Posted by Ellen

Right outside Rosenbad, the prime minister's chancery in central Stockholm, sits this homeless woman with the face of a fox, huddled in a blanket, with a baby animal, perhaps a fox cub, perhaps a teddy bear, in her lap.

The sculpture, a permanent installation on the granite sidewalk, is from artist Laura Ford's series Rag and Bone. In 2009, the city's newspaper by and for homeless people, known as Situation Sthlm, conducted a poll on where to put the statue; the winning location was this very public and political site.

The fox also has a single boot in her lap, into which passers by frequently drop euros.  People who are uncertain about dontating to living, breathing homeless people somehow feel that leaving money for a bronze fox is a good thing to do. That's the world we live in.

Posted by Ellen

She sits by the waterfront in Trieste, Italy, apparently texting or checking her Facebook, but actually sewing, or maybe knitting.

Not seen here: the other seamstress of Trieste, sitting and chatting alongside her.

Posted by Ellen

"I went hiking one morning at about 5 am and found this boat," Ted told his Facebook buds, referring to a morning last month when he was in Dingle, a town on the far southwestern coast of Ireland.

"I wanted to sneak it out for a ride soooo much," Ted continued. "But somehow, I managed to refrain from stealing the boat. Sadly."

That was the short story. Recently, we learned the long story–which is really only a little bit longer–during a recent conversation with our traveler, now home again in Tedland, West Virginia.

Of course he wasn't going to steal the boat; the idea was just to borrow it. And it wasn't locked. It was just tied up with so many ropes, so many knots, big knots, tight knots, and it was five in the morning, way too early to be fussing with lots and lots of tightly tied knots.

In other words, sadly, Ted was too lazy (hungover?) to take the boat. So he kept on walking.

Posted by Ellen

The prairie lands around the southern end of Puget Sound were created by ice and sustained by fire.

Retreating glaciers some ten thousand years ago left behind vast stretches of land scraped bare of trees, initially supporting only grasses and other low-lying scrub, in a climate generally so humid that grassland would normally yield to forest. Much of this post-glacial prairieland did revert to forest, but by burning off the old growth every spring, Native peoples prevented tree seedlings from taking root and thus maintained many thousands of acres as grassland for grazing their horses and other livestock. 

However, the prairies of Western Washington were the first land grabbed by invading Europeans; lacking tree cover, they were ready-made for cropland and pasture. Farms and cities grew. The ancient practice of annual burns was abandoned, and big trees were soon thriving.

Only a few tiny remnants of these prairies remain, grassy islands in a sea of trees, and they are ecologically degraded now to varying extents. Much of the remaining acreage is entrusted to the Center for Natural Lands Management, a nonprofit that attempts to restore and preserve the South Sound prairies. Annual burning regimes have been reinstated.

Above is a bit of the grass in Glacial Heritage Preserve, a prairie in Thurston County, Washington, that is open to the public only on volunteer work days.

Posted by Ellen

A nice day on Casco Bay, as seen from the Portland Observatory, the city's old maritime signal tower atop Munjoy Hill.

Posted by Ellen

They go to market, of course. Above, in Tartu, Estonia; below, here in Philly at Reading Terminal Market.

Posted by Ellen

An old skyscraper, the Art Deco Suburban Station building from 1930, peeks out at left from behind Philadelphia's newest and tallest skyscraper, the Comcast Center, completed in 2008. Reflected in the angled blue glass of the Concast tower are the upper floors of the Mellon Bank Center across the street.

Behind the 'scrapers is lots and lots of city sprawling into the night across the Delaware Valley.

Comcast is currently building itself a newer and even taller tower, which is rising off to the right of the buildings seen here. The lower floors will be occupied by Comcast and Telemundo, and the upper floors will be rooms with a view in a Four Seasons Hotel.

Posted by Ellen

When Joe got back to Tuscaloosa this month after his semester in Cuba, he had fish to check up on.

He's a fisherman and also sort of a fish collector; for the past year or so, he'd been raising baby fish from the Black Warrior River, the little bream and other small fry that would normally be thrown back into the river. Joe kept dozens of them in a large aquarium in his living room, and dozens more in a pool in a tiny creek that runs into the Black Warrior near downtown Tuscaloosa. He named them and fed them and got kind of attached to them.

But when he left for Cuba in January, he moved all his fish to the little creek and wished them well. They were on their own.

Happily, they survived the winter, though heavy rains apparently washed them downstream into a different pool. In this picture, Joe was walking along a drainpipe that criss-crossed his creek, trying to see how his babies were doing. They were growing and swimming actively and doing all the right fishy sorts of things.

Joe now is living in Philadelphia, where he has a bowl of goldfish. He's completed all his coursework and will graduate in August from the University of Alabama.

Posted by Ellen

The Little League games were in full swing when Mister Softee showed up at Taney Park. So the players couldn't just leave the field and run over to the truck–but the grownups could.

The park entrance is red, white, and blue for Memorial Day, and also for every other day; a nearby plaque memorializes neighborhood boys who died in Vietnam. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, though the scene will look the same today, albeit with a wardrobe adjustment to deal with much, much warmer and muggier temperatures.

Posted by Ellen

The bronze Ben Franklin standing atop City Hall's dome is said to be the tallest statue anywhere that's on top of a building. He's 37 feet tall and weighs 27 tons.

This picture of Ben from behind was taken from the new observation deck on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place a couple of blocks away.