Sunday, September 27, 2009


A few weeks ago Matt invited Jen and I up to his family cabin for the weekend. We had a great time hanging out, burning things, and scrambling on the large rock formations nearby.

The cabin itself is located near Deckers, south-west of Denver, in a little valley full of family vacation cabins.

On a ridge above the road there are several large granite formations that make for excellent scrambling. While I'm far from the most daring person around heights, I had some fun showing up Matt and Jen, who were both a bit more cautions than I was.

Though Matt DID decide to do a bit of free climbing up a sheer rock face.

As always, the view from the top was worth it. I never get tired of looking down on a vista from a high point, no matter where I am.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I waited five years for this?

I read a lot. I reckon I finish around 50 books a year across a wide variety of genres, but one of my favorite is the 'adventure' book. You know, books that read sort of like Raiders of the Lost Ark, with lots of cliff hangers and general feats of daring.

With reading habits like these, it was inevitable that I would encounter Dan Brown. The first of his books that I read was Angels and Demons and I loved it. It had a propulsive, thrilling plot, an interesting premise, and was in general a fun romp through Rome.

I read The Da Vinci Code too, along with all the rest of the world, but enjoyed it less. While it was still a page turner, there was a lot more speechifying, and it felt a bit like the author had an ax to grind.

Which brings us to today, and The Lost Symbol. I was on the hold list for this book since before I quit at the library and moved to Japan, so it's been a long time in coming. The good news is that Brown can still write short, fast moving chapters that keep you constantly reading to find out what happens next. Sadly, that is pretty much the only good news. I often had the feeling that rather than reading a thriller I was attending the lecture of a rather stuffy professor. If our hero Robert Langdon isn't lecturing about symbols to one of the other characters, then one of them is lecturing him to 'open his mind.'

The book also mirrors some of the other defects of The Da Vinci Code, including a laughably insane antagonist, and a real let down of a climax. I understand that for books like this that flirt with the supernatural and yet take place in the 'real' world it can be hard to write a fitting ending. The finish we are presented with in The Lost Symbol is ludicrous. The final reveal of the villains plot is so un-epic and nonsensical that I felt more than a bit robbed.

I do have more of a problem with Mr. Brown than this derivative follow up to The Most Popular Book Ever. He has inspired a huge copycat following. Every other author of adventure/ thriller novels has been trying to hit it Da Vinci Code big for years, and so now much of the genre is taken over with novels about religion, science, codes and all of the other tropes that propelled The Da Vinci Code to the huge sales numbers that it enjoyed.

Luckily, I have come up with the The Lost Symbol drinking game. Take a shot every time Langdon lectures somebody, every time somebody tells him to be less skeptical, every time you read the words "ancient mysteries" and every time you successfully guessed a plot twist. If this was a two hour movie, the amount of shots consumed as a result of playing this game may well prove fatal, but with a few days to read the book, you should be safe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The last stop

On our way into Denver from Taos, we decided to make one final stop at the Garden of the Gods. We needed to stretch our legs a bit, and this seemed a good spot to do so. The Garden is certainly one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado, and the fact that it is free to enter makes it even better. We did notice though that despite the literally dozens of signs proclaiming that the rocks should not be climbed or scrambled on without permission, there were plenty of people and kids clambering all over the place. I was a bit annoyed because while the light was perfect, I had a gaggle of kids in one of my shots, and as soon as they had descended out of the frame of my camera, a cloud passed over the sun and stole my light!

While our trip was only four days, it was packed full of great places and adventures and was a fantastic way for both Liz and I to say farewell to Colorado, even if my departure has now been delayed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Last winter the Denver Art Museum hosted a special exhibit of Ernest L Blumenschein's paintings. Blumenschein was best known for his life in Taos, and for his founding of the Taos Society of Artists. Much of his work drew on his love of the Southwest, and after seeing the exhibition I was very eager to go see Taos for myself.

Arriving in Taos I was struck by how the reality of the town and my expectations clashed. I was expecting a much larger and more vertical town than I got, perhaps a place about the size of Durango. Actually Taos is fairly small, though for it's size it is a pretty spralling town. Very few of the buildings rise above a story, and almost all of them, even McDonalds, are built in Southwestern Adobe style.

A major item on our agenda for Taos was to get some Mexican food, and we found the perfect place for it, a delightful open patio restaurant a few blocks away from the main plaza. The food was amazing, and the "Tequila Wine" Margarita's were a delicious compliment to the meal.

In the southern side of town there is the San Francisco De Asis Church, and we felt that we should check it out, though by the time we arrived it had closed for the night, even though the sun had not yet set.

Artists say that the light in Taos is different, and I must agree. There was much more color in the light than I notice in Denver. While I don't know what the cause of the percevied difference is, I do know that I went crazy taking photographs of the sunset that evening.

For me breakfast the next morning was a plate of heuvos rancheros with a firey New Mexico red chili. From that excellent beginning we went to Kit Carson's house. The exterior was interesting, but the gift shop inside kind of turned us off, so we walked form there to the Blumenschein House instead. This was one of the best museum's of it's sort I've been to. The house itself was very cool in its design, and when I had finished I felt that I had learned something. The whole family were artist's, and the house had displays of both Blumenschein's work, and his Wife's and Daughter's paintings and illustrations as well.

Despite the massive breakfast I ate, when we sat down to lunch I suddenly found myself hungry again, and tucked into a plate of Tacos that were par for the course. That is to say they were utterly fantastic. Then it was time for the long drive back in to Denver.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Moving out without moving in

I spent the last few days finally moving out of my apartment. My lease wasn't up until September 30th, but they found somebody to rent the place to, which saves me a significant amount of money. I've left my apartment, and am currently 'living' in my parents basement. Its so nice to have such a support system, and I think Fritz (the dog) likes having somebody around during the day to scratch his ears and take him for walks. All that said, I do hope to get everything sorted out, and soon. Limbo is no fun, and classes started this week, so the longer everything takes, the more behind I will be.