Flowers and Aliens

First, remember the not black tulips? Seems like the package contained two varieties, with the pink ones being earlier and the almost black ones being later. Here they finally are:

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Next one is true kingcups that grow along our little creek. I wanted to get closer but then chose dry feet…

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Dungbeetles are no aliens, Sorry to disappoint you. But I quite like them.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This, OTOH, is aliens. I guess at some point they are replaced every year by ordinary fern plants, but this is  not something that just grows, it’s the result of extraterrestrial mingling.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The Art of Book Design: The Feet


John Lord Peck. Dress and Care of the Feet. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1871 — Source.

The complete title is actually:

Dress and care of the feet : showing their natural perfect shape and construction; their present deformed condition; and how flat-foot, distorted toes, and other defects are to be prevented or corrected : with directions for dressing them elegantly yet comfortably; and hints upon various matters relating to the general subject


Via: The Public Domain Review

Tree Tuesday

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The effects of human-caused increased greenhouse gases were predicted as early as the turn of the 20th Century and according to the Ivan Semeniuk of the Canadian Globe and Mail a NASA study of tree rings from the last 120 years is helping to prove out this theory.

In 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius made a prescient calculation that showed the vast quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning coal and other fossil fuels would eventually cause the planet to get warmer.

Little did he realize that the effect he described was already under way and being dutifully recorded by a ready-made monitoring system distributed around the globe in the form of trees.

The growth record of trees is recorded in their rings and this growth is highly sensitive to changes in moisture.

Tree rings are among the most direct ways of measuring past climate because trees are sensitive to soil moisture. In drier years, trees grow more slowly and the annual rings that are recorded in their trunks become narrower. By comparing overlapping tree-ring patterns in wood that grew at different times on different continents, scientists have gradually built up “drought atlases” that show changes in moisture distribution dating back to the year 1400 or, in some areas, even earlier.

Drought atlases are nothing new, but using trees to measure the effects of drought across time and region is new science and it’s showing some startling trends.

The scientists found that after centuries of normal variations during which some places alternately became wetter or drier relative to each other, an additional effect on moisture emerged around 1900 that is consistent with climate change. Over all, the data show that much of North America, Australia and the Mediterranean have been getting drier over the past 120 years while parts of Asia, including India and western China, have been getting wetter.

The effect was especially pronounced during the first half of the 20th century, but became more subdued between 1950 and 1975. Since then, it has accelerated. The scientists posit that a huge increase in the release of sulphates and other airborne chemicals in the postwar era served to temporarily counteract the effect of greenhouse gases by deflecting sunlight and promoting cloud formation. This countertrend later subsided after air-quality regulations went into effect in North America and Europe.

The results of this study help confirm that human activity is directly related to global climate change, although trees in the southern hemisphere were not included because their growth patterns are not as seasonally visible.

So it seems that trees are helping to relate the story of climate change in new ways. I’m not surprised. Trees have proven to be one of mankind’s best natural resources and now they’re talking to us in ways we can understand. Whether people will listen is another matter.


Via: The Globe and Mail, May 2/19, Ivan Semeniuk

Jack’s Walk

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It’s been an absolutely glorious day here, full of sunshine and flowers and bees. The tulips around our neighbourhood are opening up in a riot of colour and down the street hyacinths are in full deep purple bloom. We’ve had a day and a half of sunshine and it seems that’s exactly what was needed to kick spring into gear. Yesterday morning the trees were only just a bit fuzzy, but this afternoon there are actual leaves popping out all over. It isn’t quite leaf day yet, but I think it might be tomorrow. Everything is growing so quickly. Overnight my hydrangeas sprouted leaves and I swear my grass has put on 2 or 3 inches of growth since yesterday morning. It’s like someone waved a magic wand and said ‘go, hurry.’ So imagine my surprise to arrive at the park this afternoon and find all of the tulips there still tightly closed.  Oh well, it obviously isn’t their day yet.

It’s my day! ©voyager, all rights reserved

Let’s Play 9: Goodbye!

This concludes our series with some more animals from the wait line for the wild water ride, in which #1 learned an important lesson about agency, autonomy, consent and respect.

On our second day we went straight for that attraction since it tends to have the longest waiting times. We still needed almost an hour, which #1 used for bickering about how it was a stupid ride and she didn’t want to go anyway. We told her that of course she didn’t have to, but we wouldn’t leave the line since the rest of the family wanted to go on the ride, so she decided to come along.

When we were all seated, properly belted in and the boat started to move she said “I don’t want to!”. Mr yelled for them to stop the boat, they let her out and we took the ride without her, which was exactly not what she wanted as evidenced by the 2 hours that she kept complaining about how it had been unnecessary for us to stop the ride and that she would have been OK to go with us.

Well, kid, no means no, and if you actually mean “yes”, you need to say that.

Her little sister, who is usually the kindest person on earth and too often the target of her older sister’s cruelties, frustration and meanness, couldn’t keep herself from talking about how that was the coolest ride in the whole park for two straight days and we only had half a heart to stop her…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My absolute favourite, as hippos are my favourites. Mr. wants to email Lego about whether this can be bought as a set and put it inthe front yard (so it can become a Pokestop. Yes. he’s serious).

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Anyway, the design of that ride is mean. What you can see from the outside is the boats disappear around the corner, emerge at the top and then go down the steep ride. What you cannot see is that they first haul you up and then you don’t go forward to the steep ride but are turned 90° and go down a different ride backwards. You then travel the hidden dinosaur valley (obviously no pics here) before you go up again for the final ride.

It was fun.

All in all, the whole trip was fun even though it was exhausting. We were absolutely lucky with the weather as t was summer temperatures, making all the water attractions enjoyable. Now we have some arctic air with snowfall on Saturday…

Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – Part 1: Little Shiny Things

Also known as a coin collection. I don’t have much to comment here, except that they really know how to set the mood for learning about history:

© rq, all rights reserved.

While there was quite a bit to learn, the focus was on coins. So here we go: be as amazed as I was at the variety of designs, the visible cultural influences, the intricacy and the detail, the mastery and the metalwork.

[Read more…]

Let’s Play 8. Nighttime

Our trip was two days with one overnight stay in the holiday village and we’d chosen an ancient Egypt themed “cottage”. The rooms were clean and more than enough for an overnight stay, and I adored their attention to detail. This fellow hung over our bed.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved
We’re well protected from any Lego mosquitos.

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But maybe we should have a word with their pest control?

Natural Dyes

Since a few years ago, when I read a very intriguing article, Eastertime has become a time for experimentation – for experimenting with natural dyes! For the eggs, obviously.

Now, tradition has it that you use onion skins – gives a nice warm reddish-brown tone, and if you stick little leaves and shoots and spring flowers around the surface of the egg and wrap it in some extra onion skin and gauze (or old pantyhose), you can get some wonderful imprinting and marbling on your egg, in tones of yellow and green.

My original break with tradition occurred about 5 years ago, when I read about red cabbage – apparently, using boiled red cabbage produces a lovely shade of blue, plus you can also do the usual addition of shoots-and-flowers, and also get marbling effects.

It works.

Also with snowdrops and an onionskin direct on the shell. One of this year’s efforts – and boy is it difficult to get some good focus on eggs! © rq, all rights reserved.

That blue tone at the bottom? If you use red cabbage correctly, it gets even more vivid.

However! In subsequent years I have read about other plant-based materials that can be used as dyes: beets (for raspberry red), turmeric (for deep yellow), blueberries (for dark blue/black), etc. This year I decided to experiment a little again, since I have transferred my knowledge of red cabbage to the immediate family, and it’s time to try something new (the blue colour is no longer original once everyone is doing it).

Meet this year’s subjects:

From left to right: curry and chamomile; red cabbage; beets; hibiscus tea; onion skin. © rq, all rights reserved.

To review the results:

  1. I expected more from the turmeric, but this just proves you can’t trust online blog posts raving about the wonderful shades of golden-yellow, even if you follow their instructions word for word;
  2. Red cabbage is both a stable value and also quite versatile with the patterning, adding an onion skin for colour will not ruin the dye;
  3. Beets are fakers – I tried beets a few years ago with similar results but was willing to give them a second chance, but alas, if this is raspberry red, then someone needs to review their colour wheel;
  4. Hibiscus tea is a keeper and shall be repeated because it has a wonderful deep shade of blue-black and also holds up well with patterning for some very interesting colouring;
  5. Onion skins is old reliable onion skins and to ensure at least a few good-looking eggs should be used every year.

A few close-ups:

Hibiscus tea with dandelion and a few other new leaves. © rq, all rights reserved.

Curry and chamomile, plus some directly applied onion skin, which is what provides the brilliant colour; probably will not repeat this shade in future. © rq, all rights reserved.

Raspbery red, tplrplrplr. The applied botanicals is what saves this one. © rq, all rights reserved.

Paired red cabbage with onion skin again – this colour pairing, along with hibiscus with onion skin, are my favourites for the contrasts it provides. © rq, all rights reserved.

Onion skins with new leaves of goutweed and dandelion blossom. Classic. © rq, all rights reserved.

The family portrait: a nice spectrum of naturally produced colours. © rq, all rights reserved.

So there you have it – low effort and high quality coloured eggs from ordinary things you can find in your kitchen (or get for cheap). If I don’t forget, I might do a tutorial post for next year, because the whole process is ridiculously easy.

(Choir Juventus  cover, original here.)

Slavic Saturday

After Slavs established themselves in Bohemia and Moravia, they prospered. Eventually their rulers became Dukes, Kings and some later on even Roman emperors. Czechs were important players on the European political landscape of that time, having significant military power and strategic position at the center of the continent, where they could trade with many neighbours with ease whilst also being shielded from attacks by mountains, especially in the west.

I have already mentioned those mountains in comments before. Their history is fascinating and it is an example of how far-reaching and unpredictable the outcome of a reasonable political decision with initially good results can be.

Czechs have primarily settled along riverbeds and in lowlands, they did not feel at all comfortable settling in forests and mountains. This was a serious drawback to ambitious rulers of Přemyslid dynasty, who recognized the importance of settling in said mountains and get their natural resources – the wood on the surface and metal ores underneath – to use. They wanted to expand their influence, and for that they needed money – but for whatever reasons, Czechs were either unwilling or unable or both to oblige and get to work felling trees and mine ores on big scale. Or maybe there was not enough of them to do that.

Thus Přemysl II. Otakar and his successor Václav II. have invited German settlers to help (do not ask me about the details and legalities, I do not know them). And the plan succeeded – German settlers have successfully managed to settle on the unoccupied land. They subdued the inhospitable mountains and tapped into the riches underneath them. The economy thrived for the centuries to follow and one of the reminders of this success is the word “dollar” which is derived from the name of silver coinage mined in Jáchymov in 1520 by these German settlers in Bohemia.

Initially there was relatively little friction between the Germans and Czechs under the rule of Czech kings. The Germans and Czechs had no real conflicts of interests and both nationalities happily intermingled at the borders. But this has begun to change at the time of Hussite Revolution. Whilst Czechs got overwhelmingly critical of Catholic church, Germans remained overwhelmingly loyal. This has increased the friction and it never got better after that – if anything, the Thirty Years War has made matters worse. Forced catolicisation and germanization have followed and it is probably in these times when the sentiment of Germans being Czech’s sworn enemies has started.

It is no wonder that when Czechs got the upper hand after WWI, after several hundreds of years of being persecuted by Germans, they responded by cutting down some of the privileges the Germans used to have. To which the Germans did not respond kindly, because like in all privileged classes every individual thinks that they themselves are not privileged, they deserve it all. So of course this has bred even more resentment and when you throw Great Depression into the mix, which has indeed hit ethnic Germans harder than Czechs, you get Nazis. Hitler has played heavily the “Germans are persecuted in Czechoslovakia” card in order to gain access to Czech factories to make weapons and to use Czechs as cheap slave labor – and eventually he succeeded. His main lackey in achieving this goal was Konrád Henlein, who despite being of mixed ancestry himself has become as rabid Nazi supremacist as they go.

WWII sealed the hate between Czechs and Germans for good. Ethnic Germans in Bohemia overwhelmingly embraced Nazism and as a result, after the WWII they were expelled from the land. An argument can be made – and is being made – that this was unjust, but whilst the expulsion has led to many personal injustices and very nasty results and atrocities, in some cases even mass murders, I fear that without the expulsion there would be even more atrocities – mass murders and pogroms – because right after the war the resentment was too deep and the memory of Nazi atrocities too fresh. To illustrate the sentiment at the time, I want to relate this story from another person with mixed ancestry like me, whose German grandfather allegedly commented after the war: “Czechs are behaving like beasts!” to which his Czech wife allegedly responded “And? They learned that from you!”.

As a result, today Germans are again just a tiny minority in Bohemia. And Czechs still largely dislike and distrust Germans.

To me this long chain of events shows how a decision in 13 century has shaped politics in 20. century. Would Přemysl II. Otakar invite the Germans had he known what will come of it? Hard to say. But it makes me wonder what the repercussions of today’s political games will be a few hundred years from now.

Jack’s Walk

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Jack and I went to the park this morning instead of the woods so we could check the progress of the tulips, but there’s been very little progress since the last time we checked a few days ago. A bit of sunshine might  help, but there hasn’t been much of that in the past few weeks and if the forecast is to be believed 7 of the next 10 days are going to be rainy. Sigh. We really don’t need any rain. The river and creeks are running high with localized areas of flooding and the ground is soggy just about everywhere. I know it’s the season of mud, but does it have to be muddy every single bloody day? Oh well, rain or shine the flowers will bloom eventually and just to prove that point we did find heaps of open daffodils all around the duck pond. They’re making their own sunshine.