Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stephen T. Mather

Congratulations to our Anonymous guesser who correctly identified yesterday's Person-of-Mystery as Stephen T. Mather.

Mather is probably best remembered as the first Director of the National Park Service (NPS).  Born in San Francisco, and educated at UC Berkeley, after college Mather worked for a short time as a reporter for the New York Sun.  Taking his journalistic talent to his father's business, he started working in the marketing and promotion of borax at the company's distribution facility in Chicago.  In this role, he is responsible for creating the "Twenty Mule Team Borax" slogan that made borax a household name.

Mather made a fortune in the borax industry, but suffered from bipolar disorder.  To help relieve his bipolar tendencies, he traveled and enjoyed nature.  Eventually, he became more interested in outdoor conservation and with his friend and fellow reporter from the New York Sun, Robert Sterling Yard, they brought to light the deplorable nature of the National Parks at the time and championed the need for an independent federal agency to oversee the parks.  Stephen was appointed Director of the new agency and did a masterful job of balancing improvements and conservation.  At the end of his tenure in 1929, the NPS included 20 parks and 32 monuments.

As you saw yesterday, Mather was also very interested in history and early in his career purchased the home his great-grandfather, Deacon Joseph Mather built in Darien, Connecticut.  In the photo from yesterday, he was reenacting the role of his great-grandfather for a Darien celebration.

After Mather died in 1930, his family and friends had identical bronze plaques in his honor installed at each of the National Parks.

(Stephen Mather Plaque at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park)

See if you can find one at a park the next time you visit one.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, July 29, 2011

West Texas Goes Nuclear

Summer is typically a slower news season.  That's why it came as a complete surprise to military observers when today, without warning, West Texas declared itself a nuclear state.  The seemingly dormant Super Villain, PJM, came out of hiding this morning and declared that not only is he pursuing nuclear weapons, he's been doing so for years now.  CLICK HERE for the original story confirming earlier suspicions in the news report HERE.

Meanwhile, Iran held a national rally this morning welcoming Christoval into the nuclear fold.

When pressed by reporters for an official statement, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, formerly of Samsung, repeated a calming, "Okay, no problem.  Thanks for the information.  I understand your concern.  I'll be with you in just a moment.  Thanks for waiting."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Park to Park Highway, Montana

1445.  Park to Park Highway, Montana.

An unmailed and post card addressed to my great-grandfather, Will Benton, from his maternal aunt Emily Fowler Allison.

Great Falls, Mont., Oct. 29, 1918

Dear Will:
   Love and best wishes to you and yours from this wonderful land of big ranches and wonderful mountains.  We have certainly had a fine visit here with Wheeler [another nephew Reuben Wheeler Coy] and his three interesting children.
   Hoping you and yours are all well.  I am, your loving aunt, Emily B. Allison

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Heaven of Delight

Full disclosure:  I'm not a big fan of modern art.  While I admit, much of it is creative, I keep thinking just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something.  However, every now and then, something in the the modern art world does strike me as something really neat.  Which brings me to the subject for today, a piece of artwork titled Heaven of Delight, created by the artist Jan Fabre, installed in 2002 at the Royal Palace of Brussels in Belgium.

Fabre's medium of choice for the work were the iridescent shells of jewel beetles (specifically those of the Sternocera acquisignata).  So with the blessing of Queen Paola, Fabre coated the ceiling panels of the Hall of Mirrors along with the central chandelier.

About one and a half million beetle shells were used and even though the photos are fascinating, I have to imagine that the effect when viewed in person is particularly stunning.  And all that beauty from a bunch of bugs!

If you'd like to take a quick video tour, you can see that here:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wagah Border Crossing

Borders are inherently funny.  Many times, they're like what my sister used to do on long car trips, when she'd run her hand down a shared car seat and tell my brother and I that we were not to cross some kind of imaginary line she'd created.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola had a very cute commercial spoofing the same kind of behavior between two imaginary nations.  If you haven't seen it, you can watch it HERE.

Sometimes even real borders have a certain funniness to them.  For example, the Peace Arch at the US-Canadian border between Washington State and British Columbia.  The road goes around the arch instead of through it and the gates inside the arch are immovably affixed to the interior walls.  Symbolic of course.  Then you get to a real gate with barricades, guards, guns and stuff.

One of the funniest borders I've ever seen is the Four Corners Monument which lies in the middle of Navajo land at the intersection of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.  There's a raised platform where the spot is marked.  The whole area is surrounded by Indian trinket vendor booths selling turquoise jewelry and arrowheads.  In the center, there are mostly white folks contorting and prostrating themselves to to have the honor of being able to tell people that they were in four states at the same time.  If I were an Indian I'd be constantly asking myself, "How did we ever lose to these people?"

Then of course there are the less funny borders.  Like the Berlin Wall.

The photo above is from the tank standoff in October 1961 between the Soviet and American forces.  Curiously, it all began over a dispute regarding an American diplomat wanting to see an opera in East Berlin.  Seriously.

Of course there are still plenty of unfunny borders around today, like the Korean border.

However, today I want to show you one border that I think takes the cake for humor – the Wagah Border Crossing between India and Pakistan.  For two nuclear rivals, you couldn't envision a more humorous scene. The village of Wagah was divided between the two nations in 1947 and since 1959, they've had a flag lowering ceremony at the closing of the gate each night at about 5 pm.  It's become so popular that they've built grandstands on both sides of the borders as the rival militaries try to outdo each other in displays of military bravado.  It must be watched to be fully appreciated:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Unfortunately, technical difficulties have prevented me from preparing a Person-of-Mystery today.  Nate's Nonsense will resume soon.  Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


After a one week hiatus due to camping in the forests, the contest returns with a vengeance today!

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cascade Falls

As I said earlier, water is everywhere in Yosemite Park this year.  As we were leaving the valley, I noticed that Cascade Falls was also more stunning than usual.

I like the defiant tree on the rock in the middle of the stream.

(Downstream from Cascade Falls)

Next stop:  Hetch Hetchy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mirror Lake

Now that I'm back and settled, I'll highlight a few more spots from our Yosemite trip before moving on to something else.  Today, I'll mention Mirror Lake.

(Mirror Lake in foreground, Mt. Watkins to the back left)

Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake, often drying up by the end of summer.  It is actually in the natural process of changing into a meadow.  Because of the extra water, we decided to check it out.

(The boys on a rock in Mirror Lake/Meadow)

One curious item of note, it seems as though many visitors had been busy stacking rocks in a somewhat funny manner near the lake.  The boys added a couple of their own and then we moved on.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Historical Smiles

Well, I'm still unpacking from my week at Camp Chawanakee.  I'm catching up on e-mail and seeing what I missed.  One of my friends sent me a link to a Flickr photo group called The Smiling Victorians.  It's a collection of photos of smiling people from the Turn of the Century.  I'm sure you're aware that smiles are less common among older photos due to long exposure times, but sometimes this gives people the impression that people were much more somber back in the day.  Seeing all cheery faces from the past will perhaps dispel that myth.  I'll leave you with one of my favorites, a happy couple in a Turn of the Century photo booth:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Aeroplanes Training to Lick the Hun

Aeroplanes training to lick the Hun.

An unmailed and unaddressed post card.  Apparent pencil doodles added later.

My dear boys,
   How do you think you would like to be up in one of these flying machines?  I've see a great many in the sky everyday.  Since there were over two hundred all in the air at once.  There is a big aviation camp here and in the morning they practice over the Bay.  Sometimes they light on the water and just skim along.  Then they will rise like a bird and go into the air.  The boys have great fun, but sometimes one gets hurt.  With love Aunt Clara

Saturday, July 02, 2011

On Vacation

Congratulations to Robert, winner of this week's Person-of-Mystery!  He correctly identified Buckminster Fuller, designer, forward thinker, and professor in Carbondale, Illinois.  He's perhaps best known for his geodesic dome structures.

This week Nate's Nonsense is on vacation as I'm with our Boy Scout Troop at our summer camp at Camp Chawanakee.

The Nonsense will resume after July 10.  Hope to see you then!


Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Prettiest Parking Lot in the World

Here's another tip for visiting Yosemite – park here!  As I already mentioned in an earlier post, visitors to Yosemite Valley arrive later in the morning, so get to the park early and park here, at the Sentinel Bridge parking lot.  It's a small lot off the main loop road, but it easily the most scenic, central, and convenient parking lot in Yosemite.  Park the car here and then hop on the free shuttle buses to get around the rest of the valley.  Plus when you park here, you get that drive-in movie kind of experience, only a million times better.