We Are Loving Utah’s Natural Wonders to Death

The traffic into and out of Utah national parks and other scenic attractions is spiraling upward out of control.

Last summer on a quick visit to Zion National Park, there were cars parked along both sides of the road for miles before the entrance, and a mile or two after the entrance.  The car line to enter the park was over 30 minutes long.   The road up the Virgin River toward the narrows is closed to most car traffic, and visitors are now required to take a bus.  To get through the tunnels, there were also waiting lines, to sheperd RV traffic through the adits.

Vehicles Lined Up to Get in Zion National Park, UT

According to National Park Service statistics, Zion is ranked fifth on the list of the most visited national parks in the United States, behind Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain, with 4,295,127 visits. That was one spot higher than Yellowstone.

There is now a stoplight at the turnoff to Arches NP, and the entrance traffic frequently stretches in a long line back along the highway toward Moab.   The turnoff to the “Island in the Sky” portion of Canyonlands NP is being littered by tacky private developments.  And the overlooks at Bryce Canyon NP are frequently overcrowded.

Boy Scout groups have toppled a hoodoo in Goblin Valley State Park and destroyed dinosaur tracks near Red Fleet Reservoir.  Pot hunters have been arrested and successfully prosecuted, and pictographs and petroglyphs have been vandalized.  A county commissioner instigated an illegal 4-wheeler excursion down Recapture Canyon.

Areas that were little known like Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons (two of the best entry-level slot canyons on the Colorado Plateau) now are well marked, and there is a large parking lot at the entry point.  So even less publicized regions of Utah are becoming crowded.

Narrows in Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

The once sleepy town of Bluff is gradually awakening, and becoming an important adventure destination.  Motels and inns are expanding, restaurants are becoming more diverse.  The LDS (Mormon) Church development at Fort Bluff is expanding.

I wish I had a solution.  National park and state park status encourages excessive use.  No protection allows unhealthy development, destructive 4-wheeler activity, and vandalism.  I really don’t like the option of limiting access, but I don’t see a lot of other solutions.  Better funding for the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management would help.  As would improved funding for their equivalents in state government.

I do wish I could see a solution.  I love Utah’s back country.  My family, friends, and I have had many happy expeditions to the mountains, canyons. and deserts of Utah.  But part of the fun has been the isolation.

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Homage to “Professor” Irwin Corey

Comedian/sage Irwin Corey died recently at the age of 102.

I loved his act; he showed up on stage dressed like a disheveled, absent-minded professor and orated in a very sophisticated form of gibberish.

Billed as “the World’s Foremost Authority,” he poked fun at multi-syllabic jargon and those who abused it.  When political or scientific authorities seemed to annex a chunk of the English language, Corey would attempt to reclaim it for the rest of humanity — a very human reaction to our complicated, fast-paced world.

Image result for prof irwin corey

During his act, the “professor” would launch into observations about anything under the sun, but would seldom make a coherent sentence.

However . . . we all know that protocol takes precedence over procedures.  This parliamentary point of order based on the state of inertia of developing a centrifugal force issued as a catalyst rather than as a catalytic agent, and hastens a change reaction and remains an indigenous brier to its inception.  This is a focal point used as a tangent so the bile is excreted through the panaceas.

Frequently changing topics, he would wander around the stage, babbling all the while.

But there was more to Corey than his stand-up act:.

  • He was a strong supporter of left-wing politics.  For example, Cory provided support to  Cuban children and the American Communist Party.  Because of his involvement with the latter, he was blacklisted in the 1950s, the effects of which lingered throughout his life.  During the 1960 election, Corey ran for president on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy ticket and during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.
  • Occasionally when he was not performing, Corey would panhandle motorists exiting the Queens–Midtown Tunnel.  He donated the money to a group that purchased medical supplies for Cuban children.  Corey said of his donators, “I don’t tell them where the money’s going, and I’m sure they don’t care.”

Gotta love the nuts, whether real or pretend.

In this era of “fake” news, presidential tweets, professional jargon, blogs spouting absurdities, Bill Walton jibberish, facebook nonsense, etc., Professor Irwin Corey’s brand of humor is more topical than ever.

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Utah Designates the Spiral Jetty as a “State Work of Art”

Both the Utah House and Senate recently voted to designate the Spiral Jetty (located in the Great Salt Lake) as an official “state work of art.”

Robert Smithson's Iconic Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson’s Iconic Spiral Jetty

Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, sponsor of the Spiral Jetty measure, told the House:

It is internationally recognized as one of the top 10 land art features in the entire world…. I think the time is right for us to celebrate this beautiful work of art.”

The sculpture was constructed in 1970 by Robert Smithson.  The 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide jetty extends into the Great Salt Lake in a counterclockwise coil.  It is located in Box Elder County, south of the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, described Spiral Jetty as an “amazing structure.” He urged his Senate colleagues to not only support the bill, but also to visit Spiral Jetty:

When the lake is dry you can walk out there and experience the artwork.  The point is for you to become part of the art.

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Off-line Websites for Developing Countries

We do volunteer work in developing countries.  Among other things, we install playground equipment adjacent to primary schools sited in remote locations.  Many of these schools have no access to line power or the Internet.  We’ve been looking for technologies assist these schools.

On our last trip to Uganda, our computer expert installed a laptop with an off-line version of “Khan Academy” at an island school located in Lake Victoria.  Since the school/orphanage does not have line power, the installation is solar powered.  It computer system is currently under evaluation.

School Staff Enjoying Off-line Web Software

Student Enjoying Off-line Web Software

After I returned to the US, I was asked to serve as a mentor for STEM students at American Fork Junior High School, Utah.  There I met a fellow mentor and computer automation specialist who has a working familiarity with a small inexpensive computer called a Raspberry Pi.  When he heard that I’m doing work in Africa, he suggested using the Pi’s coupled with an offline software package called “RACHEL.”

According to wikipedia:

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a small single-board computer developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries.  The original model became far more popular than anticipated, selling outside of its target market for uses such as robotics. Peripherals (including keyboards, mice and cases) are not included with the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi 3

Also, according to Wikipedia:

World Possible is a non-profit organization that makes and distributes RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning), software that hosts offline free educational content such as Khan Academy, Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and others via wi-fi on a Raspberry Pi computer.  RACHEL is designed so that students or schools that do not have internet connections, but may already have devices (such as cellphones) that can receive data via wi-fi, can access educational content via RACHEL as a server.

A wonderful asset of the Pi/RACHEL combination is its low power requirement; it can be easily powered by solar technology.

A friend suggested we also look at “Outernet,” a very narrow pipeline of select, current content from the Internet.  It is inexpensive to deploy, has no ongoing costs, has low-power requirements, uses a Raspberry Pi, and works anywhere you can see an Inmarsat satellite (there are three geostationary Inmartsats which cover the globe).  People have combined the Outernet with the Pi/RACHEL combination using two Pi’s and attaching them together so they have a single wi-fi access point.

Stay tuned for updates.

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In Praise of the World’s Lesser Known Museums

Here are a few of the smaller (or lesser know museums) that I have enjoyed recently:

  • National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California;

steinbeck

  • Rodin Museum in Paris,
  • Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden;
Ill-fated Swedish Naval Vessel, Stockholm

Ill-fated Swedish Naval Vessel, Stockholm

  • Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, The Netherlands;
  • National Museum in Addis Ababa (particularly the human evolution floor), Ethiopia;
  • Gilgal Gardens (outdoor sculpture park) in Salt Lake City;
Joseph Smith Sphinx in Gilgal Garden Park, Salt Lake City

Joseph Smith Sphinx in Gilgal Garden Park, Salt Lake City

During my LDS Franco-Belgian Mission during the 1960s, I enjoyed visiting;

  • Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame located next to the Strasbourg Cathedral, France, and
Head of Christ, Early Sainted Glass Image, Strasbourg

Head of Christ, Ancient Sainted Glass Image, Strasbourg, France

  • Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, France.
Issenheim Altarpiece in the Colmar, France, Museum

Issenheim Altarpiece in the Colmar, France

On my bucket list are:

Displays in the Nukus Museum (copyright Exequiel Scagnetti)

Displays in the Nukus Museum (copyright Exequiel Scagnetti)

  • Nation Museum of Sudan, Khartoum, and the National Museum (Faras Gallery), Warsaw, Poland, for their displays of early medieval Christian Nubian art.

There is not an underlying theme to these museums and gardens.  Just interesting subject matter and well laid out displays.

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Two Important Elements of Utah Culture

On Sundays, I like to eat at the “El Mexsal” restaurant in Provo.  It is a great place to eat.  The food is inexpensive and tasty, and the service is friendly.  I like Sundays, because the customers are mostly Hispanics and I get the mistaken feeling that Provo has a diverse culture.

El Mexsal, a Mexican and Salvadorian Restaurant on Freedom Blvd

El Mexsal, a Mexican and Salvadorian Restaurant on Freedom Blvd

On days other than Sunday, at lunch anyway, the restaurant attracts Anglo blue-collar customers, and the place just doesn’t have the same south-of-the-border atmosphere.  During one of my luncheon meals at El Mexsal, Jason Chaffetz, our conservative representative in Washington DC, and his posse came in to eat.  I hope he got the correct impression that the vast majority of Hispanics are the U.S. with the sole purpose of providing a better life for their families, and are in no way a threat.

Last Friday, I attended a water planning meeting at the Navajo Mountain Chapter, located northeast of Page AZ.  The area served by the Chapter is the most remote in the Navajo Nation.  It also has some of the reservation’s best scenery:  deep arid canyons, expansive red-rock arches, archaeological ruins, abandoned and forlorn hogans, and of course, the domed-shaped mountain.

Hawkeye Natural Bridge Located North of Navajo Mountain

Hawkeye Natural Bridge Located North of Navajo Mountain

Most of the meeting I attended was conducted in Navajo, a language I do not speak.  But it was great to see that the language is still very much alive and vibrant.  During World War II, it was used as a code to send important military messages.  One of the last code-talkers, who was a Chapter resident, recently died.  The Navajos are very proud of their veterans.  Even though you have to enter the Navajo Mountain area from Arizona, the chapterhouse and the majority of its residents live in Utah.

Entry to a Hogan in Piute Canyon near Navajo Mountain

Entry to a Hogan in Piute Canyon near Navajo Mountain

Knowing that the El Mexsal restaurant and the Navajo Mountain Chapter exist makes me feel a whole lot better about Utah and the United States.

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Playground Equipment for Jewish and Islamic Schools in Mbale, Uganda

During a recent visit to Mbale, Uganda, we visited 2 schools: one Jewish and one Islamic.  We first visited a black Jewish primary school located in the hills above Mbale.  The school, with an enrollment that is approximately 65 percent Jewish, appears to be well financed (by Ugandan standards), but their playground area was in a state of disrepair.  We promised to help.  We didn’t have our swing set equipment with us, but we were able to provide a locally-constructed climbing tower.

Jewish School Located in the Hills Above Mbale, Uganda

Jewish School Located in the Hills Above Mbale, Uganda

According to our guide, who was born Jewish, there are about 2,000 Jews in Uganda.  Only about 500 live in the Mbale area, the rest are dispersed throughout the country.  The Mbale community has a very nice synagogue.  I need to learn more about this unique community.

Inside of the Synagogue Located near Mbale, Uganda

Inside of the Synagogue Located near Mbale, Uganda

We next visited an Islamic primary school located near our driver’s ancestral home.  A couple of years ago, we had installed a swing set there.  This time we promised to provide a climbing tower like the one provided to the Jewish school.  The school director agreed to handle the installation.

Islamic Primary School Located Just Outside of Mbala, Uganda

Islamic Primary School Located Just Outside of Mbala, Uganda

Islamic School Employees Installing a Climbing Tower

Islamic School Employees Installing a Climbing Tower

According to estimates, about 30 percent of Uganda’s population is Muslim, and that includes our driver (who also heads up our playground installation efforts).

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