Wednesday, April 23, 2014

London Zoo

I go either way on Zoos.  They can be quite depressing- some of the higher mammals seethe boredom and have a dullness or a madness to their eyes.

Still, it's entertaining people watching.  Much more so than watching the tigers sleep.  It's a good chance to get photos of animals that are elusive or continents away, to play with different lenses and fiddle with camera settings that you wouldn't be afforded in the wild.  Go on a weekday early and you'll have the cages to yourself, and the plexiglass will have a bit fewer smudges on it.  I remember taking a day off from work to get to the Bronx zoo on a weekday morning while school was in session, and having a nice quiet stroll around and even getting to see a redtail hawk eviscerate a pigeon.  Nature at work.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seven Sisters

A few more pictures from my walk along the cliffs near Seaford.  Sigh.  I fall behind.

As the day brightened, the colors around me started to pop.  The emerald greens, the glaring white cliff face.  Some shadows appeared, and the fog momentarily cleared.  

One thing that I discovered post-shoot is that I need to get my camera cleaned.  On these Nikon SLRs, the oil they use on the shutter tends to spatter and leave spots on the image sensor.  Ugh.  I had it cleaned about a year ago and it made a huge difference in the image quality.  These images proved that the oil splatters are back- I can see them clearly when I view the images in full-size.  Camera repairmen everywhere swoon as this seems to be an ongoing issue with the latest Nikons as well.

The Brits love walking in the countryside.  There's a website devoted to walks here-  There's lots of bus and train connections even in the most rural spots, making it easy to do linear walks in which you don't have to double-back to a car park at the end of the day.

The top of the cliffs is also a sheep pasture!  There were new lambs frolicking all around, and bits of lovely soft crimpy lanolin-infused wool on the ground.  I didn't pocket it.  I was tempted, though.

Alas, after some bright sun, it clouded up again and the fog started rolling in again.  There's a small National Trust gift shop along the cliffs, where you can warm up with a cup of coffee and a scone before continuing.  It's nice to get out of the wind.  Those trees in my previous post were bowled over for a reason- the wind coming off the cliff face was relentless, and the waves are strong enough to kick up pebbles from the cliff face and scatter them along the tops of the cliffs.

There were a few brave souls surfing here- there's no clear access to the beach since the winter, so they were quite athletic just to get down to the water.  There's been a big winter-surf happening going on in the UK and Ireland this year- huge winter storm surf has been attracting pro surfers from all over, but it's still for the brave and the well-equipped.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I got the travel bug again.  After a winter of cozying it up at home and getting the garden started and exploring this fair city, I'm totally itching to get out.  Also, I should probably see a doctor about that rash.  Kidding!  kidding.

I took a train out to the quaint beach town Eastbourne the other week, and then walked up to beachyhead and the Seven Sisters- a series of stunning white chalk cliffs that shear off into the sea.  You've seen this before I'm sure: it's the hollywood stand-in for the white cliffs of nearby Dover.

Upon arrival, I was dismayed:  despite inland being fairly bright (if not entirely sunny) the coast was blanketed with a thick sea fog.  It was great if you wanted to stand on the hill and stage MacBeth, but not so much for photography.  No worries, it brightened eventually and despite the low visibility I'm quite happy with the day's work.  It loaned the landscape a lonely, desolate feel that I found intensely peaceful.

Here are some of the pictures from the day.  I'll have more later; I've got a backlog of pictures to go through as I've been shooting like crazy lately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

FO: Kissing Koi mittens

It's April, I wanna make more mittens!

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Am I the only one who gets kind of nostalgic for the chill of fall when spring arrives?  Yes, probably.  And realistically, it's just a passing emotion for me, as I do love the warm sun and the beach and outdoorsy things.  Still, the long days and thawing of the earth is somewhat sad because it means I should probably stop making heavy mid-winter knitwear.

NEVER! says I.  I will sit there in the park on a sunny day making dastardly winter wear no matter how hot it gets.  As an aside, everyone here says they don't get much of a summer anyway.  You'll be wearing tights and a cardi with that cute summer frock regardless of the the calender.

Honestly though, I think it's time to get out the linen and cottons and whatnot and at least do one summery project before the days shorten and a protective coating of knitwear is once again standard gear, and all of those who rolled their eyes at me purling away on a pair of socks in July will start wishing they had the foresight to be nicer to me as they lose all feeling in their extremities.

I've been slightly obsessed with colorwork mittens lately.  To me, they are perfect...they take a bit of time and concentration to get through, but they make fantastic gifts.  While I wouldn't be keen to do an entire sweater with fish or snowflakes or wolves or whathaveyou, mittens are the perfect vehicle to put your spirit animals on display.

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I have a fascination with goldfish, especially the fancy, fin-bedazzled kind.  Except every time I've kept a fish tank, I've had dreams that the goldfish have tried to kill me.  I no longer try to keep fish of any kind because of this.  Totally irrational, but it's hard to wake up in the morning and throw some fish flakes to these little monsters when you are convinced they are going to slit your throat in your sleep.

Still...there's something just so peaceful about watching goldfish.

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Or is there?  (cue music from Psycho)

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Yarn is Knitpicks Palate in Bittersweet Heather and Cornmeal.  Palate is awesome for colorwork based on the sheer number of colors available.  It's not incredibly soft, but it's good, utilitarian, fingering-weight yarn.  Pattern is Kissing Koi Mittens.  The only mods I made was starting the decrease shaping early on the mitten tops; as written I thought they were a little to blunt.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Green Thumb

About three weeks ago, this thing was a seed:


Terrifying, no?  It is to me anyway.   Bean plants shoot up so fast, it's almost alien-like.  The directions on the package said not to put them in the ground until May, but this is doing so well I'll probably have beans by May.

I've been happily getting my urban farm going.  I started everything indoors on trays in peat pots and cardboard egg crates in early March, and slowly acclimatized them to outdoors on sunny days.


Pretty much everything has peeped up through the soil and is thriving.  Dozens of tomatoes, lettuce, kale, herbs.  I think I started the cukes too early as they never materialized, but I had good luck with everything else.



The radishes erupted with such an alarming ferocity that I was sure an errant squirrel had disturbed the soil.


They broke through so fast, they pushed the top layer of soil out of the pot.  I have created a monster.


I have many more tomato seedlings than I have space for mature plants.  As soon as the seedlings get a bit bigger, I'll be giving them away.  If anyone in the London area would like some free heirloom tomato seedlings, please let me know.  So far I have Black Krim, Bradywines and a couple varieties of cherry tomatoes that will need a new home soon.



I also planted some honeybee-friendly flowers.  Apparently, there are lots of beekeepers in the city, but not a whole lot of food for the bees, meaning they have to travel quite far to find food now.  They are encouraging people to plant more flowers for bee food, which I am happy to comply since they will be quite helpful pollinating the tomatoes once they flower as well.

I've been getting a nice stash of plant containers, mostly found items and giveaways.  It would be nice to have some raised beds, but I'm not that invested in a rental.  My nomadic hunter-gather lifestyle probably isn't suitable for farming anyway.

Friday, April 4, 2014

London Smog

London doesn't exactly have a good track record as far as air quality goes.

For days now, a yellowish-gray haze has enveloped the city, stinging the eyes and causing much respiratory distress.  After a brutally wet winter here, some dry weather is certainly welcome.  Unfortunately, the combination of pollution and the mist coming off the Thames with no rain to dampen it has combined with winds blowing sand in from the Sahara has created a perfect smog storm of sorts.

Here's some pictures from the BBC, because I can't be arsed to haul my camera anywhere when the light is this dull.

Pollution in London

 Pictures of the smog get old fast.  "Wow, that's a lot of smog, I hear they have worse in Beijing".   Throw a ham hock in that mess and you'll have a hearty soup in no time at all.

The London skyline seen from Greenwich (buildings in the distance are barely visible through smog)

Cyclist wearing an air pollution mask

London landmarks are kind of dull in the murk.

I haven't been shooting at all lately.  I miss it.  I went for a walk today and took a few pictures, but the fact the lighting is hazy and crap did me no favors.  Everything is turning brilliant springtime green, but you wouldn't be able to see that.  At night, the flares off headlights and streetlights give the landscape a surreal quality.  I also feel the need to wash my face about eight times a day, as my skin will just get a greasy dirt coating after just a quick walk outside.

I hope this lifts soon.  I have already considered putting pea soup on the banished list for life because of this event.