Tuesday, March 27, 2018

--- Laws of the Trail ---

On Friday, February 16, I hiked the first half of Bear Creek Trail, from River Point Shopping Center to Wadsworth; then, on Thursday, March 15, I completed the trail walking from Wadsworth Boulevard to Morrison, Colorado. I was studying the signs - rules and regulations - of the trail, and I wanted to try out an alternative route around Fox Hollow Golf Course and Bear Creek Lakes Park that might provide a more direct, quicker path to Morrison than Bear Creek Trail and Mount Carbon Loop Trail. It didn't turn out that it gives me any advantage but there were some interesting items on the way and I found out some other interesting things about the area, such as why Mount Carbon is called "Mount Carbon".

I'll be blogging about this trip over the next few weeks.
                                             Loretto Heights from Englewood Station

I walked down to Englewood station, which is about 2 miles down the hill and boarded the train for Oxford station, which might be a mile down the tracks. From there, it's a short walk through River Point Shopping Center to the place where Bear Creek trail joins the Platte River Trail. There were still patches of snow and, where water poured from drains, there was still ice sculptures.

                                                                   ice sculpture

Most of the trail runs between lands owned by private individuals or groups.  Just before Knox Court, there is a Colorado Department of Transportation facility. There's another past Wadsworth. As shown by this sign, private and public concerns often create conflict.

                                                           Colorado DOT sign

                                                                  10 mph sign

I couldn't walk 10 miles per hour if I wanted, but I guess bicycles could top that. Speed limits are usually imposed on sections that get a lot of foot traffic. Most of the traffic on Bear Creek are very courteous people, but the rule that gets broken most often would be this one - I guess the need for speed is paramount.

Honestly, I don't know why they worry about dog poop when these are around most of the year.


When I first moved to Colorado, geese would tolerate the presence of humans but they wouldn't let them get too close but I've noticed in the last 4 years that they don't respond nearly as strongly to nearby humans and will often let people within a couple of feet. Perhaps the warmer winters the last couple of years have brought geese and humans together for longer stretches of time.

                                                     Denver Park and Recreation rules

The rules posted in the park are reasonable. I'm not sure if marijuana is considered "drugs" anymore or not since it was legalized. I noticed that nudity wasn't included (don't get your hopes up - the broader principalities would gladly reinforce their own laws concerning that.)

Both Plato and Aristotle held good laws to be reasonable laws and Augustus of Hippo in his On Free Choice of the Will opined that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Many of the early Americans stated similar ideas. Henry Ward Beecher said "When laws, customs, or institutions cease to be beneficial to man, they cease to be obligatory." I take it that these people considered "man" to mean "all people". In a time where the wealthy make it an avocation to find ways to domesticate laws to their own personal servitude, I think the Denver Parks and Recreation have come up with rules that allow the most people to enjoy the lands set aside for recreation.

These particular rules and regulations were established in 2012 and updated 2015 (as specified in Chapter 30 of the municipal code - posted on the Internet https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/747/documents/rules/DPR_ParkUse_RulesRegulations_05272015.pdf accessed 3/26/18), so it's a dynamic work. The whole thing is 44 pages but it also includes mountain parks where there might be bears, Red Rocks where you might be tempted to climb on things that will kill you, and so on. The appropriate sections are posted where they apply. The Parks Manager for the Lakewood Community Center Resources Department, Steve Carpenter, in an email, said that violations of park rules and regulations can lead to warnings or citations. I often see park vehicles out patrolling the areas around the trail and it's evident that a lot of work goes to keeping the parks maintained. Mr. Carpenter mentioned that Lakewood police help on occasion and I have been involved in citizen volunteer efforts to clean up the parks. Denver seems serious about their outdoor resources and pedestrian throughways.

                                                            No motorized vehicle

Bear Creek is primarily a walking and biking trail. There is a trail that parallels much of the length, the Stone House Trail, that is specifically provided for horse traffic also.

There are several picnic areas along Bear Creek Trail and they post their own rules.

                                                                     picnic area

                                                                   No swimming

This one puzzles me. After Bear Creek Lakes Park, Bear Creek, except when swollen, smells like sewage. Why would anyone swim there, much less let their children do so, yet I often see whole families frolicking in the waters in Bear Creek Park. I guess they're exercising their American rights to dysentery.


I've lived around Bear Creek for going on four years and I swear that, just in that time, this small cascade has gotten bigger. I like to imagine that one day, it will be an actual waterfall.

                                                                     Flash flood

I've only seen Bear Creek flood once in four years. I had to either wade or backtrack and cross a major street during rush hour - I waded. But Bear Creek (and all the other streams coming out of the Rockies) have had disastrous outbursts in the past and, despite the excellent flood control measures taken in the last century - Bear Creek Lakes, Lake Chatfield, Strontia Springs Reservoir, the lakes along Cherry Creek, etc. - the last few floods are still in living memory. Even since the dams were built, there have been some destructive flooding, for instance, in Morrison and Bear Creek Lakes Park in the 2013 floods. You can tame nature to a certain extend, but when she wants to, she can always get you.

                                                                    Trail closed


On this trip, a large section of the trail between Sheridan and Wadsworth were closed off for some construction. It was obvious (from the smell) that they were working on sewer lines. There are always reminders that this is an urban trail along it's entirety.

But, urban or not, it is a corridor for wildlife.

                                                                    deer tracks

These were photographed at Bear Valley Park, right next to Dartmouth Plaza and Bear Valley Shopping Center.

                                                                  Crumpled sign

Signs get some abuse. This one stands at the end of Dartmouth where it takes a sharp turn. It looks like a driver didn't make the sharp turn.

                                                                      Wheel chair

Denver Parks and Recreation tries to make the urban trails accessible to everyone.


Ducks like it - they're everywhere. I've seen other waterfowl along the creek but it's mostly ducks and geese.

                                                                Shared path signs

Since there is a variety of different kinds of traffic on Bear Creek, there is a variety of signs reminding people to be courteous. There are a few places that, if it were not for arrows, you could easily find yourself going where you don't want to go. Bear Creek Trail runs along a braid of other paths. Some just lead you to city streets, some go on to private properties.

For most of its length, Bear Creek Trail passes over or under busy city streets. There are crossings at Lowell Boulevard and Fox Hollow Drive, but many of the tributary trails cross streets and, although Denver is strict with pedestrian laws, as Sancho Panza says, "If the pitcher  hits the stone, or the stone hits the pitcher, it's bad for the pitcher."

Denver and Lakewood Parks and Recreation departments provides maps in several places along Bear Creek Trail. They obviously want you to know where you're going.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

--- Sociology of church ---

                                 The First Baptist Church of Selma at Lauderdale and Dallas

As a Christian, when I walk into a church sanctuary, I feel as though I have entered a court - not a court of law, but the court of royalty. That's not a feeling commonly met with for most modern Americans, but I think it's appropriate for a person who has the core beliefs of the Christian church.

On the other hand, I must admit that churches are social organizations and, as they are today, play prominent parts in the functioning of local communities. It's hard to grasp how most communities function (in the United States, or in the world) if the church (Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, whichever is relevant) is left out of the picture.

There was a time (the Middle Ages) when being excluded from the church (excommunication) was complete exclusion from the majority community. Outside the church, a person was a rogue. That began changing during the Renaissance and the Protestant reformation.

More recently in the United States, in my lifetime, a person was viewed with suspicion and was, at least partially excluded from community affairs if they were not a member of a local church (and, remember, I'm not talking exclusively about the Christian church when I say "church".) Churches provided connection and support structures in the community.

One downside to that in the South was that, if you were not born into a church community, you never fully belonged. You might have friends, you might even have a good life in a Southern community, but you were not ever very intimate with the community like "other people" were.

When I began my professional career in Selma, I intended to visit several churches before deciding where I would settle. My first try was the First Baptist Church at Lauderdale and Dallas (there were two First Baptist Churches in Selma). There I stuck because I found a friendly and accepting group of people there. There were also other advantages. The administrator of the facility where I worked was a member there, as were some of my colleagues, and my doctor.

I'm still a member of the first Baptist Church of Selma at Lauderdale and Dallas even though I attend a church halfway across the country. I actually visited one other church before settling on the Christ Church Episcopal Church across the street but the same qualities decided the issue. Christ Church is a friendly and accepting bunch of people (and diverse - did I mention diverse? and I'm drawn to diversity.)

On my off-time in Selma, one of my activities was helping people find resources they needed to solve serious problems in their lives. I had a standard beginning. I would ask them if they had any family in the area. If the answer was, "no," then I would ask if they were a member of a local church. If their answer to that was, "no," I knew that I had some serious work to do.

A church is an extended family. I'm reticent to call a person a "friend" just because they belong to the same church that you are a member of, but you can generally rely on fellow church members in ways you can't rely on others. They aren't necessarily friend, but they are family. And, of course, like families, some churches are dysfunctional families - so I'm not selling churches, here, as a panacea for life.

What I am doing is pointing out that churches are not just religious organizations. They are very much a part of communities, and to understand the sociology of a community, you have to figure the churches into the equation.

How would your community be different without it's churches? How would it's social structure be different?

If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to a few church goers about the place of their church in their lives. How much of what they say is religious and how much is social?

To see some of the more distressing aspects of church sociology, and I highly recommend this book to Christians particularly, you might want to look up and read "unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters." It's written by two very Christian gentlemen: David Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons. And I will recommend to everyone Eric Berne's "The Games People Play."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

--- Resources ---

Okay, I won't even attempt to list all my favorite books, courses, and Internet  resources concerning the social sciences, it's such a huge subject. I'll just recommend  a few that would go a long way toward getting you started in a study of the social sciences.

I like to think of sociology as the psychology of groups - how do people behave when they get together. There are different layers - when we're talking about how individuals behave with other individuals, we're in the realm of social psychology and sociobiology. Sociology proper looks at the less "animal" results - communities, institutions and cultures. I prefer to look at an organized group of individuals as an individual in its own right.

Harvey Molotch, of New York University,  presents an excellent introduction to sociology in the course The Sociological Imagination. It's available on Academic Earth (http://academicearth.org/sociology accessed 3/1/18).

There are also a couple of programs that you might find useful if you decide to get into your own exploration of sociology.

SocLab is designed to help you build models of social power structure. This site has more information about the projects (https://soclabproject.wordpress.com)

SocNetV is a social network visualizer and analyzer. More can be learned about it here (http://socnetv.org)

Cragun, Ryan T., Deborah Cragun and Piotr Konieczny (2012) provide a fine example of a Wikibook in Introduction to Sociology (https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Introduction_to_Sociology, accessed 2/1/18). It provides a good outline for the science of sociology including the methods used by sociologists to study social groups.


Anthropology studies human more or less, like any other animal. (If you study other animals like you do humans, it would be more likely to be called "ethology", or comparative sociology and psychology.) You could study their shapes and sizes (anthropometry), how different local humans do things differently (cultural anthropology), how humans affect their environment (environmental anthropology), or how land features, oceans, or climates affect how humans do things (geographic anthropology). There are a lot of different flavors of anthropology.

Just to get an idea of what humans are doing on the planet, you might want to visit the World Statistics Meter at http://www.worldometers.info. You might be very surprised at how addicting numbers can be.

Another useful statistics site is the United Nations Statistics Division (https://unstats.un.org/home).

Routledge publishes an Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer that can help you navigate anthropological concepts and much of sociology in general.

Political science

Governmental structure, diplomacy, policy - this area covers a lot of territory all by itself, and most of the opencourseware that I know about takes up specific issues.

Most governmental bodies will have a public website that outlines how it works, how it's structured, and the main players that make it up. That would be your primary sources. For me, that would be the Denver Regional Counsel of Governments (affectionately referred to as DrCog), the Colorado state government site, and the Colorado Encyclopedia. It looks like many states maintain an encyclopedia website and they tend to be great resources. America.gov is s good site for national topics. For international topics, of course, there's the United Nations site http://www.un.org/en/index.html.

You should have a copy of your nation's constitution. I volunteer as a conversation partner for international students who use English as a second language and it has struck me that, since they are having to learn about the United States as people who come in from other places, they know more about the Constitution of the United States than I do.

Freedom Galleries are a thing in the U.S. (although I don't see as many as I did, say, ten years ago). Public places often display pivotal documents of U. S. government, especially those dealing with personal rights, in highly visual places. You should have a collection of your own governments guiding documents.

The Citizen's Almanac (document M-76. revised last 09/2011) is published by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. I keep a copy around.

The Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and Methods, edited by Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller, and Mara S. Sidney (2007, published by CRC press - if there's a CRC handbook out on a subject you're studying, you need to have it. Some could kill a person if dropped on their head so they tend to be weighty and pricey but you can often get a copy at University used book stores.) is a necessary (and fascinating) addition to any political student's library.


How do humans behave with wealth or resources? That would be the purview of economics.

The Teaching Company has a course of economics, presented by Timothy Taylor (2005).

I have a program that allows me to simulate economic systems. It's called Minski and I got it from SourceForge (http://www.un.org/en/index.html) and another cool program from there is Jstock (http://www.un.org/en/index.html). Those are fun to play with if you're into economics.

Martindale also has a large economics section at http://www.martindalecenter.com/Calculators1B_2_Bus.html#SPREAD-ECON that is an cyber-adventure into economics all by itself.

Schaum's Outlines (published by McGraw-Hill) has several books on economics. I like Schaum's Outlines for their coverage, brevity, worked and unworked examples, and price. For example, Schaum's Outline of Microeconomics (4th ed. by Dominick Salvatore, 2006), and Schaum's Introduction to Mathematical Economics (3rd ed. by Edward T. Dowling, 2012) are in my library.

And never forget CK-12's offerings of textbooks and other educational materials. Their Project Based Economics (2011, by the Buck Institution for Education) textbook is just fun. I'll post the CK-12 website, because you'll want to look through all their other materials. https://www.ck12.org

What are the formal rules we use to interact with each other, and how do we make sure individuals abide by them - and do we? Laws are social.

The Teaching Company has a law course, Law School for Everyone, presented by a number of experts in the field - Molly Bishop Shadel, Joseph L. Hoffmann, Peter J. Smith, and Edward K. Cheng. At 48 lectures, it takes some time to get through it, but it covers a wide array of topics: litigation, criminal law, civil procedure, and torts. It's one of their larger collections, but law is a large field.

A couple of websites are good references for legal matters. The LawSERVER at https://www.lawserver.com, provides access to the laws, articles about them, and reference materials. JurisPedia, at http://jurispedia.org, is more of an encyclopedia of jurisprudence, but it is in many (many) different languages.

Barron's Law Dictionary (6th ed. 2010 published by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. ) by Steven H. Gifis, is somewhat of a classic reference. It can be useful in deciphering legalese.

If you just want to know how laws work in your country, the national website probably has the answers. In the United States, the Outline of the U. S. Legal System (2004) published by the Bureau of International Information Programs, United States Department of State, executive editor George Clack (http://usinfo.state.gov), is a good overview.

How we enforce our laws is a matter of public administration.

A good reference is The Dictionary of Public Policy and Administration, by Jay M. Shafritz (2004, published by Westview Press).

I also own a copy of the Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, a three volume set edited by Jay Siegel, Geoffrey Knupfer, and Paul Saukko (2013) published by Elsevier Ltd. And there is an online version at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/referenceworks/9780123821669 if you want to get deep into the world of CSI (I have a the equivalent of a  minor in Criminal Justice, so I have a few of the texts. Again, college used bookstores can be your friend.)

The Teaching Company has some good courses on military strategy such as Masters of War: History's greatest strategic thinkers (2012), presented by Andrew R. Wilson, and Great Battles of the Ancient World (2005), presented by Garrett G. Fagan.

Routledge published the Human Services Dictionary in 2003. Written by Howard Rosenthal, this book presents a quick reference to social problems and social services.

The Teaching Company has some excellent series on education, my favorites being How to Become a Superstar Student, presented by Michael Geisen; The Art of Teaching: Best Practises from a Master Educator, presented by Patrick N. Allitt, and How We Learn, presented by Monisha Pasupathi.

I haven't seen their, How the World Learns: Comparative Educational Systems, presented by Alexander W. Wiseman. It looks fascinating.

You might want to look through MIT's opencourseware courses on teaching. They have a cool one on teaching science and engineering presented by Janet Rankin (https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/chemistry/5-95j-teaching-college-level-science-and-engineering-fall-2015, accessed 3/8/18). Many of their educational courses address specific fields (biology, chemistry, etc.) but offer many general insights.

And if you're a teacher looking for tools-of-the-trade, check out CK12 (https://www.ck12.org), Study Guides and Strategies (http://www.studygs.net), and Science Buddies (https://www.sciencebuddies.org) all accessed 3/8/18.

If you're interested in commerce, check out the Sloan School of Management courses on the MIT opencourseware site.

Communication and transportation is included in the Dewey Decimal system under the social sciences and they are certainly important in how we interact socially, but, although I'll touch on them this year (a lot, since I'm a constant customer of the Denver transportation system), I'll wait until I'm looking at civil engineering for any deep consideration.

In the meantime, if you want to get into communication and transportation, I would recommend the Teaching Company's lectures, Everyday Engineering: Understanding the marvels of daily life, presented by Stephen Ressler. MIT also offers a broad range of courses on civil engineering on their opencourseware site.

Again, the Teaching Company has an excellent series of lectures on worldwide cultures, Customs of the World: Using cultural intelligence to adapt wherever you are, presented by David Livermore. Not only does he tell you how to get along in other parts of the world, but he also explains how to analyze other cultures.

The Cultures website (http://www.cultures.com) is a fascinating reference, as is the World Culture Encyclopedia (http://www.everyculture.com).

So, there's plenty of good reference material out there. Don't ignore you're library - they may have any or all of it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Waterton Canyon

                                                      Waterton Canyon

I took some time out from religion and sociology to hike out to Strontia Dam in Waterton Canyon. It was a full adventure. The bus that I took down to the train was struck by a car and was down for about a half hour and I talked to a man with a very interesting life story and the driver of the Lyft cab I took from the train in Mineral to the Colorado trail trailhead was no  less interesting.

                                                 Waterton Canyon from Englewood Station

                                                            Denver light rail

In the canyon, I spotted some moose tracks but luckily didn't run up on who made them. A little ways down, I met a couple of young birdwatchers who were trying to get a good photograph of a canyon wren. We shared stories.

The canyon was sunny, which was a good thing considering the blast of cold headwind I fought all the way up the canyon (funny, I fought the same wind back down.)

                                                                The Canyon

                                                           Ice flows on the canyon wall

                                                The South Platte River in Waterton Canyon

Most of the water supplied to Denver comes from this canyon. It's where both the South Platte River and the Highline Canal runs out of the Rockies. One of their projects is the conservation of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. I ran into a small herd on the way up the canyon.

                                                      (Relatively) little bighorn

It's a 6.3 mile hike but, despite the headwind, I made it to the dam in good time. Strontia Springs Dam and Reservoir were completed in 1983 for flood control and water supply to Denver. The elevation there is 6,002 feet (which makes it only a little more than 100 feet higher than Morrison, my usual destination on Bear Creek). The dam itself is 234 feet tall and I was surprised to find that it is only 30 feet thick at the base. 7863 acre-feet of water is held back by an arch of concrete only 30 feet thick!

                                                            Strontia Springs Dam
                                                     Waterton Canyon below the dam

Three other hikers arrived while I was at the dam and we passed each other several times on the way back. We were stopped at a narrow part of the canyon where there was only room for the road and a weir dam, and there was a sizable herd of bighorns taking up the road. That had evidently found the road taste and were preoccupied with licking it. I assumed that there was a tasty mineral residue there - I didn't try it. Two of the rams were built like linebackers and we didn't want to interrupt them. They can be dangerous animals if angered.

We watched and I took some pictures...

Then we hugged the canyon walls and skirted the sheep and I finished the hike.

Although I had planned to eat out, I decided that I was too tired to enjoy it and let the Lyft driver carry me all the way home. He was new to Denver and moved from my ancestral home in Georgia so we had a lot to talk about.

All in all, a great (but windy) hike.

Are there any great trails in your area? If you're in the United States, I would bet that there are. My experience is that people who are willing to take the time and trouble to see out of the way places are friendly and interesting people, and, of course, there are things to see and learn on trails that you will miss entirely in cars, and even on bicycles.