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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Damaged Goods: the short, unhappy life of political lawn signs

Posted By on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 1:52 AM

I've always looked on the political lawn sign as an innocuous, and not that effective, political statement. A "Vote for Ralph-the good guy" lawn sign probably won't sway a lot of people to vote for Ralph but none-the-less shows that he has a few supporters in the community.

Because our house is on a busy corner, we've had countless candidates for local and state offices ask if they could put lawn signs on our property over the years. Not a problem. The signs went up, stayed up and were removed on election night.

Now that's changed. Recently signs pounded into the ground are, within hours, torn out, destroyed or simply vanish.

Who's to blame? I have no idea. Why the sudden change in attitude toward political lawn signs? Again, I have no idea.

What I do know that political signs that plenty of much bigger than the classic lawn sign appear on ranchette properties between here and Sisters. They never seem to get torn down, destroyed or vanish. And all the ranchette and big property signage is of a particular political slant.

So one might extrapolate, if one was of a conspiratorial nature, that if your lawn sign, fence sign, any sign is for anyone who might be considered moderate or even, heaven forbid, liberal, that that signage is fair game for destruction.

But let's not assume that and just say that the general anger among some voters is causing them to take out their frustration on lawn signs. Taking it out on signs without regard to the property owner's rights guaranteed under the Constitution to display them.

But let's not get into a constitutional discussion because as we're finding out property rights and civil rights make for good conversation but don't apply if you disagree with someone who's angry with the government.

So what to do? I suggested to one candidate that he put one of his lawn signs about 25 feet up in a stately old pine tree on our property. That way, I surmised the sign might remain.

Then I realized that even if the sign were 100 feet in the air, someone would spend all night climbing the tree to remove it or blast away at it with a shotgun, or worse burn down the tree to get that sign down.

So, I think we'll remain sign-less until the upcoming election is over.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Butte and Ridge: two great mountain bike riding areas now even better

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 11:21 PM

For years, I bored Source readers with my endless cheerleading for Gray Butte as being the best place to mountain bike in Central Oregon. My reasons then, and now, as to why Gray Butte offers the best riding are simple: great vistas out over the Cascades, superb singletrack, lots of lung busting ups and some incredibly fast downs. But best of all is being out in the wide-open spaces and not locked into a forest.

Gray Butte is best suited to late winter/early spring riding and this past weekend was a great time to be out there. And surprise, quite a few people we out riding. In fact the highest number of riders I've ever see in one day ever at Gray Butte-10. That's about one fifth the number of the riders heading to the Golden Triangle area close in to Bend on a summer day.

It's important to note that unlike the Golden Triangle were laid out by mountain bike riders for mountain bikes riders, the bulk of the trails at Gray Butte were laid out originally for equestrians. Hence they tend to be steeper and often fight rather than flow with contour lines.

There are exceptions with some of the new trails at Gray Butte laid out to flow with the natural contour lines. This makes for less demoralizing, gasp-for-air climbs in particular.

Once a rider spends any time at Gray Butte they come to realize that you can put together dozens of loop rides, some all on singletrack and some a combination of singletrack and old roads/

And as good as the riding is at Gray Butte, the trails have gotten a bit more eroded in parts due to heavy rains and what seems like a lot more equestrian activity this year. Still these are small complaints when the overall experience at the Butte is so rewarding.

Rewarding but hard. Just about every Gray Butte ride is 2/3rds uphill and 1/3rd downhill. If you're not in shape, you feel it acutely on a Gray Butte Ride

To get a feeling for how difficult riding Gray Butte is, I turned to my friend Gerald who, with me, formulated the 0 to 5 Wimp Rating System (WRS).

Zero on the WRS system means Gerald and I feel like we really know what we're doing. Five means something like: "I'm scared, I could kill myself, or this hurts me physically."

Gerald gave our Gray Butte ride a W-5 rating for what seems like endless uphill riding. I'd call it a W-4 because the uphills but not a 5 because the downs are fun and easily managed.

Coming in neatly at W-3 (rideable by wimps of all ages) is the new expanded loop at Peterson Ridge in Sisters.

I've not been a huge fan of Peterson Ridge mainly because the trail system, particularly the lower part, seemed like this endless rabbit warren of soft, dusty; let's face it, boring, trails.

Then and friend and I started riding on the upper loops, which are more challenging but still had that loop-inside-a-loop feel. That's changed now with some trail work that's created a big outside loop on the upper trails that links into o0ther existing trails for a sustained ride with a nice flow to it.

The past couple of weekends the dirt at Peterson Ridge has been firm and fast and the riding excellent

And as a reward for making a Peterson ride, there's the Three Creeks brewery close to the main trailhead.

And least I forget at the end of any Gray Butte ride there's the Terrebonne Station with what has to be the outside best deck with a view for eating and drinking in Central Oregon.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lingua Franca: bro/bra spoken here

Posted By on Sat, Apr 24, 2010 at 9:15 PM

In a letter to the editor in the November 2009 issue of Backcountry Magazine a reader wrote in regard to ski town living saying: "Do the people who have been living here for less than a season need to be saying buzz words like 'gnarly' and 'epic' every other sentence?"

Like dude, talking in bro/bra-speak comes with the territory if you want to appear to be a local. Make that a local who skis, rides (boards and bikes), makes the brewpub scene every day and apparently does this all without benefit of a job.

Oh and throw in a cool house, cool car and way-above-average children, eating well, competing at a perceived world class level well, and you are a true hipper-than-thou Bendite .

Depicting all the elements of bro/bra-speak and living large in Bend has been difficult until to pout into words let alone video until someone created the footage. If you haven't this video, and I won't try to describe it , do so if for no other reason than how well it skewers Bend's hyper cool ski/ride/swill/self-proclaimed super star athlete/awesome parent crowd nicely.

Whoever is behind the video gets major props for the effort. They could have gone way over the top but instead offer a restrained, and therefore

much more funny, approach.

Judge for yourself. Until then, I'm off to run laps on the cone with some of the gnarliest dudes on the planet after we hit that new brewpub to drink some sick ales.

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Lingua Franca:bro/bra spoken here

Posted By on Sat, Apr 24, 2010 at 1:14 AM

In a letter to the editor in the November 2009 issue of Backcountry Magazine (www.backcountry, a reader wrote in regard to ski town living saying: "Do the people who have been living here for less than a season need to be saying buzz words like 'gnarly' and 'epic' every other sentence?"

Like dude, talking in bro/bra-speak comes with the territory if you want to appear to be a local. Make that a local who skis, rides (boards and bikes), makes the brewpub scene every day and apparently does this all without benefit of a job.

Oh and throw in a cool house, cool car and way-above-average children, eating well, competing at a perceived world class level well, and you are a true hipper-than-thou Bendite.

Depicting all the elements of bro/bra-speak and living large in Bend has been difficult until to put into words let alone a video until someone created

If you haven't this video, and I won't try to describe it , do so if for no other reason than how well it skewers Bend's hyper cool ski/ride/swill/self-proclaimed super star athlete/awesome parent crowd nicely.

Whoever is behind the video gets major props for the effort. They could have gone way over the top but instead offer a restrained, and therefore much more funny, approach.

Judge for yourself. Until then, I'm off to run laps on the cone with some of the gnarliest dudes on the planet after we hit that new brewpub to drink some sick ales.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Into Scary Territory: A customer service representative will be with you shortly

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 4:44 PM

This week I did something I'd never done before. Something so frightening that it me took hours to build up the nerve to do it. Something I'd heard could be a life changing experience.

I called a software maker for support on a problem.

I was having a small problem with one of their products. This meant the frightening proposition of having to deal with customer service.

When I finally got up the nerve to make the call, I prepared myself for several hours on the phone by making a Thermos of coffee and toasting an English muffin to enjoy while I waited to get my problem to be solved.

Then I thought, wait, that's not going to be enough. So I made a sandwich, grabbed a bag of potato chips and placed them, along with a beer in a small cooler, by my desk. I was prepared for an epic all-day-on-the-phone experience.

I dialed the software maker's number and after a few "click 1 for support" and similar prompts, was connected to a man with a voice right out of a sci-fi movie about alien life. His intonation was so eerie and mechanical that it made my heart sink at the prospect of hours of dealing with him.

He asked a series of questions stopping for a lengthy pause when he discovered that I used a Mac instead of a PC. Pause over, he pressed on and after five minutes gave me a 12-digit case number to note down. That done, he said he would transfer me to a software specialist.

Within seconds, a women whose voice sounded like Glenda the Good Witch after she sucked on a helium balloon, asked me to give her my case number.

I did and then she asked what program I was having trouble with and what the problem with it was. I gave her the information and she broke into a shrill giggle. "Oh, is that all it is. Boy that's easy," she laughed, "you just go under edit and... .."

I did what she said and my problem was fixed.

I felt a bit embarrassed that the fix was so easy. I thanked the software support woman. She replied: "are you sure there isn't anything else?"

There wasn't.

Twelve minutes and 37 seconds after calling my software problem had been solved.

I drank the rest of my coffee and finally ate the muffin. I wrapped the sandwich in foil and put it along with the beer went into the fridge.

Then I walked outside in my garden and took in the fresh air. I felt like I had just won the lottery or a Nobel Prize. Relief doesn't begin to express how I felt. I'd escaped unharmed from an experience with customer service.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cruising: Lust for the crust

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 7:02 PM

Come spring in the mountains and the time when the snowpack sets up hard at night and stays covered with a thick layer of hard crust for most of the following day. With the first signs of thick crust comes the start of the "crust cruising" season. The season when where you can cover miles of snow covered terrain on cross-country skis in a fraction of time it would take to ski the same distance through powder, heavy wet snow or mush.

Think of it this cross-country ski way-crust cruising is like running on a modern synthetic track. It's effortless.

There's the notion that crust cruising is something new and came along when skate/freestyle skiing became popular. That simply isn't so. Cross-country skiers have been cruising the crust for decades.

My first big crust cruise came in 1973 when a group of us stepped onto the crust at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park to ski down to Waterwheel Falls and back. The snow that day was so firm and so fast, one diagonal stride kick and you could glide five yards. One strong double pole push and you could glide for 15 yards. Come to a low angle hill, push off and you could glide for a quarter mile.

That trip got me excited about crust cruising so later that spring a friend and I decided to try a cross-country ski crust cruise down Childs Meadows in the shadow of Mount Lassen. Not more than fifty yards into the trip, my friend said: "remember how we used to skate on our alpine skis, let's try it with these skis."

We did and it worked. The ten-mile round trip taking just over and hour and it got us thinking about skating. Unfortunately we did nothing about perfecting skating on cross-country skis and so can't lay claim to helping invent the skate technique. We simply employed something that worked to have a fun day.

After that, and a subsequent cruise up and down Childs Meadows, we took decided to try and ski into a Lassen Volcanic National Park private in-holding infamous because it had a year-round outdoor pool fed by boiling hot waters from a nearby steam vent.

As legend had it, people had skied into swim only to get chased off by a shotgun-toting caretaker. But with this skate thing we were working on, we figured we could beat a hasty retreat if we encountered the caretaker and easily outdistance any of his 12-guage shotgun blasts.

So we skied in one Sunday about noon on solid crust. Coming within sight of the pool we noticed six people in the pool partially hidden by a cloud of steam.

As we turned to beat a retreat someone in the pool raised an arm and beckoned us to come on in. We did so cautiously.

It was only when we got within ten yards of the pool that we saw that it was a group of skiers we knew from Chico, California. "Don't worry, " laughed one of them, "the caretaker always goes Chester and sits in the saloon all day on Sunday. So we're good for at least a couple more hours."

We peeled off our clothes and hopped in thanking crust cruising for the speedy way into the pool and for our friends for having discovered the caretaker's Sunday routine.

Long after this trip, crust cruising was taken to an art form by a group of Lake Tahoe area cross-country skiers. It came with the advent Fischer's Revolution model skis-the first short cross-country skis.

Skating on the ultra short Revolutions the Tahoe skiers found they could cover mega miles in one day. Soon they were off doing big chunks of the John Muir Trail in a day. That or traveling with minimalist bivouac gear and doing two long sections of the Muir Trail or trans-Sierra traverse over a weekend.

Today crust cruising is done all over the west and two of most incredible places to do it are Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks with their vast expanses of wide open terrain. Then again, just about any mountainous place with acres of moderate, rolling terrain skiing is a great place to cruise and make the most of spring crust.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Skyline Forest: the possibilities are endless

Posted By on Sun, Apr 18, 2010 at 2:53 PM

This past Saturday, Deschutes Land Trust executive director Brad Chalfant asked me to join him on a mountain bike ride in the proposed Skyline Forest. He wanted to show me the potential for a trail network if and when the property becomes a Land Trust holding.

"The riding out there now," said Chalfant, "will remind you a lot of mountain biking during the sport's early years in Bend -- lots of old double-track roads mixed with shorts stretches of single track." And so it was.

We started our ride on a spur road off the former Brooks-Scanlon haul road and via seldom-used double tracks and some single track ended up first at Bull Springs. Here a pair of equestrians watered their horses.

From Bull Springs we climbed for a mile on double track past Snag Springs before swinging off onto a single track that ran up a tight canyon bounded by basalt rock formations.

This tight trail led back to double track and a steady slog uphill to a grassy knoll, the high point of the ride with its incredible 360-degree views.

Directly to the west sat Surveyor's Butte. A shade to the north of it, North Sister filled the view. Swinging around further to the north, Black Butte was visible under the overall cloud cover.

The view to the east was wide open and to the south it was easy to pick out Awbrey Butte in the foreground and then shifting our eyes to the south Newberry Crater was easy to spot. In short-spectacular.

Off the grassy knoll, a fast long downhill ride on double track took us to a junction with the Brooks-Scanlon haul road. A short distance later a right onto a spur and a left onto a single track and we were back at the car.

In the space of two hours we'd seen some remarkable terrain. Terrain that will make for some exciting recreation opportunities if, as mentioned earlier, the Land Trust gets stewardship over the property.

A property that's encompasses 50 square miles and as Chalfant put it: "is big enough to plop down the Three Sisters and Broken Top Crater inside it and still have room to spare."

But for now while some riding, running, hiking, birding, etc in that space opportunities are available in the Skyline Forest, the future could see those opportunities expanded ten-fold.

And while the quest to create the Skyline Forest preserve continues, the Land Trust hasn't abandoned their other projects.

One of the most significant of those is the possible acquisition of more property along Wychus Creek between Camp Polk Meadow and Alder Springs.

If all goes well here, within a few years the Land Trust hopes to construct a trail that will follow the creek the entire way allowing hikers, walkers, fishermen, runners, birders, mountain bike riders access to more incredible terrain and nature.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Low Riding: bicycles and the fall of America

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Not that many years ago I was riding my road bike with a friend east of Bend. We were headed single file down a long straightaway when a spiffy Mercedes C Class sedan came speeding by at what seemed like 75MPH and about four feet from us.

Seconds later, the Mercedes stopped at an intersection and the woman driver got out and began screaming at us as we approached. Such words that came out of her mouth. She used all the George Carlin words that can't be used on television and then some.

My riding partner and I tried to figure out what we'd done to cause such ire. Turns out we had done the unpardonable-we were riding bicycles on public roads.

A much as the local bike crowd loves to think of Bend and Central Oregon as bike heaven, there are a lot of folks in our community who view bicycles as evil. More precisely, bicycles are part of the great Socialist plan to take over America.

So the thinking goes, riding bicycles is un-American and thwarts free enterprise. Forget the fact that some local riders own bikes that cost them well over five figures and spent thousands on bike trips and gear every year. Forget Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth both using the bicycle as a symbol of Americana in paintings, bikes are European left leaning objects to be derided.

And please forget all that talk about getting healthier by riding a bicycle. The true American way is to eat fast food, use of gasoline and drive everywhere. Got it?

Judging from a recent incident at a public meeting, apparently the people that bike events draw to Bend are, well, simply not the element we want to have in this town. All those people who came here for the cyclocross nationals from all over the U.S. were definitely a low rent crowd. I mean they barely spent money when they weren't at their motels and hotels or eating in restaurants. Some even, gasp, went shopping and several seriously investigated purchasing local real estate.

But that's not what apparently some of the GOBS (good old boys) in the local lodging business want. They want the free spending crowd of developers and out-of-control builders filled up Bend back in the now thankfully long gone Gold Rush" era.

To hell with family "staycations" close to home and heaven forbid people coming here to exercise, let's get those crowds of plunderers back and hopefully ones that hate bikes as much as we do.

I will admit that I rode a bike to school as a kid, ride one everywhere now when the weather is good, I even raced them once upon a time, and I spend money on them. I don't consider myself a budding socialist or commie just someone who likes to save a bit of money while staying fit.

Now that is truly un-American.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sucker Punch: Hiding behind anonymity

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 8:11 PM

My first magazine editorial position was with one that received quite a few letters to the editor. And when it came to those letters, the head of editorial department was a stickler. We had to follow up on each letter that was being considered for print and find out if indeed the person who wrote it wrote it. That, and we never ever ran anonymous letters.

To me, anonymous letters to the editor are nothing more than cheap shots, sucker punches. Printing them allows someone to fire off an opinion, slur, praise without any recourse.

Unfortunately, publications often print anonymous letters by way of promoting their point of view which takes on legitimacy because it appears in a letter from an independent source- a reader.

For all the bashing The Bulletin gets, the paper does not run anonymous letters and meticulously follows up to make sure of the authorship of the signed letters they might run. After verification, the Bulletin's editorial board decides which letters are worthy of including in their "Letters To The Editor" section of the editorial page.

Now what letters The Bulletin editors decide to run is entirely a different matter and one for perhaps another blog.

Here I want to focus in on the anonymous letter in the current edition of The Source on Cricket Daniel's play, "Couple Dating."

Under the cloak of anonymity, a writer blasts the play for all sorts of un-PC stereotyping. In short, people should be picketing performances because of the play's lack of sensitivity.

I read the script two years ago and my take on the obviously unenlightened male lead character was that his part was written such as to show him to be just that -- unenlightened. Unenlightened and stupid, if you will, which in turn makes him the perfect foil for what transpires in the play.

He's a character not a spokesperson for the playwright's personal beliefs.

Now I have not seen a performance of the play, but will do so. Family members have and said they enjoyed the evening, weren't offended and were very happy to see a local playwright get a chance to produce and direct her play on a Bend stage.

In fact, one family member, very enlightened mind you, has been back to see the play with friends. All those friends seemed to enjoy it as well.

Before The Source printed the anonymous letter, word on the street among local theater people was that the paper would not review the play because of the complaint of one person: the anonymous letter writer. That is simply not true. There will be a review.

If it had been true, it would have been a real slap in the face to readers who might be looking for help in making a decision whether or not to see the play.

One person's mind is made up-"Couple Dating" is insensitive. I'll bear that in mind and find out for myself when I see the play next week.

In the meantime, why is the person who damns the play doing so anonymously? Why is he or she scared of doing the right and honorable thing by stating who they are and being open to a dialogue on the subject?

Nothing has been gained by printing that anonymous letter. Perhaps it might have even the reverse affect getting people more interested in going to the play just to see what all the fuss is about.

One thing I know is that Second Street Theater owner Maralyn Thoma is an enlightened and caring person as well as careful in what she puts on stage at her theater.

As to the playwright, I think she's way smarter than the anonymous person gives her credit for being.

I believe printing anonymous letters should never be condoned in any publication. Others disagree I'm sure.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sporting Cycle: Getting back to basics

Posted By on Sat, Apr 10, 2010 at 8:36 PM

The Cross Country Ski Areas Association's (CCSAA) membership is comprised of ski area and ski resort owners and operators plus representatives from ski gear makers, grooming equipment manufacturers, insurance companies and others who offer services to ski areas. In short, it's a classic affinity group, and like so many such groups holds an annual convention.

Before this past week's gathering at The Seventh Mountain Resort, the CCSAA convention was last held in Bend 21 years ago. Then, the convention drew well over 250 people. This year's version drew only 36 people with a third of those being representatives of grooming, insurance and ski companies.

So why the downward trend in attendance over the intervening decades?

"Simply put, "noted Peter Ashley of ski distributor Fischer of America, "it's the economy. Area owners and operators can't afford the time away from their places to attend an annual meeting."

But there's more to it than that. Cross-country skiing is a sport going through the end of a lifecycle. A lifecycle that began with the boom in interest in the sport in the early 1970s when it became more widely known to the general public throughout North America.

Buoyed by technological advances in skis and boot/bindings systems, the perfection of grooming and expanded trail systems, plus new techniques like skating (freestyle), the sport sustained steady growth. That growth leveled out in the 1990s and now is on the downturn.

The numbers of people coming into cross-country skiing have dwindled substantially and some industry experts cite unpredictable winters, the growing number of sports and entertainment options available to people and, of course, the economy as the reasons for the decrease in numbers.

I look at it differently. Cross-country skiing is at the end of a natural boom/bust cycle that all self-propelled sports go through.

Take running, for example. It's gone through the full cycle booming in the 70s and then almost fading from view in the 90s. Then came a resurgence of interest and a re-birth and the start of a new cycle, if you will, over the past several years.

Apart from going through the end days of the boom/bust natural cycle, in order for cross-country skiing to experience a re-invigoration like running has the people who push the sport have to get back to basics.

That's basics as in selling what makes the sport great. And what makes it great? If the surveys we did during the late 70s and through the 80s at Ski Magazine were correct, people like to participate in cross-country skiing because they enjoy being outside in nature in winter.

Then, cross-country skis were simply the vehicles to get you outdoors in winter. It didn't matter how you dressed, how far you skied and how fast you went.

But as time went on, the movers and shakers in the cross-country community began a long infatuation with racing and skating. In doing so, they turned their backs on the average kick-and-glide skier who is now forced to ski on a broad ribbon of groomed highway all the while feeling a bit overwhelmed as an army of fast skiing, Lycra glad, super serious skiers-in-training whiz past.

Looking at the various brochures that ski areas left on a table at the recent CCSAA convention all but one featured skate skiers in flashy outfits on their covers. The area not showing a serious skater, Northstar at Lake Tahoe, showed a not-so-flashily dressed skier striding along a trail with a beautiful view in the background. The brochure was inviting. It wasn't like the others, essentially challenging you to bring your "A" skate game to the resort if you wanted to have a good time.

Steve Schneider of the Teacup Nordic Ski Club on Mount Hood pointed out that three issues of one of the ski magazines offered for convention attendees to take home featured high intensity skate ski scenes on their covers.

On hearing Schneider's comments another delegate chimed in, "It's the same old problem. Ski areas and the press keep appealing to 10 percent of the people who ski, totally forgetting that important 90 percent who pay the bills."

Another convention delegate disagreed saying that there was a trickle down factor whereby the fast and furious inspired people to get out and ski and that there would be a surge of new interest in cross-country skiing based on people watching the Vancouver Olympic cross-country competitions on television.

Wrong. The reaction among the general sports media following the cross-country events at the Vancouver Games was a collective ho-hum at best. The only time American has gotten a post-Olympic surge (make that a tiny wave) in interest in the sport was when Bill Koch won a silver medal in 1976, the one and only time an American has medaled in cross-country skiing.

So to think high tech skiing and racing will carry the sport of cross-country skiing to a bright new future is ludicrous.

What will carry the sport forward is getting back to basics. Apart from just being outside in nature in winter, a cross-country skiing essential is how the sport is still one of the best total body exercises ever. And that's not just for the go-fast set -- the average skier can burn a lot of calories just sliding along.

There's also the aspect of camaraderie, being out with people. We see some of that fostered locally by Parks and Rec, churches and other groups.

But here, as elsewhere, the fast crowd demands the attention, complains the most when tracks aren't set perfectly and doesn't seem interested in inclusiveness particularly of the less skilled or non-competitive minded.

Cross-country skiing as a sport can have a second life, a resurgence, but it will take a lot of people in the press and the ski industry to get back to promoting what made the sport great in the first place. It wasn't going fast, but going slow and taking in the sights while staying healthy.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eating The Competition: it's time for the judges to be judged

Posted By on Sun, Apr 4, 2010 at 11:05 PM

I admit it. I watch a lot of the Food Network's programming and do so not so much for the food but for the characters like Paula Deen whose secret ingredients in every recipe are butter and sugar. There's no amount of both that will do for this Southern lady and talk about running counter to modern eating trends, Paul keeps old school grub alive.

Then there's Giada De Laurentis who is my idea of the perfect Italian chef-attractive and I presume a great cook.

How about Sandra Lee? For years I labored under the illusion that her show was a parody of the culinary life of a 1950/60s perfect suburban housewife. It isn't.

On the male side, Bobby Flay oozes New York uber confidence and strut, a nice bit of sour to leaven the network's sweet.

When it comes to on-camera personality, Flay has nothing on the network's biggest star, which isn't the raspy voiced Rachel Ray but Guy Fieri. Northern California chef and restaurant owner Fieri won the Network's "Next Best Chef" contest a few years ago and bleached hair, tats, big rings, pierced body parts and all has become a one man cooking show juggernaut. He's also gotten the attention of the major networks and hosts a lame NBC game show program.

Fieri 's "Diners Drive-ins, and Dives" is easily the most entertaining show on the Food Network as he explores the gastronomic pleasures of places so aptly identified in the program's title. Places that serve food that make Paula Deen's cooking look like lean cuisine (might I suggest my local fav-the Pilot Butte Drive-In-for inclusion in the show?)

Triple D, as Fieri calls it, delivers heart-stopping, artery clogging food to die for - literally.

Fieri also serves as the emcee for a program called the "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" which pits four amateur chefs in a cooking contest to win $10,000.

I like this show because of its judges, the three of whom tend to be supportive of the chef's efforts and when they damn their dishes, they do so by way of faint praise.

That can't be said for another Food Network show called "Chopped" and others where the competing chefs are treated like scum by the judges.

Being a snot nosed jerk seems to come with the judging territory. Ooze elitism, snobbism and every bad "ism" possible and act as if you've never ever done anything so rash as to burn toast and you too can be a Food Network judge.

Watching the jerk/snobs judges got me to thinking that the Food Network ought to offer a payback show where the snobby foodies get their comeuppance. A show that features the oh-so-superior trying to prepare duck a l'orange in fifteen minutes.

In my dream payback show, the snobby judges get lambasted by amateur cooks to the point where they slouch off the set in tears to wail and moan over a glass of Chateau Lafite '63.

Of course, this show will never get the green light as snobby critics are a staple of Food Network and part of its franchise.

Maybe a better comeuppance would be to have the snobs host a segment of "Diner's Drive-ins and Dives" and see how they fare.

Chances are their delicate palates would revolt and their delicate sensibilities would be permanently damaged.

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