Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Moab

This past weekend I had the privilege of travelling with my sister Suzy and her three young daughters to Moab, Utah to check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Suzy's husband Rick was originally planning to come, but was unfortunately required to work that weekend. We were disappointed that he couldn't join us, but Suzy and I decided to be brave and continue with our trip plans.

Traveling with very young children (ages 4 years, 3 years, and 3 months) was a fun experience for me. Children definitely travel at a different pace than adults. Sometimes their pace is slower--like when 4-year-old Debbie wanted to stop to pick up many beautiful pebbles along the trail to view Delicate Arch. Here's a photo of them there, with Debbie's shirt full of pebbles whose beauty I never would have noticed without her.

Sometimes children travel at a faster pace than adults, like when 3-year-old Anna wanted to run the entire way back to the parking lot from the Pine Tree Arch. (She and Debbie were well-rested and happy after spending an hour or so playing in the sand at the foot of Pine Tree Arch where we stopped for lunch. Suzy was kind enough to wait with the girls there while I made the rest of the hike up to Landscape Arch). Here's a photo of Suzy and the girls on the Pine Tree Arch trail. I think the other tourists we met along the trail were charmed by the fact that Anna brought along her blanket and Debbie brought along her umbrella...one of the tourists commented that he wished he'd brought his blanket too!

We visited Sego Canyon to see the petroglyphs (ancient Indian art on rock canyon walls), and Anna found that place to be very frightening. I had to smile at Anna's method of finding comfort...she had a toy rat that she clung to! I've never found rats to be very comforting, but she did. Despite her fear, she bravely held her rat in one hand and held onto me with the other as we explored the trails to see the petroglyphs, such as the ones below. (They do look kind of creepy, don't they?)


I was impressed by what a good, smart, and devoted mother Suzy is. She was handing out fruit snacks to any girls who were willing to go potty in an unfamiliar toilet. Some of those porta-potties are pretty scary, but the girls were highly motivated and so we didn't have any accidents! I was impressed at how she could get up in the middle of the night to nurse Lily Beth, but still have enough energy to go traipsing around Utah with three little ones in tow during the day. When the Moab store had only one tube for floating at the pool, and the girls were struggling to take turns using it, Suzy had the bright idea to put both girls in the tube together...with their 4 arms and 4 legs, they were a happy little octopus floating around the pool! Saturday was my birthday, and Suzy had the girls sing to me and present me with hand-drawn cards. Hearing those little ones tentatively sing the birthday song to me (they were just a little uncertain since they're relatively new to the birthday song themselves) has got to be one of the sweetest experiences of my life.


One of the highlights of our trip was going to the Bar M Wranglers Chuck Wagon dinner. Before the dinner, you can explore their very fun area...here's a photo we got there:


They also have this funny cowboy cemetery called "Boot Hill". In case you can't read it, it says "Here lies Dead Horse Dave. Forgot to pack water. Wound up in the grave".

We enjoyed playing horseshoes there, practicing our steer roping, watching a staged gun fight, and then enjoying a lovely dinner and program. They even yodelled, which I love since my mother and my siblings can yodel (but I can't yet, so I especially appreciate people who can)! Here's a video of a yodelling song:

video

Other highlights of the trip were stopping for lunch in Green River and finding that we were there just in time for their annual Melon Days celebration. Here's a movie showing the fun train ride and toys that the girls enjoyed while we were there.

video

Of course, visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks was really great too. Here's one of my favorite photos from the trip. This is Mesa Arch, which is located in Canyonlands National Park. It's a little scary, because it has a 1000 foot cliff immediately below the arch.


Another place I loved was the Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park.


Here's another of my favorite photos of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands actually has two rivers flowing through it--the Green and the Colorado--which both have created huge canyons like this. The two of them cut across the park until they join to form the shape of a Y. The part of the park that is in the top of the Y is called "Island in the Sky" because there are huge canyons on both sides of you. You can go right to the point where the two canyons meet and see a stunning view. Because the girls were tired when we got to that point, we took turns going there. Here's a photo of Suzy with Debbie on the Colorado River side of the view:


Here's a photo of Suzy with Anna on the Green River side of the view:

It's a beautiful place, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company!

Monday, September 15, 2008

One individual can change the world

I was recently inspired by a Wall Street Journal article about a shy, 80-year Harvard scholar named Gene Sharp. Mr. Sharp has spent much of his life studying non-violent movements, such as those led by Gandhi, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and uprisings in Eastern Europe. Now, he is hated by Hugo Chavez and several other dictators around the world.

In 1993, he wrote a 90-page pamphlet called "From Dictatorship to Democracy". The Wall Street Journal writes:

" In his writings, Mr. Sharp teased out common principles that make nonviolent resistance successful, creating a broad road map for activists looking to destabilize authoritarian regimes.....This slim volume offers concise advice on how to plan a successful opposition campaign, along with a list of historically tested tactics for rattling a dictatorial regime. Aimed at no particular country, and easily downloadable from the Internet, the booklet has found universal appeal among opposition activists around the globe.

"Though he warns readers that resistance may provoke violent crackdowns and will take careful planning to succeed, Mr. Sharp writes that any dictatorship will eventually collapse if its subjects refuse to obey.

"He offers a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action, like the staging of mock elections to poke fun at problems like vote-rigging, using funerals to make political statements and adopting symbolic colors, a la Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Less conventional tactics include skywriting political messages and "protest disrobings."


The article explains how his writings made their way around the world, were translated into at least 28 languages, and helped people resist tyranny in 8 or 10 various situations.

I find it inspiring, because when I see the horrible situation in which some of God's children find themselves, through no fault of their own--just because they were born into a country led by a dictator--I wish that something could be done about it. For example, one of my coworkers was born and raised in Zimbabwe. A few years ago, she and her husband were lucky enough to get visas to come to work in the U.S. The rest of her family stayed in Zimbabwe, and she's watched from a distance as they have been slowly starving, as their money loses its value, and as they've been intimidated and harrassed by government supported hoodlums. She's done what she could to help them, but with a dictator who abuses and suppresses the people, there hasn't been much she could do. As I've talked with her about the situation, I wished that I could do something about it, and have felt quite powerless.

So, I love this example of how a single individual has enabled others to throw off the shackles that bind them. It gives me hope.

Here's a link to the full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122127204268531319.html

Unfortunately, you may need a Wall Street Journal subscription to view it. Or, I can email you a link that will allow you to view it without a subscription...just email me if you are interested.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dirt bikes at work

Right across the street from where I work (the Triad Center in Salt Lake City) is a big parking lot, except for when they haul in tons of dirt and turn it into a BMX bike and motorcycle track for the big AST Dew Tour coming to town. It's been fun to look out the window and see the riders practicing.


Dave Terry, a coworker who is also a professional photographer, caught some fabulous photos of it all. Check them out here:
http://blog.dterryphotography.com/2008/09/ast-dew-tour-comes-to-salt-lake-city.html

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Santa Cruz and Carmel-by-the-Sea

I spent last weekend checking out Santa Cruz, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Pebble Beach...more places mentioned in the "1000 Places to See Before You Die" book, and places that are close to San Jose, where I happened to be attending the Unicode Consortium Conference (more about that in a later post).

It was a great time....one of the things that made it so fun was that I rented a GPS that was pre-loaded with the location of attractions and restaurants and so forth, and so it was really easy to get around. I loved the Garmin GPS so much, that I bought one for myself when I got home! Yay! More adventures in store!

I flew into San Jose on a Friday night and drove to Santa Cruz that evening. The next morning, I drove along the Monterrey Bay area towards Carmel-by-the-Sea. The area is full of beautiful farmland...I liked seeing the rows of strawberries, artichokes, and cabbages, all being harvested by what looked like migrant farm workers.

I made it to Carmel-by-the-Sea in time for a walking tour offered by the Carmel Heritage Society. The tour was led by Kay Prine, a very spunky older lady who had grown up in Carmel. She informed me that she was in a hurry that day, because she was hosting her 69th High School reunion party that afternoon. The tour started at a historical house that had a museum within it. Among the exhibits were pictures of Kay herself, when she was a teenager in one of those cute, very modest, old-fashioned swimming suits. I enjoyed Kay...she led us around town like we owned the place...making the motorists wait for us as we crossed the streets. Here's a picture of Kay, showing us the box where the milk man left his deliveries.


Carmel is a very beautiful and quaint place. Here's one street where they have three styles of architecture right next to each other:


To maintain the beauty there, the town has very restrictive ordinances...some so restrictive that it is almost comical. For instance, you must have a permit to walk around the town in high-heeled shoes (probably because they don't want to be sued by people who trip on cobblestones). Because each property owner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their place, there is a great deal of variety in their sidewalks...some of them are very artistic, others not. Here's a photo of one portion of the sidewalk that has embedded tile:


During the tour, some people wanted to join our group (of about 6 people), but Kay informed them that there were city ordinances restricting the size of groups walking around town, and so they were not invited to join. She told us about the rule that no graves can be in the town, although they did make one exception for the town dog named Pal. She showed us the city park where they used to have problems with homeless people sleeping until they decided to turn on the sprinklers there each evening. Clint Eastwood lives in Carmel and was once the mayor. I read in the local newspaper that there's currently a controversy about street lights...they are prohibited in Carmel, but one organization (it was a community center, I believe) wanted to install street lights for people's safety when they left evening events. The city council reluctantly agreed to allow the lights, as long as they were on only once or twice a month, and only during the time people would actually be leaving the building. So, all that beauty does have a dark side....I appreciate it on a short visit, but am glad I don't live there.

Here's a photo of the Biblical Gardens that surround one of the local churches. Each plant has a label with its name and the scripture reference where it is mentioned:


Here's another shot of some of the beautiful architecture there:


Next I headed to the Carmel Mission (officially named San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission), which was founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, who also founded several other of the California Missions. It's one of the most beautiful missions I've seen. Here you can see the fountain in the large courtyard (now used as a school) with the Church in the background.


The Church was being used for a wedding, so I wasn't able to go inside, but I did enjoy watching the wedding party organize themselves for the grand processional. Here's a photo of the cute little flower girls:


I was very interested to see that the graves in the cemetery were lined with dinner-plate sized sea shells. Here's a shot of the graves next to the chapel.


Next I made my way to Pebble Beach, which is a world famous golf course that sits on a little peninsula on the south end of the Monterrey Bay. You can pay a $9.50 toll to drive on the "17 mile road" that takes you around the golf course, past the huge mansions, and along the beautiful coastline. Here's a shot from that:



Santa Cruz is a big surfing town, with some of the best and biggest waves in the U.S. They have a surfing museum, housed in a cute little lighthouse, that explains how surfing was introduced to the area from Hawaiians in the 1930's. Originally, they used enormous (like 15 foot long) surfboards, and gradually moved to smaller and lighter ones. It looked like the development of a wet suit was a big breakthrough, because the area can be quite cold. Here's a photo of the surfing museum:


I had thought of signing up for a surfing class, which is scheduled around the time of the tides, but the surf school website said that there were no good times to surf that day...the optimal tides were all during the darkness hours. I did get a chance to watch some people surfing, just off the cliff from the surfing museum, and that was quite entertaining. Here's a video of a guy surfing...I wasn't much of a cameraman on this, but at least it will give you a sense of it.
video

I enjoyed visiting the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a famous amusement park right along the beach. Two of its rides--the Giant Dipper roller coaster and a Carousel--are National Historic Monuments. It was a kick to ride them....I'm not usually the screaming type, but I found myself screaming for most of the Giant Dipper ride. If you were on one of the outer horses on the carousel ride, you could grab a ring from machine that held them out towards you each time you went around and try to throw the ring into a target (a clown's face) a little further around where you'd be rewarded with lights and buzzers if you hit the target. Here's a view of the Boardwalk from the nearby Municipal Pier.


Sunday I went to church at the Santa Cruz ward, and enjoyed all the friendly and welcoming people there. I also spent some time visiting the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where the buildings are nestled into the middle of a redwood forest. As I was walking around the campus, I happened to see a man standing on his head, talking to two young women who were taking notes. I snapped this quick photo (sorry it's so blurry...I was working fast to capture the moment):


The girls noticed me and so the guy came down from his headstand to say hello. I asked if he was a yoga instructor (since the only adult I know who stands on her head much is my yoga instructor), but he wasn't. He's a recreation management instructor....so anyway, you don't see that every day!

One of the fun surprises of the trip was to stumble across a Buddhist monastery (the Taungpulu Monastery) as I was driving through the forest on my way to Big Basin Redwood State Park. There was a big sign with two arrows--"Pagoda" one way and "Monastery" another. That triggered my curiosity, and so I parked my car and quietly walked up the steep hill towards the Pagoda. Here's what I found--not just one, but two gold domed pagodas:


One of them was a shrine that you could enter, with a fancy doorway.


This sign was on the shrine door:


The shrine was locked, and I didn't see a single soul. Walking around the quiet and peaceful place reminded me of the Buddhist friends I made in my kung-fu class...my teacher was a Buddhist monk and several of the top students were his disciples. I respected them a great deal and tried to approach the pagoda at this forest monastery with respect also.

When I reached Big Basin Redwood Park, I went on a walking tour with a volunteer ranger. She was very good and entertaining, and had us eat huckleberries, role play as if we were trees during a storm, and so by the end of the tour, all 10 of us or so were good friends and knew a little about each other. I liked seeing the enormous trees named the mother and father of the forest (one of them was as tall as a football field and was 70 feet around at the base!). Here's a little video about a very interesting hollow tree that is still growing:

video

From there, I drove on a narrow road with lots of tight curves back towards San Jose. I stopped at this viewpoint, and some nice motorcycle guys took this photo for me:
That evening, I visited the missions at Santa Clara and San Jose before returning my rental car. It was a fun and relaxing weekend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

On Labor Day I had the fun experience of taking a swim in the briny waters of the Great Salt Lake.

The morning started out a little rough...it was raining and hailing, but my sister Suzy's family and I had been planning a trip to Antelope Island (a large island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake) for a long time, so we decided to go despite the weather.


We first drove across the 7 mile causeway between the island and the shore, and saw many beautiful shore birds. Next we drove up the hill to the visitors center and trudged through the rain to go inside. They had fun exhibits and movies. One of them showed how each year on the last weekend in October, they use horses, cowboys, pickup trucks, and helicopters to round up the 700+ Bison that live on the island so they can vaccinate them and sell some of them off. It sounds like quite an event...the public is welcome to attend.

Another highlight of the visitors center was the aquarium filled with brine shrimp, with magnifying glasses you could use to check them out "up close and personal". With the exception of people out for a swim, brine shrimp are the only living things in the lake. They give the lake its sweet (not!) scent, and are harvested and freeze dried to be used as fish food. I think some of the eggs might also be harvested to be used for kids science projects...my nephew Parker grew some brine shrimp for one of his. Here's Debbie checking out the shrimp:



The girls loved the stuffed animals in the gift shop, and weren't sure they wanted to let them go. So, we took a photo to remember them by:


Next we headed to the Garr-Fielding Ranch that is on the island, which is where some of the LDS Church's cattle herds were kept back in Brigham Young's time. The ranch has had several owners since then.
Driving along the island is a lot like being in Yellowstone, because you see lots of animals up close, but it is less crowded. Because of all the lightening the island attracts (I'm not sure why), there are frequent fires there and so there are not many trees to block your views of the animals. At one point, we were stopped watching an antelope and another car went around us...somehow that spooked the antelope and it started running directly in front of the car. Man...that animal can run fast! We were thankful it avoided being hit.
Another time we were watching an antelope (I'm actually using the wrong term here...the official name for them is "pronghorn") when it suddenly froze in place as it noticed a coyote approaching. Once it realized the coyote wasn't after it, it relaxed and started eating again. Here's a photo of the two of them:



The Bison roam free on the island, so sometimes they cross the road in front of you. Here's one up close:


The Garr-Fielding ranch was really fun. They had a museum filled with the objects of everyday life on the ranch. Suzy commented on how funny it felt to see stuff like this in a "museum" because we had played with this kind of stuff at our family ranch as children. They had pulleys that reminded me of swinging on the big thick chain hanging from the pulley in my dad's shed. The girls loved playing on a little tricycle, sitting on a saddle, and roping their dad Rick.




Outside, they had these fun barrels and sawhorses where you could practice your roping skills; the ground was too wet for us to use the rope outside, but we enjoyed the practice animals anyway.
When we checked out the real horses and chickens, Debbie was quite confident that the horse she was petting really, really liked her. We toured the farmhouse nearby, and were glad that we didn't have to sleep on the bed with a straw-filled mattress, held up by a rope lattice. We saw a huge spider in the ranch hand house that was built next to an ice house, and didn't stick around long since we're not big spider fans. One of the rangers let us borrow his binoculars to check out the great big owl sitting in the top of a tree near the house. Because it was a holiday weekend, they had special ranger programs which we enjoyed--making rag dolls, dipping strings in hot wax to make candles, and having the ranger's 10-year-old son make us each a prairie diamond ring out of a nail.

We went to another point on the island where people were flying their model airplanes. Here's a shot where you can see a model airplane on the lower left, a bison, and the city in the distance:


Finally, when it had warmed up enough, we headed to the beach for swimming. The lake is at the lowest level it's been since the 1960's, and so we had a really, really, really long walk from the car to the water.


Because of the morning's rainstorm, the Dooley's hadn't brought their swimming suits, so they found flat rocks to skip along the surface and only waded in the lake. Or, to be more precise, they *intended* to wade in the water, but the girls ended up swimming in their clothes, and going home in their underwear. To avoid embarrassing the girls when they get to be teenagers and discover that photos of them in their underwear are on the internet, I've censored the underwear photos. Instead, here's a pre-swimming photo of the Dooley Family at the water's edge:


The lake is about 12 times saltier than the ocean, so it's quite easy and fun to float. You can see all the brine shrimp swimming around you too, many of them bright orange or white so they are clearly visible. Swimming with them around you is a little bit weird if you think about it too much, but not a problem if you don't think about it! Here's a snapshot of me floating:

After swimming a bit, we left the water and made the long trek back across the beach to our car. The walk was long enough that the water evaporated off our clothes and bodies, and we noticed salt crystals forming on our legs and on the hair of our arms...wild. As we walked, we saw that someone had used a stick to write several letters in the sand, 10 or so feet apart from each other. "It's a secret message!" I said, and Debbie was very interested to discover what the secret message could be. We couldn't figure it out, and so she and Rick created a secret message of their own. I won't spoil it here...but it will be waiting there for you to decipher if you ever decide to visit Antelope Island!