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Without a contract extension, this season has added meaning for Josh Okogie

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Without a contract extension, this season has added meaning for Josh Okogie

Josh Okogie and the Timberwolves didn’t come to an extension agreement ahead of Monday’s deadline for rookies from the 2018 NBA Draft class to reach a deal. There was never much noise around a potential agreement, either.

The guard said there was no disappointment at the lack of a deal. He’s stated his desire to play in Minnesota for the foreseeable future. For some players and teams in certain situations, waiting to strike a deal just makes sense.

So Okogie will play his fourth NBA season before entering restricted free agency next offseason.

That makes the 2021-22 campaign Okogie’s biggest to date — a contract is on the line.

“I’m always going to try and play as hard as I can, but obviously this year is probably the most …” Okogie stopped himself. “Every year is going to be the most important year for me — but since this is like the most current year, it’s the most important.”

Okogie got the start in the team’s season opener Wednesday against the Rockets. Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch has lauded Okogie’s play throughout the preseason.

“Well, you know what he brings defensively. That’s been only accentuated with Patrick (Beverley) and Taurean (Prince) out there, too,” Finch said. “He doesn’t feel like he has to be on an island guarding all the time. So that’s one. Two, he’s playing with the most offensive confidence I’ve seen him play. Taking really good shots in the rhythm of our offense, knocking ’em down, playing off the catch, creating shots for others when he drives to the paint. That type of stuff. Yeah, he’s had a great summer. We saw him all summer.

“Whether it be with his national team. He was here a lot. When he was playing early on, he was really playing with a lot of confidence, and it carried right through camp.”

Okogie was left open on the perimeter by various teams last season. He’s hoping opponents try that strategy again this season after his offseason of work.

“I wish they let me shoot this year,” he said.

HOME COOKIN’

Seven of the Timberwolves’ first eight games this season are at Target Center.

The first three — Wednesday’s game against Houston followed by consecutive games against New Orleans — are against expected Western Conference cellar dwellers.

It’s imperative that Minnesota get off to a hot start.

“I think it’s healthy to know where we want to be by the time these home games have passed by. I think it’s healthy. I’ve been around long enough to know now that,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I’ve also been where you take it game by game, I’ve done it all different ways. I think it’s healthy to, for me at least, to have expectations for ourselves in the first eight games and come out and with a lot of energy.”

FINCH JOINS FOOD BANK

Local food bank Second Harvest Heartland announced this week that Finch would be joining the organization’s board. Finch said he was “really excited” by the opportunity.

“It’s such a big presence here,” he said. “I think it’s the second-largest food bank in the United States doing amazing work at a time of such great need.”

Finch attended college with Allison O’Toole, the CEO of Second Harvest Heartland. The two were friends, though it was through the Timberwolves that Finch connected with the food bank.

“Really, really excited to grow some synergy between the organizations and also just do my part here in the community,” he said. “It was important for me to do something that had reach to everybody, and was kind of non-partisan. Everyone needs help, everyone wants to eat.”

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Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot

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Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot

TRU Community Care in Lafayette was the host last week to the unveiling of a brand new technology in the medical field — a humanoid robot that can perform basic medical tasks.

BEOMNI, a remote-controlled humanoid robot, pushes a cart of medical supplies down the hall next to TRU Community Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wensel during a demonstration at TRU PACE Center in Lafayette on Friday. (Matthew Jonas, Daily Camera)

Beyond Imagination, an AI company based out of Colorado Springs, visited the Lafayette hospice center to test out the robot, named BEOMNI.

“We are excited that TRU sees the almost limitless potential of our humanoid robots in health care and has agreed to run this first pilot study with us. We look forward to partnering with them to bring a highly effective solution to market,” said inventor and CEO Dr. Harry Kloor.

The robot is controlled remotely using VR technology, so that doctors and specialists can see patients who are miles away. However, the physical presence of a robotic aid such as BEOMNI can make up for gaps that are present in current telehealth technology, such as physically touching and administering care to a patient.

As the technology develops, Beyond Imagination is hoping to incorporate BEOMNIS into other aspects of everyday care, offering an alternative to modern-day nursing homes and round the clock care centers.

Annually, the average cost of a nursing home in Colorado can cost around $100,000 for an individual patient; Whereas the cost of a BEOMNI aid would come out to far less than that, says Dr. David Wensel, Chief Medical Officer of TRU Community Care.

The need for a humanoid robot in the medical field is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the staffing shortage in the medical field, according to Wensel.

1638023138 433 Medical center in Lafayette hosts test run of humanoid robot
BEOMNI, a remotely controlled humanoid robot, navigates the its way through a doorway while pushing a cart with medical supplies with TRU Community Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wensel during a demonstration at TRU PACE Center in Lafayette on Friday. (Matthew Jonas, Daily Camera)

The pilot study took place from Nov. 9-12 in order to determine how the robot would fare in a real-world medical setting. The robot can perform tasks such as taking temperature using a thermometer, looking into a patient’s mouth using a tongue depressor and a flashlight, and even dance with patients — although long-term capabilities are expected to extend far beyond that.

This particular robot is a ‘version one,’ but is equipped with AI technology that will help the robot learn as it goes.

Another plus about BEOMNI humanoids in the health care field? “They can’t get COVID!” says Kloor.

BEOMNI robots are expected to be on the market in the next couple of years. For more information on Beyond Imagination and BEOMNI, visit beomni.ai.

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Denver artisan bakeries start “Bread Club” to keep business rolling

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Denver artisan bakeries start “Bread Club” to keep business rolling

A phenomenon early in the pandemic was captured on social media: people stuck at home were baking — and proudly displaying — photos of their bread.

“We’ve baked bread for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest staple foods we have,” baker Zach Martinucci said.

So, there’s bread as sustenance. And Martinucci said that going through the steps of making bread might have helped restore a sense of rhythm to days that grew monotonous for people at home with few diversions.

Martinucci talks about cooking during the pandemic with two hats on: He owns the bakery Rebel Bread and studied culinary anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His new venture, Bread Club, is intended to help local bakers keep their kitchens humming as consumers and businesses continue to adjust to a shifting marketplace.

Five Denver bakeries are members of the club, a market for local artisan bakery orders. The bakeries are Rebel Bread, Moon Raccoon Baking Co., Sugar Bakeshop,  Pandemic Donuts and  Mile High Pie Co.

Martinucci said the bakeries have a big presence at farmers markets, so their summers are busy. Sugar Bakeshop has a storefront. Rebel Bread has wholesale customers and opens a retail counter on weekend mornings at its kitchen and offices on South Broadway. The other bakeries sell online, to some wholesale customers and at pop-up events.

“I’m hoping Bread Club in the offseason provides a reliable way for people to sample and support these different bakeries that might not have regular hours,” Martinucci said.

Bread Club deliveries go out from Rebel Bread and are available in Denver and some neighboring areas. Customers can also pick up their orders at Rebel Bread.

Martinucci said people like being able to customize their orders and sample pastries, breads and pies from the various bakeries.

“The menu rotates and there’s always something new to try,” Martinucci said.

Sugar Bakeshop has been open for about a decade. Martinucci started Rebel Bread three years ago after working in a French bakery and attending the San Francisco Baking Institute.

The other three Bread Club members are pandemic-era startups.

Tanner Burgard quit his real estate job early in the summer of 2020 to return to his true passion of cooking. He “bounced around,” working for friends in the restaurant industry while trying to learn as much as he could. In February, Burgard started Mile High Pie Co. He settled on pies because of his love of savory dishes, like the chicken pot pie his wife makes. He also wanted to make something that could easily be delivered. “Without a storefront or anything, I knew it had to be deliverable.”

Burgard, who has three regular part-time employees, started with the savory and expanded to the sweet. His latest selection included Southern sausage gravy and bacon pie and walnut, whiskey and maple pie. Burgard’s latest favorite is a beef bourguignon pie. It’s made with red-wine braised beef, mushrooms, carrots, onions, potatoes and red-wine beef gravy.

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Fresh sourdough, left, and baguettes at Rebel Bread in Denver Nov. 04, 2021.

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New documentary tells the story of ski race held just weeks after Germany’s surrender in World War II

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New documentary tells the story of ski race held just weeks after Germany’s surrender in World War II

Barely a month after Nazi Germany surrendered in 1945, war-weary American soldiers from the renowned 10th Mountain Division “ski troops” — who had trained for World War II at Colorado’s Camp Hale — held a ski race on a spectacular peak in the Julian Alps, near the border of Italy and what was then Yugoslavia.

In Italy’s Apennine Mountains, they survived fierce clashes with German forces that claimed the lives of 992 of their comrades. They had fought heroically on Riva Ridge, Mount Belvedere and through the Po Valley to Lake Garda, where Benito Mussolini had a villa. Terrible images of battle were all too fresh in their minds, but holding a ski race seemed like a good way to celebrate the lives that had been spared. Despite the horrors of mountain combat, they had not lost the love for skiing and mountaineering that drew them to Camp Hale three years earlier.

The story of the 10th — its cold-weather training in the mountains between Vail and Leadville, its fierce battles in Italy and the improbable giant slalom at Mount Mangart on June 3, 1945 — is told in a new historical documentary written, produced and directed by Chris Anthony, a professional skier and member of the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame. The 70-minute film — titled “Mission Mt. Mangart, the Mighty Story of the 10th Mountain Division” — premiered on Veterans Day at Boettcher Concert Hall in an event that included a performance by the Colorado Symphony. It will play at several Colorado venues during ski season.

Anthony, who is well known to Colorado skiers for more than two dozen appearances in Warren Miller films as a daredevil big mountain skier, is often overcome with emotion when recalling how the movie came to be made and the reactions it is eliciting. He falters when describing what happened after a screening for 300 troops at Fort Drum, N.Y., the current home of the 10th Mountain Division, when a two-star general summoned Anthony to the stage. Anthony saw the general had difficulty composing himself.

“I walked up there and he told me that on their uniforms on the left arm is the 10th Mountain Division patch, but if you have a 10th Mountain Division patch on your right arm, that means you’ve seen combat,” Anthony said. “He tore the combat patch off his right arm and handed it to me.”

“Mission Mt. Mangart” captures the fun-loving character of the troops training at Camp Hale and the tragedy of war, using lots of archival footage and first-hand accounts from men who lived through it.

Bruce Campbell, who reported to Camp Hale when he was 18, is one of the few veterans of the World War II ski troops who is still alive. Now 98, his baritone is one of the voices in the film’s narration, including this observation on the mood of the 10th when the guns finally fell silent.

“You would have thought that, upon hearing that the war had ended for us that we would be cheering and firing weapons and hollering,” Campbell says. “But there was a far more somber reaction because we were tired and the war was over for us. It was a short period of combat but very intense, and we couldn’t help but think about wounded soldiers and, of course, those killed in action.”

Vili Vogelnik, provided by Chris Anthony

A pair of vintage skis from the 1940s are shown in the foreground with Mount Mangart in the background. Mangart is a peak in Slovenia where 10th Mountain Division troops who trained for winter warfare at Colorado’s Camp Hale held a ski race a month after the World War II ended in 1945. That race, and the heroic exploits of the 10th that preceded it are depicted in a new film by Chris Anthony, “Mission Mt. Mangart,” which will be shown at several Colorado venues during the ski season. Anthony is a former Warren Miller ski film athlete.

And yet, only 32 days after German forces surrendered Italy, the 10th decided to have a ski race. They had been repositioned in the Julian Alps, in what is now Slovenia, to deter Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito from moving into Italy. Few knew about the race when Anthony learned of it by chance seven years ago. He set out not only to tell that story but to re-create the race for the film.

Anthony learned the idea for the race on Mangart came from Karl Stingl, a 10th Mountain soldier who was struck by the grandeur of the peak while running military messages back and forth over nearby Predil Pass. Stingl was born in a German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia and learned to ski there as a boy. His parents sent him to the U.S. in 1937 to live with a relative because they sensed war was coming. He joined the 10th in 1942, becoming one of the many European-born skiers and mountaineers who joined the elite infantry unit at Camp Hale, including two famed Austrian mountaineers and ski racers, Toni Matt and Friedl Pfeifer.

As Anthony says in the movie, “When the opportunity came to utilize the skills they learned to fight for their new country against the tyranny destroying their homelands, they signed up.”

The Mangart race was won by Walter Prager, a Dartmouth ski coach and native of Switzerland who was a two-time world downhill champion before the war. Finishing second was Steve Knowlton, a longtime Coloradan who famously used to describe himself as “the first ski bum in Aspen.” He competed in the 1948 Olympics, opened a night club in Aspen and was instrumental in founding Colorado Ski Country USA, serving as the organization’s first director.

“He was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire and got the call, or heard about it, and rode his motorcycle west to Camp Hale to join up,” said one of his sons, Reid Knowlton, in a phone interview with The Denver Post.

After the war, former 10th Mountain ski troops helped found ski areas all over the country including Aspen, Vail and Arapahoe Basin. Despite the bloodshed they had seen while fighting in the Alps, the spirit of skiing and the mountains still burned within them.

“It might have saved them,” said Knowlton, who saw Anthony’s film at the Boettcher. “That was their playground, their comfort, everything they knew. I think they were able to hold onto that. They were young guys, having fun. They had to go fight, but they kept their passion alive, and that may have helped diminish or limit the PTSD that others in subsequent wars have had to deal with.”

There is something almost eerie about how Anthony came to make the film. Visiting the home of an Italian friend at the friend’s home in Colorado decades ago, Anthony saw a picture of Mangart and it cast a spell on him. He decided he had to see that mountain in person, and he made numerous trips there in the years that followed. It became like a second home.

“From the first time I laid eyes on Mount Mangart, it felt as if I had some sort of spiritual connection with the mountain,” Anthony said. “It’s as if my life had been designed to take this journey and share this story.”

Janez Kavar, a retired general in the Slovenian mountain troops, heard about Anthony’s frequent visits to the region, and in 2014 he left a manuscript for him at a hotel where Anthony stayed whenever he was there. Kavar previously had been to Colorado on research missions, visiting the Denver Public Library and the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail to learn more about the 10th. At the museum, Kavar saw Anthony’s “Climb to Glory.”

Professional skier, writer, director, producer, Chris ...

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Professional skier Chris Anthony, familiar to Colorado skiers for appearing in Warren Miller ski films and in-theater performances as MC, is the director, writer and producer of “Mission Mt. Mangart,” a historical documentary about the World War II 10th Mountain Division ski troops. The film will be touring Colorado venues this winter.

The manuscript Kavar left for Anthony became the seed for the film, and in 2017, Kavar helped Anthony re-create the race on Mount Mangart. Townspeople turned out to help clear the road of rockfall and avalanche debris.

“All these townspeople, current mountain troops and retired (troops) in their 80s showed up in period gear from the ‘40s and we re-created the race,” Anthony said. “It had been raining for weeks. The day we had the permit (to film), blue skies. The next day it started raining again. There’s no way I was getting away from this story. Now I was married to it, and I had to deliver on it.”

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