Saturday, December 05, 2009

Bird Watching

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A Snow

Here is a picture of a snow from Friday afternoon. Perhaps you heard it snowed a bunch in Texas, from the east in Houston as far west as San Antonio. In Austin, this is about as much snow as we got. But proof, anyway!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Washington, DC - Trip Advice

My parents are going to DC in a few days, and I wrote them this huge email offering them advice about what to do and see. Then I realized that the email made for a perfect travel blog entry! So, here it is, hopefully useful for anybody else planning on a similar trip.

1) Food on the national mall is generally lousy (because it's museum food) except for the National Museum of the American Indian (a Smithsonian institution, located 3rd and Jefferson, or the SE corner of the Natl. Mall). The NMAI has an awesome cafeteria, featuring Mexican, South American, and Native American-inspired cuisine. Definitely the best museum food I've had. Long lines move quickly here.... :)

2) For a good view of the city and everything in it, head to the Old Post Office on 11th and Pennsylvania. There's an elevator to the top and a good view of everything. Nothing is taller than this view except for the Washington Monument, which is difficult to get tix for. Moreover, you won't be able to see it if you're inside it! So, I highly recommend getting to the Old Post Office for an excellent 360-degree view!

3) The National Gallery of Art's Sculpture garden (to the south of the Natl. Archives) is an excellent place to take a break and sit in the shade. They have food, a huge pool/fountain, and had a big jazz band playing when we were there at about 6pm on a Saturday. Plus, the sculptures are really good, too!

4) Please do not miss out on the National Portrait Gallery (on F and 8th, across the street from the International Spy Museum). The portrait gallery was easily the best museum I saw, and it has an interesting courtyard and cafe. It's actually two museums (the museum of American Art shares the space) but if you see only a little bit, please head up to the Presidential Portraits wing in the Portrait Gallery. I went twice and was blown away both times... You will not be disappointed.

5) If you only get to see one monument at night, I would recommend the FDR memorial. Take a cab, if you need to (they're pretty cheap in DC) but you won't regret it. It's a chronological walk through his 4 terms in office, so make sure to start at the correct end. Some light reading helped me with interpretation (check but even without that, the monument will be powerful at night. As a bonus, the stunning Jefferson Memorial (right on the water across from the Washington Monument) is just steps away from FDR! Few people make it to either at night (most go to the Lincoln Memorial at night, also excellent, and Justine's recommendation), so you might even have them nearly to yourselves! Don't forget: every monument on the Natl. Mall is open 24-365, while museums are only open during the day...

6) Beware that sometimes around the mall, finding food is difficult. On the weekends, most of the restaurants downtown will be closed. A relatively safe bet is to head via taxi or pedicab (we paid 15 bucks plus a 5-dollar tip to get from the US Capitol to the Portrait Gallery, about 8 blocks away) into Chinatown (6th&7th Streets, between about E and I Sts.). Chinatown has TONS more food than just Asian, and tends to have open restaurants all the time (whereas museum food always closes when the museums close at 6 or 7pm).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Washington, DC (Part II)

See previous post below, but I decided to go back and photograph the monuments at night. Here's a few...

Sleepy lion outside the Corcoran Museum

The monument / temple to the five-dollar-bill guy

White thing and reflection pond

Inside the amazing temple to an amazing man...
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Washington, DC

Here's a couple of photos from my first day in Washington, DC. Some pretty amazing sights... enjoy!

Some guy named Andrew Jackson...

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

View of the White House from the south lawn/eclipse

The tallest stone structure in the world AND the tallest obelisk.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Methane Burp

From Nature:

While testing equipment off the Californian coast last month, a newly refitted research vessel stumbled across plumes of methane gas rising 1,400 metres from the sea floor.


Cruise scientist Stephen Hammond of the NOAA office in Newport, Oregon, suspects this is because ice with methane gas trapped in its crystal structure melts at the combination of pressure and temperature at that depth. Similar methane plumes have been discovered from the Oregon coast to the Black Sea, but not this large or numerous.

They don't specifically say if this methane is going into the air or if this is a global warming event (because the data is so new) but one thing people worry about with rising sea temps is the release of "methane-hydrates," which are huge pockets of methane stored in ice at the sea floor. One scenario envisions a catastrophic release (or "burp") of all that methane nearly-simultaneously that would destroy life as we know it. Think:

Except with methane instead of chlorine. And bigger.

Sunday, May 17, 2009




(Cambodian-owned doughnut shop around the corner from my parents' house in San Jose....)
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Lake Buchanan

Last weekend we took a trip out to the Canyon of the Eagles Lodge on Lake Buchanan, about 2 hours NW of Austin. The lodge was okay... a bit expen$ive and only served terrible food (with equally terrible service), but the setting was excellent. Wildflowers in Texas are in bloom and birds a-plenty! Plus, we got to chase an armadillo around for most of an evening and got some swimming in, as well. It was a very relaxing weekend.

We took a short hike on Saturday, which is a majority of the photos in the album below. Besides the flowers, we got down to the waters edge and observed a flock of pelicans and turkey vultures co-mingling. As you'll see, the area is full of wildlife, and we have shots of numerous different animal tracks coming to the water. The last photo in the set is of the Buchanan Dam, because there are no natural lakes in Texas (well, there's one but it's on the boarder with Louisana).

Anyway, enjoy the photos... the wildflowers really are stunning.



Clickable/Interactive Map:

View Lake Buchanan in a larger map

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Texas Blind Snake

Last night we found this juvenile Texas Blind Snake on our porch:

We have another shot of him next to a penny, but this one is a better photo of his whole body. These guys only grow to a maximum of about 10 inches, but I'd guess this one was more like 1.5-2. Although I wanted to keep him (and probably name him Seattle, since I like naming animals after cities), Justine took him down to the creek near our place and set him free. It's probably for the better... our cats would have destroyed this little guy, who eats insect larvae and earth worms.

According to the Austin Reptile Service, these guys are commonly found in / around homes in Austin right before it starts to get really hot... well guess what? It's getting damn hot already! To learn more about blind snakes, visit you local wiki (entry on blind snakes)!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pdernales Falls State Park

Saturday we took a little hike through Pedernales Falls State Park, about 45 minutes west of Austin. Here's the pics:

Pedernales Falls SP (Apr. 2009)

Unfortunately, our SLR died (probably shutter failure, which makes sense, since we've snapped literally 20,000 photos on that baby since April 2006). Below is a picture set from when we went backpacking in the park for New Years' 2008. Some of you may remember the story, which involved temperatures dropping below 20 degrees on our first night out and since we don't have cold weather gear, we were forced to leave the next morning. Below that you'll see a map, which shows in blue the ~5-mile hike we took on Saturday and in red the short hike up to Wolf "Mountain" in December 2007 (mountain is in quotes here because it's not really that tall... more like Wolf Dirtmound). The park is mostly oak and juniper/cedar (for some reason, they confusingly call juniper trees "cedars" in Texas) forest with a big winding river running over slabs of granite. It was a good hike and we saw lot of wildlife, including a painted bunting, a cool lizard, a ribbon snake, and a white-eyed vireo. Too bad we couldn't photograph any of them!

Pedernales Falls SP (Dec. 2007)

Click on the colored icons/markings to get information about those places and some images.

View Pedernales Falls State Park in a larger map

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lake Georgetown Hike


Last weekend we went hiking on Lake Georgetown, north of Austin. It's not a natural lake -- there was only one in all of Texas... then oil were found. So like all other "lakes" in Texas, this one is a dammed up portion of a river, in this case, the San Gabriel. It was a really great day and we wanted to get out and do a short hike. This was about 5 miles of flat terrain and culminated in a cool water feature, which you can see in the album posted above. One great thing about Lake Georgetown is that you can overnight there on the 26-mile trip around the lake and it's free! We might have to do this some time, but it would have to be soon... Summer be a-comin'.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Crazy Weather

Hat tip to cousin Sarah, who sent me this figure today from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper:

Yep... it was 67 degrees this morning when I woke up, a nasty drop of about 25 degrees by lunch, and there's a good chance of "winter mix" precipitation for this evening (meaning hail or sleet)!

(See this post for a related figure)