Monday, February 28, 2011


Topography, originally uploaded by and copyrighted by  Calsidyrose.

Isn't this amazing? An old map of a Colorado River canyon, originally from 1895 and published in the J W Powell monograph. Click on the photo to read more about this map. When I first saw it I thought it was a cross section of a strange wooden stem of a liana, they can look similar in close-up.


Tjärnen, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

One of the most beautiful, manmade places I have seen is 'Skogens Trädgård" (Forest Garden) at Wij Garden in Ockelbo, Sweden. The designer of this garden used Swedish nature as inspiration to create rooms and feelings related to Swedish landscapes, such as this little black-water lake in a dark spruce forest. A lot of mythology surrounds places like this, from bouldery trolls and goldenhaired young maidens (Tuvstarr) to whispy elfs in the fog, from softness and calm solitude to to darkness and fear. There are many more photos in my Flickr photostream from this place, and I will soon write more about it here on the blog.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gorgeous: Solandra flower

Solandra, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

What is it about flowers that make them gorgeous? The combination of organized pattern, colors, and unexpected shapes? Why are we humans drawn to such patterns instead of chaotic messes? Why do we like patterns that are sometimes so rare in nature, except in flowers, like this nearly perfect 10-divided circle in the back of this flower. This is Solandra, a relative of tomatoes, and it is a giant tropical vine with 30 cm long yellow flowers. Just gorgeous!

Patterns in sand

This is incredible art - fast, instant, and gone in a second... so moving...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gorgeous: fluffy and fragile plants

Everlasting plant 2, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

These flowers are called 'everlasting' because their petals are dry and papery and never wilt. When you touch them you get surprised that they are not fluffy and soft, but rather fragile and stiff, like thin cut paper. I saw these at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, a wonderful and amazing place at the end of the world.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gorgeous: summer waters

rushes, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

The vertical lines of the rush stems go from the bottom of the lake straight through the water column and up in the air, and are slowly moved by the small surface ripples created by the summer winds. This photo was taken at Lake Trehörningen in Sweden, a little gorgeous place that few know about.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gorgeous: green

intestinalis algae close-up, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Who decides what is gorgeous? We all do. I think this is gorgeous, this green algae shaped like long tubes and filled with gas from its photosynthesis, but when you slip on this near the ocean you think it is less gorgeous. It can fill whole little cliff ponds along the edge of the ocean with green, and among it you can find little crustaceans, snails, fishes, and other creatures that can survive extreme temperatures and saltlevels. When a big wave breaks at high water, fresh seawater can flush in to the pool, but the rest of the time the algae lives there in its own little unstable ecosystem. These green abstract shapes and colors are living beauty to me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter morning walk, tracing steps

A nightly light snowfall covered the sides of the road like airy powder.  Over by the fields, a fox had crossed the road to walk into the forest, with determined steps in a semi-straight line.  Further down the road, another, or the same, fox had followed the road for a while, equally determined to get wherever he or she was going. Suddenly some new tracks showed up on top of the fox tracks for a few yards - a racoon's longer-fingered paws had left irrationally patterned tracks on top of the fox paw prints and then went back down in the wet ditch again.  On the highest point of the road, near the giant oaks standing tall in the forest, squirrels jumped their 4-steps pace across the road, maybe looking for lost acorns on the other side of the road.  And up near the barn, a barncat (not ours) had created a beaded band of small round prints, with five round shapes in each, swirling its way up to the barn on the hill.  Not a mouse or vole track did I see.  Human tracks - mine and some kids', from front doors to school bus doors on the road - ending in nowhere when they got on the bus.  There were one more kind of pattern in the snow - giant salt crystals from the salt truck that were surrounded by melted areas, a perfect square salt crystal, sometimes even double, with a dark halo in the white snow.  It was all telling stories, hinting at things that had happened when nobody else had been looking, silent life on the Sourland Mountain in New Jersey. And then the sun got up and melted the snow away .

Gorgeous: Where the rivers meet

Rio Negro meets the Amazon, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

In the Amazon, the black-water branch called Rio Negro meets the white-water branch of the Amazon near the city of Manaus, in the middle of the rainforest. The river is so wide here that you can barely see the forest along the horizon and ocean liners can come to Manaus all the way from the Atlantic, thousands of km away. The two water masses don't mix until miles and miles downstream since they have different density. Sometimes a clump of floating grass floats by, or a log, or a pink dolphin splashes. The black water is like dark tea, full of humus and acids that gives it a low pH. This is at high water season, six months later the water level is about 6 meters lower. Forests get flooded high up on their stems, people live in houses on stilts or floats, and even the cattle are kept in floating houses and fed the floating grass during the high water. It is a different kind of life, circling around the level of the water.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gorgeous: sunlight on flowers

sunflower 3, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

I always found it fascinating that changing light can create such a myriad of patterns, shapes, colors, and forms. The same bouquet of sunflowers on our kitchen table will look very different when you compare it between the morning, lunch or evening, but it is the same sunflowers the whole time. Here are some evening light, soft and coming sideways in through the western window.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gorgeous: Strange colors on rocks

In northern New Jersey, USA, is a little mine called Sterling Mine, now a museum, filled with unusual rocks that have UV fluorescence. We walked into the mine, which is literally horizontally into a mountain wall, and then our guide turned off all lights. After a few seconds he turned on his black light (UV) and we were surrounded by glowing red and light green on the rock walls. Eerie, yes. Beautiful, yes. Could people have known about this before electricity and light bulbs? Are there more things like this that we do not yet know about because we don't' have the tools to see them? I wonder about things like this when I go on my walks, and I think that maybe what we see and perceive is maybe just a tiny bit of the reality that is surrounding us. The photo is from the Sterling Mine Museum, a must see place, where they have a whole room with rocks that fluoresce in different colors.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gorgeous: Tiles in Samarkand

Samarkand is a magical place, an old market city on the old Silk Road and home to ancient scientists and poets. The old mosques are still there, and with detailed and large mosaic patterns, often in turqoise. Here is a tiny detail of a regular wall in one of the historic compounds. Each brick is painted, glazed and burned before you make the wall, so these colors are hundreds if not a thousand years old.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gorgeous: Octopus pond

Octopus pond in Yellowstone, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Yellowstone National Park in USA is a magical place, full of contrasts. Hot water springs, like this, are mixed in with harsh winters, fluffy bisons, needly conifers and white-stemmed aspens. Geysers spout steam and water, and sulfuric fumes rise from the ground. The Octopus pond is unusual in that it has very high ph and calcium carbonate is being deposited in white layers around the edges. But don't jump in - many of these ponds are too hot or have dangerous chemicals or bacteria in them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gorgeous: lupines

lupines in rain, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

In the northern parts of Sweden where summer is short and sometimes rainy you often find lupines that have become naturalized along roadsides from people's gardens. These are from Njupeskär at Fulufjället's National Park. I love the softness to the photo that the overcast and rain created.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gorgeous photo: sleeping bird

This black-headed tityra bird was not worried about raptors when it sat sleeping on a branch high up above the La Selva research station in Costa Rica. The sun had just gone up and there was still some wetness in the air from the night.

Numbers to ponder: pizza consumption

Americans eat 100 acres of pizza per day.  That is 404 000 square meters or 40 hectars.  Or 81 tunnland, if you are in Sweden and like old-fashioned measures.

Quote to ponder: Green people

"When I observe the fate of botanists, upon my word I doubt whether to call them sane or mad in their devotion to plants" 
Carl von Linnaeus, Critica Botanica, 1737

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sometimes you aren't aware...

Love on the death floor!, originally uploaded by kadavoor.
..of what is going on right under or above you... Great photo by kadavoor on Flickr.

Imagine a dark night...

prickly stick insects, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
... and you are walking through the Australian forest, and one of these giant prickly stick insects land on you, in your hair or on your shoulder and starts walking across you in search for some good leaves to eat. Would you like that? Amazing creatures, fascinating. One subspecies of this species even imitates lichens. We saw these at the Liberty Science Center, NJ, USA, where they mostly were hanging around upside down, not doing much in particular.

Swirly patterns

swirly, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
This pattern was created on a giant flat disk filled with blue water and (probably) ground up mother-of-pearl, and spun round and round by a couple of kids at Liberty Science Center in NJ, USA. Isn't it gorgeous?

It is a tumultous world recently...

In Egypt the people won over the dictator, and there are some great stories and photos here, for example. Dictators are falling like dominos, finally.

In Italy, the prime minister has to go to trial for having sex with an under-age prostitute and then trying to influence the police work. 

In Sweden, temperatures are back down in the minus 20 Celsius (that is 0 F). Keep warm!

In Ecuador, an oil company is fined 9 billion dollars for destroying parts of the Amazon rainforest through oil drilling. (The company, Chevron, says it won't pay and that the courts are corrupt).

what was the headline on Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet today?  "New parasitic worm found in foxes in Sweden,  now you can't be licked by your dog and pick mushrooms and berries in the forests anymore" (paraphrased, but true).  Come on, Aftonbladet - it is like you are turning into the left-leaning fear-mongering Fox News of Sweden... (link to story in Swedish - it is no longer on the top news, but it was in the middle of today)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ponderings on potatoes

Why are so many people more excited over the new flavors on potato chips than over the fact that potatoes (and we) actually exist?  I think that potatoes exist is much, much more awesome and extreme than the latest flavor cooked up in some food chemistry lab. But nobody talks about that...  (OK, for the record, I love salt & vinegar and pickle-flavored chips).

Some photos of recently 'discovered' flavors from the food labs.

horseradish chips
ketchup chips?

Extreme Screamin' dill pickle chips, anyone?  And dipping a chip in ketchup is not longer necessary (who would dip them anyway?).  And horseradish and cheddar, Swedes - would you eat 'pepparrot och ostsmak'?  In Sweden there are chips flavored with dill, chives, and 'juicy onion and cheese'.  There are lots of special chips flavors around the world, and I would like to try the kimchee one from Japan. 
But I am getting away from the topic.  My point is that many people sit around and think about and drool over chips, without being in awe that one little planet in a huge vast, maybe infinite,universe has 'managed to' evolve humans and potatoes from scratch (or near scratch). I think that is much more awesome than some new flavor of a chips developed by a human brain and marketed for millions and millions of dollars that could have been spent on making this planet a better home for everybody. 

Recipe - almond apple cake from Rosendal

My mom gave us a wonderful cookbook, The Garden Cafe at Rosendal, which is filled with recipes, photos and stories from the organic garden and cafe Rosendal on Djurgården in Stockholm.  For Valentine's Eve I made one of the recipes, Apple Cake with Almond, with some slight modifications (I didn't put shaved butter on top, like the recipe says). It was dense, luscious, and delicious. 

Ingredients (American measurements):
5 eggs (an egg is an egg in the US too!)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (can be bought at IKEA, if you don't have it, use confectioners sugar and two drops of vanilla extract)
5 oz almond paste (look in the baking section of the supermarket, Odense is a good brand)
2 tbsp cinnamon (we had extra strong cinnamon so I used only 1 tbsp)
1 3/4 cups white flour
4 large apples (I used 2 green and 2 bright red, organic is best, do not peel)
1/2 cup (or less) pearl sugar (can also be bought at IKEA)
5 tbsp butter (I didn't include this, too many calories... but it makes the cake more moist and fresh...)

Turn on oven to about 375 degrees F. Whisk the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla sugar a lot so it turns into whitish foamy mix.  Grate the almond paste using a cheese grater (large hole size), and mix in separate bowl with flour and cinnamon.  Add the egg mix, mix in slowly. Cut apples in half, core them, and then slice very thinly. Take a round pan with removable sides and butter it and then add breadcrumbs, so the cake will not stick in the pan.  Add the mix, and then stick the apple pieces into the pan.  Put MANY apple pieces in.  I added them in a circular pattern that looked great, but I should have added more apples, will do next time (I will probably add the mix and the apples in horizontal layers next time too, then I can add more apples and maybe use a bit less egg and flour mix. Add the pearl sugar on top.  At the end you are supposed to shave off thin slices of the cold butter and add on top, I skipped this step.  I am sure it will be just more delicious if you add the butter.  Put in oven, takes about 40 min (check with toothpick to see if it is done).  Before and after photos below (click for larger photos on Flickr).  Mmmmm!

Swedish apple-almond cake

Swedish apple-almond cake

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lego fun!

Lego is fun!

Sometimes as a parent you´ll get annoyed with all the little pieces lying around, but fact is that a Lego session can chase away both thoughts of work on a Sunday morning and breakfast hunger.

I did these cars with my boys this morning, and we have raced them too. They work fine after some adjustments. And the sound when rummaging for Lego in a plastic box is still the same as when I was a kid. Some things don´t change. :-)

So, an advice for annoyed parents; Get down and play instead!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Meet Lynd Ward

 This is what I got for Christmas.  A boxed set of Lynd Ward's painstakingly made woodcut graphic novels (6 in total), without words, and published first in the 1920s to 1940s.  We saw his art for the first time at the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania in their great Graphic Art show (which we visited twice, it was that great).  His stories and art connect back in time to medieval church paintings telling bible stories for illiterate farmers, to revolutionary imagery such as Diego Rivera's and Japanese woodcuts.  Imaging making a story without any words, just pictures, and each picture has two colors, black and white, and has to be 'drawn' in reverse on woodblock, line by line, for later printing by hand.  He didn't make it easy for himself, but he sure did great art and literature.  His book God's Man is about an artist that leaves America for another country and tries to make a living, fails, and then sells his soul to the devil (marketing? commercialism?), finds the true love of his life, runs off with her to a foreign coutnry, but eventually his debtors catches up with him and meter out the punishment for not paying his debt.  A millenia old story, and still valid today.  There is a great foreword for this set of books by Spiegelman.
I wonder if those two flowers are gentians?  They could be!

It turns out that some of the woodblocks for his novels are here in New Jersey at Rutgers Universities Libraries, what a coincidence.

You can read more about God's Man here.

(Thanks PP for a wonderful Christmas gift) 

We are working on the railroad...

.. all night and day - 3 1/2 days in fact, around the clock.  This is a timelapse video for DH and others who like machines (thanks PP for the link)

Church and 30th St. San Francisco MUNI Construction from Ken Murphy on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fear-inducing advice forcing people away from outside

  • Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible to prevent pollen from blowing into your home and car.
  • Avoid going outside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are highest.
  • Don't hang dry your clothing outside, as pollen can be transferred to your clothes and into your home that way.
  • Shower and wash your hair before bed so you don't spend the night covered in allergens.
  • Exercise indoors during the pollen season.
  • Wear a paper mask while gardening to protect yourself from flower and weed pollens. 
This was sent to me in an e-mail today from a website specializing in healthy living.  The e-mail was about seasonal allergies and these were the only practical advice they gave.  Based on this, if you suffer from hayfever and asthma you should never go outside, just stay inside and don't get any fresh air, and definitely not in the mornings. No wonder there are kids who never go outside with this kind of fear-mongering.  It is like pollen are EVIL things.  If you are seriously allergic I understand the issue, but this was sent as a general information e-mail to anybody with even slight allergies.  "Wear a paper mask while gardening", don't save energy and don't help the world become more sustainable by avoid using the dryer in the summer for the laundry... and run the air conditioning all the time inside your house or car with the windows closed...  I e-mailed them and wondered why they gave such unhealthy, energy-gouging and unsustainable advice to everybody.  A Culture of Fear, indeed.... 

A linguistic note as well - pollen is pollen in plural, not pollens, and flowers can be weeds and vice versa, but I think that is too botanical for the unnatural e-mail writer from The information on their website is a bit more toned down, but still fear-inducing.  I can just see millions of moms keeping their kids inside for fear of pollen, possibly in an air environment that is even worse for other reasons.

Now just remember, there are evil things out there.... animals and flowers and fresh air and such.

Bits and pieces from the internet, D edition

Some more wanderings around the internet, with stops linked by D....

Dips, Chips, Wings, and Things:  It has been Superbowl Sunday here in the USA, which is something the rest of the world and certainly this household could care less about (well, AREA watched it a friends).  People (about 150 million) watch the two top football teams fight over the Superbowl award on TV, while eating snack food in enormous amounts (ALL the food magazines and food websites had special recipes just for this Sunday).  One of the most anticipated events are the special ads that are made for this event, which cost each advertiser about $3 million dollars for 1 min or so. We didn't see the Superbowl, but we did see some of the ads on the internet afterwards, and these two stood out...

Detroit: A city in northern USA ravaged by the manufacturing crisis during the last 30 years at least, and home to many famous car brands, many now defunct.  It is high crime, high unemployment, and has many social and infrastructure problems.  But it has seen a great revival, and Chrysler showed it off in their ad.
From a blogpost about the ad: "...Chrysler managed — in just two minutes — to make me cry, think, feel proud, question my Toyota, and want to hug the entire city of Detroit while screaming the lyrics to I’m Proud to Be an American. That roller coaster of emotion aside, the spot also managed to reaffirm my values and beliefs as a preservationist. " (link to whole blog post by Jason Clement on PreservationNation).  And some more about Detroit here if you like.

Darth Vader: A toddler-sized Darth Vader was the best ad during the Superbowl, I think.  Another car they (Volkswagen) wanted us to buy, but who cares? it made you laugh, especially the parody of the ad, which was online in less than an hour, I bet.  These ads are like when you went to Swedish movies and you made sure you never missed the ads in the beginning because they were fun and cool and different...and one reason you went to the movies (true!). This was before there were ads on Swedish TV channels, so the only moving ads you ever saw were at the movie theater or in newspapers and magazines.  I still remember some of the classic Swedish movie ads from 30-40 years ago. Oh, and Volkswagen's second Superbowl commercial is perfect for the entomologists! See the black beetle here.

Design in old biological diaramas at The Biological Museum (Biologiska Museet) in Sweden - how about a nice chair in the middle of the forest with a bear?  Quite great, unexpected, and fun! I bet this old-fashioned museum are getting some new visitors based on this exhibit. Look at the last picture too, it shows the museum building from the outside in its great national-romanticism glory around the end of the 1800s. I think it is supposed to be reminiscient of an old, old stav church from Western Scandinavia.

Drag something new around your arm:  "Sixteen ways to use your arm now when watches are obsolete"  My favorite was the small game trophy and the cross stitch, which is yours?

And, there is more Dust in the world than ever.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

...and I am dreaming about this

from a frogs perspective, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Summer - Swedish kind, not too hot, not too humid, just nice.

And now our road looks like this...

nasty road, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Imagine everything covered in ice...

... and it will look like this.  Last week we had an ice storm here in New Jersey, and woke up to a landscape where everything was covered with about half an inch of ice.  Every branch, twig, car, fence, road... The freezing rain had soaked us in frozen stiffness.  There was a slight wind, and with every breeze, the branches on the trees moved against each other in the forest creating the eerie sound of glass against glass, like when you move your hand in a box of giant and small beads.  Once in a while, in the quietness, was a giant crack and a branch or tree fell of the heavy waterweight, and a million tiny ice pieces fell down on the ground with glass-shattering noise.  Schools were closed, roads too icy to drive on, and branches fell on powerlines, so we had no power from 8 AM to 8 PM (= no heat, no water, no electricity, no phone,  but we have a gas stove so a wonderful beef stew dinner was cooking half the day).  But it was gorgeously beautiful.  Here are some photos from our walk that day, and we stayed on the road to avoid any big falling branches. By the late afternoon most ice had melted off the trees and fallen down on the icy snow, crack, crack, crash....

ice on trees

iced deer fences

ice on laundry rack

after the storm

ice on trees

icicles on fence

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How about a few steps through Versailles?

This is really really nice - walk through art museums and look at art, up close...  this kind of interactive things are the way I like internet to be.  You can really imagine being there...real virtual travel. .Thank you Google Art Project!