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Some questions inspired by the Year of the Space Odyssey

Letter from Roger Williams

Colorado Central – February 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Ed & Martha:

Your Issue No. 83, January, Year of the Space Odyssey, inspires numerous questions and remarks.

When I took out a Safeway card, p. 2 (“Your Savings Are In The Card!”; also I can pay with it), I didn’t get any more junk mail, except a few of their books of savings, which is reasonable.

Since I wrote Mail and Phone Preference Services at DMA (Direct Marketing Association) several years ago, most of my junk mail has stopped except endless appeals for funds. If I don’t want it, I send it back with a line through my name and a box added and checked: “Please Drop My Name From Your Mailing List.” I wish this worked with spam — junk email — which has become a nuisance; but between Mindspring’s “Spaminator” and “Spamcop” I get rid of most of it, too. I get few sweepstakes any more but am still waiting for that $10 million.

That yuppie who wants to party in the “On Mountain Time” comic strip on p. 4 sure could use a dose of Rogaine and Propecia.

There was an article, in the Boulder Daily Camera I think, about cellular-phone antennas (p. 8) hidden in church steeples.

This has also been a hit in England according to Electronic Telegraph. Monument Hill north of Colorado Springs has an odd-looking fir or spruce tree on the west side of I-25 that looks like a cellular-phone tower in disguise.

I thought the Homestake Mine (p. 12) was in Lead, S.D., (pronounced like “to lead” not the toxic metal “lead”). I gather there are several. The one in Lead has a huge open-cut bowl you can see down into as well as a deep underground mine you can tour the surface part of.

There was another avalanche disaster (p. 20) in Thredbo, New South Wales, a ski resort south of Sydney in Australia that I’ve visited. Several people were trapped in buried buildings. However I don’t think that country — where winter comes in June — has had anywhere near the number of fatalities Europe or North America have.

“Railroad Reminiscences”, p. 27: I have many, and hope to see trains run again through the Arkansas Valley, though the new Royal Gorge train is a good one — just give the state penitentiary at the west end of CaƱon City a wide berth. I just took the ski train again since it ran midweek for the first time I know of; I persist despite the ski industry’s efforts to price customers out as the hotel industry has done. (Lift tickets at Winter Park are a whopping $56; I got one for $43 with the $40 train ticket, then ski rental was $28). I was in car 11, “Shavano Peak,” not far from Salida; I climbed it years ago along with the other 14 “14ers” in the Sawatch Range. The cars are now unimaginatively named “The Ski Train” but I was pleased to see the old names, after Colorado mountains many of which I have climbed, and a few parks or valleys, still appear on the ends inside and out. The train is still a nice operation.

I enjoyed “You could look it up”, page 32; I have several web sites to look things up on, such as dictionaries, prescription drugs, and even great-circle distances (Denver to Perth, which I hope to revisit — I lived there once — is over 10,000 miles).

I haven’t tried The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, but hope it includes Middle Earth, Eriador, Rohan, the Shire and those other charming places in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read one volume on a 12-day hike from Buena Vista to Aspen over the mountains once in the good old days when Trailways served Buena Vista, making a one-way trip easy; I stayed at the Little Red Ski Haus in Aspen, also defunct, and took the train back from Glenwood Springs, the old Rio Grande Zephyr, a great ride.

Finally, I was intrigued by the mailing label decoder on the back page. I’ve always wondered how they worked. The bar code system baffled me; I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. It’s neither straight binary nor 1248 BCD (Binary-Coded Decimal); there seemed no logical order to it. Perhaps it incorporates some kind of error coding, an arcane science, besides the often-used check digit.

Happy New Year, or perhaps new millennium, and keep up the good work.

Roger Williams



[Editor’s note: The Dictionary of Imaginary Places has entries for all those Hobbit habitats mentioned above.]