Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cottonwood and Taylor Valley

The reason I'm drowning at work is because last week was exam week, plus homework due week, plus daily activities due week, plus we went camping this weekend.  Adding on to this stress was a last-minute harvest of the rest of our tomatoes and basil after a frost advisory was issued last Wednesday night.  Anyway, we left Friday around 4:00 (just in time to get stuck in traffic in Golden) and got back Sunday evening.  It was my first meeting-less Friday, so we decided to take advantage.  We drove to Buena Vista, CO and decided on the Cottonwood Hot Springs for night one.  For $70 we got a tent site, bathroom and shower access, and most importantly, access to the hot springs!   

The aspens were turning colors and it was such a beautiful drive as we continued Saturday morning up Cottonwood Pass after some bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Once I find my camera in this mess I like to call home, I will share with you some sunset pics I took, but until then, here's the pics off of Dave's camera (but I took most of them).
Our tent spot for Friday night at Cottonwood Hot Springs.  The gazebo-type setup was very odd, but it worked.  We were able to have a campfire inside this enclosure and our tent fit in there as well.  It was right next to a coy (sp?) pond and the river, which was so loud, we had trouble hearing each other, much less our neighbors. 

We stayed here Friday night.  Left of the building is a series of five outdoor hot spring pools, a sauna, and a shower.  It was fun!  We tried out the different pools from warm to hot in between dinner and smores Friday night around 10pm.

Dave is pretending to be excited about his gluten free pepperoni spaghetti made from stewed tomatoes from our garden.  Nice face.

On Saturday, Dave fished the Arkansas between Buena Vista and Leadville.  I graded and got some sun.
We decided on camping another night, rather than backpack the sand dunes since the trees were so beautiful.  We went to the grocery store and got some chow for dinner since all we had left was backpacking food, grabbed lunch from my favorite Buena Vista old fashioned burger joint/ice cream shop, then were on our way.  I hate that I'm an ice cream shop lover.  It's not good for my figure! 

Top of Cottonwood Pass, the Atlantic Side.

Top of Cottonwood Pass the Pacific Side.

Standard travel pic... Dave with camera in hand, sunglasses, camping hats.

The other side of the pass was nasty.  The road was dirt and had little wash outs, bumps, pot holes, all while descending from 12,126 feet in a top heavy SUV.  I just about lost my breakfast.

We arrived at "Lakeview Campground" to find this sweet spot still empty.  The camp hosts were from WI and gave us dibs on their fishing spot at the reservoir.
Taylor Valley, Taylor Reservoir in the background and some sweet mountain range.  Dave is getting camp set up.  I'm always in charge of laying out sleeping pads, bags, and pillows while Dave runs the stove/fire.
Oops!  I forgot my fishing pole at home.  Dave had his fly fishing pole, but it was not ideal for the reservoir.  No fish for us.
Taylor Valley view at sunset.
 Shortly after fishing, we made kielbasa for dinner with corn on the cob and hot coco.  I had luckily brought along my ski jacket.  I wore that, my winter hat, gloves, a hoodie, pajama pants plus jeans, and socks to bed.  I was so bulky I could barely zip up my mummy bag that I had pre-warmed with boiling water in a water bottle.  I was cold! 

My hot springs-soaked towel had been left out to dry and we woke up to frost over it and other surfaces.  No wonder I had been so cold!

Turns out, just below the dam to the reservoir were hundreds of HUGE fish!  They would jump five feet out of the air and they were visibly everywhere in the river.  Dave and the rest of the world tried to catch them, but no one got a bite!  I swear if we had a net we could have just netted five at once.  It was bizarre.  I got some reading and paper grading done while Dave fished.
Later, downstream, Dave yelled up to me that he finally caught one.  I was grading, again.  What a prize winner!  Nice job, hun!  ;)

There was no way I was going back over Cottonwood Pass to get home, so we took the long way through Gunnison, then over Monarch Pass and up 285.  Here's a vew from the top.

Aspens lining the way home. 
The trip was lovely, but Monday was brutal, I had a schmoozing dinner Monday night, and I'm just now able to catch my breath.  Time to go clean up a bit!  I might take the night off of grading just so I don't loose my mind.  My four Exam 2's will be all multiple choice! And no more homework, ever!  ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Saturday is Climate Action Day

Saturday is climate action day, and I'm sure there's an event near you!  Click here to find out:  http://www.350.org/.  It's time to move our planet beyond fossil fuels

Why it is important to be a part of this movement?
Basically, we're all sick and tired of the lack of action taken by our government to help us reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.  We burn fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil to turn on our lights, run our computers, heat our homes, and get to work. Each time we do something that needs energy, we commit to long term climate change.  Carbon dioxide has a long life time in the atmosphere and some of it could be around until well after we are gone, continuing to warm the planet of our grandchildren's children.  We need to make our voices heard, it's time to move beyond fossil fuels.

Why the name 350.org?  
350 parts per million concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is considered a "safe level" for those of us not interested in testing the planet's limits on climate change.  Today we stand at 390 parts per million carbon dioxide and are seeing signs of the corresponding warming climate everywhere we look. 

Why can't we just go on burning coal, oil, and natural gas like we have been?  
Carbon dioxide levels have been drastically increasing since the dawn of the industrial revolution, but particularly in recent times due to the inefficiencies of places like the US, Australia, and Europe, as well as the somewhat recent industrialization of developing countries with huge populations like China and India.  The day every one of the billion Chinese people owns a gasoline car, there will be no more hope.  The time to change is now, before the Earth's 6.775 billion people start polluting at levels similar to those of us 300 million Americans.  The year my mom was born, global population was only 3 billion!  The year my grandma was born there were only 2 billion people in the world.   You can see why moving to sustainable, renewable energy sources is simply mandatory.

Honestly, the Earth will be fine long after we are gone.  It's human kind that is at risk.  Can we live in a much-warmer-world?  Can we grow food?  Can we migrate without conflict?  Can we adapt to extreme events?  Let's not wait and find out!  Let's stop the problem before it is too late!

Why the urgency?
  • Last week, the Arctic Sea Ice extent tied the all time minimum set in 2007.  This new norm includes a huge patch of open water that becomes exposed every summer, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed, heating up the system, plus allowing for more water vapor to enter the atmosphere, changing weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.  
  • Greenland is melting.  Because Greenland's ice sits on land, when it melts, it raises sea levels.  Large populations throughout the world live within 0-2 meters of sea level and will all be climate refugees by the end of this century.  Imagine storm surge from a tropical cyclone when sea level is higher!  It really puts everyone at risk.  Frankly, I don't want the people Miami to have to move to Denver, I just can't stand their style.  In fact, it's conflicts like this that will have us in trouble.  I think that tanning and hair extensions are petty, but my new climate refugee neighbor thinks they are the bomb.  Can you imagine the cat fight?  Now let's imagine this more seriously, but in Southeast Asia or entire Island populations like the Maldives.  Food shortages will cause more migrations.  It won't be pretty.  In fact, it already has.  East Africa, how's that going for you? 
  • Droughts, fires, and floods have ravaged the globe these past few years.  This all comes with shifting weather patterns, which is a result of a warming planet.  
  • "Long term goal" has no place in policy discussions about fossil fuel burning.  We need to decide today that we are revamping the world with clean energy and take action.  If we don't, the consequences will be dire. 
Wait, but I thought scientists were still debating all of this stuff?
We've been giving a consistent message for years, since I was in high school back in 1997, that climate change is happening, it is due to burning fossil fuels, and that it will continue until we do something about it.  Although the media, although some poorly informed politicians, although your Uncle Yokle would like you to think differently, I speak the truth:  There is no debate.  The science has spoken.

What can I do?
Our politicians, the politicians of one of the biggest per person pollution producers in the world, are under the impression that we don't care about our future climate.  You have to tell them that we care! 

Here's how :
If you are in Colorado, you can show up at the capitol in Denver on Saturday at 5:00 and sign a petition that says it's time to move past fossil fuels.  My colleague has generously volunteered to speak at the rally and there is a "green fair" afterwards.  If you're up for biking, a bike ride from Boulder to Denver is taking place before the rally (350colorado.org for details, see map below).  If you're in Boulder and don't want to bike, the BX bus will drop you on the 16th street mall, then you can just take the Free Mall Ride to the capitol, or pretty darn close.  Let's make this event huge and make our point!  The more people they see dedicated to this cause, the more likely they will listen!   

If you're not in Colorado, there are events happening everywhere, especially internationally!  Find an event at 350.org, attend, make it known this Saturday that we, as a planet, are ready to move beyond fossil fuels.  Please, repost, copy my words into your own blog, help get the word out!

Colorado event for Saturday:

Thanks for reading,

a Colorado Professor,
a PhD in Atmospheric Science,
and a very concerned citizen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The only gluten free specialty products you need to be normal

It's been suggested that I should lay out my favorite gluten free products so any new gluten free folks won't have to mess around with brands and just get the good stuff right away.  I spent years eating nasty stuff so you don't have to.  Plus, gluten free products have come a long way.  There's a sale at amazon.com for all gluten free goodies right now if you're up for ordering in bulk, possibly due to Celiac Awareness Day last week.  Warning that each of these items is probably 300% the price you'd pay for regular items, so you might as well try to get them on sale.  Beyond these few items, I guess I eat whole foods, so this is the processed junk and it pains me to have an entire blog post with no veggies in it. 

Here are the things I buy regularly.

Udi's Sandwich Bread, which also comes in whole grain.  Face it, folks, you'll never eat real bread again.  This keeps your sandwich together without crumbling into a million pieces.  Flavor?  Whatever, it does the job.
Jules Gluten Free Flour:  Substitute this for regular flour in any recipe and you'll usually be successful.  I've made pies, cupcakes, muffins, banana and zucchini breads, gravy, and much more with it.  Expensive, order online only.  This is the only thing on this page my grocery store doesn't carry. 
Chebe Bread Sticks:  just add eggs, milk, and olive oil, then cook for 30 minutes.  These are insanely good and I dunk them in a mix of Parmesan, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar whenever I make soup or stir fry for dinner.

Pamela's Chocolate cake mix:  I have fooled many a gluten-eater with this cake.  Add some easy frosting (dash of milk, gobs of coco powder, a little melted butter, and 2 cups of powder sugar) and this thing can work for any special occasion.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats:  Regular oats are not gluten free due to their processing, so I buy these to use in my monster cookies.  Some celiacs avoid oats all together, so it's a little controversial that I eat them.  They don't seem to bother me.  Let me know if you can't find my monster cookie recipe in the archives.  Yum!

Pamela's pancake mix:  great for pancakes, crepes, waffles, and other easy baking escapades.  Dave made me pancakes from this mix this morning.  So amazing!  One thing it failed at was muffins.  No idea why.

Udi's Pizza Crust:  These are not good tasting, but they are the most affordable and easy of the pizza crusts.  Two come in a pack, I probably go through a pack every two weeks.  Not for sharing, it will only be enough for one person.  They come pre-cooked and usually frozen, so I just load up my toppings and bake for 10 minutes.

Namaste Pizza Crust:  this crust actually tastes good, but you have to mix it and bake it yourself.  Be careful, the bag makes two, so only use half the mix when following the recipe!  It's flavorful, crunchy, and an all around good crust for the nights you have more time on your hands.  It will have the consistency of cookie dough, not bread dough when you mix it up. 

Quinoa Pasta:  Hands down, this is the only pasta worth eating whether you are gluten free or not.  The texture is perfect, it's better for you than any other white pasta, and it just tastes normal.  Only issue is leftovers, they can taste grainy, so just eat it all in one sitting.  They also have shells (which don't cook as well) and spaghetti style noodles.

Conte's Cheese Ravioli:  $7 for two servings, but worth every penny.  I threw a fit in King Soopers a few weeks ago when they stopped carrying this.  Now that I know the brand name, I'll be filing a formal complaint to get them back.  Thanks a lot, Soopers, don' you know it's pesto season?  Gosh! 
Kind bars are expensive, but some of them are pretty tasty.  They'll get me through lunch or a brutal hike.   There's other good bars though, I have yet to really fall in love with any of them, including these. 
Woodchuck Cider:  Who needs beer when you can have cider?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Google Calendar keeps me sane

I used to spend a lot of time staring at my daily planner.  Now I spend a lot of time staring at my Google Calendar.  If you're feeling overwhelmed with your fall schedule, give this thing a try.  I still make to-do lists, because I usually make them on the bus and it's easier to do in pen than try to type on my little ipod Touch, but scheduled events always end up on my calendar and get uploaded to my Touch so I can see them from anywhere.  It also used to sync with my Outlook email at work. 

I highly recommend the week or month view.  I also recommend using the tasks.  It feels so good to check them off.  I usually save the tasks for out of the ordinary tasks that I might forget about.  For example, I have 23 things to do this weekend, there's no way I was going to type that up.  I wouldn't put down, "Make copies" because I do that every day.  You can also set alarms so you don't forget to show up for something.  Overall, this helps me to picture my week and more long term, my semester.  This week, I have something huge due on Tuesday, then social events every night until Sunday.  That means no last-minute work allowed, I need to make sure I'm on top of things!  (And yet here I sit blogging, but I swear it only took 15 minutes to write.)  Give it a try.  Macs have their own ical that is equally as useful and easier to enter events into.
Next week's schedule.  The names of classes and friends have been removed to protect the innocent.  Click to enlarge.

In addition, after thinking more about this, much of my organization for each class gets done in an excel spread sheet.  I create schedules for each of my courses.  Here's a sample for an intro course I have taught a gazillion times.  Students get a copy of this and I update it, if needed, on our webpage.  Each "subject" has a PowerPoint that goes with it, each homework has a word doc, a pdf for posting, and keys, each exam has a word doc and key, and each activity has a word doc as well.  Due to the complexity of this, having proper course folders and sub folders on my computer is key to staying organized.  I also name each thing I create for a course with the call number for that course so I don't open up homework 1 for another course accidentally.  This semester I shared materials with four new professors and they really appreciated my organized course materials.  I also sync all of these folders between my laptop at school and my laptop at home using Dropbox.  Some of my other courses have more columns, like, what lab we are doing, or what additional reading is due.  I have all of these schedules posted in my office and copies in my "Take Home" folder so I can look at them on the bus and mentally prepare.   
Any tips you have for staying organized?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reading way too many books

I have a problem.  That's the first step, right?  Admitting it?  I am reading so many books at once that it is possible I will never finish any of them, ever.  I'm currently reading
HBO series + all of my friends having read it = me trying to catch up before season 2 comes out.  I love it.  
AMAZING BOOK!  I should have chosen this as my required book for my climate change course.  Maybe next semester?  I have to read it with a pencil so I can mark it up and comment and actively read it.

This is a new book I'm starting.  We'll be using it for a sort of club I just joined where we'll choose a new piece of technology to integrate into our spring classes.  Any suggestions?
I'm half way through this and am realizing it's super entertaining, but I am retaining about 2% of what I'm reading.  It's just information overload.  If I read it at my desk, I'd probably take notes, but reading it in bed, I just take it in, then forget about it.  I'm thinking of writing the book that I thought this book was going to be.

This book was thrown aside to make room for the top two, but will be worth finishing.  It's small and fits in my purse, so I'm sure I'll get through it eventually.
This time through, I'm really appreciating this read.
I also have three other books that I started, but haven't picked up in a while, so I won't count them, even though they do sit there, next to my bed, taunting me.

Did I mention I'm also teaching four classes?  Each of which have their own textbook.  I'll admit that I'll never read two of the textbooks ever again because they are so low level, it might numb my brain, but the other two make appearances in bed, on the bus, and certainly at work.  In fact, I had an "Ah hah!" moment the other day in bed with my dynamics book.
This book got heavy, so I took out a box cutter and cut out the chapters that I use.  Now it's a book filled with the chapters I don't use, and stapled, cut out pieces of the chapters I do stuffed inside. 
So yes, I have a problem.  It's not like I'm spending a significant portion of my life reading either.  I'll try to get to bed early so I can spend an hour reading before falling asleep, but teaching is tiring, so I haven't been lasting very long with my eyes open.  Maybe I will attempt reading on the bus without puking next week. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Food Choices

Grocery shopping used to be about spotting brands that I recognized as gluten free.  Once I started shopping for two, I learned to shop for the cheapest items.  When Dave was a child, he once asked his mom, "Why do they even have things that aren't on sale if nobody buys them?"  Slowly, though, Dave and I started defining items that we were willing to splurge on.  First it was cage free, grain fed eggs.  Why would we want eggs from chickens who aren't healthy?  (You can honestly taste a difference.)  Next, we decided that carrots that sat in pesticide-filled soil couldn't be that healthy and we switched to organic carrots.  This became a slippery slope.  Oftentimes at the grocery store, organic food could be as much as twice as expensive.  I then attempted to buy only grain fed meats.  This got pricey really quickly and I stopped.  (We don't eat much meat.)

As you know, this summer I started with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and every week, June through December, I go pick up a box of veggies down the street delivered from an organic farm 90 miles from here.  This has been an adventure, but a disappointing one.  The vegetable varieties we have gotten are not at all good.  No one wants to eat four types of lettuce every day for two months as well as kale and spinach ontop of it.  No one can eat their 5th head of cabbage in a month without their digestive track going on strike.  Turnips are the most foul thing I have ever tasted and although kohlrabi is edible, what would possess a farmer to believe that their customers would want three of them in one week?  The best thing we've gotten from them are some green beans, broccoli, and, thus far, only four tomatoes, even though I have probably harvested half a bushel of tomatoes and basil from my own garden already.  Lucky for me, we have three more months of mystery boxes.  Maybe at some point we'll get vegetables I actually like to eat, like peppers, perhaps.  Our grocery store labels everything that is "Colorado Grown" with a special sticker and suddenly buying local is really important to me.

Dave made spring rolls that used up some of our cabbage.
This week, after years of teaching climate change in my courses, I finally had a moment where it seemed ridiculous that I buy coffee that is grown in a place where the rain forest was likely cut down to make fields of coffee beans.  Today I spent 15 minutes staring at the bags of coffee trying to find some damn shade-grown coffee.  I came up empty handed. I think during Dave's softball game on Thursday, I'll venture into Whole Foods and see if they have some.

Every time I purchase something, I'm supporting, voting for, that product.  I'd hate to support tomatoes that taste like nothing, strawberries shipped from Chile in December, beef that are fed corn, given antibiotics, and spend their lives standing in their own shit.  I'd hate to support McDonalds.  I hate that it is expensive and sometimes really inconvenient to vote properly with my dollars, but I keep trying.  Our food system is out of control.

Today I harvested what was ripe from my garden.  I failed to water it between Tuesday and Saturday due to a trip to Urgent Care, a softball game, and a night out for dinner Wednesday through Friday nights, respectively.  My tomato plants' leaves are crispy and some brown.  I'm just hoping the tons of fruit still on the branches will ripen before the plants die for good.  I got several peppers, a large bowl of tomatoes, more tomatillos, and tons of basil.  I just spent my Saturday night making spaghetti sauce, pesto, and green chili salsa while Dave is at a Phish concert in Commerce City near Denver. 

If you still haven't read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," please do!