Monday, July 16, 2018

Helsinki

I have been barking mad, foaming at the mouth all day over the press conference in Helsinki.  Rather than posting the gigantic screed rolling around in my head, I will quote Senator john McCain.  Frequently I disagree with him, but not today.

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.

The full text of Senator McCain’s remarks can be found here.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Political Landscape

While we were incommunicado on our cross country dash, our president further heaped glory upon himself.  After totally dissing NATO and the EU, he went on to weaken Prime Minister May’s position on Brexit and praised her rival, Boris Johnson.  He and the missus were late to have tea with the Queen of England, he walked in front of her while inspecting the troops and failed to modulate his pace to that of a 92 year old woman – thus demonstrating his complete disregard for her.  Next he’s off to Finland to continue his bromance with Vlad.  Today, when asked who he considers a great foe of the US, he said it would be the EU.  I can’t stand it.  But enough about him.

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Who has been keep an eye on the FCC?  Their fearless leader, Ajit Pai, is continuing his efforts to kill the Lifeline program.  It’s a program that subsidizes internet access for poor people.  It particularly benefits Native Americans.  He’s cutting direct subsidies to the tribes, and he’s requiring that those people who do receive subsidies must use the major carriers instead of resellers.  Resellers do not charge as much as the majors.  It’s a two-fer of badness!

Pai is also busy trying to circumvent a court challenge to Sinclair’s take over of the Tribune network of stations.  If that goes through, Sinclair will be in 77% of markets.  This flies in the face of rules put in place in the 1970s that limited how many markets a single owner could be in.

Update to post 7/16/18:  This is from the NYT
The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to create a broadcasting behemoth that could rival Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News was dealt a potentially crippling blow on Monday by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Sinclair, already the largest owner of local television stations in the United States, is seeking to buy rival Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The F.C.C.’s chairman, Ajit Pai, said Monday that he had “serious concerns” with the acquisition and was seeking to have a judge review aspects of the deal.
Apparently, Pai is being investigated for his tireless work on behalf of the Sinclair company.  So he's recommending that the purchase of Tribune be referred to an administrative law judge. Maybe this will be derailed, that would be a good thing.  End update to post.


Meanwhile, HHS is taking down a data base containing 20 years worth of medical guidelines.  It costs $1.2M a year to keep the database up.  HHS is claiming that due to budget cuts, they just can’t afford to keep it going.  This is stupid.  Doctors use this when they have a question about treatment options.  For the cost of one golf outing for the president, they could keep the database up.  They’re not even going to archive it!  It’s going to be flat out gone tomorrow.

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So there you go!

If you spend a lot of time talking on your cell phone, read this.  Apparently some studies which were paid for by the industry, might not have been telling the complete truth about the dangers of the radiation cell phones emit.  Jim sent me this – it’s very informative.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Road Trip to South Dakota and Back

Greetings Earthlings!  Have you missed me?  We were forced by the SD drivers' licensing department to actually go to SD to renew our licenses instead of using the online system.  I was so pissed about this that I was unable to post before our departure; snakes and poisonous spiders would have erupted from my fingertips while typing, I was that mad about the whole thing.  We debated flying, but I hate flying out of Seatac due to the crowds.  We debated taking the RV, but it would have added several days to the trip.  So Sunday we just up and drove to Butte, Montana (579 miles, 931 km).  It was a long day.  The second day was Butte to Rapid City which was also long (542 miles, 872 km).  Coming back we added a day of driving, so it wasn't so painful.

Parts of the drive are bucolic.  Here we have trees, hay bales and water.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where this was taken.  But it was pretty.


On the way east we saw many parts of wind turbines being transported.  There were blades and bases on many trucks.


Much of  I90 through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are under construction.  I think every bridge deck in Montana is being reworked east bound.  Apparently they've finished them west bound.  When we did this drive in 2013, I was complaining about the amount of freeway that had been taken down to dirt.  They're not done, five years later!  Traffic gets shunted onto the other side of the freeway, and it's single file for miles.  Getting behind an oversized load or a big truck really slowed progress.


This is the Wyodak facility in Wyoming.  It converts coal into electricity.  As we all know, our current president is a big fan of coal, it's a national security issue for him.


On the other side of the freeway is where they mine the coal.  It's placed on a conveyor belt to take it to the electrical plant.  They're mining right up to the side of the freeway.



Near the Black Hills in SD there is a lot of red dirt.  It's eroding sand stone formed a gazillion years by an inland sea.


It's really pretty out there.


They grow a lot of yellow stuff.


The western side of Montana is just gorgeous.  Lots of trees and rock formations.


Here we have a giant mine, that is no longer being worked.  I believe it was for copper, or maybe silver.  Anyway, look at the size of that thing.


The Anaconda Smelter Stack has been preserved as a state park.  You can't get close to the stack because of ground contamination.
The old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack, completed in 1919, is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world at 585 feet. The inside diameter is 75 feet at the bottom, tapering to 60 feet at the top. In comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall.
That's the old mine off to the left.  The smelter closed in 1981.


Jim's Dad was a Vice President of the Pacific Division of the Milwaukee Railroad.  Jim spent much time on trains when he was young, which I wrote about here.  When we are near train displays, we must go and see them.  Our first stop was in Deer Lodge, Montana.  They have two old engines on display.  It's well done.  They're on tracks, with ballast applied around the rails and the power poles are up.  The question I have is when rail lines are dug up, what happens to all the ballast?  Does it get shoveled up?  Do they leave it?  What?

Here we have one of two surviving Little Joe engines.  They're called that because originally they were built for Russia, when it was ruled by Joseph Stalin.  President Truman embargoed the engines as strategic assets due to the beginning of the Cold War.  The Milwaukee bought 12 of them.  They had to go into the shop and have their wheels put closer together, as the Russian track gauge is wider than that of the US. The engines were immensely powerful.  In the early 1960s, controls were added to the Little Joes so that diesel helper engines could be added to the consist to pull heavy freight loads over the mountains.


This engine was more comfortable for the engineers, as the box was mounted on bushings.  Older engines beat the staff unmercifully.


They also have an E9, which is a 2,400-horsepower (1,790 kW) diesel engine.  It was used for freight and passenger service.



The electrified railroad had a lot of moving parts.  Besides the dammed water turning turbines creating electricity and transmitting down the wires to transformers kept in oil baths, there were substations.  These were spaced between 30 and 40 miles apart. The substations converted power to 3000 Volt DC by means of motor generator (MG) sets before passing the power on to the overhead trolley.  DC power can't be transmitted over long distances, so there were 22 substations to support the route.

The Gold Creek substation is now privately owned and is in use, probably for storage.  It looks good.  The windows are intact and there is no graffiti.




This is what happens when a substation is not protected.  There are trees growing up through the roof, the glass is gone and it's been spray painted.  It's sad to see.  The Milwaukee Line was such an epic construction project and to see it just ripped up and abandoned is sad.  The substation's name is Ravenna.


Next we went by the Primrose Substation, which is near Missoula.  There is a very interesting article here, that was written in 2014. If you're running an ad blocker, you'll have to turn it off for just that page.  The substation is owned by a married couple.  He's a linguistics expert in the National Guard, and she works with families of deployed personnel.  They bought the substation right after they got married.  The plan was to have a garden and grow small livestock (think rabbits and ducks) for a farm to table restaurant.  There were also plans to host weddings and community events.  It does not appear that their business plan has worked out.  The substation is missing glass and seems to be used for storage.  They did leave some of the electrical connections on the roof, which is cool.  In 2014 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are "no trespassing" signs everywhere, which I suspect is to keep the train people from wanting to walk around Primrose and ask questions.  The size of the fan groups of the Milwaukee Line on the internet is just astonishing.  Here is an excellent example of fandom.  The Lost Rail blog is also a good read.



After leaving Deer Lodge we drove by an abandoned lumber mill.  This is the kind of stuff you see when you get off the freeway, which I have to admit we don't do very often.  It's an enormous thing, occupying space on both sides of the road.  Further west was an abandoned aluminum smelter, also huge. 


We drove through Alberton, MT to check on an old depot.  You can see the old signal out in front.  The building is now an antique store.  Alberton is off the freeway and is very tiny, population was 420 in the 2010 census. 


They do have a tavern - Sporty's.  They have a sign on the door that says "no sniveling."  They also have an impressively large bookstore.  There are billboards along the freeway advertising it.  Hopefully that brings some money into the town.


The mountain was out.  That's Mt. Rainier in the far distance. I took this at a rest stop in Washington.


Construction continues on I90 westbound.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, I doubt that Jim and I will live long enough to see it completed.

The Cascades are still lovely, however.


This concludes my trip report.  It was a gruesome drive.  When we bought the pickup we went with a lower trim level to save money.  Our reasoning was that we would not be doing epic drives in it, so we could tolerate less comfort.  It was good logic until this past week!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hike, Bike and the Rest of It

Tuesday the weather finally cleared.  After many days of the onshore flow, it cleared.  There was still a fairly cool airmass, but there was sun!  Yay!  We rode out in Carnation Valley.  We’re seeing a distressing increase in the number of people passing bicycles on blind corners.  We were going in one direction, and an oncoming truck towing a trailer passed a bicycle on an inside corner.  He then saw us, jerked his steering wheel to the right, and almost hit the bike.  Could he had not waited 30 seconds so he could see around the corner and not endanger anyone’s life?  I can not tell you how much this annoys me.

Jubilee is a farmer’s co-op.  People bring stuff they’ve grown and trade it with other people who grew stuff. 

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During the week, there was, of course, hiking.  One day we intended to do the Cable Line trail.  It was not always signed, but now it is.

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We went up it for awhile.  Unlike all the other trails, it’s not switch backed.  It goes straight up Tiger Mountain to the summit.  After a bit we decided that we were not that enthralled with coming down such a steep grade on a slick muddy surface, so we bailed.  Next we tried the Tiger Mountain Trail.  It was supremely uninteresting, just another tunnel through the trees.  There were large swaths of these plants.

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The UK Guardian wrote an excellent article asking if Amazon is holding Seattle hostage, which you can find here.  Since Amazon arrived, the population has increased by 40%.  If you look at a map of the area, Seattle is bordered by Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  There’s only so much dirt to build on. 
“It’s incredibly difficult to find housing in Seattle now,” said Nicole Keenan-Lai, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, a Seattle thinktank focused on low-income and minority communities. “Two years ago a study came out that said 35% of Seattle’s homeless population has some college or a college degree.”
John Burbank of the Economic Opportunity Institute said there is a a direct link between the surge in highly paid jobs and the numbers of people forced on to the street.
“There’s an incredible correlation between the increase in homelessness and the increase in the number of people who have incomes in excess of $250,000,” he said. “That has grown by almost 50% between 2011 and 2017. The population of homeless kids in the Seattle public schools has grown from 1,300 kids to 4,200.”
In other cities, rising salaries would be a boon to public coffers, but Seattle is burdened with one of the most regressive tax systems in the country.
With no income tax, the financing of public works falls more heavily on the less well off through sales and property taxes. “We have a tax system in which if you’re making less than $25,000, you’re paying about 18% of your income in state and local taxes. If you’re above $250,000 you’re paying about 4% of your income in state and local taxes,” said Burbank.
The Seattle City Council did pass a employee headcount tax for large companies, but they backed down and repealed it.  It’s a good article, that outlines the problems this area faces due to all of the tech company money.

I’ve been thinking about the blog and why I write it.  The reason I always come back to, is so that we can remember what we were doing at a given point in time.  We frequently discover fairly significant chunks of our history that we don’t recall.  If it hadn’t been written down, it would be gone.  Awhile ago I made an effort to quit talking about politics, and I think it was not a good decision.  There are some events that I want to remember after they fall out of the 24 hour news cycle.  I do know that some people quit reading me when I was so vociferous about my dismay over the current administration.  So, I’ve decided to keep it within reason, but there’s some stuff I need to remember.  So there you go.

Tuesday, the Attorney General announced that asylum seekers would no longer be able to work in the US.  Prior to this announcement, asylum seekers could get social security numbers and legally work while awaiting decisions on their requests.  These cases can take years.  Without an income, how are people supposed to live?  That article is here.

Most of the children separated from their parents at the border are still not returned.  The PBS News Hour reported Monday that in order for a mother to see her child again, she would have to buy a round trip airline ticket for an HHS employee to accompany the child back to her mother.  These people have no money!  The government took the children away for free, why don’t they return them?  This is infuriating.  The road blocks being thrown up by the government are just unbelievable.

Seven GOP congress people spent July 3 in Russia.  They had very cordial conversations about would Russia please stop hacking our elections.  They were assured that Russia would never do such a thing, that would be wrong.  The GOP also asked that Russia withdraw from Ukraine; there was limited enthusiasm for that on Russia’s part.  WAPO had an article about their trip, which can be found here.  Coincidentally, this meeting was the same day the the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee released their findings that Russia did interfere with the 2016 elections.

The sun is out, and the first rule of being in the GPNW is that when the sun is out, you must be out as well.




Thursday, June 28, 2018

More Dismal Days

First, let me say I’m not actually complaining about the weather, I’m just whining.  We’ve had some more days of dense clouds.  It’s just dismal.  However, we could be somewhere else in the continental US where it’s really hot and really humid.

Given Jim’s recent heart history, we thought maybe it would be good to have a local cardiologist, since we’re here for months at a whack.  We picked one close to the RV park, hoping he’d be good.  He wasn’t.  Rude, arrogant, condescending and WRONG. Yes, I dare contradict a cardiologist.  One of Jim’s drugs has a well known side effect of shortness of breath. This guy professed never to have heard of it, and he didn’t believe it.  I guess he’s not keeping up with the journals.  So, the search continues.  Next time we’re going to look for a woman. 

After wasting time with the doctor we decided to drive into West Seattle and get lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant we’ve enjoyed in the past.  No more.  They’ve changed their banh mi, and they’re not good.  Very disappointing.

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It was just a dismal and dreary day.

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This is a court yard for one of the apartment buildings.  It’s nice.

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This was taken on southbound I5.  That’s Mt. Rainier.  The mountain was sort of out.  On a sunny day, this view of the mountain is just stunning.  It’s like a movie back drop – it doesn’t look real.

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Today it was back to the deep piney woods.  We saw what I think is a moth on the ground.  Moths are underappreciated for their beauty.

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See the holes in the trees?  They’re huge. 

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This is a Pileated Woodpecker.  He did that damage.

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There’s an opinion piece in The Irish Times that is well worth reading.  It’s always interesting to see what other countries are thinking about the current state of the US.  It’s a chilling piece about us and other nations.  These are, indeed, dismal days.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Big Tree Trail

It was back to the deep piney woods today.  It rained overnight, we got up and it was cool and the streets were wet.  We hiked up the Tradition Plateau trail to the Big Tree trail.  It’s an astonishingly beautiful part of the woods.  Once you get to the head of the trail, it’s fairly flat.

Here is one of the big trees.  Look at the moss on the tree truck.

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More moss.

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It is so pretty in there!  Look at the water.  There are mosquitoes in there.

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This is the Big Tree.  It’s a Fir, it’s at least 200 years old.  One wonders how it escaped the loggers.

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More trail.

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We did Big Tree, and then part of the Brink trail, and it was enough.  The Brink trail is right on the edge of a huge drop off – hence the name, Brink.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Motorcycling Doggoes

Today was good!  We had sun and it was warm.  We enjoyed it on our bicycles.  The motorcyclist were out in droves.

Look at the dog on the back of the motorcycle.  He’s wearing goggles.

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Tomorrow the rain returns.  Sigh……

Friday, June 22, 2018

Into the Deep Piney Woods

There has been much hiking this past week.  Except for today – the cloud cover from the marine push is really thick and it’s cold and gloomy.  It’s forecast to hang around all day.  Apparently it is asking too much for a day in the mid-70s with some sun. 

This tree has some amazing roots.   They make a nice set of steps on a steep section of the trail up.

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We saw this for the first time the other day.  It’s an old pulley.  There used to be a lot of logging in the area, and we wonder if it was used to skid the logs down the side of the hill.

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This was not here the last time we were here!  The tree was really sick – there was a lot of internal rot.  There are huge wood peckers here, and they make big holes in the trees.  So maybe that’s letting insects in to the trees, or maybe they’re just really old.

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I like this section – isn’t this pretty?

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A culvert for the creek.  We saw this the day we walked the High School Trail to the Bonneville Power Line Trail, which was really unpleasant.  It’s very rocky and we were not wearing our Tucson boots. 

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There are mosquitoes.  That’s my wrist swelling up from a bite.  One also got me on the head through my hat.  I hate those buggers.  For some reason, I am delicious to them and Jim is not.

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I copied this off Twitter.  After al the sadness about the kids being detained in the camps, it was good to see a happy Mom picture. 

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He used to brag about his Time magazine covers.  Do you think he liked this one?

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