Learn Something New Everyday!

James Garner (1928-2014)

JamesGarner as JPSeeing the headlines about James Garner’s death yesterday struck me harder than I would have expected.  I have always liked him, but I had not thought of him for years.  I immediately began reading the news accounts to see his age (86) and cause of death (not specific yet, but natural).  Although his career scanned six decades and he was first known on television as Bret Maverick, I think of him first and foremost as James Rockford from The Rockford Files (1974-1980).

rockford filesGarner’s portrayal of Rockford, the private detective, seemed so easy and natural.  This character was the good guy next door or maybe a favorite uncle.  He could take care of himself –and his dad—but preferred to think and talk his way out of problems.  He was kind and thoughtful, but could bend the law if needed and get things done.  He was funny too, in a down-to-earth sort of way. I can still see him storing his gun in the cookie jar and hear his leave-a-message-at-the tone line from the opening credits.

It seems that the qualities presented in the character were shared by the actor as well.  As an actor, Garner did not take himself too seriously, loved his wife, and worked in part to meet his family responsibilities.  He was talented and made acting look easy, but stayed humble even though he won various awards. He stood up for himself, successfully taking studios to court a couple times over the years.  He excelled both in movies and on television and was equally comfortable in dramatic as well as comedic roles.

murphys romancethe notebookGarner himself said he preferred roles that focused on relationships:  “Everyone wants blockbusters. I like to see a few pictures now and then that have to do with people and have relationships, and that’s what I want to do films about.”  Those relationship films of his are the ones I like the best too.  I watched several this weekend!  My favorites include Murphy’s Romance (1985), Space Cowboys (2000), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Maverick (1994), and Victor/Victoria (1982). I even liked Tank (1984), an odd little military-dad-protecting-his-son movie.  I plan to watch some of his earlier films soon as well:  The Children’s Hour (1961), The Great Escape (1963),and The Americanization of Emily (1964).  His last major movie role was The Notebook (2004). 

JamesGarner2Of course, all major news outlets shared the details of his life and career.  He was born in Oklahoma in 1928 as James Scott Bumgarner.  He was part Cherokee on his mother’s side.  She died when he was young, and his home life was not very good after that.  He left home at 16 by joining the Merchant Marines and eventually ended up in in the military, earning two purple hearts.  One of the times he was injured was from friendly fire, but he just figured he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He worked a wide range of jobs before falling into acting. He met his wife in 1956, and they were married two weeks later.  Defying the odds for a Hollywood-couple, they stayed married until his death.

Once he started acting, he stayed with it as long as success kept finding him—and it did. He made acting seem easy, and always stayed professional. Julie Andrews, who starred with him in The Americanization of Emily and Victor/Victoria, described James Garner as “a man’s man, a ladies’ man, a good ol’ boy in the best sense of the word, a curmudgeon (he’ll be the first to tell you).. . and a sweetheart.  I don’t know a lady who isn’t a little bit in love with him.” Gretchen Corbett, his co-star on The Rockford Files, described him this way:  “He’s also a very appealing human being. Both men and women feel safe with him; they feel like they get him.” In his article in the TimesJames Garner: Tribute to a Marvelous Maverick,” Richard Corliss concludes that Garner is an “engaging maverick, that rock of American confidence,” and that seems like an apt description.


Reviewing Garner’s life and films, it is easier to see why his death hit me so hard.  He seems such an American anti-hero, the guy who keeps getting up, who works hard even though trouble finds him.  Plus he was a constant for me through my college years when I traveled to new locations and set out on my own.  He seemed grounded, a family man—even if he did not always have a family.  Like his character in The Great Escape, he seems to do what’s needed “to try to get home.”  Simply put, James Garner was a nice guy who happened to be a great actor.

He will be missed.


Do you have a favorite James Garner movie or television series?

Most of the time the adage “It Takes a Village” is said regarding the effective raising of children.  It references the extended family that steps up to help as needed no matter what the situation.  But in reality that need for others, for community, that need for a village, extends to all of us at all stages of our lives.  Sometimes we are the ones needing help.  Sometimes we are the ones helping out.  Give and take makes the village work.

I was reminded of this fact the other day by a little human interest news item here in my home town of Bakersfield, California.  Well, it is actually not so little.  Bakersfield is the ninth largest city in the state with a population of almost 350,000.  When the larger Bakersfield-Delano area and the surrounding smaller cities are considered, the population grows to almost 840,000. What amazes me about the city—that I was reminded of by this news item—is that Bakersfield is really a small town at heart.  There is a sense of community here.

The news story was nothing fancy.  The opening line gives the basics:  “Today 85-year-old Herbert Jackson got the keys to his newly refurbished home.”  County Code regulations at the beginning of the month condemned the home he lived in since 1960, boarded it up as unsafe and put him on the streets.  Mr. Jackson did not ask for help; it seems that he was going to try to figure out something on his own.

Fortunately, area volunteers decided to help without being asked because it was the right thing to do.  They banded together to bring his home up to code.  In fact, rather than just meeting the minimum standards, the volunteers rebuilt everything from the floor up and even brought in new appliances and furniture.  Mr. Jackson lived with one of the volunteers for the weeks required for the hundreds of hours of work to be completed.  When the house was again ready for him, he was given new keys and moved back home.  Mr. Jackson simply said, “I don’t know what to say, I think I’m going to cry.” He accepted the generosity of strangers, as a member of the village.

Mr. Jackson was not the only one who received something valuable through this interaction.  Those volunteers got something too, besides work.  Since Mr. Jackson graciously accepted their help, the volunteers were able to demonstrate caring and compassion, share in communal experience, and participate in the give and take that holds the village together.

These sorts of actions happen all the time, thank goodness.  When we buy Girl Scout cookies, donate to a charity, put items on the prayer chain at church, bring a casserole to a friend going through a hard time, celebrate someone’s graduation or retirement, we are part of the village.  When we stop to help someone on the road who has car trouble, pull together after a natural disaster, or offer whatever we can to address a problem situation, we are part of the village. When we pay it forward or commit a random act of kindness, we are part of the village.  It is humanity’s give and take.  We give help when we can, so we can graciously take the help when we need it.

This is not the first time that this realization, this need for community, has come to mind.  Not too long after graduating from high school I remember chatting with my mom about giving and accepting help.  We basically concluded that if you do not let people help you, you are diminishing them and their love and concern for you.  It is part of being a caring, responsive, helpful member of the village to accept help as well as give it.

Do you remember Dinah Shore?  Singer in the 1940s who kept singing and hosted television shows in the 1970s?  She even had a relationship with Burt Reynolds that was a bit of a scandal since he was 20 years younger than she was. Mom and I both liked Dinah Shore, and we also liked quotes.  I think it was a Dinah Shore quote that started our conversation way back then:  “Trouble is part of life—if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.”  Mr. Jackson’s story brought this quote and my conversation with mom to mind.

Today, village or community is as important as ever for all of us.  Neighbors. Family—near and far.  Friends. Colleagues.  Even blogging associates.  Strangers. We help when we can, even if it is just a word of encouragement or understanding.  We receive help when it’s needed.  The cycle repeats over and over.  As our world gets smaller and smaller, it seems even more important for us to reach out a hand to help when we can.

It feels good to be part of the village!

How helpful have you been lately?  What help has come your way?  How do you pay it forward?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


“The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”   Anne Frank

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”  Barack Obama

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”  Charles Dickens

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”  John Holmes

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this:  He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”  Gordon B. Hinckley

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”  Maya Angelou

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”  Steve Maraboli

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”  John Bunyan

“We only have what we give.”  Isabel Allende

“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other.  Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.”  Charles de Lint

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same—with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”  Mother Teresa

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”  Horace Mann

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”  Booker T. Washington

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”  Mandy Hale

“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water—it will make ripples throughout the entire pond.”  Jessy & Bryan Matteo

“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”  Warren Buffett

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”  Leo Buscaglia

“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”  Acts 20:35

“Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid.”  Albert Schweitzer

“To do more for the world than the world does for you—that is success.”  Henry Ford

“Life’s most urgent question is:  What are you doing for others?”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.”  Buddhist Saying

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”  Bob Hope

“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”  Danny Thomas

“There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark.”  Helen Keller

“If you want to improve your world, then focus your attention on helping others.”  John C. Maxwell

Mono dad tripod front viewThe first time I visited Bishop and Mono Lake along U.S. Highway 395 was years ago with my dad.  We went out to find fall colors in California, an easier task than many assume.  At that time, we planned to visit other places along Highway 395 at some point in time.  That, however, never happened.  Dad died in February 2014.  This year was the first Father’s Day without him.  To honor the day, I decided to visit some places along Highway 395 that I knew he would have loved. It was a great weekend full of nature, reflection, memories and visits to two new places along Highway 395.


Earlier this year I visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  These glorious parks are nestled against the western side of the Sierra Nevada.  The lofty peaks of that mountain range can be seen in the distance as one drives through the parks. However, Mount Whitney is the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada; actually, at 14,505 feet, Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States.*  Still, it is not visible from western views of the mountain range.  Although I knew I would not hike to the top, I wanted to see this mountain!


First Glimpse

First Glimpse

Fortunately, Highway 395 runs along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada as the road travels through the Owens Valley, offering great views of the entire range.  Then, in Lone Pine, California, an access road runs 13 miles west into the mountains, heading to the trail head that leads to the summit, which rises about 2 miles in elevation high above Lone Pine.  En route, the partially paved road runs through the Alabama Hills, passes several camp grounds, and then ascends to the Mount Whitney Portal at an elevation of 8,360 feet.  The 22-mile-round-trip hike to the top of Mount Whitney starts at the Portal.

Some Views in Lone Pine, California






Turn Left on the Yellow Road

Turn Left on the Yellow Road

The Alabama Hills, where many westerns and other movies have been filmed, including classics such as Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger as well as scenes in films including Gladiator, Star Trek Generations, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.



















Various Views of Mount Whitney





*Mount Whitney’s Height:  The elevation of any mountain is really an estimate, an educated guess based on the measurements that can be taken at the time.  One plague on the summit reads 14,494 feet while another reads 14,496.811 feet.  By 1988, improved technologies gave the newest estimate to be 14,505 feet.


Forty-two miles north of Lone Pine and fifteen miles south of Bishop along Highway 395 is Big Pine, California.  It sits in the Owens Valley between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains at an elevation of 3.989 feet.  The town is not big; the 2010 census recorded its population as 1,756.  The tribal headquarters for the Big Pine Band of Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Indians operates out of Big Pine.  But I traveled to this locale for its access to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the Inyo National Forest, just 13 miles east via Highway 168.

IMG_3730IMG_3711A few years ago, I did not even know that the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest existed. But now I am impressed with the strength, tenacity, and rugged gnarled and twisted beauty of these trees.



The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest sits on the eastern face of the White Mountains at an elevation between approximately 9,800 to 11,200 feet.  The Forest’s Patriarch, Schulman and Methuselah Groves are home to the world’s oldest living non-clonal organisms.**  The Methuselah is 4,750 years old, and the Patriarch—discovered and dated in 2103—is 5.064 years old.  Imagine that: The Patriarch germinated in 3051 B.C.  Incredible!  Visitors can hike various trails through the groves to get close to the Bristlecone Pines. However, the oldest trees are not marked with signs to protect them from vandals.  In 2008, an arsonist set fire to the Visitor Center, destroying the building, all the exhibits and several trees.  Very sad.

IMG_3774IMG_3794Highway 168 runs east from Highway 395 up into the White Mountains.  It is a great twisty curvy road that has lots of big dips, like you are on a roller coaster.  I loved it.  The canyon walls and wildflowers were gorgeous too.  But the “dip in the road” was the most fun, making me think of an old B.C. cartoon from John Hart.


dip in the road

Some Views Along Route 168 Heading Up & Down White Mountain



















Once in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the road eventually shifts from paved to gravel and offers some impressive sweeping vistas as well as closer views of the trees themselves.





At the Visitor Center

At the Visitor Center














**Oldest Living Organisms:  A list of the oldest living things includes items such as a half-million-year-old actinobacteria, 5500-year-old moss, and 100,000-year-old sea grass.  In 2014, Rachel Sussman published an intriguing book that captures her research on this topic:  The World’s Oldest Living Things.




Highway 1

Highway 1


Along I-5

Along I-5

If you have traveled by car throughout California, en route to a wide variety of tourist attractions, then you know that the state has a great highway system. The freeways are well maintained, the exits are well marked, and rest stops are numerous along major routes.  Along the west coast, Highway 1 travels down the coast past some of the most scenic landscape in the state, maybe the country.  Interstate 5 is the major north-south freeway that runs from San Diego to Los Angeles, close to San Francisco, and then up through Oregon and Washington en route to Canada. Highway 99 runs parallel to I-5, traveling roughly from Mexico to Canada. Highway 99 was supplanted by I-5 in the 1960s as the primary thoroughfare up and down the state, but it still serves residents well.

hwy395Highway 395 also runs north-south through the state, east of both I-5 and Highway 99.  Although it does not run through large cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco and it does not extend from Mexico to Canada, it is a lengthy impressive route.  It runs from about 140 miles north of San Diego up basically to the Oregon border.  It also travels for a short time into Nevada. It connects such natural wonders as Death Valley, Lee Vining near Yosemite National Park, and Mammoth Lake.  This 557-mile route runs along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, giving access to many impressive locations.

Bishop dad by treeBishop DadI never drove extensively on Highway 395 until one year, almost 20 years ago now, I took my dad on a trip to Bishop, California. Bishop sits at the northern end of the Owens Valley at an elevation of 4,150 feet. Nestled against the Sierra Nevada, it was named for Bishop Creek that flows out of the mountains.  Although the Bishop area represents the largest population in Inyo County, Bishop has fewer than 4,000 residents as of the 2010 census.  The purpose of our trip was to seek out fall colors, and we were successful.  The colors were glorious, the mountain vistas were impressive, and the fishing holes seemed popular.  What I remember the most is that Dad had a great time!

Bishop road 2

Bishop field with trees

Bishop outcrop

Bishop road

Bishop vista dad taking photo

Bishop fishing

Bishop fishing spot 1

Bishop fishing spot 2

Mono vista mid with dadOn that same trip, days later, Dad and I ended up in Lee Vining, California, for lunch and quickly realized how close we were to Mono Lake. Mono Lake is an immense inland sea, one of the oldest in the western hemisphere. It measures 70 square miles and fills a natural basin that measures 700 square miles. Ancient volcanoes created the lake, which is thought to be anywhere from one to three million years old.  Many tributaries fill the lake, but the there is no natural outlet, so Mono Lake retains sulfides and carbonates, making it an alkaline lake with a ph of 10.  Mono Lake is almost three times as salty as the ocean.

mono vista close

Mono dad by tufaIts salinity fluctuates, especially since 1941 when Los Angeles began diverting water from the lake’s tributaries to Los Angeles consumers. Some restoration and preservation measures have been enacted since then, so the danger of Mono Lake becoming a dead area has passed. But it is still at lower water levels and higher salinity counts than it would have been since the initial water diversion.  The restoration measures preserved the lake’s main biology of algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies. The area still serves as a major bird migratory path and nesting site.  As the water level fluctuates, various formations such as spires and peaks become visible, giving the lake an otherworldly look.  The spires are called tufa and add to the picturesque appeal of Mono Lake.

Mono reflections Dad panorama

Mono dark shadowsMono sunset dad with tripod rearDad and I spent the afternoon hiking around Mono Lake, waiting for dusk’s afterglow as the sun set opposite the lake.  We thought about waiting around for the moon rise later that night, but we were not really prepared for the stake-out.  And once the area became pitch black and we got lost a bit in the sands surrounding the lake, we decided to head in for dinner instead.  We talked about going back to both locations—Bishop and Mono Lake—at some point, but we  never did.

Mono sunset deep colors

Mono sunset

Mono evening

My goal is to return to Mono Lake at some point.  Since California has been experiencing drought for the last three years, I imagine the water level has dropped a bit. I also hope to visit other natural wonders that are accessible via Highway 395, like Death Valley.  Maybe I’ll travel there in the winter.





Today marks the 238th birthday of the United States of America.

IMG_3524The Second Continental Congress legally declared America’s independence from Britain on 2 July 1776.  But the actual Declaration of Independence, penned by the Committee of Five with Thomas Jefferson taking the lead as the principal author, was not approved as the document explaining the reasoning behind that fateful resolution until the 4th of July.  Although there is some historical evidence that not all the signatures were affixed on the document until August, the 4th of July became the day this young country started its tradition of celebrating its independence.

In 1777, Independence Day was marked by a thirteen gunshot salute fired in the morning and again in the evening on the 4th of July.  In 1778, General George Washington also fired an artillery salute but then went on to offer his soldiers a double ration of rum to celebrate the day.  In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the date as an official day of celebration.  In 1791, “Independence Day” was accepted as the official name of this important date.  Congress named Independence Day as an unpaid federal holiday in 1870.  Finally, in 1938, Congress made the date an official paid federal holiday; this designation was revised and expanded into its present form in 1941.

Independence Day Celebrations today take many forms.  Parades and barbecues are the standard fare. Fireworks displays get more and more impressive each year.  In 2009, New York City hosted the largest fireworks display by exploding 22 tons of pyrotechnics!  Most major cities host spectacular displays, typically accompanied by wonderful musical performances.  Many of these events are televised.  Of course, during the whole first week of July, Americans can also find extensive sales on anything from hotdogs to cars. Perhaps there is nothing quite so American as making a buck and getting a good deal.

This year, however you choose to celebrate, I hope you stay safe and sane with the fireworks, especially if you are shooting them off on your driveway.  Also, stay cool and have fun, just like there two cute little elephants! [This video might not be the most patriotic, but it is still good advice.  And these two are so cute!]




Many of us take the luxury of communication for granted.  At least, I know I do. 

Every day, I am on the phone with some and using email and text to quickly connect with others.  Sure, sometimes I complain because those calls are from solicitors who interrupt my day or because I am stuck on hold for way too long.  But the basic acts of communication are conducted automatically, quickly and typically without having to think too much about getting my words out.

And those actions do not include the immediate face-to-face exchanges with family, friends, co-workers and even strangers that enhance day-to-day living.  Just think of your typical day.  Do any of these possible communications sound familiar?

When the alarm goes off, do you say, “Good morning”?

Or do you throw the alarm, screaming, “Shut up!”?

Maybe you Whisper, “I love you.”

Ask, “Ya want some coffee?”

Complain, “I don’t want to go to work!”

Do you sing along with the oldies on your way to work?

Remind your spouse, “Remember to call Grandma today.”

Command your dog to “Come!  Come, now!  Get over here!”

Wish someone, “Happy Birthday!

Introduce yourself to a new client or customer.

Grumble, “My boss does not understand me.”

Order, “One pizza to go, please.”

Mumble, “Thank you” when someone holds the door open for you.

Tell someone a joke–and then laugh at your own punchline.

Commiserate with a friend over problems at home.

Congratulate someone for a job well done!

Voice personal gratitude and appreciation.

Yell—maybe even swear—at some crazy driver cutting you off.

Announce, “Honey, I’m home!”

Yell and Cheer at a sporting event so much that you go hoarse.

Chat over dinner about the day’s events or tomorrow’s plans.

Fuss with loved ones about what TV shows to watch.

Wish each other, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

Now imagine that such everyday communication is not a possibility for you, or at least not an easy automatic option.  I do not mean that you have laryngitis and cannot talk for a couple of days.  I mean you are one of the many who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease, are tetraplegic, or who have any other disability affecting communication abilities such as locked in syndrome (LIS), muscular dystrophy (MD), spinal cord injuries (SCI), and some cases of traumatic brain injuries. Some technologies are available to help, but the setup and calibration to get the technologies to work effectively are always a challenge.

I know one person who lives with ALS: Ismail Tsieprati.  He is an intelligent, creative, and  thoughtful man who faces physical challenges to be able to communicate effectively.  I can only imagine the time, energy, focus, patience, and concentration it takes for him to just get his words out.  He and wife Cheryl are continually on the lookout for the best new technologies that can better help Ismail and others with ALS and other disorders communicate more readily.

In her blog post “The Miracle of Communication,” Cheryl mentions a new promising technology that is being developed.  But she begins her post with an explanation about the potential consequence when the physical aspects of communication become an impossibility: “The greatest fear for people living with ALS is that there will come a day when they become ‘locked in’ – so completely paralyzed in the late stages of the disease that even the simplest of muscle movements have been stolen from them.  Hopelessly trapped inside their bodies, they would be unable to communicate in any way with the outside world and would survive in complete isolation.”


Fortunately, as Cheryl also mentions, a new technology is emerging that offers the promise of making communication easier for those with ALS and other disorders.  This emerging technology is called EyeSpeak by LusoVU-USA.  This invention puts the newest technologies into a pair of glasses allowing the wearer’s eye movements to generate spoken word fairly quickly in almost any situation without having to re-calibrate over and over again, just to keep the technology working.

To get the prototype of this new technology out there to the people who need them—as quickly as possible—the project needs some initial funding.  Kickstarter is taking donations for this worthwhile project.  The goal is to collect $115,000 by Wednesday, 16 July 2014. The donation process is easy and accepts donations as little as $1. Thus far, 148 backers have pledged over $70,000—that’s almost half of what is needed.  There are 12 days left for the remaining dollars to be pledged.

The following video introduces EyeSpeak and its creator as well as his personal reason for developing this marvelous new communication opportunity.  Once you have seen the wondrous potential of EyeSpeak, I hope you will consider making a donation.  But at the very least, please share the information presented with others.  Getting the word out is part of the promise and power of communication! 


A WORD ABOUT KICKSTARTER:  I have heard minimally about such group fundraising sites as Kickstarter on the news, but I had not looked into them at all.  [I’m never crazy about change!] I was impressed to hear that $2 million had been raised in about 12 hours by fans of the television show Veronica Mars so that a follow-up reunion movie could be made.  I liked Veronica Mars so am pleased that movie is being made.  But the fundraising outcome is what was phenomenal.  In total, 91,000 donors generated $5.7 million for this movie project.  That’s an average of only $63 a person.

These fundraising sites are great, pooling the power of individuals into supporting a group project. If enough people give a little bit—maybe comparable to a movie rental or a Starbucks coffee—then enough money can be generated for important projects.  EyeSpeak only needs a total of $115,000 to make developing an actual working prototype a reality sooner rather than later. I was impressed with how easy it was to pledge a donation.   If the total needed of $115,000 is not promised, my pledge will not be processed.  It feels like a win-win to me.


Thanks for sharing this communication, this request for funding of a terrific emerging technology.  If enough people donate, then the promise of communication can become an easier reality for many.

Now, that’s powerful!



100_0988Grand Canyon hazy day 152I am a creature of habit.  I love to travel to national parks, and if I find one that fascinates me I am apt to go back again and again.  Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon are two of my favorite destinations.  Each visit has enough differences (time of year, weather, my perspective) to make each trip unique.  However, the basics of the location do not really change.

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 280Another place I have visited several times now is Canyonlands National Park (Utah). Canyonlands was established in 1964 with the promise “to preserve an area. . . [of] scenic, scientific, and archeological features for the inspiration, benefit and use of the public.”  This park is comprised of four districts created by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Although these sections appear relatively close on a map, there is no one road that connects them to each other.  The entrances to the various locations can be anywhere from two- to six-hour drives apart.  Each section offers wondrous beauty and several hiking opportunities.  The sections are named The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze, and River Trips.

I first visited Canyonlands in the late 1990s, taking several days to view various sections of the park.  This spring, I returned to The Needles Section for a second visit that I will share in a future blog posting.  At the time, I could not help but think back to my first visit, when I took a four-wheel drive tour to visit Angel Arch.  I had hoped to get out to that specific feature again, but it is no longer possible, at least not in a way that I can maneuver.  In 2004, access was limited to those who will make the strenuous nearly 18 mile round-trip hike out to Angel Arch.  Well, there is no way I can make that hike these days!

angel 5

Given this change in policy to better preserve this wilderness area, my first trip to Angel Arch will have to suffice as my only visit to this glorious feature.  Fortunately, it was a great trip!  At the time, there were three ways to gain access to Angel Arch.  One could hike to the area; this is the option that is still available today.  But private cars could also drive to the area, but four-wheel drive was needed as well as permits to limit the number of vehicles per day.  I took the third option by signing up for a four-wheel drive tour to Angel Arch.  When I made my reservations, I asked to be placed on the tour with the fewest participants.  I never have liked crowds.

Besides the driver, there were four of us on this specific trip. And we were a great combination.  All of us were in academia in some way.  I taught English and was an avid bird watcher.  Others represented the fields of history and biology with some expertise in wildflowers.  The guide/driver had never had such a small group before, so he was ecstatic.  Our size allowed him to take a vehicle he rarely used.  Instead of an open-air truck of some sort that sat up to about 15, we were in an enclosed Land Rover of some kind. It even had air conditioning! And rather than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, he picked up the makings for a gourmet fare from his wife who prepared meals at a hotel in Moab that provided meals for lots of local tours.  She had prepared more than she needed and we were such a small group, so she shared.  We had fresh made guacamole and a shrimp salad for lunch.



drive 3The wild drive out to Angel Arch bumped along Salt Creek Road.  A different tourist on a different trip offered a description of this route that sounds very accurate:  The vehicle veered “off the paved highway and headed up the Salt Creek ‘Road’—part tire-grooved sand, part splashing pools, part unforgiving step-stone slickrock.  On a four-wheel-drive scale of one to four, with four as the toughest, this route rates a three.”  This route follows an old cowboy trail along a winding canyon.  Water is present year-round, so the area hosts a variety of wildflowers in later spring and summer. The landscape was phenomenal.  But I do remember that at times we almost stalled out and other times we seemed to be climbing almost straight up and over boulders.  As long as I was not driving, this was fun!

drive 1

flower by rock

flower 7

vista 1

vista 7We stopped at various points to see the sights and stretch our legs.  The trip itself promised to take up most of the day.

flower 4

vista 8

close 1 to vista 8

vista 9


flower 10

vista 11

flower 6


vista 13

vista 12_0001

flower 2

angel 1car areaEventually we pulled into a level area where we stopped to eat, close enough to walk a short distance to a good view of Angel Arch.  It was heavenly!  The Arch itself reaches up 150 feet and stretches over an expanse that measures 120 by 135 feet.  First discovered in 1955, the Angel Arch has become one of the most well-known sculptures in the area. At first several names were used to describe this glorious sculpture, but Chaffee C. Young’s name of “Angel Arch” was finally accepted as the most descriptive.  It is easy to see this angel, frozen in time, her wings back as she rests and enjoys the vista, perhaps offering up a prayer or a song of celebration.

angel 2

angel 6

angel 3

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I fully understand the concern that stopped the access of all motorized vehicles into the area around Angel Arch in 2004.  An attempt in 2011 to reverse that decision was not successful.  I think I would be fighting to keep access free from motorized vehicles.  But I sure am glad I had the chance to take the four-wheel drive tour out to Angel Arch years ago.  It turned into a great once-in-a-life-time adventure!



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