Thinking about making my own spider silk

Last week I read an article on the Wired blog about an astounding silk tapestry exhibit that has recently opened at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The intricate golden fabric — woven entirely from undyed silk milked from over a million Golden Orb spiders of Madagascar — is a work of art to behold. (Click here to see the museum’s page and a terrific video about the tapestry.)

The article reminded me of the Golden Orb spiders that used to spin their glorious webs around our apartment in Knoxville, TN, and it made me wonder why I hadn’t seen any of these lovelies here in Georgia. So, imagine my glee when friend and neighbor Louise stopped by the house today with news of a spider sighting. “Grab your camera, Cory,” she said. “I think you’re going to want this for your blog!”

She was right.

After the rains — mushrooms!

After last weekend’s deluge of 20 inches of rain — and then a couple more yesterday — we’re finally starting to dry out here. Today was gorgeous — sunny, 70’s and dry —  and perfect for capturing the different mushrooms that have appeared in the back yard. We’ve been here 10 years and I’ve never seen yellow mushrooms sprout in all that time. There must have been some special ingredient in the storms that blew through.

More bugs and butterflies

Yesterday I was standing at my kitchen sink, lost in thought over a print project I’m designing right now, placing my thrice-filled-and-drained coffee cup in the basin, peering up at the gray skies, and down at the drenched grass, when I caught a flash of orange flitting in and around the buddleia bush. I grabbed the camera and dashed out before the skies opened up with a torrent again. I think this captivating creature is a Fritillary. If anyone else knows otherwise, please post in the comments.

I have also uploaded some new Magnolia seed pod images on Flickr. Click here to see my photo stream or click on the Flickr sidebar to the right.

Just for giggles, I’m throwing in a Soldier Bug image, too. I love these guys! This one was out front on my magnolia tree. Its giant seed pods are beginning to burst.

Just for giggles, I'm throwing in a Soldier Bug image, too. I love these guys! This one was out front on my magnolia tree. It's giant seed pods are beginning to burst.

Hubble reveals artistry of the cosmos

The Hubble telescope has been capturing some amazing, inspiring images from the far reaches of the cosmos. The colors, the patterns, the textures are not to be believed! Here are just a few of my favorite images, but if you want to see more — and, of course, you do! — click here to view the entire gallery of pictures.

A Giant Hubble Mosaic of the Crab Nebula


Spitzer and Hubble Create Colorful Masterpiece

Jet in Carina

A Perfect Storm of Turbulent Gases in the Omega/Swan Nebula (M17)

A lucky omen on 9-11-09

Everyone I know remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. It was not only a defining moment for our country, but one for my generation. It was the JFK assassination of my era. The shock that rocked us as no other had before. It’s the topic that still comes up at dinner parties. Everyone can relate to it. And, in that, it is a binding event. Each person remembers with pristine clarity the space he or she occupied when the planes hit the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania. When the Towers fell. And the dismal, disbelieving hours and days that followed.

For me, it was a Tuesday blissfully void of radio or TV reports during the morning prep for work, and even on the drive to the office. I remember walking into my employer’s small office building at around 9 a.m. The air had a palpable tension. Then I heard one of the assistants call out, “Can anyone get CNN online? It just went down.” Later we would discover they were suffering from overload from too many people trying to access it. I stuck my head into my boss’s office to say good morning. She looked stricken. “What?” I asked. “What do you mean, ‘What’?” she said. “Haven’t you heard?” I sat with her over the next hour listening to the radio on her desk. Except for a few gasps and “Oh, my God’s” I don’t think we said much as we sat transfixed.

The rest of that week is not a blur. Aaron and I were supposed to travel to NJ to visit my folks on the 14th. No planes were flying. Subsequent visits to the Newark airport still bring a tear when I happen to be on the side of the airplane with views out to where the Towers used to be. Family visits to the South Tower’s observation deck and dinner at the North Tower’s Windows on the World are vivid memories of my childhood.

Since Aaron and I both had our vacation days reserved, we drove to Savannah instead. The radio was on the entire time in the car. I remember hopeful reports that people might still be found alive in the Towers’ debris. I remember not seeing a single airplane in the sky during the drive. I remember rain the whole time we were in Savannah. And I remember wherever we went for our few days there TV’s were tuned to the news about the attacks — including in our hotel room. I couldn’t not watch … and cry. I also remember leaving a day earlier than we had planned because the situation and weather being what they were, it was a pretty miserable vacation.

These days I don’t start a day without listening to the news. I still have the American flag decal on my rear window — a Lowe’s giveaway in the weeks that followed the attack. It’s faded now, but it’s still there. Much as I suspect sentiment about that day is now.

Tonight, I was thumbing through a book published in 1852 that once belonged to my great-great grandmother — my namesake — searching for images to scan for my Freebies4U section of this blog. Amazingly, I found a giant four-leaf clover pressed between the pages of the back of the book. Ever the optimist, I take that as one of those cosmic messages of hope on this 9-11 day.


Four-leaf clover discovered in my great-great grandmother's book, "Buds and Blossoms" published in 1852.

More garden guests

I freely admit my penchant for the critters that show up in the garden. Now, I suppose, I’m reveling in it! Soldier bug and Swallowtail. Both are welcome in my yard any time.

Soldier Bug on Cinnamon Bark Crepe Myrtle.

Soldier Bug on Cinnamon Bark Crepe Myrtle.

Swallowtail on Obedient Plant

Swallowtail on Obedient Plant

Swallowtail on Obedient Plant

Swallowtail on Obedient Plant