Friday, January 31, 2014

Will someone please tell Atlanta to man up and stop being such a wuss?

My apologies. This blog post was going to be an epic rant calling out one of the world's most powerful and affluent cities for being stymied by 3 fingers of snow. The nexus for this rant was a diatribe from this apologist.

That's right. He called all y'all "assholes".

Instead of a rant, let me just point out a few things. (And let me disclaim that perhaps because I lived in the city for a while perchance I'm more prone to want to criticize it.)

(a) For Pete's sake slow down.

(b) Unless your streets are laser leveled, you can’t even plow 2 inches of snow. (The streets are not smooth in Missoula either, though that’s one of only about 50 reasons why our fair byways never get plowed. I think “laziness” is also a factor.) And you can make your own fancy pants sanding truck by filing a dump truck with dirt and having two guys stand back there and shovel it out. Bam! Any two-bit town manager can figure that one out.

(c) Big city people are disconnected from nature. The bigger the city, the bigger the disconnect. Hence, the issue is not that poor Atlantans don’t know to steer into the skid when sliding, it’s that they don’t consider that something like the weather can stymie their forward progress because they so seldom encounter anything that can’t be mitigated by a smart phone.

And (d) the people of Atlanta, like most people in America, are completely unable to perform even the simplest of tasks without getting into their cars. This is in part because they live in neighborhoods designed specifically to eliminate pedestrian activities; this is in part because people have consciously chosen to live stupidly absurd distances from where they work, where they shop, and where they go to school; and this is in part because performing daily functions as a pedestrian has become a quaint footnote in our development as a species. For inspiration, read the Snowed Out Atlanta Facebook page and note how many people marooned in their cars did not think they could walk for help.

Let's just go over a few points and then end today's lesson on a more positive note:

Atlanta, one of the most powerful cities in the world:

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(AJC photo)

Atlanta traffic after 3 fingers of snow:

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(Something I stole off Twitter)

A cool map someone put together of what it takes to close school:

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Instead, here's a photo of (sniff, sniff) my proudest moment yet as a parent:

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Friday, January 24, 2014


Well, it’s that time of year again:

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(Yeah, things are getting a little stinky in the liner department.)

Date night!

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Night commute:

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First time to this gem:

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The 70-mile drive had me down until I realized that would be a stock commute if we had moved to the Front Range.

You say you want another sunny day? Hmmm. Let me see.

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Aw, look at the cute little sleeping city.

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Well-placed turns:

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We found this: Megan figured a wolverine smelled the elk carcass and dug to it – about four feet down.

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Second time to this spot:

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Early start, early finish:

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Does baby’s allowance cover re-trueing for a 29er?

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Twilight train spotting; we got a short hoot from one conductor as he passed underneath:

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Long shadow on the M:

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Yes, the wheels have come off the bus in Ravalli County.

Ah, how to explain the current state of things down the Bitterroot? Let’s try and cut this down to the essentials:

1. Last fall commissioners appointed Valerie Stamey as treasurer ($50,000 a year!). Suzy Foss noted Stamey lacked any experience treasurering but did in fact have a lot of enthusiasm.
2. Most of the remaining deputy treasurers promptly quit.
3. Stamey fell behind. October statements still aren’t out and tax disbursements have not been made in months – meaning everyone from school districts to irrigation boards are short of operating cash.
4. Stamey asked for help, and some commissioners agreed [though Foss – who, remember, first introduced herself to me as “a pissed off grandma” - said, “Things are not a disaster in my opinion.”]. Commissioner Jeff Burrows voted to use vacancy savings to pay for outside help in the office (and whoever gets to fix the county’s balance sheets will get $9.67 an hour), saying that there was no net extra expense to taxpayers. (I don’t remember which tea party platform Burrows ran on, but I’m pretty sure it was not “a penny saved is a penny we can spend later on”). Oh, the meeting where this was discussed? Stamey skipped it.
5. Commissioners learned Stamey used a few different last names, one of which was the subject of a 2010 default judgment in South Carolina which claimed she cashed the same $18,149 check twice after refinancing her home. She’s also apparently been sent to collections for a $312 vet bill.
6. Stamey stopped talking.
7. Commissioners asked what was up.
8. Stamey delivered this:
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Actually, she did not deliver it. She read it, then ran from the room. It was Jan Wisniewski (yes, that Jan Wisniewski) who came in later to deliver the paper copy. And yes, it does appeared that Stamey's first name is spelled incorrectly.

Don't ask me.

Perry pretty well summed things up

Once again, this is a problem Suzy Foss could fix pretty easily. I’m pretty sure Stamey, as an appointed official, serves at the pleasure of the board – and is probably still a probationary employee.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Eat, sleep, fall of your bike, repeat.

Because who doesn't floss their teeth with a scalpel while your friend pretends to listen to his heartbeat?

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Yeah, what winter? I guess someday soon we'll look back at this and think how good we had it.

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The former '2834'. I found it while biking in the pre-dawn icy blackness of Fourth Street last week, spent about a half-hour, and cracked the code. I don’t know if I have been plain lucky or good at looking, or if this happens to everyone. Anyway, I seem to come across a lot of good gear out there on the streets and trails. The past couple of years have been especially fruitful. Among the finds:

*A pocket knife in Butler Fork in Big Cottonwood Canyon. I used this a ton until I left it in a bathroom in a restaurant on the Spanish side of the Spanish-Portuguese border.
*A multi-tool lying on a tree stump near Gash Point. I keep this in my pack all the time.
*A military grade Camelbak in the high Wallowas. I felt bad about taking this, but it was alongside the trail in the morning and still there in the late afternoon, and I had not seen anyone all day.
*A handheld digital weather station in an overflow parking area on the east side of Glacier National Park. I was super stoked about this, but unfortunately some of the functions stopped working almost as soon as I learned how to use it.
*A pair of Skullcandy ear buds in the parking lot of the cross country ski area at Whitefish Mountain Resort. This was fortuitous as at the time I owned four pairs of ear buds, each of which had only one working speaker.

I’ve lost a few things, but still I’m way out ahead. Actually, the only thing that I can definitely recall losing, except the aforementioned pocket knife, was a snow saw that popped out of my pack in Mill B, in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

All of my finds, however, were eclipsed by one mega find in 2003. Laura and I were two months into a three-month circumnavigation by bike of the South Island of New Zealand. Fall was progressing, it was cool and wet, and we were biking a deserted road along the southern swing of the island. It was windy, and I was biking with my head down and slightly to the side so I could keep an eye on the shoulder. Suddenly I noticed a spot of color on my peripheral vision, and stopped to wait for Laura to come up. She held my bike (our bikes weighed ridiculous amounts and even leaning them against road markers was not always wise as the markers could be pushed over) while I waded into the wet grass to see what it was. It was a yellow Australian bill. Australian money is color-coded – one denomination is yellow, one is red, one is green, you get the picture. I looked up and the field before me was covered in colorful confetti. When the find was totaled, we had just under $300 US.

I don’t remember what Laura did with her money, but I bought a nice bottle of wine when we got back to Christchurch.

Wait, did someone say icy streets? Just in time for the thaw, I pull out the big guns:

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Was someone just complaining about this non-winter? Huh, well go uphill a bit and you get this, my first check each morning when I get online:

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If you look in the right center of that picture you can see the remains of a snowstake, which is currently almost buried but if you look closely shows there is seven feet of snow on the ground. Odd to think that the trees next to it would not fit in most living rooms. Here's what it looks like in real life: pinballing down a tunnel of snow:

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Last fall I paid $149 for a $299 Patagonia Troposhere jacket. It's got h2No waterproofing, which works pretty well:

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But I still sweat a little on the inside.

The snow was so deep on Sunday on Lolo Pass that it was not possible to turn. I just had to point the skis straight, find something relatively steep, and go, and hope I was not running into anything. Floating suspended on snow like that, able to see nothing for it flying in your face, is memorable.

Since everyone cares:

Wait a minute, the Tea Party was supposed to fix government, right ?

On deep days, Whitefish should pass out simple information brochures like Mount Baker does to prevent this .

And ...

"Rehberg said then that people had begun contacting him, asking that he consider running for the seat he held for 12 years ." Oh really? What people are those?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Adventures in Candyland.

Yo -- cheapest gas in the nation! And the cheapest prices are in ... West Glacier?

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Low vis in Cascadilla, on the edge of Glacier.

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I climbed for two hours thinking there was someone else in this canyon, and sure enough there was: two guys from Whitefish.

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Marias Pass food truck: breakfast burritos and black coffee on the Continental Divide.

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I skied to Marion Lake, then to a cute little peaklet above it.

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For years and years, backcountry users basically had two tests to gauge slope stability: the stupidly time-consuming and stupidly complicated Rutschblock test, and the plain old stupid shovel shear test. In the past few years those two have been augmented by a few new tests, including the extended column test, which produces a lot of data and geeky technical apres-ski bar chatter ("Yeah, it had an ECT-24 Q2"). Beta-tested in the past few years primarily at the University of Calgary but just really released for pedestrian use this fall is the brand new Propagation Saw Test. I've done a dozen or so pits using it and in general like it, especially the fact that it results in a yes/no reading with a bit of room for analysis if you want it; the main downside is that you really need a saw to to it right, which is not a huge expense but a bit of a pain to lug around and not something most casual skiers stuff into their packs each morning. I think a final verdict is still out, though; my gut so far is that it's going to produce a lot of false-negatives, but I have to use it in more delicate conditions to see for sure.

Here's an isolated column from midway on Elk Mountain:

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And fooling around with the slab:

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Two weeks earlier, on Lockwood, Scott and I cut the slab 80 cm and got this weird fracture. (I know, I'm using my probe and not a saw.)

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Back to the narrative: brief sun at Marion Lake.

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Back at home, low tide in Pattee Canyon.

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Christmas Eve.

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A sunny drive down from the Montana Shot, AKA Hangover Hill.

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With Scott and his pup on Lockwood: the first really good day of the season.

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Laura and I had a baby-free ski day at Lost Trail.

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Nice! (You'll notice she's sporting her new $14.99 Kinco all-leather ski gloves. That's right. We get our ski gear at Ace.)

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A nice spell of cold weather. (That's the window inside our home.)

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We made what's become an annual New Year's trip to Whitefish and went skiing. I made Laura pull the Chariot though all the scenic parts.

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I could use some of that.

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(These hidden trails are below the Willow lot at the ski area and are ... free! This is decidedly Montana's best deal.)

Jeez this kid sleeps a lot.

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The baby behaved, so we took him to the train station.

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And as Ed Abbey would say, "Holy faith!"

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