Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! May all your spooks be friendly and white...and may all your witches be nice. ;-)

Now, if only I could get the better half to take turns answering the door for trick-or-treaters...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fleeting Moments

This picture of a young girl with a hummingbird feeding out of a flower in her hand speaks to the preciousness and fleeting nature of life and the moments we share with the people we care about. I'm posting this picture for Brian, a dear coworker and perhaps one of the hardest working people I knew, who passed away this Sunday.

I certainly did not intend yesterday's posting to be prophetic and find the irony very heartbreaking. I question whether it is the fault of the bosses who pushed him to the breaking point or of Brian for quietly accepting past all point of reason. Brian was days short of his 50th birthday and engaged to be married for the very first time. Brian was the third person in our division to pass away in a handful of years and speaks to the toll that working in high technology can take.

If there is a silver lining to this, I suppose it is in the message that life is precious and brief and that we need to make the time to share with the people in our lives. It is particulary poignant to me as I found myself jetting back across half the globe to spend my birthday at home with my better half only days prior. Brian, perhaps, has finally found peace and a better place.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is There Life After Work?

You work and you work and you work and one day you wake up and you're old... You've put off all of the fun things you thought you'd do "some day". Retiring early disappeared into just so much inflation and stock market dust. Is there really life after work or are we just destined to work until we're not useful to the employers anymore?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Osaka Harbor

Sunset on Osaka harbor. The building to the left is the Kaiukan aquarium. To the right is a freight loading dock. They had a huge yellow freight crane hanging over the edge of the roof of the aquarium. I'm guessing that the roof opens up to the sky so they can use the crane to pull up those huge whale sharks and miscellaneous sundry dolphins, tuna and seals that they had on display.

Victoria Vox Rocks

I ran into Victoria Vox at the San Diego Ukulele Festival. I was expecting something more traditional and Hawaiian but what I got was very lighthearted, playful rock/pop. I bought one of her CDs, Victoria Vox: and her jumping flea," which she had graciously autographed. I have been listening to it ever since. Just in case you're wondering, uku is Hawaiian for flea and lele apparently refers to jumping. The name Ukulele was given to the the 4 stringed instrument, orginally brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese, and so named because of the rapid way that the players fingers jumped from string to string. Hmmm... Vox Rox, heheheh, that rhymes doesn't it?

Fugu Sashimi

Fugu is Japanese for puffer fish. Puffer fish are poisonous; however, in Asia, eating Fugu is considered quite a delicacy. Apparently, the toxic parts are centered in the organs of the puffer fish and, with careful preparation, the meat can be prepared safely.

This plate contains Fugu Sashimi (ie, raw Fugu), delicately arranged like a lotus flower. In Japanese Sushi, the art of preparation is considered as important as the taste. As for the taste? The tempura is pretty decent but the sashimi tastes kind of like whatever you dip it into, lacking much taste of its own.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Seoul Hillside

The older areas of Seoul are packed with wall to wall houses and apartments, many with only walking paths between them. In this picture, a church managed to eek out some space at the top of the hill. There is a fairly large Christian presence in South Korea (and hence quite a few churches), likely due to the long standing American presence. There are an equally large number of Buddhist churches/monasteries as well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Big, Big and Bigger (Whale Shark)

Now there's a mouth for you! Whale sharks are plankton feeders, opening their huge mouths to capture passing copepods and crustaceans, plankton and even schooling fish, sometimes as large as tuna.

Meanwhile, I'm headed home after two weeks of kimchi and fish tempura. Ironically, I'm craving a bowl of oatmeal with raisins. Go figure.

Osaka Castle From Afar

I chose this picture of Osaka Castle from afar because the lush tree cover allows one to image just what the castle and surrounding areas might have been like during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Construction of Osaka castle was started by 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and has been burned down and rebuilt twice. It originally sported three deep moats that were virtually uncrossable during that time period. After a successful invasion of the area, the two outer moats were buried to make the castle less defensible to thereby reduce its potential as a fortress for area domination.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Lights of Seoul

The streets of Seoul are full of huge screens, lighted signs and ful motion video. Some of the companies have full walls covered with LCD screens and even columns with lifelike animated dancing girls. Even the restaurants have big screens with music videos and other entertainment. The buildings are often covered in marble and granite as are huge sweeping stair cases. It makes the streets and halls of Manhattan look almost plain.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Seoul Lights

This picture was taken from the same point as my last posting. However, the cool, crisp and windy weather has cleared all that haze and smog out of the city resulting in stunning nightime views. If you zoom in close enough and can read Korean (heh), you can even read the signs! In this picture, the lights of Seoul and the ever present stream of traffic reflect crisply off of the Han River. This photo is a timed exposure taken at ASA400 and down stopped by 0.7.

View of the Han River

While it was hot and muggy in Tokyo, the regional weather has changed and, now that I am in Seoul, the weather is cold, overcast and windy. When we arrived in Seoul, there was a layer of haze as seen in this picture that resulted in an almost surreal glow over the city and the Han River. A night of rain and wind blew off the haze as you will see in the next posting.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dragonflies for Brunch (Black-Backed Wagtail)

I saw this Black-Backed Wagtail, Motacilla alba lugens, living around a Japanese pond. It would take off like a rocket, rapidly flying in acrobatic form as it chased brilliantly colored dragonflies that lived along the pond. It was fairly successful at catching the dragonflies and can be seen here with one that it chose for an early morning brunch.

Generational Change

It is amazing to see the dramatic differences between the different generations in Japan. It's not uncommon to see the youngest generations in rebellious Western clothing and with wildly colored hair while, perhaps on the same subway or in the same park, you may find an older woman such as pictured here in a traditional kimono.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Otter Looking for Company

This little otter did not want to be left in the lurch so he's hanging on to his buddies tail in a toothy sort of way. There were originally four little otters but the first two bailed into the water leaving this one straggler trying to keep some good company.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Whale Shark

Here's a picture of a whale shark that I saw up close and personal, admittedly through a thick plate of plexi but wow, what an experience. It's always a little amazing that creatures that big can live off of plankton.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Guest House at the Imperial Palace

This is a view of the guest house at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo from one of the neighboring skyscrapers. It is impressive by it's sheer size as well as the size of the neighboring wooded area. I dare say it dwarfs just about any guest mansion I've ever seen.

Making a Difference

In my travels, every now and then you will see crosses, flowers, stuffed animals and other memorials along roadsides, along the ocean or along other potentially hazardous areas. Sometimes I wonder who these people were, what they are remembered for and what they could have been had they lived. Perhaps it is all so much irrelevance to our current lives and yet, to someone, they continue to matter enough that these little things are left to let us know that someone that mattered passed this way.

Quake in Hawaii

There was a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Hawaii this morning just offshore of Kawaihae (about 10 miles North of Kailua-Kona). There were power outages on the major islands and limited property damage. There were long lines for food and water at the few stores that remained open as many people acted on the worst case scenario although it appeared that overall damage was limited. While calls were going through, the power outages complicated getting through to loved ones.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Baja Winery

You get to thinking that wine all comes out of little oak casks and is still crushed by purple toed workers but really, wine making is big business and there is nothing little about the huge vats that it is made in.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Willet Reflecting in Water

Found this little Willet on Mission beach. He was not at all shy, walking right up to me to pose for a picture. I tried to get the setting sun in the background to highlight the water and cast the reflection.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Getting in Your Quality Beach Time

It was the beaches that sold me on San Diego. I had been living in beautiful but nippy Colorado for some years and missed the beaches of home. Somehow, one thing led to another and when I received a job offer in San Diego, I jumped on it. Ironically, it seems I simply do not get to the beach as often as I used to. Perhaps it's the job and lack of time. Perhaps it is just not appreciating how nice something is because you know it's a few minutes drive away. I need to get to the beach more often.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lab Nap

They say that Labradors have an affinity for water. I don't know if all Labs do; however, this lab, caught napping on the back landing of a boat in Harbor Island's West Marina, was clearly enjoying a lazy nap by the water.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cloud Mania

I snapped this picture of a cloudy sunset at Mission Beach, CA. I love the way the sun puts those bright silver-gold linings onto the dark swirling clouds. Definitely dramatic. I was hoping that the LA fires would turn it all a deep orange but the recent cold weather put a damper on the fire (a good thing) and on the beautiful sunsets (a bummer).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Snowy Egrets in Flight

Snowy egrets are fairly common birds up and down Southern California and the Baja. However, seeing a large flock of them flying, in formation, fast and low over the water, sillouetted against the setting sun, was hauntingly beautiful. It was a little dark so the exposure was not perfect but I think you'll get the idea.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Little Disappointed

I decided to snap pictures of hummingbirds to see how the 300mm lens did. Overall, the majority of them came out blurry, even after I boosted the film speed. I suspect it speaks volumes for having a larger aperture/faster lens like the Nikon 18-200mm versus a long, narrow lens like the Sigma 300mm. There were still a few that came out pretty cool. Here's one of a hummingbird hunting for nectar.

Picture Madness

This is a picture of some soft coral I used to have in my tank. It went back to the pet shop when I accidentally cracked the glass plate that bridges the two sides of the aquarium. However, I still have pictures to remember it by. The saltwater aquarium was a fair amount of work but admittedly, there were so many things living in there that you could stare at it for hours and not see everything.

On another note, I've tested out my old 300mm autofocus lens to see if it is compatible with my new digital camera and to see what kind of magnification you end up with due to the conversion from film to digital. I stood at one side of the room and snapped a picture of the mirror on the other side of the room with both my new 200mm and the old 300mm, guessing that the 300mm ends up more like a 400mm when all is said and done. Sure enough, the old lens not only worked but zoomed in dramatically closer (as you would expect). I'll haul it to the zoo to see how it does in action.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Random Photos

I went digging through my photo collection randomly just for fun. I clicked on a directory and went down to a subdirectory and voila! I found this cute picture from San Diego Pride 2003 of guys dressed up like Honey Bees. It's pretty amusing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Birds do it, Bees do it, Why not dragonflies?

I found these two dragonflies having a little fun near the Pont du Garde in the South of France. The totally amazing thing about it was they can actually fly around hooked up like that. The water plants were pretty cool too. They actually sell that stuff in the pet shop here but it grows in the river over there!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Do You Know Your Helicopters?

Do You Know Your Helicopters? Well, I sure don't. This one flew over me the other day so I snapped a picture. After perusing the web, I came across a picture of several different Sikorsky Seahawk variants that looked pretty close, the most likely candidate being a Sikorsky SH-60B anti-submarine warfare unit. The little nubs on the side are apparently missle racks. I guess it's a little step up from the little plastic toys I had as a kid. Pretty cool in a kind of macho nationalistic kind of way. If you recognize it, feel free to send a comment.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'd Rather Be Sailing

I'd rather be sailing.... Sounds kind of like a John Denver song, doesn't it? This is another picture from my sailing trip on Sunday. The sails sweeping so high I couldn't get it all in with an 18mm lens. The sun just peeking around the mast and lighting up the lumpy clouds like white grains in a field of blue sky. Wow.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Clouds Are Wonderful Things

Are clouds just so much water vapor? Are they just a conglomeration of tiny droplets? Or are they glorious, dreamy, fluffy white creations that enable dreams of fantastic mythical creatures and faraway places? Why not both?

This photo was taken at Harbor Island, San Diego at the West Harbor on Sunday. The clouds were truly glorious! What do you see in them?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Miltonia Cast Gold HCC/AOS

This is Miltonia Cast Gold HCC/AOS, one of tonights award winning orchids at the American Orchid Society Judging at the Quail Botanical Gardens. Ironically, this little beauty was purchased as a pot plant at the local nursery. It just goes to show that a little hunting around often pays off.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

San Diego Skyline

It was a bit hazy on the ocean today but overall very pleasant with beautiful tufts of white clouds and a playful light breeze. This is the view from the sailboat looking back at downtown San Diego. If you look closely, you can see an airplane coming in for landing just barely above the tops of the skyscrapers just left of center. As always, I snapped way more photos than any reasonable person would (perhaps 500?) but then that's why I have a digital camera (otherwise I'd go bankrupt trying to develop all those photos).