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2016 Wrap-Up.

Goals from last year:

1) I will attend at least 100 SQUID practices this year.

Not even close. I did 26 swim practices this year. I need to find another workout venue, because Squid weekday practices are inconvenient enough to be a real disincentive, & I never make Saturday practices because we're always on the go on the weekends. Possible alternatives: swimming at Denver Recreation facilities, finding another team with better practice times, or maybe picking up a different activity. I have toyed with the idea of just throwing myself into skiing & hiking, & maybe doing yoga.

2) I will compete in at least one swimming competition this year, either a pool meet or an open-water event.

Nope. I let my uncertainty about my new job derail my training & missed all the summer events.

3) I will overpay my mortgage by at least $4,000 this year.

Nope. We overpaid by $1,916.05. Good but not great. Still, we have done well in our first year of homeownership. We owe $320,172.25 on the mortgage, & our realtor estimates our house could sell for around $370,000. Our neighborhood has been proposed for historic district designation, which would likely drive up values. We're doing well with Breezehome.

4) I will earn, in some fashion, some income from any source OTHER than my AECOM paycheck.


5) I will log at least 30 Whole30-compatible meals a month into MyPaleoPal.

No. I have actually done an about-face on this. Instead, I have been attending Overeaters Anonymous & trying to work through some of my weird issues around food.
Health: Weird year. I worked on mental health for a while, then stopped. I worked on weight loss, then realized I'm all fucked up in the head about weight & food. I feel good but I need more exercise for sure. Still not sleeping well. It's not been a great year healthwise. But I did achieve some of the specific goals I had last year: I grew some food in my own garden, I learned how to brew kombucha (I have a batch going right now), & I'm eating more seafood & vegetables than ever before.

HEALTH GRADE: Change in direction required.

Wealth: We did pretty well this year! We didn't make any huge outlays, & didn't realize any huge windfalls. We just plugged along, paying down debts, saving money in assets. Very boring, very pedestrian.

Change in assets, 2016: increased by $55,011.64
Change in debts, 2016: decreased by 10,817.27
Change in rough net worth, 2016: increased by $65,828.91

WEALTH GRADE: Steady Freddy.

Happiness: This year has been volatile. HPG & I nearly broke up in late summer. I'd say we are doing much better now. My job transition was stressful, but overall I think it was a good move. Larger trends - political, mostly - have made me wonder if our world is worth saving. We've made some good friends in our neighborhood, & met even more great people this year. I've spent tons of time in the mountains, exploring the beautiful areas around Denver. But the year's finish - the surprise discovery of my elder brother Richard - means that 2016 can never be anything but amazing.

HAPPINESS GRADE: Despite everything, would 2016 again.

Plans for 2017

I dunno. I did so badly with my resolutions in 2016 so maybe this year I'll just see how things go. Or I may write another post later with some modest goals.
Everyone heard that Carrie Fisher became one with the Force today, but fewer people heard that Richard Adams also died today. The loss of these two people saddens me for many of the same reasons - they both played roles in shaping my understanding of stories.

Watership Down, Adams' most famous novel, tells a story about a group of rabbits living in the English countryside. I read it as a kid & loved the adventure story of Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, & the rest finding a new home & defending it against the evil General Woundwort. As an adult, I loved it again because it shows a community that is shaped, in part, by stories. The rabbits tell each other stories of their culture hero El-Ahrairah & the fearsome Black Rabbit of Inlé. Adams does an amazing job of making the rabbits relatable but never over-humanizing them. He does such a good job of introducing their culture & language that near the end of the book, Bigwig speaks an entire sentence in Lapine (the rabbit language) & it doesn't even hit a speed bump in most readers' minds ("Silflay hraka u embleer rah.").

Star Wars, to a large extent, is my culture's story. The music of the film's soundtrack pervades many of my memories. I learned to play the Star Wars theme on the song flute for a concert in first grade. At Cornell, we used to gather in my dorm room & listen to the Imperial March before headinI g out the door to a prelim or final. In grad school, I studied while listening to the film scores (old trilogy & new). I've seen the original trilogy so many times that I can pretty much mumble along with the actors' lines at any point. I hated the prequel trilogy & mostly refuse to acknowledge their existence, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the two most recent films.

Star Wars references pervade my daily life. You can drop "Boba Fett", "Jedi", "Sith", "Jar-Jar Binks", "stormtroopers", "X-wing fighter", etc. in casual conversation with most of my friends & co-workers without ever having to explain yourself. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files characters reference Star Wars constantly, to the point that a light saber has made an appearance in the series. And the story shapes our culture. "May the Force be with you" is understood as a benediction. If someone does something evil, people say they've turned to the Dark Side. We are given examples of a princess who endures terrible losses but never gives up hope, a scruffy-looking nerf herder who eventually becomes a general for the Rebellion, a con man turned station administrator who has to make horrible choices under pressure from the government. A single person can change the history of the galaxy. A single person can change the course of their broken life by turning away from the Dark Side.

Stories are important. My religious faith revolves around a collection of stories. I love hearing people's stories, & I love telling stories. I loved Story Hour in college, where one person read stories aloud while wearing the Story Hat. I love listening to stories on Audible. Stories transmit values & teach about situations without you having to actually having to live through it. Sharing a story with someone lets you share a part of your life.

Carrie Fisher & Richard Adams shaped & enriched my life by sharing their stories with me. Thank you.

So what are you doing in Leadville?

I've now been in Leadville for just over a month, working on this project. So... what is it that we're doing here?

In short, we are working to prevent the formation of acid rock drainage (ARD) on one portion of the California Gulch Superfund Site. There are four parts to this project - three little ones & one big one. First, the little parts:

  • We are running a generator-powered pump in a groundwater well containing uncontaminated water (the GAW well) 24 hours a day, pumping approximately one million gallons per day into California Gulch (a small creek). We are doing this to keep the clean water from mixing with a plume of contaminated water, which would force a water treatment plant owned by the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBOR) to treat an increased volume of water.
  • We were trying to rehabilitate an injection well (the Marian well) that pours ARD about 200 feet down a 14-inch-diameter PVC pipe into an old mine lateral, where it flowed into the Leadville Deep Mine Tunnel (LDMT), & then to the USBOR water treatment plant. This well, unfortunately, has completely collapsed at about 135 feet below ground surface (bgs) & probably can't be repaired. There is some evidence that the lateral has also collapsed. Next year, we may attempt to replace this well with a directionally-drilled well going straight to the LDMT. This will be a tricky bit of drilling, as the LDMT is about 500 feet away, about 200 feet bgs, & only about five feet wide. Also, we don't have any maps or other information about its specific location (it was built in the 1940s). Hitting it with a directional drill rig will be like shooting a bullseye on a buried target while wearing a blindfold.
  • We are placing limestone gravel into several ARD ponds to see if the limestone can neutralize the ARD & the pond sediments. The ARD at the California Gulch site is intensely acidic, with a pH that is usually less than 2 & often less than 1 (for comparison, stomach acid is usually between pH 1.5 to 3.5). It is our hope that if we can raise the pH, the ARD will pick up fewer heavy metals & therefore will be easier to treat when it reaches the USBOR plant.

Then there's the big part of the project - the clean water diversion channel. Background: the area around Leadville was intensively mined for over 100 years, producing gold, silver, lead, & variety of other metals. Part of the legacy of this activity are large piles of mine tailings. This is rock that was removed while accessing the veins of metal ore. It contains a lot of pyritic minerals, which contain sulfur, which can create sulfuric acid when in contact with water. Once the water becomes acidified, it starts leaching heavy metals from the mine tailings - arsenic, zinc, manganese, cadmium, lead, chromium, etc. The resulting effluent is ARD. Treating ARD is expensive, so our approach right now is to reduce the amount of water that comes into contact with the mine tailings so less ARD has to be treated.

Ignore the rainbow, look at the piles!

To this end, we are digging a channel that will intercept all the surface runoff & snowmelt from the mountainside above one particular set of mine tailings piles located in Stray Horse Gulch. The channel is lined with a plastic membrane to prevent any water from seeping through it. On top of the plastic membrane is a honeycombed web of plastic, which is filled with gravel.

Like ogres & onions, channels have layers.

This channel will divert the water around the piles & down another watershed (No-Name Gulch). The channel is about 2,400 feet long & ten feet wide. In order to give it enough slope to make sure the water flows across the hillside, we had to dig it pretty deep in some places - as much as 10 feet below the existing grade. The design requires us to make the side slopes no steeper than 3:1, so in places, the channel is 70 feet wide (30 feet on one side slope, 10-foot wide channel, 30 feet on the other side slope). We are moving about 8,000 cubic yards of soil, all told. It will look pretty nice once we get the side slopes revegetated.

I really want to drive that articulated truck.

One of the trickier parts of this project is that this channel runs smack dab through the middle of an eligible historic site, the Pyrenees headframe. It is a towering timber structure built over a mine shaft that extended 1,257 feet underground. Our channel runs right past its foundations, in part following the grade from a rail spur that used to haul off the bonanza of ore coming up from the Pyrenees mine. While excavating this section of the channel, we had an archaeologist on site to document anything we found. We have also had to excavate around some large concrete foundations, which probably used to house the giant hoist wheels that lifted men & materials out of the heart of the mountain. My nightmare is that one of the 50,000-lb. pieces of equipment I've got operating on this site will find a near-surface lateral by caving it in.

IMHO, being lowered 1,257 feet into a mountain is a bad way to start your work day.

I think the project is going pretty well. We've been incredibly lucky with weather & I hope our luck last for just a couple more weeks. We've got to finish putting the layers in the channel, the gravel in the layers, then finish re-grading all the side slopes, covering all the slopes with erosion control blankets & seeding them with a blend of native grasses. We have one more culvert to install (in a berm at the outlet of the channel, which will control any floods that come down the channel, releasing them slowly through the culvert). We're building a small pond in an area where we dug out some topsoil. Then we will remove all of our construction roads, demobilize the office trailer, get all the equipment sent off, & go HOME.


Non-SQUID practice 26-2016.

WARMUP = 300 yards

300 free 50 swim / 25 drill about 5:00

FIRST SET = 650 yards

8 x 75 25 backstroke kick / 25 stroke IM order / 25 free swim 1:45
50 easy

SECOND SET = 1,000 yards

10 x 100 free swim 1:55 (1:35 in) - I tried to do all the flip turns but couldn't, kept running out of air.

WARMDOWN = 150 yards

150 easy

Total workout = 2,100 yards in ~40-45 minutes
2016 cumulative distance = 64,100 yards (36.4 miles)


Non-SQUID practice 25-2016.

WARMUP = 300 yards

300 free 50 swim / 25 drill about 5:00

FIRST SET = 600 yards

8 x 75 25 backstroke kick / 25 stroke IM order / 25 free swim 2:00

SECOND SET = 1,000 yards

10 x 100 free swim 1:55 (1:35 in)

WARMDOWN = 100 yards

100 easy

Total workout = 2,000 yards in ~40-45 minutes
2016 cumulative distance = 62,000 yards (35.2 miles)


Non-SQUID practice 24-2016.

I finally made it to the Lake County Aquatic Center here in Leadville! And who was there but my CLIENT - & he kicked my ass! I'm trying not to be sullen about that - he says he swims 2-3 times a week religiously. If I swim 2-3 times a week religiously, maybe I could kick HIS ass.

Also - swimming at 10,200 ft? It's an ass-kicking all on its own.


300 free 50 swim / 25 drill


6 x 50 kick 1:30 freestyle kick: 5 kicks on one side, roll to other side, 5 kicks


10 x 100 free 2:00


50 easy

Total workout (best guess) = 1,650 yards in ~35-40 minutes
2016 cumulative distance = 60,000 yards (34.1 miles)


"The Quitter" by Robert Service

Full text here

When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you're sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: "Fight all you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.


SQUID practice 23-2016.

I don't have a good record of this practice. It was a lot of short reps, & everything was "last 25 fast". Then we did a good deal of drilling on sculling technique. The water & air temperature was way too hot, & I skipped quite a bit.

Total workout (best guess) = 2,500 yards in ~90 minutes
2016 cumulative distance = 58,350 yards (33.2 miles)


SQUID practice 22-2016.

WARMUP = 400 yards
400 free 25 D/50 S

MAIN SET = 1,750 yards

6 x 75 K/D/S free :20 rest
2 x 100 pull free (can't remember the interval)
20 x 25 K/D/build/fast by 25s, repeat 5 times, choice :40
4 x 75 K/D/S IM order by 75 3:00 (should have been 2:40)
3 x 100 free descend 1-3 2:00

WARMDOWN = 150 easy

Total workout = 2,300 yards in ~60 minutes
I did 2,250 yards - I cut one 50 in the final set of 100s.
2016 cumulative distance = 55,850 yards (31.7 miles)


SQUID practice 21-2016.

This is only a best guess at this workout. I forgot to write it down immediately & it was a confusing workout altogether.

WARMUP = 650 yards
300 free
100 kick choice
5 x 50 stroke

SETS? = 1,750 yards

5 x 100
1-4 free 1st: 75 easy/25 hard, 2nd: 50 easy/25 hard/25 easy, 3rd: 25 easy/25 hard/50 easy, 4th: 25 hard/75 easy
5 IM

4 x 50 stroke down, free back IM order
3 x 75 mishmash of strokes
25 free to get back to the shallow end of the pool
All on 2:00-2:10 (should've been faster)

4 x
125 IM w/extra 25 free 2:50? 3:00?
75 kick choice 2:00

WARMDOWN = 200 yards

approximately 200 yards easy free

Total workout = 2,600 yards in ~70 minutes
I did about 2,300 yards - I didn't finish the warmup & I cut a 50 in the first set of 100s.
2016 cumulative distance = 53,600 yards (30.5 miles)


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