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Chronicles from Hurricane Country



Welcome to miscellany.



Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2018 20:36:53 +0000

 



A Different Kind of Writing

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 22:31:00 +0000

a.k.a. I'm still here. :-) I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2014 and completed active treatment (surgery/chemo/radiation) in December. Initially I detailed my experience in a friends-only blog on Prosebox and then began a new blog on Cancer Survivors Network. I'm also most active on What Next (which, like CSN, is sponsored by the American Cancer Society) and Breast Cancer Social Media (#BCSM on Twitter). Diagnosis meant immersion. Suddenly I was in another country (called Cancerland by some). I was and still am learning a new language, new rituals and customs, even new holidays. I had joined a tribe that no one wants to join. I also became my own research subject in an experiment with an N of one. My side effects logs fill a three-ring binder. I ran observations and number-crunched my results. Compiling my first side effects report for my oncologist proved the highlight of my first week of chemo, keeping me engaged when my body and brain could do little else. At no time did I feel depressed; that surprised me, too. Instead I went in swinging, though from the outside I may have simply looked exhausted. Physically, I often was. Psychologically, I was fully engaged, facing down the disease with an epic music soundtrack that played in my head through earbuds or from memory. I did not write fiction. I did not write poetry. Meditating with Sharpies and then with digital art gave me the outlet I needed along with blogging my experience. (Drawn on the day of my diagnosis.) (Drawn using Art Rage after I had completed four infusion cycles of chemotherapy drugs Adriamycin and Cytoxan and before I began twelve cycles of Taxol.) My reading as well turned away from fiction and focused instead on cancer blogs and research. My body was under attack, and in the interest of long-term beneficial outcomes I was subjecting it to poisons and no small degree of risk. With the exception of passively watching TV shows on my computer I had no desire to escape into invented story lines or characters. I invested my mental and physical energies in grappling with my adversary and then used art/meditation to replenish my strength, especially since my caregiving did not stop for cancer. (Uses a self-portrait (taken on July 7, 2014), my shot of the Full Pink Moon from April 6, 2012 (taken on the same night as this shot), and my shot of a Tree Nymph taken at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville on May 2, 2011.) I also exercised and ate healthy foods throughout, which I believe helped me through treatment. I did some physical activity even on my toughest chemo days. As we begin 2015 I am on pills for at least five and likely ten years to thwart recurrence. In addition to continuing my aerobic activity I have returned to planks and strength training, especially because osteoporosis is one possible side effect of the pills. I celebrate the little things -- my slowly returning hair, my switch from extra soft back to soft toothbrush, my quick healing from radiation's burns and blisters. Mild vertigo from chemo persists; I still need to be a bit cautious when getting out of bed. But, all told, I have come pretty well through what I continue to call a perilous adventure. May the New Year be kinder to us all. To read the details: CSN blog main pageIndex to entries in 2014:Pre-Diagnosis: February 2014 ("Well, This is Different" and "Day 1 Post-Biopsy")March 2014: Diagnosis and Preparation for Consult ("It's Clobberin' Time!" and "Preparations")March 2014: Consult and Preparation for Surgery ("'Twas the Night Before Consult" and "T Minus 3 Days to Surgery")March and April 2014: Surgery and Preparation for Chemo ("Day After Surgery" and "The Next Phase")April and May 2014: Preparation for Chemo ("Preparations" and "Stuff Just Got Real")Early May 2014: More Prep for Chemo ("The Fine Art of Negotiation" and "Errand Day")Early May 2014: Chemo Prep and Getting My Port ("T Minus 4 Days to Chemo" and "Port of Call")Early May 2014: Chemo Begins ("Chemo, Day One" and "Well, Duh")Mid-May 2014: Chem[...]



Invaders (Most Likely)

Fri, 05 Oct 2012 01:28:00 +0000

LargeUnfortunately, I suspect these two are juvenile Cuban Treefrogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis), an invasive species. Indicators are their large eyes, warty skin, the white stripe on the frog at foreground left, and (as seen below) large toepads. I'm awaiting ID confirmation. Among other things, Cuban Treefrogs feed on this area's native frog population. To give an idea of size, the inside width of my mailbox measures 5-3/4 inches. These two individuals have taken up residence inside the mailbox. The above set of photos dates from September 30, and likely shows the same frogs that I had photographed on September 26, when I wondered if they were Squirrel Treefrogs. The photos below date from October 4 and are of a single individual that had perched on the inside of the door when I opened it to get my mail. The second frog (not photographed today) was inside and at the back of the mailbox. LargeAccording to the University of Florida, "Cuban Treefrog skin secretes a mucus that can irritate eyes and nose, cause allergy-like symptoms, and even trigger asthma attacks; they breed loudly after midnight in pools, ponds, birdbaths, etc.; they invade toilets and can clog drains; they invade power boxes and cause power outages." LargeI started hearing the song of this species several months ago, first (it seemed) from across the street, then outside the house, and also around a nearby retention pond. I'm more accustomed to hearing Squirrel Treefrogs around the house. Squirrel Treefrogs are native to this area, but they and other native species are being displaced by the Cuban Treefrogs. Unlike the frogs pictured here, native treefrogs are smooth-skinned. LargeAccording to UF, Cuban Treefrogs are native to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas. Their range has expanded throughout the Caribbean, in Hawaii, and in Florida, with a possible isolated population in southeastern Texas. LargeAccording to Dr. Steve A. Johnson of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, "The first Cuban Treefrogs in Florida likely arrived as stowaways in shipping crates originating from the Caribbean. By the mid-1970s, they had dispersed throughout most of southern Florida. As of 2010, there appear to be established breeding populations as far north as Cedar Key on Florida's Gulf Coast, Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast, and Gainesville in north-central Florida" ("The Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Florida") That northern boundary is about 60 miles north of the frogs photographed here. Johnson continues, "A scientific paper published by German biologists in 2009 suggested that human-caused climate change may create conditions suitable for Cuban Treefrog colonization and breeding and allow this frog to become established across much of the southeastern U.S." Compare the shot above with Johnson's figure showing the difference between the toepads of native treefrogs and those of the Cuban Treefrog. This UF photo of a Cuban Treefrog eating a Green Treefrog also shows the difference in toepad size. LargeThis one seems to be giving me the finger. "Invasive Cuban Treefrogs eat a wide variety of food items, including snails, millipedes, spiders, and a vast array of insects," writes Johnson. "They are predators of several of Florida's native frogs, and are cannibalistic. They are also known to eat lizards and even small snakes. Fortunately, several species of native snakes will eat Cuban Treefrogs, including rat snakes, Black Racers, Pygmy Rattlesnakes, and Garter Snakes. Owls, crows, and wading birds have also been seen feeding on Cuban Treefrogs." When I weed-whacked the yard last month I saw a Black Racer ribboning across my back porch -- far too quickly for me to photograph (let alone get my camera out). I did, however, manage to photograph this individual in 2007. Black Racers are beneficial. They prey on vermin, so I'm thrilled whenever I see one. As for the birds Johnson mentions, we have plenty of crows in the neighborhood, along with seasonal wading birds (especially White Ibises and Catt[...]



Clouds (Photo Heavy)

Sat, 29 Sep 2012 17:20:00 +0000

LargeMary and I were in the county seat on Thursday and got quite the sky show! First, from the municipal parking lot: Cloud curtainLargeClouds and contrailLargeFrom the park: Cloud curtain (facing the road)LargeClose-up 1 (facing the road)LargeClose-up 2 (facing the road)LargeClose-up 3 (facing the road)LargeAbove the lakeLargeClose-up 4 (above the lake)LargeLake panoramaLargeBack toward the roadLargeClose-up 5Large Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Frog Trifecta!

Thu, 27 Sep 2012 04:01:00 +0000

LargeOur neighborhood frogs are having a banner year. The pair above got into one of our porch lights on September 3. We'd gotten rain earlier that day, and from the calls I'd heard I suspect these are squirrel treefrogs (Hyla squirella). Rain encourages them to express themselves. "Found throughout Florida and in the Keys on buildings and in shrubs and trees in urbanized and natural areas, including hardwood hammocks, bottomland and floodplain forests and swamps, pine-oak forests, and pine flatwoods," says the University of Florida. "Like other treefrogs, this species has enlarged, sticky toepads." That explains how this pair was able to climb the wall. This porch light has had a hard time holding onto its finial, which explains how they were able to get inside. (Some years ago our other porch light had sported remnants of a bird nest inside.) The UF page includes a link to the USGS Frog Call Lookup, where you can hear this species' "raspy and somewhat duck-like call." On September 16, I spotted three frogs inside one of our hurricane shutters: LargeI finally got a usable image at f2.8 with a 1/4-second exposure, freehand. Otherwise I was getting all screen. I don't know whether these are also squirrel treefrogs, but they shared this space with a family of squirrels, including two kits. This is a video still from September 10: You can view the squirrel kits in action here. Likewise, I don't know if the frogs in our mailbox are juvenile squirrel treefrogs (given their smaller size) or a different species entirely. I took this shot on September 26: LargeSomeone made the mistake of asking me, "How do frogs get into your mailbox?" To which I answered, "Why, Special Delivery of course!" Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Recent Work

Sun, 09 Sep 2012 23:50:00 +0000

My digital collage "Sunset Flight" is in the Second Annual Caregiving Art Show, up through September 15, 2012. The art show benefits Caregiving.com and its CareGifters Program, which provides small grants to caregivers in need. All butterflies except for the one at lower right (photographed here) are taken from my Florida Museum of Natural History and Butterfly Rainforest photoset. The statue comes from this photograph. I photographed the sunset here. My photography also appears in two CareGifters series books: Comedy: and Forgiveness, including the cover image: Proceeds from the sale of the CareGifters books benefit the CareGifters Program. Ebooks are just $5. The longest poem I've written to date (a glosa cycle of 300+ lines) has come out in The Fifth Di... 14(3): You can read "Last Rites" here. My poem "Attack of the Giant Spiders" appears in Eye To The Telescope #5 (LGBTQ Speculative Poetry, edited by Stephen M. Wilson). Poems "When Zombies Go Steady" and "The Bot's Dilemma, Upon the Death of Earth" appear in ETTT #4 (Speculative Poetry in Form, edited by Lester Smith). "The Last Dragon Slayer," which originally appeared in Mythic Delirium #24, was a 2012 Rhysling Award nominee, appearing in this year's anthology. Two of my poems appear in Exploring the Cosmos: minimalist science poetry. Both were originally posted on my blog: "Partial Solar Eclipse" and "Grand Raiment."Exploring the Cosmos is a trifold sampler provided by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can download a .pdf of this and more samplers here. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Wildlife Friday

Sun, 15 Jul 2012 00:17:00 +0000

Approaching home after errands, I saw this: Large viewIt had first been on the road. From a distance it looked like plant matter, and then I wondered if I were seeing a squirrel, and then I was all Holy moly, it's a gopher tortoise! Hey, get off the road, sweetie! Don't get squished!I passed it, drove on a bit farther, parked on the grass by a retention pond, grabbed my camera, and headed back toward the tortoise. When it saw me coming it toddled off the road and onto a neighbor's yard... Large view... where I got down on my knees, rump in the air, and leaned forward with my camera on zoom. Large viewGopherus polyphemus. This species is now threatened in Florida and several other states, according to the University of Florida. "Scientists believe that gopher tortoises deserve protection, since they play an important role in many Florida ecosystems. They dig deep burrows that are also used by other animals like indigo snakes, foxes, and burrowing owls. The tortoises also graze on low-growing plants and help spread their seeds." Large viewIt toddled farther into the yard. Watching it from grass height as I took this video, I couldn't help thinking of a baby in a diaper. This individual seemed slightly smaller than the 12" size stated in my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida. This is probably the fourth time I've seen a gopher tortoise since we moved here. It's the second time I've taken a video of one (better quality than my first video, taken six years ago from farther away). The skies opened up a few minutes later. When we get sudden downpours here, it's as though the weather gods have aimed a pressure washer at the place. After the rain, I spotted a cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) in the retention pond near home. Large viewThe photos don't show it, but this is a female in breeding coloration (buff spots on her head, front, and back). She was on the opposite side of the pond from me, so I took this at full zoom. Large view"The Cattle Egret is native to Africa and Asia, and only reached the Americas in the late 19th century," according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is now "one of the most abundant of the North American herons." I was in the middle of taking this video when a couple of white ibises (Eudocimus albus) flew in to join her. At a shade over 12 minutes, this is one of my longer videos. Gradually, I made my way closer and closer to the birds. Large viewThe white ibis (Eudocimus albus, Family Threskiornithidae) "is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline," says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Large viewI wasn't far from the water at this point, on my knees. This is probably the closest I've ever gotten to ibises. Large viewThis is a fast-draining retention pond. Even following that torrential rain, I was kneeling in some pretty dry mud. The banks of the pond were covered in these pretty daisies: Large viewThis was my view climbing out: Large view Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Singin' in the Rain

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 06:11:00 +0000

Wet clothing hangs to dry after a walk in Tropical Storm Debby's rain.Head over to my post on Cowbird to hear the audio that accompanies this narrative. My story on Cowbird is reproduced below: The front porch is strewn with detritus from Saturday's labors, marking the seventh hour of yard work conducted over four days: hedge trimming, tree trimming, weed whacking, bagging. This is Florida, where things grow fast. Three large bags squat beneath the overhang and behind the hedge, to be moved street side by Tuesday morning for yard waste pickup. I had managed to dodge isolated and scattered showers during the week. On Sunday, Tropical Storm Debby arrived. Technically it's not a tropical storm here; as I write this, we are under a tropical storm watch and have wind gusts of up to 21 mph, a brisk little breeze if you don't include the rain. The rain adds a coastal flood warning, flood watch, and tornado watch to our alerts. That's nothing compared to conditions in Tampa, 75 miles to the south. Debby is pretty much hovering over the Gulf. That torrential rain isn't going away any time soon. On Sunday I had taken breaks from my transcribing job to view photos posted online: a downed tree in St. Petersburg, a man surfing down his residential street, an alligator swimming past the submerged front yard of a charming single-family home. "I don't know where this was taken," I wrote on Facebook, "but it must have been in a gatored community." All day long, squirrels had taken refuge behind our hurricane shutters. I had greeted them a couple of times, lifting my indoor shade and talking to them through the window glass. We live a block away from a retention pond that remains dry except during heavy rainfall. I had last taken my digital recorder to its banks in June 2006, fewer than 12 hours before Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall. The resident amphibians had been riotous. There had been a storm named Debby that year, too. Weaker than this year's Debby, it had died over the northern Atlantic. After nightfall I again took my recorder and stepped outside, to see what I could hear. The pond life was concertizing, barely audible through the rain. I stepped away, toward the water sheeting down from the gutters (about 25-41 seconds in, or with 2:45-2:29 remaining), then returned indoors and grabbed my yellow umbrella. Any songs from the pond were drowned out by rain hammering against the umbrella as I left the shelter of the porch and began my walk down the block (about 1 minute in/2:11 remaining). First I had to wade across the large puddle separating my driveway from the road, and then cross to the far side of the road, away from the flooding. The recording fades out during my careful walk, then fades back in as I near the festivities in progress. Soon, even the rain thundering on my umbrella wasn't enough to drown out the celebrants. In the low light from a smattering of yard lamps I could see that the pond had filled almost to brimming. My shoes and socks were already soaked. Stepping onto a sodden bank made no difference. At the 2:05 mark/1:05 remaining I held my umbrella to the side, bent forward to shield my recorder, and spent roughly the next half minute listening to the amphibians sing full-throated as warm water pelted my back. Rain poured down my tee and jeans. No one saw the broad grin plastered across my face. Clattering resumed as I raised my umbrella and set off for home. Fade out. Sound fades back in during my approach to the porch and the water spilling from gutters. Fifteen seconds later I stepped beneath the overhang. Command performance thanks to Debby. No ticket line required. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Devi[...]



Two Transits

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 09:42:00 +0000

Image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Click here to access some amazing videos.The Venus Transit of June 5-6, 2012, was the second to occur in this century. The first, that of June 8, 2004, had been the first to be witnessed since 1882. I had relied on my computer for live images in both cases. My location in 2004 kept me from getting a direct look. This year it was weather. But oh, how the Web has changed in those eight years! In 2004 I sat alone in a darkened room, waiting for images to load. This year felt more like watching a party by remote. Journal entry on June 8, 2004. I had begun writing at 4:45 a.m. Eastern.I've been on the Web all night, watching the transit of Venus -- downloading an image every so often, watching a black dot meander across the face of a disc that is white, or blue, or red, or gray, depending on whose broadcast I'm watching. Mostly I've kept to one from Trondheim, Norway -- the one with the blue sun. The light gray sun from Oslo is also pretty neat: the full disc, swathed sometimes in dark gray clouds, though the sky there looks pretty clear now. For a while I was able to surf through similar sites in France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, China, South Africa -- until the sites took longer and longer to load or came back with error messages; perhaps the ether became too crowded. The images are mainly the same save for different color filters and zooms, or the sun turned different ways. The Astronet site lists additional Webcasts from Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Macao, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, and Earth orbit. Wherever they came from, I was sitting through the dark of night in a quiet room, looking at live pictures of the blazing sun that in most cases was almost half a world away. And the little dot making its slow, six-plus-hour amble. Howdy, neighbor. I've greeted Venus in the morning and evening skies, watched as it rose to brilliant heights at maximum elongation. Been dazzled when it kept close company with a crescent moon. I've observed its phases through the telescope. I've seen it compete with Jupiter to see who's brightest (Venus usually wins), witnessed the dazzlement upset when Mars took charge last year, a red flash in the pan. This is different: a modest pas de deux. Small black marble trolling across a great, blinding expanse. I try to imagine what it's like to be at one of the earthbound locations, on-site. The large gatherings of observers training telescopes and other instruments at the event, excited murmurs in multiple languages. The last time this happened was 122 years ago. Mary and I were both up for the beginning, or close to it: Venus taking a small, then a larger bite out of the side of the sun, moving in further, then further still, until it was completely surrounded by the sun's disc -- though for a few minutes it seemed to trail a faint line back to the solar limb. About a half hour later Mary went to bed. I continued to hold vigil. Around here the sun rises at 6:31, leaving about a half-hour remaining before Venus exits the solar disc. We have a telescope and a solar filter, but we also have trees, houses, and most likely clouds to block the view. I'll check the sky but I don't hold out much hope. Watching the event by remote is magical in itself. 5:45 a.m. Morning birds begin to chorus. The successive pictures I've downloaded of the transit make the sun look like a Buddha belly doing a pirouette, shifting its black navel from left to right. At 6 the alarm goes off. Mary awakens blearily, comes into the studio to squint at the latest picture. In a half hour I'll see if it's worth it to set up the telescope. "Admit it," she says. "You've been up all night." [...]



A Night With the Moon and the Birds

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 02:23:00 +0000

Photographed at 5:46 a.m. Eastern, 4-second exposure at f/4. Mary and I are both wide awake at 4:30 a.m., but she chooses to stay indoors. She tells me she'll wait for my photographs. I get dressed, attach my camera to its tripod. The first time I open the front door I close it, quickly, and half-sprint to the studio to grab my digital recorder. Our local mockingbird is in fine voice. I'm pretty sure it lives in the oak tree that Mary had grown from acorn. She and I blow each other kisses before I open the door again. The Moon and I have a date. Our last photo-op had been the rising Supermoon back on May 5. Before this morning's session, I had checked the info on EarthSky. The penumbral phase of the eclipse has already begun by the time I step outside; but it is so thin a veil I can't tell it's there. I'm after the umbral phase -- the shadow that starts by nibbling at the Moon's rim and gradually eats its way inside. The Full Moon in penumbral eclipse looks pretty much like any other. But I squeeze off a shot because -- well, because it's the Moon. Photographed at 4:54 a.m. Eastern, 1/160 second exposure at f/7.1. It hangs low over the house and gets itself tangled in foliage. Photographed at 4:56 a.m. Eastern, 4-second exposure at f/4.5. I stand in my quiet street, close to the mailbox. My recorder rests on a cinderblock that Mary's put down to divert the streams of water that spill toward us in heavy rain. It's not raining tonight. The sky is almost completely clear, with a few wisps of cloud. Repetitive beeps form a counterpoint to the more inventive mockingbird. I stand aside as my camera counts off the beats to its automatic shutter release. The Moon sinks behind the house over the next hour. My next photo shoot takes me down the block and around the corner. By the start of the umbral phase, the Moon has gotten a bit of color. Photographed at 5:47 a.m. Eastern, 1/125-second exposure at f/4.5. In addition to the Earth's penumbra, it travels through a thicker layer of atmosphere as it drops toward the West. With the exception of an occasional car engine, I am the only person on the road. But more birds have come on the scene. I've got plenty of company down at the corner, singing their hearts out in the trees. Photographed at 5:54 a.m. Eastern, 1/20-second exposure at f/8. The Earth's shadow starts making inroads, and the Moon's smooth curve looks a bit dished in and ragged. That's my planet's shadow falling on her. That's the ground I stand on. That's my shadow on the Moon, and the shadows of all the birds in the trees around me. About one-third of the Moon will be covered at maximum -- this is, after all, just a partial eclipse. It's still impressive. The growing darkness makes it seem misshapen, the victim of someone who simply doesn't know how to cut a pie. And it is now low enough so that what the Earth's shadow doesn't cover, the tree branches do. Photographed at 6:03 a.m. Eastern, 1/15-second exposure at f/5.6. The sky grows lighter as the Moon gets darker. From my location it will set before the eclipse reaches maximum. A man jogs toward me, his back to the phenomenon, intent on his routine. The sounds of traffic grow louder and the birds change shifts. First the crows wake up, then the mourning doves. Photographed at 6:09 a.m. Eastern, 1/5-second exposure at f/8. I have also spent the night keeping company with the Moon through a total lunar eclipse. The one in 1982 had given me me this poem. The Solstice eclipse in December 2010 had given me this video. Next up: The Transit of Venus on June 5. Telescope? Check. Solar filter? Check. Weather forecast? Isolated thunderstorms. Fingers crossed. (I've also posted this story on Cowbird.) Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Dev[...]



Supermooned!

Sun, 06 May 2012 08:05:00 +0000

LargePhotographed on May 5, 2012, at 8:25 p.m. Eastern, 1/40-second exposure at f/4.5. Moonrise for my location occurred at 7:57. Rather than photographing from my driveway as I usually do, I had walked several blocks from home to catch the Full Moon as early as possible. Says NASA, "The perigee full moon on May 5, 2012 will be as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons of 2012." A perigee Full Moon occurs when the Full Moon is also at perigee, the closest approach to the Earth in its orbit. Perigee Full Moons occur about once a year. I had headed out early for my orbit-side view. While waiting, I turned West and caught this sunset with contrail at 8:08 p.m.: A couple of neighbors had also come out to take a look. We got our first glimpse at 8:14. LargeHere she comes! I photographed the shot above using a half-second exposure at f/4.5. Below: 0.6-second exposure at f/8 at 8:16. LargeBelow: Half-second exposure at f/8 at 8:17. LargeBelow: 0.6-second exposure at f/4 at 8:20. LargeZoomed in: 4-second exposure at f/8 at 8:22. LargeRising behind a wire. From L-R: 1/20-second exposure at f/8, 1/60-second exposure at f/4.5, and 1/80-second exposure at f/4.5. Photographed at 8:30-8:31. LargeNight lights: 4-second exposure at f/4.5 at 8:32. LargeAs the "Supermoon" rose in the East, Venus descended in the West. Close to it (at about the 1:30 position if Venus were the center of a clock face), you can see the star Alnath, the second-brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Alnath marks the end of one of Taurus's horns. Alnath means "the butting (horn)" according to Chris Dolan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can track Venus and other planets at Naked Eye Planets. I took this shot using a 4-second exposure at f/2.8 at 8:39 p.m. LargeAlnath -- also spelled Elnath -- is at the top of this graphic, slightly left of center: Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Bird Convention! (Photo Heavy)

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 16:46:00 +0000

Yesterday Mary and I visited Liberty Park, where we've seen Sandhill Cranes. The cranes were nowhere to be seen this time, but we still got a show. (We also heard resident gator calls throughout.) Here, a Limpkin feeds to the left of a juvenile White Ibis: LargeThe Limpkin (Aramus guarauna, Family Aramidae) "is the only member of its taxonomic family," according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Although it resembles herons and ibises in general form, the Limpkin is generally considered to be more closely related to rails and cranes." Florida is the northern limit of its breeding range. This species has a "screaming cry" that we heard while we were at the park. Cornell has a sample here. The White Ibis (Eudocimus albus, Family Threskiornithidae) "is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline," says Cornell. eNature adds, "Juvenile recalls adult, but has brown upper parts, streaked brown head and neck....Begins to acquire elements of adult's white plumage by first summer." Pretty soon I spotted a Great Egret making its way among the foliage: LargeHere it's in its neck-extended, hunting position: [...]



The Moon Moves On: Freehand Shots

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 03:32:00 +0000

LargeOn March 27, Mary and I returned to Liberty Park in Inverness, FL. I didn't have my tripod with me. I took the shot above at 7:53 p.m. Eastern, setting my camera to a 1/40-second exposure at f4.5. That darkened the image considerably; I subsequently altered brightness, contrast, and gamma.Venus is visible near the bottom of the shot, next to a hanging finger of Spanish moss.The sky's actual brightness looked more as it does in the shot below, taken at 8:01 p.m. My settings were for a 1/3 second exposure at f2.8, and I'm thrilled my image came out as sharp as it did. Jupiter is the faint dot about halfway down the shot(best seen in the large view). Venus is above and slightly to the right of Jupiter. the Moon is above and to the left of Venus. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Lunar Leap

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 09:53:00 +0000

LargeFor three days the crescent Moon joined Jupiter and Venus. We were rained out on March 24, when the Moon appeared below the two planets. On March 25, the Moon appeared beside Jupiter (photographed at 8:01 p.m. Eastern, 0.6-second exposure at f3.5, with some tweaks in gamma and contrast). On March 26, it appeared by Venus (photographed at 8:34 p.m. Eastern, 1/2 second exposure at f6.3).Taken from the end of my block, March 25 at 8:04 p.m. Eastern, 0.6-second exposure at f3.5 (with tweaks in gamma and contrast):LargeMarch 26 at 8:01 p.m. Eastern, 1/2 second exposure at f4.5:LargeThe Moon (with Earthshine) and Jupiter, March 25, photographed at 8:20 p.m. Eastern, 4-second exposure at f4.5:LargeThe Moon and Venus, March 26. First photographed at 7:30 p.m. Eastern at 1/250 second, f4.5. Then photographed (the Moon with Earthshine) at 8:38 p.m. Eastern, 4-second exposure at f4.5.LargeLargeKeith Cooley explains that Earthshine "is caused by sunlight that reflects off the Earth onto the Moon's night side. Under the earthshine, the Moon's outline and its dark features can be seen, even though only a thin crescent is bright. We see the Moon because of reflected sunlight (the Moon does not generate its own light). At times, however, the dark part of the Moon glows."This photo series tracks the movements of Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon from March 10 through March 26:Large Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



NaHaiWriMo Extended Version, Days 11-20

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 09:22:00 +0000

Prompts: 11. tools, 12. clock or time, 13. stars, 14. romantic gift, 15. Ides of March, 16. something hidden, 17. luck, 18. Sunday present or past, 19. arts and crafts, 20. change.February had marked NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. Even though the event is officially over, I am among those still writing and posting a haiku a day. For March, I am following the prompts provided on NaHaiWriMo's Facebook page.The March 14 haiku was inspired by this photo of a mayfly.Haiku from March 1-10.February 2012 haiku: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 (+ 1 day). Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Iridescence

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 12:58:00 +0000

Venus (above, right) and Jupiter, photographed from the end of my block at 8:04 p.m. Eastern (4-second exposure at f3.2) on March 23, 2012. I've also tweaked contrast and gamma. My view had been clouded out on March 21 and 22.Earlier in the day I spotted this beauty:LargeFiery Searcher, Calosoma scrutator , Family Carabidae (Ground Beetles). Also called "The Searcher" and "Caterpillar Hunter." "One of the most beautiful North American beetles," says Bugguide. "Adults and larvae prey on caterpillars. Adults will climb trees in search of their prey."In this case, the beetle climbed the wall of our local bank. I spotted it in midafternoon on a particularly hot day for this time of year, with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees F (32.2 deg. C).Not far from the beetle I spotted these carpenter ants:LargeThese two individuals (male on the left, queen on the right) joined many others. Genus Camponotus, Family Formicidae (Ants). Carpenter ants generally swarm here in April, so these have arrived a bit early. "During the flight season, carpenter ants can often be found in alarming numbers," writes the University of Florida. "Sometimes homeowners are concerned about damage to the structural integrity of their homes, which they sometimes incorrectly learn, is caused by Florida carpenter ants. However,... Florida carpenter ants seek either existing voids in which to nest or excavate only soft materials such as rotten or pithy wood and Styrofoam. Other concerns are that these ants sting (they do not) and bite (they do)." Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Windswept

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 08:45:00 +0000

LargeCloudy skies and rain nixed planet photos for March 21. On the plus side, Mary and I got a good daylight view of the Lake Henderson birds.And it was windy, blowing the Spanish moss every which way. Tillandsia usneoides. Spanish moss (also called Florida moss, long moss, or graybeard) is an epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant). This windblown tree is just outside the park beside the lake.According to the University of Florida, "Spanish-moss does not have any roots. It uses its long, thin, scaly stems to wrap around the host tree and hang down from the branches. The leaves are covered with cup-like, permeable scales that 'catch' moisture and nutrients from the air and from pockets on the surface of the host."First we checked out our nesting sandhill crane couple:LargeLargeGrus canadensis . According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Florida is home to non-migrating populations of sandhill cranes. Migrating populations breed farther north, but non-migrating populations remain near their nesting site year-'round. "In non-migratory populations, egg-laying can begin as early as December or as late as August."I got decent shots of the American coots this time:LargeFulica americana , Family Rallidae. Says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "Often mistaken for a duck, the American Coot is a common waterbird. Its all black body and white chicken-like beak distinguish this swimming rail from the real ducks."This Great Egret also made an appearance:LargeIt was tough to tell the species from this distance because several herons and egrets look like this. I was able to identify this as a great egret based on this line from the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America: "When feeding, the bird assumes an eager, forward-leaning pose, neck extended..." That behavior is visible in the shot above.LargeSays eNature, "Much reduced (by persecution and habitat loss) compared to, say, a century ago. Nevertheless, still relatively common in wetland habitats (mainly freshwater and brackish). Resident year-round in coastal districts within its range (except in parts of West Coast), numbers boosted in winter by birds abandoning inland sites occupied from spring to fall."I don't know what species this bird in flight is, but whatever it is, it's large:LargeI put together a video with all the birds except for the egret. I've made this one a little fancier than usual, using a combination of captions, video clips, and stills. Warning: Much loud wind noise! Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Planets and Birds On the Move!

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 04:56:00 +0000

The above is from March 18. Normally I set my tripod up on the driveway, but the planets were low enough by the time I took this (9:42 p.m. Eastern) that I headed down the block, to where Venus (on the right) and Jupiter were about to set behind a neighbor's house.I was back on my driveway on the 19th:If you go to the large view, you can see four small dots in a line above Venus. They're lights from a passing aircraft.And then, there's March 20:On March 22, Venus will be at 46 degrees east of the Sun and will stay there through April 1, after which time it will start dropping lower in the sky. Meanwhile, the crescent Moon will join Venus and Jupiter on March 24 (a thin crescent below the two planets), 25 (a slightly larger crescent beside Jupiter), and 26 (a larger still crescent beside Venus).And the ibises are back in our neighborhood! I'd seen them in the county seat almost a month ago. On Tuesday a flock had stopped by our "post office pond." Mary had noticed them first. I swung the car around and parked it in a cut-away by the water, leaving my hazards flashing.LargeHere, a juvenile red-shouldered hawk observes several ibises. White ibises (Eudocimus albus, Family Threskiornithidae) "eat crabs and crayfish, which in turn devour quantities of fish eggs," according to eNature. "By keeping down the numbers of crayfish, the birds help increase fish populations. In addition, their droppings fertilize the water, greatly increasing the growth of plankton, the basic food of all marsh life. White Ibises gather at dusk in spectacular roosts, long lines of birds streaming in from all directions."The hawk (Buteo lineatus, Subfamily Buteoninae (Buzzard Hawks) Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, etc.)) might be the same one I photographed at this pond eight days ago. The red-shouldered hawk includes five subspecies (four on the East Coast and one in California), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I believe this individual belongs to the pale Florida form.Three female hooded mergansers were also in the pond:LargeBack in January we had spotted one female and three males."A small fish-eating duck of wooded ponds, the Hooded Merganser nests in holes in trees," according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "It is frequently seen on shallow waters where its only waterfowl companion is the Wood Duck." We haven't yet spotted any wood ducks in the neighborhood.The hooded merganser winters in Florida, but this year was the first time we've seen this species since our move here in 2003.While some ibises fed at the pond, others flew across the road to search for grub in neighbors' lawns.LargeLargeMake that across two roads -- the main thoroughfare, and then this side street:LargeThey seem to follow the arrow of the "Action" sign in the upper right.Here they are on the move! width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/XkSclOwp_Zk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>I love these guys. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of aut[...]



Visiting the Cranes

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 07:57:00 +0000

Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis, Family Gruidae).Mary and I had gone into town to do some errands -- and to see if the sandhill cranes were still at Lake Henderson.First, we happened upon a St. Patrick's Day celebration as we parked in the municipal lot:Not only was the street closed to traffic, but if you look at lower left you can see that the lane line has been painted green -- kind of.Neither Mary nor I were wearing green, but this dog followed the day's dress code:Our thoughts were turned toward the green of lily pads and other foliage out by the lake. This time we made our visit earlier in the day, and I got a clearer shot of one of the cranes.I also fiddled with aperture size and shutter speed as we lost the light. The shot below began as something considerably darker (taken with a 1/40 second exposure at f4.5), before I put it through its paces:Then Mary spotted the coots (Fulica americana, Family Rallidae):We counted nine altogether. Not all of them appear in frame.This time I had presence of mind to get the scene on video: width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/uI9oW9Josg4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>The video includes a nest exchange between the mated cranes. Sandhill cranes take turns incubating their eggs and caring for their young. The crane in the photos took a short flight (lucky video catch!) to relieve the other of nesting duty. The audio includes grunts being made by at least one (unseen) alligator.We had also remembered our binoculars. After I took the video, we watched some drama unfold between the coots and the newly-liberated crane. Every time the coots got too close to the nest, the crane chased them away. By this time the light was low enough that I had stashed my camera in its bag and was content to just watch.We arrived home after dark, but the planets were still in fine form. Venus continues to pull away from Jupiter following their March 15 conjunction:Here's Mars against its backdrop of Leo. The right-hand version shows the outline made by the constellation. For comparison, here's the outline from EarthSky, showing the position of Mars on March 3:My shot might have some "extra" stars, otherwise known as camera noise. My camera's longest exposure is four seconds, which is a short time for astrophotography. After downloading, I fiddled considerably with brightness, contrast, and gamma, to make the stars come out. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Planetary Dance

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 05:11:00 +0000

LargeVenus (on the right) and Jupiter experienced a conjunction last night (March 15). According to Universe Today, the two planets had passed within three degrees of each other. Now, the distance between Venus and Jupiter is increasing as Venus continues to climb higher in the sky. From our perspective on Earth, Venus is headed toward the farthest point east (its maximum eastern elongation) in its orbit around the Sun. Once it makes that turn on March 27, it will move lower in the sky, closer and closer to the Sun. On June 5-6 it will cross the face of the Sun, in what is called a transit.Says Naked Eye Planets, "Although the greatest elongation from the Sun occurs on March 27th, Venus is in fact positioned at precisely 46°.0 elongation for a ten-day period from March 22nd through to April 1st."Here's the dance Venus and Jupiter shared over the past week:Large Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Conjunction

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 02:53:00 +0000

Taken around 8:09 p.m. Eastern. Four-second exposure at f2.8. Venus (on the right) and Jupiter are in conjunction tonight (March 15). According to Universe Today, the two planets are passing within three degrees of each other.Here they are, zoomed in:While the conjunction occurred in the west, Mars rose in the east:I photographed this cloud while waiting for the sky to darken:Not photographed: the meteor I saw streaking near a barely-visible Venus -- my first meteor sighting in daylight.At around 9:30 this morning, I had photographed this waning crescent moon. At one day after last quarter, it is 43 percent of full:Clouds had begun to move in by the time I finished tonight's photo shoot. I did some planet and star ID for a neighbor, who soon returned with his iPad and its planisphere app. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Clouds, With a Planetary Chaser

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 02:54:00 +0000

I stepped onto my driveway at around 7:30 p.m. Eastern, to see if I could photograph Jupiter and Venus. For the next ten minutes -- a time period that seemed much longer -- I witnessed a race between the storm clouds that were building and the planets' appearance as twilight advanced. I took the shot above as I waited for the light level to drop.Last night, clouds had at first covered the western sky and left the east clear. Today the opposite occurred. The skies at east-northeast trended from solid gray to solid black. The western sky was clear when I stepped outdoors, but was still too bright for me to see the planets. The clouds above had lain in the east-southeast, and they became increasingly foreboding:Thunder growled steadily by this time. I found myself bracing for rain.I turned, to where more clouds gathered in the northwest:A dragonfly found its way into this next shot, near upper right:More visible in the large view.This was the scene coming in from the north:By this time Venus and Jupiter had begun to peek out, but one or the other (or both) kept getting covered by wisps of cloud. Finally, at around 7:40, I caught both of them out in the open -- just before the cloud bank covered them:Venus, the brighter object at right, has now risen higher than Jupiter. (If Venus were at the center of a clock face, Jupiter would be at the 8 o'clock position.) The day before, they'd been pretty much across from each other. Two days ago, Jupiter had been higher.North-northwest had become solid overcast. Pretty soon, the entire sky was covered in this:Lightning and a loud thunderclap hit in the northwest about two minutes after I took the shot. It was a gorgeous bolt, and for a moment I debated staying outside to see if I could catch one on pixel. I headed indoors instead. Minutes later another bolt gave us a temporary blackout, followed by rain. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



(Cloud)-Parting Shots

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 01:58:00 +0000

I waited outside for these clouds to clear, so that I could photograph Venus and Jupiter. According to Universe Today, a Venus-Jupiter conjunction will occur on March 15, when the two planets will pass within 3 degrees of each other.Venus and Jupiter make a brief appearance here. Venus (on the right) is normally the brighter of the two, but the cloud covering Venus makes it look about the same as Jupiter. The time was around 7:57 p.m. Eastern.While I waited for the clouds in the west to clear, I took advantage of a clear eastern sky to photograph Mars at around 8:07 p.m. Eastern.In its roughly two-year orbit, Mars made its closest approach to Earth on March 5. According to EarthSky, this close encounter will next occur in April of 2014, when Mars is again at opposition.Finally, Venus and Jupiter emerged from the clouds in the west:I snapped the shot above at around 8:12 Eastern. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Seen on Monday's Walk

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 05:15:00 +0000

We begin in our front yard, where our Indian hawthorne bushes are flowering. Despite its name, Raphiolepis indica is native to China, according to the University of Florida. Before Mary and I set out in earnest, I photographed these snapdragons in our back yard:Antirrhinum majus, Family Scrophulariaceae. I then took some time for a bumblebee photo shoot. This individual is gathering pollen from the blooms on our viburnum:LargeThen we were off for our usual "post office walk." (The post office is about a mile from home.) We stopped at what we call the "post office pond," a nearby retention pond.Recently a fence was erected around the pond. I can no longer head down to the water's edge, so I took these shots through the chain links. LargeI believe these are female ring-necked ducks, but they were too far away for me to tell for certain. Not far from them was this immature red-shouldered hawk:LargeMary called my attention to the adult perched on a fence to the left of the pond. This individual might be a parent of the immature hawk:LargeButeo lineatus , Subfamily Buteoninae (Buzzard Hawks) Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, etc.). This is a pale Florida form of the hawk, which includes five subspecies (four on the East Coast and one in California), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.This purple flower (I don't yet know the species) grew just outside the retention pond fence:LargeOn our way home, we passed this Bottlebrush:LargeCallistemon citrinus, Family Myrtaceae (Myrtle Family). This plant is native to Australia, according to Floridata.LargeThis male Eastern Bluebird was perched on a neighbor's roof:LargeSialia sialis , Family Turdidae (Thrushes). "The blue in bluebird feathers is produced by air-filled cavities within the keratin of the cells in the feathers," according to Sialis. "They are not iridescent like the feathers of a hummingbird, and thus the hue looks the same regardless of the viewing angle. The feathers of a male bluebird reflect a lot of UV light which makes them brighter. Feathers of females look more subdued because their structure is different. Humans can't see UV wavelengths, but birds can."By the time I had finished going through my shots at home, the sky had darkened enough so that Venus and Jupiter were visible in the west:.LargeOn March 15, a Venus-Jupiter conjunction will occur, according to Universe Today. On that date, the two planets will pass within 3 degrees of each other. Venus is the brighter object at right. Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



NaHaiWriMo Extended Version, Days 1-10

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 22:58:00 +0000

Prompts: 1. plum, 2. old, 3. doll, 4. death, 5. two sides, 6. food, 7. fast or diet, 8. moon, 9. something painful, 10. sky or heaven.February had marked NaHaiWriMo: National Haiku Writing Month. Even though the event is officially over, I am among those still writing and posting a haiku a day. For March, I am following the prompts provided on NaHaiWriMo's Facebook page.I had forgotten to tweet my March 2 haiku, so have inserted my Facebook post instead.The March 2 haiku was inspired by my photo of a Double Lined Gray Moth.The March 3 haiku was inspired by my shot of a "drowned doll".February 2012 haiku: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 (+ 1 day).In non-haiku news, two of my poems are now in the Science Fiction Poetry Association's latest trifold brochure, Exploring the Cosmos (.pdf file): a sampler of minimalist science poetry. I'd originally blogged both poems as part of my month of writing science poems in different forms back in January 2011: "Partial Solar Eclipse" (Cinquain) and "Grand Raiment" (Pirouette). Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]



Fog

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 22:38:00 +0000

I forget what had prompted me to look at weather.com last night, but we had a dense fog advisory in addition to our omnipresent high pollen advisory. The fog was slated to roll in around 3 a.m. Eastern.At a few minutes after 3 Mary and I headed outside into 60 degrees F, 97 percent humidity, and near-silence. I set up my camera and tripod while Mary observed the slow drip of heavy dew.I aimed my first shot up our street (shown above).I aimed my second shot across the street. Conditions were so dark that my camera couldn't focus, and I ended up with a black rectangle. Once I downloaded the photo, I could bring out this detail by manipulating brightness, contrast, and gamma:For the third shot, I aimed my camera through our dwarf elm branches.I often rode the Staten Island Ferry late at night when I was in grad school. On foggy nights we'd have a stretch, after the Manhattan and Brooklyn lights had faded and before the Staten Island lights appeared, when the only visible light came from the ferry itself. No stars. I could glimpse water close to the boat -- one could stand outside in those days -- before that, too, faded.I could imagine, without much effort, that the ferry and its passengers were all that remained in the universe. Our otherwise mundane journey had taken on a mythical quality.About 20 years later, Mary and I stood on the shore at Carson Beach in South Boston and watched in wonder as fog dropped a curtain to the water. Dorchester Bay met the sand at our feet and we could follow it out a little way. Then it vanished behind a gray wall fringed in short tendrils where the fog met the water.Both those experiences informed the opening to Chapter 34 in Deviations Vol. 2, Appetite:"Fog swallowed the lanterns. Piri watched them advance in a line down the boardwalk, dwindle quickly, and disappear. The sky itself roiled, dropping thick, pulsing curtains to the water's edge. Illuminated ripples expanded under the stilts, clear to her sight until they reached a wall of gray vapor trailing a ragged edge. Then they dropped into nothingness." Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other JourneysPromote Your Page Too Vol. 1, Deviations: Covenant (2nd Ed.), Vol. 2, Deviations: Appetite, Vol. 3, Deviations: Destiny, Vol. 4, Deviations: Bloodlines, Vol. 5, Deviations: TelZodo, Vol. 6 and conclusion: Deviations: Second Covenant.Free downloads at the Deviations website (click here for alternate link), Smashwords, and Manybooks. Proud participant, Operation E-Book Drop (provides free e-books to personnel serving overseas. Logo from the imagination and graphic artistry of K.A. M'Lady & P.M. Dittman); Books For Soldiers (ships books and more to deployed military members of the U.S. armed forces); and Shadow Forest Authors (a fellowship of authors and supporters for charity, with a focus on literacy). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. [...]