Friday, 31 October 2008

Could You Handle a Slippery Dick?

The Slippery Dick is actually a fish. It comes from the Western Atlantic and can be found all the way down, from North Carolina to Bermuda and Brazil. You will find it in grass beds and shallow reefs close to the shore. Why, does it get its name? Well, the slippery bit is because it coats itself with a kind of mucus when alarmed as a form of defense strategy. So, if you were to take hold of a Slippery Dick you would have to be very careful it didn’t slip out of your grasp! Where the “Dick” part comes from is anyone’s guess. Ahem. Do you think you could – or would want to – handle a Slippery Dick?


Image Source


Your average Slippery Dick reaches about thirty centimeters or so in length. For those of you who are still using the imperial scale, that’s a whopping twelve inches. So if you were to catch one you could well exclaim that your Slippery Dick was larger than anyone else’s – if that of course were the case. Men, old and young alike, have been known to compare the size of their Slippery Dicks in public, usually at the sea shore. It is said that these men are usually angling for something.



Image Source


The Slippery Dick looks as if it is reluctant to own up to its name – or perhaps it is even ashamed! Anthropomorphism aside, the Slippery Dick swims with its tail down, as if it is dragging it along. Perhaps weighed down by is own name? Another theory might be the fact that, despite the name it is a protogynous hermaphrodite. This is when an animal begins its life as a female. Yes, it’s true! Every single Slippery Dick in existence was born female. Later, many of the population will shift sex to become male and the Slippery Dick will be able to continue the circle of life!


Image Source


The Slippery Dick comes in several shades. The colors vary hugely. They can be a light purple color, to shades of green and brown. Younger specimen of the species – whose Latin name is Halichoeres bivittatus – are commonly white. Adult specimens have a large and dark stripe running from the base up to its eye. The other stripe is situated on its under side. Juvenile Slippery Dicks are, of course, significantly smaller than the adult and their lower stripe does not develop till it is in the adult phase.


Image Source


When mating, the (now) male Slippery Dick acts in a very masculine way indeed. The males form what is known as a lek. This is a kind of territory in which the males show off their prowess. If you think of a fishy kind of WWF, then you are fairly close to the mark. Wondrously, the male Slippery Dick comes in phases, known as initial and terminal. The initial phase male Slippery Dicks are not aggressive or territorial. They will spawn together with a single female. The older, terminal phase Slippery Dick, however, will only mate with a single female a time.



Image Source


As a footnote, a Slippery Dick is considered quite a tasty bite to eat by many. In fact there are a number of ways to eat one. If you fancy having a gobble of a Slippery Dick then there are many recipes. For some reason, the name has also been adopted by Festival Organizers for bars where young people meet to get to know each other better and there was a recent Slippery Dick Love Shack at Glastonbury Festival in the UK. It is also the name of a cocktail (another word, the etymological root of which could do with some investigation). Many young ladies have been spotted at events like these with a Slippery Dick in each hand, which they will then swallow almost simultaneously.


So, there you have it. The Slippery Dick is, in fact, a harmless fish whose common name has been callously abused by spaced out hippie types, cocktail swigging party animals and numerous school boys down the years. Oh, yes – and this writer too.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Is This The Planet's Most Peculiar Parasite?

Don’t read this if you are in any way squeamish or have nightmares after watching TV movies!

There are many parasites the world over. This example is known only by its scientific name - Cymothoa exigua but it is generally considered one of the weirdest out there! Parasites often mean the demise of their host after a close and prolonged association with it. In general they tend to be a great deal smaller than their host – think about us and the lovely tapeworm! This one goes one better. If you think about a tapeworm replacing your liver, for example, you are along the right lines!



Like most parasites, Cymothoa exigua is small and only usually grows to about three or four centimeters in length. It is also classified as a crustacean and lives off the coast of California. Its host is the Spotted Rose Snapper, a harmless fish that no doubt would not have asked for a close friend such as this if it could!



Cymothoa exigua enters the snapper though the gills and then proceeds to its mouth. It then attaches itself to the tongue of the snapper. On the pictures, you can see the front three pairs of legs. It uses this to extract blood from the snapper using these legs. It takes so much blood that the tongue eventually atrophies and withers away.



So far, so gruesome. Could it get much worse than that? Well, the answer is of course, yes! With only a few muscle stubs left for a tongue, the snapper is left without a fairly important organ. So, what Cymothoa exigua does is attach itself to the muscle stubs and replaces the fish’s tongue with itself.



The fish then uses the parasitic crustacean as a normal tongue. The fish gets the use of a ‘tongue’ and Cymothoa exigua gets a constant stream of blood from its host via the muscle stubs of the tongue. Apart from replacing its host’s tongue, Cymothoa exigua does not seem to do any extra harm to the fish at all.



This is the only reported case in the whole of the animal kingdom of a parasite functionally replacing an organ belonging to its host. As such Cymothoa exigua is unique and, despite its obviously gross appearance, celebrated as such!


A few years ago, one of these little beauties was found in a fish in the UK that had been purchased in a supermarket. It led to speculation that the parasite had somehow moved to the European waters but this speculation was unfounded: the fish had been caught off the western seaboard of the United States and so was from its own area.



Written by RJ Evans

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Some Things May Not Be Transparently Obvious

Trick photography is hardly a new phenomenon – in fact it has been around since the invention of the camera. Here though is a strange new obsession – creating “transparent” computer screens and capturing a digital image of a digital image of, well – a digital image!

Image Source


You may be able to work this one out fairly quickly but there is still no doubt that it is very cleverly conceived and put together! Just the time spent buying the identical t-shirts involved more thought and action with which many would not bother! Plus, the look on the guys face on his desktop is priceless!


Image Source


Animals are notorious when it comes to moving just as a picture is about to be taken. How long this transparent desktop took to put together is anyone’s guess, but it is this writer’s guess that this was not the first shot to be taken. Digital photography is a wonderful thing! After all, can you imagine attempting this and then taking it down to the shop to be developed? Then waiting. Then the anticipation. Finally, the disappointment when none of the shots worked! Thankfully, today we have the delete button!



Image Source


This is perhaps a little more difficult to work out than the first picture in this collection. It combines both the recent fad of transparent screens and the quest for the infinite in photography.


Image Source


You may think that Photoshop was used in the creation of this image, but you would be wrong. No trickery was included in the construction of this most excellent transparent screen! Although the perspective of the plant pot is slightly our because of the angle of the camera the particularly neat touch here is the post-it note in the top left hand corner of the screen. Magic!


Image Source


Some say there is a reason for being clever just for the sake of being clever and this picture has that it stacks! The magazine lazily placed against the wall appears perfectly in not one but two transparent screens. There may be some scratching of the head as to what exactly is the point in an exercise such as this. That may well be the point – that essentially it is a pointless pursuit and so well worth undertaking!


Image Source


If you thought that the photos before were bordering on the ridiculous, then this one must be sublime! Again, no Photoshop trickery involved, just a great deal of time and effort in the production of this prime piece of transparency! The extreme level of geekiness needed to pull this one off is something that should be and must be celebrated. The amount of time taken to do this must have to be counted in the days rather than the hours. A shame the photographer’s mother couldn’t have come round to make the bed first, however!


Image Source


Take an iMax and iBook and a Nano, and what do you get? Someone willing to spend a few hours getting an uber cool shot like this together, that’s what! Again, one must bow before the photographer in something approaching awe.


Image Source


Some people rise to a challenge and others reinterpret the challenge according to their own ideas. With this picture, the idea of the transparent screen is not so much turned on its head as rotated through one hundred and eighty degrees. The resulting shot is enough to make you run along, grab your camera and try it out for yourself. There may have been a little help on this one. Dare we whisper the words ‘photo’ and ‘shop’? At the end of the day, who cares? A subtle take, perhaps representing the creation of a sub-genre within a sub-genre. Talk about getting obscura with the camera!


Image Source


Taking this picture in to consideration, perhaps this is something to be done when one is at home alone! However, that would make lining the photograph up correctly much harder so generally when the human form is involved this must become a collaborative effort! Let’s just hope he had fresh breath!


Image Source


After a hard day setting up transparent screens, then it is advised to take a good rest. Put your feet up, surf the web and plan your next series of shoots!



Written by RJ Evans

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Polar Bear Plea Makes for "Explosive" Art

Image Source


Artist Mark Jenkins, best known for his packing tape models, has recently been causing another stir on the streets – this time in Washington DC. Motorists were surprised to see a somewhat disheveled looking Polar Bear signaling his distress to the passing traffic. The bear was one of a series of life-sized installations which were scattered around the city. The aim was to call attention to the plight of the Polar bears, who are losing enormous areas of their habitat due to global warming. Each year the ice on which they live is gradually diminishing and this is threatening the whole species.


Image Source


Born in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1970, the American artist is now living in Washington and chose his home turf to unleash his latest creations on the world. He is most widely known for his street installations using packing tape. His first major project in 2003 was known as “Tape Men” in which life sized casts of his body (used making clear tape) were set up in city streets, starting out in Rio de Janeiro. The polar bears were intended to draw the attention of people to the issue of melting arctic ice.


Image Source


After being questioned by Parks Police, Carroll Muffett of Greenpeace carries the fifth homeless polar bear in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 17, 2008. The police were less than impressed with the polar bear heads and ragged clothing on the human figures, used to convey a sense of displacement and homelessness. To avoid a vagrancy charge, the bear had to move on!


Image Source


Image Source


Can't a bear get any peace around here?


Jenkins’ next project (in 2005) was the controversial Storker Project, in which tape babies were installed on streets all over the world. The project is ongoing and so far there have been over one hundred babies “delivered” on to various streets and sidewalks. The reaction to the polar bears, however, was immediate and unequivocal. They were universally loved! Maybe not by the police, but by all the others who saw them.


Image Source


The polar bears are far “friendlier” as it were, as they are deliberately cute. Many people liked them and they soon became a popular destination for people to take their kids to have their pictures taken. Above, the fourth homeless polar bear in the series gets a hug from students on their way to school on Irving Street in Washington, D.C


Image Source


Whole gangs of people queued up to have their pitcures taken with the polar protestor. Rather bemused-looking by all of the attention, the ursine vagrant took everything in his stride and calmly conducted his business while at the center of attention.


Image Source


One of the bears was even positioned outside of the Capitol. Disheveled but standing proud, the bear managed to get his message across in to the evening.


Image Source


He even managed to get a few hours sleep before being moved on - yet again! Even the most ardent of environmental activists have to call it a day and get some shut-eye at some point.


Image Source


Unfortunately, the final bear caused something more of a stir. Authorities believed it to be a “suspicious package” and a local train station had to be abandoned for a few hours while a bomb disposal squad investigated the polar bear. It is unusual for terrorists (urban or otherwise) to go out of their way to signify the presence of explosive devices, but the authorities felt it best to be safe rather than sorry. That is probably something akin to what the real polar bears feel.


Written by RJ Evans


Monday, 13 October 2008

10 Reasons We Will Survive The Recession (Maybe)

Image source


A recession rears its ugly head and everyone shouts like it’s the end of the world! Ladies and gentleman of the planet, please, some calm! We have been there before and got through it, so why should this one be any different? Here are ten reasons for those of you faint at heart to take to heart. We will overcome! Er, some day!


Image


House prices will rise again. Honestly. At the moment, though, you know that things are beginning to get a little tight when the rich neighbors think about downsizing. Often when a market is depressed the asking price isn’t reached and the owners have to settle for less. Ain't that the truth - and wages seem to frozen everywhere too. So, who takes the blame? Well, it seems that the Treasury Secretary is on the verge of resigning. Not that he wanted to, there just wasn’t any money left in the treasury and it was the only thing left for him to do.


Image


People will come together. Of course, in a time of recession, an opportunity is at last presented for us to embrace our fellow man and work through it together. Or maybe it’s just time for the counter-revolution against capitalism. Who can say? One thing is for sure - stocks are getting cheaper and cheaper on Wall Street. Coincidentally. They renamed it Wal-Mart Street yesterday.


Image


No one will take fright. There is one thing that should not be done at all costs. That, of course, is panic. If we do that, we are undone. Modern life, though, can be very stressful. More bad news every day, it seems. Talking of which, news has it that the USA has developed a weapon that destroys people but leaves the buildings standing. Yeah, that’s right; it’s called the stock market.


Image


Let's face the music - and dance! People will remain steadfast. It is important, however, to keep your chin up and remember that the state of the economy isn’t your fault and that you will get through it intact. What often helps is to rehearse and perform a small song and dance routine to while away the hours in the unemployment relief queue. Give the man an umbrella and some rain and give the rest of us some cake to eat now!


Image


There will always be hope. Remember, the people who have been successfully running our economy for so long will always have a Plan B or even a Plan C should things go really pear-shaped. OK, there is a war going on, the economy is bad, unemployment is rising and George Bush Senior thinks he is still President (perhaps for those very reasons!) but things can only get better. Right?


Image


To get things going again, some alternative politics may have to be considered. After all, if something like nationalization of banks can go ahead, which is, kinda, at the heart of socialism, then maybe there are friends abroad willing to help out. If you have a yen to make a dollar in the future, your wish may well come true.


Image


In addition to us, the great (about to be) unpaid, the media will not be panicked either. They will realize the responsibility they have and refuse to stoop to journalism that will sell more copies but only to the detriment of the economy. We can rely on them to be as moral and as upstanding as ever they were.


Image


New economies will surface. As in any time of great pressure, people will find alternative ways to make money. It may be time to use our imagination and become a little more self-reliant. Remember, an "acceptable" level of unemployment means that the government economist to whom it is acceptable still has a job. So, if you don't happen to be a government economist, put your thinking cap on now!


Image


People will not get cynical about any measures that have to be taken. They will realize that it was not the government or the bankers who got us all in to this mess but their own unbridled greed that caused the present situation. After all, no one encouraged them to take our mortgages that were way too expensive to afford in an economic dip, spend money like water on credit and invest in Icelandic institutions, did they?


Image


If the previous nine points failed to sway you, then remember this. There will always be candy. It is cheap, affordable and it’s good for you! So take heart, without a word of a lie, there is a way out of this recession! You will get through it and out the other side in to that utopia that awaits us around every corner. Again and again and again. (Sob)


Sunday, 12 October 2008

How would you like your own 'Local River'?


Are you a locavore? If you are not acquainted with the term, it is used to describe people who wish to only consume produce from a small circumference around their own locality. In fact, it goes a little deeper than that – and the trend is catching on. The French designer Mathieu Lehanneur has come up with something for the loaded locavore that he calls Local River.

And it is just about as local as you can get!


The ultimate locavore not only wants to build collaborative and self-reliant food economies in their own area – they also wish to integrate this further. Sustainability is really the key word, with food production, processing as well as distribution and consumption integrated together. The hope is that, if this can happen, the particular place which adopts this system will be enhanced socially, environmentally and economically.


Lehanneur takes this concept to its – some might say ridiculous – extreme by offering people a way to farm fish from the comfort of their domicile. Not only that, by purchasing one of his designs you also get the chance to grow your own vegetables to have with that fishy dinner.


For those who like to have that decorative “TV aquarium” in their lounge then this particular idea is fabulously “decus et tutamen”. To borrow from the Latin (and the British pound coin) it is both decorative and useful. You get your fish – and your vegetables – for the cost of the unit. The price - don’t ask!


So, how does it work? It is based on the principles of aquaponics, which is when plants and animals are cultivated side by side in a form of forced symbiosis. As such it is an integration of aquaculture (a system in which fish may be grown) and hydroponics (which allows plants to be grown in water).



As the fish in the closed tank system release their effluence, there is the danger that they will die. So, plants are grown nearby so they that can soak up the nutrients in the water (which are toxic to the fish). This is where the recirculation comes in – the water is now returned to the water as it is now clean. In this way the system neither exchanges or discharges water and the relationship between the plants and the animals maintain the environment.



These systems are not new and have been used in the East where waste from fish has, by tradition, been used to keep rice paddies productive. So, this is not a new idea, but to take it in to the living areas of your average suburbanite? Will that ever catch on? You can certainly 'grow' any number of fish species in the tanks - including eel, trout and carp. With stocks dwindling, who knows what the insides of our houses will look like in the future.



Certainly, if you want your food fresh and is one hundred percent traceable to source, then a Local River may be just for you. The price may be a little Brad and Angelina for comfort, but at least you will guarantee that the food that you serve is completely fresh.



You can find out more about this fantastic piece of green design – and other mind boggling ideas put in to practice - at the home page of Mathieu Lehanneur

Digg This

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Life in the Trees Ain't Just for the Birds and the Bees

Who needs life on the ground when you can live high up in the air? If you suffer from vertigo, perhaps it is best to look away now! If not, take a look at these marvellous takes on that ancient form of habitation, the tree house.


Image Source


From China, this sturdy looking specimen looks as if it was built as a real set of domiciles rather than as an escape from the every day stresses of this world. It is reminiscent of a giant wooden aviary. It would almost come as no surprise to see a few giant birds – or even pterodactyls – make their home here!


Image Source


This is by far the largest tree house in Europe and is situated in the county of Northumberland in the UK. It is part of the Alnwick Garden which is the vision of the Duchess of Northumberland. She wanted a public space, accessible to one and all, which could be used for fun, education, inspiration and above all contemplation. It was opened in 2002 by the Prince of Wales, who is a contemplative kind of guy if ever there was one, and this tree house certainly gives us lots us scope to think about alternative living!


Image Source


What list of the weird, the wonderful, the outlandish and extraordinary would be complete without a visit to Japan? Here, a restaurant in Okinawa proves to be a daunting climb for its clientele. One can only hope that the food is excellent as quite a hunger could be provoked by the dizzying ascent to the eating area. Food for thought in the heights, indeed!


Image Source


It looks like a slight breeze might be signify the end, so precariously are these neighbors perched on the top of their adopted trees. It is can only be hoped, too, that the occupants get on with each other. A not so neighborly slanging match would be something to behold!


Image Source


These tree houses are certainly not for those who are afraid of heights! This one in New Zealand towers hundred of meters above the ground. It must have been built by someone really desperate to escape the daily grind of life as it must take them half of the day to get up there and the other half to get back down. Still, good exercise involved!


Image Source


So, okay, this one isn’t real, just like the one in Japan wasn’t real. There is a lot to be said though, about this concept, seen here at the Burning Man Festival in the USA. Tree houses as modern art, anyone? Tarzan could spring out of here in a flash, twisting a Salvador Dali type moustache and no one would bat an eyelid.


Image Source


This one, from Kerala in India is not so much designed to be lived in but to see out of! It is part of a nature reserve and a whole host of wildlife can be comfortably and safely – viewed from its height. A great way to see nature close up without disturbing it. Except for when the house was being built, that is. That may have disturbed at least one or two denizens of the jungle!


Image Source


This tree house was built by Horace Burgess in Tennessee, USA. It is over ninety feet in height and was built as a result of “divine inspiration”. Most of the materials used to make the tree are from barns, sheds and so on, salvaged by the builder. It has ten floors and although it was started in 1993 it is still not finished. The finishing of the project, though, is surely not the point here! The price of the project is estimated by Mister Burgess at around twelve thousand dollars. A lesson for the sub-primers?


Image Source


This amazing structure is actually in someone’s back yard! Bar Simpson would be absolutely yellow with envy if he could see this but no doubt Homer would steal it for him, or win it in a poker game, or swap it for Marge. Located in Saint Louis, it’s a really awesome place to meet! You could chew the cud, nose at the neighbors and no doubt ultimately get shot by them for building such a ‘monstrosity’ in their neighborhood!


Image Source


For fans of films such as “The Swiss Family Robinson”, what could be more idyllic than this tree house overlooking a river in Kerala, India. What a wonderful place to sit back, take in nature and ponder the mysteries of nature and the universe. All the time while longing for that Big Mac, Fries and a very large strawberry milkshake of course!

DIGG THIS

AdShack

There was an error in this gadget