Saturday, December 27, 2008

Slipping anchor (1981)

When I was younger I spent some time as the designated slave labor, er...first mate, aboard a sail boat (a 54 foot schooner ridged ketch if it matters). As a matter of course I slept on deck (if anything went wrong at night I had "watch"). We sailed the South Pacific, mostly around the Kingdom of Tonga.

One night we anchored in probably the best anchorage of the tour, forty feet of water with a sandy bottom. The anchorage's only problem was that it was very narrow and the shelf plunged very swiftly. We arrived early in the afternoon to let the passengers play on the sandy beach while we (er me) fixed a barbecue.

We turned in after sunset and set the evening watch. The night was a crystal clear moonless night. All aboard went to bed (or deck as the case may be) and most slept soundly. At about 6 bells (3:00 A.M.) I suddenly awoke. I looked up to find out why I woke up. As I looked around I noticed that the stars were moving relative to the islands in front of them. Hmmm, stars don't move that fast, neither do islands. I went forward and saw that our anchor line was limp. I went back to the captain's quarters to explain our problem (we were drifting into the Pacific). Using star light alone we sailed back to the anchorage (about 1 hour). When we got back we redropped the anchor. In order to make sure the anchor was set I dove in 40 ft of water and physically set the anchor. Everyone, save me, went back to bed. I baby sat the anchor.

I did not get paid as it were for the job, instead I was given 3 weeks in New Zealand and Australia. Meet lots of great people and had a wonderful time. I look forward to going back sometime.

As a side note, I found out this Christmas that my brother was an environmental consultant for the Sydney Olympics. He spent a few months touring Australia, ah...studying the environment, yeah we'll go with that one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Did anybody get the license plate of that truck?

In the early days of Los Alamos, the town was in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town was Santa Fe, which was 40 miles away over dirt roads. People that worked on the bomb here were outdoor oriented. In the early fifties my dad and two friends started a gold mining company called the Golden Bee (Boyd, Ennis, Emigh). The real purpose of this company was just to organized campouts. Fact is, in over twenty years of panning my dad has an itty bitty flake worth about five cents. By the time I came and was aware the pretense was basically over.

My first Golden Bee memory was going to a lake in Colorado. The only reason I remember it is thanks to my two brothers. They were using an iron pipe to toss rocks in the lake. As they were doing this I walked up behind Ted and was promptly whacked in the head with the iron pipe. I got three stitches from that hit (and my brothers got to see a little bit of skull). But in the end it was all worth it, I got a really nifty Tonka Truck construction kit. I am also convinced that that the hit made a physicist out of me.

Just as a side note, the scar disappeared for good two years ago, unlike my single Chicken Pox scar which persists.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts in the (Sleepless) Night, a Haunting

Sometimes I seriously wonder how my mind works. Last night, out of the blue, I started to think about Andy McQueen. He was among my oldest brother's best friends. I believe it was a target pistol he used to end his life in 1965, but frankly I think he would have found some way to kill himself that day. He suffered severe depression (and in my opinion he was probably bipolar).

When Andy was around it was OK for a 12 year old to hang out with the older boys. After he left to go home it was time for me to disappear into my own room. He was the first person I met that had genuine charisma, everyone liked Andy. Like my brothers and me he was a member of Explorer Post 20. We specialized in running rivers. In 1965 we ran the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. But the McQueens had just moved to the valley and needed Andy's help to settle the family in their new home. So he could not join us.

The Middle Fork is in Idaho. It took us 3 days to drive up in our World War Two era bus and 2 &1/2 ton army surplus truck. After we ran the river (an eight day adventure) "Stretch", an adult advisor, called home to say we had run the river safely. After the call the advisers had a conference and announced that we were going to drive home via Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. As we approached Jackson Hole, Wyoming we turned to drive east on a rugged road to a church in the middle of nowhere, a minor tourist destination in itself. The church had a huge picture window with a fabulous view of the Grand Tetons.

As we got out of the bus the advisers told us about the suicide. Among the 25 or so boys there were three general reactions: anger, sorrow, and bewilderment, which was my reaction. (I have to admit suicide still bewilders me, even though I have known about a dozen people personally that have made that "choice".) I am sure there was not a dry eye among the boys. We spent about an hour at the little church with each boy consumed with his own thoughts. The rest of the trip was very quiet.

But this is really about a haunting. Every so often his suicide invades my mind and I can not get rid of it for weeks. And of course, I replay each and every other suicide of people I have known. But the only other one I would blog about, was the father of a good high school friend of mine. What makes that one so interesting is that her mother remarried about 5 years later to the mayor of Albuquerque. I will never blog about Scott's suicide because I do not plan on ever forgiving him. Welcome to my haunting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Being a dad, a random tour

This is not about my two girls and me, but rather about my dad and his three boys. I will remind you I am from NM and distances are vast. It is 4 and 1/2 hours from home to Roswell. In my day high schools were three years, freshmen were in junior high.

Buzz: three years football (center), three years track (discus and shot put)
Ted: three years football (two years bench warmer, one year all-state center), three years track (mid-distances, all in relays)
David: Three years Cross-Country, Two years track (long distance, I was Will Parker in "Oklahoma" as a senior).

Me dancing, heh. My dad taught me how to tap, during the depression he tapped for nickels in bars. If I tried that I would probably have to give all the patrons dimes.

Dad never missed a meet. I remember going to Roswell to watch Ted's football team get crushed and Ted sit on the bench. We followed the team bus home and got home at 5:30am (school busses back then were really slow). The best trip was up to Raton. To get there we had to go through Eagles Nest Pass. It was October and the trees were changing. The mountains were literally aflame with reds and purples. The trip there was so stunning I don't remember what happened in the game.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Partial list of rivers run

Just to put a time line on all this, I ran rivers from 1963 t0 1974, during the summers I sailed Schooner rigged Ketch's from 1974-1982. I never got my Captain's license and I am sore tempted to get it now. But I got married and other things became more important. Actually we got engaged in May 1982 and she was a tad put out that I disappeared for the summer (sailed the south pacific, very few ports of call).

This is just a list, I have some of these on tape and the others are from memory. I will list the ones on tape first. If you wanna watch me flip a boat in heavy water, arrange a time and bring popcorn. And yes being under the weather is lonely and I am desperate.

On Tape (these trips lasted from 8 days to 22 days, we got REALLY smelly):
Westwater Canyon on the Colorado
Delores River (were I putz around in a boat that is 6 ft long and 3 ft wide)
Cataract Canyon on the Colorado (with flippsie David)
Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado
Salmon River and the Snake River in Idaho/Washington
Middle Fork of the Salmon River (with added Waldo adventure, see below)
Gates of the Ladore on the Green River (Near Dinosaur National Monument), cool fantasy name, eh, I kept looking for elves? (By the way this loosely means the gates of gold)

Not on Tape, The next are not on tape and we did them several times over the years and they lasted 1-3 days:

Whitewater Canyon, Toas Box (one time to pick up an 18 year old floater, very disturbing, it was his birthday and he did nothing wrong, just very bad luck), San Juan Pueblo to the LA Bridge (greenie run) and Big Bend all on the Rio Grande

Chama River
Gila River
Pecos River
The Box, Silida to Cotapaxi, and Royal Gorge all on the Arkansas River
Gunnison River (starting just below the dam)
Salt River
Rogue River in Oregon (just once)
San Juan River

We also did some spelunking. We did several caves but the only name I remember is Cottonwood Cave (near Carlsbad) and we stayed in the cave for the long weekend.

Eagle Scout

Yeah, I am an Eagle Scout. ALL the boys in my family are Eagle Scouts, no choice. Notice the present tense, once an Eagle always an Eagle, Eagle scouts are allowed to wear their medals on their formal uniforms in the military.

To get the Eagle you have to do a special project. I worked with the National Forest Service to thin trees on a particularly hazadous piece of land. I helped mark the trees to be cut and by myself cut down over 300 trees. That was in 1970.

In 2000 the National Parl Service accidently started a fire that burned down 50,000 acres of forest. The forest service was able to use my plot as a fire stop to divert the fire from downtown Los Alamos. I'm so proud.

This is what happened to the trees not in my area. The picture was taken 6 years after the fire. By the way, when I was a kid everyone could help fight fires, so the fire in western area burned less then 1000 acres. Everytime there was a fire John and I would get on our bikes with a shovel to go help, for one fire we rode 15 miles and about 3000 feet up to get into position. In 1990 the Forest Service decided we couldn't fight fires. So we went from 300 professionals and 5000 civilians to just 300-600 professionals. No forest fire since has burned down less than 5000 acres and several up to 10 times that. Hey guys, how did that "professional" crap work out for you?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Short Story and an Apology

Early in my Post 20 career we ran the Chama river (as a Co-ed trip) in New Mexico (very close to Los Alamos). As I recall it was on Memorial Day Weekend. The river was not very tough, but during the spring run off it had some nice big waves. Everyone got soaked. That night we hung our clothes out to dry. Being a desert the days were very hot, even this early in the year. What we forgot was that since the air was (and is) very dry the temperatures would plunge at night. This weekend the highs were in the Low 80’s and the nightime lows in the mid 20’s. Needless to say all of our clothes froze solid. Our socks looked like bacon and our shirts and pants were frozen slabs. We spent the next morning gathering wood for a fire and getting breakfast ready in the comfort of our sleeping bags. Think bag races.

As a side note, and this comes 40 years too late, when I think of running rivers and girls I think of Valerie Vandergust. She enjoyed running rivers as much as I did. She also, for about a year or so, fell in love with me. I was a complete idiot and liked the birds in the bush rather than the real gem (and I mean that) in my hand. What can I say, I was an idiot teenager. Val, wherever you are, I wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Carbon Market

As I was reading various blogs, I read the following very interesting comment following this link.

“As Gore has said many times, he offsets all his carbon expenditures. He’s carbon neutral, more than can be said for most of you. “

Now as many know what he is talking about are “carbon” commodities (carbon dioxide). Under Kyoto every country (save a few well known exceptions) has a carbon allowance. If your industry makes carbon over your country’s allowance you are supposed to buy carbon from a county that is below its allowance. The idea is that the demand would outrun supply, thereby making carbon commodities and futures dear. Well a funny thing happened on the way to the commodities market. Carbon crashed. Hard. Almost none of the industrial countries are paying into the scheme. This makes demand very low and supply is quite high.

In today’s market I could make my household carbon neutral for about six bucks (high fives all around). Does this mean that some industry somewhere will alter its behavior to produce less carbon? Nope, it means that some country like Botswana gets chump change for the sale (brokers in a crashed market tend to make most of the money that changes hands). Perhaps I could go to a country like Sudan, buy their carbon and get them to shut down a carbon producing unit (we call them villages).

Now Al Gore is producing millions of metric tons of carbon a year from flying privately all over the place. He goes to the carbon market, pays the wergild, and gets to claim himself carbon neutral. The world for his travels has millions of tons of carbon more than it would otherwise. Period. Tonight Al Gore will travel to the land of carbon over indulgers to no doubt receive an Oscar. And all will feel so good about themselves because they care.