Lavender Dahlia

(Toledo, OH) This dahlia plant is just past its blooming prime, and I should have taken pictures of it last week to give a better sense of its beauty. Still, the flowers stay around a long time and provide brilliant color to an ornamental display.

The tubers of these perennials, however, need to be dug up, dried, and stored each year in temperatures above freezing for replanting the next spring. I have made the mistake of trying to heap mulch on them, hoping they would survive an Ohio winter, but I ended up with rotten black roots where once life was stored. This is never the case with dog supplies at my house, though, as my pooches consume food far too quickly for it to rot.



Graffiti on a Rail Car

(Toledo, OH) I am not the sort of hazy-eyed weenie who finds aesthetic value in every piece of graffiti, especially when the "art" appears on the side of someone's house or garage. Still, I do find myself gazing at rail cars as they pass, trying to decipher some of the messages that I come across.

I am at a loss to translate the pictured graffiti, which decorated this Duluth, Winnipeg, & Pacific rail car. I did find it especially colorful on an otherwise dreary brick red vehicle, though am not ready to pronounce its creator the next Raphael Sanzio.

This type of art is probably more akin to the sort of kitschy glitter found when one takes in the sites during Las Vegas vacations than the kind found in Florence.



Red-Winged Blackbird

(Perrysburg, OH) I rarely see the red-winged blackbird in the city, but once you drive a few miles into the country, this vocal birds are everywhere. For a city bloke like me, though, they are always fun to watch.

I did not have any problems with territorial blackbirds in my country-stomping over the weekend, unlike the folks dodging the killer blackbirds in Chicago. If anything, these blackbirds were a bit skittish, though the local mosquitos were certainly glad to see my bare legs, which have never made use of plastic pool floats.



Veterans' Glass City Skyway Bridge - Toledo

Veterans' Glass City Skyway Bridge - Toledo, aka Toledo's Veterans' Memorial Skyway Bridge(Toledo, OH) I had the opportunity to hang out under the Veterans' Glass City Skyway - also known as the Toledo's Veterans' Memorial Skyway Bridge - yesterday from Water Street. This was the first time I toured the bridge from a ground view, and I was impressed with the simple elegance of the structure in daylight.

There are those who dislike the gimmicky light show that appears each night on the bridge's central pylon, but this electronic display certainly has better aesthetics for the riverfront than, say, the Sun Oil facility on the east side of the Maumee River.

I exchanged pleasantries with a half-dozen folks casting lines for catfish and perch in the Maumee, and shared a few words with a bicyclist named Bill, who wondered what the bridge engineers will do about the ice falling during winter from the stay cables.

I had no answers for Bill, but all was right in Toledo at the moment, though the setting sun told me that my friendly companions would soon be replaced by people of the night, most of whom would be more interested in jacking my camera than waxing poetic about the bridge.


Cumulus Building

(Toledo, OH) This cumulus cloud, which is forming ahead of a line of thunderstorms, may later develop into a cumulonimbus cloud. For the moment, though, this fluffy, cotton-like meteorological formation provides me with a few minutes worth of cloud-watching.

For a while I saw the outline of the head of one of my dogs in this cloud, and then I made out a distinct image that resembled Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquis of Pombal. Naturally, cloud-watching is highly influenced by what we had been recently doing; in my case, chasing my dog and reading about the Pombaline dictatorship.

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Passing Summer Thunderstorm

(Toledo, OH) My decision to take my academic reading to my backyard hammock was disrupted by a band of thunderstorms that sliced through Northwest Ohio this afternoon. This quick-moving line of storms brought with it some strong winds and a fair amount of lightning, along with the rain that my garden needed.

The hammock, I am sure, will still be there when the storms have passed, and to be honest - the ants and gnats that wanted to share the experience with me were beginning to become annoying. In the heat, I'll take a spot on my bed in front of the air conditioner any day, though I much prefer enjoying the outdoors over surfing the Web looking for prices on computer rentals.


Red-Tailed Hawk

(Toledo, OH) We have a number of red-tailed hawks in our neighborhood, though they seem to try hard to evade my efforts to capture them on my digital camera. I have yet to locate any nests, but I hear and see these impressive raptors at least a dozen times a week.

Once you have heard the screech of this hawk, you will recognize it as one of those Hollywood sound cliches. It sounds like a "Shreee-eee-uh," staring at a higher pitch and ending lower.

The Buteo jamaicensis - better known as the "chickenhawk" in rural areas due to its stereotypical-but-undeserved predilection for snatching fowl from farmers - sometimes develops wingspans approaching five feet in length. The red-tailed hawks in my neighborhood, however, probably are in the four-foot range for wingspans.



Roche de Boeuf

(Waterville, OH) Pictured on ypour left is Roche de Boeuf (French for "Buffalo Rock"), a massive rock in the Maumee River where Native Americans once gathered. The bridge running across the Maumee, which opened in 1908, once carried red interurban cars.

The Lima and Toledo Traction Company went out of business in 1937, and has been unused ever since, except by local teens seeking a thrill. At various times the bridge has been known as the Ohio Electric Railroad Bridge, the Interurban Bridge, or the Roche de Boeuf Bridge.

Or just "The Bridge" to the scores of youths who dare each other to climb out into this forbidden territory, and one suspects that finding good deals on lipovox.



Day Lillies

(Monroe, MI) This is the time of year when we begin to see the blooming of day lillies, such as the yellow specimens on your left. I stopped to spend a few moments taking in the color and radiance of these beautiful flowers, and I'm glad that I did.

Whatever else I was doing certainly waited until I finished my flower-gazing, and there was no need for me to race off and, for example, check the Internet for good deals on Phentermine or other pharmaceuticals.


Clematis after the Rain

(Toledo, OH) We have a number of clematis plants that produce beautiful flowers in the late spring, and I enjoy the delicate blossoms that return each year to provide color in a time of year that is otherwise dominated by the green hues of plants-to-be and people scouring the Internet for deals on Sector watches.

I read online that these plants, however, have a significant level of toxicity if consumed, and can produce both gastrointestinal bleeding and skin irritation. Thus, I will only enjoy them in the visual sense, thank you very much.



Thunderstorm Fizzles Out

(Toledo, OH) Watching the radar images coming in, I had high hopes that the approaching thunderstorm would bring with it some much-needed rain in Northwest Ohio. Unfortunately, the storm - rolling in at over 50 miles per hour - failed to deliver more than a few minutes of moisture.

Dark skies, cascading thunder, a few lightning strikes, but precious little rain, and my lawn and plants are gasping for a ground-drenching downpour. No need for me to whine and start looking for Hilton Head rentals or anything, right? Just a momentary diversion from the sweltering heat in Northwest Ohio.

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Vanity Plate, Self-Centered Driver

(Toledo, OH) I've never had much use for personalized license plates, and I find that many drivers of cars with vanity plates tend to be some of the worst drivers. Such was the case with the pictured motorist, who cut me off on Monroe Street in her haste to make the eastbound I-475 entrance ramp.

So thanks, jackass, for your ignorant driving. And by the way - your physical appearance leaves something to be desired, despite the license plate's proclamation that you are WAY 2 SXC. I'd give you a 5 on a scale of 1-10, even without being irritated at your mobile stupidity.

I'm just saying.

Yet, through it all, I am sure that the cell-phone focused fool made sure that she got a best buy on the latest pop CD that she seemed to be engrossed in obtaining.



(Toledo, OH) Among my favorite neighborhood flowers are the varieties of rhododendrons that bloom near my house. Unfortunately, one of my dogs dug up the only rhododendron plant we have tried to nurture, so we will have to make attempts again in the future.

These plants range in size from small shrubs to large trees, and provide a wave of color in between tulips and early summer perennials.


Corn - Not Just the Stuff for Popping

(Ida, MI) In this image the corn seedlings look like they are growing in a terrarium. I view cornfields from afar several days a week, and I decided to pull my car over on the highway and see what rows of young corn plants look like up close.

From a distance they look like green lines in the dirt, but up close each corn plant has its own unique appearance.

This, of course, is not news to those who grow the plant once known as maize, but it still impressed me to see so many thousands of tiny corn plants at eye level, many months away from becoming popcorn kernels in shipping boxes.


Ducks in Late Afternoon

(Toledo, OH) Like these Mallard ducks, I enjoyed the lazy Sunday afternoon in Northwest Ohio, as temperatures hovered in the high 70s amidst weather that can only be summed up as "perfect." Even my garden and lawn chores scarcely caused me to break a sweat on this fine early June day, and I also took a few minutes to stare at the blue skies above from our backyard hammock.