Thursday, 29 October 2009


Sundogs, also known as parhelia or mock-suns, are optical effects caused by the glint of sunlight hitting millions of ice-crystals within the atmosphere. Ice crystals can be present in high-level cirrus clouds at any time of year, because of the coldness of the atmosphere at that height.

Sundogs are relatively common, but because of their proximity to the sun, they tend to go unnoticed, and often disappear within minutes. Usually they are relatively faint, but occasionally they may be bright. I photographed this sundog late last year, and to my great regret, it was brighter before I took the photographs!

In the middle image there is a faint vertical rainbow-coloured smudge near the power lines that is probably a fragment of a supralateral arc. You can read more about spotting and identifying these fascinating phenomena at Les Cowley's Atmospheric Optics site here.

If you're new to halo-spotting, read this page about the 22-degree halo first. Once you've found the 22-degree halo, finding other haloes becomes easier, and this page also has important information about protecting your eyes.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Swishing and Swap-O-Rama-Rama

Swapping second-hand clothes is becoming highly fashionable! Some enterprising North Shore ladies have come up with iSwish, a brilliant clothes-swapping website which facilitates cashless trading with a system of credits. It has all sorts of clever features such as Mirror match, which tells you of other members with similar dress-size and proportions, so you're more likely to find items that fit perfectly.

A more low-tech forum for clothes-swapping and making new things from old ones is the Swap-O-Rama-Rama, brainchild of New York woman Wendy Tremayne. Participants turn up with a bag of unwanted clothes and $10. The clothes are sorted into piles and anyone can select anything to take home, or to modify onsite using sewing machines and materials provided.

There's a longer video here. And Wendy Tremayne has a website giving instructions for setting up your own Swap-O-Rama-Rama here.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Manufactured beauty - the Dove Evolution ad

Thanks to N for the link.

Performance drawing

"Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent." She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and "sand painting" skills to interpret Germany's invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII. "

Thanks to Lucy for the link.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Perverting the course of poetry

"Let mit though hought lips com. If to rosy wheigh his ithought looks, But on heigh rosy looks, not is Adminders not is compests. Loveration th hought beark Thaken me mark Thakend wan ime's this neve removents. Loverief thought mar shat lov...ers ben."

"Let me no! it alters with his be edge of doom. If true marriage of doom. If though rosy lips and weeks, Or bending sickle's fool, the error and weeks, Or bends Admit is bends with his not with the star to remove alteration finds Admit although his thour"

- versions of Sonnet 116 via the Travesty Generator!

The Generator allows you to set the "travesty level"
low, so there are only small changes, or high, so the words themselves are broken up. The second one was somewhere in the middle.
I like the way the first one almost reads like dialect or archaic English - it looks like it makes sense if only you can figure it out! Like Robert Burns or Chaucer or something.

Rumour has it that They Might Be Giants and the Travesty Generator are jointly responsible for "Millennium hand and shrimp" in Terry Pratchett's Diskworld books.

Apologies to those who read this already when I posted it on Facebook!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sam Harrison

Christchurch printmaker and sculptor Sam Harrison seems determined to resurrect the art of portraiture, single-handedly if necessary! His dramatic, delicate woodcuts and his bold concrete busts demonstrate the strength of traditional media in skilled hands.

Have a look at his CoCA Artist Profile here.

Cirrus streaks

I don't seem to have posted many cloud pictures lately, a terrible state of affairs! Here is some handsome wispy cirrus cloud. The first image also features the top portion of a 22-degree solar halo, visble as a bright arch in the middle of the image.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Sande Ramage writes on military chaplaincy

"The sound of a rifle bolt being locked into position is distinctive. From my study adjoining the Linton Camp garrison church, I could hear dozens of them being activated as soldiers were being reacquainted with military life after the summer holidays.

"I don’t know what it sounds like when a bullet explodes into a human being but some of those soldiers may well find out. The trauma of being involved in armed conflict is well documented as is the compassion of padres who stand alongside soldiers as bullets fly. For me there is no argument that all people caught in the insanity of war need a special form of care for the spirit, but is the current model of military chaplaincy the method for the church to pursue in the 21st century?

"My year as an army chaplain has changed me. My initial, perhaps naïve, enthusiasm for the job diminished into gnawing anxiety as I struggled to come to grips with issues of institutional power and violence and the apparent collusion of the church and state in maintaining the status quo."

So writes Sande Ramage, in her blog Spirited Crone. Read her whole post here. It's a highly personal account of the dilemmas she faced as an army padre, and her reflections on the place of spirituality and mythology in an institutional context. It's an amazing piece of writing.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Belgian flashmob performs number from The Sound of Music

Yes, really! I think they must have rehearsed it, separately or together, but it's still amazing! Thanks RH for the link.
It reminds me of an Improv Everywhere stunt.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Some geek humour

If you thought academic papers were required to be dry and humourless, try this neatly self-referential piece on rhythm in language from Cognition. For best effect, read it aloud. Thanks to RH for the link!

And if you liked that, you might also like the classic self-referential story This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself by David Moser.

And if you want something shorter, I love this limerick, courtesy of Wikipedia's Metajokes page:

There once was an X from place B,
That satisfied predicate P,
He or she did thing A,
In an adjective way,
Resulting in circumstance C.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Comic Strip Presents: Didn't You Kill My Brother?

Thanks to Jason for reminding me of this utterly brilliant Comic Strip show from the Thatcher era. Some of Alexi Sayle's best work, also featuring Beryl Reid and Graham Crowther! [how I miss A Very Peculiar Practice!] It's obviously dubbed here from an old VHS tape, but it's so good it hardly matters.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Inspired building design

Many of the winners of the recent Auckland Architecture Awards left me cold, but I LOVE this one! It's the Ironbank Development by RTA Studio. There are more views of it in The Architectural Review, and it looks amazing from all angles! It manages to be boxy and organic at the same time, quite an achievement.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Feeding the World

"Thomas Robert Malthus, the namesake of such terms as "Malthusian collapse" and "Malthusian curse," was a mild-mannered mathematician, a clergyman—and, his critics would say, the ultimate glass-half-empty kind of guy. When a few Enlightenment philosophers, giddy from the success of the French Revolution, began predicting the continued unfettered improvement of the human condition, Malthus cut them off at the knees. Human population, he observed, increases at a geometric rate, doubling about every 25 years if unchecked, while agricultural production increases arithmetically—much more slowly. Therein lay a biological trap that humanity could never escape."

"So what is a hot, crowded, and hungry world to do?"

"That's the question von Braun and his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research are wrestling with right now. This is the group of world-renowned agricultural research centers that helped more than double the world's average yields of corn, rice, and wheat between the mid-1950s and the mid-1990s, an achievement so staggering it was dubbed the green revolution. Yet with world population spiraling toward nine billion by mid-century, these experts now say we need a repeat performance, doubling current food production by 2030."

"In other words, we need another green revolution. And we need it in half the time."

- from the fascinating National Geographic article, The Global Food Crisis: The End of Plenty. It's long but it covers a lot of ground. Everyone should read it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Matrix ping pong

What can I say? Theatrical special effects are incredible! Thanks Kerry.

Buckyballs magnetic building spheres

Buckyballs are spherical carbon molecules in which the carbon atoms are arranged in a pattern that recalls a geodesic dome. You can read more about buckyballs here.

Only a few scientists get to play with real buckyballs, but ThinkGeek has a new toy which allows the rest of us to play with round magnets and pretend they are carbon atoms, if we so wish! Have a look at the magnets here. And make sure you watch the video, it's awesome!

And no, ThinkGeek is not paying me to say this. :-)

Awesome Doctor Who toy

Isn't this cute?!! It's a USB hub, and when you plug a device into one of the ports, the light flashes and it makes the "Whooop whooop" sound. Available at ThinkGeek.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Wheels within wheels

N sent me a link to these incredible steampunk novelty cakes. And I don't know how, but they are 100% edible!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Flying hordes

These amazing radar images show the night-time skies over the US are thick with migrating birds. Thanks to Mekayla for the link.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hot Goths

What happens to Goths in Summer? Blog Goths In Hot Weather exists to provide all possible answers to this intriguing question. Hat tip to Paul.