In June a Eurail pass took us around Finland. Dogs are welcome in their own section of the train:
But I saw they are treated even better in Washington Dulles airport:
One very remote station close to the Russian border was so small there was no platform, or even rail staff – just this dog guarding everything:
On seeing us he looked happier thinking fresh meat might have arrived:
That station was only about 10 km from the Russian border where Rubles seem to have leaked across judging by the size of the Dachas, some with trilingual “Keep Out” signs in their gardens in Russian, English and then finally Finnish.
A fine trail through the woods, where we fed the meat-eating mosquitos,
had this surprising sign:
I’d thought we were in the original home of cross country skiing? Or perhaps the sign just means don’t squat when skiing?
The Finns have a great new (to me) “nano-material” waxless ski base which is reportedly very effective between and freezing and -10 C snow temperatures. The material feels like the finest texture seal skin with its one way slide and stick in the other direction. It totally replaces the large fish-scale waxless surfaces of old. I found some in overstocked sports stores because, thanks to last winter’s climate change, the Helsinki snow was so sparse that I had more days skiing in Toledo, Ohio than they had. I was thrilled to find a great set for about 300 Euros, and tried to ship them Fed Ex because we were flying with just hand baggage. The only problem was that Fed Ex would have wanted 800 Euros just for the shipping!
Way north, at the Arctic Circle the sun never set on June 20th. This photo taken at 11:00 pm searched for a small gap in the leafy trees to show the sun’s position, without over-saturating the iPhone’s pixels.
Turning around, to face due South (think about it!) the tree acted as a pinhole light source and gave this nice sharp shadow.
Even at 2:00 am this view looking due north shows an ever-present sun:
The irony was that right then there was a huge solar storm with Northern Lights visible elsewhere (at night) as far south as Atlanta, Georgia. Of course, in Lapland in June we saw absolutely nothing because there was no darkness to the night! In their long nights of winter they typically see the lights weekly.
Near Santa’s village right on the Arctic Circle there is a line in the ground to prove it. Sorry I forgot the check its accuracy with my phone GPS! We were still only about ¾ of the way from the equator to the North Pole (about 22 more degrees of latitude needed).
We met “Rudolph”. He did not look too fierce, but was definitely grumpy,
so we only fed this young one:
The reindeer are herded in for tourists for a few months and then turned back out into the Taiga to keep them “fresh”.
This young herder is drinking his coffee from his traditional birch wood “kuksa”
– same design as the one this delicious (reindeer!) soup was served in,
followed by (pseudo) Lichen and ice cream:
Magnificent Lupins were everywhere, alongside highways and railroad tracks:
Some Finns say they come from Russia and are not always welcomed! Only in the special sand of Oak Openings can we grow them in Ohio. I have repeatedly demonstrated they do not like the Maumee River clay of my garden.
The trip included my presenting a paper on breaking glass (spandrels) at the big biennial GPD meeting in Tampere. The noisy end-of-conference party nearly added some more broken glass. Click the link below to see:
Back home in Perrysburg my bees are doing battle with small hive beetles, robber bees from some other hive, an emerald color fly, and wasps. My best hive only had a few beetles, but the other hive had swarmed, taking the queen with them. It now looks like the rascals went to my neighbor’s empty hive about a quarter mile away. The remaining large number of workers seemed unable to keep the beetles out without a queen to guide them, or to keep out robber bees who stole almost all the honey. I’m not in favor of monarchies but on occasion it seems that they might have some utility!
At this time of year the hives smell of honey, especially on a sunny hot day, and it attracts others. Here are three clips of the fights you see at the front door as others try to enter, including pretty rough treatment of a darker color alien robber bee from another hive. Amazingly the attacked bee seems to suffer no damage and usually eventually flies off. I think bees do have little teeth. They certainly can shred a newspaper barrier when I put one between different levels. I would have thought their bites to antennae and wings would do damage?
There are now 2 Cross-Country ski trails open along the Maumee riverside at Perrysburg for would-be winter fliers.
I groom both trails, usually on a daily basis, unless I’m out of town, or the temperature is below 15 F ( -10 C). This week the “Frisky Fox” trail certainly qualified as a ‘Winter Flier’ because of its awesome speed. A week ago the temperature rose to 50 F (+10 C) and then quickly dropped below freezing, but not before the set tracks froze firm. After that both trails had the lightest dusting of fine, flour texture, powder snow and have been awesome fast. Fortunately “Bunny Hop” is mostly level and can be easily handled, but the Fox is almost too frisky right now for all but the most reckless!
The easy 20 minute “Bunny Hop” run starts at Riverside Park just upstream from the Perrysburg Boat Club at Louisiana Ave.
The groomed trail runs west along the grassy path of Water Street and follows a wild life corridor around the old abandoned skating rink in Orleans Park. Watch for deer hoof prints in the snow. They, and the coyote, like that trail. They also leave droppings which may or may not alter your ski wax application! Here are the prints of goose wing feathers as they made a hurried take-off down the slope. The snow was too soft for them to get a good foothold:
The more challenging “Frisky Fox” run takes an hour on a good day.
It starts at the cannons, from the original USS Constitution, on the hill at the east end of Riverside Park. Follow the groomed trail down the hill to the river’s edge, then up and down through the trees, back and forth across the straight and level Bunny Hop trail.
At Orleans Park the trail goes under the Maumee/Perrysburg bridge, around Fort Meigs, and back. The north face of the Fort is steep and fast so clockwise around the Fort gives the fastest run down the slope. I’ve just reset that part further west to avoid the toboggan runs which quickly get very icy. Anti-clockwise around the fort is recommended if you like it a little slower.
These two trail maps were created with the free “Trail Explorer” iPhone ap from the Sierra Club. It plots your trail, to within 30 ft (10 m), records altitude climbed and descended, and calculates average and peak speeds. (So far it says I’ve only attained a miserable 12 mph but that’s quite fast enough on cross-country skis for now).
When it warmed up last Sunday many bees flew out to relieve themselves for the first time in months:
Don’t eat the yellow snow!
Some landed on the snow which cooled them too much and they could never fly again. Hopefully they were only the feeble old ones who are not needed for the spring rebirth?
Down by the river two swans did fly by, but this elegant winter flier has hung around for a week. The Ringed Kingfisher was diving down to the last of the unfrozen water. He can swivel his head nearly a full circle while searching for food:
I get the feeling I’m helping replicate the evolutionary development of the flying squirrel. Not content with eating on the ground the spilt seed from the birdfeeder, the squirrels now insist on eating at the source. They climb along the window sill, past the powerless cats,
They evade the deterrent wires I put there, and then leap to the feeder.
With lines and pulleys the feeder is now about 25 ft (8 m) up in the air and at least 8 ft (2.5 m) out from the house.
All it does is select the more agile animals. When I bang on the window the squirrel leaps from the feeder, spreads 4 paws and does a good, aerodynamic, laminar flow, glider-suit style descent.
(The following 2 videos may need you to click OK for Quicktime to play them)
With a good launch they land at least 10 ft out from take-off point. Now a glide angle of 10 forward for a 25 drop would not have satisfied the Wright Brothers, but it is a definite start in evolutionary progress. Some though, when stuffed with bird seed, are too fat to fly and do drop straight to the snow. As you can see, no squirrels were harmed in these feedings!
I Foolishly tried to connect through Chicago airport while travelling last month (January) – big mistake. Winter flying demands a few good books to help with the inevitable 2, 4, and 18 hour weather delays of the last 3 trips. Following images are from some of those flights.
The deicers can spray all they want,
but it is still not comfortable when you can’t see out the window for ice and slush as you taxi for take-off.
Once airborne the air stream slowly blows most of it off,
but even an hour after take-off there was still deicing fluid oozing out of the wing .
I tried to photograph the snow in the flash of the plane’s strobe every 5 seconds but could not catch it. One can’t hold an iPhone ‘shutter’ open for a time exposure, so I simply took a video and deleted all the frames which had no strobe flash to get the following photo:
You know coming in for a landing in snow is an issue when the pilots turn on the spotlight to see if snow and ice are accumulating on the wings:
Back home Pinot
finally downed my little miracle $35 remote controlled helicopter ‘Winter Flier’.
No damage – it’s virtually indestructible. What an amazing toy for boys!
And finally I have to admire this elegant ice crystal ‘Winter Flier’ apparently trying to jump like the squirrel
or perhaps more like the drones being ejected from the hive.
I’m assured that there really are no true coincidences – just apparent ones, but when a surprising coincidence happens it can feel slightly strange. Carl Jung considered them as “Synchronicities” and seemed to legitimately hope for them to have some significance. Others, such as Arthur Koestler (“The Roots of Coincidence”) abused their journalistic skills to paint too optimistic a case for their hidden meanings. Meanwhile parapsychology, which tried to exploit them and had some serious recognition in the 1960s to 1980s, has now effectively dropped off the map thanks in part to the excellent exposé work by James Randi and Martin Gardner (who recently did declare himself a theist before dying). Nevertheless we should keep an open mind at all times, no matter what our inner convictions. Progress has only been made possible by those willing to consider new ideas.
A most common apparent coincidence is the unexpected meeting of two people, often in odd places. In a Globular Cluster of stars living near the outer edges of the central bulge of galaxies, one could expect many ‘meetings’, just on a simple mathematical basis. Globular clusters contain a few hundred thousand stars orbiting on random axes but the seemingly peculiar coincidence is that they hardly ever collide, even though they have been gravitationally attracted to, and have been orbiting, each other for as long, or even longer, than the ~10 billion year age of the host galaxy.
M80 Globular Cluster
Credit:PIC “A Swarm of Ancient Stars – GPN-2000-000930” by NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI, AURA – Great Images in NASA Description.
For billions of years they pass by each other without the ‘coincidence’ of two of the stars hardly ever ‘meeting’ or colliding. The reason is that though they are all gravitationally attracted to each other each the space between those stars is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times greater than the size of all those stars taken together. (Don’t be misled by the apparent large size of one illuminated pixel in the photo – the star itself is much smaller).
Back on earth, where people live a lot closer to each other, I’ve always been amused by the coincidence of the seemingly unusual ‘meetings’ which do occur. Here are some true cases I collected over the years:
1. On leaving the Toledo Museum of Art this week, we were followed by our neighbor, and museum director, Brian who we thanked for a very professionally run Area Artist’s Show, excellent food in the museum café, and of course our free charge up for the electric Nissan Leaf. Maybe there were only a few hundred people there that night but the chances of our going out the door together had to be greater than a few hundred to 1?2. Finally got to see the sinfully hilarious “Book of Mormon” this week, in a happy and full house of about 2400 people. In the seats right beside us were Stan Joehlin and his wife who we’d not seen since his small party for glass specialists given last summer. Odds: Much greater than 1 in 2400?Click here to see one of the many great numbers in it:
3. But similar people do similar things and go to similar places: so when travelling in the East many years ago, more often than not, I would run across a fellow traveler friend at one of the many embassy and consulate visits where we’d obtain needed visas for the travels. But when I ended up on Toronto Island I was surprised to meet, on the ferry boat, a fellow traveler I’d not seen or hear of since 10 years ago in the Tibetan café in Katmandu where we sheltered for months while waiting for the 1964 Indian-Pakistan war to end.
(This is not my friend but it was my favorite public bath in town back then)
4. While a guest at a Pittsburgh wedding in a great cathedral 12 years ago I was a little alarmed when the weather turned and thunder boomed only when the couple spoke their vows. I hope they are still happily married?
5. In Toledo 14 years ago we were warned of a test run of the local tornado sirens to be held at 10:00 am next day. At 9:58 am a most ferocious storm rolled in and no one knew how to interpret the sirens that blared two minutes later.
6. Twelve years ago in Perrysburg the old Maumee river bridge was scheduled to be demolished by explosives on a quiet Sunday morning. 15 minutes before the explosion I counted the largest flock (51 birds) of Turkey Vultures that I ever saw, before or since, circling (anticipating?) overhead.
7. I have 2 night blooming Epiphyllum (aka wrongly as Cereus) plants, previously split from one plant many years ago. The blossom only opens for one night and then expires. One of the plants lives upstairs by an East facing window, the other is downstairs by a South facing window. As you can imagine, their micro-climates are quite different, yet 4 years ago they both only blossomed once in the whole year, but amazingly, or not, they both chose the exact same night to open up that year.
8. About 30 years ago I was sheltering from heavy rain, standing under a palm tree near a beach about 100 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Talking to one of the other strangers there, it turned out that his cousin married my cousin! (Well perhaps not that very odd: there about 110 of us there for the Laser sailing championships, with only a few from each country. And I was interested in talking to the only another one with an Irish accent).
9. After struggling with a related NYTimes X-Word puzzle clue, I asked Susan if “Confucius was confusing”? The next day the Financial Times had the following item headline: “Confucius Confusion. (Nobel) Peace prize winner stays away”.
10. When sailing across the Atlantic, we had no wind one day and so motored. For man-overboard practice we threw over a life jacket and returned to look for it after a few minutes. When we got to the spot a pod of dolphins were circling it and waiting for us it seemed.
11. A coincidence that fortunately did not happen concerned a 2 day press announcement I attended for a new glass product that was to have been held in early September. For commercial reasons the date was brought forward by a few months and so missed what would have been a tragic (for me) coincidence. The year was 2001 and the location was the New York World Trade Center.
12. This month we went to New York by train. Arriving at Penn Station on a dark wet night and waiting in a long line for a cab, I was surprised when the man immediately in front of us turned and recognized me. Sean Lawton had worked with me in the glass business 10 years previously. If I know 10 people in that city, and 10 million live there, does that make it more than 1 in a million odds of our meeting?
(I do know that you only need about 23 people in a room to have a 50/50 chance of 2 of them having their birthday on the same day and month date.)
13. Before leaving New York we had tea and chocolate with Alen and Leslie in Saks 5th Avenue (hard to find a quiet spot in Manhattan), and then admired the holiday decorated windows for on our way out. At 4:00 am next morning, on the train back to Toledo, we were very surprised to see ourselves in front of those same decorated windows again in the Style and Fashion section of the on-line NY Times.More photos of the magnificent windows are at: Saks 5th Avenue Windows
It’s hard to believe that coincidences are caused by some unknown force, but there sure are some funny things happening out there!
Even though ‘true’ coincidences may mean absolutely nothing, I’d love to add to the collection. Do you have any good ones to share?
Have a great Winter Solstice tonight (Dec 21) and Enjoy the Holidays.
14. My brother Phillip reminded me of a good one I’d forgotten: Fifty years ago I was at Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, in a remote part of Ethiopia, which really is in quite a remote corner of Africa. I begged for a chance to try a reed canoe:
I had to carry it on my head, down to the water’s edge. The paddle was simply a bamboo rod, with no blades. Though the boat shape was good, it was not watertight and so behaved more like a raft with water seeping up between the reeds, while giving me a very wet seat at the same time. The locals were delighted
and all happily came to help carry it back to its owner when I was finished. The relevant coincidence is that I stayed a day or two in a remote little inn there while awaiting a ferry across the lake (it would only depart when full so everybody waited) to travel on down the Nile. I signed the inn’s guest book, with little thought. I was aware of Dervla Murphy, a Dublin nurse and traveller who’d ridden a bike to India two years earlier, and published her story “Full Tilt”, before going on to work in Nepal, but I’d never met her. I did not know she was then just a few days behind me on her latest project: ‘Walking Across Ethiopia With a Mule’. She stopped in the same very small inn at Lake Tana and was so surprised to see my name and Dublin address in the guest book that she quoted it in full in her next book. Many years later, with the book long out of print, my brother’s tennis partner in England, Gil, happened to read a copy of “Across Ethiopia by Mule” and asked him if he’d ever heard of Chris Barry from Churchtown, Dublin. Imagine her surprise when he told her it was his brother!
15. Scott just offered these 2 good ones:
… A guy that I only know as VK, with whom I work at Bosch was on a
plane from Bangalore to Coimbatore and I happened to see him
boarding. He was on a personal trip to visit some relatives in
the Coimbatore area. Would be hard to be farther from home (Michigan) and
yet I still found an acquaintance on the plane.
16. Jenni just happened to take a plane flight with Jim Fris. between
Dallas and Detroit, she to visit her relatives and he his. Maybe
an even bigger coincidence for it to be such a good friend!