30 June 2013

Civilian Conservation Corps stonework at Gooseberry Falls State Park - Part III


On my recent blogcation I slipped away for a day to Gooseberry Falls State Park, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, to continue documenting the outstanding stonework created by the CCC in the 1930s.  Today we'll take a tour of the "campground area" away from the falls.

The state of Minnesota does not charge a fee for viewing the Falls and hiking the trails, but the campground area requires purchase of a day pass.  The first building one encounters is the unobtrusive Ice House.


For modern campers an ice house is no longer relevant; it presumably now serves in some storage capacity.  My interest of course was in the stonework...


...which like that in the rest of the park makes use of the variety of stone available in the region, and shows evidence of the remarkable skill these young men acquired while working with their Italian stonemason supervisors.  The stones are huge, and given that size the amount of cement is modest, attesting to lots of work pre-shaping the stones to nestle into one another and to square the corners of the structure. 


A skilled stonemason will tell you that his wall should remain standing even if all the cement magically disappeared.

Just down the road is the Campground Shelter (see the top photo of this post):


I suspect the knowledge that the shelter would be visited way more often than the Ice House resulted in this building displaying some of the most colorful and visually attractive stonework of the campground.  


Again, these are huge blocks.  Someone with more experience than me may be able to estimate the weights, but it was a monumental task way more challenging than building with bricks. 


The inside walls of this shelter (and the other buildings) have stone walls that exhibit a magnificence not often encountered in public toilets.  This large structure required almost 7,000 man-days of labor and over $4,000 for materials.


Finally, a hat tip to Flickr user Monica for discovering from a conversation with a park ranger that the pattern of the stones above the arch of the shelter is intentionally arranged as a set of "mushrooms."  Some other stones in park building walls are also whimsically arranged or decorated, as for example a "Martian" face crudely carved with drill bits.

A latrine further down the road shows the same careful work:



As does the handsome Ladyslipper Lodge:


This was the first shelter built (in 1935), intially open to the weather and not enclosed until four years later.  It was originally outfitted with seven cast iron cook stoves for the use of campers and visitors.  Its completion used 3,200 man-days of work and cost about $2,000 for materials.


At the end of the campground there is one final shelter, appropriately named the Lakeview Shelter because it sits on a bluff with a view to the northeast across 250 miles (!) of water.*


Built using about 3,900 man-days of work, and again about $2,000 for materials, this shelter has been in continuous use for 75 years, hosting reunions, graduation parties, and weddings.



The final building, closest to the waterline, is the little "pumphouse"



I like the way this humble little building got lots of attention from the young CCC men, with a nice variety of stone and tight joints.  The view of the window in the photo below emphasizes the thickness of the walls in all of these structures.


And this last one, being the closest to the water and most frequently wetted with spray, has the most abundant growth of lichen.


I realize this part of the tour has been a little repetitive.  The next (final) installment - after I get the photos curated - will be more interesting, featuring the non-building structures of the campground (benches, fences, water fountains, stairs, and picnic tables).

*This is an amazing lake.  If you go three miles offshore from the campground, the lake is as deep as a 70-story skyscraper, and the 3,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water in it would cover all of North and South America a foot deep. 

Previously:

Part I - the Falls and the massive stone concourse (the "Castle") near the viewing area.
Part II - the Visitor Center and water tower.
Five posts about CCC stonework in other locations (scroll down past the Gooseberry Park entries).

29 June 2013

A medieval portable "girdle book"


From the collections of Yale's Beinecke Library:
This volume of Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy, likely copied in England in the fifteenth century, was re-bound soon after as a “girdle-book,” to be read while hanging from a belt at the waist. 
The full catalogue description of the book has been summarized at Erik Kwakkel:
This example from Yale’s Beinecke library is a rare example of a girdle book that contains its original binding - the knot was slipped under the owner’s belt, where the object would dangle until needed. It is a delightful specimen that looks very attractive in spite of the plain material that was used - undecorated leather. The book it covers was written in England during the fifteenth century (though the binding may be continental). It contains Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, written in the sixth century and discussing such topics as free will, virtue, and justice. These may not be the usual topics to have ready at hand while walking the streets of a late-medieval city, but someone found such use important enough to have the text fitted in a crafty binding.

Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" (1994)

And I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it – you've got to go sometime.
— Gerry O'Driscoll, Abbey Road Studios janitorial "browncoat"
I've been listening to this all week, wondering what the faint spoken words were.  The above sentiment is expressed at 0:38 and "I never said I was frightened of dying" (by Patricia 'Puddie' Watts, wife of road manager Peter Watts) at 3:33.

Fittingly, this "sky" song is the one that (coincidentally) plays during Dorothy's ride in the tornado in "The Dark Side of the Rainbow."

And, as I've always suspected, the sexual connotation of the vocals was intentional, as David Gilmour indicated in a Rolling Stone interview: "We wanted to put a girl on there, screaming orgasmically."

Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) beginning metamorphosis


Here's some real hope and change.  Some of you will remember the Black Swallowtail egg that made its debut here on a June 8 linkdump.

What emerged from that egg was a caterpillar whose color pattern changed from an initial black-with-yellow-spots to show a green between the black as his body enlarged.  When he got that big I added some wooden twigs to the container holding his foliage food.  He moved over to a stick a couple days ago...


That position is quite characteristic for a caterpillar who is ready to pupate.  I had made sure that at least one of the sticks was at an angle such that he could hang beneath it using those clasping prolegs in the center of his body.

He then got busy creating a delicate silk sling to support his body, and the next morning I found him...


 ... suspended by that sling, with the prolegs and front true legs retracted from the stick.  The above photo was taken at 9 a.m..  I had chores to do that day and didn't get back to check him until nine hours later when he looked like this:


This is what boggles my mind, and why I continue to be as fascinated as a child by this process of metamorphosis.  He is forming his chrysalis, and you can already detect the wing structure in the upper green portion (slightly crimped by the sling, with little dots at the base where he will have spots on the trailing edge of his wing.)

He looks nothing like a caterpillar any more, and by the next morning, this part of the transformation is complete:


He is now the color of the stick and is reasonably camouflaged from predators for the somewhat prolonged time it will take for him to continue changing into a butterfly.  That casing around him is also relatively hard and presumably relatively resistant to ants and mites and maybe even the parasitic wasps.  It probably is also relatively impermeable so he doesn't dehydrate while he rearranges his body structures to prepare for flight.


Here is the same chrysalis at the same time, taken from the reverse angle to emphasize the silk sling.  How does he do that??!!  Make a sling that goes around behind your body like that?

Now I wait for the final step when he ecloses in butterfly form.  With Monarchs, my wife and I can tell within a couple hours when the butterfly will emerge.  But this one will be a litle tricky, because I don't have much experience with swallowtails, and it will be hard to detect color changes inside that dark chrysalis.

Stay tuned.

Update:
After about another week (on July 5), the chrysalis looked about the same -


- I use ambient light on the screen porch, not studio lighting, so it's hard to compare the photos for color, but the changes are subtle at best - perhaps more black than brown now.

27 June 2013

Feodora Morozova goes into exile with two fingers raised


This will be my final entry on material derived from the remarkable book and television program about the Lykov family.  For newbies, see these background posts: Isolated for 40 years in the Taiga"Agafia's Taiga Life" (outstanding video), and Lost in the Taiga.

Here's an excerpt from Lost in the Taiga (p. 38):
A friend of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich's pious first wife, the young widow Feodosia Prokofievna Morozova was very rich (eight thousand serfs, a mountain of gold, a gilded carriage, horses, servants)...

In Surikov's painting we see Morozova being taken through Moscow on a peasant sledge on her way into exile.  In this remarkable canvas we see the face of the entire Schism: sniggering priests, the concerned faces of both common and distinguished people who obviously sympathize with the martyr, the stern faces of adherents of the old ways...
The State Tretyakov Gallery offers this description of the painting (click the top image for bigger, btw - it's quite a painting):
Surikov, Vasily Ivanovich. Boyarina Morozova. 1887 oil on canvas 304 x 587,5

Feodosia Prokopievna Morozova (?–1675), was a supporter of the spiritual leader of the old faith, archpriest Avvakum. Circa 1670 she was secretly tonsured as a nun; in 1671 she was arrested and in 1673 she was sent to the Pafnutief-Borovsky convent where she was starved to death in an earthen prison. The painting is devoted to the Church Schism of the 17th century. The Schism arose as a result of reforms by Patriarch Nikon to unify the rites and establish uniformity in the church service. The artist has depicted an episode when Boyarina Morozova is taken around Moscow to her place of confinement. In the centre is Morozova herself, her hand thrown up, blessing the crowd in the two-fingered manner of the Old Believers. The black spot of her clothing sounds the tragic dominant note of the painting. The crowd has divided. To the left, they are mocking the boyarina; to the right, they sympathize with her. Alongside Morozova is her sister Evdokia Urusova, who shared the fate of the Schismatics.
Wikipedia has an extended entry on the Old Believers.  First on a list of "Main differences between the Old Believers and post-Nikonian Russian Orthodoxy" is this entry:
Old Believers use two fingers while making the Sign of the Cross (the pointer finger straight, middle finger slightly bent, two fingers joined with thumb, held at point, three folded) while new-style Orthodoxy uses three fingers for the sign of cross (three fingers (including the thumb) held together at point, two fingers folded). Old Ritualists generally say the Jesus Prayer with the Sign of the Cross, while New Ritualists use the Sign of the Cross as a Trinitarian symbol. This makes for a significant difference between the two branches of Russian Orthodoxy, and one of the most noticeable...
Peskov made the same point in his book about Agafia:
Divergencies [sic] that seem ridiculous to us provoked special protest.  According to the new books, Nikon asserted, religious processions around the church should go counterclockwise, not clockwise; the word "hallelujah" should be sung two times, not three; people should bow at the waist, not to the ground; and they should cross themsleves with three fingers, not two, as the Greeks do.  It was a debate not about faith but about the rituals of the service, about isolated and relatively minor details of observance.
It was for these differences that Morozova was starved to death.  It was for differences like this that Agafia's father and her siblings abandoned civilization to flee into the wilderness of the taiga.  And it is this sort of insistence upon details of dogma and ritual that I believe constitute the greatest weakness of religions.  These almost arbitrary distinctions create schisms that exclude the "others" from the communion of believers and theoretically from eternal salvation.  It leads to wars between Sunnis and Shiites.

I remember in the 1960s how the Lutheran Church (itself subdivided into sects that seem ridiculously unimportant) tried to promote the "new ecumenism."  But true interfaith pluralism never emerged; I suspect every faith has much at stake in maintaining its identity distinct from all others. 

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Robert "Chemsolver" who remembered that Zorba the Greek contained a reference to Madame Hortense not getting a proper burial because of the number of fingers she used to make the sign of the cross:
"Shall I go and call the priest? said Mimiko.
"What priest you fool?" said Kondomanolio furiously. "She was a Frank; didn't you ever notice how she crossed herself? With four fingers-like that-the infidel! Come on, let's get her underground, so that she doesn't stink us all out and infect the whole village!"

A clever medieval bookmark

"This object was in common use in medieval libraries, even though very few survive today. It’s a bookmark - and a smart one for that matter. As with our own bookmarks, it tells you where you are in the book: the rope was attached to the binding and placed between two pages. The reader subsequently pulled down the marker along the rope to the line where he had stopped reading. Since an open medieval book often presented four text columns, the reader then turned the disk to indicate in which column he had left off. In this case we read “4” in medieval Arabic numerals - the column on the far right. So this tiny piece of parchment marks it all: page, column and line."
Text and image (cropped for size) via Erik Kwakkel.

Papilloma virus may explain the "jackalope" legend


The photo is one of three images of a diseased rabbit, explained at Reddit as suffering from a viral infection:
The cottontail rabbit papilloma virus (CRPV), or Shope papilloma virus, is a type I virus under the Baltimore scheme, possessing a nonsegmented dsDNA genome. It infects rabbits, causing keratinous carcinomas, typically on or near the animal’s head. These tumors can become large enough that they interfere with the host’s ability to eat, eventually causing starvation.
The Wikipedia entry adds:
The virus is also a possible source of myths about the jackalope, a rabbit with the antlers
of an antelope, and related cryptids such as the wolpertinger. Stories and illustrations of horned rabbits appear in scientific treatises dating back many years, such as the Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique, from 1789 [image at right]

Like an entity from a dystopian world


It's hard for me to even conceive of encountering something this immensely dangerous in the woods...
Simkins was staring down a yellow jacket colony about the size of a Smart car that posed a lethal danger to hunters and lumberjacks on a thousand-acre timber lot in Central Florida. It took him two days to vanquish the three-to-five-year-old colony, which housed a thousand queen wasps and a million “daughters.”

“The alarm pheromone was so strong it made my eyes water and my nose run. When they land on you, they regurgitate so the others can find you.”
I thought the swarming clue happened when you crushed one of them; didn't know they could regurgitate on you to mark you.  You learn something every day.

Hat tip to Kev at Nothing to do with Arbroath.

Aaaand..... it's gone!

Scores of twitchers flocked to the Outer Hebrides to see a bird that has been recorded just eight times previously in the UK in nearly 170 years - only to see it slain by a wind turbine...

The White-throated Needletail - the world's fastest flying bird - was thousands of miles off course after turning up at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris... There has not been a sighting of
the species in Britain since 1991 when a single bird was seen four times - in Kent, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and finally Shetland...

"It is tragic. More than 80 people had already arrived on the island and others were coming from all over the country. But it just flew into the turbine. It was killed instantly."

He added: "The corpse will be sent to a museum but obviously this is just terrible. Some people will have lost the cost of their flights. 
I had to look up "twitcher."  It carries a different connotation from "birdwatcher."
Twitching is a British term used to mean "the pursuit of a previously-located rare bird." In North America it is more often called "chasing", though the British usage is starting to catch on there, especially among younger birders. The term twitcher, sometimes misapplied as a synonym for birder, is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be ticked, or counted on a list.

The term originated in the 1950s, when it was used for the nervous behaviour of Howard Medhurst, a British birdwatcher. Prior terms for those who chased rarities were pot-hunter, tally-hunter, or tick-hunter. The main goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one's lists. Some birders engage in competition to accumulate the longest species list. The act of the pursuit itself is referred to as a twitch or a chase. A rare bird that stays put long enough for people to see it is twitchable or chaseable.
It's basically a crazy birdwatcher.  Perhaps I'm a butterfly twitcher, but the longest I've traveled to see a specific butterfly was only about 30 miles.

Title explained:

The Porpoise Galaxy

"Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy -- spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the left of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye."

"Menstrala" explained


Menstrala is the art (or the act of creating art) using menstrual blood.  Details below the fold...

The Commonwealth of... Virgina?

In total, 1,481 undergraduate and graduate diplomas from fall 2012 and spring 2013 were misspelled, according to Joe Carpenter, Radford's chief communications officer. In a statement, Carpenter told ABCNews.com that the diplomas actually had two spelling errors on them. In addition to "Virginia" being misspelled "Virgina," the word "thereto" was spelled "therto."
Story at Yahoo!  Photo: ABC News/Courtesy Meghan McNeice.

Were "Ann Bassett" and "Etta Place" the same woman?


Ann Bassett had a relationship with Butch Cassidy; Etta Place married the Sundance Kid.   There is speculation that the two names were for the same woman.
You may have noticed that both Bassett and Place were beautiful women. In fact, the photos resemble each other quite a bit. The descriptions of each woman by the Pinkerton Agency were almost identical. This also occurred to Doris Karren Burton, who investigated the lives of both women and published a book in 1992 claiming they were one and the same...

The theory goes that Bassett took up with the Sundance Kid after her relationship with Butch Cassidy ended. The men of The Wild Bunch were known to alternate girlfriends, without animosity, and Butch Cassidy was said to have been associated with both Josie Bassett and Etta Place at various times.
Details and additional photos at Mental Floss.

Ice cream + flour + microwave = bread


Make bread from any flavor ice cream in five minutes.  Instructions in the video, found at Laughing Squid.

The YouTube comments are, as expected, worthless.  Perhaps someone here can try this and report back on the results.  I'm on a diet at the moment, and the last thing I need in the house is mint chocolate chip bread.

26 June 2013

A "bloody" book of devotion


The British Library's Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts has a page devoted to "Kissing Images" (the habit of kissing images in books).  Discussed there is BL MS Edgerton 1821:
"The most remarkable example of a book of devotion that may show signs of having received that devotion in a direct physical form is Egerton 1821, an English product of around 1490. This book is known to those who work on prints, and was exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington DC in 2005, but is still largely unknown, I think, to those who work on manuscripts. It begins with three pages, each painted black, on which large drops of blood trickle down. The third page has been thoroughly worn. I am not absolutely certain this is the result of kissing, and part of it has been rubbed and smudged rather than merely kissed, but I think it very well could have been partially erased by kissing... "
"After this the pages turn blood red, and thick gouts of blood pour down them from innumerable wounds. This disturbing decoration continues for ten consecutive pages (the last folio was cut out at some date, leaving only a stub). I count approximately 540 wounds on the bloodiest page, so perhaps taken together they were intended to represent the 5400 or more wounds received by Christ according to texts of late medieval devotion."
"There are two openings like this before one reaches a third with two further woodcuts pasted in. The first represents a Man of Sorrows surrounded by twenty small compartments with instruments of the passion. Facing it is a larger woodcut of the five wounds of Christ with a heart at the centre over a cross. The left image (think back to the miniature in Harley 2985) carries an indulgence (later defaced): ‘To all them that devoutly say five Pater nosters, five Aves, and a Creed afore such a figure are granted 32,755 years of pardon.’ (A combination of hyperinflation and opportunism by printers among others had seriously devalued the indulgence by this date.)"
Further discussion of this book, with additional photos, continues at the British Library site.

Segregation in the U.S. National Parks



Photos from the website of the National Park Service, via Slate:
These photographs of segregated areas in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park date to the 1930s and 1940s... Within the large Western national parks, established in the early 20th century, African-Americans weren’t particularly welcome. Geographer Terence Young reports that early 20th-century park administrators had a “conscious, but unpublicized policy of discouraging visits by African Americans, [who were], in the opinion of administration, ‘conspicuous…objected to by other visitors…[and] impossible to serve.’ ”

The official segregation of Shenandoah was short-lived. During WWII, the National Park Service, spurred by federal desires to raise morale in the African-American community, made officially desegregated facilities the norm for all national parks.

How hope changes. Candidate Obama debates President Obama.


The debate topic:  Government surveillance.

Found at the ever-interesting Cynical-C Blog.

The easiest way to get "six-pack abs"


Via Reddit.

"Useless box" finally gives up

25 June 2013

Trillium and myrmecochory


During my hikes in the North Woods a couple weeks ago, I wondered how trillium were pollinated, speculating that the role was probably filled by solitary bees rather than wind.  I've subsequently found this:
Trillium grandiflorum has been studied extensively by ecologists due to a number of unique features it possesses. It is a representative example of a plant whose seeds are spread through myrmecochory, or ant-mediated dispersal, which is effective in increasing the plant's ability to outcross, but ineffective in bringing the plant very far...
 
Fruits are released in the summer, containing about 16 seeds on average. These seeds are most typically dispersed by ants, which is called myrmecochory, but yellow jackets (Vespula vulgaris) and harvestmen (order Opiliones) have both been observed dispersing the seeds at lower frequencies. Insect dispersal is aided by the presence of a conspicuous elaiosome, an oil-rich body attached to the seed, which is high in both lipids and oleic acid. The oleic acid induces corpse-carrying behavior in ants, causing them to bring the seeds to their nesting sites as if they were food. As ants visit several colonies of the plant, they bring genetically variable seeds back to a single location, which after germination results in a new population with relatively high genetic diversity...

Although myrmecochory is by far the most common dispersal method, white-tailed deer have also been shown to disperse the seeds on rare occasions by ingestion and defecation. While ants only move seeds up to about 10 meters, deer have been observed to transport the seeds over 1 kilometer... Thus occasional long distance dispersal events, such as by deer, probably helped save this and other species with otherwise short distance dispersal ability from extinction during the glaciations of the ice ages.
That discussion relates more to seed dispersal than to pollination per se, but I thought it was interesting (and totally new to me).

Bent Trillium photographed by me at Honey Creek State Natural Area (Wisconsin), May 2008.

"Sky City" - a one-building city.


Next year Sky City in Changsha, China, will become the world's tallest building.  But before you mock the idea as national one-upsmanship, consider the following:
This is not a trophy like the Burj Khalifa, a thin high tech spire that isn't even connected to a sewer system. They call it a "pragmatic" building, designed for efficiency, affordability, replicability. They also make a strong case for it being sustainable...

The Sky City concept significantly reduces the per capita use of land, and the CO2 emissions generated getting around... By going up, hundreds of acres of land are saved from being turned into roads and parking lots. By using elevators instead of cars to get to schools, businesses and recreational facilities, thousands of cars are taken off the roads and thousands of hours of commuting time are saved. It makes sense; vertical distances between people are a whole lot shorter than the horizontal, and elevators are about the most energy efficient moving devices made. A resident of Sky City is using 1/100th the average land per person.
It will be built with prefabricated parts on a modular basis, allowing construction to be completed in less than a year.
And it really is a city in and of itself—4,450 apartments, nearly 100,000 square feet of indoor vertical farms, 250 hotel rooms, 92 elevators, 30 foot courtyards for athletics, and a six mile ramp that can be used to walk or run around the entire city...

There's a more distant concern that this may not be the most pleasant way to live; stacked atop one another, separated from open air and nature. Plus, that cookie cutter aesthetic could eventually sap the architectural diversity of the cities of the future, and turn our most notable population hubs into towering Levittowns. 

Or maybe it's exactly what we need, with resource consumption and energy use spiraling out of control. Maybe our best hope is to churn out a host of massive, identical, self-contained Sky Cities to house the booming population—maybe this is the future of how we'll live on a teeming planet.
The most detailed discussion I've found is at Next Big Future, which presents the developers' details about safety, comfort, energy, and sustainability.

The vovelle - a medieval computer


Most readers here will be familiar with the antikythera mechanism.  Here's another ancient computer - this one medieval and made of paper.
This is a volvelle, a medieval device that allowed you to calculate the phases of the moon and the latter’s position in relation to the sun. The dials, with their charming depictions of moon and sun, tell you what you need to know. What’s most remarkable about the device is not so much its crafty nature - it consists of complex layers of rotating disks - but that it is usually fitted inside a medieval book. Some are so bulky that they pierce the adjacent pages. What a surprise it must have been for the medieval reader who thumbed through such a book for the first time. Turning a page, he or she was confronted with an ingenious piece of machinery. A medieval computer.
Via Erik Kwakkel.

*chuckle*


From The New Yorker.

Dialect maps of the United States







The maps should be self-evident; if not, this explanation is offered:
Using data from Bert Vaux's dialect survey, we examine regional dialect variation in the continental United States. Each observation can be thought of as a realization of a categorical random variable with a particular parameter vector that is a function of location—our goal was to interpolate among these points in order to estimate these parameter vectors at a given location, making use of a combination of kernel density estimation and non-parametric smoothing techniques.
There are over a hundred more maps from the project, which wordsmiths will enjoy exploring.
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