Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weller Louwelsa Vase with Rudbeckia nitida

Weller Louwelsa Vase with Rudbeckia Flowers
Weller Louwelsa Vase and RudbeckiaWeller Louwelsa Vase and Rudbeckia

In this pots and plants post, we have paired a Weller Louwelsa vase and Rudbeckia nitida - Gloriosa Daisy ‘Herbstonne’.

The Weller Pottery Company created a wide-range of designs, from art ware to functional ware from the 1870s to the 1940s. This vase is a from the Louwelsa line and is brown-glazed with hand painted roses (it looks like) in reds and golds. According to Warman’s Weller Potter: Identification and Price Guide Louwelsa was produced from 1896 to 1924. Other sources state that the Louwelsa line was one of the most popular Weller lines. This vase is 9.5” tall with the artist mark “Burgess” (for Levi Burgess) on the side and the Weller die-impressed mark and 314 on the bottom. The Weller mark is a half circle seal trademark which Weller used between 1896 and the early 1900s.

Inside the vase we put Rudbeckia nitida Gloriosa Daisy 'Herbstsonne', sometimes commonly called Shining Coneflower due to the prominent green cone. Rudbeckia are a genus in the family Asteraceae (Compositae) popular for their bright yellow and orange flowers. Rudbeckia liven up our tired garden as August slips into September. The bright flowers channel memories of the sun, as the days get noticeably shorter.

Flowers in the in the Asteraceae family are composite flower heads with either ray florets, disc florets, or both. A floret is a small flower in a composite flower head. The R. nitida has both ray florets (the yellow “petals” - they aren’t really) and discs (small flowers in the cone). A close up of the cone shows each the fused petals forming a tube. For other examples of flowers from the Asteraceae family see by the author of the Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification (a very handy book).

The “cones” of this Rudbeckia are particularly prominent by themselves, but even more so because the ray florets point downward. We grow R. nitida on the north side our our property in a narrow section of yard between a fence and a garage. It’s a spot that gets only a few hours of good sun, not enough in our opinion for optimal growth of the plant. Despite less the less than optimal conditions, this coneflower easily reaches grows to 7 feet, blooming from July to September.

So where does the binomial name come from? Dave’s Garden says the generic name is for Olof Rudbeck and his son (also Olof), 17th Swedish botanists and the specific epithet nitida means shiny or glossy. Quattrocchi, doesn’t spare the details and gives us this generic name origin:

After the Swedish botanist Olaus (Olof) Olai Rudbeck (Rudbeckius), 1660 - 1740, physician, M.D. Utrecht 1690, professor of anatomy and botany, traveler, teacher of Linnaeus, author of De fundamentali plantarum notitia. Trajecti ad Rhenum [Utrecht] 1790. He was father of the Swedish naturalist scientist Johan Olof Rudbeck (1711 - 1790); according to Stearn the name also commemorates the Swedish physician and botanist Olaus (Olof) Johannis Rudbeck (1630 - 1702, b. Vasteras, d. Uppsala), father of O.O. Rudbeck; see J.H. Barnhart Biographical Notes upon Botanists.

Weller Louwelsa Vase with Flowers (left) and Artist Mark “Burgess” (right)
Weller Louwelsa Vase   Weller Louwelsa Vase

The cone of Rudbeckia nitida with disc forets viewed with a Peak Scale Lupe 10x 
Ray florets up close Ray florets up close

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Visitor Center

We Can Make a Difference Now

Every person deserves the chance to live a health, productive life.
Arrive curious. Leave inspired.

These are statements from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. The visitor center is a place where you can find out about the history, work, and mission of the foundation. I was walking by the other day and stumbled on the visitor center. If you are in the area (downtown Seattle and in particular near the Space Needle), it is worth a stop. If you can’t make it to the visitor center, you can try the audio tour using your phone and the map shown below which gives a good overview or visit their website.

The visitor center is laid out linearly with four big spaces: voices, family & foundation, partnerships, and innovation & inspiration. The four spaces build up naturally so that in the last space (innovation & inspiration) you, the visitor, are asked to solve problems and provide ideas that could make a difference. This is where the image at the top of this post came from.

The visitor center is an interesting fusion of technology and natural materials - mainly wood. When you push a lever, move a roller, or push a button to activate or change a display, you are usually touching a soft, friendly wood object. After a few moments, the change you made is reversed and quietly the display goes back to its previous state, ready for the next visitor. There is a picture below of a lever that controls two videos. When no one is controlling the video, the lever moves slowly between the two videos. At any time you can take hold of it and slide it around. Another picture shows blocks with dates (fact blocks) that you push to rotate and see facts on the other side. After a few seconds, the blocks turn themselves back around.

The Reinvent the Toilet Fair took place August 15 and there were a couple of interesting artifacts left over from that including The Earth Auger Toilet: Innovation in waterless sanitation (el taladro de la tierra) and samples of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae that are used in another toilet design. The BSF are “voracious eaters of faecal waste and as pre-pupae can be turned into revenue-generating products like animal feed and biofuels.”

After an hour plus of reading, walking, and interacting with the displays, one question kept coming up in my mind and it is this: how is it that we have the situation where we need something like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its unprecedented money and scope to solve these problems? Has something gone wrong? Is this the natural state of human society?

I think the question is interesting for the following reasons. Chances are that you and I will never amass the wealth that has enabled the foundation to undertake its mission. This is not sour grapes, but is stating the obvious. Given this, what is it that you and I can do in our everyday lives? To this end, there is in the visitor center what I’ll call a pledge tree (see photo) where visitors commit to taking action. But, beyond this pledge tree and more importantly, what is it that you and I could do as a citizen when it comes to voting for systems of governance and law? What things should we be weary of that cause problems that we end up having to solve later? As a consumer, what habits do we have that, again, cause problems we have to solve later – be they local or in some other country? That is the essence of the question that was in my mind as I left the visitor center. Is this something the visitor center should discuss? Perhaps not. This kind of “education” is hard, doesn’t have any easy answers, and is controversial to boot. (I did not search extensively on the foundation’s website to see if these issues are covered in there; I am only commenting that I did not see these issues covered in the visitor center.)

Arrive Currious. Leave Inspired.
Arrive Currious. Leave Inspired. Arrive Currious. Leave Inspired.

Gates Foundation Visitor Center – Two DisplaysGates Foundation Visitor Center – Two Displays Gates Foundation Visitor Center – Two Displays

Gates Foundation Audio Tour Brochure
Gates Foundation Audio Tour BrochureGates Foundation Audio Tour Brochure

Gates Foundation Visitor Center Brochure
Gates Foundation Visitor Center BrochureGates Foundation Visitor Center Brochure

Pledge Tree – What Can You Do? 
Pledge Tree – What Can You Do?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bus Stop Biosphere

The photos in the post are objects I’ve seen going back and forth to the bus stop in the last few months. The bus stop means work; my mind wanders to anything but work as I walk. In particular, when I walk in the city I instinctively look for nature amidst the paved spaces. And, I find it.

Bus Stop Biosphere II >

Find 1: One morning as I was walking to the bus stop, I saw this dead bird - a female house sparrow (Passer domesticus) I believe. Then again it could be a female house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus). I didn’t think to take the critical measurements: wing chord, tarsus, or culmen.
Dead Female Sparrow

Find 2: On the way from the bus stop on a Saturday (unusual because I rarely take the bus on Saturdays), I found another dead bird, this time I think a male house finch judging by it’s rosy breast. Did I take those critical measurements? No, but I composed a small Still Life with a rotting pear from our tree, and some flowers (clover and poppy) growing on the side of the neighbor’s garage.

Dead House Finch

Find 3: Near a bus stop for the 5 bus, there is a patch of burdock (Arctium minus) where I like to watch the bees collecting pollen.
Arctium minus

Find 4: Leaving the house for work one morning, I popped out on to our deck and saw this Brachyscome flower (one we’ve had for a few years now) and it’s variegated petals.
Brachyscome Flower Variegated

Find 5: Just a minute away from my high rise dungeon (the office), I spotted this dragonfly, motionless, but alive on the sidewalk.

Find 6: Just out of our back door I composed this arrangement of a rock, robin’s shell, and borage flower and leaves. And, then off to work.
Rock, robin’s shell, and borage flower and leaves

Fin 7: Near a bus stop for the 5 bus, there also grows some Asteraceae flowers. Daisy or aster? Next time I need to examine the involucral bracts to help decide.
Asteraceae flowers

Find 8: A rock rose (family Cistaceae) grows on a sloping hillside near the bus stop.
White rock rose

Find 9: Rumex plans from the Polygonaceae family grows here and there on a median strip near the bus stop. Is it dock or sorrel I wonder as the bus approaches.

Walking in the back gate from a long day at work, I saw this banana slug (Ariolimax) without a care in the world. To be or not to be a banana slug?
Banana Slug

A bit of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) in the median strip: city hay?
alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Travelmarx Music Picks – Summer 2012

TravelMarx Music Picks – Summer 2012

This was supposed to be a spring 2012 list, but time slipped away and now it is the end of summer. I guess it gave us some more time to refine the list and hone in on what really stuck, musically. The 25 tracks in the playlist are on Spotify: Travelmarx Summer 2012.

Using the image above as a guide, the albums / tracks in the playlist are from left to right and top to bottom:

1. Marissa Nadler - "The Sister" (2012). Haunting. On the playlist the track "In a Little Town".

2. MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular" (2007). Catchy. “Weekend War” lyrics: “Now I can shoot a gun to kill my lunch, And I don’t have to love or think too much.” Not sure what it means, but we like it.

3. Sondre Lerche - "Faces Down" (2001). Great song writing like on the track "Dead Passengers" on this playlist.

4. Girish - "Diamonds in the Sun" (2010). We heard this album a couple of times in yoga and decided to give it a try. On our playlist, the title track "Diamonds in the Sun".

5. Various Artists - "The Now Sound Redesigned" (2005). Reworked songs from the 1960s group The Free Design.

6. The Antlers - "Undersea" (2012). We love drifting with this EP! On the playlist "Drift Dive".

7. Melody Gardot - "The Absence" (2012). The track "Mira" is on our playlist.

8. Various Artists - "Hotel Costes 14" (2010). The Hotel Costes franchise is still going strong. This release in particular has a lot of good tracks. Tough decisions, but we put Tontelas' "Lost It All" on the playlist.

9. Damon Albarn - "Dr. Dee" (2012). A strange release that grows on you. Very interesting when used in a mix. For our playlist, we choose the second tracks "Apple Carts".

10. Jun Miyake - "Stolen from Strangers" (2008). We first encountered Miyake on the Pina Soundtrack and love everything he turns out. On the playlist, the track "Alviverde".

11. Air - "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" (2012). Another funky Air album, this one paying homage to A Trip to the Moon the 1902 French film written and directed by Georges Méliès. On the playlist, the atmospheric (and appropriate) "Moon Fever".

12. Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi - "Rome" (2011). A black drippy heart on the cover says it all. On the playlist, the "Theme of 'Rome'".

13. Spiritualized - "Sweet Heart, Sweet Light" (2012). The track "Little Girl" is on our playlist.

14. Elbow - "The Seldom Seen Kid" (2008). We include the track "Weather to Fly" on our playlist with it's lyric "Just figuring out how we were wired inside / Perfect weather to fly".

15. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - "Here" (2012). We include the track "All Wash Out" on our playlist.

16. The Black Heart Procession - "Six" (2009). Something keeps us drawn to Black Heart Procession’s albums. The dark and ominous feeling the songs leave us with, maybe? We include the track "Wasteland" on our playlist.

17. Dead Can Dance - "Anastasis" (2012). Oh boy, first new a Kate Bush release late year and now a Dead Can Dance release! We include the regal track "Return of the She-King" on our playlist.

18. Damien Jurado - "And Now That I’m in Your Shadow" (2006). We include "Hoquiam" on our playlist.

19. Slowdive - "Pygmalion" (1995). An old release that recently re-purchased digitally. Love our dream pop / shoegazing. We come back to this album often. Our playlist here has "Crazy for You".

20. Radio Citizen - "Berlin Serengeti" (2006). Our playlist includes the infectious track "The Hop".

21. The Lumineers - "The Lumineers" (2009). A solid debut album that works start to finish. We'll pick one of the less popular tracks "Slow It Down" for our playlist.

22. The Shins - "Port of Morrow" (2012). All the songs are catchy, with clever lyrics. We include "Bait and Switch" on our playlist.

23. Of Monsters and Men - "My Head is an Animal" (2011). We happened to be at our friends’ house getting ready to leave and we heard “Little Talks” with that infectious "Hey!". By the next day we listened to the whole album a dozen times and it doesn’t get old. (It doesn't hurt that they are from Iceland and we have a thing for Iceland.) We include the track "Dirty Paws" on our playlist.

24. Kings of Convenience - "Riot on an Empty Street" (2004). Sounds like a script to my life….love the track “Misread” and that tinkling piano riff. It's on the playlist.

25. Roxy Music - "Avalon"(1982). We started listening to this 1982 release again after an uncle, who sent this cassette to us in the 1980s, passed away recently. So RIP RPB, "True to Life" (on the playlist).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Working with s3curl and Amazon S3


The goal of this post is to show how to use S3curl, a tool for handcrafting HTTP requests to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) on a Linux/Unix instance. Some definitions:
  • Amazon S3 - a fully redundant data storage infrastructure for storing and retrieving any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere.
  • s3curl - a wrapper around cURL based on Perl, that will will calculate the authentication parameters for a request to Amazon S3 - often the most difficult part of working with Amazon S3 using direct HTTP requests.
  • cURL - a command line tool for transferring data with URL syntax.

Set up an Amazon Linux AMI to run s3curl

This is an optional step. If you can run s3curl in your existing environment, great. If you can't, then you can spin up a Linux instance in just a few minutes and use s3curl on the instance. Setting up the Linux instance falls within the free tier pricing. Make sure you make the appropriate choices for free-tier. Also, don't forget to terminate your instance when you are done.

EC2 Linux Instance Details
EC2 Linux Instance Details

1. Set up EC2 Linux instance e.g. Amazon Linux AMI 2012.03. We won't go over the details, but make sure you
  • Have a key pair selected that you have saved the private part of the pair locally so you can Secure Shell (SSH) in to the instance.
  • Have a security group defined and use it when creating the instance. Make sure that port 22 inbound to the instance is open.
  • All of these details are more are covered in the Launch an Instance topic in the Amazon EC2 Getting Started Guide.
2. Connect to the instance.
  • For example, from Windows you can use PuTTY, and SSH client. All information about connecting to the instance is in Connect to Your Linux/UNIX Instance in the Amazon EC2 Getting Started Guide.
3. Copy over after getting it from the download site.
  • You can just put it in the /home/ec2-user directory which is where by default you log in.
  • If you are using Windows, you can use a tool like WinSCP to transfer the files to the instance.
4. Log on to EC2 instance. You should be in the ec2-user directory.

5. Try "perl --help" and "curl --help" to make sure you have these working.

PuTTY Connection Window (left), EC2 Instance Login Screen (right)
PuTTY Connection WindowEC2 Instance Login Screen

Set up s3curl

1. Download and copy the to a directory you will work in, if you haven't done so already.

2. Create a file .s3curl as instructed in the README file.
%awsSecretAccessKeys = (
    # personal account
    personal => {
              id => 'YOURACCESSID',
              key => 'YOURSECRETKEYID',
3. Change the permissions on the .s3curl file so that you (the owner) can read and write the file. Use the command "chmod 600 on .s3curl".

4. Run one of the commands below. The commands all have "perl " in front of them and they assume that the bucket is called travelmarxbuck.

s3curl Examples

Some notes about using the examples:
  • The Amazon S3 API is here:
  • In some cases below, a StringToSign and CanonicalResource are shown. This is useful to know if you are planning on signing your own requests. If not, disregard.
  • The examples are shown with the travelmarxbuck bucket in the US Standard region. Therefore, we don't have to explicitly include region in the URI. However, it is easy to modify the URI as appropriate. See the endpoints in the this Region and Endpoint table.
  • The examples here show a bucket travelmarxbucket in the US Standard region. The bucket naming rules state that we can use virtual host-style and path-style request interchangeably for a bucket in the US Standard region as long as we use all lowercase characters in the bucket name. If the bucket name is TravelmarxBucket (mixed-case), we could only use the path-style request because the mixed-cased name is not DNS compliant. Furthermore, if travelmarxbucket is created in a region other than the US Standard region (e.g. us-west-2) then if you tried to use you would get a 301 Moved Permanently. You need to add the region and use this Or, in this case (lowercase bucket name) you could specify and that would work too.
  • There are two variations of specifying the Amazon S3 resource: virtual host-style ( and path-style ( request.
  • Use “perl” before all the commands below.
  • All the commands below are on one line even though them may look otherwise below.
  • The concept of a "folder" doesn't really exist in S3 but it useful for thinking about how objects in your bucket are organized. (The S3 console uses the folder concept.) Each folder maps to one part of the full path to the object, for example, "".

GET object

Retrieve an object with a path-style request and stream the output. --id personal --debug -- -v

Retrieve an object with a path-style request and save the object to a local file. --id personal --debug -- -vv -o retrievedFile.txt

Retrieve an object in a folder with a path-style request and stream the output. --id personal --debug -- –v

Retrieve an object  in a folder with a virtual-style request. --id personal --debug -- -vv
StringToSign='GET\n\n\nFri, 24 Aug 2012 19:20:07 +0000\n/travelmarxbuck/subfolder/temp.txt'
CanonicalResource= "/travelmarxbuck/subfolder/temp.txt"

DELETE object

Delete an object with a path-style request. --id personal --debug --delete -- -v

Delete an object in a folder with a path-style request. --id personal --debug -- -v

GET bucket

List items in a bucket with a path-style request. --id personal --debug -- -vv
StringToSign='GET\n\n\nFri, 24 Aug 2012 18:39:31 +0000\n/travelmarxbuck'
CanonicalResource= "/travelmarxbuck"

List items in a bucket with a filter (prefix) and a path-style request. --id personal --debug -- -vv
StringToSign='GET\n\n\nFri, 24 Aug 2012 19:07:20 +0000\n/travelmarxbuck/'
CanonicalResource= "/travelmarxbuck"

List items in a bucket with a filter (prefix) and a virtual host-style request. --id personal --debug -- –vv

GET object lifecycle --id personal --debug -- –vv

GET service

List buckets. --id personal --debug -- -vv

StringToSign='GET\n\n\nFri, 24 Aug 2012 18:35:08 +0000\n/'
CanonicalResourceString = "/"
HEAD object

HEAD request using a virtual-host style request. --id personal --debug --head -- –vv

HEAD request using a path-style request. --id personal --debug --head -- -vv

PUT object

Put an item in the bucket, at the top level. --id personal --debug --put file.txt -- –vv

Put an item in the bucket, in a "folder". --id personal --debug --put file.txt -- -vv

DELETE object

Delete an item in the bucket, at the top level. --id personal --debug --del -- –vv

Delete an item in the bucket, in a folder. --id personal --debug --del -- -vv

PUT bucket policy --id personal --debug --put bucketpolicy.txt --

Where the bucketpolicy.txt file might be something like this:

  "Version": "2008-10-17",
  "Id": "MyPolicy123",
  "Statement": [
"Sid": "MyStmt123",
"Effect": "Allow",
"Principal": {
"AWS": "arn:aws:iam::111122223333:root"
"Action": "s3:GetObject",
"Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::travelmarxbuck/*"
Change 111122223333 a fake account ID to something real.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brush McCoy Zuni Art Vases and Hydrangea

Brush McCoy Zuni Art and HydrangeaBrush McCoy Zuni Art and Hydrangea
A friend, who brought pears over to our house almost one year ago, recently sent some cut hydrangeas. (We used the pears with Roseville Mostique, to quite good effect if we do say so ourselves.) So, sticking with the American-Ohio pottery theme, we arranged the hydrangeas (that has a nice ring) with two Brush-McCoy Zuni Art pieces. The Zuni Art line was introduced in the early 1920s at a time when the swastika emblem was commonly used in the western world. Of course, the adoption of the symbol by the Nazi Party in Germany, as well in the 1920s, would change our thoughts about the symbol - if not forever, then at least for some time. The Nazi swastika has its “arms” going in the opposite direction than depicted on the Zuni Art pieces. What’s not clear is the use of “Zuni” in the line’s name. One might assume it was inspired by the art of the Zuni, a federally recognized Native American tribe. In Native American Art it can be called the “whirling log” and again, has its arms reversed from what is used on the pottery. Perhaps we are trying to find too much meaning in a name choice that was the child of whimsy and marketing?
On to the less controversial: how about those colorful hydrangeas? Quattrocchi gives the generic name Hydrangea origin as:

Greek hydor “water” and angeion, aggeion “a vessel,” referring to the shape of the fruit (but the fruit is a capsule).

There are no capsules to be seen in these pictures. In fact, it seems that we rarely see Hydrangea capsules. Each colorful moptop-type hydrangea flower head (inflorescence) shown here is composed of many smaller flowers. Too bad they didn’t use the Greek for moptop.

Hydrangeas are in the family Hydrangeacea and are native to southern and eastern Asia and North and South America. We would guess that most of the ones shown here (sorry, no names to be had) are cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla.

Hydrangea in Brush McCoy Zuni Art (left) and Brush McCoy Zuni Art Vase on its Side (right)
Brush McCoy Zuni Art and HydrangeaBrush McCoy Zuni Art and Hydrangea 

Two Brush McCoy VasesBrush McCoy Zuni Art and Hydrangea

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lake Caroline Hike - The Enchantments

Lake Caroline (left), Snags on the Way Up To the Lake (right)
Lake CarolineTree Snags
We meant to go to Colchuck Lake but we didn’t go far enough down road 7601 to pick up the right trailhead. We stopped too early and started up the Eightmile Lake trail, 1554 instead. We didn’t discover our mistake until we ran into a nice lady who gave us a map and set up straight. Despite the mix up, we continued on to Lake Caroline and had a great time. The area burned in 1994 and as you leave Little Eightmile Lake, you really notice it. We found it quite beautiful. The silver snags, charred trunks, and the lush green undergrowth.

Roundtrip, we measured about 10.6 miles from trailhead to Lake Caroline and back. It took us about 7 hours with stops and lunch. Here’s the hike description on the Washington Trails Association web site.

Aster ledophyllus (left), Erigeron philadelphicus, Daisy (right)
Aster ledophyllus Erigeron philadelphicus, Daisy

Faunus Angelwing (Polygonia faunus) (left), Bigheaded Grasshopper (Aulocara elliotti)? (right)
Faunus Angelwing (Polygonia faunus) Bigheaded Grasshopper (Aulocara elliotti)

Bark and Out of Focus Background (left), Gnarly Branch (right)
Bark and Out of Focus Background Gnarly Branch

Hand on Pinus Ponderosa (left), Little Eightmile Lake (right)
Hand on Pinus Ponderosa  Little Eightmile Lake

Pink Monkey-Flower (Mimulus lewisii) by a stream (left), Oceanspray - Creambush (Holodiscus discolor) (right)
Pink Monkey-Flower (Mimulus lewisii)Oceanspray - Creambush (Holodiscus discolor)

Sitka Mountain Ash (Sorbus sitchensis)
Sitka Mountain Ash (Sorbus sitchensis)

Partial Map of the Enchantments
Partial Map of the Enchantments