Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Charcoal Hearths

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.
Yesterday I hiked on the Charcoal Hearth Trail at Caledonia State Park. Five of the old hearth sites are marked along the trail that goes around the hill.

The hearths were part of the charcoal production necessary for the iron industry in the 1800's. All that's left of the hearths now are the flattened areas, usually about twenty or so feet in diameter. There is also a network of trails that were necessary to haul out the finished charcoal.

Here is another one of the hearths:

This is a picture from Penn State Mont Alto showing a hearth. The caption says it was the last hearth in 1905. But this was at least fifteen years after the iron industry ended. Maybe it was a forestry student project?

The trail starts at the entrance to the park along Rte. 30 in Fayetteville, PA. It is also the site of the Caledonia Furnace that was owned by the abolitionist Senator, Thaddeus Stevens. The original was destroyed by the Confederate Army on the way to Gettysburg.

Follow this link to the rest of the pictures.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunset at the Park

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

We decided to take the dog for a last walk before evening and were rewarded by this fabulous sunset. The white line in the bottom photo is a backlit jet contrail.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Misty Morning

Even though it's winter and there is still ice in the stream, we have been having a bout of really warm weather.

Norlo Park in Guilford Township, PA
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Sunday, December 07, 2008


I heard a story on NPR today about the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice. It commemorates the story of Abraham who was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac to show his faith. At the last minute an angel appears to stop Abraham just as he is about to plunge the knife and commend him for his faith. Instead a ram appears.

In the NPR story the Kabul, Afghanistan bureau chief, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson,
was at the cattle market to buy a calf for her staff. She was discussing how the high price of cattle caused by the war and recent drought has reduced the number of buyers. Most of the cattle sellers will lose their investment on their animals imported from Pakistan.

In West Africa the festival is called Tabaski. It was always a big deal when we lived in Burkina Faso and Senegal. Even the Christians got involved, because in Africa one person's holiday is a good reason to celebrate. I especially remember how an entire family would get new clothes to go to prayers. In many families the mother would be several pagnes (1 meter of cloth) of the same material, so all the children would be dressed the same.

This picture comes from the livestock market in Thies, Senegal. Most of these animals were imported from Mali. Often they would cost as much as a month's salary! Many people joined savings clubs, a lot like the Christmas savings clubs that banks used to offer.

Tabaski is celebrated with the same festive spirit as Christmas. And mouton stuffed with couscous can't be beat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newest Spy Book

I just finished The Spies of Warsaw. I read it in pretty much one sitting during a flight with multiple stops. In many ways it's like most of Furst's. The hero is struggling against vast odds in the buld-up to World War II. Colonel Mercier is the military attache in the French embassy in Warsaw. He dabbles with espionage on the side. And he has a sad past, being a widower. In his Warsaw job he controls some spies and does some espionage himself.
What interested me the most about the book is how, through the encouragement of a mentor in the the French intelligence service, he finds a way into the the German military high command. This involved dangerous trips to areas under Germna control and eventually even Berlin. Yet because the information he brings back isn't what the French army leaders want to hear, they find a way to disregard it. They are too committed to the Maginot Line. Is it true then, that often people do control their own destinies and fail by refusing to see the truth?
At least Mercier gets a promotion and finds a new wife. We learn at the end that the couple flees France for England when the Germans invade. Mercier works with DeGaulle to eventually liberate France.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hiking on a Friday Afternoon

One of the nice things about our new home is that the Michaux Forest is just across the street. This afternoon I went up Ridge Road with Beans, the dog, and hiked a mile along the Appalachian trail. We stopped at the powerline. I definitely plan to go back again.

Here is a map showing where we went:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Enter the Haggis slide show

I didn't realize that Flickr slide shows could be embedded on another site. I have been using third party options that worked some times and not others. I just figured out how to use the native Flickr slide show.

Here are slides from a concert of Enter the Haggis performing at the Celtic Fling in Manheim, PA last summer. I think I got a few good shots. We were lucky that the thunderstorms held off for the show.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Turkey Vulture

Here is another bird picture from the Waynesboro Watershed. It was swooping around the regeneration harvest, probably scavenging. This was the best picture I got. The bird had disappeared into the surrounding trees before I could get a better one.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Enjoying the view

As we move into our new home I want to publish pictures of what we find in the country. Three of our cats (Tigger, Frankie, and Elmo) are enjoying the view from the sun porch. We haven't arranged a safe area for them to go out in yet, so they have to make do with the screened window. Which is better? With flash or without?
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I read most of it over two air flights. (Maybe I should have waited for the paperback for something lighter to carry.)

This is a fabulous story. I will be thinking about it for a long time. On the surface it's the story of a family that raises very perceptive, meticulously trained dogs in Wisconsin. The plot resembles Hamlet somewhat, including the appearance of at least two ghosts. Deep down it's about who people should relate to each other. How much do we owe each other? How does a person decide which course of actions to take when in doubt?

And it certainly challenges how I think about dogs, including my own dog!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sheep Dog Demonstration

One of the last events we attended at the Celtic Fling was the sheep dog demonstration. The owner, I can't remember his name, comes from a historic farm in New Jersey. He competes professionally at events around the world. The dogs are bred to herd sheep, but they do require long training. The first dog, Jenna, came from England, where she was trained. These dogs need to work and be challenged on a daily basis. They probably wouldn't make good pets for most families. They sure are fun to watch!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wetlands Hike in Shippensburg, PA

I'm always looking for new places to take the dog for walks. I used to go on the railroad spur through town until I saw in the newspaper that it was actually considered trespassing and the police were arresting people.

I found this new trail connecting Dykeman springs on the edge of Shippensburg with a Little League field and eventually Earl Street. The creek goes all the way through town. There are some fabulous ponds and wetlands along the trail. Part of the trail goes over an old railroad bed with a very nice wooden bridge. It also goes through a short tunnel under an active railroad. I plan to return here often to see birds and the changing vegetation.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
I almost forgot to mention that Beans, the dog, like it too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Battlestar Galactica

I just watched the Battlestar mid-season conclusion, Revelations, on the Sci-Fi website. All the cylons, but the fifth hidden one, are now out in the open. The humans and cylons had to work together to find earth.

I didn't expect the ending. Be careful what you wish for; it may not be what you want. The ending reminded of one of Isaac Asimov's Foundation sequels, Foundation and Earth, where the group from the Second Foundation find the once-thought mythical home of humanity. They find an earth that is uninhabitable because of past wars. But, they find on the moon the ancient robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, a character from the Robot series of novels. Olivaw reveals that he has been manipulating human history over the centuries to protect humanity. Here's a link to the Wikipedia entry. The second half of the series will probably concentrate on how the humans and cylons will try to make earth livable. Also, the last hidden cylong will be revealed. It should be exciting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Scarlet Tananger

While visiting the Waynesboro Watershed on Saturday I noticed this intensely bright red bird with black wings. It was in a mature hardwood stand. I tried to zoom in as much as possible. When I got home and looked in the bird book I found that it was a male scarlet tananger. This one was probably on display looking for a mate. From the book:

" When the male arrives on the breeding grounds, he perches at the tops of tall trees and sings to defend his territory and attract a mate. In the molt following the breeding season, the male retains his black wings and tail, but his plumage becomes a misture of green, yellow, and red patches, later becoming dull green and yellow, appearing similar to the female."

I guess I got him at the right time.

The book I used is Birds of North America by Fred Alsop
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Canada Geese

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

I was at the Waynesboro Watershed reservoir yesterday with a group of alumni. I saw this Canada geese family swimming in the water. The goslings have grown quite a bit. They were probably just eggs when we were doing field labs here back in April. I wonder when they will start flying?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flag Day Floral Display

Flag Day Floral Display
Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.


I found this floral planting at the Welcome Center on Interstate 78 in Easton, PA while returning home from Maine. It was a hot, hot afternoon and the flowers were holding up well. As it happens it was Flag Day, which is celebrated mostly in Massachusetts and Maine. The next morning I saw a report on Flag Day on the CBS Sunday Morning show. They discussed the huge varieties of American flags over the years. And the father of vexillology ( the study of flags), or at least the man who invented the term (Whitney Smith) was interviewed.

The American flag is truly the people's flag that has always and will continue to develop over time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Remains of post office, Bangor fire (LOC)

Remains of post office, Bangor fire (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.

I've been poking around Flickr and found the archives of the Bain News Serivice showing the Post Office on fire during the Bangor Great Fire of 1911. I used to live on Center St. in the late seventies. I had no idea this had occured sixty years before. Fascinating.

One of the Flickr members gave this link to a Wikipedia article describing the damage of this fire.

Here's one more image from the same collection showing a man made homeless by the fire.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Building the Pyramids

I am currently reading Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz. I am reading the chapter on technology. The author gave a delightful description of how the Great Pyramid was constructed with just the simple tools available in Egypt. She did a better job describing it than all the Discovery channel or National Geographic specials on the topic, and without commercials. She discounts all the pyramidologists who claim that the pyramid has some supernatural meaning. It was just a tomb.

She explains how in the modern world we have separated science, magic, and religion. In ancient Egypt these three were all one thing. We can only hope to understand the Egyptians if we can try, even imperfectly, to understand how they perceived the world.

The book uses a very conversational tone. It isn't meant to be a scientific treatise, but calls on all the author's years of research. I like how Mertz will say we do or don't know something. Or that we can or can't hope to understand something else, where the information is lost. This book is definitely worth reading.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Great Improvisation

I just finished reading Stacy Schiff's A Great Improvisation. It's the story of Benjamin Franklin's essential diplomatic mission to France to find an ally and financier for the American Revolution. Using his immense scientific reputation in Europe, a lot of guile, and his amazing negotiating skills Franklin was able to weedle support and funding from the government of Louis XVI.

There are so many ironies in this story. Franklin had to fight against the constant backbiting of his other commissioners: the Lee brothers and John Adams. I had previously read David McCollough's biography of Adams. Adams developed a terrible jealousy and dislike of Franklin over the years they worked together. I enjoyed seeing the affair from Franklin's point of view. It helped that Franklin had no personal ambition. He only wanted the fight for Independence to succeed against England.

Franklin had only tepid support from Congress. Over the course of his long mission he was almost fired several times. When he returned to Philadelphia the American government didn't want to acknowledge how much it had relied on France. My impression is that he was never reimbursed for many of his expenses.

Franklin's advanced age and frequent illnesses worked against him. At the end of his time in France he could barely walk from gout and bladder stones. Still he kept on with his mission.

The ultimate irony is that France became nearly bankrupt by helping the Americans. Within a few years the French Revolution swept away the royal regime. And the Americans still were slow to realize what France had done for them.

In light of today's diplomatic issues I was amazed that the American mission would often go six months or more with no word from America. They had their orders, but often had to supplement them as events required. France couldn't understand why the American government wouldn't or couldn't tax its own people to pay for the war. Not much has really changed after all these years.

Thank goodness for Benjamin Franklin.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Antony and Cleopatra

Last night I attended the first performance of Antony and Cleopatra by the Shakespeare Theatre Company at the Harman Center for the Arts in D.C. I went with a group of English students from Mont Alto.

The performance was very good, although I was told that as the actors get more experience they will get better. I had never seen this play before, but was somewhat familiar with the story.

The theater is brand new. There is not a bad seat in the house. The stage had a large raised area with three projections and stairs in between. The lower level of the stage was really bag. Instead of extensive props a chair or cushions was all they needed. It really kept focus on the actors and the action.

The troupe is staging Julius Caesar at the same time. The actor playing Marc Antony is doing it in both plays! It takes a lot of skill to be a professional, classical actor. I don't see how they can keep both play straight. Cleopatra, played by the British actress Suzanne Bertish was fantastic.
It would really be worth going to see this production again, as well as Julius Caesar.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Burning Bush

Today has been our first warm, sunny spring day. I noticed this forsythia across the street as the sun was going down. It's like a flaming bush! Or the burning bush in memory of Charlton Heston.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Geese on a pond

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

These geese were honking loudly and swimming at the Waynesboro Reservoir. I liked how th zoom setting blurred the water around them.

Here are some others on land.


Click here for the full set.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A New Bird in Shippensburg?

I don't remember hearing grackles in Shippensburg before. Last Saturday was bright and sunny. These loud birds seemed to be on all the trees. I got these two singing on the roof. The bird on the right (a male?) was doing the calling.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Enterprise in orbit

What a shot! I wonder how this picture was created. There must be some wizardry involved.

"Enterprise in orbit"

Monday, March 03, 2008

Unusually Warm Day

Map image

Today the temperature has been unseasonably high, almost 70! It's still only March3rd too. As I left campus in the late afternoon some of the students were playing touch football in the quad. Others were throwing a baseball around. Tomorrow a big deluge is forecast. Just what we need: more mud. I hope it holds off until the afternoon so I can get in the Surveying lab.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Signal Towers

I often walk on this seldom used railroad spur with the dog. Here are shots of the the signal tower at different times of the year: late winter and late summer. I really liked the contrast seeing the same object in completely different conditions.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Bethel Snow Woman - Complete! - 1

Bethel Snow Woman - Complete! - 1
Originally uploaded by ChrisDag.

I saw a quick news story on a D.C. channel. I heard heard that they had gotten a tremendous amount of snow in Maine. There was plenty of raw material to build this. At 122 feet, it's magnificent, and it will all be gone by May.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cat at night.

What a perfect cat picture! I found this on Pizdaus.com. Is it posed or is it a real shot?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Press Criticism or Vandalism?


I found this outside the Post Office in Shippensburg, PA. Is this from a person who had a grudge against a local newspaper or the press in general? It certainly took too much work to be a random vandal.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Photographing Fish

Here is my first attempt at photographing fish in my aquarium.

After taking these I looked for some hints on the web. You need a fast shutter speed and you need to get the white balance right. I have flourescent lights in the aquarium, so maybe I need to adjust for that. I will definitely use a tripod.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

Last night was the nearly worldwide lunar eclipse. I wasn't sure if it would be visible in our area because of the snow storm we had late in the afternoon. However, by the time I went to walk the dog there were only some wispy clouds moving in a light wind.

The eclipse was spectacular. The left lower edge of the moon was getting shadowy and the whole moon was turning reddish. Just as advertised I could see Saturn and the star Regulus, although I honestly wasn't sure which was which.

Throughout the walk I could follow the moon coming in and out of the clouds. The dog was not impressed with the whole thing as he was occupied with more canine concerns.

The eclipse made me think of some of my favorite authors. Isaac Asimov staged many of his stories among the stars. The latter Foundation novels were really travels where the characters discussed Asimov's theories from different points of view. Arthur C. Clarke used the stars more poetically. The action of the stories had to be out there. In the Space Odyssey stories the stars were even alive in some way. We need more writers like that around today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snow Squall at Mont Alto

After a day and a half of snow, ice, and rain the storm had one last snow squall to throw at us. The flakes were huge clumps. Fortunately, it didn't last long and the storm was over.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Walking the Dog

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.




Even a gray Saturday is a good time to walk the dog. The Cumberland Valley Rails to Trails is great. There was almost no one one there yesterday morning. We started at the parking lot at Shippensburg Township Park and continued north about a mile and a half before returning. Beans things it's great, even if I won't let him capture any squirrels.

But you really need to bring a bag along, for everyone's convenience!

View Larger Map

Friday, January 18, 2008


Growing up I spent many hours cutting and stacking firewood. After the energy crisis hit in 1973, my father decided we needed to heat with wood and brought home pallets for us to break up. What a job? We never made anything like this one, though.

"The Tree"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

War and Peace and the Iraq War

While reading the new translation of War and Peace I started to notice parallels between Napoleon's invasion of Russia the the American war in Iraq. Tolstoy contended that great man don't make history. Instead all the people, no matter what their status, fate, and even God make history.

He says that once all the French army and the other European nations' armies amassed, Napoleon couldn't control them. They advanced to Moscow, even though it led to their undoing. Rational thought would have shown them that they couldn't prevail in the long run.

After the first Iraq war, the US was locked in an increasingly more tense struggle with Iraq. the Air Force enforced the no fly zone for at least ten years. Over the years the desire to attack Iraq became harder and harder to resist. The Iraqi government didn't do much to defuse the situation. But would anything save the death of Saddam Hussein have been acceptable?

After the 9/11 attack the pressure to attack Iraq became irresistible. When you have the world's biggest military and the need for vengeance, it's hard to stop. Certainly the president and his inner circle should have been more prudent. We have learned since then that there were enough people who knew what the likely outcome would be. It just got too hard to say no.