Friday, August 23, 2013

As near as to another world

One and half hour drive from San Jose takes you to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 I wish I could have spent the whole day at the Aquarium. I have missed out on some of the exhibits and in some cases, just had a glimpse.
What a place and what a treat for the eyes. Never ever thought that such marine life existed on planet earth. The two things that really captures you are the variety of Sea Horses and Jelly Fish.
I have to confess that I could not capture all of them with my camera as I was just staring at these wonders of nature.

Sea Horse is the only family in the animal kingdom in which the males get pregnant!
Sea Horses don’t have stomach. Food passes through them quickly. So they have to eat and eat and eat.

 Leafy sea dragon: This one may look like a twig with some leaves but it’s a relative of the sea horse.
These rare and beautiful members of the seahorse family are found in the waters of southern and western Australia.  Like the seahorse, the male sea dragon carries the eggs (on a brood patch located on the tail instead of a stomach pouch) These “leafies” can grow up to 13 inch long.

Leafy Sea Dragon

Weedy Sea Dragon: They are slightly darker when compared to the “leafies” and has lesser leaf like appendages.   Both Weedy and Leafy are threatened by habitat destruction, and potentially by people buying them for their home aquariums.

Weedy Sea Dragon

Potbelly Seahorse: In this case the bigger the pot belly the better to attract the females, so courting males pump their pouches full of water.

These Dragon Pipefish resemble skinny seahorse stretched out straight.

Dragon Pipefish

 The Leopard shark being docile towards people, swam close, allowing them to caress its back. They lack the swim bladders that other fish use to fine tune their buoyancy. So they are always about a foot above sea floor. If they don’t swim they sink !

Leopard shark

The bat ray swims gracefully by flapping their batlike wings (which are nothing but their pectoral fins) They have strong teeth that can crush the strongest clam shells.
The exhibition of the seahorses closed on Sept 2nd so we were lucky to get to see them just a week before its closure.

The Pacific Sardines are slightly different from the ones seen in the Indian Ocean. It is nice to see the school of sardines swim against the light from the top.

Pacific Sardines

The upside down Jellies. They are 95% water, and don’t have bones, brains, blood, teeth or fins.

Upside down Jellies

The variety of the Jelly fish was mind boggling.  Flower Hat Jellies, Cross Jellies, Elegant Jellies, Spotted Jellies, Blubber Jelly,  Moon Jelly . . . . . the list is endless.

It was a sight to see the fish being fed in the large glass enclosure. The ferocious looking fish were so docile and friendly with the feeder inside.

The otters enclosure was packed with visitors who were waiting to see them being fed. Sea Otters have the world’s densest fur – up to a million hair per square inch.  (human head has about 100,000 hair on the whole head)


 Birds that are abandoned or injured are also brought here and taken care of.
The Long-billed curlew has a long curved beak (which cannot be seen here).
They are the largest shorebirds in Northern America.

Like Anne Stevenson said "This is as close as we can get to another world"

Managed to capture their movements, added some appropriate music and prepared a 11 minute video.
This once again confirms the fact that a good picture (or a video) depends not on the camera or the photographer, but on that magician namely “the light” 
The lighting in each of the enclosures was so good that it was a photographer’s delight.
Had to discard a lot of footage to keep the video short.

By the way this video will fall flat if watched with the volume low or on mute. So turn up that volume and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chuck Morris and his caricatures

Casa Bonita is a Mexican Restaurant in Denver, Colorado. Our hosts had already told us that the food over there was not all that great, but the ambience was something worth experiencing.
I am sure that all the guests to this place had themselves clicked in front of the fountain which was just at the entrance.

The place is colourfully decorated and the seating arrangements are at different levels.

Entertainment, especially for the kids was the order of the day (or rather night) with some one or the other jumping into this pool of water.

There was a small booth in which you could get yourself clicked with the full regalia for a small fee.
I found this girl making funny faces every time the cameraman said “ready”

There were musicians serenading and going around every table keeping the mood buoyant.  

But the best that I liked was the caricatures done by Mr Chuck Morris.

He talked to his customers and made them feel at ease while he sketched them. Transforming from a simple pencil sketch to an almost live colourful portrait is an art that he has mastered. You can see the transformation in the three minute video.

I noticed that whenever he drew, his left hand always went under the board. Could be a habit from the time he started sketching. His rates too were reasonable.

I had half a mind to get myself drawn but when the restaurant closed for the day, I found that Chuck still had customers waiting in line. So I had to forgo my aspiration of “looking funny”

Maybe next time Chuck J

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Largest chocolate fountain

You have to look closely and only then you realize that it is actually flowing.
I am talking about the largest chocolate fountain in the world.
You will find this at Jean-Philippe Patisserie which is situated inside the Bellagio hotel. 

It stands 26 feet tall from ceiling to the tank below and circulates 4409 lbs of melted chocolate at the rate of 120 quarts per minute. 
You can see the Guinness book certificate on the right.

The  three  colours you see are dark, milk and white chocolate which is pumped by six pumps. These pumps take the chocolate back up through 2 inch diameter SS pipes. To maintain the viscosity, temperature is controlled at 49 deg Celsius (120 F). To maintain the temperature these pipes are sheathed in another 3 inch pipe through which hot oil passes. All these are hidden within the walls of the shop.

25 suspended glass vessels make it look more exquisite. Engineering planning and design took two years.

There are other pastries on display and sale. Clicked a few of them : 

The Croissant too was looking yummy.

 And this dress is made completely of chocolate:

You are surrounded with chocolate, and that makes you wonder, where to start.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Missed - In The Mood at the Bellagio

There are many things that one can see at the Bellagio Hotel (at Las Vegas)

but the best sight that one can have from the hotel is the fountain. We were lucky to be upgraded to a room with a view of the fountain.

Hundreds of high pressure water jets create a truly spectacular water show.

I could manage to capture two shows of the fountain from two vantage points. One from the 24th floor of Hotel Bellagio and the second one from the street below. I wanted to capture some fast numbers like “In the mood” but somehow I was not around when these numbers played.

The moon walk also could be created by the fountain in tune with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

Some interesting facts about the fountain:
The fountains are programmed to perform to different songs. Some prominent ones among them are:
Singing in the rain
Rondine al Nido
In the mood
Luck Be A Lady (Frank Sinatra)
Con Te Partiro
Mission Impossible Theme
Your Song (Elton John)
All That Jazz (from movie Chicago)
Billie Jean (Micheal Jackson)
Hallelujah Chorus
Carol of the Bells
O Holy Night

The time duration for each show is approximately 5 minutes and operates seven days a week.
3 pm to 8 pm with shows every 30 minutes
8 pm to 12 midnight with shows every 15 minutes

Shows are only cancelled with the threat of high winds. ( if the winds are too high, the dancing waters refuse to dance )

The network of pipes feed 1200 nozzles which are managed by computer and choreographed to music. There are three different types of nozzles
a) The Oarsmen which shoots the water in a full 360 degree range.
b) The Shooters which fire water upwards
c) The Super Shooters which can push water 250 feet into the air.

The combination of water jets and more than 4500 lights provide aesthetic display to accompany the music played.

After watching the gentle sway of these nozzles, I was not surprised when I read that musicians and choreographers were invited to design the routines and patterns of the jets. 
The next time I am in Vegas I will not miss the 'In the mood'

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hoover Dam

A ride in and around the Hoover Dam gives an in depth knowledge of how the dam was built. One cannot comprehend the engineering marvel.
 After listening to the complete history of how the Dam was built, what amazed me was the 50 feet diameter diversion tunnels that were built on either side to divert the Colorado river from the construction site. 

Building of the dam itself was epic.
How much of concrete has gone into the making of the dam can be gauged by this picture below.

The three pictures below show the size of a nut and bolt that was used in the construction.

From the table below it looked like the shovel operators were the highest paid.

The above picture shows the back of the dam. The gust of wind is very powerful at this point. My cap was blown away while taking this picture.
At its base (where the maximum water pressure is 45000 pounds per square foot) are these generators that could produce 3 million horsepower and provide electricity for three states.

A dash of green in the desert.

A statue depicting a worker in action. A total of 112 deaths were associated with the construction of the dam.
Some more statues indoors showing people at work.

I liked Hansen’s sculpture of the two winged figures flanking a flagpole.

You can drive your vehicle over the dam which can be seen in the video below.
The view of the dam from the air is clicked by Snakefisch in 2005 and reproduced in Wikipedia. The bypass bridge came later in 2010 in the wake of the terrorist threat and even today enclosed box trucks are not allowed on the dam.

The real wonder of this Dam was that it was completed 2 years before the scheduled time !!

This catapult (sling) caught my attention at the souvenir store. Reminded me of my childhood where we always had a “catty” tucked in our back pocket. We used to make it from the yoke cut out from a tree and the rubber from discarded tubes. The material for the sling came from the leftover leather thrown away by the cobbler. Total cost ? Absolutely nothing. Now the same are sold in fancy stores for $ 14.      

While driving away from the dam (to the Grand Canyon) we could gauge the temperature in the Arizona desert as can be seen from the picture above.

The video is below: