Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Madmen and mathematicians

This is my latest reading pile. These two novels on the left caught my eye at different times at the local bookstore (the Foer book and the Doctorow book). But the other two were lent to me by my friend Judy, who taught mathematics before she retired. They have been sitting in a pile waiting for me to read them. While the novels were interesting, each in its own way, they will not stay with me the way the other two are likely to. I can hardly wait to find out what sparked Judy's interest in math. I already knew that she loves words as much as me.

The Professor and the Madman is a very interesting biography by Simon Winchester, who has written quite a few different types of books. The subtitle is "A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary." What is amazing to me was what an absorbing tale it is! Professor James Murray was the first editor of the incredibly massive undertaking of the first complete dictionary of the English Language, which took seventy years to finish, beginning in 1857. One person he got a great deal of assistance from was Dr. William Chester Minor, who was one of the thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotes showing the different nuances of a particular word's usage.

It turns out that Minor was in an insane asylum in Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. The book tells of the relationship that developed over thirty years between the two men, and how for such a long time Murray didn't know that his colleague was mad. Minor was afflicted with what now is labeled paranoid schizophrenia, killed a man, and the only treatment at the time was to lock up the patient behind bars. One thing that I was struck with, over and over, was that if the treatment that exists today had been available then, Minor would most likely never have completed all that he did for the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). The task gave him a focus for his entire incarcerated life, and I wonder whether other geniuses might lay hidden under the lithium-induced state of present-day victims of schizophrenia. The author raises that very question toward the end of the book. The picture on the cover (at right) was taken of William Minor, which surprised me when I finally figured it out from the contents of the book. At first, I was sure this was a picture of the professor. The link at the beginning of these two paragraphs goes to the Amazon website where I found several copies of this 1998 book still available for very reasonable prices. It was a truly absorbing read.

And now onto the book that I'm reading right now: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, the story of Paul Erdős, a Hungarian mathematician who died in 1996 at the age of 83. Paul Hoffman's biography of Erdős tells the story of a man who traveled constantly, never had a home to speak of, lived out of a plastic bag, and never cared about anything except, well, numbers. (That first link takes you to Amazon in order to find out how to order it, and the second takes you to the Wikipedia link about Erdős himself.) I am not finished with this book, but my mind has already been opened in many ways to the mystery of numbers. I knew a little about prime numbers, not very much, but they never seemed all that interesting to me in the first place. I didn't realize that there are perfectly sane people who spend their entire lives thinking about them. (Okay, maybe not perfectly sane, but they are not locked up.) (smile)

For those of you who don't know what makes a number a prime number, integers like 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17 are numbers that are evenly divisible only by themselves and the number 1. Except for 2, all prime numbers are odd. They don't follow any particular order, and there is no known useful formula that yields all the prime numbers and no composites. At first, I wondered why anybody would even CARE, but then, while pondering their attraction, I suddenly remembered how incredibly fascinated I was years ago when I first learned about the Golden Mean or, more correctly, the Golden Ratio. I have been amazed at how many times I have seen this same pattern in nature:
From Wikipedia
Okay, maybe there is a reason why so many mathematicians throughout the ages have been fascinated with the mystery of numbers. Last night when I went to bed, after starting this book, I could hardly wait to ask Smart Guy about prime numbers. This started a conversation that went on for at least an hour, and I went to sleep with numbers dancing around in my head. Although I am only on page 73 of the 268-page book, I am definitely hooked. More later.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Yak Trax and other tools

After a week of slipping and sliding around on the ice-covered streets here in Bellingham, I've been informed of a totally cool invention called "Yak Trax." You are looking at a picture of them. They strap onto your boot or shoe and hopefully stop you from falling on the ice. This morning I talked with some of my fellow walkers who have told me they use them. The only real problem most people have is to forget to take them off before entering a store with slick floors: they will cause you to fall because they don't grip the floor like they do the ice.

I just placed an online order with Cabela's, my favorite online outdoor outfitters. Their closest actual store is hours away in Olympia, but I've also learned that REI carries them locally. Having some other stuff to order from Cabela's I did some research and found that they also have several brands of ice grippers. Their own brand of grippers had 58 customer reviews and after having read them, I decided to buy these instead. Their own brand seems prone to breakage.

I was actually tempted to get a pair of ice cleats, available online from Amazon.com, but since I haven't heard of anyone actually using them and finding the reviews to be ambiguous, I decided against trying them out. They seem like a great idea, though: they slip on a boot in the same manner as Yak Trax, but instead they have just a few cleats on the bottom, as shown here:
In many ways these seem more practical, because I don't think you would be as likely to fall in a store if you forgot to take them off immediately upon entering. Instead, I would guess that you would just sound like you forgot to take off your tap shoes. I'm wondering if any of my readers have used any of these cool tools for ice-covered surfaces. When I get a chance to try out my Yak Trax, I'll let you know what I think.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving Day 2008
Today is our third Thanksgiving here in the Pacific Northwest. I had not started my blog when we had our first one, and our dinner this year will not look much different than the above picture. I have a few crab cakes to add, some lovely steamed broccoli and brussels sprouts, and Great Harvest Bread Company organic spelt rolls. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same, with salmon courtesy of my fisherman friend Gene. He also gave us salmon last year and this year. I guess you could say it's becoming a tradition.

I went for a wintry walk, since we woke up here in Bellingham to more snow. Although rain is falling farther south, the cold air that came down the Fraser Valley last week is still in place in our part of the state, causing our precipitation to fall in the form of snow. Sometime this evening it should change to rain, with the temperatures rising above freezing sometime tomorrow. It has been a really cold week. Although it is nice to have a warm and cozy place to live, I have to admit I am bundled up while inside, since getting the temperature in here up to 63 degrees (Fahrenheit, 17 C) is a challenge. At noon it was 27 degrees outside with 90% humidity, which I find to be on the chilly side.

But I'm still grateful for not having lost electricity during the wind storm, since everything in the apartment is electric, including the heat. I've wondered what we would do if we lost power, since we couldn't stay here very long. A fireplace is nice for many reasons, not the least of which is having an independent heat source.

My complaints are few and far between. My gratitude is boundless. I'd like to give thanks for my health, my life partner, family members scattered far and wide, having abundance enough to feed the birds and pay for a gym membership, and for you, my blogging friends. My life has been enriched beyond all expectations by visiting your blogs, as well as cherishing the insightful comments many of you leave for me. Thanksgiving 2010 is all right!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Astronomy Picture of the Day

APOD, 17 Nov 10, Masahiro Miyasaka
One of the things I do every morning when I'm reading the blogs I follow, as well as the news of the day, is to check the Astronomy Picture of the Day. This one took my breath away, and I made it my desktop so I can admire it daily for a few months, until another picture attracts my imagination. I love the constellation Orion, and this beautiful frosted leaf so perfectly captured by Miyasaka embodies the spirit of late fall to early winter. To me at least.

We just passed through some of the most difficult weather I can remember, with the north wind howling all evening and night down the Fraser Valley from British Columbia. Last night Bellingham had a gust of 58 mph, but the wind blew constantly at anywhere from 30 to 40 mph, with temperatures hovering in the high teens (-8 C) all night long. I wonder where the birds hang out when it's like that. Certainly they must hide in thick bushes to help protect them from the worst of it. I woke at first light to put out fresh food and broke the ice off the bird bath. I poured hot water in it, which was immediately cold and inserted my trusty birdbath heater. I bought the heater last year during the cold weather and wrote a post about it here.

I was so pleased to find that 16 degrees F and -2 wind chill was not enough to keep my birdies down! They showed up as usual, eating and drinking much more than normal, and they brought all their friends along, too. I spread food exceptionally liberally, not begrudging anyone (including the sparrows) their morning repast. If the squirrels had shown up (which they haven't yet), I would be happy to see them drinking and eating, too. The front porch has been a constant congregation of birds: two kinds of juncos, house sparrows, song sparrows, spotted towhees, chickadees, woodpeckers, flickers, and, of course, my dear goldfinches. Here are a few of them lined up waiting their turn at the feeders:
Click to see their pretty faces up close
The sun came out this morning, as you can see from the picture, and the wind died down to a light breeze. The temperature is still below freezing and will remain that way until Thanksgiving Day. I dressed very warmly this morning and waddled to the bus stop, catching the bus to town in order to enjoy my usual coffee shop crowd and the exercise class at the gym. I took this last picture a few minutes ago before settling inside for the day, with three more hours of this glorious sunshine left to pour in the windows before nightfall.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Coping methods

From The Telegraph, by Jay Williams, Guinness World Records 
What a guy! Thomas Lackey is celebrating his 90th birthday by becoming the oldest person ever to wing walk, breaking his own record set last year. He did it in the UK on Guinness World Record Day, last Thursday 18 November. He is all over the news right now. He says he thinks about his wife when he's up in the air and carries her photo up there with him. Earlier this year I wrote a post I called "Think Skydivers Are Crazy?" with a picture of two people ostensibly playing ping-pong while wing walking in 1927. People have been doing crazy stuff for quite awhile. Some of us use high-risk behavior as a way to cope with everyday stress. Tom had a heart attack awhile back and one friend said the only difference is that now he needs a little help from his friends to climb onto the wing.

The weather has turned amazingly cold and wintery here in Bellingham. On Friday night it snowed all night long and cold air blew down from British Columbia, with winds steady at 25mph and gusts to 45. I took this picture yesterday morning from inside my cozy abode showing the fence separating our apartment complex from the neighbors next door.
I think there was at least three inches of snow, but only 15 miles south of Bellingham in Mt. Vernon, there was no snow. The cold air didn't make it down that far and so their precipitation fell in the form of rain. I waited yesterday for the first bus of the day at 9:45am (which was happily only two minutes late as I stood out in the wind) and went to downtown Bellingham. I was thinking of taking a nice walk, but this is what the sidewalks looked like.
I don't know if that picture is sufficient to show what walking on the frozen sidewalks was really like, but I sure wished I had cleats on the bottoms of my boots, because I had to shuffle along instead of stride in order to stay upright. Finding the Farmers' Market all but deserted, I took the bus to Fairhaven, a few miles south of downtown and bought myself yarn to make a new hat, along with a good book to read as well. I noticed that in only this short distance south, the amount of snow that had fallen was much lighter.

Once I got home, I figured I could write a new blog post this morning and settle in with my book and knitting, foregoing any outside adventures. Tomorrow I'll get my usual workout at the gym by taking the bus, keeping my car in the driveway. The snow and freezing temperatures are not expected to let up until Wednesday. By Thanksgiving Day we should be back to our normal above-freezing temperatures. I saw one of the local Northern Flickers on the finch feeder. This is not the greatest picture, but I took it from inside and couldn't use the flash, as it would have reflected back from the window. The finches use the feeder by hanging upside down and sticking their beaks into the slot located below. He didn't know that, and obviously didn't need to worry about it, as he could use the entire feeder to his heart's content. I also have two suet feeders that he uses all the time, but he needs other nourishment too, in order to keep himself warm.

We all have coping mechanisms for dealing with the stresses and strains of our lives. I jump out of perfectly good airplanes and hike in the mountains. What's yours?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Well-dressed Trailblazers

Click any picture to enlarge
Our beautiful Mt. Baker hikes are over for the season, so today we headed up Galbraith Mountain here in Bellingham, on a cloudy and possibly wet day. Here you see Bob and Cindy showing what the well-dressed Trailblazer wears when the weather is iffy. We had to be ready for rain, wind, snow, mud, and even (possibly) sunshine. Bob's Mountain Hard Wear jacket is one of two he carried, with a raincoat to go over it. Cindy is wearing rain pants over her regular pants and has a Gore-Tex raincoat wrapped around her waist for fast access. Her backpack carries water and food, extra gloves, mittens, a rain hat, and a rain cover for her pack.
Only nine of us showed up today. Here you see some of the other outfits people wear for our outings. Marjan and Frank on the left are our most experienced hikers, and she has a nifty waterproof skirt over long underwear and gaiters, and a sweater with raincoat over her shoulders (so she wouldn't get too warm when we start hiking), and a small fanny pack with food and water. Amy in the middle shows what she started out hiking wearing, as she has a tendency to get cold once the rain begins. Gary is also pretty traditional, but then there's Mike, in shorts and wearing long sleeves, a warm hat and mittens. He carries his umbrella and uses it when the rain starts. He's our least traditionally outfitted hiker.
The hike starts out with a series of switchbacks to the ridge and then gives us this view of Stewart Mountain. As you can see, it's covered with new snow. The clouds were at this point still holding off from rain, but you can see from the sky that this might not be true for long. The mountain is criss-crossed with trails for hiking and mountain biking, with hundreds of miles of trails to choose from. Al, our leader, kept consulting his map to tell where we were, and we still occasionally found ourselves to be on another trail. Looking the other direction from the top of the ridge, we could see Orcas Island and Bellingham Bay in the distance.
This was taken using my telephoto lens between the trees, and it's very obvious that our marginal weather might not stay dry for much longer. The rain started out very light, and we were ready, but by the time we stopped for lunch, it had begun to snow. The snowflakes were mixed with rain, and we stayed dry by huddling under some trees while we ate our lunch. We didn't stick around for a long time, though.
Once we finished lunch and hit the trails again, we were protected from much of the precipitation by the trees overhead, but since it's been so incredibly wet and muddy lately, we had to watch our step. This is when those trekking poles come in handy. (I managed to slip and fall and bang my knee anyway.) I also use them to brake my descent in order to save my knees. We had covered a little more than seven miles and over 1,000 feet in elevation when we arrived back at the cars. I asked Frank to let me show my readers what happens to you when you don't wear gaiters as you tramp through the mud.
Even wearing them, I noticed that some mud managed to make it up to my knees. It's now time to spend a while cleaning my clothing so it will be ready for our next hike in two weeks. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, so we won't be heading out, which is one reason why I was unwilling to stay home today, no matter what the weather. However, it was a wonderful day, in the elements with good friends -- and good hiking gear.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I like to ride the bus

I took this picture during the summer of the now-defunct No. 10 route that went right by my apartment complex. Now I walk two blocks to catch the No. 4 to town. Bellingham has a wonderful bus system, but the city's budget woes caused it to be reduced by 14% last October, and Sunday bus service was eliminated completely. Our city passed a transportation tax this month that should allow some restoration of services next year (at least some routes on Sunday).

I have a car that gets used a few times a week, when grocery shopping or driving 75 miles to Snohomish to jump out of perfectly good airplanes in the summer, but mostly I like it to park it in the driveway while I ride the bus. As I've mentioned before, the WTA (Whatcom Transportation Authority) has routes from the Canadian border all the way down to Mt. Vernon, about 15 miles south of Bellingham, and a monthly pass allows unlimited rides for $25. As a Senior over 65, my pass costs me $13 monthly, or $35 for a quarterly pass. It's a deal I can't pass up. But there's another reason I like to ride the bus: the company.

When I climb into my car and drive to the gym, I am encapsulated in my own little world, and I'm responsible for parking my little capsule somewhere once I get to town. From 9:00am to 5:00pm, I need to feed a meter at 75 cents an hour, and some meters require me to feed it every single hour. (There are a few two- and three-hour meters but they are usually taken quickly.) Riding the bus also allows me to observe my fellow passengers.

The No. 4 picks me up on the way to Bellingham Technical College, so when I step on the bus, there are  already a dozen students of all ages scattered among the rest of us heading into town. Some have their noses in text- or workbooks, obviously getting ready for a test. Some young people are alone in their own iPod world with telltale earbuds hanging from under their caps. Sometimes I can hear the tinny sounds and am wondering what it must sound like inside their heads. Certainly these kids are going deaf quickly.

Yesterday was blustery with a fine misty rain hitting the bus' windshield. I watched a man with his daughter get on the bus with her little pink bicycle sporting training wheels. Our buses have a rack in front for bikes, and the little girl wanted to know why hers wasn't put there. Daddy explained that it's too small to fit. "Why?" she asked. I heard him give an explanation to her, and I remembered the age that has discovered that magic question, which she used at least half a dozen more times during the short ride to town. Dad was very patient with her.

An old lady (I mean older than me), white haired and bent, got on the bus and greeted the driver by name. She sat near him and as they obviously see each other often, they chatted amiably before she settled into her seat. The route goes by the Lighthouse Mission, and I see the same young man get on the bus most days with what looks to be everything he owns in a huge backpack. He doesn't ride very far, but I can see he doesn't want to lug that load when the bus can make it easier for him.

Everyone who rides regularly has a pass, but occasionally someone will insert a dollar bill into the slot and receive a transfer to another bus. After the first of next year, transfers will be eliminated, and everyone who rides anywhere will need to pay a dollar for each ride. Another cost cutting measure. The pass is a magnetic card that passes through a slot and beeps when successful. Sometimes a person will forget that it's a new month and the card makes another sound. If it's the first of the month and a regular rider, the driver will often allow the rider on anyway, with a promise that they will buy a new pass in town.

I've been watching for Sonya, who would ride the No. 10 bus with me several times a week, but with the new route and schedule, I haven't seen her yet. There are a few people who have become acquaintances, and we chat and sit together when we happen to ride at the same time. This is, to me, far superior to the other option of taking my car into town and parking it. I am a member of my community, and I feel my connections are stronger by taking the bus.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sustainable farming

One of the reasons I felt it was important to retire in the Pacific Northwest is to be able to buy food from local sources and live somewhere that has a rich legacy of sustainable food practices. Being close to the ocean means that the fish I buy hasn't been shipped from thousands of miles away. In landlocked Boulder, it seemed almost ludicrous to go to a sushi restaurant, for example. Where did that fish come from and how fresh is it? Not to mention the fossil fuel needed to get it there.

Look at the incredible variety of squash and pumpkins at the Bellingham Farmers' Market in the picture. I used to frequent the Farmers' Market in Boulder, but of course I never saw such a variety. They had some different kinds of squash and I discovered spaghetti squash, along with several wonderful root vegetables not available in grocery stores. The growing season is different when you live at 5,000 feet elevation. The entire sustainable food and farming movement tries to help us get food that is grown or harvested within 100 miles of our homes. Here in Bellingham, this includes many wonderful farming communities and a wonderful organization, Growing Whatcom CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which allows a customer to purchase all kinds of foods directly from the local farmers. Whatcom is the name of our county, the northwestern-most county in the nation.

In researching this post, I learned that both the Bellingham and the Boulder Farmers' Markets were started by enterprising college students. Here, two Western Washington University students had a vision to have locally grown food for sale in a convenient area, and with their hard work and ability to draw others into their vision, it started in 1992. I cannot imagine a Saturday during the summer that doesn't include a trip to the incredibly vibrant market.

They also have buskers. Buskers are street performers, and you see them in various spots around the market. Each busker has to get a permit and sign up for one of the spots around the market. They are only allowed to be in a particular location for an hour, and then they move to another spot. Here's a lovely little busker from this summer, with her permit prominently displayed.
Remember you can click on the picture to enlarge
I see people from other parts of my social life in this Saturday community setting. It's a fun place to go for my veggies, and although I pay more for them, they can't be beat for quality, and I'm helping to support the local farmers. Sustainable agriculture and sustainable farming means that this beautiful violinist will have the opportunity to share the same blessings I have with her own grandchildren.

Although this post is getting a little longer than I intended, I also wanted to share with you another organization that I just learned about: the Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, located in Mt. Vernon, just a few miles south of Bellingham. It is a grassroots organization dedicated to helping strengthen family farms here in Washington. I had been told about it and will be signing up in the spring.

After hunkering down for the winter months, you can bet I'll be there at opening day for the Market in April, heralding the new spring season and all the wonderful foods soon to be available to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chuckanut Ridge via Chinscraper

Well, it's that time of year again: the snow level in the mountains is down to 2500 feet, rain and snow are due to come our way really soon, too. I figured hardly any of the regular Trailblazers would show up on a cloudy day with rain forecast for the afternoon. But seventeen hardy souls came out to walk eight miles up more than 2,000 feet in our first around-town walk of the fall season. Last week we were supposed to do something close by, but we decided since the weather was so good to take a longer drive up to higher terrain. That's Marjan telling us what the route will be, since she was our de facto leader, with Al out of town.
We went from the trailhead up Chinscraper Trail to Gates Overlook, which shows the gloomy sky and Bellingham Bay in the foreground. Now there is a REASON it's named "Chinscraper": we gained a whole lot of elevation in a very short time, and I was going faster than I should, since Marjan sets a faster pace than Al, and I didn't realize I was running out of steam. I fell toward the back of the group and rested. I also took a few moments to take a picture of this mushroom, which looks so much like a flower:
After leaving the Overlook, we meandered up and down around Chuckanut Ridge, and I was graced with a view of these mountains, looking the opposite direction from the Bay as we walked along the Ridge. If Al had been here, he could tell me the name of these mountains, which look to be in more sunshine than we had all day. You can also see the lowering clouds. Although when the wind blew we felt cold, the temperature was actually quite temperate for the entire hike, and we never had any raindrops to speak of.
You can also see that there is plenty of fresh snow on those peaks, so we were happy to have our hike close to home. We actually began hiking at 8:30am, which never happens when we drive a long distance. We had our lunch at Fragrance Lake, and when we finally sat down to eat, the wind kept us colder than was comfortable, so we didn't linger too long. It was a nice break before heading back to the cars.
Here Ray and Carol, two fairly new members of our group, are having lunch at Fragrance Lake. You can see that they are bundled up and not looking all that warm. It wasn't; I had my gloves off just long enough to eat a sandwich and then back into the warm gloves my hands went. On the way back down, a few of the hikers waited for me to catch up so I could take a picture of this amazing group of trees. Whatever decides a tree to plant itself on a huge rock like this? It makes for an interesting picture, that's for sure.
I suspect that some soil sat on the top of the rock and the seeds latched on. My local wag said the tree did what trees always do, and sent down roots to find purchase, thinking "man, these grains of dirt are really big!" They seem to be doing fine, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Copied from this blog
I realized while signing up to follow a few new blogs that some people are actually not aware of etiquette rules many bloggers observe. Most of the places that I found information about what netiquette is and how to use it are not current, since I guess everybody assumes this information is well known. However, there are always new bloggers joining up in this wonderful blogosphere where I find such interesting and amazing new people, who are also sharing their lives with me and so many others. Most of you probably already are aware of the following information, but I thought maybe it would make for some stimulating comments.

Of course Wikipedia has a page on netiquette. One illustration from that link says, "However, like many Internet phenomena, the concept and its application remain in a state of flux, and vary from community to community." So true. I mostly read blogs that use Google's blogspot or the Wordpress formats. A few years back, my brother created a blog on Wordpress that functioned as our family newsletter, and he made it private so that only the six of us siblings and associated family members had access to it. It was wonderful, until we all joined Facebook and it began to wither on the vine. That said, we could do whatever we wanted with it, say whatever we wanted, and nobody could read it that we didn't want to.

Facebook has some good things to recommend it, but there have been some privacy issues raised lately. I like the fact that I can keep up with family members, people I knew well in Boulder before I moved away, skydiving acquaintances from around the world, and local friends here in Bellingham, all in the same place. I check it daily, or almost daily. But my blogosphere is where I find the most creative and challenging information. Since some people post daily, and others almost that often, my Google Reader sometimes greets me in the morning with thirty-some blogs to read. I usually scan them if I'm in a hurry and have only now and then been forced to declare them all has having been read when I didn't have time.

Queensland University tips
The first and most important thing I hope new bloggers remember is how important it is to any blogger to get feedback. I know that when I read a post that has an impact on me, I immediately leave a comment on it, even if I don't have much time before I need to do something else. Comments are also so much more appreciated when they actually give me some inkling as to who this person is, who found my blog and cares enough to leave a comment. It's also really important to remember that the written word doesn't have any method of communicating sarcasm or one's dry wit, so if you make a witty comment meaning the exact opposite of what you are saying, you might add an emoticon after it, such as  :-)  which might keep from wounding someone unintentionally.

Another thing that usually makes me uncomfortable is to see a graphic that belongs to someone else used in a post without attribution. As a writer/editor in my previous life, I used the Internet often to grab illustrations for my boss' articles, and I always had an email safely tucked away that showed I had permission to use it. Sometimes we even had to pay, to reprint syndicated comic strips, for example, or anything else that might be copyrighted. One blogging friend who travels a lot had a travel agency lift some of her photos and use them, without her knowledge. It's not okay. I remember once when my boss realized that a company overseas had taken an article we had on a blog and reprinted it, in color, and sold copies of it for $10 each!! We were able to make them stop, but we had to know about it first.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have an online community that provides me with thoughtful and stimulating commentary. It adds so much to my life, and I am broadened in the best possible sense by this activity. I also realize that there are some people out there in my virtual world whose names I don't know, who live in some hidden place, but who still capture my imagination and admiration. Isn't that wonderful?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Those Trailblazers

The Senior Trailblazers (click to enlarge)
Last Thursday when the Senior Trailblazers met to discuss where we would be going that day, Mike (also known as Mikey Poppins, since he often uses a full-sized umbrella on rainy days) gave me a memory stick (flash drive) with a couple dozen pictures on it. I had complained to him that he takes pictures of us quite often and we never get to see any of them. When we went up Heliotrope Ridge last July, he ran ahead and took lots and lots of pictures of the group. This picture is one of three similar ones he had on that drive.
And then in October when we hiked up Rainbow Ridge, Mike took a couple of pictures with his self-timer. That's him on the left, Mt. Baker in the background, and the rest of us smiling on a gorgeous sunny day. We hike rain or shine every Thursday, year round, but during the winter months we stay close to home and don't venture into the High Country, which is everybody's favorite place to go. However, we are planning to take some snowshoe trips this year, since snow is in the forecast. A fairly strong La Niña is occurring through the 2010-11 winter months, which usually brings more snow. Last year, as anybody who watched the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC knows, we were pretty free of snowpack. I'm ready, with virgin snowshoes waiting for an opportunity to be broken in.
This picture was taken last Thursday by Fred, with the Twin Sisters in the background. I like it especially because it shows me wearing (and using) my new batik scarf. I set the camera to use the fill-in flash option so that my face would not be in shadow, and it worked pretty well.

It's now been more than two years since I started these hikes, and they have not only added a high point to my week, but I've learned about so many wonderful places to hike around Bellingham. Not to mention that I've made some really good friendships, which as we all know, adds life to your years. In less than a month, I will turn 68, and I am one of the callow youth in this group, with Frank our oldest at 80, Dan not far behind at 77, and most of the group well into their seventies. This makes me look forward to the years ahead. Rather than bemoaning the approach of my eighth decade, I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Middle Fork 2010

Today the Senior Trailblazers were scheduled to hike up to Pine and Cedar Lakes, close to home in our area, but today was predicted to be incredibly sunny and bright, after yesterday setting or tying records all over the state. So, I was not surprised when sixteen of us showed up and decided to go, instead, on a 25-mile-long drive up towards the Mt. Baker area to Road 38. It follows the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River up an old logging road. We drove up a long ways and then parked our cars to hike four miles up the road. We knew we would have incredible views. I've done this hike with the Trailblazers before, but never when we actually had a view! Above you can see Mt. Baker on the left and the Black Buttes to the right, with some of the Trailblazers in the foreground. There's also a very interesting lenticular cloud over the mountains that looks like it might be a space ship.
This picture of the trio (space ship, Baker and the Buttes) was taken as soon as we could see them clearly. As you can see, early in the day that cloud was all by itself, but as the day wore on, it was joined by others. Another view we had on this hike was of the Twin Sisters. If I had not known because of help from our experts, looking at the Sisters almost head on, I would not have recognized my favorite girls.
The North Sister is in front, with the South Sister behind. You can see that the clouds are beginning to increase. Once we reached our lunch spot, we could see the Olympic Mountains in the far distance, but we also could feel that our beautiful warm and sunny day was beginning to disintegrate, as the clouds moved in. It was a few minutes before noon when we had finished our lunches and begun our hike back down to the cars, parked on Road 38. The road begins to climb steeply from where we started hiking to the end of the road. We walked it, of course, gaining 2,000 feet in those four miles and then, after lunch, turning around and hiking back to the cars. The trail stretcher was out in full force: it was a lot farther down to the cars than it was going up. It's a strange phenomenon which could have something to do with being tired, but you didn't hear it from me.
You know you can click on any picture to enlarge, right?
On the way back down Road 38, Al noticed that the gate to the Middle Fork Diversion project was open and asked how we would feel about walking down to take a look. The four of us in his car were willing, and I got this incredible picture of the Nooksack flowing under this tree during our extended visit to the diversion. (There's more pictures of that part of the trip on the Flickr site on the RHS under "Trailblazers Fall 2010.") This post is getting longer than I intended, while I sit here drinking my wine and thinking about our wonderful day today. All of us are well exercised and happy we went to the High Country, once again, rather than Pine and Cedar Lakes, which we will visit next month. It was a great day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Space Child's Mother Goose

It amazes me sometimes what comes up in my consciousness that I didn't know about. What can it mean that I never heard of this book before today? It is a collection of Mother Goose rhymes written in the 1950s by Frederick Winsor and illustrated by Marian Parry. It was out of print for a long time but has been republished by Purple House Press. It's available in paperback and hardback here.

Here is what happened today. I was at the Food Co-op after my workout, wondering whether to get a bowl of soup or a half-sandwich for lunch. In a conversation with the young checkout man, he mentioned that a regular customer complains almost daily about the soups being too spicy. I told him they are perfect for me, and said off-handedly, "Well, you know the poem about Jack Sprat." I walked off to enjoy my sandwich.

A few minutes later, Chris (the young man) came over to my table and asked if I knew the rest of the poem. I told him what I remembered: "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean. And so, betwixt the two of them, they licked the platter clean." He smiled and said that his remembrances of childhood nursery rhymes was skewed by having grown up with the Space Child's Mother Goose, and he knew many of the poems by heart. He gave me a piece of paper with one of them printed on it (in his handwriting):

I was immediately in love with the poem, which says, if you can't read it:
Probable Possible, my black hen
She lays eggs in the relative when
She never lays eggs in the positive now
She couldn't manage to postulate how

So of course as soon as I got home (thinking I have to find out more about this children's book), I googled it and found that it was around at the time when I was a young girl. Where was I that I never learned about it until today? Oh, right: I was a girl and was not expected to know anything about scientific matters as a youngster. Instead, I was given cookbooks and primed to be a wife and mother, not a scientist! What was I thinking?

Oh, how much has changed these days. And not all of it is negative. If you have heard of this book, or better yet, given it to one of your daughters to read, I'd love to hear about it.