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Jul 17, 2012

The Latest from Frog Central

Seismic Amphibians

At the Earthquake Observatory of the University of Cologne (in Bensberg) we have frogs and toads. And no, that's not a euphemism for our current crop of students. I see them whenever I go downstairs to my basement office as this window - a rain gutter window - is usually home to several at any one time, depending on the season and the weather. Since we are in the midst of a very rainy summer here in Bensberg, there is currently a healthy population. There are around ten of them in there today.

We at first thought they were falling through the grating above the window, and would carry them back down to the large pond on the Bensberg grounds, imagining ourselves with do-gooders' halos. I imagine the frogs were slapping themselves on their froggy foreheads at this. They don't 'fall in', they 'fall up'. They travel upwards and backwards through the drainage pipe - which comes out near the pond - to enter the drainage window. Why they do this is a mystery (any frog experts out there?), but they seem to enjoy being in there. They also seem to enjoy observing us and regularly clatter up to the tiny ledge on the window to see what those weird two-legged simians inside the window are doing.

I'm looking at you.

Students and staff occasionally add a bit of furniture to spruce the place up - a branch for climbing up to the small window ledge where these frogs are doing their ballet - an improvised garden consisting of a container with some moss and other plant material (since dried up, but the frogs don't seem to mind) - an ash tray with a tiny bit of water, a mini-pond - and various pieces of bark and rock for them to crawl over and under and otherwise declare as their piece of sacred ground.

They range in size from the tiniest frog (less than a centimeter), to good-sized toad - like the one in the picture; he's on the bottom. Newts also show up less often, those gadflies of the amphibian world, but they're harder to spot. National Geographic's Lucy Cooke does in-depth views on frogs and toads and other 'creepy' animals, so check it out if you want some more frogginess.

Frog ballet in Bensberg

Now, if we can only train them to predict earthquakes, I think our fortune would be made.

Web site update

Just a heads up. My website will be undergoing a server change this week and so will be down for some of that time.

Jul 11, 2012

Rainy Day Blues

I'm on my third cup of jasmine-flavored organic green tea today after a half a pot of coffee this morning. My right shoulder aches and my thumb is twitching - my second bout of butt-in-chair induced pain - that no amount of the German version of Ben Gay ointment is going to cure and it's raining giant slop buckets so I can't go out and dig weeds or do anything...anything. I just threw a whammy into the whole goddarned outline of my fifth (and last, dammit) series book (now up to 20K) while I gather untold amounts of research material for the historical mystery I'm writing next despite being hopelessly intimidated by the historical writing workshop I just took which made me realize just how inadequate I am to even think I can write historical fiction. But I do have a field trip planned for next month :-)) For the day job I've got about two months to 'reacquaint' myself with modeling gravity data which I haven't done since 25 years or so when I wrote my M.S. 

But a few rays of sunshine sent me outside to admire the garden.

you can see why they call it Passion Flower - meet Lavender Lady

Ligularia being hidden by Silphium perfoliatum and white yarrow

rain-spots on roses backed by pink astilbe and weedy agastache

Clematis 'The President' blooming very late this year with companion pink rose disintegrating in the background

Telekia and Veronica coexisting as good neighbors

Jul 10, 2012

Books and Gods

Needing to get away from the computer last week, I visited the Römisch-Germanisch Museum in Cologne to see the current exhibit, The Return of the Gods, premiering marble sculptures and ancient paintings on loan from the Pergamon Museum and the Collection of Antiquities (through end of August, 2012), featuring such reliefs as  Neptune from Greek times.

I then revisited the rest of the museum which contains the (in-situ) Dionysus mosaic (at right).

The museum is a must-see for all tourists visiting Cologne. That means the locals (like me) often don't go. I frequent the Praetorium often, but hadn't been to the RMG in years.

The best part was browsing the Museum Shop afterwards. It contains an impressive collection of historical books about the Greeks, the Romans, of course, and, to my surprise, some excellent books on the Celts and the Germanic tribes. I bought three, all in German (sorry for those not fluent in German).

 Die Kelten by Martin Kuckenburg (ISBN 978-3-8062-2274-6), a nearly-coffee table size book with gorgeous color pictures and adequate coverage of the Continental Celts.

Die Germanen, by Bruno Bleckmann (ISBN 978-3-40658476-3), B&W pictures and much text. I'm looking forward to dipping into this one

Auf Römerwegen durch die Eifel, Thomas Schiffer (ISBN 978-3-93972247-2), a bargain buy, contains a compilation of the traces of Roman presence from Cologne through the Eifel region of Germany. This will be useful for side trips, especially when on the way to somewhere else.

Little Kitties for Big Cats

My kitty would definitely want to help his larger cousins, so I chipped in for him. You can, too.

And get your kitty's photo posted. Here's mine.

Ramses, age 14, male, likes: ham, Greek yoghurt; doesn't like: car rides, canned rabbit