Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Slavery

I was thinking about the Illiad, I am still not sure why it seems so strange that a war would be fought over a woman, or at least as a pretext.

Anyway the archeology supports the idea of slavery in Mycenea through the linear B tablets, which makes sense. Even the idea that Troy 6 in addition to gaining income from Horses and Wool, such as is mentioned by Homer, additionally was an important slave trading centre.

There are of course comparisons to modern slavery such as what still happens in parts such as the mid east and North Africa, and of course the American slave trade. Obviously there are different extremes of slavery, such as what happened in the Americas and what I saw recently in China. And the Greek and generally ancient view of slavery seems to have been more moderate in some ways.

Looking back though with a historical eye, people say things like "How could people do that?". Which seems like a fair question. Fundamentally though I think it is ignorant and hypocritical. At various times through history, it has been accepted as the norm. So people of the time generally saw nothing wrong with it, with a few exceptions such as Wilberforce and others.

So to Mycenae, the records indicate things like 500 women from Asia, how much they ate, and all sorts of accounting details such as children they had etc. There are lots of such records right through to modern times.

What really has me wondering though, is if someone in some hypothetical future were to look through a companies accounting records....what would they think? Would they think we are a slave owning society? Would they say "how could people in 2010 do that?".

So by now your thinking I am nuts, extrapolating from say 1300 BC to modern times. But how many people are really free? How many people are really free not to go to work tomorrow?? Do you really have a choice? Their history is kept not on clay tablets or ledgers anymore, but in computer records - think HR department. (Actually think about what HR really means...Human Resources....a human commodity). How many children you have...are you healthy...are you a good worker...

It is actually worse, since we are also slave owners, but rather than having a slave in our house, we purchase cheap goods made by a slave somewhere else. Is it extreme to say this? I dont think so, how free do you think the people that make your cheap stuff in China for 26$ a month are? The kids that make your shoes in Pakistan?

It just seems to me that we are still a slavery based society, although we a regulated and indirect in it. If your slave gets sick, you can't let them die anymore, instead you send them to the company approved doctor who will then give them an MC - if you deserve it, or the doctor feels sorry for you.

Just saying......

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vulturine Guineafowl

Another quick one, well as quick as I seem to be able to do watercolours. The Vulturine Guineafowl of Africa. In this case coming through the grass.

Political Satire

Here is the typical way politicians react to "issues". These guys used to be on tv once a week in Australia, usually pretending to be a politician being interviewed.

In this case over a tanker accident in 91.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oil Economics

Now I don't think my economics is that brilliant, but the stuff coming out of America is in the funny if it wasn't serious category. I mean suddenly all for regulation - even Sarah Palin, who BTW I agree is definite MILF material, but not sure about much beyond that. I must say the glasses and tight t-shirts do work for me though. That sexy librarian look...

But it gets even wackier...I like the sieze BP stuff. Err unless my history is wrong, isn't siezing public companies what the communists did? Not to mention that it is not even a US company, and that it is owned by - get this - shareholders around the world. You know people like your parents, your nieghbours - hmmm probably yourself. I mean what do you think happens to the money in that superannuation/ (401K) retirement accounts?

The boycot stuff is just as amusing, oil is used for far more than "putting gas in the tank", you know like nearly every plastic, your nylon socks for example. I mean if you can get rid of all of that, sure go for it. Don't forget to take the paint off your house also. Even your kids paints also.

Then there are all the wacky theories, ignoring the fact that you just have an oil company doing what oil companies do. That is get away with as much as possible. Why? Because they are answerable to the shareholders, not the white house. And shareholders want profits right?

The Bankcruptcy idea, seems logical in theory...if BP has to pay x amount they will be broke. The trouble is, in the real world who really thinks they are going to pay? Case in point Exxon, also didn't they just settle something on Bopal the other day? almost 30 yrs later...This is just typical stuff in the corporate handbook, make it look like your doing stuff, then get the Lawyers in. In truth alot of the people suing BP today will be dead before they get anything beyond the 5k handout. In that way BP was lucky they screwed up in the US, one of the worlds weirdest legal systems...Not to mention they were working with Halliburton and Transocean, so even deciding who is responsible will take 5 or 10 years.

Not that it is really an issue, but legally it is a cool move. Since nothing can be done until you even figure out who is liable.

They also have government on their side, beyond the kick ass stuff "did i sound angry for the cameras?", the oil industry generates about 12 trillion in revenue for the US treasury, so no they are not going to want to mess that up. If they crucify BP then other companies will stop doing the drill baby drill thing there also. After all they don't have to drill in the US. At best they add sensible regulation, which increases pump prices and basically drop the soap in shower block A on the pseudo US recovery.

Really the Lawyers must be thinking all their dreams have come true here. Even all those southern legal dudes that were quick to get their billboards up...on a no win no fee basis, how many of them are going to stick out 10+ years of legal hacking for no fee??? They are better of concentrating on the chick that slipped on a french fry...

And it gets a bit nuttier, since the US has some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the world - alongside the radical communist states... Which means that of course things can be done cleaner and safer....but do people really want to pay more for it?

And lastly turning up at your local BP and slagging them off, or boycotting them...how connected to BP do you really think they are? Do you really think the other oil companies are so much better?

So yeah I really do feel sorry for the people along the gulf, they are just going to get charmed, screwed, then dumped. Worse they will get DP'ed by the oil industry and the government. Everyone going around..."but they said they would call..." There is simply too much money involved to let a few fishermen and Pelicans get in the way. Even Disneyworld in Florida is expendable on the scale of the oil industry.

This is one of those things were the average person is just too small. It is in nobody elses interest to actually do anything. The white house just wants it to fade out of the living rooms, the oil company couldnt really care less other than shutting people up and stalling, and the lawyers and brokers will happily go along for the ride.

Of course I could be completely wrong, and sensible regulation is introduced, oil continues to flow - cleanly, everyone is compensated fairly, and the oceans and coasts are cleaned up...and they all lived happily ever after....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eutrophication

So I am having breakfast and have been thinking more about eutrophication. The gulf is bothering me on lots of counts, one is that it was in trouble before this mess. Eutrophication is roughly were there is an increase in nutrients in an ecosystem. Which generally turns out to be bad.

Bad in the sense that it kills things, and it is generally hard to resolve. We tend to think of ecosystems being balanced in terms of plants and animals, but everything has to be balanced - meaning chemistry also. All biological systems operate with just the right amount of this and that in the system.

Fresh water is a bit easier to understand, so we can begin there. Wastes create ammonia, nitrites and then nitrates. The microbial populations are there already to convert one to the other. Nitrates are the less harmful and can then be used by plants. This is the nitrogen cycle, and why you need to let fish tanks operate a week or two prior to putting fish in.

Now if you suddenly start adding extra stuff here and there, then there is always a lag as the microbial populations catch up. And that is what happens in places like the gulf on a massive scale each summer.
There are lots of cycles happening like this, and seawater is much more complex in terms of chemistry, there are carbonate cycles for example which many marine animals depend on for making their skeleton or home. Corals absorb carbonates and release carbonates, and of course that is influenced by other factors of equilibrium. To go further, as the ph changes equilibriums change, eg. ammonia <> ammonium and so on.

The point is that they are very complex systems. Nature can compensate very well in most cases, but there are limits. So fundamentally I am starting to wonder what the limits are.

In case of the gulf it was already suffering massive dead zones each year from nutrient rich runoff. Think algae bloom then you get into problems of low light at depth, remember much benthic marine life depends on that light. And to make it worse at night the algae like all plants absorb oxygen. Then at the end of summer it all dies, decomposes and uses more oxygen from the water column.

So that is how you end up with hypoxic conditions, or in real terms a dead zone each year in the gulf the size of New Jersey.

Anyway I have heard reports about how oil decomposing bacteria will breakdown the oil - and use up oxygen. Which makes sense but here is where the experiment begins.

I cant remember the exact numbers, but the surface oil is over a huge area blocking out light in the middle of summer over a highly eutrophic zone. To make it worse, dissolved oxygen falls with increasing temperature.So straight off you will have algae population collapse - which really shouldn't have been there in the first place... Then the zooplankton go next - including this years spawning marine life, and on up the chain everything starts dying.

And we havent even got into straight out toxicity from the oil itself and worse the dispersant used. So eventually you get to a point where everything is dead - the death creating more hypoxic and eutrophic conditions and on and on.

So I am wondering ok, how does that runaway scenario stop? As far as I can tell not easily. If it was a river or open ocean, then there is more outflow, eg. Denmark or the Japan Sea as better examples of bad cases. In the case of the gulf the currents are actually weird. It takes a long time to flush out through the Florida Strait. The loop current means stuff can circulate there for years. (There must also be a fundamental limit to even what the open oceans can take also, but the larger scales help).

I suppose it is academic wondering, but it has got me thinking purely in terms of "how much can it take?"
I also should say I am not in the serious hippy category, but I am smart enough to know that the planet is a small place, and resources are finite. If the 500 000 tons of seafood (or whatever the number is) is no longer reaching peoples tables, then it means that they will find the food somewhere else. So it is a serious global problem. "Ok no shrimp...we will take the chicken wings..."

Reading the news - more oil

Ok so it is early morning and I woke early, and am bumming around at 5am waiting on food to cook. So I do the usual and read the news.

So honestly I really don't get most of it. I have always had a suspicion I have mild autism. In the category of thought...is it me or them??

So back to the minor little miniscule oil leak in the Gulf...I read an article "questions asked", well I did't really see the questions, let alone the sensible questions. You know the sort that are like - If you think you are going to get 28000 bpd next week when you get more ships, and you are getting 15000 per day now - doesnt that mean by your own calculations at minimum 13000 barrels are still leaking per day?

This is just bizzare. Apparently they have had no idea, but I find it hard to imagine oil companies going around drilling holes with no idea how much they are going to get out. Let alone the obvious fact that the thing was in place - before it screwed up - so someone must have a real idea.

Incidentally I was asked for my own opinion on the matter, I took the safe bet at around 50k bpd. I wouldn't be suprised if it is even higher though.

Of course we also have the corruption of science on a major scale now. NOAA finally come out with ...err yeah there seems to be something there...this was after outright denial for weeks, even after other expeditions had independently reported the plumes.

Still we were all left with the brilliance of "oil floats on water...".

Anyway I am really thinking it must just be me. Let alone getting into other world news.

Social Structure in Superb Fairy-wrens

 Here is a sample chapter from a book I am working on about the Superb Fairy-wren, comments and criticisms are always welcome.

This is the Superb Fairy-wren of Southeastern Australia...



Social Structure
Superb Fairy-wrens have attracted much attention among researchers in recent years due to the intricate social systems they have in place. It is actually hard to separate out breeding behaviours from general social behaviour, as in the Superb Fairy-wren the whole social dynamic is governed by breeding structures.

Superb Fairy-wrens are territorial, and resident throughout the year with a group of from 2 to 7 occupying an area from 0.8 to 2.5 hectares, depending on its suitability. A more habitat rich environment obviously needing less land area, although as always there are exceptions and much depends on the unique environmental factors of the location.

During the breeding season a socially monogamous pair will assume control of the territory, reserving up to half of that area for themselves. The dominant pair can be recognised by such actions as counter-singing, close association and territorial defence. This territory will also contain up to approximately four sub-dominant males who assist the pair in raising young. This is in addition to any fledglings during the breeding season.

Juvenile females are forced to leave the territory to an adjacent one, the dominant female reacts aggressively to sub-dominant females forcing them out of the territory as young females mature, leaving them to find a new breeding territory. In fact as is so far known a female will never breed on the territory on which she is born, even if the dominant female dies.

The social structures of the Superb Fairy-wren while fairly well understood are extremely complex and often leave more questions than answers. The dominant pair will tolerate subordinate males on the territory and these subdominant males will essentially wait in line to become the next dominant male in the following season. This queuing for dominance seems to be based on age. During this period they will assist in the raising of the dominant pairs young.

A male can rise to dominance if the dominant male dies, in which case the senior of the sub-dominant males will become the dominant male, essentially the next in line in the hierarchy of males. A sub-dominant male can disperse to a neighbouring territory or found a new one. Or as is often the case towards the end of the breeding season females expelled from other territories will join the group for the winter and pair with a sub-dominant male in the group, essentially splitting the group in two with the next breeding season. This process of splitting the territory is termed fission.

Most males whether they have achieved dominance or not, will also die on their territory, if they do move to a new territory it will be in the majority of cases to a neighbouring territory. Females will on the whole range further from the original natal territory – the one in which they were born. Although in general males and females will not range to far from the territory in which they were born.

It is important to realise with the Superb Fairy-wren, not just the importance of the natal territory, but the interrelationships between territories. It could almost be pictured like a chess board with females moving between territories and sometimes forming new ones through fission as mentioned. This aspect is important in regards to conservation and preservation measures which may be undertaken.

This interrelationship of territories and transfers between them results in a high rate of promiscuity, the male often raising young that are not his, assisted by his own “sons” that at least in a high percentage of cases are not his either.

On the converse side the males in adjacent territories will be raising his genetic young. In fact with this flux between territories combined with a queue based social structure. That is with males essentially waiting in line to become the next dominant male, incestuous relationships are not unheard of.



Sub-dominant male feeding on leaf litter. Note the black bill. Ourimbah NSW.



The pressure on males in particular to achieve dominance, and for females to gain a territory, will mean if given the opportunity, a sub-dominant male that has left his natal territory may return to his birth territory if the chance arises to become the dominant male there. In which case, he may mate with his mother, who is still the original dominant female of that territory.

Although these cases are minimal, they are not unheard of, however the general promiscuity combined with the high turnover and gene flow between territories seems to make this approach one of minimal risk, compared to the benefits of a male gaining dominance or a female losing a territory.

The females for their part will mate not only with the dominant male, but with dominant or sub-dominant males from their own or adjacent territories. Indeed there seems to be a short period every morning during which mating seems to occur. The dominant males suffering from the classic male problem of being unable to mate with the females of adjacent territories, and at the same time guard his own female from suitors.

On other occasions sometimes territories will be fused, for example if a dominant male or female in adjacent territories lose a mate. In some cases females will “divorce” a mate, but will very rarely move more than a few territories away. Rarely a dominant male can be evicted from his territory.

Sub-adult males will assist in defending the territory; this actually makes perfect sense, since an intruding male is effectively queue jumping. With most sub-dominant males eventually taking over the natal territory – or at least aspiring to this, they have as much to lose as the dominant male in terms of maintaining the territory.

Group size within a territory seems to be influenced by a number of factors. A more fertile territory allows for a greater number of young to be raised, and a larger resident population to be maintained. Although in the Superb Fairy-wren habitat saturation seems to play a large part in determining a territories population size.

For a sub-dominant male, if there are no suitable nearby habitats to which he can move and become dominant, then it makes sense for the bird to stay in the current territory and effectively wait his turn to become the dominant male. If however there are either suitable nearby habitats in which he can form a new territory with a female, or he has the opportunity to gain dominance in an adjacent territory then he will leave his natal territory.

So there are many factors at work in determining the population size of a territory. In short though it seems that population sizes of a territory tend to be larger when suitable habitat nearby is unavailable for colonisation.

The interesting aspect, is that the territoriality and social hierarchy is combined with explicit promiscuity. Over half of the females young are sired from males outside of the female’s social group. That is the young are fathered by males from adjacent territories, with approximately 25% of young being fathered by sub-dominant males. Some of these issues are what attracts researchers to these little birds, since the questions are applicable across broad areas of biology.

How urbanisation reduces biodiversity

Our environment has certainly improved in recent decades, at least in terms of environmental awareness. And while I think this is great, it is sometimes easier to think things are better than they are.

A good example of this is in the Sydney region of Australia, where visitors are often amazed at the sheer quantity of birds in peoples back gardens. The Noisy Miner is a great example of this.

Noisy Miners are are actually a type of honeyeater. Even though they are native the issue is complex. Like most honeyeaters they are very territorial, essentially trying to keep a monopoly on their patch of nectar.

The problem is that they prefer open woodland, which just happens to coincide with typical park management. That is lots of tall trees with virtually no undergrowth. So in a sense their ideal habitat has expanded. Also unlike a lot of honeyeaters they can eat a variety of foods. So they have become more prolific. That means larger "gangs" in ideal surrounds.

The problem isnt really the Noisy Miners, but the way we manage the lands. Especially in light of fire concerns, and in inner suburbs, personal safety concerns. So what would typically be a very mixed habitat, with heath and grasses on the ground, then shrubs and mid sized trees like banksias followed by a typical overstory of large trees has been replaced by effectively lawn and tall trees, normally eucalypt types.

So the typical avian biodiversity of the southeast of Australia has been replaced, with noisy miners, currawongs and similar, sulphur crested cockatoos and corellas. Rainbow lorikeets proliferate on backyard feeding and the planting of ornamental flowering trees. They are all large birds that can easily fend for themselves and fit into our man made habits almost perfectly. Some species such as crested pigeons have increased their range purely due to that effect. Others have simply increased their populations.

So a visitor to Sydney might be amazed at all the parrots and similar abundance of birds, in reality though the biodiversity is slowly being lost. Rather then wrens and australian robins, pardolotes, butcherbirds and all of those things, 200 different species are being replaced by 20 species that suit our own man made habit requirements.

As said the issue is very complex, since we are talking about native birds here it can get emotional. There have been proposals for culling come up at various times, though i dont think anything has come of that. And even if it was done, it would not be solving the real issue anyway.

It also has to be remembered that especially up until recently dead wood etc was removed as part of management strategies. Also in logged forests, nesting sites are virtually non existant so competition for nesting sites is extremely competitive. Another factor is Australia doesnt have birds such as woodpeckers which will make new hollows, much of the work being done by fire and insects like termites.

This is partcularly an issue in National Parks and wilderness areas. Obviously fire control is important, the problem is we don't always understand the complexities of in this case the Australian bushlands. Too little burning is just as bad as too much burning.

These simple factors contribute to a very real loss of biodiversity even in areas which we think are doing well.

Art Book Review: Botanical illustration Course

This is one of those books that I keep coming back too. Not because it is easy and fun, but because it is hard. When you look through it, well it always seems easy. However trying it out is another story.

The book is really for those seriously into Botanical Illustration, if your idea is just painting blue flowers, then it is probably the wrong thing. If your wanting to get into scientific illustration, then it is probably one of the best places to start. If only to see the standards required.

The emphasis is on watercolour, but really anyone who is patient and works through it will benefit.

Definitely worth getting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Engineering some commonsense

These days we keep hearing the phrase..."if they could put men on the moon..." Well yeah they could, now we wouldn't have a hope in hell. The guys that did that are dead or in half way houses waiting to checkout. These days the standards are just not even close to there...To use the quote from Pulp Fiction..."it aint even the same fucken sport".

Since I have some time to kill, I have been looking at proposed solutions and of course BP's brilliant capping solution. Have we really become that stupid? Really this is in commonsense territory...you know that old thing people used to talk about.

So before we continue, we can get the pissing competition out of the way. Yeah I studied bio then engineering and physics at JCU, more engineering at Monash, and finished up with mathematics and some other stuff in London. But so what, in real terms that means shit. I learnt more useful stuff with my father I think.

And one of those things is not to try and block a hose while there is stuff coming through it. Hey but we are talking an oil head at the bottom of the ocean, so it's different....No it's not. The scales have changed and that is about all.

Surely people have seen the problem of trying to connect the garden hose while the tap is running and the other end is turned off? I guess not.

So how to fix it? Well I could think of probably 10 while having my breakfast... You know using real old school engineering with some real mathematics thrown in.... So you simply attach a collar - wait the amazing genius bit - that is open. Then when the collar is attached you shut it down, because you actually thought ahead and have a valve on top right? Yeah easy.

Hey but it can't be that easy...yeah it can if your not mildly retarded.

Ok so how to attach the collar smart arse? err ok two really quick ways, no make that three...

1) Make a compression fitting, just like your garden hose fitting, remember it is open so you can slide it over ...first. Then tighten it. Hell if the tightening is a problem for the robots, you can make it self tightening in probably half a dozen different ways. This way has some benefits in that the force is evenly distributed, so you would get a better seal. Hell make the gasket with lead or something soft.

The trouble is the idiots cut the pipe too short...which is like seriously dumb, since there is less to work with. The other issue of course is since the guts have been ripped out of western manufacturing, finding a decent lathe would be a hassle. Otherwise it would have been a two day job for the guys that used to build real stuff. Think Locomotive workshops.

But the forces are incredible....yeah so incredible that first year engineering no longer applies. Ok to make this really complicated, pick a pressure and to keep it old school we can use inches....say 10k psi is coming out. The pipe is say 2' diameter roughly 144xpi ~ 450 in2 which gives a force of 10k x 450 across it...ooh ...4.5 M (forget old school unit here and too lazy to check...). Anyway the circumference of the pipe is 24xpi giving ~75in. So saying the collar is 1" high then you need a force of 60k per in of collar. Make the collar 6 inches and suddenly it drops to 10k per inch of circumference. Gee we are back to normal surface force territories... Funny how that worked out huh? We can lower that even further by using our brains, after all everyone remembers bolts work on friction right? Not clamping...Remember the Normal force thingy they talked about.

So in other words it is perfectly possible.

2) You could make a split collar to go on that would lock across the flange.

3) You could drill 4 opposite holes through the outlet and secure it that way.

4) You could just use 4 bolts even, like a washing machine coupling...although the forces there would probably be too much.

Just by way of comparison, jet engines used to be held on with 3 bolts...

The point is there are lots of engineering solutions that have been used for centuries on much bigger things...and worked. There really is nothing tricky here at all.

Commonsense...

So really since when has shoving things in the hose ever really worked??

And being deep down in this case makes absolutely no difference, and no I am not going into hydrostatics.

On the biology, seriously nuts. It reminds me of the dude in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" who was trying to regrow his leg by sticking in a plant pot. We are at about the same level here.

Obviously from my blog you can see how much I love wildlife, but I also like to think I am practical and realistic.But seriously spraying stuff which is banned in most countries and has as one of it's core ingredients as Arsenic among other things...well how dumb do you have to be to see that is a bad idea?

But from an ecological perspective it wasn't like screwing things higher up was good enough, oh no it had to be used right deep in the guts of the ecosystem.

To explain, consider the case with no dispersant. Yes birds and coastal areas in particular would be very badly hit. But in many ways the oil would be easier to clean up, and it would be confined to certain parts of the ecosystem.

On the other hand, you use these dispersants, and things look pretty-ish. But you have now messed up the microbial ecology, wiped out the plankton, wiped out the fish and marine life...and the birds are still screwed. Hey but if you can't see it guess it's not there right.

When I see the stuff that people come up with today, I am amazed that as a species we ever got passed swinging in the trees.

Even "So long and thanks for all the fish.." No longer makes sense. You know Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy... There won't be any fish and well forget about the Dolphins.

The Monty Python Oil Spill

Actually oil spill is hardly even close to the right term, but it is definitely like something out of Monty Python. Just to recap, three companies drill a hole in the seafloor a mile down, they all skimp at every possible opportunity, the thing blows up and oil starts gushing out...

Act 2. Scene 1
Enter the top hat type of idea...ok lets stick something on top and see what happens.... it is only 5000-ish barrels per day. Hey it is clogging up, whoever thought it was so cold down there. Aww shit that doesnt work.

Act 2 Scene 2
It's ok we can dump Corexit on it, that makes it magically fade away... Arsenic is the main ingredient? Well lets not get into details, anyway look on the bright side, we wont have a rat problem in the Southeastern USA for decades to come. What about the plankton, ecology etc. ? Yeah those protestors really suck right, it is hard to even buy them off, and shit man we sponsored that furry thing at the zoo. No I mean the ecology of the gulf... yeah right I got you there, yeah ecology, nice word this huh? Let me get back to you on that one...

Act 2 Scene 3
[Cut to the Whitehouse...]
[Oops cut to the golf course..]
President playing golf.

Act 2 Scene 4
[The press conference]
Oil? What oil? I dont see any oil...Ahhh that oil, well what you have to understand is that there is a shit load of oil in the gulf anyway, and we have just a little leak, so it's barely noticable. It's all perfectly natural, see our private Coast Guard agrees totally with us. Look just to make everyone happy we will throw out some booms.

Act 3.

Operation Top Kill... The idea is to shove a bunch of crap down the hole and bung it up. The technical and scientific term for this is defined as "pissing upstream".

Act 3 Scene 2.
Ok so we are shoving petroleum based sludge and golf balls mixed with shredded tyres down the hole. It is looking like the dam behind the 8th right now, so many golf balls in there. Hey but something cool, we got it up to 80 bpm of crap we were shoving down there, then the pussies in the white house told us to stop. They were worried we might make it worse...you know get the little leak up to 6000 bpd.

Act 3 Scene 3
[The whitehouse]
Show an ex Beetles dude singing...

Act 3 Scene 4
[Press Conference]
Well of course birds die right? Otherwise we would have tons of birds everywhere right...gee show some commonsense pUlease.... But what do you say to the pictures of brown birds coming out? Well look we are trying to track down the people that took those pictures as we speak...No I mean the Brown birds...Look I don't see why this is hard to understand....you think they are called Brown Pelicans because they are supposed to be white?

Admiral what is your opinion of the matter? I agree with what he says...

Act 3 Scene 5
[Somewhere on the Louisiana coast...]
Shit man hurry up remove that crap off the beach before the president arrives...you mean the oil? What fucking oil, I don't see any oil, its just crap washed up from Cuba. Next person who mentions oil is fired and we torch your house - got that??

Ah welcome Mr. President, glad you could join us...I am happy to be here, always a pleasure to travel. Waiter I will have a Banana Daqueri please...So Mr President what do you think of the beach?... It is lovely I must say, it is always a pleasure to come to the Bahamas... but Mr President this is Louisiana...oh pleased to meet you, it is lovely here in the Bahamas...no I mean we are in Lousiana...look I am the President, make no mistake, so I won't have that sort of Language used around me, no matter how good she looks... No I mean this is the state of Louisiana...look I am the President, so don't make stuff up, I should know how many states we have! And if we had some place called Louisiana I would have heard of it before now...Still it is nice here in the Bahamas I have to admit...

Act 3 Scene 6
[President leaves]
Right you lot, on the buses and get the hell out. Collect your 50 bucks at the county line.

Act 4
[Make old batman scene cutting sound]
Meanwhile a new plan has been put into effect, Top hat version 2, but we will give it a better sounding name....Large Hadron Collider, LHC sounds good right? Sorry we can't use that one, already taken....well nevermind think something up. So here is the plan, we lower something that looks like an old rocket hacksawed together by a 14yo in his dads workshop onto the top of the BOP. (BOP - Big Oil Producer)

Act 4 Scene 2.
[Deep down in the ocean]
...well the first problem is we need to saw off the broken junk on top so we get a snug fit. As Sally the office girl describes it, it is a bit like trying to get a condom on one of those L shaped dicks...so we need to prepare the ground. Straighten it out so to speak. That is why we are using this fancy hacksaw to cut the top off.

Act 4 Scene 3
[On the surface]
Awww shit the saw has jammed... I don't get it, it's not like there isnt enough lube down there... Shit man I told you not to buy the 12 for 10 buck blades. See you pay extra like that and there is no point. We could have got the 12 for $2.99 instead you know...

Ok forget the sawing, this is bullshitsu, who has the big tin snips??

Act 4 Scene 4
[Press Conference]
Ok yes there was a risk that cutting off the top would let oil leak out a little faster, but we are very pleased with the result. We are now collecting 11,000 barrels per day which we think is about 1/3 of the total outflow...err didn't you say it was only leaking 5000 per day? and if your collecting 1/3 that means....SECURITY! SECURITY....we have a trouble maker who thinks his a mathematician...remove them please.

Now as we were saying we are collecting 1.9 million dollars...sorry I mean 11,000 barrels per day. Which is really great news right?

But when I look at the camera I see what looks like lots of oil escaping...no no no... that is not what your seeing... Well could you tell us what we are seeing? ... I would like to, but it is fairly complicated and it might bore you... it's ok we would like to know...well of course as mentioned there is a little bit of leakage still, but that is ok we are working on that. Little Jim is back in his dads garage working on a modification as we speak. But fundamentally what you are seeing is mostly not oil escaping...but it is black...please let me finish, the thing is down there it is dark right, and oil is black...so really what looks like a shit load of oil coming out, isnt really oil, it just sort of a bit looks that way...

Coast guard admiral..what do you think? ... Well as has been mentioned this is a complicated matter, but fundamentally I think what they think I should think. I think you understand my thinking here right...

What about the sick workers who are turning up?.....food poisoning....next?

At this stage it is early days, so we need to keep things in context, that is a success. Any more questions? No...Thankyou.

Act 5
Oil starts to turn up on beaches from Texas to Florida...

Act 5 Scene 2
[A beach somewhere on the gulf]
...isn't it lovely, sugar white sands baby, cmon down we are open for business! ... But what about the those oil droplets scattered on the beach? ..Oil what oil??...Those things over there...look that isnt oil that is tar, there is huge difference DUH!... but it starting to look like people have taken a dump in the water...look now your just exaggerating, a few blobs here and there...we have a cleanup crew of 4 guys 30 miles away ready to swing into action...so cmon down baby we are open for business!... but what about the oil problem....yep I agree bring your sun tan oil baby, we are open for business!... but what about the dead dolphin and turtle over there?... look turtles die, dolphins die, god made it that way... anyway if you watched Discovery more, you would know that what has obviously happened here is the turtle fought it out with the dolphin and they took each other out...really man you need to get more educated...

[The press conference]
What about the oil? ...what do you mean oil? no oil here, I don't see any oil... Why are all of those fisherman out of work then? ... Look that is just a silly question, everyone knows fisherman have ups and downs, it is a seasonal thing, sometimes they have good harvests of corn and other years bad...just the way it is... Feel free to ask them! ...well we have tried but apparently they are not allowed to talk to the media....more nonsense of course they are free to talk to the media...but...let me finish, I think the problem your having is just a communication problem...but...no no ... they can talk as much as they like, i think the problem your having is that they are working in restricted areas so you have to shout louder..

[The Whitehouse while shaving]
Who is this chick called Lousiana....I still don't get it...oh well golf today...Daddy did you plug Lousiana yet...eh ummm

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blue Tit on Hawthorn

The Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, one of my all time favourite birds. Done in coloured pencil. Lifesize on a Hawthorn Branch.

It's not all birds

While I do love doing the wildlife, it is also fun to do other stuff. Especially in my journal, there is something nice and simple about graphite. I was also in this case playing around with eyes and proportion trying to see what happens...

A very quick sketch.

Crested Tern

A quick illustration of a Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii. Another wonderful seabird.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Olive-backed Sunbirds

Some more coloured pencil work. Olive-backed sunbirds, olive-backed sunbird, Nectarina jugularis. A male and female, they are fairly common in parks and gardens, and are found throughout SE Asia into Northern Australia.

Lovely little birds. Where possible I try and do things life size, so I think the finished painting is about 12x16 inches in size.

Jacobean Lilly

These are spectacular flowers, like most lilies. In this case it is watercolour and 95% complete. I need to finish off a few bits, but towards the end of a painting it is generally safer to hide it away for a couple months and come back to it.

It is always too easy to get impatient and try and do too much. Still it is ok.

Crimson Rosella

This is a Crimson Rosella, Platycercus elegans, I did while playing around with some pencils. It is easy to forget just how cool pencil work can be.

The Crimson Rosella is a large parrot native to southeastern Australia.

Sargassum

I haven't posted much this last couple of weeks, but I did find this excellent video of Sargassum off Alabama. By now everyone should have heard of the BP fiasco, which is a massive tragedy on many levels.

It is easy to forget or just not realise how important the region is, not just locally but globally. In terms of birds and fish the gulf is prolific, and the screw up there has the potential to disrupt the whole Atlantic.

Why? In simple terms that western part is a spawning ground for many Atlantic fish. The ocean currents also mean that whatever happens there will sooner or later end up in Europe and the North Pacific. And lets be realistic, the oceans are already well screwed as it is. North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are at 10% levels already...and where do they breed?

On the bird front, I think North America has about 600 species of birds in the summer, that drops to about 140 in the winter...and those birds arent flying north for the winter.

So yeah we have managed to screw a very very important place. I mean this is not just about saving birds and fish...it is about saving ourselves.

Anyway a very cool video of the wonders that are out there, so have a look.


A day in the sargassum