Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack-in-the-pulpits are one of my favourite spring flowers and they won’t be around for much longer so I’m sharing while I still can. This has been an excellent year for them in our wee forest. They’re literally all over and many of them have grown to be a foot tall or more. Obviously, they like this year’s wet and dreary type of spring much more than I do.

©voyager, all rights reserved

Close Encounters of the tiny kind

During lunch break walk at work, I have encountered this little fellow. He flew by and sat on the macadam right next to me – a very conspicuous bright green jewel on the grey dull road. It was really tiny – about the size of a thumbnail. And of course I did not have my camera and macro lenses on me, so you have to do with this rather poor pictures made with my phone.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Tree Tuesday

Forestscape by photographer Manuelo Bececco – source

Once or twice a year I get down on the forest floor to take a few photos of the tall trees in our wee Carolinian Forest. I love the perspective. I’m not the only one it seems who like to look up. Italian photographer Manuelo Bececco has created a stunning group of forest photographs by pointing his camera up.

“In the middle of the woods, I seem to see everything in my own way—giant trees or branches that form barriers, irises of the eyes,” Bececco tells My Modern Met. “These are things that I only see in my mind and that I can sometimes turn into photographs.”

Photographed across different seasons and different times of day, the forest’s changing ambiance is expertly harnessed by Bececco. The Italian photographer is able to use the light, and the mood it generates, to his advantage and capture a mystical moment in the quiet of the woods. This forest photography is deeply personal for Bececco, as each photograph is inspired by an important time in his life. And for him, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see how well it’s been received by the public.

I’ve included a few of his photos here to whet your appetite, but I encourage you to check out the link at My Modern Met to see the entire grouping. Mr. Bececco has captured not only the many moods of the forest, but also the deeply felt emotions that being amongst such giants elicits. My thanks go to rq for pointing this story my way.

Forestscape by photographer Manuelo Bececco – source

Forestscape by photographer Manuelo Bececco – source

Forestscape by photographer Manuelo Bececco – source


Story courtesy of My Modern Met

The Art of Book Design: From the Earth to the Moon

Jules Verne. From the Earth to the Moon. London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1873 — Source.

Our book today comes from the fertile imagination of Jules Verne and the cover is eerily reminiscent of the modern rocket technology that actually did take man to the moon nearly 100 years after this book was written.


via: The Public Domain Review

A Brief Update on the HDD Magnets

I have been mostly working on a shelf this weekend. It is very needed because there is more than enough stuff just cluttering up the house and it is getting on my nerves.

But I also had worked on my little project involving the magnets that I have salvaged from defunct HDD a few months ago.

First I took a piece of 3 mm thick, 20 mm wide galvanized mild steel and I cut off a piece big enough so I could bend it into a U-shape in such a way that the magnets can sit inside with about 2 mm free space between the magnets and the bends. then I also cut two just 3 mm bits of the same stock. When put together as seen on the picture, you get a very strong magnet that only pulls in one direction (up). Plus the way the HDD magnets are magnetized means that this magnet now has four poles N-S-N-S. Also that the magnetic field is very strong, but has a very short reach. I tried to measure the force with which it holds a piece of steel and it was about 65 Newton, which is impressive for such a small thing cobbled together from scraps.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

After this, I cut a few pieces of brass to fill the spaces as tightly as possible, and I drilled and cut an M5 thread in one arm of the U. Precision is essential here. Unfortunately, we do not get along very well and she is a mere nodding acquaintance, despite my best efforts, so everything was a bit wonky.

I have no pictures of that work because I still did not figure out exactly how my new phone works – I thought I took pictures, but apparently not.

When I had everything cut, I mixed a generous amount of quick drying epoxy and slathered it all around and glued everything together.  And after the epoxy hardened enough I have ground off (manually) excessive material and I trued and polished slightly the magnetic surface.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

So now I have this strong, one-directional magnet 50x20x10 mm. So far everything goes as planned, and I hope that the next step in this project will go similarly well.

Once Upon A Time in Madrid

Or should I say “madrid”? ;D

Second week of May, I spent a full workweek in Madrid for a working group meeting, and it was a fantastic time (as always). Besides the science-y, political-y days (there’s a lot of discussion about legislation and quality standards, not just the fun research and applications stuff), the organizers had planned out a couple of very interesting cultural evenings, and I found myself quite pleasantly surprised by the city in general. It had a very different feel from Rome (last year) – much cleaner, much more organized, more expansive – which I liked, but the organized part works mostly if you’re not driving a car – never mind the six lanes and wide roads, vehicle traffic in Madrid is atrocious (in my opinion!).

Anyway, the weather held out, the people were wonderful, and my first night the lovely hotel staff pointed me towards (what felt like a) very local cafe-restaurant, where, despite the language barrier and despite clearly being not local, I felt very welcome and extremely well-fed (I had octopus). I went back a second time prior to leaving, which I usually don’t do, but it had that perfect mix of being taken care of and being left alone, which was exactly what I needed.

I have a series on chandeliers in the Royal Palace, but for now, here’s just some small details from that particular cultural visit:

Just a small house… © rq, all rights reserved.

If I was a moth… © rq, all rights reserved.

… there would be so much to love. © rq, all rights reserved.

Secret lions peeking out everywhere! © rq, all rights reserved.

To be honest, they look a little sad. © rq, all rights reserved.

It’s all fun and games. © rq, all rights reserved.

And maybe some more serious faces. © rq, all rights reserved.

One thing that did leave an impression was the collection of Stradivarius instruments – it’s true that brands are often over-rated, and I’m not too big on the detailed decorations on my instruments, but as a former violinist, it still left an impact to see these famous instruments in one room. I’d have to hear them to judge their quality, but the craftspersonship of the construction (and the artistry of the detail) is undoubtedly something else.

© rq, all rights reserved.

© rq, all rights reserved.

Today’s music selection, which felt like it suits the historical theme, is from Latvian Voices – I found this particular performance of theirs via a post answering the question “what is it like to be a woman in the music business?” (that’s a link to their FB page, I don’t know how to link to that post specifically):

As a female group, we’ve been questioned many times about the topic of “how it is to be a woman in the music business?!” We took it very seriously and made research in music history looking on our female colleagues back in the day. As a result, we found ourselves willing to perform more music written by female composers or music which is dedicated to strong and powerful women all over the world.
Please, enjoy our contribution to Frau Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn – the song “Die Mainacht”, poem by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty.

Video: Kaspars Teilāns
Sound: Andris Ūze
Make-up: Ilona Zariņa
Style Cita Rota

Teacher’s Corner: The Girl who Cried Wolf

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, which, in one version or the other is something adults tell children to warn them about the danger of lying or making up emergencies when there are none. The adults never bother to sit down and think about how fucked up the story and its message are, because if they did, they’d tell it to adults to warn about a different danger.

The boy who cried wolf is sent out to herd life stock, but children aren’t meant to be alone al day, they need company, they need intellectual stimulation, so the kid makes up stories to get people to pay attention to him. When he does so repeatedly, none of the adults asks “but why does he keep calling us, what does he actually need?” I know, the story is supposed to play in olden times when people didn’t give a fuck about the needs of children, but it’s told by adults today so I think the criticism is fair.

Instead, the adults decide to no longer pay attention to the kid at all, with the catastrophic result that we all know, and then the blame is put on the kid and not the adults who failed to keep him safe. This thinking has consequences, and it can have catastrophic consequences here and now. Slight CN for predatory behaviour.

Some kids at our school live in group homes. On Friday, those kids came to us and told us that on their way to school, three men in a red car had bothered them and talked to them and that they were afraid, with one of the girls being in tears. I called the group home to inform them about the incident and make sure the kids would be picked up after school so they were safe. The head of the home asked me which kids were affected and I told him the names, randomly starting with L. “Oh, you know”, he said, “we’re having some difficulties with L right now”. Man, do I know? I see L every day, I know she’s got her issues. “She likes to make up stories”. “I know”, I said, “but H, B and A are telling the same story.”

That was enough to convince him and they sent somebody to pick up the kids. Now imagine a world that was the exact same, except that H, B and A were with their families. In which L had been the only child those men in the car bothered. A world in which her story had been treated as “the girl who cried wolf” and they had left her alone without protection. Because she’s a kid who is in a difficult situation, who likes to make herself seem more important by making up stories.

So, dear adults, here’s the real morale of the story: When a child says they’re in danger, you run. If a child has made up stories about danger 99 times, you still run when they cry danger the 100th time. And then you sit the fuck down and think long and hard about why the kid is making up stories and you talk to the kid and try to find a way for them to deal with their issues that does not result in fake alarms. You do NOT handwave away a report about predatory men because of who made the report. If you want to talk to children about why making false alarms is bad, tell them that they’re wasting the time of the rescue services and that this may be dangerous to somebody else who is in real danger. The story about the boy who cried wolf is a story about adults failing their duty to keep children safe, so if you want to keep telling it, tell it to each other.

The Art of Book Design: Practical Taxidermy

Montague Browne. Practical Taxidermy. London: “The Bazaar” Office, 1878 — Source.

I have mixed feelings about taxidermy. On the one hand, it’s an interesting art form. It involves a lot of sculpture and the artist needs a good understanding of anatomy and the nature of the animal when it was animate. Taxidermists strive to make the animal look as natural as possible, even if they place it in an unnatural pose or place. It’s very multi-media and there are all sorts of little tricks they use to put things together and make them stay put. Fascinating, eh?

On the other hand, I think that displaying “trophy animals” on the wall or floor is disgusting. I once had a client who was a big game hunter. He had a tiger skin rug and a polar bear skin ‘throw’ on his sofa and hanging on his walls were the skulls of several big game animals. I know there was a moose and a big horn sheep, but I can’t remember what the others were. It was so sad and totally creepy and very unnerving and I had the devil of a time doing the assessment. On my way to the next home visit I had to pull over and catch my breath because I felt like throwing up. He was a pleasant enough man, but when I got back to the office I traded his case with a colleague who didn’t mind the taxidermy.


via: The Public Domain Review

Slavic Saturday

Today just something lighter, and a reaction to our recent visit from the Grammar and Spelling Police. I would like to touch up on spelling in slavic languages. I have already mentioned the overabundance of cases and genders, so now let’s go on to the spelling.

The one problem that slavic languages have with latin alphabet is that it just does not contain enough letters to cover all the consonants in the language, a problem that multiple people tried to solve in history.

First cases involved inventing a whole new script – the Glagolitic script by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who invented the alphabet specifically so they can better preach Christianity to Slavs. It did not hold, at least not in whole – a part of this script was later used together with Greek alphabet in the creation of Cyrillic script, still in use by many Slavic nations, mainly the biggest one – Russians.

But some slavic nations have adopted latin alphabet for their writing in middle ages and during their history multiple attempts were made to solve the conundrum of not enough letters. Like using digraphs. This type of orthography is still used a lot for example in Polish, whilst modern Czech has only one digraph, ch. Because in fifteenth century came along Jan Hus and in addition to sparking religious war he also invented diacritics (allegedly, there is some dispute). By adding two simple symbols – ˇ and ´ – he solved the problem once and for all, at least for Czechs.

Since then, spelling in Czech is fairly primitive, as well as in many other Slavic languages, whether with their version of modified Latin script (sometimes made after the Czech model) or Cyrillic. Something like a “Spelling bee” is impossible in any meaningful way, because every word is spelled “as it sounds”. Literally. In Czech, children can learn to read by saying the short names of each letter in a word in succession. When done quickly enough, the word naturally emerges. Learning to write spoken word after that is fairly intuitive.

There are complications, of course. Loan words can be one, although usually Czech language either just takes a word and transliterates it into the closest approximation to its original sound achievable (manager = manažer) or does not bother with that at all and the word is just pronounced in the czech fashion, its original sound be damned (buffet =bufet – in modern Czech the “t” is not silent and the “u” is pronounced differently from the French original). Second complication, and a source of major headache to even Czechs, is that I and Y are the same sound in certain situations. So whilst nobody makes a mistake reading a word, it is fairly common to make mistakes when writing.

And punctuation is probably a mess in every language. Well, I never intended to be proof reader…