Friday, March 31, 2017

Canvassing for a Mayoral Candidate

We have been voting in every election, local or state or general election,  since we become US citizens. I am a big advocate of participation in political process, write about it (12) and remind neighbors about upcoming elections via a crime watch email list.....

But I had never been to a political rally or canvassing for a candidate for elected office until this year.

In early February we attended a political rally for the first time for a local mayoral candidate.
It was a very small rally held at a local gymnasium, less than 100 people attended including campaign volunteers. It was not very impressive. I am a supporter of the candidate, but not  a devotee. However when the national anthem was played, I felt a real strong emotion, my eyes swelled with tears, No longer a passive participant of the political process, a sideline commentator, I actively participated in the process!

When we left the rally, we took one yard sign with us and erected it in our front yard!

When I heard that the campaign needed volunteers to canvass precincts, I signed up through its website. I did not hear from the campaign for weeks, a little disappointed. But I suspected that no one really check the website sign up database due to lack of registration. Finally I got the call about 10 days ago asking if I was still interested - I was.

Lily went  with me for my first precinct walk Sunday two weeks ago.

We had five team members on that day, all were first time precinct walker except the captain. The captain gave us a quick training at his house - how to use GeoConnect Pro  - a software for precinct walk which gives likely voter addresses, voter affiliation. He also instructed on what to say, how to say .... greet voters, smile, smile and more smile! When we got to the precinct, he demonstrated to us one more time in real action.

Then we split into two  teams, Lily and I one team, the rest the other team.

no body home, have picture taken
Looking at the likely voter's residence distribution in the block, we decided to park our car to walk block(s) in loop, and drive to next block once we finished the loop.

We started on a very positive note - first house we visited, the old gentleman opened the door timely and told us that he voted for our candidate already! Lily did not believe him when we walked away because early voting had not started yet. We later realized that some voters mail in their ballots.

The rest were not that easy!

working on GeoConnect Pro App
There were many houses nobody answered the doors.

There were a couple houses the front doors were ajar, but no one answered the doors - worked in backyard? in bathroom?

We also woke up a few people in afternoon nap - two youngsters promised to let their parents know about our visit, and  one old lady was just about to get into bed due to a tiring day but she politely declined our questions. We apologized and left with guilt.

There were a few irritated home owners as well - one yelled through the door  "not interested!", another opened the door and sternly told us "did you see the no solicitation sign?"

We did get a few more supporters to our candidate, they were really nice to us.

The more interesting interactions were with the undecided voters - some had engaged us in discussions of their concerns and our candidate's policies. Of course we, Lily in particular, tried to convince them to vote our candidate.

Demographic wise, many voters we visited were senior citizens - they are the most reliable voting demographic.

With this experience, we now understand how hard it was to get votes one wants from general public.

The whole group wrapped up the precinct walk shortly past 5pm, after 3 hour walk in the beautiful sunny Texas afternoon.

What an experience it was !.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Texas Get-Aways

There are many Get-Aways in Texas that allow us to get away from computers, Internets, get closer to nature; they allow us to really forget hustles and hassles of daily work, and have a true mental relaxation. The following are some of the places we went to and liked.

The top 3 outdoor places in Texas we have been to are Big Bend National Park, Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Caddo Lake

A. Big Bend

The crown jewels for outdoor activities in Texas is without a doubt the Big Bend National Park in the southern boarder of Texas. We enjoyed the big bend thoroughly in a 7 day trip and will visit there again.

Big Bend Landscape

1) Trip plan - link
2) The big bend experience - be quiet, enjoy the quietness of the wilderness; the starry sky is a marvel to cherish as well  -  link
3) River Rafting in Santa Elena Canyon is a must - link

B. Palo Duro Canyon

The Grand Canyon of Texas is a great place for camping and hiking. It has great landscape, amazing trails, it is second only to Big Bend in Texas!

Palo Duro Canyon

1) Trip plan - link
2) Fall, Winter and Spring should be good time to visit there, and many trails to hike - light house trail is must - link 
3) Camping for two night would be best for full enjoyment of the Canyon - hiking under starry sky (remember to bring flashlights) and see Sunrise and Sunset - link 

C. Caddo Lake and East Texas

Caddo lake is the only natural lake in Texas. It is a great place for camping, star gazing and kayaking or canoeing. It is a bit humid to camp there in summer, but the starry sky, the sounds of insects at night or the canoeing in mill pond in the morning in the forest of cypress tress all make it worth it!

Mill Pond by Caddo Lake

The best time to visit there is late October, early November - when humidity is low, air is crisp and the cypress trees turn golden!

There are a few smaller state parks in east Texas which is quite different from other parks in Texas - they are typically small, and less crowded. We went to Cooper State Park and Bob Sandline Park and liked them.

D. Austin, Texas and Surrounding areas

Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake  - a beautiful place to hike and paddle with Austin city skyline near by - link

Lady Bird Lake at Austin

Pandernales Falls is about a hour or so outside of Austin - a good place to sit on rocks in the middle of shallow pools, and to wade in water a bit

Inks Lake - a good site for camping by the lake and swimming at Devil's hole, a great place to paddle as well. Hiking trail is good. You can see people dare devil at Devil's hole.

Enchanted Rock is a place to hike in rocks and to be in awe of this huge billion year old rock. Camping by the rock and hiking in early morning was great.

E. Dallas and Surroundings

White Rock Lake and Arboretum are the best places to go for outdoor activities in the city. White rock lake is a great place for jogging, biking and paddling. It is also a great place to watch migrating birds in winter, and see mansions by the lake in late spring  and earhilly ly summer. Arboretum is a great to place to see flowers, plants, outdoor concert, art display and picnic! There is a great energy park which is good for children and adults alike to enjoy hands activities.We have been to both places numerous times.

Another our favorite local place is Ray Roberts Lake - it is a state park about a little bit over 1 hour from Dallas, paved trails good for hiking and biking, We went camping, biking, jogging, swimming with many families of friends many times during late spring , summer or fall. It is good for the whole family to get away from computers, cell phones, internet without much hassle. We have been to Lake Ray Roberts southern shore so many times, eventually we decided to visit the north shore - a little further, less people and an equally great park to spend some time in.

Rainbows at Lake Ray Roberts

Lake Texoma is another big man made lake near Dallas. It has rocky beach, good foliage if you go there in fall, a good alternate to Lake Ray Roberts. Eisenhower State Park is where one can camp, hike and motor boating. 

Fossil Rim is anther great place to go, especially for families with younger children or older adults to see animals in the "wild" in the comfort of vehicles with minimum walking. Dinosaur Valley is close to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, and a place to dinosaur footprints, hiking and camping

Lake Mineral Wells is over 2 hours away from our home, a good place for kayaking and

F Southern Texas

The main reason I visited San Marcos is for kayaking in San Marcos River. Aquarena is where the spring lake is, which is the head water of San Marcos river. It is a great place for families to visit. Glass bottom boat tour of the lake is popular. Kayaking in glass bottom kayak leisurely is a great way to get close to wild life

Nutria at Spring Lake San Marcos

reserved kayaks for us at Aquarena, San Marcos

Lost Maple Natural area is a famous Texas destination for foliage, but it is a bit far from Dallas for a weekend trip and camping site is very difficult to reserve during peak foliage season. We visited there during a Thanksgiving week 4 days trip. In addition to foliage, it is also a beautiful place to hike and camp.

Natural Bridge Cavern is place near San Antonio and it provides a totally different experience than the parks and lakes! It is under ground, it is dark.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Energy Park in Arboretum's Adventure Garden

A new addition at Dallas Arboretum is the Meyers Children's Adventure Garden. 

I thought that Children's adventure garden would be a miniaturized Arboretum plus some hands on activities, of course with more signs and labels. It indeed has this plus more.

We walked to the left after entering the garden and eventually walked onto the sky walk. At the end of the sky walk, there is a "water park". It turned out to be T Boone Pickens Energy park.

I looked around a bit and was not really excited about it until I started to play with the toys!

This first thing I did was to shoot water gun at a turbine. As the turbine turned faster and faster, it started to produce water sprout. There is a big turbine (the front one in the first photo), that shooting from one water gun will not be able to start it. I asked Lily to play with me and together with shootings from two water guns we made the biggest turbine turn and produced water sprout.

shooting at turbine to rotate it, fast rotating turbine generated water sprout
playing together was fun even for adults
I had so much fun, so I went to look for the kids in the group, who turned right after the entering the garden, to have them go to the energy park to have some fun. Initially they were not impressed either until they started playing.

Another "shooting" game was to shoot lights into the center of this yin-yang wheel to make it turn. Unfortunately it was cloudy, no sunshine during the time we were there.

A game to educate about hydro power was to transport water through a helical seal to high place and then to turn over a large water bucket. Initially I helped a unknown boy to rotate the shaft to transfer water to top of the tube and turn over the bucket, and then I played this by myself. The excitement I had infected the boys in our group and they had plenty of fun to play the game a few times.

port water "uphill"
Solar tree
There is a solar tree to collect solar power. A chest of solar toys gave me ideas about future prizes for STEM related events. A very interesting device is to use solar power to heat air in a vertical tube to float a very light ball to the top of the tube; when solar power is blocked the ball falls to the bottom. The solar energy emitted through the thick clouds was sufficient to make the demo work.

The third clean energy feature in this energy park is the wind power. One group turbines for wind energy harvesting are lined on the side of the pond and near the white rock lake to show which one is more efficient in the wind. This is a urban wind turbine design which does not have the typical 3 blades. We could easily tell that the commercial turbine was the most efficient one because it was the only turbine rotating under the light breeze. There are a few other turbine designs for turbo generator which are for play-and-tell - one use a handheld fan to blow air to the turbines and see how much electricity is generated. and compare 4 or 5 designs.
various urban turbine designs
The commercial wind turbine turned slowly under very light breeze
Two more wind energy related experiments are experience based - one is to stand in a wind "tunnel" to experience the power of 78 mph wind, and the other is feel the the mass of air in a big "blow" of air.

wind tunnel
The activity based outdoor experiments in the energy park can generate people interests and curiosity about clean energy. Two hours flew by before we knew it when we finally decided to leave the area. It is fun!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mini Spring Break at Dallas Arboretum

After so many years of trips during spring breaks, we stayed home this year. 

On this last day of the spring break we went to Dallas Arboretum for the Dallas Bloom Festival with another family. It was a cold and cloudy day but the blooming flowers did not disappoint us.

I could not name many flowers but tulips of various colors are the main flowers at the garden along with carefully matched other annual flowers. Narcissus is another more common flower in the garden. 

Nicely matched flowers made the colors more striking, and then mono color cluster of flowers were equally awesome  - a sea of red, a field of purple or a garden full of white flowers.

What also caught my eyes were the sculptures in the garden which looked and felt differently in this setting - the kissing couple in the field of purple tulips, a girl surrounded by equally elegant white flowers, a women by the pond  with a mallard lazily swimming around.   

Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden is a new addition to the Arboretum. It was very impressive and we enjoyed the garden activities there very much - but it will take another post to describe our experience. 

It worth noting that we enjoyed the Arboretum for so many years, and we decided to become a member of the Arboretum to enjoy various programs throughout the year while supporting it.

In addition to the exquisite  feast to the eyes,we also indulged ourselves a bit with a Hawaiian fusion cuisine for dinner at Roy's  Restaurant - salad was great, entrees were good, and souffle was delicious. On the way home we were mesmerized by the huge yellow full moon, in the clear sky,  just above tree tops,  a fitting end to a great mini break. 

mahi mahi 

the full moon when we got home