September 2011

Fires Down Under

29 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

A couple of weeks ago, when the International Space Center was looping around the southern part of the globe, heading toward Antarctica from Australia, astronauts used the little digital camera on board to snap this picture.

The fires were intentionally set by farmers clearing fields or pastures to make way for spring growth. The green horizon is the Aurora Australis, bright pulses of electromagnetic energy released when solar pulses are deflected toward the earth's southern magnetic pole. Green is the most common color of auroras, produced when solar energy disrupts the normal spinning of oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere; auroras can also be red, pink, or orange, depending on the atmospheric gases involved.

The space station itself is visible across the top of this photo and in the lower right corner.


Under the Bridge

28 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

There's a troll underneath the Fremont bridge in Seattle, with a Volkswagen in its grip. The three billy goats gruff, in rusty cast iron,  are grazing on a church lawn a couple of blocks away, at the corner of Troll Avenue and 35th Street.

Orchard in the Valley

27 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

Polish photographer Marcin Sacha has recently added the landscapes of Andalusia, Spain, to the range of scenes in his portfolio.

Live Fire

26 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

The USS Ingraham tests its weapons during a recent live fire exercise at sea. Very soon, the 'ham will leave its home port of Everett, Washington, for a six-month deployment in the Pacific; the crew of about 200 enlisted men and women and a dozen or so officers includes Ensign Allen, aka Sparky, the ship's new electrical engineering officer.

High Tech Moments #3

24 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

It followed him home.

High Tech Moments #2

23 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

"When I graduated from high school in 1974," wrote the gentleman pictured here, "I used a graduation award to buy a $395 (Canadian) Hewlett Packard HP-35 calculator. My mom had to order it from the Vancouver HP office (their pocket calculators - a new line of not-quite-consumer products from a company that had specialized in electrical measuring instruments and desktop electronic calculators for engineers - were not then available in Canadian stores). The first HP programmable had been available for a year or two, but for the impossible price of $795. With the HP-35, I could do trig, logarithms and powers, and my pocket slide-rule was put on the shelf forever. Yes, the family crowded around."

These were the calculators that you could turn upside down to spell cute things with the glowing red numbers. Today's smart phones won't let you turn the answer upside down, but everything else a $395 calculator did in 1974 can be done today with a free app on a cell phone. And $395 Canadian in 1974, I'm told, would be equivalent to something like $1700 today.

However, the real thing is: for a young man just finishing high school in 1974, what made all the difference socially was not the HP-35 but the facial hair, and this kid could grow him some sideburns.

High Tech Moments #1

22 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

Say you're riding a bicycle and you want to shoot flame out behind you because, you know. This bike built by Eric Baar of Colorado Springs has a built-in push-button flamethrower.

What looks like a stainless steel water bottle at the bottom of the frame is actually a stainless steel water bottle adapted to serve as the fuel tank. The fuel is racing-car gasoline. Mounted on the fender at the back is a nightlight that's been adapted to serve as a spark igniter.

Why would you want a flamethrower on a bicycle? Baar built this thing to attract attention at a custom-bike show. Your mileage may vary.

They Ain't Heavy

21 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

Stein boys doing their brotherly whatever on the street last summer in Seattle. From the bottom: brothers number 4, 1, and 5.

The Wave

16 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen



(Image removed at the request of the photographer, Cris Benton)


This view of Drake's Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in California is another example of kite photography, one of the oldest applications of the photo arts.

During the American Civil War, kites and balloons were used to hoist cameras, and sometimes also cameramen, for spying expeditions. Kite photography was also used to survey the damage after San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire. 

Planes and satellites, of course, have relegated kite photography to niche status. On the other hand, modern digital cameras and wireless control technology have become so lightweight and inexpensive that it's a readily accessible niche.


13 Sep 2011
Posted by Ellen

These ducklings are in Nepal, but they don't know that.