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Travel Diary - I am 35 years old, live in the UK and this week am on holiday in Scotland driving the North Coast 500 with my dog

2020.09.16 12:50 Mitchlou84 Travel Diary - I am 35 years old, live in the UK and this week am on holiday in Scotland driving the North Coast 500 with my dog

I am 35 years old make £50,000 live in NW UK and work as an accountant. This week i’m on holiday with just my dog, driving round the North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66.
Day 1 - Saturday
6.30am -Eeek it’s here... I wake up and bring coffee upstairs to bed with the dog M for a last cuddle. I’m going to really miss my husband D but I do understand him not wanting to close his business again so soon after being closed for 3 months due to Covid. It might seem odd me holidaying on my own but we are very happily married - honest.
8am - I start getting my stuff together. I’m not a big fan of breakfast early on after waking up, but I have a long way to go today so I grab a muffin.I get myself ready, then get D to walk with me to the park, so that M can be thoroughly emptied and he gets a good run around. He’s not over pleased with his new car harness (he usually travels in D’s car with a dog guard) but I strap him in and off we set. 334 miles to go...
9am - I blast some tunes and M goes straight to sleep, and I push through until Gretna Green which takes just under 2 hours. I’ve often driven past here, but never stopped, but I need a wee and think it’s time to let M out too. We have a quick walk through around the visitor centre complex.
11.30am - I then hop back in the car, and my next stop is the Starbucks at the services. I had made myself a packed lunch but I annoyingly left it in the fridge and so I pick up a tuna melt and an iced coffee from some credit on my app. I’m breezing along at this point, the scenery looks stunning and I can’t understand why the sat nav is saying it’s going to take so long to arrive. I make a quick stop at a lay-by just to see if M wants a wee or a drink. Then I hit the outskirts of Perth... What should be the last hour takes 2, in fact it takes 30 minutes to drive a mile. I’m absolutely exhausted by this point and M is telling me he’s understandably fed up. We start moving again and I’m so tired it’s getting dangerous, and I notice that some of the lay-bys have access to a lovely riverside path, so I stop. I put M on his lead and we just do a 10 minute walk, which makes both of us feel better. Then the last 30 minutes through the most stunning scenery, and we’re here. Kingussie in the Cairngorms. I check in, this was one of the cheapest hotels and it’s great, they upgraded me to en-suite which was super kind, and the room is great albeit very hot.
4.30pm - I dump my bags and head straight out with M. I find a couple of places to let him off, then a lovely river for him to cool off as he’s super warm. Then to the hotel bar for a well deserved cold pint £4. The staff and (fairly well lubricated for 5pm) locals are so unbelievably friendly, couldn’t have picked a better place to stay. I shower as I’m dripping, get changed into something cooler, which I sweat in immediately as the room is boiling, then we walk out to where I have booked for dinner - the tipsy laird. The staff again are super friendly, and I order a cider, and the Tipsy burger with cheese. Everyone loved M and he was brought water straight away, but the only problem was that the table I was given was on the through flow to the toilets/kitchen so he was up and down like a yo yo saying hi to everyone, and I didn’t get the most relaxed meal. The burger comes though and it’s massive! Big feed for £12. I decide to leave after this, we’re parked in the middle of the through flow really, and it’s not super restful for either of us, so I pay the bill £15.65 and walk back the same way as earlier Max can have a run around and I phone D for a quick chat.
8.00pm - I head back to my hotel and buy a bottle of wine. £15.50 that I drink a glass of in the bar, a glass in bed, and pack the rest for another night. I watch a bit of tv on my iPad, and have an early night as we have an adventure tomorrow...
Miles travelled - 334 Hotel - £55 Amount spent - £55.64 including a half tank of petrol the night before
Day 2 - Sunday
7.00am- I had set an alarm this morning, as I have a bit to do, and I want to pre-empt any wee needs as we are 2 floors up in the hotel. He’s also had loads of water as it’s boiling. I didn’t get the best night sleep unfortunately which is a shame as the bed is amazingly comfortable. The room was unfortunately just super hot, nothing they could do as it’s been a heat wave. I’ve also never stayed away with M before except with family and he was hot and unsettled. So I had the window open, but all the young lads from Kingussie unfortunately decided to congregate under our window, playing their music from the car speakers making him quite understandably stressed. So I throw on last nights clothes and we go for a quick walk, then I come back up and shower, make coffee and pack the million things I seem to have brought up to the room. Not easy to travel light with a dog. I would have liked to have had breakfast here, but the hotel and both coffee shops in the village don’t open until 9, and I need to be on the road. So I just eat a muesli bar from the car and we head off towards Aviemore. Unfortunately my car sat nav gets me hugely lost, and keeps trying to send me down down gravel tracks to get on the A9 which surprise surprise don’t lead me onto a massive dual carriageway... I end up back tracking all the way I came as I had no phone signal to double check. Turns out I should have just carried on a few more miles. Puts me a bit behind schedule.
9.30am - I park the car at the air bnb that I booked, quickly pack a day rucksack and we frog-march down to the train station, as today, we’re going on a steam train. M’s first time on a train. I collect the tickets (£16.25 + £1 for M) and find our table. They have sold only half of the tables for social distancing and it’s really well organised. We choo choo off. It’s very picturesque, but mostly fields etc but still a worthwhile little outing. M isn’t quite as interested and goes to sleep. We get out at the first stop as I want to split my ticket, so I get a reservation for the later train back. They sort this for me (again everyone is super friendly) so I jump back on again. At the terminus I get out again for some photos and a leg stretch.
12.00pm - Back at the Boat Of Garten stop we gather our things and get off, as we have a reservation at the Boat inn for lunch. I order a pint of cider, and a sandwich and chips. We just hang out here for a while, well ages really as our train back isn’t until 3.30pm, unfortunately the middle train of the day got cancelled with Covid. About half way through I get a bit peckish again and order a sticky toffee pud and a glass of rose. I pay the bill which comes to £36.25. It’s coming up for our return train time so we wander back to the station, and not long after the train arrives.
3.30pm - We board and chug our noisy way back to Aviemore station, where I have a quick wee and then we walk the 30 mins back up to our air bnb to check in. I booked a tiny house just outside of Aviemore, and it’s ideal.. The lady who owns and runs it (it’s in her garden) has broken her elbow, but her Mum is there looking after her and they both show me around and make a fuss of M. I have a quick shower, and we both just chill out for a bit as we are exhausted. I decide not to go out tonight. It’s been a long couple of days, so I think fish and chips, a glass of wine and Netflix is on the cards. As I’m just about to head out the owner lets her dog in the garden and they have a fab 20 min play whilst I chat to Karen who is truly lovely.
7pm - I nip to the Co-op where I pick up a bottle of wine, and a pack of hot cross buns and some utterly butterly for the next 2 mornings breakfasts which costs £9.30, and then I order Haddock and chips for me, and a sausage for Max, £11.05. I head back to the cabin, get in my PJ’s, and just have a lovely chill. The cabin is amazing as night time wee’s can be achieved by just opening the door into the garden, shame I’m only here 2 nights. Write my trippie, and sleep like the dead.
Miles travelled in a car - should have been 15 but was actually more like 30 Miles travelled on a train - 20 Accommodation - £75 Amount spent - £73.95
Day 3 - Monday
6.00am - I wake up early so I nip to the toilet and then am just able to open the cabin door to the garden, and M can sort himself out which is just so easy. I take my medication then we both get back into (our separate) beds for a bit and fall back asleep. I wake up at about 8.30am to a snoring dog. I pop the kettle on, make myself a coffee then toast 2 hot cross buns for breakfast, setting off the smoke alarm in the process. Both fully breakfasted I pack a bag, load the car and we’re off to Loch Morlich.
10am - I find the right car park after a couple of bodged attempts, and scrape together the £1.50 car parking charge. I get a leaflet with a map (just worth pointing out I’m fair terrible with maps) and set off towards the beach. Well Mr water baby practically drags me in when he sees the loch. After a couple of false starts, me going the wrong way, then me following the wrong colour signs, and a brief occasion where M may have decided to join some kayakers, we get on the right trail, we are going to walk all the way round the Loch, about 6km. It’s quite warm, and very midgey but stunningly beautiful and we don’t see anyone for the first half until we start to come across people who are doing shorter walks from the other way. Towards the end we cross a bridge and I lose my path altogether, I know I’m not right but I am right next to the loch and can see where I need to go, so I just clip him on the lead and we follow the road. Later on I see where I need to be; the path is elevated on the other side of the road, but I decide scrambling up verges next to busy roads isn’t overly sensible. We make it back to the beach, let the boy have one last swim, then head back to the car where much towelling is done, as well as a bit of pre lunch damage control with wet wipes and a clean t-shirt for me.
12.30pm -Our lunch stop is the Old Bridge Inn, and so I park up and we wander in. It’s a beautiful old pub, and it’s Monday today and the UK govt eat out to help out scheme and so it’s 50% off. I order a cheese board which comes and is absolutely fab (but why do they never give you enough crackers) and a pint of cider. I have a little nose popping up to see if there is any cheese going spare. I eventually catch someone’s eye and ordered a piece of cheesecake. This comes with sorbet which makes me really happy as I love sorbet (and can’t eat ice cream). I get the bill which comes to a mere £11.90. This Eat out to help out is really going to help me stay within budget.
2.00pm - Back in the car, we drive back up the road to the home of the Cairngorm reindeer herd. The hill walk is one of the things I would have loved to do (I did it in 2008 though) but obviously no dogs are allowed, and due to Covid the little paddocks with a few to pat and snap are closed. I drive up regardless though just to see if I can spot one from a distance. Unfortunately no luck, so I head all the way back through Aviemore where I stop at the Cairngorm Brewery to choose some beers for DH as a gift. I debate dropping the car and going out for a drink, but M can barely keep his eyes open, and so I nip to the Co-op for a cold bottle of Prosecco. I still do have a couple of half bottles of wine, but neither are cold, so I’ll drink them later in the trip when I get a fridge or a bar with ice I can pinch.
4.00pm I just have a shower, get in bed for a bit, have a glass of Prosecco, message D and write my notes.
6.00pm - After a bit of a chill out, I get dressed, sort a few bits out then we wander out and into the village. On the way past we stop at a stone circle I spotted on google maps, pretty funky and right in the middle of a residential area. We get to our dinner reservation half an hour early, but they kindly seat me anyway, but just say I can’t order food until my reservation time which is no problem. It is super busy and it takes a while to get a drink, but I just read my book. I decide on a smokey chilli chicken pizza and skin on fries, and it comes and it’s massive! Also very spicy but really tasty, can’t complain at all. Total including 2 glasses of wine was £20.75, an absolute bargain. I love this eat out to help out business!
8.00pm - We wander back to our little cabin. Pj’s and a chill out in bed, we’re moving on tomorrow and it’s an early start so to sleep for both of us.. a lovely day and I’m so glad to have seen Aviemore again, but I’m excited to move on and see some more new places.
Miles travelled in a car - 15 Accommodation - £75 Amount spent - £51.35
Day 4 - Tuesday
7.00am - When the alarm goes off I snooze a couple of times, then start the process of showering and getting dressed whilst trying to make coffee and breakfast, pack and sort Mout all at once. I wash the dishes, then load the car, and off we go. Our first stop today is Dochgarroch lock, as we are going on a Loch Ness cruise.
9.00am - We make cracking time which is good as it did take me a little longer than expected to get everything in the car. We pass road signs highlighting a yellow weather warning for heavy rain (hello Britain) so I pack both our rain coats just in case. The boat is ready for us, so we wander on and sit outside at the back so I don’t have to wear a mask for 2 hours.
9.30am - We set off, chugging slowly down the canal, past the smallest lighthouse in Britain, and then when we enter Loch Ness we really pick up speed, charging right down the centre. No rain yet, in actual fact it’s very sunny so I keep swapping seats to try and get shade for us both, as stupid Mummy remembered his water bottle, but not his bowl to drink from. Yesterday when I went to the brewery, I completely forgot to pick up a beer or two for my best friends birthday, so when I see the Loch Ness lagers on the bar onboard, I buy 2. £9.20 which serves me right for not being smarter yesterday as they are double the cost. We pootle past Urquhart castle which I have visited myself back in the day, and I get some photos as they turn the boat round for us all to see. A lady is on board who is a single Mum with 2 kids (at least one special needs) and 3 chocolate Labradors. She managed to remember a water bowl though (what a human being) and she sends her little girl over to offer M water. I feel like my dog is quite rightly judging my parenting skills at this point as he pointedly drinks up like he’s not been offered water in days. We start to head back up the canal, and I must say I’ve really enjoyed it. Well worth it.
11.00am - Get back to the car and the first stop is filling the car up with Diesel. This comes to £45.47 but I buy a meal deal for £4.95 too as I’m getting hungry. Quick wee stop then I’m on the road,this is my first actual section of the NC500. First stop is Dornoch Beach. I park up for free and give M a real treat, a swim in the sea. I’m a bit nervous as it’s busier than expected but he’s completely excellent and charges around like a loon, but comes back to me with no issue at all. Much towelling and cold drinks for both of us, then back in the car. I’m looking for the stone remembering the last witch execution in 1727, it’s now in someone’s garden, but I find it.
1pm - On the road again we go, this time just to the outside of Dunrobin castle. I would definitely have paid to enter here and see the falconry display, but it’s not dog friendly. So I just take a photo and have a nosy, then it’s north again. This time it’s a quick stop at Cairn Liath, an old stone Broch. This is fabulous, we have to cross the A9 on foot which is a little hairy, but so worth it. I can let M off and we both have a good nosy around.
3.00pm - My last stop is a museum called the Timespan museum which I have read you can take dogs into. Unfortunately it’s closed though, so we decide just to push onto Wick where we are staying tonight. The roads get incredibly hilly, and I see my first Highland coo... you just wouldn’t imagine here you are anywhere near a big town, but then all of a sudden, a lidl, a retail park, and a town, with a wetherspoons
4.30pm -Find the hotel and check in, super friendly again. And I have a massive room on the ground floor near an exit to the car park, so incredibly thoughtful. The bed is huge too. I decide to go for a walk through town, I snap a photo of the world’s shortest street. And then I hunt down the Wetherspoons. I sit outside with M and order a pint of strongbow on the app. Absolutely ideal because I don’t even need to go inside to order and therefore leave him. I then realise I can order bar snacks from the app too, I even get 50% off my peanuts. If I’m honest, if i had known i could eat outside, and that it would be dry I would have eaten here tonight, but it is undoubtedly better to give the money to the independents after all. I stay here rather longer than expected, mostly because I realise my watch has not quite stopped but gone very slow. I spend under a tenner here including buying a bag of crisps for the car tomorrow. 7pm - Back to the room and I shower and get changed, feed M then wander to the hotel dining room. I’m eating in the residents lounge so I can keep M with me. To be honest with you, I think he’d prefer to be in the room in bed, but the hotel is packed with people coming past, and I’m worried he’ll bark if he gets startled so I keep him with me and he goes to sleep on the carpet. Then starts flirting with the Scottish ladies visiting. I order a wine, mozzarella sticks and chicken jalfrezi which are quite nice. This costs £20.50. I ring D, write my notes, then head to bed. It’s been a busy day, but a really good one..
Mikes travelled in a car - 149 Accommodation - £86.95 Amount spent -£91.48 but I have plenty of budget left from prior days to chip into the petrol
Day 5 - Wednesday
8am- Waking up I take the boss out for a quick wee, then head back to the room. Breakfast for him and shower for me. This hotel has been absolutely ideal, the only negative for me is that the walls and ceilings were paper thin, and I think the other guests of the hotel found the Wetherspoons too. This made M a bit unsettled as it was pitch black by this time and quite noisy, so I had to sleep the first part of the night with my foot in his bed to keep him calm. But then all went quiet and we had a lovely night sleep. The bed was amazing. We have breakfast in the residents lounge, which was great, and they even bring M a sausage.
9.30am - Then it’s time to check out, we’ve been very leisurely this morning because a couple of the first suggested stops are here in Wick, but don’t open until 10. I first head in the car to the Old Pulteney whisky distillery to look at souvenirs for D. The weather this morning is overcast to say the least, and I drive through some very industrial type areas. The town has a very different look and feel to it than yesterday strangely. I arrive and the smell of the whisky greets me, but unfortunately also does a sign saying they were closed. I snap a photo then off we go. Next is the Wick Heritage museum. I arrive at 10.04am to a big closed sign on the door. I decide to sit it out for a minute, and a lady does arrive and go through the door about 10.10am, but despite sitting it out for a while, the door remains shut with the big closed sign on the door. I know these places are small, but I wish they had updated their website/social media as I had got the impression they would be open. I won’t be deterred at my next stop though, Tesco petrol station, I only need just over a tenner, but it’s really cheap so decide to top the tank up and it’s on to John O’Groats. I’m glad we didn’t stay here the night, but it was a great little stop. Thankfully most things are open, so I head into the little Brewery and get D 3 local beers from the brewery in the village £10.50, then grab myself a coffee for the car, £2.90.
11.30am - It’s then onto Duncansby head lighthouse. And a bit of a walk over the field to the sea stacks. I really enjoyed it here too. The Castle of Mey is my next stop, this once used to be owned by the Queen mother and apparently has lovely gardens. I was hoping to be able to nip in like Dunrobin yesterday for a quick mooch and a photo, but they are only letting people in with pre-booked gardens tickets. They are super friendly though and point out where on the road I can get a quick photo. Then it’s onwards and upwards again. I follow the signs then for Dunnet Head. This is the most furtherly north place in the UK (not actually John O’Groats). This was a longish single track road to get there, and again there is a lighthouse, and viewpoints over to the Orkney islands. Again very worth the trip up and Max enjoys the walk around. Good practice for the single track roads too.
1.30pm -Back down the long winding track and it’s the Dunnet Bay gin distillery next. I don’t drink gin either, but my husband and best friend do, so I nip in and buy them some souvenirs £19.50. I’m desperate for a wee at this point, and the lady from the gin shop points me next door to hotel where they have outdoor toilets they don’t mind people using. I notice a really busy eating area, and a quick google later and they are doing eat out to help out. It’s nearly 2pm by this point, and I’m hungry, so I grab Max and sit outside. I order a lime and soda and some mac and cheese. This turns out to be a great idea, as I don’t really see anywhere else to stop on the way, it’s also delicious and costs me a whole £6.48. I spy a sign for a beach, and the boy has been so good, we go for a walk on Dunnet Bay Beach. This is absolutely stunning, and we both absolutely love it. Well I do until he brings me a present of half a dead fish.
3.30pm - Onto our destination for the evening, the village of Tongue. It doesn’t look that far, but the roads quickly become single track, very hilly and winding, and this time there are HGV’s rumbling past. I have to be honest I find it fairly traumatic, and don’t really get to take in the very stunning scenery for trying to avoid sheep who are napping in the passing places! I really wish I had stopped to photograph the roads. Truly beautiful but I didn’t half wish D was here. But I make it in one piece, with a rather big sigh of relief. I unclench my hands, and check into my room, it’s a single which is no problem, in fact the bathroom is bigger than the bedroom strangely. They have left me a complementary bottle of wine though which is a nice touch (I pack this for another night) I have a cool shower and just chill out for an hour or so with my book. It’s very warm, and incredibly midgey, I must have about 50 bites on me, but the bed is comfy. We go down and I order dinner, onion bhaji’s followed by lamb shank. The food is a little expensive, but absolutely lovely. I’m quite tired, so I take M out for a very quick walk round the village, then we head back upstairs. I think I have a lot of single track driving to do in the morning, so I have an early night watching MAFS Australia in bed. I think the older I get the earlier my bedtimes do 😂 It’s been a really good day despite a couple of closure early on.
Miles travelled in a car - 95 Accommodation - £60 Amount spent £79.50
Day 6 - Thursday
7.30am - I wake up to my alarm. Both of us slept really well. Think M is getting used to hotels now. It’s fairly wet, wild and windy this morning, but my weather app tells me it should be fairly short lived. For today anyway. Usual dog wee, shower, and packing up of our worldly possessions.
8.30am - I go down for breakfast, having packed the dog bed in the car, to find that I can’t have him with me for breakfast. I decide as it’s cool the car is the safer option, but I rush through breakfast as quickly as I can. I sneak a couple of bits out in a napkin to the car for him, then I pack up and check out.
9am - We drive for the first hour on single track roads, stunningly beautiful again but thankfully quieter so I build confidence a bit. I soon figure out the best way for me to slot in behind someone at a safe distance and almost take a tow. That way they make the call to go or stop, and I just follow. It takes me an hour to do 28 miles, but I’m happy enough pootling along. In fact my first tow is a campervan doing 30, but then I progress later to a VW Sirvocco doing 40, go me...
10am - Our first stop today was Smoo Cave, well what a fab stop, and I’m even able to let the little monster have a swim. It’s stunningly beautiful, and well worth the 10 minute walk back up and down. It has got very very warm, completely different to how it looked this morning when I got up.
11am - Only a few miles away was the Balnakeil craft village. I make a pit stop first at the famous Cocoa Mountain, where I get a coffee which comes with 4 chocolates for £5.95. I was going to buy D some chocolates to take home from here, but they are £1 a chocolate, and I’m worried they’ll end up in a soggy mess by the time I get home as it’s warmer than expected. So I just sit in the sun with my coffee for a bit have a quick nosy in one of the shops, but I’m no good in a mask, so I head back to the car and get on my way.
12pm- I snap some photos of the famous Kylesku bridge, then carry on, I miss the sign for the Rock shop which is recommended, this is possibly because it may be closed, and decide to do the optional detour to Lochinver. This wasn’t the best call. It’s 11 miles which does take about 20 minutes each way, and I head to the pottery shop. Well it’s all stunning, but at over £35 for a mug, it isn’t the souvenir shop for me. I haven’t had any lunch, so I stop at the Lochinver larder, a famous pie shop. Well all I want to do is buy a takeaway pie for lunch, but after 10 minutes in the queue which is just to pay, and seeing that no one who has ordered since I’ve arrived has got their lunch, I give up, I don’t want to leave M in the car for any longer. Luckily I have a spare pack of crisps and some haribo in the car.
2pm - Continuing on towards Ullapool which is my stop for the night, I spy the sign for the ruins of Ardvreck castle. Well this is a great stop and cheers us both up. He gets to swim, and I walk and clear my head. It is so beautiful, and we both really enjoy it. Not long after another sign for the Knockan Crag geological reserve. We enjoyed this too and walk the loop above the car park reading the signs and looking at the exhibits.
4pm - Not far from here to Ullapool, so we bundle back in the car and check in. It’s motel style, and can park straight outside the door, much easier for lugging our stuff in and out. Accommodation options in Ullapool weren’t cheap, this cost £95 for the room, and is 20 mins walk from the village, but it serves food and they are very nice, if a little Covid stressed.
4.30pm - We decide to follow their route to the village to give M a good walk. Ullapool is smaller than expected, but it’s very rugged and picturesque. We have a quick drink in the Seaforth inn £7, but then the bad weather is clearly coming in, and it starts raining, I’ve come out in flip flops, and a t-shirt, so not the most sensible, but it was sunny when I left half an hour ago. We nip into the Ferry Boat inn who kindly offer us a 30 min rain respite before their table bookings, and that’s all it takes. It’s sunny again. £5.50 for a glass of wine.
7pm - We wander back up the hill and order some food, goats cheese to start which is really tasty, and pepperoni pizza which is lovely but could do with 5 more mins in the oven. The owners are lovely, and we have a good chat; then it’s time for bed. Chat to D, tv, book and bed.
Miles travelled in a car - 104 Accommodation - £95 Amount spent - £61
Day 7 - Friday
7.30am - I wake up just before my alarm. Didn’t hear a peep out of the hound last night. He’s definitely now a hotel kinda dog. Pack everything up which is so much easier with the car parked right outside. Then I drive round for breakfast. I’m not really hungry but I do my best.
9.00am - I nip to Tesco to get some car snacks and a birthday card for my niece, £8.80, then join the queue for the petrol station on the way out of the village. I decide to fill up just in case which comes to £21.23. We set off, and our first stop is the Corrieshalloch gorge which has an incredible suspension bridge. We have a wander about and snap some photos, then back to the car for us.
11am - It’s then a detour to Mellon Udringle beach, this is up a single track road, I start to wonder if I have gone wrong, but I get there and it’s beautiful. M charges around and swims for ages. I had noticed a field of sheep when we arrived, but what I stupidly hadn’t noticed was the field had no fences. I turned round and M was nose to nose with a rather large ram with horns bigger than me. They were just looking at each other. I screeched and grabbed him quick and we toddle back off to the car and back on the road. There are some famous gardens at Inverewe which sound fab, but we can’t take dogs in so we didn’t stop.
1pm - About a mile or two before the village of Gairloch I hear some funny noises (followed by a funny smell) from the back seat. I quickly turn round and see a sea of vomit. Now anyone who knows me knows that I can deal with all the poo in the world, but I’m terrible with vomit. I think it’s a belly full of sea water as normally he has a gut of iron. I quickly find a petrol station and pull in, finding somewhere to tie poor M up I try to deal with the back seat. I throw the towel straight in the bin which caught most of it, but it’s everywhere and he clearly is feeling really poorly and I can’t set off yet. Leaving him tied up in the shade with some water I take the opportunity to jet wash the car as it’s covered in bird poo and he eats his body weight in grass, then throws it all back up again. Feeling safe enough to set off, we literally make it to the next parking stop, and we limp on like this for some time. We get to the Victoria falls car park, and a short walk seems to do him a bit of good. The falls are lovely, but it’s very very midgey.
3pm - A little further on we reach the shores of Loch Maree. It’s a lot less midgey here, so I sit on a rock next to the car, and he just potters about eating grass and paddling his feet in the water, and he seems to be a bit better. So we set off properly again. We reach Torridon and decide not to stop for a drink, but plod on. The roads get very narrow but it’s incredibly beautiful.
4.30pm -Arriving at our destination for the night, Lochcarron, I have a drive through the village, then head off to a tartan shop called Lochcarron weavers. I was looking for cushions or maybe a rug, but I end up buying DH a lovely woollen jumper that’s on sale at £40, guessed the sizes so fingers crossed. I decide to leave the ruins of Strome castle for the morning, so we drive back to the Loch, and I spot a fish and chip van. I’ve had no lunch with vomit gate, so I just get a portion of chips, and I eat them on a bench looking out over the Loch, but then the rain starts so we go check in. Now I must say the reviews of this place were terrible. But it was cheap, dog friendly and right where we needed to be, so I decided to take it with a pinch of salt. I’m glad I did, the room does look a little dated, but it’s clean, very friendly and I’m on the ground floor. My room in Ullapool last night was dated too but cost £95, today was £55. I give him some water and a nap (but no tea as yet which causes some consternation) then we wander next door to the barestaurant when he has had a good rest.
6pm - The food looks fab. An older lady with her son orders the special of ribs, and I’m sold. I order a leek and goats cheese tart followed by the ribs, the food is a little dear, the starter alone is £9, but we are very remote and it is very tasty. I would normally have had a helper with the ribs, but I didn’t dare, so I got a lot of incredulous puppy stares. Instead a tiny portion of dry dog biscuits for him, and a glass of wine for me from the car, and an early night again.
Miles travelled in a car - 130 Accommodation - £55 Amount spent - £73.93
Day 8 - Saturday
5am - I wake up in the pitch black to the unmistakeable sound of retching. Jump up, put the lights on and there are 3 piles to deal with.. thankfully just undigested grass really, and I have my handy wet wipes so we have it cleaned up in no time, and I decide to take him out to see if he needs a wee or anything whilst I’m awake. We just have a quick walk along the water front, being careful not to get locked out of the hotel, then back in and it’s back to bed for both of us.
8am - Getting up again and the monster seems to be feeling much better. We go next door for breakfast, but I just have a yoghurt and a croissant. It was lovely though. I really enjoyed this hotel, it was friendly, laid back and right on the route. I pack up the room, and give M a third of his normal breakfast (which he wolfs down) and we get in the car.
9.30am - We head just up the road for now to the ruins of Strome castle. I can’t let him off the lead here because there are lots of sheep, but it’s a great little stop for a walk around. It starts to rain but only quite lightly at this stage.
10am - He seems ok so we get on the road towards Inverness and eventually home (tomorrow). I must admit I had very serious thoughts of trying to just head home, both yesterday and at 5am, but I’m very far from home, nearly a 9 hour drive, and as such I think it would be better to stop regularly to offer him water and fresh air, rather than trying to push through. I have a quick call with D who reminds me that dogs eat things they shouldn’t all the time and to stop worrying, he’s eating, drinking and toileting normally and so to carry on but just not over feed him and offer him regular breaks. So our next stop is the Glen Dougherty look out, which is apparently stunning on a clear day but it wasn’t a clear day. So just a quick look about and off we go again. Nice for a photo and a leg stretch though.
11am - Last stop for us on the NC500 route is Rogie Falls. This is a great stop and walk down to the waterfalls. Apparently at the right time of year you can see salmon jumping up the falls, but it wasn’t to be today, this stop was incredibly busy, the car park was completely full and I had to wait a while to get parked, but it was a lovely walk and we both really enjoyed it.
12pm -Not long after this we reach Inverness and leave the NC500 route, we’re a little early to head to Pitlochry which is our stop for the night, so I do a couple of things, firstly grab a quick drive through McDonald’s for lunch £8.80, then fill up the car at the Tesco petrol station which comes to £19.87.
1.30pm - It’s only 90 mins to Pitlochry from here. And so I think I’ll be a little early really, so I head to Culloden battlefield for a walk around. Well unfortunately the heavens just open, and we are both completely drowned. Rather rudely I felt M wasn’t over interested in the Jacobites. But we have a very quick walk round, and then a towel off and on the road. I tell him I’ll put Outlander on for him when we get home. I’m actually very interested in history but I have been to the visitor centre before (and read and the watched the Outlander series which I’m sure is super accurate ).
4pm - We hit Pitlochry. I can’t get into the hotel car park, but I find street parking and check in nearby. This place is quite fancy, it’s in the same chain as the lunch I had on the steam train right at the beginning. Here it’s sort of a fancy gastro pub with rooms upstairs. This was the costliest of my accommodation at £99 but also the nicest. My heart does sink a bit though when I see where my room is. Sort of up two flights of stairs and round a lot of corridors and through several fire doors. I really hope we don’t need 5am dashes tonight. It’s nice to have a bit of luxury though too, most of my accommodation has been fairly basic, not even offering toiletries or tea/coffee in all cases. So this room with it’s very fancy toiletries and biscuits is very welcome.
5pm - We chill out for a bit, and I even nod off for 15 mins which is incredibly unlike me. Then we have a quick walk through the town, which looks lovely, and then head into our hotel/pub for dinner. I order the spaghetti carbonara with garlic bread. It’s lovely but very big, and I only manage half, but I did have lunch today.
8pm -We go for a last walk through the town, I contemplate an outdoor drink at a different pub, but I can’t find a table, so I have a glass of car wine, call DH, and watch Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.
Miles travelled in a car - 147 Accommodation - £99 Amount spent - £78
Day 9 - Sunday
8am - I wake up, and the boy has slept like a log. It really was a lovely room. I get up and he seems in no rush to leave his bed, so I quickly shower and pack and we head down the maze together. I take him for a wee and load the car. And then we pop in through the front door for breakfast. They kindly serve me brekkie in the bar so I can keep M with me. I order a couple of hot items, and they bring Lorne sausage which I’m not sure about so I risk sneaking a bit to M who thankfully seems back to normal.
9am - We jump in the car, and get on the road. We are going home today, but stopping at Glasgow to see my little brother. I stop at a Starbucks just outside Perth for a coffee (£10 loaded on my app), then arrive just before 11 to Pollok country park. Unfortunately it’s really very rainy, but I find my brother (A) who is 21 and just finishing up his time at uni, loan him my brolly, and put rain coats on both M and myself. We walk for over 2 hours, just chatting and getting lost. Most of the walk is spent trying to find the Highland Cows I drove past on the way in, and we do finally succeed. M absolutely loves it, and doesn’t stop running around and sniffing everything in sight. Eventually we decide to call it a day as I’m a way away from home. I drop A off at the Asda, pick up a quick Maccy’s for the car £8.40 and we head home. We end up doing it in one go (about 3.5 hours) as M was completely zonked out on the back seat. DH phones and we chat for ages, then with about 45 mins to go, we hang up and he says he’ll see me at home. I get in, to no DH. I unpack his gifts and finally give him a ring. Turns out there has been a terrible shock as his Dad had a heart attack whilst out shopping. Thankfully all is ok, but DH gets home a bit ashen, and we go round to his Mum’s to await seeing how his surgery goes, which thankfully is all fine. D picks up an Indian takeaway on the way back from his Mum’s, he opens a beer from his gift pile, and we breathe a big sigh of relief. It’s super lovely to see him.
Miles driven - 300 Amount spent - £18.40
submitted by Mitchlou84 to MoneyDiariesACTIVE [link] [comments]


2020.09.01 09:05 marekvse A religion-less society actually exists right now!

Hello Jodan,

I'm sending this letter to you, Sam Harris and Douglas Murray, and hoping that it will reach at least one of you directly as I believe it could move all of your individual viewpoints as well as your future conversations forward. I'm sending it in the interest of possibly alerting you to at least one country, the one I grew up in, which seem to have completely evaded your research efforts and leaving you all, it would seem, agree on one, to me a very curious and strange point, that a successful and happy society without a (major) role of religion in it does not exist or have ever been tried. Sam is sure it would work, you say it did not work in Stalin's Russia case (you also add Hitler, who clearly was not an atheist and his most brutal forces had "God is with us" written right on their belt buckles which pretty much destroys the non-religious assertion), but none of you seem to be aware that it worked and is still currently working already very well.

I respect all of you greatly. I identify most with Sam's points of view at matters - perhaps unsurprisingly given the country I grew up in and the personality I am - and least with you Jordan, but that's only because of the religious part of views he seems to insist on deeply. I admire Jordan for your abilities to reason and, most of the time, reason so for clearly logical things. I admire the other two for the same reason without the need for that exception.

I've watched a great many videos featuring you 3 plus of course other very intelligent people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and others in the past few years. The one thing that always keeps surprising me is the point where the discussion gets to the point of arguing about "how viable would a theoretical society" built basically purely on reason and no religion look like and what state it would end up in. Not even Christopher Hitchens seemed to ever have any other answers than a very good, but yet still purely theoretical arguments regarding such a society. From all of those occasions in those conversations, I am basically forced to believe that you all guys, however much-traveled and intelligent, have completely missed at least this one real-life, well-working example, which is my country - The Czech Republic. I think that if you haven't and if you then talked to a few people who grew up there at least at the time when I did - born 1973 - you would find not theoretical, but very real examples of a great many people who not only grew up completely without any religion or any stories coming from it and yet, still grew up very nice, intelligent and maybe surprisingly to you all VERY HAPPY people.

I'm not sure how many people exactly like me you would find because I really set up my life to be very happy, not even knowing how exactly stress would feel - I just maybe get hints of what it may feel like when I'm cold, which is why I have relocated to Queensland, Australia a long time ago - but you would definitely find heaps and heaps of people who are undergoing the same stresses in life as in any other western-type society with handling family, work and the other aspects of life, yet without any regard whatsoever to notions of any religion or any need to any type of any kind of comforting mythical stories.

That, of course, is not to say that many of us do not enjoy fiction books or entertaining stories in the form of books, tales, or other arts. We can enjoy it all the same with the full knowledge that those are fiction.

All the above is the result of the socialist/communist system we grew up in which not necessarily stifled but certainly did not promote any religion. It is the one thing I am grateful for to that system I grew up in, apart from a very happy childhood since nobody's parents had existential struggles. I do believe that there were efforts to eradicate the religion, many of which may probably be identified as forceful, but we've always kept our history including its buildings like castles and churches as opposed to destroying them, which would be an extreme way to get rid of something. Even clergy was tolerated and some very tiny minority of mostly the old-times people were attending services even at those times.

The actual real fact of life was, however, that we never were taught about religion apart from being a part of history, including ours. And we would still go on school trips some of which may include admiring a great cathedral purely for its architecture and art.

Strangely, even the name of the "person" who brings the presents at Chrismas (which in the Czech language is called "vanoce", which has nothing to do with Christianity - at least not obviously - I did not study its etymological roots) is "Jezisek", which, funnily and very interestingly enough I personally only realized when I was about 14 years old, means "a little Jezis = Jesus - "little" here meaning a kid, a baby). So the presents were being brought by a baby Jesus and yet, for almost all of us it was just a name, same as the west had Santa Claus or any other name you could use for a fictional character. It had NO religious meaning whatsoever to us, nor any story was attached to it at all. It was (and is for us) simply a holiday with the ritual of decorating a tree and having a very nice, extraordinary family dinner before (mostly the kids) would enjoy the present unwrapping under the tree. (Yes, our Christmas all happen on 24th Dec). We had no idea that it was originally a celebration of the winter solstice or that it was then stolen as a Christian holiday. We enjoyed it and frankly still enjoy it for the same family reasons, all the same. Actually now knowing that it has been for the past many hundreds of years appropriated by a religious cult if anything taints the experience. It probably would not if that cult was a thing simply belonging and part of the history of "less educated" times of us humans. The fact that this magical thinking still sways great sections of global citizens' everyday lives is what taints Christmas for some us Czechs. It surely does for me. I feel more at ease with it knowing that actually it is the winter solstice celebration. I would surely be more fine with it if it was just a date that someone decided to arbitrarily put on a calendar rather than thinking of it in terms of a cult that brutally killed and tortured so many innocent people in history and still thinks that magical thinking is just a fine idea.

Similar to Christmas, we in the Czech Republic also celebrate Easter (another holiday appropriated for itself by Christianity as I learned much later in my life). We also enjoy it purely for the tradition or maybe just for the fact that it is a day off work :). In Czech, a part of the tradition regarding Easter is that man create a nice looking weaved supple "sticks" from the branches of a willow tree, and in the morning we go around as many girls/women we know as possible to "hit" their behinds with it so that they stay young and supple too. I'm sure that in today's "politically correct" society many would find something very wrong with it, but the simple fact was that it ended up being a very nice and very social day for everyone. (By the way, I never knew that anybody would consider women as any lesser than men. I grew up in a society where had no reason to even suspect such a thing.) In the afternoon the girls and women had the right on the other hand to pour buckets of water over the men's' heads, even though that part was never really practiced. (At least in our parts of the Czech Republic. There are more traditional areas.) I suppose that is because it is not as convenient to run around with buckets of water around than it would be with sticks. Also, we - boys and men - would get a colorful ribbon bound to the ends of the sticks by each female we've visited and "paid off" - we don't really call it hitting or beating. It would leave the omitted girls and women feel neglected rather than happy not to get hit. I'm sure that the absolute majority of us were always as gentle as myself and my friends in performing that "stick-and-behind" ritual. I actually never wanted or was planning to do this whole thing, but I had a friend who always came on the morning of Easter Monday to my home with a couple of those "sticks" - one for himself, one for me, and basically had to talk me into joining him every single year. And it always ended up being one of the best days of the year, finishing in a mixed group having a great time (including a bit of drinking in our later teenage years). It was very nice and social and NOTHING to do with any religion or anything other than "this tradition actually turns out to be fun" and we did not need some deep explanation for it that I'm sure Jordan would try to dig out at this point. It was the same fun we can end up with when we come up with brand new social events, out of which, when they turn out fun, we often try to make a tradition of too. All that being completely atheist and secular. I really don't understand what seems to be so hard to comprehend even to Sam - not that he could not seem to be able to imagine it - clearly, he very much is - but that it actually has already been tried and is still going on successfully. Admittedly though, traditions like the Easter ones in Czech are fading as the capitalist style of life requiring most of us to work more and more puts a strain on that too, together with an overload of other modern culture distractions obviously.

In any case, my point is that what Sam is saying, what Christopher used to say and others too, is NOT a theoretically working "utopia", it IS a reality for millions in just my own country of origin and we suffer no ill effects from it!

On the contrary, despite being a tiny nation of 10 million people we have (even though thanks to globalization, corruption, and not in small part thanks to the totalitarianism of the European Union) we are loosing great industry and very clever people. We used to be (before EU) totally self-sufficient in basically everything, were exporting fighter jets, cars, atomic reactors, locomotives, food, and much more to the rest of the world, gave the world some amazing people and inventions like contact lenses, nanofibres, the lighting rod, or even small things like sugar cubes, pencils or Koh-i-Noor snaps for our jeans :) and we needed no religion or the related stories to do that. And that is the one thing I'm happy the "communist" regime gave us - true freedom from religion, freedom from bullshit stories if you pardon me. It lets us concentrate on interesting and important stuff in life instead of trying to solve mute problems like why are we here. We are, so enjoy it. I must say that without the religious ideas surrounding us that most of us don't even think about it as something to worry about. We worry about "we are here now, what can we do to live well" and some of us also "what can we do to leave my imprint on humanity". The more curious of us sure ask "how" did we get here and maybe do think about how in the great scheme of things we are totally insignificant, but I don't think it makes us unhappy. I know it does not make me unhappy for sure. I enjoy learning new things, discovering, making logical conclusions, and, apart from other things, being truthful to myself and others, which is probably why I'm also so happy in my life and have always been, which all of you I'm sure will very easily understand.

All of you guys seem to imply or straight away say that "sure, there is not a person who would not have major problems in life, who would not have "demons"" etc. Well, sure, I've encountered problems in my life. I'm solving software problems every day (I'm a software engineer) I've traveled around the world on a motorbike so I've encountered life-threatening situations, I've lost family members (fortunately for me just the ones who naturally died of old age, no tragedies so far, so yes, I've been lucky in that respect). But problems are here, to my eye, to be solved. They are a challenge, not a tragedy. They make life interesting. And demons? No, I do not have any. Things I regret? Maybe, a tiny little ones like not asking that beautiful girl on a bus for a coffee. But I've never done anything I would be ashamed of. That does not mean that I never failed of course. But I freely admit and not try to hide my failings so I have no demons. Am I really the only person in the world you think? I may be rare, but I'm sure I'm not alone.

Regardless, many, or basically I'd say almost all of my friends, much as they may have more normal everyday problems and stresses than I have (and it is not at all related to money - I'm not wealthy at all - we even still rent the place where we live), would tell you the same thing regarding the role of religion or religious stories in their lives and their decisions - NONE whatsoever.

The Czech Republic is very rich in culture too. Our country has one of the biggest concentrations of castles for example. I do not think that religion was necessary for those structures to be built for powerful people in our history. Yes, many, many churches too. Beautiful buildings. Some of them truly amazing, as some of the castles, too. And our secular society still builds and creates amazing things with no religion required for it. Just yesterday I was sent a link to a video about the biggest chandelier and at the same time, the biggest jewel ever built anywhere. (Link here if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/embed/AQ2udSvqx28 .) It could very well hang in a cathedral of some type. But it was built by a Czech company for a Saipan casino. Only human talent, work, and lots of money was needed to build this wonder. No religion whatsoever. So I'm pretty sure, Jordan, that you can stop worrying about losing culture if there was no religion. Sure, cassino may not be considered culture by many, but it is simply a fact of today's world that casinos are one of the areas where the money is. If you want to start to argue that we need religion as a way of extracting money from the population to build such marvels, as was historically exactly one of its functions and is one of the reasons those grand structures like great cathedrals exist, then fine. I would, like Sam, argue that it is possible to do without the pretense of magic, but at least that would be a simple point to defend. Not the only way though!! An example - and I'm sure there are also many modern ones too.. The National Theatre in Prague... It is a grandiose building with high ceilings covered with similar gold ornamentry and paintings to any cathedral you may find. It also has a huge painted curtain - a great painting of its own right. This all was built from money collected from donations of the citizens expressly towards building a national theatre, which was opened in 1881. The first idea came in 1844 at a congregation of Czech patriots. As far as I can tell no religion was involved. Certainly, none needed. And that great building is also a part of our and the world's registered cultural heritage sites.

So to summarize, the reason for this letter was to let all of you three guys know that you can stop only theorizing about a society without religion. Look at the Czech Republic especially before the Velvet Revolution (after which slowly more and more religion starts very slowly creeping in again), but where still today three-quarters of the population are completely irreligious. We are one of the safest, most educated, and happiest countries in the world. And if you look over the state ideology at any one time, where communism was making some people unhappy with restrictions on travel for example, and capitalism in its demands on sacrificing more of one's private / family time for work time, we are generally really happy people, nice to each other (without having to be threatened by hell or whatever other stupid magic idea), helping each other. And it is probably partly thanks to the LACK of any religion that we are that way. There is one less thing to partition us into opposing groups which argue about something they actually cannot even know.

Actually, that makes me think about my friends and people I know. I know and have experienced that my friends or even friends of my parents, for example, would (and in the past have) helped me when I really needed help, despite it being a great inconvenience for them. Yet, I was in similar situations when I only had a religious person to help me and they would not. It would seem to me that religious people like to listen to the stories that Jordan insists are shaping majorly their principles and behavior, rather than actually behave according to them. And then some feel great to tell you how good they are thanks to Jesus.

Ok, I think that concrete examples would be good here:
I know, that every time I go back to the Czech Republic for the summer I have offers from my friends to take me to the airport - both in Czech and in Australia (still from Czech friends interestingly enough). In both cases, it is over 100km and I do not want to inconvenience them if it is not necessary so I thank them and decline. But I know that even if I called them at three in the morning that I needed an urgent lift to the airport they would just tell me how long it would take them to pick me up.
Contrast that with this:
I've known a great person for 7 years and actually shared a house with her for 5 of those years. I consider her a very nice person and considered her a very good friend. I still visit her once a year or so when I have a chance, but thinking back on the story I'm about to tell you certainly makes me feel less worm towards her than I always thought she otherwise deserved.

So the story: I found a new life partner while again staying for the whole European summer in the Czech Republic. For reasons irrelevant to this story she could not join me permanently in Australia for the first few years of being together, so we were overcoming that problem by her periodically visiting me in Australia for 3 months, then we would not see each other for another 3, then I would go to Czech for 3 and a bit, again 3 months apart and then the cycle would repeat.

At the end of one of her stays in Australia with me, while I was still sharing the house with my friend, Jean, my partner was flying home the next day and I, shortly before that, decided I would actually fly back with her. I could not get a seat on the same flight so my flight was at 8 AM and hers the same day at 1 PM. My partner is a bit lost when traveling and she did not speak English at that time yet either, so we decided to travel the 150km to Brisbane in the evening before and arranged to stay with a friend there overnight. We were supposed to catch the second one of the only two trains that goes from that place to Brisbane daily. It was leaving around 9 PM. The nearest train station is about 8km from the place I lived in with Jean, who agreed or maybe even offered to take us to that train station, I can't remember that bit for sure. What is for sure is that once we got there it become clear that the train was not coming as the train tracks were not there and the workers currently working there under the floodlights confirmed that the trains were not operating on that track for the past 14 days and will not be going for another 14 more. I was amazed and surprised, especially after we got back home and I confirmed on the computer that the online time schedule directly on the Queensland Rail website still insists that there are no exceptions or delays and that that train is scheduled as per normal.

There was no other public transport for us to use from that place. So after another couple of hours of trying to figure out any other possibility of getting us there on time, I finally asked Jean if she would be so kind and took us to the airport (we did not want to bother the friend in Brisbane to sleep over anymore because we would arrive too late for that we felt) so that we could make our flights. Jean told us that "she would but that she promised her sister to accompany her to a church service the next morning and that if she took us she would be too sleepy for that the next day"..................

I probably don't have to say that I was a bit disappointed that someone I considered a friend and a good person would refuse to help us in a situation in which I would have no other safe viable option. I never analyzed it further beyond the disappointment. However, a couple of years later I was telling this story to a friend and he, I think very spot on, pointed out that "So she would rather go to church to listen to the preacher to tell her that she should be helping people rather than take the opportunity to actually help someone in a real need.". How is that for "Christian" values? I know my non-religious friends would not hesitate to help me in that situation as I'll give you an example of in a couple of lines.

Just to finish the story, Jean was "nice enough" to suggest that we can try hitchhiking on the highway (at 1 AM no less!!) and "kindly" offered to take us there. We had no other choice so we accepted. To start with, there were literally 2 cars in 40 minutes we stood there. Fortunately, the second car actually stopped for us, and also fortunately we survived that. I say the second "fortunately" since it was a German traveler who told us that he stopped because he needed someone to keep him awake since he has been driving at that point non-stop for 16 hours from Cairns. Needless to say that traveling in a car 20km over the highway speed limit with someone who is grossly falling to sleep is quite scary... The story still developed into having quite a few very interesting twists, but those are not relevant to this anymore.

So now a concrete matching example:
When I was 15 I was to travel by bus 150 km to my brand new high school. I was obviously gonna have to be staying at a boarding school there so I wanted to take an earlier Sunday bus to have a chance to choose my new bed. But after waiting over an hour over the scheduled time for the bus I concluded that it was not coming and I was going to have to take the late afternoon one. After returning to the bus station and waiting for that one for almost an hour again I finally figured out that it was actually a brand new holiday celebrating the two (religious - interestingly enough :)) men who managed to enforce the recognition of our language as a language recognized by the religion, based and thanks to which our writing was established. (Religion would not allow our writing if it did not recognize the language as being worthy.) It was never celebrated before as it was shortly after the Velvet Revolution so I had no idea. Anyway, the result was that there was no other bus that day and that not only I would arrive dead last to the boarding school, but I would also miss probably the important first half of the first day at the actual new school as a freshman since my dad was away somewhere at that time with our only car.

That evening, at about 10 PM, a neighbor and my parent's friend came to pick something up from my mum. He was surprised to see me still at home and so he asked how come? When we told him he said that we should have told him earlier because he would have taken me there. He also told us that he was supposed to be at work the next day at 5 or 6 AM so it was too late to drive me there now. I remember thinking that it is easy to say now if he can't prove he would have done it anyway. Three minutes later I hear him saying: "You know what, let's go, I'll take you there." It was a 3-hour drive one way!!! The Czech Republic is quite dense with towns and villages and there were at that time many quite large detours on the way, too. So this man would get home about an hour or two before having to go to work!

How big of a difference this is to a church on Sunday where you go by your own volition, you are not required to go and being able to take the highway instead of in that case basically the whole way, so that trip would have cost Jean 3 hours max!

So the person who is NOT compulsed to help me for fear of any hell or any other even slightly unpleasant result helps me for purely the good feeling that one gets from helping others by his own choice despite majorly inconveniencing himself is the one that actually helps me and the one that thinks of themselves as the chosen and the most kind people chooses to go listening about how kind they are rather than actually be. Does not that give you a pause? :)

Another example. I was renting a room in a home of another of my friends and I happened to accidentally either drop the clear plastic fridge bucket for fruits and veggies or drop something on it (I cannot remember), resulting in its cracking. The, for me absolutely obvious thing to do, despite that it was "just a crack" and the bucket was still capable of fulfilling its function (and in fact until this day I still use it in my garage to store stuff in), I went ahead and spent almost a whole day trying to find where I could buy the correct replacement and spent something like 60 bucks on it at a time I did not have much money at all. Just because it was a normal logical thing for me to do for the pure "golden rule" reason. And Jordan would maybe say "ha, see, Christian values". And I, same as Sam or Christopher or probably Douglas too, would say that that rule is very logical, self-evident, and much older than the Christianity that appropriates that too for itself. It is just logical. I did not ever need any kind of story behind it and definitely not one where I would be punished other than that others may start doing the same to me seeing me do that to others. And since I want others to be nice to me, I, quite logically and without complicated explanations that some try to fit to some ancient stories they happen to believe in, will behave nicely to them.

And now again, contrast this to a very similar situation the other way around, this time, however, the other person is a church-going Christian.

I now live in a nice big house, which we rent as I mentioned. For the past 10 years, it has been our home and we can only afford it because we are sub-letting one of its rooms directly connected to the main bathroom. And we do this because we fell in love with the house and felt immediately at home as soon as we inspected it. And we originally inspected it purely just as a point of comparison with other houses we went to see afterward because it was available for inspection first that day. Later, comparing it to the other houses, I realized we could make it affordable (same price as the others) by renting out just those two of the 4 rooms that were on the top of what we actually needed. So we did and it has been 10 years since.

We look for people who want to stay longer-terms. Last year, a guy from the Christian part of Nigeria was finishing his stay of over 2 years with us. He would go to church every Sunday without fail and was obviously a devout Christian. He was studying nursing and was working as well, earning quite good money too. In the home, we usually all fit in our big fridge together with our boarder. This one, however, said he needed more space so we bought an additional fridge for him. It was one of the smaller ones which still needs to be periodically defrosted. When we noticed that he is leaving the freezer to become overgrown with ice we told him that he will need to do that so that the fridge does not break. We asked him to do that several times over several months until the plastic hinge of the plastic freezer door broke by the ice pushing it out. It was obviously not even an accident. He would ignore that. So eventually I told him that now he, unfortunately, had to find a replacement freezer door for it because otherwise, the fridge will be consuming much more energy (and we are paying all the energy bills, the boarders have it included in a single unchanging rent amount, which is by the way cheapest in this area) and that it will freeze over faster and that the person after him will surely need the door, too. Nothing at all happened until he left.

I meant to force him to do that before I'd return his bond when he would eventually be leaving, but it happened just at a time when we were holidaying aborad and I forgot about the freezer door. So I remotely returned his full bond. Sometime after that, when he came to pick up some of his post that he still did not change the address for, I gave him the broken door and asked him if he could please finally get a replacement. It's been almost a year now and he tells me he did not find it. So I asked him obviously if he actually tried. He said he did. A couple of simple questions later it is clear that he actually did not even try but is happy to lie about it. So what exactly has the church taught him?? I know it has neither taught him for sure to be responsible for his own actions nor to be honest. Clearly. Qualities that I and all of my close friends who I grew up with, who have never been touched by religion of any kind, have.

I am not necessarily saying that these almost exactly one-to-one comparable examples are totally indicative of the difference of morals between Christians and completely irreligious people, but since it does fit pretty well with many others we see in history and also currently around us, I think it is time to stop theorizing about the necessity or even utility of religious values for modern people. I'm not disputing that religion does have utility for people who follow it, but it certainly is not the necessary or even important tool for people in general.

It seems to me that religion has a utility of a rock that you use to beat in a nail. Take the rock from me and you leave me with a hammer that actually makes much more sense, similarly to taking away the stories and threat of hell and replacing it with something that has been there all along - the genuinely nice feeling of helping someone even if I am otherwise not compelled by anything else than the great feeling and the very logical realization that I have a much better chance to be treated nicely if I treat everybody else nicely. And that I am much more likely to be helped by others if I unconditionally help them. And I may help someone who never helps me, but helps somebody else. And somebody I never helped may actually help me because he was also at some point helped or at least sees it as all so logical how this works.

Jordan, your well-researched arguments on many societal topics are great and helpful and make sense. But I must say that even though I heard a couple of ways you very interestingly matched biblical stories on some current situations or general human behavior, I also think that you are totally overcomplicating stuff in these cases and you are getting many, myself included, lost as to what you are in fact trying to do other than somehow trying to reconcile your Christian belief with current reality and as you just discussed during the talks with Douglas and Sam, smuggling the Jesus into it where really, it is not necessary at all, objectively.

I understand that it is important to many, you including, but it really is not necessary. We can very nicely do completely without it. As an exercise in reasoning it is, or can be, for sure interesting, especially for scholars like you. For us, normal people (or normal engineers like myself :)) it seems pretty pointless otherwise. And the case of the Czech Republic, I think, even takes a base from your case completely, even though I'm sure you could find connections.

As an engineer I can tell you I can map anything to anything if I put enough abstractions in between. But the simple truth is, that almost everybody in a real country that has been historically doing well, grew up a perfectly decent person, arguably in a bigger percentage more decent than the majority in much more religious countries. And we do not suffer. Again, I'd say we suffer less because we are not burdened by any traumas like worrying about ending up in hell.

Sure, in our folklore we have another tradition where St. Nicholas (we never used the "St" part, for us it was just "Mikulas") comes on 5. December together with one or more devils to our home and gives our children presents or coal if "they were not good". And yes, for most children the devils are scary and some parents use that to elicit the promise of being good "from now on", but I think that at least most parents (certainly mine) were not trying to persuade us these were real beings.

It was a (scary) theatre happening in almost everybody's homes. And as soon as you figure out those under the masks are just normal people you feel clever as a kid. And you feel like you've grown and maybe also that you outsmarted the adults who would not tell you straight away those are just people. When you are like 6, 7, or 8, you are looking forward to running outside with the Mikulases and devils despite sometimes still being scared by them if they play the role well. It is thrilling. But it never needed to be shoved down our throats as a reality and not even a story was needed.

We have folklore fairytales that feature devils punishing bad people, yes. But we do not need them to tell us what is right and what is wrong. We can figure that out for ourselves and the stories are just a nice entertainment, if done well. And yes, we can see the useful allegory in it. We would still, however, know quite naturally the difference between clear right and wrong, between hurting others and not hurting others. But we recognize the difference between entertainment and reality. We still enjoy stories all the same.

You do not need organizations that actually believe those, are exempt from paying taxes and are praying on those who cannot reason themselves out well enough or prevent themselves being reasoned in by these fantastical stories and the ability of the storyteller to manipulate. I'd say that the about 25% of people in the Czech Republic who identify themselves as somehow religious are exactly those types of people. Ones who severely lack logical thinking. I have an uncle and a stepdaughter both like that. Neither of them has very good reasoning ability and so they are hanging there to be hooked on by the use of fantastical and magical stories, despite the fact that they were not indoctrinated into it as children, which then makes it more understandable when even pretty intelligent people still have this illogical partition in their brain reserved for god.

OK, that's it. Quite a bit longer than I intended it to be, but I hope it will eventually reach at least one of you in person and maybe give you some more arsenal for good arguments. It is obvious that you are very busy people so I do not expect any reply at all, but it would be great to get something like: "Hey Marek, it reached me, thanks." so that I know that I haven't completely wasted almost the whole day today instead of fixing my server and getting back to my coding in which I'm so much behind.

Wish you all all the best.

Sincerely,

Marek Vsechovsky


Aside:
As I'm reading what I wrote after myself I realize that although not absolutely necessary to explain this, you may wonder if I'm not "telling you stories" since at one point I mention that I am a software engineer and in another talk about affordability of rent. Well, I really don't revolve my life around money. And since I very much enjoy my job and have large amounts of ideas, I'm trying to implement them running it as my own business. However, I am kind of a Wozniak without a Jobs, meaning that rather than marketing a finished product I immediately start working on the next one since I just can't wait to work on it, so I end up with no income to my business and so from time to time I have to accept a paid outside contract. Since my expertise is large and well valued, and since I am a very frugal person (if I compare myself to most other people who say they are too :) ) I only need to work for about 3 months to be able to live from that for the next two years developing my own ideas. That's why I'm still renting rather than owning. I do what I love, I spend as much time on it as I want and I live at a very nice place where I can take a 30-minute holiday jumping in the surf basically all-year-round, so I'm really happy.
submitted by marekvse to JordanPeterson [link] [comments]


2020.08.30 03:02 jrmrjnck March 2020 Sky Islands Traverse (Abridged)

In March 2020 I attempted the Sky Islands Traverse, and covered most of the route with some significant bypasses and discontinuities. Finally got around to finishing a report which I wanted to share since this is not a route you hear much about. (And yes, in hindsight many of my activities were ill-advised during a pandemic (hitchhiking, etc.), but I simply didn't realize it at the time.)

Background

Where: The Sky Islands Traverse (SkIT) is 500-and-some mile route connecting 10 "sky island" mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona, mostly within the Coronado National Forest, as well as a long section of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Aside from the creator Brett Tucker's initial thru in 2010, I only found evidence of two other complete hikes by Dirtmonger and Not a Chance. The two links above provide fantastic narrative about the route's terrain, flora, and fauna so I won't spend much time reiterating that. Especially Tucker's photo journal is really worth reading through if you are interested in the route (he is a much better writer than I).
When: 2020-03-16 to 2020-04-12. 28 days including 1 zero
Distance: 460 miles. 62,000 ft gross elevation gain
Final Route Overview Map
Conditions: A couple of rain storms, but overall fantastic conditions prevailed. Average weather was sunny and warm, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. Overall low temp recorded by my thermometer was 34.2 F at 8900' in the Pinaleños.
In addition to the great weather, most water sources were gushing due to abundant winter rains. Almost every source listed in Tucker's data book was usable, and I came across many more flowing sources and stock tanks that were not listed at all.
Lighterpack: https://lighterpack.com/8c8bct
Unused items marked with red star
Photo Album: https://imgur.com/a/bKezHIM

Overview

This was my first thru hike. It appealed to me because it was the right distance and season and connected a lot of fascinating terrain and historical sites. I planned the route in great detail and included "escape hatches" in case the main route proved too difficult. Ultimately, I did use almost every bypass and shortcut, resulting in an "abridged" traverse. The limiting factor was very slow travel through rough terrain eating into my time budget.
I think many people would call this an "advanced" hike. But my impression now is that it kind of maximizes one factor (route difficulty), while the other factors are not that bad. Bug pressure, climate, resupply interval, and cell service are all pretty favorable. But I can understand why the SkIT would not appeal to most hikers given all the other amazing well developed trails. Land access is another issue that might concern the more law-abiding hiker, since this is not an "official" route with negotiated access rights. There are more than a few fences and "no tresspassing" signs along the way, although there's also little chance of encountering anyone who would care.

Navigation

I prepared paper maps for the entire route with CalTopo, using a combination of Tucker's data book and GPS track, and AZT info and GET info since the alignment of those trails has changed a bit since the SkIT was first published. I found Skurka's tips for printing maps quite useful, going with the "Forest Service" preset layer, double sided 11x17" at 1:36000 printed by Fedex. In practice, 1:36000 was too small to figure out where to go in some parts and I had to fall back to digital maps on my phone. Next time I would print larger scale maps, just for the non-AZT sections.

Report

Dragoons (Cochise Stronghold to river, 2 days)

I flew into TUS and took the bus downtown to buy some fuel (don't rely on Miller Surplus for LPG fuel). Then took an Uber to the start at Cochise Stronghold - the road was passable except for some water crossings which were a little too deep for the Honda Accord - so I walked the last mile to the trailhead. Trail was nice and easy until the very first XC section towards Council Rocks. In what would ultimately be the most frustrating XC of the whole trip, I spent a couple hours wading through thick brush unsuccessfully trying to find the pictographs. I'm still not sure how I missed it since there is apparently a popular trail leading to the site, but eventually I found myself at the next waypoint so I just continued on. Slavin Gulch would be the last water source before reaching the San Pedro, and luckily water was abundant there.
The XC through Smith Wash was very straightforward and fairly pleasant, with numerous shady trees to rest under. It would set the scene for many future wash slogs, where can you choose between soft sand of the wash bottom, or the firm but brushy banks. Saw my first ever rattlesnake in the wash, and also saw my first border patrol agent parked along AZ 80. Made it to the river after sunset on a very long day 2.

San Pedro River (river to Nicksville, 2 days)

Awoke at 5 AM when rising winds collapsed the tarp on top of me (still a tarp newbie). Found that the river was relatively deep and swift, very unlike the lazy intermittently flowing waters I expected from pictures. Combined with threatening weather, I decided to walk the railroad grade along the west bank rather than the river bottom. The monotonous dreary setting, high winds, and coarse gravel of the railroad grade made for poor hiking, but it seemed a lot faster than navigating the river, and I needed to make miles on the first half of this route. I had marked a lot of historic sites on my map north of Fairbank, but missed most of them since I stayed on the west bank. Fairbank itself was shuttered due to COVID, so I continued on dirt roads to the historic Boquillas Ranch. Among the historic buildings there, there is also a newly constructed barn/garage (empty and unlocked), where I took refuge from the wind to eat lunch. Soon after, it started pouring rain, so I ended up staying the night there.
Continued from there on the occasionally marked San Pedro Trail. South of Millville/Charleston, I finally found a favorable section of the river to navigate, where much of the vegetation on the bank was flattened (by flooding I assume). Got back on the San Pedro Trail south of Escapule Rd, and from there the trail is well defined, although it's mostly wide open 2-track roads covered in manure, and therefore vastly inferior to the lush oasis of the river itself. San Pedro House was also closed due to COVID, but I later crossed paths with the site hosts, who informed me that you actually need a $2/night permit to camp in the RNCA. But they basically implied I shouldn't worry about it, so I'm still not sure how you camp here legally. The Miller Backcountry site is the only establisted site in the RNCA, but aside from having a bear box and pit toilet it is no more attractive than any other place - so I pushed on, and finally camped at the very end of the trail amid a cacophony of coyotes and dogs.
Once you cross Hereford Rd, you're basically walking past houses until you find singletrack again in Hunter Canyon, so definitely plan your rest stops accordingly. The 3 Canyons road walk is a private road blocked by a gated fence. There was more than a few cars going by but no one seemed interested in me. Met up with dantimmerman for a few hours before I headed up into the mountains 👍. The Nicksville Dollar General is a viable resupply point, although pretty much all the "real" food was sold out due to virus panic.

Huachucas (Nicksville to Patagonia, 3 days)

The trail up towards Miller Peak was a nice climb and surely a popular day hiking spot, and at high elevations there was patchy snow. Wild turkey and deer were abundant along this gorgeous trail, which at times somehow reminded me of the Appalachians. Started getting pain in my achilles which would persist for another week. But I eventually hobbled into Patagonia, where I got a hotel room and resupplied at the Market. I checked out the upscale grocery too, but didn't find much there that I like to eat while backpacking.

Santa Ritas (Patagonia to Vail, 2 days)

Split from the AZT onto Temporal Gulch Trail #595, which was in spectacular condition, especially in the upper sections near Josephine Saddle. It was actually a little difficult to pick up near the lower trailhead, but once you get going the right way it's a great hike: cairns, fresh signage, fresh tread, branches trimmed back for wide open passage, and even the shin daggers had their tips trimmed! Crest Trail #144 up to Baldy Saddle is in great condition, with a few inches of snow in late March. Did not summit Mt. Wrightson because I was at Baldy Saddle at 4 PM and wanted to get to lower elevations to camp. Beyond Baldy Saddle, the trails are easily followable but very overgrown and covered with blowdown in some spots. After descending the switchbacks on the East Sawmill Trail #146, the trail opens up and is easier. Going around Wrightson would be my biggest day of the trip at 26 mi, and also my first time night hiking (terrifying and exhilarating being watched by disembodied eyes).
Back on the AZT, things are easy, although this stretch into Vail was the most water-poor of any section on the SkIT for me.

Rincons (Vail to Italian Spring TH, 2 days)

Some other AZT hikers and I were blessed with incredible trail magic just before hitting Saguaro NP (full dinner, breakfast, oreos+milk!). And I even picked up a trail name ("spaceman").
If you want to camp inside Saguaro NP, Grass Shack CG looked decent, but Manning Camp was cold and windy and probably not a good bet in early spring. I did not camp in the NP so I don't know how the permit experience is. No other surprises on the AZT through the Rincons.

Santa Catalinas (Italian Spring TH to San Pedro River, 3 days)

Crossing into Molino Basin, there were many day hikers about (and I finally had that first experience of smelling people before seeing or hearing them). Due to foot pain, I decided to skip all the "inner Catalina" miles between Molino Basin and Summerhaven, and instead take a zero in town. But, I had prepared three resupply boxes in advance for the second half of the trip and sent them all to the Summerhaven PO, so I had to get up there before they closed for the weekend. Luckily, I managed to hitch a ride with a very kind woman up to the PO and then all the way back down into Tucson.
From Summerhaven, the route starts out on some trails which are not on the FS map, but do have tracks in MapBuildeOSM up to Bigelow. These trails do exist in reality, and there were many footprints in the snow to follow. From Bigelow TH to San Pedro Vista, there are well defined trails since it is actually now an official AZT Wilderness Bypass Route. There is no need to bushwhack down from Barnum Rock/Leopold Point like the reference route suggests.
The Brush Corral Trail #19 has seen some recent maintenance and is followable. Notably, from the Shortcut Trail #21A junction, there is extensive flagging with red, white, and blue streamers, and many parts have had the brush trimmed back for easy passage. There was one small section around a bump in the ridge where I lost the flagging and had to forge my way around, but on the other side of the bump the flagging picked up again to show the way. Once the dense brush peters out, the lower section of the trail is in great condition with clear trail and signage all the way down to the TH.
Here begins the longest water carry on the trip, out to Redfield Canyon. I carried 4 liters, which was sufficient, and I didn't see any other potential sources in between.
From Redington Rd, the reference route goes down a wash to the river bed under the bridge. Be aware that there is fence across the wash and another at the bridge which were a bit tricky to get around. Unless you really hate road walks, it might be better to just stay on Redington Rd north to the intersection and avoid all the fences.

Galiuros (San Pedro River to Klondyke, 4 days)

Despite lacking the grand rock formations or vistas of the other ranges, the Galiuros became my favorite section, due to the unique challenges, the total isolation, and the haunting history.
The trail down to the cliff house is cairned and straightforward, but I got excited when I saw the river and accidentally left the trail early and ended up doing a very sketchy scramble. Follow the cairns carefully and this should be an easy trail down to the canyon bottom. The cliff house itself is cool and totally worth a visit - and there is another access trail from the south side of the canyon.
The boulder scrambling in upper Redfield Canyon was an enjoyable, unique experience, and one of the highlights of the trip for me. In the photo journal, Tucker suggests an alternative route around the boulders, but I would just keep that as a backup. There were only two spots I took off my backpack to toss it up ahead on a climb, and overall it did not seem too difficult or risky. I suppose things coulds get rearranged by floodwaters though, so YMMV.
West Divide Trail #289 basically does not exist any more up until Kielberg Tank. There are occasionally cairns and faint tracks to follow but be prepared here for essentially XC routefinding. After Kielberg, and especially after Power's Cabin, the trail is well defined to the junction with Powers Garden Trail #96. At that point, the reference route keeps following the West Divide Trail out to Grassy Ridge, but it did not look promising to me. I took the easy way down to Rattlesnake Creek, and that really is a pleasant hike up to Powers Garden. Powers Garden Trail #96 continues to be easy to follow all the way up Powers Hill.
In Klondyke, I picked up a resupply box forwarded from Summerhaven. There are instructions in the GET town guide for how to send packages here (as there is no post office), and this method still works fine. But as always, pick up your package! The woman who owns the store where you send packages has to deal with uncollected boxes every year and I'm sure it's annoying. When I came through, there were 4 other boxes and 3 were past the ETA date. Had a wonderful stay at the Horsehead Lodge, although the front porch of the BLM office looked quite hospitable for a free option.

Santa Teresas (Klondyke to Klondyke Rd, 1 day)

I took the GET Buford Hill alternate route, having had my fill of bad trail in the Galiuros, so unfortunately I can't report on this section too much. There is an updated GET route that I mapped as an option rather than the outdated reference SkIT route. Thankfully my feet were fully hardened after leaving Klondyke, and I had no more pain for the rest of the trip.

Pinaleños (Klondyke Rd to I-10, 4 days)

Past Underwood Canyon, had a little uncertainty finding the correct ridge to XC up from Two Troughs to Tripp Canyon, but there are some cairns leading the way and it's clear many GETers have been through. Finding the way down on the other side is also tricky because many stock paths lead south away from the drainage. I pushed through a long day to get to Tripp Canyon because I thought it would be a nice campsite, but it wasn't - do not plan on camping here. Tucker's literature mentions "car camping sites" but the reality is more like "ravaged weekend bonfire party sites". I found an OK spot to camp, but most of this area is littered with broken glass, toilet paper, and tire tracks, and many of the trees have had entire limbs hacked off. This was also the only place I ever encountered abundant mosquitoes.
Next day I took the GET Sawmill-Blue Jay bypass route, which was a surprisingly pleasant and wide path following a black plastic pipeline, up until the short XC which was also easy once you pick the right drainage to go up. There were several car campers at Dry Lake stock tank, which seemed much more pleasant than Tripp Canyon. Then followed FR 286 all the way up to West Peak, skipping the Blue Jay Ridge trail. Had lunch at West Peak with the first and only GETer I would encounter. His account of the Teresas route made me glad I had bypassed.
Clark Peak Trail #301 was in moderate condition, deteriorating substantially in some steeper sections after Taylor Pass due to fire damage. But overall is it cairned and flagged well enough to follow without a map. Spent a windy night at Riggs Lake, and then ended up staying on the road (Swift Trail) all the way to Ladybug Saddle. There was patchy but substantial snow cover at higher elevations, and the trail from Chesley Flat to Webb Peak was not discernable (ended up taking FR 88 up and down to tag the high point). I had wanted to investigate conditions on Round the Mountain Trail #302, but even FR 508 looked snowed in and covered in blowdown, so I took the easy way down Swift Trail, which was cleared of snow all the way to Ladybug Saddle. Road walking the Swift Trail 366 would not be pleasant from Shannon CG to Ladybug Saddle if there had been significant car traffic. There are no shoulders in many places, so luckily there was almost no traffic this time of year.
Bear Canyon Trail #299 is not marked from Ladybug Peak and a bit hard to pick up. But once you find it off the west slope of the peak it is pretty easy to follow all the way down to the highway. There are many intersecting stock paths in the lower flatter section of the trail that can trick you, but there are numerous cairns to help guide the way. Look for a couple of stiles to cross the fence along AZ 266 to get down to Stockon Pass Wash, and from there the XC route to Gillespie Wash was quite pleasant and scenic. Gillespie Wash is pretty nice too, but the detour around Jernigan Ranch involved a couple of questionable fence crossings.
XC between Little Cottonwood Canyon and Willow Spring is passable, although it's deceptively steep and exhausting. As usual, the challenge is in picking the right ridge. Since I had to go into Willcox for a package, I rerouted south on the gas pipeline road just west of US 191, then took N Monk Ranch Rd out to the interstate junction. While walking the pipeline road, I almost had a heart attack when a single engine PIPELINE PATROL plane passed low overhead from behind. There's plenty of traffic at exit 352, and I hitched a ride into Willcox in about an hour. Picked up my package forwarded from Summerhaven, and got a couple beers and a hotel room.

Dos Cabezas (I-10 to Fort Bowie, 2 days)

Going out of Willcox, there is not as much traffic going east at exit 340, but I still had luck here, and hitched a ride back to exit 355 in about an hour. Between I-10 and the mountains, there was a locked gate near the interstate and two fences to scramble under after leaving the dirt road. Up in the Dos Cabezas, the cattle really did seem to be a different breed, much more athletic and less afraid of humans. Some of them were not interested in moving to let me through so I had to detour around them.
Fortunately, unlike in other mountains, the "faint trails" and "stock paths" (as described by Tucker) in the Dos Cabezas are actually followable in many places. Near Happy Camp Canyon there was actually evidence of trail maintenance through the catclaw thickets. But finding the way up Tar Box Canyon to the wilderness boundary was tricky for me. Especially past Cedar Log Spring there are many forking drainages to entice you in the wrong direction. Once you cross the pass and catch the road, it's smooth sailing down to Apache Pass (other than 1 locked gate). Ft. Bowie is a well curated historic site where you can easily spend a couple hours if you like reading interpretive signs. The visitors center has good developed water out front, and from there you can follow Old Fort Bowie Rd back to the reference route.
At the Ft. Bowie trailhead I happened to run into a couple travelling the country in their truck camper, who graciously shared their beer, gin, wine, and delicious organic food.

Chiricahuas (Fort Bowie to Portal, 3 days)

Emigrant Canyon Trail #255 is moderately difficult to follow in places, but you can always fall back to walking in the wash. If you want to closely watch your GPS, the MapBuildeOSM track does a pretty good job of following the easiest path. From Emigrant Pass up through Wood Canyon the walking is pretty nice, with some evidence of trail maintenance/realignment. Near Wood Canyon Park things get hairy: fire has destroyed the trail and the terrain in general. Be very careful to follow the correct ridge because there are many forking drainages that lured me well off route. This is now very difficult XC but at least not exposed. Difficult conditions continue until the pass under Cochise Head, where there is actually signage and a followable path down to Indian Creek. Trail #253 down Indian Creek is a very pleasant trail, and kinda fun when going through the canyon "narrows".
FR 356 actually takes a little searching to pick up from Indian Creek. It is almost just singletrack in a few sections since the road to Hands Pass is now impassable for any vehicles.
Shaw Peak Trail #251 is difficult to follow straight away, but there are a few hints and cairns. Once you start traversing the steep slope, the trail disappears completely into burned and eroded terrain. This traverse up to the ridge is very difficult and exposed. I was up near the ridge as a hailstorm rolled in, making my situation unreasonably dangerous. After gaining the ridge, the path becomes followable but still eroded and burned. When the path comes to a gate in a fence, go through the gate and follow the fence from the south side even though the path appears to stay on the north side of the fence.
I went down to Iron Springs to escape the bad weather for the night, via trail #366, which is in good shape at least down to the spring. Light rain continued into the night, and I think a mountain lion came to visit based on the terrifying sounds that woke me up. The prospect of putting on my cold wet pants the next morning kept me in bed until 10 AM, but eventually I mustered the courage and got going. Continuing south from Jhus Horse Saddle, #251 is in good shape and easy to follow.
I bailed out at FR 42 and followed that all the way into Portal. The previous two days had pushed the risk level beyond my tolerance and I wasn't excited about rolling the dice on another 25 miles of trail that might not be passable. Someday I would like to go back to see Chiricahua Peak and Silver Peak - I only had a taste of what this range has to offer but it was exhilarating.
Portal typically is overrun with birders in April, but I was able to walk in and get a room at the lodge. I hired someone from the Tucson craigslist rideshare to get back to the airport, although in typical years there would be a lot more car traffic through here and hitching back into the transit network might be feasible.
Finally, I found that chiricahuatrails.com has fresh, detailed information on the entire Chiricahua trail network, so you can fill the gaps I left with that great resource.

Gear Notes

This was the first big test for a lot of my gear, including the pack, tarp, and pad, and I had no major problems.
TL;DR: Walked at least a little bit through all 10 mountain ranges of the traverse, but skipped some of the harder bits due to foot pain and general laziness. Saw a whole lotta cows, and some snakes, turkeys, javelinas, and deer. Got soaked in a hailstorm on top of a ridge and noped out but generally had a blast exploring some of the most isolated places I've ever been.
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2020.07.01 12:10 lucas8282 CAIRN CLOs DOWNGRADED

also confirm the ratings on EUR 41.15m of notes and affirms the ratings on EUR 273.7m of notesFrankfurt am Main, June 30, 2020 -- Moody's Investors Service ("Moody's") has taken a variety of rating actions on the following notes issued by Cairn CLO VI B.V.:....EUR 17,150,000 Class D-R Senior Secured Deferrable Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Confirmed at Baa2 (sf); previously on Jun 3, 2020 Baa2 (sf) Placed Under Review for Possible Downgrade....EUR 24,000,000 Class E-R Senior Secured Deferrable Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Confirmed at Ba2 (sf); previously on Jun 3, 2020 Ba2 (sf) Placed Under Review for Possible Downgrade....EUR 8,700,000 Class F-R Senior Secured Deferrable Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Downgraded to B3 (sf); previously on Jun 3, 2020 B1 (sf) Placed Under Review for Possible DowngradeMoody's has also affirmed the ratings on the following notes:....EUR 212,000,000 Class A-R Senior Secured Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Affirmed Aaa (sf); previously on Jul 25, 2018 Definitive Rating Assigned Aaa (sf)....EUR 42,100,000 Class B-R Senior Secured Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Affirmed Aa2 (sf); previously on Jul 25, 2018 Definitive Rating Assigned Aa2 (sf)....EUR 19,600,000 Class C-R Senior Secured Deferrable Floating Rate Notes due 2029, Affirmed A2 (sf); previously on Jul 25, 2018 Definitive Rating Assigned A2 (sf)Cairn CLO VI B.V., originally issued in July 2016 and refinanced in July 2018, is a collateralised loan obligation (CLO) backed by a portfolio of mostly high-yield senior secured European loans. The portfolio is managed by Cairn Loan Investments LLP. The transaction's reinvestment period will end in July 2020.RATINGS RATIONALEToday's action concludes the rating review on the Class D, E and F notes announced on 3 June 2020 as a result of the deterioration of the credit quality and/or the reduction of the par amount of the portfolio following from the coronavirus outbreak, "Moody's places ratings on 234 securities from 77 EMEA CLOs on review for possible downgrade", http://www.moodys.com/viewresearchdoc.aspx?docid=PR_425508.Stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, the credit quality of the portfolio has deteriorated as reflected in an increase in Weighted Average Rating Factor (WARF) and in the proportion of securities from issuers with ratings of Caa1 or lower. According to the trustee report dated June 2020 [1], the WARF was 3544, compared to December 2020 [2] value of 2987. Securities with ratings of Caa1 or lower currently make up approximately 5.8% of the underlying portfolio. In addition the over-collateralisation (OC) levels have weakened across the capital structure. According to the trustee report of June 2020 [1] the Class A/B, Class C, Class D , Class E and Class F OC ratios are reported at 137.5%, 127.6%, 120.1%, 110.9% and 107.9% compared to December 2019 [2] levels of 138.2%, 128.3%, 120.8%, 111.6% and 108.6% respectively. Moody's notes that none of the OC tests are currently in breach and the transaction remains in compliance with the following collateral quality tests: Diversity Score, Weighted Average Recovery Rate (WARR), Weighted Average Spread (WAS) and Weighted Average Life (WAL).As a result of this deterioration, the Class F-R notes were downgraded. Moody's however concluded that the expected losses on the remaining rated notes remain consistent with their current ratings following the analysis of CLO's latest portfolio and taking into account the recent trading activities as well as the full set of structural features of the transaction. Consequently, Moody's has confirmed the ratings on the Class D-R and E-R notes and affirmed the ratings on the Class A-R, B-R and C-R notes.The key model inputs Moody's uses in its analysis, such as par, weighted average rating factor, diversity score and the weighted average recovery rate, are based on its published methodology and could differ from the trustee's reported numbers. In its base case, Moody's analysed the underlying collateral pool as having a performing par and principal proceeds balance of EUR 347.9 million defaulted par of EUR 3.4 million a weighted average default probability of 27.1% (consistent with a WARF of 3551 over WAL of 4.9 years), a weighted average recovery rate upon default of 45.7% for a Aaa liability target rating, a diversity score of 42 and a weighted average spread of 3.7%.The default probability derives from the credit quality of the collateral pool and Moody's expectation of the remaining life of the collateral pool. The estimated average recovery rate on future defaults is based primarily on the seniority of the assets in the collateral pool. In each case, historical and market performance and a collateral manager's latitude to trade collateral are also relevant factors. Moody's incorporates these default and recovery characteristics of the collateral pool into its cash flow model analysis, subjecting them to stresses as a function of the target rating of each CLO liability it is analysing.Our analysis has considered the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy as well as the effects that the announced government measures, put in place to contain the virus, will have on the performance of corporate assets.The contraction in economic activity in the second quarter will be severe and the overall recovery in the second half of the year will be gradual. However, there are significant downside risks to our forecasts in the event that the pandemic is not contained and lockdowns have to be reinstated. As a result, the degree of uncertainty around our forecasts is unusually high. We regard the coronavirus outbreak as a social risk under our ESG framework, given the substantial implications for public health and safety.
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2020.05.21 12:43 redjohn00 Update to the UCAT ANZ

Rescheduling notification Attention candidates booked at these locations: Adelaide Brisbane Cairns Canberra Christchurch Darwin Geelong Hobart Melbourne Parramatta Perth Wellington
Due to the evolving situation created by COVID-19 Pearson VUE need to make some adjustments to the way test centres are set up to allow for social distancing seat spacing. This is to ensure the health and safety of you and test centre staff.
To meet social distancing requirements, Pearson VUE need to allow extra spacing between workstations, which means that some workstations where candidates are currently booked will be closed to create the extra spacing.
Any candidate booked at a closed workstation at these test centres will be asked to reschedule their test. In many cases the new appointment will be at the same test centre, but in some cases, additional test centres have been set up to ensure there is enough capacity for all candidates.
It is important to understand that not every candidate is affected.
If your appointment is at a closed workstation you will receive a reschedule notice from Pearson VUE in the next few days. If you do receive a reschedule notice please follow the instructions provided, login to your Pearson VUE account and reschedule your appointment.
You will be able to reschedule yourself online between 22 May and 1 June at 11:59pm AEST. If you do not take action by that date you will need to contact Pearson VUE Customer Services and have them carry out the reschedule for you.
If your appointment is not at a closed workstation you will not receive any notification and do not need to do anything. You can confirm your appointment has not changed by logging into your Pearson VUE account and checking that your booking details still match your original booking. If there are any discrepancies, please contact Pearson VUE Customer Services.
Thank you for your understanding and patience while Pearson VUE put arrangements in place to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Note that other test centre locations may be affected and candidates will be notified in the coming week if rescheduling is required at their location. Updates will be posted at this page.
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2020.05.10 23:09 Theswanofavon [Tuesday 19th 7pm Central] Shadow Lord Pt. 3 God Fucking Damn It Can This Please Be The Last One, Jacob I Am Begging You, I Have Tried To Kill This Man Twice Already And We Haven't Even MET Him Like Oh My God, I Just Wanna Kick His Shadowy Skeleton Ass Into Another Plane Of Existence Already

DM: Cadaverousdragonmeme
Adventure: "Hey folks, Dutch here. The Shining Wizard has proven to me to be a valuable ally for Lochmire. He's given us helpful knowledge, gold, teleportation services, magic items, and knowledge of various rare/custom spells (evocation, dunamancy, etc). Now, a couple more powerful enchanted items are in the works, should we earn them. Lemme fill you in on our latest quest."
"For a while now, we've been chipping away at the defences of a figure called 'The Shadow Lord.' He's a caster of great and dark magics, who's opened up a portal along the river bank. This time, we will approach his lair and once again pass through the portal to the demiplane he resides in, which has the essence of the Shadowfell. We need to explore and kill him, then figure out a way to close the demiplane behind us. I'm a fairly skilled arcanist, but more help is always appreciated."
"In essence, the Shining Wizard has requested the body of the Shadow Lord, dead or alive, for experimentation. Any other notes or information regarding this demiplane could be of great value to him. You'll get to fight, meet my good Wizard buddy, collect our reward, and then we'll head back to town via his quick teleport. He's capable of answering obscure questions and often has knowledge of forbidden lore, so if you have something troubling you, we can discuss that too."
Proposed Route: https://imgur.com/PwA6tTr
Date/Time: Tuesday May 19th 7pm Central / 8pm EST
Time Convertor: https://notime.zone/M7-ONJopJazos
Levels: 6-7+ please, the fight will be dangerous
Members: Looking for five combat-ready folks who aren't scared of aberrant/demonic/shadowy entities. Strong buff spells, ranged & melee fighters. Quick travel. BA Healing, though I have a limited supply. Counters to magical darkness and spellcasting. Counterspell would be clutch. Teleport or high mobility valued.
Name Level Class Watch
Dutch 8 Zealot Barb Watch 1
Olan 8 Spores Druid/Cleric Watch 2
Aeren 8 Eldritch Knight Watch 3 & 4
Cairn 7 Paladin/Bard Watch 4
Jos'Har 8 Stag Barb Watch 1
Response Format:
Character Name: Dutch
Level: 8
Class: Zealot Barb
Race: Vuman
Number of Adventures: [17] / [17]
Time Available: 5+ hours
Game Priority: Only
Skills: Beeg Tank, hefty damage dealer, familiar scouting, tiny hut on rests, magic elemental sword, radiant rage, healing powers & aberration slaughterer
submitted by Theswanofavon to wayfarer_inn [link] [comments]


2020.05.02 03:41 StepW My guild prepared a massive list of raiding PoV videos to help anyone getting into PvE raids!

EDIT (25/08/2020): Added a batch of almost 20 new videos! This batch fixes some old POVs that weren't up to our standards and adds more videos such as:
EDIT (10/06/2020): Added a new batch of over 30 new videos! This batch fixes old links being broken, updates old POVs that weren't to our standards, and adds a whole bunch of new videos, such as:
Hey hey. I'm the guild leader of an EU PvE raid training guild, the Raid Training Initiative [RTI].
We've been training players to get into PvE raids pretty much since the content released over 4 years ago. One consistent problem that we've noticed many new raiders run into while getting into raids is that there is a huge lack of good videos (a.k.a. PoVs) out there of other people playing the class/role that they're planning on running themselves that they can use as examples or guides.
For example, you might want to go into raids as a Chronotank, but you have no idea where to move Xera/Dhuum, you don't know how to tank all the damage that Largos or Qadim the Peerless throw at you, you have no idea how to pull magmas in at Qadim, etc. Or you might want to go into Sabir as a BS, but you want to see someone else handle the wisps on Sabir before you're thrown on the role yourself. Or maybe you have no idea where to go on Twisted Castle and at this point it's way too late to admit it. And so on and so forth.
There are PoVs out there, but looking up the right ones is not as easy as it sounds:
  • Many PoVs are years old and show outdated comps and strategies.
  • You have no idea if the player recording the PoV is any good / knows their stuff.
  • Really niche PoVs like how to portal on Chrono in Eyes of Darkness are all but non-existent.
  • A lot of PoVs where the recorded gameplay is actually good has the group doing super hardcore, DPS-reliant strategies that you don't find in pugs / training runs like keeping Xera tanked in one spot or no-orb Keep Construct. The PoVs which have more familiar strategies often have bad gameplay. Finding PoVs with the right strategies AND good gameplay is not easy.
So, a number of people in RTI got together and recorded over 90 videos for almost every possible special role or class you might need to be asked to do in raids. This list is recorded and curated by experienced players, many of whom have been raiding for years, and many of the videos include descriptions that give more details about your role, have a link to the log, etc. The strategies used in the videos are all up-to-date, common strategies found in pugs and training runs as of March/April 2020, and for bosses like Qadim where strategies can vary wildly, there are even multiple videos showing off different strategies.
This started as a small idea I had where we'd just go around finding decent PoVs online that we can dump in a Discord channel, but thanks to all the many experienced guildies who stepped up to record videos for us, it evolved into a much larger project that I'm actually very hyped about! I hope this resource helps anyone looking to get into raids, try new roles, or even just taking a look at how other people do things.
Finally, head on over to the RTI Discord! Over there you'll find many more resources like this one, such as a compilation of boss guides, a list of raid plugins/services/discords you can take a look at, guides on things like installing ArcDPS + logging encounters, etc etc etc. Everyone is welcome to hang around, and there are instructions in the Discord on how to join the in-game guild if you'd like to give raiding a shot in a friendly, welcoming environment and actually get some boss kills under your belt.
Without further ado, here's the list of PoVs!

Raid POVs

Wing 1

Wing 2

Wing 3

Wing 4

Wing 5

Wing 6

Wing 7

submitted by StepW to Guildwars2 [link] [comments]


2020.03.29 15:36 jeremywenrich Trip Report: Wonderland Trail 2019

Trip Report: Wonderland Trail
The last couple of weeks of social distancing due to COVID-19 have been rough (though nothing in comparison to what will happen without social distancing). I fell in love with hiking and backpacking over the last 12 months. It has been a linchpin of my greatly improved mental and physical health. Hiking has helped me in ways I never thought possible. However, I’ve been staying off trail because I know that trails are being overrun. I can easily go farther and into more remote locations than most, but what if something happens to me? I cannot put a rescue crew in a position where they have to help me. It brings tears just thinking about staying away from something I love so much…
So, I’m trying to be somewhat productive with my time and have put together a lengthy trip report of my 2019 Wonderland Trail trip. I’ve no idea what 2020 will bring, but applications for a 2020 Wonderland Trail permit are open through the end of this month. Maybe this will be of interest to those of you who were unaware or have been procrastinating applying for a permit.
When: August 30th, 2019 to September 5th, 2019
Where: Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in Washington State, USA
Duration: 6 days, 2 hours
Distance: 98.8 miles via map (103.68 via GaiaGPS)
Elevation Gain: 25,194 (according to GaiaGPS)
Elevation Loss: 25,272 (according to GaiaGPS)
Temperature: per weather.com almanac for Ashford, WA
Pictures: Imgur
Video: YouTube (in the process of editing a few short videos)
Gear List: Lighterpack
I’m definitely NOT ultralight, but I’m learning to apply ultralight principles more effectively. In addition to this, the Wonderland Trail was my first backpacking trip, so I was (and still am) inexperienced.
I traveled clockwise, solo and unsupported (no food caching) around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail (except for a ~7 mile total detour to stay at Lake George). I obtained a walk-up permit. It was a serious challenge to plot a route with the few available campsites over Labor Day weekend. Weather was very cooperative during my dates though. When it wasn’t sunny it was cloudy with no rain.
Trail Specific Notes and Advice
Day 1 (8/30): Fryingpan Creek Trailhead to Nickel Creek Camp
I arrived at Paradise Wilderness Information Center shortly after they opened at 7 AM (I forgot that there is a $30 park entrance fee!). There was a line and each group needed about 10-15 minutes with one of the two rangers on duty. I was happy to see how helpful the rangers are though. When it was my turn it proved challenging to find available campsites over Labor Day weekend. It very nearly looked like I might have to delay my start until after. However, with persistence, creativity and flexibility we found a schedule that would work.
I started at Fryingpan Creek Trailhead shortly after 10:30 AM. My pack was far outside ultralight territory at around 45 LBS—well above the 35 LBS that my SWD Long Haul was designed to comfortably carry (see below for what I wish I’d left at home). I found it manageable though and trail conditions between Fryingpan Creek Trailhead to Summerland are very well maintained (it’s a popular day hike to Summerland and to nearby Panhandle Gap), so I made good progress.
Summerland... What an incredible area—probably my favorite on the entire trail—I’ve never seen anything like it. I should have stopped, enjoyed a snack and soaked up the views. This stretch was wasted on a first time backpacker with a late start and in a hurry. I pressed on and my body began to succumb to fatigue as I prioritized covering miles over nutrition.
Panhandle Gap was nothing but fog that left only a few feet of visibility. Almost otherworldly and sublime in its own way. I'd love to see it on a clear day. The differences that weather alone can make on a section of trail is reason enough to visit again. This is also where the last of the day hikers fall off. I didn’t see anyone for miles after Panhandle Gap.
The fog was much clearer by the time that I reached the Ohanapecosh Glaciers. Witnessing the aftermath of this powerful glacial runoff is truly awesome. Here too would be an excellent spot to take a break and soak in the views, but I continued to ignore my fatigue.
And then Indian Bar came into view... Heaven is here on Earth after all and its just for backpackers! Lush green meadows speckled with wild flowers, even at the very end of August, and cut by a strong river. I wasn’t eager to pull from the silty water, but I would have gladly spent the rest of my life there anyway.
A half mile after Indian Bar, in a less than ideal location, I collapsed in exhaustion. I ate what I could, but I wasn’t hungry. An ironic theme that would persist. Doubly ironic considering the amount of food that I was carrying. This day would teach me a valuable lesson about listening to my body.
I still had several miles left before I’d reach Nickel Creek, but a majority was downhill. During my day hikes leading up to this journey, I’d come to regard downhill as harder than uphill, but all of my training in the months prior must have prepared my knees, which were relatively unbothered.
I arrived at camp at 7:30 PM. It was relatively dark under the dense tree cover. I set my tent and made my way down to the nearby creek to collect water for an evening microfiber cloth bath (disposing of gray water a couple hundred feet away) and water for tomorrow’s breakfast. I decided to skip dinner as it was so late.
I had gotten 2 hours of sleep the night prior in my mad rush to get the last of my backpacking supplies together. I'd received my backpack with less than a week to spare and was woefully inexperienced packing it. Nor did I have my food prepared in advance. I had my best sleep on the trail that night.
Day 2 (8/31): Nickel Creek Camp to Pyramid Creek Camp
I took my time getting out of camp. This was my first morning backpacking and my inexperience was glaring. Despite this, I was in good spirits, especially after a hot breakfast and much appreciated trail coffee. Thanks to Ultralight Dandy for the mocha oatmeal recipe!
I adjusted how I packed my gear and this worked well for me for the rest of my days around Rainier. I also did trail laundry (no soap and downstream so as not to spoil where people take water from) at nearby Nickel Creek. It would take me a few days to learn that my sopping wet clothes were not going to completely dry under a cool green tunnel, but I was insistent about keeping as clean as I could.
The stretch between Box Canyon and Pyramid Creek Campsite is another that is largely well maintained, presumably due its accessibility. It has plenty of views, but nothing like the day prior. Day hikers and trail runners dwarf backpackers in number. It became very clear to me just how alien I was to many of them.
This day was not as memorable, but it was smooth. I felt great the entire time. I took breaks. I forced myself to eat. And I was just so happy. I spent a little time at Sylvia Falls, Reflection Lakes and Narada Falls before taking my last break at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center while using WiFi from an outside bench. I do wish that I had had more time to visit some of the areas off the main trail, a common regret that I’d have for the rest of my journey.
It was another late arrival to camp. And again, no dinner, but I didn’t mind. The other campers were loud and I was glad for their company. I put my earplugs in when I was ready to doze off.
Day 3 (9/1): Pyramid Creek Camp to Lake George Camp
I took it easy in the morning. Just like the prior morning, everyone had left before I emerged from my quilt. Another dose of mocha oatmeal and some quiet time reflecting on my adventures was the perfect accompaniment to the peaceful surroundings.
This was one of my shortest days on the trail, especially with only 8 miles actually spent on the Wonderland. After the initial 4 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain I reached Indian Henry’s. The meadows of the surrounding area were difficult to leave.
I’d heard of a bear sighting at Indian Henry’s and, sure enough, there was what must have been a mama bear (I saw at least one smaller shape resembling a cub moving in the nearby trees) foraging for some time. I regret not having a telephoto lens as I was unable to capture this moment.
As I watched them, I took some time to soak up the sun and to nurse my feet, which were developing a couple of hotspots. It was already into the early afternoon by the time that I got moving again. The only section of trail that I’d been dreading was not far (I was unaware of the suspension bridge that crosses Carbon River).
The suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek runs about 150 feet, end to end, and about 200 feet above the waters rushing below. I’m not a fan of heights. I’m especially not a fan of manmade structures that move (such as theme park rides…or bridges). I was genuinely thrilled with myself when I’d reached the other side though. I was nervous, for sure, but it really wasn’t that bad. And I felt accomplished!
I got to celebrate by enjoying the views of Emerald Ridge with the nearby marmots. There has been so much to learn about hiking and backpacking that I was only to able to make the most necessary preparations for this last minute trip (I’d read Tami Asars’ Hiking the Wonderland Trail, at least). I’m thankful that I was able to appreciate surprising moments, like the beauty of Emerald Ridge, without knowing much about them in advance.
I ran into a ranger on my way down. His pack looked heavier than mine and his sense of enthusiasm for the miles ahead were weighed down, too. He checked my permit and we chatted briefly about his journey and the bears that I’d seen where he’d be staying (Indian Henry’s).
I was eager to get to camp, but I’d also heard about the colonnades just beyond South Puyallup River Camp. I stole a few minutes to enjoy the massive structures that revealed themselves through the trees by late afternoon sunlight. Some campsites are very close to these geologic formations. It would have been nice to have stayed the night underneath them, but I was off to Lake George.
The South Puyallup Trail continued its westward passage away from the Wonderland Trail. It’s a pretty area. Sections of trail were washed out, which made navigation only slightly challenging. Neither my National Geographic Wonderland Trail map (#1014), nor the Wilderness Trip Planner, nor Guthook, were clear on exactly how to get to Lake George, but I managed without too much second guessing.
My only regret was not pulling water from streams leading up to the lake. The surrounding area is relatively dry (at least in early September) and I’m not terribly comfortable filtering from lakes, although I’ve no reason to believe it to be an issue. In fact, one of the rangers had remarked that this was her favorite site and she suggested that I go for a swim (I didn't).
I did get to enjoy my first dinner on the trail though. Jupiter’s beans & rice recipe tasted excellent. I added red pepper flakes and a generous amount of nutritional yeast to give it a nutty/cheesy flavor. There wasn’t a person within miles. I had the lake all to myself. At least until a couple reached camp at dark, right as I was climbing into my tent.
Day 4 (9/2): Lake George Camp to Golden Lakes Camp
Learning from yesterday I woke at 6 am and started my day by quickly packing up. With so little water, and a disinterest in pulling from Lake George (again, no good reason, just inexperience/doubts), I got moving. I gathered some from a stream that I’d past the day prior, followed by a break at South Puyallup River Camp to cook more oatmeal, prepare snacks and to use the toilet (I wouldn’t need to dig a single cathole on this trip).
I’d seen that water sources between South and North Puyallup were limited, so I carried about 2.5 liters through this roughly 7 mile section, which worked out great. This was easily my least favorite part of trail (as this brief entry will indicate), with the regions near St. Andrews Lake and Klapatche Camp being exceptions. It was very foggy, so I had only the drop-offs next to the trail, mud and overgrowth to concentrate on. I cruised through this section as fast as my legs would carry me.
The climb to Golden Lakes offered some improvements from the previous stretch. Reaching the foggy meadows near Golden Lakes was a treat. No bears or deer, though hiker telegraphs spoke of sightings that morning (including a big male bear munching berries directly on the trail).
I really like the Golden Lakes Camp. I sat at the lake while preparing dinner and a sunny, blue sky emerged. I climbed back up to the area between camps 4 & 5 and watched the sunset with a couple of other campers. We chatted a bit. If felt good to have some company. I also got cell service and was able to place a phone call. All made for a lovely end to the day.
Day 5 (9/3): Golden Lakes Camp to Eagle’s Roost Camp
I started later on the trail than intended… again, but got to chat with a 15 year veteran trail maintenance crew leader as he was having quite a few supplies staged by helicopter. These would keep him busy for years and this day took years to be approved. He gets 6 months off each year, but works on all sorts of projects the other 6 months. Some projects are tedious, hard labor while others are projects of passion. He has agency over his section of trail because he knows it best.
I was eager to make up time and cruised down the 2,000 feet of elevation loss, unaware of the damage that I was causing to my body. In high school I dabbled in long distance running, but suffered from excruciating shin splints. My lack of care I this moment was to reignite this condition and would plague me for the last two days. While I didn’t feel it just yet, the pain would begin to creep up over the coming hours.
Crossing the roaring South Mowich River was actually very exciting. Even in its weakened form for the season it required me to pay closer attention to conditions and trail finding. There were ribbons tied to trees and hiker-stacked cairns to follow. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the weeks prior. I was able to meet back up with the two guys that I’d chatted with at Golden Lakes Camp. I was happy to have their company for a few minutes before setting out again.
Shortly after the river it was a climb to Mowich Lake. However, just after the river is a small area that feels like a forest from a fairy tale—it was magical! Moss, fungus and dense vegetation covered every surface. But I couldn’t linger, I had a couple thousand feet of elevation gain between me, a short detour to Mowich Lake and then to camp. It was on this climb that I finally had to reckon with the fact that an old, yet familiar, pain was creeping up in my shins. I gently carried on hoping that this would be the worst of it.
Mowich Lake is stunning and waters are crystal clear. The only campsites that I saw were completely devoid of privacy, but they were plentiful. I wouldn’t avoid camping here simply for the views. Oh, and I’d carried two avocados that refused to ripen in my odor proof bags, so was quick to hold a trash can ceremony! I also spoke to two carpenters who were working on the patrol cabin. My solitude had me appreciating what little human contact I’d experience each day.
On my way to camp, I stopped at the junction where I knew the two backpackers from Golden Lakes would cross. I started to write a message in the dirt to Captain (the name of one of them), but was delighted to see them coming up the trail when I looked over my shoulder. I offered (begged, really) some of my food and they excitedly accepted a bag of dried coconut that I’d shared with them earlier in the day. I was sad to say goodbye.
The short hike to Eagle’s Roost was pretty unassuming. It’s a little dryer, which is welcome after so much time on the damp Western side of Rainier. I cooked dinner at my site and attracted a mouse, but was careful to watch my food and to cleanup well. Thankfully, he didn’t bug me, or my things, while I slept.
Eagle’s Roost would be a great starting point into tomorrow’s Spray Park experience.
Day 6 (9/4): Eagle’s Roost Camp to Granite Creek Camp
On the heels of yesterday’s late start, and in advance of my 17+ mile day, I ate my breakfast, prepared my snacks and finished my camp chores in time to hit the trail by 8:30 am. Spray Falls and the nearby running water were a good start to the views, but Spray Park proper is something else! I honestly cannot see myself hiking the Wonderland Trail proper between Mowich Lake and Carbon River. The Spray Park alternate is just that special.
My only regret is not taking pictures, but my spare battery was nearly depleted. I suspect that the cold nights took their toll. As a result, I had to ration my battery use so as not to be without Guthook navigation and trail info.
The hike down to Cataract Valley and to Carbon River took me away from the views and back into the forest. My shins were really starting to hurt now, so I decided to soak my legs for the first time. I’d learned from other backpackers that this is a good daily routine to have, but I had always found myself in a perpetual hurry and never made time. I hope that I’ll have learned this lesson for all future backpacking trips.
The cold water did nothing to ease the pain over the miles to come. The climb from Carbon River to Mystic Camp felt brutal. The views of Carbon Glacier and Mount Rainier were very welcome though. Massive rock slides can be heard in the distance. I talked to a hiker in this section who mentioned that he’d been hiking the Wonderland for decades and that this glacier has receded drastically.
By the time that I reached Mystic Camp I was ready to drop. I didn’t know how I was going to cover the 4 miles to Granite Creek. I don’t remember a lot of details through the experience, but I do remember enjoying how drastically the scenery had changed. The Northern reaches of the Wonderland Trail are much more open than the West. The open skies offer a great deal for the eye to appreciate. And while the terrain is rocky at times, it’s also stunning to consider the power the mountain has exerted in shaping the ground under your feet.
And then I reached camp. I cooked dinner, brushed my teeth and crawled my broken body into my tent and drifted away on a maximum dose of ibuprofen. At least, until a ranger shouted outside my tent, “PERMIT CHECK!” Or something like that. He reviewed the permit that I’d hung on my tent vestibule. Unfortunately, in my daze I hadn’t realized that I’d been assigned the group site, but I was not camped in the group site. The ranger said he’d be right back. I was terrified that I’d be fined, or worse, be made to move. The ranger never came back and I struggled to fall asleep.
Day 7 (9/5): Granite Creek Camp to Fryingpan Creek Trailhead
Again, I woke early and set off. I felt broken. Run down. Less than four months prior I hadn’t set foot on a trail in years. Less four months prior I was 35 pounds heavier. Less than four months prior I had no idea the adventure that I’d undertake after nearly single-minded focus on hiking. And here I was with only a few miles left. My emotions started to settle in.
The section between Granite Creek and Sunrise is spectacular. While rains were on their way, the skies were the clearest they’d been and Rainier showed her Northeastern face to me. I broke down and began to weep over what I had nearly accomplished. I recorded a short video with the little battery that I had remaining and it took me months before I could rewatch it because of how raw I was feeling.
Despite how much I hurt, the miles went by smoothly (and I got to see mountain goats!). It was almost entirely elevation loss. I passed hikers who were not so happy to be going in the opposite direction up the mountain, but I felt exhilarated by what I’d been through over these past few days. And then, it was all over after six days and two hours. Just like that.
When I returned to my car I was relieved to see that it was intact. No windows were broken in. The glove box was untouched. Phew! When I opened my door, however, I discovered that food bags and tissues were torn and scattered. Mice had several days with which to plunder the excess backpacking food that I’d left under my seats. In return, the’d left a generous amount of their own spoils. Interestingly, only food that I had repackaged had been touched. Nothing factory sealed had been chewed open. I picked up as best I could, disinfected and started my three hour drive back to Portland.
Food:
I brought about 3200 calories for each day, which was a mistake. I simply wasn’t hungry and ate less than I do off trail. This ended up being somewhat of a frustration as I wanted to reduce my pack weight.
For breakfasts I had oatmeal. The first four days I enjoyed Ultralight Dandy’s mocha oatmeal recipe, then switched to sweetened oats with cranberries and walnuts. I much preferred the mocha oatmeal.
I skipped dinner the first couple of nights because I wasn’t very hungry, got into camp late and didn’t want to have a full bladder right before bed (I don’t like getting up during the night while camping). The remaining nights I devoured a variation on Jupiter’s rice and beans recipe. This was my favorite meal and the only one that I looked forward to.
For snacks, I ate Pro Bar Meal bars, a lot of dried mangos, dried coconut, mixed nuts, raw macadamia nuts, raw pistachios and vegan jerky. I drank Superfood in the mornings and Trailwind before/during one of the tougher sections each day.
What I Wish I’d Left at Home:
What I Did to Prepare:
I’ve hiked very little prior to May 2019. I had covered at least 250 miles between then and my Wonderland trip. In the month leading up to my trip I repeatedly threw myself at Mt. Defiance (13.5 mi; 5,000 ft elevation gain) and Larch Mountain (13.4 mi; 3,900 ft elevation gain). At no point did I ever exceed 15 lbs on my back though, something that I was concerned would be my downfall. And hiking did prove to be much more challenging with a heavy pack.
I read other people’s trip reports, read Hiking the Wonderland Trail by Tami Asars, carried the National Geographic map and spent a majority of my free time for months thoroughly researching all backpacking topics that I could. Hiking and backpacking have become an obsession. I also bought the Wonderland Trail map available on Guthook and this proved to be invaluable.
What I’d Do Differently:
Soak my feet and legs every day—whether I felt I needed it or not.
I liked the idea of trail laundry, but most days just were not warm enough, nor were there enough sunny spots on the trail, for the clothes to dry.
Manage my time better and get started earlier each day. Every moment spent relaxing in camp was a moment that I could take a picture or enjoy a short side trail. Conversely, I’d try to get to camp around 5:30 pm each day. It affords me enough time to “bathe,” cook supper, journal and read/prepare for the next day.
Turn my phone to airplane mode. I wasted a lot of battery hoping for cellular signals. Bring my batteries inside my quilt so as to conserve their power. Maybe wrap them in clothing.
Bring a 30˚F or even a 40˚F quilt. I bought my 20˚F knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to afford a second quilt for a while and did not want to be limited. This is a big quilt though and takes up 8-10 liters in my pack.
Take more pictures and video. Especially of flowers, fungi, geological features, of hikers/rangers/maintenance crew, animals and of myself doing various things.
submitted by jeremywenrich to Ultralight [link] [comments]


2020.03.29 08:13 jeremywenrich How Does This Test Look?

Trip Report: Wonderland Trail
The last couple of weeks of social distancing due to COVID-19 have been rough (though nothing in comparison to what will happen without social distancing). I fell in love with hiking and backpacking over the last 12 months. It has been a linchpin of my greatly improved mental and physical health. Hiking has helped me in ways I never thought possible. However, I’ve been staying off trail because I know that trails are being overrun. I can easily go farther and into more remote locations than most, but what if something happens to me? I cannot put a rescue crew in a position where they have to help me. It brings tears just thinking about staying away from something I love so much…
So, I’m trying to be somewhat productive with my time and have put together a lengthy trip report of my 2019 Wonderland Trail trip. I’ve no idea what 2020 will bring, but applications for a 2020 Wonderland Trail permit are open through the end of this month. Maybe this will be of interest to those of you who were unaware or have been procrastinating applying for a permit.
When: August 30th, 2019 to September 5th, 2019
Where: Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in Washington State, USA
Duration: 6 days, 2 hours
Distance: 98.8 miles via map (103.68 via GaiaGPS)
Elevation Gain: 25,194 (according to GaiaGPS)
Elevation Loss: 25,272 (according to GaiaGPS)
Temperature: per weather.com almanac for Ashford, WA
Pictures: Imgur
Video: YouTube (in the process of editing a few short videos)
Gear List: Lighterpack
I’m definitely NOT ultralight, but I’m learning to apply ultralight principles more effectively. In addition to this, the Wonderland Trail was my first backpacking trip, so I was (and still am) inexperienced.
I traveled clockwise, solo and unsupported (no food caching) around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail (except for a ~7 mile total detour to stay at Lake George). I obtained a walk-up permit. It was a serious challenge to plot a route with the few available campsites over Labor Day weekend. Weather was very cooperative during my dates though. When it wasn’t sunny it was cloudy with no rain.
Trail Specific Notes and Advice
Day 1 (8/30): Fryingpan Creek Trailhead to Nickel Creek Camp
I arrived at Paradise Wilderness Information Center shortly after they opened at 7 AM (I forgot that there is a $30 park entrance fee!). There was a line and each group needed about 10-15 minutes with one of the two rangers on duty. I was happy to see how helpful the rangers are though. When it was my turn it proved challenging to find available campsites over Labor Day weekend. It very nearly looked like I might have to delay my start until after. However, with persistence, creativity and flexibility we found a schedule that would work.
I started at Fryingpan Creek Trailhead shortly after 10:30 AM. My pack was far outside ultralight territory at around 45 LBS—well above the 35 LBS that my SWD Long Haul was designed to comfortably carry (see below for what I wish I’d left at home). I found it manageable though and trail conditions between Fryingpan Creek Trailhead to Summerland are very well maintained (it’s a popular day hike to Summerland and to nearby Panhandle Gap), so I made good progress.
Summerland... What an incredible area—probably my favorite on the entire trail—I’ve never seen anything like it. I should have stopped, enjoyed a snack and soaked up the views. This stretch was wasted on a first time backpacker with a late start and in a hurry. I pressed on and my body began to succumb to fatigue as I prioritized covering miles over nutrition.
Panhandle Gap was nothing but fog that left only a few feet of visibility. Almost otherworldly and sublime in its own way. I'd love to see it on a clear day. The differences that weather alone can make on a section of trail is reason enough to visit again. This is also where the last of the day hikers fall off. I didn’t see anyone for miles after Panhandle Gap.
The fog was much clearer by the time that I reached the Ohanapecosh Glaciers. Witnessing the aftermath of this powerful glacial runoff is truly awesome. Here too would be an excellent spot to take a break and soak in the views, but I continued to ignore my fatigue.
And then Indian Bar came into view... Heaven is here on Earth after all and its just for backpackers! Lush green meadows speckled with wild flowers, even at the very end of August, and cut by a strong river. I wasn’t eager to pull from the silty water, but I would have gladly spent the rest of my life there anyway.
A half mile after Indian Bar, in a less than ideal location, I collapsed in exhaustion. I ate what I could, but I wasn’t hungry. An ironic theme that would persist. Doubly ironic considering the amount of food that I was carrying. This day would teach me a valuable lesson about listening to my body.
I still had several miles left before I’d reach Nickel Creek, but a majority was downhill. During my day hikes leading up to this journey, I’d come to regard downhill as harder than uphill, but all of my training in the months prior must have prepared my knees, which were relatively unbothered.
I arrived at camp at 7:30 PM. It was relatively dark under the dense tree cover. I set my tent and made my way down to the nearby creek to collect water for an evening microfiber cloth bath (disposing of gray water a couple hundred feet away) and water for tomorrow’s breakfast. I decided to skip dinner as it was so late.
I had gotten 2 hours of sleep the night prior in my mad rush to get the last of my backpacking supplies together. I'd received my backpack with less than a week to spare and was woefully inexperienced packing it. Nor did I have my food prepared in advance. I had my best sleep on the trail that night.
Day 2 (8/31): Nickel Creek Camp to Pyramid Creek Camp
I took my time getting out of camp. This was my first morning backpacking and my inexperience was glaring. Despite this, I was in good spirits, especially after a hot breakfast and much appreciated trail coffee. Thanks to Ultralight Dandy for the mocha oatmeal recipe!
I adjusted how I packed my gear and this worked well for me for the rest of my days around Rainier. I also did trail laundry (no soap and downstream so as not to spoil where people take water from) at nearby Nickel Creek. It would take me a few days to learn that my sopping wet clothes were not going to completely dry under a cool green tunnel, but I was insistent about keeping as clean as I could.
The stretch between Box Canyon and Pyramid Creek Campsite is another that is largely well maintained, presumably due its accessibility. It has plenty of views, but nothing like the day prior. Day hikers and trail runners dwarf backpackers in number. It became very clear to me just how alien I was to many of them.
This day was not as memorable, but it was smooth. I felt great the entire time. I took breaks. I forced myself to eat. And I was just so happy. I spent a little time at Sylvia Falls, Reflection Lakes and Narada Falls before taking my last break at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center while using WiFi from an outside bench. I do wish that I had had more time to visit some of the areas off the main trail, a common regret that I’d have for the rest of my journey.
It was another late arrival to camp. And again, no dinner, but I didn’t mind. The other campers were loud and I was glad for their company. I put my earplugs in when I was ready to doze off.
Day 3 (9/1): Pyramid Creek Camp to Lake George Camp
I took it easy in the morning. Just like the prior morning, everyone had left before I emerged from my quilt. Another dose of mocha oatmeal and some quiet time reflecting on my adventures was the perfect accompaniment to the peaceful surroundings.
This was one of my shortest days on the trail, especially with only 8 miles actually spent on the Wonderland. After the initial 4 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain I reached Indian Henry’s. The meadows of the surrounding area were difficult to leave.
I’d heard of a bear sighting at Indian Henry’s and, sure enough, there was what must have been a mama bear (I saw at least one smaller shape resembling a cub moving in the nearby trees) foraging for some time. I regret not having a telephoto lens as I was unable to capture this moment.
As I watched them, I took some time to soak up the sun and to nurse my feet, which were developing a couple of hotspots. It was already into the early afternoon by the time that I got moving again. The only section of trail that I’d been dreading was not far (I was unaware of the suspension bridge that crosses Carbon River).
The suspension bridge over Tahoma Creek runs about 150 feet, end to end, and about 200 feet above the waters rushing below. I’m not a fan of heights. I’m especially not a fan of manmade structures that move (such as theme park rides…or bridges). I was genuinely thrilled with myself when I’d reached the other side though. I was nervous, for sure, but it really wasn’t that bad. And I felt accomplished!
I got to celebrate by enjoying the views of Emerald Ridge with the nearby marmots. There has been so much to learn about hiking and backpacking that I was only to able to make the most necessary preparations for this last minute trip (I’d read Tami Asars’ Hiking the Wonderland Trail, at least). I’m thankful that I was able to appreciate surprising moments, like the beauty of Emerald Ridge, without knowing much about them in advance.
I ran into a ranger on my way down. His pack looked heavier than mine and his sense of enthusiasm for the miles ahead were weighed down, too. He checked my permit and we chatted briefly about his journey and the bears that I’d seen where he’d be staying (Indian Henry’s).
I was eager to get to camp, but I’d also heard about the colonnades just beyond South Puyallup River Camp. I stole a few minutes to enjoy the massive structures that revealed themselves through the trees by late afternoon sunlight. Some campsites are very close to these geologic formations. It would have been nice to have stayed the night underneath them, but I was off to Lake George.
The South Puyallup Trail continued its westward passage away from the Wonderland Trail. It’s a pretty area. Sections of trail were washed out, which made navigation only slightly challenging. Neither my National Geographic Wonderland Trail map (#1014), nor the Wilderness Trip Planner, nor Guthook, were clear on exactly how to get to Lake George, but I managed without too much second guessing.
My only regret was not pulling water from streams leading up to the lake. The surrounding area is relatively dry (at least in early September) and I’m not terribly comfortable filtering from lakes, although I’ve no reason to believe it to be an issue. In fact, one of the rangers had remarked that this was her favorite site and she suggested that I go for a swim (I didn't).
I did get to enjoy my first dinner on the trail though. Jupiter’s beans & rice recipe tasted excellent. I added red pepper flakes and a generous amount of nutritional yeast to give it a nutty/cheesy flavor. There wasn’t a person within miles. I had the lake all to myself. At least until a couple reached camp at dark, right as I was climbing into my tent.
Day 4 (9/2): Lake George Camp to Golden Lakes Camp
Learning from yesterday I woke at 6 am and started my day by quickly packing up. With so little water, and a disinterest in pulling from Lake George (again, no good reason, just inexperience/doubts), I got moving. I gathered some from a stream that I’d past the day prior, followed by a break at South Puyallup River Camp to cook more oatmeal, prepare snacks and to use the toilet (I wouldn’t need to dig a single cathole on this trip).
I’d seen that water sources between South and North Puyallup were limited, so I carried about 2.5 liters through this roughly 7 mile section, which worked out great. This was easily my least favorite part of trail (as this brief entry will indicate), with the regions near St. Andrews Lake and Klapatche Camp being exceptions. It was very foggy, so I had only the drop-offs next to the trail, mud and overgrowth to concentrate on. I cruised through this section as fast as my legs would carry me.
The climb to Golden Lakes offered some improvements from the previous stretch. Reaching the foggy meadows near Golden Lakes was a treat. No bears or deer, though hiker telegraphs spoke of sightings that morning (including a big male bear munching berries directly on the trail).
I really like the Golden Lakes Camp. I sat at the lake while preparing dinner and a sunny, blue sky emerged. I climbed back up to the area between camps 4 & 5 and watched the sunset with a couple of other campers. We chatted a bit. If felt good to have some company. I also got cell service and was able to place a phone call. All made for a lovely end to the day.
Day 5 (9/3): Golden Lakes Camp to Eagle’s Roost Camp
I started later on the trail than intended… again, but got to chat with a 15 year veteran trail maintenance crew leader as he was having quite a few supplies staged by helicopter. These would keep him busy for years and this day took years to be approved. He gets 6 months off each year, but works on all sorts of projects the other 6 months. Some projects are tedious, hard labor while others are projects of passion. He has agency over his section of trail because he knows it best.
I was eager to make up time and cruised down the 2,000 feet of elevation loss, unaware of the damage that I was causing to my body. In high school I dabbled in long distance running, but suffered from excruciating shin splints. My lack of care I this moment was to reignite this condition and would plague me for the last two days. While I didn’t feel it just yet, the pain would begin to creep up over the coming hours.
Crossing the roaring South Mowich River was actually very exciting. Even in its weakened form for the season it required me to pay closer attention to conditions and trail finding. There were ribbons tied to trees and hiker-stacked cairns to follow. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the weeks prior. I was able to meet back up with the two guys that I’d chatted with at Golden Lakes Camp. I was happy to have their company for a few minutes before setting out again.
Shortly after the river it was a climb to Mowich Lake. However, just after the river is a small area that feels like a forest from a fairy tale—it was magical! Moss, fungus and dense vegetation covered every surface. But I couldn’t linger, I had a couple thousand feet of elevation gain between me, a short detour to Mowich Lake and then to camp. It was on this climb that I finally had to reckon with the fact that an old, yet familiar, pain was creeping up in my shins. I gently carried on hoping that this would be the worst of it.
Mowich Lake is stunning and waters are crystal clear. The only campsites that I saw were completely devoid of privacy, but they were plentiful. I wouldn’t avoid camping here simply for the views. Oh, and I’d carried two avocados that refused to ripen in my odor proof bags, so was quick to hold a trash can ceremony! I also spoke to two carpenters who were working on the patrol cabin. My solitude had me appreciating what little human contact I’d experience each day.
On my way to camp, I stopped at the junction where I knew the two backpackers from Golden Lakes would cross. I started to write a message in the dirt to Captain (the name of one of them), but was delighted to see them coming up the trail when I looked over my shoulder. I offered (begged, really) some of my food and they excitedly accepted a bag of dried coconut that I’d shared with them earlier in the day. I was sad to say goodbye.
The short hike to Eagle’s Roost was pretty unassuming. It’s a little dryer, which is welcome after so much time on the damp Western side of Rainier. I cooked dinner at my site and attracted a mouse, but was careful to watch my food and to cleanup well. Thankfully, he didn’t bug me, or my things, while I slept.
Eagle’s Roost would be a great starting point into tomorrow’s Spray Park experience.
Day 6 (9/4): Eagle’s Roost Camp to Granite Creek Camp
On the heels of yesterday’s late start, and in advance of my 17+ mile day, I ate my breakfast, prepared my snacks and finished my camp chores in time to hit the trail by 8:30 am. Spray Falls and the nearby running water were a good start to the views, but Spray Park proper is something else! I honestly cannot see myself hiking the Wonderland Trail proper between Mowich Lake and Carbon River. The Spray Park alternate is just that special.
My only regret is not taking pictures, but my spare battery was nearly depleted. I suspect that the cold nights took their toll. As a result, I had to ration my battery use so as not to be without Guthook navigation and trail info.
The hike down to Cataract Valley and to Carbon River took me away from the views and back into the forest. My shins were really starting to hurt now, so I decided to soak my legs for the first time. I’d learned from other backpackers that this is a good daily routine to have, but I had always found myself in a perpetual hurry and never made time. I hope that I’ll have learned this lesson for all future backpacking trips.
The cold water did nothing to ease the pain over the miles to come. The climb from Carbon River to Mystic Camp felt brutal. The views of Carbon Glacier and Mount Rainier were very welcome though. Massive rock slides can be heard in the distance. I talked to a hiker in this section who mentioned that he’d been hiking the Wonderland for decades and that this glacier has receded drastically.
By the time that I reached Mystic Camp I was ready to drop. I didn’t know how I was going to cover the 4 miles to Granite Creek. I don’t remember a lot of details through the experience, but I do remember enjoying how drastically the scenery had changed. The Northern reaches of the Wonderland Trail are much more open than the West. The open skies offer a great deal for the eye to appreciate. And while the terrain is rocky at times, it’s also stunning to consider the power the mountain has exerted in shaping the ground under your feet.
And then I reached camp. I cooked dinner, brushed my teeth and crawled my broken body into my tent and drifted away on a maximum dose of ibuprofen. At least, until a ranger shouted outside my tent, “PERMIT CHECK!” Or something like that. He reviewed the permit that I’d hung on my tent vestibule. Unfortunately, in my daze I hadn’t realized that I’d been assigned the group site, but I was not camped in the group site. The ranger said he’d be right back. I was terrified that I’d be fined, or worse, be made to move. The ranger never came back and I struggled to fall asleep.
Day 7 (9/5): Granite Creek Camp to Fryingpan Creek Trailhead
Again, I woke early and set off. I felt broken. Run down. Less than four months prior I hadn’t set foot on a trail in years. Less four months prior I was 35 pounds heavier. Less than four months prior I had no idea the adventure that I’d undertake after nearly single-minded focus on hiking. And here I was with only a few miles left. My emotions started to settle in.
The section between Granite Creek and Sunrise is spectacular. While rains were on their way, the skies were the clearest they’d been and Rainier showed her Northeastern face to me. I broke down and began to weep over what I had nearly accomplished. I recorded a short video with the little battery that I had remaining and it took me months before I could rewatch it because of how raw I was feeling.
Despite how much I hurt, the miles went by smoothly (and I got to see mountain goats!). It was almost entirely elevation loss. I passed hikers who were not so happy to be going in the opposite direction up the mountain, but I felt exhilarated by what I’d been through over these past few days. And then, it was all over after six days and two hours. Just like that.
When I returned to my car I was relieved to see that it was intact. No windows were broken in. The glove box was untouched. Phew! When I opened my door, however, I discovered that food bags and tissues were torn and scattered. Mice had several days with which to plunder the excess backpacking food that I’d left under my seats. In return, the’d left a generous amount of their own spoils. Interestingly, only food that I had repackaged had been touched. Nothing factory sealed had been chewed open. I picked up as best I could, disinfected and started my three hour drive back to Portland.
Food:
I brought about 3200 calories for each day, which was a mistake. I simply wasn’t hungry and ate less than I do off trail. This ended up being somewhat of a frustration as I wanted to reduce my pack weight.
For breakfasts I had oatmeal. The first four days I enjoyed Ultralight Dandy’s mocha oatmeal recipe, then switched to sweetened oats with cranberries and walnuts. I much preferred the mocha oatmeal.
I skipped dinner the first couple of nights because I wasn’t very hungry, got into camp late and didn’t want to have a full bladder right before bed (I don’t like getting up during the night while camping). The remaining nights I devoured a variation on Jupiter’s rice and beans recipe. This was my favorite meal and the only one that I looked forward to.
For snacks, I ate Pro Bar Meal bars, a lot of dried mangos, dried coconut, mixed nuts, raw macadamia nuts, raw pistachios and vegan jerky. I drank Superfood in the mornings and Trailwind before/during one of the tougher sections each day.
What I Wish I’d Left at Home:
What I Did to Prepare:
I’ve hiked very little prior to May 2019. I had covered at least 250 miles between then and my Wonderland trip. In the month leading up to my trip I repeatedly threw myself at Mt. Defiance (13.5 mi; 5,000 ft elevation gain) and Larch Mountain (13.4 mi; 3,900 ft elevation gain). At no point did I ever exceed 15 lbs on my back though, something that I was concerned would be my downfall. And hiking did prove to be much more challenging with a heavy pack.
I read other people’s trip reports, read Hiking the Wonderland Trail by Tami Asars, carried the National Geographic map and spent a majority of my free time for months thoroughly researching all backpacking topics that I could. Hiking and backpacking have become an obsession. I also bought the Wonderland Trail map available on Guthook and this proved to be invaluable.
What I’d Do Differently:
Soak my feet and legs every day—whether I felt I needed it or not.
I liked the idea of trail laundry, but most days just were not warm enough, nor were there enough sunny spots on the trail, for the clothes to dry.
Manage my time better and get started earlier each day. Every moment spent relaxing in camp was a moment that I could take a picture or enjoy a short side trail. Conversely, I’d try to get to camp around 5:30 pm each day. It affords me enough time to “bathe,” cook supper, journal and read/prepare for the next day.
Turn my phone to airplane mode. I wasted a lot of battery hoping for cellular signals. Bring my batteries inside my quilt so as to conserve their power. Maybe wrap them in clothing.
Bring a 30˚F or even a 40˚F quilt. I bought my 20˚F knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to afford a second quilt for a while and did not want to be limited. This is a big quilt though and takes up 8-10 liters in my pack.
Take more pictures and video. Especially of flowers, fungi, geological features, of hikers/rangers/maintenance crew, animals and of myself doing various things.
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2020.03.19 00:25 Frari All JCU teaching on pause next week (SP1 wk5), will switch to online teaching the following week (SP1 wk 6).

Below email from the VC I got this morning.
Dear Colleagues Events over the weekend and this morning have necessitated a rapid review of the University’s response – in particular the further ban on public gatherings particularly in confined spaces. The new measures announced by the Government are intended to slow the speed of community transmission of COVID-19 and, most importantly, protect those most vulnerable in our community.
Whilst the University is exempt from some of these measures (for example, the ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or more), the health and wellbeing of our staff and students is our priority. JCU staff are working extremely hard to support the effort to transition our programs to online delivery by 6 April. Our capacity to do this, while also delivering regular face-to-face teaching, is placing enormous strain on many. In addition, new social distancing measures have been announced by government and these require some focused time to ensure our work and study spaces comply.
For this reason, I have made the decision to pause all face-to-face teaching scheduled to be delivered on the Townsville and Cairns campuses, including, lectures, tutorial, practicals and assessment, for the period Monday 23 March to Friday 27 March, inclusive.
This time is to allow relevant academic and professional staff to fast-track transition to the online delivery of lectures and other course activities where possible. It will also enable us to effect changes needed to implement the new social distancing measures.
Those courses able to convert to online delivery will do so from 30 March, with all others to follow from 6 April. I have been advised that the Nursing program will be ready to go fully online as of the 23 March regardless of campus location, and this is our intention.
Keypath courses, the JCU GP Training Program, non-coursework postgraduate programs (including HDR programs), student work and clinical placements and internships as well as off campus course related rotations that do not require in-person attendance at JCU Townsville and JCU Cairns are not impacted by the pause.
Classes on the Townsville and Cairns campuses will resume on 30 March for lectures, and tutorials/labs/workshops yet to commence online delivery. Students will be advised separately of the status of their course in due course.
During the week beginning 30 March, staff will be in a position to advise your students on the transition arrangements to the new teaching model, in particular pointing students to support available to them as required, including to address issues such as access to the internet or computers at home and other campus access requirements.
It is critical to note that our campuses are not closing. All our facilities and services will remain open and available to you and to our students. We will be encouraging students to stay engaged with their studies during the pause week and to continue to use on campus facilities and services, including libraries, study spaces and eating areas as well as accessing support services as required.
This pause in face-to-face teaching may require adjustments to the academic calendar for this semester and these details will need to be worked through during the pause week and advised to students in due course.
A flexible approach to assessment practices such as extending time for non-submitted assessment, special consideration, submission of medical certificates and awarding supplementary assessment for students due to graduate in semester 1 2020 are all matters that can be anticipated. There will be more on this next week too.
It is important to know that there are more than 1,000 students living in our student accommodation on our Townsville and Cairns campuses. We are providing support to these students and their families and this will also continue during this transition period.
While there are no confirmed cases to date of COVID-19 on our campuses, it is critical that members of our community remain as safe as possible, while ensuring minimal disruption to teaching and research activities.
Our priority in undertaking this work next week is to enable students to stay enrolled and complete their subjects within the normal study period time frame, particularly those who are about to complete their studies with us.
I know this is a time of great stress for many in our community, just as it is for those elsewhere. I have no doubt that we are all doing the very best we can in extraordinary circumstances. Let’s each be understanding of that and kind to each other as we individually and collectively see our way through.
With thanks,
Sandra
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2020.03.13 12:30 DestroyerOfDates K-9 Veterans Day

Observed

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2020.02.18 01:12 jonisantucho Oscars 2021: An inside look (like, really inside) to 50 possible contenders in the next awards race

Another Oscar ceremony happened, and we got our fair share of joy and disappointment. After Parasite surprised the world and took Best Picture, it seems like the game has changed for the awards race, now that non-English speaking films can actually fight and be recognized as well as classics as… Green Book. The Oscar race is still full of pain and glory, and even though the year has barely started, we have a bunch of movies that are fighting for air. And here’s 50 of them. Yes, I had some free time in my hands and this is a cool hobby, so I took the liberty to introduce most of the movies that will have Film Twitter entertained for the following 12 months. I say most, because there are always contenders who come out of nowhere later in the year, so this is the starter set. Here we go.
-Annette: Since Parasite’s road to the Oscars started at Cannes, it seems fair to talk about a movie that is circling a premiere in the world stage that is set in France. After delivering weird, indie classics like Mauvais Sang and Holy Motors (yes, the kind of movies that make you seem like a snob when you recommend them to people), Leos Carax is making his first movie spoken in the English language… and it has a musical screenplay written by the cult rock duo of Sparks. Recently robbed Adam Driver and previous Oscar winner Marion Cotillard sing in this tale of a stand-up comedian and a famous soprano singer who rise and fall in Los Angeles while their daughter is born with a special gift. It seems like a wild bet, but we already know that Carax is a master with musical moments, so this is one of the most intriguing question marks of the year.
-Ammonite: It’s time to talk narratives. On the one hand, we have Kate Winslet, a known name who hasn’t been very successful in the Oscar race since her Oscar win for The Reader over a decade ago (with the exception being her supporting performance in Steve Jobs, where she had a weird accent). On the other, we have Saoirse Ronan, a star on the rise who keeps collecting Oscar nominations, with 4 nods at the age of 25, including her fresh Best Actress loss for Little Women. What happens if we put them together in a drama set in the coasts of England during the 19th century where both of them fall for each other? That’s gonna be a winning formula if writedirector Francis Lee (who tackled queer romance in his acclaimed debut God’s Own Country) nails the Mary Anning story, and Neon (the distribution company founded three years ago that took Parasite to victory) is betting on it.
-Benedetta: We know the Paul Verhoeven story. After isolating himself from Hollywood for over a decade, he took Isabelle Huppert to an Oscar nominated performance with the controversial, sexy, dark and funny thriller Elle. Now, he’s back with another story that perks up the ears, because now he’s covering the life of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century lesbian nun who had religious and erotic visions. If you know Paul, you already can tell that this fits into his brand of horniness, and a possible Cannes premiere could tell us if this has something to carry itself to Oscar night.
-Blonde: With a short but impactful directorial credits list that takes us from Chopper, to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik is back with a film about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who has transcended the ideas of fame and stardom, in ways that are glamorous and nightmarish at the same time. After failing to launch with Naomi Watts or Jessica Chastain,the rising Ana de Armas takes the lead in the retelling of Monroe’s troubled life based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, which is said to be covered in the screenplay as somewhat of a horror movie. We don’t know what that means yet, but Netflix is gonna push hard for this one, especially considering how the Academy loves throwing awards to stars playing previous stars, and that also can possibly include co-stars Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody.
-Breaking News in Yuba County: While he hasn’t gone back to the heights of his success achieved by the box office and award success of The Help (a movie that did not age well), Tate Taylor is still enjoying himself economically due to recent thrillers like The Girl on the Train and Ma. For his next movie, he’s made a dramedy that once again reunites him with Oscar winner Allison Janney, where she plays a woman who has to keep appearances and a hidden body when she catches her husband cheating on her, and then he dies of a heart attack. With a cast that also includes Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, Samira Wiley, Wanda Sykes, Jimmi Simpson and Ellen Barkin, this could be a buzzy title later this year.
-C’mon C’mon: You may love or hate whatever Joaquin Phoenix did in Joker, but you can’t deny the benefit of playing the Crown Prince of Crime in an Oscar-winning performance. The blank check that you share with indie directors afterwards. Now that Joaquin’s cultural cachet is on the rise, Mike Mills gets to benefit with this drama that stars Phoenix and Gaby Hoffmann, with him playing an artist left to take care of his precocious young nephew as they forge an unexpected bond over a cross country trip. We only have to wonder if A24 will do better with this movie’s Oscar chances compared to 20th Century Women.
-Cherry: After killing half the universe and bringing them back with the highest grossing movie of all time, where do you go? For Joe and Anthony Russo, the answer is “away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe”. The Russo brothers are trying to distance themselves and prove that they have a voice without Kevin Feige behind them, with a crime drama that’s also different than their days when they directed You, Me and Dupree or episodes of Arrested Development and Community. To help them in the journey, they took Tom Holland (who also needs to distance himself from Spider-Man, lest he ends up stuck to the character in the audience’s eyes) to star in a crime drama based on former Army medic Nico Walker’s memoir about his days after Iraq, where the PTSD and an opioid addiction led him to start robbing banks.
-Da 5 Bloods: After bouncing back from a slump with the critical and commercial success of BlackKklansman, Spike Lee is cashing a Netflix check to tell the tale of four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to search for their fallen leader and some treasure. With a cast that includes Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Paul Walter Hauser and Chadwick Boseman, this sounds like an interesting combo, although we still should remember the last time that Spike tried his hand at a war movie, with the dull Miracle at St. Anna.
-Dune: If you are on Reddit, you probably know about the new film by movies’ new Messiah, Denis Villeneuve. While the epic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert is getting a new chance in the multiplexes after that David Lynch movie that was forgotten by many, some are hoping that this will be the beginning of a new franchise (as seen by the release date of December 18, taking the spot of the usual Star Wars opening), and a return to the whole “remember when stuff like Return of the King or Fury Road were nominated for Best Picture?” question. Timothee Chalamet will be riding a lot of hope, and sandworm.
-Everybody’s Talking About Jamie: As you start to see, there are several musicals that are gonna be fighting for attention over the next year, and Annette was the first one. Now, we also have this adaptation of the hit West End production, that centers around a gay British teenager who dreams of becoming a drag queen and get his family and schoolmates to accept his sexuality. With a cast that mixes young unknowns, familiar Brits (Sharon Horgan, Sarah Lancashire and my boy Ralph Ineson) and the previously nominated legend that is Richard E. Grant (who is playing a former drag queen named Loco Chanelle), the creative team of the stage musical will jump to the big screen with the help of Fox Searchlight (sorry, just Searchlight), who has clear Oscar hopes with a release date right in the middle of awards heat, on October 23.
-Hillbilly Elegy: Even though the Parasite victory gave many people hope for a new Academy that stops recognizing stuff like previous winner Green Book… let’s be honest, the Academy will still look for movies like Green Book. This year, many people are turning their eyes towards Ron Howard’ adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir about his low income life in a poor rural community in Ohio, filled with drugs, violence and verbal abuse. If this sounds like white trash porn, it doesn’t help to know that Glenn Close, who has become the biggest living Oscar bridesmaid with seven nominations, will play a character called Mamaw. And if that sounds trashy, then you have to know that Amy Adams, who follows Glenn with six nominations, is playing her drug-addicted, careless daughter. I don’t want to call this “Oscar bait”, but it sure is tempting.
-I’m Thinking of Ending Things: After his stopmotion existential dramedy Anomalisa got him a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars but at the same time bombed at the box office, Charlie Kaufman is getting the Netflix check. This time, he’s adapting the dark novel by Iain Reid, about a woman (Jessie Buckley, who is on the rise and took over the role after Brie Larson had to pass) who is taken by her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis), in a trip that takes a turn for the worse. If Kaufman can deliver with this one, it will be a big contender.
-In the Heights: Yes, more musicals! This time, it’s time to talk about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical, that was overshadowed because of his other small play about some treasury secretary. Now, his Broadway ensemble tale about life in a neighborhood in Washington Heights is jumping to the movie screen with Jon Chu at the helm, following the success of Crazy Rich Asians. This Latino tale mixes up-and-comers like Anthony Ramos (who comes straight from Hamilton and playing Lady Gaga’s friend in A Star is Born), names like Corey Hawkins and Jimmy Smits (who is pro bits), and Olga Merediz, who starred in the Broadway show as Abuela Claudia and who could be the early frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, if Chu allows her to shine like she did onstage.
-Jesus Was My Homeboy: When looking at up-and-coming Black actors right now in Hollywood, two of the top names are Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, who already appeared in the same movie in Get Out, which earned Kaluuya a Best Actor nomination. This time, they share the screen in Shaka King’s retelling of the story of Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), an activist and Black Panther leader… as well as the story of William O’Neal (Stanfield), the FBI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the party and arrest him. With the backing of Warner Bros, this will attempt to make an impact with a clash of actors that will have to fight with an August release date, not the ideal time to release an awards movie.
-King Richard: Starting with Suicide Squad, Will Smith has been trying to prove that he’s back and better than ever. Some attempts to get back to the top of the A-list (Aladdin, Bad Boys For Life) have worked, while others (Gemini Man, Spies in Disguise)... have not. But Will is still going, and now he’s going for his next prestige play as he plays Richard Williams, the coach and father of the tennis legends Venus and Serena, who pushed them to their full potential. While it’s weird that the father of the Williams sisters is getting a movie before them, it does sound like a meaty role for Smith, who has experience with Oscar notices with sports biopics because of what he did with Michael Mann in Ali. Let’s hope director Reinaldo Marcus Green can take him there too.
-Last Night in Soho: Every year, one or two directors who have a cool reputation end up in the Dolby Theatre, and 2020 could be the year of Edgar Wright. After delivering his first big box office hit with Baby Driver, the Brit is going back to London to tell a story in the realm of psychological horror, which has been supposedly inspired by classics like Don’t Look Now and Repulsion. With a premise that supposedly involves time travel and a cast that includes Anya-Taylor Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith and Diana Rigg, Wright (who also co-wrote this with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who was just nominated for Best Original Screenplay for her work in 1917) is making a big swing.
-Let Them All Talk: Every year there’s more new streaming services, and that also means that there’s new players in the Oscar game. To secure subscribers to the new service, HBO Max has secured the rights to the next Steven Soderbergh movie, a comedy that stars Meryl Streep as a celebrated author that takes her friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges, again) in a journey to find fun and come to terms with the past. The last time that Soderbergh and Streep worked together, the end result was the very disappointing The Laundromat. Let’s hope that this time everything works out.
-Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Now that Netflix got the deal to adapt August Wilson’s acclaimed plays with Denzel Washington’s production company, the next jump from the stage to the screen is a meaty one. Viola Davis is playing blues singer Ma Rainey in this tale of a heated recording session with her bandmates, her agent and her producer in 1927, with a cast that also includes Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo. The Tony nominated play talked about race, art and the intersection of the two, and it’s gonna be explosive to see that unfold on screen, even if director George C. Wolfe’s previous filmography isn’t very encouraging.
-Macbeth: In a shocking development, the Coen brothers are no more. Well, just this time. For the first time in his career, Joel Coen is making a movie without Ethan, and it’s a Shakespeare adaptation. Denzel Washington is playing the man who wants to be king of Scotland, and Frances McDormand is playing his Lady Macbeth. While this just started filming and it will be a race to finish it in time for competition in the awards race, the potential is there, and this project has everybody’s attention.
-Mank: After scoring 24 Oscar nominations and only winning 2 awards last Sunday, Netflix has to wonder what else must they do to get in the club that awards them. They tried with Cuarón, they tried with Scorsese, they tried with Baumbach, they tried with two Popes, and they still feel a barrier. Now, the big gamble for awards by the streamer in 2020 comes to us in the hands of David Fincher, who is basically their friend after the rest of Hollywood denied him (Disney dropped his 20,000 Leagues adaptation, HBO denied the US remake of Utopia, and Paramount drove World War Z 2 away from him). In his first movie since 2014’s Gone Girl, David will go black and white to tackle a script by his late father about the making of the classic of classics, Citizen Kane, with previous Oscar winner Gary Oldman playing the lead role of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. Will the Academy fall for the ultimate “power of da moviesshhh” story?
-Minari: Sundance can be hit or miss with the breakout films that try to make it to the Oscars. However, you can’t deny the waves made by A24 when they premiered Lee Isaac Chung’s new drama there, ending up winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the US Dramatic Competition. If Parasite endeared Academy voters to Korean families, Steven Yeun hopes that the same thing happens with this story, where he plays a father in the ‘80s who suddenly decides to move his family to Arkansas to start a farm. Even though the reviews have been great, we must also remember that last year, A24 had in their hands The Farewell, another Sundance hit about an Asian family that ended up with no Oscar nominations. Let’s hope that this time, the Plan B influence (remember, that’s Brad Pitt’s production company, of Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave fame) makes a difference.
-Next Goal Wins: It’s a good time to be Taika Waititi. Why? Taika Waititi can do what he wants. He can direct a Thor movie, he can win an Oscar for writing a comedy set in WW2 about a Third Reich boy who has an Imaginary Hitler friend, or he can pop up in The Mandalorian as a droid. Taika keeps winning, and he wants more. Between his press tour for Jojo Rabbit and his return to the MCU, he quickly shot an adaptation of a great documentary about the disgraced national team of American Samoa, one of the worst football teams known to man, as they try to make the cut for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Everybody loves a good sports comedy, and Searchlight bets that we’ll enjoy this story led by Michael Fassbender as the new (and Dutch-American) coach in town who tries to shape the team for victory.
-News of the World: Seven years after their solid collaboration in Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks reunite for more awards love in what seems to be Universal’s main attraction for the Oscars. This time, Hanks stars in a Western drama based on Paulette Jiles’ novel where he plays a traveling newsreader in the aftermath of the American Civil War who is tasked with reuniting an orphaned girl with her living relatives. With a Christmas release date, Universal is betting big in getting the same nomination boost that 1917 is enjoying right now, and the formula is promising.
-Nightmare Alley: Following his Best Picture and Best Director wins for The Shape of Water, everybody in Hollywood wondered what would Guillermo del Toro do next. Well, as Del Toro often does, a little bit of everything and nothing. Some projects moved (as his produced Pinocchio movie on Netflix, or his Death Stranding likeness cameo), others stalled and die (like his proposed Fantastic Voyage remake). But now he’s rolling on his next project, a new adaptation of the William Lindsay Gresham novel that already was a Tyrone Power film in 1947. This noir tale tells the story of a con man (Bradley Cooper) who teams up with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) to trick people and win money, and how things get out of control. With a cast that also includes Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and more, this could play well if it hits the right tone.
-Nomadland: There’s breakout years, and then there’s the amazing potential of Chloe Zhao’s 2020. On the one hand, after making Hollywood notice her skill with the gripping story of The Rider, she got the keys to the MCU kingdom to direct the next potential franchise of Kevin Feige, The Eternals. And just in case, she also has in her sleeve this indie drama that she wrote and directed beforehand, with two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand playing a woman who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. If Chloe nails these two films, it could be the one-two punch of the decade.
-One Night in Miami: Regina King is living her best life. Following her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk and the success that came with her lead role in the Watchmen show on HBO, the actress is jumping to a new challenge: directing movies. For her big screen debut, she’s adapting Kemp Powers’ play that dramatizes a real meeting on February 25, 1964, between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.
-Over the Moon: After earning praise and Oscar nominations with I Lost My Body and Klaus, Netflix will keep its bet on animated movies with a film directed by the legendary Glen Keane. Who? A classic Disney animator responsible for the design of characters like Ariel, the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan and more](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jRkx2PNVr8), and who recently won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, which he co-directed with the late Kobe Bryant. Now, he brings us a musical adventure centered around a Chinese girl who builds a rocket ship and blasts off to the Moon in hopes of meeting a legendary Moon Goddess.
-Passing: It’s always interesting when an actor jumps behind the camera, and Rebecca Hall’s case is no exception. For her directorial debut, Hall chose to adapt Nella Larsen’s acclaimed novel set in Harlem in the 1920s, about two mixed race childhood friends (Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson) who reunite in adulthood and become obsessed with one another's lives. With a premise that explores tough questions about race and sexuality, it looks like a tricky challenge for a first timer, but it would be more impressive if Hall manages to rise over the challenge.
-Prisoner 760: An interesting part of following the awards circuit is looking at when it's appropriate to talk about touchy subjects in recent history. I’m saying that because this next movie tells the real life tale of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a man who, despite not being charged or having a set trial, is held in custody at Guantanamo Bay, and turns towards a pair of lawyers (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) to aid him. Based on the famous journal that the man wrote while he was being detained, the movie (that also counts with Benedict Cumberbatch) is directed by Kevin Macdonald who, a long time ago, helped Forest Whitaker win Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. Could he get back in the race after almost 15 years of movies like State of Play?
-Raya and the Last Dragon: This year, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ bet for the Oscars is a fantasy tale set in a mysterious realm called Kumandra, where a warrior named Raya searches for the last dragon in the world. And that dragon has the voice of Awkwafina. Even though they missed out last Oscars when Frozen II got the cold shoulder by the Academy in Best Animated Feature, this premise looks interesting enough to merit a chance. One more thing: between last year’s Abominable, Over the Moon and this movie, there’s a clear connection of animated movies trying to appeal to Chinese sensibilities (and that sweet box office).
-Rebecca: It’s wild to think that the only time that Alfred Hitchcock made a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture was with 1940’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s psychological thriller novel, more muted and conventional than his more known classics. Now, Ben Wheatley and Netflix are giving the Gothic story a new spin, with Lily James playing the newly married young woman who finds herself battling the shadow of her husband's (Armie Hammer) dead first wife, the mysterious Rebecca. The story is a classic, and we have to see how much weird Wheatley stuff is in the mix.
-Red, White and Water: Between 2011 and 2014, Jennifer Lawrence was everywhere and people loved it. She was America’s sweetheart, the Oscar winner, Katniss Everdeen. But then, everything kinda fell. Those X-Men movies got worse and she looked tired of being in them, her anecdotes got less charming and more pandering to some, she took respectable risks that didn’t pay off with Red Sparrow and Mother!, and some people didn’t like that she said that it wasn’t nice to share private photos of her online. Now, she looks to get back to the Oscar race with a small project funded by A24 and directed by Lila Neugebauer in her film debut, about a soldier who comes back to the US after suffering a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan. Also, Brian Tyree Henry is in this, and it would be amazing if he got nominated for something.
-Respect: You know what’s a surefire way to get Academy voters’ attention? Play a real singer! Rami Malek took a win last year for playing Freddie Mercury, Renee Zellweger just won the gold after portraying Judy Garland, and now Jennifer Hudson wants more Oscar love. Almost 15 years after taking Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls, Hudson will try to get more by playing soul legend Aretha Franklin, in a biopic directed by first timer Liesl Tommy that practically screams “give me the gold”. How am I so sure? Well, see the teaser that they released in December (for a movie that opens in October), and tell me. It will work out better for Hudson than Cats, that’s for sure.
-Soul: Unless they really disappoint (I’m looking at you, The Good Dinosaur, Cars 2 and Cars 3), you can’t have the Oscars without inviting Pixar to the party. This year, they have two projects in the hopes of success. While in a few weeks we’ll see what happens with the fantasy family road trip of Onward, the studio’s biggest bet of the year clearly is the next existential animation written and directed by Pete Docter, who brought Oscar gold to his home with Up and Inside Out. The movie, which centers on a teacher (voice of Jamie Foxx) who dreams of becoming a jazz musician and, just as he’s about to get his big break, ends up getting into an accident that separates his soul from his body, had a promising first trailer, and it also promises a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as new songs by Jon Batiste. The only downside so far for the marketing was the fact that the trailer reveal led people to notice a suspicious trend involving black characters when they lead an animated movie.
-Tenet: When Leonardo DiCaprio finally touched his Academy Award, an alarm went off in the mind of a portion of Internet users, who have made their next crusade to give themselves to the cause of getting Christopher Nolan some Oscar love. And his next blank check, an action thriller involving espionage and time travel, could pull off the same intersection of popcorn and prestige that made Inception both a box office hit and a critically acclaimed Oscar nominee. It helps to have a cast of impressive names like John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson, as well as a crew that includes Ludwig Goransson and Hoyte van Hoytema. In other words, if this becomes a hit, this could go for a huge number of nominations.
-The Devil All the Time: As you may have noticed by now, Netflix is leading the charge in possible Oscar projects. Another buzzy movie that comes from them is the new psychological thriller by Antonio Campos, a filmmaker known for delivering small and intimate but yet intense and terrifying dramas like Simon Killer and Christine. Using the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, Campos will follow non-linearly a cast of characters in Ohio between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Vietnam War, with the help of an interesting cast that includes Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Bill Skarsgard, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough.
-The Eyes of Tammy Faye: After being known as a sketch comedy goofball because of The State, Wet Hot American Summer and Stella, Michael Showalter reinvented himself as a director of small and human dramedies like Hello, My Name is Doris and The Big Sick. For his next project, he’s gonna mix a little bit of both worlds, because he has before him the story of the televangelists Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain, who has been really trying to recapture her early ‘10 awards run to no avail) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, who was previously nominated for Hacksaw Ridge, instead of Silence, because why). With a real life tale that involves Christian theme parks, fraud and conspiracies, this is the kind of loud small movie that Searchlight loves to parade around, especially as an actors showcase (Jojo Rabbit being the most recent example). The first image looks terrifying, by the way.
-The Father: It’s weird to be in the middle of February and say that there’s already a frontrunner for the Best Actor race at the next Oscars. After its premiere in Sundance a couple of weeks ago, every prognosticator pointed in the direction of Anthony Hopkins (recently nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Two Popes), who delivers a harrowing portrayal of an old man grappling with his age as he develops dementia, causing pain to his beleaguered daughter (recent winner Olivia Colman, who also got praised). With reviews calling it a British answer to Amour (in other words: it’s a hard watch), Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his acclaimed play not only benefits from having Hopkins and Colman together as a selling point, because it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, a distributor with experience in getting Academy voters to watch adult movies with heavy themes. If you don’t believe me, watch how they got Julianne Moore a win for Still Alice, as well as recent nominations for Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Glenn Close for The Wife, and Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory. They know the game, and they are going to hit hard for Hopkins and Colman.
-The French Dispatch: If you saw the trailer, we don’t need to dwell too much on the reasons. On the one hand, we have the style of Wes Anderson, a filmmaker who has become a name in both the critics circle and the casual viewer, with his last two movies (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs) earning several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture for the one with Gustave H. Then, we have a long cast that goes from the director’s regulars like Bill Murray to new stars like Timothee Chalamet, and also includes people like Benicio del Toro. The only thing that could endanger the Oscar chances for this is that the story, an anthology set around a period comedy with an European riff on The New Yorker, will alienate the average Academy member.
-The Humans: There’s the prestige of a play, and then there’s the prestige of a Tony-winning play. Playwright Stephen Karam now gets to jump to the director’s chair to take his acclaimed 2016 one-act story to the big screen, and A24 is cutting the check. Telling the story of a family that gets together on Thanksgiving to commiserate about life, this adaptation will be led by original performer Jayne Houdyshell (who also won a Tony for her stage performance), who’ll be surrounded by Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and June Squibb. If it avoids getting too claustrophobic or stagey for the cinema, it will be a good contender.
-The Last Duel: Always speedy, Ridley Scott is working on his next possible trip to the Oscars. This time, it’s the telling of a true story in 14th-century France, where a knight (Matt Damon) accuses his former friend (Adam Driver) of raping his wife (Jodie Comer), with the verdict being determined by the titular duel. It’s a juicy story, but there was some concern when it seemed that the script was only being written by Damon and Ben Affleck (who’ll also appear in the film). A rape story written by them after the Weinstein revelations… not the best look. But then, it was revealed that they were writing the screenplay with indie figure Nicole Holofcener, who last year was nominated for an Oscar for her script for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Let’s hope that the story is told in a gripping but not exploitative way, and that it doesn’t reduce the role of Comer (who deserves more than some of the movie roles that she’s getting after Killing Eve) to a Hollywood stereotype.
-The Power of the Dog: We have to talk about the queen of the indie world, we have to talk about Jane Campion. More than a decade after her last movie, Bright Star, the Oscar and Palme d’Or winner for The Piano returns with a non-TV project (see Top of the Lake, people) thanks to Netflix, with a period drama centered around a family dispute between a pair of wealthy brothers in Montana, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), after the latter one marries a local widow (Kirsten Dunst). According to the synopsis, “a shocked and angry Phil wages a sadistic, relentless war to destroy her entirely using her effeminate son Peter as a pawn”. Can’t wait to see what that means.
-The Prom: Remember the Ryan Murphy blank check deal with Netflix that I mentioned earlier? Well, another of the projects in the first batch of announcements for the deal is a musical that he’ll direct, adapting the Tony-nominated show about a group of Broadway losers (now played by the one and only Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and, uh, James Corden, for some reason) who try to find a viral story to get back in the spotlight, and end up going to a town in Indiana to help a lesbian high school student who has been banned from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. The show has been considered a fun and heartwarming tale of acceptance, so the movie could be an easy pick for an average Academy voter who doesn’t look too hard (and you know that the Golden Globes will nominate the shirt out of this). It’s funny how this comes out the same year than Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and then it’s not funny realizing that Film Twitter will pit the two movies against each other.
-The Trial of the Chicago 7: After getting a taste of the director’s taste with Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin wants more. For his second movie, he’s tackling one of his specialties: a courtroom drama. And this one is a period movie centered around the trial on countercultural activists in the late ‘60s, which immediately attracts a campaign of how “important” this movie is today’s culture. To add the final blow, we have a cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, William Hurt, Michael Keaton and Mark Rylance. If Sorkin can contain himself from going over the top (and with that cast, it would be so easy to surrender to bouts of screaming and winding speeches), this could be one of the top contenders.
-Those Who Wish Me Dead: Having made a good splash in the directorial waters with Wind River, Taylor Sheridan (also known for writing the Sicario movies, the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water or that Yellowstone show that your uncle raves about on Facebook) returns with yet another modern Western. For this thriller based on the Michael Koryta novel, Angelina Jolie stars as a survival expert in the Montana wilderness who is tasked with protecting a teenager who witnessed a murder, while assassins are pursuing him and a wildfire grows closer.
-Untitled David O. Russell Project: Following the mop epic Joy, that came and went in theaters but still netted a Best Actress nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, the angriest director in Hollywood took a bit of a break (it didn’t help that he tried to do a really expensive show with Amazon starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore that fell apart when the Weinstein exposes sank everything). Now, he’s quickly putting together his return to the days of Oscar love that came with stuff like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, with a new movie that is set to star Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan. Even though we don’t know many details (some people are saying the movie is called Amsterdam) except for the fact the movie hasn’t started shooting yet, David is a quick guy, so he’ll get it ready for the fall festival circuit. If there’s one thing that David O. Russell knows (apart from avoid getting cancelled for abusing people like Lily Tomlin, Amy Adams and his niece), it’s to make loud actor showcases.
-Untitled Nora Fingscheidt Project: When Bird Box became one of the biggest hits on Netflix history, the streamer decided to keep itself in the Sandra Bullock business. Sandy’s next project for Ted Sarandos is a drama where she plays a woman who is released from prison after serving time for a violent crime, and re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. To get redemption, she searches her younger sister she was forced to leave behind. With the direction of Fingscheidt, who comes from an acclaimed directorial debut with Systemsprenger (Germany’s submission to the last Academy Awards), and a cast that also includes Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Bernthal, this will also hopefully try its luck later this year.
-Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project: We don’t know if this movie will be ready for the end of the year (although last time, he managed to sneak Phantom Thread under the buzzer and earn several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture), but PTA is apparently gonna start to shoot it soon, with the backing of Focus Features. After several movies with prestige locations and intricate production design, Film Twitter’s Holy Spirit will go back to the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, to tell the story of a high school student who is also a successful child actor.
-Stillwater: Tom McCarthy’s recent career is certainly puzzling. After delivering the weird lows of The Cobbler, he bounced back with the Best Picture winner that was Spotlight. And following that, he… helped produce the 13 Reasons Why series. And following that… he made Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, a Disney+ original movie. Now, he’s back to the award race with a drama starring Matt Damon, who plays a father who rushes from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is in prison after being suspected for a murder she claims she didn’t commit.
-West Side Story: To close things, we have to see one of the possible big contenders of the season, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the iconic musical that translates Romeo and Juliet to the context of a street gang war in 1950s New York. While the decision to adapt again something that has been a classic both in Broadway and in movie theaters almost 60 years ago is a challenge, the idea of Spielberg doing a musical closer to the stage version with Tony Kushner as the writer is too tempting for the average Academy voter, who is already saving a spot in major categories in case Steven nails it in December. However, there’s two question marks. First, how well will Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler stand out in the roles of Tony and Maria? And second, will In the Heights steal some of the thunder of this movie by being, you know, more modern?
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2020.02.09 15:28 STLhistoryBuff Weekly Events Thread 2/10/20 - 2/16/20

Please, feel free to add any events below! Check out the Visitor's Guide for more info!

Looking to meet up with people? Check out Meetup St. Louis.


Mardi Gras Events

Valentine's Day Events


Weekly Events




Sporting Events This Week Attractions Around the Area Comedy This Week Events on the Mississippi River
St. Louis Cardinals schedule Anheuser-Busch Brewery Funny Bone Comedy Club Gateway Arch Events
St. Louis Blues schedule City Museum Helium Comedy Club
St. Louis FC schedule Gateway Arch The Improv Shop
St. Louis Billikens schedule Missouri History Museum
St. Louis Battlehawks schedule National Blues Museum
Gateway Grizzlies schedule St. Louis Aquarium
Gateway Motorsports Park St. Louis Art Museum
St. Louis Ambush schedule St. Louis Science Center
St. Louis Zoo

Recurring Outdoor Activities
Live Music This Week
Other Live Music Venue Calendars
Atomic Cowboy BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups Broadway Oyster Bar
Chesterfield Amphitheater Enterprise Center The Fabulous Fox Theatre
Firebird Fubar Game 6 Honky Tonk
Off Broadway Old Rock House The Ready Room
Sheldon Concert Hall St. Louis Blues Museum Stifel Theatre
Venice Cafe
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2020.02.07 21:21 SheCalledMePaul What's Happening in CT! 2/7/20 - 2/9/20

Friday, February 7th, 2020:

Saturday, February 8th, 2020:

Sunday, February 9th, 2020:


Find more things to do here!

Or check out a newly released movie such as:

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2019.11.15 06:15 huxleyyyy Check your Origin Energy Bills - they're incompetent clowns.

So I've been reconciling my gas bills, usually I just pay it and don't really think about it.
Anyway, I started my account in October 2018, got my first bill in November 2018. $150 for about 40 days supply. No worries.
Then I didn't get another bill until June 2019, after I had moved out in April! (Which was for about $450).
Seemed a lot, and the billing cycle was all over the place, and it looked different to the previous bill, so I analysed this June bill, and there were a litany of errors. I was just shocked at the level of incompetence there.
All in all, it was a clusterfuck of a bill, don't really like these Origin idiots, but up in Cairns you have no choice. Maybe they've fixed the bills since June, but seriously, how did this even pass Accounting/QA?
The main takeaway is to check the maths on your bill, and to check the units they use to calculate it, and compare it with your previous bills. Also check what the actual correct rates are meant to be. They're also very lazy to check the meters in Cairns (not sure about elsewhere), so they often just extrapolate and sort out the difference later, which ends up making it even more confusing and error-prone.
No confidence in Origin Energy. Idiots.
(Edit: typos)
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2019.11.06 22:25 ukpolbot MEGATHREAD 06/11/19 - Solution through Dissolution

Note: Today's earlier megathread can be found here. The bot had a bit of a hiccup and went rogue, but it should be back to working order now.

This post as a reddit-stream

MOOD MUSIC

SUMMARY

Parliament has officially dissolved for the election season. No more business, questions, or debates will take place in Parliament until after the election. Anyone who was a Member of Parliament is no longer one as a result of Parliament being dissolved. So, what now?
We've now entered purdah. 'Purdah' is the period before an election, where there are rules and guidelines on what the Government and the civil service can and can't do. The Government should not seek to introduce new policies during this time. Government resources and the civil service should not be used for any party political purposes. During this period, Ofcom also has additional rules and guidelines for TV broadcasts to ensure that they give "due weight" to all major parties and candidates.
The megathreads continue! This is a place for dumping hot takes, reaction, and discussion about the upcoming election and other political events that don't warrant their own post. We'll be continuing to update the main OP of the MTs with new developments each day, from campaign and manifesto launches to leaders' TV debates.
The Conservatives will launch their election campaign today. So far, the parties which have officially launched their election campaign include Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Brexit Party. We're still awaiting an official launch from the SNP.
Today's megathread is being maintained primarily by jaydenkieran and carrot-carrot.

ELECTION DETAILS

There will be a General Election on 12th December 2019. If you are not registered to vote, you can register online by clicking here. To register to vote, you should be aged 16 or over (or 14 or over in Scotland), and a UK citizen (or an Irish, EU, or Commonwealth citizen with a permanent UK address). NOTE: While you can register to vote at 16, you must be 18 or over to vote in the election.
Registering to vote takes only a few minutes, and is essential if you want to make your voice heard, regardless of which party you support.

DEADLINES

These are the deadlines for voting in this election:
Date Deadline
5pm, 21st Nov Postal and proxy vote registration (N. Ireland)
Midnight, 26th Nov Voter registration
5pm, 26th Nov Postal vote registration (England, Scotland, and Wales)
5pm, 4th Dec Proxy vote application
12th Dec Emergency proxy vote application

META NOTICES

DEVELOPMENTS

Context added for non-UK visitors. All times GMT (UK) unless otherwise stated. If anything is missing here, ping jaydenkieran or carrot-carrot.
PREVIOUSLY ON UKPOL:
  • Speaking on radio station LBC, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg commented on the Grenfell report, stating "I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do." These comments came under fierce criticism, including from survivors' group Grenfell United. Rees-Mogg later apologised, saying "What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade's advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn't and I don't think anyone else would. I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments."
  • Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, launched their campaign to 'stop Brexit and build a brighter future' today. When asked whether, if the election resulted in a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats would 'prop up' a Labour government, she replied "I am categorically ruling out Liberal Democrat votes putting Jeremy Corbyn into No 10. He is not fit to be Prime Minister."
  • The Conservatives came under fire for posting a tweet with edited footage of a Good Morning Britain interview with Labour's Keir Starmer. The footage makes it look like Starmer didn't know how to respond to a question posed by host Piers Morgan, when in actual fact the real footage shows that he responded straight away.
  • Former Chancellor Philip Hammond, who resigned from the Conservative Party when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister as he did not support a no-deal Brexit, announced that he will stand down as an MP to avoid fighting an election against a Conservative candidate. In his letter to constituents, he said "however aggrieved I feel at the loss of the whip, and however strongly I believe that we must deliver Brexit through a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU to protect British jobs and prosperity, I remain a Conservative and I cannot, therefore, embark upon a course of action that would represent a direct challenge in a General Election to the party I have supported all my adult life."
  • Outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker gave an interview to the BBC where he responded to Labour stating they would negotiate a new Brexit deal if they won the election, saying "It will be up to the next Commission to decide if, yes or no, there is room for manoeuvre for a new deal - or new treaty - honestly speaking, I don't think this is a realistic approach."
  • The Liberal Democrats launched legal action against ITV as a result of the broadcaster excluding leader Jo Swinson from their election debate (a head-to-head between Johnson and Corbyn).
  • There have been calls on Welsh minister Alun Cairns to resign after he was accused of lying about his knowledge that a Conservative candidate for the Welsh Assembly, Ross England, had sabotaged a rape trial. He claimed he had been unaware of Ross England's role in the trial, but the BBC has obtained a leaked email showing he was made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.
TODAY:
  • Parliament was dissolved at 00:01, kicking off the pre-election ('purdah') period.
  • Sky News' Kay Burley empty-chaired Tory chairman James Cleverly this morning after he didn't turn up to a scheduled interview. Cleverly later responded on Twitter, stating that he was doing a radio interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO and "cannot be in two studios at the same time".
  • The Green Party launched their election campaign, calling for £100 billion a year to be spent on tackling the "climate emergency". Sian Berry, the co-leader of the party, said "Some things are even bigger than Brexit. This must be the climate election. The future won't get another chance."
  • Welsh minister Alun Cairns resigned after he was accused of lying about his knowledge that a Conservative candidate for the Welsh Assembly, Ross England, had sabotaged a rape trial.
  • At a speech in Telford, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments about Grenfell, saying "I’ll tell you what’s common sense: Don’t put flammable cladding on people’s homes. That’s common sense. Don’t close fire stations and don't cut fire fighters. That’s common sense."
  • Activist group Extinction Rebellion won a High Court challenge against the Metropolitan Police who imposed a London-wide ban on the group's protests last month.
  • At a press event, former Speaker John Bercow expressed his view on Brexit, stating "Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war.".
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the Conservatives election campaign from 10 Downing Street after an audience with the Queen, expressing frustration at Parliament. He said, "I don't want an early election... but we've got to the stage where we have no choice, because our Parliament is paralysed."
  • The Labour Party's National Executive Committee has banned Chris Williamson, Stephen Hepburn, and Roger Godsiff from standing in the election as Labour candidates. Williamson was suspended because of an antisemitism row, Hepburn was being investigated for a sexual harassment claim, and Godsiff was facing reselection in his constituency.
  • The Lib Dems will stand down their candidate in Beaconsfield to try and boost the chances that former Conservative MP Dominic Grieve (who is pro-Remain) is re-elected to Parliament.
  • Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of Labour, will not contest the election, citing "personal" rather than "political" reasons.
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2019.11.06 09:03 ukpolbot MEGATHREAD 06/11/19 - Solution through Dissolution

This post as a reddit-stream

MOOD MUSIC

SUMMARY

Parliament has officially dissolved for the election season. No more business, questions, or debates will take place in Parliament until after the election. Anyone who was a Member of Parliament is no longer one as a result of Parliament being dissolved. So, what now?
We've now entered purdah. 'Purdah' is the period before an election, where there are rules and guidelines on what the Government and the civil service can and can't do. The Government should not seek to introduce new policies during this time. Government resources and the civil service should not be used for any party political purposes. During this period, Ofcom also has additional rules and guidelines for TV broadcasts to ensure that they give "due weight" to all major parties and candidates.
The megathreads continue! This is a place for dumping hot takes, reaction, and discussion about the upcoming election and other political events that don't warrant their own post. We'll be continuing to update the main OP of the MTs with new developments each day, from campaign and manifesto launches to leaders' TV debates.
The Conservatives will launch their election campaign today. So far, the parties which have officially launched their election campaign include Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Brexit Party. We're still awaiting an official launch from the SNP.
Today's megathread is being maintained primarily by jaydenkieran and carrot-carrot.

ELECTION DETAILS

There will be a General Election on 12th December 2019. If you are not registered to vote, you can register online by clicking here. To register to vote, you should be aged 16 or over (or 14 or over in Scotland), and a UK citizen (or an Irish, EU, or Commonwealth citizen with a permanent UK address). NOTE: While you can register to vote at 16, you must be 18 or over to vote in the election.
Registering to vote takes only a few minutes, and is essential if you want to make your voice heard, regardless of which party you support.

DEADLINES

These are the deadlines for voting in this election:
Date Deadline
5pm, 21st Nov Postal and proxy vote registration (N. Ireland)
Midnight, 26th Nov Voter registration
5pm, 26th Nov Postal vote registration (England, Scotland, and Wales)
5pm, 4th Dec Proxy vote application
12th Dec Emergency proxy vote application

META NOTICES

DEVELOPMENTS

Context added for non-UK visitors. All times GMT (UK) unless otherwise stated. If anything is missing here, ping jaydenkieran or carrot-carrot.
PREVIOUSLY ON UKPOL:
  • Speaking on radio station LBC, Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg commented on the Grenfell report, stating "I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do." These comments came under fierce criticism, including from survivors' group Grenfell United. Rees-Mogg later apologised, saying "What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade's advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn't and I don't think anyone else would. I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments."
  • Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, launched their campaign to 'stop Brexit and build a brighter future' today. When asked whether, if the election resulted in a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats would 'prop up' a Labour government, she replied "I am categorically ruling out Liberal Democrat votes putting Jeremy Corbyn into No 10. He is not fit to be Prime Minister."
  • The Conservatives came under fire for posting a tweet with edited footage of a Good Morning Britain interview with Labour's Keir Starmer. The footage makes it look like Starmer didn't know how to respond to a question posed by host Piers Morgan, when in actual fact the real footage shows that he responded straight away.
  • Former Chancellor Philip Hammond, who resigned from the Conservative Party when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister as he did not support a no-deal Brexit, announced that he will stand down as an MP to avoid fighting an election against a Conservative candidate. In his letter to constituents, he said "however aggrieved I feel at the loss of the whip, and however strongly I believe that we must deliver Brexit through a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU to protect British jobs and prosperity, I remain a Conservative and I cannot, therefore, embark upon a course of action that would represent a direct challenge in a General Election to the party I have supported all my adult life."
  • Outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker gave an interview to the BBC where he responded to Labour stating they would negotiate a new Brexit deal if they won the election, saying "It will be up to the next Commission to decide if, yes or no, there is room for manoeuvre for a new deal - or new treaty - honestly speaking, I don't think this is a realistic approach."
  • The Liberal Democrats launched legal action against ITV as a result of the broadcaster excluding leader Jo Swinson from their election debate (a head-to-head between Johnson and Corbyn).
  • There have been calls on Welsh minister Alun Cairns to resign after he was accused of lying about his knowledge that a Conservative candidate for the Welsh Assembly, Ross England, had sabotaged a rape trial. He claimed he had been unaware of Ross England's role in the trial, but the BBC has obtained a leaked email showing he was made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.
TODAY:
  • Parliament was dissolved at 00:01, kicking off the pre-election ('purdah') period.
  • Sky News' Kay Burley empty-chaired Tory chairman James Cleverly this morning after he didn't turn up to a scheduled interview. Cleverly later responded on Twitter, stating that he was doing a radio interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO and "cannot be in two studios at the same time".
  • The Green Party launched their election campaign, calling for £100 billion a year to be spent on tackling the "climate emergency". Sian Berry, the co-leader of the party, said "Some things are even bigger than Brexit. This must be the climate election. The future won't get another chance."
  • Welsh minister Alun Cairns resigned after he was accused of lying about his knowledge that a Conservative candidate for the Welsh Assembly, Ross England, had sabotaged a rape trial.
  • At a speech in Telford, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments about Grenfell, saying "I’ll tell you what’s common sense: Don’t put flammable cladding on people’s homes. That’s common sense. Don’t close fire stations and don't cut fire fighters. That’s common sense."
  • Activist group Extinction Rebellion won a High Court challenge against the Metropolitan Police who imposed a London-wide ban on the group's protests last month.
  • At a press event, former Speaker John Bercow expressed his view on Brexit, stating "Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war.".
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the Conservatives election campaign from 10 Downing Street after an audience with the Queen, expressing frustration at Parliament. He said, "I don't want an early election... but we've got to the stage where we have no choice, because our Parliament is paralysed."
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2019.10.24 08:45 Rocknocker DEMOLITION DAYS, PART 36

Continuing
We, to a man, stood our ground as they made feints closer, closer, closer. Then eventually in very close proximity to our little group of concealed party favors.
Now, we didn’t want to blow them up, per se. No, really. We just wanted to let them know that they had made really bad career decisions that day. If they wanted to remain breathing normally, they should categorically get the fuck out of Dodge now, lest they end up less than 100% functional.
They were obviously heavily tanked-up, loaded with Dutch courage, getting closer, and more belligerent. They inched and centimetered closer to, then finally right on target. Just in the perfect place for an up close and personal demonstration of our subterranean deterrents.
I looked to the good Doctors, and they nodded back to me; all grinning very evilly.
SHOWTIME!
Now, Primacord detonates at around 25,000 feet per second. So, it took about 1.03 milliseconds after I hit the button on the blasting machine for the first line of explosives to detonate. It threw up an impressive vertical curtain of earth slightly ahead of the hooligans and drifted to settle on and over the crowd of reprobates.
They were flummoxed. They didn’t know to get angry, go away, or to attack. More emphatically, they didn’t know whether to shit or wind their watch.
Dr. Zed smilingly accepted the blasting machine and after a quick re-wire, pressed the ‘Go’ button for round two.
Another lateral explosion occurred behind them this time. Even though their booze-addled brains, they realized they had been bracketed. This served to staunch much of their bravado. They realized that things had suddenly, and in a big way, gone decidedly south for them.
Dr. Seri was up next and the line of Primacord, which was actually rather closer to the last vehicle in their caravan than we had anticipated, detonated. Another meter or so closer, and Mongolia would have unknowingly entered the space race.
The bandits were completely taken off guard. Shocked, scared shitless, and stupid, they broke ranks and were running around in a believable imitation of a flock of decapitated Gallus domesticus. There was shouting, unbridled panic, and them plowing into each other. They were knocking each other over in their fervent desire to suddenly be elsewhere, anywhere, on the planet rather than here.
That left the final row of Primacord. The one with the little 5 kilo party favor buried out in the desert. I wandered out in the front of our crowd, holding the blasting machine. I was letting them know I was armed, angry, and we weren’t about to go gentle into that, goodnight.
Panic dug it claws in further as these brigands were not used to their prey fighting back. They blustered and made a lot of bad noise. However, they stopped and froze; standing stock-still as I fired off a couple of steel-jacketed .357 rounds skyward.
Намжүүн! Namjüün! Fuck off! Зайл! Zail! Go away!” I shouted at the top of my voice.
I was in no mood to deal with these asswipes and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that I was uber-PISSED OFF!
Last chance, assholes.
“Намжүүн! Namjüün! Fuck off! Зайл! Zail! Go away!” I bellowed at them once more.
They started to get into their vehicles slowly, but evidently needed a wee bit more encouragement. My Polish and Japanese counterparts were right behind me, bring up the rear, watching that we weren’t going to be flanked. There were now three foreign languages searing the warm Mongolian air with very colorful and some frankly anatomically impossible suggestions, dark oaths, and epitaphs.
“You had your chance” I mused aloud.
Mash goes the boom-maker button.
A huge sheet and monstrously great throbbing, pulsating billows of desert earth that would have impressed Uncle Bår shook them, their vehicles and partially buried the whole caboodle.
I walked out now with the blaster held high, giving them the impression that they were next.
Chomping my cigar, I proffered the blasting machine in one hand and my gleaming nickel-plated .357 in the other.
They finally got the message.
They disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. Baggi was already on the shortwave to the local constabulary giving them the play-by-play and descriptions of this band of filthy malefactors.
“Ашшолc!” I muttered as I walked back to camp. My Mongolian language skills were coming along a treat.
The next day, the sheriffs arrived late in the morning. Tyuma, Baggi and Moony gave them both the descriptions and events of the past day. They walked out into the desert, looked around and all came walking back laughing.
Our would-be gatecrashers were indeed a group of cross-border bandits and have been plaguing the southern Gobi with their dirty work. They stole fossils, looted caravans, and even attacked a tour bus loaded with Germans. The last one didn’t work out so well as the bus driver blitzkrieged one of the bandit’s trucks and put that outlaw into hospital. And later into jail.
The police wanted to meet me. We went over my permits, my paperwork and they really enjoyed playing around with my .357. In fact, one of them tried to get me to trade for his 9mm Makarov, a Russian shootin’ iron. I begged off saying it would prove difficult to explain to exit customs why my pistol mutated from an American Colt to a Russian Makarov while in-country.
They said they’d try and keep the pressure on these idiots and make sure we had a more uneventful remainder of an expedition. They left, wishing us well, and promised to look in on us once in a while.
We never saw them again.
Back to the problem at hand. We spent the next few days cutting the block into 12 more or less equal pieces. The coal mine had sent over a series of hydraulic jacks that made our life so much easier. We were able to ‘easily’ flip each sub-block and plaster it, readying them for their transport back to Ulaanbaatar.
Our low-boy semi-trucks began to show up and we just had to wait a short time before the wheel loader was trundled over to location. The wheel loader driver cut a service road so the Lorries could drive up to within a few meters of the quarry. He also cleared the entire quarry area around the blocks with a couple of deft passes of his huge machine.
Each lowboy could accept one or two of the blocks. After we chained them to the wheel loader’s bucket, and he gingerly set them on the trailers, where we all jumped on and chained them down. We had plastered a series of heavy iron U-bolts into each block for attachments of these chains. A little prior planning saved a lot of time and headaches.
12 hours later, the last semi-trailer truck left for the University and Museum in Ulaanbaatar. The quarry over which we had all fussed for so many days was obliterated by the wheel loader as he had made a few quick passes to fill in the dent we had made in the earth.
The wheel loader driver stayed the night and we all had a fine time toasting him, our luck, and the wonderful country of Mongolia and all its people.
The next morning, we were all going nomad again. We had some sites that had been reported by several different previous expeditions. So we were off to make a big Gobi-sized loop which would eventually, in a week and a half’s time, lead back to Ulaanbaatar.
We said our goodbyes to the wheel loader driver, saddled up, and headed west.
After several days of traveling, prospecting, and camping, we were all getting rather whiffy. Bouncing around the Gobi also was proving to be strenuous. It was hot, windy, buggy, and very dusty. We were beginning to show sight of travel weariness.
Plus there were the herds of brazen little kangaroo rats.
After a conclave of team leaders, it was decided a day off was required. Close at hand, that is, within a day’s drive, was Buuntsagaan Lake and Hot Springs. It looked like just the ticket for our road-weary clan.
The lake was bereft of visitors so we had our choice of camping sites. We all wanted to be right up on the lakeshore as it looked terribly inviting and we all wanted to scrape a few layers of Gobi off our collective epidermi. There were a few rooms at the hot springs hostel, but Esme and I decided to tent it tonight, as usual. We listened to the oddly prescient Tyuma and set up our tent in a more protected, out of the way area.
The rest of our crowd, after filling the hostel to maximum capacity, pitched their tents right out on the sandy beach of the beautiful intermontane lake.
We all had great times swimming, hot springing, and using something a little less primitive than a pit toilet.
It’s the little things in life…
Right as evening began to fall, Tyuma called us over and told us to fold our tent and get everything into the UAZ.
“Storm is coming. Going to be big.” He noted.
We didn’t argue, but the others on the beach we had warned decided they would just weather the storm. Besides, it was such a nice night coming. How bad could a little thunderstorm be?
We soon found out.
The winds went from dead calm to gale force in the span of seconds. What was ever outdoors and not nailed down was flying or flapping in the breeze. The tents all looked like someone had hooked up an air compressor to each and overinflated them 150%.
Thunder boomed mightily, and lightning marched, crackling all around the perimeter of the lake. From the protected confines of Tyuma’s UAZ, it was all terrifyingly exciting.
The rain hit, and it hit with a vengeance. Instead of looking like someone took a garden hose to you, it’s rather that someone dumped a swimming pool on you. Tents that survived the winds were flatted by the driving rain. We had now 7 people in Tyuma’s UAZ, most of them watching helplessly as the weather made short work of their expensive North Face products.
Luckily, the Uaz had ample internal power so we had Tyuma’s disco lights to add to the lightning crackling festivities. He also had an unfortunately large collection of Turkish rap and Bulgarian disco music.
However, we also had cigars, cigarettes, beer, and vodka.
With nothing else to do, we invented the “Mongolian Instant Thunderstorm Drinking Game”.
Thunderclap? 1 shot of vodka. Lightning strike? Another shot. A direct hit on the van? Pass the bottle…
It was a game most at the time were trying hard to lose.
Hail dropped by for a visit, with a vengeance, however, it didn’t last too long. Luckily the tents were already wind and rain flattened or the hail would have punched holes through them like so much alpine cheese. I seem to recall a similar event in my life some months back. Odd how things tend to repeat themselves…
The storm abated as abruptly as it began. We cautiously ventured out to check the damage.
The storm winds had blown a large seiche of lake water high onto the shore. In its wake, it left a large number of 30-40 centimeter perch-like fish. They were a gladly accepted bounty which added some variety to our mutton and carbohydrate-rich diets over the last weeks.
After drying everyone out the next morning, it was back to the job at hand. Surveying, taking samples and checking on previous discoveries.
Along the way, we went past the ruins of many, many Buddhist monasteries; as they were forbidden by the Stalinist regime emplaced here earlier. We did find one that was still operating and were warmly welcomed by the head monk.
He offered us a place to stay the night and we gladly accepted as the monastery was ringed by a great rock wall, hundreds, and hundreds of years old. It’s one of the reasons this particular monastery still existed. It also would have the same effect on cross border bandits.
We pitched our camp in the back-yard of the monastery and were circumspect in our actions as to not offend our hosts. I locked my trusty sidearm in Tyuma’s truck and kept my cigar and Yorsh lowly discreet.
After evening prayers, the head monk visited with us and we had a wonderful listen to the history and mythology of Buddhism. Tyuma couldn’t stand it anymore and fired up a Marlboro.
The monk offhandedly asked if he had an extra.
Over beer and cigars, we were regaled with more history, folklore, and incredible tales from this part of the world. It was most de-centralizing. He also explained the ovoo, the rock cairns we were constantly seeing that were adorned with strips of blue cloth.
“Prayer cairns,” he said. Each strip of blue cloth was a prayer. There were often offerings of money, food, and tobacco left at the ovoos as well, but much of that mysteriously disappeared.
We left the next day after accepting their blessings for long lives and a fruitful expedition.
We left them a box of cigars and a few bottles of vodka.
“Prayer offerings, for luck,” I said to the group. No one said a word.
We headed northwest and to the outer reaches of the Gobi. Time was drawing nigh. We had accomplished all of the mission parameters and now it was time for sightseeing, geologizing, and taking in the wonders of the Mongolian landscape.
We stopped at a recently erupted volcano and had a great time wandering around and exploring the ice caves that had formed back in the Late Pleistocene. Got to remember, we’re geologists, and ‘recent’ to us means ‘in the last three or four million years’.
As we began our swing more northerly, we were seeing more diverse sorts of fauna. Great herds of wild horses, marmots who were the big brothers to South Dakota prairie dogs, and an amazing assortment of raptors, that is, birds of prey.
Huge Kazakh eagles, harpy owls, hawks, osprey, and vultures. There were many more species of birds here, as Dr. BG, amateur ornithologist enjoyed pointing out, than in Japan.
Then it really hit the fan. We drove smack into a massive swarm of locusts, Oedaleus asiaticus.
These were not your little Salt Lake City ‘we’re going to eat your crops’ types of locusts. Oh, no. These were more ‘we’re going to strip your flesh and leave your bones to bleach in the sun’ batch of bugs.
We had to pull over and wait until the swarm had passed. Driving through them would have been suicidal. The locusts would mash up against the windshield rendering it opaque. Their sheer numbers would choke off the radiator of any water-cooled vehicle. So, we sat in Tyuma’s UAZ; chitchatting, smoking our smokes, drinking our drinks.
Es decided now would be a good time for a nap, so she crawled into the far back of the truck and made a little nest for herself. I, on the other hand, had to piss so bad I thought my back teeth were floating.
I set a new all-state outdoor urination record as I tied my flannel shirt around my head and donned my duster. Tyuma joined me as he had to answer nature’s call as well. We took turns de-locusting each other, several times before we got back into the van. It was a scene right out of the Raiders cave spider incident.
These locusts were huge, fully 6 to 8 centimeters in length. Winged with huge, nasty, bitey looking mandibles. They did indeed look like aerial piranhas that could strip a human down to blanched bleaching bones if they really wanted.
The entire convoy sat for 8 hours until the worst of them passed. Finally, as their ranks thinned, we decided to head back out towards our destination.
That didn’t go well as the vehicles were so caked with locust schmoo in just a few miles, we decided to pull off the road, circle the wagons and spend the night in a cold camp. Rations were whatever you could find that didn’t require cooking. Luckily, we were well stocked with jerky and fermented liquid bread. Everyone remained in their vehicles for the night.
Except for Esme and me. We weathered the storm and went out for a look around. There wasn’t a stick of greenery that could be found. The locusts had lawnmowered every piece of chlorophyll-producing flora down to nubbins.
If nothing else, they cleared the path for Es’s discovery of the remains of the Eocene mammal, Gomphos. It was a stem lagomorph, or distant cousin to rabbits, pikas, and hares. We collected it in less than an hour. It was our only post-Cretaceous fossil for the whole trip.
The next day, just after dawn, we headed for the nearest ger camp. The vehicles were disgusting and needed a good hose-down. We were all semi-cranky, sore from spending the night in our vehicles and being bereft of a hot dinner. Morale was a bit on the draggy side.
We took over the entire camp which was luckily empty. We didn’t care what it cost. It had hot food, hot showers, and a place to get horizontal away from big, nasty, flying bitey bugs.
The next day we were all in better spirits. We were out of the Gobi and headed back towards Ulaanbaatar. First, we were going to take a side trip to the Przewalski's horse reserve in the Khustain Nuruu National Park, on the way back to the city. They are one of the oldest breeds of horse and most primitive in terms of being considered the only 'true' wild horse extant in the world today, never having been domesticated.
We stayed the night there and had an excellent time getting to know the local takhi, as they are known. They may have never been domesticated, but they certainly had no fear of humans. One was especially enraptured with Esme as she had brought along some carrots and apples for the equine crowd. It followed her everywhere. The curator of the reserve said that Esme must have good horse sense and that these horses are keen judges of character. Must be why they avoided me.
We ended up sponsoring ‘Socks’, as Esme named her new charge. We parted with a sum of Tugriks for Socks’ better welfare. Today, we still send them an annual donation in our and our horse-crazed daughter’s names.
After all this horsing around, we were back hot on the trail, heading eastwardly toward Ulaanbaatar. We still had several days to go and there was rather a lot of geology gamboling around the countryside, right outside of our vehicle’s windows.
Since Es and I were the only soft-rock geologists in this crowd of paleontologists, it naturally fell upon us to explain the vistas by which we were passing. I was searching the old Russian and Mongolian reconnaissance geological maps while Esme was giving a good rundown over the radio of the rocks and structures we were seeing.
We passed by more recent spatter-cone volcanoes and stopped at one for lunch. There was a conical structure some 50 or so meters in height and was vaguely emitting little wisps of smoke. These were indeed very recent, in fact, active basaltic spatter cones dotting the landscape. They were not on our maps so they were evidently new discoveries. There probably weren’t all that new, just overlooked by previous geological parties. As such, we were able to name them.
Our maps now showed Japan Peak, Mt. Krakow, Bataar Highland, and Es-Rock Rock. Since we were the first group recording these, we received the honor of naming them. Each group named them for other members of the expedition, even naming one for the American crew.
Being seriously chuffed with ourselves, we continued our slow eastward drive. Incredible vistas of the open steppe, badlands topography, and wide open spaces were everywhere. Once past the town of Altai, we traveled more or less northeastward. Past Taishir, past Gegeen Lake, where I couldn’t convince the caravan to stop for the night so I could try some more fishing.
We continued towards Tsagaankhairkhan, on the Zavkhan River. We did stop for a breather here but I couldn’t raise any fishy prospects in our short visit this time. Further north, we made a tourist stop at Uliastai's Zavkhan Aimag Museum – the Famous People Museum, in the foothills of the Tarvagatai Mountains. The topography was changing from desert plain to bouncy, jagged, disorderly mountains. We were in the Central Asiatic Altai Mountain chain.
The Zavkhan Aimag Museum - Famous People Museum features well-known Zavkhanites from the aimag (region), including Mongolia’s first two democratically elected presidents, P. Ochirbat and N. Bagabandi. The adjoining Zavkhan History Museum contains the bones of a Pleistocene mammoth, some fine religious art, and a coral tsam mask, worn during Buddhist lama dances. There are also a few photographs of the region taken in the late 19th and early 20th century, a wall map depicting Uliastai's layout when it was a garrison city, and some grisly reminders of the Manchu era in the form of shackles and torture devices. It was most entertaining and enlightening.
After lunch and back on the ‘road’, we headed north to Tosontsengel. From there we head east for the duration of our tour. We pass into the tiny town of Iik-Uul, which Tyuma said was ‘something special’. It was getting on toward late afternoon and we were all about ready for a stop. We stopped first by the “Roadside Eatery” just north of town and invaded this little hole-in-the-wall snack bar.
We ordered virtually every variety of noodle dish they offered. Some with lamb, some with mutton, some with mystery meat; all delicious, if you ignored the somewhat semi-grubby surroundings. What was so special is that it featured a full Western-style standup bar. We were allowed to bivouac that night just behind this little shop. In no time at all, our tents were pitched, laundry hung to dry, and most of us were back in the bar.
As usual, music broke out later that night as more and more locals drifted in. It was quite the crowd, songs in badly-tuned Polish, Mongolian, Japanese, and English drifted out the doors until the late evening. The proprietor, happy to have us as guests called “Last Call!” and by midnight, we were all soring soundly out on the steppes.
We were up bright and early. After a quick noodley breakfast at the Roadside Eatery, we were on our way eastward, with the largish town of Tsetserling as our evening’s stopover.
Through Tariat, and just outside of Khorgo, we had our only flat tire. The lead Japanese vehicle blew the left rear and luckily, they had a spare, but no jack. We scrounged the other vehicles and found a jack that would work on their larger Land Cruiser. I offered to help change the tire, but Baggi and Tyuma forbade it. This was their exclusive department.
With nothing else to do but wait, I broke out the binoculars as Esme set up our camera and tripod. We wanted some scenic overview pictures for our reports when we returned home.
As I scanned the scenery, I saw a large herd of wild horses, gazelles, and many birds gathering around an oddly brightly white-colored outcrop of rocks a few tens of kilometers distant. The rest of the rocks we’ve seen over the last couple of days were melanic: dark, and mostly gray-brown-black.
I could clearly see a large quasi-circular pattern of these snow-white outcrops due to the distance and our relative higher elevation. I went over to inform my Polish, Japanese, and Mongolian counterparts to get their take on this odd situation.
Esme and I thought it resembled some sort of diapiric intrusion that popped through the alluvial valley-floor regolith like some form of terrestrial acne. Density differences due to lithostatic loading can mobilize lower density rocks at depth and literally squeeze them up to the surface like toothpaste from a tube.
In the US Gulf Coast, these are salt domes and can be enormous. They also harbor vast amounts of oil and gas. It could also be a carbonatite lava flow; lava made of essentially melted limestone. Very, very rare and hosts to incredibly exotic and valuable mineral deposits. Either way, we suggested we take the time to investigate, as none of this appeared on any of our maps.
The flat fixed, we were back bouncing eastward. Looks like Tengri, the Mongolian harbinger of good fortune, was smiling upon us that day as the road cut directly through the circular formation. We stop off to the side of the road and piled out to investigate.
It was halite. A natural salt lick, which explained all the animals I saw further back. This was an important find. As I had noted, in the Gulf Coast, salt domes are host to huge deposits of oil and natural gas. Mongolia’s oil industry is small and hasn’t been done too well since the Russians gave up prospecting in the late 1960s. Sure, there was some ongoing development of oil and gas over to the west and south, towards China in the Delgerkhan Sub-basin and the Tamtsag Basin, which are host to the countries only two oil fields, Zuunbayan and Tsagaan. These are clear over on the other side of the country and there is no oil, nor gas known from this far west. This could have significant ramifications.
If it was a salt dome, they occur in groups. If the salt is mobile, as is demonstrated here, it could form hydrocarbon traps. If there are appropriate reservoir rocks and a good source for the hydrocarbons, such as in the Jurassic and Cretaceous further east, this could be a bird nest on the ground, an oilfield or two. This could be a game-changer for the Mongolian extractive economy.
I had to map and document this as much as possible in our short time. I ask Esme to photograph everything she thinks important. I ask Tyuma and Moony to go out and hnt up some samples of all the different types of rocks. I pull out my mapping table, theodolite, compass, and Leroy lettering set. I get to work.
Tyuma brings me back a beautiful sample of almost pure sheared halite. Pure native rock salt, the reason for all the animals. There is an abundance of associated pink, green, and yellow minerals in the surrounding shales and siltstones. This is really beginning to look like something substantial. Baggi comes over and asks me to come with him, he’s found something unusual and has no idea what it might be.
He shows me a dark stained pit within the salt. I hack away at it with my Estwing and break off a piece of glistening, black mineral. I give it a whiff and it smells exactly like old crude oil.
I take this back to camp and ask for the opinions of the Polish and Japanese teams. They ponder over it and Dr. Woz asks me for my lighter. I hand it over, he strikes it and applies the flame to our sample. It burns with a cloud of black, unctuous smoke.
“Rock, in my opinion, this is Gilsonite” he pronounces.
Gilsonite is basically the fossil remains of crude oil that has been weathered as all the lighter volatiles have long since escaped. We all agree and I return to the site to take some more samples. Unfortunately, the section in question has other ideas. It was hard, ductile, and fairly reluctant to give up its prize so easily.
Having had enough of this, I go to our van, pop open the trailer and extract a few blasting caps, some demo wire and the blasting machine. These are initiators, but pack enough of a thwack to get the rocks here to release their geochemical hold. No great production, I just tell everyone to stand back a few meters and its FIRE IN THE HOLE!
Ker-POP! The rocks shatter and yield up some very nice hand samples which we bag, tag, and notate for future reference and research at University.
Out of seemingly nowhere, a local shows up. He was wondering what was going on when he heard the blasting caps go off. Tyuma and Moony explain who we are and what we’re up to when he suddenly becomes very animated.
He points off to the north and we can see a solitary ger with a wobbly wooden windmill standing beside it. Seems the storm we experienced a few days ago played hod with his windmill and it was threatening to collapse and crash down into his house. Could we be of any help, as his wife and children couldn’t help shift the heavy wooden structure?
Tyuma relates his story to Es and me. I’m standing there smiling like a damned Cheshire cat. Knock down an old wooden structure, with precision?
Why certainly, my good man, most certainly.
We sample some of the ooze that seeped in from out little shot hole and confirmed it was hydrocarbons. Vials of this discovery were going back to the museum and university as a bonus.
We load back into the caravan and take the local back to his ger.
Upon arrival, Esme shouts “Hохдоо байлга!”, “Hold your dogs!” the traditional nomadic Mongolian greeting.
Tyuma and Baggi’s jaws drop almost to the ground in humorous amazement.
We meet the family and see the ancient windmill was treated very roughly indeed by the last week’s weather. It was swaying now in the light breeze and approximately 15 or so meters tall. If it fell in the wrong direction, it would make a mess of the ger to which it was standing next; possibly collapsing it.
Not a good thing.
Since Tengri had been so good to us that day, I immediately start assessing the situation. It had four stout wooden though weather-beaten legs, and wobbly as hell. The rusty 3 bladed metal prop-rotor up top would certainly make a large dent into anything it fell into.
Easy-peasy.
This was a job for none other than Captain Primacord. A few millisecond delay blasting cap super-boosters and wraps of Primacord would reduce this looming wooden danger to a pile of kindling in no time.
After having everyone home vacate the ger, I told everyone to just stand back, keep your hands in your pockets and let Esme, Tyuma and myself handle this. It’ll be over in minutes, I assured the crowd.
Wrapping the Primacord was simple, thanks to the miracle of Duct Tape. I wired in the blasting caps and boosters so that the left-hand legs opposite the ger would be blown out in a section of half a meter’s height. 500 Milliseconds later, the right-hand legs would be sheared in a single plane. With a good chunk of the left legs gone, the tower has no option but to fall in that direction, away from the ger.
This was a cakewalk but everyone save for Tyuma and Es thought I was a practitioner of the black arts. I arranged for the master of the ger to push the button to take down the tower. Tyuma explained what I was doing and what I planned while I galved the connections one last time.
When I gave the high sign, we cleared the compass. Everyone was back where they should be, so the countdown continued.
Tyuma was in his UAZ already and gave three hearty toots of the horn. He came back to translate FIRE IN THE HOLE for me three times. I handed the ger’s owner the blasting machine, smiled, and yelled: “HIT IT!”
Tyuma immediately translated.
KER-BOOM, tick, tick, tick…KA-POW.
Creak.
Crack.
Crash.
The tower fell exactly as planned and was now a splintered pile of its former self.
The ger owner, Batbayar, was all smiles with gasps of relief. Esme, Tyuma, and I received a brief standing ovation from the already standing crowd.
“Aw, shucks. Twern’t nothin’”, we smiled.
We had to stay for tea and sweeties after all this. To leave and refuse their hospitality and thanks would be the height of rudeness. I was presented an ancient bone-handled knife, Tyuma some snuff, and Esme received a necklace of vaguely Western Indian animal fetishes carved from a variety of different stones. It looked stunning around her neck.
I gifted back some Western sweets; Squirrel Nut Zippers, which were proving to be a favorite, and a bottle of our best vodka for Batabyar.
With heavy hearts, and yak-butter tea-filled bladders, we pushed on east toward the nights’ rendezvous, Tsetserling.
Back on the road, headed east lie our night’s bivouac, Tsetserling. The best thing about this town is that it was home to the OK Field Cafe & Bakery. This Australian-run cafe-restaurant offers a fantastic menu of international cuisine. The cafe bakes its own bread and cakes, to go with full English breakfasts, egg-and-bacon rolls, roast beef with Yorkies, a monstrous Aussie burger, and vegetarian and Mongolian dishes as well. There's a proper fresh espresso-machine coffee, too.
Real coffee, not that crap instant sludge? Praise whatever immortals were involved.
Tengri had indeed been good to us that day. There were proper dorm rooms instead of gers or our tents, and we could have hot showers and relax off the road for a change. It was a most welcome antepenultimate evening’s conclusion to our trip so far.
After a wonderful breakfast that I didn’t have to help cook, we were back on the road. Time was getting short and there were but three towns to go before Ulaanbaatar. The first was Altan-Ovoo. What makes this place unique is that it is the legendary eastern vast steppe-homeland of Dariganga people where mountain worship here is true example of nomadic Mongols beliefs in invisible deities of nature handed down from ancestors. It is also known as “Dari Ovoo”. It is one of the volcanoes in Dariganga Soum region.
Traveling further east we next come to Khotont, right outside the huge Orkhon Valley Natural and Historical Reserve. The 122,000-ha Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape encompasses an extensive area of pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century. The site also includes Kharkhorum, the 13th- and 14th-century capital of Chingis (Genghis) Khan’s vast Empire. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia. The grassland is still grazed by Mongolian nomadic pastoralists.
Past that we motor to Khujirt. We stop at the extensive hot springs complex at Khurjirt, on the edge of the Orkhon Valley. It is located between the popular tourist attraction of Erdene Zuu and the famous Orkhon Waterfall in the upper Orkhon Valley. We only stay a short while as our time is growing ever closer to depart this wonderful land.
Our stop for the evening is Bayan-Undar, the second-largest city in Mongolia. Our reservations at the local hotel were somehow lost and they were tourist full. We tried a few other hotels in the area but came up empty. Baggi was talking to a local who informed us that just 25 kilometers to the east, there was a brand new ger camp. They might not even be open yet, but it was a South Korean enterprise and might be able to accommodate us at this late point in time.
Around some incredibly impressive eroded volcanic necks and huge weathered vertical stocks of naked rock, we found the ger camp about which the local had spoken. It looked brand new but deserted. We all wheel in and Tyuma, Moony and Baggi infiltrate this place to see what was the story.
Good news, everyone! They had not had their grand opening yet, but were fully staffed, supplied, and waiting on the first crowd that weekend. They would be happy to accommodate us for the night, for a fee.
We all got our individual or couple’s gers and settled in quickly. There were hot showers again, an open restaurant, and an incredibly well-stocked bar. We all showered and met a couple of hours later in the restaurant and sampled what they had to offer.
It was a bit of a horror show, as the servers all spoke Korean and only one or two of the camp’s personnel spoke any English or Mongolian. We kept the translators very busy that night through the ordering and distribution of the meals.
After dinner, Esme begged off to our ger citing road fatigue and left me along with the Koreans, Mongolians, Japanese, and Polish. Of course, drinks were to be had and card games broke out spontaneously. There was a satellite television in the bar and, of course, we had to watch the latest football scores from around the globe.
There was an electric piano by the bar and most everyone took their turn pounding out some of their country’s songs. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, nor can’t play a musical instrument other than my saxophone, which didn’t make it on the trip. I preferred to just be a spectator this time. It was still a grand time when they kicked us all out of the bar around midnight.
We learned we were only 205 kilometers from Ullanbaatar so we all decided to sleep in late, have a leisurely breakfast, and get packed to hit the road around noon. Or 1300. Or 1400. We really didn’t want this trip to end. We had all become friends as well as colleagues. We all had amassed stories we will tell for years and years into the future.
Up through Buran, and then into Altanbulag, we were on the very outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Our trip was nearing an end. So much so, we were actually on a tarmac road rather than the Intershire dirt turnpath.
We reluctantly wheel into the museum parking lot. Our trip was over. It was a great success and was regarded as heroic by all participants. We offloaded our accumulated geological and paleontological treasures and were ushered into the museum to visit with some old friends.
The blocks we cut up out in the Flaming Cliffs had all arrived intact and two of them had been opened and were being prepared. The preparators told us that we must have agonized in cutting up the block. We did a good job they said, as there were but few bones that had been severed in the process.
Esme’s egg discovery had been confirmed as a clutch of Velociraptor mongoliensis. It consisted of not only 11 eggs, four eggs caught in the process of hatching, as well as the bones of three tiny hatchlings as well. It was the first find of this type in Mongolia as well as the world. It is now on permanent display in the museum’s Hall of Mongolian Dinosaurs.
So far, the blocks we rescued from the Flaming Cliffs contained Oviraptor, Velociraptor, Protoceratops, Tarbosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus Asian relative, and Therizinosaurus. There were mammal, turtle, multituberculate, fish, crocodile, and even bird remains. These blocks are still being worked to this day. The genera count surpassed a hundred back in 2005.
Also, I finally unloaded that damned core drill to the grateful folks of the University geology department.
To be concluded…
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2019.10.20 17:08 paulmp Learning how to walk again at age 21

Trinity Beach at Sunrise October 20th, 2002
I took this photo 17 years ago today (October 20th, 2002). By today's standards it is a pretty average / horrible photo. Sunrise over Trinity Beach just north of Cairns in Queensland, Australia. I remember the exact date because I made two decisions that day that changed everything for me.
The first decision I made was that I wanted to be a photographer, full-time. I'd spent the last few years exploring film photography (digital cameras were still insanely expensive and produced low quality photos), I remember sitting on the rocks watching the sun rise and taking photos and thinking, I want to do this all the time, I want to find a way to make a living from doing this. It took some time, but in 2009 I went full-time and while I've had my ups and downs, I've been pretty much full-time since.
I have had a crazy ride... working on projects in 17th countries, every state in Australia and a massive project in Antarctica. I've been published in National Geographic a few times (absolute dream come true), Conde Nast Traveller and many other magazines, worked with many large brands like Qantas, Google, American Express, Samsung, Oppo, LG, Lonely Planet, Tourism Dubai, Iceland, Norway and many others!
The second decision was a less great one, we were travelling back to Brisbane, stopped in at Mission Beach and I decided to climb a coconut tree to pick some coconuts (not the first time I'd done this). While at the top of a rather tall coconut tree my shoulder dislocated and I suddenly had zero strength in that arm... the arm that was keeping me in the tree. I fell about 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) to the ground, hitting the trunk of the tree on the way down and broke my back in two places (L1 & T12).
I don't really remember anything after coming away from the tree, the people I was travelling with said I "bounced" after hitting the ground. My first semi-intelligible words were "help me up, I'm just winded", luckily they had more sense than I did and they had already called the ambulance. I was taken to Tully Hospital and then transferred to Cairns Base Hospital.
I was sent straight for xrays and then an MRI on my back and a CT Scan on my head and neck. The results came in and the first doctor I saw very casually told me I'd never walk again. I told him in no uncertain terms that I'd walk again and that he could leave the room.
My poor mother and sister flew up to Cairns to come see me, I remember being far more worried about how Mum was going, than what I was going through (probably the pain-killers they had me on). Meanwhile Dad was back in Brisbane juggling his construction business, running a church and daily calls to us.
I had about 3 months of bed rest, flat on my back in a hospital bed... 3 months in bed isn't anywhere near as fun as it sounds. Australian day time television really sucked at the time (pre-netflix, amazon, youtube etc). During this time I lost pretty much everything, had to move back in with my parents, my gf broke up with me (via text message, never even came to see me in hospital) and my IT Services business collapsed without me running it.
It took quite some time to get to a point where I could sit up again, then nearly 10 months of physio / rehab to learn how to walk and even just stand without falling over.
17 years later my back still gives me grief and there is a fair bit of nerve damage, I can barely feel my feet most days. It feels like I'm wearing 3 or 4 pairs of knee high socks most of the time, on a good day it drops down to just the 1 pair.
I'm grateful for the support of my family through that time and every single day I am grateful that I can walk, especially considering my favourite photography projects are getting out hiking in the mountains (with a good dose of snow please) or doing things like snorkelling & kayaking in Antarctica.
Anyway... that's a little of my story, hope it prompts you to be grateful for the little things we all (myself included) tend to take for granted or ignore.
TL;DR: Broke my back in two places, had to learn how to walk again at age 21.
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2019.10.17 00:10 MarleyEngvall Lecture XXII — The Youth of David (ii)

By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D. He fled to Naioth (or "the pastures") of Ramah, to Samuel. This is the first recorded occasion of his meet- ing with Samuel since the original interview during his boyhood at Bethlehem. It might almost seem as if David had intended to devote himself with his musical and poetical gifts to the prophetical office, and give up the cares and dangers of public life. But he had a higher destiny still. The consecrated haunts which even over the mind of Saul exercised a momentary in- fluence, were not to become the permanent refuge of the greatest soul of that stirring age. Although up to this time both the king and himself had thought that a reunion was possible, it now appeared that the madness of Saul became constantly more settled and ferocious, and David's danger proportionably greater. The tid- ings of it were conveyed to him in the secret interview with Jonathan, by the cairn of Ezel, of which the rec- ollection was probably handed down through Jonathan's descendants when they came to David's court. The interview brings out all the peculiarities of Jona- than's character,——his little artifices, his love both for his father and his friend, his bitter disappointment at his father's ungovernable fury, his familiar sport of archery, under cover of which the whole meeting takes place. The former compact between the two friends is resumed, extending even to their immediate posterity; Jonathan laying such emphasis on this portion of the agreement as almost to suggest the belief that he had a slight misgiving of David's future conduct in this respect. With tender words and wild tears, the two friends parted, never again to meet in the royal home. His refuge in the centre of Prophetical influence had been discovered. He therefore turned to another sanct- uary, one less congenial, but therefore less to be sus- pected. On the slope of Olivet, overlooking the still unconquered city of Jerusalem, all unconscious of the future sanctity of that venerable hill, stood the last relic of the ancient nomadic times——the tabernacle of the Wanderings, round which since the fall of Shiloh had dwelt the descendants of the house of Eli. It was a little colony of Priests. No less than eighty-five per- sons ministerered there in the white linen dress of the Priesthood, and all their families and herd were gath- ered round them. The Priest was not so ready to be- friend as had been the Prophet. As the solitary fugi- tive, famished and unarmed, stole up the mountain-side, he met with a cold reception from the cautious and courtly Ahimelech. By a ready story of a secret mis- sion from Saul, and of a hidden company of attendants, he put Ahimelech off his guard; and by an urgent en- treaty, it may be by a gentle flattery, persuaded him to give him five loaves from the consecrated store, and the sword of the Philistine giant from its place behind the sacred vestment of the priestly oracle, and through that oracle to give him counsel for his future guidance. It was a slight incident, as it would seem, in the flight of David, but it led to terrible results, it was fraught with a momentous lesson. As the loaves and the sword were handed to David out of the sacred curtains, his eye rested on a well-known face, which filled him with dismay. It was Doeg, the Edomite keeper of Saul's stables, who had in earlier years (so it was believed) chosen him as Saul's minstrel. he was for some cere- monial reason enclosed within the sacred precincts; and David immediately augured ill. On the information of Doeg followed one of those ruthless massacres with which the history of this age abounds; the house of Ithamar was destroyed, and the sanctuary of Nob over- thrown. It may be that with the savage sentiment of revenge was mingled in the King's mind some pretext from the profanation of the sacred bread for common use. Jewish teachers in later times imagined that the loaves thus given became useless in the hands of the hungry fugitive. But a Higher than Saul or David selected this act of Ahimelech as the one incident in David's life which was to bestow His especial commenda- tion; because it contained——however tremulously and guardedly expressed——the great Evangelical truth that the ceremonial law, however rigid, must give way be- fore the claims of suffering humanity. Prophet and priest having alike failed to protect him, David now threw himself on the mercy of his enemies, the Philistines. They seemed to have been at this time united under a single head, Achish, King of Gath, and in his court David took refuge. There, at least, Saul could not pursue him. But, discovered possibly by "the sword of Goliath," his presence revived the national enmity of the Philistines against their for- mer conqueror. According to one version he was actu- ally imprisoned, and was in danger of his life; and he only escaped by feigning a madness, probably suggested by the ecstasies of the Prophetic schools: violent gest- ures, playing on the gates of the city as a drum or cymbal, letting his beard grow, and foaming at the mouth. There was a noble song of triumph ascribed to him on the success of this plan. Even if not actually composed by him, it is remarkable as showing what a religious aspect was ascribed in after-times to one of the most secular and natural events of his life. "The angel of the Lord encamped about him' in his prison, and "delivered him." And he himself is described as breath- ing the loftiest tone of moral dignity in the midst of his lowest degradation: "Keep thy tongue from evil and "thy lips that they speak no guile. Depart from evil "and do good, seek peace and pursue it." He was now an outcast from both nations. Israel and Philistia were alike closed against him. There was no resource but that of an independent outlaw. His first retreat was at the cave of Adul- lam, probably the large cavern not far from Bethlehem, now called Khureitûn. From its vicinity to Bethlehem, he was joined there by his whole family, now feeling them insecure from Saul's fury. This was prob- ably the foundation of his intimate connection with his nephews, the sons of Zeruiah. Of these, Abishai, with two other companions, was among the earliest. Besides these, were outlaws from every part, including doubtless some of the original Canaanites——of whom the name of one at least has been preserved, Ahimelech the Hit- tite. In the vast columnar halls and arched chambers of this subterranean palace, all who had any grudge against the existing system gathered round the hero of the coming age, the unconscious materials out of which a new world was to be formed. His next move was to a stronghold, either the moun- tain afterwards called Herodium, close to Adul- lam, or the gigantic fastness afterwards called Masada, in the neighborhood of En-gedi. Whilst there, he had, for the sake of greater security, deposited his aged parents beyond the Jordan, with their ancestral kinsmen of Moab. The neighboring king, Nahash of Ammon, also treated him kindly. He was joined here by two separate bands. One was a detachment of men from Judah and Benjamin under his nephew Amasa, who henceforth attached himself to David's fortunes. Another was a little body of eleven Gadite mountain- eers, who swam the Jordan in flood-time to reach him. Each deserved special mention by name; each was renowned for his military rank or prowess; and their activity and fierceness was like the wild creatures of their own wild country; like the gazelles of heir hills. and the lions of their forests. Following on their track, as it would seem, another companion appears for the first time, a schoolfellow, if we may use the word, from the schools of Samuel, the prophet Gad, who appears suddenly, like Elijah, as if he too, as his name implies, had come, like Elijah, from the hills and forests of Gad. It was whilst he was with these little bands that a foray of the Philistines had descended on the vale of Rephaim in harvest time. The animals were there being laden with ripe corn. The officer in charge of the expedition was on the watch in the neighboring village of Bethlehem. David, in one of those passionate accesses of homesickness, which be- long to his character, had longed for a draught of water from the well, which e remembered by the gate of his native village, that precious water which was afterwards conveyed by costly conduits to Jerusalem. So devoted were his adherents, so determined to gratify every want, however trifling, that three of them started instantly, fought their way through the intervening army of the Philistines, and brought back the water. His noble spirit rose at the sight. With a still loftier thought than that which inspired Alexander's like sentiment in the desert of Gedrosia, he poured the cherished water on the ground——"as an offering to the Lord." That which had been won by the lives of three gallant chiefs was too sacred for him t drink, but it was on that very account deemed by him as worthy to be con- secrated in sacrifice to God as any of the prescribed offerings of the Levitical ritual. Pure Chivalry and pure Religion there found an absolute union. At the warning of gad, David fled next to the forest of Hareth (which has long ago been cleared away) among the hills of Judah, and there again fell in with the Philistines, and, apparently ad- vised by Gad, made a descent on their foraging parties, and relieved a fortress of repute at that time, Keilah, in which he took up his abode until the harvest was gathered safely in. He was now for the first time in a fortified town of his own, and to no other situation can we equally well ascribe what may be almost called the Fortess-Hymn of the 31st Psalm. By this time the 400 who had joined him at Adullam had swelled to 600. Here he received the tidings that Nob had been destroyed, and the priestly family exterminated. The bearer of this news was the only survivor of the house of Ithamar, Abiathar, who brought with him the High-Priest's ephod, with the Urim and Thummim, which were henceforth regarded as Abiathar's special charge, and from him, accordingly, David received ora- cles and directions as to his movements. A fierce burst of indignation against Doeg, the author of the massa- cre, traditionally commemorates the period of the re- ception of this news. The situation of David was now changed by the appearance of Saul himself on the scene. Apparently the danger was too great for the little army to keep together. They escaped from Keilah, and dispersed, "whithersoever they could go," amongst the fastnesses of Judah. The inhabitants of Keilah were probably Canaanites. At any rate, they could not be punished for sheltering the young outlaw. It may be, too, that the inhabitants of southern Judea retained a fearful recollection of the victory of Saul over their ancient enemies, the Amalek- ites, the great trophy of which had been set up on the southern Carmel. The pursuit (so far as we can trace it) now becomes unusually hot. He is in the wilderness of Ziph. Under the shade of he forest of Ziph for the last time, he sees Jona- than. Once (or twice) the Ziphites betray his move- ments to Saul. From thence Saul literally hunts him like a partridge, the treacherous Ziphites beating the bushes before him, or, like a single flea skipping from crag to crag before the 3000 men stationed to catch even the print of his footsteps on the hills. David finds himself driven to a fresh covert, to the wilderness of Maon. On two, if not three occasions, the pursuer and pursued catch sight of each other. Of the first of these escapes, the memory was long preserved in the name of the Cliff of Divisions, given to the rock down one side of which David climbed, whilst Saul was sur- rounding the hill on the other side, and whence he was suddenly called away by a panic of Philistine invasion. On another occasion, David took refuge in a cave at Engedi, so called from the beautiful spring fre- quented by the wild goats which leap from rock to rock along the precipices immediately above the Dead Sea. The hills were covered with the pur- suers. Into the cavern, where in the darkness no one was visible, Saul turned aside for a moment, as Eastern wayfarers are wont, from public observation. David and his followers were seated in the innermost recesses of the cave, and saw, without being seen, the King come in and it down, spreading his wide robe, as is usual in the East on such occasions, before and behind the per- son so occupied. There had been an augury, a predic- tion of some kind, that a chance of securing his enemy would be thrown in David's way. The followers in their dark retreat suggest that now is the time. David, with a characteristic mixture of humor and generosity, descends and silently cuts off the skirt of the long robe from the back of the unconscious and preoccupied King, and then ensued the pathetic scene of remonstrance and forgiveness, which shows the true affection that lived beneath the hostility of the two rivals. The third meeting (if it can be distinguished from the one just given) was again in the wilderness of Ziph. The King was intrenched in a regular camp, formed by the usual Hebrew fortifications of wagons and baggage. Into this enclosure David penetrated by night, and car- ried off the cruse of water, and the well-known royal spear of Saul, which had twice so nearly transfixed him to the wall in former days. The same scene is repeated as at Engedi,——and this is the last interview between Saul and David. "Return, my son David; for "I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was pre- "cious in thine eyes this day. . . . . Blessed be thou, "my son David; thou shalt both do great things and "also shalt prevail." The crisis was now passed. The earlier stage of David's life is drawing to its close. Samuel was dead and with him the house of Ramah was extinct. Saul had ceased to be dangerous, and the end of that troub- led reign was rapidly approaching. David is now to return to a greater than his former position, by the same door through which he left it, as an ally of the Philistine kings. We seem for a moment to find him in one of the levels of life, which like many transitional epochs have the least elevation. He comes back not as a solitary fugitive, or persecuted suppliant, but as a powerful freebooter. His 600 followers have grown up into an organized force, with their wives and families about them. He has himself estab- lished a name and fame in the pastures of Southern Judea, which showed that his trials had already devel- oped within him some of theose royal, we may almost say imperious, qualities that mark his after-life. Two wives have followed his fortunes from these regions. Of one, Ahinoam, we know nothing except her bitrth- place, Jezreel, on the slopes of the southern Carmel. The other, Abigail, came from the same neighborhood, and her introduction to David opens to us a glimpse of the lighter side of his wanderings, that we cannot afford to lose; in which we see not only the romantic advent- ures of Gustavus Vasa, of Pelayo, of the Stuart Princes, but also the generous, genial life of the exiled Duke in the forest of Ardennes, or the outlaw of Sherwood forest. There lived in that part of the country Nabal, a pow- erful chief, whose wealth, as might be expected from his place of residence, consisted chiefly of sheep and goats. The tradition preserved the exact number of each, 3000 of the one, 1000 of the other. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive them into the wilderness of Carmel. Once a year there was a shearing, with eating and drinking, "like the feast of a "king." It was on one of these occasions that ten youths were seen approaching the hill. In them the shepherds recognized the slaves or attendants of the chief of a band of freebooters who had showed them unexpected kindness in their pastoral excursions. To Nabal they were unknown. They approached him with a triple salutation; enumerating the services of their master, and ended by claiming, with a mixture of courtesy and defiance so characteristic of the East, "whatsoever cometh to thy hand, for thy servants "and for thy son David." The great sheepmaster was not disposed to recognize this new parental relation. He was notorious for his obstinacy, and his low and cynical turn of mind. On hearing this demand, he sprang up and broke out into a fury: "Who is David? "and who is the son of Jesse?" The moment that the messengers were gone, the shepherds that stood by per- ceived the danger of their position. To Nabal himself they durst not speak. But they knew that he was married to a wife as beautiful and wise as he was the reverse. To Abigail, as to the good angel of the house- hold, one of the shepherds told the state of affairs. She loaded her husband's numerous asses with presents, and with her attendants running before her, rode down towards David's encampment. She was just in time. At that very moment he had made the usual vow of extermination against the whole household. She threw herself on her face before him, and poured forth her petition in language which both in form and substance almost assumes the tone of poetry. The main argu- ment rests on the description of her husband's charac- ter, which she draws with that union of playfulness and seriousness which, above all things, turns away wrath. "As his name is, so is he: Fool (Nabal) is his name and "folly is with him." She returned with the announce- ment that David had recanted his vow. Already the tenacious adhesion to these rash oaths had given way in the better heart of the people. Like the nobles of Palestine at a later period, Nabal had drunk to excess, and his wife dared not communicate to him either his danger or his escape. At break of day she told him both. The stupid reveller was suddenly aroused to a sense of his folly. It was as if a stroke of paralysis or apoplexy had fallen upon him. Ten days he lingered, "and the Lord smote Nabal and he died." The memory of his death long lived in David's memory, and in his dirge over the noblest of his enemies, he rejoiced to say that Abner had not died like Nabal. The rich and beautiful widow became his wife. in this new condition, David appears at the court of Achish, King of Gath. He is warmly welcomed. After the manner of Eastern potentates, Achish gave him, for his support, a city——Ziklag on the frontier of Philistia ——which thus became an appanage of the royal house of Judah. His increasing importance is indicated by the fact that a body of Benjamite archers and slingers, twenty-three of whom are specially named, joining him from the very tribe of his rival. Possibly during this stay he may have acquired the knowledge of military organization, in which the Philistines surpassed the Israelites, and in which he surpassed all preceding rulers of Israel. He deceived Achish into confidence by attacking the old nomadic inhabitants of the desert frontier, and with relentless severity, cutting off all witnesses of this deception, and representing the plunder to be from portions of the southern tribes of Israel or the nomadic tribes allied to them. But this confidence was not shared by the Philistine nobles; and accordingly when Achish went on his last victorious campaign against Saul, David was sent back, and thus escaped the difficul- ty of being present at the battle of Gilboa. He found that during his absence the Bedouin Amalekites, whom he had plundered during the previous year, had made a descent upon Ziklag, burnt it to the ground, and car- ried off the wives and children of the new settlement. A wild scene of frantic grief and recrimination ensued between David and his followers. It was calmed by an oracle of assurance from Abiathar. It happened that an important accession had just been made to his force. On his march to Gilboa, and on his retreat, he had been joined by some chiefs of the Manassites, through whose territory he was passing. Urgent as must have been the need for them at home, yet David's fascination carried them off, and they now assisted him against the plunderers. They overtook the invaders in the desert, to recover the spoil. These were the gifts with which David was now able, for the first time, to requite the friendly inhabitants of the scene of his wan- derings. A more lasting memorial was the law which traced its origin to the arrangement made by him, formerly in the affair with Nabal, but now again, more completely, for the equal division of the plunder amongst the two thirds who followed to the field, and the one third who remained to guard the baggage. Two days after this victory a Bedouin arrived from the North with the news of the defeat of Gilboa. The re- ception of the tidings of the death of his rival and of his friend, the solemn mourning, the vent of his indig- nation against the bearer of the message, the pathetic lamentation that followed, which form the natural close of this period of David's life, have been already de- scribed in their still nearer connection with the life and death of Saul. It is a period which has left on David's character marks never afterwards effaced. Hence sprang that ready sagacity, natural to one who had so long moved with his life in his hand. At the very beginning of this period of his career, it is said of him that he "behaved himself wisely," evidently with the impression that it was a wisdom called forth by his difficult position,——that peculiar Jewish caution, like the instinct of a hunted animal, so strongly developed in the persecuted Israelites of the middle ages. We cannot fix with certainty the dates of the Psalms of this epoch of his life. But, in some at least, we can trace the outward circum- stances with which he was surrounded. In them, we see David's flight "as a bird to the mountains,"——like the partridges that haunt the wild hills of southern Judah. As he catches the glimpses of Saul's archers and spearmen from behind the rocks, he sees them "bending their bows, making ready their arrows upon "the string,"——he sees the approach of those who hold no converse except through those armed, bristling bands, whose very "teeth are spears and arrows, and "their tongue a sharp sword." The savage scenery suggests the overthrow of his enemies. "They shall be a portion for the ravening "jackals." They shall be overtaken by fire and "brimstone, storm and tempest," such as laid waste the cities of old, in the deep chasms above which he was wandering. His mind teems with the recollections of the "rocks and fastnesses," the "caves and leafy "coverts" amongst which he takes refuge,——the "prec- "ipices" down which he "slips,"——the steps cut in the cliffs for him to tread in, the activity as of "a wild "goat" with which he bounds from crag to crag to escape his enemies. But yet more in these Psalms we observe the growth of his dependence on God, nurtured by his hairbreadth escapes. "As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my "soul out of adversity," was the usual form of his oath or asseveration in later times. The wild, waterless hills through which he passes, give a new turn to his longing after the fountain of Divine consolations. "O God, "thou art my God, early will I seek thee. My soul "thirsteth for thee in a barren and dry land where "no water is." The hiding-places in which the rock arches over his head are to him the very shadow of the Almighty wings. The summary of this whole period, when he was "delivered from the hand of all his "enemies, and from Saul," is that of one who knows that for some great purpose he has been drawn up from the darkest abyss of danger and distress. He seemed to have sunk down below the lowest depths of the sea and out of those depths his cry reached to the throne of God; and, as in a tremendous thunder-storm, with storm and wind, with thunder and lightning, with clouds and darkness, God himself descended and drew him forth. "He sent from above, He took me, He drew me "out of many waters." The means by which this de- liverance was achieved were, as far as we know, those which we see in the Book of Samuel,——the turns and chances of Providence, his own extraordinary activity, the faithfulness of his followers, the unexpected increase of his friends. But the act of deliverance itself is de- scribed in the language which belongs to the descent upon Mount Sinai or the Passage of the Red Sea. It was the exodus, though a single human soul, yet of a soul which reflected the whole nation. It was the giving of a second Law, though through the living tablets of a heart, deeper and vaster than the whole legislation of Moses. It was the beginning of a new Dispensation. 
from The History of the Jewish Church, Vol. II: From Samuel to the Captivity, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D., Dean of Westminster Charles Scribner's Sons, 1879; pp. 65 - 81
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2019.09.18 12:42 CashlessEconomy Weighing the benefits: a closer inspection of the cashless debate

The way we spend our hard-earned cash is changing. The quantity of digital payments and transactions we complete daily is growing all the time, and increasingly banking executives are calling for a cashless future. The degree to which we should allow our economies to move into digital territory, removing cash from the equation completely, is a subject justifiably under scrutiny. Considering the social impact of this shift and what it might mean for our future, an inspection of the benefits of the cash-free society is crucial.
It is strategically sound for governments to remove cash from their economies in favour of digital methods of exchange, because cash has higher production, transport, insurance and security costs, Anne Cairns, Vice Chairman of MasterCard, said.
“Cash costs a lot of money, it costs a country between half a per cent and 1.5 per cent of its GDP (gross domestic product) and so governments are waking up to the fact they could really benefit their economy by getting rid of cash,” Cairns explained.
These are among some of the common criticisms directed at cash. Just as Cairns argues, one of the main reasons for losing banknotes is that there is a perceived improvement in security for financial institutions, shops, and individuals when cash is no longer an object that can be physically seized by criminals. The associated risk of this leads to costs for banks due to secondary considerations like secure transportation and protection of cash assets. On top of this, currency needs to be produced and maintained.
Another advantage to going cash free would be improvements in traceability. There would also be an easy-to-follow digital footprint for forensic accountants and investigators if they were interested in an individual’s finances. Cash is difficult for authorities to track and higher denomination banknotes have a reputation for facilitating criminal activities. Going cashless, therefore, has the potential to reduce crime and make it more difficult for organisations and individuals to evade paying tax.
Going cashless is safer
Unfortunately, for arguments built on the basis of security, the number of digital crimes occurring around the world each year is accelerating. At present, the price tag for cybercrime robbery sits at $1 trillion a year, and financial services companies are disproportionately the targets of such attacks. Removing cash from the economy would have little or no positive effect on these statistics.
Furthermore, as the adoption of digital practices rises, the number of people with the necessary knowledge to exploit online bank systems also rises. So too does the amount of companies and infrastructure that are exposed in this way.
In a report by Accenture and the Ponemon Institute, researchers found a 67 percent rise in the number of system security breaches over a period of five years.
“Our research found that cybercrime is increasing, takes more time to resolve and is more expensive for organizations…The expanding threat landscape and new business innovation is leading to an increase in cyberattacks,” the researchers write.
While this relates to more than just monetary targets, the existence of such a trend is difficult to ignore and has to be taken into account when arguing against cash on grounds of security or cost.
Improvements in cost
While cash has transportation, infrastructure, and security costs, their counterpart in digital economics can be found in the need for cyber threat prevention, cyber forensics, staff risk training, and the constant need for security upgrades. Digital financial streams, therefore, are also expensive to maintain.
As well as this, there are the costs of acquiring up-to-date hardware and software for companies, and the cost to wider society in maintaining increasingly vital, burdensome data networks. The swell of sensitive personal data online as a direct result of financial services is also enormous. The data centres and servers required to maintain this inevitably come with their own price tags, but even more significant are the costs that companies need to cover in order to ensure their systems are protected.
Easier to trace finances
In a digital economy, there is a greater capacity for tracing assets and transactions. While this is useful to well-meaning law enforcement, it is equally useful to corrupt authorities looking to exploit the information to commit human rights abuses. We only need to look to states like China to see facial recognition technology and AI being used in unsettling ways against the population.
As for financial crimes, they are rarely committed using cash, and a significant amount of tax avoidance is not the result of individuals hoarding banknotes, but rather taking advantage of murky practices and over-complicated regulations.
Often, tax avoidance is the result of strategic profit shifting, involving financial engineering between connected businesses. A study of profit in the tech industry by Tax Watch UK estimated government losses of £1bn a year in tax due to this kind of activity at just five US tech companies. Another prime method of tax avoidance is through exploiting loopholes in regulation.
How moving away from banknotes would solve either of these problems is difficult to imagine, and as such it is easy to over-estimate the value of going digital as it relates to effective taxation.
While there are theoretical benefits to going cashless, there are arguments that diminish or even completely undermine their credibility. On top of this, there are few impartial voices speaking on the subject, either for or against cash, so keeping a critical perspective is doubly important.
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