'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Flying high.

Dragonflies... The last residential is over... the weight is beginning to lift from this blogger's shoulders.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sea Monkeys

When I was young my extended family, especially a strong-minded maiden aunt, would inquire about my reading habits. Their reactions to various responses ensured I learnt from an early age that the classics were heartily approved of. (I actually enjoyed them, and I think my vocabulary was certainly extended beyond most kids my age).
However comics were not really considered suitable.
But I had a draw-card: I was a sickly kid, thin and pale, and when especially ill they could be quite indulgent. I always asked for colouring-in books or comics. I generally received Disney cartoons and I still remember the day I met the best Disney character to my mind: The light-bulb friend of Gyro Gearloose.
But later illnesses turned up much more exciting heroes like Superman and Batman and... joy of joys: 'The Phantom'. When the bad guys had been caught and were in jail and being angry through close-ups of their gritted teeth, all that was left was to peruse the strange and wonderful adverts on the back pages. They were all from America of course, and that could have been on the moon to us in New Zealand, but the best things were the 'Sea-Monkeys'. Oh I so wanted a real sea-monkey for a pet, so I could play with it and train it, and it could be my friend!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hanging my Art. - your opinion requested!

Some of the work I have recently completed:

Close-up of above.

Who a bee interacts with in a swarm (discovered only to be about 5 neighbours):

Varroa bee mite

Scouting and collecting behaviour of bees:

Rules when swarming:

Google search results for 'honey bee':

Umwelts (Other Worlds):

Dance patterns:

Well, you all did a brilliant job of confiding in me your insect likes and dislikes a few months ago.
As you can see from the above art, I settled on honey bees to be the focus of my research and have been busy as the proverbial, and am nearly there, despite migrainus interruptus.

But, here is another request from me folks.
It's time to hang my art work for the end of year examination. But how should it look?
So you know what it's about, it is, briefly, more about the ways we know bees (science, childhood memories, instinct eg. love of honey, etc, etc.) than what we know about them. Although the 'what' is linked of course to how we found it out... Got that? Never mind.*

I have devised a way of mocking up a little gallery (you can go to the last image to see what it really looks like) so I can try out arrangements of placement.

Would you tell me which one(s) you prefer? They are numbered. It would be great if you could say why too. Thank you!

Notes: a. You can assume all pieces are to be hung perfectly straight.
b. the 'head with bee' is probably the pivotal piece of the group.
c. This is not a 'series' so much as a single 'work'. The only way I can think of to make it so, is to hang them very close together. But if you have another suggestion, please offer it!
d. Please make all comments in safety! I welcome all, no matter how 'way out'. A wacky or unusual suggestion may spark another idea for me or someone else.
e. If you would rather not go public, please don't let that stop you. Just email me.
f. If you don't like any of these hanging formations, but can describe another idea, please do.
g. Many of the pieces have writing on them. That's the main reason I can't go too high. (Most of the work invites close inspection).
h. The 'floorboards' are drawn to scale and are a metre (3 feet) wide.
i. All the images should be clickable if required.

11. (This next one has removed the black works completely.)


*If you are really interested, my project abstract is:

The Umwelt of the bee.
This project asks what is the 'Umwelt' (Other World) of the bee and explores Jakob von Uexküll's theory that each species on Earth effectively inhabits a different subjective universe based upon its needs and senses - its biosemiotic interpretation of the world.

It seeks to invite the viewer to reflect on their relationship with bees.

Using drawing-based art media, and by means of contrasts between figurative images, quasi-scientific visual conventions, and abstraction,
this project attempts to meld this theory with objective methodologies of science, and uses the combination to peek into the hive.

PS. This way of making a decision is the same way that bees make their decisions: By lots of individuals 'voting'. This method is therefore also part of the research project!

Where Leaves Meet Overhead.

For some reason there is a kind of place that never fails to please me. Wherever I encounter it, whatever the landform, the weather, be it informal and unkempt or tidy and regular, on a hill, a plain, on footpath or highway, even on Google Earth (but preferably in reality) ; I love places where the trees meet overhead.

I hereby announce they are 'My' places.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Penguin Playpens

In Bay of Plenty beaches the painstaking clean-up continues...

On the Rena, still out on the reef, and creaking and groaning like a Jurassic dinosaur as the two parts of her move slightly in different directions in the swell, the thick oil is steadily but slowly being pumped off onto a barge.

The last three days my son has been working at the Wildlife Response Centre at Te Maunga, located between Tauranga city and the beach. There is a lot of activity there. There are lots of marquee-sized tents and food caravans. It looks from the outside like a Peter Jackson film village. But there's no acting here. Inside tents people are carefully washing black oil from struggling and feisty live birds, and vets are dissecting oily dead birds to officially establish the cause of death for records. Others feed meat meal and insect larvae to hungry birds.
My son and others have been making dotteral aviaries (normally a sociable species, but at this time of year they are breeding and would fight if put together) and playpens for penguins. The latter have to have netting floors to ensure their feet are not injured. There are pools for the seabirds to swim in, but they seem surprised there are no fish for them to catch!

The following photos are thanks to J:

Making playpens for penguins.
(The covered pools in the background are for shags and cormorants)

Some numbers:

As at 21st October:

Oil spilled since grounding: 350 tonnes
Oil spilled since 11th October: None
Oil pumped off ship: 171 tonnes
Oil left in Rena: 772 (port tank) 356 (starboard tank)
Angle: 21º tilt (to starboard)

Amount of money in government oil clean-up fund: NZ$4 million
Amount in fund 10 years ago: NZ$12. ('wound down because there weren't enough spills to warrant it')
Estimated cost of Rena clean up so far: NZ$4 million

Containers overboard: 88
Containers unknown whereabouts: 29*
Containers still on board: 1280
Birds dead as a result of spill: About 1300
Birds being cared for at the Wildlife Response Unit: about 285

Dotterals in existence: about 1700
Dotterals in Bay of Plenty area: 150 - 200
Dotterals pre-emptively captured since spill: 60

* Number of containers lost somewhere at sea each year: up to 10,000

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Artist

The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.

- Pablo Picasso.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tiger, Tiger

Henri Rousseau. Fight between a Tiger and a Buffalo. 1908 . Oil on canvas. 170 x 189.5 cm

Tiger, Tiger, with refulgent conflagration
In the nocturnal afforestation,
Kindly provide details regarding
Nature of supernatural deity
Responsible for your design and technology.

- A bureaucrat.

Monday, 17 October 2011


We've lived in this home with its wonderful spring wisteria-dripped verandah, for nearly eighteen years. And in all that time, I can't believe that I've never really looked at the bees properly as they come and go so industriously, sometimes only inches from my cup of tea.
Now I have started to watch them carefully, I can see they don't enter the flower at all. They drill holes in the back and get the nectar that way. Clever things!

If you click, you can see all the tiny holes in this shot. It seems it's worth it to drill two; one each side.

This pot of honey makes a beautiful colour contrast with the wisteria flowers.
I didn't want to provoke them into bitterness at where all their hard work goes, so I didn't leave it out there long.
Did you know that a bee can only collect the equivalent of about two teaspoons of honey a day? And that's on a good day. And requires visiting about 1000 flowers...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A bad week

I've had seven migraines in the last 12 days. Generally my special medicine works well. But the last three (Thursday, Friday and today) have been rather awful and I've had to take two lots of painkillers and sleep for five or so hours each time. A pity, as they have each begun mid morning, so that virtually writes off the day. And I have a whole lot of end-of-year assignments all due at once too. I do think Tim Nyberg has captured the feeling really well in his painting, 'though, don't you?

Up until now I have told everyone I meet how my life has been so much better since Maxalt came of the market.
I still do highly recommend you try it if you get migraines and haven't encountered it yet.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Friday Rena oil update

For those unfamiliar with the Bay of Plenty, here's a google map that I've annotated. Of course inland there is no effect (except maybe economic) of the oil on the beaches. In the city and cafes etc. of Tauranga and other townships around, life goes on as before. Don't cancel your summer holiday to the sunny Bay just yet!

Here are some images of what it was like out on the sands today. About 3000 people have volunteered for oil clean-up, but these are going to be called on in rotation, as the oil will be coming onshore for some weeks yet.

This group that included my son worked from 10 until 3, even in the rain. As you can see, they have been issued with protective clothing and gumboots were provided. Humvees trekked up and down delivering water and food, and transporting volunteers and defense personal up and down the long coastline to where they were needed. This area was not as badly oiled as in previous days down, due to the off-shoredirection of the winds last night. Unfortunately this may mean oil moves as far East as Whakatane. The beaches will be probably be done all over again tomorrow. And Sunday. And Monday...

Overnight a platform was constructed and we saw this helicoptered out to the Rena today. It will be attached to the ship's side to help get pump the oil out. This is going to be a tricky job as it needs to be heated before it can flow properly. The decks are very slippery, and at an angle of 20º too. It's pitch dark below deck but at least the westerly wind shouldn't bee too strong the next few days.
They are hoping to start pumping the oil out again tomorrow.