Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You Know It's Cold When...

You know it's cold when Madison schools are closed. Not the surrounding areas - they're much more likely to have a delay or close. But when the Madison schools close for the day, it's cold. I was all set up to work today, and the Verona website announced "School Closed." It used to be the local news that we relied on for that info - now we go directly to the school's website.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Best Snow and Best Gear

It's hard not to notice how excited Katie and I are to be cross-country skiing this season. I've found two components to making the skiing experience the best it can be: good trails and good gear.

Katie and I moved to the Monroe Street neighborhood and the location couldn't be better for us. We are under one mile from the UW Arboretum - which has miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. The numerous routes take you in and out of prairies and woods, over bridges and even under a tunnel. And the snow today was the best we've ever been on. It was very fresh from the three inches or so that we got last night and even a little this morning. It was soft and slick, so today's event was exceptionally enjoyable.

And I just have to admit- I'm a Gear Guy. I subscribe to two magazines, Men's Journal and National Geographic Adventure. When an issue comes in the mail, I'm tearing through to the gear review and features. Knowing this, my brother-in-law (Peter) and father-in-law (Steve) got me some cool gear for Christmas. I'm really becoming a fan of the Under Armour, which you can see as a base layer shirt and beanie on my head. And Mountain Hardwear has been a top brand of performance gear for a few years. Peter got me their Canyon Pant which is perfect for cross-country skiing and hiking. Thanks for the gifts, guys. I'm doing my best to put them to good use.

53.0 and Counting

This has been the best winter I can remember. When I was a kid, I have fond memories of going to Matt Keefe's house and building forts in the monstrous snow piles. The school playground seemed to always be covered with snow for exciting recess football games. I grew up learning that winter would be filled with months of beautiful snow.

But that hasn't been the case over the last 10-12 years. I might be in the minority, but I want a little snow by Thanksgiving - just get us ready for December. And if we don't have any snow by the middle of December, how is it possible to get into the Season? I guess I can understand why people get a little depressed at this time of year when it's sometimes bitterly cold and there's no snow. But this year has been such a wonderful surprise! Even Katie has noted how beautiful the outdoors look (and feel) when there's so much snow on the ground. It makes us happier. It's a romantic scene to look at snow-covered roofs, shoveled walkways, and people walking around with bundles of warm-weather coats.

Just how much snow have we been blessed with? We're sitting at 53.0" this season! Have you been enjoying it? Katie and I have had a blast on our new cross-country skis, and we'll be out there again today after a couple weeks off due to very low temperatures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I'd pay to hear

When DVDs started getting popular, the thing I liked about them was the special features. I've been known to watch a movie twice in a row - the second time while listening to the director's commentary. It's the behind the scenes material that I can't get enough of.

In the sports world, they put a mic on a player and catch him in a behind the scenes moment on the field. For me, it's a glimpse into the reality of the sport - a sense of how normal (and humorous) these players are. And Brett Favre is probably one of the best. One of my favorites is this clip from ESPN.

While I'm at it, you should watch this video that will get an annoying country song stuck in your head. This is a little cheesy, but you'll miss Brett when he's gone, so watch this video and appreciate what we've got.

And lastly, the ultimate behind the scenes moment comes here, with a home video of Brett Favre, Don Beebe, and Frank Winters going trick or treating to Coach Holmgren's house.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Center of Attention

All week I have had memories of 1996-97 when the Packers were making their great Super Bowl runs. I wasn't listening to sports radio like I do now, but I was into SportsCenter much more than I watch now. Sports Illustrated was on my desk every week. There was a buzz about all the cold-weather conditions, Lambeau Field, and the storied Green Bay Packers. The Packers were the center of attention, and after a ten-year span of mediocrity we are back to the center of attention.

The pictures of their green and gold popping out from a snowed-out landscape doesn't get old for me. Green Bay gets all the glory, but Foxborough will be not much warmer:: The weather forecast for Green Bay on Sunday: a high of 11 degrees. For Foxborough: a high of 16.

But weather has always played a part in memorable football games. Check out this ESPN Zoom Gallery and don't miss pictures 2,3, and 12.

For more information including stats, video, and photos of cold-weather football, check out the sidebar titled "More on Frigid Football".

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I can put cPT behind my name.  Last Tuesday I passed my exam for a certified personal trainer.  I studied through ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) widely regarded as one of if not the best certifications.

It was a very difficult exam.  I knew going into it that I would be a great trainer, but it was just a matter of passing their test first.  What a relief when the computer-based test processed my scores and told me of my passing grade. 

It's still a little intimidating - it's not just "here's some exercises and you should run three days per week."  And I'm thankful that there's so much research and studies about things to look for in people's history and lifestyle.  So it will be a challenge I eagerly accept in coaching others toward a healthier lifestyle.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Playoff Football

It's been an amazing season for the Packers.  What a feeling it is to have your team back on top - like it was back in '96 and '97.  Can you believe that was 10 years ago?  Growing up in Wisconsin, the Packers weren't that great in the '80s and '90s.  But I was always a fan and very mindful of the rich tradition the team holds.  A group of guys got together in a grungy old editorial room at the Green Bay Gazette to organize a football team - they became the Green Bay Packers.  
I could go on and on.  But the story today is the team's victory in their playoff game against the Seahawks.  How great was this game?!?!   I don't even know how much I would have paid to have been at Lambeau today.  That snow on the field was amazing - it's how football is supposed to be in January in Green Bay.

Here's some pictures, courtesy of Sports Illustrated and the Green Bay Packers.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Well that was quick (Part II)

A few months ago, I wrote about how I was raking my leaves one day, and the next day the rake was 6 inches deep in snow. Remember? Well I'm NOT happy to report that the reverse has happened - the snow has disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
Here's the picture from December 3, followed by today, January 9.

Friday, January 04, 2008

First-Person From Kenya

I have a confession: I often see international news through the lenses of an ignorant American. If I take the thought a little further, I'd have to admit that I have learned that the chaos that happens over there... "that's just what happens over there." And I'm immune to any sympathetic emotions I may have for the people in these countries where danger and poverty are common.

Until now.

Katie and I support a pastor in Kenya, who Katie met while she was in Bible school in Germany. Geoffrey works with a Children's Project where they school many students, some of which have lost their parents.

If you haven't heard, Kenya's elections created chaos in the country. To learn more, you can read this article from the New York Times:
Kenya, Known for it's Stability, Topples Into Post-Election Chaos.

When we heard from Geoffrey, he said that he and his family are trapped in their house, and media had been shut off (but he was able to email). His mother-in-law and her children were forced to flee to the forest as their home was burned to the ground - they slept in the forest.

Such news has never reached my ears until I heard it first-person from Kenya. And now (thankfully) I will never be the same.

It's not over. Here's the latest communication from Geoffrey:

Dear Hans,
Thank you dear friends for your committiment in prayer for us.
Yesterday there was much fear in our Village that a group of people was coming armed to kill people.We did not sleep but kept on our watch over the whole night.Indeed they came, but praise be to God that their was an heavy prense of the police around.Food and other comodities have become very expensive.Very few people do gaher in the Church since their is no
security enough.A Church in Eldoret was burnt down with a bout 50 people inside who had ran their for their safety.
Today morning,most of the Cities had problems as demonistrators went to the streets.All shops in the Cities and some parts in the villages are closed down.Houses have been burnt and as hundreds of people loosing their lives.
Fear has gone deep into our hearts.Pray for us and our Country and may God save Kenya.
Geoffrey and family.+

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Cross-Country Skiing

Last winter Katie and I got out on the frozen Lake Mendota and got to cross-country ski. We absolutely loved it! We decided that this year we wanted to save for our own set of skis. Friday after work, Katie found a pair at Play-it-Again Sports – a “vintage” pair that are just perfect for her. The next morning I was able to find what I was looking for at REI. That afternoon, we hit the trails for the first time on our own skis. What a joy to begin this outdoor winter activity. Sunday, I explored the UW Arboretum, and Monday I took Katie there for her first time on the trails.