Nature Girl took me for a walk through the swamp on Sunday afternoon. It was the first warm day of the year; after a really cold week the temperature zoomed up into the 60s Fahrenheit. It was a nice day for a walk. We started in midafternoon, and it was nearing sunset as we returned. She stopped to look at something to the side of the trail.
She stepped off the trail to get a closer look.
I zoomed in on the cottonmouth.
The sun had just dropped down and put that little warm spot into the evening shade. Around the bend, the sun was still shining on the trail. She spotted something on the trail.
It was a pretty little yellow rat snake. A much more welcome denizen of the swamp.
A few moments before we encountered those critters, I took a couple of pictures from the access road that traverses the swamp.
We have only lived here for less than a year. We enjoy living next to the Conservancy woods. There are many trails that we were unwilling to walk on until after we had a hard freeze just before Thanksgiving. After the sedges grow up so that you cannot see where you are putting your foot, we will stop walking those trails again.
I bought snakeboots and snake gaiters for her birthday last year. I try to get her to wear her thornproof gloves when gardening. After she saw a copperhead in a flower bed, she started to wear those gloves. But Nature Girl is irrepressible. It makes me nervous when she walks through the woods by herself, but she is having fun exploring our new surrounds.
OK, so I don’t have the fancy, dance to the music, lights, but I did a little something different this year. I decorated my mailbox with numerous multi-color LEDs that I soldered to strips and screwed them to the mailbox. They run off 3 volts so I had to make up a little regulator circuit for them. Then I found out I was exceeding the current for the circuit so I had to make up another. I solved the heat problem with the regulators by attaching them to little copper plates to be cooled by the cooler weather outside.
Okay tribe, having come to the conclusion that we needed a break from the fray and that our lifestyle allows us to travel as long as I have three to four hours of decent internet and phone service most of the time, we took an eight day run from Oregon to Nevada in the F150.
We were blessed with fantastic weather for late October-early November and the mountain passes were good to us this trip, snowing to the north of our itinerary.
We cruised to Klamath Falls, crossing the Cascades to the dry side, then to Sparks Nevada via the California rural roads.
[10Ad: The full size photos were slowing the opening of this post so I changed the photos to medium size. If you want to see the full size please click on a photo.]
First excursion was to Pyramid Lake through the Paiute Res. We stopped at the tribal center and were offered free tacos to vote in the Nevada election. They were having a singing, chanting , drum beat fest while a local Paiute Democrat talked about how climate change was going to dry up their lake.
We did explain that we had already voted and thanked them for the taco.
Cruising up over the rim of the Sierras to Lake Tahoe, we went up to over 8000 feet and then dropped to 6000 to enjoy the Lake.
On to Boulder City, almost to Arizona. Along the way, we encountered some friendly local folks on the road.
We cruised through Lake Meade Recreation Area
and then toured Valley Of Fire Park.
From nature’s wonders to human achievement, Hoover Dam was next.
The Plaque on the Dam was from another time, when America was proud of her achievements, and did not shrink from the price paid.
Leaving Boulder City, we had company on the motel lawn.
West of Vegas is Red Rock Canyon Nature Conservancy. Worth a trip
Of course we had to cruise the strip.
Heading home, we had a long drive north through the desert. A local business got our attention.
We kept heading north, as the sunset turned the view to an oil painting like quality.
Eventually we got back to Oregon and appreciated the moisture
2500 miles, one emergency room visit, gallons of coffee and a good time had by all.
NPR has a feature worth reading. It is an obituary of a plumber. He started his own company. He worked hard and his business grew. He ended up owning some property, which is how he became the landlord for the Nintendo office in Tukwila, Washington.
Another friend of Segale’s commented on that story: “My direct understanding and perception is that Mario Segale doesn’t mind at all the fact that his name inspired such an iconic character, and that he shows humble pride in that fact in front of his grandchildren and close-knit adult circles.”
Maybe, like me, you have some favorite places on Earth. Switzerland captured my heart as a 25 year-old medical student in 1969. Back than, the world was a tumultuous place. The Vietnam War filled the daily headlines, but I was, mercifully, exempt – having failed my induction physical exam due to limited motion of my right elbow. Ten years earlier, I had tripped while making a lay-up basketball shot and fractured the head of the radius. I never regained full motion. In reality, this has not been much of an impediment, although on x-rays it looks really awful. It made me 1-Y. When I asked what that meant, the medical examiner, an older doctor, said it meant that if they took me, he would start to worry they might take him. From that time on, my graceless spill on the basketball court was known to to my family as “the fortunate fall.” I definitely would not have made a good grunt. [End Digression]
Another consequence of the ’60’s was my erratic academic performance, ranging from all A’s to all C’s, depending on my emotional state. I was thus not accepted to any stateside medical schools. I was, however, accepted to the Faculté de Médicine Université de Lausanne. My journey there in September 1969 was my first trip abroad and I immediately fell in love with the place. The physical beauty, I found, had a highly salutary effect on my normally bleak outlook on life (“gravity is superfluous, the Earth just sucks”). I truly loved the surroundings and felt secure by virtue of a crude SPS (Swiss Positioning System); by reference to distant mountains, one could triangulate one’s location pretty reliably.
This, in turn, led me to a fascination with geography of Switzerland. I found myself often trying to understand the relative location of places. Example: looking south over the Aletsch Glacier from the top of the Jungfrau, (it seemed to extend into distant forever) I wondered where the glacier ended up. Which finally brings us to my literary destination. Virtual Travel.
I have an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset I use mainly for flight simulation. My favorite sim software is Aerofly FS2, which has photorealistic scenery of all of Switzerland. With it, I regularly fly down the Aletsch glacier and arrive in the Rhone Valley at Brig. From there, I usually fly west along the valley, eventually arriving at Lake Geneva and my still-beloved Lausanne. Or, I take a left at Brig and head down the valley to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Seeing Switzerland from on high remains exhilarating. So much so that it usually triggers intense desires to go there.
My stint at med school in Lausanne turned out to last only 18 months, as my then wife decided to run off with someone else. I dropped out and returned to New Jersey badly wounded. I still remember tearfully looking out the window of the Swissair flight which brought me home, thinking I would never be happy living anywhere else. In some ways, that proved prophetic. I then somehow finished a MS in physiology and a few years later, I managed to get accepted to med school mid-year at Rutgers. A December ski trip to Zermatt was my pre-matriculation reward.
All of which is merely to offer context to my affinity for Switzerland and the ease with which I can feel intense desires to go back once again. Most mornings, I look at webcams in Zurich, Mount Rigi, Jungfraujoch, and Rochers de Naye. My curiosity is such that I try to find exactly the location of the webcams, using various online maps. Google Earth Virtual Reality is free (my animus toward Google is such that I would not use it if I had to pay for it) and a great VR experience.
I am able to ‘fly’ to Mount Rigi in VR to a place called Rigi Rotstock. There, I switch to street view, and see a photograph which clearly shows the webcam at that location. This is an exercise I repeat often, at many locations, with only mixed success. Sometimes, in street view, I can only see the shadow of a pole. It is fun and I have mental notes to look for certain webcams on my next real visit. Last April, for example, I went up to Jungfraujoch (we own stock in the railroad company which goes up from Interlaken) and found the webcam which does a roundshot including the view over the glacier. I find this to be very satisfying, even though it provokes my frequent, unfulfilled longings to head right out to the airport and go for yet another visit.
As I write, my inner entrepreneur is thinking of writing a book along the lines of “Secret, Public Switzerland – Webcams Revealed.” It would have precise maps and photos of as many webcams as possible, as well frames of their fields of view. I wonder if this might sell…? I could even write off the trip…
Just got back from the latest vacation after driving 600 miles from Montana to Oregon in ten hours. I am both tired and wired.
Itinerary: We drove up for a quick grandchildren visit in Seattle with the three girls 8,6 and 4. Delivered each a complete set of Incredibles 2 toys from McDonald’s (courtesy of Grandpa hitting six locations in a week to get all the characters). Once again had a big hit.
Lit out for the border, allowed in despite being an admitted knife owner, and headed northwest into British Columbia, stayed in Kamloops, (Not a breakfast cereal).
On to Jasper National Park in Alberta. Many natural wonders to behold.
A wondrous and awe filled journey down the Icefields Parkway, which runs the spine of the Canadian Rockies from Jasper Park in the north to Banff Park in the south and runs up to 6800 ft above sea level.
Stayed in Banff at a very classy place, treated ourselves to Victorian Luxury in service, atmosphere and food.
Lit out for the US border into Montana and revisited Glacier National Park which we had seen thirty years earlier.
Drove Going to The Sun Road across Glacier Nat Park.
Woke up in Kalispell MT, 605 miles from home in Oregon and drove it today on one tank of gas.
Still tired and wired.
Ground covered- 2685 miles, five hotels from Super 8 to Five Diamond class.
Casualties- One Windshield, One tire
First- The wildlife knew their lines, made well rehearsed entrances and put on a good show. All these were shot from the truck window with no telephoto.
Then we suffered from Vacation Interruptus- a truck threw a rock chip into the windshield of the Faithful 150 and a small starburst crack turned into a three foot slice within an hour. We added a day, and the local Ford dealer suggested a little glass shop just outside the park. Next morning, I was there, drank coffee for 90 minutes while a very competent auto glass guy got the windshield in, connected the embedded sensors to the truck network so I could sense rain, maintain lane and sundry other stuff the windshield does for me. Even my insurance worked, so I just paid my $100 deductible in Canadian and was off.
Our highlight was one of the World’s best scenic drives- the Icefields Parkway. You climb almost 4000 feet over 140 miles and there is a photo of awesome nature in every mile. Do it.
On our way back to the States, about thirty miles out from Cut Bank Montana, just on the edge of the Blackfoot Indian Res. We were barreling down a two lane and my dash flashed a low tire pressure warning. My diagnostics panel showed my left rear tire was running at 28 pounds to the other three’s 40, and seemed to be dropping a pound every ten minutes or so. (I was still rolling hot down the road).
So we decided to keep rolling and make it to town. We did with 24 pounds left.
The tire place in town was just closed, but the guy told me to bring her in at 7am the next morning (Saturday) and he would open up and fix it.
On the next morning, of course the tire is flat, so I grab the inflator from the toolbox, plug it into the dc outlet and bring it back up to 40 pounds. Rolled down to the tire place and the owner waved me right in. He apparently had been working at tires since high school and he was my age, so he was what you could call a Master Craftsman of Tire Repair. He and his Blackfoot sidekick worked their magic, plugged the hole made by a small jagged piece of iron, remounted it and I was on my way, happy to pay the whole of $15.00 American, as requested.
I ran the diagnostics the whole trip over Going to the Sun Road and the tire never lost a bit of pressure.
It was great to see real folks who know what the heck they are doing and happy to do it.
Lesson learned from the trip. Even though I was tethered to work by the magic of the interwebs, it was easy to run that from my mind and refocus on the scenery, the sights and the people we met.
The Left love demonstrating. They are constantly marching and rallying, ginning up outragey feelings in search of that street-protest vibe of the 1960s. Even high-school Leftists are nostalgic for the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam-War marches. They all want an emotional high, preferably with a tiny waft of tear gas in the air.
Florida high schoolers targeted Publix Supermarkets for a die-in. Publix is a grocery store chain that is strong in Florida and Georgia and has many stores in five other Southeastern states.
Of course fawning media gave this protest national coverage. The kids from Parkland learned that, so long as they mouth the causes of the Left, they will gain nationwide media attention.
The reason for the protest is that Publix made a political campaign donation to a Republican who votes with the NRA.
I did not scour the internet, but a casual search only turned up one case of a reporter actually doing some reporting other than passing along David Hogg’s press release. This article is about who receives political donations from Publix. This is relevant because Publix immediately folded and announced that they would quit making political gifts. Of course, in the Southeast, if Publix is giving proportionately, then their overall giving will tend to favor Republicans. This article is focused on Alabama:
We usually get a Mallard pair visiting the pond this time of year. Took this today with my 14-42mm lens. Next time I’ll use the telephoto zoom. What’s really cool is when mom-duck returns with her babies. Stay tuned…
Since 1994, Fourmilab’s Earth and Moon Viewerhas provided custom views of the Earth and Moon from a variety of viewpoints, using imagery databases which have evolved over the years from primitive images to gigabyte-scale mosaics collected by spacecraft. Views were originally restricted to the Earth, but fifteen years ago, in April 2003, the ability to view the Moon was added, using the global imagery collected by the Clementine orbiter. These data were wonderful for the time, providing full-globe topography and albedo databases with a resolution of 1440×720 pixels. This allowed viewing the Moon as a whole or modest zooms into localities, but when you zoomed in close the results were…disappointing. Here is the crater Copernicus viewed from an altitude of 10 km using the Clementine data.
It looks kind of like a crater, but it leaves you wanting more.
That was then, and this is now. In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was launched into a near-polar orbit around the Moon. In its orbit, it is able to photograph the entire lunar surface from an altitude as low as 20 km, with very high resolution. This has enabled the assembly of a global mosaic image with resolution of 100 metres per pixel (total image size is 109164×54582 pixels), or about 5.6 gigabytes of 256-level grey scale pixels). This image database is now available in Earth and Moon Viewer. Here is the same view of Copernicus using the LRO imagery.
Bit of a difference, don’t you think? But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s swoop down to 1 km above the surface and look at the central peaks.
Note the small craters and boulder fields which are completely invisible with even the best Earth-based telescopes.
Thanks to LRO, you can now explore the Moon seeing views that only astronauts who orbited, flew by, or landed there have ever seen with their own eyes. And the entire Moon is yours to explore, including all of the far side and the poles, where Apollo missions never ventured.
The Clementine and LRO imagery were collected a decade apart. The technology which has enabled this improvement continues to grow exponentially. The Roaring Twenties are going to be interesting.
Olympus OM-D, E-M10MarkII, Micro-Four Thirds. Have 14-42 and 40-150 zoom lenses, both with circular polarizing filters. Weighs about 1/10th of my older Olympus E-3 which used the much larger Four Thirds format lenses. Slightly higher F #’s with the new one, but for the size, don’t care. The new one has WiFi: Crikey!
From this am, only using AUTO; a sunny morning, finally:
Still water because my new pond pump, 2.7 HP Century V-Green, is variable speed, and this low setting oxygenates the water, only using 100W. I am a control freak, in spite of PGE’s wishes.
So, yeah, I am having serious trouble with Spring fever this year. We didn’t go the the beach this week because my perfect spouse contracted the Crud. Postponed until 4-2.
My camera activity is getting an upgrade. I cracked the glass over the function display on my beloved Olympus E-3, so it’s retiring. It’s only good for fair weather action now. My new camera is an Olympus OM-D Mark 10 II: Micro four-thirds, 15.6 Megapixel, 5-way internal stabilization, screamingly fast AF, 8.5 fps, and built-in WiFi. Woof! Until I get it on Monday, here’s a few iPhone shots from yesterday:
Our pink Magnolia is raring to go.
The maximally green-thumbed spouse’s late winter flower basket adorns the deck.
We begged the Camellia and it finally listened.
Water is up to 53F, so the fish are chowing down, their most potent skill.