Thursday, June 23, 2016

Heading West

My wife and I recently took a two-week road trip through four states—Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska. I will be sharing some of my pictures from that trip over the next few weeks.

Prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the Euro-Americans seeking to settle somewhere in Oregon or Washington joined one of the wagon trains that started in places like Independence, Missouri, St. Joseph, Missouri, or Leavenworth, Kansas and followed the Oregon Trail as it wound its way through Nebraska and Wyoming.  

Most wagon trains started in the spring and used certain landmarks along the way to signify their progress. By late June, many of the wagons had passed Chimney Rock, what was once known as Elk Penis by one of the local tribes, and Scottsbluff, which is near the border between Nebraska and Wyoming. 

It is now possible to drive to the top of Scottsbluff. The circular road pictured below moves through a series of tunnels before it reaches the top of the bluff. 

The wagon trains left ruts in the rock near Guernsey, Wyoming. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Yet More Pictures of a Swollen Missouri River

A few more pictures of the swollen Missouri River appear below.  Clicking on each picture will make it larger. Using the Zoom extension for Google Chrome makes viewing these pictures a bit easier. Holding down Ctrl and + works, too.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Verdant Spring

The Missouri River continues to run a little high. Although the flooding in this area has peaked at the moment, there is more rain expected in the next few days.  The greatest amount of rain in eastern Kansas typically falls in the spring. This May is proving to be a particularly wet month. That's why the grass looks so green in these pictures.

I sometimes think to myself when I am outside, "It's hard to believe that the Earth is dying." There are still moments in which everything seems to be right with the world.  It's these times that need to be treasured.

One has to realize that the water pictured here isn't potable and picks up the treated sewage from the cities and towns upriver. My drinking water comes from wells located below the river and undergoes a treatment process before it is pumped throughout the city.  Atrazine is still present in the water at amounts considered safe, that is, something like three parts per million. There is no telling how many plastic microbeads can be found in the water.

Although fishermen are not visible in these pictures, I often encounter people who fish for carp and catfish and who tell me that the river provides some good eating.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Music in Stores and Restaurants

One thing in particular that I hate about shopping, when accompanying my wife, for example, is the music in each store. Even grocery stores play music, usually contemporary popular music, most of which I don’t recognize. Probably people in marketing have discovered that shoppers respond, often unconsciously, to upbeat music. It has probably been proven that consumers spend less time making a decision when music is played in the background.

Actually, according to the research found on the Internet, fast tempo music leads to more impulse shopping while slow tempo music causes shoppers to linger and to spend more money as a result. The volume of the music plays a part, too. Older customers, according to the research, prefer to have the music in the background and are more apt to leave stores where the music is in the foreground. Younger customers, on the other hand, prefer to have the music in the foreground and will often remain in a store to hear the music. James J. Farrell in One Nation Under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping, a booklength examination of how Americans are manipulated by the marketplace, admits that music “increas[es] our productivity as consumers by increasing our proclivity to purchase products.” Our response to music is one way out of many that consumers are manipulated to act in illogical ways, Farrell says.

I am particularly bothered by loud music in restaurants. Many of my experiences in restaurants, as of late, have proven to be unpleasant because of the loud music. I don’t know what restaurants hope to achieve by having the volume turned up.  According to the research, customers drink more and eat faster when the music is loud. A restaurant with loud music is also perceived as being more fun. A restaurant critic in Washington, D.C., I have discovered, rates restaurants on not only the quality of the food but also the amount of noise. Someone younger will find loud music more stimulating and more inviting. I think of loud music as annoying. It is often difficult to talk to the person next to me because of the noise. I much prefer to take my food somewhere outside or to sit in the car while overlooking a pleasant scene.

Noise pollution is such a fact of our lives. I have spent much of my adult life searching for a quiet environment. Sometimes, ironically, I want nothing more than to fully experience the nuances of my music. At other times, I want to hear nothing more than bird songs or the rhythm of cicadas, their songs rising and falling in the evening. Within this crowded world of ours, we should be able to know quiet at times and should have some options on what we allow to enter our ears.