Tuesday, February 25, 2014


It's a verb, a noun, a ship, a space shuttle, a detective ... a beautiful word.  The synonyms are strive, seek, attempt, undertake, aspire, and aim.  To me, those words are just as important as words like succeed and win.  When you read biographies and stories of scientific or medical discoveries and such, it seems that it is often a case of getting it right that time, rather than getting it wrong ten times before that.  

Captain James Cook's ship was called The Endeavour.  Cook was an explorer, a navigator, cartographer and Captain in the Royal Navy.  In three voyages - the first on HMS Endeavour - he sailed across largely uncharted seas, and mapped lands from New Zealand and Australia to Hawaii, adding islands and coastlines to European maps for the first time.   Originally, in 1766 the Royal Society engaged Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun.  This reading enabled astronomers to find the distance of the Sun from the Earth, which then could be used as a unit of measurement in calculating the parameters of the universe.

The photo above shows the replica that the Australian Government and the Australian National Maritime Museum built of the bark Endeavour - http://www.anmm.gov.au    Add this to your bucket list!

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was named after Captain Cook's ship.  For the first time, an orbiter was named through a national competition involving students in elementary and secondary schools.  They were asked to select a name based upon an exploratory or research sea vessel.  NASA's website tells us that the Space Shuttle Endeavour's adventure began with a flawless liftoff in May 1992, beginning a journey filled with many firsts.  A primary assignment was to capture an orbiting, but not functioning, communications satellite and replace its rocket motor.  Unfortunately the Shuttle wasn't designed to retrieve the satellite, which created many challenges - an unprecedented three-person spacewalk took place.  In all, it was the first time four spacewalks were conducted on a mission and one of them was the longest in space history, lasting more than eight hours.


Endeavour is also the first name of Detective Morse - the TV series that actually makes you have to think about the clues as they're unravelled.  A good story, and set against a background of the beautiful city of Oxford - the City of Dreaming Spires.  Whether it's the new series, set in the 1960s, or the old series which was made in 1987-2000,  I really enjoy everything about it.  The locations, the story, the college background, the famous red jaguar, the interaction between the characters.  I'm also a big fan of the Inspector Lewis series, a spin off from the original Morse.   I get very homesick when I see the characters taking some time out for a pint in a local country pub, often sitting outside on a Summer evening, and just talking about the day  - or in this instance, the case.

I was going to add the story of Ernest Shackleton's voyage to the South Pole, but realized that his ship was called HMS Endurance.  Another great word, but one for another time.



Something we all should be doing.

A favourite word.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Birds ... Update

So, after my musing about how much memory birds have, I put out some bird food.  Just one of those squares of seeds and grains melded together with fat of some kind.  It's been good to see the birds coming back and bouncing around the deck, balancing on the little metal basket, and then  ....

It's a pretty terrible photo as it was taken through the kitchen window, but I think you get the general idea about the kind of birds the food was attracting!  After shooing the "bird" away a couple of times, I moved the curved hook thingy around so that he couldn't sit on the railing and take the food.  He came back and it was so funny to see him try to reach out for the seeds - he balanced carefully on the edge of the top rail, leaning as far as he could, but just couldn't reach.  He hopped down to the flowerpot that I'd put the metal hook into, but he couldn't climb the thin piece of metal.  He tried jumping, then was back to the top rail again but, after much tail flicking and general annoyance, he gave up.

Sorry, Mr S, better luck next time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's For The Birds

We had some snow here a couple of days ago and I noticed some bird tracks on the deck, outside the kitchen window.  Looking over the deck, I also saw several little birds scratching around in the dead leaves outside.  I used to put out various kinds of food for the birds in Winter and Spring, but haven't done so for ... well, it must be three or four years, now.  That's what surprised me - do the birds remember which gardens have bird feeders?

I know they say that elephants never forget, but maybe birds have long memories too.  I'm sure it's true that the same birds turn up at places along their route where people regularly have bird feeders, but I was surprised to have them turn up here after so long.  As soon as I did put bird food out yesterday, all the little birds (and thankfully not the huge crows) came a peckin'.

No, it's not Spring yet - don't hate us East Coast!  This is the green I'm yearning for right now, as the trees and grass are that dull brown/black of winter.  We don't get a huge variety of birds around here, but occasionally there's a blue jay or red crested woodpecker.  I'm still hoping to see a bald eagle balancing on the little square of bird food that I leave out there.  Could happen - there are some around here, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Here's a fascinating bird fact - there's a german word, Zugunruhe, which describes the restlessness found in birds before the migration south.  This is from a 2006 story in the New York Times -

Barbara Helm of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Andechs, Germany, and the late Eberhard Gwinner in PLoS Biology,  studied African stonechats. Stonechats are in the thrush family, and many breed in Europe and fly south in winter. The birds that the researchers studied were residents in Africa, and were thought not to have a genetic predisposition to migrate. What the researchers were looking for was evidence of zugunruhe in the resident stonechats, which they raised in the lab at the Max Planck Institute, under a variety of circumstances.
The scientists did not expect to find it in the resident birds. But they did. The stay-at-home stonechats exhibited the same sort of nocturnal restlessness as their migrating relatives. The conclusion: some level of zugunruhe may be common even in birds that don't migrate.

I believe there have also been experiments involving putting ink on the feet of birds in a cage and putting paper at the bottom of the cage.  In the morning, it seems to show that the birds spend a lot of the night in the southern quadrant of the cage, feeling - I presume - a little bit Zugunruhe.    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Green Eggs and Freckles

A few day's ago, my husband was doing some work for a woman who had some land outside Poulsbo, and she kept - among other things - chickens.  Very free-range chickens.  She gave him a half dozen eggs and I've only just gotten around to using them.  Opening the cardboard container, I saw that we had four brown and two green eggs.  The green ones were beautiful, a very pale, almost translucent mint green.  I hadn't actually seen one before but, hey, I'm pretty much a city girl ... I've seen other coloured eggs in magazines but never the real thing.  It seemed a shame to use it.

(Dang, that pine branch would have looked so effective if I could figure out how to get rid of the bottom shadow on the uploaded image.)

I remembered that I'd taken a photo of some spectacularly freckled eggs way back in the Summer.  I don't know anything about what comes out of the south end of a north bound chicken - do different coloured eggs come from different breeds of chickens?  Does it depend on what they eat?  The weather?  I have no idea.

Another thought - I seem to be getting a "thing" for egg photos.  How many of something do you have to have to be technically called a collection, or an accumulation or an amassment?  A digest? (burp) ( 'scuse me)  Why yes, I did just check the Thesaurus.  Do three items count as a kit or a caboodle?  While I ponder this question, here's egg photo number three...

This one I love!  It was in the window of the butcher's shop in Frinton-on-Sea in the UK, where my Mum lives.  Now, every time I see the phrase "Free Range" I always, mentally, finish with "from Happy Chickens".  Makes me smile every time.

And just to end on an eye-rolling note, here's a golden oldie from the 1970s ...

Why did the punk rocker cross the road?
Because he was stapled to the chicken!

Thank you, and good night.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Love the Sunshine ... I Hate the Sunshine ...

We're having my favourite winter weather - brilliant blue skies and cold temperatures.  I much prefer this to the grey, drizzly days we're known for in the Pacific North West.

There's just one trouble with all that sunshine.  It shows up all the dust and smeared windows in the house.  I'm not the best at housekeeping - my theory is that if it's tidy, it looks clean.  I'm not sure how guests view that theory but it works for me!  Don't get me wrong, our house is clean, just not really clean, if you know what I mean.  I keep saying that we need to have overnight guests about once every three months, just so the house gets the full and proper cleaning it deserves.

Ahhh, the sun.  Sunshine, sunrise, sunsets, sunburn ... good memories and bad!  That darn sunshine is showing up the fact that I apparently can't wash windows very well (nice smears on the front windows, right by the front door), and of course it's letting me know that it's been a while since I dug out the dusters and vacuum cleaner. Yes, I DO know where they are.

Now I can't wait for Spring and the bright green leaves to appear on the trees.  While the rest of the country is having horrendous weather, here on the west coat we're having a very mild winter, with slightly above average temperatures, and not enough rain.  I don't think the ski business is very happy with the lack of snow - it looks spectacular on the Olympic and Cascade mountains, but apparently there's not enough to really enjoy it.

What I don't think people here realize is that the weather moves further on from the East Coast and is hitting Ireland and the United Kingdom with high winds and torrential rain.  Seaside towns are being battered, rail lines buckled by landslides, and the fields across the country are under water.  There are towns in Somerset that are actually cut off from the rest of the world by flooding.  These photos from the UK's online Daily Mail newspaper give you an idea of what's happening - and has happened over the past few weeks.  Yikes.

Photo Courtesy Tony Carney/Apex/Daily Mail

Photo Courtesy Apex/Daily Mail

I'm not sure how we got from sunshine to cleaning to flooding, but I know there's a tenuous link there somewhere!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's a Wonderful World ...

As a famous American once said (I think it was MacGyver) "A good map will always get you where you want to go."

Photo courtesy UrtheCast

I love maps.  It doesn't matter if they are 400 year old representations of the known world, or the satellite images from the internet mapping sites.  Man-made borders change, natural disasters leave their mark, but you still rarely get the chance to see the beauty of the earth.  I've always loved seeing the world from an airplane and have been lucky enough to fly over some incredible sights - the Hudson Bay when the ice was just starting to break up, glaciers and icy coastlines in Greenland, the Sydney Opera House, the Grand Canyon - all from a height that shows you the detail of silt running from the mouths of rivers into the ocean, of reefs and islands, cities and farmland.  The circular fields, seen from above, certainly take you by surprise.

I could go on, but this post is about a new way to see the world.  In the news this week were details about a spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts who placed (or should I say replaced) cameras on the International Space Station that will be permanently pointed below, and there will be a live feed on the website www.urthecast.com.

This is the story from www.businessweek.com -

Scott Larson just survived a particularly stressful month during which the equipment he sent to the International Space Station sat in limbo.  His startup, the Canada-based UrtheCast, created special still and video cameras able to withstand space radiation and extreme temperatures in order to record earth from space in high resolution.  The cameras arrived at the space station last fall, and after an eight-hour spacewalk on Dec 27, they were installed.  Only they didn't appear to work right, Larson says.

Photo courtesy UrtheCast

So the cameras were taken down.  A station-related issue was fixed over several days, and the equipment was finally mounted during a six-hour spacewalk on Tuesday.  "There have been a lot of tense moments" says Larson, whose company raised $68 million for the project.  "It's space, and stuff happens in space, and you never quite know.  There are always technical issues in any kind of engineering project.  But because there are people out there, they can fix them.  That's been a huge asset."

From here on, UrtheCast hopes for smooth travels as the space station orbits the earth 16 times every day.  The nearly 70-employee company will spend several weeks calibrating the cameras, which will send their first image back to earth in February.  "We hope it's spectacular, we don't know what it's going to be," Larson says.

Once initial tests are wrapped up, UrtheCast expects to start selling space imagery to clients in farming, urban planning, media, and other industries at the end of the second quarter.  The company has already signed distribution agreements for $21 million annually, according to Larson, and will also begin streaming images onto the Web in the third quarter - in effect challenging Google Earth with a free video-imaging service.

A 4.5 foot long camera will record 90-second videos 150 times a day as the station circles the planet, Larson says, while a second camera will continuously snap still photos.  Together, the stills will cover a 47.3 kilometer wide swatch of the planet and generate 2.5 terabytes of data a day, the equivalent of about 270 full length movies.  UrtheCast's engineers will condense and post the visuals to the company's website within a few hours.

"I think everyone in the world will want to come to the website at least once," Larson says.


I'll certainly be one of the "everyone in the world ..." who regularly visits the website.  I can't wait.
I wish UrtheCast.com all the good luck in ... well ... the world, with their new venture, and I hope it's a very successful business both for them, the farmers and urban planners, and just plain Joe (or Jo) Public who will get the chance to see the beauty around them.

Note:  I wish I knew where the top photo was taken as it's an amazing image from the website.  It's a coastline that probably looks completely different when you're on the ground.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

There and back again ...

To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit (or was it at the end of Lord of the Rings?) my trusty 2004 San Remo Red Subaru Impreza has taken me "there and back again" and has now racked up 111,111 miles!  I thought my mileometer had broken when I saw those numbers staring back at me yesterday, but it slowly blipped over to 111112, so I knew everything was okay.

Since we bought the car, its travelled from the Seattle area to San Diego numerous times - to visit the In-Laws - taking the more scenic route down Highway 101 south of San Francisco, rather than the I-5.  It's a great drive, sometimes merging with Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, with incredible views by the ocean.  The 101 takes you through Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, home of garlic ice cream (... interesting),  through California's central valley where  there are fruit and vegetable fields, as well as nut orchards, from horizon to horizon.  On through San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria with a stop at Buellton (home of famous Andersen's Split Pea Soup) and the town of Solvang for some pastries, to the coast highway to Santa Barbara, and then maybe to Malibu and find your way through Los Angeles to San Diego via the I-5 or 15.  Hmmm - I think we need to take another drive down there soon as just looking all that up on the map has made me restless for another trip.

Our trusty car has also taken us on drives across country, through Yellowstone National Park, to the Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand) and Mt Rushmore, taking in Glacier National Park on the way home.  Our last trip to Yellowstone gave us some unexpected snow - would you believe it was the end of May! - so the poor car has had it's fair share of scrapings and brushings.

Our trusty Subaru has taken us on the road to nowhere (name that band... )

and had a close encounter (name that movie ... oh, wait .... too easy... )

I also managed to find a way to feed and water the husband along the way (at the same time!) ...

Apologies for the blurred photo but there are some bumpy highways around the west coast (it's a nice sharp image of the dashboard though, in case you're interested).

All in all, the car has certainly earned those 111,111 miles.  When I saw the numbers, I had to pull over quickly so that I could take a photo before the numbers changed - I've never had a car that's done so many miles.  In the UK, you can't drive very far in any direction without falling off the edge, so to me, this is a real milestone.  The big debate is whether or not to get a new car or see how far we can get with this one, but I'm not sure I like the new, redesigned Subaru Impreza - it doesn't have the unique shape that it used to have (like ours) but now looks like umpteen other small hatchbacks.  Still, it's a great car and I like having the safety of the All-Wheel-Drive (this is beginning to sound like a car commercial).  The two main things I want in a car - besides all that safety stuff - is a rear windshield wiper and a hatchback.  Well placed cupholders come in the top three as well.  I guess the longer we leave the decision making, the higher the numbers on the mileometer will be.

Just to translate - I did a check on the internet and discovered that the American for "mileometer" is "odometer".  Now the big question is - what's an odo?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Color Purple ... and Green.

My absolute favourite colour combination is purple and green.  I'm not a sentimental person, but somehow my heart skips when I see these two colours together.  I don't know why.

I have no idea if there was something in my childhood that had these colours - a toy? clothing? something in the house?  Nothing comes to mind, but it makes you wonder where these likes and dislikes come from.  I've never been a real fan of blue and yellow, and I know my parents had ... actually still have ... a heavy glass vase from Venice made with those colors, that has been around since I was a small child.  Never liked it.  Actually, now I think of it, purple and yellow is another combination that makes me grimace.  It's not the yellow, it's the colour it's with.  Maybe I prefer my yellows to be anti-social!

Seeing the aubergines (eggplants) always reminds me of the wonderful farmers' markets that I've seen both locally and around the world.  The colours are so vibrant, you can almost feel the vitamins in the air!  Purple comes in all colours as well - the aubergines in the image above are heading slightly to the burgundy side of the spectrum, while the other photos show the purples nearer to blue.  There's also mauve and lilac which I guess are "official" colours themselves, but I'm still putting them under the heading of Purple.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes the color as a deep, rich shade between crimson and violet.  Purple was the colour worn by Roman Emperors and magistrates and late by Catholic bishops.  Purple is often associated with royalty.  Looking on the Web, I found this information -

  • Purple is the colour most often associated with the artificial and the unconventional.
  • It is the major color that occurs the least frequently in nature.
  • It was the first colour to be synthesized.
  • Purple is the colour most associated with ambiguity.
  • Like other colors made by combining two primary colours, it is seen as uncertain and equivocal.
Interesting.  I really enjoy researching for these posts, like the one I did on the colour blue.

The logo for the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon is purple and green but I can't think of too many others, if any.  It is a combination that you don't see very often in the design world.

My favourite image is still the first one on this post - dark, deep purple grapes hanging from vines covered in bright green leaves.  Ahh, there goes the little frisson (favourite new word) in my chest ...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy Hour

I had a great evening out last night with some of the women from the office where I volunteer.  Someone suggested we go to Whiskey Gulch Coffee Co in Port Orchard, WA.

I hadn't heard of this place and, after checking out the website (www.whiskeygulchcoffee.com) we saw that they only served coffee along with a great looking menu - I guess our usual Friday Happy Hour could wait another week.  When we got there we found that they'd just opened a bar - last night was their opening night - and now sell locally sourced wine, beer, vodkas, etc.  and it looks like it would be a great place to hang out in the summer, as they have an outdoor patio with tables overlooking the bay.

We had a hilarious time, probably annoying everyone else in the place because we couldn't stop laughing,  I think the topics discussed were: parents knowing that the teenagers they'd left alone for a night had had friends over as the house was TOO clean when they came home; oldest son who missed the school bus and ran the bus route home even though there was a shorter way back to the house; pushing your glasses back up on your nose when you've leaned (lent?) forward ... even though you're wearing contact lenses; four year old daughter asking "... do Mommies lie?". Okay, so not so funny sounding when it's written down but I'm sure the glasses of wine helped - don't they always?

One thing I do miss about living in London is the excellent public transport, especially the Tube. Here, you only get to drink about one glass of wine, because you usually have to drive home. Not that I regularly got drunk or anything when I was in London, but it was always good to know that you could have another drink and not have to worry because you were taking the subway home.  Of course, it did mean that half the people who were travelling on the train with you were somewhat the worse for wear, which made things a little interesting.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Man in Blue

So what do I do if I saw something really funny the other day but didn't have time to take a photo?  I guess I just put in a great image and talk about something completely different! Here's a picture of something completely irrelevant to the post (but it's nice to see on this cold autumnal day).  It was taken at the Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival this Summer and as I'm sitting at home waiting for the guy to come and fix our furnace, it's a very welcome sight-

- and here's the post ...

On Sunday my husband and I were driving around the local area, trying out a new place for Brunch, doing errands, and generally enjoying the day, when I looked out of the car window and saw a guy covered from head to toe in a solid blue, tightly fitted body suit - like Spiderman - complete with a full, face-covering hood.  I have no idea what he was doing or why.  In fact if he'd been dressed differently I would have said he was walking to his mailbox to pick up his mail.  Who was he?  What was he doing?  More importantly, how do I find out why a guy was wearing a blue, skin-tight body suit and hood at midday on a Sunday in Gorst, WA?

Luckily for me, my husband loves to drive and I love to be a passenger because it gives me the time to look out of the window and see some unusual things.  Next time, I need to have my camera, or at least my smartphone, at the ready, just in case another wannabe superhero decides to pick up his mail.

Actually Sunday was a strange day.  We're always on the lookout for places to go for Brunch, and Kitsap County doesn't really have too many of them, so we headed south to try someplace new.  We did find somewhere but it was just okay, maybe not somewhere we'll head back to again any time soon (name withheld to protect the average).  On the way back home, Mr B spotted a car in a ditch and stopped to see if there was anyone in there.  He said that the airbags had been deployed, and it all looked liked it had happened very recently, so we called 911 to let them know.  I always thought that the Police left a sticker of some sort on a car to show they were aware of it - no sticker on this one.  When we called, they said that they had a couple of Sheriffs on the way as someone had already called in a car hitting a building on that road.  What?  We tried to explain that there was no building, but it was in a ditch, but they insisted that it was the same accident.  Still, we explained some more and felt we'd done our civic duty.  Then, driving further up the road, we saw a guy on a bicycle, carrying a couple of huge backpacks, and just as we came up to the guy, one of his bags fell off the back into the roadway, so we pulled over and let him know.  I can't even imagine how he would have felt when he arrived wherever he was headed, and realized that he was one backpack down, and wouldn't have had any idea where it had fallen.  I feel really good about that one.

I guess that covered our good-deed-for-the-day for several days!  Maybe we'll stick closer to home for Brunch next Sunday as it seems that strange things happen when we travel further afield.