Talakadu — October 2015

Last year my hosts in Bangalore took me on a great trip south to Talakadu (or Talakad). Talakadu is a small town about 87 miles (140 kilometers) south of Bangalore and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Mysore. From Bangalore, you take the Kanakapura road south, go well beyond Kanakapura and well into the countryside. It is a pleasant drive.

Talakadu is famous for its temples, and for the temples being buried in the sand. In a conflict in the early 17th century, a curse was put on Talakadu that led to it being covered in sand. Wikipedia covers it well as does this story from the Deccan Herald.

Several of the temples have been excavated from the sand. These are actively used for worship and are being maintained and restored. This is the Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple.

A wide view of Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple

A wide view of Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple

Here is another view. The lighter colored carving is new work replacing stone that had worn away in the intervening years. I have been unable to find the date when these temples were originally built.

The lighter stone is new construction replacing worn away stone

The lighter stone is new construction replacing worn away stone

The interior at the back is beautifully carved and decorated.

The interior is quite pretty

The interior is quite pretty

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Pterosaurs at LA County Natural History Museum

We recently visited the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum to see the Pterosaurs exhibit. This is an excellent exhibit and I highly recommend seeing it. It runs through October 2nd 2016.

Here is the original entrance to the museum. Now you enter off of either Exposition Boulevard or opposite the Coliseum.

The original entrance to the LA County Natural History Museum

The original entrance to the LA County Natural History Museum

Pterosaurs are prehistoric flying animals. Closely related to dinosaurs, they are only one of three groups of animals to have achieved powered flight, the others being bats and birds. They ranged in size from a wingspan of 18 inches to the massive quetzalcoatlus which had a 33 foot / 10 meter wingspan. I’m not sure of the name of this one, though; it greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

This pterosaur greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

This pterosaur greets you at the entrance to the exhibit.

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Julian Gold Mine

Back on the July 4th weekend, we traveled south from Lake Riverside to visit the historic town of Julian. It is about a 50 mile, one-hour drive through beautiful countryside from Aguanga, through Oak Grove, through Warner Springs to Julian. We have visited many times but not for the last couple of years. But on all of these visits, we have not gone to the Eagle & High Peak Mine tour.

Yes, you do walk into the hillside.

The entrance into the Eagle Mine and the starting point for the tour.

The entrance into the Eagle Mine and the starting point for the tour.

The whole reason for going is the tour, of course. This tour has a good guide. He not only looks the part, he is very knowledgeable and presents the content well.

Our rour guide was knowledgeable and presented the material well.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and presented the material well.

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Cedar Springs Trail

On Memorial Day weekend, we took a hike up Cedar Springs Trail in the San Jacinto National Forest. The trail starts about three miles up Morris Ranch Road in Garner Valley. The trail is shown on Google maps as Pathfinder Road. You turn north on Morris Ranch Road from CA Highway 74 (the “Palms to Pines Highway”) at the fire station in the village a few miles west of the junction with CA Highway 371.

The trail head is clearly marked.

Cedar Springs Trail is at the end of Morris Range Road on the north side of Garner Valley

Cedar Springs Trail is at the end of Morris Ranch Road on the north side of Garner Valley

The San Bernardino National Forest hiking guide describes the trail as follows:

Cedar Springs Trail (4E17) This moderate trail begins on Morris Ranch Road 4 miles north of Hwy 74. The trail travels through private property; please respect private property rights and stay on the dirt road. This 3.2 mile hike begins at 5760 ft. The trail connects with the Pacific Crest Trail along the Desert Divide south of Palm View Peak at an elevation of 6400 ft. To reach Cedar Spring cross the PCT and continue northeast for one mile.

We only went up the first mile, turning around just where the relatively flat road ends and the switchbacks begin. It was a very pleasant day, with the plants in spring green and blooming. The trail starts wide and flat. Clearly this has been used as a road.

There were many wildflowers on the trail

Ther were many wildflowers on the trail

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Lovric’s Sea Craft, Anacortes Washington

When we were on Spring vacation in Anacortes, Washington, we had a chance to walk through Lovrić’s Sea Craft, a large boatyard on Oakes Avenue. Follow the link to the website for the facility, it has some great before and after pictures of their work on boats of all kinds.

Lovrić's Sea Craft -- A large boatyard in Anacortes, Washington

Lovric’s Sea Craft — A large boatyard in Anacortes, Washington

Lovrić (the correct name, according to the website, is without the “‘s” but with the acute accent on the “c”) is on the north west side of Fidalgo Island, along Guemes Channel. This is a view from the boat yard toward the island.

Looking south toward Anacortes.  Cranberry Lake is over the hill to the right.

Looking south toward Anacortes. Cranberry Lake is over the hill to the right.

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A Trip to Matheran, Maharashtra India

In March of this year, I had the opportunity to visit Matheran, a ecologically preserved plateau a couple of hours drive from Mumbai. It was a wonderful trip. This post will mostly consist of a small subset of pictures I took on the trip. I cannot thank my TCS colleagues enough for arranging the visit. I do not include any individual pictures except myself to preserve our team’s privacy.

The trip was to Matheran, an ecological preserve and resort area about 55 miles (90 kilometers) from Mumbai. It was a several hour drive in a nice bus. Here is an aerial view of the plateau of 2500 feet (500 meters) altitude that makes up Matheran. I was lucky to get this from a flight from Bangalore to Mumbai during the same trip.

Aerial view from a Jet Airways flight of Matheran

Aerial view from a Jet Airways flight of Matheran

Look below the fold for many more pictures and detail.
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Moon, Venus, and Mercury Conjunction

Back in early February, we had an interesting time from a planetary observation standpoint. All of the naked eye visible planets can be seen in the sky in the early morning. Jupiter is in the west, moving east we have Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury. On February 6, 1016, there was an old sliver the Moon that joined Venus and Mercury. I was able to get up early and get some images of that conjunction event.

I was a totally clear morning. A little chilly at 40 degrees F with a fairly strong 10-15 mile an hour wind from the east. It was bracing and beautiful. The first shot is a close look a the three objects, the second a wider view of the Anza valley with Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak on the left.

Venus on the right, Mercury on the bottom, and the Moon at the top left.

Venus on the right, Mercury on the bottom, and the Moon at the top left.

Conjunction Wide

Conjunction Wide

Moon Events Calendar File

I like to have the dates and times of the phases of the Moon in my calendar. Years ago, I found a site that provided a vCalendar format file that I could import into Outlook. Unfortunately, the data from that site ended on December 31, 2015.

Fortunately for you, I can provide an update. For those who just want the vCalendar file, you can download Moon-Events-2016-2017.vcs. That file contains calendar entries for all the Moon Phases in 2016 and 2017 and can be uploaded into Outlook with the following steps (this is from Outlook 2016 / Office 365):

  1. Go to File > Open & Export > Import/Export
  2. Select “Import from an iCalendar (.ics) or vCalendar (.vcs)” and click “Next”
  3. Change the file type in the Open dialog to “vCalendar format (.vcs)”
  4. Navigate to where you saved Moon-Events-2016-2017.vcs, select the file, and click “Open”
  5. Select “Import” to import the calendar entries into your calendar

Now I will describe how I made the vCalendar file. I first went to the United States Naval Observatory website, specifically to the Phases of the Moon page from the Astronomical Applications Department. From the Moon Phase page, you can generate up to 99 Moon events which are displayed in your browser.

I took that text and pasted it into a spreadsheet. Using Excel text functions I parsed the data so I could build up the required vCalendar syntax. That meant changing the text from the USNO:

Last Quarter 2016 Jan 02 05:30

Into the required syntax for a vCalendar entry:

BEGIN:VEVENT
DSTART:20160102T053000Z
DTEND:20160102T053000Z
SUMMARY;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE:Last Quarter
PRIORITY:3
END:VEVENT

Each of those went into a text file and I added a header:

BEGIN:VCALENDAR
PRODID:-//Aschlei//MoonEvents//EN
VERSION:1.0

And a footer:

END:VCALENDAR

I then saved the text file with a .vcs extension and I was able to import the events into Outlook. You can import it into other calendars like Google calendar, but they come with Moon events built in so it generally isn’t necessary.

You can download the Excel file I used with the text parsing and concatenation, Moon-Events-2016-2017.xlsx, if you’d like to try it yourself. I’ll probably download it in late 2017 when I need some more Moon events.

I hope you found this useful.

Kanheri Caves, October 2015

On my most recent trip to India, the team organized a visit to Kanheri Caves, located in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the northern part of Mumbai. The caves are a large complex of rock cut shrines and living spaces that were made from the first through the eleventh century AD.

Kanheri Caves were created for Buddhist worship. There are 110 caves ranging from small, plain living spaces to large temples. The larger caves are chaityas, the place of worship of the Buddhist community. The small ones are viharas or monasteries, they consist of single and multiple celled where the Buddhist monks resided. Individual cells are 10 foot square living spaces with a bench cut into one side for sleeping.

It was quite hot, so I recommend starting your visit early in the day. I was also told that it was very nice to visit during the Monsoon.

Here are some photographs I took during the visit. This first set is of a Chaitya.

Chaitya Interior

Chaitya Interior

Chaitya Columns

Chaitya Columns

Column Top Carving

Column Top Carving

Chaitya Exterior Carvings

Chaitya Exterior Carvings

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