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December 31, 2002

Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control

Thats the name of the movie by Errol Morris which I just watched. It was an amazing and beautiful tapestry of music and images which delved into what it is to be human on a very personal level. The movie itself is merely a set of 4 interviews, clips of those 4 people at work, and clips from old movies all spliced together to music. Featured are a wild animal trainer, a topiary gardener, an MIT robot designer, and an expert on the naked mole rat. At first, it just seemed confusing and I didn't understand the connection, but as the film went on it became obvious that he was comparing the robots and animals to ourselves, all while showing us strange individuals through a looking glass. I highly recommend you rent this movie if you get the chance. Also, another movie called The Spanish Prisoner looks very interesting.

Posted by wonko at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2002

Lights Out

Its Christmas and we were plunged into darkness for a couple hours today while the whole Eastern Sierras was without power. I was at work when it happened trying to overlay method to the madness as customers streamed in to rent and return skiis and snowboards. Luckily, it didn't last too long. It just shows how fragile our infrastructure is.

Posted by wonko at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2002

How the Grinch Stole Christmas in Mammoth

When I lived in LA I believed I retained my acute awareness of how impersonal, commercial, and material the town was and that my awareness made me somewhat immune to it. However, I've come to find that the above traits are relative depending on ones viewpoint. Now I live in Mammoth, and over the Christmas holiday's we've been inundated with people from 'down south', driving to town in their Navigators, Excursions, Hummers, Audi's, etc..., families in tow. The town has gone insane with cell phones, poor offensive driving (on ice), and irritable people who's hurried lives are more important than everyone's around them, a fact which should be obvious to all they encounter. Fighting over parking spots and places in line, yelling at total strangers in front of their children. Trying to one up their friends and buy their children's love. Never before have I seen the dirty side of Christmas so magnified.

I have a couple theories as to why that is, but first I want to say that its not ALL bad. There are a lot of nice people visiting too. And in general, I still really love LA and its diversity. Like any town, it has some bad elements, on both sides of the socioeconomic spectrum. Normally, a town like Mammoth attracts the good side. Those that come to the outdoors to pay homage to the beauties that the Sierra's have to offer. During Christmas, however, that element knows better and stays home. Mammoth is much more expensive during Christmas, so those that do make it, and can afford to put their whole families up for a couple nights, paying for lifts tickets and rentals, are the kind who made that much money by displaying the exact self-centered behavior which I witness daily. They've 'succeeded' and now they deserve respect. More respect, even, than those around them, who believe they are equally deserving.

Its a white Christmas in Mammoth, and its still very beautiful. I don't really drive, so my only highway headache is trying to cross Main street between a steady stream of LA offensive drivers. If anything, I'm somewhat thankful for having this particular group of visitors remind me how lucky I am, to live and work in a place like this.

Posted by wonko at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2002

Snow, Snow, More Snow, and Ice Climbing

Well, its been snowing. Not just a little either. Biggest storm in 5 years or so. More snow then I've ever seen. On Monday, the busses stopped because they couldn't keep up with the snow. 4' in 48hrs! The town almost stopped. The street I lived on was plowed into a narrow 1 lane street with 6' burms on either side. Getting out of our own parking lot required plowing the truck through 2' of snow. And it kept snowing, with a brief break on Thursday, then snowed again on Friday, and finally stopped today. You know what all this snow means right? Fresh powder on the mountain before the vacationers get here. I got 4 days on the mountain this week. Thanks to my work schedule I was able to ride before or after work. Not everything was open due to avalanche danger and wind, but what was open was amazing! So much fresh powder! I was riding through hip deep powder, almost more than I could handle. The only way to keep going was to go on REALLY steep stuff. Thursday and Friday were basically powder, blue bird days. Sunny skies and more powder than you could shake a snowboard at. By the end of Friday I was feeling really tired and sore. Luckily, I had Satuday off to rest... or...

To ice climb! Bruce and I decided on Fri to go ice climbing out in Lee Vining Canyon (near the entrance to Yosemite), no matter how bad the weather was. Well, the weather was perfect! Light snow in the morning, which died off by 1. The hike is normally a steep 45 minute hike. This time, however, it took us 2 hrs. That was because we had to blaze a trail in 2-3' snow. The 800-1000' vertical gain to the ice fall took a lot out of us. Even though we were wearing snow shoes, we'd still posthole a couple feet into the snow.

The ice climbing was fantastic. Bruce lead a 120' blue ice waterfall and set up a toprope. It took me some time to get used to the different motions, and my crampons weren't ideal for vertical ice climbing, but it was still amazing. While I was being lowered off my first climb, my left crampon came off and I smashed my knee into the wall... still hurts, but at least its just bruised.

Ice climbing is such an absurd sport. Most of the approaches are heinous. Its VERY cold and VERY strenuous. You don't REALLY know whether you're tools will hold or you're front points will fly out. You're constantly being pelted in the face by ice chunks while you climb. And you're constantly dodging small to large projectiles of ice, while you're belaying. You can literally hear the missiles whiz past you.

In the end I didn't do bad for my first time really ice climbing. I need to get comfortable with it though, because Bruce and I have decided to do Denali in May of next year. So I have 18 months to train. Bruce has attempted Denali twice and never summited. Third time's a charm! If you didn't already know, at just over 20,000 feet, Denali, in Alaska, is the highest summit in America. To be honest, this is just the kind of goal I need to kick start my training. Its hard to train without a goal.

I haven't forgotten all the other stuff I need to write about. Its still in my head, but with all this powder keeping my busy, can you blame me?

Posted by wonko at 03:04 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2002

Strange places in Boron, CA

On my list of blog to-writes, I forgot this one, so I thought I'd get it out of the way.

Previously, on my way from Phx, AZ to Mammoth, I'd seen a large structure on West side of the 395 between where the 395 splits from the 15 and where the 395 joins the 14 in a town called Boron, CA (though there are no signs that tell you this). Its about 80-100 miles from the 14. It was a large square concrete building with a large, white, Epcot looking glove on top almost equal in size to the building. This time on my way back from Phx I couldn't help but stop to have a look. The building was on a hill way down a narrow paved road. Immediately after I pulled off the 395 I saw a sign denoting this a Federal Prison, and politely asking those interested, to go away and not trespass. Being who I am, this was more an invitation then not. So I began driving up the long narrow road. I should also mention that a storm was moving through as this was happening. The sky was dark and a cold wind was whipping through the valley I appeared to be in.

In the distance I could just make out some buildings. The closer I got the more the signs became less polite and more demanding, making sure I knew that this was government property and I should leave immediately, but also the more it appeared the place was desolate! Deserted! Finally, I pulled up to the administrative buildings and confirmed that the place was deserted by all appearances.

Upon first inspection, it did not look like any prison I'd ever seen. There was a computer room, a laundry mat, some dorm rooms (without locks), a fire station, etc... I walked towards, and into, the two story dorms. They looked much like school dorms. There was very little to hint these were in some sort of prison. But it was what I found on the other side of the dorms that was particularly disturbing.

I found a neighborhood of maybe 60-100 houses on either side of a ~1 mi paved loop. The houses looked new. Most of the windows were boarded up, but other than that, they were in perfect shape. They looked similar, but not identical. All wood. Each with a 1 car garage. You could walk in and through any and all of them. It was eerie to the point of being scary walking down a street in what appeared to be, an ordinary neighborhood, with a park for kids, a community center and all! It was like a scene from a bad movie, where had everyone gone? The wind occasionally opened and closed gates with a horrible creaking noise. There was certainly nothing that said this was a Federal Prison. It also struck me how new this all looked. In each house, the carpet looked good, all the facilities were in tact (though not running), no glass was broken. I started looking for dates and eventually found a newspaper from May of 99. Less then 3 years ago! The more I saw, the more frightened I got, for no apparent reason. It was all just too odd.

It was at this point I decided to go back to my truck. As I walked back through the empty neighborhood, something caught my eye in one of the few open garages. There was writing on the white plywood walls of the garage. I went in to investigate. What I saw was even more bazaar than the rest. It appeared that this garage had, at one time, served as the command center for the prison guards during some sort of hostage situation. There were a couple vertical timelines with items like:
"10:05: Screaming heard, 10:15: initiated contact with prisoners, 10:30: Gun shots heard, is someone dead?"
There was another chart which listed their demands, the noises heard, their contacts, etc... One of the lists had the number 315, which appeared to be an address, in context. I immediately left the garage in search of 315 which turned out to be across the street and a couple doors down. Walking into that house was strange. It was clearly no in as good a shape as the others. Broken class, stuff all over the floor. I meandered into the bedroom which had a window looking onto the street, with a view of the garage with the writing in it. On the floor of this room I found gun shells, some of which I kept.

I walked back down the street, through the fire-house area, to my car. I then drove around the perimeter to try and find a way to drive into the facility, around all the road blocks they set up. I eventually found a convoluted way through many dirt roads, up to the mysterious epcot building. It turned out to be an FAA radio tower of some sort, still in operation... and locked :( After this discovery, I finally went home.

I tried looking on the Internet for references to the prison to try and figure out why it was abandoned so recently. I found some references to the prison, but nothing of interest. The mystery still remains.

Posted by wonko at 06:44 AM | Comments (26)

December 15, 2002

Back in Mammoth, Dad's doing fine!

I'm home now, left Phx yesterday morning. My dad was able to go home, sooner than the doctors expected, , just 3 days after having quadruple bypass surgery. Modern medicine is amazing. It was a good trip and left me with a lot to think about, so I have plenty of fodder for my next couple entries, but I wanted to tell the story of my dad's surgery first.

A couple weeks ago, my mom was going to go in for one of those Ameri-scans. Its one of those full-body scanning places they have in some malls. Needless to say, they aren't all completely reputable, if controversial at the least. She was going in for just a heart scan. She implored my dad to go and after some protest, he agreed. After the scan, the scan tech sat them down and said, "I'm not supposed to be telling you this now because your results are supposed to be analyzed and mailed to you in a week or two, but you have some major clogging and need to see a Dr. immediately." So they went to their cardiologist, who recommended a stress test. In this test, they measure your resting heart rate, then have you run on a treadmill for as long as you can while they take tons of measurements. My dad passed with flying colors, which isn't surprising because he eats healthy and exercises daily with my mom. So now they had two conflicted results. My mom wanted to do an angio-gram, but the Dr. said he was fine and didn't need it. My mom pushed it and the Dr. finally agreed to schedule him for a highly accurate nuclear angio-gram. In this test, they put this die in your blood and watch it as it flows through your heart and arteries. He went in last monday (the 9th) and had his angio-gram at 5am. Their cardiologist spoke to them immediately after the exam and told my dad he needed triple heart bypass surgery immediately and should stay in the hospital. He then began to tell them the good news that a surgeon was available to do one tomorrow. My mom was about to protest because she had researched and found the surgeon she wanted, but before she could he told her the name of the surgeon that was available, which happened to be the same surgeon.

It was at this point that I found out what was going on and started the long drive to phx. On this trip I listened to The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. I have lots to say about that, but not in this entry. I saw him tuesday morning just before surgery. He looked very good. They took him away at about 11 and the Dr. came out of surgery at 3. He said it went exceptionally well and he was recovering fine. He used a relatively new form of open heart surgery where you don't need to stop the heart and put the patient on a heart/lung machine. You do the cutting and suturing while the patients heart continues to beat. Not sure how that works, but it does and recovery is much faster. We saw him right after surgery and he didn't look that good. His color was good, and I was prepared for all the tubes sticking out of him, but his breathing was erratic and the monitor he was hooked up to kept giving an arrhythmia warning. They said it was normal. He had a breathing tube down his throat, a GI tube down his nose (that gets rid of stomach acid), two drain tubes in his chest, and a 'swan', which went in through one of the major arteries in his neck, went all the way into his heart and floated in his heart taking accurate readings, plus a catheter.

The next morning we went back and were amazed to find him totally awake and lucid. He looked good and they even had him walking around the ICU. Its amazing how much we've learned about the healing process, like how they make you walk as soon as you wake up. It aids in the recovery because the patient feels like their healing. Finally, modern medicine is beginning to acknowledge the link between the mental state of the patient and that patients healing. They even say positive things to the patient while they are out cold during surgery because its aids in recovery after the fact. He spent the next couple days in ICU where we spent most of the days ourselves by his bed. He was on pain medication on and off and they came in hourly to do blood tests and check other things. Finally, on Friday at 4am they moved him out of the ICU. Monday at 6pm he left the hospital. He's home now walking around and recovering.

Recovery from open heart surgery is a long slow procedure. Mostly because your chest has to heal. He has surgical wire fastening his sternum together. This wire will remain in his chest permanently, though it will not set off metal detectors. He is not allowed to drive or lift anything over 5 lbs for 6 weeks. He should be mostly recovered in 6 months. He WILL be able to travel to my nieces birth in 6 weeks. My brother is having a baby. The most amazing thing is that they caught it before he had a heart attack. Most of these surgeries come after the person already has a heart attack because until then, they don't know anythings wrong. My family has a history of heart problems. I, however, am optimistic because I have been eating healthy and exercising from a young age, with only a 5 year hiatus. I will have to get regularly tested myself starting somewhere around 30 though, just in case. In the end, my dad is going to recover fine and I am very happy that this very serious situation didn't escalate. There are times I dog on technology, but medical science has come so far and is so amazing, I can't imagine what we'll see next.

In the last week I've had a lot of time to think and have a lot to write about. I am going to try and spread this out over a number of entries so as not to overwhelm myself or you, the reader :) I will be ruminating on such things as, the problems with logic, mythos over logos, science and religion, the theory of theories, the first singularity and the big bang, my trip back to my elementary school, and much more. I will also be posting some stuff I wrote a year ago which suddenly seems relevant to the things I'm thinking about. Lets hope I have the discipline to really cover this stuff for my own benefit.

Thanks to all those that called and wrote expressing their concern for my father. It meant a lot to me.

Posted by wonko at 06:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2002

Much to say... no time to say it

Well, a lot has happened in the last week, but I don't have time to talk about it right now, so stay tuned. Monday, I had to make the 11hr drive Phx, AZ on an hours notice because my father was going in for quadruple heart bypass surgery. On the way I listened to Steven Hawkings, "The Universe in a Nutshell". I have a lot to talk about both those things. Its Friday night and my father is doing exceptionally well. He even got to come home tonight, earlier than expected. I'm driving back to Mammoth tomorrow morning and should have time to update my blog more fully within the next couple days.

Posted by wonko at 03:28 AM | Comments (0)