Friday, April 28, 2006

Photo Friday - famous

What could be more famous than a logo that's recognisable even when reversed?
A glass of Perrier mineral water in a special Perrier glass with some slices of lemon, a stirrer and a straw. Some famous Perrier bubbles collected round the straw and stirrer.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

plants and creatures

We went to Parc Phoenix at the weekend for the first time.

Its a huge park cum botanic gardens covering 7 hectares close to Nice Airport.

Occasionally planes taking off and landing can be heard but its surprisingly well laid out to keep noise to a minimum and much quieter than expected. In fact its very easy to forget the airport is so close.

There are several enromous greenhouses which are rainforest and other habitats -with birds , terrapins, iguanas and fish living in relative freedom.

The main green house was a lush and humid rainforest, with lots of tropical birds flying around or singing from hidden perches. A 'ruined' temple' and waterfall added to the atmosphere.

This is a photo from behind the waterfall - some other visitors are just visible through the curtain of water.

A banana plant- with lots of green bananas and a dark red flower.

Another greenhouse was full of treeferns which seemed somewhat prehistoric . Here are some of the tightly furled ferns

The caimans ,South and Central American reptiles added to the prehistoric atmosphere. They were sectioned off behind plexiglass-presumably to stop idiots feeding them their children.

I am always amazed by how crazy people can be around animals- whether pets or livestock or actual predators. I suppose it might be something to do with Disneyfication /anthropomorhising and the idea that animals are fluffy and nice and won't actually bite. Sadly this sometimes leads to tragic consequences , if people attract bears by covering their child's hand with honey or in the case i saw at the weekend , someone pushes their baby's hand through a fence to try and get an emu-like bird to bite. Luckily the baby was ok, if a bit scared.

Outside the greenhouses, were some cactus and succulent gardens.

A bamboo maze was interesting- made me think of pandas -here is some bamboo against the sky. Bamboo is a kind of grass and grows incredibly quickly.

Bamboo textiles are starting to become available - apparently it has anti-bacterial and wicking properties and since bamboo is very 'green' in terms of being sustainable, fast growing, and non polluting [no fertiliser or pesticides needed] it looks like being something that will be used more and more in the future. It also has no impact on giant pandas as the commercially grown bamboo is not the species eaten by pandas or even grown close to panda habitats.

There were quite a few small reptiles and big hairy spiders and bugs to see .
I was pleased with this chameleon photo.
A giant stick insect

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

llustration Friday- robot - nanorobot

As a family we are huge sci-fi fans and have been collecting classic sci-fi dvds for a while.
Recently the new Battlestar Galactica, old and new Dr Who , Blakes 7 and Firefly have been the most watched dvds.

However apart from the Cylon centurians [toasters] there aren't many robots in the sci-fi i like - I'm not sure if here is some fundamental reason for that or if its a coincidence.

I don't have a great deal of affinity for machines apart from computers and cameras, so maybe that has something to do with it.

It did make the topic for Illustration Friday a bit difficult though, until i thought about medical nanorobots.

Nanorobots are microscopic robots around a millions of a millimetre in size. They are mostly theoretical, for now, but with the expectation that they will be used in the future in for various purposes.

Since the medical nanorobots will be miniscule, may be used in swarms in order to get them to accomplish tasks eg repair and detection of cancers , or removal of blood clots - something like the film, the Fantastc Voyage but without the miniaturised scientists and submarine.

I decided to make some miniscule robots to work on the DNA double helix - initially i thought about making the nanorobots sort of cute and similar to the Numskulls from The Beezer comic but decided a more mechanistic 3-d look would be better and i liked drawing the pincers.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Change of banner

I changed the banner from Vincent van Gogh to Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was the total oppposite of the stereotypical 'dumb blonde' .

She was born in Poland on 7th November 1887 to a fairly poor family. After leaving school , she worked for several years as a governess to support her sister's medical training. Later this sister , Bronia, helped Marie [aka Marya] to move to Paris to study science.

In Paris, Marie was able to study for physics and maths degrees and then take a doctorate in Physics - unheard of for a woman at that time.

She researched radioactivity and was awarded the Nobel prize for Physics jointly with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel . Later she won the Nobel prize for chemistry for her work on radium .

She was an innovator as well as a scientist and quickly saw the importance of x-rays in visualising broken bones and bullets during World War 1 , leading to a fleet of X-ray vans and a large team of trained female technicians which were sent to army field hospitals.

She eventually died on the 4th July 1934 of aplastic anaemia caused by her long career of working with radioactivy with limited protection.
btw when i first uploaded the banner to the blog template , it seemed i'd had a dyslexic moment and had typed the wrong date for Marie Curie's death on the banner -its corrected now on the template and within the blog post.
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Photo Friday - Golden

I took this photo of golden palm fronds on the Colline de Chateau, Nice.

I don't know what kind of palm it is, or even if these are immature fruits or flowers. Searching around on the web hasn't cleared it up.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Final Entrevaux images

I finished sorting out the Entrevaux photos - so these are the last ones.

The first few were taken within the village walls.
There were lots of arches and odd stone stair cases and a few wells . Most of the village has tiny narrow paths between the packed houses [see photos here ] but there are a couple of small squares with a bit more space and light . I expect that the wells made it necessary for a bit more space as people at one time would have been queuing round about with jugs and pails.

I imagine that washing was done in the river Var , there are a couple of small gates in the wall that would allow folk to get to the river.

I think the lower dorrway here was either an entrance to a cellar or maybe would have been where animals were kept.

I'm not sure how people manage with moving house as there are no roads within the village and only one entrance and it would be a huge task to carry or even wheel things across the bridge and drawbridge and up steep narrow slopes to the houses.

A spike of mountain behind one of the houses

This is the view from the path up to the citadel, looking down from the drawbridge [yes, another one] beside the boundary wall for the citadel.

The Citadel fortress is being restored and much of the path and wall has been remade, but its still very steep and occasionally scary. I wouldn't have liked to be on the path with wind and rain or snow.
There are 9 steep ramps going up to the citadel- this photo doesn't really give the idea of how steep each ramp is. The arch and beige wall is one of the 20 fortified gateways that are found along the ramps.

The wall on the side of the path was fairly high at this part , otherwise i wouldn't have been able to stop and take a photo without fear/ vertigo.

This is a view of the nearby spike of rock with one of the fortlets on way up to the citadel.
A view through some window bars in the ordinary soldier's barracks -a beautiful view when warm and sunny.

This was the view across the valley from the near top of the citadel - I had to brace myself against the wall and stand well back in order to take the photo and then I had to go down to lower parts that didn't look straight down the cliff edge.

There is some snow just visible on the tops of the mountains in the distance.. The scenery is very dramatic and despite the vertigo , I am glad I made it to the top to see the views.
This is looking down on the rooftops of Entrevaux showing the squeezed together houses and the bend in the river Var . If I'd managed another flight of stairs i would have been able to take a photo that shows the river sweeping right round the townThe citadel and zigzag pathway up the hill. I dont have any photos of the citadel from the ramps unfortunately as it was at this point that my camera batteries gave out.

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Illustration Friday -spotted

I had planned to do something different for I Friday, but for various reasons - eg kids being on holiday from school, I haven't managed to finish the original image I started.

I was intending to paint a childhood dream of mine; to spot a pterydactyl nest and I sketched it out and got reasonably far with the colour before deciding that maybe i should tackle it from a different angle/perspective. So, that idea is on the back burner for now while i ponder on how to make it better.

After that i thought about doing something based on Seurat's work or something generally pointillist but much much simpler.

Pointillism and similar painting styles use the working of the eye itself and colour theory to create colour blends in the brain rather than mixing paint and laying it down on the canvas. The small dots of colour arranged side by side give an impression of shades of colour when seen from a distance but can be seen as individual dots of colour when seen close up.

I ended up doing something kind of silly, that was just made up of individual and overlapping dots . I also had the notion to make it a repeating pattern of 2 spot ladybirds .
The green squiggles and spotted lines are meant to represent swaying grass and the ladybirds are intentionally cute, becuase i like ladybirds

Its actually not very easy to create shapes out of overlapping dots, but it gives and interesting wobbly outline that added to the dotty spotty silly idea.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Flowers, bugs and butterflies

I took these at Entrevaux - a mixed bag of nature images that i liked. Unfortunately, my camera was accidently switched on in my bag so i wasn't able to take as many photos as i'd have liked - which was especially annoying when i saw so many butterflies that i'd have dearly loved photograph. I managed to nurse teh camera along by swapping batteries and coaxing out another couple of photos but it didn't allow me to take the butterflies.

Some wisteria on a trellis outside the village walls. Its not native to Euriope and has poisonous seeds , though its very pretty.
A speckled snail shell - i liked the delicate pink interior

A brilliant yellow dandelion - pissenlit in french and 'pee the bed' in Scots - i'm not sure if the similar names come from the Auld Allliance or not. There are quite a few french words in Scots, so its possible.

A different dandelion plus beeA green hairstreak butterfly Callophrys rubi , well camouflaged on a plant.
Its called the Argus vert [green argus] in french.

Another green hairstreak on a juniper bush.
Gendarme or firebug Pyrrhocoris apterus

I wrote about these previously here
Borage Borago officinalis aka starflower is an alien looking plant - incredibly hairy stems and buds and leaves.

This is a single bud
A group of buds.
I think the plant looks alien. Its used now as a source of GLA -gamma linoleic acid -the crushed seeds make borage oil/starflower oil which is used for its various healing properties- anti PMS, anti-inflammatory, metabolism regulation etc
The flowers droop down so its difficult to see the 'face'

To be honest the 'face' of the flower isn't too attractive . [see below]

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Entrevaux and River Var

When we went to Entrevaux last week, we took the Train des Pignes run by Chemins de Fer de Provence.
The railway dates back to the late 19th century and there are some steam trains in summer that run from Puget-Théniers to Annot.

We went on the ordinary train service. The scenery is spectacular as the train follows the valley of the Var river with wooded steep slopes, cliffs and mountain crags and the milky blue water of the river meandering towards the sea. We picked a really good day for the trip and the sky was brilliant cornflower blue which really set off the pale grey stone of the mountains.

I took a lot of photos of different parts of the trip, which i will be posting about over the next few days.

This is the view from Entrevaux station. You can see the train tracks leading up to a tunnel. There are several long tunnels on the route that go through the side of hills.Across the road from the station, the Var river runs past the mediaeval village of Entrevaux with the Citadel fortress perched on the rock spike above the town.
Its not easy to see in this photo, but there is a zig zag route up to the Citadel. Its a very steep path and somewhat scary and vertigo inducing, for me at least. However the views from the top were worth the effort and adrenaline.
Part of the defensive wall which protects the village protected . Its an excellent defensive position as the rock defends the back of the village and the river and wall take care of the front.
The village moved to this position in the tenth century.

The village and citadel defenses were improved by the military architect Vauban in the 17th century.

The river acts much like a moat . There is even a drawbridge over the river.

This is the view down the Var valley
This is the way in - a fortified gatehouse which gives access to the drawbridge over River Var

The bridge is a fair height above the water. The follwong photo was taken to the side of the gatehouse and shows the bridge, drawbridge and entrance to Entrevaux.

A view of the river var valley taken when standing on the bridge.People walking alonmg the bridge towards the drawbridge and entrance gate .The citadel is just visible above the roof tops
A closer view of the drawbridge beams and chains and the painted heraldry above the entrance arch.

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