Big Head Todd Was In The House!

Us by “night” at the venue. This would’ve been ~11:00 pm? Happy Wife showing a little perspiration on her brow. Not surprising given we were packed liked sardines near the mosh pit. Fantastic show!

Quack

I don’t want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don’t want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

-Todd Rundgren, Bang The Drum All Day

A Long Drive

One look into the night sky is all it takes. To feel irrelevant.

Consider that light travels through space eleven million, one hundred sixty thousand miles a minute. So in one day it travels sixteen billion, seventy million, four hundred thousand miles. To drive that distance (@ 60 MPH) would take (roughly) two hundred sixty eight million hours.

I have been alive on this planet roughly five hundred forty six thousand hours. Call it a lifetime. If I had spent every hour of that time driving a straight line into space (@ 60 MPH) I’d be roughly thirty three million miles from earth by now. It would take me four hundred eighty six lifetimes of continuous driving to reach the same point in space that light travels in one hour.

(For perspective: @60 mph it would take 165 days to drive to the moon, roughly six months, allowing for pee stops along the way).

Stop and think about this a second (by which time light will have traveled~186,000 miles!). Especially in light of the latest report from NASA that its newest telescope, the James Webb, recently crushed its predecessor’s record (The Hubble) for furthest object in space observed. Which was…wait for it…roughly thirteen billion light years distant. Which, if I’ve done the math correctly, is on the order of ten Sixtillion ( 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) miles away. Pretty far. And growing! Since we understand the universe is expanding.

The James Web detected a galaxy roughly 2 billion light years to the right of Hubble’s record

There are a lot of galaxies (actually, galaxy groups) out there rapidly moving away from each other. Eventually, if the universe continues to expand at this rate, the galaxy groups will be so far away from our Milky Way even our most powerful telescopes won’t be able to detect them. It’s not all bad, though. To the average earthling a million years hence, the night sky will appear unchanged, pretty much like it is now, since expansion isn’t occurring within our galaxy (or even galaxy cluster, so far as I understand it).

When I hear certain people imagine heaven, I imagine they imagine it is out there beyond the Reionisation Era somewhere (see figure). Still others believe it exists beyond the Big Bang, or, more precisely, that the Big Bang was God. The idea that instead of being opposed in their fundamental worldviews, physicists and religionists are in a sense talking about the same thing. I don’t believe science has an answer for every question, certainly not to the level of satisfaction we would like. On the other hand, I resist, and have always resisted, any committed belief in supernatural things. About as far as I am willing to come in that regard is: “I can’t necessarily rule it out.” Overall, though, when I ponder the night sky, accept my insignificance in the grand milieu of a mysterious universe, the sheer vastness and mystery of it all is enough unknown for me to grapple with in one lifetime.

The night sky over Sedona. Looks like a big question mark to me. Wonder how long it would take to drive there

The Happy Uterus

While in Utah stuck in traffic somewhere near Salt Lake City (SLC) we spotted a tandem Ad across two billboards separated by about 1000′

My first thought was Utah is the last state where I’d expect to see the word uterus appear on a billboard. On second thought, no, maybe the most likely state. I admit this arises from an assumption I have about the people who live in Utah. That is, pro-family people who generally speaking have an exaggerated interest in encouraging Utahans to make more babies, especially babies who will themselves grow up to make even more babies!

Turns out the Ad sponsor, mixhers, according to their About Us page, is a company that makes an holistic elixir formulated specifically to “stifle our monthly strife,” aka menstrual inflammation. The main takeaway: A smiling uterus is a competent uterus! Also from the About Us page, a photo of what I assume are some of mixher’s employees

Those are some wholesome-looking white women. Each of them possessing, I presume, a smiling uterus. From a local marketing perspective this kinda makes sense. Only two in one hundred people living in SLC are black, compared to my hometown, Milwaukee, where roughly one in five people are black (source). On the other hand, if your goal is to expand your product reach to uteruses country-wide (mixher’s offers free shipping nationally on orders >$150), then you might consider peppering that photo a little bit. Although, to be honest, I claim no particular expertise in marketing products to make uteruses happy. So what do I know.

We opted to drive back to Seattle via Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Driving down to Sedona we stuck mainly to the west coast to avoid snow in mountain passes. I was struck by the massive number of trucks on the road. In fact for some of the longest stretches it was mostly trucks, only punctuated here and there by a few passenger vehicles. And I hear truck drivers are in high demand, we need a lot more of them. HW was struck by how much of the American west, at least from the perspective of major highways, was wide open and barren – no people, no services, no nothing except parched desert and tumbleweeds. I commented that a lot of it is owned by the federal government, some of which has been leased to ranchers (e.g. cattle grazing), although I didn’t have an estimate at hand. Turns out it’s larger than I thought, close to half

Federal government claims ownership of about 47% of American West.

In Alaska it’s close to 70%. The libertarian in me would like to see most of this land sold into private hands, maybe to building contractors who can build big homes for all those babies the Utahans are gonna have. The tree-hugger in me would prefer to see it all turned into one big national park as we transition Americans to eating Impossible burgers.

Speaking of national parks, this was the taken at the south rim of the Grand Canyon (Navajo Overlook), HW’s first ever visit

The spiritualist in me would prefer this cathedral remain untouched, left just as it is, forever.

Among the Red Rocks

HW performs some needed trail maintenance. This was very near the White Line “trail” looming above the Chicken Point overlook in Sedona, AZ. You can see portions of it behind HW, a thin white streak set against the ferruginous sandstone. I put trail in quotes because to observe the White Line from the overlook below you’d think a person would have to be daft to try and traverse it on foot, never mind on a mountain bike. One slip up is all it would take to fall to the canyon floor below, some 150-200′ (?) Yet certain intrepid souls attempt it all the time

Completing the challenge requires cycling along the line right to left, and then at one point descending while turning 180ยบ to ride a lower shelf back to the starting point. Seriously, take a look at that verticality! This is the most terrifying point in the traverse, because as you descend that 25′ or so you’re pointed directly downhill, right into the jaws of the canyon 😲 Like that first guy up there. The rider behind him stopped at that point, evidently deciding he’d prefer to live to ride another day, and butt-slid down it while holding his bike in front of him. On reaching the shelf below he carefully re-mounted his bike and pedaled back to the start. Even that part would be terrifying to ride if you ask me.

Yes, one could very easily die attempting this feat. According to locals nobody has, although some have fallen off their bikes but managed (somehow) to grab hold of the rock and “stick” to it to prevent falling to their death. Their bikes weren’t so lucky. The canyon floor, I assume, is littered with bike debris.

Unable to resist a closer look my friend Scott and I hiked up to the start of the line. The rest of our group followed a bit later. This is Scott with his hand on the start of the White Line. Gives you a real sense of the steepness and exposure of this beast

For sure we have ventured out on mountain bikes ourselves, to explore the red rocks and their various declivities. Although we limited our rides to the blue trails (intermediate) avoiding black diamonds altogether. As they say – Live to ride another day!

Guess Where

We’re here for about five weeks, chilling at a VRBO, with numerous friends visiting throughout.

By night, other visitors parade through the front yard. Black Dog’s never seen anything like em 🤨

On The Road

We’re on the road. We shipped one of our cars to Washington state, I’m here with it now awaiting the arrival of HW and Black Dog. The car arrived days ahead of schedule and sat in a warehouse until yesterday. The battery was dead and even after a jump none of the features on the key fob worked (door lock, auto-start, open/close rear hatch). Drove to NAPA for a battery test, it passed, but barely. Stopped and restarted the car but the key fob features were still non-operational. So I drove to a nearby dealership for a new battery and key fob reset. Amazingly, service was open and not too busy, they got me in straight away, in about an hour I was good to go.

Shout out to Sharps Roasthouse. 1/2 rack of fruit-wood smoked St Louis ribs, mashers, coleslaw, rings of grilled corn. Played well with a glass of Washington State Pinot Noir. First restaurant I’ve been to that required proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to get in. Fortunately, I’d brought my vax card along.

Ukraine…smh. Can we get some adults in the foreign policy room, plz.

Headed further south this afternoon!

Peace

HW, Black Dog, and Winter. We’re here four or five days a week. Not uncommon to have it all to ourselves. Only now and then do we pass by skiers, fat-tire bikers, or other dogs and their uprights. Soon we will leave this for a many weeks adventure to warmer climes, though surely none as tranquil as this. By the time we return the bears will be stirring and geese arriving. Steady as she goes.

Carpe Diem

The Optimist’s take on a birthday: A day younger than tomorrow. That assumes my tomorrow will come, the uncertainty of which gives credence to the Philosopher’s take: Live for the day.

Today I’m in search of a word that means the mixed feeling of relief and surprise one has on realizing an outcome or goal. At 62 my thoughts drift back to that early winter night, a young me in the passenger seat of a chopped Nova tricked out with ultra-wide racing slicks, the invisible black ice on the overpass, that feeling of the back end letting loose, fish-tailing wildly – left, right, then left again – before magically correcting and then we were off the overpass back on the frontage road like nothing had happened. Even as I turned to look at the driver, my friend, to see if he felt like I did, that what had just happened back there could have gone very badly for us, knowing full well there was no way that silly little guard rail was gonna stop no two-ton Nova douhnuting out of control from flying off the overpass and smashing on the road below. When finally he turned to look at me his eyes were like two full moons – I could have been looking in a mirror. One of those rare times between friends when no words need be spoken, he knew what I knew.

These are the close calls that give parents gray hairs to hear retold. And I’ve had others over the years, hasn’t everyone? Certain times when the laws of probability might have broken left instead of right. And some close calls we’re not even aware of. I sometimes remark in mixed company when the discussion turns to lucky breaks and getting old that we’re all one cell division away from our next birthday not arriving. Replicating 23 pairs of chromosomes every time a cell divides need go wrong just once to get the big-C going. But DNA replication mistakes aren’t something you experience happening. Multiple sclerosis afflicts many people, although the typical decades of onset for this disease are your 20s or 30s. Not that you’re out of woods in your 40s, but that’s roughly when the law of probability starts to bend in your favor, when you’ve dodged another bullet. The list of close calls goes on.

Still, it remains true that the strongest correlate for no more birthdays is age. There is no better predictor. So live for the day and don’t skip on the treats. I famously like to remind people (as HW would tell you ๐Ÿ™„ ) – “Don’t forget, half the people on the Titanic turned down the dessert tray!”