Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tranquility...

Utter peace in Nature:

Packwood Lake in Washington's Goat Rock Wilderness...


Lake Yellowstone in Wyoming...


The Alaska Range from the gravel Denali Highway...



The Yukon from the Alaska-Canada Highway (Al-Can Highway)...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Live your own life (It's not that long)

Steve Jobs delivered the commencement address to the 2005 grads of Stanford University. He spoke of his unwed mother arranging for him to be adopted by married college grads, but when they learned after his birth that he was a boy, they withdrew, and he was given to non-college grads. He then spoke of how he had dropped out of college after 6 months to save his parents their life savings, but "dropped in" on classes he liked for the next 18 months. He spoke of creating Apple Computer and then being fired from the company he had co-founded. And then he told of starting 2 new companies, NEXT and Pixar, returning to Apple, and then being told pancreatic cancer would end his life within 6 months.

He summarized the 15 minute address by telling the grads they will only be able to "connect the dots" of their life backwards in retrospect, and that all they do will aid that process. He told them to love what they do and only do that which they love -- that they should live their own life -- because it isn't really that long a period of time.

Here's the video of his address...



..and here's the text of his recent March 2010 speech at Lucile Packard's Children's Hospital about how California must pass a law to encourage more people to be organ donors: How I Almost Died

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rubber Elephant



This is Nomkhubulwane (pronounced Nom-koo-bull-wah-nee) which means "Mother Earth" in Zulu. "Born" in Africa, she has visited Mexico and El Paso and now resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas' downtown square, but will soon continue her world tour as a "global ambassador of creative possibilities" with a goal of "inspiring conversations about things that matter."

Below is a close-up of her "skin" which is recycled rubber tire strips woven onto a steel armature. She weighs 1.3 tons and stands over 9 feet tall and 16+ feet long and is the inspiration of artist Andries Botha of South Africa.



True to all elephants, Nomkhubulwane will move around the world opening up ancient forgotten paths that link the past to the present. She joins 11 other Human Elephant Foundation elephants who are serving as advocates of a shared visionary movement. At some point in the near future, we hope the whole herd may gather in one place.

Nomkhubulwane has a particular mandate around issues of ecology and conservation but she is not restricted to this. She will work to remind us that such an idea can never be achieved without acknowledging the importance of inviting each and every human being into this conversation.

Here is her website.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stop Banking Corruption!

For the last two years, we've gotten the same old song and dance from Wall Street. We've given our taxpayer dollars to bail them out, yet armies of lobbyists are spending millions to kill financial reform in Congress. Watch this 30 second video and then act!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buffalo National River Trail Project (AHS)

The Buffalo River, located in northern Arkansas, is 151 miles in length, with the lower 135 miles flowing within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service and designated the Buffalo National River. In 1972 it became the first national river in the United States and is one of the few remaining unpolluted, free-flowing, un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states and offers both swift-running and placid stretches.

There are over 120 miles of hiking trails in the park, and the 26 mile section currently under construction (about 11 miles completed) runs from U.S. Highway 65 to Arkansas Highway 14 and is mainly due to the tireless efforts of Ken Smith, the author of the guidebook Buffalo River Handbook. Ken was our leader and he heads up a minimum of 6 crews per year, each working for a week or more. This trail section will link segments of the Ozark Highlands Trail and Buffalo River Trail and will ultimately connect with Missouri's Ozark Trail, creating a trail nearly 1000 miles long running from Fort Smith in southwest Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri.

Below are a few shots of our crew at work, and at the bottom of this post is a link to a movie featuring some highlights from our week's efforts. The section we worked had been roughed-in last fall, but the weather had been wet back then and many sections located in areas with poor drainage had been skipped over, so we fine-tuned them, removing obstructing trees and boulders...



...placing gravel on areas that had been muddy last fall, raising low areas and improving drainage...



...repairing and stabilizing creek crossings to make them safe for hikers and erosion-resistant...



...widening the trail in spots by shoring up tread that was falling down the hillside...



...and constructing steps where tricky uphill slopes existed...



The area is home to black bear, herons such as the great blue, the little green, and the snowy white, woodpeckers, songbirds including finches, cardinals, mockingbirds, whip-poor-wills, wrens, and thrushes, as well as frogs and turtles and coyotes. It is also rife with poison ivy and ticks, both of which afflicted many of us.

We were given Wednesday off and offered the opportunity to hike or canoe the Buffalo. Thirteen of us chose the latter and enjoyed a magnificent day of scenic wonder around every bend in the river...



Here's the group of stalwart and dedicated trail workers (L to r, back row: Chuck, Reid, Scott, Jenny, Ray G., Steve, Duane, and Lynn; front row: Rivi, Sonja, Scott K., Ken M., Ken S., Pat, and Ray A.; not pictured: Bill and Chuck M. Click to enlarge.)



Highlights of our week's labors on the trail as well as life in camp and our 12 mile canoe trip down the Buffalo River on our day off are all documented in this brief movie...




This project was under the auspices of the American Hiking Society.

Buffalo River Handbook by Ken Smith

My other volunteer trail projects (American Hiking Society, Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Lake County Forest Preserve)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Paddleing Arkansas' Buffalo River

The Buffalo National River in Arkansas' Ozark Mountains flows free over swift running rapids and quiet pools for its 153 mile length as it cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs (as seen here) on its course eastward through the Arkansas Ozarks and into the White River.



The lower 135 miles flow within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service and designated in 1972 as the Buffalo National River, the first national river in the United States. It remains one of the few unpolluted, free-flowing, un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states and offers both swift-running and placid stretches. The scenic beauty is unrivaled and eye-delighting vistas appear around every bend in the river -- and the bends are numerous since the river's 153 miles are contained within a park that is only 60 miles in length. The water in mid-May was warm enough to allow swimming and if you look closely, you'll see young Sammy returning to Greg's boat here...




We were not allowed to put in at Ponca due to low water conditions in the upper section of the Buffalo. Instead we put in at Pruitt Landing just north of Jasper, Arkansas, and paddled the 101 miles to the confluence of the Buffalo and White Rivers.

We camped along the bank five nights, always careful to choose high ground in case the river rose from rains upriver. Despite rain three of the nights, we managed to have a campfire every night and the stars on the clear evenings were breathtaking.



Our group included 5 canoes with Ellen and me, Walt and Marcia ahead to our left, Jake and Scott ahead to our right, and Greg and Sammy in front. Not shown is Graham who is scouting ahead of the group.




With two professional Florida guides as part of our group, meals were a delight, for despite the lack of refrigeration, Greg and Graham prepared delicious meals every morning and evening, including eggs and bacon, spaghetti, ...


We often paddled together enjoying the scenery and each others company as the miles floated by. Wildlife sightings could thus be shared with everyone.






Several times each mile we came across rapids caused by boulders that had fallen from the mountainsides, or trees that obstructed the river, or gravel bars, and though all were merre ripples or class one rapids, some presented precarious situations when the current took the boats under "sweepers" or "strainers" -- trees that could capsize the boats, or sweep the paddlers into the river, or entrap the paddlers within the branches and drown you. Here's one such rapid and more are shown on the movie at the end of this post.




Our numerous wildlife sightings included, deer, otters, beaver, bald eagles, vultures, a rtimber rattler within three feet of our tent, hundreds of turtles, many species of butterflies, woodpeckers, lots of fish, great blue and little green heron, and many more. This heron has a snake in its mouth...


Ellen has a great post detailing some of our wildlife sightings here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gone diggin'

I'm heading out today for a week-long volunteer trail construction project for the National Park Service at Buffalo National River in Arkansas' Ozark Mountains. I'll post a report next weekend after I return.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Feline Factoids



-- Whiskers are twice as thick as ordinary hairs and their roots are three times deeper.

-- Kittens in the womb grow whiskers before body hair.

-- Cat ears can rotate 180 degrees to funnel sound into ear canals.

-- They can purring during inhalation, exhalation, and vocalizing.



-- They have 5 more spinal vertebrae than humans (30 vs. 25).

-- When walking or running, they step with both left legs and then both right legs (only camels and giraffes also do this.)



-- Their foot pad skin is 70 times thicker than skin elsewhere.

-- Tabby refers to a coat pattern -- with stripes on the necks, legs, and tails and spots on the bellies -- and doesn't refer to a color.



from Cat Fancy, May 2010 issue

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Biking into Spring

We've been biking here in northwest Arkansas most every day for the past 6 weeks, despite some chilly temps and very strong winds. We have about 450 miles for the year, but the last week of 70 degree days has Spring busting forth vibrantly and every day is measurably more verdant as seen below...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad Review

I've been an Apple devotee for 25 years, but this was the first time I was an "early adopter" of a new gizmo -- the iPad. In 2001, I did purchase the then new iPod, but I bought it several months after its debut, and I also switched from landline to cell phone with the original iPhone, but that was 5 months after it came out.

Eschewing waiting in lines, I pre-ordered the iPad and had it delivered to my door yesterday, and then spent time learning its features and syncing it up with apps, photos, music, videos, etc. and I love it!



It is being touted as a device to save the print industry and I have no doubt it will appeal to publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers. Reuters, NPR, AP, USA Today, New York Times, and BBC already have free apps for the utilizing the huge and beautiful iPad screen. Here's a shot of the NYT...



It is fully interactive -- simply touch a story to change its size, photos can easily be enlarged, and plans are to include video soon, something the print paper can't offer.

The iPad will augment the Amazon Kindle book reader, but does it one better since it's in full, vibrant color. Here's a shot of the free book that comes with the iPad, Winnie-the-Pooh...



You can enlarge print, change fonts, touch a word to display its definition, mark text for later use, cut-and-paste, search, etc. Simply touch a page corner to flip to the next or previous page. At the bottom it indicates I'm on page 58 of 260 and 6 pages remain in the chapter. And Amazon has a free Kindle app so you can read any of their 450,000 books on the iPad.

Below is The Weather Channel app with the current conditions and the forecast for the next 10 days. Time lapse radar is in the lower left corner and national radar picture is in the right corner. Touch an icon and you get video from their website as well as localized severe weather alerts if there are any.



Speaking of video, ABC has a free app that streams recent episodes of their top tv shows (also free.) Below is a shot of last week's "V" episode. The color and clarity on the iPad are astonishing, and if you are looking at the screen from an angle, there is no distortion.



The iPad doesn't do everything a full computer does, but what it does it does simply, intuitively, and with typical Apple style and elegance. The user has no need to understand how the iPad does a particular task, just what it can do -- and it is all accomplished by simply pointing, touching, or using several fingers to bring about a result on the screen. Apple's head designer, Jonathan Ive (who was instrumental in designing the first all-in-one computer, the iMac, and then the iPod, iPhone, and iPad) says "It's the things that are not there that we are most proud of. For us, it is all about refining and refining until it seems like there's nothing between the user and the content they are interacting with."

And the iPad elegantly performs basic tasks like running any of 150,000 apps as well as providing calendar, e-mail, Web browsing, office productivity, audio, video reading books, newspapers, and magazines, and gaming capabilities you would expect of any computer — but your relationship to the device is personal, you touch it like you would a friend or an animal.

The critics pegged it correctly when they state the iPad might not replace a laptop because it doesn't create much stuff except documents, spreadsheets, presentations and spreadsheets using the iWork suite and Bento. Third party apps allow some enhancing of photos and other creative actions and more such third party apps will no doubt be forthcoming expanding its range of operations. But the iPad is infinitely more convenient than a laptop for consuming media–books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail, games, and so on. Users immediately discover that using your hand to manipulate these digital materials is a wondrous and enjoyable experience–as well as deeply personal.

Sure it's a novel idea and brings fun into the computing arena with this huge touchy-feely interface, but I predict it is also the wave of the future, ushering in a whole new way to compute. The only future improvements I envision will be 1) voice activation of the computer ala Star Trek, and ultimately, 2) ESP -- just thinking what you want the computer to do.

Is the iPad a perfect product? No. And the omissions will give the anti-Apple crowd plenty of ammo -- there’s no camera, no Flash, as of now no multitasking -- all valid criticisms. But despite these "shortcomings", the multifarious tasks it does perform, it does remarkably well. Apple will correct many of the current "deficiencies" with software updates and eventually improved hardware, but it is already a magnificent and magical device, and in just 2 short days, in situation after situation, the iPad has become my favorite computer in the house and the one I turn to for email, browsing, reading news, and more.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Har-Ber Village

Har-Ber Village is a gift to the American people from Springdale, Arkansas trucking magnate Harvey Jones and his wife, Bernice. It is located on a lovely wooded hillside sloping down to Oklahoma's Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Grove, Oklahoma, near the Missouri/Arkansas border. The museum's motto is "Remember the Past, Celebrate the Present, Imagine the Future" and it is a reconstructed turn-of-the-century village of over one hundred buildings and hundreds of amazing collections.



The Joneses purchased the property in 1944 for a summer home, and the concept of an entire village began in 1968 when Harvey built Bernice a church on the banks of the lake from bricks handmade before the civil war and taken from three huge fireplaces in the old Van Winkle home in War Eagle, Arkansas. The stained glass windows were custom made in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and the pulpit came from the Zion Methodist Church, six miles southeast of Springdale, Arkansas, which was built in 1850. In front of the church and facing the lake is a white marble statue of Christ with out-stretched arms sent from Italy.



After the church was built and the statue of Christ in place, vacationers boating on Grand Lake started coming ashore. Bernice thought a cabin for the preacher and his family would be nice. Harvey found one, dating back to the 1840's, and brought it to the Village to be recreated log by log. Next they added the schoolhouse and the dream began.



"From this beginning" Bernice said, "one thing led to another and now there are more than 100 buildings, each of which houses its own display." Buildings depict aspects of life during the 1800s/1900s including doctors' and dentists' offices, a jail with gallows, courthouse, bank, drugstore, jewelry store, hat and dress shops, print shop, post office, harness and shoe shop, barbershop, all arranged in a village setting on two long loops.



She added, "Harvey loved auctions, and we attended dozens over a four state area." And the 100+ structures contain tens of thousands of items collected or donated over a span of 40+ years. Collections on display include musical instruments...



...over 600 pipes, artifacts, Roaring 20s memorabilia, an immense barbed wire collection, Alaskan and Canadian animals, toys, dolls of all sorts including these clowns...



...woodworking tools, plows, farm machinery, horse-drawn wagons, buggies, and hacks, metal tools, pottery, lamps, military uniforms from the Civil War through Desert Storm, Boy Scout/Girl Scout uniforms and memorabilia, pitchers, butter dishes, chairs of every ilk, brass beds and accessories, wicker, stoves, milking machines, glass and china, washing machines, and way more than I could ever list.

In 1918, Harvey Jones had purchased a team of mules with an old Springfield wagon and began a trucking business, and in 1919 he bought his first used hard-rubber tire Federal truck and began the Springdale Transportation Company. In 1933, the Springdale Transportation Company became Jones Truck Lines, Inc. and over the next 60 years, JTL would become the largest privately-owned truck lines in the United States. By 1980 when JTL was sold, the company was in 15 states and traveled over 100,000 miles daily. They had 41 terminals, 2,000 pieces of equipment and employed 1,500 people.

Harvey was also an avid civic leader. In the early 1930's, Springdale could not afford to keep all of its schools open so Harvey rented a church building, hired a teacher, and paid for supplies to open a school for grades one through six. The following year the schools were re-opened, but Harvey continued his support of education by buying supplies and giving a multitude of scholarships so children in the community could continue on to college.

Harvey was chairman of the Springdale Memorial Hospital Board, President of the School Board, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of the First National Bank of Springdale among other important posts. In 1969, he was the first recipient of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce "Outstanding Civic Service Award"

In all of these endeavors by Harvey, Bernice was an important and equal partner. However, she had a strong identity of her own. Shortly after the truck line was sold in 1980, Harvey became ill and progressively incapacitated. All of the Jones' remaining business endeavors became Bernice's responsibility, and it was her decision to expand their philanthropic endeavors.

Beneficiaries of her generosity include libraries, museums, children's homes, churches, and substantial gifts to several colleges and universities. She has provided for hundreds of nursing scholarships, and together with Harvey, has been a lifelong supporter of Springdale Memorial Hospital. In fact, she was one of the first women to serve on the hospital's board of directors.

Har-Ber Village museum now serves as a fitting tribute and lasting memorial to them. It is open March through mid-November and charges a nominal admission of $3 ($2 for seniors.)