I hate it when Mom and Dad fight

An oldie but a goodie:

Language Log

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Unlikely

I wish that, at the end of life, when things are truly “done,” there was something to look forward to. Something more pleasure-oriented. Perhaps opium, or heroin. So you become addicted. So what? All-you-can-eat ice cream parlors for the extremely aged. Big art picture books and music. Extreme palliative care, for when you’ve had it with everything else: the X-rays, the MRIs, the boring food, and the pills that don’t do anything at all. Would that be so bad?

—Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 6

looking it upSunday I spent most of my time in the park measuring mature trees to estimate their ages. I was surprised to find 90-year-old Red Oaks and Tuliptrees, which would indicate that this patch was no longer farmed as of about 1925. I also found a small outcrop of bedrock—I’m still trying to puzzle out the geology map to understand exactly what this rock is.

chicken substrateI’ve spent so much interest on this bloom of Chicken of the Woods, but not on the tree that it’s growing on. It turns out that it was a substantial Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), now deadfall. You can see the dark red wood, somewhat weathered, in the image. The tree had fallen across the trail; park managers would have sawed it into several large chunks, stretching through the woods toward the east and the housing subdivision. The chunks form a line about 100 feet long and end in a tangle of former canopy branches. This was a big tree.

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Coastal Plain forests

Third and final trip with Joe and Stephanie, this time to forests of the Coastal Plain in P.G. and A.A. Counties.

new plantFirst, we stopped at Watkins Regional Park, a mile or two from Central Avenue. The park is host to some humungoid old-growth trees: a Sweetgum the size of a Red Oak, a White Oak with a circumference of 152 inches at breast height that we estimated to be 242 years old. So what did I get a good image of? This lovely Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) (a new plant for me), beginning to hunker down for the winter.

Nature fun analogy of the trip: the branches of a Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), bare of leaves, look like an old school VHF TV antenna.

not a mossbrittlegillThen, east over the Patuxent River and on to the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve, where we chased butterflies two springs ago. Geologically speaking, here the early Eocene Nanjemoy Formation lies above the Marlboro Clay. While the profusion of River Birch (Betula nigra) on the clay-based bits of the Preserve is quite nice, it’s the sandy passages, residues of the overlying Calvert Formation, that are really interesting. The trees are a near-monoculture of Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana), but down at the herb layer we have the lichen Cladina subtenuis (at left), one of the so-called “reindeer mosses.” Recent rains led to a bloom of brittlegill mushrooms (Russula sp.) (at right).

Lying below the Nanjemoy is the Aquia Formation. This Paleocene unit of sand crops out to the west of Anne Arundel County, in Prince George’s County, where it makes a recharge zone. In A.A., now deep under other geologic formations, the Aquia constitutes an aquifer.

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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 5

Back to the park this past Saturday, on a rather cloudy and breezy afternoon, with Leta riding shotgun this time. Many of the trees’ leaves are down; the unexpected Partridgeberry is still holding on to some fruits. The persimmon tree at the wineberry bench was holding some of its fruits, but I found lots on the ground, too. We gave them a taste, and the consensus is that while the pulp is okay, the pucker of a little bit of persimmon skin goes a long way.

amazinWe found a somewhat ratty example of Daedalea quercina on a dead branch.

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Don’t get me started on “wherefore”

You say you’re designing a set for Romeo and Juliet and you can’t make a balcony work? No problem: Shakespeare didn’t specify a balcony, but a window (and then only by the slightest suggestion). His 18th-century editor Nicholas Rowe added the window to what we now number as act II, scene ii. The balcony is from Otway.

ArtsJournal

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Accommodation

Ooh, when I’m in LA to see the show, I’ll have to stay here.

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Abecedarian lipogram

Adam Bertocci reworks “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 4

I got out to the park not long after sunup today, so the birding was much better. White-throated Sparrows have definitely moved into the neighborhood for the season.


chicken palerchicken raggedThe Chicken of the Woods fruiting bodies on this log continue to fade and deteriorate. The image at left was taken twelve days ago; that on the right is from today.


galleriesI found an interesting dead branch that was full of boring insect galleries. No guesses as to what sort of beetle is responsible.

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Baker Street

Sideman Raphael Ravenscroft, who earned a little sliver of immortality with an eight-bar riff, has joined Gerry Rafferty.

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Exasperating to whom?

Cora den Hartigh brings the deliciously-colored ruby/maroon macroalga Chondracanthus exasperatus to Botany POTD.

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This might take a little while

Dan Kois likes to read plays, particularly those by Annie Baker, and especially her stage directions.

This mix of precision and shagginess epitomizes The Flick, in which Baker is always tracking the minute-by-minute emotional evolution of its three screwed-up characters, even while encouraging the happy surprises that make a play something special every night. A good actor or director reading that stage direction will be thrilled at its haziness, thrilled that it gives actors the ability to discover the moment in real time every night. On the page, it feels like an invitation to discover the moment on my own.

ArtsJournal

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Piedmont forests

big honking treeJoe and Stephanie led the class to several sites of Piedmont forests in Montgomery County, including one patch that I had never visited. Along the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, there’s contact between the sedimentary rocks that filled in the Culpeper Basin and the crystalline rocks of the Marburg Schist. That’s an opportunity for groundwater to collect, and therefore you can find some tree species that like their feet wet in this otherwise upland locale. Best example: this humongous Box Elder (Acer negundo), found along the remnants of a hedgerow.

peelyspreadingDown along the Potomac at Riley’s Lock, where that same Seneca Creek has its mouth, is a handsome row of salmon-skinned River Birch (Betula nigra) (left), as well as single trees of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) (right), soaring into the sky.

We talked about mnemonics and keys for separating the white oak and red oak groups. The acorns of the reds, somewhat like red wines, are more acidic and require some aging underground before they germinate (or become palatable to squirrels). The bristle tip on the leaf of a red oak is not a separate structure, but rather an extension of the leaf vein. Even a red oak-group Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) shows a small bristle tip. White or red, a dry oak leaf takes a long time to decompose; thus, “an oak forest is a noisy forest.”

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Genre

Emily Nussbaum in a recent issue of The New Yorker:

The Fault in Our Stars has inspired a roiling debate about the popularity of Y.A. fiction, particularly among adult readers…. The messy part about this discussion is, of course, that plenty of the most potent and enduring “literary” works focus on adolescent identity, from Romeo and Juliet to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Often, it’s hard to distinguish the debate about art from the one about marketing, and from the thrumming anxiety about the economic survival of literary fiction—which is, after all, a genre itself. As with crime novels or science fiction, labelling entire genres “popular junk” or “ambitious art” is too simplistic: the teen book you like is Y.A.; the teen book I like “transcends the genre.”

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Ellanor C. Lawrence Park project: 3

My third trip to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, yet earlier in the day this time. It’s quite warm for October, and I heard Common Katydids in the early morning. White-Throated Sparrows are making their presence known. The Japanese Stilt-grass is starting to die back.

almost missed itThe park has provided some unexpected herps. This is the first Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) that I’ve ever seen and identified. I nearly stepped on it, as it was lying across the trail and looked like a strappy leaf from a house plant, not like an animal at all. You can’t see the impossibly skinny tail in this image, but trust me, there’s another ten inches of snake out of frame.

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