Saturday, December 29, 2007

Aisling video on YouTube

Jeff's graduation earlier this month brought back a lot of memories of our 2003 field season. I was thinking about doing a blog post of all those pics and stories, and I might still do that, but I wanted to try putting together a video with Aisling's "A Walk in the Park" set so I pulled in a very small selection of images to go along with the tunes I composed after that field season. We recorded this set on our recent CD project, "The Pilgrim's Road," which was released in August 2007. The Pilgrim's Road is available from CD Baby.

Here's the information from the YouTube page:

Aisling's first music video, featuring original tunes by Andi Wolfe:

A Walk in the Park
Drakensberg Storm
All Roads Lead to Underberg

These tunes were inspired by a memorable field season in South Africa and Lesotho in 2003. Andi is a botanist who works on parasitic plants in southern Africa. The 2003 field season was for a trip to the Drakensberg mountains and the highlands of Lesotho in search of Hyobanche, a parasitic genus in the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae). Collecting in these areas involves a lot of hiking and climbing in some breath taking scenery. Andi's field assistants included her graduate student, Jeff Morawetz, and two young lads from Cape Town who were the most amazing climbers: Nick and Chris Laidler. Andi isn't a young lass anymore and so it was kind of hard to keep up with these young men in the mountains. Thus, the title of the first tune is "A walk in the park" to commemorate one evening, after a very long hike, when Andi complained to these lads about how they thought these grueling hikes were just a walk in the park.

The second tune is in honor of the amazing thunderstorms that hit the highlands about noon each day. Thunder, lightning, torrential rains, hail stones the size of golf balls - you name it, you got it. Wow! Nature's fury at its best.

The third tune in this set is in honor of the Underberg Hotel, where Andi's team spent way too many nights because they couldn't get into Lesotho via Bushman's Nek. Communication between them and the pony trek guides fell apart and they waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, they drove up into Lesotho via Sani Pass. They had a lovely time at the Underberg Hotel, thanks to a pub and a lively bartender named Dean. The images in the video were taken by Andi Wolfe and are from the Drakensberg of South Africa and the highlands of Lesotho.

Aisling is a Celtic Folk band from central Ohio with band members including: Andi Wolfe (hammer dulcimer, fiddle, bodhran, vocals), Craig Caldwell (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), Mary Bertke (banjo, bouzouki, vocals), Steve Wolfe (flute and tin whistle), and Stuart Brand (fiddle and flute). We play mostly traditional Irish music, but we also play our original tunes and arrange tunes to have a mix of genres ranging from jazz to chamber music.

Check our website at and our MySpace page at for more information.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas morning started a bit on the late side for the Wolfe Pack. Steve and I played music at St. Alban's Christmas eve service. We didn't get home until after 1 a.m., and so we were really glad when we were the first to wake up at about 8 a.m., as compared to our usual pre-dawn awakening on previous Christmas mornings.

Richard camped out on the couch to be ready for all the action. (Actually, he likes sleeping on the couch. . .)

Meghan came downstairs to check out her Christmas stocking.

One of Meghan's gifts was my old cell phone. She lost her cell phone about a month ago and we weren't going to replace it until her contract was up next summer. However, I found my old phone and had it converted to her number. I put the most obnoxious ring tone on it that I could find and then rang it up on Christmas morning. Meghan went to find out what that noise was and found a package with her name on.

She figured it out pretty quickly.

Now, that's a Christmas smile if I ever saw one. She's holding her other favorite present - a gift certificate to her favorite clothes store.

Richard got one of his Christmas wishes, too - a "Dad" hat. Steve used to have a hat similar to this when he served in the Air Force. Richard wanted something to keep his head and ears warm in our cold winter.

Michael gave Steve a "useful pot" ala Winnie the Pooh,

and Meghan a computer game for virtual puppies.


Michael's wondering what that gadget is that has Steve's name on it.

By his smile, I think he figured out what was in the box.

He got another of my hand-me-downs; my old laptop, refurbished with a 100 GB hard drive.

"Bet you wished this was yours. . ."

Richard was happy with his box, though.

He's a huge Star Wars fan and he received the complete X-wing series,

and a new blanket.

Emma and Darwin both got a lot of dog toys. I'll post pics on Emma's blog.

Michael either looks like Genghis Khan . . .

or a hairy bimbo in this hat.

Ok, that's better. Back to some scholarly activity now.

A good part of the day was spent in getting Michael's new 'puter set up with all the latest versions of software. That's Steve's job (as opposed to Steve Jobs).

I spent much of the day preparing our dinner. It was a late one since I didn't have time to bake my pies on Christmas eve. I always make an apple and a blueberry pie for Christmas dinner. These are about to go into the oven. (They were delicious!)

Emma spent the rest of the day playing* with her new toys and hiding them under the Christmas tree.

*playing = destroying.

Merry Christmas from the Wolfe Pack.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Michael's birthday

Michael's home for winter break and so we were able to celebrate his birthday together. He always ask for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, so I made a double decker for him.

We recycled the candles from last year and added a single to make it add up to his total.

You can see the feeble attempt at adding rabbit ears to the subject . . .

Make a wish (wanting your sister to go away doesn't count).

 Richard must have said something funny, but I can't remember what it was.
The dogbone cookie was Richard's gift to Michael. Richard works at a pet store and bought it from the doggie treats display.
"Go ahead and try it."
"No, you go first, thanks anyway.

"Hmmmmm, tastes like a ginger cookie. A very bad one, indeed."

"OK, now you try it."

"It's not bad, go ahead and try it."

"Hmmmmm, well, the frosting is ok."

"Ok, we'll both try it. Come on Michael, it's your birthday present."

"Yuck! I'm eating dog food!"

"We'll just leave the rest for the dogs, ok?"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Graduation for Jeff

December 9, 2009 - OSU Graduation at St. John's Arena. My student, Jeff Morawetz, finished his Ph.D. this quarter and was awarded his diploma and hood at the graduation ceremony.

Jeff with his parents.

Here I am with my now former student. Congratulations, Jeff!

Jeff did his PhD dissertation on the parasitic plant genus Alectra, which occurs primarily in Africa. Jeff did a lot of fieldwork all over Africa and Madagascar, including two memorable trips with me in South Africa and Lesotho. If I ever find myself lacking material for a blog post, I should dig through my slides from 2001 and 2003 and post some trip reports from those two field seasons. They were gems!

Prior to the ceremony, the students and faculty gather in the field house to line up. There were so many people there, and this is just a small subset of the total that goes through graduation in the spring. That ceremony is usually held in the horseshoe (the football stadium, which isn't a horseshoe shape anymore).

Students file into their seats first and then the pomp and circumstance happens for the faculty. We had to walk all around the arena to parade the academic regalia for all to see.

Yep, quite a show.

President Gordon Gee addressed the students first, then we had the commencement address, some more talking by Gordon Gee, the honorary degrees and distinguished staff awards, and then the PhD students filed up to the stage to receive their hoods and diplomas.

This is the faculty lining up to hood their PhD students.

Jeff is the tallest one in this frame.

The hooding took only seconds before Jeff went on stage to receive his diploma. He's now at a postdoc at University of Michigan, working with Paul Berry. Jeff will be doing a lot of fieldwork in Africa for his postdoc. Congrats, Jeff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recital time again

Meghan had another double bass recital at the American School for Double Bass on December 8th. This time she played the 3rd movement (Rondo) of a Sonata by Bernhard Romberg. That's Dr. Shao-Lan Lee (Meghan's teacher) at the piano, and Dr. Mark Morton (director of the school and principal bassist for the Columbus Symphony) doing the announcing.

I hadn't heard Meghan practicing this piece at home and so I didn't know what to expect. I surely wasn't expecting it to be played so well, but she really did a great job on this recital piece. Way to go, Meghan!

Shao-Lan Lee and Mark Morton always end the program with their own recital pieces, which is a huge treat for the audience. Mark played a nice piece by Giovanni Bottesini and then moved over to the piano where he played three wonderful selections by Scott Joplin. What a treat!

Monday, December 17, 2007

EEOB Birding on December 2nd

Our third EEOB birding outing was to Big Island Wildlife Area and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. It was a cold and blustery day. Columbus was experiencing a driving rain while we were out looking for winter raptors with Mike Flynn as our fieldtrip leader. Unfortunately, the weather kept quite a few of the folks who initially signed up for the trip to stay home and miss some fantastic birding. The good news is that we all fit into one minivan and so we didn't have to manage a caravan of cars.

The birding was really great with 47 species of birds seen, including Northern Harrier, Red-tailed, and Cooper's Hawks, a bald eagle, Short-eared owl, American Kestrel, and the list goes on. We also saw several deer hunters.

I brought home-made cookies and hot chocolate as a reward for toughing it out in the cold weather. The rain we had avoided in Columbus caught up with us at the end of the day. Ahhhhh, birding - ya gotta love it!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Something to read during the first snow of the season

We had our first snow of the season arrive yesterday. We're expecting a bit more tonight. Woohoo! Emma's loving it - no pics as of yet, sorry. These kinds of days are good for sitting by a fire and catching up on reading. To help those of you in the northern hemisphere who may have some snow on the ground, here's a link to a recent article about a woman in Los Angeles who collects woodturnings.

Los Angeles Times Article on a collector of woodturnings

If you need something more lively to entertain yourselves, check out this clever video of shop tools dancing to a funky beat:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Late autumn walk in the park

Thanksgiving Day began with three of us doing a 5 mile run with several thousand other runners willing to brave the rain and cold weather. The incentive was 2000 pumpkin pies to be given away (1000 to the first male finishers and the other 1000 to the first women finishers). Meghan finished in the 400's and I finished in the 600's, so we both got our pumpkin pies. Steve's holding his consolation prize (better than a trip in an ambulance - don't ask. . .) - he didn't want a pumpkin pie. . .

Emma didn't get to go on the fun run so we took her for a walk at Whetstone Park. It was pretty cold outside so she wore her jacket.

My favorite beech tree at the park.

Some burning bush leaves haven't yet fallen.

We had our binoculars with us and did a bit of birding on the walk. I don't know what Steve spotted over there in the woods.

The perennial garden had a lot of furious activity at the bird feeders. We didn't know about the feeders here, but now that we do know about them, we'll come back to monitor the activity on every walk we take at Whetstone. This is a Carolina Chickadee.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

American Robin

Fox sparrow - a new life bird for me.

Ginkgo leaves - these were very tempting to some of the small kids walking in the park. I saw several run into this pile and scoop up leaves to throw into the air.

Speaking of temptations - Emma is always a temptress. "Your dog is soooooo cute!"