“The Last Season” and “Three Cups of Tea” need to be on your reading list!

The Last Season
Book: The Last Season

[Repost from May 28, 2008] I just finished reading the book The Last Season by Eric Blehm and what a great read it is.The story is about Randy Morgenson, a backcountry ranger for twenty-eight seasons at Kings Canyon National Park, who goes missing in July 1996. The book details the search and events surrounding his disappearance, the life Randy lived until he went missing, and historical perspectives about the National Park Service backcountry/wilderness rangers and mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

I bought the book two years ago while browsing through Border’s here in Eugene. I read the front cover and thought to myself, “That sounds like a search I was on in 1996.” Well, I wasn’t wrong. I worked on the Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue team in summer 1996 as a search and rescue intern and we were called out to this search on July 27. We were flown to the backcountry where we spent five days searching for Randy in some of the most beautiful terrain one could imagine. For me, this book provided clarity and truth to questions that were only speculations at the time I was on the search. Though my book sat on the shelf for almost two years, I highly recommend reading this book today

You can learn more about the book here: http://thelastseason.com/.

Immediately following my completion of The Last Season, I dove into reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book captured my attention so well that, despite trying to finish graduate school in the next three weeks, I read the book in three days. I haven’t read a book this quick since the Peace Corps three years ago.

This is truly an inspirational story on how one person can make a difference in a world filled with unnecessary conflict. Though he didn’t start out to be a spokesperson against the war on terror, he sure has found ground in showing that there is another avenue to create peace in this world than through current U.S. foreign policy. His story of perseverance to build one school in Pakistan has flourished into a highly successful NGO called The Central Asia Institute. It is built on an understanding of cultures and empowering women through education.

This book details Greg’s life and how he went to build schools, clinics, and other necessary institutions in rural areas of north Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through his story you learn about the politics, religions, and cultures of Pakistan and Afghanistan, mountaineering history in Central Asia, and U.S. influence, or lack of, in this region. It is a gripping story that truly inspires one to be a catalyst for peace in a world filled with conflict.

You can learn more about the book at http://www.threecupsoftea.com/. You can learn more the Central Asia Institute at http://www.ikat.org/.

Radio Free iTunes

Over the past couple months, we’ve found joy in the iTunes radio feature. This is a feature that has been on iTunes since, I think, the first version of iTunes. We don’t know of anyone else who uses this feature, but it’s definitely an underrated feature that should at least be explored.

First, the best way to use this feature is in conjunction with your home stereo system or a good set of computer speakers. What’s point of using it if the sounds is terrible.

So where is this feature on iTunes?

Continue reading “Radio Free iTunes”

Ethan Is Growing Up

In our effort to tire the little guy, we tried our infamous bouncing routine. Unfortunately, or fortunately for our video purposes, he found lots of amusement in being bounced on the exercise ball. He is now 7.5 months and about 21 pounds. He is sitting up and making “ma ma ma” and “da da da” sounds, though he has yet to associate the sounds with either of us. He enjoys listening to all kinds of music and will sit on our laps as we play the piano for him. He usually tries to grab the sheet music so he can eat it. A few weeks ago, we made the switch to cloth diapers and, in conjunction, we are using a toilet training seat. Besides the environmental reasons, it economically makes sense. We hadn’t switched earlier because of the frequency of pees and poops and we didn’t want to spend our days hanging out at the laundry machine. This has been proven to be a good time. Unlike disposable diapers, Ethan gets irritated after one pee in his diaper, whereas in disposables he could pee three times and not be irritated. We are practicing with the toilet seat so that he will want to use that instead of peeing in the cloth diaper. So far he uses his toilet 4-6 times a day. We just let him go with the flow and don’t force anything. He has been eating solid foods since January and now eats two meals a day of solids. Laura is making most of his food, though we buy his rice cereal and a few organic baby foods. He eats apples, squash, pears, and popcorn. So far he has enjoyed everything he has been given. We recently introduced him to an all natural brand of Cheerios cereal that allowed him to work on his hand and eye coordination. He rarely actually eats the cereal. By the way, just kidding about the popcorn. We left him alone with our neighbors for the first time a couple weeks ago. We were nervous about it, but let’s just say that when Laura came home to pick up, he almost didn’t know she was there because the four year old in the family was entertaining him so well. It was a great experience for all parties involved and hope our little guy will continue to feel at ease with his babysitters. His sleeping schedule is great, though actually getting him to bed isn’t always easy. Once he is down, he will sleep 9-11 hours a night. In the daytime, he usually does a late morning 2 hour nap and a mid-afternoon 30-60 minute nap.

Ethan is sleeping, not suffocating, with his dog Blue.

Ethan’s first snow hike in the forest.

Duff and Ethan hanging out with the toys.

Ethan galloping on his horse Norm.

Ethan riding on his dog Duff.

Ethan, Into the Wild, Juno, Armenia, and PMF

This past week has found my MP3 player continuously playing the soundtracks to the movies Juno and Into The Wild. I have seen the movie Juno, but only read the book Into the Wild when it first hit the bookshelves in the 90’s. I highly recommend owning both soundtracks. The Juno soundtrack is very catchy and upbeat with some unknown artists such as Kimya Dawson and Antsy Pants. “All I Want Is You” and “Loose Lips” are a couple of my favorites. I also recommend checking out more songs by Kimya Dawson. Into The Wild features music by Eddie Vedder, though the official music score for the movie has many more artists such as Kaki King. The music is relaxing and a bit eerie, though inspiring. If you know the book, then you’ll feel that the music represents it well. “Hard Sun” is a stand out on this album.

In other news, Ethan is now 6 months and weighing in at a rolling left to right, back to front 19 pounds. He is a little smile bug and learning to grab everything within reach. We can no longer hold him in one arm and carry food in the other without him reaching for a taste. He is eating one meal a day of solid foods. He has eaten rice cereal, oatmeal, and, as of tonight, sweet potatoes. He loves the sweet potatoes, but mommy’s milk is still his favorite. He is sleeping 9-11 hours continuously as of this week. Laura finally decided no more nighttime feedings and it’s worked well. He has two bottom teeth showing now. Of course, this causes some discomfort so we let him suck on a cold, wet towel to take some of the pain away. Tomorrow, he visits his doctor for 6 month shots. It could be a long day and night tomorrow after those shots.

We spoke to our friend Gohar last night. She lives in Armenia, but we have not phoned her in a loooong time. Since our last phone call with her in December 2005, we have only communicated through letters. Letters allow us time to express ourselves a lot better in the Armenian language. It was her birthday yesterday and Nellie, an Armenian friend living in the US, helped us call her via Skype. It was great to speak to her and Zhana, her daughter. Through the conversation, we realize that we really can’t speak Armenian, though we did try. As usual, Laura could understand better than I, though I was able to speak better. Typical marriage. Wife listens, husband talks.

The three of us, along with two graduate students in my planning program, head north to Seattle on Sunday to take an early Monday test for the Presidential Management Fellowship. Each of us, as well as three other graduate students in my department, were nominated for the Fellowship. We now take the test and, if we pass, make it to the applicant pool to compete for coveted jobs working with the Federal Government in mid-manager positions (GS-9 and above) for two years, with hopes of landing permanent positions. The test by no means is easy so we’ll see how this goes. The test will assess our critical thinking skills, life experience, and writing fundamentals.