Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!!

My co-worker, Gregg....

Programmers and actuaries can be such a wild bunch!!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Comet Hunting

The Comet Holmes in the constellation Perseus has suddenly and dramatically grown in brightness literally a millionfold to a 2.5 magnitude, beginning October 24th. What this means is that it is easily visible in the night sky, even from a location with a lot of light pollution, such as mine. Tonight I looked to the NorthEast to see this rare view. It was amazing! It was easily located and looked just like a star, but from my binoculars was distinctly different from a star. I saw it as a fuzzy ball of light with a bright disc in the center.

For observing tips, news, images, and speculation about the reason check out this link: Comet Holmes Stays Bright, Enlarges in the Evening Sky.

I exported an image from my sky mapping program to help you locate it (you may need to click on the image to enlarge it for detail). Look Northeast. Cassiopeia is easily located in the night sky (the big W). Look underneathe for Perseus. Underneathe the brightest star in Perseus is a slightly dimmer star, magnitude 3. To the left, just a little bit fainter than that star is Comet Holmes. If you look at it in binoculars, you can see it as a fuzzy disc.

Get out there and look up for this once in a lifetime event!

Sacred Spaces

Today I spent the afternoon with Mom and Dad. Because it was such a dramatic and beautiful "sky day", I stopped first at their church, St. Peter and Paul's Byzantine Catholic Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to take some photographs.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Golden Age Reborn

Tonight after I handed out candy to my last little Trick-or-Treater, I headed over to Wired Gallery and Cafe in downtown Bethlehem to catch the opening of their current show "The Golden Age Reborn - Contemporary Still Life and Landscape". It was a great show, I had the chance to speak to one of the artists, and it was a nice reception with finger food and live jazz. Here's a link to their website if you want to check out the show or some of their other events: Wired Gallery . Wired Gallery is adjacent to a coffee shop which sometimes has live music on the weekends. It's a charming little spot in downtown Bethlehem.

After the Storm in the Whitehall Parkway

This morning was quite a bit cooler and it poured all morning. I love the change in seasons and the change in weather, it gave me a chance to have a leisurely breakfast and some hot cocoa and lounge around catching up on some reading. I also did some much needed organizing. This afternoon the skies cleared a bit and gave me a chance to have a nice long walk in the Whitehall Parkway.

These berries are everywhere

Golden Fall colors and stormy skies...

A path in the woods

Brilliant orange maple leaves against the Coplay Creek

Tonight is also Trick or Treat night in Whitehall. I'm peering out the window waiting for my first little ghouls and goblins to appear!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happiness Only Real When Shared

Tonight I saw the movie "Into the Wild" at The Nineteenth Street Theatre in Allentown, my favorite little artsy theatre. It was one of the most powerful movies I've seen in a long time. I was anticipating its release because I saw some of the beautiful nature scenes in previews, but the real strength of the movie was the insight into the journey of Christopher McCandless, who traveled across the United States and ultimately into Alaska to escape the pain of a troubled childhood and to find his own truth. It is the story of the people he meets along the way, and how he transforms their lives and is in turn impacted by them. It is the story of how we wound one another and how we heal one another. Chris seeks his truth in literature (Tolstoy, Thoreau), nature, travels, relationships, self-reliance, and solitude.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Remembering Scott on his Birthday

I created this retrospective exhibition of a selection of the oil paintings of W. Scott Bivans in commemoration of his birthday. Enjoy!

Paintings copyright W. Scott Bivans

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Appalachian Trail New Jersey, Kittatinny Ridge

Today I went with the Appalachian Mountain Club on a 10.7 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail on the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey. We had a group of four hikers and we had a wonderful time. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the Fall colors were nearing peak, although we still saw a lot of green. The trail was interesting and varied, we had some rock scrambling, many beautiful vistas from the ridge, and overlooks of two lakes. After a fabulous day of hiking, Susan and I stopped at a great little restaurant for Thai food on the way home.

Ahhhh! Autumn trails in the Northeast

Overlook of Crater Lake

Our hiking group

Beautiful Fall foliage in the forest canopy

Is there anything more gorgeous than a maple in Autumn?

More Fall colors

Overlook from the ridge

Overlook of Culver Lake

Above Culver Lake

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Mighty Heart

Last night I rented "A Mighty Heart", the story of Daniel Pearl, the journalist killed in Pakistan in 2002, and his wife Mariane. It's an incredible story, I couldn't even possibly give a description that would do it justice. Despite the tragedy which has afflicted their family, Daniel's family desires to "promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications" in his memory. Further information can be found at The Daniel Pearl Foundation. There are a host of articles on tolerance, respect for all cultures, education and communication on the site.

A favorite quote of mine from Abdu'l Baha seems particularly relevant:

There is nothing so heart-breaking and terrible as an outburst of human savagery!

I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.

When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other's hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!
Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.

If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.

Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate. How many seemingly impossible events are coming to pass in these days! Set your faces steadily towards the Light of the World. Show love to all; 'Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man'. Take courage! God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray! Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquillity and harmony may encircle all this warring world. So will success crown your efforts, and with the universal brotherhood will come the Kingdom of God in peace and goodwill.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Summer Memories 2007

Here's a video with some pictures from my summer. It's my first attempt at creating a video, I'm sure I'll be refining it as time goes on. It's been a great summer, I've seen some really beautiful areas. Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, a day in which thousands of individual bloggers will unite to blog about a single topic, the environment, each in their own unique way to encourage people to think about and work towards a better future.

A primary theme of my blog has been my love for and appreciation of the natural world. I love hiking in beautiful forests and along clear streams and lakes. I love the cycles of the natural world, the hawk migration in the Fall, the return of the warblers in the Spring. To me, nature is a source of beauty, inspiration, serenity, awe and wonder, and joy.

Another theme of my blog has been my appreciation of the wonderful diversity of the human family and a concern for our collective future. It has become quite clear in recent years that the entire Earth is one home of the family of humanity, and only our unified action can save our home. All parts of the Earth are intricately related, and our individual actions have an impact on the entire globe. The only way to collectively protect our home planet is to work together as one family.

So, on Blog Action Day, I add my voice to the collective voice of thousands of bloggers who are posting about the environment from our unique perspectives. You can browse over 15,000 participating blogs by clicking here. Enjoy blog action day!!!

Our common home

"Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified." Bahá'u'lláh

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hawk Mountain, Kempton PA - Autumn Hawk Migration

Today we went to Hawk Mountain for one of my favorite Fall activities, watching the Autumn hawk migration. Because of the recent cold front which came through, it was an excellent day for birdwatching. We saw dozens of Sharp-shinned Hawks, one Golden Eagle, several Red-tailed Hawks, and one Cooper's Hawk. The total count for the day as observed by the official counters was 730 raptors, including 560 Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Hawk Mountain is a wonderful place to visit not only because of their prime location on the Appalachian Flyway, but also because of the extensive public education and conservation work which they sponsor. To find more information (including the daily count) check the Hawk Mountain website.

Hawk watchers at North Lookout. You can see a raptor in the top right corner of the picture.

Official counters making observations.

Another view from North Lookout, looking along the ridge.

Looking across the valley.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kentucky and Tennessee Vacation

Last week I was on vacation in Kentucky at Little Brush Creek Farm, the home of my sister Linda and her husband Ray. I had a fabulous time, I spent time in nature, went stargazing, listened to live music, experienced history, and most of all spent time with my family.

Here's the recap of the week:

Saturday October 6
We went to the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in Hodgenville, Kentucky. The Great Emancipator was born February 12, 1809 in a one room log cabin. To preserve the building, it was placed inside a beautiful Memorial Building. There has been some speculation about the true history of this cabin, so finally in 2004 some scientific analysis was performed on the material, and verified that it dated to the mid 1840s. Er.. um.... can't quite be the birthplace then. Now it is seen as a symbolic representation of what the birthplace must have been like. (Another one of those historical incidents which amuses me....)

Memorial Building which contains the "symbolic" birthplace

Man's best friend. This is Bug (or Boo). There are also two other dogs in the family, Becky and Bertie. Bug always warms up to the new kid in town (that would be me). She mostly slept in my bedroom, sometimes I was joined by another dog and sometimes a cat.

A boy named Flower.

Sunday October 7
Today we went to Karen Weaver's Puppy Farm and also Hinton's Orchards. At night, I went outside to do some stargazing. Kentucky is a dark sky area, and I had a beautiful clear view of the Milky Way. I saw the Summer Triangle high overhead with a view of dozens, if not hundreds, of stars inside it. From home I can only see the Triangle. Also clearly saw the Little Dipper, which is only faintly visible from home in Pennsylvania. Arcturus was shimmering so much I thought it was a plane! Definitely a view to remember.

Monday October 8
This morning Ray gave me the farm tour and showed me some of the morning chores on Little Brush Creek Farm.

Who has a cracker?

Did someone say cracker?

I'm just a baby....

Sure, these dogs look cute and cuddly, but they're real working dogs. Don't mess with 'em. They are the Maremma Sheepdogs, and they guard the goats. There are four guard dogs on the farm, and they mean business.

That is one serious goat! His name is Challenger, and you can see why.

Billy doing his best to charm the ladies.

Roosters and chickens provide the morning musical selections....

A Gambrel Barn. The flag was painted by Ray.

In the afternoon we went to Mammoth Cave National Park,the longest cave system in the world, which extends 367 miles underground. (The photograph is from a brochure, I couldn't get enough light for a picture)

Tuesday October 9
Linda and I went to Nashville for a couple of days. In the morning we went to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and the Opry Museum.

In front of the Grand Ole Opry House.

Indoor waterfalls at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

In front of the Grand Ole Opry House again. Note the souvenir shirt.

A view from inside the Grand Ole Opry. We saw a fantastic show. The performers were Ricky Skaggs, Trent Tomlinson, Emerson Drive, Jason Aldean, Jimmy Dickens, and Carrie Underwood.

Carrie Underwood belting it out....

After the show, we headed to John A's for some more live music, Dan Schafer and a new band, ELA.

Wednesday October 10
In the morning we spent some time at the Opry Mills Shops. Then we went to The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. It was a beautiful property, and we learned a lot about the history of his presidency, the culture of the times, and his family life.

Front view of The Hermitage (this picture was altered from a postcard).

Final resting place of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. She died two months before he took the oath of office.
Final resting place of Alfred Jackson, a slave on the family plantation. He requested to be buried on the property.
This was the original home of the Andrew Jackson family before the mansion was built. At that time, it was a two story building. It was converted to a one story building in order to be a shelter for some of the slaves. There were 150 slaves on the property. The tour contained a lot of information on slavery during that time period. For example, there were several root cellars found on these properties, and they were thought to be built in order to hide some personal possessions, in an attempt to maintain some individuality.

After the tour, in the evening, we went to downtown Nashville. At the suggestion of my brother-in-law Kirby, we went to see some live music at Robert's Western World and Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a spot previously frequented by Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Hank Williams.

Ryman Auditorium, the original site of the Grand Ole Opry.

Thursday October 11
We went to Glendale Kentucky to the Whistle Stop Cafe and some antique shops. On the way home we visited the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln at Knob Creek. The young Lincoln lived there from 1811 to 1816.

The boyhood home.
Friday October 12
Today Ray and I took a trip to Dinosaur World, where there are over 100 dinosaur reproductions. They had a lot of information, and plenty to see and do for children and adults. Children could participate in a simulated fossil dig.

Strange inhabitants from prehistoric times...

Like a scene from Jurassic Park
Be careful going around that corner...

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