Thursday, August 31, 2006

Marmots, & Slugs, & Orcas.. . Oh My!

Marmots, & Orcas, & Slugs, Oh My!
  • Just got back from a trip to Washington State & Seattle! Got to do some fantastic hiking at Mt. Rainier National Park & Olympic National Park. Also went on a whale watch out of Port Townsend, Washington through the Puget Sound & to the San Juan islands. During our time hiking & boating we encountered some curious new critters. Here are a few facts I learned:
  • Marmots, (also called groundhogs or woodchucks) are the largest of the squirrel family. Marmots are kind of cute (for a rodent), and basically lie around on rocks sunning themselves & chewing vegetation all day. They make a loud, shrill whistling sound (which we did not have the pleasure of experiencing).
  • Orca whales can live to be over 90 years old! There was an orca whale born in 1910 in one of the pods we saw. Orcas are also matriarchal. Adult males will stay with their mommies, aunties, sisters, & grammies their whole life. Some orca whales (like the ones in the Puget Sound) only eat fish like salmon. They do not hunt seals or sea lions.
  • Banana Slugs are found in the Hoh temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park. They are bright yellow of course. Banana slugs have a large breathing hole & delicate antennae with knobby eyes at the end. ((Aside: Over a beer at the airport a woman from Portland told me that for fun kids in Oregon & Washington lick banana slugs on a dare. Apparently banana slugs have a toxic chemical on their skin that makes your tongue numb hmmm!! ))

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa
Have you ever wondered: Why is the image of the Mona Lisa so intriguing? Why is her image plastered upon everything from underwear to hang-bags?
>Is she just a good-looking lady??
>Did Leonardo just have a poor trademark lawyer??
> Is she Jesus in disguise??
Some of the reasons for the Mona Lisa’s fame are straightforward & factual:
1. Indeed the Mona Lisa was painted by a world-famous artist (even more so now because of that Da Vinci Code )
2. The Mona Lisa
was stolen in 1911 & but later returned in 1913. (notoriety always gains attention).3. The Mona Lisa hangs in one of the most famous museums in the world (you even have to wait in line under a glass pyramid for a couple of hours to get in).

Still, something about this painting captures the human imagination. No other painting has been reproduced, parodied, and placed upon more human paraphernalia. ((Despite sappy ballads & ear slicing, it even beats Van Gogh’s ‘Starry, Starry Night.’))
Several folks have put forth their theories about the Mona Lisa’s 'enigmatic smile.' 1.The Scientific Theory: the Mona Lisa’s smile is captivating because the human eye naturally focuses its gaze upon the Mona Lisa’s eyes, whereupon her smile falls in the ‘less accurate peripheral vision.’ Shadows on the Mona Lisa’s cheekbone make her look like she is smiling. But when the eye actually focuses on her mouth she's not smiling! 2. The Ridiculous Theory: the Mona Lisa’s smile actually reveals her secret: she is pregnant by Leonardo!! (No wait, he was gay) 3. The Sexy Theory: The Mona Lisa is actually Leonardo himself in drag. He originally had a model, but she got pissed off and left. He had to use his own self-portrait to finish the painting! (suggested by digital imagining analysis) Hence this androgynous combination makes for an intriguing picture that neither women nor men can resist staring at. 4. The Mathematical Theory: Leonardo used the 'golden ratio' when he painted the Mona Lisa. This geometric ratio of perfection -- also used in the Parthenon—attracts the human eye & inspires the perception of beauty. We can’t keep our eyes off her! 5. The Queer Theory: The Mona Lisa was a lesbian, and is simply revealing that knowing smile.
Below are two versions of the Mona Lisa, including my own: Mona Harold. (Note that Harold has no eyebrows, unlike Hillary)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Baxter State Park- Maine

Baxter State Park, ME- a Gem of the Northeast

Just spent Monday thru Saturday at Baxter State Park in Maine. I’ve only been there once before & only as a day hiker. This park--- a gift to the people of Maine from former Gov. Percival Baxter—is a gem. We-18 of us – camped at the Nesowadnehunk group site, located off the Park Tote Road. Day one (Tuesday) we hiked up the Sentinel Mountain trail from Kidney Pond. This mountaintop gave us a spectacular view of Kidney & Daicey Ponds below, and the mountain range to our North. It was sunny day, with beautiful white clouds, and fairly warm. We walked along a loop atop Sentinel Mtn. which gave views of all the peaks, rivers, & ponds around. That afternoon we went swimming at Ledge Falls. Tuesday night was cold in camp (36 F) with a full moon & howling coyotes to boot.

Day two (Wed.) was our water-sports day. Four of us went to Kidney Pond and rented canoes. We experienced a leisurely paddle around the pond, ate some lunch, & went swimming. We saw frogs, fish, and an uprooted tree with spooky, gnarly roots. Again it was a beautiful sunny day, & we had great views of the mountain peaks around. Afterwards we hung around the Kidney Pond library, did some reading & chatting.

On Thurs. we (3 of us) had an easier day. We went along the Appalachian Trail from Daicey Pond to Big Niagara Falls. Not exactly “Niagara Fall” but still a fantastic series of waterfalls along the Nesowadnehunk Stream. This former logging stream runs along into the Penobscot River.

On Friday I joined one other camper to explore the Chimney Pond Trail. We had to leave camp by 5:30 a.m. to get to the Tongue Pond Gate, & to get into the Roaring Brook parking lot. Luckily, we made it, as it was Friday & the forecast called for rain .We geared up then headed up the Chimney Pond Trail. This trail was rocky, but not too steep, & ran along the Roaring Brook. We took our time, reaching Chimney Pond before lunchtime. Chimney Pond is a serene spot situated in the South Basin. As we sat we viewed Katahdin-- Baxter Peak, the Knife’s Edge, Pamola Peak, and the Cathedral Domes-- looming up in front of us. Clouds, both white and some ominous, rolled up above us. The wind was strong, & it was cold, yet still we could see hardy hikers edging their way along the Knife’s Edge.

After lunch we went back down the Chimney Pond Trail and took the North Basin Trail to the left. This rocky, steep trail led up to the Blueberry Knoll, an open area with low bushes and wild blueberries (deliciously tart). On our left was a view of the North Basin. On our right was Turner Mtn., & an expansive valley below. It was quite awesome to see clouds and blue sky for miles! We spent some time taking photos.

As we headed back down the Chimney Pond Trail, we took a few detours to stop and rest at the Basin Ponds. The descent made for a few sore knees & ankles. At one point we were treated to hailstones in August—for 10 minutes or so—by a passing, dark rain cloud.

When we returned to camp on Friday afternoon, we traded stories & rested. After a short rainstorm, a vibrant, double rainbow formed in the sky! The purple was so deep it looked as if it were glowing. The rainbow lasted long enough to snap more than a few pictures. See below...