Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sarah's new book

Well, it sure didn't take long for it to make the bargain bin, did it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Web-cam mania returns

It' been a while since I posted Web cam captures from my favorite place on earth, the greater Yellowstone area. But this is "shoulder season" again, after the interior roads close to traffic, snowmobile and snow-coach season haven't yet started, and the village at Old Faithful is inhabited only by a small maintenance crew, the crowds of summer and winter not in evidence.

In this morning's pretty frosty light we had a few bison come by to nibble where the hot ground around Old Faithful geyser is laid bare by the heat just under the surface.

 In this Thanksgiving's fading light, a little coyote trotted in front of the Web cam.

I myself will be in Yellowstone again in just exactly two months from now. I won't be going to Old Faithful, which can only be accessed by snow-mobile or snow-coach, though I will take a trip to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by snow-coach, a new winter experience for me.  There will be lots of wildlife to see--bison, elk, snow shoe hares, foxes, eagles, swans, bighorn sheep, and the extraordinary scenery transformed by winter. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Makah

Among the most rewarding of the excursions on KLK's and my recent trip to the national parks (and forests, wilderness areas, and visitor centers of several Native American tribes) surrounding Seattle was our brief visit to the tribal holdings (reservation) of the Makah Indians at the farthest northwest point in the lower 48 States, Neah Bay on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. I can't do a better job than InfoPlease's  succinct brief on the Makahs' linguistic/cultural heritage and post-contact history:

"Makah (mäkô') [key], Native North Americans who in the early 19th cent. inhabited Cape Flattery, NW Wash. According to Lewis and Clark they then numbered some 2,000. The Makah are the southernmost of the Wakashan branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock, being the only member of the Wakashan group within the United States (see Native American languages). Makah culture was fundamentally that of the Pacific Northwest Coast area. In 1855 they ceded all their lands to the United States except a small area on Cape Flattery that was set aside as a reservation. Today most of the 1,600 Makah in the United States live on the Makah Reservation; their main tribal income is from forestry."

One set of pivotal events is not described, however. As a people whose economy was  dependent upon the sea--they were, and still are, consumate whalers, sealers, and fishermen--their villages have always verged the stormy Pacific coast. An estimated 400 years ago, one of these villages (at what is now known as Lake Ozette) was inundated by a mudslide, and disappeared from memory until its extent was rediscovered in the 1970s, thanks to freak wave action from the Pacific that began to uncover tantalizing clues. The tribe found expert partners at the University of Washington and other academic institutions, and organized the methodical unearthing, cataloging, cleaning, and preservation of literally tens of thousands of artifacts, from the smallest utensils and toys to six cedar long houses (large communal structures typical of the Native American cultures of the Pacific coastal region). 

The wet mud was extraordinarily effective at preserving the treasures of daily and ceremonial life, but when exposed to air, many fragile items--to wit, woven cedar-bark baskets and clothing--began to deteriorate. Modern archaeological methods were employed to stabilize the precious treasure trove of cultural and physical history that is now properly stored at the well-executed Makah Cultural and Research Center, where my photos were taken.  

The totem poles I believe are more or less contemporary. Unfortunately their origin is not labeled (or I didn't find the label).  A  well-labeled selection of exemplary objects from the dig are also on public display, but elsewhere in the museum where photography isn't permitted (flash can certainly damage such fragile objects). Nonetheless, a good sense of the Makah's aesthetic is visible in the totem poles and other wood carvings.  The only staff member on duty was the young lady tending the till at the gift shop. I asked her if this was an eagle, and she said, "No, that's a thunder bird."  So I give you a contemporary Makah thunder bird:

This small pole shows what I think is a sea bird, perhaps a cormorant, on top, a man holding a stylized seal, and at the bottom, a foundational human:

And these:

Please visit the Makah Research and Cultural Center's web site; much additional historic and current visual information is also available at the University of Washington's digital image library, where this c. 1900 portrait of Makah carver Frank Allabush (by photographer Samuel G. Morse) and many more like it can be enjoyed and studied.

Used by permission

And in conclusion:

To appreciate the photos' details click to enlarge them.
Makah is pronounced mah-KAH. 
I welcome corrections and additions to the above narrative, which, as a certified non-expert, I've only pieced together from what we learned at the Makah center and bits and pieces from scholarly and non-scholarly information available on the Web. Please post a comment or write to me at vcwald @ yahoo dot com.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Little milestones

    • I completed my first full week on my new job at NORC. I feel hopelessly incompetent. Everybody is forgiving (for the moment). 
    • I will put in my first weekend hours on the new job this afternoon
    • The odometer on my car, a VW Jetta purchased new in 2003, hit 20,000 miles yesterday evening.
    In other news, Teddy is doing perfectly. My fingers, arms, and legs are peppered with puncture wounds, mostly from his claws, not so much from his shiny new big kitty teeth, which he generally applies to human flesh remarkably gently. 

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Teething's a bitch

     Whaah! My gums hurt!

     No wonder they hurt, even though my baby teeth are really tiny!

     I'm still a happy kitty and a very pretty boy, though!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Something nice in my in-box today


    "May we use your photos?
    I work for Washington Wilderness Coalition, a non-profit based in Seattle that works to push legislation through to protect more of the state's wilderness. We are hosting an annual dinner and auction later this week and will be showing a video of our history.  There is a part where we talk about the Salvage Rider bill introduced during the Clinton era and I need some images of clear cut areas. Would you mind if we used your pictures?   We're happy to give you credit.
    Thank you! Amber B."

    I was flattered to receive the message from Amber through Flickr Mail this morning. My concerns about clear cutting the precious and magnificent forests of the Olympic Peninsula, expressed in my choice of photographic subjects, are obviously shared by many. The Washington Wilderness Coalition looks like the kind of organization that is taking the most effective approach in counteracting the unending push for development and/or destructive extraction that looms just beyond (and sometimes even within) the borders of our "protected" lands: our national parks, national forests, and designated wilderness areas. Keep it up, WWC, I'm glad to be of help!

    Which is not to say I'm not part of the problem.  I confess, I'm a willful consumer of wood and wood-based products.  My printer, copier, and my lifestyle conspire to waste massive amounts of paper (alright, much of it is unbidden; don't you hate sitting down to a meeting with handouts, printed on one side only, that you will toss - preferably in recycling, but then who knows what becomes of it - the minute no one is looking?)  Meantime, I am in the process of plotting the replacement of my unsalvageably beat-up cheap parquet floor. I'm thinking of  "engineered wood." Is that any more eco-friendly than explicitly hardwood flooring?  What about all the old, scarred, dirty, cat-puked parquet that was here when I moved in? Will it degrade in a reasonable amount of time when it goes, at last, to land fill? How many old oak trees is it worth, really?  

    And speaking of clear cutting; in most places the lumber industry has the decency to leave a deep, dense swath of trees between the devastation of clear cut land and the road so most of us can pretend - except for what we can see on distant mountainsides, which is bad enough - it isn't happening. Not so on the Olympic Peninsula, where, though it is almost all national park, wilderness, and national forest,  we saw truck after truck after truckful of logs flying by. Where are they all coming from? Is anything left? 

    Photos from:
    1. The Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, along the magnificent Hall of Mosses trail, fungus growing on the end of a cut log . The only reason logs are cut, rather than allowed to moulder where they fall, is if they fall across a trail, or threaten to do so where they might squash a person or structure
    2.. Right along route 101, which is surrounded by the Olympic National Forest; you can see two methods of extracting trees: clear cutting, and thinning. Neither is less harmful than the other.
    3. The Forks Timber Museum display, tools of the trade
    4. and 5. Also on route 101

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Lots going on

    Well, readers, there is much news on the home front. After 35 years on the staff at the University of Chicago (and four years before that as a college student there, with just two years in between for grad school in Arizona) I have accepted a new position at NORC. NORC (or more properly, "NORC at the University of Chicago" though it is a separate entity and a dot org, not a dot edu) originally stood for National Opinion Research Center, but for many years they have supported social, behavioral, and bio-social research using formats well beyond that of the opinion survey, and now use the acronym only. As it happens, my new office is a couple of short blocks from my old office, and my main clients will be University of Chicago faculty who use NORC's research resources, though changing employers means the gulf is likely to be wider than it appears. My wonderful co-workers at the Center for Population Economics at the Booth School of Business sent me off with affection (and a little anxiety on the parts of some) and I will indeed miss them, though at NORC I will also be working among friends, old and new. 
    However, to buffer this mighty sea change, I've taken a week of stay-cation before I launch my new career. I don't think I've ever had a week off in which I stayed put before. Of course, the to-do list includes many exciting tasks, such as: dusting the mini-blinds; vacuuming the inside of the car; getting my teeth cleaned. And last (though it should probably be first) but not least, I've charged myself with putting back in their places the remnants of KLK's and my recent sojourn in the magnificent Great Northwest and Seattle. The good news is, I've finally, just tonight, finished sorting through the 540-plus photos I so heedlessly took. Given how gloomy and dark the weather was most of the time (yes, mid-October is the beginning of the notorious rainy season in the Pacific northwest), I was surprised at how well the photos turned out. Perhaps between keeping Teddy out of the way so I can do that overdue dusting and cramming the empty suitcases back into the little storage cage I will have time to post some mini-trip reports here. Given what a good time we had, and what interesting things we did, I think you might find them interesting. 

    The photo is of KLK trying to absorb the warmth of the sun at the stunningly beautiful Washington Pass, in Okanogan National Forest, just to the east of North Cascades National Park. It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit.