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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Stevens Trail - A Friday off With Wildflowers

Since Kathleen took a day off of work last Friday, we decided to explore Stevens Trail
in the nearby foothills, near Colfax,CA.The trail actually starts on the edge of town nearest Interstate 80. You drive until the road becomes gravel, and that’s the trailhead.

But first some observations about Colfax. What is Colfax. This is a question whose answer changes from year to year. When I first visited Colfax in about 2000 or so, the towns visible character was influenced by weed-hippies who had recently been priced out of the Grass Valley area I the 1990s. We visited a coffee shop, talked with the owner, and while discussing here extensive collection of framed photos of Burning Man,we were invited to join her at her camp that year. Although the juggling and twirling culture sounds attractive, sharing the hot desert with a bunch of hippies into group sex and no showers doesn’t ring my bell. . We visited the same storefront in 2006 to find the coffee shop boasting a new owner, and full Mc Wives taking a break form driving their McSUVs Between their McMansions and the nearest good McMalls, in the Eastern Suburban Sacamento. The were really whining about the long drive to get to a decent store. I refrained from saying, ’They make houses in Sacramento, COW, so what’s your problem!.’ In any event, Colfax has become suburban hell in the middle of nowhere.

The first segment of the hike was downward sloping very well maintained trail through some woods. Unfortunately about ½ mile of the trail followed below the interstate and was a little noisy. Just a few steps out, I found a small frog in this small pond at the bottom of a small waterfall. This waterfall almost certainly dries up in late May.

The forest floor was covered with a lush carpet of poison oak.

Do not use this plant for toilet paper, in fact, if you see some of these when you feel the urge to go relieve yourself off trail, you had better hold it for a while. This stuff makes poison ivy look alike aloe vera.

Mr.Good Judgment Hiker always remembers that the shape and color of poison oak varies. Sometimes the leafs are redder and the plants are leggier than in this picture.

The wooded trail took us back up over the rim of the canyon, and we could see the river a long way down.

This part of the walk was full of spring wildflowers. We saw lots of poppies bromeliads, and unidentified species. I am not attempting to identify anything,because I would probably get it wrong. Look and enjoy.

At the end of our 4.5 mile hike, we stopped at a small rapids for lunch and the opportunity to stick our feet in the cold aerated water. Look across the river and note the big pile of rocks and the eroded slope to its left. That’s probably the handywork of some 19th century fortune seekers.

Speaking of the gold rush, we passed a couple of small old mine shafts dug directly from the trail into the hills. You can see a picture of one from here.

I didn’t find it interesting enough to bother taking a picture. What is interesting is that this cave is directly off of an edge path that is 18 inches wide at its best. The drop down to the river is several hundred feet. I have no idea how or where the miners processed their ore.

After lunch, the walk was all uphill, that’s the problem with hiking in canyons. The walk back was tough enough,with the temperatures in the 80’s, that we had to stop for A&W Root Beer Float. It was good.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What is the American Dream?

Take This Job and Shove It!!

That is the true American dream. Employer – Sponsored Health Insurance is the American Nightmare that denies so many of us the Liberty needed for the Pursuit Happiness in our Life. (Sorry for that, Mr. Nickel profile dude)

This is a pervasive truth in America that everyone knows, however no one has the guts to say it. Until now.

Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has produced a video to support his campaign for a comprehensive health care program that would take some steps to remove the linkage between health care coverage and employment. This is a hoot. Truth is always funnier than Fiction.

This video is refreshing, after hearing armies of Ivy League talking heads blather incessantly for weeks about whether Senator Clinton or Obama understands people whose estates are valued at less than $2 Million (or Joe Lunch bucket and Suzie Housecoat, as C. Montgomery Burns calls them). It appears to me that Senator Wyden is way ahead of the pack when it comes to understanding what motivates people who work for a living. Let's face it, we all want to eat the frosting off the boss’s slice of cake.

I actually looked at the proposed legislation, and I have my doubts as to how useful this legislation would be. The legislation would be beneficial if everything worked out exactly in accordance with the economic assumptions used by the plan’s supporters. This legislation has a fatal flaw that I see in almost every Healthcare Reform proposal involving private insurance but not employer-based plans. If the cost of healthcare were to rise beyond the rather rosy cost assumptions used to make the case that the plan is efficient, guess who gets stuck with the extra costs? Yep that’s right, the workers pay the entire cost overrun. Given the insurance rates would be developed by private insurers, regulated by Government, and paid by the households who will be legally required to purchase insurance (sounds too much like auto insurance to me), I estimate the probability of major cost overruns to be about 99.44%. Put that in your Ivory Soap and go take a bath.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Star Trek 11 - Ya Gotta Be Hosin me!

Oh God, No, No This Isn't Happening, Will We Ever Learn?

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

Somebody’s making a Star Trek XI movie, retelling the story of the early days of the Enterprise. What did I ever do to deserve this? Apparently, William Shatner was snubbed, proving that every cloud does have its silver lining. Unfortunately, from listening to the voices in the somewhat uninspiring trailer, I suspect we will be treated with an appearance by Leonard Nimoy, who will no doubt once again impress us with his awesome acting versatility by playing an uber-yid from outer space. From looking at the cast credits,I'm thinking Romulans! LT Sulu will be played by the guy who played Harry on the legendary quest for White Castle. Maybe Kumar will show up in a cameo as assistant physician. maybe I care.

The film’s website has forums, where Star Trek fans for the most part muse that the movie will most certainly suck, but they’ll watch it anyway. We need to be vigilant, folks. We need to support our comrades who post on IMDB to make sure this remake doesn’t screw anything up, such as using plot timing not consistent with the fact that Spock graduated the Academy several years before Kirk. C’mon doncha remember that Spock was Captain pike’s Science officer, playing second fiddle to the luscious “Number One”? We must not allow any violation of previously established Star Trek timelines, unless tachyon fluxes are involved, of course.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How to Spend Three Trillion Dollars

I realize I missed National Surrealism week in the U.S. last week. I think the concept probably would have had broader appeal if the sponsors stayed more true to their concept. Surely, “National Surrealism Chimpanzee Catapult Bicycle” would have made more sense. Possibly it would have been just what we’ve been waiting for, something that could stun Suburban America out of its bourgeois stupor. We missed out on yet another opportunity for anarchy. Dang.

Hey – Maybe I was too involved in my own little world, and overlooked that we might, at this very moment, be living in National Surrealism Decade. Current events keep on spawning Surrealist Games. The latest game is called How Would You Spend $3 Trillion Dollars .

The youtube video you see below introduces this most excellent internet based game.

I’ve got to run. I need to buy Microsoft before somebody else does. Maybe I’ll buy healthcare for all our fellow Americans with some of the about $2.75 Trillion I’ll have left over. I wonder if the Cubs are for sale?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What Kind of Place for a Jewish Boy?

After hearing about a trip Kathleen and a friend took to Redwoods Monastery a few years back, I decided to join Kathleen fro a short retreat last weekend. I was a little concerned about hanging out with a bunch of Cistercian nuns. Happily the reality of being a guest at their retreat was somewhat akin to visiting a Disneyland of the Spirit, with the 11 retreatants playing the role of the Midwestern family relating to the 10 cloistered nuns’ appearances as costumed characters. Most of the time the nuns dressed like old hippies, as is the style of Humboldt County. However, these Sisters claim to support themselves by selling honey
rather than marijuana like most of their neighbors produce. I have never been anywhere in the U.S. where everyone admits that that the only two major employers in the region are the Government and the marijuana industry. Duuuuude!

We drove upon Thursday arriving at about 3:00 PM. My favorite part of this drive (besides a Frosty Freeze in Clear Lake) is short stretch of Hw 101 through Richardson Grove. We had time to walk around before a short Eucharist service at 5:30. The service was mostly chanting of psalms, as are all their services. Their chanting was beautiful. Although the psalms were chanted in English, their meanings were no more coherent to me than Latin. A lot about destroying enemies and all that business.

The chapel is quite a unique place. The wall behind the altar is all glass, looking out over a redwood tree and a small meadow, where we saw the antics of wild turkeys and deer several times over the weekend. The design was very simple, to the point of having almost no visible Christian symbolism.

Everybody sat in a semicircle around the altar. I learned quickly not to sit in the center, since they pass around communion from each side, and the person near the center of the arc has to walk everything back up to the altar. I felt pretty stupid doing that. We had supper of soup, bread and cheese (dinner at noon is the biggest meal of the day) with the other retreatants. The food was pretty good, although modest. The cheese was probably the fancy stuff made by Trappists in Gethsemane KY.

We got to bed early, recognizing that morning meditation was to begin at 5:45 AM every day, after a walk in the dark to the chapel. Each morning began with meditation from 5:45to 6:45, which went OK for me until the last day, when I allowed myself to lean against a wall. After that, it was a constant fight against falling asleep. Another chanting service at 6:00 was followed by (finally!) breakfast and coffee. We had breakfast with the nuns in their community room each morning. Breakfast with the nuns did not provide much insight into life in the monastery, since they maintain silence until 9:30 each morning. Breakfast was my favorite meal, with home-made granola, yoghurt, home-made preserves, toast & honey, peanut butter and fresh fruit. I noticed the sisters eat a lot of peanut butter. That appears to be their secret for supplementing an otherwise rather severe monastic diet.

After breakfast, we explored a redwood grove on the property. I get a kick out of giant trees. Trees are our friends.

We were lucky that trillium was blooming. These beauties grow under the redwoods.

We walked through a meadow over a hill from the cloister and guest houses

The photo album page has more pictures.

I spent some of the spare and quiet time available reading a couple of Buddhist books, to offset the Catholicism in the environment.

I felt refreshed after the retreat, most likely due to the deep quietness and calm of the experience, as much as anything else. I found myself thinking of a slight variation on the old advertisements for Levi’s Rye Bread; You don’t have to love Jesus to like it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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