Ashes and dust

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

Jack London

Still a lad

Zaque sent me a little birthday poem just now:

Happy birthday Dad!
You’re the best one I’ve ever had
You make masterpieces on your drawing pad
You’re good at math cuz you can add
You’re way older, but you’re still a lad
There’s only a few times you’ve ever been mad
(But that’s because I did something bad)
And you are pretty rad
And rarely wear plaid
I’ll still beat you in games, but don’t be sad
Because even if we’re 11-0…
I still love you dad.

Ten tons

The snow just keeps falling, and our driveway just keeps getting more buried. In an effort to help the plow crew get up the driveway so they can turn around and go back down to clear it, Pepper and I spent a couple hours this morning shoveling two tracks all the way down to the road. My phone camera didn’t do a very good job showing the tracks, because the light was flat (still snowing) and there just isn’t much contrast. But here’s what it looked like:

After we finished, I felt like doing a bit of math. My shovel has a blade that’s 30 inches across. The driveway is just shy of half a mile long, from garage to mailbox. And the snow was, on average, a little over a foot deep. Multiplying that out, I shoveled around 6,500 cubic feet of snow. Pepper’s shovel is a bit more narrow, giving her a little over 5,000.

How much did that weigh? Of course snow has varying densities, depending on how wet it is, so I used the numbers for “fresh snow” which is basically powder. The estimated weight of 6,500 cubic feet of powdery snow is around 20,000 pounds. That’s ten tons. On the low end. Pepper hauled at least eight tons.

Now, of course, I’m wondering if it was even worth the effort, because so much snow has fallen since this morning that the tracks are filling back in. Luckily we’re warm, safe, and have food, so we’ll just hunker down and enjoy being homebound for a few more days.

The snow is deep, the driveway’s steep

The snow fell all day yesterday and into today, and here we are with nearly two feet in places. It’s pretty, isn’t it?

Well, all that pretty is on our driveway too. And a little while ago we got a call from the snow plowing crew… they can’t get up the hill to plow it. They have 4×4 trucks with chains, and they’re having no luck. And if they can’t make it, you can sure bet we won’t be able to make it.

So here we are, literally trapped at our house. We might be able to make it down (driving really slowly) but we’re not crazy about parking the car at the bottom of the driveway in sub-zero temperatures for a few days, and then hoofing it a half-mile back up the hill to the house.

Ahh, Montana winters!


Today it was zero degrees outside. Actually it was a little less than that in the morning, but when I happened to glance out the window at the lake, it was zero. There was a bright sun overhead and a ghostly mist rising from the water.

Pepper and I left a little while later to head to town, and I managed to get a better view from an overlook along the highway.

Pretty cool! The lake has looked like this for the past week or so, as the temperatures have plummeted but all the water has remained above freezing. It’s fun to watch the moisture float across the gentle waves…

Blue and white

I think we have the most snow we’ve seen since moving to Montana… there’s well over a foot on the ground, all sparkling powder sitting atop a crusty packed layer. Today was a beautiful blue-sky day, so I walked around the house and snapped a few photos.

A dearth of emails

I’ve always loved email, ever since that day in college when I learned it was possible to send messages around the world… for free! That was back in 1990. As I was cleaning up my mail client today, I noticed that in my “Sent 2020” folder I had just shy of 2,000 outbound messages. That works out to a little over 5 emails per day, on average, for the last year.

That might seem like a lot to some people, but it’s nothing compared to my heyday, back in 2012 when I sent an astounding 19,150 emails… that’s an average of more than 52 per day.

I’m a math nerd, so for fun I decided to graph my email history. Here’s the full chart, dating back more than twenty years. (Yes, I actually have all of my sent messages for all of those years.)

Retirement definitely slowed down my email pace. I still think email is a fantastic form of communication, although I feel like I’m a dying breed. All the kids are texting these days…

View from the tub

With over a foot of snow on the ground and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees, it seemed like a perfect time to hit the hot tub. We enjoyed a nice soak while we watched the sun set over the lake.

A snowy weekend

Thom & Co came out for the weekend, and we had a grand time in the newfallen snow. For the past couple of months, we’ve had a few little snowfalls that never amounted to much more than an inch or two on the ground. It was nice to finally get a proper winter storm.

First we headed up to Blacktail Mountain for some skiing. After agonizing over whether to strap on a snowboard and give it a go, Pepper finally decided to do it. She spent a little while on the bunny hill getting reacquainted with her board, and then hit the slopes. She looked pretty good!

Of course Thom put us all to shame– he’s the best skiier in the group by far. Katie and I had a great time doing some easier runs, and then I entertained Sefton in the lodge while she joined Thom for a while. Although the weather was a little dicey (snowing and breezy), it’s hard to beat $25 lift tickets!

Our next day was spent at Glacier. The fresh snow covered everything and made for a beautiful hike. Sefton was adorable in his little bear-ear hat.

Pepper was adorable too, naturally.

Sefton kept up a pretty steady stream-of-consciousness narration as we walked along the trail.

Short legs get tired hiking through snow, but he was a trooper and we managed to go a little over a mile before we had to turn around.

There were some great overlooks where we could see Lake McDonald in the distance as the sun sank toward the southwest.

The next day we’d gained another six inches of snow, so we decided it was time to ski and sled down the driveway. We were inspired by our friends’ driveway last week. Since our driveway is a steady incline and around a third of a mile long, it made a great course. Thom and I skiied down the fresh snow first.

Then the sledders came down.

We took turns as “designated driver”, coming down in our CR-V so everyone could pile in at the bottom of the driveway and get a ride back to the top. Of course Thom and I decided to hitch the sled to the back of the car and ride it uphill. Aside from exhaust fumes, it was a great ride.

After a few runs, the dense snow was hard-packed and fantastic for sledding. We’d pick up quite a bit of speed, and whipping around the switchback corners was always an adventure because we had to steer with our arms, and we’d often spin out and find ourselves heading downhill backward or something. Our “tracks” were basically the wheel ruts, so it was possible to race side-by-side down the driveway.

It was an absolute blast. This morning, as Thom and Katie were packing up to head back home, we had another six inches of powder on top of everything. The snow was so light and fluffy it was like shoveling air. We cleaned off their car (quite a chore with over a foot of snow on it) and they headed out. As always, it was good to have them visit and we’re excited to go their direction in a few months.

Water? Nah, try strychnine

I just learned about the 1904 Olympic marathon. It’s an absolutely bonkers story, and well worth a read. I’ll hit the highlights.

The 1904 Olympics were held in St Louis, and as everyone knows, summertime in Missouri can be a bit warm and humid. The temperatures were in the mid-90’s on the day of the marathon, with humidity well above 90%. The combination created a heat index around 135 degrees. The roads were covered in several inches of dust and included seven hills– some up to 300 feet high– as well as cracked stone that was treacherous to walk on, much less run. Traffic cruised through the streets, including trolley cars and the occasional railroad crossing.

The contestants in the marathon were a ragtag band; most were Americans but perhaps the most colorful was Félix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto (that’s a mouthful), a Cuban mailman who was famous for walking the length of the island. He arrived in New Orleans on his trip to compete in the Olympics, but lost all his money in a dice game and had to hitchhike to St Louis. After not eating for 40 hours as he traveled north, he showed up in a long-sleeved white shirt, long pants, and a dashing beret. His fellow racers helped him tear his pants at the knee so he could at least run a bit better. Frankly, he looks pretty cool.

At the direction of the Olympics’ chief organizer, the runners were forbidden from drinking water except at a single well along the course. There was a theory that “purposeful dehydration” was beneficial to running and other strenuous exercise. Ahh, sports theories.

Let’s check in on some of the runners:

  • William Garcia collapsed partway into the race with severe hemorrhaging. The dusty air had coated his esophagus and ripped his stomach lining. If he hadn’t been rushed to the hospital he likely would have bled to death.
  • John Lordon gave up after vomiting uncontrollably from the dust.
  • Len Tau was chased a mile off the course by a pack of wild dogs.
  • Felix (above) ran quite well, frequently stopping to talk with spectators in broken English. He later noticed an apple orchard and ate a few of the fruits, but they were rotten and he ended up with horrible stomach cramps. He stopped running and decided to take a nap for a while. He eventually finished in fourth place.
  • Fred Lorz was cramping badly, so he hopped into a passing car and rode for nearly 11 miles, waving at the spectators and his fellow runners as he passed them. He climbed out of the car and ran triumphantly into the stadium, where he was declared the winner amidst a cheering crowd. The gold medal was about to be hung around his neck by President Roosevelt’s daughter Alice when someone yelled that he’d ridden part of the way. The crowd booed, he was stripped of his victory, and he later claimed he had only done it as a joke.
  • Thomas Hicks complained of dehydration but was refused water. Instead, his trainers sponged out his mouth with warm water and fed him egg whites mixed with strychnine. The latter was often used (in small doses) as a stimulant, and there weren’t any rules against doping. He was barely able to run, but kept up a limp, almost robotic trot for miles. He started hallucinating and was given more egg whites and strychnine, this time with some brandy to wash it down. As he entered the final miles of the race, he begged for food, or to just lie down, but his trainers gave him more eggs and brandy and urged him on. When he finally arrived at the stadium, he could hardly move and ended up being carried across the finish line while his legs twitched beneath him. He was promptly given medical care; he had lost eight pounds during the race and would likely have died without immediate care.

At the end of the day, only 14 of 32 runners finished the race. The winning time was a full 30 minutes slower than the next worst Olympic marathon time. It’s widely agreed that it was the worst marathon course of all time (with the possible exception of the original one, I suppose).

History is crazy!