Tree ID: Now on your iPhone

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Can't tell a beech from a birch? There's an app for that. Last month, scientists from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian released Leafsnap, a free iPhone and iPad app that promises a simple way to identify Northeastern U.S. tree species from their leaves.

Unlike other field guides -- even digital ones -- Leafsnap doesn't rely on users picking from a list of characteristics to puzzle out which species they're looking at. Instead, it relies on visual recognition technology -- a kind of software that's also used to identify faces, and has been advancing rapidly in recent years -- to match a photo of a leaf taken in the field with species in Leafsnap's database.  Read more

Local cable company rejects federal broadband grant for having "too many conditions"

Broadband cable. Photo by Michael Coghlan, via Flickr.

Some excellent reporting by blogger and community activist Sam Pratt has prompted a story in the Daily Mail about Mid-Hudson Cablevision, which, both Pratt and the Mail report, is turning down $3.5 million in federal broadband grants it was awarded last year.

(We've been a little slow on the uptake on these stories, which ran in the last week of April. Hat tip to WGXC for turning us on to Pratt's reporting.)   Read more

Mother's Day flowers

Laurie McIntosh, a musician, storyteller, and mom of two, spent Mother's Day on a mountainside in Andes, where, she emailed us, she found enough flowers to please any mama:

A Trout Lily and a sea of Spring Beauties, is what I found on Mt. Pisgah (aka Bobcat) today. No macro lens here, so this is about the best I could do on my solo Mother's Day hike up the mountain.

Have any photos from your Mothers Day? Send them to us at [email protected] or post them to our Flickr group.

A hike up Mount Tremper in 1925

Photo from the family collection of Doc Searls, of his aunt Ethel Searls in the shadow of the Tremper Mountain Fire Tower. Reproduced by permission.

While poking around on Flickr, we recently discovered a wonderful little cache of photos from a bygone era, documenting a hike on Mount Tremper taken by a group of girls in 1925.

Pictured above is Ethel Searls, age 20, carving something into a slab with a hammer and chisel. In another shot from the photo set, Ethel's sister -- twelve-year-old Grace Searls, seated in front with the barrette -- seems to have picked more sensible hiking shoes than one of her unnamed companions. (Climbing Mount Tremper in high heels: Truly an astounding feat.)  Read more

This Weekend: Happy birthday, Liszt

Franz Liszt, the virtuoso Hungarian pianist and composer pictured above, would've turned 200 this year, and a series of concerts around the Catskills (and the world) are celebrating his music all year long. Tomorrow afternoon, East Meredith joins in the Liszt-a-thon with a performance by pianist Justin Kolb at the West Kortright Centre. The concert promises to be a bracing mix of famous and not-so-famous music by Liszt, who was admired for his exuberant playing style and his almost superhuman control over the piano.  A bonus: Kolb doesn't just play -- he also inserts a running commentary about the pieces into the performance.

The West Kortright Centre, 49 West Kortright Church Road, East Meredith. Saturday, 5.7.2011, 3pm. Free-will donations accepted at the door. (607) 278-5454.  For more info, see the concert's calendar listing.

This weekend: Tom Pacheco plays at the Public

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Longtime Woodstock folksinger Tom Pacheco will be playing the Public on Saturday night. Once a regular on the Greenwich Village circuit, Pacheco has played with the likes of Pete Seeger and The Band, written chart-topping hits for Norway's number-one country star (seriously), and worn the folk-populist mantle of Woody Guthrie proudly for going on half a century.

Want a sneak preview? The video above shows Pacheco performing his song "There Was A Time" at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock a few years back.

The Public Restaurant and Lounge, Bridge Street, Roxbury. Saturday, 5.7.2011, 8:30pm. $10 advance/$12 at the door. (607) 326-4026. The Public is a Watershed Post advertiser: Check out their page in our local business directory.

This weekend: Fighting kites battle at SUNY Suliivan

If you're a kid yearning for a kite, show up at the Loch Sheldrake campus of SUNY Sullivan tomorrow just before 10am. The college's annual kite festival, which runs from 10am to 4pm, is handing out free kites to the first 200 children who arrive. And that's just one of the perks of the free event. According to the SUNY Sullivan webpage:

The main attractions are kite flying and demonstrations. However, the Kite Festival will also feature kids rides and games, craft vendors, food and music by the top 40's pop band, Six Pack Joe ... In addition to the kite flying, there will also other events throughout the day. The Fisher Film Festival will be held in the Seelig Theatre with some well known television news personalities participating in panel discussions from 1p.m.-5 p.m.

A group called New York Kite Enthusiasts explains on its website that traditional Japanese fighting kites known as Rokkaku kites will be there to battle:  Read more

DEP: Ashokan fountain to leap again in time for Mother's Day

Since 2009, the aerator fountain at the Ashokan Reservoir -- a popular spot for picnicking, snapping photos or just getting a faceful of cool mist in the summertime -- has been out of operation. Today, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced that the fountain will be operating again by Sunday morning. From the press release:

Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway today announced that the fountain at the Ashokan Reservoir will be activated again after a two-year hiatus to replace valves that were more than a century old. DEP replaced two of four 48-inch diameter, 105-year-old valves that regulate the flow of Ashokan Reservoir water into the Catskill Aqueduct. The water that supplies the fountain is normally routed through New York Power Authority turbines that generate electricity for local power grids. Water has been bypassing the turbines and fountain since May 2009 to complete the rehabilitation work. The total cost to replace the 17-ton valves was $4.9 million. With the valve replacement complete, the fountain will be re-activated just in time for Mother’s Day, this Sunday, May 8, at 8:00 am.  Read more

This weekend: Woodsmen's Show at the Hanford Mills Museum

Tomorrow, the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith will ring with the sound of axes and saws, as the lumberjacks (and jills) of the SUNY Cobleskill Woodsmen's Team put on a display of their prowess at chopping and sawing. Also, there'll be demonstrations of log skidding with draft horses, a woodlot management talk with the Catskill Forest Association, and a chance to see the sawmill in action.

In case you were wondering: Yes, lumberjacking is a proper college sport. From a recent story featuring the SUNY Cobleskill Woodsmen in the Albany Times Union:  Read more