Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lake Marie

Today we took a scenic drive into Wyoming (Steamboat is only 40 miles from the state line). The highlight was Medicine Bow Peak and at its foot a lake that shares my wife's name - Lake Marie. Words don't do it justice so here's a picture (in order to appreciate the full beauty, click to enlarge).

You'll find it along Wyoming route 130 on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway about 45 miles west of Laramie. But unless you can go soon, you'll need to wait until the spring since this road will close for the winter in mid-November.

Special thanks to the extremely helpful lady at the Carbon County visitor's center in Riverside WY, who recommended this route.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Local musical talent

We attended a performance tonight of the musical play Nunsense. I saw a professional performance of this show some 15 years ago, but I don't remember enjoying it nearly as much as I did tonight.

What I found really amazing is that despite the fact that the production was sponsored by the drama department of the Colorado Mountain College four of the six cast members - Emily Stockdale, Jessi Houston, Emily Stout and Erin Lewis - are still in high school. It does our community proud to be producing such talented, passionate and confident young adults. Congratulations also to Molly Handley who was the only CMC student in the cast.

Finally, congratulations to Michelle Hess, our local elementary school music teacher who played the lead role. Michelle is a member of our church choir but church music clearly doesn't do justice to the power of her voice which was fully revealed tonight, as was her passion for musical theatre. I don't think I've ever seen a performer so clearly and thoroughly enjoying themselves as Michelle was tonight.

The quality of the performance is even more remarkable because as reported in our local newspaper, the intention was to perform the musical Chicago until all the potential male cast members dropped out and they had to find an all female show at the last minute. Looks like the men of Steamboat have well and truly been put to shame by these ladies.

It was inevitable

...that the Administration's determination not to let the facts get in the way of their obsession with removing Saddam - along with their incredibly childish world view that you are either with us or against us - would end up where it has, with key White House insiders committing what amounts to treason in order to silence their critics. For a President who has basked in the mantle of keeping America safe, the indictment of one or more key aides for blowing the cover of a CIA operative is more than just embarrassing.

It was inevitable too in the sense that Bush's ability appear as more than he really is couldn't be sustained. Any competent statistician would have predicted a "regression to the mean". Given enough time the real George W. Bush was bound to emerge and that's what we are seeing as this Administration implodes.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive - Finale and Episode 6 (contains spoilers)

I finally got around to watching Episode 6 and the Finale (I'm in the middle of moving house so things have been hectic).

Perhaps it was the fact that I had already watched Episode 7, but Episode 6 was something of an anti-climax. In this episode the crew decided to abandon the celebrities and watch how they would do on their own. The usual people stepped up to do the work - Alex, Alexander, George, Noah and to a lesser extent Shanna - while the others responded to the challenge by being their true pathetic selves, none more so than Haley Giraldo who was focusing on her tan rather than the job at hand (and how I wish she would get rid of those ridiculous bug-eye sunglasses).

More surprisingly, the Finale was also something of a let down. Perhaps the series had reached a point where there was nothing new to discover about Fabian's megalomania, Haley's bimboness or Alex Quinn's womanizing. There were some good shots of downtown Steamboat, but they don't really do the place justice, so if you're tempted to visit after watching this show, don't just think about it, do it!

Previous posts: Introduction, Episodes 1-4, Episode 5, Episode 7

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Going Postal

Being a resort community, many of the condo buildings in Steamboat are primarily occupied by visitors rather than temporary residents, so the postal service chooses not to deliver mail to them.

Those of us who do live permanently in such buildings are therefore forced to have post office boxes. I don't mind that so much - in many ways I find a post office box more secure, especially since I travel a lot so the last thing I want is my mail piling up outside my front door announcing to the world that my home is unoccupied.

But since I'm being denied the basic mail service that 99.9999% of residents of this country receive, I don't think it would be too much for the post office to be able to redirect any mail sent to my physical address to my box. A big proportion of the customers at the Steamboat Springs Post Office are in the same situation, so I find it inexcusable that the local post office hasn't bothered to work out a process to do this.

And while I'm 'going postal', I just have to add that American post offices are the most grey (literally) and depressing retail outlets since the days of GUM.

Shame on you, USPS.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hotel switch and bait

Don't you think it's a little deceptive to have a certain standard of product or service in your advertising but to then offer the customer something less for the same price? Hotels are masters of this type of switch and bait.

On our trip to Australia last month we stayed over in LA in each direction at the same hotel both times. On the outbound trip we got the room they advertise complete with the Sleep Number Bed which I really loved because I generally find hotel beds too hard. But on the return trip we got one of their old rooms that hadn't been upgraded and it was lousy.

But what really irks me is when hotels treat a request for a non-smoking room as optional. They know how many non-smoking rooms they have, and they know how many bookings for non-smoking rooms they have. If the number of requests already matches the number of rooms then tell me so and I'll book somewhere else. I know that's not what the hotel wants but it's my call, not the hotel's, whether I am willing to sleep in a room someone has been smoking in.

Shame on you LAX Radisson.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Snow and earthquakes

"What's the connection between snow and earthquakes?" I hear you ask. Well nothing except we seem to be having a bit of both in Steamboat lately.

It snowed again last night and today. It was only a light dusting - nothing like the 20 inches they had in some parts of eastern Colorado - but enough to prompt us to put the snow tyres on the car (in the sense that we paid someone to put them on).

We also had a small earthquake on Sunday night. Only 2.2 on the Richter scale. It sounded and felt like someone slamming a door. According to our local newspaper and verbal reports from some of our friends, there was also a larger one (4.1) on September 30. We missed that one since we were back in Australia.

The only other time we've experienced a quake was December 12, 2000 in Manila in the Philippines. That one was a 6.5 and I can tell you that when you wake up at 2am totally disoriented (OK I had a few drinks at the expat association Christmas party the night before), the room is moving backwards and forwards a foot in each direction, the floor is undulating and everything that is not nailed down is falling over, it's terrifying. Definitely the longest 20 seconds of my life. But believe it or not, we had a couple of friends who slept through it!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive - Episode 7 (contains spoilers)

Due to a problem with my TiVo while I was away, I've missed episode 6 so until they replay it and I can record it again, I'll jump straight to episode 7, "Cowboys and Villains".

What an amazing study in group dynamics and the use and abuse of power. If you've ever wondered how evil men come to power, watch this episode and see how Fabian manages to manipulate, intimidate and bully everyone - but instead of becoming the outcast he manages to align most of the team behind him. It's a profound demonstration of the principle that power is too easily gained not by those most deserving of it or capable of exercising it responsibly, but by those who have what Nietzsche called the "will to power", that is those who are most willing to do whatever is necessary to seize power and use it to their own ends.

The only celebrity who comes out of this episode with any dignity is Alexander. When Fabian turns on him he shows enormous maturity for his age (at 19 he's the youngest) in not taking Fabian's bait. Later the others decide that Fabian's behaviour was out of line, but like cowards they all fail to come to Alexander's defence when it mattered.

If there is any justice in the world, once Fabian's wife sees him on television molesting basically all the women on the drive she'll divorce him and take all his money. If they ever have an award show for the biggest a..holes on television they should name it the Fabians.

As for Haley Giraldo, her warmly expressed admiration towards Fabian is astounding. There are people like her in the history books. They stand behind men like Hitler and Stalin telling the world how wonderful their heroes are as they slaughter millions of people. Worse than being dumb (which she is in spades), she's a complete moral vacuum.

Previous posts: Introduction, Episodes 1-4, Episode 5

Scenic flight

We were fortunate on Monday that our flight from Los Angeles to Denver took us right over the Grand Canyon, the weather was fine, and we were sitting on the right side of the plane to get the best view. From 35,000 feet, it's impressive enough. Now I'm very motivated to see this up close. This is what happens to the Yampa River after it flows through Steamboat Springs, on to join the Green River and then the mighty Colorado River.

By the way, if you look closely at the horizon in the picture, you can see the curvature of the Earth. What a wonderful world we live in!

What's yellow, green and white?

Mt Werner after a fall snow storm.

Taken today around 9.30 am.

He's done it again

Just to reinforce my point, our anecdotal President did it again in talking about the possibility of mobilising the full-time army for future disaster responses. In considering the possible downsides of the move he didn't quote something important like "history tells us that once the military starts policing civilians you're on the path to dictatorship" but rather something trivial from his own experience. As Governor of Texas he wouldn't have liked the Feds taking over was the best reason against overturning a fundamental principle of liberty.

The other thing that was interesting about his speech was that if John Kerry had given it, saying there are reasons for and there are reasons against, he would have been labelled as a "flip-flopper." Now I know that John Kerry's weakness was that he was never able to move beyond reasons for, reasons against and make a decision, but wouldn't we be a whole lot better off if George W. had said any of the following:
  • there are reasons to invade Iraq, and there are really good reasons not to
  • there are reasons to lock up American citizens without judicial review, and there are really good reasons not to
  • there are reasons to appoint unqualified cronies like Michael Brown, and there are really good reasons not to
  • there are reasons to appoint to the Supreme Court a lawyer who is well qualified but has absolutely no judicial experience, and there are really good reasons not to

I know that Bush weighs the political downside of his decisions, Karl Rove makes sure of that, but I'm talking about something more profound. I'm talking about having the judgement and maturity to say "as tempting as it is, in the long run this won't be good for America or Americans." I doubt Bush has ever done that. They say discretion is the better part of valour. So make your own judgement.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

First snow of 2005-06

Today we had our first snow for the season. Yesterday was a beautiful fall day with the high temperature in the 70's F (or 20's Celsius), but today was much cooler. Around midday we had some hail and then solid rain set in for the afternoon. By 5 pm the temperature had dropped enough for the rain to turn to snow, and by 7 pm as we left our class at the Mountain College we were greeted by a sweeping view of the mountain blanketed in white and shrouded in cloud.

The National Weather Service is predicting 2-6 inches above 9,000 ft, so I hope to get some good pictures tomorrow. I also hope to get some shots in the next few days of the fall colours which are just about at their peak.

Although the snow will all melt in a day or so, winter is definitely coming. According to the countdown clock at the bottom of the page, it's only 50 days until the ski mountain opens!

Update: Looks like my neighbour Dave has beaten me to it. Here's his pic of the mountain taken at 6.30 pm.

The anecdotal President

The announcement of President Bush's latest nomination for the Supreme Court has crystallized in my mind the real problem with the way he thinks. I don't think he's as dumb as some would like to suggest, but I do believe that he thinks in a fundamentally flawed manner.

The problem is with his epistemology. "Epistemology?" I hear you say. Yes, epistemology, the field of philosophy that deals with knowledge. George W. Bush's fundamental problem is his model for how he decides he knows something.

Take the nomination of Harriet Miers. How did he arrive at the conclusion that she was the best candidate for the job? Not through any process of research, reference to independent authorities or systematic collection of data, but simply through personal experience. For George W. Bush, you can only know something by experiencing it first hand. He prefers a personal sample of one to an impersonal sample of thousands or millions and he prefers anecdotes to large bodies of unbiased evidence.

So the President really does believe his nominee is the best person for the job. Sadly, he simply can't conceive that there is any way to know that a candidate is suitable other than knowing them personally. In his mind, appointing his long time friends and associates to incredibly important positions is not cronyism. He really does believe that he's selecting the best people. He just doesn't understand that his epistemology restricts the candidate lists to people he personally knows.

Australia to LA and four movies later

We flew in to LA on Sunday on the direct Qantas flight from Brisbane and I managed to watch several movies on the long flight.

I would recommend Batman Begins, although if you're a devotee of the franchise be warned that the movie sacrifies consistency with the later / earlier Batman movies in order to delve deeper into Batman's psyche (although with so many different actors playing the main character, continuity is probably already shot).

I admire Johnny Depp's ability to completely become his characters which he demonstrates again as he becomes Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Notwithstanding his brilliant performance, (and an excellent supporting role from Noah Taylor, one of the many Aussies invading Hollywood) I have to agree with my wife; Gene Wilder is Willy Wonka and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a classic that should not have been remade.

If you haven't seen the original then your childhood is incomplete. Plus you've missed one of the most useful quotes in cinema history: "So much time, so little to do. Strike that. Reverse it." So here's the link to the version I think you should buy. Sorry, Johnny, nothing personal mate.

Cinderella Man has received more coverage incidental to Russell Crowe's stupid hotel antics than in its own right, which is a pity because it's a very good movie based on a true and very insipring story with strong performances from "the hotel guest from hell formerly known as Russell" and Renee Zellweger. There are several quite realistic boxing scenes, and I have to admit I'm not a big fan of watching two men beating the crap out of each other. Nevertheless the rest of the movie is more than good enough to make it worthwhile .

The final movie I watched was Mr and Mrs Smith. I was a bit sceptical at first of what looks like nothing more than a remake of 1985's Prizzi's Honor but I enjoyed it well enough. However in the end it doesn't really add anything to the concept of a hitman and a hitwoman married to each other and each contracted to take the other one out to be worth paying money to see. Wait for this one on cable.