Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

It’s a bit over a week earlier in the year than the photo I posted of this last winter, but having it bloom in February isn’t at all unusual. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) got its name for a reason. It’s a native of Europe, from southern France to Bulgaria and it’s also adapted to grow under black walnut, which produces the natural herbicide juglone (a.k.a. 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione) that inhibits many plants from growing too close (and thus competing for resources). Eranthis is a pretty little things, lighting up an otherwise brown garden in the depths of winter. Even if this winter hasn’t been all that deep so far.

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A Walk Around Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Cathy and I went up to Baltimore to see Ralph and Tsai-Hong this afternoon and it was such a beautiful day that we took a walk around the block where Johns Hopkins Hospital sits. It’s a largish block and including a bit of wandering in an urban garden and into the front of the hospital itself, we walked almost a mile. On the left in this picture is the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, the cancer center. The curved, glass-front building at the right is the Bloomberg Children’s Center. You can just see the top corner of the main hospital building, the Sheikh Zayed Tower, above the right hand corner of the Weinberg building.

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Lacey and Daniel

Lacey and Daniel

Lacey and Daniel

Taking pictures of newborn babies is a bit tricky. Typically they are lying down or being held that way. If they are being held, the person holding them is often moving, meaning the good angle for a picture changes from moment to moment, assuming there is a good angle at all. Newborns don’t generally make interesting expressions and asking them to smile doesn’t help very much. When they do make a good expression, the chances of them being turned away from you are fairly high, or the person holding them is talking or has his or her eyes closed or something. That isn’t going to stop me from trying, of course.

I’m pretty pleased with this picture of Lacey and her three week old son, Daniel. It isn’t the greatest picture of Lacey, who is laughing at something someone said, but perhaps she’ll forgive me that, since it’s a pretty nice picture of Daniel, who seems quite happy and content. We can’t ask for a lot more than that. Congratulations to Lacey, Gil, and big brother Tim. What a beautiful addition to the family. Thanks for letting us intrude on your domestic life for a little while.

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Sunset (and Venus)

Sunset (and Venus)

Sunset (and Venus)

We got a proper, colorful sunset this evening and I enjoyed watching it come on. Every now and then, as dusk was approaching, an airplane would fly across the sky and when it got to the right point, it would reflect the light of the setting sun and turn into a bright star for a few seconds. After a while I noticed one that seemed to be standing still. At first I thought it was just very far away and therefore seemed to move more slowly but it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t moving at all. Turns out it was Venus, appearing about twenty minutes before sunset (which was at 5:47). This picture was taken about fifteen minutes after that. If you cannot see Venus in the picture, you may need to view it on a larger screen, or zoom in. It’s right about in the center from left to right, about 1/6 the way down from the top edge of the photo, at the upper edge of the clouds. (Of course, all it is is a tiny, white speck.)

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Winter Weather

A Fairly Light Snowfall

A Fairly Light Snowfall

When I got up this morning I didn’t realize at first that it had snowed overnight. I glanced out the kitchen door but didn’t see it at first. A little later I saw that there was something white scattered on parts of the patio table and it was only on closer inspection that I realized that it was snow. I decided I should document our winter weather, even if it was only a light dusting. The snow seems to have formed clumps or pellets and they were evenly scattered over the lawn (but not enough that it didn’t still look green at a glance). Where oak leaves were lying in the garden, the pellets of snow gathered into larger amounts, and that’s what you see here. So, winter, we’re still waiting.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Well, it looked as though I’d finally get the sunset I’ve been looking for the last few days. Each day the clouds seemed perfect for something spectacular as the sun approached the western horizon. Each day the sun would go down without any particular light on the clouds. Today seemed the best opportunity of all. Although they covered most of the sky, the clouds were more scattered and I had a real feeling that this time they’d get the setting sun’s final light. They did, too. The only problem was that the 20 minutes or so leading up to the sunset saw all the clouds move off to the south east. The only clouds left in the western sky where low, just over the horizon. Looking through the trees between the houses behind ours I got a small but of colored clouds. That will have to do.

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Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

I was hoping for a spectacular sunset this evening. As the sun sank in the west, the clouds seemed just about right for something with a lot of color, covering the entire western sky with orange. As it turned out, we didn’t get anything very bright. In fact, it just got dark. Not to say that a daily sunset isn’t something for which to be thankful. We’re so used to the daily cycle we take it for granted, but it’s still a gift and it’s beautiful in its own way without the bright color we sometimes get. So, I like this picture, even though it isn’t what I was hoping to have.

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Emergency and Trauma

Emergency and Trauma

Emergency and Trauma

Sometimes I think if I had twins I’d name them Emergency and Trauma. Maybe not. But if I had two dogs I could probably get away with it. I’m not sure what nicknames I’d come up with for them, though. I suppose Emergency could be shortened to Em. May Uma for the other one. But all seriousness aside, Cathy and I were here for a little while with Cathy’s mom. She’s fine and is home again. She probably didn’t even need to go, but better safe than sorry, we always say (always, some people find it a little annoying). As I was leaving I stopped to take a few pictures of the outside of the hospital. It isn’t the most inviting place in the world, but then, when you need it, you’re glad to have it. And this is a good one.

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Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

The clouds were quite beautiful this afternoon. There was no colorful sunset to speak of but before that, they were rushing across the sky in a very impressive display. I really like clouds and could sit outside or (when it’s a bit warmer) lie on the grass and just watch them for hours. It’s cool out now. Not cold as it probably should be, but cool, so I didn’t stay out a terribly long time. Also, I was barefoot. But I enjoyed the changing patterns and the contrast between the clouds with the sun shining on them and those that were in shadow, both set against the brilliant blue sky.

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Robins and Sparrows

Robins and Sparrows

Robins and Sparrows

February is generally the deepest part of the winter around here but it’s been relatively mild so far this year. We’ve still got enough time for cold weather to come but today was really spring like. There were birds all over our back yard, including robins, starlings, sparrows, blue jays, and juncos. I waited at the kitchen door and took some pictures of the birds on the bird bath on the back patio. We keep it free from ice all winter and the birds really like that, although this year there has not been more than a week together when free water was frozen. Still, they were on the bath in fairly high numbers all morning.

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Soap Bubbles

Soap Bubbles

Soap Bubbles

I think bubbles are cool. Of course some are more cool than others (to paraphrase George Orwell). These are fairly simple soap bubbles in a backing dish that’s been soaking to loosen the grease that was baked on it from a 10 pound pork shoulder roast. We’re all familiar with the rainbow colors sometimes seen in larger soap bubbles. None of that here. I recently saw a video of a soap bubble slowly freezing, and that was very cool (in every sense of the word). But these are nice in an understated way.

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Some Snowstorm

Fair Skies

Fair Skies

The forecast called for snow today. Not a blizzard but over the last few days the forecast varied from as much as 6 to 10 to as little as 3 inches. Well, we didn’t really come close to that. This morning when I got up, Accuweather was saying we’d get 0.2 inches between 9:00 and 10:00 and that was about it. As it turned out, it did snow but it certainly didn’t snow very much and there was never any on the ground. In the afternoon, this is what the sky to the east looked like. Not exactly menacing. It was fairly breezy and it got down into the low 30s (Fahrenheit) but as a winter storm it was definitely pretty weak.

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Lighting

Lighting

Lighting

We were at Upper Rock Circle again this evening and I took some more pictures of the decor in one of the public rooms of the building. This is a meeting room with a kitchen area and these lights are above the bar that has the stove top and also serves as an eating area.

It’s been quite warm the last couple days, with high temperatures above 70°F yesterday and today. The forecast is for snow tomorrow, and then colder weather for a little while, so perhaps we’ll have some winter for a change. I don’t mind a balmy day in midwinter but 70°F is overdoing it.

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My Family’s First Computer

Ohio Scientific Superboard II

Ohio Scientific Superboard II

In 1978 (or thereabouts), when I was in college, my dad bought this computer. It was made by Ohio Scientific and is a Superboard II, a.k.a., model 600 single-board computer. It came by default with 4k of RAM but dad knew that he’d need more than that so he doubled it to 8k. He initially built a power supply for it but the power wasn’t clean enough so he bought one. The computer was connected to a small black-and-white television set and a portable cassette player for program and data storage. I actually did more BASIC programming on this machine than on any subsequent computer I’ve owned, moving on to Pascal in 1984 when I bought my own NEC computer. Although this was the family’s first computer, Ralph had one sooner. I believe he bought it with a friend at school and it was a more powerful thing, using an Intel 8008 processor, if I remember correctly.

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Old Family Photographs

Old Family Photographs

Old Family Photographs

Cathy’s been working her way through a box of old family photographs and making some interesting connections. In the bin in this picture, the picture on the left is Cathy’s grandfather, Albert, from high school. We were hoping that we might find a picture of Ernest Hemingway, who attended the same school, Oak Park and River Forest High School, from 1913 until 1917, a few years ahead of Albert. Unfortunately, we didn’t. But you never know what might show up further down in the box.

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Another Feather

Feather

Feather

It was cool and cloudy today but not so cold that we wouldn’t go out (actually, I didn’t even need a jacket). We drove to Meadowside Nature Center and walked on the trails around it, going south west to the edge of the lake and then north to where there are some log cabins. This photo of a feather was taken on a fallen log. I’m not sure what sort of bird the feather came from but I assume it was taken up onto the log to be eaten, either by another bird or by a mammal of some sort.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

The sun is setting later and later now. Not long ago it was going down as I left work at 5:00 PM. Not it’s after 5:30. I’m not complaining (far from it). It means I have a little time after work to get some pictures while it’s still light. Of course today is Saturday so I have more time. I took a few pictures this morning in my mother-in-law’s yard but they aren’t anything worth posting (not that I haven’t posted plenty of such). The sunset wasn’t a full-sky affair this evening but still quite beautiful. This was taken out our back door, looking over the house behind us.

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Woodpecker Feather?

Woodpecker Feather?

Woodpecker Feather?

I’m no sort of expert on these things so I really don’t know what sort of bird has feathers that look like this. I know there are woodpeckers with dark feathers with white spots running up both sides. There are also owls with this sort of pattern. The feathers were not terribly long, so my guess was one of the small local woodpeckers, such as the downy (Picoides pubescens) or hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus). I’d be happy to have someone who is more knowledgeable set me straight. This was in the woods behind my building.

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Sous Vide Pork Chop

Sous Vide Pork Chop

Sous Vide Pork Chop

For Christmas, I was given a sous vide appliance. It’s a small device with a heating element and a mechanism for circulating heated water. The device is placed on the side of a deep pot and filled to the proper depth. The desired temperature and cooking time is set and the water is heated to the requested temperature. The pork chops are placed in sealed bags and the air is suctioned out (which is where sous vide gets its name, from the French for “under vacuum”). It’s a fairly slow method of cooking but the meat retains its moisture. A quick sear after its done and its ready to eat. Pork chops with sauteed apples and green beans.

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Wooden Chandelier

Wooden Chandelier

Wooden Chandelier

This isn’t technically a chandelier, because the formal definition includes branching structure to hold multiple lights. The word chandelier comes through the French from the Latin candelabrum or candle holder. Of course we apply it to those that hold electric lights but this only has a single light, as far as I can tell. Still, it’s a pretty, hanging light fixture and the term is fluid enough that it might encompass it. We were at a place on Upper Rock Circle this evening and this is in their lobby above a simple but effective fountain.

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