Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall in Park City

I didn't have much time to get out yesterday and take pictures, but I did shoot a handful when taking Jasper up the hill. The aspens are really cranking along with their brilliant yellows.

And while most of the maples are done and have dropped their leaves, some are still at it.

Flying American Airlines

Now that the buggers at Delta have taken away the direct Salt Lake to Raleigh flights, we look at all airlines as alternatives. Both Julie and I are million-mile fliers with American, so we have permanent Gold Status with them. That's a definite plus.

Flying back to Utah on Monday, our plane had mechanical problems and they had to wait on a part. I ended up getting in the Salt Lake four hours later than scheduled.

Today I got an e-mail from American saying "Sorry we screwed up. We added 5,000 frequent flier miles to your account because we feel bad." OK, not their exact words, but the right sentiment.

Thanks American for caring a bit more about your customers. Delta never did this for me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Playing a real team

Julie and I went to the NCSU-Pitt football game this weekend. We brought our friends Jim and Carmella Saunders. After two weeks in a row of beating up on small teams, this was billed as a decent test.

State came out playing terribly. Offside penalties seemed non-stop. Two missed field goals. Dozens of missed tackles. The good news is that they never got more than 14 points behind.

NCSU managed to score the last 21 points of the game and hold on (barely) to win. It was a win, but a sad ugly win. I hope next week is better.

This out neighborhood gang: Tom, Carm, El, Barbie, Julie, and Jim.

The entire game seemed to be waves of cloudy, light drizzle, heavy drizzle, repeat. It never poured on us, but you needed something to stay dry. Carm's little poncho seemed to put up an excellent fight.

Julie and Carm at the seats.

Nice to see a win. Not sure if I will be back for any more games this season. We shall see.

Cruising the neighborhood

When Julie and I are back in Raleigh, we go and visit my uncle Sam over at Mayview. One activity I enjoy (and I hope Sam does) is to grab the wheelchair and go out for a walk around the neighborhood.

Here's Sam after we had gone to the Highwood Park restaurant for lunch. Notice that he has an umbrella in his lap. For whatever reason, every time we do this it wants to rain.

I thought it was great that as soon as my camera came out, Sam took off his glasses. I guess they don't fit the style he wanted to portray.

Julie and I agree that one of the biggest downsides to living out in Utah is not getting to see the family as often.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life in Raleigh

We seem to have gotten about 4 or 5 inches of rain in the past two days. That guarantees that the humidity never drops below 110%. My 8 mile run yesterday was disgusting.

A few days ago, before the rains started, I noticed a little wren trying to get a drink out of our empty fountain. I felt sorry for him, so I rinsed it out and filled it up. Figured it would make a nice little bird bath.

The next morning I walk out and find some lovely little birds using the fountain.

Three big Black Vultures.

Once I scared them off, they went to hang out on the roof.

I'm pretty certain that this won't help sell the house!

Last night we had a visit from Jim Covaleski. He was on his way from DC to Charlotte, so we grabbed dinner and then spent the night with us. It was nice to see him again, even if so briefly.

Off to have lunch with my neighbor and IBm co-worker form days gone by, Chuck Terrien.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beating on a high school team

One thing I miss about being in Utah is getting to go to NC State football games. Back in NC, I got to catch the Wolfpack playing the mighty Running Bulldogs of Gardner Webb. It was supposed to be an easy win, but you never know with State.

From left to right are Darrell Baber (my college roommate and best man), Jay Shive, and Jason Shive. Jason lived on my hall in the college dorms and has been an original member of our 20+ years of golfing trips.

I like the fact that they can do fireworks in the stadium when the team runs out. At some point, someone somewhere will get hurt with a stray spark and everyone everywhere will have to call it quits.

NCSU killed the bulldogs, 45-14 and it wasn't really that close. The highlight was State's quarterback, Russell Wilson, setting the NCAA record for most passes without an interception. He's at something like 330 and still going. What makes this more special is that the quarterbacks we've had for the past few years threw an interception about every third snap.

This Saturday will be a much bigger test. We play Pitt, which is picked to win the Big East and is currently ranked somewhere in the top 25.

What has brown done for you?

Right before I left for NC, we stopped at Bill and Loris Benson's house. Seems they had some nosy neighbors hanging around the front door. A momma moose and her two calves were napping by the front door. I didn't know where they were and accidentally disturbed them.

One calf was wandering around to the side while the other hung out with the Benson's deer statue. I wonder if the moose figured it was a good hideout because that deer always seemed to be safe hanging out there.

Julie called last night and said the deer had moved up the hill and were eating trees at our house. It's fun to see them, but they sure can be destructive.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More odds and ends

For those familiar with Park City, we just lost another restaurant that had been around for decades. The Stew Pot is closing up this week due to slow business. Not our favorite place to eat, but unfortunate to see the long-running businesses go under.

Get your flu shot soon. We heard there is likely to be a shortage of the normal seasonal flu shots because companies switched to making swine flu vaccine. Think the whole swine flu thing was blown out of proportion? Here is something from the Raleigh newspaper:

For the first week of September, the state reported 1,125 cases of flu-like illness through its network of doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals that participate in a surveillance system. Most of those illnesses are attributed to the H1N1 virus. At its worst last winter, seasonal flu hit 719 people in North Carolina during one week in February.

I'm heading back to Raleigh today. I'm hoping to catch up with lots of friends and catch two NCSU football games.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boating on the Jordanelle

After years of thinking that it would be a good idea, we finally went boating out on the local Jordanelle Reservoir. Thanks to Loris Benson for setting this up!

We rented a pontoon boat and headed out with Bill, Loris, and Hollie Benson. Here's captain Bill with Julie.

The leaves are starting to change and there was some nice color up on the mountainsides. It still has a long way to go.

As we headed to the end where the Provo River dumps in, you could look back and see the ski runs at Deer Valley.

Julie is hanging out on the boat while Loris (the human) and Hollie (the dog) are on shore.

Hollie and Jasper spent a good two hours romping around in the water and along the shoreline. They came home as two tired dogs. Here we have coordinated stick fetching.

Jasper, waiting for the next throw.

The trick was to avoid being next to this. Easy with one dog. Much harder with two.

This turned out to be the apparent stick of choice. They both seemed to enjoy fetching it and Hollie eventually trimmed off all the extra branches (with her teeth).

Timing turned out to be perfect. Today was the last boat rental day of the year. The reservoir was almost empty of other boats. The weather was gorgeous. On our drive home, the storm clouds started moving in and we had thunder and lightning. But we were home, warm and dry by then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mowing the lawn in a big way

Julie and I have started doing more of our hikes over on the trails at the Park City resort. The Spiro trail and the Crescent Mine Grade are very scenic and comfortable to hike. Today was a gorgeous day. You get a nice view of Park City and the Uintah mountains which are about 25 miles away.

As we continued our hike, we started to hear heavy equipment from a direction where it just didn't make sense. We got closer and found this guy driving a bulldozer up and down the ski runs, dragging a huge mowing bed.

When he got done, the ski runs looked like this.

These are some seriously steep ski runs. This is the toughest lawn mowing I have ever witnessed. How do you put that on your resume'? And what job does it get you?

It is still early yet, but the maples are starting to change color, especially on the north-facing slopes. I am hoping that all the prime leaf color doesn't occur while I am in North Carolina next week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Photographing the Timpanogos Caves

I belong to the Wasatch Camera Club and they provided a unique opportunity to go into the Timpanogos Caves and learn to do cave photography. Normally the cave tour is very tightly regulated, with almost no opportunity to stop and take pictures. We got to spend two hours in the caves after everyone else was gone. Very cool.

If you don't know where these caves are, you head over to the Sundance ski resort and then go 15 miles on the scenic Alpine Loop. It is scenic, but as the car driver, you don't get to see much. Something about nonstop hairpin turns on a road that's only one and a half lanes wide keeps your focus.

Now that you have arrived, you still have to get there. Somebody figured it was a good idea to put the parking lot 1,065 vertical feet down from the entrance to the cave. That makes for a pretty nice hike, especially for some of the larger, rounder people I saw heading up.

I can't imagine how much effort went into creating this path up the mountainside. It is very steep and very rocky. To get the basic path, they had to do a lot of blasting, including the creation of three small tunnels. Then somebody sitting in an office somewhere thought that the path needed to be paved. Can you imagine trying to pave 1.5 miles of trail, with 1000+ feet of vertical, basically one bucket at a time, each starting at the bottom?

The only vehicle that could go up the trail is a tiny diesel truck. The trail is narrow, steep and full of tight turns. The bad news is that "the guy" who could drive it up the hill died last year. One ranger can now drive half way up, but they haven't got a replacement yet. This isn't some OSHA rule. This is a job for someone with suicidal tendencies.

Even with the paving, there are still some challenges. The rock crumbles, especially after heavy rains or snow melts. It comes tumbling down the mountain, which can be quite deadly.

Still feeling pretty comfortable about the walk up? How about the rattlesnake warning?

Right near the top is the last restroom. Notice the red line on the pavement? Remember the sign we just read about falling rocks? No way in hell was I stopping to use that restroom.

Oh, did I mention that even though they thought to pave the trail, they forgot the railings? There were dozens of places where if you stumbled off the 4 foot wide path you would fall several hundred feet onto rocks. At the bottom of the picture is the edge of the pavement. In the middle of the picture are some people. I am amazed that they don't lose more children. (They do lose some)

Finally we venture into the cave for some pictures. Shooting pictures in a cave is the most awkward photography I have done.
  • It's dark, so you can't see the settings on your camera.
  • It's dark, so the autofocus doesn't work.
  • Focusing manually is hard. That whole dark thing again.
  • You have to wear your camera backpack on your belly. With it on your back, you are too likely to bump into fragile rock formations.
  • Having the flash on your camera doesn't work very well for lighting. The shadows are in the wrong place. Most of us don't know how control the flash (duration, brightness, ...) without it being part of the camera.
  • There just isn't much room
This was a test shot. Notice my arm in the bottom left, reaching around to try and backlight a stalactite.

The technique is to hold the camera in your right hand and your flash in your left. Decide what you want to shoot. Use a flashlight to figure out the best lighting. Set your camera manually (focus, ISO, and f-stop). Set your exposure to 1 or 2 seconds. Now guess how bright you want your flash and set it manually. Turn off the flashlight. Try to aim the camera correctly in the dark and snap a shot. Before your two seconds are up, use your left hand to manually fire the flash. Good luck!

Until you start getting better, your shots tend to be either completely black, out of focus, or all squiggly like this one. Actually I think this turned out kind of cool.

Try enough and you start getting better at it, even though it feels remarkably goofy.

These caves don't have the huge stalactites and stalagmites that you find in some eastern caves, but there is wonderful variety and beauty. These looked like giant white fangs.

Different minerals make different colors. This looked like someone had tossed all their extra octopi up on a shelf.

Someone left the chocolate soft-serve ice cream on.

This little cone was the closest thing I saw to a stalagmite.

An oozing brown river with some delicate crystalline structures hanging from above.

Attack of the worms!

One room in the last of the three caves was full of different small formations.

Here's a closeup. It almost looks like coral.

I think this was my favorite shot. It has almost everything in it. Double-click on it so you can see the detail.

I think I have a much better idea of how to shoot in a cave, but I don't know when I will get another chance. I asked one of the rangers who had worked there for years and she didn't have any good ideas for how to get back in again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The ugliest, most majestic bird

Rob Schumacher (our builder) called this morning. We both enjoy watching the large flock of vultures that float around on the late afternoon thermals. He had been driving up to Silverlake and ran across their roost. They apparently bed down in a grove of dead aspen trees right off Royal St. I went up to take some shots.

By the time I got there, only about 20 were still there.

They are big birds, comparable to an eagle. But with that wrinkly head, they tend to be ugly and scary.

It probably doesn't help their image that we normally see them scarfing some roadkill.

In fairness, they can also be amazing to watch. Every once in a while, one would open his wings to the sun for warmth. What a huge spread.

Then they would take off and start soaring around the valley like most of us wish we could.

Technically, I don't think it supposed to be a "flock of vultures". I think it is a "colony of vultures". English can be a demanding language.