Shelf portrait

It was not easy to find a photo of these bookshelves as they were installed in my parents’ house. The shelves were behind a table and hard to photograph, and they were also not very photogenic. I thought they were cool and modern in the sixties, but I never thought they were important (I do now). The shelves are probably in the background of some other photos, but this one from 1972 was the first I came across and is certainly more interesting than the rest. Many of the books in this shot are still on these shelves.

This is probably about a 10 second exposure. I might have had someone turn out the room light while I moved between positions. Panatomic X film, Fall, 1972.
This is probably about a 10 second exposure. I might have had someone turn out the room light while I moved between positions. I used Panatomic X, a very slow (ASA 32), very fine grained film. Fall, 1972.

Continue reading “Shelf portrait”


The fallen aspen tree spanning my pond. Dinner was the second cluster from the left.
The fallen aspen tree spanning my pond. Dinner was the second cluster from the left.
Just sauteed in butter on freshly baked bread.
Just sauteed in butter on freshly baked bread.

A year ago on my birthday Galen gave me the 2006 update to Orson Miller’s mushroom field guide, with no knowledge that I had the old one or a dozen other mushroom books. This year he gave me Eugenia Bone’s 2011 Mycophilia, with no knowledge that it is a wonderfully smart and funny book about mushrooms and the people who make and use knowledge about mushrooms. I am reading it now, so when I noticed the profusion of oyster mushrooms sprouting from the aspen log across the pond, I was primed to act.

The common oyster mushroom is Pleurotus ostreatus, but there is apparently an almost indistinguishable species around here that likes aspens and cottonwoods, so this might be Pleurotus populinus. That made it more exciting to have it for dinner since I really didn’t know what species it was. It was also exciting because it was an excellent dinner.

Independent project

Four months ago Galen and I sawed down a white ash tree to get some green sapwood to bend into the keel of a model ship. Yesterday Galen presented the completed Viking warship at his school, as each student presented his or her “Inquiry” project. The consensus is that Galen enjoyed his project almost as much as his Inquiry mentor (guess who?). The video below tells the story of the construction of the model.

Christmas Garden

GCLaser N scale Tower B-12

Galen’s Uncle and Aunt gave him a nice set of N scale model trains a few years ago, and we have added track and accessories since then. For his birthday in May, Galen got three building kits from Although there are lots of HO scale plastic model kits of buildings, N scale is too small to work well for the molded plastic kits, and the available kits are 2-4 times the price of the HO kits even though they are smaller.

The GCLaser kits are all wood. The pieces are precisely cut by laser from micro plywood. The material and quality control are excellent, and the parts fit together beautifully with almost no shaping or cleaning. They are more expensive than plastic HO kits, and much harder to assemble, but the results can be impressive. When I received the kits it was obvious that they weren’t quite appropriate for Galen, so I selflessly stepped up and assembled them myself. Continue reading “Christmas Garden”

The succession of precedence

Google has digitized the text of five million books. The old ones are in the public domain and you can read them online at Most of the more recent ones are still protected by copyright law, but that law did not anticipate the ingenuity at Google. The individual words and phrases in all those books are now in a huge database that anyone can search. Maybe you can’t read every book online, but you can learn how book writers have used the language over the past two centuries at This allows a very new kind of literary research – answering questions without reading.  Although it turns out that some reading is still required. Continue reading “The succession of precedence”

Mount Abe Hike

The Google Earth KML tour below shows the hike Galen and I took on July 6, 2010 to the top of Mount Abraham in Vermont. The tour can be started and stopped using the controls at the lower left. The entire tour lasts 75 seconds and has no audio. When the tour ends, you can fly around the landscape, click on the photos to view them, and double click the Gigapan to fly into it. The links within the gigapan popup are not a good way to view the gigapan in an embedded tour.

Click here to open the KML tour in a new browser tab. Then click the “Play Tour” button (upper right) to start the tour. (Note: If you enter a gigapan, the “Exit Photo” button is partly hidden under the “Terrain” button. Click the exposed edge of it to exit the gigapan.) Continue reading “Mount Abe Hike”