Photography Places Plants


The roses at the Missouri Botanical Garden are in full bloom, and unlike last year, I haven’t missed the early show. I spent yesterday afternoon taking photos and just walking about, enjoying the brilliant color and delicate scent.

As I was walking past the Lilypad pond on the way to the experimental rose garden, two mallard ducks swam towards me, the female hopping up on a circulation pipe, the male on the pond wall. I don’t normally pay much attention to mallards, since they’re so common. Yesterday, though, I notice how colorful the bird seemed in the bright afternoon sun.

The male has such a brilliant emerald green head, and that azure band on its wings stands out sharply against the subtle browns, blacks, and whites. The female isn’t as colorful, but does share the blue band, and the warm, dark eyes.

I started taking photos of the birds, getting close enough to pick out the intricate detail of their feathers. When was the last time I had looked closely at a mallard duck’s feathers? To notice the lacy patterns and subtle coloring, made richer by the bright, swatches of color?

Last night, as I was going through the pictures, I thought about a friend of mine who would have passed the ducks, as if they weren’t there. Chances are, though, he would also ignore the roses, the trees, the squirrels and most other things around him. He is a man who is so tightly focused on his immediate environment–his family, work, and his communication with others through the internet–that I’m not sure when the last time was he saw a rose, or really looked at a mallard.

As I uploaded the mallard photos to Flickr, I wondered if I had captured the beauty and the grace of the birds well enough to attract appreciation for their uniqueness; or would they only rate a glance and dismissal as just ducks–probably garnering more attention if they were dressed of their feathers and cooked in a delicate apricot-brandy sauce.

There are so many beautiful photos uploaded to Flickr, it’s a wonder that any photo stands out. A picture of a rose that might have drawn exclamations of delight a few years back becomes just one of many in a continuous stream of images. I’ve found that among my photos those that grab attention tend to be ones where the images are small and odd enough to not be easily identifiable. I don’t have any photos of naked people to test the hypothesis that these generate the most attention.

Speaking of which, since my ducks were preening their chest feathers, I was tempted to label the images with the tag ‘breasts’. I still might.

I’ve spent too much time on the computer today. Sometimes when I’m tired and have been staring at my computer monitor for a long time, spending hours looking at dark print on white, I’ll look up and everything in the room seems sharper, more colorful, and richer. The effect lasts only a moment, and I hold my eyes open as long as I can–until they tear. Yet I can stare at my room or out my window for hours and it will never sharpen or enhance what’s on the screen.

Not even my ducks. I showed these photos to my roommate and he said, “Uh huh. Nice. Ducks” Ducks becomes both a verb and a noun, not to mention a warning: this way there be ducks.

“What did you write about?”

“I wrote about ducks.”

“Uh huh. Nice. Ducks.”

Now when I wrote on the commonplace, the ordinary, and the benign, I’ll ‘tag’ it ducks. Who says I don’t understand how tagging works.


Scorching in the IT Kitchen

If you cast your mind waaay back, you’ll remember the IT Kitchen group effort we had at the end of last year. It was an interesting experiment–open up a weblog and a wiki to edit access by any person who came in off the street, and see what happens.

Well, like all new things it had its up and downs, not the least of them was my own fussing and hovering. But the real killer came after the Kitchen had been quiet for some time.

The Wiki was hit — hard– to the point where I didn’t even know how to recover it. The weblog, which had been relatively untouched for the longest period of time was also hit badly: in comments, trackback, and people coming in through the open doorway I provided. It got to the point that the only access to IT Kitchen was from spammers.

I ended up making a backup of the database and then closing the account. I wasn’t sure about putting it back up again, but I figured I would after a couple of months passed and the spammers hopefully had lost the address. Not the wiki — I won’t do a public wiki ever again. But a closed version of the weblog, in Wordform, so people’s links wouldn’t break.

Unfortunately, the CD I had burned of the backup ended up corrupted, and I couldn’t restore the database. The hosting company is great about backups, but not to an account that’s closed. Even then, if I had checked with them a few weeks back, they probably would have still had the backup.

There’s not much I can do to restore the entries at Kitchen, but luckily, some are still accessible through The Wayback Machine. I had hoped I would be able to also recover from Bloglines, but it looks like this service only goes back to January (or most recent 100 entries, whichever comes first).

If you do have an entry at the site you want to recover, now is the time to do it. And if anyone happens to have an aggregation of all the original entries, I sure would love a copy because I could re-build the weblog from this.

Lesson Two learned: One backup is not enough.

Lesson One learned: wikis updated by the general public only work if there’s enough people interested in helping to maintain it to offset the spammers, trolls, and script kiddies. In other words, the only viable public wiki is Wikipedia.