Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Hike

After hiking on the same two trails for the last year, I finally connected them.
Along with Jim and Alicia, I took the Quemazon trail, starting from 48th off Trinity on the Quemazon nature trail to Pipeline Road, and on into Canada Bonita by Pajarito ski area. We estimated the distance to be 7-9 miles.
The hike took us through desert tuff, into the area burnt by the 2000 fire, and down through aspen and poderosa. If you want to do this hike, you have to shuttle, meaning one car is at the Quemazon trail head and one car is at the Pajarito ski area.
Pictures from the full journey are on my Facebook profile under "The Hike". Here are select photos.

The view from Quemazon, early in the hike.

Out of the openness of Quemazon and into more forested area.

Jim and Alicia on Pipeline Road. Pipeline used to be a jeep road, but is now closed to vehicles.

Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This definitely seems true for the love in friendship. We all enjoyed the view from the high point of this hike. Swallows were darting all about and there were some larger birds too.

The pipeline, or a section of an actual pipe? What is this really?

This little fork reconnects in 100 yards or so. The Guaje ridge trail starts here, but we keep going on to Canada Bonita, a cross-country ski trail maintained by the ski club pictured in a past blog entry.

A wonderful gloomy view of the town from the start of Canada Bonita.

The end of the road, or the trail head of Canada Bonita.

The hike took us six hours at a leisurely pace, from leaving my house to arriving in the ski hill parking lot. We took several breaks and had a picnic lunch, complete with shiraz, thanks to Jim.
If you want to hike this trail, it is very direct. All the paths from Quemazon lead to the same place. After three miles or so, you reach pipeline road, go left. Then there are no more choices, just follow the main trail. There is a change in elevation of 2500 feet. The first 4-5 miles or so are at an gradual incline, and the descent into Canada Bonita is all downhill.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More on the wild in our lives

People who have pet cats sometimes have to give them baths. Apparently some cats don't mind, but some do.

This little kitty named Tesla is not too happy about the process.

A problem with cats is, they like to roam around and occasionally fight other kitties. They are in danger from cars, other cats, and dogs. As long as the kitties are fixed and vaccinated, I think it's ok for them to be outside. Most animals live longer in captivity, including zoo animals, but being indoors versus being outside seems like a big price to pay.

However I recently met a man hiking who has a house kitty. He claims his cat has never been allowed to leave the house and is happy. And I've heard older cats don't mind being indoors. I think it's a balance between the kitty's happiness and how upset the owner will feel if the cat gets squashed.

Here is a picture of the guy with the house kitty:
I ran into this man unexpectedly on a hike. As a woman, when I am alone on a trail and I meet a strange man, I wonder, should I leave? This man and I were starting on the same trail at the same time. I thought, he seems ok, it's unlikely anything will happen, so I walked and chatted with him along the trail. At the apex he turned to me, brushed my forehead, and said, "You're sweatin' babe." Ew.
Nothing worse happened, but it bothers me that hiking alone is my limit. I feel too nervous to backpack or camp alone, mainly because of my gender. I have a similar problem as a kitty, strike out independently on my own and risk being attacked with no backup, or stay home. I miss out if I can't hike alone, but avoid being attacked or called "babe" by strange men. There are other risks too, like being bit by stray dogs or tripping and falling down a canyon with no help. Cats have a greater risk of being maimed or killed by a car, but conceptually it's a similar dilemma.

Another note on wildlife, here is a photo of rats nesting in a truck:

You can see their little eyes glowing at the bottom of the truck, like small furry aliens. The photo is taken at night in infrared with a motion-sensitive camera. These rats are enjoying the security of the truck to build their nest.
Should the rats be allowed to remain in the truck? It's not being used, and they like it. But they will probably have to be erradicated at some point. How we interact with animals and how we weigh the value of security versus freedom are two questions we face in life. I would like to have a pet bird, but I feel sorry for the bird to be kept in a cage.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wildlife enters my parking lot and Into the Wild

If you are lucky enough to live in Los Alamos you see lots of coyote, deer, elk, and interesting types of rodents. And you don't see roaches .Yesterday I was pulling into my parking space and saw a coyote. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a picture, but he ran away. This was the best shot I got:

Then he ran across the street to go to the library. I once saw several coyotes crossing the street to the library in the winter.

I watched Into the Wild last night, directed by Sean Penn. I saw Sean Penn interviewed on the Charlie Rose show, along with Eddie Vedder, when the movie was released. Sean Penn was smoking. I don't like smoking, but I hadn't seen anyone smoke on tv for so long that it was delightful to see him exhale, the smoke rising in front of Charlie and Eddie's faces. I enjoyed the movie and sympathized with the character's desire to chuck it all and relocate into the wild. I am not sure what state he was in at the movie's end though, and if it was completely impossible for him to leave the magic bus and try to walk to a road in his weakened condition. I don't know how much time passed between him falling ill and dying.

I rather envied the freedom of roaming around the US. I have been hiking more and would like to backpack. I thought the film was well-done, particularly the stark contrast between Alex's (Christopher's) experience in the wilderness and the LA scenes, when he peers through a fancy cocktail bar and sees himself, clean-cut and well-dressed, mingling and social networking. It validates his choice. I like that at the end he reconciles his two selves. It was sad that he never did contact his family.

I love living in Northern NM. I had considered moving away, but lately I can't imagine living outside of NM for more than a few months. In UNM's medical school, during July and August of the first year, students are required to live and work in a rural clinic to experience rural medicine. I'm very excited about this. I'm happy to move to Albuquerque, my hometown, but after living in Los Alamos for the past two years I will definitely miss the mountains and wildlife, although I have seen coyotes in Albuquerque and even San Diego.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Who is Karl Rove?

I was playing the name game with a group of friends, when the name Karl Rove was slapped on someone's forehead and I realized I was not sure who he was, "Someone in the Bush administration or a basketball player", I thought.

Many of you know I made a New Year's Resolution to be more up-to-date with current events, and to be fair, I have been keeping up with international news, for instance, did you know that a cyclone hit Burma and an earthquake hit China last month? Of course you did, I'm joking. But US politics? I suffer to learn who the candidates were for president.

So, who is this strappling young fellow, and should you know his name?

First off, he is no longer in the Bush Administration. He resigned in 8/07, to spend time with his family apparently. He is know as the architect behind Bush's re-election campaign, the puppet master of the Bush administration, and a loyal friend of George W. Bush. There is a very interesting Frontline online about Karl Rove, titled, The Architect, which details how Karl Rove brought about the dominance of the republican party in America. Bush then named Rove the Deputy Chief of Staff.

And you've got to hand it to Rove: he masterminded Bush's win against Ann Richards as the governor of Texas in 1994, he got Bush elected as president in 2000, and he got that unpopular president reelected in 2004.

Rove was very clever and sneaky and was quite willing to do many ethically questionable things to keep Bush in power and get Republicans appointed to positions of judicial authority. If you google him, you can find articles on his involvement of the retaliatory ratting out of former CIA agent Valerie Plume. Those cases are all rather complicated however, and I am tackling US politics in baby-steps.

Watching the Frontline special made me wish the democrats had such a mule pushing for a democratic majority. On the other hand, though clever and admirable for getting what he wants, Karl Rove seems sullied, and it is unclear to me that he is following his convictions. Rather, he seems to exemplify Kant's saying, the ends justify the means. He decided to help bring about a Republican majority in US politics, and that's what he did. For example, in 2004 he pushed the issue of gay marriage to the forefront of political issues, as a hot button to bring out right-wing voters. A completely ridiculous issue to focus on in a time of war! Does Rove really have passionate feelings about gay marriage? I am sure not. But it did encourage lots of conservatives to vote who might have stayed home.

In the democratic primaries, I was not sure who to vote for, Obama, or Clinton. Now that decision is made, and I hope that Obama can win the hearts and votes of Americans by reaching out conscientiously to voters using both strategy and conviction, while keeping important issues on the table and having genuine principles.

On Skinny-Fat Men and Fortune Cookies

I've been frequenting China Moon, the premier Asian buffet in Los Alamos. Yesterday I got a fortune cookie which said, "It's a nice day." Actually a cold front had blown through the city making it frigid in June, and internally I felt freaked out and panicky. So the day was not nice, and that's beside the point really--what I want from a fortune cookie is a prediction, an actual fortune, or at the very least, a truism.

I think fortune cookies should have advice on men, specifically about skinny-fat men. A skinny-fat man is thin and not volumous, yet is unfit and has poor muscle definition. He may have a bit of a paunch, but if it gets too big, he will move into the plain old "fat man" category. Skinny men often like women who are not skinny, some cushion to balance their edges. Fat men will also accept a non-skinny woman because they themselves are not thin. But a skinny-fat man neither needs the cushion of a woman, nor thinks of himself as a fat man: he deludes himself into thinking he's fit because he's thin.

So "date fat man, ok, date skinny man, ok, date skinny-fat man, no eat ice cream in peace." Why not put that on a fortune cookie? I'd also settle for a compliment inside my cookie.

Skinny-fat men are the first people to call people like Tyra Banks fat. And they cannot protect you in a fight, because they cannot invoke their inner tiger or panda, only the perl programmer, which is the weakest of all kung fu forms. They make poor workout partners because they do not workout, and you cannot enjoy eating at buffets with them, so there is no benefit to a skinny-fat man.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Two places to go in NM

So it's been a long time for Sciencebird, but don't worry, you needn't miss me any longer, I have many fabulous posts planned to both educate and titillate you. I'd like to call your attention to the fact that two NM destinations made the NYtimes "The 31 Places to Go This Summer." The two places are Farmington and Jemez. I think you, me, and everyone we know should get together and go to Jemez to get a massage, apparently starting at $37, at the Jemez Springs bathhouse. Sounds a bit Roman, eh?

The review of Farmington highlights a cave bed and breakfast, which at $240/night I will skip.

Soon I will move to Albuquerque, so I aim to catch all of Northern NM while I can.