Saturday, March 12, 2011

'Green Tunnel' = Hiker Porn! The Appalachian Trail in Five Minutes!

Spotted this very zen video on a friend's facebook posting. No, it's not actually adult-themed aside from simply having some random adults who are doing nothing but hiking. As an avid hiker, I dream of doing the Appalachian Trail some day but if I ever do I figure I will have to train rigorously for at least 6 months prior and I think I'd like to go with a friend or two.

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Metal cutout sign with a silhouette of a dancing deer, advertising a place which sells deerskins, located up over the ridgeline from where I live. I've always been a bit puzzled by advertisements for animal products which portray that animal as being happy or downright joyful, as if it is glad that you are purchasing something harvested from their carcass. I don't happen to be a vegetarian or PETA activist or anything like that; it's just that this sort of thing seems a bit inappropriate. Still, that doesn't detract from how cool the sign is, was mostly impressed with how clean the lines are and wonder how the maker managed to do this through a quarter inch of plate steel as if cutting paper with an exacto knife; must have been a very fine metal routing bit, a steady hand and a lot of attention to detail with various metal files.

Pepper and one of his bunny toys. "Baybeh, I think I love you. I know we are different species and all, but this feels so right!"

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Vanessa Mae - Happy Valley (aka Reunification Overture)

I am somewhat ambivalent about modern classical arrangements but happen to have discovered the work of Vanessa Mae as of recently. I love her exceptional skill on the violin. Following is one of my favorite pieces.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Foxfire: A Surreal Experience!


I was on a night-time run with my dog on the backroads near my house in early August of 2010 and saw an eerie, greyish-bluish-green glow coming from a spot about 50 yards into the woods. Knowing that area to be too densely wooded and too sloped for camping I was a little weirded out but figured that someone had drunkenly wandered into the woods and maybe passed out with a flashlight or cellphone turned on and I was concerned (people stop on that road frequently to drink or dump trash unfortunately). My dog usually reacts to the presence of another creature or person and he did not even register any sort of acknowledgement of whatever was causing the light. I called toward the light to see if anyone was there, the woods remained stone-silent. At this point the every hair on my body began to stand on end and my pulse started racing. This scared me a lot, having never encountered it before, but my curiousity was just a little bit stronger than my fear. I turned on my flashlight and with a death-grip on my dog's collar started slowly walking into the woods. When I got to the area where I figured the light had been coming from I saw nothing at all, not even a hint of a glow. With my brain and heart both amped up from the fear I did not know what to think. I really didn't want to but figured the best way to get another glimpse of the glow was to douse the flashlight. Upon covering the flashlight with my hand I was both stunned and amazed by what sat directly six feet in front of me: my first ever bioluminescent fungus discovery. I had no idea that this sort of thing occurred in environments other than tropical & temperate zones. Having studied and marveled at it for a few minutes I then ran home as fast as my legs could carry me to grab my camera.

Upon further study I determined that the species of the fungus is probably the immature form of Panellus Stipticus just barely starting to culture in the moist, freshly exposed wood of this fallen birch tree, having not formed true caps yet. It is also one of the species often referred to colloquially as 'Foxfire' but I have yet to confirm this.

Following is a progression of pictures alternating normal flash exposures with the same shots taken in the dark. The only thing different from the pictures was that the glow was more of a pale bluish green and it saturated the wood more thoroughly than in the pictures, the camera apparently only picked up the green spectrum. These are all 15-second exposures with a 2.4 aperture setting, 1600 ISO.

The other amazing thing about this is the very narrow margin of conditions which it requires to actually glow. Temperatures need to be about in the high-30s - high 40s with the humidity, type of wood, level of degradation of the wood as well as the time of year being just right. I feel very fortunate to have seen this.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Better Health

Several years ago one of my former landlords who had recently turned 30 was ruminating about how when one approaches that age in life they start noticing all sorts of aches & pains which weren't there before and weight gain starts creeping in. Having passed that age milestone myself more recently I have to say that he wasn't lying. My pants have been getting tighter again, my digestion has been getting a little problematic and I am a bit more achey. Whether this was due to age or simply the fact that I've been more sedentary than usual this winter is a moot point. It was still enough to make me reevaluate my lifestyle and amp up my activity level.

Having started taking probiotics and probiotic foods such as kefir and upping my intake of yogurt, it is a small lifestyle change which has netted good results. One interesting thing I've read about probiotics such as the cultures in these foods is that they are microscopic competitive excluders and they help to keep the beneficial flora/bacterial cultures balanced in the intestinal tract to enhance digestion as well as keeping yeast-overgrowth in check. Somewhat random side fact: when I worked as a LNA, one of the facilities I was working at used to give patients generous portions of yogurt while they were on strong antibiotics which tended to kill off their digestive flora and cause nasty, yeasty rashes all over as well as diarrhea and in many cases an accompanying clostridium difficile infection. Without getting into further blunt descriptives I'll tell you that the yogurt worked for most folks 90% of the time.

Another habit I've adopted is reducing my intake of coffee and drinking LOTS of tea. I use a 5-gallon soup pot to brew large batches of home-made iced tea, usually consisting of around a 50:50 - 70:30 mix of green tea:black/herbal/oolong tea, sometimes with bergamot & fresh mint thrown in because I have an insane amount of it growing along the stream running by my home. I usually cut it with about a third fruit juice to improve the flavor.

Winters often take a lot out of me and I tend to get really low & depressed during this season. Many folks have told me that I likely suffer from 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' and they may be right. On the good advice of a friend I started taking a vitamin D3 supplement during the winter months and what an incredible difference that has made! I still get a bit low once in a while but it is far less dramatic than in past winters and I am usually able to snap out of it pretty quickly with a short hike or excursion in the woods.

Speaking of which, lately I've also been forcing myself to get out and do more things outdoors. My friend Mark G. and I have been going out on lots of snowshoeing & cross-country skiing excursions in the hills and mountains in my area. Both activities are a great full-body workout and the natural world around here has been stunningly picturesque with fresh-fallen snow covering the trees, which sort of gives the sense that mother nature is napping until springtime, occasionally opening one eye to see what is going on but promptly falling asleep again. When Mark isn't around to go out on one of our crazy hikes I fall back into my usual habit of going out with Pepper & looking for sets of snowshoe or X-C ski tracks to see if the maker of them knows any good trails or sights which we've not yet been made aware of. This is how I have found some of my best hiking trails.

Another trick I've used to stay in better shape this year: when harvesting firewood last Spring I intentionally left half of the log chunks unsplit to ensure that I would stay physically active via the lugging & chopping in wintertime. Have you ever heard that old colloquialism stating that ,"Wood heats you twice, keeps you warm when you are chopping it and again when you feed it to the stove."? It's not bullshit.

With these lifestyle changes I feel considerably better than I did months ago, am in better shape than I was all of last year and the digestion issues went away. Despite numerous friends and coworkers being taken out for days at a time with various contagious illnesses over the last few months I've only gotten the sniffles a couple times. It would also seem that my lactose-intolerance has almost completely disappeared, ostensibly due to the cultures in the kefir and yogurt staying resident in my system. I'm more alert, energetic, less caffeine-dependent and my pants fit normally again. Big blessings are lovely but the small ones are what currently puts spice in my life and keeps me in good spirits.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Highest Tide

My sister gave me this novel by Jim Lynch a few months ago and I hadn't gotten around to cracking the cover until yesterday. After staying up until the wee hours of the morning reading it, as of today I am 9/10ths of the way through; was glued to it from the first chapter. The way that Miles' (main character) head works and how he views life and interacts with his surroundings... it felt like I was reading an account of myself placed in a different living situation. I won't claim to be as brilliant as the main character is portrayed but I was doing pretty much all the same stuff he was into in the book at that age: running around in woods/nature alone most of the time, observing everything, reading about everything I observed in books (later in life on the internet), accidentally memorizing volumes of information which is not of general interest to most people. I won't give away any further details but (as my sister pointed out) I will also tell you that this tale could also be read as something of a modern-day allegory. Review

"Miles O'Malley, 13-year-old insomniac, naturalist, worshipper of Rachel Carson, and dweller on the mud flats of Skookumchuck Bay, at the South end of Puget Sound near Olympia, Washington, is the irresistible center of The Highest Tide. He says, "I learned early on that if you tell people what you see at low tide they'll think you're exaggerating or lying when you're actually just explaining strange and wonderful things as clearly as you can" and "People usually take decades to sort out their view of the universe, if they bother to sort at all. I did my sorting during one freakish summer in which I was ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine."
And what a summer he has! Miles, who is licensed to collect marine specimens for money, slips into his kayak late one night when he can't sleep and begins his exploratory rounds. What he sees is not the usual collectibles. He hears a deep exhale, a sound of release, and comes eye to eye with a giant squid. But, there are no giant squid in Puget Sound or anywhere around it--and when they are seen by humans, they are always dead. His discovery is confirmed by Professor Kramer, a local biologist and Miles's friend. Television cameras arrive, everyone wants to interview this small-for-his-age but very smart boy and the events of the summer begin to unfold.
Jim Lynch has an ability to tell a tale that glows on every page. He knows everything that lives in or near the water by name and habit. This knowledge and his sense of wonder at the natural world brings the reader very close to his story, both in its setting and its characters. One early morning Miles says, "...the water was so clear I could see coon-stripe shrimp ... and the bottomless bed of white clam shells ... Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light." Such insights are perfectly natural coming from Miles, whose interests are not garden-variety. He has a mad crush on the mixed-up 18-year-old girl next door, a randy age-mate named Phelps, and a deep friendship with Florence, the elderly woman his mother refers to as "a crazy witch." Florence is a psychic of sorts and her powers come into play when she predicts an extremely high tide on a certain day.
All of these relationships and what is happening between Miles's parents are part of this event-filled, life-changing summer. Early on, Miles says off the top of his head, when asked by a TV reporter why a deep-sea creature has found its way to his front yard, "Maybe the earth is trying to tell us something." What the earth and the sea and the people in Miles's life are all trying to tell him is what he susses out in the days that follow--before that high tide.
This absolutely luminous first novel has all the earmarks of a classic. The Highest Tide is destined to be read, re-read, and to remain on bookshelves for the enjoyment of generations to come. --Valerie Ryan"