Friday, February 15, 2019

A Mix Of Shorts This Year

I went to see the live action and animated short films nominated for the Oscars this year.  I have gone to see the nominated short films for several years and I am used to seeing a mix of serious and humorous films.  The documentary shorts, which I have not seen this year, are a bit mixed and can often be depressing like they were in 2015.  This year it was the live action shorts that were the downers.

There are five nominees and every one this year are depressing, sad, or both.  A mother who hears her son's abduction over the phone until the cell phone battery dies, a boy whose playful actions lead to the death of his friend, a dying elderly lady pining for lost love, a true story about two ten year old boys who murder a toddler, and a racist family and the twisted and tragic way justice is served.  I exited the theater shaking my head.  The usher saw me, asked if I was going to see the animated shorts, and told me that the animated shorts were less serious.

She was right.  The animated shorts which can often be serious stories, did have a lighter feel.  There was funny ones and a few sober but smile inducing ones which is what I have come to expect for the Oscar nominated animated shorts.

I may go see the short documentary nominees ... if I can fit it in my schedule.

Not sure which of these will win.  I didn't see any that really wowed me.  I expect the Disney animated short will win (though I would prefer to see a lesser known production win).  As for the live action, my bet would be on the story about the two murdering ten year olds.  We'll see in nine days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What I've Been Doing: Hiking Hitchcock In The Snow.

I went for a short hike at Hitchcock this morning.  There was three to four inches of snow on the ground and the only tracks on the trails were from deer, coyote, and me.  It feels odd, but nice, when you are out on a trail by yourself.  This is especially true nowadays when we are rarely alone and disconnected.  The pristine snow gives proof that it's just you and nature.

Looking across Hitchcock from Fox Run Ridge trail towards Angel's Dead End trail.
The hike was short.  Walking on the dry snow felt like walking on beach sand - there is a little extra resistance each step you take.  You also had to watch your step since snow often can cover up potential hazards.  Last Saturday I rolled my ankle pretty hard on such a hidden hazard down in Indian Cave SP.  To protect myself from further aggravating (or reinjuring) the ankle I was wearing hiking boots instead on my usual lightweight hiking shoes.  The boots are nice but they are heavier than the shoes so each step was just a tiny bit more difficult.  I ended up only hiking three and a half miles which is very short for me.

 I was exhausted when I got back to the car.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

A Fizzy Drink

Went for a hike up at Hitchcock Nature Center today.  At the start of the hike it began to sleet.  As I listened I realized that the sound of sleet hitting cold, dead leaves sounds just like a Fizzy drink.

A panorama taken from Badger Ridge in Hitchcock Nature Center.
I think this requires a haiku.

If you are drinking a soda ... or champagne
your ear to the glass, eyes closed, listen to bubbles popping,
hear sleet hitting Winter leaves.

Monday, January 28, 2019

And The Next Adventure Is ... Drumroll Please ...

While I won't promise you that there won't be any adventure between now and then, our next planned adventure will be in the Chilean Patagonia.  We will be doing it almost the same as we did Iceland.  We will be flying the day after Christmas and be home sometime around the fourth or fifth of January (flights haven't been purchased yet).

By Chile - Own work, Public Domain
(Original flag graphic from Wikipedia.)
So, what are we going to do there, you ask.  We will be staying at the Singular Patagonia Hotel for four days plus a couple partial days on the arrival and departure days.  During these days we will have a large variety of activities to do.  These include trekking (for me), horseback riding (for the Wife), kayaking, bicycling, fishing, boat excursions, and cultural/city tours of historic sites including nearby Puerto Natales.  The activities range from two to thirteen hours long (these number include transportation times).

That is going to be the toughest part of this trip: deciding what mix of long and short activities you can fit in the four to five days we have.  We will probably have to make a lot of the decisions on the fly depending on what activities are available each day.

We will be staying at the Singular Patagonia Hotel which is located in "a post-Victorian cold-storage factory built by the British in 1915 for the purpose of processing sheep’s wool and meat to be shipped back to England".  Apparently it's location is terrific and the views are amazing.  We originally wanted to stay in a camp with Yurts (!!!) in Torres del Paines national park but apparently a year ahead is not ahead enough.  Our hotel sounds like a marvelous second choice with a side of quirkiness.

Unlike Iceland, we will be visiting Patagonia in the middle of the southern hemisphere's summer.  As a matter of fact it will be the most southern location we've ever been (and will remain so unless we go to Antarctica).  Instead of four hours of Icelandic daylight we will have seventeen hours of Patagonian sunlight (with another hour and a half of twilight).  I think this will be better suited for my photophilic tendencies.

All in all, we are both really looking forward to our Patagonia adventure!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Iceland: Magnet Edition

As is customary for us, we purchased several travel magnets to commemorate our Iceland adventure.  We ended up buying a reasonable sixteen magnets to add to our collection.  Here are a few of the best:

A blue sheep made of Icelandic wool.
A Viking boat with the Iceland colors -Blue and White.

A Viking family ... with chickens.
Huh - The war cry made famous by the Icelandic soccer fans.

An example of Viking houses which used turf for roofing.

Other magnets can be seen by clicking the Travel Magnets tab at the top of the page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Snowman And Snowmen.

I went for a city walk today and passed a few snowmen.

We have a painting of the Abominable Snowman painted on the side of a defunct grain elevator:

A green faced abominable snowman.
 Along another part of my walk I passed a sleepless art student's temporary art installation of eighty-four Snowmen in Leavenworth Park.  The student worked from 10:30pm to 8:30am the next day to hand roll the snowmen.  He returned to color them later.  He calls his creation "Love Army":

Alec Paul Johnsen's "Love Army".
Another view of the "Love Army".
Look at the pretty colors!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Book: Yuval Noah Harari's "21 Lessons For The 21st Century"

The first book of the year for me was an interesting read with a disappointing wishy-washy end.

Harari's "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" looks at eighteen issues that are/will become important to us as the 21st century progresses.  I kind of agree with most of his issues including things like nationalism, the nature of work in an automated world, religion, God, and secularism, and immigration amongst others.  The author's discussion of many of these topics is thought provoking and, often, anxiety inducing.

The last three issues are more of an attempt to come up with ways to fix the other eighteen issues.  These three chapters (education, meaning, and meditation) are a bit weak and unfocused in my opinion but I don't completely blame the author.  The eighteen issues he laid out in the book are not easy to solve.  Many we have very little control over as individuals.  Many are intractable.

Today's world in a bit unpredictable and I suspect the actual twenty-one lessons we will learn will be quite different from Harari's list.  I mean, who would have predicted the rise of nationalism, Brexit, and Trump even ten years ago.  But I have to say the author's list is a good start.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads mainly for the first eighteen chapters.   This book made me think.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Iceland: Day Six And Epilogue

This was our last day and our flight wasn't until 5:00pm so we had a semi-free day.  We ate our last breakfast at the hotel, checked out of our hotel putting our bags into storage, and headed next door to the Viking Settlement exhibit.

The remains of a Viking homestead.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
The Viking settlement excavation is literally under the Centrum hotel.   You go to a door next to the hotel, down some stairs to an open space where the remains of a Viking settlement lays excavated.  There is a skylight that opens up to the sidewalk in front of the hotel.  The exhibit is small but informative.  We didn't spend too much time there.  I didn't take any pictures but the Wife did.

We went back to the hotel, collected our bags, and went off to Bus Stop 1 for the last time.  We caught the bus to the airport.  The airport was crowded and I think the rise of tourism haas overloaded the medium-sized airport.  I was starting to feel sick as the day went by.  Sinus pressure, a drippy nose, and I lost my voice.  *Hurrah*

We both enjoyed our Iceland adventure.  Everything didn't go exactly as planned but we saw and did things we'd never seen or done before.  We had a good enough time that we both agree that some day we will return.  Not sure when this will be but, since it is very easy to stop off in Iceland on the way to Europe, it's a no brainer that we will return.  I think we are both interested in driving the Ring Road at least partially around the island.  We still have the Aurora Borealis to see and lava caves to explore.  Yep ... there will be a next time.

One lesson I learned on this trip is that daylight matters.  One thing that will be different when we return is that we will definitely have to go at a different time of year.  The lack of Sun really threw me through a loop.  I'm thinking that September/October is the best time - no crowds, fewer clouds, and more daylight.  I need my daylight.

Another lesson I learned - not Iceland specific - is to spend all your cash before you come home.  I got Icelandic króna from my bank before we left.  In Iceland we used our credit cards most of the time so I got back with over $350 left.  When I tried to deposit it back into bank account, our bank would not accept the four 10,000 króna bills ($330 total).  I ended up having to go to another foreign currency exchanger to get the bills converted which, naturally, cost us an additional fee.  Next time we spend all the cash.

The last thing I learned, this time about myself, is I have become a travel snob.  After seeing so many natural and man-made wonders on our travels, the marvels of Iceland seemed diminished.  This is not Iceland's fault - it's all on me.  I don't like this about myself so I will have to change how I think about these things.  You should always go into a new place with the mindset and eyes of a child and see everything as fresh, new, and full of wonder.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Iceland: Day Five

The first day of the new year and our last tour in Iceland was dedicated to the South coast, waterfalls, and glaciers.  This was going to be a long day with eleven hours scheduled.

We ate breakfast at the hotel and met our tour shuttle at Bus Stop 1.  The tour bus headed along the southern coast of the island on the ring road.  The first stop of the day was Skógafoss, a large waterfall.

View from the top of Skógafoss.
I climbed up a staircase with over five hundred steps up to the top of the falls.  You could follow a trail along the glacier fed river but not having time I headed back down the stairs and got closer to the falls to get a picture.  It was early enough in the day that the spray from the falls landed on the surrounding cliffs as snow and ice.  The smooth river rock covered in a thin layer of ice made walking difficult.

Skógafoss.
Next stop was an open convenience store where we bought snacks and, for some of us, lunch.  Not much was open today as it was New Year's Day.   The second stop was Sólheimajökulll.  The Wife and I got off here.  Others had gotten off at the falls to go snowmobiling/ATVing.  The Wife and I would do a glacier hike.  The rest of the bus would visit a black sand beach and eat lunch.  We signed in, sat outside, and ate our lunches waiting for out trek to begin.

The pool of water at the base of er glacier with floating chunks of ice.
The Wife was a bit concerned about how difficult this hike would be when they handed us crampons, harnesses, and an ice axe.  We had been told this was an easy hike.  She was told the harness was just in case and the ice axe was mostly just for show.  Our guide was nice and said that everything would be at our own pace.

The glacier, Sólheimajökulll.
We walked about a mile from the office to the base of the glacier.  Here we were shown how to attach the crampons to our shoes and we started climbing up the front of the glacier.  We, in fact, didn't need the ice axes but they were nice to help stabilize you as you climbed.  The black you are seeing in the ice is volcanic ash.  There is a lot of black sand and dust on the island.  Our guide told us stories of her ancestors who had to flee erupting volcanoes with their flocks of sheep.  One of the biggest dangers are the flash floods that result when the volcanoes erupt under the glaciers.

On the glacier - blue ice and black volcanic ash.
When we reached the turn around point the hike, for me, changed from a physical exercise to a psychological one.  I would look down and see smooth wet ice and my body would refuse to step on it.  I had to remind my body that I was wearing crampons and walking on ice was just like walking on dry ground.  My brain fought my body all the way down.

Interesting melt patterns on the side of a crevasse we hiked through.
We got back to the office.  The Wife and I, being the oldest in the group by fifteen or twenty years, were the last to arrive.  I was so proud of the Wife.  It was not easy for her but she pushed through it like a trooper.

Seljalandsfoss ... but no walking behind it this trip.
The bus picked us back up and we made our last stop, Seljalandsfoss.  These tall falls were once a pitstop for the Amazing Race (season 6).  Their claim to fame is a cavern behind the falls that you can enter.  Today the ice made it too dangerous so you couldn't go behind the falls.  It was also late and we were losing light.  Most people just took pictures from afar and bought coffee and snacks from the little store at the parking lot.  I have to admit I was a bit waterfalled out by this time.

The bus took us back to Reykjavik and our hotels. We ate dinner at the hotel bar though many of their menu items were not available due to the holiday.  Today was a good day overall.  The Wife was a bit sore from the glacier hike.  I was a bit tired too.  I'd been having sore throats for a few days now and I could feel that I was coming down with something.  Fortunately, whatever it was, it was waiting for our adventure to be over before it hit me full force.  Very considerate of it.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.