Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Squaw Creek

Squaw Creek, Ames, IA (March 17, 2011)

Squaw creek is the little river that runs behind our house, right in the middle of the golf course next to the park where I walk Kero every day (Kero is our four-legged family member I was referring to a couple of days ago). The photo above is taken from the suspended bridge that connects the two halves of the golf course. It has been raining a lot in the last few days, and the creek is quite full. I hope it will not happen like a couple of years ago, when the golf course was completely flooded by the river, and our neighborhood suddenly became a waterfront property. And we had to deal with gazillions of mosquitos for the rest of the summer.

Technically the Squaw creek is a third order meandering river, i.e. a tributary of a tributary (the South Skunk river) of the Mississippi (that then ends up in the sea). With 41.5 miles is actually a stream, even though when it rains like now it does look like a powerful river. The Squaw Creew Watershed Association is dedicated to the preservation of the river watershed, and you can head to their nice web site to know more than you ever wanted to know about the little river behind my house.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Midwest Driving

Interstate 35, Iowa (May 21, 2011)

One of the biggest differences between New England (or my native Italy) and the Midwest, is that here everything is several hundred miles apart. Distances work on a different scale, and people don't think twice of jumping on their car and drive a few hours to get to the big city. Ames is right at the center of the state, 3 hours south of Minneapolis, 5 hours west of Chicago and 3 hours north of Kansas City. In most cases you set the compass heading and drive pretty much straight until you hit the city. It may seem strange to think of driving for hundred of miles just to get to the store you know has the model of skis you want to try (we have done that). That is until you realize that if you live in a large US urban area you have to deal with huge commuting times to drive downtown (where work and the fun stuff are) from the suburbs (where you can afford to live). Our commuting time is exactly 3 min, from our house to our office. In Boston we were living at about the same distance from work we are now, but the commuting time was 20 min (and the parking fee about one order of magnitude more expensive). 

Something else you may notice in the photo above, taken along Interstate 35 heading north from Ames to Minneapolis, are the windmills. Iowa is windy and, being mostly flat and with a low density population, is the perfect locale to place wind turbines. Iowa in fact has the largest wind power capacity density of all US states (29 kW/km square, 50% more than Illinois, and twice as much as Texas, the next two states). In 2012 a quarter of the electricity generated in the state came from wind turbines. Just at the beginning of this month, MidAmerica Energy (a company ultimately controlled by Warren Buffett) has decided to invest 1.9 billion dollar to expand its wind energy operations in the state. The main current limitation for the growth of this industry appears to be the transmission capacity of the power lines crossing the state (the obsolescence of the power grid is an issue shared by the whole country). The availability of cheap and abundant energy, however, can spur the growth of local economy, as shown by the billion-dollar deals signed by companies like Google, Microsoft and more recently Facebook.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Iowa

Ada Hayden Park, Ames, IA (June 16, 2010)

Between 2003 and 2009 Massimo's Photoblog was my excuse for getting out with my camera and capture light. During that time I was living on the East coast (Boston area), and many of the photos I posted were views of the North Shore, architectural details of the city, or more in general images captured during my travels. In 2009 I moved to Ames, Iowa, to take up a new job at the local university, and things got very busy. The frequency of my posts slowed down, as new work responsibilities (and a new -- very demanding -- four legged family member) gradually took over what was supposed to be my "leisure time". Then, repeated computer crashed consigned the archives of this site to the dustbin of internet history. I never stopped to take pictures, though, and the need of a virtual wall where to hang them stayed with me. So here it is, my photoblog back from the dead, hopefully with new images for you to enjoy.

I needed to start with something "Iowan", and there it is, a view of the Ada Hayden Heritage Park in Ames. The park is dedicated to Ada Hayden (1884 - 1950), a botanist and avid conservationist that dedicated her life to the preservation of natural prairies. She was the first woman to obtain a Ph.D. at Iowa State University, where she worked as an Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium. The park has been established in her memory on the grounds of the Hallett Quarry (more precisely a gravel and sand pit). The park now features two lakes connected by a land bridge, a wetland area hosting many migratory bird species and a farm area. All is served by paved and gravel paths very popular among Ames' bikers, roller bladers and dog owners. The photo above shows the farm area from the gravel path: as you can see it proves how Iowa does have some low-rolling hills, and it is not completely flat and covered by corn as I assumed when I moved to the midwest.

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