Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nevermore ...

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— 
Only this and nothing more.”

It was actually us tapping at the door, the bird was already inside.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

It did make us all smile.

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore 
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

More ominous than I had expected ...

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor 
Shall be lifted—nevermore!


Our friend Barb is a veterinary nurse. And this is one of her patients. It seems the owner needed a bird sitter and Barb readily accepted the job. She invited us over to visit (and I had just  put crab cakes in the oven!). As you can see, rather than sit on old statues, this raven preferred sitting on humans. A very friendly bird. 

Although for some reason it did not like my eyes! 


It pecked at my eyes on multiple occasions. I don't know why. It had no interest in anyone else's eyes. Only mine.

Where is my dinner jacket ...

Eventually we became drinking buddies, enjoying wine ...

One of my many talents ...

... and cheese. (Although it seemed to mistake my ears for cheese all too often ...)

This is not the species of raven Mr. Poe would be familiar with. This is a white-naped raven, an African native, one that we saw there on our recent trip. It is not at all clear how this bird came to be a pet in New Jersey. And rather then nevermore, this bird was prone to asking, "what?". Repeatedly. 


Happy Halloween!

Images of yours truly courtesy of Patty Rehn.
Verse from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

They Do Like Their Tea ...

I recently visited Newcastle, England for two weeks on business. The rugby world cup was in progress and several games were in Newcastle during my stay. Thus hotel rooms were at a premium. And I was not able to get one in the city, instead staying at a hotel at the airport. It was close to my office, but a thirty minute ride on the Metro, the local commuter train, to Newcastle proper.

And one of the stations in Newcastle was "Monument". Intrigued, I got off to see what this was about. Here is the monument, with plenty of rugby fans (there was a giant big screen TV directly behind me, showing a game, with food a beer tents set up throughout the square).

The chap on top is none other than Earl Grey, he of tea fame.

Here is a close up, alas he is not holding a cup.

It seems the Earl was involved in a bit more than tea drinking. He served as prime minister and during his tenure the reform act, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire, was passed.

And here I thought it was just because the British liked their tea. See travel does inform and educate. Even if it is just vicariously through a blog post. You are welcome.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Optical Phenomena in the Land of Newton

I recently took a business trip to England. The home of Sir Isaac Newton, he of the famous prism experiments, the beginning of the science of optics. Our understanding of color begins with these experiments.

In his Opticks, Newton explained the colors of the rainbow. Like this one, a double bow, seen over the Newcastle airport.

It was in the cab ride from the office I was visiting to the hotel, right at the airport, that I first saw the bow. "Get your camera out," said the cabbie, "there's a gorgeous rainbow, a double bow." So I did.

And got the shot above of arches, natural and man made.

If you look closely at the shot above you can see the supernumeraries.

And in the shot below, taken form my hotel room, we see Alexander's Dark Band. Note the change in brightness from the inside to the outside of the main bow.

Newton may not have been able to explain all these rainbow phenomena. But he got us started. (And I'm sure he would have been fascinated by photography, especially the chemistry of film photography and the alchemy of the development process, turning silver into images.)

I've over-processed the image below, to make more obvious both the supernumeraries and the brightness contrast inside and outside the main bow.

Newton would have fully understood the explanation for he phenomena shown below.

The 22º halo. Ice crystals acting as prisms refracting the light (of the sun, not the lamp).

Often seen with the 22º halo, sundogs are another ice crystal phenomena.

Newton thought of light as particles and thus would have a hard time explaining the birefringence seen in the cockpit window of this airliner. (I had seen the linked OPOD and thus was on the lookout for this, and quick grabbed a shot as I boarded the plane.)

The colors are explained by the interference of light waves. Newton was half right so to speak, as today we think of light as both a particle and a wave. Although I have no idea what Sir Isaac would think of quantum mechanics.

And I'm not sure what Newton would have made of these next two images.

This is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, over the River Tyne in Newcastle. The bridge tilts over to let ships pass, although not many ships come this far these days. And I didn't get to see it tilt.

Not being flat, the surface of the water distorts the reflections in wavy and loopy patterns.

And this one, well this one is just for fun!

Although it might have been a bit to abstract for Sir Isaac's tastes.


Remember this post: From The Air ?

Yep another OPOD!

I'm up to 1:15 minutes of fame!

Woo Hoo!

All my OPODs can be found here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Number Two ...

... of the Ugly Big Five.

The Marabou Stork.

Perhaps the ugliest bird on earth.

They must find each other attractive ...

Because there sure were a lot of them.


Another in the Boat Ride series.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Colorful Ice Crystals

Acting like many tiny prisms in the sky.

Forming a Circumzenithal Arc over Franklin Parker Preserve in the New Jersey Pinelands.

This one lasted quite some time, changing in shape and intensity as the clouds drifted by.

We had spent the morning into late afternoon searching for colorful flowers.

And ended it with colors in the sky as we relaxed before heading home.

Wild Beasts

Hippos were not the only beasts of my childhood dreams that we saw on our boat ride.

There were ...

Masai Giraffes! This one munching on cacti. Yummy!



Zebra! (Which if you are British, rhymes with Debra. Weird, right?)

((But by the end of the trip I was pronouncing it that way too. Thanks Adrian!))

And the first of the "Ugly Big Five", Wildebeest!

(Note also the Fish Eagle on top of the right tree.)

We would get better views of all these and more throughout our stay, but the excitement of seeing them live in the wild for the first time was pure joy. And on my first day!

These animals live on an island in the national park and are the descendants of those brought there for the filming of the movie, Out of Africa. No predators where brought in, so they have it pretty good here.


Here are parts one, two, and three in the Boat Ride in Kenya series.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

River Horses

As our boat tour of Lake Naivasha continued, we came upon a dozen or so Common Hippopotamus napping under a tree.

Several of the beasts briefly opened their eyes, gave us the once over and, perceiving us to be no threat, proceeded to completely ignore us as we drifted by, shutters clicking.

We would see more of these so called 'river horses' during our trip (nerd note: hippos and horses are not closely related). But this was the first big African mammal I saw up close. Very cool to see something in the wild that I'd only previously seen on TV or in zoos.


Long ago I would watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom every week (Sunday night, preceding the Wonderful World of Disney). "Why" I would ask, "don't we have animals like that in our back yard? All we have are stupid birds!" And I would dream of being on safari, among the lions, and leopards, and elephants, and giraffes, and hippos, and zebras, and gazelles, and rhinos.

This past August that dream came true.


This is part 3 of the Boat Ride in Kenya series. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here respectively.