Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Ten Year Anniversary of The Great Silence Blog

I wanted to note the ten year anniversary of the blog. My sense of time is really warped. I know it has been ten years, but in some ways it doesn't seem THAT long ago.

What I remember when I started this blog site is I was recovering from Giardia or something very close to it. I had been doing long High Sierra day hikes and was in great shape. I started to feel the symptoms, but even then I was still doing long hikes. It wasn't until the day I drove home it really hit me. For the next two weeks trips to the bathroom were quite frequent, funny, and painful. The creation of the blog was to keep my mind off my ailment.

The first five or so years I was really cranking out many things. Almost once a week at my best to once a month I would put content out. Then I announced I would go into semi-retirement mode with me occasionally putting out further content. That's kind of the way it has been for the past five years and will continue to be.

I want to thank those who have been supportive along the way. I have never been a person that has sought out for the approval of hundreds of people. Yet, it is nice to get a few people that appreciate what I have done.

Along these lines, I thought I would mention that my experiments on my original Youtube channel started almost ten years ago as well. It's interesting how that site has changed over the years. When I originally started I could put up a video and get a hundred views in a day easily without even trying. These days if I am lucky, where the quality and editing of video is so much better and easier, it takes about a month to get the same amount of views. That’s with over three to four times the amount of subscribers I have these days. There are a lot of reasons for that which I am not going into here, but it is interesting to me how the quality of something can increase dramatically and yet not get the same results. Fortunately, I don't obsess over view totals, but it is always fun to see what happens with that.

With that said, God bless and I will see you all somewhere down the road.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Remembering (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #4)

P47 Thunderbolt (P.O.F. #20)Memorial Day in the U.S.A. was designed as a day to remember those who have died in service to the country. For the type of freedoms we have I am grateful. Something should be said for the allies too who gave their lives in support as well with similar goals. At the same time, I don’t want to deny the humanity of those who were my countries enemies.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero  (P.O.F. #33)A month or two ago there was a Japanese pilot who died who fought against the U.S. at some of the major conflicts in the Pacific. Most people were sending their condolences, but I saw someone say they could never do that because this person killed Americans. Maybe so for the time, but there has been some good-will on both sides. That is part of the forgiveness project that says the war is over, and it is time to move on. Not sure I will think this way about modern terrorists in the decades to come, but soldiers forced into conflicts are a little different.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero  (P.O.F. #34)

It has been said that the 20th century wars were fought so that those living today will never experience them. I think that is true as long as we remember them. If we forget about the quests for utopias and the wars that brought them about, then we are doomed to repeat them.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #2)
I took a bunch of pictures and video at the Chino Air Show. If you are interested the pictures are on Flickr and the video is unlisted on Youtube:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"The Enemy" (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #3)

Recently, I was reading Gunter Koschorrek’s book Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front. He was a German machine gun soldier in Stalingrad, Italy, and returned to the Soviet Union. The quotes I use in this blog are taken from that.

“My stomach is churning, and I cannot bring myself to look at their colourless faces. Now, for the first time, when I see the lifeless bodies before me, my consciousness really grasps the meaning of death. As a young person you tend to push these thoughts far away from you, but here there is no way to escape them. These people are out enemies, but, even so, they are flesh and blood, just like us. And just as they are lying here now, so could I or some of us be lying here dead and motionless in this ice cold snow.” P. 67
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (P.O.F. #13)
One area that I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, and movies about is the Eastern Front of World War 2. This is an area that most public school students in the U.S. probably have been ripped off on. Understandably, most U.S. history classes emphasize the U.S. parts of the war so the issues with the Germans vs. the Soviets in the east are almost a non-issue. Interesting enough I have heard people say that they have learned more about the Eastern Front part of the conflict through video games like “Call of Duty” and others that have come out over the past two decades than what they got in school.

“Revenge and retaliation! That inflammatory clarion call for revenge! That's the way all war leaders want their soldiers to be. Remorseless, and with hatred and retaliation in their hearts, men can win battles, and quite ordinary soldiers can be turned into celebrities. Fear is converted into hatred, anger and calls for retribution. In this way you are motivated to fight on even decorated with medals as a hero. But heroes have to stay alive, so that others can see their medals; they are supposed to inspire the weaker among us.” P. 227

One of the major parts of Hitler’s goals during the years of WW2 was the destruction of the Soviet Union (“The Judeo-Bolsheviks”). The ideas of invading the Soviet Union go back to his Mein Kampf autobiography. Even though a non-aggression pact was signed with the Soviet Union almost two years earlier, Operation Barbarrosa was started on June 22, 1941. It started off well for the Germans, but the problems of getting supplies over large distances of land, fierce resistance, and the bad weather (rain, and eventually snow in the upcoming winter months) to name a few of the key issues turned into a battle of attrition. This is something the Germans had not faced before with their blitzkrieg strategy used until this point.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (P.O.F. #14)

Over the next two years Hitler and his advisors would come up with further operations into the Soviet Union. The conflicts at Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Kursk to mention some of the important ones are legendary for the brutality. Tank battles, infantry conflict, starvation, cannibalism, atrocities, etc. all had their parts in this conflict. The Soviets held off all these conflicts and would make their offensives and send the Germans back. Millions perished on both sides.

Yakovlev Yak-3 (P.O.F. #21)“I tell Fritz about my meeting with Unteroffizier Schwarz and how, at the Rytschov bridgehead, he executed wounded Russian soldiers by shooting them in the head. He explains to me that people who kill the defenceless must have sadistic leanings, and that war provides them with the excuse to satisfy this inhuman trait under the pretext of benefiting the rest of your men. After this period in Italy we would again be fighting together in Russia for a time and would kill many of our enemies. But, even though war may sometimes cause normal human beings to become insensitive, we would never slay the helpless.” P.138

While all wars are hell there is something a little extra disturbing and creepy about this one. This is the real life version of The Walking Dead. It is much worse than what one sees in horror movies. Little hope, not much is worth redeeming about it. Who were the good guys and the bad guys in this one? It many ways it is a case of evil vs. evil. Hitler and Stalin were not nice guys, and in my book they were almost equally evil. I do think the ideas and how they implemented them were evil in their regimes. I don’t think the same way about the individual people on the ground during the conflict.

Spitfire (P.O.F. #25)
“It’s the Oberleutnant who gives me strength, so I don’t go back, but rather choose to remain with him. I feel tied to him and would go through hell with him. After you have spent some time at the front, like I have, you no longer fight for Fuhrer, Yolk undVaterland These ideals, have long gone And no one talks about National Socialism or similar political matters. From all our conversations, its quite obvious that the primary reason we fight is to stay alive and help our front-line comrades do the same. But we often fight for a superior, such as our Oberleutnant, who through his exemplary attitude manages to instil spirit into even dog-tired and almost indifferent warriors.” P.255

One thing I have learned in life is there are many situations we get stuck in that we had no choice in. Be it jobs, family, friends, school, etc. we are put in situations and expected to fulfill out duty or we are morally blamed or shamed. In the case of the soldiers above it could mean their own death if they did not follow orders, and possibly family members back home. I would like to think that if I were in some situations I would not do certain things, but I’m not sure. It was generally thought that in the trials after WW2 that saying “I didn't want to do what I did, but I was just following orders” was not a good excuse.

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The WW2 Generation is Almost Gone (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #2)

Sometime back I was reflecting after some major court decisions had come down and how the country I live in doesn't feel like the one I grew up in. The concerns I and others had while I was younger don’t really exist today in the same way.

A shock that really hit me not too long ago is that we are at the tail end of the World War 2 generation. Those that served in that war that are still alive are now in their mid-90’s. A lot of those people are ones that had to lie about their age in order to get into the service to fight. The reality is that the WW2 generation will be completely gone from us very soon.
P40 Warhawk (P.O.F. #9)
One of my neighbors that is no longer with us was a mechanic for a squadron bomber group during the war. He ended up being the historian for the group. I was given the book he had compiled of all the daily activities of that group for the war.

Most of the flights were B-25’s sent from their base in Great Britain to bombing targets in Europe. Later on the group was sent to Africa to give support with the fight in Italy as well as being a part of the major raid on the Ploesti oil fields on Aug. 1, 1943. Then back to Great Britain where the bombings started to finally reach the heart of Hitler’s Germany. Until D-Day, a good portion of the war for the U.S. was these types of bombings.
B-25 Mitchell (P.O.F. #39)
A portion of the entries consist of flights being scrubbed due to bad weather. Another portion were flights sent off to create a diversion for someone else…to trick the Germans into thinking the major attack would be someplace where they would commit their forces only to find out the real attack would be elsewhere. Most of the entries talk about what was known of the bombing missions. However, what I really got out of these B-25 raids to precision targets is that the ten men on each aircraft really were “dead men”. There was a good chance they would get to their target and let out their bombs, but they might not make it back to base. In their minds, their job was to get to the target and fulfill that goal. In most cases they were intercepted at some point by German aircraft. There were many entries of B-25 crew members having to either jump out with them being listed as POW’s or KIA. If they did their 25 (or later on 30) missions of the tour they could go home, but that seemed to be a rare thing.
P-51 Mustang (P.O.F. #36)
Reading through all the names on the roster that died in action is a sad thing. They are not just names, but people that did their service and died very young. The hopes and dreams of a normal life they never experienced.

Continued tomorrow...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Have We Forgotten? (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #1)

We have hit Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. where I am at. It’s a time where people hit the beaches, or make short vacation getaways as the “American Summer” (un)officially starts. Admittedly, I have definitely been one of those people. I suspect we do this somewhat robotically as an escape rather than a true reflection on what the day represents. Over the weekend I wanted to put out a few thoughts I have been having combined with my recent visit to the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, CA.
P40 Warhawk (P.O.F. #6)
I mentioned a few months back that I had gotten really sick of Twitter because of the constant political sniping that is going on. I’ve pretty much decided enough was enough and logged out. I just don’t need that in my life right now, and I have pulled that from this site.

However, the whole Internet has really become like that in that I always think I am not really getting daily news on various sites, but either someone pushing an advertisement or pushing their political narrative. Certain news items are news worthy, but many are not. What is selected or emphasized as news on some of the sites out there might not be what really matters.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #1)
What put me into a bit of despair over the past few months to a year is the push of a lot of utopia-type of thinking in articles I have read. Then we have the people that think it is American to shut down free speech by shouting people down if they have an opposing points of view. Have we forgotten what a good portion of the 20th century was about? From the total wars of WW1 and WW2, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Cold War, Pol Pot, The Balkan conflict, and Rwanda to name some of the bigger ones. Utopia thinking and the use of terror have proven to go hand and hand with results that have been never good. The 20th century showed that a utopia can’t happen in this world, and we have to live with imperfection. You may not like what another person says, but you should respect their right to say it.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #4)

The following blogs I will have over the weekend are further thoughts on what Memorial Day means to me. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Looking at Birds in Riverside (AKA March Field Air Museum)

(GPS: N33°53.000 W117°16.000) 

The beginning of May marks the anniversary of the hike I did twice in Death Valley to the remains of the SA-16 Albatross. The first time was ten years ago, and the last time was two years ago. Two times were enough for me on that, and while I have no interest in doing that hike ever again I did want to visit the same type of aircraft in person. So, off to a museum I went.

March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA is located right next to March Air force Base. It has an indoor museum with lots of artifacts and the outside has lots of historical aircraft. I would say a good portion of it is Cold War era aircraft. It was well worth the trip, and I spent about two hours looking around.

After entering the first thing one sees is the SR-71 which takes up a good portion of this part of the museum. I kept trying to backup so I could get the whole thing in one shot, but I had to settle for a panorama shot done in Photoshop. When I was younger I remember the SR-71 being talked about a lot at school. Sometimes with friends, but sometimes in classes I had. The aircraft was legendary in Cold War era reconnaissance missions.
So after going through the various rooms inside of the museum I went outside. After visiting some of the other aircraft I made my way to the HU-16 Albatross. This aircraft was primarily used for search and rescue missions during the Cold War era. Many lives were saved with this plane. The designation changed from SA-16 to HU-16 in the early 1960's. So, while this is a more advanced version of the aircraft, it is basically the same type as the one I visited in Death Valley. Of all the aircraft I visited I spent the most time here for obvious reasons.
The Russian MiG-15. The jet fighter that initially put the fear of God into the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War of the early 1950's. Both fighters and bombers were at a serious disadvantage with this jet. In fact, the bombing campaign strategy that was successful in World War 2 that was attempted in Korea had to be stopped because of the effectiveness of the MiG-15.
The F-86 Sabre. This is the jet that eventually countered the Russian MiG fighter in Korea. By the end of the war it had a better kill ratio compared to the MiG.
The F-4 Phantom II. The Vietnam era jet.
A head-on view.

There is no way I could possibly do this museum justice with all the artifacts and aircraft at the site. I am just showing a small fragment of what they have. In the video you will see a few of the other aircraft I visited, but even that just scratches the surface.

Looking at Birds in Riverside (Youtube Video)

If you haven't seen the hike I did in Death Valley to the SA-16 Albatross remains then the following link will get you there: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley. That will give you the video I did, further links to pictures, as well as links to the original blogs I did for the first time I visited the site ten years ago.

The music used for the Looking at Birds in Riverside video is In the West, The Descent, and Thunderbird.

The official March Field Air Museum has more information about the museum and pictures of all their aircraft.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 3)

Time to wrap this one up. This is the video I edited together for this hike. It is unlisted so it can only be seen through this blog. It is just something I wanted to do for people that come here. Hopefully, it gives you the relaxing atmosphere I felt while being there. I did saturate the colors at the lake slightly to enhance it in the video, but that was basically the way it looked.

I did move around to the eastern parts of the lake. As I mentioned last time there wasn't too much on the other side that was as interesting as the western side with all the gold.
This was about half way over. It is beautiful lake.
I did encounter some trees like this as I was making my way to the eastern side of the lake. The creek that runs out of the lake and down below comes out over this way.
A reflective look. I headed back to where the two men were, waved at them, and left. I was fortunate to get the pictures and video I did because they pretty much moved into the best spot to take pictures. Had I come after them I would have had to wait them out. Otherwise, it would have been, "Hey guys! I'm entitled. Can I have your spot!" Lol! Actually, I never do that. I have had to wait people out for very long periods.

After this hike I was grateful for what I was able to see. I said to myself that if this was all I got then it was good enough for a fall colors trip. I did get some okay fall pictures days later. However, the colors really started to turn right after I left. It depends on what area of the High Sierra you are, at what time, and what elevation. If a heavy wind kicks in then that doesn't help.

I'll be doing some opinion pieces soon where I'll post some of my other fall pictures.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 2)

(GPS: N37°44.790 W119°06.670)

When I left off last time I mentioned how after almost an hour of uphill hiking I finally leveled out for a brief period. I then had some moderate uphill through a dense forested area. It was slightly spooky in the sense that I wasn't totally sure I was alone or not. Would I encounter someone camping back here? How about some animals? Or, a random zombie encounter? I did remember the two older men I saw at the trailhead, but I figured they were working with the cut trees there. If they did go up the trail they would not be all the way up here. 

After about an hour and twenty minutes I reached Fern Lake. Sure enough there was some fall color there.
At this point it was the best I had seen. It was very gold yellow look. It was slowly turning orange. 
I went over to it across the lake shore. It was very quiet and there were some birds on the lake, but I had it all to myself. I just took in the moment and thanked the Lord for the moment I had there.

I had the lake to myself for about ten minutes. Then the two men showed up. I greeted them, mentioned the nice colors, and eventually started moving around the lake.
The sun had just rose high enough over the mountain side to light up the whole lake. This is really the highlight of the whole lake that morning. Any pictures I took toward the east side had the sun spots in my pictures so those are not really worth showing. You will see an edited version of the rest of the lake in the video, but that too had the same issue. All the major gold was over here anyways.

I'll wrap this up next time with a few more pictures around the lake and the video.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 1)

(GPS: N37 45.760 W119 06.790)

I wanted to do a few blog entries on a hike I did back in October. The video that will be part of this series will be an exclusive for the blog and unlisted. So the only way you will be able to see it is to follow along the next few blogs.

As I have said a bunch of times before, I love the fall season in the High Sierra. While almost anytime of the year can be relaxing there I tend to be at my most relaxed during the fall. Part of it is that most of the work I had to do in the prior months is over. Most of the tourists are gone which means you can really find that solitude if you are looking for it. Then the cool weather comes in along with the changing color of the leaves.

October, 2015 did not quite work at exactly like that though. Due to my schedule, I had the option of going either early in October or at the end of the month. I took the beginning of the month because I had read some sites that track California fall colors online saying that the time to go was "now". That was irritating because when I reached my destination the area was completely green! Not only that, but it was completely hot too! Even in the evenings it was still hot even as the sun was going down over the mountainside. I felt as if I was still in August because it was still in summer conditions there. I started referring to my short time there as "the extended summer."

I decided to do a strenuous hike that I had never done before to Fern Lake just off the June Lake Loop. I knew Fern Lake had some fall colors every year, but there is a small window of opportunity for that. I almost did this hike near the end of October a few years ago, but found out the leaves had probably dropped to the ground so I didn't do it. This year I reasoned that being at a higher elevation I might find something since everything below was green. In any case, I needed to do some sort of hike so this was it. The GPS coordinates above get you very close to the entrance to the parking for the trailhead.

I was there on a weekday at 8am. Right as I walked into the trailhead two other trucks showed up. I thought they might be workers that were taking out some of the trees in the area. I was in disbelief that they were going to hike exactly where I was going. Don't get the wrong idea. I don't dislike people, but I wasn't expecting anyone with me on this backcountry hike. On a fall weekend I expect a little more of a crowd, which is a story for another time. In any case, I started going up the trail.
When I say "up" I mean it here. The hike does have some switchbacks, but this one is just straight up for about a 1,000 ft. before it flattens out some. As I was going I had good looks of Silver Lake in the distance. If you saw some of my pictures from the previous October (2014), those were taken near Silver Lake. Last October (2015) that whole area was really green by the lake. If I were to tell someone I took this in June, July, or August I think he or she would believe me.
Zooming in down below I could see some of the homes of the locals. I did a tilt-shift effect here in Photoshop to give it the miniature look just for fun.

I'm going to say that it took me about fifty minutes from the trailhead to get here. Just behind me it started to flatten out some. I did get views of June Lake too which would be off to my right outside of the above picture, but you will see that in the video. If you remember my hike to Gem Lake during 2010, the hike that went from around Silver Lake to a tramway, Agnew Lake, and Gem Lake, then that would have taken place off to the left side of Silver Lake on the mountainside in the above picture.
From my final viewing of Silver Lake from this elevation I turned around. After all the uphill I was grateful to get in some regular level ground walking. I did start to see some patches of yellow leaves, but not a lot. I did think my chances of seeing something ahead at the lake would be good.

Monday, February 29, 2016


I don't think I have ever published anything on February 29 on here so I thought I would do something today otherwise I will have to wait another four years before this day comes again. Since last month when I posted on here I meant to do some more since then, but real world issues got in the way. When that happens I just am not in the mood. Today I thought I would give a short opinion piece with some pictures of Blue Lake.

Since this is an election year in the U.S.A. I have been getting a lot of political items on my news feeds. My Twitter feed has become insane because of this where I am getting pounded with political infighting 24 hours a day. Some people intentionally pick fights with others. It's my own fault for "following" those people since they "follow" me. The sad thing is the few people I care about on there are drowned out by that and might not even be around anymore.

One thing that turns me off about social media, but also television and news articles is how they represent opposing points of view. Or, maybe it is better to say how they DON'T represent opposing points of view. The first thing I always look for in any debate or discussion is whether someone can get the positions right. It is one thing to get your own position correctly, but can you get other positions represented fairly even if you do not believe them? If you can't, then any criticisms you give can be dismissed as knocking down a straw man. If some journalist can't even do that then I don't even waste my time with him or her.

I can't tell you have many times I have watched, listened, or read something about a political candidate that I know I probably don't agree with only to find out the journalist isn't even fairly representing what they believe. It just comes across as the journalist either thinks the viewers are stupid or the journalist is stupid. I wonder how many journalists these days know about the principle of charity.

These days a lot of what one sees in the news is just a bunch of slogans and sound bites that are thrown out. It is not like the old days where news was supposed to be a bunch of facts reported to us objectively as possible. I'm not sure journalism was always like that since what is known as yellow journalism was around in the 1890's. However, these days the distinction between reporting news and giving opinion pieces (a pundit) has been blurred.

Anyways, I just wanted to mention this little bit of critical thinking that is missed a lot in your typical online news sites. The merits of a position as to whether it is true or false, or right or wrong is important, but the procedure I mention above has to take place before the evaluation can even get started. There is a tendency for a lot of news sites out there to proselytize with headlines and slogans. The media is not doing their job.

I thought I would end this by mentioning I saw a picture earlier this week saying that something would be offered on Feb. 30, 2016 for free all day. I had to explain to the people that it was obviously an April Fools joke a month early seeing how Leap Year can not be stretched out that far. ;)