Posted by: bkivey | 27 August 2015

Spiders on the Loose

I’m generally tolerant of spiders. Very few are inimical to humans, and they keep the bug population down. During the Summer around here I’ll walk through webs every time I go outside, but that’s OK. They’re doing what they do, and as long as they do it outside, they can have at it.  I’ve seen some webs constructed by rather ambitious spiders. I do wonder why more spiders don’t build webs in the vicinity of porch lights. Evolution works slowly, but it seems some enterprising spider would at least by accident build a web next to a light, procure food, and so pass the genes along.

As long as they stay outside, I’m fine with spiders.

I’m much less tolerant of spiders in the house. If I find one inside, I’ll make an attempt to return it to the wild unharmed. But lately I’ve seen an uptick in invasive spider activity. I’ve found three of the same species in the house in the last week. I can only identify about a half-dozen spiders on sight, and these aren’t on the list, but appear to be the Giant House Spider (actual name). As the name implies, these aren’t small spiders. Some can have a legspan of four inches.

Last week I found one lounging next to the shower. I used a dustpan to flip it outside. Today I went to grab a mixing bowl, and was quite surprised to find a spider inside. Sorry, but when you invade my cooking equipment, you’re history. Down the drain. A few hours later I was at my desk and noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, a spider was marching across the floor. It ran under the couch before I could get it. Not two minutes later, it scurried from under the couch and ran straight for me. Come at me, bro! Of all the directions it could have gone, it picked the exact wrong one. The spider was terminated with extreme prejudice.

So I have to wonder. Was this a spider seeking revenge for it’s mate? Of course not; that’s anthropomorphism. But still. . .

The Strangest Thing I’ve Seen in Baseball 

Tuesday evening the Seattle Mariners played the Oakland Athletics. Nothing remarkable there, but at one point Mariners switch-hitting shortstop Ketel Marte faced Oakland’s switch-pitching Pat Venditti. I didn’t know switch-pitching was a thing. Apparently the procedure is for the pitcher to hold the baseball aloft with whatever hand he’s going to pitch, and the batter goes back to the dugout to get the appropriate batting helmet. Truly bizarre.

The Mariners

The local MLB team is already looking to next year, The M’s have barely broken 0.500 at any point in the year, and are now well below that mark.  There’s no talk of playoffs or even wild-card. They have good sticks and good arms, just not at the same time. Early in the season the pitching was good but the bats were silent. Now the bats are alive, but the pitching has deteriorated. It’s become common for the starting pitcher to get chased off by the second inning. This has worn the bullpen to a frazzle.

Staff ace Felix Hernandez has run out of gas: a tendency the last several years. Early in the year he’s almost untouchable; at this point in the season, not so much. The position players are solid. Nelson Cruz is a hitting machine, with Robinson Cano not far behind. Austin Jackson is reliable in the field and at the plate, while Kyle Seager has struggled with the bat lately, but regularly turns in stellar defense. Catcher Mike Zunino handles the staff very well, but was used so much earlier in the season that he’s tired, and isn’t batting his weight. His hitting has improved since Mariners legend Edgar Martinez became the batting coach.

The real surprise has been the aforementioned Ketel Marte. He was called up in late July and has made the absolute most of his opportunity. Not a power hitter, he does hit for average and fields his position well. People keep waiting for him to realize he’s in The Show, but he keeps showing people he belongs.

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 20 August 2015

The Half-Day Vacation

I had a job at the coast Tuesday, and because I was taking Wednesday off, looked to take a bit of vacation. The work finished up around 1130 , and it was a glorious sunny day. The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places in the world, and the idea of spending time there, especially when I’m getting paid, is very nice. I’d planned to spend the rest of the day, and possibly the next, in Astoria, 15 miles up US 101 to the north.

My landlord is an Oregon native, and I’d talked to him about places to go and things to see in Astoria. One thing he forgot to mention is Fort Clatsop. This was the Winter home for the Lewis & Clark expedition 1805 -1806. I’d read The Journals of Lewis & Clark earlier this year, so was keen to see the site. The site is a National Park, but the price of admission is reasonable at $3.

Fort Clatsop visitor center

That’s the Visitor’s Center. Inside is a well-done museum of the Lewis & Clark expedition. One of the more fascinating items was a table showing the pay for the various members of the Expedition. The foray ran nearly three years, and Army Privates, making up most of the personnel, were paid some $170 for the time. This doesn’t seem like much, even given the standards of the day considering the hardships endured, but each soldier was also given 320 acres of land. After spending time in the Center looking at the exhibits, I ventured out to the reconstruction of the fort.

Fort Clatsop exterior

Fort Clatsop courtyard

I noticed a couple of things. I’ve seen other reconstructions from the same time period, and was impressed with how relatively roomy the accommodations were at Fort Clatsop. At Valley Forge, for instance, the soldiers quarters are tiny. The fort is built based on a floor plan only: there are no elevation views. The volunteer at the site said that the elevations are a ‘best guess’. The other thing I noticed is that the roofs slope toward the courtyard. Lewis & Clark were well aware of the climate before they built the fort; it seems reasonable that they wouldn’t have built the roofs to slope inward, and so create a mud puddle in the courtyard.

Nitpicking notwithstanding, this was a very enjoyable  visit. I took a little hike along the boardwalk to the Canoe Landing

Lewis and Clark canoe landing

This is the site where the Expedition launched canoes. You may notice that there are a number of piers in the water, and these are relics of a later time.

Log marshaling viewpoint

During the heyday of Oregon logging, loggers would marshal logs between the piers for transport. The placard in view explains the process.

Next on the list of things to see was the Astoria Column. This landmark is built on a hill above the city and affords spectacular views. The only hitch was that the bridge over the Lewis and Clark River was closed, so all traffic from the south was squeezed onto one causeway. It’s summer: traffic was slow. The GPS guided me up the hill to the Column. Along the way, there were icons on the road surface at regular intervals. They look a lot like a stylized rendering of a road-killed armadillo. While paying my $2 parking fee (good for the year), the attendant informed that the icons were supposed to represent the Column and were intended to mark the way, I remarked that they didn’t look much like the Column.

Or maybe they do. This is what the Column looks like:

astoria column

And this is what you see now:

Astoria column covered

I said that it looked like the Washington Monument the last time I was in DC, and he told me I was the 5th person that day to say that. The view, though, was as advertised:

Astpria column panorama

 

 

 

Unfortunately the image doesn’t scale well in this format. The 300 degree view shows Saddleback Mt. above the garbage can on the left, Heceta Headland just to the left of the tall viewer, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge to the right of center. The Columbia is on the right, along with Washington state. The Columbia Bar is between the bridge towers. It’s apparent how the wildfires affect viewing. There’s an installation to let you know what you’re seeing:

Astoria column map

The sign notes that on clear days Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier are visible. Given the fire situation in the West the last several years, there’s probably only a couple of weeks in early July when days could be considered ‘clear’.

Next on the agenda was the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Anything related to the maritime history of the Columbia River can be found in this museum. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I was inclined to be interested in the museum, but was unprepared for what’s actually there. If there is one word that sums up the collection, it would be ‘comprehensive’. Suffice to say that the museum’s website is inadequate to the task of conveying the experience.

Running in front of the museum is the Astoria Trolley:

Astoria trolley

The Trolley runs for three miles along the waterfront, and is the only trolley I’ve seen with a tender. The Diesel generator eliminates the need for overhead wires.  There is also a large ships propeller out front. No placard, but there is information stamped on the casting:

Ship prop info

A minute on the internet reveals that this was likely used for the Charles F. Adams class destroyers. There is also a lightship moored next to the museum:

Columbia lightship

The lightship is open for tours, but requires a museum ticket to board.

Entrance fee is $12 for adults, and it soon becomes apparent what a great value it is. Not a place for doing things by half-measures, there are several full-size fishing boats in the exhibit halls, along with the bridge from a WW II destroyer. Exhibits include the salmon fishing industry, Lewis & Clark, Oregon’s contribution to WW II, the Columbia Bar, Astoria history, whaling, paddle boats on the Columbia, and the Coast Guard. I’m sure I’m leaving out quite a bit. One could easily spend 3 – 4 hours here. I got there at 1400, and was afraid I wouldn’t get to everything before the 1700 closing. The Coast Guard section includes one of the more dramatic displays I’ve seen:

Lifeboat display

That’s a 44′ lifeboat mounted on a simulated wave, and as you stand on the floor, it towers above you. The Coast Guard has their Lifeboat Training facility across the river at Cape Disappointment. The Columbia Bar is considered by most professional mariners to be the most dangerous such crossing on the planet, and there are films in the museum that show why this is so.

I got to the lightship with a half-hour to spare. Tours are self-guided, and there’s a volunteer to answer questions. I was impressed with how roomy the accommodations were compared to other vessels I’ve toured. The lively ride of the ship was also notable in the chop that develops on the river when the tide comes in. The prevailing winds try to blow the river back up it’s channel, and the Columbia is a fairly swift river. Not a great combination if you’re in a small boat.

On the way out, I checked out a former pilot boat:

Pilot boat Peacock

The Peacock was based on a North Sea rescue boat, and is notable for the ‘daughter’ boat on the stern used to deliver and retrieve pilots. Also notable is the use of triple rudders and screws on a relatively small vessel. There’s a film about this boat in the museum.

So that was it for sight-seeing in Astoria. I’d packed a bag in case I wanted to spend the night, but I couldn’t really think of anything in the area I wanted to spend a day doing. As for the rest of the afternoon and evening, Astoria pretty much rolls up the sidewalks after 1800.

I checked Yelp! for a place to eat and perhaps watch the ballgame. Mother’s Tavern was recommended, and on arrival, I noted only one TV, so no baseball. Mother’s is a dive bar located under the bridge, and what it lacks in sports viewing, makes up for in food. I ordered a bowl of clam chowder and a burger, and both  were enormous. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but was defeated by the burger.

After dinner I consulted GPS for the way home, and was directed up and over the hill that makes up most of Astoria to OR 202. OR 202 is a two-lane road going through the Coast Range generally east and south until it meets US 26. There are few straight sections, and even fewer cars, so it’s a lot of fun to drive. There’s an elk viewing area where herds of elk can usually be seen, but none were visible on the day. I did see an elk by the side of the road, and hoped that it wouldn’t jump in front of the car. Thankfully it went back in to the woods.

Truly a great day. Made some money in the morning, spent a relaxing day sightseeing on a beautiful summer day in one of my favorite places, and a fun drive home. Sometimes, life really is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 19 August 2015

Here We Go Again

The Great Recession was brought about in large part by the implosion of financial markets, which in turn had become unstable from the high percentage of unsustainable residential mortgages. Financial institutions were forced by Congress to make those types of loans because the previous eligibility standards were seen as discriminatory to racial minorities. And in truth, there were, and in some places still are, regulations that are designed to exclude people of color from home ownership.

After economic reality reasserted itself, loan regulations were changed to prevent so-called ‘sub-prime’ lending. The idea was to ensure that those applying for and receiving mortgages could, in fact, pay for them. But there’s no solution that can’t be seen as oppression by the aggrieved.

In a Kevin G. Hall article published 9 August, he attempts to make the case that cultural differences between Hispanics and, well, he doesn’t say, but let’s assume Whites, increase the difficulty of Hispanics getting mortgages. Mr. Hall asserts that because Hispanics tend to pay cash and not use credit, they don’t establish credit histories. The article goes on to say that regular and timely payment of short-term obligations like rent and phone bills should be used as metrics rather than the ability to pay off long-term loans like cars and credit cards. President-elect of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals Joe Nery is quoted as saying “You don’t have the opportunity to establish your credit.”

Um, why not? If you want to buy property, you know you have to establish credit. There are any number of ways to do that, and even more information on how to do it. The argument that cultural differences come into play is a non-starter. Years ago I had a friend state “the rules make the game”. If you live in a society with certain rules for obtaining what you want, then it’s up to you to conform to those rules to achieve your goals.

One of the main points in the article is that payment of short-term bills should factor in to credit-worthiness. This argument misses an important point: there is a qualitative difference between paying a long-term loan and making regular payments on short-term bills. If a financial institution fronts you tens of thousands for a car, or hundreds of thousands for a house, that’s a much larger commitment on both sides than a few hundred for a phone or a couple thousand for rent. Then there’s the fact that short-term bills are usually paid in advance. The property owner or service provider gets money up front to provide a place to live or a utility. Mortgage lenders and car dealerships assume much greater risk. The current lending rules place greater emphasis long-term payments for precisely that reason.

We’ve seen this movie before. There will be agitation to change the rules to accommodate some group, The system won’t work as intended because the root philosophy is flawed, there will be upheavals, then reforms, then we’ll do it again.

What’s in a headline?

The newspaper article originally published under the headline “Tighter lending standards keeping some Hispanics out of housing market”. That’s a fair way to describe the main thrust of the article. The local bird cage liner use d the headline “Lending rules keep Latinos from homeownership”, implying that current regulations are preventing 17% of the population from owning a home, when in fact Latino home ownership is about 45%. Nope, no bias here.

Posted by: bkivey | 13 August 2015

Fee – Fi- Fo- Hum

I went to book my vacation flights, and found out that the airlines, or at least one of them, have found another way to nickel-and-dime the traveler.

Over the last couple of decades, airline fees have become an industry standard. Ever since deregulation, the days of paying for a ticket and expecting amenities are gone. Now all you get for the price of a ticket is the ability to get on the aircraft and sit in an increasingly smaller seat. Everything else costs extra. I wrote a not entirely tongue-in-cheek post on this. Now I find that Air Canada has taken fees to a new level.

Most airlines will allow you to select your seat. Admittedly, this is a step up from the historical method of taking whatever seat the airline assigned you, but on the other hand, modern tech should allow this. I’ve been selecting seats for years, at no charge unless I wanted a ‘premium’ seat (usually exit rows). I have no problem with airlines charging extra for seats with extra leg-room. I do wonder if people who are willing to pay for exit row seats will actually be useful if needed. My beef with Air Canada is that they charge $8 to select the standard seat. What?! They’ve managed to take the Personal Seat License to the sky.

I was initially confused by the Air Canada site because most sites allow seat selection prior to ticket purchase, and theirs does not. Now I know why. I opted for waiving the seat selection fee and will take whatever seat the airline sees fit to offer. My longest flight is less than two hours, and it’s on a regional jet, so the worst I’ll do is an aisle seat.

I have a suggestion for airline execs: charge one price for a given ticket. Include most or all of pre-deregulation amenities. Sure, your ticket prices will appear higher than competitors, but economies of scale should allow some cost-savings, and explaining what the customer is getting will likely increase sales. Also, make 17 December a bikes-fly-free day.

Weather Watch

I usually take my vacation in the third week of September. Because I’m going to a part of the world with which I’m not familiar, I checked the long-range weather forecast. So glad I did.

I’ve lived twenty years in the Pacific Northwest, and know the climate patterns. The usual pattern later in the year is that there is a week where weather will switch from Summer to Winter weather patterns. It’s usually fairly abrupt. We don’t really do Spring and Fall here. In Portland this often occurs mid-October; in Seattle, a couple weeks earlier. Checking the 30-day forecast (guess) for Vancouver and Calgary, it appears this transition occurs mid-September. This tracks with my experience, but occasioned a change of plans. So I’ll be taking vacation a little earlier this year, but hopefully with better weather.

No Hitter

Mariner’s pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma threw a no-hitter on 12 August. Baseball is a team sport, and Iwakuma was quick to credit his defense and catcher in achieving the feat. A no-no is a pitcher’s dream, exceeded only by the perfect game.

I only caught fragments of the game while driving around town, but did get the last inning. Ex-Mariner-turned-broadcaster Mike Blowers stated that during a no-hitter, the fielders were more nervous than the pitcher: wanting to turn every play to perfection.  As in every no-hitter, there were some chancy fielding plays, but the defense came through. Iwakuma has had a spotty year, and was seen as trade-bait, but one day can make a career. This was also his first complete game in MLB.  Chapeau!

Posted by: bkivey | 6 August 2015

This Day in History

A mushroom cloud forming.70 years ago today at 0815 local, Enola Gay released the world’s first operational nuclear weapon from an altitude of 31,00o feet. 44 seconds later, it detonated at an altitude of 1,900 feet, instantly destroying everything within a mile of the hypocenter. As such things go, it was small, inefficient weapon. The image at left was taken from the ground about 4.5 miles from Ground Zero. What made the nuclear attacks horrific wasn’t the number of casualties, far more people were killed in the firebombing of Japanese cities, but the fact that one bomb could accomplish what had previously required thousands of conventional weapons.

There has been much debate on whether the bombing of Hiroshima, and three days later, Nagasaki, were necessary. Certainly the US National Command Authority thought so. The bombs did bring about an immediate end to the war, and sent a message to our to soon-to-be adversaries the Soviets that we would, in fact, use nuclear weapons. A good argument can be made that using the weapons saved far more lives than they took, but that’s probably little consolation to the Japanese.

Last year I entertained the idea of visiting Hiroshima today, but considered that an American may not be especially welcome. You have to hand it to the Japanese, forty years after getting nuked, they were an economic superpower, to the point where there was real fear they’d take over the world. Success, as they say, is the best revenge.

Two Cold War Films

The end of WW II, and the near concurrent turn of the Soviets from allies to post-war adversaries ushered in the Cold War. For nearly fifty years Americans and Western Europeans lived with the very real fear that their lives could end in a split-second. I can’t speak for the Soviet side, but it was probably much the same.

A couple of weeks ago I watched two Cold War films released in 1964. The plots are similar in both: a group of American bombers goes out of control and head off to bomb Moscow. Although a low-probability event, the scenario had credibility at the height of the Cold War. While the plots are similar, the films treat the scenario in completely different ways.

Dr. Strangelove is a farce masquerading as a drama, and was very popular then and now. Nearly everyone’s seen it or at least heard of it. Some lines have endured in popular culture.

Fail Safe is straight drama, and one of the most intense films you’ll ever see. The pressure increases through the film all the way to the denouement. It’s one of those rare films that may actually be better than the book on which it’s based. Relative to Strangelove, almost no one has seen this movie.

Both pictures feature name directors and accomplished acting, but Strangelove was released prior to Fail Safe, and to an audience continuously on edge from the events of the day, probably came as a relief. That said, Fail Safe is far and away the superior film.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 20 July 2015

46 Years Ago Today

46 years ago today, at 2018 UTC, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on another world. The Apollo program was breath-taking example of what motivated people can accomplish. Today I offer a selection of quotes from those who made the trip, and those who made the effort possible.

… the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward, and so will space.

John F. Kennedy

U.S. President

1962, Rice University

 

We are going to have failures. There are going to be sacrifices made in the program; we’ve been lucky so far. If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.

Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom

Apollo 1

 

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.

Gene Kranz

Flight Director

1967, after the Apollo 1 fire.

 

Go to Hell!

Wally Schrira

Apollo 7

1968, when asked to perform non-engineering tasks during the flight.

 

No, it’s American cheese.

Bill Anders

Apollo 8

1968, when asked if the Moon was made of green cheese.

 

As you pass from sunlight into darkness and back again every hour and a half, you become startlingly aware how artificial are thousands of boundaries we’ve created to separate and define.  And for the first time in your life you feel in your gut the precious unity of the Earth and all the living things it supports.

Russell Schweikart

Apollo 9

1969

 

“Houston, this is Apollo 10. You can tell the world we have arrived.”

Thomas P. Stafford

Apollo 10

1969, on arriving in lunar orbit.

 

This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more still than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.

Edwin Aldrin

Apollo 11

1969

 

What the hell was that?

Richard Gordon

Apollo 12

1969, after a lighting strike crashed the Command Module systems 37 seconds into the flight.

 

After the Apollo 13 recovery, Grumman Aerospace Corporation (designers and builders of the lunar module) sent a spoof invoice A441066 to North American Rockwell (designers and builders of the command and service modules) for towing the rest of Apollo 13 around the moon and home to Earth. The bill was written by people at Grumman’s Flight Control Integration Lab in 1970. It included towing at $4.00 first mile, $1.00 each additional mile, battery charge, oxygen and addition guest at $8.00/night. Water and baggage handling was free. A 20% commercial discount and 2% cash discount (net 30 days) resulting in a total of $312,421.24. Rockwell responded in a press conference that they still had not received payment for shipping four of Grumman’s LMs to the Moon.

Isaac Asimov

 

When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.

Alan Shepard

Apollo 14

1971

 

When I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.

David R. Scott

Apollo 15

1971

 

I’m proud to be an American, I’ll tell you. What a program and what a place and what an experience.

Charlie Duke

Apollo 16

1972

 

It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.

Harrison Schmidt

Apollo 17

1972

 

It’s too bad, but the way American people are, now that they have all this capability, instead of taking advantage of it, they’ll probably just piss it all away.

Lyndon Johnson

1968

 

Buzzed by the Blues

The local airport is completely surrounded by the city, and this can be annoying (there’s no place in town free of aircraft noise), or advantageous. The advantage of the situation occurs when the annual airshow is held (also, annoying for those bothered by the usual noise), and good vantage points are free for the taking. The hot spot is along Cornell Rd. where it passes by the runway threshold and across the glide path. Not only can folks see the acts over the field, but view the airplanes at close proximity as they takeoff and land.

This time we got the Blue Angels for the first time in eight years. I had work scheduled every day of the show, but was able to catch the air demonstration practice on Thursday. A good view from the supermarket parking lot across the street, and I wasn’t the only one watching. I hadn’t seen a Blue Angels show since I lived in Seattle, and they’ve changed the show enough so that there were some new things to see. I’ll add that the show in Seattle is especially impressive in that it takes place over Lake Washington, and when the solo pilot does the high speed – low altitude pass, they actually kick up a wake behind the aircraft.

On the way home from work Friday, I was on Cornell Rd. passing the runway at the same time the Blues were taking off. Seeing four high-performance aircraft in tight formation that low was  very cool, and also very LOUD.

 

 

Posted by: bkivey | 15 July 2015

The Hard Realities of Soft Policies

Last week a murder was committed in San Francisco. That’s not especially news-worthy in a city where 45 people died by the hands of others last year, but Kathryn Steinle was killed by illegal immigrant Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a man with proven disregard for the law and a long rap sheet.

Ms. Steinle’s murder was entirely preventable, but the institutions and people charged with preventing the situation deliberately failed. This wasn’t a case of a complex system breaking down, or one person ‘slipping through the cracks’. This was a case where misguided people in positions of power deliberately decided to ignore the societal legal safeguards and allow people with bad intent to live among us.

The trade off in a democratic society is that the citizenry abrogate some of their freedoms in exchange for a measure of security. Implicit in that social contract is that those tasked with providing the security do their jobs free of individual feelings. But as with any human institution, it’s impossible to completely separate the personal from the professional. Most folks do a good job in that regard, but most folks aren’t responsible for the security of others. To enforce the law takes a special kind of vigilance against emotional judgement.

The Western world in general and the US in particular have seen the rise, and political ascendance of, immaturity and ignorance. It’s all about ‘feelings’ and ‘being nice’. While those sound nice in kindergarten, it’s not how the universe works. In the real, rational world, hard decisions are based on unflinching assessments of risks. It may not be popular, but it is effective. Hope isn’t an effective strategy. ‘The way things should be’ isn’t the way things are.

Kathryn Steinle didn’t have to die. A very small number of illegal aliens commit violent crimes in this country annually, but that’s no comfort at all to her family and friends. Every person who has advocated for ‘open borders’ and ‘sanctuary cities’ has her blood on their hands. Let them explain to her family how soft policies mitigate their hard reality.

New Horizons

Congratulations to NASA for shepherding the New Horizons probe through nine years of space flight to give us our first good look at Pluto. Demoted to ‘dwarf planet’ the same year the probe was launched, Pluto may yet regain planetary status. Even though it’s rather small, it is large enough to be spherical, has a star as it’s primary, and has it’s own system of satellites. The concern now is that the probe remain functional for the 2+ years it’s going to take to send the encounter data to Earth.

The mission cost $700M, which in these days of multi-billion dollar government programs doesn’t seem that expensive, especially for what we’re likely to get. And that price tag only comes to 4.7 cents per mile.

 

Posted by: bkivey | 6 July 2015

Thoughts on the Holiday Weekend

The past weekend featured 4 July, or Independence Day in the US.  This used to be a Big Deal. The Colonies broke away from England, fought a war lasting eight years against the dominant superpower of the day, and with help from France and Germany, managed to become an independent nation. And on the 239th anniversary of the Declaration, a growing number of people want to become dependent again.

Not that this is any big surprise. The Progressive thought virus has convinced people that freedom of thought and action is a bad thing, and they’d be much better off if their betters (institutional ruling class) told them what to think, what to do, what opinions were palatable for the day. A nation of children, and we’ve allowed it to happen.

When I was a child, and into my 20’s, I liked the Fourth. Parades, fairs, fireworks, and flag-waving.  It was fun. Depending on your job, you’d get the day off. But the nation has aged along with me, and not for the better. Now the news is filled with the nattering nabobs of negativity: celebrating the nation’s Founding is akin to supporting the killing of baby seals. I listened to a couple of radio shows that did “man-in-the-street’ interviews and while the samples were probably skewed, there’s no reason an American should be ignorant of their nation’s founding. Yet many people seem to be ignorant of not only the time, but the reason for America’s founding. If you lose your roots, you’ve lost your way.  And the ignorant people weren’t even ashamed of their ignorance. They laughed off their cluelessness like it was no big deal. But it is.

Perhaps the folks interviewed were ashamed, or perhaps they were existentially ignorant. The United States of America is, hands down, the greatest country the world has seen, and the most audacious social experiment undertaken. If you can name a nation-state that has done more to advance the human spirit than this one, let me know. And yes, I’m including England.

I think it’s safe to say that the experiment has failed. We had a good run, but it appears the majority of people don’t want freedom; they want security. Give most people three squares and a bed, and they’ll do whatever you say. It’s sad, pathetic, and entirely natural. America is about freedom of will and individual choice, but it’s hard to do that. It takes exceptional individuals to embrace those concepts, and most people aren’t exceptional.

I last attended a Fourth celebration some ten years ago. I’m not a crusty old curmudgeon, but I can’t get behind the rah-rah when I know that most of those in attendance are serfs to the State, and voted themselves into it. Think it’s tough being a pimp; try being a patriot.

Hey Japan, the US called and Wants Their Trophy Back

I watched most of the FIFA World Cup Women’s soccer game, because it was a sport’s championship, and the first ever rematch in Women’s World Cup.  Japan beat the US in the last iteration of the Cup in 2011, and it was apparent the US was out for blood. I started watching at 30 minutes in, which means I missed Carli Lloyd scoring a hat trick inside 20 minutes. That’s incredible.

Even after the own-goal in the 52nd minute, the US had a comfortable lead. And while the US side could have played ball control and run the clock, the team pushed the pace and shelled Japan’s goal. They wanted this game. The Japanese ball control and passing was impressive, but the US team was not going to be denied. Chapeau!

The Worst Internet Trend

I share a house and Internet with my landlord, and last month we noticed our data rate increasing. We both use about the same bandwidth monthly, so usage likely wouldn’t figure. We both noticed that websites increasingly use video ads.  Video sucks up more bandwidth than static images, so it’s likely our increased usage was the result of those same-same video ads.

So we have a situation in which we have to adjust our data plan, or switch providers (which we did), in order to accommodate advertisers sucking up our bandwidth. What this amounts to is our subsidizing people to send us advertising. I call bullshit. I may have to spend an afternoon looking into ways to curtail or prevent this practice.

Posted by: bkivey | 26 June 2015

Bonneville Dam

After touring the waterfalls along the Columbia Historic Highway, I drove up to Bonneville Dam to have a look.  Completed in 1937, this impressive structure was built for power generation, flood control, and river navigation. The first stop in the complex is the guardhouse , where you will be asked if you’re packing. The only acceptable answer is ‘no’. I asked the guard what happens if someone answers in the affirmative, and was told they’d be turned away. You can’t leave your firearm at the guardhouse, so if you visit, leave the heat at home.

The Visitor’s Center is about a mile from the entrance, and on the way you’ll drive across the locks:

Bonneville Locks 1

 

cross the bridge in front of the powerhouse:

Driving in front of the Powerhouse

 

Eventually you come to the large parking lot in front of the Visitor’s Center:

Bonneville Powerhouse Panorama

 

The powerhouse is on the left, and the Visitor’s Center is out of frame to the right. To the right of the parking lot is the spillway, which was in use this day:

Bonneville Dam Spillway

 

Given the paucity of precipitation this past winter, I was surprised there was enough water to justify spilling. It turns out that small salmon survive the spillway better than the trip through the turbines, so the dam will spill water to aid fish.

Bonneville Visitor's Center 1

 

The Visitor’s Center is a multi-story structure containing a museum, observation deck, and gallery to view the fish ladder. The museum has a variety of exhibits on the history of the dam and Columbia river. There’s a fairly good section on the Lewis & Clark expedition. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t see any exhibits proselytizing the State religion of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

The fish ladder is directly in front of the Visitor’s Center:

Bonneville Fish Ladder Downstream

 

There are fish visible in the water, but I didn’t see any fish leaping action. For a different view of the fish ladder, you can go to the bottom level of the Visitor’s Center:

View Into Fish Ladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon underwater

 

But wait, what are those tubes on the bottom?

Lampreys on glass

 

What the fuck?! Apparently the Columbia is full of lamprey, nature’s piscatorial hellspawn. I knew what a lamprey was, but had never seen one, especially inches away. For the last 450 million years, these fish have been using their rotary saw sucker mouths to latch onto a fish and suck their blood. Good times.

After that horror show, I went outside to tour the powerhouse, where the water meets the wire, so to speak.

Bonneville Powerhouse 1

 

Disappointingly, the powerhouse is only available to guided tours, and the last tour had already left. I’ll have to think of a reason to come back out when I can catch a tour.

Finished up the day at a tavern in Cascade Locks for a late lunch/early dinner, and then the drive back home. All in all, a nice little day trip to break up the week.

Posted by: bkivey | 25 June 2015

Touring the Columbia Gorge

For the past three years I’ve complained that I don’t get to do anything in the Summer because I’m too busy. This week I had an unscheduled day off, and it was Summer, so I decided to do something fun outdoors, and that something was playing tourist in one of the great scenic attractions in the country, the Columbia Gorge.

The Gorge is where the Columbia river cuts through the Cascade mountains on it’s way to the Pacific ocean, and is the only water-level crossing through the mountains. Lewis & Ckark were the first Europeans to travel the river from Idaho to the coast, while the river served as a source of food and commerce for the natives in the watershed. The river still serves in those capacities, with railroads and highways along its banks, and large amounts of river traffic plying the waters as far as Lewiston, ID.

Because of the geography and the forces involved in carving the Gorge, it’s spectacularly scenic. That formational history also served to create the largest collection of waterfalls in North America on the Oregon side of the river. There are some two dozen waterfalls concentrated in a section about 10 miles long east of Troutdale. About half a dozen are visible from the road or by a short walk. There are also a number of overlooks along the way.

The first modern road through the Gorge was US 30. Influenced by the scenic highways of Europe, entrepreneur  Sam Hill and chief engineer Samuel Lancaster were determined to route the road so as to take advantage of the areas great natural beauty while maintaining moderate grades. They were stunningly successful, and the Historic Columbia River Highway is a must-see if you’re in Portland.

Taking I-84 east, the Highway starts in Troutdale, and starts to make it’s way along the escarpments lining the river. The first point of interest is Portland Women’s Forum Overlook. The plaque has a representation of Sam Hill.

Portland Women's Forum Overlook Sign

From the overlook there”s this view:

Portland Women's Forum Overlook

 

West is on the left and East on the right. There was a marine cloud layer, and it was threatening rain, but I figured the clouds would burn off by early afternoon.  A little further along is Vista House:

Vista House

 

There are stairs to the balcony above, and a museum and gift shop below. There is also a vista.

A couple miles down the road is Latourell Falls. They’re a short hike off the road:

Latourell Falls

 

It plunges over ancient lava flows (what, you thought our volcanoes were just for looks?), and the basalt formations are striking.

Next is Shepard’s Dell Falls. They’re visible from the road, but a short staircase leads down into the canyon for a closer view.

Shepard's Dell Falls

 

About a mile away is Bridal Veil Falls. Getting to these falls requires a short hike of about 1500 feet. The remains of a sawmill are in the area.

Bridal Veil Falls 1

 

About a mile and a half further are Wahkeena Falls. These are sort of visible from the road:

Wahkeena Falls from road

 

Sun starting to come out. There’s a short trail for a closer view:

Wahkeena Falls 1

 

Another view:

Wahkeena Falls 3

 

Here is where the fact it’s summer vacation season became apparent. Parking was at a premium, and there were a fair number of people about; more than I would have expected for the middle of the week. It was also starting to warm up, so the coolness of the forest and spray from the falls was welcome. There are several trailheads here, including one to Multnomah Falls about a half mile away. Rather than give up my parking space, I elected to hike to the falls.

Along the trail, some water falling down the slope and off the vegetation. Perhaps a nascent waterfall?

Trailside water falling 2

 

And the trail ducks under an overhang:

Overhang on Multnomah trail

 

The trail pops out at Oregon’s signature waterfall, Multnomah Falls:

Multnomah Falls 1

 

This waterfall is right next to the road. There’s a short trail to the bridge, and another trail about a mile long to the top. I only elected to go as far as the bridge, where you can look at the people looking at you:

View from Mutnomah Falls bridge

 

There’s a railroad bridge with a sign helpfully noting distances to various points:

Railroad sign at Multnomah Falls

 

Rail traffic is heavy, and the trains move fast. A good idea to stay off the tracks.

Back down the trail and to the car for the next attraction, Horsetail Falls. These are also visible from the road:

Horsetaiil Falls 1

 

The pool is a popular swimming spot. These are the last falls on this stretch of US 30, but a few miles away is another attraction, Bonneville Dam. I’ve passed the dam many times, but never stopped to visit. Bonneville isn’t just a hunk of concrete stretched across the river, but an entire hydroelectric complex. There’s a lot going on there, so I’ll save it for the next post.

 

 

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