Saturday, September 24, 2016

Biking alongside Warm River in southeast Idaho

Last night I went camping with Seth's scout troop at Warm River campground, northeast from Ashton, Idaho. It was raining plenty on the way there, and kept raining all night until maybe 5 this morning. But scoutmaster Aaron Jenkins and assistant George Bates had large tarps we set up tied to the trees to give us cover from the rain, and we had a good night.

Today after breakfast we broke camp and drove north up the road toward Mesa Falls with our bikes in the back of the truck to a spot where the road meets the railbed of the railroad that used to go from Ashton to West Yellowstone.

We had an easy, nice 8-mile ride downhill from there back to the campground. As the day progressed, the clouds cleared and the views just kept getting better. A dust-free, cool ride was a great payoff for a little rain beforehand.

We drove back to Teton Valley through Ashton, Lamont, and Felt, and the hills and fall colors were amazing.

We should do a longer ride on that former railbed another time, maybe all the way to West Yellowstone. It's a beautiful area!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Great Basin National Park

This summer the four Jensen brothers (Jon, Jeremiah, Caleb, Charlie) and our families had a reunion camping trip in Great Basin National Park, near Baker, Nevada. None of us had been there before, but it was roughly in the equally distant from all of us, had a campground for car camping, and the second-highest peak in Nevada, which some of us wanted to hike.

The town of Baker had lots of fun homemade artwork outdoors in yards, on fences, etc. We didn't get any photos of that as we drove by on the highway, but this extra stop sign in the middle, behind the cross road, that says "Whoa", imparts the feel of it:

The first night we weren't able to find campsites near each other, so the next morning some of us moved our tents and things to campsites closer to the others once some people had left:

We had plenty of time to just hang out:

And Caleb & Jenn's popup camping trailer, shelter, and cooking gear made it much nicer for everyone:

There were some shorter, easy hikes we all went on to little lakes:

And Charlie surprised us all by pulling out a small backpacking inflatable raft!

We saw deer at fairly close range:

Seth took some night sky photos with his new Nikon digital SLR camera and tripod:

We attended a talk about the park history, fauna, and astronomy done by one of the park rangers, but the weather was bad so we weren't able to look in the telescopes they otherwise would have set up for us.

One morning several wild turkeys ran through our camp!

Surprisingly, they liked to fly to the tops of trees and roost there as well. They are really big. Park rangers told us that they've only been in the park for 10 years or so, when they escaped from someone's plans to hunt them in Baker, to the freedom and higher ground of the park.

Some of us hiked to the top of Wheeler Peak, the second-highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet. It was a strenuous but not overly difficult hike since the trailhead starts at about 10,000 feet. The views were great.

It was great to get the four brothers together again in one place:

And of course we had to take a bunch of group photos of everyone, a rare opportunity:

On the way back we drove through Eureka, Goshen, Genola, and Santaquin, all part of our old orbit around Santaquin. These were some of the interesting sights in Eureka, where we also saw the oldest Catholic church in Utah (not shown):

We really enjoyed Great Basin National Park and were glad to have experienced it!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bulgarian books in Oklahoma

Back in May we went on a long road trip to Oklahoma City to visit Erin's sister, Ivy Skinner, and her family. We had a great time with the Skinners, and also got to spend time with Brian Dunn and Ron & Crystal Phipps and their kids.

At a used bookstore in Edmond, the suburb of Oklahoma City where the Skinners live, I came across several Bulgarian books from the 1970s and 1980s:

The one on the left is Ray Bradbury's I Sing the Body Electric, and on the right is a collection called "Black Sun" with Karel Čapek's R.U.R., Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, George Orwell's Animal Farm, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

That's the title page of Ray Bradbury's I Sing the Body Electric.

That one is The Trip of Icarus by Bulgarian science fiction author Lyuben Dilov. The Wikipedia page about him says the story adds a Fourth Law of Robotics, extending the original three laws proposed by Isaac Asimov: "A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases."

Neat to run into them!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Buckskin Gulch

Last weekend Phin and I drove with friends down to the very southern edge of Utah east of Kanab, to hike a large slot canyon called Buckskin Gulch.

We camped at White House the first night. The next day we backpacked through, starting at Wire Pass, hiking about 13 miles on the first day and camping near the Confluence which on the map appears to be within a few feet of the Arizona border. Then on the second day we hiked another 8 miles or so back out to White House. There were 7 people in our group, and having two vehicles allowed us to shuttle ourselves between the starting and ending point.

It was a beautiful slot canyon with a huge variety of rock walls, and almost no way out, so we were glad no rain was forecast for days and the risk of flash flooding was very low. The temperature in the canyon varied quite a bit but was pleasant. Permits are required and a limited number of people are allowed in, so it was fairly quiet.

We had to carry all our water, about 4-5 liters per day per person, which was of course heavy. Much of the hiking was on very fine sand which made the hiking hard. I don't think I've ever tired out my hamstrings so completely. If I were to get a chance to visit the area again, I'd opt for a shorter day hike instead, and maybe explore one of the other canyons.

But we made it and it was worth the work to see such cool natural features. There's a nice green spot where we camped which was nice. Phin saw a rattlesnake, and the rest of us also saw ravens, frogs, mice (camp robbers!), and little biting flies.

Here are some of the photos I took with my mobile phone.

You can read more about it at Wikipedia's Buckskin Gulch article and at another site.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Duetto di due gatti ("Humorous Duet for Two Cats")

I've recently rediscovered this delightful piece commonly attributed to Rossini. According to the wikipedia page about it, it's actually a compilation by someone else, from a couple of pieces in Rossini's opera Otello and another piece. The Women's Choir at Teton High School sang a version of this several years ago, which is how I first heard it. Anyway, it's funny and there are lots of different interpretations on YouTube for your enjoyment, a few of which are below. If you watch a lot of them, your kids might make fun of you. Just FYI.

This is my favorite, although the sound quality is not very good. Two choir boys:

Two sopranos with attitude:

A baritone and a countertenor, also with attitude:

An a cappella arrangement for six men:

You're welcome.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

After visiting Montréal, Québec, Canada, Lillian and I took a train about 2 hours to Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada. It was a beautiful train ride through mostly wide open farmland.

We stayed in a hotel near the train station, and on the first evening walked a mile or two in the park alongside the Rideau River, where lots of people were out walking, biking, running, and playing:

We came across a surprising church, the Melkite Catholic Church, labeled in Arabic and English:

As the monument explains, they tie their history back to the establishment of Christianity in the Middle East in Antioch, then in Syria. We later looked it up on Wikipedia, and found an interesting history in the article Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

An interesting first church to see in Ottawa!

The next day we took the bus to see Parliament:

Nearby was the American embassy:

And down the street from that we visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica:

Across the street toward the Ottawa River is the Royal Canadian Mint, where we took a tour, and got to lift a 28 pound gold bar currently worth around US $525,000:

Outside of the photo frame were two armed guards keeping a watchful eye on the gold.

This location of the mint is where they make bullion and collectible coins of precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium). The circulating Canadian paper currency (actually plastic as of a few years ago!) and coins are made elsewhere. This mint currently makes the highest purity coins in the world, some now being 99.999% pure, in contrast to the 99.9% and sometimes 99.99% purity that is common at other mints.

Across the street is the National Gallery of Canada, a nice art museum:

Yes, there were even what looked like spider eggs in the sac of that spider sculpture. Lillian didn’t like me standing under that.

There were many great paintings, some sculpture and some multimedia. The one that made laugh the most was this painting by René Magritte from 1951, “Perspective: Madame Récamier by David”:

Lillian’s favorite painting was “Das Mißverständnis” (The Misunderstanding) by Daniel Richter from Germany in 2003:

The description reads:

“I am interested in more of a hysterical, paranoid view of the world,” says Daniel Richter, whose paintings are recognized for their evocative figures, often of conflicting scales, and vivid, saturated applications of colour. Issues of contemporary geopolitics and conflict are represented through allegorical references to the history of art. Here, a grey concrete cityscape sprawls under tumultuous skies, evoking an urban world on the brink of destruction. A tense, expectant atmosphere permeates the scene in which several figures in bright costumes approach birds perched in a tree that they mistake to be a threat. However, explains Richter, “the people do not see the cat. The cat is out to kill the birds, and he smiles knowingly at us. This is our drama. It’s called Das Mißverständnis.”

Behind the art museum is this sculpture, about which Lillian said on Instagram: “I’m not sure Canada knows how to do this street light thing...”:

Near Parliament Hill are these old steep canal locks:

We walked across the Pont du Portage Bridge back into Québec to the city of Gatineau, formerly called Hull. There we spent some time loitering in the large lobby of the Canadian Museum of History and walking around Jacques-Cartier Park, from where we had a good view across the Ottawa River to Parliament Hill:

Then we walked back across the Pont Alexandra Bridge to Nepean Point behind the art gallery:

It was great to finally visit Canada’s capital!