December 2014

Posted by Ellen

The Schuylkill Expressway, as glimpsed from across the river in South Philly.

Posted by Ellen

A couple of bison from the thundering herd, in winter, in Badlands National Park.

Posted by Ellen

The only skyscraper in the city of Washington, as glimpsed from Arlington National Cemetery.

Posted by Ellen

Who dreams of a rainy Christmas? That's what we are headed for this year, as in many years past, here along the east coast of North America.

In 2010, it rained on everybody's Christmas parade in Kuching, Malaysia, but people seemed reasonably happy nonetheless, even afterwards on their way home.

Hereabouts, the winter rain has been nondenominational, this year dampening Hanukkah as well as threatening Christmas, and doing a real number on Festivus. Maybe we'll have a white New Year's.

Here's to holiday warmth and cheer, despite the mess the world is in.

Posted by Ellen

Finally, the rains have come back to California. Recently, as the sun was going down over Los Angeles, a downpour was letting up.

Posted by Ellen

The twentieth-century stone carvers who worked on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., enriched the building with their own personal flourishes. The gargoyle above, for example, is a self-portrait with tools by carver Roger Morigi.

As the project neared completion in the 1980s, National Geographic World sponsored a competition for children to design the final few embellishments. Below is the Darth Vader grotesque, proposed for the competition by Christopher Rader of Kearney, Nebraska; it was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved from limestone by Patrick Plunkett. Other sculptures from the contest include a raccoon, a girl with pigtails and braces, and a man with large teeth and an umbrella.

Posted by Ellen

Twenty years ago, the largest hydroelectric power plant in Portugal, at Alto Lindoso dam, employed 250 people operating out of this control room; currently, the plant produces just as much power with a total of 1 fulltime employee.

Posted by Ellen

"Boys from Dead Ox Flat waiting for the school bus in the morning. Malheur County, Oregon."

Dorothea Lange took this picture in October 1939 for the Resettlement Administration. During the mid-1930s, the desert country of eastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho attracted thousands of Dust Bowl refugees seeking construction work on the Owhyee dam and irrigation project; as the project came on line between 1935 and 1939, thousands more refugees sought agricultural work on the newly irrigated cropland.

The name on the mailbox behind the boys is revealed in another of Lange's photos of the same scene: H.E. Hudgins. According to the 1940 census, Herbert and Jessie Hudgins lived thereabouts--but with only two children, an eleven-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. Herbert Hudgins worked as a ditch rider, assigned to travel the length of the new canals and laterals, cleaning out debris and opening and closing the check boards that control the flow of water to different growers' acreage.

The boys look to be wearing new clothes and fresh haircuts, perhaps because the photo was taken on the first day of a new school year. The picture is dated from the month of October, but this was a time and place where school would not begin until after the year's harvest was in.