Tag Archives: Random

Second Annual Strawberry Photograph

This is one of my favorite times of year.  Every day I find these jewels in my garden.  These were so fresh that they steamed up the glass.  The fragrance was so better than any perfume. Best of all, I got to eat them!

This is one of my favorite times of year. Every day I find these jewels in my garden. These were so fresh that they steamed up the glass. The fragrance was so much better than any perfume. Best of all, I got to eat them!

 

My strawberry patch has grown even larger this year.  Hurrah!  Here’s my post with photographs from last year, in case you missed it.   Strawberry Fields.

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Filed under Gardening, Humor, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography

Monarch Watch Spring 2009 Open House

My friend Deb buys some tropical milkweed at the Monarch Watch Spring Open House.  Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor, at left in the yellow hat, and many volunteers were busy as the crowds snapped up the annuals and perennials.   The sale is a fund-raiser for Monarch Watch and also ios a good way for people to introduce plants for pollinators in their gardens.
My friend Deb buys some tropical milkweed at the Monarch Watch Spring Open House at the University of Kansas on May 9. Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor, at left in the yellow hat, and many volunteers were busy as the crowd snapped up the pollinator-pleasing annuals and perennials. The sale is a fund-raiser for Monarch Watch and also is a great way for people to introduce plants for pollinators in their gardens.

 It’s estimated that 80 percent of the world’s food crops needs to be pollinated.  Habitat for pollinators is shrinking every year, while the demand for food increases.   Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas in Lawrence is dedicated to promoting education about the biology and conservation of the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators.  It works with children of all ages, involving schools, nature centers and other ogranizations.  For more information, click on Monarch Watch and Pollinator Partnership on my blogroll.  If you buy products from Amazon.com, you can also benefit Monarch Watch by clicking on the amazon portal on the Monarch Watch website to buy.  There won’t be an additional cost to you.

 The following are photographs from the open house on May 9, except the last one which was taken in my backyard.

These Monarch Butterfly Chrysalides look like jade beans, trimmed with a thin stripe of gold leaf.  They'll be placed in containers when it's time for the butterflies to emerge.

These Monarch Butterfly chrysalides look like jade beads, trimmed with a thin stripe of gold leaf. They'll be placed in containers when it's time for the butterflies to emerge. The butterflies are then released, where hopefully they'll find food and habitat. Because of increasing development and changing farming practices, habitat and food sources for Monarchs are rapidly decreasing.

Children have a good time at the open house, where there are plenty of fun science-related activities....and cookies, too!

Children have a good time at the open house, where there are plenty of fun science-related activities....and cookies, too! Monarch Watch promotes education about and conservation of pollinating insects and other pollinating animals.

Visitors choose their Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, which you could buy when you bought a milkweed plant.  There were dozens of caterpillars munching away on milkweed in the white tub.

Visitors choose their Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, available for sale when you bought a milkweed plant. There were dozens of caterpillars munching away on milkweed in the white tub.

 

These Monarch caterpillars await adoption.  People who bought milkweed plants could also buy caterpillars to take home to live in on the newly purchased milkweed plants in their gardens.

These Monarch caterpillars await adoption. People who bought milkweed plants could also buy caterpillars to take home to live on the newly purchased milkweed plants in their gardens.

Monarch Butterflies are busy in the mating enclosure.

Monarch Butterflies are busy in the mating enclosure.

 Monarch Butterfly drops by to say hello to a young visitor.

A Monarch Butterfly says hello to a young visitor.

 

Thie honey bee dropped by the open house to visit some chive blossoms in the pollination garden.

This honey bee dropped by the open house to visit some chive blossoms in the pollination garden.

MonarchButterflies weren't the only stars of the open house.  Here are some silkworms.

Monarch Butterflies weren't the only stars of the open house. Here are some silkworms.

 

Honey Bees thrive in a hive at Monarch Watch headquarters, which promotes education adn conservation of all pollinating insects and other animals.

Honey bees thrive in a hive at Monarch Watch headquarters, which is on the west campus of the University of Kansas.

 

The Monarch Watch open house offered a wide range of annual and perennial nectar and food plants for butterflies and caterpillars.

The Monarch Watch open house offered a wide range of annual and perennial nectar and food plants for butterflies and caterpillars.

 

Not just caterpillars turn into butterflies.

Not just caterpillars turn into butterflies.

 

The Monarch Watch pollination garden is planted to attract and feed butterflies, bees and other pollinators, but it attracted me, too.  Isn't it lucky that plants for pollinators are also beautiful!

The Monarch Watch pollination garden is planted to attract and feed butterflies, bees and other pollinators, but it attracted me, too. Isn't it lucky that plants for pollinators are also beautiful!

 

Here's "Reggie," the Monarch caterpillar I bought, at home on a milkweed in my garden.

Here's "Reggie," the Monarch caterpillar I bought, at home on a milkweed in my garden.

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Filed under Animals, Butterflies, Conservation, Education, Environment, Food, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science, University of Kansas

What a Relief!

new-madrid-fault

New Madrid Fault.

 

 

I don’t have the shakes any more!  Today’s Kansas City Star reports that the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the boot heel (southeast) area of Missouri may be quieting down, which is very good news.  A series of earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone from 1811-1817 could be felt as far away as Quebec.  One of the earthquakes woke people as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk Virginia.  The few people in Kansas City at that time were tossed around in their bedrolls like popping corn.

So many cable television channels are devoting lots of airtime to possible disaster stories — asteroids, mega volcanoes, gamma ray bursts, magnetic pole flipping, climate change, you name it, it’s coming at us.  The news of real events isn’t comforting, either, with earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fires.  It’s good that we can relax a little about one possible catastrophe.

At the bottom is an explanation from the U.S. Geological Survey of the New Madrid Fault and the earthquakes it has unleashed. You can also read a lot more about the New Madrid Seismic Zone on Wikipedia by clicking here: New Madrid Fault.

Comparison: the 1895 Charleston, Missouri, earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone with the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake. Red indicates area of structural damage, yellow indicates area where shaking was felt.

Comparison: the 1895 Charleston, Missouri, earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone with the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake. Red indicates area of structural damage, yellow indicates area where shaking was felt.

 The New Madrid Fault Poses Little Threat, Scientists say

(Kansas City Star, April 13, 2009)

The New Madrid fault zone that unleashed a series of violent earthquakes in the early 19th century may be quieting down, two scientists say.

The fault line, which stretches into southeast Missouri, shows no signs of building up the stresses needed for the quakes many seismologists expect to someday rock the region again, the scientists say.

The researchers from Purdue and Northwestern universities said that may mean the little-understood New Madrid Seismic Zone is shutting down or that seismic activity is shifting to adjacent faults in the country’s midsection.

Other scientists call those conclusions premature.

 U.S. Geological Report on the New Madrid Earthquakes 1811-1812 

Shortly after 2 o’clock on the morning of December 16, 1811, the Mississippi River valley was convulsed by an earthquake so severe that it awakened people in cities as distant at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia. This shock inaugurated what must have been the most frightening sequence of earthquakes ever to occur in the United States. Intermittent strong shaking continued through March 1812 and aftershocks strong enough to be felt occurred through the year 1817. The initial earthquake of December 16 was followed by two other principal shocks, one on January 23, 1812, and the other on February 7, 1812. Judging from newspaper accounts of damage to buildings, the February 7 earthquake was the biggest of the three.

In the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys the earthquakes did much more than merely awaken sleepers. The scene was one of devastation in an area which is now the southeast part of Missouri, the northeast part of Arkansas, the southwest part of Kentucky, and the northwest part of Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake, in the northwest corner of Tennessee, stands today as evidence of the might of these great earthquakes. Stumps of trees killed by the sudden submergence of the ground can still be seen in Reelfoot Lake.

Uplift of over 3 meters was reported at one locality several hundred kilometers to the southwest of the epicentral zone where a lake formed by the St. Francis River had its water replaced by sand. Numerous dead fish were found in the former lake bottom. Large fissures, so wide that they could not be crossed on horseback, were formed in the soft alluvial ground. The earthquake made previously rich prairie land unfit for farming because of deep fissures, land subsidence which converted good fields to swamps, and numerous sand blows which covered the ground with sand and mud. The heavy damage inflicted on the land by these earthquakes led Congress to pass in 1815 the first disaster relief act providing the landowners of ravaged ground with an equal amount of land in unaffected regions.

Some of the most dramatic effects of the earthquakes occurred along rivers. Entire islands disappeared, banks caved into the rivers, and fissures opened and closed in the river beds. Water spouting from these fissures produced large waves in the river. New sections of river channel were formed and old channels cut off. Many boats were capsized and an unknown number of people were drowned. There are some graphic eyewitness descriptions in contemporary newspapers made by the boatmen caught on the Mississippi River near Little Prairie, not far from the present-day town of Caruthersville, Missouri.

Although the total number of deaths resulting from the earthquakes is unknown, the toll probably was not large because the area was sparsely populated and because the log cabin type construction that was prevalent at that time withstood the shaking very well. Masonry and stone structures did not fare so well, however, and damage to them was reported at distances of 250 kilometers and more. Chimneys were thrown down in Louisville, Kentucky, about 400 kilometers from the epicentral area, and were damaged at distances of 600 kilometers.

Although it is impossible to know the precise epicentral coordinates of the earthquakes, contemporary accounts of the events suggest that the epicenter of the December 16 shock was close to the southern limit of the area of sand blows. The epicenter of the February 7 shock was closer to the northern limit of the sand blows, near the town of New Madrid, Missouri. There is not sufficient information about the second main shock on January 23 to know its epicenter. Thus the common practice of calling the entire earthquake sequence the “New Madrid earthquakes” is somewhat misleading. From what is known about the present seismicity of the area, it can be inferred that their focal depths were probably between 5 and 20 kilometers. The fault plane — or planes — on which the Earth rupture occurred are inferred to have had a NNE – SSW strike direction, more or less parallel to the Mississippi River.

The felt areas of the three largest earthquakes were extremely large. They extended south to the gulf coast, southeast to the Atlantic coast, and northeast to Quebec, Canada. The western boundary cannot be established owing to a lack of population. However, it can be estimated that the area of intensity V or greater effects was approximately 2½ million square kilometers. This can be contrasted with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, for which the area of intensity V or greater effects was about 150,000 square kilometers. The large difference in felt areas between the Mississippi Valley and San Francisco earthquakes, which had approximately the same magnitude and focal depth, can be explained by differences in attenuation of earthquake waves traveling through the Earth’s outer crust. The crust in the Western United States tends to “soak up” earthquake energy, whereas in the central and eastern regions of the country the seismic energy experiences a much lower rate of absorption. Quantitative studies of recent earthquakes confirm this explanation.

Invariably the three questions that are asked when one describes the 1811-12 earthquakes are (1) could such earthquakes occur again, (2) if so, when will they happen, and (3) what would be the effect of such an earthquake if it were to occur now?

The answer to whether such earthquakes can happen again is yes. Field studies by M. L. Fuller of the United States Geological Survey published in 1912, provided topographic and geological evidence of large magnitude earthquakes predating the 1811-12 sequence. This evidence included ground cracks as large as any caused by the 1811-12 earthquakes in which trees fully 200 years old grew from the bottoms and slopes. Indications of more recent faults and of sandstone dikes filling old earthquake cracks were also found by Fuller. Futhermore, studies of the seismicity since 1812 show that the region is behaving in a manner more or less typical of active seismic zones.

The second question — when will another great earthquake happen — is much more difficult to answer. Extrapolation of magnitude and intensity recurrence curves is presently the only method of prediction available, but this is full of difficulties because the earthquake record covers far too brief a period of time and because earthquakes do not follow an exact cyclical pattern. Although extrapolations of recurrence curves for the region indicate return periods — depending on the investigator — of anywhere between about 400 to 1,000 years for an earthquake the size of the December 16, 1811 event, there is a possibility that such an earthquake might occur as soon as next year or as late as several thousand years hence.

It is easier to speculate on the effects that an earthquake the size of the 1811-12 series would have if it were to occur today than it is to predict when it will happen. In the epicentral area, a repeat of the kind of surficial damage experienced in 1811-12 can expected. However, this would result in a much greater loss of life and property today because of the much larger number of people and man-made structures in the region than were there 162 years ago. Even more awesome is the size of the area that would be affected. The dispersion of the surface waves, combined with their low attenuation, would result in a large amplitude, long duration sinusoidal type of motion with periods in the same range as the natural periods of tall buildings. Although damage to buildings located outside of the immediate earthquake zone would be mostly nonstructural in character, the monetary amount should be expected to be very large. The emotional and psychological effects of a large earthquake in the central part of the country would probably also be considerable, particularly if the earthquake had a long aftershock pattern as the 1811-12 sequence did.

Perhaps the greatest danger of all arises from the sense of complacency, or perhaps total ignorance, about the potential threat of a large earthquake. The frequency of occurrence of earthquakes the size of those that took place in 1811-12 is very low; however, continuing minor to moderate seismic activity in the central Mississippi Valley area is an indication that a large magnitude tremor can someday be expected there again.

Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 6, Number 2, March – April 1974, by Otto W. Nuttli.

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Filed under History, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Science

Loving Kindness

The Gift Of Metta – Loving Kindness – Pass It On

My friend Sandy always finds very soothing and peaceful videos and passes them on. Here’s the latest one. Sandy is “Thinking Out Loud” on my blogroll. This video has a high-quality viewing option.

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Filed under Friendship, Life, Music, Personal, Random, Relationships

Covering All of the Angles of the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda “Triangle” is all over the map.

A recent television report about the Bermuda Triangle gave me the shivers. (See video below.)  I love the Bermuda Triangle spookiness because it validates my dislike of flying in small planes and sailing out of sight of the shore.  Hey, you could lost out there!

Some people love to get goosebumps about the weird and the unexplained.  Others get their thrills from explaining it all.   No matter what camp you’re in, you have to agree that the ocean is an amazing and dangerous place.  Even without supernatural explanations, there’s plenty to worry about — Rogue waves, tsunamis, hurricanes, wandering changes in magnetism, massive methane gas bubbles, gigantic squid, sharks and even pirates.  They all give me the chills.  It’s a good thing I live in Kansas where we only have blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, a few poisonous snakes and spiders and the New Madrid Fault to worry about.

One evening over the Christmas holidays at a family gathering in 2004, for some reason out of the blue I began talking about rogue waves and tsunamis.  We were in the middle of Kansas, so this was unlikely to affect any of us in the near future and I certainly didn’t have the tiles in my Scrabble tray to spell out tsunami.  My brother across the Scrabble table raised an eyebrow. Crazy sister.  The next morning when we turned on the television, we saw the report of the tsunami in Thailand…… Be sure to take the poll below.

More about the Bermuda Triangle.

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Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Life, Personal, Random, Sailing, Travel

The Birds

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Kea parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. The Kea is thought to be one of the smartest birds in the world and is the only alpine parrot.

IMAGINE THIS SCENE:  A man and a woman are watching “Country Calendar” on the television in their house on a lonely sheep station near Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand.  The woman gets up from the couch to get some tea.  She hears a fainting tapping on the front door.

“John,”  she calls out, a little alarmed.  “There’s someone here.” 

She peers through the door’s sidelight window and sees a bloody hand smearing the glass.  “Oh, my God, John.”

"What I'd really like is a roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing."

"This isn't as tasty as that roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing that I stole from those stupid tourists the other day."

John rushes to the front hall.  “What is it?” 

“A man.  He’s hurt.  He needs help.”

John looks through the window.  “Jill don’t open the door.”   He gets a cricket bat from a closet.  He motions to his wife to get back as he opens the door. 

The stranger struggles to stand on the porch.  “They took it,” he snuffles miserably.  He weakly lifts his arm.  His shirt cuff  is shredded. 

“What did they take?”

“My Rolex,” he cries, collapsing on the porch. “My wife.  Oh, my God, my wife.  They took her jewelry. Her gold earrings.  She’ll die without those.  We didn’t have insurance.”

“Who did this?”  John walks out onto the porch to help the man to his feet.

"I know there's some food in there.  You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

"I know there's some food in there. You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

“They’re coming. Don’t let them in.”  The stranger puts his hands over his head, whimpering.  “I saved for months for that watch. It was so cooool. Now it’s gone…….It isn’t right.  They don’t even need to tell time.”

An eerie sound pierces the air.   “Keaaah!  Keaaah!”  Seemingly out of nowhere, a flock of green birds swoops in, a flash of red under their wings as they dive toward the open door.

“John, John!”  Jill yells, terrified.  John starts flailing at the birds. 

A few birds swoop toward Jill.  She barely gets the door closed in time.  The birds flap at the window for a few moments, and then they disappear.  John and Jill help the stranger to a chair.  “It’s too late,” the stranger says.  “You can’t escape them. They won’t stop until they get it all.” 

“You’re safe now,” Jill soothes, heading toward the kitchen.  “I’ll get some tea.”

The two men hear a noise, something rustling.  Wings.  Screeching.  They hear Jill scream, “Oh, my God, the kitchen window is open!”

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Preserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“Cut,” the director calls out.  The actors are relieved. Those Kea really play their parts well.  (It’s all acting, folks!  Keas do like shiny objects, though.)

The birds retreat to their perches, where they get the star treatment they deserve — plenty of mango, figs and even spoonsful of honey.

Wouldn’t this be a great scene for the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” ? A new version of “The Birds” is in the works and scheduled  for release in 2011, maybe in 3-D, with Naomi Watts and George Clooney.  The Kea parrots of New Zealand would be the perfect birds to star with A-listers in the dramatically beautiful country of New Zealand.   Super producer Michael Bay, are you listening! 

A flock of these cheeky, brilliant, mischievous and curious parrots could almost take over the world, if they wanted to.  They work well in teams to solve puzzles.  (See videos below.)  

Keas are clownishly adorable and pose no real threat to humans.  Fortunately, Keas are more likely to run off with your sandwich, snatch a gold earring or rip the rubber edging from your car.  There are so few Keas now — 1,000 to 5,000 — they are in serious danger of disappearing altogether.  They’d have to be replicated by computer generated images to produce enough Kea parrots to create a menancing flock.  There were tens of thousands of them as recently as forty years ago. They were named Kea by the Maori for the “Keaa!” cries they make.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

Their numbers have fallen drastically for a number of reasons, including a bounty that was once placed on them because they do take a bite out of livestock now and then.  They also killed by poison set out to kill possums.  Keas, now protected, are an endangered bird on the South Island of New Zealand, the only place in the world where they naturally occur.  They live in the harsh conditions of the New Zealand Alps, eating a wide range of food from fruit and seeds to other birds and carrion.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

New Zealand’s spectacular scenery, already featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would be a perfect location for this new version of “The Birds”.  Naomi Watts is rumored to be in “talks” to take the role originally played by Tippi Hedren in the Alfred Hitchcock version of the Daphne Du Maurier short story, originally set in Cornwall. Watts has already starred in King Kong in New Zealand under LOTR director Peter Jackson, so she’s familiar with the terrain. And who wouldn’t want to visit New Zealand again?

 

The third video is one I took at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Filed under Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Entertainment, Environment, Humor, Life, Movies, Nature, New Zealand, Personal, Photography, Travel

Old Photographs of the Famous and the Not-So-Famous

My mother is holding me outside the White House in the 1950s.  Look how stylishly everyone is dressed.

A collector just paid $50,000 for a tiny photograph of a barely discernible Abraham Lincoln standing outside the White House. Almost a hundred years later, my father photographed me in my mother's arms outside the White House. Collectors aren't clamoring to buy this photograph, but that's okay, because it's priceless!

In January, Ulysses S. Grant VI discovered a photograph in his great-great-grandfather’s album of President Abraham Lincoln standing next to the White House.  Lincoln is especially “hot” right now, because his birthday was 200 years ago this year.   A collector paid Grant $50,000 for the tiny photograph, which is thought to be the last one taken of Lincoln. (See story at the bottom.)

I’ve been looking through old family photographs, too.    My mother just acquired a stack of old sepia and black and white photographs left by relatives who’d died.  Are they worth anything?  Heck, yes!  They have enormous sentimental value.  Monetary value?  Unlikely. (We do have a blurry photograph of President Dwight Eisenhower.  Collectors?)

Photography collector Keya Morgan holds what he believes is a rare, unpublished photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the only image of the 16th president in front of the White House and the last sitting of Lincoln in 1865 before he died, in Beverly Hills, Calif., Friday, March 6, 2009.  The image by photographer Henry F. Warren was uncovered in the personal album of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Photography collector Keya Morgan holds what he believes is a rare, unpublished photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the only image of the 16th president in front of the White House and the last sitting of Lincoln in 1865 before he died, in Beverly Hills, Calif., Friday, March 6, 2009. The image by photographer Henry F. Warren was uncovered in the personal album of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Some are duplicates my parents made for my grandparents, including photographs of my young parents holding me at various tourist spots in the Washington. D.C. area, where we lived.  I don’t remember seeing these photographs before.  It’s great to see my parents in their youth before I really knew them.

Others are of long-dead relatives, but who are they?  Why aren’t there any names or dates?  Even if I don’t know who they are, I can’t toss these portals into the past. There are First Communions (twin brothers solemnly holding lit candles and prayerbooks), weddings, family reunions (Hey, I recognize those eyebrows!), school groups and a group shot of  the band at Fort Meade, South Dakota, in 1898.

Through the years, photographs pile up  — a record of people our descendants never knew and may not care about.  Tossed in a box, the photographs curl in the damp basement or fade in the attic.  Worse, they might appear on some comical greeting card!  

How many millions and millions of old photographs are out there?  If you laid them end to end would they reach to the moon?  Digital cameras make it so easy to document every event, no matter how trivial or ridiculous (I’m guilty!).  Even your phone is a camera. Most of these digital shots don’t make it into print and are almost as ephemeral as the moments they captured.  Maybe this is a good thing, some would say.  Live in the moment, save some trees and chemicals.   As for me, I’m glad to visit these moments frozen in time.

My father is holding me at Mt. Vernon, Virginia, George Washington's home, which was just down the road from Fort Belvoir, where my dather was stationed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

My father is holding me at Mt. Vernon, Virginia, George Washington's home, which was just down the road from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where my father was stationed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

WASHINGTON – A collector believes a photograph from a private album of Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant shows President Abraham Lincoln in front of the White House and could be the last image taken of him before he was assassinated in 1865.

If it is indeed Lincoln, it would be the only known photo of the 16th president in front of the executive mansion and a rare find, as only about 130 photos of him are known to exist. A copy of the image was provided to The Associated Press.

Grant’s 38-year-old great-great-grandson, Ulysses S. Grant VI, had seen the picture before, but didn’t examine it closely until late January. A tall figure in the distance caught his eye, although the man’s facial features are obscured.

He called Keya Morgan, a New York-based photography collector and Lincoln aficionado, who helped identify it as Lincoln.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know who this is, Keya,’” said Grant, a Springfield, Mo., construction business owner.

Although authenticating the 2 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch photo beyond a shadow of a doubt could be difficult, several historians who looked at it said the evidence supporting Morgan’s claim is compelling and believable.

Morgan talked Grant into taking the photo out of the album and examining it for clues, such as the identity of the photographer.

“Not knowing who the photographer is is like not knowing who your mother or father is,” Morgan told Grant.

Grant carefully removed it and was shocked to see the handwritten inscription on the back: “Lincoln in front of the White House.” Grant believes his great-grandfather, Jesse Grant, the general’s youngest son, wrote the inscription.

Also included was the date 1865, the seal of photographer Henry F. Warren, and a government tax stamp that was issued for such photos to help the Civil War effort between 1864 and 1866.

Morgan recalled the well-documented story of Warren’s trip to Washington to photograph Lincoln after his second inauguration in March 1865. Lincoln was killed in April, so the photo could be the last one taken of him.

Warren, a commercial photographer from Massachusetts, enticed Lincoln into his frame shortly after the inauguration by taking pictures of young Tad Lincolnand asking the boy to bring his father along for a pose, according to the book, “Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose,” by Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf.

“This is the first act of paparazzi ever toward a president,” Morgan said. “Lincoln is not too happy at all.”

Historians say it has been decades since a newfound Lincoln image was fully authenticated. And in the Grant photo, it’s not obvious to the naked eye who is standing in front of the executive mansion.

You can see the White House, a short gate that once lined the building, and, on the lawn, a Thomas Jefferson statue that was later replaced with a fountain. Five people can be seen standing in front of the building. The tall man’s face is obscured, but zooming in on the image with a computer reveals a telling beard.

“Once you scan it and blow it up, you can see the whole scenario — there’s a giant standing near the White House,” Morgan said.

At 6-foot-4, Lincoln was the tallest U.S. president.

Morgan, who has sold photographs of Lincoln and other historical figures to the Smithsonian Institution, the White House and others, said he purchased the image from Grant for $50,000 in February. It will be added to Morgan’s $25 million collection of Lincoln artifacts and original images.

Several historians say Morgan has a good case.

Will Stapp, who was the founding curator of the National Portrait Gallery‘s photographs department and who now appraises fine art and photographs, said he’s usually cynical about such claims. But he said he was “very satisfied that it’s Lincoln” in the picture.

“It looks to me like Lincoln’s physique,” he said. “I can see his hairline. I can see the shadow of his beard.”

White House curatorWilliam Allman said the photo appears to include Lincoln. “I guess there’s always an element of doubt,” he said. “It feels pretty likely, though.”

Even if it’s not Lincoln, it would be among the oldest photographs of the White House.

Lincoln artifacts have recently been hot commodities leading up to the 200th anniversary of his birth, and President Barack Obama has evoked his memory several times for his work to unify the nation.

The significance of the photo is difficult to judge, Stapp said. It does show the relative freedom Lincoln had compared with presidents today, and offers a unique view of the White House from the 1860s, he said.

“We don’t so much think of (Lincoln) as living at the White House,” Stapp said. “In that respect, I think it’s an important find.”

Keya Morgan Collection: Lincoln Images.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, History, Humor, Life, Personal, Photography, Presidents, Random

National Grammar Day

This one-room school house once stood in Piper, Kansas.  It's now one of the exhibits at the Agricultural Museum and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

This one-room school house once stood in Piper, Kansas. It's now one of the exhibits at the Agricultural Museum and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Many a sentence was diagrammed here.

I partied really hard yesterday on Square Root Day yesterday (03/03/09).  After all, it only happens nine times a century.  The next one won’t happen until 04/04/2016.   However, after so much calculating, National Grammar Day today caught me completely by surprise!  In fact, I’m going to make this short to minimize my chances for a grammar goof-up.  

To learn more about how you can celebrate, click on National Grammar Day.  You can even listen to music in the Bad Grammar Hall of Fame, including one of my favorites, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

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Filed under Education, Humor, Kansas, Life, Personal, Random, Writing

Clouds

Clouds in the late afternoon sky in my neighborhood on March 2, 2009.

Clouds in the late afternoon sky in my neighborhood on March 2, 2009.

 

Another late-afternoon view of clouds in my neighborhood on MArch 2, 2009.

Another late-afternoon view of clouds in my neighborhood on March 2, 2009.

I was driving home from an appointment when I noticed the sky above with filled with clouds in a pattern like corduroy. I couldn’t wait to get home and grab my camera to take some photographs.  We don’t have mountains or oceans in Kansas, but we do have some awesome cloud formations!

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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Orion's Belt, a photo by Martin Mutti.

Orion's Belt, a photograph by Martin Mutti.

So many people (ok, five…)  told me they liked the photograph at the top of my “Starry, Starry Night” post (that photograph is from flickr.com) that I’m posting a NASA website (see below) that archives a photograph each day of an astronomy feature.  I chose Orion’s Belt to illustrate this post, because it’s my favorite constellation — probably because it’s easy to identify.  Also,  the night sky here in Kansas in the winter, when Orion appears, is usually clear.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
The NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day website explains the photograph above:  Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka are the bright bluish stars from east to west (left to right) along the diagonal in this gorgeous cosmic vista taken by Martin Mutti. Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion,  these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie about 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion’s well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of gas and dust adrift in  this region have intriguing and some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark  Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula near Alnitak at the lower left. The famous Orion Nebula itself lies off the bottom of this star field that covers about 4.5×3.5 degrees on the sky.  Mutti took this image in January 2009 with a digital camera attached to a small telescope in Switzerland.  It better matches  human color perception than a more detailed composite taken more than 15 years ago.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive.

“Starry, Starry Night.”

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