one day at a time…
Thursday 31 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Dumfries & Galloway Tour Part II
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/LakelandCAM.co.uk
MAPS: Rhinns of Galloway (Ardwell east, Portpatrick west), and Castle Douglas
Click the thumbnails to popup an enlarged picture.
Ardwell Beach [LakelandCAM.com]Portpatrick Harbour [LakelandCAM.com]Threave Gardens [LakelandCAM.com]
There is no Part I, but this Part II is a logical follow on to yesterday's item about Logan Botanical Gardens. The first picture is of Ardwell beach: Port Logan is on the west coast of the Rhinns of Galloway, and Ardwell on the east. The west coast of the Rhinns takes the brunt of the incoming Atlantic weather fronts as well as the warm waters in the tail end of the Gulf Stream. The west coast is blunter, more rugged, and entirely up to its job, whereas to the east in the lee of the weather the coast is gentler and less rugged. Most of the beaches hereabouts have few if any vacation visitors . If you go there you will be able to beachcomb in majestic solitude, because the beaches of Galloway also provide some of the most interesting flotsam and jetsam you might hope to encounter on the coasts of Britain.

Portpatrick on the west coast of the Rhinns faces directly to Ireland, often receiving a blast of wind and salt water for doing so. It was the original point of departure for journeys to the Emerald Isle, but after some maritime disasters, and the general problems of sailing in stormy waters to begin the journey, the ferry services were relocated in the sheltered and calmer waters of nearby Loch Ryan, based in the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan. The town still has a delightful feel of crusty old salts and derring-do, but also amenities for vacation visitors. When I lived there we went as often as we were able to afford to a restaurant that had great food with a very relaxed atmosphere in its elegant glass atrium covered dining room.

The third picture was taken in the walled gardens attached to Threave House. Lying just outside the town of Castle Douglas, whose name comes from the most prominent family hereabouts, the infamous Black Douglas clan whose emblem was a heart, the place is another chapter in an ancient history. The family greeting, 'Welcome Tae Ma Hoose', carried the risk of being thrown into the dungeons of the Douglas stronghold on Threave Island in the River Dee, built in 1369 by Archibald the Grim. The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

In more settled times the modern Threave House, a Scottish Baronial style mansion, was designed in 1871 for Liverpool merchant named William Gordon. The gardens were laid out by the original owner, though in the care of the NTS (National Trust for Scotland - some browsers have difficulty with this web site) they have become a center of excellence for students gardeners and landscapers , and a major attraction for vacation visitors. When we visited many years ago there was an amazing wall trained and fruit bearing apricot tree.

AR Devlin's South West South West Images Scotland Photo Library has a Threave gallery, which gives an idea of the garden's richness. Those who enjoy walking may like to try the Threave Estate walk, or even use the SUW (Southern Upland Way) to link the region's gardens on a spectacular hike of heroic proportions. Cyclists may like to try the route suggested by Skye House's cycle routes library based in nearby Kirkcudbright. A more leisurely tour of the area by motor car is available from the motoring organization AA Travel.

On This Day in 2002: Greatest Mountain Man Wednesday 31 July 2002

Jim Bridger: Greatest Mountain Man [source unknown]James Bridger: Greatest Mountain Man [source unknown]These pictures of James Bridger (1804-1881) are the most commonly seen pair of three portraits widely available on the net. I have been unable to ascertain their owners, though I guess by now they must be out of copyright. If anyone claims or notifies ownership I will be pleased to give full credits and provide links to their true home pages.

Jim was born in Richmond, VA on St. Patrick's Day in the same year that Lewis & Clark stopped at Waverly, MO to repair their oars on a journey up the Missouri River that was to herald the opening of The West. When he was only twenty years old, Jim was the first white American to see the Great Salt Lake. He was a trapper, trader, scout, map maker, and teller of tall stories. He died in Independence, MO on the farm he bought for his 'retirement', revered by his contempories as 'Old Gabe'. Surprisingly many Americans I have spoken to either did not know his name, or were unsure of just who he was, when he lived, and what he did. Over the next few days I hope to provide all that information, with links to the best Jim Bridger resources on the web.

This item was the first of three parts: the others are in the August 2002 archive.

Wednesday 30 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Subtropical Scottish Palm Trees
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/LakelandCAM.co.uk MAP: Port Logan
Click the thumbnails to popup an enlarged picture.
Logan Botanic Gardens 1 © Tony RichardsLogan Botanic Gardens 2 © Tony RichardsLogan Botanic Gardens 3 © Tony Richards
OUR WEB MASTER WRITES: Regular readers will know that I moved to the hot mountain desert of south west Utah from the very north west corner of England, right on the Anglo Scottish Borders. In my third summer of acclimatization (cutely known in Merkinese as acclimation, and in my case assisted by health improvements), I am beginning to be comfortable with three digit temperatures. Even the rising humidity of late July and August, doubling and more from a normally relatively dry 10% to an occasional 30%, has not caused me too much of a problem.

The locals refer to the temperature highs, meaning above 110°F (43°C), as 'toasty'. During the heat of the afternoon, those with an option to do so mostly remain indoors, where there is always some form of air conditioning. As with people all over the world, the dwellers in this region take a pride in the noteworthy extremes of their habitat. This naturally leads to questions about the weather I experienced where I lived before arriving in Utah, quite reasonably accompanied by expectations of the declaration of equally noteworthy extremes, albeit in an opposite direction

My standard answer is that the Borders is a temperate maritime region, experiencing temperatures about 30°F (17°C) below my new home, and much higher rainfall figures than the scant annual eight inches of the high desert southwest. Superficially this seems to give my companions much satisfaction. However, Plato said the devil is in the detail, and so it proves in this case.

Snow falls in the Inter Mountain West are much higher here than in the UK, and lie for much longer into the season; rainfall from electrical storms regularly devastates the land, in a way only rarely seen anywhere in the British Isles; clear winter skies often cause overnight temperatures to fall below freezing, with perceived comfortable daytime temperatures dependent on insolation.

The flip side of the detail is equally devilish: south west Scotland experiences ambient three day mean temperatures above the magic 42°F (6°C), so the grass never stops growing, unlike the desert where the clear night skies in winter often produce a nip of frost that halts the grass growth, which in any case requires irrigation; Scotland's Grampian Plateau experiences sub Arctic weather lasting many days and inhibiting activity, whereas snow on the Colorado Plateaus is often followed by fine weather that allows enjoyment of the outdoors.

Hey-ho, nothing in life is ever as simple as we like to make out. At this point in any comparative weather conversation I always feel it is appropriate to mention Scotland's sub tropical gardens! In the sheltered Port Nessock Bay, on the western shore of the Rhinns of Galloway, lies Logan Botanical Gardens, which is now in the care of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). I have wonderful memories of living in that part of the world, and Tony Richards' pictures, taken on a jaunt there from his usual stamping grounds in the English Lake District, certainly rekindled a few. Quirkily Logan lies further to the south than the part of England that was my home. Logan, along with the terraces and parterres of nearby Castle Kennedy Gardens, where I also lived for a time, was used as a location for the 1973 cult movie The Wicker Man.

Scotland has many other wonderful gardens, though none as exotic as Logan because uniquely it benefits from the warmer waters at the tail of the Gulf Stream. The RBGE lists ten locations that they manage, and Dennis Hardley's ScotPhoto.com has a comprehensive selection of pictures of Scottish gardens that you may view.

I enjoyed today's pictures from Tony so much that tomorrow's feature will be a sort of Part II celebration of South West Scotland; included will be visits to the east coast of the Rhinns on the delightful beach at Ardwell; rugged Portpatrick that was the original ferry port for Ireland before relocation to the sheltered waters of Stranraer in Loch Ryan; and finally the walled garden at Threave, in the lands of the Black Douglas! For a Scottish vacation with plenty of amenities and places to visit, but without the crowds, Dumfries & Galloway is highly recommended.

On This Day in 2002: Buttermere Crimes & Fibs Tuesday 30 July 2002
CREDITS: © Julian Thurgood/VisitCumbria.com MAP: Buttermere
A locator is available from the FindaChurch.co.uk searchable database.

Buttermere Church © Julian ThurgoodButtermere Angel © Jonathan StamperThis is St. James' or Buttermere Church in the English Lake District. The carved angel was commissioned from landscaper and sculptor Jonathan Stamper after thieves stole the original from the church. Other criminals have passed this way: in 1802 a plausible scoundrel by the name of John Hatfield arrived in the area. Passing himself off as being of high born social status, he courted Mary Robinson, who was known as the 'Beauty of Buttermere'. The full story may be read on Steve Bulman's web site. Wordsworth and JMW Turner passed this way, the latter painting a rather dull scene that is in the Tate Gallery collection. Another visitor was Robert Grindell of Manhattan in search of his forbears. He did discover the true story of his grandfather Joseph and laid to rest the fanciful family story. "Oddly enough, though, this discovery did not dampen my pleasure in searching out this part of my family history. If anything, it heightened it. I even have a fonder feeling for my grandfather Joseph whose romantic fib about how he came to the New World gave me, many decades later, the chance to play Sherlock Holmes."

Tuesday 29 July 2003

Pix of the Day: More Perceived Potential Threats
Black Widow Spider © Ian Scott-Parker
As recently as Saturday our Feature Writer said in the 'On This Day in 2002' section, "We have Wolf Spiders here, which fortunately are harmless because occasionally one will crawl across my feet as I sit at the computer, and Black Widow Spiders, which I have yet to see." On Monday we were invaded by wasps. Today a Black Widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) put in an appearance. By the time you read this we expect to have discovered a nest of rattlesnakes in the timber pile by the door, and to have been overwhelmed by scorpions. A number of people wrote to suggest leaving the wasps alone: we were gratified that so many are prepared to live and let live.

As we write the spider has removed from clear view in the center of the web, and we think this may be a different perceived order of threat magnitude. Already we are experiencing imagined pricking sensations on our skins. Can we overcome our hostility through chanting "Serenity now!", and making like we didn't know this terror was lurking in wait for a moment of inattention on our part?

The LDS (Mormon) Pioneers who settled this area saw all challenges as a test of their fortitude before the Lord. We acknowledge that we are bereft of fortitude, so this may be a way for the Universe to measure just how craven we are capable of being. Sensibly it might be a good plan to become informed about the issues here.

We have already learned that the Black Widow female spider (the dangerous gender) 'rarely leave their webs' - but 'rarely' is not up to snuff, because we need to be reassured that they NEVER leave their webs. Serenity now! Thankfully we have an appointment that will take us out of the house for the remainder of the day. If they do leave the web, is it at night? How far do they range after they have left the web? Serenity now! Do they bite or sting? Serenity now! We are trying to overcome hyperventilation by breathing slowly in and out of a paper bag.

If our research is prematurely ended by a violent confrontation, and this is to be the last update to this weblog, you will at least be able to guess the most probable reason why! We never thought it would all end so ignominiously in this way.

On This day in 2002: Autumnal Preview Monday 29 July 2002
Lakeland Autumn © www.mikes-eye.com
This picture of a glorious autumn day in the English Lake District comes from the Mikes-Eye website, where they offer prints, calendars, jigsaws, and cards featuring original Lakeland pictures. The featured picture is the foot of Derwentwater lake and the North Western Fells. The Mikes-Eye flagship products are the videos, which team much loved classical orchestral music with stunning footage of Lakeland scenes. Music lovers will enjoy the visual enhancement of the music, and hill lovers will enjoy identifying the Lakeland scenes, all of which as listed, and many of which are fresh looks at familiar subjects. There are six titles featuring the works of Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Rachmaninov (my own favourite), Sibelius, and J.S. Bach. Videos are reasonably priced, with a special offer if all six are purchased.

[UPDATE: since last we visited Mikes-Eye have added a visitors' gallery alongside Jenny Wren's Tearoom in the village of Uldale in John Peel country. The tearoom web page shows the view across to a neat gap in the hills, lying between Meal Fell on the left and Great Cockup on the right: named Trusmadoor (locally pronounced 'THRESH-ma-deer') it is one of the most delightful passages between hills we know. The source of the River Ellen [thanks to Stuart Rae's glossary of Lakeland place names], which runs to join the sea at Maryport, gave its name to the containing administrative district of Allerdale. Local guide book artist AW Wainwright was a person with both feet firmly on the ground, but in several descriptions he is clearly drawn to Trusmadoor's woowoo ambience. In Book Five, 'The Northern Fells' in the 'Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells' series, on page six of the chapter about a fell named Knott he says,
'Nobody ever sung the praises of Trusmadoor, and it's time someone did. This lonely passage between the hills, an obvious and easy way for man and beast and beloved by wheeling buzzards and hawks, has a strange nostalgic charm. Its neat and regular proportions are remarkable - a natural 'railway cutting'! What a place for an ambush and massacre.'
It seems that even an old curmudgeonly Parent Type like Wainwright was unable to suppress his Child Type in such a place of delight and mysterious energy.

Monday 28 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Invasion Day of the Paper Wasps

Paper Wasps © Ian Scott-ParkerThe corporate headquarters at ODAAT Towers was buzzing like a beehive during the preparations for today's feature item. Unfortunately the buzzing was quite literal rather than an onomatopoeic simile, and was eventually tracked to some wasps building in the eaves. Our research assistant went out onto the web and determined that the creatures were probably paper wasps. However, her talents are more suited to other areas of expertise and endeavor, so we are happy to stand corrected if anyone out there knows better.

Now a decision must be made on what action, if any, is appropriate in response to this invasion of our sovereign territory. At the moment doing nothing is favored: if the wasps are prepared to go their own way without bothering us then that leaves the way open for detente. Without wishing to cause an escalation of tension on the other side, we have thought it advisable to station a giant can of 'Raid' in a silo close to the incursion across our borders. The UNL (University of Nebraska, Lincoln) have a superb entomology resource at EntWeb (University of Nebraska Department of Entomology) with a page on the management of stinging wasps, including the symptoms and treatment of casualties.

One visitor advised that the best way to deal with this was to pour a kettle of boiling water on the insurgents: notwithstanding that this utterance was delivered while craning up to see the nest we thought this gravity defying requirement was beyond even our skills. All visitors seemed to have an opinion, though when asked for their experience with such incidents they frequently admitted their advice was hearsay.

Whilst we are not generally inclined to attrition or vindictiveness, we did wonder if we might be able to arrange an SCI (Scavenging Caterpillar Infestation) without fear of reprisal. Just uttering the name of such a dreadful WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction) would be terrifying, though we believe from that link that such things are actually quite hard to find. We also thought of asking the United Nations to intervene, but read that their deliberations are like elephants making love: they raise a lot of dust, but the results take a long time to be delivered.

On This Day in 2002: Magic Circles Sunday 28 July 2002

Elva Stone Circle © Julian ThurgoodThis may be one of those 'You Had To Be There' photographs. The rocks in the foreground are what is left of the Neolithic age Elva Stone Circle, in a picture taken from Julian Thurgood's Visit Cumbria.com web site. I think that possibly one needs to be of a woowoo disposition to get the most from these places: certainly when I lived in nearby Cockermouth and visited this site the situation and the associations with the past set my skin a-tingle. Julian has a Cumbrian Stone Circles page and there are further links at the Open Directory. Visitors of a more prosaic disposition may prefer to just enjoy the fine view of the mountain in the background, called Skiddaw. [The following links have been changed from the original item because the resources used then are no longer available. Ed.] Andy Burnham has a section devoted to Cumbrian henges, which includes a detailed page and photo gallery on Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is close to Elva, but much better known and more often visited.

Sunday 27 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Soaring Walls of Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon Rock Walls 1 © Ian Scott-ParkerZion Canyon Rock Walls 2 © Ian Scott-Parker
Yesterday we referred to making an odious comparison between the rock faces of the English Lake District and the soaring rock walls of Zion Canyon. We were prompted to make the comparison when invited to a picnic in the canyon: a few years ago we had attended a similar function, a birthday party to honor former BBC Radio producer and author Bob Orrell, held in the depths of the Ennerdale valley in Lakeland, with llamas grazing nearby, and Pillar Rock looming in the distance. On that occasion we remarked that with Pillar Rock as the back drop there were probably few places on earth that made for such a spectacular picnic site.

Sadly Bob's earlier books about pack horse travelling seem to be out of print, though 'Blowout', a radio operators eyewitness account of a doomed North Sea oil rig, and another about the monuments of Lakeland, seem to be still available. We were pleased to learn that he completed the restoration of a boat named Amulet that he was working on when we last saw him, and even undertook a journey in her to the Western Isles that resulted in a book. It seems the old reprobate is still going strong, with another book due out about his seafaring adventures.

We digress: when we first arrived in southern Utah, we were inevitably taken to see Zion Canyon, when a remark was passed about having previously seen the Alps. Although true in itself, the context is now lost in the mists of time. However, it seems to have been taken to indicate some disappointment with the stature of Zion's peaks and rock walls. This could hardly be further from the case. Judge for yourself. We suggest that once again it has been demonstrated that people do not actually listen to what is said, but rather to a sound bite impression of what they think might have been said. Rather than worrying about being called to speak in public, most people would be better employed by concerning themselves about being asked to listen in public.

On the day the pictures were taken at the picnic site beside the Virgin River the weather was just right for the occasion: not too hot in the low hundreds, with a cooling breeze at the canyon entrance, which must be around 4,000 feet of altitude. Later in the afternoon a thunderstorm developed over the mountains, which explains why the Zion heights are not seen as they usually are, bathed in glorious sunshine. On the return journey we were treated to the strange sight of torrential rain blowing across the roads, but intermingled with dust devils.

We passed Grafton, the ghost town where the bicycling scene in a 1969 movie was filmed, about a local boy Robert Leroy Parker a.k.a. Butch Cassidy who had teamed up with Harry Longbaugh a.k.a the Sundance Kid. Several huge forks of lightning cracked down on nearby Eagle Crags and Canaan Mountain, followed almost immediately by deafening rolls of thunder and blasts of wind. Since that storm the humidity is still high, but with lower temperatures things have been more comfortable. More electrical storms are forecast, which can make things dangerous in the narrow canyons because of flash floods. Certain people reading this paragraph may discern that we are quite impressed by this country.

On This Day In 2002: Moving Mountains Saturday 27 July 2002

Wordsworth at Blea Tarn © Tony RichardsAfter Tony Richards published his picture of Blea Tarn in the English Lake District, one of his sharp eyed readers noticed that the hills on the horizon looked like the profile of Lakeland poet William Wordsworth (this one by Edward William Wyon is in the National Portrait Gallery). Here in the United States such things are not left to happenstance: sculptor Gutzon Borglum simply selected a suitable mountain, then between 1927 and 1941, with the help of 400 workers, sculpted the 60-foot busts of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. What became the Mount Rushmore National Monument in Keystone, South Dakota, is now world famous. How about Disraeli, Gladstone, Churchill, and Thatcher on Great End?

Saturday 26 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Eternal Friendship Is Guaranteed
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/LakelandCAM.co.uk
MAPS: Borrowdale, and the Bowder Stone location.

Bowder Stone © Tony RichardsWe were lucky enough to be invited to a picnic in Zion Canyon yesterday. The lady who cooked the 'Ma Hall's' recipe beans in a Dutch Oven, which is a heavy cast iron pot with a handle to hang it over the fire or built in feet for standing on the coals, pointed out to us where the 5.8 magnitude 1992 Zion earthquake occurred: Amos 1:2 'And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion…'. The exposed water pipes may still be seen. A 5.6 magnitude earthquake in 1933 was responsible for a large landslide at the west entrance of Zion National Park. Both landslides continued to move for hours after the earthquake, probably because of water and clay deposits beneath the surface of the landslide area. The epicenters of these quakes are often a great distance from Zion, yet they can still exert dramatic effects.

We had planned to make an odious comparison between the heights of rock faces in the English Lake District and the truly awesome rock faces in Zion Canyon. However, the Bean Lady mentioned a balanced rock that had fallen [CORRECTION: we have been informed that the balanced rock did NOT fall - this is under investigation, probably becoming a feature in its own right when the information is to hand] during the earthquake, and we were delighted when arriving home to discover that Tony Richards was featuring Lakeland's own balanced rock, known as the Bowder Stone! It is said that two people who shake hands through the small passageway that passes under the Bowder Stone will remain friends eternally.

The invaluable VisitCumbria.com has more information on measurements of this glacial erratic, which stands on the opposite lake shore to the first NT (National Trust) property purchased at Brandlehow Wood, and was itself an early purchase by the NT. A photographer from the 19th century, Francis Frith, visited in 1860 (the image is incorrectly captioned) and again 1893. It is interesting that the mature woodlands in which the Bowder Stone now sits were not there one hundred years ago. Now honor has been served with this feature, so that tomorrow we can show you the grandeur of Zion without anyone feeling that Lakeland has been belittled or insulted.

On This Day in 2002: Little Miss Muffet Friday 26 July 2002
Little Miss Muffet © Josh at www.10500bc.org
From Josh's picture galleries at nf0's Life comes this pleasant flower picture: arachnophobes should look away now! I find spiders fascinating creatures. We have Wolf Spiders here, which fortunately are harmless because occasionally one will crawl across my feet as I sit at the computer, and Black Widow Spiders, which I have yet to see. Josh has lots more subjects in his galleries, plus his weblog - well worth a look. Aficionados of trivia (which is just information for which the need is in the future) may enjoy Eric Shackle's page from Brookmans Park, between Hatfield (map) and Potters Bar in the English county of Hertfordshire just north of London, home of Dr. Thomas Muffet (or possibly Moufet, or even Moffat) who lived 1553-1604. He was an entomologist and wrote 'Theatre of Insects, the first scientific catalogue of British native species'. Eric's ebook web site is a mother lode of information that you may be needing any day soon. Steve Heliczer has a gallery of modern day residents of Brookmans Park.

Friday 25 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Fascination With Gradual Change
CREDITS: © NAME/WarrnamboolCAM.com
Allansford New River Crossings © Bruce Henderson/WarrnamboolCAM.comAllansford Old River Crossings © Bruce Henderson/WarrnamboolCAM.com
We have a weakness for observing gradual change, especially as patterns of road transport supersede one another. Those who are bemused by the last sentence are probably best advised to quit while they are ahead, though if you bear with us you may begin to see things around you that you never noticed before. We say this with all modesty, but we have become aware that some people are just blind to such things. As roads are developed, improved, realigned, or upgraded, they leave behind testimony to their previous use. Often this contains clues to social, fiscal, and industrial developments. We know a place in the northwest of England where the arrival of the railway, at a stroke, turned the pattern of road communications through ninety degrees. The old roads are still there, but exist only as lanes that run to the railway, then cease abruptly, to begin again on the far side of the tracks.

From Hurricane, UT, State Route SR-9 climbs the edge of the Hurricane Fault onto the Colorado Plateaus heading for Zion. We find it endlessly fascinating to observe the line of the old wagon road built by the Pioneers: different availabilities of road building equipment; different levels of motive power available for the vehicles that would travel on the roads; and different availability of financial resources to do the building. All of these things have an observable impact on the end products.

This pair of photographs shows three iterations of road transport in the town of Allansford, now a suburb of Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. The picture on the left shows the new bridge that replaced the old bridge. The picture on the right hows the original fording of the river, seen through the balustrade of the bridge that was in turn its replacement. We think that pictures like these of nothing much in particular, which are now increasing in number because of the web and digital cameras, will provide valuable information for people in the future wanting to know more about the superficial appearance (which of course has deeper implications if you are able to read the clues) of life in the past.

Just as oral history was developed as a new discipline by interviewers such as Studs Terkel, we think that in addition to the existing discipline of photoarchaeology will be added a discipline of deliberately recording things whose significance is not the present, but the present seen from the future. We suggest that the last picture in that series (content may change by the time you visit) of the local store makes an ideal example of the genre. Anyone for 'photosemiotics'? Or maybe 'photosemeiology'?

On This Day in 2002: Langdale Triptych Thursday 25 July 2002
Langdale Haymaking 1 © Tony RichardsLangdale Haymaking 2 © Tony RichardsLangdale Haymaking 3 © Tony Richards
Recent pictures of the Langdale valley in the English Lake District were well received, so I thought you might enjoy this recent Langdale haymaking triptych from Tony Richards who is a blog favorite. The peaks in the middle picture are the five Crinkle Crags, which have a special place in the hearts of walkers in the district. Click on the pictures to see them full size.

Thursday 24 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Speedy Skimmers Choose Lakeland
CREDITS: © Dave Newton/Daves-Lakeland-Mountains.co.uk
MAP: Wast Water & Coniston Water
Skimmers © Dave Newton
Recently we featured a picture of Wast Water, taken by Dave Newton. Dave had an arrangement, on that same day he took the picture, to meet rowers Rob McAllister and Rupert Merritt who were going to take their boat out on a training exercise in Wast Water as part of a training camp in Lakeland as preparation for entering the National Championships of Great Britain. Ever since we have been worrying that if this pair should become famous, then we will have missed a golden opportunity to name drop. Ill fated Donald Campbell in his boat Bluebird was killed on a nearby lake, Coniston Water, trying to break his own world water speed record. This looks much safer, and we wish Rob & Rupert the best of luck with their aspirations.

On This Day in 2002:
Google answers for the search term "Wednesday 24 July 2002"
Ice Bound [glaciersociety.org]Ann Robinson [BBC]Duck Flat Wooden Boats [DuckFlatWoodenBoats.com]
The Glacier Society aims to unite polar interest from around the world. The Google answer that caught our eye was a report by the Argentine navy that their icebreaker 'Almirante Iriziar' had become ice bound while trying to rescue a German research vessel 'Magdalena Oldendorff' that was trapped in an Antarctic ice field. All this and more on an interesting web site.

We confess that we find Ann Robinson strangely compelling on the otherwise tedious quiz show Weakest Link, which we first watched only because we thought it was something to do with the web. The American version of the show now has a blander presenter after Ann was replaced, though we had no problem with her perceived rudeness, lack of sensitivity, and heavy sarcasm: presumably the target audience is made up solely of single people, which would account for the change.

That BBC web page has lots of interesting links to other comedic practitioners, including a favorite of ours Caroline Aherne, who found national fame in the UK in 1994 with both The Fast Show and The Mrs. Merton Show, whose eponymous character was a sweet old lady who would ask the most outrageous, below the belt questions of her guest stars. "So, what attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?" she famously asked of his stage assistant and partner 'the lovely' Debbie McGee. The most powerful venoms are usually delivered with little fuss. We understand the Aussies now benefit from Caroline's subtle writing for TV sitcoms.

Finally we happenstanced upon Duck Flat Wooden Boats from Mount Barker, South Australia, whose oxymoronic (a word we just invented in the American tradition of turning nouns into adjectives) 'What's New Archive' has an entry, "We're all very excited about the new Mundoo II that we've recently designed." We actively enjoy the enthusiasm of people who take a modest pride in their achievements, and tarried a while checking out the Google entry, and the brochure we downloaded. A link from the Duck Flat site led us to the Institute of Backyard Studies, where we were introduced to the Meat, Metal, & Fire of Australian culture. We were relieved to discover that Blokes & Sheds is an international phenomenon.

Wednesday 23 July 2003

Pix of the Day: History Lies Buried in the Soil
CREDITS: © Tony Sainsbury/EyeOnTheLakes.com MAP: Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring © Tony SainsburyTony Sainsbury took a break from his north west of England home, where he runs EyeOnTheLakes.com web site, to visit the south coast English county of West Sussex. The name of the place in the picture is Cissbury Ring, which had us off searching the web for more information. Our search led us to David Staveley, whose second name is by happenstance derived from the eponymous place in Tony's home territory, who has a detailed Cissbury Ring page in his Sussex Archaeology & Folklore section. A very interesting and well done web site, and worthy of an extended visit if this sort of thing interests you. Ditchling Beacon had a familiar ring to its name: we guessed that we had heard it as a high point on the annual London to Brighton bicycle ride. The blessing, and the curse, of the web is that it just goes on forever!

On This Day in 2002: Taos Pow-Wow Tuesday 23 July 2002

Taos Pow-Wow © John H. FarrOver at FotoFeed.com there is a series of pictures of the Taos Pow-Wow taken by John H. Farr. The Native American life of the pueblos (considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States) is the basis of the festival, but there are other facets of New Mexico life to be seen. The event attracts entries from associated cultures and other areas of North America. John did a short article on the 2002 pow-wow, which includes a photo tour.

If you missed the pow-wow but are interested in native American culture then try IndianVillage.com who have a calendar of events that seems to be well maintained. If you are interested in visiting the Taos area to enjoy its many attractions TaosVacationGuide.com have lots of information, including a map showing the local hot spots in the 'Enchanted Circle'.

Tuesday 22 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Odious If Meaningless Comparison
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/LakelandCAM.co.uk MAP: Malham Cove

Malham Cove © Tony RichardsToday's feature picture is of Malham Cove in northern England. A delightful place for sure, and not one that we mean to denigrate by means of an odious comparison that we regularly make. At the end of the road that our house stands on is the Hurricane Fault, the longest exposed displacement fault in the world. It runs more than 200 miles from Cedar City 30 miles north of here, then southward, unbelievably crossing the mighty chasm of the Grand Canyon, then continuing beyond that rift before finally ending halfway across the next state. Also at the end of our road is Gould Wash, contained in a box canyon. There are three spectacular waterfalls along the length of the canyon. At least there are waterfalls if it rains up on the massive Colorado Plateaus, including a final headwall waterspout that plunges almost a thousand feet. We saw it during a winter cold snap, when it was a spectacular ice fall hanging five from the canyon rim, to mix two different sporting metaphors.

As we write the TV channels are carrying a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) National Weather Service warning of thunderstorms in east central Washington County here in Utah, so a flash flood might produce spectacular waterfalls even in the otherwise dry season. This update may well be delayed, because the electrical storms often disrupt the power supply.

On with the tale: some neighbors kindly invited us to dinner, and from the rear of their house Gould Wash, normally completely dry at this time of year, emerges from the Plateaus geological province to cross into the Great Basin geological province. Those same neighbors asked what it was like in Britain, for although they had visited London, they had never seen the rest of Britain. Our usual response is to explain that in Britain people travel many miles to visit Malham Cove, to gaze in awe at its dry cliffs, for the limestone rock long ago swallowed the stream in the valley behind.

The point here is that if Gould Wash was anywhere, and we do not use the word lightly, we mean anywhere in the UK, there would be a vast vehicle parking area with a concomitant infrastructure to service the huge crowds of visitors. Britain is like fine porcelain: exquisite, detailed, and the more carefully it is examined the more there is to see. As Eric often said of Ernie on the Morecambe and Wise show, "Small but beautifully formed". Here Gould Wash is just one more magnificent canyon in a huge brutal landscape baking under an unforgiving sun. This country is vast. There are canyons everywhere. Several of them are world famous. Poor Gould Wash. Canyons sometimes find it very hard to stand out in a crowd.

On This Day in 2002: Twin Peaks Dams 10,000 steps
Google answers on the search term "Monday 22 July 2002"
Twin Peaks Transport [John Hartnup]Sooke Reservoir [Capital Regional District]10,000 Steps [Pedestrian Council of Australia]
That Mercury Sabre hire car was used by John Hartnup on his GNR Lies (Great Northern Road Trip 2002) crossing and recrossing the US and Canadian border. With Debbie he visited Twin Peaks, a fictional name for the setting of an eponymous TV series that was based on North Bend, home of Twede's Diner, formerly the Mar-T Diner, which was used as the Double-R Diner in Twin Peaks. We never saw a single program in the series, but 'damned good cup of coffee and cherry pie' still managed to enter our everyday speech. Those links will lead you into a variety of interesting stuff by John, including another road trip on Rout 66, and a visit to Minsk!

Capital Regional District, otherwise CRD, is at the south end of Vancouver Island, and is a Canadian Regional Government administrative area, serving three electoral areas and thirteen municipal governments including the City of Victoria, capital of British Columbia. The web site explains that in 'a 'regional district' a number of local governments join together as partners so that they can benefit from economies of scale and eliminate duplication of effort on a region wide perspective. The provincial government established the 'regional district' concept of local government in 1966 because it recognized that some problems transcended municipal boundaries and there needed to be a partnership that could step forward and deal with local issues on a region-wide perspective.'

This concept is in action at the Sooke Reservoir Expansion, and it was the records of construction of the Sooke Dam and Deception Dam Spillway that caught our interest. We think this sort of thing will probably bore most people into catalepsy, though the few among you with long attention spans, and an insatiable need to understand anything that comes up on the radar, will probably spend as much time as we did examining the time lapse sequences. After that you will probably begin to wonder how much effort would be required to create a digital flip book: our R&D labs are working on the problem even as we write.

Lastly we go back to the PCA (Pedestrian Council of Australia), which we visited only yesterday. Today's item is a bit more up beat, however. It seems that there is a magic figure for fitness through walking: take 10,000 steps every day and eventually you will end up fit. The idea has been around since the 1950s, says 'Prevention' magazine walking editor Maggie Spilner, and the PCA has more details, plus some suggestions if you decide you want to start counting.

Monday 21 July 2003

Pix of the Day: High Summer in Glorious England
CREDITS: (top row left to right) © Charles Winpenny/CornwallCAM.co.uk
© Tony Richards/LakelandCAM.co.uk
© Dave Newton/Daves-Lakeland-Mountains.co.uk
(bottom row) © Ann Bowker/Mad About Mountains

Click thumbnails to popup an enlarged picture.

Hayle © Charles WinpenneyLittle Langdale © Tony RichardsWastwater © Dave Newton
Ullswater © Ann BowkerDerwent Vale © Ann BowkerDerwent Sunset © Ann Bowker
Despite a few moaners, there has been some fine summer weather in England. Don't believe all the tales about freezing fog, howling winds, and rain that one old farmer described to my father as "coming down in stair rods". When none of those things are happening, then they have the finest weather in the world! To prove the point here are six shots, ranging from Cornwall in the south to Lakeland in the north.

Specifically, the top row from left to right are: Hayle in Cornwall by Charles Winpenny; then all the other in Lakeland; Slaters Bridge in Little Landale by Tony Richards; Wastwater and Great Gable by Dave Newton.

The bottom row are all by Ann Bowker, from left to right: Ullswater from Arnison Crag; Derwentwater, Keswick, and Bassenthwaite from Walla Crag; and the River Derwent near Portinscale, as a fitting finale to these excellent pictures from some of my favorite web sites. My sincere thanks to all those people whose web sites have given so much pleasure to me and to so many others.

Have you noticed how much water there is in those pictures? As Billy Connolly said, liberally sprinkled with a light shower of expletives, when someone mentioned the rain, "Of course it rains, that's why it's so green!"

On This Day in 2002: Bullbars, Hampers & Champers, and FAB1
Selections from a Google search for pages containing 'Sunday 21 July 2002'
Bullbars [walk.com.au]Hampers & Champers [chichesterweb.co.uk]FAB1 [samizdata.net]
You know the methodology by now, surely: when our own archives are missing a date match entry for last year, we take the preferred longform date of that day, then ask Google to find an interesting page containing that date text string.

The first entry to catch our eye was an item on the PCA (Pedestrian Council of Australia) about what we fervently hope will remain a uniquely Australian traffic problem. It seems that hundreds of NSW (New South Wales) drivers have been equipping their vehicles with 'Mad Max' style bullbars.

The picture featured here shows a car with 'Dances With Pedestrians' on the front, and 'A Bullbar in the Country is Worth More Than a Pedestrian in the City' on the back. The pedestrians complain that these things are not only aggressive but also illegal, and that the promised action by government has failed. Worryingly the RTA (Road & Traffic Authority) spokesperson claimed that the bullbars in most of the pictures submitted to them appeared to be legal!

Our second choice was a piece on a Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club (Central Southern Section) 'Hampers & Champers' meeting at West Dean. Paul Capper is seen here serving 'champers and shorts' from his 1969 Rolls-Royce Phantom Six hearse. Our publisher claims that when he lived in the UK such absolutely spiffing events were all the rage, darling, and that all properly run clubs were wholly opposed to that awful contemporary habit of omitting correct punctuation from their official titles. One needs to try and maintain standards, and keep up appearances, old chap.

Our final choice came from the Samizdata.net weblog, which claims for itself an inability to run on what they say is an 'idiotic' Apple 'Safari' browser. This admission of poor webmastering skills is as disarmingly frank as it is unnecessarily vituperative while clearly being untrue. 'Samizdata' is derived from Samizdat, a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the former USSR [self-publishing house].

Where were we going with this? Oh yes, Perry de Havilland's 'Thunderbirds are Go!' entry on that weblog claims the children's program was a 'libertarian political message'. Although mentioning that one of the characters was British aristocrat Lady Penelope, who cruised in a pink six-wheeled armored Rolls-Royce, capable of travelling at 200 mph, complete with a hidden front grill mounted auto-cannon (vehicle registration number FAB1), completely ignores the fact that proletarian hero Parker was the one who did the driving!

Political commentary is just not what it once was. Come to think of it, why does Parker get called by his last name, but the toffs like Penelope Creighton-Ward get called by their first names? This confuses Americans who know that Jeffrey is referred to as Lord Archer, so are unable to understand why Richard, founder of Virgin Group of companies, is not called Sir Branson. Come to think of it, we are just as confused.

Sunday 20 July 2003

On This Day in 2002: High White Peaks, Low Green Fire
Pages returned when searching for Saturday 20 July 2002
High Alps [Dwight Peck]Gasherbrum II [HighAdventure.org.uk]Green Boas [LightofMorn.com]
Today for this section we again used the method of entering our preferred long form date into Google, because our own archives lacked an appropriately dated entry. The two following dates are also similarly missing. Google's image finder facility returned over 40 solid entries, so that we were almost spoiled for choice. Once again we had so much fun that we have used the entry for our lead item, combining 'Pix of the Day' with 'On This Day'. Click the thumbnails to visit the source pages that contain the relevant picture, and text links for our recommended pages in the source items.

First to catch our eye was Dwight Clark Peck's mountain picture. Dwight by his own admission is 'a quiet, middle-aged gentleman who has managed so far to keep more or less out of harm's way'. Our chosen date appears on the first of six pages, which describes a journey Dwight made from Switzerland, across the high snows of the Alpine mountain barrier into Italy.

The rationale for the journey makes interesting reading: 'There are many ways to go from Switzerland to Italy. [1] There's the airplane, or at least there was before 9/11 made the airport security personnel all uppity and then Swissair went bankrupt. [2] There's the rail line, superb service on the Swiss side, sometimes a little tardy to the south, and crowded, not crime-free, and pretty smelly. [3] There's the automobile, over the Grand St. Bernard, the Simplon, lots of passes, lots of tunnels, some of them kind of pricey and carbon monoxidy, and then there's the occasional horrifying tunnel fire to be borne in mind. And there could sometimes be some falling asleep at the wheel issues. Who knows? Plan for the worst scenario. [4] And then there's walking. On balance, walking sounds like the way to go. So let's try it!'

I have personal experience of this same selection process, though being a less bold adventurer I elected for the motor vehicle tunnels: the approach roads in either direction are spectacular, though the tunnels themselves are travelling's more depressing experiences. Dwight arranged a four day weekend away from his job, aiming to cross into Italy then return without ever being missed. Many heroic journeys seem to start with such seemingly prosaic initial plans.

We cheated only a little with the picture: it is from much later in the journey, when Dwight was route finding for a safe return to base. There is nothing like planning, organization, and skill management to ensure a safe return; and this was nothing like planning, organization, and skill management. At a critical point on the return journey the travellers lost Switzerland, which although a small country in relative terms is nevertheless a country, at which point the caption for the picture reads, 'Wait, I've seen THAT one before. On chocolate wrappers. Switzerland must be down to the right.' Did they make it back without incident by using a chocolate wrapper as a map? If you like whimsical travelogues then this one may be worth a visit to find the answer.

Our second selection was another mountain site, this time a commercial trekking company that organizes climbing trips to the Himalayas. David Hamilton of High Adventure reassures potential clients that Gasherbrum II at 8,035 metres (26,362 feet), or almost 5 miles above sea level, 'is the safest and 'easiest' of the Karakoram 8000m peaks. It is an ideal choice for suitably experienced climbers wishing to attempt their first 8000m peak. The route offers straightforward climbing in a superb and dramatic location. Well organised and adequately resourced expeditions to this peak have enjoyed high rates of success in recent years.' Having noted the quotation marks around 'easiest', we would probably have added them to 'straightforward' had we been writing that piece.

A tough lady climber of our acquaintance ascended to within 500 feet of the summit of Gasherbrum II, then sank exhausted into the snow, completely unable to progress further. She said it was one of the most wonderful experiences of her life. High Adventure's associate, JaggedGlobe.co.uk, have detailed background information about Gasherbrum II, including an excellent picture taken by David Hamilton.

Our third selection from Google's offerings posed a moral dilemma: not for us, because we just overcame all potential problem by acting as though they could not exist. However, the less philosophically robust among our readers might see a problem that Google's entry returned a 404 because the page no longer exists, thus making the entry invalid in some eyes. Undeterred, because we are mature enough to know that rules are just guidance for individual conscience, we cut back to the domain root, and were rewarded by some of Cait Hutnick's photography on her Light of Morn web site. Some call it 'stumbling into the pastures of heaven'.

We did eventually manage to find the image that was the original Google entry, a view of the Boccardo Trail heights from Alum Rock Park's Todd Quick trail, which is a property of the Santa Clara County OSA (Open Space Authority), but by then we had become entranced by the snakes. "Tru-s-s-s-t in me!", if you ever saw the Disney film 'Jungle Book', those green boas are fascinating.

Lots of interesting stuff on this web site if you dig around. If after a baking session Cait ever finds herself with surplus of Chanterelle Croissants then she may like to know that the USPS (United States Postal Service) make regular deliveries in our area, a service regrettably not performed by the captain of their bicycle squad.

Saturday 19 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Five Times Wider Than It Is Deep
CREDITS: © Brian P. Lawler/www.TheLawlers.com
Click the panorama thumbnail to popup an enlarged version.
Yosemite Rangers Rangers © Brian P. Lawler]
Brian P. Lawler writes for CreativePro.com, which is an invaluable resource for graphics professionals. Brian's latest article is entitled 'Preserving History with Panoramic Portraits'. Brian's own web site at TheLawlers.com has all kinds of goodies, but his panoramas gallery and graphics arts essays deserve special mention. Brian describes the day when today's featured picture was taken,

"On a beautiful day in early June, I arranged 63 park rangers and four horses into a circle around my camera in Yosemite National Park. The occasion was the twelfth anniversary of the last time the rangers got together for a group-in-uniform portrait."

The backdrop for the amazing picture that resulted, taken in the famous Cook's Meadow near Yosemite Lodge, includes Yosemite, Half Dome, and Cathedral Spires. This certainly knocks spots off the backgrounds used for the panoramic photos taken when I was at school. The only thing to relieve the monotony there was if some callow youth on one end could be persuaded to run round the back, so that he appeared a second time on the other end.

On This Day in 2002: Pioneer Agriculture Friday 19 July 2002

Pioneer Farm Machinery © Ian Scott-ParkerPioneer Fecundity © Ian Scott-ParkerIf you read Monday's entry about the Pioneers trekking to Hurricane, UT then this shows how they fared once they got here. By dint of hard work and enterprise they turned the desert into an agriculturally productive homeland. The local Heritage Park displays a selection of the machinery they used, and the flowers show how the irrigated land brought forth fecundity. The story of how irrigation was achieved by construction of the Hurricane Canal to tap the waters of the Virgin River will be told later.

Friday 18 July 2003

Pix of the Day: SAFOD Boring Project
CREDITS: © United States Geological Survey/www.usgs.gov MAP: Parkfield

Parkfield SAFOD Site © USGSWe found this item when researching for the 'On This Day in 2002' feature, and thought it so interesting that it became our lead item. This is what the original BBC article says: 'In Parkfield, California, seismologists are busy drilling a 2.2-km vertical hole deep into the Earth. This is part of a plan to install instruments directly within the San Andreas Fault Zone near the initiation point of previous high-magnitude earthquakes. The instruments, set in an even deeper hole, 3 to 4 km beneath the Earth's surface, will form a San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) and will reveal directly, for the first time, the physical and chemical processes controlling earthquake generation within a seismically active fault. Molly Bentley finds out how observing quakes 'up close' marks a major advance in the pursuit of a rigorous scientific basis for assessing earthquake hazards and predicting earthquakes.'

Presenter Geoff Watts may be heard (RealOne player software download required) in a web repeat of the BBC radio program Leading Edge, first broadcast on Thursday 18 July 2002, with a report from Molly Bentley about the SAFOD project. The International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) has a whole SAFOD section; insights and links into the investigation of the geophysical structure of North America are available from the EarthScope web site; and the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program for Northern California has a Parkfield page with a 360° interactive viewer for the drilling site, taken from the drilling platform.

On This Day in 2002: Pilgrims, Parishes, and Ruins Thursday 18 July 2002
Click thumbnails to go to the source page.
Pada Yatra Pilgrims [www.kataragama.org]Parish Church of St.George BelfastCoctaca Ruins [www.alamut.com]
If you visited us yesterday you will know that this feature, which usually takes an item from our own archives, does a Google search for the matching date if we do not have an item of our own available. Today we used Google's image finder feature to discover Pada Yatra pilgrims in Sri Lanka; the 1816 Parish Church of St. George in Belfast; and in Northwestern Argentina the Inca ruins of Coctaca. We cheated slightly in Belfast: Google found the picture of an ornate screen on that page, and we thought it was more meaningful to show the facade of the church.

Enquiring minds will want to know a little more about these places:

Pada Yatra is a traditional 55 day north to south foot pilgrimage from Jaffna to Kataragama along the east coast of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). It is a mobile festival along a series of sacred sites that maintains the oral traditions of the rural people. In recent years it has attracted up to 10,000 participants.

St. George is a Church of Ireland (Anglican) church in the United Kingdom province of Northern Ireland, a country where religious differences have been the cause of violent clashes between opposing factions.

Northwestern Argentina's provinces of Jujuy and Salta were the cradle of settled agricultural development in the region, and were the most heavily populated area of what is modern Argentina before the Spanish developed the coastal areas. Tribes on the Altiplano, such as the Diaguita, were a bulwark against the spread of the Inca culture across the Andes onto the lowland pampas. Humahuaca is the closest town to the ruins at Coctaca, which are often described as 'mysterious' growing terraces: in fact they are so mysterious that we were unable to find detailed information.

Thursday 17 July 2003

On This Day in 2002: Some Unexpected Program Changes

If, If, If…Wednesday 17 July 2002

Click either thumbnails for source page.
Yarrawonga Fish Ladder construction © www.mdbc.gov.auYarrawonga Fish Ladder construction © www.mdbc.gov.au
Recently in this section of the weblog we have been featuring the date matching item from last year's archive. There was panic in the Editorial Executive Office earlier today, well at least some heads turned accompanied by a brief lull in the buzz of conversation about yesterday's stage of the Tour de France, when we realized that there were two consecutive days from 17-18 July 2002 without matching entries in the archive. Somebody asked the Copy Boy to think up an idea for a temporary replacement feature, and a normal leisurely calm returned to the throbbing nerve center of our organization. We think that Boy will go far and his will be the Earth, if he can keep his head when all about him are losing theirs and blaming it on him, as Kipling foretold. What follows is the Boy's best shot. We hope you enjoy the change. Meanwhile we hope you enjoy this triple featured sites items as a replacement for our usual format. Try to think about it as the ever popular 'Three for the Price of Two' offer that make shopping such a wearing process of making nerve racking decisions.

Using our preferred date format of 'DAYNAME DD MONTH YEAR' [Please, everybody, make sure the Publisher doesn't see this, or we will have to do yet another piece on how absurd the most common American date format is in the computer age- Ed.] we did a Google search, and accepted the top three answers.

Top answer on Google was the Now This Log weblog by Steve Bogart. Lead item for our chosen day was 'Useful page for transitioning Mac owners: Mac OSX: Where The Files Belong Now [Westwind]. We made a quick note to pass this on to FotoFeed author, and a favorite web destination of ours, John Farr, who has recently taken delivery of a titanium PowerBook among the Wet Magpies, with the world's finest operating system ready installed.

Second up was Lying in Ponds. This site would earn an entry here, if only for the derivation of its name:

'The title is an allusion to a line from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur had been explaining to 'Dennis' and another peasant that he is their king because the Lady of the Lake presented him with the sword Excalibur. Dennis, who lives in an "anarcho-syndicalist commune", doesn't buy that explanation (text from from a Monty Python fan web site):

DENNIS: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up, will you? Shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

The web site does have a serious purpose, however, and the author Ken Waight, who 'once walked right past Sonny Bono' [Isn't just using that guy's name a copyright infringement? Ed.], gives this mission statement:

Lying in Ponds is an attempt to encourage vigorous, independent commentary in the American punditocracy by quantifying and analyzing partisanship. Lying in Ponds tries to draw a fundamental distinction between ordinary party preference and excessive partisanship. The presence of an excessive partisan bias transforms journalism into advertising, too distorted and unreliable to be useful in any serious political debate. Lying in Ponds currently tracks the Democratic and Republican biases of a selection of regular political columnists from various sources, including the New York Times , the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal , and the Washington Post.

We intend to personally return to this site for some serious study. Highly recommended if these issues are of concern to you as part of the democratic process.

With the third entry we struck a mother lode for the type of web site we usually cover. At first glance the rainfall records for the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in Australia might seem like dry reading (pun most definitely intended). The MDB Initiative web site has much more than that on offer, however. This is one of the world's major river systems, not by its flow but check out the MDB map for the MDB Tour… this thing is huge! Enquiring minds may enjoy the River Information Centre, which gives an insight into the issues and complexities faced by any river management authority.

That Information Centre has a pull down menu giving a choice of destinations to visit on the river system. How could we resist selecting somewhere so wonderfully named as the Yarrawonga Weir? That link, or clicking on either of the thumbnails, will take you to a detail page showing the 1994 construction of a privately owned hydroelectric station and a fish lift, and the giant flow control weir of Yarrawonga.

To give you an idea of the scale of this region, Yarrawonga Weir is located 334 miles (538km) from the source of the River Murray, and 1,238 miles (1,992km) from the mouth. The travel times of flood peaks from the river headwaters to Yarrawonga are 6 days, then a further 8 days to the inland town of Port of Echuca, known as the World's Paddlesteamer Capital, which is still a long way from the ocean. All this is in the Murray basin; the Darling Basin is even bigger!

The Copy Boy had by now begun to realize just how easy this kind of repurposing is for producing a weblog. He then began to ask a series awkward and embarrassing questions about such things as executive rewards and perks, company cars, expense accounts, and all the other burdens that the producers of this weblog have to endure. To prevent further unwarranted intrusion, we immediately sent him scurrying off to the local Starbucks to buy the strong coffees & fresh biscotti that are the things that keep this organization operating. Finally we noted with some sadness that our own weblog, and web site, did not appear in the Google results. [Look, this is getting really silly, because that was the whole point of the item. You lot, get back to work on the regular features, and try to see 'If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run' - Ed.]

Wednesday 16 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Internet Pictor Lucis Cornucopia
CREDITS: © Michael Abbott/www.mabot.com

PAW2002 © Michael Abbott [www.mabot.com]PAW2002 © Michael Abbott [www.mabot.com]Every now and again we stumble across a web site that is like an Aladdin's Cave: there are just so many good things, that we are spoiled for choice. On this occasion we have to thank Jenny Cockshull, who is a legendary urgler [sic] on the Usenet newsgroup uk.rec.gardening, and no mean web site author herself, for an excellent suggestion. We have decided to limit ourselves to only two choices - click either thumbnail to visit the source page for that item. The first is from a picture project. The second is something we thought very special: it is not often we get to see inside a web site author's head, least of all one that has something inside! Michael Abbott is the web site owner and author.

The thumbnail on the left is the one we chose from Michael's PAW2002 (Photo-a-Week 2002) project. Kyle Cassidy was the inspiration for this particular project, though I remember a similar challenge dreamed up by a street life photographer who intended to run off a full 36 roll every day for a year! The point of all these projects is to focus the photographer (hahaha... unintentional pun, honestly!) so that the hit rate of successful frames increases.

World renowned French snapper Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for refusing to look at the portfolios of aspiring photographers who sought him out for a critique. Instead he would demand to see contact sheets: that way he could check for the hit rate, the frame numbers precluding any rigging of the results. He always thought that the hit rate was a measure of the photographers professionalism. A famous picture editor on a national newspaper was once asked the difference between a pro photographer and a gifted amateur: he replied that the pro always comes back with something usable. Cynical as we are, we would add that in our experience amateurs, like fisherman, always describe the one that got away, more often several!

The second thumbnail links to a page containing an animated NMR (MRI) scan of Michael's brain, done as part of a friend's research into which regions of the brain are used in recognizing patterns. We think this kind of stuff is at least as interesting to look at as fire, water, or cloud formations.

On This Day in 2002: Sleeping Sky Giants Tuesday 16 July 2002
Sleeping Sky Giants © Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Centre
Near Tucson, in the Arizona desert, there are approximately 4,500 military aircraft parked. They sit in the shimmering heat, mothballed by the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM-AFB). The AMARC facility may be one of the most profitable aircraft producers in the world: in fiscal 2001 they processed 101 aircraft into storage, valued at over $887 million, and returned into service 113 aircraft and 18,896 parts valued at $740 million. AMARC’s budget was $45 million, for which it returned $15 worth of goods and services to its customers for every dollar spent. DM-AFB is far from being an 'aircraft graveyard', which is how it has sometimes been labelled by the uninformed.

The Pima Air & Space Museum organizes tours (cameras allowed but visitors have to stay on the bus). An excellent online multi-media presentation is available, produced by Second Story (a site well worth visiting to access other interesting productions), which is hosted in the Kodak domain.

Tuesday 15 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Sporting Bribery & Corruption
CREDITS: © Cumbria Tourist Board (CTB) GoCumbria.co.uk
Man © Dog © Cumbria Tourist Board
The four part series 'Orgy of the Northwest' is now over.

One picture did not make the cut, but that was only because of formatting difficulties. It appealed so much to the Picture Editor that we decided to include it today.

Last night cable TV aired the 2000 movie directed by Christopher Guest entitled Best in Show, a tale of animals and the people they look after, for which the screen play was written by Guest and Eugene Levy.

Art is so often but a pale candle held up to the mirror of life.

Caricature of the Day courtesy of Monsieur Tibet
IDENTITY LINK: click the image below. Click this text for a BIO-FINDER LINK.
Monsieur Tibet [www.digibulles.com/Tibet]
French scientist (1910-1997). We thought the 'Caricature Zone' entry for today was much too Francocentric for an English speaking web site. To show that there is no Francophobia in this decision, however, we are featuring the French web site of Monsieur Tibet, and a French personality. We offer only one clue today: this man invented the aqualung.

You may check out the caricature of the man we thought nobody outside France would know: if we were wrong, even though we did some user testing to establish if he was recognizable, then we apologize. While working on his proposed entry we thought him to be a very interesting man. That was what led us to today's actual entry, but you may also see an excellent caricature of our first choice, also on the Monsieur Tibet web site, in the bottom right hand corner, and read his filmography.

Bastille Day, which has the same importance in France that Independence Day does in the USA, was yesterday, the 14th July. The Tour de France sometimes throws up a French stage winner for the day, but not on the 100th edition. Richard Virenque, the darling of the French housewives, won a magnificent stage victory on the first day in the Alps from Lyon to Morzine, so that will have to suffice for the time being.

Overly good looking Alessandro Petacchi, the sprinter who won three stages on the flat at the start of this year's tour in the face of strong challenge by the Aussie boys, and the former darling of at least one American housewife we know, blobbed when he saw the first hill. Asked why all we could offer was that he is a big girl's blouse. This may seem a harsh judgement, but when the team manager publicly apologizes to the race director then something is clearly amiss.

Meanwhile Tyler Hamilton soldiers on with a double fracture to his right clavicle: really they need to dream up a jersey for this category of rider. Whether it should be the 'bloodied but unbowed hero' jersey or just the plain 'headbanger too stupid to know when to stop' jersey is open to discussion. Clearly Tyler has never heard that discretion is the better part of valor.

Yesterday Tyler's former team captain Lance Armstrong took a short cut across a hay field to avoid the crashing Joseba Beloki, and gain the yellow jersey of the overall race leader. Alexandre Vinokourov had a well deserved stage win, and the tragic crash that put Beloki out of the race in no way diminishes his achievement.

Hollywood could not write this stuff, and even if they did the actor's could not make it believable. This year's Tour is just going from strength to strength. Exhausted just from gripping the arms of our chairs, we withdraw the snap judgement on Petacchi until further explanation is forthcoming. We promise to hold our tongues until the Tour reaches the Pyrenees.

On This Day in 2002: How the West Was Won Monday 15 July 2002

Hurricane, UT Pioneers © Ian Scott-ParkerPioneer Handcart © Ian Scott-ParkerPioneer Wagon © Ian Scott-Parker

The movie tradition has well equipped wagon trains crossing the smooth grassy prairies, the main problem to their progress being marauding savages. In the Great Basin the reality was somewhat different. When the cost of moving a whole society by wagon train grew too excessive, Brigham Young, the leader of the LDS (Mormon) church, decided that handcart companies would be a more economic answer. Many made the journey successfully, but some were beset with privation and tragedy.

The statue commemorating the Pioneers stands in the Heritage Park in Hurricane, Utah. The handcart and the covered wagon are authentic originals. A number of web sites [1] [2] [3] [4] give detailed accounts of the various Handcart Companies.

Monday 14 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Men in Tights & Velvet Knickers
CREDITS: © Cumbria Tourist Board/Ben Barden GoCumbria.co.uk

Click the thumbnails to pop-up larger pictures.
C&W Wrestlers 1 © CTB/Ben BardenC&W Wrestlers 2 © CTB/Ben BardenC&W Wrestlers 3 © CTB/Ben BardenC&W Wrestlers 4 © CTB/Ben Barden
Welcome to the fourth, and last day, of the 'Orgy of the Northwest'. Today we feature the men of the sporting discipline known for over 200 years as 'Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling'. The old county names from which the sport took its name are no more: both counties were incorporated, along with an area in the south formerly known as 'Furness District of Lancashire', into the new 'super county' of Cumbria.

The traditional dress, alluded to yesterday, is white tights, deeply colored velvet knickers, and a white singlet. Frequently tasteful embroidery, usually in the form of flower motifs, is added to the garments, although some men eschew embroidery. If this lack of decoration has any significance then I am unable to tell you why. No substantial footwear is worn. In minor competitions, especially in the austerity years just after World War II, I have seen men step forward in stockinged feet with trousers tucked in the tops, and the shirt stripped off to the singlet layer. Locally singlets are always referred to as 'vests', a garment that sensible mothers advised should be worn at all times, even in hot weather, to guard against receiving a chill.

The combatants 'tekk hod' by encircling each the other with his arms, hands linked by curling opposite sets of fingers then hooking together. They then separate by the maximum distance, this being achieved by bending from the waist. The object is to throw the adversary to the ground, though often both men will go down with the winner atop the loser. There is a series of traditional moves, such as the 'inside click', all designed to de-stabilize the opponent's stance. As in many such circumstances it is often the competitor who makes the first move who is defeated.

Bouts between expert wrestlers are often characterized by a seemingly endless wait while the protagonists shuffle for advantage, followed by a devastating burst of energy leading to a cleanly won victory. In contrast, bouts between less experienced competitors, this often means younger men or the boys who are just beginning their wrestling careers, are characterized by less elegant and decisive wrestling.

It is both harder and more difficult than it looks (100th Keswick Games bout in 1954 - RealPlayer movie, software download needed), and my advice is that you do not let yourself be tempted to accept if asked if you 'fancy having a go'. Even if you have some level of skill in another martial art, you will be alarmed to suddenly find that your head is firmly locked over your opponents shoulder so that you are unable to see what move he is making. If you lose, then go down with the weight of some chunky farm lad on top of you, you will then be alarmed to discover that break falls are hard to do from that position. You have been warned!

On This Day in 2002: Green Mean Machine Sunday 14 July 2002

Green Mean Machine © Ian Scott-ParkerGreen Mean Machine interior © Ian Scott-ParkerThis 'restoration' was too much 'conversion' and too flamboyant for my own conservative tastes, though I certainly admired the effort and craftsmanship that went into the project. It was for sale on a local used car lot, but was gone the next week. Sometimes I wonder if such vehicles are snapped up for the Californian market, where there are lots more dollars to pay for fun recreational transport.

Walking Women

Photograph © WalkingWomen.co.ukPhotograph © WalkingWomen.co.ukPhotograph © WalkingWomen.co.uk

Judging by their photo galleries Walking Women have a whale of a time when they go away on trips. Here's the pitch 'WalkingWomen arranges women's walking holidays & short breaks of all different shapes and sizes in the Lake District, Scotland, and abroad. Whether you prefer gentle walks or adventure, creature comforts or economy, there's variety here for most tastes and levels of fitness! WalkingWomen is about making wonderful walks more accessible. It's about unpressured walking in beautiful scenery at every level. It's about attractive and affordable places to stay to suit a range of tastes. And most of all, it's about the fun and stimulation of walking with a group of other women! Coming on your own? Most women come on their own. The walking group is small and friendly, with a trained guide to show you wonderful walks you might otherwise miss. The age range is wide and all women are welcome!' They have some places left on their Summer and Autumn 2002 schedules.

This man would love to join them: house trained, unthreatening, permission and supervision from she who must be obeyed, cooks, entertains, code god, photographer, and never leaves the house without a Swiss Army pocket knife. C'mon, girls, Utah is awesome hiking country!

Sunday 13 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Worshippers of the 'Green Fairy'
Click thumbnails to popup enlarged picture.
CREDITS: © Cumbria Tourist Board/Ben BardenGoCumbria.co.uk
Daihatsu Dogs © CTB/Ben BardenRunning Hound © CTB/Ben BardenSlip the Hounds © CTB/Ben Barden
Yesterday's item ended, "Tomorrow's feature is the turn of the fastest fell runners of them all. They are driven on by an insatiable lust for the Green Fairy with its aromatic bouquet from the fruit of the Pimpinella anisum, which I can quite understand, but why on earth they might choose kerosene as a mixer is completely beyond my comprehension." The fastest fell (mountain) runners are specially bred 'trail hounds', and the 200 year old sport is known as hound trailing, for obvious reasons. If you follow the first link you will find out about absinthe, the alcoholic drink beloved of many writers, but now banned in France. The second link leads to information about aniseed, the aromatic still used in the production of absinthe's heirs, of which the best known commercial variety is 'Pernod'. The hounds follow a trail laid by dragging a cloth soaked in aniseed and kerosene (called paraffin in the UK).

The dogs race out from the start, which is usually the sports field if held as part of a larger event, up and across the fells, then back down to the start point. There the owners or handlers will be banging feeding dishes, screaming encouragement, or whistling commands. Betting is an integral part of the event, and every knowledgeable person will be able to entertain you all night with tales of 'ringers' (covert substitutes), dogs smart enough to take short cuts, rigging of the odds by fair means and foul, conspiracy theories, and derring-do of every imaginable variety. When regaled with such information (known as 'getting the crack') it is wise to assess the sobriety of the giver, and then to take pinch of salt.

The hounds love this sport. Generally I am wary of supporting anything involving animals in competition, especially when there may be temptation to influence the course of the event by acts that are harmful to the animals. I have seen hounds with badly torn hides caused by jumping barbed wire, but the trail organizers will hear from the owners if this is through bad planning of the trail, rather than errant behavior by the dogs. The site of a pack of these dogs in full cry is an exciting event.

Occasionally dogs will stop to cock a leg at a vital point near the end of the race while the owner fulminates helplessly but vocally using certain traditional phrases established over time but not suitable for repetition in a family publication such as this, or will go off on wrong scents of their own. Sometimes dogs are lost for days, despite searches by bands of supporters, and end up being found many miles away. Names are often traditional, and here I will raise a glass to 'Misty', who was boarded out on a farm I visited as a child. She will be long dead now but, like many of her kind, stories about her will be told for generations after their glorious achievements. The more time that has passed after their demise, then the more dewy eyed the story teller will be, and the more glorious the achievements will become.

Tomorrow is the last of our four day 'Orgy of the Northwest'. We will be featuring men in embroidered tights and velvet knickers. Any funny remarks and you might find yourself airborne heading for a painful landing: once these guys 'tekk hod' most of us find them irresistible, in the sporting sense, of course.

On This Day in 2002: Winter in Langdale Saturday 13 July 2002

Langdale © Derek LockeYesterday's item was uploaded while still unfinished: you may like to scroll down and read it in the completed form. Recently, after many hours of frustration with the online content management system, I have now returned to manually coding the weblog, just so that I can have the job done properly with all the elements correctly placed. I am grateful to Blogger for everything they have done, and would still heartily recommend them to anyone thinking of starting any kind of regularly updated web page.

Today's picture is by Derek Locke, taken of the Langdale valley in winter. Derek's site is a rich trove of articles on matters as diverse as bridges, architecture, maths, physics, and water, with lots of information about photography and wildlife.The Langdale picture is from the Mountains section about glaciation, which is part of the online Picture Galleries, but it appears here because it is a top class landscape picture in its own right. The Bridges section has been honored by a 'Scientific American 2002 Sci/Tech Web Award' in the Engineering and Technology category.

Saturday 12 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Warriors With Rubber Extremities
CREDITS: © Cumbria Tourist Board/GoCumbria.co.uk
Mountain biker picture © Cumbria Tourist Board/Ben Barden
MAP: Grasmere Click thumbnails to popup enlarged image.
Grisedale Pike - fell runners © Cumbria Tourist BoardGrasmere Sports - mountain biker © Cumbria Tourist BoardVale of Grasmere © Cumbria Tourist Board
This is the second day of the four days in an 'Orgy of the Northwest'. Today we look at some folks who make yesterday's warriors look like a bunch of nancy boys, although as Jerry Seinfeld would say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" Jos Naylor, the undisputed King of the Fells, has been featured twice in this weblog, and we take this opportunity to salute him once more.

Each year in Lakeland there are a number of local sports meetings, and one of the best known is held in the village of Grasmere, where the organized event began on Hudson's Field from 18-19 April 1852. This year's event will be held on Sunday 24 August 2003. Visit Roy Lomas, author of the book 'Grasmere Sports - The First 150 Years', to find out more. Roy's book was the winner of the Bill Rollinson Prize, Heritage and Tradition, in the Lakeland Book of the Year Awards 2003.

The fell race allows some very tough athletes to show their grit and true mettle by running up the steep fell (mountain) sides. This prestigious event, known as the Guides Race, began on Silver How but now uses Butter Crags. You may gain an idea of the terrain by visiting a page on the LakesWalks.co.uk web site, which features a walk over the area of Butter Crags. The sports meeting seems to have come right up to date by including a mountain bike race for the fat tire aficionados. The runners too have become more sophisticated, and these days are more likely to be shod with the latest lightweight synthetic composition grip soles than the leather boots with studs that the old timers wore.

The three pictures, courtesy of the CTB (Cumbria Tourist Board) photo archives, show fell runners on Grisedale Pike in a different competition in the fells further north; a mountain bike race competitor at Grasmere in August 2002; and an aerial view of the vale containing the villages of Grasmere and Ambleside. The web site at that last link has two especially interesting pages, one with a history of the area, and the other with a vintage photo album. The map link shows Grasmere and Ambleside in the southeast (bottom righthand) corner, with Grisedale Pike at 2,593ft (791m) of altitude, located in the northwest (top lefthand) corner below the Whinlatter Forest Park area (clearly marked in large blue type). The hills visible above the cloud inversion are part of the Skiddaw massif in the Northern Fells.

Tomorrow's feature is the turn of the fastest fell runners of them all. They are driven on by an insatiable lust for the Green Fairy with its aromatic bouquet from the fruit of the Pimpinella anisum, which I can quite understand, but why on earth they might choose kerosene as a mixer is completely beyond my comprehension.

On This Day in 2002: Haymaking in Langdale Friday 12 July 2002

Langdale Haymaking © Wayne HutchinsonThis picture of haymaking in the Langdale valley of the English Lake District is by Wayne Hutchinson, who won the Guild of Agricultural Journalists, Photographer of the Year 2002, professional class.

Wayne offers a number of galleries of his work, and also a CD-ROM containing over 400 images from his extensive portfolio of agricultural subjects. He is the official photographer at several breed sales, including those for Swaledale Rams, Bluefaced Leicester, Charolais Cattle, and Limousin Cattle. He breeds Swaledale sheep, and trains and breeds sheepdogs. Pictures of both appear in the galleries.

The paintings to the right are from three generations of the Heaton Cooper dynasty of Lakeland painters.

Top is by founder Alfred Heaton Cooper (1864-1929) entitled "The Bield, Little Langdale"; middle is by his son William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) entitled "Wallend Farm Langdale"; and bottom is by his grandson Julian Cooper entitled "The Drinker, Langdale".

With other artists who form the whole Heaton Cooper dynasty, much more of their work can be seen, and purchased, on the Heaton Cooper website.

If you visit Lakeland in person the Heaton Cooper Studio is open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm. The Studio is situated right in the middle of the village housed in a red roofed log cabin that Alfred had shipped over from Norway… read all about it in his mini-biography on the site.

The Heaton Cooper Studio has grown to be much more than a gallery to sell paintings and prints: they offer sculpture, pottery, gifts, and a wide range of high quality artists' materials. I was very tempted by the Chinese calligraphy brushes and inks.

They even offer online advice on what you need to get started! There is no excuse for delaying that project.

Langdale (A) © Heaton Cooper
Langdale (W) © Heaton Cooper
Langdale (J) © Heaton Cooper

Friday 11 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Orgies Preferred Over Festivals
CREDITS: © Cumbria Tourist Board/GoCumbria.co.uk MAP: Kingdom of Rheged
Rheged Re-enactment © CTB
The poor chap who earlier in the week expressed a passing interest in my native land must by now have realized the enormity of his mistake. However, this weblog takes no prisoners, so I have declared a four day long 'Orgy of the Northwest'. [NOTE: it is considered more respectable to call them 'festivals' these days -- Proof Reader.] There will be runners & cyclists, hounds, and wrestlers. There's nothing like a pitched battle for putting everyone in the mood for an orgy, though that only applies for the winners I suppose, so today's feature picture was appropriately captioned 'Rheged Battle Re-enactment' by the Cumbria Tourist Board, from whom it was sourced.

Rheged in this context may well be the tourist attraction close to a Lakeland access point at Junction 40 of the M6 motorway near Penrith. If you fancy a visit to Cumbria, and want to save some cash, then enter one of several free competitions on the CTB web site. There is a wide range of accommodation and event prizes, and entry is quick and easy to complete online.

Billing itself as 'The Lake District's Premier Indoor Attraction' it takes its name from Cumbria's old Celtic kingdom, which was ruled by Urien Rheged. The center is housed in Europe's largest grass covered building, hence its other appellation 'The Village in the Hill'. The inaugural Wainwright Society Lecture 2003 will be hosted there in early September, and will be delivered by the internationally renowned local biographer, columnist, and author Hunter Davies.

The Wikipedia entry for Rheged is a fast way to get links to background references on the web. If you are old enough to have learned history through the record of dynasties and rulers then you will find that Kessler Associates have just the sort of list that will put everything into perspective. That section is part of a much bigger web site with useful lists for several other parts of the world.

I am unsure of the historical accuracy depicted by today's feature picture, or indeed who is represented in the re-enactment. Perhaps further research will lead to another item, which with luck may be more informative, though 'Rheged' searches on Google are dominated by the tourist center web site, and other associated web sites. One thing is clear, however, the culture represented in the picture was not created by the sort of people who preferred a festival over a good orgy. [Proof Reader, stick to your own job, and leave the creative stuff to me -- Writer.]

On This Day in 2002: Bird Burglars Thursday, July 11, 2002

Costa's Hummingbird 2 © Rick FridellCosta's Hummingbird 1 © Rick FridellI was delighted when I first moved to this part of the world to discover that there were hummingbirds hereabouts. These pictures are by local photographer Rick Fridell of Hurricane, UT [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] from the Utah Birds web site. There is also an amazing bird story on the Utah Birds web site. Go and read about how a gang of thieving birds looted 16,000 quarters from a car wash operator, and it was all caught on camera! Amazing. [Thanks to Steve Osburn]

Thursday 10 July 2003

Pix of the Day: What Kind of Person Are You?
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/www.LakelandCAM.co.uk MAP: Hawkshead
Hawkshead - 'Cumbria in Bloom' © Tony Richards
There is no 'correct' response to today's picture or the question: 'What kind of person are you?' If you know what kind of person you are, and have accepted yourself so that you are comfortable being that kind of person, then you probably lead a contented life in many ways. I am the kind of person who would happily have this display growing in my front yard. I would have no need to attempt an improvement.

I read once that a tire is the most wasteful item on the planet: its enormous material and energy costs are often written off when the tire becomes useless because a small fraction of its total weight has worn off through normal use. That in itself would give me a small glow of satisfaction that I had recycled waste into something useful.

Although I do not expect most readers to agree with me that the worn tire itself is intrinsically beautiful, would you have this arrangement in your own front yard? The rectilinear, anal retentive, conforming, and peer pressured among you (I swear none of this is pejorative; my mother would have called you 'respectable', whereas she always told me, "You have no pride in your appearance!") may prefer more traditionally attractive pictures of the Lakeland town of Hawkshead, where they are sprucing up for a Cumbria in Bloom competition. Tony Richards caught the action for his web page (content changes, but may be in Tony's archive for a while longer).

Wednesday 9 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Devil Who Holds His Own Records

CREDITS (L. to R.): click below for host sites, click thumbnails for picture page.
[1] © Rekord-Klub SAXONIA [2] Sage Cycling [3] Guardian Unlimited
Centre picture is © Jacky Naegelen/Reuters on Brian T. Sage's cycling web site.
Right hand picture is © Roberto Pfeil/Associated Press.
Didi Senft © Rekord-Klub SAXONIADidi Senft © Jacky Naegelen (Reuters)Didi Senft © Guardian Unlimited
Any day now, television viewers of the Tour de France will see Didi Senft, whose appearances have become one of the institutions of the Tour. A decade ago Didi attended his first Tour dressed as the Devil, and yelling (link for the above centre thumbnail picture - scroll down the linked page to the image below the cartoons) maniacal encouragement to the riders with his now familiar cry of "Ai-ai-ai-ai-aie!" He is accompanied by a giant bicycle on a towing trailer, and he is now such an attraction in his own right that the organizers will not let him set up too close to the finishing line in case he causes a crowd control problem. He now stations himself about 20km from the finish, and for his final appearance the riders pelt him with empty water bottles as a small token of their appreciation for his efforts. Many race fans pose for a picture with Didi as a souvenir of their visit, and proof of their attendance.

Didi is not just some publicity seeking show off, but a true bicycling fan, and a record holder in his own right. He has travelled from his home in Kolpin, Germany, to visit many of the other major bicycle racing championships such as the Giro d'Italia. He has also built the world's largest bicycle. This machine is not just some flimsy showpiece either, but is actually rideable for those brave enough to try: at 25ft 7in (7.8m) long and 12ft 2 in (3.7m) high, considerable skill is needed to stay on board.

Didi is an employee of a company named LuK, a manufacturer of automotive transmission systems. He is the "advertising partner" according to a Luk news release, though they do not seem to make capital of the Devil's fame. Didi has a long held ambition to open a bicycle museum. Although sponsored in part by his own employer, it was local brewery Schussenrieder (map page on German language web site) that finally came good with the deutschmarks. Jürgen Ott the braumeister has made a farmhouse available close to the Beer Mug Museum near the Upper Swabian town of Bad Schussenried, where Didi is able to exhibit all his record breaking bikes, curiosities, and bicycle inventions.

More power to your trident, Didi!

Tuesday 8 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Some Best of Northwest Lakeland
CREDITS: © Dave Newton/Daves Lakeland Mountains MAP: Mose's Trod

High Country [Dave Newton]Exactly a week ago, on 1 July 2003, I did an item based on one of Dave Newton's walks. Today I was looking at a panorama he has assembled from some of the pictures he took on that walk. I was unable to resist showing it to you. Dave sells 21 inches wide high resolution prints of his panorama pictures at very reasonable prices. While this one is displayed as the featured Picture of the Month, Dave will even reduce the price from £25.00 to £15.00 for you.

This is the view to the northwest from Mose's Trod just below Brandreth. The valley to the left is Ennerdale, containing the lake of Ennerdale Water. The valley to the left contains the lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water, and Loweswater, the latter being visible to those who know where it is and have eyesight like an eagle. Today I was asked by a Utahn where the good hiking was in the UK. In my humble opinion the Ennerdale Round ranks high: from the head of the lake along the ridge in the center of the picture to Brandreth and Great Gable behind Dave when he took the picture. Then along the ridge on the left of the featured picture.

The list of summits makes an inspiring mantra for an expatriate exile: Great Borne, Starling Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Seat, Hay Stacks, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple, Scoat Fell, Haycock, Caw Fell, Crag Fell, and Grike. O-o-o-o-h, that felt s-o-o-o-o g-o-o-od! Walk round that lot in a day my Utahn friends, and you will never refer to them as 'little hills' again, but will tell all your friends when you get back that you have been mountaineering.

Monday 7 July 2003

Pix of the Day: River to Whom the Romans Pray
MAP: Rome with the Castel Sant'Angelo. CREDITS (left to right 1 then 2-4):
© Paolo Borgognone/Rome-Cam.com © Esko Koskimies/Vedute di Roma
© Paolo Borgognone© Esko Koskimies© Esko Koskimies© Esko Koskimies
I have not the faintest recollection of ever having read in general the Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), nor more specifically the Horatius lay. When I read the 59th stanza (incorrectly numbered on that web page, according to the Roman Numerals Calculator, and two Bs in 'Babbington' is also suspect) I was dumfounded as I read to discover that it was so familiar to me that I was able to speak along as I read:

"Oh, Tiber! Father Tiber!
To whom the Romans pray,
A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
Take thou in charge this day!''
So he spake, and speaking sheathed
The good sword by his side,
And with his harness on his back,
Plunged headlong in the tide.

Regular readers will have discerned by now that I am ill educated, have gained only the academic achievements suitable for the class dunce, have a memory like a sieve, and the attention span… where was I going with this? Oh, yes! However, so many similar occurrences have happened lately that I have begun to wonder if I was educated in some parallel existence. Like the employer who said he could increase his profits by sacking the half of his employees who were useless, if only he knew which half, I am also beginning to wonder if in my dotage I might be better served by forgetting half of the information I have accumulated. My big worry is that while small, but random, selections from Macaulay are clearly excess mental baggage, I have yet to discover if I know anything useful, such as how to earn money from the Internet in significantly large quantities to allow me to spend my twilight years in relative comfort and indolence. It is comforting to know that if I do not possess that information, it is clearly evident that nobody else does either!

Today's featured pictures are of Rome and the River Tiber, at the place where the Ponte Sant'Angelo crosses to the river to the Castel Sant'Angelo. The first picture is by Paolo Borgognone, whose Rome-Cam.com has been featured here before. Paolo is currently featuring a photo tour of the Trastevere district of Rome, though content on that page may change before you visit. Castel Sant'Angelo is a former Papal fortress, now a museum, linked to the Vatican by underground passages, but was originally built as Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum. It is also where Puccini's Tosca plunged to her death. In the Classical Era the bridge was known as 'Pons Aelius' or 'Pons Hadrianus'. The statues that line the bridge are by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) who redecorated the bridge with the help of assistants between 1667 and 1671. Pope Clement IX (1667-69) so prized the original angels carved by Bernini that they were never set up on the bridge, but are now in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. Many view Bernini as the founder of the Baroque style.

If you click on the last three pictures you will be able to see alternative images of this famous bridge. The drawing is from an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), and the remaining two photographs are by Esko Koskimies from his Pons Aelius page (which has detailed pictures of Bernini's statues), which is part of his comprehensive Vedute di Roma web site. Riverine specialists and fanatics will enjoy the Waters of the City of Rome web site, which is a cartographic history of 2800 years of water infrastructure and urban development that will answer every water query about Rome that has ever kept you awake at nights.

Sunday 6 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Right Place, Right Time, Shoot!
CREDITS: © Robert W. Madden/www.NationalGeographic.com
Close Shave © National Geographic Society
This looks unimpressive in the thumbnail, but in the larger versions (1024x768 if your monitor supports that resolution, or 800x600 if not) if it doesn't make you gasp then cut my legs off and call me shorty, I'm wasting my time trying to impress you. The explanation for this amazing photograph deserves crossing oneself, accompanied by some emotional Spanish utterance such as "Madre de Dios!"
Saturday 5 July 2003

Pix of the Day: World's Greatest Sporting Event
CREDITS: © Lance Armstrong/www.LanceArmstrong.com
© Graham Watson/www.GrahamWatson.com
Lance Armstrong & Family Celebrate in Paris © Graham WatsonLance Armstrong in Yellow on First Day © Graham WatsonNumber One Fan Son Luke © Graham Watson
The Tour de France is the world's greatest sporting event. This is not a subjective claim, but one based on the number of avid viewers in 150 countries where the event is televised, and the millions of spectators who watch the competitors live from roadside vantage points. If you have been on another planet for the last few weeks you may not know that this is the 100th anniversary of the Tour, that American team US Postal Service leader Lance Armstrong is hoping to win his fifth successive Tour to equal the number of wins by four other men, only one of whom won in successive tours. No one has ever won the event six times.

Despite Armstrong's refusal to ever look that far ahead, at least in public, I imagine in the wee small hours at the break of day it must occur to him that he is probably the man best placed ever to break the five barrier. I hope the best man will win this year. I also hope that will be Lance. For the man who has achieved so much in his chosen profession, but who hopes he will be remembered as a cancer survivor so that he gives hope to others, the next three weeks will just be 'comme d'habitude'… business as usual; just another 21 working days at the job he loves.

Click on the thumbnails to see full size pictures taken by ace bicycling sport lensman Graham Watson, which are featured on the Lance Armstrong web site. Graham has been covering the Tour for so long, and so well, that the race organizers have in the past given him a Number One official vest to wear. The official English language web site of the Tour is OLN (Outdoor Life Network), which has done a remarkable service to fans with a series of programs leading up to the 2003 event. Yesterday, the day before today's 2003 Tour Prologue event, was a chance to overdose from 6am to 8pm with a 14 hour retrospective of the highlights of the 2002 Tour followed by an hour preview of the 2003 Tour by the excellent OLN reporting team. Later today there will be the opportunity to 'Witness History in the Making'.

If the dateline for this post is sometime after 00:01GMT you will understand the reason why. I haven't checked this year, but when I lived in the UK coverage of the Tour, indeed bicycling in general, did not get the extensive air time allocation offered by OLN in the USA. It is common for the self appointed entertainment police in the UK to sneer at the allegedly low quality of programs in the USA, where the large number of channels available is assumed to have lowered quality in favor of quantity. Like so much hearsay, the reality is quite different, at least for bicycling sport fans.

The Tour can seem arcane, arbitrary, and impenetrably confusing when first experienced. If you want to find out why bicycle stage racing is a team sport where the race is won by an individual, why the winner sometimes arrives at the finish behind the leaders, and why a group of men are crazed enough to almost kill themselves just to wear a yellow shirt, then visit the FAQ at the Cycling News web site. To win a Ride with Lance visit the competition page for details. The only stock production bikes in the Tour are the ones ridden by Lance and the US Postal Service team riders; all the other bikes are bespoke models not generally available to the public. The second prize in the competition is a Trek Project One Team Bike signed by Lance… would you dare to ride it if you won?

Friday 4 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Silk Tree of Interconnectedness Click images to enlarge.

Silk Tree © Ian Scott-ParkerMimosa Tree  © Ian Scott-ParkerWhen my lovely wife asked me to feature a picture of her pride and joy, at least her other pride and joy, little did I guess that as I researched this item the Mimosa tree that grows in front of our house would become a Tree of Interconnectedness. I am notoriously poor at making plant identifications, even with a book and the Internet to hand, so anything hereafter in the botanical department must be taken with a pinch of salt. However, if I have managed to identify this plant correctly, it is an Albizia julibrissin, one of whose many names is the Silk Tree. Regular visitors will know that Lewis & Clark have appeared in these pages on a number of occasions, and as I was looking for information about the Mimosa tree, I was inexorably drawn back to their great enterprise of discovery at the start of the 19th century. The essential connecting link in this chain is an 18th century French plant collector named André Michaux.

Michaux (1746-1802/3?) was born on a farm that was part of the royal estate at Satory, France, close to the Palace of Versailles where the court assembled. In 1774, at 20 years of age, Louis XVI ascended the throne. Tragically Michaux lost his wife Cecile during childbirth in 1770 after only 11 months of marriage, afterwards throwing all his energies into study. He was encouraged by the king's physician, and in 1782 joined the entourage of Jean François Rousseau en route to the post as French Consul at the Persian court, in what is now Iran. On his return from Persia Michaux brought a collection of plants and artifacts that included Mimosa. The plant had been introduced into western Europe at least as early as 1745, when it was studied by Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin's grandfather. Michaux was then appointed King's Botanist and despatched to New York in 1785 on a scientific mission to find trees suitable for the rapid regeneration of France's depleted forests. It is Michaux who is credited with the introduction of Mimosa into North America.

Almost immediately after his arrival in America, the energetic Michaux began shipping samples back to France, and soon he established a 30-acre garden near Hackensack, New Jersey. In 1786 he established a 111-acre garden in Charleston, South Carolina. Michaux travelled widely, from Florida north to the Hudson Bay and also west to the Mississippi. On 28 August 1994 Charles Kurait wrote a 200th anniversary tribute to Michaux, which celebrated his ascent of Grandfather Mountain, the highest summit in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 5,964 feet, and then thought to be the highest peak on the continent. In 1792 Michaux went to meet with Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, and proposed an exploration of the Missouri River.

The subscription list for members of the APS (American Philosophical Society) was rediscovered in 1979: Jefferson gave $12.50, the wealthier Washington gave $25.00. Meriwether Lewis had volunteered for the 1793 expedition but was adjudged too young and inexperienced. However, the plan fell foul of international politics after Louis XVI was executed in 1793 by the revolutionary government. Jefferson was elected president in 1801, and in 1803 he revived his plan, this time to be led by Lewis who was now 10 years older and had been groomed by Jefferson. The journals for the 1804 expedition, which became so significant for the development of the new nation of the United States of America, are also in the care of the APS.

When our own Mimosa was first purchased from Ballard's Nurseries, here in our hometown of Hurricane, Utah, it was a sorry sight. The lady in the nursery was reassuring, saying that if her instructions were followed, she guaranteed it would thrive. Much as I have, it has thrived in Beth's tender loving care.

Gardening in the desert can be a risky business, so I was pleased to find the Utah University Extension Dixie Gardener web site. If I keep this under my hat, when asked for advice I can ask for time to think, then come up with a green fingered maestro's flourish of expertise. I was not in the least perturbed when I discovered that the Mimosa is considered an invasive pest: if you are a pride and joy, you too can get away with such an inconsequential short coming.

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day!

Thursday 3 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Dead Heading in Blooming Padstow
CREDITS: © Charles Winpenny/www.CornwallCAM.co.uk MAP: Padstow

London Inn, Padstow © Charles WinpennyThe deliberately misleading headline is designed to have millions of Jerry Garcia fans logging in to read the weblog. Now they are all here, lovely people all, I suggest slipping American Beauty into the CD player, then grooving to 'Sugar Magnolia' while contemplating this blooming riot. Charles Winpenny caught this other kind of dead heading enthusiast on his ladder in Padstow, possibly a spruce up for a county wide Cornwall pubs in bloom, Charles thought. If this one doesn't receive first prize, then I am unable to imagine just what the actual winner might look like.

Wednesday 2 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Bomber Pioneers Worldwide Flight
CREDITS: © James L. Stanfield/www.NationalGeographic.com
NGS original feature articles (left to right): [1] [2] [3] [4]
Site Near Mount Isa, Australia, 1994 © National Geographic & James L. StanfieldVimy Test Flight Over England, 1994 © National Geographic & James L. StanfieldVimy Flies Over Southern France, 1994 © National Geographic & James L. StanfieldVimy Flies Over the Taj Mahal, India © National Geographic & James L. Stanfield
The Wright Brothers were the first to fly in 1903 in the Wright Flyer 3. The 1911 Wright Flyer B was a production aircraft, but still looked like a Rube Goldberg contraption (in Britain Goldberg's equivalent is W. Heath Robinson). From 1914-18 during the years of World War II there was intense activity to develop military aircraft, and one such model was the Vickers Vimy, a bomber that never saw operational duty in the war, although named after the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is probable that the war prevented many attempts at trans-Atlantic flight, which would have resulted in the deaths of many flyers because the 'planes of 1913 were just not up to the task. Within sixteen years of the first powered flight by a manned heavier than air machine the Vimy opened up the world of intercontinental flight. Alcock & Brown flew the Atlantic in a modified Vimy, landing bumpily but safely in an Irish bog at Clifden, Connemara (the site of the Marconi trans-Atlantic wireless transmission station), on 15 June 1919 after approximately 16 hours flying time.

The pair won the £10,000 offered by Alfred, Lord Northcliffe and his 'Daily Mail Prize' for the first non stop trans-Atlantic flight, but insisted that £2,000 of their winnings should be shared with the mechanics who prepared the aircraft for their 'wing and a prayer' attempt. Back home in Britain the airmen were fêted by the media and the public, and knighted for their achievement by King George V. The flight eclipsed the achievement of the crossing made in May of the same year by a Glenn Curtiss built seaplane, manned by Read, Stone, Hinton, Rodd, Howard, and Breeze. On 17 December of the same year John W. Alcock (1892-1919) died in a plane crash near Rouen, France, aged 27 years. Eight years later in 1927 Charles A. Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the Spirit of St. Louis, which was the first solo flight, albeit the more widely known. Arthur Whitten-Brown (1886-1948) lived until after the end of World War II, reportedly without ever flying again.

An original 1911 Wright Flyer B is in the care of the Franklin Institute, (also home to the most important collection of Wright Brothers artifacts) and the Alcock & Brown Vimy is in the care of the Science Museum. We have already covered one replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer, and today we examine a Vickers Vimy replica. The always excellent National Geographic Society (NGS) web site feature Picture of the Day contains some images from their front page story in their May 1995 issue, which covered the Vimy replica Australian flight. Click on the thumbnails to view the full size pictures on the NGS web site. Click the text links to go to the individual NGS feature for each picture. The Vimy Project plans to recreate the first direct flight crossing the Atlantic. If successful the team will have completed the Vimy Triple Crown, recreating the two flights of 1919, the Atlantic and Australian flights (recreated in 1994), and the 1920 Cape Town flight (recreated in 1999).

Tuesday 1 July 2003

Pix of the Day: Large Scale Landscape Gardeners
CREDITS: © Dave Newton/Dave's Lakeland Mountains

Lakeland Sheep © Dave NewtonThe landscape of the English Lake District was created by these animals. The Norsemen, who invaded centuries ago, are often credited with introducing many of the sheep herding practices in the district, and this is borne out by Norse words that have endured in the local dialect. The grazing hill sheep crop the biomass so closely and efficiently that only the turf grows, along with the inedible bracken featured in Sunday's item, and the wild and woody heather. When Dave Newton walked Moses' Trod he followed in the footsteps of one of the area's legendary characters, an alleged moonshiner about whom Dave relates the scant traditions that have been passed down. Another famous moonshiner, in another local valley, was Lanty Slee.

In the Roman Times of the late sixties I bought a motorcycle and sidecar in the south Lakeland industrial and ship building town of Barrow in Furness: the seller was a direct descendant of Lanty's. Where I wonder is PFS 46 these days, a single cylinder 500cc BSA M33 model of the type made famous by the 'Scouts' of the AA (Automobile Association). Forgive the ramblings of an old man's recollections. I will try to keep more closely to the plot.

Many years later in the Modern Age I was on the summit named Pillar, which is close to Dave's walk. In fact if you visit the walk web page you will see the Gate to Nowhere, which was once part of the now derelict 'Ennerdale Fence' that was installed by incoming investment owners from the early Industrial Age to mark off their ownership of the valley of the same name. My quiet summit contemplation of the view on that occasion was rudely interrupted by a surprise rear attack from one of this beast's relatives, who demanded by means of relatively gentle butting to share my luncheon. The first sheep in the district to become domesticated to the point where they could be hand fed were around Honister Pass where Dave started his walk. The sheep became known as the 'Hungry Sheep of Honister', and it seems the behavior developed as the number of recreational visitors to the district increased.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)