My Pictures from Bioblitz 2009 with Saint Mary’s University in the Blue Mountain-Birch Coves Lake Wilderness Area

In the summer of 2009, I had a chance to volunteer as a photographer in my first Bioblitz. In short, Bioblitz is a 24-hour survey of a wilderness area, in which scientists count and identify the biodiversity of species contained in the area. The previous link gives much more information about Bioblitz, and specifically the one in which I participated with Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We went to the Blue Mountain-Birch Coves Lake Wilderness Area on June 5th and 6th, newly declared a protected area, and I got some great photos.

The nice thing about Bioblitz, as a photographer, is that people find all kinds of cool critters and varmints, not to mention plants, for you to photograph. Even if they’re relatively common, like a frog, to get one at your beckon for a photo is pretty fun. Plus, you don’t have to touch any of them unless you want to, and you certainly have to go digging cause the knowledgeable scientists, students and other nature lovers there know where to look and dig for all kinds of cool sh*t.

And some of it is sh*t, and really cool!

This year, the local Bioblitz is on June 6th, and I hope to be there again, with even better pictures. I learned a lot doing photography at last year’s event. Regrettably, some of it was through mistakes, missing some excellent shots. But I’ll be more prepared this year, and believe they’ll find even more interesting stuff this year. Last year, it was a little too close to the city. Below are some of my favourites, with a few more on the Saint Mary’s University site, among other great photos taken by other people.

I have a few comments with the pictures. Unfortunately, it’s been a while and I’ve forgotten many of the real names of the plants, flowers and critters. However, I have to tell the story of the cyst.

Cyst. I didn’t know what it was until someone told me the story of the tiny cyst in the photo below (less than 1 cm or half an inch in size). The story goes something like this. Some bug comes along and injects something into a tree. It soften and bubbles up, though “bubble” here could be rather thick and still hard. The bug lays its eggs in it, and the swollen part of the tree both serves as a “nest” for its eggs and food for the young hatchlings.

Cool, eh?

But then, here comes the cooler part. Some other bug comes along, being able to find these eggs over the eons through evolution, and injects something into some of the eggs already there in the cyst. The latter bug turns those eggs into something that functions like a cyst for its own young to nest and feed on. The surviving eggs of the original bug may, in turn, consume the latter bug’s youngs as it comes out, whether by instinct of food or as a survival mechanism to rid of the invaders.

Talk about revenge of the cyst!

The latter’s young don’t have to worry about the former’s young by the time it comes out, probably, pending time overlap between the time it enters after the former’s young. However, as they all leave, the disfigurement of the tree is left. Pending the age of the tree and nature of the cyst, it may be small like the one in the picture. However, you might have seen something like that the size of an entire tree!

Can you write better science fiction than that? Really, I know lots of stories science fiction has nothing with which to compare! Real life is definitely far stranger than fiction!

Please click here to see more of my photography on this website.

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Hugging Avatars, Buddy Icons and Profile Pics for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo and Other Applications

From having created the Hugging Facebook 2.0 Tagging games, I thought I’d share the graphics to be used as avatars and buddy icons. Unfortunately, not all the graphics were big enough to be used as avatars and buddy icons, although I did set a high standard to make them 256 pixels squared rather than the smaller 128 or 96 pixels squared that many applications ask for. That way, it’d save some people some tech hassles, disappointments and so on.

To get the icons, please:

Enjoy!

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What’s Your Song of Knowledge? (Part 4 of 7 on the World in Six Songs)

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Book and Theory Background

Daniel J. Levitin wrote an absolutely brilliant book called The World in Six Songs, supported by a great website with the many music samples referenced, among other great related material.

My basic paraphrasing of the concept is this. All the songs in the world could be fit into at least one of six categories providing an evolutionary benefit to humanity, often ultimately tied to our social nature.

The book and website offer far more detailed interpretations, of course, but I will expand on my paraphrasing with each post and the associated topic.

Daniel J. Levitin and The World in Six SongsIn a series of posts, I will describe each of the six categories in brief, one at a time:

  1. Friendship
  2. Joy
  3. Comfort
  4. Knowledge
  5. Religion
  6. Love

I will describe what the categories are about because they are not as limited in scope as the category names suggest. I will then supply one of my choices and ask all readers to do the same if they so wish. In the seventh post of the series, I will offer the chance to put the song choices all together so readers can read the entire set on one post. I do this because it would be a long post to describe all six categories at once, but to have all the answers in one place might be nice.

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This post focuses on Songs of Knowledge

July 30th add-on in italics, from Dan Levitin in a summary article
Historically, songs have been used to transmit various information such as religious texts, survival and life lessons, and even the ABCs. Studies have shown information set to song is memorized more reliably than when simple rote memory is used. Increasing the reliability of transmitted information provides the next generation with valuable information.

Songs of knowledge are aptly named because they preserve and spread knowledge. However, it’s not that simple since we have language, which is a far more versatile means of conveying and preserving language than music, having far fewer limitations in composition. Language, though, doesn’t have nearly the mnemonic power of music to help preserve the knowledge being conveyed. This was of great value before we had written language, though it should be pointed out that Daniel Levitin did not pick sides whether the musical or linguistic brain came first. Rather, he favoured the likely to be correct idea they developed together. Another limitation of language is that it can be too specific.

For difficult or awkward situations, a little ambiguity afforded by songs might actually help dissolve conflict, or at least manage social uncertainty, benefiting survival. Songs are also more genuine because it is partly an emotional output, not a rational one, and not as easily to fake.

Finally, knowledge songs are performed by many people, and often. That is partly how they are maintained as per oral history. You can neither preserve nor spread songs if only one person knew it and/or it were rarely performed. Too risky to lose those songs and their knowledge forever. These songs are also sometimes sung in groups, which helps identify those who can bond into groups that increase chances of survival and promote evolution.

As for some examples, many kids’ songs like those which teach counting and the alphabets are excellent, albeit simple examples of knowledge songs. With English as my primary language, the Alphabet Song comes to mind.

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This is the same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by the way, although the latter helps teach things like rhyme rather than an alphabetical sequence… kind of like the video link demonstrates hilariously.

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However, on the other end of the spectrum is the Oral Torah, which, as a Christian metaphor if you are not familiar with it, is a bit like reciting the Bible by memory by song. That’s not entirely accurate, with the history of the Oral Torah being very interesting compared to the written Torah, but you get the idea. Despite the religious text, though, the “song” is meant to preserve and spread knowledge. Religious songs, covered next, are more about rituals. Finally, in the middle are songs like those sang by traveling minstrels and pop songs that tell of historical events like Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Audio sample of songs from the Knowledge chapter in The World in Six Songs can be found on the website. No direct link was available, but click on the Songs menu option and appropriate page number range link carrying pages 137 to 188. Please note that not all songs are meant as samples of Knowledge songs. Some are just referenced material in the book text.

Daniel Levitin talks more about the impact of songs in our lives, including songs of knowledge, in this video below.

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Author Daniel Levitin chose

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My choice for Song of Knowledge is

Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell (lyrics).

This was a really tough one for me to answer because I don’t live in a place and time of traveling minstrels and some choices I had thought about were covered (Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald). However, after thinking long and hard, I decided on my choice above. While not a full historical account by any means, Joni at least wasn’t there like most of the minstrel singers would not have been at the events about which they sang.

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What is your choice for Song of Knowledge?

Please leave your choice as a comment.

Lyrics and YouTube/audio link would greatly enhance your answer so readers can know more about your choice. They are not necessary, though, and not possible if no lyrics or version exist.

You can include songs you wrote as a choice, too!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 10.3

Dogs and Other Animals Facebook Picture Tagging Memes

I did not create these three Facebook picture tagging memes, but I adopted a picture of canine behaviour for Facebook tagging and I improved the quality of the animals tagging meme for Facebook picture tagging use. I also optimized both’s make-up for Facebook usage. I do not know from where the latter comes originally so there is no source link. As for the former, it’s for the dog lovers, not implying one’s friends are dogs. And, of course, you can also use this for other things as the original poster was created to do. I apologize I no longer have that link because I had found that original poster a long time ago, emailed it to someone and still had it in my Inbox.

To use any of these for your Facebook tagging fun:

  • Click on the picture to get it at full size.
  • Right click on that picture and save to your computer.
  • Upload it to your Facebook profile.
  • Tag your friends!

Please click here for a complete list of Facebook picture tagging memes on this site with which you can use for fun with your friends.

p.s. I did not correct spelling mistakes on the animals tagging meme because it was difficult to find the right font, size and all.