Virtual National Park Week

Our second week of “virtual” summer camps saw us visiting the National Parks.

I kicked us off with a visit to Katmai National Park in Alaska. It’s probably best known for its Bear Cam at Brooks Falls, where the brown bears feast on salmon heading to their spawning grounds. But its origins come from a 1912 volcanic eruption at Novarupta which created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and prompted calls for protection. For a long time, it was thought that Mount Katmai erupted, but it turned out that nearby Novarupta was the main source, and that all the magma underneath Mount Katmai drained out because of the eruption and the mountain collapsed! There’s now a crater lake there, over 3000 feet below the height of the previous peak.


Ellie followed up by taking us to the opposite side of the country to Dry Tortugas National Park. The most obvious feature of the park is Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fort that was mainly used to house deserters, but also held Dr Samuel Mudd, infamous for setting John Wilkes Booth’s leg, helping him to escape after Lincoln’s assassination. The coral reef is also a big draw, being part of the third largest reef in the world. Much of the park is technically underwater, and is home to a wide variety of sea life, including the turtles the park is named after.

Lisa took us to Dinosaur National Monument, where you can actually touch the fossils! The theory is that there used to be a vast inland sea in the area. Droughts followed by floods deposited a ton of fossils around here. The Green and Yampa rivers also converge in the park, leading to some of the best white water rafting you’ll ever experience. There are also petroglyphs left behind by the Fremont people. The park is within a few hours of several other national parks in Utah, so when *all this* is over, it’s worth a road trip to see them all!

Evan took us to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, so named because parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day. Hiking down to the canyon is so difficult that the NPS doesn’t maintain any official trails. You have to be able to navigate the unmarked trails on your own. Evan was fascinated by the town of Cimarron, which used to be a big rail hub, particularly for livestock. The railroad was narrow gauge in this area due to the difficulty of carving out space for the tracks. The most spectacular part to me was Painted Wall, the third tallest cliff in the lower 48 states. Its unique look is due to the pegmatite granite, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago.


Finally, our dog, Eliza got in on the act and shared how to become a Bark Ranger. BARK is an acronym:
Bag your poop
Always wear a leash
Respect wildlife
Know where you can go (stay on marked trails and be aware of buildings that aren’t pet-friendly)
Ellie and Eliza did a great job with their presentation!


Virtual Museum Week

In the midst of a pandemic, everything is being canceled. Normally around this time, we’d be heading up to Michigan to visit Lisa’s parents and for the kids to go to summer camp with their cousins. Instead, we have *gestures everywhere* all of this. So, in lieu of that, we’re trying to make the best of it by doing week-long virtual summer camps. Each family member picks a place or topic and tells everyone else about it. First up is museum week.

On Monday, I took everyone on a visit to The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park. Of course, Bletchley Park is famous for being the home of World War II’s greatest codebreakers who cracked the German Enigma with their Bombe machine. It has the world’s oldest original working digital computer, the Harwell Dekatron Computer, or the WITCH.

On Tuesday, Lisa took us to The British Museum, home of the beautiful yet controversial Elgin Marbles, originally from the Parthenon. It’s huge! It would take days to see everything there. They also have the Rosetta Stone. They have entire departments devoted to Egypt, Greece and Rome, and even “Coins and Medals.”

Next, Evan took us in a new direction with the Museum of Failure. He was especially amused by Crystal Pepsi and the Nintendo Power Glove.

For the last virtual museum, Ellie took us to The Broad in LA. They have some great videos like this one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinite Mirror Room. We even made some art in the style of Ed Ruscha! I drew HALF Dome in Yosemite.


Finally, we visited an actual museum… outside! Glenstone in Potomac, Maryland is allowing a limited number of visitors at timed intervals, with mandatory mask wearing, to roam the grounds. There are a number of pieces of art on display outside, including Jeff Koons’ “Split Rocker.”


And “FOREST (for a thousand years…)”, an audio installation by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller was really cool.

Next week, we’ll be virtually visiting some National Parks!

Rest in Peace, Max Dauernheim

We first met Max at an adoption event at a pet store in DC. I don’t even remember why we were downtown, or why we decided to stop in to this particular pet store on this particular day. But there we were, and there we met the little fur ball that has been a big part of our lives for the past 14 years.
Max was, quite literally, the runt of the litter. While the other puppies were barking and jumping to get attention from all of the onlookers, Max was just standing there and waiting for someone to notice him. We picked him up, and it was like he knew we were meant for him. He was quiet and patient and at some point, we knew.
After the Partnership for Animal Welfare approved our adoption, Max came home to our little apartment in Falls Church. He lived in the kitchen and a cardboard box as he was being potty trained, and I came home from work every day at lunchtime to let him out for some play time.
He was always a smart dog. Before we had human children, Max was passing obedience tests with flying colors, and became a “therapy dog,” visiting nursing homes with us and bringing smiles to the faces of all the residents. Max even won a silver medal at one of the local dog festivals for running the bases with me.
The years rolled on and we had two human kids, and Max was a great companion for them too. He was never a great watchdog, he never stuck his head out of the car window, and he wasn’t the most enthusiastic fetcher of tennis balls. But feeding Max and taking him for walks became chores for the kids, and so in his way, he taught them responsibility.
Last week, Max suddenly got sick. He wasn’t able to eat anything, and when we took him to the vet, it was clear that something was wrong with his liver. The vet did what they could for a couple of days, and eventually we took him home. It looked for a while like he might be okay: he was eating some food and drinking some water, and the jaundice in his eyes was receding. Unfortunately, he took another turn for the worse and he pretty much gave up on eating. Over his last few days, we did our best to keep him comfortable and surrounded by the people who loved him.
Max died today. He was 14 years old. Rest in peace, buddy.

Kid Update

We just had our parent-teacher conferences last week and we are so proud of our little scholars. It is great to go in to those things without being worried about what the teachers are going to say. We were still surprised with how well they were doing…They are both exceeding in a lot of areas and, even though Austin won’t admit it, they both love school.

As for the sports update…Austin is currently playing flag football and competitive soccer while Taylor is just playing park district volleyball. Austin has been a mad man on the football field, I think he has scored at least 3 TDs in each game. It’s been fun to see him really start to figure it out and trust his speed. As for soccer, he is getting better with each practice and each game. He kind of freaks out in traffic and neglects working on his moves but he scored the only goal for his team against the first place opponent. They are U8s playing in the U9 division. Hopefully that means good things for next year when these kids are actually U9s. Taylor’s is playing Park District but she is a 4th grader playing up with the 5th and 6th graders. She is doing awesome, one of our few consistent servers/passers/setters (more like our only). She has had a few nice little serving runs for us…If she could only find a way to run off 25 in a row, we’d be set! She starts club ball later this fall on a U11 team. The level with the girls we had at open gym is so much higher than park district. Most of the teams are just teaching their kids to pass the ball right back over then net instead of working on their fundamentals and getting them to pass/set/hit. It’s disappointing to see those coaches encouraging those bad habits but oh well, better for our kids in the long run I guess.