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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 24may25012

Rafting the San Juan River Canyon

Captain Mike Rozycki at the helm
TSP … Math-heads & complexity geeks know it as the Traveling Salesman Problem – how to fashion a formula that will predict the shortest routes between, say, 100,000 cities. I guess there is a certain kind of geeky gratification to solving such a computational Gordian Knot. But I could care less. Shorter and faster are no longer modes of choice. The older this hippie gets the more he likes going slow. Wasn’t always this way. But times change. And taking my first river overnight on the Southwest’s classic Sand Island to Mexican Hat stretch was a spring highlight … Of course, I was blessed with great river-mates. People I’d sort of known around Telluride but got to know a lot better, one of whom had done some 50 runs on the San Juan over the last 30 years – a wealth of knowledge and great stories … 
Negotiating the rapids

We had a few little rapids. Just enough to keep you alert from getting caught on the rocks or a sandbar. But mostly a nice long lovely coast – at least for me, as my raft captain did all the oaring. Which was tough the first day out – breaking in misplaced oarlocks and bucking stiff gusty winds. But which settled into a pleasant lollygagger’s delight for the rest of the trip … The food was gorgeous. No paltry hikers’ portions or industrial mix-with-water packets. This was the real thing. Cooked over charcoal. One night salmon fillets smoked on little planks of cedar soaked in bourbon. Beer. Tequila. Coffee with sugar or stevia, half-and-half and touch of Valrhona chocolate. I mean, I don’t eat this good at home … And while the party ethic is encouraged, the leave-no-trace ethic is the prime directive. We had our own groover (portable latrine box with attachable seat) and were instructed to wash hands, crush cans, spills crumbs into the river and not along the river campsites. In fact, the hardest thing of all for me was learning to pee into the river. There’s the shyness thing (although a few males were shameless in whipping out their peter and pissing into the stream in full public view -- once as we promenaded by in our raft). It’s impolite to expose one’s genitals to public view in our culture (sometimes illegal). A bizarre, almost quaintly baroque notion – or so it seems to this Rainbow hippie. But it is the custom, and one usually tries to observe the local customs, so as to not offend the locals … No, the real reason I was shocked by the BLM river ranger’s etiquette talk was that, in mountain streams, I’d always been instructed not to piss in the water. To get back a ways from the water before urinating. So, learning the new ropes was unsettling … But it was impressive. The campsites were free of fire rings or old toilet paper flags flying from the bushes. And they smelled of willow leaf and yucca, not uric acid … If you want to see some photos, check my Facebook page.

PARTISAN MADNESS … It seems sad that we seem to be being pushed into an orgy of impolite and often untrue attack-ad games when we talk about national politics (even some state politics, though not as completely). I think many of the Republican principles are wise – fiscal responsibility, work rather than welfare, local control (meaning local participation in federal decision-making when it affects local communities). Just like I subscribe to a lot of the Libertarian principles – personal responsibility, ending foreign wars, get government out of the bedroom and our personal lives … But I don’t cotton to the current crop of Tea Party refuseniks unable to set aside differing principles and work across the aisle towards good governance on behalf of the people. There are dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea. But the most recent Scientific American editorial (June 2012 issue) in support of Planned Parenthood gives one pause ... When we champion extreme positions, we all bend the facts a bit to make a point. But when Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona pronounced on the floor of the Congress last year that PP spent “well over 90 percent” of its money – much of it in the form of federal funding – on abortions, he wasn’t just using hyperbole. He was lying ... PP spends 3 percent of its budget on assisting women with ending unwanted pregnancies (none of those services using federal monies). By proposing to cut its funding – half of it from federal and state funding – Republicans have stepped from good governance into partisan intractableness and even lying on behalf of their cause. That’s just one of many risks in letting extreme campaign partisanship rule the day. Citizens don’t know if their leaders are telling the truth or not anymore. It seeds distrust, and a nation only governs wisely with the trust of its electorate … In 2011 PP served over 4 million people with tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, it performed 750,000 breast cancer exams and 770,000 Pap tests for cervical cancer. Thanks to PP’s assistance in providing birth control options to women – in particular the pill -- maternal deaths have declined 60 percent since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Connecticut’s law against public access to contraceptives in 1965. And more than half of all doctoral degrees in this country went to women in 2009, compared to 20 percent in the early 1960s. The Chicago Tribune has even called PP “America’s largest abortion preventer” … 
Sen. Kyl  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Who knows what partisan source provided Sen. Kyl with the false info? The fact is we are moving beyond the reasonable into the realm of the deceptive with our partisanship. And it’s not a pretty picture. Or a true one.


Panta Rei

-for Ken Wright

On sandbars & river’s edge
geese & their goslings
ignore us, boating by

while a solitary heron
perched on legs like cattails
keeps a close eye

Bighorn sheep
leap from ledge to edge
browsing under blue skies

Circling high above us
on a rim of acrylic sandstone
& poured igneous

a hawk. Maybe an eagle.
And first sketch
rafting the San Juan

I feel the cold rush of blood
rippling through the narrows
of my body’s veins

The mind’s hot sun
warming lungs of Russian Olive
Tamarisk. Native willow

Just another critter
on the canyon block
Hitching a ride with the flow

Monday, June 4, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 17may25012

Norwood loses an elder

Terrill S. Snyder of Norwood

TERRY SNYDER … Norwood mourned the passing of Terrill S. Snyder this past weekend with a service at the Norwood Christian Church and a graveside ceremony with military honors … Terry and Jo Anne have been my neighbors since I moved to Norwood in 1984. Their ranchlands, where they raise sheep and cattle, surround my little acre … They’ve been good neighbors. And it’s been an education watching them farm the land for alfalfa hay with a gravity-fed irrigation system, as well as balancing cattle and sheep herds. The land is well-cared for, their fields productive, their livestock healthy … As a city-enviro-come-to-the-country, I learned a lot from life-long ranchers like Terry and Jo Anne as they’ve maintained their operation through lean times and fat. When you pay close attention over several dozen years, it’s hard not to admire good ranchers for the environmentalists they are -- although they might not call themselves such. Nevertheless, it’s their ability to sustainably raise sheep and cattle year after year that takes great skill and perseverance and helps feed the nation … My condolences to Terry’s family and friends.

SMPA Safety Demonstration
ENERGYWISE … I do enjoy the consumer/member newsletter that SMPA has been sending out with their monthly electrical bills these days. It’s good to keep up on all things electrical, since energy – its use, transmission, generation and relationship to climate change – is one of the critical issues of our times … I read with interest the May issue with its explanation of proposed rate changes. Brad Zaporski had given a great overview at one of our quarterly Tri-County Meetings with Ouray and Montrose Counties a few months back. But, not being fluent in technogeek, nor even a pretender to truly understanding electromagnetism’s kilowatts and gausses, I had forgotten most of what Brad had patiently explained. The rate change piece in the newsletter was very helpful, until I got down to one of the final paragraphs, where I was told consumer/members would get to choose whether to go onto a demand meter when they found themselves using 20 to 40 kilowatts (kW) of power. I looked at my bill. Nowhere did I see kW mentioned or listed. I looked through the newsletter. Nowhere was it explained how kW translated to kilowatt hours, which is how SMPA measures our usage and bills us. We get to choose whether we want to go on demand rates when we’re between 20 kW and 40kW of usage. But how could we choose if we had no idea if we were in the target kW range or not? “We’ll let you know,” was what I was told when I called SMPA for clarification … SMPA is having several “community education forums” around the region to catch people up on the rate changes being proposed. They sound like a good idea to me. But you might want to ask a few questions about the demand rate and how to know when you reach that 20-40 kW threshold of use.
Folksinger, storyteller Utah Phillips

ENERGY PIG … My mea culpas (when starting these confessions) for my using too big an energy footprint for just one & a half persons (being a half-time single dad) have been (over the course of a year) transformed into (restrained) hosannas as I’ve managed to ratchet down my Cloud Acre energy demand, cutting my usage in half, from a an average of 1,343 kWh per month three years ago to an average of just 598 kWh per month this year– saving tons of carbon (theoretically, not released into the atmosphere) without ruining my quality of life. In fact, even at my modest means, in a dilapidated bungalow that lost 25% of its value in the Downturn, I’m still a One Percenter to the World’s 99 … So, whether hosannas or mea culpas, it’s important that we all re-examine our lives and energy habits, and occasionally take those leaps of faith that precede important changes ... Or, as Utah Phillips once told a crowd of us at a Bay Area Folk Festival in the Seventies, “Every so often you have to wake up and jump off a cliff.”
Whitetop on private property near Norwood

WHITETOP … It seemed a few years ago, whitetop wasn’t the problem it’s gotten to be in Norwood. But now it seems to be everywhere … Although I find very little on the county roadways – thanks to Sheila Grother’s effective county treatment program … But private property owners have let the pernicious little intruder get firmly established, and acres and acres now fly the early spring white flag of blossoming Lepidium draba (formerly Cardaria draba) … Thanks to untreated properties just to the north of me, across Highway 145, I’m finding more and more plants popping up in my potato fields. And I’m seeing it in town as well as all across Wright’s Mesa. 
ACE of Norwood's Livery performance space

GARDEN SHOW … ACE of Norwood held a garden show this past weekend at the Livery, and I got to sell a bunch of my heirloom seed potatoes and buy some lovely flower and herb starts. I hope they make it a spring tradition from now on.


Viva Vulpini

Indian paintbrush leant to you its hue,
but for your feathered tip dipped in snow –
that white surrender flag which tailed you
reflecting high-beam blaze of headlights’ glow.
A lightning strike had nothing on the streak
that was your flying flash across the black:
the hot pursuit of strong against the weak –
a ruthless race, a bracing brave attack.
But Vulpes vulpes is not Volvo’s match.
The cleverest of foxes know that some
predators kill without intent to catch,
so train their ears to strain for tires’ hum.
You curled your tail around your pelt and died
as first light knelt upon the mountainside.

-Autumn Hall
Colorado Springs