Mud, Grey Skies, and Winter Blahs

Mud, snow, sludge (Toledo, OH) This image matches my mood for today: blah.

One of my least favorite times of the year is this dismal late February, early March that brings us cruddy weather. Not quite winter, not quite spring, this is an in-between season that no one really likes.

I am looking forward to the arrival of green plants and warm weather.


Ice on a Roadside Cliff Face

(Nelsonville, OH) I took this picture while driving along US-33 outside of Nelsonville, Ohio.

The melting snow refroze on this cliff face and made some spectacular ice formations.

The ice illustrates the power of water to erode rock formations, as the freeze-and-thaw cycle slowly breaks apart even the sturdiest of hills and mountains.

Ohio Sunset

(Radnor, OH) This image was taken from a moving vehicle somewhere near Radnor, OH.

The snow from the Blizzard of 2007 turned to a hard pack on this cornfield, and there were some beautiful colors in this wintry sunset.


Amish Crossing

(Meeker, Ohio) Passing through this small Ohio town I took some pictures of a February sunset this evening.

But I would first like to share a photo of an unusual road sign I saw. There are quite a few Anabaptist sects in Ohio, and the Amish in particular are quite common in central Ohio.

This is the first time I have ever noticed such a sign in my travels through the state.


Ernest and Edna Brooks

Ernest and Edna Brooks, formerly of Appalachia, Virginia This a sepia-toned portrait of my paternal grandparents, Ernest and Edna Brooks. The portrait was taken in the 1930s in some small town in the western part of Virginia.

My grandfather graduated from Appalachia High School in 1933, joining his sister Della (1934), brother Willard (1938), brother Warren (1938), sister Georgia (1943), and brother Walter (1948) as family members who completed high school. This was no mean feat in a small Virginia town in the mountains.

They lived for many years in Appalachia, Virginia, raising their six children in the rolling hills of coal country. My grandfather owned a Texaco gas station in Appalachia and was quite a knowledgeable mechanic. However, living in the the poorest part of the country - especially during and after the Great Depression - meant that business was never going to amount to much in that little town, and my grandparents drove up US-23 to Romulus, Michigan in the early 1950s.

Ernie Brooks spent the next twenty years working for the Wabash railroad. He was a tremendous college and pro football fan, and I have many memories of the men of the family gathered around the television set on days when we got together. The house in Romulus was always the destination, and the place would be crammed full of grandkids on the holidays.

Edna Brooks was an incredible cook, and she would spend many hours in the kitchen feeding groups of up to 30 people at some of these gatherings. Almost every memory I have of my gradmother features her in an apron and holding a spatula. In spite of what must have been an incredible racket from all the grandkids, I do not recall Edna Brooks ever raising her voice.

My grandmother passed away in 1974 at the age of 56, and my grandfather passed away in 1984 at the age of 69.

I am just starting to do some research on my family history, so if you know anything about the Brooks family who used to live in Appalachia, Virginia, feel free to leave a comment.


Mount Sludge

(Toledo, OH) The beauty of last week's falling white snow, blanketing the region with nearly a foot of powdery precipitation, has given way to the ugly side of winter: the mountains of grimy, salt-filled gunk that the plows create.

"Mount Sludge," as I named this particularly gruesome geologic formation, is in the west lot of the University of Toledo. It rises to an impressive 14 feet into the air, but there were no hikers on this ridge today, nor any signs of wildlife nearby.


Water Main Break

Water main break on Secor Road near Laskey in Toledo, Ohio(Toledo, OH) The sudden upturn in temperatures may seem like a blessing to those tired of subzero readings, but water mains in the area receive extra stress when temperatures do through dramatic change.

This fire hydrant is located on Secor Road near Laskey in West Toledo, and water gurgled up through the ground from a a water main break.

Yes, I did my civic duty and called the city, which was unaware of the new break.

Water main break on Secor Road near Laskey in Toledo, Ohio I took about a dozen pictures, dancing in between cars on Secor. It always seems that traffic is heaviest whenever I am a) late for work, or b) trying to take a picture of something that requires me to stand in a road.

I neglected the cardinal rule of pedestrians, though, which is to always know when you are liable to get soaked from passing cars. When I stood behind the hydrant for a picture, a minivan hit the puddle from the water main break and drenched me.


I had a sneaking suspicion the driver hit the puddle intentionally, but I felt pretty stupid for being unaware of my surroundings.


Birds on a Power Line

(Toledo, OH) These birds occupied perches on FirstEnergy power lines near Secor and I-475 yesterday.

As they only touch one line at a time, they can't complete a circuit, and thus can safely land on the lines. I'm told that condors - with their large wingspans - sometimes fry themselves in California, landing on one line and touching another with wings.

It's also possible for a bird's foot to make a connection between the line carrying the current and the grounded transformer on the pole at the end of the wire.

Nifty Idea for Your Family Grillmaster

I enjoy cooking out on my grill, and - although my wife is really the true Grill Maestro of the family- standing on my deck turning the burgers, steaks, or kabobs on a holiday is fine living in my book.

Still, there is something to be said for being sociable with your guests, and being chained to the grill is a good way to miss spending time with family and friends. I know that at my kids' graduation parties I have spent more time cooking than hanging out. The Grill Alert wireless meat thermometer allows you freedom from having to hover by the grill.

This remote meat thermometer works from up to 300 feet away, and Grill Alert offers a belt clip for added mobility. There is a display backlight for convenient night grilling, and the device is water resistant for easy cleanup.

With this gadget I could be inside the house watching a football game when Grill Alert lets me know the food is ready.


I-475 in Toledo

I-475 freeway in Toledo, Ohio as seen from the Bowen Street overpass (Toledo, OH) This view of the I-475 freeway was taken on the south side of the road from the Bowen Street overpass.

I liked colors brough out by the February sunset, especially the oranges and reds in the buildings and on the semi.

Follow this link for a larger version of the picture of I-475. I am experimenting with directly embedded pictures to see if search engines will pick them up better than using the Blogger image upload.

Winter Sun in the Clouds

Winter sun in February 2007 in Toledo, Ohio It was a bit jarring to see the sun today after several days in which the cloud cover and snowfall were pretty significant. I took this picture about noon in my backyard.

I should have used a UV filter, because I didn't get good definition in these cumulus clouds, but there are some interesting rays of the sun streaking out. I also lost some definition when I cropped and resized this pic, but hey - I'm an amateur, so I posts what I gets.


Snow in Toledo

Snow on trees in Toledo, Ohio (Toledo, OH) After digging ourselves out after the Blizzard of 2007, Toledoans woke this morning to see more snow.

This snowfall, though, is only expected to generate a few inches in accumulation. The falling flakes are particularly beautiful this morning, more like large, fluffy-white tufts of frozen down than the driving ice needles of this week's blizzard.

The snow on the trees looks like vanilla frosting, or that icing sometimes used on gingerbread and oatmeal cookies.


Evening Star, Venus

(Toledo, OH) I thought I had a great shot of Venus this evening, looking in my viewfinder at the pictures I took.

Unfortunately, my image of the second planet is a little underwhelming after cropping it and loading it into the Blogger image function.

Venus is in the upper right-hand corner, if you need a little help picking it out in this less-than-spectacular shot.

I would have been better off just using MS-Paint and dropping a nice white dot on the sunset.


Woodpecker in the Winter

Red bellied woodpecker in a maple tree in Toledo, Oio during the winter (Toledo, OH) One of my neighborhood Red-bellied woodpeckers was busy in the maple tree over my driveway today.

I first noticed the repetitive pecking as I got out of my car. Unfortunately, the bird was about 45 feet up in the air, and I couldn't get a decent shot to show the telltale red head feathers.

In the other shots the bird was too active with its tapping to get anything more than a blur. The Blizzard of 2007 did not seem to faze the variety of animals near my home.


Two Straight Days, No School

(Toledo, OH) The Blizzard of 2007 brought joy to thousands of area students, as the accumulated snowfall and howling winds made most area roads unpassable.

The sun did make an appearance today, and my dogs ran over to check out the fort my neighbor's kid was making.

Well, the fact that she had her dog with her probably had something to do with their excitement.

It's hard to say if the schools will open tomorrow. If the winds continue to blow the snow back on the roads, I suspect there might be a third straight day off for local children.


Blizzard of 2007 in Toledo

(Toledo, OH) The Blizzard of 2007 has not yet kicked into high gear, although we in Northwest Ohio have received about three inches of snow so far, on top of the two inches we received over the weekend.

While my Suburban is a gas hog, on wintry days like this I am glad we have a vehicle that can hold its own in a blizzard, should we need to venture out of the house.

Today was the first time in my memory that I can recall the University of Toledo closing for snow. UT will close from noon today until noon Wednesday in anticipation of the blizzard.

I just saw my first street-level snowmobile pass the house, and this is evidence that the snow crews are beginning to fall behind. My Internet service is also experiencing intermittent weather-related problems, and my connection keeps breaking up.

Other than that, and some cabin faver with my kids, everything in my neighborhood is quiet, save for the howling winds.


Waiting for the Storm

(Toledo, OH) I have the driveway sholveled from the preliminary 2" of snow we received over the past day, and we are now getting set for what is being billed as the Blizzard of 2007.

The kids are excited, thinking they might get a couple of days off from school. I am a bit less ecstatic, because I still have to drive places, and the University of Toledo rarely closes.

Waiting, waiting...


Missing the Summer

Freshy picked, freshly sliced watermelon grown in a garden in Toledo, OhioI was looking through my picture archives and came across this image of a watermelon, freshly picked and sliced, that I grew in my garden last year.

While you can find melons year-round in most stores, there is no substitute for the taste of something that you nutured for months on your own plot of land.

Maybe it is in part a psychological response, but the end result is the same: I miss the warmth of summer, and the hours I spend working in my gardens.

Harnessing the Wind in Bowling Green

Picture of wind turbines at the wind farm in Bowling Green, OhioThis is a photo I took last spring of the Bowling Green wind farm.

The turbine hubs soar about 270 feet off the ground, and the blades cut a circle with a radius of about 130 feet. The turbines are almost noise free, though you can hear a faint "whup whup whup" if you listen closely. Placing your ear against the tower is the only way the machines seem loud.

The wind farm's four turbines produce between 7 and 8 megawatts of electricity a year, and could power a village of up to 1,600 homes.


Mist on the Maumee Bay

Fog rolling in off the Maumee Bay into Point Place, Toledo I took this photo last year near the top of Point Place, the peninsular chunk of Toledo that juts into the Maumee Bay.

I could hear, but not see, a freighter in the distance, and the still of the foggy afternoon was disturbed only by the screeching of some fog-shrouded aquatic birds.


February Sunset

(Toledo, OH) We experienced a beautiful sunset in Northwest Ohio today, and temperatures continue to climb from the wicked subzero temperatures earlier in the week.

I enjoyed the blending of the orange, pink, and purple hues in the dusk sky.


White Birch Tree

(Toledo, OH) I saw this lone white birch stretching up to the heavens near Secor Metropark.

Its black, white, and grey colorings were a stark contrast to the brilliant blue of the sky. I used a UV filter to take out some of the glare from the sun.

The tree seems to be standing guard against unknown assailants, waiting patiently for the return of spring.


Holding On, Barely

(Toledo, OH) This leaf on a tree on the UT campus managed to stay attached through wind, rain, and now bitter cold.

The image started to break up once I cropped it and resized it; in the viewfinder it looked like a keeper, but after editing the image I am a little disgruntled with the results.


A House Full of Energy

(Toledo, OH) Just beacuse the streets are clear does not mean the urchins are going to school today, as the subzero temperatures - and windchills approaching 25 below zero - are keeping most students in Northwest Ohio home for a second straight day.

I am somewhat fortunate that my flexible academic schedule means I can stay home to watch my kids (read: "prevent my kids from destroying the house"), but Tuesdays are normally a day that I spend on research and writing.

Alas, there is little of either happening today, as two of my kids have spent most of the day chasing the dogs around the house, while a third child watches some annoyingly-loud dance movie. The noise of our home is also elevated by the near-constant ringing of the telephone.

Adding to the chaos, of course, is the fact that sending them outside to burn off some energy is not much of an option. My best advice to people in similar situations is to just accept that there is little you can do beyond grinning.

University Hall, University of Toledo

Picture of University Hall at the University of Toledo(Toledo, OH) I took this photo of University Hall in late January about 9:00 am.

The sun had just cleared the treeline, and brought out some interesting colors in the building, which was completed in 1931.

I think many Toledoans are unaware of the beauty of the UT campus, and the many architectural marvels found on the campus. I am reminded of a former employee of mine (back when I was a business owner), who used to derisively refer to UT as "Bancroft High."

Sometimes we fail to appreciate the resplendence that can be found in our own backyards, or at least just down the street.


A Base for Rodent Terrorists

(Toledo, OH) A band of local squirrels appears to be useing the hole in this oak tree as a base for their terrorist operations.

I suspect that as many as a dozen of the insurgents are holed up in this location.

Efforts to combat the terrorist threat have been hampered by the ability of the insurgents to remain mobile, as well as their abilities to improvise their tactics.

It is apparent that the enemy we are fighting is adapting faster than we are at the tactical level, and that we must rethink our strategies.


The Search for Food

Squirrel in Toledo, OH (Toledo, OH) Despite the cold, the squirrels in my neighborhood continue their search for food.

This squirrel looks much less chubby than the squirrels I saw just a few weeks ago. While not quite emaciated, it shows the effects of a January in which the pickings were slim.

I still fill my bird feeders and squirrel trough with food, but I see very few visitors to either these days.

Despite the bitter cold - with wind chills approaching 20 below zero - there is still life outside, and I can hear a number of birds singing.


Cold. Really Cold.

(Toledo, OH) The sun made a few weak efforts to bring some warmth to this area, as artic air dropped temperatures in Northwest Ohio to dangerous levels.

Wind chill readings were in the vicinty of minus 15 degrees this afternoon, and the cold gales found a few cracks in my house to squeeze through. A Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect through early Monday afternoon, so be sure to bundle up if you have to go outdoors.

And - if this cold weather wasn't bad enough - the temperature will continue to drop in the next 36 hours, with highs on Super Bowl Sunday to be about 6 degrees.


Winter Sunset

(Toledo, OH) The setting sun highlighted some brilliant orange, pink, and violet hues in the clouds this evening.

I missed capturing the best of the colorful show being stuck in traffic (note to self: carry camera with you at all times), but the last lingering moments of daylight yielded at least a few worthy pictures.

For those of you with crawl spaces in the Midwest: better get ready to batten down the hatches. Temperatures here are supposed to reach a high of 7 degrees on Sunday, with lows below zero. The last time we had weather this cold my pipes in the crawl space froze, so I am being proactive this year and keeping that area sealed tight.

Jamey Turner, Glass Harp Virtuoso

Glass harp virtuoso Jamey Turner on the Alexandria waterfront Left: 'Glass harp' virtuoso Jamey Turner on the Alexandria waterfront

(Washington, DC) I tend to quickly become bored with tourist-related matters when I visit a new city, and instead find everyday life on the streets to be more interesting.

One of the most intriguing people I have met during my last visit to DC is a musician named Jamey Turner, who plays a concoction called the "glass harp." Using glassware, common tools, and his own hands, Jamey creates evocative music; the evening I passed him on Alexandria's wharf he was playing calliope music.


Moonlit Night

Full moon in the sky over Toledo, OH (Toledo, OH) I did not have any zoom lenses with me tonight when I got the urge to snap some pictures of the full moon. The result was a lack of definition of features and an annoying halo around the moon.

As it left the horizon tonight, the moon was quite large in the northeastern sky, and its luminence highlighted the few clouds in the sky.

It was also too cold to fiddle with the manual settings, and I just had my pocket tripod with me, so I used one of the default "Night Landscape" settings to get a half-arsed picture.

Baby Raccoons

Baby raccoons at Secor MetroparkA pair of baby raccoons

(Toledo, OH) My wife took this picture last summer at Secor Metropark. These baby raccoons oput on quite a show for parkgoers.

They were quite unafraid of people, and walked around together seemingly without any regard to possible dangers.

I wonder if they still pair up like this, or if they survived the winter.

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