Saturday, January 23, 2010

The floating tree of Jaffa

We spent last week in Israel. We stayed in Tel Aviv. Just a short walk down the boardwalk, along the Mediterranean, is the small area of Jaffa, named for one of Noah's sons. Once Jaffa was one of the most important sea ports in the world, now is a quaint "artsy" neighborhood within the ever-sprawling Tel Aviv.

Walking through Jaffa, we came upon this hanging tree. No signs leading up to it. No explanation why it's there. No over-wrought interpretive signage in multiple languages with an artist's statement. Not even any other trees around. Just a lonely tree suspended in the air, separated from the earth by inches.

According to Greek mythology, Andromeda was chained to a rock just off the coast of Jaffa -- a sacrifice to a sea monster as a punishment for her mother's bragging (but was saved by Perseus, her future husband). Here, also, Jonah was swallowed by the whale. 

While in Israel, we were able (with excellent tour guide Mimi) to visit Jerusalem, climb the Masada, float in the Dead Sea, drive through parts of the West Bank, see the Holocaust Museum, visit Haifa, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, and Qumran (site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found).

It'll take months to comprehend all we saw and learned. My daughter's take-away was that she likes falafel, and that any place Jesus did something, they built a church.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Airdate for Extreme Home Makeover - Buffalo Edition

Not only will Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - Buffalo air on January 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC -- it will be a special two-hour show. Citing the fact they had too much footage for just an hour, and their biggest turnout of volunteers ever, and the extent of the work done on the neighborhood, it was decided to make the episode twice as long.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Garden Bloggers to take over Buffalo...

Garden Bloggers Buffa10 This week, Elizabeth Licata (of Garden Rant, Gardening While Intoxicated, editor Buffalo Spree magazine) and I invited hundreds of garden bloggers to Buffalo -- two weeks before Garden Walk Buffalo. So far we have responses from 55 bloggers from 22 states and two countries. And this is just a week after the announcement. My god, what have we done?

Spring Fling Group PhotoAustin, Texas 2008

This is the third meet-up of garden bloggers nationally. Last meetings were in Austin and Chicago. Many of the bloggers are professional writers, some are professional landscapers, some have written books, have radio shows, newspaper columns or TV shows, some are horticulturalists, some are nursery professionals, most are just avid plant/garden fans. Everyone has in common a penchant for writing, photography, social media, technology and -- come to find out -- eating, drinking and peeking at other people's gardens.

We're expecting upwards of 55 bloggers to ultimately visit Buffalo on Thursday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11. Embassy Suites in the new Avant Building is offering a special rate for those that reserve before April 30. We'll get a bus to take the group around. We've got a very preliminary itinerary set up (subject to changes and additions). We even have a major sponsor (Troy-Bilt) and some in-kind sponsors for door prizes & goodie bags. If you think you can be a sponsor, or have items good for door prizes or goodie bags (50+), please let me know.

Chicago, 2009

We've set up a website for the any garden blogger interested in coming. Please visit Garden Bloggers Buffa10. You can see the rough itinerary and a list of the bloggers that have committed to visiting.

The benefit to all this, other than showing off Buffalo at its best? There will be, potentially, hundreds of blog posts, starting that weekend, up to Garden Walk on July 24 & 25, creating an internet buzz like no event in Buffalo has ever seen.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 6 - The Blizzard of '77
The Blizzard of ’77 was noted mostly for its massive snow fall and biting temperatures: There were 45 consecutive days below freezing, averaging 13.80 F. Also, Buffalo made a record for the greatest one month snowfall with 68.3'' (beat in 2001!).

The storm was spread from Buffalo to Watertown, NY, but Buffalo, being a large city, got most of the press and the lasting image of a snow-weary city. Honestly, it's not. We're more weary of the image left behind by that storm.

Just south of the city, along the eastern shore of Lake Erie - in the snow-belt ski areas they do get significant snow accumulation. The city of Buffalo is at the northern-most tip of Lake Erie and gets socked with a huge storm only every three or five years. But what city in our latitude doesn't?

I wasn't in Buffalo in 1977. I was a tenth-grader happily ensconced in Binghamton, New York, almost four hours away, blissfully unaware of what was happening in the northern half of my own state.

Here are some photos I found, for your pleasure.

NOAA Photo Library Image - wea00952

File:Blizzard of 1977.jpgBlizzard of 77

Each day this week, I'm posting some facts about flakes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 5 - The History of Snow

Well, a brief history of man's interaction with snow. I'm assuming snow was here before mankind.

135 B.C. Han Ying The first mention of the hexagonal form in relation to a snow crystal was made in China in the publication Hanshi waizhuan. "Flowers of plants and trees are in general five-pointed. However, flowers of snow, which are called ying, are always six-pointed."

Twelfth Century Zhu Xi, a philosopher in China, theorized why snowflakes are always six-sided when he wrote: "The reason why snowflakes are six-pointed is because they are only half-frozen rain (xian) (i.e. water) split open by violent winds, and so they must be six-pointed. If one throws a lump of mud on the ground it will splash into a radiating, angular petal-like form. Now 6 is a yin number; and gypsum also is six-pointed with sharp prismatic angular edges. Everything is due to the number inherent in nature. "

c.1390 Wang Kui wrote in Lihaiji: "Snow is the ultimate (state) of yin and completely possesses the number of Water (i.e. 6). Every snow-flake is six-pointed. Frost and snow are due to the condensation of rain and dew. Water is is generated by Metal. A surplus of qi reveals the Mother (i.e. Metal). Hence frost and snow are all white."

1611 Johannes Kepler published a short treatise On the Six-Cornered Snowflake, which was the first scientific reference to snow crystals.

1635 Ren Descartes was the first to pen a reasonably accurate description of snow crystal morphologies -- as well as can be done with the naked eye.

1665 Robert Hooke published Micrographia, with sketches of everything he could view with the latest invention -- the microscope. Included are snow crystal drawings, which revealed the complexity & symmetry of snow crystals.

1931 Wilson A. Bentley (shown in photo above) was a farmer and snow crystal photomicrographer, in Jericho, Vermont, who captured some 5,000 snow crystal images. His entire collection of snow crystal images can be found at the Buffalo Museum of Science. We stopped by the Jericho Historial Society once when were were visiting Vermont years ago. They have a permanent Bentley exhibition with the camera and tools he used, as well as many crystal images -- it's worth checking out if you're ever in that corner of the world.

1954 Ukichiro Nakaya was the first person to perform a true systematic study of snow crystals, which resulted in a giant leap in our understanding of how snow crystals form.

1966 Magono & Lee extend the Nakaya Snowflake Classification chart from 41 classes to 80 in Meteorological classification of natural snow crystals.

There are still snow scientists. Nowadays they are more likely to be studying Arctic climate and its global implications; remote sensing of snow, ice, and frozen ground; physical & mechanical properties of snow; snow cover and glacier mass/extent as indicators of climate change, human-environment interactions; Inuit knowledge; innovative technologies and methodologies; linking indigenous and scientific knowledge, Glaciology; remote sensing of the poles; Antarctic history; geochemistry; and planetary science.

Years ago, as a direct mail promotion, I created a Snowflake Field Guide for the Buffalo Museum of Science. The text was supplied to me by the Museum. Apparently some of their research included the site, Please visit there for more information on snow. Each day this week, I'm posting some facts about flakes. It was originally intended for kids, but I didn't know much of this info when I started.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 4 - Snow Stats

Increase your sknowledge. Impress your friends, amaze your families. Photo above is of a frozen Niagara Falls in 1911.
  • More snow falls each year in southern Canada and the northern U.S. than at the North Pole.

  • Snowflakes can measure up to 2'' across and contain hundreds of crystals. The largest snow-flake ever found was 8''x 12'', reported in Bratsk, Siberia,1971.

  • In Germany, frogs were once kept as pets because they croaked more loudly when air pressure fell and when bad weather was coming.

  • The lowest recorded temperature was at Vostok, a research base in Antarctica, on July 21, 1983: -128.60 F.

  • The heaviest snowfall in 24 hours – 76'' at Silver Lake, CO on April 15, 1921.

  • In western U.S., mountain snow contributes up to 75% of all surface water supplies.

  • The heaviest snow storm occurred on February 13-19, 1959 at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl, CA: 189''

  • The greatest snowfall officially reported in Phoenix, Arizona was one inch. That occurred twice. The first time was January 20, 1933. And again, four years later, on the same date.

  • Each year, an average of 105 snow storms affect the U.S. A typical storm has a snow-producing lifetime of 2-5 days.

  • Practically every location in the U.S. has seen snowfall. Even most portions of southern Florida have seen snow flurries.

  • Nationwide, the average snowfall amount, per day, when snow falls, is about two inches, but in some mountain areas of the West, an average of seven inches is observed.

  • Buffalo, NY does not rank highest in snowfall in the Western New York area. Syracuse beats us with about 115'' annually, as opposed to Buffalo’s 93''. On average, Rochester, NY, has as much snowfall, if not slightly more, than Buffalo. (Though Buffalo gets heavy duty lake effect storms every few years -- and all the press. Winters are not as bad as people believe.)
Years ago, as a direct mail promotion, I created a Snowflake Field Guide for the Buffalo Museum of Science. Each day this week, I'm posting some facts about flakes. It was originally intended for kids, but I didn't know much of this info when I started.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 3 - SnowFacts

Snow is good for plants. A layer of snow protects a plant from drying wind & cold. I'm sure you know the rules surrounding yellow snow, but did you know some of these other facts?

How big can snowflakes get?

Snowflakes are a collection of ice crystals that form in a round mass. Most are less than one-half inch in diameter, although under certain conditions irregularly shaped snowflakes can grow to be up to 2''.

Is snow edible?
In an unpolluted world snow is edible. Snow in urban areas may contain pollutants and should not be ingested. Stick to the countryside, but stay away from the yellow stuff!

Does snow change how sound waves travel?
Yes. When the ground has a thick layer of fresh, fluffy snow it acts like a blanket and absorbs sound waves. However, when the snow surface is smooth and hard, it reflects sound waves and sounds may seem clearer and travel farther.

Can there be thunder and lightning with a snow storm?
Yes, but it is rare and usually occurs near the coastline. Though, I can attest in Buffalo there's lightning and thunder during a snow storm at least once a year.

Why do more icicles form on the south sides of buildings?
Icicles form when ice or snow repeatedly melts and freezes. Because the south sides of buildings are exposed to the warmth of the sun, icicles are more likely to form there than on the shaded north sides of buildings where melting does not occur as often.

Why do forecasters seem to have so much trouble forecasting snow?
Snow forecasts are more accurate than they used to be, but meteorologists still have a challenge. That’s because in stormy weather, the heaviest snow falls in surprisingly narrow bands. It’s not unusual for the scale of these bands to be dwarfed by the sheer size of storm systems or forecast zones.

Why is snow white?
Much like a diamond gemstone or prism in a crystal chandelier, snowflakes contain tiny surfaces that reflect light. Snow is white because the sunlight it reflects is white.

Photo above is of my potager vegetable plot safely blanketed for the winter. It also happens to be where we "store" snow from shoveling. Years ago, as a direct mail promotion, I created a Snowflake Field Guide for the Buffalo Museum of Science. Each day this week, I'm posting some facts about flakes. It was originally intended for kids, but I didn't know much of this info when I started.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 2 – Storm Terminology

What do these clouds have in store? Blizzard? Flurry? Squall? Here in Buffalo, we choose snow over earthquakes, brush fires, floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, 100+ degree weather, mudslides, locusts and other pestilence & plagues. So differences in snow terminology matters. Forewarned is forearmed. And helps determine the shoveling schedule.

Storm Terminology:
Blizzard Winds of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow reducing visibility for at least three hours.

Blowing Snow Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by wind.

Snow Squalls Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.

Snow Showers Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Flurries
Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.

Years ago, as a direct mail promotion, I created a Snowflake Field Guide for the Buffalo Museum of Science. Each day this week, I'm posting some facts about flakes. It was originally intended for kids, but I didn't know much of this info when I started.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Snowflake Field Guide Part 1 - Snowflake Classification

When your Spatial & Stellar Dendrites are piling up on the garden and it's too cold for your Sectored Plates to melt, and Rimed Crystals are predicted, it's time to learn more about them.

The 1951 International Snowflake Classification System
This system defines seven principal snow crystal types as plates, stellar crystals, columns, needles, spatial dendrites, capped columns, and irregular forms. To these are added: graupel, ice pellets and hail.

Stellar Dendrites
Stellar dendrites have six symmetrical main branches and many randomly placed sidebranches.

Sectored Plates
Like the stellar dendrites, sectored plates are flat, thin slivers of ice that fall to earth in a stunning diversity of complex shapes.

Hollow Columns
Columnar crystals are the main constituents of many snowfalls. These hollow columns are hexagonal, like a pencil, with conical hollow features in their ends.

Columnar crystals can grow so long and thin that they look like needles.

Spatial Dendrites
Spatial dendrites are made from many individual ice crystals jumbled together. Each branch is like one arm of a stellar crystal, but branches are oriented randomly.

Capped Columns
These crystals started out growing as columns, but switched to plate-like growth. This happens when a crystal is blown into a region with a different temperature.

Irregular Crystals
Snowflakes can have a hard life blowing about in a turbulent cloud, so that many arrive on the ground broken, ill-formed, and generally in bad shape.

Rimed Crystals
Snowflakes are made of small water droplets. Droplets that freeze onto a falling snow crystal are called rime. Sometimes a snowflake becomes just a ball of rime, called graupel, or soft hail.

Wilson Bentley was the first person to successfully photograph snowflakes.
The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science is a digital collection of stunning, un-retouched images of Wilson A. Bentley’s original glass slide photographs. Wilson Bentley was the first to discover that no two snowflakes are alike.

When it looks like this out your office window (photo at top), thoughts turn to dendrite build-up. Years ago, as a direct mail promotion, I created a Snowflake Field Guide for the Buffalo Museum of Science. Each day this week, I'll post some facts about flakes. It was originally intended for kids, but I didn't know much of this info when I started.


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