Categories
Burningbird Graphics/CSS

Mary Janes and Site Design

Recovered from the Wayback Machine. The stylesheets still actually work. Pick one, and reload the page in the Wayback Machine.

This page describes both the techniques and the materials I used to create my stylesheets. At the end of the document is links to locations where I’ve borrowed photographs, technology, or graphics – whit my deepest appreciation for same. A permanent link to this page will be added at the bottom of the stylesheet option list.

My designs don’t necessarily fit the current mode popular with weblogs–shadow background, with sidebar contained within the same block as the text and floated to the left or right; large, graphical title bar at the top, all against a simple patterned or plain backdrop. Mine are centered, true; and some of the styles do have a graphic at the top. However, there’s nary a shadow anywhere, and there won’t be because shadows aren’t compatible with my ‘floating cloud’ sidebar look.

Relatively simple as my styles are, there is an interesting trick or two used in the stylesheets that I thought I would share. However, before you try any of these yourself, you might as well be warned that I’ve never used CSS in the proper manner; nor are my techniques always the proper techniques. However, they do validate, and they are accessible.

Main page elements

All of my pages have one main element, a DIV block, that’s centered in the middle of the page. The CSS for this is:

div.wholething{
margin: 90px auto 25px auto;
width: 730px;
text-align:center;
}

In this centered block are two columns: one in an element called the sidebar; the other the main content. I make use of the float CSS attribute to float the main content to the right; I set its contents to be left-justified, compensating for the parent container’s using of centered text-align. If I did not do this, the parent element’s text alignment would propagate to all contained elements:

.mainblog {
float: right;
text-align: left;
background:#fff;
width: 450px;
font-family:verdana, arial, sans-serif;
font-size: 10px;
padding: 30px;
border:1px solid #999;
}

Normally, DIV elements would align vertically, but the use of float forces the main content to align horizontally with the sidebar, to the right, rather than the bar flowing beneath it. All that’s left for the sidebar then is remove its margins, set its width, and align the text to the left.

.sidebar
{
text-align: left;
width: 200px;
margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px;
padding: 0px 10px 20px 0px;
font-family:verdana, arial, sans-serif;
font-size: 8pt;
}

Within the sidebar, all my side images and blocks for comments and whatnot flow naturally within the tall, narrow container, each item set to a width of 200px. To see how these elements are positioned within the main web page, I’ve provided a text-based version of the index page. To see the stylesheets, view the source for this page, grab the URL for each stylesheet and view it directly in your browser.

Feel free to use any of the ideas presented in this document, or copy the stylesheets for experimentation and use in your own pages. A link back would be nice.

There’s nothing special with this layout except that traditionally sidebars items are visually contained within some overall constraining environment. My sidebar elements don’t – not even within the style designated as Walker Evans where I use what looks like a slip of film underneath the items. Even within this stylesheet, the elements break out of the boundary of the film, ever so slightly to the left. So they look like they’re layered on the film, rather than contained in the film.

Accessibility

Though I may make fast and loose with the rules of CSS, my CSS and XHTML is valid, as tested with the W3C validation tools. In addition, I also try to make sure the site is fully accessible. For instance, the main content page is one of the first items in the page, so that someone using a voice browser gets access to the writing, quickly.

I also provide a minimal stylesheet that doesn’t have any image downloads for those not interested in the images, or any of the specialized coloring.

If I miss something needed for accessibility, please let me know.

Sidebar images

The first trick to my stylesheets has to do with the sidebar images. Now, I could have used JavaScript to change the images based on the stylesheet picked, and this is a prefectly good approach. However, I wanted to keep my use of JS to a minimum.

What I did was create nine different DIV elements, each with a different background image. Using this approach, I can alter the images in the DIV elements for each style. If I have a style, like Old Bird or Minimal, that doesn’t use sidebar images, nothing shows for these elements in the page.

Now normally, with proper CSS and XHTML, elements contain something, but what a bother. If my sidebar image blocks must be said to contain something, then let them contain the clothes fairies wear when they’re not flying around naked on diaphanous wings.

See there? Tiny little Mary Janes.

Switching Styles

Stylesheets are linked into the page via the LINK tag, included in the HEAD section. Contrary to expectations, most browsers honor the LINK tag in the body, but not all – Mozilla is one that won’t. I found this out when I tried this shortcut, and that sharp-eyed poet, Joseph Duemer tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Why is nothing showing?”

(Additionally, embedding a LINK element in the body is an invalid use of the element, and results in invalid XHTML.)

After resolving the issue of what to do with LINK, one stylesheet is then defined to be the primary one, pulled up by default and what people get if they don’t have access to JavaScript. I’ve settled on Fire & Ice as the default stylesheet. All other styles are listed as alternatives, and you can even access these directly if your browser supports listing of alternative stylesheets. Otherwise you can use the JavaScript to switch the styles. Very simple, very uncomplicated JavaScript.

The Javascript to run the styleswitcher comes from A List Apart, which also goes into detail on how to set a primary stylesheet, as well as adding links for alternative stylesheets. You can download the JavaScript from ALA, or here.

Add the JavaScript to the page with the following:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://weblogname.com/styleswitcher.js”></script<

Change the “weblogname.com/styleswitcher.js” to whatever the URL is for the JavaScript file. All that’s needed now is to add the stylesheet entries for people to choose, as mine are listed in the sidebar. The syntax for the links themselves is also listed in the ALA article.

All the elements are in place now for the static stylesheets – the main page components and how to switch between styles. To make the stylesheets dynamic requires a few additional tricks.

Dynamic Stylesheets

In the case of my site, dynamic stylesheets means stylesheets that have been modified by PHP before the stylesheet is returned to the requesting application.

Typically, a stylesheet is defined with a specific extension: css. When served there’s some assumptions associated with this extension about what the server does with the page, and then what the browser does with it. The same with a page with a PHP file extension. In this extension, the web server knows that the PHP needs to be processed before the page is returned.

The two can be combined with a simple little trick–adding the following to the very top of the dynamic stylesheet will return the page to the browser as type text/css:

<?php
// declare the output of the file as CSS
header(’Content-type: text/css’);
?>

Now I can dynamically generate colors for Clashing Colors; or generate new sidebar images for Random Shot.

Or I can test the temperature of the post and adjust everything.

Dynamic stylesheets can have some latency problems. See the end of the post for an effective workaround for this.

Emotive

The last stylesheet I’ll discuss is the Emotive stylesheet style. With this stylesheet, there’s a neutral stylesheet that’s used for the front page, but each individual post has an associated look based on the tone and content of the writing.

This particular technique used the WordPress ability to define a custom field for each post. This custom field has an associated named key/value pair in the database, the values of which can be accessed with a WordPress function, get_post_custom_values, passing in the key, in this case ‘tone’.

Once the value is accessed, it’s then passed to the emotive PHP program, using the following:

<link rel=”alternate stylesheet” media=”screen” title=”emotive” href=”/emotive.php?tone=

Since these keywords are only available within the loop to process a specific post, I had two options for handling the link/php pairing. The first is embed the LINK tag in the body and process it when I process the other individual post’s information; the second is to keep the LINK tag in the head, and move the PHP post processing up.

The first choice works, but not with all browsers, and not especially great, and it doesn’t validate. Since I didn’t want to hear from a series of people about how my page does not validate because I used the LINK tag in the body, I went with the second approach.

The how-tos on moving the loop up is specific to WordPress only, and a better approach would be to just provide a copy of the page, here. The technique can work with other weblog tools, using whatever post-specific value, such as category or other value.

Within the emotive.php itself, the code to manage the different tones is:

?php
// declare the output of the file as CSS
header(’Content-type: text/css’);

$mood=$_GET[’tone’];
if (isset($mood)) {
if ($mood <> “”) {
$file = $mood . “.php”;
include $file;
}
else {
setneutral();
}
}
else {
setneutral();
}

function setneutral() {
global $backgroundcolor, $blockquote, $A, $Avisited, $Ahover, $border, $img1, $image1,$img2, $image2,$img3, $image3,$img4, $image4,$img5, $image5,$img6, $image6,$img7, $image7,$img8, $image8;

$backgroundcolor=”fff”;
$blockquote=”999″;
$A=”666″;
$Avisited=”000066″;
$Ahover=”ccc”;
$border=”000″;
$image1=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img1=”1″;
$image2=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img2=”1″;
$image3=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img3=”1″;
$image4=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img4=”1″;
$image5=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img5=”1″;
$image6=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img6=”1″;
$image7=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img7=”1″;
$image8=”/mm/blank.gif”;
$img8=”1″;
}

?>

Each of the tones is defined in its own file, such as thinking.php or tranquil.php and so on. The file consists of nothing more than definitions for each of the items replaced, similar to those shown in the setneutral function in the code block just shown.

If the stylesheet is called without passing in a tone, the neutral style is what shows – and it’s pretty plain. Otherwise, the associated tone file is included into the code, and its values are used as replacements in the stylesheet. For instance, the following is the CSS definitions for several elements, using dynamic values:

BODY {
background-color: #<?php echo $backgroundcolor; ?> ;
}
blockquote {
color: #<?php echo $A; ?>;
}
div.update {
color: #<?php echo $A; ?>;
}
A {
color: #<?php echo $A; ?>;
}
A:visited {
color: #<?php echo $Avisited; ?>;
}
A:hover {
color: #<?php echo $Ahover; ?>;
}

You might notice from this example that the stylesheet definitions seem a little sparse. The reason for this is that the other, non-dynamic style settings for each element are defined in a second CSS stylesheet, the one known as “Minimal”.

This second stylesheet is also given the same title as the dynamic stylesheet, but it’s placed first in the header. What happens then is when the JavaScript loads the style titled ‘emotive’, both CSS files are loaded, the static one first. Since this is faster than the dynamic, and can cache, the emotive style suffers minimal disruption between pages. The only things that change are the colors and the images – not the layout or the positioning. Minimizing the changes to the latter helps minimize the latency effect with using a dynamic stylesheet that changes with each page.

In fact, using a static stylesheet in conjuction with a dynamic one, and stripping everything that doesn’t change out of the dynamic sheet, helps to control most stylesheet latency–that disruption that can occur when a stylehsheet is being loaded.

Credits

The ice photos for Fire & Ice are from the NOAA Photo Library, the Antarctica collection. There are some amazing pictures in this collection.

The fire photos for Fire & Ice are photos generously donated into the public domain by Jon Sullivan. The cherry and vegetable photos in Lemon Shake-Ups are also Sullivan’s work, and lovely work it is, too. My thanks for their use.

Most of the rest of the photos used in the sheets are mine, except for the Einstein photo in Emotive and Deep Thoughts. I found it and a couple of other computer-generated images used with Deep Thoughts at this site.

The clipart used with Lemon Shake-ups came from About’s Web clipart pages.

The cabinet member photos for the Presidential Cabinet stylesheet (which started as a gag), came from the White House, except for GW Bush on his horse, which came from the George Bush senior Presidential Library. The photo was morphed by placed Jr in front of the Alamo.

The monkey drawings are public domain drawings that can be found by searching on the terms “copyright free illustrations” in Yahoo, and then clicking on the Images tab. You’ll recognize several images used on O’Reilly books in the collections.

Categories
Critters History Writing

Architeuthis Dux


Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep,
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
Above his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;

And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green,
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by men and angels to be seen,

In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

The Kraken — Albert, Lord Tennyson

The Giant Squid

The next time you sink your teeth into some calimari think of this: The giant squid has been measured to a length of 60 feet, and weighs in the neighborhood of between 1 and 2 tons. It has eight arms, each lined with two rows of suckers. The giant squid also has the largest eyes of any known creature, over a foot in diameter.

If the giant squid is like its smaller cousins, it is a predator. To make the giant squid an ideal predator, its suckers are ringed with a hard, jagged edge, resembling teeth, in order to better enable the squid to hold onto its prey. Additionally, two longer tentacles are also used to help move the prey to the large, sharp parrot-like beak.

Needless to say, you will not sink your teeth into this creature without a fight.

The Stuff of Legends

I looked in my turn, and could not repress a gesture of disgust. Before my eyes was a horrible monster worthy to figure in the legends of the marvelous. It was an immense cuttlefish, being eight yards long. It swam crossways in the direction of the Nautilus with great speed, watching us with its enormous staring green eyes.

So says the Naturalist, in the Jules Vern classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 18. Though this book is a work of fiction, the squid encounter that Vern wrote about was based on fact, or at least a story that Vern heard about at the time. The story states that a French naval ship was attacked by a giant squid in 18611.

Since earliest times, there have been legends of sea serpents and large, many-armed creatures attacking boats. One of the fiercest creatures was the legendary beast known as the Kraken.

Now, modern belief is that the kraken was a giant squid and that the size of the creature has grown through numerous re-tellings of ancient stories; from creatures of 50 feet to creatures the size of islands.

A Norwegian Bishop, one Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, wrote in his journals about the Kraken and mentions the size of the creature as being one and one-half miles long 3! More recently, another eyewitness account of the size of the giant squid is given by an A.G. Starkey, who was stationed on a British trawler in World War. Starkey tells of being on deck in the evening when he noticed a light in the water next to the boat. As he tells it, “As I gazed, fascinated, a circle of green light glowed in my area of illumination. This green unwinking orb I suddenly realized was an eye. The surface of the water undulated with some strange disturbance. Gradually I realized that I was gazing at almost point-black range at a huge squid.”

According to the Starkey account, he walked along the boat, measuring the giant quid and realized that it was as long as the boat he was on. It is at this point that accounts may differ. According to a Discovery Channel special on the Giant Squid (telecast July 31, at 8:00 pm in a show titled “X Creatures”), the boat Starkey was on measured 60 feet. According to the account given in the Museum of Unnatural Mystery4, where I pulled the quote, the boat measured 175 feet!

Eyewitness accounts of the size of the giant squid are matched by tales of squid behavior, specifically stories of squids attacking ships.

As said earlier, Jules Verne based his squid fight in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on an eyewitness account of a giant squid attacking a French naval ship1. Another account of a giant squid attacking a ship is given in the logs of the Brunswick, a Norwegian Trawler. In the logs an account is given of a giant squid attacking this large ship three different times, before the squid finally slid into the ship’s propellers and was killed.

A third account tells of nuclear submarine losing the use of its sonar equipment on the ship’s maiden voyage. When the submarine returned to port, the Navy found that the covering on the Sonar had been torn lose and that hooks remained in the material, hooks from a giant squid.

Other accounts tell of giant squid grabbing men from the waters as ships were sunk in World War I and II, and also of the giant squid attacking small fishing boats. Two South African lighthouse workers reported in 1966 about seeing a giant squid wrapped around a baby whale, in a ferocious fight, with the baby whale surfacing and being pulled back under before it finally stopped rising to the surface4

So, are there giant squid lurking off our coasts that reach a size of 150 feet and that pull folks off boats? Well, behind every tale, there is a seed of truth, and now it’s time to take a look at what we do know about the giant squid.

What We Think We Know

Amid rumor and scant eyewitness accounts, we have little knowledge of the giant squid and its behavior. Giant squid have washed up on shore sporadically so we have had a chance to examine dead specimens. We also know that the giant squid forms part of the diet for toothed whales such as the sperm whale. Outside of that, though, we have little knowledge of these of the largest known invertebrate. We have never successfully viewed the giant squid in its natural environment, and we have never had a chance to examine a living specimen. But what we do know makes this an incredibly interesting creature.

First of all, when discussing giant squid, most folks are discussing the squid known as Architeuthis Dux. There are other large species of squid, some of which have been seen in the wild. For instance, the Navy provides an audio account of an encounter between a robotic research submersible and a variety of squid known as Moroteuthis. In the account, the squid was six feet in length5. Compared to its larger cousin, though, Moroteuthis is pretty small: Architeuthis Dux, or the Giant Squid by its popular name, has been measured at close to 60 feet in length.

The first recorded physical record of the giant squid was made by a Reverend Moses Harvey in Newfoundland, based on a dead giant squid that had been caught by local fishermen. Dead giant squid had been washed up on shore before, but this was the first time a person had taken samples of the squid, and made scientific observations of the creature — due to the foresight demonstrated by Rev. Harvey as he sent the creature to Yale University for study6.

Since that time, more creatures have been washed on shore or been pulled up, dead, in fishing nets. However, no live giant squid has been captured, nor has one been seen in its native element. Most of what is known about giant squid has been derived from these specimens and from the remains of giant squid specimens found in the stomachs of whales, primarily sperm whales.

Consider the giant squid: the largest size of the giant squid is between 60-70 feet as determined from pieces of the creatures that have been found7. It should weigh in at close to 1 to 2 tons. In addition to its large size, the giant squid also has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, with each larger than your typical dinner plate!

The giant squid’s territory is in the depths of the ocean, up to 3000 feet below the surface of the ocean, in a world that is as foreign and deadly to us as is the vacuum of space8. It, just like other squid, does not live on the ocean floor, as an octopus does, but lives, instead, between the surface and the bottom, a state easily maintained by its natural buoyancy.

In addition to its size and habitat, the giant squid’s physical makeup also differs from the squid normally consumed by people: instead of sodium chloride in its system, biologists have found ammonium chloride. Snacking on Architeuthis would be similar to sucking on a bottle of your favorite ammonia floor cleaner, without the lemon scent. Nummy.

Other than these small differences, the giant squid is similar to other species of squid. It has a mantle, which is where its internal organs are found. Along the length of the mantle is a funnel, used for expelling waste, water, and for locomotion10 — the squid ejects water through the funnel to push it along the water.

The giant squid has eight arms, each containing several suckers; to make the suckers even more interesting, the edges of the suckers have a jagged set of “teeth”11 to help the squid grasp prey.

The giant squid also has two longer feeding tentacles used to push food into the squid’s mouth, which resembles a parrot’s beak. A large parrot. A large beak. It also can squirt ink to confuse predators, matching its smaller cousins capability 12.

Other than these facts about the squid’s physical makeup, little is known about how the squid acts in its environment, a void that scientists have been trying to fill for the last several years.

In Search of…

There have been numerous attempts to study giant squid in its natural environment. Two expeditions have been sent to Kaikoura Canyon, off of New Zealand, the first in 199713, and the second of which occurred in February and March of 199914. Both of these expeditions were under the leadership of Dr. Clyde Roper from the Smithsonian Museum, probably the world’s leading expert on the giant squid. He is also one of the few people to actually taste a sample of giant squid, and it is from his reaction that I pull my “ammonia without the lemon scent” taste description.

The Kairkoura Canyon is considered a favorable spot for finding the giant squid because several specimens have been found by fishermen in the area, and sperm whales also like to hunt in the area — a good indication as sperm whales feed on giant squid.

While neither expedition was able to capture images of the giant squid, neither trip was considered a failure due to the other information the scientists were able to find, and the observations they were able to make. In addition, during the trip in 1999, Dr. Roper was able to examine a captured, dead giant squid that was in very good shape, something that doesn’t always happen when squid are caught up in fishing nets as the creatures are very fragile.

Using manned submersibles isn’t the only approach to filming giant squids. Another approach used whales, with scientists attaching video cameras to whales before they begin their hunting dives. I have seen these films, and though they haven’t, yet, been successful (the cameras tend to get knocked off by other whales), this approach is an innovative effort17.

Robotic submersibles have also been used to try and capture images of the giant squid, including the MIT Sea Grant Autonomous underwater robot16. Unfortunately, all of these efforts have not succeeded in filming an adult giant squid in its natural habitat.

However, folks like Dr. Roper aren’t giving up in their efforts. Dr. Roper is already talking about an expedition back to Kairkoura in the Spring of 2000.

Unfortunately, the 2000 expedition wasn’t successful.

So What About the Attacks?

One major question that remains about the giant squid is its behavior; specifically, would the giant squid attack boats and people. The more I learn about this creature, the more I wonder whether the giant squid was attacking boats and people as food sources — or perhaps just trying to find a ride home.

The giant squid inhabits that nether region of the ocean that is hundreds to thousands of feet below the surface but not at the bottom of the ocean. Its entire physical makeup is suited specifically to this environment. The main reason that the giant squid has been found dead and washed up on shore is most likely because of clashing ocean streams, cold water meeting warm water.

The giant squid lives in cold water that can get trapped above a layer of warm water. This pushes the poor creature to the surface. The squid’s natural buoyancy makes it difficult for it to sink beneath this warm water, and I imagine the hostile surface area weakens the giant squid to a point of desperation. So, what’s a good way to return to the depths? Why, hitch a ride on one creature it knows dives to the depths: whales. And since boats can look like whales…

Now, attacking a submarine as a food source makes a bit more sense, as these craft are much closer to the giant squid’s preferred environment than a boat on the surface of the water. However, a submarine would strongly resemble a whale, a creature the squid knows it can’t beat, so it’s hard for me to believe that the squid would attack a naval submarine because it considers it “food”.

As for giant squids attacking a whale, a creature the same size as it but weighing many, many times more than the squid — again, this doesn’t make sense unless the squid is desperately hungry. We know, though, that a giant squid defends itself from the feeding whale, which is why there are squid sucker scars found on whales, but the giant squid wouldn’t have a chance against an adult whale. However, it might have a fighting chance against a smaller, juvenile whale, which would explain the sighting of a young whale fighting with the squid, and the squid shown at the surface mentioned by the lighthouse men earlier — the giant squid was still wrapped around the young whale in combat, and the whale dragged the creature to the surface. Going back to my original hypothesis about why a giant squid would grab a boat, the giant squid attached to the young whale is not going to let go when it’s on the surface. Hence, the look of a battle.

Okay, so my guess is just that, a guess, and most likely not an accurate guess at that. But I can’t help thinking its a better interpretation of the boat attacks then the giant squid leaving its perfect little world to venture to the surface, an almost guaranteed act of death for the squid, just to nosh on a tasty new takeout.

The truth of giant squid behavior is out there, waiting for folks like Dr. Roper to find.

Updated for 2004

The majority of giant squid research is moving, more and more, to Australia and New Zealand. In particular, one of the leading researchers now is Dr. Stephen O’Shea at Auckland University of Technology.

In 2002, he managed to grab photos of baby Architeuthis dux, and even keep a few alive for a short period of time for study. (Read a lovely New Yorker magazine article on Dr. O’Shea.)

O’Shea was also the one to tentatively identify the new species of giant squid discovered recently (“giant squid” is really a category of squid, rather than any one species), calling it Colossal Squid, or by its scientific name, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.

The Colossal is an amazing find, and may actually be the squid at the root of so many stories we hear. However, we’ll never know for sure until we can see it, as well as its cousin, Architeuthis, alive, adult, and in their native habitat.

So even now, the search continues…

The Giant Squid is found

Cephalopod enthusiasts were ecstatic when an excellent video of a giant squid was made after great effort.

Photo of Squid, (c) National Resource Center for Cephalopods2

References:

Don’t just read about the Kraken — hear Chris Hall recite the famous Tennyson poem at the BBC Nature web site.

1 The Smithsonian has an article of Dr. Clyde Roper that discusses, among other things, the french battle with a giant squid in 1861.

2 Image from National Resource Center for Cephalopods.

3 The tale of the Norwegian Bishop and the mile wide kracken comes from the Museum of Unnatural Mystery’s Kraken page.

Image of Kraken from Museum of Unnatural Mystery3

4 Read accounts of the giant squid at the Museum of Unnatural Mystery’s Giant Squid page.

5 Sorry, dead link

6 Read about Rev. Harvey’s squid and other interesting information at the excellent Ocean Planet: In Search of Giant Squid from NASA and the Smithsonian.

7 Read the Squid Educational Page at Chalk Hills Educational Resources.

8 Check out the How Deep can they go page at Ocean Planet — very well done!

Early illustration of giant squid, by Professor A.E. Verrill of Yale, from Ocean Planet6.

9 Diagram of Giant Squid at Ocean Planet. For fun, also check out a robotic version of the giant squid at The Tech’s RobotZoo.

10> Again from the RobotZoo, the mechanics of funnel locomotion.

11 Photo of sucker teeth from the Ocean Planet.

12 See a video of a squid using its ink defense at the Ocean Planet.

13 Read about the 1997 Expedition to Kaikoura, at the National Geographic Web site.

14 Read about the 1999 Expedition to Kaikoura at Ocean Planet/Smithsonian.

15 A day in the logs of the second Kaikoura expedition, Setting up for a dive.

16 Discussion of the use of the MIT Sea Grant underwater robot at MIT.

17 Read an article on the use of Whales to film giant squid.

18 Complete text of the translated Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne — from the Jules Vern Collection.

Photo of submersible used to search for giant squid in 1999 expedition, NIWA/NASA15.

Also check out the The Octopus News Magazine Online.

Categories
Photography Places

Shut out

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The weather Saturday was lovely with cooler temperatures, and a lot less humidity. I’d been cooped up all week working on this and that and was in a mood for a long drive. As I hadn’t been to the Johnson Shut-Ins since early Spring, I wanted to see how they looked in the Summer and headed in that direction.

I can see why the Shut-Ins are so popular – they are extraordinary in all seasons. However, it’s in the summer that their true beauty reaches its peak, with the dark green of the trees, and the rust and pale blue of the surrounding rocks, offsetting the turquoise/aqua of the water. There are little pools in and among the rocks you can wade in, or go further downstream if you prefer sandier conditions. Though my camera has been problematical lately, I still managed to grab some fairly decent photos.

Lots of people at the park, but it’s large enough so you never feel crowded. You can swim at the Shut-Ins, but walking around isn’t easy – the rocks are very uneven and slippery.

There’s a boardwalk that surrounds the Shut-Ins and then steps that take you to the rocks themselves. Last time out I managed to walk around the rocks; however, this time I had to refrain because my ankle is still swollen and bruised from the last major fall, and further irritated by some injudicious hiking. Recently, I’ve had to use a hiking stick even on flatter grounds.

But I was wistful, as I stood at the bottom of the steps and looked out at all the people having fun and exploring. I wanted nothing more than to be in cut-offs and swimsuit and to jump into the water and feel the aeration of the falls around me. It must be like swimming in champagne.

A young man, probably in his early 20’s, saw me at the bottom of the steps leaning on my walking stick, looking longingly at the others playing. He started past and then stopped and turned around, and asked if I needed help to get around the rocks. I was both pleased by such generosity and chagrined that he would offer to help. After all, I’m only…

..well, only close to 50, walking with a limp, and in obvious need of my walking stick. Or helping arm.

I did thank him with the warmest smile I could pull up, as I declined his help, telling him that the rocks and my ankle would not be a good mix. I refrained from telling him that what he sees isn’t what I am.

What I feel, what I am, is that young girl sitting on the rocks by herself, looking at the water flowing past, playing with her hair and just dreaming of whatever. As long as no mirrors or helpful young men are about, that’s what I am.

Categories
Technology

Clashing colors

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour’s stour than a year’s peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah! there’s no wine like the blood’s crimson!

Ezra Pound’s Sestina: Altaforte

What a serendipitous time to introduce my latest stylesheet creation: Clashing Colors. It’s been said that our words are all that matter; that the colors and pages we wrap around ourselves are but a gilding of a lily, and why is it that we don’t provide full feeds in RSS files?

What matter our page design?

It’s also been asked: why can’t we all just get along? Yes, why can’t we get along. Is it because we’re both unique and imperfect?

I have found there are six degrees of separation between these statements:

Why can’t we all just get along

…why can’t we complement each other

…why isn’t this environment more complementary than contentious

…so much of our writing to each other is contentious

…contentious or not, all that matters is the writing

…all that matters is the writing

What matters our page design?

Clashing Colors uses PHP to dynamically generate colors for different elements of the stylesheet. It also uses a random photo generator, except unlike Random Shot, the photos are all weather related and in black & white. The bit of code and CSS that controls blockquote is as follows:

blockquote {
<?php
$hx = substr(‘000000’ . dechex(mt_rand(0, 0xffffff)), -6);
echo “color: #” . $hx . “;”;
?>
}

Just use the $hx=substr… statement for each color area.

When I was playing with this page, I was surprised at how many times an attractive color combination appeared. Perhaps we worry too much about making sure everything fits together, and should just let chaos reign.

The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth’s won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.

Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There’s no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle’s rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges ‘gainst “The Leopard’s” rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry “Peace!”

And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for alway the thought “Peace”!

Then again, maybe not.

update

To save a specific set of colors, do a screenshot of the page and then use a color ‘eyedropper’ application to pick out the individual colors. Adobe Photoshop has this functionality, as does several other graphics tools. Or you can download a shareware application that works quite nicely.

Just don’t update the page until you grab that copy.

Categories
Environment outdoors Photography

Verboten

Tuesday’s temperatures were in the 90’s with high humidity so perhaps choosing the Shaw Nature Reserve for my late afternoon walk wasn’t the best of ideas. It did have the advantage, though, of being relatively deserted. Of course it was: sane people don’t walk in swamps during a heat wave.

I hadn’t been out to Shaw since all the rains and was amazed at how lush and green everything was. The field grasses were up to my chest, and the flowers were so thick that in some places, the aroma made my head buzz.

Wait a sec…that’s not what caused the buzzing. Bugs. Lots of bugs out Tuesay. I was met as soon as I left the car and escorted about by varieties of wasp, fly, mosquito, or other flying creatures tempted by my lucious self. The black flies wanted to feed on me, and the sand wasps on the flies and I was, in effect, a self-contained mobile ecosystem.

The insect life was manageable until I decided to walk through the forest; as soon as I started walking next to the stream, I attracted more and more insects until I was walking in the middle of a swarm of buzzing, biting, stinging creatures. This combined with the humidity and relentless green felt like a wall pushing against me, subtle clues that I wasn’t welcome in the forest today. Thank you, come again another day.

I continued on, stubbornly at this point because I wanted photos of the approaching storm from the prarie on the other side of the woods. However, when I walked into what seemed like a swarm of black flies, combined with a spider web across the path, it became too much. I turned around and started back. They followed and I gave an odd sort of scream and just started running– swatting about me as much as I could to keep the creatures off. I was glad no one else was around because I must have looked like a lunatic.

The moment I left the forest and entered the wild garden area, most of the creatures aburptly left me. I knew the reason for the sudden cessation of pursuit was that the insects preferred to stay near the water and out from the open–there were a lot of birds about, too. Still, I felt pushed out of the woods by hands made of flying insects, which is a bit creepy if you think on it.

It’s hard to imagine that at one time much of the area where I walked was clear cut. Back in the 1800’s much of the forested area in the Ozarks was clear cut for homes and manufacturing. Thanks to rich soil and plentiful water and sunshine, the forests are again thick with growth and lumber companies are now looking at southern forests for clear cutting, pointing to previously clear-cut lands to show that the land recovers. From the Chrisian Science Monitor story:

Looking down a clear-cut Ozark ridge, a forester argued vigorously that clear-cutting is the best way to maintain long-term forest health. “Sure it’s unsightly. It’s like a new baby being born. It’s beautiful over time, but it’s ugly to start with.”

This talk of ‘clear cutting’ being good for the environment reminds me of the recent controversy about the salmon runs in the Northwest. The current administration wants to count hatchery based salmon with the wild to determine whether a species should be listed as endangered or not — a move that not one scientist would back or validate, no matter how many were asked to comment.

We’re being told that most species would still be listed as endangered even with this new count, and that this approach is a viable method for stream management. But what we’re finding is that rather than help species recover, the hatchery fish are leading to a decline–the genetically inferior bred fish compete with the more robust wild salmon for the same resources. But that’s science. We don’t need science anymore; all we need is a great deal of assurance when we speak.

You know how it is: we don’t want to stop runoff into streams from construction or restrict agricultural pollution around streams and rivers forever–easier to just capture a bunch of fish and breed ’em.

Just like we can re-plant forests here in Missouri. Only problem is, long-term research has shown that there has been a decline of genetic diversity with the trees in our forests. Just like poodles and politicians, trees can become too inbred and the species weaken. The forests look thick and rich, and the bugs are certainly happy with their home — but whatever the true nature of the Ozarks was before we came along is gone forever. The best we can hope for now is not to continue our ‘short cuts to conservation’.

You should lie down now and remember the forest,
for it is disappearing–
no, the truth is it is gone now
and so what details you can bring back
might have a kind of life.

Not the one you had hoped for, but a life
–you should lie down now and remember the forest–
nonetheless, you might call it “in the forest,”
no the truth is, it is gone now,
starting somewhere near the beginning, that edge,

Or instead the first layer, the place you remember
(not the one you had hoped for, but a life)
as if it were firm, underfoot, for that place is a sea,
nonetheless, you might call it “in the forest,”
which we can never drift above, we were there or we were not,

No surface, skimming. And blank in life, too,
or instead the first layer, the place you remember,
as layers fold in time, black humus there,
as if it were firm, underfoot, for that place is a sea,
like a light left hand descending, always on the same keys.

The flecked birds of the forest sing behind and before
no surface, skimming. And blank in life, too,
sing without a music where there cannot be an order,
as layers fold in time, black humus there,
where wide swatches of light slice between gray trunks,

Where the air has a texture of drying moss,
the flecked birds of the forest sing behind and before:
a musk from the mushrooms and scalloped molds.
They sing without a music where there cannot be an order,
though high in the dry leaves something does fall,

Nothing comes down to us here.
Where the air has a texture of drying moss,
(in that place where I was raised) the forest was tangled,
a musk from the mushrooms and scalloped molds,
tangled with brambles, soft-starred and moving, ferns

And the marred twines of cinquefoil, false strawberry, sumac–
nothing comes down to us here,
stained. A low branch swinging above a brook
in that place where I was raised, the forest was tangled,
and a cave just the width of shoulder blades.

You can understand what I am doing when I think of the entry–
and the marred twines of cinquefoil, false strawberry, sumac–
as a kind of limit. Sometimes I imagine us walking there
(. . .pokeberry, stained. A low branch swinging above a brook)
in a place that is something like a forest.

But perhaps the other kind, where the ground is covered
(you can understand what I am doing when I think of the entry)
by pliant green needles, there below the piney fronds,
a kind of limit. Sometimes I imagine us walking there.
And quickening below lie the sharp brown blades,

The disfiguring blackness, then the bulbed phosphorescence of the roots.
But perhaps the other kind, where the ground is covered,
so strangely alike and yet singular, too, below
the pliant green needles, the piney fronds.
Once we were lost in the forest, so strangely alike and yet singular, too,
but the truth is, it is, lost to us now.

The Forest by Susan Stewart

Speaking of leaving nature alone, Jak’s View from Vancouver writes about the re-introduction of wolves back into Yellowstone. In a decade this native species has already made a major impact in recovering the natural balance in the park and surrounding area.

Beyond being a vital species to the ecosystem, it’s wonderful to think of wolves roaming freely in the park again. They bring the heart back into the lands.

I never did get to my prairie to take photos of the approaching storm, but I did manage to get some from the wildflower area; including the cactus plants, which just absolutely thrive here — bees like them.

But my digital camera, tired out from being rained on and dropped from the seat of my car when I hit the brakes, slammed against a wall during a wind, or yanked out into humid green days like Tuesday is becoming querulous when I ask it to focus; taking photos is more like coaxing an ancient relative out of a comfortable seat by the fire, than point, frame, and shoot.

We’re both getting older, which means it needs to stay home more, and I need to stay home less.