Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Rugbread Day!

I decree that today is Rugbread Day! Happy Rugbread Day!

No, I am not really important enough to create my own holiday - only the California Prune Promotion Board can do that. But I do have an annual tradition wherein I produce a blob of festively decorated gingerbread for the centerpiece of my parent's annual Christmas Eve party.

I'd say gingerbread house, but most of my blobs are only houses in the vaguest sense of the word and some just aren't at all. Like, say, this train that started it all back in 1987.

For a couple of years my Mom made a house and I made a train, but in 1989 I took over gingerbread-blob production entirely.

Now that Mr. & Mrs. Original PotatoHead are retired and do a lot of traveling, the blob's theme is usually wherever they've traveled that year. Usually Mrs. O.P. picks food from that country and the whole project takes on a veneer of useful enterprise, rather than a plot by Mrs. O.P. to keep me from getting eaten by a mountain lion.

This year they went to Norway, so I had my choice of a stave church or a Viking ship. Being a lazy wimp, I choose the ship. I have some experience in gingershipwrighting, as seen to the right.

In 2001, in a fit of patriotism, I made a gingerbread America - the first ship to win the race that gets you the big fancy cup now know as the (duh) America's Cup.

Anyway, to return to the subject of this post. There's alway one day that winds up mostly devoted to the blob, and today will be that day. I have decided I will give this little personal holiday a name, and I choose Rugbread Day.

The gingerbread that I use for this sort of thing has no leavening and I use cheap fat, so you wouldn't really want to eat it. It has spices, but otherwise is about as pleasant as eating the dining room rug on which I will inevitably get crumbs and jimmies. However, I was thinking more of the bread we bought in Iceland on the same trip when Mr. Potatohead and I visited Norway. The package read "Brown Bread" in Icelandic, but it looked like "Rug Bread" to me, and that's exactly what it tasted like. It also somehow lasted forever so that by the time we got to Norway I was eating it for breakfast with geitost, which is no errand for the faint hearted.

So in honor of darkish flat substances that aren't as good to eat as they should be and last for frickin' ever, I decree today to be Rugbread Day in the PotatoHead household!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Exam time!

Some of my loyal readers have pointed out that I don't seem to do much work.

Oh, but I do! I do! It's just that I think it would be pretty boring to read about the work part.

But, heck, I'm just sitting here proctoring an exam so let's go through my day:

This morning I wrote the exam for my AIDS class. Do you know how hard it is to come up with multiple choice questions about concurrent sexual networks? Essay question time! That means they'll be harder to grade. Ugh. I can blog about that tomorrow!

Then I went into the office for my "office hours" when theoretically students are supposed to come visit and ask me questions. Why is it that students email me from campus during my office hours to ask questions I can't answer over email?

Nevermind. Don't answer that.

Anyway, then I photocopied the exam. Whhhhoooooooo....photocopying! Should have snagged a picture of that.

Then I tried to finish grading my non major class papers. I knew a couple of students hadn't turned anything in, and I wasn't surprised. But when I went to enter the grades I realized I was missing 19 out of 120 papers (for the whole semester - but the final versions were due on Friday). The next in our series of unanswerable why questions is, "Why wouldn't you just turn something in?" A couple of students thought they had, but sent them in inscrutable formats. To give the others the benefit of the doubt, I have a little list of the missing papers and I'm planning to snag the students as they finish up the exam. Interestingly, of the 10 (out of 30) students who've finished the exam so far, none have missing papers.

Coincidence? I think not.

After this exam is over I have 30 minutes before I have to give my Cell bio exam. Then the grading begins!

Fortunately, I have beer left over from a little gathering I had over the weekend.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cold Cold Cold Cold

One of the great things about an arid climate is that one doesn't feel the cold as much as in, say, Boston.

However, there's a point where it's just fricken' COLD.

I'd say that point is at about -10 degrees F.

I can't wait to find out what -30 feels like.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Things I'm not proud of

1) This morning I woke up at 8:45 and was standing at the bus stop by 8:52 with all of my ski gear and hot coffee.

2) I had a calzone and a beer for lunch whilst grading problem sets

3) When I wound up on the lift with the best student in one of my classes, I actually pointed out that he didn't need to take the final. (He says he's taking it anyway.)

4) I was so tired after skiing a whole day that I got home, took a shower and was dead to the world for an hour until Mr. PotatoHead called.

Well, okay, I'm kind of proud of #1.

But more importantly...the Headwall is open! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow snow snow snow

This was quite the active weekend for Dr. PotatoHead. XC on Friday night and Saturday morning, downhill on Sunday and then up at the crack of dawn on Monday for a little XC before my 9 am class. I wish I'd brought my camera along - the light was fantastic off the ice-coated bushes and the steaming stream. However, 1) I'm not sure how I'd hold the camera, 2) the pictures probably wouldn't have looked as cool as the real thing, 3) it was so cold the camera probably would have frozen to my hands, and 4) we were right next to the airport so it's probably not totally kosher to snap pictures. There were no cows on the runway this morning, though.

(I realize that skiing next to the airport doesn't sound very idyllic, but Gunni only gets 3 flights a day this time of year, and the early morning flight doesn't start until after New Year's.)

Anyway, I'm a little tired at the moment.

It's supposed to be snowing down here, but not a flake has fallen since noon. The mountain's getting some flurries, but the current system seems to be going north of us.

I shouldn't get greedy though - the mountain got more than 80 inches over the past week.

The picture doesn't really do it justice, but the snow on this run was well up over my knees. You can sort of see a little speck about three-quarters of the way up the hill - that's a buried boarder trying to dig his way out. This stuff is perfect for boards - less so for skinny skis.

Here's another run that's just my old-lady speed. I think it's called Jokerville, but I might be wrong. It's definitely off the Silver Queen lift on the front side.

The little town in the valley is Mount Crested Butte. It's basically just the resort village at the bast of the mountain - the practical stuff is all in Crested Butte (or Gunni).

And here's another progress picture of the mountains beyond CB.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thursday morning ski report, part II

CMBR is finally starting to look like a ski area! This is a shot of Paradise Bowl - a very nice intermediate area of the mountain.

Good cruisers, but nothing exciting. Still, hard to complain when it's free, plus I'm taking my time this year working up to skiing the exciting stuff.

Where did Crested Butte get its name? Well, there's a butte and it's got a big pointy lump of rock on top. It's very impressive from the road, less so in this picture from the lift. But you get the point.

So to speak.

Sorry the light is so flat in all of these. A big storm was moving in and preparing to dump 40 sweeeeeeeet inches on the mountain. Today (Sunday) was clear and cool and the powder was over my knees.

I'll put up the pictures of that tomorrow, but right now I have to go spiff up for the campus Holiday party.

Psychodelic soup

Many of you may be asking yourself how I manage to feed myself without Mr. PotatoHead around.

And you would be right to do so.

The answer is that even I can make soup - and in this case quite a lovely soup if I may say so. It's roasted beet and pumpkin with yogurt. Very fifties in appearance, if not in concept.

Pretty swirly soup. Stare into the void of the pretty swirly soup. Yummmmmmm.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ski update

Crested Butte did indeed get a fair bit of snow over the weekend, not quite the 2 or 3 feet people have been reporting, but a solid 18 inches or so. I went up on Saturday morning on the free shuttle: 45 students, 3 veteran ski bums, 6 service industry workers and me on a bus intended to seat 30. Cozy! Got some grading done, though.

The skiing was great, although the interesting stuff isn't open yet. It is, however, hard to take pictures when one is actually in the snowstorm. They all look like this:


Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday morning ski report

Two facts:
1) on Thursdays I have no classes this semester.
2) Crested Butte is offering free skiing until Dec. 15th.

Okay…what do you think I did yesterday?

Why, yes, I did sit in my office and worked. Um. Yea.

So anyway, I borrowed one of Dr. Bones’ cars and headed for the hills. The drive from Gunni to Crested Butte is about 30 minutes and quite lovely. Again, hard to work a camera whilst driving, but there are a couple of points where one comes to a stop and can safely snap a picture. Most of these stops are expected…this one – not so much.

Once I got to Crested Butte, the first stop was Crested Butte Mountain Sports to check out the boot selection. SpudBro and SpudSIL got me a gift certificate for the shop for my birthday, and I have desperately needed new ski boots for years. My last pair was purchased during the first Clinton administration, and while they certainly remind me of happier political times, there’s only so much abuse polythene padding can handle. I tried on a couple of pairs and wound up with Technicas that the guy in the shop (the super-helpful and friendly Steve) had sold to a friend who used them once and didn’t care for them. Since they were technically used, I got a great price. More importantly, they hold my delicate little heels in place – something I’ve always found troublesome in most ski boots.

Here are my be-booted and be-skied lower extremities riding the lift. (The rest of me was also riding the lift, but is less photogenic.)

As you can tell from the picture, there’s not a great deal of snow yet. Actually, there’s only enough snow for skiing on the runs – the surrounding area is pretty bare, especially anything South-facing.

However, as they say, the worst day skiing is still better than the best day at the office. Granted, this is probably said by those who have neither experienced massive head trauma nor received a Lasker prize, but I can confidently say that I’ve paid well over a day’s wages to ski on substantially lousier snow that was available yesterday for free. There were a couple of slippery spots, but the fall lines down the edges were superb. Having heard a lot of chatter from my students about the prospects of a new run opening up today, I expected to see at least one of them on the mountain, and I wasn’t disappointed. Not sure if it helps or hurts my classroom cred to be seen sporting pigtails whilst wearing Gortex, but I’m willing to risk it.

Here's a prettier view farther up the mountain - still not much snow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey Basement

Here Mr. PotatoHead and his parents, Kartoffel and Lefse, admire his busy afternoon's work on the Thanksgiving turkey.

Mr. PotatoHead went on to wield that knife he's sharpening to carve up the turkey using a spiffy new method from the New York Times. Evidently you remove each breast as a whole blob of meat and then cut slices off of that. It's easier than cutting directly off the carcass, if less dramatic.

It does look very pretty on the table next to china. I still love that pattern. Granted, it's not entirely logical to own a set of dishes you only use 2-3 times a year, but they are lovely.

Actually, in this shot there are two set of china represented - the Waterford Seville is our wedding china and the Rosenthal is from Mr. PotatoHead's Tante Lotte. I like 'em both.

You may be asking yourself what the heck Dr. PotatoHead brings to the table, and you'd be correct to do so. Be assured that I can set the table correctly more than 50% of the time, and I make a mean centerpiece. All the stuff in the pineapple bowl was grown on our majestic 0.05 acre estate.

In all seriousness, while Mr. PotatoHead was slaving away in the kitchen I was painting the basement. Not as nifty-looking as the turkey, but considerably more waterproof. And we need's a picture of the basement after I'd patched one of cracks and started the painting.

And here's the finished corner.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another self-portrait. Here is my shadow wantonly tromping over the endangered sagebrush ecosystem. The ecologists in my department are very into sagebrush and I've sat through several seminars on sagebrush, sage grouse, fritilliary butterflies that live in sagebrush, etc. (No, I don't know what fritilliary butterflies are, nor how to spell them. I've been too ashamed to ask.)

All kidding aside, I've learned a lot about
a neglected and underappreciated ecosystem. It's easy to get people psyched up to save the rain forest, but sagebrush is a harder sell. It's scruffy, it's brown most of the year, and it doesn't exactly have the most spectacular biodensity on the planet. To the casual observer it seems pretty dull and empty. But if you start hanging out in it you begin to notice little bits of exquisite beauty: unexpected flowers, flocks of birds, perky little chipmunky things, and, yes, the butterflies. Alas, it is generally regarded as a far better use to let cattle eat it than to let the flowers, birds, butterflies and chipmunky things live in it, so vast tracts of federal sagebrush are leased to ranchers. And after the cattle are done eating it, cheatgrass grows in its place which the cattle can't eat and the birds can't hide in. Somehow this all makes sense, but this was 1hr 35min into the seminar late on Friday afternoon so I missed that part.

Anyway, here's more sagebrush for 'ya. Enjoy it while it lasts.

This is path back to town - I wasn't actually standing in sagebrush. The palisades on the far right are all the way across the basin. I saw a herd of deer this morning but had some camera issue. There's no way you'd believe that the blob in the picture is actually a deer. This is one of the downsides of hiking in the morning - the light is fantastic one way and totally lousy the other.

Even the high mountains don't have much snow yet.

And we have trees, too! Or at least one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Potato Farm

This weekend I drove to the old homestead to visit the original Mr. and Mrs. PotatoHead. It's a breathtakingly gorgeous drive: up 3000 feet in elevation, back down 6000, through wide basins and narrow passes.

And pictures. It's very hard to operate the camera and the steering wheel at the same time.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I keep having these little "I'm really a professor now" moments.

Many of them are just generic...the first student who obviously lied about completing a paper, the first annoying coach conversation, getting called "Hey, doctor" in the townie bar, etc.

But some are much more specific: a student is missing class today to go elk hunting with his uncle.

Does this happen to, say, NYU professors?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ask and ye shall receive

Here are more pictures. Granted, most of them are from the previously featured Black Canyon, but I've been busy as a beaver and haven't gone any place new in the last week.

This is the "painted wall" on the west end of the

Here's a view of the Montrose valley - the next valley west of Gunni. The town is about 70 miles away and is totally unremarkable except for...TARGET.

The Gunni MallWart is deeply, deeply depressing. Really, it's better to go without or just find a reason to go to Montrose.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's a small town after all

Yesterday, after spending 6 hours navel-gazing about diversity and technology in the classroom, the esteemed faculty were invited to a colleague's house for a Halloween party. Actually, it's a pair of colleagues but only one is in my department. Turns out I should have asked the other one for directions.

As some of you know, the Spudmobile is back with Mr. PotatoHead, so whenever I want to go somewhere, I have to either pop in the "Hiking Boot" attachment (sold separately) or bum a ride. My usual ride is another new faculty member whom I will call Dr. Bones.

By way of giving directions, our host took us to the large window on the eastern end of the Sciences building and waved vaguely towards a brown house up on a ridge. This is the Gunni equivalent of a Somervillite telling you they live in the white frame house near the Dunkin' Donuts (i.e., completely useless).

But we'd teased a couple of other identifying characteristics from our colleague and thought we knew where we were going. The house was, by his reckoning, only a mile from campus. No problemo.

There ought to be a word for the specific kind of lost you are when you know exactly where you are but the place you're looking for is not where it's supposed to be. We drove around a while being that particular kind of lost until we saw a not-at-all brown house not-at-all on a ridge with a bunch of kids out front. Out of desperation, we pulled in, thinking that if it's not the right house they may know how to direct us to their neighbors.

It wasn't, of course, the right house, but the kids go fetch an adult to help us out. And who should the adult be...but a student of mine who had been AWOL for the last couple of days. Student has in fact decided to withdraw, so while Dr. Bones calls the other host to get directions that actually make a lick of sense, I have an incredibly awkward conversation with this poor student who really did not expect to have to explain her life plans to her professor in her driveway in front of her kids and all their friends.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I have been asked to provide a picture of myself. Here I am in the bustling downtown of our podunk, redneck, whitebread, mishugana mountain town.

Actually, Gunni only really qualifies as the last, cowboy hats in fact being large enough to shield one's neck. (As opposed to the seed cap which only shields the upper forehead). And towns with organic bakeries cannot technically be whitebread. Mishugana, which I understand means 'crazy' in Yiddish, is open to interpretation.

Lastly, for you longtime Trey Parker/Matt Stone fans out there - the Community Theatre's Fall production is "Cannibal! The musical".

Although in general I dislike musicals and would rather, human flesh than have to sit through one, I'm going to make an exception and check this out. The movie is pretty funny, and my heart is as big a baked potato.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Farther afield

If you head west out of town on 50 you get to the largest body of water in Colorado - the Blue Mesa Reservoir. It's the thrice-dammed Gunnison river which goes on to flow through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, now a National Park.

Remember, we're west of the continental divide he
re, so rivers flow "down" to the west.

The picture was taken from a nifty little hike just off 50 to this chunk o' geology called the Dillon Pinnacles.

Now that I have geologists as colleagues, I am very nervous about mis-identifying geological features. Better to just be general.

If you keep going west you pass through the Curecanti National recreation area. You can hike down and take a boatride on one of the middle reservoirs. Locals, be warned - the Rangers will try to recruit you to their recreational ice hockey team. The canyon isn't particularly narrow or deep here, but it's still a lovely trip.

Farther west you
can drive along the Southern rim and hop out and take a series of short hikes to overlooks. It's kind of like "hiking sprints" and winds up being much more of a workout than the distance would imply. We're at 8000 ft here...and I'm still not in particularly good shape. (Taking regular walks in the hills...good. Cooking for myself...bad.)

Here Mr. PotatoHead yawps westward into the canyon. The safety fence makes it look less impressive, but it was a very good yawp.

Incidently, only the Southern side of the canyon has overlooks with wimpy safety fences. On the Northern rim you can walk right up to the edge. You'd probably get some darn impressive pictures if you remember to bring your camera.

If I was a real potato head, I supposed I'd have a little divot in my side where the camera could be plugged in so I wouldn't forget it. Or would I have to pop out my eyeballs and stick in the camera (to mimic holding the camera up to take a picture)? Perhaps a better option would be replacing my glasses with the camera, because if I were going to have eyeballs that could be popped in and out I'd definitely spring for a 20/20 vision model.

Golly, this is a long post.
Perhaps I should go grade something now.

Morning walk

The campus is on the Eastern edge both of town and of the basin, and the science building is on the Eastern edge of campus. Very convenient for the hiking trails up into the hills. Since my commute has shrunk to a 5 minute walk, I try to trot up there a few times a week.

If I start getting really homesick, I'll have to record inane cell phone chatter for my ipod and bring along a 'regular' Dunkies coffee to spill on my feet.

This view is of town with the palisades on the other side of the basin. This picture was taken pretty early in October - see the pretty yellow aspens?

These mountains are the West Elks - they run north of town on the west up towards Crested Butte. And yes, they seem to be full of elk. Mmmmmmm....elk.

W mountain

This 'W' on a mountain at the southeast edge of the basin is the largest (and possibly highest) college logo in the world. The students set it on fire on the Friday night before Homecoming every year. Makes for a fun evening as long as the wind doesn't pick up.

Monday, October 22, 2007