CFFC: Colors of That Grand Old Flag

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge continues with a color theme, this week the colors of our flag (whatever that happens to be). Here are some photos featuring the red, white, and blue (and sometimes other colors as well!).

Holiday lights display at a house in Niles
Decorative pottery at Hacienda El Sombrero restaurant in Mount Prospect
At Ravinia for festival to celebrate Mexican Independence Day
Back of a Hummer in Glen Ellyn

SYW: On the Nature of the Universe and Balloons

Melanie gives us some philosophical questions for this week on Share Your World!

QUESTIONS

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?
I believe there is inherent order, in terms of the rules of nature or of the universe, but also chaos, or randomness.

In nature, the main thing that establishes order is adaptability. Tree leaves and humans have visible veins, which are necessary because liquids and nutrients flow through them. There are some really fantastic creatures on this planet who have adapted to their environments in weird ways. In the universe, I believe there is order in terms of rules, although we have not discovered them all yet. It’s amazing how Einstein’s theories – particularly of relativity – have since proven accurate as scientists have developed ways to analyze celestial phenomena.

But there is also chaos. When a star explodes into a supernova, for example, its matter is flung outward in all directions, and where it ends up is random. Sometimes a supernova becomes a quasar. Also, several planets in our solar system have had wayward asteroids crash into them, including Earth, but I find it amazing, or sheer dumb luck, that an asteroid has never landed on a highly populated area. Now scientists can predict asteroid trajectories and may have ways of deflecting them.

Why have so few Milky Way supernovae been observed over the last millennium?
A supernova (Image from Google)

Another random thing that happened was the formation of our solar system and the development of life on Earth. By the method of accretion, the planets were formed (which likely is the order of how planets develop elsewhere as well), but why some matter adhered to one planet or another is somewhat random, and ultimately determined by gravity.

I have seen science programs about the evolution of life on Earth and how it all began. Earth has the right circumstances for life as we define it, due to its optimal position in relation to the sun. Astronomers call this the “Goldilocks zone.” It is located in a zone that the sun’s rays are neither too hot nor too cold for life to develop. At the same time. gravity had to be just right to develop magnetic fields around our planet, which protect us from damage by ultraviolet rays. Using this premise, astronomers a few decades ago (when I studied astronomy) estimated the likelihood of life as we know it developing in other solar systems by discovering whether a planet was in the “Goldilocks” zone.

Since then, however, I have learned that life on Earth got started by a somewhat random process. It is disheartening, in a way, for those of us who would like to know for sure that advanced life forms exist in other solar systems, that life could just as easily have failed to evolve. Fortunately, it did or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this, and I do believe that whatever chance circumstances existed for life to develop or not, that there must be advanced life on other planets. There are millions of galaxies, all with their own groups of stars and solar systems, so it can’t have been impossible that we are the only “advanced life” in the universe. That is, unless you believe in divine creation, which I do not. (I believe in God, but not as an entity that formed the planets and different life forms. Perhaps “God” helped nudge the unlikelihood of life into the real possibility of life.)

What is infinity?
Infinity is something that human minds can not really conceptualize. If we believe the universe is “infinite,” that means that the universe is never-ending. Theoretically, scientifically, infinity exists, but it is not something that we can fully understand, because humans are limited by experience and the ability of our brains, all based on the finite-ness of life as we know it.

Infinity is most often found in mathematics. Pi, for example, is often expressed as 3.14 but the digits beyond that go on infinitely, with no end. Click on the image below for a link to an interesting article about infinity.

https://www.livescience.com/37077-infinity-existence-debate.html

Does observation alter an event?
It might. Someone may perform a dance or a song perfectly during dress rehearsal, which is supposed to mimic the actual performance, but not perform as well when an audience is looking at them. If we know there is police surveillance on a particular stretch of road, we drive more carefully and observe the speed limit. In physics, which I really don’t understand, according to Wikipedia: the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner.” The Wikipedia article goes on to mention a common example: when you check the pressure in a tire, you can’t help but release a little bit of the air in the tire, so the pressure slightly changes. No matter how negligible, there is still change. We can’t usually observe it, though!

Do you like balloons? 
Yes and no. Balloons are fun and pretty aesthetically; adding balloons to an event makes it festive. However, they are made of plastic and we have enough plastic pollution already to not justify people releasing a bunch of balloons into the air to memorialize someone, for example. Mylar balloons, in particular, are wasteful both in material and the helium used to make them defy gravity by floating above our heads.

Mylar helium balloons at my niece’s birthday party

However, I am not a curmudgeon. Balloons are not even in the top 1,000 products that produce plastic pollution. I say let’s continue blowing up balloons for fun and celebration! 

I have never ridden in a hot air balloon, although I had the opportunity a couple of times during my travels, and I don’t think I ever will. They don’t feel stable enough. They do look pretty, though!

I could have taken a hot air balloon ride in Tanzania. I opted out.

Journey to Egypt, Part 21: Last Night on the Aida

January 1-2, 2019

Tonight was to be our last night on our lovely dahabeya, the Aida, so there was a celebration. When we returned from the Daraw livestock market, of course, the steward had cleaned our room as he did every day. Anyone who has been on a cruise knows about towel art: you come back to your stateroom to find a creation on your bed using towels. Today mine was these lovely swans, whose heads bent together form a heart.
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Dale’s was different: The towels were in the shape of an ankh, to match the one he had received from the crate maker the previous day.
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It also seems to be standard practice to make an ape on the last day. The ape was hanging in the hallway! Ahmed, the towel artist (our steward) poses with his creation here, with toilet paper hanging down – maybe to represent a sort of tree rope?
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The cooks had made a special cake and other special desserts for us on New Year’s Eve.
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Tonight the crew prepared a fabulous dinner (as they had every night!); not to be outdone on New Year’s Eve, this was our dessert tonight!
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During dinner, they came in singing and dancing, accompanied by tambourines.
20190101_19395020190101_194029Everybody loved the crew – they had been so nice and friendly, not to mention efficient in making us comfortable for the last five days!

It was sad to have to leave the next morning, so on our last afternoon and evening, we enjoyed the view.

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Boys on shore give us a thumbs up as our dahabeya takes off from the dock at Daraw.

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The city of Aswan – our cruise’s destination – at night.

We were up early the next morning, and were greeted by this beautiful sunrise.
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Now we looked forward to the last days of our journey to Egypt – Aswan and Abu Simbel!

 

A Photo a Week: Lining Up to Celebrate

On January 26, we happily celebrated the marriage of our daughter, Tamara, to her soulmate, Liam. It was a very eclectic group of friends that came to celebrate with our families. For Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week, here is my interpretation of her theme, Getting Your Ducks in a Row. These are the members of the groom Liam’s band. (Our new son-in-law is not in the photo because he was taking his own photo at the same time!)
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A few weeks later, four guys (my brother-in-law’s barbershop quartet) line up to sing a love song to my sister (who was having dinner with friends) on Valentine’s Day. They spend Valentine’s Day every year hiring themselves out to anyone who wants to have their loved one serenaded. But this one was free, because after all, it was my brother-in-law singing to his wife of 53 years! (My brother-in-law, Elmer, is the short bald guy on the left!)20190214_165859.jpg

CFFC: You’re On Candid Camera!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is photos capturing people unaware, in other words, candid shots., reminding me of that old TV show, Candid Camera.

Visitor on a rocking horse outside Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
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Women in Arusha, Tanzania
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A Chicago Sinfonietta concert patron tries out the sitar during intermission at Symphony Hall in Chicago…
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…while children make Diwali “rangolis” using patterns, glitter and glue.
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Shoppers gather at the base of the Gastown steam clock, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Selecting pumpkins at Park Ridge Farmers’ Market in early October
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At a friend’s 80th birthday party with a Hawaiian theme
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At a reunion in Sedona, Arizona, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Verde Valley School, June 2018:
Saturday night dance
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Sunday brunch
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Serengeti NP: Topis, Kopjes and Hippos, Oh My!

Feb. 12, 2018

Our last day at Serengeti National Park, and our last safari day, was spent looking for kopjes and spotting some new animals. We also spend some time observing hippos.

Once again, we were up at dawn.
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Our first animal of the day joined us during our breakfast – a praying mantis!
2-12 praying mantis-Ang'ata Camp in SerengetiThe tall grass in this area of the Serengeti at times made it difficult at times to spot animals or observe their behavior on our first game drive. We came upon a troop of baboons, and saw this male possibly mating with the baboon underneath him, but she was barely visible so we couldn’t be sure.  He could just be grooming his companion, male or female.
1141We also saw mongoose roaming through the grass. I was lucky to get this shot before they were completely hidden in the grass.SONY DSC
We spotted several species of birds that we had not seen before, including the martial eagle,SONY DSC
a barn swallow,
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and a grey-breasted spurfowl.
SONY DSCIn this area of tall grass, we saw many herbivores, including elephants, DSC04670.JPGbuffalo, DSC04553.JPGostriches, DSC04694.JPG
impalas and species of antelope we hadn’t seen before, including the topi. Topis have a very distinctive coloring, with large gray areas on their thighs and black faces.

Their calves are hard to distinguish from the calves of other species, because they are light brown at birth and when they are very young.1202.JPG
Both males and females have ribbed, gently curved horns.
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Another antelope we saw for the first time was the hartebeest.
SONY DSCDavid (our guide) had told us we were going to find kopjes today – a Dutch word referring to outcrops of rocks scattered over a section of the Serengeti. DSC04695.JPGThese rocky piles constitute a different ecosystem and one can spot different species there, as well as leopards and lizards, that bask on the rocks. Most prevalent is the hyrax, a small mammal that looks something like a guinea pig, but with a more pointed face and that is in fact related to the elephant!  They can be hard to see at first, because they hide between the rock layers and their fur camouflages against the rocks.

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There are two hyraxes in this picture. Can you spot them?

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Even if you don’t spot them right away, you can tell the presence of hyraxes by long white streaks on some of the rocks. Their urine is very acidic and causes these white streaks to form on the rock!SONY DSC
We saw no leopards at the kopjes, but did spot interesting birds hidden among the acacia branches.

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Usambiro barbets

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Long-crested eagle

 

Nearby, a giraffe family was grazing.DSC04682.JPGIn addition, there are some adaptable plant species found growing in the kopjes.

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Candelabra cactus

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Fig tree

We then spent quite a long time observing hippos at a pond where they gather. There must have been 40 or more of them submerged in the water there!

 

A sign informs us about the pool and its inhabitants.
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A nearby crocodile co-exists with the hippos – they present no danger to each other.
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Hippos spend as much of their time as possible submerged in water. However, they must go ashore to forage. Notice their feet which seem a little webbed.
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On land, they seem unwieldy and clumsy, but they can be formidable opponents.1169
One hippo was hesitant to go back into the pool, because another hippo was giving him the evil eye.
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When he finally ventured in, the aggressor lunged at him.
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Soon things settled down.
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A baby swam contentedly alongside its mother.
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Meanwhile, a black-headed heron stood vigilant at the water’s edge.
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A family of geese played in the water.
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SONY DSCThroughout this safari, I’ve noticed this is a good time to see animals with their young. On our way back to Ang’ata Camp, we spotted a mother baboon with a baby on her back.SONY DSC
Another baboon came up behind and looked as though it was going to grab the baby off her back! I don’t know why, and our baboon expert was in the other vehicle! The consensus in our vehicle was that it was a playful gesture.SONY DSCThat evening, being our last night in Tanzania, we had a little celebration and the staff surprised us with a special cake, which they brought out – including the chef! – singing! We also played charades (strict rule: NO PHOTOS!) and recited haiku poetry about the animals of Tanzania.

Asante sana, Ang’ata Camp staff!

 

2-12 sunset behind our lodgings at Ang'ata Camp Serengeti

Sunset at Ang’ata Serengeti Safari Camp

 

This is what a hippopotamus sounds like!

 

 

 

 

APAW: “A Crowd of People Stood and Stared”*

Nancy Merrill’s “A Photo a Week” (APAW) topic for this week is Crowd.

 

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A crowd of people on board m/s Veendam watch the gates of a lock open at the Panama Canal.

 

 

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A crowd of people in the ballroom at Chicago’s Symphony Center watch Mexican dancers during the intermission of Chicago Sinfonietta’s Day of the Dead concert.

 

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Chicago Sinfonietta concert intermission activity: make marigolds out of tissue paper for a Mexican-style Day of the Dead altar. My friend Marcia (far left blonde hair) shows a crowd of people how to do this.

 

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A crowd of family members at a post-Thanksgiving gathering in Madison, WI at a cousin’s house. (A bit of a cheat here: My brother-in-law took the picture using my cellphone camera!)

 

 

 

*From A Day In the Life by the Beatles

CFFC: Oh, you!!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is the letter U – must have both an ‘o’ and a ‘u’ in the word.

Round

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Interlocking hoops decoration on a wall at a wedding venue

 

Fountains

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Peter the Great loved fountains, so he had a lot of them built on his country estate, Peterhof (near St. Petersburg, Russia)

 

Mountain

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Mt. Baker, Washington state, from our airplane window

 

 

Clouds

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Interesting cloud formations over the prairie in southeastern North Dakota

 

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Ripply  clouds at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, as seen from my driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

Consumers

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Looking down on consumers at Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

Couple

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Newlywed couple, (my niece Allie and her new husband Alex), prepares to cut the wedding cake.

 

Spouse

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My husband, Dale,  relaxes as he enjoys wine and cheese hour at Hotel Donaldson, Fargo, North Dakota

 

Dungeon

The dungeon tour
The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Charleston, SC. It was built by the British in 1771 in a Palladian style, and was used for trade purposes during Charleston’s growth as a port. During the American Revolution, American Patriots were held prisoners in the dungeon.

 

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Las Bovedas, now a colorful market in Cartagena, Colombia, was a dungeon at one time (las bovedas means “the dungeons”), which is why over each shop door there is a small barred window – this would have been the only window the prisoners in the cells had.