Majestic creatures

I am not a fan of zoos. They strip out the sense of respect that we have towards the fellow creatures that inhabit this Earth, and reinforce our undeserved sense of dominance over them.

To me, the best way to watch wildlife is always to watch them in their natural habitat. That experience trumps any zoo any day. Which is part of the reason why I went on a boat ride to see dolphins and whales last weekend. The other part was because they had a huge discount.

It’s amazing to see these intelligent and majestic creatures up close, where they live and play. These are wild animals – the skipper don’t know beforehand where they are and when they’ll be there. We had to literally look for signs that indicate a lot of activities underwater, like countless seagulls hovering above the water and taking straight dives in. And when we found them, it’s just amazing.

The dolphins were a friendly bunch. The pod that we found consists of maybe about 30 members, all swimming alongside and under the boat, matching our speed, as if greeting us and happy to see us.

The whales are much more rare and shy, for good reasons I suppose. We only managed to find a couple of them – a mother and her calf, which helps explain why they’re not as friendly as the dolphins. At one point, we got so close to the pair that we can smell their breaths – and let me tell you, it stinks. But the experience is awesome nonetheless. Being able to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is really a chance you should not pass.

Photos follow. Click to embiggenate.


Don’t surrender your responsibility to think

There was a protest today at Symonds St, the trunk road that runs through the University of Auckland. A group of students staged a sit-in on the road, prompting the police to close the road and forcing the student-protesters to stand up by literally pulling them up.

Of course, such a commotion would attract a fairly-sized crowd, mainly consisting of students. I had just handed in my assignment at the Engineering School, and curious of the noise and large presence of police personnels, went to see what the fuss was about.

It was another demonstration protesting against the austerity measure announced in the New Zealand government budget recently, which according to the banner being held there would rid students of “free education [that] is our means of lifting ourselves from poverty“. As I stood there watching the police pulling away another student from the tightly-held group sitting on the road, the crowd roared a “boo” towards the police officers.

And the person standing beside me watching the altercation suddenly join in the cheer. At that time, it occurred to me that how many of the people here actually understand the root issue and motivation for the rally that they are joining? (more…)


Graphene 1.7: What to know before upgrading

As at this time of writing, Graphene 1.7 has been sent up the pipe to the Theme Repository. Here’s what you should know before you upgrade.

Note though that it might take anywhere from several hours to several weeks before the theme is published on the repository, as each theme is reviewed by the WordPress Theme Review Team before they are made live. In the mean time, let’s see what’s coming to your WordPress-powered site with Graphene 1.7, and what to look out for. (more…)


Bog, rockfaces, and stars – the Kauaeranga Valley hike

I was desperate to get out of the city and into the bushes. Sitting and working in front of the computer day after day after day really sap the life and enthusiasm out of you. I needed a break, and cities with their concrete jungles just won’t do it for me.

So I invited a few friends to join me for a 2-day hiking trip in the New Zealand backcountry. I had planned the trip last year but it didn’t materialise then due to other commitments and circumstances. This time, I was determined, regardless of how the weather’s like.

The place

The Kauaeranga Valley is located at the heart of the Coromandel Forest Park in the Coromandel Peninsula backcountry, about 2 hours drive away from the Auckland City. We rented a car and started the drive early in the morning so that we can start our hike early.

Along the way while we were driving over a hilly area, we suddenly saw an area fully covered in mists as far as the eye can see. A few hills jut out of the mist cover, like islands in the middle of a vast ocean. But this was no ocean. It was purely mist, so thick and low. We’ve never seen anything like it before, and we were driving straight into it.

I brought along my DSLR camera, and my friend used it to capture this rather surreal photo.

Yep. Like a scene straight out of a zombie apocalypse. We could almost see them loitering around. (more…)


How monitors produce colour

You might have known already that most monitors produce colours using a combination of only 3 colours. Those three colours are red, green, and blue, and that is what RGB stands for.

In most monitors, each pixel is divided into three subpixels, with each subpixel displaying one of the three colours. Each subpixel can vary its brightness to 256 levels (8-bit), from level 1 being essentially off, and level 256 being essentially turned on at full brightness. By combining the three subpixels with differing brightness, each pixel can then produce 256 x 256 x 256 = 16.7 million colours (24-bit).

I captured the photo below of my Samsung monitor’s screen, and blew it up so that you can actually see the individual subpixels and how they are combined to produce the black colour of the text. It’s something you see everyday but never realise you do. Time for some appreciation, eh?

Close-up photo of my Samsung monitor.

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