Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We were lucky

Hi everybody - we are fine here in NJ!  Well, no power, no internet, no phone (except cell phones).  Millions of people have no power in NJ.  Other parts of this country weren't so lucky.  Neighbors have trees down, shingles flown off roof, etc., but we seem to have no damage.  The generator is running the freezer, fridge, and water pump and we have food and water.  The storm winds last night were incredible, what a howling sound.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stamp of the Day - Hurricane flooding

This might be a relevant image in a couple of days, after the hurricane Sandy.  There aren't many stamps about hurricanes out there, it is not a very popular subject.  And I know why....   This stamp is from Bahamas and shows the flooding after Hurricane David in 1979.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This looks bad - Sandy is on the way

Hurricane Sandy's eye might hit us right on....

The good news is that we have never been as prepared for a hurricane before.  Water, generator, food, firewood, sump pump, batteries, gasoline, peanut butter cups, water hoses for emptying the flooded basement, clean paths, and so on... (OK, some things will be done on Saturday).  Canned tomato sauce, and corned beef in the fridge, and a stove with gas, independent on electricity.   But imagine if we get the snow they predict, (up to 12 inches) then another thousand trees will fall, just like last years storm on Halloween. And that will be bad, no internet, no electricity, and no way to leave our house for days.  But we have lived through it before. I just feel bad about the plants in the garden, and worry about water in our basement. And the useless gutters that the gutter people haven't been here to fix.

Some of our former storms we have endured, ah! memories:
October snowstorm last year
Hurricane Irene last year
Icestorm in February
Another icestorm (or maybe the same?)

PS.  It is true what they say - everything is bigger in America.  Especially the weather.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

just some garden photos from this summer...

We found a nest of robins in the katsura tree, and they grew so fast and hopefully disappeared before getting eaten.
robin chicks in nest

The blueness of morning glories never seize to amaze me:
Morning glories (Ipomoea sp., Convolvulaceae)

The strange weed that had been loving the raised bed over the winter turned out to be poison hemlock ('odört' in Swedish), the toxic plant that became Socrates' last drink when he was sentenced to death.  I watched it grew, flower, and then pressed it in the herbarium press before it could set seed! :)
 Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum (Apiaceae)

Once again the hollyhocks got attacked by the hollyhock rust fungus.  It just isn't the place for hollyhocks, too bad.  In Swedish, hollyhocks are 'stockros', and I have never seen any sick ones in Sweden. I am telling you, gardening in New Jersey is a kind of warfare againsts pests, vermin, fungi, viruses and bacteria.  I don't remember my parents complaining about blister beetles, stink bugs, late blight or anything like that.  OK, we had that potato disease, I remember that... and birds eating cherries, but nothing like this. The good thing is that I can always bring in every fungal pest to my colleagues at work who really appreciate the addition to their teaching collection of fungal pathogens.
Puccinia malvacearum- hollyhock rust 

This (Glechoma hederacea, ground ivy, 'jordreva') is one of those purple flowers that turn blue when you take a photo of it.  The sensitivity of the digital sensor in the camera is different from our eye, because this flower certainly wasn't blue.  I have seen the same thing happen with slide film, especially Kodachrome.
ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea, Lamiaceae)

This was a really cool beetle in the goldenrod flowers, imitating a wasp. I wonder what it is called?
unknown beetle imitating a wasp on goldenrod

"Your life is your most important project"

Selected fantastic quotes from this video with industrial designer Ayse Birsel that you should watch (I just LOVED it):

I am a designer of life.
I put aside an hour every day just to think... without judging myself.
Design is imagining things and if you can imagine things you can make it happen.
      break preconceptions
              shift your perspectives
                     harmonize what you want and what you need which equals value
 If you want, you can maybe have an original life.

October 24, a date as any other? (and Stamps of the Day)

There is probably some significance to each date during a year, but somehow this date is stuck in my mind.  Maybe because my oldest grandparent was born on this day in 1897 and that seemed so far, far away in time, even when I grew up many decades ago.  So, I had to look up what else had happened on this date. Very many things indeed - telegraphs, stock crashes and so on.  

Here are some things listed on Wikipedia:

1632Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Dutch microbiologist was born (d. 1723) (Imagine seeing cells and moving euglenas for the first time, in the water you drink... )

1861 – The First Transcontinental Telegraph line across the United States is completed, spelling the end for the 18-month-old Pony Express. (From horses to copper lines. )

1929 – "Black Thursday" stock market crash on the New York Stock Exchange. (A big stock market crash also happened on Oct 24 2008)

 1931 – The George Washington Bridge opens to public traffic. (It now costs $12 to cross it into New York City)
 1945 – Founding of the United Nations (I didn't know they had their own stamps)

(Source: links and entries from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Capital scenes (Washington DC)

In May this year I had to travel to Washington DC for a conference and took a few hours to see the sights:

Washington Monument, Washington, DC
The Washington Monument.  Impressive. 

peaceful White House
The White House.  I wonder how many spy cameras that are in the flower beds. 

hot dog stand next to the White House
I wonder if the President ever sends out Secret Service to get him a Polish dog?  This cart was right next to the White House.

anti-war vigil 24/7
This anti-war tent vigil has been going on for three decades, every day, every hour, every minute.  It is right in front of the White House, and is more of a statement than a disturbance.  I wish we lived in a world with more peace.

parsley in the flower beds in front of USDA
Outside the US Department of Agriculture they had planted parsley in the flower beds, and it was flowering nicely and greenly. So appropriate and unusual.

Inside the USDA was a small museum about food history, which included this great quote:

 "...the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil." Abraham Lincoln
They also had a lot of old posters from World War I and II.

"Food- Don't Waste It". circa 1914-1918
Don't waste Food.  We need these posters for today's consumers.

"Lick the Platter Clean - Don't Waste Food". 1944
Lick the Platter Clean - I remember us kids saying we could lick our plates because our grandpa did it too.

Ice trains, historical photos
There was also a little tiny exhibit about the old ice trains that transported blocks of ice for refrigeration around the country.  I am glad there are electric refrigerators nowadays, I wouldn't want to get back to a time when you had to handle 50 lbs (25 kg) ice blocks. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Elusive woodpeckers

Talking about woodpeckers made me think about an illustration in our grandparents house. The great possibly extinct Ivory-billed woodpecker. Native to USA, and searched for 2005-2010 without any solid proof of their existence.

 Ivory-billed Woodpecker by John James Audubon/Courtesy Harvard University Press

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stamp of the day: Muddus National Park, Sweden

Muddus is not a National Park made out of mud, if that is what you think as an English-speaker.  I think it is a Lapponian (Sami) name, and I am not sure what the original meaning is... but it is a land full of bogs, low hills, and waterways and taiga forests in northern Sweden.  Once when we were children our parents took us there, and we kayaked (all five of us, and two Labradors) into the park and into the wilderness for an overnight hike.  It was summer, so the sun barely set at night, and I remember the light at 3 AM in the morning.  It was a magic place, and I remember seeing beavers swimming ahead of the kayaks, unafraid, and a moose or two just glancing at us as we paddled by.  Unusual northern birds, both the singing and the raptor kinds, showed themselves, and we have heard that were was a rare, white falcon ('jaktfalk') at a cliff side nearby but we never saw it.

What we did find though was an abandoned bear winter den, that had been dug out inside an old ant hill (the ant hill are giant in Sweden), with blueberry plants on top.  Near the bear den was a thick stick that stuck out of the ground, and my brother (I think) pulled it out and it turned out to be an ancient ice pick (first we thought it was a bear spear!), with an about a foot long metal pike on a wooden handle over 6 feet long.  The metal was rusted and handsmithed, and the wood was old and grey, but it could still do its job.  Who left it in the forest, hours away from the nearest road?  Who knows.... and we found it.  I wonder where that is now, I don't remember us bringing it.  Or maybe we did, and left it at the local history museum... memories are strange, some things you remember so well, others are in a haze of uncertainty.  But that bear den, that I remember.  It smelled funny and was dark inside...

The stamp shows whooper swans flying over Muddus National Park in Sweden. It was published in 1990 by the Swedish Postal service.

Kayaking in October

Some pictures from the kayak excursion today to Marvikarna, Åkers styckebruk, Sweden. About 5-8 degrees C in the air, (water temperature unknown). At first a light rain and later during the day some sun occasionally. Strange find was the Anemona nemorosa in bloom. Usually flowers in May, not October! Lunch break with a view and an open fire in IKEAs bestickställ, alias "vedköket", for the hot tea water.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Matchbox of the day: Fungi russian matchbox label

russian matchbox label by maraid
russian matchbox label, a photo by maraid on Flickr.
From the other side of the pond, a matchbox label from the 50's, simple and nice. The mushrooms are probably fly mushrooms, or what they might be called in English. In Swedish: Flugsvamp. Toxic and hallucinogenic.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stamp of the day: Finding Funky Fungi

It is the season of the fungi, these strange creatures that are actually more animal than plant.... evolutionarily speaking.  I have seen a lot of interesting fungi lately in our wet fall in eastern USA.

possibly Astraeus hygrometricus, an earth star (fungi)

(above) Earth stars in the Pine Barrens...  I haven't seen an earth star in many years, so this was fun!

Cobolt crust fungus in our garden, found on an old stick (sorry, no photo, check out the link to see the amazing color)...

Tiny little black specks on a rotten branch was Diatrype, an ascomycete (related to morels)...

and then jelly fungi of course, these jellyfish-looking things that come out of branches as gelatinous exudates...

The stamp of the day is from Taiwan and was one of the few mushroom stamps I could find that had an earth star among it.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Stamp of the day: dandelions

Dandelions (maskros in Swedish, Taraxacum in Latin) are amazing.  I think they can flower nearly year round here in New Jersey, and they are beautiful as they flower, but invoking the wrath of many turfgrass pedantics at the same time.  I think the word dandelion and Taraxacum comes from 'lion's teeth', which the leaves are supposed to remind us of.. There aren't that many us that have actually seen true lion's teeth up close.  The Swedish common name is worse, it means 'worm rose' and how knows where that connotation comes from.  It is a really beautiful plant, even if a weed :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Serious grounds for sculpture

Not far from where we live, there is a sculpture garden that is both a fantastic place for art (contemporary sculpture) and garden design (contemporary that too).  It is called Grounds for Sculpture, and is really worth a visit.  For those of you that can't visit so easily, here is a little taste of some of the 300 sculptures that are there. Click on the photos for more information about each photo.  (And there are more photos on Flickr from this place here.)

Urchin by Howard Kalish, 2001

sculpture 262 - Halloween cauldron

tree line

To Marcel Duchamp, Artist, Tool and Die Maker, 1887-1968, by William T Wiley, 1976

Ice Ring, by Michele Oka Doner, 1989

Monet's bridge

The boating party by Seward Johnson

water feature

The scream

Stamp of the day: boat with little outboard motor

This Swedish stamp from 2002 invokes many Swedish summer memories for me.  A simple wooden boat, with oars for slow moving and fishing, and then the little engine for the times when you have to get home for dinner or the wind is in your face and you need some extra help.  Our sailing boat had a slightly larger version than this, a 7.5 hp Mercury outboard motor, and when it was stormy you really hoped it would start.  It did, because it had replaced an older, smaller engine that was not so reliable.  Maybe that was an Evinrude, I don't remember.  But most of the time we sailed in our 18-foot sailing boat with 5 people and two dogs for weeks... the outboard engine was just for storms, when the wind was wrong, or when you had to get through locks or under bridges.