Monday, October 31, 2005

Autumnal glow--Cari and Pup

Siblings: Cari and Jim. Late October, 2005. Dutchess County, New York.

Dos caballos y el hombre.

With Indiana Jones

Toying with Indy

Indian Summer Stroll

Two Noses

Stables at Windrock Farm

Days End

A Weekend on Horseback

It was one of those weekends for the ages. The brochure would have read: Escape to New England, relish the brilliant colors of fall, experience the romance!

Or some such nonsense.

I was in New York visiting my sister Cari at her place in Dutchess County. She is about two hours north of the city in the Hudson River Valley across the river from Woodstock, near Millbrook and Hyde Park.

Somehow I hit the jackpot, arriving while the colors were at their peak. This was lucky since the peak is usually closer to mid-October.

Cari’s property is a horse farm and we rode horse after horse all weekend long. One of my mounts was Mash an advanced level event horse and qualifier for the Atlanta Olympics. He didn’t compete due to an injury but is doing fine now and is still quite an athlete.

I found myself surrounded by women most of the weekend. Along with Cari there was her friend Mary from California, Stine (pronounced Steen ah) a ravishing young Dane living and working on the farm for a few months, and Evan a lifelong New Yorker who is doing the unthinkable and living in Connecticut (and liking it). I also saw Cari’s friends Alex and Dean.

Dean and the full time barn manager Cenobio were the only men among this sea of Carrie Bradshawesque ladies. I got my earful of the husband and boyfriend issues, the parents that aren’t there for them, the health and diet issues of upscale women, etc. Oprah's weekend in the country.

We spent hour after hour going in and out of woods glowing with the yellows and oranges of a New England fall. The red foliage already peaked, but what was left was more than enough to take your breath away. I have to admit, if not romantic, it was magic.

Coming from Arizona the evenings were frigid--though it remained above freezing. The days were cool too, making it perfect weather for wool sweaters and coats.

This part of New York is classic New England with small picturesque towns. While walking the streets of Millerton, NY, about eight miles from the farm, I commented to Cari that everything about the town was just a little too cute. It was like the movie set of a quaint 1950s New England town. We stopped so Mary (currently residing in the somewhat warmer West Hollywood) could buy some long underwear. The rest of us grabbed some tea (yes, tea) and I ran over to catch a view of the glassblowers at Gilmor Glassworks.

It was a good visit memorable for the stunning scenery, the world class horses, and mostly for the chance to see my sister who I’d not seen in far too long--her schedule keeping her too busy to stop in Arizona (a not so subtle invite).

For more on Cari's horses and farm visit http://www.cariswanson.com

For the best design, editorial, marketing, and production house in the nation visit Alex and Dean's site at http://www.drakreate.com/about.html

Sunday, July 24, 2005

2012 update: Pure fraud.


AP Photo.

Sonoran Salute

As Lance Armstrong was pedaling in to Paris this morning to seal his seventh Tour de France victory I rose early to do some pedaling of my own. I left my house just as the sun peeked over the Sonoran Desert horizon. Twenty minutes later I rendezvoused with my friends John, Bill, and Rick and we did a tribute ride to Lance.

Our route was about thirty-five miles long taking us about 2.5 hours on our mountain bikes. Along the way we saw at least half a dozen riders wearing yellow jerseys in honor of Armstrong.

Lance’s superhuman achievement is an inspiration. He may have a genetic advantage over most of us, but far more than that he has heart. He is a man who knows how to dream and follow his dreams. From conquering cancer, to conquering the biking world he is one of the great inspirations of our times.

And he’s human too. His speech from the winner’s podium had an oddly bitter note as he addressed the critics of cycling, whoever they are. But an off note on this last day of cycling career is allowed. We all have our days.

For good and bad this is Lance’s day.

Here’s to Lance and here’s to having a dream.

What’s your dream?

Regards,

Jim Breitinger
The Sonoran Desert

Friday, June 24, 2005


Sycamore Canyon, northern Arizona.

Jake, almost ten months. Surrounded by lava rocks near Sycamore Canyon, northern Arizona.

Detail of alligator juniper. Photo by Jim Breitinger.

Campsite with Jake and alligator juniper. Slept under the moon and stars.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Sitting on the fence at Sandstone Farm. Mansfield, Ohio. May 2005. Photo by Marijan Grogoza.

To Ohio

Went to Ohio in mid-May.

Buried Jackson's remains in a small brilliant service, appropriate for the boy. His body's gone, but a rock cairn stands in his memory looking over a sweep of lawn surrounded by woods. A spot of earthly heaven for a dog.

Took in the green--it was as green as the Amazon.

Saw friends and family. Enjoyed time spent with my mom, especially our hikes in the woods.

A perfect trip.

Saturday, April 30, 2005


Ferguson finishing the Gobi March--looking strong (and no doubt feeling a lot of pain with the anticipation of relief and recovery). Photo by Lester Lim.

Madman in the Gobi

Following in the footsteps of Marco Polo, my Tokyo based cousin Ben Ferguson spent last week in China’s Gobi Desert.

He and his Gobi colleagues are all certifiable.

Over the course of seven days they ran 158 miles across China’s hottest region. Each competitor was self-supported, carrying their own food and gear. Water and tents were provided by the organizers. Ben had to subsist on 2,000 calories a day.

In essence he ran five marathons back to back, and oh, in addition to the five marathons he also ran a double marathon, well almost: 56 miles.

Can the human body even do this? With that little food?

What the x!#???

His mother relays the message that his feet are hamburger after this undertaking.

Imagine that? He's lucky to still have feet.

I’ve run one marathon in my life. Honestly the run wasn’t that hard, but I hurt my foot and could barely walk for a couple of weeks. I “hurt” my foot, running a mere 26 miles . . . poor me.

Ben announced that he was doing this because as a child he had asthma and was told he could never be an athlete.

Pssst . . . don’t tell your kid he can’t be an athlete, or he may morph into a madman.

It's official, Ben Ferguson, is a world class athlete. Competing at a level beyond Olympian he came in sixth place out of a hundred competitors.

Unreal.

Who was that Greek wimp that keeled over after running 26 miles from Marathon?

The Gobi March was organized by RacingThePlanet “to inspire people from all walks of life to explore cultures in the four corners of the earth through participation in world class outdoors events which take them beyond their physical frontiers.”

In addition to proving that he could, Ben ran this race “to help UNICEF raise funds to help other kids around the world realize their dreams.” Please donate a few dollars to his UNICEF fund at

http://www.unicefusa.org/friendsaskingfriends/gobimarch?faf=1&e=278855201


Twenty-nine year old Ben Ferguson, expatriate American living in Tokyo, on day three of the Gobi March, Gobi Desert, China. Photo by Lester Lim.

Ferguson on day one. Photo by Lester Lim.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Life in Phoenix, Kevin Bacon, and Ruminations on American Capitalism

I’ve been living in Phoenix nine months now! Time flies.

I’ve met some wonderful people since I’ve been here, and enjoyed being closer to my cousin and her family.

My cousin’s husband, Chris Lamont, founded the Phoenix Film Festival. Last week’s festival marked their fifth year. The event has been a huge success. This year’s featured film was Loverboy, a film produced by Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick. Bacon directed. They both acted in the film with Sedgwick in the lead along with an amazing child actor Dominic Scott Kay who also acted in Minority Report with Tom Cruise.

It was a powerful film. The story featured a young woman Emily Stoll (Sedgwick) who decides to have a baby out of wedlock. As part of her grand plan she has no relationship with the father beyond the one night. After giving birth, mother and son proceed to live a very eccentric life. At first her approach to motherhood comes across as off-beat but cool and innovative. But things go too far as Emily’s attachment to her son begins to smother him, leading to trouble.

I asked Bacon a question about the film during the Q & A afterwards. I also had the “thrill” of passing him as he came out of the men’s room when I entered. To top it all off I briefly met Sedgwick after the film and gushed about how much I enjoyed it. My statements were sincere, but my celebrity worship was a little pathetic. What can I say? My cousins and their friends actually met the Bacons, had real conversations, and got their pictures taken with them. I missed all of that. Meanwhile Chris, as festival founder and executive director, was their official host during their time here.

Arizona is wonderful in the winter and spring. Since Christmas day I have been mountain biking nearly every weekend. Today we rode a trail in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, just a few miles from my house. After a wet winter things are drying up. I saw my first snake of the year.

One of our more noteable mountain biking experiences to date came about a month ago. We were at a trailhead in Mesa, on the southeast side of the metropolis. As we geared up paramedics rushed down the trail ahead of us. We were told someone had fallen and severed his ear off, presumably hitting a rock just the wrong way. Not much later, as we started our ride we came across the poor fellow who was lying about a foot off the trail. He was well attended to and there wasn't much we could do except for be in the way. We proceeded on, passing him and looking down at him as we pedaled by. I couldn't help but feel like we were treating him like roadkill, but there wasn't anything for us to do except get in the way.

Jake is keeping me busy as he quickly grows up. He's already almost as big as Jackson was. I am afraid he will be somewhat bigger than Jackson before he stops growing.


I am currently teaching the following classes: Geo-political History, Humanities, Speech, and Marketing. This is a mix that makes sense given my undergrad degree in marketing and my M.A. in history. I've taught subjects ranging from ethics to algebra.

This is my first time with our Humanities class and I am having a great time with it.

I’ve read a number of books over the past few months. Two of the most recent are Conspiracy of Fools on the downfall of Enron, by Kurt Eichenwald and Blood on the Street by Charles Gasparino. Together they paint an ugly picture of American capitalism in action. While not prepared to through my hat to the socialists, I am a proponent of strong regulations, safeguards, and checks and balances on the capitalists.

Eichenwald’s book is especially well written. It’s a narrative of Enron told as best as he could from a fly on the wall perspective. His research was extensive. I am sure there are errors, as there are in any book, but he creates a detailed story of Enron in action. Andy Fastow, the Enron CFO comes across as the biggest villain in the story, though if you’re looking to point fingers there is plenty of blame to go around. Considered one of the top and most innovative American companies for years, and sought after by politicians who wanted to associate with popular and successful people (Democrats and Republicans befriended the leaders of Enron), Enron was rotten to the core.

In late 2001, almost overnight, Enron went from the top of corporate America to being a heap of collapsed cards. They declared bankruptcy, their stock became worthless, and thousands of people lost their jobs. At the same time Enron’s accounting firm Arthur Andersen also ceased to exist almost overnight after the corporation became a convicted felon for crimes committed related to their work with Enron. Tens of thousands of people lost jobs in that debacle.

Of course Enron’s fall was just the beginning as other high flying companies came crashing down: Worldcom, Global Crossing, Tyco, AOL Time Warner, countless dot coms, and on and on. Not all of these went bankrupt, but many did and the others lost trillions in market capitalization--meaning many investors lost trillions in their portfolios.

Gasparino’s book focuses on the three most popular stock analysts of the boom years as well as some of the regulators who have had various successes and failures in picking up the pieces after the boom ended. Elliot Spitzer, New York State’s Attorney General, comes across as a fascinating character. Successful where the SEC failed miserably, Spitzer brought his brand of justice to many wrong-doers. Yet his brand of justice is an odd one. Using a New York law he has immense power, even more than the federal government. Yet Spitzer, assuming he is sincere in his goals of fighting for the small investor, can only do so much in punishing the people and companies that were so out of line in recent years. The consensus among Spitzer, other regulators, and industry leaders is that he can not go all out in prosecuting these crimes where his prosecutions would bring down companies like Merrill Lynch, Salomon Brothers, and others. To take down such “big fish” could have such negative consequences on our financial system that even Spitzer is afraid to go that far. So the companies pay fines, some individual’s find their careers ending, but basically things continue as always.

Interesting questions are raised about the nature of our economy and the best ways of regulating it. We live in the wealthiest society of all times based on material measurements (and others), yet our institutions have has many contradictions and weaknesses, as each of do as individuals. Reading about Enron, and the other discredited or questionable players of recent times provides an interesting perspective on these issues.


My cousin-in-law Chris Lamont, cousins Lisa (Ashbrook) Lamont, and Beth Ashbrook, with Kevin Bacon at the 2005 Phoenix Film Festival. Photograph by David Bushey.

The master of his domain. Phoenix Film Festival Founder Chris Lamont at the 2005 festival.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Where is Lake Powell?


The eastern end of Lake Powell, January 3, 2005, approximately 180 miles from Glenn Canyon Dam.

Unless the dam is removed--which is unlikely in the near future--the reservoir waters will return again. The Colorado River is the water in the center left of this photo. In the upper center, you can see the Colorado River bridge. (Without double clicking on this image you likely will not be able to see the bridge.)

River runners coming out of Cataract Canyon after week-long river trips know this bridge as their first encounter with civilization--excluding the upper reaches of the reservoir--after days in one of the Colorado River's other Grand Canyons. From roughly the mid to late 1970s until around 2002/3 the reservoir went miles above where the bridge is located in this image. Before the recent drought--which has at the very least eased up this winter--the area photographed here was an artificial, beautiful, invasive, horrible, man-made inland sea. Which is it?

Lake Powell is both a jewel in the desert and an assault on the landscape. To those of us who love wild areas, riparian eco-systems, and free-flowing rivers, the lake is an assault on morality--man run amok with his technological prowess. Because we can build a dam we do--even though Lake Powell is hard to justify based on any traditional dam building rationales. It only takes water out of the Colorado River system through massive amounts of evaporation. No water is used from the lake for agrigculture or municipal uses. The Colorado River water that is used by the fast growing cities of the American West is sucked out much further downriver (Arizona's Colorado River water is removed from the river below Hoover Dam at Lake Havasu). **See note below on hydro-electricity.

For millions of vacationers with their houseboats and ski-boats, Lake Powell is a man-made wonder. In a desert land of slickrock and redrock formations, the lake became a recreational paradise for the motorized boat crowds over the past few decades. People can enjoy the desert, but their enjoyment came at the cost of drowning a stunning canyon, the former Glen Canyon which remains under water today (immediately down river of this image and the image below).

The "lake" area is easily distinguished here as the entire foreground narrowing into the Colorado River and the lower end of Cataract Canyon at the top of the photo--or simply the darker parts of the photo. For any of us who spent time in this area in the 1980s and 1990s through about 2003, this photo is breathtaking for what is not there: the slack water of Lake Powell. Of course the temporary disappearance of the reservoir has allowed for the reappearance of the river that has traveled through this land for millions of years, the Colorado.

**Note: Glenn Canyon Dam generates 1.3 million megawatthours of electrity per year, when operating at full capacity. Almost all of this electricity is used in Arizona where it represents about 2% of the annual electric needs of the state (1999 electric consumption in Arizona: 58.1 million megawatthours). Source: Arizona state profile, U.S. Department of Energy, for 1999.

Hite Marina


Lake Powell at Hite, January 3, 2005.

This photo is a shot down from the same bluff where I took the previous picture. The previous photo is the left side of this image looking further north and east. The Colorado River is immediately below me and is not visible in this photo. Think of it as the bottom of this image.

In the upper center, just right of center is the boat ramp for Hite Marina. The boat ramp looks like an airport landing strip. The marina is, obviously, inoperable. On the upper left side (if you enlarge this by double clicking on it) you'll see a speck of color. The color is from the buildings at the marina.

When I drove through in early January the gas station was open with no attendants. It was automated, pay with your credit card, and pump yourself. Not a soul was around during my stop and the lake/reservoir could not be seen at all. The store at the marina was shut for the winter. The marina will not be a marina again until the lake rises. At the time of this photograph the reservoir was at about 50% of its capacity, a level last seen in 1972 when Lake Powell was filling for the first time--a process that took seventeen years.

Jacob Kanab Powell, a.k.a. Jake, Uinta Mountains, Utah, January 2, 2005.

Jake posing in front of the aspens.

Jake in the snow.

Jake in the Uintas. Looking pretty grown up at four months of age.

Jake with Sam the Seal. He's a smart little guy, not staying little for long.

Eating off the highway, just south of Hanksville, Utah. Note the purple decorative grapes. :) Thanks P.