'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.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Bristle Fly

This tiny, rugby-jerseyed, bristly creature (Trigonospila brevifacies) is a fly I don't think I've ever seen before. It is an Australian introduction, brought over to New Zealand to help control leafroller caterpillars. The female rests on leaves during her quest looking for her prey. When she finds one of the little leafroller caterpillars (that often curl up my orange tree leaves) she lays her eggs on it. Then it's the usual rather gross story: when the maggot hatches it eats the caterpillar. My Andrew Crowe book says that unfortunately we don't know the impact T. brevifacies is having on the harmless native leafroller moth.

You can see why this group of flies is called bristle flies. Maybe it's the insect equivalent of designer stubble. Except on females.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Corker-lyser Man

When the Christmas wine comes out of the fridge, out of the drawer emerges a frightening figure. Object of my daughter's childhood fears, and invented, aided and abetted by her brothers, this nasty creature comes alive. His face is menacingly blank, he waves his arms up and down, his shoulders are prickly, and his one, shiny, sharp leg, can drill holes in your skin! So, beware, here comes the CORKER-LYSER MAN to get you!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Grapes Competition

In September last year I reached 20,000 viewers on this blog and was so pleased that I ran a little lottery-thingy. Very belatedly, I should let you know that it was won by Robert rhymes-with-plague Brague and my oil painting of grapes he and Ellie picked (above) was duly dispatched. Recently he mentioned that they have had it framed and I'm delighted, albeit a little embarrassed that I hadn't announced the results.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Christmas Walk.

The Te Waihou Walkway was a very pleasant walk to do on a warm Christmas Day afternoon.

The Blue Spring at the top gushes crystal-clear water at the rate of 42 cubic metres a minute, and the walk alongside the swiftly-flowing river travels over stiles, past farmland and through gorges.

At perfectly-timed strategic intervals there is a 'bio loo' with a bag of sawdust hanging inside. (You sprinkle a handful down the loo over your contribution, and there is absolutely no unpleasant odour, and only some excellent compost to be removed at occasional intervals.)

The water, that fell as rain between 50 and 100 years ago, is a delightful 11ºC when it emerges from the earth. Just perfect to cool my hot Christmas-decorated toes.

Kotare, or the sacred kingfisher (Halcyon sancta vagans), pants on a post in the heat.

Poplar tree fluff makes snow underfoot.

A very English, New Zealand scene.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Day: It was sunny and warm and we opened our presents and then after lunch went for a walk along the river bank. Pics tomorrow. It was as perfect a day as one gets.
Happy Christmas to all my fine blogger friends!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rendering Synthetic Objects

When TV first came out my family had other plans for our money. But later on, the box came into our lives, with all its rubbish... and wonders. We quickly became blasé about 'special effects' like people appearing and disappearing (you could often see the tiny slippages of the other cast members as they tried to stay still while the camera was stopped to allow the object person to leave the scene), and a favourite was 'twins' or people talking to themselves, positioned on either side of a 'line' in the background somewhere. And we quickly grew tired of the corny 'people driving in cars but actually it's the the background moving' effect.

But occasionally there'd be something quite spectacular that would cause my Mum to say Her Line: 'So how did they do that then?' to which my Dad would respond 'fishing line' or 'model' or some such. We knew this as Trick Photography.
These days it's all so wonderful. Star Wars was clever and brought us Blue Screens and CG, but then the LOTR* brought us motion capture, realistic CG water and flames, and computer generated 'mass' behaviour for crowd scenes, and goodness knows what else.
Kevin Karsch's PhD project takes the manipulation possibilities of the likes of Adobe Photoshop for still images, and superimposes objects, plus movement, plus incredibly good colour and lighting, to the level of the astonishing.

You can't believe your eyes. Not 'you won't', but 'you can't'.

* Lord of The Rings

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Ceanothus Bush

Ceanothus bush, Queenstown. November 2011

At our first house, the little white stucco bungalow in Napier Road, there was a ceanothus bush like the one above. It had such sweet, soft-smelling, wonderful blue flowers, and when I squeezed them, the leaves had a pleasant scent too. By the time I was six or seven it was quite a substantial size, and the way the branches grew, arching down almost to the ground, made a secret room just right for me to crouch and believe that no-one knew I was there. When I was cross with my parents I would run away and hide there, hoping that I would be missed and then that would show them!

One night I was sent to bed for some misdemeanor and was so seethingly resentful I decided to run away properly this time - all the way to Napier! I knew the way there, as a few times a year we made the thirteen mile journey to the aquarium or museum. I decided I would be able to walk it and be there by morning. I opened the drawers under my bed, arranged clothes so I could feel for them in the dark, and left each drawer open an inch so they wouldn't make any noise and alert my parents who slept in the adjacent room.

After some time my mother came in to kiss me goodnight, bright and jolly as always, as if nothing had happened. She had probably forgotten the incident but my mind was made up and my head was still furious with her. She would miss me when I was in Napier and then she'd be sorry!

As she turned to go she noticed my drawers were all slightly open, and so, quickly and efficiently, push, push, push, she closed each one up with little bumps that made my bed bounce, cheerily wishing me goodnight and leaving me alone in the quiet darkness.

I lay there. I could probably get my clothes without anyone hearing, but then I thought I might not go after all. She was quite a nice mother really, and it was nice and warm in bed. I could always go next time. If I was really mad at them.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Amazing Giant Weta of New Zealand

The UK telegraph recently starred the astonishing New Zealand Giant weta (in Maori: wetapunga - 'God of ugly things') as its picture of the day.

The article (you can read it at the link above) is a little misleading however, as it gives the impression that an American entomologist discovered this insect:
'Adventurer' Mark Moffett has found the world's biggest insect...after two days of searching...on Little Barrier Island'.

In fact this island has long been known as one of the last outposts of the giant weta.

For me, the interesting thing is that wetapunga has been able to survive alongside the small polynesian rat kiore, which was brought to New Zealand when the Maori first came. Although kiore eats the nymphs, the adult weta are too large and also find safety in their tree-top habitats. However neither species has been able to hold out against the European rats of mainland New Zealand, and so share the Little Barrier, from which the European rats have been eradicated.

It should also be mentioned that carrots are not generally on the menu for wetapunga. Your veggie gardens are safe.