Friday, 1 October 2021


For this latest instalment of the annual tradition of using machine learning to generate Halloween and autumnal themed sketching—or decorating prompts—we really enjoyed some of the curated favourites from Janelle Shane (previously) and gamely humans take to these suggestions. In order of model dataset size—Moustaches creep creepily; the unseen graveyard stretches for miles; mist-sheep chew on tombstones. A slightly less experienced, exposed artificial intelligence recommends: the question mark from a box; half a cup of milk; a flappy spider; a flappy tea; Ghost traitors and A zombl. Much more, including submissions and unrelated prompts for animals (Bearllionaire) and landscapes (Library of Lava) at AI Weirdness at the link above.

Friday, 23 October 2020

woad and madder

Courtesy of The Morning News and having only dared to ventured out to where the freshly-turned fields begin to remark on these colour-coordinated trees and their turning leaves, we quite appreciated this reflection on russet—the colour of peasants, foxes pelts and penance. 

In addition to the earthy and autumnal hues, in this thorough-going essay that explores the emergent colour—where the reds of blood, fire and ochre of the Caves of Lascaux and here in the dark ruddy-orange tinge of it—through fashion, poetry and sentiment—Biron from Love’s Labour’s Lost yearning for expression “in russet yeas and honest kersey [course woollen cloth] noes” and even Oliver Cromwell preferring a “plain, russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows over that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else.” And if the author’s column rings familiar in hue and cry—it’s the happy continuation of these previous instalments of colour stories.

Sunday, 18 October 2020


H and I wandered a bit in the woods foraging for mushrooms, and while we didn’t really encounter anything that we were reasonably certain was edible and warranted collecting and later research, we found that the forest was ripening with all sorts of fungi, including Wood’s Ear (Auricularia auricula-judaesee previously and which we forgot again was safe for consumption and is widely used in China—I just don’t know about the texture and the prospect of picking one up) that was pretty widespread along the path and some more nice examples of fly agaric (Amanita muscaria, Fliegenpilz, see above). 

A new variety that we had not encountered beforehand, however, were these colourful ones in the same family—sometimes referred to “verdigris agaric” called blue roundhead (Stropharia caerulea, der Grรผnblaue Trรคuschling)—the specific epithet caerulea being Latin for blue while for contemporary speakers it generally indicates a shade between azure and teal. Host trees are usually beeches (Buchen) and thrive in alkaline soils.

Monday, 12 October 2020


Rather taken with the idea of capturing fall leaves in transition ourselves, we were pleased to learn that artist Josef Albers (see previously) also—circa 1940—conducted his own foliage studies and in part out of necessity, since leaves and trees were in abundance but paper less so, encouraged his students at Black Mountain College and Yale to appreciate the beauty of the changing palette and constant rhythm of the seasons.  We ought to mount some samples on construction paper and see what sort patterns emerge.

Saturday, 3 October 2020


Visiting a small harvest festival nearby held on Germany Unity Day, H and I looked for some autumn accents for the house and found several stalls selling traditional onion braids (Zwiebelzรถpfe). 

Sometimes also incorporating garlic bulbs, the braids adorned craftily with dried wild flowers were not customarily only for decorative and storage, preservative purposes but moreover for the notion that the power of the talisman would stave off illness and harm from hearth and home. Right now we can all use all the help we can muster. Singly, onions were worn as amulets in medieval times to ward off the plague, and a New Year’s Eve custom (divination from onions is called cromniomancysee also) in various regions, especially in the Erzgebirge, called for the dicing of an onion into twelve sections and sprinkling each bowl with salt to forecast the precipitation for each month of the year to come as the moisture drawn out of each section by the next morning would predict that month’s rainfall.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020


patim, patam, patum: font specimens of Patufet, a typeface inspired by the Catalonian Tom Thumb 

ace of cups: Summer of Love all-female band that played the Avalon Ballroom and appeared with Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead release a new double-album 

leaf-peeping: Swiss fall foliage map 

franking privileges: Finnish studio mints climate change stamps with heat-reactive ink 

backyard safari: highly detailed journal documenting encounters with wildlife—via Nag on the Lake 

space 1999: scenes from the sets of the iconic British scifi series that ran from 1975 to 1977—via Messy Nessy Chic 

pacomobile: a modified VW snail camper—via Things magazine  

sฤƒlaj county: a brilliant assortment of flag redesigns for Romania’s forty-two regions to celebrate the country’s diversity 

 cannonball aderley: jazz record sleeves from Reagan Ray (see previously) feature the typography of the artists’ names—via Kottke

1q or the feast of the archangels

Venerating Saint Michael and companions, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel in honour of their victory of Lucifer and the rebel angels in the angelomachy, Michaelmas (previously) is observed on the penultimate day of September—in some traditions, the feast extending into the next day—and has also come to one of the four quarter dates of the financial year, kept since at least medieval times to mark when school and court terms were to commence and the accounting was due to ensure that debts and unresolved cases didn’t linger (see also) into the next season.

Though the customary hiring fairs and local elections do not necessarily adhere (the tradition is retained for the election of London’s lord mayor, just as peasants during the Middle Ages would appoint a reeve from among their peers to represent their interests to the manor) to the same calendars, this time of year—still referred to as the Michaelmas term for matriculating students in England, Scotland and Ireland and for the US Supreme Court’s and the English bar’s Inns of the Court’s fall sessions and of course it marks the end and beginning of the fiscal year for budget purposes. Asters or the Michaelmas daisy are one of the few flowering plants left at the beginning of autumn, and thus inspiring the rhyme and invocation: “Michaelmas daisies among dead weeds, bloom for Saint Michael’s valorous deeds.”

Tuesday, 22 September 2020


blocking: Ella Slack has been the Queen’s stand-in and body-double for the past three decades 

grizzly ii: a previously unreleased 80s horror flick starring Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen is making its debut forty years later, via Messy Nessy Chic  

life, the universe and everything: fun facts about the number forty-two, via Boing Boing  

welcoming autumn: it’s decorative gourd season 

the long now: hiding a ten-thousand-year clock inside a mountain (see also)

framing: Twitter issues apologies for its biased image cropping algorithm

Sunday, 21 October 2018


I took a stroll through the fields to the forest’s edge above our village watch the slow transition of the leaves to their autumn colour palette.  The sunshine was not as forthcoming as yesterday that bathed everything with a blushing golden hue in the mid-afternoon but the woods still put on a spectacular show for this opening act that is to be followed by several encores. 

Sunday, 23 September 2018

welcoming autumn

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

stick insect

We enjoyed seeing this collection of moths, butterflies, mantises and beetles created by Montreal-based fashion designer Raku Inoue out of seasonal foliage. This series was inspired from studying ikebana or kadล (่ฏ้“, the way of flowers)—the art of floral arrangement considered one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement along with kลdล (้ฆ™้“, the Way of Fragrance) or incense appreciation and chadล (่Œถ้“), the ritual of the tea ceremony, and taught the artist to respect and work with Nature, selecting bounty over beauty.

Sunday, 1 October 2017


We were rather taken with this stunning ensemble of trees turning from green to gold with red-accented vines in a parking lot near home—there’s happily quite a spectacle to see with the changing of the seasons but sometimes there’s the most contrast when it’s removed from the forest a bit. The chloroplasts in plants would be optimised for absorbing light across all spectra should leaves be black and while there’s a wide range in colouration, botanists aren’t sure exactly why most vegetation is green and not a darker shade. I wondered if the changing colours was just the onset of shedding them, the parts dying—or whether the process weren’t something more poetic, like the death of a star with the different phases and outcome it goes through as its energy sources dwindle.
I don’t think one can quite bear out that metaphor but it turns out that it’s a gross over-simplification to say that trees shed their leaves because of the cost of maintaining a green mantle during the winter months outweighs the photosynthetic benefits. The chemical responsible for the yellow and orange hues is always present in the leaves but is masked by renewed chlorophyll during the growing season.
The chemicals responsible for purples and reds are produced at the end of summer and slowly become a part of the tree’s complexion. Brown is the absence of pigment altogether.
Trees undergo this transformation to prevent water loss primarily and in certain climes to stave off freezing of extremities but there’s a whole host of other reasons including foiling the camouflage of herbivores, avoiding infestation, advertising its seeds and berries and to even stunt the growth of close neighbours. The clusters of dead leaves that remain attached and aren’t dropped, called marcescent, are even kept around by design as in the Spring they are a store of nutrients and they mask growing buds and ensure that any animal foraging for these new shoots gets a nasty taste for the effort.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

fall foilage

Of course, the turning leaves of the trees are delightful but so too can be vines and ivy, like this rather spectacularly vibrant creeper with mixed colours that I saw scaling the side of a building.

Monday, 26 September 2016

to autumn

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer have o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinรฉd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

What are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy Music too—
While barrรฉd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

~ John Keats, 1819

Saturday, 11 June 2016


Perhaps we could take a leaf, in rather desperate times, from the pages of the industrious leafcutter ants (Acromyrmex) of the Americas to hopefully rehabilitate some of our notions about health and hygiene. These colonies have been in the business of agriculture, to include biocide and population health for รฆons, and have yet to find themselves in a pinch whereas humans just harnessed antibiotics and pesticides a few generations hence, and through abuse are seriously at risk of returning to pestilential times, plagued by crop-failures and untreatable infections to the exclusion of modern medical procedures.
Not that we weren’t warned from the onset, but adding an antibacterial sheen to everything and using it as a panacea of first resort has made the strongest thrive and is making the incurable more and more dominant. Returning to our friends, the leafcutter ants—whom drink the sap of the leaves for energy but actually take back the leaves to their nests to grow a specific fungus that’s the chief food staple, scientists are finding that having evolved symbiotically with the resources and threats if their environment, the ants are able to cultivate only what they’ve intended and keep weeds and other pests at bay (despite the inviting hot-house of a nursery they build for their favoured fungi). The blight of invaders is avoided, researchers believe, by a cocktail of novel antibiotics administered, which the ants gather (naturally occurring in the soil) and possibly produce through their own chemistry, confounding the ability to acquire resistance. Hopefully, we can learn something from these ancient farmers, and if we are granted a reprieve from returning to the medical dark age, hopefully we will not repeat the same mistakes.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

borealis or miner forty-niner

One of the latest entries on BLDGBlog covers a fascinating and mysterious phenomena made visible by aerial surveying in the form of boreal rings of lighter pigmented, less thriving foliage that occur in the thousands throughout the forest landscape of Ontario.
Unlike crop-circles and similar occurrences that have either very mundane or other-worldly explanations, researchers are discovering a surprising and wholly unexpected account where ancient glaciation has pockmarked the woodlands with electromagnetic fields and the entire area is like a subtle circuit board. I just how that this exploration stays a geological and botanical one, rather than a tool for prospectors, though I suppose the latter could inform the former too.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


Though the official start of Fall in the Northern Hemisphere began earlier this week and the cue to breakout one’s wicker and seasonal articles has come and gone, I was able to take a nice stroll through Wiesbaden in the early autumn sun—appreciative how attractive this city can be, even under the light that one can detect is angled, skewed towards colder weather, and had the chance to visit the Herbstfest that has been going on all week. Traditionally, the first weekend after the change of seasons is designated as Erntedankfest—a thanksgiving for a good harvest, and the people of Wiesbaden held one on the lawn in front of the State Opera House, replete with all the trappings and trimmings.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

in season: butternut-salmon lasagna

There was a bit of confusion, mincing terms, when it came to identifying a Butternut squash (Birnenkรผrbis, “pear-squash”) distinct from a pumpkin (Kรผrbis) and the gourds (Winterkรผrbis) and the weirder varieties of bumpy and pie-faced squashes used to decorate stoops and storefronts for Autumn. Kรผrbisse are more generic (and diverse) than I thought, referring to any member of the Cucurbita family, native to Central America and separate from their European analogues of beets and turnips, including zucchinis and cucumbers, but once that was cleared up, we were ready to try something new.
For this dish to serve 3 to 4, one will need:

  • A medium casserole dish
  • A large Butternut squash, enough to get 1½ pounds from (600 – 750 grams), minus the skin and seeds (a slender squash, as compared to a dumpy one with wider squash hips tends to have less seeds) 
  • A bit of butter, flour (about 4 tablespoons each) and salt and pepper and fresh dill (chopped) and nutmeg (Muskat) for seasoning
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of cream
  • 2 cups (500 ml) of vegetable stock or bullion 
  • A 9 oz (250 g) package of smoked salmon (fresh or from the refrigerated section)
  • About 7 oz (200 g) of grated cheese (gouda or mozzarella) 
  • A 4 oz (about 100 g) package of lasagna pasta 
  • A large onion

Begin by shelling the squash and removing the seeds, and then slice the squash into small cubes and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200°C). Peel and dice up the onion, frying it in a large pan until glassy in some butter over medium heat. Add a few pinches of flour to the pan (about a tablespoon in all) then pour in the broth and the cream, reducing the heat, and add the graded cheese, seasonings and garnish with the bundle of dill. Mix and leave on low heat for around five minutes. Take the uncooked lasagna noodles and arrange in layers in a casserole dish (grease with a bit of butter) apportioning slices of the salmon, squash and a dousing of the sauce, three layers deep. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, spinkling a bit more cheese over it, and allow to bake for about 45 minutes. Enjoy with a fine Moscato white wine.