Sunday, November 25, 2012


the east austin studio tour spans two weekends every november. this year, nearly 200 private studios and exhibition spaces opened to the public, all within the boundaries of i35, 183, 290, and the lake. check the map (pdf) for full pinhead effect.

a mixed-medium piece at the delta millworks buidling, springdale @ 5th. i assume some people tour studios looking to buy, but for me it's all about acknowledging / remembering the insane amount of creative work that goes on every day in east austin, behind doors and in buildings that typically go unnoticed.

like here at metal authority hq, a single-lot facility at 14th and cedar. this place is 1.1 miles from my house according to google maps and i'd never seen / heard of it before.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Haunted Hike, St. John's, Newfoundland

this is the anglican cathedral, starting point for the sun-thurs summer ghost tours through downtown st. john's. photo taken 8-6-12.

our guide for the "ghosties and ghoulies" tour, professor jonathan ignatius wilkinson. tour cost: $10/head.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Last call beer, Contigo Austin

expensive gastro-pubs with outdoor seating are in. this place has been around for about a year and a half, less than a mile from our house. i've hosted two matador meetups there.

we're happy for their success, though it means the wait's often longer than we want to commit. 11-midnight is a good time to visit.

pictured pint is local circle brewing's smokin' beech, a rauchbier whose novelty wears off halfway through the glass.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trail vignette: Pedernales Falls State Park

last weekend we camped for a night at pedernales falls state park and were able to walk both of the park's longer trails. this shot is from the 7.5-mile loop to jones spring. there was bitterweed in bloom all over the park, but this stretch was absolutely covered.

halah enjoyed it. ears up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Images from 10 Days in Alaska

[Many thanks to the State of Alaska Tourism Office and each of the companies/properties linked below for hosting my wife and me on an amazing trip.]

We rode the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali and back, with a stopover in Talkeetna. Our seats were in the "Gold Star" car, which features wrap-around windows for good views of the Mat-Su Valley and Alaska Range terrain the tracks pass through. We also spotted a couple bears and moose. The history of this railway is directly tied to the history of Alaska as a U.S. territory and state.

Howard Carbone, owner of Alaska Nature Guides, points out a red-necked grebe during a short hike in the recently established Talkeetna Lakes Park. On our own, we probably would've blazed through this 3-mile trail in an hour, but Howard's knowledge of the local plant and animal life, the history of the area, and his stories about what it's like to live in Talkeetna as a year-round resident really elevated the experience.

This picture was taken standing at the toe of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, looking back over the outwash plain whose runoff feeds into the Resurrection River, flowing downstream past our accommodations at Seward Windsong Lodge, and into Resurrection Bay at the town of Seward. There was a good 4" of snow on the national park trail that leads from the parking lot to the glacier.

In Talkeetna, we hopped in a single-prop plane with K2 Aviation and flew into the heart of the Alaska Range, making a landing at Mt. McKinley base camp. This is not a regular tourist stop -- we were carrying a special delivery of pizzas for a group of Korean climbers who had just returned from McKinley's summit. I don't think it's hyperbole to call this the most awesome pizza delivery ever.

On our Kenai Fjords day cruise out of Seward, we saw porpoises, sea otters, a possible minke whale, courting bald eagles, the massive calving face of Aialik Glacier, a breach-happy humpback, and the Chiswell Islands (pictured above), which serve as rookeries for hundreds of puffins, gulls, murres, and other seabirds. This tufted puffin looks pretty graceful, but they're super awkward transitioning from water to air.

There are 20+ microbreweries and counting in the state of Alaska. We did our best to sample something from all of them. One of our favorite experiences in this category was getting a personalized brewery tour at Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna from co-owner Sassan Mossanen. Pictured above is a pint of IPA from Glacier Brewhouse, in downtown Anchorage.

Flowing out of the opposite end of the Harding Icefield from Exit Glacier is Grewingk Glacier, visible at the parting of the ridgeline above. As recently as 100 years ago, Grewingk stretched to the edge of this glacial lake; like many glaciers in Alaska and elsewhere, it is retreating. We accessed this hike in Kachemak Bay State Park via a short boat ride from our accommodations at Tutka Bay Lodge.

The Alaska Range is one of the defining geographical features of the state, running in a 400-mile arc from the Yukon border to a volcanic terminus at Lake Clark and the mouth of the Cook Inlet. Pictured above is the best-known section, containing the triple peaks of Hunter (13,965), Foraker (17,400), and McKinley/Denali (20,320). The highest peaks are usually obscured by clouds, especially during the summer tourist season. The best view of the range is probably from right here, on the back porch of the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

Across from the Homer Spit in Kachemak Bay is a fishing-village-turned-artist-community called Halibut Cove. Its population as of the 2010 census was 38. Tourists are brought over on the Danny J ferry to Ismailof Island, where they can eat at the Saltry and follow a boardwalk that leads to a couple art galleries featuring local work. Almost all of the evergreen trees on Ismailof have been killed off by a spruce bark beetle infestation.

A 10pm "sunset" cruise aboard Sea Salt, captained by Gus, general manager at Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Bay is a fjord, the steep slopes that enclose it covered in thick stands of Sitka spruce, snowmelt-fed waterfalls, and mountain goat tracks. We followed the little boat tour with a soak in the lodge's hot tub, and later fell asleep with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on a sky of deep blue, slowly on its way to an hour or two of not-quite-black.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hey Parents, Teach Your Kids Korean with My New Book

I'm really excited to report that my latest book project is back from the printers. Ten author copies are stacked on my living room chair, waiting to be shown off and gifted.

My First Book of Korean Words is a language book for young children. It introduces 26 Korean words, paired with the letters of the English alphabet--common words like dal (moon) and nolda (to play); terms specific to Korea and Korean culture, such as hanbok (traditional attire) and ondol (Korean heating system); words like echwi (achoo!) and yaong (meow) that show how foreign ears often interpret sounds in different ways; and English loan words like roket (rocket) and sillopon (xylophone).

The crew responsible for content creation is the same that worked on Korean for Beginners, with Kyubyong Park and myself responsible for the words. One happy difference with this project is that it puts the artistic talent of my wife (dba Aya Padron) center stage. Her illustrations make the book.

My First Book of Korean Words is published by our good friends at Tuttle, and is available for pre-order at Amazon now ($10.36; official release is still a couple months away). Check it out, and if you buy a copy, we'd love to get your feedback via a review at Amazon.

Happy reading,

- Hal

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baining fire dance, Papua New Guinea

Last week, I returned from a trip hosted by the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority. It was a 15-flight trip -- necessary if you're visiting multiple areas of the country, given the scarcity of roads and the abundance of islands.

A highlight for me was attending a Baining fire dance. One of PNG's 800+ distinct tribes, the Baining live in the mountains of the same name, just south of Rabaul on the island of New Britain. It was an hour drive from our accommodations at Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort, the last 10 minutes along a severely rutted, 4WD dirt road, to the village of Kainagunan.

This village is one of only a few that perform the dance on request for tourists. For large enough groups, they'll even travel to your hotel in Kokopo and do it there, though I can't see the appeal of that. Rolling up to the village square with the fire just getting started, watching the dancers with 100+ people from in and around the village, using the pit latrine -- these were all integral to the experience.

The following shots were taken with a Canon PowerShot A630 point-and-shoot, stabilized on a little wooden table or whatever other flat surface happened to be around. The audio was recorded using a Zoom H2.

Fire is needed for a fire dance. Dozens of stick bundles had been set aside as fuel. They burned fast and were added continuously.

These are a few of the dancers. As the dance is a kind of secret male initiation ceremony, they are all young men from the village, and the animal identities of their huge papier-mache masks are not shared. Apparently, the dancers spend up to a month in the jungle beforehand, cleansing themselves and ingesting/smoking fun substances in preparation.

And then they dance around, through, and directly on top of the fire. We saw a couple guys spend as long as 15 seconds in the center of the flames. Their feet were tightly and thickly wrapped with what looked like green palm fronds that would be resistant to heat and combustion...can't say the same for their bare thighs.

Other elements of the dance included carrying "naughty" children -- screaming -- around the fire, and running through the flames and kicking showers of embers into the crowd.