Kowalski Sausage Company

Agnes and Zygmund Kowalski brought Polish sausage-making to Michigan in 1920.  The family continues to run a sausage factory in Hamtramck, and sell pierogi, kielbasa, and ham regionally.

The handsome neon sign adorning their factory on Holbrook St had a lovely glow as dusk was approaching, making me wonder what a Kowalski kielbasa tastes like.

Carbon Economy

Petroleum heads west in tank cars, while coal heads east in bathtub gondolas.  There is a vast quantity of carbon energy being moved around here.

There are perhaps 6000 megawatt-hours in the coal train, enough to keep the biggest power stations fired up for about an hour.

There is roughly 20 times that quantity of energy in the gasoline, and consequently it has a much greater commodity value.  You could travel perhaps 100,000 miles in family car with that fuel.  For comparison, I consume about a tanker car of kerosene in a typical 18 months of air travel.

Empty SR520

Eva the bald eagle must wonder where all the humans have gone.  It's 8am on a weekday, and there are all of three vehicles visible on the western highrise of the SR520 floating bridge.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and the regular parade of commuters are busy sleeping in, or cooking.

Cranberry Bog

The soggy edge of a commercial cranberry bog along the Pacific coast near Heather, WA.  The fields are built to be level, and are flooded at harvest time.  The light cranberries are quite buoyant, and are skimmed off the top of the flooded field.

Hoquiam WA Mill

Here lies the remains of a wood chipping mill, in Hoquiam WA.  The circular machine is a debarker: logs enter one end, and are rotated around in a way similar to a clothes dryer.  The drum is lined lined with a rough cutting surface, and the logs emerge denuded out the other end.  This one was mounted on many sets of vehicle tires, and driven by an electric motor.

Gray's Harbor Light Station

Gray's Harbor Light Station is a grand and solidly built lighthouse, sited in Westport WA and still beaming a modest light to aim in navigation.  The original rotating lens assembly (perhaps 4 tonnes of it, including the kerosene fuel reservoir) was mounted to float on a mercury bearing.  A clockwork mechanism driving it was powered by a weight that descended through the open tower.

The design is French (Henry LePaute), and was shipped over in pieces as the lighthouse was being built in the late 1890s.  There's a similar light mechanism in Cape Byron.

Copper Lake

Three inches of fresh snow were still falling here at the 4000ft level of Copper Lake.  Our lunch spot required traversing the outfall of the lake, which leads to a nice series of waterfalls.  I'd love to keep going some day -- the trail leads to two more lakes, but it would make for quite a long day to fit that in.

Trout Lake, 3.5 hours apart

A before (left) and after (right, flipped left-to-right) picture of Trout Lake on our weekend hike up the Foss Valley.  Three and a half hours, and a few degrees of warming, separates these pictures.

Our last visit was less successful, as late spring snow was still present and we couldn't progress to the upper lakes.


N171UA departs San Francisco for a >10 hour flight to Asia.  She's a 23 year old Boeing 747-400, and still the most attractive aircraft in the sky.

This particular aircraft had a fuel leak off the left wing three years ago.  It was noticed by a US Air Force staff sergeant flying as a passenger.  He reported it to a flight attendant "who seemed unconcerned."  He then identified himself as an air refueling boom operator, which sounds like as close as one can get to an expert in that field.  The pilot took a look and swiftly decided to divert, noting that they were trying to figure out why they were losing around 6000 lbs of fuel per hour.

Kona Coffee Cherries

Nearly ripe coffee cherries enjoy the midday sun at Greenwell Farms in Kona.  These won't be roasted for coffee, but instead will be sold for seeding new coffee plantations in Hawaii.

Kona coffee is expensive.  Labor costs in Hawaii are very high, driving a complete collapse of most commodity agricultural exports from the islands.  Sugar and pineapple exports are basically for tourists, not for the world market.  Unlike those commodities, Hawaiian coffee can command premium prices, and so supports a successful export business.

Kilauea's Caldera

Kilauea's open caldera hosts a lava lake whose level rises and falls per the whims of the mountain.  It emits plenty of SO2: on the day of our visit, its sulfur dioxide pollution (500 tonnes) was the same as a month's worth of the biggest emitter in the US (a coal-fired power station in Ohio).  It hung in the air, choked the lungs, and left a funky taste in the mouth.

Kilauea's Sulphur Vents

There are four features active in Volcano National Park:

1) a lake of lava in the active caldera
2) surface lava oozing slowly across a plain
3) groundwater that is heated to steam and vented
4) sulphur vents

This last one is pictured.  It shows volcanic gasses (plus a bit of steam from groundwater) precipitating native sulphur at the vent opening.  Unlike regular steam vents, the sulphur is evidence of a channel from here all the way down to the magma.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea offers a stunning view from 13,796ft, and is accessible via 4WD on a steep gravel road.  On our visit, the cloud layer was around 7000ft or so.

The consistent clear weather, great air quality (with low humidity), and limited light pollution lead to an excellent site for the numerous telescopes sited here.  The air is uncomfortably thin.

Feral Horse, Waipi'o Valley

There have been feral horses on the big island of Hawaii since around 1900.  They continue to populate the Waipi'o Valley, a wild and inaccessible spot offering little else economically other than taro farming. They used to be "small and hardy", but a single quarterhorse stallion joined the population, causing the herd to become larger and healthier.

As the horses aren't protected, farmers can legally shoot them if they disturb their crops.

Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Los Angeles is the second half of the Getty Museum.  The first half is a distinctive complex of modern buildings overlooking the I405.

Both are worth a visit -- they demonstrate the beautiful architecture and art that can be put together when money is no object.  Of the two, I prefer this villa, and was pleased to spot it from the air.

Get timed tickets for entry in advance; you need only to pay for parking.