September 30th, 2007  


It’s been a frustrating week as far as Turtle Trax revisions are concerned.

I’ve been making a lot of small internal changes that should not have affected anything a visitor would see. Hah!
Take it from me, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets for those who don’t make web pages) will drive you mad. Every browser interprets CSS differently, and of course the two most used (Internet Explorer 6 & 7) are the two with the most bugs and quirks.

Modern web pages are supposed to use modern techniques, CSS being the foremost of those. Still using tables to lay out your pages? Hey, that’s a blatant misuse of tables! Use CSS, you fossilized recalcitrant!

Problem is, CSS is a) inconsistently implemented and b) doesn’t have the equivalent functions for layout that people so happily misused in tables. For example, I can place an image in a table cell and then in the next cell, all I need is a single keyword to place text that is vertically centered with the image. This is a nice effect that I use a lot. See those links at the right? They’re examples of what I’m talking about. (Those are still done with tables by the way.) Of course, when I made all those pages I never thought that CSS would simply throw out that simple functionality.

Apparently, you see, web pages are supposed to be laid out horizontally. Who’d ever want to do vertical layout? Judging from the Google, a gazillion frustrated web page developers, that’s who. There is a lame CSS trick you can use that sort of works, but not exactly and not always. So your choices are: a) misuse tables for layout but get exactly what you want, or b) misuse a CSS function and get something that might be close. You decide.

It gets worse

So in the process of trying to modernize and follow standards, what do I discover? Internet Explorer 6 has been screwing up my blog pages since day 1! Yes, yes, I know you’re shocked, but it’s true, I swear. For some reason that I haven’t yet uncovered, it’s taking the CSS drop-shadow trick I use and mangling it. For years I used tables to get drop-shadows that are nice (meaning attractive, at least to me) and flexible (meaning they can be applied to any size image with a minimum of fuss) but I wanted to Do Things Properly. Silly me.

I think I might be a masochist, because despite the grief I’m pressing ahead with implementing pages that use CSS instead of tables for layout. You sadists out there can post taunting comments to test this theory.

…and then…

All the while I was engaging in that banging-head-against-wall stuff, I was taking small breaks to describe my frustration in this blog. I don’t know how much I’d written, or even what I’d said, but there was a lot of it. I might have needed some editing. Anyway, that was yesterday and today, when I finally got myself psyched up enough to come back to this mess–my draft was gone! Gone, Jerry, vanished! Disappeared completely. Nowhere to be found. Didn’t you hear the scream?

What did I get done?

Well, no video this week, but I did find the elusive videotape. You don’t want to know where…

Oh, you do? It’s a bit embarrassing. Okay, it’s a lot embarrassing. It was in the box with the other tapes, in plain view, right where I remembered putting it! The problem was that the label on the spine was wrong. It read Tape 3 instead of Tape 2. Of course the label on the front of the tape was correct, but I was only looking at the spines. It took me the better part of a week to notice that we had two Tape 3s and no Tape 2. D’oh!

The page I was working on that got me so frustrated with CSS is done, although I’m not 100% happy with the way I had to do it. Nevertheless, our metaphorical mission statement, which is also our memoriam to my youngest brother, is revised. the layout is slightly different but otherwise, it’s all under the covers.

Last but not least, I’ve posted the latest cartoon: A Highly Prized Visit. The Corporation apparently has its own ideas about why having Howzit come to visit is a Good Thing. Boy, do they have a lot to learn.

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Looking forward by looking back

September 23rd, 2007  

It’s huge, Jerry, HUGE!

I’ve started a project to prepare video to post at YouTube, but I quickly realized that reviewing and cataloging everything we’ve accumulated since 1989 is a staggering challenge. I’m not sure I can stick with it. Perhaps as I tackle it, a simpler and faster workflow will evolve.

Of course, another obstacle to progress (as my manager used to put it) is me. We have several compilation tapes of the important and/or best clips, complete with commentary by Ursula. So what did I do? Misplace the second tape in the set. No big deal, we know it’s here. Somewhere. Phooey.


Reviewing all this early video makes me think about how much things have changed. Tape 1 devotes far more time to algae than turtles. Back then, it was a Big Issue for us. We thought there was too much of it and that it was killing the reefs. It was disgusting to dive in, but we did it anyway. We wanted it gone, and we did what we could to accomplish that.

Nearly twenty years later, our wish has come true–sort of. The seaweeds around Honokowai have dwindled each year since 2001. The problem is that not only have the nuisance seaweeds disappeared, so have the desirable algae. In particular, Pterocladiella, the favoured food of the honu, has gotten hard to find. The little that’s left is closely cropped.

The reefs are still under pressure, but from turtles not algae. The honu crush coral by lying on it and rubbing against it. There’s relief in sight, however. If seaweed growth doesn’t increase then there won’t be any food left for the honu. The local population will drop as the turtles move on to find better foraging.

We know that honu are highly faithful to their spots on the reef for a long time. We don’t know how strong that bond is. We also don’t know how far a turtle will swim for dinner. At what point would that distance exceed the attachment the honu has for a special place? Impossible to know, yet we suspect that some Honokowai turtles have passed it.

Other changes this week

I finally got around to adding a custom Google search to Trax. For the moment, it’s only available from the front page, but I’ll be putting it on various other pages as well.

Last, the change you’ve all been waiting for: the latest Toon: See? Turtle! The Corporation of the City of Mississauga makes an astonishing discovery, and hastens to deal with the implications.

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Week of September 8-15, 2007

September 16th, 2007  

This week’s Toon

I realized that I’ll be making at least one post a week. That’s because this blog replaces the old Revisions page, and at a minimum we’re posting a new cartoon every week. Keep an eye on the link on the right.

The latest cartoon is called Howzit Is Planely Boasting, in which Our Hero demonstrates how persuasive the Mayor and the staff of the Corporation of the City of Mississauga can be.

The Dedication

I thought I’d start the Trax revisions with something simple: our Dedication. Looked to me like all I needed was to apply the standard Trax CSS stylesheet, clean up a couple of small things, and wallah!

Wrong! Never underestimate the ways in which browsers can interpret the same CSS differently. The reason this post is a day late is that Internet Explorer (who could’ve guessed?) rendered the CSS drop-shadow code (yes, I know it’s ugly) differently than it did on this blog page–and of course, in a really ugly way.

The Trax stylesheet and the blog stylesheet are different but share some elements, including the drop-shadow code. Obviously something else was influencing things, but what? Turns out that I’m still not sure. I did manage to get it working but for the life of me I don’t understand why. I applied a class to the images that I’m not using on the blog, and that–fixed things? Very suspicious.

Anyway, I have revised the Dedication page, even if it’s hard to tell. (I suspect that a lot of the revisions coming up will not change the way the page looks much.) I’ve added a link to a short (really short) video clip of Clothahump from 1992. I decided it didn’t look right to embed it on that page, but I have no problem embedding it here:

As soon as we capture more of our video, I hope to post biographical clips of many Honokowai turtles. I just wish YouTube had the organizing features of Flickr.

Oops! (Update)

I just discovered a bug in the template I use for the weekly Toon Archives meant that anyone looking at the archives for the latest series probably got a headache from some badly resampled JPEGs. This happened because I use Opera and it resamples those images nicely, but Firefox and Internet Explorer certainly do not. Anyway, I fixed it. Apologies to anyone with sore eyes.

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Week of September 1-8, 2007

September 9th, 2007  

Changes, by Peter

There are no waves or palm trees in Mississauga. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I’m trying. Yes, I know you don’t feel sorry for me.

Since we’re no longer at Honokowai, I considered simply not posting until we go back in January. In Mississauga, Ursula is busy with own blog on municipal politics, so anything posted here has to come from me. There’s an omission from the summer that I want to correct, and then… what?

Turtle Trax is overdue for some major changes. We had the first sea turtle website, and it shows. I’m semi-retired now and we’re hoping our book will be released next summer. By then, I hope to make Trax a little neater and modern. I just haven’t figured out how yet.

Thanks to Google and YouTube, there will be video. We want to supplement a lot of existing pages and put together new collections showing honu behaviour. I’ll use this blog to keep visitors informed of what’s happening. I expect posts will be erratic.

Stay tuned, and if you have suggestions about what I should do here, please let me know.

Dolphins reprise

This is the omission I mentioned. Not long after we were buzzed by spinner dolphins, I made a video of the experience, but we never put it online. Here it is.

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Week of August 25-September 1, 2007

September 3rd, 2007  


This summer’s summaries are dedicated to Jose, without whom they would not have been possible. Mahalo nui loa, Jose.


This posting is a couple of days late due to travel and a minor luggage misadventure. Sorry.

The final dive

Our last dive of the summer was on August 26, a Sunday. We normally make an Aloha! dive, during which we say good-bye to the honu for another ten months. No chance this year as the swells rolled in and shut us down.

If we weren’t already smart enough to know when to quit, the last dive drove the point home. It was depressing to begin with, since there were so few turtles. We were looking for one special honu, Q-778, who had been there on every dive until the last one, but now was nowhere to be seen. As we swam back and forth across the reef, we became aware of surging–a sure sign that a swell was starting up. From experience we knew that if we could feel it out on Reef 2 at 35 feet, the waves onshore would be big.

We abandoned our search and headed back early. The visibility dropped rapidly as we approached The Cavern and then The Wall, our name for the ridge that forms a barrier between the beach and the open ocean. There’s a gap in The Wall that we’re always careful to swim through, because crossing over The Wall itself could lead to a nasty case of Reef Rash if an ill-timed wave catches you. On this occasion, although we knew we had arrived exactly where the gap should be, we couldn’t see it at all. We surfaced and snorkelled over.

The surf was up a lot bigger than the forecast had predicted. We never would have started the dive had we expected this. It wasn’t particularly dangerous, but it was discomforting. Getting up the beach with scuba gear on would not be fun.

Peter went first. Just as he got his fins off, a large wave tossed him right onto the beach, a lucky accident. Ursula, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. A set of big waves had just started up (the biggest of the day as it turned out) and so she hung back, floating and waiting it out. Peter took off his BC and tank and went back to the water’s edge in case he could help.

After what seemed like an infinity, the size of the waves dropped a little and Ursula tried coming ashore. Rather than removing her flippers and taking the risk of losing them, she decided to try walking backwards up the beach. She now could see the oncoming waves, which distressingly started getting bigger again. Fortunately, Peter knelt in front of her, grabbed each fin in turn, pulled off the straps, and she was able back out of them. This saved Ursula from having to dive–or maybe fall–forward into the waves, and heading back out to wait some more.

The bottom line was that this was an adventure we didn’t need. Since the forecast called for swells all the rest of the week, we knew that our diving for this summer was over. This year, there won’t be a ceremonial Last Dive, but that’s okay. We’ll inaugurate the Ceremonial Last Kayak Voyage instead.

Really BIG waves, s’truth!

We tried to get a picture of the Big Waves but shooting from the lanai and using wide angle, they all looked puny. Trust us, if you were in the water with it, this wave would look HUGE! Honest.

Click image to enlarge

The Last Kayak Voyage and Snorkel

We didn’t get any photos worth posting from the dive, but we did get a few from the kayak.

Before the dive on Sunday, we spent a couple of hours making our last big snorkelling survey from the kayak. We checked Reef 2 but there was nobody home yet, so we headed up to Hoaka for a final visit this summer. The swell hadn’t started and the water was still nice and clear. There were 8-10 turtles there as usual, mostly resting on the bottom. Occasionally, one or two of them came up for air. One of the males provided the opportunity for the delightful sequence we present here:

Arriving at the surface. If you look closely you can see bubbles as he exhales

Head up and out of the water to grab a lungful

Air intake done, he looks around just under the surface, probably keeping an eye on me

This male surfaced for air right next to the camera.

Click image to enlarge

While Hoaka and the nearby Trench are always interesting to check, they don’t lend themselves to long visits. The areas are small and the honu use them mostly for lying around. There’s little interaction or other activity. Once you’ve taken attendence, there’s not much point in hanging around, so we drifted back down to Reef 2 and spotted about a dozen or so turtles scattered about. Since the area is much larger than Hoaka, the chances of having a honu surface near you are a lot smaller at Reef 2, but we got lucky.

We’ve always coveted a photo that would have the kayak in the background and a honu head rasied up to breathe in the foreground. This has turned out to be exceedingly difficult to get. The photographer and the subjects all have to line up. The number of times we’ve managed two out of three is, well, almost all of them. Then there’s the timing issue. The head is not raised for long, and if there’s any sort of chop, well…

We mentioned luck. We finally got a decent image–not perfect, but close enough to post.

Almost got the elusive shot

A fortuitous attempt at the ever-eulsive honu-with-kayak-background shot.

Click image to enlarge


The poor diving conditions had one small positive to offer: it was a little easier to leave Maui this time. When we looked out at the ocean, we weren’t thinking about how nice it would be to be diving out there. We knew darn well that it wouldn’t.

Instead, we kept reminding ourselves that this time, the wait would be only four months. For the first time ever, we’ll be on Maui in January. We want to see the whales.

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