Landing room only: Owl ambushed by his playful brother in the Colorado desert

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Dropping in: The playful bird perched on his brother's head as wildlife photographer Rob Palmer took the amazing shots in the Colorado desert

Dropping in: The playful bird perched on his brother's head as wildlife photographer Rob Palmer took the amazing shots in the Colorado desert

This is the moment a playful owlet pounces on his baby brother to give him a friendly kiss on the cheek.

Spotting the perfect moment to surprise his unwitting sibling, the crafty six-week-old creature swooped in, talons outstretched, in the display of affection.

Caught completely unawares, his brother is almost bowled over backwards by the playful ambush.

The heartwarming antics of these two burrowing owls was captured by wildlife photographer Rob Palmer.

The 57-year-old was on the look out for burrowing owl dens when he came across these two, part of a brood of six.

As their name suggests, this species of owl nests underground in burrows that have been abandoned by animals like prairie dogs and badgers.

Mr Palmer, from Littleton, Colorado, USA, said: ‘I spend a lot of time looking for burrowing owl dens, which are fairly common where ever you can find a prairie dog colony.

He's behind you: In another frame the cheeky burrowing owl creeps up behind his sibling

He's behind you: In another frame the cheeky burrowing owl creeps up behind his sibling

‘There were six owlets in this brood and they would play in the early morning.

‘I managed to get about 30 feet from them to take the pictures and, after a while, they had no problem with me being there. They were very tolerant of my presence.

‘These two are just having fun so neither got hurt.’

The burrowing owl grows to around 10 inches in length and has a wingspan of 21 inches.

Brotherly love: But in a tender moment that seems almost human, the owlet appears to nuzzle up to his sibling

Brotherly love: But in a tender moment that seems almost human, the owlet appears to nuzzle up to his sibling

The small, long-legged species is found is usually found in the dry, open areas of North and South America.

Unlike their nocturnal relatives, these owls tend to be at their most active during day-light hours.

They hunt for food from dusk to dawn, their diet consists mainly of insects and small rodents.

They are preyed on by badgers, coyotes and snakes as well as cats and dogs.

The burrowing owl lives for around nine years in the wild but can survive for more than ten in captivity.

[source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1305395/Playful-owlets-caught-camera-having-hoot-time.html]
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[News] Kenyan officials seize 2 tons of ivory, rhinoceros horns destined for Malaysia at Nairobi airport

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Wildlife officers seized 2 tons of elephant ivory and five rhino horns at Kenya's main airport that were to be illegally shipped to Malaysia

Wildlife officers seized 2 tons of elephant ivory and five rhino horns at Kenya's main airport that were to be illegally shipped to Malaysia

NAIROBI, Kenya — Wildlife officers seized 2 tons of elephant ivory and five rhino horns at Kenya’s main airport that were to be illegally shipped to Malaysia, an official said Tuesday.

Paul Udoto, a spokesman with the Kenya wildlife Service, said sniffer dogs from the KWS inspection unit, based at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, detected the tusks. They were concealed in wooden boxes being transported with avocados and destined for Malaysia.

Two people have been arrested, he said.

Udoto said the 317 pieces of elephant tusk are believed to have been acquired after the deaths of 150 elephants. He estimated that it took 20 years to amass the collection and said it is unlikely the elephants were killed for the tusks but, rather, that someone collected them from elephants that had died naturally.

Udoto said three of rhino horns had transmitters in them, meaning they were being tracked by wildlife officials.

Airports in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa have emerged as the three main airports through which to smuggle African ivory to Asia, where it is a collector’s item.

Early last month authorities in Thailand netted 1,683 pounds that were flown from Kenya. In May, Vietnamese authorities discovered nearly 2 tons of elephant tusks illegally imported from Kenya hidden in dried seaweed. The shipment was bound for China.

According to wildlife officials, elephant poaching has risen seven-fold in Kenya since a one-time ivory sale was approved in 2007 by CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — for four African countries. Last year 271 Kenyan elephants were killed by poachers, compared with 37 in 2007.

CITES banned the sale of ivory in 1989 after poaching devastated the African elephant population from 1.3 million in 1979 to about 600,000 in 1989.

[source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/08/kenyan-officials-seize-two-tons-of-ivory-rhinoceros-horns-destined-for-malaysia-at-nairobi-airport.html]
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Ghost Festival: procession at the cemetery

By | Beautiful Melaka, Photography | 4 Comments
from left: Kok-Liang and Wee-Peng with their shirt stamped with the names of Da Er Ye Bo (大二爷伯), blessed and waiting for the procession to begin

from left: Kok-Liang and Wee-Peng with their shirt stamped with the names of Da Er Ye Bo (大二爷伯), blessed and waiting for the procession to begin

The seventh lunar month is regarded as the ‘ghost month’ (鬼月), which is the traditional Chinese festival celebrated by the Chinese in many countries during the 30 days. In this month, the gates of the nether world are opened up and ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. Chinese would perform rituals and prayers to their deceased relatives, offer food and drink and burn hell bank notes and other forms of joss paper. Mass rituals and prayers are also held in temples or Chinese neighborhood and in some case, Chinese opera, dramas, and even burlesque shows are performed to the deceased ones as an act of ‘merry-making’.

Every year fall on the 13th of the ghost month, Chinese temple – Di Fang Fu (地方府) located at the Jelotong cemetery in Batu Berendam, Melaka, holds a grand celebration. It is the temple where Chinese worships to the Deities “Da Er Ye Bo” (大二爷伯) and “San Ye Bo” (三爷伯), who are the Deities from the nether world. There will be a 1.5 km procession around the Jelotong cemetery with devotees carrying a black and a white palanquin, ferrying Da Er Ye Bo. It is believed that ones who participate in the procession would be blessed by the Deities and be in good fortune.

Chinese lantern on the main building with the name of Di Fang Fu temple and the names of the three Deities

Chinese lantern on the main building with the name of Di Fang Fu temple and the names of the three Deities

The late night on the 13th of the seventh lunar month (22th of July this year), Wee-Peng and I together with Kok-Liang and his younger brother visited to the Chinese temple, Di Fang Fu (地方府) located at the Jelotong cemetery in Batu Berendam, Melaka. Kok-Liang and Wee-Peng had been taking part in the procession for years and brought me there for the first time. According to Kok-Liang, the temple was established in the 80s and first housed in a shed-like structure. Years ago, it was then moved to a bigger building, a shorter distance away in the same area. Today, the temple stands a majestically view with all wall bricks and granite, mural design in and around the whole temple premises. It is a beautifully constructed new place of worship amidst a greenery landscape overlooking thousands of Chinese graves on the hillside of Jelotong.

The temple was already crowded with devotees when we arrived. Not long after that, we met Murphy and Desmond who being the volunteers in helping the event. They had been taking part in this celebration for years and this would be the first time to help as volunteers. We would first have to pay respect to the Deities by offering joss-sticks before we queued up to receive blessing from the medium of Da Ye Bo (大爷伯). The line was long and we waited for about an hour to receive blessing which said to be a must in order to walk across the cemetery.

the medium of Da Ye Bo (with tall hat) giving blessing to the kneed devotees

the medium of Da Ye Bo (with tall hat) giving blessing to the kneed devotees

Years ago, the mediums of Da Er Ye Bo (Da regards as elder where Er regards second, and Ye Bo means lord), the two Deities would give blessing to the devotees for the procession. This year however, Da Ye Bo was the only one who gave blessing. Before I continue on the event, let me share one of legends of Da Er Ye Bo which I found and translated from Chinese:

A very long time ago, in the southern province of China, there lived two inseperable friends by the name of Xie Bi-An (谢必安) and Fan Wu-Jiu (范无救), who then became sworn brothers. They had great mastery of martial arts and worked as the loyal magistrate constables (policemen nowadays), serving warrents and hauling in criminals for judgement, but never harming honest folks.

medium of Da Ye Bo (Xie Bi-An) giving blessing and cleansing to the devotees. The words '一见大吉' (one glimpse, great felicity) can be seen on his hat

medium of Da Ye Bo (Xie Bi-An) giving blessing and cleansing to the devotees. The words '一见大吉' (one glimpse, great felicity) can be seen on his hat

Once during a prisoner transfer, they lost the prisoner. So they decided to split up to search for the prisoner and Xie told Fan to meet up under the South Platform Bridge. Soon after they went seperately, they were caught in a torrential rain, and great curtains of water beat down upon them.

Fan arrived at the bridge first and waited for Xie. The water level rose higher and higher. Fan had given his word that he would wait for Xie therefore he remained where he was. Eventually Fan was swept by a great of water and drowned. Later when Xie arrived at the bridge and found Fan’s dead body, he was overcome with gried, and in remorse he hanged himself to death from the tree where Fan’s body was found.

The extraordinary affection and loyalty that Fan had for Xie (so much that he was drowned rather than leaving the place where he had promised to wait), and that Xie had for Fan (so much that he hanged himself rather than go on living without his sworn brother), much moved the King of Nether World, who had them appointed as his assistants, where they continue to work together to protect the people from bandits and other bad elements.

Today, Xie Bi-An is known as Da Ye Bo, who is recognized by his chalky white skin and his long tongue, and by his tall stature, made taller yet by a high white hat bearing the words, “one glimpse, great felicity” (一见大吉), where Fan Wu-Jiu is known as Er Ye Bo and is easily recognized by his short stature and dark red or black skin and by the little plaque he carries reading “Good and Evil Clearly Differentiated” (善恶分明).

The medium who possessed by Da Ye Bo was giving blessing and cleansing to the devotees. It was our turn after a long queue. We kneed with our back facing the medium while he gave us blessing. While waiting for the rest of the devotees to receive blessing, I met Kenn-Wai. What a coincident! I was so happy to see him that I could learn something from him while Kenn-Wai also showed a happy smile after seeing me with my camera. He did not carry his camera to the procession and felt deeply regretted. We then started to have discussion of taking shots in low light condition and put our experience into action.

It was about 2:00 a.m. in the morning when thousands of devotees had received blessing from the medium, Da Ye Bo. The statues of Da Ye Bo and Er Ye Bo were then placed on the the two palanquins respectively, one was in black and the other was in white. Before the procession began, strict instruction was given that everyone was advised not to talk nor look back when walking across the cemetery. It was somehow to show respect to the spirits of the cemetery. Everyone would then have to walk with bare foot and holding the lighted joss-sticks, following the medium of Da Ye Bo and the two palanquins on the lead.

joss sticks

joss sticks

The procession began with the cheering of the devotees and fireworks setting off, heading towards the cemetery not far away from the temple. The noise was then reduced to minimum soon after we started. It was dark with such minimal light in the sky from the moon and everyone could barely see the path. It was a pain to walk in the dark and on the stony ground of the cemetery. Although it was quiet during the procession, I could hear people complaining about the pain of their feet. Of course there was a truck following the march to pick up those who could not continue the walk.

The 1.5 km path leads back to the temple, making a big turn across the cemetery hill. My friends and I were at the back of the march and we arrived at the temple after 30-45 minutes walk later than many people. Before we arrived we could hear people started cheering and fireworks were set off again for the celebration to the completion of the procession. Though I could not make it in time to witness, Kenn-Wai later described to me how the medium of Da Er Bo was thanked and ‘sent’ back to the other world after finishing the procession. Stacks of joss papers and papier-mâché items were then burnt as thanksgiving to the Deities. The celebration ended in a real peaceful and joyful environment.

joss papers and papier-mâché items were burnt as an offering to the Deities

joss papers and papier-mâché items were burnt as an offering to the Deities

I really enjoyed to witness and would like to thank Kok-Liang and Wee-Peng for bringing me to participate in this grand celebration. And thanks to Kenn-Wai for sharing his shots and experience of photography with me. We had fun snapping the event together. May all beings be happy.

Shots Kenn-Wai and I took:

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Armless Pianist Liu Wei Defies Odds On ‘China’s Got Talent’

By | Compassion | 2 Comments
Liu Wei playing the piano with his toes (photo from http://english.cri.cn/)

Liu Wei playing the piano with his toes (photo from http://english.cri.cn/)

Heartening tales of overcoming adversity are typical fodder on “Got Talent” and other reality shows, but the shocking saga of “China’s Got Talent” contestant Liu Wei makes this season’s batch of “America’s Got Talent” sob stories look like the pampered brats on VH1’s “You’re Cut Off.” And this is a true sob story–seriously, if you watch the video below and don’t get at least a little bit misty-eyed, you clearly have no soul.

Liu, now 23 years old, lost both of his arms in a freak accident when he was 10, after he touched an electrified wire while playing hide-and-seek. However, these tragic circumstances did not stop Liu from pursuing his dream of becoming a pianist–teaching himself how to play with his feet at age 18, after one piano teacher told him he would never succeed. And it turns out, Liu has more talent in one of his pinky toes than most four-limbed piano players have in both of their hands.

“For people like me, there were only two options. One was to abandon all dreams, which would lead to a quick, hopeless death. The other was to struggle without arms to live an outstanding life,” Liu explained to the judges on “China’s Got Talent.” Thankfully, Liu chose the latter option.

Watch Liu’s perfect performance of “Mariage D’amour” below, and make sure to have some tissues nearby:

[source: http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/realityrocks/385927/armless-pianist-liu-wei-defies-odds-on-chinas-got-talent/]
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I’m poor but happy, says lotto girl who blew £2million on flash cars, breast implants and drugs

By | Compassion, Wisdom | 2 Comments
cheque-out: Shopworker Callie Rogers's big win in year 2003 (photo from www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/)

cheque-out: Shopworker Callie Rogers's big win in year 2003 (photo from www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/)

When Callie Rogers won almost £2million on the lottery aged 16, she hoped it would help her put her troubles behind her.

The teenager came from a broken home, had dropped out of school and was living in local authority care.

But instead she became addicted to drugs and attempted suicide three times as her life unravelled.

She says the money brought her only misery – and now she is down to her last £100,000, she has never been happier.

Now 22, she said: ‘Just a few months ago I was taking too many drugs and hated myself.

‘I simply did not want to live any more.

‘But now I have a new man and am finally becoming the woman I want to be.

‘And it’s only after I’ve spent most of my fortune that this has finally happened.’

Miss Rogers, from Cockermouth, Cumbria, won £1.9million on the National Lottery in 2003.

She went on a massive spending spree, splashing out on four homes for her family, flash cars, designer clothes, partying and breast implants.

A fortnight after her win she met unemployed Nicky Lawson, 29.

They have a five-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.

But during their relationship she spent £250,000 on cocaine.

She suffered depression and tried to take her life, the final time earlier this year after losing custody of her children because of her mental state.

She told Closer magazine, in which she poses nude with only banknotes to preserve her modesty, that she was determined to win them back.

‘I’ve made an appointment to see a doctor as I need help to deal with my depression,’ she said.

‘I need to get my act together and make my kids proud, and for the first time I really do think that’s possible.’

She credits her new boyfriend with giving her the stable home life she has always craved, and she now hopes to go to college and eventually become a counsellor.

‘After all I’ve endured, I think I have a lot of advice to offer,’ she said.

[source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1303665/Lotto-girl-Callie-Rogers-blew-2m-flash-cars-breast-implants-drugs.html?ito=feeds-newsxml]
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Street photography – panning shots in old town Melaka

By | Beautiful Melaka, Photography | 2 Comments
street photography outing in old town of Melaka with, from left: Iu-Lung, Timothy (blocked), and Denny

street photography outing in old town of Melaka with, from left: Iu-Lung, Timothy (blocked), and Denny

The 11th of August was Awal Ramadan, the beginning of Islamic month of fasting. Within these 29 or 30 days per lunar sighting of Ramadan month, participating Muslims all over the world refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. It is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality. Thus the significant first day of Ramadan is declared public holiday for the states of Johor, Kedah and Melaka.

a street view of Jalan Tukang Besi

a street view of Jalan Tukang Besi

On this first day of Ramadan last week, everyone in Melaka was having a day off and so to the students, Timothy, Iu-Lung, and Denny, whom I met from photonian. They then organised a street shooting around Jonker Street and were inviting others to join. Since I was having lunch at Jason’s house, which near to that area, I called up Timothy to join them and was hoping to learn from them. Timothy, Iu-Lung and Denny are no Malaccan but from Bintulu, Tampin and Kuala Lumpur relatively. They are current students of the Multimedia University in Melaka, and they are really passionate in photography.

The three of them display great skills yet diverse in their style from each other. Tim, who is active in the university’s photography event always likes to try new thing and produce outstanding masterpieces. On the other hand, I came to know Iu-Lung after seeing his name and photos in the paper and magazine, receiving good feedback from others. It also gave me a good impression on his black and white photos. Denny whom I just knew, showed a dynamic of passion in photography during the outing.

After we met and gathered at Jalan Tukang Besi, we began our shooting along the street, targeting craft-men whom hardly be seen nowadays. We were looking particularly for an elderly doing rattan at Jalan Kampung Kuli. His workplace was next to the Makam Hang Jebat (Hang Jebat’s grave). It is shame to say that I did know the grave’s existence prior to the outing till I was told and brought there by the three students from other states. And unfortunately we didn’t manage to see the rattan man as he was already off business on the day. Feeling disappointed, we continued  on our search of a craft-man.

the elderly craft-man checking on a sewing maching

the elderly craft-man checking on a sewing maching

We then headed to Jalan Kampung Pantai. I remember there is an elderly craft-man who repairs sewing machine at his shop right opposite the fabric shop I went a week ago. And yes, the craft-man was there on business that day and he was fixing a sewing machine when we reached. We were happy to meet our objective – taking photos of a craft-man. With the old craft-man’s consent, we snap some of his photos before we moved to my last stop, Lorong Jambatan.

The street leads directly to the famous bridge which known by the locals as Gui Men Guan in Chinese, meaning hell gate. It’s believed that many had been killed during the world war Japanese invasion or suicide here by jumping into Melaka River. As it is dead end, no car would drive into this street.

panning shot of the family love on a bike

panning shot of the family love on a bike

When we arrived there, a family of few members was spending some precious time together and the kids were cycling back and forth along the street. They were friendly and happily greeted us on our arrival. The kids were not camera-shy but to continue cycling. It came to my mind immediately to shoot panning photos of the kids on bikes instead of taking racing cars. So I turned down the my camera’s shutter speed and started to do panning shots of the family’s cycling moments. We enjoyed there capturing the shots of the people, building and the bridge.

It was late then I had to leave for my next appointment. Timothy and friends continued their journey to other streets and I believed they’d got really amazing shots of the old town of Melaka. I really enjoyed the walk around and snap outing. It was also a great pleasure to join these energetic and passionate young men especially having the same interest in keeping the aspects of history before they disappear altogether.

Thanks to Timothy, Iu-Lung and Denny for spending a good time together. May all beings be happy.

Hit the jump to see panning in action:

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