Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Butterflies in my yard

I rate this very colourful, Common Jezebel as the Queen as far as my yard is concerned. She rarely flies low, leave alone sit, except for that one time perhaps when I was ready with my camera!  Luck!  The above shot is one of my best which inspired my friend Nancy to prepare a special greeting card for me using that picture I posted on "Dave's Garden"!

Who does not want to stop and watch a colourful butterfly flutter by?  If you have a few flowering plants, shrubs and trees in your yard, the butterflies find them. It is for many reasons butterflies are great attractions to children and I grew up watching them in our yard, which hosted much greenery.  I still do.  Earlier we just watched them without observing much.  We chased them fun. We wanted to catch them by their colourful wings, but they always flew away beyond reach. When they were resting, they sensed our approach and quickly escaped to safer places. Cats can catch them with their skill!  But we had to content ourselves when we found a dead specimen in our garden occasionally and wondered about their lovely pattern on their wings.  How weightless it was!  We studied the butterfly life cycle in school and wondered how they were caught, mounted and exhibited in laboratories in colleges for study and research.   Long later I learnt that they used a butterfly catching net for that purpose and it was through a comic book, of all places!  

Have you ever wondered how different are moths from butterflies they appear similar on first glimpse?  Just look at this link and find out: http://library.thinkquest.org/J002124/moths.htm 

Left - butterfly; Right - Moth

I recently learnt that in the US there are butterfly farms that sell pupae.  I reproduce below some lines my friend, Sandra, wrote to me when I asked how she managed a picture of a butterfly sitting on her hand.  What she wrote was interesting.  Interesting because I did not know. 

"Find or buy the pupae once they are out and ready to fly put them in a container and into a cooler with ice(do not let the butterfly touch the ice) for 15 or more minutes. This gives you enough time to take their pictures, before they warm up enough to fly.  Here these kind of farms raise butterflies for release at weddings and such.  It also sells eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and plants for butterflies.  If you can catch a butterfly without harming it you can do the chilling and get it to sit for your pictures! I plan to build a butterfly raising house this winter. I will have the food plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies. As soon as the caterpillars turn into chrysalises I will move them to a cloth cube.  When the butterflies emerge and ready to fly I can then chill them to take their pictures."

Here in India, such things may be unheard of!  But we can boast of butterfly parks.  Butterfly gardening is a branch of its own.  See this Wikipedia link for some information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_gardening 
Mysore's Karanji Kere boasts of a butterfly garden.

Ever thought of how the word *butterfly* came into being?

No need to open the link as I have extracted the content below:

Many things are named for obvious reasons. In example, an orange was called an orange because of its color. Butterflies could be called butterflies because of a couple of different reasons...

1. The word “butterfly” has been around for a long time. One thought about where it's name may have come from is the theory that the name was supposed to be“flutter-by,” because of the way they flutter by... If that is truly the case, then somewhere along the way their name has been switched around to butterfly.

2. A false etymology claims that the word butterfly came from a Spoonerism of “flutterby”; however, the Old English word was buttorfleoge and a similar word occurs in Dutch, apparently because butterflies were thought to be witches in disguise who stole milk and butter at night.


3. An alternative folk etymology, current in Great Britain, is that the name originated as a contraction of term butter-coloured fly referring to the Brimstone Butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, often the first butterfly of Spring.

The word butterfly later lead to idioms, phrases, riddles, quotes and what not.  There is a style in swimming called 'butterfly stroke' and there is a 'butterfly valve' in mechanics!

Here is a popular riddle "Why did Tom throw butter out of the window?".  
Answer: Because Tom wanted to see "butter fly".

There are myriad quotes on the butterfly.  A few impressive ones:
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. [Richard Buckminster Fuller]
I'll be floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. [Muhammad Ali - boxer]
The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly get all the publicity. [George Carlin]

Butterflies have been visiting my yard dotted with a few shrubs and trees.  But once the digital camera came, I was able to observe more and see how many varieties visited.  Trying to shoot pictures of them is a thrilling circus and great fun.... if you have time!  Some varieties prefer the grass [see two pictures below] and if they are to be shot, we have to sometimes wait in the prostrate position!

I was simply amazed at the number when I sorted and counted.  I have got many of the fluttering visitors identified through books or from my knowledgeable friends on the internet, esp. from Dave's Garden.  There are a few still waiting to 'get a name'.

When a digital photo is seen on the computer screen, it looks beautiful.  When it flutters around, we miss the actual colours.

Shooting close-ups is a very tricky exercise.  [I cannot do the chilling which my friend Sandra informed.]  The slightest disturbance we may cause with our movement or to the leaves of the plant on which it sits can make it to fly away.  They are usually extremely sensitive. It may never sit for a shoot again where you can step and reach for a full view!  It requires a lot of patience and I tell you, a lot of luck.  A zoom lens is a boon if you have one.  But I managed this one of the 'Green Triangle' from just a few centimetres.

Take a lQQk at some butterflies that have been *captured* in my yard:

Lemon Butterfly

Blue Mormon - lQQk at its wingspan!

Common Mormon

Lemon Pansy

Tawny Coaster

Wonder why it is called as 'Crow'.

And this is a "Plain Tiger"! 
This was taken in a field near Chamundi Hill.

Blue Tiger!

Yellow Pansy

Common Peirrot

Red Peirrot

Common Emigrant

Common Grass Yellow - note the dark brown tipped wings

Common Wanderer

This is commonly called as Green Triangle - also called Tailed Jay.

A dead specimen of Large Oakblue.  It rarely sits for a 'breather' so to say.  As such I could manage only that!

Common Five Ring  - it is a small butterfly

I wondered what this butterfly - a Common Baron was doing in the mud. Observe its green glowing proboscis pictured below.

 Later I learnt that it was 'mud-puddling'.  

On sunny days after a rain, you may see butterflies gathering around the edges of mud puddles. What could they be doing?
Here is what:
Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles.

By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That's because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm.

When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the sperm. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female's eggs, increasing the couple's chances of passing on their genes to another generation.

Isn't it interesting?

I've more images in this web album.  Please do see.

Separate album for moths - 28 images as of now.

Caterpillars are sorted here, but many are not yet identified.

Young nature-lovers like Abhijna Desai can be an inspiration.  In fact, she has helped in identification of a few butterflies!

Friday, August 5, 2011

About Pencils

Note: You can click on pictures to have an enlarged view.  
Changed text colour indicates a hyperlink . 
 Do not miss them.

As young kids we yearned to get promoted from the slate and chalk (baLapa) level to the pencil and paper level.  The newer generation urban kids begin with the latter and they may not even be aware of the slate and baLapa though they know the blackboard in schools.  There used to be a 'slate baLapa' in the form of a pencil!  I used to write with this one in the early 60s (pictured below).  See the mark 'Slate' on it.  The slate chalks were in different qualities. The best was called 'BeNNe BaLapa' (butter) because it wrote smoothly without that irritating scratch on the slate!  Slate was also of stone and later, tin sheet painted black.

The pencil was one of the most fought for item among school-going brothers or sisters at home.  Everybody wanted the longer or new pencil.  When I used to visit my maternal grandparents' house, I used to get attracted to the shortened pencils of my uncle lying in the shelf with his books.  My grandfather's study table also had a pencil with which I used to scribble. Those were earliest memories of handling a pencil.

In those days, we were bought a new pencil only when the one we were using was too short to grip.
The speed with which the pencil reached that stage was amazing!  Half of it would have spent up while shaving itself, because either the lead would break when almost done, or the poor lead quality made it to snap easily.  We demanded a new one when down to 25%.  Pictured below may be 10%!

Had we known this some decades ago, it would have saved many parents some money!  Two short pencils attached!

We found great pleasure in using the eraser more than the pencil! Pushing the eraser dust with the little finger while writing was an involuntary habit!  I think it holds good for all generations!  I'm trying to put together some old memories of the pencil and its great and inseparable friends - the eraser and the sharpener.

"Perumall Chetty Pencils" were popular in our days.  It was a popular company in Madras (Chennai).  I have managed to save one or two without the intention of saving them.   The bottom most is the 'Shorthand' pencil, made for stenographers because they have strong leads.   'Nataraj' and 'Apsara' also were popular brands.

Click on the picture so that you can read the embossed prints.

In about 1967-68, some of our classmates were bringing their pencils in beautiful oblong tin pencil boxes.  I wanted to have one too, but never knew where they had procured them.  They were so nice!  So I pestered my elders to get one such. Every visit to the stationer would attract my attention if a box was lying empty in his shop!  I was disappointed when he used to say 'it is not available'. In fact, the pencils were supplied in those boxes.  Finally one evening, I was lucky. He charged fifty paise each and gave me two, much to my delight. They are still in use! I was in 7th then. One pencil cost ten paise.

The inside of the lid.

I bought this Perumall Chetty box in the early 80s when that company was still in existence. I wanted to keep my painting brushes in it. 

The inside of the lid had this information. 

Pencil sharpeners were a little costly.  As such many of us used old shaving blades of the father, grandfather or uncles at home.  Doing that, we often got a cut on the index finger and bled, making most things difficult for the next 3-4 days.  That wasn't fun.  It was as if  to pressurize the parents to buy us the pencil sharpener - we called it as 'mender'.  By the time a safe, handy, durable, foldable pencil knife came about, we had finished our education.  

The mender was a great attraction to kids worldwide - they were manufactured in myriad designs. Shown below are menders at home, that are of my children who used them a few years ago.  Nowadays, a box of pencils carries a mender free!  

I found out that there is a museum for Pencil Sharpeners also!
Another link here, says 'The World's only Pencil Sharpener Museum'.  

Who thought pencil shavings that we dispose in the bin could be used for artwork?  Look here what Kyle Bean did - he created portraits out of them!  

And look here the unbelievable art from two Japanese pencil carvers, whose patience can be classed as bordering on almost insane!

Education up to the fourth class was with the pencil.  From the fifth, fountain pens were slowly introduced into the little growing hands after many kids chewed up the top of their pencils which was considered a bad habit.  I never resorted to it despite not knowing it was a bad habit.  

Above image is from the Net.  I never chewed my pencil, so ........ !

We also used to fancy pencil caps just for fun.  This one is of wood and the head shakes while writing. In our Mysore Dasara Exhibition, in the 70s, long pencils with a plastic cap shaped like small fingers were popular.  They were actually meant for scratching one's own back also!

The best feel of writing can be had only with a pencil.  Second comes the fountain pen.  I'm sure thousands, if not millions of pencil-users will agree.  The pencil has been around for a long long time.  Click here for some interesting history.

Writing with a pencil requires a certain amount of pressure that results in a good handwritten script. That does not come about with the ball-point, fountain, felt or roller pens. What makes it pleasurable is that melodious sound produced when the lead runs on paper!  Listen to it in that link - 27-second audio!

The pencil is even compared to life!  This information was in e-mail circulation sometime ago.  It is really interesting.  See here.  Someone went still further on that. Click here.  Truly inspirational!  

If you think the pencil is merely an instrument for writing, you are wrong. It amazed me when someone sent an e-mail with images of the art by Dalton Getty.   Click here to see amazing miniature carvings of pencil lead.

My great grandfather's eye prescription was in pencil - 1906.  See picture below.  I still have that pair of spectacles!

English language also has its use  - 'pencil thin mustache', 'pencil thin poop', etc.

The pencil is a useful size-comparing tool for many things.  Just show a pencil in a picture and it will avoid further complicated description.  I do this now (keeping the standard yellow pencil) to show the smallness of the tiny pencils that some pocket diaries included.  

Since a pencil 'wont leak', it can be carried in pockets in aircrafts and spacecrafts and can be used underwater!  If you want to see some more basic advantages of the pencil, click here and know!  But you cannot sign a cheque (check) with a pencil!

Carpenters and other job workers' must-have is the pencil.  When not in use, the pencil is just of the right thickness to safe-shelve it horizontally on the ear lobe!

Colur pencil set was another item we enjoyed.  This was the next step above 'wax crayons'.  This was the tin box that contained the set, bought in the late 60s. 

Its interiors!  The set of pencils methinks is the third and surviving - rather less used as I had outgrown it by that time.  The leads are so soft that we break them while sharpening and half of it is wasted and only half is spent for colouring. 

Here are some remnants of colour leads used by my father in his schooldays around 1930. See the wooden container.  Wonder if he used them on slate.  The baLapa was like that!

Nowadays, technology has grown and even 'water colour pencils' are available.  Just colour the work and paint with water with a brush to get that water colour art!

Coloured pencils were also used by students in college and by professionals for marking important paragraphs, lines or words.  They normally came in blue and red, red on one side and blue on the other. The tiny one shown here was my grandfather's.  He used it in his office for many years.  Now glowing fluorescent highlighter pens have replaced these.

These markers (below) are 'Made in Bavaria', which is in Germany.  They were gifted to me by my old friend Mr.Brown. They should be from the 1930s or 40s.

This pencil is an all-lead one. Bought at our Mysore Dasara Exhibition in the late 1990s. Wonder if this is a charcoal pencil used by artists. 

This flexible pencil is the silliest pencil I have come across.  It is long, thin and most unsuitable for writing, because it falls like a dead snake!  It was a fanciful purchase in recent times!  

A fancy pencil.  This is FAT.

Another fancy pencil.   This one is FLAT.  Or is this a carpenter's pencil?

There was also the copying pencil.  I did not exactly know how it was actually used, until I came across this link.  Click on this.  Observe the violet colour when a drop of water is put.  It is indelible.

After reading information in that link, I thought of this testimonial of my great grandfather from 1888.  It is signed by M.Venkatakrishnaya, the Head Master of Marri Mallappa's School.  I think the violet copying pencil is used for this.  See this link for the interesting process!  The methods employed in those days were incredibly cumbersome, but only when we compare it today!

The brass pencil seen below is my grandfather's.  It has provision for putting tiny leads in 3 colours - red, black and blue.  This could be from 1940s.  A Japanese product!  The second diamond shaped one has a scale and screw to push the lead out to use. The bottom one is from the recent decade - they called it 'pen-pencil'! 

Some erasers.  I always remember the incident related to the eraser.  See here in my blogpost.  The soft rubber was a real boon when it arrived in the mid 60s.  Engineering students were already using imported ones for their drawing work.  Ink erasers were hard and often damaged the paper.  I used it for my rubber-stamp carving!  It costed about 3 paise or so.  The small pencil eraser was 2 paise. The round one shown below is the 'typewriter eraser' (German) which an uncle gave me.  I was delighted when a friend gave me that 'pencil-rubber' in 1978. It is a typewriter eraser. It came in handy when I was using the typewriter for sometime.  That was the only substitute then, but now we have the 'backspace' in our computer keyboard!!  

Rubber-stamp carving - I learnt this skill from my classmate (bench mate) Shankar Nadig in the 9th class. His work was neat!  I was so impressed that I wanted to do it myself after watching him do when lessons were on in class.  I preferred to watch his work when he did, to listening to the lessons! His tool was the shaving blade.  He had broken it in such a way that it was like a pointed knife.  It was used for the curves and for scooping.

Below are two impressions of different stamps I made.  In the second stamp, I tried small letters.  I have lost both the rubbers, but these remain on books.

This is another I manufactured in the late 70s.

We never thought of how pencils got manufactured, though we used them everyday. 
  Watch the video, it is really wonderful. Click on link showing most of the steps that are undertaken. See how pencils are made at Staedtler, a renown German manufacturer.

If you want to see how many types of pencils are there, visit this Wikipedia link and get amazed!