Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Sentence Book Review: 1984, George Orwell

Orwell's 1949 portrayal of the then-futuristic oligarchical society of 1984 is super thought-provoking and very well written (though you can skip the chapter in the middle that quotes from "the book" -- it's boring and unnecessary).  Once you read it, you notice that the symbols contained in this book are found all over in our society today, and are regularly invoked by partisans on all sides to shape their arguments.  This is not a pleasant read, since it starts off depressing and goes downhill from there, but it's an important work and definitely worth reading.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heavens and Angels

This is one of my first attempts at creating a star trail photograph, and it happens to be at one of my favorite places on earth:  Angels Landing, in Zion National Park.  This is also one of the most difficult but exciting images I've ever made.  (Stop reading here, mom.)  

It started at 2:15 am on a moonless night when I left St. George, UT and drove to the Zion NP visitor's center.  Because cars are not allowed on the Zion Canyon road in the summer, I then had to hop on my bike and pedal up the canyon to the Angels Landing trailhead.  There were an abundance of glistening eyes reflecting my headlamp's light as I worked my way up the canyon road, and there were a couple of times when I realized my insanity.  But the insanity kept me going.  Upon arriving at the trailhead, I set up my tripod and camera, and I locked the shutter open at 3:45 am.  I was then faced with two options:  (1) sit in the creepy darkness and wait an hour for the earth to spin while the swirling stars burned into my camera's sensor; or (2) do something.  I chose option two, and the something I decided to do was to try to run up to the top of Angels Landing and back down in time to close my camera's shutter an hour later (see reference to insanity, supra).  

So, I ran up the trail to the top of Angels Landing.  (If you look in the bottom left hand corner of the picture you can see the light from my headlamp zigzagging up/down the trail.)  I made good time, and, thinking that it wouldn't take very long to get down, I allowed myself to repose at the top and enjoy the scenery for a while.  I was glad I did; there were quite a few shooting stars and it was so perfectly quiet and heavenly.  (I'm guessing you can't see the shooting stars in the picture because they traveled too fast and weren't bright enough to make an impression on the camera sensor.)  For the picture, though, that delay ended up being a bad thing.  It took me just as long to run down as it did to run up, largely because navigating my way down the chains at the top in the dark required some serious effort and concentration.  So I didn't make it back to shut my camera's shutter until 5:00 am, and that extra, unplanned 15 minutes allowed the camera to take in some of the light from the sun (which wouldn't be visible to the human eye for nearly an hour longer).  Unfortunately, that extra light brightened the sky and decreased the contrast between the star trails and the dark night sky.  (I'm guessing that's also why you can't see my headlamp along the ridge and at the summit.)  Oh well, it was a noble attempt and a great adventure.  I plan to try this one again to get the image just right, so please let me know if you're interested in joining me.

As a final note, that bright star in the middle of the swirling stars is the North Star, Polaris.  If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see that it actually did move a bit in 75 minutes and is not dead center in the star swirl, which shows that it's not exactly at the pole (if I remember my 1st-year astronomy lectures correctly).  If you look closely, you can also see the Big Dipper, but I'll let you find that one on your own.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Kolner Dom

The "Dom" is a gargantuan Catholic cathedral that forms the centerpiece of Cologne.  It's almost as tall as the Washington Monument, and could fit a couple football fields inside.  The stone foundation is thicker than our house at its widest.  You can climb 533 spiraling steps to a lookout in one of the towers, which offers a beautiful view of the curvature of the earth.  It took 600 years to build, starting in the 1200s, and they've been renovating it ever since.  It is an amazing piece of architecture that dominates the Cologne cityscape.

You can even see it when you're looking in the opposite direction.

And it's a great place to listen to live music, watch art being created, and observe thousands of people scurrying about.  I would like to spend more time in Cologne someday.

Finally, for those who accuse me of always being on the wrong side of the camera, here you go: a picture of me in Germany.  Satisfied?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Red Pine Lake

Red Pine Lake is a gem nestled in an impressive cirque that includes the towering Pfeifferhorn peak.  The crazy part is that the trailhead is just a short drive east of Salt Lake City up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  And after barely three miles of hiking (some of which is fairly steep), you're rewarded with spectacular alpine views, including the one above.  There are a lot of other trails to explore in the area, and I would love to go back (particularly with a pair of snowshoes in the winter).

My favorite part of this hike, though, was spending quality time with my friend and brother Thomas (aka "Scout"), and his perfect little son Jacob.  We may be getting older, and we may not hike quite as fast, but here's hoping there will always be "four more miles!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Goodbye Summer

Hello School

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cologne, Germany

Quiet Morning in Cologne

Beautiful city.  Busy work trip.  Amazing food.  Early morning walks facilitated by jet lag.  Pastries, pastries, pastries!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tait - 3 Months

Look who's three months old already!

He's a one-of-a-kind sweety!

And he's becoming less cross-eyed every day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tenny's First Day of School

Tennyson started pre-school today!  He was so excited to start school, and then he was so excited to tell us all about it when he was done.  His two memories of his first day: (1) "Ms. Jennifer got mad at me because I kept getting out of my chair;" and (2) "Daddy, we made a queue.  Do you know what a queue is, daddy?"  Our two thoughts about those experiences, respectively:  (1) Didn't see that coming; and (2) Oh my gosh, he's sooo cute!

We also had sort of an awakening:  after dozens of years of school, and only two years in between without homework assignments, we now have homework assignments again, and probably will for the next 20 years.  Ugh.  First homework assignment:  find a nice 5x7 picture of Tennyson to be displayed in his classroom throughout the school year.  Now you might think that this is a simple assignment, but rest assured that it was no easy task finding a picture of Tennyson that fit that description.  Particularly the "nice" part of the description.  The kid is certifiable.  We almost settled on a picture of him sleeping just so the other kids wouldn't make fun of him.  In the end, we think we found a picture that will avoid too much future harm and scarring.  In the meantime, here's a look at a couple pics that didn't make the cut:

We like to call this one: "If you're ever trying to decide between the markers and a ball for Tennyson's birthday, choose the ball."

And this one we refer to as "American Psychotic."

We sure do love our little schoolboy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Zion Narrows

Pops and I did an iconic hike this summer: the Zion Narrows from Chamberlain's Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava.

Sunrise at Chamberlain's Ranch

The trail is the Virgin River -- and thousands and thousands of moss-covered rocks the size and shape of bowling balls.  

Pops Rounding the Bend

After a couple of miles, the river starts carving deeper and deeper into the Narrows Canyon, and the majority of the hike is spent winding down a canyon with 2,000-foot walls towering 20-30 feet apart.

Digging Deeper

It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  Every view was picture worthy.  If I were to do it again, I would do a multi-day trip and make use of the campgrounds half-way down the canyon.  There's just too much exploring to do to cram it into one day.

Beautiful Zion