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Benchmarks August 23, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, Other, Wordpress.

I came back from vacation and forgot to note that this blog passed its one-year anniversary earlier this month.  So there’s that.  And the day before yesterday it passed its 20,000 page-view mark, which is nice.  WordPress put together some neat new charts that allowed me to look back at the number of page-views weekly and monthly for the year, which showed exactly what I thought: As soon as I stopped actively commenting on other sites traffic on this site declined dramatically. 

Unfortunately, my comments on other wordpress sites are captured as spam.  Indeed, my own responses to comments on this site are treated as spam.  Don’t know what to do about this, but it is discouraging.  Commenting seems fairly pointless when you know your words are going into the Viagra bin.  Anyone else having this problem?

What I did on my summer vacation August 21, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
1 comment so far

I can’t believe all of the things I saw and did in just three weeks. 

I flew to the Sacramento area and stayed with Mum and Dad for a while, swimming and playing a little golf and seeing some old friends and relations.  Then me and my wife and son headed down south to visit my wife’s sister and see some of the sites and visit some other people.  We saw the La Brea Tar Pits, which was very cool.  We spent a day at Disneyland, which was really fun (my son is at a perfect age for amusement park rides).  Played some croquet with my niece and nephew down there, too.  Then we headed to the Grand Canyon, which was much more interesting than that insipid Kasdan film of the same name.  Then Mesa Verde, which was also quite stunning and interesting.  Then we continued north to Buena Vista, staying at a wonderful B&B for one night, right on the Arkansas River.  Next day we went to Cripple Creek, where half of the places in town are named after a distant relative of my wife (and son).  This is an active mining and gambling town at more than 10,000 feet elevation.  I had wanted to see Leadville, (because it was described so interestingly in Angle of Repose) but we didn’t have time.  Cripple Creek definitely satisfied my appetite for high-altitude mining towns, though.  We also saw The Garden of the Gods (um, some interesting rock formations on the outskirts of Colorado Springs).  Then we finally made it down to a mere mile or so above sea level to see my brother, Prairie Flounder.  It was a wonderful visit.  Such hospitality!

Prairie Flounder was working a fireworks show the Saturday after I arrived (he is now a Senior Pyrotechnician) and he convinced the show’s organizer to let me help.  After filling out some paperwork for the federal Department of Explosions (or something like that) I became a “Dud Spotter,” the lowest rung in the hierarchy of pyrotechnics.  My job was to watch the fireworks go up into the sky and make sure that I knew how many came back down without exploding and approximately where.

The show was for the Beef and Bean Day celebration for the Northern Colorado towns Johnston and Milliken, which are reasonably close to Casa Flounder. We started setting up the show at about 1:15, on a pretty hot Colorado day on a road between a cornfield and a field that had been barley, almost ready for harvest, but that had accidentally been set afire by youths playing with fireworks–see picture below, click to enlarge). 


I got to help wrap some “cake” (premade bundles of mortars that have complicated efffects and are electronically fired) in plastic after a safety lecture that had me a little terrified (see picture below of Prairie Flounder fusing a finished cake–click to enlarge).


Then we took it easy and came back in time to shoot the mortars into the sky. Here’s a picture of a five-inch shell, which makes an indescribably loud noise when it explodes out of the mortar (the little tubes on top are “tails” which trail smoke and/or flames, allowing you to see it fly through the sky–click to enlarge). 


When I say “indescribably loud” it is not a figure of speech–or even a cop-out.  When these mortars go off it is not really even a sound, in the conventional sense.  I was wearing ear plugs with ear-muffs over them.  Despite that, I could hear people around me quite clearly.  The explosions didn’t hurt my ears at all–they went “whumpf,” just like in the movies.  What the movies do not convey is that the shockwave almost hurts your skin.  Imagine that, all at once, all of the clothes you are wearing attempted to flee, at 350 miles per hour.  The weight of your body stops them, of course, since the blasts weren’t fierce enough to actually tear fabric (perhaps next year). But it is a very jarring sensation, even so, this flapping.  And it happened a hundred or so times, if I remember correctly.  It looked like this:

but brighter and louder.  For the full effect one should flog oneself with a flaming buffalo hide when one sees the flashes.

I really tried hard to spot duds, but I didn’t see any.  When we searched the fields after the show (in a line of at least ten people, all with flashlights) two of them found little “stars,” which are smaller than marbles, and probably wouldn’t injure anyone if they stepped on one.  I don’t know.   As we were about to clean up a family of three came riding down the dirt road on their bicycles.  It was pitch dark by then.  I can’t imagine why they would have been doing that.  The child with them appeared to be under 10 years of age.  Perhaps they were looking for duds, too. 

Back from Vacation August 16, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Maggie, Other.

I returned from vacation on Tuesday morning at about 10:00 am (a red-eye flight out of Denver that started at 11:55 the night before). I have been trying to sleep since then, with mostly disastrous results, but last night I finally got a few good hours in.

It will probably be a few days before I start blogging regularly, partially because my job did not go away while I was gone. Indeed, even though I worked a little while out, there is plenty awaiting my attention. Eventually I hope to have enough free time to blog about my vacation a little.

Today I went to the kennel to retrieve Maggie. She was doing obedience training while we were away, and she learned a lot. The trainers called her a “trainer’s dog” because she was so smart. Instead of stopping after the conclusion of the 14-day course to which they committed, they kept training her for an extra week, seeing just how much she could absorb.

I turned around a minute ago to see if she could help me with linking to a video of the spectacular training results, but she’s clearly a little tired, and happy to be back home (see below, clicking for a larger image).


I have never posted a link to youtube, so I suspect that I have screwed it up. It doesn’t preview like it says it should. So, my apologies if all you see is some text below. I think I followed the instructions correctly, though, so I will give it a try anyway. Click here for a demonstration of her incredible discipline. Or you could try clicking here (that might work, I don’t know, really). Or, if youtube works, you would click on the triangle below.