Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Tales

Well with Christmas over and the holidays winding down I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the wonderful events that Erin and I have gotten to be a part of over the past few weeks.

The festivities began about two weeks ago when we went to our supper club, where each month one couple from the group picks a new place for us to get together for dinner.  This last time we all met at Tambien (near Cherry Creek Mall) for Mexican food as well as a White Elephant gift exchange.  If you can't tell from the picture I got an exciting leopard-print snuggie while Erin ended up with one of the gifts we had given.  It was all a lot of fun as we enjoyed some good food.

Later that week, Erin's sister Amy was in town to receive her PhD in Atmospheric Science from CSU.  The whole family was very proud of her and there were some good speeches at the graduation ceremony.  It was also nice to see Fort Collins and have dinner up there.

On Tuesday, last week, Erin and I made our way to Littleton for dinner with my aunt and uncle.  They served us a delicious chili meal before we did our gift exchange.  They gave us several wine-related gifts as they knew we both appreciated wine, including at very nice picnic wine case.  I can see us getting a lot of use out of it.  Erin and I also had a lot of fun designing some ceramic salt and pepper shakers for them with activities that my aunt and uncle enjoy.

On Christmas eve Erin and I went to spend time with Erin's family.  We started by all meeting up at the movie theater to watch "Up in the Air" with George Clooney.  It was an interesting movie about a life of permanent travel and the lack of personal relationships that usually entails.  After the movie we went out for a delicious lunch.  The rest of the evening was spent preparing and eating dinner, playing a rivoting game of darts, and just enjoying each-others company.

Christmas day found us opening presents and stockings.  Erin now has several books to read for the rest of her Winter break this upcoming week and I have a gift certificate to get some new clothes.  Erin and I spent much of the rest of the day putting together a puzzle, but we took breaks to play games such as one Amy's husband Kevin came up with which involves writing a phrase at the top of a piece of paper and passing it to the person on your left.  The fun in the game comes from having to draw a picture of the phrase, folding the paper so the next person can't see the original phrase, passing it to the next person, and writing a description of the picture you've been handed.  As this continues the phrases and the pictures start to look nothing like the original phrase and once the paper is full, it's fun to look back at how things changed.

On the day after Christmas some of Erin's parents' friends came by for breakfast and there was a lot of catching up.  Then Amy and Kevin came back by before Amy had to head back to the airport.  We enjoyed lunch and a walk at the Streets of Southglen before packing up and heading back home.  All in all it's been a very nice Christmas and Erin and I are very grateful for the wonderful friends and family that we've had a chance to spend it with.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thanksgiving, Weird Musical, and Lots of Work

I've been very busy with work these past few weeks and have let blogging fall behind, but I'm having a hard time focusing on work this morning so I thought it was time to catch up here. 

First off, Erin and I had an enjoyable trip out to California for Thanksgiving.  While there were short lines at the airport and a comfortable flight over, our smooth traveling came to an end when we got out onto the 405 freeway in Los Angeles.  I knew it was going to be bad from previous experience, but I guess I hadn't considered how bad when we were making our plans and buying tickets.  Six hours of driving later we finally made it to my parents place in Tulare.  The next day, Thanksgiving, was clear and warm out so we enjoyed going on a walk and sitting out in the sun before having a delicious meal.  Friday night gave us a chance to see our friends Joe and Angie before heading back home on Saturday.  As the trip back took far less time we still had the energy when we got back to Denver to go out and celebrate two years of being together at Nono's Cafe where we had our first date.

The main excitement last week came when someone at Erin's school was giving away tickets to the musical "Spring Awakening".  Erin had been interested in seeing the musical mainly because the theater group had sent out a rare warning on the potential shocking nature of the play.  That and the fact that Erin was able to get the well-placed seat tickets for free enticed me to join her.  The play did deliver on the shocking promise of brief nudity, simulated teenage sex, and other adult themes including rape and masochism.  However, that didn't bother me as much as the singing which didn't seem to always fit with the original play and the expressionist nature of bright lights shining on the audience.  The on-stage band's musical performance though was often very good and the whole thing was a unique experience.  Still, I don't think I'll be attending many more musicals in the near future.

The highlight of this week has been picking Erin's parents up at the airport after their exciting trip to Argentina.  Unfortunately, far too much of that excitement came from being mugged in Buenos Aires at the end of their trip.  Fortunately both of them came through the experience with only large scrapes and some money gone.  Erin's mom even got her snatched purse back after visiting the police station in the rough neighborhood where the attack happened.  Erin and I are glad that they made it back home safe and sound.

Well, I guess I had better get back to work now.  But I'll leave with a picture of the little Christmas tree that we decorated Wednesday night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Free Museums, Warren Miller, and Birthday Recap

November has been a busy month for Erin and I which is one of the reasons I haven't written recently.  Both of us have been battling a cold which has made me even less excited about writing.  As I turn one year older and feel like I'm getting over this cold I feel like it's time to catch up.  Most of my time has been spent programming a new water gate program for local and international distribution.  Fortunately, Erin and I have found time on the weekends for some fun activities.

On the 7th, Denver museums we're having a free night and shuttles to help people get around.  Erin and I started out at the Museum of Contemporary Art around 5pm.  The art was okay, but the best part was that the bar on the roof was open allowing us to get a drink while looking over the city.  Before long our friends, Brian, Cassie, and Neil joined us on the roof and with the Autumn sun set we watched fireworks being shot from a nearby roof.  We ended up getting some dinner at a pub near Neil's place before heading over to the Molly Brown House Museum.  The main draw was to see my aunt Janet dressed up as Margaret Brown in traditional clothes and a bonnet.  Unfortunately, the line was so long to get in the house that by the time we we're finished and had taken photos the museums were closing so we ended up at a nearby bar before heading home.

The following weekend Erin's school was showing the latest Warren Miller film with a lift ticket to one of the ski resorts included in the movie ticket price.  My friend Andres and his friend Joe joined us for the night as we enjoyed the ski film, vied for fabulous door prizes, and finished the night back at our place playing video games.  It was a fun night, but by the next morning I had finally come down with the cold Erin had been battling for a week already and I wasn't feeling like doing anything but staying home on the couch.

Fortunately by Thursday of this week I was feeling better for my birthday.  Erin and I joined our friends at a supper club that we've been holding for the past few months.  This month found us at the Budapest Bistro on Pearl St.  While the food was a little salty it was good and I enjoyed the change.  I especially enjoyed the chocolate crepe my friend Erich got me.  What was really surprising was when we saw Erin's parents walk by the window and waved them in.  We had a nice chat with them before returning to our meal and being pleasantly surprised when the check came to find that they had paid for Erin and my dinner.  Of course, the best gift of my birthday were tickets to the U2 concert this summer that Erin got us.

We were fortunate to see Erin's parents again on Saturday as we went out to lunch at their favorite Vietnamese restaurant.  It reminded me of going to a great Vietnamese place with my friend Matt back in college when we got a whole fish.  Upon hearing this Erin and her parents insisted that we get the same dish.  The food was delicious and it was funny to watch Erin's dad make the fish talk.

Saturday night was when we had planned to celebrate my birthday with some "shady" activities.  We started the night at the Green Mountain Family Shooting Center.  While Erin was hesitant about shooting she soon got the feel of it and we all had a good time.  We followed shooting with dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant in a sketchy-looking part of Lakewood.  While the neighborhood doesn't look good the food was delicious and we were soon on to our next stop at a nearby bar with billiards tables.

It felt appropriate for the theme of the night that as we were pulling into the parking lot for the bar we were following two police cars that seemed to be heading for the same place.  In the end the cops just seemed to be making sure nothing bad went on and we had a great time drinking, playing pool, and talking.  All in all I had a great time and was glad my friends could come out and share in the activities.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Snow Daze and Halloween Fun

This past week has been an interesting one as we got our first major snow storm.  What was remarkable was that because of it Erin got, not one, not two, but three snow days where she didn't have to go in to work.  On Wednesday she was absolutely ecstatic and while I was happy for her I wished at the time (6am) that she would stop jumping up and down on the bed so I could get my last hour of sleep.  On Thursday, as the storm worsened and Erin learned the night before that there wouldn't be school for a second day we were both happy.  By Friday though, as Erin learned that she would have a third snow day, her feelings were mixed.  Having been cooped up inside for the past three days we were starting to get a little stir crazy.  Erin's also worried now that she'll have to make up some of those days on Saturdays or in the summer.  Still, I'm happy for the extra time we got to spend with each other (even if I still had to do my work).

By the time Halloween came on Saturday night we were excited to get dressed up and head out.  We were having dinner and doing pumpkin carving at our friend's Rachel and Cameron's house.  The party was a lot of fun as we had some delicious chilli and enjoyed carving our pumpkin.  While our pumpkin was very soft and kind of frozen from sitting out in the snow storm we were still able to carve a decent Frankenstein monster in it.  By the end of the night we were exhausted though and happy to sleep in Rachel and Cameron's guest bedroom. 

 For our costumes Erin had seen a Halloween costume news piece with a picture of a guy with a golf ball sticking out of his head so we re-created the costumes of an unfortunate golfing accident.  The great part is that we were able to get most of our costumes at a Goodwill store for very little money.  Of course as we were taking the photo Erin asked, "So how do I hold this golf club?"...It may be awhile before I take her golfing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Break

As Fall Break ends for Erin we're reminiscing on all that we've done over the past week.  In fact, it's been a few weeks since I've written.  There were some high points since then such as our supper club at "Bones" in Denver and dinner at our friend's Rachel and Cameron's house followed by drinks with our friends Pete, Leah, Erich, and Brad at the Candlelight.  But much of the time was spent working as Erin has been trying to keep up with grading and I've been programming.

That's why this week has been so fun as we've taken time to enjoy some free time together.  The break got off to a shaky start as Erin pulled a muscle in her neck last weekend and needed to not move too much for a couple of days.  But on Monday she was ready to go as we drove down to Penrose for some fall-time harvesting.  We had found an apple orchard down there that also had a pumpkin patch.  It was fun to get out and do some picking.  It reminded me a lot about picking apricots from the tree in our backyard when I was growing up.  While at the orchard we were also able to pick out a nice big pumpkin.  It ended up being a fun time even though it included a lot of driving in comparison to picking.

On Tuesday we left on a surprise that Erin had planned for me.  We ended up on a beautiful hike above Boulder before the weather turned bad.  Then Erin continued the surprise by checking us into the Bradley Bed and Breakfast in Boulder.  It turned out to be one of the best B&B's that we've stayed in and was quite romantic.  To top it all off we went to a wonderful French resteraunt on Pearl St. called L'Atelier.  While we had been planning on going on another hike on Wednesday the snow that had come over night and the continuing rain drove us back to Castle Rock.

Thursday night is was my turn to plan the evening.  Based on a movie we had watched the previous weekend we decided to have a "James Bond" night.  We got dressed up and went out on the town (Castle Rock) to find the best martinis.  While the first place we went to, Uniscali, didn't have martinis, they did have some very good appetizers that served as dinner.  Our next stop, Sienna's, proved to be better for our evening with $5 martini happy hour and a wide selection.  After a quick stop at the video store we finished the evening back at home, curled up in front of the fire watching another cheesy Bond film.

On Friday night we came to the part of the week that we had been looking forward to for a long time.  Back in April Erin had gotten tickets for us to go see "Wicked", a musical based on what happens in Oz before Dorothy gets there in "The Wizard of Oz."  It is a very interesting and compelling story that I enjoyed very much.  Having seen it once before, Erin was convinced that if I was going to like a musical, this would be it.  We both had a great time at the show and I would see it again.  We had also decided that we would make the night extra special by staying for the night at the hotel Magnolia.  We had stayed there once before and found it very nice for the price.

On Saturday our adventure continued as we went to Littleton for a walk along the Platt river and lunch at Tres Jolie.  My aunt and uncle had gotten us a gift certificate for the shop and it was very nice.  The teas were delicious as were the pastries that accompanied them.  Having some time we then went in search of Halloween costumes.  Our first stop was the popular Reinke Bros. in downtown Littleton.  While they had several traditional costumes and accessories we were narrowing in on something a bit more creative.  A stop at the nearby Goodwill store provided the clothes we needed for our costumes.  I'll leave the surprise of what we're going to be for my next post.

To finish off Saturday, Erin went out with her friends to "Canvas and Cocktails" where they all enjoyed drinks while painting.  At the same time I met up with my friend Andres to play some video games and just hang out.  It turned out to be a fun night for both Erin and I. 

So today as the Fall Break comes to an end it has been nice to look back at all the fun things we've done.  We're going to catch a movie with our friends Brian and Cassie this afternoon before descending into the reality of the early wake-up and return to work that comes tomorrow.  Still, there's always next weekend to look forward to!

Friday, October 23, 2009


I've finally got a working neuroevolution base which is doing well with basic conditional tests (e.g. xor). Now there are all sorts of avenues I want to start exploring and I'm having a hard time deciding which to follow:
  1. Node functions: Currently, each node utilizes a step function based on a random threshold. Most neural networks use some combination of sigmoid and similar functions, so I'd like my neural networks to have use of those as well. However, I then saw a paper on Cartesian Genetic Programming (CGP) which unlike genetic programming (GP) uses a network structure (instead of a tree) to represent programs and emphasizes separating the genotype and the phenotypic representation. As I read this I thought about giving the nodes in my networks even more functions to use: how could I have functions that take in types that are not real numbers? How would nodes coordinate between their outputs and expected inputs if they're different types?

  2. Evolutionary Strategies: There seems to be some different definitions for this, but I take it to mean applying a genetic algorithm not just to the neural networks I'm developing, but also to the parameters that define the bounds on those networks. In particular, there's a method called Covariance Matrix Adaptation - Evolutionary Strategy (CMA-ES) which drives these changes in a way that reduces wasting effort on parameters that are closely correlated.

  3. Problem Classification: Currently my networks can handle an array of real numbers for their input and produce an array of real numbers for their output. I'd like the program to handle different forms of data and produce different types of output. What's more, once the program has solved several different types of problems, it should be able to tell from the data coming in (based on a classifier network) what kind of problem it is and create the initial parameters accordingly.

  4. Human-Assisted Selection: There are already several systems that create a random group of individuals, ask the user to select which ones they prefer, and make the next generation from that. I'd like to have the same ability with my program. On another level, a neural network could use the initial population of individuals as its input and the user's selection as its expected output to train it in making suggestions to the user.

  5. Multilevel Selection: By creating additional populations of individuals, more complex behavior can be generated...
In reality, all of these are fascinating concepts that I would like to explore, but the choice of problem is the problem. All of these avenues of interest are things that I believe would make the program smarter, but how do you prove it without a good test. There are common tests like the double pole balancing problem which I'm incorporating, but where do I go from there?

It has started me thinking on a very interesting set of questions: Can you use neuroevolution in a cumulative fashion so that you train a network to do one thing and then train it to do something more advanced based on the initial training? It's the adage that you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run (even though one isn't use to do the next).

Are there learning tracks where you train a neural network the first thing on the track and that prepares it to learn the next thing, and so on? Or is it more of a network where each learning outcome is a node and the nodes feeding into the next layer of nodes all need to be learned before the next layer can be learned? This seems more logical to me. Not only does a person need to learn how to crawl, but they also must learn how to stand before they learn how to walk. Maybe a feed-forward network, since it's unlikely that something learned down the line would be required for an earlier learning node (though back-propagation does seem in effect to strengthen the earlier understandings).

The question then becomes, what starts the whole thing off? What are the first things that babies learn and must master before they can progress to the next stage of learning? Certainly as a person gains experience in multiple, cross-cutting fields (e.g. music, language), the inspiration and understanding to progress becomes more complex, but what about at the very beginning? Is it something that can be mapped out? Has someone already done this?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Did Summer Go?

Or even Autumn for that matter?  One week it's summer and the next it feels like we skipped directly to Winter.  The picture to the left is from our porch in Castle Rock, CO where it has started snowing.  We had snow a week or two ago too, but this is the first time it's actually stayed on the ground.  I didn't think this was supposed to happen at least until Halloween!

I suppose it was a sign of the season as Erin and I went to get our flu shots on Tuesday last week.  While our arms both felt sore afterward, we weren't otherwise side-affected.

Still, when my friend Andres invited me to watch baseball last Thursday I thought it was a good omen for the last remnants of Summer.  While the game was a lot of fun and the Rockies won, I was sorely disappointed in terms of the weather.  It was okay in the sun, but the wind was bitterly cold in the shade where we were seated.  It was nice to get after the game and get a beer and a burger.

Then this past weekend Erin and I attempted to ride up to see the Fall foliage like we did last year (Enjoying Fall Foliage, Ouzo, and Bowling).  This time we were able to go with our friends Brian and Cassie (also on their motorcycle).  After meeting our wedding videographer to see a first cut of our wedding video (which looked very nice) we met up and headed up to the mountains.  The ride started nicely, but got colder the higher up we got until we stopped at a light and Erin exclaimed how cold she was.  Still, I pressed on hoping to find a good spot to view the changing colors.  After a while though I realized that it wasn't going to happen with the route we had chosen and the approaching storm clouds.  We turned around and went back to Brian and Cassie's place.

Back in the warmth of their home we were treated to a warm, delicious meal and a touching movie.  We also got to spend time with Neal's dog Bart (pictured right) who Brian and Cassie were looking after for the weekend.  He's such a friendly and well-trained dog that it's hard not to like him.

On Sunday Erin and I did some work and ran errands until it was time to start preparing dinner.  It was our pleasure to host my aunt and uncle down to our place for some lemon chicken picatta.  We had a great time chatting and catching up.

So now Erin and I are getting ready to head out to our monthly supper club up in Denver.  Of course it would be snowing and I hope it lets up soon.  Fortunately Erin doesn't have work tomorrow so we can sleep in, stay inside, and hopefully keep warm!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


This past weekend Erin and I flew out to Milwaukee to celebrate one of her cousin's getting married.  As I had never been to Wisconsin before I was interested to see what it would be like.  So on Friday morning we got up early and got to the airport with no problems.  Arriving in Milwaukee in the afternoon we met up with Erin's parents who had rented a car.  Driving through the city on our way out to the city of Brown Deer where our hotel was provided a nice view of the city.  Much of the countryside reminded me of Georgia for some reason with its dense woods and lush green lawns.

At our hotel we met up with Erin's brother, Andrew, and his girlfriend, Sara.  Once we had all checked in we found that the hotel bar was serving martinis and decided to have a drink.  After finishing our drinks we thought it would be good if we went out in search of a walk to do before the rehearsal dinner.  While we were able to find some nice river-side roads near our hotel it soon began rain and walking was out of the question.  So we returned to the hotel bar for more to drink as we played cards and waited for dinner.  The dinner was a delicious Italian meal out at the brides' parent's house where I got to meet much of Erin's extended family.  They were all very nice and we had a great time.  We even had a chance to sit around the fire pit as the rain let up.

On Saturday we got up and had breakfast at a nearby Denny's before heading out to walk around a lake we had driven by the day before.  The area was very nice and green, but with the sky still overcast and the humidity starting to be felt more heavily, it seemed to be a very wet area.  After getting cleaned up we were off to the traditional Catholic wedding just outside of historic Cedarsburg.  Afterwards, as pictures were being taken we had time to wander around the charming city before the reception.  One of our most favorite places was a brew pub down on the river.  In a very relaxing setting Erin finally found a beer that she liked (Framboise) and we all enjoyed the chance to talk.  As the reception was being held at the hotel we were staying at we eventually made our way back there for the festivities.  The new couple looked very happy together as they danced and we got a chance to see a slide-show of pictures from their lives.

For Sunday we had talked about several potential things to do before we all left.  We started out with some geocaching, using a GPS to find a box hidden by others.  While it took us a while to find the cache it turned out to be in a very pretty nature preserve.  We were then on our way back to city to see the Andy Warhol exhibit in the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The museum had some very nice exhibits and some exciting architecture.  It includes an elaborate, wing-like brise soleil which shades the museum (pictured as its opening).

Before too long though it was time to catch our flight.  We said our goodbyes and made out way to the airport.  It was good visiting with all of Erin's relatives and getting to see Wisconsin.  I certainly have a higher opinion of the area now that I've had a chance to see it first-hand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kart Racing, IMAX, and Pottery Painting

This past weekend was an exciting one for Erin and I as we did a diversity of activities.  Friday, after Erin got off work, we went over to the Union for happy hour - which is turning out to be a low-cost ritual for our Friday afternoons.  That evening we played a board game while eating apple pie and drinking port.  It was a very enjoyable experience that Erin had set up and shared with me.

On Saturday we went to celebrate our friend Andres' birthday out at the Centennial Track.  There we all got suited up with helmets, gloves, and overalls before climbing into karts for some racing around the .8 mile track.  While we only got to race for about 10 minutes it was fun.  After the race we hung out a bit with Andres and the rest of his friends before going over to Erin's parent's house for dinner.

Erin's sister Amy was in town preparing to defend her thesis on Monday, so we went to see her and visit with Erin's parents.  They took us all out to this authentic Mexican restaurant called "El Paraiso" in North-West Denver.  Unlike the typical tacos and burritos this place had a wide variety of traditional Mexican dishes.  The food turned out to be good and with generous portions.  There was also a mariachi band playing adding to the atmosphere.

More fun came later in the weekend as Erin and I went downtown to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to watch an IMAX show.  Being located in city park, the museum's location gave us a chance to have a nice walk around the park before our show started.  We watched a show called "Wild Ocean" about an aquatic feeding frenzy that happens off the coast of South Africa each year.  It was amazing being immersed in the underwater action the way that an IMAX movie provides.

After the show we went to Ceramics in the City where we got to pick out a piece of pottery to paint.  After a long deliberation we settled on salt and pepper shakers along with a common theme of nature.  We both had a really good time as we painted our designs on our shakers.  We finally finished and gave the shakers to the attendant to be glazed and fired.  We're looking forward to seeing how they turn out next week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day to Day Stuff

Erin and I often joke about how the main reason for this blog is so that when we're old and our memory goes it will be the only way for us to remember what happened.  The thing is, sometimes I even forget to write and then can't remember what we did even two weeks ago.  So here's my best stab at what we've been up to (mainly gathered from what's still on my calendar):

The last week of August found me in the doctor's office for a regular checkup with everything checking out well.  Later in the week Erin and I met with an accountant to see if we needed his help with taxes now that we're married.  While he was very informative (and talkative) I don't think we actually make enough money right now to need his services (or afford them).  That weekend Erin and I had a nice day downtown as we went to the Tattered Cover and enjoyed a glass of wine in the Highlands.  That weekend also gave us an opportunity to get out on the motorcycle and ride around the countryside.

Last weekend Erin and her girlfriends went up to Vail for a jazz festival.  She really enjoyed seeing the Black Eyed Peas and being with her friends.  While I spent most of that time at home I went out several nights with my friends as well.  It was fun to spend time with our friends and on Sunday when Erin got back it was nice to be back together.

For this past week I've been dog sitting for my aunt and uncle.  They have a very nice dog that has a lot of energy and goes crazy sometimes around other dogs.  It's been good going up to see her each day and take her out for walks.  Since I only see her in the afternoons it has given Erin and I the opportunity to go out each night this weekend.  On Saturday we went out to watch a movie ("The Proposal") and have dinner with our friend's Brian and Cassie.  This night we went over to Erin's parents for a wonderful Lemon Chicken Picatta dinner.

So that's the last few weeks in a nutshell.  Hopefully I'll remember to keep up with the blog so it doesn't go so long.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Botanical Gardens Concert

Last weekend was busy as Erin and I were seeing people every night.  On Friday night we met a colleague of mine from a previous job.  He treated us to dinner at a local Mexican food place since he lives just a few miles south of us and wanted to congratulate us for getting married.  I really enjoyed the food and it was nice to catch up.  I think it will be nice to go down to Monument and see him and his girlfriend for dinner again when we get the chance.

On Saturday we had planned to have our friends Brian, Cassie, and Neil down for dinner as they have had us over for dinner so many times.  It took some time to prepare all the food and make sure that the place was all cleaned up, but we all had a great time.  I hope we can do it again in a month or two and maybe even make a habit out of it.  I think I was finally getting the hang of the Balderdash game we were playing and want to have another shot at it.

On Sunday, Erin's parents treated us to a concert at Denver's Botanical Garden.  All summer long the Garden has had bands playing on weekend evenings while people come out to picnic and listen.  They've also had an exhibit theme of dinosaurs throughout the Garden.  For our picnic/concert we listened to Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos.  While it was very crowded as people tried to find good spots on the lawn around the arena, we were able to find a level spot that wasn't too far away.  It was very fun to have our picnic, talk, and listen to the music under the warm sunset sky.  In between sets we even got a chance to roam the garden and admire the plants and exhibits.

All in all it was a very social weekend.  It was a fun time, but now this weekend we're taking a much more relaxed pace.  I'm sure it won't be long though when we're out eating with someone else.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Boulder Wedding

Erin and I went to our first wedding since being married this past weekend.  It was for Erin's friend Alison.  It was interesting to attend a wedding together that wasn't our own.  On our way up to the rehearsal dinner in Boulder we were able to play with our new phones (okay, I played - she drove).  We then had appetizers and a nice dinner at the Boulder Brewing Company.  While we didn't know too many people there we got to know a lot of them after a while.  Still, we were feeling a little bit on our own as the patio grew dark and Erin worried about how she would read the toast she had prepared.  I suggested that she could use one of the candles at our table.

It was then that the funniest thing of the entire weekend happened.  Realizing that the candle wouldn't provide enough light, Erin placed it back down on the table and tried to tilt the paper to catch what little light was outside to see.  After a moment or two she asked, "Do you smell something burning?"  As she lifted her head we realized that it was, in fact, her hair that was burning.  She quickly patted it out and you couldn't see any hair on fire, but the damage was done.  What's more, the stench was terrible.  We looked at each other and instantly started laughing.

The rest of the evening went by without incident.  After a great deal of laughing between the two of us and a trip to the bathroom for Erin to wash her hair, the night finished without further incident.  There were several nice (and some funny) things said about the couple before Erin and I made our way back to our hotel for a dip in the jacuzzi.  The next day we met up with the group and all got on shuttles up to Sunrise Amphitheater above Boulder.  The views were beautiful with several hawks circling the sky.  The ceremony was similarly beautiful and showed the unique creativity of Alison, Matt, and their friends and family.

The reception followed back down in Boulder at The Rembrandt Yard, an art studio on 13th street.  It was a nice place for the reception with several pieces of art decorating the walls.  After a delicious dinner Erin and I drove back down to Castle Rock.  Another busy weekend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Settling in, Jury Duty, and Hiking La Plata

Erin and I have been back from our honeymoon about two weeks now.  That gave us some time to enjoy summer back in Denver before Erin started back at teaching.  We got a chance to have a big party for Erin's sister Amy who was moving with her husband to Baltimore as he pursues medical school and she works at a new government job.  We also got to see our friends Brian and Cassie for dinner early last week and go hiking with some of Erin's fellow teachers up at Evergreen.

One of our most interesting post-honeymoon summer experience was riding the motorcycle up to the Buck Snort Saloon in the mountains.  The road I chose to get there turned out to be pretty rough, but it was exciting.  As we turned off the main road up a dirt road to the address we wondered if we had the right directions.  Then up this narrow canyon we came to the saloon that had been in business for over a century (and it showed).  The food was good and we enjoyed the adventure of finding it.

Now that Erin's back teaching we've started to settle into a rhythm as I stay home to work and take of house chores.  It has provided me with a great deal of flexibility I found as I was called in for jury duty on Monday.  Fortunately I wasn't picked to sit on the jury but it was interesting to see the process.  I'm glad I wasn't picked since I had planned to go hiking with my uncle on Tuesday.  Erin and I enjoyed a delicious meal with my aunt Janet and uncle Reynold at their place in Littleton where I stayed that night to get up early for the hike.

Reynold and I got up around 3:30 AM yesterday to go up towards Leadville.  We got to the trail-head for La Plata ("silver" in Spanish), Colorado's fifth tallest mountain at around 14,361 feet.  It took us about 4 hours to get to the summit which was clear and sunny.  After a brief pause we made our way back down and back home.  With 4,500' of gain and 9.5 miles round trip it was a pretty exhausting hike.  It was really beautiful, but now I remember why I only do about one 14'er a year.  So today I'm back in front of the computer working and recuperating.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Miles of Driving to Make it Home

Well, Erin and I are finally back home.  After leaving Lake Tahoe we headed East across Nevada.  As the end of our honeymoon approached we had miles of driving ahead of us...miles of incredibly boring driving ahead of us.  On Saturday we had tried to leave early enough to make it to our next destination before nightfall.  But as the sun began to set on Ruby Mountain we were still far from our destination.  Fortunately we found a place to eat dinner so we wouldn't have to cook in the dark.  While the place was very small-town (with a taxidermy diorama the size of a small room) the food was excellent and we felt ready to find our camp in the dark.  With a bit more driving we finally found our campsite and got setup.

The next morning we were up and on the road early as we had one of the longest drives of our trips.  For eight hours or so we made our way through Utah and up into Wyoming until we got to Flaming Gorge.  Much of our day was spent on the road.  After driving so long we were disappointed to find a sparsely facilitated campground.  Still, we were able to make the most of it, cook some dinner, and even enjoy some sparklers we had brought along.  While the lightning from passing storms was exciting the light it cast on the tent was slightly eerie.

When we got up the next morning we were not looking forward to more time on the road, but we knew we would be home that night.  Not having the energy to fix breakfast we packed up and headed for a nearby lodge.  There we found a beautiful view of a lake and attractive cabins.  While the meal was only average we were treated to a nice view of several hummingbirds on the lodge's deck.  A little driving brought us back to the Flaming Gorge Dam and the last site of our trip.  From there it was another long drive back to Colorado.

It's been a wonderful trip and a great honeymoon.  Erin and I have learned more about ourselves and each other than we knew before.  The difficulties of camping have brought a greater appreciation for some of the basic things in our lives like electricity and the internet.  While we saw many sites and got to experience many exciting activities there are several places we wished we could have spent more time at.  Erin described it best as a "wine tasting" of travel.  We got to taste a little bit of many different places and while some were good and some were bad, we now know what we would like to drink more deeply and where we want to re-visit.  Through all the good and the bad, the fun and the difficult, I've become more certain of the exceptional partner I have in Erin and I'm looking forward to many more adventures with her.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ballooning and Driving From Coast to Mountains

After having gotten up at 4:30am on Tuesday and told we couldn't go hot-air ballooning because of the fog we were dutifully up again at 4:30am on Wednesday to try again with a different operator.  This time things went much smoother.  A driver picked us up and took us to Napa where we joined other people heading out.  The pilots indicated there was fog again that morning, but instead of cancelling they took us over the hills to Winters in the Central Valley to take off.  While the basket was a bit crowded with 16 passengers plus the pilot the ride was very pleasant.  The hour-long trip took us over a variety of fields (including sunflowers which we wouldn't have gotten to see in Napa).  The price of the flight included a delicious champagne brunch back in Napa as well.

When all was done we went back to camp and packed up.  Before leaving Napa Valley though we went to one more tasting.  This one, at Frog's Leap, was very relaxing with some really nice wines.  Soon though we were on the road to our next destination, Mendocino.  The road to get there (CA-128) was long and twisty, but the redwood forest we drove through was very beautiful.  Once there, we were greeted with the coastal fog we had grown to expect.  It did however make our cozy bed-and-breakfast cottage that more attractive with its little fireplace and thick sheets.  After dinner in town we had no problem getting to sleep with such a long day behind us.

The fog was even thicker when we got up Thursday morning and we were reluctant to leave our cottage.  Once out though we took a stroll through town to see the boutique shops and get some lunch for the road.  We even found a nice, secluded trail down to a small cove where we found several shiny pieces of abalone shell.  Soon though we were back on the beautiful, twisty road as we made our way to Lake Tahoe.  With heavy traffic north of the San Francisco bay and construction at many places our trip took close to nine hours.  Arriving at our campground in the dark it was all we could do to set up our tent, blow up the air mattress, and roll out our sleeping bags before we crashed into them.

In the morning we awoke to what turned out to be a beautiful, relaxing campground.  We took a walk down to the beach to dip our toes into the clear, cool water before relaxing for a spell.  Then, for one of our most enjoyable parts of our trip, we got on a sunset, sailboat cruise of the lake - including beer/chardonay and appetizers.  As the first time either of us had been on a sailboat of this size (35') we were both impressed with the cruise.

While we hadn't seen too many people when we got in to Lake Tahoe on Thursday or driving around on Friday, we certainly found plenty of them Saturday afternoon.  In the morning we had a chance to lay out on the same beach we had walked to the day before.  After that though we found the crowds hovering around a final look over the lake at Inspiration Point.  They continued to be a problem as we went into town looking for a place to change the oil on the car.  We finally gave up and have come to Reno to get it taken care of.  Now we start our long trek back to Colorado.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cold Central California Coast

Though we had been warned about it, Erin and I were still surprised at the cooler weather up the coast of Central California.  Starting in Pismo and for the rest of our time at the coast we often had to bundle up at night and accept that our views would be obscured by fog.  Still, we found places along the beautiful drive to stop and hike, take pictures, and have something to eat.  Fortunately in Big Sur we got a bit of a reprieve from the weather at one of the better campsites that we've stayed at, Fernwood Resort and Campground.  There we found clean facilities, a site by the river, and plenty of good firewood.

It gave us the energy to get up the next day for a hike up to a view of the valley we were staying in and a nice waterfall.  Continuing up the coast there were more places to stop, but with the fog as bad as it was, we kept right on going to our hotel in Monterey.  Situated in downtown Monterey just a block from the water, it provided us a comfortable place to relax after all our camping.  After a coffee shop to catch up on email and dinner we were both ready to go to bed.

On Sunday we got up late, checked out of the hotel, and got some tasty crepes for breakfast.  We then took a walk along a delightful bike path by the shore which took us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The aquarium was filled with all sorts of undersea exhibits and creatures.  Unfortunately, since it was the weekend, it was also full of families and children.  Some displays were so popular that it was difficult to get a peek and while we enjoyed the visit, we were pretty tired of the crowds by the time we were done.  That afternoon we drove up to Santa Cruz and were able to find a laundromat to do some much-needed laundry.  That night it was back to camping as we drove into the boondocks to find Sunset State Beach.

Monday was another busy day as we got up and headed in to Santa Cruz to enjoy the beach and find a coffee shop for breakfast.  Santa Cruz struck us as run-down and not as nice as Monterey.  While we found a decent coffee shop we found better beaches up in Half Moon Bay a short drive up the coast.  After a brief walk along the cliffs above the beach there we were back in the car heading in to San Francisco.  We hadn't planned to spend much time there so we just stopped at Fisherman's Wharf from some delicious lunch before heading up over the Golden Gate Bridge.  We did find some time though to stop in Muir Forest just north of the city where we went on a beautiful walk amongst the redwoods.  After a bit more time in the car we were in Napa and having another wonderful meal; this time at a recommended Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni's.  By the time we got to our camp in the north end of Napa Valley it was already dark and we were presented with the challenge of someone in already in our reserved campsite.  A brief talk with the camp host worked things out and we were soon asleep in a different site.

We didn't get to sleep too long though as we were scheduled to get up on Tuesday morning at 4:30am to go out for a hot-air balloon ride.  Imagine our disappointment though when, after dutifully getting up and on our way out to the meeting place, we get a call from the operator saying they weren't flying due to fog.  Crestfallen and irritated we returned to our camp to get a few more hours of sleep before continuing with the rest of our day's activities.  We then woke up at a leisurely pace, had some breakfast, and headed out.  Our first stop was a tour and tasting at the Castello Di Amorossa.  The castle was beautiful and we were amazed at the detail that went into its construction.  We tasted several nice wines there as well.

The next winery, Schramberg, was a little difficult to find and we showed up a little late.  We however caught up with the tour and then proceeded to taste a lot of champagne.  While both of the tours and the tastings had been fun I was getting tired so we got some lunch and returned to camp.  After some relaxation and an early dinner it was off to bed.  We decided to try our ballooning luck with another company and they needed us to get up just as early as we had on Tuesday.  Stay tuned for pictures and details of that part of our adventure!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Back in California

After writing about how well we were getting this camping thing down, we awoke on Saturday to rain.  Suddenly packing up camp became a wet mess and everything became more difficult.  However, we were able to manage and were soon on the road.  The drive was pleasant, but long and we eventually found ourselves in a world far different from the campsites we had been staying in the past few days: Las Vegas.

Our stay in Las Vegas was a certainly a contrast to where we had been and required some adjustment.  It was nice to get out of the heat of the desert into an air conditioned hotel and the room was very comfortable, but there were a ton of people and distractions everywhere.  That night we met with my friend Billy and his fiancee Alyson for dinner at a sushi place.  From there we had to rush to make our Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio, "O".  We made it just in time and got to enjoy a great show.  With a lot of trapeze and gymnastic acts over an ever changing stage of water it was truly an amazing show.

Sunday found us finally driving into California.  The traffic was just as I remembered it, though maybe not as bad as I was expecting on a Sunday afternoon from Vegas.  I showed Erin where I had lived in Dana Point and we had a delicious Thai meal.  By the time we got into camp and got the tent set up it was already dark though so we called it a night and went to bed.

On Monday we had to get up early to make it to the ferry that would take us out to Catalina Island.  The hour ride was nice and we even got to see a pod of dolphins riding the waves left in the wake of the ferry.  Catalina and the city of Avalon where we landed is very picturesque and we soon found our way to our campground and set up.  The rest of the day was spent laying down on the beach, taking a sea kayak to a nearby cove where we found a seal, and wandering around the town.  We finished the day at the town's beautiful theater where we watched a new movie.  It was very classy with a painted, dome ceiling and comfortable seats.

On Tuesday we had our morning on the island and so decided to take a tour on a semi-submersible vessel to one of the island's coves.  While the pamphlet seemed to over-promise just a bit, we did get to see several fish in their underwater habitat.  Soon enough it was time to head back to the mainland where we started up to Santa Barbara.  We stopped at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Santa Monica on the 3rd Street Promenade as we watched the many people walk by.  When we arrived at our bed and breakfast we were exhausted and happy for a real bed and sheets.

Wednesday morning we were able to get up at a leisurely pace, enjoy breakfast, and try to catch up on work and emails.  We found a nice place to have lunch in downtown Santa Barbara before heading out to wine country.  Looking for some of the places in the movie "Sideways", we stopped at two wineries for tastings.  While the wine didn't seem particularly special to me for their price, we did end up getting a bottle and some peaches before heading into the very Danish town of Solvang.  We ended up at our campsite in Pismo, had a basic dinner, and went to bed.

Thursday gave us a more relaxing day as we got up and took a walk down on the beach.  We found several sand dollars and sea shells while Erin frolicked in the surf.  It was also great to see seals off the coast while pelicans dived into the water.  Surely a sign of a school of fish.  We got our own fresh fish up the coast at Avila beach while whatching more seals sun themselves and prowl for the fish that fishermen were trying to catch.  For lunch we stopped at a place in Morro Bay that my parents had told us about, "The Whale's Tail."  We had a delicious and filling stuffed squid before driving up the coast some more to Hearst Castle.  The castle sat on beautiful grounds while opulently furnished inside.  We finished our tour of the grounds with a video about William Randolf Hearst.  Finally, it was back to camp for a fire, dinner, and warm sleeping bags to keep out the cold that seemed so at odds with what one would expect in California.

Today we're going to enjoy the coast some more as we make our way up to Big Sur.  With all that we've done it's hard to imagine that we're only halfway through our trip.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the blog with all that we're doing a little more frequently.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Canyons, Canyons, and More Canyons

It's been four days since we left the chateau in Grand Junction and since that time we've seen some amazing scenery (mostly canyons).

After a late start and a delicious breakfast on Tuesday we were on the road for Moab...until the chateau caretaker called letting us know we had left some stuff in the room.  Fortunately we hadn't gotten too far before then.  When we had left the first time, I thought it might be too early for wine tasting, but back at the winery/chateau we decided it was a sign that we should see what they had.  After settling on a nice Reisling we were back on the road and headed into the desert.

Moab, while a short drive from Grand Junction, was far hotter than we were used to and once we found our campground we were refreshed to enjoy their pool.  Later, after having spent some time reading and waiting for the sun and the temperatures go down we headed into Arches National Park for a hike out to Delicate Arch.  It was a beautiful hike as the setting sun cast long shadows against the painted desert.  Unfortunately this also meant that by the time we returned back to camp to make dinner it was dark.  Having completed the challenge of cooking in the dark we then had our next challenge of trying to sleep in the still very warm tent.

Having gone from the quiet, air-conditioned bedroom of the chateau to the hot, noisy campground we did not get much sleep.  So as the temperatures rose we broke camp and made a change in our plans deciding to visit Canyonlands National Park instead of doing another hike in Moab.  The decision was well worth it as the Canyonlands provided many exciting and spectacular views.  We continued our drive to Bryce Canyon and were able to find a great campsite even though we had not been able to make reservations.  As the sun set, the view from the rim of Bryce provided more spectacular views for us.  Sitting around the campfire that evening we were happy with the way the day turned out.

Thursday found us rising early and walking down among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.  With a climate that provides 200 days a year of freezing temperatures, Bryce provides an ideal environment for the freezing and thawing cycle that helps break down the rock that makes up the hoodoos.  After our walk we were ready to continue our trip with a drive down to the Grand Canyon.  We arrived with enough time (and light) to set up camp, get some wood for a fire, and get dinner cooked.  I think we're starting to get this camping thing down.

The night before, Erin had pored over our travel and hiking books making a list of things for us to see today (Friday).  So after breakfast, a load of laundry, and moving our campsite (because we weren't able to get a place for two consecutive nights), we were off.  After looking at the Grand Canyon from Cape Royal, Imperial Point, and Bright Angel Point, I have had my fill of canyons.  They've all been very beautiful and today's views have been especially spectacular, but I'm looking forward to the beach and California.

Before that though is a night in Las Vegas where we'll get to see a Cirque du Soleil show, sleep in a bed, and enjoy a shower.  We're both looking forward to it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

1st Day of Honeymoon and Professional Wedding Pictures Slide-Show

After a late start today Erin and I started out on our honeymoon.  There's so much that we've thought of to bring on our three week adventure that I wasn't sure we would be able to fit it all into the car.  While I'm sure we've forgotten something everything miraculously fit and we were off. 

After a few hours in the car we came to our first stop: Hanging Lake.  It is a steep mile climb up to the lake, but it is well worth it.  The lake is so clear and the falls are so picturesque.  We took our time soaking it all in and finally started to feel like it was summer and the relaxing times that come with it.

After our hike we drove some more before ending up at the Two Rivers Chateau in Grand Junction.  This is such a beautiful place to stay and there are only a few other guests so it feels almost like it's our own personal winery chateau.  We followed Erin's father's suggestion to go to dinner at "626 Rood" which was a great choice.  The wine and the meal were excellent.

On returning to our room we've found a link to a slide-show of our wedding images from our photographer.  She did a great job and you can see the result here:

Tomorrow: Moab.  Hopefully it won't be too hot to do a hike.

Wedding, Fireworks, and More!

What an amazing and hectic past two weeks it has been.  Last weekend I got married to my love, Erin.  After all the planning and preparation the weekend went off perfectly with the weather cooperating and everything falling into place.  Friday we had our rehearsal, welcome dinner for our friends and family from out of town, and a ceremony with sparklers in the meadow.  Saturday was the big day with great weather and a wonderful occasion to see so many great people.  On Sunday we recuperated from all the partying with breakfast in bed and massages down by the river before joining a few of our guests for a hike.

While our official photographer is still working on the photos of the event, many people took their own photos and have shared them online:

This past week, Erin and I have had some time to get used to living as husband and wife as we continue to clean and organize our home together.  There have been several nights where we have been able to eat dinner out on the porch as we enjoy the evening air.  It has been very busy to as we have prepared for our honeymoon.

Still, we have had some time to enjoy the company of friends and family.  For the 4th of July Erin's parents came to our place so we could cook some dinner for them and light off fireworks together.  The night included a delicious apple crumble that Erin made and some spectacular fireworks set off in the skies over Castle Rock.

Today, as we've finished preparing for our trip it has at times astounded us that we'll be travelling for three whole weeks.  We have a lot planned and I'm sure it will be a great adventure.  We'll be taking pictures and I'll be updating this blog as frequently as I can depending on where we have internet service.

First up: Hanging Lake hike and Two Rivers Chateau in Grand Junction and then off to Moab, UT.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Moving and Preparing for the Big Day

The past two weeks seem like they've flown by.  The week after I graduated Erin's friend Stefanie was staying with her so we spent a lot of time hanging out and hiking.  She joined us as we got our marriage license at the Castle Rock city hall.  We were surprised at how easy it was for us to get married.  Erin and I each filled out a one-page form and then we gave them $10.  In Colorado you can marry yourselves, so all we have to do now is sign the license and give it back to them for us to be married.

The big event of last weekend was moving in to Erin's condo in Castle Rock.  My friends Brian and Andres helped us as we packed up all of my stuff and drove it here in our trucks.  For some time Erin and I have realized that we have too much stuff and we've been spending a lot of time going through everything and seeing what we can sell or give away.  There's still a lot of boxes and things to organize, but we're getting there.

As for the wedding, there always seems to be something that still needs to be done.  From the music selection to place cards indicating where people should sit, there are plenty of details to keep us busy.  Still, I took a break from it last night to celebrate my bachelor party with my friends.  It was a good time with a lot of drinking involved, but I'm glad we did it this weekend so I have a week to recover before the wedding.

The big day is almost here and we're both really looking forward to it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Important Updates

Friday Night After Rehearsal Meet-up

We're planning on getting together at the Wheel in downtown Estes Park after dinner on Friday night (around 9:30pm).  Anyone in the area is welcome to come join us.

132 E. Elkhorn Avenue

Estes Park, Colorado 80517



The first is information about our shuttle which is relevant to you only if you are staying at Alpine Trail Ridge Inn or Colorado Cottages.  

There will be a shuttle (shuttle being a school bus) that will pick up at Colorado Cottages at 3:00 pm on June 27th and at 3:05 pm(or whenever the bus gets over from Colorado Cottages- 3:05 is a safe estimate) at Alpine Trail Ridge Inn.  The bus will take you to Wild Basin.  Our shuttle does expect service dogs.  The wedding begins at 4:00.   

The bus will take two runs home- one at 9:30 pm and another at 10:30 pm, which is the ending time for our wedding.  This will save you from having to drive- hopefully.  Although those of you in the wedding party will need to be there earlier for pictures, so you may want to work out with significant others who have a car how you and he/she and the car will all make it to the wedding on time and home safely. 

For those staying at Windsong-  it is just down the street- like a 3-5 minute drive- but a pretty long walk. 

Sunday Hike

We are going to take a hike on Sunday.  This is obviously totally optional.  The hike will be at 1:00 pm at Lily Lake.  The hike does not allow pets- I am certain service dogs are the exception.  The hike is 1.1 miles and provides a great opportunity for a short, fairly easy, but scenic hike and an opportunity to hang out with Erin and Myron as Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle.  

From Estes Park, you just head up Highway 7 toward Allenspark.  Lily Lake is located on your right about 10-15 minutes outside of town. 

From Allenspark, you take highway 7 to Estes Park.  Lily Lake is again about a 15 minute drive and will be on your left. 

Make sure to dress in layers, bring good footwear, and bring water. 

Finally-  if you can help us to inform all of our other wedding guests you know who may also need this information, that would be outstanding! 

Thanks so much!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Graduating, a Commissioning, Parents Meeting, and a Bicycle Ride

The past week and a half have been incredibly busy as this full month starts.  Last week I got back from my friend Joe's wedding in Bakersfield, CA to my last classes on Monday.  With those finished, it was time to celebrate.  On Thursday, Erin joined me for my hooding ceremony where I received a graduation hood from the Daniels College of Business.  That night, Erin treated me to a delicious meal at Osteria Marco downtown.  It was wonderful to follow up with a drink on the 16th street mall watching the people walk by.

Friday was the full Denver University Advanced Degree Graduation with Master's and Doctorate candidates.  My parents, aunt and uncle, and Erin met up before the ceremony which ended up lasting about two hours.  Having not gone to my undergraduate graduation ceremony it was interesting.  Afterwards, my aunt Janet and uncle Reynold put on a delicious hamburger bar for all of us along with my friend Brian, his wife, and his parents who I met for the first time.  It was very enjoyable meeting them and I was very grateful for all of the people who helped me achieve my degree.

On Saturday Erin and I got to direct the laudations on Brian as he had his commissioning ceremony and graduation.  With his commissioning Brian became an officer in the US Army as he waits for orders to go to flight school and learn how to fly helicopters.  We followed the ceremony up with a delightful party at Brian's friend Ben's house.  Erin and I couldn't stay too long though as we were getting ready for a dinner where our parents would be meeting for the first time.  Our parents got along very well and though Erin and I had planned on treating both of them for all of their support, my parents insisted on paying.  It was then time to head home and prepare for our next day's activities.

For Erin, Sunday entailed an amazing bridal shower put on by her friends and family.  For me it was a 34 mile bicycle ride in Castle Rock.  This Elephant Rock ride is the first major bike event of the season in the area and when I learned of it I told my uncle Reynold and we both agreed to enter.  This was my first biking event and though I had trained, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Reynold, doing the 100 mile course, started much earlier in the day than me so we actually didn't see each other.  I started around 8:45am and was expecting a time-keeper of some kind, but it turned out to be more of just an organized ride than a race (at least for the 34 mile course).  The course did give me a chance to see the area where I'll be living after this following weekend and it was a beautiful day for a ride.  In the future though, I don't think I'll do rides like this unless there are people I know that I can ride with.

That Sunday night, Erin brought her friend Stephanie back home.  She's staying at Erin's place this week as we enjoy the beauty of Colorado.  Monday she got to witness Erin and I getting our marriage license in Castle Rock.  We were amazed at how easy the process was.  Since Colorado allows self-marriages we just had to fill out a pair of short forms to the best of our knowledge and pay $10.  We'll sign the license after our ceremony and turn it in to make it official.  We celebrated by going out to Wash park that afternoon and then going out for sushi for dinner.

Tuesday found us up in Evergreen for a hike above the lake and lunch down by the river.  That night, Erin and I had our first dance lesson that focuses specifically on our first dance at our wedding.  Erin found a fun dance instructor who worked out of Parker and we really enjoyed the lesson.  We'll be going back two or three more times to really get the dance down.

With all of these activities I took a break Wednesday to just hang out with Brian.  We played tennis in the morning and then spent the rest of the day watching movies.  It was very relaxing, but now I feel the need to get back to work.  Thursday, Erin, Stephanie, and I are mixing the two as we head up to Estes Park to scout out lodging and potential hikes for the day after the wedding.  This weekend, we'll be busy once again as we move me out of my apartment and into Erin's condo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Pines at Genesee

The folks at The Pines at Genesee came to me with the need to update their site with something that was easier to update.  They had taken a shot at this with a Flash-based site, but soon learned that being in Flash would keep the site from being indexed by search engines.

Working off the design they already had developed in Flash I copied the look they were going for into a content management system (CMS).  When setting up these types of sites I lean towards using the open source CMS called Drupal.  This system provides a modular approach to building a website's look and functionality.  Thus while a site can start as a blog which is easily updateable by average computer users, additional modules can be added to increase the functionality (e.g. for forums, picture galleries, form submissions, etc.).  This flexibility allowed me to add in the randomly rotating images seen on many of the pages.

I believe people should be able to have nice looking sites that they can update without having to learn HTML or Dreamweaver.  I think this site exemplifies that philosophy.


Well, it's been very busy these past two weeks, mostly with celebrations.  First there was Erin's celebration with her friends who had finished teaching another year of high school.  That same weekend we took a very nice walk along Bear Creek in Lakewood followed by a very lucky find. 

I found a Chinese food place near where we were walking, but at 8pm as we pulled into the parking lot Erin was looking pretty skeptical (with a bar/pool hall on one side and tattoo parlor on the other).  However, when we got inside Erin saw on the menu a dish that she remembered loving when she was younger (sesame pockets) and explained that the place that served it had gone out of business.  We really enjoyed the meal and as we were leaving Erin took another look at the sign (Golden Plate II) and exclaimed that the place she had gone to before was titled, "Golden Plate."  We followed up our fortuitous discovery with a movie completing an all-around good night.

I spent most of the rest of last week finishing up papers for classes and preparing for my one final.  But those didn't keep me from flying out to California for my friend's wedding.  It was a crazy, fun weekend as I got to see my friends.  Erin had her own wedding reception to go to over the weekend so we were able to compare notes for our own wedding when we got back together on Sunday.  With a final push Sunday night I also finished my papers finishing that class the following morning.

With the completion of the final for my other class last night I was done.  My friends Brian and Neil and I went out to celebrate downtown.  It was a good night as we also scoped out potential night clubs for the bachelor party in a few weeks.  The busyness just seemed to continue this morning as we got up, had breakfast, and Brian and I got our tuxes for our respective commendation ceremonies.

It feels nice to have classes over after the work of the past two years.  I don't know if I've felt true relief though as there are many other things to plan now.  I think Erin feels the same way.  We're both looking forward to the time when we can relax without needing to make more least for a while.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Grasshoppers, Snakes, and Diabetic dogs

Well, another busy week and another week closer to graduation/moving/getting married.  Aside from a wonderful afternoon out by the pool on Tuesday the week has been filled with school reading and web projects.  This weekend has been much more exciting.

Yesterday Erin and I met with our wedding photographer for and engagement photo session up at Red Rocks.  We had already rescheduled twice and were afraid the weather wouldn't cooperate again, but we were pleasantly surprised.  In the late evening setting sun our photographer had us take different poses throughout the park.  While Erin did get a little burnt on the motorcycle tailpipes it was a fun outing.

Today we continued to enjoy the sunshine as we took a hike up Green Mountain just West of Denver.  We got some great views of the city and the mountains.  There was quite a lot of interesting wildlife on the trail as well.  The grasshoppers were buzzing around our feet and the views were so gorgeous that I didn't see a snake until it leapt up to almost bite me.

Fortunately, we later learned that it was a bull snake and non-venemous.  Still, it certainly made us more careful about where we stepped.

Even before we saw the snake we were greeted with an interesting site as a woman was carrying a large dog down the trail on her shoulders.  She asked us if we had any candy or sweets as the dog was diabetic and hadn't gotten enough sugar before they left out.  Erin was able to give the dog some of her vitamin water which seemed to get it up and walking again so the lady could continue down the trail.

All in all it was a pretty exciting hike and we agreed much better than going to the gym.  But now it's time to prepare for next week and all the work that still needs to be done.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Life in 3D

Well, life keeps barreling on in all of its multiple dimensions.

School stays interesting as I pass the mid-term mark, but I'm looking forward to the day when it's over.  It has been rewarding being the president of the Association for International Management and I'm glad to be handing it off to some enthusiastic students.

Work has been picking up lately with two new projects.  It's times like these when work is at just the right level (not too much, not too little) that I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing.  I really enjoy the freedom available as a freelance developer and hope that it will always be available.

The wedding plans continue to shape up.  Erin and I now both have our wedding rings after a long process.  Our jeweler has been wonderful, though a little eccentric at times.  We've also gotten most of our ceremony finalized with just a few details to work out.  It wasn't the easiest of processes to put together, but like the rings it is an expression of our hearts and I hope we'll look back at each experience as being worth the difficulties.

Through it all we continue to have fun and try not to take things too seriously.  We just got back from watching Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D which was a fun (though goofy) film.  We also had a wonderful time spending the day celebrating mother's day with Erin's family.

All of these things have been possible because of my mom and I am grateful for all the support she has given.  Happy Mothers Day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Phipps Mansion Reception

I haven't been keeping up as well this quarter with the blog as I was last quarter.  I guess a full day of classes on Monday (when I usually wrote) is to blame.  It's certainly not for lack of events to write about.  Two weeks ago I got to go snowboarding with my friend Andrew up in Breckenridge.  The snow was very slushy, but we had a great time.  Of course, that week ended in true Colorado fashion with a heavy, wet blizzard.

That week also found me very involved with determining next year's leadership for the international management club I lead at school.  While there was very little turnout at the meeting I called a number of people got in touch with me over the week to let me know they were interested in leading the club.  For a while I had been stressed about what would happen to the club next year, but now I can see that it will be in good hands.

So as the blizzard passed and my worries about the club melted like so much Spring snow I was able to take my motorcycle out to get a tune-up and enjoy a warm sunny day this past Tuesday.  Of course my reverie passed quickly as Wednesday found me in work meetings and a doctor's appointment (all good) all afternoon followed by a midterm in International Business Law that night (easily completed).

Of course the wedding planning keeps chugging along as Erin and I got all the pieces for our invitations, put them together, and sent them out Saturday morning.  I think people are going to like the way they look.  We're also starting to get our ceremony finalized and sounding very nice as well.

The highlight though for this past week has been a visit to the Phipps Mansion here in Denver for an annual IMBA alumni reception.  Erin had never been before so it was nice to get all dressed up and show it off to her.

Well, I have more reading for school to do before we head out to enjoy a picnic on this beautiful sunny day while it still lasts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Easters

Well, the last two weeks have been very busy.  It seems like many of the weekends that Erin and I share these days are taken up by wedding planning.  Last week we went to our fourth and final cupcake tasting.  We've gotten to try a lot of cake, but scheduling and going to all of these places was one of our more drawn-out decisions.  We're happy to have chosen the Colorado Rose Cake Company to make our cupcakes with the flavors of chocolate with chocolate ganache frosting, butter pecan with a buttermilk frosting, and amaretto with buttermilk frosting. 

Fortunately our invitations were much easier and we finalized our decisions on those last week as well.  This weekend we were at it again as my best man, Brian, and I went to view tuxes.  Fortunately we were prepared with the bridesmaid's dress and my tux so that everything went very smoothly.  I just hope it goes as smoothly when we all go to pick them up.

Amongst all the wedding planning though was a lot of good food and good times with family over Easter.  Erin and I were lucky to experience two Easters this year starting at my aunt and uncle's in Littleton.  It was wonderful to see my aunt and uncle and share in their hospitality with my aunt's family.  The joy continued as Erin and I went to her parents and experienced all the food and family again.  By the end of the day we were both stuffed and needed to walk off all the food. 

I'm glad that we're lucky enough to have such caring families and that we're able to share this time with them.