Random (but not really)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It is not too soon

It is entirely too late

Written by Michelle at 7:31 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hiking WV: Solly Sods

Our original plan was the get to Canaan Thursday night and spend Friday and the weekend hiking, but when the forecast changed to rain on Saturday and overcast all Friday, we shifted things a bit so I could take pictures Thursday afternoon, and then Friday would be hiking.

We got very lucky, because instead of overcast, the weather was partially cloudy, and our hike at Dolly Sods ended up being absolutely stunning.

Location: Dolly Sods
Trails: Rocky Ridge, Blackbird Knob, Harman Trails
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 3746-4190 feet (684 ft)
Temperature: 30-41F

We’ve had a lot of odd weather this winter. For the second time this month, we had rain immediately followed by freezing temperatures and snow. When the rain fell on ground that was already freezing, it meant a lot of ice.

This was the trail we took up to Dolly Sods. It was a little more exciting than I generally prefer.

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Luckily, that was the worst portion of anything we hiked, and the view was well-worth the care we had to take reaching the ridge.

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Until temperatures warmed up to the mid 30s, all the trees were covered with snow and frost, and we walked through an amazing winter wonderland.

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We hiked down to the Left Branch of Red Creek and then turned around. It wasn’t one of our longest hike, but stepping into the occasional drift made the hike a little more work than usual.

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It once again reminded me how very lucky I am to both live in such an amazing place, and be able to get out and enjoy it.

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Written by Michelle at 8:53 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley

Of course we hiked the Blackwater Trail at Canaan Valley, because it’s one of my favorite trails, and since it’s short and easy, there’s never a reason not to hike it.

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I’ve been trying for as long as I’ve been hiking this trail to get a picture I liked of these stones (they are in several places). Finally, with the light coming through the winter trees and the snow lightening everything, I finally got a couple pictures I liked.

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Ice sandwich!

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Written by Michelle at 8:06 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls

Since the forecast for the weekend was rain rain rain rain rain, we decided to do our hiking Thursday and Friday.

Our first stop was Blackwater Falls (since its the first place we go past on our way from Morgantown).

It was beautiful. The trees were all rimmed with snow and frost and we had a lovely time wandering around enjoying the scenery.

No ice, but there was a LOT of water going over the main falls.

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As well as Elekala Falls.

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It took many shots and a lot of contortions to get a decent shot of this ice. But it was fascinating and beautiful.

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From Pendleton point, you can see the falls below Elekala falls, which we scrambled down to last summer.

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See! Gorgeous!

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Written by Michelle at 6:27 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Family Matters

We’ve been re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine recently.

The first seasons we mostly listened to while we played on our computers, but we’ve reached the point where things are getting very interesting. And complicated

We’ve already watched several of my favorite episodes, and they’ve reminded me precisely why I love this show so very much.

Let’s start with what is, hands down, my favorite episode, The Visitor. (Chances are I’ll start crying as I write this, since I always cry when watching it.)

In the story we discover that after Sisko disappears in an accident, Jake has spent his life trying to figure out how to bring his father back. The entire story is based upon the love a son feels for his father, but what makes it so good is that you believe it. The episodes building up to this episode have all shown how close the two are, how much they mean to each other, but most importantly, how vital this relationship is to both of them.

Whenever we see the two of them together, Sisko is hugging Jake or kissing him on the head or generally treating Jake as a beloved child. We also see them bickering over typical misunderstandings. We see Jake rolling his eyes when his father tells him something Jake believes he’s outgrown. We see Jake choosing to spend time with his friend(s) over his father. And we see Jake getting into trouble and Sisko making sure he deals with the consequences of his actions.

All of which is why this episode works so well: because these are two people who very clear care about each other. I’ve read multiple reports that Avery Brooks became a father figure to Cirroc Lofton, and love that comes through clearly whenever you see the two together on the screen.

But more importantly, they are written as a father and son. One of the things that irritated me most about ST:TNG is that I never believed the parent-child relationship between Dr Crusher and Wesley. I don’t blame that on the acting of the two, but upon the writing of the scenes. It’s like they made an idealized parent-child relationship that had no bearing on any reality ever.

However, in DS9 not only do you have a strong relationship between Jake and his father, but we also see O’Brien doting on Molly (I love the scene where she throws up on him (Fascination)) and Keiko and Miles having the typical arguments you see in strong marriages—and how they work past those problems.

The show has multiple families that behave like families: they bicker and nag and whine yet very obviously care for each other.

We get the same feeling when we see other family members of other characters: when Sisko visits earth, his relationship with his father (Brock Peters) is very similar to his relationship with Jake. He nags his father about his health. His father gripes about the nagging, yet we still see the affection.

Even more complex is an episode we haven’t re-watched yet, which is Bashir’s interactions with his parents. That’s another favorite episode, because that relationship is so very complicated, yet it still feels completely real—that actual parents would behave as Bashir’s parents did, sacrificing to give their son the best they could. And what is even more interesting is that complexity is glimpsed long before we meet those characters are learn about Bashir’s past. We see it in a throw-away line in season 4’s Homefront: O’Brien asks Odo to check on his parents, and when Odo asks Bashir if he would like him to check up on anyone, Bashir looks extremely uncomfortable and declines politely.

Even the relationship between Nog, Quark, and Rom matures as the show progresses and Rom steps out from his brother’s shadow, and although the initial episode with their mother is not one I particularly like, we still see complicated relationships between the three. And I adore the scene where Rom realizes Quark has sabotaged Nog’s Academy entrance exam. As well as the scene where Nog breaks down while explaining to Sisko why he wants to go to the Academy.

These are all characters who have depth and pasts and wants and needs and even if you don’t always see them on the surface, you still know they’re there. As flat as someone of these characters were in the first season, they all develop and grow and become far more than they first seem.

All of which means I ended up caring very much what happened to these characters, feeling their hurts and also feeling their joys.

It’s also one of the reasons why so many years later this show is still as relevant and touching as it was when it first came out.

Written by Michelle at 10:42 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Movies & TV  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Thoughts on Social Responsibility

I’ve been thinking recently about social responsibility and the social contract.

It’s that time of year, so there are lots of people complaining about paying taxes, and bragging about how they manipulate things so they pay a minimum tax bill.

There are also a lot of people who insist on buying only things that are cheap: never pay full price, never buy quality goods.

Why do I think this is an issue? Because that is socially irresponsible and it breaks the social contract.

First, let’s clarify what I’m talking about.

Social contract:
1. the voluntary agreement among individuals by which, according to any of various theories, as of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare or to regulate the relations among its members.
2. an agreement for mutual benefit between an individual or group and the government or community as a whole.

When we are part of society, we have implicitly agreed to follow certain rules and regulations that allow large groups of people to function without descending into chaos. We don’t steal, we don’t murder, and we treat fairly with each other.

But the social contract is more than that. In a moral and ethical society, it means we care for those who cannot care for themselves. For example, it’s why we have special legal protections for children.

It also means there are some things that are better managed by the government than by individuals and private companies: law enforcement, roads, and public safety come immediately to mind.

Taxes are the way we pay for these societal needs. If you don’t pay taxes, or attempt to shirk this duty, then you are taking advantage of your fellow citizens.

Let me be clear: I don’t mind paying a little extra to make up for the elderly widow who has minimal income. I don’t mind paying a little extra to cover the single parent trying to make ends meet. These are the things we do in a moral society.

What I do mind is people who can pay their way refusing to do so.

When people scheme to get out of paying their way in society, they are refusing to pay for the roads they drive on, the police that protect them, and the schools that educate future generations.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise choose to spend their money on the cheapest things available, they are making things worse for everyone else.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise buy the cheapest items available, it means they are driving down wages for those who make those goods.

They are supporting sweatshops.
They are forcing farmers to hire illegal immigrants.
They are requiring a minimum wage that is not a living wage.
They are forcing those at the bottom to struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table.
They are forcing those at the bottom to live in substandard and even dangerous housing.
They are encouraging a disposable society, where things are used briefly and discarded.

To make things worse, many of the people who purchase goods at prices lower than the cost of US production are the same people who are against providing any benefits whatsoever to the working poor.

They fail to understand the basics of TANSTAAFL.

We can’t have roads without taxes.
We can’t have schools without taxes.
We can’t have clean water without taxes.
We can’t have safe food without taxes.
We can’t have public health without taxes.

When people insist that the cost of goods remain low, the price still must be paid, but it is paid by those who manufacture and harvest and serve.

The mutilations and deaths of those in the meatpacking industries.
The injuries and deaths of farm workers.
The spread of food-borne illnesses.
Child labor.
A culture and conditions where poor working women are at constant risk for rape and sexual assault.

But what really makes me angry is when those who refuse to pay their taxes, and refuse to support businesses that pay a living wage, profess piety and claim the mantle of Christianity to hide their immoral and unethical behaviors.

Here’s the thing: I was forced to take six years of religion classes in school, and have had more than a passing interest in comparative theology as an adult, so I have more than a basic familiarity with the bible and the tenets of Christianity.

The bible speaks of caring for the poor and the sick. Of helping those in need and forgiving your enemies.

Nowhere does it claim that the poor need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Nowhere does it say that caring for your neighbors is the responsibility of someone else.

Nowhere does it say that we should care for only the people like ourselves, and let the rest of the world sort itself out.

In fact, the bible speaks quite clearly on the subject of paying the taxes.

Matthew 22:17-21 (KJV)
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

If you choose to weasel out of the social contract, that’s fine. We have free will and are allowed to make our own decisions. But don’t expect me to respect you.

And don’t claim to be a Christian.

Written by Michelle at 6:44 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Books of January

TA DA!

1) How is the first month of 2018 over already?!
2) We had several beautiful weekends and so managed to get out and hike. Huzzah!

The best books of the month were pretty much old favorites. I’ve been re-reading Rising Stars, which is one of my favorite comics. There are mature themes, so older teens only. But aside from kids, I wish everyone would read this series. Something happens, and a small group of kids end up with amazing, never-before-seen powers, and this story is of both those individuals and how society reacts to them. It’s amazing and heart-breaking and wonderful.

And if you haven’t come across them, I do recommend Anna Lee Huber‘s Lady Darby series. They are historical mysteries, featuring an artist who learned about the human body when her previous husband forced her to illustrate his anatomy books by drawing his dissections.

The others were two Robert B. Parker books, narrated by Burt Reynolds. (Beware: after being converted to digital, the production is awful) Small Vices is one of my all-time favorite books. Although the mystery is good, the story itself, as a whole, is what I love, especially the months that Spenser spends in California. This isn’t an action-packed book (although there is action), it’s a story about friendship and recover and (most of all) hard work. When I’ve struggled, this is the book I’ve turned to remind myself that hard work can bring you out the other side. You’ll be different, but you can make it out the other side.

Supernatural Fantasy

Dead Man Walking: A country house murder mystery with a supernatural twist (2016) Simon R Green (7.5/10)
Silence Fallen (2017) Patricia Briggs (7.5/10)

Mystery

The Pyramid of Mud (2014/2018) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli (7/10)

Historical Mystery

Lady Darby
A Study in Death (2015) Anna Lee Huber (9/10)
As Death Draws Near (2016) Anna Lee Huber (8/10)
A Pressing Engagement (2016) Anna Lee Huber
Miss Marple
At Bertram’s Hotel (1966) Agatha Christie (7/10)
Barker & Llewellyn
The Black Hand (2008) Will Thomas (7/10)

Romantic Mystery

Devil May Care (1977) Elizabeth Peters (7/10)
Die for Love (1984) Elizabeth Peters (6.5/10)
Into the Darkness (1990) Barbara Michaels (6.5/10)

Graphic Novel

Rising Stars, Vol. 2: Power  (2002) by J. Michael Straczynski, Ken Lashley, Christian Zanier, Stuart Immonen, Brent Anderson, John Livesay, Brett Evans, Dan Kemp (9/10)

Rising Stars, Vol. 1: Born In Fire  (2001) J. Michael Straczynski, Jason Gorder, Keu Cha, Christian Zanier (9/10)

Audible Books

Spenser
Small Vices, Audible Version
(1997) Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds (9/10)
Hush Money, Audio Version (1999/2000) Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds (8.5/10)
Sudden Mischief (1998) Robert B. Parker narration mangled by William Windom

OK! The stats! (HUZZAH!)

Trade Paperback: 2
eBook: 11
Audio: 3
Multiple Formats: 2
Re-read: 8

Half re-reads this month, mostly because of the posts I wrote up about books I love, I then remembered that I really needed to re-read a bunch of books.

Two trade paperbacks this month, because as much as I love ebooks, I prefer comics on paper. Probably because my screens are too small to see a whole page and read the text, which is a much better way for me to read comics.

Fantasy: 4
Mystery: 13
Romance: 3
Comic: 2

Mostly mysteries this month. Who knows why my brain wants what it wants. Not me. (The three romances were also mysteries.)

Male: 8
Female: 8

And we start the year with an even split between male and female authors.

And those are the books of January!

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hiking WV: New River Gorge

It had warmed up by the time we made it to New River Gorge, but there was still snow, and it was still beautiful.

We hadn’t been to endless wall in the winter before, so I was surprised to see 1) how close we actually were to the ground and 2) the shape of the underlying mountains.

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With the leaf fall, you can see across the river to the Kaymoor Miners Trail and old Kaymoor Mine site.

If you zoom in on this picture, you can more clearly see the 821 steps down to the railroad tracks.

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Here is the bottom of the site and you can see the decayed buildings and ghosts of the railroad tracks.

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The trail itself is a relatively easy and has an amazing payoff.

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We wandered off trail a bit to explore the creek.

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Written by Michelle at 9:37 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Babcock State Park

We were originally heading to Cranberry Glades when I realized how beautiful the morning was, and that Babcock State Park would most likely be beautiful, so we stayed on 19 and were well-rewarded.

We didn’t hike much, just walked around finding the places I thought would be most beautiful.

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Written by Michelle at 9:16 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley & Blackwater Falls

Since we’d had a cold snap after the rains, and since temps were supposed to start rising, we took Friday to travel to Blackwater Falls in hopes that the falls were frozen.

It hadn’t bee cold enough to freeze the falls completely, but there was still a fair amount of ice.

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Why yes, I did ignore the “Closed” sign and went down the stairs.

For this view? It was worth it. (Plus, I was very careful.)

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Pretty!

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We also went down to Elakala Falls.

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Let me be clear, the scramble down is never especially easy, but in the winter, especially after a lot of rain and then a snap freeze, the path is treacherous.

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We wore Yaktrax, because I know very well how clumsy I am.

But it was well worth it.

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Because it was already warming up, water was starting to trickle down the icicles.

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We also went to Canaan Valley SP.

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I mentioned that earlier we’d had rain and then a quick freeze earlier. I hadn’t quite thought about how that would affect this boggy, marshy area.

What happened is that the low areas flooded, and then froze. So any low-lying ground ended up covered in ice.

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Normally we’ll walk out to the end of this bit of land, but the path was solid ice–and slippery. So we just looked (it wasn’t worth the view to pull out and put on the Yaktrax). It was pretty amazing.

If you look closely at this picture, you’ll see that a layer of ice formed on the grass, several inches above the ground.

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It was a wonderful day, and I’m glad we were able to get away to enjoy it.

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Written by Michelle at 11:18 am      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  
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