Thursday, December 31, 2015

Investigating Ursus Part 2 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

Have a Happy New Year! This will be the last blog entry of the year, but I hope to get back to a few things I want to discuss in early 2016!

In part one in the previous blog I covered what I thought was important about the issue of bear attacks. A lot more can be said since whole books have been written on the subject. My concern is how the media and other people portray these animals as if they are always looking for humans to eat and always ready for the attack. Today I am going to go over my most recent bear encounter.

I've talked about bears in the past on this blog. I'd say in the past 10 years or so I have seen a bear almost every year in the High Sierra. What typically happens is they see me and then they go away quickly. I have lots of stories of me near a bear, and I would just happen to not have my camera along. Those stories are fun, but I'm going to go right to this one.

On this day I had just gotten home from a morning hike. I was resting in a chair looking toward the screen door. It was very quiet. Then I heard a quick sound like someone walking up just outside the door. Then looking through the screen door I saw the side face of a dog without the body just pausing there. I thought, "Oh someone is outside, but why are they letting there dog up here." The the "dog" moved in front of the door into the front of the porch. I realized it was a black bear. Surprised, I scrambled upstairs to get my camcorder. When I got back I hit the record button, and that is what you see that starts the video.

When the bear was in front of the door I wanted to test it to see what I was dealing with. So, I made a few noises and then said what I said to see how it would react (and partly to humor the viewer). As you see in the video the bear showed a sign of fear there which I knew was a good thing. It was associating a human's voice with danger. I knew that I could probably scare it off with my voice so that's why I kept very quiet throughout the rest of the video.

This is hard to describe without you knowing the area, but I will try. What you don't see in this video is it went behind my place then crossed down to some neighbors homes. My neighbor on the other side saw it as it headed down a different road. Meanwhile, I got my camera. Then, I went down that road, and I had thought I lost it. Eventually, it came back and was on my property again. That's where the video continues.

You see it knocking away that tree stump to get to the grubs and any other tasty things in it. That is a rather common thing for a bear to do in its search for food. It spent some time there doing that. It then ended up at another neighbors home that had the bird feeder hanging from the wire.

At this point I should mention I already knew about it being afraid of human voices, but I was curious about how close it would get to me. I found out it would allow me to get with about 15-20 feet, and it would start to groan if I was closer. I took that as its way of telling me that it didn't like me closer than that safety distance. I had experienced that type of groan before so I kind of knew. It was fine with me hanging out with it, but nothing closer than that. It wasn't really watching me that much. The pictures are only some of the few instances that it glanced at me.

It then made three attempts to get what was inside that bird feeder. Originally, it kept swinging at it, then would drop down, eat what had come out of it on the ground, and then get back up and try again. I was just about to leave because I thought I had spent enough time with the animal. So I started walking back, and looked back at different angle. That was the final shot where it actually got good leverage on the bird feeder to take it down. I left right after that final video take.

After I thought about it, I felt kind of bad for my neighbor that I kind of let it trash their bird feeder like that. I could have scared it off. Had it been doing something to the actual home or trashing something really valuable then I might have acted. The issue though in my mind was even if I had scared it off it probably would have come back eventually when I was not around.

I was just glad the circumstances worked out for this time to get some pictures and video of this animal. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and Steller's Jays are very common animals around there. Bears are little less common, but are around. We usually see trash knocked over at some of the local campgrounds. I was laughing because last month the snow was on the ground, and there were fresh bear tracks all over the place that I didn't think they would be during November. I was up high in the back country on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. My brother and I heard that groaning sound I mentioned earlier in the distance. That I understand, but wandering around when you would think it is hibernating is something I didn't expect.

You do hear stories about black bears in December:

Black Bear Rides for 65 Miles

New Jersey Boy Scout Leader Attacked by Bear

My video:
Investigating Ursus

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Investigating Ursus Part 1 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

I’m going to split this one up. Today I just wanted to cover some background about bears (Ursidae) with the emphasis on the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus). Tomorrow I will go more into detail about my encounter on the video. I’ll show some of the pictures I took of my black bear in each though.

This blog entry will be somewhat incomplete and I will add on to it as time goes by or re-edit it altogether. After I had this bear encounter last August I read a bunch of books and articles about bears. Some of my notes are away right now so I can’t quote everything that I was originally going to do. So, this is one of those that I will come back to over time.

To start this, the point I have to make time and again and will make in another blog in the future is that nature does not play by rules. Whenever I go on hikes or encounter a wild animal like this there is a calculated risk involved. While bears are beautiful creatures they are part of “nature’s war” in that their instincts are that of one trying to survive. Under certain circumstances tragedies can happen. 99% of the time things can go right, but that less than 1% of the time is what makes news stories.

That less than 1% of the time is what I want to spend my time on here. There is a lot of junk out there in the news that would make you think we should be afraid of bears and they are ready to attack humans at any moment. There was an article that came out, not too long after I had my bear encounter this year, about a woman hiking in Connecticut, and a bear came up to her leg to sniff her. It was like, “Oh my goodness, she was risking her life by doing that!”

It is actually a really rare thing for a bear to attack. It is possible and it does happen, but not to the extent you see in movies or hear being talked about in the media. I can’t speak for the people that live in densely human populated eastern parts of the U.S. that are in black bear territory, but the bears I have encountered in the High Sierra are rather shy and timid individuals.

A study done Stephen Herrero examined 59 reported black bear attacks that resulted in 63 deaths over 110 years. Most of those attacks were by lone male bears that exhibited predatory behavior. A good portion of those attacks were in Canada and Alaska where humans are less populated in those areas.

Here is the thing with me, I’m more at peace observing bears than I am driving in traffic. Especially when I see people looking at their cell phones in their car at stop lights or while the car is moving. Now if I were constantly in bear territory and encountering more bears my risk of being attacked might increase. As it is, my chances of injury or death is better by dying by another human than by bear attack. Again, bear attacks are possible, but possible doesn’t mean probable or likely when I encounter one. There is a certain level of perspective or context needs to be understood when talking about bear attacks.

One issue that comes up in the study and one that I didn't completely realize until recent years is that black bear mothers typically don’t defend their cubs by attacking humans. That is something a grizzly bear would do, but not black bears. Black bear mothers like to send their cubs up a tree and then have them come down when the coast is clear.

The distinction between how a grizzly bear and black bear respond is important because they don’t behave in the same ways. People tend to confuse the two. A black bear might be aggressive and actually do a short charge at you, but that is typically a case of trying to get you to go away and not an attack. It is more defensive than in attack mode. Sometimes you hear people say don’t run from a bear. Well, you might find out that the black bear was running away from you too. On the other hand, grizzly bear defensive behavior is different and can lead to fatal attacks. In the literature, it’s the lone stealthy predatory black bear that will attempt to ambush that is the real concern.

Most bears avoid humans and really are concerned about scavenging for food. That ends up being the real issue because they typically go through trash and are willing to take what we might consider extraordinary risks to get at some food source. I've heard many tales of attempts or successes of breaking into a home or vehicle being broken into at a trail head by a bear. This is why it is important to be sure everything is packed up in a container that they can’t get into.

The final thing I should mention here is what I said above I would say slightly differently to younger people and little kids. Younger people should be taught a healthy fear of ALL wild animals.  

My video:

I’ll list more book resources and links at a later time. Anything by Stephen Herrero is worth reading or watching. Really, there is a lot out there on bears and all you need to do is Google "bears" or "black bears" and you get a lot of things.

This is a good article to read:

Short article on Predatory black bears:

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Curse of Hoffman Part 3 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

(GPS: N37 50.800 W119 30.640)

I consider Mt. Hoffman the easiest mountain hike in the High Sierra. It only takes me about an hour and half to get to the summit. I could probably do it a lot faster too. That's why I didn't mind trying to come back to do it, but I'll get to that later. 

From the summit I looked toward the east:
Then I panned to my left and looked down to see this nice looking lake way below:
There was a nice drop off here. Looking up above to the northeast I had this view:
I wonder how often humans have been to those small lakes. Looking toward the north and then west:
Continuing to the west:
Finally, looking more toward the southwest to Half-Dome, Yosemite Valley, and Clouds Rest on the left side:
So as you can see, the smoke really does cause havoc on the views. Not only has this been an issue with Hoffman, but I also did Clouds Rest a few years ago and had the same problem. I was somewhat fortunate not to have this problem when I did Mt. Conness a few years ago.

Each year I did this hike I kept telling myself I would come back the following year to get better pictures and video. I'm now to the point that I've lost my enthusiasm in doing this hike again any time soon. It's not difficult to do, but it always feels like I am not accomplishing anything. I would say that if the "curse" is ever lifted I will give an update, but I don't even feel like saying something like that right now.

Time to move on to other things.

The Curse of Hoffman (Youtube)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Curse of Hoffman Part 2 (T.o.P. for Christmas Series)

The reason I wanted to do this hike is Mt. Hoffman is at the center of Yosemite and almost 11,000 ft. in elevation. So, in theory, the summit should give you the best views of the complete park. That is unless you are "cursed" every time you try to hike it.
The final ascent to the summit is some work, but not too difficult. A lot of blocks of rocks that need to be scrambled over. I climbed up most of the right side of the picture and then ended just left of center. I came back down over the left side of the picture.
The local guardian.
Resting up. Half-Dome can be seen on the left, but the rock formation on right is known as "The Thumb".
The antenna at the summit is interesting at first glance, but ends up being annoying. AFAIK, it is used for radio communication. There is some equipment that goes with it at the summit. What is annoying about it is I couldn't really do my typical video pan without walking around it. I like to stay in the same place and rotate. I couldn't really do that here unless I wanted that antenna in the way. So, I had to move around it.
At the top looking down. You can see the final trail leading to the summit. Of course, my "curse" really comes into play here. Let me just say the views were a lot worse last year than this year.

To be concluded...

The Curse of Hoffman (Youtube)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Curse of Hoffman Part 1 (T.o.P. for Christmas Series)

(GPS: N37 50.405 W119 30.045)

If you watched the video you heard me talk about why I feel "cursed" in doing this hike. It seems like every year that I have tried to do this hike something would go wrong. You might remember me mentioning the time Yosemite was on fire years ago, and I was irritated about that. That was the first time I intended to do this hike. Last year I got to the top, but the conditions were so bad due to smoke that I didn't even bother mentioning it on here. This year I did it, and the conditions were slightly better, but still smoke in the air to obstruct views. I decided to do a write up this time just because I am sick of trying to convince myself that I need to wait until next year to do it again.

The GPS coordinates are for the parking at the trail head. I'm going to skip the beginning of the hike. It is in the video, and it is rather tame. It is about 1.2 miles on a forested trail and a gradual 500 ft. elevation change to get to May Lake. The above picture is a composite panorama of May Lake. It is a destination for many overnight backpackers because there is a camping area just for that. The pack horses that can be seen in the video help bring in whatever is needed for those people.

After May Lake the trail starts to get a little more intense as one gains elevation quicker. One has to scramble up the following:

The goal is to get to where all those trees are, and then turn around and look back at May Lake:

At this point you can see in the background what I feared. Earlier that morning I could not see that much haze in the distance while driving in. Up to the day I attempted this hike the smoke from another fire in California had not reached the area. Slightly disappointed I went on. The area at this point levels out some to a nice meadow. The trail continues, but at this point I followed another trail off to my right. Regardless of the trail, one needs to start heading up the side of the mountain at this point. There are points I could not always find a trail each time I have been here, but it doesn't matter since you are just heading straight up here:

That isn't the top of the mountain there. The area one has to head to is beyond the bushy tree on the left. It is a bit of a slog here, but not too difficult for an altitude hiker. After this is accomplished one can finally see the final destination. For most of the hike you don't even see Mt. Hoffman. In the distance there is an antenna coming out of the rocks at the top. That is the final goal:

Looking over to my left I saw Half-Dome and where Yosemite Valley would be in the distance. The haze would be the constant sight from now on. At this point I could smell the smoke in the air. I had been through a lot worse the year before, but it was still annoying.
I'll continue this one tomorrow.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Tricks or Presents for Christmas

Merry Christmas!

These are the new videos.

Tricks or Presents #1: The Dead Don't Dream

Tricks or Presents #2: The Curse of Hoffman

Tricks or Presents #3: Investigating Ursus

Due to family commitments and just not wanting to overwork myself right now I'll going to keep this one short. I'll be doing more blogs on the 2nd and 3rd videos over the next few days. The first one I have already covered in the past, and the video links to that one in the description so I am going to skip that.

Enjoy the holidays!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Tricks or Presents Teaser

Hope you had a good weekend.

I'm not saying anything more about this project for now. I did want to mention a few somewhat related tidbits as we head into brighter holiday season...

1)Krampus comes out on Dec. 4th. The anti-St. Nick figure of European origins who punishes rather than gives nice gifts. He has been getting a little more popular in the United States so now we have a big screen movie about him. There are a lot of movies that should be good coming out in December like In the Heart of the Sea, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight (yeah, Tarantino can be an idiot at times, but the movie looks interesting...may just wait and watch this one for free), and that Space Wars movie (whatever they are calling it...I'm avoiding the trailers of it). I rarely go to the theater anymore, but I might be there every weekend in December. However, Krampus will probably be the first one I will see.

2)I always listen to Midnight Syndicate in October for their Gothic Halloween music. This year they released a haunted Christmas recording. Time to change the music in my player to this. Although Nox Arcana has done Gothic winter recordings too.

3)It's on! You knew that this would start on November 1st didn't you? Click this NEWS ARTICLE to show you want I mean. Thanksgiving always comes across as being in the way of the real deal. You know, let's give this day lip service and move on to the commercialization of the holidays. Of course, we want a good economy, but not at the stake of our souls, right? Lol.

The music used in the video from is the following: This House, Jingle Bells, and Sugar Plum Breakdown.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Ghosts of Chemung (aka The Chemung Mine)

(GPS: N38 20.980 W119 08.980)

Happy Halloween!

In light of the holiday I thought I would share with you the Chemung Mine. It’s an interesting ghost mine that can have its creepy moments when you are walking around alone in it. Yes, the ghosts protect it!

I did two versions of this video. This one has a video effect. It was the closest I could get to an old sepia type of look without it looking too bad. It is more of a tint than anything. I was going to do a lot more to this one with all sorts of special effects, but I decided that can wait for some other video. You might prefer the plain one without the effect. The plain one can be seen by scrolling down to the links at the end of this blog entry. This special edition is unlisted on Youtube so it is a reward for those of you that look at the blog:

Originally, I referred to this one as “The Ghosts of Masonic”. However, technically speaking, this area is not Masonic. Masonic is a few miles away. When I was younger my father would take me here and to Masonic as well. This mine and Masonic kind of ended up being closely connected to me so that the mention of Masonic meant this mine as well. At the last minute I redid the videos and just gave it the title this blog has so that there would be no confusion for people looking for something on Masonic.

The entrance from the road:

While the ghosts are there, I was just as concerned about a horde of zombies showing up:

You always have to be concerned about the zombies (aka the walking dead) showing up these days. At least that's what I get from seeing all those movies, tv shows, and video games.

Up behind the main structure:

Of course, the evil dead (aka the deadites) are just as dangerous of a concern here.

Really, it's the unseen ghosts that haunt this place. That is the main thing here. You don't want to damage the structures or steal anything because then the ghosts will haunt you no matter where you try to escape.

Just below that tree on the other side is the entrance to the two holes of the mine that create some very cool ventilation on a very hot day! It was like a cool air conditioned house standing in front of them. In the video you can see where I looked into the mine from up in this direction. The actual mine is gated off so you can't go into it.

Okay, so what is the history to this place? Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you anything really dramatic like some of the historical events in Bodie or Aurora. I actually called out for help on this one since all I really knew about it could be summed up in a few sentences. I had all the top historians and e-mail friends on this mission. So, if you were one of them reading this I thank you for your help. The result ended up being what I suspected from the information I did have.

The ore that was discovered that led to this mine was found in 1909. Some of the news articles I read kind of came across like, so and so “has gained rights to the lease of the mine and now we will start seeing results.” Then, the rights to the mine would change hands again and again with the same type of optimism. That’s pretty typical of the mining history of the Eastern Sierra. The source was there, but the money and work needed to extract it would exceed the profits made.

There were twenty men working the mine in 1938, but it shut down a year later. In the 1950’s-60’s there was an individual working it, but nothing really came of that. You can read about Masonic and what is known about the Chemung Mine in the pdf of the Mono County 2004 historical newsletter linked below.

I made two sets of pictures you can look at if you are curious. The normal pictures and the ones that have that old haunted look can be found by clicking the following links:

The Chemung Mine (Normal)

The Chemung Mine (Halloween Special)

The plain normal public video for Youtube:

The Chemung Mine (Public Youtube Video)

The pdf of the Mono County historical newsletter from 2004:

Mono County Historical Newsletter (2004)

To wrap this one up, I showed some of the pictures and video to some relatives that are much older than me. They said the buildings look a lot less like what they remember. Which would be natural since over the decades the buildings have worn down. So, what is currently up could come down altogether at some point in the years to come. Only the ghosts protect it now.

If you are in the mood, I have two more Halloween inspired videos that are from my zoo and aquarium channel. Two different animals:

The Creature From Below (Youtube)

The Transformation (Youtube)

The following music used for the "The Ghosts of Chemung" video was taken from Incompetech: Night of Chaos, Quinns Song-First Night, Quiet Panic, and Evening of Chaos.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Whatever Happened to Him? (The Alabama Hills Series)

Happy July 4th for my fellow Americans, and if you are not American then I still wish you a happy July 4th for different reasons!

Today I thought I would release an updated video of something I did some years back:

Some notes on this video:

1)I would have liked to have had this video up about the time James Best died (April 6, 2015), but I had too much going on. Although coincidentally, this video and blog was the next one I truly intended to do after the last one in February. James Best was best known to more middle-aged audiences as the Sheriff in The Dukes of Hazzard tv show. He had a lot of roles in westerns. I seem to remember him co-starring with Audie Murphy in at least one western, but he tended to get the antagonistic roles in tv and movies that I remember him most in. In any case, RIP James Best.

2)One geeky tech issue this video has comes with the advances in technology that changes things around for me a little. When I got my new computer almost a year ago I was finally able to edit video I had taken at 60 FPS and actually show it to you at 60FPS on Youtube as well. If you can view a video with that frame rate over a monitor or tv with high definition it looks great. The issue though is that most television and cinema movies use a lower frame rate (like 30FPS or 24FPS). The problem is the way you have seen me do this over the past few years with inserting footage from a movie doesn’t work right if I have to render all the footage at 60FPS. In the case of this video, it doesn’t look too bad, but during the panning movement in the clip from Ride Lonesome it stutters some because of this issue. If I want to keep using movie video within a video like I have been doing, then I am going to have to put up with that.

3)Yeah, I edited down the capture scene. James Best does resist a little more if you have not seen the movie. With the footage I took that was all I could get in to make it work right. There was something James says when he realizes his gang's ambush will not work that I imitated his voice for some humor, but this ended up being a case where I thought less is more would be better for the viewer. So, I edited that out as well. Watch the movie if you haven’t.

4)When I originally made a blog and video to this location I said something that the area that you see Randolph Scott comes from is a dead end. That’s partly true in that what seems like a trail ends. It wouldn’t be impossible to take a horse from below to that point, but just not really practical. I say this not that it matters much from a movie standpoint, but if you were in the mood to hike up that way from below or hike down from that spot back to your car then it is just a mild scramble.

5)If you didn’t know what I was referring to with the title of this blog and video then you have to watch this video. My New Agey, neo-nostalgic, quasi-spiritual, archtypical mythic, and tiny bit of humor thrown in is in response to that eternal question. If it doesn’t make sense to you just let it go and don’t worry about it. ;)

Okay, that’s all for what is important about the video, and I was going to throw out some thoughts about nostalgia. I think I will leave those for another blog. The past few weeks have been really annoying to me. Tragedy, major political decisions, and the responses to them have forced me to stay off social media due to some of this.

Since James Best is best remembered for his role in The Dukes of Hazzard, I thought I would mention how annoying it was to hear that TV Land has decided to cut showing episodes of that old series. Then we have golfer Bubba Watson, who owns the car used in the show, deciding he will paint the American flag on the car and remove the Confederate flag.

It is true the Confederate flag has been a symbol of controversy since it goes back to the biggest watershed issue in the history of the U.S.A. At the end of the day, it is just that, a symbol, and like all symbols depends on the meaning given to it. So, on the one hand you have people that react to the symbol seeing something representing slavery and on the other you have people seeing a symbol of state’s rights against tyranny.

I’m sorry to say that I think the recent emotional reactions to this is a bunch of symbolism over substance. The tv show had nothing to do with what the people are reacting to. I hate to tell Bubba Watson that the name of the car is still The General Lee. That symbol is still there.

All of this is people obsessing over the things that do not matter. To get rid of evil you have to destroy it all or change the heart(s). Yet, we don’t live in that type of ideal world where evil will just go away. You can destroy all Confederate flags and it is just a matter of time before another evil, mentally ill person arises.

Be vigilant, yet realistic my friends.

The original blog on did on this location can be found here:
Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

The music used from Incompetech is the following: CowboySting, Pale Rider, and In the West.

Until next time…

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Let the Hate Flow Through You

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is a follow up to my last blog. Oh the irony! Today I thought would be a good day to talk about some HATE!

I was sitting in on this class a few years ago about a certain issue in public policy and how to deal with it. It was an online video feed so I wasn't actually there. After all these suggestions were mentioned on what could be done to influence the public and policy makers, a woman kindly suggested that one should “get angry!” That’s right convince people of your position by getting outraged!

Arguing from outrage (a variation of the appeal to emotions fallacy) has always been a tactic people have used to “convince” others, and social media really plays upon it. In fact, it is a common theme I have heard over the past few years with people asking, “Where is the outrage?“ For me, getting outraged over something doesn't mean someone has special access to moral superiority that others don’t. I think sometimes people get a little too tempted into using it as if it somehow makes them feel morally stronger.

What I am about to say I would suggest you already know, but I am just going to mention a few things about this that seem to be going on in a situation like this. Yes, I have had this used against me online and in public. The sad thing is in just about all cases I was trying to be reasonable and present good factual information, but then comes the “how pathetic” type of response to me. It’s like, “what do I do now?” This is because when someone is outraged he or she doesn't want to hear reason anymore. It then becomes a case of throwing a few one liner cheap shots back and forth at each other.

One of the words connected with all of this is the word “passion”. You know, “follow your passion.” For example, this person was very passionate about this, and that makes everything they did okay. As if it justifies any bad behavior. Passion can be a good thing, but if it not kept in check can become obsessive. Which might not be a good thing.

In my experience, people that get outraged means they can’t give you good reasons to persuade you, have run out of good reasons to persuade you, or can’t handle what you are saying to them. They are fed up and had it. They are using it as a shaming tactic.

That might work on some people, but in my own experiences you don’t win people over by acting that way. In fact, quite the opposite. It will harden them, and they will resist you even more later on.

What typically happens when a person feels outraged is they FEEL they have the moral high ground. In that psychological state they feel the righteousness flowing through them in such a way that they can’t be wrong. You are wrong, and I am right! I will not back down now you idiot! Lol. If you think I am wrong about this, think of all those times you have been outraged yourself. Did you ever think while the outrage was going on that you were in the wrong? The Emperor (Darth Sidious) in the above video was speaking to you during those times. It was the power of the dark side in you.

Like a lot of things I have mentioning in the past few blogs, there is a time and place for getting angry over something. However, if not kept in check can be a very bad thing. It’s the type of thing that can lead to fist fights and wars. In the end, getting outraged as you see on some of the social media sites over and over just leads to desensitization. People will stop caring, and it will just be noise.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Virtue: Internal or External

I started out my first blog of the year saying something that should have been a little odd. I didn’t think anyone would take what I said seriously about my resolution to be a better person by finding fault in others. That’s sort of a joke I have said among friends and family over the past few years when people start talking about having a resolution for the New Year.

I’ll start this one out by saying that I think everyone has an idea in their head about the way people should be, society should be, governments should be, and the world should be. The problem is everyone has, at the bare minimum, a slightly different view of how the world should be. We all recognize that just because something in the world IS a certain way that it doesn’t mean it OUGHT/SHOULD be that way. So, everyone wants to see the world become something like they think it should be.

One of the problems that comes up with that is we don’t live in an IDEAL world. Nor can we make it an ideal world because one can always think of ways the world can be better. Many dictators of the 20th century shed much blood in attempting such experiments. I’ve seen many younger people think that all we have to do is pass a few laws and magically everyone will be much better. Like, all we have to do is pass a few laws against evil and everyone will be good.

Traditionally, going back to the ancient Greeks like Aristotle to the biblical writers to a good portion of thinkers in western civilization, the primary issues of morality were internal. Meaning, one’s concerns about morality, virtue, ethics, etc. were inside of you. You are not naturally good in this view. You actually have to work to become a better person. It is an internal struggle inside of you that constantly goes on. It takes discipline and you might never become the person you should be, but the internal fight is what is important.

What bothers me the most right now about how the internet has become is it appears to me that a good percentage of people out there think they are already morally good, and it is anyone that opposes their ideas is the problem. For example, take your typical Yahoo news article. You read the article. Then you go to the comments and you see all sorts of fighting back and forth about whose fault it is. For the record, I tend to skip comments altogether on about 95% of all articles out there, but I know what I am about to describe is usually how it works. Typically, it is either some political party, the president (or any leader anywhere), some corporation, etc. that is the fault or to blame. Now, politically speaking, there could be concerns there, but I always wonder if even if a person got his or her way politically on every issue that they believe that would make them a better person. Or, more tragically, that a person only believes he/she can be happy only if a certain political party is in power or certain political views are imposed.

Some time back I was reading something I have an interest in. One person complained that the other person should be a protester and the right thing to do would be to go outside on a street with a sign protesting what was wrong. First, there is a time and place for these sorts of things, but I think in most cases these types of protests don’t really get the results they think they do. I mean, sorry, I usually do not read all the signs and bumper stickers out there. If I do see one I tend not to take that very seriously because it takes a lot more than a few rhyming slogans to persuade me. Second, and the real point, being a protester does not necessarily make a moral person. I’ve seen many a parent use a child in a protest, and I have to admit I have serious doubts they are truly teaching any sort of moral discipline to that child. I worry that people try to use “noble causes” as an outlet for some bad behavior they have. When one demonizes others it becomes a lot easier to justify one’s own moral inadequacies.

Here’s one way I try to do this for myself, but I am going to use it as an application for everyone. So, please don’t get the wrong idea here. This applies to me first and foremost, but to make the point I have universalize it. If you wake up every morning and look into the mirror not seeing the most evil person on the planet then something is wrong. This is just the first step in a mental approach I’m suggesting. I’m not saying we are all 20th century dictators, but there is so much in our lives we do everyday that does not contribute to the good of ourselves and the good of others. I mean, how many times have we walked by someone in need and done or said something. Or, lacked the discipline to stop whatever bad habit we have that could be causing us to harm ourselves or others. Given the power of a 20th century dictator maybe we would be a lot closer to them than we would care to admit. There is a time in place to judge others, but we humbly need to look inside ourselves first.

The pictures were taken at Gull Lake off the June Lake Loop. That hawk was in a campground that some gentleman pointed out to me. It was huge! The biggest I had ever seen. You don't get the size of it based on that picture. I used the tilt shift effect for that last picture as an experiment to give it that miniature effect.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

"Legend of the June Lake Slot Machines"

(GPS: N 37° 47.955 W 119° 03.815)

For Americans, today is one of the most holy days of the year. The day families gather to eat, drink, watch commercials, watch two teams play football, and most importantly watch half-time entertainment. Yes, it is that most religious holiday: the Superbowl! May it bless us!

I'm not going to say too much other than I used to attend Los Angeles Rams games as a kid since my father had been a season ticket holder for decades. I loved watching football. I'll probably tune in a few times today to see how the teams are doing, but I just despise how the modern Superbowl is shown. All the stuff that doesn't matter becomes important. It really bothers me when I hear people say they will watch the Superbowl only for the commercials. What the? Seriously?

(Edit Feb. 2, 2015: I watched some of the second half. As soon as I saw the Seahawks go into shotgun formation, on 2nd down at the one yard line, on the final crucial play I said, "What the? What are they doing?!They should not do this! This is not good!" I didn't care about who won to be honest, but it made me sick to see how that went down for Seattle. It really was a no brainer.)  

Enough of that. Lets talk about an oddity I discovered a few years back. I was out driving around the June Lake Loop and found this odd monument. Apparently, it had just been put up a month or so before I saw something odd off the side of the road. It was a slot machine! So, in this last October I went back to get these two pictures.
"During the 1930′s in central Mono County, demand for gaming entertainment skyrocketed with the influx of hundreds of employees working on the Mono Basin Project. To accommodate the workers, many local bars and cafes installed slot machines. Although illegal, there use in Mono County thrived for many years. Unfortunately, upon completion of the aqueduct in 1941 and transfer of all workers, demand for this activity diminished. Within a few years most slot machines were voluntarily removed. It was rumored that the last slot machines were hastily dumped into June Lake in the middle of the night by local merchants in response to an imminent raid by the State Revenue Agents, however, the legend of the slot machines did not end there. Over the years, numerous attempts to locate them by special cold water dive teams failed. Although no one has inserted a coin into one and pulled the handle, many people still gamble on hitting the jackpot and finding those 'one armed bandits' at the bottom of June Lake, forever lost? Time will tell."
A little tidbit that I had not known about the area. I have doubts that there are any slot machines at the bottom of June Lake.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Anti-Selfie

One thing I consciously decided to do when I first started this blog was to never post public pictures of myself. There were a couple of reasons for this. One being a tradition that goes back to the days of bulletin board systems (BBS) and the early days of the internet that you were not supposed to do that due to a person wanting to keep their anonymity. In those days, you were expected to use an alias and not go by your real name for a reason. Part of that was to protect yourself from the potential criminal behavior of others. Now we have gone in the complete opposite in that not only is your name and face out there for anyone to see, but where you live, cars you own, etc. In other words, it’s an open invitation for all sorts of creepy criminal behavior out there.

The real reason I don’t like to post pictures of myself is not so much for the reason I just mentioned, but for a more artistic one. I wanted the focus of this blog to be on what is out there in the world and not myself. I want you to see that mountain, that rock formation, that forest, that animal, that movie location, or whatever piece of scenery I was showing without me being in the picture. I like the idea of giving the 1st person perspective pictures (and video) to at least give an attempt to show you what it would be like if you were where I was standing.

Years ago I used to mention how a person on a site I was on was constantly posting nature pictures, but with her face in a good portion of them. It was kind of annoying because it was almost like someone standing up in front of the television during a crucial scene. I wanted to see the beautiful scenery, or check the snow level conditions, and her big mug would be in them. The whole thing came across as, “Just look at me!” A little too narcissistic and trying to get attention in a way that the site was not really designed for. In fairness, she stopped doing a lot of that so I stopped saying much about it on here.

That was really before social media sites took off. What I was just talking about was the tip of the iceberg because now everyone is taking pictures of themselves constantly. Just last week I was walking along somewhere and I passed a family. The father said to everyone, “Time to take a selfie!” He proceeded to pull out the selfie stick and the family bent down for a picture.

My worst experiences with this sort of thing are when I am trying to take a picture of an animal at a zoo or aquarium. People will start jamming others to get as close as possible with their backs to the animal. Naturally, they are assuming the animal will cooperate which is a story in itself.

I understand the need people have for family pictures. I also understand the need to show those pictures to other family members and friends. However, I think we are overdoing it on this one. I feel sorry for people on sites like Instagram because all they know how to do is take self-portraits.

For all practical purposes, this site is anti-selfie. It has always been this way, and I intend to keep it that way. 

Btw, did you see the pictures above? Notice I didn’t pose in front of the camera for them? ;) 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reminder (Starting 2015 the Right Way)

My New Years Resolution: to be a better a person by finding faults in others. In other words, to be a better criticizer.

There is a certain irony in what I just stated, but I'll get to that in a few blogs I intend to be doing over the next month or so. I wanted to start getting back into a little bit of commentary on things that are bothering me in how the internet has become.

I'll be throwing in some pictures I took during the fall so things don't get too boring on here, but before I do that I want to stress that it is important that if you are new to my blog or have forgotten, then is important to read over the answers to questions I posted about two years ago:

Questions, Questions, Questions (blog link) 

The reason I had to do that was I started to get really tired of typing up the same type of responses to e-mail over the years. For a while it didn't bother me, but since I don't have all the time in the world I thought it would be better to do this as a type of FAQ. If the question has already been answered on there then don't expect a response from me by e-mail.

As I have stated over and over before, it does take me time to get to any e-mail sent to me regarding this blog. So, if I don't respond right away it is nothing personal. I know a lot of people expect instant responses, but I can't be that way. It depends on how my schedule is. Sometimes it can take a few days, a week, or longer if I have other real world issues that are a priority. 
Another important reminder is that you should not be sending anything to the old Hotmail account. I don't use it anymore. I said it a few times last year that I changed my e-mail due to a malware virus that got a hold of the e-mail and the addresses in it.

If you get anything from that e-mail address then you should delete it since it is not from me. A recent e-mail attributed to that address was sent to my yahoo address and a few friends told me about it as well. The funny thing is the e-mail said something about it being sent from my "iphone". I don't own an iphone! LOL!

Finally, the above pictures were all taken at Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop.