Month: July 2016

White River Tells a Story of Climate Change at Mt. Hood

The receding glaciers around the world are a clear reminder of the impact of climate change. The year 2016 is already reported to be the hottest year ever in recorded weather-keeping history.

Yesterday, I drove around that eternally beautiful volcano near Portland called Mt. Hood. The impact of climate change is quite visible in the drainage of the start of the White River, on the peak’s southeast side. It is more than a pretty picture. It is a compelling story, and it is one that is cause for great concern.



Sometimes, it is all about ‘right place, right time’

I have taken thousands of pictures with my point and shoot Canon PowerShot A2000 camera. I originally bought it after my last camera died in Indonesia in 2009. It is still working like a champ. I often can get great pictures with that never required anything more than me pointing and shooting. What mattered was the moment and knowing that the moment was telling me to capture it forever. This is one such shot I took at the base of St. John’s Bridge in Portland a few days ago. It has no meaning beyond being a moment, and a rendering of form and design, but in the most simple terms through that of a child. I love it, actually.

Amid reported Turkish coup and chaos, a fond memory of ordinary people

(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

The last 24 hours has seen some of the wildest news I can recall in a while, at least for modern nation states in Europe and its Asian-European neighbor, Turkey. I came home from work on July 14, 2016, only to be bombarded by images of a murderous rampage by a sole terrorist driver in Nice that took at last count 84 lives. Than not a day later, I returned from a walk and discovered a coup in Turkey. TurkeyCoup Report

Turkey is a modern state. It is a democracy, with rough edges. It is also a key European and U.S. ally, with a major military base (Incirlik) that serves vital Western and U.S. interests in a violent, civil-war torn region. And now there are reportedly tanks in Istanbul, helicopter gunfire ships strafing government sites in the capital, and people being shot during protests as part of a reported military coup to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is hard to know the full truth. There are many real and also fake Tweets, so I will just see how this plays out.

This all makes me think of the time I went to Nice in 1985, while studying in France. I walked the Promenade Anglais, where the horrific attack took place during a celebration of Bastille Day. I cannot imagine what happened in my mind’s eye. And I was in Turkey in 2000, in places now cropping up by the second on the latest Tweets from the front lines of a reported coup. So today I just decided to publish a picture that brings me a sense of calm. It is a picture I took just before I left Turkey, taking a boat to Samos, Greece. This was a family I met at a local restaurant. We enjoyed each other’s company. They were not that different from me. They were struggling to run a small business and live a good life. I am wondering about them and the many other people I met in Nice and in Turkey right now.

Steady leadership is now needed from the people entrusted to lead. I have faith in my leader now to do that. But these times are straining democracies and reason, I am concerned cooler heads will be challenged to prevail.


Swimming, great for the mind and body

I am a swimmer. Because of a persistent shoulder injury, called scapular displacement, I am unable to swim as much as I used to. But I go at least once a week. It is one of the best activities for one’s body. It allows the mind to filter out one’s problems and focus. It promotes health and fitness. It loosens tight lower back muscles. As one former Olympics swimmer and gold medalist Janet Evans notes: “Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.”

These are shots I took at an open water swim event at Lake Meridian, in Kent, Washington, in 2012. Some very fit, hyper-competitive athletes were in this group. Most mere mortals can benefit from going to a local pools once or more a week. If you have not taken up swimming, try it out. Go slow. Give it time. It took me about 25 times before I finally switched from hating doing laps to loving my trips to the pool. Like all good things, it takes time.

Fourth of July, Alaska style…ah the memories

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Fourth of July is always a great time to enjoy the outdoors and the incredible nature in Alaska. Many Alaskans who live in its largest city, Anchorage, celebrate by going to Seward for the annual Mt. Marathon race. This is a 3.1-mile race, with an elevation gain of 3,022 feet, and slopes average 34 degrees. This all takes place above the breathtaking scenery of Resurrection Bay, where sea otters and orcas can be spotted from the boat and even the shore.

Up to 10,000 people will gather in the city’s historic downtown for the start and finish of the state’s most famous mountain race–and there are many mountain races. This contest is the shortest of the state’s “official” mountain races, but one of the most grueling, because of the sheer verticality of the climb and the risk of injury.

One year an older male racer who likely never should have competed went missing and his body was never recovered. Another year a man suffered brain trauma during a terrible fall near the end of the descent. So this is not a race for sissies and people who do not respect and understand the mountains. A bunch of my friends always competed, and I went a number of times during my six years living in Anchorage.

The race pictures seen here are from 2009 and 2010. The 2010 shot features the top three female runners: hometown favorite and champion Cedar Bourgeois, Olympic skier Holly Brooks. and Olympic skier Kikkan Randall. That year, Bourgeois won her sixth race in a row (tieing a course record), with a personal best of 51:48. All three of these racers are among the state’s finest athletes ever. Randall and Brooks have competed for the United States Nordic Ski Team in the Olympics.

The other pictures shown in the gallery come from the Forest Fair, a laid-back carnival and craft fair held during the Fourth of July weekend in Girdwood, the scenic town at the base of the Chugach Mountains about 45 miles from Anchorage. It celebrates its 41st year right this summer. I loved this event. The setting is unbelievably gorgeous.

Sadly, in past years, the local yahoos–and they are many, and awful–became so rowdy and engaged in so many drunken and destructive behaviors, organizers wisely shut the event down. If you go the the Greal Land (aka Alaska), don’t worry about the bears. Make a lot of noise, and you will be perfectly fine. Happy Fourth of July, Alaska!

A City of Catholic Saints and Churches

Scene above: The world-famous King St. Louis IX statue on Art Hill in Forest Park, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, St. Anthony of Padua Church. Click on each picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.

St. Louis’ namesake comes from French King Louis IX, one of France’s few pious rulers who ruled in the 13th century and died in 1270. The city’s European origins can be traced to French traders on the Mississippi River. One, Pierre LaClede, gave the trading post its name after the revered ruler 252 years ago. That name stuck, and the city of St. Louis was born (on ground inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans).

The city’s name also helped to attract many Catholic European immigrants, from Italians to Germans to Irish. Many of the city’s strongest and most powerful education and social institutions, from hospitals to orphanages to private schools to St. Louis University, were also founded by Catholics. The Archdiocese of St. Louis virtually runs the city’s homelessness programs and non-profit social service sector.

For a visitor to St. Louis, one of first things one sees are brilliant and beautiful church spires rising tall above old neighborhoods. These institutions still play a vital role in many depressed areas of the fading, formerly great industrial city. Every time I visit my family in neighboring University City, I always take a tour and rediscover this amazing legacy. I still am dazzled by the skill and confidence with which St. Louis’ earlier residents built their community purposefully, to live up to the city’s name.