Posted by Ellen

The contraflutes of the Metropolitan Flute Orchestra, at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, in the west of Ireland. The three flautists in the front row are holding contrabass flutes tuned in C; behind them are two sub contrabass flutes in G.

There is also a double contrabass flute, which is capable of playing the lowest C on a piano. Its tone sounds even lower, we're told, because flutes have fewer harmonic vibrations than stringed instruments.

To hear a little contrabass fluting and see how the dang things are held and played, try this.

Posted by Ellen

Up in Tedland, high on the mountain above the Cacapon River, to get warm at all, you have to get warm twice. Or else wait till June and get all the warm you want, and then some.

Posted by Ellen

Icelandic authorities reported this week that the five-month-old volcanic eruption known as Holuhraun shows numerous signs of winding down, at least for the moment. They believe that volcanism in that part of the country is entering a new phase

The lava flow has decreased dramatically. After spilling wildly for months over an area the size of a large city, the lava now is mostly pooling in a single crater before it trickles out across the landscape.

The population of Iceland is no longer suffering from the volcano's poisonous gases, though gas concentrations in the immediate vicinity of the eruption are still at deadly levels. It has been two weeks since any populated area experienced serious atmospheric pollution.

Earthquake activity associated with the eruption is way down, though officials still describe it as very high.  Yesterday, about 25 earthquakes shook the region, all smaller than 3.0.  Until recently, the daily count was usually 80 or more, some of them above magnitude 5.0.

Holuhraun has been fed with magma from a chamber underneath Iceland's largest volcano, the glacier-covered Bardarbunga. As the magma chamber emptied out, Bardarbunga mountain began collapsing in on itself, subsiding more than 100 meters since measurements began in September. The rate of subsidence has dramatically slowed in recent weeks; yesterday, it was just 2 cm.

Clearly, Holuhraun is running on fumes now and is likely to cease significant eruption in the near future. But volcanologist Armann Hoskuldsson cautions that the overall volcanic episode may not be anywhere near complete and in fact may be just now entering a much more active phase.

Tectonically, the Holuhraun eruption involves rifting; the lava is actually creating new land in between two diverging tectonic plates. Hoskuldsson notes that rifting episodes last much longer than five months–usually at least ten years–and they typically involve multiple eruptions, often much more ferocious than Holuhraun.

Posted by Ellen

We might pause for a look at the real ruby slippers, once worn by a brave girl named Dorothy when she was far from home, now at rest in a glass case in the Smithsonian.

Posted by Ellen

We offer a robust winter sports program here in Kater Street. See, for example.

Posted by Ellen

Ron Baron's "Lost and Found," bronze luggage and seating, was installed in 2010 in a plaza outside a new Long Island Railroad station in Hempstead, New York.

Posted by Ellen

Somewhere in the eastern Pacific, a Harrier jump jet prepares to drop down onto the deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Posted by Ellen

"Sheeps and two goats," insists Polish photographer Marcin Sobas. We're not so sure.

Posted by Ellen

Between 1950 and 1953, Philadelphians demonstrated repeatedly in many neighborhoods, seeking stop signs, traffic lights, and one-way traffic patterns in hopes of making the city's narrow streets safer for pedestrians, especially children.

In June 1952, these women and children blocked off Sansom Street at 32nd Street, to draw attention to a block where seven children had been hit by cars in a single month. Police broke up the demonstration and arrested three of the women.

At some point between then and now, city officials made almost all the streets in and around center city one-way and installed stop signs or red lights at virtually ever corner.

Pedestrian safety is no longer a major political issue. Parking, on the other hand. . . .