Monthly Archives: October 2016

Bob at Quench

Bob at Quench

Bob at Quench

We had a lovely time visiting with friends and enjoying some nice music at Quench off of Shady Grove Road this evening. Our friend Bob has played there a few times but this is the first time we were able to come hear him. Before Bob sang, we heard from Scott and then a group called Know1Else (http://know1else.com/), both of whom we enjoyed, but we were there to hear Bob. He sang some familiar songs but also a bunch of his own, some of which I’ve heard and enjoyed before and a few that I hadn’t. The food and beer was good, the music was fun, and we were with friends. It doesn’t get a lot better than that.

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Gravestone Pedantry

John William Benson, 1861 to 1947

John William Benson, 1861 to 1947

It’s one thing to have an obscure reference or symbol on a grave marker. In fact, it’s fairly common and in consequence, many of the otherwise obscure symbols are documented. You can easily find references that will tell you about them. But what if you want a symbol that no one will understand and few will recognize? Put it in a book and then make sure to reference it. In this case, page 35 of “Principia of Universareology” and it further notes that copies may be found in various public libraries. I’ve checked the library catalog for our public library system and they don’t have a copy. In fact, searching on “Principia of Universareology” only uncovered two links on these entire interwebs. The first is to the Find-a-Grave page for this marker. The second is a PDF of Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall 2005 of the “Coalition Courier” newsletter, Published by the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Inc. On page two is the following paragraph (which is also quoted on the Find-a-Grave page):

In the Summer issue we included a picture of John William Benson’s grave marker and asked if anyone could shed light on the symbol. Eileen sent along copies of the pertinent pages of “Principia of Universareology” written by Mr. Benson of R[ockville]. The symbol is a concentric heart. The “heart” has 7 layers and a flame at the top and a circle at the bottom. The flame represents religion-theology. The chambers represent: govern-ment-politics; operatics-operation; body-physiology; animal-zoology; matter-chemistry; astronomical-astronomy; and universe. The bottom circle represents ‘entinal chaos of and before the dawn of the beginning’. So there you have it. Thanks again Eileen.

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Beetle on a Mushroom

Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) On Mushroom

Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) On Mushroom

We had some trees taken out a few years ago and their roots are rotting. They are underground and out of site but the mushrooms are a pretty good sign that the wood is being broken down. The mushrooms are quite happy and are scattered through the area around where the trees were growing. I got down on the ground to take some pictures of them and after a while I noticed this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on the underside of one of the mushrooms. Getting a picture looking up at the underside of the mushroom was a bit tricky, but I managed it and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

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Decorative Lights

Decorative Lights

Decorative Lights

I was in downtown Rockville again this evening, meeting a few other guys for dinner. I got there a bit early and took a few pictures but city scenes, even small-city scenes, are not really my thing. The plaza is undergoing it’s annual transformation from an open place where people mingle with a fountain where the kids play in the warmer months into its winter form. A skating rink is built in the plaza with a small pavilion at one end where skates are rented. This evening it was about a third the way through this transformation. On the lines of trees down each side of the plaza are lights, wrapped around the trunks and up into the branches. That’s what this picture features.

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Begonia Flower

Begonia Flower

Begonia Flower

I wandered around the yard this evening looking for things to photograph. I took some pictures of ferns in the shade garden at the north corner of our yard but I decided they were not all that interesting. Perhaps that’s nothing new around here. Perhaps. But I try, I really do. I sat on the front walk looking at the pink flowers on the hardy begonia that’s been blooming there all summer. It’s very happy and the flowers, while not individually showy, are pretty and in mass, particularly when seen against the bright green leaves, are very nice. Here is a close up, showing the unusual, yellow stigma this flower has.

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Evening Clouds

Evening Clouds

Evening Clouds

When I got home I went out back and took a few pictures of the clouds over our neighborhood. This is the sort of sky you’ll see in a painting and think, the sky never actually looks like that. Well, it does. I had every expectation that about an hour on there would be a very dramatic sunset and I left the camera by the back door so I could go out and get pictures. The fact that you are seeing this non-sunset picture has probably clued you in that it didn’t happen. In fact, an hour later when the sun was setting and I looked out at the darkening sky, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. So, this is it, then.

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Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Today was one of those ‘didn’t find a lot to photograph’ days. I went out back and took some pictures of seeds on the Iris domestica (blackberry lily) and even got some more with our friend the spotted cucumber beetle. Then I went around front and tried to get good pictures of a large spider in the middle of an impressive web near our driveway. The spider wasn’t cooperating, though. She sat in the middle of the web, which was nice, but pulled her legs in so she appeared to be a slightly hairy blob. Not very interesting. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw this little fellow. He darted in and out of the ground cover by the driveway and I caught him on one of those excursions. I don’t really know but I assume this is an eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus).

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Apples

Apples

Apples

Once again I don’t have a lot to say about today’s picture. The title really gives you all the information you need. These are apples. I believe these are ‘Gala’ apples, to be more specific, and I bought them at Latte Plaza for $0.69 per pound, which is about as good a price as you’re going to get apples. Recently our local Safeway has started carrying ‘Envy’ apples, which I like quite a bit but which seem to vary in price quite a bit from one visit to the next.

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Tiny Mushrooms

Tiny Mushrooms

Tiny Mushrooms

Fall is well and truly here now and the weather has been beautiful. We were spared any significant rain from Hurricane Matthew and today was clear, breezy, and cool. In the mid afternoon Cathy and I took a walk along the north side of Lake Frank. I carried my camera but only a single lens, the 70-300mm zoom. That, unfortunately, is not ideal for macro shots because it doesn’t have a very close minimum focus. Still, I was able to get this picture of some tiny mushrooms growing out of a root crossing the path. If I had brought the macro lens, I’m sure I could have come back with a better version of this.

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Paper Wasp (Polistes sp.)

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

I know a lot of my followers are not crazy about all my creepy crawly pictures but I’m pretty happy with this one. This is the full frame, not cropped, meaning I was able to get pretty close to this paper wasp (Polistes sp.) as it crawled around on some goldenrod growing in our back garden. Generally I wouldn’t want goldenrod but most things have finished blooming at this point and a touch of yellow is nice, even if it’s from a weed. There are still a few roses on the bush by our front door and the verbena bonariensis and buddleia still have some blooms, but the black-eyed Susans are all done, and that leaves the back yard with a lot less color. There were a half dozen wasps of at least two different species of Polistes on this goldenrod plant and I was able to get in close with my macro and flash.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

At the request of a few of my fans (I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing) I’m trying to balance the insect pictures with sunset pictures. Actually, I pretty much take the sunsets when I can, but it’s not something you can just go out and find. They happen or they don’t (well, they happen every day but they aren’t always worth photographing). Today as I was heading into Rockville in the evening the sky was quite beautiful. Unfortunately I didn’t have a good place to stop until I got to St. Mary’s Church at the corner of Veirs Mill and Rockville Pike. That’s where this was taken.

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Johns Hopkins Hospital

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building

A few of you know the circumstances that brought me to the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Johns Hopkins Hospital this morning. I came to give some blood for testing. For those who don’t know what that’s about, I’ll just say that I’m fine and I’m here for someone else. This is a pretty amazing hospital in terms of activity. It’s like a hive. Of course it would be great if hospitals were not so busy but there you have it. For more information about the hospital and specifically about the Weinberg Building see this page: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/our_center/facilities/weinberg/.

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Grace and Bean

Grace and Bean

Grace and Bean

It’s midterm time at Gordon and Dorothy drove down late Wednesday (yesterday) with two friends. They actually got here early this morning but pretty much went straight to bed. This evening, we had one of our Thursday Night Dinners, eating at our house rather than going out. We had a pretty good crowd and it’s easier with that many to avoid big restaurant tables. We god dinner from Bombay Bistro and enjoyed it in the living room. Iris brought her dog, Bean, and this is Grace, one of Dorothy’s two friends, holding him.

Cathy took the day off work and she went with Dorothy, Grace, and Bobby (the other friend) to Great Falls and spent a long while climbing on Rocky Islands, below the falls, and then ended up near the end of the Billy Goat Trail. Tomorrow the three young folk plan to drive down to Richmond for the day. Then we’ll spend Saturday morning with them and they’ll head back to Boston Saturday afternoon.

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Cleome ‘Señorita Rosalita’

Cleome 'Señorita Rosalita'

Cleome ‘Señorita Rosalita’

Cathy bought this plant this spring and it’s been in constant bloom all summer and is still putting on a pretty good show out our kitchen door. We’ve had cleome before and sometimes it is tall and spindly but this one has a nice, bushy habit, just the right height (it’s growing in a large pot, which adds to its apparent height), and with stems sturdy enough that they haven’t blown over even in the storms we had on occasion. I highly recommend this variety, if you can find it.

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Bobby and Solomon

Bobby and Solomon

Bobby and Solomon

On Thursday I posted a picture of Grace, on of Dorothy’s two friends who came home with her for the mid-term break. I think it only fair that I also post a picture of Bobby, the other friend. He really liked Solomon and wanted to hold him but Solomon is a bit timid. Nevertheless, with a little coaxing, we were able to get them together.

Yesterday, as planned, the three kids went to Richmond for the day so it was a regular work day for me. Today, we drove out to Rocklands Farm (http://www.rocklandsfarmmd.com/) and had a really nice morning visiting with Janis and Greg. The kids also really enjoyed the animals. Funny, as I write that I picture these three kids as kindergartner at a petting zoo, but of course they are all about 20. Actually, they acted a little more like kindergartners than 20 year olds, but it was fun.

We got home and they packed their car, leaving to head back to school at about 3:45 and getting there at about 1:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. We enjoyed seeing them but it was too brief a visit.

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Junonia coenia (Common Buckeye)

Junonia coenia (Common Buckeye)

Junonia coenia (Common Buckeye)

I spent a good while out back trying to get some butterfly pictures this afternoon. This buckeye was the largest of those out on the verbena bonariensis but I also got some pictures of a few others, including cabbage whites (Pieris rapae), a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice, and what I’m pretty sure was a little checkered-skipper (Genus Pyrgus). I also got a few pictures of a tiny metallic green bee (genus Agapostemon) but that was a tough little critter to catch.

Update: The skipper has been identified as a Common Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis).

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Polistes dominula (European Paper Wasp)

Polistes dominula (European Paper Wasp)

Polistes dominula (European Paper Wasp)

Cathy and I went for a short walk early this afternoon, going around the upper half of the large block where our two office buildings stand. We met between the buildings, near a drainage pond and while I waited a few minutes for her to get there, I happened to see a small group of European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) working on a nest in a small tree. It was at a very good height to get a picture. So, naturally, I took a few. The European paper wasp was first seen in North American near Boston in 1978 but it is now present pretty much throughout the United States and Canada. It is often mistaken for a yellow jacket but is the only species of Vespidae that has mostly orange antennae, which makes it easy to identify (if you are willing to get close enough).

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A Few Old Coins

A Few Old Coins

A Few Old Coins

I’m not what you’d generally describe as a coin collector. On the other hand, I have a collection of coins. It isn’t very extensive and it’s certainly not very valuable, but it’s made up of coins I’ve accumulated over the years. As kids we would go through mom and dad’s coins looking for any we didn’t already have. Back then, in the 1960s, finding pennies with what are known as wheat backs wasn’t a big deal (they went through 1958) but now, it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Even rarer these days is to come across a steel penny, made in 1943 because of wartime shortages of copper. Pictured here are also two nickels from 1939 and 1941 and a Liberty Head dime from 1942.

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Ceramic Bear

Ceramic Bear

Ceramic Bear

I’m not really much of an artist. In particular, I’m not much of a sculptor. But back in the day (I don’t know for sure but certainly not later than the 1970s) I attempted a small figurine of a bear eating honey, a la Winnie The Pooh. It’s a bit crude and certainly won’t win any awards for life-likeness. On the other hand, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I bet you could tell what it was without being told. So, that’s something.

I’ve often admired sculptors and their ability to fashion clay, stone, or metal into such wonderful imitations of life. I think that’s one of the things I like best about Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. The fact that the sculpture is in such a beautiful setting makes a difference, too, of course. Could I do any better than this bear if I really tried? Possibly. But possibly we’ll never find out.

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Pselliopus barberi (Small, Orange Assassin Bug)

Pselliopus barberi

Pselliopus barberi

I had a meeting in a different building this afternoon and decided to take my camera with me. After the meeting, I walked back ‘the long way’ which is actually a straighter line than the normal route but it goes through the woods and crosses a creek without a bridge, so it takes a bit longer. It takes longer still if you are on the lookout for things to photograph and stop whenever you find something. First I got some shots of bright crimson barberry leaves and fruit (Berberis species). Then I took some pictures of the deep green leaves and bright red fruit on an Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). Both were reasonable pictures but not exactly exciting.

Pselliopus barberi

Pselliopus barberi

Then, in the woods, I caught a glimpse of something small and orange flying past. It landed on a weed and I got down low and found this little, bright orange assassin bug, Pselliopus barberi crawling up the stem. The first pictures were not very good because of the low light. I popped up the flash and was able to get a few pictures that made identification easy. This is a little fellow, only a little over a centimeter in length. In the last shot I got, it took off just as I pressed the shutter. I thought I missed it entirely, but I captured it flying out of the frame (and out of my life). I went back and forth over which of these photos to post—the one that shows it well or the one with the action—and finally decided to post them both.

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Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) turns a beautiful red in the autumn and that, along with the dark purple fruit make it a nice ornamental. I’m not sure if it’s because it is native and grows naturally all around the area but it doesn’t seem to be cultivated. Certainly not as much as it’s more upscale east Asian cousin, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a.k.a. Boston ivy. They both give a wonderful fall display and perhaps the more maple like leaves of Boston ivy is in its favor. But Virginia creeper is a bit hardier (but they can both take significant cold). Anyway, it’s growing throughout the woods around my office and giving me some nice color to see out my window.

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A Day In The Country

Cathy On The Pond

Cathy On The Pond

We had originally planned an outing for folks from out church to the family property in Pennsylvania for August but a lot of folks couldn’t come that weekend so we moved it to today. The day we would have gone in August was sweltering and muggy. Today was cool but beautiful. The wind was a bit strong but we had a fire going the whole day and I think that those who went all had a good time. I know I did. Being outside all day, cooking over a fire, and of course being with friends (old and new) is a great way to spend a day. Cathy was the first to go out in the canoe, battling the wind. As you can see, the trees are starting to turn.

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Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

I didn’t expect to see any more monarch butterflies this late in the year but this afternoon there was on on the buddleia in the back yard. I got a few good pictures of him (you can see the scent-scale patches on his hindwings, identifying this as a male). I also took a few pictures of one buddleia flower panicle with four huge carpenter bees all clustered together, getting the last of this years harvest before the cold days to come. We’ve had one pretty good frost and a few light frosts this year but are supposed to have a warm spell by the end of the week.

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Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Dorothy had a two of these Thanksgiving cacti (cultivars of Schlumbergera truncata) at school with her but she didn’t have a place for them this year so they stayed here. We have had them in a westward facing window in our dining room and this one has started to bloom. In the week between when I took this and now, when I’m posting it, the other one has started to bloom, also. Thanksgiving cactus can be differentiated from Christmas cactus by its pointy teeth on the leaf-like stem segments and from the flowers, which are held more horizontally and which are less symmetrical on Thanksgiving cacti. On Christmas cactus, which are cultivars of S. russelliana, the stem segments are rounded and the flowers hang down more and are more symmetrical. Both come from a small area of the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil.

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Symphyotrichum racemosum (Smooth White Oldfield Aster)

Symphyotrichum racemosum (Smooth White Oldfield Aster)

Symphyotrichum racemosum (Smooth White Oldfield Aster)

This little wild aster, the smooth white oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) is differentiated from the similar calico aster (Symphyotrichum laterifolium) by having its flowers all or mostly on one side of the stem. These are quite common in our area and are, according to the USDA, found throughout the east all the way to Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. I think the flowers are quite pretty individually but since they mostly form large clusters that’s how they are really seen.

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Will and Ethan

Will and Ethan

Will and Ethan

Will and Ethan have both been in pictures posted here, both separately and together. We were at their house this evening and I took a few of Ethan and then this one of the two brothers together, which I think is a good picture. I’m finding that on the days I don’t go out during the day at work, I’m having a harder time coming up with a post-worthy picture. Going to someone else’s house is helpful, of course, because there is always something new to photograph, even if it’s just their kids. Will asked me to send this to him, which I did, so if you’ve already seen this from him, you’ll now know where it came from.

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Fall Colors, Maple Edition

Fall Colors, Maple Edition

Fall Colors, Maple Edition

I walked back from the other building through the woods again late this afternoon and took a few pictures of the fall color. So far, while there are some spectacular trees about, the overall color scene isn’t as great as some years. It isn’t at peak yet, though, and I suspect it will be getting better over the next week or two. This maple is pretty nice so I’m sharing it with you. I hope you don’t mind that there will be a few more like this until they leaves are all down. I do love the fall. It’s cool, the trees are beautiful, bugs are less of a problem, and I love being outdoors. Of course, it also gets dark earlier, but that’s the price we pay.

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More Maple Colors

More Maple Colors

More Maple Colors

The colors are getting better on a daily basis and by next week they should be at peak in the area. Looking out my window at work, there are lots of yellows on the willow oaks and walnuts. The two large elms are still bright green with only a hint of yellow around the edges. The Virginia creeper has mostly passed red into leaflessness. At home, though, where this picture was taken, the two maples in the back yard are at their reddest best. The red oaks in the front have barely started to change and won’t until after the maples are bare.

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Agatha and Bertram

Agatha and Bertram

Agatha and Bertram

One of Cathy’s soccer friends hosts an annual Dia de los Muertos party every year and this year was the third time we have gone. We were a bit tired from hosting a baby shower earlier in the day but so we didn’t stay late but we did go. We also didn’t expend a lot of energy on our costumes, simply wearing paper masks that we’ve had but rarely used. I’m pretty sure Cathy’s brother Jim gave these to us years ago. They are surprisingly effective, although the few people at the party who actually know us didn’t really have any trouble telling who we were. Cathy was Agatha and I was Bertram, which probably come from Wodehouse, consciously or not.

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Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee on Marigold

Carpenter Bee on Marigold

There are not nearly as many flowers left in the yard as we approach the end of October. We’ll still have some warm days (today was in the 80s!) but in general, plants are switching into autumn mode. Annuals, of course, don’t have the luxury of going dormant so they can overwinter and start up again in the sprint. So, some of them bloom until the cold kills them once and for all. Marigolds (Tagetes species and cultivars) are a good example. This is one that Cathy planted in a small bed where a dead tree was removed. The bees, of course, are still active and looking for anything they can get. This is an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).

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Hickory Color

Hickory Color

Hickory Color

As I was driving home, I stopped at a traffic light (like you do) and looked to my left. This is what I saw. I thought, that’s pretty nice, with the late afternoon sun shining on it. So, I picked up my camera (which I try to keep within reach most of the time) and took five pictures before the light turned green. From this distance, I’m not 100% sure what kind of tree is was, but at a guess, I’m going to say it’s a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa. The dark red leaves in the lower right are on a Bradford-like pear (Pyrus calleryana).

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