Sunday, June 29, 2008

Max and the missing railroad

I met up with a group of friends Saturday night. One of my friends, Max, is a retired Civil Engineer turned historian; he has published several books. Last night he told us about the time he visited the Ames Pyramid.

The Ames Pyramid is a monument east of Laramie Wyoming along the route of the First Transcontinental Railroad. When Max visited it, fifty years ago, he discovered that the railroad no longer goes past the monument. He wanted to know why. Being a historian, he did some research and wrote a short paper documenting what he learned. Summarized below is the story Max told us:
Grenville Dodge was a officer during the American Civil war and the campaigns against the American Indians. Dodge left the military and went to work scouting and surveying the route for the First Transcontinental Railroad. While scouting the route between modern day Cheyenne Wy. and Laramie Wy. Dodge and his party came under attack by natives who opposed the railroad cutting through their territory. Dodge ordered his men into a dry creek bed now called Lone Tree creek. They followed this creek back to their encampment at Cheyenne. Dodge latter realized the route along the creek would be a good route for the railroad to follow through the Laramie mountains. The route turned out to be the highest point (8,247 feet) along the railroad, and it also had the steepest grade along the route (90 feet rise per mile.)

Much of the funding for the First Transcontinental Railroad came from Crédit Mobilier headed by the Oakes Ames. His brother Oliver Ames was president of the Union Pacific Railroad. The two brothers also owned a company that supplied equipment to the railroad and mining industry. After the completion of the railroad the stockholders of the Union Pacific voted to erect a monument in honor of the Ames brothers. When it was completed, the monument was 300 feet south of the highest point along the railroad.

But Dodge had made a hasty decision to bring the railroad through this route. Had he scouted a little longer he would have discovered a better route a few miles further south. The new route passes through the Laramie mountains at an elevation of 8,202 feet with a grade of 45 feet per mile. The Ames monument now stands nearly forgotten bypassed by both the railroad and the Interstate highway. [Google Map]
Like most American children I had to take classes in American history. We learned about Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, dead Presidents, and all the Acts of Congress; there was probably a paragraph about the Transcontinental Railroad too. I haven't studied history since High School. But, Junior High and Hight School history classes don't include such juicy little snippets of history like the one Max gave us Saturday night.

I had never heard of the Ames Monument. If I ever heard of Grenville Dodge, Thomas Durant, or Oakes Ames I had long forgotten them. It amazes me to think if I had not met Max I would not have learned this very interesting bit of American history.

Thanks Max!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Birds in City Park

I went to City Park this morning. Here are some pictures of the birds I saw there. These pictures were all taken with my camcorder.

Canada GooseDouble-Crested Cormorant
Snowy Egretyoung Barn Swallow
You've read the Blog now see the movie.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trip to old Boston

I and two colleagues had the opportunity to travel to Boston Massachusetts in the spring of 2001. Here are the pictures I took on that trip.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leisure time

I started a two week vacation today; I'm calling it a "staycation" because it's going to be a stay at home vacation. I'm looking forward to some down time where I don't have to think about work. Work has been a little more intense since the new Vice President started in March.

I plan on visiting a couple of the near by State Parks during my time off. I plan to take lots of pictures and maybe some video. I also want to write, what the Bloggers call, a "Pillar article". A pillar article has long term appeal, isn't news or time dependent and offers real value and insight. I have a couple of books I've been putting off that I want to read. And, I would like to make at least one You Tube video - something a little more serious than my last two videos (I have to find a use for all that stuff I bought.)

I installed a web browser called Opera this morning. It's been around for several years but I've never tried it before. I decided to try it out after one of the guys on the PaulDotCom podcast said he started using it. I like it so far and it does render web pages a little nicer than Firefox does. I will not use Safari at all and I avoid using Internet Explorer as much as possible.

This weekend (June 21 & 22) is PrideFest 2008 here. I don't get very excited about PrideFest anymore. I'm not sure I'm going to go. It's always really hot, very noisy and very crowded. Last year the temperature reached 100F and they are forecasting temperatures above 90F tomorrow (it's 89F now.) I can't take that kind of heat any more.

I went to PrideFest 2006 and it was so crowded that you couldn't even turn around - you just got pushed along by the crowd. Now, that would be ok with me if the entire crowd was comprised solely of 20 year old Twinks in bikini briefs, unfortunately that's not how it works out (and I have the gall to say "I value diversity.")

I will have friends marching in the parade Sunday morning. There will be some marching with the Obama group, some in the Stonewall group and some in the Unitarian group.  Rats, now I feel guilty.  Maybe I should at least go take some pictures.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A busy and hectic week

This past week was a very busy and hectic week. I spent most of my time responding to undesirable events that don't really have a clean effective solution.

The spammers and Phishers are really getting good, unfortunately there is still a small percentage of people who get tricked by even the most obvious phishing attempts. It doesn't help matters any when some legitimate businesses are switching to Email to transact business that use to be done in person or through the US postal service. This makes it nearly impossible for even a savvy person to differentiate fake Email from legitimate Email. I tell people to delete all of it - don't even try to differentiate between them - just don't transact confidential business via Email!

They are even taking to using the telephone to run these Phishing attacks. I found a voice message on my answering machine claiming to be from my insurance provider. The computer voice said they had "Very important health information for me and they needed me to call them back at ..." Yet there was no way what so ever for me to verify that the computerized call really was from my insurance company. I called the number back just to see what would happen, and sure enough, the computerized voice immediately started prompting me for my very confidential information, so I hung up on it. I'm not going to give that information out without being able to verify who I'm talking to or why they need my information - least of all to a "cold caller."

I've thought about deleting the "Temporary Insanity" video a couple of times, but when I look at it again (off-line because I don't want to increment the play count) I conclude that it isn't that bad. It is silly and (mostly) pointless but it is also spontaneous and funny. I think there is a subtle hidden point to it, perhaps regretting an impulsive purchase, so I'll leave it on-line a while longer.

I tried taking some more video of my walk around the park again. I've tried this 3 times now but I've always been disappointed in the result. I'll try again, maybe try a different tactic, or maybe recording my walk around the park isn't the thing to do.

Time to do laundry again - ugh.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking forward to time off

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (audio edition) for the second time last night. I really enjoyed Jim Dale's performance. It's fun to kick back and let someone tell you a story.

I'm looking forward to some time off. I mentioned to a colleague this afternoon that I was planning on going to Roxborough park and Eldorod park; she suggested I would probably enjoy Castle Wood park too. I'll have to stick to the easy trails; I'm not fit enough for the moderate and difficult trails. She also said for some easy bird watching to take a stroll around City park - they have a lot of Herons and Egrets there. I have a long lens for my camera that I want to try out.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Keeping my anger in check

Today was a good day! It didn't start out that way though. Something happened this morning that upset me. Fortunately I was able to muster up the fortitude to check my anger, keep my cool and remain civil.

I'm still feeling a little upset about this mornings events but I've decided it isn't worth the fight and that I should count my blessings again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fleeting thoughts and rhubarb pie

I haven't posted for a week. I was hoping to post some really deep and meaningful thoughts but my deep and meaningful thoughts are also rather fleeting - they don't seem to last very long.

I listened to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (audio CD) for the second time last week. This week I am listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (audio CD) for the second time.

I went to a picnic Saturday evening. The host has two big mounds of rhubarb. She had me cut some of it and yesterday she brought me a rhubarb pie! Oh joy!

Hallelujah! The primaries are over! On to the convention (which is going to be a huge non-event.)

I need to take some time off from work; I'm really feeling burned out and don't have a lot of motivation. I am tired of thinking. I'm taking the last week of June and the first week of July off. I have a pass to the State Parks and plan to visit some of them then.