In general, the view along my commute to and from work is pretty unexciting. There isn’t much in the way of pretty scenery and almost no real vistas to get excited about. On the other hand, it’s only about a 15 minute commute, and I really cannot complain. This time of year, though, especially when there is snow on the ground and it is a bit rainy, we sometimes have fog. There is a stretch of my commute, a little less than a mile, where there are woods on along one side (and a shorter stretch where the woods are on both sides). There are a few places along that bit of roadway where the view into the woods isn’t obscured by bushes or a steep bank. This afternoon, as I was coming home, I pulled over onto the shoulder to take a few pictures of the woods. I love how the copper colored leaves of the beech trees stand out against the dark trees and the pale light on the fog in the woods.
Monthly Archives: February 2016
At the risk of posting too many sunset pictures, here’s another one. They seem to be fairly popular with the general public, so I guess there won’t be too many complaints. I happened to look out my window at just the right time this evening (5:23 p.m. to be precise) and this is what I saw to the west (which is at an angle to the left out my window. Not extreme color but still quite lovely, I think.
When I left work today I was thinking that there might be a bit of fog. Most of the way home, however, there was none. When I got to Norbeck Road, though, all of a sudden, there was fog. Dense fog. From Gude Drive through Baltimore Road, it was quite dense. Traffic stopped a few times in that stretch (as it often does) and I grabbed a few pictures, including this one that shows reasonably well how foggy it was.
After work today I needed to run a few errands in southern Rockville. When I came out of the store, there was a fair amount of color in the western sky. I grabbed my camera and put the long lens on it so that I could get the colored sky without the buildings and parking lot lights in the foreground. Actually, I took a few with them showing, as well, but this one, I think, is the best. A month ago it was dark by the time I left work, so the days are clearly getting longer. We still have a fair amount of winter ahead of us, however.
We had some extra bird seed for Solomon that was starting to go bad. I ordered another bag and when it arrived, I put the old seed out back for whatever birds and squirrels wanted to eat it. Mostly the squirrels came but this morning there were a few dark-eyed juncos on the patio. They are cute little birds and quite common here this time of year. The large power cord behind the bird in this picture is the power to the bird bath de-icer.
Yesterday (Friday, February 5) we drove down to Greensboro for the memorial service for my Uncle George. This morning, after breakfast I was drinking my second cup of coffee and ready in the breakfast room of our hotel. I happened to glance out the window and this is what I saw. I rad back up to the room, grabbed my camera and went outside to take a dozen or so pictures. That’s quite a nice way to start off any day, but particularly one when we’ll be mourning a loss, as we did today.
We had a longish day today, leaving Greensboro at about 7:45 and driving home, pulling in at 1:30 after going almost exactly 300 miles. Traffic was quite light, for which I was extremely grateful, and we had no problems on the way. I didn’t have long to rest after getting home, because I had a church leadership meeting at 2:00 and then church at 4:00. By the time we were home again, the Super Bowl had already started.
Because we don’t have cable and our meager antenna only really picks up NBC and Fox, we couldn’t watch the game on our television. Fortunately, in this internet age, the game was being streamed on the CBS Sports web site and we were able to watch in on that. Our computer monitor is small compared to many new television sets but at 21 inches, it isn’t all that much smaller than our old, 1986 television. The picture is quite a bit better.
This picture was taken towards the end of the game (3:13 on the clock) and pretty much sums up the action. Referee Clete Blakeman is announcing yet another penalty against the Carolina Panthers.
Dorothy graduated 20 months ago (it is truly amazing how fast time flies) but we still think of and refer to WCA as ‘our school.’ I have kept up at least some of my involvement, visiting a few of the elementary school classrooms from time to time to help with a particular lesson (and another of those is coming up next week). When we can we also go to the school functions such as the Christmas Bazaar, Banquet, and (in the spring) the Auction. This evening we went to the WCA Society meeting. The Society is the highest governing authority over the school and elects the Board of Directors and adopts the annual budget.
We were not able to go to the meeting in late September because we were in Massachusetts. The winter meeting was postponed because of the little snow storm we had here a couple weeks ago. It was postponed to this evening and we were thankfully able to go. It’s good to get an official update on the state of the school as well as to talk with other parents and some faculty and staff.
We don’t know James very well, because he came to the school as we were leaving, but he has been the head of school for (I believe) just under a year now. It was nice to hear from him, particularly his perspective on the school, present and future, and to hear their plans for moving forward.
It’s been relatively warm the last week or so and most of the snow that fell a little over two weeks ago is gone (except the big piles where it was plowed off of roads and parking lots). It got a bit cooler today, down to about freezing, and there were some pretty significant snow squalls, starting in the morning and lasting into the early afternoon. By the end of the day it was clearing up and nothing had really accumulated on the ground, but it was pretty as it was falling. This was taken from my office window, a little after 1:00 p.m.
One of my favorite meats is a cured pork chop from the Lancaster County Dutch Market in Germantown (https://www.lcdutchmarket.com/). I love the rich, salty flavor of cured pork and they don’t dry out when cooked as plan pork chops tend to do. Of course, I brine plain pork chops so they won’t dry out, bu these don’t need that treatment. This evening I pan seared them and topped them with a smokey apricot sauce and served them with sugar snap peas. It turned out very well and was a very satisfying meal. I could have eaten two of them, but that’s another story. One was god.
Last week I posted a picture of a junco in this same spot. Before that I posted a picture of a song sparrow on the bird bath, which is just out of this picture to the left. As I mentioned when I posted the junco picture, I put some leftover seed out on the patio and that’s been attracting the birds and squirrels. This morning, in addition to the juncos and sparrows (both song and house), there were cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, and in the tree just into the yard, a downy woodpecker. Quite a little circus. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the more brightly colored male cardinal, but this is a pretty little thing, too.
A few years back these were a real hit at Christmas time. I bought three sets of 216 balls each (they came in a cube with 63 balls). One set was colored but the coloring has mostly come off them all and they are plain steel colored balls now. They are not steel, however, being made of neodymium. You will find neodymium on the periodic table of elements with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. It is one of the lanthanide elements, often referred to as rare earth metals, although neodymium isn’t actually particularly rare. The magnets are actually an alloy of neodymium, iron, and boron (Nd2Fe14B). Shortly after I bought them for Christmas, they were taken off the market because they are dangerous if swallowed, particularly if two are swallowed separately. If two stick together with a fold of intestine between them, it can be very serious (seriously bad).
On our Annual Museum Outing (Tuesday, December 29, 2015), Dorothy, Karlee, and I visited the newly reopened Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and I posted quite a few pictures from that outing. Cathy was quite busy at work, as she usually is before and for a while after year-end. Because of that she was not able to join us for that trip. Today Cathy and I braved the cold February weather and along with my mom (Dot) we went to the Renwick. I’ve picked some pictures that I hope are enough different to those I posted last time. But of course they will be similar.
It the first picture, Cathy and Dot are posing in Shindig by Patrick Dougherty, who weaves “enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors“ with “willow osiers and saplings.”
Our favorite room is the second one, which features an installation called Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe. It is made from hundreds of thin, colored threads stretched between hooks on the floor and on the ceiling. In addition to the beautifly rainbow colors, we found the interference patterns of the threads quite lovely. here the red threads in the foreground come together and let the yellow and green show through more clearly in a narrow band that moves up and down as you move along. For anyone interested, from each hook, there appear to be 24 threads running up to the ceiling (or 12 loops over the hook). This took a little time and probably a serious amount of patience.
My second favorite room, although not to everyone’s liking, is In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus. Otherwise known as “the bug room.” My photo last time was a detail of a skull, made up predominately of electric blue beetles from New Guneau (from the genus Eupholus for which you should do a Google image search, seriously). This time, I’m giving you a more overall view of the room, so you can see all the patterns the artist, who is a textile artist (along with being into bugs).
We saw all the exhibits, of course, and I took over 200 pictures, so this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. From the Renwick we went to the National Gallery of Art because we wanted to see an exhibit called “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World.” If you have the slightest interest in Greek history, in sculpture, or art in general, I highly recommend this exhibit, which will be at the National Gallery through March 20 (so go soon).
I think my favorites in the collection are a Medallion with Athena and Medusa, 200 – 150 BC, from the Archaeological Museum, in Thessaloniki; a Portrait of a Man, c. 100 BC from the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens; and the Portrait of a Poet (“Arundel Head”), c. 200 – 1 BC; from the British Museum, London. Don’t be tempted to look for pictures and leave it at that. They are much more beautiful in person.
As is usual for these special exhibits, photography is not allowed, so I don’t have a picture to show you. Instead you will have to settle for another picture of the gallery’s rotunda.
We continue to have a wide variety of birds (and small mammals) at our birdbath. They are also being drawn by the seed that we put out. Early this afternoon I photographed a white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), an American robin (Turdus migratorius), a few house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus), an eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus), mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), and two northern flickers (Colaptes auratus). Present in the yard but not photographed were at least three blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), a lot of dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), and the ubiquitous house sparrow (Passer domesticus). I decided to post this picture of a flicker, because they are the species I see at the bird bath the least often.
We had a minor snow storm today (Monday). It’s Washington’s Birthday, which is a federal and local holiday for many people so it didn’t affect school today. Tomorrow is another matter and since I’m writing this on Wednesday, I happen to know they cancelled school, probably unnecessarily. It wasn’t really a bad storm and by the end of the day we had 2¾″ on the ground.
It has been quite cold for more than a couple days, with highs below freezing so the ground was cold enough that the snow began accumulating immediately. There was less than an inch when I got up this morning. I noticed that the water level in our bird bath was fairly low, lower than it had been yesterday (an not frozen because of a heater). There were tracks in the newly fallen snow that might have been from a fox. We saw the fox over the weekend, so we know he (or she) is in the area. I cleared a path to the bird bath with a broom instead of a shovel, and filled it. This was about the time the snow stopped falling and I measured it at that point. I also took a few pictures, including this one of the snow in one of three Californian incense-cedar trees (Calocedrus decurrens) that I planted along the back fence.
After work today I was in Rockville Town Center to meet up with some guys at Gordon Biersch. After I parked, I was walking around a bit, taking a few pictures before heading to the restaurant. When I saw this fire truck turn the corner onto Maryland Avenue I decided to snap a couple pictures. I didn’t have a lot of time to adjust my camera so I snapped at whatever settings were already dialed in, meaning this was taken at 1/20th of a second at f/5.6. Not ideal and it shows in the camera motion. But it did serve the purpose of blurring the moving fire truck nicely. Note that it didn’t actually have lights flashing or siren wailing, so it may have simply been heading back to its station, the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, at 380 Hungerford Drive.
I was out in the late morning today to have my car’s emissions tested. That took longer than hoped but not really longer than expected. I was behind a car in line that I’ve seen before. I remembered it because it is a little Mazda Miata convertible with a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you’ve Passed P-Chem” and it always makes me smile and wonder a little about the driver. Anyway, while I was out then the sky was mostly overcast. When I left work, however, it was quite beautiful, with a pale blue sky showing through between fluffy, white clouds.
On my way home most days, when I take the shortest route home rather, I pass a Chevrolet dealer that flies this large American Flag. Some days, when there is no wind, it’ hangs down along the pole. Other days it is more active. Today, there was a fairly stiff breeze and it stood out proudly from the pole. As I sat at the traffic light, I enjoyed watching it move in the wind and I decided I’d take a few pictures. It’s a fairly long light, so I had plenty of time.
As if being in hospital isn’t bad enough, you have to suffer with hospital food. We were at Montgomery General this evening visiting a friend who has been there since Wednesday and this is the dinner they sent him. Doesn’t it look wonderful? No? I agree, it’s pretty sad. It brings back memories of junior high and high school lunches. Bleak. As Terry was ordering it for him, Marc said, “Order whatever you want, I’m not eating it.” The cherry tomatoes don’t look too bad.
Cathy and I were at her mom’s house today, doing various things around the house and in the yard. One thing was to cut up a largish branch that had come down in the minor snow storm we had on Monday. While I was out in the yard, I heard a hawk cry as it circled overhead.
When it landed in a tree in the back yard, I hurried to the car, put my 70-300mm zoom lens on my camera and managed to get five images before it took off again. The full frame images were horizontally oriented and this image is cropped from that, so it’s considerably less than the full frame, which accounts for softness of the image.
Brother George confirmed my identification of this as a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) and went on to say that it was a first-year juvenile. For those of you who make comments to me about my labeling of plants and animals, I want you to know that in general I get expert advice before labeling any bird picture (with a few easy exceptions). In the past that often meant dad and Albert. Now that all falls to George.
I mentioned a few days ago that we saw the fox in our yard again. Well, she was back this morning and I was able to get a few pictures of her before she wandered off. The pictures were taken through two panes of glass (regular window and storm window) so it’s a bit fuzzy but it isn’t terrible. Cathy saw a mangy fox in our yard a few years ago but this fox looks quite healthy, which is encouraging. Except for the big snow and a few cool days, it has been a reasonably mild winter so far, which I suppose makes life a little easier on the foxes and other woodland creatures.
Cathy and I went for a walk late this morning (and into the early afternoon) and really enjoyed the warmer weather. It was quite pleasant out, although very humid. The ground was pretty muddy and I admit I wore the wrong shoes for a walk in the woods. Early on we saw a small herd of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and I got a few pictures of them.
A little later Cathy said she had heard that there was an eagle nest nearby so we walked to the lake and found it. At first we could see the nest but not any birds. After a while, however, they stood up and we could see both adult bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
at about 150 yards, even with my 70-300mm zoom lens all the way out, I had to crop these to help you see the birds. In consequence, the pictures are fairly grainy (or more precisely noisy). But they are plenty clear enough to be able to identify the eagles. Naturally we were fairly excited. When one of the two birds took off, I was able to get a few pictures of it flying, although I had to pan across some intervening trees, which made it a bit harder. The bird is moving along the opposite shore, which angled toward us slightly, so he was not quite so far away now.
By the time the eagle landed it was just over 100 yards away. That’s still a long way for a 300mm lens, but the third picture here, of the adult bald eagle on a branch, is pretty nice, I think. I suppose we could have hoped for more, like a brilliant blue sky in the background, but we actually liked seeing the mist on the water, caused by the humid air condensing over the still frozen lake. It was quite beautiful. So, I was especially blessed today, to see both a red fox in our yard and two nesting bald eagles.
Note: This post was originally posted with the date set to February 22. These photos were taken on Sunday the 21st.
In mid-November I bought some fish for a 70 gallon take that we have in our breakfast room. I posted pictures of a Red Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius, Monday, November 23, 2015) and of a Green and Gold Cory Cat (Corydoras melanotaenia, Monday, November 30, 2015). Here is another fish that I got at the same time. This is a Koi Angel. There are three recognized species of freshwater angelfish. In the aquarium trade, Pterophyllum scalare is the most common and most of the varieties that are available are derived from that species. I think it’s pretty obvious where the common name for this variety comes from, having been bred to have the sort of markings usually associated with koi, ornamental varieties of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio).
I’ve been taking and posting a photo a day for over five years now. That’s over 1,800 photos and of course some days I’ve posted multiple photos, either grouped together in one post or in separate posts. I may be overestimating the quality of some of those photos but I think that today’s photo is possibly the worst photo I’ve posted in all that time. Certainly in the bottom ten. When I took it, I thought it had promise. This tree, bare and bereft of leaves, was glittering with water droplets and in the light on the side of the building, it was sparkling and quite beautiful. Alas, this photo doesn’t even begin to capture that. It’s a photo of a tree at night, taken by artificial light. But the reality was so much more. At least I tried.
Our parrot, Solomon, has had his picture posted here a number of times. He is a red-lored amazon (Amazona autumnalis autumnalis), born in captivity in southern California. His ancestors came from the tropical forests of eastern Mexico. This is a close up of one of his flight feathers (technically known as remiges, from the Latin for “oarsman”). You can see the tiny barbules which interlock with each other to hold the barbs together. This photo, which covers an area about 4.5 by 3 millimeters, shows the region where the red fades into a small amount of green before transitioning again to black.
There are many things I love about Washington Christian Academy. Among my favorite things they do it History Night. Every year the elementary school puts on a show. Each class represents a culture and period in history in story and song. We haven’t been every year but this has been a part of our lives for many years and it always brings me back to Dorothy’s elementary school days. This is Collyn, first grade teacher and sometime Egyptian queen, in her classroom, which has been transformed into the inside of a pyramid, decorated with the life sized self-portraits of her students. We still have Dorothy’s from first grade.
I’ve just put down two mouse traps. Cathy and I were watching the TV this evening and all of a sudden Cathy started screaming. Well, not quite screaming but close. To the right of the TV, climbing on the bricks around the fire place, was a fairly large and quite healthy looking mouse. There he was, bold as you please. I’ve been aware that we have mice for a while and I bought some traps a few weeks ago but hadn’t put them out. I have now. I’m using peanut butter as bait and we’ll see how it goes. I’ve had mice that could take peanut butter off traps without tripping them, but generally the trap wins.
Are you ready for spring? With the notable exception of that snow storm we had January 22 and 23 it’s actually been a fairly mild winter. By some reckoning spring starts this coming week here. Those of you further south may already be well into it. Of course we know that we can still have snow well into March. In any case, the snow drops are coming up and starting to bloom, so if you delineate spring by when things start to bloom, it’s here. This one is in our yard and there are others more fully open, but those were in the shade and not so suitable for photographing.
We went for a walk in the park around Lake Frank today. The ground is still quite wet and the trails are very muddy so we stuck to the paved sections, going from the abandoned parking lot to the dam and back. We saw quite a few birds, including Canada geese (Branta canadensis), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis), tufted titmice (Baeolophus bicolor), an eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) and a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I got some very poor pictures of most of them and two pictures, slightly better than the rest, of this white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).
I didn’t get out much today. I went to work and was in my office pretty much straight through. Rather than come home and find something to photograph today, however, Cathy call to say that her mom had asked us to come for dinner. She had some folks staying with her, Tim and Karen, who are in the middle of this photograph. She also had five others over, plus us, making 10. We had a very nice time chatting, visiting with folks we already know and meeting a few that we don’t.