April 2011

Posted by Ellen

The chain at the bow has been broken, but this ship's not going anywhere. She's sitting high in the water because her engine has been removed, along with every scrap of salvageable anything in her hull. She's even lost her name and her commission.

Ships come here to the Philadelphia Navy Yard to surrender to the entropy at the far side of the military-industrial universe. After months of dismantlement, they're sold as scrap and towed across the river to New Jersey.

Posted by Ellen

Hank swings his way up the wall in the climbing gym. Rock climbing has become a passion of his lately, but he says that climbing in a gym is not nearly as pleasant and exciting as climbing cliffs and boulders outdoors in the fresh air.

Posted by Ellen

Hard to believe it's been only six years since the Washington Post sponsored the first of its now notorious annual peeps diorama competitions. This was the winning entry that first year: Marilyn Monroe and the boys, done all in yellow chick peeps.

A quick review of the top-ranked entries over the years reveals that movie-themed dioramas like this one have faded but not disappeared. Recent winners tend to recreate scenes in the news, such as the Chilean mine rescue, in excruciating marshmallow detail.

Posted by Ellen

Old houses in Prague, as seen through a screen set up around a construction site across the street. The construction in progress is actually restoration work, so that the street can recover its bygone character.

Posted by Ellen

This was the scene on Fifth Avenue in New York City during the 1904 Easter Parade.

Easter Parades are different from all other parades: no floats, no marching bands. They began spontaneously in the 1870s, according to what I read on the intertubes, as people got dressed up in their finest and went downtown to promenade. Easter parades still existed in Washington when I was a little girl, I believe along Connecticut Avenue. I never actually saw one in person, but I did get new clothes, new white gloves, and sometimes even a new hat with a ribbon.

If you click on this picture and study the enlarged version, there are plenty of details for your delectation: a horseless carriage amidst the horsey kind, a boy delivering flowers, men with tophats amongst the men with bowler hats. . . .

Posted by Ellen

At the Buffalo Zoo, in the new rainforest exhibit, the Wiggin kids find the baby chicks.

Posted by Ellen

This windowful of April is in Toronto. Let the May begin.....

Posted by Ellen

That's my sister's boot toe and walking stick probing for the next step as she prepares to work her way down a mountainside in Nepal.

Nepali trekking trails, at least in the vegetated, more or less inhabited zones of the Himalayas, are mostly paved with stones, and the steep stretches are fashioned into endless rocky staircases. Donkeys can climb the staircases with ease, as can most Nepalis and probably even fit young Americans.

Building the staircases was part of the terracing project that has occupied Nepalese farmers for centuries. Rocks were pried up out of the soil and redeployed into retaining walls for thousands of tiny terraces, holding back the hillsides so that plows pulled by buffalo could work the land. Over the generations, as plows and hoes and hoofs and toes have continued to kick up rocks, farmers have built themselves stone houses and connected the houses to their fields with steep, stone-paved, stone-staircased trails.

Terraces and paved trails minimize soil erosion on steep slopes. Also, if the stones are cobbled together into stairsteps along the steepest stretches, the trails can head straight up and down without switchbacks, thus facilitating travel while minimizing the amount of land removed from cultivation.

On the other hand, straight up and down the stairs is . . . well, one elderly Nepali, who was scampering up the trail as we were struggling down, paused briefly to bless our knees.

One of the staircases we struggled up was said to contain more than 8,000 steps. My sister kept count, but irregularities in the size and shape of the steps led to uncertainty as to the exact number.

Every million billion steps or so there is a rest area, also built of stone, backed up by a stone wall with a low shelf. The shelf isn't actually low enough for sitting on, but it's about the right height for resting a backpack or other burden.

Below are three more pictures of stair-stepping in the Himalayas. The terraced fields look brown and barren, not because they have been abandoned but because we were traveling early in the springtime, before most crops had sprouted.

The last picture shows a rest stop in a village, with a trail that climbs onward and upward via the staircase at the extreme right of the scene.

Posted by Ellen

Leaning against the family's 1955 DeSoto after a summer-vacation day with the leaping dolphins at Marineland, the California boys at right and their cousins from Texas settle back to enjoy an ice cream cone. Except for little brother at far right, who's not enjoying the moment all that much; his ice cream rolled off the cone and plopped down at his feet in the parking lot. . . .

Nothing says the 1950s like jeans rolled up at the bottom and a big DeSoto in a big parking lot.

Posted by Ellen

"I don't know," noted the photographer, who calls himself I Shot Baltimore. "Dude bought these shoes. I don't know wtf to say. Whatever."