Monday, September 26

From out of the blue…

At just around noon the phone rang and it was Hilary’s clear-as-a-bell voice on the other end. “Where are you,” I asked. “On top of Turret Peak” she answered. If you’re not familiar with where that is, it’s way off in the middle of the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest. If she were flying an unpressurized airplane, she could only stay at that elevation/altitude for a half hour before needing supplemental oxygen. The only time I was on Turret Peak, there was no such thing as a cell phone, so this was an odd experience for me.

She listed the points of interest she could see from there which included the entire Muir Trail Ranch of course, the stone hut on Muir Pass, Paiute Pass (where our horses will be in just a few days), and myriad other things that I’m sure existed when I was at that same spot decades ago, but were unknown to me. The air was clear so the view was incredible.

I asked if she had taken her “real” camera. No, this was a pleasure trip, not a photographic assignment. She and two of the other women had decided to take a day off and do some horseback riding. Just one of the perks you get when you work at the ranch, like having your own goose down pillow and all the cool spring water you can drink and hot spring baths you can soak in.

Jewelry in the making

Gold and white enamel are combined into a fine filigree for this brooch. But don’t wear it or it may freeze to your skin. This picture shows dry ice beds at the south pole on Mars. Carbon dioxide freezes into ponds that later sublimate (turn directly into gas) and disappear for the rest of the year. So far nobody knows what gives the pit walls their gold color.

Boy, you just never know what you’re gonna find out there in the big ol’ universe, do ya?

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Sunday, September 25

Two cheetahs and a gopher

Last Thursday Luke and Randy dropped by the lower ranch with one goal in mind—to finish putting a roof over our double barn. Several months ago we had a couple of 28-foot-long truck trailers, without their wheels, installed next to each other. There was a space between them that, once roofed over, would provide a nice place to park our aluminum ferry boat, which we bring down every year from the lake. (The bigger all-steel ferry boat has its own storage building at the lake.) Off to the east we extended the roof to protect the aluminum “luggage boat,” which also gets hauled down yearly.

The project had remained in a partially-roofed state for several months. The cheetahs arrived and in less than one-and-a-half days finished the job. I, the gofer, was near finished myself, not accustomed to that kind of work speed. They both agreed that they could have completed the job in just one day if it hadn’t been so hot and humid—near 100°F. They had to take breaks in the shade and dip their heads in the cold spring-water-fed horse trough for cooling.

When the two of them left, the place felt empty and a little dead. Randy will be heading back to his home in England after a whole summer at the high ranch, while Luke returns to finish some projects, supervise the removal of some hazard trees, and take the horses over Paiute Pass to the Bishop side for trailering down to Furnace Creek Stables in Death Valley for the winter.

Saturday, September 24

Caught in the act

I was wondering if my skill at Solitaire was waning when I noticed something odd. This deck has two Jacks of Clubs! No wonder I couldn’t win no matter what! I couldn’t drag the offending double away off the board, so it seems the only thing to do is restart the computer and hope the glitch is only temporary.

It reminds me of how people think computers and electronics in general are so infallible. Several years ago I was shopping for a thermometer at a pharmacy and saw that there weren’t any plain old mercury thermometers, only the digital ones. I asked the pharmacist if he had any regular analog types and he said Oh no, they’re illegal anymore. “And besides,” he added, “the new ones are all digital!” as if that were a marvelous improvement. I worked in electronics for way too long to be fooled by that belief.

I think I’ll just go to bed.

I’m back

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile, and am glad to see that some of my readers kept the fish and the gopher fed. Thanks!

Re-reading Atlas Shrugged kind of takes all your time and energy, but I’m recovered now. That book changed my life at a young age. I was sixteen when I first read it. I recommend that you wait till at least 25 or so so you have some more maturity and don’t end up hating the idiotic world. Of course, the world is still a mess anyway…

Saturday, September 10

It’s a start…

Raindrops smatter the windshield

Today at about a quarter past five in the afternoon there was a terrific lightning flash really close, followed by a clap of thunder that made me jump, right after jumping because the lightning caused snaps on the ground as I walked along. I didn’t quite see what snapped, but I sure heard it. One lightning bolt, two jumps; that’s pretty good. So far it hadn’t rained even a drop. The National Weather Service is publishing Red Flag Warnings for lightning-caused wildfires here in the foothills.

Dang! That’s all we need! It has been very windy off and on, enough wind to have actually blown two socks off the clothesline! Then, finally, a smattering of rain. But nowhere near enough to suppress any wind-blown wildfire, that’s for sure.

Off in the distance to the south I can see dark bands of rain pouring out of the clouds, but it hasn’t gotten up here yet. I lived through the most destructive wildfire in history in this area in 1961, and I don’t want a repeat of that awful experience. The fire was clocked at between 45 and 60 miles per hour. There was no escape, 200 houses were lost and two people died. This area has grown up so much that now 2,000 houses would be lost if that fire came through.

Think rain. Lots of rain.

Friday, September 9

Rain? Rain? Please! Please!

I stepped outside a few minutes ago and smelled rain. Then I felt a drop on my forehead. The weather prediction is for low percentage chances of thunderstorms for the next two or three days, so if we can get the wet stuff before we get hit with the hot sparky stuff I’m a happy camper. If we get an inch or so of rain, that’s the best of all since it will start the winter feed growing for the hungry horses we have here.

Now if the horses and mules will stop their silly ballet moves and get to the down and dirty rain dances, I’ll be very happy.

Saturday, September 3

Nineteen Eighty-Four

As promised, getting the Kindle edition took only a few minutes. I dove in and was captured by Orwell’s powerful prose. It had been decades since I read the book, and fortunately for me, I had forgotten about 110% of it, so it was an all-new experience. It ends, sadly, with the protagonist’s total mental and spiritual defeat, but for quite awhile your hopes were up that he could make it and triumph against the dystopian state of the world. The upshot is that it was hopeless to fight the system because the system was so thoroughly established and meticulously maintained. Nobody is to be trusted, though again there are glimmers of hope. It’s a wrenching experience, but one you shouldn’t miss.

Occasionally I was shocked when the story mimicked what is happening today! Reminding me of my last blog post—Scary.

I wish Amazon could produce a flawless Kindle edition of anything. This one had page numbers popping up occasionally in the body of the work. Annoying, but the price is right. And you can’t beat the speed of delivery. I was thinking about which books people buy in the physical paper versions versus the ones they buy as ebooks. I came up with two reasons for the ebook: Nobody will see it on your coffee table and think you’re a radical or a creep, or belong in jail; the other is that you’re cheap.

Or three: You’re green. Or all of the above. What do I know! Ask Big Brother!