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Upholding the right to take naps

NORTHERN ROCKIES

There are some photos you really don't want to take. One is an extreme close-up of a quiescent Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park -- the kind of photo you'd get by standing as close as possible and pointing your camera down at its small pool of water -- just before the geyser spews superheated steam up to 185 feet high in the air. But that's exactly what 30 tourists with cameras tried to do recently, hovering around Old Faithful and oohing and ahhing just minutes before the geyser erupted, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Park officials said they'd never seen anything like this act of folly. Fortunately, and surprisingly, nobody got scalded or blasted into the air. That was largely due to webcam enthusiast Craig Skelly of Golden, Colo., who happened to spot the unlikely crowd. He quickly alerted park officials, who sent a ranger out to shoo the visitors back to the boardwalk and out of harm's way. The tourists, who spoke English and reportedly did not come from a foreign country, arrived by bus and spent some 11 minutes milling around the geyser before getting yanked back. All of them told rangers that they never noticed the many signs warning visitors to stay on the boardwalk -- an assertion, said park spokesman Al Nash, that was hard to swallow. The tour guide, the bus driver and a man who urged everybody to crowd around Old Faithful were all cited with $125 fines.

NEBRASKA

In the legislative rush to introduce irrational and/or peculiar bills, Nebraska's unicameral body may have secured a lofty ranking. Though faced with daily shootings in Omaha and a major budget crunch, Omaha state Sen. Pete Pirsch introduced a constitutional amendment to guarantee Nebraskans the "right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife," to which Lincoln state Sen. Amanda McGill responded with a tongue-in-cheek amendment granting residents the right to "swim, farm, ranch, drive, boat, tube, golf, nap, parent, learn, camp, pioneer, innovate and watch Husker football." Writer Pete Letheby tells us, though, that state Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial owns the lead when it comes to proposals that might charitably be characterized as "different." They include a bill authorizing teachers to carry handguns in schools, another removing ethanol labels from gas station pumps so consumers wouldn't know what they're buying, a bill classifying the murder of abortion providers by a third party as "justifiable homicide," and last but not least, a bill requiring candidates in Nebraska's presidential primary to prove not only that their parents were born in the United States, but that both of their parents' parents were born here as well. All of Christensen's measures died early deaths. Letheby reminds us that we shouldn't harp on Nebraska; state legislatures in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota sport equally farfetched initiatives.

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HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor