Announcement !

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Starting tomorrow I will be on the road doing what I love best and that is taking pictures. I will be on my way to the Pacific Northwest to shoot along the Oregon and Washington coast, then head up to Vancouver to hopefully photograph Orcas and other sea mammals.

I will be in the Bokeh Maru, this time travelling without my normal crew, and will try to blog as conditions permit. The last time that wasn’t a successful endeavor but I’ll give it shot again as I’m able. If I don’t, I’ll save them up until I get back and post them ad nauseam until the trip is covered. I can and will receive emails while I’m gone so if any of you have any burning questions about life, love, or the pursuit of happiness, save ’em, I’ll be too busy taking pictures to fool with that stuff. However if there is some pressing need that isn’t political, religious, or dumb send them along. I’ll read them on the ferry while my motion sickness pills kick in.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks or there abouts, so if you’re bored spend some time in the archives, there’s lots of stuff there to look at. Yes, yes, I’ll miss you and no I won’t bring you back a present. See you soon.

Blue Buffalo Series # 3

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The camera likes blue. if you walk around at night and see people’s TV sets on, almost always the screen will appear blue. There is some technical reason for this that has to do with cathode tubes and the matrix of the phosphorus coating on the TV’s backside and the fact that the guy who invented TV was really into blue. He didn’t like any other color. A lot of the stuff that is inside TVs is now inside modern cameras. So ergo, cameras like blue too.

There was also that big censorship thing back in the 1950’s about “blue movies” being shown on TV. Since all the so-called blue movies were actually shot using blue light, hence the name, if they are projected onto a blue background they become invisible and good people wouldn’t be able to see anything the bad people were doing.  Blue on blue is just blue. So if you were watching TV back then you probably saw some of those blue movies and didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until the crazy 60’s that other colors of lights were added so now you can see everything. Boy, did that make the censors nervous.

Nature is kind of into blue too. If you go outside at dusk and I highly recommend that you do, you will notice the sky gets like, really super blue just before it goes dark. After exhaustive study we have found that the warmer colors, your reds, your yellows, your ambers and Atomic Tangerines are not what they call ‘mature’ colors yet. They’re still young colors in a cosmic sense, and as such are not allowed to stay up as late as the more mature colors like your indigo’s and your blues and purples. Consequently as the day ends the warmer colors of the spectrum are sent off to bed, usually with a large amount of hollering and screaming. If you see one of those incredibly vivid sunsets where there is this phenomenal explosion of colors, all in the warmer tones, reds, oranges, scarlet etc., that’s just the kids throwing a tantrum and making a scene before they go to bed. It is best just to let them get it out of their system and then send them packing.

Up in Yellowstone it’s the same thing. They don’t get any special considerations up there just because they’re a National park. Come dusk, the younger kids are sent off to bed and the light turns blue. Here are some buffalo getting ready to call it a night. The mother is taking her two kids across the river just as the last blue light is falling, to a spot where they can bed down. The kids are balky, straggling along, they know this means bedtime and like all kids it doesn’t sit well with them because they’re not tired. Even though the kid right behind mom is so beat he may not make it across the river before he goes out.

You may not have even known anything about this whole blue light deal but now you know everything there is to know about blue light and its effect on people. So if you have trouble getting your kids to bed just turn out all the red and yellow and other warm colored lights and pretty soon the kids will be zonked. This is Blue Buffalo Series # 3.

 

Spires Of The Fisher Kings

 

 Spires6691Osprey Along the Yellowstone river   click to enlarge

 

There is a magical place in Yellowstone where the Yellowstone river slowly cuts its way through a magnificent canyon on its way through the park until it joins the mighty Missouri river way off to the East. Eon after eon it reveals the details hidden in the granite walls. As the water wears away the outer coating of the cliff sides these walls begin to take on a life of their own. It will shed one formation, letting it cascade into the canyon below to be swept downstream as small boulders and pebbles smashing and rubbing together until there is nothing left but sand, then presenting another formation as a prominent detail until it tires of it and begins the process all over again.

Throughout these eons there have always been fierce inhabitants making their homes in the rocky ledges and spire-tops up and down the canyon, each striving to claim  a small portion of the cliffs as their own fiefdom. They are known as the Fisher people and the strongest, fiercest of them all become the Fisher Kings. They have proven their right to their kingdom through trial by battle and prevailed, holding on to the area they claim from repeated assaults of those that would dethrone them and take their land and their queens.

The area they carve out as their own each have special nesting sites which may be the top of mighty spires, or tucked into the fissures in the cliff face, or on ledges high up on the canyon walls. Some of these nests have been occupied for years upon years, each new generation adding to the nest until the nests can weigh over a ton. Sometimes the nest gets so large that a fierce winter storm can send it cascading over the edge to hang precariously until it finally collapses into the river  below. Undeterred the owners soon begin the rebuilding process and a new nest emerges.

They sit on guard using the tip of a spire to watch for intruders and to scan the river below with their incredible eyesight for the movement of fish in the shallows. When prey is spotted they tuck their wings and dive into the canyon in a stoop that can take them down over a thousand feet to the river’s surface. The climb back up to their nests carrying a 20″ cutthroat tests their strength but they always make it.

Each year they mate and rear their young until they are ready to leave the nest and fight for a place along the canyon walls to raise their own families. They will be the next Fisher Kings and the cycle continues.

Captive Beauty: Grey Wolf

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For those of you wanting to see a slavering, vicious, cold-hearted killing machine I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. What we have here instead is a highly-intelligent, extremely social member of the grey wolf pack at the Grizzly and Wolf sanctuary in West Yellowstone, Montana.

This is a captive pack made up of individuals who for one reason or another cannot be returned to the wild. They’re kept in a large enclosure that as accurately represents the environment that they would be in if they were in the wild, as possible. Except for the fence that is. But in providing for these animals some compromises are made. It’s always a give and take deal in a situation like this. It would be nice if there were no fences but these are not domesticated animals and some things, like fences, are necessary for the well-being of both sides of the equation.

As I’ve noted before, my agenda here, if you want to call it that, is not to debate animals in captivity, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, but to present those animals in a way that shows their strengths and character as well as their beauty. Which is why these posts are always titled “Captive Beauty.” And they are beautiful. When you view this wolf all you see is pure unadulterated wolf. No hidden additives, no tricks, no phoniness, just wolf. Look at the expression on its face. This guy enjoys being a wolf.

If you’re new to the blog or just want to see past posts of other captive beauties, just enter Captive Beauty into the search box at the top of the page and check them out.

Hold On Just A Minute Here

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I’ve been thinking. Maybe we’ve been pushing this Fall stuff a little too hard. I mean talking about it and all, looking around to see if the trees are turning yet, thinking about making a big pot of chili. I mean things happen fast enough as it is, which is okay for some things, some things you want to happen fast, like right now fast. But for things like Fall that have a drastic effect on your quality of life I think you need to slow it the hell down a notch. I mean you do know what happens after Fall, don’t you? I mean like immediately after Fall. Yes, that’s right, the ‘W’ word which brings up the ‘S’ word which stands for snow and that rhymes with NO!, right here in River City.

Maybe its just me but didn’t it take longer to switch from summer to fall a while ago. I seem to remember noticing, like, one tree that had a couple of different colored leaves on it around the middle of September. And it would still be hot as Dutch love during the day but at night when you were going to the game down at the high school, or the CYO dance on Friday night, it would be cool but not freezing. You’d  walk a girl home with your jacket unzipped to show her how the weather barely affected you, which made you really cool. Or at least you thought it did. And when the leaves finally did turn and start to fall it took like three weekends to rake them all up. But it was neat walking downtown to the movies because the sidewalks would all be covered with every single color leaves turned, and they’d make that kind of swishing-crunchy noise against your shoes as you walked through them. That seemed like a normal fall to me.

Now if you even say the word out loud, “Fall”, or even say something like “Man, it was cold this morning I think summer’s over ” Bam! it’s fall and there’s no leaves left on the trees because they turned in like twenty minutes, then the wind blew them off the trees and it was snowing. I hate that.

Case in point. The image above was taken back in 2008 up at Sand Creek, Colorado, near the Wyoming border. I had friends up there that liked Fall but they were cool about it so it didn’t get in the way. But that didn’t change the fact that Sand Creek is a place notorious for Fall. First its farther north than here, and it’s higher in elevation than here and it’s kind of isolated, in short  a perfect place to have a short quick, brutal Fall. But check out those leaves. Do you notice the amount of green still left in them? See how the leaves are gradually turning to yellow. They’re in no rush. They’re taking their time. That’s only 6 years ago. You still had time to get adjusted to the idea that it was going to be cold and stuff. You were better prepared mentally.

Now it is totally different. Now some careless door-knob will walk outside and just blurt out “Hey it’s cold out. Must be getting Fall” and there you go. Before you can say “Where’s my down coat” or “I hope the car starts.” you are ankle-deep in snow and wondering where the hell summer went. It was here a minute ago.

So I’m going to stop talking about it so much. In fact I’m going to look at every leaf that’s turning color for at least ten minutes each just to make Fall last longer. I’m going to walk around with my jacket unzipped. Hell, I might even go to a CYO dance, if I can find one. This year I’m going to have the longest fall I can. If you were smart and I think you are, you might do the same thing too. And if you locate a CYO dance give me a call.

A View To The South

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Here at The Institute there is always a constant flow of activity where our many departments pursue their various objectives. In a high-tech environment like ours, with its pressure-cooker deadlines and high stress levels, our staff sometimes forgets to stop a moment and look around to see if all is right in the world.

That’s why early on, when The Institute was first being built, I saw the need to provide a place where one could go and just look. To stop, see, contemplate and become one with yourself again. So there, high up on the tallest spire that anchors a corner of the main hall, right where the south and west walls meet, the tower we call “Cloud Catcher” was constructed that overlooks the foothills of the mountains.  We built a small balcony that juts out through part of the conical roof where you can stand and look out over the land below as far as you want to. Many times you will look down on Redtail hawks and Golden Eagles soaring below. The stingingly cold west wind blowing through your hair and tugging at your clothes as you listen to the snapping sound of the pennants at the very peak above, make you feel alive as never before, and you can see once again if all is still right with the world.

This is particularly important during times of change when monumental decisions are being made and you have to be centered to make those hard choices. So it is mandatory that every member of our staff, especially those who makes important decisions, makes the trek up the 380 steps of the Cloud Catcher Spire and takes in the view from the Balcony of Serenity. I know, it’s a trite name but it makes sense after you’ve been up there a few times.

The image above is an early evening view to the South during the first few weeks of fall. We are still in the last of the monsoon season and there is high humidity in the air which forms mist and low-lying fog in the valleys below as the temperature changes. It is nearly impossible to observe this view for any length of time without your blood pressure coming down and calmness spreading through your mind. The relaxation is total. This is why we limit the visit to once a week and then for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You have to be able to descend those 380 steps.

I am presenting it here this Monday morning for any of you that are faced with hard decisions, stress, uncertainty, and strife in your life to look at and hopefully find some calmness for yourself. But remember only look at it for 20 minutes at a time. Any more than that and you could find yourself saying, to hell with it, I hear the living is easy in Fiji. Or Northern Colorado.

Watership Down Revisited

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What you’re looking at here is a sight very few trespassers see and live to talk about. This is Captain Hornwort, the head of our local garrison of guard rabbits. Don’t let his benign looking appearance fool you. These are formidable creatures and they do an excellent job of protecting the fenceline around the outlying areas of The Institution. In the past for our security needs, we had always used a breed of guard dog developed especially for patrolling and protecting various Institutes around the world and which our tame genetic scientists then modified slightly to accommodate the terrain and conditions we have here at our Institute.

The dogs were a cross of three breeds noted to be among the fiercest, scariest, meanest dogs on the planet. The mixture was of a breed called Kangal, from Turkey which has the second strongest canine bite after the hyena at 700 psi, the Presa Canario from Spain which regularly eats Boerboels, a South African dog, another really nasty breed, for breakfast, the Ovecharka also known as the Caucasian Shepard, from Cental Asia which is slightly smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle, the old ones, not the new ones, and meaner than a snake to boot, and our own contribution to the mix was the addition of the Lhasa Apso, a breed chosen for its zen-like disposition and ability to tone down slightly the ferocious nature of the other breeds and also making the resulting animal cuter, so it wouldn’t completely terrify the interns selected to care for the kennels.

These guard dogs were terrifying vicious animals. Forget about your pit-bulls, Rottweiler’s and Dobie’s, our breed of guard dogs kept those as sex toys. We still find bones and sometimes full skeletons of those trespassers that didn’t heed the warning signs that are posted every ten feet on our razor wire fence. These dogs would even eat the deadhead patches off the victims clothing. That’s how mean they are. They would make your bad dog dribble just by mentioning their name. That was until a fortunate or unfortunate accident depending on your viewpoint, occurred when a feral wolf, itself so mean, it was driven from its pack for excessive force, accidentally mated with one of our Institute’s rabbits causing a genetic aberration of biblical proportions. What was created was an animal that so far outdid our dogs in ferocity, fearsomeness, and deportment that it is difficult to describe in a column that civilized people read.

Because we had earlier developed these rabbits to be intelligent and resourceful, the combining of the wolf genetic material with our enhanced rabbit material caused the resulting creature to be super-intelligent, as in really smart, smart like a 16-year-old and someone who had been married and divorced multiple times melded together, if you can even imagine that combination. I can, but only slightly.

Because we’re in the realm of difficult to believe anyway, it won’t surprise you to learn that when one of our interns accidentally left a copy of Watership Down lying out amongst the rocks where any super-intelligent, genetically enhanced rabbit could find it, well, that tore it. It wasn’t long before the ideas in that pivotal novel spread through the Lapin world like a rabbit with herpes. In days they were all infected. A new order sprang up that paralleled all the best and worst traits brought out in the novel and we soon had warrens set up all along the perimeter of The institute. Shortly after, all of the members of our roving pack of specially developed and trained guard dogs were gone. Killed and consumed by this new breed of guard rabbit. You have to remember, these were dogs so ferocious the meanest most savage rhino in our menagerie would run and hide if it even saw one of their tracks. These are bad rabbits.

General Woundwort, the diabolical leader of the most savage of the rabbit colonies in the novel, soon became one of the most revered heroes of this new breed of rabbit, and Captain Hornwort, who chose his name to emulate his hero, ‘wort’ being the synonym of bad in rabbit language, became the most feared leader in the rabbit community here on The Institute grounds. Even the people instrumental in the development of this new rabbit can barely control him. If we didn’t have an absolute lock on the raising and cultivation of the carrot crop, I would be worried for the safety of our staff.

For a long time that was the only hold we had on these new dangerous rabbits, but then, as always happens in circumstances like this, one of The Institutes clever geneticists was doing some remedial study on Wikipedia and found the one thing that gives us the protection we need from these dangerous beasts. It was Clover. Yeah, just like in the book and movie, War of the Worlds, where we humans would have been toast during the invasion of the Martians if it hadn’t been for the microorganisms, all the bacteria and cancers and tumors that human beings have learned to conquer over thousands of years and it killed off those ravaging, pillaging Martians, saving the day, and also the rest of those people who were still alive.

Ho-ly Mackerel…. Clover. According to Wikipedia and now a fact endorsed by our own tame geneticists, it seems that clover gives rabbits gas, and rabbits have no way to get rid of gas, so if they eat it they swell up and explode and that’s that. Amazing, right? Soon all of our folks who worked the outlying areas of the Institutes vast holdings were wearing clover headbands, clover socks, clover rain slickers and such and we were safe. No one forgets their cloverware. At least not more than once. Sure in the beginning we lost a few interns due to the rabbits not having read this fact on Wikipedia but before long you could hear small muffled explosions echoing through the valley and see blossoming clouds of rabbit fur, and soon because the rabbits were so smart, we didn’t lose any more interns. At least those that wore their clover. No clover, you got eaten. Wear clover, you didn’t. It raised the level of intelligence enormously on both sides by removing the weak links from the gene pool. Win-win for all.

Because we feel like we have a handle on the raising and training of this new breed of guard animal and we hold the patent on their genetic development we’re ready to begin selling this service to other institution’s that have a need for exceptional levels of security. If this is you or you’re friends with an institution, or are planning to start one soon, please contact us for more information.

Kindly address all inquiries to:

The Institute

Department of Genetic Modification / Badass rabbits

Colorado, USA

(We accept PayPal, Cashier’s checks, stamps and money orders. Government P.O.’s considered with acceptable credit)

The Director will be in touch as soon as it’s safe to move around the Institute’s campus.