Archive for June, 2010

Philadelphia was struck with a sudden, very severe thunderstorm around 3:00 today.  I was at work and watched the torrential rain from the windows of our 4th floor observatory.  At one point the rain was coming down in such strong sheets I couldn’t see across the street.  And as suddenly as it came the storm was gone, leaving destruction in its wake.

Traffic was horrendous on my bike commute home and as I got closer to West Philly I realized why– trolleys couldn’t get through tree-blocked streets, people wanted to get home immediately, before bad weather struck again, and there was a lot of good old-fashioned rubbernecking going on. 

I had to pull over as I rode past Clark Park, our beautiful neighborhood park.  I could not believe how many trees had been uprooted– check out this grove of sycamore trees that seemed to share a common root system:

Lots of neighbors checking out the damage

I snapped some more photos:

Can you see the terra-cotta sewer pipe in the roots?


Boys being tree monkeys

Isn't that an interesting pattern?

Lots of debris at the Dickens sculpture

I feel pretty sad that all these beautiful, old trees were killed in the storm.  It is a big loss for the park and our neighborhood ecosystem.  I was also amazed that the City arrived fairly quickly to start clean-up.  There was a lot of mess all over our neighborhood though, so I know it will take time for it all to be cleaned up.  A few large branches fell in our back yard but none of them hit our building.  I was almost convinced that I would come home to find the huge, unbalanced oak in our studio… luck was on our side!  I was also thinking of my dad and his friend who make hand-turned wooden pens– you guys would have CENTURIES worth of pens to make from all these trees!


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Last week I went to a work conference in St. Paul hosted by the wonderful Science Museum of Minnesota.  Their museum is huge and much different from the one where I work.  Well, mainly just the layout.  Like us, they also want to get people excited about science. 

SMM main entrance. It's actually 6 storeys!Science!



Check out this nifty guy!  We love electricity.  

They had a great exhibit on the Mississippi river, which is within spitting distance of the museum (don’t worry, I didn’t actually try it…)  They had a cool stream table that showed how different river features form, like ox-bow lakes.  

 My favorite exhibit, however, is really fascinating.  In their “Big Backyard” the museum has created a gigantic camera obscura

See the hut on the right? Camera Obscura!


A camera obscura is just a big box with a tiny hole in one side where light shines in.  A lens is fit into the hole to help focus the light.  This projects an image on the opposite wall of the box (upside down, because of the lens).  Then you can do things like trace the image you see, modify it slightly to become an early camera or just stare at the beautiful scene it creates: 

Image inside the camera obscura

The picture is neat but the most captivating part was watching cars move, grass sway in the breeze and clouds pass upside down across the wall.  I really felt like I was a teeny little bug inside someone’s camera!

So I have to say my introduction to Minnesota was very nice– hospitable, clean and full of beautiful parks.  They seem to be pretty bike-friendly, too.  Surprising for a city that has 7.5 months of winter (burn! don’t worry, I’m from the midwest, too).  Check out these weather-proof bike lockers on the street:

I'd be scared of getting locked in there

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I’m going on vacation next week—back home to Michigan to see my family and enjoy a little R&R.  Since I’ll be gone next weekend Pat and I spent a beautiful day enjoying one another’s company yesterday—he’ll be holding down the fort/bringing home the bacon while I’m away. 

Regatta grand stand and crew emblems

The ride out of the city was heavenly.  I could feel the air clear as soon as we got to the river path.  I can’t stand humid, smoggy city air in the summer.  I felt my lungs gratefully expand as we whisked down the empty path.

There is a very nice picnic area a little bit beyond the turn-off to Valley Forge Park.  It even has real toilets and a drinking fountain.  We took one of the mountain bike/hiking paths a teeny bit north off the main path until we found a nice shady, breezy picnic area.

Chillin' in nature's air conditioning

I feel so lucky to have our bikes and good health to ride them to places like this.  While there we saw a doe, cardinal, a ton of groundhogs, chimpmunks and a couple bunnies.  I love seeing wildlife.

Pat telling a bug to go away/looking at his bicep

While perusing my new issue of Afar Magazine I spotted this contest: Blog Your Way Around the World.  My jaw is still hanging open from when I read about the main prize:

A travel package valued over $70,000 for eight of the world’s greatest adventures for the winner and a friend…”

All you have to do is write a 400-word essay on why you should be chosen and how you will blog about the adventures they are sending you and your equally adventurous husband on.  Then you get your wonderful family, friends and hopefully a ton of other people to vote for you to win. 

There are several entrants who have a lot of prior travel and blogging experience.  But I think I should win for most genuinely excited about the whole thing.  So stay tuned for updates on that, I just need to find my “hook” for the essay.  Pat had some suggestions that I won’t mention here but would probably make a good storyline for South Park…  Thinking caps on!

C'mon, who wouldn't want to follow these Long Haul Truckers around the world??

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This morning we woke up early (for a Saturday…) to join the Bicycle Coalition on a hike along the Schuylkill River.  Unfortunately we did not realize we had the wrong date until we got home.  We were a little perplexed when we go to Bartram’s Garden, the starting point, and found no trace of other hikers.

We decided to set out after them, looking forward to the free breakfast at the end point.  I worked at Bartram’s Garden for a couple of months so I led us out through the meadow to the path.

Can you see the city through the haze?

This meadow used to be a “brownfield,” a former industrial site where the soil is polluted.  The site was treated about 30 years ago and is now thriving.

I could not believe we were still in Philadelphia.  This part of Southwest Philadelphia is only a half mile from our house but it felt like we were miles out of the city.  I imagined John Bartram and his wife strolling along the same stretch of river.  Taking in the fresh country air, feeling the same June heat and walking hand-in-hand like us.  I wonder if they had pancakes for breakfast, too.

Urban Meadow

We carried on.  The walk was supposed to end at Grey’s Ferry Ave at a section of the path we have seen them working on for several months.  I recently snapped this on the way to the grocery store:

Next to the Recycling Center

Since it was the wrong date we never caught up with the group.  We turned around after the trail terminated in the Street’s Department’s parking lot.

I see this bridge from Grey's Ferry all the time

By the time we got back to our bikes I was really feeling the heat so we headed home for a second cup of coffee and work in the studio.  Pat gave his mom this illustration for mother’s day, isn’t it beautiful?

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