Hi friends and family,
I am sorry that I haven't been updating this blog lately. The semester has been really hectic and I just haven't had time to do both this one and the slowwatermovement blog. I hope you have had time to check on that one because I HAVE been posting there.
This is the time of year to think about how beautiful, amazing, ridiculous, and ephemeral life is. Go give someone a hug and then go roll in some snow. If you don't have any snow.. well, you can figure something out.
This blog will reappear at some point.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Hi friends and family,
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Sunday, August 08, 2010
While looking through old photos I found that video today.
It is amazing to think how much as changed since then! The transition from California to Vermont was difficult in some ways, but it was very, very needed. Almost all of the last year has been amazing, even the parts that were also rather hard.
I'm going back to Vermont in 6 days. My project in Pittsburgh has been amazing so far, and in some ways I am sad to leave. However, I miss Vermont, and in particular, there are certain people I really miss. There are also new people to meet - including 8 people entering the grad program I am in. These are people I am going to be spending a lot of time with, and if they are anything like other people I have met through this program, they will be amazing.
This last summer has been an important and productive one, though it also had its difficult moments. Summer is actually my least favorite season, although I like it a lot better on the east coast than out west. In coastal California, summer is something to be endured, a hot time, where many years the only water to touch the ground between May and October consists of the welcome, but very sparse, moisture that trees and shrubs condense from fog. It is difficult for much of the season to be able to perceive a transition to better times.
In Pittsburgh, and also in Vermont, summer is more of an arc. Although late summer has its share of hot days and thunderstorms, the air *feels* different... the sun sets a bit earlier (this change a bit less welcome than others), and the animals and plants are just a little more rushed and frantic in preparing for colder times.
Sometimes they overreact, and are a bit too prepared.
This maple is certainly missing out on a lot of warm days in which it could store food for the winter. In all honestly, it is probably sick or drought stressed. Still, it was the first sign of fall in what has been a very long and hot summer.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
My project is going well... it's been an interesting and at times difficult summer - but most of the challenging things have been personal events that didn't have to do with my project. As my time in Pittsburgh nears its end (two weeks left!) I feel that I have a lot of neat ideas and good stuff to work with in the coming year. It's just a matter of organizing it, and next week presenting it to various people here before I go.
Although the nasty heat wave of early July has abated, it still has been hot at times. July was a month without a lot of rain, but with quite a bit of lightning, especially at night. Some of it was quite beautiful, as evidenced by the previous post and by these pictures.
It's been a good summer professionally, even though it was sometimes hard on a personal level. I look forward to applying some of my ideas but also being back home in Vermont with my friends and especially Becca...
Saturday, July 24, 2010
It's been quite hot here. Last night there was a wicked line of thunderstorms to the north that made some really neat lightning but never made it to town.
Tonight there is another similar line of storms, but it is a bit closer and moving a bit faster. Perhaps this one will make it to Pittsburgh. In any event it looks like there will be more lightning to watch out my window.
Watching lightning and drinking a good cold beer is about all one could expect to do on a hot night like this.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
My grandpa led a full life, and made a positive impact on so many family members and friends. He died at a respectable age of 88. My uncle likewise positively touched the lives of many, but he died too soon.
Both of them died of lung cancer. Please don't smoke. There is no way it is worth this.
I was especially heartbroken that my grandpa died before I was able to see him. I got plane tickets immediately when I heard that he was ill... but the cancer was already at an advanced stage and he was not able to fight it off for very long. Over the years I have traveled to many beautiful and amazing places with my grandma and grandpa, and I was sad that I did not get to see him before he left our lives this last time.
I still went to California to see my family. It was not a happy trip, but it was an important one.
On Saturday, an unusual light rain shower passed through downtown.
On Sunday my dad and I went up to our family cabin where we have shared many good times. A few years ago, a fire ripped through the whole area, killing many trees I have 'known' since I was very young, drastically altering the landscape, and almost destroying the cabin.
In some cases the fire was beneficial to the forest but in other cases it burned more hot than it naturally would, due to natural fires in the past being suppressed. There are whole areas of dead forest. There is also rebirth.
The number and variety of flowers is higher than I have ever seen this time of year.
There was also a lot of water. True, it was a snowy winter, but even during wet years I have never seen this much water this late in the year. Many of these creeks usually only run in the spring.
Both death and renewal were around us everywhere we looked. It is amazing to me that such destruction, and so much beauty and rebirth, can happen side by side.
Goodbye, Grandpa... I love you and I sure will miss you.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
I made several posts in the Slow Water blog this last week. I am lazy right now and don't want to repost all three of them so go check them out here.
Last weekend I went to Vermont to visit Becca. We were going to meet half way between Vermont and Pittsburgh but she was feeling sick so I went all the way to Vermont instead. (she is feeling better now.) Although it was a long drive, it was nice to be back in Vermont because I love Vermont!
I stared at the New York Thruway for a long time. Luckily i had a bunch of Car Talk and This Week In Science podcasts to listen to.
Apparently even the gas stations are nice in Vermont (I agree). Another nice thing about Vermont: Billboards aren't allowed, so this billboard was actually on the New York side of the border.
Vermont is so pretty!
This is a weird van from the drive. I thought of spicy barbecued oxygen, or the air that bison breathe. Of course, it was actually just a van from near Buffalo, New York.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The state park is nice! In many ways the forest is similar to the ones I am used to seeing in the Champlain Valley of Vermont - with abundant oaks, maples, and hemlocks and some basswood and black cherry trees tossed in for variety. There were a few reminders that I am further south too, such as a few tulip trees and sycamores (which occur only in far southeastern Vermont) and an rhododendron in the understory.
Black cherries and other deciduous trees! There were also dense hemlock groves but my pictures of them didn't come out very good since it is DARK in there!
Black cherry bark is sometimes referred to as 'burnt potato chips'. This tree is valued by many animals which eat its bitter cherries, and by foresters and furniture makers, who value the beautiful wood in these trees. Black cherries need to grow up in a bit of sun, so their presence here suggests some sort of human or natural disturbance in the past.
This is pale touch-me-not, a relative of jewelweed. This plant likes relatively rich soils, as does the basswood that also grows in the area. Farmers also like rich soils, and most areas surrounding the park that are not very steep are used as farmland.
This is Slippery Rock Creek which flows through this canyon:
The canyon was cut about 140,000 years ago when smaller creeks flowing north were blocked by a glacier, forming a lake that spilled over a ridge. As such, the canyon is much 'younger' than the features around it (the Appalachians are a very ancient mountain range). The steep walls of the canyon are mostly forested, and within the state park.
In this way, the park is like a larger version of Schenley Park and Panther Hollow. There are of course not as many urbanized areas around the state park as around Schenley Park, but most of the flatter areas adjacent to the canyon are agricultural or pasture land, which i suppose is somewhat similar to the golf course and manicured lawns in the flatter parts of Schenley Park.
My favorite part of the park was the poorly-named "Hells Hollow" area. The only thing hellish about the area was the mosquitos - but otherwise it was a beautiful and interesting place.
Hell Run has carved its way into the rock and created a channel which actually looks like a natural version of the concrete channels of the city. It is of course much prettier, but not much absorption or filtration of water happens here!
These ripples are not in sand or silt deposited in the creek, but part of the solid bedrock in the channel! It appears that the bed of this creek is in a fossilized lakeshore or silty riverbed from millions of years ago... I had to actually touch the ripples to believe that they were solid rock.
This is a little spring that has cut its own channel out of the rock. Like all springs, this one gets its water from precipitation that soaks into the ground and/or through cracks in bedrock and is forced out later. This water probably fell as rain or snow months or even years ago. Thinking back to Pittsburgh, one of the consequences of having so much concrete (and not enough rain gardens) is that water is not seeping into springs as much as it used to.
There's also a great waterfall, which is an easy hike from the parking area.
This visit allowed me to get out of the city for a bit and experience a more 'natural' area, but it also reminded me that Pittsburgh also has a similar (though smaller) natural area right in the middle of the city!
More information on the natural history of McConnells Mill State Park is found here.