Monday, April 30, 2018

Life finds a way

No new blooms today. Still waiting on tulips, lilacs, and azaleas, and rhododendrons and irises are a few weeks away. But the sun came out for a few hours this afternoon, and I decided to take advantage of the natural light to grab some photos of things that have been around a while..

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Not sure what this is, but I was glad it stopped flopping around in the breeze long enough to stay in focus. If you were putting together a wildflower bouquet, this could substitute for Baby's Breath.

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Violets, so tiny and low-growing, easy to miss, easy to just mow over.

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Once again, high-contrast monochrome brings out detail that color obscures.

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Last year I cut down a Black Walnut that had sprung up between the composter and the shed to be over eight feet tall in just a few months. This year the part of the trunk I left on the ground is covered with these handsome shelf fungi.

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Even yet more forsythia blossoms.

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Moss on a cinder block.

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Lichen on a cherry tree. (Probably Flavoparmelia caperata.)

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Grape hyacinths.

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Bonus shot: wispy clouds in a sunny sky.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Nanticoke construction project update

The Nanticoke construction project is nearly 2/3 done, at least according to the original timeline. At least, assuming this isn't just the first phase of something bigger. Which it's beginning to feel like it is. The latest update:

Update, April 29, 2018: Kosciuszko Street Turning Circle opens to Espy Street and up to Prospect Street May 1; Prospect Street Turning Circle construction to begin. 
From the Nanticoke City Fire Department:
As per Kriger Construction, May 1st is the date set for the opening of the Kosciuszko St. Roundabout to have access to Espy St. into the Hanover section of the City and local traffic to homes located between Espy St. & Prospect St. With this opening, the intersection of Prospect St & Middle Rd. will be CLOSED to all traffic as construction will begin on the new roundabout.

This is a pretty big deal to me, personally. The Espy Street turning circle was the first one built, and it was a huge improvement. No longer did people turning left from Espy Street onto Middle Road need to accelerate to 70 mph from a standing stop just to avoid getting t-boned by people speeding down from Kosciuszko Street. It also gave people an opportunity to get in some practice for the additional turning circles which were coming.

Unfortunately, the Kosciuszko Street turning circle construction project cut me off from using the Espy Street turning circle, and along with the construction on Middle Road heading east from Kosciuszko, cut me off from another alternate route to work. Middle Road is still closed heading east, but I expect that will be the next part to open. Even so, I think that option will no longer exist.

Here is what Route 29 looked like prior to the construction project:

Here's what it looks like in the most recent satellite image on Google Maps:

The new road - labeled "South Valley Parkway" - is visible as a road arcing above and parallel to Route 29, interconnecting with it in a strange double arc and featuring three nearly random turning circles.

The Parkway will eventually connect with South Main Street / Middle Road on the left
But the question is, to what end? This was a hell of a lot of effort and expense to route traffic around a few dozen homes on Middle Road. Are there additional businesses moving into the area now opened up by this road? Will those be more warehouse and call center jobs, paying just over minimum wage? Will there be an effort to attract technologically sophisticated jobs to retain some of the thousands of college graduates who move out of Northeastern Pennsylvania each year? Or will, perhaps, a new prison be built in the area, as some have suggested?

And what else is going on in the area? A great many trees have been cut down recently near the Sans Souci Parkway. Why? And why are trees being cleared along a ridge on Plymouth Mountain, as though a road is going to be put there? Someone knows the answers, to be sure. But I don't. Not yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

First lawnmowing, and grape hyacinths

It was supposed to rain today,and I was sorely disappointed all day yesterday that I wouldn't be able to mow the lawn. What the hell is wrong with me?

As it was, we had heavy dew last night, but the rain wasn't supposed to hit until midday today. It hardly seemed like there would be enough time for the dew to burn off so I could mow part of the lawn before the rain hit. But it was still sunny and warm by noon, so I decided to chance it. I pulled the mower (with last year's gas still in the tank) out of the shed, cleared out whatever sort of nest had been made under the deck out of leaves and bits of foam from an old egg crate mattress that had been used years before for insulation in a cat shelter, fired it up, and started mowing. I got about two-thirds of the lawn mowed, everything but the front. By then the tank was nearly empty, the dark clouds were rolling in, and it seemed like a good time to stop.

I spotted some flowers I wanted to photograph, along with some interesting fungus, moss, and lichen. I went inside, got my camera, sat down on the freshly-mowed lawn, and managed to get a photo of some grape hyacinths that I would swear weren't around my cherry trees yesterday...

...when the camera shut down and displayed the words BATTERY EXHAUSTED.

Ah, well. I guess now I will have to count on there being another sunny day soon.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dandelion closeup

The image of a dandelion I posted yesterday was a low-resolution copy. Here is a high-resolution version. It's easy to see that this humble little weed that adds such an amazing brilliance to our yards and gardens isn't a single flower, but a composite cluster of numerous smaller flowers. Click on the image below to see a large version.

The ghostly high-contrast monochrome version, while slightly blurred (an unfortunate side effect of taking freehand extreme close-up photos of flowers that bob and sway in the slightest wind), reveals some interesting details not obvious in the color version.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cherry blossoms, April 26, 2018

This morning no cherry buds on my trees had begun to open. This afternoon, quite a few were.

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Bonus: Forsythia blossoms are going are dandelions.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Who needs sleep?

I usually sleep, at most, about five hours on a worknight. Even when I was working a very physically demanding job, I rarely got more than six hours of sleep. On a weekend I might allow myself eight hours if I get to bed early, but I usually wake up feeling like I'm wasting time sleeping, time that could have - well, could have been wasted on something else.

How much sleep do people typically get? I hear eight hours as a recommended minimum all the time, but I can't imagine finding the time to get that much sleep on a regular basis.

Oh, well, time for bed. If I'm asleep in five minutes and the cats let me sleep through the night, I could get up to four and a half hours before my alarm goes off.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blooms and blossoms delayed

It's April 24th, 2018, and my cherry trees aren't in bloom yet. My irises haven't bloomed either. Nor have my tulips. The daffodils are nearly spent. Once they are, I'll be able to dig them up, divide them, and spread them around a bit.

I just had frost on my windshield yesterday, but already my lawn could use a mowing.

The tomato seedlings are coming along nicely - whichever ones have survived. I may have mostly Roma plum tomatoes, or none at all. I sort of last track. We'll find out in a few months, I guess. It's probably not too late to start a few more seeds...

Monday, April 23, 2018


Me, after coming home from work 45 minutes late, taking my mom to physical therapy, going grocery shopping, scouting out a new view from Holy Trinity Cemetery, and taking my mom home from physical therapy: I'd like to go out and get some photos today, but I don't really feel like running out again. Besides, it's not like there won't be any more sunny days.

Me, a few minutes later: To hell with that. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. There may not be any more sunny days. Get those photos now.

So, with the sun rapidly sinking in the west, I went back to the cemetery and reshot the Nanticoke Panorama from a slightly different angle, and with much better lighting:

Click to zoom. See original post for details.

I then ran out to the Shickshinny Boat Launch (latitude 41.178696, longitude -76.106361 - put that in Google Maps and you'll be able to see exactly where I was standing) and took some new photos of the Susquehanna from more-or-less the same place I took the original image back on April 1:

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Overall, I'm glad I went out and got these photos. I'm glad I didn't presume to wait on another sunny day.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The floating cross

When we stopped at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Newport Township last week to locate my great-grandparents's grave, something unusual caught my eye, something that I decided I would have to follow up on later. Just a few rows away, a cross appeared to be floating over the cemetery.

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It wasn't, of course. Instead it looked like an elegant solution to a problem: a cross had broken at the bottom, and was now supported by a wire frame that preserved the remnants of the original but kept the shape of the original. But thinking about it a bit more, I realized that wasn't the case.

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What was holding up the cross was actually the wire frame on which the cross - a home-made grave marker - had been built.

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The base of the cross had been broken off, or dissolved away from exposure to acid rain over the decades. How many decades? It was impossible to tell - just as it was impossible to tell for whom the cross was intended to serve as a memorial.

The cross has broken glass of several colors incorporated into it, or pressed onto the surface.

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Perhaps eighty or ninety years ago someone died and was buried. Someone else cared enough to build a wire frame and pour a cross of concrete around it, carefully incorporating colorful bits of broken glass into it. Now, the cross is breaking down, the name of the person it honors lost to history, or buried in the annals of the Holy Trinity Cemetery. But for the moment it remains hanging on a wire frame above the surface of the cemetery, a testament to the love of the builder for the person buried here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


We'll be changing shifts again at work soon.  For the past six months or so I've been working a 6:00 AM to 2:30 PM M-F shift. This has worked out for me quite well for a number of reasons, despite having to be out of bed by about 3:30 each morning. I don't know what shift I will be working come June, but it will definitely be very different.

I swapped days off this week with someone so he could go to a wedding this weekend. I had Thursday and Friday off, and I'm working his Saturday and Sunday. He starts a half-hour later than me, and his breaks are at different times. It's enough of a difference to have knocked me for a loop. Whatever my new shift will be, it's going to be one heck of an adjustment.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Nanticoke panorama

Panorama 1, April 20, 2018. Click on the image to see in higher resolution
Panorama 2, April 23, 2018

Panoramic view of Nanticoke as seen from Holy Trinity Cemetery in Newport Township.

Five churches can be seen here:

St. Stanislaus (now closed) on the far left, orange and copper-green with a gray roof on the domed steeple;

St. Joseph (now closed), brick red with a dark steeple, partially obscured by trees;

Holy Trinity (now St. Faustina Main Site), tawny yellow with a dark steeple;

St. John Slovak Lutheran, yellow-orange with a dark steeple;

and St. Mary's (now St. Faustina Secondary Site), brick red with a gray steeple.

The image is level, the far landscape actually slopes up from left (north) to right (south), while the grounds of the cemetery drop off on a sharp hill.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 21

See here for the official Record Store Day site!

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From Facebook page of Joe Nardone's Gallery of Sound

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From Facebook page of Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA
Record Store Day is an annual event (first held in April 2008) that celebrates independent record stores, record culture, and the art of music on vinyl. Record stores are becoming fewer in number every year as more people chose to download or stream music, and many who choose to buy physical records or CDs do so through online retailers. Participating record stores often feature special promotional items for Record Store Day, so stop by your local record store and see what they've got. Go here for locations of participating stores near you.

(That link shows me a list of seven record stores within fifty miles on Nanticoke. Seven. Two of them are Gallery of Sound locations, which once boasted eleven stores throughout the region, including two in Wilkes-Barre alone. The Electric Mindshaft in Scranton, a favorite haunt in my college days thirty years ago, is apparently closed now, and may have been closed for as much as four years. It looks like Hazleton currently has zero record stores. HINT: Search by zip code, not city, for a list of nearby record stores.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How dark are your skies?

How dark is your night sky? How well can you see the stars? The International Dark-Sky Association would like to know.

From the IDA Facebook page

The image above shows a representation of the Bortle scale, which provides a standard reference that allows the sky to be compared between different locations. See here for a detailed flowchart of how to use it. From just eyeballing the chart, I would say that Nanticoke is about a 6 on a good day - we get some light pollution from Wilkes-Barre to the East, the Crestwood Industrial Park in Mountaintop to the South, and the State Correctional Institute at Dallas to the North, as well as local pollution from unshielded streetlights and other randomly-directed lights.

Submit your assessment of the darkness of your sky to this post (post removed) on the IDA's Facebook page. And be sure to visit their website.