Sunday, June 29, 2008

Backpacking Gear Shakedown

John and I met at Colonial Creek campground Wednesday evening. The rough winter had destroyed the water tank and there were no other services available so camping was free. Whoo-hoo! We hiked up the Thunderhead Bank Trail to kill some time and spent a quiet night there since we were the only campers. Thursday morning we parked at the East Bank Trailhead at milepost 138 and our Ross Lake backpacking trip began. John's pack weighed in at 50 pounds. Mine was 32. He wasn't happy to hear that. I took half the tent from him and that helped a little. During the next three days we both figured out what was extra and unnecessary as well as what few items we needed to add. Since we were new to this we didn't know how fast we should go. We covered three miles in the first hour. I'd forgotten to trim my toenails before leaving home and paid for it. What a doofus! I had to wrap my toes with tape to keep the nails from further slicing open the neighboring toes. There were no problems the day before so they must've grown just that little bit in one day to make a difference. Our first campsite, Rainbow Point, was only an eight mile trek so we knew we were going to get there early. (Fortunately, someone there had nail clippers and I was saved for the remainder of the trip.) Getting to your campsite early in the day is a problem because then you have all kinds of time to kill. We both forgot to bring a deck of cards or anything else to help us pass the dead time. And it's not like we're rabid conversationalists either.
Yep, there's more trees over there.

Friday was a warmer day and we hiked six miles to our second campsite at Lightning Creek. We took our time but we still got there before noon. Saturday's hike was 12 miles backtracking and it was a very hot day. Stopping at the many creeks and waterfalls was a treat because they felt like air conditioning. We'd stop and filter some water and have a refreshing, ice-cold drink. We were supposed to spend Saturday night at the Ruby Pasture campground but it was in such poor condition we decided to hike the three miles out and go elsewhere. So Saturday's hike was 15 miles. The only problem I had--and a major problem at that--with all our hiking was with the heel in my right boot. It would slide when I'd push off while going up hill. I blistered every day. I went through a lot of moleskin, duct tape and Body Glide to mitigate the effect but that's not going to work for the Wonderland Trail since that has a ton of elevation gain every day. The freezer bag cooking worked great. The meals are easy to prepare and there's nothing to clean except a spoon. We actually had too much for each meal so we can divide that up into smaller portions. Other than force feeding myself large portions I was also uncomfortable eating hot meals on a hot day. I'm adding a pair of sandals and nail clippers to my list of gear. Oh, and a deck of cards. This is what happens when you leave a couple of Power Bars in your glove box for three days at a national park trailhead. The 1996 Honda Civic is not critterproof.

You Can Meet The Neatest People... the neatest places. While on my way to Ross Lake last Wednesday I stopped in Winthrop to hang out for a bit. I was wandering around looking for interesting photo opportunities when I heard some great music. A cellist was playing on the patio between an ice cream shop and a hot dog stand. And he didn't sound like any cellist I've heard before. He was playing Ravel's Bolero and he sounded amazing. It was as if he was playing all the parts. I stood there and listened. A crowd of people hardly paid him any attention. Amid the noise of the food purveyors, cries of "Mommy, I want ice cream,", and "Do you want tartar sauce with your onion rings," this man was playing the best rendition of Bolero I'd ever heard. A woman, who turned out to be his manager, handed me a flyer introducing the cellist as Ashraf Hakim. (If you like you can read more about him at his site.) After finishing, Ashraf came over and we chatted for a while. He told me his story of coming to America from Egypt and proudly showed me his Permanent Resident card and his Washington driver's license. My question to him was, "Why is a musician of your caliber playing on a patio underneath the sign listing all the ice cream flavors?" "It's a long story," he said. I said I'd listen to it if he wanted to tell it. He and his manager were going to check out preparations for the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival being held next month in Twisp and Ashraf decided to try camping. Their idea of camping was staying in a cabin. The quiet and dark of the night was frightening for him. Ashraf, being a city person, was worried about cougars and bears. Even though he knew it was irrational he still fretted so much that he couldn't sleep. "My fingers," he explained, "What if a cougar or bear eats my fingers? I have to think about that, you know." So at 5:00 am that morning he woke his manager and asked her to please take him out of there. They drove to Winthrop to put gas in the car. His manager checked the oil and saw it needed a quart. She took care of that and then Ashraf started driving. After 10 miles Ashraf knew he was very sleepy and told his manager he couldn't drive. He got out of the car and while walking around the front he saw and smelled smoke rolling out from under the hood. "We are burning!" he cried. They opened the hood and oil had spattered all over the engine compartment since his manager forgot to replace the oil cap. She put the cap back on and they went back to Winthrop to get more oil. Because of that Ashraf decided that God must want him to spend the day in Winthrop and that was how he came to be playing there. He was very enjoyable to visit with. He talked and talked and then apologized for talking so much. I told him I was backpacking for the next three days and if I saw a cougar or bear I would take a picture and send it to him. He didn't like that idea at all. So I'm sending him a photo of a deer that kept hanging around camp. It didn't make a move for any of my fingers so that should be okay.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back to Nature

Well my fully loaded backpack weighs in at 35 pounds. I'm pleased with that. I wanted to stay under 40. I went out to the trails behind Holmberg Park again yesterday and trekked for a couple of hours. This time I brought my Nikon SLR. I wanted to see what it felt like to have that around my neck while wearing the pack. My concern was that I'd have a 2-pound weight swinging around and thumping against me. My concern was well founded. I thought I could pin the camera down some using the backpack's chest strap. That didn't work very well since the camera strap was fully extended. So I shortened up the camera strap which moved it higher against my chest and the camera stayed nice and close. To take a picture I'd unclip the chest strap, remove the lens cap, and shoot away. That's fine until it rains. There's no room in my pack so maybe I could get a case. Or enclose it in a plastic bag. Or not endanger my investment and leave it at home. Something to think about. I head out to Ross Lake on Wednesday for a four-day trek with my brother John. It's a gear shake down trip to prepare for doing the Wonderland Trail in August.
While I was going through the trees an osprey was screeching high above me and it sounded eery. While I was searching for the osprey a greenish hummingbird flitted around the branches of a nearby tree, stopped for a five second rest and then took off again. The occasional bumble bee flew by sounding like a cargo plane. And there were some wildflowers in bloom. All in all a very relaxing time.

The Internets Will Get You

At the beginning of yesterday's homily our priest addressed the children. He tried to warn them of the dangers of chat rooms, etc., but it was clear he wasn't very knowledgeable of the subject, especially when he referred to "the internets." He warned children to be careful "because there are people out there who are trying to get you." To his credit he did tell the kids they should talk to their parents or talk to him--as if they would--if they don't feel comfortable talking to their parents. Regardless, I had some issues with his remarks and asked to chat with him after Mass. He turned out to be very open to what I had to say.

(Mind you I spoke civilly.) First, I told him I thought his remarks were unnecessary fear mongering. The vast majority of crimes against children are committed by family or friends, which means that is where the greatest danger lies. While there are dangers associated with the Internet, it requires education and awareness, not fear. There is nobody out there trying to get my child. The Internet is not an inherently dangerous "place". The problem is that we hear about it so much that we assume it must be so. Could we make the same assumption about priests when we heard so much about them committing crimes against children? Secondly, kids today have grown up with computers and the Internet. When you try to talk about it and you obviously are not that knowledgeable of the subject, any message you have is lost because your credibility just tanked. And expect derision when you use terms like "the internets". Like I said, he listened and seemed to genuinely appreciate what I had to say. He said he rarely gets feedback and asked me to do it again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Inveterate Invertebrates

A week ago I mentioned the uproar taking place in Great Britain over a new law that allows a person to be held 42 days without charges. Of course, I haven't seen it mentioned in the news here. And I wondered what it would take for a politician here to show some spine when our civil liberties are under attack. Well, we have our answer. The House just passed a bill that gives immunity to telecom companies who broke the law at the president's request because he says it was necessary to fight terrorism. The law in question is the one that says the administration has to get a warrant to monitor communications of anyone within the U.S. Heck, they can even wait 72 hours after they start monitoring before they get the warrant. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides a semblance of judicial oversight for this. I say semblance because the record shows that the FISA judges rarely disapproved a warrant. But rather than follow the law, President Bush directed that it be ignored and asked the telecommunication companies to go along. So not only is he getting a free ride, since most members of Congress subscribe to the "protect America from terrorism at all costs because my career will tank if a city goes up in flames on my watch" mindset, but the telecom companies are excused as well. The bill now goes to the Senate and none other than "The Country Wants a Change" Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is not against it. He, along with many other Democrats, are pretty much agreeing that Bush broke the law and warning him that he better not do it again or else. Or else...I don't know, something.

So why is it important that the government not be able to monitor my phone and my email without a warrant? I don't have anything to hide so what's the harm? For one answer I direct you to an essay written by Daniel J. Solove called 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy.

But here is the important question people are not asking. Why have laws if the president can violate them at will?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I Ride

Most of the people I work with frequently remark about me commuting by bike. "Aren't you tired?" "Wow, that's a long way." "I could never do that." "Don't you know that's what cars are for?" "You're crazy." And the list goes on. It never occurred to me to compare how their commute went with mine. I stumbled across this article at Veloquent and had one of those IcouldahaddaV8 moments. So next time, I'll ask, "Did you have fun coming in to work today?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Voting Republican...

...because I think the government should monitor my phone and email without probable cause or a warrant. Not good enough for ya?

There are plenty more good reasons here.

Do Not Not Do That

We bought a new video camera at work. When I was nearly finished installing the software that came with it, I received this instruction.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Prime Minister's Question Time

I admire Glenn Greenwald's legal mind very much. Some British politicians from both parties are upset about a new law that allows a person to be held for 42 days without charges. Mr Greenwald's article is here. What would it take for us to have at least one politician with the backbone to make waves to protect our civil liberties?

Father's Day

Steph and Josh made a wonderful breakfast for me. Bacon, toast and pancakes shaped to look like D A D. Exactly what I wanted and the preparation and presentation were perfect.

Stephanie performed in her recital at Northwood School. She played The Entertainer. All of the kids were awesome. Young boys and girls waiting their turn in plastic chairs, some whose feet didn't reach the floor. Feet swinging until they were called forward. Shy and soft spoken as they introduced themselves and their music. Stiff and awkward while they played, the discomfort of playing in front of a group evident but not overwhelming. A hurried bow as the proud parents applauded. A smile of relief and happiness and dash back to their seats. Unfazed by the interruption, swinging feet picking up where they had left off.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Scalia Drinks The Koolaid

In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners at Guantanamo have a right to challenge their imprisonment in the federal courts. For a good explanation go here.

I found Justice Scalia's dissent most interesting.

"America is at war with radical Islamists. The enemy began by killing Americans and American allies abroad: 241 at the Marine barracks in Lebanon, 19 at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, 224 at our embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and 17 on the USS Cole in Yemen. See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 60–61, 70, 190 (2004). On September 11, 2001, the enemy brought the battle to American soil, killing 2,749 at the Twin Towers in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon in Washington, D. C., and 40 in Pennsylvania. It has threatened further attacks against our homeland; one need only walk about buttressed and barricaded Washington, or board a plane anywhere in the country, to know that the threat is a serious one. Our Armed Forces are now in the field against the enemy, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, 13 of our countrymen in arms were killed."

The attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon happened in 1983 and this is when a war with radical Islamists began? And if you're going to go there, don't forget there are two sides to every story. If a country had a battleship lobbing shells the size of VW Beetles into your cities and then landed some troops afterwards, which would be the easiest target to strike in retaliation? For some reason he neglects to include the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. That attack would fit within the war Scalia back dates by 18 years.

He goes on to describe how some 30 detainees released by the military "returned to the battlefield" after the military determined they were not enemy combatants. How could someone who wasn't a combatant return to the battlefield? (There was no mention of the possibility that they became enemy combatants as a result of their well-known harsh treatment at Guantanamo.) So even though the military determined those men were not enemy combatants, we should have held them indefinitely just to make sure? Perhaps we should add that to the "Ways to Promote Democracy" list. Right under Invasion.

I wonder what flavor Justice Scalia prefers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Security Absurdity

Check out the enhanced ID requirements the TSA is implementing as of June 21.

Passengers who refuse to show ID, citing a constitutional right to fly without ID will be refused passage beyond the checkpoints. Passengers who say they have left their ID at home, will be searched, and then permitted to board their flights.

Because we all know that only terrorists stand up for their constitutional rights.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson!

This last week of bike commuting presented a new dangerous scenario for me to watch for. I was going east on Buckeye and crossing Division. I was right wheel tracking in the right lane behind several cars. There were no cars behind me. A tow truck dragging a car was the last vehicle in the left lane and slightly ahead of me. A van facing west was in the left turn lane waiting for us to pass so he could go south on Division. I got to the intersection just after the tow truck. As the tow truck got through the intersection I was about halfway across. With split-second timing the van, waiting for the tow truck to pass, stomped on the gas and turned left--right into me. Fortunately, the driver was quick enough to swerve behind me. All I had time to do was think, "Oh, shit!" It's like the reason for wearing a bright yellow jacket and brightly colored jerseys is so they can be displayed at the driver's trial. I'm sure everyone in the jury box would say, "How could you not see that?" Keep your eyes and ears open out there. Um, you drivers too.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bill Moyers at the National Conference for Media Reform

Forty minutes in length, but well worth a listen.
And it's captioned.

The New Phone Book's Here!

So Josh used the old one to demonstrate that a 118 pound 16-year-old can tear a phone book in half. One of the football coaches teaches the Marketing class Josh took last semester. The subject of tearing a phone book in half came up and the teacher claimed that there's no technique, it just takes a lot of strength. Josh offered to prove him wrong and rendered him speechless when he did so.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Weren't We Paying Attention?

The Senate Intelligence Committee released it's report showing that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest knew they were using false statements to support invading Iraq. It takes my breath away. I mean, I had absolutely no idea. I think my faith in my government is shaken to the--hey, Britney forgot to wear panties again.

Excellent Reading

These books should be read together. Wolf describes the effect of the erosion of civil liberties, a corporate-owned press, the methodical gelding of the rule of law, and the loss of the people's power in America. A bit alarmist for me, but possibly not alarmist enough. She lists ten steps used by practically every dictatorial regime to take power and lists parallels for each step currently used in America today. The examples for a couple of the steps are a bit weak to me, but overall she has an argument convincing enough to make you think. To me, under the right circumstances, much of what she points out could happen and we could end up with an America at the polar opposite of its founding. At the very least we are already on our way--we admit to using torture and justify it because of the extremes we focus on.
Moyers' books is a compilation of past speeches he's given addressing many of the same topics but on a higher plain. Moyers eloquently describes the many storms that have buffeted our imperfect experiment in democracy known as America. How in spite of its imperfections it has been saved again and again by citizens recognizing the need to be right and just. And how threatened that democracy is again today by those who would subvert it for power and money.

So, applying my imagination, I offer a conspiracy theory for the future. After the election the president-elect will die, perhaps by accident but more than likely assassinated. The assassination will be called a "response" to our attack on Iran. Anyone following the "proof" will quickly learn not to travel down that road. Bush will use his new powers granted by the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill to declare a state of emergency. People will understandably be upset and take to the streets and the administration responds by declaring martial law. There aren't enough troops in country so Blackwater mercenaries are used. All hell breaks loose. Pretty crazy, eh? I can't believe how easy it was to come up with that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Been There. Done That. Got the T-shirt.

Kathy and I got home from Sunday's San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon late last night. I can honestly say that was the hardest thing I've ever done.

We arrived at the starting line around 6:10 am. The 16,000-plus runners were divided into corrals based on their estimated finish times. Geoff was in corral 3. Kathy and I in 7. While walking to our corral we passed by an elderly gentleman wearing a Superman outfit. The "S" on his chest was replaced with a "26.2". He informed us that anyone else we saw in a Superman costume was a phony. "I am the real Superman," he said with his thumb pointing at his chest.

Everywhere runners were wearing belts with energy gel packs inserted into loops. Bandoliers of ammunition came to mind. Those empty packs would litter the entire route, spent casings expended in thousands of personal battles. The reasons for running were many. Raise money to fight a disease. For the challenge. In memoriam of a passed loved one. For fun. I just wanted to do it one time.

We were off and a polite and considerate crowd gently fell into the run. Earlier I had decided on a 9-minute mile pace hoping to finish within four hours. I would walk only to eat and drink. Within the first mile I was soaked in sweat. It was 60 degrees and slightly humid, perfect weather for the elite runners who would finish two hours ahead of me. Not so good for someone who's used to low humidity and low temperature. I knew I would have to drink at every water station and I did.

The first 13.1 miles went great. I was 3-1/2 minutes under the two-hour mark and I felt very comfortable. But that time in the bank wasn't accruing any interest. I not only had some late fees coming, but the repo man was to show up as well.

Along the way I saw or met some interesting people. One young man was wearing pink bikini briefs with the words "Awesome Dude" in black letters on his butt. That had lost bet written all over it. His friend was going to try running 200 miles in one week. Mr Pink bet him he couldn't do it. The loser had to wear the "Awesome Dude" pink bottoms in the marathon. There were also the Running Elvi. One hundred and forty-eight men and women were dressed as Elvis, setting a new race record. The wig alone would've killed me.

The third hour of running got tough. The rising temperature combined with the humidity began sucking the life out of me. It didn't take long for me to give back my savings of three and one-half minutes. The fourth hour turned into four and one-quarter hours. I kept running and walked only to drink, but each mile was more and more difficult. By mile 24 I was ready to be done. An encouraging group at the water station read my name on my race bib and yelled, "Come on, Hank! Be strong. You can do this!" Not that I wasn't going to. I just didn't want to at the moment. But I slogged on. I knew I wasn't going to finish in four hours. On a loop-back after the 25-mile mark I saw the 4:15 pace group was catching up to me. That didn't seem so bad to me and I pressed on hoping I'd stay even slightly ahead of them. At the 26-mile mark I was looking at the longest stretch of 200 meters I have ever seen. I finally got to the finish just after the 4:15 pace group passed me by. I finished about 30 seconds after them happy to be done with it.

Geoff came in almost an hour ahead of me at 3:18. Kathy wasn't far behind me at 4:37. My wife and my running friends tell me I will do this again. That now that I know what it's like, I 'll want to improve my time and possibly prove something to myself. They are wrong. Once is enough for me. That last hour was pure agony and I don't feel a compelling need to suffer like that again. Awesome Dude finished 30 minutes ahead of me. For me the bets are off. Looking through the standings I saw that the winner of the men's 70-74 age group finished 16 minutes ahead of me, right around my target time. Most certainly he was the real Superman.