Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It came from the Interweebs...

Some random interesting stuff that's come through my inbox/blog reader lately...
  • Read this article and tell me Barack Obama would not be an awesome president.
  • Fun with dots and music from the Exploratorium: The Dot Mixer.
  • Apparently there is (very possibly) Water on Mars. Which is really exciting, if you think about it -- even really simple life forms would be HUGE from a comparative biology standpoint. OK, enough geeky stuff.
  • Ha ha, just kidding. The Political Leanings of Superheroes -- 'nuff said.
  • How To Talk To A Climate Skeptic: A well-organized point-by-point rebuttal of most of the climate skeptics' greatest hits.
  • Lie By Lie: A well-organized month-by-month reminder of just exactly what the Bush administration was saying in the lead up to the Iraq war.
  • A pretty neat-o collection of historical maps.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Look

I've switched over to the new beta version of blogger, which is why things look a little different. Apparently the beta version is much fancier and allows you to reconfigure your layout using their HTML editor. For the old version of the blog I did several HTML things by hand and all of those got clobbered when I switched over. Oh-well. Anyway, I'll probably be tweaking the look of things a bit in the next few days. Let me know if anything looks cool.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Well, it's been almost two months since my trip to Warsaw, Poland, so I figure it's about time...

For most of my trip, it was rainy and grey, which somewhat dampened the beauty of the city. But one day in the middle, the sun came out and Warsaw glistened. The above picture is of Zamkowy Plaza in the Old Town, amid the tourists and vendors.

The Old Town is actually a misnomer. The entire city center was completely destroyed in World War II. And I mean, literally reduced to a pile of rubble four feet high. The Old Town that exists today was painstakingly recreated after the war from old pictures and architectural plans.

This is the central square of the old town, the Stare Miasto. It is lined with outdoor restaurants and has a similar feel to parts of Italy I've been too. Tourist central -- although this late in the season the tourists were mostly schoolchildren and other Poles.

Still, the Old Town does have a certain medieval charm to it, even if it does seem a little too scrubbed clean at times.

The rest of Warsaw is filled with reminders of the city's tragic history. Poland has had a rough couple of centuries, what with being stuck between Germany and Russia. This is a memorial to the 1943 Warsaw uprising, where the Polish resistance fought back against the Nazi occupiers. The rebellion was brutally put down while the Soviet army watched from the eastern bank of the Vistula. The attempt by many of the resistance fighters to escape through the city's sewer system is depicted in this sculpture. Most were killed.

The previous year, 1942, saw the extermination of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis. A series of memorials to this event dot the city, although the ghetto neighborhood itself has been completely replaced by new development. This cairn marks the site of the bunker where the Jewish resistance forces made their last stand.

A wall bearing hundreds of Jewish first names marks the train station where 300,000 Warsaw Jews were shipped off to the concentration camps.

There's a famous photograph of this statue standing among the rubble - it's still there, surrounded now by a thriving city.

This statue memorializes the many children, some as young as 8 years old, who joined the Polish Resistance. As with all of these memorials, people seem to leave flowers and candles continually. History is not so distant here.

On a happier note, I was able to find one of the few vegetarian restaurants in the city. Very yummy. I was able to make almost no headway on the language while there, although many people spoke English (especially in the tourist areas). Otherwise, I got a lot of practice communicating through gestures and grunting.

Purple deer baying at the moon. Of course.

A nice view of the bridge to the east side of the Vistula. Apart from the touristy downtown, Warsaw projects itself as a solid, working city full of real people doing real things. Think Chicago.

Here's the Stare Miasto under a full moon.

Oh yes -- the reason why I went. My advisor offered to have me give a summary talk about the HETE-2 mission in his stead at a conference hosted by the Copernicus Center. The conference was intended to strengthen collaborations between French and Polish astronomers studying GRBs. It seemed a little odd to me that the talks were entirely in English, even though there was only one other native English speaker attending. The conference was very good, although it may be the last GRB meeting I ever attend...

One afternoon while seeing the sights I stumbled into a fairly large political rally/march that had overtaken the downtown. It was fascinating to witness such a rally and yet understand not a word being said. It was fairly clear that at least one of the march leaders was a bona fide national celebrity. Even the cops were snapping photos as he passed. A little internet research later revealed that the march was for one of the center-right parties.

A small but enthusiastic group of socialists gathered to protest the larger march. Again, I couldn't understand a word, but you can glean quite a bit from context. At any rate they had very catchy chants, and were rewarded with quite a large number of shouted remarks from the participants of the larger rally.

The Vistula River at dusk.

The Palace of Science and Culture was a "gift" from Stalin to the Polish people and since it's still the tallest building in town, it can be seen from just about everywhere. Apparently the Rolling Stones once played at a lounge on the top floor.

Big city lights. Just as when visiting Budapest a few years back, I found myself continually marvelling at how "modern" and "western" Warsaw appeared. I guess a lot of the Eastern Bloc cities were portrayed as fairly grim during the Cold War, so its interesting to see the city bustle with students and bars and traffic and business-folk. Perhaps this is all new with the fall of Communism, or perhaps it was always there to begin with.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Reading Material

Oooh-kay, so it's been awhile since my last post - what can I say, I've been swamped with work and travel. I've been storing up some good post ideas, however.

For now I'd like to recommend you check out Laila el-Haddad's blog Raising Yousuf. She's a fairly well-known Palestinian journalist who has been trying to return home with her family via the (perpetually closed) Gaza-Egypt border crossing for the past few weeks and has been blogging about the ordeal. She's a compelling writer and her postings put flesh on the concept of collective punishment felt by ordinary Palestinians. Her blogging has prompted at least one response from an Israeli writer critical of her opinion. Blogging as bleeding edge journalism - and interesting reading on both sides.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Super Bowl for Nerds

So it's officially over and the Democrats have taken back both houses of Congress. I think I've had a big smile on my face for a few days now. At work we stood around and watched George Allen's concession speech with little plastic glasses of champagne. Good riddance - what a tool. Here are some random, unfiltered thoughts on the election bouncing around in my head:
  • Only a handful of dirty tricks that I heard of -- phony phone calls in Virginia claiming certain voters would be arrested if they tried to vote, or else telling them that their polling place had moved. Or the RNCC paying to harass independent voters in New Hampshire with dozens of robo-calls appearing to come from Democratic candidates. What sort of person thinks up this stuff? Hopefully the FBI tracks them down and makes them do a perp walk on the 10 o'clock news.
  • We now have a socialist in the Senate. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a DSA member - or at least a 'fellow traveller'. Elsewhere: Daniel Ortega is supposedly no longer a Marxist, but he is once again President of Nicaragua, continuing the general leftward tilt in Latin America.
  • Even more exciting than taking back Congress are the giant gains made by the Dems at the state level: a majority of governorships and a control of a bunch of statehouses in all regions of the country. That bodes well for the '08 presidential election (having a strong presence in battle ground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania) and the future (setting up a Democratic farm team to generate good candidates). God, do we have to start thinking about the '08 election already? Ugh.
  • One blot on an otherwise great day: several gay marriage bans. The awful new Virginia law not only bans gay marriage, but civil unions too and even manages to take rights away from un-married straight couples. There's a small of me that finds a certain grim humor in the prospect of straight folks so eager to put the gays in their place that they manage to shoot themselves in the foot as well. But mostly it's not funny, just another bad law we'll work to overturn someday. I'm holding out hope (but not my breath) that this election will mark the end of gay-bashing as a Republican electoral strategy.
  • On a more positive note, Arizona voted down a similar marriage ban and South Dakota voters soundly rejected that state's blanket abortion ban.
  • The only election activism we had time for this year was a few hours with the moveon.org call-4-change website on Monday night. I thought their online calling system was really well designed, and apparently these types of phone calls do actually have an impact in getting out the vote. We were calling voters for the Arizona Senate race, which didn't actually flip Dem, but hey, it was still kinda cool.
  • I spent most of election night at a party for environmental non-profits hosted by the Wilderness Society. Drinks, appetizers, big screen TVs tuned to CNN - think Super Bowl for politics nerds. Everyone in DC is unhealthily obsessed with the election and government politics (I confess I am infected as well) -- which makes sense I guess, but too often seems very narrowly focused on the horse-race aspect of politics. Party was fun though. Right after my last blog posting (around 1am) Webb passed Allen in the official vote count and I decided to head to bed.
  • I wonder what Pelosi, Reid et al. will do with their mandate? The voters have sent a message about the war, and now, in a lot of ways, it's the Democrats' responsibility to find a way out of this nightmare we're stuck in. This election is tremendous news for the world and the country, but its not the end of the struggle, either.
So once again, control of an entire branch of government comes down to a handful of votes (one of 'em mine!) in a contested state. I have to say its nice to be on the winning end of the coin flip for a change. It's a relief to think that this will (hopefully) put the brakes on the Iraq war and the whole messed-up Bush agenda.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


and it looks like a big night for the Dems! Wa-hoo! Webb is trailing Allen by about 2,000 votes right now. Here's hoping that mine counted. More thoughts to come...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Goat-Related News

Apparently someone is compiling a list of "goat-related science fiction/fantasy works." A noble cause, no doubt. Neil Gaiman provides some help. To this goal I would also recommend goats.com -- fine example of goat-themed sci-fi (er, sort of). And I'd be surprised if someone hasn't written a story involving fainting goats, because that's just too weird to pass up.

Monday, October 30, 2006

UCS in the Washington Post

Check out this article from the Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin:

The lead:
A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has rejected staff scientists' recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act at least six times in the past three years, documents show.

In addition, staff complaints that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species.
The Scientific Integrity Program at UCS along with several other groups did a lot of work bringing these documents to light. They mention us later in the article and quote my boss. Here's our press release and website detailing the endangered species and the instances of political manipulation covered in the Post article.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Birthdays by Month

While we're on the topic of random stuff I've always wondered about... which is the most common month for birthdays? I feel anecdotally that I meet/know a lot of people who, like me, have a November birthday, but maybe I just notice them more? What's the real deal?

It turns out that the Internet does indeed know the answer to this question (are we surprised?) but it's actually kind of hard to dig up. Every search I tried with any combination of the words 'birthday' and 'probability' automatically gave me a gazillion links to the Birthday "Paradox", which is a pretty interesting statistical oddity in its own right and not entirely unrelated, but also not quite what I was looking for. As these things go, it's always a matter of finding the right google phrase -- in this case "seasonal variation of births" did the trick. In the United States from 1978 to 1987 the distribution of birthdays looked like this:

Data: U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1989

So September is the most popular birthday month, and January the least. November is actually a bit below average (so much for my subjective impression). Notice that my plot is slightly deceptive in that the y-axis doesn't go down to zero. This means that the 'big' difference between January and September isn't really that big - the variations are only about 5% of the average. It seems, people tend to make babies just about any old time of year.

Perhaps most interestingly, this seasonal variation of births is not the same across cultures and nations. The U. S. peaks in late summer whereas Northern Europe has more spring birthdays. No doubt the variations are very different elsewhere in the world and probably have many interesting implications for the sociologists to untangle.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Singing on the Metro

I see people all the time on the Metro with little white earphones plugged into their heads, and I wonder constantly why more of them don't just burst into song (or at least nod their heads to the beat). No; it's mostly that dull, Monday-morning commute-stare. Not that I don't understand the dull, Monday-morning commute-stare, but this morning Sigur Ros popped up on my iPod (free mp3 here), the sun was shining, the air was crisp and shiny and suddenly it was quite a bit like being in my very own Sofia Coppola movie -- a little trippy, a little spacey, a little bit of public transportation -- but definitely worth breaking into song for. La la la.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Oh man, I missed my own first blogiversary - now I'm in trouble. 1 year and 13 days ago I decided to blog and this marks my 78th posting - roughly 1.5 a week. I'm a tad surprised I actually stuck with it, although I have decided I rather enjoy blogging. I certainly have more ideas for posts than time to write them, which is good and bad, I guess. Onward into the 2nd season...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Magnetized Planet

As we were driving around Ireland two summers ago, desperately trying not to kill ourselves, we naturally fell into a conversation about how certain countries drive on the right, while others drive on the left. I was intrigued that, off the top of our heads, the only countries we could name that drive on the left were island nations: Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan. For nations that share a border, there are bound to be a myriad practical incentives to drive on the same side of the road, such that nations are likely to come into alignment over time. This phenomenon seemed like a good analogy to what physicists call 'spontaneous symmetry breaking' (SSB).

The most familar physical example of SSB comes from ordinary ferromagnets (the things stuck to your fridge). For fairly subtle quantum mechanical reasons atoms in a ferromagnet tend to line up with their magnetic fields all pointing in the same direction. Most atoms don't do this, which is why most materials in the universe (ducks, toast, your little sister) don't stick to your fridge. In other words, if one atom is surrounded by other atoms all with fields pointing in the opposite direction, it will be energetically favorable for it to flip its direction and align with its neighbors. Regions within a magnet where the atoms are aligned and a net magnetic field points in a certain direction are called magnetic domains. An iron bar then becomes magnetized when all of its domains point in the same direction. Alternately, you can de-magnetize a bar magnet by heating it or hitting it with a hammer, which has the effect of randomizing the magnetic domains.

SSB occurs when an initially randomized state (physicists use the term 'symmetric' for this, even though it's a little confusing) spontaneously evolves to a special state. That is, the system moves from a state where the domains all point in random directions to one where they are all aligned. Or to push my analogy further, from a situation where countries randomly choose which side of the road to drive on, to a situation where everyone drives on the left. The point is that it doesn't fundamentally matter which side of the road we drive on, or which way the magnetic field points, but that often there are benefits to going with the flow. And whenever there are such benefits, nature devises ways to take advantage of them. This phenomena is found everywhere in the natural world, from the electro-weak transition to super-conductors to deciding which water glass to drink out of on a circular table.

Map courtesy of World Standards.

It turns out that the reality of which nations drive on which side of the road is a little more complex than our initial short list of first-world nations would indicate. As can be seem from the map, many of the world's island nations are indeed left-driving countries, but there are also significant pockets of left-driving mainland countries that do share borders with right-driving countries. Most of these countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, east Africa), share a common administrative heritage: the colonial British Empire.

The history of left vs. right driving nations is long and fairly interesting (both links give a good overview). There has been a significant trend over the 20th century towards alignment in these regards, even among former British colonies. A century ago, many more countries drove on the left, but with the increase in car traffic over the years, pressure has mounted to conform to right-side driving. Many nations (including Canada, China and the parts of Europe not invaded by Napoleon) have switched from left to right in the past 100 years, but the only recorded switch from right to left is the island of Okinawa in 1978. Leaving island nations aside, there are really only two domains opposed to the dominant right-driving domain: southeast Africa and the Indian subcontinent (I bet the border crossings there are always exciting). It may be that these regions are populous and (relatively) powerful enough to resist assimilation by their neighbors, or it may be that as car-traffic over the borders increases with time, they too will join the right-driving universe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

One-Third Equal Time...

The little white car has new additions...

In addition to the venerable Darwin fish, we have a very cool Ichthus fish as well as a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Laura Jean wishes me to point out that while these 3 icons do indeed gain one-third equal time on our bumper, only two of them represent plausible theories of the origin of human life on earth. Our third icon, the Ichthus fish, symbolizes rather a religious faith, and which actually makes no claims about biology one way or the other (despite what some people keep insisting). Apples to oranges to noodles.

You can also see evidence of our hard-won new license plate as well as our plug for the lovely, if remote, Scottish Isle where we honeymooned. Out of view to the left is our obligatory political bumper sticker.

Apparently, our car now has a lot more to say. Hopefully, it'll keep running too.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

High Sierra

I finally got around to posting pictures from our 3-day hike of Mono Pass several weeks ago. Click the links below for each day's pics and narrative.

Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3

Notice how I've cleverly back-dated the posts? Now we can pretend I was really blogging from the wilderness with a satellite phone (or something...)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Stupid Tax

We spent over three hours today at the Virginia DMV today. And that's not even the worst part. Get this: our car got towed while we were there!

It turns out that the DMV has this high-tech waiting room with a complicated electronic queueing system designed to handle hundreds of people... and then they have a teeny tiny parking lot outside. Because why would anyone need to drive to the DMV? Guh. So anyway, we had to park in a lot with somewhat ambiguous signs and we got towed. Of course, I was waiting in a long enough line that Laura Jean had enough time to call a ride to the impoundment lot and return with the car (100 bucks poorer) before my number was even called.

I haaate paying stupid tax.

The funny part is this: all day we were thinking we were kind of lame for getting our car towed from the DMV (I mean, lame, right?), but apparently this happens all the time. We had dinner with two friends tonight and the same thing happened to them. They mentioned that the business which owned the parking lot and the towing company had even been in trouble for predatory towing practices. And a quick google found a bunch more complaints about the same parking lot.

Not that I'm saying we were totally blameless, but it is a little weird. Welcome to Virginia, I guess.

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Blog

The fine folks I had briefly been interning with, Student Pugwash, put me up to writing a blog about transitioning out of academia and into the real world. As a result, I bring you...

The plan is to write about some of the culture clashes you see in moving from academia into the non-profit world, to give some advice about interesting things you can do with a Ph.D., and to learn a little about some of the hot-button science policy topics of the day. Since I just got a job, the blog will be a bit less about job hunting and more about job having, but I'm hoping to make it a good resource for anyone interested in doing something similar. You can read more about it here.

And of course, I would never abandon this blog (stay tuned for the usual movie reviews, pictures, rants and funny links), but if you're interested in science and society, or if you're thinking of not applying for that post-doc, come on over and check it out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Hey, I got a job! Just found out yesterday afternoon that I will be a Researcher/Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists working for their Scientific Integrity Program. So it's not just any job, but one I'm really psyched about.

For those who don't know them, UCS is a great organization that works to promote sensible, science-based solutions to environmental issues like global warming, clean energy, fuel-efficient vehicles, sustainable agriculture and nuclear non-proliferation. Their scientific integrity gig is a fairly new program designed to counter the recent wave of political interference in scientific results arising from certain quarters of the government (ahem). Since it is potentially such a wide-ranging topic, everything from climate change to endangered species to "abstinence-only" education to HIV/AIDS policy, I'm sure I'll have my hands full learning a ton of new stuff. Which is pretty awesome if you think about it. This week they're sending me to a 3 day crash-course seminar on how the government works.

Mainly, I feel really lucky to have found a job advocating for positive change in our world that also lets me use my scientific training. OK, I'm also relieved not to have to continue with the hideous process of actually looking for a job. Ugh. But for right now, this definitely looks like one version of my ideal job, so we'll see how it goes...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

N. Va.

So we've moved to the burbs, apparently. We live right on the border between Arlington and the town of Falls Church, blessedly close to a metro stop. The neighborhood is called Madison Manor, a name that perfectly describes the cute little collection of modest and rather un-manor-ly little brick houses that comprise it (of course, if you live in an actual manor there's really no need to call it such; at that point you can just name it after a great aunt or a made-up French word). Most houses are small, two-story brick affairs that would look nifty and iconic with an American flag flying in front of them -- a conclusion that a great many residents seem to have come to on their own. On the Suburban Soul-Sucking Scale, you could do a lot, lot worse. For example, the houses don't all look the same, there's a park, tons of tall trees, a great biking path and small patches of forest that contain (according to an informational sign) the ruins of something called Brandymore Castle (!) that dates to pre-Revolutionary times.

Still, coming from Chicago and Hyde Park it is something of an enormous culture shock. At night, it gets fairly dark and really quiet. I can walk to the metro, but have to drive almost anywhere else. I catch myself wondering where are all the currency exchanges, bus stops and bookstores? And why can't I hear any sirens or honking cars? There's parking everywhere -- very strange.

The roads in Virginia are total chaos. A map of Arlington County looks like someone took a perfectly rational city and put it in a blender. 11th Road might cross 11th Street at a funny angle before meandering into 26th Avenue for a block and then changing its name to John Marshall before dead-ending. Oh yeah, and there are no signs to explain any of this. There's a place nearby called Seven Corners, which is exactly what it sounds like. Other names like Bailey's Crossing and Leesburg Pike make you realize that these modern highways mark the same path as muddy, wagon-rutted trails 400 years ago and it's just been that way ever since.

Actually, I haven't explored very much yet. Someone recently told me that Falls Church is "still funky and weird," which sounds encouraging. I don't know much of the history, but I feel like Arlington has historically had a very conservative, anti-DC feel to it, but that it is changing and becoming more liberal (and way more diverse) in recent years. At any rate, many adventures to be had -- it's very exciting to learn the ins and outs and the hidden cool stuff of a new place. And there's always DC if I desperately need my urban fix.

[ PS- Laura Jean points out to me that Brandymore Castle is not really a ruin of a castle, but is actually just a limestone rock outcropping on top of a hill that looks a bit like a castle and so got that name. It was however, a prominent landmark used by surveyors dating to 1724. Link here and scroll down a bit to read the description. It's still a nice little walk up the hill, though... ]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Summer of Travels, Part 1

At long last, we're back in our new home in Arlington, VA and are mostly settled in. I've accumulated lots to blog about, but for now I'll just post some pics of some of our travels this summer.

Early in the summer, we went to Virginia to scope out our new house and have our first meal together with Jesse, Grace and Amy.

Then we took a trip to Omaha, Nebraska to visit with our friends, Becky and Joe. Becky was roomies with Laura Jean at Christ House, and we had to miss their wedding last summer since we were double booked with another friend's wedding that same day.

By random coincidence, my Mom and my Aunt Kathleen were also in Nebraska visiting family with my grandmother, and they drove to Omaha to take us to lunch...

... and some delicious locally made ice cream.

We also went car-camping with Bromleigh and Josh up in Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin.

If you're into geology, Kettle Moraine is really cool since it marks part of the furthest advance of the glaciers during the last ice age and has lots of really unusual land formations. They are building a 1,000-mile trail called the Ice Age Trail that takes you through Wisconsin all along the edge of the glacial advance; we walked about 20 feet on the trail just for fun.

Mostly, we just enjoyed the woods and the water and the feeling that we weren't in the middle of an enormous city.

Then we were off to Ann Arbor, Michigan for Eduardo and Jen's wedding.

There were lots of Chicago folks making the trek over, along with dancing...

... and cake.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mono Pass Hike: Day 3

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 ]

I awoke the next morning when the stars were still out, and Jessica and I hit the trail at around 6:30 am, hiking in near darkness. The reason for this was that we planned to run ahead of the rest of the group and meet the ferry at Edison Lake. The ferry, which would cut our walking by about 5 miles, left the landing at 9:30 and we still had six miles to go. It didn't seem like all six of us would make it in time, but we hoped to convince them to wait, or else come back for us later.

So Jess and I were already a few miles down the trail when the sunrise began touching the tips of the mountains.

So we wound our way down the river to where it let out into the man-made lake. We made great time, and reached the ferry landing well before the time. The ferry didn't wait for everyone else, but they did promise to return in a few hours to fetch us. So we spent a few hours lounging on the beach, waiting to be rescued...

... which we eventually were... by a pirate boat, which took us across the lake to the furthest inreach of civilization: a boat rental, a cafe and some cabins at the end of a windy dirt road. And a great view looking back in the high country from where we had just come.

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 ]

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mono Pass Hike: Day 2

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 ]

The next morning, the lake mirrored the mountains perfectly.

We had coffee and oatmeal and savored the sunlight.

After packing up, we climbed up higher and there was a beautiful view to the south, including the lake we had just camped at. Sun and thin air meant that we were both hot and cold at the same time, and we stopped often to catch our breath.

At one point, we heard a loud rumbling that sounded like a jet plane, but then we noticed the plume of dust rising up off the snowfield where an avalanche had just come to rest. Thankfully, it was on the other side of the canyon.

Mono Pass -- 12,000 feet above sea level, and we made it! Apparently this route, which is one of the easiest over the Sierras, was often used by the Mono Indians on the east side of the Sierras to trade with other tribes to the west.

We had lunch at a lake just below the pass. There was nothing but rock and snow and wind - it was like eating on the moon. It was barely hospitable in high summer, so I can only guess what it's like here on a winter night.

Finally, we started off for greener valleys below. Beyond this point we only ran into a small handful of people. A day of walking had wrung out all the pop songs and commercial jingles out of my head, and I became more aware of the sun and trees and water and just how gorgeous everything was.

We made it below tree-line and found a great little campsite right by the stream. The one downside of camping low and by water are the foot-long, carnivorous mosquitoes that feast upon your flesh.

The stream at dusk, while I was shivering and doing the dishes.

[ Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 ]