What to think and feel about Devils Tower

  • Post category:Travel

When I was twelve I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind in a theater and I was amazed by the spaceships and by the musical tones and light display at the end. I was amazed as well afterwards when I discovered that weird rocky tower where the aliens meet with the humans was a real place. It rises out of the landscape rather suddenly, a nearly thousand foot column of hardened lava so different from the surrounding sandstone. Its origins are uncertain. Like all famous national parks and monuments it is overwhelmed by tourists. There are two trails circling the tower, the inside one paved the outside one along…

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Trackers Caught Tracking

  • Post category:Technology

Apple updated my Safari browser today with a feature that not only blocks trackers--the software from companies that, invisible to you, monitor your activity on the web, following you as you move from site to site--but also tells which sites have which trackers. I tried a few government agencies. I tried a few news sites. I tried both Trump's and Biden's official campaign sites. My god.

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Shell’s Secret

  • Post category:Travel

When we came down out of the mountains in July of 2004 we had no real idea of where we were. This was before the iPhone and navigation systems in cars. We were traveling across country, moving from the Washington, D.C. area to California, my wife and our two grade school age daughters, and we came into tiny Shell, Wyoming, to stop for snacks and pop, as we still called it then. Though it was over sixteen years ago I still remember Dirty Annie's Country Store and the "singing cowboy" inside. I thought of him as a singing cowboy only because of his outfit--a sky blue western dress shirt and…

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Books On My Desk: Klett, Parks, and Aufuldish

  • Post category:Art / Books

It's possible to have too many books, especially art books. I've got shelves full of them, piles on the floor crowding the furniture. Every so often I swear I'm going to stop buying art books then I do and then I don't. I do--I'll go a month or two without buying. But then I don't--they start sneaking in the house, a few laying on my living room table, a few in the family room, a few in my office, dispersed throughout the house to disguise their number. It's not a collection. My books, aside from being largely books on photography, do not cluster around any certain subject or period. It…

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Seventeen Views of Yellowstone

  • Post category:Travel

One family went all out and each of them, dad, mom, and two kids, wore full on industrial painting masks, black rubber face part with two large filter cartridges, looking like something from Word War I. They wore these as they walked the boardwalks around the geyser basins. You could only see their eyes and the parents' eyes looked out wide open, terrified.

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Fleeing the Flow

  • Post category:Travel

It could be worse. A few thousand years ago lava splashed and bubbled up out of the ground in what is now Idaho and spread out over six hundred and eighteen square miles. One single lava flow running about thirty miles long.

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At Dead Indian Pass

  • Post category:Travel

I pull off at an overlook in the mountains of northern Wyoming, my wife and youngest daughter in my FJ Cruiser, my oldest daughter and her boyfriend pulling in ahead of me in their Honda Element. As we are standing, stretching, starting to move toward the overlook and toward the informational signs arrayed the the edge I glance over at the truck across the parking space from us. A big Chevy, pulling a horse trailer. The hood is up and three women, one about forty, the other two older, are gathered around the engine on the far side, one reaching into the engine, unscrewing something. Before I have time to…

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All Fossils Have A Story

  • Post category:Travel

A first visit to the John Day Fossil Beds, in the dried out hills in eastern Oregon, is a surprise, the hills of banded red and yellow and black, pulp science fiction book covers made real. But another surprise awaits in these hills. The area is heavy with fossils and a common one is a tree, a redwood. Here in California we are familiar with the coast redwood (just called "redwood") and the giant sequoia (just called "sequoia"). This fossil species is the dawn redwood. Fossil photographs by Karl Volkman (Kevmin) via WikiMedia Commons All fossils have a story but the story of the dawn redwood--Metasequoia--is special. Up until 1941…

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Climate Change In Color at the John Day Fossil Beds

  • Post category:Travel

When people think of Oregon they tend to think of rain, a sort of never-ending rain, over forty inches a year on average. But eastern Oregon is all but a desert, receiving a third of Portland's average, and some of Oregon really is a desert, with less than ten inches of rainfall a year. This low level of rainfall exposes the ground and the ground can tell its story, the story of rains from the distant past. The red is from a time when the hills here were warm and wet, as wet as Portland is now, and volcanic ash fell from the sky, brining with it all that iron.…

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Crater Lake Blue

  • Post category:Travel

A chemist, Mas Subramanian, and his grad student at the Oregon State University discovered a new blue pigment, similar to ultramarine but more stable. There are not many blue pigments out there--the last one discovered, Cobalt Blue, was discovered in 1802, although impure forms had been used long before. The name of the new pigment, YInMn Blue, is as ugly as the new blue is beautiful. Crayola's name for its kid-safe version of the new pigment--Bluetiful--causes me to cringe, just a bit. But to see a blue, a preternaturally blue blue, is one of life's special experiences. You can't see it on a screen because screens have limitations. You can't…

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