Robert L. Peters

31 December 2010

Best wishes for 2011!

Frosty rural Manitoba, Canada

Thank You! for visiting this blog in 2010—more than 113,000 unique visits from 188 countries (traffic was up 66% from the preceding year with over 80% from first-time visitors). And thanks again to all who have contributed ideas, inspiration, suggestions, and comments.

Happy New Year! to friends far and near…


30 December 2010

Art versus Empire

Los Angeles, California

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics has a few new online exhibitions of “oppositional goodness”… among them, MasterPeaces, High Art for Higher Purpose and Art Against Empire, Graphic Responses to U.S. Interventions Since World War II. A small sampling of the posters and graphics on display appears above.

Source: Social Design Notes

28 December 2010

Climbing on the shoulders… of legends.

Devils Tower, Wyoming

Several Native American legends exist regarding the origin of Devils Tower. One of the most popular involves seven young Kiowa girls who are chased by giant bears. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit caused the rock to rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides which had become too steep to climb. (Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower). When the seven girls reached the sky, they were turned into the star constellation the Pleiades.

In another version of the legend (depicted in the painting above), a group of Natives are chased by a giant magic bear. Again, the Great Spirit raises them up on a rock tower where they are able to fight back and defeat the bear as it tries unsuccessfully to climb the tower—no explanation of how the bear loses its long tail… (it’s also worth noting that the bear shown in the image above is about 100 times actual size, while the warriors on top are about 10 x actual size).*

Devils Tower (Mato Tipila in Lakota, which means “Great Bear Lodge,” though named by surveyors after another Native name, “The Bad God’s Tower”) is a monolithic igneous intrusion located in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming, rising dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the surrounding terrain with a summit 5,112 feet (1,558 m) above sea level. A most improbable mountain comprised of sharp, near-vertical cliffs with regular furrows, it sticks up like some giant, prehistoric tree-stump. Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established in 1906 by president Theodore Roosevelt. Stephen Spielberg used it as a backdrop to his 1977 blockbuster movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (remember the mashed potato carving?). Yearly, some 400,000 tourists come to gawk at its unusual shape, and it is still a favorite “test-piece” for trad rock climbers (statistically, about 1% of visitors are climbers).

Most of the evidence suggests that the strangely-shaped mountain is a laccolith, an intrusion of hot magma from deep within the earth that never reaches the surface. It pushes up a bulge of sedimentary rock but without forming a caldera or crater (as a volcano would have). As the molten rock cools and the soft sedimentary rock of the bulge is worn away, the harder igneous rock is exposed (in the case of Devils Tower this would have resulted in the top of the tower becoming visible between one and two million years ago… with continuous erosion ever since). As the hot rock cooled, eight-sided vertical columns formed. As these columns continued to cool they shrank and pulled away from each other, making the furrow marks that run vertically down the tower from the top. The tower’s rock is phonolite porphyry, a gray or greenish igneous rock with crystals of feldspar embedded within it.

I’ve had the pleasure (and great privilege, I would say) of climbing Devils Tower several times over the years. Although forced off the tower just several pitches up by an afternoon lightning storm on my first attempt, I was able to lead the Durrance Route (one of the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America) the next day—including the famous “jump traverse” which involves an airy leap across a gap between two columns nearly 200 meters above terra firma. On a later trip, I climbed the classic Wiessner Route (led by good friend Gregor Brandt, with his lovely partner Janice Liwanag seconding, and me cleaning). The top of the tower is about the size of a soccer pitch, and as the sun goes down you can watch a rapidly-elongating shadow race out across the surrounding terrain—truly magical.

*Note that Devils Tower is sacred to several Native American Plains tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Kiowa. In response to a concern about climbing the monument being considered a desecration, a compromise was reached in recent years involving a voluntary climbing ban during the month of June, when the tribes are conducting ceremonies around the monument. Most climbers honor this ban and voluntarily choose not to climb the Tower during the month of June.

The image at the top is by an unknown artist. The image below is a photograph taken in 1900 by Nathaniel H. Darton of the U.S. Geological Survey (the broken column which constitutes the first pitch of the Durrance Route lies along the left edge of the shadow vertically dissecting the tower).



26 December 2010



A simple decision flow-chart… (link to source no longer works).

(Not trying to rob therapists here… just saying).


25 December 2010

Merry Christmas…

(go ahead… say it)

Merry Christmas. Fun Festivus. Good Goru. Happy Hanukkah. Kick-ass Kwanza. Jolly Juletid. Mirthful Mummering. Sanguine Saturnalia. Just name your Yule-type… I wish you well.

Peace on earth… and, Cheers!

24 December 2010

Keep smiling…

23 December 2010

Let the light shine in and on…


Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in…

—Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Poetic, prophetic, the bard’s lyrics ring so true.

21 December 2010

Missed it… the total lunar eclipse.

Overcast Manitoba

Weather was not on our side, so we missed quite the sight in the wee hours of this morning. The total lunar eclipse that began a few hours ago took on a bloody red hue at its peak. Since the moon aligned with the Milky Way’s stars this time around, an enhanced ambience (apparently) made it particularly spectacular. This total lunar eclipse is the first one to occur on the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere in 372 years…

Drat! Missed it, due to persistent cloud-cover… well, maybe next time around. :-| The photo sequence above was taken in Manassas, Virginia, showing the moon in different stages of today’s total lunar eclipse. Source: NPR.

19 December 2010

I’m dreaming of…The Bugaboos.

Purcell Mountains, British Columbia

Just confirmed—in a little over seven months I’ll be back in one of my favorite alpine places, The Bugaboos—on a week-long climbing trip with a dozen or so long-time friends from our local chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada. We’ll be using the Conrad Kain hut as a luxurious base camp (after a 3.5 km slog [700 m vertical gain] from the trail-head) offering propane powered lamps and stove-top, and as of late, hydro-electric power (from continual glacial run-off) for lights, heating and even hot water.

The Bugaboos’ awe-inspiring mountain and glacier terrain draws climbers from around the world to its airy, glacier-sculpted granite spires (many of them over 3,000 meters in elevation). On three previous trips there I’ve met enthusiastic alpinists from Europe, Asia, South America, and Oceania… along with lots of Canucks and Yanks of course.

It’s time for me to get back into shape…

(photos above are all from Wikipedia)

18 December 2010

Go for it…

(think of this as your “fortune cookie” for today)

Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

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