Posted by Ellen

In 1899, snow was shoveled off busy Manhattan streets, loaded into wagons, and hauled down to the docks, where it was dumped in the river. 

Nowadays, the EPA doesn't like for states or municipalities to dump dirty snow from city streets into rivers or, as in the case of Portland, Maine, into the ocean. Portland used to throw its snow from downtown into the harbor, but it now builds mountains of snow, dump-truckload after dump-truckload, in an empty field near the airport.

New York City trucks its snow to melting machines, known as snow dragons, which can melt thirty tons of snow an hour and discharge the meltwater into the city sewer sytem. In an emergency, however, such as a ridiculously huge blizzard, we are told that the EPA will look the other way while the city rids its streets of snow the old-timey way.

Posted by Ellen

The sun rises over Gasworks Park and Lake Union in Seattle, or at least it tries to. The clouds scuttling into town from the the west (right edge of this picture) are about to roll all over the golden disk and thus reestablish normal winter gloom.

Posted by Ellen

From the Lockridge community near Durham, North Carolina, comes this photo and note from Carol Stack: "My first selfie, with birthday flowers."

This time of year also marks the birthday of our boy John, a.k.a. J.J. Good cheer to both,  many happy returns, and let's hear it for one-eyed floral birthday selfies!

Posted by Ellen

This is the front panel of a Nechada barrel organ, made in Odessa, Ukraine, in the early years of the twentieth century. It was often set up in the street outside a bar or brothel, in hopes that the popular tunes it blasted out would draw a crowd of potential customers. Sometimes, of course, the organ grinder had a monkey as an added attraction, or a troupe of very young girls, perhaps eight or ten years old, who danced and sang and turned cartwheels to entertain the drunks.

Odessa was home to a number of piano manufacturers, who made these organs as a sideline. No musical skill was required to operate them; the organ grinder just turned the crank on one side of the box, which pumped air through the organ pipes and also spun rolls of paper that had been pre-programmed with the desired musical compositions. The paper blocked air from entering the pipes except where holes had been punched; when a hole in the paper came in line with the opening to a pipe of the desired pitch, air was forced through the pipe, generating each note of a song.

Odessa street organs, called sharmankas, were sold throughout the Russian empire from about 1860 until they began to be replaced by more modern music machines, notably record players, in the 1920s. Even then, they remained in use by street buskers, particularly in Tbilisi and other Georgian cities, where street organs were popular well into the 1960s.

The inscription across the bottom of this organ gives the name and address of its maker. Ivan Viktorovich Nechada worked out of a piano factory on Balskovskaya Street, now Isaac Babel Street, in Odessa. This organ is in the collection of the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, but recently a very similar Nechada organ, said to be in perfect working order, was advertised in Moscow; "May be sold or exchanged for a car," wrote the seller, in an ad in Mechanical Music Digest.

Posted by Ellen

Lap cat shows plenty of lap. Philly Photo Day 2014.

Posted by Ellen

A young man with flair poses for the camera on Philly Photo Day 2014, back in mid-October.

Posted by Ellen

Last January, when this picture was taken, Rittenhouse Square looked plenty wintery. The snow hasn't been as deep this January, but the cold has been, if anything, even deeper. Which just goes to show, except that actually it doesn't.

Posted by Ellen

Above, wildebeest cross the Mara River during their annual migration northward from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. An estimated two million animals, mostly wildebeest but also including hundreds of thousands of Thompson's gazelle, zebra, and eland, make this long trek every year during the dry season, as they seek greener pastures; their navigation techniques are not fully understood, but one strategy they seem to follow is to head toward thunder and lightning.

This photo, by Nicole Cambre, took first place in the "Nature" category of National Geographic's 2014 photo competition, which attracted more than 10,000 entrants from 150 different countries.

Below, ice on a window in Tabasalu, Estonia, propagates in a crystal form that the photographer, Maie Kinmann, calls "Dragon." This photo won honorable mention in the "Nature" category.

Posted by Ellen

Our son Joe and his Aunt Carol coax duets out of the keyboard.