Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Harvard and Home

On Tuesday, 6/11, I flew to Boston for the annual Spring Research Conference on Statistics in Industry and Technology, being hosted this year at Harvard U.  OK, cue the smirks and nerd-jokes.  We don't get no respect.  I'll spare you the riveting highlights and just post Harvard pictures with some twin pictures at the end.  (One session was on the future of industrial statistics.  All speakers, including one from Google, concluded there was one.)

This trip gave me an opportunity to fly standby (thankyouverymuch, Mandi) on AirTran, now owned by SW.  AirTran had better connections and more seats available than SW.  I flew Vegas to Milwaukee to Boston.  I gotta say AirTran treats their standby (nonrevenue) customers quite well.  On the first flight I got assigned to a Business class window seat; on the second they put me in the emergency exit row (more legroom).  Been so long since I had an assigned seat I wasn't quite sure what to do.  You're telling me where to sit?  There's a seat that has my name?  What next?  Baggage fees?

In Cambridge I stayed in the Irving House B and B (Blogger doesn't do ampersands, for some reason), the cheapest lodging listed by the conference.  Here 'tis.

My room is behind that narrow window just over the door.

Bathroom down the hall.  Sent this picture to Susie.  She asked, Are you in a prison?  But, shoot.  Good breakfast in the morning, cookies and lemonade in the afternoon.  A bargain at $150/night.

Here are some campus pictures.  It was cloudy Tuesday, rainy Wednesday, and sunny on Thursday when a Harvard undergrad took a large group of us on a tour.

This is Widener Hall, the main library.  The donor who built this, if I recall right, dedicated it to her son who died on the Titanic.  The story is that one requirement was that all Harvard students had to take swimming lessons.  This is the country's largest academic library.  I wanted to visit, but a sign said Harvard ID required.

Here's Harvard Yard.  This quad is surrounded by freshman dorms.  There are about 1600 freshmen and they are all required to stay in these dorms.

And, here's a dorm.

This is the administration building, the oldest building on campus and the second oldest campus building in continuous use in the US.  The oldest is at William and Mary.  (Harvard was founded in 1636.)

Here's Memorial Hall, built to honor the Harvard students from the Union who died in the Civil War.

Here's an interior shot.  Some kind of campus fair was in progress.  They weren't serving snacks.

This is a Bill Gates donation to Harvard, a computer science building.

The campus spreads in all directions from Harvard Yard.  Harvard has about 15,000 graduate students, plus the 6000 plus undergrads, enrolled here. 

And, lastly, a couple of neighborhood pictures.


Flight home was a little more complicated.  I listed myself on AirTran, Boston-Atlanta-Vegas, as all the SW flights were pretty full.  In Boston I had to check my suitcase and I checked it through to Las Vegas.  In Atlanta, just walking through the terminal I decided to check and see if SW had a flight to Vegas.  They did, leaving two hours before the AirTran connecting flight, so I switched to SW and got to Vegas in time for dinner at Heidi and Joey's (and Julian and Landon's).  My original AirTran flight was two hours delayed, so about midnight we went to the airport and got my bag.  Wasn't that interesting.

On Saturday we had some quality time with the twins.  Here they are fussing in sync.  This was not posed.  Note. Landon is always placed on the Left, just to keep them straight, for a while.

 Joey cooked a great pre-Father's Day dinner and packed up the leftovers for our trip home.  Here's a family shot.  What a future to consider!

Do you think horned-rim glasses are in the future for the boys?
We left Las Vegas Sunday morning, got to Gallup for the night, home by Monday noon.  Had one problem.  At one stop in AZ, I noticed oil spots on the Cruiser.  Looked at Tuzigoot and saw oil running down the back, outside of the engine compartment.  I found that the cap to the oil fill spout was loose, it wouldn't latch on to the spout.  Seems a strange thing to fail, maybe heat-caused.  We found, fortunately, that we hadn't lost much oil - dip stick still at Full.  At any rate, I duct-taped the cap on, stopped frequently to check it, and made it home OK.

We'll be back.

Love to All,

Susie and Rob


Zion, Bryce, and More

Dear Family and Friends:  Mom, Dad, and the Twins are doing very well.  Here are a couple of gas-induced smiles that Heidi caught.



Incidentally, Julian was about a 1/2 pound lighter than Landon at birth, but at the week 2 weigh-in had essentially caught up.  They both enjoy their feedings!

Things are going well, so we decided to take a weekend trip (10 days ago, as this is written) to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah.

We took the scenic route - traveling NE from Vegas along the Lake Mead Northshore Drive.  There were a few glimpses of the lake, but the mountain and desert terrain, we thought, was particularly dramatic and fascinating.  The big views, which I didn't capture, are particularly impressive.

Along the way we took a side trip to the Valley of Fire Nevada State Park.  This is the first Nevada state park, established in 1935.  There was a large group of motorcycles at the Visitor Center, so I parked the PT by them for this picture. 

Turned out these were being ridden by a group of French motorcycle tourists (French tourists, not French motorcycles) seeing the West.

Some Valley of Fire pix:

It's not all red.

Our next stop, following a tip from Albuquerque friend Dick Reinert, was the lunch buffet at the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, NV.  He said there was plenty to eat and it was good, too.  We verified that claim, so any time you're in the area, I-15, second eastbound Mesquite exit, just before you cross from Nevada into Arizona, stop in.  It's a hoppin' place.  This casino seemed to be heavily populated by European tourists.  I wondered if some enterprising tour company flew international travelers into Las Vegas, put 'em on a bus, then, in dark of night drove them two hours out into the desert and dropped them in Mesquite.  "Bus will return in one week.  Have a good time."  But, I'm being cynical.  Could be that international travelers found this place, loved it, and went back home and told their friends and family, Go to Mesquite.  Avoid the Vegas crowds, eat buffet, gamble, play golf; repeat daily ... . 

We had reservations at the Novel House B and B in Springdale, which is located in the Virgin River valley, surrounded by Zion National Park cliffs.  Here are some pictures of the canyon walls around Springdale.

Awesome!  You leave your house to get the mail or go to the grocery (which, interestingly, had an underground garage) and this is what you see.  I doubt the residents get tired of it.

The Novel House rooms are named for authors.  We were in the Walt Whitman room.  The house was full of books and magazines, but we just had a bunch of poetry in our room.  (Of course, Susie's a poet, too.)  Surely, the owners could have come up with another novelist instead of a poet. Oh, well.  Here's a picture of old Walt.

Friday morning we rode a shuttle bus into the park.  That's about the only way you can tour the park. Some pics.

Here are the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.  Jacob is the white peak at the far right of the picture.  The reddish peak in front of him is the Mormon angel Moroni.

Susie said, I think I'm more impressed, or awed, by Zion than by the Grand Canyon.  We talked about the difference.  They're sort of mirror images.  At one, you generally travel around the top and look down into the canyon (which Susie does not enjoy at all); at the other, you travel through the bottom and look up.  Zion awes you with so much dramatic terrain packed in such a small area; Grand Canyon awes you with its breadth as well as its depth.  Furthermore, one's Mormon, the other Methodist (John Wesley Powell made a remarkable early descent through the Grand Canyon). 

I decided I wanted to walk into the Narrows, where the canyon narrows to just the width of the river, so you wade.  I was wearing my best walking shoes, so thought about coming back the next day with suitable footwear.  However, Susie generously said I could wear her sneakers, so off I went.

I'm actually standing in the water here!

I went until I would have been in waist-deep water to go further, here, so I turned around.  Mission accomplished.

Next morning, I went out early to take sunrise pictures of a portion of the canyon rim called Temples and Towers.  Zion was named by an early Mormon visitor who found it an idyllic refuge, God's temple, exceeding any man can build. This is the West Temple.

Then, we drove the Zion - Mount Carmel highway to the Park's east exit.  This route switchbacks up the side of the canyon, then the road goes through a mile-long tunnel cut in the canyon wall.  Driving through is an escorted one-way transit for buses and large RVs.  Found this picture on the web.

"Oversized vehicles" exit the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

A couple shots along the road.

Normally it costs $25 to drive this road, but we found out that it was Free Day at the National Parks.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that a lot of people knew about Free Day so the traffic was heavy. 

Here's an area they call Checkerboard Mesa; you can see the vertical and horizontal erosion tracks in the rock that make sort of a checkerboard pattern. How'd that happen?

More pictures at this site.

A couple of hours or so north, driving through some nice ranch country got us to the Bryce Canyon National Park turn-off.  But we went on up the road a few miles first to get lunch in the town of Panguitch.  Years ago I took a week-long study tour of the Canyon Country and I recall we stopped at Panguitch (Blogger's spell check wants to substitute Pantsuit) as a good example of a Mormon settlement -- architecture and layout.  I think we even spent the night there.   I only mention that because lunch took so long I thought we might have to spend the night.  But, we had miles to go ... .

Entering Bryce Canyon from the west takes you through Red Canyon, pretty colorful in its own regard. 

Susie said, This looks like a group of people talking.

On to Bryce.  We spent time at several of the lookouts in Bryce Canyon.   There are some hikes you can take down into the canyon (actually not a canyon in the sense of being cut by a river, but a large area of mountain erosion), but I opted out this time.  Had done one of the most popular loops on the work study trip. Still nursing a mountain bike injury.  Wanted to get back to Vegas.  Choose your excuse.

It's amazing how regular and sculptured some of the formations look - like the Chinese terra cotta warriors. 

We left Bryce with plenty of time to get back to Las Vegas that night, even allowing for a stop at the Kolob Canyons in the NW corner of Zion NP.

To get to the Kolob Canyons we had a choice of going north back through Pantsuit to reach I-15, or going back south a few miles and taking Utah 14 across a mountain range, through the Cedar Breaks National Monument, to Cedar City, which is on I-15.  Chose the latter - fewer miles, more scenery.  Had second thoughts, though, as we turned on to 14 (after an ice cream break at the corner station)  because there was a large electric message board saying ROAD CLOSED (it's 35 miles across to Cedar City).  But, cars were going and coming.  Shirley, I thought, there would  be a second sign telling us where the road was closed, X miles ahead. Or maybe, it being a Saturday, somebody forgot to turn the sign off.  So, we proceeded and, fortunately, got through.  And it was a spectacular drive, up and back down the mountain range.  (On that study tour I was driving one of the vans and it is in this area, I think, that a deer jumped out of the ditch and hit the front of the van.  Killed the deer, unfortunately, but did only minor damage to the van.)  Got home and checked the Cedar Breaks website.  It says, Highway 14 is closed 7am to 7 pm, M-Th, but open on the weekend.  Whew.  Got one right!

The video at the Zion Visitor Center that we watched had scenes of the Kolob Canyons.  That area was new to me, and looked impressive (more tall red cliffs), so we stopped, a few miles south of Cedar City.  Some pix.

Well worth the visit (and it was still Free Day).

I-15, SW of St. George, makes a dramatic descent through the Virgin River Canyon in NW Arizona.   See a video here.

Well, that's enough dramatic scenery for one posting.  As this is written, Monday, June 18, we just got home to Cedar Crest.  I was at a statistics conference at Harvard last week, so stay tuned for exciting highlights and the latest Landon and Julian pictures.

Susie and Rob