Stunning Library in China [via Nina Reznick]

Have you ever seen a library as stunning as this? The structure is incredible. It features a giant spherical auditorium in the middle that looks just like a giant eye. This impressive 5-storey library, located in the Binhai Cultural District in Tianjin, China, was designed by Dutch design firm MVRDV in collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) and has since been dubbed 'The Eye of Binahi'. 



The California Sycamore on California Avenue [via Nina Reznick] 

This is, for a change, a feel good story; maybe, so far, we hope; a breezy general history of a giant sycamore, our community, and a disparate band of amateur activists coming together to celebrate, and try to save, a living giant.

It all started a few months ago with a handwritten sign on a utility pole. Actually, it started almost a hundred years ago with a seed dropped in the soil. Okay, let’s start somewhere between the middle and the end:

In a year of tremendous political discord, true terror, media bombast and unprecedented natural disasters, an urban community of neighbors of all political persuasions and from all walks of life has come together to try to save a tree. Is saving a tree a big deal? Yes, we think it is.

In Santa Monica, California – a city most recently under a choking pall of thick smoke from the massive wildfires burning in surrounding communities – there is a beautiful, legendary tree at least 90 years old; it’s a fire-resistant native California Sycamore on a street called California Avenue that is not only a quite striking visual landmark but also a home for owls, falcons, hummingbirds, and butterflies. At 75-feet tall this tree towers over a low rise residential neighborhood alongside a street that links three schools and traverses a grid of 2 and 3-story apartment buildings, single family bungalow-style homes, 1920’s-era courtyard developments, modern transitional housing for homeless families, a residency for senior citizens, and three historic churches. The property on which this tree grows also features a farmhouse built in 1882 and was owned by the same family for many years; the California Sycamore on California Avenue has always been expertly and lovingly cared for by whoever owned the lot on which it stands.

The property was recently sold and a developer from outside the community announced his intention to immediately cut down this giant tree without any indication of what or even when anything would be built on what would suddenly become a vacant lot. That would be a shame.

California Sycamores are among the oldest species on Earth and are known for their longevity and hardiness, living more than 200 years, with some reported to have lived 500 to 600 years. Because of their history in this region, their beauty, their bountiful shade, the habitat they provide, their tolerance for drought, their resistance to fire, and because they are one of the few native hardwood trees still living in this region, California Sycamores – on public or private land – are protected in Los Angeles, Malibu, Pasadena, and other nearby towns; but in purportedly progressive and “green” Santa Monica there is no restriction on cutting down even the most venerable landmark street tree if it happens to be rooted on private land.

When it became apparent that imminent plans were being made to cut down this tree, someone stapled a sheet of typing paper to an adjacent utility pole; it was a white sheet with a crude drawing of a tree and the words “HELP SAVE THIS SYCAMORE. ANY IDEAS?”

When it became apparent that imminent plans were being made to cut down this tree, someone stapled a sheet of typing paper to an adjacent utility pole; it was a white sheet with a crude drawing of a tree and the words “HELP SAVE THIS SYCAMORE. ANY IDEAS?” That’s all that was on the sign. Within hours a neighbor wrote her phone number on the sign, adding that she would like to help and that she had some ideas; soon she received some calls of support and she posted on a neighborhood website that the tree was threatened and anyone who wanted to help could pitch in. Within days there was a meeting of a handful of neighbors – none of whom had ever met each other before – after work hours in a nearby coffee shop.

Frustration was mollified, spirits were raised, and one woman suggested the next meeting should be on the public sidewalk beneath the tree’s wide canopy on a weekend morning – perhaps inviting a forestry expert who could educate us about both ecology and law (and even help us determine if the tree itself was healthy). A slightly larger crowd of people – again, mostly strangers to each other – attended. The expert said the tree was in great shape, and she suggested we might reach out to the developer to offer him support for variances if he would preserve the tree – a win-win for all. The woman who had put her number on the sign notified the local neighborhood association, whose key coordinator sparked to the idea of saving this tree and put in an application at city hall to seek official landmark status for the giant sycamore – a living biology lab two blocks from a large urban public school.

Someone reached out to the developer with our offer of local support for his future development if he’d save this tree. The response? Days later the developer arrived onsite to begin preparation to cut down the sycamore (under the guise of ‘tree trimming’). With the application for landmark status having been filed by the neighborhood association “just in time,” an emergency call was made to a city official who dispatched other city officials who raced to the site and ordered the developer to cease and desist. The tree was saved – temporarily – pending the upcoming hearing on its fate at the next meeting of the city landmarks commission.

The word went out: “Come to the meeting! You do not have to speak at this meeting – unless you want to – but your presence will be essential so hey, let’s make it fun! – join your neighbors, meet new friends, celebrate our city, pass the word: BE THERE MONDAY!” Through the neighborhood association’s contacts with local reporters a story about the tree appeared on the front page of the local newspaper. Soon people from all over the city were detouring from their usual paths to meet this tree.

On a cold Monday night, dozens of neighbors crowded into the small city meeting room, some with school age children brought by their parents to experience democracy in action. It was then revealed that the landmarks commission had already decided on a death sentence for this magnificent tree.  It was painful to read the staff report on this legendary native tree as it threw very ‘negative shade’ on the entire Landmarks Commission process.  Claiming to be based on their own arborist’s analysis, the staff report was filled with mis-statements and curious omissions as the city laid out the bizarre argument that the giant sycamore was nothing special.

When we found the unedited report from the arborist hired by the city, we were stunned to discover that he actually wrote a GLOWINGLY SUPPORTIVE report about this tree — but that the city’s staff for some reason chose to cut, paste, and rearrange the arborist’s written narrative in order to HANG the tree.  Whereas the staff report said that the arborist noted an abundance of “native trees within a two block radius surrounding 1122 California Avenue,” the staff report omitted the rest of the arborist’s sentence which stated about these other trees that “none of these … were of significance due to small size, poor condition, etc … and do not compare in size, condition or beauty to the subject western sycamore.”

The arborist stated that The California Sycamore on California Avenue “makes up a significant portion of the dwindling native tree canopy in the area” with a summation that the sycamore is “exceptional for its good health.”  And yet somehow this turned into a city staff conclusion that this tree “does not appear to be a particularly exceptional specimen.” The city arborist noted the massive bird nests in the tree; we in the community have seen falcons in and around this tree year in and year out – and the city arborist stated in his report that no action should be taken until these nests are studied as raptors are a year-round protected species. That this tree may be a nesting site for falcons was left out of the report on which the Landmarks Commission was asked to base its decisions.

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This is the newest video from SKYGLOWPROJECT.COM, a crowdfunded quest to explore the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible Dark-Sky areas in North America. It was created by Harun Mehmedinovic and his shooting partner Gavin Heffernan. Here’s what Harun told us about it:
In this video, we visit the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon National Park during the monsoon season, and the magnificent night skies there as seen from the river level. Recently, Grand Canyon was granted the status of an International Dark-Sky Park.

Thank you so much Harun and Gavin for sharing your video with us!
Bottom line: Timelapse of day and night skies over the Colorado River at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

 You can find out more about the video here.

Knuckle mnemonic [via Cacciatore]


The knuckle mnemonic is a mnemonic device for remembering the number of days in the months of the Julian and Gregorian calendars. 

Starting with the little finger knuckle of the left hand, proceed to the left index finger knuckle, then (swapping hands) jump to the right fist's index finger knuckle for August, finishing on the knuckle of the right ring finger (December).

Owl Dance Off

In this remixed GoPro footage by wildlife photographer Megan Lopez, a pair of curious burrowing owls emerge from a suburban front lawn and start dancing to a soundtrack by musician Aquadrop.

Restaurant Wants to Use Marijuana to Ease Lobsters’ Pain. Slow Your Roll, Maine Says. [via Vincent Atchity]


Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, Me., wants to sedate lobsters with marijuana to make killing them more humane. Regulators have other ideas. CreditCreditRobert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Your death is imminent. It will be painful. Minutes beforehand, your executioner hands you … a joint.

“If somebody offered me that option and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this first?’” said Charlotte Gill, the owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, Me., “I would say a resounding ‘yes.’”

Ms. Gill wants to present that opportunity to the crustaceans whose deaths her business is built on, trying to use marijuana to get them high so they have a painless, stress-free plunge into boiling water.

In recent days, Ms. Gill’s methods have generated a fair amount of publicity as well as a healthy dose of skepticism: Can lobsters even get high? Do they feel pain? If a lobster can and does get high, could someone who eats it absorb the marijuana? And is any of this even allowed?

The answer to that last question appears to be no, at least for now, Maine says.

The state’s health inspectors “would treat food served to consumers at licensed eating places and affected by marijuana, as has been described with this establishment, as adulterated and therefore illegal,” Emily Spencer, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said on Thursday.

“At this time,” she added, regulators do not “have information on the health implications or effects of ‘sedating’ lobsters with marijuana.”

In the course of her experiments with lobsters, Ms. Gill has unwittingly arrived at the forefront of marijuana science and regulation.

She says it is undeniable that the marijuana is having the intended effect. In a series of tests, restaurant employees put a lobster in a small container and added a few inches of water. They channeled marijuana smoke through a tube until the container was filled with it, and kept the lobster there for about three minutes.

Before the lobster went into the container, it would flap its tail and click and wave its claws. After being exposed to the smoke, the lobster was docile and serene, Ms. Gill said.

“It’s still a very alert lobster, but there’s no sign of agitation, no flailing of legs, no trying to pinch you,” she said. “So calm, in fact, that you’re able to freely touch the lobster all over without them trying to strike at you or to be aggressive in any way.”

This method is preferable, she said, to dropping a live crustacean into boiling water without the marijuana.

Ms. Gill, 47, grows the marijuana at her home, and she said she had a license to do so. Voters in Maine narrowly approved a measure in 2017 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21.

But on Thursday evening, Ms. Gill said, she received notice from Maine’s health department that she was using the marijuana in a prohibited way because “it is supposed to be used only for myself and not a lobster.”

Ms. Gill, a self-professed animal lover, has faced a quandary since starting to serve lobsters about six years ago. She began investigating the marijuana idea this year with the staff at her restaurant, which is about 50 miles southeast of Bangor. As the experiment got publicity, some wondered if it was a marketing gimmick, but Ms. Gill maintained it was not.

Staff members have tested their urine after eating the marijuana-treated lobsters, she said, and no trace of the drug has been found. In the latest experiment, Ms. Gill’s 82-year-old father has been eating copious amounts of marijuana-sedated lobster every day; he will soon take a blood test.

She said she hoped her tests could prove to the state that the lobsters were not absorbing the marijuana.

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