La Sal Mountains

La Sal Mountains from Arches NP

La Sal (salt) mountains were so named by early Spanish explorers, because while traveling around them in the hot and arid country of what is now southern Utah, they could not believe that these white-capped peaks could possibly be snow-covered, but had to be caused by salt deposits. These mountains rise to above 12,000 feet and can easily keep their snow cover well into the summer. While out west, we experienced both hot and cold weather. The temperature was a function of elevation. It was nice to choose your weather, by choosing locale.

It’s Father’s Day and after three weeks in the desert, a rocket trip to Purdue and entertaining out-of-town friends, a little down time feels good today. It stormed a little last night and the rain continued into the morning hours, both lengthening the evening’s slumber and contributing a typical Sunday morning’s lethargy. Like I said, it feels good for a change. This is an inflection point. We’ve finished one great adventure and now it is time to prepare for another one. Anne has already compiled a lengthy to-do list for herself and I am tabulating my own. 


Canyonlands View of the Green River

After Dave’s successful defense, some of us decamped to Harry’s Chocolate Shop, home of the great indoors man. Founded in 1919, originally as a soda shop, during prohibition it became speakeasy and has never looked back since. The first thing that I noticed about the place is that every square inch of every and I mean every surface is covered in graffiti. Mainly just people’s names, thousands and thousands of Purdue students names. The great indoors man is Harry’s take on the Purdue home football game tradition called the breakfast club. A drinking tradition That has the bars opening early in the morning on football Saturdays. After lunch, we broke for naps, but reconvened at five. Dave’s friends and colleagues turned out in force. Rivaling the turnout for his defense. We’re back from Purdue now. Let the weekend begin!

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon or Two Little Cilia in a Cochlear Canal

We are at Purdue today for Dave’s doctoral thesis defense. The tittle of his thesis is “The Effects of Hair Cell Specfic Dysfunction on Neural Coding in the Auditory Periphery”. In layman’s terms ‘Auditory Periphery’ are the ears. Hair cells are nerve cells with little cilia or hairs on them that vibrate with sound. There are two kinds, inner and outer hair cells. People experience outer hair cell loss from too much loud noise and inner hair loss from old age. The neural coding is the process that these hair cells use to allow us to hear. The specific dysfunction is when Dave uses toxic drugs to kill either the inner or outer hair cells. Dave concluded that standard hearing tests are insufficient for determining hearing loss. The gold standard test, a single tone in a sound proof room, underreports hearing loss, because the ears gang together multiple hair cells to better hear with, the loss of some hair cells is frequently masked in this kind of test. A better test would be to simulate the so called cocktail party scenario, where there is lots of background noise and the loss of some hair cells is much more apparent. Dave presented for about an hour. He was very well poised in his delivery. The audience was composed of the four members of his thesis committee, one of who participated via Skype. Including us there there were about twenty audience members. Dave answered lots of “great questions”, then we were ushered out of the room and the committee grilled him in private. Dr. Dave passed! Let the party begin!

Hairy Woodpeckers

Hairy Woodpeckers

Here we see two Hairy woodpeckers perched on the bark of a cottonwood tree. The mother woodpecker (top) is feeding a male woodpecker (bottom). I assume that the male is a juvenile, even if it already has the red coloring and is a little larger than the female. Come to think of it, the male might be the father and is just getting a relay feeding here. We saw these birds on a Zion curated birding walk.

Today was a rest day. Well deserved, I should add. Our major accomplishments include groceries, unpacking & laundry.

But just like feathered parents, there really is no rest for the weary. So we gird our loins, fasten all straps and prepare for blast-off. We have a baby to feed fête! It’s been six years in the making or thirty, depending upon your point of view.

Dr. Dave will mount his defense. As vigorous as that may be, I’m thinking (hoping) that this defense will all be for show. The fact that the department is throwing a luncheon afterwards is comforting. I just hope that they don’t have two menus. A nice luncheon for a successful defense or just PBJs for a less so.

Years ago, when I was still working for Mickey-D, I attended a doctoral thesis defense of a colleague. The candidate presented and then we were ushered out of the room and the committee dealt with him in private. Afterwards, we all filed in again, the committee gave their thumbs-up and then we all ate.

While, termites might be scrupulous enough for woodpeckers, I’m thinking that even grad students are a little more discerning than that, not to mention professors. So, to grease the skids, sort of speak, we’ll be bringing some STL delicacies. I’m thinking a combination of Gooey Louie’s gooey butter cake, a Saint Louis tradition and/or Strange Donuts (Maplewood). I hope that they have enough coffee to wash it all down. What am I saying? They’re grad students, for god sake! Anyone of them could just tap a vein and fill any coffee pot.


North Rim, Grand Canyon

We’re home! After 22 days / 21 nights, 12 in the tents and 9 in motels, 4,000+ driving miles, 8,000+ photos and 9 national parks, we’re home again. It has been quite an adventure. Now, it is time to rest, recoup and reload, because there is still plenty of summer left to enjoy!