Monthly Archives: August 2008

chironex fleckeri & irukandji

Thank heavens for the Discovery Channel. After wrapping up EFR training today at the dive school, I was, for fairly obvious reasons, led to watch a show with an underwater focus. What I stumbled upon was Killer Jellyfish, a documentary about the box jellyfish in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

These box jellyfish, or chironex fleckeri, are amazing creatures, differing from their typical jellyfish counterparts in so many ways. These amazing invertebrates thrive in the warm waters of northern Australia, eating up to 1/4 their weight every day and touting the ability to out swim humans. They’re most prevalent in the height of the busy summer season, following their coral-like spawning. They are the size of a basketball and have up to 60 tentacles. With this powerful structure, they can swim, not needing the current, tides and wind like their traditional counterparts. One box jellyfish highlighted on the show swam 10 miles over a 24 hour period!

What’s most amazing, however, is their potency. They’re hundreds of times more potent than a cobra, 500 times more toxic than a Portuguese Man o’ War, and thousands of times more potent than a tarantula. The box jellyfish are by far the most advanced of the jellyfish.

The chironex fleckeri have primitive brains. Additionally, they can see, and see right way up no matter how they’re oriented. They have 24 eyes grouped in four clusters of six. Of the six eyes in each cluster, 2 are used to make the images, and the other four serve a purpose of only collecting light. Because of blurred vision, they sleep at night, unable to see obstacles or prey. To their advantage, their nighttime sleep allows them to conserve energy and rest.

Surprisingly, though, the chironex fleckeri is not the most potent form of box jellyfish. That title goes to the irukandji, the smallest of the box jellyfish. The irukandji have stinging cells on their bell, making them unlike other jellyfish. They have tentacles as fine as human hair; tentacles that are as vital as an arm. They’re one of the world’s most venomous creatures, and are merely the size of a human fingernail! These box jellyfish eject venom only from the tentacle tip, whereas the chironex release venom from points along the entire stinger. The stingers on the irukandji fire only once, but are constantly replaced. Frighteningly, this smallest box jellyfish can kill in just 1 to 2 minutes. Yes, 1 to 2 minutes!

What amazing creatures. Killer Jellyfish made me rethink my desire to someday dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Final decision? Nah – I won’t be giving that up!

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Note #1: Tomorrow’s excitement is Colossal Squid, airing on the Discovery Channel at 9 pm ET. If I remember to watch it, that’s next on my list!

Note #2: Go figure, the Promises Message in my Dove Chocolate was, “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Baby, bring it on!


word of the week: 8/25/08 & 9/1/08


8/25 … attenuate: [v: uhten-yoo-eyt]
To reduce in force or weaken; to make thin; to make less virulent; to decrease the amplitude of.

9/1 … assassinate: [v: uhsasuh-neyt]
To murder suddenly or secretively, in particular, a politically prominent person.
Seems like a rather odd word of the week, doesn’t it? Let me explain where we came up with this one. My husband and I were discussing the subject of assassination, and I curiously asked, “What’s the difference between assassination and murder?” Of course, I know that the murder of a political figure, as well as a murder for hire, are typically referred to as assassinations. I just didn’t know if that was the actual difference. Turns out, that’s all there is to it!

expensive hobbies …

I don’t know how I always manage to choose them, but I do. I can sniff out expensive hobbies like a hound dog.

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First, there’s scuba diving. My dad and I decided somewhere around Christmas of ’07 that the time was right. We took our certification course in January of ’08 and did our certification dives in Grand Cayman less than a month later. We’ve both been hooked ever since, and can’t seem to get enough. Since then, we’ve been on a diving trip in Key West and have completed specialty courses in Underwater Photography, Nitrox/Enriched Air, and Wreck Diving. Up next is EFR (Emergency First Response) and Rescue Diving. We’ve both loved every second of it, and while it’s an amazing hobby, it’s very expensive. The equipment itself is expensive, as are the courses and trips. And what a bummer – we both prefer warm, tropical destinations as opposed to murky local quarries. Darn!

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Next up is photography. While I’ve expressed a serious interest in photography over the past 6 years, within the past two years the interest has turned into somewhat of an obsession. I’ve since added to my collection of cameras and lenses and have very recently started a certificate program in photography at HCC. You know how expensive camera equipment is, and I have to admit that the expenses for the class came as quite a shock. I didn’t think I’d get away with spending nothing, but I certainly didn’t expect this. Not including the course fees and book, the supplies I need for Basic Photography thus far have totaled $429.92, with another $30 or so to go. That’s not including the supplies I already had! We’re talking developing tanks and reels, photo paper, negative preservers and imagekeeper, cable release, mounting boards and tissue, storage wipes, magnifying loupes, gray card, and several other miscellaneous supplies. Argh …

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Finally, there’s cake decorating. While this is by far the cheapest hobby of the three, it’s been no easy ride. I’ve taken the first two courses in the Wilton MethodDiscover Cake Decorating and Flowers & Borders. It’s been fun, and extremely useful. I look forward to continuing my practice, waiting for the day when something I make actually looks attractive and appetizing!

I guess it’s just the nature of hobbies, huh? My husband, along with his dad, brother, and our nephews, are Lionel addicts. They don’t like the $40 cars and cheap engines, either. Nope, they’re into the real deal. That, too, is an expensive hobby, though it brings enjoyment and long-term value.

Thinking about it, none of my hobbies bring long-term value. Hmpf … maybe I need to rethink things … nah!

Do you have expensive hobbies? What do they mean to you and what do you get out of them?

speak …

I was perusing the wordpress home page tonight when I came across an interesting family-centric blog. While the blog itself was extremely inspiring, what I found most useful was one of the bloggist’s pages; one that addresses blog commenting. Being a blogger myself, her thoughts on comments hit home. That being said, here are my thoughts on blogging and commenting etiquette.

It’s okay to enjoy reading other people’s blogs; that’s what they’re for! Reading other blogs does not make you a stalker. As such, what I write here is public. If I wanted an audience of only friends and family, I’d make my blog private. I know many of you are strangers to me, and that’s part of the fun of blogging. I like to meet and connect with people with whom I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity. And while my #1 intention of blogging isn’t to get comments and feedback, I do like to hear what you have to say. Don’t be afraid to say it, that is, if you want to. I love to hear from you, and without your comments, I’m very lonely and feel I’m on a stage without an audience. It’s no fun!

I don’t care how you got here, nor do I care what makes you stay or go. I read blogs the same as you, and it certainly does not make either one of us stalkers. We’re simply able to take advantage of this amazingly simple and widespread platform to quickly and easily find other individuals who have similar interests to our own. We’re able to make connections online that would be difficult to form otherwise.

Please don’t misunderstand my intentions; this is no attempt to twist your arm for comments. I don’t particularly care if you do or don’t. But please don’t feel like you can’t leave your thoughts because anyone will judge you and/or what you say. Blogs are public, and without you, serve a much more limited purpose.

Here, it’s okay that you’re a normal person who stumbled across this blog and has something to say about it. I’m appreciative of the fact that you enjoy reading blogs and do sincerely hope you’re able to find a topic or two here of interest.

So, welcome to all of you – friends, family, and strangers – old and new.

i can’t believe it …

It’s totally amazing. We’ve been talking about building a shed for years. My fantastic husband has had drawings for the planned 14′ x 16′ building with loft done for years. So, you may be asking, what’s the holdup? Umm, procrastination. The trench has been done for almost a year. Parts of it have collapsed twice. The rebar has been half done nearly all summer. Yet, no shed.

This Friday, it’s happening. 7 yards of 6 bag mix without air will be delivered at 8 am. I am SO psyched! I had to do some strategic reasoning to get us to this point, but we’re here! Now it’s time to hope Fay’s remnants are out of the area by then. She’s supposed to dump rain on the area through Thursday night and possibly into early Friday, but that’s it. If she’s here, there’s no concrete. She better not be here.

Why am I so excited about some stinkin’ concrete? This marks the beginning of a new era. A new start. It means tools out of the house and where they belong! It means storage in the attic. With only two closets in the house and a small dirt basement, it makes storage a bit difficult. In fact, it makes organization a bit difficult. Out with the tools, and there’s more space. More organization. Plenty of space for my OCD tendencies. With that, I’m so incredibly excited!

“Fay, Fay, go away! Come again another day!”

basic photography: 1 of 15


Not much excitement last night, as you can imagine. You know the usual drill … the basics. We did a scavenger hunt to get to know each other, and I totally felt like I was 10 years old again. Here were the questions …

“Get the name of someone else in the class who:
1. knows who Ansel Adams is.
2. took photographs on summer vacation.
3. knows what a fish-eye lens is.
4. has a relative who is a photographer.
5. knows what an f stop is.
6. brought their camera to class today.
7. has a skylight filter on their camera lens.
8. knows absolutely nothing about their camera.
9. owns a Nikon camera.
10. has shot a roll of black and white film.
11. wants to make photography a career.
12. took photography in high school.
13. likes black and white photography better than color.
14. has had a photograph published.
15. owns a zoom lens.
16. has a digital camera.
17. knows what an enlarger is.
18. has a camera bag with them today.”

Okay, so I admit – I did get to know people. But I still felt like I was 10. We, of course, discussed the syllabus, including the midterm, print portfolio, critique and presentation requirements. Oh, and let’s not forget the professor’s idiosyncrasies, the best of which is her policy on promptness and the ramifications for those who do not abide by her rules. Good heavens. We also got a tour of the darkroom, which rocks! I’ve never taken a photography course before, and therefore have never been in a darkroom, so it was cool to see. Our evening ended with a discussion of the basic parts of a 35mm camera and details on shutter speeds, f stops, and depth of field.

I was surprised to find out that this course is completely based on the use of a 35mm camera. Totally fine with me, but we lost two students right off the bat because they don’t have the required 35mm. Seriously, nowhere in the course description did it say that. I am totally excited to know, too, that the course is exclusively black & white – yippee! And let’s not forget the darkroom – 2 hours of lecture, 3 hours of lab. Woohoo! I’m psyched!

I have no doubt this course will be fun. I’m also admitting that it’s going to be a good bit of work. For now, I’m getting ready for a week complete with lots of reading. Oh, and let’s not forget the supplies! I’m hoping to make it out of Service Photo (local photo shop recommended by HCC) with a bill totaling less than $350. We’ll see!

So, if you felt like I was the paparazzi before, get ready for a whole new adventure that’s even more intense than before!

Now before I forget, what can I share with you from this week’s class? Here is some basic information on aperture and shutter speeds, as well as the basic parts of a camera. Hopefully the subject matter will be more interesting and less elementary next time.

The aperture controls the amount of light passing through the lens to the film. It’s expressed in f stop values, the most common of which are: f/16, f/11, f/8, f/5.6, f/4, f/2.8, and f/1.8. Counter intuitively, the larger the f stop number, the smaller the opening. So a small f stop value (f/1.8), or wide aperture, lets more light through, and a high f stop value (f/16), or small aperture, lets less light through.

Shutter speeds control how long light passes through the lens to the film. This value, too, varies greatly, with a typical range of 1/2000 of a second to 30 seconds. When photographing sports events, a fast shutter speed is required to capture an image that’s clear. Alternatively, if you wanted to show the motion of flowers being blown by the wind, you might choose a slower shutter speed of a second or two to highlight the movement.

These two creative controls share a close relationship. Think about it. If you have a large aperture opening, maybe f/1.8, on a sunny day, you’re going to need a quick shutter speed, perhaps 1/2000, in order to avoid an overexposed image. A wide aperture opening (low f stop value) and a slow shutter speed would let too much light in, “whiting out” your image. Not good! There’s a sweet spot, and it’s up to the operator to determine the proper values.

Parts of the Camera … ……………………………………………………………………..
1. camera body: a light tight box
2. lens: bends light from subject to make image on film; allows light in to make exposure on film
3. aperture ring: hole that lets light through
4. focus ring: makes image sharp/blurry
5. ASA/ISO dial or designator: sensitivity of film
6. shutter speed dial or designator: amount of time light is allowed in
7. film advance: moves exposed film out of the way and brings new film in for exposure
8. shutter release: takes photo
9. film rewind button: “releases” film for rewind
10. film rewind knob: allows for manual rewind of film into film canister
11. battery compartment: holds battery
12. meter on/off switch: turns camera power on & off
13. camera back release: allows user to open camera and remove film

back to school …

Yep, I’ve decided to get started with this … tonight marks class meeting 1 of course 3. Sometime last year, I decided I need a Certificate of Proficiency in Photography from HCC. I worked with an adviser last year to get two of the ten classes waived – Two-Dimensional Basic Design and Drawing I. Luckily, my Art minor from E-town got me out of those two, so tonight, I start course 3 in the 10 course program … Basic Photography. I’m totally excited. It’s like getting an education in a hobby; seriously, what could be better?

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While I’m ridiculously excited, at the same time I can’t help but feel that I’ve lost my mind. Of course, as is true to my style, time is the critical issue here. In addition to this class, I’ll be finishing my thesis proposal by December, getting rescue certified for diving, and finishing up Course 2 in Wilton’s Cake Decorating Series. And then there’s work, with my crazy busy season being from August to December. Somewhere in there, too, I like to have a life. Silly, huh? My husband might want to see me from time to time, as would my family. And don’t even talk to me about not seeing my nephews on a regular basis – I’d go into meltdown mode! Yeah, I’ve lost my mind. It is what it is, right?

So … in my quest to learn more, I’m finding a lot of cool links explaining the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO that I’ll share with you. As long as I’ve got the time, too, I’ll post highlights from each class. Now, without further ado, here are the links I’ve found thus far. With my cameras, lenses, and textbook in tow, I’m gearing up for class tonight. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and continue to share with you what I’m learning!

Photography 101.4 – Exposure & Stops
Gordon McKinney’s Photography Blog
Essentials of Photography
Bernie’s Better Beginner’s Guide to Photography for Computer Geeks Who Want to be Digital Artists
Basic Photography Tips