The OKC Bombing, and Recent Politics

19 April 2015

Today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing, and there has been the expected coverage.

I was just looking at Facebook, and also as one might expect, there are posts about the event, and many sincere comments about how wrong the bombing was.

But I also am struck by a dichotomy about this.  In the past couple election cycles, how many people I know personally are conservative, and also national leaders, were talking about rebelling against the government.  “Second Amendment” solutions, the possibility of secession, the rancher in Nevada, and the like.

That’s what Timothy McVie was trying to incite.

I wonder if that ever crosses the minds of those conservatives?  “Never forget”, they post.  But they apparently forget that the evil of the OKC bombing was an attempt to topple the government, which many conservatives still apparently think about.

So I Got A Ticket Yesterday

5 April 2015

When we were driving to and from the hike to Bell Cow yesterday, I used one of the vans that is shared by the Troop and the First Presbyterian Church, our chartering organization.  I took the hikers to Braum’s and bought them ice cream for doing so well on the hike.

We were coming down I-35 and an Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) state trooper came up in the fast line behind me.  She (I found out later) matched speeds with me and then scooted over two lanes to get behind me.  I knew something was up.  She pulled me over by Frontier City.

Turns out the tag on the van was out of date.  Way out of date, 2013.

Nothing bad happened here.  I think the state trooper was very professional about the whole thing.  She had authority to have the van towed and impounded, but she didn’t.  I had a van load of tired Scouts, and it would have been very inconvenient, but she realized that an expired tag isn’t then greatest threat to public safety.  I told her I would let the church know immediately, which I did.  She also said that when the tags were updated, let her know and she would cancel the ticket, which I certainly appreciate.

I got a huge ration of crap from the Scouts, of course.  :)

I’ve driven that van all over the state (and out of state) over the past couple years, and I have never once thought to check the tag, even when I was back there hooking up the trailer.  I checked the other vans FPC uses and three of them were also out of date, so I let our COR know.  You can bet that checking the tag is on my list of things to look at in the future.

This was the first interaction I’ve had with OHP since probably 2002, when my brother and I were driving back to Newcastle around 0200 after being in Muskogee all day.  The trooper basically pulled us over at I-240 and Penn, checked our IDs, and sent us on our way.  I don’t know exactly why we got pulled over, I wasn’t speeding, and I don’t think I simulated a drunk, but that’s probably why.  So that turned out OK as well.

Hiking Bell Cow Lake Flat Rock Trail

5 April 2015

A group of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts hiked Bell Cow Lake near Chandler, OK today.  The group did 10.3 or 10.5 miles depending on which GPS you believe (the Garmin GPSMap 60 or Runkeeper on the Galaxy S4).  Regardless, it was a great hike.

Photos are at:  https://plus.google.com/photos/105156699699052376728/albums/6134014484762042529.

We got to the lake a little later than we wanted at 0910 and hit the trail about 15 minutes later.  We hit the Flat Rock trail on the south side of the lake, which is advertised as 12.4 miles, or 6.2 out and back.  We kept up a good pace all the way to what I think was the next to the last loop, where we had lunch.  We walked just under five miles in about 2.5 hours.

There was an amazing variety of tracks in the muddy trail, including turkey.  The only actual wildlife we saw was birds, but there was a pair of Bald Eagles!  We also saw one turkey crossing the road as we drove into the lake.

I was slightly surprised we saw only one stream flowing.  Water was available at the trailhead.  Even though the trails are mixed hiking and equestrian, we didn’t see any horses on the trail.

We made slightly less speed on the way back, leaving lunch at 1230, and getting back into Area C camp at 1440.  Since we had less mileage coming back due to taking the direct trail instead of the looplets (or “thumbs”), we walked down to the lake front and back, and that got us to 10+.

Weird stuff:  I used Runkeeper with my S4 to record the track (it’s in the photos), and both Runkeeper and the Garmin MapSource program reported 4,000+ ft of altitude gain for the hike.  I didn’t feel like I had done a Grand Canyon sorta walk, so I don’t think I believe that data point!

“Religious Liberty” Laws

3 April 2015

The actions by (mostly) Republicans to enact so-called religious liberty protection laws is misguided at best, and potentially disastrous at worst.

First, the country is clearly a group of people who may or may not have religion, bound together by a government that is secular.  Anyone claiming otherwise is deluded.

Second, while everyone is pretty much able to strive to do their own thing, that right is limited by the individuals interaction with the government, and where the rights of others are concerned.  No one in the country is generally protected from being offended.

Third, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantees individual religious liberty.  It also guarantees equal protection for all.

I saw this related meme on the Internet:  “A black man should not be forced to make a cake for the KKK and a Christian shouldn’t be forced to make one for a gay wedding” (this is attributed to someone named John Hawkins).

This is wrong on any number of levels.  The basic concept is wrong to begin with.  First, the assumption is that the cake bakers are businesses, since that’s what the recent “controversy” is about.  The concept of the common burden/common good comes into play, where a business is taking advantage of the infrastructure we all paid for (roads, police, fire protection), and has the obligation to serve all.  The meme also fails to address one difference:  the supposed KKK cake buyers are actively hating on the supposed black cake baker, where the opposite isn’t true.  In fact, it could be argued that the supposedly Christian cake baker is hating/despising the supposed gay cake buyers.

Of course, for an individual, there is no obligation to make cakes for anyone else.

I go back to the cherry-picking aspect as well.  Conservatives love to get all bent out of shape about gays.  “It’s sin, I don’t agree with sin, so I shouldn’t have to have anything to do with *them sinners*”.  But the supposedly put-upon cake bakers don’t seem to mind baking cakes for divorcees, or for that matter, everyone else (since we are all sinners).

These laws do nothing but enable dividing people, balkanizing the country.  Jewish people could refuse service to Gentiles, or the other way around.  Muslims could refuse service to Christians, or the other way around.  There are so many potential absurdities.

What about a sincerely anti-war religious belief?  Can that person specify that their taxes don’t go to the DoD?

I think it’s pretty clear that most of this comes from the mostly white, mostly Christian legislators lashing out as their market share falls, pandering to those like them, and trying to force the rest of us to acknowledge and adopt their beliefs.

But what it really comes down to is no business has the right to be offended and refuse service to a customer because of the religious belief of the proprietor (and that includes Hobby Lobby).  Suck it up, people.

Visiting the OKC Bombing Memorial

2 April 2015

Today I was having my car worked on in downtown OKC, so I walked over to the OKC National Memorial.  I have been there just once before, on the south upper level, back in 2006.  It was so powerful then, I didn’t want to walk down to the main level.

But today I did.  It’s difficult to be there and not be overwhelmed with emotion.  I didn’t personally know any of the victims well.  A boy at St. John’s in Pre-K lost his grandparents in the bombing, and another student came in a bit later who had lost her mother.  The janitor in our building at the time was forced out of his apartment for quite some time due to damage from the blast, and we gathered a lot of stuff and money to help him get going again.

But what horrifies me above all else was that the terrorist who performed the bombing did it knowing that most of the victims were not part of his main targets in the Government, and even knowing that many victims would be children.  He and the other scumbag(s) that perpetrated this apparently actually believed that he would be able to start some sort of revolution against the Government.  Deluded, at best.

I sat for a while on one of the terraces below the Survivor Tree and reflected on why the Memorial had to be there at all.  In terms of consequences, no revolution happened.  I know that the Government started looking harder at various so-called militia groups.  I think that if things were as bad as McVey thought, the Government would have swooped in an hammered every one of the groups that it could find, but that didn’t happen.

So in the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad Government-wise as McVey thought, and a lot of those groups are still operating, playing their little dress-up games.

But there are 168 people still gone, and many others who were wounded, and all for a fantasy by a guy who really didn’t have a clear vision of reality.

And all that life and potential, that’s more than enough reason to sit on the terrace and shed more than a few tears of sorrow for people I didn’t know.

The Confederate Flag and License Plates

24 March 2015

The Confederate Flag is such a horrible symbol.  The nation had to go to war against the CSA, at the cost of thousands of lives.  All because the CSA wanted slavery.

Well, to those who want to have that symbol of hatred on your car, well, get a damn paintbrush and really show your stripes.  Whining because the State of Texas won’t let you put it on your license plate is craven.  Paint it on the hood of your car like some latter-day hick.  And get a robe and hood while you are at it.

We shouldn’t have a Nazi symbol on license plates either.  The CSA flag is just as bad.

Voting Should Be Mandatory

19 March 2015

I read an article just now in USA Today.  In a speech in Cleveland, President Obama opined that perhaps the United States should have mandatory voting.

I think that’s a great idea.  I checked a page on Wikipedia, and since 1972 voter turnout has hovered within a couple points of 50%.  The election of 2008 was the high point at 57%.  Turnout in the 2012 election was 37%.  Those are national numbers, of course.

My local voting precinct has about 25,000 eligible voters, and about 10,000 voted in the last election (2014).  That’s pretty crappy.

I would like to think that we have few obligations in order to live in this country.  We ought to all have a voice in how it it run, and mandatory voting would help get to that goal.  Maybe we could look to Oregon as an example, with voting by mail and a decent time to accomplishing voting.

More Zero Tolerance Stupidity

16 March 2015

This article was published on another example of school administrators turning off what higher order functions they might have had.

First of all, I would ask how the “leaf” came to be found.  Second of all, even under zero brain, er, tolerance, some due process would seem to be in order to prove that the contraband was indeed pot.  Given that, the 1-year suspension should never have been ordered, and even given that, the kid in question should have been back in school the next day.  Even given the reference to so-called “imitation drugs”, I find it hard to imagine that there was any offense here in the slightest.

There is a larger question here as to the severity of punishment.  Oklahoma and Texas have what are characterized as two of the strongest penalties for pot possession – 1 year and 180 days in prison (respectively) no matter the amount.  It is reported that most offenders in Oklahoma get probation or little jail time.

So why does the Bedford Country Schools give the equivalent punishment – a year out of school, for kids?  It’s just worse that the supposed contraband was a random leaf.  Geez, a science class leaf collection might get a kid there the death penalty.

It’s even worse that the kid is reported to be on “probation”.  Given that no crime/offense actually occurred, it’s stupid to declare probation.

I wonder if they administrators moonlight as guards at Gitmo, where we famously hold people for years without charge or trial.

Google Maps Coolness

11 March 2015

One very nice integration that Google Maps provides (and Google provides in general). I was looking for a restaurant using Google Maps using my desktop computer.

When I pulled out my phone and fired up Google Maps, that restaurant was the first list. Click on directions, and I’m on my way. Very fast and useful. Latency was less than 10 seconds.

Nutjob Senators Are Just A Symptom Of A Larger Problem

10 March 2015

The Republican Senators who sent the letter to the government of Iran are just a symptom of a larger problem.

But first, let me say, Senators Inhofe and Lankford, you are both a disgrace. You are not true Oklahomans, or Americans. You do not have the slightest bit of respect for the Constitution. You have no common sense either, “Snowball” Inhofe. You put your petty, hateful, spiteful politics above the good of the people of Oklahoma and the United States. Lankford, you like to say you are a man of God, but I see zero evidence of that. You cannot be out of office fast enough, you small, petty creatures.

That being said, this lack of respect to the Constitution is just part of the Republican view that Democrats are not a legitimate governing body for the country. Only Republicans have repeatedly bypassed the customs of this country. From Newt wanting to address the country when he was elected Speaker, to the House working directly with a foreign government to spite the President, to this bit of disgrace, Republicans just want power, and they assume they are the only ones that can have power, and they act like they deserve power, and in doing so ignore elections and insert themselves into situations constantly. The entire scheme of calculated opposition to anything Obama proposes is another example. The complete lack of failure to work with Democrats in compromise to get things done is yet another. Equally damning, the efforts of Republicans to overturn, impede, and degrade protections for citizens using Obamacare, military veterans, women, and voters who are poor and/or of color show how little they care for citizens. And finally, their complete lack of support for anyone but big business and the top 1% means they, not Obama, are imperial in their actions and thinking.

I don’t think the word “treasonous” applies here, just as it does not apply to Obama. But at what point is a complete failure to perform the peoples work become as bad as giving aid and comfort to an enemy? Congress, specifically Republicans in Congress, abetted by state legislators (also Republican), have worked since the Reagan years to funnel money from ordinary people to the top 1%. That’s theft of one kind. When will the weak-willed and easily scared wake up and realize they are being screwed? I hope it’s soon.

The OU SAE Frat Incident Is Just A Symptom Of A Larger Problem

9 March 2015

So this story broke as news like a thunderclap this weekend. I will not get worked up about it.

This is just another incident of the inherent racism that is still present in this country in significant measure. It will be here until the people who look down on others due to skin color die off, and it will take some time.

One thing that has not been reported: this was a mass dating event with a group of women. I would imagine (but don’t know) that the women were from a sorority at OU (these mass dating activities happened every Tuesday (I think) when I was at OSU). In the video, while the guys are shouting the racist cadence and clapping, a couple of the women were at least clapping as well; I couldn’t tell from the video if they were singing along. There very well be consequences for that house as well.

I’ve said before, racism is the largest stain on the USA. It is still here, and even worse, looks to be largely hidden, except in secondary effects like voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts were passed about 100 years after Emancipation. That took way too long, but even 50 years after those days of hope, we are still left with the putrid, foul stench of unthinking racists.

Troop 15 Backpacking Shakedown Camp

9 March 2015

Troop15 had a great combined camp this past weekend. The older guys had a backpacking shakedown that included 16 miles of hiking over the weekend, and our new Scouts got to work on skills for their Tenderfoot rank.

Pictures are on my Google+ site here.

Enjoy!

Backpacking Stove Fuel Use

5 March 2015

I used an MSR Whisperlite for boiling water on both backpacking and camping trips forever. Before we went to RMNP last summer, I pulled the stove out to test it, and there was a serious pump leak. No repair kits were available except via mail order, and they wouldn’t get here in time.

So I decided to take a Primus stove I had bought at WalMart for $20. It uses canister fuel that is a mix of butane and propane, and works to well below freezing (which I didn’t expect to get near). The stove worked fine, and I have taken it on several other trips since, most recently to the Grand Canyon.

Since you can’t take the canisters on an airplane (it’s understandable, the FAA wouldn’t be too crazy about compressed flammable gas in the cargo area), I bought an 8 oz canister when I got to Phoenix. When we got off the trail, I donated it to the Backcountry Center at Grand Canyon since I couldn’t take it back. At the time, I though that the canister seemed quite full still.

Before I bought it, I had a lot of thought about getting an 8 oz vs a 4 oz. I did some research and came to the realization that those canisters use quite a bit less fuel that I thought.

So I have four of the things at the house, with various amounts of gas. Last night and this morning, I did an experiment to see just how much fuel was used. I boiled five pots of water, each with five cups of water each. The canister with the burner weighed 420 grams. After the five runs, the rig weighed 370 grams.

So… each run used about 10 grams of fuel to go from tap temp to full boil. Very impressive.

The metal canister weight is reported online as around 130 grams. The burner is 200 grams. The 8-oz canisters have 220-230 grams of fuel. Less-than-impressive arithmetic yields about 20 full pots of water able to be boiled from one of those canisters.

I typically make a couple cups of tea or hot chocolate in the morning, and might use a bit more for oatmeal, so if I am with a partner who wants the same, that’s two runs in the morning. Two cups are typically needed for a two-person rehydrated meal in the evening, and maybe some more tea or coffee, so that’s another two or even three runs in the evening. So, four to five runs per day for two people means five or maybe six days per canister, or 10 to 12 days for a single person. That’s very impressive, especially given that the canister is $5.

A couple other interesting facts: The Whisperlite and empty fuel bottle is 350 grams. The Primus and empty canister is 330 grams.

Shut Ferguson MO Down

5 March 2015

I’ve been reading about the US Department of Justice (DoJ) report on Ferguson, MO and how the police there interact with the town citizens. The press briefing on the report is at http://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-holder-delivers-update-investigations-ferguson-missouri.

One particularly egregious incident involved a guy sitting in his car. Doing nothing. A cop demanded his SSN and ID, was directed to exit his car, had a gun pointed at his head, and was arrested after pointing out his civil rights were being violated. Another guy was charged with lying after his said his name was Mike, when his legal name was Michael. In these cases, the victims were black, the officers white.

I’m going to read the full report. From the reporting today, the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson cop Darrin Wilson is part of a pattern of behavior that is suppressive of the black population of Ferguson by the white majority in power.

The thing that really bothers me about this: there are probably hundreds of Fergusons around the country.

I’ve noted before that election turnout in Ferguson was very poor, which meant that many black citizens were not voting.

I hope that the next election there results in the Council being turned out, and a general cleanout of the police department takes place.

In several states, there are laws that allow a governor to essentially remove the elected officials of a town and have an overseer installed when there are serious and persistent financial issues (not just illegal activities, even if a economic downturn as taken place). I think that the DoJ should have some sort of power to essentially fire or dissolve the “leadership” of a city, town, or county that shows malfeasance, including violations of the civil rights of people in the jurisdiction.

11 March 2015 update:

Several people in Ferguson have been fired or force to resign, including the police chief and city manager. This is good. It was also reported on NPR that a similar situation in Oakland, CA, several years ago had the potential for a receiver and judge to be appointed to oversee the city in the event they didn’t clean up their police problem. This is good.

Popeye’s Chicken, OKC, OK

3 March 2015

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Last night, Raegan and I decided to try Popeye’s, since we needed to have dinner, we didn’t have a surfeit of time, and there is one about two blocks from school.

My first experience at a Popeye’s was not good at all. There is an earlier blog post about that one, at DFW.

This one, was, well, OK. At best. We got a 12 piece family meal, mild (which I think is just un-cajun). Our two sides were mashers (OK) with cajun gravy (meh) and slaw (also meh). The chicken was OK at best. It had little flavor. In fact, I would say no flavor.

We got a gallon of iced tea with the meal, that was OK. Service was very friendly.

I think our check was around $36, which seems quite high. I will update this when I run across the receipt.

I don’t think that Popeye’s will be a destination in the future for us. It’s just not flavor.

FCC Decision on Net Neutrality The Right Decision

27 February 2015

The FCC requested comments from the public on the concept of network neutrality. I was interested enough in this that I submitted two sets of comments (I was one of reportedly several million commenters). I am in favor of network neutrality.

Since the FCC decision yesterday that supports the concept of network neutrality (NN), there has been two basic classes of reaction. Pro-NN people were saying it was a victory for ordinary people and most business, and anti-NN people we thundering that it was government control of the Internet and would cost business millions, and stifle innovation.

You can separate “the Internet” into a couple segments. One segment is the backbones of the net, which consists essentially of a set of very high capacity network connections that run between major hubs, and typically radiate out from major hubs to smaller hubs with a set of high capacity network connections, and from the small hubs to even smaller hubs, eventually terminating at houses and businesses. I say “backbones”, because each of the Internet service providers (ISPs) have their own backbone. There are interconnect points between the backbones so that each house or business doesn’t have to contract with every ISP to be able to reach every other house or business.

ISPs sell access to houses and businesses, and they have every right to charge different amounts depending on how much data you want to pay for. A customer who wants to fire up their computer each night, read some news, and check email, clearly uses less bandwidth than Google, and so pays less. That is not the issue with NN.

Say Google contracts for an OC-3 connection via AT&T. They pay money to AT&T for that bandwidth. But while some of that traffic goes to and from AT&T to other AT&T customers, some of it also goes to Cox Cable customers, and it is a lot of traffic. Under NN, Cox has to carry that traffic regardless, and without impeding it.

But what the ISPs wanted was to eliminate the concept of NN. In this example, Cox wanted to charge Google for that traffic that originated on the AT&T network, or be able to throttle Google traffic down to a smaller amount of bandwidth. The claim is that it is for cost recovery. But in reality, Cox has to keep its backbone large enough to satisfy all of it’s customers, and they surely have their own high-traffic customer (say, Bing), and some of that Bing traffic goes over to AT&T, who wanted to charge Bing a premium. It’s really a scheme to charge twice for some traffic while paying once for the infrastructure.

This doesn’t cost ISPs any more. And it sure does not stifle innovation. Think on this: Google came up with a nifty search scheme, and millions use it. To keep those users happy, Google pays AT&T for more and more bandwidth, and so pays for that extra traffic. Any other company that comes up with a good idea can do the same, and the ISPs will be paid to give the extra access.

And the argument of “government regulation” of the Internet is just bogus. The FCC issuing rules that guarantee NN has NOTHING to do with government regulation of the Internet. As a side note, it’s ridiculous for any Member of Congress to complain that an the FCC NN ruling is regulation of the Internet, and at the same time support NSA or the police capturing and storing Internet traffic from people who are not suspects in any crime (warrantless wiretaps, data vacuuming).

So the FCC is actually putting a stop to ISPs being able to double-bill some big bandwidth users. It’s a good decision.

Three Republican Quotes, Several Problems

24 February 2015

In the past week, statements by conservatives on President Obama:

Rudy Giuliani, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.”

Bobby Jindal, “I hate to say this, but we have a President right now who is not qualified to be our Commander-in-Chief. It gives me no joy to say that. This is not a partisan statement. This is not an ideological statement. This is a recognition of the facts. We’ve got a President who can’t seem to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism. How can he defeat the enemy if he’s not even willing to recognize the enemy that we face.”

Mitch McConnell, on the rapidly growing economy, “You know, it’s getting better because we just got elected. People are feeling more optimistic.”

All three of these comments reflect a common theme: Republicans have not a fricking clue.

The Giuliani quote is an example of Republican feeling on Democrats leading the country; that Republicans do not believe that Democrats are even eligible to be in politics. The Republicans practice total-destruction politics in that they just can’t disagree and compromise, but have to destroy Democrats (think back to the Clinton Administration and the drive that led to the impeachment attempt, and all the talk about impeaching Obama).

The Jindal quote is related, but is mainly driven by pure fantasy. He says it is not partisan, but that just means he is an accomplished liar. He sets up a strawman to support his assertion.

Jindal and the rest of the Republican Robots like to make up a fake issue and try to beat a Democrat to death with it. His basic issue is that not saying the words “radical Islamic terror*” means that Obama is not smart enough to be CINC. Of course, Obama is taking a nuanced approach that a radical conservative would not or could not understand. If conservatives want to conflate all Muslims with the very few who are criminals, then you have to do the same with Christians (and there are any number of examples, worldwide).

McConnell, after trying and failing to make Obama a one-term President, fought every initiative by Obama to fix the REPUBLICAN trashed economy. I think that Republicans who took this tact are as bad as common criminals. For a (failed!) try at political gain, they suppressed economic growth. The Republicans took money out of the hands of ordinary people just surely as a burglar does, but on a much larger scale. They are criminal. And that does not even address all the other anti-American things done in legislatures all across the country that include state-sponsored rape by instrumentation of women, vote suppression, et cetera ad nauseum.

I am mystified at why Democrats don’t fight back. They certainly have enough ammunition.

Backpacking Grand Canyon, 02 – 06 February 2015

13 February 2015

A group of seven friends had a great backpacking trip to Grand Canyon last week. The weather was perfect!

I took a bunch of photos again. Those are on my Google+ site here.

Hike summary: 5 days, 46.6 trail miles, and huge altitude loss and gain. Sore calves and knees. Staggering and sublime views everywhere!

This is our second trip to Grand Canyon National Park. My blog post for the first one is here.

Getting There

I left Oklahoma City Saturday morning and arrived late morning in Phoenix. Car and baggage were no problem, and I spent my day first with a wonderful brunch with longtime friend Keith and his husband Ben. We followed an excellent meal and talk up with coffee at a nearby Starbucks. We split for a bit for errand running (and me driving all around Phoenix), before meeting back at their house for brownies, ice cream, more talk, and playing with their kitties. A wonderful way to spend a day!

Sunday, the rest of the team was arriving around 0930. They actually arrived around 1300. Fog in the area of PHX caused a ground stop for the flights arriving from DEN and SAN. Dammit. Once everyone arrived, we had a quick lunch (El Pollo Loco, yum), and we booked out of town to avoid any traffic due to the Super Bowl that was being played a couple miles to the west.

We stopped in Flagstaff for the guys to get food and last-minute supplies, and then drove to the Canyon, checking into the Maswik Lodge, having dinner in the Bright Angel Lodge dining room, before returning to the Maswik to get our packs stuffed and a last night in a real bed.

Day 1 (Monday, 02 Feb)

So… this was our short day. Yow.

We got up, checked out of Maswik, had breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge, and drove our cars to the Backcountry Info Center (BIC). Caught the Park shuttle to the Visitor Center, then took another shuttle to the Kaibab trailhead near Yaki Point. We weighed our packs before checking out, mine came in at 38 lbs, about nine less than last year (yea!).

At the BIC I had an electronics fault. The evening before, I had tested my Garmin GPS in the Maswik, and it worked fine. At the BIC, I fired the thing up, and it would beep and shut right off. This happened about 10 times in a row. It had new batteries. I was annoyed by this no end. I didn’t want to carry a nonfunctional GPS, so I left it in the car (another 5oz down). So the end result is I don’t have any GPS track data for the trip. The most annoying thing: when we got back, I picked the darn thing up and it fired right up. Well, crap.

Regardless, we got the Kaibab trailhead, those that needed filled up water bottles, everyone hit the head one last time, we shouldered our packs, and headed down. We hit the trail right at 1030.

This day was down, down, down, down, down hill. There were some level-ish places along the trail, but I do not recall any up. Much of the trail is big stairsteps. It is jarring after a while. There are a couple places to stop on the way down, and at least two toilets (one at the first tip-off point, and the other on the Tonto Plateau). There is an emergency phone at the Tonto location. There are also a couple places that have staggering views down and over the river. But the dominate memory of this day is the relentless down.

That day was the hardest day of hiking I have had. At the end of it, I had a very sore spot behind my left knee, in a place I’ve not been sore before. It reduced me to a very slow pace for the last hour or so of the hike. The trail is so steep it is hard to believe.

I had two full water bottles at the top of the trail, and had the last of my water at the Bright Angel side of the bridge.

The Kaibab ends up at the eastern suspension bridge over the Colorado. Once across the bridge, you are about a third of a mile from camp. We got into camp right around 1730. We stayed at the Bright Angel Camp for backpackers, in one of the two group camps at the south end. The campsite had a nice shelter that was built into the rock face. Two of the guys rolled out their pads and bags right under the shelter. The rest of us put up tents. My tent is not freestanding, and this made me wish it was. The ground was uniformly dirt, but there were a plethora of rocks about two inches under. I found a nice fist-sized rounded rock and took several attempts per tent stake to get them in. Several of them only went in about halfway; for each of those I took a largish rock and used it to hold the stake down.

We all got dinner going. I had Backpackers Pantry Santa Fe Chicken and Rice, and it was pretty good. I could not finish it, and only finished about half of it.

After dinner, I changed into my cool weather clothes, and took a couple Advil. My knee was really bothering me. Fortunately, after a good night sleep, the knee had no pain. I had been worried about it enough that I was going over abort-and-walk-out scenarios. So I didn’t have to carry one of those out. The rest of the guys headed up to the Phantom Ranch canteen for a couple brews. I stretched out in my tent to work a Suduko, and passed out around 1945.

Bright Angel Camp is very nice. The group site we were in had a shelter, and the bathrooms have actual flushing toilets. Very plush.

For the first day, we had 7.1 miles of hiking, brutally down, a total of 4,780 ft of loss.

Day 2

We got up at 0830 (really!), and were packed up and out of camp by 1030.

It’s about a half mile from Bright Angel camp to the junction with the Clear Creek trail. Right off the bat, you climb at a good pace. The trail is a bit on the rocky side. It climbs to an overlook for Phantom Ranch. There is a pretty cool bench made of stone there. Right past the bench a short trail goes to a small area with a great view of the Colorado River. After that, you spend a lot of time contouring and climbing and contouring and climbing to get up to the Tonto Plateau, but this time on the north side of the Colorado.

Once up at the bench and overlook, and for maybe another half mile or so, you actually have cell service. Not much, but I was able to call Raegan and tell her we were OK.

There is no shade up there, except a couple places along the trail where the wash is deep enough to provide some shade, and one great big boulder that provides enough shade (see the photos, it’s enormous).

There was one place on the trail to get water, it was just past our lunch place outbound. There were a couple tepid pools below the trail, and one nice looking pool, albeit small, very close to the trail. When we came back Thursday, the same area had a slight, very slight, trickle that had formed another small pool. If that’s what you get in February, I’m thinking there isn’t any most of the time.

Shade is another thing, as noted above, there’s basically none.

The views were another thing altogether. Constant, and staggering, and head turning, and majestic, and all around. The view of the south side changed as we walked along, and of course the north side has those magnificent walls with the grand names like Zoroaster.

The last part of the trail down into camp was tough (but not as bad as coming down Kaibab). A lot of the trail is a sort-of worn area in red dirt, and it slopes down, so if you slip you get to roll 400 ft into camp. The parts that were not like that were rocky and steep.

We got into camp around 1730, with pretty much empty water bottles, and being on the trail eight hours. Camp is small and set in among some cottonwoods. There are a couple areas to camp in, and I think I like the southern one best. Clear Creek was burbling along happily with a good flow.

There is a dehydrating toilet north of the camps. I thought it was a little odd that the toilet was upstream of the camps, but on the other hand it was quite a ways back from the creek, but on the other other hand it was surrounded by washes. Hmmm….

Dinner was very pleasant. We talked a bit after dinner, watching the amazing dark sky and tons of stars until the Moon rose and the extra light wiped a bunch, and then crashed.

This (and Thursday, clearly) were our long days. We had 10.8 miles of trail. We had a 1,680 ft gain from Bright Angel Camp to the Tonto Plateau, and we lost 560 ft of that down into Clear Creek camp, for a net increase of 1,120 ft. The true “up” for the day is something like 1,900 ft, as we had numerous examples of walking up a hill, then back down the other side, and back up the hill on the other side of the side canyon.

Day 3

This was a side hike day for us. You have three basic choices: stay in camp and chill, go down Clear Creek through a slot canyon to the Colorado, or go up canyon. We decided to head up canyon. There are some ruins up there, and the largest waterfall in the Canyon, Cheyava Falls.

You can’t just follow Clear Creek. The creek disappears, and reappears, and there are side canyons. It’s full of brush and low limbs and occasional scrambles up what would be waterfalls if there was water. There are three streams of reliable water: from the Clear Creek camps to about a half mile upstream, then about five miles upstream, and then below Cheyava Falls.

The Falls were not running when we were there. Rangers told us there had been fairly little snow on the North Rim, so there was little to flow down Cheyava.

There are some super pretty sights up those canyons. They collapse down to slot canyons in a couple places (the NPS warns that there is a flash flood risk if there is a storm up-canyon, so obviously you need to watch the weather). There is a huge variety of rock types, shapes, and sizes in the canyon.

One thing to watch: there are an amazing number of cacti of various types in the canyon. Some of them are clustered close together. Now, there are cacti on the Tonto as well, but not nearly as close together as they are in the Clear Creek drainage. I counted 32 (yes, thirty-two) punctures and scratches on my legs. Dave caught one in the shin that we thing punctured a vein just a bit, as he had a huge amount of blood on his leg and boot. Very impressive.

After dinner, we stayed up all the way to 2040 ( :) ) to watch a short pass of the ISS, and then crashed.

This day was 8 miles round trip, and a 1,378 ft climb, then return to camp with the same altitude loss.

Day 4

Not much to say about today, except the views were just as massive and sublime coming from the opposite angle.

As I mentioned above, there was one more trickle of water at one point. I wouldn’t count on it being there now.

We got up and left camp around 0830. It took us 35 minutes to walk from camp up the first big climb and level out some. After that, we motored right along. This walk took us about 7.6 hours coming back instead of the 8 hours going out. We went faster, and took shorter breaks.

We got back into camp in time to stop at the Phantom Ranch Canteen for a beer.

We had dinner in camp, watched an excellent pass of the ISS starting about 1830, and then hung in camp and talked. While we were there, a ring-tailed cat raided the camp! It was hanging out in the roof area of the shelter next to the rock wall the shelter was built into. S/he was not terribly afraid of us, and we took some pictures while getting peered back at.

Around 1955, we headed back to the canteen for some beer, iced tea, and talk. We stayed about an hour, headed back to camp, and crashed. Four of the guys didn’t bother with a tent, and crashed on the floor of the shelter.

Another 10.8 miles, and a net loss, but the uphill out of camp and the back sides of the hills we walked down made for some decent altitude for the day.

Day 5

We got up at 0530 for what we figured would be a long day. Turned out, not so much!

During breakfast and packing up, I noticed my SPOT was missing. We searched all around the camp, and saw the remains of some plastic Ziplocs around, especially in the roof above the shelter. I figure that the darn ringtail was rooting around, and took the Ziploc with the SPOT in it. Damn cat. Rather, damn raccoon family member. I figure the SPOT is in the roof somewhere, or around the camp area. Hard lesson to learn, but put the $150 SPOT in the bear canister with the rest of the food and trash. I let the Rangers know after returning home; who knows, it might turn up.

We got out of camp around 0730 and went directly to the west bridge over the Colorado. James spotted a bighorn sheep above us, which was cool.

On the way, I stopped where I lost my Nalgene last year and looked for it, even venturing down the cliff face a bit. No luck.

Shortly after this we hit the Devil’s Corkscrew. It’s a tough walk with a big pack, even on the last day, but we all made it in good time with minimal stops. We showed up at Indian Garden around 0930 and took a water and snack break. It was 42F there, and since we were sweating and then stopped, it was darn cold! We didn’t stay long, it was better to be walking and warm.

So started the Big Slog. Walking out of Indian Garden, you are walking up. After a mile or so, the trail tilts upward and you begin four miles of trail going up several thousand feet. The view gets better as you go, but that’s about it. It’s just keep the feet going one after another. Around 1430, I came over the South Rim to complete the trip.

The last day is 9.9 miles, and 4,380 ft of altitude gain. I think the only level is walking from Bright Angel Camp and crossing the bridge, and the only down is a couple short segments along the river, but every bit of the rest is unrelenting up. Still, we all did it without any pain. Rest along the trail every once in a while, and keep a good attitude, and you make it.

We went immediately to Bright Angel Lodge for late lunch and beer and iced tea. From there, it was a walk to Maswik, getting checked in, getting the cars parked at the BIC, showers, and all that.

We drove out to Hermit’s Rest right before sunset to watch the sun set. Then it was back to Bright Angel Lodge for dinner, and a long sleep.

Heading Home

Saturday was pretty straightforward. Up and pack, check out, breakfast, and a visit to the Visitors Center and Mather Point for a last look into the Canyon. It’s a long drive back to Phoenix, but we left the Park around 1030 and got to the rental car return by 1400, and on our flights on time.

Things That Didn’t Work

Losing my SPOT is in this category for sure. Lesson learned is put the thing into the bear canister.

I had a tent pole break Thursday morning. I was sitting by the tent, no stress or strain on it (I had pulled the fly off sometime earlier, and the pole broke next to an insertion point, pop! The same thing happened to the front pole earlier. So, that pole will go off to Tent Pole Technologies for replacement. I had the backup sleeve, and took the pole apart by having two of the guys hold it apart by the shock cord, then cutting the shock cord, threading the backup sleeve through the shock cord, and tying the shock cord back together. I used a couple pieces of duct tape to hold the backup sleeve over the break area.

I had something new on this trip, pain in back of my left knee, mainly toward the extreme down of the end of Day 1. A good rest and a pair of Advil, and no more issues. The same muscle I hurt at Rocky Mountain NP last July re-pulled on this trip; it made it difficult to bend at the waist, which made a couple areas on the day hike a bit problematic. Dave is a professional purveyor of PT, and he identified the muscle, and some exercises to heal it. I’ve been doing those.

Maps

Since my GPS got all weird on me right before we hit the trail, I have put these together using some of the tracks from our trip last year, and manually drawing the rest of the tracks in my Garmin Mapsource tool. The waypoints are from my SPOT reports, except the last day.

First, an overview. Our Day 1 hike on South Kaibab is in purple, Days 2 and 5 on the Clear Creek Trail in green, Day 4 to Cheyava Falls in blue, and our last day on Bright Angel Trail in red.

The entire trek in one JPEG.

The entire trek in one JPEG.

Next, a series of zooms on each segment, Days 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Days 1 and 5

Days 2 and 4

Day 3 Day Hike

Things That Worked

I was happy with my clothing choices here. I would typically wake up in my base layer, and immediately put my long sleeve mock turtleneck and Scout pants on over them, with a hoodie over the mock if I still felt the need. Then, either right before leaving, or shortly after hitting the trail, I would strip down to get the base layer and stuff off, and put on a t-shirt. That would be my hiking shirt. Immediately after hitting camp, the (usually damp) t-shirt would come off and the dry base layer go on. I would continue layering as it cooled. The t-shirt was always dry be morning.

I am going to investigate newer fabrics. Most of the crew had these, and they dried amazingly quickly, and I think the stuff was lighter and compacted better.

I went 100% Isopro/pro stove and fuel for this trip. Worked great, flawless, and heated water darn fast. I carried an 8 oz fuel canister, and ended up with about 3/4 of the fuel left. So, I could have carried a four oz canister and saved the extra weight.

Pack Weight

WOW! After my pack weight investigation last year, my loaded pack weight was NINE pounds less than last year! So I went from 47 lbs to 38 lbs. I also am about seven pounds less body weight. Was the pack light? Heck no. But it was also very manageable.

I am going to look into a new tent. At REI, I saw two tents that are two-person models (as mine), and one was in sort of the same form factor as mine. But, they were in the 2.5 lb range, which is about half my the weight of my tent.

Food

Couple things here. For dinner, I’ve always carried one backpackers meal per day. Those things are marked as two servings (read, two people), but I’ve always been able to put a full package away. I didn’t have nearly the appetite on this trip, and on the first day, only managed half the meal. So for the remaining dinners, I emptied the package into a Ziploc, then put half back into the the cooking pouch and used half the water. Worked out well, and I didn’t have to carry a number of half finished but rehydrated dinners.

My usual breakfast is a package of Pop Tarts and a package or do of applesauce. It was even so on this trip.

But I did something a little different for lunch. I took one tuna salad kit, ate that on day one, and went with Pop Tarts and applesauce for lunch.

I’m thoroughly sick of Pop Tarts at the moment. I had nine packages of them on this trip. It’ll be a while before I have any more. They kept me from getting hungry, but just got a bit monotonous. Maybe half Pop Tarts and half tuna next time? I need to think that over.

Summary

So this trip is in the books. I almost wish we had done a side hike (maybe Thursday afternoon up North Kaibab) to get in a 50 miler, as we needed 3.5 more miles.

Everything pretty much worked on this trip! The company was fantastic, and the views were the reason I go to National Parks.

Take 2, Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon Village, AZ

11 February 2015

This is a followup to my first post about the restaurant at the Lodge.

We had five meals at the Lodge on the backpacking trip this past week. This is just a quick summary post.

We had dinner Sunday night after arriving in the Park. We had fried mushrooms and zucchini to start; it was all excellent, especially the chipotle ranch dressing. My main course was spaghetti. The meat sauce was very good, but I think there were about two tablespoons on the pasta. I asked for more, and got a largish soup cup of the stuff, much better. That was a very good meal at that point.

We had breakfast there Monday morning. I got eggs over easy (that turned out over hard) and biscuits and sausage gravy. It was turkey sausage, so the gravy had an odd but not unpleasant flavor. Oh, and a side of most excellent bacon. Frankly, the eggs and odd gravy didn’t bother me, as I wanted to hit the trail! But I was carbed and proteined up for the adventure. However, I think the meal could have been much better.

We had late lunch there after getting off the trail Friday. I had a third pound cheeseburger and fries. And iced tea. LOTS of iced tea. Good beef, cooked medium well. Nothing left. I think I was tired of trail food.

We had dinner there later that evening. I had the 8 oz steak, it was perfectly cooked. I also had a baked tater. I asked for cheese, butter, and bacon. I got a huge soup cup of shredded cheese, some pats of real butter, and… three strips of (excellent) bacon. It took a while to get the tater ready, as I had to chop the bacon. The steak was perfect, though.

The last meal we had was breakfast on Saturday morning. I got the chili verde and shredded pork hash. I don’t know that I’ve had hash. I think I thought it would all be mixed up and grilled/tossed together. But the pulled pork was on one side, the eggs (hard over, again) in the middle, hash browns on the other side, a couple small bits of green chilis on the eggs. I mixed it up myself, but there was little to no flavor blending. Hmmmm.

Service, I have to say, was always very good.

It was a mixed bag. I don’t think the breakfast crew was on their A game, but the dinners were very good.

When we go back, I think I will try some other places, like the food court at the Maswik.

Matt’s Big Breakfast, PHX

11 February 2015

Matt's Big Breakfast on Urbanspoon

This place was right down the terminal from my gate Saturday. I’d eat here any time.

I got through security and scored high tables for the seven of us. It took a while for the rest of the guys to get there, but the host and server were super friendly and not impatient.

The rest of the guys got beer of one kind or another and apparently liked them. I started off with a bowl of chili. It was pretty good, about half and half beans and beef, with decent flavor and no heat at all. I’ve had better chili, and I’ve had far worse.

The highlight was a “scattered and smothered”, ground chuck grilled and served with mashers and gravy and grilled onions. WONDERFUL! That was an excellent piece of ground beef, with huge flavor and great texture. I ate every scrap of it. It came with a goodly amount of steamed young asparagus, tender without being mushy, and very tasty.

Service was so very friendly. My check was around $20. This place is recommended.

Richardson’s, Phoenix, AZ

11 February 2015

Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico on Urbanspoon

This place was GREAT! My friends Keith and Ben in Phoenix recommended Richardson’s, and we met there for brunch a week ago Saturday.

We all got the same thing: Huevos Rancheros, I think all three over easy. We also split an order of carne adovada. Just excellent. So good. The chili verde was a perfect spice level to complement the eggs and potatoes. The adovada was frankly the best I have had. The pork was perfectly tender and fell apart at the slightest prod, and again the heat of the roja was spot on.

This was one of the best New Mexican meals I have had, if not the best.

The iced tea was good, and service was fast and extremely friendly. One other thing: the restaurant smelled wonderful all the time we were there. That’s not something that’s common, but the cooking odors and the wood smoke drifted through the dining area, and it was a great olfactory sensation. Our check was around $50, great value.

The company was priceless.

Some Cool Things From the Air, PHX-DFW, 07 Feb 2015

8 February 2015

I haven’t done a Cool Things From the Air in a while, but I got a chance to see some yesterday returning from Phoenix to Dallas, on the way home from backpacking Grand Canyon.

As we left PHX, I was trying to take a picture of the area where my friends Keith and Ben live. I was shooting to the SE of their house location, but I saw a number of what look like quarries on the southwestern part of Phoenix.

Quarry SW of Phoenix

As we flew on, I noticed one area below that had snow, the rest of the terrain was typical desert, dry and brown.

Mt. Baldy, AZ

The snaky ridge is Mt. Baldy (11,400 ft), about 150 miles east of Phoenix. Just a little farther on…

Basin Lake and Crescent Lake

DSC05055

This is a high meadow or basin a couple miles east of Mt. Baldy. The first shot is Basin Lake and Crescent Lake. While the basin is full of snow, I was really surprised that the higher points were snow free. The basin is around 9000ft, and the points are about 9300ft. Odd. There is a rails-to-trails conversion on the west side of the basin, the Apache Railroad Multi-Use Trail. Something to do when in eastern Arizona!

For some reason, the flight had turned significantly north after taking off. How far north was shown when we flew north of the VLA!

VLA, NM

Super cool!

The last interesting item was the snow cover that again stood out above the desert, the Sacramento Mountains above Alamagordo, NM. This is where Cloudcroft and Ski Apache are located. The elevations are again around 9,000 ft.

Sacramento Mountains, NM

That’s it!

Brian Williams Gets Abused By Conservatives

8 February 2015

I was pretty much out of news range this past week due to backpacking.

I don’t know what Brian Williams reported about his experiences in Iraq. But Facebook has erupted with memes (mainly from conservatives) making fun of him.

What I find ironic is that conservatives don’t care that their party and the Bush Administration, egged on by Fox, lied some much to get us into Iraq in the first place. Those lies cost trillions of dollars, and thousands of American soldiers dead, and hundreds of thousands wounded, and millions of lives disrupted, all of which are still impacting us now. And there is zero outcry over that. Never has been, never well be. Their channel, Fox “News”, is the worst offender. No memes from the right about that…

The “outrage” is just ridiculous.

Boehner Invitation to Netanyahu

30 January 2015

House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come to the United States and give a speech before Congress. He did this on his own, without coordinating the action with the Executive Branch.

On the face of it, it is not remarkable. But the way it was done shows the fundamental issue that lies between Republicans and Democrats. It’s not really economic policy or anything like that. It’s much more simple. Republicans want power, all power. They also believe that Democrats (or anyone else) have no legitimate place in the political system.

There are numerous examples of this, going back to the Clinton Administration. Clinton won fair and square, and remember that it was a basic choice between economic policy on the Democrat side, and a campaign run on American symbology on the Republican side. Once Clinton won, Republicans began a series of efforts to manufacture or find scandal. It went on for most of the eight years of the Clinton Administration, and culminated in the impeachment attempt (which was so over-wrought as to be ridiculous).

It was even so when Obama was elected. Republicans went on a mission to find or manufacture scandal. Slightly worse than during the Clinton years, they pledged no compromise or cooperation at all. They did this while putting the country at risk. Supposedly America-loving, country-first Republicans actively impeded economic growth. They cheered at things that didn’t go Americas way (remember the cheers at the so-call Club for Growth when Chicago was not chosen for the Olympics?).

The action by Boehner is just another example. He shows contempt for a legitimately elected (twice) President by acting like he is a head of state. After Republicans took the House back in 1994, Gingrich did something very similar when he demanded prime-time air time for him to give a speech to the nation, as if he was the head of state.

Most of the actions of Republicans are in line with these examples, but at a personal level. Take away or restrict Social Security. Restrict or eliminate minimum wage, education, and voting rights.

Republicans are contemptuous of Democrats. In reality, they are contemptuous of the principles of democracy. They need to go, and the sooner the better.

Hungry Frog, Oklahoma City, OK

30 January 2015

Hungry Frog on Urbanspoon

I had the opportunity to have breakfast at the Hungry Frog this morning. It was very good.

I had the standard breakfast: scrambled eggs with ham, hash browns, biscuit and gravy. I also had a side of bacon.

All of this was perfect. The biscuit in particular stands out, large and just the right texture. I had half of it with strawberry jam, the other half with gravy. I also put gravy on those hash browns, making them just a little more perfect. The bacon… yum.

Service was fast and friendly, and the iced tea was good. My check was $11.75. I will be back.

Super Bowl Ads

30 January 2015

Just for the record, I don’t give a damn about Super Bowl ads.

If you are a marketeer, one of the companies, associated with the game, or anything like that, well, sorry.

“News” programs that clearly don’t have news to cover blather on about these ads, all the while talking with awe about the cost per second or whatever. It’s not news, folks.

Super Bowl ads will lose what little relevancy they might have about 24 hours after the game is over.

The people making, broadcasting, and talking about these ads are mainly overly rich people trying to get people with less money to give up that money. That’s it.

Taste of Soul Chicken and Waffles, Oklahoma City, OK, Food Truck

21 January 2015

Taste of Soul Chicken and Waffles on Urbanspoon

This food truck showed up outside my company today, so I checked it out. Nothing fancy, just a couple chicken tenders wrapped in a waffle, but very good.

The tenders were deep fried and had a slight flavor I could could not identify (but liked). The waffle was perfectly cooked and golden brown. The whole thing was wrapped up in foil and had a drizzle of honey.

I had some iced tea left over from Hideaway pizza with lunch. Service was fast (less than two minutes) and very friendly. My check was $6.16 (I think, might be off a couple pennies). Just the right amount of food for lunch. Good stuff.

The Hobbit Movie, Part 3

12 January 2015

If such things bother you, there are spoilers here!

We went to see the final Hobbit movie last evening. I was unimpressed with the second part, and less than impressed with the first part.

As a movie, it was OK. As canon for The Lord of the Rings, I just didn’t like it.

As a note, as I write this, HBO is playing the first installment right now. I am not watching it, due to indifference. If one of the LOTR movies was playing, I would likely be watching it, as those movies were well made and keep my interest.

There were a couple things I liked. The battle between Saruman, Elrond, and Galadriel was pretty cool, even though it’s not canon. Or at least, it’s very liberally interpreted canon. Of course, the reason for the battle was to rescue Gandalf, which was bogus and not canon. And with another appearance by the Bunny Sleigh. *sigh*

I liked the ending as Bilbo returned home, and the Elven Kings caribou/elk/moose.

I did not like the sandworms of Arrikis coming to Middle Earth.

Major Plot Question: Why didn’t the orcs use the sandworms to come up inside the Mountain, send about 10,000 orcs to kill the dwarves, and loot all the treasure, without the need for a big battle?

The orcs were all wrong. The subplot with the Elf Babes (both male and female) added nothing to the movie except some cool CGI.

Dain and the BattlePig; really?. The Elven King saying “frack it” in the middle of the battle was not cool. In fact, the Elven King banishing the female Elf Babe was not cool either. I wish there had been some closure to that; did she get to come home? And why exactly did Legolas leave? Did the dwarves help the people of Lake Town and Dale get rebuilt?

It all comes down to the fact that there should have been two movies, not three, and that some of the plot and backstory that is canon, and so enriched the books (both TH and LOTR), should have replaced the bogus battle scenes and other filler. This movie was watchable, but it didn’t hold my interest hardly.

I will likely never look at any of these three again. I’m sticking with the book.

Old South Restaurant, Russellville, AR

10 January 2015

Old South Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday evening we were exploring the area of Russellville, and needed dinner. Old South was a good choice.

Raegan, her Mom, and I all got fried chicken. It was great stuff. Each meal was four large pieces of chicken, perfected fried up, and filling a platter. The chicken came with mashers and decent gravy. That was a heck of a lot of chicken. It was, however, just juicy enough, not dry anywhere, and while there was a bit more breading than I usually like, I ate all four pieces.

Our relatives also got hamburger steaks and liked them.

The iced tea was great and kept refilled, and service was right on and very friendly; the only issue we had was getting a couple sides of okra mid-meal. The check for all six of us was $59.78, which I think is great value for six people. I’d be happy to go back.

Ted’s, Del City, OK

6 January 2015

Ted's Cafe Escondido on Urbanspoon spped

This place opened back during the summer. It’s Ted’s, what could go wrong?

I’ve had several meals here, including one with a largish group. In each case, I had the pork chili verde, and it was very good at least. You have that great salsa and queso to start.

It’s always been busy. Service was excellent in spite of that. The iced tea is great. My check for my last meal there was $17.80. You can find better Mexican in OKC, but you can’t go wrong for the Tex-Mex and speed of service.

The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe, NM

6 January 2015

Pantry Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This was a wonderful find, thanks to Urbanspoon!

We needed dinner Saturday evening as we drove through Santa Fe on the way to OKC. This place was perfect.

I started out with a cup of green chili stew – pork chili verde with cubed potatoes and other stuff. Not spicy, just an excellent tang, and wonderful flavor.

Raegan and Erin got excellent chicken enchiladas. Ian got excellent beef enchiladas. I know they were excellent because I had a couple bites of each. I had carne adovada, perfect flavor and spice level. All of this was perfectly edible, wonderful stuff!

We finished the meal off with a couple pieces of tres leches cake that was sweet goodness.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was perfect. Our check was $64.32.

Altogether a superior eating experience. As much as I like to try new places to eat, I may have just locked into The Pantry when I’m in Santa Fe.

La Catrina, Oklahoma City, OK

6 January 2015

La Catrina on Urbanspoon

I had dinner at La Catrina this evening, as it was near my Scout meeting location. It was OK.

I had hoped to find a guiso here, and there isn’t one on the menu. I asked my server, and she said the nearest thing was gorditos verde. She also asked if spicy hot was OK, I said yes.

The gorditos verde turned out to be three sopapillas, each about 3″ square, with some pork, cheese, lettuce, chili verde, and more bright red tomato dices than you could shake a stick at. The meal had a hint of flavor, and the pork was tender. The spice level of the meal was not hot in the slightest (yes, YMMV). There was a dollop of sour cream on the side, but it wasn’t needed.

The meal came with some decent queso and a very tomato-based salsa (no heat). The iced tea was pretty good. I was pretty much ignored except for seating, ordering, being served, and getting my check. I was the only customer for most of the time. My check for this was $12.99.

The food was OK. I will not be rushing back.

Peak Deli, Pagosa Springs, CO

1 January 2015

Peak Deli on Urbanspoon

We had lunch here today after we arrived at Pagosa Springs.

I had the “Wolf Creek”, ham, turkey, and bacon on wheat. They toasted it for me, and it was a perfect sandwich. Erin and Ian had roast beef sandwiches (his toasted, hers not), and Raegan had turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich. They all enjoyed the sandwiches. Erin and I also had their chicken verde soup. First, it was hotter than heck. I thought the spice level was right on, but Erin and Reagan though it was a bit much. We had some chips and cookies. Drinks are all bottled from cooler.

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $57.00. Might seem a bit high, but we got all the extra stuff, and after all, it’s a ski town. I would eat there again.

The Old Firehouse, South Fork, CO

1 January 2015

Old Firehouse on Urbanspoon

We had settled into our nice cabin in South Fork this evening, and needed dinner. Our host recommended The Old Firehouse, and it was a good call.

Ian and Erin both got cheeseburgers with different dressings. They were asked how they liked their burgers cooked, which was nice. I had a taste of Erin’s burger; it was excellent, with great texture and flavor. Both of them reported the burgers were great, and ate all of them. Raegan and I both had the roast quarter-chicken, which came with mashers, gravy, and green beans. We both enjoyed the birds, they were plump and tender and HOT. The veg was very good also.

We finished the meal with a hot brownie covered in hot fudge and with a scoop of ice cream, wonderful.

Service was just right and super friendly. The iced tea was pretty good, and kept filled. Our check was $62.30. Good meal.

More Craven BS From Republicans on Torture

14 December 2014

Call it what it is, torture. Not “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Every person in the Bush Administration (and that’s where it was, folks, not Obama, BUSH) who supported or implemented the torture in the name of freedom (how’s that for an oxymoron?) ought to be identified, censured, and maybe even locked up.

President Obama made a decision, it seems, to not pursue these anti-American criminals. I understand the reasoning (“healing”) but don’t really agree with it. I am of the opinion that the people involved should be charged (and maybe pardoned?), at the least, to make a point.

The news programs this week, and the Sunday shows, had all sorts of Bush torture apologists spouting off. These are the same guys that shot holes all through the Constitution (including torture, surveillance, and the like) in the name of protecting us. Right.

So many of the torture apologists take the line that Valuable Information Was Obtained. But that can’t name that information. I heard several of them say that it was classified. How convenient.

The head of the CIA had a press conference to defend the agency. A guy with a sense of the Constitution and a pair of balls would have said, yes, people at the Agency committed torture, but it was wrong and we’ve cleaned it up.

So many Republicans whined that release of the torture report Would Cause Lives To Be Lost. Well, guys, it’s not the report, it’s the actions the report documented, and those actions were 100% Bush Administration. So many of those people are cowards; they see terrorists under ever rock (remember the prayer rugs in Texas!!!!!). More likely, they just want to keep the weak-minded (their base) in a constant state of agitated fear.

They are sad and pathetic, and dangerous. If Obama were the emperor/king/monarch that many of them claim, they would have already been put in jail for their anti-Administration beliefs. They ought to be in jail for their anti-American actions.

Alfredo’s Mexican Cafe, Edmond, OK

12 December 2014

Alfredo's Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Raegan and I were looking for dinner last evening, sans kids, and we decided to try Alfredo’s. It was very good.

Raegan got a pair of enchiladas, one chicken and one cheese. She could not finish the meal, so I had the remainder of the chicken enchilada, and we both agreed it was very good. I got the pork chili verde: excellent. The pork chunks were tender, and the verde was perfect, hot temperature and medium spice. I liked it a lot.

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $27.57. I would be glad to eat here again.

Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks, Food Truck, Oklahoma City, OK

5 December 2014

Phill Me Up Cheesesteaks on Urbanspoon

This truck came by our workplace yesterday afternoon; they make a pretty good cheesesteak.

So I learned about one downside to food trucks. When they cook everything up right in front of you, it’s great. Except when it’s below 30F, and the wind is blowing out of the north, then it’s not quite a great. From the time I got there, to ordering, to getting my cheesesteak, it was 25 minutes. There were at least 15 people in front of me either waiting for their food, or to order. None of that is the fault of the food truck folks, of course; it’s just what it is.

Regardless, I got a cheesesteak. It was kind of short, about six inches. The steak part was tender and juicy and quite tasty. The sammich included onions sauteed with the steak, and no-kidding Cheese Whiz over it all (I first tried ordering “wit wiz” and the guy looked at me like I was speaking Cherokee :) ). My only comment is that the onions should be chopped up much smaller (on the order of smaller than 1/4″) to get them fully cooked and integrated flavor-wise with the steak.

The have chips and drinks as well. I got chips, but had iced tea at my desk already. My check was $8.50. Service was friendly and as fast as they could crank sandwiches out. I would not mind eating another.

Conservatives Are Happy About The Michael Brown Situation

28 November 2014

The inherently racist part of Conservatives blossomed again after the decision by the local DA to not prosecute the cop who killed the unarmed man.

There are lots of posts about how you should just do what a cop says every time without question, they are trashing the guys hired by the family to do the autopsy, and of course the mans family is criticized.

This is a reflection of the core part of conservatism that is inherently white supremacy. They crow when a single black woman is elected to the national Congress, never mind that she is one of a few blacks at the national level, and the vast majority is still white.

The saddest part of the whole situation is that blacks have been getting the active shaft in this country since we condoned slavery, and the policies by Republicans to suck wealth and opportunity from the 98% to the 2% disproportionally continue to screw blacks.

All the while, conservatives tut-tut that blacks (and women, and the poor, and Hispanics) should Just Pull Themselves Up or Get Educated or Just Work Harder. Business interests (overwhelmingly conservative) were the reason for slavery in the first place, and one look at the benefits and overall job security and stability over the past 20+ years show that opportunity is steadily being removed.

And supposedly opportunity-first Republicans not only don’t do anything to fix the situation, they actively try to make it worse. Shameful.

Bible Class In Mustang Public Schools – Rejected

26 November 2014

KOCO Channel 5 here in OKC reported today that Mustang Public Schools has dropped a plan to teach a class on the Bible.

The class was developed in some way by the founder of Hobby Lobby, and apparently they want to spread that class far and wide.

This rightly annoyed the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation; both organizations urged Mustang Schools to not accept the curriculum.

Apparently Mustang ultimately rejected the concept because the Hobby Lobby people would not agree to two terms, which were to allow the school system to review the curriculum before the class, and to indemnify the school from legal challenges.

I think that the fact that the Hobby Lobby people would not let the school review the curriculum prior to the class to be the most interesting thing here. I’m pretty sure that the scope and sequence of all classes are reviewed by a school before students see the material. I am very surprised that the Hobby Lobby people were not OK with a review; it leaves the distinct impression of something fishy.

On a media-related note, KOCO interviewed a number of supposed parents of Mustang students. Those people were universally less-than-happy about the decision. Every one of the people had some variation on “they should have the class, where else could the kids learn about the Bible?”. I guess that it’s just Too Obvious to ask these people in return what they think the kids are getting in Sunday School. Or do they not take their kids to Sunday School to learn about the Bible? Surely not!

Blimpie’s, Omaha, NE (Eppley)

21 November 2014

Blimpie on Urbanspoon

Yesterday, I got to Eppley for my 1100 flight about 0930, to discover the flight had been pushed back and back to 1450 (a maintenance issue with the flight from DFW had caused AA to switch airplanes; we eventually left at 1430). So I needed lunch. I decided to try the Blimpie’s in terminal, outside the security area.

I had a small wheat ham, bacon, turkey and cheddar, with provolone substituted for the cheddar. In a nice touch, the meat and cheese was welder together (er, heated up) in a toaster over, then put on the bread and lettuce, mayo, and ranch dressing added. I declined having the whole thing toasted.

It was very good! I liked the warmed-up guys of the sammich. I enjoyed the lunch a lot. Service was pretty fast, and very friendly. My check was $9.14, and included a bag of chips and a medium drink.

While I had never tried a Blimpie’s prior to this, it was a good experience, and I would be happy to have another.

T&J Donuts, Del City, OK

21 November 2014

T & J Donuts on Urbanspoon

Most of the reviews here are donuts or Korean food, but this will be a bit different. I was cruising to work last Thursday, and had skipped breakfast, and I was hungry. I drove past T&J and noted the “Breakfast and Lunch”, so thought I would check it out. It was great!

There are a couple breakfast items; I chose two eggs with ham, bacon, and sausage, with a jug of milk. The eggs came over easy (my favorite, I didn’t specify), and were perfect, with nice runny yolks. The ham was a 1/4″+ thick piece that was about 2×3″, so pretty substantial, and on the grill long enough to get some good caramelization, and still tender. The sausage was a largish patty that was juicy and just spicy enough. The bacon was two pieces that were cooked to crispy perfection.

For me, the breakfast we perfect. All four items were cooked like I would cook them at home, and the amount of food was right on the money, and not so much as to stuff myself. Service was fast and friendly. My check was something like $9.50 (I can’t find the receipt). I will go back.

And I might even go for lunch and try some of the the other stuff as well.

Obama And Immigration And Conservatives, And BS

21 November 2014

So this evening the President gave a speech where he announced he is going to do some reforms via executive action. I didn’t watch the speech, and it’s being covered.

But the reactions on Facebook are telling. There have been dozens of memes that were tossed out immediately, meaning they had already been prepared, of course.

The themes are mainly about how Obama is lawless, or that he is acting as an emperor or a king. An example is the laughable Ted Cruz, who claimed on Fox that Obama was “changing the law”, and acting like a monarch. All of this coordinated response is a smokescreen for Republicans Not Doing A Damn Thing.

One from an Oklahoma Congressman quoted a 2011 speech by Obama where Obama talks about immigration reform, and then selectively pulls parts of the speech out to imply that Obama lied about use of executive authority. Such behavior should be beneath a Congressman. It’s contemptible.

Congress, in particular the Republicans, have utterly failed to do anything on immigration reform, or for that matter much of anything else. Not doing anything about immigration is just another failure to govern.

Apple Barrel, Council Bluffs, IA

20 November 2014

Apple Barrel on Urbanspoon

This place is in the Sapp Brothers Travel Center, which was remodeled a couple months ago. Not spectacular, but not bad.

My friend Ron and I hit Apple Barrel for dinner last night as it is very near the hotel we were staying at. They bread their own CFS there, and so that’s what I got. It was pretty good, about an 8 out of 10. It was a thin piece of meat and tenderized, and was fork-tender all the way. It was a touch on the over-cooked side, and had been pan-fried instead of deep-fried. It came with a decent sausage gravy and very good mashers. They have a small salad bar that comes with the meal as well; it has cottage cheese and peaches, which I really liked.

We finished off with dessert; Ron got a HUGE slice of cocoanut cream pie, and I got a HUGE slice of pumpkin, both very good.

Ron got a chicken tenders salad and liked it.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was fast and very friendly. My check was $18.48. It was fast, pleasant, and a decent amount of food. I would not at all mind going back.

Rooster’s Roadhouse, Denton, TX

17 November 2014

Rooster's Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Coming back from our weekend trip to Dallas, we did kind of a lazy explore up past Frisco and on to 380, then to Denton. Ian found Roosters and steered us there. It was very good!

We started with some bacon and cheese fries. I’ve seen this dish with more bacon and more cheese. Regardless, it was OK.

Ian and I got chopped brisket; his was a sandwich and mine the dinner. We both had fries. That was some very good brisket; tender and fatty and tasty. Raegan got a pulled pork sandwich, it was also very good, again tender and smoky. She got okra that was very good. Finally, Erin got a bacon cheeseburger. That was some outstanding burger; the beef was wonderful, and it didn’t need the bacon. Great burger!

The iced tea was strong and kept refilled. Service was fast. The only thing about this place is that is LOUD. It was also packed at 1230 on a Sunday afternoon. Our check was $52.01, decent value.

Norma’s Cafe, Dallas, TX

16 November 2014

Norma's Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place was great! We are in Dallas for a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, and Norma’s is just a couple miles to the SW. We got there about 1215, and it was packed. We got a table right away (the table was small, and the four of us were a tight fit).

We started with some perfect onion rings. We also got a pile of amazing dinner rolls and cornbread. We ordered a pair of CFS for Ian and I, Erin got a Frito chili pie, and a chicken fried chicken for Raegan. Here was the only issue with the meal, we got three CFS. Raegan decided to go ahead an have it for lunch. Those CFS were great, a 9.5 out of 10. They were kind of gnarled up, but very tasty and clearly breaded there. We had pintos, mac and cheese, corn, carrots, green beans, and mashers and gravy for sides. Every bit of that was eaten and was great! Erin enjoyed her chili pie.

We got slices of chocolate pie, chocolate cake, and custard pie for dessert, and they were all wonderful. The iced tea was excellent.

A note on service. It was bloody crowded in there, but I thought service was just outstanding. The drinks never ran out, everything was delivered quickly, and the two things we asked for extra (some jam for those wonderful rolls, and some extra gravy for the CFS) came in less than a minute. Our server was also super friendly and not rushed at all.

Our check was $71.30. At first I thought it was too high, but fully $20 was the appetizer and the desserts. All of the food was great. I think we got pretty good value. I’d go back any time.

Potbelly, Addison, TX

16 November 2014

Potbelly Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

This is the third Potbelly I’ve been to. The first, in the Chicago area several years ago, I wasn’t particularly impressed by. The location at Campbell and US75 in Richardson is pretty good. And so is this one.

I got a Farmhouse salad; it was pretty darn good. Raegan got a grilled chicken sandwich, Erin just got just a cup of broccoli cheese soup, and Ian just got a cup of chili. All of this was very good. Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $33.02. The iced tea was excellent. Not a bad sandwich place at all.

An Election-Related Ancedote

10 November 2014

I’ve been thinking about the election a week ago, and the significant Republican gains, and whether the country is moving rightward. I don’t think it is.

This Facebook post is a fair sample of much of the Republican/right-leaning commentary not just from the past week, but over the past couple years:

Open borders, executive orders bypassing Congress, Ebola imported, illegal aliens, “children” who are drug cartel gang bangers, race baiting, can’t attend the funeral of the highest ranking officer killed in the war but he’s there for others, completely ignores a US Marine imprisoned in Mexico for more than 100 days, abandons Israel. Just a few of the awful things that have taken place on his watch. Someone should have stood trial for Benghazi. We need representatives who care about America instead of their party.

The question that prompted this was “So what has Obama done that is so bad?”.

Every claim in this can be refuted with facts and reality. The last line in particular – there isn’t a Republican in Congress that can honestly be said to be working for America instead of the advancement of the Republican party. As I’ve said many times before: Conservative first, Republican second, American not even third.

It would be easy to dismiss this person as deluded, or stupid, or something similar. But to me it’s a good example of the unthinking acceptance of the successful strategy of the right, in first actively impeding the recovery of the economy that the right trashed, then a complete failure to campaign on any issues or policies except to oppose Obama. It is related to the constant drumbeat of criticism of anything Obama does, even when that criticism conflicts with previous actions or criticisms, in particular with respect to health insurance reform.

It’s a combination of fears, and it’s expertly stoked by the Republicans. I’m concerned that it might be used by Democrats, but at least I have little worry that an America in the hands of Democrats is going to be sucked dry.

Overuse Of “Breaking News” By Today Show

3 November 2014

On Saturday, Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old brain cancer victim, took her life via Oregon’s death with dignity law. She faced her life, and situation, with remarkable courage. Her death was widely reported Saturday.

This morning (Monday), we had the TV on NBC as The Today Show started. Matt Lauer did an intro that included “Breaking overnight: Brittany Maynard takes her own life”. I may have the second part slightly off, but the “Breaking overnight” part is exactly what he said.

So… the question is, did the Today person who wrote the intro just wake up this morning at 0200 and note the death of Ms. Maynard? Everyone else knew about it Saturday, so it clearly is not “breaking” news.

I suspect it is the routine overuse of superlative-type language. There are so many things that news people find “incredible”, for example. I think Today just threw the story out as breaking in a routine way to try to entice the sleepy to watch. It’s actually sort of pathetic.

One More Ebola-Related Thing

1 November 2014

On the morning news on Channels 4 (KFOR) and 5 (KOCO), I heard almost identical news items, pertaining to the patient in Tulsa taken to the OSU hospital there. The patient, it was reported yesterday morning (almost 24 hours ago), had malaria.

The stories this morning, in outline form:

  • A patient that had been in West Africa came to the hospital running a fever, and is suspected of having Ebola.
  • Several other Ebola themes are mentioned, including the Nurse Who Was Quarantined.
  • Ebola is BAD.
  • The patient was found to have malaria.
  • This is an example of extremely crappy reporting. I would argue that it’s not even news, and should not have been reported this morning at all. It also clearly is meant to keep stoking the fear that people have of Ebola.

    How about this, KOCO and KFOR? “The patient taken to the OSU hospital in Tulsa after having been in West Africa, was tested and found to have malaria. Malaria is an extremely common disease in West Africa, and is not related to Ebola.”.

    Anything other than this is fear-mongering.

    A Tale of Two Burgers

    31 October 2014

    This is another in my series of laments on the state of chain burgers.

    Wednesday, I had a short time before a meeting that was happening over lunch, and I was quite hungry. There is a Sonic two miles away. I have limited myself to popcorn chicken and dogs at Sonic, but in this case, I really wanted a cheeseburger, so I got the SuperSonic cheeseburger with tots.

    Overall, it was a huge waste. I should have had the hot dog. I really liked the tots. The burger was tasteless and had zero texture. I mean, I had bulk in my stomach, but it wasn’t a meal.

    That evening, we went to Chili’s. I got a cheeseburger there, and it was a world of difference. The beef had, amazingly enough, great beef flavor. The burger had a nice crust and good texture on the inside; the bun was tasty. It was a very good burger.

    Braum’s and Sonic, both Oklahoma-based, used to make the most kick-ass burgers. Now, they ought to just get out of the business of cheeseburgers. They Are No Good. Most other chains, Oklahoma-based or not, are not any better. Burger King used to be very good, now it’s Burger Serf. Jack In The Box? Bury it in a box.

    To the people who run these places: crack open the green eyeshades just a bit and let a few more pennies out, get some decent beef, and get it cooked right. Don’t kid yourself you are making a good food product just because you are making it cheap. Because that’s what it is, cheap. Not inexpensive, cheap.


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