Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Milton, Delaware, July 17, 2014

'Tis the season now to drink all of those pumpkin flavored brews, from coffee to ale.  I despise pumpkin spice everything except for pie.  Pumpkin pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top is the best!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Stripped Down Version

Early Brewing set-Up, Dogfish Head Brewery, Delaware, 2014

Hard to believe that Dogfish Head Brewery started out so modestly, but it did.  It's kind of a reminder of how most human needs, those things we must have in our lives, is kind of basic.  Warmth, food, alcohol (yes, alcohol!  I may not be as German as I thought I was prior to that damn DNA test, but still German enough to see alcohol as a requisite need), and a saucy wench.  With the 'warmth' part goes; fire, clothes, and flannel sheets.
I'm only thinking about this because I'm baking pretzel buns right now and the house smells incredible and I feel just so good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Musk Mallow

Musk Mallow Flower and Seeds, Malva moschata, Pittsburgh, 2015

Musk mallow grows wild and thrives best in the shaded parts of my yard.  This year I collected the seeds pods and was pleasantly surprised by their unique shape.  The leaves, flowers and seeds of the plant are all edible, but the plant is most prized (as are all mallows) for their medicinal uses.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


 Slippery Rock Gorge, Kildoo Trail, McConnells Mill State Park, PA, 2015
Sunset, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE, 2014

These are the other two landscapes that my wife chose to hang in her classroom.  I hope she likes them because I ordered very large prints.

Of Landscapes and Inspiration

Maine Shoreline, Acadia National Park, 2011

My spousal unit has requested some prints for her classroom.  Of course she doesn't want anything too crazy, so I'm working on some landscapes that will hopefully inspire the students.  Yes, whenever anyone thinks of my photography, they immediately think of inspiration.
Self deprecation aside, going back through the photo journals of our travels reminds me of how photography captures the moment.  I am transported back to the time we were there, which feels closer in time than four years ago, as with the above picture of Maine.  It's hard to believe that it has been four years.  It feels so much more immediate.  Ah well.  We're planning on a return trip to Maine and Acadia National Park in the summer of '17.  Got to get there while we're still spry enough to do the really difficult hikes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vemodalen And Us

Giant Rubber Duck, Pittsburgh, September 2013

The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows defines Vemodalen thusly: n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.  Yes, I cannot tell you the creeping futility I sometimes experience while photographing something that is uncommon, rare, beautiful, decayed and collapsing in on its own weight, or even just delightfully whimsical - all with the realization that it's been captured by camera before, and will again.
Case in point:  Two years ago when Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's duck colossus was launched on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, people flocked to the Point (where the fountain is), and to Mount Washington overlooking the city (where I was here) to get a good shot of the Duck.  I took a lot of photos because digital costs nothing and bad shots can be deleted.  Not having to rely on film and all of the expense incurred with film photography has made photography extremely accessible, but at the same time ubiquitous and devalued.
I ended up with some really wonderful images of the city and the duck colossus and spoke to the owner of the gallery that carries my work to see how many prints I should bring in...None, as it turned out.  The duck colossus was everywhere, had saturated the market, and no matter how great my work was, it was still of the Duck.
If you are in need of a prompt for an existential crisis, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has a youtube channel, and this is their entry on the subject of Vemodalen.
I won't stop photographing things, nor will I fall into too deep a pit of despair about the futility of it all, but it still gives me pause.  What am I doing and what does it mean?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Distracted by Mushrooms

Pholiota limonella, Pittsburgh, October, 2015

While splitting wood I noticed a cluster of mushrooms growing on the base of the chopping block.  This served to provide me with the merest of distractions and I set aside the axe and took up 'Peterson' Field Guide to Identifying Mushrooms'.  While not entirely useless, it did lead me down a couple of wrong paths and one blind alley.  Forced to use broad, descriptive terms on google images, I finally fell upon a site that helped me properly identify the fungi (hopefully, it's poisonous anyway, so it's not like there's some sort of culinary calamity awaiting).  It is Pholiota limonella, and this opinion is reinforced by the fact that the mushroom does indeed make a rusty spore print.  I should've photographed the spore print to include here, but I'm recharging my camera battery right now.
Nothing left to do but get back to splitting those logs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Natural History Museum (London) Wildlife Photography Winners

Edwin Giesbers, Crested Newt, Reptile/Amphibian Winner

It's that time of year again, when the Natural History Museum in London announces their wildlife photography winners.  Photos submitted from around the globe compete in categories ranging from reptile/amphibian, urban wildlife, underwater, from the sky, young photographer, to the overall grand prize winner.
I chose to highlight Edwin Giesbers' shot over the grand prize winner Don Gutoski's "A Tale of Two Foxes" because of the trees.  Notice the gaps between each tree's foliage?  That's known as 'canopy shyness' and it is how trees evolved to share space and thrive.  I first learned about canopy - or crown - shyness from a blog post on TYWKIWDBI a month ago, and it's why I knew exactly what I was seeing serving as a backdrop to the crested newt suspended in a pond.  Giesbers donned a wetsuit and remained very still while submerged to get this perfect shot from beneath.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Beyond the Catdoor

Pepe The Cross-Eyed Cat, Pittsburgh, 2015

To keep the dog out of the cat box in the basement, we installed a catdoor.  Perhaps a common sense approach and not so remarkable.  But, the manner in which Pepe sneaks up on the catdoor, and then bursts through like he's traveling through time or dimensions, does make it hugely entertaining.  I like to think that there's a parallel Cat Kingdom on the other side of that kitty portal, ruled by a foul-tempered (and foul-smelling) one-eared Tom, with intrigue and betrayal at every turn.  I'm integrating this premise into my memoir because I need more filler.

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.