Hole in the Clouds

February 2011

Once and Future Florida

Feb 2, 2011

 This is a picture of a real estate bubble. There have been land bubbles in Florida since forever; what we're looking at here is just the bubble du jour, a subdivision near Fort Myers, on the Gulf Coast, where the developer put in the roads and the "lake" and the cul de sacs and managed to build two houses complete with swimming pools before it was all over.

I read today that 11 per cent of the housing units in the United States are currently unoccupied. So it's really over. For a while.

birdseye view   construction   (h/t:The Big Picture at boston.com)   Florida   economics   sprawl   Fort Myers   (Image credit: Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection)  

The Birds

Feb 3, 2011

Those of us of a certain age take one look at what's going on here and think: things are about to get very bad. We know the scene is set in an isolated spot along the coast of northern California. But actually, the flocking here is on the coast of southwestern England, in Devon, where starlings fill the sky like this all winter long, and it's not a problem at all.

landscape   animals   England   Devon   starlings  

Ship Selection

Feb 4, 2011

Last night, senior midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy participated in Ship Selection to determine their first assignments after graduation in May. The names of ships in need of junior officers were posted on the wall, listed under the names of their home ports. One at a time, beginning with the midshipman at the top of the class, the students walked up to the wall of options and claimed their billets.

Allen chose the USS Ingraham, pictured here at its home port, Naval Station Everett, on Puget Sound  north of Seattle. This year there were only nine billets available in Everett, which is generally a popular home port option; it was Allen's first choice. Many of his classmates chose ships in Florida, Hawaii, or San Diego. 

The Ingraham, a frigate, is the gray ship in the middle. Mount Baker is the snow-covered volcano in the background.

Washington   landscape   USS Ingraham   Naval Station Everett   Mt. Baker   Puget Sound  

American Weekend

Feb 7, 2011

The cancan line shown here was photographed during a dress rehearsal for this weekend's performance at the Super Bowl University of Montana Foresters' Ball.

Every February, students in the Forestry School at the University of Montana stage a dance with an Old West theme. They spend months preparing: chopping down trees, hauling the logs to campus, building a wild-west town with saloon and jail and dance hall and helicopter launching pad. The helicopter dropped cardboard all over the campus oval, prize pieces of which had Foresters' Ball tickets attached. As always, the event sold out.

dance   University of Montana   Missoula   Foresters' Ball  

Yet Another Bird

Feb 8, 2011

This lucky duck, preening for the camera amongst the ripples of Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville, New York, was selected for immortality of a sort--or if not immortality, then fifteen minutes of fame, give or take--when Karen and Stuart Berlowitz happened by last fall while out for a walk in the woods. Of all the ducks on all the ponds all over this crazy world, this guy is the one to be get its very own Good Morning post on the intertubes.

New York   fall   animals   ducks   Rockefeller State Park   Pleasantville   (Image credit: Karen Berlowitz)  


Feb 9, 2011

In 1942 in the Melrose Park Buick plant outside Chicago, "vital cogs in America's war machine"--that's Office of War Information talk for airplane-engine gears--are being inspected for defects. Dorothy Miller, at left, checks a vital cog with aid of a tiny flashlight in her right hand. Sylvia Dreiser, at right, thinks about whatever it is she's thinking about, which may not be cogs at all. I'd rather ride in an airplane powered by Dorothy's cogs.

If you click on this photo to get the large version and look at it closely, you may be able to see that both women's hands are slathered in oil. In fact, you have to wonder how many times a day did that penlight squirt right out of Dorothy's slippery fingers. Also, for what it's worth, Dorothy is wearing a hairnet and Sylvia isn't.

work   Dorothy Miller   Sylvia Dreiser   Melrose Park Buick   World War II   (Image credit: Ann Rosener, Office of War Information, via Shorpy)  

Tough D!

Feb 10, 2011

Hank, in yellow, was the "customer" of a company that embroiders custom designs, such as team logos, onto anything you can think of--in this case, a Rumblebee! embroidered on a headband. The Rumblebees played ultimate frisbee last summer in a county league. Recently, Hank noticed that the embroidery company was offering discounts and other rewards in return for customer photos of the embroidered items in action. He sent them this photo, and they sent him fifty dollars and put his picture onto the front page of their website.

Hole-in-the-Clouds, of course, endorses nothin', embroidered or otherwise. But I can't help but feel a warm spot in my heart for any company that concludes that featuring the image of one of my children will be good for business. Especially if they offer to pay for my child's image. So I'll drop my scruples down around my ankles and share the link.

Yes, Hank's face was painted yellow--something to do with team spirit. And yes, right after the picture was snapped, the guy in green punched Hank in the face as he sent the frisbee flying. It was not intentional, sez Hank. The guy is a nice kid, a former high school wrestler who is currently attending Maine Maritime Academy. They may meet again next summer, faces painted, headbands embroidered, ready for Ultimate combat. Go, Rumblebees!

sports   Hank   ultimate frisbee   headband   marketing  

Wainwright Fell #207

Feb 11, 2011

In 1930, a Lancashire stonemason's son named Alfred Wainwright glimpsed these fells, lakes, and vistas while out for a tromp with his cousin. He was smitten by the landscape and devoted the rest of his life to fellwalking and to recording his walks in a self-published seven-volume series of guidebooks. For thirteen years, he worked on his books, hand-lettering descriptions of the walks, and hand-drawing maps of the routes and sketches of the views. He wrote at night after coming home from work, averaging a page a night.

Stephen Ruffles, a baker and amateur photographer who in 2008 captured this scene of Ullswater, the second-largest lake in Wainwright's beloved Lakes District, is among untold thousands of fellwalkers inspired by the books. Like many others, Ruffles has set out to replicate all 214 of Wainwright's fellwalks; this picture was taken on walk 207. The weather was unpleasant, he noted, but still the walking was excellent.

England   Alfred Wainwright   fellwalking   Ullswater   Lake District   (Image credit: Steven Ruffles)  

Portrait with Pearls

Feb 12, 2011

It’s a little hard to take at first, but keep looking till you see the cute little baby seal above the ear with the pearl earring. And the grouchy-looking turtle underneath the necklace.

And look at all the different kinds of hair on this person's head—coral hair and snake hair and claw hair and tentacle hair and even crawfish and seahorse and water-spout hair.

This is “Water,” painted in 1566 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, part of a series of four portraits representing the elements. The subject of this portrait is approximately a human being, perhaps a woman, but quite grotesque, maybe because Arcimboldo had studied under Leonardo da Vinci, who loved to sketch dramatically ugly-looking people. As for the critters in the picture—there are more than sixty species, we’re told—they are here in true-to-life detail because Arcimboldo in his day job was court painter for Emperor Maximilian II in Vienna and Prague; his duties included painting natural specimens collected by the Hapsburgs, and his perks included access to the royal library.

Why would a court painter in the sixteenth century paint a person made out of an octopus, a frog, two eels, a stingray, a catfish, a starfish, and etc., etc., etc.? The short answer must be: because the emperor liked paintings like that. Apparently, Maximilian even liked an Arcimboldo portrait of the emperor’s son made out of fruit and vegetables.

And Maximilian wasn’t his only fan. Almost a hundred years later, when Queen Christina of Sweden raided Prague during the Thirty Years War, she specifically ordered her army to steal all the Arcimboldos in the Hapsburg collections and ship them to her in Stockholm. Many of the portraits—people made from chickens and pumpkins and grapes and turnips, a librarian with arms made of the spines of books, a lawyer with a shirt made of lawsuits and a mouth of fish lips—remain in Sweden to this day. 

art   Giuseppe Arcimboldo   Emperor Maximilian II   mannerism   1500s   lobstah   Prague   (H/T: Sandra H)  

Incomplete Makeover #1

Feb 15, 2011

Here is Lali in Buenos Aires, the little girl in 1978 and the big girl thirty-two years later, in 2010. Argentinian photographer Irina Werning has published a series of such portraits, which she calls Back to the Future. The exercise requires a degree of attention to detail--re-creating the pose, facial expression, clothing,setting, lighting, and color tone of the original--that Werning says it taught her just how obsessive she is about her work.

We'll look at another one tomorrow.

portrait   then and now   Lali   Buenos Aires   1978   (h/t: JJ)   (Image credit: Irina Werning)  

Incomplete Makeover #2

Feb 16, 2011

For a second look at photographer Irina Werning's Back to the Future portraits, we have Matias, on the beach in Uruguay, in 1977 and again thirty-three years later in 2010. The adult Matias is a reasonably attractive young man, but even though he's not wearing children's clothes and his pose here isn't flamboyantly juvenile, there's something almost creepy about a grownup presenting himself as an adorable little boy.

children   portrait   (h/t: JJ)   once and future   1977   Uruguay   Matias   (Image credit: Irina Werning)  


Feb 17, 2011

At the extreme Pacific end of Russia, north of China and Korea and Japan, the volcanoes of the Kamchatka Peninsula are erupting again.

This is nothing new; the 29 volcanoes of Kamchatka’s mountainous spine—10 percent of the world’s active volcanoes—have erupted prodigiously and often for at least the last two million years.

Since October, three of them have been seriously erupting, spewing ash 32,000 feet into the sky and devastating their surroundings with earthquakes, lava flows, mudslides, and pyroclastic catastrophe. Shown here is last week’s eruption of Shiveluch, the northernmost of the currently active volcanoes. This picture is thermal imagery from satellite sensors; the hottest areas are shown as white, with progressively less hot regions appearing as gradations of yellow through orange to red.

Shiveluch had a lava dome near its peak—a rocky bulge inflated by molten magma underground. This thermal image tells us that the dome has now burst; the white splotch at the mountain peak shows extremely hot lava exposed at the surface. The rock that used to overlie the lava dome would have been pulverized in the eruption and sent skyward as ash or down the mountainside as a pyroclastic flow, a fiery nightmare of lava, ash, rock, mud, and poisonous gases.

The image also shows a large pool of hot lava that has collected at the bottom of the mountain, beginning to cool off around the edges. Undoubtedly, forest land in this valley has been devastated, but because the Shiveluch region is virtually uninhabited, damage associated with human activity is expected to be very low.

However, planes traveling between Alaska and Korea or Japan often fly just east of Kamchatka. The dust plumes from Shiveluch and the other two currently active volcanoes have sometimes been large enough to pose a potential risk to aviation.

This video from last October, when the level of activity was not yet as intense, shows both the ash clouds rising and the lava descending from Shiveluch:

Russia   volcano   Shiveluch   Kamchatka   (Image credit: NASA ASTER sensors on TERA satellite)