Thursday, December 31, 2009
There seems to be a dearth of opinions concerning Avatar :) so I'll slide mine in.
Plot...A cowboys and Indians flick where the cowboys are schooled, Clint Eastwood is killed, Keven Costner falls in love with Pocahontas, then is reincarnated as a blue giant after the Erin Brockovich like environment whips up on the evil corporations. In a word...worn liberal tripe. OK , three words.
It is extreme liberalism wrapped in a stunning spectacle. Much like I enjoy Pearl Jam or Nirvana, I enjoyed the ride Avatar offered only superficially as the core is bitter. But unlike The Phantom Menace this movie does have a plot. True creativity is dead in Hollywood.
Immense superficial enjoyment. Go see it!
--Clueless Clarence Page believes Tea Bag Protesters asked to be referred to as "Teabaggers"
--Max Baucus: The eggnog wasn't spiked...I was sober.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I have seen "talk" of this executive order, but like others have found it unlikely President Obama would have signed off on such an abdication of sovereignty. It seemed a little tinfoil and I have been skeptical, but now I see it is on the radar at The Anchoress and Erick Erickson at Red State. I am not so sanguine now. Color me enlightened. In fact, I find it somewhat frightening when The Anchoress posts:
I know it is very difficult to get anyone interested in this Executive Order, because the dishonest Obamacare bill is dominating the day. This is part of the problem: Obama and his team have started so many fires that while one is being fought in one place, another is taking hold, elsewhere. But the thing is, the fires are all connected, and they come from the same source.
I’ve linked to it a few times, lately, but I am going to fully repost something I wrote 4 years ago, about how to recognize a coup and stop it. If it is not too late, it is very nearly too late.
Ed Morrisey over at Hot Air asks:
Does the White House intend to treat Americans worse than the terrorists we’ve captured during wartime?
It certainly seems so to me. Any interpretation of this Executive Order leads one to believe that an arm of law enforcement exogenous of constitutional reach is being granted operational rights and privileges beyond what is normally within the scope of American law enforcement.
A translation of the Order from Noisy Room:
This now says that Interpol is no longer subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Their premises or staff can no longer be searched either. Their files are not subject to legal subpoena or discovery. Our government could just hand documents and files over to Interpol and Americans would no longer have access to them. Interpol can legally keep files now on all citizens of the US with no right to redress.Just how does we defend ourselves if arrested by interpol without discovery?
How does this executive order differ from the complaints Liberals and Democrats had during the Bush years? You know, the "shredding of The Bill of Rights" squawking.
I believe the primary difference is that the rights being abdicated during the Bush years were in essence handed over to American authorities whereas the rights Obama has signed away are being granted to an intra-governmental organization operating outside the constraints of the constitution, but still on American soil.
The NY Times connects this Executive Order to the UN. Remember Lord Monckton's warning that the UN Climate Change treaty to be signed in Copenhagen was an attempt at World Government. It certainly seems that Interpol would be the perfect form of enforcement if the US is subordinated to it.
The Senate bill has a provision requiring businesses with over 50 employees to pay a fine of $750-per-worker fine for any employee who purchases subsidized health insurance on their own. However, the provision was amended to require construction businesses with more than five employees to pay the same fine.
The construction industry says that in these lean financial times the provision will result in many of them being forced out of business.
The amendment was inserted Wednesday morning in order to garner the necessary 60 votes to pass the bill.
Construction firms are crying foul over the provision that treats them differently from every other business with fewer than 50 employees.
Our Senators' solution for the problem of those approximately 20 million individuals who want a health care plan but can't afford it is to force everyone to buy a health care plan unless...get this...they are unable to afford it. Therefore, in the end, those same 20 million who want a health care plan are without. They fix NOTHING but greatly improve the opportunity for government graft. Simply awful.
If this bill were enacted in any state I lived, I would move. Where does one go, though, when choice is removed by an unconstitutional usurpation of state rights and all states are bound by the same law? What sort of country will be left to our children when state governments find it less and less necessary to compete with each other for population and business as federalism withers? What happens to liberty as power accumulates farther from the people?
More and more I am thinking of bailing. Texas.
Monday, December 28, 2009
A guy dons explosive underwear, 'just some guy' to be PC. He passes unnoticed through a gauntlet of government barriers relying on the fact that he is designated as 'just some guy' and attempts to ignite said underwear over Detroit. He fails.
He fails, not due to the government barriers that we are all inconvenienced by, but rather by an alert individual who got out of his seat to end the threat. Just to be clear the would be bomber failed due to individual action rather than collective action.
Oh, so embarrassing to bureaucracy when inconvenience is unnaturally upended as a piss-ant individual inconveniences government. What's government to do? Why, institute a new guideline criminalizing individuals getting up in the last hour of the flight, of course. Then claim faulty ignition saved the flight (a kernel of truth?) , then for good measure, calmly claim "The system worked.". Multiple times. And lastly, Have Obama attempt to paint the bomber as an isolated extremist.
Added: From Miles O'Brian at True Slant.
The truth is the only aspect of our post 9/11 defense that has turned out to be 100% effective are the passengers themselves. Without really thinking about it we have become an airborne militia – all watching and ready to kick al Qaeda butt at the drop of… a pair of trousers. It began in Shanksville – it effectively thwarted the shoe-bomber – and now Captain Underpants.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
No, not entirely; unfortunately the play part had to wait. It was my fault. The night before I was unnecessarily fiddling with the vent fan. I had switched it to high, and then flicked the fan direction to the opposite. Snap! The fan's internal fuse blew. My first thought: OK, I won't do that again. The fuse that blew was an increasingly difficult to find older style clear glass cylindrical automotive type. The fan is necessary for comfort but I didn't have a replacement fuse. Solution? Temporarily wrap the blown fuse in aluminum foil and avoid any fiddling for the rest of the night. So after sunrise and with playtime on hold, we went on a fuse hunt by van. Luck was with us as we finally found what we were looking for at an auto garage near the fire station. We also used the opportunity to get a bag of ice being that we had the van to quickly tote it home in. A friendly camper we met gave us some good shopping info. during a chat. Don't bring ice back to camp by bus. Apparently it had been more of a melting experience them. :)
With the ice and fuse chores taken care of we took off by foot to explore. We were still getting oriented and if there was one take-away from our fuse run it was that we didn't know our way around. The bus seemed like a good bet and an excellent way to learn the locations of places.
As in other parks, the buses are free and comfortable. The buses in Yosemite even had air conditioning. The parks are attempting to lower traffic congestion and the buses are an excellent method to that end. The park, though, make no secret of the fact that they would prefer to exile all automobiles to locations outside the park. I believe this is logistically impossible considering camping equipment needs and the size of the park.
We got off the bus at the nearest of the four visitor's centers, the Yosemite Valley Visitor's Center. Not part of the visitor's center, although part of the same structure, was an art store. I enjoyed flipping through the photos. Inside the adjacent visitor's center Katrina browsed the souvenir shop for a Yosemite sticker to cover blemishes on the back of the camper and add to the collection we had started at the Grand Canyon. We also picked up Junior Ranger books for each of the children before visiting the the theater behind the visitor's center. I repeatedly leave these park movies hungry for more information concerning the geology of the parks we visit. After all, it's often the geology of our various National Parks that sets them apart in the first place. A full explanation of the processes involved would seem unquestioned. Unfortunately, though, geology currently often takes a back seat to anthropology. Although I enjoy anthropology, I feel that much of the discussions called anthropology are really apologies to the indigenous cultures of the area. Some of that time could be better used in fleshing out the natural world before the eyes of the visitors. Parks like Mesa Verde or Gila are anthropological in nature, but parks like The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite are geological in nature and I feel a bias toward geological information should be maintained in parks that exist due to their geology.
After the movie, amid huge sugar pines, we wound our way back to the camper. We passed a swimming pool that we could only hear and never see. We could also smell showers which Katrina and I both made mental note of. Although we were not sure if they were available to campers, we thought we might be able to sneak in later. After all, visiting Europeans seemed to be able to break all manner of park rules in the name of cultural ignorance. Perhaps we could get away with a little stupidity of our own. :)
With our bellies full, back at the campsite, we decided to take the park buses to see Yosemite Falls. It is a two tiered water fall but it is difficult to see both at one time. We unwittingly took the trail loop to see the Lower Falls in the wrong direction. That is not to say it is a one-way path, but it is a path better taken in one direction over the other. In short, walk the Lower Falls path in a clockwise direction.
As it was, we walked the loop counter clockwise. Our first photo had a Marti McFly family photo (Back to The Future) feel to it. The falls in the distance behind my one legged oldest son was the Upper Yosemite Falls which we unfortunately could not hike to. The trail required a bit of climbing and my foot wasn't up to it. Katrina and I doubted the kids were capable of it either.
Shortly after starting the hike we took a spur off the main trail that led to where some believe John Muir built his cabin and saw mill. We were able to enjoy the same views John Muir may have. For the kids the creek he built his cabin near, of course, required exploring. At one point I held Ian's hand as he was stepping from one stone to the next in the water. This required quite a lot of his concentration and when I called to him to smile for a photo he obliged, but without fully loosing the look of concern across his face as he tested the walking stones. The resulting photo of worry overlaid with a smile makes me...smile. Lower Yosemite Falls and Elise were both in the distance behind him. Trey, being more adept at stone walking, explored the creek a little deeper. And Elise, on the way out, found a flower that I was required to photograph. She was becoming accustomed to my regular flower stops and growing into quite the helper on the flower hunts.
The trail eventually led us to a lumber bridge that was the vista point for the Lower Falls. We were still a hundred yards from that bridge and in the woods when we began to feel the effects of the falls. The temperature had dropped and a breeze had picked up, but we had no idea the sudden comfort was due to the proximity of the falls. It became apparent once we got to the bridge. Trees were swaying and the air was heavy with mist. Crowds of people were scampering over the rocks and wading where the rushing water allowed. Farther away some others had made their way over and between the many boulders and gotten much closer to the falls. There must have been hundreds of people but their numbers seemed to be absorbed by the sound, wind, and the largeness of falls, cliffs, boulders and sugar pines.
After a while we were ready for some quiet and moseyed down the trail to some rocks that had fallen from the cliffs above. And yes, the kids climbed them. Once the children felt that they had exhausted all the avenues for exploration they scampered back down leaving Ian behind. Like a treed cat, the trek up was a different proposition than the one down or perhaps he knew he would just be carried down to his Mama. :)
As we made our way down the trail we had to keep a constant eye over our shoulders. This is where we realized we had walked the loop in the wrong direction. From this part of the trail, which was not so much a trail at this point as a boulevard, we could see both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. The foliage is kept unnaturally pruned to reveal the two distant falls as one. Nice. There were many benches for comfortable viewing, although Ian preferred stopping where he was and sitting. He was tired and ready for a break.
He got that break in the form of a bus ride home. He loved riding the buses and waiting for them at a bus stop was a simple source of pleasure for him. Other buses would come and go across the street offering endless enjoyment. Some would tease him by slowly driving by. For Trey and Elise it was more of a "whatever" proposition.
We got home as the sun was setting. It seemed to Katrina and me that, although we lost some of the day to necessities, we would not be able to fit more than two outings in a day. We were developing a feel for the place and timing our tips was getting easier as we got more familiar with the buses.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Why? I don't think it can be denied that the more tyrannical, the more communist, a country is, the filthier it is. It also seems the case that the freer the citizen the cleaner the country is. Could it be that the recourse available to the free to affect change leads to a truer environmentalism? It surly seems so but I assume this path to a cleaner world is too grass roots for the Socialist/Communist/Environmentalist movement. Yes they are of one ..
Friday, December 18, 2009
Once home and finished with the snow-cream (Trey and Ian didn't like it, but Elise did) I watched one of the better movie reviews I have ever seen. It was a review of The Phantom Menace. The reviewer was decidedly negative. I recall being baffled by the movie, but finally resigning myself to the spectacle when I finally saw it. This review is done in seven parts, ten minutes each. I found it more entertaining than The Phantom Menace itself.
At around 1 am I got another photo of Kings Highway. This time the photos were a little clearer as the snow had passed. I still found myself in sleet and freezing rain.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I had a Honda CRX HF during college in the early 90's. I got it used for $700. After $100 for a new clutch and transmission bearing my greasy hands were on the road. It was made in Feb. of 1984 and squeezed between 50 and 55 miles out of each gallon of fuel. With the 10gal tank (not including the reserve) it had a range of 550 miles. Second gear was 1 to 1 which made third, fourth, and fifth all overdrives. The little engine sipped fuel as it turned 1800 rpm at 60 in 5th gear and had only 59 horsepower to offer. It had no back seat but there was enough room in the cargo area for sleeping. I know; I did. It was a success for Honda and the package looked cool, cool, cool.
The Smart is currently being made 25 years after my CRX was built. Like the CRX it is a 2 seater but unlike the CRX storage is paltry. It is powered by a 1 liter engine that produces 20 horse power more than the CRX. 0-60 times, though, are nearly 1 second greater than the roughly 12 seconds the CRX managed. You would think with 25 years of more tech., less space, and slower acceleration it would get better than the EPA rating of 33 mpg city, 41 mpg city. Yea, that's all! With the 8.7 gal tank its range is around 350 miles. Lastly it looks dorky, dorky, dorky.
Did I mention it looks and is dorky?
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Victory! Six months in advance. It felt a little like an Ebay snipe. With this reservation secured we had an anchor around which we could build our trip.
We awoke to a multitude of small harmless insects covering our van and camper. Whatever the attraction was for them it seemed to pale in comparison to the hold the bugs had on Elise. With her occupied with creepy crawlies, Trey sleeping again in the van, and Ian tied down in his car seat, Katrina and I were able to break camp quickly without the fear losing a child to the creek. We were loaded and leaving the campground in record time.
Although unfair to the campground, we were glad to be leaving Portagee Joe. Had Portagee Joe been in North Carolina it would be in high demand. Instead it is at the foot of Mt. Whitney and in the shadow of Whitney Portal Campground. It is destined to perpetual and unfair comparisons to one of the most gorgeous campgrounds the country has to offer. Also we had reservations at another campground in one of the finest parks the country has to offer. We were feeling both a push and a pull. So we left and as we were pulling out of the campground we noticed some folks who had arrived late the night before. Although they had a VW camper, at least one guy preferred sleeping in a tree. It seemed a fitting goodbye from Portigee campground.
We headed north on 395 leaving the town of Lone Pine and Portegee Joe Campground behind. Inyo Forest was visible to both our right and left as mountains that still had dashes of snow in the darker higher crevasses. For a while there were some brown hills to our left that stood between us and the Sierra Nevadas beyond. They were called the Alabama hills and were the home of the "Monster Rock" area we drove through the day before. They began to peter out and eventually disappeared altogether as we continued north.
One of the more disagreeable tasks we had to check off our list for the day was a visit to a grocery store. The groc. we visited in Lone Pine the day before was far to expensive to use as anything more than a dinner stop. We were planing to spend the next 5 nights in a large park and didn't want to depend on park wares any more than necessary. A full stocking of dry goods was needed, so we were on the lookout for a WalMart. Although we spotted some interesting older vehicles during our trek north, we didn't find a WalMart. California doesn't seem to like stores that cater to frugality. We did, however, find a Vons. Initially I was disappointed by all the high end finishes that adorned the interior of the store. It oozed with the appearance of high priced goods like a Harris Teeter back home. And it was expensive... unless one buys in bulk. I got 5 boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats-the real stuff- for $1.50 a box. Smoking! We were also able to cheaply stock up on a few other dry items. We never saw another Vons but we kept a keen eye for one. Thumbs up!
With the van and camper loaded with food we continued north and up. We were gaining in altitude and began to find ourselves among the sort of pines that thrive in higher elevations. They were getting thicker and the snow that had always lurked in the distance seemed much closer. Eventually we spotted Mono lake to our right. Having read about the lake online Katrina had hoped we could make it part of the trip. Regretfully that didn't happen as we were not sure how far our destination was or what the travel conditions would be along the road we had to take, so after refueling in the town of Lee Vining we climbed toward Tioga Pass.
The grade often forced us to the side of the road to let traffic pass and Trey and Elise took to counting cars as they accelerated by us. They counted to 12 one time. We were slow and the traffic heavy but I guess that is as it should be on a road that leads into Yosemite. Soon we were at Tioga pass and waiting for our turn to flash our park pass at Yosemite's gates. We were at 10,000 feet, melting snow was wetting the edge of the road and the skies had a brittle quality that we in North Carolina experience only in winter. This was not the Yosemite I expected. This was better...and we pushed on.
After entering the park we continued through Tulomne Meadows. There were photographers, cameras atop tripods, attempting to capture deep lush fields laced with streams that shattered the sunlight even after leaving the grass for thick forests. Beyond the trees mountains raised the horizon above the tree line and the snow they held seemed to emulate the clouds above. This was a photographer's paradise. Ansel Adams didn't fish in the dessert. Smart.
We continued past massive outcrops of granite often dotted with climbers, past gnarled trees forcing their roots through fissures in the granite and one lake that played host to kayakers just off a sandy beech. As the lake receded behind us, the forests thickened, the heights of the trees increased and some appeared to be shod in form fitting halos of moss.The moss would stand two or three inches straight out of the bark it was rooted to and at times the sun caught the moss such that it would glow an iridescent neon green. Staggering. Everywhere we turned sights begged us to stop, immerse, experience the moment.
We did finally stop, although briefly. We had been driving down hill through a tunnel with trailer in tow. The tunnel was long enough for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and cause whatever was just outside the exit to disappear in an intense wash of daylight. I felt blind; I slowed. Then as I adapted to the sunlight I thought 'check the traffic!!' as a distracted parent pushing a stroller crossed my path. It was a moment lived in slow-motion and terrible clarity. I was fully immersed in the experience. It was not a transcendental or aesthetic moment. ;) Luckily I had already begun to decelerate, without which the anti-lock brakes would not have been sufficient to avert horror. We came to a stop just outside the exit of the tunnel and over looking our first view of Yosemite Valley. Katrina took the pictures. When I was younger I doubt we would have gotten those pictures as I likely would not have slowed do to my temporary blindness.
(In the years after college I recall wondering when I would feel like an adult. I realize I feel like one now. When in the last 20 years did that happen? If I had to choose any one moment, it would have to be the birth of Trey, my first child. It seems it took me 28 years to reach adulthood.)
We continued down into the valley and finally sidled up to the Merced River. We passed waterfalls and vacationers tubing with the river's currents. At one point the air had even taken on an other worldly faintly orange hue. I turned to see the sun was shinning through the wind blown mist of a waterfall. Could we have been inside a rainbow? But I had to focus on driving having gotten lost amid one way roads that seemed to have been patterned after figure eights....overlaid. Soon we found our campground and site. Then after making camp we walked to the one of the park stores to get a feel for how much we would have to depend on our supplies. With the exception of bread the park grocery store was well priced. After I gave the camping supplies a good looking over we left.
Once outside a begging squirrel eyed the children as they ate ice cream on cones that Katrina bought them. After Katrina and I finished off Ian's ice cream we all made our way back to the camper by way of the Merced river. Don't let the river tubers fool you; the river was cold and we fought to keep the children dry.
Back at the camper we transferred all our food to the bear locker and readied ourselves for bed. We felt part of the lucky few.