Jul 2, 2014
Jul 2, 2014
Jul 3, 2014
Jul 4, 2014
It's an important project, replacing century-old water mains underneath this stretch of Kater Street near us. It's also been a crazy dragged-out project, beginning last fall and not quite finished yet.
In the wintertime, the digging had exposed the water main and also the connecting water lines that served houses all up and down the street. Of course the pipes froze. Repeatedly. Ice and snow interrupted the work, repeatedly, often leaving our neighbors with no water.
In the springtime, the neighbors enjoyed the noise of heavy equipment at their doorsteps, all day, every day. All but one of the trees on the block were cut down. There was mud when it rained and dust when it didn't rain, and of course no parking.
Now it's July, and the workmen have closed their hole back up and are finally preparing the block for new asphalt and curbs and sidewalks. They promise new trees next fall.
All along, the work has been hard: cold, hot, and dangerous, with people living right there in the construction site. The street is so narrow and the houses so close to the hole that the excavator has to back up all the way to the end of the block to turn around between scoops of dirt.
As hard as it is, it's critical work for our children's future. We need a whole lot more investment like this, or our problems will no longer be the first world sort of problems.
Happy birthday, America.
Jul 6, 2014
For unknown reasons, this swallow family is out of the nest, all perched on a wire, but whatever, as soon as mama starts feeding one baby, the other is crying for more.
Jul 7, 2014
There was free coffee for all at the Fourth of July picnic in Vale, Oregon, in 1941. The people of Vale were mostly newcomers to eastern Oregon, lured there in the 1930s by the Vale-Owhyee irrigation project. Most of the new residents were farm people from the Dust Bowl region, and over the span of just a few years they changed the culture of what had previously been a ranching community.
In 1941 for the first time the Vale Fourth of July festivities did not include a rodeo. Instead, there was a parade, a baseball game, a tug of war, a greased pig race, a motorcycle show, and, of course, fireworks. It was quite a full day of activities, and even the free coffee was not enough to keep everybody awake.
Jul 8, 2014
The Black Country of Belgium is the Borinage district of Wallonia province, where coal was mined to feed the furnaces of the Industrial Revolution from the 1820s until the 1960s.
The countryside was devastated by slag heaps, ash ponds, and smokestacks, and life in and around the mines was brutal. For more than a century, the miners of Borinage organized labor actions that were violently suppressed; in the 1930s, the mine owners evicted strikers from their homes, and families spent the winter sleeping in the streets while soldiers guarded the empty houses.
Since the last of the mines closed in the 1960s, Borinage has been characterized by Belgium's highest unemployment rates.
Constantin Meunier was a Belgian painter and sculptor of the late nineteenth century whose work often focused on the social impact of industrialization. This painting is believed to date to about 1893.
Jul 9, 2014
Saucing up the satay, at LauPaSat market in Singapore.
Jul 10, 2014
On Friday, baby Summer celebrated her second Fourth of July. Her first was in Philadelphia; this second one was in Warmenhuizen, the small town in North Holland where she now lives with her family. People in Warmenhuizen don't wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth, but Summer's shoes recall her American roots.
Jul 14, 2014
Jul 15, 2014
Jul 16, 2014
Photographer Artie Leonard snags a shot for the National Photo Company in 1923.
Jul 18, 2014
A chain of gourmet pizza places in cities around New Zealand's South Island is called Filadelfio's, despite what its website claims as a "New York–inspired atmosphere."
Americans can't help but notice something a little different about the atmosphere, however. Our restaurants have a no-shoes-no-shirt rule, and Kiwi restaurants don't.
Jul 19, 2014
In the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island is Castlepoint sheep station, a stretch of pastureland as long as Manhattan and half as wide, home to tens of thousands of sheep, a dozen or so sheep dogs, a few thousand head of cattle, a handful of horses, four shepherds with their families, and an American family from Westchester County, New York.
Until about twenty years ago, the Americans had been dairy farmers in Westchester, out in the fringes of suburban sprawl. Their small farm attracted the attention of developers, who eventually made them an offer they couldn't refuse; they took the money and headed off to New Zealand, where they bought one of the largest grazing operations in the country, which included beaches, a lighthouse, a big rock so iconic it is featured on the country's postage stamps, and pastures that had been maintained for over a century.
We visited on a difficult day, weaning day. All the little lambs had just been separated from their mothers and herded together into paddocks of their own. The babies were not happy about this, and some were so unhappy they disregarded the electric fences and wandered all alone around the station, looking for mama. The ewes weren't happy either.
Jul 21, 2014
At the north end of Castlepoint sheep station is Castle Rock itself, noted and named in the eighteenth century by Captain Cook. The rock anchors one end of a limestone reef; on the headland at the other end is Castlepoint Lighthouse, built in 1913, originally fueled by oil but now wired into the grid and controlled from a switchboard in Wellington, a couple of hours away. Its light is visible 22 miles out at sea.
The postage stamp above dates from 1947. For almost a century beginning in the 1890s, the New Zealand government operated a life insurance company that had government franking privileges and printed its own stamps. Lighthouses were nineteenth-century symbols for insurance companies (as were big rocks, e.g., Mutual of Omaha). The government sold off its insurance operations in the 1980s, to a corporation doing business as Tower Life of Dunedin, New Zealand.
The limestone in the reef is richly fossiliferous, and directly underneath the lighthouse it's pocked with caves.
Inside the reef is a lagoon and a wide, hard-sand beach, crucial features in the development of a large sheep station here, back in the days before highways. Since the coast in this region has no natural harbors, sheepmen used to drive wagonloads of wool bales down the beach, to be loaded at water's edge into small boats that ventured out at high tide to meet up with cargo ships waiting offshore.
Today, shipping activity at Castlepoint is mostly recreational in nature, and the hard-packed beach now serves tractors and boat trailers. The blue tractor in the picture below is driverless and remote controlled from the boat, where the captain calls for it to push an empty trailer down into the surf and then pull the loaded trailer back up to high ground.
In the picture below, the tiny figure walking the beach near water's edge is my mother-in-law.
Jul 22, 2014
In back of the parking garage at 1700 South Street is a block-long garden on Kater Street, where nobody picked the artichokes in the edible-bud stage. They're flowers now.
Jul 23, 2014
At this power plant at the edge of the neighborhood, the smokestacks that once belched day and night have been quiet now for a couple of years.
Power is still generated here at the Schuylkill complex on Grays Ferry Road, but at a newer facility immediately behind the one pictured above. Veolia Energy bought the newer part of the plant from Philadelphia's municipal electric company and converted its fuel source from oil to natural gas; that single modification reduced greenhouse gas emissions for the city as a whole, it is said, by almost 2 percent, equivalent to taking 60,000 cars off the road.
Veolia makes steam here for center city Philadelphia's centralized heating. And it does release a little smoke, not from these stacks but from a chimney behind them, not visible in the picture.
Jul 24, 2014
Jul 25, 2014
Not yet a king; he's still rocking that last little bump of a tadpole tail.
Jul 26, 2014
The neighbors who live along the west side of a block of 21st Street near Kater had noticed that their cold water wasn't cold any more. Right out of the tap, it was hot; one of them took its temperature and found it feverish, over a hundred degrees, which is hot enough for a nice hot shower.
They called the water department, which promised to look into it. But the guys we talked to Friday morning who'd been sent to look into it might be described as less than entirely sympathetic. "They're getting free hot water," is how one of them put it. "Free hot water, and they're not happy."
The water guys suspected a leak in the steam line that runs under the sidewalk along 21st Street, which sounds like a dangerous situation, though nobody was acting particularly worried.
The guys from the steam company, on the other hand, suspected erosion under the sidewalk in the aftermath of a water main break a couple of years ago; they believed there was no longer enough dirt down there to insulate the steam line.
For reasons we cannot fully fathom, both sets of guys were looking for evidence in the sewer lines. The crew pictured here took the low-tech approach, using shovels and eyeballs; another crew had fancier technology, basically a snake with a video camera at its head, transmitting images onto a screen set up in the back of a van.
We asked what they were seeing on the screen. "Nothing yet," they said. "Just sewer."
We asked what they were looking for. They kind of snorted. "Steam," they said.
By mid-afternoon, everybody had packed up and gone home. We're not sure if they saw any steam, but the neighbors are still getting free hot water.
Jul 27, 2014
Jul 28, 2014
Spruce Street Harbor Park, at the foot of Spruce Street on the Delaware River, is Philly's latest pop-up beer garden. A couple of months ago, this was an unused dock behind the highway; a couple of months from now, it will probably return to nothingness. But for the summer of 2014, thanks to landscaping and logistics from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, it's drawing crowds.
It's also drawn a lawsuit, from folks who would rather the crowds spend their money in established bars and restaurants. Plaintiffs claim that the "special event" loophole in the city's liquor laws was never intended to legalize semi-long-term operations like the Horticultural Society's beer gardens.
The idea behind the pop-up gardens was booster-ish. By demonstrating the potential of vacant lots around town, it was hoped that developers might invest in permanent improvements. Meanwhile, people could enjoy themselves under the stars.
But with the lawsuit looming, somehow, it just seems like we can't have nice things any more.