Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What the -- ?!


This was the view outside our bedroom window this morning.




I thought it was spring already! -- PL

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fighter jets over Northampton



While bicycling around Northampton with my friend Rick a couple of days ago, we kept hearing the thunder of fighter jets passing overhead -- unusual for this area. We stopped to get coffee at Smith College*, and, while sitting outside enjoying the warmish spring weather, heard the jets passing overhead once again. 

I whipped out my little Pentax camera and managed to get a shot of the planes -- four of them -- as they roared overhead in a tight formation. I've NEVER seen that here before.




We speculated about what they might be doing -- Practicing for an air show? Getting ready to fight the Russians? Just having fun? -- but conceded that we really had no clue.

As we finished our coffee break and got back on the bikes to head back to Mirage Studios, the planes appeared overhead once more, this time with one of the pilots "waggling" his plane's wings. -- PL

         (*When I first typed this up, I inadvertently left the "m" out of "Smith", resulting in "Sith College", which made me -- as a "Star Wars" fan -- chuckle.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WEFEing

     In yet another example of what I think I will start to call a "WEFE" (Witless Exaggeration For Effect") or perhaps "WEFEing", I note the following in an article titled "Gut Check" by Joseph Hooper in the March 6, 2014 edition of the Valley Advocate, a free once-weekly newspaper distributed in the Hampshire County area of Massachusetts. Here's the stupid exaggeration in question:

"But not until the recent advent of genomic sequencing that can read the DNA of our cells did biologists appreciate just how many of them [microbial cells] there were within us: for every one human cell in our body, there are ten microbial cells.
"The idea that we're more microbe than mammal is as or more profound than the theory of evolution," says anthropologist Jeff Leach, one of the founders of the American Gut Project, which is devoted to genetically mapping the microbiome."

When I first read this, I was immediately struck by what seemed to me to be it's essential wrongness -- that is to say, it seemed to me fairly obvious that the bulk of a human body, no matter how many microbial cells versus human cells there are, is made up of human cells. In other words, if one were to weigh or calculate relative volume, human cells would surpass microbial cells.
My gut (no pun intended) told me that it was likely that individual microbial cells were smaller than individual human cells, and a little searching on the Internet turned up the proof of my intuition:

  "All the bacteria living inside you would fill a half-gallon jug; there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells, according to Carolyn Bohach, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho (U.I.), along with other estimates from scientific studies. (Despite their vast numbers, bacteria don't take up that much space because bacteria are far smaller than human cells.) "

[from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/]

To assert that "we're more microbe than mammal" because there are more individual microbial cells than human cells in our bodies is akin to saying that because an average human being has more hairs (somewhere around 100,000) than muscles (somewhat less than 1000),  an average human being is more hair than muscle. Obviously, this is ridiculous… and just one more example of the distressing tendency towards ludicrous exaggeration in our society.

  To me, it points to a real lack of confidence in what one is trying to say -- that one needs to exaggerate so profoundly to make what one is saying seem worthy enough. -- PL

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day!

What a delight to find these waiting for me on a snowy Valentine's Day morning...


.... freshly-baked cranberry-apricot muffins!

The temptation to eat them all is nearly overwhelming, but I will be good and only have two for breakfast, to fortify myself before cranking up the snowblower and doing battle with the drifts.

Thanks to my Valentine, Jeannine! xoxoxo -- PL

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sixty...







… doesn't look a whole lot different than fifty-nine.

Or does it? 

Which is which? -- PL

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In the UMass greenhouse on a winter day

There's nothing quite like visiting a warm, steamy greenhouse on a cold winter day. You step through the door and it's like you have been instantly teleported to another latitude.

So it was for me when, while strolling around the University of Massachusetts campus, I happened across a greenhouse which was open to the public. My glasses immediately fogged up when I walked through the door, but once I wiped them off, I had a lovely time wandering through the place and looking at a wide variety of plants.

None of the photos I took of the various plants that caught my eye came out all that great, and I want to go back and shoot some better ones, perhaps with my Nikon. But I did manage to capture some images of the center of the greenhouse, which features a little pond with carp swimming in it, and a small bridge over the pond. I put them together into this vertical panorama. -- PL


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Flying pigs


These chirp instead of oink, but they certainly "pigged out" on winterberries.

A few days ago, Jeannine alerted me to a photo op -- a horde (well, a small horde… hordelet?) of hungry birds had descended on her winterberry bushes. It was pretty cold outside, and I'd only gotten up a few minutes prior and was not yet of a mind to face those frigid temperatures, so instead of going outside to take better shots, I stayed in the kitchen and took these through a window. 










(And I also thought if I went outside for that better vantage, the birds might be startled and fly away, which would ruin the whole point of the exercise.)




I didn't time it exactly, but I'd say it took them no more than an hour or two to strip the bushes completely clean of their red bounty, as you can see in the last image. -- PL