Posted by Ellen

Dorothea Lange photographed this woman in a migrant farmworker camp in Klamath County, Oregon, in 1939. According to Lange's notes, the woman was a young mother, originally from El Paso, Texas, who had just finished her washing.
 

Posted by Ellen

 

This is the second most stunning bit of fall on my street. It's a cherry tree I planted when we first moved into this house, and it's big enough now that I could stand underneath the branches and take this picture aiming up at the sky through a crown of glowing leaves. The picture is not turned sideways; the branches just branch off one another that way.

The first most stunning bit of fall on my street is a hydrangea down the block with leaves as pink as the flowers. I hope to get a shot of it, but in the meantime . . . you don't have to take my word for it; you can imagine it however you want.

As Octobers go, this one was so too wet to be entirely pleasant. But perhaps because of all the rain, a lot of leaves are still hanging in there. Then too, the few blue-sky days have been all the more precious.
 

Posted by Ellen

The weather was raw and wet a couple of weekends ago in Bethesda,Maryland,  but the artists all showed up anyway with their tents for the annual art fair. The street was closed to cars, and I got to wondering about all the traffic arrows painted on the roadway: Did it cost extra for a booth with an arrow that directed traffic right to you, as opposed to one where the arrow on the road seemed to be steering people away from you?

I was also curious why the same lane on the street seemed to be painted with arrows pointing every which way.

In the end, I'm sure the arrows made no difference; the weather kept crowds thin all weekend long. The band kept playing on the makeshift stage at the corner, and the vendors kept hawking crab cakes and curry, but I hope the artists enjoy better days soon.
 

Posted by Ellen

"The Storybook Wolf," by Spanish photographer Josi Luis Rodriguez, won National Geographic's 2009 prize for wildlife photography. To get the shot, Rodriguez rigged up a motion sensor that tripped the shutter of his camera, which used an infrared sensor for night vision.

I know this wolf. He eats grandmothers and little pigs and little Russian boys, and I'm sure he's very hungry now.

Posted by Ellen

The babe in arms in this picture, Gregory Stein, recently started his freshman year in engineering school at Cornell. His parents are Miriam and Eugene Stein; Eugene is Norman's first cousin.

The urchin in front here is Joe, baby Gregory's second cousin. Joe is currently a music student at the University of Alabama.
 

Posted by Ellen

That's me with the chisel in my mouth, some summers ago, during geologic field work in the North Cascades, in the state of Washington. I'm climbing a hill called Lincoln Rock that rears up about twelve hundred feet above the apple orchards along the banks of the Columbia River. We'd been told there were some good garnet coronas up there--garnets with white rings around them---the metamorphic feature I was trying to interpret for my thesis project.

We'd also been told that Lincoln Rock was the one place in the North Cascades where a geologist named Bob Miller--a man who climbed cliffs for fun when he couldn't think of an excuse to climb them for research--fell badly and almost cracked his head open. This was my last day in the field that summer, and though I'd had wonderful fun, I was beginning to shift gears mentally, to look forward to getting back home so I could stop worrying about slipping and falling and leaving five children motherless.

Perhaps because of Bob's misadventure, but surely also because I was old and out of shape, I was by far the slowest climber. While I toiled upward inch by inch in the August sun, the rest of the gang was already lolling about in the shade of an overhang at the top of the hill, eating lunch and making fun of me. As I finally approached the scene of this snapshot, a Ph.D. student named Carlos Zuluaga asked if I wanted my picture taken. Then he suggested I put the chisel in my mouth. It seemed like a good idea at the time, it really did.

Anyway, there were indeed nice-looking garnet coronas all over the hilltop, and Carlos and the others kindly helped me smash them out of the outcroppings. We all made it down safely, with rocks in our backpacks. When I got a look at my Lincoln Rock samples under the microscope, however, I discovered that the garnets were rotten; they'd cooled too slowly after their metamorphic odyssey, and a mineral named chlorite had replaced much of the garnet. My thermodynamic models wouldn't work on rock with rotten garnet, so I put the Lincoln Rock samples in a drawer in the basement of the geology building, and maybe they are still there today.

Fortunately, I had plenty of other samples. And I'd love to be back up there again.....

Posted by Ellen

Ninety-eight winters of salt have done a number on the mortar that was supposed to be holding the bricks together on my front steps. Fortunately, I count among my good friends an experienced bricklayer who was willing to take on the project. Here you see Katrin Maldre chipping away at the old mortar, using my little old rock hammer and a fancy new chisel.

To be fair, Katrin's bricklaying experience was not extensive or recent. But one summer back in Communist times, when she was growing up in Estonia, she and her friends were sent out into the country to work on a large brick construction project. Mostly, they moved bricks to and from piles---but it's a whole lot more bricklaying experience than I can claim.. (Katrin also has a son who has an engineering degree and knows about bricks and stuff, and  who was willing to supervise this project from Estonia via Skype.)

Within an hour or two we got rid of most of the old mortar, slathered the free bricks with new mortar, and set them back in place. We broke one brick, and when the job was finished we somehow had an extra piece of brick left over. But you can't tell by looking at it.

The highlight of the job was definitely the new chisel. Note that yellow foam hand protector thing. Worth its weight in gold! Its inventor is a genius.
 

Posted by Ellen

For many years now, as the University of Alabama has expanded its football stadium, it's been interested in a small piece of land across the street from the stadium that was home to Temple Emanu-El of Tuscaloosa. The university and the congregation finally agreed to a land swap, and a new synagogue building is now under construction across campus. This past month, the frame went up.

It's not clear what the university will do with its new land--"Some more game-day something or other," according to Anna Singer, who chairs the Temple Emanu-El building committee.

Oz?

Posted by Ellen

Or Disneyland?

It's the Mormon Temple in the sunset, as seen a few nights ago from the outer loop of the Washington Beltway.

Posted by Ellen

Sail due north from the island of Crete, and you'll get to Athens. If Daedalus and his son Icarus had only had a boat, that is what they might have done. But King Minos was holding them prisoner in Crete--he was enraged because Daedalus had helped Theseus slay the Minotaur and run off with the princess. And King Minos controlled the waters all around Crete, so escape by sea was out of the question.

Daedalus, a native of Athens, had been banished from the city for murdering his apprentice/nephew, a twelve-year-old boy who was so clever that Daedalus was afraid of being overshadowed. He fled to Crete with his son, where he built the labyrinth that Minos eventually used to imprison the two of them. Of course having built the maze, Daedalus knew how to escape it. But escaping the island was a whole nother ball of wax.

He built wings for himself and Icarus from feathers and wax. They flew northeast, toward Troy. We all know what happened next: despite his father's warning, Icarus flew too high, too close to the hot sun, and the wax holding the wings to his arms melted in the heat. He fell to his death in the blue waters now bearing his name, the Ikarian Sea.

His body was retrieved from the sea by Hercules, and he was buried on a hillside overlooking the Ikarian Sea, on the Greek island now known as Ikaria.

This satellite image shows the Ikarian Sea and a hillside on Ikaria, a terraced olive grove. Not much in this scene has obviously changed in the thousands of years since Icarus got too uppity. Although the island is beautiful and the people there are known for their longevity, they have not prospered. Many of the children of Ikaria have fled to far corners of the globe, in a twentieth-century diaspora. They publish a newsletter to keep up with one another, and in the 1960s they held a reunion back home, on the island. There was no place to house all the returnees, so they rented a cruise ship to use as a hotel and parked it just offshore.