the frankenstein of beverage containers

When one purchases a soft drink from a convenience store, one frequently has the choice to buy one in a bottle or in a can.


An ordinary-looking drink can.


An ordinary-looking drink bottle.


What’s this?


I don’t understand this confusing world anymore!

When my cousin and I visited Beijing a couple years ago, we came across this monstrous hybrid of a beverage container while going about our business. Naturally, we were compelled to buy one, and try it out. It turns out that Glinter, the soft drink that comes in the bottle-can/can-bottle (cottle? ban? bancottle? cottleban? Dear-god-what-is-this-word-coming-to-container?) is a fairly ordinary-tasting concoction. I say “ordinary-tasting” because I don’t much remember what it tasted like, though probably something much like Sprite or 7-up, but perhaps (judging by the image on the…packaging) more orangey. (A web search tells me that this soft drink is from Malaysia. I won’t link to it, since it plays music, and I hate when websites play music. But feel free to google it. If you dare.)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “novelty.” My kids end up getting all sorts of cheap novelties from birthday parties and things, but mostly they are pretty uninteresting. (Can novelties get old? Yup, I think so.) But rather than dig out some plastic doodads, I thought I’d share these photos I had of something I found to be pretty novel.

Speaking of novel, when I asked John what the phrase “the frankenstein of beverage containers” evoked for him, he replied, “you’re talking about the Vessyl, right?” Of course, not knowing what the hell he was talking about, I thought he said “vessel.” But it turns out that the Vessyl is a weird cyber-monstrosity of a beverage holder. It’s a cup that, using advanced technology, tells you what beverage is in it. Or, as ValleyWag puts it, it is “the $200 smart cup that helps dummies remember what they’re drinking.” That is certainly…novel. (I wonder why they didn’t call it the iCup?)

And speaking of novel gadgets that actually are a bit more appealing (at least to me, seeing as I can usually remember what drink I’ve poured), have you seen this pen that can scan objects for color and mix inks to match them? I don’t really have a use for such a thing, but it does sound like it would be fun to play with.

To see what other novelties have been shared this week, or to share photos of your own novelties, pay a visit to the fff blog.
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an assortment of harps from Ireland

Here are a number of harps I encountered on my trip to Dublin last month. It’s one of those cases where I didn’t realize that I had amassed a collection of photos on a theme until after the fact. With the exception of the last photo, these are all just photos of things that caught my attention at different times during my visit.


Brian Boru’s Harp, from the 15th century, in the Long Room of Trinity College.


A harp of a more modern vintage, which appeared in a Dublin restaurant towards the end of my dinner one night.


A glass of Guinness, with the trademark harp logo. This was my first Guiness in Ireland, which I enjoyed in a little pub under the train station in Howth, a town on the seaside, outside of Dublin.


The Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin. Also known as The Harp Bridge. Photo taken from the top level of a double-decker bus, on my way to the airport.


The Euro coinage in Ireland has a harp on the back side. (This is the one photo I took after returning from my trip.)

The friday foto finder theme from 2 weeks ago was “music.” I was actually in Dublin 2 weeks ago today, and heard live music that day. (In fact, harps were played, along with a range of other instruments, including fiddles, banjos, a bodhrán, and Irish bagpipes.)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “fridge magnet.” I actually probably did see harp refrigerator magnets for sale in Dublin (I know I saw magnets, and I know I saw souvenirs with harp motifs), but did not think to purchase (or photograph) any. I do have quite a few fridge magnets of my own, and will probably share some later. If you would like to play along with this week’s theme (or one of the past week’s themes, as I’m doing) pay a vist to the fff blog. New participants are always welcome!

O, blogger, where art thou?

Somehow, I managed to let over 2 weeks pass since I last posted. I have been back from Dublin for over a week. It took me a while to readjust to local time, and I spent the week following my return in a bit of a fog. And a bit of a funk.

I didn’t manage to post anything while in Dublin, in large part because the internet connection I had where I stayed was pretty slow. (Okay, pretty agonizingly slow.) While there was a better connection at the conference venue itself, I didn’t tend to bring my laptop with me to the conference. Also, I was generally pretty busy being out and about seeing things, at least when not hunkered down and working and/or conferencing. I did, however, take plenty of photos, which I do hope to share here. (How many times have I said that? Well, I do always hope to.) In any case, the trip was wonderful, and I was charmed by Dublin.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve come close to posting a couple of times, but ran out of either time or steam. Or both.

I’ve been pretty busy since I’ve been back, too, especially the last couple of days. And I’m going to be pushing forward with my degree over the coming months.

Really, these photos have nothing to do thematically with what I’m writing about here, but I wanted to start posting something, and I liked these photos of raindrops on some flowers in my yard that I took last week. These were taken with my iPhone, and I am sometimes amazed at the clarity that its little camera can manage.

So, I’m back home. And back to blogging. (Expect to see some Dublin photos soon!)

taking off again


This is a photo I took on our flight home from San Francisco in February.

Here I sit in the Boston airport, waiting out a 2-plus hour delay. Soon, though, I should be in the air, and heading to Dublin.

I am beyond excited about this trip (though just now I am feeling more tired than excited). I will be attending a conference next week, and am padding my stay by a few days to be able to do some sightseeing. I have been so busy over the last few weeks, what with working on preparing presentations for this coming conference, and for another conference that was last week. There have also been a range of family and home obligations. I’ve been swamped. I have barely been able to work on the specifics of my travel plans. I picked up a little Dublin travel guide, which I plan to flip through on the plane. (I do intend to visit Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a goal of mine to learn how to say Brú na Bóinne. I had enough trouble just spelling it!) I also have a copy of Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Commitments, as well as a copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners.

If you have been to Dublin, and have recommendations, I’d love to hear them! (Or even if you haven’t been to Dublin, but have recommendations!)

darling buds of May

Here are some young leaves and leaf buds I saw outside the karate school when I took Phoebe to her class Friday afternoon. I did, indeed, deliberately choose to bring my camera and macro lens set up, since I knew I’d have time waiting. I love how vibrant the colors were in the late afternoon light.

My post title, in case you weren’t able to place it, is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, likely his most famous sonnet:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

In tracking down the excerpt, I was interested to come across a suggestion that in Shakespeare’s day, May was consider the first month of summer, as it is in the Irish calendar.

Of course, I also found a suggestion that they May of buds mentioned was not the month of May, but the Hawthorn tree:

It probably refers not to the month of May directly but to the May tree (the Common Hawthorn) that flowers in England at that time of year.

I don’t know what sort of buds I found, on some shrubs and small trees and climbing vines. I did find that it was tricky to focus on them, due to the breeze. (It would seem that the rough winds did shake them.)

A case of mistaken identity? (friday foto finder: prey)

Living in the woods as we do, it is not uncommon for small animals to visit us on our deck. We typically see lots of birds (chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, etc.) as well as squirrels and chipmunks. When I heard a scrabbling sound at the sliding door a few days ago, I naturally thought it was a squirrel or a small bird. I was surprised, though, to see a bird of a substantially larger size: a hawk. I couldn’t get a good look at it. It flew off before I even had a chance to grab for a camera. I imagined that it had been there in pursuit of one of the typical smaller visitors.

A while later, I heard the sound again, and saw the hawk at the glass door. I grabbed my phone, but it flew off again by the time I moved closer. I went over to the door, and saw the hawk perched on a deck chair. I then noticed that Phoebe had left a sweater, one with zebra-striped fur details, on a box next to the slider. It occurred to me that the black and white mottled pattern might be attracting the hawk, perhaps resembling the pattern of feathers on chickens. There are lots of homes with backyard chickens in my neighborhood, and hawks are regular predators. This sweater may well have looked like potential prey.

I decided to leave the sweater, in hopes that the hawk would return. It did, quite a few times, though it rarely stayed at the window long enough for me to get a photo. I did catch it flying off to other nearby perches a few times.

As it flew away, I noticed that it spread its impressive black and white striped tail, giving me an alternative hypothesis: perhaps the sweater resembled another bird of prey, a competitor for the territory.

After a few visits from the hawk, I decided to keep my camera ready with my telephoto lens. (That’s how I managed to get that first photo, the one of the hawk peeking in through the chair legs.) I also got a few photos of the hawk perched in nearby trees.

Yesterday, in the early evening, I heard a scrabbling sound on the front porch. (The deck is at the back of the house.) As I walked into the dining room, I was startled by the flash of the hawk flying past the window. “It’s the hawk again!” I exclaimed loudly. Phoebe then asked, “Why do you keep calling it the hawk?” Then I explained that I was assuming that all of our recent hawk visits at the back deck had been from the same hawk. I grabbed my camera with telephoto lens, and was happy to see the hawk perched in a tree. Right over another hawk perched in the same tree.

It was hard to focus in the dim evening light, especially through the layers of branches. The hawks also didn’t stay put for long.

I now have a strong suspicion that these hawks are nesting somewhere near the house. I have been hearing them regularly. Just now, I heard some hawk cries, and opened the front door and saw a hawk flying away from the porch. (I didn’t have a camera on me…)

I think these may be Cooper’s hawks, but if someone else has a better idea, I’d be interested to hear it.

This week’s friday foto finder theme was “prey.” These birds of prey are higher on the food chain, and probably aren’t typically prey. But they certainly came to mind for the theme. To see what prey have been caught by others, pay a vist to the fff blog.

April showers bring May…showers

This first day of May started out chilly and rainy. Happily, it was not raining hard as the kids and I waited for the school bus, so we didn’t need to huddle under an umbrella. As we waited, the water drops on the pine trees along the driveway caught my eye, as they have before. I tried to get some photos with my phone, but in the low light of the dreary day, I could not get the camera to focus where I wanted it. I kept trying for long enough that Phoebe asked, “why do you take so many photos of raindrops on pine needles?” I found myself thinking, “why wouldn’t I?” But I probably said something like, “because they look so cool.”

After the bus came, I had about 45 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment. The plan was to eat breakfast and take a quick shower. Instead, I went back in and got my camera and macro lens set-up, and went back outside. It was raining lightly, and my hair got wet, so I figure this is practically the same as taking a shower.

(While I may not have taken a real shower, I did take quite a few photos.)