Saturday, November 29, 2014

White Friday at Rocky Mountain National Park

This post is mostly a picture dump, be ye warned.

Instead of spending "Black Friday" shopping and other related nonsense I instead choose to spend it in the mountains hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I had myself a "White Friday" instead and I am a better person for it.  See, I'm even smiling.

Be good, have fun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GamerGate BS

Most of the people reading this probably are not aware of GamerGate or what it means.  Let me summarize, it in its simplest form, how it started:

·       *  Someone wrote mean and untrue things about his ex-girlfriend on the Internet.

It really is that simple.  It is something that happens every day on the Internet, thousands of times over.  The details (which I’ll expound on below) would not be important if it ended there.  But it did not end there.  It escalated with speed and force that I find surprising. 

Briefly, here are some of the details:

Zoe Quinn is a game developer.  After she released a new game that was well regarded, her ex-boyfriend wrote a post claiming that she slept with a game reviewer to garner a good rating.  The claim was easily discounted.

The Internet troll community choose to jump on this and started a loosely organized harassment campaign against Quinn, which included stealing and distributing her personal information, calling and harassing anyone who knew her, calls for her to commit suicide and death threats.

All under the cover of preserving the integrity of gaming journalism.  People who spoke out against the harassment are themselves subjected to harassment, especially if they themselves are female.  All that was left was for someone with a big voice to side with the harassers to really get things moving.

That big voice was provided by Joss Whedon’s biggest casting mistake.  Once he waded in he brought a slew of GamerGate apologists, who dutifully repeated the journalism cover story, giving the trolls internal justification for their actions.

You know, like how a politician’s hyperbole spurs immigrant hate crimes.  Or a prominent evangelist spurs a women’s health clinic bombing.  Even if GamerGate originated in a true desire to protect gaming journalism (which it did not), all it is now is an increasingly organized campaign to harass and scare women out of gaming.

I don’t understand it. 

I’m going to go off the rails here a little bit, hopefully it will be worth it.  In most respects I am nothing like a GamerGater except in one important thing:  I’m a straight male.

There are no statistics on the GamerGate population, but I think it is pretty clear that nearly all of them are straight males.  Nearly all straight males, and I have lots of experience on this, like having women around.  Nothing keeps a woman around like having shared interests.  Love video games?  Let’s talk!  Love video games so much you write about them?  Let’s talk some more!  Love video games so much you make them?  Let’s never stop talking!

Chasing women away from something you love chases them away from you.  It dumbfounds me that GamerGaters work so violently against their own self-interest.

Getting myself back on the rails here, whatever twisted logic is driving them, nothing justifies the horrific behavior spurred on by GamerGate.  It is flat out wrong, morally reprehensible and in many cases criminal.

If you harass someone, you are not a gamer, you are a bully.

If you steal someone’s identity and spread it to the world, you are not a gamer, you are a petty thief.

If you threaten someone with violence, you are not a gamer, you are a felon.

It really is that simple.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Go Climb A Rock

Another long wait between posts.  Sorry (to myself as well as you).

This last weekend my daughter Rebecca came home from college for the weekend.  That gave the two of us the opportunity to make a goal that we've had nearly since we move here at the beginning of the summer.

Get to the top of Eldorado Canyon.

The may pictures in this post were taken by either Rebecca or myself.

Eldorado Canyon sits in the front range about half way between Golden and Boulder.  The canyon is beloved by climbers and hikers for the stunning rock formations and beautiful views.

It took us about half an hour to get to our real starting point, a steep boulder field next to the Rincon wall.

That picture was taken looking up at a 45 degree angle.  Having trouble visualizing it?  Here is Rebecca for scale:

This is the kind of hiking I really go for.  As close to climbing as you can without needing ropes.  "Vertical hiking".

We had already climbed 600 feet on the "improved" trail to get to the base of the rock field.  Another 600 feed of climbing brought us to the eastern edge of the canyon.  Here is what we saw.

Click to Embiggen (you really want to)

On the far left you can see Boulder and Longmont.  On the right, nestled between two trees you can see the Denver skyline.  In between is the vast expanse of the Colorado plains.  Kansas may be back there somewhere.

So, what do you need for this kind of hike?  Well, I am not an expert, but here is what I take:

You can see I have a climbing helmet, sticky bottomed hiking boots and my standard day pack.  In the day pack I have lots of water, a first aid kit, snacks and a light jacket.
Man, was that fun.  Here are some more pictures to finish up.

Bonus Track:
This was on my mind for reasons.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Science Ranch - The People

This is the fifth post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.

A Self Selecting Group of Awesome
The best part of going to a Science Ranch is the people.  Those of us that are attracted to this kind of vacation tend to have a lot in common.  We like being outdoors, we love science and other "nerd" topics, we have great senses of humor and we care for the world around us.  With so much in common it becomes easy to celebrate our differences.  Over the various trips I have made friends that I will keep for a long time to come.

The Pringle Family
This year our hosts were quite different than we experienced in the past.  The Wuanita Hot Springs Ranch is owned and run by the Pringle family.  The ranch is their home and they treat it (and its guests) as such.  The Pringles are traditional without being old fashioned, genuinely good people and went out of their way to interact with the guests and make sure that everyone was having fun.

The man on the right is Ryan Pringle, talking to us about an old gold mine we were exploring.
Working for the Pringles are a host of wranglers.  They are a fun loving bunch that know their stuff.

Bonus Track:
At the end of the week the Pringle family and other ranch employees put on a live music show.  It was quite good actually.  One of the wranglers sang this song:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Science Ranch - Black Canyon

This is the fourth post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.
One of our side trips during Science Ranch was to go to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  We had a wonderful time exploring the park and seeing the amazing sights.

The Blue Mesa Dam
Our first stop was at the far east end of the canyon, where a large dam holds back the Blue Mesa reservoir.  It is not the largest dam by any stretch, but it is still imposing when looking at it from below.

One of our stops was called Chasm.  Chasm is a wider part of the canyon and offers great views and the ability to look almost directly down the canyon side.

Yep, that's a vertical panorama.

Painted Wall
The painted wall gives an excellent view of the varied geology present.  Our geologist Holly spent some time here guiding us through a millions of years of geologic history.

Ranger Paul
Our guide for this trip was Ranger Paul.  Paul has a great store of knowledge of the park and it's history, as well as a great love for the place.

Bonus Track:
I couldn't resist...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Science Ranch - Horse Riding

This is the third post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.
If you are going to a guest ranch, even a science themed one, you have to ride horses.  For the average geek this will be a new experience, possibly even a scary one.  It is, however, something everyone should try at least once.

Something unique about Wuanita is where they get their horses.  The owner prefers to get retired ranch horses, ones that have spent their life working.  He feels that a working horse will be better behaved for his guests.  The horses tend to be more than ten years old.

My horse bore this out.  I'm an infrequent rider, though I've had enough experience to be fairly good at trail riding.  My horse, Dr. Seuss (!), was easily the best behaved creature I have ever rode.  Not everyone had the same experience, but on the whole I think that was the case.  My horse was named Seuss because his forehead marking looks like a Truffula tree.

The trails around the ranch range through private land, Buereau of Land Management land and National Forest.  We caught nearly the perfect week this year, as nearly every flower possible was in bloom.

Finally, at the end of the week, we participated in arena games.  This is my first time with this and it was a lot of fun.  The kids gave skill demonstrations:

The adults competed in cattle penning.  We actually cut cows from a small herd at one end of the arena and moved them into a pen at the other side.

Great fun.

Bonus Track:
At the start of the kids demonstration, our host played this song.  In his words "the most cowboy song ever".  He played the original but this version is pretty cool:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Science Ranch - Sessions and Scientists

This is the second post about Science Ranch 2014.  You can look at the previous post for more.

What makes Science Ranch different from other vacation packages is the science.  (Sorry, a little too literal there.)  This year we had two excellent scientists with us.

The first is geologist Holly Brunkal.  Holly is a a teacher at Western State Colorado University and has become a friend over the years.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and she can speak to kid and adult alike.

John Sowell is a biologist from Western State as well.  His knowledge of the Gunnison area flora and fauna is vast.  He is a great fun to talk with and I hope to meet up with him again in the future.

Our science sessions came in the form of hikes.  As we walked impromptu outdoor classrooms sprung up in the trees and rocks as we learned about unique aspects of the spot we were in.

Every clear night Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) got out his telescope and a dozen or more adults and kids looked up at the sky while Phil talked about what we saw.  At the end of the week he gave a talk (over desert) about the Curiosity Mars rover.  If you ever have the chance to go to one of Phil's talks, please do.  You will not be disappointed.

Bonus Track:

Since this post was about science, here is Thomas Dolby and Buzz Aldrin: