Squat and active

Filed in Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: ,

(Bird photographs, 20060125, 4 of 4. "Previous Photograph")

One bird in particular didn't seem to be so shy. He flew around, sometimes very close to me, going about his business, pecking on the tree trunks, pecking through the scrub and generally being a happy bird. I've also seen him or one of his kindred near our home.

His motions are very quick. He almost never stays anywhere for more than a second. He's a rather squat little bird and his beak is remarkably straight.

What kind of bird is he?

squat and active

Common Tailorbird 長尾縫葉鶯

(Orthotomus sutorius)

Date: 25 January 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

For a closer look at the bird, click here.

Now that I have "The Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hong Kong", it is no longer necessary for readers to help me name the birds I show. However, thank you to everyone who helped me with the names of the birds prior to my book purchase. I truly appreciate the effort.

Man on fire!

Filed in Current Affairs, Health, Hong KongTags: , , ,

True story.

It was supposed to be a straight forward operation, a small one, a simple one. Cut a small hole above the bronchial airway, pull the large oxygen breathing tube out from the mouth and push the new smaller tube in through the hole.

My brother-in-law Joe had a stroke almost two weeks ago. A blood vessel in his brain had developed an aneurism and while walking the streets of Macau, it burst, streaming blood into his brain. He knew immediately that something was wrong and asked a nearby policeman for help. He was transported to a hospital and treated. He had lost consciousness well before getting to the hospital and his situation was serious.

Fast-forward a week. Joe has been transferred to the Prince of Wales hospital in Sha Tin and is resting and recuperating in the crowded and understaffed Neural ward on the third floor. He can open his eyes but cannot move any of his muscles. He has a long way to go before he'll be normal again. His mouth is perpetually open because his jaw muscles don't respond to commands. Consequently, he breaths through his mouth but cannot moisten it or control where the saliva and nasal fluids go allowing some of it to run down the trachea and build up in the lungs. According to the attending doctor, this may have been one of the causes of the secondary pneumonia infection noted a few days later.

The pneumonia produced massive amounts of phlegm in his lungs and without motor movement or coughing capabilities, the phlegm would remain in his lungs, significantly impeding his ability to breath. Without help, he would die, possibly of suffocation. An air tube was inserted down his throat to assist with his breathing but leaving the tube there long term would probably damage his throat. The doctors therefore decided to cut a small hole through his chest into his trachea and insert a small tube. For the immediate future, this would be a safer and more convenient solution to his breathing problems.

The procedure is relatively simple. Cut a small hole through to the trachea. Pull the large tube out through the mouth. Push the small tube in through the hole. To make sure that the patient doesn't suffer from a lack of oxygen during the procedure, almost-pure oxygen is fed to the patient through the large tube just moments prior to the operation. The extra supply of oxygen is supposed to keep the patient going while the tubes are being exchanged.

The procedure took place yesterday in an operation room. During the operation, instead of using a traditional scalpel, the doctor used an 'electric scalpel'. For reasons not yet explained to us, the 'electric scalpel' released sparks during the operation which ignited oxygen coming out of the hole. Joe was literally on fire; for approximately ten seconds. The fire was reportedly quickly put out with water (water??). Once the damage had been surveyed and evaluated, the tube procedure was completed and Joe was once again able to breath.

The fire was real. According to the doctor, it was an accident and it was the first such known incident in Hong Kong although according to the doctor, web searches revealed twenty or more similar cases overseas. The fire produced heat and smoke, and some of it may have entered Joe's bronchi, scorching the bronchial epithelial layers. Best case scenario; the bronchi will recover without further complications. Worse case scenario; the epithelial layers swell and result in thickened bronchial walls and narrower wind ways possibly leading to further serious long term complications.

The fire was an accident. We believe that. The question though is one of negligence. In my (admittedly inexperienced) mind, I can only see two possible reasons for the fire. First, the electric scalpel used was faulty, leading to the sparks that ignited the oxygen. Second, the procedure was flawed. With oxygen pumping through it, the larger tube was pulled up above where the hole was to be cut before the cut was made and oxygen was still pumping through the tube while the hole was being cut. This lead to direct contact between the almost pure oxygen and the electric knife hence the fire.

In either case, negligence is the cause of the accident; lack of maintenance and equipment inspection in the first case, and incorrect procedure in the second case.

If we were in the U.S.A., we'd be suing the hospital. Here in Hong Kong, suing is much more complicated. That said, it's far more important at the moment to keep an eye on Joe and make sure that his road to recovery is not hampered again. Hopefully, the nurses and doctors will pay more attention to his case.

In the end though, the real criminals here are the Hong Kong Government and the Hospital Authority. While happily advancing funds to large corporate contracts for extravagant projects, and while the Hospital Authority management staff joyfully award themselves high salaries and large unsubstantiated bonuses, they continue to cut financing to the hospitals. Public hospitals in Hong Kong are now overcrowded. Even the Intensive Care Unit looked like a refugee zone with beds camped hither and thither in the hallways and in the walking areas between beds. The staff are overworked, understaffed and underpaid. This can benefit no-one.

Similar situations are building in the public school system, situations which have recently led to multiple suicides in the teacher population.

Funding and expenditure need to be controlled but there's a limit to how much you can save on staffing costs and the lives of the people have to be considered. If the government doesn't work soon to remedy the situation in a sensible realistic way, the consequences will be dire; for everyone (except the rich which not surprisingly includes those same government officials and hospital authority management staff. Maybe the middle-class citizens should be the ones making the life-and-death decisions instead of the rich.)

Hunting together

Filed in Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: , ,

(Bird photographs, 20060125, 3 of 4. "Previous Photograph")

While sitting up on that tree trunk twelve feet up in the air, there was one pair of birds that I saw more often than any other. They were mates and they were hunting together. They were later on joined by another pair of the same variety.

Forty years old and I've only now realised how marvelous it is to watch birds hunt. They sit on the branches looking in every direction, and when they see a flying insect, they flutter up, catch the insect and flutter back. The action is very quick and very absorbing; and extremely hard to photograph. Tracking them with your camera, keeping everything in focus and pressing the shutter button at the right time is almost impossible to do but I'll hopefully get there one day with more training and practice. In the meantime, you'll have to be content with my non-flying photographs.

What are they? Does anyone know?


Chinese Bulbul 白頭鵯

(Pycnonotus sinensis)

Date: 25 January 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

What are you looking at? Can't you see we're busy?

Two birds, probably mates, hunting together. I believe you'll find that the females have a different flatter head crest than the males. In this picture, the female is probably the one on the left with the male on the right.

For a blow-up of the female, click here.

For a blow-up of the male, click here.

More photos of the male (my guess from the head crest and the colour).


For a closer look at the bird, click here.


For a closer look at the bird, click here.

Now that I have "The Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hong Kong", it is no longer necessary for readers to help me name the birds I show. However, thank you to everyone who helped me with the names of the birds prior to my book purchase. I truly appreciate the effort.

Red and green!

Filed in Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: , ,

(Bird photographs, 20060125, 2 of 4. "Previous Photograph")

Another one of the birds I photographed on January 25, this bird was only there for a few seconds. One second he was there. The next, he was gone. I've seen him before though so I'll probably see him again. Hopefully, there will be opportunities to get better pictures of him.

Does anybody know his name?

red and green

Fork-tailed Sunbird 叉尾太陽鳥

(Aethopyga christinae)

Date: 25 January 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

For a closer version, click here.

Now that I have "The Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hong Kong", it is no longer necessary for readers to help me name the birds I show. However, thank you to everyone who helped me with the names of the birds prior to my book purchase. I truly appreciate the effort.

Radio interview on RTHK2

Filed in Press

I apologise. I completely forgot to let you people know ahead of time about a radio interview I'm doing tomorrow although I didn't actually know the exact time myself until today.

The interview will be with RTHK2 between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. The show's name is 萬王之王. This is the link to their online streaming program. Be sure to check back before the show just to make sure that I haven't made a mistake and changed the link ;-)

I've actually had a very busy month as far as interviews go. There was one interview with TVB which hasn't aired yet, and another interview with TVB next week. There have also been several interviews with newspapers and magazines. I'll list them for you later.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, one of our 'kids' ran past my desk and looped himself through the power cable for my scanner. The jolt pulled the plug in my scanner and snapped the power connector right off the mother board. The scanner will have to be repaired and until then, I cannot scan any interviews for you, but I'll get onto it as soon as possible (skirting the fact that I haven't scanned any of last year's interviews yet).

Take care.


Filed in Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: ,

(Bird photographs, 20060125, 1 of 4.)

One of the birds I was able to photograph yesterday was a medium size bird with a black back and a bright yellow belly. I was very surprised to see such a colourful bird in my neighbourhood, albeit inside the bush.

The focus is not perfect but it's a nice shot anyway. If anyone knows what kind of bird he is, please tell me. I'd like to gradually build a library of Hong Kong bird photographs and knowing the names of the birds would be very meaningful.

(The doubling effect of the out-of-focus objects such as the branches is probably caused by the 2x extender that I use. I conjecture that an original 400mm lens without the extender wouldn't produce this effect or what I consider to be an aberration.)

Yellow! again.

Grey-chinned Minivet (female) 灰喉山椒鳥(雌性)

(Pericrocotus solaris)

Date: 25 January 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

For a closer version, click here.

Now that I have "The Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hong Kong", it is no longer necessary for readers to help me name the birds I show. However, thank you to everyone who helped me with the names of the birds prior to my book purchase. I truly appreciate the effort.

Canon EOS 350D comments: Shutter speed

Filed in Digital HunterTags: , , , ,

Imagine a guy with bare feet walking as quietly as possible through the underbrush of some bushy area, stealthily walking over to a fallen dead tree and then climbing up that tree to wait.

I've seen the tree before. It's a very large tree that was apparently pushed so hard by the wind that its trunk broke several feet off the ground allowing the wind to push the whole tree to the ground. It's been dead for quite some time now and it's a boon for me because it's produced an empty space in the middle of the bush, and a platform from which I can sit and watch the birds fly around.

The tree is now horizontal so it's easy to walk up but I still need to be careful climbing it because you never know when the white ants will have eaten enough of the tree; nature's recycling system; to weaken it, eventually allowing it to break under my weight. So far though, the tree doesn't budge when I walk on it so it's very safe for the time being.

I sat and stood on the tree trunk, some twelve feet off the ground, just watching and waiting for two or three hours, relaxing in the warm winter sun and admiring the blue skies that have become so rare now here in Hong Kong. I knew the birds frequented this place so it was just a matter of waiting with camera in hand. I was sure to get something.

Eventually, the birds did come and I was able to get a few reasonable photographs. I say reasonable because I'm finding it hard to get good photographs with my Canon EOS 350D camera. Under normal circumstances photographing normal things, the camera's definitely ok, but when I'm trying to get close to objects or when the available light begins to drop even just a little, the camera becomes a hindrance and I'm left questioning my age, eyes and skill.

The problem is light. Unless the sunlight is in full force, I need to set the camera to ASA200 for most of my shots to get a reasonable shutter speed. Even then, I find myself shooting many of my shots at just 1/30th of a second. For many shots, that's ok but for moving objects, it's too slow. I think the camera suffers from two problems: the sensor is small at only 22mm instead of the traditional full frame 35mm, and the sensors are not as sensitive as similar rated film; i.e., EOS 350D' ASA200 == film ASA100. One day soon, I'm going to try taking similar shots with both of my cameras and see if the EOS 5 does in fact make better shots easier to get.

At ASA200 on the digital camera, the photographs are not fine. This becomes more obvious when you blow up the pictures to full size and the details are not sharp. In addition, darker parts of the photographs are grainy and weak.

When taking pictures of birds, the problems become accentuated. Because I'm using the equivalent of a 224-640mm lens (70-200, x2 for the extender, x1.6 for the 22mm sensor), camera shake becomes a real problem. Even minute movements will cause the picture to blur. Add to that the speed of the birds' movements and it becomes evident that slower apperture speeds are out of the question. My testing so far indicates that I need at least 1/125s to avoid camera shake, and at least 1/160s to avoid blurring due to a combination of camera shake and bird movement.

At ASA200, this is only just possible for the lighting available to me at present but there's another problem. More often than not, the only way to get 1/160s shutter speeds is to use the maximum aperture value on my extended zoom lens; f5.6. For close-ups at 640mm with an aperture of f5.6, the depth of field can be extremely short, as short as just a few millimetres, so getting perfectly focused photographs is very difficult. I also prefer to get more in focus than just the bird's eyes so it's a blessing when the light allows aperture values of 10 or more.

Until yesterday, I was using Aperture-Priority programming to shoot bird photographs, usually setting the aperture to f5.6 but also shifting to f6.3 or f7.1 or even f8.0 when lighting allowed. Yesterday, it finally occurred me; remember that I'm an amateur photographer so please don't laugh; to use Shutter-Priority programming. With the ASA to 200, I set the shutter speed to 1/160s and let the camera do the rest. This way, I would automatically get greater depths of field when possible without any effort on my part. If I was shooting areas which were too dark for 1/160s at f5.6, it wouldn't matter because the result would be a darker picture similar to what was being photographed.

I am pretty happy with the photographs I took yesterday but after reviewing them, I have decided that 1/200s is probably a better choice than 1/160s. I'm also determined to try using the EOS 5 film camera soon to see if I can get better colour and grain than when using the 350D digital camera.

I have much more to say about the EOS 350D camera but I'll leave it for another post.

Bewitched. Reflections of the past.

Filed in MemoirsTags: , , , , , , , ,

I've been watching episodes from a TV show I watched as a kid, a show called Bewitched with Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. I didn't get to see every show when I was a kid but I enjoyed it anyway, and love it even more now because it's part of my past. That's also part of the reason I enjoyed the Bewitched movie last year with Nicole Kidman who is probably one of the most exceptional actresses I can think of.

Anyway, watching Bewitched lead to two thoughts. First, it's interesting watching the old tv shows because you get to see the society values in place at that time. For example, in Betwitched's time, the women stayed at home and looked after the house. They were expected to keep the place clean and have food on the table when their husbands returned home. They were also active in various committees and charities around town. These days, women have become the power players in many corporations with men taking second place, at least in some of the corporations I know. Overall, men may still have more power positions than women but women now have far more power than ever before. We're almost at the point where the men will stay at home and look after the house and family while the women go to work.

Second thought. In Bewitched, Darren requires that his wife Samantha not use her witchcraft. In today's world, he'd probably get sued for being prejudice. His requirement that she not use her witchcraft and her willingness to accept his demand is also reflective of the men-women roles at the time. Women will expected to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, something that most women today would strongly object to; justly so as far as I'm concerned. Marriage should be a partnership, not a dictatorship.

Other shows that I fondly remember from my childhood include "Mr. Ed" (featuring a talking horse), "I Dream of Jeannie", "F-Troop", "Gilligan's Island" and "My Favourite Martian" (whose Martian actor Ray Walston I still feel affection for).

While looking for links to these shows on the internet, I thought of one more thing. All of these shows ran for several seasons. It's probably the length of the showing that gives us time to bond with the characters and the show. TVB's series never run for long; usually only twenty or thirty episodes. That being that case, there is very little chance for anyone to bond with the characters or any particular show. Am I wrong? Have any of you bonded with any particular actor, actress or TVB show?