Saturday, April 29, 2006

Puerco Pueblo

Below are shots taken in the Puerco Pueblo area that was built around 1250. The first shot is of the pueblo ruins (obviously). If you look closely at the second picture, you can see petroglyphs carved into the rock. These were created 600 to 800 years ago and are located near the pueblo.

Badlands at Blue Mesa

Further along the Petrified Forest park road, we came across the Blue Mesa stop. Pictured below are two shots of the badlands that surround the mesa. Completely otherworldly in appearance, this was one of my favorite stops in the park.

Painted Desert

On Thursday, April 20, we stopped at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest for a few hours. The shot below is of the Painted Desert near the Tiponi Point stop along the trail.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Clinton Library

Last Tuesday we rolled into Little Rock, Arkansas to see the Clinton Presidential Library. Unfortunately, we arrived after they closed at 5pm, so the visit was limited to walking around the grounds and taking a few pictures.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Road Trip Recap

It was a little difficult returning to work today. This is the usual post-trip phenomenon and it will pass in a day or two once I get back to the routine. The first thing my staff commented on (before launching into questions) was just how brown I am now relative to before I left. I have Portugese ancestry, so such darkening is expected after a few days in the sunny Southwest.

Anyway, to recap the roadtrip:

  • It took us four days to travel from Norfolk to Phoenix. We left Norfolk shortly after noon on Monday and arrived at our destination around six in the evening on Thursday. The one day we really pushed it was Tuesday and that was to get though Tennessee as fast as we could. No particular reason for this other than not wanting to linger in Tenn. Otherwise we took our time and stopped here and there for breaks and a little sightseeing. I'll post later about specific sighseeing stops (including a few pics). The daily breakdown (for anyone interested in such trivial detail) is as follows:
    Monday: Norfolk to Bulls Gap, Tennessee
    Tuesday: to Fort Smith, Arkansas
    Wednesday: to Laguna, New Mexico
    Thursday: to Phoenix

  • One positive thing about Tennessee was they had the cleanest rest stops of any state through which we passed. There is no word to describe them other than immaculate. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Virginia. Rest stops here were just nasty. This is my home state; I am ashamed.

  • Texas was by far the most visually boring state through which we passed. Entertainment was limited to counting State Police cars parked out of approaching traffic's view behind overpasses or similiar obstructions. As we crossed the panhandle, we didn't have to endure Texas for very long. This was a good thing since counting police cars holds ones interest only for so long, no matter how many there were waiting in ambush.

  • We stopped at small "local" restaurants as often as we could along the way. Chain restaurants are largely the same wherever you go, so locally-owned places were selected to enhance the feel of the area. This turned out to be both good and bad. The absolute worst was the Incident of the Mouse Dropping in My Rice (MDIMR) at a small Mexican restaurant in extreme Southwest Virginia. I ordered one of the house specials and it turned out to be just that. Ick. On othe opposite end of the spectrum was this local place (I think it was called Dell's Restaurant) in Tucumcari, New Mexico. The atmosphere and food were great and I would certainly revisit were I ever again to find myself in Tucumari. I would also recommend Nick's Barbeque and Catfish just east of Little Rock. Sure, it's typical southern food and a little greasy as one would expect, but you really can't criticize a place that has fried okra on the menu.

  • New Mexico and Arizona were by far the most visually stunning states and as such were the settings for most of the pictures I took during the trip. Rocky terrain, butes, cactus, mountains, and all the pine trees around Flagstaff. Absolutely wonderful.

  • Though I spent only a few days in the Phoenix area (Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe, and Maricopa) I can honestly say it's a place I would love to live. It is charming in a Southwestern way (particularly the above cities just outside of Phoenix proper) and very beautiful in terms of geography and architecture. I will certainly have to spend some more time out there.

Anyway...I'm off to bed. Need to catch up on some much needed sleep. Will post some pics next time.

A Good Sign

As a relatively adventurous, explorer/naturalist sort of person, my hopes were raised by this promising sign, except for the fact I don't like snakes and am not too keen on the whole poisonous creature thing either. I saw a number of such signs in New Mexico and Arizona, but as it turned out, the signs were about as close to such beasts as I came during my time out there. A pity, really, as I had practiced my shrieking and hopping around techniques just for such an enounter. Ah well, maybe next time.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I must commend U. S. Airways on their promised luggage delivery. I had given up hope around ten and headed on off to bed. A phone call a few minutes ago followed by a knock on my door and the wayward luggage is back into my possession. Sure, having it delivered at midnight is a bit later than I would like, but that's ok. At least it saves me a return trip to the airport tomorrow.

Back Home

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I arrived home safely this morning. As has been the pattern of the last few trips (3 out of the last 4 to be exact), I arrived without my luggae. Supposedly it was misplaced during the layover in Charlotte. Supposedly it should have arrived in Norfolk this afternoon. Supposedly, U.S. Airways will give me a call when it has arrived. Supposedly they are going to deliver it.

We shall see.

Anyway.... just a brief note. I'm pretty much wiped out from the overnight flight and need a lot of coffee to get myself going this afternoon. The trip was a lot of fun and there are a few interesting things to prattle on about, but that will have to wait until I'm a bit more caffeinated.

Monday, April 17, 2006

And They're Off!

Still have packing and a few errands to run before we head out this morning, so I though I'd hammer out a few quick lines while having my morning coffee. I anticipate that we'll leave no later than 11 or noon at the very latest, which will still put us well into Tennessee by tonight. Or that's the plan at least; nothing is set in stone. The route is mapped and we have plenty of time, so we'll just play it all by ear. Hopefully I'll have some stories and pictures to share when I get back next Monday. Some of them might actually be interesting.

Anyway.....everyone have a great week and I'll post again next Monday.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Trip Preparations

Rolled out to the ecocolgical preserve this morning early for another round of research and got home sometime around noon. Since then, I've busied myself with laundry and other assorted preparations for tomorrow's departure. Am getting rather excited about the cross-country drive, though it's likely that sentiment will change several days into the trip. I haven't packed yet, but that's no biggie since this is only a week-long domestic trip. Forgetting something won't be nearly as critical as travelling abroad as I can pretty much just stop anywhere and get what I need.

I've also been working out the route, specifically the things we may want to see along the way. If my calculations are correct, we should be in Little Rock by the end of the our second day and the plan is to see the Clinton library early the next morning before heading towards Oklahoma. By day four we should be in the New Mexico/Arizona region and that's when the pace will slow down and we'll switch into more of a "tourist mode." What little I've seen of the desert Southwest I absolutely love, so a more leisurely pace will allow for sightseeing and photo ops. I also hope to spend a day or so poking around Phoenix before I fly back late next Sunday night. to pour another coffee and continue with the preparations.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

And who says research is boring?

This post is for Kim. A shot of my Jeep resting after an afternoon of playing on dirt and sand paths. Plese note that the top is d-o-w-n. Spring is here! :-)

Take my picture! Take my picture!

This is an interesting close-up picture I took today. The zoom capabilities of my digital camera arent all that great, so this shot turned out well considering. This image was taken in the burned area (shown previously). I'm not sure exactly what they were doing, but a number of ants (bottom of image) were making a big production of running up and down the stem of this branch and nancing about all over the blossom. Perhaps they just wanted their picture taken.

Field Report

Below is an image from the Blackwater Ecological Preserve I took this afternoon. The area to the left of the fire break/path was recently subjected to a controlled burn in hopes of providing optimal conditions for the restoration of the Longleaf Pine. While the effects of such burns may not be pretty, they do provide for some intriguing ecological dynamics.

It Begins

Today begins my 2006 research field season at the Blackwater Ecological Preserve. It's going to be a intense season with practially every weekend between now and the end of October taken up with one project component or another. A bit daunting when you consider the season as an entity, but looking at it on a week to week basis...well, it's not too bad. It is simply a matter of persistence, focusing on the component at hand, and a willingness to sacrifice thrown in for good measure. Certainly there will come weekends this summer when I'd much rather be doing something else, but that's ok as long as I bear in mind that this thesis project is essentially an investment in my future, just one step along the academic path towards bigger and better things.

And most importantly, it will be an enjoyable step, something that resonates to my very core. After all, I am a naturalist at heart, one of those people who finds the natural world and its sundry processes far more interesting and entertaining than any artificial offering (television, movies, etc). There are few things more sublime than submerging oneself in a natural evironment, observing and trying to understand some process, some facet that would escape the attention of most if they were placed in such a situation. Time loses meaning in these situaitons. It's just you and nature interacting on some level, the very essence of reality.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Perfect Night

Thunder, lightning, and the rain pelting against the study window. I love nights such as this. I see people on the street below scurrying here and there. Coming and going to the coffee shops or hurrying down the street to one of the neighborhood restaurants. None have umbrellas. This storm came out of nowhere, aparrently catching everyone off guard.

There is something comforting about being inside on a night like this. Nature raging all around, its effects heard against the wood and brick and glass barrier that separates the two worlds. But inside, things are as ever, a candle flickering on the dining table, the cats asleep on the sofa; a haven from the raw power of nature.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Note to Self

Must remember to do my taxes tomorrow. Seem to recall something about them being due soon.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Where there's smoke...

....I'm probablay somewhere nearby. Been such a tobacco fiend lately that I'm beginning to feel a bit like....

*Five points extra credit to whomever guesses the identity of this character.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Saturday Afternoon

A bit out of sorts this cloudy Saturday afternoon due to the aftereffects of a particularly natsy migraine headache that began building yesterday afternoon that reached its cresendo around midnight and only recently subsided. It was absolutely horrid last night with that classic throbbing pain, nausea, cold sweats, aversion to light and noise, and the inability to sleep. So now I'm left feeling groggy and drained from the ordeal. For the most part the pain is gone, though it's shadow lingers on the edge of perception which makes me wonder if it will return. If past patterns hold, it shouldn't return as long as I avoid strenuous activity (e.g., go to the gym or hurl cinder blocks at passing cars).

I've just now returned from procuring a Cup of Life from Starbucks, my first veture out of the apartment since coming home from work around five yesterday afternoon. It looks and feels like rain, which wouldn't be a bad occurrence as it has been very dry in this part of Virginia the last few months. Not sure what's on the agenda for the rest of the day. Perhaps some low-impact cleaning or some reading, provided I can muster the focus for either activity.

Off to enjoy my coffee.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thursday Evening Prattle

1. I’ve booked my return flight from Phoenix on the 23 of April. Right around three hundred dollars. The funny thing is that round trip tickets (from Phoenix) were actually cheaper. For a brief moment, I entertained the thought of booking round-trip and just not going back. Thought this to be rather unfair, so I didn’t go with that option. By chance has anyone flow U.S. Airways? I’ve never flown with them and am curious as to the quality of service (e.g., unlimited coffee. It’ will be an overnight flight, after all). I prefer to fly with American (for domestic flights), though their prices were four times the cost of U.S. Airways for the same flight. My loyalty only goes so far.

2. Work has been a bit more….umm……interesting than usual. A few long-term employees have determined that longevity is the most important quality for an employee (what a coincidence, eh?) Not really a big deal, but does add some interesting dynamics to the divisional pecking order given the number of new people in my unit (not to mention greater resistance to the ongoing changes I‘m implementing). As they are forgetting such things as talent, motivation, and ability, I pretty much just cut them off at the knees before they get started on their respective monologues in staff meetings. The phrase “I expect your resignation on my desk” still works wonders, though rational, thoughtful discussion remains the preferred option. Nonetheless it’s nice to know I have a fail-safe retort in case civil discussion fails. At times, fear can be a powerful ally.

3. I’m about to have another vacancy at work. My “apprentice” is in the process of acquiring a job with another locality. I’m exceedingly happy for him and am actively encouraging the move, but it will leave a gaping hole in my division that will be hard to fill. Such is the natural progression of things though. You mentor and train someone and sooner or later they move on to bigger and better things. A bit gratifying in a way. However,. must find new, worshipful apprentice to do my bidding.

4. Tomorrow we’re having a departmental “in-service” first thing in the morning. Included in the program are longevity awards (pffft!), for which three of my staff will be receiving recognition for 25, 20, and 15 years of service (for 20 and 15, see point 2 above). Hopefully the in-service won’t take terribly long, but I have this sinking feeling that it will be at least an all-morning affair since the entire department of several hundred people are required to attend.

5. The gym continues to go well and I’m finally seeing noticeable differences in my body. I actually have biceps and pecs now. Am resisting the urge to celebrate with a box of donuts. Was planning on going to the gym tonight, but was distracted by domestic prodcutivity. Tomorrow at 5am is a possibility.....but I wouldn't put mony on that.