Posted by: bkivey | 19 October 2014

Goal – Oriented Myopia

“The goal in health care is not to protect privacy,  the goal is to save lives.”

David Castro

Director, Center for Data Innovation

I once took an ethics course that dealt with the question of why good people do bad things. The focus of  the course was on scientists through history who had conducted horrific experiments on human beings. Most of the subjects had conducted clinical trials of deadly diseases on live subjects. The scientists themselves were mostly family men, well-respected in their communities. So how is it that they could subject their fellow humans to unspeakable pain, suffering, and often gruesome death?

The lesson of the course was that as people become more focused on goals, they less other considerations enter their decision-making. As results take ever greater precedence, consideration of whether a course of action is moral is diminished; in the worst cases, such considerations are eliminated.

The quote above is from an article by Matt McFarland of  the Washington Post on how technology can make it possible for healthcare providers to reap huge amounts of information on patients, then use advanced AI techniques to evaluate the data. The purpose of this process is to provide more individualized treatment, and improve chances of spotting incipient problems.

The article mentions the significant legal and privacy concerns, and I’m not sure that most people would want their lives continuously monitored. The various industry experts interviewed generally poo-poo these concerns, pointing out the potential benefits gained. But are these benefits really worth the increased monitoring and control of people’s lives, and more to the point, are the really necessary?

The current procedures used to arrive at a differential diagnosis actually work pretty well. Hundreds of years of systemized medicine has created an enormous database from which medical professionals draw. The odds are good a person will receive appropriate treatment for their condition. If the primary physician is unsure of the diagnosis, there is an army of specialists available for referral. The delivery of effective healthcare treatment is maybe not as difficult as some would believe.

Of course the system breaks down, as any human construct will do. People are mis-diagnosed, inappropriate treatments are prescribed, some conditions defy timely diagnosis. Sometimes people die from preventable mistakes. But the fact that these incidents are news points out how well the medical process generally works.

My experience with medicine is likely typical of most peoples. Most of my contact with the medical profession has resulted in correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Admittedly, most of the time I was seeking treatment for traumatic injury, such that even a layman could make the diagnosis. I’ve had one case of severe abdominal pain that was never diagnosed, and I’ve had experience with mis-diagnosis for which I’ve had to see a specialist to get effective treatment.

I’m not convinced that my healthcare experience would have been vastly improved if my body was continuously monitored. One of the few cases to make for this privacy invasion is providing physicians with notice of developing conditions. Diseases like diabetes and hypertension take a long time to develop, and most people won’t seek treatment until they are symptomatic. I didn’t seek treatment for hypertension until I developed impossible to ignore symptoms, and even then, stayed away from the doctor longer than I should have.

So there is a case to be made for gathering huge amounts of individual health data, but my problem is the attitudes of the people likely to be developing this technology. They don’t really care about anything except their desired results. And this is why zealots are good in development roles, but should never be put in charge.

Ad of the Week

My favorite position-wanted ad on the Portland Craigslist:

Hello everyone,

I am very adaptable at learning new things. I would be honored to be offered a position where I can do labor intensive work for good pay.
I would like to be paid in the range of $20-$30 an hour. I am also willing if an employer is able to offer for me to live at the place of work so that this way travel is never an issue.

Thanks for reading my post. =)

Translation: I have no skills but would like for someone to pay me $40 – $60,ooo annually while providing me with a place to live. My grasp of reality is tenuous at best.


Posted by: bkivey | 15 October 2014

Do’s and Dont’s For Getting Work

I’ve recently had to replace a couple of people who’ve moved on, so I’ve turned to that slayer of newspaper revenue, Craigslist. Looking through the Resume section, I’m surprised at the number of people who take themselves out of contention for employment. Allow me to offer a list of tips for making yourself attractive to employers.

  • DO put your name in the ad. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t do this. If I’m going to contact you about work, I want to know whom I’m speaking to.
  • DON’T specify ‘email only’ for replies. The jobs I’m looking to fill require a phone. I only accept email responses to ads because I require applicants to have email access. It doesn’t work the other way around.
  • DO answer your phone. I get that you may be on a job, but I also expect timely responses to voice mail. Calling me the next day isn’t going to cut it.
  • DON’T get cute with your phone number. Two8Four5One9Six4Eight7 is not how serious people convey information. It’s a phone number, not a graphic design exercise. Oh, and PUT your number in the ad. I’ve seen people that neglected to include this basic information.
  • DO keep track of your job search. If you call me about a job, I’m not inclined play 20 Questions while you try and remember who you’re calling.
  • DON’T negotiate the job. I’m very clear about what I’m looking for, the type of work, and the rate of pay. It’s simple. You’re either interested in the work, or not. If you’re not, why are you calling me?
  • DO be willing to work. If your ad states that you’re looking for work, you should at least be willing to consider anything that comes over the transom if it fits what you say you’re looking for.
  • DON’T put arbitrary limits on what you’ll accept. Unless you’re a professional or skilled tradesman, you’re ability to set your rate of pay is rather limited. If you state that you’re looking for a general labor job, but that you’ll only accept $15/hr.,  you’re going to be sitting at home. The person who will accept $12/hr. is going to be working.  This also applies to your preferred job situation. I understand that everyone wants full-time employment, but isn’t part-time better than nothing while you look? I’ve had several part-time employees leave because they found full-time work, and I’m genuinely happy for them. But they understood the ‘bird in the hand’ concept, and did good work for me.
  • DO show up for the job. If you tell me that you’ll be at the job, you damn well better be. Craigslist has a reputation for flakes who assure employers they’ll show up, and then don’t. I’ve found some really good people through Craigslist, but also a fair number whose word is most definitely not their bond. That and general work ethic makes me leery of hiring anyone under 30.

Here Comes the Rain Again

And right on schedule the rainy season has arrived. We don’t get much of an Autumn here: three weeks ago highs were in the upper 80’s, now it’s highs in the 60’s and grey skies. Even a few days ago we enjoyed sunshine. The season of rain transition is rather abrupt. Temps will gradually trend lower until highs peak in the 40’s in December/January.

Posted by: bkivey | 15 October 2014

From the Notebook

On my desk I keep a couple of notepads in which I’ll jot down ideas or interesting things I’ve seen. Sometimes I’ll write down notes on books I’m reading. These writings may languish for a considerable time before I return to them. Sometimes I’ll find that what I thought was relevant or interesting at the time is no longer, but more often I’ll make new connections, and so discover novel lines of inquiry.

From the last month or so:


On 19 September I was waiting at a traffic light facing West. It was dusk, and the orange band of twilight reached from the treeline in the middle distance to about 20° above the horizon. A light caught my eye, and I saw a bright fireball slightly South of West just inside the twilight band of orange. When it’s apparent motion had taken it about halfway to the treeline, it split into two parts, each traveling on a path 45° from the original trajectory. Just above the treeline, the parts showered downward, sort of like an inverted firework. An amazing sight, and well worth waiting at a stoplight.

Cop Hunter-Killer

On 12 October I passed a member of the local constabulary stopped on a freeway overpass operating what looked like a video camera pointed at the westbound traffic. I was tempted to ask what he was doing, but given the militarized state of police in this country, not overly so. I speculated: was he videotaping traffic, checking speeds, what?

I was going to the company storage facility, and had a clear view of the overpass and freeway. A few minutes later, I saw a car get pulled over in the westbound lanes. So. One officer is checking traffic speed, and when someone is driving a bit too fast, he radios another officer to pull them over.

Hawk Fight

Same day, same location, same time. I noticed a couple of hawks circling overhead, one apparently chasing the other. I’m no ornithologist, but my experience with hawks is that they’re solitary birds, riding thermals looking for prey. The hawk chasing would emit a scream every so often, while the other bird looked like it was trying to get away. A turf war!

After a few minutes of chasing, both birds dove behind the trees, only to shoot right back up. I considered that this might be a mating ritual, but given the time of year, that seemed unlikely.

18th Century Solar Still

I re-read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of naval adventure/historical novels this summer. On long voyages or while trapped in the Doldrums, fresh water could become a real concern. This got me to wondering why no one invented a maritime solar still to produce fresh water.

The technology certainly existed. Condensation was well-understood, as evidenced by the copious amounts of distilled spirits available. So I’ve been noodling around with the challenge of how an 18th century sailing ship could produce fresh water.

There are constraints, none particularly onerous:

  1. Only materials and tech from the late 18th century can be used.
  2. No glass or mirrors, as these materials tend not to do well in an 18th century maritime environment.
  3. Operable by officers or petty officers of the time.
  4. The device can’t be so cumbersome that it can’t be stricken below decks on short notice.
  5. The device must be maintainable by the ship’s crew while at sea.
  6. The device must produce a reasonable amount of fresh water. Not necessarily enough to supply the entire crew daily, but enough to ward off dying of thirst.

My experience with solar stills comes from Boy Scout training where you dig a hole, spread a garbage bag or other plastic across the hole, weight the center with a rock, and let evaporation do it’s thing. Yes, you are gong to want a container at the bottom of the hole located at the apex of the inverted cone to catch the moisture. You don’t get a lot, but it will keep you alive.

Research into modern maritime solar stills reveals that the most common design is an inflatable device where seawater is poured into a circular channel and  a Hershey Kiss type of clear cover evaporates the water. The condensate collects in the center of the device, where a tube  is supplied to suck the water out. Stated production rate is 500 ml/day.

My idea for an 18th century still is to have a vessel (probably copper) surrounded by a petal arrangement of polished metal on hinged leaves in a circular arrangement so that the focus can be adjusted according to latitude. I figure that a worm gear and band (hose clamp) type of arrangement will allow for adjustment of the ‘leaves’, while the vessel can be adjusted vertically to account for the change in focus as the leaves are manipulated.

As the water in the vessel is evaporated, it travels through a ‘worm’ (coiled copper condensate line) to a waiting barrel. Viola! Fresh water. I’d expect that salt would be a byproduct; itself a valuable commodity in the 18th century.

I’ve gotten as far as making sketches of the gross structure as well as the parts and checked the prices for materials. A fun little project.

The Dear Surprise

Speaking of Patrick O’ Brian’s novels, I re-read them this Summer. This time through, I bought a couple of companion books: A Sea of  Words (Dean King, Henry Holt & Company, 1995) and Harbors and High Seas (Dean King/John B. Hattendorf, Henry Holt & Company, 1996).

A Sea of  Words is a lexicon for the novels that explains the more esoteric naval terms, as well as people, places and things that the reader encounters in the series. If you don’t know a dumb chalder from a mainmast truck, this is the book.

Harbors and High Seas provides a synopsis (without giving the book away) of each novel along with providing facts and tidbits of the people and places encountered. Unfortunately, the edition I bought doesn’t include the last two novels, The Hundred Days and Blue at the Mizzen. I expect revised editions remedy this.

And So . . .

The universe is an endlessly interesting and varied place. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t find something of note. The world may be going to Hell in a hand basket, but I’m going to have some fun on the way.

Oh, By the Way

This is the 500th published post on this blog. I’ve actually written 502, but there were . . . issues with two posts. Thanks for reading.

Posted by: bkivey | 10 October 2014

2014 Vacation: Observations

The week I spent in southern Oregon was one of the best vacations I’ve had. I could maybe have asked for more clement weather, but I’ve lived in the Northwest nearly twenty years: grey skies aren’t going to dampen my spirits. I got to do some things I’ve wanted to do my entire life in seeing the redwoods and visiting Crater Lake, and discovered some hidden gems. The Oregon Caves, the museum at Trees of Mystery, and Crater Rock Museum was like Christmas three days in a week. And I got to visit every covered bridge in southern Oregon. It was six days of discovery and adventure doing things I like to do., with the bonus of seeing some spectacular scenery.

While there were the inevitable disappointments, this was the first time in years I returned home feeling like I’d been on vacation, in that there was almost no work-related activity. This did worry me a bit, but work came flooding through the door in the days after I returned, filling the October calendar. It was the best of both worlds: a week of truly being off, and enough work to pay the bills for the month.

I’m still smiling.

The Chariot

My SOP when renting a car is to check the ‘Economy’ box and take whatever the rental agency gives me. While every rental company lists the cars available in a given category, I figure by not specifying the car, I can try out a variety of rides.

I contracted with Budget this vacation, and what they gave me was this:

Medford rental car

The car, not the plane. That’s a 2014 Ford Focus SE, and it contributed significantly to my vacation happiness.

I drove the car through 1100 miles of not-at-all conservative driving in just about every condition: Interstate cruising, twisty mountain roads, and around town. In sun and torrential rain, the car delivered, and returned an honest 33 mpg.

Every vehicle design is a compromise, and the Focus did have some traits I would like to see improved. The dead pedal could stand to be a little more robust, and the C-pillars obstruct rear visibility to some extent. The A-pillars can obstruct vision in some circumstances. Cabin noise at highway speed is a bit more than I would prefer, but that seems to mainly be a function of the tires. Some of the controls are a bit quirky: the rear window wiper switch is on the end of the control stalk, so it’s easy to accidentally activate it when you turn on the wipers. Headlights are turned on with a knob, which isn’t my preference. The cabin light controls aren’t as intuitive as they might be, and there is a switch that prevents the high beams from working(?!).

These are mere quibbles compared to what the car does well, which is everything else. The steering is the best I’ve seen since the Pinto (don’t laugh, back in the day, Pinto steering gear found it’s way into many a hotrod). The car goes where you point it, and can be helped through corners with some trailing throttle. The suspension is tight, and I never felt like the car would depart. The steering wheel allows for a variety of hand positions, including my preferred bottom-of-the-wheel grip. There are pads at the 10-2 position, and these came in handy driving through the mountains.

The power-train was the standard 160 hp 2.0 liter mated to a six-speed automatic with a manual option. When conditions warranted, I didn’t miss an opportunity to use the manual option. Pressing buttons isn’t nearly the same as throwing a stick around, but the car was a lot of fun to drive on mountain roads. The car does have  non-defeatable traction control, so it probably makes you out to be a better driver than you actually are. There are times during enthusiastic driving when you can feel the traction control working.

The driver’s seat is comfortable enough; I averaged 200+ miles per day and never felt fatigued. Climate control is good, and I liked the fact that you could dial the cruise control to the exact mph.

I liked this car. A lot. It’s one of the few rental cars I’ve looked into buying. I was hoping it would follow me home, but no such luck.


Posted by: bkivey | 9 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 6

Saturday was warm and sunny. Curious how the best weather seems to come at the end of vacation. I’d seen a Black Bear Diner the day before, and headed there for breakfast. Black Bear is a regional restaurant chain; there’s one where I live, that I’d first discovered while working in Bend. The food and prices are reasonable, and you absolutely will not leave hungry.

I didn’t have anything planned for the day except the flight home, and that didn’t leave until late afternoon. So I had some time to fill, and searched for museums in the area. I ventured downtown to seek out the Medford Historical Museum, and noticed that downtown Medford has a number of buildings from the turn of the last century, although not as well preserved as the ones in Sisters or Jacksonvile. The museum turned out to be less than hoped for, so being interested in the natural world, I drove out to the Crater Rock Museum in a suburb just east of town.

The museum is housed in a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood.  Oregon has a rich and varied geological history, so I was expecting a collection of regional rocks and minerals, with perhaps some fossils from the John Day fossil beds in the eastern part of the state. I found that there was an enormous disparity between my expectations and what the museum has to offer.

You enter into the gift shop, and there are a fair number of geological specimens, all with price tags attached. I thought that this was the entire museum, so was surprised when I went to pay the admission fee and was handed a map of the building. Oh ho.

I have been to some of the finest museums in the country, and Crater Rock Museum, in l’il ol’ Central Point, stands tall in that company. Indeed, for some collections, outclasses them. Their webpage notes that the museum contains the finest collection of rocks, minerals, and gems on the West Coast, and having seen it, I would add ‘or just about anywhere else’.

There aren’t any signs prohibiting photography, and I didn’t ask. I don’t take pictures in museums, even where the activity is allowed. One of my businesses is the marketing of my creative efforts, and I view a museum collection as a creative effort. It takes enormous dedication and resources to assemble a world-class collection, and my thinking is if you want to appreciate that, you can visit the museum and support the effort. Sermon over.

On with the tour:

Discovery Hall

The museum’s visiting collections and some whimsical items made of rocks and minerals. The visiting collection when I was there was a collection of glassworks by Dale Chihuly students. My primary thought on seeing the sculptures was ‘How do they do that?’.


Not an official room, but there is an amazing collection of scrimshaw in a display case. I’d seen the odd scrimshaw piece in other museums, but the collection here is remarkable for its size and quality. There is also a large rock, about three feet high and 18 inches around housed in a display case. The rock is covered with mineral formations shaped like a headsman’s axe, and look exceedingly sharp. As they apparently are. The placard informs that the mineral has a name, Bloody Joe, I believe, because it injured everyone who came in contact with it on its trip from China. I’ll say that if you were to fall against this rock, you would be on a first-name basis with your plastic surgeon.

Tom Childers Room

An interesting collection of First Nation artifacts. Not in the same league as the museum at Trees of Mystery, but still fascinating. There are other artifacts scattered throughout the museum.

Delmar Hall

This is where the show begins. The museum must have specimens of every mineral known to man, and a lot of them are in this room. Display cases line the walls, as well as a central island. There is a curtained alcove at the end of the room housing a display case of six or seven dozen fluorescent minerals. The alcove is dark, and a timer cycles through two wavelengths of UV, then afterglow, then natural light. It’s an impressive sight.

Freida Smith Hall

More minerals, including what appears to be every known form of silicon dioxide, meteorites, corals, and shells. I finally found out what the shell I picked off a beach in North Carolina was called. Their example is prettier than mine. There is an exhibit of radioactive minerals, including some that are called ‘highly radioactive’. Glass is no great barrier to short wave radiation, so I wondered just how safe it was to be standing next to some of those rocks.

Founders Room

Memorabilia from the museum’s founder.

Fossil Room

Just what it says. There are bones and imprints, as well as a clutch of dinosaur eggs.

Mentzer Hall

This is the museum’s public space available for rent. Along the walls are many examples of geodes and thunder eggs, the Oregon state rock.

Petrified Wood Room

Many examples of petrified wood, some of them quite large, and the collection contains examples of trees I hadn’t seen anywhere else.  Many specimens were collected within ten miles of the museum location.

Not on the official ‘tour’ route is the lapidary shop. The museum is operated by a rock club, and members can use the commercial-grade equipment to polish their finds. There are several examples of member’s finds in the museum collection. Visitors are encouraged to stop by and chat with the members, who are happy to talk about their avocation.

Crater Rock Museum has been around since 1956, and no one knows about it. It should be Medford’s main claim to fame. If you are anywhere near Medford, and have the slightest interest in natural history, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t visit the museum.

The museum was so beguiling, I was concerned that I might miss my flight. I had a couple hours to spare when I exited, so I headed for the airport no great distance away. I’d noticed a restored KC-97 on the airport property previously, and as it was obviously set up for public viewing, thought I might stop by. I wondered about the lack of people around the aircraft mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and soon found out why. The airplane is only available for viewing between 0930 and 1030 on Saturday. That’s it. So if you arrive during the other 167 hours of the week, you’re out of luck.

The rest of the day was rather mundane. Turn in the car, check in, wait for TSA to come back from break. Board the airplane, and head back home to the real world of work and responsibility. I’d booked a starboard seat to view the Cascades, but, more clouds. The landing in Portland was a little more interesting than I would have preferred, but the pilots got it down and nothing broke, so that made it a success in the world of aviation. MAX and then the bus home.



Posted by: bkivey | 8 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 5

The plan for today was to work south along I-5 toward Medford, visiting covered bridges along the way. With cumulus dotting a blue sky and warm temperatures forecast, it was a beautiful early Autumn day in southern Oregon.

The first order of business was to backtrack up highway 138 to the Cavitt Creek bridge, southeast of Glide:

Cavitt Creek bridge

After rejoining I-5 in Roseburg, it was north a ways to the Rochester bridge west of Sutherlin:

Rochester south side three quarter

And on south to Myrtle Creek where the Horse Creek:

Horse Creek bridge

and Neal Lane:

Neal Lane north three quarters

lie in close proximity. Horse Creek is in town but isn’t open to motor vehicles, while Neal Lane lies just east of town and is a workaday bridge.

A little further south, I exited the Interstate at Canyonville and drove east to Milo Academy, home to the eponymous bridge:

Milo Academy south end

Milo Academy is a private Christian boarding school in the foothills, and the bridge is owned by, and on the land of, the school. There’s a small picnic area next to the stream open to the public during the summer when school’s out. This area was officially closed when I was there, but there weren’t any barriers to access, and no one shood me away.

This bridge is unusual among Oregon covered bridges in that it uses a steel kingpost design rather than the usual wooden truss. It’s also the only one I’ve seen with a rope swing attached.

When I pulled up there were a couple of gentlemen stopped at the bridge with their Harleys, and after I’d taken my pictures we got to talking. They were a couple of retired loggers out for a ride, and we talked about logging in southern Oregon and cutting redwoods in northern California before chainsaws (they weren’t that old, but they knew the history). We were in the heart of Oregon logging country, and I’d seen log trucks on a regular basis all week, but this is also a part of the state where the economy was virtually destroyed by the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to reverse the decline of the Northern Spotted Owl. It was interesting talking to them about the tree farms I’d seen in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and the harvest cycles of Northwest versus Southern forests.

Presently it came time for them to leave, and I headed west back to I-5 and then south to revisit the Grave Creek and Wimer bridges I’d seen Monday, because after an unfortunate error the night prior, I had no pictures of them. I also revisited the Antelope Creek bridge in the town of Eagle Point:

Antelope Creek bridge

On the way to Eagle Point, I noticed a large volcano on the northeast horizon. This turned out to be Mt. McLoughlin, a 9500 foot volcano that I hadn’t heard of. Weather during the week had prevent sighting it earlier, and developing rain storms prevented any good picture opportunities this day.

Whew! That’s a lot of bridges for one day. On the way back to Medford I decided to stop at the airport to check in for my flight the next day. Except it turns out you can’t check in early but on the day of the flight unless you do it through the airline’s website. The agent was nowhere to be found, but Rogue Valley International isn’t an airport where you’re going to be standing in line for an hour, so I decided to secure lodging for the night.

Outside the airport, there was a nice double rainbow:

Double rainbow Medford

I checked into the same Motel 6 I’d stayed at previously, and headed to Red Lobster for dinner. Last day of vacation, I’d splurge a little. The parking lot was slam-bang full, but I figured I could hang out in the bar while waiting for a table. From the parking lot, I saw this:

Medford sunlit rain 1

Medford sunlit rain 2

At first I didn’t understand what I was seeing; I thought it  was sunlight penetrating the cloud. But given the thickness of the cloud, that didn’t make sense. I realized  I was looking at rain illuminated from above. I don’t think I’ve seen that phenomenon before, and thought it was neat.

As expected, there were a number of people waiting for tables, and when the staff found out I was a party of one, they told me that a table would be ready ‘in a couple of minutes’. I asked if those were restaurant minutes, or real minutes. They laughed and asked if I’d like to wait at the bar. I did, and ate there, too, as I could watch the Mariners.

Posted by: bkivey | 6 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 4

I awoke at a reasonable vacation hour, and had breakfast at the diner across the street. I was excited about the day, because I was going to see Crater Lake, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The day was partly cloudy with bright sun; a nice change from the last couple of days. I’d debated whether to go to Crater Lake today or photograph some covered bridges, but I figured that because the Park is on the east side of the Cascades, I’d have a better chance of sun, and seeing the bridges Friday would give the remnants of the storm another day to clear out.

The Park is about 65 miles from Medford up state highway 62. The road generally follows the Rogue River valley before veering southeast at Union Creek in the Rogue River National Forest. This was a different part of the river than I’d seen Monday, and it is quite beautiful.

I found out how much the car weighed:

Ford Focus weight

Along the way, I’d noticed clouds blowing in from the  west, and I was concerned about the effect on sightseeing: concerns that would turn out to be well-founded.

Park headquarters on the south side of the crater:

Crater Lake south entrance

The visitor center is here, where you can find information on the Park, as well as pick up a visitor’s guide. The guide has a nice map of the park, where you can follow your drive around the rim.

The headquarters sits nearly a mile above Medford at 6500 feet, and the temperature was 46F. This would be the high temperature for the expedition; at times the temperature would dip into the upper thirties. There was also a fresh breeze, something I would find is a constant condition in the area. My attire of shorts, shirt, and hoodie was starting to look inadequate for the conditions.

Directly across from the visitor’s center is the crater rim, topped by Garfield Peak at 8000 feet. On exiting the parking lot, you can turn left or right, depending on your touring preference. I turned left, as I expect most people do. The road gains nearly 700 feet over 3 miles as it climbs to Rim Village. You can park in the lot, walk over to the view point, and see this:

Crater Lake view 1

That’s Wizard Island on the left, with Llao Rock just to the right of it.

There’s a cafe at the Village, and a selection of drinks for sale. I’d packed a lunch, but had neglected to provide something to drink. I refrained from paying $3.50 for bottled water, figuring something would turn up.

The Park Service advises 2 – 3 hours to circumnavigate the lake, and depending on stops, that’s about right. On the day, viewing opportunities were limited by the increasing cloud cover. The rim drive averages 7500 feet in elevation, and on occasion I found myself in the clouds. On the western side, there are spectacular views of the  National Forest below.

Crater Lake chain of fire placard

As this was not a clear day, the only peak visible was the one on the left, and that only intermittently. I was disappointed in not seeing Mt. Shasta, but you take what you get.

View from the north side:

Crater Lake view 2

The lake exhibits a variety of shades of blue, and during the season boat tours are offered. There are also tours to Wizard Island, where visitors can climb a trail to the top. Garfield Peak, the highest point on the rim, is just to the left of the island. Out of frame on the left is Mt. Scott, the highest point in the Park at 8900 feet. There is a short, and I imagine steep, trail to the top to the mountain. There is also a trail to the lake surface on the north side, but it’s 1400 feet of elevation change. My desire to touch the lake wasn’t that strong.

Overlooks on the 33 mile rim drive abound, and I stopped at many of them, including all the named ones. The designated overlooks usually have placards describing what you’re seeing, which is helpful when taking pictures. At Cloudcap Overlook, there are examples of ‘flag’ trees, so named because the constant wind causes the tree branches to all grow on the downwind side. It was in this area that I picked up a piece of pumice for a souvenir.

I was interested in seeing the island called Phantom Ship, and there are a couple of places to view it. Whomever named the rock had a better imagination than I do; I had a hard time seeing it as a sailing vessel.

Immediately south of Phantom Ship Overlook is a road to a formation called The Pinnacles. It’s a fifteen mile round-trip to the formation, and as rain had started to move in, I debated whether it was worth the trip. I decided that I was already there, so I may as well see as see what the Park had to offer.

The Pinnacles are well worth the drive, probably more so if you’re not viewing them in a light, steady rain with a burst of hail(!). The Pinnacles were formed when a pyroclastic flow from Mt. Mazama (The volcano that collapsed and formed Crater Lake) covered a river valley. Escaping steam hardened the material around the vents. As the flow material eroded, the hardened vents were left standing, forming steep cones rising hundreds of feet from the valley below.

At the halfway point to the viewpoint there’s a campground, where I stopped to eat lunch on the way back. There are water spigots there, so I had something to drink. There are also facilities here.

I stopped at Sun Notch overlook (not living up to it’s name that day) where there’s a short trial to the crater rim. I also stopped at Vidae Falls, which tumble down the mountain side next to the road.

By this time the weather was improving, and as I had to drive around the West Rim to pick up the road to my next destination, I stopped at a few places I’d visited earlier to see if the views had improved. I did see a deer at one place.

My destination for the night was Roseburg, nearly 100 miles away. State highway 138 travels through the Umpqua National Forest generally following the Umpqua River for about 60 of those miles, which means two things: amazing scenery, and precious little habitation. There’s some 6000 of elevation change between the Crater Lake rim drive and Roseburg, and every 500 feet of change is marked by a sign. There is also ample evidence of ancient lava and pyroclastic flows from the volcanoes in the area. Along the way I saw a fawn, and hoped that it wouldn’t jump in front of the car

The river is popular with boaters and anglers, and I saw several pickups with fly rods in the gun rack, probably folks getting in some fishing after work. I stopped at Mott Bridge along the way, a wooden arch bridge built as a CCC project in 1935. There’s an interpretive kiosk on the other side of the bridge, as well as several trail heads.

While looking at an unusual rock formation next to the river, I was surprised by an intense cloudburst. I saw a flash, heard thunder, and fifteen seconds I was under a waterfall. Visibility was so poor that even with the wipers on ‘high’, I couldn’t drive more than 30 mph. As is usually the case in those types of storms, the rain ceased after a few minutes. A little later I pulled into a store parking lot, the first building I’d seen in over an hour. As soon as I got out of the car, a man poked his head out the door and exclaimed “I bet that surprised you!”

After I’d photographed the nice double rainbow over the valley, we talked about the storm for a bit. He said that he’d seen the rain curtain moving up the valley, and that water was splashing up onto the porch two feet off the ground.

The road exits the hills shortly East of Glide, then on to Roseburg. By the time I pulled into Roseburg, it was late and I was tired. I checked hotel reviews, but the highest-rated one in my price range was full. At the next hotel the clerk asked me what I was looking to spend, and I told her. She gave me a room at the price. A decent enough place.

Because it was Thursday, I looked for a sports bar so I could watch some football. I ended up at a local dive, where I ordered a beer and a hamburger. When I asked the bartender if I could get the burger cooked ‘medium’, he replied that “I’m not really into temperature”. Well, it was good enough burger, and I didn’t get sick.

Posted by: bkivey | 4 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 3

24 September

The day opened wet, as the storm continued to spread the Pacific Ocean around the region. Knowing that rain was called for, I’d left the day open on my itinerary. Fortunately I’d become aware of an indoor activity Monday when I’d seen a sign in Grants Pass for the Oregon Caves . I’ve lived in the state nearly fifteen years and I’d never heard of the caves.

After breakfast at a local diner, I headed East on state highway 46. Highway 46 was built for the express purpose of connecting US 199 to the caves 20 miles away. After running through the Illinois Valley, the road starts the climb up the Siskyou mountains to the National Monument at 4000 feet. While generally following Bear Creek into the mountains, I don’t think there’s 150 feet of straight road the last ten miles. I was reminded of the Hana Highway in Maui.

I’m sure the scenery is impressive, but on the lower slopes there was considerable rain, and the rest of the way I was in the clouds. I caught up to a semi truck about halfway up, so the trip was considerably slower after that. I wondered if the driver was lost, or delivering supplies to the facility. The road is very much not truck friendly, and the only place to turn around is at the end of the road.

There is  a fair-size parking lot next to the lodge, and a 900 foot walk back to the main building; not an enticing prospect in a steady rain. I had a hoodie, but even so, I was fairly damp by the time I got indoors.

The main building contains a gift shop and small museum, and is also where you pay the entrance fee and wait for the tour to start. The rangers ask every person if they’ve been inside a cave in the US or Europe since 2005. The point is to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome; fatal to bats. I don’t know what happens if you answer ‘yes’, but I imagine you’re not allowed to enter the cave. I’d like to visit Carlsbad at some point, so I wonder how that will go.

The cave tour is about 9/10ths of a mile long, and takes about 90 minutes. The tour starts in a covered walkway outside the building, and the ranger goes over the safety rules and expected conditions. They mention that there are over 500 steps in the cave, and in fact there is a sample set of about ten steps. I thought we’d have to prove we could climb the stairs, but I guess the ranger thought we all looked fit enough. We did have to practice the crouched ‘cave walk’, as some passages are only 46″ high. The cave interior is always in the mid-40’s, so warm clothing is recommended. As it turns out, you’re working fairly hard climbing up and down stairs, so the temperature is just about right for physical activity.

Cameras aren’t allowed in the cave, but smartphones are tolerated.

The main entrance:

Oregon Caves entrance

The trail inside the cave generally follows the creek that flows along the floor. The creek didn’t create the cave; groundwater dissolving the rock is responsible for that. The cave rock is marble, which surprised me, as I’d thought marble was a fairly hard rock. It turns out that this isn’t architectural-grade marble, but more inferior stuff.

Not far into the cave are examples of flowstone:

Oregon Caves flowstone 3

Oregon Caves flowstone

Much of the original trail and steps were built in the early part of the 20th century. The trail was renovated in the 90’s, and many of the original concrete steps were replaced with aluminum ones. The original steps remaining can be treacherous from uneven spacing, wear, and moisture. You aren’t allowed to touch the walls, as skin oil stains the formations, and can stop formations growing entirely. There are plenty of handrails, but in some places there aren’t, so some care is required in negotiating the stairs.

What happens when people touch the formations:

Oregon Caves stained formations

The brown color is from skin oil, and you’ll notice that most of the stalactites have been broken off. In the days of yore, people thought the formations grew quickly, like icicles, and people would snap off a piece for a souvenir. Formations like these, if they are still growing, will take tens of thousands of years to restore.

Some untouched stalactites:

Oregon Caves stalactities

The caves are lit by strategically placed small lights, and at one point in the tour the ranger turns off the lights. I’d done this before, when I visited the ice caves in southern Washington, so I knew what was coming. Complete and total blackness, something few modern people have experience with. I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I hoped the lights would actually come back on. The ranger had a flashlight, and most folks had smartphones, but still.

Roots from a tree that was serious about finding water:

Oregon Caves roots

Some passageways:

Oregon Caves passageway

Oregon Caves passageway 2

About two-thirds of the way through the tour is a feature called the Glory Room. This isn’t on the main trial, and the stairs leading to it are rather steep:

Oregon Caves stairs to Glory Room

This isn’t for people suffering from vertigo, as there is considerable space beneath the stairs. One person in our group elected not to go. It’s worth the effort. The ranger doesn’t accompany you, saying that they prefer to let the room speak for itself. It’s quite voluble:

Oregon Caves Glory Room

Near the end of the tour, there is a formation of pristine calcium carbonate, where the ranger turns off the lights, and turns on a black light:

Oregon Caves UV formations

The tour ends all too quickly, and you leave the cave here:

Oregon Caves exit

It’s a half-mile hike down the mountain to the main building. Fortunately, the rain had let up some.

While the tour does take an hour and a half, and our group was relatively small at eight people, it does feel a little rushed, especially when you want to stop and take pictures. It’s a cave, so there are tight spaces, and rocks jutting out onto the trail at weird angles. Maximum group size is fifteen, and there are places where that many people would be a tight fit indeed. We did see some animals in the cave: moths, spiders, and a bat.

I you are ever in the Grants Pass – Medford area, or even visiting the redwoods in California, the Oregon Caves are absolutely worth a day trip.

My next days destination was well east of this area, so I drove back down to US 199 and on to Medford. The rain was coming down in buckets, and most of the region would receive two inches or more in 24 hours. I visited a couple of covered bridge south and east of Medford, and along the way passed through Jacksonville, OR. Jacksonville is much like Sisters in that the town has retained the downtown buildings from the late 19th century. Back to Medford for the night, where I stayed at the Motel 6, and was happy to see they had a laundromat.

Dinner was fish and chips at the Four Sisters Irish pub downtown. I don’t know how Irish they really are; they didn’t have Harp on tap. Back to the motel to do laundry and watch the basic cable Motel 6 provides.

Posted by: bkivey | 1 October 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 2

23 September

(NOTE: There isn’t any visual record of this day, because I shouldn’t be near erasable media when I’m tired.)

The day dawned grey, but I’d checked the forecast before leaving home, so this wasn’t unexpected. After breakfast I headed southwest on US 199 (aka Redwood Highway). The terrain between Grants Pass and the Siskyou Mountains is remarkably similar to the pine forests on the eastern side of the Cascades. About an hour out of Grants Pass, the road enters the mountains. The scenery goes vertical and the road becomes more challenging as it follows the Smith River. On a motorcycle, or with the right car (which I had), under dry conditions this road is a lot of fun. And unless you’re on a motorcycle, the posted speed limit of 55 mph isn’t happening. It’s fun throwing your car in and out of corners, but with rock faces on one side, and no guardrails on the other, you don’t want to get too exuberant. After going through border control entering California, I arrived at the junction with Douglas Park Road wearing a big smile.

Douglas Park Road crosses the river over deep pools of exceptional clarity, and then crosses Sheep Pen Creek by way of a remarkably pretty covered bridge. Shortly thereafter the road becomes Howland Hill Road, and you are among the biggest damn trees you’ve ever seen.

The road is 9 miles of  glorified dirt trial winding amongst the trees. It’s really only one lane wide, but there are numerous wide spots for passing, and no one is driving fast. Your driving position is hunched over the wheel trying to see out the top of the windshield while attempting to grasp how any living thing can be so big.

Stout Grove is a parking area from which several trails start so you can walk around the forest. The California redwood tops out at near 400 feet, and 350 feet isn’t uncommon. This isn’t a case of a few trees here and there, the trees are as tightly packed as 20-foot diameter trees can be. If you go, I recommend bringing a fisheye lens for your camera; otherwise you can’t fit a whole tree in the frame.

Before leaving the grove, I went to visit the facilities, and was smacked in the face by a solid wall of stank. Not stink, but stank. There’ s the expressions ‘smells like something died’, and ‘smells like shit'; this smelled like some shit had died. Whatever I was going to do, I wasn’t going to do it there.

I spent the better part of the next hour navigating the road with frequent stops to look at the trees. The road exits the forest just east of Crescent City, and I stopped at the information center there. There are some interesting displays inside, including an exhibit of the cones of the several conifers in the area. You’re encouraged to pick the cones up and examine them. The smallest was from the redwood (about the size of an olive), to a pine tree cone that weighed five pounds. Perhaps more impressive was a line about five feet up the side of the building showing the flood height from the 1964 tsunami.

Another display informs, without a hint of irony, that some people have trouble distinguishing the redwood. Jaw, meet floor. We’re talking about trees well in excess of 300 feet tall. How a person could fail to distinguish a redwood is beyond me. (Hint: they have a distinctive bark).

The forest I’d visited was in a state park, and I was headed south to the National Park proper about 25 miles away. I figured I’d stop in the town of Klamath for lunch. But between Crescent City and Klamath  is a roadside attraction called Trees of Mystery.

Trees of Mystery is a privately owned redwood grove featuring trails and a tram for an aerial view of the trees. There’s a hotel and restaurant across the road. Out front is a 40 foot tall painted concrete statue of Paul Bunyan and his ox Babe.  Despite the name, Babe is anatomically correct for a male. I elected to skip the grove, but did step inside the gift shop. Attached to the gift shop is a museum. I expected some minor collection of logging paraphernalia and local oddities, what I found was an astonishingly diverse collection of First Nations artifacts from the Western US and Canada. You don’t expect to find a world-class collection attached to a tourist attraction, but that’s what Trees of Mystery has. I spent the better part of an hour in the museum. There are replica wood flutes for sale, and the staff will provide you with disposable mouthpieces if you want to try them out. I did, and although it’s been years since I’ve played a wind instrument, I was able to get some credible tones. Perhaps it was my lack of practice, but I found it all too easy to overblow the instruments. Looking through scales in the instruction book, I was surprised to see that all of the notes produced by the flutes are naturals and flats; no sharps.

On to Klamath on the Yurok reservation. Klamath has no traffic lights or banks (that I could tell), but it does have a casino and  a Holiday Inn Express (?!). There is one bar, and the only restaurant in town is the bar kitchen. And oh, by the way, they don’t take plastic. I don’t know where people get cash in that town, but I had exactly two dollars on me. So, no lunch.

(On reflection, I probably could have found something to eat in the casino, and I bet they take cards.)

Driving south down US 101, I turned off on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. This is the main road through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and wonders abound. The Ah-Pah interpretive trail starts from the road and winds a half-mile into the forest. This was a logging road, since removed, and the placards describe the removal process.  A number of trees showed fire damage. While on the trail I looked for a redwood cone to take home, and it was surprisingly hard to find one. You’d think that a redwood forest would have cones aplenty, but this was not so. I finally did find a specimen.

Near the end of the road is the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, and I stopped to check it out. In the building is a piece of wood with horns sprouting from it. Apparently a deer had got it’s head stuck in a crotch of the tree, and died. The tree grew around the remains of the head, and you can see the back of the skull. There’s also a hollow redwood in which a family had lived in the 30’s. The interior is about 15′ in diameter.

By the time I made the drive back, the storm that had been blowing ashore was making it’s presence felt. The gusts would cause debris clouds of redwood detritus to descend on the road. I found that the parts of US 199 I’d bypassed earlier traversed parts of the gorge so narrow, the road was practically on top of the river. No spirited driving now, just working to stay on the road through wind and rain.

I’d decided to spend the night in Cave Junction , OR, because it wasn’t far from where I wanted to go the next day. However, a town of 2000 souls located in an economically depressed area doesn’t offer a lot in the way of accommodations. Of the two hotels, one had such bad reviews I didn’t consider it. I ended up at the Holiday Motel, which made up for it’s lack of a desk or dresser in the room by charging $68 for a night. They also must have a first-generation TV dish, because there were frequent outages during the evening. And then there was this

Multiple plugs in outlet

Tell me that’s not the poster child for Fire Prevention Week. Fortunately, nothing caught on fire.

I elected to eat at a bar/restaurant, but refrained from entering the bar when I saw the ‘Bikers Welcome’ sign. Wasn’t interested in potential conflict that night. When the server asked me what I wanted to drink, my reply of  ‘IPA if you have it, Budweiser if you don’t’ was met with a look that seemed to say ‘we don’t cotten to you city folk’. Given what urban dwellers have done to the economy of the region, I couldn’t fault her, but, oh well. The steak was cooked to order, although service was slow. Amused myself by reading the local police reports in the paper. Went back to the hotel and (intermittently) watched TV.

Posted by: bkivey | 29 September 2014

2014 Vacation Pt. 1

22 September

In which I blog on my annual vacation; a tradition for the past three years. I was hoping to make this a semi-annual post, but no such luck this year.

(NOTE: There is almost no visual record of the first part of my vacation, because I AM AN IDIOT. And it’s not a good idea to play around with camera settings when you’re tired. ‘OKAY’ doesn’t mean ‘Okay I like the settings’ when the menu is set to ‘Format card’.)

Regular readers know that I vacation during the week of my birthday; the third week in September. This year I decided to combine work and play and take my vacation in southern Oregon and northern California.

Overall, an A. I got to see and do a lot of interesting things; and I didn’t have to work too much.

The first good thing was that I made my flight, which was an improvement on last year. The aircraft was a Bombardier Q-400; a twin turboprop transporting 78 people. This aircraft boards from the ground; something I haven’t had to do in a really long time. I asked the baggage guys if they rigged covers when it rained, or was it a mad dash to the aircraft; and was informed it was a mad dash. This rang true with my previous experiences boarding from the ground. (Boarded once in Columbus, GA, in a downpour. The aircraft was actually pulling away with me and my brother running after it. Attendants pulling up the stairs saw us, and let us on. We were soaked.)

I’d booked POSH (Port Out, Starboard Home) because I wanted to see the mountains on the trip down. No such luck; clouds all the way. Still a fair amount of logging around Medford, though.

Logging near Medford

And Table Rock, a local landmark:

Table Rock near Medford

Solar panels outside Rogue Valley International:

Outside Medford airport

I picked up my chariot (MUCH more on this later) and headed for lunch.

After lunch I had in mind to photograph some covered bridges (this was the business part) and queried the GPS. Keep in mind that cellphone GPS isn’t true GPS; it goes off cell phone towers rather than satellite. I got directions, and headed off.

Only, where I wanted to go and where GPS took me were not the same. I headed up the Rogue River Gorge. This included the Hellsgate area, site of several movies, and generally spectacular scenery, but not where I was looking to go. Of course, I didn’t know this until GPS informed that ‘I’d arrived’, and I clearly hadn’t. It was OK. I got to see some great scenery, and I was on vacation.

I finally did find the bridge I was looking for, as well as other items of interest.

Grave Creek bridge

Grave Creek bridge

Wimer covered bridge

Wimer bridge

The city hall for unincorporated Wimer. I don’t know if this is a joke, but it’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.

Wimer city hall

The oldest institution in America, located not far from Wimer. Who knew?

Church of Christ

I decided to spend the night in Grants Pass, as that would put me 30 miles closer to the next day’s destination. I booked into a place called ‘Knights Inn'; mostly because the sign was easy to see (landmark), and it was next to a grocery store. They charged $68. The $50 I’d seen in Medford at the Hotel 6 was starting to look pretty good. What I didn’t notice until I’d paid for the room was that the property was directly next to a railroad track. On further review, I thought the track might be heavily used, as the warning bridge had no less than five signal lights and four crossbucks. A quick search of the internet revealed that the company owning the track wasn’t likely to be using it frequently; and in fact there was only one train.

I’d looked for a hotel downtown because I wanted to grab a bite at a bar. Bars tend to have TV’s, and on Monday during the season, they usually have Monday Night Football. There must be an ordinance in Grants Pass prohibiting the exhibition of football games on TV. Of the three bars within walking distance of the hotel, only one had a TV, and it wasn’t tuned to football. What the hell? I sucked it up and had dinner at one of the bars.


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