Monday, November 21, 2011

Light Painting and the Story of a Guitar

The images above are” light painted” time exposures of a corner of my room.  The light painting is done by doing a time exposure in a dark room, and using a L.E.D. flashlight to illuminate areas selectively. In this case I took four different variations of the light painting and combined them in a Flash movie so that they fade between each exposure.  Since the camera was left on a tripod, the images fade between each other smoothly. The rather “blueish” tone is due to the color of the L.E.D.  The red streaks were from a red bike light.

    That’s a Fender Mustang electric guitar that I bought several eons ago. The Mustang was a model that didn’t really sell well when it first came out, but developed a following years after.  It was a “short scale” neck, which makes “note bending” (pulling the pitch up of a note by pulling or pushing with the left hand) easier.

    I was playing this guitar on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in a bar with the band “Fat Shadow,” (not the same band as the current Fat Shadow) when I dislocated my shoulder. I had a chronic problem with the shoulder, and generally I had to go to the hospital to get it back to where it was supposed to be. The guitar skittered, face down, across the stage, making an indescribable noise. The audience got out of its seats and was shouting encouragement, presumably thinking this was part of the act. I went out to the car to get driven to the hospital.  The shoulder popped back into joint when I sat down in the car, and I finished the night with the band.
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sticking Around For a Few Billion Years
I was going in the security door at work, and noticed something strange on the brick edge of the door frame. It looked like a twig, but on closer examination, the stick appeared to have two legs.  It was a “stick insect” or Phasmatodea, according to Wikipedia.  The second picture is a close up of its eyes, which are very small and oddly situated in the middle of its body.
Evolution is a difficult to get one’s mind around.  Here’s a life form that is a credible imitation of a tree part.  How did it get to be what it is, and what did it evolve from, and through, to get to where it is?

Is it the luxury of more than enough time? That would be 4.5 billion years, if the stick creature started at the very beginning.  Not likely, but, give or take a billion years, that is still a long time.  In our own timeline (that is “humans” so far) we see changes, attributable to evolution (not all agree on this).  My only problem with the word is that it implies getting somewhere, when the sole point of evolution is just another generation of survivors.  The point so far, is survival, at least on the surface.

By the way, Phasmatodea are not inclined to reproduce in the manner that humans do. The population is mostly female, and they don’t need a male to produce offspring.  Females  can lay eggs that hatch to become females with the same genetics as the mother.  If they can find a male, they can, after finding a private spot, mate. Even then, the likelihood of a male offspring is less than the likelihood of a female, although this is the only way that genetic variation can occur.

    If that is not enough puzzling detail, there is the “egg promotional process.” Some Phasmatodea have eggs that look like a type of food commonly gathered by ants (thanking Wikipedia here!). Ants carry the eggs (which look remarkably like the ant's eggs) to their nest.  The young nymph that hatches from the egg looks exactly like an ant. This nymph climbs to safety in a plant or tree and then develops the features of an adult Phasmatodea.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

(Click above for a larger image) When I hike or walk over open land, I tend to scan the path for interesting finds. The fallen fall leaf above has some small round structures on it. Why? What are they? Were they on the leaf before it fell, or did they form before the leaf dried on the ground? They look a bit like tiny mushrooms, or leaf blight, or both, if that’s how it works.  I have no answers for this question, and would love to know if any readers might have an idea.

(Click above for larger image) The second is a very fine traveling vine-like plant that forms a perfect model of a network. I’d like to identify it, of course. We are collectors by nature and sometimes, of nature.  This vine/plant/thing has nodes, and each node is surrounded by the same number of connections.  Essentially, it is a model of a of an early version of networking  also.

When I lived in New Hampshire, and when I spent a brief time in West Virginia, I knew a Freeman Smith (a father of a friend of mine), who had spent his life as an agricultural expert. He traveled widely as part of the programs the United States ran to educate farmers in many countries. He was able to walk through a wooded area or field and identify many of the plants he came across. Those informal walks with Freeman were enjoyed quite a bit by the twenty-somethings of the time.

This was when the “returning to the land” theme had begun to be discussed in popular culture. Euell Gibbons had come out with a book called “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and the notion of identifying, and sometimes eating, wild plants, had become a hot topic.  A person like Freeman could be a very interesting person to walk in the woods with.

After that I lived in various places, but when I moved from Washington D. C.  to Charlottesville, I took up hiking again. I started photographing plants purely for identification later. When I went through the first spring in “C-vlle” I was surprised by the wildflowers that sprung up near the trails, wherever they could get some light from the break in the trees. It wasn’t long before I hit the public library, and the library at UVA, looking for more information. It’s not just the notion of identifying plants, it is also the plant history that is interesting.  From that point on, I had to use some care hiking downhill.  I’d get to lost in the view on the side of the trail, and manage to do a nose-first dive into nature.

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