"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, July 5, 2015

All in a Day's Work

Early July and the nuthatches are busy stocking up for winter.   At the feeder outside my window, one nuthatch found the most expedient method to stash away those black oil sunflower seeds.

A mere foot from the supply itself, he pokes the seeds into the log that holds feeder.  

Occasionally, I see this nuthatch running head-first down the side of the log, but haven't been quick enough to get a photo.

Assisting him are the tiny pine siskins who, when they aren't fighting with and running off other pine siskins, sit in the slot that holds the seeds.   If a seed isn't easily opened by their tiny beaks, they pitch it overboard where the nuthatch runs around gathering them.

Also gathering the seeds is this newly-fledged black-capped chickadee.   It;s a whole new world out there for this little guy.

This slate-colored junco goes right to the source, loads up, and flies off.   All business.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Star-Spangled Banner

(The following information, as well as the photograph of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814, is copyrighted and can be found at:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/interactive-flag.aspx. This notification is presented to comply with the permission of use requirements as set forth at that site.)

1. The blue field of the flag is called the union or canton.

2. Each star measures approximately two feet across.

3. Before the flag came to the Smithsonian it had been repaired many times by many hands.

4. The canton is made of wool dyed with indigo.

5. The cotton stars were created by reverse applique' method. Each star was stitched into place on one side of the flag and the cloth on the other side was then cut away to reveal it.

6. In 2002, conservators cleaned dirt from the flag using dry cosmetic sponges.

7. [The ragged edge] is the "fly edge" of the flag. By the time the Star-Spangled Banner came to the Smithsonian in 1907, more than eight feet of the original length had been lost due to use and deterioration--and to the fact that many small fragments of the flag were snipped off as patriotic keepsakes.

8. The stain on [one] star resulted from contact with corroded iron, probably a metal buckle.

9. One of the flag's fifteen stars was cut out and given away in the 1800s. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

10. The red stripes are made of wool dyed with the roots of the madder plant.

11. The stars are made from cotton.

12. Georgianna Armistead Appleton, daughter of the a814 commander of Fort McHenry, inscribed the flag: "This precious relic of my father's fame..."

13. Mary Pickersgill, a professional flagmaker in Baltimore, made the Star-Spangled Banner in the summer of 1813. Four teenaged girls--her daughter, two nieces, and an African American indentured servant--helped piece together its "broad stripes and bright bars."

14. In 1873, the damaged flag was attached to canvas sailcloth so it could be hung for a photograph. When the canvas was replaced with a linen backing in 1914, [a] tiny piece of canvas was left to document the past conservation.

15. Older mends that placed harmful stresses on the flag were removed in 2002.

16. In 1914, Amelia Fowler and a team of ten needlewomen attached the flag to a linen support. When conservators removed the backing in 2001, holes from Fowler's stitches remained.

17. [An] "A" (see white stripe) was reportedly sewn onto the flag by Louisa Armistead, widow of the 1814 commander of Fort McHenry.

18. Some of the fragments that were snipped off as mementos have been donated to the Museum.

19. The goal of conservation is not to restore the flag to its original condition, but to preserve it for the future. [Some h]oles were not mended in the conservation process.

20. The stripes of the flag as made from wool bunting from England.

21. In 2002, conservators snipped 1.7 million stitches to remove the linen backing that was damaging the flag.

22. Each 23-inch-wide stripe was pieced together from two narrow stripes.

23. Many smaller holes in the flag that were originally attributed to shot and shrapnel from battle were determined to be the result of insect damage.

24. The original flag measured 30 x 42 feet. The flag now measures 30 x 32 feet. The loss is attributed to use and deterioration--and to the fact that many small fragments were snipped off in the 1800s as patriotic keepsakes.

25. The flag's fifteen stripes represent the thirteen original colonies and the next two states to join the union, Kentucky and Vermont.

The flag flying at my home.

Vehicle antenna flags I found while picking up litter alongside the highway, each saved, folded correctly, and treated with respect.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Half-Baked Alaska, No. 2

Back in the days of the big pipeline construction (mid-1970s), there was a bumper sticker that read:  "We don't care HOW they do it Outside."   In Alaska, we do it our way.

We also don't have rest area waysides like the Interstates Outside.   No long access to a large parking area; no long exit back onto the Interstates.   Ours are more direct.  There's a warning sign and a short access.  Period.   To get back on the highway, you use the same access.

Which means you can always spot a tourist:

I took this photo in Silvertip where a bike path is adjacent to the highway for several miles.  The motorhome backed out of a parking spot close to where I'm standing, then drove onto the bike path before climbing a small embankment onto the highway.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Half-Baked Alaska, No. 1

 The neighbor across the highway calls and says her daughter spotted moose and bear tracks heading my way.  

"If the bear got the moose, it's probably over there on your property..."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

That Midnight Sun

Today is the first day of summer, so they say.   From sunrise to sunset, we will have 19 hours 21 minutes and 32 seconds of daylight.

That's misleading because there are hours of twilight or "civil daylight" after sunset and before sunrise.   In actuality, it doesn't get dark.

The exception to "doesn't get dark" depends on the weather.  If it's cloudy, we have something approaching darkness.  But, if it's clear, there's no darkness right now.

I have made it a practice the past few years to go kayaking at Tern Lake at midnight, much to the dismay of the idiot seagulls that nest there and dive bomb me, trying to run me off.

Today is cloudy, so I probably won't go.   If it clears off late this afternoon as we expect, I'll be there.

If not:



Friday, June 12, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 37, Doing Delhi in a Day, Part One

Ch. 37, Doing Delhi in a Day
Part One

For the ones who have grown up in this city, there’s no other place quite like it. Those who visit for the first time find it an overwhelming experience. That’s Delhi for you. With a history that’s both rich and tragic, Delhi isn’t just a city. It’s a universe of its own. —Sripana

This is the kind of day that could drive tourists nuts—trying to see the sights of Delhi in one day.  We will still be here tomorrow and the day after that, but this is the day scheduled to show us New Delhi.    All of it, or all the sites deemed best by the tour company.  

Not too much time at any one place, but just enough to give the travelers a taste and, should they want to return at a later date, a little knowledge of where they could go on their own.

This morning after breakfast, we wandered through the Qutub Minar, a 12th century Muslim mosque and minaret that I though fascinating.   I would like to see it at different times of the day to see the effects of different light, but we have places to go and things to see, so we’re off to see a display of genuine hand-knotted carpets made in Kashmir from traditional Persian and Muslim designs.

Let’s be frank.   I know nothing about carpets except that they need to be vacuumed to pick up the parrot feathers and firewood debris.   While I think they are beautiful, they aren’t my style and would not fit in the décor of my home.  Nonetheless, I found the brief talk interesting.

Our “teacher” explained and demonstrated the elaborate process for making hand-woven, hand-knotted rugs and carpets, using models.  According to him (I didn’t get his name), the more your walk on one of these carpets, the better it gets.   

Tools of the trade.

Making a 9’x12’ wool carpet with silk backing, single-knotted, takes six months just to prepare the design grid.  The actual weaving of a double-knotted carpet requires two men four and a half years.
They use silk for the backing, he explained, because silk is ten times stronger than steel, not that anyone makes a carpet with steel backing, I suppose.

One by one, his assistants unrolled rugs and carpets of all kinds, silk, sheep wool, mountain goat wool, and yak wool.  “Cat and dog proof,” he said.

A long runner.

Some designs showed one shade when viewed from one end, and another shade when viewed from the other end.

Khawa (tea) was served, a typical and delicious Afghanistan/Pakistan/Kashmir breakfast blend of green tea with cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron.

I drank my khawa, wandering around the large display room with dozens of unrolled carpets and rugs lying on the floor, stacked on top of each other, and all I could think of was that I was sure glad I didn’t have to roll up all those beautiful rugs and carpets myself.

And, after some made purchases and arranged for shipping home, we went to lunch at a franchised restaurant called Lazaaz Affaire.

The first of our group to arrive was stopped at the entrance.   We then waited, and waited, and waited some more.   Soon another group, led by a very assertive woman guide, marched her charges past us into the restaurant.

Finally we were allowed to enter and directed to an upstairs dining room, where the previous group was seated, scattered at various tables around the café.   No problem, but our group then took whatever tables were left, which left us scattered around the dining room.

The other group apparently was composed of Koreans and I think some, if not all, were part of a religious sect.

Tandoori chicken and potato.   Alas, the chicken was over-cooked and dry.   Is that how they serve chicken in India?

Butter chicken


Eventually, the food began to arrive, usually one delicious dish at a time.  They kept coming, dish after dish of Northern Indian and Mughal food.   Long after our appetites were sated, food arrived at our table and was left untouched.  At long last, ice cream was served.  I think that was the last dish.   I’ll never know because we left shortly afterwards.

The restaurant was in a very nice residential area.

Nothing like telling it like it is.

From there, we went to the most revered spot in all of Delhi.   I’ll tell you about it next.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Sometimes you need to look back,

To appreciate where you are.