Your Bubble and Mine

Everyone is trying to figure out what’s happening to American culture (“all the rancor”), as though there is a single American culture. There isn’t. There have long been profound divides amongst Americans, with the most intractable divide being between the South and the rest of the country. The South is still fighting the Civil War, and still refuses to accept that blacks are as good as whites. Other divides: urban vs. rural; rednecks vs. the college educated; the right vs. the left; the ultra-greedy vs those who wish to see an equitable society, with the former now in total control. What’s currently exacerbating these divides like never before is social media. Nowadays, one can talk with the like-minded from the world over via a constant stream of blather that supports one’s biases and encourages ever more extreme commitment to the “cause”. Now we have the opportunity to communicate with millions of select others, and become, as a rule, hardened in our beliefs. This, we have been informed, is how ISIS recruits suicide bombers. The left-wing used social media to rally behind Bernie Sanders, as did the right-wing lunatic fringe behind Trump. We have now, they say, isolated ourselves in our own chosen social media bubbles, talking only with those that agree with us. This is certainly true for me, but I’ll tell you what – it’s OK with me. I’m not decrying this phenomenon. It’s not like I’m not aware of what the other side holds dear. I just don’t want to spend time acquainting myself with the details of their various insanities. I accept that we are in what may be the terminal stages of the battle between good and evil. I don’t believe that we can overcome, with dialogue, those divides mentioned above. We are going to have to fight for what is right. There are no win/win solutions in sight. So, like the other side, I’m herein using social media to extend into the world, to bring to the attention of the like-minded, my thoughts on the subject.

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Steve Miller Publishes “The Salt River”

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1244922282

“The Salt River, a Photo Journey and Visual Guide” , by Steve Miller, joins “The Grand, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, a Photo Journey and Visual Guide, together showcasing Arizona’s two most sought-after river trips. Like the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, the Salt River is unique. The 52-mile trip down the Salt River combines exciting whitewater and spectacular scenery in a Sonoran desert setting, which most notably includes Arizona’s spectacular saguaro cactus. At the heart of the trip is the 32,000 acre Salt River Canyon Wilderness, where, in the Jump Off Canyon section, one finds the most challenging whitewater and most awe-inspiring scenery. With almost 500 photos, annotated maps and 17 movies of rapids, everything of interest is shown: Class 2-4 rapids, spring wildflowers, cacti of all sorts, side canyons and swimming holes, sculpted and polished rocks, potholes, ripple-marked slabs, gorges of white granite and dark metamorphic rock, wildlife, campsites, waterfalls, indian ruins, every rock layer that the river has carved through, spectacular vistas, mileages, historical information, environmental concerns and more.

Steve Miller is the VP of New Wave Rafting Co, located on the Rio Grande, near Taos, NM. http://www.newwaverafting.com

 

 

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New Mexico Great Outdoors, May 22, 2017

New Mexico Great Outdoors, May 22, 2017. As far as the Great Outdoors is concerned, yesterday (5-22-17) started with some of the wild cacti that have begun to bloom around our house. We have been keeping a particular  eye on the pincushion cactus:

Pincushion cactus

Pincushion cactus

Pincushion cactus

BTW, some sources identify this cactus as a beehive cactus. If anyone can help me out in confirming which cactus this is, I’d be very grateful. The pricklypear are also beginning to bloom:

Pricklypear cactus

Then, at the stroke of 5 PM, Kathy and I headed up the Rio Grande to take a quickie hike. We decided to search out a spot off the Petaca Point Trail (in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument) that Kathy had been told about. We drove up the dirt road from Taos Junction Bridge to the rim of the gorge (Hwy 567), where the trailhead is located. Our destination was a pour-off on the rim that can be seen from the parking lot of the Vista Verde Trail, below.

Pinon pines and the opposite side of the gorge, near the beginning of the walk

In a mile or less, we came to the following sign:

BLM trail sign

Here, we’ve descended into a drainage, and are looking southeast, and across the gorge to the Picuris Mountains. In mid-distance is an impoundment on this drainage, marked by the large juniper tree. Just past this check dam the drainage resumes and leads directly to the pour-off.  Kathy had been told that we would find petroglyphs in the mini-gorge that precedes the pour-off:

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Claretcup, at the pour-off

Indian paintbrush, at the pour-off

Taken from the pour-off are these two telephoto views: Screaming Right-hand Turn Rapid, in the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande, upstream of Taos Junction Bridge, and Taos Creek.

Screaming Right-hand Turn Rapid

Taos Creek is roaring

In the drainage between the check dam and pour-off are these polished and/or sculpted basalt rocks:

Polished basalt, Kathy

Polished basalt

Polished and sculpted basalt

Other cacti and flowers seen along the trail:

Claretcup

Sego lily

Claretcup

Here’s a Google map of the hike:

Petaca Point pour-off

We drove through a brief shower as we headed home, and we were treated to this evening rainbow set into orange-hued clouds:

Rainbow against orange-hued clouds

It was another day of New Mexico Great Outdoors!

 

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The Donald Chronicles, #47 – May 7, 2017

I’m bringing this series of posts to an end. I no longer wish to watch the news, because I’ve become allergic to you-know-who. I’m not saying that I won’t change my mind later. I could. But, for the time being, I can stomach the crazy fuck no longer. Here’s some natural beauty to get our minds off of politics.

Corals and sponge, 2003, Saba, Netherlands

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National Monuments At Risk

The continuing menace that is Donald Trump has now taken aim at what is most near and dear to my heart – namely, the outdoor heritage that I, and all Americans, cherish. Trump has taken aim at our National Monuments, one of which is the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, in New Mexico.

I live 7 miles from the Monument, am a commercial river outfitter in the Monument and spend very many winter days photographing wildlife there, such as this wintering bald eagle:

Bald eagle

The centerpiece of the Monument is the Rio Grande, in the Rio Grande Gorge:

The Rio Grande Gorge, at Taos Junction Bridge, and the Picuris Mountains

Powerline Falls, in the Taos Box section of the the Rio Grande

There are many more Monuments on DT’s hit list. One is the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, again in New Mexico. I spent a fair amount of time in that area when I worked at New Mexico Tech, in Socorro, taking students on hikes and climbs. And Kathy and I later journeyed there to climb Sugarloaf Peak:

Climbing Sugarloaf Peak, Kathy

Kathy, on the summit of Sugarloaf Peak, with the Organ Needles behind

Then there is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in Utah, and the adjoining Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, in Arizona. The former includes the remote Kaiparowits Plateau. Prior to the designation of the Monument, the few people who live in the area had, for considerable time, been pushing to see the proposed Kaiparowits coal-fired power plant built. Old-time conservation activists remember when a group of these folks burned David Brower (then Director of the Sierra Club) in effigy on the US Capitol steps. The Monument put an end to that.

Vermilion Cliffs includes what must be the most extraordinary piece of rock architecture in the country – the Wave:

The Wave

Near the Wave, which is found in the area known as Coyote Buttes, is Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon:

Buckskin Gulch

New Mexico Tech students, Paria Canyon

Another area of great scenic appeal included in the above are the Escalante Canyons:

Fisher Arch, on the Escalante River

Davis Gulch, in the Escalante Canyons

And another is the Toadstools:

Toadstool

and the Cottonwood Narrows:

Cottonwood Narrows

and the upper steps of the Grand Staircase:

The Grand Staircase, from near Cannonville, Utah

The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, in Arizona, protects a large swath of the north rim of the Grand Canyon and adjacent wild lands to the north and west, including the north shoreline of the Colorado River/Lake Mead, west of Grand Canyon National Park. Here’s Pearce Ferry Rapid:

Pearce Ferry Rapid, when it was still runnable (2007), with the Cockscomb in the distance

Pearce Ferry Rapid, 2007. Because of rapid erosion, it has since become un-runnable.

The final National Monument on DT’s hit list that I’m personally acquainted with is the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument, in southern Utah, which includes mountains, plateaus, canyons, rivers, a wilderness area, paleo-indian archeological sites and contemporary Native American religious sites. The Monument borders Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park and the Manti-La Sal National Forest, unifying, under federal protection, a significant assemblage of southern Utah’s unique and highly-scenic wild lands. Protection of these spectacular locales was long over-due:

Valley of the Gods State Park is contained within the Monument

The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, from Muley Point

Goosenecks269

Goosenecks State Park is also contained within the Monument

The Moki Dugway climbs from the Valley of the Gods to Muley Point, on Cedar Mesa

Muley Point

San Juan River, at Mexican Hat launch site

Petroglyphs at the Sand Island launch site, on the San Juan River

Cedar Mesa, from the Clay Hills

Ruin, in Grand Gulch

Pottery and stone tools, Grand Gulch

On the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

Jacobs Chair, on the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

On the road to Hite, west of Natural Bridges National Monument

Yes … I am VERY pissed-off.

All photos by the author.

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Password Hell

We (not me) have created a monster. That monster is passwords. Who disagrees? And, yes, of course, I know that passwords are supposed to protect us from various kinds of cyber theft. They’re a necessary evil, right?

But some of us may not feel the need of such protection, being as we have little to lose. So, incredulous as it might sound, I want to be provided an opt out choice for password protection. Let me choose whether I want to be password protected.

In the beginning of all this craziness, I created a 4 character password that I intended to use everywhere, every time. That way, I had only one password to remember. And I’ll bet that many of you did the same. But you know what happened next. Soon, more characters were required. And then your password had to include a capital letter, and a number, and a special character. A new word was invented: alphanumeric. Then your password was gauged as to its “strength”. Most recently (yesterday, in fact), I was required to come up with a 16 character password. How bizarre!

So, to repeat, I want to be offered the option of turning down password protection. Give me the freedom to assume the risk of being unprotected from cyber predators, if I so wish. Give me the opportunity to free myself from password hell, and I might even take it.

And, there is a larger issue here, which seems not to have been so far considered. It is the cost/benefit equation associated with password protection. Is it possible that the aggregate harm done to the public from the imposition of password protection (the time consumed, the money spent and the aggravation inflicted) out weighs the harm that would result from an absence of password protection? Or, more to the point, the harm that would result to those individuals who, having been given the freedom to opt out of the system, have chosen to do so. I am, in other words, suggesting that we allow the question of password protection to be governed by free market principles, where account holders are free to choose it or not. Let the results of such assumption of risk govern individual decision-making.

And, while on the subject, I see a parallel circumstance in the imposition of security screening of air travelers. An immense government security apparatus, staffed by unemployables and morons (yes, you can quote me), has been created to protect us from terrorism, but, in the process, has created another kind of terrorism. Don’t you HATE airport screening? I do. Would you assume the risk of being on that particular plane that a terrorist has targeted, to be free of airport screening? If given the choice, I might. Is it possible (here, again) that the staggering costs – in time, in money, in aggravation – of security screening out weigh the presumed benefits of such screening? If the airlines and federal government provided us with “screening-free” flights, would you consider being on one of those planes? I would definitely think about it, that’s for sure.

Just how safe do we need to be? Are we so sniveling that we require all these elaborate, expensive and exhausting safeguards? I want to be given the choice of using passwords or not, and the choice of being on a screen-free flight, or not.

 

 

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Earth Day and Spring Flower Bonanza, April 22, 2017

It’s Earth Day today, and I visited two of my favorite spots. The first was the Orilla Verde Recreation Area, along the Rio Grande upstream of Pilar, NM, and the second was what I call Rinconada Canyon, for lack of another name.

Orilla Verde is the most downstream section of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which is centered on the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico, and those familiar with this blog know that it is where I photograph bald eagles, waterfowl, otters and whatever else comes my way in the winter.

First, Orilla Verde.

This flower looks like the Desert Marigold we see in Arizona

Cliff Fendlerbush

Indian paintbrush

Yucca

Green hedgehog

Green hedgehog, artistic treatment

Teasel, alongside the river

Rinconada Canyon is on the upstream end of a drainage that crosses NM 68 at the east end of Rinconada, NM. A large amphitheater contains slot canyons and vertical formations eroded into soft sediments. This place has also appeared in my blog posts before.

Daisies

Golden pea

Low cryptantha

Prow

Overhang

The Chimney, along the margin of the amphitheater

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, feeding on Low cryptantha

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, feeding on Low cryptantha

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