Wednesday, November 14, 2018

One Story From California

He must have come within a couple of degrees of having the truck combust. Vehicles around him were burning. When freed of the traffic jam by a bulldozer, he returned to the town, found others trapped there looking for medical care, and participated in a triage effort at the local hospital until everyone remaining was evacuated.


posting has been the interrupted as I've found myself on the West coast.   It will probably stay interrupted for a while longer.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A century on

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, forward to The Lord of the Rings 
A hundred years is a long time if the hundred years is the 20th century. The Great War didn't end war, nor did the even bigger cataclysm of 1939. But that didn't end things either - the long, strange twilight conflict of the Cold War had its own body count which is all too easy to forget when standing in the shadows of the twin World Wars.

That's a lot of history to pack into what amounts to a single lifespan. The history is so big as to overwhelm the human. Actually, that's a fitting metaphor of the Great War. But the human story is the one we should try to see. And so imagine yourself in Tolkien's shoes. Every single one of your childhood friends were killed, except for one.

We (justly) scorn the appeasement in the run up to the second war,  But we really don't understand it because we've lost that human perspective. A generation was butchered and damned. A few passed echos of that to us in writing - Tolkien, Hemingway, Robert Graves. The futility of the Western Front is on plain display in A Farewell To Arms.

On this centenary of the silence that fell on Flander's fields, remember Tolkien's mates, all save one butchered. And remember that he carried that to the end of his life. That - multiplied ten million times - was the war.

On The Eleventh Day, At The Eleventh Hour...

For the Fallen

By Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Post Hike Closing Thoughts

I have been posting about technology, new gear, and how it changes things.

Now I want to talk about backpacking. The act of deliberately leaving the comforts of modern life for a time with only the gear you can carry. Of choosing the woods and perhaps those companions that also choose the woods.

This is unchanged.

Going up a trail or moving across terrain with a topo map and a compass.

Looking for the next water source.

Setting a shelter.

Building a fire.

Sharing a meal with a friend and having a conversation that you will remember for years.

Meeting another backpacker and having just that one evening to share a camp, perhaps to never meet again.

Hiking up a trail in a cold rain, feet wet, the trail slippery with mud and roots.

Coming out on the summit of an anticipated peak only to find yourself in a fog with ten feet of visibility. And laughing as you hike on.

Coming back and trying to explain what it is that calls you into the woods.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part VII

Next up on the gear review is footwear. When I was starting out I hiked in whatever shoes I had. Since my mother didn't want me wrecking my good school shoes that meant I was in PF Flyers.

It was common knowledge, reinforced by the Scout Handbook, that hiking in canvas sneakers was a guarantee that you would get blisters. However, my shoe size changed with the seasons so my parents weren't buying me hiking boots. The sneakers were cloth, when they got wet, your feet were wet. Cotton shoes, cotton socks, it's a wonder I survived.

Probably the first time I went hiking in boots was after Uncle Sam had issued me a couple of pairs. Rubber soled, unlined leather uppers, vented. Cotton socks. When they got wet, your feet were wet. Still, of all the things I struggled with in boot camp, I did not have trouble with my feet on the hikes. We got the boots wet on purpose and wore them dry. They formed to our feet like an old saddle. I remember those first boots. When I finally had to retire them I found them hard to replace.

All of that is history. There are hiking boots, hiking shoes, trail runners, Gore-Tex lined waterproof boots, Thinsulate lined, Gore-Tex lined winter hiking boots, all in low, mid, and high topped varieties. The problem now is how much do you want to spend and what do you want to wear. Here's a sample of the selections available from REI. I don't even know where to begin. And I suppose that the footwear you'd want for a hike on smooth trails in June would be something different than what I needed in the rocks and mud in Vermont in late October.

Being a traditionalist, I like leather. Being an old guy, I like a lot of ankle support. I also don't like wet feet if I can avoid it. Wet feet and long hikes will lead to foot problems no matter how well your boots fit and how broken in they are. I don't hike enough to justify a selection of more than two pairs.

I have a set of trail shoes. Low top, leather uppers, good tread. They are broken in and I would use them for any sort of day hike with a light knapsack.

And I have a set of all leather, high topped, waterproof, hiking boots. Old style in appearance, they are modern in design, easy to break in, they only downside is the weight. A price I am willing to pay for the comfort of dry feet in (almost!) all conditions. They were finally overwhelmed on my recent hike, leading to hiking with cold, wet feet, and the additional joy of putting damp socks and wet boots on in the morning.

The main alternative is a pair of synthetic lightweight hikers. Then you just hike them wet or dry. They rinse off, dry quickly, and you just ignore the mud and the puddles. That seemed to be what all the cool kids were doing. I have not scratched the surface of this topic. A Google search for best hiking boots, best hiking shoes, and best trail runners leads to a rabbit hole you could spend days in. It's enough to make you give up like a young hiker I met a couple of years ago.

She was hiking in pink Converse Hi-Tops. Several hundred miles into a long section hike the trail name she had been given was Larry Bird.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Lessons of the last election

The Czar of Muscovy muses on the outcome of the vote this week.  As always, your Autocrat is clear, thoughtful, and to the point.  First, the Republicans:
You had a heavy majority and, for once, some mandates. You were supposed to remove and replace Obamacare. But it was too hard, and lots of people were starting to get familiar with it, and messing with it could possibly cost you an election. In fact, you were elected to do hard work, and you definitely lost an election because you didn’t want to do hard work. You were supposed to do immigration reform, but didn’t. You were supposed to cut the size of government, but instead increased it. A lot. You were supposed to reduce regulations, but barely got started. So you were fired. 
Know how you can tell? Because you lost the House. That’s the easiest thing to correct, and the voters seemed to have figured that out. Consider it a two-year probation, because that’s how long you have to fix it. 
Sure, you did cut some regulations, and you did indeed slash taxes and get the economy moving. That’s why you lost only a couple dozen seats and not a bunch. Voters still think Republicans can fix things—just that not all of you seemed to want to. And those guys have been fired.
And then the Democrats:
You aren’t going to change the world with a twenty-odd majority. 
In fact, you should probably ask yourselves if you are superheros or just interim replacements. Your newly appointed roles in the House may be nothing more than temporary help until the permanent hires arrive. You could of course make a strong enough impression that you keep those jobs. But to figure out how to do that, you better look to see why the people your replaced got let go. Not because they were Republicans, but because they were weak. They were culled from the herd. You might want to be a little more strong. 
Of course, you won’t listen.
I think it's more like a ten seat majority, which just underlines the Czar's point.  The problem for the Democrats is that they live in the Media bubble - they think that the American public is much more liberal than they really are.  This is actually the big challenge for the party, to recognize reality as it exists, instead of trying to "shape" that reality.  Their success is tied to offering what the public actually wants, rather than what they think that the public wants.  Quite frankly, this looks like a big hill for them to climb.

The Republican party has had a very difficult last two years, psychology-wise.  They have begun to come around to the view that Donald Trump has offered the voters, rather than the view their establishment donors wanted to serve up.  In the past, the donors had a win-win situation: either the Republicans won and implemented the donor's preferred big government crony capitalism (c.f. George Bush senior or junior), or the Democrats won and implemented the donor's preferred big government crony capitalism (c.f. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).

Trump changed that dynamic, cutting the donors out and offering something much more palatable to the voters.  This is really all you need to know to understand why Hillary doesn't put her pumps up on the Resolute Desk.

But this change was painful for for the GOP.  It's still not over, as the Czar points out.  A similar change needs to occur in the Democratic party, but it not only hasn't begun yet, but there's nobody obvious to start that ball rolling.

Right now the smart money has to be betting on the Democrats continuing the same game of identity politics, radical socialist red meat for their ideological core base, and quite frankly not very smart handling of the inevitable provocations from Trump.  He excels at leading his opponents to self-destruct, and none of the current Democratic leadership inspires confidence that they will be able to impose the required discipline to keep the party from looking barking mad insane.

So it looks that it's Advantage: Trump.  And will continue to be so as the GOP completes its transformation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Welcome to MittWorld

Looks like Mittens will assume the coveted "John McCain Sunday Morning Talk Show" spot since he has the election in the bag:
The latest polling in Utah’s senate race has Mitt Romney up by some 36 points over Jenny Wilson, his Democratic opponent. Barring an enormous upset, Mr. Romney will join the United States Senate. This will put him a few checks and balances away from a president — the leader of his party — whom he once called “terribly unfit for office.”
Ah, don't ever change, New York Times.

Of course, a deeper understanding of the soon-to-be-Senator Romney could be had by a quick perusal of the archives.  I'm a little shocked to find that the archives have over a hundred entries on Mitt.  (!!!)

He was my Governor when I lived in the People's Republic of Massachusetts.  Now All Y'all will get a chance to enjoy his governing style, good and hard.    Note to self: Utah doesn't elect Republicans; Utah elects Mormons.  But then, I'm clearly biased, having endorsed Obama over Romney*.

But the future is Mitt-tastic, so there.  Gun control opponents beware.

 I expect that my post tag for him might approach 200 before his career is all and done.

* That was one of my finest rants, althoughI could not predict the rise of Donald Trump back in 2012.  I did hint at the reaction, though:
And rather than a million Tea Partiers taking to the streets, it will be two million, or three. Rather than five or ten corrupt GOP Establishment crooks turned out of office, it will be thirty, or fifty.
And this bit (from that same post) is perhaps the most prescient writing I've posted in this last ten years of blogging:
We f***ed up once, trusting him and the rest of the GOP team. How's that working out? Rebuilding a party that Reagan might actually recognize is what this country needs - and right now, damn it - and Mitt Romney isn't the man to do it. 
Barack Obama is.
You might want to click through and read the whole thing - and the over 60 (!) comments it drew.  Welcome to MittWorld.

Post Hike Thoughts and Review: Part VI

Continuing with the series, let's talk about water treatment. Along most of the trails in the eastern U.S., it isn't hard to find water. But simply drinking from random streams is certain to lead to serious problems. If you were lost, out of water, and the only choice was to drink, of course, drink up, when you find your way out you can see a doctor.

Back in the days of yore, when I began these trips into the woods, I only knew of two options. Boiling and iodine tablets.

There you were, alongside a pristine spring high on a hillside. The water looks cold and would taste wonderful. You fill your canteen. Add two iodine tablets and wait a half an hour. Shake it up, let some run around the cap, and then drink. It's still cool, but it tastes like iodine.

When you make camp for the night, you boil water, rolling boil for 5 minutes. You do enough to fill that canteen again, and a second pot full to use in the morning. It tastes flat, but is safe to drink.

Now there are  microfilter devices and UV sterilization pens.

When the microfilters first came out, they were relatively heavy, bulky, and slow, requiring you to pump water through the filter like a small air pump. The revolution is the Sawyer filter. Last week, the only filters I saw in use were Sawyers in one size or another. 100% market share, which says something about the product  .

Here's their ad:

It's light, easy to use, doesn't flavor the water, and filters fast. I had iodine as a backup, but I won't bother next time. It was easy enough that I filtered all my water, even the water I was planning to boil. *NOTICE: I bought my filter system, I am not receiving anything from anyone for anything I have talked about.

The ultraviolet pens also look simple to use. You collect water and swirl the pen in the water until the light goes out. It's a effective means to kill bacteria in water. I have seen them used on other hikes. I have read they are not as effective in murky water, but I have no experience with them.

The other part of the revolution is the water bladder built into the pack, with a delivery tube that comes out and is always accessible as you hike. No need to stop and fish out a canteen or a water bottle, just bite down on the valve and suck like a straw. I would top off the bladder every morning with filtered water and the two liters of water it held served as my primary drinking water as I hiked.

Again, transformational changes in technology and resultant hiker behavior, all in the last 15 years.


The Queen Of The World and I voted today.  There was a large turnout, and long lines which everyone seemed to put up with fairly cheerfully.

But while this is important, it's not everything.  Standing in line I recalled a post exactly ten years ago, And Back In The Real World:


It seems that lots of folks are freaking out about who's going to win the election. I want to tell you a story that relates to this.

I live is a very pretty small town in Massachusetts. Our house is a very short walk to the town Common, and right beyond that is one of the prettiest cemeteries I've ever seen. Here's a picture I posted a while back of one of the little alleyways in the graveyard.

I take the dogs (Little One-Eyed Dog and Ivan the Terrier) there for their daily constitutional, because there's a big field just on the other side. Nobody much goes to the cemetery, so we don't bother anyone on our way through.

Nobody goes there much, but last Saturday someone did. As I walked up through the graveyard, I saw a car parked by one of the graves. A middle aged guy was sitting in a folding chair - the kind that you'd take to the Little League game. He'd decked out the grave for Halloween - pumpkins, decorations, even an oil lantern.

He was still there when we took the dogs back, so I didn't intrude. Yesterday he wasn't there, so I stopped to see whose grave it was.

It was his son's. #1 Son was with me, and said in a quiet voice, "He was in my grade." Cancer.

The lantern was still there. Still burning. It was burning today, too.

So while I care about who wins the election tomorrow, I don't care who wins. Not care like that. Whatever happens, the Republic will continue. The flag will still wave from sea to shining sea.

And a good man will still grieve over his son's grave. Instead of worrying about the election, go hug your family.