Insects Photography

Madam Butterfly

The next month, from the middle of September until the middle of October, is the most beautiful time of the year in Missouri. The weather has cooled and the humidity dropped, and a slight breeze blows most days to keep the sky clean, and clear. The trees are in their richest green, their end of summer finery; next week they’ll become tipped with golds and oranges and scarlet as Fall begins.

Today there was a huge hot air balloon race at Forest Park, which I had planned on attending to continue my quest to find perfect photos for a perfect portfolio. However, this morning I looked out my window at a perfect day and had no interest in fighting a crowd of tens of thousands for glimpses of bright material reflected in the sun. I headed to the Shaw Arboretum, instead, bad girl that I am.

At the lake where I normally park, there were two wedding parties wondering about – fluffs of white dress and colorful satin and chiffon, with men in black tuxes or well ironed khaki. One group was in the midst of a 3:00 wedding, and the other group in a pre-wedding photo shoot. Both ceremonies were unpretentious, with guests sitting in plain folding white chairs and a simple stand acting as alter. No need for ribbons and bows and hot house flowers when you stand under a canopy of Cypress, backed by sapphire blue waters. For a magical touch, I could see several butterflies fluttering about during the earlier wedding. No amount of prestige, of cut stone and stained glass, can beat butterflies circling about as you exchange vows with someone you love.

I hadn’t been out to Shaw for sometime and was amazed at the height of the grasses and flowers in the wild flower garden. The air was filled with butterflies and bees and other insects and as I walked between two fields filled with flowers I could hear a constant hum and buzz, as if I were a late arrival at church and the congregation made note of my tardiness.

I had both my digital and my film camera and I had forgotten how satisfying is the feel my old Nikon, the heaviness of it and its fit within my hand, as well as the quality of the lens. Since the butterflies were kind enough to stop and pose strategically, the little vixens, I spent some time taking photos of them with my film camera, and then switching to digital for one or two for the weblog.

The late sun is that unique green-gold of this area, and it highlighted the purple and yellow flowers, green grasses, and blue skies – with bright orange butterflies, Monarch and otherwise. There was considerable activity around one bunch of yellow flowers, and as I focused in with my telephoto lens, I could see a swarm of honey bees vying with the butterflies for nectar. Normally I’m cautious around bees, but today I knew without hesitation that I was at no risk for being stung.


Later by the lake I met up with an older man and several young girls, all with butterfly nets. Chatting with the friendly bunch, I found that they were part of Monarch Watch, a group that tags Monarch butterflies in order to track the creatures migratory patterns.

The young ladies were wonderfully gentle with the creatures and when I asked questions they gathered around, smiles as warm as the sun, as each tried to answer my questions in a rush. They let me hold one of the butterflies, and showed me the tiny tags, and between them and their escort, the enthusiast father of one of the budding scientists, I learned all about the program, as well as Monarchs. Five generations of Monarchs have been tracked and tagged from this area to Mexico I was proudly told.

As I reluctantly moved on to the lake to take some final photos, I could hear the group finishing up their work; laughing, gentle boasts of number of butterflies tagged, excitement in their voices as they wondered if any of theirs will be found in the select stand of trees on that small bit of land in Mexico that is the ultimate destination of the colorful gossamer wings.


Just Shelley

Of course

Have you ever woken up in the morning and the first thing that comes into your mind is, “Of course”.

Regardless of the doubts and the fears and the regrets, it’s as if all the possible futures had made their way through your mind in the night, each leaving an impression, nothing more. And everything is carefully clear.

Suddenly, you no longer fight against your limitations or curse your circumstances because neither is the core of what you are unless you let them be. You’re not giving up to the circumstances, nor are you bowing to the limitations; you’re accepting both as shapers of your life, and moving on.

I’m reminded of the Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I am also reminded of the words, from wherever they come, “This, too, shall pass.” It is both a promise of sadness, and of hope.

If today the tree sits dormant and the weather is bleak, then tomorrow the buds will open and the sun shine. If today the tree sits, limbs filled with emerald green leaves and red fruit, then tomorrow the stems will brown and the fruit fall. It is a cycle, fall, winter, spring, and summer and one we cannot change – but we can choose to see the beauty of the tree in all seasons, and we can work to nuture it. This, we can control.

I wrote in an email to a dear friend yesterday, “Life can never be truly bad when it keeps throwing so much beauty in your face.” The key is not closing your eyes.


Funky to go

Joi Ito, presumably in response to this newswrote the following about a possible Microsoft strategy as regards to Google, searching, and metadata:

Google likes scraping html, mixing it with their secret sauce and creating the all-mighty page ranking. Anything that detracts value from this rocket science or makes things complicated for Google or easy for other people is probably a bad thing for Google.

I have a feeling they (Microsoft) will embrace a lot of the open standards that we are creating in the blog space now, but that they will add their usual garbage afterwards in the name spaces and metadata so that at the end of the day it all turns funky and Microsoft.

That’s a good read. The power behind Google is that the company owns the algorithms used to find data from the featureless mess of HTML that exists today. The more sophisticated the data storage, the less important the algorithms, and the less edge that Google has. Microsoft, by controlling the origination of much of this data can build in the missing knowledge about the data and basically undercut the ground on which the House of Google is written.

I also agree with Joi — Microsoft will then make it proprietary by their own funkiness. For those who think RDF is bad, try working with MS generated XML. If you’ve ever seen what the company can do to HTML generated from Word, I rest my case.

I don’t agree with Dave Winer, who wrote today:

Speaking of people who could be friends who are full of shit — today Joi Ito sings a well-sung but false song about Microsoft screwing with nascent standards. Joi, in RSS-land, MS is playing fair and square, so far (and so are AOL and Yahoo, btw). The people who are pissing in the soup are people you don’t have the guts to criticize. You’re in their blogroll, they’re in yours. Dig deeper dear Joi, really disassemble the lunacy of our little world, and do what you can to unravel it. Then, when and if Microsoft screws with us, you’ll have some credibility. Right now you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

I presume from all that blogroll talk that Dave means Six Apart, or the Pie/Echo/Atom effort.

I have no doubts that Microsoft won’t muck with RSS at this time — why should it? In the overall scheme of things, it’s only a syndication format, nothing more. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft isn’t working on creating its own metadata and ontology XML vocabulary and data model, one that it will share with others, of course, putting it at the center of knowledge-based query in the years to come.

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