Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thoughts from chocolate

I was given a wonderful jar for Christmas. It said "I'd give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter." From the wrappers of the Dove chocolate inside are a few thoughts:

  • Friendship is a gift in itself
  • Joy is contagious
  • A smile is the perfect gift, personal and encouraging
  • Spending time is a greater gift than spending money
    (I said this to a friend earlier this year; I'm not sure he believes me)
  • If old acquaintances be forgot, give them a call and remember

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


And now the real work begins!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


My mother-in-law is eight-five years old, and getting a little... fuzzy in the memory department. From her caregiver, Mary, comes these life lessons:

Here are a few things that Ms. E has learned in the past few weeks:

  1. The hand held telephone will not change the TV Channel, nor does it have a mute button.
  2. If you tease the cat with your sock and then put it on your foot, the cat will bite it.
  3. The TV remote does not work very well after being in the freezer overnight.
  4. Fully used toilet paper that is placed in the trashcan beside the toilet will make the bathroom stink.
  5. If you are going to set up the coffee maker for the next morning, it works better if you grind the coffee beans first.

Here is the most important thing that I have learned:

Never ever bring any of these things to Ms. E's attention.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pay attention to the details, please.

An associate of mine decided to rant at me about the loss of songbirds in suburban areas. It is his opinion that it's all the fault of crows. Crows eating songbird eggs, according to him, are responsible. Until I pointed out that tearing out trees used by songbirds for nesting, so more houses can be built, might have something to do with it. Until I pointed out that the street department came thru and trimmed all the street trees in mid spring, just at the time those very same songbirds were nesting. I'm a birder. I watch the comings and goings in my yard, in my neighborhood. It ain't crows, people.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm baffled

We elect a president who pronounces nuclear as "new-kyu-lar" and seems to take particular pride in not speaking well.

We have one presidential nominee who answers different questions with the exact same answer.

We have another presidential nominee who is articulate and well spoken. And he's branded an elitist.

I just heard Treasury Secretary Paulson speak, listing all the things the average American does with his money. In this list is "Send your kids to college." If those who display a low level of education are praised, those who are well-educated and show it are disparaged, why does anybody still want to send their kids to college?

The contradiction baffles me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I couldn't choose just one...

Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then - we elected them.
     ...Lily Tomlin

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.
     ...Mark Twain

If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, 'America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.'
     --Will Rogers

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

CERN and the Large Hadron Collider

A friend just emailed me a piece on OMG the Large Hadron Collider may destroy the earth by creating black holes. Please keep in mind, news media do not make money if no one views their material; controversial subjects generate viewers. Even if the controversy is more twenty years in the making. My friend wanted to know if I, her science geek friend, was concerned. My reply:

Well, the Mayans' calendar cycle ends in 2012.

Anybody who's read Thrice Upon A Time by James Hogan is familiar with this scenario. Will it? Don't know. "The math says..." The math has been proven wrong on things before. Will courts be able to stop it? Temporarily, maybe. Permanently, don't know. There's always someone to speak to the other side of an issue. Are we in danger? Don't know. It would be better if we could put the thing in space. But then we have the question of microscopic black holes falling into the sun. Same same.

The problem is that man is a curious creature. Someone, somewhere, some how, will do something that will wipe us out. Or send us to great heights. Or both at the same time. We can stop being "man" and become stagnant, as the fundies of all religions want us to. Or we can chance dying, and reach for the stars.

We've got a pretty good track record on that. Doubt it? Antibiotics. Open heart surgery. Traveling faster than 40 miles per hour (it was once believed traveling faster than 40 would automatically kill you). I'm very biased. I would not be alive today without all the benefits of man's reach for knowledge.

The downside to that is that a few people are deciding for the rest of us. But tell me when that isn't the case? There are always those in the know who make the decisions, at the family level, the company level, the government level. Someone decides how much to tell everyone else, whether with intent to manipulate the outcome, or just because there's too much info and "my presentation is only an hour."

The headline, will the Large Hadron Collider save or destroy the earth, is an annoying piece of agitprop. The LHC won't "save" anything. It's pure esoteric research. Info that comes out of CERN and the LHC may not affect our daily lives for decades. The spin-offs from existing particle accelerators took years to develop. I don't expect this to be any different.

What may come out of LHC is information on how to manipulate gravity. That's my personal wish. Gravity affects things on a macroscopic level, but not on a microscopic level. Why? How does gravity propagate? We can manipulate light and subatomic particles, but we don't even know how gravity happens, much less how to manipulate it.

Should we? Ask that of the caveman who first dared to tamed fire.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


We tend to defend vigorously things that in our deepest hearts we are not quite certain about. If we are certain of something we know, it doesn't need defending.
    --Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver Fire Department Museum

While first learning which bus stops on the 16th Street Mall let me off close to my destination, I found myself serendipitously on the wrong corner. There on the signpost above my head was an arrow pointing to "Denver Fire Department Museum." Not needing to be any particular place at any particular time, I headed off to find it.

Front door (duh!)

We're seriously spoiled by our computers and the like. This is what fire departments used to use

A little more modern,

According to the very bleary picture I took of the sign in front of this display, the first communications system used by the Denver Fire Department was word of mouth. Someone yelled fire, and every able-bodied person would grab a bucket and join in the line to put out the fire. Maybe a hundred years from now, people will look back at our methods and shake their heads at our bravery. I don't know about you, but standing nose to flames with a fire, armed only with a bucket? And even now, only with a hose spouting water. These guys are nuts, and I'm glad of it.

The following shows the fire alarm control panel in use from its invention in the early 1960s thru 1990, when it was replaced by computer aided dispatch. The left side had tape units that recorded conversations, allowing the operator to replay the information if needed. The right side, which doesn't show in these pictures, was the Register transmitter that identified which alarm was sounding, and the Gong Shunt Control, sending the alarm only to those firestations that needed to respond.

Some of the wonderful old equipment on display, an 1867 Gleason and Bailey Hand Drawn Pumper. According to the sign, it was purchased on October 1, 1867, and was only in operation for five years.

Hand drawn Pumpers were pulled by twelve to fifteen volunteer firefighters to the fire, who then pumped the water from the source out to the guys at the end of the hose. Notes:

According to the notes, this Steam Fire Engine is from the New York Fire Museum. Denver had its collection of steamers, and when they were retired, they were sold to greenhouses and cemeteries as irrigation pumps.

And some great pics of horse drawn fire wagons

Some random pics of horses and firemen

Hook and Ladder, and Uniform!

Info on Percheron Horses and Fire Dogs. I hope you can read it

An intrepid firefighter, in his first years

Ready for Anything!

And the Intrepid Younger Firefighter.

Horseless Carriage License for the Fire Department

And the truck it was on, whose sign did not come out clearly, so I'm not sure of it's official name

An early "Toy" Truck, called so by firemen because of all the cool fireman toys they carry. When I did the CERT refresher course, I met the current version of the toy truck. Awesome piece of equipment.

The sign says this is a 1953 Seagrave Engine

Upstairs, the lockers the firemen used. The pics I took of the inside locker display didn't come out so well. They had glass doors, and the best image in the picture is of me and the camera.

And eating area.

And the reminder the job is not an easy one

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Long Road Home

Click any image for larger version


Headin' outta Flagstaff

Early in the morning, the San Francisco Peaks stand behind the trees and meadows around Flagstaff. The grass alongside the road was bright with sunflowers and indian paintbrush.
San Francisco Peaks
The day is clear, the road not so much. It's not as bad as LA during rush hour, but I've got a lot of pictures with the butt end of a truck in them.
View From The Road
The road starts down the long slope to Seligman, with enthusiastic sunflowers to wave as we go by.
Road And Sunflowers
I took this picture to capture the winding road. I didn't realize until later, I had a picture that showed the blaze of vivid mustard on both sides of the road.
Mustard Ahead
Imagine both sides of the road awash in golden blooms. The Yellow Brick Road was never so golden.
Mustard Blooms1
Edged in the ever-present sunflowers.
Mustard Blooms2
Six percent grade, headed down out of the mountains.
Six Percent Grade
Road is steep, the view is magnificent. I remember driving this grade last week, tucked in behind a trucker, strobe flashes of lightning showing the mountains around me, the downpour trying to wash us all off the road. This is easier, but... that was exciting!
Road Is Steep
West of Flagstaff, long sections of Route 66 no longer exist as a separate road. Segments may exist as dirt roads on private property, or simply a wide stripe through the trees. The bare green stripes to the right of the road may be all that's left of Route 66 in this place.
Lost Route 66
Sometimes, road crews just cut on through, adapting the land to our needs.
The Road Thru
And sometimes, we gotta go around
The Road Around
I've taken a lot of pictures of mountains, clouds, sky, but I never get over my delight and joy at the layers of colors and textures each vista presents.
And Another Vista
Sometimes looking like cardboard cutouts or painted backdrops for a play.
Painted Backdrop

Crossing the Colorado,

the pictures are full of railing and railroad bridge.
Across The Colorado
The view back across the valley shows the Colorado River and the green of the agriculture that it generates.
Colorado Back View
Casualties of the road. And stacked neatly behind, their ever ready replacements.
Casualties Of The Road

Heading into the Mojave

The joshua trees in bloom.
Joshua Trees In Bloom
Driving thru the Mojave, sometimes the only sign of man's impact is the double ribbon of the interstate sliding into the hazy distance, punctuated by signs, rest stops, and very small towns.
Double Ribbon And Town
When you think of desert, often low rolling sand dunes come to mind. The Mojave has long rolling hills of rock and sparse scrub.
Mojave Rolling Hills
This dry lake brings to mind the words of the song "Horse With No Name" about a river that's dead. Rivers in deserts are never dead, only dormant. If you can see the riverbed, it's been scoured clean by flashflood, and kept alive by the sporadic rainfall. This lakebed still lives, probably flourishing when the snow melts.
Dry Lake
The Mojave has some fascinating geology: lava flows
Mojave Lava
Mojave Lava2  Mojave Lava3
And mountains with a split personality. I saw a lot of cloud shadows on the land, and thought this was another. It's not.
Mojave Rock Layers
And, of course, the many layers of landscape I love.
Mojave Layers1
Mojave Layers2  Mojave Layers3
The mountains seemingly floating in the distance.
Floating Mountains
Sometimes the road gets a bit crowded. I have more faith in the common sense of long haul truckers than I do many others on the road, but even so...
Trucks Ahead Of Me
It's a leetle tight in here.
And Trucks Behind
These power transmission lines may be bringing power in from Hoover Dam. They're coming from the right direction.
Power Transmission

End Of The Road

Coming to the end of Interstate 40, into Barstow, and then back into LA.
End Of The Road
Interstate 15, Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
End Of The Road2
It probably goes other places, but I always end in Vegas.
Or LA.

These are the backsides of the mountains that ring the LA basin.
LA Mountains

I suppose I should have taken more pics as we went thru LA. Maybe the mountains from the other side. But I've seen the mountains, and the traffic. If you want to come visit, I'll give you a tour. Right now, I'm taking a nap. It's been a long trip.

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