Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Big Update to my Mobile Edible Wild Plant Guide

I've add the ability to search for plants by picture on my Mobile Edible Plants Guide. Check it out on your iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, or other mobile internet device.

Adventure! Excitement! Insomnia!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Assed Plot

Saturday night Misseswether and I dropped the Wethergirls off with a neighbor and headed out to see the new harry Potter movie. Misseswether is a huge fan of the books to the point of being at the local bookstore for the midnight releases of several of them. I eventually read them just to keep up with her and the others. I enjoyed them but waiting over half a year to read the last one. Same goes with the movies. The first two I thought were pretty lousy, though a big part of that was the director's fault. I'll admit the actors did a very good job with what they had to work with and for.

The third fourth movies were better, more character-driven than just sight-gags. They where worth seeing in theater, especially as the background visuals matured along with the story. The Potter-verse took on a wondrous eye-appeal, especially to a Ren-geek like me. The most recent one is just as stunning, the actors & actresses are wonderful, and the emotional responses are very believably raw and tuned to perfection.

But there's a fatal flaw with the series, and not just the films. The books themselves suffer from the same problem...magic.

Okay, you are probably wondering why I'm complaining about magic in a fictional story of wizards, witches, and multi-legged beasties. It's not the magic itself that's the problem. The problem is the magic is both unlimited in power and never used to it's full potential!


For instance, in this most recent movie (The Half-Blood Prince) Harry wins a luck potion. According to the potionmaster, upon drinking the elixir the imbiber will have great luck, enabling them to accomplish whatever goal they are currently working on. Harry uses the potion to obtain from someone a hidden memory needed to eventually defeat Voldermort.

What the hell? Why not just set your goal as stopping/killing Voldermort, drink the potion, and have at it? Ten pages later and the story ends. Better yet, do this right off the eye-of-bat (ha ha ha) and turn seven books into a short story about never messing with wizards. Of course, if Voldermort was such a super wizard why didn't he whip up a batch of the liquid luck to aid him in his plans against Harry?

Of course, that just one example. The worst in my opinion is the Time-Turner. Once you give anyone the ability to travel back in time you've given them the ability to rule the Present. Worse, if multiple people have that power the "Present" will suddenly dissolve into an ever-changing soup of conflicting time-goo. True, the Time-Turners could be said to be limited in that you have to manually "wind" it with each turn moving you one hour in the past. Sure, it'd take a while to wind it back say twenty years or so, but I'm sure anyone here would be willing to spend a few days winding to travel back in time with notes on big stock winners or sports scores. Voldermort had more reasons than just $$$ to travel back in time, yet he doesn't do it.

Yes, I'm a hard guy to please. Plot holes always nag me and detract from the story. I pretty much have stopped reading fiction for similar reasons. Luckily there some pretty good real tales of adventure out there to keep my entertained.

Adventure! Excitement! Pickiness!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taking it on the road!

And by "road" I mean anywhere you have internet access with a web-enabled device. Introducing Merriwether's Mobile Edible Plants Guide!

You can get it here!

The new website is designed for the smaller screens and lower access speeds of iPhones, Blackberries, and other mobile internet devices. All the plant information of my original edible plant page is there and most of the pictures, but the ads, outside links, and other fluff has been stripped away. It's lean, mean plant cuisine for your pocket! Why lug a big, hard to use book around when you can have it all on your phone?

Of course, the best way to learn about edible wild plants is to head out with a good teacher for a few hours in the field...

Saturday's class. Yes, they are smiling after three hours in the hot Texas sun. I must be good!

Adventure! Excitement! Mobile!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Think we're related?

Hmm, this gives me some ideas...
Boy survives 8-mile river ride on toy truck

Adventure! Excitement! Ships called Enterprise

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Good Ships of Jesse H. Jones

A thing of beauty.

Multiple times throughout the year Jesse H. Jones Park puts on free canoe trips down Spring and Cypress Creeks. Registration opens up ten days in advance and due to the extremely fun nature (ha ha, couldn't resist) of these trips they fill up almost instantaneously. If you haven't called them by 9am on the first day of registration you'll probably just have to stand on shore sadly watching fourteen canoes of happy, laughing people pass you by.

This is what you see and you'll be sad you didn't call in time.

Thankfully due to the advice of my friend, John (Starmhz1), I was able to call in in time to make the list. So, Saturday evening I found myself among a group of fellow adventures getting ready for an easy, two-hour paddle down Spring Creek. The park supplied the canoes, paddles, life vests (mandatory to be worn by anyone 16 and under, otherwise they just need to be in the boat), and a ride back to J.H.J.P. from the takeout at Edgewater Park & Boat Launch. They even brought bottles of ice cold water for people who didn't!

Getting the mandatory safety talk which is pretty much just, "If you somehow manage to flip your canoe on the mirror-like surface of Spring Creek, just stand up. The water is only about three feet deep in most places!"

The mirror-like surface of Spring Creek.

Sidenote: Children under 16 were not allowed on this trip, but the Park does have other trips which they can join after first attending one of the park's Junior Canoe Training Workshops.

Paddlers ranging from experts to complete novices.

We launched from J.H.J.P.'s canoe landing at 5:25pm. The sun was still high in the sky and very hot, but a steady breeze and the occasional large cloud gave us welcome breaks from the heat. The water itself had a very cooling effect too, so that people were able to really enjoy the trip.

Starmhz1 enjoying the trip!

Everyone else also enjoying the trip.

The current on Spring Creek was non-existent. In fact if you stopped paddling the breeze was enough to push you slowly backwards upstream. A few of the new paddlers were surprised to learn they had to put effort into going downstream.

At the last bend before hwy. 59 there's a nice sandbar. No one was ready to end the adventure so we all pulled out there and relaxed, snacked, and chatted for a while.

The sandbar, a place of beauty.

The Paddlin' Pros.

Back on the river as evening begins to fall.

Past hwy. 59, coming ashore at Edgewater Park.

Hey everybody, smile!

It was only a two-hour trip but there was much goodness packed into those two hours. There's something very invigorating about being surrounded by a bunch of happy people in the borderlands. It think every one of us would have just kept paddling given the chance. The chatting and laughing continued as we all worked together loading the canoes onto the trailers without being asked. Then, still bonded, we all squeezed into the park vans for the ride back to J.H.J.P.

Alas, like all good things it had to come to an end. The park guides took the canoes to be hosed off, we all drifted to our separate vehicles, shouts of "That was great!" and "See you again!" were tossed between people who were strangers just a few hours earlier. Will we see each other again? I like to think we will. It's a big world though with lots of adventures waiting to happen. Paths cross, some join for a long time, others for little more than a few steps...

Some of you have been adventuring with me now for five years. How much farther will our paths overlap? I guess we'll just have to walk and see, friends. Just keep walking with me and we'll see.

Adventure! Excitement! The Great Trail of Life!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Four Notch Loop Trail

Record heat? Bah! We are adventures! We laugh at heat/humidity! Stay indoors? Not when we both have a day off! Sure, the weatherman was saying it'll get up to 104F with a heat index over 110F, but how often is he right?

So, this time he was.

That's okay because Clark and I had both packed a lot of water. I was carrying 2.5 gallons of water plus a quart of Gatorade and a can of Coke. Clark had something like 1 gallon of water and one or two bottles of Vitamin waters. Turns out that was more than needed and as the hike progressed we dumped unneeded water to lighten our loads.

What a hike it was! The Four Notch Loop is my new favorite hike in the Houston area. It is part of the Lone Star Trail through the Sam Houston National Forest.

Me at at the end of the trail, still smiling!

This trail winds for almost nine miles through stunningly beautiful woods, across many small (at this time of year!) streams, and up and down hills, some reaching a mountainous 400 feet above sea level! Well, when you are stuck mainly in Houston a 400 foot change in elevation is something to write home, er, on a blog about...

The trailhead.

The trail. It goes up and down like this a lot.

More trail. Even during the drought we've been having water was available. According to the sign at the trail head the water here only needs to be treated for biological contamination. Filtering, boiling, or a chemical treatment would render it safe to drink.

Clark. He really is actually having a good time.

Clark eating some greenbriar.

A cool magnolia tree above more water.

Funnel-web spiders had made homes all along one section of the loop. These things looked capable of taking down a gopher!

"Downed Bridge". If you look closely you can see a small, white rectangle on the large tree to the right of the picture. That's the blaze indicating where the trail is. There used to be a bridge here but it was washed away long ago. Luckily a bit upstream there was a narrow, shallow area crossed by small log. How one would get across this stream during the rainy season is a problem left to the reader.

More water, easily crossed.

Like I said, it was a beautiful area. The forest was alive with deer, birds, butterflies, skinks (the lizard thing, not me misspelling skunks), toads, and spiders but blessedly free of mosquitoes. Clark did find one tick climbing on him. We were always shaded by the trees and so never measured a temperature above 98F. It was quite comfortable if you're already acclimatized to the heat. Had we known so much water was available we wouldn't have carried gallons of it. We would have just collected water as needed from the streams. Sidenote: if you do go there bring lots of water along just in case. Dump it when you have confirmed there's still water in these streams. Please don't screw around with Texas heat, it really can kill you.

My GPS couldn't hold a signal under the dense cover of trees. You can see coordinates and a topo-map of the hike at this site. There were many spots that looked like they'd be good campsites, so this could be a very lazy two-day excursion if one was so inclined. It took Clark and I exactly seven hours, which included 30 minutes going the wrong way. We both have a tendency to walk much and rest little. Afterward we agreed we should have spent more time loafing along the way.

How to get to the Four Notch Loop trail head:
1. Take exit 102 of I-45 and head east on FM 1375
2. Turn left on to hwy. 150/hwy. 75
3. Turn right on to FM 2296
4. Turn right on to Four Notch Rd.
5. Turn left on to dirt road FS 213 (Google maps incorrectly calls this FS 218)
6. Trail head parking is second dirt road on left, trail head is on right.

View Larger Map

One important thing to know is this National Forest is open for hunting and is a popular spot for Houston deer hunters. Use caution when out there between Sept. 28th and Jan 5th. Sidenote: It is illegal to harass anyone lawfully engaged in hunting, so don't do it.

Adventure! Excitement! Dang Hot!