Saturday, July 23, 2011

Adventure Night

In my last post, I told the story of "Adventure Day 2010", and the sequel - "Adventure Day 2011". Well I'm home alone again this week, so yesterday at work I decided to have "Adventure Night". When I got home from work, I grabbed the telescope, my camera, a sweater, some food and jumped in the truck for "Adventure Night 2011"! I drove straight to Shaver Lake, pretty adventurous huh?

Wow! the water was right up to the top of the dam -

I clicked a quick pic, then jumped back in the truck to continue "the adventure". I went straight up the hill to Huntington Lake. The sun was getting pretty low by this time.

I was almost out of time. You see, the goal was to make it to the vista point above Kaiser pass before the sun went down. So I took a couple of quick snaps of Huntington and then jumped back in the truck to race to the top!

Kaiser pass is 9,100 feet above sea level. Once you get there, you can turn right off the paved road and head up a "Jeep trail" for two more miles, to a lookout point with an excellent view of the "Crest of the Sierras", a portion of the "Great Western Divide". You can see Edison Lake from there, and you have a pretty good view of the entire sky.

This is the first thing you see when you round the last turn and drive out into the opening at the top -

It's July in Central California, so the air-quality is not very spectacular. Hence the hazy appearance to the pictures. I made it to the top just in time to see the alpine-glow on the peaks, which is one of my favorite things. For the next 15 minutes, I ran around looking for some good shots. The poor air-quality didn't help, but it did add a lot of orange to the pictures. Here's the sun, just as it was going down -

I brought along my tripod, and a remote shutter release for the camera. I've never made any long-exposure pics of the night sky, and that was part of the "adventure"!

I was surprised at how they came out -

I've seen how photographers will shine a flashlight on objects in the foreground while making a long exposure, so of course I had to give that a try -

You know, it gets pretty cold above 9,000 feet, even in California in July. So I packed it in at 11:00 and headed back down to warm, cozy Fresno. Adventure night was pretty fun. Maybe I'll do that again in 2012.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adventure Day - 2011

Last year on July 29th (2010), Tracy and Nick were out of town, so I got up early and went on a little road-trip. I went to the top of Fremont Peak, then to Pacific Grove where I biked around for a while. Then I went North through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate bridge, and ended up in Petaluma. I had fun posting pictures on Facebook throughout the day, and I started referring to it as 'Adventure Day'. So I thought I would have another 'Adventure Day' this year. Here are a few pictures from the first Adventure Day last year -

I stopped along Highway 99 to take this shot of the sun rise -

This was a little foot bridge on the trail to the top of Fremont Peak -

This was the vista I enjoyed when I arrived in Monterey -

Foggy in San Francisco, as usual -

This year's Adventure Day was hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls. Nick came along, and we had a nice little hike. Here's an HDR Panorama I took from Yosemite Point, which is a vista point about a mile past the top of Yosemite Falls. You'll want to click on the picture to open the full sized image -

It was pretty hazy that day, but there were some nice clouds that came along in the afternoon. Here is another HDR picture I took on the way back down -

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is There a Cure for Arthritis? Perhaps Sometimes!

I’ve had back problems most of my life, but for the most part, they were relatively minor and would go away after a few days, or after visiting a Chiropractor. But as of last November, I suddenly had much more than a back problem. I had an arthritis ‘flare-up’ unlike anything I’ve ever had. I realize now that I’d been dealing with the problem for over a year already. In April 2009, I began to have problems with the metatarsal joints in my right foot (diagnosed as metatarsalgia, which can be caused by arthritis). It was probably around that same time or before that I was experiencing pain in my right hand, and began to have seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp. Just before the arthritis flare-up in November I began to have pain in my left foot metatarsal joints, just like the right foot. I was also having new pain in my right foot which was diagnosed as plantars fasciitis. I had obvious swelling in the balls of both of my feet, and my right wrist. My neck was ‘out’ making it very difficult to turn my head from side-to-side. I also realized that for about the last year and an a half I had pain in my sternum every time I coughed, and especially when I sneezed.

As I fought with this new major flare-up of what appeared to be arthritis, I was really wondering why all of this would be going on. I am only 47 years old, and live a relatively healthy life style. The podiatrist gave me custom orthotics, stretching and icing instructions, but none of that seemed to help, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I should have to do all this stretching and icing just to feel normal when I had no injury or other apparent problem to rehabilitate from. I never had to do these special therapeutic things for the previous 47 years of my life, and I couldn’t believe that my body was falling apart from age that quickly!

My primary MD suggested that it was probably just arthritis I was experiencing brought on my colder weather or something that may have changed in my life-style. I was exercising regularly in the Summer, and then slowed down with the exercise in the Fall, and he thought something like that might have brought the new arthritis on. That just didn’t make sense to me.

Blood tests revealed that I had a significant amount of inflammation going on (no duh), but the rheumatoid markers were not showing up, which was of course good news. I was taking one naproxen twice a day, and that allowed me to function, but still with pain. The most pain I experienced was walking into work from the car each morning. I was getting desperate to find out the cause instead of just treating symptoms (which was all the doctors seemed to want to do).

My research revealed that arthritis and seborrheic dermatitis can both be related to an auto-immune system problem. Was it a coincidence that I had both of these things going on, and they started around the same time?

During the last two weeks, I began to suspect that I was having a reaction to some kind of food. This idea was based on Internet research, so I began to cut out various types of food. I cut out, or significantly reduced the consumption of –
• Sugar
• Caffeine
• Citrus
• Salt
• Red meat
• Dairy products
• Additives
• Corn
• Flour
• Soy
• Nuts

Last Tuesday (2/8/2009) I received a book I ordered called “Conquering Arthritis, What Doctors Don’t Tell You Because They Don’t Know” by Barbara Allan. I found the book while doing arthritis research online, and there were quite a few positive reviews on it. One reviewer explained that the book and ‘cure’ would only work for someone with reactive arthritis, not someone with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. I figured I didn’t have much to lose; at this point I was open to all suggestions.

I began reading the book on Wednesday and by Thursday night I decided to do exactly what Barbara Allan prescribed – a juice fast designed to determine if the problem was related to a “food sensitivity” or not.

It’s Monday night right now and the last ‘normal’ meal I’ve eaten was last Thursday night. I already had organic carrot juice in the refrigerator, which was one item she recommended drinking during the juice fast, so I was ready to start on Friday morning. I didn’t follow her prescription 100% - I didn’t do the enema. And I didn’t go buy a juicing machine to make my own organic juice with carrots, cabbage and celery. I just stuck to the store-bought carrot juice, and that’s all I had for 3 days. By this morning, I estimated that the pain in my feet and hands was 80 to 90% gone. I could see the swelling in my left foot had decreased. Hallelujah – I have a food sensitivity! At least, that appears to be part of the problem.

Today I had an apple and carrot juice for breakfast and lunch. So far, so good. Barbara Allan suggests that you only introduce one new food every 24 to 36 hours when you break your fast. That is because the symptoms may not reappear right away, and you won’t know which food you are sensitive to if you’ve had more than one new food item in the last 24 to 36 hours. I broke that rule by having yogurt for dinner tonight. The problem with that will be, if I seem to be having more pain tomorrow, then I won’t know if it was the apples or the yogurt. But I decided I would take the risk, especially because I was getting tired of carrot juice and I didn’t want to eat an apple and drink carrot juice for every meal today. The apples, yogurt and carrot juice are all organic, so there should be fewer chemicals that would cause a reaction, helping me to know if my sensitivity is specific to apples (or yogurt) rather than sensitivity to pesticides.

I plan on having oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow morning to test oats. If that causes no reaction, and I don’t feel worse from the apples or yogurt, then that will be 4 food items on my ‘safe’ list!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yosemite HDR Pictures

We went on a quick trip to Yosemite a couple of weeks ago. I got a chance to try out my new Canon EOS 60D. I took a lot of exposure bracketed shots so I could make some HDR pics when I got home. We rented a couple of Beach Cruisers and rode all around the Valley floor. It was very fun!

It was kind of hazy in the late morning when we arrived, but in the afternoon, the clouds turned wispy and then puffy, and the sky turned crystal blue.

We rode all the way out to Mirror lake. The view of Half Dome is most excellent from that perspective.

I didn't take a tripod on the bike, so all of the pictures you've seen so far were hand-held bracketed images. I held my breath and stood really still!

Neither one of us has ever ridden bikes around the Valley before. It was the best! I highly recommend it.

Yosemite Falls wasn't much more than a dribble.

This close-up pic of Yosemite Falls is not HDR. All the preceding pics were.

The puffy clouds were casting about shadows through the Valley as we stopped at Inspiration Point (Tunnel View) on the way out. This is another HDR shot.

I don't know why we don't go there more often...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wawona in April, 2010

Tracy and I went for a quick get-a-way to Wawona last week. We got a two-fur-one deal in the mail a month or two ago, and we decided to buy while the price was low (they know we're impulse shoppers)! We were excited because a cold storm was coming down from the North the day before we went, and we were looking forward to some snow. We saw some pretty scenery at the higher elevations on the way there.

One of the things we look forward to when we go to Wawona is dinner. Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound very exciting, but we're not as young as we used to be. Inevitably, they cook-up a mean entree, or two.

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed for the Valley. This is what the hotel grounds looked like that morning -

When we got back in the afternoon, the scene was very different -

On the way in, there was still snow on the trees and some cool misty clouds lingering all around. (Click the image to open full-size.)

The misty clouds were camping out on the Valley walls when we arrived at Inspiration Point. Both of these are HDR pics -

The only draw-back to Wawona is, no AT&T cell towers in range. AND, the hotel doesn't provide any WiFi, can you imagine that? They don't have phones or TVs in any of the rooms and that's OK by me, but come on, a guy's gotta have his iPhone available. No network access on the iPhone just isn't right. Somehow Tracy is OK with that. Sometimes I don't understand girls.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Do you have an iPhone? Do you think it's sic? Do you have 9 pages of apps? Do you watch the news about the next iPhone? Did you see the whole thing with Gizmodo and the iPhone 4? Have you browsed the Apple Store?

If you're an iPhone-o-phile like me, then you're going to like this -

Click this link to see a hilarious clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I don't get 'on the Band Wagon' very often. But I have to say, I like what Jamie Oliver is doing. It's a good start to solve an issue I think is a big problem.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Have Been Assimilated

For years, I've heard about the iPhone. How fantastic it was, how all the other phone manufacturers were trying to design and build the iPhone killer. I never thought I would actually be interested in an iPhone; I mean, it can't open MS Office apps without special software, right? But I do have to admit, I was envious of the large screen.

Well, the day came. My 2 year old HTC AT&T Tilt began to die and I needed a new phone. The Corporate standard was now the iPhone. I was still on the fence. Did I really want an iPhone? I wouldn't be able to open and edit Excel files without special software, that's just not right! Oh well, I didn't really have a choice. I got the iPhone. I was a little disappointed because the Telecom guys have this great idea - they'll buy old model iPhones (3G 8GB) that are refurbed for $50, and save a bundle. What, no compass? No extra speed? Only 8GB of storage? How could I possibly survive with that? I'm a Power User for Pete's sake!! Oh well, life goes on.

It only took a day or two for me to realize, I've been deprived all these years! Why didn't I have one of these things a long time ago? The apps are so easy to find and install. There are over 150,000 apps available for the iPhone. You can find an app for whatever you can imagine, and a ton of them are free. The interface is smooth. Scrolling by flicking and swiping is technically satisfying.

I can blog, I can listen to radio stations, I can play scrabble with friends, I can surf the web (iPhone Safari is way better than Windows Mobile Internet Explorer), e-mail is way easier, it's and iPod, it's a GPS, it's got a nice big clear and colorful screen, it's the defacto standard of PDA phones! I'm not sure how I ever survived without one!

Resistance was futile. I have been assimilated...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weather You Like It Or Not...

Last Sunday I reported that the weather-dudes (Meteorologists) were predicting rain for the entire week, perhaps longer. So far they were right. We had four storms come through from Sunday to Friday. We received almost 2 inches of rain in Fresno during that time. The local ski resort just up the hill received about 10 feet of new snow! It was clear today, but not for long! Check out this Satellite pic my dad just e-mailed to me -

That's a nice storm! And it's headed right for us! Should be a fun week!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coos Bay, Oregon for Thanksgiving

We had a great vacation trip for Thanksgiving last November. Tracy's mom, dad, sister (Sandra) & family all caravanned with us to Coos Bay Oregon to visit Tracy's other sister (Alice) and family for Thanksgiving. It was a 13 hour drive from Fresno to Coos Bay (with a shopping stop at Costco in Medford Oregon).

Nick read more than two books during the drive time -

We drove right by Mt. Shasta - nice...

We had a great time visiting, cooking, eating, watching the rain, and chillaxin. Tracy's sister's husband (Gordon) manages an ATV rental store. On Saturday we all went to the store, geared-up and went ridin'.

Here's Heather, Joey and Nick gettin' geared-up!

Tracy was ridin'

Heather was ridin'

We were all ridin'!!

It was a pretty nice day -

On the way back, the caravan stopped at Mt. Shasta for a group pic -

One day we went out for a little excursion while is was all stormy. We ended up at the end of the road, and jumped out to take a few pics. I've discovered this new photography thing called 'High Dynamic Range'. It's a techy thing you do with your pictures, while taking them, then during the digital editing part of the process. Here's two shots from that day where I did the HDR thing -

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It Never Rains in California

It's supposed to rain in California - for the next week. That will be different. Some are even saying it may rain for 2 or 3 weeks. It will be interesting to see if they are right. It's 1:51 PM, Sunday afternoon, and indeed, it is raining! Here's a recent radar image -

If you're interested in learning more - here's what Samuel Y. Johnson of the Pacific Science Center has to say -

Currently, the strong El Nino is reaching its peak in the Eastern Pacific, and now finally appears to be exerting an influence on our weather. The strong jet has been apparent for quite some time out over the open water, but the persistent block had prevented it from reaching the coast. Now that the block has dissolved completely, a 200+ kt jet is barreling towards us. Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state. The jet will itself provide tremendous dynamic lift, in addition to directing numerous disturbances right at the state and supplying them with an ample oceanic moisture source. The jet will be at quite a low latitude over much of the Pacific, so these storms will be quite cold, at least initially. Very heavy rainfall and strong to potentially very strong winds will impact the lower elevations beginning late Sunday and continuing through at least the following Sunday. This will be the case for the entire state, from (and south of) the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon. Above 3000-4000 feet, precipitation will be all snow, and since temperatures will be unusually cold for a precipitation event of this magnitude, a truly prodigious amount of snowfall is likely to occur in the mountains, possibly measured in the tens of feet in the Sierra after it's all said and done. But there's a big and rather threatening caveat to that (discussed below).Individual storm events are going to be hard to time for at least few more days, since this jet is just about as powerful as they come (on this planet, anyway). Between this Sunday and the following Sunday, I expect categorical statewide rainfall totals in excess of 3-4 inches. That is likely to be a huge underestimate for most areas. Much of NorCal is likely to see 5-10 inches in the lowlands, with 10-20 inches in orographically-favored areas. Most of SoCal will see 3-6 inches at lower elevations, with perhaps triple that amount in favored areas.
This is where things get even more interesting, though. The models are virtually unanimous in "reloading" the powerful jet stream and forming an additional persistent kink 2000-3000 miles to our southwest after next Sunday. This is a truly ominous pattern, because it implies the potential for a strong Pineapple-type connection to develop. Indeed, the 12z GFS now shows copious warm rains falling between days 12 and 16 across the entire state. Normally, such as scenario out beyond day seven would be dubious at best. Since the models are in such truly remarkable agreement, however, and because of the extremely high potential impact of such an event, it's worth mentioning now. Since there will be a massive volume of freshly-fallen snow (even at relatively low elevations between 3000-5000 feet), even a moderately warm storm event would cause very serious flooding. This situation will have to monitored closely. Even if the tropical connection does not develop, expected rains in the coming 7-10 days will likely be sufficient to cause flooding in and of themselves (even in spite of dry antecedent conditions).

In addition to very heavy precipitation, powerful winds may result from very steep pressure gradients associated with the large and deep low pressure centers expect ed to begin approaching the coast by early next week. Though it's not clear at the moment just how powerful these winds may be, there is certainly the potential for a widespread damaging wind event at some point, and the high Sierra peaks are likely to see gusts in the 100-200 mph range (since the 200kt jet at 200-300 mb will essentially run directly into the mountains at some point). The details of this will have to be hashed out as the event(s) draw closer.
In short, the next 2-3 weeks (at least) are likely to be more active across California than any other 2-3 week period in recent memory. The potential exists for a dangerous flood scenario to arise at some point during this interval, especially with the possibility of a heavy rain-on-snow event during late week 2. In some parts of Southern California, a whole season's worth of rain could fall over the course of 5-10 days. This is likely to be a rather memorable event. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park

Tracy and I had a little 'get-away' trip the week before Thanksgiving. We drove into Yosemite via Mariposa on Highway 140. It's been a long time since either of us has driven in through the El Portal entrance station. It's a beautiful drive. There was still a little Fall color, and we had the Park to ourselves!

El Capitan was still there! They're just getting ready to decorate it for Christmas.

There was just a little bitty dribble of water trickling over the edge of Yosemite Falls.

We hiked around The Valley and enjoyed the views. We had lunch in the Cafeteria at the Yosemite Lodge. Then we hiked up to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls.

Then we drove to the Wawona Hotel and checked-in to our dinky little room. This picture pretty much shows the entire room. We thought we would try a room without a bath this year. It wasn't too bad (it cost a lot less). There wasn't anyone there, so we had the 'shared bathrooms' all to ourselves whenever we showered, etc.

It's a grand old hotel that was built in 1879. There's a lot of history to enjoy if you're into that stuff.

On Thursday morning we hiked around the meadow Loop trail. In the afternoon, I hiked up the Chilnualna Falls trail. It didn't take long to find some very pretty scenery.

At the end of Chilnualna Fall Road was this little mountain cabin. Wouldn't you love to live there!?!