Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yes, I Know

I've been a bit slack on the blog posting, mostly because I've not been well and my brain decided thinking was too hard. Instead it required a diet of mindless television watching while tucked up in bed. But it's been indulged for long enough - and I am feeling a lot better even if I'm still totally lacking in energy.

So here are a few links that made me smile. I hope you enjoy them too.

First there's this rescue of a trapped baby elephant in Amboseli National Park in Kenya which I found particularly heart warming.

Then another baby elephant this time having fun in a mud pool. This video is from Save Elephant Foundation which is a non-profit organisation based in Thailand and dedicated to saving and protecting the Asian elephant (and also rescuing dogs) across much of South East Asia.

And in cuteness overload a kitten discovers her tail. A warning here that there are a few expletives so you might want to turn the sound down if that bothers you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Catching Up

I'm sorry I haven't been posting lately but I've been busy with the kitchen renovations - nearly done now, thank goodness - and then ill. On the mend again now, though, and while I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I came across a New Yorker article about Dutch artist Theo Jansen, the creator of the kinetic sculptures he calls Strandbeest (the name translates as beach animals or creatures).

Made from PVC pipe framework and incorporating wood, rope and fabric, the sculptures are simply breathtaking. Able to move on their own using wind and in some cases stored energy, they look like extraordinary animals wandering along the beach. I had seen some of these wonderful moving sculptures before but I had no idea of the history behind them or why the artist felt compelled to make them so the article was very illuminating. Originally fairly rudimentary, Strandbeests have been developed into complex and lovely creations and the prospect of the artist's dream of herds of them loosed on beaches is mind-blowing. He views them as being alive and looking at them you can understand why he might think that.

You can see a video featuring some of Jansen's work here and his website with links to other articles and a TED talk is here.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Okay, This is Getting Silly Now

The World War 2 ear worms keep coming and I have no idea why. Most of them weren't a part of time of my childhood - I'm not that old - but I must have heard them at some time. Anyway this is the latest that has settled in my head. It's one of those silly songs which were so popular in wartime England. It's Hey Little Hen and this version is David W. Solomon and is certainly not one of the originals.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Remembered: London Bombings 7 July 2005

This was just on ten years ago and Pisces and I were glued to the television as the full extent of the London bombings was revealed to the world on an endless loop. Horrific as news that was coming out was, we had our own worries because our daughter and two of her friends were, as far as we knew, in London and staying at a hostel in Tavistock Square where one of the bombs had been detonated on a double decker bus. We tried but could not contact them and so we waited, anxiously trying not to think the worst and hoping that they were safe. We finally heard from them the next day when they came back to London. They were fine having decided to spend a few days in Ireland the day before the bombs went off.

While our experience can't compare with those who lost family or friends or who suffered horrendous injuries, it did bring the reality of terrorism home to us. Anyone, however random, can be a victim and we certainly need to be aware that there are organisations promoting and using terror as a weapon and to take steps to defend our countries and ourselves from it. That said though we also need to not let the threat of terrorism define our lives. The people in London were going about their daily lives and there was nothing they could have done which would have stopped these attacks so there's no reason to assume that retreating to a fortress is going to protect us. In fact, with modern weapons the more we crowd together the more vulnerable we seem.

All we can do is take reasonable precautions and that means international cooperation and funding of programs to combat the scourge of these fanatics within our own communities. The ubiquity of the internet means we are often not aware - even within a family - of what is going on behind closed doors so we need to work actively at engaging with those who are at risk. With so many like those who perpetrated the London bombings being home grown, we need to be watchful and aware of potential threats but, while that is difficult, the answer is not to give in and give up our cherished way of life.

We certainly must be vigilant but we must also not let our reasonable fears turn into unreasonable ones and bring in laws that alter or take away long established rights in the belief it will protect us. As soon as we do this we are actually playing into the hands of these terrorist organisations. They win when they have affected the way we live our lives by letting our fear change us. Yes, we need to be aware that there is great danger and that these people are ruthless and vicious in their pursuit of their aims but we must not give in to their threats. As soon as we do that they've already won.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Run, Rabbit

Okay, I give in. I seem to have acquired another earworm song. I was listening to some music while I was decluttering the kitchen contents before putting stuff away- six cartons already filled and more to come - when this came on and now it won't go out of my head. It's Run, Rabbit, Run performed by Flanagan and Allen and was very popular during WW II. Catchy, isn't it.

It brought back memories of watching Dad's Army, the much loved BBC television sit-com about a Second World War Home Guard platoon - consisting in this case of willing if not always able volunteers - who are tasked with defending the town of Walmington-on-sea in the event of a German invasion. Dad's Army ran from 1968-1977 and left indelible memories of certain catch phrases - elderly Corporal Jones's "Don't panic! Don't panic!" as he rushed around in complete confusion being a favourite with my family to the present day.

Did that help dislodge Run, Rabbit, Run? Thought not. Sorry.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

What Bird Was That?

I was out at the clothesline when a sudden woosh of wings by my ear made me look - and there was a brownish buff coloured bird with two heads - one of which looked extremely shocked and the other which was a darker colour - zipping past at an incredible speed. A moment later after blinking and shaking my head, and as it disappeared behind the neighbour's roof, I realised it was in fact two birds, with the shocked lower bird a dove that had been plucked out of the air by a not all that much bigger raptor.

I went inside and got my trusty bird book - The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight - and discovered that the raptor was a peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus.

It proved a little difficult to find a photo with the colouring of our local birds - their heads tend to be lighter coloured than many - so here's an illustration from Birds of Prey, Prang's Natural History Series for Children by Norman Allison Calkins, published in 1878, which is fairly close to it. A handsome fellow, don't you think?

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised because there is ample habitat for falcons in the bushland surrounding the suburb where I live. Within a few minutes walk there are two golf courses with bush areas - one even has a resident mob of kangaroos - and two large expanses of bushland reserve with wetlands that would provide excellent hunting for a smallish raptor. The thing is we don't often see them away from the bushland so I guess this one must have worked out that doves are in plentiful supply here.

This video gives you some idea of the incredible speed a peregrine falcon can reach

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Misguided Roses

Or, more correctly, here's a little bit of local evidence of how the climate is changing. When I went out this morning intending to prune my roses I found this happening.

This is only a sample of the new growth - some of it is looking a little sad because I have just removed a ravenous infestation of aphids - and given we are now a month into winter here and at the start of what is usually the coldest and wettest month of the year when the roses should have already have shed their leaves, this is ridiculous.

And so is this.

I actually picked enough roses for a vaseful and, as you can see from just this one plant, I could have picked many more.

This is not what we expect for this time of the year but I suspect it's going to be our new norm. So far this winter we've only had half our average rainfall for the period and, while we will no doubt get some more, we seem to be heading for a warm and relatively dry winter. I've already had to hand water my vegetable garden a couple of times and the fine drizzle which is currently happening seems unlikely to do much to help.

The truth is the climate here has changed quite dramatically here over the last ten to twenty years with less rain in the traditional winter months. This means the dams which we have relied on for drinking water have not been replenished and we are now heavily reliant on ground water - which is also under stress - and desalinisation.

Welcome to the world of climate change.