Belle Isle

During my trip to Detroit, my friend and I drove out to Belle Isle, which was very pleasant in summer. I shot an iPhone panorama at the southern tip, from which Canada can be seen to the left.

The park was full of tourists and pleasure seekers. People were walking dogs, reading under shade trees, riding bikes, paddling in kayaks, BBQing and grilling, camping, having reunions, visiting the aquarium, and enjoying the greenhouse. We did only a few of things before leaving for Polish food in Hamtramck.

Should you ever find yourself in Detroit, please visit Belle Isle.

Boating Trip to Lake Powell

My friend and I decided to tow his boat from Tucson to Lake Powell a few weekends ago for a multi-day adventure. The trip was that, but instead of describing why, I will summarize what happened:

  1. Traffic accident.
  2. Departure delayed by hours for repairs.
  3. Seeing mountainside on fire north of Phoenix.
  4. Choking on smoke on the way up to Flagstaff.
  5. Sleeping in bed of truck just south of Flagstaff.
  6. Waking up in the cold.
  7. Hearing that two armed men had robbed the mini-mart within sight of where we camped.
  8. Driving through the vast Navajo Nation and is varied colors and landforms.
  9. Reaching Page and Glen Canyon Dam.
  10. Launching boat and finding recently repaired impeller has failed.
  11. Learning nobody in Page (and nowhere else) has the old impeller key.
  12. Talking our way out of a speeding ticket inside the National Park.
  13. Machining a key then relaunching to find engine runs about 40%.
  14. Boating to the other ramp 17 miles away then having the engine die for good.
  15. Using the 3hp backup motor that dies as well.
  16. Finding that I have no cell service at the ramp.
  17. Getting lift back to other ramp by park rangers.
  18. Returning to pull the boat but ending up riding out a storm at the dock during which time panicked people assault the dock to get their own boats out.
  19. My tent nearly blowing away in another storm.
  20. Waking up to find friend's boat had drifted away.
  21. While I scale nearby ridge, boat has electrical fire.
  22. Can't burn almost any of the gas we bought despite the 3hp have returned to life.
  23. Meeting 20-mile bumper-to-bumper traffic jam north of Phoenix.
  24. Taking crazy route through Prescott.
  25. Arriving at 10pm to unload boat.
  26. Finding trailer third wheel is trashed due to earlier accident, so we have to rip it apart to remove it.
  27. Returning home at midnight.
  28. Waking at 5 to go to work.

Panoramic View of Lake Powell, entering from Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell, across from Antelope Canyon Ramp, last night’s campsite

Cruising Lake Powell with a 3hp motor and Toša looking at waterfowl

Trip to Detroit

Last weekend I drove from Indianapolis to Detroit to visit my Persian-American friend in Southfield, a Detroit suburb. Southfield' southern edge is the well-known 8 Mile, a dividing line apparently made famous in a movie by Eminem; I haven't seen it or knowingly listened to him.

Apparently it is not the best idea to arrive in Detroit when it's late at night and you don't know your way. I knew I had to change from I-94 to I-96. The latter was not well-marked, so I only made its ramp by hooking across three lanes of traffic. My friend said this is normally not a problem, since Detroit is financially stressed, so the police don't really go after reckless drivers when there are serious crimes being committed. Not sure where I was on I-96, I eventually took an off ramp that looked like it would lead to a safely depopulated after-hours industrial par; however, it led to a merger with a ton of cars from somewhere, so I made a U-turn at an intersection where a Detroit cop was sitting. Not knowing at the time that intersection U-turns are apparently infractions in Michigan, I cut up some unlit three-lane one-way , the cops behind me close. We drove slowly together down the potholed road, passing vacant office buildings with smashed windows and missing doors on the left and streets with dark houses in various states. My Rhode Island plates might have kept me from getting a ticket, but we passed one street on the right that was lit up with house lights, people partying in the street, and a bunch of cars, all with their light on. The cops turned there while I kept going, hoping I wouldn't get a flat. At some point I turned on a road with a section of streetlights visible blocks ahead. That led to Evergreen Road and eventually my friend's house. He was glad to see me and we promptly went to eat at an Arab-run coney joint that had a huge menu with pretty good food and prices.

The next day we hung around his house before going to a Persian restaurant, Rumi, in Farmington. We met another Persian there, had a good meal, and gabbed until quite late.

On Saturday, my friend and I went downtown to the superlative Guardian building, built in 1929 in a style mixing Pre-Columbian and Art Deco. The website contains photos that impress. Inside, the Pure Detroit store was offering free tours around the downtown at 1 and 3, so we went for a beer each (I had a Ghettoblaster) at the Grand Trunk Pub. We returned in time to join the first two, on which we befriended a couple and the wife's Russian friend. We all stayed together to go on the 3pm tour then wound up mid-town for pizza at a brewery, after which we strolled along the edge of Wayne State University. Outside a library we saw one of seven original Thinker statues by Rodin.

Sunday was another trip downtown en route to Belle Isle, where we enjoyed the views across the water of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. We also enjoyed the large Victorian greenhouse, but hunger eventually forced us to leave for Polish food in Hamtramck. We opted for Polonia, which was very good, nicely priced, and served by an amusing waitress who told us people often noted she resembled Shelly Duvall. The dill pickle soup was particularly superb!

I look forward to visiting Detroit again! It is nice to see that the city is on the rebound, at least in places. But there is still plenty of ruin porn, collapsing decaying homes and buildings in depopulating areas.

Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity

This morning I volunteered for a second day with Habitat for Humanity. We were supposed to paint the outside of a house to which we applied primer two weeks ago; however, it was raining—brief lightning, too—so we wound up working on the interior. The future Habitat homeowners putting in their required hours mainly worked on painting the doors. I wound up doing much caulking of baseboards and shelves, but I also sawed some boards to become shelves and secured shelves with a nail gun. Good stuff!

Helping people build homes is enjoyable, and it also gives exposure to a number of tools, methods, and people. The Tucson branch doesn't have any volunteering during July, because it is too hot. If more openings come up, I will volunteer again later this year.

Memorial Day Weekend on Saguaro Lake

My friend and I towed his boat up to Saguaro Lake this Thursday. We quickly found that the work he had had done was inadequate: Every time we turned off the engine or ran at near-idle speed for more than a few minutes, one cylinder would quit firing. Thankfully we had multiple spares, so we could rotate through them and generally maintain performance.

But the throttle linkage seemed wonky as well, with irregular fluctuations, one of which tossed me backward from the bow. My rear still hurts from that fall.

Our first night was spent camping on a floating dock without cleats about midway to the dam at the opposite end of the lake. Early Friday morning I woke to feel four steps on my chest followed by a flop flop of wings right by my ear. Some largish bird had used me as a runway. Shortly thereafter we pulled over to the secured dock to check out the campground, which was very nice: at least twenty sites, ample shade trees, and a toilet. But someone else had set up their boat in preparation for a horde of revelers that would arrive throughout the day.

After cruising up and down the lake and refueling, we met my father and step-mother for Fish Friday at the marina's restaurant. Not bad at all! But when we returned to the campground dock, there was barely an opening. We managed to squeeze in, which brought some people convinced our boat was going to bump into theirs. We apparently defused the tension, but probably the revelers' drinking helped them forget all about us. They cranked music until midnight, but the Mr. Microphone sessions thankfully ended around 10. Few had expected the night temps to drop into the 50s, so there was a late-night exodus back to the marina and onward to homes and hotels.

Saturday was a repeat at the campsite, with even more boats tied three abreast. This time, however, people were prepared for the cold. During the day, a Phoenix friend came and we drove him up to the dam. On the way back, we stopped at a party beach where we met, unexpectedly, another Tucson acquaintance. Drinks in buggies had driven overland to the beach, and one poor guy managed to roll his on the beach. People got together to right it, only to find his head gashed badly. Thankfully another boater and hockey enthusiast had superglue on hand, which was used in lieu of stitches. On our way back to the marina, we saw the State Patrol boat stop at least one boat for unknown transgressions.

Sunday morning we decided to call it quits, but we had learned it will be worth going up for the campground on non-holiday weekends.

Starting with Ruby

Recently I was digging through the many PDF and other ebooks that I have purchased and found Learn to Program by Chris Pine. The book has a publication date of 2011, but I have no idea when I bought it, so I started looking into it. Rather than a philosophical approach to programming, it introduces the reader to programming with Ruby. As with nearly all introductory books, this one is easy to get moving with. The concepts are almost universal, so I have been making nice progress. However, Python is what I really need to be working on.

A blurb I read somewhere claimed that Ruby draws on the best of Perl, a language I never touched, but I once read it was developed by a linguist, which explains some of its quirks. Since I once studied linguistics, that made me chuckle. All the same, the linguistic basis might explain some of the nifty string methods in Ruby.

Oh, I also upgraded the default Ruby installation on Mac OS X to 2.5.0. I picked up some nice gems, too.

Atop Pikacho Peak

On Sunday some friends and I decided to go up Pikacho Peak, a peak that stands alone along Interstate 10 and is notably tall with sheer faces. When driving past it on your way between Tucson and Phoenix, you can't miss it. It is now an Arizona State Park. But you might wonder what it looks like from the top, and whether anyone can get up there.

We started about 8:45, later than we wanted but fortunate on an oddly chilly morning. The lady at the entrance collected our $7 fees and reminded us to wear hiking boots and carry two or three liters of water. I went with Chuck Taylor high top sneakers and six liters.

The start seemed not too worrying but soon it was uphill and the water began to weigh.

Once we got to the base, the wheezing and pounding hearts stopped. Things levelled off for a while, but we were soon near edges, seeking footholds and toeholds, and pulling ourselves up on steel cables.

The pictures that can do the most challenging parts of the ascent justice are those where you least want to free a hand or set down a backpack to fetch a camera or phone.

The climb took almost two hours for me, although others in better shape clearly go up in less time. Near the top, you might be pleased to note you are higher than most of the birds living on the peak fly at. There is some satisfaction in looking at hawks from on high.

There are actually two peaks, the shorter of which was far less crowded. Regardless of the peak, you can see entire trains, areas watered and not, and more.

The return was not the knee killer I had feared. However, it was turning almost crowded with all the people coming up. We had to stop in places to let others pass including some older people with what looked like ski poles and a surprising number of foreigners. There were also pairs of young people carrying no water whatsoever. They were not going to be very comfortable. I ended up drinking about two liters, but I should have drunk more.

Sure enough, I wound up with two blisters on my toes, but my shoes are now broken in for the next excursion.

The next day my calves were very stiff, but it was well worth it. That said, I don't know whether I will be in a rush to go up Pikacho Peak again.

A Student to Marry

I greatly enjoyed most of my Japanese students and colleagues, but I have retained contact with only a few of them. Most of my acquaintances are from my Tokushima University days, during which my Japanese ability began to improve and the size of the city, smaller than Sapporo and Tokyo, helped me get to know people better. My last unwed student recently sent photos of the man to whom she is now engaged, who proposed by writing "Please Marry Me Rie" in fruit syrup on a dessert plate at dinner.

Congratulations Rie!