Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Putting the "neato" in "magneato" -- and in one's economic engine

You know how it is living here on the West Slope of the Bell Curve: To make a living to do that living,f you sometimes got to be mighty creative in how one accumulates enough economic bricks to build a foundation you can stand on.

I know I myself in my time here in southwestern Colorado have had to weave a paycheck patchwork from wage-paying sources ranging from river guide to bus driver to Cajun cook (with my Boston accent, I wasn't allowed to actually speak to the customers), to college instructor and news reporter and magazine editor (these last three at the same time).

I also, though -- even though in terms of business acumen I have the anti-Midas Touch -- have undertaken several independent entrepreneurial enterprises, most of which blossomed then wilted overnight, largely unseen, like an orchid deep in the woods. This includes two magazines, a few blogs, a karate club, a couple of t-shirt designs, a non-profit, an LLC, and ... well, you get the idea. Whatever it takes.

Anyway, believe it or not, this blog isn't about me. But it is about that income ingenuity that is so abundant and colorful here in West Slopers. In particular, this is about how that creativity has most recently manifested in my friend Todd Thompson, who was a West Sloper but recently moved to Virginia, but brought that whacky west-side Colorado attitude with him. (Like the time he went boating on the Potomac during the snowstorm of the century. Nice.)

Well, Todd's latest scheme to wring a living out of his new home habitat is MagneatoSpheres. MagneatoSpheres are, from my understanding, powerful rare-earth magnets coated with a glaze that makes them usable. And addicting, when they're brought together in large numbers to create patterns and structures and ... whatever you can.

Dude, that qualifies as West Slope-y in my mind, where ever it's done.

Still, it's the style that makes this, with my sense of hillbilly humor, a truly Colorado-esque endeavor. Todd and his partner in this project have undertaken their little economic excursion with tongues firmly in-cheeks. So the website alone is worth a visit and poke around: aside from the oddity of rare-earth magnetic balls to play with (but don't get them near your computer or phone!), the website is full of punny fun and curious bits of news and info about the invisible electromagnetic world both on Earth and beyond.


Learn more about MagneatoSpheres here.

And check out the comical commercial Todd created starring his two young boys. Sure to launch rich and profitable careers in YouTube. Or futures carving their own creative economic paths on the West Slope of the Bell Curve ...

MagneatoSpheres: The bigger and more challenging toy for adults

Monday, April 19, 2010

It lives!

As Mark Twain said, "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." So, too, with my canoe!

I always knew Royalex is an amazing material -- evil synthetic plastic it is -- but this is crazy. After writing my squished canoe off to a life of limping leakily around reservoirs due to injuries incurred beneath a crushing heap of compacted roof-slide snow, Nuannaarpoq executed a remarkable rebounding after spending a couple of days soaking in the healing rays of the spring Sun, straightening, rounding out, dents and kinks leaving scars but smoothing and stretching back flush.

I'm damn near ready to start a Nuannaarpoq religion.

To test this -- and as first sacrament -- I hauled her down to the swelling and swirling Animas at the north end of town, where Rio and I paddled her upstream (well, I paddled whilst Rio lay there with her nose on the gunnel gorging itself on the spring riverine richness). We inched our way along the big sweeping cottonwood-lined bends under the flanks of Animas City Mountain, then turned and rode the brown snowmelt back down to town.

The redwinged blackbirds were ridiculous, just carousing and yelling to each other and singing and whistling away over their sense of ... well, nuannaarpoq.

And I felt my own joy. Because despite the garish Harry Potter scar that now runs down her midsection, my canoe's good figure was back and her geometry incredibly returned to form. She cut the water like she wanted to head upstream to mate.

Rivers do that to us ...

Anyway, it looks like we're back together. True, both of us have our dings and scars and weakened points on our resilient-but-travelworn frames -- and neither of us can probably withstand much of broaching any more.

But I'm happy to correct my previous obituary (especially for the reader who suggested turning Nuannaarpoq into a flower pot ... ). It looks like we have a few more runs in us after all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A death in the family ...

... of sorts.

My beloved canoe, Nuannaarpoq, was a victim of our big winter. The 16-foot Dagger Legend, named for the Innuit word that means something like "to show great joy at being alive" (culled from Barry Lopez' staggering work of nonfiction Arctic Dreams), had carried myself, my gear, my beer, members of my family, and assorted sordid bowmen/barmen/comrades-at-paddle (although not all those at once) down many a river and across many a broad reach of open lake and on many an epic, and sometimes leisurely, journey. She also had joined us on several of our summer epics, including across western and northwestern Canada, to Alaska and back, and around Wisconsin and the Upper Penninsula Michigan.

For the past several winters, Nuannaarpoq had hibernated alongside the garage. Yes, on the north side, and, true, under the overhang of the garage's Pro-panel roof, but this was never a problem as its durable Royalex hull withstood everything any our drought-year winters could dump on her.

Not this El Nino winter, though.

(This, even, though I smartly placed two pieces of particle-board ping-pong table resting at a angles along her bulging center to protect her from the couple-hundred tons of compacted snowpack that accumulated six-feet deep upon her plastic carcass. Careful: Genius at Work.)

She suffered a severely creased hull, a split of the interior wall, and a general permanent bending toward river left.

So, basically, as early as I managed to flip my boat to start last year's river season (less than three minutes), this year I managed to broach my boat before I even hit the water.

I will endeavor to revive her for whatever she can handle -- perhaps she'll enjoy a retirement of ever-veering to the left whilst doing some lazy reservoir fishing. Still, aside from the sudden lack of means of paddling, on an emotional level it's a loss as bittersweet and wrenching as that of any kin. There's something about gear. Especially well-traveled and travel-worn gear. Each blemish is a story, and every scuff, scrape, ding, gouge, and repair represents a strand of our own life's DNA.

And each loss, a small death -- a mortitio -- in the family.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Skiing Purg's dusty corn ...

The cherry on top of this ice-cream sundae of a ski season is getting to ski Purg in April. The ski area is staying open weekends in April this year after having to open late, a lack of snow causing a delay until early December, and then receiving more than 200 inches after that.

Through April, weather and climate change permitting, the area is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday to Sunday, with the "six pack," Lift 3 (the quad), and Lift 8 running.

That means corn. And for the first time in my experience, that means corn on the "backside," off Lift 8.

T'was a fun and Scrapple-y weekend up at our neighborhood area. Especially on Sunday, when the sun screamed and we were treated to Silky cream-corn bumps, not many people (but lots of people we know), no lines, and only the occasional stray snow-bike jackass.

And live music on the "beach" in front of Purgy's -- the eternal Ralph Dinosaur and his band on Saturday, and on Sunday the heir-apparent to the Ralph Dinosaur Empire, Hounds of Purg. (Does that make them an "heir band"?)

A strange, somewhat surreal aspect to the weekend, though, was the dark and thick layer of dust that had been laid down by the season's first dust storm last week. Earlier in the week, you could see the dark tinge the storm had cast across the La Platas, but I was stunned by the spray-painted look of the snow at Purgatory. And you could hear and feel the gritty grind across the bases of your skis.

Last year, too, Utah blew all over the San Juans in early spring, darkening the snowpack and causing it to run off up to a month and a half early. According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, BLM policies in southern Utah are fueling and exacerbating the phenomenon, with more problems to come.

Check out the rather dry but informative PowerPoint video below.

Also check out SUWA's "Red Dust Melting Colorado Snow" page here.

Red Snow in Winter?

Monday, April 12, 2010

An unexpected dose of "miracles" ...

Even we here in the land of mountains and rivers and powder days and translucent high-altitude sun can stand to be bonked on the head and reminded every now and then to look around and see the miracles all around us.

Well, you're about to get bonked.

Those once wicked-bad boys from Detroit, Insane Clown Posse, seem to have found either God, several gods, or several doses of strong pharmaceuticals. Or maybe they really are insane. Whatever it is, this ICP video bring sunshine and flowers into your day.

Because, as they rap, "Magic is everywhere in da bitch."

Insane Clown Posse - Miracles

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My new organization that's going to change the world!

Today I am stoked to announce the launching of a new venture, STARFEET COMMAND.

It is, like everything else in my life, a not-for-profit venture.

Starting this group has been a dream of mine for a long, long time, going back to when I was kid and would sport home-made Star Trek uniforms for camping trips with my family. They never really got it -- although to their credit they never sought outside help -- but I knew even then that I was onto something.

Bringing Star Trek home.

Boldly Go -- yes. But the real trick is, Boldly Go at Home. Especially when your starship is a 1993 Ford Explorer.

The mission of Starfeet Command is pursue the adventuresome, curious, compassionate, valorous, and often studly values of Star Trek and live them here and now, where ever we are, whatever we do. It is based on the following principles:
  • Star Trek is the only truly positive vision of the future being offered out there: That notion that not only can we handle technology, but it can actually enrich us and our world and our lives, if we use it that way. Star Trek says that we can embrace the great Mystery of the Universe (which science now says is actually more of a polyverse, like Star Trek always said) if we choose to do so.
  • We can choose to do so by choosing to live lives -- and evolve a society and culture -- based on the conscience of Starfleet and the Federation of Planets in Star Trek: As explorers rather than exploiters.
  • And that exploring is absolutely subservient to the Prime Directive -- non-interference with natural evolution of anyone and anything. That, I argue, is sort of the 23rd century version of "Earth First!" applied to all beings across the great intergalactic wilderness.
  • And that is because in Star Trek, whether you're talking about Starfleet as an organization or the characters as individuals, the style is the message. The how is the point.
I and choose to "how" like Captain James T. Kirk -- kicking alien ass and taking names and chasing green-skinned lovelies around galaxy. That's the style; only I do it with a raft, some skis, a backpack, and often barefeet, with my kids and wife and friends and neighbors as crew.

But nonetheless, boldly going where we are and have often been. 

Interested? Learn more here.  

Oh, and ... April Fools! (sort of ...)

Captain out.