More copyright-free hymns

This week someone contacted me about the copyright-free hymns I’ve posted online. This prompted me to look in my files, where I discovered I had another ten hymns ready to upload. Those ten new hymns are now online here. I’ll include info about these hymns below the jump.

Four of the newly-uploaded hymns are patriotic hymns. Unitarian Universalist hymnals used to include patriotic songs, but that ended with the 1993 gray hymnal. This was a short-sighted policy. Today, U.S. religious conservatives wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and maintain that theirs is the only patriotism. Well, Unitarians and Universalists were key players in the founding of the United States, and we need to reclaim that part of our heritage so that we can inject our own religious vies into contemporary political discourse — our views being that the U.S. is a democracy (not an autocracy) and is not a Christian country; that our country is founded on the separation of religion and the state; and that the revolution continues through our ongoing efforts to make sure all persons are treated as equals. With the approach of the 250th anniversary of the singing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s time for us to show our patriotism again. I’ve uploaded America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and The New Patriot, all taken from pre-1993 UU hymnals. I also uploaded Chester, a patriotic song actually written during the Revolution — it’s of limited use, but can be useful for Massachusetts congregations that recognize Patriots Day.

The other six hymns include African American spirituals, a hymn allegedly by Rabindranath Tagore, a South African song, etc. After you read the descriptions below, look for the songs on my music website.

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It came from a plant press

Back in early March, I wrote about how to make a cheap pocket plant press, showing a Common Snowdrop (Galanthus Nivalis) in the press. I finally got around to mounting the prseed plant, and here’s what the finished product looks like:

A pressed and dried flower mounted on cardstock.

I used polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue (Elmer’s Glue) to mount the pressed-and-dried plant onto a piece of cardstock. PVA glue dries fairly clear, is reasonably non-acidic and flexible, will fill small gaps, and is cheap, making it a good choice for gluing dried plants to a base.

If you’re mounting a plant for an herbarium, you’d include the whole plant, roots and all. But I’m doing this for fun, so I didn’t include the roots. I mounted the plant with a bit of the stem extending off the cardstock. Then when the glue dried, I used a sharp knife to trim the stems at the edge of the card. Notice how I glued the petals down so that the inner parts of the flower are visible.

The end result is attractive, and even though it’s scientifically useless, I’m happy to have it for my own reference. I’m thinking of making a somewhat larger cheap pocket plant press — maybe 4 x 6 inches (10 x 15cm) — for slightly larger flowers.

As always, don’t collect plants unless you have permission to do so. These days, written permission is typically required for collecting on most federal lands (including national parks, Forest Service land, and often even BLM land), on many state lands, on nearly all wildlife sanctuaries, etc. — don’t collect unless you’re sure you’re allowed to do so. If it’s in your back yard or you know the landowner personally, you should be fine. PLUS, never collect rare or endangered plants, and never collect more than about 5% of a given species in a given location. The only exception would be invasive plants — e.g., here in Massachusetts, go ahead and collect all the Purple Loosestrife, Yellow Iris, Rosa Multiflora, etc., that you want.


In order to watch the solar eclipse this afternoon, I set up binoculars on a tripod next to the Parish House at First Parish of Cohasset. This is the same set-up I used to project the transit of Venus back in 2012. Here’s what it looked like:

Binoculars taped to a tripod with gaffer's tape, with a large shade collar attached.The binoculars are projecting an image of the sun on a white sheet on the ground.

I used an old pair of inexpensive binoculars, so the image quality wasn’t perfect. But the image was good enough that we could see at least one sunspot. The size of the projected image was about 4 inches across.

The eclipse reached about 92% of maximum here in Cohasset. Some high thin clouds passed over, but they weren’t thick enough to block the sun. As the eclipse progressed, it didn’t get dark, but the light was dim enough to make it feel like dusk. Some robins started singing their evening song. The air grew noticeably cooler.

I took photos showing most of the progress of the eclipse, and assembled them into an animated GIF. Two notes about this GIF: First, the amount of time each image of the GIF is displayed is proportional to the amount of time elapsed between photos. Second, the GIF shows the image as projected; but the projection was inverted from what we saw through the protective glasses. Also, notice the chromatic aberration when the eclipse is at the maximum, presumably from refraction.

Animation showing the progression of the eclipse using projected images.

Half a dozen people from First Parish came over to the Parish house to watch the eclipse. Everyone else had a pair of those protective glasses. It was fun to be able to view the eclipse both through the glasses and with the projection. Hosetly, we probably did more talking than looking at the eclipse. We kept inviting random passers-by to join us. A parent with a couple of preschool-aged kids came over, and it was interesting to see that they were too young to understand what a projection was, or really even to understand what they were seeing through the protective glasses.

See also my post on the 2017 solar eclipse.