More Junkmail from Bob!
Wednesday, January 3, 2001
A Junk Odyssey
Welcome to the first Junkmail of 2001! I heard on the radio Monday that this year is the beginning of a new millennium. That's amazing! Two millenniums in two years. The same people were calling it a new millennium last year. At least the Y2K problem fizzled, so you rarely hear about the terrible Y2.001K problem.
30 years ago or so I saw the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." I am a little disappointed that some things haven't advanced as fast as they were expected to in the movie. For example, my computer won't talk to me as well as HAL did, and I can't go spend a few days in a space station or on the moon. The one thing that really puzzled me in that movie was that the first beat was faster than the second in every measure of the Strauss waltz. Did you realize what you get if you increment each letter of HAL by one? In Seattle you can find a mysterious new monolith in Magnuson Park.
For more monolithic pseudo-info:
It's cold in Oklahoma!
I can't remember there ever being snow on the ground here as long as there has been this winter. I think it may have something to do with the global warming trend. It must be a crisis.
A crisis is "an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome." That's the old definition. The new definition is "anything that's in the news." I actually heard the term "stable crisis" on the radio (NPR) the other day.
Anyway, back to the weather. People are going to do some serious finger pointing to lay blame for this weather. It's pollution, or a government plot, or people's poor attitude, or possibly an internet problem. It just can't be normal, can it? Hmm.... how does it compare to the dust bowl days 60-70 years ago? If that happened today, that would be the Dust Crisis.
We can blame the global warming trend on pollution. I can't help but wonder that if there is really a global warming crisis with too much CO2 in the air, why are we using coal instead plutonium for electricity? Plutonium is clean, except for the residue, and we can pack up the radioactive leftovers for my great grandkids to take care of. Just think what kind of radioactive cleanup technology they'll have in 50 years if there's a crisis looming on the horizon.
Anyway, I realize we really won't have nuclear power electricity generation in a big way any time soon. It does make sense, though, because it's an almost unlimited source of power and it gives off no greenhouse gas. The problem is that people, rightly or wrongly, worry about the radioactivity. I think I'll start a movement to turn off the nuclear fusion that keeps the sun going. After all, thousands of people get cancer from the sun every year. Cancer's kind of like radioactivity. If we can't see it and don't understand something that can kill us, then it's bad, just plain bad.
There's a power crisis in California now. They're a little short on electricity there. They placed price controls on electricity that are independent from the cost of electricity. Since then, the cost of electricity has gone up and the price hasn't. Now it's costing California power companies more to generate and buy electricity than they're allowed to sell it for. This was considered good business until the dotcom bust, but now it's out of vogue.
The solution? Some say the federal government should do its job and require power companies outside California to sell electricity to California at the artificially low rates. As you might suspect, this opinion comes primarily from a few Californians. And they happen to have electricity in their homes.
This reminds me of the water shortage crises in California and Colorado, where they dump billions of gallons of water into the ground to water crops. I know, I shouldn't complain because I eat the food. It's still pretty funny to see thousands of acres under active irrigation and then hear that it's illegal to wash a car. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy not to wash my car.
The weather really is extremely strange lately, according to the newspapers, TV, and radio. It's generally blamed on pollution and faulty vote counts. But think about the weather changes over the past few thousand years. How much global warming has taken place since the last ice age? And how much global cooling had to take place in order to start that ice age? OK, I admit I wasn't alive then, but pretend I was there and was looking at the weather. It was REALLY cold, trust me.
That's enough rambling. Hopefully I've offended each of the 1500 or so Junkreaders mad with one of these comments or another. If not, I can start in on politics...
U.S. Air Force, since 1947
Colin Hildinger corrected me -- the U.S. Air Force was started in 1947, NOT in World War I like I claimed last week. Oops!
President Clinton pardoned 59 people a few weeks ago, including someone involved with 1000 lbs. of marijuana and a former Oklahoma country commissioner. President Putin of Russia is never one to be outdone. He may release 350,000 people from prison before long. That will make 350,001 if you count Edmond Pope.
Pope was in Russia trying legally to get some technical information on the 300 mph Squall torpedo. But at the same time, Canada was trying to buy some Squall torpedoes on the sly. The Russians thought Pope was involved with the Canadian deal when they threw him in jail.
A Euro for Socrates
Important News! The drachma is finished on the international currency exchange. The Greek currency has been around for 2600 years or so, on and off. It's soon to be off again, with the Euro taking place of the drachma within a year or two.
What's the deal about dotcoms? Is it really that bad? Apparently. You just can't stay in business if you never make a profit. More than 200 dotcoms folded last year, and a lot more are on their way out this year.
It's avalanche season. If you find yourself out on a snowy mountain, you may wonder if the snow is likely to start sliding. In Colorado you can check out the daily avalanche report to get an idea of the current snow conditions.
Sometimes the snow is stable, and sometimes it's not. If you walk on unstable snow, it can trigger an avalanche. About 1/2 the snow-related deaths are from avalanches. Most of the rest are from skiing and snowmobiling. When you consider that most people have enough sense not to go into the mountain backcountry in the winter, the avalanche danger seems very real if you do find yourself out on a snowy mountain.
Here's an avalanche that happened last Sunday:
Those conditions sound a lot like the ones recently in Colorado -- "avalanche danger: considerable on slopes 35 degrees and greater." Last week we ran across an avalanche that happened a couple of days earlier near Breckenridge.
Here's my toddler Brian on the edge of the slide, showing how thick the slab was. Behind him you can see the top of the snow slab that used to be where I was taking the picture from. Below that you can see the big pile at the bottom, complete with a few snowmobile tracks.
Here's the top of the slide where the slab broke away. It had snowed a couple of inches since the avalanche.
The snow was so loose (sugar snow) that the layer of new snow would start sliding with a little prodding.
Here's side of the slide at the top. It shows how the snow cracked and started to slide down the mountain.
This was on the west side of the mountain, which is usually (but not always, obviously) the more stable side. The avalanche was a small one, as you can see by this picture, but it was plenty big to bury someone. The avalanche was just above the shadow on the left.
In the picture above, there is a snowy mound just above the shadow to the right of the trees. Here's a closer view.
You can see where I was walking at the base. I triggered a collapse in the snow with a loud boom, at my feet and above. I had never heard anything that loud in the snow before. I moved pretty darned fast off the snow onto the rocks. I think the snow would have slid if the slope had been steeper. It looks like nice stable snow, but it wasn't. We dug a pit and there was a lot of very loose "sugar snow" with some air space underneath a stronger layer. Here's the picture I took just before.
Pictures of Today!
From the top of Peak 5, near Breckenridge last week:
Some other mountains:
Snow lunatics (Brian and Ken)
(¢) copyleft 2001, no rites preserved. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution, or contemplation of this fine piece of alleged literature will be prosecuted to the least extent of the law.
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I'm Bob Webster, and you can usually find me at email@example.com