Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Amy, Andrew and I all went skiing at Winter Park on Sunday. This is actually the 3rd season that Andrew's been on skis, and he's doing great. He still likes us to hold onto his harness, but he doesn't realize that we're not assisting him at all - he's doing it all himself.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Dad: "You would have to keep counting forever to count to infinity."
Andrew: "You mean until you die?"
Dad: "Well, uh, even longer than that."
Andrew: "What is infinity plus one?"
Dad: "That's also infinity. Infinity isn't a normal number. No matter how high you count, you can always count 1 number higher, so you'll never count to infinity. It's kinda complicated."
I find myself using that same explanation for other questions, such as "why is the day shorter in the winter?"
So now Andrew has a new phrase he likes to use. "It's kinda complicated..."
Sunday, December 09, 2007
As always, Andrew thoroughly enjoyed the ride on the underground train at the airport. From there, the first leg of our flight took us through Dallas. Amy's secret seating scheme to reserve 3 seats but skip the middle seat served us well. We reserved an aisle seat, the opposite aisle seat, and the window seat, but not the middle seat; no one else got that unreserved middle seat, so it was ours! From Dallas to Belize City, we didn't get so lucky, until the couple across the aisle from us discovered that they lost their passports. Their loss was our gain - 2 extra seats on a flight that was otherwise completely full! Next was a 14-seat puddle jumper that took us 30 miles to the village of San Pedro on Amergris Caye - the smallest plane I've ever been in except for a short joy ride in a sail plane (glider). What is ambergris? A secretion from the intestines of a whale, once used to make perfume, and at the time, more valuable than gold. Next was a short taxi ride to the dock, followed by a boat ride through the dark to the Costa Maya Reef Resort, about 6 miles north from San Pedro. There aren't any real roads outside San Pedro, so boats are really the only way to get there.
Dec 2: relax
On Sunday we let the kids enjoy the pool and the sand, and we snorkeled around the resort's pier. A school of about 400 bonefish puttered around a sand flat just past the end of the pier, and hundreds of grunts hung out under the shade of the pier.
Dec 3: snorkel
Belize, just south of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, is a small country with only about 250,000 residents. It's home to the world's 2nd longest barrier reef, which sits about half a mile from the front door of our beach-front room. A nice spot for snorkeling called Mexico rocks is a short paddle on a sit-on-top kayak from the beach. Dozen of coral "heads" (small groups of coral) are separated by sand flats in about 10 feet of turquoise water. Amy and I spotted a large southern sting ray up close, and a large variety of smaller reef fish. Quite good snorkeling, though not the best I ever experienced. How did we do this with 2 small kids in tow? We left them with grandma and grandpa for a few hours.
Dec 4: snorkeling in Hol Chan marine reserve
Hol Chan is a reserve at the southern tip of the key. We joined a group of 4 others plus our guide. The first stop is a cut in the reef where we snorkel down one side, across the cut, and the back up the other side of the reef. Here we saw 2 large spotted eagle rays with about 8 feet of wing span. The graceful fish are amazing to watch. The next spot is known as shark/ray alley. Here the nurse sharks, southern sting rays, yellow fin snappers, and jacks are well accustomed to tour boats feeding them chum. I'm not really crazy about the idea of feeding wild animals, but the result here is an incredible and very memorable experience. We were actually able to reach out and touch the 3-6 foot long nurse sharks, while the rays were so tame they would swim straight to us and I could grab their wings.
Dec 5: diving; Andrew falls in the drink
On Wednesday morning we went for 2 dives. The first was a deep dive to 100 feet just outside the reef, starting with a swim through a short cave. The area has deep coral canyons, a wide variety of hard and soft corals, and a decent number of reef fish. The 2nd dive was in much shallower water maybe 1 mile from the heart of San Pedro. Once again the guide used food to lure the sharks and rays, and they were even tamer than yesterday. Here, you could easily reach out and grab a nurse shark by the tail and let it take you for a short ride. They didn't even try to get away when you swam toward them. One shark acted like a dog when we grabbed it, turned it upside down and rubbed its belly; the shark seemed to enjoy it! After the feeding frenzy, we swam around and saw a turtle and another spotted eagle ray, this time up close. Awesome. In the afternoon I cast Ron's fly rod from the end of the pier while Andrew watched. After one cast, I heard a big splash - Andrew had fallen right off the end, about 4 feet into the shallow ocean below. I immediately jumped in after him, and was proud when he popped up to the surface with his eyes wide, but didn't panic, tread water like a champ, and remained calm. Another man on the pier pulled him back up, and then Andrew was actually pretty excited about his little adventure, and went running to tell mommy all about it.
Dec 6: back to Mexico rocks
On Thursday we ventured back to the coral heads in front of our resort. This trip was better than the first, with brighter sunlight and a more aquatic life, including another nurse shark and another eagle ray, again up close and personal. Andrew and Elizabeth enjoyed the pool and the beach -yet again!
Dec 7: fishing in the lagoon
Ron (Amy's dad) and I ventured in a 2-man kayak out to the mangrove-surrounded lagoon on the west side of the island with 3 fly rods. Ron explored the lagoon 2 days before, and plotted his course on his GPS. Without it, you could easily get hopelessly lost in the narrow channels and confusing, small lagoons. I landed a small bonefish and small barracuda, and we spooked a school of large snook but weren't able to land any of them. As I paddled back, we trolled a fly and Ron landed a decent size barracuda which we kept for one of the maintenance men who worked at our resort and told us he liked barracuda. After paddling 10 miles with my bony butt on a hard plastic kayak seat, I was happy to be back on land.
One other thing: all of us endured mosquito and sand fly bites, but somehow Elizabeth was almost unaffected. While we had dozens of itchy bites, we could only find one spot on Elizabeth that appeared to be a bug bite. Lucky girl!
Day 8: from hot to cold
On Saturday we woke to our 7th consecutive beautiful, 80+ degree sunny morning overlooking clear blue ocean. 12 hours, 1 boat ride, and 3 airplane flights later, we landed in Denver in the middle of a snowstorm at 18 degrees Fahrenheit, scraping ice off the windshield.
Overall, Belize was great. The diving and snorkeling was great and very memorable, even if it didn't fully live up to the hype of being the world's greatest. Prices in Belize are high, since almost everything is imported. Groceries cost about double what they would at home.
The Costa Maya Reef Resort is above average, but not fantastic. The beach and pool were nice. The isolated location makes it quiet and relaxed, but with the next resort about half a mile away, you don't have a lot of choices - you're pretty much stuck with what they offer you. Food prices were high, some meals were good, and some were mediocre. Service was slow. Our room was spacious and adequate, but far from superb. The dishwasher was broken, although they did fix it, and the AC in one room didn't work.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
We are off to Aussie (as the Kiwis call )
tomorrow so we thought we would give you an update on
the rest of our adventures in .
Free Advice - Don't do a glacier hike in the pouring
rain. Although the waterfalls tumbling off the cliffs
are beautiful in the rain, the ice and river crossings
are treacherous. Not to mention that being soaked to
the bone isn't much fun either. Despite the rain we
did get to walk on the glacier and glimpse some of its
mysterious blue caves.
After the glacier we headed south through the lakes
region and went on a jet boat ride. and
are both set on huge lakes and are pretty
little towns. We then tried to go up to the Cascade
Saddle overlooking Mt. Aspiring and its glaciers. We
were again thwarted by rain (It may be rainy, but at
least it is windy) and ended up seeing the inside of
We continued south to Fiordland and the famous Milford
Sound. Before going to Milford we met up with some
friends from home, David and Heather Schutt. We also
spent a couple of days of relative luxury on an
overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. The sound
(actually a fiord since it was carved by a glacier,
not a river) was really cool. It is much larger and
less traveled than Milford. The walls are nearly
vertical, thousands of feet tall, with more waterfalls
than I could count. Finally we got some good weather
for the cruise, a rarity on the West Coast.
After the cruise we drove over to Milford Sound which
is stunning as well. The constant drone of scenic
flights overhead only slightly diminishes the
enjoyment of the view. We hiked up Gertrude Saddle
for a better view and it was definitely one of the
highlights of the trip. Brad tried fishing on the
Eglington river and caught nothing after spotting only
a single fish on a mile of river.
We had to make sure and visit the third major island
of NZ and went over to Stewart Island for a couple of
days. We happened to be there at the opening of the
newest NZ national park, Rakiura. We got to see the
prime minister and Sir Edmund Hillary speak. The town
had all kinds of festivities for the occasion and we
had a good time. We also visited the nearby bird
sanctuary of . It was really amazing to
hear so many birds calling and the waves lapping and
the breeze through the leaves. We watched a Weka
(remember the Chicken-Duck) pull the moss off a 3 foot
section of log in search of food and a robin tried to
land on Amy and picked at both of our boots.
We drove through the Catlins (along the southeast
coast) where Brad finally caught a fish - a whopping 9
incher!!!. We spent a couple of nights in .
The architecture there is really neat - mostly
Victorian. We also went on a tour where we saw
penguins, sea lions and fur seals up close - some as
close as 10 feet.
Now we are in and will be off on the
plane in the next few hours.
Hope this email finds everyone well.
Brad and Amy
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Before a summary of our recent travels, here's some
things we've noted about .
1. Highways. There's not a single road in this country
which is straight or flat for more than about half a
kilometer, and they allow passing on 2-lane roads
around blind curves and hills. They also have nice
signs like "2 fatalities this month :-(" and my
favorite, "Dangerous drivers next 24 km".
2. It should be a requirement of all developed nations
that its citizens make a valiant attempt to keep
insects out of their homes. Not here, though. There
are horrible swarms of biting sandflies everywhere,
and everyone leaves windows wide open day and night.
No screens, either! The only screens we've found were
at the most basic 4-wall huts in the backcountry --
I'm talking 2 full days' hike to get there.
3. Plumbing. We've already talked about the toilets
(and thanks to the sharp folks who told us about the
half flush and full flush buttons). But separate
spigots for the hot and cold water? Makes it hard to
get warm water.
4. What do kiwis call a cooler (or ice chest)? A
5. What do kiwis call a small house or cottage? A
"bach". I asked if that's short for "bachelor pad" but
the guy I asked didn't know.
6. The weka bird. I like to call this thing a "chicken
duck". Looks like -- you guessed it --a cross between
a chicken and a duck. It's a native bird like the kiwi
but not as rare, and not nocturnal, either.
7. Genetic Engineering. Kiwis have taken a strong
stand against GE. It's everywhere: signs at farms
boast "GE free NZ" and much of the packaged food you
buy is clearly labeled "GE free".
And here's what we've been doing. Since our last
report, I caught a nice 18 inch rainbow trout on the
Tongariro river which we cooked for dinner. Caught a
few smaller rainbows there, too. From there, we drove
to , the nation's capital, where we toured
and watched a movie (they sell
and beer at the movies) to kill time before catching
the 1:30 am ferry to the south island. Once across, we
spent 2 days kayaking in Pelorus sound, which was
pretty remote and nice, but really windy -- we didn't
even have to paddle much for a few hours. We camped at
a bay which we had all to ourselves (except for a few
million sandflies - nasty little buggers) and even did
some paddling after dark, when the paddles cause the
"bio-luminescense" in the water to glow. Pretty cool.
Next we heard about an organization called Willing
Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF). Folks like us work a
half day on the farm in exchange for free room and
board. We needed a break from our adventure, so we
decided this would be a good way to settle down for a
few days and better meet some real kiwis. We stayed on
Tony Sparks' 10-acre farm on the west coast for 4
days. We herded cows, Amy shucked garlic, and we both
helped sand and varnish his interior walls. He's got a
4-year old daughter named Hana who was a lot of fun.
We also met his girlfriend and her 2 kids and heard
all about their soap opera lives in the small
community of a hundred or so people. We worked extra
one day so we could take a day off and go caving. We
hiked and rode inner tubes through a cave with a
stream running through it. The cave has tons of tiny
glow worms on its roof which glow like stars.
Next we went on a 5 day backcountry tramp. I attempted
to fish on the remote, upper Taipo river for 3 days,
but no luck here. Spotted a huge trout, probably 25
inches or more, but couldn't hook him, and then the
persistent rains every night made the water too murky
to spot any fish for the rest of the trip. Quite a
tough hike over unmarked trails, boulder-hopping up
and down river beds, and stream crossings. We used a
3-wire bridge, which is just that - 3 cables strung
across the river with V-shaped braces to stabilize it.
The 3-wire was probably 100 feet long. Also used a
cableway, which is a little cart hanging from a cable.
This thing was about 250 feet long and has a crank at
either side to get it across. Quite fun! At the end of
the trail, we hitched a ride back to our car (don't
worry, mom, I'm safe).
Since I had no luck fishing the river, I decided to
spend a few days at and the surrounding
streams. More frustration for a day and half before I
finally landed a 22 inch brown trout from the lake at
sunset (using a woolly bugger for you flyfishers out
there). It might be the biggest fish I've ever caught.
From there, we traveled farther south on the west
coast to the tiny town of Okarito (no stores, no gas
station). We took a boat tour of the lagoon, learned
about the country's efforts to control the population
of the introduced possum and stoats, which kill kiwi
birds and destroy native forest. This is a great
little town. After we returned to the campground from
a few hours' hiking, we found a fresh-baked loaf of
bread waiting at our tent from the owner of the boat
That's all for now. Tomorrow we do a full day of
hiking on Franz Joseph glacier.
Hope everyone is doing well back home.
--Brad and Amy
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
We've been here 2 weeks now and it has gone by very
fast. Brad is off fishing today leaving me to keep
you all informed.
First off - a number of you wrote to tell us that the
2 buttons on the toilet are for a half and full flush.
For the life of me I can't tell the difference of one
from the other. Some others have asked if the toilet
swirl the other way. Actually they don't seem to
swirl much at all. The water pretty much just goeas
straight down. The flushing mechanism definitely is
not as good as what we are used to.
From the Bay of Islands we travelled down to
which is a big Maori cultural area and has lots of
thermal features. We went to a hangi which is kind of
like a Hawaiian Luau, but this was much less touristy.
We saw some traditional dances and songs and ate
traditional food. It was very good. We went to one
of the thermal areas which was neat, but nothing next
to Yellowstone. The one geyser they have they have to
puor soap into to reduce the surface tension of the
water to make it erupt.
Next we went on a proper tramp, 4 days three nights.
We went on the northern circuit in . It is one of the "Great Walks" which are some
of the most popular walks in NZ and are best marked and
have some of the nicer huts. We stayed in huts each
night which are basically cabins with bunks in them.
They have a and so it is pretty
cushy for the backcountry. They are not as nice as
the winter huts in though, but better than a
tent for sure. One of the days of the hike was the
Tongariro Crossing which is supposed to be the best
one day hike in NZ. The day we crossed there were 300
people on the 10 mile stretch. It was crowded, but
not too bad. There are steaming volcanic craters,
lakes that filled old craters and lakes of various
shades due to the minerals in the soil. are
also various shades from black to red to yellow.
On the drive to they were having updates of
the along with the news. They were calling
it the game that stops America. My condolances to
[Editor's note: if I remember correctly, Jason's team the Saints lost that Superbowl]
Here's what her report said Elizabeth did on day 1:
- Went outside and got leaves and took them inside
- stacked soft blocks
- painted with water colors
- ate well @ lunch
- cryed [sic] while laying down for nap / woke up happy
- put foot braces on at 12:20 took off at 2:20
- colored with markers
- sang and danced
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Some of the book's revelations:
- Mao was never driven by ideology. The communist party was merely a convenient vehicle by which he could gain personal power.
- The so-called "Long March" of Mao and his band of communists in the 1930's, one of the most overblown myths of Mao's personality cult, was no heroic struggle. Rather, deals made between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Stalin allowed Mao's army to proceed. Later in the march, Mao intentionally sacrificed a huge number of Red Army troops under the command of a rival for his power base, Chang Kuo-t'ao.
- In 1946, Mao and the Red Army were on their last ropes fighting the Nationalists in northern Manchuria, where they had only one remaining strong post in the city Harbin. The Nationalist Army was advancing with much superior strength, and Mao had become resigned to abandoning the city and resorting to guerrilla warfare. He was saved at the last minute by a most unlikely ally - the United States. The US put heavy pressure on the Nationalists to call a cease fire - at the very moment Chiang Kai-shek was on the verge of victory. Mao issue an order to disperse the troops and resort to guerrilla warfare on June 3, but rescinded it on June 5 when the cease-fire was declared. According to the author, this cease fire was probably the single most important decision affecting the outcome of the civil war, which of course the communists won.
- The Great Leap Forward, a 5 year economic plan from 1958 to 1963, caused the deaths of 38 million Chinese from starvation and overwork. As if that's not bad enough, these deaths were not the unintended consequence of failed economic policy. Mao caused the famine by selling most of the nation's crop to the Soviets and other allies in order to buy weapons, and especially nuclear weapon technology. Even when made fully aware of the mass famine across the country, Mao pushed to extract even more crops from the peasants.
- The reason Mao launched the brutal cultural revolution in 1966 was to purge his rivals in the party and in the Army, whose influence was becoming a threat to his totalitarian power. Even his closest and most loyal supporters were subjected to torture and imprisonment. Liu Shao Chi, one of the top party members, was imprisoned and tortured for 3 years until dying in prison in 1969. Amazingly, his death was not made public until after Mao's death, because Mao was so worried that it arouse sympathy for Liu.
- Over the course of Mao's rule, 70 million Chinese died at Mao's hands.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
New Zealand: week one
We arrived in and spent 3
days in the city. Had a bit of trouble finding a room
since it's summer here, but it worked out ok after
some help from the tourist info center. The museum had
some great exhibits on Maori (indigenous people)
culture and history. we took a ferry to
Ronitoto island, a 600-year old volcano, and hiked to
the top. Monday we took a cruise out in the harbor to
spot dolphins, and were able to follow a pod of about
20 dolphins as they rode the bow wave of our boat. We
had dinner in an English pub where everyone was
watching Cricket. Can't figure that sport out -- I'll
have to get a book and figure out the basics. We'd
like to catch a rugby match too, but the season
doesn't start til Feb 22, apparently.
Anyone know why NZ toilets have 2 buttons on the tank
to flush? We haven't figured it out yet either. Both
of them seem to do the same thing. Also, they call
bell peppers "capsicum" down here. Took us a while to
figure that out.
We decided to rent a car -- should be about the same
price as taking buses everywhere -- for NZ$28 per day
(about US$12). We drove norht , stopping in
one of the few remaining Kauri tree forests. These
huge trees are thousands of years old, and one
particular tree was 5.2 meters in diameter (that's 16
feet across). The forests here look really ancient,
like something out of Jurassic park -- probably all
the giant ferns. Next, we spent 2 days tramping
(that's Kiwi for "hiking") the coast. Didn't pass a
single person the first day. Had about 6 miles of
beautiful beach all to ourselves.
Now we're at the , leaving tomorrow
morning for a 2-day sea kayak trip. Having a great
time!! Starting to develop a Kiwi accent of my own,
but that should wear off soon.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
It looks painful to me, but doesn't seem to bother him at all. Crazy kids these days.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
- ping pong ball gun
- pop gun
- toy airplanes
- fake poop (2 different types)
- rubber snakes
- a kazoo
- rubic's cube
- handheld ball-in-maze game
- rubber bigfoot figure (Erik said it used to scare him)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I recently saw video of a Phillipino girl whose bilateral clubfoot went untreated until she was 10 years old. The Ponseti method corrected her feet without surgery, and without the high expense and likelihood of pain that accompanies it.
When we consulted with doctors at the Children's hospital in Denver, they told us that Elizabeth , at 1 year old, was too old for the Ponseti method and would need surgery. This is all too common with doctors in the US since they either don't know the Ponseti method, or they know they can make a lot more money performing surgery.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Since Amy and I are close to buying an investment property, that money go right into our down payment. What an exciting way to spend my unexpected bonus. ;-)
Friday, October 05, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Sunday was lazy day at home. Andrew played most of the day with the neighbor kids, while mom and dad kept Elizabeth entertained.
Monday began with a 3-mile hike through Roxborough state park. This place has beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and great trails. Well worth the 30 minute drive from home. Our hike included a close encounter with a doe deer, who wandered within a few dozen yards of us as we rested on a bench, and then got spooked and bounced away after a couple of loud snorts in our direction.
Monday evening was the big event Andrew looked forward to all weekend: Lakeside amusement park. On their last weekend of the season, they offer 10-cent ride tickets, and kids' rides are only 1 ticket. That's cheap entertainment folks, even after you pay the $2.50 per person entry fee. It's probably no surprise that this somewhat dilapidated and very dated park doesn't attract the beautiful and well-heeled crowd. In fact, it seems to be a magnet for the obese, people with really bad teeth, and various other oddballs. It's really quite a freak show. My favorite sightings tonight were (1) the trashy-dressed young woman who used her cleavage as a cell phone holder, and (2) the overweight guy with a long red goatee wearing a kilt and an Iron Maiden T-shirt.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I beat my personal goal by about 1 minute, finishing the 13.3 miles and 7,815 vertical feet in 3:05:03.
I finished in 69th place overall (out of 1647 finishers), and 63rd place (out of 1162) among male runners. That's close to the top 4th percentile overall, and in the top 6th percentile for the men. In the 35-to-39-year-old-male category, I was 12th out of 189, which is in the top 7th percentile.
The 1st place finisher was Matt Carpenter (a perennial favorite) at 2:12:56.
Results from the race are posted here.
Play by play
Mile 1: a relatively easy stroll up a gently sloped & paved road through Manitou Springs.
Miles 2-5: "The W's" at the foot of the Barr trail. So-named for the way the dozens of switchbacks look on a map as they climb a steep 2500 feet or so above Manitou. This is a single track trail crowded with runners, and little room to pass. At about mile 3, I started tracking my position - the number of people I passed, the number who passed me. By mile 4, the pack thinned out enough that passing wasn't a problem anymore. In most races, mile markers tell you how far you've run so far. In the Ascent, they did it backwards - they tell you how much distance to the finish line. Its was rather disheartening to see the "11 miles to finish" sign when I was already tired and gasping for air.
Miles 6-9: Finally, a break from the steeps. Still uphill, for sure - there are no significant flat sections on the trail, much less downhill, but it's a welcome break from the W's. Beautiful trail, too. It'd be nice to come back sometime when I could enjoy the scenery.
Mile 10: "We're baaaack!" (the steeps and switchbacks, that is). This is the last mile of tree cover. It's also where I got passed by a skirt. Literally. A woman wearing a pink running skirt passed me here.
Miles 11-12: You break through tree line at 11,800 feet of elevation, right at the "3 miles left" sign. Staring down at me is the east face of Pikes Peak - 2,300 vertical feet to go! At this point my heart is literally in pain from pumping so hard. Except for the top few dozen runners, no one is actually running at this point in the race. It's a fast hike at best. The trail gets really steep again, but now it's also more rugged and uneven, with big rock steps to boot. This is a high-altitude, voluntary version of the Bataan death march, with hundreds of stick-thin runners trudging forward in pain.
Mile 13: No rest for the weary. They saved the steepest, rockiest terrain for last - the Golden Steps! For a few brief moments here and there, I feel light headed, and the pain in my chest (that would be my heart) isn't letting up. I pass a few people who've run out of gas, and a few others who reserved some juice for the end pass by me. I think I improved my overall position by 1 place since I started keeping track about 10 miles ago. I crossed the finish line at 3:05:03, a minute faster than my personal goal.
If that doesn't sound fun, then just imagine turning around and running back down the same trail again. That's what hundreds of people did on Sunday morning for the Pikes Peak marathon. About 70 ridiculously fit and insane runners did what's known as "The Double" - running the Ascent on Saturday and then the full marathon the very next day. And you thought I was crazy!
Monday, August 06, 2007
Many thanks to all my friends and family who have supported the cause. If you'd like to support the cause, click here for more info.
Some of my Chinese former co-workers are in Denver now, and one of them went to the Dragon Boat Festival a week ago at Sloan's Lake. He was working at a booth for the Chinese American Council when an American guy approach and showed him the tattoo of a Chinese character prominently displayed on his leg. He asked, "can you tell me what this means"? The character on his leg was the Chinese word for "stupid".
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Club foot is one of the most common birth defects, affecting approximately 150,000 children each year. Although the condition is treatable, many children in poor countries don't receive treatment and are disabled for life. Dr. Ignacio Ponseti pioneered a non-surgical method of correcting club foot, and this association is committed to advancing the treatment of children with clubfoot deformity through education, improved care, and research.
My daughter Elizabeth was born with club feet, and thanks to Dr. Ponseti, she is well on the way to a full recovery. Some day, I hope she can hike - or even run - up Pikes Peak with me.
More about the race:
The Pikes Peak Ascent is 13.32 miles long and climbs 7,815 vertical feet (1.5 vertical miles!), ending at the 14,115 foot summit of Pikes Peak. If you're curious to see the race route, here is a link to a very cool Google Earth map showing the trail. Here is how the high-altitude portion of the course is described on the race's web site:
There’s a reason trees don’t bother growing above 12,000' on Pikes Peak. They can’t! Makes one wonder if trees are smarter than runners. Above treeline most runners take 30 minutes or more, some much more, just to cover a mile. What little air remains can’t satisfy the endless stream of zombies hoping only to survive their next step—a death march right out of a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Adding insult to injury, it might start to snow!My personal goal is to finish in 3 hours, 6 minutes, which would put me in the top 7% of finishers with an average pace of about 14 minutes per mile.
I would appreciate your generous donation! Since I don't have any other way to know how much money my friends will raise, I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment on this blog or send an email telling me how much you donated.
You can make a secure online donation at this link to the Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment. If you'd rather send a check, please make it payable to: Univ. of Iowa - Ponseti Fund and send it here:
Ponseti Fund for Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment
c/o The University of Iowa Foundation
P.O. Box 4550
Iowa City, IA 52244-4550
I very much appreciate your support in raising money for this great cause!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
She still has a long road of treatment ahead of here, though. For the next 3 months, she'll be wearing a specially designed brace and shoes for 18 hours per day, and then she'll wear a similar brace at nighttime until she is about 4 years old. These photos show her feet before the casts, after the casts, and with her new brace contraption.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Ten years sounds like such a long time, but it doesn't feel like a long time. I love you, Amy!
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Based on a tip from my brother, we drove to Lower Cataract Lake after leaving camp this morning. The aptly named lake, on the east flank of the Gore range, has an impressive cataract feeding into it. The waterfall tumbles several hundred feed down a jumble of boulders and into the lake.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It was the perfect morning for a race, though. Clear skies, nice temperatures, and no wind, which is very rare in those environs.
The lunacy doesn't end there, however. The Mt. Evans Ascent is just a training run on my preparation for the Pike's Peak Ascent in 2 months. That one will be more of a fast hike than a run though. With more than twice the elevation gain over just 13.1 miles of dirt trails, Pike's Peak will be much tougher.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
There are at least 4 families staying in the Ronald McDonald House that are here to see Dr. Ponseti; one from Canada, one from the Domenican Republic, and one from Mississippi. Add in our Colorado family with the Chinese born baby and it’s quite a crew.
The local media was at the hospital doing a piece on Dr. Ponseti yesterday and we were asked to sign a media waiver and all that good stuff. I doubt we will make it on TV though since Elizabeth screamed like a banshee through most of the visit. Everybody loves a 93 year old doctor curing the world’s children, but nobody wants to listen to my daughter scream.
I’ve heard that crying during the casting is pretty unusual and I believe it. Elizabeth cries whenever I touch her right foot – even if it is just to play “This little piggy”. I know that this does not cause her pain and I’ve felt what the doctors do and I’m sure it is not painful either. Uncomfortable, maybe, but not painful.
Iowa City is a pleasant enough town. We went to a concert in the park this evening and had a good time. The town has a nice everyone-knows-everyone feel and the parks are really nice. We also went to the children’s museum today and Andrew had a lot of fun there.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
The good news is that the expert doctor is available to work this us. The bad news is that he's in Iowa. Iowa City in fact. Amy, her mom, Andrew, and Liz all loaded into the family wagon this afternoon and headed east. That's 15 hours of driving with 2 kids in the car, and no scenery worth seeing. I won't be surprised if the 2 adults need some professional help after they arrive, too. Fortunately, Iowa City has more physicians per capita than any city in the US.
The clan will probably be in Iowa for a few weeks, and I'll be living a bachelor's life back home.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Day 1 - Arches National Park
We spent most of the day on a 6-mile hike in Devil's Garden. Andrew was a champ - he hiked the first 4 miles by himself (a new distance record for him), without even asking me to carry him. In fact, I think a rock climber may have been born. He was fearlessly scrambling up and over boulders and up steep slickrock - always with a parent positioned next to him in case of a slip. The last 2 miles he spent sleepy piggyback on mom, while dad carried Liz and the family's daypack. Elizabeth endured her journey on my back quite well, too.
Day 2 - Behind the Rocks
On Saturday we skipped the crowds and 4-wheeled and hiked some seldom-used trails west of Moab to a couple of nice arches and through Conehead canyon. We passed only a single 4-wheel drive vehicle on this 2.5 hour hike. After lunch, we did some 4-wheeling to Picture Frame arch and let Andrew scramble on the rocks again.
Day 3 - Canyonlands National Park - Island in the Sky
Canyonlands is vast - over 300,000 acres surrounding the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. The views from here definitely rival those at the Grand Canyon, and the variety in the landscape is definitely greater. Once again, there are some fantastic, short slickrock trails that are perfect for the family.
Day 4 - back home after meeting my dad for lunch in New Castle.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Our Chow-German Shepherd mix had a hell of a life. Amy and I found her at the Denver Dumb Friends League about 9 years ago. She was a 3-year-old stray dog who ended up at the pound. There's not a lot of demand for dogs this age, so she languished in her plexiglass enclosure for many weeks, and her time there was about to run out. We visited the place and spent time with a few of the dogs. The first few were hyper and licked us a lot; then we spent a few minutes with Tango. She was mellow and friendly, and didn't lick us once. That sealed the deal.
Tango was an accomplished escape artist. She actually pried a hole in our chain link fence -- with her teeth -- large enough to escape through. That happened sometime in the first 4 hours we ever left her in the dog run in the back yard. I came home at lunch to check on her, and panicked when I found her missing. By the time I typed a "lost dog" flyer on the computer, I found Tango - sitting patiently on my front porch. We figured out that all she needs to be happy when we aren't home is a view outside where she can watch and wait for us to return home.
Tango was also an accomplished mountaineer, having summited 11 of Colorado's 14er's (14,000 foot peaks) with me, including a snow-covered Mt. Sneffels on Memorial Day weekend.
She hung in there after our 6-month round-the-world trip in 2002, when we left her in the care of Amy's brother and sister-in-law, Jason and Jan. She stayed loyal again when we left her with my Mom while we spent 4 months in China last year. (Thanks a ton to Jason, Jan, and my Mom for the many times they kept Tango for us!)
It's been tearing at my heart for months now to see her deteriorate. The worst part is that in the past few weeks, her happiness faded completely, and when she looked at me, her big brown eyes looked sad and confused, wondering why she was in so much pain. When
that happened, I knew it was time. It was heart-wrenching, but I know it was the best thing to do for her.
Tango, we'll miss you!
Saturday, May 05, 2007
This video shows just how mobile she is despite the fact that she can't bend her knees or ankles.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Things he liked about being an only child:
- Playing with only mommy and daddy
- Playing "zooms" (cars) with her
- Having her next to him in the car seat
- Sharing food with her
- She's cute
- Making funny sounds with her
- Making funny faces with her
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
- I can't download the music I want anywhere else (for example, the Hillbilly Hellcats, a great rockabilly band)
- I got a gift certificate
I found a good solution. Download a sweet little tool called QTFairUse and fire it up. This tool converts your DRM-restricted AAC files to unprotected m4a (MP4) files, which are playable in iTunes. QTFairUse updates your iTunes library so it uses the new m4a files instead of the old AAC files, and it also keeps any ratings or other tags you've added to the tracks. It will convert specific files you select, or it can convert your entire iTunes library. Now you can use iTunes to convert tracks to mp3 format, and voila - you can now play your tunes on any mp3 player.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
At the moment, she seems to be more concerned about how her illness is going to "inconvenience" other people than she is about her own health. That's my mom, though. So selfless it's exasperating!
Hang in there, mom! We're all pulling for you.
Then it's an hour and 15 minute drive to Greeley. Yep, Greeley. Dr. Hatch is the only Ponseti-trained doctor we could find in the whole state, but it's worth the drive.
At the doctor's office, Elizabeth sits in Amy's lap while the doctor and 2 nurses put the casts on. It takes about 30 minutes, and Elizabeth spends about half of that screaming. You can't blame her for that, I suppose. Fortunately, Amy is able to keep her content part of the time with a bottle and a toy. One week down, seven-to-nine weeks to go!
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
They look horribly uncomfortable, but fortunately they don't seem to bother her. The casting process evoked a fit of ear-piercing screams, though, and she was having a bad before it even started; she was running a fever, acting fussy, and obviously not feeling very well. Poor girl! THe good is that she has gotten over that trauma and today she was in a much better mood.
We may have seen her first fit of jealousy today, though. As Liz sat watching mommy, Andrew came and sat in mommy's lap, and Elizabeth instantly burst into a fit of tears. How dare he sit in her mom's lap!
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
- She earned only about 6 cents per hour
- Minimum wage and overtime laws were completely ignored. She often worked 15 hour shifts, and sometimes more than 24 hours in a single shift - with no overtime pay.
- Unions and strikes are illegal. Anyone attempting to organize would likely be jailed. Thought China was a communist/socialist country? Think again.
- The factory owner said, categorically, his rural workers are not only uneducated, but cannot be educated and cannot learn a work ethic.
- Workers' first months pay is withheld as a "security deposit", and they are never paid it unless they receive "permission" to leave the factory, which of course they are never granted.
- She worked more than 3 months before receiving her first pay. In the meantime, she had no money. Need medicine? Sorry, you're SOL.
- Under public pressure, the international companies that buy from China started sending inspectors to verify working conditions. Factories know in advance when the inspectors are coming, and coerce workers into lying about working conditions and pay to keep the inspectors satisfied.
You can't pin all the blame on the evil factory owner here, though. He faces intense competition from within China and elsewhere, and he couldn't possibly compete if he were to follow national labor laws - as long as other factories continue to break the law.
I'm sure many of my own clothes were made in China. And there's no doubt that working conditions in other countries - India, Pakistan, wherever - are just as deplorable. So what to do? I suspect it would be pretty difficult - and fairly expensive - to fill my closet with clothes that don't weigh so much on my conscience.
Monday, April 02, 2007
I've enjoyed my 2nd tour of duty with BoldTech, and the unique opportunity I had to work in China and build a cool video web site at the same time. This new position should be a great opportunity for me, though, and I look forward to it.
Now I'm considering changing careers to be a professional Caucasian. Consider this story I found today in my daily email from steepandcheap.com, of all places.
Last night I ran into a friend who had just returned from living in China for three years. He taught English and mostly stuck to Beijing, but he said he found another job that allowed him to travel a bit even if it didn't pay too much money. Chinese companies would pay him to sit in on meetings. It wasn't for his advice or his mediating skills, they brought him in so their company would look more international when they had meetings with other companies. It was a pretty good gig, he said he only had to talk once, but it was a ten minute spot in front of 600 people while pretending he was the designer of some project. Apparently national media was there and the whole thing was pretty stressful. The whole thing sounds like an 80s movie I would watch on a Sunday afternoon.I'm highly qualified for that job. In fact, I can't think of anyone who is more clearly Caucasion than myself. Time for a new career?
Friday, March 30, 2007
We of course knew about this before we adopted her. Part way through our adoption journey, we joined the waiting child program, which matches orphans with special needs to adoptive parents. One of our motivations for adopting was to provide a loving family to a child who might otherwise never have one. Kids with special needs are less likely to be adopted, so we felt like this was the right thing to do. We are fortunate enough to have the means to correct Elizabeth's condition, but if she were to stay in China, there is no saying when or if she would receive treatment, and how good her treatment might be. While finalizing our adoption in Guangzhou, it was inspirational to meet several other couples who were adopting kids with even greater needs than Liz - including conditions such as cleft palette and deformed limbs.
We are opting to treat Elizabeth using the Ponseti method, which is a non-surgical way to manipulate the tissues back to a normal position. Although Ponseti is usually started at a younger age, it also has been very successful on older patients. Liz will go through a few months in casts, and then spend many more months with a brace. With a little luck and God's will, she will be completely normal when the treatment is finished.
Liz's first appointment is this week, and I'll be tracking her progress in the blog as she goes through the process. Here is a photo of her feet now.
Since Mia Hamm, the famous US soccer player, was born with club feet, we know that people can fully recover and live normal - even extraordinarily athletic - lives after treating this condition.
Check out the site here! Note - you will need to use IE on Windows XP. We'll be adding support for other browsers and platforms in the future.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Amy devised a great scheme for getting us some extra space on the plane. We knew there were about a dozen empty seats on the 777 - with 3 seats on each side, 2 aisles, and 4 seats in the middle. So we requested seats near the rear of the plane, and got the window seat and 2 aisle seats (A, C, and D), with an empty seat (B) in the middle. We were hoping, of course, that no one would take that one middle seat at the back of the plane, and we got lucky - since both the B and E seats were empty, we actually had 5 seats for the 4 of us, which meant Andrew could lay down flat on 2 seats and Elizabeth had her own seat even though we only paid for a lap ticket.
Back at home, all the grandparents have had a chance to meet their new granddaughter and we're getting over the jet lag. I've been up since 3 am.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
One American family is here with their 3 and 5-year-old boys, who provided Andrew with much need playmates. We offered to take the kids to the People's Park, which is one of the nicest city parks we've seen in China. Their mom asked how we would get there, and we said "by taxi, of course." That nixed the deal. Apparently they'd been on 1 other Chinese taxi ride and the experience was too harrowing for them. It is true that the simple act of crossing the street here is a death-defying experience, and a typical cab ride will raise your blood pressure.
The Galactic Peace is near the city center, and is a popular place with adoptive parents. We're sharing the hotel with both American and Spanish groups who are here adopting. It's been good to share our experiences with others.
You might be wondering about the 2nd half of the title of this post. What is Pocari Sweat? Well, Elizabeth was sick for a day or two, and we were looking for something like Pedialite for her - electrolyte replacement. A trip to the local Wal-Mart led us to an "ion supply" drink called - you guessed it - Pocari Sweat. Sounds tasty, eh?
Wondering what Wal-Mart is like in China? Not so different the Wal-Mart experience in Lakewood, Colorado, actually. I'm one of the only people in the whole place speaking English, and everything there is made in China.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Surprisingly, she's fairly well potty trained already at 11 months old. All you need to do is sit her on the baby potty and whistle, and she knows it's time to pee. If you add a carefully-toned "ba ba", she knows it's time for #2.
Her first night with us went quite well. It did take about 30 minutes of crying before she fell asleep, but we were pleasantly surprised that she slept all the way through the night; we'd been warned that she likes a midnight snack.
Monday, March 05, 2007
We arrived on time at LAX, dreading the 4-hour layover until our 11:50 pm departure to