Books We've Read

Day 11: Galápagos Islands (Isla Isabela), Ecuador.

Gosh. It was a full day even though the itinerary didn’t make it seem that way when we went through everything last night.

Because we have a decent amount to travel on the boat today, we got off to an early start with a walk around Urbina Bay on Isla Isabela to hopefully see some land iguanas and tortoises. Marc and I got out on the 1st boat so it meant we would be 1st on the trail before the other 3 boats. We had a wet landing for this morning’s walk, which means no dock, and while we were getting out of the zodiacs, we saw some more penguins and pelicans

Not 5 minutes into the walk, we see a tortoise come out of the brush. It was a “small” one and our guide guessed it weighed about 80 lbs. In last night’s briefing, they told us that if we see a tortoise on our walk that we needed to be very quiet so they didn’t get alarmed. But our guide was talking so loud because she was so excited, we were kind of worried that it would retreat. It actually kept it’s head out for a long time as we were standing there so we snapped a bunch of photos.

Along the way, Marc and I spotted a few land iguanas, which are more colorful than the marine iguanas. All in all, we ended up seeing about 10 of them on this hour long walk, which was pretty cool. Some of them were well camouflaged into the habitat so it was hard to get good pics of some of them. As we came around the bend, our guide saw a massive male tortoise walking away from us. She guessed that this one weighed about 400 lbs. 

This was one big dude. We knew we needed to get past the tortoise at some point to
finish our walk so we had to wait for an opportunity where we could pass on the side. Our guide was pretty stoked. We continued our walk, saw a couple more tortoises in the distance and then as we turned another corner we saw two tortoises walking towards each other - a huge male and a female. We didn’t know if this was going to be a mating thing or what, so we all were watching with a fair amount of anticipation.

As it turned out, the female wanted nothing to do with the male and just “scurried” past him. I didn’t know tortoises could move THAT fast but hey - we are learning. We definitely got lucky with how many tortoise sightings we had and our guide said that we were one short of her record. She was psyched at the different sizes of tortoises that we saw. It was really a great walk and it was only 9:30am by the time we returned to the boat.

After we got back, I decided to improv a workout on the top deck. Jumping rope on a moving ship is a bit of a challenge but I didn’t kill myself, so that’s a plus. Then they had a movie for us that is hard to explain called “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden”, which is based on a book. Somehow Marc and I got sucked in and then it ended at a weird part, so now we are committed for part 2, which they are showing tomorrow. This movie definitely falls into the ‘you can’t make this stuff up’ bucket. 

After lunch, we had some time to relax so I finally started one of the books I downloaded to my Kindle - “The Bettencourt Affair”. So far, it has been an interesting read - it’s about the family who founded the L’Oreal company. Then we went out for a deep sea snorkel at Vincente Roca Point, where you jump in the water from the zodiac and not the beach. We saw more sea lions, turtles, penguins and tropical fish. Others saw sharks, but we didn’t see them unfortunately. Then we had a quick turnaround for a ride on the zodiac to see more wildlife. We were expecting to see more flamingos, marine iguanas, penguins, etc.

If we have an activity that mostly everyone opts into, we will have 4 zodiacs out on the water with a naturalist and a driver for each one. They do a great job at keeping us safe while ensuring that we have fun. As we are out on the water, they are typically communicating with each other in Spanish via walkie-talkie about timing, conditions, etc. It’s generally pretty measured in terms of tone..... until this afternoon.

All of a sudden, lots of loud chaos is coming over the radio and I’m trying to make it out since I was sitting right next to the naturalist. I thought I heard “orca” but I wasn’t sure but all I know is that in a few seconds that all 4 zodiacs were heading in the same direction past the boat. And then I saw why - we were in the vicinity of not just one killer orca whale, but two killer orca whales

The drivers of the boat did a great job getting us close, but “mostly” not too close. At one point, we were about 20 yards away from one of the orcas in some decent chop so it was not a dull 15 minutes by any stretch. We got some great pics and one of our fellow passengers captured an awesome video of a poor sea turtle and one of the killer orcas (watch carefully). 

Everyone was pretty much buzzing when we all got back to the boat after that whole
episode! The way the guides were acting reminded me of this episode when we were in Tazzie on the Australian Walkabout in 2013. And we still had our official “Equator crossing”. Yep, we crossed over the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere before dinner and had the opportunity to watch it all from the bridge of the boat. Super cool. We had crossed the Equator a few times on this trip, but this time we were actually awake for it! After that, cocktails, wine, dinner, laughs and some more bevvies under some starry skies.

What a day. More pics posted here.

On The Road Again....

Mixed marriage time:
Broncos vs. Giants in Denver
Well, gosh. It has been awhile. I mean, really. Much has happened. Since the last post, I took a job at a healthcare technology company called Change Healthcare, and have been on the road quite a bit. It is not an exaggeration between work and personal travel to say that I have travelled 150,000+ miles in the past year alone (mostly for work, but a couple of trips to Europe interspersed in there). Pro tip: Once you hit 40,000 miles on Alaska Airlines, they give you free chocolate. Who knew? 

So what else is new? Well I am anxiously awaiting Game 7 of the ALCS tonight where my Yankees are taking on the Astros. Really hoping CC Sabathia brings it along with the offense. We went to Denver last weekend to see Marc's Broncos take on my Giants, and the completely opposite outcome happened that we were expecting (Giants won). Speaking of Marc, I'm doing my best to make him a Yanks fan for this fall.
Yanks visit Seattle
Let's Go Yankees!

I said farewell to Facebook on Thanksgiving, 2016 as I felt it was way too toxic for me from a political perspective. I felt all sides were too vitriolic for me and the time spent on the platform just left me feeling negative and pissed off. You can find me on Instagram though where I get to look at pictures of beautiful places, funny people doing great things and whatever else my peeps like posting - although anything political gets an unfollow. 

The business travel has been a lot. I know, many of you know me from when I used to do that a lot, but I was much younger. Plus I really like being home, spending time with Marc and keeping to a routine. It is really hard to eat well and keep working out at a regular cadence when on the road. I put some pretty hard rules in place for my business trips when I started the role around exercise in to mitigate the impact of eating out all of the time. Yay for being a runner and for doing CrossFit! Lots of #viewfrommyrun pics posted on Instagram.
On top of Mt. Si. with Rainier
in background

Last summer was fairly insane with travel from Seattle to Augusta, Maine every other week, so this summer, I decided to wrestle some control back. This has led to Marc and I getting in some hikes in a number of gorgeous places. Some were pretty technical and on one of them, I was just dreading going down because of how treacherous the trail was [spoiler alert: I survived but it took longer to get down than to go up].

In other news, I continue to brush up on skills around R, Python and SQL because it falls into that whole 'trying to suck less and challenge myself more' thing? While I have no intention of becoming a software engineer, I find taking the time to focus on this kind of thing helps me as both a Product Manager and a Program Manager. I'm reading a book on Submarine Design because someone told me it would be a great way to understand multivariate design as a whole. I'll let you know how that works out but this might fall into 'you can't make this stuff up'.
Top of Lone Cone in Tofino, BC

Marc and I decided to dust off our golf clubs, and the best thing about that from my perspective is that I didn't kill anyone at the range.... yet. 

We will see how long it will be before I post again, but in the meantime, thanks for tuning in and GO YANKEES!

You Can't Hit What You Can't See.

How did we get to the end of January already? Wow. 

Let's start off by commemorating what would have been Grandma Mollie's birthday today and also celebrate the 47th anniversary of Harv and Yvette along with Lisa's birthday, both of which are tomorrow. Good stuff and we will celebrate all of them "west coast style".

One of the things that I have done for most of my adult life was to write down my goals - personal and professional - every year. I wouldn't call them resolutions because I tried to build upon progress from the previous year as opposed to just starting a new behavior from scratch on January 1st. Plus resolutions in January tend to be broken by this time for most people so it just seemed like an exercise that was rooted in setting myself up for failure.

Why do I write down my goals? You can't hit what you can't see. For me, they become much more tangible when I have to look at them regularly and assess my progress on them. 

I didn't track my goals in 2013 because I was starting the 1st quarter of the year in Australia and the point was just go with the flow. And when I came back, I had the whole "unknown broken hand" thing so that just put everything into a chaos. Then for 2014, I was so consumed with launching and growing Upower that I just didn't think I needed to do it. That was a mistake.

So in 2015, I set out some goals which included winding down my involvement with Upower and what I was going to think through during Patagonia Caminada. Things were moving along until mid-April when Marc's "dandruff ball" reared its ugly head and then everything was thrown into chaos on many levels. 

5 months later, I was able to resume getting back to my working towards those goals. I tweaked a couple of them given changed circumstances but they mostly remained intact. What was shocking to me was that when I wrapped up 2015 that I actually made decent progress on what I was trying to achieve. Now how I got to the end point wasn't what I quite envisaged when I set everything out that January, but somehow I got there.

One of my goals last year was to read more books and I succeeded in that. It does help me relax. I finally was able to finish "Hamilton" by Ron Chernow after seeing the play over Thanksgiving. It was a LONG read but worth the effort. I learned quite a bit about that time in American history. I wouldn't say you need to read it before seeing the show but it probably wouldn't hurt given the musical nature of the performance.

Another book I recently wrapped up was "The Time of Our Lives" by Peggy Noonan. It's a series of columns she has put together over her length career as a speechwriter and as an author. One of the columns that was included was about the Challenger disaster 30 years ago and at the time, Noonan was Ronald Reagan's speechwriter. So she had to write a speech rather quickly for him to address the nation with. It was interesting to read the process that went into crafting those words in what was, essentially, on the fly.

[Side note: Another interesting piece Noonan had in her book was around gathering facts when Mt. St. Helens blew in 1980. It was a laugh out loud moment reading how she was able to piece together firsthand accounts.]

All of the news leading up to the Challenger and the story of how Christa McAuliffe was on the shuttle motivated so many people back then to dream big and set high goals. That's where you learn to set goals.... by being inspired by others.

As for how I am doing on my 2016 goals? I'm pretty happy with my progress this far. I know it won't all be upward progress throughout the year. Plateaus will happen due to other priorities or taking time to realize that I need to find a new gear. I'm ok with that. I'll just keep plugging away.

BTW, if you are interested in learning more about the post-mortem surrounding the Challenger disaster, I would encourage you to read this. It's a long read but well worth it.

Adele, Jennifer Lawrence & Emma Stone Follow The Becks

Oh yes. It's true. Read on.

We don't like to travel around Thanksgiving. Generally getting anywhere is a hassle and is way more expensive so why bother. But circumstances from earlier this year surrounding Marc's health forced us to change our travel schedule for the year and so we ended up in NYC for the entire week. 

The line-up of restaurants was pretty deep but the list of people we were seeing was even deeper. We had a pretty ambitious schedule since this was our only trip slated for 2015. We had plenty of family and friends to see, and we were so grateful for the many who could work with our crazy schedule. In terms of catching up with folks, I was inspired on multiple occasions by the risks that some of them are taking personally and professionally. 

As someone who has taken their fair share of risks with mixed results, I know what is involved in making these decisions. Putting yourself out there as a founder/co-founder, trying to execute a career change or making a big life decision is hard work. And even after you make the decision, it's not uncommon to second guess your decision. On my end, it has been a somewhat tumultuous year on a number of fronts. But fortunately over the past 2 months, I've experienced and now see bluer skies ahead.

OK, back to the food and wine. I'm asked regularly on how I find the restaurants we eat at. A few are old stand-bys, a couple are recos from others and the rest I source from either Eater and/or Zagat.

We really didn't have any misses on this trip with respect to the restaurants, although Gabriel Kreuther is a challenge for anyone who is a picky eater. While they did accommodate us without a complaint, they didn't seem to have as many options as other places. I enjoyed the food and the wine, and thought the menu was innovative. The service was excellent.

My faves from this trip were The Modern (Dining Room) and Cosme. As it turns out, Adele, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone were at Cosme the day AFTER we were there. Aren't we just the trend setters? Seriously the food at Cosme was excellent thanks to their signature dish of duck carnitas and if you know me, you know I love duck.

Other places that are worth recommending are Rebelle, Wallflower, Fuku and Orient Express (cocktails). We did enjoy the Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel, and Toloache. Volare was always Volare. And the breakfast sandwich place, aptly named BEC, was pretty tasty.

The wine list at The Modern was probably one of the best that I have ever seen in terms of diversity. A friend of ours that we met in Sydney, Australia is now the Wine Director there and really recommended some standouts. Well done, Michael, and congrats on all of the accolades.

Thanks to this article in Food and Wine, I was able to bring something different to Mom's Thanksgiving table from The Lobster Place. Score. 

We were very fortunate to get tickets to see "Hamilton" and I was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was wrong. The lyrics were so well done and the acting/singing was really well executed. I hear the waiting list is LONG to get tickets. It's worth the wait. Go see it. And by the way, I learned some interesting things about Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr in the process. 

Now I have to read Ron Chernow's book on which the musical was based on. Good thing I just finished my last book on Whitey Bulger yesterday on the flight back. Other recent reads include The Forgotten Man by Amity Shales and Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch.

Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life the Universe and Everything

To begin discussing the answer to this question, I must request that those that don't immediately know the answer please go visit Google or Bing and see some immediate results. We'll wait...

Many of you read The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and already knew this, but now hopefully everyone is caught up. When I turned 42, I had a great birthday party asking guests to come to the party with a plausible question that gets to this answer. Everyone wrote them down on 3x5 cards and I read them all while laughing hysterically at many of them and we gave out some prizes. Tons of fun and I'll list a few of my favorites here.

  • In 1889, Washington joined the union bringing the total number of states to how many?
  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • 10! (factorial) seconds is exactly how many days?
  • What is the name of space command in Buzz Lightyear?
  • How many eyes in a deck of cards?
  • What is the only jersey number that has been retired by all MLB teams?

Now let us fast forward to 2015. Jill took up yoga (shocking herself) at Modo Yoga Seattle and did the 30 day challenge in March. Then she kept going and realized that she'd get to 42 days straight of yoga the day before our spring flight to New York and that would end the streak perfectly.

Unfortunately for the both of us, on the evening of day 41, I had a seizure followed by MRI and possibility of an operation on day 42 so Jill didn't complete all 42 days. As everyone knows, I recovered quite well from brain surgery but the seizure also tore two of four tendons in my rotator cuff and I ended up with shoulder surgery a few months later.

The shoulder is doing great because I do everything my PT tells me to do with daily exercises and I have already started swimming once a week just 2 weeks ago. I don't go very far yet, but it feels good to be able to use the shoulder in the pool pain free. I've been going to yoga recently too which has been great for stretching and mobility as I slowly gain strength in the shoulder.

In the meantime, yoga had another 30 day challenge in October and Jill was determined to get to 42 this time. She started early (in September) so that she'd hit 42 at the end of Oct as the challenge ended for everyone else getting to 30 straight days. Congrats Jill on making it!

If You're Not Willing To Inspect, You Can't Expect

I heard the quote at a yoga workshop I took today. Sometimes I will hear quotes and truthfully, they won't resonate with me too much. It's probably more of a slight against me than about the quote. This one did strike a chord with me.

Yeah, it can seem hokey to the many cynics in my life but if you think about it - when have you been able to proactively make impactful changes to your life without taking a hard look in the proverbial mirror? 

The past 12 months have been challenging for me on every front. Personally, professionally and everything in between. It's required me to take some time to look within and see how I can be better. Better as a wife, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a professional and any other role that I have. Getting focused on what matters. Yoga and running have helped quite a bit. Our friends have been awesome. Family members have stepped up. But I found another ally in the aim to be more introspective - reading books.

I find that reading books helps with those kinds of efforts because it requires a focus that reading current events, social media, etc. does not. And I am a current events junkie so it takes a fair amount of restraint to not check to see the latest and the greatest happenings locally, domestically and abroad. That said, the events of the past year have required me to focus and look within more than I can ever remember. It wasn't easy and most of it was not fun or enjoyable.

One of the first things I decided as part of this new chapter is that I was going to significantly reduce multitasking. I started this around 11 months ago after an overwhelming amount of evidence started coming out that multitasking actually makes you LESS productive. The focus on reading books more recently has reminded me that I do have the ability to focus and to concentrate on the critical things in my life that need to be done. 

As I was trying to assess what my next professional move was going to be (outside of consulting for small businesses), I was recommended to read Steve Blank's "The Four Steps to Epiphany". Given that I have been a co-founder 2x and have consulted on and off for a number of years, I was stunned that I hadn't read this sooner. I don't know if it made me feel better but it reinforced why certain decisions were flawed from the start in both endeavors. Let's just say that it was a HUGE EYE OPENER for me and if you're thinking about starting your own business, you should read it. 

On a similar theme, I follow a number of entrepreneurs on Twitter including Ben Horowitz of a16z, a venture capital firm in the Bay Area. I enjoy his tweets and blog posts. When I found out he recently wrote a book called "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", I knew I needed to read it. He wrote very candidly about some of his biggest lessons learned and all of the warning signals he missed as he was making critical decisions. And this past year has been about making hard decisions and yes, some collateral damage resulted which is unfortunate.

A recent read included "On The Edge" by Alison Levine, which recounts her experiences climbing Mount Everest and ties in some leadership lessons. It helped that I had read "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer a number of years ago and then saw the recent movie "Everest" which was based on the same events of 1996 but from a different perspective. As far as quick reads go, "Into Thin Air" was one of them but it was good to get a different perspective of events by Beck Weathers, who was with Krakauer on that ill-fated expedition. 

Another fast paced read included "Orange Is The New Black". OK, I am probably one of the last people in the world to read this book but it was enjoyable and more so because a great friend gifted it to me when I broke my hand a couple of years ago and needed some reading material. I am only sorry that it took me so long to get to it. No, I don't watch the TV show and nor do I plan to. But I did find the book entertaining.

Awhile back, one of my running buddies asked if I had read "The Boys In The Boat" by Daniel James Brown. I mistakenly said yes thinking that they were talking about "The Amateurs" by David Halberstam, which I had read 2 or 3 years ago. Both were about rowing and competing for the US Olympic team but in different eras. 

Halberstam's book was very good. His books were very high quality. I particularly enjoyed "The Teammates", which discussed the friendship of 4 teammates from the Boston Red Sox (yes, this New York Yankees fan just wrote that) - Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams, who remained close for 60+ years. I'm fairly confident you wouldn't see professional sports players roadtripping today as these boys did, which is what was documented in the book. 

Speaking of the Red Sox, a couple of years ago I read Terry Francona's "Francona: The Red Sox Years", which he wrote with Dan Shaughnessy of 'The Boston Globe. Why did I read a book on the manager of the Red Sox team that crushed me in 2004? I like Francona and can't believe the amount of BS he put up with when managing those teams. He always seemed gracious and thankful that in spite of the crap that he thought he was the luckiest guy around.

I finally got around to reading the book by Brown while we were in Santa Barbara last weekend. Absolutely loved it. It made me sad following the story of the main character and his upbringing. It made me happy how much he was determined to overcome the many challenges he faced. Pick it up, download it to your e-reader or borrow it from your library when you have time. The research done for "The Boys In The Boat" was impeccable and was hard not to appreciate as the story unfolded in the book.

In different ways, all of these books have reinforced what I heard in my yoga workshop today about basically looking within before having any expectations - whether of myself or of others. Taking the time to bring life's insanity "down a few pips" by reading helps me get more calm and focus on the goals I have set for myself. I know that being a bit more introspective has helped me achieve some of those goals and am hoping that it will continue to be rewarding for me on all fronts.

Home Cooking, Neil Gaiman and Some Recent Reading.

Since we returned from our trip, Marc and I have been focusing on home cooking. After eating out constantly for almost a month, it was a welcome change to eat a bit healthier and have some more variety.

That said, we got roped into a 'mac n cheese' competition of sorts with some friends so I tested out some recipes last weekend from "The Modernist Cuisine At Home" cookbook. Plus it was Passover, so I whipped out one of my faves from John Besh - Creole-Matzo Ball Soup

This resulted in about 6 hours of total cooking last Saturday, which I felt the next day at yoga (BTW, I just finished my 38th straight day of yoga today - go figure). The combo of the 2 'mac n cheese' recipes and the soup made for an "interesting me
al" that night but whatever. It was mostly done so I could watch the Final Four with Marc, so I was happy.

Given that it was Passover, I was excited to make a soup from scratch since I had a bunch of bones from when we smoked chicken on the Big Green Egg. Matzo ball soup can tend to be bland, which is why like the one from Besh. Matzo balls are pretty easy to make - chicken fat, matzo meal and some eggs. I didn't have enough chicken fat, so I had duck fat on hand to use - shocking. Hey - give me credit for not using bacon fat since it was Passover, ok?

The 'baked' version (left side of above pic) from the book was more on the traditional side in terms of prep. Grate a bunch of cheese, parboil the macaroni, throw in some milk and a couple of other things. Then throw it in the oven. I worked out a kink or two in the process and look forward to showcasing it with our friends in May.

The 'fat free' version (right side of above pic) was very different in the sense that you used a sous vide to create "cheese water". This is done through putting grated cheese and water together in a vacuum sealed bag and throwing it in a sous vide machine. After cooking, the water from the bag is filtered out and that is what ends up in the dish. The cheese can be used for something else but is no longer needed in the dish (hence 'fat free'). The creaminess was made through pureeing cauliflower and it was actually pretty good.

Marc forwarded me a great interview with Neil Gaiman on "Raising Readers, Fairy Tales & More". Highly recommend it as more kids get engrossed in the digital age and maybe don't read books as much.

I finished the book, "Always Running: La Vida Loca", last week. I was a bit disappointed based on the reviews saying how great it was. I just felt it was a bit light on substance and had much more potential to tell a more compelling story. Oh well, I had a good string of books for awhile so I was bound to come across one that I didn't enjoy as much.

After finishing that book, I started "Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine" by Maximillian Potter. Marc and I have travelled to the region that they are talking about in the book so it's good to know where they are talking about and how far places are from each other.

Malbec, Mojitos, Monica Lewinsky, Savings Crisis=Gender Crisis, #HeForShe, Women Being "Likeable" and Homeless Youth

Things have been busy in Beck land since our return from #PatagoniaCaminada. While most of this post deals with mostly current events that are fairly serious, we consider ourselves lucky that we get to learn more about these issues and asked how we can contribute towards fixing these problems.

We had to consume the final wine we picked up at duty-free in Argentina when we had to dump Argentine pesos, so we had a Malbec tasting with some friends the other night comparing ones from Mendoza (Argentina) to the US. It was fun and then I tried to recreate an Argentine Mojito that we had at Oviedo in Buenos Aires. I am not a mixologist, so while the creation was ok, it needs some work on my end. Of course, we paired the Malbecs with steak because that seemed to be very Argentine!

I had the opportunity to attend 2 events last week that really hammered home the importance of being genuine when presenting to an audience. The 2nd one was for an organization that I was previously heavily involved with and have gone through a significant reboot. It was Sallie Krawcheck, the Chairwoman of Ellevate, that hammered the point home of the savings crisis being a gender crisis.

The basics - women earn less then men, women outlive men, and women do not earn social security contributions by being a "stay at home mom". Ellevate, formerly 85 Broads, is trying to change the dialogue about this and I am pretty excited about it. It seems timely given other initiatives around giving women more of a voice. I heard Sallie speak on Friday morning and she was candid, self-deprecating and thoughtful in her responses to questions from the small gathering. I was absolutely pumped after meeting her!

Currently we have the Ellen Pao lawsuit against one of the oldest and most respected venture capital firms out there. Much of the testimony is around "how likeable" Ms. Pao is and that the feedback was she was either too pushy or didn't speak up enough in meetings. It's a common problem for women but the concern is that will male dominated industries shy away from hiring women so they don't have to deal with being more respectful to members of the opposite sex? This is in spite of evidence that companies perform better with women in senior executive positions. Remember when Obama said to Hillary in their early debates that "You're likeable enough, Hillary"? Does someone want to define "likeable" as a characteristic for a performance evaluation?

Speaking of the Clintons, the first victim of cyberbullying - Monica Lewinsky - gave a FANTASTIC TED talk on bullying. Admittedly, I mocked her back in the day and in looking back, not a proud moment for me. She talked about why she decided to speak out now and one of the people she mentioned was Tyler Clementi, a young man who committed suicide because of cyberbullying by his college roommate.

Emma Watson continues to put herself out there around testifying at the United Nations for the "#HeForShe" initiative. She continues to draw many kudos for her advocacy to change the dialogue. Clearly her social activism from being Hermonie Granger has translated into something much more significant.

The other event I went to last week was for YouthCare, one of the top non-profits in the Pacific Northwest. They focus on teen homelessness, which is a significant problem here. Many reasons exist for this and I had the opportunity to learn about this issue in more detail in co-founding and being the Executive Director of Upower. I wish it was "just homelessness" but it expands to so many other areas, including sexual exploitation to children as young as 12 years old. 

YouthCare arranged for a surprise guest speaker to talk to the 1300+ people in attendance at the luncheon. He is better known as Macklemore, but also known locally as Ben Haggerty. Like Sallie Krawcheck, his remarks were candid, self-deprecating and thoughtful about his own struggles and his luck with his family being instrumental in changing his life for the better. He talked about how many of the youth served by YouthCare do not have that system and why the work they do is so important. More needs to be done and we'll leave it at that.

One of my goals from when we returned from #PatagoniaCaminada was to read more books and not be consumed by the 24-hour newscycle. Last week, I finished "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. Well I started it last week and I couldn't put it down so it was finished in about 4 days. It's fiction but anyone who has read any non-fiction works from that timeframe can do some extrapolation on their own. Get it on your Kindle or at the library if you haven't read it already.

Celebrating Int'l Women's Day -- Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands.

Much of life comes back to "The Godfather" so I'll start this post with:

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune."

I'm proud and thankful to be an American. I was before 'PatagoniaCaminada' but my pride increased during this past adventure. The rural scenery was fantastic but it's nice to be able to drink water from the tap and have an abundant supply of toilet paper for starters.

The flip side of being in a somewhat remote part of the world was the luxury of minimal internet access, which we used to post daily updates on our adventures in South America. It also allowed me to focus on not drinking out of the proverbial "firehose" of current events and actually read some books.

It's something I hope to carry throughout 2015 because I really enjoyed focusing on the story at hand for a change.

On the trip, I managed to finish 4.5 books. The last one was dense, full of detail and took awhile to get through. It wasn't for lack of interest. The book, "Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands" by Charles Moore, had so much information that you had to read and re-read due to the access the author had. I decided to pick a book on this topic due to our visit Patagonia and the Falklands War wounds still being fresh in the minds of the Argentines in the area. My interest was piqued after watching an episode of "Top Gear" and remembering it was still serious business the last time I was in Argentina in 1998 (the Falklands War was in 1982 in case you didn't know).

Before I had a chance to read the book, I asked our Argentine guides throughout our visit about their thoughts on the Falklands. Most said that it was a desperate attempt by General Galtieri to divert attention from many of the problems associated with his military dictatorship. All were sad that a fair amount of men who were not officially part of the military were ordered were to fight. Many of those men were killed and their families were never given proper respect afterwards. Protests continue to this day every week in specific locations, especially in Buenos Aires in front of where President Kirchner works.

The gist of what happened in the Falklands War was that Argentina tried to reclaim those islands from Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher, who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, basically said "no way" and sent in troops to get them back. She didn't have a ton of support when she made that gutsy call in the early 80s.

When Baroness Thatcher passed away, I posted on Facebook that she was "a person who was less concerned about keeping her job as opposed to doing her job. This quality is something that pretty much every politician in the US lacks." I will modify 'politician' to 'elected official'. We continue to see evidence of sustained "schmuckitude" (trademark pending) from our elected officials on every level. But citizens, including me, continue to believe in America and trips like the one we just took reinforce my gratitude of living in a democracy.

My thoughts on the book are that it was meticulously researched, which is why it took so long for me to finish. The mindsets of key decision makers during critical times during Baroness Thatcher's career were amazing to follow. I was overwhelmed by how much sourcing Mr. Moore did to ensure he had a comprehensive way to tell the story. Disclaimer: It was an authorized biography and he had an agreement with her that he would not publish it while she was alive. 

While I learned a bit about her during the film "The Iron Lady", I feel the movie gave her the short end by choosing to focus on her dementia as opposed to the many barriers she broke down on the way to becoming Prime Minister as well as the decisions she had to make. Many despised her politics, but she had a true "courage of her convictions" and loved Great Britain.

Until today, I had no idea about 'International Women's Day'. I finished Moore's book this morning about one of the most controversial elected leaders in history, who happens to be a woman. An unexpected coincidence. After reading the book, I am even more impressed with what Baroness Thatcher dealt with on her rise to being Prime Minister as well as when she was PM. I am fairly confident that she would likely be horrified about the concept of 'International Women's Day' based on everything I have read about her.

Here's my beef with days like 'International Women's Day', 'Mother's Day' or whatever the current trend in social media with 'World Chocolate Day' (sorry, darling):

"How about trying to celebrate the things that matter to you everyday (like your mother for example)? Why do you need Facebook, Hallmark, Twitter, etc. to celebrate these things?"

I'd really like to see a day when we don't need to celebrate 'International Women's Day'. How about just celebrating meaningful contributions from everyone? Or treating all leaders the same, regardless of their gender. 

I am not naive. Prejudice exists. Just look at the Ellen Pao suit against Kleiner Perkins. Be aggressive but don't be forceful and a bunch of other contradictory sexist crap. But women would be better served if all sexes were treated equally and we didn't need a call out for a specific day (IWD). If a person accomplishes something great, celebrate them. If a person commits a horrible offense against society (President Christina Kirchner of Argentina), prosecute them. 

With respect to President Kirchner, everything that I have read about her and the situation currently dominating news in Argentina has been anything but complimentary. Yes, she is a woman but my hope that as an elected official in a "democracy" that she is treated in the same way as a man. Almost everyone in Argentina suspects something very nefarious is involved with the death of Alberto Nisman and that she had something to do with it. And sadly, everyone we talked to in Argentina doesn't think the real truth will come out with respect to the entire history related to the bombing that Nisman was investigating. This is why I continue to be thankful to be American.

[Rant over.]

By the way, we did take some notes on wine tasting. I'll post those and notes on other books read over the course of the trip in a few days.

27 Feb: Puerto Natales (CHI) --> Santiago (CHI).

As Marc mentioned yesterday, the group had a vote on whether or not we were going to see the Magellenic penguins. The reason for the debate is that we wouldn't be arriving at the sanctuary until late morning and in most cases, penguins are already out at sea for the day to eat, swim, etc.

The location on the Otway Sound was beautiful and we managed to see 3 penguins out of the 20,000 or so that live in the colony. So hey, it wasn't a total loss. After that, we headed to the airport to say goodbye to our Patagonia guide, Muti, and fly up north to Santiago with our group.

The flight was uneventful and I finished off another book "Blood, Bones & Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton. She is the owner and the chef of Prune, a highly regarded restaurant in New York. It was a fun and a quick read, and it was about her unconventional path to becoming a chef.

We landed, met our contact in Santiago and then said goodbye to our group of travellers. They were all flying back to the States within the next 24 hours and Marc and I are next heading to Mendoza. We plan on tasting more Malbec in the next 3.5 days than we ever had in our lives. It's good to be goal oriented, right?

Marc and I had about 25 minutes from checking in to the hotel to having to catch a taxi to our dinner location for 9pm. We kind of packed in advance in Puerto Natales so we were able to get cleaned up and make it to Borago for dinner with a couple of minutes to spare. Score.

Dinner was pretty interesting.... in a good way. All of the ingredients were from Chile and it was a 12-course meal of small bites. Borago also has a small garden in the back of the restaurant, where they grow a number of the ingredients that they serve at dinner. I had a local mushroom that I never tasted before, so I was happy.

We had a local Chilean Syrah, which we enjoyed. It was more old world style than new world. Our table had an open view of the kitchen, which was fun because of elaborate prep put in for each dish.

But since we had such an early start this morning and dinner was many courses, we were dragging by the time the 9th course came out. The staff perceptively picked up on the fact that we wer pretty tired, so they "moved dessert along". I think we finally made it back to the hotel at 12:45am, which will make that 6:15am wake-up call tomorrow really interesting.

25 Feb: Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine (CHI).

The good news is that Marc was feeling good after yesterday's hike. But he didn't want to push his luck, so he opted out of today's hike. I put him "to work" writing out some postcards and getting a bunch of our photos uploaded to Dropbox since we finally had a decent WiFi connection in our hotel. What a good sport! Below is the view from our hotel room.... not bad, eh?

Last night, the group unanimously decided to take it "easy" and not get up early to catch a ferry to hike in one of the valleys in the park. Since joining the tour, we had hiked almost 100 miles and we were pretty beat, plus the ferry schedule extends the day even more.

Claudio and Muti, our guides, picked out a new route for us to hike to that gave us a great view of the Paine Massif, the Paine Horns and a really pretty waterfall. The weather was partly cloudy but we still had some nice glimpses from Cerro Condor and also saw some condors (fancy that!).

We headed back to the hotel and found Marc chilling out while enjoying the view from lunch. Everyone is starting to think about their next adventure, so different ideas and suggestions were tossed around by the group. Marc and I are probably the least travelled of the bunch, which says a lot about how much our group has travelled around the globe!

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening finishing my latest read "Business Adventures" by John Cook. I was looking for books to read so I decided to see some of the latest recos from Bill Gates and it was on it. Some of the stories are pretty interesting and many are from the 60s/70s, yet it is amazing how history seems to repeat itself.

Our gang splits up after Friday and we have really enjoyed getting to know these folks. They have all been low drama and fun to be around. Everyone just naturally has offered to share or help when someone forgot something at home, etc. Marc and I are the youngest by a wide margin, but we have been blown away by the fitness levels of our fellow mates. Actually their fitness probably tops most Americans, forget about people in their age bracket (veteran members of AARP). It's inspiring (their fitness) and sad (the general lack of physicall fitness of many Americans).

The group reconvened to talk about the activities for tomorrow and we voted to spend more time in a town called Puerto Natales, which is supposed to be pretty and surrounded by the Andes and water. The weather forecast continues to look good, so hopefully that works out for us.


22 Feb: Ranch --> Argentina/Chile Crossing --> Hike --> Hotel Las Torres

I am writing back-to-back entries because you really want to hear Jill's voice for February 23. Trust me...

We had to get up around 6am so we could eat something before a long day of driving with a departure at 7am. This surely pleased the other guests at the estancia who got to hear several rolling bags echoing through the accommodations but I guess this is something the tour company can manage. We drove 90 minutes on dirt roads to El Calafate where some business got taken care of including Jill mailing actual post cards to some lucky recipients.

The next adventure was crossing from Argentina to Chile via a bus of 12 tourists, a guide, and the driver. The approach to the crossing was gravel road for a while and we arrived at a couple of shacks to exit Argentina. We all filed out of the bus and into one of these shacks without power so we could get the exit stamp placed inside our passports. This wonderful facility lacked visible bathrooms (translation: bring your own TP and go behind the building) and power is from solar panels. But they've been overcast recently and today were working in the dark.

We then drove a couple of km to the Chilean facility which was a fairly modern building with bathrooms in full view of all people waiting to get the entrance stamp in Chile. In addition, we sent all of our bags through a screening machine so you know they had power. They also had some friendly dogs sniffing bags for fruit and other items. Finally, the road became paved beginning right here. The border crossings are definitely indicative of the current situations between Argentina and Chile. Go figure.

After lunch we got to Torres del Paine national park and were given a chance to walk about 4 miles (which took us about 1.5 hours) with some decent elevation gain and then loss along the route. Jill and I witnessed two guanacos fight each other about 30-40 meters from us and then one was chasing the other straight toward us. It avoided us and jumped a fence we were walking near and the chaser stayed on our side so we were pretty close to both of them at this point. Fortunately, they were staring at each other so we slowly walked away along the trail. We certainly didn't need another danger point where "animals were jumping us".

Jill asked about the consumption of guanacos because they seem to be similar in numbers to kangaroos in Australia. Our guide, Claudio, responded that hunting season for them is very limited and mostly not allowed in Chile.

My health meter was about 2/3 before the hike (lots of hacking cough) but dropped to about 1/2 by the end of this little journey. It took a bit out of me. I want to thank everyone for the well wishes in the past few days. I feel like I'm getting better, but I'm also on a strenuous hiking tour that is gonna take something out of even a healthy individual.

Jill brought some books with her (I went all digital on my tablet) and keeps offering them to me before she donates them to wherever we are staying or one of the other tour members. I've read the first chapter of a couple but she handed me "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline and I got enough to keep going. The number and detail of 80's references in this book is astounding and it's a pretty good read so far (I'm close to halfway today).

We got to the hotel and I decided I needed a shower before yet another late dinner. I ran the water for a while and it was basically light brown - lots of dirt in the water supply. Yay! I needed a shower too much so I just took one.

We had a decent buffet dinner with the group in the restaurant with a good variety of interesting stuff. And the Molten Chocolate Cake was pretty good too for a buffet.

Jill has two compartments locked on her suitcase on travel days and the smaller side compartment was locked but she could not find the key when we arrived here. She basically cleared out all bags and looked through everything trying to find it. After giving up, we asked the front desk if they had bolt cutters and they said they did.

Someone eventually showed up with something resembling pliers with a tiny area that might cut some wire, but not a bolt. The maintenance guy said "un momento" and walked out. This was a long moment (about 10 minutes) but he returned with a real cutting instrument about as long as human arms (NOTE: He was about 2 inches taller than Jill) and had to be careful to cut only the lock and not a good chunk of the entire bag. But he succeeded. And yet, another example of "you can't make this stuff up".

21 Feb: A Day at the Ranch

Despite being sick, I got up for breakfast intent on at least starting the hike. I knew it was up the hill from where we were staying so I could turn around at any point. I think everybody was happy to see me out there. So we started climbing...

It was as steep as two days back (19th) for the optional 2K up/down portion except we had no trail this time. Just tall weeds and loose rocks everywhere. After about 50 minutes straight up, the group was hopping over a fence to continue up the hill. This is where I opted out as I was very tired. I was hoping I had gotten at least halfway up the hill as the hike would go along a ridge eventually and then down and they'd return to the ranch a different way.

I stood and looked at the view for 10-15 minutes and then SLOWLY made my way down, taking almost as much time going down due to all the loose stones that made every step a guess.

The group continued on and Jill referred to it as the same kind of hike that we did on Bluff Knoll a couple of years back in Australia. Just 2+ hours of straight climbing. Apparently this walk also had some false peaks, meaning you thought you were close to the top but were not....

The views ended up being great and someone in our group whipped out a harmonica as they took in the sights from the top. What a cast of characters.

After I got down, I read a book for a while in the lobby and took a short 15-20 minute nap. Jill returned at lunchtime and we all had lunch at the ranch.

The afternoon was our first optional time so we took a short, flat walk while taking some photos and then caught some members of the group going for a horseback ride. I took photos of the group on multiple cameras for them.
We then went back and slept for a while (I slept 2 hours)... 

Jill started packing and then so did I so that we could make the journey from Argentina to Chile the following day. Some folks went to see a sheep shearing while we hung in the lobby for dinner. The restaurant for the evening was in a different building on the property. They roasted a lamb for hours before we got there and the food was fairly good although the lamb was overcooked.

And I went to bed hoping to see health improvement by walking out my cough and then napping a lot. I was also hoping the down day mostly driving would give me some time to recuperate as well.

18 Feb: Lago Torre (ARG).

Today was the 1st day that we were hiking as a group. The gang seemed pretty prepared for all of the elements, so we knew we were amongst some experienced hikers.

Our guide, Muti, told us that he expected minimal rain today, which was a bonus. Then again, you never really know here in Patagonia because of the ever changing weather in the mountains. So we packed for different conditions.

We started out and one of the gentlemen on the trip, who could easily be the Dad of Marc and I with respect to his age, pretty much sprinted up to the top of the 1st lookout point. Marc and I kept pace and it was a nice way to get to know some of our other travelers since 6 out of the 10 were friends beforehand. By the end of the day, Marc and I felt that we could pass any name test that the group put to us.

The weather was mostly cloudy but visibility was good to see most of Cerro Torre and enjoy our lunch at Lago Torre. The walk was mostly fairly easy with some rolling hills here and there, but it was a good way for the group to get their legs stretched out and find their feet.

By the end of it, we had walked about 14 miles but felt ok. A few of us went to the local microbrewery aka 'cervezeria' in El Chalten. We had a nice dinner with the group and I continued reading my current book, "Ready Player One", which is a cross between sci-fi and thriller with a big focus on the 80s. I think Marc will like it once I pass it off to him.

We know we have a big hike in terms of difficulty tomorrow, so we just tried to rest up as much as we could. I believe I have done this hike before and if I remember correctly, it's a pretty challenging one although it is hard to tell because I was woefully out of shape when I was here in 1998. So we shall see.

12 Feb: San Pedro de Atacama (CHI) --> Santiago (CHI) --> Buenos Aires (ARG).

Today was mostly about travelling to Buenos Aires. We said farewell to Rocco and Alex, and caught our flight from remote Atacama to Santiago. We picked up the bags that we stored on Monday, checked in for our flight to BA and had plenty of time to grab lunch. Only we had basically 4 choices in the international terminal: Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, Subway and Ruby Tuesday's. A couple of local options existed but they were wine bars or pastry shops (not the good kind), so we settled on Ruby Tuesday's. The portions were absurd. Glad to know that the American influence is all over the place.

On the flight to BA, Marc somehow managed to telepathically inform the flight attendant that he is a chocoholic and snagged more "bon bons". A truly proud moment. As we were filling out the customs form, we were literally asked what kind of mobile phones we have along with any accessories. An odd request, but things became more clear later on. Our guide, Ana, was waiting for us after we cleared customs and we were off to the hotel.

As we head into Argentina, I'll share with you a couple of news stories that we are following. One is around the murder of Alberto Nisman, the lead prosecutor who was about to have the President of Argentina arrested for corruption. This is in relation to President Kirchner's alleged participation in a cover-up related to a bombing of a Israeli center in 1994. I just finished a spy thriller called "I Am Pilgrim" and let's just say that what is going on in relation to this murder investigation rivals the book I just read (which is fiction). And we have a winner for "you can't make this stuff up."

Another story that we need to keep tabs on is around the general economic situation of the country. Argentina is experiencing severe hyperinflation and a significant black market exists for currency exchange. Even in Argentine Pesos, much counterfeiting exists so we need to be careful. Lots of protests taking place in Buenos Aires these days around Nisman, Kirchner's regime and some of the bad blood still associated with the war with Great Britain over the Islas Malvinas in 1982.

I remember on my last visit thinking that BA struck me as a cross between Madrid and Paris with the layouts and the architecture. It still holds true. While the country may have some serious problems, BA still remains a beautiful city. Marc immediately noted that the lanes on the motorways are rarely, if ever, adhered to. Ana's response was that "well, it seems to work for us." Heh.

We checked into the hotel and had to clean up quickly for dinner. We went to Oviedo, which was in a neigborhood that reminded me of the West Village. It was an old school kind of place with exquisitely prepared food. They kept it simple in terms of ingredients and everything was just super high quality. To cap off the evening, I even ordered dessert wine in Spanish and was able to be understood. A proud moment for me since Marc is the "Spanish Speaker" on this trip.

For the oenophiles, we also learned of a new varietal - Torrontes. It has 3 types and I tasted the Rianjo version, which tasted like a Gewürztraminer. It was pretty good and I look forward to trying more of this.

As for why we were asked on the customs form for what kind of mobile phones we have, we later found out it is because smartphones are so expensive in Argentina and citizens typically buy them outside of the country to not pay the taxes associated with those purchases. For example, Apple doesn't even have a store in BA because of the costs associated with running the operation and the pain for consumers. All of their business is done via resellers.

A long day for the Becks, but we feel we should be set up pretty well for our stay in BA.

10 Feb: San Pedro de Atacama (CHI).

Gosh, that alarm going off at 0430 local time hurt. We're 5 hours ahead of Seattle, slept little on the plane & didn't get to bed until late. But we had to go meet our guide to watch the sunrise at El Tatio, the highest geyser field in the world at 14000+ feet.

The sky was full of stars until we crossed the cloud line at roughly 12000 feet. The 2 hour drive was all dirt road so pretty bumpy with no lights. A true adventure. Glad someone else was driving even if Rocco, our guide, thought stop signs were optional being from Italy and all.

Our intrepid efforts were rewarded with an epic sunrise over the Andes. Rocco picked a spot that was pretty quiet while all of the bigger vehicles went to the other side of the park. It was a balmy -1C so I chose to jump into the thermal pool after the sunrise. Seems crazy but I expected it to be colder!

That said, when you get out of the car to walk around at that altitude, you feel it. I didn't get sick but I did feel lightheaded. The geysers don't have the power of Old Faithful at Yellowstone, but it was still an impressive sight. We saw vicuñas roaming the area, which was an added bonus.

We had some brekkie and Rocco wanted to show us a more remote geyser field that is closed to the public (or at least the signs saying 'peligro' made me wonder). "Mud Geyser" lived up to its name. Beautiful, remote and muddy.

On the way back, we saw some llamas, local birds & flamingos walking around. We grabbed lunch, rested a bit, and then hit Salar de Atacama and Chaxa Lagoon for some more wildlife watching. 3 different types of flamingos were out flying around. They are differentiated by color.

Then we had a flashback to Australia when a herd of sheep randomly crossed the road in front of us. We also stopped by a neighboring village, which had a historic church with many artifacts brought over from Spain.

The weather was crappy in the evening for the 2nd night in a row, which was putting our visit to Valle de la Luna in jeopardy. This location was the main reason we ventured to Atacama! I suggested to the guys that since the morning weather has been clear that maybe we should go against convention & try for sunrise.

Rocco & Alex thought it was worth a shot so they agreed. After dinner, we ventured back & I stayed up way too late reading a book "I Am Pilgrim". Let's hope the lack of sleep & sunrise at Valle de la Luna work out for us on Wednesday!

Keeping Busy In San Francisco.

We just came back from a pretty busy weekend in San Francisco, which was filled with great times with family and friends. I also managed to squeeze in a half marathon, which we will cover in a separate post.

The plane ride and some recovery time after the race allowed me to read Wheelman: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever. Not sure I would recommend it because it just confirmed what I already thought of Lance Armstrong. That's not a knock on the authors from the WSJ, as it was meticulously researched, but it just provided more insight as to what a diabolical and selfish person he is. If you're interested in how pervasive the drug culture was in cycling and the extent to which Armstrong wanted to protect his legacy, read the book.

Our time in SF had us hitting some excellent restaurants. Coqueta, which focuses on Spanish cuisine, was the standout. We went to Frances to celebrate the 1/2 marathon finish, which was also excellent. Great service too. Rich Table had so much hype, so it was slightly disappointing that it didn't knock your socks off. That said, it was very good and even better to catch up with some of the SF cousins.

We went and visited with a former neighbor of mine from Massapequa, who is now a paramedic with the SFFD. It was really fun catching up with him, and he told us of a museum we never heard of called 'The Disney Museum'. It's historical artifacts from the Disney family about how Walt Disney & Co. became the massive entertainment company that it is today. Not really for kids, but for those of you who grew up with Disney as they grew up, you'll appreciate it.

Marc is a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and it just so happened that the Cartoon Art Museum is showcasing an exhibit on some of the drawings used in 'The Sandman' series. It was interesting, but unfortunately they had some other kind of festival going on that made things very loud and chaotic in there, which took away from wanting to read more about the drawings.

It wasn't what we would call an awesome sports weekend by Beck standards. The Broncos lost and the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. The New York Giants are about to kick off for MNF, so no news on if they will put their 2014 1st draft pick status in jeopardy.

And yeah, Congress and Obama finally got their act together.... until we get to do this again in January-February, 2014. Good job, elected officials! Idiots - all of them. But props to Chris Christie for giving up the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey - progress for my friends who live there!

All in all, a fun and a busy weekend in SF catching up with a bunch of people. Now back in Seattle to face reality and the Giants playing on Monday Night Football.

Title IX, Microsoft, Yahoo! and JDRF...

It's that time of the year where we shamelessly plug our annual JDRF dinner being held at Chez Beck. It's on Saturday, September 28th. Feel free to drop me an email if you are interested in attending. It's a multi-course dinner paired with wines with ALL proceeds going straight to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. If you cannot attend and are interested in donating, feel free to donate using this link. BTW, we are already halfway full so snag your spot(s)!

For those of you who are interested in Title IX or the advancement of women in the sports field in general, I have been catching up on ESPN's series called "Nine for IX". People like Pat Summitt, Lesley Visser, Mary Decker Slaney, Katarina Witt and Venus Williams are profiled. It's well worth the $10 to download the series off of iTunes and watch the episodes. The different shows have been educational, cringe-worthy (in terms of how much some women put up with) and humorous. Note that one or two of the episodes may be a bit graphic for younger viewers.

It's brought back some great memories, particularly watching the '99ers (1999 US Women's World Cup Soccer Team) due to catching those games with Lisa, my sister, and a good friend, Keri back at Giants Stadium. The final was absolutely riveting and I remember watching with Lisa, and by the time overtime came around, the very packed sports bar switched from watching baseball to the women's final. Absolutely awesome.

As I was catching up on some reading, I stumbled upon this profile of Marissa Mayer in Business Insider. It's a long read, but I found it engaging and well written. It doesn't say Mayer is a savior, but I also find that it doesn't go the typical "well the woman is a b***h because she is forceful with what she wants". That said, the title of the article is more salacious and infers it is some kind of big expose. No, I haven't seen the Vogue spread yet. She's rich, relatively young and very successful. Mayer will be well presented in the magazine.

I found I was more intrigued by Mayer's style and her career outlined in the article than by Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" circles advocated in her book. Sandberg's statements did not resonate with me at all as she seemed to say you had to either be a mother of children or completely dedicated to your career to be 100% fulfilled. Plus what did she actually do in her highly influential positions at Google and at Facebook to make those companies more equal in terms of pay for men and women? Or being promoted to higher positions? I don't begrudge her success but she could have led by example which would have been way more powerful. Don't tell me. Show me.

As for the latest with Microsoft and SteveB leaving, I have no idea who will replace him. The recent re-org does present an interesting question for the CEO candidates. Are they going to have to commit to the strategy that he spent over a year working on, or will they be able to create their own strategy? SteveB's departure was long overdue, and clamoring for other unpopular execs (but popular with Steve) to leave has started in earnest. Guess who? :-)

But I do wonder how employees feel given that they were still trying to figure out how things were going to shake out for them in the recently announced re-org, and now will wonder what a new CEO will want to implement? I am sure Kara Swisher of AllThingsD will have her sources working overtime to find out the skinny.

SteveB: Since you made around $800 MILLION yesterday just because MSFT soared due to your retirement news, how about you save the taxpayers of Seattle some money and just pay for the arena for the Sonics yourself? Thanks!

Wrapping Up The Holiday Food Insanity (Hopefully)

Tonight I made Duck Wellington with Mole Sauce (aka "A Madman's Wellington with Mole") from the Paley's Place cookbook. It's an incredibly complex recipe for me with the amount of ingredients involved and the timing of everything coming together at roughly the same time. The most challenging thing to time is the defrosting of the puff pastry, which comes frozen but needs to be thawed out when you wrap up the wellingtons before putting them in the oven.

It was the 4th time I made it to kick off 2011. Marc picked a 2004 Shafer Relentless, which was a superb pairing. This is a pretty hard core dish and it needs a wine that will stand up to it. I'm not saying you wouldn't enjoy a Pinot with this but the Poblanos and mole sauce might overpower a more lighter-bodied wine. That said, you should drink whatever the heck you like regardless of the dish, and make any adjustments that you see fit.

We ate some other great meals along the way, like the New Year's Eve dinner at Tilth last night, and my mother-in-law's "peppermint goodness" over Christmas weekend. Then there was the "Duck the Halls" insanity that I blogged about in our last entry. Good thing I am slated to have a track workout with the new coaching team (TN Multisports) on Tuesday as I need to get into gear for ½ marathon season. In my initial discussions with them, I am really excited how they asked a boatload of questions about me before I start my 1st workout with them. They have good consistency with respect to the coaches and their tenure, which is important as you need to develop relationships with those folks. I think it will pay dividends as I map out my fitness goals for 2011.

Seattle has a reputation for rain, but the last few days have been absolutely stunning in terms of sunshine and mountain views. Don't get me wrong – it has been in the 30s for this stretch, but when you can clearly see the mountains in all directions with snow on top in late December/early January – life is really good and you should get outside to run so I have been making an effort to do just that! Today I went out for a run around Queen Anne (which is on a hill for the non-Seattle folks) and Tricia and I caught some amazing views while having some laughs and chatter. Earlier in the week, I went on a pretty tough hill run with Tricia and Patricia in the neighborhood and I was pleasantly surprised that I did the run a minute faster than I did 10 months earlier. Unfortunately I was about 30 seconds slower on the toughest hill mile on the run, which tells me I have some work to do (READ: hill intervals on 70th – ugh!).

I did manage to get in a track workout on Christmas Day, and it wasn't as horrible as expected in terms of my times. I probably could have gone another round of a tough 800 meter run, but I decided to quit while I was ahead. And I managed to piece together a Crossfit workout the day after Christmas based on what I have learned to date. I think Marc was shocked at what was involved in just a 20-minute workout! My friends who already do Crossfit have been very supportive with answering my many questions as I figure it all out.

I managed to read a supplement guide that went along with the movie "Waiting for Superman", which was informative with respect to the different perspectives it captured as they documented the story they presented in the film. I have also been reading more about some nutrition and fitness, and I am going to hold off a bit on the nutrition stuff until I have a chance to vet it out myself. I don't believe all of it and I think you always have to think about what is going to work for you in terms of your lifestyle and how your body responds, but I like challenging myself to think in areas where I wouldn't normally go.

As I wrap up, it's worth noting that 2010 was as good of a year as it could have been (yes, even taking into account the "unexpected summer vacation"). I am so fortunate to be married to someone who takes such great care of me, makes me laugh, drives me crazy and is so supportive – all at once. The people in my life, who support me, treat me with respect by being truthful and know the right thing to say when I need that "thing to be said" – they remind me day-in and day-out how lucky I am. I can only hope that 2011 is as good, if not better.

Bring it, 2011! Mrs. PTC is ready! I think Mr. PTC is too! J

Food, food and some reading

I found out the other day that R.W. Apple's wife is going to be auctioning off his wine collection. I have blogged about him a bunch of times and was recently pleassantly surprised to finally find an article on Seattle that he wrote before he passed away in 2006.

In the midst of the article about the wine collection being auctioned off, I also found out that his wife is publishing a book of a new collection of more than 50 of Apple's dispatches from the front lines of food called "Far Flung and Well Fed". Needless to say, it has been added to my Amazon list.

Speaking of books on food by men who worked for the New York Times, I just finished Frank Bruni's memoir called "Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater". Enjoyed it, particularly the chapters around the cat and mouse game he had to play with restaurants while being the New York Times restaurant critic as well as what went into his review of Wild Salmon, a Pacific Northwest themed restaurant, which I actually blogged about here.

You can read about other R.W. Apple entries that we have blogged about here, here and here.

Sticking with the cooking theme, I'll point you to some of the recent creations coming from the Beck kitchen.

And finally, you can always keep track of what is going on with Purple Teeth Cellars here.