Monday, August 31, 2009
This photo is taken from hiking trails that cut across the ski slopes above Beaver Creek's main base area. I stopped by on Sunday for a short walk after dinner in Edwards CO, but I really should come back to do some warm weather trail running at these ski areas; they're really perfect for running and hiking.
Side note: every time I've visited this resort, the staff has been unfailingly polite and helpful.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The Needles are a subset of the San Juan Range north of Durango, CO, and they are a rugged and fairly remote range. Unlike many peaks, there is no road leading to their base. To hike these summits, you really need to camp overnight, and in this case possibly take the Durango & Silverton Railroad up the Animus River canyon to a remote trailhead. They up the ante compared to other Colorado peaks I have visited. The fact that I run the approach cuts down the time considerably, but I have not yet decided if I can manage these mountains within the span of a day. We will see.
The West Needles are in the foreground and peeking out in the middle, are some of the Needles proper. I was a bit disappointed to find out that the peak in the center of this photo is called "Pigeon Peak", because frankly I think it's a pretty intimidating peak and deserves a fiercer name!
Then again, perhaps I have underestimated the common pigeon.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The most prevalent mistake, and the one that has the most relevance in today's climate of threatened political doom,* is a nearly total lack of understanding of her morality. Despite having apparently read her work, and having had 50+ years to do so, many authors slip into parroting the widespread distortions of her philosophy, rather than describing the philosophy itself, resulting in some very ironic statements.
For example, a writer at Huffington Post quotes Rand's formulation of how self-interest does not involve sacrifice, which is a great quote because it stands in opposition to nearly everything The Left claims about her. You're thinking: "Hey, finally someone understand the material!":
"The individual "must exist for his own sake", Rand wrote in 1962, "neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself."
but there is also the following:
In essence, there are two kinds of Selfish that can find their roots in Rand's writings. The first is the Dick Cheney/Alan Greenspan selfishness, inherent in Right wing think tank philosophy and spewed by the foaming mouths of Red State Republicans everywhere. Basically, it's the inherent selfishness, self interest and self-righteousness of the Aristocracy as they pee on the Proles and count their ducats.
Of course we know the whole point of Ayn Rand's account of production is that creativity applies to business activity, and does not involve exploitation. All wealth is created, and if someone wants something, they have to trade for it.
Gennet almost gets it right when discussing artists, but falls into the usual altruistic pattern when money is involved. The piece is therefore sprinkled with the usual liberal diatribes against capitalism, selfishness and its alleged representatives.
Here is part of a comment I posted:
There are not two types of selfishness arising from Rand's writings, there is the type she *actually* advocated, and there is the deliberate distortion of her ideas that liberals seem to like to tar and feather their enemies with.
Rand did not advocate material gain at others' expense, as per the quote you yourself included:
[see quote above]
In other words, everyone has the same rights. Not Big Oil trampling everyone else, not universal health care enslaving doctors for the sake of patients. Equality.
This meaning permeates Ayn Rand's entire fictional/ethical/political oeuvre, yet people still don't pick up on it, and insist on pinning their mistaken associations on her.
In my opinion, correcting this false view of rational self-interest is probably the most important obstacle to positive political change, because it fraudulently taps into a very deep-seated mistrust some people have of individualism. There are signs of hope in the culture at large, mainly due to the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute, but until it's widely recognized that selfishness does not involve sacrifice, there will be much more education required.
UPDATE: P.S. - I should have mentioned that Gennet has a better knowledge of Rand than most liberal commentators. There is now part 2 of this post, to respond to certain online comments. This is more real dialogue than I have come to expect on the topic of Ayn Rand or free markets on liberal sites, which is a pleasant surprise. The discussion appears to be moving into details that are out of the scope of brief online posts, but that's OK. I posted the following:
I appreciate your attitude of dialogue on the topic of Ayn Rand. Her ideas do incite a lot of discussion but much of it is based on misinformation, and you have informed yourself.
Regarding the way we should handle the "bad apples" of commerce however, I beg to differ on some points.
First, freedom and/or "greed" do not cause economic troubles like the one we are currently suffering the consequences of. Greed is impotent without opportunity, and government distortions on markets are what made the glut of credit available: low Fed rates, loose lending by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, the Community Reinvestment Act, etc. Left to their own (market) devices, capitalists would have told risky borrowers "Loan denied!", which of course is the whole raison d'être for these initiatives: to *circumvent* market forces, because they were deemed insufficient to meet the goals of certain desired social policies.
Second, laissez-faire capitalism renders evildoers ineffective and punishes them, so they are a non-issue. Laissez-faire in commerce would be no more permissive of wrongdoing than our criminal law currently is for murder.
Third, there is the matter of morality. Since actual wrongdoers will be punished, there is no moral reason to restrict them until they actually commit a crime. It would be morally wrong to do so, because it is morally right to live your life, and to think and to act freely on those ideas, provided you allow others to do the same.
*Universal health care, public ownership of important businesses, major government meddling in the banking industry, to name a few threats.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This photo was taken from the top of Castle Rock north of Durango, CO, and looks back down U.S. 550 towards Durango. The body of water in this photo is Electra Lake.
We got totally drenched and chilled on this hike, having been caught in rain from the storms you see here. It probably qualifies as one my most uncomfortable hikes ever, but it still would be hard to say it was truly bad. After all, it's in Colorado!
The Animus River itself takes a (viewer's) left before this point, and spills into a deep canyon navigated only by the Durango & Silverton Railroad on its way to Silverton.
The Castle Rock trail is smack-dab in the middle of tiny Needles CO, which as of this writing consists mostly of some residences, a gas station/convenience store, liquor store, ski/bike shop and a terrifically rustic pizza joint called the Olde Schoolhouse Café. The building is creaky and old and the wait may be long (it's a popular place), but The Vinny pizza is cheese, pepperoni and garlic heaven. Now that I eat low-carb, I'd probably scrape the goodies off the crust, but it'd be well worth it.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
This run totaled 12.8 miles, and ranged from 10,500 ft. to 14,014 ft., for a total gain of 3,700 feet (including ups and downs).
This peak was a long way from civilization. For someone from the Denver area, Gunnison, CO is already remote. In addition, this peak is around 50 miles and 2+ hours from Gunnison, 21 miles of which are dirt roads. Thankfully, about 80% of those roads were good quality, and I could drive between 25-45 mph in my passenger car (although if my car had feelings, it would hate me. It would have put out a contract on me and I would not be typing this for you now).
The dirt road traveled through many miles of brush-covered valley like this:
Along the way, there was a small reservoir containing species of waterfowl I had never seen anywhere else. Cochetopa Creek meandered placidly back and forth between the hills:
Once I got under way, the sky turned somewhat overcast, but mercifully the usual afternoon rain never materialized. In its place were shifting clouds and nearly constant wind. You can see the effect of the wind in the gnarled, twisted trees:
Although it was overcast, the flowers added brightness and color to the trail:
San Luis has a gentle, rolling summit area. Rug-like patches of tundra dot the ridge line, and the trails are compressed paths in the crushed rock.
This is a view from the summit, looking back at the ascent. Although it may look easy, it also needs to be traversed with 60% of the air that exists at sea level, a fact that is evident in the slow-motion walks of hikers near the summit. After all, it's nearly half way to the summit of Everest.
Here begins the long descent back into the valley. As you can see from the Google Earth image at the top, the trail is fairly straight the whole way. The parking area is roughy 5 miles down the valley at this point. The return run is a fairly easy and gradual descent, although for me, any run of significant height and decent distance is tiring, and I was glad to get back to the car.
Afterwards I grabbed a quick meal in Gunnison, then headed out of town. I happened to be passing south, so I couldn't resist snapping some photos on the way into Ouray, Ayn Rand's inspiration for Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged. The town itself is nestled between the mountains in the center:
The entire drive from Montrose to Ouray is one of approaching a wall of jagged mountains, and is full of views that can give you whiplash or cause you to run off the road if you're not careful.
Monday, August 24, 2009
- Reaganomics -- defined by him as low taxes and deregulation -- failed
- Reaganomics equates to free markets (which is false)
- Free markets have failed
- Reaganomics, and therefore by association, free markets, only benefit the rich
- George Bush was a Reaganite (I assume the purpose here is to further tar-and-feather Reaganism by association with Bush)
- Self-interest is bad (of course we are asked to accept that he knows what this is, which I doubt very much)
- The influence of money is bad (in this case, insurance companies fighting for their survival lest they be shackled by the government under H.R. 3200)
In his article "All the President’s Zombies", Paul Krugman decries opponents of "greater choice" in health care. I'm confused; is he referring to the proposal for government to restrict insurance choices to those vendors in a government-approved exchange, or to approved procedures and prices? Is he referring to the states' protectionist restrictions on insurers from other states? Is he referring to the redistribution of my money for medical purposes so that I may not choose how to spend it? Or is he referring to the alleged restriction of choice exercised by insurance companies, when they offer services of a nature and pricing determined by them, something which is every bit within their moral right to do?
The only zombie-related action I see is the attempt to continually re-animate the lifeless corpse of government manipulation of markets, something that can only be kept alive by misleading articles such as Mr. Krugman's.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
This picture makes me think of shootouts on main street, from seeing too many Hollywood westerns. Crested Butte, CO has a lot of old homes that have been well preserved and are still in use as restaurants and shops, as well as residences. The afternoon light, the surrounding mountains, and a lively (but not obnoxious) street and restaurant crowd made for a very upbeat evening. It's a beautiful place if you ever have a chance to visit.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Years later, I ran across this tune, which initially caught my ear because of the interesting rhythm. I'm not that musically literate but I can at least tell it's a waltz beat (1-2-3, 1-2-3...) overlain with some other rhythm. It's interesting :) Anyway, what I've come to enjoy about this song is its upbeat nature and its worldly focus; it's a slightly wistful yet uplifting tribute to the fact that we are only here for a short while... and not long enough. I think it's great, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
P.S. - Dig the groovy video effects! Woo-hoo! Double images!
P.S. #2 - And I'm pretty sure there's a reference to heaven (meet in the sweet light of dawn), but that's alright. Still like it.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I've had the idea recently to write a program to download these images and then assemble them into a video. There are plenty of utilities to do it, but I wanted to try it myself, as a small programming project. I finally did that, and assembled the into a movie using QuickTime Pro. These images are from 5 AM to 10 PM:
This video shows a pretty typical daily flow of weather in Denver: a great number of days start with clear skies, then around late morning or mid-day some clouds start to appear, which can build into afternoon showers. The afternoon in this video is maybe a bit more stormy than usual, since often the storms clear up by nightfall.
I was surprised to see what appears to be a criss-cross movement direction in the clouds, which you may not notice unless you see this type of video. Unless I'm mistaken, the upper layer seems to flow generally east (right), and the lower air seems to be flowing generally west (left). I had no idea that was occurring.
Maybe some day when I'm running a trail behind NCAR in Boulder, I'll find someone who can explain it, and I'll be prepared with some choice global warming questions too.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I had planned another long run that requires a peak traverse -- in this case from Mt. Belford to Mt. Oxford -- because I failed to get all the way over to Oxford last summer, and because the day started out with clear blue skies and a promising weather report.
But as often happens in the mountains, bad weather sprang to life in the 2 1/2 hours of my ascent, and I had to turn back once I reached the top of Mt. Belford, leaving Mt. Oxford for another day -- again. Here is the final track of my outing:
Total run/hike length was 8.9 miles, with a starting elevation of 9,700 feet, a summit of 14,197 feet, for a respectable elevation gain of 5,020 feet (including ups/downs). Time was 2:25 to the top of Belford, for a total time of just under 4 hours.
To show you how nice it was early in the day, here is a shot of the valley, roughly halfway to Belford. That's Missouri Mountain in the very back; Belford is up and out of sight to the left. I have to say this part of the valley is pretty darn photogenic:
However, dark clouds had started collecting over the peaks as I climbed, and the sun was starting to disappear by the time I reached Mt. Belford's summit:
Both times I've been to the top of this mountain, it's been windy enough to stand leaning into the wind. This time, when the sun slid behind the clouds, my thermometer read 35 degrees, plus there was a constant 20 mph wind, and little snow pellets started falling. It only took about 5 minutes for my fingers to start feeling numb through my thin mittens. Since it would have been another hour+ to also visit Mt. Oxford, I reluctantly turned around. This photo shows the gathering gloom, with Oxford in the back left:
About 1,000 feet downhill I took the shot below, of the snow falling across the same valley as in the first picture. Down here it was about 45 degrees with a light wind, which was totally comfortable jogging temperature, although the rocks were now a bit damp so I made my way down carefully (the path zigzags back and forth somewhat, so you're not actually running straight down the slope you see here, although some parts are steep). If you zoom in you can see the snow being whipped around:
Amazingly, as I neared the valley floor, which was about 2,000 feet from the top, the sun came out and I changed to running in a tank top and shorts (I zipped the legs off of my convertible pants)! Here is a photo from the lower part of the valley. The time stamp on the second photo is a mere 20 minutes later:
Having remembered the wind from last time, I had come prepared for temps from roughly 45 and up including some wind. I had the following clothing items with me in a small REI hydration pack, with the jacket around my waist:
- North Face Paramount cargo pants (the legs zip on/off)
- Mountain Hardwear Transition windproof jacket w/hood
- Short sleeved shirt
- Tank top
- Extra socks
- Knit cap
- Baseball-style cap
As I passed from the open alpine valley of Missouri Gulch and into pine forest, I caught this picture of the stream that drains the valley:
Afterwards I grabbed another late lunch at the Breckenridge Brewery from a table with a view, exchanged jacket sizes at the local North Face store (they get winter items sooner at the Breckenridge location), and chilled out for a while.
On my drive home past Frisco, I couldn't resist stopping at the scenic pull-off overlooking the reservoir. I keep taking pictures from here, because it always grabs my attention, and it's my last stop in the high country before weathering the often demoralizing I-70 traffic, when masses of speeding tailgaters drive home to the big city. I like the varied light of this photo. This view to the southeast is towards Keystone and Arapahoe Basin ski resorts, as well as Grays and Torreys Peaks.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Here is my analysis based on his analysis.
The use of the word "Choices" is particularly ironic here. Government does not produce goods and services from which we can choose; the only thing it brings to the table is the use of physical force. When such power is applied unjustly, as it would be here, it operates by thwarting choices that would have been made, such as freely choosing a medical plan without suffering a tax penalty, or choosing any medical services or any pay rate, rather than only what the medical Czar approves. The use of this word here is therefore totally dishonest.
"Affordable" is also ironic, since such a bill would drain resources from the medical profession and simply make certain things unavailable, so the issue of affording them would not even arise, because they wouldn't exist, or would exist in such short supply that they would be unavailable to some. You cannot override the laws of economics with a mere desire for universal health care, folks.
H.R. 3200 looks to me like it would be one of the most sweeping government actions ever, such as Social Security, and will be equally -- or more -- wasteful and destructive. After all, it is now literally everyone's physical survival we are talking about.
Some of the most disturbing aspects are:
- The penalties on individuals and employers for not offering a plan that is up to government specifications.
- The establishment of a medical Czar to decide what prices and products are acceptable, and whose powers are often above those of the judicial system. In additional to being a totally immoral and egregious violation of our rights, what a bureaucratic nightmare that would be.
- The establishment of an insurance exchange which would be controlled by the Czar. Membership in the exchange will be decided by the Czar.
Since neither you nor companies will really be able to make their own decisions, and every critical aspect of the process will be controlled by the Czar, this would essentially be single-payer by proxy.
Since there would be nominal private ownership but government control, I would call it fascist rather than socialized medicine.
The Moral Question
I am not going to argue the economics. Economists have already proven many times over that government interference in commerce is a total disaster, for the simple reason that only those who are free to think and act, can produce.
This battle, like all other political battles, needs to be fought primarily on moral terms, because those are the terms on which capitalism has been losing. Not because capitalism is evil, but because capitalists have allowed themselves to be convinced that they should feel guilt for producing.
Let me put it as clearly as possible:
Government health care, including Medicare, Medicaid, single payer, and everything else in between, is morally wrong, on principle, regardless of any details of implementation.
Nobody has a moral right to tell me how to live my life or spend my money. It's my money, it's my health, and it's my life to live according to my judgment. Anything else is brute force and theft, pure and simple.
This bill -- and all other such plans -- need to be stopped, or we will be paying dearly for many years to come.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
As per this web page, nearby Mt. Bross still remains closed, even though on Sunday it was covered with hikers. Oddly there are no signs posted on the trails, so I don't know how anyone can be expected to follow the closure, unless they read about it in local papers or on the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative web site.
The course I ran/hiked was 8.8 miles, with a relatively high starting elevation of 11,600 ft. and high points of 14,148 ft. (Democrat), 14,238 ft. (Cameron) and 14,286ft. (Lincoln). Due to the lack of separation between Cameron and Lincoln, Cameron is not typically considered to be an "official" fourteener, but you still have to go over it on the way to Lincoln, and it's certainly tall! Only about 2/3 of this trail was runnable by my standards; the rest was too rugged, high and/or crowded.
The trailhead is the Kite Lake camping area, at the end of a dirt road that has a washboard surface in many spots but isn't too rough for a passenger car like my Altima, if driven at the posted speed limit. The trailhead is entirely above the trees, so the views are expansive. The lake provides a placid backdrop to this pretty alpine bowl:
You can spot someone napping in the grass on the right. Aaaaah...
Since these peaks are close to Denver compared to many others, and have a high trailhead above the tree line that makes for a quick ascent, they tend to be very popular. It was a veritable conga line of hikers near the top of Democrat. Although any high peak is great outing, I'd consider visiting these trails during the week rather than a weekend.
The last time I was at REI** I noticed the growing pet outdoor equipment section; it seems like that product area has grown quite a bit recently. The hiker dogs in this picture have a backpack and booties, respectively -- a nice idea when you have soft paws and lots of sharp rocks lying around. They look a bit tired, yet happy to join the hike with their humans :)
Below is a shot from the top of Mt. Lincoln, with Cameron on the left, and Democrat in the back to the left of center. The total distance is 2 miles, even though it may not look that far. If you look closely you can see multi-colored rocks covering the ridge, the minerals probably an indication of why there are so many mines nearby:
Across the valley to the north is Quandary Peak (far right) and tiny Wheeler Lake just above center:
I might have to hike up to the lake some time. I found these amazing photos of people 4-wheeling up the access road (click on the photos on the right).
The area near Quandary is also home to Horton The Quandary Dog and his owner David Pfau, a photographer with a shop in Breckenridge. While I was hiking that mountain during my first summer here, Horton made one lap to the summit and was on his way for a second as I descended. That's his job, and it's a pretty nice gig if you can get it.
Since Breckenridge is a short drive away over Hoosier Pass, that's where I headed for lunch at the Breckenridge Brewery. I managed to get a seat outdoors on the second-story balcony, with views of the mountains, similar to the scene below down near the river. Sun, flowers, good food and beer; a nice end to the day.
* Obviously not an acceptable solution from my free market standpoint, but land use in Colorado is very politicized.
** The best outdoor store ever. Amazing customer service and return policy, nice staff, cool stores, membership with purchase dividends and garage sales. The list goes on.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I was glad this rattlesnake was off to the side of the trail rather than in my path, while walking at South Valley Park in Littleton, CO. It was totally silent as I walked by, and only started rattling when I stopped to take its picture. I used zoom to take this photo :)
This makes up for a missed photo opportunity last Thursday, when I saw a rattlesnake down a prairie dog hole, with only its tail sticking out. It rattled when it heard my footsteps. That was at a different location, but one that also consists of dry, hot shortgrass prairie.
Needless to say, I keep a sharp eye out when I'm in such locations.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Total run length was 11.2 miles, from 9,750 ft to 14,229 ft (Shavano) and 14,155 ft (Tabeguache). Total elevation gain/loss was 5,400 ft. Time to the summit of Shavano was 2:22, with another 1:15 round trip to the top of Tabeguache, for a total of 5:30.
The obligatory rough dirt access road worked in reverse this time. Usually the last part is the steepest and roughest, and I often can't make it all the way to the end. This time it was rough on the first part and smooth on the last part, which passed through a pretty ravine filled with aspen, and gave me a nice framed view of my objective, Mt. Shavano (center of photo):
Once on trail, the forest section had some pretty relentless uphill sections, and I was huffing pretty hard. About mid-way through, a wiry twentysomething guy bounded up past me, with an easy springing gait. He later passed me coming back from Tabeguache as I was heading over to it. That's fast.
My favorite part of most mountain trails is the open area that typically lies between 12,000 and 13,500 feet. The perspectives are often jarring and dramatic, with off-kilter slopes heading off into a sky filled with sculpturesque clouds.
Along this stretch of trail was a sight that belonged more at the bottom of an ocean, as a prickly, mutant dreadlocked octopus, but was in fact a Hooker's Thistle that had more or less collapsed on itself:
From the summit of Shavano, it was another 1+ miles of rocky ridge and 500 ft. down to the intervening saddle before the ascent to Tabeguache Peak. This photo shows the traverse from the north. The wind was picking up, so I didn't waste time. Below is a view from Shavano to Tabeguache, with the intervening descent hidden from view. It gives you a good idea of the rough terrain, and explains how a 2-mile round trip can take more than an hour. It also supports my sophisticated geological theory that mountains may be nothing more than big piles of rocks.
If I had run Mt. Antero instead, which I was considering up until the last minute, I probably would have gotten soaked by the storm that was gathering just to the north and ended up covering that ridge. This photo was taken from the summit of Shavano. Mt. Antero is on the right:
Afterwards I headed to Salida to recuperate. Last week I forgot to mention the "Who is John Galt?" sign I saw in a storefront window. I tried to get a photo, but I couldn't find the same window.
There was a bike race taking place through the streets of the city when I arrived, which was part of the Salida Omnium, so I watched that for a bit.
My 5:30 PM "lunch" was at Amica's, and this time I brought home a growler of their I.P.A; a very good beer. However, I'm pondering whether it's going to be productive to have gallon jugs of fresh beer sitting in my fridge ;) The jury's out on that one.
Until next time...
* A peak over 14,000 ft elevation.