Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Here are some more recent pictures of Jake. We also have a little neighbor beagle named Sasha. She's a cutie too.Here they are, Jake and Sasha. They both have to be tied up because it's an apartment complex and there are no fences. Technically, it's against the rules to tie your dogs up outside but we justify it by saying that we never do when they aren't supervised. It's a good compromise because Jake won't tolerate being inside all day. They get those ropes tangled pretty good sometimes so we have to go rescue them every once in while.

The winter time this year was very strong, and so far the summer is shaping up the same way. This morning we went on a walk (since I'm working the 4:00pm to midnight swing shift) and when we got back Jake went straight for the water dish then to the floor. He's doing his best to stay cool.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

I started this post more than two years ago on June 29, 2007 and I finally got around to finishing it. I wrote three quarters of it back then, but I was reminded of how the book effected me and decided it was important to finish. I hope you enjoy.

One of my favorite authors of all time is Mark Twain. It may sound cliched, but there is no other author that I have read as much. In "Roughing It" he relates an instance that involves the destruction of a certain raincoat at the hands of a camel's ravenous appetite. I laughed for a day. Later on in the same work a dog is humiliated by a coyote. I still laugh about that one. Twain's humor is always balanced by his wisdom. Every subject from social injustice to the high ideals of a republic government to the divine friendship of husband and wife can be found in the writings. Almost all of his stories involve social injustice in some way, but I had no idea what I was getting into with the Connecticut Yankee. In this story he managed to deal with all three of those topics.

The problem with a great story is that it is used over and over and many liberties are taken with the story to give it a semblance of novelty. Also, many authors aren't as concerned with making the reader think and therefore water down the more poignant areas of the story. It is for this reason that I was caught unawares. I had only known the story as a cute tale about a man who finds himself in another time and has some lovely adventures before waking to find it was all a dream--or something. The truth of the matter is that Hank Morgan is about to turn the sixth century on its head.

This Connecticut Yankee is from early 20th century New England. This a man who has been raised with liberty and knows what it is to live free and he is flung into this world that is utterly backward to him. Peasants are treated as scum by the nobles and the fact is illustrated by numerous examples. From the very beginning he begins to work towards the reform of the country. His major targets are the idea of divine nobility, the organized church, and illiteracy. In his estimation these were the conditions and institutions that were most detrimental to the founding of a republic. Nobility and the apostate church (the book names the Roman Catholic Church) work together to continue the oppression of the people with illiteracy as their chief tactic. Early in the story, Morgan's resourcefulness wins him Merlin's post as second in command in the kingdom and he begins to work secretly toward the pulling down of the institutions of the time starting with secret man factories. Man Factories are places where he sends individuals that he meets from time to time. These individuals are usually young men who have shown the capacity to believe that a better situation could exist. In the man factory these students are taught all subjects beginning with literacy. It is from this stock that he hopes to propagate a change in the kingdom to bring about the Republic. It is righting the wrongs of the church and state that is his chief concern in his endeavors.

He says this about the public at large: "The most of King Arthur's British Nation were slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name. and wore the iron collar on their necks; and the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name; they imagined themselves men and freemen, and called themselves so. The truth was, the nation as a body was in the world for one object, and one only: to grovel before king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them, be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of the world." What a vivid picture of contemptible nobility. Also of note is his indication that the men who consider themselves free are also slaves, but to a different degree.

A republic government is put up as the antithesis of this society which is degrading to its members. Morgan believes it to be the way any country should be run and is thus motivated towards his revolution. The presence of his man factories underlies one of the most important aspects of a republic, that each citizen must be educated. The only way to properly revolutionize a country is with a stock of well-educated individuals. Education is key, but does not stand alone in terms of importance. The individual must have a desire for and a belief in the possibility of change. These characteristics can not be effectively taught; no teacher can force learning if the student does not wish to learn.

Finally, I enjoyed Twain's description of the fast relationship that formed between the hero, Hank Morgan, and his wife, Sandy. The way they came together was unorthodox for our time, but Hank 'drew a prize' nevertheless: "...Ours was the dearest and perfectest comradeship that ever was. People talk about beautiful friendships between two persons of the same sex. What is the best of that sort, as compared with the friendship of man and wife, where the best impulses and highest ideals of both are the same? There is no place for comparison between the two friendships; the one is earthly, the other divine."

The next time you're looking for something to read, give this one a try. Twain has never let me down.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Marmot Pass

This weekend we had the chance to head to the mountains for some nice rest and relaxation. Or is that toil to lug a big pack up a mountainside? Well, I had fun no matter what. Our destination was Marmot Pass, a very popular destination for the folks around here. It's location is indicated by the "A" marker on the map below. I also included a nice topo of the area because I like to be able to illustrate what I'm talking about. We are in the Buckhorn Wilderness in the Olympic National Forest. This was a Varsity Scout High Adventure outing, but since there was only one boy with his father and two other leaders it was more like a standard weekend outing of friends.

The Trail

This trail is one that offers the reward of breathtaking views, but it's not willing to give up the vista without the work. From the trailhead to the pass you climb 3,580 feet and you do it in 5.3 miles. It's a good workout. For our purposes, though, we didn't plan on going all the way to the pass in the evening. Our destination was Camp Mystery, 4.6 miles from the trailhead. Based on the topo map it looks like the climb to Camp Mystery was about 2,830 feet.

The first mile of the trail is very pleasant. It climbs but it's very gradual. After that you start to rise a little more. At 2.6 miles you pass a small area called Shelter Rock which provides a small area to camp if you would like. Shortly after the first camp the trail really gets about the business of taking you to 6,000 feet. In the next mile you climb about another 1,000 feet and you really begin to feel it. Before arrival at the camp you begin to pass in and out of forested areas and pass over some areas of shale on the the trail.


There was only one other party at Camp Mystery so we practially had the run of the place. The camp is great. There are several little nooks in the trees where your tent fits nicely. Campfires above 3,500 feet are not allowed in the Buckhorn Wilderness, despite that there was evidence of fire in the camp.
Here are the guys, and of course, I'm behind the camera. From left to right there is Charlie (the lab), Lyle, Adam, and Kim. Olaf, the bernese is also not pictured, but you'll see him down below.

The Pass

In the morning we woke up fairly early and with a little breakfast headed for the pass. Since we had done most of the work the previous evening we were ready to tackle it. Just before you reach the pass there is a beautiful mountain meadow. If you squint just right you can see the trail in the middle of the picture, just above center. When I took this we were about a quarter of a mile from the pass. One of the great things about hiking to a pass is that when you get there you can see so much in so many directions. Here I am at the pass. This is looking west toward the Olympic National Park. The ridge of that next range over is the border of the national park. Here are Lyle and Olaf at 6,000 feet.Off in the distance you could see the Hood Canal. Beyond that the upper end of Kitsap County, and further out you can just make out Whidbey Island. With binoculars you can easily see the Hood Canal Bridge.
The Descent

Having recieved our reward it was time to head down. A quick stop at camp allowed us to collect the rest of our stuff, and we were off. After about a mile and a half Adam rolled his ankle on a bit of shale. We stopped in some shade and were deciding what to do about it when we encountered a man on his way up. Well, it turns out that this guy was an orthopedic surgeon. What are the chances of that? So the surgeon wrapped up Adam's foot with the bandage that Lyle had and we were back on our way, albeit at a more conservative pace.

I wish I could say that our troubles were over and the rest of the hike was uneventful, but that's not how it played out. About a mile and a half from the bottom Olaf's will gave out. He's done this hike before but not for a while and it seems that he's not as young as he used to be. After a great deal of trying to bribe and coax him we finally devised this stretcher out of two ski poles I had and two jackets. Carrying a 100 pound dog out of the wilderness is not as easy or as a fun as it sounds.
Anyway, we get our merit badges for wilderness rescue and some valuable experience for the future. I'll be powerful sore tomorrow.