Monday, June 30, 2008

Adventure Aborted

Packed and ready to goSince moving from Utah almost 2 years ago, I've been aching to get back into the mountains for a few days. Our previous attempt as a family notwithstanding, I've been looking forward to a chance for some serious mountain hiking and backpacking for a while. Rooming with Bruce this summer has been fortuitous in that we both enjoy the outdoors, having done a few hikes while living together previously as roommates at BYU.

The Plan was to spend this entire week in the Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California. (In spite of what people in the Bay Area will say, there really is a substantial part of California farther to the north.) The Trinity Alps are part of a relatively-unknown area which contains large amounts of virgin timber and several dozen high alpine lakes, the perfect place to disappear from civilization for a week.

Unfortunately, we managed to pick the weekend when the entire state of California turned into a giant campfire. With packs loaded and ready to go, we drove over 12 hours during the course of a 24-hour period, looking for a place to go backpacking, from Oregon to Yosemite, but to no avail. I refer the interested reader to Bruce's fascinating writeup and analysis for more information, but suffice it to say I'm spending the evening writing this post instead of counting the stars in the Milky Way. Bummer.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Bike and meWhile I've been in California this summer, I've been pretty car-less and with gas prices the way that they are, I'm not complaining. Instead of a car, I have a new bike, a Trek 2.3. I have wanted a road bike for a long time, and this summer turned out to be a opportune time to get one.

Of course, I decided to go ahead and register for the Marin Century, even though I hadn't done any regular riding for the last two years. My daily commute is around 7 miles, round trip, which gives me a chance to do push myself, but I really enjoy the longer rides as well. This morning, I decided to go for a 65-mile jaunt around the South Bay: over Dumbarton Bridge, out through Newark and Milpitas, down around San Jose and back through Cupertino and Los Altos. There weren't any major climbs, but it turned out to be quite the ride, and has given me some confidence for riding a century only 5 weeks hence.

On an unfortunate note, I did forget the sunscreen today, so I'm sporting some rather odd tan burn lines.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tomatoes and Drunk Drivers

The CDC has reported that since April, 552 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul. As a nation, our reaction has been almost heroic. We've pulled tomatoes from store shelves and fast food restaurants, banished them from sandwiches and let tons of stock spoil. In spite of its long-known and far-reaching health benefits, the tomato has overnight become the worst villain in the culinary industry. (Fortunately for our family, home grown tomatoes are still considered safe—for now.)

In 2006, the last year for which numbers are available, an estimated 17,602 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents. In 2001, more than half a million people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present (source). That's one injury every minute of every hour of every day for the entire year. For those keeping score at home, that's one Salmonella case for every 208 alcohol-related injuries, just since April.

Although no known deaths have occurred due to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, we've bent over backwards to "fix" that problem, but whatever efforts we make to curb drunk driving seem to have little effect. Putting my personal religious disdain of alcohol aside, it would just seem sensible to put the same vigor into the problem of drunk driving as we do to contaminated tomatoes. We seem to accept drunk driving and the consequent deaths as an unfortunate part of life, whereas we have a right to eat tomatoes risk-free. Maybe it's just me, but this seems a bit backward. I guess it just shows that the rational man is still an elusive creature.

As Joseph Stalin once remarked, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic". And that smells of rotten tomatoes.