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Blogging – Walking Contradiction

Blood and Lava

We visited Bend, Oregon last week. For those of you not familiar with this area, it’s largely defined by the Cascade Mountain Range, which are relatively young and actively volcanic. Just south of Bend is Lava Butte, a cinder cone created from an eruption about 7,000 years ago. The lava flowed out and eventually covered over 9 square miles. Much of that is still largely free from vegetation today. Here is the view on Google Maps, showing just how extensive the lava flow was: you can see the Butte near the bottom, and the black area from the lava covering several miles to the north. Another way of looking at how big this is:

The volume of rock in the Lava Butte Flow is 380,000,000 cubic yards. Assuming a paved road 24 feet wide and six inches thick, there is enough rock in the flow to pave 160,000 miles of road, equivalent to a paved road circling the earth six and a half times.

from a National Forest Service brochure on Lava Butte
The fields of lava from Lava Butte, whose cinder cone is visible on the right side of the photo.

The important thing to take away from this is just how hard and durable this rock that formed from the cooled lava is. Even after thousands of years, its sharp edges remain.

In the fields of cooled lava surrounding the cinder cone, the Parks Service created several paved trails so you can walk safely though the area, and see the lava rocks and its sparse vegetation up close. When I first visited the park in 2014, I took this photo:

Lava Field Tree
Lone tree in a lava field

In order to get the angle I wanted, with the tree lining up with the clouds like that, I had to leave the paved path and step onto the lava rocks. Interestingly enough, my wife Linda took a photo of me just as I was taking this photo:

A photograph of me creating the original Lava Tree photo in 2014
Standing on the lava rocks to get the right angle

So when we went back to Lava Butte last week, I wanted to find that tree to see how it had changed over the past 7 years. Linda and the rest of our party followed one path, while I went up the hill to where I remembered the tree was. Sure enough, I found it, and it looked pretty much the same. I wanted to try to re-create the photo, but there were two issues: one, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and two, I had a much longer lens than I did when I took the original. In order to frame the photo properly, I had to leave the path and climb onto the rocks further away from the tree. I got what I think is a pretty good re-creation of the image, given the different conditions:

Re-creation of the lone tree in lava fields
The re-created lava tree shot

After taking the photo, I began walking along the rocks to get back to the path. Bear in mind that these rocks are fairly loose, so you have to be very careful as you step. More than once I tested a rock only to have it slide away, requiring adjusting my route. I was about 8 feet from the path when I stepped on a rock with my right foot. It seemed sturdy enough, so I lifted my left foot for the next step. Just as I did, the rock under my right foot gave way, twisting in a way that threw my weight forward. I tried to regain my balance, but it was impossible on such an uneven surface, and I hit the ground. My right hand and arm took the brunt of the impact, and I felt my head strike a rock. Not a straight-on impact, but more in a glancing manner. I wasn’t sure if I had done any serious damage, but as soon as I started to lift myself back up, there was a generous flow of blood, so I knew it was not just a scratch. I had actually opened a fairly large laceration on my forehead.

The next few photos are graphic, as they show lots of blood and wounds. So I’m going to insert a few pleasant photos first so that if you are bothered by the sight of blood, you can close this post now.

Sample lava rock
A sample of the rock take from Lava Butte, on display in the High Desert Museum.
Photo of me by Linda as I went to find the tree, about 10 minutes before my fall.

OK, if you’re still here, let’s continue the story.

I knew that I would need to get help and likely need stitches, so I gathered up the things I dropped, including my camera, which had survived the fall better than I did! Linda and the others were far away, so I tried calling them. I had no luck at first, but soon they finally heard me. They couldn’t tell that anything was wrong, being so far away. I walked back down toward them, but of course there were other people on the trails, and they were pretty alarmed. One group had a couple of kids, and I didn’t want to give them nightmares, so I tried to laugh and joke about my clumsiness with them so that they would see I wasn’t hurt that badly.

Finally Linda reached me and saw what my condition was. She still had the disinfectant wipes the airlines had given out in her backpack, so she gave me one to use to press against the wound as we made our way back down to the visitor’s center. There was a ranger there, and he immediately realized what had happened – apparently I wasn’t the first to suffer such a fall. He left to get another ranger who is a retired doctor, and while we waited Linda took this shot of me:

At the visitor center nursing my head wound
At the Visitor’s Center, 10 minutes after my fall, all smiles!

When the rangers came back they took me inside and checked me out. She confirmed that the gash was deep enough to require suturing, so she gave us the name of a hospital in Bend that would be able to patch me up.

Attended to by the ranger
Being examined by the park ranger

So we got in the car and drove 30 minutes to the hospital. I do remember the odd feeling of having to sit in the car applying pressure to the wound, and how tired my hands were getting. But we got there eventually, and waited to be seen. The ER was very busy, and I’m assuming that since my injury wasn’t life-threatening, I could afford to wait. So while we were waiting, I asked Linda to take some photos to document just what I had done to myself.

Abrasions on my right arm
Several deep abrasions on my right arm.
Head wound
Close-up of my laceration before they stitched it up

They had someone who introduced himself as the “wound-cleaning guy” who would be getting off all the dried blood and bits of lava from the wounds. Before he got to work they injected some lidocaine around the head wound to numb it, since he needed to be a little rough. He was very thorough, and already I was looking better without all that blood. Now to get stitched up and go home!

Well, not so fast. During that time a couple of ambulances arrived, and the doctors were busy with those patients, so we waited. In fact, we waited so long that by the time they finally came back, the lidocaine had worn off, and I had to get more before they could finish suturing. But when they were done, I looked much better!

Freshly-stitched forehead
My newly-sutured forehead!

Finally we headed home! Once there I was able to very carefully shower to wash all the “pink streaks” out of my hair, and get the remaining bits of dried blood out of my beard. I put on some clean clothes, and threw the bloody garments away – not only were they caked with dried blood, they also suffered many “abrasions” like I did.

While all the hospital drama had been going on, Linda had let our kids know what had happened to me. Afterwards I wanted to reassure them that I was ok, so I took this selfie once I was cleaned up. We were staying at a gorgeous house that had a deck overlooking the Deschutes River, so why not include that view in the photo!

Selfie in front of the Deschutes River
Selfie from the deck of our place on the Deschutes River

If there’s a lesson to take away from all this, it’s this: Lava rocks are hard – don’t mess with ’em! And stay on the paths!!

Butterfly Summary, 2020

While I’ve raised Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars for several years now, this past year has been spectacular. I lost count of how many caterpillars there were, but by the end of the year, exactly 100 butterflies emerged! In addition, I still have 35 that are in their chrysalis state, who will most likely overwinter in that state, and emerge starting in spring.

Another aspect that was new was that for the first time I also had caterpillars for the Giant Swallowtail, the largest butterfly in North America (they really aren’t that much bigger!). See the photo below for the first one. I haven’t learned to tell the sexes apart for that species, as the coloration differences aren’t nearly as obvious as for the Black Swallowtail.

So here are the totals for 2020:

100 Emerged Adults
35 Overwinter Chrysalis
7 Giant Swallowtails
49 Female Black Swallowtails
43 Male Black Swallowtails
1 Black Swallowtails, sex unknown
3 Deformed Adults

I took a photo of each adult when it emerged, but didn’t want to create a post with all 100 images. So just click on the photo to have a new random image shown!

#49: October 20 – Giant Swallowtail, sex unknown

Lazarus Finale

I’ve written before about the swallowtail caterpillar that rose from the dead, whom I named “Lazarus“. First was the sad entry about accidentally letting a caterpillar drown: Day 13: Loss. Then a few days later I wrote about the discovery of the caterpillar after I had dumped its body into our compost bin: Day 17: Lazarus. The caterpillar grew until it was ready to pupate, and I posted images of it in its chrysalis: Day 20: Lazarus Update. That was exactly 3 months and one day ago.

Lazarus had a bright green chrysalis; they can range in color from green to dark brown. Yesterday I noticed that the color had visibly darkened, which is usually a sign that the adult butterfly is about to emerge.

Green chrysalis showing dark bands

Sure enough, this morning when I checked the enclosure this morning, there was a brand-new butterfly!

Lazarus minutes after emerging from its chrysalis

Sorry for the blurry image, but the enclosure is a nylon mesh that gives you visibility, but not a great photographic view. I waited a while for the new adult to dry out and get its wings ready, and then learned the truth: Lazarus is a girl!

The very beautiful Lazarus!

She was in no hurry to leave, so she hung around for about 2 1/2 hours before finally taking flight. So I had a great opportunity to take pictures!

I’ve never gotten so involved with any individual caterpillar before this one, and I can’t begin to explain how happy I am to have been able to watch her fly off on her own after all she’s been through. It did seem that she was in no hurry to leave, so I figured she wouldn’t mind one final photo: a selfie of the two of us!

Ed & Lazarus Selfie

An Honest Man

Today I got up, had my coffee, and headed out to play my first round of disc golf since starting my new job at NVIDIA. This time of year is very hot here in San Antonio, so I wanted to go early before it got unbearably hot.

I started off pretty well, and even made my second birdie of my (short) career! Here’s a photo I took of my tee shot; the light blue disc is hard to see, so I drew a yellow circle around it:

Within 3 feet!

The course is very hilly, and with the slowly increasing temperature and high humidity, I was definitely feeling drained by the halfway point. I just finished hole #10 when I looked at my disc bag and my stomach sank: it has a small zippered compartment where I keep my keys while I’m playing, and I noticed that the zipper had managed to work itself open enough for the keys to fall out! I hoped that they had fallen into the compartment with the discs, but after pulling them all out, I realized that they must have fallen out somewhere in the previous 10 holes. That meant that I had to walk back the course, retracing my steps and scanning the ground for them.

That is harder than it might sound, because as this is a practice round by myself, I frequently throw 2 or 3 different discs on a hole to test different flight patterns, throwing technique, etc. And each time I pick up a disc to make my next throw, I put the bag down. So that meant that I had to remember every throw I had made, and where it landed. It goes without saying that this took a very long time, and the heat and hills were starting to get to me.

I had retraced my steps all the way back to the tee at #4, and started walking to the basket at #3 when I saw a man playing that hole, walking towards me. I asked him if by any chance he had found a set of car keys, and he asked me “What color is your car?”. That seemed like an odd question; how would one know the color of the car that a given set of keys were for?? But I answered anyway: “Red. And the car key is black.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys, telling me that he found them by the basket at #2. He mentioned that he had put a note on the car to let the owner know that he had the keys and was on the course.

So this man had not only found my keys, he walked all the way back to the parking lot so he could leave me a note!

The lost keys note

I started thinking about that: if he were so inclined, he could have not only stolen the car, but found my home address on the registration, and used the key to get into our home. Fortunately, he was a good person, and none of that happened. Instead, he went out of his way to make sure that I was reunited with my keys. So thanks, David, not only for finding my keys, but for helping to keep my faith in humanity alive!

Day 55: The Experiment Ends

54 days ago I decided to set myself a goal to work on during my period of unemployment and social isolation: I would publish a blog post every day, and spend at least 30 minutes on each. I’m proud to say that I was able to achieve that goal!

Tomorrow I start my new job at NVIDIA, so I don’t anticipate having the copious amounts of time on my hands as I have had these past few months. I will still blog occasionally, but only when I have something to write about, and time to write it.

What have I learned by doing this experiment? Well, to start off with, I learned that it’s very difficult to let go of something without polishing it to death. That is my normal mental state when I write, and as a result I end up not publishing a post if it doesn’t feel perfect. But setting the one-edit rule helped a lot. At first I would examine every single character to make sure I didn’t have any mistakes, or could have used different words for better clarity, or… the reasons go on and on. But after doing that for a few days, and realizing that the world didn’t collapse around me, it got much easier.

Another thing that made it easier is realizing how few people actually read these posts. I have tools that generate daily stats for number of visitors, and how many times any given post was read, and believe me, they were pretty low. The one exception was the post about finally getting a new job: that got over 300 views! I find that encouraging: that people were truly happy for me, and interested in how I was doing.

One other thing I learned is that writing any particular piece gets easier once you start. Most days I didn’t have a clear idea about what I would write, and would procrastinate until I either had to start something or break my streak. I’d start by writing whatever I could think of on the topic, and it was usually crap. But after a bit it would start to flow, and I’d end up deleting the first few paragraphs whose focus meandered aimlessly, and post the rest.

I’ll close this with a caterpillar update: Lazarus is still in his/her chrysalis, but so far 9 of the new brood have emerged as adult butterflies! Unfortunately, one of the 9 had deformed wings and couldn’t fly.

I took this picture this morning of one of the enclosures: you can see butterfly #9 up at the top getting ready to leave, several pupas attached to the stick assembly I made (and one pupa attached to the enclosure itself in the top right), and two caterpillars crawling on the cup of parsley, with their little poops dotting the paper towel flooring. It’s a butterfly production line!