Friday, July 20, 2012

Miscellaneous: Another Shocking Gun Incident? (July 20, 2012)

Breaking news. July 19, 2012. Colorado gunman kills 12, wounds scores at Batman premiere. Nation shocked.

Nation shocked?

Really? I doubt it. Is this news depressing? Yes. Tragic? Yes. But will the Batman shooting really surprise anyone?

It doesn't surprise me that we've just suffered yet another mass shooting. It won't surprise me when those opposed to our moronic gun laws hope hopelessly yet again that this incident may lend momentum to their cause. It won't surprise me when the gun advocates bridle and moan and say in response that we need more firearms in the hands of more people--more guns so that a prepared and vigilant hero can stop cold the next rogue abuser of guns (remember, it is people that kill, not guns)--by slaying him before he can slay others. But where are these heroes? Where were they last night? They seem as real to me as the superheroes so popular in the movies today. They seem as real to me as Batman.

What's new?

[Update: August 5, 2012. It's been only a little more than a month since I wrote this. In that time, we've had another mass killing--at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, six dead. Shocked?]

[Update: Brookfield, Wisconsin, October 21, 2012. Four dead. No heroes to be found. Shocked?]

[Update: Portland, Oregon, December 11, 2012. Three dead at shopping mall, including shooter armed with automatic weapon. Shocked?]

[Update: Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. Gunman opens fire at elementary school, killing 20 children and six staff members and himself. Maybe this one really will shock us into some kind of action. It won't have been soon enough.]

[Update: Shooter in Blair, County, Pennsylvania, near Altoona, December 21, 2012, kills three on a rural road. The shooter is killed by state troopers. At least five others wounded. Shocked?]

[Update: Shooter in Webster, New York, December 23, 2012, shoots and kills two firefighters and wounds two others after apparently setting fires to lure his victims in. Shocked?]

[Update: January 20, 2013--Gunman in Albequerque, New Mexico kills five with an AR-15, the same gun used to kill 27 in Newtown, Connecticut. Shocked? Happy New Year.]

And on, and on, and on.....

On the Road: Lassen Volcano National Park to Sacramento (July 19-20, 2012)

A very successful day, yesterday. I returned in the morning to Lassen Volcano National Park, to the area around the entrance in the northwest corner of the park, and took a couple of short hikes from there--one through lily ponds, another around Lake Manzanita, a flat oval of blue surrounded, as its name suggests, by manzanitas, but also by towering evergreens. I had hoped to see White-headed Woodpecker, a bird I've never had the pleasure of meeting, and one described in the national park handouts as "common," but I had no luck with the woodpeckers. Mostly I saw Mountain Chickadees, Steller's Jays, and Canada Geese on the lake. I did, however, get to watch a Western Wood Pewee flycatching over one of the lily ponds, a pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers feeding a fledgeling, and a Coot with two babies with their bizarre red and yellow whiskers--something I've never seen before. So, the day started with a pleasant walk, despite the absence of White-headed Woodpeckers.

What made the day so successful, was my spur-of-the moment decision to head toward Sacramento. As I entered the city, I happened to see a sign pointing the way to the Crocker Art Museum. I was in no hurry. I like art museums. I decided to follow the signs.

Good fortune. I found a parking space immediately in front of the galleries. Thursday, the museum stays open late, until 9:00PM. With good summer weather and long days, the museum invites musicians for outdoor concerts on these late evenings. The museum café looked good. So, I took a leisurely stroll through the exhibits, had a light dinner of pulled pork tacos and amber ale in the café and then finished my ale out in the museum's courtyard, lazing on the grass, listening to the music, watching people dance. Excellent Latin-flavored jazz by the Gonzalo Berger Quartet. Serendipity.

The Crocker Art Museum has a good collection, strong in arts of Africa and Oceania, in contemporary glass and ceramics, and in 19th and 20th century California artists. A recent addition (completed in October 2010) has created a very large display area. Special exhibits included ceramics by Karen Karnes, photographs from the museum's collection, contemporary glass from the museum collections, and paintings by Mel Ramos. Details here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On the Road: Lassen Volcano National Park (July 18, 2012)

After finishing work this morning, I headed north and west from the Lake Tahoe area with the vague notion of seeing something near Mt. Shasta--although I'm sot entirely sure what--birds probably. I headed for Lassen Volcano National Park, which turned out to be quite beautiful. It appears to be an area worth spending some time exploring. Some of the roads had the stink of sulfur. I saw active, steamy vents here and there, and in the background is Mount Lassen and many other volcanic cones in various degrees of eroded decrepitude.

As a child, I remember being shown a large rock in Central Park (I lived in New York at the time--I was born in Manhattan) that was explained to me as a glacial anomaly--that is, a rock of very different composition or age from the surrounding rocks that had been brought along from somewhere far away, entrapped in ice, and then abandoned by the glacier that had shepherded it as the glacial ice melted away, a kind of orphan. I remember seeing other rocks in the park that showed signs of glacial scarring--linear grooves caused by small rocks embedded in ice being dragged over the surface of other rocks. Both left an impression on me (no pun intended). I'm always pleased to see examples of these two phenomena. I got to see both today in the park.

I stayed in Anderson, California, about 10 miles south of Redding. The hotel was clean and attractive. The adjoining restaurant looked promising, but I'd describe the food as ambitiously conceived, clumsily executed. A berry-flavored gazpacho was interesting, but ultimately not very successful. I enjoyed my panko-encrusted fried green tomatoes best. Tomorrow I hope to get up early and go back to an area in the National Park that looked good for birding.

On the Road: Roadside Oddities (July 18, 2012)

On a short trip north from the San Francisco Bay area, I've mostly been working, stuck at coffee shops with my laptop computer, but yesterday I passed a couple of roadside oddities that caught my eye. Each turned out to be worth a small detour.

Brown signs along California's highways alerting drivers to the presence of a point of historical interest are not uncommon. I find them frustrating, though, because they are small and, at highway speeds, it's hard to read them--hard to know if they mark something worth stopping for. More often than not, I have driven past by the time I figure out what a sign is referring to, but I caught the words "Thompson's Seedless" on a marker outside of Marysville, yesterday, which I thought might be worth a look and I managed to pull over by the marker. It seems that the Thompson's Seedless grape got its commercial start near Marysville, California from, as the marker indicates, cuttings ordered in 1872 from New York by one William Thompson, an Englishman. The variety was originally known as Lady de Coverly--which makes me wonder what the grape's history was in New York before it got to California. Hmmm..... Every answer seems to pose another question.

Not far from Truckee, later in the day, I saw a marker that said something about the Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental highway. A turnout along what is now I-80 preserves a strip of road that was part of Highway 40 before that road was moved slightly and widened to become I-80. Highway 40 followed the path of the Lincoln Highway. A bridge somewhere along the highway nearby was decorated on a whim by a local creative mind with fancy barriers of concrete that spell out "Lincoln" on one side and "Highway"on the other. These impressed someone in authority so much that a plan was hatched to add identical barriers on every bridge along the route, from coast to coast. Apparently, it was an idea that never gained traction. According to a blurb at the site I visited, only one other bridge was ever so adorned--somewhere in Iowa. When Highway 40 became I-80, the original pair of barriers was moved for display to the roadside location I saw.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Miscellaneous: A Dissatisfied Customer (July 16, 2012)

I pulled up behind this vehicle at a traffic light last year. At first I didn't notice anything unusual (do you?), but then I looked at the lettering on the right-hand side of the rear end. This car has so displeased its owner that he's gone to the trouble of creating a badge for it that declares it a "shitbox." I had to laugh. I had my camera handy, which allowed me to record this little gesture of disgust. I had lost the photo and assumed it deleted, but I found it today by accident while going though unrelated photos on my computer, allowing me to share it. (The license plate number has been altered to protect the identity of the owner--the "shitbox" badge is real.)
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