Photos of readers

We’re BACK with this feature, which I guess will be sporadic. But I invite you to submit your photos (2 max) and a narrative.

Today we have two—count them, two—readers, Dom and Jez, both hailing from England. Jez sent the text (he’s on the right below).

As you [Jerry] know, WEIT reader Dom just visited us here in Royston, Hertfordshire for a couple of days.

Royston is a small market town about 13 miles from Cambridge, 43 miles north of London, and very close to the prime meridian. According to those who grew up in it, the town is world famous (!) for several things. Two ancient roads, (Roman) Ermine Street and the (prehistoric) Icknield Way, meet here which is probably why the town was founded here at all; the mysterious Royston Cave lies under the town centre; the town was the site of an Augustinian priory built in about 1250, part of which forms the nave of the current church; King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) had a palace here; and the Royston Golf Club claims to be possibly the oldest golf club outside of Scotland. Recent notable people with connections to Royston include trumpeter Alison Balsom, British blues guitarist Danny Bryant, and pianist Joyce Hatto. (The latter was proclaimed by The Boston Globe as “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of”, until the fraud perpetrated by her husband was uncovered! The story was the subject of a film written by Victoria Wood called Loving Miss Hatto.)

When he visits, Dom is always keen to visit Therfield Heath, a chalk escarpment with Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and just a short walk from the town centre. Here’s Dom (on the right) with me and my wife Lyn at the Heath on Tuesday.

Dom is now retired, following the closure of the specialist library at University College London where he worked. I’m a self-employed academic proofreader; after a brief hiatus due to papers being postponed for reasons related to the coronavirus things have been unusually busy. My theory, which is mine, is that with no conferences etc. to attend, academics have finally been able to get around to writing up the research that they conducted a while ago. That’s been good news for Lyn and the kids, as they’ve been trapped at home since March but I’ve had less time to play guitar (very badly). Dom looks rather dubious about being in the photo at top, despite my best attempts to ply him with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (it’s not the same from a bottle, though). I freely admit to being the least musical member of the family, and that includes Marcus Clawrelius (pretentious, moi?) our toothless cat. The photo of Marcus was taken earlier this summer.

Photos of readers

We have another entry, folks, and I urge you once again to send me a couple of pictures and a narrative. I have a feeling that there are a gazillion more stories in the Naked City.

Today’s reader is. . . well, he introduces himself, but give him a round of applause for his work with the disabled!

My name is Art Rigsby, 78 years old and retired for 18 years. I spent 9 years in the Army and retired as an IT manager of an electronics company in Silicon Valley. I spent most of my life in California with a few in Idaho before I ended up in Bloomington, IN.

To keep busy I do a lot of volunteer work. I volunteer at a local food bank, do handyman work for seniors, and assist in building ramps for disabled individuals. The ramps are provided free of charge to people who don’t have the funds to have one built.

I have enclosed a picture of me dressed for the job. I was screwing down the boards that comprised the walk way on the ramp. I think I placed about 250 screws that day.

The other picture of me was taken in front of the Gus I. Grisson Memorial in his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana:

I have also enclosed a picture of my cat Cujo. I think he is about 10 years old. My late wife and I got him from out next door neighbor and we converted him from an outdoor cat to an indoor one. Cujo has no teeth. He had 3 teeth when we got him but the vet said they had to go. I suspect his previous owner(s) didn’t take him to the vet very often if at all. I live alone, so having him around makes my day a little better.

Photos of readers

After I post this, we’re again down to zero submissions, so please send yours in (three photos max, please, though readers keep sending in more!). Today’s entry is from reader Ned from Oz, and I’ve indented his words:

A casual but frequent reader of your website (I feel I want to be playful and call it a blog, but perhaps too soon). I really enjoy the mix of everything – hard science, critical thoughtful social commentary, fun bits and so on. I was in the States this time last year, and thought for a while I’d be driving from Grand Rapids in Michigan down around the bottom of the lake up to Chicago to catch a flight. I was really looking forward to going via Botany Pond for a walk and a look and to see if I could spot Honey. But plans changed, and I ended up on a train, so didn’t get the chance.

I’m a high school maths and science teacher. I’ve mainly taught physics over the years, but slowly became more interested in biology, and especially genetics. Now I find genetics hard to teach, because it’s such a huge topic, and I never know what to put in and what to leave out. And high school texts still basically teach (or to put it differently, students typically walk away from the topic with) “there are two versions of a gene – the good dominant version, and the bad recessive version.” And it’s hard to get past that. At the moment I’m “teaching” from home, and all the screen time is driving me a bit crazy. We here in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia have had a reasonably serious second wave of covid, with the result that we’re pretty strongly “locked down” – only leave the house for an hour of exercise a day, or for necessary shopping and giving/receiving care. Compulsory masks everywhere out of home, and the vast vast majority just mask up with no issues. Which seems, um, different to the USA.

Four photos:

Standing on top of Mt Elbert in Colorado, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains (a long but easy walk):

A composite photo of three beasts from that US trip – ID anyone? (the middle one, the white woolly one, just wandered out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere right on the summit of Mt Bierstadt not that far out of Denver):

Lying in my tent on a shorter hiking trip a couple of hours west of Melbourne (Mt Langi Ghiran):

Machu Picchu a couple of years back – the “joke” is that a banana is something of a standard measurement sometimes – so “banana for scale”.

As we say in Oz, goodonya.

Photos of readers

This is our last contribution for now, people, so I’d welcome some readers sending a few photos in (limit 3 now) and captions. Tell us a bit about yourself!

Today’s reader is William London, and his notes are indented:

I’m a professor of public health at Cal State LA. I’m glad that the California State University system committed early to delivering coursework online for the fall so that my colleagues and I won’t have to risk our lives to teach. 

I was able to make a smooth transition to teaching undergraduate introductory epidemiology online for the second half of Spring Semester and for the entire 10-week Summer Session. My lectures are now all recorded and available along with other learning resources I’ve previously made available in the online course platform (Canvas). Students can earn some points toward their final course grades for their contributions to Canvas discussion forums for each major course topic and/or in contributing to small-group Zoom breakout-room discussions of assigned exercises at regularly scheduled class meeting times. I think I’ve made the 100% online version of the course at least as good as the 100% face-to-face version I offered for years in physical classrooms.

Since January 2018, I’ve been the editor of Consumer Health Digest, a free, weekly email newsletter that includes summaries of scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; website evaluations; recommended and non-recommended books; research tips; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. The newsletter has more than 10,000 subscribers. Issues of the newsletter going back to 2001 are archived online.

I write the online Consumer Health column for Skeptical Inquirer. My latest column was published last week: “Trump and COVID-19: Population Health Neglect, Hydroxychloroquine Hype, and a Gambler’s Fallacy.”

I started and I frequently update the Dubious COVID-19 Treatments and Preventives page for the Center for Inquiry (CFI). It’s a work in progress that I plan to expand, but I think it’s already informative. I’m also curating content for CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center page and working on keeping Quackwatch’sCOVID-19 Schemes, Scams, and Misinformation page up to date.

Here’s my first day test shot of the mask look. That was several months ago. I haven’t had a haircut since February, so the look is now very messy.

These photos are with Cici, a rescued maltipoo who joined my family about 7 years ago. At the time, she was about 12 months old.

 

Photos of readers

We have a reader’s photo entry! Perhaps this will prod some of you into sending your own contributions (2 photos max, though it’s actually 3), showing what you’re up to.

The Reader of the Day is Jeffrey Hatley, whose captions are indented.

As a long-time reader, I’m dutifully answering your call for photos from readers. I’m a mathematician at Union College in Schenectady, NY, and my partner and I live near the Adirondacks on our little farm, where we enjoy the company of our three cats, our flock of chickens, and our five llamas! I’ve attached some pictures of the animals. Here are some of the thing you’ll find:

A nice shot of me and Nicole with our two oldest llamas, Nimbus and Maverick, posing in the snow.

One of our chickens, Darcy, sitting on my leg and hollering while I try to read.
Here are our five llamas, lounging around and playing King of the Hill earlier this summer. 

All five our of llamas have the same sire, making them all at least half-brothers. Our two oldest llamas, Nimbus and Maverick [above], are in fact full brothers. They are about one year apart in age.

 Despite their reputation for spitting, llamas truly hate to spit, since it tastes bad to them and ruins their appetite (and they are normally voracious eaters!). Llamas will only spit at each other in order to assert dominance and establish a pecking order, and they’ll only spit at a human if they feel threatened. In fact, llamas are extremely gentle and agreeable animals, and ours are particularly friendly. We even take them to childrens’ birthday parties!

Photos of readers

This is the last one in the tank, so send your contributions (two photos max, please) if you want your mug plastered on this site.

Today’s reader happens to be John Avise, a fellow evolutionist who’s contributed many photos to this site, and is now doing the “Duck O’ The Week” on Sundays.  John’s words are indented:

During my fifty years in academia, I’ve tried to bridge a formerly huge gap between the microevolutionary sciences (such as population genetics, ecology, and conservation biology) and the macroevolutionary disciplines of species formation and phylogenetics.  Another gap that I tried my best to close was between outdoor natural-history studies and indoor molecular biology. So my heart has always been devoted to the wonders of nature and my mind to understanding the genetics behind life’s diversity.  I spent the first 30 years of my career at the University of Georgia before moving to the University of California, where among other hobbies I’ve taken up bird and nature photography.

The photo is the cover of my autobiography, which was published in 2000 by Smithsonian Institution Press (and is available on Amazon).  The book details the many adventures I’ve had over the years and around the world with creatures ranging from corals and sponges to numerous fishes, herps, birds, and mammals. It also recounts all the personal joys and tribulations of a life spent teaching and doing scientific research. I love both science and nature, and that’s why the book’s subtitle is “A Naturalist In the Age of Genetics”.

And here’s a photo of my wonderful parakeet Buddy, who’s now 16 years old!  I’ve had parakeets or budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) all my life.

Photos of readers

We have two contributions in the tank, and this is one of them. Do send me your contribution so this feature won’t die!

Today’s reader is David Jorling, who has an unusual hobby. I love all the different interests of the readers! David’s words are indented:

I am a retired lawyer and lifelong train buff.  I am a now member of the Board of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, one of whose functions is to preserve and restore 3 steam engines that are owned by the City of Portland. Here is the link to our website.

Attached are two pictures of me with two of those engines.  Engine 4449 pulled the American Freedom Train in 1976, and has been kept restored ever since.  Engine  700 is undergoing its 15-year inspection by the Federal Railway Administration, and should be back up and running next year.  I spent the last 23 years of my law practice in the City Attorney’s office of Portland.  I was assigned, among many other areas, to the legal work involved with these locomotives. (Among which was negotiating leases to movie companies.  Engine 4449 appeared in two movies: Tough Guys and  Come See the Paradise.) If you are ever in Portland again, I would be happy to give you a tour.

Here is a nice 3-minute diversion from COVID – A video of engine 4449 pulling a train in the Columbia River Gorge. This occurred about 2 years ago.  Be sure to turn up the volume and expand to full screen.  Any guess who the singer is?  I think its Reba, but not sure.  Hope you enjoy it.

[JAC: The video is locked so I can’t embed it, but the link will take you there.  More from David below]:

A word about funding.  We are one of the rail museums that are not publicly funded.  We are a 501c3, and about 350 volunteers work to keep these locomotives in working order.  The City lent us about 1 million to help build the 5 million dollar facility to house the engines, which we have paid back.  The City and the Foundation have an agreement about the custody and care of the engines.  The engines were donated to the City in the late 1950s, and they languished in a park outdoors for many years.  4449 was the first to be restored with funding from the bicentennial commission, but other than that they are kept up and restored through private donations.

As you can tell, I get excited about talking about trains in general and these engines in particular.

Finally, a final 4-minute video of an 4449 excursion up the Columbia and Deschutes rivers from several years ago.  It was warm so you don’t see much steam.  Google 4449 and you will find many more videos.

Photos of readers

This is the last one in the tank, so please send your contribution pronto!

Today’s reader is Kevin McCarthy, whose captions are indented:

Model Build Day.jpg
The entire family builds models for fun. So, this quarantine, we’ve been doing a fair bit of building… because the entire dining room table is covered. If you’d like, I can include pictures of the builds. My boy got me my first model for Christmas, at the same time my wife got him one. Then she saw us having so much fun building, she had to do it too. Over the years, we’ve gotten more skilled and now, repaint, detail, and generally make some high quality builds.
This is me with my first truly new car. It’s Volvo’s PHEV. Since I work from home and rarely need a long trip, my first tank of gas lasted me just over 1000 miles and 5 months. I can go for a month or two before even using the gas engine. My total since January (when I picked it up) is 76.5 miles per gallon.
Baby Cookie sleeping on my laptop. My son begged us for years to get him a kitten. Well, we wanted him to appreciate the work. So, he volunteered all summer at our local no-kill shelter. The week before school started, we agreed that he had earned the right to care for a kitten. This is her, the spoiled rotten princess that she rightly is. As a kitten, she was pretty sick. So one way of keeping her warm during the day was her sleeping on my work computer.

Photos of readers

We have one more on tap after this contribution, and then the well is dry. Don’t make me beg!

Today’s reader is Rod Charlton, whose caption is indented and who gave permission to show the photo of his granddaughter:

Attached is a photo of me and my granddaughter doing a science demo in her Grade 6 class, a couple of years ago.

My company sponsored a program called Fun with Science, and I and my partner traveled to many senior elementary schools in our area showing kids the basics. . . colour changes, polymers, physics, liquid nitrogen, and, always a huge hit, pyrotechnics.

Your readers would be well familiar with these demos, but to a 10 to 12 yr old they were amazing.

My granddaughter “volunteered” me for a demo in her class when we were visiting one year, and as my assistant, with her own lab coat, she was amazing, and the absolute envy of her classmates.

Our program won the Michael Smith Award for science education several years ago, Michael Smith being a Canadian Nobel Laureate.

Making science presentations to this age group was very rewarding, and usually stimulated many questions. Years later a teacher contacted me and told me one of her students who saw our show had contacted her, telling her how my answers to his questions pointed him towards a very interesting career. . .

Not very dramatic as some of your readers, but I and my granddaughter enjoyed every minute of it. After the show one of her classmates said, “ I wish I had a cool grandpa like you!”
I am fine with that!

It always makes me happy to see kids doing science. Look at her serious expression!

Photos of readers

I have three more now, of which this is one, but do send in your photos (two max, please) and commentary.

Today’s reader is Gregory Zolnerowich, who has some interesting commentary (indented):

I’m responding your appeal for photos of readers, as I’ve enjoyed seeing other people and their photos. Karl Kramer, a retired USDA scientist you featured some weeks ago, lives right down the street from me.

I’ve been reading WEIT for several years, it’s part of my morning routine each day. To borrow from a well-known phrase, “Mornings are for coffee and WEIT.” I enjoy the fascinating tidbits of biology, science commentaries, cool photos, and as a food junkie, always enjoy the photos of your meals when you travel.

I’m an entomologist at Kansas State University, specializing in insect systematics. My love is the parasitic Hymenoptera in the superfamily Chalcidoidea, particularly the family Encyrtidae. They are the Lamborghinis of the wasp world, with some bizarre morphologies and fascinating biologies. [JAC: Go here to see some photos.] I really enjoy teaching and try to infect my students with my curiosity and enthusiasm, but fear the campus will shut down again and everything will be remote/online.

I enjoy all things outdoors, from kayaking to fishing to hiking. One of my COVID-19 activities was to kayak and camp the entire 173-mile length of the Kansas River, which took 9 days and 8 nights in July. It was an excellent group of people from Friends of the Kaw (www.kansasriver.org) along on the excursion, and we saw an abundance of wildlife like bald eagles, beavers, owls, deer, and, of course, insects. I did have to take advantage of some teachable moments to expound on tiger beetle larvae, dobsonfly egg masses, and stag beetles. The first photo was taken on the last morning of our trip, so I had not shaved in 9 days.

I also lead a burn crew that conducts controlled burns at the Konza Prairie Biological Station (kpbs.konza.k-state.edu). This is an NSF Long-Term Ecological Research site, with a long history of studying the interactions of fire, grazing, and climate. Fire is a management tool that is necessary to preserve the tallgrass prairie. I learn something new every time I’m out, and it’s just fun to coordinate and conduct a controlled burn. It’s also an opportunity to see some cool wildlife and some pretty impressive fires. The second photo is at the end of a burn when all the cameras come out.