Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Every now and then I find an author who writes so compellingly, I have to read more of what he has written. My current crush is Simon Garfield. I think for Simon, the big draw is the non-fiction subjects of which he writes (letters, maps, the color Mauve).

Just My Type investigates a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seemingly ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and what makes a font look presidential, male or female, American, British, German, or Jewish. From the typeface of Beatlemania to the graphic vision of the Obama campaign, fonts can signal a musical revolution or the rise of an American president. This book is a must-read for the design conscious that will forever change the way you look at the printed word.
It is the surprise of the appeal of this book that has me hooked. It really has made me look at the printed word differently and that is a pretty awesome by-product of a very awesome book.

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Winter Trek with Jenny...

John Heywood said, "Many hands make light work." I say if those hands are your friend's, it makes fun work and today was a perfect example. Jenny wasn't scheduled to volunteer, but they didn't need her for jury duty so she was free to play with me at 9,000 feet. Yahoo!

While wrangling a bunch of 5th graders really can be like herding kittens, it was a rewarding day of sharing Lake Tahoe. And the view was pretty awesome, too.

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Our Fun LOVE Day...

Today was the first day where we got to spend some amount of time with Bob & Jenny, since before we left on our big road trip in September. How perfect that "Love" day was with them (we love our time together).

We snowshoed up to Eagle Point where the views were breathtakingly beautiful.

It was wild to see large parts of Emerald Bay frozen.

Lunch just tastes better when your bum is frozen! It helps, too, that Jenny is an amazing cook and fed us in 5-star style.
After fueling up, we meandered through the woods to the shore of the Lake.
We delighted in seeing the Dixie with tourists on its decks, come into the Bay.
And as it went by, the sounds of ice being broken apart were ones that we hadn't heard before and it was pretty cool.
Across the point, from where we were standing, Jenny spotted this deer and Bald Eagle. She has an amazing camera and captured this wonderful nature sighting.

The eagle had frolicked in the lake and then was sunning himself on a rock. What a totally incredible behavior for us to witness.
Best snowman- ever! Totally made us chuckle.
Dinner was at the Hard Rock's newly redone restaurant, Alpine Union. We all have player's cards and received enticing coupons "Wanting us back!"
Two-for-one dinners and $10 free gambling money... We were in. One aspect that I love about this day is the fact that it showcases the diversity of Lake Tahoe. We hiked in Nature and then partied in a Casino. That's a pretty awesome way to spend Valentine's Day. Whatever you did, I hope it was wonderful and that you knew you were loved.

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Mail Art @ Bona Fide Books...

Tonight, I joined a group for a creative and  inspired gathering for Maker's Monday at Bona Fide Books (Tahoe's conduit for all things amazing). Our focus was Mail Art,  creating​ amazing correspondence using everyday items. This cool art form  is an artistic movement centered on sending small scale works, interesting/fun inclusions, and unique mailings through the postal service. Mail is alive and well and can be truly unique.

Besides amazing paper supplies, we were given access to a vintage typewriter and ancient sewing machine, both of which added such cool elements to the cards we created.
I was surprised at the level of creativity this group had and encouraged in others.

For three hours, we laughed, encouraged, praised and enjoyed. Each of us walked away pretty proud of ourselves.

I was actually giddy and I'm eager for the next Maker's Monday. I honestly believe the "why" behind Mail Art is perfectly captured in Albert Einstein's quote, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

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Death Valley: Canyon & Ghost Town

Our last night's sleep, at Furnace Creek's Texas Spring Campground, was pretty rough. All night, we endured wind gusts up to 60 miles an hour. It was crazy and difficult to sleep, so I just said "What the heck!" and started coffee at 5 AM.

I was gleefully rewarded as I watched the amazing moon set. Wow!
Early rising also got us a seat for this spectacular sunrise. A rough night started off as a pretty incredible day.
Our last Death Valley event was to hike Mosaic Canyon. Described as having "polished marble walls and “Mosaics” of fragments of rocks cemented together (below) make this small canyon a favorite.The twisting lower canyon is so narrow hikers must walk through it single-file. Some rock scrambling is required. The canyon opens up after ½ mile to reveal the heights of Tucki Mountain."

Not a bad place to end a visit to Death Valley!
Our final explore happened just outside the Park at the Ghost Town of Rhyolite. In 1904, gold was found in the area. The most promising was the Montgomery Shoshone mine, which prompted everyone to move to the Rhyolite townsite. The town immediately boomed with buildings springing up everywhere.

In 1906, Tom T. Kelly, built a Bottle House out of 50,000 beer and liquor bottles... early day re-purposing!
One building was 3 stories tall and cost $90,000 to build. A stock exchange and Board of Trade were formed. The red light district drew women from as far away as San Francisco. There were hotels, stores, a school for 250 children, an ice plant, two electric plants, foundries and machine shops and even a miner’s union hospital. It was a happening place with about 3,000 residents at its heyday.

This is a better image of what Rhyolite was like. Wild, right? After the earthquake in SF in 1906, there was a financial panic of 1907 which took its toll on Rhyolite and was seen as the beginning of the end for the town. In the next few years mines started closing and banks failed. Newspapers went out of business, and by 1910 the production at the mill had slowed leaving only 611 residents in the town. Slowly the town was dismantled and abandoned. By 1916, the light and power was finally turned off in the town. Merely 12 years after the first gold was found.
I included this photo of a feral burro, because we had seen evidence of them throughout Death Valley. They are the living legacy of the mining that happened there long ago and are considered invasive species and unwanted by the park rangers. In May of 2015, a man got lost while on a hike. He saw the burros and followed them to water, which kept him alive for days. How lucky he was that those burros were still there.

Lonely Planet best describes Death Valley:
The very name evokes all that is harsh, hot and hellish – a punishing, barren and lifeless place of Old Testament severity. Yet closer inspection reveals that in Death Valley nature is putting on a truly spectacular show: singing sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, boulders moving across the desert floor, extinct volcanic craters, palm-shaded oases and plenty of endemic wildlife. This is a land of superlatives, holding the US records for hottest temperature (134°F), lowest point (Badwater, 282 ft below sea level) and largest national park outside Alaska (over 5000 sq miles).
We go home to the snow blanketed Sierras but have already planned a trip to return here, to explore more and bask in the unique wilderness (and warmth).

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Death Valley: Canyons, Wells & Borax

We decided to get out in it even more so today so we headed out to hike. I loved this description of hiking in Death Valley, "A labyrinth landscape of golden colored hills and winding narrow canyons create hiking options ranging from easy strolls to strenuous adventures."

We chose Golden Canyon, considered the most popular hike in the park. The 3 mile r/t route was gradually uphill through a rocky corridor of towering golden walls. Minor rock scrambling is necessary to complete the entire route as you climb over short ledges and duck under low overhangs.

There is a surreal peacefulness in these canyons. Wow!
For our next canyon explore, we traversed Twenty Mule Team Canyon in our RV. Winding through otherwordly badlands, this 2.7 mile unpaved one-way loop drive was weird and cool all at the same time. Definitely more amazing than a photo could portray. Steve was loving his truck at this point.
We saw on the park guide, that down a dirt road was the Historic Stovepipe Well. Hmm. We decided to go for it. On the way there, we discovered this grave. There is much controversy about it, but I found it intriguing. The story, it seems, is that Val was a miner out of Beatty, NV. He was last seen in August, 1931. A movie film crew found his remains, three months later and buried him where he was found, having died "A victim of the harsh elements.". Interesting and sad.
A must was to see the old well. According to its plaque, "This waterhole, only one in the sand dune area of Death Valley, was at the junction of two Indian trails. During the bonanza days of Rhyolite and Skidoo it was the only known water source on the cross-valley road. When sand obscured the spot, a length of stovepipe was inserted as a marker, hence its unique name." Eventually, it became an early camping location (1907) and was the first official tourist facility in Death Valley when someone built a small building out of mud and bottles and offered food and lodging there. Wild thought.

The plaque above describes these ruts. "The faint two-wheel tracks of the wagon road heading southwest to historic Stovepipe Well cross the modern road at this point. Etched into the desert by freight wagons and the Rhyolite-to-Skidoo stagecoach, the road followed the footpath of early desert dwellers toward the only reliable drinking water nearby."
We ended the day with a history lesson given by a park Ranger. And what a lesson it was... all about Harmony Borax Works. The plant and associated townsite played an important role in Death Valley history. After borax was found near Furnace Creek Ranch (then called Greenland) in 1881, William T. Coleman built the Harmony plant and began to process ore in late 1883. When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily.

Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method had to be devised. The Harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons which hauled borax the long overland route to Mojave. The romantic image of the “20-mule team” persists to this day and has become the symbol of the borax industry in this country.
Through the tour, we learned the ins and outs of borax processing and the life of the workers who made it all happen, many of them Chinese recruited from San Francisco, who toiled in the successful mining operation. They also made a road 160 miles long through the salt pinnacles and raked the borax off the valley floor from 1883 until 1888 when the last 20 mule teams rolled out of the valley. Incredible.
As the value of the borax mines decreased, it was the Borax companies who worked towards turning Death Valley into a National Monument (1933). They saw what possibilities existed in tourism. Their loss in revenue was the nation's gain in an incredible Park.

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