Archive | April, 2012

Yosemite Range of Light

25 Apr


Yosemite Range of Light from Shawn Reeder on Vimeo.

Why Aren’t You Outdoors Yet?

24 Apr

By dave


I Could Never Do That!

These three words are spoken by many of my non-outdoorsy friends that admire the fact that I am an outdoorsy person. My other non-outdoorsy friends that do not admire that fact, well, they have other words and opinions of me. I tend to find them quite hilarious. For instance, c’mon, like I’d really be attracted to a bear. Ha! A bear has a lot of nice qualities, but it’s no whitetail deer. Wait. What the hell just happened there?! PLEASE allow me to digress.

What Can’t You Do?

What is it that I’m doing that you could never do? Enjoying breathtaking sights? Hiking up mountain peak that is actually considered just a scramble? Going to climbing areas that are so populated that you can literally find bolts gleaming in the sun from several hundred yards away, for any difficulty rating you could imagine?

I’m not doing anything you couldn’t do. You have two legs, so you can hike. To go along with your lower appendiges, you also have an equal number of appendiges upstairs unless you’re like my friend Austin, whom had an extra pinky. Don’t worry, it was removed at birth. So assuming you have 2 arms, 10 fingers (please, let’s not get into “thumbs aren’t fingers” debate) , 2 legs, and 10 toes that are all functioning mostly normal, you can do what I do.

What I do is nothing special. I’m not hiking the Swiss Alps for 6 months straight. I’m not doing multi-day big wall climbs, sleeping suspended from a rope (yet). Hell, I’m not even climbing mountains over 14,000ft. It just so happens that I have a love for these things that drive me to experience them. What I do, where I go, is not really that risky. It takes some pretty basic equipment, and you could come along! We could take turns pooping behind big rocks and burrying it with a shovel the size of a slightly larger than normal soup spoon!

So, ok, I guess there are some things that all people aren’t cut out for. But seriously, if you truly wanted to do these things, you could.

What It Takes To Be A Weekend Warrior

Let’s face it. I’m a weekend warrior just like you. Your weekend wars may involve a bottle of Captain Morgan and the slightly overweight hottie at the end of the bar against your sober consciense; whereas mine involve a gorgeous sunset and a herd of rabid mosquitoes. Nonetheless, we are both weekend warriors. And since this post is all about being more like me, because let’s face it, we should all strive for that, I’m going to help you get out there and experience this stuff firsthand.

As I mentioned, it first requires desire. Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you at least have that. Next, you’ll need some pretty basic gear. You don’t need to spend $400 on your first tent. You don’t need a top of the line sleeping bag. You probably don’t even need a pack. No. Instead, you need to go to Walmart, or if you’re lucky enough, the manliest of all man-stores — Fleet-Farm, and get those items there. They will be much more budget friendly.

Once you’ve got your basic setup, you’re going to pick the closest campground to your vicinity that has access to an activity that might interest you. Common activities may include hiking, swimming, boating, snipe hunting, or cliff diving. If none of those interest you, I question your reasoning for wanting to camp. Plus, there’s always yard games and drinking beer to fall back on. But I’m not judging. I just want you outside.

You will then proceed to learn how to set your tent in your apartment before you leave for your first adventure. After that, you will go to YouTube to learn how to start a fire WITHOUT using gasoline or other ligquid flammables. Your diet will consist of things you can cook over a fire. They will be highly nutritious and delicious. I suggest various sausages that can be cooked at the end of a stick. Things from a can are also a great choice because they can be set on the grate that covers most modern fire rings or just directly in the coals. You’re not ready for gourmet camp cooking….yet.

And that’s about it. You’ve got gear. You’ve got fire. And you’ve got food. Of course, once you’re ready for a real adventure, I’ll be here to help you out!

Solving Your Excuses

You know what they say about excuses? “Excuses are like a$$holes, everybody has one.”

I don’t like bugs and insects.

Me either!! They’re annoying; they make me itch; they blemish my majestic albino skin; and they may carry disease. The good news is that there are all sorts of creams, ointments, salves, and other medications. We’ve also invented clothes, bug spray, and magic smokey things. All of these things can make the most mosquito infested site an enjoyable one.

I don’t like being dirty/I need to shower every day.

Lucky for you! You know what baby wipes are, right? Guess what? No. Really. GUESS WHAT?! They now make adult-sized, biodegradeable, full-sized human wipes! I know it’s not the same as a nice hot shower, but you will be able to wipe the bug spray, sweat, and dirt from all of your most disgusting body parts. If you should be so lucky to camp near a lake, there’s also biodegradeable soap. You can take a dip in the biggest, coldest bath tub you’ve ever been. Trust me, you will feel just as clean and just as refreshed as a shower when you get out.

It’s too expensive!

This part is somewhat true. To go on rad adventures, you need some pretty rad gear, and rad gear is not cheap. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it cheaper than me. I buy nice gear because this is my passion. I want my trip to be supremely convenient, where convenience allows, so that I don’t have to worry about the little stuff and live in the moment. I also plan on using it more than twice a year.

But in your case, you’re just starting out. You only need the basics I mentioned above. Any new hobby you kick off is going to have some cost of entry, and just like any hobby, you can make it as cheap or as expensive as you’d like. For $300, you will have a pretty good start. You don’t need ultra-lightweight gear. You don’t need the finest down, plucked from 3-week old goslings. You don’t need moisture wicking, waterproof, windproof clothing. You don’t even need fancy shoes. You just need the basics to go. Once you’re hooked, and you will be hooked, you can add gear relatively cheaply if you’re willing to wait for outstanding deals. I highly recommend you check out the links to the companies I list here, especially TheClymb. As Tony the Tiger says, “Theeeeyyyyyy’rrrrrrreeeee GREAT!”

I don’t have anyone to go with. :-(

Um, hello. Here I am! Even if I can’t go in person, I can go with in heart! Maybe we can even do some virtual camping. Like, you know, I’ll catch a fish and capture it on video. Then I’ll upload it to YouTube and send you the link. It’s practically like we’re sleeping in the same bag, right?!?!

But in all honesty, if you have ZERO friends to go with, look for a local gear shop. Places like REI, Gander Mountain, Scheels, Dicks, Midwest Mountaineering, etc. etc. all have trips they sponsor. It will cost you a pretty penny, but they go to even MORE amazing places than I do, and all you need to bring is some clothes and a happy face. They typically provide the rest. I’ve not been to this site before, but there may even be a Meetup for something like that.

My Completely Valid and Unsolveable Excuses For Not Being More Extreme


True story. In a split second of underwear filling terror, I was certain this bear was going to eat me. You should never be this close to a bear!!!

Now get out there, you crazy kids, and don’t be afraid to post any questions you may have about starting out down in the comment box. I love comments. They make my soul smile.



 *** writer’s comment box would be on his page… at his link… at the top… but here it is again:


Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming

23 Apr

I saw this today and I immediately thought of all my friends who have served. While most seem to have fared pretty well it’s sometimes very easy to forget what they have been through. Some saw worse than others, some had to do worse than others, some hide it better than others, but everyone who has served comes home with something. Memories, keepsakes, friends, brothers… and sometimes PTSD.

The story below is about a photo essay. It was put together by Craig Walker and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. It’s a stark reminder of what some members of the armed forces come home with, and I think everyone should read this article and definitely look through the 50 pictures that make up the award winning essay.

I often feel that I should have served in the military… at least once a week it crosses my mind. I think back to my grandpa, a sergeant in WWII who saw action in Italy and Germany, or two uncles, one who was a RIO in F-4 Phantoms or the other who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I think about friends (Marines, Army, Navy, etc) that have served recently. I feel that I somehow missed out on a huge opportunity not only to see the world but to make a difference and really find out what I am made of. I’ve even told my wife that I won’t be dropping my current life and leaving her to chase a strange dream, but if it ever came to it and I had to go serve my country I would step up and volunteer for a combat medic MOS… but then I read stories like Scott’s and it makes me wonder. I don’t wonder if I could do the job, but I wonder if I could handle the aftermath. I hope everyone coming back stateside gets everything they need to really feel at home again, and I hope everyone else does anything and everything they can to facilitate that.

Gallery –>  Welcome Home, The Story of Scott Ostrom

Posted at 07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012 TheWashingtonPost

Pulitzer Prize winning subject Scott Ostrom reflects on the pain that led to prize

By May-Ying Lam

The recruitment ad that started it all is still on YouTube if you just search for “marine lava monster.” In the commercial, a man strides out of a white beam of light in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The man dives through the blades of a turbine to attain a sword (as a fireball shoots to the sky). Then, while balancing on a tightrope of blue light, he slashes a lava monster, and the inferno of its demise sweeps up the man turning him into a Marine.

Rewatching the video that persuaded him to enlist in the Marine Corps, Scott Ostrom has a long laugh at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. “…And then he puts on his dress blues and looks so good…I want that,” he said over the phone.

Ostrom cups his hand over his mouth as he tries to calm a panic attack at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) Ostrom, 27, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, found his experiences to be far different from the recruitment spot. The painful long road after his deployment was documented by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker and the subsequent photo essay won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography on April 16.

Ten days after joining boot camp, on May 20, 2003, Ostrom’s drill instructor came into the barracks. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting a free ride to college ‘cause we’re going to war with Iraq,” Ostrom remembered him saying. “I didn’t even know where Iraq was on a map.”

Walker’s project, titled “Welcome Home,” chronicles Ostrom’s return home from Iraq — and the resulting nightmares, hypervigilance and rage. It required full commitment by both Walker and Ostrom. “I told him he’d have to let me be there for everything, good days and bad,” Walker said.

The poetic photos expose the viewer to a tumultuous range of emotions. In one frame, light outlines the bright thread of a suicide attempt that holds together two halves of a skull tattoo. There are also heartbreaking emotional moments, including one where Ostrom weeps after having his apartment application rejected because of an assault charge.

Brian Scott Ostrom looks over his military service records and weeps after being told his apartment application had been turned down. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) One of the most powerful visual metaphors is a frame where Ostrom faces into a blinding block of light. Here, he waits for his girlfriend to pick up her belongings after a breakup. Ostrom seems to be not only looking into his internal paranoia, but also viewing a hostile outside world from a dim room.

Some of the most astounding features of Walker’s photography are the depth and sheer amount of time he dedicates to his subjects. Walker’s work does not offer fleeting glimpses into his subjects’ lives.

Walker’s first Pulitzer in 2010 was awarded in the same category, feature photography, recognizing Walker’s series on Ian Fisher, who enlisted as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Walker stayed with Fisher for two years through graduation, enlistment, basic training, first assignment, breakup, breakup, Iraq, marriage and frequent returns home.

Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker hugs his son, Quinn, while telling his mother he won a Pulitzer Prize. (Aaron Ontiveroz – AP) In a video of Walker receiving the news of the Pulitzer Prize in the Denver Post newsroom, someone informs Walker’s new baby, “Your daddy just won a Pulitzer!”

Walker’s boss had sneaked Ostrom into the newsroom so he could be present for the announcement. After congratulations all around, the video cuts to Ostrom. “This story has definitely saved at least one guy’s life so far,” he says.

Ostrom said that he just got word the day before that the Department of Veterans Affairs finally officially recognized his PTSD. He hopes that the compensation will help him resume a semblance of normal life. Furthermore, he hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado.

Craig F. Walker hugs former Marine Scott Ostrom in the Denver Post newsroom. (Joe Amon – AP)

View the other 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners here.

By May-Ying Lam  |  07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012

The Fundamentals of Small Arms

23 Apr

I did my CHL requalifying test this weekend so guns are on my mind…

As I was doing my range test one instructor, who is an Army soldier just back from Afghanistan, leaned over my shoulder and said, “Damn, guy… seriously?”

The other instructor who is former Air Force Security Forces, did private security and is now a police officer asked where I learned to shoot and why I don’t shoot competitively 😀 I was only the 7th perfect score he’d had in any of his classes.

I was kinda proud…


50 shots (ranges 3, 7, 15 yards at varying time intervals), 250/250 pts.




Anyway, since it’s on my mind here’s a good set of videos from the Army Pictorial Service.






What’s in a number?

23 Apr


What’s In a Number

By Richard Panek | April 12, 2012 |


“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there isn’t an infinite number of alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”


No, that speculation didn’t come from the “Ask Mr. Cosmology” mailbag. It’s from a reader of New Scientist, courtesy of LWON’s own Sally, who is an editor at the magazine. She forwarded it to me because, she said, “it kind of made my head asplode.” After receiving reassurances from her that her head hadn’t actually spontaneously detonated—this is, after all, someone who is capable of falling into the Thames without any help—I sat and thought and tried to find the flaw in the logic.


The speculation has a logical basis in the current standard cosmological model. According to quantum theory, virtual particles should be popping into and out of existence all the time—and are, as experiments have repeatedly shown over the past six decades. In that case, the universe could be the product of one such quantum pop.

If it is, then it could have gone through a process that physicists call a “phase transition” and that everyone else calls “the thing that happens when water turns into ice or vice versa.” At the age of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of one second—that’s a 1 followed by 36 zeros, or 1036—the universe would have expanded ten septillion-fold—or to 1025 times its previous size. And it would have done so over the course of 1/1035 seconds.

And if inflation can pop one quantum universe into existence, then why not many? In fact, according to quantum theory, it should. It would, if inflation actually happened.

The inflationary universe. Also, Sally’s head.


The case for inflation isn’t airtight, but with every fresh observation of the Cosmic Microwave Background—the remnant echo of the Big Bang, loosely speaking—the evidence has looked better and better. Over the past decade, consensus has coalesced: We very likely did come from a quantum pop. In that case, our inflationary bubble would be one of an ensemble of 10500 universes. The number isn’t quite infinity, as the New Scientist reader suggests, but who’s counting?

Still, let’s say the number of universes is infinite. In that case, the reader’s argument goes like so:

A. The number of universes is infinite.

B. A universe exists in which the number of universes is not infinite.

C. This might be it.

When the argument is stated this starkly, the flaw in the logic becomes pretty clear. B contradicts A. “The number of universes is infinite” and “the number of universes is not infinite” can’t both be true. The contradiction, however, is obscured by the inclusion of “A universe exists in which.” The implication is that there’s something special about universes, something that, for instance, doorknobs don’t have. “Since there is an infinite number of doorknobs, there must be one for which there isn’t an infinite number of doorknobs” wouldn’t make anyone’s head asplode, except perhaps in bewilderment.

So what’s so special about universes that the existence of an infinite number of them would, for physics-savvy readers, somehow seem to suggest the necessary existence of one that allows the impossible?

I suspect the answer is quantum probability. According to quantum theory, everything is a matter of probability; therefore anything is possible. Anything. The probability that a butterfly will give birth to a dragon or that I will one day fall into the Thames is vanishingly small—but, technically, it’s not zero. Same with the emergence of a universe, or a cornucopia of universes, from nothing. The laws of physics allow it.

And that’s the implicit, but missing, “something special” in premise B: the laws of physics. As in “A universe exists in which the laws of physics require the number of universes to not be infinite.” What prompted the New Scientist reader, and what posed a threat to Sally’s noggin, was an unthinking assumption: that “the laws of physics”—in particular quantum theory—are part of the argument.

It’s a tempting assumption. According to current cosmological thinking, if an infinite ensemble of (or 10500, anyway) universes exists, then presumably each could come equipped with its own laws of physics. So couldn’t our universe be the one in which the laws of physics require that other universes don’t exist?

Yes—but only if our laws of physics have something to do with the other universes. We all, however, went our separate ways 13.7 billion years ago. Our laws of physics affect what happens within our universe, but there’s no reason to think they would influence the multiverse at large. Doorknobs, after all, don’t dictate the laws of physics.

Still, if they did, then maybe we could reframe the New Scientist‘s reader’s comment:

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there is just one alternative universe. Perhaps this is it.”

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there are two alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”

“Since there is an infinite number of alternative universes, there must be one in which there are 2,125,179,218 alternative universes. Perhaps this is it.”

Memo to New Scientist staff: You can remove your plastic ponchos now.

You Become the Sound

9 Apr

In the world’s quietest place, ‘you become the sound’

By Adi Robertson




The quietest place on Earth is a room in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the longest anyone has stayed in the dark there is 45 minutes. The ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories absorbs over 99 percent of sound with 3-foot-thick fiberglass wedges and insulated walls, removing virtually every sound except that of people and objects brought into the chamber. In some cases, that’s used for simple industrial purposes: it’s a way to hear the sounds of switches, motors, or washing machines without outside interference.

Put a human being in there, however, and they become disoriented or even experience hallucinations. After a few minutes, founder Steven Orfield told the Daily Mail, your body begins to adapt to the soundlessness, picking up smaller and smaller sounds. “You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.” Because there are no external sounds, it’s difficult to move around: “If you’re in there for half an hour, you have to be in a chair.”

In extreme cases, the sensory deprivation is debilitating. NASA astronauts train by being placed in a water tank in the room, an experience that apparently causes hallucinations as the body tries to create sensations out of thin air. When the lights are turned out, the Mail says that the longest time anyone has been able to stay inside is 45 minutes. At Orfield, it seems, the greatest distraction of all is not noise but silence.

To Grasp a Billion Stars

9 Apr

Reposting another Phil Plait piece. This one is totally mindblowing.


To grasp a billion stars

There are times — rare, but they happen — when I have a difficult time describing the enormity of something. Something so big, so overwhelming, that words simply cannot suffice.

The basic story is: Using the VISTA telescope in Chile and the UKIRT telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have made an incredibly detailed map of the sky in infrared. This map will help understand our own galaxy, more distant galaxies, quasars, nebulae, and much more.

But what do I mean by “incredibly detailed”?

This is where words get hard. So hang on tight; let me show you instead.

Here’s a section of the survey they made, showing the star-forming region G305, an enormous cloud of gas about 12,000 light years away which is busily birthing tens of thousands of stars:

[Click to enstellarnate.]

Pretty, isn’t it? There are about 10,000 stars in this image, and you can see the gas and dust that’s forming new stars even as you look.

But it’s the scale of this image that’s so amazing. It’s only a tiny, tiny part of this new survey. How tiny? Well, it came from this image (the area of the first image is outlined in the white square):

Again, click to embiggen — it’ll blow your socks off. But we’re not done! That image is a subsection of this one:

… which itself is a subsection of this image:

Sure, I’ll admit that last one doesn’t look like much, squished down into a width of a few hundred pixels here for the blog. So go ahead, click on it. I dare you. If you do, you’ll get a roughly 20,000 x 2000 pixel picture of the sky, a mosaic made from thousands of individual images… and even that is grossly reduced from the original survey.

How big is the raw data from the survey? Why, it only has 150 billion pixels aiieeee aiieeeeee AIIEEEEE!!!

And this would be where I find myself lacking in adjectives. Titanic? Massive? Ginormous? These all fail utterly when trying to describe a one hundred fifty thousand megapixel picture of the sky.


And again, why worry over words when I can show you? The astronomers involved helpfully made the original data — all 150 billion pixels of it — into a pan-and-zoomable image where you can zoom in, and in, and in. It’s hypnotizing, like watching “Inception”, but made of stars.

And made of stars it is: there are over a billion stars in the original image! A billion. With a B. It’s one of the most comprehensive surveys of the sky ever made, and yet it still only scratches the surface. This survey only covers the part of the sky where the Milky Way galaxy itself is thickest — in the bottom image above you can see the edge-on disk of our galaxy plainly stretching across the entire shot — and that’s only a fraction of the entire sky.

Think on this: there are a billion stars in that image alone, but that’s less than 1% of the total number of stars in our galaxy! As deep and broad as this amazing picture is, it’s a tiny slice of our local Universe.

And once again, we’ve reached the point where I’m out of words. Our puny brains, evolved to count the number of our fingers and toes, to grasp only what’s within reach, to picture only what we can immediately see — balk at these images.

But… we took them. Human beings looked up and wondered, looked around and observed, looked out and discovered. In our quest to seek ever more knowledge, we built the tools needed to make these pictures: the telescopes, the detectors, the computers. And all along, the power behind that magnificent work was our squishy pink brains.

A billion stars in one shot, thanks to a fleshy mass of collected neurons weighing a kilogram or so. The Universe is amazing, but so are we.

Images credit: Mike Read (WFAU), UKIDSS/GPS and VVV

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