Sunday, December 31, 2006

Snowboarding @ Big Powderhorn

Noel called on Wednesday night, asking if I was interested in a short skiing trip in Michigan. My response leaped across my synapses - yes! Of course I'm interested. I have the week off of work, and I don't have any real plans.

We left on Thursday morning from Mequon - it took us about 7.5 hours to reach the ski hill. Julian had booked a condo for us, so there was more than enough room for all 8 of us. Noel's brother & sisters came, along with two of his sister's friends. We cooked a fabulous dinner: veggie pasta, salad, yams, blanched brocolli, and bread. We devoured the food and spent the first night playing Quiddler & various card games.

Our first day of skiing couldn't have been better - the temperature was about 28F, and snow was being dumped on the hill. I didn't pack goggles, and soon realized it was a mistake. My sunglasses were getting steamed up, and water & ice were forming on the inside of the lens (where I'm unable to wipe it off). I was cruising down one of the slopes, when I suddenly felt myself floating. In another instant, I had crashed and was sliding down the steep hill. Katie came crashing into my back with her snowboard - she didn't see the drop off either. Afterwards, everyone that didn't have good goggles, rushed to the ski shop to buy a pair. The clouds kept dropping snow all afternoon. After we had covered most of the runs; Noel, Julian & I were racing to Liesl (she was the finish). Every race ended in a crash at the end while we were clamouring to get to Liesl. Thankfully, no one was hurt and we had a lot of laughs while doing so.
We spent the evening napping, eating, and playing Scategories. We had another fabulous dinner and made a 6-avocado bowl of guacamole; it was eaten within 15 minutes after being made.

Saturday was also spent skiing/snowboarding. The weather was a bit warmer, and there wasn't any new snow. We spent about 6 hours on the slopes, before piling into the car at 3:30p to drive home.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I don't consider myself a Beatles fan, but I bought a DVD of a concert that was held in London for George Harrison. It contains a wicked set of Indian music that is played with sitars & bongo-type drums. The music is composed by Ravi Shankar; and played/conducted by his beautiful daughter. The second half of the DVD has old Beatles songs that are played by George Harrison's friends (Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, etc). I recognize some of the songs (such as Whilte My Guitar Gently Weeps, Taxman, Isn't It a Pity, etc), but my favorite part is the Indian orchestral pieces. I've been watching the show over & over, or just letting it play as background music while I work. Check it out or stop by my place and give it a listen.
Corporate Jetsetting

One of my career goals was accomplished over a week ago. I got to take the corporate jet out to New Hampshire. This introduced a new level of luxury that I'm not accustomed to. From now on when I'm sitting in economy class on a 14 hour flight, I will longingly daydream of lounging in a private jet. We had a few six packs of New Glarus Fat Squirrel and a Dave Matthews dvd from his Central Park concert. We popped open the beer, cranked Dave (so loud that I could no longer here any wind noise in the cabin), and jammed for the entire ride. On the way back home, I called Jason from my mobile phone. Why? Because I could! My next goal is to now get the jet for as many go-lives as possible.

I'm trying to get a signal on my mobile...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Life = normal

I haven't posted an entry in quite some time - I've been spending time getting my journal from Mongolia onto the web. The blog & photos have been posted:


Work was a bit hectic after I returned from vacation - I spent a week on the east coast & dominican republic, then a week home, and then I was in Orlando for a project mgmt conference. I'm getting back into a routine, which has its benefits - one of those being a normal sleeping pattern. I was listening to a George Harrison tribute concert today, and there were some lyrics that captured my attention: the farther you go, the less you know. I'm definitely feeling that way - after seeing what else is outside of home, my brain is flooded with questions & ideas about my own life.

Now that I'm back home and not planning for a trip, I feel like I have a LOT of time on my hands. I broke up with the woman I was dating, which frees up more time. I'm trying to find a glass blowing class in Milwaukee, but my attempts have resulted in no leads. There's a studio in Sheboygan that offers classes every once in awhile, and there's also classes offered at UW-Madison. Both are too far to drive, so I'm going to talk to my friends that are closest to the art scene and see if they know of anything.

I'm spending some time with the old man on Sunday - we're going to take his ATVs north of Madison. It should be a good time - I'm worreid about the cold, but if I were 5 layers of clothes, I shouldn't get too cold.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Multiple Sclerosis Bike Ride

I got a call from my cousin last Tuesday, asking if I would join a bike ride on 8/5 & 8/6. One of her team members had already done all of the fundraising, but she couldn't ride due to some personal issues. The normal length of the ride is 150 miles over two days; starting at the Waukesha Expo Center, riding to Whitewater and spending the night, and then heading up to Madtown on Sunday. I had always wanted to do this ride, but never motivated myself to signup and raise the pledges. I decided that I'd clear my schedule for the weekend and ride.

I haven't trained for any long rides, but I have been riding my road bike about 3 times a week for at least an hour. I figured that I would experience some fatigue, but it was more about the cause and the experience. My grandmother has MS, an aunt has MS, and an uncle has MS. My uncle isn't even blood relation, which makes it all the more uncanny. For those of you who don't know about multiple sclerosis, here's a link to the WI chapter and it also has info about the ride:

The team that I was riding with is led by my father; my aunt Kathy and cousin Abby, Abby's friend Jeff, along with some family friends. There was only 8 people on the team, and they were able to raise over $20K for the ride - very impressive considering the size of the team.

We started riding around 7:30am on Saturday, and most of the morning was fairly comfortable riding. The sun was shining, the temp was about 75 degrees F, and everyone was in a good mood. I started riding with Abby & Jeff and after a while, they were no longer riding with me. I ended up taking a wrong turn, and on the way back I found Abby. At one of the rest stops, we met back up with Jeff. After filling Jeff's tires (he was riding on 60psi instead of 120psi!), we started off on the next leg of the trip. On the way to the lunch rest stop, we met 3 guys who were cycling together; Amil, Greg, and Jim. They hail from the south burbs of Chicago, and they're team is appropriately named Flatlanders. They were riding at the same pace as we were, so Abby & I decided to join them as they were also doing the century ride (100 miles).

We rode together for the remainder of the day, and got into Whitewater around 4:30. Thankfully I got a cyclometer from my dad for my birthday, so I now have stats! We rode 104 miles in 5:59:13 at at average speed of 17.4 mph. For my first long ride, I was extremely happy with the pace that we were able to keep up. Since the team had raised over $20K, we had our own team tent w/ tables, chairs, and good food (gardenburgers!). After relaxing for a while, we checked into the Whitewater dorms, took a shower, and headed down to the main tent for the award ceremony and a concert by Pat McCurdy.

Sunday morning came quick, but thankfully I had got about 6.5 hrs of sleep so I wasn't too tired. We filled up on breakfast and were getting ready to ride when it started raining. We weren't too worried at first, as it was only a bit of a drizzle. After about 50 minutes on the course, the rooster tail of road grime and water from Greg's bike was continuosly spraying my face. I had to remind myself that no matter how uncomfortable it was, we were riding for people who have lost much of their ability to control their legs. Some of these people (my grandma included) haven't been able to walk, let alone ride a bike for years. So we slogged on in the rain, until the organizers stopped everyone at the next rest stop. There were squall lines of thunderstorms on the radar, and some of the roads that we would be riding on were washed out. We waited underneath an awning for over an hour, and by the time they cleared everyone to leave, my hands and knees were blue. My body was nice & warm when we were pedaling, but no movement = no heat.

We rode the rest of the day in the rain; the last 1.5 hrs of the ride the rain had stopped, but I was still splashed by cars or other bikes as they speed over the wet road. The scariest moment of the day was when some asshole in a semi was riding the white line. There wasn't oncoming traffic, but for whatever reason he didn't move over. I was a couple feet away from the truck when he passed, but I was caught in the draft as the tractor passed, and I was almost sucked into the trailer as it passed. Thank god that didn't happen - I would have been run over.

We had decided to ride the 75 mile route on Sunday, and the end didn't come soon enough. My quads were fatigued. I no longer sat down while riding up hills - I was standing on my pedals, using some of my weight to move the pedals. When we arrived at the Alliant Energy Center, it was a great feeling to be welcomed by the crowd; most importantly the people that were in wheelchairs. That made all of the hours of burning legs and eating road grime worth it. Stats for Sunday: 74 miles, 4 hrs, 17.6 mph. (Don't ask me how we went faster on Sunday - I felt like we were going much slower.)

I'll add photos as soon as I get them - there isn't much room to carry a camera when you're wearing spandex.

Map of Saturday route:

Map of Sunday route:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mongolia concerns : (

After doing a bit of research on trains to/from Beijing & Ulaan Bataar, I realized that my plans for Mongolia may be compromised. I should have done this research earlier, but my weeks have been busy enjoying my time with family and friends - not planning for vacation! The train from Beijing --> Ulaan Bataar only runs once per week, on Tuesdays. The train from Ulaan Bataar --> Beijing runs only on Thursdays, and possibly Saturdays until October (no one knows for certain).

So, working out the schedule in Excel, I now find that if I do want to go to Mongolia I can stay for 7 days due to the train leaving on Thursdays and me leaving for home the following Wednesday. I'm now faced with a difficult decision, but luckily I haven't booked anything besides my airfare to Beijing. Do I go to Tibet where I can maximize my time in one region? I started comparing my options and I've come up with the following timeline, which allows me to compare the relative worth of each trip. Keep in mind, I have no clue what I'd do in Tibet; but I bet I could fill my time trekking, visiting buddhist monestaries, and relaxing. I might even be able to reach Everest base camp! (Although it would be in a vehicle, and not by hiking which is my preference. I believe that if you hike along the main route, it takes a couple of weeks to complete the trip.)

I sent a contact in Beijing an email re: the train schedule between Mongolia & Beijing - hopefully I'll get some good information back so that I can make my decision within the upcoming days.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Landlubber does Pewaukee Lake

On Sunday Jason, Sydney, Maia, and I headed to Hans place on Pewaukee lake for a bit of sailing and cycling. After eating lunch, feeding Maia, and readying the sailboat, it was already 3:00pm. Hans was kind enough to take me out on the lake to see how the spiniker works, and also to give me a general feel for his boat.

The weather conditions on Pewaukee lake were....fairly breezy. I can't lie and say that we had 25 knot winds, but maybe it was more like 10 - 15 mph winds. When we initially took off and I trimmed the jib, I did a faceplant into the side of Hans' boat. Later I would learn that I was lucky to escape the sailing trip without any visible injuries.

Let me first set your expectations. Hans has 50+ years of sailing experience. We are on his M16 (I hope that's right), which is like the Porsche of sailboats. It's meant to be extremely light, and the mast is taller than the boat is long. There's carbon fiber on the boat, which also helps trim some of the weight. His boat has boards instead of the keel that is on the boats that I'm learning on at the Milwaukee Yacht Club.

The first fallacy of sailing is that you don't get wet. If I were using my experiences at MYC sailing class, I would say that sailing is a fairly leisurely exercise. You pull on a few lines, turn the boat, and enjoy the ride. On Hans' boat, my butt was hanging over the side of the boat, secured by having my feet wedged into a strap. Within a few minutes I become about 20% saturated due to the splash of the bow on the waves.

We tacked upwind for about 5 - 10 minutes, before our first attempt to deploy the spiniker. I'm not sure what I would compare the spiniker to, with the exception that it's a huge parachute that is tied out in front of the boat to pull you along faster than any sail can. The tactic is to pull the spiniker up as fast as possible, because you do NOT want it to go into the water. It causes issues....

I was pulling the spiniker out, all while Hans was calmly instructing me to pull it faster. After about 10 seconds I couldn't pull anymore. I wrapped my hands around the line, put my foot near the mast, and used my legs to help pull up the spiniker. It didn't budge. The spiniker wasn't all of the way out - the spiniker was lying in the water. With a bruised ego, I climbed onto the bow and began to pull the spiniker out of the water. After I had it back on top of the boat, we attempted to hoist it into the air. The spiniker suddenly filled with air and we were moving quickly for about 5 seconds. It was just enough time for me to take a seat and get my feat under the foot strap. The boat tipped over due to the wind in the spiniker, while Hans and I were leaning backwords over the starboard side. We ended up sitting on top of the sideways boat (the mast & spiniker are parallel w/ the water; the hull is perpendicular to the water).

I let out a sigh of frustration before climbing down onto the lower board to turn the boat over. We were able to upright the boat and not get too wet. I was about 60% saturated by now. Guess what I did next. Yes - I again pulled the spiniker out of the water. I put it back into it's home and climbed back down to my seat to try this again.

I took a deep breath, and imagined myself pulling on the spiniker line as if I was Superman, and Lois Lane was at the other end, near death. Once again I couldn't pull the line out anymore, and the spiniker went into the water and while I was trying to pull the line, I somehow wasn't on the boat anymore. That minute or two is kind of blurry, but the next thing that I knew was that I was in the water. The sailboat in front of me, with Hans hanging onto it. He was on the lower board, so the sailboat had caught a bit of wind even though it wasn't upright. I started swimming as hard as I could, with sandals, pants, a jacket, and a lifevest. I was swimming, but the boat was moving faster than any human could ever swim, let alone with all of his/her clothes on. Some guy came to our rescue and threw a line overboard for me to hang onto. He brought me close to the sailboat, which Hans had now let tip over. It wasn't moving much, so I could easily swim to it.

I proceeded to climb up on the lower board (which Hans was already standing on with one foot) to help upright the boat. We got it turned over (thankfully Hans was with, because I don't think that I'm heavy enough to turn the boat over). We wiggled our way back onto the top of the boat. At this point, I felt like my heart was going to explode. It was probably a combination of the adrenaline from being thrown off the boat, coupled with my desparate attempted swim to the sailboat. I once again pulled the spiniker out of the water and packed it away. Hans then noticed a flaw in the lines - the jib sheet and the spiniker sheet were reversed. That explained why I couldn't pull the spiniker up all of the way, and also why it was getting tangled.

We jibbed back to a mooring near his house, and Hans reconfigured the lines. When he was finished, we set sail again. Hans was determined to get the spiniker up and not tip over. I was determined to sail on the boat for more than a few seconds with the spiniker fully deployed. We got back out into the middle of the lake, and Hans pulled up the spiniker (isn't the third time a charm?). Soon enough we were blazing a trail downwind and leaning far outside the boat to keep it balanced. My job was to trim the spiniker sheet when there was a lull in the wind, and to let out some of the spiniker when the wind puffed. We had a great ride down to the end of the lake, although it was probably only a few minutes in total. We were both pleased - I had gone fast in the boat. Hans was happy for different reasons - the rookie didn't tip over the boat!

We tacked upwind to get back to Hans' house. When we were 50 meters from the mooring, I dumped the boat. Yes - a third time. By this point, I had lost all sense of dignity. I wasn't paying attention and I should have been letting out the jib as the boat's side was going higher in the air. I wasn't - I was enjoying the ride until I realized that I had tipped the boat AGAIN. I was able to continue hanging over the side of the boat while Hans pulled the boat back upright. By this time, we were close enough to the house so that Jason could take embarassing photos of us tipping the boat.

After we were back on land, I later learned that this was the first 3 times that Hans had tipped over the boat... Feeling like an idiot, I took a shower and changed into dry clothes. After Jason & Sydney returned from their dry sailing run, we had a fabulous dinner. We had two appetizers: olive tapenade & bread and cream cheese/dill appetizers on rye. For an entree, we grilled vegetarian cuban sandwichs (marinated portabella mushrooms in balsamic vinegar and garlic, roasted red peppers, spinach, cheese, and pickles) and had a wonderful salad made of mixed greens, feta cheese, walnuts, and a wicked homemade dressing. This wonderful meal was followed by Pat's (Hans girlfriend) pecan pie & vanilla bean ice cream, which was a perfect way to finish off the meal. I should also add that we made mojitos and they turned out fairly well.

All in all, I had a wonderful time. The only activity that could have improved the fabulous day was if we had had enough time to go cycling. Hans was a great host, an EXTREMELY patient sailing instructor, and a master salad dressing maker. It was great to spend some time w/ Jason & Sydney, since we don't see each other very often. Pat was wonderful and she makes a mean pecan pie.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's past midnight and I'm not tired, so what better to do than post a short note? This weekend was great; Friday night was spent aboard a huge boat out on Lake Michigan with a few friends, Saturday was a great day to catchup with Pete & Andy, and the majority of today was spent researching my 'where do I go in Asia for 3 weeks in September trip?'.

The hinderance of going to Mongolia has been the cost of flights; $2000 and up. There's no way that I'm wasting $2K on a flight, as I will spend a small fortune by the time the trip is over. I was looking into going to Tibet, but since China requires so much paperwork to get into Tibet, that trip would probably cost me about the same price and cause me significantly more grief due to only having 3 weeks of holiday.

My new plan is to fly into Beijing; take a train to Ulan Bataar (Mongolia), and spend a couple of weeks in Mongolia before heading back to Beijing to fly home. If I have a few days in Beijing, I should have enough time to check out the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and possibly the terracotta soliders in Xi'an. I cannot research this plan anymore today; I think I spent about 8 hours in front of the computer sifting through the Thorntree message boards random blogs, travelogues, tour operator sites, and US State Department websites.

This week I get to settle back into the familiar schedule of life in Milwaukee - no work trips this week! I plan on playing frisbee golf, going to sailing class, playing some video games, going bike riding, and riding my motorcycle. I'll finally get to enjoy one of the best seasons in Milwaukee, since I haven't been around all that much lately.

Check out this website - it's a great view into North Korea. I found it while browsing through the northeast asia forum on lonelyplanet's website. The photos are amazing, and many are great indicators of how terrible it must be to live in the Communist country. There's one photo in particular that stands out in my mind; it's a photo of the oceanfront, surrounded by barbed wire and an electric fence. It's meant to keep the citizens from's all very surreal and I cannot compare it to anything that I've ever experienced in the past.

Photos of North Korea

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Viva Las Vegas!

I was in Vegas for a few days for a conference; so I had a few free hours to check out the scene. Everything is kitsch and over the top. The signs are larger and brighter, the hotels outdo one another in extravagance. I had a sweet hotel room at Caeser's Palace; my room over look the fountains at the Bellagio. I had two bathrooms, a double shower, hottub, 40" LCD TV, two queen beds, and the list goes on. The photo below is from my hotel room.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was checking out Dale Chihuly's work in the Bellagio reception area. All of the vibrant pieces that you see in the photo below is handblown glass.

Since I was in Vegas, I gambled a bit. I won $15 at blackjack and $10 on war (yes - that game that you played when you were a kid; you can bet on it!!!). After two consecutive wins, I decided that it was time to take my money and run. Vegas wasn't built on winners...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

House of a million (bug) corpses

While I was driving home from a friends house tonight, I noticed that the visibility seemed to dramatically decrease as I rode closer towards my destination. I noticed that a battalion of bug corpses were starting to accumulate on the face shield of my motorcycle helmet. I've ended hundreds of bug lives in a quick 20 minute cruise home. The following photo is taken from the inside of my helmet looking out through the face shield.

On a much more normal topic, it's my brother's birthday today. Happy birthday Josh! I cannot believe that you're 22 this year, but then again we're all getting older. Hopefully you've had an enjoyable day, and we'll get together for a drink sometime in the upcoming days.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This weekend was wonderful - I spent Memorial Day in New York with my friends Sanjay & Nirupa. I met them was I was in Peru, and they invited out to their place for the weekend. We went rock climbing near Lake Placid (home of winter olympics 19-something or another).

Saturday was a decent day, but we didn't do anything too exciting. Nirupa had organized a beginner rock climbing class through EMS, so we basically learned how to tie knots and make anchors the first day. Chad, our instructor, suggested that we check out this restaurant called Carribean Cowboy for dinner, so we headed over there after a chilly day of climbing. The food was good and the atmosphere was very chill. We had dinner and margaritas and then went back to crash at the 3 bedroom place that we were renting.

Sunday turned out to be a very exciting day. Chad had planned for us to do a 6 pitch climb up a small mountain. This was the first time that I had used cams and rock nuts, and also the only time that I've climbed outdoors and done multiple pitches. We spent the majority of the day making our way to the top; but time didn't matter. We were all in good spirits; the rainy weather had cleared, so it was a beautiful 80 degree day. Beautiful until I realized that I should probably have sunscreen. I would regret not thinking about that on Monday...

We reached the top around 3:00, headed back to the car, and arrived back in Jersey City around 10:00pm. All of us were tired from the weekend, and the long drive home so we crashed fairly early.

Nirupa & I spent the day in Manhattan on Monday. We didn't do anything in particular; my only request was not to visit any tourist attractions. We walked about 4 miles along 5th Avenue through lots of different neighborhoods before ending up in Soho. We met up with Sanjay for lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant, as he was studying for most of the day. The food was great; I had been meaning to try Ethiopian for a few years, but I never had a chance the last time that I was in Washington DC. One may wonder what Ethiopians eat besides dirt and water - I'm here to put that fallacy to rest. Our meal consisted of many different types of lentils; it was very similar to Indian food. We ate with our fingers and used bread to pickup the food. I wish I could remember the starts with an 'm'. We headed into Chinatown for bubble tea before it was time for me to go to the airport.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I just landed in the hot & humid Carribean. I'm here for work for the week. I have a wonderful view of the ocean from my room, although I doubt I'll get to enjoy it much this week. If I'm lucky, I'll have a few hours to relax on the beach at the end of each day.

I'm looking forward to seeing some people that I haven't seen in a while. One thing that I've noticed after having a long-distance relationship & multiple friendships which are separated by thousands of miles, is that it takes effort to maintain those relationships. I feel somewhat bad whenever I commit to communicating with someone, and forget about it once I get caught up in the routine of my life back home. I think that most people are used to not talking when someone isn't near, but yet everyone says 'talk to you soon' and 'we have to get together more often'. The majority of those parting words are empty; it allows both parties to say goodbye and be comfortable. Although I try to keep a 'I'll see you when I see you' attitude for those far away aquiantances, I myself am guilty of it.