Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holidays and Family

Here it is, the last day of the ho,iday weekend. The house has been filled with teh sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday, with all the kids here most nights for dinner. Turkey on T0-day, of course. Carbonarra last night, a triple double batch (and there are no leftovers!). And today we have a big sausage from Spokane that should feed us all. It has been a no-stress, fun-filled weekend.

Judy has been working like mad to finish at least one of the three countdown calendars she is making for hte kids. Jillian's and Will's was finished last night, and they will take it home with them tomorrow when they return to Chicago. The daily markers are individual tree ornaments made of felt in all sorts of shapes, and they are really cute. This feversh work has kept Judy busy, however, and she is happy that they are now, finally, coming together just in time for the season. They are truly beautiful and are a lasting treasure.

Today it is raining, a lot. Welcome to winter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How REI has changed my Life!

My whole life I've been a bit confused about my athleticism.

I've always thought of myself as being rather sporting, at least in terms of being able to do things relatively active. I played racketball in college, and was fairly good. I bicycled at that stage of my life. I played basketball in high school (not well) and I participated in other activities. I have been a life long physical education participant, including running, hiking, biking, golfing and and pretty much any sort of physical activity. Now in my mid 50's, I'm still active and can keep up with folks much younger than I am.

So, if I hold fantasies that I can still hike and camp with men 30 years younger than I, am I fooling myself? Does my experience count for something? I suppose that if I am as smart as I think I am, I'd choose not to do dumb things like snow camping! But I think that snow camping sounds like fun! I remember a camp or two I did when I was a teenager and the memories were good, and maybe I don't remember how cold I was! Anyway, it sounds like fun again, and I like the idea of getting the "right" equipment to make the event possible in a modern sense. Cook stoves, hot tea, thermal socks, micro-fiber t-shirts, and all that high-tech stuff we've come up with that make cold weather camping possible for wussies like me are all enticing. Tents and sleeping bags rated for -10C! Cross-country skis and back packs filled with trail mix, Gore-tex and thermal down. Who could resist the technology?

Now, where to go?

Early Winter's Anticipation

What is it about fall?

I have seen the falling of leaves,
the smell of newly fallling snow.
The black and white contrast that comes
from white snow falling upon green trees.

Mountians draped in the season's first mantle.
The clear line that marks the snow level on the horizon.
A sunset's red glow sets the mountain ablaze!

My skis and boots are out and cleaned off in preparation.
Summer's tephera has been brushed off, and all is ready.
At home, rain is counted in inches
But in the mountains, feet are piling up.
Winter's slumber is our delight, our triumph.
So many possibilities, so many winter activities.
How to choose?

Tires are Everything!

I have to comment on this past week's travels. I left on Tuesday from home to go to Spokane. I ascended Steven's Pass in a snow storm, and managed to do so with the M&S rated tires I bought a year ago. They made the trip, although they were slippery and I had to be very careful. Once over the pass things were dry and clear and the way was fine, but the memory of the slippery trip was on my mind.

On Wednesday I returned, also over the pass. This time, with a passenger, the trip was more treacherous, and the tires were more suspect. From the actual pass I called my Snohomish Les Schwab tire retailer and and made a reservation to have the tires chaged to Toyo Blizzak snow tires that same afternoon. It took about an hour, and I was now clad in actual tires made for the snow.

Thursday I was off to Kamloops BC over the Coquahalla Highway. It was snowning harder than ever, and we were stopped by the traffic authorities for over an hour just to be sure that the cars and trucks that ascended the pass were capable to making the trip. My Prius was doing fine, and we jumped to the top of the pass without issue. In fact, after going over the top and making our way along the highway for a while, I noticed that these new tires were kicking up quite a tail behind my car. They looked like the rooster tail that forms behind hydroplanes and the trail was fully as tall as the car. I was so proud! The Prius is front wheel drive and the spray we were creating was from the back tires, where there was no power to do the kicking up! It was strictly sympathetic grip causing the spray. I live for such moments....

Friday was worse in terms of weather and road conditions, but I was bold and fearless. My Prius was solid and reliable on the return trip. The Traction Control light never came on. We sped douwn the hghway wihtout issue and without fear.

Overall, I drove about 1,350 miles over the 4 days this past week. I should be a travel agent!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Government Subsidies for Energy

My business is booming. The companies I work for supplying energy to utility companies that are responding to state mandates for renewable energy. Renewable energy is generally considered to be wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and biomass. There are others, but they are pretty minor.

An article in the Seattle Times today talked about the crazy way government subsidies have screwed up the energy business when it comes to things like solar energy in California. A $1.6 billion project to install solar panes has been installed, and this will serve some 100,000 homes. That is a trival amount of power for so much money expended. Not to mention that fact that it doesn't help them at night!

I have a series of project sactive in CA just now to convert coal power plants to biomass. Just to mention it in passing, coal is cheap, abundant, and available. Still, coal is OUT for the USA, and biomass in IN.

Anohter segment of my business is in building ship loaders at ports. That part is booming, too. I'm working on bidding a coal loading facility in Louisiana currently. I don't know where the coal will come from, specifically, but I beleive it will come down the Mississippi River from Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and elsewhere. Plants in these states are changing from coal to other things, and the coal companies are trying to find markets for their product.

Here is Washington there is a plan to export coal from Wyoming and ship it to China and Korea. There is a opposition from locals who object to coal trains, and perhaps to coal in general. Washington has one coal burning power plant, and it has signed an agreement to convert to natural gas by 2025. Until then, the coal trains will roll.