Blog Life Santa Fe and New Mexico

Making a vow

Monday, January 08, 2007

OK, so it’s a resolution, but that’s just so, January, you know?

I’m going to ride the Santa Fe Century this year. The last couple of years I’ve sort of been meaning to do it, and then sort of meant to just do the 50, and then sort of didn’t do it all.

Which is no good. So I’m making it public in the hope that now it’s out there I have to do it.

I went to my first spinning class in a couple of weeks this morning, and feel like I got flattened by most of the Irish rugby union back row. Which is a pretty good reason for going more often.

Then, when the streets are finally clear of slushy icy cinder-brown piles of snow, I can get back out on the bike, which is currently buried behind house extension-related boxes in the garage.

I’ve done a couple of centuries (both in Ireland), and some other long day rides (starting with a 75 and then 50 around the Sonoma Valley in 2000), so hopefully the legs haven’t completely forgotten about those (or the 2000 miles in 2 months I notched up in 2001 and 2003 for the long trips, but that’s sort of a different thing).

Firstly, I need to flick through Marci’s cycling training books and build myself a plan.

Then I have to stick to it – basically, I’ll be trying to get all the necessary training by riding only two (or towards the end, three) times a week. Time is tight with work and my Fionnuala-minding duties, so the biggest problem will be just getting the necessary miles done.

But the benefits in terms of fitness, energy and general good humour should be good to see. I’ll keep you posted.

Blog Life Santa Fe and New Mexico

Getting dumped on

Saturday, December 30, 2006

crazy snow on our patioSo what did you do between Christmas and New Year? I stayed in and got stir crazy because we got 2 feet of snow in 36 hours.

The interstates were closed, which I always enjoy, because it seems so unlikely. Coming from Europe, the worst we get it is a couple of exits closed due to a jack-knifed truck, but here I-25 was closed from Albuquerque to the Colorado border (over 225 miles), and I-40 closed from Albuquerque to the Amarillo, TX (that’s 285 miles).

So, despite being the state capital, Santa Fe was completely cut off for most of the day.

Even though we weren’t planning on going anywhere, this makes you feel claustrophobic on a philosophical level. On a more physical scale, watching the snow climb up the windows has a similar effect.

One benefit has been that I now appreciate how several older men from the Mid-West die every year while shoveling snow. Making a vain attempt to clear our steep driveway proved a huge workout.

Marci had a better idea – she strapped on her cross-country skis and slid down the (uncleared) driveway and along our road to check out the situation.

The snow has stopped now, and we can finally see across town (although the mountains are still shrouded in cloud).

We’re going to brunch tomorrow if we have to use tennis rackets as snowshoes. Another day in this white prison, and we’ll end up like ‘The Shining’.

Arts reviews Blog Life

‘Studio 60’ – Smarter than your average show

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Aaron Sorkin’s new NBC show ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ is hitting its stride, and showing there’s mercifully some room for intelligent primetime TV.

Amid the smart-talking and wisecracks, there are some heavyweight references. In recent weeks the show’s namechecked Pericles and Strindberg, and this week there was a sensitively-handled storyline involving the Hollywood blacklistings of the 1950s.

The return of pedeconferencing

An ensemble cast of clever characters walking down corridors having sharp conversations (“pedeconferencing”) was Sorkin’s stock in trade in ‘The West Wing’, but now his TV show is about a TV show (it’s set in a thinly-disguised “SNL”), he can explore the perils and opportunities facing his own medium now.

It’s a return to familiar ground for him – his first TV show was the lauded but overlooked ‘Sports Night’, set in the studio of an almost-ESPN.

Just as The West Wing’s Martin Sheen was the president many of us wished we could vote for, so Amanda Peet plays the head of a network we wish we could watch. She refuses to buy a reality TV show that subjects the competitors to media intrusion until they crack, and supports ‘Studio 60’ as it runs a sketch guaranteed to upset the Christian rIght.

In reality of course, no-one ever went bankrupt underestimating the public’s appetite for down-market TV, and the challenge facing both the show itself and the show-within-the-show is to prove that a smarter approach can also be a success.

Clever but flawed

One way to do this is to wear your learning lightly, and ‘Studio 60’ is careful not to take itself very seriously while making serious points.

The characters are clever, but they’re also endearingly flawed. Matthew Perry plays a version of Chandler (or is that Sorkin?), this time reborn as a neurotically talented head writer.  Bradley Whitford again gets to be a wry and loyal lieutenant. We’re in safe and crucially likeable hands here – and there’s good support from Nate Corddry and D L Hughley (who must be delighted finally to get a script worthy of his stand-up talents),

So, the characters feel real, and the plotting is tight and interwoven. But it’s the script itself that sparkles, without a word out of place. You know you’re watching something out of the ordinary, when the show finishes and you still hear the rhythms of the dialogue in your head.

A real imagined world

With The West Wing, Sorkin’s was an alternative reality that he could never make real. ‘With Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’, he’s imagining an alternate world of good TV, and creating a little bit of it for real at the same time.

Posted by David in • Arts reviewsLife

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Another year, another disappointing England performance

Monday, July 03, 2006

I checked the blog entry I wrote after the European Championship a couple of years ago, and damn it’s happened again:

It seems my adult life has been punctuated by the England football team losing on penalties in important competitions. We think it suits us, that we’re dogged and sturdy, but I think it just lets us off the hook.

Its as if, if we really tried and went all out for a win, and believed we could do it, and then failed, that would be much worse. Because we’d put everything into winning, and come up short.

This time it was Rooney’s disgraceful sending off that let us be plucky losers – disgraceful because no professional footballer playing for his country in the World Cup has any excuse for losing the head and stamping on someone’s crown jewels.

But where was the real spirit when we had 11 men? And the lack of will and guts when it came to the penalty shoot-out was horrible to watch.

Hargreaves (the only one in a white jersey who looked like he cared) ran his legs off during the game and scored his penalty. But Lampard and Gerrard (anonymous during the game) bottled it from the spot.

I’m not sure what it is in English culture, or at least the culture of English football that creates a team of such potential that always fails to deliver.

At least in Spain and Brazil (where the same conversation is no doubt going on today), they can take comfort from the fact that they played some great football during the tournament and were beaten by a team playing very well.

Posted by David in • Life

Blog Life Santa Fe and New Mexico

Ride ‘em Cowboy

Saturday, July 01, 2006

So the last post was about a jazz concert by an Englishman. This time it’s something more local – the Rodeo de Santa Fe. Since Marci’s architectural education took place at a university with a big ag school component, and I lived 18 months in Kansas, it shouldn’t really have take so long for her to take me to the rodeo. But I guess we were a bit busy this time last year.

The rodeo sits in its own grounds out on what used to be the edge of town, but it’s now been overtaken by low brown sprawl. But once you’re sitting in the old-fashioned grandstand with some lemonade (with real lemons in it) and a quesadilla, you forget you’re in the 21st century.

There are more boots being worn by the audience than I’ve ever seen before – kids are wearing wranglers, stetsons, boots and spurs; and so are the dads. There’s a sub-group of aging hippie audience members (this is Santa Fe, after all), and a weird Footballers’ Wives meets All Creatures Great and Small thing going on in one of the boxes. Scantily clad young girls with Jackie O shades are in danger of getting a mouthful of dirt during the team roping event – who knows how they came to be here.

The pageantry was great – an arena full of horses being nonchalantly ridden one-handed is always worth seeing – and the Rodeo Queen did her cool gallop and salute thing, but what I’d forgotten about all this was that it’s a professional sporting event.

The guys trying to ride broncos or bring down the calf in four seconds flat are competing against each other for money, and the chance to go to bigger events in the rodeo world. This might be minor league stuff, but there’s a (hard) living to be made if you’ve got the talent and bravery to do it.

We’d just watched Brokeback Mountain, which put a slightly different spin on things, and you could just see Jack Twist scraping by at rodeos like this. But that aside, it gave me an insight into a different slice of Santa Fe life, away from the galleries and spiritualism and over-educated blow-ins like myself. The sponsors were a Dodge truck dealership, a ranchwear manufacturer, and a propane company – all things you need if you’re living out on a ranch, but not things that get a lot of attention in town.

Blog Life Santa Fe and New Mexico

Back, bearing pics

Monday, May 22, 2006

imageSorry it’s been a bit quiet here recently – busy with work and travel and Finn and all.

But I’m back with something to show for my absence – a few pics from my travels. I picked up the old SLR again after a long break (film – how last century), and had a great deal of fun with it.

Here’s young Fionnuala, a shot from the garden of the Institute of American Indian Arts (across the road from the office), and the sign from Joseph’s in Santa Rosa (on old Route 66 haunt we stopped at on the way back from Clovis).



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That was The Week that was

Sunday, April 23, 2006

the week cover

I’m the father of a 10-month old charmer, and I divide my time between running a business and looking after her, and time is unsurprisingly at a premium for me. So it’s not a shock that it’s time off that suffers – time to read the papers or hang out with a good book, or a good TV show.

The DVR has helped in this, making sure when we slump down on the couch for an hour, there’s always something we want to watch available. My trusty RSS reader gives me the internet-based lowdown from many a site, but there’s a new kid in town that’s also more than pulling its weight – ’The Week‘.

Rather like The Editor section in the UK Guardian (don’t know if they still have it since they went all Berliner), it pulls together the best of the US and international media in one slim and scan-ready publication.

You get analysis, book and movie reviews, some weird stories and one full-length feature, and you can feel like you’re keeping on top of things, including some interesting stories from foreign news sources you wouldn’t be reading unless you were being paid by the Pentagon or MI6.

Of course there’s the danger that this is a type of continuous partial attention, where you mistake being mildly informed for actually knowing what’s going on (as Neal Stephenson remarked, quoting Donald Knuth, he’s not about keeping on top of things, he’s about getting to the bottom of things), but to my mind, a little breadth is a good thing, so long as it’s accompanied by some real rigour.

And if you’re looking for well-chosen breadth and you’re on a time budget, The Week fits the bill nicely.

Posted by David in • Life

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Napping time

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

not a bad ideaBeen under the weather the last few days, and now that my cold has been transferred to Buendia and Finn, none of us is getting a lot of sleep at night.

Fortunately, Finn’s only mildly affected, and Buendia’s getting better (with lots of medicinal green chile to help out), so it’s tiredness rather than contagion that’s the main issue for me. But I’ve come up with a great solution – the afternoon nap.

When Finn was first home, wise people told us to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, but that approach has gone by the wayside, as we use Finn’s naps to try and impose some order on the house, or catch up on some deadline-looming work.

But a couple of times in the last few days, I’ve headed to the couch when Finn goes down, and it’s been great. I have no trouble getting off to sleep, and wake a little perkier.

When I was working in my first job, I’d get home from Maidenhead dazed and confused after nine hours plus spent writing about sewage treatment plants or inward investment, and quite often I’d crash out for 45 minutes before starting on the second part of my day, cleansed and distanced from the earlier toil.

An old habit I’ve been glad to revive – might even sneak the old cat (or dog) nap when I’m fully recovered.

Posted by David in • Life

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Time shifting

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So we got Tivo’d, and it’s greatly improved the quality of our TV-watching lives.

To be precise, we got the Comcast DVR offering, which shows two things: firstly, like sellotape and hoover (both of which only work in the UK, interestingly) Tivo has become the generic word to describe digital recording from the telly, and secondly, Tivo themselves must be worried, losing customers to the big cable companies who offer a simpler but cheaper service (and rental, not purchase, of the box itself).

With a nine-month old in the house, your limited recreation time cannot be scheduled to coincide with your favourite programmes, especially as herself gets put to bed around 7.30pm. Wrestling with the old VCR wasn’t going to happen, so being able to record shows easily (and set up standing orders for a whole series) makes plenty of sense.

So now we’re watching The Daily Show when we want to, and all of Arsenal’s Premiership games are going to be sitting on the drive waiting.

Initially we had some problems with a bug/feature that set the box to mute when it switched itself (and the TV) on to record something. With the mute button on the remote only working the TV’s mute, I was stumped until the internet helped me.

But better than that, I also got the code to add a 30-second skip to the remote, which means nipping through ad breaks is now silky smooth, and it takes much less time to watch shows because you’re only watching the show. Pausing live TV is also pretty cool, but why watch it live at all, when it’s quicker to watch it later?

The generic term for this phenomenon in broadcasting and tech circles is ‘time-shifting’. Podcasts mean you can listen to NPR’s Morning Edition when you like (or in my case, catch The Archers omnibus at my leisure), and having a hard drive full of TV shows waiting for you begins to shake the old tenets of scheduling.

Prime time doesn’t mean anything any more in our house, as we’ll watch something originally shown at 2am at 9pm (or vice versa). And the network’s reputation isn’t that important either. The DVR will seek out old episodes of House or CSI wherever it can find them, and (appropriately enough for a time-shifting device) we watched the first episodes of the new series of Dr Who over the weekend, even though we hardly ever find ourselves watchind anything else on the Sci-Fi channel.

For an extra ten bucks a month, we’ve got a tool that gives us the power to build our own tv station and even shift time itself. Very cool. Now I’m waiting for the place-shifting add-on that lets me watch shows I’ve recorded on my PDA, or on my computer at work.

Posted by David in • Life

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Car lust

Friday, March 10, 2006

not too shabby

You know that old line about how boys never grow up, they just get bigger toys? I’ve a feeling I’m an example of that, despite my best intentions.

For someone who lives in a house with one car and five bikes, I think about cars a lot. If I’m driving (in the deeply unfashionable 1999 Honda CRV that’s our family’s ride), I’ll sometimes watch the cars that pass me and ask myself, ‘would I drive that?’.

Almost always, the answer is no, which is ironic because when I pass another CRV, I say no to that too. Partly, it’s that too many American cars are very ugly, and partly it’s that here in Santa Fe, there’s a preponderence of big SUVs. Which I really hate, for many of the reasons outlined in Keith Bradsher’s excellent book, High and Mighty.

When I’m home and grab a few minutes, I play Gran Tourismo on the Playstation, and think about cars some more.

Normally, this obsession is kept at manageable proportions, but currently we’re thinking about getting another car, so I feel I have permission to do piles of internet research, peer into the windows of parked vehicles and download clandestine episodes of Top Gear via BitTorrent (not that I actually do that last one, of course).

Like a true European, especially one who grew up driving Volkswagens, I’ve my heart set on a GTI (here they drop the Golf epithet for some reason). It’s plenty fast, practical, good-looking, not too big, and has a great ‘manumatic’ gear box wiith paddle shifters that will keep both Buendia and myself happy.

The four-door version is out here in the summer. So far so good. But that doesn’t stop me poring over reviews of the Mazda 3, the Audi A3, the faster Sube Imprezas and a few other cars that I’m pretty sure we won’t buy.

(The one distraction from the GTI is the funky ads for it that have started appearing on TV here. Clearly in the US the car is aimed at people much younger and less well-behaved than myself. )

At this point, I’m clearly not just researching cars because it will help us make a good decision, I’m doing it because I actually enjoy doing it.

I used to be bemused by Buendia’s inability to walk into a store and just buy something. Now I get it. When it comes to cars, the journey is as important as the destination.

(GTI image courtesy of VWVortex)

Posted by David in • Life