Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

We've had a very nice day together starting way, way too early when Meghan couldn't stand the suspense any longer. Steve and I and the dogs were definitely not ready to wake up, but we have a rule in the house that the youngest family member sets the time for gift opening on Christmas morning. It took some effort to rouse the boys out of bed, but we eventually met Meghan's demands to get up and get on with it.

Here are a few Christmas morning pictures:

Meghan opening her "big one," which was a new (refurbished) computer.

Richard and Michael opening a couple of their presents.

Steve making faces and going "ooooh" over the "Leaf Saturation" bowl I gave him. He's been asking for one of my "blue" bowls for over a year, so this one isn't going to a gallery or a show.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas ornaments I've collected from around the world.

My Lesotho angel, collected in 2003. The hair is made from some scouring pad, the wings are two guinea fowl feathers, and the skirt is made from beads threaded onto safety pins.

One of my "African Star" ornaments and a miniature Lesotho hat. The little hat was our field car "totem," which did bring us a lot of luck on that particular collecting trip.

Some of my African beaded ornaments, including an Ndebele angel and a chamaeleon.

My "Flying Pig" ornament.

One of my latest ones - a platypus ornament from Australia, collected this year.

One of Steve's carved Santa pencils. I have a nice collection of these from the past few years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year (winter solstice in the northern hemisphere), and the first day of winter. I'll be glad to see the days getting longer.

I'm posting a couple of pictures of Stonehenge from my 2000 England trip. Stonehenge is a neat place to visit, and it probably served as an observatory. There is an alignment that reveals the first rays of sun on the winter solstice, which is why I'm posting these pics today. Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

My lunch time walk in the snow

I like to take a walk around the OSU campus on my lunch break. It's hard to get motivated to do this every day when the temperatures start to go down into the 20's and teens, but when the wind isn't blowing hard I try to get out for a bit. My usual route is to go up to Neil Avenue along the north side of the B&Z building, north on Neil to the Oval, around the Oval a couple of times, and then along Mirror Lake and back to my building.

Thursday's snow made the walk a little more charming than on most winter days. I broke in a new pair of snow boots, which made my ankles a little unhappy toward the end of my walk. A few more excursions through the snow should about do it for breaking them in the rest of the way.

I snapped this picture of the B&Z demolition. The contractors are using a jackhammer to break through the wall to separate the Coolidge era wing from the Kennedy era wing. There's a big machine parked on one side of the building that will do the brunt of the demolition. It has a motto painted on that says, "No job too big or too small -- we wreck them all." Pretty corny, eh?

This is a view of mirror lake from Neil Avenue. It's one of my favorite places on the OSU campus.

A view from College Avenue looking back toward the main library building.

My absolute favorite building on campus is Orton Hall. This is the home of the Geology Department. The building was built in the late 1800's and the layers of stone reflect the geology of Ohio. The bottom most layers of stone are from the earliest ones found in Ohio - from the Devonian. All the other layers that you can see on the facade of the building are from more recent strata. The tower houses a carillon. I like being on the oval at noon when the bells ring. I've not heard any Christmas carols played this year, but in past years I always tried to be on the oval when they were played from the carillon. I wonder if political correctness has gone too far if that's the reason there aren't any carols being played this year.

This is the view from the other side of Mirror Lake. I always feel sorry for the ducks when the pond freezes over, but they don't seem to mind walking around on the ice. There's always some unfrozen water in the pond, even in the coldest part of winter.

Snow on Thursday

We had more snow on Thursday. These pictures were taken from our front door. I really love the first snows of the season. It's only after the snow has been around for a couple of months, and the surface is all grey and dingy from the salt trucks, that I get tired of it all.

Meghan's choir concert

Meghan's 6th grade choir on Wednesday night. Meghan sang with this choir and also with a mixed choir of 6-8 grade students. Meghan is standing in the first row behind the piano player, next to a boy whose tie is all crooked.

Excitement at the old B&Z building

On Wednesday, Dec. 15, I was surprized to look out my office window to see 10 emergency vehicles, mostly fire engines, at the old B&Z building (Botany & Zoology, which is now known as Jennings Hall). The ones in the picture were able to get in between the wings. The rest of them were on both sides of the building and were blocking 12th Avenue, which I'm sure made all the drivers stuck in traffic very happy.

The contractors are working on the demolition of the 1960's era wings (the ones facing my office, and where my old laboratory was before we moved to our new building). I happened to run into the Dean of the College of Biological Sciences on my way back from a coffee run, and she told me that one of the contractors was burning through a pipe with an oxy-acetylene torch when a section of the pipe fell down onto an old wooden desk full of paper. It went up in flames and caused a big reaction from the fire department. (How many fire engines does it take to douse a desk?)

There was a lot of smoke and commotion, so I suppose it was good to have the back-up units just in case things got ugly. The funny thing is, I never heard any sirens and I didn't know all this was going on until I left my office to walk down the hall. Everyone else knew what was going on and were looking out their windows. Guess I was working too hard on Wednesday morning to have missed all the initial excitement.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

AAW Relief Auction

I've been following the AAW Relief Auction on E-bay this evening. My little bowl went for $910. Binh Pho's went for $6,000 and Frank Sudol's went for $6,601. This is pretty exciting for the AAW - all the money will go toward's helping turners who have lost their shops and equipment in disasters.

Friday, December 09, 2005

First snow of season

We've had our first snow dump of the season. It's not the first of the year, of course, since that happened back in January. We were supposed to get 3 - 5 inches, and we were on the short side of that prediction. Schools in our neighborhood weren't closed, so I drove the kids in this morning rather than making them wade through the cold stuff. No one clears their sidewalks around here except us.

The snowblower I bought for Steve worked pretty well, but Steve's hands got too cold. He doesn't have the right kind of gloves for snow. He blames it on Richard.

I haven't had time to cut up the ginkgo logs as of yet. I think the snow will keep them safe for a few more days. I have a woodturning friend coming over this Sunday to help me saw them up into usable sections. The good news is that my van no longer has "Ode to Ginkgo" wafting about. It took just a few days for the odor to dissipate.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AAW Relief Auction is now on ebay

ebay and the AAW have sorted out the glitches and the relief auction is now taking place. Just type "AAW relief" into the search field on the opening page (ebay).

My piece has a little over 8 days to go. Right now the bid is at $280. Join in! It's for a good cause.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gingko wood!

The old B & Z building on the campus of Ohio State University is undergoing renovation. My first office in the Department of Plant Biology was in room 356 B & Z and looked out over the back where there were two immense Ginkgo trees. These two trees were cut down yesterday to make room for the new auditorium that will be built during the renovation.

I had asked Rich Hall, Associate Dean of the College of Biological Sciences, if he could arrange for me to get some of the wood from these trees for woodturning. Some of my best memories from B & Z are of those trees blowing in the wind and in the changing fall colors. They were beautiful trees and it's hard to accept that they had to be cut down in the name of progress. I hope to pay homage to them in making some carved ginkgo leaf vessels over the next couple of years.

I was able to salvage four large sections of the trees. The contractors removing the trees loaded these into the back of my Honda Odyssey. They weighed a couple of hundred pounds apiece. I was able to manuever the two smallest ones out of the van by myself, but I had to wait for Richard to get home from school to help with the two larger sections.

Unfortunately, these were female trees and they fell onto the ground covered in their seeds. If you've never smelled ripe ginkgo seeds, you've missed out on one of the most unpleasant odors on the planet. The back of my van now is scented in "ode to ginkgo."

Thanksgiving, 2005

Here's a picture of Meghan and Richard waiting for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a nice day together. I had made pies the day before Thanksgiving (apple and blueberry), and we had all the traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, except for baked sweet potatoes. No one in our family really cares for those.

A class with Christian Burchard

Christian Burchard came to Columbus to give two hands-on classes for the Central Ohio Woodturners. I was able to take the one on thin wall hollow forms (Nov. 17, 2005). We worked with green madrone burl, which turns like butter. It was really a fun day and I learned a lot about pushing the boundaries of technique. Christian is a good teacher and had much to offer us in terms of techniques and design ideas.

We used a light shining through the wall to gauge thickness. My vessel has walls that are 1/16 inch thick. That was a lot of fun!

Here are some pictures from the day.

Christian demonstrating how to shape the outside of one his madrone basket vessels.

Christian hollowing the inside of the vessel and using a light to gauge the wall thickness.

Christian and I at the end of the class.

My finished vessel.

Monday, November 21, 2005

AAW Relief Fund Auction

Update (12/01/05) - the auction has been postponed because of a technical glitch. I'll post the new date as soon as I have it.

The American Association is holding a special auction on ebay, which features the work of some of the best woodturning artists in the world. This auction is for raising money to establish a emergency relief fund for woodturners struck by disaster. The motivation for the auction was in response to hurricane Katrina. The auction ends next weekend. Check it out through the link I've posted, and type "AAW relief" into the search window.

AAW Relief Auction on Ebay

My small contribution is one of my "Leaf Saturation" bowls. This one is 3.25 X 1.75 inches in size. It's covered in the leaf motif and covered in acrylic paint.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Coastline pics from North Queensland

Here are some of the pictures I took from the shore of the Coral Sea. I was really surprised by how calm the water is, but I guess that's the effect of the Great Barrier Reef taking the brunt of the big waves. It was like looking off shore of a large lake. The water was lovely and warm, but full of coral spawn when I saw it. I was able to wade in clear water in one of the bays, but I sure wouldn't have been willing to wade in the gunk that washes up on shore from the spawning.

This is one of the views of Airlie Beach, which is a resort town popular with youngsters.

One of the mangrove swamps near Bowen.

Coral spawn coming ashore near Bowen.

Dried coral spawn on the beach.

The sign gives a warning about "stingers," which are small jellyfish that are deadly.

This and the next picture are ones I took while wading. The water was great. I'll have to go back sometime to do some snorkeling.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I'm back home again

Wow, what a long trip home! I arrived in Columbus, Ohio at 11:52 pm on Nov. 10th. It was mid-day on Nov. 10th when I left Brisbane, Australia. I had lost a day going over, but gained it back on coming home. I had 32 hours of travel time, which included a 2 hour layover in Aukland, New Zealand, a 4 hour layover in Los Angeles and another 2 hours in Atlanta. I tried to get some sleep on the flight between Aukland and LA, but the guy sitting behind me spent 12 hours coughing every 30 seconds or so, and clearing his throat in between times. Sigh. I just hope I don't catch whatever he was spewing into the air.

It's great to be home! Everyone, including the dogs, is happy to have "mom" back again.

I still have a few pics to post from Australia, so I'll try to get that done over the weekend. I've heard from a lot of people that have been checking the blog. Thanks for letting me know you've enjoyed the posts, and thanks for tagging along for the ride.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lamington National Park Excursion

Terry Martin drove me to southeastern Queensland to see the semi-tropical rainforest at Lamington National Park. This was absolutely stunning. We walked a couple of trails, climbed a ladder into a tree, saw a lot of animals (including the red bellied black snake), and enjoyed the day. It started out to be a pretty rainy day, but it cleared up by the time we arrived at the park. The park is atop an escarpment, and the road is very windy and twisty as well as narrow. The drop offs near the top of the escarpment are stunning and a good place for hang gliders to launch. You could see the Gold Coast high rises from the top. I'm not sure how far away the coast is from Mt. Tamborine, where we were driving, but it seemed like a long ways off.

The rain forest where Lamington National Park is located was preserved by the O'Riley family when they first bought the land. It's pretty remarkable that they conserved this bit of forest back in the early 1900's, and it's even more remarkable to note how much of the rain forest was cleared for farming.

I really enjoyed seeing the rain forest. Here are some pictures from the day:

That's me at the entrance to the border trail.

Strangler figs and trees send their roots over everything on the ground, including huge boulders. The next three photos are of strangler figs. They're correctly named in that they strangle the tree they're growing on. The seed from these plants germinate high in the canopy and then send down roots to the ground. Once the roots are established, it's just a matter of time before the fig surrounds the host tree and keeps it from being able to grow outward. The host tree eventually decays away, which leaves a lattice of strangler fig stems around the ghost trunk.

We climbed ladders up a tree to get a look at the canopy. The top platform holds two people at a time, and is 30 m above the forest floor. These views are from the tree:

This last photo is of a stump after the tree has been cut down. The strange shape outlines the buttresses of the trunk.