Brooklyn has Columbused the only game at Dave & Buster’s that I like to play.

Posted in Fun
| Comments Off

On deck: 12

today's selectionA new shipment from Powell’s, thus some turnover on the read-me shelf. The Bible is my mother’s much-read copy, mended with spike tape; equal time after getting through Mohammed and Joseph Smith. Kate Atkinson continues to wait in the wings, perhaps patiently. The Echenoz translation is a bare-faced crutch to help me through Les Grandes Blondes. The revived-from-downstairs title is Catch-22, one of those books I came to so long ago, one with a strong movie attached, that I can’t remember whether I’ve actually read it.

Posted in Like Life
| Tagged | Comments Off

No control without measurement

Blackburn et al. propose a categorization system to understand the nature and extent of damage caused by non-native species. Their “semi-quantitative” (their word) metric bins species (within a defined area, small or large) into one of five levels of impact, from Minimal (“unlikely to have caused deleterious impacts”) to Massive (“leads to the replacement and local extinction of native species”). They also identify 12 categories of impact, ranging from effects we see frequently in the mid-Atlantic (Competition, Parasitism) to some more obscure ones (Flammability, Bio-fouling).

Good stuff. This is a lot more sophisticated than just tarring everything with the broad brush of “non-native invasive.” And, as the authors point out,

invasiveness… is a characteristic of a population rather than a species.

Posted in Biodiversity and Species Preservation
| Comments Off


old and newA quick trip to Main Line Merion, just over the Philadelphia city line, for a quick, gentle wedding. A nice opportunity for a ride on SEPTA’s regional rail, something I’d never done before, and a lovely hand-built street name sign. I surmise that Idris Road was once named something else, because the fonts on the two wings of the sign are different: graceful serifs for South Highland Avenue, and a more no-nonsense sans for Idris Road.

And that would turn out to be the case: Beacom Avenue, provided with a sidewalk in 1911, was renamed to Idris Road by ordinance of 8 April 1914.

Posted in Like Life
| Tagged | Comments Off

Peculiar muzak: 3

Arranged for clarinet and piano, Stephen Sondheim’s vinegary-sweet bit of exposition, “You Must Meet My Wife” from A Little Night Music, heard at my neighborhood Safeway this afternoon.

Posted in Music
| Comments Off

Thanks, LBJ

Happy 50th anniversary to the Urban Mass Transportation Act, in short, the legislation that made Metro (and transit projects across the country) happen. Martin Di Caro interviews Therese McMillan of the Federal Transit Administration.

Posted in Happy Birthday, Public Policy and Politics, Transit in D.C.
| Comments Off

That radar array is really a cooking grill

Leta responds to misdirected customer complaints and requests for service.

Dear Ms. Hall,

Is the meat in tsc’s tsatziki steak flatbread conventionally raised or organic?

Posted in Annoyances, Blogs and Internet
| Comments Off


DAPHNA: Yeah. Jewish law prohibits tattoos of any kind but even if it didn’t that wouldn’t be a problem for me because just for like me personally, when I like step back and reflect on all the things that had to occur in the universe over billions of years so that I could be alive, in my body, right now, like, we’re made of the same things as stardust, that’s how connected we are, to everything, so to be like, who cares about the natural, larger-than-life mysterious universal reasons why my body was designed the way it is, like, screw that, I’m just gonna permanently etch this doodle onto my body which is composed of the same things that are in stars?!?!

—Joshua Harmon, Bad Jews
Posted in Quotable
| Comments Off


old boots 1Rather than an unboxing post about new hiking equipment, this is a goodbye to my old New Balance boots. They finally blew out on me, catastrophically, on a naturalist’s hike on the Appalachian Trail in May.

I bought these boots somewhere in the early 1990s—I know, nothing is built to last any more. Light and comfy, they took me up to Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee in 1993: that’s when I figured out that the nicely ventilating nylon uppers weren’t waterproof. Together, my footgear and I climbed in the Cascades of Washington, the Adirondacks, Yosemite, and many times up, down, and over the Blue Ridge.

old boots 2Stitched and glued back together several times, they’d finally had enough. So long, old boots.

Hey, the laces are new and in good shape. I can use them again for something.

Posted in In Memoriam, Like Life
| Tagged | Comments Off

Clean sweep

I remember taking this personal development readiness assessment several years ago (via Caterina Fake), but apparently I never bookmarked it. So now I think I have left a sufficient trail that I might find it again. There’s not really anything about the questionnaire that’s particularly zen, I just think of it that way.

Posted in Personal Development
| Comments Off

Manassas National Battlefield Park

To break in a new pair of boots, I took an easy loop hike on the blue blazes around the battlefield of First Bull Run. The breezes were strong, and it was midday, but there were a few butterflies flying. I turned up something I didn’t remember from last year—Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)—as well as something that turned out to be, upon checking my photos later, an animal I’ve never put on my list before, Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor). I think I’ve probably seen this guy before, but I’ve been put off by one of the photos of the dorsal side in Glassberg’s book. The ID key, it seems, is actually the single row of orange spots on the ventral side of the hindwing.

once worth fighting overThe bridge over Bull Run was once a prized strategic objective. Now, not even the nesting swallows are interested in it; they prefer the U.S. 29 bridge just downstream.

The trail gets a lot of noise from the roads and a winery just across the run, but it crosses through a lot of woods and can be quite pleasant.

CartersThe Carter family cemetery is completely enclosed by a stone wall built from the ruins of Pittsylvania, the manor house. The graves within are not individually marked. The last interment was done in 1903.

Posted in In the Field
| Tagged | Comments Off

Liberal memories

Adam Gopnik considers the making of memorials (paywalled article):

Those who lack faith in fixed order and stable places have a harder time building monuments that must, in their nature, be monolithically stable and certain. Happiness writes write, and pluralism builds poorly. An obelisk can never be an irony. A pyramid can never symbolize a parenthetical aside. An eighty-foot-tall monument to fair procedure would not be a fair sight.

Posted in In Memoriam, Quotable
| Comments Off

Out with the goldeneye, in with the Canvasback

2014-2015 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation StampMy 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (Duck Stamps) arrived in the mail today. Have you bought yours?

Posted in Biodiversity and Species Preservation, Habitat Conservation
| Tagged | Comments Off


An editorial from Scientific American points out that executions by lethal injection are putting innocent patients at risk. The supply of tranquillizers like propofol (used in routine procedures like colonoscopies), all or in part, comes from Europe, and the E.U. prohibits export of drugs that are to be used to kill people.

Perhaps the root problem is here:

…executions are not medical procedures. Indeed, the idea of testing how to most effectively kill a healthy person runs contrary to the spirit and practice of medicine. Doctors and nurses are taught to first “do no harm”; physicians are banned by professional ethics codes from participating in executions. Scientific protocols for executions cannot be established, because killing animal subjects for no reason other than to see what kills them best would clearly be unethical. Although lethal injections appear to be medical procedures, the similarities are just so much theater.

Posted in Health and Medicine, Public Policy and Politics
| Comments Off

At the park: 69

Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser trend chart

New York FernWe wrapped up the nesting season two weekends ago. The Wood Ducks bounced back after a couple of slower years. I’ve noticed a pattern recently: not only do the Hooded Mergansers get started earlier, but overall they tend to fledge a greater percentage of the eggs they lay—85% or better, seven of the last nine years. The Wood Ducks, on the other hand, are subject to dump/drop nests that don’t fledge anything. (One such nest a year is typical for us, out of 15 to 20 boxes being monitored.) In six of the same past nine years, our fledging rate for woodies has been 67% or lower.

White OakThe sanity-checker script at NestWatch is skeptical that we have mergs laying 14 eggs in a clutch, and laying as early as the last days of February. I invite the Lab scientists to come check the boxes for themselves.

fritI took a new camera with me to the park: it’s still a happy snap, but the optical zoom is better suited for quick shots of butterflies. The spangles on the underside of the hindwing of a Speyeria cybele are not usually the first thing you see, but they are diagnostic for ID.

Posted in In the Field
| Tagged , | Comments Off