Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chinese New Year parade, Washington, DC

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Aboard the Morpho, from Gamboa to Barro Colorado Island

2012.01.20-IMG_0544Being based in Washington, DC, it's great to be able to go out to where Smithsonian research is happening in the field. This month I had the great opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. My first two days were in Panama City where I visted our library at the Tupper Center. But on 17 January, I boarded a bus with colleagues from the Encyclopedia of Life and invited guests from around the world to Gamboa. There, we boarded one of the large contingent of Smithsonian boats, The Morpho, for the hour long ride across Lake Gatun to Barro Colorado Island (BCI). On the Lake (which is a part of the Panama Canal) our smaller boat glided past the large freighters from around the world. Coming on the BCI field station, the buildings perched on the side of the island with the docks below), was a bit like something from a Joseph Conrad novel (had he written about Central America). On the island, we had a very good and productive meeting and some great wildlife watching.

Monday, January 23, 2012

American Airlines 1476: DFW to DCA

Gate 27

Creatures of the Night, a hike up the Fausto trail, Barro Colorado Island

2012.01.19-IMG_0501After a long day in a meeting room (albeit a wonderfully air conditioned meeting room), a great dinner in the dinning hall, and some libations and conviviality with the rest of the group, a bunch of us decided to take a night hike up one of the trails. Flashlights and cameras in hand, we headed up one of the trails in search of creatures of the night. Didn't take long to score a nice find, a pair of tarantulas. One calmly sitting beside the trail and the other nearby just poking out of her burrow. Other highlights of the walk include a small leaf frog, a metalic shield bug (my find), a small mantis, a wonderfully camouflauged spider, a millipede that seemed happy to pose for photos, and another large spider busy working on its web. I turned back after about 90 minutes, but the rest of the group carried on for another hour. More photos from Katja are here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

BHL and FBHL at Cedars Social

That would be Friends of BHL

Academic housing/Field station comparisons

2012.01.18-IMG_0435 So, a while back, I did a little comparison of some of the different academic housing facilities that I'd been too. The Academia Sinaca in Taipei, Trelease House at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Swope Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

Well, now, I have to add another to that list, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute field station on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) on Lake Gatun in Panama.

The BCI facility was pretty fun; much more rustic than any of the others. I was in a unit in one of the older buildings. I shared a room with William Ulate (and a pretty good sized Huntsman spider). Rooms didn't have any A/C (but did have fans). The best part of the room though, was location. Great to be out in the jungle, Howler monkeys to wake you in the morning; the friendly Huntsman sitting on the bathroom light switch (and not in bed). The food was also fabulous. We had set breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Some really great rice and beans; various meats, tortillas, and a really picante Panamanian hot sause. Oh, and different juices all the time (tamarind, mango, papaya, even orange).

No beer in the vending machines (like at the Academia), well, come to think of it, there were no vending machines at all. How does it compare to the others? I think I'd have to bump this up to the top of my list. Only thing lacking was wifi in the room, but that gave us all a chance to hang out in the dinning hall and mingle while being online. 2012.01.18-IMG_0433

Dealey Plaza

The comforting glow of our electronic devices

2012.01.18-IMG_0423In the olden days, when researchers were out in the field, they would gather around the campfire. At our meeting for the Global EOL Content Summit at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Barro Colorado Island, Panama, we didn't have a campfire. So, when the sun set and we gathered on a balcony overlooking the docks for an after dinner drink, all we had, besides our own company, was the comforting glow of a wide array of electronic devices.

Texas sized, er shaped waffle

Dallas,  TX

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My spidey friend ... not quite Canberra sized, but big

I'm sharing my room here at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute field station with William Ulate from our BHL partner at the Missouri Botanical Garden and this nice sized Huntsman spider. Not nearly as big as the species that I met in the Atlas of Living Australia conference room in June 2010, but pretty big and speedy.

This time round, I have a scale for the people who believe that the spider grew in size with each telling of the story. As you can see, s/he is just about as big as a hotel key card. Plus, s/he is staying in the shower (at least I hope s/he stays in the shower).

Sadly, I have only William and the spider for company; the folks in the next room down had a bat sleep over last night.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Remember the times of your life, Kodak and Penn Camera

Kodak Many of you are probably following the slow, tortuous decline of Kodak into likely bancrupcy and, if lucky, a restructuring that will leave the once iconic company a mere shadow of what it was (see Polaroid which now exists merely as a name with no relation to Edwin Land's original company). Ironically, the company that brought photography to the masses with products from the Brownie to KodoChrome, has as its most valuable asset, patents for digital photography.

Kodak, captured - as the reminded us - the times of our lives. Remember the ad campaign from the 1970s with Paul Anka? Here's a version from 1977:

Michael Hilzik, in the LA Times (4 Dec 2011)  made a salient comparison to other transitional businesses:
Kodak, however, markets a process technology; and as the chemistry of film has yielded to digital electronics, consumer demand for Kodak's traditional products has evaporated. A similar transition afflicts newspapers, book publishers, movie studios, broadcasters and record labels today, but the issues for those industries are different yet.
[insert here "libraries"]

As Don Draper reminds us, "technology is the glittering lure" ... Kodak, once the master of embedding their technology in our lives, seems to have now failed.

On a related note, this week also saw the bancruptcy of Penn Camera, a local Washington, DC institution going back to the 1950s. Ironically, I found out about this the day after it was announced when I was going in to buy a new camera.

I remember going to their old store at Metro Center, full of all kinds of photo gear and smelling of developer and the other chemicals since replaced by digital.

I'm particularly going to miss Penn as I was one of the, apparently, few, who regularly printed out digital photos. With Penn gone, Ritz Camera shrunk to a few inconvenient stores, printing options are now the CVS drugstores or online. I'll miss that ability to queue pictures the night before and pick them up at lunch.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The results are in, the voice of the people has been heard

2012.01.03No, not the Iowa Caucuses (though we'll know that in a few hours), but the results of the 2011 Washington Monument Photo survey.

And the results are, by an overwhelming majority (85.7% to 14.3%) you want to see more daily photos of the Washington Monument. When questioned as to their enjoyment level, you - the people - responded "lots and lots" (28.6%), "pretty much" (42.9%), and "could take 'em or leave 'em" (28.6%).

Among the insightful comments received were:
  • I think a time-lapse video is in order. 15 frames per sec, 36 sec. Let's talk.
  • Beautiful mosaic! Just pick a new topic.
  • Didn't even know you were doing this. It's an interesting obsess ... er, I mean, hobby. Any chance that you're balancing phallic architecture with, say, pictures of the Capitol or the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (which we wafer gobblers growing up in the DC area used to refer to as the Purple Tit)?
  • You rock Martin! keep snapping the photos!
So, here you go, for 2012, there will be more Washington Monument photos ... thanks to all the many, many who took moments from there busy holiday schedules to complete the survey.

And yes, all seven (7) of you, you can sleep better knowing that your vote does make a difference. 

Now, all the rest of you need to remember that come November!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

41,990 air miles in 2011

2011 was a busy flying/travel year, not as busy at 2010 (by 20,000 plus miles) or even 2009, but number three on the list. Here are some stats from OpenFlights.

Here's the Google Map:

View 2011 Travel in a larger map

Airports 15
Carriers 3
Countries 3
Vehicles 15
Total flown 41,990 mi
Around the world 1.69x
To the Moon 0.176x
To Mars 0.0012x

Journey records
Longest BRU - IAD, 3,879 mi, 08:15
Shortest LAX - SAN, 109 mi, 00:43
Average 1,235 mi, 02:57
Airport records
Northernmost AMS (52.31°N 4.76°E)
Southernmost IAH (29.98°N 95.34°W)
Westernmost SFO (37.62°N 122.37°W)
Easternmost AMS (52.31°N 4.76°E)

34 segments
41,990 miles
4 days 4:43

United 238: SAN to IAD

Ronald Reagan Washin (DCA) 18
Washington Dulles In (IAD) 10
General Edward Lawre (BOS) 6
Chicago Ohare Intl (ORD) 6
San Diego Intl (SAN) 4
George Bush Intcntl (IAH) 4
Louis Armstrong New (MSY) 4
Los Angeles Intl (LAX) 2
Schiphol (AMS) 2
San Francisco Intl (SFO) 2
Brussels Natl (BRU) 2
Lambert St Louis Int (STL) 2
Philadelphia Intl (PHL) 2
Charlotte Douglas In (CLT) 2
Charleston Afb Intl (CHS) 2

United Airlines 17
US Airways 13
Continental Airlines 4

Airbus A319 10
Boeing 767-300 3
Embraer 175 3
Boeing 757 2
Airbus A320 2
Boeing 737-700 2
Boeing 777 2
Embraer 170 2
Boeing 757-200 2
Canadair CRJ-700 1
Boeing 767-200 1
Boeing 757-300 1
Boeing 737-900 1
De Havilla...00 Dash 8Q 1
Canadair CRJ-200 1

Happy New Year, morning after