Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Three mountains

We've had another sunny day, but don't tell anyone - they might think there's a pattern here. But the sunny day calls for another mountain photo. This panorama is from the slopes of Mt. Rainier and looks roughly south. The tall volcano in the distance on the left is Mt. Adams; the volcano hiding in the center distance is Mt. Hood, and the volcano on the right is Mt. St. Helens.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rainier Sighting

The rains have broken and I saw Mt. Rainier for the first time this year. It feels like a long time since Mt. Rainier was last visible; those layers and layers of clouds can weight more than one might think.

Although I saw Mt. Rainier from Redmond this afternoon, this photo is from January, 2003, and was taken in the alpenglow from Longmire.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


We went out looking for eagles today. At this time of year, bald eagles commonly come south from Alaska to roost along salmon rivers in the northwest of the US. We were looking along the Skagit River north of Seattle. This is an area where the road had previously washed out and there is a (locally) massive reconstruction project. The face of raw rock in the photo indicates the scale of the construction (see the "little" excavator in the lower-right corner). Further up to the hill one can see a valley in the mountain side that channels water into a stream. As the construction shows, the stream is powerful enough to undermine and wash out the road.

The eagles? We saw about 15. They were relatively low in number because the high water level in the river washed downstream the salmon carcasses that the eagles normally eat. A month ago, we would have seen five times as many eagles.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I fear rivers over flowing

It's not that bad. The rains continue and the rivers are in flood, but the floods are pretty normal for this time of year. This picture shows a slough, a channelized flow that leads from the north end of Lake Sammamish in Redmond to the north end of Lake Washington in Kenmore. As you might tell from the sapling in the foreground, the slough flow is normally lower - about 1.3 meters (4 feet) lower, in fact. This picture was taken where NE 124th street crosses the slough, looking southwest (the glare in the distance is the setting sun around 4:30pm or so).

Flowing in from the left (from the east) is a small salmon stream that has been restored. The stream shows as a wiggle in the map. As you might imagine, a salmon stream has salmon in it. Salmon like wandering, cool streams so the stream was recently de-channelized: they put the bends back in, dropped some logs in the water to create snags, and planted saplings on the banks to shade and cool the water in the summer. We hope the salmon will return and prosper. They come all the way through Lake Washington.

More precisely, they come from Puget Sound into Lake Union and Portage Bay, through the Lake Washington Ship Canal, through Lake Washington, and into the slough. Pretty impressive. But these guys are stragglers compared to some of the other salmon that head up the Columbia River.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rainy Day People

Seattle is a rainy climate in the Winter, there's no denying it. We get a lot of rain. To be more precise, we get a normal amount of rain and it takes a long, long time to fall. Our typical rainy day is 4-8 mm (less than 1/4-inch) as measured in my backyard. Over a year, that's roughly 40 inches (102 cm). We call it our "liquid sunshine" and instead of "showers", we note the exceptions as "sun breaks".

So what does one do when the weather is not quite perfect? We go outdoors, of course! We spend a lot of time out of doors. We're not dim, we do come in out of the rain (mostly), so we find indoor-outdoor things to do -- like Dutch Oven cooking. Here's our troop running a Dutch Oven cooking contest on an iffy day in the Fall. You're looking at over a dozen ovens cooking away. The little gray spots are charcoal briquettes nicely heating everything around them. It was difficult to get a shot of the ovens without too many people in view - a lot of people spent time near the coals for the warmth.

The ovens contain entrees and desserts. Enough to feed an army. That's the only problem with a contest like this - each participant is cooking enough for about five people to eat. It's a burden that I shall bear....

Monday, January 16, 2006

For the record

Officially, we only made it to 27 sequential days of rain. According to the official record-keepers, it didn't rain in Seattle on Sunday, 15 Jan 2006, so the streak of days began anew on Monday, 16 Jan 2006. Too bad they didn't have a rain gauge in my backyard - Redmond got rain.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Be Prepared

We went on a hike today to see the Big Four Ice Caves, about an hour away from our home. We piled two kids, four sets of snowshoes, lunches, poles, hiking gear, and winter clothing into the car and headed off. I cleverly grabbed a spare battery for my camera. We arrived, unpacked and dressed, but the snow depth was insufficient for snowshoes and we only needed hiking boots. We got to the trailhead and there was a nice view of the clouds parting over Big Four Mountain. I whipped out the camera, turned it on, and viewed the message "No Memory Card". No problem! I reached for the spare memory card that I keep in the camera bag. No Memory Card. The spares were sitting on my desk - at home. Fortunately, my new cell phone comes with a little megabit camera, so I gave that a try. Herewith is the result.

Moral of the story: take the spares with you.

Update: the image displayed in this entry looks odd, but click on it, and the "original" (?) looks fine.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Twenty-five days of rain. We have had 25 consecutive days of rain in the metropolitan Seattle area and we're heading toward the record of 33 days of rain. It will come as a surprise to many that Seattle can think of this as unusual. "It's the rainy city, the Emerald City," I hear you cry, "how can they call any amount 'too much rain'?" Well, even we have our limits! For those keeping track at home, the record for Spokane is more like 50 consecutive days.

This photo was taken in Mt. Rainier National Park in May, 2005.

Update: Oops. The record rainy city is not Spokane, but Centralia.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rainbow abbreviated

Here's a smudge of a rainbow, an abbreviation. I'm on a ridge overlooking a river valley with the sun setting behind me at the end of a rainy day. Somehow, physics shows me a fragment of a rainbow in the settling darkness.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Chez Bill Gates

On the eastern shore of Lake Washington, facing west toward Seattle, is the home of a local business man. While it can only be seen from the water, the house is spacious, boasting an underground parking lot, a private beach, a movie theater, and it is rumored to have a bowling alley. Bill and family lived in a smaller house a bit to the south while the main homestead was under construction - barely a few doors down. I used to share a zip code with Bill, but now he's moved to Medina and I hardly ever see him any more.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Quaint American Customs - part 1

Our image today centers on a Quaint American Custom associated with ice hockey. Attendees to the Seattle Thunderbirds ice hockey games are able to buy foam pucks, each numbered uniquely, from vendors as they enter the rink. This lovely automobile has a "sunroof" - there is a window in the roof that can be opened. Between two of the hockey periods, this auto is driven out onto the center ice as shown and all the happy attendees throw their foam pucks at the car, hoping to be the first to get their puck into the car via the sunroof. The winner's name is placed into a drawing to win the car at a later date. The failing pucks are swept up as the car is driven back off the ice and play is resumed. A curious demonstration of sportsmanship in North America.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Solving a problem in a new way

These are upside-down jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They intentionally swim downward such that their pulsation pushes their prey past their tentacles. Sometimes you have to turn a problem upside-down to see the solution.

Please stand by...

We're having technical difficulties uploading a new image. It may be the client or it may be the server. I'll take the approach that a reboot and the passage of time will heal all wounds. Please stand by...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Some pictures take themselves

This is the Yosemite Valley (California) on the afternoon of December 24th, 2005. This panorama has shown itself millions of times since the glaciers retreated from California.

Notes: El Capitan is to your left; Half Dome is visible in the center distance, and Bridalveil Falls is to your right. The Merced River runs down the middle of the valley. It's about 3pm or so in the afternoon.