We went swimming early this afternoon and then I dug in the sand and made a drip castle. After showering, Cathy and I walked on the beach. I was surprised that the castle was still there. The tide hadn’t come in yet but no one had stepped on it. On our walk we saw a few common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) just above the surf pulling up clams after each wave. It’s not really surprising that they’ve learned to enjoy clams. It’s just that we don’t think of grackles as shore birds, skipping around at the top of the surf along with willets and sand pipers.
Monthly Archives: August 2018
I know that for many people, the phrase, “one of my favorite spiders” is not even a thing. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite spiders. The Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes) is quite large. Nothing like a tarantula and only hairy at the leg joints, but still pretty good sized. The body of females grow up to almost 2 inches. This on is about an inch and a half. The male, seen at the top of the picture, is considerably smaller. North Carolina is about as far north as this spider is found but it is fairly common in the marshy woods here. Because of their size, they are fairly easy to spot. That’s just as well because you probably won’t be happy when you walk into the web as you go through the woods.
The silk from this spider is a golden color. Scientists have analyzed the dragline silk of this spider’s web and attempted to reproduce its proteins artificially for use in high-strength fabrics.
Our week at the beach has come to an end and we leave tomorrow morning. The southern North Carolina beaches are great and I like Ocean Isle in particular. Partly that’s just a matter of familiarity, of course, and people who go to other beaches year after year almost certainly feel the same way. But one thing I don’t particularly care for is the drive home. It’s about 425 miles and the traffic between Richmond and DC is never good, especially on a summer weekend. But, drive it we must. First, however, we took time for a family photo out on the deck. As you can see, we’re sort of looking into the setting sun, so there’s a bit of squinting going on. From left to right: Henry, Dot, Danna, Kai, Maya, Steve, George, Carmela, Cathy, Dorothy, Jacob, and Kendra.
It’s been a good year for the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in our yard. Of course, it’s been an even better year for the weeds. With most weekends at least partly devoted to dealing with one or both of our mom’s houses, we’ve spent a lot less time in the garden this year. There is bindweed (Convolvulus species) everywhere and it’s running riot. In particular, along the back fence and the garden along the south end of the house are both totally out of control. There is significant pokeweed, goldenrod, various thistles, and even a few trees (zelkova, elm, maple, and ash). But there are some blooms that were intended, as well, including this coneflower.
After work I met my mom at her house and we emptied the garage. I have a few pictures of it, showing how it’s leaning, particularly at the back. We loaded trash into her van to take to the county transfer station and I took a few things to give away or otherwise deal with. When I got home and was unloading my van I noticed this praying mantis on the roof of Margaret’s car. I believe but am not sure that it is a Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis). I think it is not fully grown, as it was only about two inches long. Like true bugs, grasshoppers, cockroaches, and crickets (to name a few), the mantises undergo what is known as incomplete metamorphosis. That is, instead of larval and pupal stages, the emerge from their eggs as nymphs and grow through a series of instars, where they shed their exoskeletons as they grow.
Here’s another photo of the black-eyed Susans in our back yard. After work today I sat in the back yard for a while. I decided it was time I cut my hair so I got the clippers out and did it. It was very hot and the hair stuck all over me but it’s done. While I was sitting after getting my hair cut, I enjoyed the black-eyed Susans that surround our patio. They have gotten somewhat out of control but they are lovely and if anything is going to go wild, it might as well be pretty. This is a time of the summer when there isn’t a lot else in bloom and the Rudbekia are quite welcome. Maybe next year we’ll have time to fight them back a little but for now, we’ll just enjoy their abundance.
There have been many loads of things taken from my mom’s house over the last couple months. Most of them went by minivan, either hers or mine, with the exception of her actual move, when things went in a moving truck. There are two things that can’t be fit into our vans, however. One of them is a small, utility trailer. I plan to put the tiller on that so although that’s two items, it will be moved as a unit. I hope to tackle that in a week or so. The other item is this Sears, aluminum jon boat. I don’t remember when dad bought it but it’s been at least 50 years, probably closer to 55. It’s a bit battered and the wooden transom is rotting out. But it’s sea worthy (or at least pond worthy) and I wouldn’t mind taking it out for a weekend and just fishing for a while. for me, the part of fishing from a boat that I don’t like is being out in the sun, so maybe I’ll wait for an overcast day. That or cooler weather, anyway. I haven’t fished in years and I think it’s time I did. I also have a few of dad’s rods, reels, and various other accoutrements. All I need is a license and a day off. Soon. Very soon. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that’s not my real license plate number.
It was great catching up with our dear friend Karlee this evening. It was also nice meeting her boyfriend, Patrick. Whether he’s good enough for Karlee remains to be seen, although he seems nice enough. It’s always hard when someone you know well and care about meets someone and you don’t know them. It’s probably natural to be suspicious or doubt that they are good enough. We really enjoyed dinner and being with them. It’s too bad we have to brave the Beltway and the American Legion Bridge during an evening rush hour to see Karlee, but it’s worth it.
The other day I posted a picture of dad’s jon boat on the roof of my van. These are the hooks of some fishing lures, also my dads. When mom and I were cleaning out the garage I came across dad’s old fishing vest. The mice or squirrels had gotten to it first and much of it was shredded. There were some lures in the pockets, though, and a few weights. I took them before putting the remains of the vest into the garbage. This evening I was looking at them and remembering fishing with my dad. I didn’t really have the patience for fishing that he had but I think I’ve gained some over the years. The thought of sitting by a lake or river or sitting in a boat with nothing going on except the occasional cast and even more occasional bite sounds really good now.
Cathy brought some coneflowers in this evening to put in a vase in or dining room. Actually, they got knocked over when she was cutting the grass so she figured we might as well enjoy them as they die. I think they look really nice against the rich brown of this china cabinet. As you might be able to tell, the china cabinet is empty. We’ll put things in it but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. For now, the things that could go in it are in boxes and taking up space that could be used in better ways. But finding them and figuring out what we want where is a bit too much for us right now.
We don’t bring flowers in very often but I’m always glad when we do. One of the nicest photos I’ve taken, actually, is a vase of flowers, mostly roses, that Cathy arranged. It was sitting on our kitchen table and the late afternoon sun was coming in and lighting it from the side so the background went fairly dark and the flowers glowed nicely. I’ve made a few prints of that one, taken in 2010, and it’s been fairly popular. I don’t think this one will win any awards but I do like the colors and it’s a relaxing picture, to me.
We had a family dinner night this evening at mom’s new apartment and dining hall. I don’t want to give the impression that I only enjoy these get togethers because of the two grand nephews (and it isn’t strictly speaking even true). Nevertheless, I do enjoy seeing them. Kai is such a cute little boy. He wouldn’t smile for me until his mom said, “Kai, can you cry for Uncle Henry?” This is the grin we got from that request. It’s when he smile that he reminds me most of Ralph, which is good, but also hard. I love this little guy. He’s his own person, obviously, and he has a lot of his mom in his looks, but there are moments when he looks just like his grandpa at that age. Not that I remember his grandpa at that age. When Ralph was Kai’s age I wasn’t quite two months old. But there are pictures.
As I’ve mentioned before, the garden is somewhat overrun with Rudbekia (a.k.a. black-eyed Susan) flowers. The bees don’t mind. There are, actually, other things in bloom, but none nearly as obvious. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), for instance, is very popular with the bees of all sorts. But their flowers are much less showy. This afternoon I took a bunch of pictures of various bees on the black-eye Susan flowers. This one is a western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Contrary to popular belief, they are in no real danger of all dying out. You can, to a large degree, thank capitalism for that, although I think the danger was considerably exagerated, in any case.
At the top of our driveway Cathy had a few potted plants. Well, I say a few but there are quite a lot, really. It’s actually a nice garden and since we aren’t going to be putting our car in the garage in any case, it doesn’t really matter that it’s blocking them out. On occasion I’ve had to move a few plants just to get something large in or out but generally there’s enough of a path for that. In addition to the plants there are a few “ornaments” of one kind or another. I don’t recall where this horseshoe came from, or the iron spikes, for that matter. I particularly like their color when they are wet from the rain.
The Book of the Black Bass, by James A. Henshall, M.D., was first published in 1881. The Preface to the 1881 edition includes begins as follows:
This book owes its origin to a long-cherished desire on the part of the author, to give to the Black Bass its proper place among game fishes, and to create among anglers, and the public generally, an interest in a fish that has never been so fully appreciated as its merits deserve, because of the want of suitable tackle for its capture, on the one hand, and a lack of information regarding its habits and economic value on the other.
Cathy came across this 1904 edition in her parents’ basement and we decided to keep it, as much for its lovely cover as for it’s fascinating contents. Although this is the 1904 edition, it’s actually from the eighth printing, in 1915. It details, of course, the largemouth and smallmouth bass, Micropterus Salmoides and Micropterus dolomieu, respectively. According to Britanica, there are “about six species” in the genus while Wikipedia claims 14 recognized species. Regardless, it’s the largemouth bass that I’m most familiar with, having them in our pond in Pennsylvania. I’ve only caught smallmouth bass when traveling, most notably in the lakes of east central Ontario.
I went with our good friend Mike to music practice at church today. They don’t have their ensemble play often but when they do, he likes to participate, playing the baritone horn. He played trumpet in high school and college but he’s moved down the scale to the baritone. I don’t really know a lot about the various horns but I’m a big fan of them in terms of music. I’m also a fan of the lower registers, so the tenor, baritone, and tuba are favorites, just as the cello and double bass are in the string sections and the bassoon in the woodwinds. The ensemble playing this Sunday includes, in addition to Mike’s baritone, a tuba, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, two flutes, two violins, and a piano. Those instruments were not picked in any scientific manner but are basically what people willing to play have to play. They sounded pretty good, though.
I didn’t have any pictures today so I looked around for something to photograph. I have this little, yellow, model car that has been one of two sports cars I’ve owned over the years. I’m not saying that these are models of cars that I’ve actually owned. It’s the models that I’ve owned. The other is an old Jaguar XJ-S that was originally silver but I very carefully repainted a deep, lustrous green. This car, also British, could use a coat of paint. Somehow this is more in keeping with our current fleet, however. Our newest car is 13 years old, our middle car can vote, and our oldest can drink. They have a combined mileage of over 650 thousand miles. That’s not counting the miles on this little baby.
It’s spider time in Maryland. There are spiders around all year long, of course. It’s said that you are never more than six feet from a spider*. Nevertheless, they are much more noticeable in the heat of late summer. We have quite a few living in the garden and yard and I have no problem with that. They eat things I like less than spiders. This one is just outside our living room window on a fairly impressive web. Getting into a good position to photograph it was a bit tricky, as I didn’t want to disturb it or ruin its web. I know I have a few followers who aren’t crazy about my spider photos (or other creepy-crawly things) but I think they are beautiful, in their own way. This is, I believe, a cobweb spider in the genus Parasteatoda.
* There are probably exceptions to this, for instance if you are floating in the ocean (without a boat), you may be more than six feet from a spider.
Today is Cathy and my 34th anniversary. We spent much of the day working on going through things in our garage and then at her mom’s house, getting more things out and into our slightly more organized garage. There’s more to go and this seems to be never ending but the day will come when we have finished and it’s all behind us. In the evening, though, we went out to Baronessa, a little Italian restaurant that we enjoy. There was a large group (I counted 29 people) celebrating a woman’s 90th birthday, but we were able to get a table and have a nice meal. As we left, the sun was setting in the west (where it usually sets). So, this is our Anniversary Sunset.
I got a few nice arthropod photos today, one spider (a Basilica Orbweaver (Mecynogea lemniscata) and a few bees. My post for today came down to a choice between this monarch and a photo of a Philanthus gibbosus, one of the thirty-some species of beewolves in our area. It’s a pretty little bee with pitted chitin and a distinctive pattern of yellow and black. I photographed it on a black-eyed Susan, which went well with its coloration. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go with this rather nice photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Oddly, most people who dislike insects don’t really mind butterflies. It’s true that they are pretty harmless to humans but then, so are a lot of other, more easily despised insects. Maybe it’s because they are so colorful and pretty, but frankly, I think wasps are pretty, so there.
Ten days ago I posted a picture of purple coneflowers in a blue and white vase against the dark cherry of a china cabinet. I was a little surprised by the relatively warm reception it received. Those same flowers are now a little bit past their prime. This is one of them, drooping and a little faded, but still quite lovely in its own way. Of course, we all want to be the strong, beautiful flower, blooming where we are planted. But that’s fleeting, as it is written, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16 ESV) But even his days are not all full bloom. We start as a small sprout (metaphorically speaking), grow, (hopefully) bloom, and (even more hopefully) bear fruit. But then we grow old and begin to fade, like this flower. That, too, can be beautiful. Lord, help me to grow old gracefully.
In the process of going through things at mom’s, I spent some time looking through a bunch of rock. I’m not sure what it is about rocks and our family, but it seems we all have a rock collection of some description. Mom also had some rocks and minerals that had been her fathers, including this large calcite crystal. A large section of the crystal is opaque but the left side as shown here is mostly transparent. Calcite crystals have an interesting optical property called birefringence, that is, they have a double refraction, causing two images of any items viewed through the crystal. As you can see here, the word Library (on a Modern Library copy of The Aeneid) is duplicated when viewed through the crystal.
In 1966, Cathy’s family lived in Bangkok, Thailand. In December of that year the fifth Asian Games, also known as V Asiad, were held there. While going through things from her mom’s house, we found a fan of woven and dried palm leaves, dyed green and pink, with a sticker commemorating the games. The sticker says, “Fifth Asian Games, Ever Onward, Bangkok 1966” surrounding a red sun (the official logo of the games) and with twenty interlocking yellow circles. Interestingly, the logo displayed on the Wikipedia page for the even only has eleven circles and they are blue but all the commemorative coins I’ve found photos of have twenty. Not sure what the deal is with that.
We also have a few t-shirts, souvenirs from both the 1966 games and from the sixth Asian Games, held in 1970, also in Bangkok, Thailand. According to Wikipedia, Éc;Originally Seoul, South Korea was selected to host the 6th Games but it declined due to both financial reasons and security threats from neighboring North Korea but eventually the city finally hosted in 1986. Previous host Thailand stepped in to save the Asiad. A total number of 2,400 athletes, coming from 18 countries, competed in this Asiad.”
One interesting thing about this fan is the mistake in the weaving. Can you spot it? Once you see it, you cannot not see it, I’m afraid.
I drove out to BWI Airport this morning to pick up Margaret, who returned today from Chicago. I had a little time after I parked so I walked to the international terminal at the end of the building. I’m not sure why but the area was practically deserted. I took a few pictures of this model of The China Clipper (NC14716). The original was built for Pan American Airways by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Per Wikipedia, “In 1961, the Martin Company merged with American-Marietta Corporation, a large sand and gravel mining company, forming Martin Marietta Corporation. In 1995, Martin Marietta merged with aerospace giant Lockheed to form the Lockheed Martin Corporation.” The China Clipper flew the first commercial transpacific airmail service from San Francisco to Manila in 1935. It was lost in a crash on January 8, 1945 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
In a rare turn for late August, it was very pleasant outside today. The high probably wasn’t over about 82°F and it wasn’t humid at all. In the shade it was quite comfortable. To capitalize on such a nice day, Cathy and I met and took a walk around our company campus. Almost immediately when I went outside, I spotted this dragonfly, which I believe to be a wandering glider (Pantala flavescens), one of the skimmers. That ID may be wrong, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful thing, with its dark yellow markings and striking red eyes.
Our anniversary was last Saturday but Cathy’s mom was out of town then so she took us to dinner this evening to celebrate 34 years. We went to the Thai place on Rockville Town Square and the place was hopping (the square, more than the restaurant). There was a concert going on and the place was fairly crowded. We had a nice meal but decided to eat indoors so we could hear each other talk. Cathy broke from tradition by getting panang curry, which is what I generally get, except she got chicken while I usually get beef. Then I broke with tradition, as well, and got pad thai, which Cathy usually gets, except I got beef while she usually gets chicken. After dinner we walked around the square once and I took a few pictures, including this one (obviously) from the east end of the square, looking towards the stage.
In the small garden where the county once had an oak tree, down by the road, Cathy has been growing mostly annuals each summer. We got a lot less done in the yard this year but she did manage to get a bunch of zinnia and marigold plants in the ground. There is Pachysandra terminalis already growing around the bed but she has kept the center, where the tree was, clear for her annuals. There is also Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue Mistflower), a slightly invasive herbaceous perennial, but she pulls out enough each year to keep things balanced. The blue of the Conoclinium goes well with the yellow and orange of the zinnias and marigolds.
This evening I was sitting in the living room and notices the reflection of our curtains in the corner cabinet. I don’t know how old the cabinet is but the glass in the doors is not very flat. The reflections were showing a fair amount of distortion and I decided to see if I could capture it in a photograph. Reflections are sometimes tricky, especially when you add flash into the equation, which I did on this occasion. The flash needs to aim both at the reflective surface, to give a little light to the wood around the glass, and to the object being reflected, so it shows up in the picture. I think this one balances them pretty well. Another issue is focus, because you have to decide to focus on the reflected image, which in this case was more than twice the distance from the camera to the glass. In this case, I got the wood of the corner cabinet in sharp focus and the curtains are a little soft. Since they are so distorted, I don’t think that matters too much. There are a few yellow spots at the top of the curtains and it took me a moment to figure out where they were coming from. Those are specular reflections off of the brass curtain rings.
I’m old enough now that I allow myself to think about retirement. It’s still a long way off, I’m afraid, unless things change drastically, but not so far away as it used to be. Every year brings me that much closer (which I suppose is sort of the way time works). I went to lunch with some coworkers today to celebrate the retirement of one of our number. Jane (in the pink sweater) is fortunate to be able to retire at such a young age. One thing you might notice about this picture is that I’m in it. I did take this picture but I was also in one taken by someone else. I took myself from that one and added it here (but without feet, if you look carefully).
I’ve posted pictures of this eagle lectern twice before, once on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 and then again on Thursday, January 04, 2018. The first of those is quite similar to this picture, I’m afraid, but it was long enough ago that I’m doubtful that many who are following me now will remember. The other, a picture of the body of the eagle, is more recent. I also took a few pictures of what we assume was an award that was given to my great uncle Ralph. At least it has a brass plaque on the front with his name on it. It doesn’t say what it was for and it may have been some sort of retirement memento. We also are not sure what it is. It appears to be an electronic tuning fork, but we don’t really know. I’ve been meaning to fiddle around with it and see what I can make it do. But as a photograph, it just wasn’t interesting enough so you get a repeat of the wooden eagle talons.
We live in a throw away society. In some respects, that’s a sad thing. In general, the quality of some products is pretty low and their useful lifespan is pretty short. People aren’t going to be taking their grandparents’ Ikea furniture to Antiques Roadshow to be appraised by the Keno brothers of the future. On the other hand, this also speaks of unprecedented relative wealth, created by a free market system. Competition has improved quality and reduced cost so much that if a glass breaks, we don’t think twice about throwing it away and getting a new one. That hasn’t always been the case. This glass was broken over 50 years ago when Cathy’s family lived in Kabul, Afghanistan. Rather than throw it away, it was repaired. The pieces of glass had small holes drilled in them, the pieces were glued back together, and metal staples were glued into the holes to add the needed strength to hold the pieces together. Pretty remarkable and something of a glimpse into a different world.
We really should plant more of this. The pink flowers in the foreground are Cleome ‘Señorita Rosalita’ and they really are lovely. They also bloom pretty much continuously all summer and well into the fall. We have just a few plants growing in a container on the back patio. They are pretty much overwhelmed by the yellow of the black-eyed Susans that are all around. I think if we had a larger container or two filled with Cleome, it would be pretty nice. I should make a point of buying a few packets of next year and getting them started early.
We met our good friends Krystal and Mike for dinner this evening at Villa Maya Restaurant. Cathy and I got there a few minutes early, which turned out to be really good, as it meant we didn’t have to wait long for a table. Before we went in, I took a moment to take a few pictures of the clouds to the south, which were building up to an impressive height. I really love clouds and especially those that are really moving, whether they are moving horizontally or growing taller, as these were doing. Dinner was wonderful. Well, the food was fine. The company was as good as it gets.