Going to Band Practice

After playing Guitar Hero 2 until I got to the death metal levels, and hating most of the songs in Guitar Hero 3, I wasn't sure what to expect from Rock Band. I needn't be worried however, since Rock Band is probably the coolest video game ever. For the uninitiated, it comes (in the special edition), with a guitar (better than the GH guitars), a drum set, and a microphone. You can buy another guitar if you want and have someone playing bass as well as lead. In any case, that's your band. Leif and I formed our own band with him on guitar and me on drums, and I have to say that I'm having a blast on this. I read somewhere that playing the RB drums is close to playing the real drums (closer than the other instruments get to their counterparts at least), and it's definitely hard. I've been playing on Medium level, except for 1 song ("Wanted Dead or Alive") which I'm doing on Hard, and it's so...much....fun. We've spent most of the weekend playing, or when Leif got too tired, I started playing in solo mode.

The songs are so much better than what came in GH 2 and 3, that so far I haven't found one that I haven't liked.

This is what I did all weekend

New Puppy

This is Thor:

Thor at 8 1/2 weeks

As of yesterday, he turned 9 weeks old. We picked him up last week, the day after we got back from Cozumel from Merriman Labradors (Carolyn and George are great btw). Leif for some reason insisted on getting another dog, even though we already have 2. He did make a good point - Loki and Odin are getting old-ish (they'll be 8 this year), and he wants to get another one while they can still play with him. However, there's a few things new puppies do which I really didn't miss. 1) they can't sleep through the night. Around 3:30am he has to go out, and around 6:30am. 2) they chew on EVERYTHING. 3) they're not housebroken.

However, even with all of that said, they're really cute.

When they sleep....
Puppies are cute when they sleep like this

When they play...
Thor tries to play with Loki

And when they snuggle up next to their big brothers...
Odin sleeps with his new little friend

New Dog Breed - The Laprador

Over the years since we've had Loki and Odin, for some reason even though they're both 75-80 pounds now, they still think they're Lapradors. I'm not entirely sure why this happens, but it's like they don't realize how big they've gotten. Having them sleep in the bed is bad enough, but when you're trying to watch TV on the couch, and you have this big lug of a dog struggle to get into your lap, you miss half the show.

So, ALL HAIL KING LOKI - THE LAPRADOR!

Loki the Laprador

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NHL Winter Classic

Crosby after the Winter ClassicPhoto from nhl.com website
Today feels like Sunday, even though it's a Tuesday. After attending a New Year's Eve party last night given by one of our neighbors (best part: we didn't have to drive anyplace), we woke up late this morning (well, woke up early, fed/took out the dogs, then went back to sleep), and spent part of the day watching the NHL Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Really fun game to watch, even though they had to clean/repair the ice a lot, but I guess that's what happens when you put a hockey rink on top of a football field. :) The game was perfect too since it was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, nobody scored in overtime, and Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal during the shootout. For a game like this, it was cool it was so evenly matched honestly, because a blowout wouldn't have been much fun.

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Curacao Trip

We've been so insanely busy the last few months, it's not even funny, and I've been meaning to write this post since then :). At the end of September, we took a trip to Curacao for the Colorado Scuba Bash (our scuba shop of choice, as always, is Coral Reef Scuba and Travel)

. The trip was a blast - I can't believe all the cool stuff we saw. We stayed at the Habitat Curacao which has 24x7 diving available. The dive shop itself is open all day, but there's a tank room, where they always leave tanks of Nitrox or air for you to take. Once you get a tank, you literally just walk down to the dive dock, and jump in - it's about a 5 minute swim out to where the reef starts. Leif and I both agreed that our best dives were the shore dives, and we even did 2 night dives with the group as well. We saw a lot of different Moray Eels, Parrotfish, Scorpianfish, Red Hind, several Octopii, and some people in our group even saw squid! I have a bunch of pictures on Flickr in my Curacao set, but here's a few to tide you over.

Octopus
The grumpy old man.

Michelle and Leif
Me and Leif hanging out under the sea. Photo taken by Randy Partch.

Juvenile French Angelfish
Juvenile French Angelfish

Fark hits the Big Time On Jeopardy

My absolute favorite website where I get all my news each day is fark.com. People submit stories with funny headlines - the whole site is moderated so not everything gets, what they call, the "green light" to go out to the general public.

Apparently one of the Jeopardy writers is a huge Fark fan, so recently there was a whole category of Fark headlines. Video is here.

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You Don't Know Jack

Years and years ago, there was this great series of games called You Don't Know Jack. Funny trivia with a narrator that had a great sense of humor. Multiplayer or single player, I ended up playing most of it in single player mode. I bought every game in the series.

Imagine my shock when I found out that the makers of the You Don't Know Jack series have now released new episodes of the games as Flash content. Every day they have either a full 7 question episode, or a Dis or Dat minigame.

My days are now full of wonder and joy.

Diving with the Sharks

Sand Tiger Shark
Ever since we started scuba diving, the Dive With the Sharks program at the Denver Aquarium was just something on our list of things to do. It's pretty pricey, but we viewed it as one of those "things you have to do once" activities, since it's in the Aquarium. After attending Colorado Dive Days last weekend, and being reminded that we wanted to do this, we signed up to do the dive today.

I'll note that even though you're in an enclosed tank in the Denver Aquarium, you're still in a tank full of sharks. They actually do their best to disassociate people from food by not feeding the sharks before the dive, during the dive, or after the dive. None of the sharks are handfed, and apparently are around divers every day, so the aquarium has done their best to make this a safe environment.
Michelle during the shark dive
We got to the aquarium around 12:15 and were taken into the "behind the scenes" area, where we saw the freshwater support tank, as well as the saltwater support tank, and the tops of several exhibits. Finally they took us over to the shark area where we could look down from above. It's a pretty big tank, although when you're actually in the aquarium looking into it, it doesn't look that big (I'm guessing because of how they have the glass curved). We were given a briefing as to the different type of sharks in the tank, and some of the different type of fish (there were 2 sea turtles in there as well), and general safety instructions. Things like "do everything slowly", "don't touch the fish", "if a sand tiger shark is swimming in the trench where you'll be, back off and crouch down and let it swim over you because they don't change their path". After the briefing we were suited up!

To avoid contamination issues, the only piece of your own scuba gear you could bring was a mask, everything else was provided for you. We brought our camera as well, but weren't allowed to bring the external strobe, so that decreased its usefulness immediately, but we still got a few decent pictures. 5mm wet suit, hood, gloves, fins, BCD, reg, SPG, and lots of weight. Everyone was overweighted because they didn't want you having to deal with any buoyancy issues during the dive, since most of the time you were going to be kneeling down in a trench someplace.
A hidden Nurse Shark
After gearing up, they broke the 4 of us into 2 groups, and put each group with a guide. Our group was the first one to go into the water. We had to do 2 quick scuba skills, just so they knew we remembered how to do certain things (partial mask flood and clear, and breathe off your alternate reg for a few breaths), and then we were told the guide would go first, stop partway down (in front of one of the display windows, holding onto the edge), and summon us one at a time. Leif went first, then me, and it was cool to see the look on the kid's faces when they saw people in the water staring back at them. In any case, that part of the fun was over soon, and after making sure the way was clear, we descended the rest of the way (down to 22 feet), and settled ourselves into a trench to watch the sharks.

I must say I felt pretty relaxed watching them because I was in the trench. We were still definitely in the tank, and the sharks could still definitely swim to us if they wanted, but it still felt relaxing. It was pretty surreal to look around and see all these sharks swimming by you, and around in the distance. They move very gracefully when they're just swimming around, but they're still predators, so can move quickly if they see something they want (fortunately we never experienced that :).

After being in the first area for a bit, we moved around the edge of the tank to another area where we could see certain sharks better, and even see the 2 turtles swimming above us. At one point while we were there, the guide tapped me on the arm and pointed, and off to our left, a sand tiger shark was swimming a few feet above us in the trench. We all crouched down much more than we were, and he decided to swim above me back into the middle of the tank. I didn't move while he did that, until the guide said all was clear. That was a little freaky, but kind of cool all the same.
Shark silhouette
The third area in the tank we went to was a hole in the wall, about midway up the tank, so we could see things at a higher vantage point. Finally we descended back down to the first area, stayed there for awhile, ascended back to the display window so we could freak out some more kids, and came back to the top. All in all I think we were down there for about 50 minutes.

Definitely something worth doing once in your life, especially if you don't think you're going to do any real shark dives anytime soon (I'm not sure if I want to shark dive in the ocean anyways).
A Shark

First scuba photography

Took an underwater photography class at Coral Reef Scuba and Travel. We found some cool things underwater.

Monsters...
It's amazing what you find underwater!

Plants....
Fake plastic plant

and Swedes, oh my!
Leif

Your Responsibility to Stay Safe

I've now known 4 people to get in serious motorcycle accidents.

Person 1 - a friend at Apple was riding with friends in the hills of California, and a deer ran out in front of him. He plowed right through the deer, skidded with the bike on top of him off the side of the road, hit the drain pipe, and settled in the woods. He broke his hip, and had numerous bruises. After he got out of the hospital and I went to visit him at home, he showed me his protective gear. His helmet was completely totaled. His leather jacket and pants were shredded beyond all belief. The spine guard he had on had a few very deep dents from where he hit the drain pipe. I believe today he still has hip problems occasionally, but is otherwise fine.

Person 2 - Accident on his dirt bike - was just out riding and lost control. His helmet was completely split in two. He only broke a couple of ribs besides the obvious bruises and scrapes, and today is fine.

Person 3 - Lost control on his motorcycle and was in a coma for a couple of weeks, besides breaking his hand very severely. This happened a few months ago, and is still recovering and having physical therapy to regain 100% full use of his hand. His helmet saved his life though.

Person 4 - Lost control of his motorcycle riding home from work. Broke his spine, was on a respirator, and died this past week. Chris, you will be missed by everyone who knew you. Your smile was infectious, and I was very happy to have known you.

I've been thinking a lot lately of all of these accidents since hearing that Chris Rummel died a few days ago from his injuries. All 4 of these people were very safe riders. All 4 wore helmets. All 4 didn't die immediately because of their helmets.

The one thing that most amazed Leif and I when we first moved out to Colorado is that there's no helmet law. I guess that does make sense, I mean if people don't want to wear helmets, why should they be forced to? It's their lives. Our neighbor is a very avid Harley rider with a wife and 2 young kids. He doesn't wear a helmet, and told me once that any accident he gets in, will be serious enough where a helmet wouldn't make a difference and he'd die anyways. His wife told me the other day (when I was talking to them about Chris) that he's a safe rider. Do I worry about him? Yes, he's a friend of ours, and I don't want anything bad to happen to him.

It doesn't really matter how safe you are, it's the other people on the road that can cause the problems. In the situation with my friend who hit the deer, he was as safe as they came - he even had full body protective gear when he did long all day rides, because he said "you just never know." You don't ever know. He didn't expect a deer to suddenly come running *right in front of him* on the road. Chris didn't expect to lose control of his motorcycle, a few miles from his apartment. His was just really bad luck, and nobody knows exactly what happened.

I guess I just don't understand if you can take a small preventative measure like wearing a helmet, why you just wouldn't do it.

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