Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall comes to the sheltered corners, too.

Everybody get plenty of candy on Halloween?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Isn't the end of the week a wonderful thing? Settle back with a nice glass of wine, a good book, and nothing but time. Which I would do, were it not for the fact that I've got two exams to make up, and four or five lectures to revise. Nuts.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More crawling around in the grass. In sight of ever so many of my students, colleagues and overlords. It's what we do, isn't it? There's the possibility of a photograph? We will try to get it.

That's all natural light, by the way. No flash. No reflectors. A little burning, a little dodging...that's it. And the lens, in case you're interested, was the magical 60 mm, f2.8 Micro-Nikkor. Heck of a nice lens.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amanita muscaria - heck of a good-looking mushroom, isn't it? Nice bright red? In fact, as I was hunkered down over my camera and tripod trying to get a decent shot, a nice woman happened by and was amazed that there were such things as red mushrooms. O.K., now that you mention it, a mushroom with colour is sort of an unusual notion. In plants, the colour is derived from organelles known as plastids. Generally, these plastids contain pigments that are involved in photosynthesis. Fungi don't photosynthesise, so what are the pigments for? Well, I suppose one good reason could be the fact that mushrooms are how some fungi asexually reproduce themselves. It would probably be a reasonable idea, in these cases, to discourage any animals that might think, "Hmmm, looks tasty to me", since consumption would kind of put an end to the whole "reproduction" program. What better way to say, "Hold it right there, pal. Eat this and you're gonna die." than to indicate this with a bright, consistent colour? Not that red is the universal "Danger!" colour. Any colour would have done just as well (provided the most likely predators could see it), just so long as it was consistent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ah, fall on the Wet Coast. The rains come in, knock down the leaves, inspire feelings of "stay home".

Monday, October 26, 2009

On the left (only in this photograph) you have the Republican Party - the party of No. On the right (again, only in this photograph) you have the Democrats - the party no convictions whatsoever. It's inconceivable that the Democrats can't get their shit together to pass health care reform. And yet, it is the reality. The notion that some of their members might actually side with the Retardlicans is stunning. Not to mention very, very sad.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why do newspapers employ morons to comment on matters they don't have even the tiniest understanding of? It's very perplexing, isn't it? These are people read many other people to be forgiven for being lazy nitwits just looking to make a buck. Which is, after all, all they're doing. Which, oddly enough, is just what they accuse the drug companies who make the vaccine of doing. Frankly, folks, I'll take giving money to people trying to save my life, and the lives of others, over giving it to the Terminally Stupid any day.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Or at least parts thereof. How do businesses like this survive? This place has been in the same location since I've lived in Vancouver, and that's a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnng time. And we're not talking prime location, either. No nearby parking. For the past two years the street in front of it has been ripped up, a fact that killed a large number of much more apparently viable businesses on the same street. What have these guys got? Hubcaps? "We sell hubcaps." - this is a business model?

Come to think of it, it does give a clue as to how the folks on Wall St. continue to thrive.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the Night Market, siu mai was on offer. Among other things.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another photo from my short stroll home from the bus stop. It does a pretty good job of summing up a typical Vancouver fall - wet and colourful. And, if you carry an umbrella, it's really just colourful.

Oh, and, for those of you who've been paying attention - no, I don't ride the bus very often. I usually ride my bicycle to and from work. In fact, in another week, it will be Bike to Work Week here in not-so-sunny Vancouver. I'll be there. If you happen to live around here, get on your bike and ride!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's probably a half kilometre walk from the bus stop to my apartment. With a camera in hand, that's a half kilometre in which to forget about everything and get lost in looking at things. Very relaxing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rush Limbaugh. Wow - that's a hideous way to open a post, isn't it? A uniquely (I hope) American phenomenon, Rush, along with his TV counterpart, Glen(n?) Beck, represents all that is reprehensible in the human species. Greedy, stupid, powerful, willing to lie for his own (or his owners') gain - the man is undiluted scum (and, yes, I know - that's an insult to scum). And yet he has a listener base in the millions. People believe the things he says. Which says what about his listeners? Human beings can be very depressing if you pay too much attention to them.

Now, you might counter with, "But, Stephen, they can also be beautiful, altruistic, wonderful creatures!" To which I would reply, "I agree. Unfortunately, there seems to be a roughly million to one ratio of scum to good." Need more proof? How 'bout this? I especially like this line: "Among the chief barriers to a comprehensive deal in Copenhagen is Congress’s inability to enact climate and energy legislation that sets binding targets on greenhouse gases in the United States."

And why is there so much trouble getting the American Congress to get its shit together? Oh, please.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trapped. Ever feel that way? Of course. Everybody does, occasionally. Well, my turn.
Carrying on the general theme of environmental disaster from Blog Action Day, here's what the combination of human sloth and stupidity, and modern plastics can do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What is it with dictatorships? Why do they never learn? China's today's case in point. "Everything's fine!" they cry while they censor dissident voices, jail or execute those who won't go along to get along. But, golly, didn't they give just the swellest summer Olympics ever?

Well, here's something good to look at till things improve.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Well, it is fall, after all, so I think I can be forgiven for posting the occasional shot of "fall foliage", can't I? Especially when it's my street.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sometimes, life gets stuck in that blank spot in the middle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today would seem to be Blog Action Day, 2009. The topic is global warming, and the idea is to get as many bloggers as possible blogging about it on the same day. So...

Being a biologist, not a climatologist or an atmospheric chemist, there isn't much I can say with any real authority on the subject. Luckily, others are and have. We are in very deep trouble, and politicians, afraid of what their voters (not to mention financial backers) will say, are loath to take remedial action. It is very unlikely that this will change before it's far too late. If, in fact, we haven't reached that point already.

It isn't simply political cowardice on the part of our leaders that's sending us down this path. It is also us. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way human beings see themselves, and the goals they set for themselves. The biggest idea that needs to change is our notion of reproduction - most people conceive of it as a fundamental right. Well, there are over 6 billion people crowding onto this planet and the number is steadily increasing. Every environment, including the planet as a whole, has a finite carrying capacity - the number of organisms that it can sustain. Global warming is just one indication that we have exceeded the planet's carrying capacity for human beings. Like bacteria growing in a Petri dish, we are rapidly depleting our resources and poisoning our environment through over-population. Nothing will change for the better until we collectively conclude that population must come down. The best way to achieve that, of course, is through voluntary birth control. The very worst way, the one toward which we are racing at high, heedless speed, is through involuntary birth control in the form of the disease, starvation, and lack of fresh water that over-population will bring.

While we're on the topic of global disaster, there's this set of photographs from Chinese photographer, Lu Guang. He was just awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his work. Smith, himself, as you may know, was beaten nearly to death by thugs hired by a Japanese chemical plant when he tried to document their on-going polluting of Minamata Bay. Mr. Lu's grant amounts to $30,000.00. Mr. Smith apparently had the princely sum of $18.00 in the bank when he died. How much money do you think Exxon, Shell, the various coal companies, and others are pouring into preventing meaningful action on global warming?

I'm not being pessimistic. I wish I were.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On my other, non-blather, blog, I labeled this photo "A Tenuous Connection", for obvious reasons. How charming to then be surfing the N.Y. Times's site and to find this story. Another physio-myth bites the dust.

Meanwhile, in "Personal Health" news, I have a cold. In some ways, I feel rather slighted. "What? No H1N1? How very pedestrian."

And, is it just me, or is the evil demon of camera acquisitiveness rearing its ugly head for you, too? I'm talking, of course, about the Panasonic GF1. I've actually held one and, sad to say, it felt really nice. And the notion of a large sensor in such a small body...with that 20/1.7 lens on it... Oh, I'm in big trouble.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

O.K., O.K., I surrender. It is, after all, mid-October. The trees are full of red leaves, yellow leaves, orange leaves... Now it's time for the rains to set in, knocking them all off the trees and turning them to (eventually) a brown sludge in the gutters of the streets. Darn nice while it lasted, though.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ah, yes - the ever-popular "organic air bag". Or, in the event of collision, the organic missile (BARK-Q19 model)? Why do people do this? Do they secretly hate their dogs? Do they want them dead? Or, as I suspect is the case, are they actually just brain-dead?

In further "whine/snivel" developments, it looks like the traditional Wet Coast fall is about to hit. Yep, rain, nothing but rain, in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Good thing I bought a new waterproof cycling jacket the other day, eh? Gore-Tex (or, in this case, a somewhat more affordable equivalent) - what an invention!
Wow! Another "two fer" day - is that something to be thankful for, or what? (For those of you not citizens of the Great White North, it's Thanksgiving Day here.) Which means that there will be another post later. Oh, boy!

Went to see "Bright Star" last night, and I've got to say that, for all that it's about one of the great (the greatest?) Romantic poets, a man who died of tuberculosis at the ridiculously young age of 25, I found the movie soulless. Maybe it's just my lack of affinity for poetry (love novels and short stories, totally unmoved by poetry), or perhaps Jane Campion's script simply captured all too accurately the 19th century Briton's feeling that emotions should be tamped down at all costs, but, for all the tragedy (and some joy) in the story, I found it impossible to connect to the characters. I could have been watching C-SPAN. Oh, well.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is it just me, or does there seem to be a strong correlation between a person's propensity for driving Cadillacs and bumper-sticker Christianity? Dumb enough to buy the one, so they're dumb enough to buy the other?

And, in further developments on the burgeoning police state that my home town of Vancouver is rapidly becoming, there's this. This story goes along with the harassment of one of my students a little over a week ago by Canada's secret police. She's friends with a University of British Columbia prof who's not a fan of the Olympics and who makes no bones about saying so. The secret police were waiting for her outside of a class at the college where I teach. How did they know where she'd be? Who knows? They "interviewed" her, then, as a closing question, asked her if she'd mind giving them her cell phone number. She said she would mind, and didn't give it to them. While in another class the next day, she missed a call. Guess who it was from. The secret police. The very ones to whom she hadn't given her number. How did they get it? Who knows? Frankly, folks, if any of you are planning to attend the up-coming winter Olympics here in Vancouver (evidently a new suburb of Tehran), don't.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Well, the Nobel peace prize certainly caps an interesting political summer in the U.S., doesn't it? To Barack Obama, a guy who hasn't, in any concrete, sign-on-the-dotted-line sense, actually accomplished much of anything.

Still, let's face it, he deserves it. Americans (well, some, anyway) may not get it, but a lot of folks in the rest of the world sure do. He's saving America's international ass. He has single-handedly (if you ignore the invisible host of advisors he's undoubtedly got) begun to turn America's international image around. From the thuggery of the Bush years, he's turned America toward a path of conversation, cooperation, and respect for other views. He's shown the world that America can be, and is, interested in diplomacy, the rule of law, and negotiation. He's shown the world that there might still be integrity in America, however deeply buried it was by Bush & Co. And, given that, for better or worse, America still dominates world politics, this is a very, very big deal. Very much worthy of the Nobel.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Yep, it's a tree. Well, it's a bunch of trees, really, but...

So, I remember seeing a William Eggleston photograph for the first time. God knows, that was a long, long, and, let me repeat, long time ago. "American Photographer" was a new magazine at the time, and I'm pretty sure that's where I saw it, but, who knows, maybe it was in "Modern Photography", or "Popular Photography" (though the latter is doubtful since Eggleston's stuff would have been anything but popular). It was his shot of a pair of brown shoes under a bed. At the time, my photographic hero was Pete Turner. If you've got any idea who Peter Turner is, you're probably able to guess my first reaction to Eggleston - "What the...?". Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Turner's work. That guy produced photographs that had nuclear-powered colour. It was as if the colours in the Kodachromes were squeezed straight from tubes of oil paints. I mean, they glowed, and were thick. It was as though, had you access to the original transparencies, you'd be able to smoodge your fingers around in the dyes.

And yet, the Eggleston shot... After the "What the...?" reaction came the, " it." I doubt that I could ever explain why I liked it, but I did. So, what's this ramble got to do with the price of beef? I have no idea. Other than, I suppose, the two bent my photographic thinking. Other than that my response to these two different (but similar) photographic styles has pretty obviously shaped my own. Both photographed (at least, at times, in Turner's case) the mundane. Eggleston does it in a very straightforward way. Turner turns the mundane to neon. I wonder what it would be like to send them both out to the same spot at the same time to photograph what they saw. "Pete, this is Bill. Bill, this is Pete."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Well, it's not exactly a "fall" photograph, but there is, sort of, a connection. Notice that the day was evidently sunny. Here on the Wet Coast, we tend to associate October with rain. O.K., to be totally honest, we tend to associate pretty much any month with rain. To be near the end of October's first week, and bathed in sunshine and reasonably warm temperatures (14C), is a nice little treat. Of course, the weekend (Thanksgiving, here in the Great White North), promises to bring rain. Ah, normality.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Yes, folks, it's the popular Korean treat, the Hurricane Potato! Fry 'em up, apply spice, enjoy!

This was one of the treats I got to sample at the Night Market. The people running the stand were also a treat in that they were very nice folks.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Did I mention that the main attraction at the Night Market is the food? If you're into Asian snack/street/fast food, it's the place to be.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Well, if you're going to call the place "The Night Market", I guess you've got to go with it, right?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

This guy was making little puffy batter things (really, there just isn't a more apt description) that, in Hong Kong, are known, more or less, as "egg balls". Basically, they seem to be fairly sweet batter (pancake-oid) cooked in something kind of like a waffle iron (except that where a waffle iron has spaces, the "egg ball iron" has, well, um, egg balls). There were other vendors along the strip who also made egg balls, but this guy was the Fred Astaire, the Gene Kelly, the...uh-0h...Michael Jackson, of egg balls. He moved. He witnessed egg balls. He elevated egg balls. And yet, the young woman (accompanied, it would seem, by her mother) remained unmoved. So young. So jaded. Ah, one despairs for our youth, does not one? Or two?

You know, if you're going to take a blow-torch to food, you shouldn't really look so surprised.

O.K., she knew what she was doing. I went to the Night Market tonight. The main attraction? Food. All kinds of Asian foods. Wait'll you see the Korean hurricane potatoes! Not to mention the egg balls. And the guy making those. Talk about showmanship! Don't worry. I'll explain "egg balls" when I get there. Very tasty, though, I'll tell you that much right now.

By the way, if the colour's a little off, let's not forget that I'm colour blind, and that this place was lit with so many different kinds of light source I'm bettin' nobody could get it right. So there.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The asses may be fake, but they still remind me of the Democrats. Can't get any meaningful health care reform passed, but they sure can cave on the moronic abstinence package.