Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Best GIF Ever

Don't like small talk, love rainy days - Melissa Gilbert

The above is all I have as far as attribution goes.  I will say that the gif is the best gif I've ever seen.  For me gifs have an inherent problem, and that is that the repetitiveness of them is annoying, nearly seizure inducing.  But this, this is seamless and almost soothing.
Continue on, little rainy gif.  Continue on.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Moth On Glass

Ectropis crepuscularia, Fombell, PA 2015

As seen on a window at my mother's house.  I was there to take pictures of the house, just as a keepsake sort of thing as my mother has put the house on the market.  Odd, really, to think of 'the farm' not being there, or being there, but not for us.  Originally the barn was built in 1880 (and destroyed by a tornado on May 31, 1985) and the house was built in 1881.  My great-grandparents, German farmers, bought the property in 1919 and it's been in the family ever since.  Now, it's become too much for my widowed mother to keep up.  The last straw may have come this summer when a groundhog took up residence under the side porch and started to compromise the foundation on that side of the house.  Although my mother claims that at one time she was a crack shot, I don't think she could hit the broadside of a barn now.  And, to make matters worse, my oldest brother (who lives next to mom) has become so passive that he refused to shoot it.  My son, luckily, had no qualms about dispatching the digging fiend.  Typically I do promote live trapping an animal and releasing it elsewhere, but we've got a glut of groundhogs and sometimes you just have to get rid of it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What Is Dark Matter? It Doesn't know Either

The thing is, we don't know precisely what constitutes dark matter, which leads us to the SyFy show of the same name.  That particular strain of Dark Matter is something of a Firefly lite, sharing certain aspects of a space boat crew wanted by authorities for various reasons, mostly for killin' and thievin'.  While a few other similarities remain (the female waif with hidden skills), all other comparisons turn to ash and scatter on a solar wind.
One of the things that made Firefly so watchable and enjoyable was the snappy writing and a cast that could deliver their lines with an unforced naturalness, a cornerstone to good acting as it translates to the viewer.  Dark Matter misses out on both snappy writing and anything over barely acceptable acting.  The 'hero', if he is that, Number One (as he is designated because he was the first one to come out of stasis, and since the crew has amnesia and no one knows their names anyway, why not just go with numbers?) is one of the least enjoyable actors I've ever suffered to watch for an entire season.  Nothing he says and emotes seem genuine in the least.  But, worse than him, is Number Three, the Firefly 'Jane' character who is supposed to be the tough guy with a good heart when their back is against the wall, and also comic relief-y.  Number Three is not only not funny - how can you be funny when the script is this lame? - but he telegraphs everything.  Look!  I'm being sensitive!  Caring!  Wretched.
Then, suddenly and without warning, although I can hardly say that I'm surprised, the season 1 finale somehow had the entire crew of the ship ignore all that they'd been through for the past seven or eight episodes, how they'd come to trust each other and work as a team, and instead turn on each other for no apparent reason, suspecting everybody except the one who really double-crossed them (spoiler - It's Number Six!).  I was berating the episode throughout, so much so that my wife asked me to please be quiet.
I will not be returning for season 2 of this travesty.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fungal Rabbit Head In Jar

Seed Fungus, Pittsburgh, 2015

Things, nature, being what they are, is, when I collected some burdock seed burrs, and neglected to dry them before sealing them up in a jar, they sprouted some very funky fungi.  The rabbit-like head of the fungus as it began to dissolve reminded me of  the movie "Donnie Darko", and is every bit as disturbing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

FSA Photographs Available

Youths at City Dump, Ambridge, PA, Arthur Rothstein photographer, July 1938

During the Great Depression, the FSA (Farm Security Administration) hired photographers to go out across the country and document what was happening to the people in both rural and urban settings.  The good people at Yale University have cataloged these photographs by region, and those images are available now online.  It's fascinating!  And just when you feel inclined to overly romanticize the past, the harsh reality of low wages, long hours, and overcrowded tenements crushes those halcyon dreams of yon.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Pieris rapae, European Cabbage Butterfly, Female and Male, Pittsburgh, 2015

Pieris rapae is not native to North America, but when it arrived in Quebec City in 1861, secreted in a shipment of cabbages from across the pond, it took less than fifty years for it to spread from sea to sea.  Now it is ubiquitous, the most commonly sighted butterfly, particularly in gardens where members of the cabbage family might be growing.  These little buggers did a number on my bok choi this year, sadly.
In the above photo that is a female (two dots on the upper wing) and a male (one dot on the upper wing), fresh out of the kill jar and ready for the next step in mounting.
To get the wings to stay spread out flat, you pin the butterfly to foam board, then use two strips of paper over the wings, and then tape the paper down to the foam board to secure it.
A step-by-step tutorial on how to mount butterflies can be found here.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Still, Life

Giovanni Stanchi, 17thC, Still Life With Fruit

The still life genre of painting is seldom compelling, or so I thought.  Stanchi's still life shown here, painted sometime between 1645-1672, provides an invaluable depiction of watermelon as it was known in the 17th century.  Vox ran a piece about this in July, and then updated it in August when some reddit users claimed that it was simply an under-ripe melon and not some old world 'proto-melon'.  It seems that the black, ripe seeds within the flesh of the melon indicate that it is indeed a fully ripened watermelon.
Stanchi's subject matter, and attention to detail, serve art, history, and the evolution of the watermelon well.  It's so much more than just a footnote in the annals of the still life.