Part 144- Zodiac signs and Horoscopes

 This topic is pretty vague. Vague, complicated, and vast, in my opinion. While the zodiac was first divided into 12 equal signs by 1500 BC, it has started becoming popular in today’s world. “What’s your sign,” becomes a common conversation starter, but what does it mean? What does it mean if I say, “Oh, I’m an Aries.” Sure, it might give you an idea of my personality, but what else? In my opinion, nothing. But, let’s first start with the basics.

What is a zodiac?

A zodiac is a belt of the heavens within 8 degrees of the ecliptic, a great circle on the celestial sphere representing the sun’s apparent path during the year, including all apparent positions of he sun, moon, and most familiar planets. The zodiac is divided into 12 divisions, or signs, which are derived from the constellations that mark out the ecliptic. 
The ecliptic
Source{ Earth Sky}
However, these signs no longer correspond to the constellations in which the Sun actually appears. What ancient astrologers didn’t know when they first started laying out the zodiac, is that Earth wobbles a bit on its axis. This movement is called precession. Over the past two-and-a-half-millennia, our position relative to these constellations has drifted off about 30 degrees. Or, a whole month.  This means that the ecliptic now passes through a 13th constellation: Ophiuchus, which is not considered a part of the zodiac. So, if  horoscopes were connected to present day constellations, I’d be a Pisces, and not an Aries. ( space.com – Further explains)

Why is Ophiuchus left out? 

According to Astrologer Jaime Wright, Ophiuchus is left out because it is usually obscured from view at most times in parts of the world. Also, Astrologers actually knew about Ophiuchus, but never included it in the original foundation, simply because it throws a wench in the interpretive system. It makes things more complicated than they need to be, as opposed to when there are just 12 signs. Just because it appears in the sun’s path, doesn’t make it a sign. 
Not only that, 12 was originally chosen to fit the movement of the sun neatly within the lunar calendar. There are 12 semi notes in an octave, 12 days of Christmas, and there are 12 full moons in a year. The basic units of time ( 60 minutes, 60 seconds, 24 hours) are all divisible by 12. “There isn’t a 13th sign because we already have all the signs we need.” 
Ophiuchus
Source{ The Irish Sun}

What is Astrology?

Astrology is a type of divination that is based of scientific calculations of constellations and planetary movements. It’s based on studying theses planets and noticing the patterns that occur over hundreds of years. Devotees believe that an understanding of the planets and stars on “earthly affairs” allows them to both predict and affect destinies of  individuals, groups, and nations. The Stars and planets don’t necessarily influence things but they are markers of time and allow us to understand what cycle we are in when a person is born. This relates to the original purpose of astrology: Informing an individual of the course of their life based on the position of the stars and their zodiac sign. Sounds familiar? Well, we’re more common with the term, horoscopes. 

What does a horoscope do?

A horoscope is a forecast of a person’s future, typically including a delineation of character and circumstances, based on the relative positions of the stars and planets at the time of that person’s birth. Or more simply, a short forecast for people born under a particular sign.

Source{daily horoscope}

My opinion:

Like I said before, I don’t believe in zodiacs having any meaning. Ancient astronomers didn’t realize that the Earth wobbles- called precession- which has changed the location of the constellations as we saw them 2000 years ago. I’m supposed to be courageous and energetic, but I’m compassionate and artistic at the same time. Not only that, the signs don’t define everyone’s personality. My friend is a Capricorn, without the 13th sign, and some of the things listed aren’t even true. She is the sweetest most gentle introvert I have known, and has a very artistic personality. I’ve never seen her to be a pessimist or be waiting for the bad to happen. However as a Sagittarius, with the 13th sign, it says she’s an extrovert and very optimistic person. So you can see she’s a mix of both. Plus, Sagittarius have the greatest compatibility with Aries and Gemini. Coincidentally, the rest of our friend group of four are both Gemini. 
My point here is that the zodiacs cannot accurately describe our personality with or without the 13th sign, or in general at all. We’re mostly a mix of two- once again, the ones with and without the 13th sign- and just one sign cannot describe us. It’s most likely by chance that we can posses traits by any other sign besides the one we are born under. 
In addition to that, whenever you read something about your zodiac, there’s often very little or if not nothing bad written about your sign. At the most, there’s only a small about written about your weaknesses compared to about what you excel or are amazing at. The signs are really only for you to feel good about yourself.
Horoscopes are similar. To me, they feel like something you can feel better about yourself by. It’s kind of similar to the Placebo Effect. The Placebo Effect is when an improvement of symptoms is observed, despite using a non active treatment. For example, if you give pills to 10 sick patients containing only water, but tell them it’s a powerful new drug that will cure them, and have 10 sick patients not take the pills, over time the patients taking the pills will show better health. It’s a matter of psychology. 
When people read their horoscopes and the advice given, they feel better knowing about what could happen instead of it taking them by surprise. But, it’s the belief that makes them feel better, not the astrology. 
I don’t want to say Astrology is fake when it has been a very useful tool in ancient lifestyles. People would hunt and migrate with the stars, and it helped civilizations survive. But, I have to say, it lacks “ a mechanism by which it could work.” How is the position of the stars when you were born supposed to affect your personality and fate? Wouldn’t there be a possibility everything turns out differently? It seems surreal that my fate of having a terrible school year or even the world going through a pandemic was already decided. Everything just happened by chance. It just happened by chance that a pandemic began, or that I crashed my bike on the way to take my exams at school, or that my entire year was easy-going and relaxed. Everything is a possibility that could happen, and it just so happened that way by chance.
In relation to horoscopes, I believe that instead of trying to know what will happen, we should just live our life with the unexpected. Even if something bad happens, it’ll remain a lesson and build a better us. For example, my bike. I know why I crashed my bike, and the unexpected helped me become better at biking because I know how I can avoid it in the future. Life cannot be controlled. You will always have the up’s and down’s in life, and you cannot control that. No matter how hard you try, it could work, but they will still be there. I would much rather go through the unexpected by surprise than be on constant alert based on what my horoscope said about the day. 
In modern times I feel like astrology has been ruined. The zodiacs are recent creations made to appeal mass audiences, and the fact that it’s taken some popularity makes it worse. 

As I scroll through Instagram, I often find reels on the zodiac signs such as, “Which zodiac is most likely to”, “These signs are psychos”, “Fear these sign groups”, “ As this sign you are hardest to…”, “ Only one sign can go from laughing to a blank face…”, and so on.  It really frustrates me so much seeing how people just assume what most signs are like without any real backing. Some people might actually be interested in zodiacs and astrology, but the way it’s being presented just doesn’t show it. They don’t even know me but here they are posting content about zodiacs and saying the creepiest fact of an Aries is that I’m a stalker. Not only that, often people only post about the most common signs. Sagittarius, Virgo, Leo, Libra, Gemini, etc. Often Pisces or Scorpio or even Aries are left out. I really don’t know what to say to this sometimes. Signs have become such a big deal in the current generation that almost everything posted on them is fake. 

Here are some examples:

Part 143- Billionaire Space Race

Man has always been curious. Starting from fire and to the world beyond our own, we have always wanted to explore further. But who is the start of these? Ambitious, daring people who want to step beyond the boundary lines. Those who didn’t want to sit around waiting for something to happen, and wanted to do something on their own. The same thing happens here, except now with billionaires and space.

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson
{Source: cnn.com}

What is the point of the space race?

We all presume that these billionaires are going to space to make some money. They have their eyes on the moon or even on space itself so they can start Space Tourism. But, what does it do? Sure, they’ll earn more money and become richer, but other than that what does it mean? It means that they’ll have a title. A mark. Or, a legacy. They want to be written in History Books, so, even years after they die, their names live on. But, they want their names to be known as the first private-funded non-astronaut to go to space.

 
If you’ve seen the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 Spaceflight, you saw that Richard Branson was riding a bike before giving the astronauts a hug. They all look happy and it seems like a welcome, but really, it’s like saying, you’ve trained your whole life for going to space but I have so much money that I can go anytime I want. We all know Neil Armstrong’s immortal line, “ That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Here, this line is more like, “ That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for myself.” This whole Billionaire Space Race will only benefit themselves when they could focus on greater problems instead.

But, think about the billionaires’ perspective. They’ve worked hard their whole lives to reach where they are now, and if they die without making some mark, wouldn’t it be like a waste? ( Well, not exactly a waste.) But, wouldn’t it be your ambition to leave something of yourself behind if you’ve achieved something? As a way of proudly saying, I did it. Something for history to remember you by. But, we’re always attracted to the shiny things and never the dull ones. That’s why the billionaires are setting their sights on space to make their mark.

Is it necessary?

No. Period. Going to space, especially right now, is not at all necessary. We’ve already been to the moon and have been in space. It’s not necessary to do it again. What is necessary, is to focus on our current problems. The pandemic, for one, and even the ones we originally started with. ( Not to mention the intense heatwaves we’ve been experiencing lately. The recent space projects are just adding more heat to it.) Poverty, hunger, lack of education, etc. Instead of spending so much money on things we’ve done, spend it on what isn’t. Again, one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. If these billionaires want their names to be in history books or to have a legacy, why not have one about solving a hunger crisis, or building roads in Africa, or even creating electricity that millions of poor families can use, and is free. Sure, these might be small steps, but at least they’ll have a greater impact on the world, and not just themselves. At least it’ll be a great leap for mankind. 

What should billionaires do instead with the money?

Everyone’s first answer to this would be, donating it. However, I say not. First, donating just money isn’t going to change anything. If you give money to feed a man, he’ll only be fed once. Then you’ll have to donate again and again. They’ll become more dependent on those giving money when they should become independent. It sounds heartless, but it’s reality. The only way they’ll get out of poverty, is if they can start doing it themselves. 
True story. A few days ago I and my friends went to a roller rink. There were 4 of us in total, and only two- including me- knew how to skate. The other two were new at skating, so we had to teach them. We gave them instructions and demonstrated, but they weren’t learning anything. They were mostly dependent on us to hold their hands so they wouldn’t fall and to move them. But, once we let them go and went skating ourselves, the two of them got the hang of it themselves. They became self-reliant to learn how to skate and figure out what works best for them. If they had kept depending on us to help them, they wouldn’t have learned how to skate at all. Same thing here.
Instead of just donating money for others to feed those who are starving, we should instead teach them how to feed themselves. If you feed a man a fish, he’ll be full once. But, if you teach him how to fish, he’ll never go hungry again. Moreover, we should start using successful strategies other countries used to decrease poverty rates. For example, how America is fighting poverty. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964 in the United States, and now, a larger share of poor Americans are in their prime working years, and fewer are elderly. 
President Lyndon B. Johnson
{Source: britannica.com}
In 1960, the poverty rate in the US was 22.1%, and in 2013 it became 14.5%. Through the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to name a few, America started to win its war. Why not establish some of these ideas for countries like India or Africa? It could make an impact like it did with America. 
But also, just money cannot solve these problems. We need proper action, and that takes time. Just giving money to organizations or foundations to solve things won’t work. Billionaires should try to come up with unique solutions and create something with all the resources and money they have which can solve these problems faster, and bring us forward. Like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We need proper action, and not just money. 

Donate time, energy, and resources to get things done. Try to take matters into your own hands and work hard again for mankind to make a leap. You’ve worked your butts off when you were kids to get this far, so shouldn’t you keep doing that? Just because you now have money doesn’t mean you should stop working hard. It’s as if you’re giving up. Maybe I don’t know how hard you’ve worked, but I do know that you shouldn’t stop working hard, even if you’ve succeeded in one thing.

There’s one more idea as well. Even though space travel should not be the top priority on our lists right now, billionaires and NASA could team-up. NASA has the resources and budget for missions, but very few people. Billionaires have the people. Together, they could save money and resources on both ends, and get more missions done. NASA’s missions are really slow, and if the two team up, not only could NASA speed up their missions, but the billionaires could also get their goals accomplished and have their people or even themselves in space. Plus, with the extra money that NASA previously had in their budget, now replaced with mostly billionaire’s money, the government could solve more problems in the US regarding hunger, poverty, and even global warming. 

Then why is India going to Mars?

There have been many, many arguments about this topic, and I want to say, those who start it don’t understand. 
India has a population of 1.36 billion people, and about 60% of people live on $3.10 a day. Despite this, India continues to plan Mars missions. Families barely have money to send their kids to school, or even feed them a proper meal, or even one at all. Some marry their daughters before they’re of legal age because they don’t want her to suffer and want her to have a happier life. They work several odd jobs, and the money they make from that is barely enough to keep themselves afloat, and yet they try every day. I can’t put myself in their shoes. No matter how much I write about their problems and struggles, I’m never going to understand. I’ll never know what it is like to go hungry for days, and not be able to sleep. I’ll never know what it’s like to have to drop out of school after a few years just so I could get a job and start earning money to help my family live. I’ll never know how it’ll feel if my parents or family members were sick or hungry, and not be able to properly help them. I’ll never be able to feel the pain and the actual struggles they go through unless I’ve gone through it as well. People who do, get angry at their government because they aren’t helping their families, simply because their kids are hungry, they’re sick, and they’re tired. And I would too. But, because of that, they won’t understand why. 
The Indian government is trying to create an opportunity for their people. America is known for being a land of opportunities, and so many people from all around the world travel there just for that. Indians dominate engineering and medical fields, and make up so many other jobs. Why? Because there is opportunity here. India started space exploration to create an opportunity for their people. To stop the bleed that has been ongoing for years and years. Their talents are all being used in another country, so ISRO is made for them to stay. Why go all the way to work at NASA when you can work at ISRO, here? 
If India didn’t focus on space exploration and worked more on decreasing poverty levels, what would happen? There would be a bigger bleed. More families and kids would thrive, and they would look for jobs and opportunities. However, since there aren’t enough opportunities available, they go to America. I’m not saying India shouldn’t focus on poverty, but that they should also focus on creating more opportunities, such as ISRO, so more Indians can stay and build the country. 
ISRO Chandrayaan 2
{Source: Twitter}
But, opportunity is not the only reason ISRO exists. Going to Mars is crucial for India to make a name for itself. Before, India would be known for it’s bursting population and how most of it is in poverty. Or worse, simply looked down upon or not included in the landscape. But, as soon as word came out they were going to space, everyone was intrigued. Sure, people were doubtful, and even mocking them for trying, but India stood firm to say they were here. They were trying to make themselves heard and were trying to say, look at us, a country with a huge population, few resources, and most of which is in poverty, and yet we could go to the moon or even travel to Mars. They made themselves heard, and made themselves a part of the landscape. 
India Space Mission Cartoon
{Source: scoopwhoop.com}

In conclusion….

The Billionaire Space Race is unnecessary, and in reality, a waste of money. While there are so many pending problems in the world such as roads that need to be built in Africa, poverty in India, and hunger all around the world, these billionaires are trying to be the first ones in space or establish a legacy in a shiny area. Who cares? You can go to space any time you want. In fact, it should be our last priority. We’re just making it out of a pandemic and have another variant coming around. People aren’t able to get vaccinated in certain areas or even fed! Families have to give up what little food they have for their kids so they can try to keep their families afloat. Africa needs roads to go to markets, school, jobs, doctors, and even for trade and specialization of tasks that us fundamental for economic growth.  Instead of setting your eyes on a shiny toy, why not fix the broken ones that we have. Like Neil Armstrong said, a giant leap for mankind. Do it so we, as a world and species, can go forward. Not just you. 

Part 142- Summer Trip ( Extra Version)

 Okay, so this is like, my 3rd version of this post. I have three versions of this post because I don’t want to lose any progress on them. I may want to edit and change some of the two previous posts- most likely not- but if I do, it’s good to be prepared. My first version was mainly a summary of our itinerary. I didn’t really include any opinions or any thoughts I had besides, “Old Faithful was a disappointment,” or “The  Porcelain Basin was okay.” My second one is similar to this one, but with information about differences between a National and State Park. And hopefully, this third one will be somewhat-not really- a mix of both. So, let’s see how it goes.

We took a 7-day vacation to the western side of America- Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana- and visited 3ish specific locations. Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Tetons, and the Salt Flats/Arches National Park. I want to share my most favorite moments during the break, and give some of my opinions.

Top Moments:

Hiking in Grand Tetons

We spent our entire day- 3rd day- in Jackson Hole and, it was just magnificent there. We followed the Earth Trekkers schedule to plan our day, and it went really well. Starting from driving early morning to Schwabacher’s Landing, to Oxbow Bend, to Signal Mountain, to hiking up to Hidden Falls. My favorite two places were Oxbow Bend and Hidden Falls. 
Even though you had to hike about 0.5 miles up to Hidden Falls up a mountain, it was worth it. (I was slightly out of breath when I reached due to my quarantine adventures.) I think the only thing that would have made the experience better if there were fewer people. That way you can hear the sounds of nature more clearly, and watch the rapid falls while only hearing that.  

Hidden Falls

My mom took a picture of me taking a picture of my dad
Oxbow Bend was also my favorite because of the view. It’s nothing fancy, but the location and view of the mountains are just indescribable. ( Also because of how peaceful it was. Despite there being a few other groups of tourists, it was pretty quiet.) The water from Snake River is so clear you can see the reflections of the mountains and landscape in it. It was just stunning. 
Absolutely beautiful… 
My solo picture at Oxbow Bend

Family Picture at Oxbow Bend

 Natural Bridge

Along the way to Jackson Hole, we stopped by a campsite to rest. Near the campsite was this hike to a bridge that was naturally formed. The trail to the bridge was so long, that whenever someone who was coming back showed up, we would promptly ask them whether there is one or not. There is one, and it is just wow. It was also higher up so, we had to do some more hiking, except up a mountain. Totally worth the exhaustion though. I and my dad crossed the bridge and got a view of the scene below us. I was, honestly, a bit nervous when crossing, but, upon hearing my dad’s shrill voice scream, “WE MADE IT!” I felt better. 
Natural Bridge from below

Me and my dad on Natural Bridge

Salt Flats

The main reason I really enjoyed the Salt Flats was because of the Salt Flats themselves. Usually when we think of something formed naturally we think of weathering and erosion and images of canyons or mountains come to mind. Even though the salt flats aren’t “naturally formed” they are an act of the weather cycle. The evaporated water from the ancient lake Lake Bonneville left behind the salt that is called, Salt Flats. What’s intriguing, is how so much salt is piled up and is left behind to create this flat, solid, white structure. It’s really unbelievable. What’s also fascinating is how solid the salt is. I personally was surprised at how easy it was to walk normally on the salt. It felt really weird- like a more solid version of sand. 
Voila
Buddies~

Arches National Park

I’ve always seen pictures in class or online or even on one of my collected quarters of the Arches. I’ve never thought much of them or really have been THAT fascinated about them. But, after I saw them in real life for the first time, I was impressed. There were about 10, I think, arches and rock formations that we saw that day out of 2,000 arches in total. ( The 10 that were on the tour guides and were able to be visited.) The most common Arch is the Delicate Arch. That is the common Arch you see in pictures and stuff. And, yeah we saw it…from the overlook because there’s no way on Earth we would hike that much up a steep hill when the sun is high and it’s burning outside. Plus, I was already exhausted and drained from the 1.6-mile round hike to Landscape Arch. 
One very interesting thing, for me, about the Arches was “Fallen Arches”. I was reading online and in the newspaper, they give you about fallen arches and I was really fascinated. When you look at these Arches your mind wonders about the formation of these Arches and how they came to this form over millions and millions of years. You almost think that they’re invincible and they won’t break- especially for Balanced Rock or even Landscape Arch- but they can break. Landscape Arch had a trail that went up to the Arch in the past, but after a slab on the right side of the Arch fell off while hikers were resting there, it was closed off. ( The Arch has been stable after that, but there is a dilemma about whether it is stable to let hikers hike up there again, or whether it is stable because people aren’t near it.)  Another Arch that is believed to have previously been 2 arches- connected- had fallen. There is also Wall Arch, which is more common. It just proves, things created over a long period of time can be destroyed in less. The power of nature truly is incredible. ( Now, I can’t help but wonder when Balanced Rock will fall…)
Can you see Delicate Arch in the distance? 
( I can only see my extremely tired self)
Family Portrait in front of Pine Tree Arch
Balanced Rock…from a distance

Great Fountain Geyser

So, this geyser actually erupts every 12-15 hours and we just so happened to be lucky to find out about the geyser that day, and be there to see it. And, it was worth it. The most common geyser and well-known one is Old Faithful, and that mainly is because it is the only geyser that erupts on a predictable pattern. The geyser erupts about 20 times a day and because of that, more people can visit and experience a geyser. However, in my opinion, Old Faithful isn’t that great. Compared to the Great Fountain Geyser, Old Faithful looked kinda weak. Old Faithful does/can erupt higher than Great Fountain Geyser, but eruptions usually last about 1.5-3 minutes long. Great Fountain Geyser erupted for about 10 minutes. Plus, Great Fountain Geyser has more of a before-show performance where the pools start to overflow before it bursts. 
After some research, I have come to find out that Old Faithful is kind of not as faithful as it used to be. Really depends on what you mean by faithful. Before the 1959 earthquake, Old Faithful used to erupt 21 times a day. Now it erupts 20 times. Not that huge of a difference, but, it is a significant decrease. 

Miscellaneous Photos:

Me and dad in front of a hot spring in 
Yellowstone

Just enjoying the view~

Another hot spring

Picture of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

A non-edited picture of the scenery
( It looked so majestic *sobs*)

Full view of the Teton range
( And us)

A mammoth (right) and an elephant (left)

Hiked up to Landscape Arch very tired,
 hiked down from Landscape Arch very tired

Part 142- Why isn’t there a State Monument?

I started this post by listing out everything I did during my break. I got to my 5th day before I changed my mind. Why should I write out a bunch of events that happened, when all I’m doing is describing something? What is really happening there? I’m not really explaining anything I felt other than how beautiful the landscape was. So, I scrapped that post and rewrote a new one. Here it is.

To start off, I want to explain the difference between a few things. Such as a State Park and National Park. National Park and National Monument. Etc.

National Park:

  • A national park is a scenic, or historically important, area that is protected by the  federal government for the enjoyment of the general public

National Monument:

  • A historical site or geographical area set aside by the national government and maintained for public use

National Forest:

  • A large expanse of forest that is owned, maintained, and preserved by the federal government

State Park:

  • An area of land that is protected by a U.S. state because of its natural beauty or importance in the history

State Monument:

  • There is no such thing called a state monument.

State Forest:

  • A forest that is administrated or protected by some agency of a sovereign state or federated state, or territory ( In the United States, it is a forest owned by one of the individual states)

The main difference between these two categories is by what type of government maintains it. A National Park, Forest, and Monument are maintained by the federal government while State Parks and Forests are maintained by a state government.

Comparing Further:

National and State Parks:

Like I said before, the main difference between a State and National Park is by the government that maintains it. This results in how a state park is regulated and kept, depending on where it is located. Also,  National Parks officially belong to the American People while state residents have less control over how their parks are managed. Lastly, many state parks are free, and there are over 10,000 across the nation. 

Considering that National Parks are maintained by a federal government, the parks must be extremely strict. When we visited Yellowstone, there wasn’t a single piece of trash anywhere. People were very diligent in throwing away their litter and making sure the park’s nature is undisturbed. I’m only making an assumption, but perhaps the state parks aren’t as strict. I haven’t been to a state park so I can’t confidently say whether it is as strict or not. But, I am assuming, since it is maintained by a state and state residents have less control, it may not be as litter-free or even strict as National Parks. 

Garner State Park in Texas
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

National Parks and Monuments:

While both are maintained by the NPS and other federal agencies, the primary difference between a National Park and Monument is who creates them. Although both do emphasize historical and scientific importance, they both also protect the natural world.

Congress decides national park status while a national monument is a presidential proclamation. While National monuments focus on a single attraction and are smaller, national parks offer various points of interest.

An example of a National Monument is Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty. These are small and are mainly one thing while a National Park, such as Arches National Park, focuses on multiple points such as the variety of unique arches. 

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

Arches National Park in Utah

National Parks and National Forests:


National forests often surround or neighbor National Parks. National Parks are made to preserve the landscape while National Forests, taking a conservationist approach, allow commercial activities such as mining and logging. There are also fewer recreation restrictions, meaning, for tourists, more relaxed rules at the national forests which may permit hunting and bringing dogs on the trail. 

I think National Forests are just recognized as forests and are federally managed to make sure there aren’t any problems when mining or logging. It’s like a kind of protection and to make sure the tourists and “resource-gatherers” don’t get injured and are heavily affected.

 State Parks, Forests, and natural areas:

State parks are managed in a way to conserve the forest, preserving the unique flora and fauna and habitats, and also ensuring the continued supply of resources such as timber. They are usually divided into three categories based on primary function: production, protection, and conservation forests. 

State parks and natural areas are a different story. State parks are areas of natural or scenic character developed to provide “recreational opportunities.” State natural areas, on the other hand, preserve areas with excellent natural attributes. The primary focus for natural areas is on protecting those resources.

State Monuments:

Even though there is no such thing called a State Monument, I wanted to make a separate section for it. First, I’m curious about why there isn’t such thing called a State Monument. There are State Parks and State Forests but no State Monuments. Is it because, unlike parks and forests, monuments aren’t really natural landscapes, and having two categories for them would be unnecessary? Most likely yes. If so, I would really like to know what a State Monument, if possible, could be. 

Part 142- Summer Trip

The clouds look like they’ve been brushed down to wisps from the sky as they circle the mountains beneath them. The weather echoes a gloomy sky, yet the sun still shines from its cracks, hitting the rocky formations gently. Seeing such a sight makes you awe nature, and want to soak in its beauty. 

I was able to experience this sight and so many more during the past 7 days on my summer trip. From Utah to Idaho, to Wyoming and Montana, and back to Utah before returning home in Texas. 7 days away from home, 6 on the road, and a few hours in the air. Here’s how it went.

Our trip consisted of staying 2 days at each place. 2 days to spend in Yellowstone, 2 days in the Grand Tetons, and 2 days in Salt Lake City. Originally, we were supposed to fly to Jackson Hole and visit the Grand Tetons first, but since our flight got canceled, we ended up flying to Salt Lake and driving to Idaho first. And to be honest, I’m glad. 

Day 1:

Waking up early in the morning, we drove to Yellowstone National Park. Along the way, we saw multiple hot springs and we were blown. Even though this was the beginning of the sight we were to see, I couldn’t help but be amazed at it. I had always seen pictures of hot springs and geysers in pictures, but I couldn’t imagine the contrast between the heat radiating from the springs and the chilly temperatures early in the morning. You can always admire a picture, but seeing something in person is another level. That’s why we were so blown just by seeing them. 

Me and my dad in front of a hot spring
A hot spring

After that, we visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and saw the Upper and Lower falls from several viewpoints. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, a couple of times, and it’s always wonderful to see the landscape.  Even though it was the same in Yellowstone, the added touch was the waterfall that leads into a river and slowly created the steep canyons. Plus, there were hundreds and hundreds of trees and plants lined along with the formations, and that made it more beautiful. The Grand Canyon in Arizona has some if not very little vegetation and wildlife growing around it which makes it look really barren and dry. However, the one in Yellowstone has a lot of wildlife and nature growing along with it and adapting over the years, making it much more interesting. ( Sorry, Arizona.)  

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Lesson:
Yellowstone is actually named after the Yellowstone River, the major river, running through it. The Minnetaree Indians called the river Mi tse a-da-zi which translates to Yellow Rock River. This is most likely due to the yellowish formations of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These formations are from the rocks rusting. The colors represent the absence or presence of water in the individual iron compounds. Most of the yellows are the result of iron present in the rock rather than sulfur, which people commonly mistake. 

After that our journey begins. After going to the farthest point in our plans, we slowly made our way back, stopping at the other various locations we were to visit. This includes Hayden Valley, Norris Geyser Basin, and Mammoth Spring. Throughout Hayden Valley, all you can see are the mountains in the distance, trees, sometimes elk or bison, and rivers. It is absolutely beautiful. Despite that there were so many tourists and people around, the landscape is immaculate. It was all-natural and completely undisturbed. You could go up to a herd of bison while keeping a safe distance and enjoy watching how calm they and the scenery look. In fact, when we went to see the bison, there were so many of them you could see them from one end to another. 

The bison are a little hard to see, but they’re there

A close-up photo

Norris Geyser Basin, on the other hand, was….well, a disappointment. Even though you don’t see mud pots, geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles every day and it was exciting to see them, they weren’t as great as they sounded, or even looked. Pictures often deceive us, and in this case, they deceived us well. There were a few hot springs and mud pots that were impressive, but overall, none of them really wowed us. None of them were incredible. There weren’t as many vivid colors and sights as described in the newspaper or descriptions, and in reality, it looked a bit dull. The disappointment hit harder when we walked for almost half a mile and not be impressed. 

But, the most impressive geyser was the Steamboat geyser. This geyser was located in the Back Basin at Norris Geyser Basin. Even though the geyser would erupt from 4 days-50 years, we couldn’t help but wait for some time and hope we get lucky to see this geyser erupt. I don’t have a proper explanation as to why I think this geyser was the best, but I can say it is more promising than Porcelain Basin. 

We ended up not going to Mammoth Spring and ended our day there. 

Well, not exactly. When we were going home, we stopped near a river and spent some time sitting near it and dipping our feet in the water. Resting your feet in cool, flowing water while it’s at least 90 degrees outside is the most relaxing thing ever. You’ve just got to deal with the sudden coldness of it at first, and then it feels amazing. The experience was great, except when I was trying to get up from the rocks and my foot got scraped against a jagged one. So, yeah. I know that next time when walking on rocks, not be impulsive.

We also ended up taking the longer route by accident when going back home. So, we could have been home in an hour but it took us 3 hours to get home. Which, I really don’t mind because we got to go through two cities we weren’t supposed to go to and had dinner in one. Happy accidents. 

Day 2:

Our second day in Yellowstone was also our last in Yellowstone. We packed up our stuff from our cabin that morning and drove to the park again. Our plans were to visit Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and some other geysers along the way. In the morning we saw a lone bison cross the road and took some pictures before driving to Old Faithful. We made it just in time for Old Faithful. A few minutes after we arrived, it erupted. It was amazing. It does live up to its name and was faithful in showing us its power, erupting for about 3 minutes. Despite that it was quite a performance, Old Faithful really isn’t that great. I think it’s popular because it’s the only geyser that has a predictable pattern. Which is fair, but I think it is a bit overrated. 

We then went to Grand Prismatic, and it was absolutely stunning. We didn’t hike up to the overlook, but we saw it from the boardwalk and it was incredible. I never knew that a place like Grand Prismatic existed. It didn’t give off the regular, white color but it gave blue and red. It was really beautiful and would have been even more beautiful from the overlook. 

In front of Grand Prismatic
( We only captured blue here)

For me, the main attraction of that day was the Great Fountain Geyser. In my opinion, it’s the best geyser. Even better than Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupted for about 3 minutes while this geyser erupted for a whole 10 minutes. Even more water and steam and height than Old Faithful. My mom and I were sitting at the benches near the geyser, and we had to move back to avoid being splashed on. We thought the water would be hot but the water was cool and the steam really masked the water. It made up for the sulfur smell though. Oh yes, to be surrounded by heavy steam and the stench of rotting eggs while only getting to see a glimpse of the geyser. Mmmmm, how nice. 

Lesson: Eggs are very high in two proteins- globulin and keratin- and when globulin starts to decay it gives off a toxic chemical that is called hydrogen sulfide. This has a very potent sulfur smell, hence we think of rotting eggs when we smell it.  

Later that day we stopped at a nearby campsite to stretch our legs and do a bit of hiking. Near the site was a natural bridge so we hiked up. It was a very long and tiring route, so we couldn’t help but ask every hiker on their way back whether there was a bridge or not. There actually was, and it was really high up. More hiking. Except up a mountain. Great… A little more than halfway up I was panting hard and on the verge to give up. No wait, I did give up. I even told my dad to go back down. Luckily he was stubborn and made me go up, which I am thankful for. If he hadn’t pushed me to go further, I wouldn’t have been able to get such an amazing view, and also wouldn’t have been proud of myself. After that, we hiked back and drove to Jackson Hole.

View from below

We made it

What I loved most about Yellowstone was the quietness. Being cut off from the social world. I thought I didn’t use my phone that much but after being in an area with no signal for hours I realized how dependant I was on my phone. Being in that area makes you look outside since you have no option, and I loved it. I know, that if I had a signal there, I would probably spend my time on my phone in the car instead of seeing the wildlife and rivers on EVERY SIDE. 

Extra: Okay so I did a little mistake that day. See, we were driving around Firehole Lake and we would stop and take pictures of hot springs and such. After we got in the car after taking pictures of one, there was another. My parents, not wanting to get out of the car, told me to go see if that hot spring was interesting or not. So I got out of the car and I didn’t realize where I was walking until all of a sudden I hear,

“HEY!” I look up and see my parents looking at me seriously and that’s when I noticed. I was walking on the actual ground and not the boardwalk. The ground. I almost could have burned myself by stepping into the hot, boiling water around the spring or even from the ground. The ground is extremely hot, and I could have possibly faced intense, life-long scars if my parents hadn’t called me. It was pretty scary once I realized what I almost did. I’m glad I was caught just in time before anything bad happened. So, here’s a lesson. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. No matter where you are. 

Day 3:

On the third day, we followed the Earth Trekkers route through the Tetons and drove to Schwabacher’s landing to start. We were able to take photos close to Snake Siver, but could not at the Overlook. Due to the growth of trees near the area, the view was blocked, so we took a picture of how it’s supposed to look like on the reading panel thing, and saved that. ( My dad is such a genius. lol) After that, we went to Oxbow Bend. Oxbow Bend is one of my favorite spots that day simply because of the view. You get such a gorgeous view of the river, wildlife, and the Teton range in the background that it’s irresistible to take a picture. Some of my favorite pictures of us were taken there.  After that, we went up to Signal Mountain.

Close-up of the Tetons at Oxbow Bend

Family Picture at Oxbow Bend

The view from Signal Mountain was pretty okay, but I think I was most focused on the signal from Signal Mountain. As soon as I got reception there, even the tiniest amount, I went into rush mode and immediately started downloading everything I wanted to watch. I did pretty much waste my time in downloading those Netflix episodes when I barely watched anything during the trip. ( I mostly read.) But also, I was more focused on my phone. This is what I meant. In Yellowstone, if this happened, I am sure I would have also been on my phone and trying to download something. It’s funny how strong your addiction or how attached you can be to your phone without realizing it. Now, as I look back, I struggled with being off the grid when I had a signal. It’s easy to ignore the priceless view in front of you for something fake. 

After that, we had lunch outside with the Teton Range in front of us. After that, we took a boat cruise across Jenny Lake up to the mountains where we hiked up to Hidden Falls. I was particularly excited about Hidden Falls after seeing the pictures online. It really was hidden in the mountains and was just beautiful to watch. The only sounds there was the sound of the water crashing onto the rocks, the gentle breeze, and a few murmurs from the tourists that were also there.  We stayed there for some time before hiking back down to the dock and putting our feet in the lake while observing the landscape. 

The feet in lake experience was similar to feet in river experience, but the view. Just, the view. The view was the biggest difference between the two and I love it. Especially after hiking down a mountain in close-to-but-not-exactly-scorching-scorching heat, it is the most calming thing ever. I didn’t even want to leave. I wanted to stand on the rocks with my legs on the cool water while watching the mountains look so majestic and calm in the distance. It was the only thing I wanted to do at that moment. I didn’t care if we had to leave to get home early or whether I had a reception for some time in that area. Just wanted to stay at that spot forever. ( Sadly I had to.)

Just chilling and enjoying the view


Extra: We took a boat shuttle across Jenny Lake to get to the mountains, and, on the way back, there was a small butterfly that landed on my dad’s watch. How brave was it to land on a human? I was fascinated, to say. Even though the wind was rapidly blowing, from the speed of the boat, the butterfly was calm and didn’t even flinch. It just stayed there for some time. 

 Day 4:

Waking up early in the morning at 4, we drove to Mormon Row to watch the sunrise. When we arrived it was pin-drop silent. No birds, cars, humans, anything. The air was still and it really felt like the world was holding its breath until the sun appeared. It was chilly, and it felt like the sun was taking forever to rise, but the view was worth it. The way the colors were blended with each other against the horizon and darkened the mountains was stunning. I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets in the past but never over the mountains. We later drove to Park City, had lunch, and continued driving to Salt Lake City. We crossed the Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah borders multiple times while we drove, and you could see mountains sloping down from every side. 
Mountains during sunrise

Lesson: Mormons sent parties from the Salt Lake Valley to establish new communities and expand their population. Some Mormons arrived here in the 1890s from Idaho establishing a community called Mormon Row. They established 27 homesteads here, up to which only 4 remain, and grew crops by irrigation. You can still find some of the old ditches the were dug today. ( We did.) 

Day 5: 

Our 5th day was actually a spur-of-the-moment planned trip. We went to Arches National Park after planning on it while we drove to Park City. At first, when we arrived at Arches there was a sign that said the park was full and to come back in 2-3 hours. Did we drive here for nothing? That was our first thought. But, a few minutes later the park was no longer full, and we could come in. Honestly, for a second when we thought the park was closed, I couldn’t help but be thankful. Sometime along the way, when we were driving, I suddenly got really anxious about hiking. I started thinking about the heat and the hiking and the heat and the HIKING and the HEAT, and I low-key panicked. But I got over it when we started our way on Devil’s Garden Trail. But then we started hiking and my worries got to me again. After the three of us hiked an easy trail to Pine Tree Arch, my mom went back to the car and I and my dad hiked the 1.6-mile round trek to Landscape Arch. 1.6 miles in 105-degree heat. Sheesh. 
The way up wasn’t that bad. I mainly took my mind off of the hike by observing the trail and thinking to myself, Okay, you may have to hike uphill right now, but at least when you’re coming back and are exhausted, it’ll feel better going downhill. Yet still, no matter how much you try to take your mind off of it, the heat will still get to you. Along the way, there were small areas of shade under trees or from the shadows and it felt like heaven whenever we stopped in one. Even the smallest amount of shade in such weather is enough for a quick break and feels cool. Immediately after we reached Landscape Arch, instead of photographing it, we sat in the shade, and on a tree. After regaining some breath, we took a few pictures and started our path back. 
Trekking back was even harder. It felt like the sun had just reached its peak and this was the hottest it could get. I was covered in sweat, walking like a crazy drunk person, and on the verge to collapse on the ground. We stopped at almost every small bit of shade there was, and tried to cool ourselves down by pouring water in our hats and putting them over our heads. There even was a time where I was so worn out and exhausted I said to my dad, “I’m dying.” Huge exaggeration, but I was out here hiking 0.8 miles in the scorching heat in a desert area. 
Solo shoot in front of the ever-so distant
Delicate Arch
( Too tired to hike up there so we took it from the overlook)

Family picture in front of Pine Tree Arch

Me and dad in front of Landscape Arch
( How tired do I look?)
One thing I want to highlight from that day was the roads. The roads were so long you could see them from miles away. They were straight and curved and sloping and everywhere. You could get such a perfect view of the road ahead with the horizon and landscape in one picture. It was just amazing.
Day 6:

Day 6, our very last day of vacation. On our 6th day, we drove out to see the Salt Flats. The Salt Flats were more of a curious wonder for me. Whe I first walked on the Salt Flats I was really surprised at how solid it was. Usually, when we feel salt it easily falls apart in our hands and is grainy, but here, it was sturdy and easy to walk on. It felt like sand, except it was more solid. Plus, it was completely white. It was just this huge area of pure- not exactly pure- white salt that was leftover from the ancient lake Lake Bonneville. It was incredible. But, what is also amazing, is that the salt is edible. I was doing some research and it turns out, the same salt that is a wonder and is solid to walk on, was once mined and was eaten. ( A bit disgusting, but also fascinating.) 

On a car on Salt Flats

Part 141- Town Council Meeting Claims

Opening Statement 

An incident from a few weeks ago. On May 25th, 2021, during a Town Council meeting from my town, there was a slightly heated discussion between Ms. Nimphius, Chairperson of the Parks and Recreations board, and Ms. Fleury, the Mayor. During the discussion, several claims were made, and I am here to check if these claims were true.

The process to collect Evidence

It took about 2 weeks to collect the allotted evidence for the claims. Through this process, I made a list of the claims made and the required evidence to prove them. Then, I wrote down specific questions and notes according to each claim that needed to be answered. I then started to collect my evidence. This includes going through the given websites on the Town Council page, emailing Mr. Jaramillo, and filing an Open Records Request. Finally, I have all the evidence needed to justify these claims. 

Claims

Claim 1: Interrupting Behavior by Ms. Nimphius
Claim By:  Ms. Fleury, Mayor, Town of Trophy Club
When: Town Council meeting on 5/25/2021
Ref: Meeting Video at 27:58 in the video. 

Evidence needed:

  1. Agenda packets for Town Council Meetings
  2. Past Town Council Meeting Videos

Evidence: 

  • Agenda packets for Town Council Meetings – <Link>
  • Minutes of Town Council meeting when P&R Board or Ms. Nimphius appeared.
  • Past Town Council Meeting Videos <Link>
Parks & Recreation ( P&R) showed up only at following Town Meetings on
  • 04/13/21 – Town Council Meeting 
    • Video <Link>
      • Ms. Nimphius gave an update
      • Videos did not show the full meeting.
    • Minutes of Town Council meeting <Link>
      • P&R Board or Ms. Nimphius appeared.
      • Minutes do not show interruptions 
  • 05/11/21 – Town Council Meeting <Link>
    • Video <Link>
      • Ms. Nimphius gave an update
      • Videos did not show the full meeting.
    • Minutes of Town Council meeting <Link>
      • P&R Board or Ms. Nimphius appeared.
      • Minutes do not show interruptions 
Claim assessment: Cannot be proven

Claim 2 ( Part 1) : Unproductive Meetings 
< Made by Mr. Lamont>
When: 05/25/21 Meeting, At 24:16 into the video
Evidence Needed:
  1. Agenda Plans
  2. Meeting Minutes
  3. Hours for P&R board 
The 03/08/21 minutes did not show Mr. Lamont attended the meeting, and the minutes for the 05/18/21 meeting do not exist. However, the minutes do follow what was written in the agenda. So, the meetings cannot be proven to be unproductive.
Claim 2 (Part 2): Productive Meetings
<Made by Ms. Nimphius>
When: 05/25/21, At 24:24
Evidence Needed:
  1. Agenda Plans
  2. Meeting minutes
  3. Hours for P&R board
Agenda Packets: <For Both>
Found from two links:
  • Missing 2020 and 2021 packets
  • Has 2020 and 2021 packets
Both links do share an agenda of items discussed during meetings. However, some items ( in my opinion) can be discussed over email instead of during the meeting. Ex: Goat yoga, Easter bunny photos, easter eggs, pickleball, etc.
Meeting Minutes: < For Both>
Hours: < For Both> 
  • Not Available/Do not exist
Claim: Cannot be Proven
Claim 3: Meeting twice in a 40 hr week, 4 hours each meeting, is taking away valuable time <Actual Sentence?>
< Made by Mr. Lamont>
When: 05/25/21, At 26:53 into the video
Evidence Needed:
  1. Hours spend by Parks and Recreation staff preparing for meetings
Hours:
  • Data provided only shows time spent booth 
  • Hours recorded by only 2 staff members
Claim: Cannot be Proven

My Opinions and Views:

Claim 1

My Assessment: The claim was not correct, and cannot be made. Despite there being minutes and agenda packets that show Ms. Nimphius showed up, the video does not show that. The videos are incomplete or do not show the full meeting, and do not Ms. Nimphius showed up. Therefore, the claim cannot be proven. 
Other Notations …. Even though I don’t have the evidence to prove the interrupting behavior, in my view, or even just on the behavior in the meeting. When I was watching the video, I observed a few things. For example, Ms. Nimphius’s posture when she was speaking. She wasn’t standing properly when she was speaking. To me, it seemed like she could have been uninterested or even bored at the meeting. I also noticed her tone. When Mr. Lamont was asking her questions, I could hear some annoyance in her voice. She didn’t say anything rude, but I felt that her tone wasn’t very respectful. I also want to compare her testimony and behavior to Mr. Jaramillo’s. 
After Ms. Nimphius left the meeting Mr. Jaramillo was asked to finish updating the Council. He was very respectful and was listening attentively to what Ms. Fleury and Mr. Lamont were saying. Even when Mr. Lamont was saying that the two meetings were unproductive, instead of arguing that they were, he took the feedback respectfully. His posture was also respectful. Both his feet were on the ground, and he was quiet when another was speaking. Also, both Mr. Jaramillo and Ms. Nimphius gave a different update to the council. Ms. Nimphius told the Council what was upcoming on the agenda, but Mr. Jaramillo said there weren’t. I don’t understand how this happened, but perhaps the agenda update Ms. Nimphius happened spur of the moment. Maybe there was something new added to the agenda that came up all of a sudden and Mr. Jaramillo was not informed. 
I couldn’t find any behavior traits Ms. Fleury or Mr. Lamont had in their behavior.  
Claim 2-
My Assessment: The Meeting Minutes do not show that Mr. Lamont attended the March meeting, and there are no records for the May meeting. So, Mr. Lamont’s claim cannot be proven. However, this does not mean Ms. Nimphius’ claim can be proven as well.      
I was reading the agenda packet and as I was reading, I saw a couple things that were not very necessary to talk about during the meeting. I think that they could have been discussed through email and that could have given extra time at the meeting. So, the meetings were only partially unproductive, but I think were productive. But, I also wanted to add in one more thing. Mr. Lamont and Ms. Nimphius mentioned Sports Agreements. Mr. Lamont asked about the agreements, and Ms. Nimphius said that they were still being discussed with the sub- committee. The way she said it sounded like she didn’t know what was happening. I think instead of saying it was being finalized with the sub-committee, she should have let another member speak or give an update, or even said that she would get back to Mr. Lamont on that. 
Claim 3-
I want to say that I think Claim 3 is an overstatement. Yes, there were a few things on the agenda that were unnecessary and wasted some time, but I don’t think that the meetings are taking away valuable time. As I was going through the agenda there were quite a few, very important items that would not take away valuable time. Maybe some hours were taken away, or, maybe even after having those meetings, the action taken was slow or very minimal. Either way, I think that Mr. Lamont made a rash claim to say that the meetings took away valuable time. 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the claims made by Ms. Fleury, Ms. Nimphius, and Mr. Lamont cannot be proven.

Side notes:

I really just want to say one thing. Mr. Lamont, Ms. Fleury, and Ms. Nimphius have all made claims that cannot be proven. These are people I could look up to or admire, but upon seeing their claims, I don’t know how I can. How can I look up to someone who makes a claim that cannot be proven? That’s all.
Finally, I just want to point out how much information I’ve gotten to back these claims up. Barely any. ( I hope this doesn’t come out as rude.) It took me about 2 weeks to finally have everything I need/ that exists and in the midst of it, I got a bit stressed. I sent an email to the Open Records Department again and even the mayor, talking about what I needed and how bad the information was kept. I have to say, I sounded extremely rude in that. I didn’t mean to, I was just stressed because I was not able to acquire the information I needed when I needed it. So, I would like to apologize to the mayor and the Open Records lady, again, for being rude in the email. But, I am still not very pleased that the Town Council has not managed their records properly. Many items do not exist or are not properly kept, and I think that this should be fixed. Those records that should be open to the public, are not complete.