Chickaree

Chickaree in a Tree

Of all the wonderful animals that live in Yosemite, my favorite is the Chickaree.

Lately, two of these hyper-energetic and entertaining critters have been running through the yard on a regular basis, chasing each other generally being cute. One day, I grabbed a camera and decided to see if I could get a photo.
This lovely little guy was kind enough to pose for quite some time, but I’m afraid he won’t be long for the world. After this photo session was finished, he scrambled down out of the tree and came straight toward me, passing within a few feet. Good thing I wasn’t a coyote!

Then, he turned around and repeated the act, approaching somewhat cautiously, and then darting by. This time, however, he ran up our back stairs and straight into the backboard of one of the steps with a loud clunk. Poor thing. He must have hit hard.
Maybe it wasn’t exactly nice, but I was in stitches. I’m often impressed by their quickness and dexterity, but I guess anyone can have an off day. He shook himself off, decided against climbing the remaining stairs and jumped down off our stairs and ran (sheepishly?) out across the yard.

I went back to work after having a good laugh. I love sharing space with these entertaining little creatures!

Internet Progress

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In the midst of a kind of rough work day, Tom sent me an IM yesterday with good news on the internet front. We may soon have the opportunity to pay exorbitant amounts of money for slow internet! The tower construction is finished, and there should be the possibility of accessing a T1 line soon. Nothings certain until it’s certain, but I have my fingers crossed!

There are many great things about living in a national park. Easy access high-speed internet connectivity is not one of them.

And I don’t mean to understate the benefits of living here. I’m more than spoiled by the places that I can go for a lunchtime run, or a quick hike before or after work. I love it here. But especially as a new full-time remote worker, that lack of high speed internet can also be frustrating at times.

At our house, we don’t have cell phone reception, so cellular data is out. There is no DSL or Cable service. If you want internet, the only option until recently has been satellite. On the plus side, it works. And if you think about how amazing it is that you can shoot a computer signal into space and have it bounce down and turn into and email or web page, that’s pretty amazing all by itself. On the minus side, it takes a long time to go to space and back, so the connection has a long latency. Forget video conference calls.

The bandwidth is also limited.

Thanks to this, I’ve become painfully aware of just how much an idle iPhone, in sleep mode, constantly sips data from the internet. Unless we’re careful to turn off any auto upload, “on wifi only” functions, and carefully keep phones in airplane mode when not in use, we can burn through our monthly allotment of data in just a few hours… when the phone is “off”. Checking or sending email is easy, but we have to be very selective of which videos we watch, and streaming a TV show is pretty much out of the question.

The T1 line would still be quite the turtle by today’s “real world” standards at 1.5 Mbps – slower than the satellite connection’s top speed. However, the T1 is private. No one shares it, so the speeds are consistent. It won’t slow to a crawl evenings and weekends the way the satellite connection can. However, there is almost no latency. Satellite is a wider straw, but it’s long. T1 is a little narrower, but much much shorter.

And (TA DA!) there is no bandwidth limit. No more need to ration our internet consumption!

The $357/month fee is painful, but worth it. (No, that’s not a typo.)

Beautiful Rainy Weekend

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Hanging Out In The Rain At Tunnel View

A friend of mine really wanted to take advantage of the new moon tonight to test drive a new fancy camera. Another friend I haven’t seen in many months is coming for a weekend visit with her two boys. And it’s going to be raining. And that’s really, in the overall scheme of things, a great thing.

California still really needs the rain. It will be interesting to see the result of the April snow survey, but we’re hovering right around average now but with a big water deficit to make up for. You only need to look around at all the dead trees to see that lack of water is affecting the local ecology.

The forecast is for rain in Yosemite Valley and at our house in Yosemite West, but it’s still going to be cool enough that there will snow up at the higher elevations – snow that is going to be stored up for later on this summer when the weather get drier.

It’s getting warmer and it’s hard not to get ahead of the seasons, anticipating warm weather activities, but there are still some inspirational people going out and getting some great skiing at higher elevations.

Rain makes for some pretty dramatic scenery too. When the sky is a cloudless blue, there are masses of people out taking pictures with their phones and point and shoot cameras. When the storms roll in, that’s when you see the serious photographers with their big cameras come out. The clouds swirl around the Yosemite cliffs making them seem even bigger and lending a feeling of mystery about what lies beyond.

Rain also makes puddles. Don’t  underestimate those! Puddles are great for photography too, creating beautiful mirrors of the landscape everywhere. They are also great for splashing in. I’ve had great fun in the last year hunting puddles to splash in with a friend’s toddler.

And finally, I circle around to a Tim Ferriss Show podcast that I listened to recently where he interviewed Josh Waitzken. Josh is the chess prodigy who inspired the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, and who has since that time won national and world championships in martial arts, and now has a successful business coaching elite mental performers – currently mostly in the world of finance. He has lots of interesting things to say in that podcast, but the one that is relevant here, is that he started noticing that people put value judgments on the weather. “The weather is bad,” means it is raining. But actually, that’s arbitrary. Josh made a point of going outside to play with his son in every storm that comes through. When she visited us, my own Aunt Jaq would get up in the morning, walk outside to sniff the air, and stretch her arms up and say “Ah… it’s a beautiful day.” When we questioned that because it was raining, she said, “Oh, Honey, I decide before I get up that it’s going to be a beautiful day.”

That’s it. I’m fully planning to enjoy the beautiful weather in Yosemite this weekend. I’ll do some puddle splashing with my friend and her boys, take some photos, and revel in the great reason to curl up with some hot chocolate afterwards.

Firefall Video By Shawn Reeder

If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to take a look at the beautiful new-this-year video of the Horsetail Fall “Firefall” that happens in February when the conditions are right.

When we first moved to Yosemite, we were driving out of the valley on South Side Drive, came around a corner and were mesmerized by what seemed to be a waterfall on fire coming off the shoulder of El Cap. Quickly, we pulled off in to the pull-out (which had plenty of space) with just a few other people equally surprised and entranced.

I didn’t own a fancy camera or tripod back then, or a cell phone/camera, so I didn’t get the amazing image, but the experience of discovering the magical event is etched into my memory.

These days, when you come to Yosemite during “Firefall Season” the event is hard to miss. Photographers travel from across the country, and start setting up in the morning in order to claim their spot before the masses show up. NPS sets up cones and turns an entire lane of the road into a parking lot. By 2p, practically the entire corridor along the viewing angle is elbow-to-tripod with people, trampling vegetation and setting up lawn chairs in hopes that the day will bring just the right combination of sunshine and water to make Horsetail Fall light up.

And this year didn’t disappoint. It was the first year in many that the waterfall had enough water to be truly spectacular, but I didn’t go down to see it. Not even once. It’s OK. I’ve seen the amazing pictures, Shawn’s video, and I still have that memory of rounding the corner and enjoying Horsetail Fall magic in a wilderness setting.

Seasons In The Mountains

Bee hovering in front of wildflowers
Sipping from the Bird’s Eye Gilia

One of the great things about living in the mountains is being able to change out seasons by driving up or down in elevation. The same day I took the above picture at 3000 feet, people were skiing and snowboarding in beautiful spring snow conditions above 7000 feet.

I remember growing up in the mid-west that the first few snow days of winter might have been exciting and new, but by the time February or March rolled around I was just aching for the first warm days of spring. And they would arrive – warm and sunny at maybe 55 degrees F, and everyone, conditioned by months of bone-chilling weather, would be out in shorts and t-shirts throwing frisbees on the still-brown lawns.

Now, the moment that longing for spring weather hits, we can just drive downhill for an hour and find emerald hills, wildflowers, and soak in 70 degree temperatures.

Not to brag. But it’s nice living here.