Category Archives: Environment

My Mt. Whitney Hike, Broken Down Into Annoying Anecdotes

I hiked Mt. Whitney on Sunday with my cousin Josh. It was pretty great. But I won’t describe this experience in lengthy prose. What I will do, however, is break down the timeline of our day, along with specific observations and thoughts annoying anecdotes I had along the way.

12:50am: Awake. Put on shoes, rolled up sleeping bag, waited for Josh’s phone alarm to wake him at 1:00am.

1:45am: Driving to Mt. Whitney portal. The pine tree fragrance of the mountains is lovely.

1:55am: Commence the hike. Josh and I both note that the moon is nowhere to be seen; that it’s incredibly dark outside.

2:15am: I ask Josh for the fourth time if the bears are likely to eat our faces.

2:15am: “If you’d stop rubbing peanut butter on your face, they won’t,”Josh responds.

2:25am: I notice Josh claps his hands or says “hey!” near bushy areas.

2:25am: I think, ‘must find something to talk about, to keep bears away,’ and start singing the theme song of Have Gun, Will Travel.

2:30am: Fear of bear attack dwindles as I see other headlamps (other hikers) along the hiking trail.

2:45am: There are a few creeks we cross with rocks interspersed as makeshift bridges.

2:47am: I slip into water, my foot partially wet. Josh asks if I need extra socks. I say no, thinking my SmartWool socks will kick ass.

2:48am: They do. They do kick ass.

3:30am: Discover tree with penis. Guffaw.

4:00am: Encounter first campsite. I think they may be pansies. But I can’t tell.

4:30am: Hit the start of the most grueling part of the hike: the switchbacks.

4:40am: Find that the storm that hit some six hours before had dropped some light snow and hail.

4:41am: Find that light snow and hail is slippery.

4:45am: Curse my New Balance trail runners with the 1,000+ miles.

4:50am: I notice that I’m flatulent, and Josh tells me that’s what happens when you get into higher altitudes.

4:51am: I smile and tell myself that he is not lying to me; that the reaction is normal.

5:25am: Switchbacks continue, and I think that they are not at all that bad.

5:26am: Much better than the music band of the same name.

5:28am: First glimpse of moon in the sky. Just a little thumbnail, mildly brighter atop its softened circular home.

5:35am: Josh and I take our 15th 1-minute break for Clif Bar/trail mix/peanut butter sandwich sustenance.

5:37am: We take our first two Advil. For the headaches. The headaches, Josh says, that are “normal.”

5:37am: Normal? This is normal? My head pounds, and I think my heart might be in there too.

6:00am: We reach the end of the switchbacks.

6:05am: The view is incredible up here, I think. Orange marmalade on the edge of burnt toast.

6:22am: Headaches linger. Two more Advil.

6:23am: It’s windy! The wind, and the temperature of around 30 degrees, doesn’t help the headache.

6:37am: The sun is coming! The sun is coming!

6:38am: Drat. Now I can witness the bears rip my face off. No, no, they’re not up this high.

6:39am: Right?

6:42am: I munch on a hardened, cold peanut butter Clif Bar.

6:49am: We commence traverse horizontally to reach final push upwards to summit.

6:52am: Behind us, there are two hikers. I think they are following us. Stop following us!

6:53am: I recognize that the thought is delusional

6:54am: But what if it’s just your way of keeping your mind occupied? Like telling stories.

6:54am: Yah! That’s it! Congratulates self.

7:27am: Must. Use. Wag. Bag.

7:27am: Narrow trail, hikers aplenty. No place to make the Wag Bag Sag.

7:35am: The hail/snow looks like Dippin’ Dots.

7:48am: I can see the top!

8:00am: We make it to the summit. I find suitable place to fill the Wag Bag.

8:00am: I feel like a soldier in the trenches. Only if Poo Powder were invented then.

8:05am: My hands are bloated. My fingers, like little sausages. Ew. I hate sausages.

8:10am: We take pictures. It’s beautiful. A few intermittent clouds and blue skies.

8:27am: Commence our return trip. I borrow Josh’s jacket he had in his pack. It’s red, large, like a ballroom gown.

8:45am: Passing many hikers on their way up. One guy is shirtless. I don’t know why.

9:15am: We seem to be moving aside for every ascending hiker. It’s getting annoying.

9:16am: I take note of the fact that 98% of them have hiking poles. Are they needed?

9:58am: Take a break at the top of the switchbacks. Cashew, almond, dried cherry snack.

10:15am: In the light, everything looks so much grander. The trail, so much longer.

10:35am: Sweating, we take off our jackets, and I slip back into my soccer shorts and t-shirt.

10:50am: Still hiking down the switchbacks, Josh tells some fool to stop cutting the trail; that it ruins it.

10:52am: He doesn’t care and continues to cut the trail. But the rocks are so loose in there. He could kill someone! Jerk face.

11:00am: Reach the bottom of the switchbacks. We chew Juicy Fruit and sing about how it’s going to move us.

11:05am: On a rock, in the sun, a used wag bag bakes.

11:10am: My hands still bloat, and I wish for a cold cup from Yogurtland.

11:37am: The cold creek water refreshes my sun-beaten neck and face.

11:38am: Scratch that. It may be cold creek water and chipmunk feces.

11:50am: Josh climbs atop penis tree. I take picture. It’s precious.

12:27pm: Going downhill hurts the knees. I feel mildly old.

12:38pm: We hit the final set of switchbacks before the end. We cheer.

12:57pm: Gosh, this is taking forever.

1:25pm: Some guy tries to glean some information from us in the most retarded sentence structure ever.

1:42pm: Josh’s blue Ford Escort is in view!

1:58pm: Arrive at the Whitney portal. We finished!

22 miles total. 12 hours. Elevation gain of roughly 6,200 feet. Summit elevation of 14,500 and change.

Evidence:

It's dark and the bears are attacking!

Pretty Views Along the Way

Our Shoes Made It!

Josh and I Are Happy to Have Made It

Proof!

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Scooby Finds His Wee Wee

So, we have a dog. His name is Scooby and he’s a black Labrador. At four and a half, he’s still very much a puppy, at least in his excitability and playful mannerisms. When I met Jessica, Scooby hadn’t yet reached the age of one. With that said, I can rationally say that I know Scooby well.

I know what he likes and dislikes. I know that he loves to chase rabbits with the sole intention of playing patty cake, or some such innocent tete-a-tete. I know that he loves to retrieve the tennis ball, and then keep the ball in his mouth until he’s certain that the other dogs aren’t cherry picking to get to the next toss first. I know that he was once scared to jump into the Dobson pool, but has since shed that fear, thanks to my patient instruction. Now, he’ll jump, but not before he crouches to ensure he’s propelling himself into the pool with the least amount of air time possible. I know that he loves to get as close to the bed with Jessica and I as possible without actually laying on the bed (a rule mandated by myself; but a rule, mind you, that is often broken in moments of weakness, or moments in which Jessica chooses Adorable over Non’s Allergy Monster). This usually results in half of his body laying on the bed, with his lower half on the floor beside the bed.

Mostly, I know that he is fond of me, as I am fond of him. But the other day, my perception changed.

Scooby and His Ball

I was in the house, and the dogs (Scooby, Scooby’s mom Lilly, Schein, Gamble and Watson) were outside. I looked through the window to see what they were up to, only to find the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen. Before I get to that, I’ll say this. As a young lad, I had to initiate a conversation with my mother for the purpose of asking her to keep the noise level down in the–ahem, cough, shudder–bedroom. It was traumatic, and may have been a repressed memory if she hadn’t laughed and told me that my “grandfather was having sex all the time; and he’s an old man!”

And so, as I peered out into the backyard, I found Scooby humping (I use this term in an attempt to propel the act to some elementary, perhaps easily forgotten level; sadly, it’s already failed) Schein. I must point out that Schein is Scooby’s aunt. His aunt! Okay, incestuous relations aside, the image was still very much awful. But allow me to explain further.

You see, in this moment, we parents (yes, he’s my boy dammit) get a bit irrational, emotional, exaggerating in our interpretation of events. To others, it’s simply a dog humping another dog. That is, they say, what dogs do. But no, I say! Not Scooby! Not the innocent playful pup that I know so well! In that moment, Scooby was not responding to boredom. He was raping his aunt. With his incisors showing and everything. In that moment, Scooby was an aggressor. And, to make matters worse, my mind filled with all these sick thoughts of Scooby doing this regularly, like he’s trying to hide it from me, like he knows that it’s wrong but he just can’t stop his sexual urges.

But I say, it can’t be! Scooby is fixed. He doesn’t even know what’s going on down there! And yet, in my head, he knows exactly what he’s doing. Scooby is his name no longer. Scooby the Rapist, forever he will be.

Shudders.

I love you Scooby. I always will. Even if I know now that you recognize your wee wee.

*Note: While I am surely exaggerating this experience (yes, I know that dogs hump), there is truth to the irrational, emotional reaction that I had.

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Step 1: Destroy Neighborhood. Step 2: Replace With Dump.

Eminent domain is for looters and thugs.

From Timothy Sandefur, via Reason, comes more fantastic news about the Kelo vs. New London case of 2005. These people don’t care that they kicked people out of their homes, destroyed their houses only to replace the property with, well, nothing at all. 91 acres sit, untouched, overgrown with weeds. Oh, and the city of Trumbull has designated one particular area a dump site.

This is insane, is it not? Whatever it is, it infuriates me. To no foreseeable end.

How can a city, a government body, get away with us? They say it’s for the good of the town, for the people. How can that be? They take my private property, destroy it, and replace it with garbage. In other words, they take what is useful and plentiful and rationally implemented, only to replace with what is utterly devoid of usefulness, fruitfulness and rationality.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

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Environmental Quandaries

I try to implement some sense when faced with choices that are, on the face, or as dictated by the masses, environmental, ecological and/or related to sustainability. The problem I run into more often than not, however, is that the so-called quandaries I encounter are not in the slightest bit rational. On the surface, they very well could make sense, but are typically conflated to such levels that invariably render them nonsensical.

For me, it nearly always comes down to the unintended consequences of the environmentally friendly choice. As an example, consider cloth, or reusable diapers. Putting aside the carbon footprint argument, (which I don’t put much stock in, but has, in this case, found to be on equal grounds, more or less) what about the immediate environmental consequences of choosing the cloth diaper? Compared to the parent of the child with the disposable diaper, you would inevitably be using more water to clean the diapers and more energy to run the washing machine. This point never seems to be considered. The argument, of course, against the disposable diaper is that it is plastic and will end up in a landfill someplace, spoiling the earth. I am skeptical of this claim. And frankly, it seems to me that if these landfills were a problem, that we’d find a way to strip-mine for petroleum products to be used as a fuel source.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, there are certain things that just make sense. Sustainable living, for instance, need not require the worship of Gaia. A certain level of respect, surely, but I don’t intend to sacrifice myself, or others, for its sake.

Another aspect of this argument I must comment on is its tendency to pervert or retard the market process. A perfect example of this is the decision of the federal and state governments to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs of 72 watts or more starting in January of 2012 (this wattage will gradually decrease until 2014 where it will cease at the 29 watt maximum). Now, if it made sense for the consumer to purchase more expensive, less effective light bulbs, they would. But it doesn’t. There is a reason why the attempted ban in New Zealand was overthrown, and that people are stockpiling 100-watt bulbs in droves. Also, what about the proper disposal of these new light bulbs? According to the new guidelines, one has to recycle them, but not as part of your regular recycling, because there is neon in them, which is a hazardous material. Does one need to drive them to a special disposal site; maintain a bin of neon in the corner of your living room so as to point out to future guest, “here’s the living room, and over there the lovely bin of neon.”

To back up for a moment, I do think the shift towards more effective, less energy consuming light bulbs will happen. It makes sense, surely. But I don’t think that should be up to the government to decide. It’s no surprise that big box retailers are following suit, reducing their inventory of incandescent light bulbs. With the pressure of the federal and state government on their shoulders, and the looming “ban,” how could they not? They need to survive.

At the end of the day, I want to make rational choices. Some of these rational choices are, in fact, mindful of sustainability. I think that’s important. On the other side, however, I wish for cognizance of certain invariable unintended consequences.

Go Green or Die, Bitches

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I Want My Kids To Do Drugs

I want my kids to do drugs. Wait, perhaps that’s not entirely accurate. What I want, as a parent, is to create an environment in which my (future, as in it will happen sometime in the future; not as in they are from the planet Zorbatron some 75 years into the new millennium) kids are given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I was discussing this with a friend recently. We decided, when we do become parents, that we wouldn’t provide all of the answers; nor would we strip the child of the opportunity to glean from a poor choice, or unreasonable decision. And I want to provide the emotional and intellectual support in order for those choices to be made.

So, do I really want my kids to do drugs? Probably not. But do I want to provide them with an environment that fosters and values deductive reasoning? Absolutely. I don’t wish to be strict, or choose to limit the opportunities for mistakes simply because I, as a shit-scared parent, don’t want to deal with the consequences. And for those parents out there, you’re probably thinking that this is wishful thinking; that I am naive; that I simply need to start having kids, then I’ll change my mind. You know what? You may be right. I may give in. But I don’t intend to. If the urge to intervene is present, I’ll do what I can to fight it.

I don’t want to be like Senator Adams.

(Hat Tip: Hit & Run)

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Modern Toilets as Harbingers of Misery

I am reading Jeffrey Tucker’s wonderful Bourbon For Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo at the moment (you can find it in PDF form online). It’s exceptional in many ways, but I do enjoy the parts in which Mr. Tucker provides the reader with a picture of the practical consequences of certain specific government regulations. One in particular I am truly fond of, and that is the chapter called “The Relentless Misery of 1.6 Gallons.”

In this chapter, Mr. Tucker outlines a few of the consequences of the Energy Policy Act, which was passed back in 1994. Allow me to quote the first paragraph from this chapter:

My order at my favorite Chinese restaurant was taking too long. I stopped into the men’s room. There I witnessed a common scene: the modern toilet disaster. An otherwise clean business had a restroom calamity on its hands, one so grim that I hesitate to describe it.

He then goes onto describe how this “calamity” had probably resulted in a series of disgusted customers and loss of business. But it’s not the fault of the business, he says. It’s that the Energy Policy Act mandated that toilets go from 3.5-5 gallons of water per flush to 1.6 gallons. If you didn’t comply, as a toilet manufacturer, you’d be fined and/or sent to jail.

I think upon this, and I picture that grimy, bacteria-laden plunger next to the toilet, or as far back behind the toilet as possible, so as not to gross your guests at too much. I think of the oval brush wand that sits on that odd pedestal- the one that is meant to scrape the “leftovers” off the toilet bowl. Naturally, these items wouldn’t have been needed (or, let’s say, they wouldn’t have been as prominently featured and utilized) if it were not for the Energy act.

As Mr. Tucker puts it,

So let us remember way back when:

  • Toilets did not need plungers next to them, and thank goodness. Used plungers are nasty, disease carrying, and filthy. It doesn’t matter how cute the manufacturer tries to make them or in how many colors you can buy them. In the old days, you would never have one exposed for guests. It was kept out in the garage for the rare occasion when someone threw a ham or something stranger down the toilet.
  • Toilet paper was super thick and getting thicker. None of this one-ply nonsense.
  • You never had any doubt about the capacity of the toilet to flush completely, with only one pull of the handle. The toilet stayed clean thanks to five gallons of rushing water pouring through it after each flush.

He goes on to say that the Energy act was essentially a step backwards “from a central aspiration of mankind to dispose of human waste in the best possible way.” I have to agree. I want my toilet to flush; and I want it to flush the first time I pull the lever. I don’t want to have to pull it twice, or three times. I don’t want to feel it necessary to keep a trusty plunger available at all times. Nor do I want to keep that fecal scrubber nearby.

But of course, as is often the case, government has the power to make these decisions. And society thinks that government is in the business of deciding what is best for us. I will steadfastly disagree. The environmentalists that pushed this decrease in flush per gallons forget about the unintended consequences. Ah, the unintended consequences. They never think of that. For instance, remember that push to get all babies into cloth diapers? But they easily forget that by doing so, there involves more cleaning, and as an unintended” consequence, more water usage. Same is true for the toilets. The unintended consequence is that people are having to flush two, three, four times before they feel comfortable enough to exit the stall, or home bathroom.

And sometimes, “conserving is not a good idea.” Some activities “cry out for the expenditure of resources, even in the most generous possible way. I would count waste disposal as one of these. ”

I wholly agree. I want my 5 gallon per flush toilet back. I want to witness the power of the flush, and see that everything is clean and porcelain white. There are ways humankind can do things better, and sometimes these ways are to be mindful of our environment, and with the intent of conservation. There’s value in some of those things, certainly. But not in this. This is a step back to the primitive.

Read all of Jeffrey Tucker’s excellent book online here. The toilet chapter is on pages 25-28.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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