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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Prepping for Iron & WIne/Calexico

I'm heading up to Montreal next week with my trusty concert compadre, Flatlander, to see Iron & Wine and Calexico. When I heard about the show I jumped at the opportunity, not because I'm eluding the inlaws that will be arriving that evening, but because the idea of three sets of music from these groups sounds absolutely blissful. Their combined EP from earlier this year, In the Reins, perfectly matches the strengths of each group results in a sound that allows grandeur and intimatcy to coexist.

In preparation for the show, I'll be listening to NPR's webcast of tonight's show from Washington, DC's 9:30 Club. It takes place at 10 pm EST. For those that miss it, NPR will most likely stream it for many months.

Thanks to What the f*ck is the internet? for making me aware of the webcast.

Iron & Wine/Calexico - A History of Lovers.mp3
Iron & Wine/Calexico - Sixteen, Maybe Less.mp3
Iron & Wine/Calexico - Dead Man's Will.mp3

UPDATE: The show sounded beautiful. Here's the setlist:
Calexico: Yours and Mine, Panic Open String, Alone Again Or, Deep Down, Bisbee Bluem Crystal Frontier, All Systems Go
Iron and Wine: Hickory, Sodom, South Georgia, Cinder and Smoke, Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song), On Your Wings, An Angry Blade, Woman King, The Trapeze Swinger
Salvador Duran: El Jinete, Barlovento, El Huasteco Enamorado
Iron & Wine/Calexico: He Lays in the Reins, Red Dust, All Tomorrow's Parties, Prison on Route 41, A History of Lovers, Always on My Mind, Burn That Broken Bed
Encore: Wild Horses, Dead Man's Will

Click here to download all four sets and an interview: NPR Live Concert Series: Iron & Wine/Calexico - 9:30 Club, Washington DC - 11/30/05

Q-Unit

I know I shouldn't love this, but I do. Q-Unit, a mashup (aka Bastard Pop) of 50 Cent and Queen by Silence Xperiment, is in my opinion the greatest accomplishment in this genre since The Grey Album and The Black & Blue Album. My favorite has to be Bohemian Wanksta. You have to admit that 50 looks great in the 'stashe.

Q-Unit - Bohemian Wanksta.mp3

Thanks KC for the heads.

Spree Roots

I came across this gem while rifling through vinyl filled milk crates beneath the CD racks of my local music shop.

My first impression of Many Blessings was that it was the sole album of a crazy commune. I was close. The eclectic Spring Hill spriritual community in western Massachusetts released this vocal chant album in 1980. A little research also showed this group to be on the forefront of the New Age scene, traveling the country creating psycho-spiritual workshops called "Opening the Heart."

The influence on the Polyphonic Spree is pretty undeniable. I love the Spree, but I think I love On The Wings of Song more. I can't wait to hook up the turntable, so that I can get a listen to Wearing My Long Winged Feathers/Woa Woa and Om Nama Shiva.

When looking at something like this, it's hard not to think about where they are now. The Spring Hill Community has apparently dissolved, as there are Spring Hill survivor groups meeting in central Mass. Here's an interview with one of the leaders of the musical group, Robert Gass. Gass now holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Public Practice from Harvard, but continues to make music. He states that most of the group is still together recording; now consisting of 45+ singers including several children of the original members.

And as far as the dude on the far right of the original group photo, he appears to be Ward Clark. He used to sing 2nd bass in what many could qualify as a cult, but now is a web designer that enjoys his home theater and has an obsessive teddy bear habit. Some things change, but others never will.

The Polyphonic Spree - Section 12 (Hold Me Now).mp3

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oranger

I started listening to Oranger late in 1998 while away at college. I had officially broken from my Phish phase and had since become a card carying member of the Weezer Fanclub. Free of the noodling scene, I dove back into the heart of rock and was welcomed by the sweet catchy California sounds of Oranger.

New Comes and Goes marks Oranger's fourth album since their inception in the late 90s. Perhaps most appropriately classified as a indie-pop-psychedelia revival band, the four piece sound like their name and typify the sunny pop of the late 60s. The latest album relies more heavily on the modern indie side of the equation, as described by Pitchfork:

After hinting at it their last two albums, the Bay Area's Oranger have finally jettisoned their cumbersome sunny psych bit, one which forcedly suggested geographic loyalty with the same conviction as a two-dimensional Captain Planet character representing his/her entire country. Now, Oranger more closely echoes indie acts such as Pavement or Modest Mouse rather than cardboard CA cutouts like Brian Jonestown Massacre or the Warlocks. Forget the dense layers of fuzz and acoustic strumming, these guitars have two settings-- clean and distorted-- and if you're lucky you'll get a mellotron in the background. This ain't your stoned older brother's Oranger.

While it's a bit different, they haven't departed from what makes them so addictive - they are still like sunshine in the dead of winter.

Oranger - Crooked in the Weird of the Catacombs.mp3
Oranger - Crones.mp3

More at their Myspace page.

Monday, November 28, 2005

'Tis the Season

Very rarely does something worth repeating make its way through the office email forward machine. This time I struck gold. This video has been racing through the internet for the last week and shows Christmas lights synchronized to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter" (from The Lost Christmas Eve album). The word on the street is this is the product of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, who used 88 Light-O-Rama channels to control his 16,000 christmas lights. It appears to be done using classic stop motion photography. Stop motion was the central theme of my Uncle's favorite movie, The Wizard of Speed & Time, which was written, directed, produced, audited, gripped, funded, cranked, cameraed, composed, starred, etc. by Mike Jittlov. It's crazy campy and all sorts of 1989, but has some fantastic moments. I'm afraid that Jittlov went a bit crazy, as evidence of his website WizWorld. And also his film.

Maybe there's some connection between wizards and stop motion that I don't understand.

My father is all about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Everytime we make it home for the holidays their "rock" is pouring out of the living room speakers. I guess their live show is pretty spectacular (lights galore, and I like lights), but I think I prefer my prog to be a bit more on the early Yes side of the spectrum.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Wizards of Winter.mp3

The Wizard of Speed & Time Trailer.mov (large file)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Found

Back in early October I posted about a pair of mud boots that I picked up at a rummage sale that came with a note and self-addressed postcard. The note stated that the boots were found at the big Phish finale from the previous year. Flatlander commented on the post and suggested that I submit the story and a scan of the note to Found Magazine, which is a clearinghouse of found objects and displays them via their website, magazines, books, and events. So I sent it along with low expectations. Today I received the following email:

Congrats, you're the first person I know of that has sent something Phish-related! I feel like balloons should start falling from the ceilings, or maybe Trey will bust through our office door and rip into a"Maze" solo or something. Great find! I think the festival that the boots are from was "Coventry," where I believe there was a massive pileof shoes from Phish fans. Aw, your find just made my day! Thanks forsending it over to us! Keep your eyes peeled for more (Phish-related) finds!
Cheers,
Yr Friends at FOUND

Sounds like we've got a Phish fan on our hands. I'm glad they got so excited; I had no idea that it could make someone's day. Hopefully I'll hear something if it gets put into print or posted on their site (which is worth your time even in the absence of my contribution).

Flophouse Jr. - Easily Found.mp3

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Win the Couch!

The Daily Show couch has been a fixture of tv's most entertaining/educational show for many years. It's served as a place of rest for world leaders, authors, and comedians alike. A set redesign (as a result of the show moving to a studio across town) made the couch a thing of the past. A blog was created, Bring Back the Couch, and panties were printed, but the protesting fell on deaf ears. Jon Stewart mentioned during one episode that "the couch...died". That was it, right? Wrong.

The couch is alive and if you're lucky it could swollow your change, crumbs and socks! This week Comedy Central released the Win the Daily Show Couch Sweepstakes. In addition to the couch, the lucky winner gets 2 tickets to a taping of the show, a flight to New York, hotel, and $1000 bucks. The deadline is Monday. The winner will be chosen a week later.

So go take a stab at it and see if you get to put your name and those of your friends next to Michael Stipe, Chris Elliott & Henry Kissinger. And if you don't win the big one, a 100 others get a $75 Chili's gift card. That's a lot of Awesome Blossom.

Guided By Voices - Their Biggest Win.mp3 (from the new 4-cd set Suitcase 2 - American Superdream Wow)

Friday, November 18, 2005

7 Nights

Cathy Resmer of Seven Days mentions on her blog that the area's ever informative annual restaurant guide has now been unleashed to the internet via the new Seven Nights website. I've always kept a copy of the paper version in my car ever since it was release two or so years ago. It's rather informative and much better then any other free food guide that I've ever seen (even though this one has proved useful in the past). The greatest advantages of the online guide is that it is easily searchable, provides websites and other pertinent information, and allows users to write restaurant reviews. As an accountability measure, all reviews require a "sign in," but that's what keeps them from looking like the one's that come up on MSN's homepage always listing McDonalds as the best place in the area for family dinning.

One interesting place the I came across was the Round Table at the Days Inn in Barre. I had no idea that there was a restaurant there, but the restaurand-hotel combo is normal. What shocked me is that a meal at this "eclectic American" establishment, with it's "popular chicken parmesan -- an eight-ounce chicken breast, breaded and deep-fried with homemade bolognese sauce and melted cheese served on a heaping bed of pasta," would cost more then a dinner at Sean and Nora's, River Run, or Sarducci's. I love branching out and supporting my local economy, but I'm not about to try an unknown restaurant in the Days Inn when it'll cost me more then some of the area's tried and true (and finest). Perhaps they'll be reviewed in the near term.

Aberfeldy - Vegetarian Restaurant.mp3

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Precipitation of the Future!

Looked outside this evening and saw this amazing snow. Not so sure about it, the family gave it a few tastes and came to one obvious conclusion: it was snowing Dippin' Dots. It looked weird and it tasted weird, it must be something futuristic.

Dippin' Dots have always struck me as odd. The ice cream product has been sold in mall kiosks since the late 80s. Their tag line is "ice cream of the future." That's good and all, but they've been saying that for nearly 20 years! If this global warming keeps up it may very well be the snow of the future.

I hope it snows dippin' dots all year. Give me a spoon instead of a shovel and I'll eat the car out of the driveway.

The Dotwich looks awesome.

Fembots - Ice Cream.mp3

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In Between

The wife and I made a decision this past week to unhook the Dish at the end of the month. That being said, I'm soaking it up like an addict.

What's caught my eye has been less of the programs (Lost, The Daily Show, My Name is Earl, The Office), but the commercials. Two stand out for their vivid imagery and playfulness.

The Sony "
Balls" spot features a stripped-down acoustic soundtrack of José González' "Heartbeats" behind 250,000 'superballs' flying, in slow motion, over the brow of a typical San Francisco street, raining down on anything that gets in their way. It was done without computer graphics by Fallon of London and is supposed to help sell Sony's newest LCD television.

The second is the water balloon "Jump In" piece for the new xbox 360 video game console from Microsoft. This McCann Erickson ad is set around a whole city, almost exclusively of children, partaking in a water balloon fight, to the tune of the quirky "Teddy Bears' Picnic." It's fascinating and fun, but also a bit creepy and ominous; the shaky, digital-video look, the vaguely rundown South American housing complexes, and the quick shot of the kid in the dog mask (ala Animal Collective/Morningwood).

I was conversing with my good friend Biru about these two ads and he provided the following breakdown that I agree with wholeheartedly:

If you haven't seen the other xbox360 commercial, the jumping rope one, you need to see it as well. Read the comments. People are so clueless it's amazing. These commercials are some of the most beautiful, inspired commercials in a long time, and the fanboys are up in arms that they aren't publicizing framerate, polygon count, dual-core bullshit. Nobody cares how the technology works any more, as long as it works. The similar transcendence can be traced through Volkswagen's commercials, from simply talking about cars and saying what it does to the beauty of the classic "Pink Moon" commercial, which perfectly distilled what it feels like to ride in a car, at night, in a particular mood. That was a brilliant evolution in marketing, and though this form has been around a long time (Coke has been doing it for a while, though they are a bit more disingenuous. Does anybody really feel like giving the world a coke will solve anything?) it has only recently reached its peak. The Beauty of the Bravia commercial is that it's more akin to a reverse test drive. Hopefully for Sony, you will one day be watching that commercial in wide screen high definition on the very same screen they are advertising. It has distilled the promise of their product's capabilities in an ingenious and nearly instinctually attractive way. They are selling the television as much as they are selling the beauty and wonder of sight. Similarly, the XBOX360 ads are selling the beauty and wonder of social play, of having fun in groups, not confined to solitude in one's bedroom.

We are finally reaching the level in technology where science has always promised us - transparent tools that help us do things we want to do instinctually without fetishizing the tool itself. We want information, we get it via the internet. Google and Mac OS X have enabled computers to more or less move to the background so that the real task can be achieved. We still have a long way to go, but the late 90's-early 00's have been more about promise than deliverance. We are in a place now where we are seeing results.

It's still ironic. That we need to buy a 3000 dollar television to see beautiful things, or a 400 dollar game console to play with friends. But the convergence of capitalism and instinct is getting to be nearly seamless now, it's like selling turkey sandwiches. They don't have to convince us that we need to play a video game or watch tv, or introduce us to some new way to pass the time or finish a task and stun us with hardware and all of that other bullshit. They are reminding us that if we are hungry, they have delicious turkey sandwiches for sale.

And we need to eat.

Nothing I need to add to that. Here's the José Gonzalez track as featured on the Sony commercial:

José Gonzalez - Heartbeats.mp3

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mambo Walk

Amongst the hunter's breakfasts and youth hockey t-shirt fundraisers listed in this past weekend's happenings, I came across this gem:

What an amazing combo. Too bad I was busy this past Saturday. Perhaps next time they'll have a spaghetti dinner and bird watching expedition. If so, sign me up!

Van Morrison - La Mambo.mp3 (from his contractual obligations album)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Broken Social Scene

I was fortunate to catch Broken Social Scene and Feist at the Boulder Theater last week. Two years ago I was blown away after getting my hands on this wild group of Canadians' You Forgot it in People. I had yet to tire of the disc when their latest album was released last month (Broken Social Scene). While it has yet to hit me like the first one, it is a solid follow-up that's true to form.

The show took place the same day I arrived to the Rocky Mountain State, so I was a bit disoriented. The friend I was visiting hadn't heard of them, but was a trooper and decided to join me (His roommate was also going to come with his cousin Matt Nader and his band, Aqueduct, but I guess they got caught up in Salt Lake City where they had a show the following day. It would have been wild to hang out with them for an evening, especially since I've become a fan of their debut, I Saw Gold. But I'm glad my sleeping arrangements didn't include sharing the few basement couches with 5 other dudes.)

The Boulder Theater is a pretty amazing example of art deco at its finest. In addition to its adornment, most sightlines are pretty excellent and the sound was crisp and full. We got inside in time to hear Feist complete her last few tracks. The best description is this one by Pitchforkmedia from their review of her 2004 album, Let It Die: "Anyone who has ever seen Broken Social Scene perform in their A1 configuration knows that Leslie Feist (singer of You Forgot It in People's "Almost Crimes") has roughly six backrooms worth of charisma stockpiled in her lighter pocket alone." That was true of both her solo performance and for the 6 or so songs that she played with the band. Her solo jazzy sound wasn't exactly my style, but she was a fascinating performer.

I've always known that Broken Social Scene had a lot of members, but I really had no idea. When the group came on stage the total head count was 12! 12! That's P-Funk numbers. That's about the number of rappers that were on stage when I was at Outkast's cd release party for Stankonia at the Tabernacle in ATL. That is rarely a number for an indie outfit. It's expected that an album is played with many members, but 12 touring?

At times there were two drummers, other times 5 guitarists, usually 3 on horns, the occasional violinist and the expected keyboards and singer. Despite the dozen players, they were switching positions all the time. Guitar to drums, drums to keys, keys to bass, bass to horns, etc, etc. It was hard to keep track.

No matter how they did it, they did it. It was a really powerful and fun show. They covered nearly every song off of You Forgot it in People and their latest disc. They were as creative and kinetic as their discs suggest, with powerful guitars and crazy beats. The singers (4 different leads) were spot on; exceeding my expectations. This Toronto based supergroup made it work. They are a perfect example of 12 heads working together as a unit, switching from tunes that remind me of the best work of New Order (Fire Eye'd Boy) and at other times early Flaming Lips (Ibi Dreams of Pavement). I can't imagine that something of this sort can sustain, accessible and forward thinking music ala Sgt Pepper's and Neon Golden, but for now it is most definitely clicking.

More photos can be found at my Flickr account.

Studio perfomance from KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic:

Broken Social Scene on KCRW - 11/8/05.ra

UPDATE: I guess I should of expected it, but Pitchfork's interview with the band is crazy long, but very informative and well done. It was conducted by Editor-in-Chief Ryan Schreiber and includes plenty of recording tidbits (most interviews focus so heavily on the personal stuff, which is well represented here, but it's nice to see questions being answered about the music).
BSS Pitchfork Interview 11/21/05

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I have a hard time with logos

Pretty dang amazing. It's obvious that lots of creativity and hard work went into this prom stopping tuxedo. Too bad he's left looking like a billboard. This is the type of person who would name his child Velveeta or have a logo tattooed to his forehead.

I thought those people didn't exist. Now I have reason to think otherwise.

Nancy Sinatra - Things Go Better With Coke.mp3

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wal-Mart Awareness Week

Vermont is known outside of its borders as a skiing haven, a bastion of liberal attitudes, home of Ben & Jerry's, containing the only state capital without a McDonalds, and for it's resistance to Wal-Mart. I remember watching a video at college in 1998 that highlighted how and why the green mountain state was fighting so hard to keep the world's largest retailer from setting up shop. At the time of the video Vermont was the last state without a Wal-Mart.

The overriding issue with this retailer (which has been the most aggressive of the "big box stores") is that competition from Wal-Mart destroys small businesses, particularly the "mom and pop" stores that traditionally make communities unique. Since Wal-Mart began moving into additional retail areas, such as groceries, opticals and flowers, this has become an even larger issue. Wal-Mart has also been regularly criticized for its staunch policies against organized labor, hiring of illegal immigrants, the cost of employment on its workers, and the strain that it puts on the local tax base. To highlight some significant facts, their definition of a full-time employee is working 34 hours per week which excludes most benefits and the average wage for the most common jobs is $4.31 BELOW Vermont's livable wage. The bottom line is that the tax payers are subsidizing Wal-Mart's substandard payment to its workers, by necessitating health care and housing to be payed through the government. Of the 421 Vermont big box retail workers who accessed Medicaid last year, 286 were Wal-Mart employees - 68%.

Currently there are four Wal-Mart's in Vermont, three of them range in size from 75,000 to 85,000 square feet and have been designed with the input of the community and all are located within the commercial sectors (two are in downtowns and the third took the place of a defunct Jamesway within the Berlin Mall). The fourth, built in the town of Williston in January 1997, was the first large, 150,000 square-foot, Wal-Mart in Vermont. Not long after, Williston saw other "big-box" stores (Home Depot, Toys "R" Us, Linen's 'n Things, Circuit City, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, etc) move in next door.

In May 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put Vermont on its "endangered" list amid fears that Wal-Mart was planning a big expansion in the state. Richard Moe, president of the trust, told the New York Times, "We know the effects that these superstores have. They tend to suck the economic and social life out of these downtowns, many of which whither and die as a result. I think it will drastically affect the character of Vermont, which I think is quite unique."

The Vermont Livable Wage Campaign (VLWC) is coordinating with the national Wal-Mart Awareness Week (Nov 13-20) effort by organizing screenings of Robert Greenwald’s latest film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. The progressive documentarian's previous works include the Un trilogy (Uncovered: The War on Iraq, Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties, and Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election) and Outfoxed. His latest documentary is purported to be "a powerful exposé on the toll the Wal-Mart behemoth has taken on workers and communities across the country, and how we can help turn the tide."

Last Tuesday's New York Times ran an article by Micahel Barbaro entitled A New Weapon for Wal-Mart: A War Room, which described how Wal-Mart is taking a page from the modern political playbook. Under fire from well-organized opponents who have hammered the retailer with criticisms of its wages, health insurance and treatment of workers, Wal-Mart has quietly recruited former presidential advisers, including Michael K. Deaver, who was Ronald Reagan's image-meister, and Leslie Dach, one of Bill Clinton's media consultants, to set up a rapid-response public relations team in Arkansas.

I'm not sure if it'll have the impact of Roger & Me, but the documentary must be something for Wal-Mart to take such an offensive. Decide for yourself at these screenings in central Vermont's twin cities:

Montpelier

  • Sunday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m. — Unitarian Church
  • Thursday, Nov. 17, 6:30 p.m. — Langdon Street Cafe

Barre

  • Friday, Nov. 18, 6 p.m. — Aldrich Public Library

Trailer: WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price.mov

And please take a listen to this ridiculousness. You'll be singing "we sure did learn a lot...in that Wal-Mart parking lot" all day long:

Chris Cagle(!) - Wal-Mart Parking Lot.mp3

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

BIG Thanksgiving Celebration

This came in the local coupon book. I had to look at it a handful of times before I realized what it was saying. It's black and white, but I couldn't believe it. Written right there: 10 FREE TURKEYS with the purchase of a car! Beyond the fact that that's a crazy number of dinners, what if someone was to purchase a small convertable? Will Sherman's deliver the turkeys? I'd love to see someone leaving the lot with a vehicle stuffed to the gills with frozen (I hope) turkeys. But what makes me think they are ready to be cooked. Perhaps they're alive? 10 turkeys gobbling and pecking at you as you try to drive away! Only in Vermont. Or Minnesota.

Here's an amazing classic PSA from the USDA with Sal and Arnie (many thanks to Mac's Museum of Carboard and Oddity Records):

US Department of Agriculture - Turkey Time.mp3

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Denver/Boulder

Just made it back from 6 days in the arid land that they call "Coloraaado" and boy are my hands cracked, my body exhausted, and my spirit soaring. I started the trip by catching Broken Social Scene at the Boulder Theater (more on that to come). Spent many hours walking through downtown Denver (with it's Clair's Boutique, Gap, PacSun, Johnny Rockets, etc. it seemed too much like every mall I've ever been in) listening to tunes through my new super cheap mp3 player. After all the necessary work stuff I cruised up to Boulder for the weekend. Spent my time under the roof of four atmospheric scientists and amongst piles of vinyl and three kegerators. The nights were short but the days a blast. Watched a great film, became the reigning disc golf champ, listened to Dylan’s first radio appearance 4 times, and crashed on a coach. Being in the recreation gateway to the Rockies, decided to go mtn biking. The 4 hour ride tested my endurance, as I maneuvered around cows, rode a kickstand equipped bike into a constant 30 mph headwind, and dealt with lungs that couldn't cut being "mile high." It’s been a long time since I’ve been so care free. It surely was a good time, but I'm glad to be back with my family in the comfort of my routine. Can’t wait for my bed.
Welcome to Colorado

40 foot tall carnivore wishing it was King Kong outside the Denver Convention Center
Binary equation found scrawled on insulation at a construction site
Life after football

"Open Space" in Boulder Eldorado Canyon (view from terminus of the bike/hike)

Colorado = Sunshine = Shadows