Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hatchlings... (day 7)

Well on day 7 the basic body morphology hasn't changed drastically.  The mouth is proportionally a bit bigger and they are getting a bit larger.  It seems that the internal gills/lungs are developing a deeper color.

They do seem to be a bit more agile in positioning themselves and while they don't have legs, they balance closer to their center of mass rather than just gliding and crashing to land where they fall.

The parts of the eye between the pupil and the body are getting larger but I don't see any evidence of muscle control here yet (closing the iris).  The patterning of pigmented cells over the body is showing signs of order rather than randomness.  The pigmented areas are still only a few cells large so I think it's a sign of differential expansion rather than migration.

Hatchlings... (day 6)

Recently I collected a small part of an egg mass where the embryos were just beginning to hatch.  I set up an artificial pond in an aquarium to follow their development.  On day 6 they have all grown a little larger, the tissues are becoming more complex, more patterns of pigmented cells are emerging...

They are very active and spend most of their time eating.  It is rare that they stay in one place for more than a few seconds.

One particularly interesting note is that their mouth area seems to be changing much faster than the rest of the body.

There are more images following their development here: http://tanukifu.com/Animals/hatchlingsMarch2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hatchlings... (day 5)

Spring is such a happy time, life comes back to the world again and every days there is something new to see.  Recently I collected a small part of an egg mass where the embryos were just beginning to hatch.  By the next morning all the embryos were freely swimming about and I went back to the pond to bring some grasses for them to eat.  By the fourth day it was clear that they were all growing but the tupperware wasn't going to be sufficient for very long... time to setup an aquarium...

After adding a few simple freshwater plants, some gravel and airstones I began to transfer the little ones (along with all the happy little pond organisms)... surprisingly all of them adapted quickly and seemed rather comfortable in their artificial pond.

Everyday they seem to change (actually every few hours they seem to look different).  This is the fifth day since they began to hatch.  The morphology of the tails is becoming much more defined and the internal parts of the body are becoming enlarged.
The mouth is beginning to protrude a bit and the eyes now have a visible pupil.  On day 3 the eyes were just darkened lumps.

They seem to eat bits of decaying plants and like to chase around the daphnia and other tiny pond life.  Some of them go crazy for tiny pieces of boiled lettuce.

Most of my images following their development will be here: http://tanukifu.com/Animals/hatchlingsMarch2010/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vernal ponds...

Every spring, hope comes back to the world. Change occurs at a frantic pace, color returns and life reappears from places that seemed lost forever. One of my favorite things about spring is the appearance of vernal ponds. (bigger versions)

Vernal ponds only exist temporarily. They can occur anywhere spring rains and thawing snow collect and drain slowly enough that water remains present for a few weeks. The water is usually shallow enough (a few inches to a few feet deep) that enough oxygen exchange occurs without a constant flow of fresh water.

Because they only exist for a short time before they dry out, they never develop a stable population of predators (like fish) and so they end up being very successful places for frogs and salamanders to lay eggs. Often there are many types of masses in the same pond and a nearly identical pond only a few yards away will have none.

Right now the frogs are just beginning to lay eggs and while there are many types of egg masses, I suspect these are salamander eggs. Here you can see the nearly mature developing embryos protected by the egg jelly. While I was out in the ponds, some began to escape and swim away.

The survival rate is very low (which is probably why there are so many eggs). Most years the ponds seem to dry up too soon. On wet years the birds and snakes tend to eat really well... This year I kept a small part of an egg mass to watch them develop in a safe place.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Things you might consider looking at… 3/24/10

Every so often I come across something that I feel is worth recommending.

This is by far the most extensive and accessible collection of information on color and perception that I have ever seen. If they ever make a book out of it, this would be a book everyone should read at least once.


Is the master site and contains an incredible amount of information equally well presented on painting and palettes and watercolor. It's all just an unbelievably spectacular resource.

If nothing else, read the pages on color theory, tones and temperature here: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color18a.html and here http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color18b.html and here http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color11.html and here http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color12.html

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring toads...

The snow really seems to be gone for the season and after a few days of warmer weather the sounds of spring have returned. In the early mornings and evenings one can hear the frogs and toads calling out and grouping together, but my attempts to find eggs in the ponds have up until now been fruitless. (bigger versions)

Then we had rain and thunderstorms yesterday… Against my better judgment I ventured out with a camera and quickly became soaked wading through ponds. While I didn't find eggs yet, I did find some american toads doing their best to make them.

Hopefully tonight I will find eggs (Nature's hope for the future). It usually takes about two weeks for them to hatch and them another 2 or 3 weeks for them to transform. The last few years we had a dry period after the early spring and not many survived. It's been much wetter than usual so far so I have hope that it will be a great year for these little fellows. Something just seems a little more right with the world when the amphibians are doing well. (bigger versions)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Listen to me...

There are plenty of times in life when communication breaks down. Sometimes it's a lack of something necessary - like a shared experience or a common framework. At other times, one party just doesn't want to listen - maybe the story has already been told too many times, there is a history of unalterable views expressed, something else is of a more pressing concern or even that one just wants to be left alone. (bigger versions)

I suspect that anyone who has lived long enough has been in both positions many times (really wanting to be heard and really wanting not to listen). We know from experience that nothing will be gained if we speak louder to press our concerns, if we get closer - if we persist incessantly - if we corner - if we chase… the outcome is always bad and unsatisfying. If we try to leave, turn our head, close our eyes or lose ourselves in the safety of a daydream… the outcome is always bad and unsatisfying.

When neither party cares much about the other it can be ended quickly if both take aggressive motions - blustering about, raising voices and forcing a confrontation. Alternatively both parties may chose to remain leave or become quiet and pushing the problem off to the unseen future. Neither of these approaches ever solves the problem of restoring communication - nothing gets accomplished and it's always unsatisfying. Communication always requires both members to speak and to listen to the other.

It's a no win situation once it starts… a situation slipped into all too often and yet tragic for all involved.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

As the foxes tell it... (part 3)

So the little squirrel sat alone by the bank of the river and thought about what the fox had said (…listen to the birds …a reason to live) and instantly he became aware. It took only a few moments for him to hear the chirping off in the distance and so, having nothing better to do, he began to walk. At the edge of the woods he found the source, a lone sparrow standing on the rail of deck calling out to the sky. For a bit he simply watched and pondered what the bird was doing, why it spoke out to only air… but then he understood. Other birds began to arrive, first a few and then many more, types of birds he had never before seen were joining the group but he still he not why. Closer he crept to the building, slowly he climbed the post and peered out on the deck. Upon the deck were seeds, so many kind of seeds all together in piles and the birds were dancing and prancing and eating their fill.

Hungry as he was the opportunity could simply not be passed up and so he approached and began to eat as well. The birds, both small and large, payed little attention to him for there was far more than enough for all. Late in the afternoon, after he was full and could eat no more, the little squirrel went home. He was of course teased by the others, offered scraps to dance for their amusement, but unlike every day of life before - today he was not hungry, he felt no need to beg, he felt himself to be whole. For the next few days he continued to follow the birds and avoided the other squirrels. With such high quality food he began to become healthier, to get stronger, to be more confident in the way he carried himself and his coat began to shine more brightly than any other squirrel. Before long the other squirrels began to follow him and Albert (the first squirrel to follow) gained a position of authority within the group.

For a while all things seemed wonderful, especially for Sam and Albert. The birds and the squirrels both had plenty of food and life just seemed a little bit better than it used to be in the past. Eventually though (as in all stories) problems began to develop. The squirrels ate far more than the birds and being perhaps a wee bit lazier tended to hang around the piles of seeds making it very hard for all of the birds to get a full meal. As more and more squirrels followed Albert and more and more birds followed Sam the problems got worse for the birds. Something had to be done - if they called then the squirrels would come but if they stayed quiet then only a few birds would find a meal. Standing on the rail and caught in uncertainty of whether or not to call out, Sam saw the owl watching him out of the corner of his eye.

Flying across to the owl he explained his dilemma. "I am glad when you call" said the owl who then explained that he benefitted as well since when the squirrels came to eat there was always at least one that could become his lunch. Before the squirrels the owl would hunt rabbits in the fields at night. He knew the fox would usually hunt field rabbits in the day and that when the squirrels came to the seed the fox would sometimes wait by the edge of the wood to pick one off. He suspected that the fox had devised this plan of calling to make it's life easier. Realizing that if the birds stopped calling, the owl himself would have to work harder to eat he decided that is would be fun to upset the fox for amusement.

After a moment the owl spoke "The answer is to have a call that the squirrels can not hear. If you choose a place down by the river where the mud is thin you can write the location of the seeds each day. The other birds will then know where to go and the squirrels will hear nothing. Silent messages are the answer you seek."

Sam flew back and explained the plan to the other birds. The plan worked perfectly, and after a few days one did not see the squirrels sitting on branches with their ears to the sky. Occasionally a squirrel may come across the house with seed, but only a few squirrels posed no problem at all for the birds. For the squirrels though, life was becoming harder again for not all were fed equally well and even Albert was going to bed hungry most nights.


Copyright 2010 Chris Thoburn (Tanukifu) - All rights reserved. Do not republish without consent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consequences unseen…

There are always consequences to every action we take in the world. While we tend to like the "good" consequences and disfavor the "bad" consequences, the unexpected consequences are the ones we tend to fear. (bigger versions)

When we the anticipate consequences of our actions, either good or bad, we have sense of control. We can feel that we succeeded or failed because of our actions. However, if we are faced with unexpected consequences then we are immediately aware that we are not in control of the situation. There is always an uneasiness about not being in control (even when the consequences results in something good) - sometimes there's an associated thrill about it, a rush of adrenaline and if we expect it (as in an amusement park) then we can regain our sense of control.

When we really don't anticipate it though… that adrenaline rush, that excitement, often leads to fear. It's strange in a way that unseen consequences of our actions can lead to fear in an adult and only raw amusement in a child. It is only after a child has begun to build an internal framework that can predict what will happen next that the unexpected begins to result in uneasiness. The framework that makes us feel safe (and comfortable and powerful and in control) may also be the reason we begin to fear the unknown. Fear that comes from a challenge to our expectations of what will happen…

Perhaps this is the reason that we fear more the threat against our expectations of how things work than any direct challenge to ourselves. A threat to our beliefs can evoke more emotion than a threat to ourselves. A system we know (whether we like it or not) can much more comfortable than one we haven't yet seen. Even when we know something in the system is broken and really needs to be changed - the older we get, the more we fear that change.

The strangest thing is that often the fondest childhood memories are of a time before we really had an understanding of how the world works - when things weren't predictable and the unexpected was around every corner.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Subjective is life…

In the course of any given day almost all of us are faced with what seems like an edges stream of numbers and statistics. Ratings, reviews and expert opinions that often base their relevance as begin and objective source rather than an individual opinion. Objective information isn't inherently bad, but it is essentially useless for the part of life that means something. (bigger versions)

We all know which foods should be the best for us, but it's rare that these are the foods we love to eat. Which cars are the most efficient - which clothes are the most durable - what we should weigh - how much we should sleep - there seems to be no limit to the statistics available. Now if we wanted to build something, to design, then the more we know about the components the better. What about a painting or a photograph…

Every artist has their own tools - their own techniques - they create in their own style - their vision. There is a stage of learning where the focus of study must be the mechanics and techniques of every field, but after that an artist grows to be different - to understand and explain the world in their own way. While it starts with an objective framework this is discarded to allow a subjective one to form. The subjective realm is where art happens.

Sensor sensitivity, pixel count, lens mtf are all useful from an engineering perspective. They are helpful in teaching principles and understanding technical capability, but otherwise they are merely distractions. A better meter may give a more reproducible exposure or a more accurate white balance, but unless the photographer understands light and how to compensate the exposure the subjective component is missing. Any other person would make the same image (even a robot, a machine would make the same image) in the same situation.

Every person has the ability to view the world differently and this is something that no camera, pigment, brush or piece of software can do for you. This is what makes an individual special, important and valuable.

Everything in life that means something, everything truly important - is subjective.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Things you might consider looking at… 3/15/10

Every so often I come across something that I feel is worth recommending.

If you shoot Nikon and use (or are considering using) flash, Russ MacDonald has written a practical guide to CLS (Nikon's creative Lighting System) that is extremely well written. I've never met him but he's one of the people whose efforts taught me more than any book or technical manual I've studied.

Very diverse and dynamic and a great source of information ranging from very simple to very complex lighting. While everyday the depth of this site grows, there are some excellent lessons to get you up to speed in the Lighting 101 and Lighting 102 series of tutorials.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How fast does a puppy grow…

Years ago when Mischka was a puppy I decided to measure her growth rate (along with how much food she ate and lots of other information). I remember trying to find information, charts or tables that would give me an idea of what was normal - but I was unsuccessful at the time. The method I used was simple and crude - weighing myself alone and while holding the pup on a bathroom scale and recording the difference. The scale did repeatedly give the same result for repeated measurements but only had a +/- 0.5 lb precision. While most of the time measurements were taken after the puppy voided, there was still some noise due to an occasional "non-empty" pup.

So lets look at the data - I limited the time period to the first year for simplicity. On the first graph we can see the total weight increase at a nearly linear rate until around 160 days, then increase at a slower rate for another 2 months before it levels off.

In the second graph we can see the nature of the rate of change a bit cleaner. Here, by using a log scale on the vertical axis it becomes apparent that the rate of change in weight is adjusted over time and not just a fast and slow rate that the previous graph suggested. In the beginning the slope is very steep and as the days pass it gradually decreases forming a beautiful curve.

On the next graph we can see that over time the percentage of of the change in weight relative to the total weight conveys the same information in a slightly different manner. Here, the transition from increasing growth rate (the acceleration of growth) to a decreasing growth rate occurs around 160 days. The two things that stand out here are the increased noise in the measurements early when the puppy weight was low and also that the transition to a stable weight (a growth rate of 0) is stretched out gradually over a long time.

In the last graph we can see that the actual amount of weight change per day is highly variable. A measurement on any particular day may or not represent the days just before or after. One the other graphs this isn't as clear. It is interesting that when the growth rate is decreasing (after day 240) on some days there is an increase in weight and on other's there is a decrease. I would have expected a simple decrease in the weight gained per day but that's not what happened. Biology always has surprises.

These are all just the results of a simple set of measurements I made and may or may not represent what one wold see in other dogs. I do suspect the general rates of change would be similar but the intervals and absolute weights may be different. I am only making this available because years ago I would have liked to have seen something like this, but I could not find this type of information.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

As the foxes tell it... (part 2)

Over time the little birds cleared the nearby bushes of all the wonderful berries. Some had returned to picking remnants from the ground and others began to spread out searching for new sources. When more food was found, the scouts would cry out to callout loudly signaling the location to the others and all would converge together again and feast. This strategy seemed to work well and Sam (the first bird to call) gained a position of authority within the flock.

Sometimes the fox would hear the bird songs as he hunted rabbits in the meadow. If he had a taste for them it would have made an easier meal, but under the feathers there really isn't much substance to a bird. As the seasons changed the rabbits became harder to catch both fewer in numbers and spending more time in their burrows. Somedays he would catch a squirrel, but that was a rare treat since they dashed so quickly to the trees and warned from above as he came closer. Most of the time the fox had to scavenge what he could find along the riverbank.

One especially lucky day the fox came across a twisting squeaking writhing mass of fur near the river. As he crouched low and slowly approached it became clear that what he had come across were squirrels fighting, so focused and obsessed with themselves that they were unaware of his presence. It took only a moment to make the catch and once one was held there was no reason to chase the others as they ran to the trees. Only after he had finished the meal did the fox realize that sitting next to him, quietly watching, was a young squirrel.

"Why did you not run little one?" asked the fox, to which the squirrel unexpectedly said "I can not, and I wait here to accept my fate". Now the fox was full at the time, satiated and happy so he rolled onto his back and so looked upside down at the squirrel. It's deformed right foot was clearly a birth defect and not the result of the fight. The fox took a moment to think and then asked "Why accept so quickly what you do not know? Perhaps you can not run but surely you can walk". The squirrel (I think his name was Albert) explained that with the damaged foot he had no reason to live - he could not climb or jump or run as fast as the other squirrels, he could not carry as many leaves back to the nest, he could not compete for a mate and was in general picked on and shunned by the others.

As the fox rose and began to walk back towards the woods he felt sorry for the little squirrel, for as soon as he left the other squirrels would probably return and the fight would continue - the little one had no chance. Turning back around the fox whispered softly into the little one's ear "Your problems can all be solved by using the other senses you have, listen to the birds and you may yet find a reason to live", and with that, the fox walked slowly through the woods to stroll again across the meadow…


Copyright 2010 Chris Thoburn (Tanukifu) - All rights reserved. Do not republish without consent.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life in a moment...

How long is a moment? Sometimes it's an arbitrary fraction of a second (like a pinch of salt). Other times it's the shortest amount of time it takes to experience something fully. Occasionally it's stretched out by an adrenaline rush, intense and fleeting. Everyone seems to have an internal sense of what a moment is, yet the definition always seems to be elusive. (bigger versions)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

As the foxes tell it... (part 1)

It is known that on the first day of fall the foxes of the older woods gather by the old mill. For a week they come together to dance and feast, to hold weddings and most importantly to tell stories. Tales of history and triumph, of passings and grief, of the newly born and of things recently discovered can be heard as one meanders about the crowd. Now on the first night tradition held that the oldest of the foxes would gather the first years (that's what they were called until they made a name for themselves in the world) before the bonfire and tell them the story of the ancient ones - the oldest story that any could remember. Perhaps the words change a bit each year but since a fox may only hear the story once it is hard to tell. All agree that the story usually begins like this:

When the woods were first made, all of the animals spoke the same language. It was a time without conflict, without suffering and pain, without fear or hunger, without anger or love. It was a time when all were merely satisfied with life, to wake and eat and sleep… but not to seek to be more, not to strive to better, not driven to understand anything… it was a world with less meaning than a shadow. It was into this world the first fox stepped (from where is not known) and at once the woods began to change.

For the fox, you see, is a trickster at heart. Not malicious or evil (and not the good peacemaker either) the fox is compelled to ask questions, to try new things, to seek the unknown, to upset the balanced and most importantly to dream of that which has yet to be…

On the first morning the fox awoke from slumber to find little birds picking about the ground, occasionally pulling seeds and catching small beetles. (lots of effort for such a small reward) thought the fox and so he asked the little birds "Why do you pick at the ground rather than feasting off the berries in the brambles above our heads?"

One of the little birds hopped upon the fox's nose, looked directly into his eyes and answered "The larger birds eat the berries and the smaller birds eat what falls". Now the fox thought this silly and replied "But why should you not also eat of the fruit at it's peak? Go now and try it for there are no larger birds here and the berries are ripe."

As the fox rose and began to stretch, that little bird (I think his name was Sam) was brought closer to the fruit and indeed he did eat of it. Finding in it a taste he had never encountered before - in a rush of adrenaline he burst out in song. This song, this hidden proclamation of significance that all animals have hidden inside themselves was heard… Each of the other little birds scattered about, in perfect synchrony stopped picking at the ground and took flight to set upon the bush and eat of the fruit with Sam.

Satisfied at seeing this, the fox shook off the last bits dust from his coat and began to stroll across the meadow...


Copyright 2010 Chris Thoburn (Tanukifu) - All rights reserved. Do not republish without consent.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Symbols, rules and subgroups...

Languages are formed by a combination of symbols and rules. Individuals that have a common knowledge of these two components can communicate while those that do not are excluded. Most widely used languages share very similar symbols and rules simply because the types of communication needed are common across cultures and societies. Groups that differ in the number of common symbols tend to exist in different environments while groups that differ in the number of rules tend to have different relationships to the environments in which they live. (bigger versions)

The core set of symbols and rules that form a language are simply those that are needed to be a member of a group. Complete mastery and understanding of all the components of a language is rare and most individuals tend to use a highly restricted subset of a given language. The specifics of language usage and ability are almost always sufficient to uniquely identify an individual.

When a group of individuals decide that they would like to communicate with each other in a way that excludes other members of a society that group the symbols and/or the rules must be changed in a way that is unknown to the greater society. It is possible that both can be changed, and thereby creating a new language, but this is time consuming, inefficient and unnecessary.

Changing symbols could be the creation of a something novel or changing the meaning of a common symbol. It is common for adolescents to add new meanings to words that only their particular social group understands (when I was young we must have had over 50 different meanings for the word "dude" and seemed to greatly enjoy finding as many new situations where that word (that symbol) could be used to mean something else - understood only by us). Restricting communication to a subgroup by changing symbols requires special knowledge of the individuals in that subgroup and is not necessarily easy to explain to a new member of the group (because each member of a group may have a slightly different understanding of what a symbol means to another).

Changing rules is usually the addition of a new rule to the set of rules already in use. Probably the most familiar is the "decoder ring" which does a simple letter displacement function on a message. By reversing this function prior to following the normal rules of a language the meaning from the symbols can be extracted. It is far easier to add new members to a subgroup by changing a rule rather than changing symbols because the rules (unlike symbols) are an abstract idea that means exactly the same thing to everyone.

Things get much more interesting when we have a subset of people that want to communicate privately and clearly with no possible misunderstanding of the messages exchanged. Or, when a member of a subgroup needs to decide whether an unknown individual is also a member of the subgroup (this is important to consider since changing symbols and rules is a secret known only by the subgroup and if that information leaks, the privacy is lost). Things get even more interesting when those individuals wish to add or remove other individuals from communicating with a subgroup that already exists.

Perhaps the most interesting things come from the excluded group that wishes to understand the private communications of the subgroup...