Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pueblo lawmaker will challenge Tipton

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Rep. Sal Pace
  • Rep. Sal Pace

Pueblo Democrat Sal Pace, the current state House Minority Leader, will be aiming for a higher office in the 2012 election.

Pace has confirmed to media today that he's running for Congress in Colorado's 3rd District against first-term Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez, who unseated John Salazar in the 2010 election.

Pace, a 34-year-old political science professor, told the Denver Post that “I want to hear concerns and I want to hear about what Washington does well and what it shouldn’t do. People care about government accountability and transparence and protecting our rural way of life in Southern Colorado and Western Colorado.”

The district stretches from Pueblo and southeastern counties to Durango, Cortez and the Utah border, then all the way northward to Wyoming, including Grand Junction, Gunnison and Glenwood Springs. That map could change slightly with redistricting, which is still uncertain.

Pace, whose family moved to Durango when he was a teen, graduated from Fort Lewis College there and later earned another degree at Louisiana State University. He worked for Salazar as a legislative aide in the Colorado House, then continued on Salazar's staff after he was elected to Congress.

Pace also has taught political science at Colorado State University-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College. He was first elected to the state House in 2008.

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A sip of cider

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 5:30 PM

I first told you about the launch of a new, Denver-based hard cider company called Colorado Cider Company back in early April, here.

The company was kind enough to drop a sample of both their dry and regular cider offerings by our office last week while they were in town seeking distribution points. I popped open those samples this past weekend.

Before I describe my tasting, click below to hear what the company says about each variety:

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Now, back to me:

The "residual sweetness" in the non-dry version, which comes from their adding fresh juice back in before bottling, is its best feature. I really enjoyed the clean apple flavor, which gave the cider more of a mouth feel, too, and a refreshing edge. It's the kind of thing I picture drinking on a hot day after coming in from gardening. Effortlessly likeable.

Equally effervescent but perhaps more of an acquired taste, the dry version lacks the regular's up-front sweetness and finishes quick in the mouth and throat, with more of a mild tongue tang. None of that is necessarily a bad thing, and in fact the dry version made me think more of a fruity white wine. I could certainly see its appeal to a certain set of drinkers.

But what's fun is to compare the two side-by-side to notice the differences, and more importantly, to find out what type of cider drinker you are — you know, it's just a good thing to know. Don't forget, back in our founding fathers' days, cider was the main drink of choice, due to water being unclean.

Read more of the drink's history here on Colorado Cider's website.

And keep an eye out for the product soon on local liquor store shelves — or call your favorite liquor outlet and request it.

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Local battle: Historic preservation vs. failed urban renewal

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 4:48 PM

Last Sunday morning I happened to drive by the corner of Vermijo and Sahwatch streets, and noticed to my dismay that the noble old stone building that stands opposite the El Paso County parking structure on Sahwatch was threatened with demolition.

Some research revealed that the building, constructed between 1900 and 1907, was part of the Union Ice & Coal complex. The Ice House itself was already demolished — all that remained was a pile of bricks and splintered timbers. The semi-intact structure that still stands was originally a boiler house, where coal was delivered to fuel the steam boilers that heated the County Courthouse and the County Jail, which then stood on Cascade Avenue at the present site of the Pikes Peak Center and Centennial Hall.

It’s a beautiful, graceful building, constructed of locally quarried rhyolite and sandstone, which has been vacant for at least 25 years.

Could it be saved?

I called Tim Leigh, the veteran real estate broker who was recently elected to City Council. Tim knows the owner, and asked him to hold off the wrecking ball while we sought a buyer.

The owner, who’s an obliging, civic-minded guy agreed to spare the old pile of rocks for a few days, but warned us that finding a buyer wouldn’t be easy. For one thing, he pointed out to Tim, the building is structurally unsound. The years have taken their toll, and previous owners allowed the cops and firefighters to use the building as a training site.

Great for our city’s finest, but not so great for the building, where the firefighters even started fires. Moreover, the site is part of a substantial assemblage, and it’s worth more as vacant land — not to mention avoiding the potential liability associated with vacant structures.

So we did the obligatory dog and pony show, and even enlisted PR woman extraordinaire Lisa Amend in the cause. She managed to persuade three TV stations and a Gazette reporter to show up at the site and listen to us pontificate.

We hope that the story will have an appropriate ending, andthat the building will find a new owner and live for another century. But it probably won’t, and that’s not because the owner is a bad guy, or that commercial real estate owners in the city are bad guys.

The fault, if any, lies with ourselves and with policies that the city and the city Urban Renewal Authority put into place a decade ago.

By designating much of southwest downtown as a blighted urban renewal area, the city encouraged property speculation and discouraged adaptive re-use and historic preservation.

All these junky buildings are coming down! A bright future awaits, with hundreds of cool housing units, a multi-use sports stadium, and true urban renewal! Developers, come on in! We’ve got tax abatements, we’ve got a master plan. Get ready for the new millennium!

So most businesses sold their property and moved, leaving a once-thriving commercial district for greener pastures in other parts of the city. Despite city incentives, developers couldn’t get the financing to start a single project. So, southwest downtown fell into decay and disuse, home to tumbleweeds, vagrants, stray dogs, and a few lonely businesses.

Meanwhile, in a creative use of its power to declare property “blighted,” the city and the Urban Renewal Authority cheerfully declared a stretch of open prairie 20 miles from the city’s core an urban renewal area, and thereby eligible for certain property tax breaks.

That’s fine, I guess. I’m all for new shopping centers. But meanwhile the tumbleweeds blow, the old buildings fall, and nothing happens.

So here’s a suggestion for Mayor Bach: tear down everything, truck in some topsoil, and start a city marijuana grow. Fifty acres of weed ought to bring in a few bucks, and the County could provide a few dozen inmates to work the land.

Sounds absurd? No more so than what has happened to southwest downtown, where urban renewal accelerated commercial destruction.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got an extra $1 million, call Tim Leigh. He’ll be happy to arrange the deal…

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City PR head asked to resign

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Skiffington-Blumberg
  • Skiffington-Blumberg
In what might be viewed as a bad omen for the future of transparency in the city, the city's top public relations officer has been asked to resign.

Sue Skiffington-Blumberg's resignation is effective Wednesday, June 1. As far as her interactions with this paper are concerned, Skiffington-Blumberg has been a responsive contact, who had been committed to upholding laws regarding public disclosure. She has been with the department 10 years.

Reached by phone, Skiffington-Blumberg says that despite the obvious reservations some might have about the move, she believes the new mayor, Steve Bach, is simply looking for a change.

"I think that they have every intention of putting in perhaps more of a press secretary-type setup," she says. "I think there will be a lot more focus on the mayor's day-to-day activities ... Regardless of who it is, if that's the direction that they feel will help us succeed, as a citizen I want them to succeed."

Skiffington-Blumberg adds that she does not believe that the change was due to any specific action on her part.

"It's not a personal deal. It's not personal," she says. "I'm leaving with exceptional reviews and I do not believe this is personal."

John Leavitt, who worked under Skiffington-Blumberg in the PR department, said that his departing boss told staff, "The best way for you to honor me is for you to continue working and doing your jobs."

No one has been told who Skiffington-Blumberg's replacement will be, but Leavitt said the staff remains committed to transparency.

"My assumption is that we're going to continue to be transparent and responsive," he said.

City Council President Scott Hente had good words for Skiffington-Blumberg.

“Sue has provided many years of admirable service to the city, and I am sure that she will find a marketplace for her skills, and I look forward to working with whoever her replacement is,” Hente said.

It is thought by many that Bach will terminate several other city employees as he transitions into office.

"I would bet I may be the first," Skiffington-Blumberg said, "but I won't be the last."

City public communications manager submits resignation.

Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, manager of the City’s public communications division has been asked to submit her resignation, effective June 1, 2011, according to Acting City Manager Steve Cox.

“I’m accepting Sue’s resignation with sincere thanks for a job well done. Her significant contribution is recognized by City leadership, industry peers and members of her staff. We wish her continued future success,” said Cox.

Skiffington-Blumberg joined the City in June 2001 and has spent 10 years building an effective public communications program for the City.

“I’m most proud of growing SpringsTV into an award-winning cable television station, establishing the City’s Web site as a transparent source of information, creating a functional culture of citizen responsiveness and developing an asset management program that will hopefully be a source of general fund revenue for years to come,” said Skiffington-Blumberg.

The asset management program has been key to bringing the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra back to the City’s July Fourth celebration which will be held this year at Falcon Stadium. It has also provided 150 community public recycling bins through a partnership with Greener Corners.

# # #

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Corner Café unveils new menu and expanded weekend hours

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 2:46 PM

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It's something of a small miracle that people who love to eat as much as we do are situated two blocks from some of the best mom-and-pop cooking we've ever tasted: the Corner Café, run by California transplants Bob and Virginia Smoot.

And since we're nothing if not shills and hacks, it's with great delight that we announce that, not only has the café expanded its menu — yet shrank its overall size and simplified the offerings — but will finally be open on the weekend. As local blog Oinkety puts it (and puts it, and puts it), when restaurants are open on the weekend and take credit cards: Maybe they like money after all.

"We also are continuing our support of Colorado Proud," writes Bob in an e-mail. "We get our coffee from Purple Mountain (a local roaster), fresh Red Bird chicken from Denver, Blue Point Bakery from Denver, Certified Angus Beef from Denver — just to name a few of our vendors."

So look for breakfast all day Saturdays; for the new breakfast and lunch menus below; and for more on the new offerings, taste-wise, in an upcoming Independent.

tcc_breakfast_menu_2011.pdf tcc_lunch_menu_2011.pdf

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Sign up now to see the South Slope

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 2:31 PM

The South Slope of Pikes Peak still isn't open to the public, though that exciting time is nearing.

In the meantime, you can take a look at this pristine wonderland we've told you so much about for so long (see Anthony Lane's story from January 2010 here) by taking a guided hike.

There's more hikes planned for the summer. Sign up, while there's still time.

Guided hikes give the public first chance to
visit the South Slope of Pikes Peak

Come see the beauty of the South Slope! City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services is teaming up again with the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC), Friends of the Peak (FOTP), and Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) to provide opportunities for citizens to explore the South Slope of Pikes Peak through guided hikes. After a successful initial season of offering hikes, the program will be extended into the summer of 2011. The South Slope is not yet open to the general public, but citizens are invited to see the open space this summer by joining one of the guided hikes. Hikes will take place on:
· Saturday, June 18
· Saturday, June 25
· Saturday, July 9
· Saturday, July 23
· Thursday, August 4
· Saturday, August 27
· Saturday, September 10
· Sunday, September 18

Tours will begin at the main parking lot of Red Rock Canyon (Highway 24 and Ridge Road, just past 31st Street), and participants will caravan to the South Slope. The hikes are $12 per participant and reservations are required. (Spots are limited and fill up quickly!) Call the Trails and Open Space Coalition at 719-633-6884 to register.

All participants must be prepared to hike 7 miles at high altitude. The South Slope ranges from 10,500 to 12,000 feet. Participants must be 12 years or older, and participants under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Dogs are not allowed.

During the hike, participants will learn about the history of the site, the purpose of the watershed, information about the sensitivity of the site, such as the wetlands, fens, and Bighorn Sheep lambing areas, amongst other interesting information. Information will also be provided for the future development of the trailheads and the trail.

Colorado Springs Utilities collaborated with the public to create the Plan for Recreational Uses on Municipal Watershed Lands. This document identifies opportunities for hiking, cycling, equestrian use, fishing and boating. Implementation of the plan is dependent on available funding and volunteer efforts.

The South Slope will not be open for general public use until parking is provided and there are meaningful trail connections. Soft surface trails will be built through volunteer efforts. If you would like to volunteer please visit www.fotp.com for a complete list of project dates and to sign up.

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Plant a tree with the click of a mouse

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 11:03 AM

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  • joiseyshowaa

I don't mean to brag or anything, but I planted a tree this morning.

And no, I did not have to soil my clothes to do it. I didn't even have to leave the office.

Thanks to a program offered by Odwalla, I was able to do this kind and benevolent deed without actually leaving my desk and it only took about 20 seconds.

I am telling you this because you too can feel extra special good about yourself by planting your own tree this morning. Read on:

Colorado State Parks

For immediate release: May 31, 2011

Odwalla® Teams with Colorado State Parks for Greener Future

DENVER — Plant a tree at a Colorado State Park with just a few clicks of your computer mouse. Join Colorado State Parks and the Odwalla Plant-a-Tree Program, which gives Colorado residents and park visitors the opportunity to help plant a tree in a state park this summer, without sweating or getting dirty.
Here’s how it works: Odwalla will donate $1 toward the purchase of a tree in a state park when participants “vote” for the state of their choice. Odwalla has designated $100,000 for this program in all 50 states. Visit www.odwalla.com/plantatree and select Colorado as the state where you want to plant a tree.
Do your part to help Colorado Stay Green. Vote soon and spread the word to family and friends through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Fans of Colorado’s state parks are urged to respond quickly because the program is popular, funds are limited and 49 other states will be vying for a share of the funds.
To help demonstrate the need for these trees, Steamboat Lake State Park’s manager Julie Arington, with the assistance of senior ranger Brent Lounsbury, put together a short video highlighting the damage that has been caused at Steamboat Lake State Park and Pearl Lake State Park by the mountain pine beetle. A total of 7,100 infested trees have been cut down in those two parks at a cost of approximately $170,000 to protect visitors.
Trees donated to Colorado State Parks will reforest areas devastated by the pine beetle epidemic such as Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake, and will also be used to improve wildlife habitats and create wind breaks at other state parks throughout Colorado.
“Our Colorado State Parks benefit from this program and we hope all residents and state park visitors will participate to help the parks restore the areas damaged by the pine beetle epidemic,” said Matt Schulz, forest management coordinator for Colorado State Parks. “This program is very important to our reforestation programs and to our ongoing efforts to provide quality habitat for wildlife.”
The Odwalla Plant a Tree program launched on May 30, but funds will go quickly so vote early and often. The species of trees donated will vary by region and will be planted in the fall of 2011 and in early 2012.
Colorado State Parks get everyone outdoors! Attracting more than 12 million visitors per year, Colorado's 42 State Parks are a vital cornerstone of Colorado's economy and quality of life. Colorado State Parks encompass 224,447 land and water acres, offering some of the best outdoor recreation destinations in the state. Colorado State Parks is a leader in providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, protecting the state’s favorite landscapes, teaching generations about nature and partnering with communities. Colorado State Parks also manage more than 4,300 campsites, and 63 cabins and yurts. For more information on Colorado State Parks or to purchase an annual pass online, visit www.parks.state.co.us.

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Bach races to the top

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 10:50 AM

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Having won the race for Colorado Springs' first strong mayor, Steve Bach now is ready to strap in to the passenger seat of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb pace car, a Porsche Boxster Spyder, on June 26 to kick off the 89th running of the Race to the Clouds.

The pace car is provided again this summer by Porsche of Colorado Springs for the nation’s second-oldest motor sports event, and the oldest west of the Mississippi River.

Here's the rest of the press announcement, with ticket information:

The Pace Car driver and Grand Marshall has not been announced to date for this year’s Race To The Clouds, but an announcement is expected soon by PPIHC officials. A total of 201 drivers, racers and co-drivers/racers have entered this year’s race to date.

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Last summer, Super star John Andretti was the Grand Marshall and behind the wheel of a sizzling new Porsche Panamera Turbo at the start of the race, with U.S. Olympic Committee President Emeritus Bill Hybl sitting in the passenger’s seat.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which began in 1916, is America’s second-oldest motor sports race behind the Indy 500. The race is staged on a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns. It begins at 9,390 feet and ends at the famous mountain’s 14,110 foot summit above Colorado Springs.

A featured event along with the race, is the popular “Fan Fest,” which takes place on Friday evening, June 24, in downtown Colorado Springs, with more than 30,000 fans on hand to meet the competitors, see the autos and motorcycles, and enjoy music, food and entertainment.

Advance ticket sales are running at a record pace right now, and race officials are urging fans to purchase their tickets soon to avoid congestion at the toll booth on Race Day.

Ticket prices begin at $40.00, with a Family Four-Pack available at $125.00 and VIP admission priced at $80.00. Tickets, limited camping permits and all other race information is available at www.ppihc.com

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Beautiful noxious weeds

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2011 at 9:45 AM

El Paso County e-mailed me this morning about its upcoming "Noxious Weeds Walk" in Palmer Park.

Here's the idea: An expert leads you through the park and points out all the non-native, nasty weeds that you should watch for and kill, kill, kill if they ever show up in your garden. Now, I got to tell you, the word "noxious" made me think of some pretty nasty plants. Poison ivy, maybe, or those nasty pokey things that stick to your pant legs. But a check on the county's Web site revealed that my assumptions were totally misguided.

The county is not talking about plants that we can all agree to hate. The county is talking about beautiful flowers.

Like this:

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Or this:

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They look so innocent! Apparently, though, they're not. Learn more by taking the walk.

Free “Noxious Weed Walk” Scheduled For Saturday, June 11, in Palmer Park
County-City Event Will Instruct Citizens on Identifying and Eradicating Hazardous Weeds

Colorado Springs, May 31, 2011 — El Paso County residents will receive up-close training on unwanted garden guests known as ‘noxious weeds’ during the June 11 “Noxious Weed Walk” in Palmer Park, co-sponsored by El Paso County and the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services.

Why walk through the park to unearth unruly weeds? Because these unassuming, non-native plants can wreak horticultural havoc on humans, animals and the environment. They invade and disrupt native vegetation and are a constant threat to drinking water supplies, agricultural crops and pasture lands, wildlife, domestic animals and native habitats. Noxious weeds also take a financial toll when factoring agricultural losses, property depreciation and weed-control costs.

“Noxious weeds have a nasty habit of adapting in many environments — spreading to and infesting cities, urban areas, wild lands and other areas,” states El Paso County’s Environmental Division Manager Kathy Andrew. “Learning about noxious weeds common to our region and how to identify them are important first steps to combating and eliminating them whenever and wherever they take root — including public recreation areas and residential properties.”

The June 11 “Noxious Weed Walk” will launch from the South Canyon Picnic Area in Palmer Park at 9 a.m. and will conclude at 11 a.m. Directions: Enter Palmer Park at the Paseo Road entrance, and take the first right after the entrance gate. Parking is located at the end of the dirt road at the South Canyon Picnic Area.

For additional information on this event, call 520-7846. Learn more about noxious weeds online at http://adm.elpasoco.com/Environmental%20Division/Pages/default.aspx

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Colorado state rep to moonlight as deputy district attorney

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Waller and May at an MMJ debate in 2010.

Nothing like a little "Your Honor" with your summer vacation, or so thinks Colorado Springs state Rep. Mark Waller, who has taken a part-time job with the Fourth Judicial District between legislative sessions.

This wouldn't be the first time that Waller has worked with District Attorney Dan May, and indeed, it was medical marijuana advocates concerned that the pair had teamed up to prosecute MMJ cases that brought the move to our attention.

However, nothing to fear here, says the former Pueblo prosecutor.

"What we’re doing is, I’m working in misdemeanor court for about a month — so, you know, DUIs, domestic violence, things like that," Waller says, speaking by phone from San Diego. "So there might be a medical marijuana case come up that way, but the plan is that I’m probably going to be doing felony filings; they just wanted me to get a little bit of a refresher in county court in first."

So how did this come about?

"Back before the session started, I ran into Dan May somewhere and I started talking to him about it, and he said, ‘You know, that sounds like a great idea,'" Waller says. "We just sort of started thinking about it and just finally worked out the details on it last week."

While not blatant, the move does seem a little odd at first: a state legislator enforcing the laws he helped create? So we contacted Colorado Ethics Watch and Colorado Common Cause for comment, but so far have heard nothing back. (We'll update this post if we do.)

In any case, it's a concern that Waller is sensitive to.

"We called the Legislative Council and asked for advice on that," he says. "There is another legislator who is currently working at the attorney general’s office, as well, in a similar sort of capacity. So, no, we don’t believe there is a conflict at all."

In the end, Waller says he just hopes the job helps keep him on the ball.

"Understand, this isn’t any sort of issue related to trying to go after one set of cases or another, at all: This is just simply an opportunity to make sure my skill set stays sharp," Waller says. "It will enable me to do a better job when working on criminal-justice-related legislation.

"I’m excited about it, but, you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve prosecuted criminal cases. I wanna make sure I’m good at it."

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Lady Gaga: The Indy Interview!

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 4:09 PM

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With Lady Gaga's Born This Way now expected to sell more than a million copies in its first week, this seems like a good time to re-introduce you to the Indy's own Gaga interview with the industry's highest-profile pop icon.

It was the Fall of 2008 when Indy music writer Tom Lanham interviewed the former Stefani Germanotta, whose club hit "Let's Dance" had yet to cross over into the pop world. In fact, her debut album, The Fame, still hadn't been released in America. (It was already out in Europe and Canada.)

All that changed pretty quickly. The album came out here on Oct. 28, the Indy interview was printed on November 13, and the artist played Denver the following night (opening for New Kids on the Block, whom we somehow never got around to interviewing).

So hats off to Tom for his foresight, and to you too, if you made it up there for the gig.

Either way, you can still join us in a trip down Gaga Memory Lane by checking out the interview here. Then you can post a link to your favorite fan site and watch it go viral.

Self-serving? You bet. But hey, it's still a great interview.

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The grand old pastime of cheese rolling

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM

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Memorial Day weekend is a time to celebrate precious American pastimes like fishing, camping, barbecuing, or visiting the grave of a loved one.

But in England, apparently, this weekend is also a good time to run like a crazy person down a crowded muddy hill chasing ... wait for it ... cheese.

I have to say that as ridiculous as the grand old sport of cheese rolling sounds (and really, people have been doing this for two centuries), there is a part of me that finds this appealing.

First off, as an adult, I feel that I am unfairly deprived of chances to get extremely muddy for no apparent reason, while still maintaining a good reputation amongst my peers.

Second, I like cheese. I mean, who doesn't?

Anyways, if you're thinking of creating a new tradition of cheese rolling in your family, read this first.

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Winnefeld gets No. 2 Joint Chiefs nomination

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Winnefeld: Second top dog.
  • Winnefeld: Second top dog.

Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld, commander of Northern Command and NORAD, both based at Peterson Air Force Base, has been nominated as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President Obama, the Army Times reports.

Obama nominated Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Winnefeld took command at NorthCom and the North American Aerospace Defense Command in May 2010 and gave his first one-on-one newspaper interview to the Independent in June.

The Army Times reported Winnefeld will replace Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, current service vice chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been pegged as a front-runner to replace Mullen. Cartwright had recently been investigated for his relationship with a young female aide, which some speculated hurt his changes to move up.

“Sandy knows we have to be prepared for the full range of challenges,” Obama said, according to the Times.

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Pucker up Buttercup

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 12:57 PM

And the trend continues ...

Buttercup's Frozen Yogurt joins the ever-expanding list of self-serve frozen yogurt startups in the Springs.

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The shop is tentatively set to open in late July at 27 S. Tejon St. between the U.S. Olympic Committee and Freedom Financial Services.

Refreshingly, it appears the outfit will try to set itself apart from the masses with a more natural approach.

On the company website, they claim that they'll use no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, and instead, items like real coffee, cheese or peanut butter.

And — this is totally respectable — they'll use yogurt from local cows not treated with synthetic growth hormones and "as many local ingredients as possible."

A locavore's approach to self-serve frozen yogurt: I love it. Sounds like just what this trend needs.

We'll aim to have more for you in Side Dish soon, once we catch up with the owners.

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Bonus CineFiles: Old school plagues, new wave comedy and Thor done right!

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2011 at 12:42 AM

Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here on the IndyBlog.

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Black Death (Rated R)
Magnolia Home Entertainment

As my Twitter filled with amateur pundits making one lame joke after another about the failed Rapture, I thought about how awesome it would be if that same humor had been around in the Middle Ages. The countryside would've been filled with the corpses of heretics who dared to blaspheme the word of God, with bands of holy warriors going from town to town to dole out His violent justice. It would have at least made my twitter feed a bit more bearable. Black Death was a welcome balm for my disappointment, featuring grungy knights (led by a gritty Sean Bean) slaying non-believers in an effort to find a reason for the plague. On orders from the Church, they end up in a town that has not been hit yet, mostly because they have eschewed all forms of Christianity in favor of paganism and necromancy. Shades of The Wicker Man abound, with the knights finding various brutal ends due to their unwavering faith.


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Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Season Cinco (Not Rated)
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Adult Swim is a stoner’s entertainment paradise. Every show is about 15 minutes long and laced with pure avant-garde humor that you don’t need drugs to get, but, damn, does it help. The best of the lot has been Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Awesome Show, Great Job!, without a doubt the greatest mindfuck mainstream American television has ever produced. The final "cinco" season continues this admirable, unrelenting trend, with the duo pushing the boundaries of good taste with skits featuring diarrhea plugs, pubic hair milkshakes and lactating man-breasts, with a plethora of guest stars ranging from Patrick Duffy and Peter Cetera to Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell. And let’s not forget John C. Reilly as the indomitable Channel 5 health reporter, Dr. Steve Brule. All ten episodes are featured, as well as hilarious deleted and extended scenes. It’s definitely not for everyone, but in its attempt for reaching the lowest common denominator, it ironically manages to be the smartest comedy show on television. Season cinco is a perfect send-off.


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Almighty Thor (Not Rated)
The Asylum Home Entertainment

I loved Marvel Comics’ latest adaptation, Thor. It was great to finally see the long-running character on the silver screen in a big-budget event. That being said, I think I might like The Asylum’s latest “mock-buster” Almighty Thor a little bit more. Filmed on the cheap and premiering on SyFy, this version of the Norse myths features Richard Grieco as Loki and, even better, former wrestler Kevin Nash as Odin. Up yours, Sir Anthony Hopkins! The Thor depicted here is far from the muscle-bound hero we all know and love; instead he’s a whiny, petulant wannabe-warrior who is prone to crying jags. Lots of them. When Loki escapes from Hell and kills Odin, Thor must man up and find the “hammer of invincibility” in modern-day California, or at least the alleyways thereof. As CGI monsters attack, Thor grabs a Glock(!) and becomes the warrior we know and love. All on 1/100th the budget of the theatrical hit, but twice as fun!

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