April 20th, 2001



When I first skimmed over this, I didn't look at it very closely... for a few seconds, I thought people were making picture-postcards of exploding cows... but they didn't leave any information behind to order them!

No More Exploding Cows in the Alps

VIENNA (Reuters) - The Austrian province of Vorarlberg will ban the practice of blowing up dead cows with explosives on its picture-postcard Alpine meadows, state television ORF said on Thursday.

The small, mountainous province nestling between Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany lives off tourism, and authorities were worried tourists might be put off by exploding cadavers and possible contamination of ground water.

About 20 head of cattle die on Vorarlberg's Alpine pastures each year -- either struck by lightning or falling down precipices. Because of the rugged terrain, helicopters usually have to be called in to remove the remains.

Given that hiring a helicopter costs about 15,000 schillings ($956) a trip, some farmers have opted to blow up their dead animals at a cost of 500 schillings ($32) with the help of demolition experts, who place explosives inside the cadavers.

The state of Vorarlberg takes on up to 80 percent of the transport costs, but locals are calling for 100 percent cover to stamp out the grisly practice, ORF said.

``I will put a stop to these blasts. I never even knew they were taking place,'' said Erich Schwaerzler, a member of local parliament in charge of environmental and agricultural issues.

From Vegas to Arizona - last Saturday, part I

Woke up early on Saturday. Kirsten was having a hard time waking up, but eventually got moving. We drove out of Vegas around 10am, supposedly headed towards Sedona, AZ with few firm plans to go on, but 281.6 miles just to get there.

Sedona is south of Flagstaff, in the middle of the map...

About an hour into the trip, right on the border between Nevada and Arizona which runs along the Colorado River, we hit Hoover Dam...

huger than huge

Damn being the operative word. We weren't planning to stop, but... damn. Looking over the edge gave me the shivers.

huger than huge

For a bit of perspective, see where the water is disturbed near the center of the photo? Look straight up from there and a little to the left, where you will see on the end of the "walkway", a little white dot about the size of a head of a pin. That dot is a car, and the walkway was actually a wide roadway outside of an enormous building containing about eight huge generators, connected to the entrances at the top of the dam through a maze of elevators and underground tunnels.

Pictures cannot do it justice. It is nearly three times as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Enough concrete to pave a two lane highway from New York to San Francisco. It was huge, and quite surreal. The early 30's Art Deco design of the whole place was also incredible. I particularly liked the statues.

An American Sphinx in the middle of the desert.

This is one of two 30' brass sculptures overlooking the dam, created by Oskar Hansen, the designer of all the decoration that adorns the dam. Why are the toes of the statue shinier than the rest of it? Because, legend has it that if you rub them, it will bring you luck in Las Vegas.

Despite the crowds, the real feeling of the place to me was something grand and surreal, meant to lie alone, timeless, like a mystery hidden in the middle of the desert.

The idea behind building the Colorado River was, frankly, kind of insane. It may have never been attempted if not for America's greatest manmade disaster ever. In 1905, irrigation canals from the Colorado were brought into rich agricultural land in California's Imperial Valley, located in the southeast corner of California. During a flood in 1905, the canals burst and the full force of the Colorado River roared into the Imperial Valley, creating the Salton Sea, a body of water that at its peak was nearly the size of Rhode Island. Eventually, engineers restored the Colorado to its original course, but by that time, the damage was done. The water from the Colorado mixed with salt deposits and slowly disolved, leaving a huge saltwater wetlands. It is still being used as a huge recepticle for agricultural runoff water, contaminated by pesticide and animal waste... after years of evaporation and salinization, the water is nearly as salty asthe Pacific Ocean. When the Salton Sea finally evaporates, it will create a giant dead sea, the earth permanently scarred so that nothing could ever grow there again.

All the voices say remember...

Over 400 people died making the Hoover Dam. It took just five years to build.

Even though we were only outside near the dam for about 50 minutes during a relatively cool day (by Vegas standards) we were absolutely parched to the point of dizziness... the desert there literally sucks the moisture right out of your body. We made our way back to the car, pressing on into Arizona, passing numerous beautiful desert flowers, headed east towards Flagstaff. We needed gas and a break along the way, so we visited a town called Seligman near Highway 40... several miles off the highway, actually, along a segment of road that used to be part of old Route 66, which used to run from Chicago to Santa Monica, CA.

<img alt="Getting a bit of sun..." src="http://www.freespeech.org/insomnia/livejournal/route66two.jpg" As we pressed on, things gradually became, for lack of a better word, Southwestern, but even that changed; we soon discovered that Arizona was quite different than what we thought it would be... but that's a story for the next installment.


Here is a post (well, with minor modifications and clarifications) that I wrote to a dear online friend that I chatted with for years before I dragged her (kicking and screaming) into the realm of LiveJournal. It says a lot about my past and about some of my motivations, so I figured it belonged here too.

I can understand your anger over being laid off after so many years... I have been screwed over by numerous companies during the course of my professional life. I've been downsized, outsourced, and even fired because I knew too much...

The thing to remember is that as much as you loved your company, things really changed fundamentally a long time ago. When a company goes public, everything changes, even though the changes might not be obvious to all the people who work there.

When a company is pre-IPO, the responsibility of the management is kind of evenly divided between the investors, the employees, and the customers. That all changes when a company goes public. The responsibility of management shifts first and foremost to the company owners, the shareholders.

If management acts in a manner unfitting to the financial health of the company (such as not doing layoffs to boost stock prices and profitability), management can be arrested, tried and put in jail. (It has happened.) Management can and is also routinely let go on the least little suspicion of failing to increase profits / "shareholder value".

The problem with all of this, of course, is that it is horribly shortsighted. Companies lose a lot of hardworking, experienced, dedicated people who know what they're doing in exchange for a short blip of the stock going up, and maybe a bit of phony "savings" on a quarterly report, but in the long run, it will cost them.

It took me a long time of getting battered around and abused by publicly traded companies to be able to deal with things on my terms. I would fall into periods of depression between jobs, knowing that by going back to work, I would be throwing my self and my being into a situation where I would, most likely, get hurt again.

Eventually, it changed me. Remember a long, long time ago, before LJ, when I told you that I had become an ingrate, and you were both shocked and a bit dismayed with me? I guess the best explanation I could make is to say that all the previous companies I had worked with before becoming "an ingrate" were a lot like being trapped in abusive relationships. I got sh*t on by a procession of companies... I cared about them, while they viewed me as a commodity or a statistic. Well, it got to be too much. I figured that if I were going to be sh*t upon, I would make sure that I was also doing my share of the exploiting. In other words, I viewed companies like a prostitute might view a customer. I went out of my way to take them for all I could, essentially. Sometimes I enjoyed my work, sometimes I didn't, but either way, I liked the money. While I would argue that it's better than being a complete victim, I still wouldn't say that it is a very spiritually healthy way to live...

That's where I was at until LiveJournal, I guess. That is part of why I am willing to do so much for LiveJournal... because it isn't just another dotcom. It has the potential to be something far better, or so I would like to believe. Maybe I'm kidding myself, or maybe I am "playing God" with the rules of business, possibly to the detriment of LiveJournal's longterm profitability... but I guess I don't care about that. I don't care if it ever makes a billion dollars a year. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be nice... (we could build that town that Brad was talking about...) but I'm not willing to compromise either LiveJournal or my ideals to make it happen.

If I want anything for myself from LiveJournal in the distant future, it would be a salary where I would have the freedom to not have to prostitute myself to other companies. I want happiness, community, and a kind of relaxed simplicity in my life, where people and things are not just commodities, but have a real (spiritual?) value. I think LiveJournal can help me get there.