Tag Archives: commentary

National Parks trip – Grand Tetons

 

I know, I know.  I have been absent and have failed to fulfill my complement of bitching and grousing.

I will return to that subject but first – another trip, this time to three US National Parks; the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier.  My wife and I took this trip in May, starting at the Grand Tetons then moving north first through Yellowstone and then Glacier.  Taking the trip early in the season meant some chanciness in the weather.  The Grand Tetons had some rainy weather but we got an improvement in Yellowstone and Glacier.  We also got a look at a number of critters including black bears and a grizzly.  More on that later.

First up, the Grand Tetons.

The first four pictures are the classic one (though a bit cloudy) of the Snake River in the foreground and the Tetons in the background.  The Tetons are unusual in that, unlike most mountain ranges (the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades and Sierra Nevada’s), they rise directly from a flat valley without any foothills.  It’s all due to tectonic activity and the fact that one tectonic plate is moving directly under another and, as one plate rises, erosion levels the valley floor.  At times, it is as though there is a flat valley floor and the Tetons are huge fake drapery to convince you that there are mountains.

During our visit, we took the boat ride across Jenny Lake and the next picture shows the approach to the landing dock.  A hike with a 600 foot in elevation change took us to hidden falls (next picture).

A Mormon community attempted to establish a farming community in the latter part of the nineteenth century and this barn is often captured in photographs of the now abandoned buildings of that community.

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Next is a picture taken from our bedroom balcony at the Jackson Lake Lodge and the last is one on our departure to Yellowstone as the weather cleared.

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[Next up is Yellowstone.]

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China 2019 – ancient water towns

The water towns were very interesting, more than I expected although getting to them was definitely not what I expected.  I thought that they would be out in the middle of nowhere and we would approach them in a very rural setting.  Instead, we drove and stopped in the middle of a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city.  Sometimes the entrance was over a bridge straddling a canal (Tongli and Zhouzhuang) and, in other cases (Xitang), through a narrow break in the street leading on to the old village.  These are shown in the next two pictures.  Very strange.

 

These three water towns – Tongli, Zhouzhuang and Xitang – located southeast of Shanghai are all picturesque, each reminiscent of Venice with a network of canals.  Tongli was my personal favorite despite sleeping in the hardest bed I have ever slept in my life.  It was here that we had access to the cormorant fisherman and two of my favorite animal pictures – the patient dog and the inscrutable cat.  I also loved the moss and greenery growing in the foot tiles.  Can you pick out the outline of a creature in one of them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will also notice that it was impossible to get past the “conveniences” of American life – KFC and Starbucks!

 

 

China 2019 – Shanghai

First of all, I must ask you not to judge the quality of photography of Worldwide Explorers and Skye Photography based upon my photographs.  As the least knowledgeable photographer of the group, while I got excellent tips from our guides Marcus and James, I still managed to cut off the tops of buildings, take the photo from too high an angle, misalign the composition of the picture, etc.  Both of our photographs will make you weep… but for different reasons.

With that disclaimer, on to Shanghai.

Shanghai is the largest city in China by population and the second most populous city in the world with a population of 24 million.  It is a global financial center and the world’s busiest container port.  It sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze River on the East China Sea.

Today, Shanghai is a mixture of new and old.  There is the modern Shanghai with some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

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There is the historic Victorian Bund.

 

 

And, just a short walk away, is the old Shanghai with narrow streets, storefront vendors and crowded homes and shops.

China 2019

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to China.  We flew out on Saturday morning January 19th non-stop to Shanghai and returned on Saturday, February 2nd after a non-stop flight from Beijing.  We were part of the Worldwide Explorers’ photography tour (https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/ ; https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/blog ) – a very small group, only six of us plus three guides, one of whom was our Chinese interpreter.

We went from Shanghai to three “water towns,” old villages east of Shanghai unchanged for a thousand years.  Then we went east to Zhangjiajie, China’s first national park, a UNESCO heritage site and the location for the movie Avatar.  When we returned to Shanghai, the photo tour was over but we had hired the Chinese interpreter as our guide for Beijing.  We took a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing and then got to see the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo and the Great Wall before heading back.

China is a fascinating country; it should have a sign when entering that says “country under construction.” Everywhere we went, even in the rural areas, buildings were either being built or torn down.  Sometimes it was hard to tell which one it was.  Shanghai is a city of contrasts – the very modern skyscraper city, the elegant old Bund and, just a few blocks away, the old, old back streets of an earlier Shanghai.  The water towns were very interesting.  I expected to arrive at them in a rural setting.  Instead, we drove and stopped in a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city.  Very strange.

I could have spent days at the Forbidden City.  Supposedly, it has buildings whose rooms total 9,999.  Even during the off-season (January), it was very crowded.  By contrast, we went to a sparsely visited section of the Great Wall.  Most of the pictures you see of the Great Wall are probably taken around Badaling.  This section has been completely restored and is only a short hike (5 minutes) from taxi to wall.  We went to Simitai which is much less traveled and also not restored.  We had an hour hike to get to the wall but we were the only ones there.

A few pictures of Shanghai at night; more photos of the trip will follow.

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Advice [with commentary]

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People cannot resist giving advice. Most of it is unwanted, unwarranted or useless.  Shakespeare’s Polonius, he of “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” was full of advice and was also a deceitful old fool.  Hamlet rewarded Polonius for this advice by stabbing him: He should have stabbed him sooner.

While I am not planning to stab anyone, I am going to add my own curmudgeonly commentary to some advice and comments that I received recently.

 

Your shoes are the first thing people subconsciously notice about you. Wear nice shoes.  [Wear more if it’s cold unless you are auditioning for a job as a stripper.]

If you sit for more than 11 hours a day, there’s a fifty percent chance you’ll die within the next three years.  [So move around every 10 hours and 59 minutes.]

There are at least 6 people in the world who look exactly like you. There is a 9% chance that you’ll meet one of them in your lifetime.  [None of these people will look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.]

Sleeping without a pillow reduces back pain and keeps your spine stronger.  [Sleeping without a bed does not.]

A person’s height is determined by their father and their weight is determined by their mother.  [It’s always your parents’ fault.]

If a part of your body “falls asleep,” you can almost always “wake it up” by shaking your head.  [If your head falls asleep, you’re probably dead.]

There are three things the human brain cannot resist noticing – food, attractive people and danger.  [For men, this is defined as beer, large breasts and “honey do” lists.]

Putting dry tea bags in gym bags or smelly shoes will absorb the unpleasant odor.  [Using the tea bag afterwards will not.]

According to Albert Einstein, if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within 4 years. [Sooner if preceded by nuclear holocaust.]

There are so many kinds of apples that if you ate a new one every day, it would take over 20 years to try them all.  [Also true for micro-breweries.]

People who laugh a lot are healthier than those who don’t. [Unless you laugh at a Hell’s Angel.]

Our brain uses the same amount of power as a 10-watt bulb.  [Which is why we see people who have a bright idea with a 10 watt bulb over their heads.]

Our body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to boil 1.5 liters of water.  [So if you sit in a bathtub long enough, will you heat it up?]

Stomach acid (HCl) is strong enough to dissolve razor blades.  [Be environmentally sound by swallowing razor blades after using them.]

Take a 10 to 30 minute walk every day and while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate antidepressant.  [Not true. When I take a 30 minute walk, I grimace.]

Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.  [For a teenager, make it 10 hours instead of 10 minutes.]

Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Forgive them for everything. [But don’t forget their names.]

Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”  [If yes, then elevate “so-called” to “cataclysmic.”]