Paris, 1922-1939

live or memorex: 1live or memorex: 2I am one of the newest members of Conrad Bakker’s Untitled Project: Robert Smithson Library and Book Club. My copy of the Wake is the 14th printing (June 1973) of the Viking Compass edition of 1959. As you can see, the cover details are a little different from the one that Smithson owned.

live or memorex: 3What Bakker’s carved and painted replica lacks in readability, it beats my book for durability. The binding is badly cracked, and I’m not sure that it would hold up to a second reading (I made it all the way through in the summer of 1986).

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Natural gas is surging

Brad Plumer updates his post on the kinds of energy sources we depend on, illustrated by maps of the lower 48.

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I’m with you on the illegible part

In a quite useful five-part series, Steve N.G. Howell explains how field notes work and how and what you might want to record, either in the field or in the motel at the end of the day. He saves the best advice for the last installment:

In conclusion, your notes are your notes. Write what you want, but in later years you’ll only have yourself to blame if your old notes don’t contain the information you find you want. If you have time, write it all down. If you don’t, pick and choose. But whatever you do, or don’t do, the main thing is to enjoy birding.

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Laura McKenna considers her son’s acquisition of idiomatic language.

Ian has learned English like an ESL student. I suspect that English wasn’t his first language. I often wonder what his first language was. Was it images?

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Christopher Joyce and Bill McQuay inaugurate the series Close Listening. The editing on the piece is a little Radiolab-ish for my taste, but the sounds of science are ear-opening.

[Trevor] Pinch has made a career of studying how scientists listen. He notes that listening has certain advantages over vision. “The visual field is kind of in front of us — like a kind of screen,” he says, while sound is “all around.”

If seeing is like being in an art gallery, hearing is more like being in a swimming pool — where we’re swimming all the time.

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Now I understand why the “next train” announcement is so echo-y

Juicy views of the model board at NYC’s West Fourth Street control tower.

The spokesmen for the subway system walk that fine line between letting people know that the system is safe, but oh so riddled with technical debt.

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Reducing the Statistical Discrepancy

Macroeconomic statistics appear to me a mini-theme for the month. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has introduced a new measure, Gross Domestic Output. Matthew Yglesias has the explainer.

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Wilds of South Jersey

Mark Garland led two days of field trips to various off-the-map locations in southern New Jersey.

first stop of the morningMonday we spent at three spots in the Pine Barrens (dressed up by the marketing people as the Pinelands, these days).

from here to therecould be betterFrom one of the area’s numerous sketchy sand roads, we walked in to a generously-sized bog, where White Fringed Orchid (Platanthera blephariglottis) was in bloom. We also found two species of sundews (which I have decided are impossible to photograph; I’m not satisfied with my image of the orchid, either).

tolerably tastycrush a leafAlong the way, huckleberries (Gaylussacia sp.) were in fruit all over the place. The ground cover here is one of my new favorite shrubs, Common Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens): crush the leaves for a hit of natural teaberry aroma.

shadow selfieAt the end of the day, we strolled through one of the pygmy forests, the pines and oaks dwarfed by lack of nutrients and water — a natural bonsai arboretum.

lovely lightTuesday we caravaned around the saltmarshes lining the Maurice River, which drains the Millville/Vineland area into Delaware Bay. Hot and sunny, it was a much better day for birds and butterflies, nudging my paltry butterfly life list above the 50 mark. The demure lighthouse at East Point is quite nice.

rails are taking a breakI hadn’t really expected anything too exciting in terms of birds for this trip. So it was a nice surprise to total up the species count for the two days: 44, plus two or three that I didn’t bother to count. I definitely counted Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) (I’ve never seen them this far north), Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) (a bird that I rarely see at all), and #415 for my life list, Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris). We found the rails, about five or six of them, at this tidal gut at spot called Turkey Point, on the other side of the Maurice (locally pronounced “Morris”). A- looks at the birds, from some distance and somewhat backlit, not visibly distinguished from King Rails, but you go with the local expert’s knowledge of distribution.

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Something that won’t scare your grandma

Elissa Nadworny and the Visuals Team lay out the most popular plays and musicals performed by high schools for the past 76 years.

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Quick question

oh myHave I ever told you how beautiful this city is? This is a view of the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory building, with the Bartholdi Fountain in the foreground.

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At the park: 80

good enoughLast Sunday at the Park was a work day to install wire fencing as a low-tech, low-impact means of exclosing beavers from some of the larger trees just above the new berm and water control structure. The idea is not to protect the life of the trees, as they are in the new flood plain and will be inundated and eventually die; but rather to preserve them as standing dead trees (snags), so that they can support woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, other cavity-nesting birds, and all the wildlife that depend on such a vertical, natural structure.

The beavers, if we would let them, would take these trees down, and while there’s nothing wrong with downed trees (just ask your favorite stand of moss), we’ve got plenty of them right now.

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Doors open on the left

So it’s the week of meet-the-voices. Vox points to this video introduction to Lee Crooks, voice of Chicago’s El trains.

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Some icons

David Warsh pens a good piece, a longish read (with a surprise in it) about the twin careers of America’s best-known economists of the latter third of the 20th century, Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman. They first overlapped at the University of Chicago in 1932.

three colors and blacksimple designMy textbook for Economics B01 (Macro) was the 9th edition of Samuelson’s Economics. The color scheme and overall design of that text retain their simple power. The book’s endpapers are something special: in the front, a line graph of per capita GNP* for the period 1870-1973 for the U.S., Germany, the U.K., the Soviet Union, Japan, and (creeping in at the very bottom) India; at the back, a family tree of schools of economic thought, from Aristotle through the Mercantilists down to the Socialists and post-Keynesians.

*Yes, that’s right: at the time, Gross National Product was the headline aggregate, not GDP (Gross Domestic Product). (What’s the difference?)

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A gorgeous photo of the mycoheterotrophic Allotropa virgata by Richard Droker and interpreted by Tamara Bonnemaison at Botany Photo of the Day.

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Gut check

Javier A. Ceja-Navarro et al. suggest a novel means of controlling the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei), as summarized by The Economist. The authors provide evidence that one of the species of bacteria that reside in the beetle’s digestive system, Pseudomonas fulva, detoxifies the caffeine that the coffee plant produces as a natural herbivore deterrent. Knock out the bacterium, perhaps with a targeted bacteriophage, and you knock out the pest.

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