Monthly Archives: December 2009

Five highlights of 2009

In pictures and in no particular order, here are five of the coolest things Christine and I did this year.

We bagged a 14er. We climbed Mount Quandary with Christine’s brother and badass mom, who took us all on the climb for her 60th birthday, then proceeded to set a quick pace.

We built a flagstone patio in front of our little yellow house. We’re now about 36 feet closer to replacing our entire water-guzzling lawn. Only a few hundred feet to go.

I drove from Alaska to Colorado with a friend (Christine skipped this one). I was perhaps most proud of surviving a 38-hour ferry drive without going stir crazy or getting too ADD-addled. I also flew a plane for about 10 minutes. British Columbia is beautiful — and Alaska’s alright, too.

We became junior rangers in Grand Teton National Park. That was really the highlight of a few days of hiking, camping and relaxing in the park.

We grew our first vegetable garden with delicious tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, herbs, kung pao peppers and (through no fault of our own) lettuce and parsley.

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My 10 heroes of the year (in no particular order)

1. Justinian Hatfield: My former co-worker and benign twin (we look alike, and I’m probably the evil twin) started the year on a rough note — being diagnosed with MS and losing his grandmother. But his indomitable spirit persevered. He kept his chin up and finished the MS150 bike ride (plus 25 miles). One of my resolutions is to join him on the ride this summer.

2. The Iranian protestor who filmed this: Everyone in Iran who isn’t just lying down and accepting a stolen election deserves support and praise. To me, the bloggers and citizen journalists are among the bravest. The person who filmed this video showed us what other reporters were telling us about the brutal crackdown on the recent protests.

3. Cathy Keller: My friend (and Christine’s friend from a totally unrelated connection) Cathy launched an amazing blog about her struggles with infertility that is revealing, honest and personal. It is exactly what a blog should be — personal, valuable to a unique and distinct community, and providing a voice and information that cannot be offered in another forum.

4. Sen. Bernie Sanders: It’s hard to give props to any senator from either party this year, but Sanders tried to fight the good fight. He tried to represent a large portion of the population that had no voice in the absurd health care debate this year. He sponsored an amendment and tried to force the Senate to vote on universal health care. It didn’t happen, but he’s promises to keep up the fight.

5. Amy Hawes Butler: My sister-in-law-in-law (I think that’s how it works) finished a PhD and is now going to solve global warming. I can’t imagine finishing a PhD, so I’m more than impressed. She also writes a great blog and reached her goal of reading 50 books this year (outside of her research).

6. St. Bernard Project: Anyone who knows me doesn’t need me to explain this group again, but a wonderful couple created a non-profit organization that has become the most effective rebuilding effort in the New Orleans area. Raise a hurricane glass to the St. Bernard Project, and donate to the group if you can.

7. Shevan and Nareg Basmadjian: My sister’s two wonderful daughters are city girls who’ve learned to appreciate the wilderness and can live without their Wii for a week. The girls are also further proof “the damn kids today” deserve more respect.

8. Mother Jones: Mother Jones magazine is one of the last media outlets performing true investigative journalism. I’m pretty sure it helps that the magazine is a non-profit (intentionally), so didn’t cut staff and budgets during the good times to help further boost corporate revenues. Sure, it’s struggling along with everyone else (it needs $50,000 to fill a budget gap), but it’s still getting the job done.

9. Kelvin Shing: My former roommate and old friend Kelvin finally lived his dream of living in Alaska, and survived an Alaska winter and a weeklong road trip with only my lame company.

10. Both these guys: Jon Stewart hilariously continues to keep the real news media accountable. His crack research team exposes the lazy, self-contradictory and disingenuous cable news talking heads. And he has smarter, more interesting guests than most other shows, including writers and heroes, like this guy. William Kamkwamba built a windmill in his yard in Malawi because he saw a picture in a book. My favorite quote: “What animal is Google. … Where was this Google all this time.”

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20 albums of the decade

1. Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site

This pick represents all the Weakerthans’ music. Great catchy pop songs with the most personal, beautiful, inspiring, uplifting and heartbreaking lyrics in the business. “Guess I’ll never be the one to defeat desire in song. Here’s a marker, here’s my naked skin, our Exhibit A.”

2. Against Me – New Wave

My Ipod says I listened to “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart” more than any other song. “New Wave” is a brilliant major-label debut about railing against selling out to the major-label music industry. Here are more great lyrics about being musicians. “All of our lives in waiting. All of our lives traded for their roses and applause. All of our lives dedicated to shoving it right back in their fucking face.”

3. Wilco – Live in Chicago

Again. It’s really about the whole catalog, but the live shows are really what I love about this band. I have at least six very different versions of “Spiders” from albums, outtakes and live shows. “There’s something there that you can’t find. You look honest when you’re telling a lie.”

4. Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

Another great live band with fantastic stories set to music. Could easily be the first two albums, too. “We had some massive highs. We had some crushing lows. We had some lusty little crushes. We had those all-ages hardcore matinée shows.”

5. Drive-By Truckers – Dirty South

Christine and I drove across the state to see this band. We also caught Jason in the Red Rocks parking lot and asked him if we could make copies of his song “Outfit” for a wedding mix CD. He said he didn’t really have control over that, but said if we get in trouble for doing so, “I give you permission to kick my ass.” “Tell me how to tell the difference between what they tell me is the truth or a lie. Tell me why the ones who have so much make the ones who don’t go mad. With the same skin stretched over their white bones and the same jug in their hand.”

6. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I Am

7. Neil Finn and Friends – 7 Worlds Collide Live at the St. James

8. Lucero – That Much Further West

9. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

10. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

11. Thermals – Fuckin A

12. Neil Finn – One All

13. Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free

14. U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind

15. Rancid – Rancid

16. Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics

17. My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves

18. White Stripes – White Blood Cells

19. Decemberists – Picaresque

20. New Pornographers – Electric Version

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