Sep 30, 2012 - The Enchantments Hike 2012

The sudden opportunity came up for me to hike once more to the Enchantments Alpine Lake Wilderness area with a friend that had a permit. (see previous second time & third time)

Wildfires had been burning in Eastern Washington for some weeks. The Colchuck Lake entrance to the Enchantments had been closed down because of the fire and smoke. So, we expected some smoke.

2012_enchantments0 This was our view as we started up the trail so we worried until we realized the wind was blowing the smoke away from us.

2012_enchantments1 Our trail.

2012_enchantments2 First we passed Nada Lake. It is unfortunately named because it is quite beautiful. It is also in the water supply flow to the Leavenworth fish hatchery.

2012_enchantments3 Nada is fed from the Snow Lakes, but these days by an unnatural method. They tunneled into the mountain and made a bathtub drain in the bottom of the Upper Snow Lake. This feeds a nozzle that shoots into Nada. The roar could be heard for a mile and shoots hundreds of feed down the hill!

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Sep 07, 2012 - Highly Complex Genome

A recent set of articles have reported on the the newly published results of an extensive project to map uncharted areas of the human genome. (WSJ, Nature, Wired) Only a tiny fraction of cell DNA is actively used in manufacturing proteins (about 2%). The purpose of the rest of the genome wasn't known, and was sometimes thought to be useless "junk DNA".

The study results have shown these "useless" regions to actually be very active in switching and regulating the encoding genes. Function has been assigned to about 80% of the genome, and shows that these areas are highly complex, inter-related, and information-dense. The mountain of cell complexity gets higher the more we study how cells function!

I notice a re-occurring attitude (unfortunately) that if we can't assign function to something, then it has no function (- thus the epithet "junk DNA"). Such a view of cells seems strange because it seems naive. The rest of our world is amazingly complex; why would we assume simplistic-ness in cells? I think the attitude connects to a world view:

  • A world view that biology was designed assumes the designer wouldn't waste cell resources in junk.
  • A world view that biology evolved through efficiency should assume useless material would be culled.
  • A world view that biology evolved through the noise of random chance could allow for "useless" DNA. This view might also be encouraged by a belief that the cell was simple (as Darwin had).

We now know that the bulk of cell DNA is extremely involved. However, a view of the cell as simple could help make an evolutionary origins story more intuitive. Those that would continue to use such a view, show an intent to mislead because they want to make their story more palatable.

Most scientists won't use the "junk DNA" term (anymore). However it still largely represents what they had been thinking. They were genuinely surprised that these newly studied areas of the genome have turned out to be so important. In that, their Darwinian origins world view does them a disservice because it suggests an inaccurate biological model to them.

Well-designed things encapsulate function, art, and planning for extended capability. We see this in exceptional products; and we see this in the biological world. In my opinion, the level of sophistication found so far in this incomplete study seems more compatible with origins by design than by chance.


Aug 11, 2012 - Alan and Katie's Wedding

Two years ago, Alan moved to New York (state) to be near his girlfriend and develop their relationship. (He got his job offer while he was on his way.)

2012_AlanKatieWedding0 Katie agreed to marry him earlier this year.

2012_AlanKatieWedding1 The big event started with a rehearsal the day before.

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May 12, 2012 - A bear? Over there!

We returned to Spada Lake and were not disappointed. (more info)

20120512_spada_bear0 All vehicles must register at the entrance to the area. Melanie conquered the remaining snow that had came off the shed!

20120512_spada_bear1 This great waterfall was just beside the road on the way down to the lake.

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May 06, 2012 - Lake Washington upscale houses

Today we kayaked near Medina. (more info)

There are some exceptional houses on the shore of Lake Washington. We passed B. Gate's house. It is one of the biggest ones around, but is tastefully impressive behind old trees. However, we also saw some more houses...

20120506_lake_wa0 This one is all non-square angles. Many upscale houses have outdoor sculpture such as this colorful abstract dog.

20120506_lake_wa1 I kept seeing flashes of light from this place. Notice below Melanie's paddle...

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Apr 04, 2012 - Kayaking by Nisqually Wildlife

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is in the delta area where the Nisqually River empties at the south of the Puget Sound. It truly is rich with wild life.

We put in during the end of a negative tide that had exposed the delta as a vast mud flat. Some water flow had cut a channel from the boat ramp out to the Sound. Our kayak can float in only inches of water, and this is a good thing because that was all there was in the channel at some places. (more trip details)

20120404_nisqually0 The view of the Olympic Mountains was fantastic. You can see the shallowness of the water by some underwater grasses just visible in the lower left.

20120404_nisqually1 The eagles were plentiful. In one area I counted eleven bald and golden eagles.

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Apr 01, 2012 - Kayaking Upstream

The Sammamish Slough is a pretty good river for kayaking. It meanders slowly through interesting areas. Last year we traveled down its length, but we have paddled limited distances upstream.

There is a section just before Woodinville's Wilmot Park where the water runs faster downhill. We paddled to it in Feb, but we were not able to get through this section because the water level was so low that we were scraping our paddles on the river bottom!

We went back there today, and on this trip, water depth was not a problem. Speed of water flow was!

20120401_kayak_upstream0 As the river narrowed it picked up speed so that at this point we were in an all-out sprint to keep moving forward!

This was probably the hardest paddling we have ever done. And yet at that, my granddaughter could probably have crawled forward faster than we were moving!

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Nov 12, 2011 - A new cello, and a Rachmaninoff performance

Recently I purchased a new cello. This had not been in my plans, and was a surprise to me.

One weekend I was at a guitar store, and I tried out their good acoustic guitars. I realized that I didn't find them to be significantly better than the guitar I already had.

Later that day, Melanie & I were passing another music store, and I remembered that she wanted to buy a flute stand. So we stopped in. While she was picking it out, I wandered over to the cellos and asked if I could play them. That was an interesting experience because I found out I didn't know what kind of sound I wanted in a cello.

So I started trying out cellos from multiple shops. Did you know that the better string (instrument) shops will let you out their door with a borrowed multi-thousand dollar instrument even though you did not pay them any money? At one point I had three borrowed cellos in addition to my old one at home.

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May 10, 2011 - Robot Values

How will intelligent robots interact with humans? In this article, Aaron Saenz discusses the problems that robotic intelligence brings. And although he didn't have an answer, I think I do.

Isaac Asimov famously invented the Three Laws of Robotics so he could advance robots beyond Frankenstein-like stories. The laws were supposed to protect and bring peaceful coexistence with humans. These things concern us because robots can be faster, stronger, and more persistent than we are.

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Apr 19, 2011 - Our Adventure on the Sammamish River Slough

Melanie & I have taken up kayaking. It an outdoors activity that is not limited by her flat feet, and we live in a place with lots of interesting places to see by boat. And it is good exercise!

20110419_kayak_slough0 We purchased a used tandem sea kayak from a tour outfitter last year. This year we have been out four times, with our most adventurous trip at last weekend.

Seattle is dominated by the Lake Washington water system. Its largest feed is from Lake Sammamish to the east. I have often biked the Sammamish River trail, and the river is calm and generously sized all the way. However, there is one section that I knew nothing about.

The river starts at the north end of Lake Sammamish, and passes over a weir that prevents the lake from dropping too much in the summer.

20110419_kayak_slough1 The river is at spring melt flood stage now (notice the submerged sign :-), so the weir was no problem.


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Feb 06, 2011 - Ultimate Origins

Christianity Today's May 2010 issue had a discussion about issues regarding the Intelligent Design (ID) movement gaining credibility. The first writer said that ID's problem is that the idea of ID is infertile - it simply isn't driving new scientific knowledge. The assertion is a red herring because the issue is no better in the Darwinian evolution philosophical camp.

Darwinian evolution is based on one crucial postulate: that all organism types (separated by taxonomic class higher than species) were derived by transformation from one to another. The explanation for similarity between disparate organisms is ultimate common ancestry.

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Feb 05, 2011 - St. Edwards Tour

One of my favorite places to go walking is the St. Edward State Park (a map). It is a large (316 acre) undeveloped park of mostly trails, and has the last undeveloped waterfront on Lake Washington.

It also has a large historic building that had been the St. Edward Seminary of the Catholic Church. Boys entered during high school on the path to becoming priests.

The building is a poured concrete building that was constructed in 6 months by the same builder that built Northgate Mall (Seattle), the first indoor shopping mall in the United States.

20110205_edward_tour0 I have often thought it would be very cool to see the inside of the building, and look out from the tower.

20110205_edward_tour1 However, this time I saw a new sign on one of the entrances indicating severe response to unauthorized entry. That was not in my mind, but it made entry seem all the more remote.

And then I realized that I had never asked if I could be taken inside. So I went to the ranger office and asked if they ever had tours. "Not really, but... Well, why don't you take him on one now?" So the ranger gave me a full tour!!

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Dec 12, 2010 - Impressive Snoqualmie Falls

With our recent very heavy rains, I knew Snoqualmie Falls had to be spectacular. I was not disappointed. (See video at end.)

20101212_snoqualmie_falls0 Usually you can see a significant amount of rock at the lip of the falls. This was what it was like at the same time of year in 2006.

20101212_snoqualmie_falls1 But now the river had become so swollen, there was nothing but water! And the spray was so much that at times you couldn't see across the canyon to the falls. You can see the spray spots on the camera lens.

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Oct 14, 2010 - The Enchantments Hike 2010

The Enchantments are series of alpine lakes near Leavenworth, WA. The beauty of the area draws many hikers. I returned with my friend Rex for a third visit.

2010_enchantments0 Rex and the rest of the group started at the trailhead at 7AM on a Sunday morning.

2010_enchantments1 I started much later at 3:30PM, so I hiked into the darkness with a headlamp. The trail was easy to follow, and I had all I needed with me, so I wasn't worried. However, I was surprised to meet two other groups hiking down in the dark. As soon as I got to camp, I turned in.

2010_enchantments2 Next morning was cold. In fact, it was cold on this hike any time you were not in sunshine.

2010_enchantments3 We had camped by the Snow Lakes. The trail in goes across the dam that separates them.

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Jul 21, 2010 - Our first grandchild!

Janae delivered our first grandchild on July 17th at 11:30 PM.

20100721_camden_first_grandchild0 Camden Rae Grove weighed 6 lbs 3 oz (2.8 kg), and was 19.5 in (49.5 cm) long.

20100721_camden_first_grandchild1 She was looking around at everything right away.

20100721_camden_first_grandchild2 Melanie has had so much fun making knitted clothes, blankets, and stuffed animals.

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Apr 01, 2010 - The Drinking Bird

When I came in to work today, I saw a great April-fools joke: The arm of the parking lot gate had been turned into a bobbing drinking bird.

20100401_drinking_bird0 Remember the glass bird filled with alcohol that would keep bobbing down into a glass of water as long as its beak would remain being wetted?

20100401_drinking_bird1 Here is the full size version! ;-) And here is a video version.

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