Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Southwest, part 2

This leg of the trip was highlighted by the Grand Canyon, although Williams AZ was an awesome morning, and although Santa Fe started weird and slow, we had a great evening there as well.

On with the photos!

Early morning reflection.

As mentioned previously, Williams was our first exposure to old Route 66, so we kinda went camera and shop crazy. The town is really small, but we must have spent an hour just walking around...

I was really tempted. I figure that just goes on the 'to make' list.

Off in the car again. The Grand Canyon is about an hour north of Williams (vs. about 1.5 hours outside of Flagstaff). Although Flagstaff is nice, Williams seems to be the better bet on places to stay within striking distance of the Canyon.

Just sleeping. He wasn't there on our way back.

Now at the GC, there was tonnes of snow, and very little tourists. It really did seem to be the perfect time to visit.

The snow really helps with the depth definition.

We really got some great shots of the Canyon just walking around... if you find yourself near the South Rim of the Canyon, up the steep entrance to El Tovar hotel (Einstein once stayed there!), as suggested to us by a friendly lady as we were U-turning onto a one way street near the community centre there. Once there, access to the GC is unfenced, direct and spacious, and the contours in this particular spot are great as well.

Not the best shot. In Williams one could hop on the Grand Canyon Railway and 2.5 undoubtedly scenic hours later would be dropped off steps from the advertised. It really is a full day trip, there and back, and thought it better to leave that for a second visit.

There were no bikes on the road, but signs were everywhere and ready for the spring.

After spending about an 1. 5 hours just walking, talking and taking pictures, we decided to at least try to take a helicopter ride over the giant hole.

Adam dove into the airport, and found that just down the street Papillon offered 30 minute flights for $150 each. Since I've never been in a helicopter (and Adam only once before), we thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Also, it was taking off in like 5 minutes.

We sat with a couple of others, and window access was full. There was unfortunately no "Danger Zone" played over the headsets, although Adam commented that it did sound like it was about to come on at one point. We just sang it a cappella in the car afterward. No, seriously, we were jacked.

We got lucky with the low hanging clouds, and with the weather in general. These small pictures don't really do the size of the Canyon justice, but you could figure that.

I could bore you with about 50 more of these, but I figure I'd have to sedate you with booze first. In saying that, plans can be arranged.

Once landed, Adam was told to take off.

It was a great experience. There is some video archived as well, but I'll save that for another time...

The Grand Canyon was pretty awesome, and a one night Las Vegas / one night Grand Canyon getaway would be very much be worth it (and relatively cheap), especially if you've never been. It is something that you need to experience with someone else, and sharing that gaping hole with Adam was unique, and something very special to me.

So, back on the road now, and looking to head to Santa Fe before it gets too late.

The round trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon to Santa Fe is about 530 miles.

For lunch, we stopped at Charly's in the lovely Weatherford Hotel, Flagstaff, AZ.

err... different hotel.

Flagstaff, where they will tow your dog.

Cholla Power Plant. Absolutely disgusting, and can be seen for approximately 50 miles around. Located on the man-made Cholla Lake, which slightly bubbles as it cools the refuse from the power generator.

View Larger Map
I figure that big black spot over the power plant is the smoke. Apparently none of the power generated here stays in Arizona; it gets sold to California and Oregon. Apparently there are some carbon capture studies being done now at Cholla, but this thing is just plain disgusting.

Well, on to better things. Apparently we're approaching Knife City!

.. and Goodwater. The town with no services.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Goodwater, Arizona. You just missed out on owning this no service town. The 600 acre property sold recently for just under $800,000. The headquarters improvements consists of a mobile home, concrete bunkhouse, a large hay/livestock barn, and several out buildings. Telephone and electricity are available to the headquarters site.

Apparently updated just a few days ago,

A rest stop just inside the New Mexico borders. I liked the bench, and didn't like the facilities.

I really can't add to the perfection of this picture.

SO, arrived in Santa Fe; it must have been somewhere around 10 pm. The place looked dead, except for a handful of pockets around the Plaza. Maybe it was just too cold? Above, Adam is about to sample his first chiles rellenos of the trip at the Inn of the Governors' Del Charro Saloon, where the house margarita is cheap, sweet, and plentiful.

Empty Plaza at night; too cold?

I'm sure Santa Fe is a great town with some great culture, but to me, it turned out to be the only disappointing town visited on the trip. Maybe I hyped it too much in my head. Being there for basically 15 hours overnight, it didn't really strike a chord (more pictures are coming from the next day...), but probably didn't get its fair shake either. It would be interesting to go back there in warmer climates, but honestly, it does feel a bit too much like a tourist town for Americans to visit the southwest. We're Canadians. It just never really was going to work out. I think Adam described it as Disneyland's southwest outpost, and I agree.

However, it's not just about the sights, the architecture, or the towns. It's also about the people you meet, and the stories you share. The picture above is us with our favourite Santa Fe bartender, Aaron. Although we had our pick from a few (if you ever go to Evangelo's make sure the bartender is in a good mood(!); that may have stemmed from us being the only ones in the bar), I think what sold us most with Aaron was his easy pours, local Catamount and ex-wife gossip, at 3am.

See part 1 here.

meh.. just four great articles you should read...

They are all great reads, long and short, right in my wheelhouse, and after contemplating taking the credit, I must admit I stole them from Kari's google reader feeder.


Photographer Loves Math, Graphs Her Images
for more pics.

Most of us can’t tell our secant from our cotangent. But the forms are everywhere, and Nikki Graziano wants to help us see them. See more of her Found Functions series at

These look ok, but I really like the concept.


Garry Kasparov writes of artificial intelligence and chess. This is a really transparent article by Garry; his bitterness, his emotion, as well as his intellect really come through. You could almost feel the struggle within from paragraph to paragraph. If you haven't seen the movie, "Game over: Kasparov and the Machine", you should.


At the outset, this article looks "meh, pedestrian", but keep reading.

In Western films, the gunslinger that draws first always gets shot. This seems like a standard Hollywood trope but it diverted the attention of no less a scientist that Niels Bohr, one of history's greatest physicists. Taking time off from solving the structure of the atom, Bohr suggested that it takes more time to initiate a movement than to react to the same movement. Perversely, the second gunslinger wins because they're responding to their opponent's draw.


Bohr's idea, it seems, was correct in theory, but wrong in practice. That didn't stop Bohr himself from testing his hypothesis in experimental duels against fellow physicist George Gamow using toy pistols. According to anecdotal reports, Bohr always reacted and he won every duel, but Welchman has the final word on the matter:

"Our data make it unlikely that these victories can be ascribed to the benefits associated with reaction. Rather, they suggest that Bohr was a crack shot, in addition to being a brilliant physicist."


And finally, sing me Polish techno.

New York is practically a non-stop music festival, so it makes sense that the city doesn’t host many big-tent events. In ungenerous moments, New Yorkers may even think that nothing passes them by because everyone plays here. Not so—some musicians just don’t care for touring. But a well-curated festival can bring out those artists, and the seven-year-old Polish electronic-music festival Unsound, which comes to New York Feb. 4-14 (starting in and around Lincoln Center), is at least that. Vladislav Delay will offer his gorgeous electric fog, Radian will play its arid version of minimalist rock, and countless others, some rarely seen, will upend machines in search of the perfect beat. There will also be panel discussions with pioneers such as the seventy-six-year-old Morton Subotnick, one of the first musicians to work with modular synthesizers. You’ll have to admit that the Poles got this one right. Eleven days is a lot of synergy, and it seems unlikely that you will be standing in mud at any point.

From the New Yorker.


Now, the point of this post? So I could play you all this:

Rabindranath Tagore

"Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance."

I agree with the quote; at least my experiences really show that. There is a undoubtedly a stronger connection with certain people; regardless of time. There is more to "taming" than time. There is also that distance aspect.

I thought this quote worked well in with "The Little Prince" post below. I stole the Tagore quote from my friend Sandra's facebook status, and although I didn't know anything about Rabindranath Tagore then, I know at least a little now.

(The guy on the right)

Wikipedia says: As a poet, novelist, musician, and playwright, he reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse",[1] being the first non-European to win the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature[2], Tagore was perhaps the most important literary figure of Bengali literature and a mesmerising representative of the Indian culture whose influence and popularity internationally perhaps could only be compared to that of Gandhi whom Tagore named 'Mahatma' out of his deep admiration for him.

Tagore denounced the British Raj and supported independence. His efforts endure in his vast canon and in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University. Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to political and personal topics.

Ok, so what does that mean? Well, let's look at his stories...

The four years from 1891 to 1895 are known as Tagore’s "Sadhana" period (named for one of Tagore’s magazines). This period was among Tagore's most fecund, yielding more than half the stories contained in the three-volume Galpaguchchha, which itself is a collection of eighty-four stories. Such stories usually showcase Tagore’s reflections upon his surroundings, on modern and fashionable ideas, and on interesting mind puzzles (which Tagore was fond of testing his intellect with). Tagore typically associated his earliest stories (such as those of the "Sadhana" period) with an exuberance of vitality and spontaneity; these characteristics were intimately connected with Tagore’s life in the common villages of, among others, Patisar, Shajadpur, and Shilaida while managing the Tagore family’s vast landholdings.

Download the Sadhana period audiobook here, and buy the book here.

Also, while looking for a picture of him, I stumbled upon someone else who had stumbled upon this:


[Excepted from - "Einstein and Tagore Plumb the truth : Scientist and Poet Exchange Thoughts on the possibility of its Existence without relation to Humanity" by Dmitri Marianoff, published in NewYork Times, August 10, 1930]

TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics, the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe of reality.
EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?
TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the truth of the universe is human truth.
EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe – the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as reality independent of the human factor.

Smell the quantum physics? Shit yes(!), this does go on...

Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of truths. Guess who said that.

EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?
TAGORE: No, I do not say so.
EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?
EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with regard to truth.
TAGORE: Why not? Truth is realized through men.
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is my religion.

Einstein kinda found that he ended up proving himself wrong... he just never really believed it and never was able to picture it. ... "Himself one of the founders of quantum theory, disliked this loss of determinism in measurement (this dislike is the source of his famous quote, "God does not play dice with the universe.")." (wiki)

ok.. go read it yourself.. I'll stop quoting here... it really is great.


ok, maybe one more snippet to tie things back up neatly to The Little Prince.

TAGORE: Once I asked an English musician to analyze for me some classical music, and explain to me what elements make for the beauty of the piece.
EINSTEIN: The difficulty is that the really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.
TAGORE: Yes, and what deeply affects the hearer is beyond himself.
EINSTEIN: The same uncertainty will always be there about everything fundamental in our experience, in our reaction to art, whether in Europe or in Asia. Even the red flower I see before me on your table may not be the same to you and me.

It really all ties in with perception and how and why it's formed; what jumps out at you, and what you jump out to.