private Property, NO TRESPASSING.” The next two lines on the sign were pure Boulder: “No hiking, no jogging.” We are half-way up a mountain and they have to specify “no jogging.” Most places it would be “no hunting,” but I guess that is a given around here as the large buck with antlers who stopped and stared at us near the sign attested.

Now I don't know how healthy it is to run 100 miles, but I do think this normalizing of physical activity is healthy. It certainly has rubbed off on me, if in only a small Bear Peakish way. Even when I have to remind myself: running trails at night IS NOT NORMAL! Packing an avalanche shovel and probe IS NOT NORMAL! It’s still fun to imagine: what if it was??

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Supersize theory

With the holidays approaching I have been thinking about traditions and childhood and in the process have come up with a new theory about supersizing. It goes something like this: when we are younger, we remember things as bigger and more plentiful than they seem to us as adults. Ask a person about their childhood home and it will be plenty big and functional even if in retrospect it seems small and pokey. I've noticed that pots and pans and cookie cutters look smaller to me now than they did when I was a kid. I remember the Narnia stories as huge, long epics when they are really quite short and have relatively simple plots.

So, maybe, as adults, as we are providing for our children, we want them to have what we had as children and in our mind this is bigger and more plentiful than it really was. So every generation, then, things will get proportionally bigger and bigger. More presents, more toys, bigger trees, larger sandwiches. Will it ever end?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New decade

A friend took me out to lunch for my brithday. We explored LoDo, the lower part of downtown Denver. As we browsed in a trendy wine shop, I noticed that I was less interested in the fine beverages and artsy ways to store and serve fine foods than I was in discussing with the owner (a self-proclaimed "wineaux") how to get anchors into a brick wall for hanging things. And I was more interested in the cut-off wine bottle that she used for a pencil holder and all the ways you could cut up and reuse old bottles than I was in her $50-a-set coasters. A friend of hers stopped in and said his wife had just gone into labor with their first child. I said it was a good day to be born. In another store, I liked the rocks that were hand etched and colored with shoe polish more than the intricate bronze sculptures, and at the cowgirl shop, I liked the Jesus bandaids and the Last Supper after dinner mints more than the fancy cowboy boots (but I can't say I'd mind a pair of them either).

A delicious Cuban lunch---where we ate something that translated literally as "old clothes"--- was complimented by easy flowing, interesting conversation. Which continued through the coffee until it was time to pick up the kids.

It was good and refreshing and I feel ready for the next decade of my life.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

No carryon

The latest terror alert has helped me to question what I carry on an airplane. With so many restrictions, it is easier to just not carry anything. And I find this very freeing. Instead of worrying if I have everything, I worry about why I have nothing, and then I feel great relief when I remember that I'm supposed to have nothing! For a short flight, at least, you can be quite comfortable and unencumbered with nothing. You can amuse yourself with maybe a paperback in your back pocket or the in-flight magazine. You can doze, rest your eyes. You can eavesdrop or look out the window; meditate. You don't have to spend any time organizing your stuff or putting things away or double checking that you have everything. It's kind of like an elimination diet. Instead of thinking what you might need, you start with nothing and see what you miss. And for me, that's not much. Whee!