Monthly Archives: June 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Found this stupidty of our governmnent today. It seems that the TSA  and Homeland Security has placed a 6 year old little girl named Alyssa Thomas on their “No Fly” list. Now you would think that was stupid enough, but oh no, remember this is the US Government so they compounded that stupidity with the position they took when the kids parents asked for her to be removed from the list:

When the family tried to clear up the issue with Homeland Security, they received a letter notifying them that it could not be changed.

“The watch lists are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying,” a TSA spokesman told Fox8.com.

This is the same list that let the radical cleric that trained the Ft. Hood terrorist, to leave the US. It’s the same list that let the underwear bomber onto a plane that flew into our country.

Now this is bad enough but we have to add the cherry and whipped cream on top of this piece of pie ala stupid. You see young Alyssa Thomas has been flying all over the place with no problem up until now even though she was on the list.

“She’s been flying since she was two-months old, so that has not been an issue,” said Dr. Thomas. “In fact, we had traveled to Mexico in February and there were no issues at that time.”

So what changed? The new rules put in place since the Underwear Bomber.

Transportation Security Administration told Fox8.com that Alyssa never had any problems before because the “Secure Flight Program” just went into effect in June for all domestic flights.

So lets get this straight, in the past people on the “No Fly” list was allowed to fly even though they were on a list that said they were not allowed to fly. Then the Obama administration comes up with a new policy in response to the Underwear Bomber and it takes them months to implement that policy, all the while still letting people that are not supose to fly to be allowed to fly, and once they do implement it they are stopping 6 year olds from flying because they are on the no fly list. Why is a 6 year old on the list? Because they think the 6 year old  has close ties to terrorist organizations not the parents having ties, they aren’t on the no fly list, the  six year old. Oh really? Let me guess she was just made Al Qeda’s new #3 by Osama. Then when the parents point out the absurdity of this to the government does the government fix their mistake?

Hell no!

They make it worse by saying that once on the list that 6 year old can’t be taken off, thus showing that these people in charge, that are supposed to be protecting us, have an IQ less then a gerbil!

I’m amazed that there haven’t been more successful terrorist attacks using planes if this is the level of competence. Oh no we can’t stop Abdul from flying, go right on board Mr. Abdul, but watch out for Alyssa she might start threatening everyone with her toy from a Happy Meal. Better cuff her and take her into the back and strip search her, and while your at it to play it safe you sould do a cavity search.

Sigh we are doomed if we keep up with this PC crap. It’s ok to keep 6 year olds and elderly Grandmothers from boarding planes, but don’t profile Arabs you might actually catch a Islamic terrorist that way!

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/26/year-old-ohio-girl-placed-fly-list/

Vacation Destination: Portland Oregon

The first destination of my vacation was the Portland, Oregon area. This area has a wide variety of activities and scenery, from the Oregon coast at Astoria where the Columbia river enters the Pacific to the snow capped summit of Mt. Hood. From the science exhibits of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to the wildlife of the Oregon Zoo.

My first stop was to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria (http://www.crmm.org/), unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating that day so I didn’t go aboard the lightship Columbia. Also the weather prevented from me from getting any good photos of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, the Columbia Bar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Bar

Since 1792 around 2,000 ships have sunk where the Columbia meets the Pacific and it is considered today as one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. Whats amazing is that the port of Portland lies miles down the Columbia and each year hundreds to thousands of ships visit that port with out a ship sinking. The reason for that is the 16 men/women who are the Columbia Bar pilots. These pilots spent years learning the Bar and what it can and can’t do and every ship that enters the Columbia river has one come aboard to taken them “cross the bar”.

http://www.funbeach.com/attractions/shipwrecks.html

http://www.funbeach.com/attractions/shipwreck_brochure.pdf

I have myself been over that bar in 1989 when I was stationed on the USNS Navasota and we were on our way to Swan Island Shipyard in Portland for drydock work. The night before we entered the river we had to anchor off the coast due to fog and rain (Ships do not cross the bar at night in bad weather). At 3 am I was awoken from my rack because the ship had lost its last operating radar set (the other set was not operational due to cracks in the waveguide and one of the reasons we were heading into drydock for overhaul). Without a functioning radar in a fog bank in the area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific was no fun and to top it off, if the set wasn’t working come 6am when we were due to cross the bar, the Bar Pilot would have declared us unsafe for navigation and we would have been stuck anchored out until such time we had a functioning set. To make a long story short another ET and myself got the set working by 5:30 am and we made the transit uneventfully from there.

Well on the day we visited the museum there was rain and fog obscuring the bar from view so all the photos I took from there are from the inside of the museum, where you learn the history of the Bar, the evolution of the rescue service into the US Coast Guard and some of the legendary rescues.

In these pictures above you see the original British designed 36′ rescue boat operated by the US Coast Guard up until very recently, where it was replaced by a larger American designed one. The boat in the picture is the actual original boat that the Coast Guard received, tested, used operationally, and as a teaching boat at the Cape Disappointment Coast Guard Station. The station is also the home of the National Motor Lifeboat School. This school is where the train the people you see operating the rescue boats all around the US, so if you are in trouble and you see a Coast Guard MLB hove into view to help, rest assured they have been through training in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Also of note the Coast Guard has only lost one of these 36′ MLB’s at sea and it was to the Columbia Bar. The angle you see the ship in is the angle the ship is on display inside the Museum and it is to show you how rough and big the seas around the bar get.

You also get to learn about the history of how the Columbia River and the way it has been changed over the years has played a crucial role in the development of the Pacific Northwest. There is many artifacts on display as well as many videos, films and audio recordings about events that happened at the Bar.

From the maritime museum we traveled down the coast to the Seaside Aquarium (http://www.seasideaquarium.com/index.php) in Seaside, Oregon. This aquarium sits right on the beach (to get to the entrance you have to walk down to the beach) and it is one of the oldest aquariums on the west coast. When you first enter the building on your immediate left is a big tank where the aquarium’s Harbor Seals come out and do antics trying to get your attention (watch out one of them likes to splash the unwary!). At the ticket booth you can buy some raw fish to give to the seals before heading into the back where the tanks are that contain different fish and coral species. From there we concluded the day driving back to our hotel through the forests in the surrounding mountains.

On day two we visited Downtown Portland and proceeded to take rides on both their street car system but their light rail system as well. Our first stop was to the sky tram that runs between downtown Portland and the medical center that is part of Oregon State University. The medical center sits on top of a large hill and gives good views over the city of Portland, on clear days you can see Mt. Hood in the distance.

As you can see the day I was there was not clear enough to see Mt. Hood but across the river from the sky tram is OMSI where they have an old, post WWII, diesel-electric sub on display and you can see it sitting in the river

From there we visited Powell’s City of Books, which is the worlds largest independent bookstore covering an entire city block and has over 1.5 acres of retail space.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell’s_Books

Powell’s City of Books is a book lover’s paradise, the largest used and new bookstore in the world. Located in downtown Portland, Oregon, and occupying an entire city block, the City stocks more than a million new and used books. Nine color coded rooms house over 3,500 different sections, offering something for every interest, including an incredible selection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles. http://www.powells.com/locations/powells-city-of-books/

If you are in the Portland area and there is a book you have been looking for but haven’t found anywhere else go to Powell’s, they sell used as well as the latest and greatest in books and I was able to find copies of three books I had been looking for: Anne Mcafferty’s “The Ship Who Sang” and the middle two books from Mercedes Lackey’s Bardic Voices series. You can also shop Powell’s via the web at: http://www.powells.com/

Here is some facts about Powell’s:

A few facts about the City of Books:

 • 68,000 square feet packed with books.
 • We buy 3,000 used books over the counter every day.
 • Approximately 3,000 people walk in and buy something every day.
 • Another 3,000 people just browse and drink coffee.
 • Our parking garage provides space for 40 cars (ok, so there are bigger parking garages).
 • We stock 122 major subject areas and more than 3,500 subsections.
 • You’ll find more than 1,000,000 volumes on our shelves.
 • Approximately 80,000 book lovers browse the City’s shelves every day in Portland and via the Internet.

As you can probably figure out I am an avid book reader and Powells is the promised land to avid book readers.

From there we headed out to Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. The Zoo has exbits of native species to the Northwest such as the Black Bear and the Bobcat

To the more exotic animals such as the Serval

The Oregon Zoo also has a baby Indian elephant at the moment and can be seen with it’s mother

The Oregon Zoo has a very good track record of breeding asian elephants in captivity and you can find out more about them at:

http://www.oregonzoo.org/

Day three of our time in the Portland area was at OMSI and their exhibits, Half Dome IMAX theater and tour of the submarine. The most impressive things I experienced at OMSI was a viewing of “Hubble” in their IMAX theather and their up to dat Projection grapics of earthquakes onto a globe. OMSI’s IMAX theather is not your standard one, instead of a 6 story tall screen they have a Half dome that looks to centered around a 45° angle. With the way the seating is the IMAX films make it seem that you are not just watching a film but are really there. If you have seen the Hubble film just imagine those shots of the nebulas and star fields as they wrap around you. You not only see them straight ahead but because of the dome it is in your perphial vision as well as up and below you. They also have grapics simialr to what you get from the USGS website of up to date earthquakes but what makes this different is that they run it as a time elapse loop not as a static display, so as time expires you see the quakes pop up on the projection. Also you can’t see the entire thing from one side, you have to walk around it to get the full effect since the globe they project on is at least 15′ across. they have benches you can get up on so you can see the earthquakes that happen at the more northern latitudes. The submarine tour was more of a nostalgia tour then an information tour for myself since I had the background of having spent time at an operating mock up of the power plant used inside of a Submarine (6 months). I had also spent time inside a sister boat of the one on display when I was stationed in Sasebo when I visited it to help the crew with an electronics problem. For those that have never experienced Navy life what you see is shocking, from the 3′ tall hatchways you have to transverse to the small racks you sleep in, from the lack of privacy to how to take a “Navy” shower, trust me people it’s no fun taking a “Navy” shower. A Navy Shower consists of you getting in the shower, turning the water on, getting wet, turning the water off, shampooing and soaping up, turning the water on and rinsing off, turning the water off and exiting the shower. If you took longer then the time it took me to type that sentence you took too long in the shower and used too much water. When I said get wet that is what I meant literally, as soon as your body and hair is wet you turn the water off, you DO NOT soak or linger in the spray. A Navy Shower lasts about 2 minutes tops:

A navy shower (or “sea shower”) is a method of showering that allows for significant conservation of water and energy. The total time for the water being on is typically under two minutes.

Navy showers originated on naval ships, where supplies of fresh water were often scarce. Using this method, crew members were able to stay clean, while conserving their limited water supply. The idea has been adopted by many people who wish to conserve water and the energy needed to heat the water, for both environmental and economic reasons. Maritime cruisers often take navy showers when they are not in a port with easy access to fresh water. A ten-minute shower takes as much as 230 L (60 U.S. gallons) of water, while a navy shower usually takes as little as 11 L (3 U.S. gallons); one person can save 56,000 L (15,000 U.S. gallons) per year.[1]

The United States Navy phrase Hollywood shower contrasts with navy shower, and refers to long lavish showers without limits on water usage.[2][3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower

I didn’t take alot of pictures from inside the sub (be lucky I took the one I did, every time I went to take one the old pavlovian response of military secrey reared it’s head and I just couldn’t take one)

I did take a couple of it sitting in the river

you can find out more about OMSI here: http://www.omsi.edu/exhibitsales?gclid=CO6hluH7u6ICFQS2sgodYSzX5Q

and its IMAX here: http://www.omsi.edu/visit/omnimax

The fourth day in the Portland area was devoted to visiting the Mt Hood area, which wasue to the fact it was the best day, weather wise, of the time we were there. There is a scenic by way that runs around Mt. Hood that takes you to such things as the Pioneer Woman memorial and to such historic buildings/sites as Timerline lodge. The day we made the trek around the mountain was warm and clear and at various places around the trek you could even see Mt. Baker off in the distance over in Washington.

As you can clearly see from the following pictures Timberline lodge and ski resort was still open as of June 5th of this year (it’s still open as of the posting of this article) with plenty of snow not only at it’s highest elevations but quite a ways down the mountain.

We got lucky with the break in the weather, the previous few days (when we went to the coast and spent time in downtown Portland) and the entire week before the Mt. Hood area was getting nothing but rain and snow. We sure could have used some of that Global Warming when we were there. For more on Mt. Hood and the surronding National Forest visit here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/about/

The last day in the Portland area was also a travel day to the Seattle area, so the planned activity for that day was a trip to Mt. St. Helens which is just off I-5 on your way from Portland to Seattle. For most of that day the weather was not very encourging ie: their was rain and low over cast clouds. Luckily we decided to stop in at the visitor center near I-5 and take a look at their displays, they just so happened to have a web cam with shots from the Johnston Observatory and a Ranger that has just made the 79 mile trip down from there. From what the Ranger said and from the webcam the weather was better at St. Helen’s then down at I-5 (You could see the mountain, not the most clear view, but completely recognizable). So we made the trek and took in the exhibits and got these photos:

Near the parking lot below the observatory they haven’t cleaned up the trees that were destroyed in the 1980 eruption like you see along the road up to it as can be seen in these photos:

Those trees were situated on the side of a ridge 8 miles from the volcano facing away from it ie, the ridge was between them and the volcano and it was 8 miles away. From what you learn at the Observatory flows from the volcano covered that 8 mile distance, went up and over that ridege where the observatory is now sitting and into the next valley. You can still see the flow deposits in the river valleys near the volcano even 30 years later:

To learn more about Mt. St. Helens visit here: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/ and you can get live images from the Johnstone Observatory here: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volcanocams/msh/

The next Vacation Destination post will be on our stay in the Seattle area

Back From Vacation

Well my 3 week vacation trip across the country is over and I’m back home with over a 1,000 pictures to go through to see which to keep and which to get rid of and which to use in some posts here. It was an interesting trip with visits to the maritime museum in Astoria, Oregon; trips to Mt’s Hood, St. Helens and Rainier; the Scifi Hall of Fame in Seattle; zoos in both Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington; the Seattle Aquarium; harbor and lake cruises in Seattle; 5 days exploring Yellowstone park and 3 days exploring the Blackhills and the Badlands in South Dakota. The highpoint of the trip was Yellowstone and if you never have been there you are really missing out, the whole area is fascinating. So over the next couple of days I will be making some posts dealing with the various areas visited but I’ll start out with a post dealing with the trip out from the Eastcoast to the Westcoast and back.

First things first this trip was done by car and this wasn’t the first time I have driven across country. I first did that when I drove from my childhood home in Pa to San Diego when I got stationed there in 1992 and repeated the trip in 1995 when I left the Navy, however this was a little different of a trip. Where before the trips spent very little time at high altitude, this trip spent a lot of time there. For those that have grown up and lived their entire lives at low altitude, spending a lot of time at higher altitudes presents some challenges. For one, things you do physically at low altitude that are second nature to you can become more demanding at high altitude. An example of this was walking up and down the stairs to some of the observation platforms and along certain trails at Yellowstone. Normally in low altitude those walks are not very strenuous but Yellowstone sits mostly at over 6,000 feet in altitude with some parts such as the roads going through the mountains reaching heights in excess of 8,000 feet. To top things off I am highly allergic to fir trees and in Yellowstone you find plenty of them. The other thing it is just not Yellowstone and the mountains but a lot of the areas in Wyoming that are at higher elevations and it can be deceptive. What I mean by that is that vast areas of Wyoming are basically flat as a pancake and you think there is no problem, but you need to keep in mind that you are in the “high plains” sitting 5,000 to 6,000 feet up in altitude where there is less oxygen then at or near sea level. So if you suffer from any form of breathing problems such as Asthma or allergies you can find yourself in trouble while trying to convince yourself you are not because the land is flat there is nothing physically demanding about exercising on flat ground. So take proper precautions if you ever spend time at high altitudes, remember there is less oxygen then you are used to and if you start to experience any problems breathing immediately cease your physical activity, find a place to sit and if you have a prescribed inhaler for breathing problems make sure you have it close at hand and don’t be afraid to use it.

One thing we ran across was that there was still plenty of snow laying on the ground in portions of Wyoming and not just on the tops of mountains, you could clearly see it next to I-80 and here is one photo of such.

This photo was taken on May 30th and as you can see there is still snow on the ground at about 6,500 feet in elevation, though at the time the temperature wasn’t to bad it was in the mid 50’s, but the wind was blowing pretty strong.

Now the another interesting thing was on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone, we planned to make a stop at the Sunrise Visitors Center at Mt. Rainier National Park. Well things didn’t go as planned, you see the road to that visitors center was closed still. Now they didn’t say why it was closed but from what you see along the road that transverses the park and the road to the visitors center runs from that road, you can make a guess why. Here is a series of photos of that road.

As you can see it’s raining at the elevation we were at but the road to the visitors center is higher in elevation and according to the locals they had been seeing snowfall where we were at in the last week so its not so far fetched that the road to the visitors center is still blocked by snow. These pictures were taken June 9th. For more information on Mt. Rainer visit:

http://www.nps.gov/mora/

UPDATE: The road I mentioned above will be opened June 25th according to a news release fron the Park Service issued today. In it they don’t say that the reason it was closed until now was due to snow but this quote from the news release IMHO basically tells the tale that it was due to snow and they just got the road open

 

Sunrise, at an elevation of 6,400’, is the highest point in the park that can be reached by road. With approximately 6’ of snow still on the ground, hiking trails in the Sunrise area remain snow covered.

 

http://www.nps.gov/mora/parknews/upload/2010%20Sunrise%20opening%20062310.pdf

That is alot of snow they had to remove to get the road open and as stated in the news release they got the job done a week ahead of schedule. Maybe the White House needs to put the Park Service in charge of the Gulf Spill Clean up, at least they seem to be competent when it comes to getting the job done.

Now to me the most amazing sights from the traveling between destinations was the trip from Yellowstone to South Dakota. We went via the Beartooth Scenic Highway which winds through the mountains NE of Yellowstone on the way to Billings MT, it is also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies . While driving along you see snow on the mountains and by this point it’s not that shocking since you have been seeing that for weeks now, then you get high enough in elevation the snow is sitting next to the road. Again that isn’t shocking anymore, even though it is June 15th at this point, since that also you have been experiencing for weeks. What was shocking was coming across a series of still frozen lakes which I got in a couple of photos seen here.

The last little hamlet before you get that far up in the mountains calls it self “Top of the World” and when you get up there and see that vista you really do feel you are on top of the world.

For more information on the Beartooth Scenic Byway visit :

http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2281/

http://www.gorp.com/weekend-guide/travel-ta-scenic-drives-red-lodge-cooke-city-montana-sidwcmdev_052607.html

http://www.beartoothhighway.com/

There was also some things to see will making the trek out to Portland across I-80, one of those things was the Lincoln Monument:

Another was a slight detour we made on Day 3 of the trip to the Flaming Gorge:

Reason we had the time for the detour was a little miscalculation I made when estimating how long it would take to reach Portland. What happened was I was basing everything on how long it took me years ago to drive from PA to San Diego, driving 12 to 14 hr days and at 55MPH and then putting that to 8 to 9 hr driving at again 55 MPH. What I quickly learned is that on the east coast the speed limit is 65 MPH and in the western states it is 70 to 75 MPH. So by the end of Day 3 I was where I should have been at the end of Day 4 of a 5 day trip. Oops! Wel that allowed us the time to tour around the Flaming Gorge which runs from inside Southwestern Wyoming into Northern Utah.