Saturday, February 6, 2010

Travels in the U.S.

Over the past 6 months I've done quite a bit of traveling (and teaching) throughout the United States. Whenever possible I try do do a bit of sight-seeing between working and I thought I'd share some of the photos I've taken. It's a bit of a big post, but I wanted to share some of the beautiful places I saw with you.

This first photo was taken on my drive back home from Charleston, SC (I've posted some of those photos here). This is the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, SC. There are many stories about this tree and, unfortunately, most of them are false. The tree is a live oak and is around 150 years old. However, it is a beautiful place. I got there during a huge downpour and had to wait in the gift shop for a while. There I met a very talented lady who creates sweet grass baskets.

This next photo was taken while I was up in Maryland doing yet another training class. We finished early one Friday and I drove up to Baltimore to visit Ft. McHenry
. As my luck generally goes it was overcast and windy but that didn't stop me from talking a walk around the perimeter of the park. In case your history is a bit rusty, this is the location that is the birthplace of our national anthem.

After my classes were over in Maryland I took some time to visit with family and see some sights in Virginia. I was very luck to have an opportunity to see the original Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan stallions give a performance near Winchester.
I also took a drive to the Luray Caverns. The wonderful thing about visiting here is that you aren't stuck in a tour group which flies through everything. Instead they give you a digital player and headsets and let you take your time. Of course that meant that I took over 600 photos of the place during my 2 hours walking through it. This size of the caverns is staggering. The only way to appreciate how big the formations are is to see them with someone standing next to them. Absolutely amazing.
After I left the caverns I then went up to the Shenandoah National Park and drove along Skyline Drive. There are many overlooks that you can stop at, some with trails and all well marked. My usual luck held here and, again, it was overcast and very cold (for me). I didn't get to stay as long as I wanted to because a storm was moving in, but you can see some of the early fall colors starting to show in this photo.
My next classes were in Albuquerque, NM. The altitude is high and the humidity is very low; it is a desert area of mostly browns. I got a rental car one Saturday and drove up to the top of the Sandia Mountains. The crest is at 10,678 feet. Where I'm from the altitude is less than 100 feet, so I was feeling just a little light-headed when I took this photo looking back down at Albuquerque. It was clear, very cold (just above freezing), and had recently snowed. Needless to say I didn't linger here as even my camera was suffering from the cold (battery life was measured in minutes).
The following weekend I got another rental car and traveled west from Albuquerque to visit the Petroglyph National Monument. You have a choice of two main areas and I took the one that everyone said was safer (less chance of my car being broken into), the Boca Negra Canyon set of trails. It took me a while to cover the four trails and Mesa Point was my favorite. This photo was taken along the Cliff Base Trail. The lava flows and glyph carvings were magnificent. There is even a nice picnic area where I had my lunch.
My last stop in Albuquerque was at the Rio Grande Nature Center. There are extensive trails where you can walk down to the Rio Grande river. The Paseo del Bosque Recreation Trail runs alongside the park where you can ride a bike, jog, or just walk and enjoy the scenery and cottonwoods. The photo below was taken along the Bosque Loop trail looking west across the Rio Grande.So, can you see why I try to make sure I spend some time playing tourist when I have to travel? There are still so many interesting places to visit!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Trip to Charleston, South Carolina

I've been up in Charleston, SC for the past week (mostly working) and got to do some tourist type travel this past weekend. I thought I'd share some of my photos with you of this lovely, historic town.

This first picture is of the Joseph Manigault house that was built in 1802. I took a tour of the interior, but since they don't allow flash photography (and I didn't have my tripod with me) I'm not too happy with the way the pics came out. If you get a chance and you love old homes you need to take the tour!This is another shot of the same home. This side of the house can be seen from Meeting Street.
On the weekend there is a fabulous farmer's market full of great food, fruits, vegetables, art work, live music, and many interesting things to see. You just never know what you'll find at one. I satisfied one of my cravings by getting some boiled peanuts. Yum Yum!
Charleston is full of many interesting (and narrow!) side streets.
The Yorktown is docked here and you can take a tour. I'm planning on doing that on my next trip here.
You can see the Yorktown from the Waterfront park. An afternoon rain storm moved in while I was there, but there are places where you can go to get out of the rain. I just love the way the clouds look in this shot.
This is the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. I took this from the Mount Pleasant side.
There is much more to see in Charleston. I'm planning on coming back in a couple of weeks and will try and post some more photos.

Friday, July 24, 2009

An Open Letter to NASA

A message to the NASA Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee:

As a child I was fascinated by the space program. I wanted to become an astronaut and took all the math and science classes that I could in preparation to becoming an astronaut; I even started flying lessons at 13.

Unfortunately my future was taken away from me as launches were cut and almost everyone (except me apparently) seemed to lose interest in the promise of space. Oh sure, there was Star Trek but, for me, it only made the longing worse.

It’s too late for me, but not for the youth of today. There are so many reasons why we need to, no MUST, go back to space (and not just earth orbit) – survival of the human species is one big one (big rocks DO fall from the sky).

We need a truly functional space station, bases on the Moon, humans on Mars, and we need to be exploring the asteroid belt for the valuable resources it holds. We need to be planning a colony on Ganymede or Callisto, exploring the life that most likely exists on Europa. We need to be researching how to get beyond our solar system and out to the stars.

Just like man explored the surface of this planet and made great voyages over land and sea, it is time for us to begin our next big exploration. Our future depends upon it.

So, that's my letter. Follow the link at the top of this post if you would like to express your opinion directly to NASA. You can also attend one of the meetings in person. Here's the info I got from The Planetary Society:

"Next week, the committee is holding three meetings where the public is invited to propose their ideas and to make comments. The meetings are scheduled for three U.S. areas where the space program contributes mightily to the local economies:"


Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center, Crystal Ballroom Salon A & B, 2500 South Shore Blvd., League City, TX 77573, 800-442-5005.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Davidson Center for Space Exploration, The U.S. Space & Rocket Center, One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL 35805, 256-837- 3400.


Thursday, July 30, 2009, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, Grand Ballroom, 1550 North Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931, 321-799-0003.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Spring Cruise Photos

Earlier this year I went on a cruise to the Western Caribbean. I thought I'd share a few of my photos from that trip. This first one is the sunset from one of the lower decks of the ship. It's blurred, but I love the feeling of movement over the water.This next photo is from our first excursion in Mexico (no flu here!). We went to a cave that the Maya used. You could swim here or explore further into the cave system.
What trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a trip to the beach. This one is on the Caribbean side of Mexico.
From Mexico we then went on to Belize and toured Altun Ha. The adventurous could climb up to the top of this temple. Take it easy if you do, the steps are very old and very uneven -- but the view from the top is worth it.
We then took a ride down the River Wallace. It was very overcast, but I really enjoyed seeing all the wildlife along the river.
Unfortunately, all good vacations must come to an end. This photo is my favorite sunset picture from the trip.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some Magnificent Birds

These are such magnificent birds -- I just wanted to share these photos that I took recently.

Hope to be back and posting articles again soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Journey by Air

There is nothing like taking a trip by plane to make one feel relaxed, happy, and comfortable. While that may be true for the CEO’s and other higher ups of the world the rest of us are stuck with what I like to call “sardine class.”

Here are some of the many joys and opportunities that await the average traveler:
  • Depending upon the airport that you are flying from and the time of day you will need to get to the airport at least 1 1/2 to 3 hours before your flight departs. This is so you have enough time to negotiate the many lines you will have to stand in: checking in, checking baggage, getting the baggage to security, going through security, and getting some bottled something to drink on the plane.
  • Unless you want to pay a bundle for your baggage you have to carry as little as possible. I didn’t realize how quickly I could get over the 50 pound weight limit. However, after I weighed my luggage bag I discovered my problem -- empty it weighs almost 20 pounds! A note to the wise: check out how much the luggage weighs before you purchase it. I had to replace all my pre 9-11 stuff.
  • Unless you are a small child or an anorexic person do not expect to sit in a seat that is big enough for you. Window seats are good for short flights, but not so good when you need to use the restroom -- especially if you don’t know the other people in your isle. Isle seats are great for getting up when you want, but the under seat storage is always the smallest of all the seats on the row. Avoid the middle seat at all costs unless you are traveling with small friends. I call it the “dreaded middle seat.” Oh, if you are sitting on the isle be sure to keep your head low and your shoulder well inside the seat when the plane is loading and people are passing. If not, expect to get bruised and battered by everyone who passes by.
  • As I [try] to write this the guy in the seat in front of me has his seat leaned back to what is, to him, a very comfortable position. Unfortunately I feel like his head is in my lap and my tray table is totally useless. I’m having to write this by hand as there is absolutely no way I could get my computer out and use it.
  • Plan ahead! I pack food and purchase water and other beverages BEFORE getting on the plane. Most airlines charge for EVERYTHING now. The flight I’m on now even charges for water and coffee. They want $7 for “breakfast” and $5 for a “snack”. Of course, if I had doubled the cost of my ticket I could have flown first class and gotten free beverages and even a free snack (oh boy!). Heck, I probably wouldn't have this crick in my neck from trying to write this either! Food ideas: cereal in a bag - just bring a spoon and purchase milk in the secure area, sandwiches - be sure to get the little packets for the condiments that you want to use (security will consider them a liquid or jell) and then add them after you gotten through security.
  • Speaking of security: be very, very nice to these people because they can make your life very, very miserable. A word to the wise: if you get pulled aside for one of those extra security pat-downs do EVERYTHING they tell you and don’t move unless they tell you (especially when they have you standing in the spread-eagle position!).
  • Watch out for air pressure changes when you are up in the plane. I had a nice liquid ink pen that I’ve carried for years. I pulled it out in anticipation of using it to write this since I have so little room to work. Unfortunately the cap was keeping the pressure in the pen. When I removed the cap and the air pressure dropped the ink exploded out of the pen. Oh well, I didn’t like this sweater top I’m wearing anyway. A word to the wise: liquid ink highlighter pens have the same problem as well as full bottles of hand cleaner or hand lotion.
Well, that’s enough for this installment. Perhaps my return flight at the end of the week will inspire a second edition.

Happy travels!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Critical Thinking vs. Gullible Sheep

With the election of our new President, America will be under the leadership of a child of the TV generation. The generation that grew up without electronic babysitters is fading away. What got me to thinking about all of this was an article that I read on FactCheck called “Our Disinformed Electorate.”

Since MTV hit the airwaves the popularity of fast action and the sound bite has only continued to grow -- not that there is anything wrong with either one of those things. However, the number of people who are willing or able to sit and read a newspaper, and I’m not talking about skimming the headlines and taking a quick look at a story or two, grows smaller and smaller. Talk show hosts tell people what to think and how to act. Chain e-mails and their often totally fictitious content are believed as if gospel.

The art of critical thinking, of being able to look at a story and determine if it is true, a little off, or totally wrong would appear to be on the decline. Without that crucial ability I worry that today’s and future generations will devolve into nothing more than gullible sheep that blindly follow whoever is the most popular at the moment.

When I was in school (and I’m a child of the TV generation too) we had Debate Clubs. These were people who loved to discuss a topic from all sides and would meet with Debate Clubs from other schools in a contest to see which group was better at debating a subject. Do they even have these anymore? If they do, I doubt that many of their peers would be willing or even interested in sitting through a lengthy debate.

Humanity has achieved a great many things by the power of critical thinking. I hope we aren’t starting to devolve into nothing more than gullible sheep. There is an old saying about 'stopping to smell the roses.' Maybe it's time to stop, look, and think.