Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wanna Get Fake Married?

Today marks my and Beth's one year anniversary.  It feels like forever and like no time at all at the same time.  I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have her in my life.

This story shows how smoothly our lives have integrated.  It starts on our April trip to Utah.  We met her parents to spend the day in Zion National Park.  (Amazing, by the way.)  We made our way up to the camp in the rain.  The top of the mesa where we were camping was a muddy mess, and had been for the whole spring.  We ended up sleeping in the Jeep due to the failure of my old tent and the rain (and mistakes on my part).

The next morning we packed up and started down the mesa too meet Beth's parents again.  Not one hundred yards from the camp site and we were stuck.  The four wheel drive system broke.  Without all four wheels spinning we were going nowhere.

The next hour or so was spent finding rocks to wedge under the working wheels, digging out mud and picking stones out of the suspension.  Eventually we gave up and called a tow service.  The sent out an old Cherokee to pull my new one out.

We limped into the nearby town to not one but two shops before getting a tow truck to pick up the Jeep (and us) and carry us to the nearest dealer, an hour away.  But the day was not over yet.  We waited the rest of the day at the dealer waiting for them to determine what the fix would be.  Eventually Beth hiked across the highway to get us a room while I secured the loner truck I'd have for the week it would take to get the parts.

Throughout the entire day, despite the frustration and hassle, we didn't take it out on each other.  In fact, we lifted each other's spirits and made the very best of the situation.

In talking about it over dinner, Beth express how the day had so clearly proved what we already felt, that this relationship was one for the long term.  The conversation moved to commitments.  I am not all that worried what we called it, that the commitment was what I cared about.  Beth said a ceremony would be nice and I agreed.

Off the cuff she said "Wanna get fake married?" tongue firmly in cheek.

"Sure" I say, again off the cuff.

Ten minutes later she pauses.  "Did I just ask you to fake marry me?"

"You did."

"And you said yes."

"I did."

"Are we doing this?"

Marrying Beth is consistent with my plan on having a long, long relationship, so of course we are doing this.  Of course we are.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
It has to be a love song.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Trump Voter Already Knew

Once again proof of who Trump really is with regards to women surfaced.  Once again Trump tried to turn it away from him in a thinly veiled apology.  One again his poll numbers will take a hit, but not a very large one.

Because the Trump voter already knew.

The Trump voter already knew that Trump was a terrible businessman before they were told that Trump's net worth would be triple if Trump had simply bought a mutual fund with his daddy's money.

The Trump voter already knew he gamed the tax system before they found out he claimed a billion dollars of paper losses likely incurred by his business partners.

The Trump voter already knew that people of color are viewed as pawns by Trump, either for appearances (if they are famous) or for cheap labor before he started using them as election pawns.

The Trump voter already knew he views women as property before he admitted to committing sexual assault on an open mic.

The Trump voter already knew.  The Trump voter doesn't care.  The Trump voter has already rationalized this away, willfully put on blinders and ear plugs while chanting "la la la" in the back of his mind.

But Bill...
is not running for president this time.  Whatever bad he did / may have done / is doing doesn't matter in THIS election.

But Hillary...
is a collection of mole hills.  I could write an entire book on this, but you wouldn't read it.  And, again, it does not matter.  Even if Hillary is as bad as you are conditioned to believe, how in the name of the universe does that make Trump "great"?

The Trump voter is voting to make America "great" again, by Trump's measure of "greatness".

America is "great" when the tax burden is shifted to the lower income.
America is "great" when entire ethnic groups can be banned from it on easily debunked lies.
America is "great" when entire ethnic groups can be blamed for economic conditions brought on by the rich and powerful.
America is "great" when a woman is forced to accept whatever treatment a man forces on her.
America is "great" when unfocused anger is held in higher regard than thought, research and action.

America is "great" when it keeps the rich, straight, white male in power.

This is what the Trump voter is voting for.  This, at some level, it what the Trump voter wants.  In the end, this latest in a long line of disqualifying events will only move the polls a little.

Because the Trump voter already knew.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
After that we could use some peace.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost

It has been some time since I watched the new Ghostbusters movie.  I have been vary lazy with my writing lately, Many other interesting things to do.  But I did see it, so let's have a review.

Short answer:  I liked it a lot and think people should see it.

Longer answer with minor spoilers:

A lot of manufactured controversy surrounded this movie.  Rebooting a franchise (or re-imagining it in some cases) is always a dicey thing.  If the original was so good that the desire to recreate it exists, then you have to question if doing it again is even necessary.  In general, I'm ambivalent about them.  There are a lot of reboots that didn't need to happen, while there are some that I genuinely enjoy, that are better interpretation of the original idea.

At no time, however, have I felt a reboot "robbed me of my childhood" or "ruined something".  The old stuff is still there, waiting for me to use it.  But that is what some people (generally male, generally white) claim this movie does to them.  And they came out in force online to trash a movie they haven't seen.  The trailer set records for dislikes on YouTube, IMDB had a poor rating BEFORE the movie was released.  (I have a question about the value of allowing a movie to be rated before anyone could have seen it, but that is an aside.)  The disdain shown was clearly about casting choices rather than the quality of the finished product.

They dared to make all four ghostbusters female.

This movie is trapped at the intersection of two related trends:

  • The public acknowledgement that women are poorly represented and portrayed in entertainment
  • Backlash against the growing diversity within "traditionally white male" hobbies and activities, especially geekdom

The producers of the new Ghostbusters decided to bring something new to the franchise while addressing the first point and got attacked because of the second.  Which, in my opinion, makes it important for the movie to succeed.  As loud as the voices decrying are, they are relatively few and we need examples to show they can be ignored.

But, Ghostbusters cannot succeed and be a bad movie at the same time.  And there are so many ways a movie like this can be ruined.  Get a director invested in the concept of "male privilege", starve the budget, shape the story by focus group, ... The list is near endless.  But none of that appeared to happen here and we have a movie that can stand or fall on its merits rather than be a victim of its time.

So, what did I think of the movie?  Well, the plot was solid but I thought the dialog was a little flat in places.  It was a unique story with unique characters rather than just gender swapping the originals.  The visuals were good and the movie paced itself well.  Finally the casting and performances were solid.

To that last point, I have not been a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy and was a little worried about that.  On the other hand I am a fan of Kristen Wiig as was excited about that.  As it turns out they both give great performances and look entirely comfortable in their characters.  Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones both owned their roles and Chris Hemsworth had tons of fun in his role as eye candy.

The film didn't trade on overt sexuality, nor on "we are girls doing guy things" (the (reverse?) misogyny of Kevin the exception).  Instead, it simply tells a story about ghosts and scientists (and a subway worker) with little care for gender.  The ghostbusters are held back by the government to cover a conspiracy, not because they are female.  Their individual struggles are driven by their past and their actions rather than their gender.  In some ways this world is more equal than the one we inhabit.

There are plenty of nods to the past, from the original firehouse to Slimer to the Sta Puff Marshmallow Man.  The cameos were heavy handed but otherwise I found them to be nods to the past that don't interfere with the now.

Not everyone I know like the movie, or liked it as much as I did, but the distribution seems to be on the positive side.   And that makes me happy, because I wanted this to be a good movie, both for itself and for what it represents.

So go see it.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
15 seconds at a Colorado waterfall

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Utah Picture Dump!

I've been a lax in getting some of the pictures I took in my Utah trips up.  Here are a pile of my favorites.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
Given the state of the world, a little bit of peace is nice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Good Places and Bad Places

I've spent almost two weeks over two trips in southern Utah this last spring.  And with those two trips came some realizations that I didn't necessarily think about before.

For this post I'm going to talk about what makes a place good or bad.  Or, to be more accurate, what makes a place good and bad.

My first trip to Utah this year was with my daughter on our annual spring break road trip.  Our first camping spot was in the north end of Glen Canyon, at a campground along the Dirty Devil river.  As a camp site it had everything we wanted.  It was beautiful, quiet, secluded.  It was early in the season so we were the only ones there.

It was also far away from anything interesting.  An hour Natural Bridges Monument.  More than that to a gas station.  More than that to anything else.  The lake was down (a lot) so there wasn't even an opportunity to put in couple of kayaks in the water if we had them.

Having learned my lesson we broke camp early the second morning and headed to Capital Reef National Park.  The campground there was, well, a traditional national part campground, with paved roads and little separation between sites.  The rest of the park, however...  Washes and slot canyons to hike, pre-Native American cliff drawings, the remains of a Mormon settlement, a working orchard and the pies it supplied ingredients for.  We could have spent another day there despite its tiny size.

While waiting out a rain storm in our tent, my daughter made this observation: "The worst camp sites have the best activities."  While that statement is nowhere near a hard and fast rule, it is frequently true.  Few places are everything you want them to be at the time you want them to be.

Glen Canyon is too far away from everything to make up for the excellent camp site.

Capitol reef was fun but didn't have any seclusion.

Lake Mead was too close to the Vegas suburbs to get a dark sky.

Grafton Mesa beautiful, close to Zion but ankle deep in mud.

At this point it will sound like I'm complaining and I assure you I am not.  My experiences were all wonderful, despite the frustrations (and maybe even because of them).  In hindsight, however, I would have modified my plans some.  And I will take my experiences forward with me to the next trip and, maybe, find a place or two that is all good.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
Ophelia is the latest animal in our brood. She is a strange cat with a strange voice.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Failure to Camp

This is another post in a long line chronicling my trips to Utah this spring.

You've done this before.  A lot.  Nothing should be different this time than it was the dozen times previous.

Sometimes you'd be wrong.

In a previous post I talked about breaking my Jeep in the mud of Grafton Mesa.  The mud also makes it a hard place to camp.  The first night we pulled into camp it was already dark and we were tired.  We threw down a tarp then threw up the tent on one end of it.  My tent is super easy to set up.  You literally take it out of its bag and let it go.  The spiral rods open up and presto, tent.  There are three bows that can be put in to stiffen the structure and stretch things out, but the tent stays up on its own.  I opted to not install the extra bows in the dark and we bedded down for the night.  The next morning everything seemed fine.  The clear sky brightened our spirits as we got ready to head down the mesa for the day.

Here is where I made my first (and possibly second) mistake.  The first mistake was to not install the extra bows no that it was light.  This puts the rain tarp entirely in contact with the tent that exacerbated problems that night.  Another possible mistake was to leave the camp set up in the first place.  If we didn't have to go back up to our camp site we might have found another one in better conditions or the second night.  But I won't beat myself up over that one.

That night, as we pulled into camp in a light rain, we looked forward to a dry tent.  That isn't what we got, however.  By age and not being fully assembled, the tent gave up keeping water out and was sweating on the inside.  Some water pooled near the entrance flap.  The tarp we put down to separate the mud from the tent seemed to pool water under it, making the problem worse.  After trying to mitigate things as best we could, we abandoned the tent and made space in the jeep for the night.  We were grumpy but made the best of a bad situation.

The next day was clear and beautiful again.  We packed up camp, trying our best to separate the the muddy from the clean and made our way out.  (As you know from the previous post, we didn't make it out.  Oh well.)

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Broke My Jeep

It has been quite a while since I put a post up here.  But in my defense I've been busy.  For example, I've had two trips to Utah in the last two months.  I'll be writing about some of the better experiences later but today I want write about something less fun that happened on the second trip.

I broke my Jeep.

Not that I was trying to, mind you.  I was using it in the way I intended, to reach the really cool places a normal vehicle could not.  In this case a secluded camp site on the top of a mesa just outside of Zion national park.

It rained that day, and quite a few days leading up to it.  Unusual for southern Utah at this time of year, but welcome for the people who live there.  It was dark after supper as we headed out to find a camp site.  The way to the top of the mesa was Smithsonian Butte Scenic Byway, a dirt road that is either rated easy or moderate as an off-road trail depending on where I read up on it.  In the dark I was hoping for the best, but that is not quite what we got.

The road starting from the Zion side climbs steadily up to the top of the mesa, and dry would be a rough, rutted road with the occasional rock.  With all the rain however the road became mud on top of mud.  We slid around, the back end of the Jeep sometimes tried to be in the lead, and we never quite knew where the drop off at the edge of the road was.  But we made it, in no small part to the capabilities of the vehicle and the moderate experience I have had offroading in the past.  On the top of the mesa the road became almost flat, which would account for the easy rating some people gave it.  Still, we slid around in the sometimes axle deep mud.

We found a camp site, also covered in mud and tucked in for the night.  In the morning we woke to a beautiful day and could see the full extent of where we were.  It was lovely.  Looking over the Jeep gave me the full extent of what we had traversed the night before.

The top of the mesa (and the road to it) was entirely red clay.  The sticky gooey kind, the kind that turned puddles into oily red lubricant.  Which, honestly, was not what I expected.  I expected sand or rock, the kind of things you find in a desert, or semi-desert.  But, it was still lovely, and mud caked boots are just part of the adventure.  We left camp and headed back down the mesa for our day in the park.  Going down in the light of day was not as nerve racking, but still a challenge.

Fast forward through an amazing day at Zion (to be chronicled later).  We headed back up the mesa to our camp site in light rain after a dry day.  It was still light out this time, and having done it before make it less stressful.  There was still the sliding and slipping but no more than I expected.

That night at camp was a different comedy (looking at it from the outside at least) of errors.  Another thing I'll write about later.  It was the next morning where things went south fast.

From the first moment the Jeep started moving crunching sounds came from the drive train.  As we started down the road we could not make the progress we could yesterday.  "4 wheel drive unavailable" message popped up on the console.  The Jeep started spinning its tires and came to a halt.

We spent close to an hour hauling mud out from the tires, putting rock under the front wheels (the only ones spinning) and other efforts to get the Jeep forward almost two whole feet.  Defeated, we called a tow company who kindly sent out a built up first generation Cherokee to tug us out to more solid ground, and drove my Jeep to the nearest paved road.  Thankful for at least that we headed toward the nearest town to find a mechanic to look at my broken truck.

Getting to town was not as easy as we hoped.  Even though we were stuck in front wheel drive, low range was still engaged and the real locker active.  This means the back wheels, spinning freely, still jumped on tight turns and we could not go more than 50 miles an hour.  We limp into the town of Hurricane and stop at the nearest shop.  It's a small shop with just the owner on site.  He can't look at the Jeep because his bays are already full of non-functioning vehicles.  Instead he calls another shop down the road who is able to have a look.

Down the road for a mile, which takes us over the river and into the town of La Verkin, the next shop has a look.  He looks at computer logs and under the truck but isn't able to get anything in the four-wheel drive unstuck.  But all was not lost yet.  The mechanic called Jeep's road-side assistance and got us a tow to the nearest dealer (30 minutes away).

So, instead of another day in Zion, we had two tows, two stops at garages and an afternoon in a dealer waiting room.  Not the adventure we were hoping for.  Once they were done looking the diagnosis was, basically, to replace the entire four wheel drive system from the transmission back.  The best part, though, was it being entirely covered under warranty.  Really, what other choice would Jeep make.  Would they really say that the most rugged Cherokee they make can't handle mud?  I suspect a bum part because, while it is no Wrangler, it can do a lot more than I was asking of it.

To shorten an already long story, after getting the largest cod-piece of a pickup truck as loan, we finished up our vacation while the Jeep waited patiently or the parts to ship.  Now that I have it back I'm looking forward to getting it out again.

Bonus Track:
No video today.