Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hodgepodge 332/365 - Stats

I started out using blogger/
blogspot back in 2009, for no real reason at all. I don't even remember how I stumbled on it (or, for that matter, why I thought starting a blog was a bright idea). But it seemed to work, and I posted a few writings—seven that year, and two more the next. Then the blog languished, until I got the crazy notion in 2015 of doing a daily post. And since then, I've been blogging here . . . well, a lot. (Too much, if you ask me, but I'm stubborn, and a goal is a goal. I guess. I sometimes wish I could find a worthhile goal. But that's another story.)

Anyway, I sometimes look at the Stats page here on blogger. It mainly mystifies me. Like, I'm pretty sure that more people look at my blog than show up in the stats. (I have the proof that when I've freshly posted something and my husband looks at it right away, I still have zero views.) Not that many people do look: my views are in the double digits, and always have been. (Well, unless they're in the single digits.) I don't care. I'm not doing this to get famous. I'm not entirely sure why I'm doing this—oh wait, yes: discipline—but in any case, it's not to get famous.

But back to Stats. One thing that does mesmerize me is the map. And the countries that people who actually look at this blog represent. Just now, for instance, I shot this "Today" map:

For the week, a few more countries get thrown in: Portugal (I think I have an actual follower there: Portugal shows up regularly), Hungary, Netherlands, Russia.

This fascinates me. I want to know how they found this blog, what they were searching for that led them here, who they are. Are they repeat visitors, and if so, why? 

I am about to wrap  up this 365, and I'm thinking of migrating to Wordpress—mainly because I've heard repeatedly that it's difficult to submit comments to the blogger site, and I want to hear comments. But also, I know that it's easier to have an "alert" list on Wordpress: the ability to send an email and let people know when I've posted something. Since I expect to be posting less once this 365 is done, I'd like that capability. I'd like to have a regular readership, that I know about.

I hope Wordpress provides a map like blogger does. I love that map.

Who are you, you there in Portugal? I know you're out there. And that pleases me no end.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hodgepodge 331/365 - California State Symbols

While pondering what to write about today, I stumbled on an article about the newly anointed California State Dinosaur, Augustynolophus morrisi, a type of hadrosaur—plant eaters known for their mouths shaped like duck bills. This, a year after a state fabric was declared. You probably guessed it: denim (think Levi Strauss and blue jeans).

This got me to wondering about California's other state . . . ummm, what would these be called? Attributes? I'm sure there's a list out there of them all, if only I knew what to search for. Instead, I can search individually, off the top of my head. Like, California State Reptile: the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, adopted in 1972. That makes sense (though I would have voted for the horned toad, but never mind: the desert tortoise is a perfectly awesome reptile too). And the State Amphibian: the California red-legged frog, Rana draytonii, adopted in 2014.

Ah, and that last search netted me what I was hoping for: a list of "California State Symbols, Songs, and Emblems" (which has not yet been updated to include the new dino). Wikipedia, it turns out, also has a list. Most of the state symbol designations may be found in sections 420–429.8 of the California Government Code. This is serious business.

Here are a few more plants and animals that California has claimed as unique or special to itself. Oh, and a few foods and minerals as well. And my favorite fossil (largely, I confess, because of its smily name), to keep the new dino company. I love lists!

  • Animal: California grizzly bear (as seen on our flag, if no longer—not since 1922—on our lands), Ursus californicus (designated 1953)
  • Marine mammal: California gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus (1975)
  • Marine reptile: Pacific leatherback sea turtle, Dermochelys coriacea (2015)
  • Freshwater fish: California golden trout, Oncorhyncus mykiss aguabonita (1947)
  • Marine fish: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus (1995)
  • Bird: California valley quail, Lophortyx californica (1931)
  • Insect: California dogface butterfly, Zerene (or Colias) eurydice (1972)
  • Flower: California poppy, Eschscholzia californica (1903)
  • Grass: Purple needlegrass, Nassella pulchra (2004) 
  • Lichen: Lace lichen, Ramalina menziesii (2015) 
  • Fruit: Avocado, Persea americana (2013)
  • Grain: Rice (2013)
  • Nut: Almond (2013)
  • Vegetable: Artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (2013)
    Benitoite, from our neighbor
    San Benito County: gorgeous!
  • Mineral: Gold (1965)
  • Rock: Serpentine (1965)
  • Gemstone: Benitoite (1985)
  • Soil: San Joaquin (1997)
  • Fossil: Saber-toothed cat, Smilodon californicus (1973) 
And in case you're wondering, the State Dance is West Coast Swing. And the State Folk Dance? The square dance. Both designated in 1988.

And there you have it. Meanwhile, while doing my research, I noticed that Indiana is in the process of designating a state language. Yeah, you can guess that one as well. So unnecessary . . .


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hodgepodge 330/365 - SAR

It's been quite a while since I've gone on a Search & Rescue callout. The national forest locally has been closed since last year's Soberanes Fire, so people aren't supposed to be going into the backcountry and getting lost. And in fact, they haven't been! So that's good, though it's given us less work. We've gotten the odd car-over-a-cliff and suicide (people love our high bridges) this year, but I haven't been available for one reason or another. Occasionally we get a call to rescue someone who's scrambled (illegally) down to the beach below the waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I have ceased to respond to those calls: the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade tends to get there well before we do (it's a good hour-and-a-half drive for us, never mind the response time of the team to the substation), and that means we almost invariably get canceled en route. I let the paid deputies and super gung-ho volunteers answer those calls. I've got better things to do.

But a lost person: that's an all-hands-on-deck situation. The IC (incident commander) needs as many bodies as possible, to send in as many directions as possible. And yesterday, we had a missing hiker.

It was at Arroyo Seco, a popular campground and swimming area on a river that is normally mellow enough itself, but is surrounded by a steep—sometimes very steep, and high—canyon. Last April we conducted a rescue and a body recovery of a couple of people who had fallen off a raft in a high volume of water (not the case now) in the gorge. Another time, a woman who had slipped and fallen was brought up to safety, along with her dog, with a ropes system. It's a good idea to watch your step—and stay out of fast water—at the gorge.

Yesterday's case involved a young woman (37) who was camping with several friends and decided to take a solo hike at 4 p.m., "to the waterfall." She said she'd be back for dinner but didn't show up. Our first SAR team callout came at about 11:30 that night, and a few of our team headed out to start searching. I joined in on the second operational period the next morning.

Ultimately, it wasn't us who found her but a volunteer wilderness ranger (that's one of my other volunteer hats) who had been the last to see her the day before. She'd gotten turned around and headed down a drainage in the wrong direction. She got wet; it was a cold night, and all she had for warmth was a cotton shawl. She was not a happy camper. But eventually she decided to hunker down—she described creating some insulation out of brush and leaves—and then, later, turned around and tried to make her way back. At a certain point, out of frustrated desperation when she hit a big pool, she yelled for help. The ranger happened to be on the trail right above her. Soon she was hoisted out of the canyon by H-70, the local CHP chopper, and all was well! Success story—the best sort.

As always when I respond to a SAR callout, I was glad I went. I really enjoy the camaraderie, the teamwork, the feeling of doing something useful, of helping someone. I got a great hike in with my good friend Bob and we were able to catch up. We even saw a tiny horned toad and a tarantula! My life was complete!

Here are a few random pictures that I took and that my colleague Alain took. It was a good day. I'll try to remember that the next time my phone starts erupting with messages.

Our team leader Ken, contemplating the gorge
Eric radioing in before plunging into the cold water
(he's wearing a wetsuit, but still)
Jerry went with Eric: they make
quite a duo!
Here we are that morning getting briefed:
that's Ken on the right, and I'm in the middle
with Bob in the hat to the left; I am always
happy to try to keep up—I mean, hike—
with Bob
Another view of our briefing: we were a pretty small crew,
but fortunately it was all that was needed
A beaut of a swimming hole

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hodgepodge 329/365 - Artist (James Prosek)

This evening we went to this year's Wild & Scenic Film Festival, an annual fundraiser for the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, of which I am a proud member and volunteer wilderness ranger. It was eight films, each of them very interesting, I thought. One was about Doug Tompkins, founder of North Face and (this I did not know) the man, together with his second wife, Kris (CEO of Patagonia for twenty years), behind the founding of a good half dozen–plus national parks in Chile and Argentina. He died in a kayaking accident in 2015, but Kris is carrying on their work. Another was about the wild & scenic Rio Grande of northern New Mexico (one of the first eight to be so designated, in 1968) and a Native American family that runs a river rafting outfit there, teaching about the river and about native ways. There was one about a man and his dog, Genghis, going on a 60-mile hike through Utah for the man's 60th birthday (you can watch the whole thing here: it's only nine minutes long). And one about the importance of quiet places that allow you to really listen (here's a teaser). And one about the fight by the Indigenous Gwich'in people of northern Alaska to save the Porcupine Caribou herd and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from Washington's rapacious lust for oil.

The one I perhaps enjoyed most was called Elk River (you can see a trailer here, or read a National Geographic article about it here) about one of the eight herds of elk that winter outside of Yellowstone and every year migrate to their summering grounds, mostly in the park. It's an epic journey, and one that an ecologist and a migration photographer (he sets up motion-sensing cameras in the most desolate places) decided to follow on horseback and on foot and document.

An artist, the Connecticut native James Prosek, was also featured in Elk River (here's a newspaper story about him called "Why Force Nature into Boxes"), and I was struck by his beautiful depictions of the natural world. So I thought I'd share some of his pieces here, because how else are you going to run into him? The second image here was shown being created in the film. Isn't it gorgeous? I'm sorry I wasn't able to find the titles for many, or dates for any. (Click to view large on black.)

The take-home message from this evening's films was a quote from Edward Abbey: "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul." Every single one of these films involved people who are actively doing something to better understand, appreciate, and help the earth. They are an inspiration.

A mural created for the Smithsonian's
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art
From a book by Prosek, Bird, Butterfly, Eel
Flying Fox with Gun
He writes books (and really likes fish)
And engages in taxidermy (often from roadkill that
friends bring him): this one is called Flying Fox with Lady's Slippers
Ha ha, just kidding: this is Audubon. But, y'know?
Love his workspace!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hodgepodge 328/365 - Photography (Pete Turner)

I had not heard of Pete Turner until today, reading a story about him upon his death Monday at age 83. I was struck by the beauty of his color photographs, which he started taking and processing as a 14-year-old, back in 1948. He worked on assignment for magazines, and his photography has also been used on over 80 album covers, mainly jazz. Here are some of his photos (mostly from the article I cite above, where some of them are described in terms of process or inspiration). He did amazingly beautiful work, especially considering most of it was well before the days of Photoshop.

And here are a couple of his album covers:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hodgepodge 327/365 - Poetry (W. S. Merwin)

In honor of autumn's arrival, a poem by W. S. Merwin:

A Single Autumn

Ca. 1972
The year my parents died
one that summer one that fall
three months and three days apart
I moved into the house
where they had lived their last years
it had never been theirs
and was still theirs in that way
for a while
echoes in every room
without a sound
all the things that we
had never been able to say
I could not remember
doll collection
in a china cabinet
plates stacked on shelves
lace on drop-leaf tables
a dried branch of bittersweet
before a hall mirror
were all planning to wait
the glass doors of the house
remained closed
the days had turned cold
and out in the tall hickories
the blaze of autumn had begun
on its own
I could do anything

I find this poem (first published in the New Yorker in 2008) wistful and haunting, caught between material reality and vanishings and becomings. I never quite know what to think about Merwin, but I'm always left with a feeling of something between sadness and hope, joy and longing. There's an ineffability that I find at once puzzling (in a zen koan–like way) and very appealing.

Closer to now
And as a special treat, here's a lovely profile from a recent New Yorker (where over 200 of Merwin's poems have appeared since 1955). Former U.S. Poet Laureate, he has lived on the island of Maui for the past thirty-five years, where he and his wife preserve and regenerate native plants and palms. He will turn ninety in another nine days. Here is a Paris Review conversation between Merwin and Edward Hirsch from 1987. So much wisdom and beauty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hodgepodge 326/365 - Challah

When I was younger, I often made bread. I love to knead the dough, and then watch the magic of it rising. One of my favorite sorts of bread to make was challah, because of the extra magic of braiding it and then watching it grow fat and happy.

So today, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, here's a recipe for challah (from the New York Times); it makes two loaves. Although typically challah is in a long straight loaf, the tradition for Rosh Hashanah is to make it round, to symbolize the circle of life. Maybe tomorrow I'll do some baking.

Here's to year 5778.

Shanah tovah! !שנה טובה

  • 1 ½ packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil, more for greasing bowl
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 to 8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling 
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

2.  Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)

3.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with what is now the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.

5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour in refrigerator if preferred.

6. To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. (If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.) Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.

7. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.

Some cooking notes:
  • To avoid the bottom burning, place loaves on aluminum foil, shiny side down. And for the last fifteen minutes, cover with a loose sheet of foil, shiny side up. 
  • To make sure the egg wash covers every nook and cranny, take the bread out of the oven after fifteen minutes and reapply the wash to any light areas that have appeared. 
  • A variation: substitute honey for the sugar (though this makes it non-kosher), up the yeast to two tablespoons, and use three yolks + one whole egg instead of the four eggs for the dough.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hodgepodge 325/365 - Geocaching

Nuttin' to say today, so here's some more photos, quite random, of geocaches we've found (and happened to take pictures of). You can see that some people are crazy into this silly sport. And I do not count myself in that "crazy" category: I have found 2,454 caches over the last ten years (my first find was February 13, 2007), which seems quite reasonable. My biggest caching day was 41 finds; my best month was 144 (in New Zealand a few years ago); my longest streak of caching every day was 32. See? reasonable. There's one fellow, "Alamogul," who has—theoretically (because actually? this number is physically impossible)—found 147,128 caches, over the course of fifteen years. 15 x 365 = 5,475. So that makes 27 caches a day, every day, for fifteen years (and he joined in October 2002, so he hasn't even reached fifteen). See? Impossible! And it puts my meager 2,454 caches in perspective, so far as crazy goes. Right? Right.

Anyway, here's some photos of a few of the more interesting caches we've found. Or their context. Or something associated.

PDH (4.5 terrain difficulty)
Union Square, NYC (it's magnetic, on the hydrant)
Caches can be super tiny—and even smaller
(I am not a big fan of the "nanos"—more on which below)
I love ammo cans, which is how the sport started out,
but you don't find them so much anymore
Sometimes caches are cleverly disguised
Sometimes the cat finds it (okay, not really; but she helped!)
COs (cache owners) often go to great lengths to "camo" their hides
This was an ammo can in a bus shelter on the Shetland Islands
(it is—last found 8/26!—under the bench that my friend is sitting on)
This is part of a series, Peace Love Happiness,
with all of the containers in different languages
X marks the spot
POP! goes the weasel!
(sometimes geocaching can be terrifying)
At my sister-in-law's home place in Norway:
yep, that's David signing the log
A twisty find
A puzzling clue
A "travelbug" (not Pooh—don't know how
the TB ended up with Pooh . . . and sadly,
I was the last person to drop this bug in a cache
. . . I hope whoever picked this up enjoyed it)
The "lock" is the cache
My first attempt at owning a cache,
on the island of Kauai: but this one got to be
too problematic, so I archived it.
It was a beautiful spot, though!
A friend of ours does some pretty interesting electronic caches.
Do pigs fly?
The CO here has become a good friend of ours.
He is a master puzzle-maker. (This one was based on SETI.
It is, appropriately enough, called The Wow! Signal!)
A cache in West Virginia.
This one, called Nano Training 101 (there's also a 201 and a 301),
had an elaborate description:

Do you hate nanos? I hate them too, but just like puzzles,
there are so many of them, you have to find them.
Well, if you would like a new outlook on finding nanos, read on!

I have painstakingly developed a special program that will
improve your desire to hunt for and improve your success rate
at finding nanos. I am even offering a money back guarantee.
If you have never been properly trained in finding nanos,
then this course is just what you need. The course consists
of 3 training classes (caches) plus a bonus for
those that just can't get enough nano training. Just like
any class, we must lay the ground rules first.

- All the nanos have magnetics that are used to hold them to another metal object
- All the nanos are black in color
- All the nanos have a log sheet rolled up inside of them
(Don't you hate rolling it back up?)
- All the nanos have no pencil or pen, so bring your own
- All the nanos . . . that is enough rules, just take the class!

[Me again:] The best part of this nano was: it wasn't a nano!
It was huge! Totally cracked us up!
That box is host to a geocache.
David's butt
David victorious!
A bookstore cache, in Florence, Oregon
Ole One Eye, whom I dropped Down the Rabbit Hole in NYC,
June 2007

Dogs of Dow: a puzzle cache involving stock data
and prime numbers, with a Dow piggy at the end of the trail
A travelbug launched by a child: it wanted to be on water
We liberated Minnie from PDH! And so we come full circle.