Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hikeblogging: Twin Peaks, Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Yesterday I did what turned out to be the most difficult hike I've ever tried (outside of the Marines): Twin Peaks in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City.

The lower portion of the trail is relatively easy and winds through the forest until you reach the main basin. From here you can see your goal. I originally wanted to climb Dromedary Peak (far left) but after seeing how steep it was on the sides I decided to try Twin Peaks (second from right).

The trail soon disappears and you hike through meadows and open spaces of loose rocks. From this picture it looks as if Twin Peaks is not that far away, but even though it's only about another 3/4 miles you still have about 1,500 feet of elevation to climb, as I would soon find out.

I finally made it to the top after slowly climbing up the steep rock face. In the distance to the south you can see Mount Timpanogos. This view is from East Twin, at 11,330 feet. West Twin, just another quarter mile to the west of this point is 11,328 feet. I was too tired to try and bag both in one day.

After consulting my topo map, I determined that descending the north face of the mountain would be just as difficult as going back down the way I came up on the south face. Besides, there appeared to be a decent trail leading down from the top. I followed it, and found out it wasn't a human trail, it was a game trail. One used by mountain goats, like the two in the center of this picture.

I began to realize that mountain goats tend to live in places that humans can't easily get to. Sure enough, as I continued my descent I noticed that the ridgeline down into the canyon was made up of bare, potentially slick outcrops of shale, with stair-like miniature cliffs about 10-20 high. In other words, I was trapped unless I found a route down. I eventually found a very steep couloir and I carefully picked my way down, almost causing a rockslide once or twice and losing my jacket in the process. But I finally made it down and lived to blog about it.

In consulting my copy of Veranth's Hiking the Wasatch I found out later that I had descended by a route known as the Robinson Variation, meaning that some guy named Robinson was crazy enough to go up that way. As for me, I'm proud I made it to the top, but I'm not going to try that hike again for a while.


Why the Great El-ahrairah will be voting for Mitt Romney.

Continuing his series of voting preferences, the Great El-ahrairah will give his reasons for why he will be voting for Mitt Romney (and besides, there is enough coverage of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears elsewhere on the Internet).

As of today, there are three main declared GOP candidates for president (Romney, Guiliani and McCain) with one semi-declared candidate (Thompson). The rest of the GOP field is also-rans and the best that they could hope for is being selected for vice-president, and as such, I will basically ignore them.

Guiliani. I like Giuliani’s stances on terrorism and the War in Iraq (he also has that cool Italian name), but I don’t feel that someone who has whose highest elected office was the mayor of New York City has the experience to run the country. I also do not like his stance on abortion or gay marriage, so at this time, I will not be voting for Guiliani.

McCain. I like McCain’s stance on the War in Iraq, the military and terrorism, but his support for the immigration amnesty bill really pissed me off. I think McCain has been in Washington much too long and he needs to retire. McCain’s campaign is pretty well finished, so apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. It’s too bad since I wanted McCain to get the nomination in 200o instead of President Bush.

Thompson. I kind of like Thompson’s rough personality, but I’m not too sure what he completely stands for at this time. I’m going to assume basic conservative values, but the specifics are unknown. About the only thing I know about him is that 1) he was on Law and Order and 2) he has a younger trophy wife. Since he is still in “exploratory” mode to decide to run or not, this should probably change in the future. However, at this time, I not inclined to vote for Thompson.

Romney. As many readers of the Warren know, I am a member of the LDS Church, the same as Mitt Romney. Some readers of the Warren may think that I will vote for Mitt Romney just because we are members of the same church. Although that is important to me, it is not the complete reason. As an example, Brother “Dirty” Harry Reid is also a member of the LDS Church, BUT I would never vote for him. He is a poor excuse for an American, he is too quick to surrender to terrorists and I feel that how he lives his professional life reflects badly on the LDS Church.

Mitt Romney has said that the campaign of anyone who runs for president needs to be based on the three conservative principles of military strength, financial strength and family strength. Military strength is what keeps America free and we should not be afraid to use our military to destroy all threats to our security. Financial strength keeps our taxes low and employment up. Family strength stands up against those things that destroy our families such as gay marriage, abortion, etc. As far as I’m concerned, Mitt Romney supports those things that I think are important, so he has my vote.

Although Mitt has my vote at this time, I cannot say what will happen in the future. Maybe Mitt will fade and Thompson will rise or McCain will get his head out and start running a decent campaign or Guiliani will repudiate his stance on abortion. The next six months will be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt

Having lived in Italy for a number of years, I can attest to how bad Italians drive. Apparently, the Italian government now has decided that, maybe, enough is enough.

As I often pointed out when driving in Italy, there are no traffic laws, only suggestions. Speed limits are for sissies, the police are a joke and nobody thinks twice about passing other cars in anyway they can. While I lived in Catania, I used to have to drive more than an hour both ways to get to work along two-lane roads. I used to describe my commute as driving in a NASCAR race/demolition derby while you passed other cars at 160 kms/hour (100 miles/hour) with another car riding your bumper. In all the places in Europe where I lived, Italy had the worse drivers.

However, I liked driving in Italy since I used to drive turbo-diesel powered, manual transmission, two-door cars. Sticking a turbo-diesel in a small car (think Fiat or Opel) with a manual transmission makes the car fly (or at least 160 kms/hour). When I got back to the US, I had a real hard time at first to try and not drive like an Italian. I have pretty well gotten back in the US way of driving, but every once in a while, I forget where I am and drive like my name is Giovanni and I'm yelling at the driver next to me, "Tu sei un cornuto! Vaffanculo!"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rodeo and Utah

This weekend was the start of the Days of 47 celebration in Utah. This includes a number of festivities including the Days of 47 Rodeo (Ed Note: The proper pronunciation is roh-day-oh, not roh-dee-oh. Think how John Wayne pronounced it in "The Man from Utah").

My sainted Italian, straight-off-the-boat wife had expressed her opinion to me before that she wanted to see a rodeo, so I took her, the married daughter and her husband to the Days of 47 Rodeo and in proper Utahese, a good time was had by all. She especially like the bull-riding and bronco riding events, but she really didn't care for the calf roping. I'm kind of sentimentalm but my favorite part is the singing of the US National Anthem. I'm one of those who will sing along with the singer, no matter how bad they mess up the melody. I guess it comes from the fact that the LDS Church hymnal includes the US National Anthem and is sung during church (Oh no! Where's the separation of church and state!). In fact, one of my most enduring images is the Cap'n and I being the only people in the stands singing the US National Anthem at a Quebec Nordiques hockey game in Canada during the 80's (after which we both sang the Canadian National Anthem in French). By I digress, where was I? Oh yeah, rodeo.

I was rather surprised at an article in Pravda Utah which tells how popular rodeo is in the State of Utah. After thinking about it a bit, I can see why. Since Utah is one of the more patriotic states in the Union and where serving in the military is not looked down upon (our Miss Utah serves in the National Guard), I can see why a sport that celebrates the United States, the US military, patriotism and the cowboy lifestyle is so popular.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

D-Day for Mitt Romney

It looks like Mitt Romney has decided that the best way to get the Republican nomination is not to attack fellow Republicans, but to attack the Democrats. This makes sense since the Republican nominee will ultimately have to defeat the Democratic nominee (which looks to be Hillary). Unfortunately, the headline, "Romney continues assault on Democrats", sound like he is waging a war against them (which you could say is true).

I also discovered this website thru the Corner. It's called My Man Mitt and the author of the site asks a very pointed question about what teaching of the LDS Church should disqualify Mitt Romney from being president. Check out the comments (51 at last count) for responses to the question.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A member of the White Flag Surrender Caucus visits Utah

Unfortunately, Utah is not completely immune from the idiots of the White Flag Surrender Caucus and one of the founding members, Conneticutt Senator and presidential hopefull, Christopher Dodd, was in town for a visit. Like Brother Reid, he believes that the best way to defeat terrorists is quickly surrender and then bury your head in the sand hope that they leave you alone. Too bad he isn't like another senator from Conneticutt, Joe Libermann, who acutally knows what the threat is to the US and refuses to surrender to terrorists. I would have probably gone and listened to that Connecticutt senator speak.

Attack of the killer robots

Although this might sound like the title of a "B" movie schock-fest, it's not. The US Air Force is sending a squadron of MQ-9 Reaper aerial drones to Afghanistan and eventually Iraq.

The MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator "B") is the follow on to the highly successful MQ-1 Predator, but can fly higher, fly faster and carry a much larger payload. The Predator can carry 2 Hellfire missles, but the Reaper can carry up to 14 Hellfire missiles or four Hellfire missles and two 500 lbs bombs and do it for up to 14 hours. In fact, the US Air Force is thinking about replacing manned aircraft with missile-toting Reapers in the skies over Iraq, so all you terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, just stand by. Reaper has your number and just like the Grim Reaper, you will soon be meeting your maker.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why the Great El-ahrairah won't be voting for Hillary Clinton

A recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 52% of the American electorate would not vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter what. You can count the Great El-ahrairah among that 52% of Americans and here are my reasons why.

1) As David Geffen said (and I paraphrase) “All politicians lie, but the Clintons do is so easily that it is disturbing”. Having lived thru eight years of the lies of Bill Clinton, I really don’t want to repeat the exercise. (Notice to liberals: I don't want to hear any comments about the "lies" of Bush-Cheney. When you take responsiblilty and address those lies propagated by Mr. "I did not have sex with that woman" during his eight-years in office, then we will talk. Until then, pound sand.)

2) Everything she does has an ulterior motive. She just recently discussed how her faith got her thru the tough times during her marriage. That’s all well and good, but is this really true or is this just another example of the Clinton’s saying what they think their audience wants to here. Over at BlameBush!, Larry the Liberal gives a good example about how her newfound prefession of faith is only too convenient.

3) President Clinton’s “HillaryCare” universal healthcare fiasco of his first term. ‘Nuff said.

4) Gay marriage, embryonic research, immigration, tax increases, etc. Hillary is an unreformed lefty and will make sure that all these items are forced down our throats.

5) The Clinton Legacy. There are still many documents in the national archives which are very embarrassing to the Clinton’s about their response (or lack thereof) to the threat that Osama Bin Laden posed the United States during the 1990’s. With Hillary as president, they won’t need someone like Sandy “Slap on the Hands” Berger to smuggle potentially embarrassing classified documents out of the national archives to cover their butts. She'll be able to do it herself at her leisure.

6) Who will be really in charge? During 1992, when her husband was running for president, he bragged that if you voted for him, you got both of them (the famous “Vote for one, get two” quote). Electing Hillary as president could be a thinly-disguised attempt to circumvent the 2-presidential term limit amendment (Amendment 22) to the Constitution. Of course, this could be rather amusing if President Hillary does something that former President Bill does not approve of. Would he go on TV to criticize his wife? Knowing Bill Clinton, maybe.

7) If Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States, it could be called The Revenge of the Woman Scorned. Any man who has gone thru divorce court proceedings (such as myself) can testify to the truthfulness of the phrase “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned”. Thanks to Bill Clinton’s philandering ways, Hillary already has the world’s largest chip on her shoulder against men. This will probably manifest itself in her selection of cabinet posts (half of whom would probably be women). I wouldn’t be surprised if she selected a gay woman as Secretary of Defense just to stick it to the Y-chromosome population of the United States. In fact, if Hillary gets elected president, all men can just stand by. Hillary will embark on a 4-year anti-male jihad and will not rest until all traces of Y-chromosome are stamped out of the population. Think I’m exaggerating? What better way for her to get even with her philandering husband, emasculating the rest of the male population and then placing the blame on him. You can kiss the Bill Clinton legacy goodbye.

These are just seven reasons why I will never vote for Hillary Clinton. There are probably more, but these are the only ones that come to the top of head right now.

The article also states that 46% of Americans would never vote for Mitt Romney. That may be well and good, but hopefully, Hillary’s 52% and Mitt’s 46% are not the same group of voters. If that is the case, you can say hello to President Romney.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Miss Utah

The Great State of Utah has just crowned Miss Utah. Normally, this information will make me yawn and flip the channel, but this year is different. and what is unusual about her is that she is a medic in the Utah National Guard and has already served a combat tour in Afghanistan. She will represent Utah in the Miss America pagent next year, and instead of being just another airhead, at least she has some "real-world" experience under her belt. Of course, she won't win because she is 1) from a God-fearing, conservative state ,2) she could actually intelligently talk about any subject during the Interview portion of the pagent ("....and world peace.") and 3) she is a part of the whole, BusHitlerCheneyHaliburton military-industrial conplex that oppresses women, children, gays, lesbians, transgenders, minorities and everyone else on this planet (did I leave anyone out?).

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Return of Captain Holly and his Hiking Blog: Bull Mountain, Sawtooth National Forest

I've been terribly busy these past few months, and it's been difficult for me to indulge in my one of my favorite pastimes: Hiking. I finally was able to stop by a secret corner of Utah on my way back from family business in Idaho, the Raft River mountains just south of the Idaho border in the Sawtooth National Forest.

Bull Mountain is on the list of many local peakbaggers because it is the highest point in Box Elder county and many hikers make it their goal to "bag" to the highest peak in each county in Utah. The place has everything Captain Holly loves: a nice fishing stream, good campsites, beautiful topography, and very few people. The area is quite isolated and so far not many people care to go there. I was able to camp in a Forest Service campsite that was not even full on a Friday night in late June.

The stream is full of catchable rainbow, brown and brook trout, with some even getting to be about 10-12 inches long. I ended up keeping a nice brown trout for dinner.

Up on top you can see the canyon with its heavy timber. I actually hiked to the top while hunting here back in the 1980's, but as I was looking for deer and not the summit I didn't actually "bag" the peak.

In fact, it's not much like a mountain up on top. It's just flat meadows, full of wildflowers. Quite beautiful if you get there in the right season.

The actual "summit" is little more than a high spot in the meadow. Under this pile of rocks was a jar with a notebook in it for peakbaggers to sign, but since it was covered with bird crap (I guess eagles or hawks like sitting on it) I wasn't going to dig it out and sign it.

Overall, not a bad hike. It's only about 9 miles round trip, and the solitude and camping are worth it. It would have been even better if I had known there was an ATV trail that actually went up to nearly the top, as I ended up brush-busting for the first mile or so. Plus, I'm out of shape and I forgot to take my heart meds and was really having a hard time for the last half-mile. But I made it, and so I can mark this one off my list.

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Hit it out of the park, he did!

My son took the ACT about a month ago. Earlier this year we bought a Barron's study guide for him to prepare with, since it definitely helped me when I took the GRE. He didn't do too well on the first practice test -- scoring only a 21 composite -- but he raised his scores after studying each individual section. Still, we were just hoping for him to get a good enough score on the real test to be able to enroll in my Alma Mater without any hassle.

(Explanation: Even though he is doing well taking home study courses from BYU Independent Study, there still is a heavy pro-Publik Skool bias when it comes to admitting homeschooled students. Weber State, for example, will take a graduate of the Socialized Education System with just a composite score of 18; a homeschooler needs a 24 to get in. For some reason, a Publik Skooler with an 18 is somehow smarter and better prepared for college than a homeschooler with a higher score, even though they took the same test. Go figure.)

When I looked through the book I was surprised at how difficult the questions were; they seemed like the stuff I saw in the GRE. Well, I guess I was right, because he not only got high enough scores for Weber, he beat his Old Man. We got the same composite scores (26), but he got a 31 on his reading and a 24 on his math sections, much better than I did. His worst score was 22 in the English section, but that was due to the fact he ran out of time and didn't answer 7 questions (roughly 10% of the total). Had he scored what he did on the pre-test he would have gotten a composite of about 27 or 28.

So yeah, we're proud of him here. Plus now he qualifies for a good student discount on his auto insurance (another product of Publik Skool bias, since they don't count his BYU course grades).

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A foreshadowing of things to come?

In news of total guv-mint stupidity, the State Department announced today that the previous announcement of employment visa numbers being available July 1 for all skilled people seeking employer-sponsored green cards was false. Unfortunately, the announcement was not issued until Monday, July 2nd, so all those foreigners who thought they would be applying for work visas today will have to wait until 1 October. The change is due to Citizenship and Immigration Services trying to reduce the backlog of applications that are hand at this time. So if you spent money for lawyers and plane tickets, etc., the State Department has only the following to say: "Oopsie! Our bad!

This wouldn't be that much of a problem except for the fact that during the immigration debate, it was pointed out that CIS is already swamped with a backlog of 60,000 applications and adding 12 million new Z-visa applications would cause the system to grind to a complete halt (no it's not quite there yet). So, in typical guv-mint fashion, people who do the right thing are penalized. If the immigration bill had passed, we would have been treated to the spectacle of the State Department telling current green-card holders that they would have to leave the country and re-apply since CIS would have to make room for 12-million illegal aliens applying for green cards. Don't think it wouldn't happen because only an idiot would do such a thing? Looking back on other guv-mint run fiascos, don't be too sure.

In related immigration news, the illegal alien spouse of a soldier missing in Iraq has been given a green card. She entered the country illegally in 2001, was married to her husband in 2004 and was supposed to be deported, but apparently thanks to the intervention of Senator John Kerry, the deportation proceedings were halted and she was awarded permanent residency papers.

I have mixed emotions on this. On one hand, I'm glad that the guv-mint overlooked the letter of the law and awarded her premanent residency status, but on the other hand, she still entered the country illegally and if you make an exception for one person, you will have to make an exception for all. At least Senator John Kerry did something worthwhile for once in his life. I just hope he was motivated to do the right thing and not for some other reason.

The right thing to do......

......even if it was too late. President Bush decided to commute Scooter Libby's sentence for his "involvement" in the Valerie Palme affair (of which his "involvement" was nil). This was the correct thing to do, even if he should have gone farther and completely pardoned him. As everyone knows, Scooter Libby was not the person who leaked Valerie Palme's name to Robert Novak. It was Robert Armitage, but since prosecuting the guilty would not have brought down the Bush presidency, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald decided that playing politics was more important than actually upholding the law and Scooter Libby became the fall guy.

As usual, the Democrats are all throwing a major hissy-fit, but also as usual, they conveniently change the subject when they are pressed about President Clinton's fire sale on presidential pardons of known terrorists and other unsavory types when he left office.

If we have learned something from this episode, it's this. If a special prosecutor comes knocking at your door, asking you to testify about your involvement in the congressional "fishing expedition" du jour, the best course of action will be to get yourself a lawyer and immediately take the 5th. You will save yourself much heartache and money in the long run.