Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deploy drones to quash unlawful cigarettes

I read with great interest about how Boise plans to employ an extensive New Years resolution to forbid smoking in city parks. Taking this new law in conjunction with how our military industrial complex has recently started to promote drones for better homeland security, this synchronicity offers perfect timing to suggest a test case for Boise.


How about setting aside one legal smoking park, with the provision that if you light up, you are subject to becoming sprayed by a drone equipped with a laser guided squirt-gun? Such a daring theme park would likely attract copious visitors and tourists. The stimulating park would also help drone operators develop better fighting skills, with the use of live volunteers under realistic conditions. Shooting a live cigarette out of a patriotic smoker’s mouth without making him all wet, could lead to a special Clint Eastwood citation.


As these machines become more sophisticated and robust, eventually the men behind the drone curtains, will be able to parlay simple skills learned from precisely squirting out stinky cigars and pipes into tremendous forest fighting capabilities, as well as finding lost and bewildered backcountry enthusiasts, and other good deeds not yet dreamed about.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Of Buddha and American Flags

Last summer, some friends and I helped a young lady move her earthly belongings into a spiffy-looking Elkhorn Ranch Condo. It took a few heavy loads, but we had some wheelbarrows and a sturdy crew. As a symbol to celebrate the end of the job, the last item we hauled up her long walk was a stylish 300 lb. stone Buddha statue; which we placed with great care on her front porch, facing the pink western sky.


The next week, as we passed through, she called and asked us to adjust ancient Buddha, as someone in the community had complained, claiming that the neighborhood covenant specifies that Buddha needed to be positioned into a less prominent place. So, we slid Buddha to a shadier spot in the quiet corner. However, that still didn’t satisfy the welcoming committee, who then decreed that Buddha should be banished to an interior room.


This incident reminded me of last year’s much-publicized event, when representatives of Woodside’s Copper Ranch Homeowners’ association demanded that Robin Perfect remove the American flag, which she decorated her front porch with as a symbol of support for her son Sgt. Edward Nalder, who had been recently deployed to the war in Iraq.


As with flags, traditionally, statues have been exempt from most homeowner association bylaws. However, in recent years these new small forms of government have become increasingly more powerful, so much so that some have been testing new waters and becoming pushier. As a solution, I propose that we craft a flag-holder so we may convert Buddha for a dual concept: That of an impervious statue and a world peace flag receptacle. Maybe then the newly-awakened homeowner association will capitulate, allowing the enlightened Buddha to return to outside elements and to continue sharing his good community message.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hailey, too, has an enchanted forest

On September 30th, a young couple suddenly found themselves in a crunch to move to a new house before the harsh Idaho Winter set in. They heard about one down by the river in Hailey, with a nice big yard and within easy walking distance to town. They visited the potential house, and remarked that the surrounding neighborhood felt like it held a good vibe. Soon after saying this, a wild rabbit in the yard let them walk up to it and pet it! There, at the edge of the woods, the rabbit almost fell asleep, while they gently stroked its soft white fur.
The young couple stood outside talking, with the people currently renting the house. While doing so, the rabbit rebounded from the far side of the yard, and started performing an elaborate little dance. It spun and sprinted in little counter-clockwise circles, while playfully kicking up its spiffy heels. They had never seen before such a happy bunny, with characteristics and personality bordering that of a loyal dog.
The young couple conveyed the story to a handful of friends, wondering if this was a good sign, for them to move into the new house. One of the friends noticed that the cheerful event had occurred at the end of the month, which, while involving a rabbit clearly held strong connections to mystery and myth. Folks from many cultures believe that if you encounter a rabbit when the calendar is turning, or recite “Rabbit, Rabbit!” as your first spoken words of the new month, then this will bring you good fortune.

Perhaps the fact that the young couple is closely connected to the earth was something sensed by the excitable bunny. Regardless, The couple decided to move into the new house, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about their future encounters with the swift acrobatic lucky rabbit.

This remarkable nature encounter reminded me of another anomalous event that occurred in the same neck of woods a few years before, which is the tale of:

The Owl and the money clip

At their old Hailey place, Robin and Tonia had lived together with their children, and a single mother and her kids. This arrangement worked well in some respects, but it was also a bit cramped, which tends to get worse during long Idaho winters. Both families had traveled down to the Bellevue Triangle a few times to look at a prospective house that was larger. All four kids loved it, as did Tonia and her single mother friend. Robin wasn’t so sure though. After all, they had already moved earlier that same year. His hesitation was understandable, as the new house cost more and he is the main breadwinner.
With the deadline looming to give notice, Robin was feeling the pressure to decide soon; and on the last day of the month, he vociferously announced that evening that he was “going off fishing.” He hiked down to The Draper Preserve, specifically to spend some time alone and reflect on the difficult decision. After casting some nice lines, the evening progressed into twilight, when suddenly an enormous great horned owl, swooped down 40 feet over the river and dropped something shiny in the water. Robin waded out carefully to where the owl dropped the item and discovered that it was an empty money clip. Examining it closer, he discovered that the silver was emblazoned with his very own initials!
Robin took the owl’s message as a powerful sign, which helped him decide that his family would be better off if they made the big move, which they did and are still happy about today. Something else interesting about this story is that most people that we’ve shared it with agree that they probably would have made the same progressive decision to move, even though the owl had dropped an empty money clip. One friend even opined that it’s healthy to get out to explore nature when we’re faced with such huge life-changing decisions. And it’s certainly nice to be given powerful bird and rabbit auguries to help guide those choices. While our money clips may start out empty; sometimes with enough fortitude, stick-to-it-ness, and a developed sense of listening closely to what nature is trying to tell us, miraculous pennies from heaven will shine, rewarding us plentifully in due time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nuclear satire fallout

Last month, The Times-News was kind enough to print a letter I submitted suggesting that we dig deeper for more viable nuclear waste solutions. (Link)


Soon after, the same letter was brought up in a local discussion board, where a blogger named ‘Nukeworker’ tried to ridicule me, saying “I recently saw a "science show" that had 3 people going from a volcano in Iceland to the center of the earth where there are dinosaurs and they came out another volcano... Journey to the Center of the Earth... This nice tale has more scientific facts than anything in your letter.”


‘Nukeworker’s’ terse response motivated me to explain: “My piece was meant to be read mostly as satire, although it also contained some radioactive elements of truth. Here in Idaho though, satire is often misunderstood, probably because there is not much need for it in such a beautiful paradise. However, if we don't soon come up with more feasible solutions to our severe nuclear waste disposal issues, there are strong chances that our whole region will revert back to a "hellish environment."
On a related note, I find it interesting that our Congress now has a bill before them, which will make it a crime to poke fun at or satirize the TSA in any way. What will evolve next? Dehumanizing, joke-proof conditions for all nukes?”

After diagramming the satire, it was refreshing to hear again from ‘Nukeworker’ who said he missed it at first, but now appreciates the humor. Now I imagine him gazing with new light, deeper into the idea of Mel’s bottomless pit; which after all is a faultless fit, for nuclear waste radiating comfortably in the center of the earth, as well as putrid plutonium propheteers, blowing their mad tops about volcanoes, while caught in tight blogging snits.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let’s bury nuclear waste deeper

Recently, I came across an ancient earth-science textbook, which, while reading, reminded me how the depths of our earth buzz with high levels of radioactivity. The same week, I happened upon an account of Mel Waters and his fantastic 25-mile deep hole, in close proximity to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation –the most radioactive place in our Country. This got me to thinking how, that a viable solution to our horrific nuclear waste problems would be to thrust the insidious waste back into the hellish environment, from whence it came.


Why waste trillions of dollars ferrying nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain or the INL, where we’ll need to secure it under expensive guard for millennia, when a much simpler solution is near at hand? Therefore, I propose that our Department of Energy in conjunction with our Department of Environment Quality, conduct extensive feasibility studies to determine how drilling deep-hole repositories near every nuclear plant should be best done.


Besides supra-natural pits such as Mel Waters’, those who are quick to embrace the nuclear renaissance should consider extracting deeper, old fracking pits, as well as dried up oil wells, such as Deepwater Horizon, where we’re practically halfway there with the shaft.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't disparage one of Idaho's great small towns

The first year I moved here, there was an incident on
Main Street involving two women in a fender bender. Instead of rushing out of their cars to blame each other, they both emerged to apologize profusely and peacefully. They each made sure that the other person was all right, and then gave each other sweet bear hugs. After that, they agreed that they should meet together soon, because it had been too long since they had seen each other.

This remarkable event defined for me what the essence is of everything good about Ketchum; and perhaps for what is great about many small western towns: good people who care about each other, more than they do for their measly worldly possessions. Therefore, it grates at me, when I hear intermittent comments that disparage the town and townspeople of Ketchum (and the
Wood River Valley). Some will say, "I have no desire to visit Ketchum, or any of the people up there." That's too bad, because if you take a closer look, this pedestrian-friendly town offers much for young and old, rich and poor, sick and well.

Like most
Idaho towns, Ketchum has changed over the years. Yet, it retains many high-quality aspects of a hardy Western town. When it comes to weather, Ketchum is in the top 10 percentile of sunniest towns. The people here are equally sunny, and there is ample reason for this. A river runs through it, offering opportunities for enjoyable fishing and water sports. We have a popular YMCA. On summer Tuesdays, a vibrant farmers' market attracts vendors and customers from throughout southern Idaho. After that, energetic music performers play freely til twilight in our Forest Service Park.

For the spiritual, Ketchum has more than a handful of sacred places to worship. When someone becomes severely ill, or is in a crash, our community often bonds together, helping with fundraisers.

Wagon Days brings a festive weekend of olden-times coming alive, as craftspeople, blacksmiths and storytellers demonstrate their trades and speak their lore. Wagon Days also features the largest non-motorized parade in the west.

Ketchum's Community Library has an extensive regional history section, with helpful staff and an oral history program. The library also hosts frequent lectures and enlightening events, featuring respected authors and adventurers from near and far.
Ketchum has dozens of fine restaurants. We have movie theaters; nine (and growing) outdoor parks, live stage and Huck Finn-like swimming holes. Free newspapers, magazines, maps and wi-fi are abundant. We also have a water park, bringing boundless glee to splashing kids. On the edge of town, Sun Valley Co. has installed a gondola for uplifting
Bald Mountain rides.

This list of what good things our fine town (and valley) has to offer is much longer than this, but I hope for now this gives some hesitation to those who are quick to sneer at lively Ketchum.

I sometimes wonder if some of Ketchum's harsh critics have even spent much time here.

~ ~ ~

After last July’s candlelight vigil march for Bowe Bergdahl, the local soldier captured in
Afghanistan; I sat with some friends, one of whom described an image she thought best captured Hailey's essence. One of the men attending the ceremony had left his tools in the open on the back of his truck, parked in front of Zaney's Coffeehouse, where the event began. The tradesman had drawn a large cardboard sign, asking passersby to leave his tools alone, because he was standing for Bowe. And the aura of respectfulness that evening permeated the atmosphere so thick that nobody dared tamper with his tools. Then we agreed that we all look forward to the day when Bowe can return to this pleasant valley, where his friends and family can openly share with him, some strong bear hugs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stop inviting burglars to ransack your home

As we know, our latest social networks like most tools can be used for good and / or nefarious purposes. Facebook has a popular application, which invites groups to social events, and then asks if you will be participating. A problem with this, is, the second you’ve confirmed that you intend to be present at some special event, you may have alerted a miscreant that your house will be unattended for some time.

When many travelers leave for vacation they take simple precautions such as locking doors and windows, securing burglar alarms, adjusting lights with timers, and canceling newspaper and postal delivery. It may not have occurred to some of these same wise souls that by advertising the fact they will be gone, they’ve taken the guesswork away from potential robbers.

We haven’t reached the age yet, where it’s become unstylish to send old fashioned R.S.V.P.’s via mail or over the phone. Depending on your circumstances, it might be wise to hesitate confirming through an online social network easily penetrated by strangers that you plan to be away from your house for an extended period.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stop inviting robbers to burglarize your home

As we know, our latest social networks, like most tools can be used for good and /or nefarious purposes. Facebook has a popular application, which invites groups to social events, and then asks if you will be participating. A problem with this, is, the second you’ve confirmed that you intend to attend some special event, you may have alerted a miscreant that your house will be unattended for some time.

When many travelers leave for vacation they take simple precautions such as locking doors and windows, setting burglar alarms, adjusting lights with timers, and canceling newspaper and postal delivery. Most folks wouldn’t leave a pile of freshly laundered money drying off in the front windowsill, would they? It may not have occurred to some of these same wise souls that by advertising the fact they will be gone, they’ve taken the guesswork away from potential robbers. It’s bad enough that criminals who gain passwords to smart-meter accounts will soon hold the capability to determine whether or not residents are home. Don’t double-confirm that you will be gone by thoughtlessly clicking the “I will be attending” button.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Let’s have cleaner money

A few years ago, a Clark County, Nevada investigation showed that a Vegas clinic was not using clean syringe procedures, which over a four-year period contaminated dozens of anesthesia patients with incurable hepatitis C. This seemed odd, especially since Las Vegas is the same city where casinos and hotels often offer to help clean your money. When did we start giving sanitized money a higher priority than we do to medical patients?

For many reasons, our money is one of the filthiest things that we handle. And for years, it’s been a lively topic of local discussion, about how Ketchum has an overabundance of grubby banks. With the new credit card reform laws finally being implemented, it’s interesting to watch how to make up for purported losses; some neighborhood banks are incrementally raising fees for their simple checking and ATM services.

During this shift, bank managers must certainly be keeping a close eye on public reaction. With this in mind, it would be refreshing to see some banks around here, began to offer a new service in the form of disinfecting paper currency and coinage. Besides helping defend locals and tourists from diseases and flu, banks would also be protecting their most precious assets - their dedicated tellers – from nasty germs while handling the dirty money, lessening sick days, etc.

Besides Vegas improving the odds for healthier customers, such purification programs have become popular in a few other countries, such as Japan. A bank around here ‘wishing well’ on its clients in such a courteous manner would stand to profit gainfully and karmatically from this clean advice.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A basketball trade secret that can help

Along with a billion other riveted viewers, it was with great interest that I watched Yao Ming ceremoniously open the first game versus the United States by zinging through a three-point shot. During a break from the game, the TV featured a brief documentary of how popular basketball has become in China and as a lifetime basketball aficionado, this also enthused me.


With the economic development of China, with thousands of new basketball courts in the land, I would like to make an observation from the viewpoint of aspiring school-ground players.


Every bouncing kid knows that when they come upon the court, if the net is torn or missing, this takes some of the wind out of their sails. With the great expenses of new courts, poles and baskets, the net is usually first to go bad. And with the nets gone, children will often go off to play a different sport.


Nylon nets attached to heavily used basketball hoops often wear out within a few weeks. A way to remedy this is to soak the net in boiled linseed oil for a day and then let it dry out for another, before hanging it from the basket. Preparing a net in this way increases its life tenfold. Soaking a net in linseed oil sometimes shrivels it up a bit, requiring maintenance staff to shoot swishes for stretching it back out.


In this manner, the workers will have achieved what many amateur basketball players dream of, as they will then be receiving pay for shooting and making baskets.

Letters and Blogs

Friday, July 22, 2011

Questioning Idaho Power's Simple Promises

Questioning Idaho Power’s simple promises
I gave a hearty laugh, when stepping out of the shower recently, the electricity went off and I discovered that an Idaho Power representative had swiftly switched out my electric meter for a supposedly smarter one. The quandary was that nobody had knocked on my door to inform me, as the company had promised in their widely-mailed sleek glossy brochure. And it’s too bad that this simple discourteous oversight happened, because; as a former meter reader myself, I was positively looking forward to a healthy face-to face discussion with the rep.
I had planned on asking the experienced tradesman questions; such as what happens to those who want to opt out of their new forceful system? And what do they say to those who don’t desire a higher level of complexity?
Perusing the brochure closer, I saw that Idaho Power assures that these up-to-the-minute smart meters are secure. And I agree that they are well over 99 percent secure. The problem is that the old-style meters were 100 percent hacker proof. Nobody had remotely penetrated even one, nor ever could.
I wonder if I’ll laugh as nearly as much, when we see this next secure promise broken.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Photo by Tony Evans

Some are born to sweet delight

When I was around 10 years old, my best friend at the time, Andy Jack, and I traded stories about what our first memories were. Amazingly, his was from a time when he was a mere sixth months old and his dad took him to the circus for a ride upon an elephant!

My first memory was not nearly as cheerful, although it started out that way. I was one and a half; fifty years ago now; and my mother was having some girlfriends over for a sun-bathing party. As I watched the women in their bikinis on that hot day, enjoying early 60’s music blaring from a fuzzy radio in the background, and drinking cold drinks, a bee began to pollinate the tulips in our backyard. As the bee buzzed between flowers, I got caught up in the action, and wanted to be larger part of the beauty. I thrust my finger out to the sky and said, “Come to me bee! Come to Me!” Well, right then the bee landed on my finger and stung me deep. Being such a young lad the poison felt about as shocking as a rattlesnake bite, and try as I did, I could not stop from bawling for a long while. Mom’s immediate assistance was comforting, and though the poison probably made me stronger, I couldn’t help but wish later that my first memory had been something more delightful such as Andy’s when he felt like a young price during his colorful three-ring circus elephant ride.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good reasons for retaining meter readers

As a former meter reader I find it regretful to see that numerous utility companies are phasing out these important jobs. Traditionally an entry level avocation, many career Gas, Power and Water personnel began initially as meter readers; learning the ropes of their trades by inspecting every corner of the system, and getting to know their grids as well as the back of their hands.


Meter readers often walk 8-12 miles a day. While on foot they usually see much more than car-bound employees do; sometimes noticing crucial infrastructure issues, such as a service box or sewer top caving in, dead tree branches leaning against power lines, or a strong scent of gas emanating from the street.


By elimating these key jobs, our utility companies will no longer have these warriors watching out for us in such close ways. Not only that, but with the sudden push to “smart grid” metering, our Idaho Public Utility Commissioners would be wise to ensure that these new systems are highly hacker-resistant, before full implementation. For instance; imagine an enemy breaking into the grid, to shut down the full configuration, causing long-term damage to power lines, substations and even home electrical systems. This is not far fetched, as nefarious hackers have already infected various financial institutions, global security systems and millions of personal computers. Unlike old style meters, smart grid meters are susceptible to online attacks.


Recently, precocious and prolific blogger Ran Prieur made a related observation, “Did pirates have to protect their wooden legs from cyber attack? Do slide rules get viruses? No! But medical implants are now on the same path as Microsoft Windows and the tech system as a whole: adding more complexity, and creating more openings for failure, which can be patched only with more complexity at greater expense.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Superior sportspersons soar over losing definitions

The mythological status that we bestow upon winning sports icons is inspirational, but all too often our must-win culture deems the person who places second a failure. Take for instance, Germany’s Jan Ullrich: Here is a man who actually won the Tour de France bike race back in 1997 and earned second five other times. Mr. Ullrich is also a gold and silver medal Olympic Champion. Yet, in 2005, right before that year’s race, USA Today portrayed Mr. Ullrich as an ‘also ran’ saying, “He lacks mental toughness” (Reibal). Here is a super athlete in the top one-billionenth percentile of all human racers; yet the media continuously portrays him as a loser. Something needs fixed when according to such doctrines; if you are not sitting on top of the world you are a letdown.


The same goes for professional sports at many levels. Even though Boston and New York’s baseball teams sometimes win pennants for World Series berths, unless the team actually wins the series, it is a tough traumatic event for the team and that team’s city! Enthusiasts, whose teams score second, truly believe that their lives as fans would have improved in magnificent ways, had not the most infinitesimal of heartless pebbles shifted an easy grounder, to bobble an erroneous course through their first baseman’s legs. When this happens, teams instantly trade ‘losing’ players, while managers’ heads get the chop. For years, fans caught wearing the insignia or even colors of the trailing team, become subject to ridicule -at least until that next rematch. Sometimes this happens even when the team is generating millions in profits, and would be considered successful by most other business model measurements.


The honorable thing to do when this happens is to ignore this mockery, while attempting to gain character from the process. This is not easy, as there are hundreds of Monday morning ‘expert’ pundits for every professional player and coach. Yet sports figures with integrity can rise above this common challenge and prove successful by disregarding this emotional blather; knowing that as important as fanzines portray these games to be, they can look to many other vital things in life to gain rewards from. True superstars often use lessons distilled from their competitive glory days to shine in non-sports related venues, contributing global assists to the downtrodden.


Sportspersons have much to live up to, when glorified as idols that represent everything good in this weary world. A few aspire to and actually reach this high standard and are worthy of such idolization. It is excellent when they attain this level, but even the most glorified of heroes make mistakes. Being subject to failure humanizes the most respected of sports idols, but if they handle this quandary properly, they can come away even more victorious, albeit human. Paradoxically, being fallible enables humans to overcome mistakes, achieving higher levels of admiration than they could if they were actually flawless entities.


A prime example of sportsmanship played out in 1976 on a field at the Spokane Special Olympics. During the 100-yard dash race, ten physically and mentally disabled contestants assembled beaming full of life, each one eager to win. At the gun, they started out, except for one small lad who stumbled, rolled over and began to cry. One or two participants heard the boy and turned back. A young girl with Down Syndrome bent down on the racetrack, kissed him, and said, ‘This will make it better.’ Then they linked arms and walked in unison to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood stunned. There was not a dry eye in the arena, and the cheering still echoes years later, resonating in witnesses heads whenever they recount the story. This incident demonstrates how “True Champions” sometimes thrive in unexpected places; places that some of us might wrongly regard as lowly.


Tales of football icons fumbling their fortunes emerge from the underside of the arena.

It seems that some fabled players, after having almost everything in life catered for them, have had difficult times adjusting to less lavish lifestyles when their careers are cut short. Some end up strung out on skid row or even in jail. Bruce Lowitt from the St. Petersburg Times writes about players who have resorted to selling their Super Bowl Rings only a few years after earning them. In his story, Getting the ring can be easier than keeping it, he interviews Kansas City pawnshop owner Don Budd, who says, “It was hard for me to believe that someone could reach that pinnacle and be willing to give up the one object that says, ‘I was the best’ Nowadays, Mr. Budd averages 10 players a season, who sell out their rings in this last line of defense between poverty and homelessness” (Lowitt).


Yet sometimes, after hitting all-time life-lows even these trounced players rebound, redeeming themselves as even better persons than they had been at the height of their ball-playing careers. Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown, (who was raised by his great-grandmother from age two, because his parents were gone and his grandmother was an alcoholic) left football while at the top of his sport, moving up even higher on the scale of true karma to counsel troubled teenagers and creating positive inroads for getting gangbangers off streets. After all, for kids struggling in traumatic times, seriously doubting everything, nothing beats hearing legitimately gifted voices of experience from high-profile persons who have tasted extremes of both sweetness and bitterness. From delicate golden syrupy pancakes stuffed with caviar and Savoy-truffles and Faberge omelets, to soppy milquetoast and rotten eggs for breakfast with a side of saltwater decaf from Hard-Times Cafe.


Embracing wide spectrums of experience develops a broader person. Denial of bad experiences is necessary within certain degrees, but in many cases, denial isn’t the healthiest course of action.


How often in life, have you heard someone say about a traumatic event, “I wish it hadn’t happened to me, but I’m a better person for it?” In Kathleen McGowan’s Psychology Today article, “The Hidden Side of Happiness” she shows how a rich rewarding life often requires a messy battle with adversity and that we have a built-in human capacity to flourish under the most difficult circumstances. Thus the paradox, “what doesn’t kill you can actually make you stronger.” We sometimes confuse adversity with failure; therefore making a distinction between the two can be healing in of itself. Knowing that you have given it your best at a sporting event or some other task, yet did not ‘win’ first place, should not by any means disallow you to proudly walk away from your valiant efforts.


In the mountaineering community, there are several well-documented incidents of professional climbers attempting to ascend high peaks, and then due to safety or weather concerns, turning around within shouting distance of the summit. Jon Krakauer, in his award-winning Into Thin Air chronicles the case of Swedish ultra-athlete Goran Kropp. After traveling from sea level from Sweden on a specially built bicycle laden with 240 lbs of gear, robbed and beaten along the way, Mr. Kropp finally reached the base of Mt. Everest, intending to climb it without bottled oxygen or Sherpa support. After a few training days, Goran reached 26,000 feet, aiming for the top the next morning right after midnight. Krakauer’s eagle-eyed perspective recounts:


“For the first time in months almost no wind blasted the summit, but the snow on the upper mountain was thigh deep, making for slow exhausting progress. Kropp bulled his way relentlessly, upward through the drifts, however, about by two o’clock Thursday afternoon he’d reached 28,700 feet, just below the South Summit. But even though the top was no more than sixty minutes above, he decided to turn around, believing that he would be too tired to descend safely if he climbed any higher.

To turn around that close to the summit (Rob) Hall mused with a shake of his head on May 6 as Kropp plodded past Camp Two on his way down the mountain. That showed incredibly good judgment on young Goran’s part. I’m impressed,“ considerably more impressed actually, than if he had continued climbing and made the top.” (Krakauer).


Therefore, it is nice to see that at least in mountaineering circles, you do not have to park yourself on top of the world to be a winner. Principled warriors from other avenues of life would do well to take note of this. Being able to analyze mistakes, remember and learn from them, applying them to future tests, is one of the highest aspirations achievable and a fundamental nature of wisdom. Studying and learning from our failures can be a great human gift.


In this age of Licitly split information it’s nice that more people appreciate this dilemma, offering optimistic opportunities for squeezing out from dangling second-leveled crevices.


` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

Works Cited

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air (excerpt).” Salon 24 May 1997. 20 November 2006.

Lowitt, Bruce. “Getting the ring can be easier than keeping it.” St. Petersburg Times 26 January 2001. 11 November 2006 2001/Getting_the_ring_can_.shtml

McGowan, Kathleen. “The Hidden Side of Happiness.” Psychology Today 02 May 2006. 08 November 2006 00001.html

Reibal, Sal. “Focus gives Lance head start as Tour de France nears.” USA Today01 July 2005. 10 Nov. 2006 06-30-armstrong-cover_x.html

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Be prepared for summer snake encounters

A friend spied some rattlers skulking around out Croy Canyon recently, and she asked me if she should go to Hailey’s St. Luke’s clinic for treatment, in the event that one was to strike out and bite her. In short, the answer is no, because the Hailey clinic is no longer an Urgent Care facility, and does not stock antivenin. However, St. Lukes Hospital a few miles south of Ketchum does carry rattlesnake antivenin and has treatment available at all hours.


When traveling in the backcountry, far from hospitals, it’s a good idea to pack a first aid kit, and perhaps a snake-bite kit. A key point to remember when a snake sinks its fangs into you or a friend (or Man’s best friend) is to not panic or run, because an increased heart rate will speed the flow of venom in the circulatory system. Try to calm down and stay hydrated, but do get far enough from the snake so it won’t try to bite again. It’s important to identify the snake if possible, but use common sense and don’t try to catch the snake! Even if it is not a poisonous snake, you should cleanse the wound thoroughly, using warm water and antiseptic soap, before applying a snug dressing held by an elastic bandage. If feasible, carry the victim to the nearest available vehicle, before transporting him or her to the ambulance or hospital. If a rattlesnake bites you and you opt to drive to the hospital, rather than taking an ambulance; you would do well to call ahead, to tell them you are on the way, so staff can begin making preparations for your treatment.


Occasionally some hardy westerners try to “cowboy up” after receiving snake bites, telling themselves that it’s not so bad, and they forgo any treatment. Later some come to regret this, as the area where they were bit, succumbs to a large amount of permanent tissue damage. Not only that, but since snakes subsist mainly on rodents, even non-poisonous snakes carry loads of filthy bacteria in their mouths; which with fang-bites can lead to terrible infections.


Some other key points to remember are: Do not apply ice to the bite wound. This will not slow the venom flow. Also, do not use your mouth to suck out the venom. The accepted wisdom used to be to use a snake-bite kit to suction out the venom, but lately that’s been up for debate. Remove jewelry and other items which may constrict with swelling. A few years ago, a friend exploring in the remote Owyhee Desert had a rattlesnake bite his dog in the head, which started swelling to the point where he had to snip off his collar, before they could reach the vet.


Some vital prevention tips regarding snakes are:

Snakes like to avoid the hot sun, by hiding under rocks or in crevasses. Stay away from reaching in there. When camping, zip up your tent the whole way, to keep snakes from squiggling in. Shake out shoes and clothes before dressing. Be a noisy walker to scare snakes away.


Local lore has it that rattlesnakes are seldom seen above 5,500 feet. Although this may be a good rule of thumb, it’s not absolutely true, as snakes do not have altimeters built into their brains and depending on climate conditions, sometimes creep upwards to 7,000 feet and higher. Snakes sometimes seem to favor old abandoned mining operations.


Much of this has been covered before in local newspapers, but it’s helpful to remind folks to be serpent-wary, with the plentiful amount of outdoorsy types constantly exploring here, during our high snake season.


Once during a highway cleanup, Jim Banholzer got bit in the jeans by a lightning-quick rattlesnake, and he has been paying close attention to their interesting habits ever since.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Owl and the Money Clip

Here's a story from Jim Banholzer that involves owl medicine. He heard it from a friend, Tonia, after he helped her and her husband Robin, move into a new house near Bellevue.

At their old Ketchum place, Robin and Tonia had lived together with their children and a single mother, an arrangement that worked out great in some aspects, but also was a bit cramped, which tends to get worse during harsh Idaho winters. Both families had traveled down a few times to look at the prospective larger house. All four kids loved it, as did Tonia and her single-mother friend. Robin wasn’t so sure though; after all, they had already moved earlier that same year. His hesitation was understandable, as the new house cost more and he is the main breadwinner.

With the pressure on to decide soon, one evening Robin vociferously announced that he was “going fishing.” He walked down to the
Big Wood River to spend some time alone and to specifically reflect on their situation. As twilight progressed, an enormous great horned owl swooped down over the water and dropped something shiny. Robin carefully waded out to where the owl dropped the item and discovered it was an empty money clip. Examining it closer, he saw that the silver was emblazoned with his own initials!

Robin took the owl’s message as a powerful sign, which helped him, decide that his family would be better off if they made the big move. Coincidentally, a few months previous, at their old house I had dropped off some animal totem books, including one that focused on birds as messengers. On a whim, I marked one of the owl stories with a copy of my own owl story, using it as a bookmark. It's called The Midday Owl who Withdrew from the Bank.

What’s interesting about this story is that most people who hear it agree that they would have made the same decision, even though the owl had dropped an empty money clip. One friend even opined that it’s healthy to get out in nature when making such large life-changing decisions and that it was a nice enough to be given such a powerful bird-augury to help with the choice; as pennies from heaven will arrive in their own due time.

Gene’s 1962 truck ‘Merlin’

A Trucker's tale

Back in cold February, I was chugging up Highway 75; when suddenly right before Ohio Gulch, the rig started behaving badly and jerked to a halt. Turns out it was the transmission, and even though a mechanic-friend had recently inspected it with a fine-toothed comb, it was shot.

That cost some big bucks; and then, only a few weeks later, the truck started acting up again, at that exact same spot. As
Blaine County locals know, Ohio Gulch is the turnoff for the dump transfer, and just south of where the State sometimes sets up truck inspection stations. It’s also essentially the last safe place to pull over; if you’re heading north with a big rig in the area, and it happens to break down.

The second breakdown was caused by a fuel pump problem. I thought it was strange and yet a little fortunate that the truck decided to break down at the same safe pullover spot twice. Then I remembered; fifteen years ago, I was driving a rig full of rocks for a stonemason, and that truck broke down at the same precise spot. I had loaded Gene’s truck to the brim, with four and ¼ tons of river rock. As we approached Ohio Gulch, his truck started thumping loudly from the right rear side. I pulled over and soon saw that the wheel had actually rolled out from its base, while the lug nuts whizzed off like hot bullets in the wild-west sage. Although the tire and rim had shot off, it had miraculously wedged upright into a corner of the truck, keeping the masonry rocks from spilling out.

As I hitchhiked to the East Fork jobsite, passing over
Greenhorn Bridge, I became thankful that the truck had not decided to shuck off its rock, back to the river there. I wasn’t looking for that type of legend on my resume.

It’s funny; every time I drive past that Hyndman Creek house with a friend and see those river rocks shining so intact, I feel compelled to pull over, point at the stones and tell this story.

And it makes me curious to hear about other people’s experiences of breaking down at same spots.

And while we did laugh later, Gene told me, when he saw me walking the last leg of Hyndman, two hours late and with no truck, he thought, “This can’t be good.”


Another synchronicity occurred few weeks ago, when I was in this same proximity, dumping off an old mattress at the transfer station.

While up there, the garage-styled back door of my work van became wedged open in a manner that I could not shut it. Since I had another job scheduled, I tied everything down that might come loose, clamped the door to the roller as a precaution, and then headed back out on the highway with my rear door ajar.

As I pulled out, I gave the only other vehicle in the area a wide berth to scoot around me, but he would not pass right away. I felt as though he was checking out my rear door and might try to flag me to inform me it was open.

Finally, as he passed, I noticed that he was driving a service vehicle for Overhead Door repair company! As my problem is in the area of his trade, he was probably checking out my disabled door. At the next intersection the light conveniently turned red, giving me enough time to jot down his number.

The amazing thing is that he passed me, right at the same spot, where I've broken down thrice before. As I pointed out to a friend, he was a helper. And come to think of it, now; all four times that I've experienced mechanical difficulties at the Ohio Gulch "
Bermuda triangle for trucks" eventually, a helper has always come with gracious assist.

After discussing this with the friend who has great insight, she asked me, "What colors do you see in the sky when you break down?" I don't understand what that could have to do with anything regarding the breakdowns, but believe me, whenever I notice anybody else experiencing trouble in that same area, I study the sky, thinking of her unusual question.

Perhaps, someday, I can be the helper for someone else in this area who is experiencing a breakdown, and recount this interesting tale to them as we try to fix whatever problem they are having, as we curiously bide our time

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Last night the press club announced that I won a 1st place award for General  Excellence for editorial writing in the public relations division.    Here are the three that won the award:
*  _Day=17    
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    I also earned 2nd place in this same category in 2008 and 2009. 
Here is some background info for my three letters of public interest:

Elk making a comeback is a follow up of sorts to a column I wrote for the Express five years ago titled: Golf Course offers Links to Nature. That account of my experience working as an irrigator for two summers ran synchronisticly the day before an Idaho Fish and Game elk round up, where in a remarkable display of ungulate athleticism, one legendary cow escaped by leaping clean out of the 8 foot tall corral!

This letter gained 87 replies on the Express website, making it their most commented letter of 2010. Within those comments I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hunters temporarily exchange their arms for pens and healthily scribe some poetic dialogue probably good enough to make Lawrence Ferlinghetti smile.

My second letter, Lower speed limit has benefits mostly speaks for itself, while urging citizens to consider advantages they can gain by adjusting to slower paces.

Considerable telephone calls and concerned community letters like my third; Soldiers deserve to have a flag, were enough to pressure the Copper Ranch Homeowners Association to capitulate into allowing the Perfect family to display an American flag on their porch as a symbol of support for their son Edward; recently deployed overseas to the war in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade. I’m especially proud of this letter, because I was the person who first gave the Express the tip of this story’s newsworthiness. The feature Family fights for right to fly flag became the most commented news article of the year on the Express’s website with 132 comments.

The morning that this story ran in the Mountain Express, a person closely associated with the family, called to say that she had talked with Robin Perfect, who was overwhelmed with emotion, seeing how supportive our community is.

Further regarding news tips; perhaps this is something that the Idaho Press Club should consider for a future category. In the spirit of Idaho’s Mark Felt (Watergate’s Deep Throat) the Press Club could name the award in honor of this Twin Falls native. If circumstances necessitate it to be so, the Press Club could present the award in secret -only revealing the deserving recipient’s name at a much later date.

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