Bryce Canyon National Park: dogs and bikes bad; helicopters good

Like every other U.S. national park (and unlike Canadian parks), Bryce Canyon tries to make life tough for dogs and bicycles.  You can’t walk a Golden Retriever on a leash on a trail anywhere in the park, even on paved trails at overlooks.  In theory you can ride a bike from overlook to overlook but there are no racks in which to park or lock them (the National Park Service did get up enough energy to put fancy “no bikes” signs on all the paved trails to the overlooks so you can’t keep your bike with you).  Needless to say there are no trails specifically built for bikes or trails on which mountain bikes are allowed.  Basically the park is set up for driving SUVs or putting on a pack and hiking in without a dog.

Sound like a paradise for Sierra Club members?  Sure, as long as they love the smell of jet fuel in the morning.  I enjoyed a sightseeing ride in a turbine-powered Bell JetRanger this morning.  We screamed down into the canyon at 70 knots, perhaps 500′ over the tops of the trails and less than that over the tops of the hoodoos, well below the rim of the canyon.  I must come back on Monday morning and buzz the place in the Diamond Star before proceeding onward to Salt Lake City.

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Microsoft = Roach Motel?

The August 18-25 double issue of Newsweek, whose theme is “The Future of Technology”, contains a brief interview with Paul Saffo, identified only as being from the Institute For the Future. Asked “are there any obstacles to innovation?” Saffo responds “We’ve got a couple of gorillas holding back innovation. Microsoft is a big intellectual roach motel. All the big minds go in and they don’t come out.”

Of course Saffo doesn’t address the question of what alternatives the big minds have. If they want to work at a software products company and have a reasonable chance of getting their creation into the hands of customers, the choices pretty much boil down to Microsoft or some company that is likely to be put out of business soon by Microsoft.

[Of course there are quite a few programmers, as distinct from engineers, who are happy with a warm cubicle and a fat salary even if they have no impact on users or their employer’s profits. Sadly, however, in an age where spectacular managerial incompetence continues to be the norm it seems that many managers have gotten smart enough to eliminate tech jobs that aren’t directly profitable.]

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Where I was when the lights went out

Left the Bay Area on the morning of the Great Blackout of 2003. Oakland Airport turned out to be one of the most peaceful and least crowded spots in the Bay Area: vast open space, never more than three or four vehicles moving at the same time, each in its very multi-mile corridor. Parking was $8 per day, more than 99 percent of the airports in this country, where parking is generally free, but less than it costs to park a car at the O-town airport. Flew over Yosemite Valley and crossed the Sierra at Tioga Pass (10,000′) where N505WT began to be buffeted by turbulence that continued for three more hours (the price of having slept late). Somewhere over south-central Nevada a JetBlue pilot called Air Traffic Control: “This might sound crazy, but have you heard anything about a blackout in the New York area?” After a few minutes, the response was “You’re not going to like this but LaGuardia, Newark, and JFK are all shut down.”

After four hours in the air it seemed the better part of valor not to fight the line of thunderstorms looming over Bryce Canyon so I landed one ridge short at Cedar City, Utah. It turned out that a big Shakespeare Festival was in town. Back in 1971 the good folks here built a replica of an Elizabethan theater and have filled it for six weeks every summer ever since. I got the last ticket for Much Ado and was shocked at how poor a grammarian Shakespeare was. This play alone contains a character asking “with who”, someone modifying “perfect” (“perfectest”), and a character saying “you learned me” for “you taught me”.

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