Thursday, December 5, 2013

Current conditions.

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Yesterday’s paper had this gem from the principal of Bonner Elementary: “teachers check the temperature and wind chill levels before any recess or lunch break, and keep children inside if the wind chill is [lower] than 10 below zero.”

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Unfortunately I’ve been stuck in the office this week and unable to really enjoy this great weather, though I did manage to bike about 40 miles in the past four days.

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(Spot forecast for Lolo Peak.)

NWS Missoula said this would likely be the longest stretch of cold weather in 40 years. I’m not quite sure what that means, since low temperatures here aren’t even in the neighborhood of record values, though Mesonet did show this morning that apparently the entire state of Montana was below 0 – with some spots approaching -30.

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(The Clark Fork mostly frozen, with what’s not frozen freezing fast, this morning in light snow and -6.)

Rock on!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Suzy Foss should fire Jan Wisniewski.

Let me start this off by saying that Jan Wisniewski was never anything other than nice to me. He’s actually a funny guy. He drives around town in an endearingly small and battered pickup which is co-piloted by what is probably the nicest cow dog in all of Ravalli County. The first time I met him he told me a joke: “Why do all Polish last names end in ‘ski’? Because it’s easier to spell than ‘toboggan’.” Sometimes when he would talk to me he was so earnest I thought he was being ironic, but he wasn’t.

Unfortunately, Wisniewski is at the center of the latest in a long line of shitstorms to emerge from the Bitterroot. It’s easy to blame him, but it reality a lot of it is Suzy Foss’ fault.

I used to groan when Sepp Janotta would tell me that I “need to tell the backstory”, but here you go. Wisniewski has been on the county planning board for years; mostly he kept quiet, but occasionally would offer some gems, as he did once when he told me that he had seen black helicopters up to no good in the valley.

Suzy Foss first introduced herself to me as “a pissed off grandma” and seemed to fashion herself after Sarah Palin. She beat Carlotta Grandstaff in the 2010 commission race and became chairwoman in 2012. Despite being a Republican, Greg Chilcott is actually a great guy, but while he and J.R. Iman used to make up the right-wing of the commission, those two have now become the meager voices of reason in the county building’s third-floor chambers.

This fall Foss led the charge to deny federal funding that kept open a low-income health care center, saying she was “concerned about the staggering national debt” (she kept the fed's PILT money, though). She’s overseen the firing of Dave Ohnstad, the roads manager, who was a good man – and a Republican – and the departure of the planning director, who was replaced with a real estate agent. More recently, Foss has been at the helm while the county’s tax office has plunged into disarray, with employees saying the recently-hired treasurer is unable to perform even the most basic duties; the current treasurer was hired in lieu of a much more experienced junior officer, who then resigned after being forced to teach her new boss how to do the job. Foss’ current project is to bring in a consultant from Utah who specializes in organized fights to “take back” control of public lands from the federal government; she suggested the county pay $5,000 to become members of study group that thinks the counties should manage federal land.

So far Wisniewski has been known for goofy but mostly harmless stunts; most recently he ran for the state House District 87 seat – as a Democrat – and as a Democratic precinct chair. Obviously, he’s no Democrat – this was a brilliant/idiotic attempt to infiltrate the party. Earlier this year, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes – which is headquartered up in Lake County – filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to transfer 58 acres the tribe owned in Ravalli County to BIA trust. In April, though, the county commission voted to oppose the application, noting it would lose $808 (!) annually in property taxes.

The parcel is known as Medicine Tree and is adjacent to U.S. 93 south of Darby, and in November five tribal members came to the commission to explain the site, which officials said pilgrims visit twice a year – Medicine Tree has roots in the tribe’s creation story. During public comment, Wisniewski, a Darby resident, approached the podium. As The Missoulian reported, “Wisniewski offered observations from a ‘fact-finding’ trip he took across the state. Wisniewski said he had a conversation with law enforcement officials in Havre who complained about their jails being filled with “drunken Indians” off the reservation.”

Well, let's wonder at the mysterious ways of the world for a moment. What does a jail in Havre have to do with a parcel in Ravalli County? Were those drunk Indians CSKT members? How many drunk white people are in the jail in Darby? Why does the county commission, which is always going on about protecting property rights, want to fart upon the tribe’s property rights? If the commission is truly concerned about the tribe opening a casino on this patch of rock, have they not noticed that casinos already line nearly the entirety of US 93?

CSKT members said they were “deeply offended” by Wisniewski’s comments, which went unremarked upon by the commission until a lot of county residents spoke up. Last week, the commission said they’d write a letter offering an apology to the tribe.

Blanket statements that stereotype Native Americans as “drunken Indians” are stupid, and extra stupid given the context of Montana. The Salish were forced out of the Bitterroot, and not that long ago. CSKT has been re-acquiring this lost land since the 1930s, and Medicine Tree is part of that effort. It’s ironic that those who scream the loudest about “property rights” should have an opinion about the tribe’s.

For her part, Foss later said she was offended by the Wisniewski’s statement, but that’s not much consolation. Wisniewski’s term on the planning board expires this month, and Foss would be wise to end it.

I’m betting she won’t.

Here’s a picture of two chili dogs:

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Travels with Charley.

When people quote John Steinbeck and Montana, this is what you get 99% of the time:

"The next passage of my journey is a love affair. I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it's difficult to analyze love when you are in it."

But there's a better quote, I think, a few sentences after it. It'll make the Texans angry, but there's something that to me is much more interesting and perhaps even more true than the first quote:

"Montana seems to me what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans."

Better than both, though, is this one from Norman Maclean:

“The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”

Here's a picture taken Sunday about 10 miles from Missoula:

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The only golden rule is that there are no golden rules.

Yellowstone for my birthday.

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Parents the week after.


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As if we did not eat enough, we went to Yocco’s twice in 16 hours:

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Lovely Newark, where apparently they have parking problems:

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And aesthetic problems:

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Fastest growing city in Pennsylvania!:

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The Jersey Shore:

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First house I ever lived in. Black shingles, new paint, and a less-fussy door would do wonders:

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Headed home. First, Jersey City:

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Then, North Jersey (and I thought Texans were rich):

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Back in Montana, Cooper had made a new, older friend:

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We took him skiing:

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And then, natch, to a bar:

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Finally, Lantern Ridge on Sunday. A lot of crusts and a bit of powder. Just keeping things honest:

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

I’ll be the judge of “disruptive”.

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Flying used to seem a lot funner back when you could pack your carry-on with local beer and wine and back before anxiety about missing flights turned things sour for me. But one of the things I still do like about flying is the view from above and the chance to pick up local papers. I like reading newspapers and look forward to cruising the departure lounges on layovers and the first class cabin when deplaning, picking up the news others have discarded, always hunting for an interesting local paper in lieu of something bland like the USA Today. Last week I flew to New Jersey and was happy to scrounge discarded papers from New York, Colorado, and my favorite paper of all, the San Francisco Chronicle. The leg from DIA to EWR had a decent-sized first class, and as I was one of the last to get off I just went down the aisle picking everything up. (Rich people too cool to throw their trash away?) When I got to the hotel at night, while waiting for dinner, I scanned through my loot and glanced at The Wall Street Journal, normally semi-interesting at best, but there, under the heading “MANSION”, was a five-column picture of something that looked awfully familiar: the Wren House.

The Wren House, as I have heard it called – Wren being the owner’s daughter – is a single-family home more than a year in the making which occupies a corner lot about eight blocks from where I live in Rose Park and which I bike past about four times a day. Rose Park is about a mile from downtown and stocked almost exclusively with modest (think 900 square feet) post-war Craftsmans and bungalows, although lately there has been a spate of additions, new second floors, and tear downs (four of which are within a block of my own house). Tear downs are tricky business; the original home was obviously insufficient, but what replaces it, especially in an older neighborhood of small homes on small lots like Rose Park, takes a lot of hard to fit in. There are notable exceptions, but the Wren House is not one of them. 

My issue here is not entirely with the Wren House but also with the Wall Street Journal, which wrote an interesting but odd story. The M3 feature had four photos and roughly 25 inches of copy; the copy contained intriguing details, such as home’s building price (about $2 million), the cost of the home’s German-made sound-proof glass ($300,000), and the owner’s occupation (computerish whatnots). There were also some choice quotes from the owner and from the journalist: (a) "’I like disrupting things, changing it up, but not to the point where it's distasteful’"; (b) "’I thought this house would add something to the community.’"; (c) “’We knew it would be a little controversial. But we wanted to expose people to modern architecture—right where they could see it,’"; and (d) “Since the home was finished in March, they say they haven't heard any complaints.”

I like houses and buildings and architecture, and believe they have to be interpreted in context. The Wren House is impressive and a work of art, but in the context of Rose Park, the Wren House has all the charm of (and a remarkable resemblance to) an electrical substation. Where the journalist came up with (d) above is a bit of a mystery, as none of the neighbors were quoted in the story, and the only local to make an appearance other than the owners is the director of the Missoula Art Museum, which hopes to host a fundraiser in the house. What was the writer expecting exactly? Picketing? Prayer vigils for the un-built?

Did the writer even make it to Missoula? I took these photos this morning:

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(My apologies for the picture quality. The sun is kinda low these days.)

Here’s the story:
And here’s a link to a photo gallery accompanying the online version of the story:
And here’s a picture of a baby asleep in the back seat with a fig newton in his sweaty palm:
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013


missoula craigslist > manage posting

Posted: 2013-11-04, 11:15AM MST

Baby Bullet - $30 (Missoula)

Your baby's Pavlovian response will kick into high gear when she sees the gourmet meals you crank out with this gizmo. The Baby Bullet is a pint-sized food processor that allows you to make your own delicious, cheap, and healthy baby food and thereby skip the chemical-filled pricey goop that passes for "baby food" at the grocery store.

This practically intact set includes: the food processor, a larger batch bowl, a smaller cup, two blades, 12 dial-a-date storage cups/lids, two cup tray holders, a spatula, and the make-your-own popsicle trays. There is even the Baby Bullet recipe book (sample recipe: Banana Puree -- one banana, half-cup of water, blend until desired consistency). (I say "practically intact" because the tall skinny storage container somehow melted in the washing machine one day. Also, one of the cup lids spent about 5 seconds in the garbage disposal late one night, so it's a bit tattered.)

In case you were wondering, here is how it works. Take, say, a sweet potato, cook it, and then put it in the Baby Bullet (you can follow the recipe, or just wing it). Puree it, perhaps using water, to the "desired consistency". Use the spatula to pour it into the small cups, which have a cool little thing that allows you to spin this plastic part around until you get to today's date, and then that lets you know how old the food is. (The dial-a-date is not really all that useful because your baby will slurp up this stuff so fast it won't have the chance to spoil.) Anyway, one sweet potato can fill three or four of the little cups. When your little baby is hungry, just grab one of the potato-filled cups out of the fridge -- mindful of the dial-a-date, of course -- unscrew the cap, commence feeding, and bask in the warm glow of successful parentage.

We used this for more than six months. To prove how well it works I will display to you my two-year-old son, who is above-average in height and weight, knows at least 23 words, and will dismantle the entire contents of a bookshelf if left alone for more than five minutes.

*Pro tip: I have on good word, though have not investigated for myself, that the Baby Bullet can also make pretty decent purees for any of you who may be short on molars, and can, in a pinch, mix up a fair margarita.

Location: Missoula it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Posting ID: 4171048130

Posted: 2013-11-04, 11:15AM MST

Updated: 2013-11-08, 3:33PM MST

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Avoid scams, deal locally! Do NOT wire funds (Western Union, Moneygram). Beware cashier checks, money orders, shipping, non-local buyers/sellers. More info

Posted: 2013-11-04, 11:28AM MST

Little Tikes baby swing - $5 (Missoula)

I'll be honest, babies swinging is both good and bad. It's good because babies like to swing, it makes them happy, and so that makes you happy. It's bad, however, because the little buggers can't seem to ever figure out how to make the swing go themselves, and so there you are, having to stand there giving them a little shove every few seconds, all the while thinking that the way the swing was supposed to work was that the babies would sort of occupy themselves for a while leaving you to go and do something truly fun, like rake leaves.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Anyhoo, this one is in great condition.

Location: Missoula it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Posting ID: 4171086352

Posted: 2013-11-04, 11:28AM MST

Updated: 2013-11-08, 3:32PM MST

Avoid scams, deal locally! Do NOT wire funds (Western Union, Moneygram). Beware cashier checks, money orders, shipping, non-local buyers/sellers. More info

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Water year: in a desert?

Thursday night marked the end of the water year here. Nov. 1, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2013 was fairly quiet, but had some notable distinctions. Unfortunately, this weather season saw the demise of both my rain gauge and my max/min thermometer, so some of the figures here are estimates, though I did compare them against NWS MSO data and found mostly strong correlations.

• This year again there were no days where the temperature went below 0.
• Summer was warm and dry, while the fall of 2013 (so far) was cool and quite dry.
• Rain fell on at least one day during every month of the year; snow fell during six months.

The most interesting figure, I think, is the total precipitation when compared against the number of days that saw precipitation. The observation period saw 9.84 inches of total precipitation (a desert, indeed!) though precipitation of one form or another fell on a surprising 136 out of the last 365 days. Yes, a lot of those days saw just a trace. Here’s the rest:

• Number of days with .01-.09 inches of rain: 50
• Number of days with .1-.99 inches of rain: 19
• Number of days with 1.00+ inches of rain: 0
• Number of days with a trace-.9 inches of snow: 61
• Number of days with 1-5.9 inches of snow: 6
• Number of days with 6+ inches of snow: 3
• Number of days with freezing rain: 2
• Number of days with blizzard conditions: 0
• Number of days with both rain and snow falling: 12
• Total rainfall: 6.49 inches
• Total snowfall: 43.6 inches
• Snow water equivalent: 3.35 inches
• Average snow density: 7.6%
• Last freeze: May 25
• First frost: September 20
• Growing season: 117 days

If the figures above seem unlikely, that’s because most of the low-precip days were just a trace of snow or .01 inches of rain. The large number of days with precip but the low total precip is largely a function of the orientation of the Missoula Valley and the fact that the valley is shadowed from the biggest, wettest storms.

Here’s a picture of a boy at his recent baptism:

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And hiking with the baby:

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Day of the Dead

This was the fourth year in a row we went to this event, which starts downtown at the Xs and ends at Caras Park. And even after four years I feel that this event is not just the best spectacle in Missoula, but the best event I have been to at any time anywhere in the world. The parade and subsequent dance are equal parts Sidewalk Dixieland Quartet, Southern Death Cult Big Tent Church Revival, and Zombie Homecoming Parade. Pictures don’t really do it justice.

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Best of Zim gospel right here:

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Meadow Lake, Mission Mountains:

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Crystal Lake, Mission Mountains:

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Kilbrennan Lake:

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Petty Mountain:

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The incredible Yaak River:

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Lily Lake, Idaho:

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Lower Miner Lake, Beaverhead Mountains:

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Hub Lake:

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Below Trapper Peak, Bitterroot Mountains:

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The Bitterroot from the crest of the Sapphires:

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Undisclosed location in the Mission:

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Near La Push, Olympic National Park:

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Hurricane Ridge:

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The Rattlesnake:

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The Mission from Red Butte:

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The Missoula Valley from the Death Star:

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Near Hoodoo Pass along the Stateline:

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The Clearwaters in Idaho:

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(Click on the images, then to expand click on the magnifying glass.)