Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I finished Michael Crichton's NEXT last night. It fit into his typical formula of writing: open with a death, jump characters, slowly join them into the final story line. I like his writings and his research (his bibliography had 36 references plus a list of 24 combined press articles and internet sites). Who but Crichton would even have a bibliography in a fiction book? Interesting fictional analysis of the extremes of politics, law, and the media (PLM)--similar to what he addressed in State of Fear.
On my vacation in Cancun, I finished reading Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg, that gives an economist's point of view to the solutions offered up for solving the "global warming crisis."
I also read all the way through George Orwell's 1984 while on vacation.
I am finding an interesting thread in my reading selections from Animal Farm, 1984, State of Fear, and some subjects discussed on the Thomas Jefferson Hour.
I picked up quite a few books on US History subjects such as the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and a collection of Thomas Paine's writings at our local B&N. These are next on my reading list and hopefully I can actually fit those in over the remainder of the holiday season.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loss of a Great Writer

I recently learned of the loss of one today's greatest authors: Michael Crichton. I have come to appreciate the rebellious streak in his writing and I had hoped to enjoy another of his novels with my purchased of his most recent book: NEXT. My memory of early science fiction movies is almost founded on Andromada Strain and Westworld. I had also receive inspiration to investigate global warming with a critical eye after reading State of Fear and his speeches.
I am sure many who found Michael to be inspirational or a bane will have many more eloquent things to say about this remarkable man. Having lost my brother suddenly and not too long ago, I can empathize with his family. I add my sympathies to the many that may be directed their way over the next year and as the anniversaries pass.
Rest well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

When was the last time you read Animal Farm? I remember it being required reading back in grade school, and rumor has it that the book has been removed from reading curricula of late. I do not know if that is true but for whatever reason, probably the latest election cycle, I felt compelled to read it again. After finishing The Trouble With Physics by Lee Smolin, I picked up a copy of George Orwell's Animal Farm at the local B & N.

The Signet Classics version had a Preface by Russel Baker talking about Eric Blair (George Orwell), his experience in Spain, and his belief in socialism--but not the Soviet interpretation. This short back-history along with the 1954 Introduction by C. M. Woodhouse, and the fairy-story itself, made for some interesting re-reading.

What do you think about the following analogies?

Pigs : The Seven Commandments :: US Politicians : Constitution of the United States

Napoleon : Milk :: US Political Parties : Money

Boxer : Windmill :: US Public : Climate Change

Not that these are perfect comparisons, nor have I really thought them through, but it is something to ponder.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mt. Antero rock hounding, et cetera

After all of the outdoor adventure this summer, Troy was still itching for more. He worked up plans to squeeze in one more drive and I agreed to go along with the boys. The result: Mt. Antero on 7 Sep.

There were three phases: a 4WD, a hike up Mt. Antero, and rock hounding.
The drive was very bumpy in spots and I would have to say it had one of the steepest dirt road stretches I have dealt with in a while. I did not spin wheels, but I was right on the verge of doing so a couple of times. Once we broke above tree line, the drive was pretty easy if you have no problems with the "exposure". Maybe if you were riding shotgun or if you have a strong fear of heights, then it would be uncomfortable. The boys have no fear in the truck so they were just fine. Near the end of the drive, the trail flattened out and snaked through a high park until making a zigzag up the last portion. The final leg was a little sporty on the switch-backs, with one that I had to do a two-point turn on. This part was even more interesting on the way down. Not really any more difficult, just a bit nerve racking if that stuff bothers you.
Once we got to the parking lot up top, three of us decided to summit the peak (Troy, Bernie, and myself). Troy's wife said she would keep an eye on the kids so we started off. Bernie decided a short way in that he did not want to continue due to the stress on his back, so he turned back for the trucks. Troy and I spent the next hour searching for the trail on the rock-strewn peak. Just short of the summit, there was a nice spot overlooking an easterly ridge line and a steep drop-off to the north. A few more vertical feet and we were at the top of 14,269 foot Mt. Antero. Troy and I shuffled around a bit and I picked up some nice white and pink quartz specimens before signing the log.
On our way down, very near the base of the summit trail, I noticed a vein of green stone and started to follow it off trail to the west. It was evident that others had been scrapping in the area before. I quickly found some small but fully formed quartz crystals. After hunting around for five or ten minutes I caught back up with Troy and we headed for the trucks to pick up the kids. Both Alex and Andrew were more than enthusiastic to finally have a focused rock hounding effort. We probably spent an hour poking around, with Alex and I finding some keepers but nothing that would be considered high quality.
Most of the return trip was uneventful except for the other drivers discovering some of the disadvantages of ABS while four wheeling (I already had my differential locker engaged so my ABS was disabled). Also, half way down to timberline, we literally ran into a herd of mountain goats.
Pictures of the day can be found on my Picasa album: http://picasaweb.google.com/GargoyleEyes/MtAntero08
--The picture at the top was taken by Alex--

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gunny Canoeing

This last weekend, six of us Maximites (John K., Troy L., Robert W., Robert P., Mike F., and myself) went on a canoe trip down the Gunnison between Delta CO and Whitewater. We left a little early on Thursday from work, heading for some nondescript camp site near Blue Mesa. After a decent sleep, we got up and had breakfast at McD's in Montrose on our way to the put-in. Following the requisite car shuffle, we were on the river around 11:30 and enjoying the laid-back ~1200cfs flow. Our first day had very little excitement as we all left the high tension environment of work behind and came down to "river speed" (as John likes to call it). By mid-afternoon we passed under the Escalante bridge and took a few minutes on dry land to stretch and discuss the plans for that evening's camping sight. This location was the usual put-in for people making the same run through Dominguez Canyon, so a few of us tried to make it to shore from the "island" we were on, in order to read the check-in log. John failed in walking across the deep (not really, not even to his calf) and swift (OK, maybe) water, and Mike and I failed in our attempts to ferry over (I mis-paddled and we "landed" a few meters down river). Luckily "the Roberts" were successful and they noted that there were about 50 people ahead of us on the river. Around 17:00 we stopped at the first designated camp site within the wilderness study area and settled in a little early. Each of us leisurely made dinner for ourselves, popped open some brews, and initiated the evening discussions over a miniature camp fire.

The next morning we all started to roll out of our tents around 07:00 to breakfast. Two hours passed as we broke camp, packed everything up, and some folks even squeezed in a few casts on their rods. Fishing had been poor the day before, only improving slightly just before we got back on the water: Robert W. captured (snagged) a small, unidentified fish (UFnoO). Even attempts to use a native frog as bait did not pan out as we started our second day on the Gunny. The laziness of the river was starting to sink in as the landscape grew in grandeur. The canyon walls were looming taller while becoming more varied in color. As the morning was about to hand-off to the afternoon, we stopped at the Dominguez Canyon confluence. This is where we finally bumped into the 50+ people listed in the register! Even though it looked crowded (12 canoes, a raft, and all kinds of tents spread out in the area), we encountered very few people. One here, two there, as our group walked a short distance up the trail. We did not really want to eat lunch here so we all hopped back into the boats and started down the river again, looking for a nearby place to pull off and eat.

This is where the story picks up a bit. When we first approached this stopping point Mike and I noticed that there were many places where the water was spilling out of the cove to make its way down stream. We decided that the left-most spillway was the best looking (most adventurous). As we started our paddle, I noticed an inner tube floating in an eddy and mentioned it to Mike--big mistake on my part. We both had our eyes on that inner tube as we rounded the left-turn spill way, then chicaned right, unfortunately we did not pay enough attention to the exit path. As we were passing by the tube that came up at us faster than we thought, we were swept past the eddy and were headed right for a large rock that I had now noticed. This huge monolith had the swift current flowing under rather than around it. In a split-second I had put my hands out and slowed our impact speed so the canoe did not exactly smack the rock head-on. At this point though, the tail end was being pushed into the rock as Mike and I frantically stroked at the water to get us around (rather than under) the obstruction. We almost had cleared the pinnacle but as we did the up-stream gunwale dip ever so slightly into the water. That was all it took! The next thing I know, I am standing in chest-deep water, trying to decide what I should salvage from the flotsam washing by. I snagged my small dry bag which held my digital and video camera in it and started wrestling the canoe the remainder of the way around the rock. Mike and I drug the swamped canoe up onto the rock plateau just behind that blameful piece of sandstone, then we took pause and assessed our situation. We were obviously wet, about two-thirds of our stuff was on its own course down the Gunnison (with our buddies snatching at it, trying to hold back full-blown belly laughs), but we were sound. We dumped the water out, packed up what we were able to salvage ourselves, and slipped back into the river with a grand experience now under our belt.

To say the least, the remainder of the trip was less adventurous than those few minutes. We passed both a new and an old foot bridge soon after "Turn-over Rock", followed by some orchards and more scenic canyon walls. Around 17:30, we pulled up on a willow-strewn beach and posted our last camp of the trip.

The next morning left us with a short paddle to the take-out point (about four miles remained). Except for five minutes of excitement, the whole trip was very leisurely. It turned out to be just what we had hoped for: a quiet, lazy, river paddle with a good group of guys.

For select pictures go to the album on Picasa: GunnisonCanoeTrip08

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Canoe Trip Prep Work

I spent yesterday evening with the boys pulling down the canoe and preparing for this weekend. Alex and I will be joining two other father/son pairs from my work as we head up to the North Platte on Friday. We plan to run the same stretch of river that Mike and I ran last fall: from Pick Bridge (just north of Saratoga WY) to Ft. Steele (rest stop off of I-80). It is about 33 river miles and will be the first time in our "new" canoe, the first time Alex and I have gone canoeing, and the first time for the other father/sons as well. It should be a lot of fun. Hopefully it is manageable, my worry being that when Mike and I went last year the flow was about 300 cfs, this weekend it should be around 2500 cfs!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4x4 on the 4th in Chihuahua

Reason #1 to buy a 4-wheel drive and use it: get the family out into Colorado vistas such as these. We spent the Fourth-of-July weekend in the mountains, with my primary goal of driving up Chihuahua gulch. This place is just east of Keystone, and is within view of the two 14-ers: Grays and Torreys (back-side is to the right of the picture). The drive itself was only a little over an hour, from Keystone to the beginning of the trail head, but of course there were quite a few wondrous places to stop before reaching the end of the road. Troy joined us in his "new" 4Runner on this bumpy ride, and it was the first of its kind for my wife. There were a couple of creek crossings, one of which could be tricky having 2-foot-sized rocks in the way, as you ford through axle-deep water. After lunching at the trail head, we walked a little ways towards the upper lake taking pictures along the way. I think everyone enjoyed it, encountering beautiful flowers in bloom and wide-open vistas featuring waterfalls, marshy flats, and rubble strewn mountain sides. The weather was about perfect while we were there, with a few clouds breaking up the blue, mountain-cut skyline. We closed the day with a drive back to Siverthorn through a long missed 4-o-clock thunder storm.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Changing US Government (sort of)

If you have visited my web pages you may have stumbled upon my pages on my (now stalled) global warming research. I still find that subject fascinating but have not devoted any time to that line of questioning since the death of my brother.
Lately I have had a radical idea (not really) of how to restructure the United States government, specifically the House of Representatives, in a way that some may find unique. I believe that this change could solve many of the issues Americans have with their federal government. I am planning to assemble a well thought out argument for this change on my web site along with an executive summary posted to this blog. Stay tuned, for a look into my thoughts on this and many more subjects.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yesterday at Florissant

Yesterday was a fun mini-adventure for the family. My father ("Pops" to the boys) joined us on our little excursion to Florissant Fossil Beds NM. We had a good bit of fun at the National Monument with a well guided tour given by a park ranger. The boys both picked up Jr. Ranger badges and in doing so, they learned a good bit about petrified wood, carbonized plant and insect fossils. After the one mile walking tour we went to the yurt and learned about how the paleontologists work through the shale to find various fossils. Currently they are not "digging" at the monument site but they definitely have a good bit to see. After we wrapped up our visit there, we made our way to the preserved homestead just up the way. Our final stop was to spend an hour at the private quarry inside the town of Florissant. Given a little bit of time, we were able to pry apart some of the shale and find our own small collection of leaf fossils.

Interesting Morning

It was one of those Sunday mornings: I'm just laying there in bed, on the edge of sleep and I hear that noise. It is kind of like a strong, directed, whooshing tone. Well the picture at the right is the give-away. Every so often, usually in the spring, we will have an early morning visitor above the field behind our back yard. It just so happens that this was one of five hot-air balloons traveling through our neighborhood this morning. This one disappeared to the north, probably landing at Challenger MS. Of the other four, I saw one touched down across the street, a second one did a touch-and-go (which I had never seen with balloons), a third came down in the same area but I only caught a glimpse of it over the tops of some houses to the south of us. The last one I watched land in the field behind our house. I was able to stir both of our boys for just moments--long enough for them to see some evidence of the balloons before passing out again for more shut-eye.
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is the family web page really that bad?

Yes and no. When our service provider changed from Adelphia to Comcast, I moved a majority of the web site across to the new account, but not all. I guess I need to give it a little sprucing up. Currently plans are to add links to this blog, to the Picasa site for pictures, and to remove some of the older, uninteresting content. I hope to also freshen up the genealogy links and maybe get more of the family involved with the site itself. I have even considered registering a domain to have a permanent presence on the web for the family.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Anyone out there?

Well, that may be what people are thinking if they ever visited this site and came back a second time. I think it has been nearly a year since I signed on for a blog, and nothing. Well Steve Lave just sent me an invite to his blog and I thought maybe I should start making some entries here. I have been posting photos to my Picasa site and if you are interested in airplanes and the like, it has some nice shots. I was impressed when I handed over my older digital camera (Canon S410) to Alex and he actually snapped some nice shots. Pictures are one thing, content is another.
So things that I have been up to lately:
- New job position at Maxim
- Pre-planned Summer activities with the family
- Mildly studying US History (through The Thomas Jefferson Hour)
- Getting back into books--heavy stuff right now
- Yard work

My preoccupation of late has been the new reading. My latest finished book was Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller. I picked this up on a recommendation from Mike Fuchs (coworker at Maxim) and I was able to burn through it in less than two weeks. It helped that for one week I was on a business trip to Champaign IL for training in my new position. Anyways, the book was a good follow-up to the "bible survey" that Mike and I had been attending. This was a weekly, one-hour review of various chapters out of the bible, directed by Charles Sharman and attended by a number of folks at work. I was able to stick it out for over a year--a little longer than Mike, and I feel that I got out of it what I had been expecting.
The book however, was more down the lines of my beliefs (or thoughts at least) with a strong focus on the realities of physics and the undeniable truth of the real world. I won't go into my view point right now, but suffice it to say that this book was enlightening and refreshing. It was good to see that someone could articulate the juxtaposition of science and religion so well. I try to keep an open mind, to always be willing to participate in a discussion on the subject of religion and science. This book pointed out why that is a good thing for people on both sides of the debate: to always be willing to listen to each other and to adjust your point of view.
I have just started into a book that I have had sitting on my shelf for about 15 years: Pi in the Sky by John D. Barrow. It is a book on the history of numbers and mathematics. I also just bought The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin, again on the recommendation of Mike. We seem to share an interest in the background of science and I find it refreshing to have someone to talk to about the subject again. I even brought in a couple of my older books in for Mike to flip through: Chaos by James Gleick, and The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics by Timothy Farris.
Next on my Amazon wish list (though I seem to keep popping into Barnes & Noble to pick them up) is Dark Side of the Universe by Iain Nicolson, Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg, and Becoming Jefferson's People by Clay Jenkinson.