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Started: 2007-04-15 17:46:34

Submitted: 2007-04-15 19:16:36

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Landscapers will recognize Syringia vulgaris as the official name for common lilac. A year after first putting together my landscaping plan, I finally got around to planting the lilacs I wanted. After getting the buried utilities in my yard marked (cable and landline along the back fence, power, water, and natural gas along the sidewalk, branching to my house where necessary), I traveled to my favorite nursery and spend an hour staring at the lilacs until I came up with my plan:

  • One Syringia × hyacinthiflora 'Mount Baker', a white early-blooming hybrid.
  • Two Syringia vulgaris 'President Lincoln', a blue common lilac.
  • One Syringia vulgaris 'Charles Jolly', a fuchsia common lilac.

I also planted asparagus, which could be interesting; our lawn gargoyle will keep watch over the spring vegetable. As usual, the tree planted in my back yard hasn't yet budded, but the maple in the front yard led the block. (Every year I'm afraid I killed the tree in the back yard which I haven't yet been able to identify, but so far it's emerged from winter apparently unscathed.)

Today I successfully climbed Twin Sisters, my third attempt since winter started and my first successful ascent. I thought I was going to snowshoe to the top, but there wasn't quite enough snow to justify that, so I hiked all the way to 11,413 feet with my snowshoes strapped to my back. On my last attempt, three weeks ago, I lost the trail in eight inches of new snow; since then, I studied my track log in Google Earth, created waypoints for the turns the trail made, uploaded them to my GPS receiver, and figured out how to string them together in a route so it will tell me where to turn. (After discovering the feature and uploading the route, I used the route feature in the field while hiking Bear Peak and South Boulder Peaks a few weeks ago.)

While driving home on the Peak-to-Peak Highway*, I vaguely noticed something black falling in my rear-view mirror, followed by a soft plastic clunk, and something small bumping around on the road behind me. I quickly recognized it as my GPS receiver, which I had (in a moment of mental weakness) left sitting on the top of my car while I threw my backpack, snowshoes, jacket, and gaiters into the aft cargo compartment after returning from my hike. (I often set my GPS receiver on top of Motoko after I turn the receiver on, in an attempt to get better satellite signals before heading onto the trail. This time I forgot to pick the receiver up after visiting the restroom across the road.) I pulled over and verified that my GPS receiver was indeed sitting in the middle of the road, about one-third of the way between the white and yellow lines in the southbound lane, about fifty meters behind where I parked. I wasn't sure if the tumble was survivable (I gave it 60/40 in favor, since it's designed to be dropped and abused), but a white pickup removed all doubt: the pickup should have been able to straddle the receiver if it had stayed in the normal flow of traffic, but I suspect the driver saw me and thought it was more important to avoid me than to avoid anything small and black on the road, so he drifted towards the center line and caught my GPS with the pickup's right front wheel. It spun into the air and shattered.

At that moment, I wished I had my camera ready to record the death of my treasured electronic device.

I picked up the pieces, appropriated a plastic grocery bag in Motoko, and headed home.

Tomorrow I'll wander down to Temptation Zone and investigate the acquisition of another GPS receiver. My old receiver had been beat up; the glass display was broken (but didn't affect its usability), and the battery compartment was missing one of the springs, forcing me to replace it with aluminum foil. I now have the opportunity to acquire a different unit, although my preliminary research suggests that the one I had (a Garmin eTrex Vista) may be best for me. (I can pay more for a Garmin unit with a color display and less waypoint memory, but I haven't been impressed by the price or coverage of the maps I can buy for my unit.)

[* Coloradans use the definite article to refer to named highways, never numbered roads; Google has led me to believe that only residents of southern California refer to numbered roads prefixed by the word "the". My only problem is that it's strangely seductive; while in SoCal, I feel compelled to adopt local custom myself. Although almost always ironically. It amuses me to watch television shows that have characters living outside of SoCal refer to their local roads with the definite article.]

I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Supreme Intergalactic Headquarters (our VP of Operations calls it that) in San Diego, assisting in the final stages of one part of the satellite project I've been working on for many months. (I first heard of the project and was technically drafted for it in July, but I didn't actually start working on it until October.) As I suspected, most of the outstanding issues were in the user interface, so I spent quality time talking to the UI developer dedicated to support me and we seem to have accomplished something useful. The intensive effort continues this week, but it seems unlikely that I'll need to return to San Diego, since I left the project in the capable hands of a software guy on the same project in San Diego. (It took me long enough to figure this out, but it appears that there are exciting things I can see in San Diego, including an air craft carrier. Maybe I'll get another trip to the mothership in another six months and I'll have the chance to stick around (or go early) and see exciting things.