Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What he said.

The Christaphobes went nuts over the Dan Cathy interview recently.  For those who don't recognize the name, he's the openly Christian head of Chick-Fil-A.  The usual self-avowed promoters of tolerance (read "liberals") came out immediately with their usual threats, statements that the fast food chain would and should be denied building permits, and obscene and vicious tweets.  For the record, here is the portion of the interview concerning marriage that spawned the righteous indignation:

Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.

"We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

Such a violent and vicious statement against gays!  Terrible, terrible!  Particularly in view of the evenhanded openness of the tolerance crew who responded to it.  I've never eaten at Chick-Fil-A.  Ever - I'm not a fast food person.  But the tolerance crew has made sure that I will be eating there on Wednesday, and regularly after.  

The full article can be read here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mommy Happy Dance

I give up on trying to transfer from my cell phone.  So here's a reasonable facsimile - yesterday afternoon I got a text from my daughter that was simply a photo. I can't get the stupid photo downloaded off my phone, but suffice it to say that it looked a lot like this:

Happy dance happy dance!

In This Morning's E-Mail

A:          Guns have only two enemies: rust and politicians.

B:          Its always better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

C:          Cops carry guns to protect themselves, not you.

D:          Never let someone or something that threatens you get inside arms length.

E:          Never say "I have got a gun."  If you need to use deadly force, the first sound they hear should be the safety clicking off.

F:          The average response time of a 911 call is 23 minutes, the response time of a .357 is 1400 feet per second.

G:         The most important rule in a gunfight is: Always win - cheat if necessary.

H:          Make your attacker advance through a wall of bullets . . . You may get killed with your own gun, but he'll have to beat you to death with it, cause it'll be empty.

I:           If you're in a gun fight:
                        1) If you're not shooting, you should be loading.
                        2) If you're not loading, you should be moving,
                        3)  If you're not movin', you're dead.

 J:          In a life and death situation, do something . . . It may be wrong, but do something!

K:          If you carry a gun, people call you paranoid. Nonsense! If you have a gun, what do you  have to be paranoid about?

L:          You can say 'stop' or 'alto' or any other  word, but a large bore muzzle pointed at  someone's head is pretty much a universal language.

M:          You cannot save the planet, but you may be able to save yourself and your family.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trapped in the Garden of Beasts

In between work work working and run run running I've gotten a little reading in.  After several strike outs from various $1 bins I snagged a copy of Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts from the local used book shop.

The book follows U.S. ambassador William Dodd - a mild mannered history professor who became ambassador in 1933 basically because he was the only one who didn't turn Roosevelt down - to a Germany in which Adolph Hitler was just coming to power but which still presented a face of beauty and culture to the world.  Appointed Chancellor in  January 1933 by President Hindenburg, Hitler wasted no time in moving to consolidate power.  Yet, throughout those early years when the oppression, the propaganda, and the violence grew, the thought remained that Hitler would not last.  He couldn't possibly succeed.  It all was just too obviously insane.

Dodd, initially taken with Hitler's seemingly sincere desire for peace, held out hope for a while.  But in the end, he stopped meeting with Hitler, seeing him for what he was, but like so many others, still holding onto hope that he couldn't possibly last long.

Ambassador William Dodd in Berlin, 1933

The U.S. already had its hands full with the Great Depression - getting mixed up with conflict with Germany was the last thing Roosevelt wanted.  Dodd's position required that he handle Nazi thug attacks on Americans, watch the regime carefully, and try to convey to others the horror he saw coming - a horror that was descending not just on Jews but on any group that the Nazi party viewed as "other" and as dissidents.

Dodd also had a wild daughter, prone to love affairs and scandal, which made his job doubly hard.  

It's a good read - I highly recommend it. 

Dodd watched the position of Jews in Germany deteriorate into the evil we know as "The Final Solution", but Hitler and his minions weren't picky about who they unleashed hell on.

The post World War I Catholic Church in Germany claimed 20 million members and 20,000 priests.  Its political interests were represented by the Catholic Center Party, which had been launched in 1870 in opposition to Bismark's Kulturkampf.  There was an active Catholic press, Catholic labor unions, and a Catholic Youth Organization with 1.5 million members.  Initially, like so many others, some Catholics viewed Nazism as a potential ally against the spread of Communism.  But by 1931 various regional bishops were condemning the Nazi Party.

Hitler moved swiftly after his appointment.  By March 1933, the "Enabling Act" had given him virtually dictatorial powers, and his Gestapo, SS, and SD used terror and brutality to remove opposition.  Dachau was opened in March 1933 and thousands disappeared into it.  In July 1933 Germany officially became a one-party state.  As dissidents were jailed and killed, the Christian trade unions were dissolved.  Constant pressure was applied by the Gestapo, who rounded up hundreds of priest for speaking out against anti-democratic changes and against the persecution of Jews. Thousands of members of the Catholic Center Party were jailed and sent to concentration camps.  In the face of that, some bishops agreed to permit church members to join the Nazi party.

Dachau, 1933
Wanting a formal document establishing the legal status of Catholics in Nazi Germany, Pope Pius XI signed a concordat with Hitler on July 20, 1933.  As with all agreements he signed, Hitler then ignored it and the persecution went on.  Any who opposed the Nazis were arrested and executed for "crimes against the state."

On June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives was unleashed.  It was a bloody purging of political opposition, including the leadership of the Brown Shirts, whose thugs were no longer useful to Hitler.  Among those who died that night was the president of Catholic Action in Germany, Eric Klausener.  He had delivered a speech against the regime to the Catholic Congress in Berlin earlier in the month.  Klausener was shot in the back in his office and his entire staff was sent to concentration camps.

The "Editor's Law" of December 1933 required all editors to joint the Literary Chamber of the Third Reich.  Rather than print Nazi propaganda on issues such as forced sterilization and euthanasia, Catholic newspapers and publications closed.  At the start of 1933 there were more than 400 daily Catholic newspapers.  By 1935 there were none.  In 1941 the government shut down the remaining diocesan weekly papers and Catholic journals.

The Hitler Youth became mandatory for all German boys and girls in 1936 - all other youth organizations were abolished.  Parents who sent their children to Catholic schools were required to appear before authorities and publicly declare why they were betraying the regime.  By 1939, more than 10,000 Catholic schools had closed.

Yet still Catholic voices spoke out.  Pius XI led with his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge ("With Burning Concern"), condemning the elevation of race above all.  Catholic bishops delivered sermons that condemned Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda:  from the cathedrals of Munich, Munster, Berlin, Breslau, and Cologne the Nazis were attacked.  The Nazi response was to arrest hundreds of German priests, lay-brothers, and women religious for show trials.

Martin Bormann made the Nazi position on churches clear in a decree for regional party leaders in 1941:
"More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs the pastors...  Just as the deleterious influences of astrologers, seers and other fakers are eliminated and suppressed by the State, so must the possibility of church influence also be totally removed...Not until this has happened, does the state leadership have influence on the individual citizens."
The need for Nazi separation of the people from their churches was demonstrated in the Netherlands in 1941 when Catholics took part in strikes and protests against the Nazi treatment of the Jews.  The Nazis declared that all Jewish converts and Jews married to Gentiles would be exempted from deportation if the opposition stopped.  The Archbishop of Utrecht refused.  In response, all Catholics of Jewish blood were deported.

Dachau alone housed 2,579 Catholic priests, along with unnumbered seminarians and lay brothers.  1,034 priests died in the camp.  The Nazi hatred of Poland and its ruthless destruction and enslavement of its people sent nearly 5,000 Polish priests into concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Mathausen, and Buchenwald.  Thousands of nuns were also sent to camps  or killed along the way.

Written by a survivor of Dachau's "Priestblock"

And in a tiny nation-state less than a half kilometer square in Italy, Catholics worked to protect those against whom the Nazis had turned their most vicious hatred.  But that's a blog for another day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oh. Good. Grief.

Yep, I needed a Department of Homeland Security video telling me what to do during a mass shooting.

Notice they leave out shooting the sh*+ out of an armed assailant option.  Instead they leave folks with chairs, a belt, and a fire extinguisher.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Posting Light

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm pounding down the home stretch of a project that has consumed my work life for years.  Posting will be light until I finally get the bows and ribbons put on it - mostly all I can think of right now is "Almost done! Almost done! Almost done!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Attention Criminals

h/t WCBM

Works Well There

From the Encyclopedia of Chicago:

Since the early 1970s, Chicago and its suburban municipalities have taken a national lead in enacting firearms control legislation. Citizens' groups such as the Committee for Handgun Control, formed in 1973 and renamed Illinois Citizens for Handgun Control in 1982, have worked together with city politicians and police to pass some of the nation's toughest gun control laws.
From various Chicago news sources:
Three men are dead and at least 28 other people wounded from gun violence across the city since Friday night. July 23, 2012
Fifteen people were shot Tuesday evening in Chicago over a six-hour period on the eve of the mid-week Fourth of July holiday.  July 4, 2012
Three people were killed, and seven others were injured, in shootings during the day Thursday...July 7, 2012
Four teens – two 13-year-olds and two 16-year-olds – were shot within a half hour in the city's Englewood and Gresham neighborhoods on the South Side, according to police.
The four were among at least 10 people shot overnight in attacks on the city's South and West Sides.  July 22, 2012
Four men were killed and at least 19 other people, including a 16-year-old boy, were wounded in overnight shootings across the city, according to police. July 5, 2012
At least eight people were killed and 40 others were injured in separate shootings in a violent weekend in Chicago.  June 10, 2012
And on and on and on.  Repeat after me:  The bad guys don't care about gun laws.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Happier Memory for Today

I've heard this mentioned just once today, but it's understandable that it's not coming to mind considering the news of the day.

I don't specifically remember the news that we had landed on the moon - it was 1969, after all, and sometimes I can barely remember yesterday.  But I had to have been aware, even though we were not saturated with news 24/7 in that era.  This was A BIG THING.

I DO clearly remember sitting in the family room and watching the events of July 21 unfold as Neil Armstrong made his way down that ladder and onto the surface of the Moon for the first time.

And it occurs to me that no matter how hard some people work to destroy the greatness of America, there's one place where a sign of American accomplishment is still crisp and clear even after 43 years.

Such a Helpful Rule

Apparently, the theater chain that includes the scene of last night's horror has a no firearm policy.

Repeat after me:  "Bad guys don't obey the rules."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Definition


1.  a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal, Equus asinus,  related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden. 

2.  any wild species of the genus Equus,  as the onager. 

3.  a stupid, foolish, or stubborn person.

Works for me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


One of the reasons that I cut off my cable service was that it had a gazillion versions of ESPN in the basic package and as a norm I don't watch sports.   I did occasionally watch mixed martial arts but, really, how often can you watch seriously ripped, sweaty young guys in tight little shorts running around a ring?

Wait.  Maybe I should reconsider that...

Anyway, I went down a rabbit hole on YouTube yesterday looking for something on a totally different subject and ended up watching this video of a knockout during a mma match that's unlike any I have ever seen.  I wonder what the odds are?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nine Days on Mt. Shasta

Since this is the era of surveying that the project I'm working on involves, and I was looking at some Mt. Shasta observations yesterday, I thought I'd post a story written by one of our chief of parties. I've got a paper copy of this some where - thanks go to the College of the Siskiyous for their Mt. Shasta Collection for putting it online for others.   I've stolen their web page as is here.

Return to Descriptions and Travel page

Nine Days on the Summit of Mt. Shasta

By B.A. Colonna

Return to Mount Shasta home page

Heliotrope being used in western United States circa 1878
Benjamin Azariah Colonna
Courtesy of NOAA Coast and Geodetic Survey Historic Image Collection
In what follows I state facts for the information of those interested, rather than draw on my imagination to please the reader. Every one who ascends a high mountain has his own experience, and there are sensations peculiar to each individual. For my own part, although accustomed to mountain climbing, I have found nothing more difficult than to describe accurately what I have seen, and it is even more difficult to describe the sensations of one who remains for a long time at a great elevation.
During the summer of 1878 Mr. Carlisle P. Patterson, Superintendent United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, authorized Professor George Davison, Assistant, to place a theodolite and heliotrope on Mount Shasta, in connection with the work then going on under the Professor's direction. Professor Davidson assigned the duty to me, and in executing it I arrived at Sisson's July 18th. Sisson's, a country inn and summer resort, is a place pleasant in itself, but to the dusty traveler by stage or the weary tourist after an expedition in the mountains or on the lakes or river in the vicinity, it is a paradise. From Sisson's to the summit of Mount Shasta is about twelve miles, in a straight line, and the ascent about 10,440 feet. Sisson's house is about 4,000 feet above the sea. Mount Shasta is 14,440 feet high, as determined by barometer. Mr. A.F. Rodgers, Assistant United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and his party, were the first from the Survey to ascend Shasta and remain over night. His first ascent was April 30th, 1875, and his second in October of the same year. He had the weather no colder than I did, and all of his party seem to have suffered from the rarefied atmosphere. He was up three days, and erected an iron signal surmounted by a parabolic reflector, which is yet standing.

On the 24th of July we left Sisson's Hotel to make the ascent. The day was a delightful one, and we were all in fine spirits. The outfit which I proposed taking up weighed seven hundred and fifty pounds, and had to packed from the snow line to the summit on the backs of twenty stout Indians. Besides the packers there was the usual number of squaws, papooses, and lean dogs - the indispensable impedimenta of Indian bucks. If there is anything outside of these household chattels that a buck in this neighborhood prides himself on it if his linen duster and jaunty straw hat. The former, to be stylish, must reach to within six inches of the ground, and for the latter a broad blue or red band is most desirable. Nearly every one in the party was mounted, and it was a somewhat noisy company, in which the voices of the bucks and squaws were mingled with the crying of papooses and the barking of dogs, so that no one sound was clearly distinguishable. Our route was over a beautiful smooth mountain trail, which at first wound about in splendid forests of sugar-pine. The ascent was so gradual that it would have been imperceptible to a casual observer. To the mountaineer, however, no better evidence of increasing elevation was necessary than the gradual change, first in size and shape, and finally in the species of the trees. By the time we had ridden two hours the sugar-pine was much smaller, and interspersed with red fir. At the end of three hours the sugar-pine had disappeared entirely, and we had red fir only. An hour later and we passed through the most beautiful forest of these trees that I have ever seen. It was entirely free from underbrush, the trees were young and vigorous, and their symmetrical and beautifully tapering trunks and branches, towering many feet above our heads, were decorated with very delicate and pretty yellow mosses. There were tracks of deer in and across the trail everywhere, and occasionally a bear's track could be seen, but our noise frightened them and they hid away.
We arrived at the upper edge of the timber at 3 P.M., where above us towered the beautiful snow-clad peak of Shasta. Here we were to spend the night and be ready for the ascent in the morning. The squaws picketed the ponies where they could obtain a scanty meal from the grass, which was just beginning to spring up among the rocks. The guide sent some of the bucks to walk over the snow while it was soft from the noonday sun, in order that we might save cutting places in it for our feet when we began the ascent in the morning. Near our camp-fire was the dry bed of a brook. By sunset it was a noisy mountain stream, which gradually increased in volume until nearly sunrise, when it began to fall, and by noon it was dry again. This takes place every day in summer when there are no clouds, and is caused by the melting of the snow on the mountain side. Before dark we had partaken of our evening meal of cold food and hot coffee. Our blankets were then spread on the ground, and we were soon asleep. This was a short-lived pleasure; for we were awakened in a short time by the Indians, who, under their medicine-man - a shred old knave, and not to fond of work - were performing such ceremonies as are customary with them before undertaking any important affair. How long they continued their monotonous chanting, I do not know; for I quickly fell asleep under its influence, and did not awake until the first light streak was visible in the east, announcing the approach of sunrise and the beginning of our day's labor.

Comparatively few Indians have ever been to the summit of Mount Shasta, and these generally with white men. With them it seems to be a sacred place, and its snowy mantle they regard with reverence as an emblem of purity; nor will they defile it even with tobacco-juice. We partook of a hasty breakfast of hot coffee and cold food, and were soon at the place where the packs had been sorted out and left. They averaged from thirty-five to forty pounds each, which is a fair load for one man to carry to the summit. The morning was clear. There was no wind, and the atmosphere was sharp and bracing - the thermometer standing at 32". The trail that the Indians had previously tramped in the snow was followed step by step. But for this precaution no footing would have been secure without expending much time and labor in chopping our way in the snow. The first red snow was found at about ten thousand feet. The microscopic fungi which constitute the coloring matter were very abundant. Where the footprints were deep enough to pass through it, they presented the appearance of one's having left stains of blood around the edges of his tracks. It had decidedly a fruity taste; but none of us agreed as to what it was like. Sisson thought it resembled the flavor of ripe pears, while to me it was water-melon A handful of it melted on a newspaper, leaves, after the water has evaporated, a red, powdery substance, feeling on the hands much like fine Indian meal. The upper part of the snow, for a depth of two inches, was as white as usual, and of the ordinary granular form of old snow, like finely ground alum salt, hard packed. Below this came the red stratum, which was about three inches thick - the white again appearing under this. As we ascended slowly over the snow-field, it became steeper and steeper - our trail finally bearing off in the direction of an abrupt rocky hillside, leading up to the backbone of one of the ridges that radiate from the summit. Should one lose footing here, while the snow is frozen, there is little probability of being able to stop until he had slid some three or four thousand feet. He would make it very quickly, however; and I should apprehend no danger beyond the loss of a little skin, which would probably be rubbed off. The worst part of such a performance on my own account would have been the necessity of climbing back again.
While on the snow-field some one shouted, "Look! look!" and there, about a mile off, where a large rock, called "The Thumb," projects from the backbone, was a cloud effect more beautiful than I ever expect to see again. A small cloud seemed to have been hovering just behind the ridge from us; the morning sun had warmed it up, and just as the sun was high enough to welcome us with his genial warmth, the cloud came creeping over the ridge, and partially enveloped "The Thumb" in a robe, the colors of which were more beautiful than I can describe, and which changed incessantly, and finally, in a few moments, disappeared as silently as it had some before us. The impression left on my mind was that of al the colors of many rainbows passing rapidly into each other in endless confusion. We were soon over the snow-field, and at the foot of the rocky slope before alluded to. I did not like the looks of the immense boulders that I saw piled up above us on a hillside - so steep that in ascending it both hands and feet were constantly required - many of them so evenly balanced that a man's weight would start them tumbling from their resting places. It is this alone that constitutes the danger of an ascent of Shasta; even this danger can and should be avoided by going around such places. I was behind all the others, encouraging those who showed signs of exhaustion, when one of the packers accidentally dislodged a boulder about six feet in diameter. We were all on the lookout and endeavoring to avoid such an accident, and as soon as it started several called, "Look out!" On looking up I saw it coming down about fifty yards above me. I sprang aside as quickly as I could, and was just in time. I felt the wind from it as it went tearing by me, and was hit by some small fragments, but not at all injured. I followed it with my eyes as it went plunging downward. It was at once followed by a steam of other rocks that it had set in motion, and at the foot of the rocky hill the whole was launched in a confused mass on the hard, frozen snow-field, where stones of all sizes joined in a "go-as-you-please" rolling match, tracing curves that crossed and recrossed each other in all kinds of complications. They finally disappeared behind a turn, but we heard them some seconds after, when they had passed the line of the snow and were crashing and grinding among the rocks in the canon below. As they gradually came to rest the sound died away as in the distance, leaving silence again to reign in its kingdom.

At the top of this hill we passed around the foot of "The Thumb" and found ourselves under the red bluff, a steep wall of pumice that is readily distinguishable from Sisson's. We passed around this wall over a snow-drift to the eastward of it. This drift seemed to have formed against a perpendicular wall, but it had melted away and left a deep, narrow chasm, the bottom of which was not visible. On top it was about thirty feet wide, and on the outside it fell off precipitously for three or four hundred feet. This is at an elevation of about thirteen thousand feet, and is where tourist generally begin to feel the effects of the light atmosphere. The medicine-man gave out here, and his pack was taken by one of the supernumeraries. The strongest of the men now advanced but slowly and only fifty or sixty yards at a time before stopping to get wind. The last of the packers had not yet passed the snow-drift when we were enveloped in a very dense, cold fog, the approach of which I had not observed, being busily engaged at the time in getting the packers over the drift. Frost formed rapidly on our beards and clothing, and exercise was necessary for comfort. The packers were scattered, the stronger ones being considerably in advance, and not being able to see twenty feet in any direction, they all began calling at once. I hastened to the front and stopped the calling, and detained those in advance until those behind came up, when we resumed our journey again. Although there only remained about thirteen hundred feet to climb, it proved by far the most fatiguing part of the journey; the rarefied atmosphere making frequent halts necessary. During these halts each buck who had a linen duster would straighten himself up, look around in a patronizing way at his companions less fortunate than himself, and with an air of comfort wonderful to behold, would button it to the throat as carefully as one's overcoat is buttoned to bid defiance to the cold. Two squaws, who came to pack, gave out here, but they went on without their packs to the Hot Springs. I shall always remember with pleasure the gallant manner in which the stronger bucks vied with each other in carrying the packs of these women, and the kindly words with which they were encouraged to go on to the end would be creditable to any people.

By noon the last pound of the outfit was deposited near the Shasta Hot Springs, two hundred and fifteen feet below the summit, where I intended to camp. As each Indian threw down his pack he swore in good plain English that he would never come up again, and cursed white men in general for doing such work. I noted carefully, and was surprised to see how varied their physical condition was. Some were panting from their exertions, and perspiring freely; in which condition they threw themselves at full length on the snow and refused to move. Others who had done the same work were shivering with cold, and sought the hot ground around the springs, where, stretching themselves on the warm sulphur beds, they remained shivering in spite of their linen dusters until they were sufficiently rested to begin the descent. A fair estimate of the condition of these men may be made when it is known that there were twenty in all; that only five of them had ever been to the summit' that they were now within two hundred and fifteen feet of it; that the fog was clearing away beautifully - and not one of them went up. When the last packer had gone, I found myself, with two attendants - Richard Hubbard and Thomas Sullivan, both fine specimens of vigorous manhood - ready to go to work to make ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit. Our first care was to provide water, which was done by melting snow in a large tin vessel at the Hot Springs. Then our tent was pitched in as comfortable a place as we could find; and soon our little coal-oil stove was in operation and we were preparing our coffee. Thomas Sullivan was then taken sick. His head troubled him so that he could not work, he began to suffer from cold hands and feet, and in a short time this was followed by sickness at the stomach, which compelled him to give up entirely. We wrapped him in blankets, and placed him in a corner of the tent on some robes to thaw out. By the time we had made our tent secure and snug it was dark. The thermometer was standing at 30", there was a light wind from the southward, and a clear sky, in which the stars were shining with extraordinary brilliancy, We spread our bed on the rocky floor of the ten, and crawled under the blankets, with Sullivan between us, in order, if possible, to warm him up, He was very restless all night, and was up from time to time, suffering very much from violent nausea. This interfered very much with our rest, and I was glad when it was light enough to get up. Sullivan's purple, haggard face and bloodshot eyes showed that he had suffered considerably, and I was glad to see him leave as soon as the sun was up, Being now unencumbered and in a splendid condition for work, we began with a will, ad although compelled to stop frequently for want of breath, we had by noon packed the instruments and observing tent to the summit, and made fair progress in setting them up. By night I was ready to observe on Lola and Helena, or show a heliotrope to Professor Davidson, who was at the former place.

Heliotrope being used in western United States circa 1878
Heliotrope being used in western United States circa 1878
Photograph by Benjamin A. Colonna, Courtesy of NOAA Coast and Geodetic Survey Historic Image Collection
The summit of Mount Shasta consists of two conical peaks about two hundred yards apart. The northeast one is about fifty feet the higher, and is called Shasta Peak; the southwest one I called McLean's Peak, in honor of Doctor McLean of Oakland, who spend two nights and a day on the summit with me. It is in the valley between these peaks that the Shasta Hot Springs are situated. They are dotted about over an area of about twenty yards square, and constantly send up steam strongly impregnated with light sulphureted hydrogen and other gases, the odor of which is offensive and very oppressive, so much so that in making examinations of them it is impossible to hold one's head in the fumes near the ground, and breathe. The temperature of these springs was carefully measured, and found to be 184o. One can walk about easily over them, but I always considered it safe to have some one near to give assistance in case of accident, and to carry an alpenstock in my hand to assist myself with in case I fell through the crust, which consist of loose earth and small stones cemented together with sulphur, alum, and other minerals. Hubbard broke the crust over on of the springs with his alpenstock, and disclosed the mouth of quite a cavern, from which the steam rolled out in great volumes. Another opening sent out the steam in a small jet that caused a hissing noise much like that made by the steam escaping from a locomotive. I thought them all more active on some days than on others; but was unable to discover any change of temperature on these occasions. Mr. Carneal, of Oakland, spent two nights on the summit with me, and standing at my side on the north end of Shasta Peak, he discovered another group of hot springs on the north side, resembling in all respects the Shasta Hot Springs, but by no means so active. I named them Carneal Hot Springs. Whether the heat form these springs is volcanic or chemical I do not know, but I am inclined to think it chemical.

The whole top of the mountain consists of ashes, lava, and igneous rocks. They are disintegrating all the time, and a camping-place should be selected with a view of being out of the way of any of the large rocks that are liable to tumble at any time. Seldom a night passed that we did not hear one that had lost its balance, go tearing and crashing down to the next bench. Once we left our tent, not exactly panic-stricken, but at least in fair haste, when on came quite near us. On McLean's Peak the pock is of a dark-brown color, is of igneous origin, and broken into immense boulders, that are now so much displaced as to leave room for conjecture as to whether the long, deep grooves that apparently extended, at one time, for hundreds of feet, are due to glacial action or not. They have been so long exposed to the weather that small striae would have had time to wear out entirely. The Whitney glacier has its origin about one thousand feet below the northwest from these furrows. Many of the stones have very beautiful lichens on them, but on the Shasta Peak there are none. One day I found some snow-birds and sparrows dead in the snow; they had probably been caught on the mountain in a cold fog, and perished before they could get away. I saw chipmunks one thousand feet above the timber line, and once I saw a hawk on the top of McLean's Peak; but it only remained a few seconds and then flew away. There were a few of the ordinary blue-flies that crawled about sluggishly inside the tent during the warmer hours of the day, but they were quite torpid by three o'clock. The delicate little spiders that I have seen floating about with their webs on other high mountains, as though carried there by the wind, were not seen here.

Most Californians are aware that from the latter part of July util the first rains - which generally fall in October - the atmosphere is filled with smoke, which is often so dense that one can only see a mile or two in any direction. This season had just begun when I climbed Shasta, and although on many days it prevented my seeing the surrounding country, it enabled me to see that it seldom reached higher than twelve thousand feet. Looking to the westward, the line of smoke was always as well defined as a sea horizon. It seemed always to terminate on the side next me in an immense wall, and on some occasions I saw great cumulus clouds that appeared to be floating in the smoke, just as immense icebergs would float in the ocean. I was very much disappointed in the view from Mount Shasta, on the one or two clear days that I had. Many thousands of square miles of beautiful country were spread out before me, but I was so high above that which was near, and so far from the rest, that the whole landscape was flattened. I have seen many mountains not half so high where the landscape was much more interesting.

At the top of Shasta Peak there is an old register that has been left there for visitors to record their exploits in. Once it was a well bound volume, but now it has no back and has lost many of its leaves. Visitors who ascend early in the season find the book wet and frozen. In opening it it is mutilated, and of course leaf after leaf is lost. I give a few of the entries, from which can be inferred what the others are like, and how the persons felt who wrote them:

"1874, July 3 - Dimmis of Philadelphia - one-half way up and gave out. GUIDE."

"1875, July 26 - Left Sisson's July 25, 1875, at 10.30 A. M. and arrived at camp at 4 P. M. Left camp July 26 at 3.30 A. M. and arrived at the summit at 8 A. M. Time, four and one-half hours. If any man weighting two hundred pounds ever beats this time, and will call on the undersigned at Sacramento, he can receive ample satisfaction. D. M. ADAMS."

"1877, June 25 - Left Sisson's June 25 in company with sixteen ladies and gentlemen, who came as far as the camp. N. Kelsey and I stayed all night at camp, and started for the summit at 4.45 A. M. Kelsey made about half the distance, and then weakened and returned to camp. I arrived at the summit in company with R. D. Hubbard, guide, at 11.30 A. M. View on the west side is fair, but totally obscured on the east side by clouds. If any one catches me up here again I hope them will pitch me over into the McCloud River. H. J. TODD, Oakland, Cal."

"1878, July 19 - I hope all fools will reach this place in due time. J. E. PUTNAM, Yreka."

"1878, August 15 - Charles Lowley, of the Phoenix Mine, Napa County, California, and Myron Gesford, of Napa City, ascended this mountain, to-day, for the first and last time, so help us "Bob". We were our own guides."

"1878, September 14 - Aaron Bill, Shasta; James W. Shanklin, Oakland, California - Alpha and Omega - hereby promise not to come again. FINIS."

These are fair samples of the inscriptions in the register.

For several days after I was ready for work the smoke was so dense below me that I could not see twenty miles in any direction. I spent the time in making such preparations as would insure success when it cleared, and in making occasional excursions about the summit. In all of these I was alone, and did not dare to explore the beautiful ice-caverns and crevasses that I peeped into. Many of them were hundreds of feet deep any very beautiful, but not tempting enough to allure me into them unless I had a rope and strong hands at the other end of it to haul me out again. I think if safe to say that the nights are never warm on Mount Shasta. During the time I was there the thermometer was at 100o and a little over in the shade, at Sisson's during the day. The highest that I had it on those days, with thermometer in the sun and out of the wind, was 67o. By four o'clock in the afternoon ice would form in the sun, and generally by sundown the thermometer was at 25o. The coldest that I had it was 18o. When the wind blew hardest it was warmest, probably because the warm air from the valleys was blown up the sides of the mountain. It was the most comfortable when there was no wind and the thermometer stood lowest. The cirrus clouds that occasionally passed overhead seemed to be as high above me as they usually do at the level of the sea. When a fog settled on the mountain the thermometer generally went down to 32o or lower. The fog seemed to have congealed, and to be microscopic crystals that formed a delicate coating for everything they touched. If that wind blew, these particles began forming long frost crystals that stuck out straight to the windward on everything exposed.
One lives fast at a great elevation. I weighed two hundred pound when I went up, and lost fifteen pounds in the nine days that I remained. My pulse in repose ranged from one hundred to one hundred and five per minute, and very little exertion would send it up to one hundred and twenty. My head was clear, and I had no difficulty in breathing. My appetite was fair; but, as my food was all cold, except coffee and a little toasted cheese, I soon tired of it, and craved hot bread and soup. I remained on the summit nine days and nights consecutively. Richard Hubbard, a faithful guide and true man, remained four days, was one day down (I was compelled to send him on business), and returned and stayed four days. He worked continuously while on the mountain, and stood it splendidly. His pulse was lower than mine, and his appetite first-rate. As an assistant on such an expedition I do not know of his equal.

Thomas Sullivan, a fine-looking specimen of physical development, spent the first night, and was so sick that he could remain no longer. His extremities were cold, his pulse feeble, eyes blood-shot, and lips, nose, and ears purple. Mr. Thomas D. Carneal, of Oakland, came and remained with me two nights and a day. He was restless the first night, and suffered from cold hands and feet; he rallied next day and expressed a desire to remain longer, but yielded his place to Doctor McLean, of Oakland. Doctor McLean suffered some with cold, and was a little affected in the head. He remained two nights and a day, and was glad to leave. Randolph Random, a laborer, came up in the afternoon, and we broke camp the next morning. He was sick and restless, just as Sullivan had been, and was unable to do much the next morning, although he made a manly effort.

Mr. A. F. Rodgers, Assistant United States Coast Survey, speaking of his sojourn here, says:
"1875, Tuesday, October 5 - By sunset the temperature had fallen to twenty-five degrees, and it became necessary to go to bed to keep warm. I may here mention a singular circumstance connected with our sojourn on the summit - every one suffered with an intense headache, and no one could sleep; nor was any special inconvenience experienced from the want of it. Mr. Eimbeck, Assistant United States Coast Survey, who happened to visit the mountain while I was there, was constantly affected with nausea, which he called sea-sickness, and ascribed to the essayed the duties of cooking in these springs affected with symptoms of fainting; and every one without exception suffered great inconvenience, no doubt from the rarefied air of the summit. Whether this effect was increased by any influence of the vapors is, I think, doubtful; personally I was not conscious of any effect, even when standing among them, although I suffered while on the summit, as every one did, from an unceasing and intolerable headache."

Friday, August 1, proved to be the day I had been waiting for. The wind had hauled to the northward during the night, and the smoke had vanished as if by magic. At sunrise, I turned my telescope in the direction of Mount Lola, and there was the heliotrope, one hundred and sixty-nine miles off, shining like a star of the first magnitude. I gave a few flashes from by own, and they were at once answered by flashes from Lola. Then turning my telescope in the direction of Mount Helena, there, too, was a heliotrope, shining as prettily as the one at Lola. My joy was very great; for the successful accomplishment of my mission was now assured. As soon as I had taken a few measures, I called Doctor McLean and Hubbard to let them see the heliotrope at Mount Helena, one hundred and ninety-two miles off, and the longest line ever observed in the world. In the afternoon the smoke had arisen, and Helena was shut out; but on the following morning I got it again, and my mission on Mount Shasta was finished. The French have been trying for some years to measure, trigonometrically, some lines from Spain across the Mediterranean to Algiers; they have only recently succeeded, and it has been a source of great satisfaction to French geodesists. Their longest line is one hundred and sixty-nine miles. The line from Mount Shasta to Mount Helena is one hundred and ninety-two miles long, or twenty-three mile longer than their longest. And the glory is ours; for America, and not Europe, can boast of the largest trigonometrical figures that have ever been measured on the globe.

On Sunday morning, August 3d, the north wind had died out, and the smoke had again enveloped everything. I saw that nothing else would be seen for many days, and at once set about packing up. By nine o'clock everything was packed. We made a light sled, adapted for use both on the sow-fields and the rocky, mountain slopes, and with it made two trips to the edge of the great snow-field, carrying about three hundred and thirty pounds at a time. By noon we had the last of our outfit at the brink of the snow precipice, where we did them all up in packages which were securely lashed, and as nearly round as we could make them. The sow-field stretched out before us, beautifully white and ever. At the top there was, first, a precipitous descent of about three hundred feet; then away it stretched for about two miles, in which distance it had a descent of about three thousand feet. The plan was to let the packages loose, to go as they would, and while Hubbard rolled the first one to the brink and let it go, I stood on a projecting point and watched it. The snow lying at the top like a crest of an immense wave, each package had a perpendicular distance of about three hundred feet to fall after leaving the brink before it touched anything. Its velocity was very great by the time it reached this point, and as soon as it hit the snow, away it bounded. Sometimes a slight inequality would incline one to the right or left and so they went until, rounding an intervening hill, they were lost to sight. As soon as the last package had gone out of sight, we strapped the instruments on our backs and began the descent. We had about forty pounds each, and had to pack it about a mile along the ridge before we came to a place where the snow was not too steep to slide on. When we found such a place, each put a gunny-sack on the snow and sat down on it. The alpenstock was next placed under one arm, so as to project to the rear and form a brake. Than a slight motion with the feet, and we were off like a shot. I have had many pleasant rides, but for rapidity and ease of motion this beat them all. I had perfect control of myself by means of my alpenstock. Every foot of descent was bringing me into a denser atmosphere, and the effect of the whole was that of a very delightful stimulant.

This delightful ride terminated just where the packages stopped rolling. Looking back, I could follow with my eyes the track I had made in the snow, and away up toward the place where I had started I saw my gunny sack. In the keen enjoyment of my ride I had not missed it, but a preliminary examination satisfied me that I had lost not only the gunny sack, but the seat of my trousers, and I congratulated myself in having escaped so easily. The packages had all stopped near each other, and we soon hauled them to a place from which we could pack them on horses. It was four o'clock when this was finished, and leaving Hubbard to spend the night with some hunters that we found on the mountain, I completed my day's work and the expedition to Shasta by walking to Sisson's, a distance of about twelve miles, and arrived there before dark, successful in my undertaking, pleased with my trip, and glad that it was over.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


A project that has hung around my neck like a millstone for several plodding years is finally nearing completion.  I'm to the report writing stage.  And it's so frustrating because there is no way I'll be able to encompass all the details, agonies, and levels of research of this project in a few paragraphs.  And since it involved classical surveying, most of the people reading the report will have no idea what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

You. Are. Kidding.

For those in Maryland who sweltered last week because PEPCO did not restore your power promptly:  your next bill is going to be higher.  You see, with the power out, PEPCO lost money.  So they are adding a surcharge to make up the loss.  Yes, because they've been lax about trimming trees, etc., they are going to charge YOU.  Because you had no power.  And it's completely legal in Maryland. 

In the midst of global warming...

...this is published:

Tree-rings prove climate was WARMER in Roman and Medieval times than it is now - and world has been cooling for 2,000 years

Some details:

  • Tree ring study gives first accurate climate reading back to 138BC
  • World has been slowly cooling for 2,000 years
  • World was warmer in Roman and Medieval times than it is now
  • Study of semi-fossilised trees in Finland

I'm still laughing.  Go read.

"We're all going to die from sea level rise!!!!" NOT!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just Wondering

I don't pay much attention to general media, but I'm noticing something that makes me curious - why is what Morgan Freeman says suddenly so prominent?  Seems I'm seeing pieces of interviews all over the place recently.  He's an actor - a really fine one - but I'm not sure why his political or social commentary is important.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Myth of Galileo

Most of us are familiar with at a least  few of the scores of urban myths that abound:  the dog put in the microwave to dry, the boy who dies from eating "pop rocks" and drinking soda at the same time.  The advent of the internet has allowed for an explosion of myths like these, forwarded with a note that it came from someone's second-best friend's third cousin's step-father's neighbor so IT MUST BE TRUE!!!  And then you check a bit and find that the same e-mail has been floating around for a decade.

History also develops urban legends, spurred by desires, attitudes, and fears of the cultures they spring from:  George Washington and the cherry tree comes to mind.  Unfortunately, nastier legends like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still hold credence because it suits particular attitudes.

Among the great urban legends of science is that of Galileo.  He is used as proof that the Catholic Church is anti-science and anti-modern thought, and is often, like the Crusades (which I addressed a bit here), thrown out as if it is a trump card, with "Look at Galileo!" substituted for actual debate.

Galileo Galilei: 1564 - 1642
Galileo, while a major astronomer and physicist of his time, never discovered or proved that the earth moves around the sun.  The heliocentric concept had been around for at least 2,000 years - Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) and Ptolemy (c. 90 AD - c. 168 AD) both worked to refute it. The particular theory promoted by Galileo was developed by a Catholic priest by the name of Nicholas Copernicus (1473 - 1543), who was years dead by the time of Galileo's birth in 1564. Copernicus' manuscript, published just before he died, had been circulated among scholarly circles for years and had intrigued Pope Leo X (r. 1513-1521) enough to interest him in their advancement.    Although it seemed to contradict Scripture and could not be proven by scientific technology, the Church raised little objection to the Copernican sun-centered hypothesis as long as it was not represented as undisputed fact.

Astronomer Copernicus or Conversations With God,  by Matejko
Galileo, like Copernicus before him, was a believing Catholic who saw no contradiction between science and faith.  This was not unusual:  the Catholic Church already had a long history of scientific exploration, particularly of astronomy, and the Gregorian Calender promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 was developed by a Jesuit mathematician. (For an interesting, brief article read "The Pope and The Astronauts" at American Spectator.)

The Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, Italy
The Vatican also maintains a large observatory complex in Arizona

In 1610, Galileo published  The Starry Messenger, which detailed his observations of the moons of Jupiter, the location of stars, and the shape of the moon.  In 1611 he was honored in Rome for his work, receiving a favorable audience with Pope Paul V.  He became friends with Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, who would become Pope Urban VII and who honored Galileo with a poem.

But Galileo's observations threatened the status quo of the scientific community, and many of his fellow astronomers began to attack him.  The majority of the scientists of Galileo's time still supported the Ptolemaic, or earth-centered universe.  Astronomy was much advanced by the invention of telescopes in 1609, but proof of a heliocentric system was still 150 years in the future.

The Ptolemaic System
Unfortunately, instead of keeping the debate at the level of theoretical science where it belonged, Galileo began to combine it with theology.  He declared that nature cannot contradict the Bible, and if it appeared to do so then it was because we do not adequately understand the deeper Biblical interpretation.  The eyes of a modern Catholic see this as the Catholic understanding of the role of faith and science.  But this was during the theological upheavals of the Reformation and the complex politics of a complex era.  Galileo was teaching Copernican theory as fact when there was no scientific fact to back it up.  And once he combined an unsupportable scientific idea with scriptural disputes and began to publicly lecture on it, the Church felt the need to respond.

In 1616, a council of theologians advised the pope that it was possibly heresy to teach as fact that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of the universe.  An edict was issued and Cardinal Robert Bellarmine conveyed an order to Galileo to cease defending his theories as fact and asked that he also refrain from scriptural discussions on the issue.  Galileo agreed.

Galileo's friend Cardinal Barberini ascended the papal throne as Pope Urban VIII in 1623, and in 1624 Galileo met with his old friend in Rome.  The new pope hinted that if he had been pope in 1616 no edict concerning a heliocentric universe would have been issued.  Pope Urban, however, did not believe that the Copernican theory could be proven and he was only willing to allow Galileo the right to discus it as a hypothesis.

Less than a decade later, Galileo again unleashed a firestorm with the publication of Dialogue.  In it, he heavily weighted his argument in favor of Copernican theory as truth and managed to insult the pope's own expressed views.  He infuriated his scientific enemies with snide and ridiculing dismissal of their views.  Church authorities viewed the publication as an attack on the veracity of Scripture that had no proof:  17th century science was not capable of establishing that the earth revolved around the sun.  And Galileo had broken his agreement to abide by the 1616 edict.

Galileo's trial was a by tribunal:  two officials and a secretary.  The 10 cardinals often portrayed were not present:  they reviewed and signed off on the testimony later.  Galileo's defense was that he had understood from Cardinal Bellarmine that he was not condemned in 1616 - true - and that Dialogue did not support the Copernican theory as fact - not so true.

Didn't Happen
Seven of the ten cardinals signed a condemnation of Galileo that found him "vehemently suspected of heresy" in teaching as truth that the earth moves and is not the center of the universe.  Found guilty in persisting in such teaching when he had been formally warned not to do so, his book was prohibited, he was confined to formal imprisonment, ordered to publicly renounce his beliefs, and to perform penance.

It is not true that Galileo was tortured:  the records show that he could not be tortured because of regulations laid down in The Directory for Inquisitors (Nicholas Eymeric, 1595). This was the official guide of the Holy Office, the Church office charged with dealing with such matters, and was followed to the letter.   Nor was his imprisonment particularly harsh. Galileo’s friend Nicolini, Tuscan ambassador to the Vatican, sent regular reports to the court regarding affairs in Rome and many of his letters dealt with the ongoing controversy surrounding Galileo.  Nicolini reported to the Tuscan king: "The pope told me that he had shown Galileo a favor never accorded to another" (letter dated Feb. 13, 1633); " . . . he has a servant and every convenience" (letter, April 16); and "[i]n regard to the person of Galileo, he ought to be imprisoned for some time because he disobeyed the orders of 1616, but the pope says that after the publication of the sentence he will consider with me as to what can be done to afflict him as little as possible."

Galileo's trial was not that of a scientist arguing the supremacy of reason and science over faith.  Both Galileo AND the judges believed that science and the Bible could not stand in contradiction.  Indeed, Cardinal Bellarmine had argued the same point in 1615, writing that if the "orbiting of the Earth around the sun were ever to be demonstrated to be certain, then theologians...would have to review biblical passages apparently opposed to the Copernican theories so as to avoid asserting the error of opinions proven to be true."  It was a trial born out of Galileo's acerbic personality, jealous competitive scientists, the complexities of the time, and the Holy Father's belief that Galileo had betrayed him.

 Nor was it proof against the doctrine of papal infallibility: a much mis-undersood doctrine, it was at no point involved in the controversy, trial, or any papal statements since.

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV gave his imprimatur to a publication of the full works of Galileo.  By 1757 science had reached the point of proving heliocentrism and works discussing it as proven were no longer banned.

The Vatican Observatory website, with news and photos, is here.

The Solar System as we knew it 10 years ago

The Solar System as we know it now

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heated Laziness

That pretty much describes yesterday.  The broken toilet seat got replaced.  The front yard got mowed.  Then the Shenandoah River called.

Beach chair immersed in the water and a book.  Goldfinches flitting in the trees and dragonflies landing on my shoulders.  Minnows nibbling on my toes.  Some sunburn happened.  Nice, nice day for those of us that could then retreat to air conditioning, a shower, and cold beer. 

Most of my immediate area is back on-line.  The D.C. - Baltimore areas are getting better but thousands are still without power and broiling in the heat.  There are talks of hearings again, especially since a big increase in fees is coming.  Above ground lines ($1 million a mile to put underground), homeowners who won't give permission to trim trees, the ferocity of the storm are all being given as reasons.  Or excuses.  I'm sort of torn on my opinion.  Our own power company had to deal with things like this, some in remote areas.

That's not exactly the same as a tree limb down on a line. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Warmish Weekend

I was peacefully having a glass of wine and watching "Midsomer Murders" on Neflix Friday night.  There were some rumbles around but it sounded like it was just going up the Valley.  And then distant rumbles turned into a roar. A roar that sounded exactly like it did a couple years ago when a tornado dropped down near the lake.  The cats bolted for the laundry room.  The power emphatically shut down.  And I was one heartbeat away from following the cats when the roar stopped. OK.  That wasn't fun. Oh, and it's dark now.  Well, that's the end of Netflix for tonight.  I have flashlights and lamps all over the place so I grabbed one, opened the windows, and went off to bed.

I'm fairly heat tolerant.  But my house faces east and is open in the front.  Working on plantings to throw up some blocking shade, but there's still not much to protect it from the summer sun yet.  And, yeah, yesterday was hot.  Um, no, it was HOT!!!  I had lots of good company - that storm beat the heck out of the D.C. metro area.  My Saturday bath involved the Shenandoah River.  But last night was not fun.  Even less fun for my daughter - BG&E does NOT have a good reputation for timely restoration of power and she lives in Baltimore.  She slept downstairs with her shotgun - inner city, heat, people leaving houses to take shelter elsewhere.  Great recipe for crime and even riots.  She still does not have power.  Even Wal-Mart was closed.

Somewhere around 6:30 this morning I realized that my ceiling fan was making its lazy circles.  Yay!  I love having the house open but I closed up and turned the A.C. on as fast as I could.

Mass and breakfast at Panera (everything in my fridge is going to have to go) and then off to meet up with Murphy's Law and OldNFO for, yes, an afternoon outside in the heat shooting.  The last bad storm dropped a chunk of tree on the range office roof - it was being worked on today.  Friday night's seemed to have crunched a shed and messed up part of the 50 yard range, but the heat kept folks away so we had plenty of space to play.  Pistols and rifles, a lot of sweat, but I really think the heat was down today - except for the periods of having so much sweat in my eyes that I couldn't really see the target, it was a pretty good shooting day.  I really like 340 Defense - and I'm pretty sure I've shot up my $300 a year range fee and then some already.

Tap House with burgers and beers afterward.  Really good day.  Now for clean sheets on bed, a shower, and maybe I'll wait until the sun goes down to crash.  Or not.