Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I recently finished the last of the Harry Potter books. Those are great audiobooks, thanks largely to the fantastic vocal performance of Jim Dale. This last book didn't fail to impress me with very imaginative story telling and a lot of tiny details about insignificant things. I'm not sure if the books would be better, or worse, if those little details were absent. But I am certain that I enjoy the detailed construction of vivid scenes that those details help convey. All told, I did enjoy the book. It's not my favorite, but I'll definitely listen to it several more times. The only criticism that I want to note is that the epilogue left me disappointed by the absence of information about what happened to many characters. The epilogue was unlike most chapters in that way. It did include satisfying hints at the outcomes of several plot lines, such as the marital and family status of Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. But it left out so much more. It was also relatively short. This all makes me suspect that it was rushed to meet some publishing deadline, or simply so JK Rowling could finally wash her hands of it all.

I was disappointed to not find out: what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Weasely; who raised Ted Lupin; what happened to George Weasely and the joke shop; did Hermione retrieve her parents from Australia and restore their memories; what happened to the Hogwarts professors; what jobs did Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny take; did Harry return to live in the Black house; is Creature still serving Harry; and more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hike to North Dome

At the suggestion of my friend, Marc, I hiked to North Dome for the great view overlooking Yosemite Valley. I started at 8:30 am from the Porcupine Creek trailhead on Tioga Road. It took me about 1.75 hours to reach North Dome. Since many of you have hiked this trail before, maybe these pics will bring back pleasant memories.

On the return leg, I was passed by many groups of people on the trail. I was glad to have started so early because I enjoyed the quiet of the forest and these groups were noisy enough that I could hear them from quite a distance. This is the topo map that I used, but it wasn't necessary. There were plenty of signs showing the way. The weather was perfect and the views were terrific.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A New Yosemite Adventure

I just returned from another hiking adventure in Yosemite NP. I camped at Tuolumne Meadows campground, site B43. I liked that site. Here's a pic of my camp setup. I took my small tent and a Coleman tent heater, which turned out to be too effective. It produced so much heat that I wished I had brought my large tent. I chose to not sleep with it turned on, for fear of it igniting my tent! It got down to about 30F at night, and when it got too cold, I turned the heater on for a few minutes and raised the interior temp to over 50F.

The Ranger warned me about bears. Seems that 3 or 4 of them have been enjoying the campground at night and liked to pry open cars. Swell. She said that I'd hear the Rangers at night chasing the bears and they may try to capture them. She was right. Starting around 11:30 and for over almost an hour, the Rangers would drive their trucks across the campground (past my tent), then I'd hear several very loud explosions. They sounded like M80s. Then I could hear the whole circus migrate across the campground continuing this little game. Needless to say, I was wide awake for a while, listening intently for anything that sounded like a foot step and with very keen interest if I didn't see a flashlight beam in that direction (figuring that bears don't use flashlights).

I hiked from Olmsted Point down to the head of Tenaya Canyon in order to get some nice pictures looking down toward half dome from near the top of Pywiack Cascade. I made this comic strip of that little adventure. It's almost entirely off-trail and I would NOT recommend it for anybody who is unprepared for what that can mean, or who has kids with them. It took about 1.5 hours to cover the 2.25 miles each way. The weather was great: about 73F and very light winds.

If you'd like to see full sized images, then just email me. I'd be happy to share. The view at the end was fantastic. Amazing. The photo doesn't do it justice. I was standing there on a relatively flat rock with plenty of room to sit down and enjoy a snack. About 6 feet further is all it took for the rock to curve downward and drop hundreds of feet. Neat! If it had been windy, then I would have been really nervous. That big rock on the right side of Tenaya Canyon is Mt. Watkins. Last summer I hiked to the top/edge of that and took some really nice photos of Half Dome from there. Here's a link to that older blog post.

The biggest challenge was returning. It's really important to retrace your steps on this granite ridge. If you don't, then you're almost guaranteed to be stopped by a 50-80 foot cliff (up or down). I expected this, having wandered around the area in the past. To make my life much easier, I brought along my handheld GPS receiver and simply held it in one hand watching the map that showed my route. This allowed me to easily retrace my steps.

I've also included a little topo map that shows my approximate route. It's mostly a downhill walk to the edge of the canyon.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Life Without Video

Well, it had to happen some time. My expensive Oppo DVD player has gone belly up. For all discs, it reports on the display "No Disc" and the firmware prevents any other action from that state. It lasted less than a year. Odd really. I don't mistreat them. Maybe this is why they offer only a 30 day return policy. Tomorrow I'll head out and buy myself another Philips unit.