Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What is in a name?

My lunchtime activity consisted of a quick walk down part of the rail trail near my workplace.  I wanted to try out the photostacking portion of my digital camera's Magic Lantern software.
I was using a monopod, but there was no breeze today, so I got a nice sequence of eight shots of a Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).


The focus stacking worked out pretty well, as you can see in the above composite shot.

This pretty little relative of the snapdragon is an invasive species in North America.  It's quite successful around here, because it thrives in disturbed land.  And West Virginia is a pretty disturbed land.

The flowers are largely closed off by the underlip of the plant, so it takes a strong insect like a determined bee or a bumblebee to pry its way into it.

Because of its widespread range and its long history as an herbal, the Linaria vulgaris has a long list of aliases:

  • brideweed
  • bridewort
  • butter and eggs
  • butter haycocks
  • bread and butter 
  • bunny haycocks (ok, what are haycocks?)
  • bunny mouths 
  • calf's snout 
  • Continental weed
  • dead men's bones 
  • devil's flax 
  • devil's flower 
  • doggies 
  • dragon bushes 
  • eggs and bacon  
  • eggs and butter 
  • false flax 
  • flaxweed 
  • fluellen 
  • gallweed 
  • gallwort
  • impudent lawyer (is that a great name, or what?)
  • Jacob's ladder
  • lion's mouth 
  • monkey flower  
  • North American ramsted
  • rabbit flower 
  • rancid 
  • ransted 
  • snapdragon 
  • wild flax 
  • wild snapdragon 
  • wild tobacco
  • yellow rod
  • yellow toadflax
Haycock, I just learned, is the name of a small conical haystack, usually only three or four feet in diameter and six or so feet high.
Now, don't tell me that you didn't learn something today.

If you want to surf the web some more, by all means check out Haycocks No.09.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Back in Black (and White & Yellow)

It has been years since I've seen a Monarch Butterfly up close.  This long dry spell was broken a couple of days ago, when I snapped this shot in front of Table 9, which is adjacent to the Rail Trail.


Although slightly out-of-focus, this is an interesting shot with a little photobomber bee coming in from the left, and a red milkweed beetle hiding among the flowers on the right.

By some estimates, the population of these butterflies has decreased by 90% in the past couple of decades.  These once-common butterflies became victims to their unusual lifestyle, which involves a yearly migration to overwinter in Florida and Mexico.  Theories for their swift decline include habitat loss due to herbicide use, loss during migration, predators, and parasites.  Maybe it was a perfect storm including all of the above.

This morning, while waiting for my bagel and coffee order at the River Birch Cafe, I stepped outside to revisit the same patch of milkweeds where I had seen the butterfly.   I didn't see any signs of my friend, but I found something just as good:  a sign that the circle of life was still turning.


This is literally the first Monarch Butterfly caterpillar that I've seen in more than a decade!  From the looks of the size of this munchkin, it won't be long before it's ready to metamorphose.

Here's to hoping that they manage to survive the sixth great extinction!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Life on Clay Street

This poor building.   In recent years, it's housed a Tex-Mex restaurant, an American-style chop house, a Lebanese bistro, and god knows what else.   Today, it's a pricey place called Morgantown Flour and Feed (lets see how long this link lasts).


The notable thing about this is the signage, which pays homage to the utilitarian past of this building.
The original Morgantown Flour & Feed Co. sign above the second floor has gotten a fresh coat of paint.  I can make out only the major part of the remainder, which reads "Gold Medal Flour."

Built between 1904 and 1906, it was originally the Kincaid and Arnett Feed and Flour Building.   If you really want to delve into the early details of this building, you should check out the National Register of Historic Places form (PDF). 

The warehouse and wholesale business area was once known as Durbannah, named for F.M. Durbin, who first developed this area in the 1840s.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Computer Archeology

I had my DNA sequenced by 23 and Me a while back, and I was surprised to get a couple of messages from a 2nd cousin and a possible 4th cousin.

This led me to trying to find a printout of a family tree that my brother had compiled some time before he died in June 2005.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the printout, but I found something better:  a 3.5" floppy with the family data.  That's when I discovered that my 3.5" floppy drive (yes, I still have one) had died.   That sent me on a scavenger hunt at work, trying to locate a portable drive that I could borrow.  I struck pay-dirt with my supervisor, who knew of a couple of 3.5" USB floppy drives that LAN Services used to use for flashing updates.

It took a bit of coaxing to get my Windows 10 computer to recognize the drive, and then I was further stymied by the data.  The disk had a single data file:  Olynyk.FTW.   The FTW file extension was something used by Family Tree Maker.   But then, things got crazy complicated.

First, Family Tree Maker software costs something on the order of $80.  Then, it was a matter of the FTW file being in a very old, circa 2004 data format.

Fortunately, I was able to locate a free, downloadable installation file for Family Tree Maker version 4.0 for Windows 95 (May 15, 1997).  I have a copy of VMWorkstation on my work PC, so I first tried installing Windows 95 on it from an ISO image.   This was a non-trivial task, because in order to install the Windows ISO I first had to have an image file of a bootable DOS disk.


When I finally got Windows 95 installed, I was further hamstrung with various incompatibilities.  The USB drivers were not native to Windows 95, and connecting to the Internet with Windows 95 was a real bear.   I finally gave up on Windows 95 and installed a Windows 98 virtual machine.   That allowed me access to the  the internet.  I still had trouble with the USB floppy drive, but I burned the data file to a CD (talk about a waste of space!), which worked with Windows 98.



I loaded and installed the ancient version of Family Tree Maker, read in the Olynyk.FTW data file and then exported it to a more portable GEDCOM format.  With internet access, I was able to log into FileLocker.wvu.edu and upload the data file.



With that data, I was able to use a free Family Tree Builder program that runs on Windows 10.

I've been working with computers for 35 years, but I didn't appreciate until now how evanescent old data formats could be. 

I guess anything I have on old computer tape is pretty much lost forever.  And thank goodness that I don't have anything left on punch cards!

Post Script:  Success!

I can't leave well enough alone.  I re-installed Windows 95 and got the internet thing.


Big surprise:  IE 3.0 has a bitch of a time resolving web pages -- even Microsoft's.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Way Up North

This is the first time ever that I spotted a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) north of the Florida gulf coast. 


This isn't a great picture of one.  It's just swimming and diving around in the Monongahela river near the Decker's creek confluence.  It has the prettiest color eyes.



According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site, this bird is well within its migratory range.  It looks like it breeds in Canada, so this one is likely just passing through.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Trillium signs the likes of which even god has not seen

I had seen this stand of white trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) from along the highway for a couple of years now.  Yesterday, I decided to brave the traffic and hauled my camera and tripod out to capture these.


Granted, the landscape leaves a lot to be desired, but I tried to convey the sheer number of these flowers.  Here's a more up-close shot:


According to one web site, Trilliums spread very slowly by underground root stocks, and the seed produced creates new plants even more slowly. From a planted seed, it takes approximately five to nine years for a Trillium grandiflorum plant to bloom. So when you see a massive drift of these in spring, you know you're looking at a bunch of plants that are at least a decade old, probably much older.

Obviously, this stand has been lumbered (at the least), but it's nice to see that such a large growth of Trilliums have escaped the bulldozer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cheap Frills

The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is said to be quite variable in flower and leaf.  I shot this one in the Arboretum last Saturday, where it is shown displaying its frill in a threatening manner.


Although this type of behavior is typical of certain animals, it's not at all common in the plant kingdom.


The juice of the bloodroot is red and poisonous, but at least it doesn't spit.  The other plants nearby nonetheless felt threatened.