Monday, December 15, 2008

Lima, Peru

Buenos Dias! Bienvenida a Lima, Peru! Or in other words, good day! Welcome to Lima, Peru! I got the chance to visit the capitol of Peru. It was only for a day. In fact, I spent more time on airplanes than I did in Peru, but I had a great time.

Lima is the capitol of Peru, and was officially founded in 1532 by Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro, though the area was previously inhabited and considered part of the Inca Empire. Lima was under the Spanish flag until 1821 when it's tumultuous birth as an independent nation began with the aid of Argentinian and Chilean forces.

Lima's climate is that of a humid desert. It's sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Andean mountain range on the east. Being on the windward side of the mountains, it gets lots of balmy ocean breezes, but very little actual rainfall. In fact, they average only 0.3 inches of rain each year!

On the nice side, the average temperature is quite mild. The average temperature January through March is 79 F, while the average temperature in its coldest month, August, is only 64 F! Imagine living in a place where you never need a rain jacket or umbrella, and the most you would need is a light-weight jacket in the winter.

I actually got a rare opportunity to fly Business Class. Let me tell you, this is the only way to fly!

Just like any major city, they have big highways to get you from point A to point B efficiently.

They often used colorful pain on their buildings. Click on the image below to get a larger view. What you may notice is that the top floor of these buildings are not finished. Perhaps you can make out some re-bar sticking out of the tops. That's because there is a loophole in the real estate tax law that says a building can only be taxed once it is completely constructed. You don't see this much until you get to the outskirts of the city.

At this big intersection there is no traffic light. Instead, there is actually a police officer directing traffic! You can click on the picture for a larger view. The yellow booth under the light post is an elevated platform where the officer waves his arms and blows his whistle. This was the only intersection direct by an officer that I saw. The rest had traffic lights or stop signs. I'm not sure why this one is special.

There was plenty of interesting architecture around...

And there were plenty of cool homes...

Like these...

And this one...

And that one...

Even the fire escape looks stylish on this building.

Despite lacking rainfall, there were a few city-owned gardens throughout Lima. Many of the gardens are watered by tanker trucks.

Motorbike taxis, like the one on the right side of the photo, were common, especially in the suburban regions.

It's just me, taking in some Spanish-influenced architecture. Later!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tacoma, Washington

I payed a brief visit to Tacoma, Washington, stopping by the Museum of Glass, Union Station, and the Tacoma Art Museum. Inside the Museum of Glass, you can not only see great works of glass art, but you can also watch them make the art in a large studio.

One of the highlights of the trip was the Chuhily Bridge of Glass, conceptually designed by Dale Chuhily, who also was the overseer in the creation of the hundreds of glass pieces that adorn the Bridge of Glass. Dale Chuhily is quite famous in the world of artistic glass, and is a highly celebrated resident of Washington.

The picture above is me in front of a wall section of the Bridge of Glass.

These pillars on the Bridge of Glass look like rock candy to me!

This view shows part of the highly decorated roof with the pillars in the distance.

I just walked around staring at the roof in wonder...

You could look for a long time and still see new pieces as you moved about.

This was totally awesome!

This me inside of Union Station, which was also full of Chihuly glass work.

The big dog greets you as you enter the Tacoma Art Museum. It's the only place in the museum that you can take photos. There were some really neat quilts in one of the large exhibit rooms.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Houston, Texas

In the Eastern region of Texas is Houston, one of the top ten largest cities in the US. The name Houston comes from Sam Houston. Sam helped win the war of independence of Texas from Mexico. In a decisive battle, General Sam Houston defeated General Antonio López de Santa Ana, the president of Mexico and commander of the army, in a matter of minutes with very few casualties. The legend behind the victory is that the Yellow Rose of Texas, a mulato housekeeper that was seized in Galveston by the Mexican army, had seduced General Santa Anna at the time when General Houston launched his attack. This had the Mexican army unprepared and unorganized to fend off General Houston's attack. Above, I am posed before the monument to Sam Houston.

At one time, in fact in Sam Houston's time, Texas was its own country. It was only with reluctance that Texas joined the US officially as a state. This hesitation can be seen by the fact that Texas is the only state in the US that has a legal right to break the union with the rest of the United States because this was one condition that the Texans demanded before they would join the union.

This is the outside of Museum of Fine Art, Houston where I got to see some great artwork.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a [painting done in a pointillistic style of a] tree...

This was a beautiful painting of a girl with her younger sibling.

This is in the backyard of the museum. Pretty nifty!

One thing Texas is known for is barbecue. It certainly ranks among the best that I have had. There is hardly a commercial street without a BBQ business. This Pig Stand was one of the more inventively named establishments.

Further East of Houston in the Channelview region is the White Elephant Flea Market. This was about as close as I got to it.

There are times when you realize that zoning laws and Home Owners Associations can be a very good thing. Such is the case for the residential neighborhood with the honor of hosting the Orange Show.

The Orange Show is the product of one man's passion for his favorite fruit; the orange. Over the course of 34 years, mail carrier Jeff McKissack built this monument to oranges out of common building materials and recycled junk.

Unfortunately, the Orange Show was closed for renovations at the time I was there. So he can only imagine the wonders kept within...

Someone realized that the Orange Show neighborhood had a good sense of humor about creative living spaces. So someone decided to build a home out of a recycled rocket!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

In the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe mountains is an amazing spectacle of nature. But you will not see it until you go down. Way down. Down. Way, way down underground. Well, maybe not that far down; the deepest point is only 1037 feet below the surface. However, this underground journey took me into a whole new world. The world of Carlsbad Caverns.

I was a little cold in my shorts and t-shirt, because it was about 56 F (13.3 C) down in the caverns. However, the chill was totally worth it to see the beauty that existed below the desert surface.

Water is a key component to shaping, forming, and carving many natural national treasures, and it was certainly the case here. Scientist theorize that the caverns used to be a reef of an ancient ocean 250 million years ago. The sea dried up and the reef was buried. Roughly 3 million years ago, the Earth's crust started seeing some uplift in that area, exposing the reef rock to erosion. Water seeped down through the limestone. Meanwhile, sulphide-rich water was being squeezed up from oil and gas deposits down below. The two waters mixed chemicals to create sulfuric acid, which dissolved the limestone and opened up much of the cavernous volume over time.

After the caverns opened up and the sulfur-rich waters stopped oozing up from below, the cave was decorated over 500000 years with various limestone, calcite, and aragonite deposits from additional water seeping down from the ground surface up above. Today we see the result of billions and billions of drips in the form of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, draperies, flowstone, columns, mineral lily pads, cave pearls, popcorn, helictites, aragonite crystals, and rimstone dams.

Unfortunately, I had to miss one of the premier attractions to this cave; the bat flight. From early spring to October, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats leave the cave at dusk for their nocturnal insect hunt. Carlsbad Caverns was discovered by US settlers in the 1800's. Prior to the time that the caverns became a national park in 1930, the cave was mined for bat waste, known as guano, for use as fertilizer. With all those bats, you can just imagine that there was a lot of guano!

Multicolor flowstone and stalagmites

One of my favorites; draperies

A big stalagmite and lots of soda straws on the cave roof

Stalactites and stalagmites

This one is called The Rock of Ages

Columns, soda straws, and popcorn, oh my!

The wonders of water, acid, and dissolved stone

More cool draperies and flowstone

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roswell, New Mexico

In the arid lands of New Mexico is a city know as the dairy capitol of the Southwest. There is also a city that hosts one of the largest suspected government cover-ups of aliens from outer space. Would you believe they are both the same city? That city is Roswell.

With all of the conspiracy hype on the internet about Roswell, and all of the documentaries produced about aliens and UFO’s which prominently featured Roswell, I expected the town to be a bit of a tourist trap; sort of like Disneyland, only Mickey would be replaced by a little green man with no ears at all. However, this was not the case at all. The overwhelming majority of the city looked much like any other small-to-mid-sized city.

That is not to say that there were no touristy alien-themed boutiques and décor. At random spots throughout the town you would see little splashes of good-humored green man mythology. In the old downtown section of the city, there has been a tourist-oriented revitalization, replete with alien-eyed street lights and many Martian souvenir shops.

All in all, it was a fun quick visit. The funny thing is, although it's supposed to be the dairy capitol of the Southwest, I didn't see a single cow in town, or on the way to and from town. Where did all these cows go? Maybe they were abducted by aliens!!!

Sam's silly slant on the alien legend

Outside one of the alien gift shops

Cool alien art at the downtown theater

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Northwest of Lubbock, Texas is a little place that everyone calls home: Earth! I was surprised to find that a town with such a monumental name could be so small. In fact, there’s not even a traffic light in town. An Earth without traffic lights… hmmmm… Maybe that’s not so bad! On second thought, maybe we should keep the traffic lights for safety’s sake.

Earth is actually a good name for the town, as it is a town that supports a community of farmers. You can overhear the farmers discussing how many bushels of corn they planted or how well their tractors are running at the popular lunch spot. They till the soil and tend to the crops which spring up from the ground, depending on the Earth for their livelihood. What better way to honor that dependence than naming the town after the Earth?

Just about ten minutes to the west is a slightly larger town called Muleshoe. Muleshoe, of course, being named in honor of the workhorse, err, work-mule, that helped to cultivate the surrounding fields. Also in the environs around Muleshoe are several cattle feedlots. In fact, this region of Texas has one of the most densely feedlot-populated areas in all of the United States. Cows upon cows upon cows are lined up at the feed troughs. If the wind blows just right, the scent that greets you makes you suddenly lose your appetite for beef products of any kind.

This restaurant is in Earth and is voted to have the best burgers according to the sign. So does it have the best burgers ON Earth or the best burgers IN Earth? Burgers in Earth does not sound good. Flat Stanley is not a fan of dirt burgers, though he can make a mean mud pie!

Earth: Population 1109 + ~ 6 Billion

In between Earth and Muleshoe, there was a farm that was practically converted into a prairie dog city. All of those white patches of sand in the photo mark entryways into prairie dog burrows.

In Muleshoe, this town mascot fiberglass Mule is famous for having been sent to the Whitehouse for George W. Bush’s first inauguration celebration.