Friday, July 29, 2011


‘Either you think, 
or else others have to think for you and take power from you, 
pervert and discipline your natural tastes, 
civilize and sterilize you.’ 

   --F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

I haven't done much with science fiction as a writer, preferring to focus on near-real novels set in the here and now. However, I've been toying with a sci-fi concept for some time and the more I think about it, the better that I like it.

73% of the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy are red dwarfs, emitting light in the red and infrared spectrum. The nearest 'Earthlike' planet found is Gliese 581d, orbiting Gliese 581, 20 light years from our solar system. Gliese 581 is a red dwarf. The novel isn't set there, but I've thought about that planet, orbiting its tiny star from a fraction of the distance we are from the Sun, basking in its weak heat and red light.  What if it was a binary system with two red dwarf stars?

(Science Fiction is made up of a lot of 'what ifs')

The novel Half Life, set in the distant future explores how humans might change if they lived on a distant Earthlike planet where the red light from the star cast everything in gray tones. And how they might remain the same. Welcome to Libra. And what if they decided that they no longer wanted to be affiliated with their home planet? And what if...

We'll see whether or not I can write that sort of story.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Roof of the World

On the Roof

Engineer Pass 12,800 ft. 
At the top of the mountain (behind), 13,400 ft.

The landscape in the very high country consists of "arctic tundra". This is one of the very few places in the USA where you see vast expanses of tundra. Even in the summer, temps are brisk.

Cinnamon Pass 12,640 Feet
(as you'll note from the mountains behind, it's the pass but not near the summit)

Ice Lake  (formed from melting ice) -  with ice still on it. I dared other to swim in it to demonstrate their  manhood - and would have dared WoFat if he had been along for the ride. None of them took me up on the bet.  (wimps)

At the End of the day, the Ouray, CO Fire Department took out a fire hose and washed the FJ Cruisers off. They all needed it.


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Rocky Mountains

On the road in Colorado

Corkscrew Pass, so named for the steep, winding mining road that takes you up the "staircase" to the pass, still had a lot of snow at the end of July.

California Pass - 12930 feet.

Some of the other rigs.

This hill is called "Red Mountain". 

At this point we're at somewhere around 12,000 ft per the map terrain lines.

Azra: You need to persuade the guys to take you along on runs like this!!

WoFat: It's fun!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Good Earth

On the Road in Colorado

I'm attending the fifth annual FJ Cruiser Summit in Ouray, CO. And I'm in bandwidth hell in terms of uploading. So you get what I am able to post.

Black Bear Pass was closed from 
the Summit down into Telluride. 

A sign suggesting that the road may be too
difficult to attempt is simply an invitation.

This is the Ophir Pass Summit. There were some
kids in our small group of FJ's on this particular run
and they immediately headed for it. It called them in
much the same way as a mud puddle would!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Colorado in an FJ Cruiser

I'm looking forward to a week driving the trails between Ouray, Silverton and Telluride, Colorado next week. In years past Poughkeepsie Trail has claimed a couple of rigs:

You'll note that both of these incidents took place at night. In both cases, it had been raining and there's a rock wall on Poughkeepsie Trail that you need to winch over.

The driver put a lot of effort into customizing his Toyota FJ Cruiser. You can see him trying to assess the damage. He came off the mountain that night with somebody else.

That's what it looked like after we tipped it right-side up the next morning, early.

My rig, winching up the wall at Poughkeepsie Trail. You can make it without a winch line if the rocks are dry. However, they seldom are up there. The rigs that rolled (top of page) tried it at night, in the rain, without a winch.

I may make the night run on Poughkeepsie again this year. It depends on whether or not it's raining - and whether or not people call me a wimp if I don't do it. See how easily I cave to peer group pressure?

This year I'm leading three trail runs at the Toyota FJ Cruiser Summit event :
Thursday - Black Bear Pass to Ophir Pass
Friday - California Pass and Corkscrew Gulch
Saturday - The Alpine Loop (Engineer and Cinnamon Passes)

None of those runs are particularly difficult. I'm told that Black Bear Pass is closed from the Summit down the switch-backs, so we'll just run up over Ophir Pass (about 13,000 ft) and pause for the cause at the Black Bear Summit and check out Bridal Veil Falls.

The road to Yankee Boy Basin is not difficult, but it's cut out of living rock. I've been told that it's closed toward the top due to heavy snow. I've been there summers when the snow is still deep and others when you can get to the top (there's a snow lake up there) and can drive around the lake.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Escaping the Hen Party

My daughter, Heather, will soon deliver a bouncing baby grandson for me to play with. However, before that happens, there is the inevitable baby shower going on today. I'm about to make myself scarce around the house as the women do their woman thing.

In fact, men are not usually wanted around during this sort of festivity. It's almost like an exorcism where the women shout GET OUT (of the house).

I've been thinking about Sammy Hagar...

Because when I leave, I won't be driving 55 in my German car, designed for the Autobahn. That's the problem with a car that feels like you're sitting in park until it's somewhere above 140 mph...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Should American Liberals Celebrate on July 4?

Independence Day is one of the BIG days of the year at my house. We celebrate it in the same way (more or less) every year. Some years past had a block party with all of the neighbors pitching in. Some years have been more private until the march to the City Park to watch fireworks.

I don't think that everyone shares my enthusiasm for Fourth of July Celebrations. I have often wondered whether 'progressives' felt it was beneath them to wear a red-white-and-blue hat and shoot off fireworks. It seems that they'd rather eat apple-free pie, cook turkey hot dogs on a solar grill and substitute potato salad with raw arugula.

I read this posting on yahoo, and thought I'd share it in the spirit of the day, because I think that it answers my question.

Subject: [politicaltalk] Harvard: 4th of July Celebrations is For Right-Wingers

Harvard: July 4th Parades Are Right-Wing
By Paul Bedard  
June 30, 2011

Democratic political candidates can skip this weekend's July 4th parades. A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day.

"Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party," said the report from Harvard.

"The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican Party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans," write Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.

They also suggest that Democrats gain nothing from July 4th parades, likely a shocking result for all the Democratic politicians who march in them.

"There is no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization," the two wrote.
The three key findings of those attending July 4th celebrations:
  • When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.
  • It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.
  • It boosts the likelihood a reveler will vote by about 1 percent and increases the chances they'll make a political contribution by 3 percent.
  • What's more, the impact isn't fleeting. "Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older,"said the Harvard report.
Finally, the report suggests that if people are looking for a super-patriotic July 4th, though should head to Republican towns. "Republican adults celebrate Fourth of July more intensively in the first place."

Then again, do Americans know why they are getting Monday off work?

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