June 2010

Posted by Ellen

During a week's vacation on an island in the Yucatan Strait near Cancun, Mexico, Carol Stack posed for a picture at sunset.

Posted by Ellen

 

Somebody is sitting on top of the nuclear submarine Toledo while it's tied up in port. Allen recently spent a couple of weeks aboard the Toledo for a training cruise; he took this picture with his cell phone.

Posted by Ellen

 

Some days, seems like nothing in the world will make life worth living other than a picture of cute babies or puppies. This one popped up when I asked the Flickr photo site to show a dozen photos chosen at random.

Posted by Ellen

 

A man identified as "Canadian fishing guide" breaks for lunch on the shores of Lake of the Woods, Ontario, in 1952.

Posted by Ellen

 We have all seen pictures of the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico; this is the one that put a catch in my breath today.

Nicole Kesterson of Gulf Shores, Alabama, is snapping a picture at the public beach near Gulf Shores State Park, while blackened surf splashes down onto the sand. Used to be, Gulf Shores and nearby beaches were characterized by what people called "sugar sand"--fine, white, perfect, clean quartz crystalline sand. I've seen tarballs there before--Gulf oil platforms are visible from many parts of the beach--but black waves of crude are something else again.

Picture these gentle little waves roughed up and built into mountains by a hurricane--Atlantic and Gulf waters are warmer this summer than ever before in human history, and hurricanes are the earth's major mechanism for dealing with hot spots of subtropical water. The oil will come crashing inland, obviously, surging for miles to flood uncleanable marshes and swamps. And evidence is accumulating that thanks to BP's massive use of dispersants, oil will also likely be sucked up into the sky; oil vapor will gather in the clouds along with water vapor to rain poison down on us all.

For what it's worth, the good news is that mosquitoes don't do well in oily environments. 

I have spent enough time among geologists to accept that all substantial reservoirs of oil on the planet will eventually be tapped for human use. But what I hear about energy policy in America these days seems completely backwards to me: why aren't we letting the Saudis and the Russians let their wells run dry before we tap into our own precious reserves? Countries with no other source of income or with desperate economic problems have no choice but to sell off all their oil as quickly as possible. We're rich enough to wait for a while, and as the rest of the world's oil disappears, ours becomes more and more valuable. Perhaps eventually it will be worth so much that oil companies will be cautious not to risk spilling a drop.

Or whatever.

Posted by Ellen

 

The ninth annual Solar Decathlon International is under way in Madrid; teams from seventeen universities in Europe, Asia, and the Americas have built solar-powered houses for the competition.

Almost all the entries are box-shaped houses topped by complicated solar panels. This one is different; can you guess where it's from? The Institute of Advanced Architecture in Barcelona, where it was designed for a climate in which cooling as opposed to heating is a major challenge. 

"The twentieth century was the architectural age of form follows function," notes the statement accompanying this entry. "The twenty-first century is the age of form follows energy."

The winning house will be named next week. I'll try to keep you posed.

Posted by Ellen

 

This barn owl was out hunting in the low light of a long summer evening, in Warwickshire, England.

Posted by Ellen

 

Members of Deering High School's Outdoors Club head back down the hill and into the weather after summiting mile-high Mt. Katahdin recently, the highest peak in Maine and northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

As they followed the trail on down into the clouds, they got rained on but good. Fortunately, their youthful high spirits proved to be waterproof.

Posted by Ellen

 

Teamwork isn't always what the Wiggin children do best, but when they get it together, they can make the elliptical machine in the basement sing.

Posted by Ellen

 

It would be understandable error if, assuming you had nothing to go on but this one pair of pictures, you came to the conclusion that not much of anything really happened in Europe during the twentieth century.

The top picture shows the marketplace in Ghent, Belgium, in 1900; the lower photo was taken from the same vantage point in 2010. Of course everything in this part of town--the Korenmarkt--had already survived very nearly intact from about the 11th century until photography was invented and the streetscape could be snapped at the start of the 20th century. Presumably, nothing much was happening back then in that neck of the woods.

Except for Paris, Ghent was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe until the late Middle Ages. In the United States, old parts of cities tend to survive intact if the city experiences prolonged poverty, during which time redevelopment is economically unattractive. I don't know if the same dynamic accounts for neighborhoods that last a thousand years in Flanders and the rest of Europe.