Thursday, 2 July 2015

In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision kick-started the big bang of evolution

This is a fascinating book about how light has guided the evolution of life on earth, focussing on the big bang of evolution that happened during the Cambrian period (543 - 490 million years ago).

It is full of fascinating details including:

* how angel fish can use their silver scales as mirrors to blind their predators;

* how the camouflage of both predators (such as lions) and their prey (including wildebeeste) is an adaptation guided by light;

* how the cave fish has developed different forms depending on where it lives, such that those that live in caves have lost both their eyes and their silver colouration.

The book is as simply written as the subject matter allows and goes into detail about how light stimulated the development of vision which stimulated the course of evolution itself. It also details the physics that lies behind the production of colour in animals and the pre-historic development of functional eyes as evidenced from the fossil record. 

In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Kick-started the big bang of evolution by Andrew Parker, published by The Free Press.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

More chopstick bags

A friend recently gave me a huge amount of scrap fabric to upcycle into crafty projects. I've been starting with the obvious things - pieces of fabric the ideal shape and size to make chopstick bags for example

These are now  all in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop - the gingham one here, the multicoloured satin one here and the off-white satin one here. .

A re-usable chopstick bag like these is an ideal way to carry around a pair of re-usable chopsticks so you can avoid using the disposable ones that are the usual cutlery choice in many Chinese restaurants. (Many disposable chopsticks are made from the products of forest destruction, though to be fair some are made from waste wood from the construction industry).

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Fabulous Flowers

the poppies and other flowers are wonderful along the John Muir Walkway in Musselburgh at the moment. 

Plenty of bees too and a flash of blue dragonfly. Two butterflies were dancing together, flying up into the tops of the trees, I thought they were speckled wood butterflies but those aren't (according to my book) supposed to be around Edinburgh). Plus I saw this wonderfully green beetle / weevil. Edited to add: this has now been identified by a member of Edinburgh Natural History Society as either a Phyllobius or Polydrusus species of weevil

and just over the sea wall I was delighted to see this group of young starlings poking around in the seaweed, not something I've seen them do before

and further along these eiders, the males in eclipse plumage. Two male mallards in the foreground.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Today in Colinton Dell

It had been raining this morning before I went out to Colinton Dell along the Water of Leith. The raindrops were sparkling on the bushes.

The hawthorns are at that stage between flowering and fruiting

and the buttercups are still stunning

and the small islands above Colinton weir are bright with grasses and flowers

The common spotted orchids are now out in the orchid meadow (though too hidden away for photos as yet) and I had a wonderful view of a kingfisher speeding downstream.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Iona - a film review

I have visited the island of Iona (off the island of Mull off the west coast of Scotland) only once but it is a magically beautiful place so I was keen to see the film Iona, which was chosen as the closing gala of the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The island is the star of the film, with it's beautiful scenery, slow moving farm animals and constant birdsong. Nothing in the story for me lives up to the beauty of the setting.

Iona returns to the island of her birth, escaping from a violent crime in Glasgow, bringing her son with her. The two of them move in temporarily and uneasily with an old friend of Iona's.

Her return to the island stirs up old unresolved situations and causes tensions among her old friends who are both happy and bemused to see her back. As secrets and conflicts come to the surface the film quickly becomes melodramatic.

The film seems to represent the island as a whole as an intentional Christian community, which it isn't. Yes the island is a close knit community and many islanders (though not all) are Christian (However the predominant church is the Church of Scotland not the strict Calvinist Free Church of many Hebridean islands, the latter being what seems to be portrayed in the film, while in reality there isn't a Free Church on the island). On the other hand, the Iona Community is a worldwide ecumenical Christian community with its centre in a residential community based at Iona Abbey. That and the fact that Iona is the island where Christianity first came to Scotland are the reasons that Iona is seen as an important Christian centre. There are in fact tensions between the Iona Community (which isn't even mentioned in the film) and the islanders. All of which makes the extreme piousness of all the islanders in the film somewhat unrealistic.

Iona was the closing gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015. To be honest I would have gone for Scottish Mussel, upbeat, entertaining with something important to say. Though perhaps with its English lead/writer/director that film isn't Scottish enough to qualify for the honour?

To read my other reviews from the festival, follow the links below:

Blood Cells - one man's journey after he lost everything in the foot and mouth epidemic.

Scottish Mussel - romantic comedy centred on the fight to conserve the freshwater pearl mussel 

Liza the Fox Fairy - a 'delightfully bonkers' film from Hungary

Black Mountain Poets - sisters on the run join a poetry retreat in the Welsh mountains

Desert Dancer - drama inspired by the life of Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian 

Under Milk Wood - a new cinematic interpretation of Dylan Thomas' classic prose poem

Brand New U - futuristic thriller /  love story 

 Of Chickens and Camels - a review of Chicken (a wonderful coming of age film about a teenager with learning difficultie) and Nearby Sky (a documentary about the camel beauty contests in the Emirates). 

Infini - disaster on an off-planet mine

La Tirisia - love and life in the cacti covered mountains of Mexico

When Elephants Fight - conflict minerals in Congo

 Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail

 Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe

30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)

Find out which were my choices as Best of the Fest

Disclaimer: I had a press pass for the Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Edinburgh Canal festival

Today was Edinburgh Canal Festival and for once the weather was good for it (I remember in previous years getting caught in torrential rain in the middle of the festival).

There are plenty of stalls selling food and drink and advertising local community organisations.

There are also boat trips, kayaking and a raft race, with all rafts being made from upcycled materials.

After we had wandered round the festival we walked further along the canal.

The tufted vetch is looking lovely at the minute

and the common carder bees were enjoying the flowers of the meadow vetchlings

We also made friends with a spaniel hanging out of its window here

and wished these young ducklings all the best

Mother duck may have her hands full with these ten!

For 30 Days Wild

Best of the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival has announced the line up of the Best of the Fest screenings to be shown on Sunday.

Tickets are on sale now and films screen from Saturday 27 - Sunday 28 June at:
And now for my own Fest of the Fest! Follow the links below for my reviews

Chicken - a beautifully made coming of age drama focussing on a teenager with learning difficulties and his pet chicken.

Scottish Mussel - a romantic comedy focussing on the fight to conserve the freshwater mussel

Black Mountain Poets - a hilarious tale of two sisters on the run who pretend to be poets and hide out at a poetry retreat in the Welsh Mountains

Desert Dancer - amazing choreography in this fictionalised biopic of the Iranian dancer Adshin Ghaffarian

Liza the Fox Fairy - a surreal comedy from Hungary

When Elephants Fight - an important documentary about conflict minerals in the Congo

It's been a great festival and many of the films shown deserve to be released into cinemas. 

Disclaimer - I had a press pass for the film festival and attended free press screenings of these films (except for Liza the Fox Fairy)