Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (July 2013): Signs

And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Huh! Me workin' for you!"

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

lyrics as recorded by The Five Man Electrical Band in 1971

As you can see, this month's five photo blog theme was signs.  No standard signs to show you today, but I think you'll enjoy my signs.

1.  Summer meals
Summer meals tend to be not as heavy for some reason.  Although this summer, thus far, hasn't been a real scorcher, the normal heat that becomes quite pervasive in the summertime doesn't make anyone want to cook in the kitchen for very long.  If you do have hot meals, they tend to be barbecues.  Still, my daughter made this very tasty dinner with turkey bacon, basil, beef steak tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and Italian spices.  The meal was definitely a sign that we were in the middle of summer.

2.  4th of July
I think this is an obvious sign for most of us who live in the United States.  When we think of fireworks, we think of 4th of July celebrations and the beginning of our country as an independent sovereign nation, no longer bound to the whim of King George III.  For the most part, fireworks are a sign of some kind of celebration.  We celebrate the birth of our nation.  Disneyland shoots off fireworks nightly during the summer, celebrating the longer hours that guest can enjoy the park.  Baseball stadiums shoot off fireworks after home runs and winning games.  I can remember one game we went to where there were so many homeruns hit by the home team that we were left wondering if there would be anything left for the end of the game.

3.  Camping trip
Right after the 4th of July, my three children and I went on a camping trip.  This was the first time all three of them had gone camping with me in 12 years.  Usually, it has just been the youngest (the tall one in the middle) who has gone camping with me over the last couple of years.  When, they were younger, it was very important to keep them busy, lest they become bored.  I pretty much had every minute scripted out as to what we were going to do.  Since my wife doesn't camp, it was me with three small children, so keeping track of them and making sure they were safe was a big priority.  

I took this shot mainly because I think it represents a very relaxed attitude of all three of them and myself as they have grown into adulthood.  My daughter graduated from grad school this year with a masters in education and will be teaching 4th grade next year.  My son graduated from college with a degree in Environmental Studies and is starting to put feelers out into the job market for some kind of environmental job.  My youngest graduated from high school and will be going away to college to study physics in the fall.  This photo is definitely a sign that we will soon have an empty nest.

4.  Summer work projects
If there is one truism about owning a home, it is definitely that a homeowner's work is never done.  The green fiberglass panels of this fence in between our garage and main house had seen better days and when the one panel fell out of its tracks and several others were threatening to also fall out, we figured that it was a sign that we needed to do something about it.  

While my daughter was still here, we went to the hardware store and picked out all of the pieces of wood that we needed to change the fence.  After she left, my older son got me off of my butt and outside and we built the fence in about six hours.  I was extremely grateful for his help.  By myself, this project would have taken several days, lots of sweat and swear words.  We still need to finish up the gate, but that will come in the next couple of weeks.

5.  Back to school
When I was a kid, school ended the second week of June and didn't resume again until after Labor Day.  That was also true when I started teaching school 30 years ago.  Times have changed, but one thing still remains a constant - sometime during the summer, I receive a letter from my principal hoping that I'm having a good summer.  This letter is the sign that summer really is coming to an end and I will be back at work shortly.  In this case, tomorrow I go back to work for teacher meetings and computer training.  Monday, my students will show up, and I will start my 31st year of teaching, 30th at my current school, Cucamonga Middle School.

And on a side note, a couple of weeks after I start, my daughter will start her first year of teaching and begin the cycle anew for our family.  She will be a fifth generation teacher in our family, stretching back to the late 1890s.  She is poised to follow in the footsteps of both her mother and father, her grandfather, 2 of her great grandparents, and a great great aunt who taught in a one room school house in rural Indiana back in 1897.

So there you have it.  My signs for the month of July.  And here's the link back to P.J.'s blog so you can see the other's signs.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's puzzling

Tomorrow, several of my friends and I are going to geocache.  That's not exactly news in itself, since I do geocache quite frequently, but what we're attempting to do tomorrow is find at least 100 puzzle/unknown type of caches.

With 171 puzzle caches on the map at right, we're trying to figure out what would be the optimal route to take to minimize the amount of time in between caches.  Hopefully, we'll accomplish this goal before it gets too late in the day.  We start at 5 tomorrow morning.  Wish us luck.  And, yes I know, I'm a geek, but that's OK.  It's fun.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

That's a lot of people

This is not a article I would usually write, but I stumbled across a website today that had some pretty sobering statistics.  According to this site, I was the 2,909,470,267th person alive when I was born and the 76,444,994,032nd person to have lived since history began.  In my mind, those are staggering numbers.  Think of all the people that have ever been on this earth and 1 in 15 are alive right now.  Between the time I was born and my daughter, my first born, was born, 3.7 trillion people were born, including my three sisters and my wife.

Since I was born the population of the planet has more than doubled with the population surpassing 7 billion people in October 2011.  If that trend continues, the population of the earth will pass 8 billion in the year 2025 and it could conceivably triple since I was born by the year 2043. With good health, I think I have a reasonable chance of still being alive then and 9 billion people on the planet sounds like just an enormous amount of people. 

With the strain from this many people, resources, such as food, water and fuel will become increasingly scarce.  Based on the consumption of resources and the population increased, sometime during the 2030s, the UN estimates that we will need the equivalent of two earths in order to support all of the people in it.  Of course a lot can change between now and then.

Clearly, this can't happen since we only have one earth.  But technology could bail us out.  200 years ago, 97% of people in the United States lived and worked on farms supplying the needs of the entire country.  Today, only about 3% of our population lives and works on farms and those farms supply most of the food for the world.  Somewhere down the road, there has to be a limit to the amount of food that can be produced.  What it is, we don't know yet.  Perhaps we've already hit the limit.  That food will be a limiting factor on the population of the planet is a foregone conclusion.  Fresh, clean, drinkable water will be the other main limiting factor.

I do not know what the answers to these problems will be and of other problems that plague this planet, but it seems as if we need to work together.  I'm concerned about the future of number 80,198,082,265, number 80,520,546,297 and number 81,067,205,912.  How we react to this in the future will probably be our legacy to not only our children but our grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond.  What numbers are you concerned about?  And consider this.  In the time it took you to read this short article, the earth's population increased by slightly more than 1000 people.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Falcon

I have always been fascinated by birds.  In reality, what's not to be fascinated about?  They come in a variety of sizes and can fly!  Insects and bats can fly, but for the most part, most of them aren't nearly as colorful as birds.  And I can honestly say, that like probably most of us, if given the chance to be any other animal on this planet, I'd choose to be a large bird that could soar the sky.  The ability to fly would be awesome.

While walking on the beach at San Simeon State Beach this week, we spotted this large raptor sitting on a fence up on the bluff overlooking the ocean.  At first I thought it was a hawk, perhaps the standard red tail which we see all over the place over here, but it was just posing up there, so I took several shots.  When I got home I realized the beak was shorter than a hawk's bill and that this bird was probably some kind of falcon.

The bird book I have, based upon the descriptions and the photo I took indicates this is a Peregrine Falcon, the fastest bird on the planet.  I can now add another bird to my life list of birds I've seen in the wild.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Camping trip

Those of you who know me fairly well, know that I enjoy camping and usually end up taking at least one camping trip every summer.  Last year, we went to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  This year, we plan to revisit San Simeon State Beach and Hearst Castle and then later on in the week, we'll travel up to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We've been to both, but the kids were fairly young when they visited Hearst Castle, so it'll be neat to visit it again.  My youngest and I were at Lassen three years ago, but the older two have never been there so it's new to them.

For those of you who have never been to Hearst Castle, I have two words for you.  It's amazing.  William Randolph Hearst made his fortune in newspaper, yellow journalism and then used his fortune to amass massive amounts of statuary and pieces of art.  He then housed them all in his "La Cuesta Encantada."  Two pools, one outdoor larger than an Olympic swimming venue and the other indoors, under a tennis court and inlaid with 20 ct. gold are just part of the things that you'll see at the castle.  There are rooms at this place that are larger than your entire house.

We plan on camping just south of the castle at San Simeon State Beach, then taking the main tour the next day.  After then, we'll pull up camp the next day and head to Lassen where we'll camp for the rest of the week.  Lassen is the last volcano in the contiguous United States to have erupted before Mt. St. Helens.  Lassen was very active between 1914 and 1919.  

Our original plan was to spend one of our days hiking to the top of Lassen Peak.  There is an earthcache (geology related) located at the top of the peak.  Three years ago when we were there, we were blocked by tons and tons of snow.  I've noticed several people have logged the cache last month so the trail was open.  Yep.  The key word in that was sentence is the word was.

We'll be getting to the park on Tuesday.  The park is closing the trail down for about 6 weeks for needed trail work beginning Monday.  We missed it by a matter of days.  Fortunately, there's plenty of other things to do there, so I doubt we'll have a lot of free time on our hands, but it was a little disappointing to have worked toward getting to the top only to miss out by a matter of days.  We'll have to satisfy ourselves with other hikes in the park.  Either way, it should be a lot of fun.

We will eat s'mores, take photos of ourselves in front of the entrance signs to the park and document our campsites like we have done every year with just a couple of exceptions.  The campsite shot here is our campsite in Mill Creek Campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  It was a very secluded spot, one of the best campsites I've camped in over the course of my many years.  There was actually a small staircase leading up to the site itself.  If we get campsites as nice as this in this upcoming week, we'll be doing well.

I shall be offline for the better part of the week, but I'll be posting photos of our trip in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Let the harvest begin

I guess you could say I've become a gentleman farmer.  Not really, because I should never be confused for a gentleman in any stretch of the imagination, but I've at least had a pretty good run this year with my fruits and vegetables.  

The tomatoes are coming in rather nicely. One of the two plants growing upside down in the topsy turvy has already yielded several tomatoes that are the sweetest they can be. There are probably a dozen or more tomatoes on the vine all in various stages of ripeness.  

My only complaint thus far of this particular variety is the toughness of the skin.  Store bought tomatoes seem to have soft skin which isn't very chewy.  These tomatoes I'm growing seem to have a tougher skin, more chewy in nature.  I'm wondering if that's particular to the type of tomato I'm growing or the fact that they are being vine ripened as opposed to being picked way early the way store bought tomatoes are.  If anyone has an answer to that one, I'd appreciate it.

As far as the sunflowers go, they've been blooming pretty steadily this week.  If I remember correctly, my first blossom from two years ago showed up on July 1st and the last blossom came around the end of the month.  This pattern should hold true for this year's crop, although they've been blooming for about a week already this year. 

Most of the traditional yellow ones have started to bloom, but I knew that I'd also planted an orange variety and one of them finally bloomed today.  I'm not sure if the photo does the flower justice as it appears to be a more brownish color than it actually looks like in person, but that's the way digital images sometimes work.

All in all, I'd say it's a pretty successful garden this year.  And I haven't even mentioned the nectarine tree that we planted three years ago.  The limbs on that are weighed down with fruit.  I love nectarines.