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Collection of interesting natural things

I took the picture above to see if I could get a good shot of the ocelli - three secondary eyes between the big ones. They are just about visible. Why spanning tree? It's a routing term, from each user's perspective the network looks like a spanning tree - with no loops and only one route to any place. Every user's spanning tree is unique.

Common carder bee

Science Posted on Fri, April 20, 2012 15:24:52

Difficult to capture on camera, a common carder bee Bombus pascuorum

Beetle tracks

Science Posted on Mon, April 16, 2012 20:14:51

Bark Beetle – Leperisinus varius

I guess, although I didn’t catch any, I’ll have a closer look. In ash log, felled 2 years ago. How do they avoid other tunnels? Side to side as well as end on?

King Alfred

Science Posted on Mon, April 16, 2012 19:47:37

His cakes

About 8 cm across…

and here are a few others…

All coming out of the cambium, and while we are at interesting fungi…


Writing Posted on Tue, April 03, 2012 14:02:18

Just finished reading John Steinbeck – Travels with Charley. What a brilliantly written book. It is the first factual diary that has had me gripped like a thriller. I started reading it to appreciate the style of writing, but within a few pages I had forgotten that duty and was just carried along with the story. It was a story of a journey, a reflective trip around the USA as Steinbeck was beginning to feel his age and mortality. Steinbeck took his dog, Charley, and a motor home based on a pick up truck. Typically of Steinbeck he focused on individuals and small things in order to paint a wider picture. It was written in 1960 and these were particularly interesting times in the USA. The stated aim of the trip was to reconnect to ordinary Americans and re-engage as a writer should, with his core subject material. The sub text was that he was quite rich and famous by then, although apparently could get by without being recognised and wanted to act as a common traveller and meet people on equal terms.

The book started lightheartedly and optimistically and Steinbeck soon found familiar themes in his meeting and drinking with labourers and his love of countryside and country folk. His problems with traffic in larger towns and cities was a source of amusing self deprecation. The story pivots around his return to the west coast. He started on the East coast. After visiting his old haunts he realises that he can never go back to the place and people as they were and he is concerned about the enormous growth of cities. From there the narrative turns darker. He describes Texas in light detail, concerned mainly about his dog (who had developed a painful medical problem) and his extended family whom he visits with his wife. She joins him several times on the trip. He then moves directly to New Orleans and the problems with racism. He visits the ‘cheerleaders’ as they hound and abuse students attending a mixed race school. He describes the situation beautifully. He is careful to avoid too much criticism of people but finally loses it with one racist hitch hiker. After this he decides the trip is over, although he still had a long way to drive, he stays to the main roads and tells us little about the scenery. His final problems with traffic in New York are described as real frustration and the impotence of the old.

Overall the book is a masterpiece of story telling. Steinbeck uses the dog as a source of humour, a device with which to maintain a conversation, and a kind of thermometer of his mood as the journey progresses. In the end the dog is cured of immediate illness, and happy, but subdued and feeling its age. Perhaps the same was true of the author. His style of writing is brilliant, he describes conversations with strangers as fully formed smaller stories. He uses the arc of the physical journey to describe his feelings about his country and the people. It is a vehicle for Steinbeck to explain how he feels growing old and one feels honoured to be able to read it.

Previous projects

Diary Posted on Mon, April 02, 2012 17:39:47

This one seems to have come off rather well…

Cherry trees

Diary Posted on Tue, March 27, 2012 11:14:01

Cherry trees came out today, full of bees,

How can you capture that in a photo?
This the best I can do with my equipment.

Rose chafer beetle

Science Posted on Sun, March 25, 2012 17:40:53

Here’s a rose chafer I found today. Cetonia aurata – had a few hot days in a row.

Interesting antennae which she can totally suck into little slots in front of the eyes…
I think the little things emerging from near the mouth are its palps. Apparently they fly quite quickly and live for two years.

Summer branch fall

Science Posted on Sun, March 25, 2012 15:30:08

Guest posting from – interesting natural phenomena I have seen recently. Two weeks ago (10th March 2012) a very large Gum tree branch failed
and hit a house in Vaucluse in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. I was
one of the first to attend the site and while I was there the team
leader of the State Emergency Service arrived and we had a brief
conversation of what he was able to do as a first response. In this
conversation he mentioned that he had two other branch failures in the
same or nearby suburbs to attend to that same morning. I thought that
was strange. I was chatting to a friend about this and he relayed that
that same night he was aware of another branch failure in his suburb of
Engadine (30kms to the south). This seemed stranger. Particularly when
considering that this was a very still and quiet night after some very
wet and windy weather.

I am aware of the syndrome ‘Summer Branch Drop’,
where, the syndrome goes, that while leaf size is at its maximum and
fruit size at its maximum, this is most likely when failure will occur
in a branch, particularly so after heavy dew-fall or wet and windy
weather, which adds load to the branch. But this circumstance in Sydney
two weeks ago does not meet those criteria. Dew falls after sun-down,
so a mid-night break would seem strange. Also, the weather had been
pretty awful up to a day before, but not that day and night when it was
quite still. The branch failure was very counter-intuitive. Especially
so endemically.

I think it maybe it could be a post-stress syndrome,
maybe a bit like work-hardening in metals, when after a big viable
load, it is the release of that load and inactivity that triggers the
failure, perhaps brought on by a large difference in diurnal
temperature. Seems a bit weird. I would welcome comment on this, as
branch failure is a big deal when the tree is next to a house. (I am a
consultant arboriculturalist working in Sydney.)

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