(Image credit: Fuji T)

Posted by Ellen

Late in the afternoon on a sunny winter day, if you go up to the corner and look downhill through the erector-set maze of the North Seattle Electrical Substation, you can catch a glimpse of the big volcano 90 miles away.

Posted by Ellen

Last spring, when we first came across this scene on a block of Hicks Street in deep South Philly, we just naturally assumed that the white car was a Cadillac. Took us till now to realize that no, maybe it should be a Cadillac, but in real life it's a Lincoln Continental. Some of us are just not as observant as we need to be.

What we can say, however, based on observations of our own lyin eyes as well as gossip, is that this Lincoln is regularly washed but never driven. 

Posted by Ellen

Great-Grandma Helen settles down with a cup of tea in Ted's little house in the woods on the mountain above Great Cacapon, West Virginia.

Earlier on that October day, she and Ted had split the stovewood to light up the night with a bright, crackly glow. The work warmed everybody twice, just as they say, but looking back from our current outpost on the frontier of the new year, we can actually feel that warmth a third time now, in our recollection of quiet fireside sorts of moments in which we rested, enjoyed good company, and eased the furrows of our brows.

Okay, so right now, it looks like we're all deep and soggy in an octopus's garden in the shade? Well, that would be a huge problem if we didn't have each other, so . . . .  Hugs.

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

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

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.

Posted by Ellen

We noticed the other day that on 9th Street in the Italian Market, they sell pet turtles just like Rocky's turtles in the movies.

What we don't know is which came first, Rocky or the turtles. Did Sylvester Stallone put turtles in the movies because they were a South Philly thing? Or do they sell turtles in the market now because people want to buy Rocky things?

Or, as the cool kidz say nowadays, what people want to buy is Rocky jawn.

Posted by Ellen

Nothing stays the same. Day goes to night. Some weather's coming in. And off in the distance there's that harbinger of something big in the works–23 stories big, we're told. In a few months, the view out this window should be kinda different. Watch this space.