Showing posts from August, 2019

Paddling the Pacific and Image 8.28.19 - Cyanotype Process

Dear Henry,

How long do you think it would take someone to paddle across the Pacific Ocean, from California to Hawaii?

I don't know about you or me but it only took Antonio de la Rosa about 76 days.

A Spanish endurance athlete, Mr. de la Rosa created a modified, custom-built stand-up paddleboard named the Ocean Defender that he used to make the journey.

This isn't your everyday SUP. The Ocean Defender is a prototype vessel that is 24 feet long, with an open middle deck and a 65-pound central fin that keeps the craft stable.   The back of the craft is enclosed for sleeping and for gear storage, while the front of the craft houses a state of the art electrical system and a GPS system.  The entire vessel is very cool and looks like something Captain Nemo would design.

In a completely unsupported journey, Mr. de la Rosa paddled about 10 hours a day and survived on dehydrated food and the occasional fish, and while he was able to get some sleep every night, he had to wake hourly t…

Abyssinian in the Rain and All About Ticks.

Dear Henry,

Over the weekend one of my mystery bulbs bloomed - it turns out they were abyssian flowers and then it rained and I was able to get a gorgeous macro photograph.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that I have had the opportunity to do an in-depth study of ticks this weekend.

Normally, I like to learn but really, ticks?

It seems ticks have been the bane of the earth since the beginning of time.  They even fed on dinosaurs.

They only serve two functions on this planet - as a food source (guinea hens and opossums love them) and as a form of population control, because ticks are great disease vectors. According to the CDC, ticks can transmit at least 16 different types of "bugs" (bacteria/virus/parasite) and while most of these bugs will cause symptoms resembling the flu, there are a couple versions of rickettsioses - Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most famous - that can be fatal.  The bacteria transmitted by tick bites is also responsible for the chronic il…

Catch a Falling Star W/ Devil's Canyon - Landscape Photography

Dear Henry,

A couple of weeks ago, while trying (and failing) to photograph the Perseid meteor shower, I saw the hugest meteor ever, like it was almost close enough to touch, huge.

It was beautiful and stunning and I didn't even think to try and photograph it (plus the camera was facing the other direction).

Anyway, I was sure it landed close by or at least sprinkled meteor dust everywhere and I wondered how hard it was to find a meteor.

Turning to Google, it turns out, finding a meteor is pretty hard. According to the Meteoritical Society, there have only been about 1,800 found since 1807. That is a very daunting statistic, so never mind, I won't be looking for any.

Poking around further into all things meteor, I discovered the American Meteor Society website, which has a great many resources on the timing and peak dates of these showers.

They also collect information on fireballs, which is apparently what I saw - on August 11th.

I feel very scientific now.

xoxo a.d.

An Unreadable Book and Image 8.19.19 - Cyanotype Process

Dear Henry,

I have just heard of the most mysterious book ever made and now, I want to read it.

Trouble is, I can't. No one can.

The book is an illuminated codex called the Voynich Manuscript and it has been a mystery throughout the ages.

Carbon dating places the creation of the document somewhere between 1404-1438 but that is all anyone knows about its early life.

Although it was rumored that Emperor Rudolph II, and then Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenez, the royal gardener, owned the book. The first documented owner doesn't appear until 1639 when the alchemist Georg Baresch sent samples of the script to Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher hoping for a translation.

After Baresch's death, the book made its way to his friend Jan Marek Marci and then finally to Kircher.  The book disappeared into the Jesuit archives until 1912, when the book was sold, along with many others, to raise funds for the order.

The book was purchased by Wilfred Voynich, a rare book dealer in 1912 and that…

Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Everywhere - Boletus Tylopilus - Macro Photography

Dear Henry,

This is one of the Tylopilus versions of the Bolete mushroom.  They are gorgeous, with deep purple caps and, like most boletes, are non-toxic (there is a bolete with red spores which is said to be dangerous.  They don't appear to be wide-spread and I haven't seen one).

There is, however, a huge variation in the edibility of "non-toxic".

Any bolete with a purple cap tastes awful and by awful, I mean so bitter that your tongue tingles.  You could not eat this mushroom, not even if you are starving.
Ask me how I know.

You see, once, Fish and I, armed with the "all boletes are non-toxic", picked, sauteed, and attempted to eat one. They smelled heavenly while cooking.  They taste horrific. The taste is so bad that we were afraid we had misidentified the mushroom.

I hear (unverified and unresearched) that they are a component of bitters.  I did, however, make a joke about eating one on social media and I should not have.  Anyone who tries to eat one …

Fear the Killer Parrot - Heracles Inexpectatus

Dear Henry,

This morning I found myself flying into the colorful world of parrots after I read about the discovery of a fossilized parrot skeleton found in New Zealand.

The parrot discovered, named Heracles Inexpectatus, would have been about three feet tall.

The article mentioned several times that this parrot was the size of a small child and I hadn't realized until this article that parrots were a bird to be feared.

As it turns out, parrots are considered raptors and are carnivorous.  For example, a current species of parrot in New Zealand called the kea, has been known to regularly attack and takes bites out of living sheep.

They are smart too, and like ravens, can remember, mimic, and hold a grudge.  They also have a dominant foot and can be "right or left-handed".  Parrots are monogamous and appear to mate for life, although they are difficult to study in the wild.

One of the most important things I learned about parrots is how bad it is to keep them as pets - at l…

Lighting Strikes and Plumbing Problems with Mizaru, Kikazaru, and Iwazaru

Dear Henry,

There are days when it doesn't serve any purpose to read the paper.

Today seems to be one of those days.

I have learned, to my utter horror, what happens when lightning strikes a septic tank.

The effect is much worse than you have already imagined.

You see, plumbing is an excellent conductor of electricity. Plumbing that is connected to a septic tank can also contain a fair amount of methane gas. Methane gas is flammable.

And as a poor couple in Florida discovered, when lightning strikes a septic tank, not only does the septic tank explode, so does the plumbing in the house including the toilets.

Yes, yes, I think you now have a full picture of how horrific this situation is.  There are also so many puns that can be applied in this situation.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

As someone who both lives in an area of many lightning strikes and has a septic tank, my heart goes out to the Ward family.  I am also trying to figure out how to lightning proof my own tank.

I wonde…

I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Hot Dog - Haw Creek Falls - Long Exposure Photography

Dear Henry,

There has been enough buzz about a new ice cream flavor that I thought I would, at least, look into this concoction.  It is absurd.

Oscar Mayer made a hot dog ice cream sandwich.

That just sounds bad right away, doesn't it?

Anyway, the sandwich is a shortbread-type cookie outer layer, with a "hot dog sweet cream", and pieces of candied hot dogs.  One end is dipped in a spicy mustard gelato and made to compete with the new French's Mustard Ice Cream (I am suspicious of this product too).

I can't decide if this is supposed to be a sweet dessert or a savory one, or perhaps, Oscar Mayer is trying to apply the Chinese principle of  "Five Tastes" to this dessert.

Despite my willingness to give everything a try, once, I am really struggling to put a game face on this one.

The Weiner mobile will be passing them out in New York on August 12, I think I am going to wait for the reviews to decide.

xoxo a.d.

The Sounds of Summer and Image 8.5.19 - Cyanotype Process

Dear Henry,

Growing up, I never got to experience the summer sounds of cicadas - they don't (at least from everything I have read) live West of the Continental Divide and while I did hear them in Colorado, I was not at all prepared for the cicada cacophony of an Ozark summer.

Now that I have lived here for a couple of years, the sounds of cicadas, like the twinkling of fireflies (also not found in the Western US) have come to represent Summer to me and I couldn't imagine a Summer without them.

In fact, despite the humidity, I love summers in Arkansas best of all.

One of my favorite times of the day is the early pre-dawn and during the Summer months (which are long and warm in Arkansas), the predawn has become a wonderful moment of meditation while sitting on the porch, watching the fireflies, and listening to the cicadas.

I am still trying to capture this magic in a photograph.

xoxo a.d.

Vampires in New England and Image 7.31.19 - Cyanotype Process

Dear Henry,

Did you know there were vampires in New England?

In 1990, a coffin was discovered at a gravel quarry in Griswold, Connecticut, with the initials JB and the number 55 hammered into the coffin lid with brass tacks.

The bones within the coffin were arranged, several years postmortem, into a Jolly Roger.

Intrigued by this arrangement, local archeologists started "digging" (couldn't help it) into the mystery and though historical records and DNA testing, they were able to put together his story.

JB was a man named John Barber and he had tuberculosis and oddly enough, what happened to John Barber's body wasn't all that rare.

Tuberculosis was a real problem during that period of time and was called consumption because of the wasting and draining effects of the disease.  The disease was (and still is) incredibly contagious, and because of the disease's symptoms  (paleness, blood at the corners of the mouth, a decaying smell to the breath), there was a be…