Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth.

I learned to make pastry dough and biked in the snow and cold. We flew to Atlanta and saw the nieces and sister and parents et al., then drove to Waynesville and saw some old friends and our old home, now in dire need of landscape assistance (and for people to stop topping the damn trees -- jeez). We hiked in North Carolina and Tennessee, had Central American food in Greenville, and walked the gardens at Callaway. We took MARTA across Atlanta twice (some whites say it stands for “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta”, but actually it’s mostly used by white people), and had two Thanksgivings – one at a Southern Living-quality home on 350 acres. As we were preparing to go to the second dinner we got the news that Mike Call had died while swimming off the Kona coast, and not 20 minutes later Correy texted to say Mrs. Siltman was dead, too.

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(Lolo on the first good day of skiing this season.)

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(Callaway Gardens)

Mike was the editor at the Tooele Transcript Bulletin who hired me on a scraped-together portfolio of free-lance writing clippings. He wasn’t particularly happy in Tooele, but then who was? We became good friends, and I lived in his basement apartment for two years. Many nights, when Laura was over, we’d hear him walk across the living room floor and open the fireplace grate to smoke menthols and blow smoke up the chimney. We’d go upstairs and while Porter chased the cats listen to him complain and laugh, since none of it seemed too serious. Things looked up for Mike when he moved to the paper in Odgen, and got better still when he started editing the paper on Kona and came out. Not long after he moved to Kona he started jumping into the ocean first thing in the morning and swimming with the turtles which, as his obituary stated, “gave him great happiness and comfort”.

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(Mike in Missoula, March 2, 2012)

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(Greg on Fuji)

Mike came to Montana two winters ago, and we had a beer at Charlie B’s and he gave Cooper an outfit and a baseball cap which he looked cute in but soon outgrew. Not that long ago we were talking about he a trip he wanted to take to Europe. I was encouraging him to go to Turkey, but he was keen on Greece.

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(Pre-Thanksgiving near Athens – not the Greek one)

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(Light show at Callaway)

I don’t think I’d seen Mrs. Siltman twice since Mr. Siltman died – one of those times I took mail to her house that wound up at ours by mistake. Mr. Siltman used to sit on his front stoop, and when he was out and I was walking Coozy I’d take her over. Without fail, regardless of whether Coozy was docile or slobbering straining at the leash, he’d say with halting enthusiasm, “That’s a nice dog!”

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(Pine Mountain, Georgia)

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(Working the hydraulics at -5, Deep Creek)

Na so dis world be. Allah is not obliged to be fair about all the things he does here on earth.

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(Between terminals at ATL)

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(Pastry dough)

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(Pretending the salt shaker is a camera)

**This blog’s title refers to the 2000 novel by Ahmadou Kourouma, a writer from Côte d'Ivoire who died in 2003. The obvious line is from Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author.

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(Woolly worm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Positive feedback loop.

Meanwhile, in Montana.

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Ready to roll.

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Killin it in Pattee.

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General consensus was that this was one of the nicest falls in memory.

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Cold day in the Seeley-Swan. That wraps up a summer and fall of biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Good times.

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Precious cargo!

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Learning to make a calorie bomb: bread, honey, Nutella, peanut butter, strawberry jam, and fig spread. Nude.

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Stabbing me with bear grass on the Montana-Idaho border.

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We made the news!

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About 50 came for our third annual milestone party. And only one baby pulled his pants down and peed on the shrubbery.

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Hiking the Stateline.

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Biking Gold Creek. This area was recently sold by Plum Creek to the Nature Conservancy. The land needs to heal in a serious way, but this is a major deal for Montanans.

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Climbing out of Goose Lake, deep in the Great Burn.

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Cowboy, spiderman, and a … hmmm.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Deep in the Great Burn.

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Atop the Rattlesnake.

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For once, someone else's tire.

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Looking at Glacier.

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Up in the Swan.

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In the northern Whitefish, more evidence of last winter's historic avalanche cycle.

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Al (headlamp) fresco in Missoula.

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After more than a few thousand miles, a Michelin Runn'r gives up the tread.

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In the Mission.

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50 miles done in the Whitefish.

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Single-minded second gear to Stuart Peak.

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Downhill in Glacier Country.

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LOLZ. They closed Canada!

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North Fork twilight on the autumnal equinox.

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Home along the Big Blackfoot.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Three beans from Nicaragua.

It used to be that no trip to the tropics was complete without a visit to the market and walking away with a few cordobas, quetzals, or limpiras worth of unroasted green coffee beans. I got the idea for doing this after chatting with the head roaster at the venerable Salt Lake Roasting Co. and seeing how easy the process could be duplicated at home. Once I had the beans (getting them through customs could be interesting – Is it a food? A vegetable? Plant matter?) all it took was a few minutes per handful in a stainless steel pot on an open stove. (Outside – always outside. As your neighborhood will soon find out, coffee roasting creates a lot of smoke.)

I really got to see how easy the process was after visiting Ethiopia, where I sat through a month’s worth of “coffee ceremonies” – after dinner, a girl makes a small fire on the kitchen floor (literally) and roasts a handful of beans in a hammered tin pot, then grinds them and makes coffee using a handheld drip system. Good stuff.

Green beans from the market were usually of erratic quality. The impression I got was that the bean sellers were not the bean harvesters – they were likely aggregators pulling together beans from a number of producers, or getting the non-exportable excess from a higher-quality farm. It was always impossible to determine the precise pedigree of the bean other than they were “local”. One exception to market quality was in Sulawesi, where the beans I saw in markets were about as pretty, plump, and uniform as green coffee beans can get.

Nicaragua has a coffee culture – probably more so than what I’ve found in places like Guatemala or Honduras – but the coffee quality is overall lower than what I found in adjacent nations. A lot of that has to do with topography – Nicaragua has a lot of mountains but they are relatively low elevation. That also is a fact that means the nation will lose its coffee crop much quicker to global warming than nearby nations with higher peaks – in Guatemala, for instance, as the temps warm, the trees can to a certain extent be moved up the mountains.

Nicaraguans like coffee, but they also like it weak – so weak that children drink it, and more than once I had to convince a waiter that no, our 2-year old did not need coffee to wash down his pancakes. For a couple of reasons I did not come home from Nicaragua with green beans, but after getting some tips from locals in Granada I did bring back several bags of locally roasted beans. I doubt these will show up at Albertson’s any time soon, but in case you are interested …

1. Café Premium Segovia ($3.70/400g – nearly 15 ounces)

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This pre-ground bean was the cheapest of the lot, and my least favorite. The roast was medium to dark; in the espresso machine it yielded no crème. The taste was floral and bright and somewhat acidic – similar to what I’ve tasted from Rwanda – but not to my liking.

2. Casa del Café ($6.75/400g)

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Case del Café is a local chain of coffee shops – their hacienda-style café just off the main square in Granada is a grand setting. These whole beans were the priciest of the bunch but not the best. Despite being a medium roast the grinds are a few shades of brown too light by my reckoning. In the espresso machine you get a decent crème, and the flavor is full but feels dialed back – as though there’s another 20 percent of the flavor that’s not showing up.

3. Café Las Flores ($5.75/454g)

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This medium-roast whole bean was the winner of the three by far, and a great deal compared both to other Nica coffees and what you find at home. It ground a consistent dark brown, and in the espresso machine it yielded a gorgeous thick crème. The taste was expansive and smooth. This was the one I wish I’d filled my suitcase with.

Hey – why is Guevara celebrated but not Sandino?

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American troops with Sandino’s battle flag:

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Radiance vs. ordinary light.

Reach for it.

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(Fourth of July Lake, White Cloud Mountains.)

We are down to not months, not weeks, but days. This is not the time to get lazy and complacent, folks.

A week ago Kintla was swimmable, but doubt it now.

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My guess is same goes for Bowman.

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Due to decisions we’ve made, it’s unlikely we’ll ever live in a big house, buy a fancy new car, or eat at swanky restaurants when we’re not being treated. On the other hand, every weekend we can go out and recreate in one of the world’s great landscapes.

Keeping it real, part A: Bowman Lake.

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Keeping it real, part B: Stanley Lake.

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Keeping it real, and clean, part C: Sawtooth Mountains.

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Keeping it real, part D: Ovando.

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Keeping it real, final installment: Whitefish Lake State Park.

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Keeping it sweet in Ovando.

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Red Meadow Lake, Whitefish Mountains.

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Some new snow along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Whitefish Mountains.

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Whitefish Trails with the baby.

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Whitefish Trails on my lonesome.

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Back to Polebridge.

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Back along the North Fork.

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An end-of-summer paddle in Bowman.

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An end-of-summer paddle in Stanley.

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An end-of-summer wheel dip in Redfish.

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Hiking toward Sawtooth Lake.

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Biking toward fall.

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