Monday, March 17, 2008

The Thief...

Bron and I headed down to the Devonport waterfront last weekend for the sole purpose of photographing birds in flight. I was going to do the photographing, and Bron said she would be the bait. (i.e. the one who holds or throw the food up in the air so I can get birds in flight).
We got there about 6.00pm. Beautiful night – a little bit of a seabreeze. We headed into the fish and chip shop, bought them all wrapped up in newspaper, then headed out to the waterfront. I couldn’t believe just how busy Devonport was – lots of people doing the same thing – eating fish and chips in the park and feeding the birds. We couldn’t find a bench, so we sat on the low wall and decided to eat our fill first and then feed what was left over to the gulls.

We sat and watched the activity on the water – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ships come and go in the short time we were there.

Then five minutes later…

Then another five minutes later…

One good thing about eating fish and chips is that they’re really filling. Which meant by the time Bron and I were finished, there were still heaps of fish and chips and two potato fritters left. So I got my camera out and got Bron to hold the chips. As I thought – the seagulls just came down and took the chips right out of our hands. Very very strong beaks too… ripped off Bron's hand in seconds...

Actually – this is the original, but I couldn’t resist doing the above one, I have always wanted to do a horror/macabre image but thought it was hard doing manipulations. It was surprisingly easy!!

And so I got some seagulls in flight – I’m rapt with the results as they are extremely difficult to get right…

I then really started noticing that the stronger and bigger gulls were taking over. Big, with black coats, grey eyes and yellow beaks – they are quite handsome birds. So I did some internet research and found that they are actually Mollymawks, and not just ‘big seagull’s’! Wikipedia let me know that…

Mollymawks are a group of medium sized albatrosses that form the genus Thalassarche. They are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, where they are the most common of the albatrosses. They were long considered to be in the same genus as the great albatrosses, Diomedea, but a study of their mitochondrial DNA showed that they are a monophyletic taxon related to the sooty albatrosses, and they were placed in their own genus.[1]

Mollymawks have what has been described as gull-like plumage, with dark black backs, mantle and tails and lighter heads, underwings and bellies. The heads of several species are often slightly darker grey, or have dark around the eyes. The bills of mollymawks are either brightly coloured orange or yellow, or dark with several bright yellow lines

When I started feeding the mollymawks chips, they were quite wary of me at first, wouldn’t take chips out of my hand. I’ve decided they’re quite intelligent birds as within half an hour I had them doing what I wanted, so close that I was using my macro lens and getting some great close up shots…


However – they are thieves. I have proof. The first living proof was just last year. We were at our favourite place for the day – in Tawharunui. A fabulous beach that is also a protected marine park. You’d think then there would be plenty of fish for the Mollymawks to eat and never go hungry. But no – they’re picnic raiders. Here’s the proof…

See – a WHOLE sandwich. Lettuce and all. A thief for sure. Then on Monday, I spent the day at Tawharunui with friends. On the way up there (it’s about 1.5 hours drive), we stopped at the service station and I bought a drink and a summer roll which is a nougat muesli bar. I was looking forward to having it as part of my lunch. As soon as we got to Tawharunui, we decided to go for a swim straight away seeing the water was excellent, and the sun was hot. We swam in crystal clear waters for about an hour, but then I got cold so decided to go back and get my towel. As I came up the bank, I noticed a Mollymawk on our picnic blanket. Then I noticed he had my summer roll in his beaks still in its plastic wrapper. I gave chase. I caught up with it about 25 metres away, so hoped to scare it off before it picked up my summer roll again by waving my arms and yelling loudly. Fat chance. It just picked up the summer roll and flew far far away to places I will never reach unless I grow wings myself. I kissed my summer roll goodbye and went back to our picnic blanket. It had completely shredded the plastic bag it came out of as well!

Later the same Mollymawk sat on a rock and laughed a me. It still hasn’t been forgiven!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I have the word SUCKER tattooed on my butt!!

Remember last year I rehomed a white kitten because it was neglected by a neighbor, and in desperation she had come to me? I blogged about it just back in February in a blog titled 'From Rags to Riches'.

Well - last Sunday night, I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, came out to the lounge, and there was this tiny completely white kitten in the middle of my living room floor. It meowed. I lipread it as 'help me'!

I guess someone forgot to take the White Kittens Welcome sign down after the last one, either that or I have SUCKER tattooed on my butt!

It was in a terrible condition. Dirty, full of fleas, scabby ears, terrible eyes and just skin and bone.

First I gave it a bowl of water, then I took it into the tub and gave it bath. Then I found some food and gave it some which it wolfed down as if it hadn't eaten for months. Well days anyway.

I sent Anne up to the shops for some kitten food and some kitty litter, and made up a litter box for it. Popped it on my bed on a blanket where it promptly fell asleep. All night.

I got up and fed it again at 5am, then at 8 rang the vet and made an appointment.

Vet thinks it may have been abandoned, or lost, perhaps got outside by mistake and was too young to find its way back. It was very dehydrated (scabby ears), very dirty but no infection - they eyes were just filthy black, very starved. We are to give her 5 feeds a day, wash her eyes with salt water 2x a day, rub ears with ringworm cream just in case 2x a day. She's to keep away from cats until she is vaccinated and to keep her inside until she is 3 to 5 months old. The vet think she's about 6 or 7 weeks old.

This kitten is loving, gorgeous, and after a couple of days had really scrubbed up into something beautiful. You just had to touch it and it would turn itself inside out purring. Loved lying across you - loved human company and became a little white shadow. She's totally toilet trained as well.

My cats were ropeable - so some friends of mine who had lost their cat only last week, took it to nurse it to health while I found a home. After just a couple of days - she was really beginning to scrub up well...

I sent out emails to all and sundry about the kitten, and my friends Linda and Mike decided to take it. They came round on Thursday, and we went and picked up the kitten. Had the kitten been deaf, Iwould have probably kept her, but she I tested her hearing and she seems to hear well. I took another couple of photos of her just before she went to Linda and Mike's place.

Vet Visit for kitty: $120.00

Vet visit to get my cat vaccinated just in case: $55.00

Seeing kitty respond to love and food: Priceless

I have taken down the sign, and will have plastic surgery on my butt to remove that tattoo!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Teaching an old Dog New Tricks - Learning to use a Slide Duplicator

My dad recently moved from a lovely big house in the Coromandel, into a smaller unit in a retirement village. Like everyone who has gone from big to smaller, they were faced with a lot of things that were ‘surplus to their needs’. The items of value were passed down to us kids (6 of us), and the rest was sold in a garage sale. Amongst other things, I am now the proud new owner of a huge box of slides, and a slide projector, which as yet, I don’t know how to use.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s slide photography was the way to go. Easy to store, family movies, and probably cheaper than film developing. My father was one of the many who used this medium, and he was a good and prolific photographer. By the 70’s, only the diehards were still doing slide photography, the rest was now using film. No doubt, like my parents, there are thousands of families with boxes of slides hidden away in a cupboard or attic, and hardly ever seen. Heck Slide projectors are becoming a thing of the past as well. I can’t remember the last time I watched a slide show with family images, but it was probably when I was younger than 15 anyway. That’s at least 30 years ago.

All the slides were taken on a retina 111c 50mm focal length, 7 bladed compur rapid lens speeds 1 second to 500th pus B & T for flash photography Flash bulbs were used and one had to calculate distance and aperture for each shot.Dad still has the camera – it cost 71 pounds or $142 back in the late 50's. It was also used for candid photography at weddings for a professional photographer. It had a unique lens system - the front of the standard lens came off and two supplementary lenses were available, a 40 mm wide angle and an 80mm telephoto lens.

As a scrapbooker I’m interested in the family history, so I was pleased to get these boxes of slides, however, I can’t use them as slides, unless I get the slide projector out and do some family movies – which might be on the agenda this winter. Nothing like hot chocolates and the rest of the family over to ooh and ahh over our baby photos of nearly 50 years ago! But as a scrapbooker, I really don’t want slides – I want photos. Which got me thinking of how to convert them to digital images.

First I looked into buying a scanner, but there are drawbacks to these. Firstly is the expense, and then the time. A good negative/slide scanner for good quality images will set you back in the vicinity of $1500 to $2500. However it’s slow going. The scanning process itself is slow, and then once converted you have a bit of work to do on the colour settings etc..
I then looked at commercial places, and the cheapest I could get them scanned were with someone who could do it for $150 for 500 slides. That’s quite good. Not bad – but I have way more than 500 slides.

I asked my camera club what they thought, and was told of an attachment that could be put on my existing camera lens, where you slide the slides in, take a photo of it, and hey presto, you have a RAW file or JPG that you can then work on in Photoshop, then print for the scrapbook albums, or simply make up a slideshow that will work on any computer. Now this sounded promising. Racing home I immediately googled and one of these attachments on the computer. They’re called a Slide Duplicator. Not too bad a price at $69 from Bug Eyed Digital in the USA, although the postage and packaging was $29. No choice in that though unfortunately, so I ordered it and it arrived last week.

I’ve taken photos to show you what it’s all about.. Firstly – the slide duplicator

My lens on my camera is a 58mm, and the slide duplicator is a 52mm, so I needed a stepping ring for it..

Then a lens. The best lens for the job was my 28-80mm lens that I got with my Canon EOS 500 film camera many moons ago. I tried all my digital lenses but they weren’t the right ones. 18-55mm digital lens was too small, 75-3000mm was too big, I have yet to try my 100mm macro – but I would imagine it’s slightly too big. Although F2.8 would probably be better !

Next are the slides themselves – this is just a very tiny cache of what I actually have to duplicate. My mother has just told me she has another huge box up at home for me to sort through as well.

Lastly – there is the slide holder – which holds just two slides at a time, that you push though the ened of the attachment, look through your camera, and take the photo.

The last two nights, I have spent sorting through the slides my dad gave me. I’ve sorted them out into several piles. My baby/childhood photos. my brothers childhood/baby photos, my mother and father’s wedding day, any of Mum, any of Dad, any I could use as a stock libray, and historical shots. Some of these slides I have no memory of, I can’t ever remember seeing them, others I remember well. Some of them are really interesting historically, as landscapes, cityscapes have changed so much since the 50’s and 60’s. On a visit to New York my dad took photos of the shop window fashions in the late 50’s early 60’s. Some even have price tags on them. Beautiful outfits for only $54 yet so elaborate they’d probably sell these days for $600 to $1000! Another lot of slide images were from the Rockefeller Centre in NYC looking out over Central Park. Interestingly enough I was there in 2006 and took the same photos. I can’t wait to compare them!

Today I spent about 40 minutes duplicating about 75 slides. The results? Well – some are better than others. They aren’t as sharp as I would like, yet some are sharper than others. I suspect it’s something I’m doing so will experiment more tomorrow. However here are some of the results so far..

Me at about 6 months old – probably the sharpest image I took – got to find out what I did differently on this one.

Me at 12 months old – no wonder I like photographing birds so much as that’s a bird down my bib front. I feel though that this image could be sharper.

Me blowing out candles on my cake at two with my brother helping. Sharper than most images.

Me at 7 on Mt Ruapehu in the snow – the snow is black from the neighbouring mountain Ngauruhoe belching out smoke. This is probably the sharpest image so far.

That’s it for now. I obviously have my work cut out for me in the coming weeks. Keeps me out of trouble I guess!

Monday, March 3, 2008

One Sick Group - The Deaf Wannabe

Back in the year 2000, someone pointed me in the direction of the Deaf Wannabe site on Yahoo… Eight years ago this group had a mere 30 people or so, not really big enough to take seriously, but now, in 2008, there’s 794 people subscribed. That’s an awful lot of sick people! For those that don’t know, this is a site for those that have a genuine interest in the following..

* Deaf Wannabe or *Deaf by Choice
* Deaf Pretender or *Deaf Fetish
* Hearing aid lover or *Hearing aid Fetish

Let’s examine each of the above criteria a little. They’re all sick, true, but each of them have repercussions that go much deeper when you start seriously thinking about them, and each of the criteria are linked, even though they look quite separate at first.

Deaf Wannabe/Deaf by Choice screams at me. It screams at the very core of me who so wholeheartedly would like to have normal hearing. I hate having to concentrate so hard to be able to hear what is going on in my life, 100% of the time. I would love to sit back and just have a relaxing conversation without having to intensely lip-read the whole time, and understand words the first time round without having to ask to repeat. But here’s a bunch of people who WANT to be deaf, and who write to the list a set of instructions on how they have done so, for others to follow suit. They call this process of going from hearing to hard of hearing, to deaf as ‘crossing over’, or ‘finding their nirvana’.

‘I liked the description of this posting from ‘xxxxx’. 'Finding my Nirvana' is a really good description of what we are seeking in developing a hearing loss and becoming deaf by choice. Having spent some time acquiring my hearing loss, I feel now that I am finding my Nirvana’.

Deaf-Wannabe Nov 2000

‘One thing I want to make clear is that this is not a case of having 'fun with an experiment'. The 'experiment' stage took place over a long period of time. I simulated deafness in my left ear using cotton wool, and knew exactly where this would lead to. Consequently the results are not surprising, and I need very little time to acclimatise.

I have taken a long time to consider whether this was the right thing to do, and to think through all the implications. I'm still mid-20's and live a highly active social life with music and clubbing being an essential feature of my weekends. But deep down I have had an irrepressible need to develop a bilateral hearing loss. This is my Nirvana. I'm not deaf, but I am hard of hearing in both ears. For me it is good, and I think my hearing loss is probably just as much as I want it to be without it becoming a handicap or excessive. I don't want to become seriously deaf or isolated. I want to use hearing aids, and have the enjoyment of doing so and knowing I need them. As near as possible I want 'normal' hearing with my hearing aids. I've thought long and hard, done the planning, and taken it slowly. After all, you can't change your mind.’

Deaf Wannabe – 2000

These people are for real. My biggest problem with them is that they promote self harm by writing to the list ways that others can also do the same. I believe the site has created a lot of issue within the UK. The police were informed but any attempt to get Yahoo to close the site down has met with failure, due to the owners of the group lobbying that the self harm is justified under the same grounds as gay rights. I believe they don’t have the same grounds because it is abuse of some very vulnerable people.

‘I have lessened my hearing in one ear to about 50% over the years due to glue, wax, oil, cotton, foam, etc. But now, I want to be deaf. Totally. I hate sound. I want to be deaf. What's the quickest way total deafness that I can do myself?’

Deaf Wannabe 2004

‘I've used a combination of methods to develop my hearing loss;
a.. I've induced immediate results by repeatedly perforating my eardrums
b.. I use high intensity sound from a variety of sources to cause an immediate temporary loss. This eventually accumulates to create a longer term permanent loss. However, I restrict this since the effect of exposure to high levels of sound is accumulative and it causes continued very long term hearing loss which cannot be stopped.
c.. I apply hydraulic pressure by squirting water into my ears with a plastic squeezy container whilst in the shower to stretch my eardrums
d.. I press Q Tips hard against my eardrum to stretch and slacken it
e.. I 'box' my ears by slapping hard with the palm of my hand - 20 hard slaps repeated 5 times in quick succession (this needs to be done knowing the risks associated with continually hitting the side of the head.
I apply each of these processes several times each day, and continually monitor the results by checking known sound sources - I can no longer hear my watch tick - I check against frequencies, and against the level I need to set the TV or radio.’

Deaf Wannabe – 2000.

Let’s go on to the Deaf Pretenders. These people pretend to be deaf and seek help with how to ‘sound deaf’ or have a ‘deaf voice’. If they are asked how they went deaf, they’ll quote ‘meniere’s disease’. All this and with no real understanding on what it’s like to be deaf or what it’s like to have meneire’s disease either.

‘I'm curious if anyone else tries using a "deaf voice" when talking to new people. Also, what excuse do you use for your loss? I've used Meniere's Disease just because it justified late-onset loss and my non-knowledge of ASL, plus people don't seem toknow what it is and just accept the answer.’

Deaf Pretender 2005

‘Excited to be here...Thanks for telling me about this list. For those who don't know the story, I am a 38 year old male who wears BTE's on both ears as a result of a self-inflicted hearing loss as a youth. Although my hearing is pretty much corrected with the hearing aids, I like to carry on as a culturally "deaf" person. I have learned sign language, have a TTY in my house, and several deaf friends in the Denver area, some of which don't even realise I can speak. I do collect hearing aids, and especially enjoy wearing both BTE and body aids.’

‘Deaf pretender/Deaf Fetish 2000

Carrying on as a culturally deaf person after purposely destroying his hearing? This person could be your friend or person you party with, and you wouldn't know. Should we feel flattered that people want to part of the Deaf community, so much so that they self harm, and become excellent actors, just to fit in?

Then there is the Hearing aid Lover/Hearing Aid Fetish. Now I find this really strange because I couldn’t wait to get rid of my hearing aids once I had a Cochlear Implant and no longer needed one. The moulds in your ears are horrible, my ears itched for 20 years as I was allergic to the materials that the moulds were made from. The itchiness caused infections. The sound quality was poor, sometimes non-existent. They whistled. I’m sure you can all relate to this – so WHY do people find them sex objects????

‘And my Saturday afternoon in town finished on a really good note too. I was about to walk past an unusually attractive girl with long honey blonde hair, and as I did so the breeze blew her hair just enough to catch a glimpse of her ear, and for that split second moment I thought I saw the shine of the earmould a BTE hearing aid. I kinda melted, and couldn't resist turning back to see if I had imagined this. As she slowed to look in a shop window the breeze blew again as I passed and I could see that she was wearing small BTE hearing aids in both ears, very pretty.’

Deaf Wannabe Hearing Aid Fetish 2000

‘Yes I'm most DEAFintely turned on by the feel and sight of myself in hearing aids...In fact I'm convinced I perform far better sexually when I have them in! . I have dated a few real "deafies" in the past but never let on about my fetish, allowing them to believe I was entirely "for real". My signing skills may have fooled them. I have become fluent enough for the local hospital to choose me as their sign intepeter whenever deaf patients get admitted.’

Deaf Wannabe Hearing Aid Fetish 2000

‘ I am on my fourth pair of BTE's since I started wearing them as a youth. I also have a fetish of a "turn on" when someone plays with my hearing aids while they are in my ears! Anyone else enjoy this?’

Deaf Wannabe Hearing Aid Fetish 2000

These people purposely destroy their hearing so they can get these hearing aids free from government agencies/medical insurance companies. They limit the funds that can be used to help the true Deaf people. When people find out that they are faking it, it makes people less receptive to the needs of the people who truly need help.

‘Yes, I will visit my GP in time, and probably get fixed up with an NHS hearing aid (why turn down a freebie?).’

Deaf Wannabe 2000

‘Here in the UK it's good that hearing aids are supplied totally free through the health service, and that all the repairs and replacements and even batteries are included!’

Deaf Wannabe 2000

‘You who live in the UK are very lucky that you can get public funding for hearing aids. My last pair I got were partially paid for by my job, but I still had to cough up 500 dollars of my own. ‘

Deaf Wannabe 2000

I wonder if all these people are ‘nuts’. But then on doing a bit more digging around on the internet, I found a Blind Wannabes group for people wanting to be blind, who wear contacts to make everything dark, or they stare at the sun for long lengths of time. Then there’s the disabled wannabes who go round on wheelchairs or crutches when they’re perfectly abled. Let’s not forget the group of people feel that they are amputees, trapped in a body that is whole . Apparently one 50yo man froze his leg on purpose so he could get it amputated. Are all these people really that much different to people wanting sex change operations? Or plastic surgery for that matter?

Lastly, I’ll post an email from the group which I find very sad but very strange…

i have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. i hate garbled sounds and having to try to block out sounds that are anoyning. i can hear a person if they are close but i will give you an example of what happens:

Speaker: I don't know where to get it. Do you?
What I hear: You are full of shit! Screw you.

Do you see how offensive this is? this happens quite often and i am tired of it. i am fluent in ASL and am wantin to go to Gallaudet. another problem is that people dont realize the extent of my loss because my speech is clear. i cant help that. i have been talking my whole life and i only started losing my hearing in 97. You want to know how I lost it? Loud music! I constantly played loud music during high school in my walkman. In 97 I had my hearing checked and it was Mild to Moderate. In 98 it had dropped to Moderate. In 99 It had dropped to Moderate to Severe. In 2000 it was Severe to Profound. I realize that it could drop to Profound soon but I want to speed it up so i box my ears every night until my ears feel like they will explode and they ring very loud. do you think this will speed things up? tell me what to do.

Deaf Wannabe 2001

Sunday, March 2, 2008

My Evil Streak Part III

The last practical joke I played that came off really hilarious was on my 40th birthday. Unfortunately, I was once again in hospital with terrible vertigo, and doctors were trying to settle it down. I wasn’t able to eat a thing, hadn’t eaten for weeks, and was losing a lot of weight, so a week before my birthday my doctor put a tube down my nose and into my stomach to make sure I got some sort of sustenance. Well – it was probably the most unpleasant experience I’ve ever had, and needless to say I had to seek revenge!!

I was pretty upset anyway that I wasn’t well enough to go home for my birthday, and my physiotherapist at the hospital, knowing it was my birthday, asked me if there was anything I would like to do. I’m not sure that helping me play a practical joke was what she had in mind though, however, once I told her the plan, she threw her life and soul into the task to help in getting it set up.

The morning of my birthday, she arrived in my room half an hour before doctors rounds. She persuaded the nurse to unhook my ‘food’ and drip. We then placed a skeleton in the bed, and hooked up skeleton to my drip and ‘food’. I then hid around the corner, while she went to the head nurse and told her that doctors rounds MUST start at my end of the ward this morning. Now Alison, the head nurse, usually knows EVERYTHING that goes on in the ward, and she wasn’t sure why we had to start at our end, but was intrigued enough to take heed of the physio!

As the doctors came down the hallway, I could hear them discussing my case, and then they walked into my room. There was absolute stunned silence!

“You look decidedly unwell this morning Robyn” said my doctor, then roars of laughter rung out.

“I think we need to change your medication” he said!

They then found me around the corner, sang me happy birthday, and wanted to know how I could pull this off under their noses without them knowing!! It helped having an end room near an exit door! I wanted to know why they would change the medication AFTER I had become skeletal, and not before – it’s a bit of a worry! Lots of photos and laughs for the rest of the day too.

I’m now planning my next practical joke for after the my upcoming Cochlear Implant surgery. Most Cochlear Implant surgery these days only has a small incision, however when I was implanted 15 years ago, I had the huge big C shaped one, with half my head shaved off. Unfortunately, they have to use the same incision for this one otherwise they might cut off the blood supply to the flap. (Or brain as someone pointed out – I pointed this wouldn’t be so as I think the blood supply to the brain was cut off years ago!!.)

This means that after the cochlear implant operation, I’m going to look like Johnny Rotten the punk rocker again, shaved head, staples, and big incision. Soooooo when I go and get the staples out and have my check up at my surgeon’s clinic, I’ve enlisted the help of a friend to gel up my hair into a mowhawk, spray bright colours into it, and I have been collecting black mini skirts, chains, studded collars, safety pins to make a chain from ears, a nose ring, boots, bright pink socks etc.. etc….

Yep – I’m going as a punk rocker to shock the doc!!

Photos will be posted on the blog after the event!