Home from the holiday

I got back home at about midnight last night, after a relatively smooth flight. I was due for a smooth flight after my canceled flight in July, getting stiffed on a ride from the airport in August, and having to bail out on the inflatable slide in September.

A saddled brown horse with a white blaze hitched to a post in front of a white stable.I capped off the holiday weekend with another trip to the horse ranch with Colorado Red (my dad) and The Horse Whisperer (my brother). I couldn’t manage to get Belle, my dad’s horse, into the big pasture, but I maneuvered her around a simple course in a little arena.

Borat

Last night was Borat night. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. It’s an uncomfortable movie to watch, since you sense that many of the people in the film were unwilling participants. My brother looked up some things about the making of the film, some of it seemed a little shady. I don’t really approve of the ethics that went into the film but it was very, very funny and very, very, raunchy.

Horseback riding with Colorado Red

I’m in Colorado with my family. My dad (a.k.a. Colorado Red) has been spending a lot of time at the horse ranch. He’s even getting into “horse trading” so to speak. We went riding Thursday and today. This time I rode a new, more mellow horse named Belle. I did pretty well for a greenhorn. My brother and I played some racquetball yesterday, from which I’m really stiff.

I’m going back to Iowa (and my sleepy job) tomorrow but I’ll be back in Colorado for Christmas. I’m thinking about doing some snowshoeing up in Rocky Mountain NP. I never go up there when I visit here, I think I’d like to spend some time there next time.

White man dollars

The U.S. Mint is unveiling a new set of dollar coins with the presidents on them. They are hoping that the presidents will make the dollar coin more popular than Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea made them. Just what we need, more celebration of dead white men.
This means that there will be a William Henry Harrison dollar coin. He was president for a month. And a Warren G. Harding coin to commemorate the most corrupt presidential adminstration in our history (except perhaps after Grant, but at least Grant defeated Lee). And a Richard Nixon coin in honor of our great democracy’s brush with authoritarianism. And it means that someday George W. will be on a coin. I think I am going to puke.

If I had to nominate one black American to be on money, I would choose Frederick Douglass. Not the popular choice, right? Good. I think Douglass gets short shrift compared to Martin Luther King. But we’ll never get King’s face on anything until his contemporaries are all dead. While I was living in Mississippi I heard people talk about King like he was a criminal (they still celebrate Confederate Memorial Day there).

Casino Royale

Now I have the old “Casino Royale” here at home, starring Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and David Niven.

We went to the real “Casino Royale” this afternoon. Best Bond flick I’ve ever seen. None of the goofy camp that characterizes most of the others. I recall in the last film Bond was driving an invisible car and John Cleese was silly-walking around MI-6.

Daniel Craig was really good, he’s very serious and without the smarminess of Pierce Brosnan. The light moments are very subtle. You can actually believe this guy is a former paratrooper or whatever.

Over the Hedge and The DaVinci Code

Last night I watched “Over the Hedge” and “The DaVinci Code” with Susan. “Over the Hedge” was pretty good. It was funny and the animation was excellent. I know it as a really good comic strip that I don’t see everywhere. It’s the first comic strip about urban sprawl: wild animals have to adapt to suburban encroachment on their turf.

“The DaVinci Code” was disappointing, but I thought the banter on theological issues was pretty interesting. I’m not even going to try to verify any of that stuff, but at least it provokes some rethink about conventional wisdom.

Zion

For my grand finale I spent two nights at the legendary Zion National Park. I was completely worn out by time I got there. Aside from a tedious hike up Walter’s Wiggle and a harrowing climb up to Angel’s Landing, I stuck to the easy walking paths down in the canyon.

I am a little afraid of heights, and the trail up to Angel’s Landing, a massive outcrop of rock overlooking the canyon in two directions, follows a very steep and very narrow spine of rock. You can look down in some places and see a thousand feet below you on both sides. Even when you get the top you don’t feel like there’s enough room. I was almost too anxious to enjoy the view or the achievement.

Aside from that, I found Angel’s Landing to be a Tower of Babel: a crowd of fellow hikers from all over the planet speaking their native tongues. Enjoying a small part of their five-week vacations no doubt. Didn’t we fight two world wars so that we don’t have to listen to the German language in our National Parks? Or maybe so that we could.

Bryce Canyon, or Adam in Hoodoo Land

After my quick pass through Cedar Breaks I spent three days and three nights at Bryce Canyon. It rained each day, starting from when I had my tent only half-assembled. From there it got better. The hoodoos, or eroded columns of differently-colored limestone, make the park seem other-worldly. I hiked into the Queen’s Garden and Fairyland during the day, and in the evening went looking for (and found a pair of) pronghorns in the meadows along the tour road.

I stayed out of the backcountry at Bryce, mostly because I was still tired from the backpacking trip up to Baker Lake at Great Basin. And while Bryce was exhilarating, it wasn’t really relaxing, and I was pretty wiped out by the time I got to Zion.

Cedar Breaks

After leaving Great Basin National Park, I spent a night in Cedar City, Utah, then made a quick pass through Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah on my way to Bryce Canyon. The monument is at 10,000 feet and the weather was miserable. On the way down, I passed a caravan of bicyclists heading in the other direction from Bryce.

Great Basin inversion

The irony of Great Basin National Park is that it only occupies part of a mountain range and no basin within the Great Basin. I spent three nights there, including one in the backcountry, at elevations between 8,500 and 10,000 feet. My stay there included a tour of Lehman Caves and two hikes to the tree line.

Gateway Arch

When I left Mississippi in May 2006, I stopped in Saint Louis for lunch on my way to Iowa. The arch is more interesting up close than from a distance. The steel arch was very striking in the bright sun and against the clear blue sky.

A little ultra right-wing amusement

I have to round up about two dozen volunteers to help with parking for an event we have next month. So far no luck, but last week I talked a guy who helped out with events in the past, and who belongs organization he thought he could get to help. His name was on the volunteer list my predecessor left behind. When I mentioned it to my boss today, he nearly had a heart attack. Apparently this organization is a militia. Last time they came to help they came in camoflauge uniforms.

So my boss had me decline their offer to help. I got a good laugh out of it at least.

Kalona, Iowa

I joined Susan and her daughters on an afternoon excursion to nearby Kalona, a town in an area known for its Amish population. We visited a cheese factory and some nice little shops. I tried some cheese curd at the factory: it squeaks in your mouth when you chew it. An Amish grocery store didn’t have electric lights, it had skylights and Coleman-style gas lamps for when it gets dark.

Pipe Spring

Pipe Spring National Monument is out of the way, but that’s what makes it interesting. I stopped there between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. There was a little clash of cultures between Paiutes and Mormons around this important water source in the otherwise barren and beautiful Arizona Strip.

Can’t contain my glee

Well, I’ll be honest. I’m thrilled to death with the election results. I really wanted to stick it to the Republicans, but I thought it would be a very long time before they lost control of Congress. Though George Allen intends to wrap Virginia up in recounts and court battles for the next two months. When you can’t get elected, sue. It’s the Republican way.

And then Rumsfeld resigned this morning! That bastard. I was looking forward to him spending the next two years sweating through Congressional hearings. The president said the “time had come” Duh. The time came and went a long time ago.

You’re next Bushy-boy! My dream is to see you on TV being hauled out, a la Saddam Hussein, of the little hole in the ground you’ve been hiding in near your Crawford ranch and then watching an Army doctor check your teeth. Can’t wait.

And Katherine Harris lost! And Rick Santorum! And Richard Pombo! It’s like the end of fascism all over again. Sniff.

Speaking of Katherine Harris, whom I consider to be a criminal, I never knew she had such a rack. I had no idea what I was missing.

Election Day

I just got back from voting. This county uses paper ballots and scanner machines. I’ll come out and say it: I voted for every Democrat on the ballot. I had a couple of dilemmas, though: first, I’m not impressed with the Democratic candidate for governor; second, the Republican congressman is very moderate. But I stuck to my original plan and that is to vote for Democrats until the Republicans go away. As for moderate Jim Leach and other centrists in his party, I don’t think it’s enough to be a lonely voice in the wilderness, people like him need to make the right wing of the GOP understand that they cost him votes. When the moderate Republicans start fighting for control of their party I will start voting for them.

And I will be watching the Democrats. I hope they don’t backslide into anti-Bush idiocy, but they probably will.

Cholesterol man

My doctor told me the results of my blood test. Everything was great–blood sugar, thyroid, etc.–except my cholesterol level. It is very high: 223. I don’t know anything about cholesterol but I know that is very high. My LDL cholesterol level is 173. He’s talking about putting me on medication if I can’t bring it down in three months.
Last time I had blood work, I think early in 2005, my cholesterol was okay. This is a big wake up. I must get rid of the waxy build-up in my arteries.

What is this crap?

Lest anyone is snobbish enough to declare British sitcoms superior than American ones, they ought to watch the crap that PBS has been airing at night this summer. There’s something on now called “Red Dwarf” about people on a spaceship or something. I can’t believe this is on at 10:30 and Charlie Rose is on at 11:30. I feel a letter coming on. Then again, I haven’t mailed in my donation to Iowa Public Broadcasting yet.