A perennial college reading assignment, Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” had a profound effect on me and I vowed then-and-there to never become a traveling salesman. I can’t say for certain when the transformation occurred, but one day I woke up on a train headed to the City with briefcase of samples under my arm.
A friend of mine has a specimen collection of bugs, including this leaf-mimic called a Phylliidae. Native to Southern Asia and Australia, the bug relies on its clever disguise to avoid detection from predators. Further enhancing its camouflage, many leaf insects rock back and forth when they move, simulating foliage blowing in the wind.
Living in an historic house is a constant learning experience. This past week I lost electricity to all of the ceiling fixtures on the second floor of our circa 1840’s home. In the course of determining the cause, I discovered several other issues that required attention, too. After an extensive search that involved testing every outlet and fixture, the electrical problem was located at faulty dimmer switch that had only recently been installed. Fortunately, I kept the original switch and we now have light again. I also gained valuable knowledge about repairing my old house…when a problem arises, always start by looking at where a new item has replaced an original.
An “Enigma” machine used to send and receive coded German military messages during World War II. This machine, in a well-worn oak carrying box, still retains two original wax security seals.
Working with the Polish Cipher Bureau, British Intelligence reconstructed their own “Enigma” machine and began an intense code-breaking effort named, “Ultra”. Any information gained from the “Ultra” program was considered top secret and a conscious effort was made to use the intelligence sparingly so that the Germans would not realize their “Enigma” had been compromised.
A mask composed of ‘googly eyes’.
A good friend of mine throws an annual Halloween party where she always sets a challenge for guests. This year’s invitation came with a small bag of ‘googly eyes’ and instructions to be creative. While walking through the aisles of my local craft store, I came across a blank white mask and had an epiphany when I saw several bags of assorted ‘googly eyes’. The creative process is fascinating in the twists-and-turns it takes from inspiration to project completion. At one point during the middle of constructing the mask, when my figures were burned from using the hot glue gun and the eyes were not adhering well, I was afraid the project might be a failure. However, a bit of perseverance and a pair of tweezers turned the mask into a party favorite.
Several of my colleagues are working on material for the 9-11 museum in New York. The Museum will display a wide variety of objects recovered from Ground Zero, ranging from the huge steel beams of the World Trade Center building to numerous personal effects of victims. Whether larger or small, each item has a story to tell and the Museum will be a lasting tribute to the memory of many.
It is hard to image now, but the quaint rural community of Blairstown, NJ, was once a bustling hub of railroad travel. Initiated by John I. Blair, one of the wealthiest people in the US at the time, the Blairstown Railroad opened in 1877. The single-track line ran only a short distance, approximately 12 miles to the town of Delaware, NJ, where it connected to the Lackawanna Railroad. Although the line was short, it proved rather vital for connection to Pennsylvania via a crossing over the Delaware River. Speculation remains that the shrewd Blair wanted to beat the competition of other wealthy tycoons such as Vanderbuilt and Thomson, by building his track in the area first and connecting it to the larger, established lines east and west. Employing a similar strategy elsewhere, John Blair would, at one time, own more railroad mileage than any other American.
To commemorate the town’s link to its railroad past, an old red caboose houses the Blairstown Historical Preservation Committee and Museum, displaying many objects related to the glory days of train travel.