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January 31, 2006

Site 1

I thought I’d be traumatized when the brief vacation was over and I had to go to work, but I ended up feeling refreshed and ready. Besides, I was working with Ed and Ryan. And drillers Mike and Mark, who I hadn’t met until then, but who ended up being quite enjoyable as well.

This trip, instead of being on CalTrans land alongside highways, all four installations were on private land. Pretty nice private land, too.

Our first site was at a neighborhood in Los Osos.

[Ed in our rig.]

The landowner, Pamela, had arranged for a local news crew to come cover our installation.

[Ed talks to the news crew while the drillers work in the background.]

That night, Pamela invited us in for drinks with her and some neighbor friends. It's certainly an interesting job.

The next day, we finished up.

[The finished site. Pamela's horses in the background, and the ocean farther off.]

[Ryan explains the equipment to Pamela and her granddaughter, Alizabeth, who is going to clean the solar panels and raydome (the dome over the GPS antenna) as a community service project.]

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January 30, 2006

Anza Borrego

Well, a broken New Year’s resolution already. I didn’t post any entries during my trip to SoCal. But, I am going to do a post-trip entry.

My trip can be broken up into two parts: Vacation and Work.

Vacation was a weekend in the Anza Borrego, a desert bordering Mexico east of San Diego. I knew almost nothing about the Anza Borrego. I hadn’t even heard of it until meeting Chris Walls’ dog, Anza, in October. She told me aaaalllll about it. Okay, she didn’t. Chris did, when I asked about her name.

Chris loves the Anza Borrego. He used to frequent the place. Frequently. When I was again scheduled to go work in SoCal and Chris suggested spending the weekend before work in the Anza Borrego, I figured it was an opportunity to seize. I mean, how could I not check out the place with someone who had named their dog after it?

Chris picked me up at the Ontario, CA airport Friday evening and we hightailed it south. Spent two nights out in the desert before driving back up to Riverside. The desert was beautiful, the weather was delectable, the company (Chris and Anza) was lovely. I was very relaxed. Most of the time, I realized, I was content to just be, wasn’t thinking about anywhere else or anything else or anyone else or anytime else. I was in the desert, and it was effortless. (It probably helped that Chris was driving and had brought all the food, and knew the place and where he wanted to go. And, it was nice and warm.) We took a leisurely pace, nothing rushed, no ambitious hikes. Took our time in the morning, went for walks, stopped along the dirt roads to check out geology and ecology and take pictures.

I think my favorite plant was the choya. Teddybear choya, if I've got it right, because it looks so darn cuddly. From a distance.

[Teddybear choya in front of a yucca plant.]

[Closer up.]

Agave was a major focus of our trip. It grows as a spiky, low plant. When it comes time to propogate, it sends a shoot from the center from the plant ten feet towards the sky. The top of this shoot produces flowers which are pollinated by bees. The shoot dies, dries, and, eventually, falls over. We were able to see all stages of this process.

[The old next to the new.]

[A stalk just gets started.]

Ocatillo was also in bloom. Beautiful red flowers hung from the ends of the numerous shoots.

[Chris checks out his favorite plant, ocatillo.]

We also enjoyed some of the more typical-looking flowers. I admire anything that can grow in those conditions.

And, I mean, who wouldn't love a little mini cactus? I expected to see a little mini cowboy with a little mini horse huddled up to a little mini fire close by, but no luck. He must have been off tending the mini cattle.

Being rock geeks, Chris and I had to stop and fawn over the rock, as well. There was some very cool stuff going on.


[Chris checks out a dike, aka a magmatic intrusion into rock. The whole thing has been uplifted and eroded to expose what was once deeper in the Earth's crust.]

[A close look at the dike rock.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris. Me for scale.]

[Photo: Chris.]

[Photo: Chris.]

Towards the end of Saturday, we came to Devil's Dropoff. We stopped at the top to take in the view.

Chris gave some advise to a group heading down before us,

and then we hopped in the Bronco

and headed down on our own.

[Devil's Dropoff.]

Did I mention that mornings were hard? Oh, wait, they weren't hard at all. Our campsites are worth a mention. Not a bad place to wake up to, at all.

[Our white trash campsite. Chris gets ready to cook breakfast. Mmm, sausages.]

[Morning walk.]

[I managed to take this before he put a hand up to his forehead. Sweet.]

Anza got to participate in her favorite hobby every day. Searching for vermin.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Our weekend in the desert did, anyway. Hooray, Anza Borrego!

Not pictured: A big fat falcon that we saw up above Devil's Dropoff.

Posted by beth at 12:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 26, 2006

Off (Soon) Again to Cali

After being around most all the month of January--is it really still January? It seems like a lot of time has passed since coming back from the holidays--I'm heading out again on Friday. About time. I've alternated between feeling bored and stir-crazy and enjoying actually being around and working on some in-house projects, like organizing our tools and updating our website. So I predictably feel a little mixed about heading out for the week or so, but overall I'm happy. I'm heading back to Southern California, flying into the Ontario airport (east of LA) Friday evening and relaxing for the weekend in the desert (Anza Borrego) before setting out for another week of permanent station installations in the Central Valley. At least I think that's where the installs are. I guess you'll have to stay tuned--I could be totally wrong.

I'm not sure I really have much more to say. A goal for the year was to write before, during, and after a project. So here's the before. I'm off to Cali on Friday, and hopefully I'll be able to get some good shots in the desert--I'm looking forward to a little desert time. I know, I know, ski season in Colorado. Did I mention I skied knee-deep powder on Friday? Yeah. In skis from the early '90s (still neon), long and heavy and skinny and straight and pointed, and I don't know how to ski powder besides because I grew up skiing in the Northwest. Definately more of a workout than I anticipated. Yet definately a treat, as well.

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January 9, 2006

Avalanche Safety Class

While I was home over the holidays relaxing, my friend and workmate Nicole (see our adventures in Socorro in November) was researching level 1 avalanche safety courses. She found one that was taught at one of Colorado's backcountry huts, costing only slightly more than an in-town course. No-brainer. Why commute to and from Estes Park (about an hour away) for three days rather than skiing into a beautiful hut in beautiful mountains surrounded by beautiful and potentially avalanche-prone, snowy terrain? And have dinners provided, besides? She talked me into it. It didn't take much. So, rather than having a relaxing weekend home after my first week back to work after the holidays, I geared up and headed into the Rockies with Nicole.

We stayed at a condo that she and some friends are renting for the winter up in Dillon (near many of the major ski areas) on Thursday night, and headed off to meet the rest of the group on Friday morning. Leadville Safeway parking lot at 9 AM. Sunny, clear, gorgeous day. And the group was, as my friend Larry would say, completely bastard-free. Three instructors, fourteen or so students, and all of them nice. Some fun, even.

The purpose of the class was to learn to recognize conditions that contribute to avalanches (terrain, snowpack, weather, people) to be able to avoid putting ourselves or our friends at risk of getting caught in an avalanche, and also to learn what to do in the case that someone (including ourselves) does get caught in an avalanche. It was a great class, aided by the great setting, great weather, and great people. The class itself was a combination of hands-on field practice and lectures (there is actually a classroom in the hut). Days were long and tiring, although there were only 2 1/2 of them, putting most folks to bed around 9:30 or so. There's not much more to say about the class so I'll just toss in some photos. None of the hut, though. What was I thinking?

[Nicole practices using a beacon while instructor Ron looks on.]

[Instructors Josh, Ron, and Scott dig an exemplary snow pit.]

[Student Josh and mountains. What a day, eh?]

[Oliver puts on another layer to protect against the wind gusts.]


[Corey, lovin' it.]

[Nicole enjoys lunch.]

[I enjoy lunch, too. Photo: Nicole]

[And we all ski on, into the snow and wind.]

And, actually, I got back in time on Sunday to see a show that I had bought tickets for before I knew about the avalanche course. E-Town (an NPR radio show recorded at the historical Boulder Theater) with Mike Doughty and Uncle Earl. How much to go on about this show? After seeing Mike Doughty (lead singer of Soul Coughing) in October at the Fox Theater, I started writing a story called "Impressing Mike Doughty" about admiring a famous person and thinking you can catch their attention and such and how he'd check out my blog and blah blah blah because I love him. Have you ever seen him live? You should. You've got to. Okay, maybe I'm overdoing it. But he is good. I was actually a bit disappointed in his banter--he was a little loud, a little seemingly self-absorbed--but then, when he started singing again, I loved him again. Plus, I found out in the host's introduction that he is a playwrite and poet, likes to travel, likes language (which I already knew), and is a Billy Bragg fan. Have I ever mentioned that I love Billy Bragg? I don't think that I have, but I do. And I did even moreso after seeing *him* at an E-Town several years ago, because his banter was absolutely beautiful. In a political and witty and also seemingly down-to-Earth sort of way.

After the show, we waited in line to buy a CD and then have it autographed, something we'd passes up at the show at the Fox. I was a bit self conscious about the fact that I was dressed rather blandly, in the one long-sleeved shirt that I had that was clean but that I wasn't particularly fond of, and that my hair was nondescript. Or something. And when I finally got up to him, with most the crowd gone, he was obviously exhausted and mostly spent, his eyes glazed over and his mannerisms distracted, the energy gone, and I couldn't think of anything at all to say to him. Nothing clever, nothing witty. Nothing at all. "How's it going?" he asked, without looking up. I probably said, It's going quite well, thanks. Maybe I asked how he was, too. Great show, I said, which is the same thing the person before me said. Thanks, he said, forcing brightness. I enjoyed your show at the Fox, too, I said, which is also the same thing that the person before me said. And then, nothing else. He thanked me again, with his glazed-over look, and I half-smiled and left. Non-descript. With a CD in my hand with his name written on it and nothing else. An autograph.

Uncle Earl. See them. No, really, see them. They were fantastic. They're an all-women old time (/bluegrass) band, and they are sassy. Great voices, too, besides the great energy. This E-Town will probably air in about a month, but if you have the chance to see them live, do that. Both of these bands are great live.

And, I should also say that I went back in to get the bass player's autograph, and he is this lovely young geeky-looking guy who you'd expect to see in the front of your math class but who instead is on stage with Mike Doughty, playing bass and spider marracas with casual ease (he played the marracas with his other hand in his pocket) and then being friendly accomodating afterwards. Probably because he's not as mobbed as M. Doughty, so he has energy to actually look at you and converse. I like his handwriting, too. It's chicken-scratch.

Posted by beth at 12:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 4, 2006

2006 is Here!

Hallo, and happy new year! I'm a couple days late on writing a new year's entry, but better late than never. It's only day three, right? Yes. And my first day back to work. And my second night back in Boulder, after a lovely holiday in the northwest. So where to begin? There are stories to tell, and I have great ambitions of writing a great and comprehensive and inspiring and telling new year's entry besides, which I suspect will be abbreviated. What did I want to talk about?

Happy new year!

And I think I wanted to say something about my New Year's resolutions, which include at least one blog entry for each trip I go on and also an overview blog entry on what I'm actually doing now (since the "What I do" entry which is linked on the home page is outdated). And I'd like to do some justice to the topic of "no more ice"--no more ice in the iceblog? No more Antarctica anyway, at least for now, but please don't stop reading because of that. There are other adventures to be had. Possible trips to the volcanoes of Hawaii and Iceland, for instance, and a trip to our very own state of Georgia. (I was hoping my boss meant the country, but no luck.)

I'm going to try to jot some lines on the adventures of the end of 2006 while I'm sitting here (actually, I'm lying on my belly appreciating the delicious flannel sheets given to me for Christmas by my folks). Feel free to toss a favorite New Year's resolution or two into a comment to inspire the rest of us. Or me, at least.

Posted by beth at 5:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 1, 2006

New Years Eve

Oregon coast!

Okay. So. I had planned to come back to Boulder for New Years to head to the mountains for the weekend with a few of my close girlfriends here, but that plan fell through. So why go back to Boulder when I could go to the Oregon coast? I changed my ticket.

Road trip!

Oh, wait. Why was I going to the Oregon coast? I actually spent my last New Years in the northern hemisphere, four years ago, at the Oregon coast. In a rented house. With six other people. My initial connection to the group was my friend Sue, who I met in the geology department at Indiana University seven years ago. (Seven years ago! Wow!) The gang had so much fun and thought it was such a good idea that they've done it every year since then. This year, they got a gigantic house that sleeps 25. I was on the invite list, but mostly ignored the e-mail--although I kept the idea in the back of my mind. It came to the front of my mind when my friend David called while I was in California. It's been probably over a year since David and I have talked. He thought it would be a good idea if I came to the coast for New Years. For one thing, he thought it would make him popular to have been responsible for my presence, and for another thing--this might be the clincher, he'd said--Michael Valliant was coming out for it. Michael is a mutual friend from Indiana, and not that it wouldn't be enough to see Sue and David and my other friends that I knew would be there, but--I mean, Michael, coming all the way out from Bloomington for it... (which David did too, I might add, and Susan came out from Boston and Rahel and Caroline came up from Oakland, but still...Michael Valliant...)

So, my Colorado plans fell through and I decided to go to Oregon. Besides, if I decided to go to the coast, David promised me the following: --Actually, I'm just going to include his whole e-mail, since I like it so much.
Well, Beth, I've got to admit, my hopes are already up... but don't
worry, I will survive if you decide not to join in the fun.


I will do SO MUCH MORE than surVive if you *DO* join in the fun!! For
instance, I will:

* Cook food for you!
* Eat food with you!!
* make you a drink!!
* drink a drink with you!!
* do a somersault in the sand!!!!
* tell you how cool you are for owning a Hot Club of Cowtown CD!
* dance to the sounds of Hot Club of Cowtown with you!!!

All this, and Much Much More!!!!

So, when you look at it that way, I'm sure you can understand why my
hopes are up. I mean, can you really blame me??

hopefully yours,

As you can see, we had a pretty tall order in front of us. There was much fun to be had. But I think we managed pretty well.

Really, it was worth it just to see Sue's reaction. And Michael's and Michael's were pretty good, too. David and I figured it would be best to just surprise people. Sue's face went from 'does not compute' to 'ohmygod'. Hee hee hee hee hee. Surprising people is a good way to get hugs.

And, the house was beautiful. Most significantly, it was right on the beach and had large windows looking out onto the ocean.

[Ben at the window. Photo: Chris.]

The food was also good. Different people had signed up to be responsible for each brunch and dinner. Since I was a last-minute add-on, I didn't sign up for anything, and mostly just got spoiled. Leopoldo made taco casserole, Christy and Collin made french toast, Susan and Caroline and Rahel made latkes for Chanukah dinner, and David and Sue made amazing omlettes. And this only while I was there. There was Ethiopian and I don't remember what else after I left.

[Dinner time.]

And what would a New Years weekend be without presentations? Okay, not the normal thing to do, but this group loves to learn. I gave a spontaneous presentation on how GPS works, and another the following day on Antarctica (principally a slideshow). Susan Kane gave one on the Israel-Palistine conflict which was overwhelming and interesting and depressing and eye-opening and overall quite informative.

[Susan presents.]

The weekend was interesting in other ways, too. Sue gave Michael Burton a box of candy called "I Dare You" for Christmas. The idea, stated by Michael, was to grab out something from the box without looking and then have to eat it. Since doing so was optional, they soon realized that nobody would do it. "Might this involve insects?" I asked. The answer was yes. So yes, I mean no, I wasn't interested. But then Michael spread the 'goodies' out on the table, and somehow things were easier. I really had always wondered if I could ever eat an insect. I figured that was where I was likely to draw the line. (And maybe monkey brains. Like that scene in the second Indiana Jones movie. Raiders of the Lost Cause? No, that wasn't it...) But Michael happened to catch me at the exact right moment. "Beth, will you eat a Larvet with me?" "Okay." As simple as that. I decided to eat one. Actually, two.

[Toasting with Larvets. That's the ocean in the background.]

Yeah, they're what they probably sound like. A little box of dried and flavored larva. Don't ask what kind, because I don't know. I mean, they were Mexican Spice flavor, but I don't know what kind of bug they were associated with.

[Michael Valliant and his larva.]

I still don't know that I could do soft larva, though, and I hope to never have to make that decision.

Walking on the beach was an easy decision to make. Especially when it got nice out.


[Leopoldo and sun.]

[Heart in sand, with arteries.]

[Skipping rocks.]

[Sunset over the Pacific.]

[Big sinking sun.]

Did I mention that everyone was really nice? Great to be hanging with the old crowd, good to meet the new. Yeah. It was a nice weekend. It would have been nice to be able to stay for the whole thing--most folks stayed on two more nights--but I was glad to at least have caught part of it. It's a cliche these day, but just the same: Good times.

Oh, right--and David did indeed cook food for me (an excellent omlette), eat food with me (David and I used to like to eat together a lot. In fact, we liked to each a lot together a lot. Man, could we put food away...), make me a drink (mimosa in the morning), drink a drink with me (er...mimosa in the morning), do a somersault in the sand, and dance to Hot Club of Cowtown with me. It's swing. We love to swing dance together. The somersault was a bit challenging, or I thought it would be, because it was raining and the tide came up pretty much to the slope that the houses were on, so that almost all the sand was wet. But we were troopers. We put on our rain jackets and pulled up our hoods and did a test one two three go and then the real one two three go and we did it. Whew. And high-fived afterwards.

Okay. Happy new year!

Posted by beth at 5:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack