Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday goodies: Happy Halloween!

I've been on the road all day, and thus away from my main computer files, but it's Monday AND Halloween, so you know I'm totally going to cheat with archive photos post something good anyway!

Five creepy-fun photos, and why I love them

Bark scorpion stinger

The business end. Doesn't it look wicked? The only thing that would make it better would be the scorpion bokeh-ed in the background, but try as I might, I couldn't contort myself to get that shot. I was still disappointed the next day. My husband finds my aspirations rather strange, but there you go.

Black widow

My favorite because, duh, it's a black widow. Also, this one actually elicited a jump from me, for all of you who think I'm a spider-loving freak. (You can totally go on thinking that; I take it as a compliment.) It was almost completely dark outside. I used the flash-focusing light to sort of see where she was. I had to get really close, if I wanted a halfway decent macro. I bobbed in and out, and snapped, and then, she was gone. Well, not gone, really, because she'd only gone out of the field because she was running toward my face. Spiders. They keep you on your toes.

Black widow babies

Because, awww! Babies! No? Come on!

Also, because it makes my husband squirm. I'd just gotten through telling him how I'd checked the whole garage, and there wasn't a single black widow in there now. So in a way, I was right. Not a single black widow.

Black-crowned night heron

Maybe it doesn't look scary to you, but seconds after taking the shot, my ears nearly bled with a KRAWWWAAK, my heart jumped into my throat, and the heron flew away in a satisfied huff. It's the size of a football with a head, but it got me, anyway.

Labyrinth orbweaver

OK, back to actual image critique. I love the black background, the spider entering the frame, the web. I love it all. It's extra cool, too, because this was a total "throwaway" shot. I'm pretty sure I was just messing around with camera settings. This is the most common spider around here, more common maybe even than our black widows. They weave webs in our tree branches, swingset, grill, everywhere. They're not that exciting.

Only, maybe they are. This one looks downright sinister. Perfect for Halloween.

Oooh, also! I'm going to give NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month, for the uninitiated) a try this month. A post every day. I know I have things going on, and that's seriously the reason behind the "Species a Day" pause, but, well, there are always things going on. Expect posts anyway. I'm starting to like this.

Any ideas/requests for the month? Expect many Species, the Monday/Friday regulars, and possibly the posts I promised earlier chronicling my son's clownphobia and the time I forgot to wear pants.

Happy Monday, all. And Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday goodies/Wildlife wednesday: Cormorants

After my last Monday post, Thérèse asked for cormorants. I've got cormorants. I've got cormorants to spare.

Cormorant-human relations can be a tricky thing. In some areas, they're considered pests because of their droppings, stealing fish from anglers, or just sheer numbers. In China, however, anglers have actually used cormorants for thousands of years to help them fish. Kind of like feathered, swimming, really goofy-looking hunting dogs.

For us, they're just a blast to watch. I don't know if any of you are Dr. Seuss fans, but one of my son's favorites used to be On Beyond Zebra. One of the pages talks about "nutches," which guard their perches thusly:

It always reminds me of this:

They act like it too -- that one cormorant is in flight because no one will let it on its perch. Also, their call sounds a lot like a belch. Add to that the fact that when one does get dislodged from its branch, it bumps off the next one, and that one careens into two or three more, and so on, and they all call out when disturbed; and you have a fluttering, silhouetted symphony of burps every evening. Best nature walk ever if you have a kid; trust me.

Here, have a few more:

Hooray for cormorants. And see, I do requests! Ask away.

Happy beginning/mid week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday goodies/Wildlife Wednesday: Great egrets

Great egrets. Fierce. Graceful. Eaters of insects, fish, baby gators, snakes, frogs, small birds, and really just about anything.

Not eaters of people, and so great fun to watch.

I already did great blue herons, so I figured a Monday with great egrets was in order.

I had this all ready, but Blogger didn't want to do anything but throw my computer into a "Not responding" fit for two days. So now it's a combo Monday goodies and Wildlife Wednesday. Egrets are good for all occasions, no?

Hope you're all having a good week! What animal/pretty stuff/cool thing should I do next? Also, Species a Day write-ups and funny-kid posts coming.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Friday 5: Futility, in five short acts

I've been a little absent these last couple weeks, but it's not because I'm lazy. It's because I'm being productive for once! I've been putting the finishing touches on an article, and planning a couple of future ones. Plus, my son's on fall break, so, you know, zero free time. Also, I forgot last Friday was Friday.

My writing "process" might have something to do with it as well. Here's what today's process looked like.

Act 1: Warming up/arguing with self

OK, self. Time to finish this article.

But I'm so tired.

No, you're not. Forget the sleep deprivation thing. Just pretend you've had more than four hours.

Oh, OK. I'm at the computer. See?

I see you checking Facebook.

Nuh uh! It was ... Flickr. And then Facebook.

OK. Cut it out. Work. Now.

But ... but wait! A bunch of people like me on Google+ now! Promoting my photos there is LIKE work, right?


Oh, OK. Fine. [Work for 45 minutes.]

Act 2: Richard Dawkins needs my help

Oh, wow; look. Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins talked again. What an idiot. I have to watch that!

No, wait. Work. Can't watch it. I'll just keep the page open for later.

Well, sheesh. Now the page is slowing down my computer. I can't close it yet, but I have to close it and get to work. It would be irresponsible not to watch the interview!

[Watch interview.]

Oh my gosh. He really is a moron. I wish there was some way I could go on the show. I'd be ready for him.

[Fatasize aboout handing Bill O'Reilly his ass about science. Realize Dawkins is approximately 5,795,021 times more qualified for this. Narrow it down to the niche of raising freethinking kids, in which Dawkins only beats me by a margin of 26,045 to one. Fantasize for a while anyway. Start to mentally script out what I would say. Think about typing it. Pull up Word.]

Agh; that's right! My article!

Act 3: 98 degrees of separation

[Work on article. Come across interview reference to medical journal article. Type in search terms for said article.]

Well, that's not the right one, but look at what else this doctor did. I didn't even know that procedure existed!

Whoa; it goes all the way back to the 1800s! Who knew? I must research this further. Who cares if it has anything to do with the article? Being well-informed makes me a better writer!

[Several websites later, a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Head to Wikipedia.]

[Several, several Wikipedia pages later] Whoa; I never knew that about chewing tobacco or the Emmys!

[Stomach growls.] Geez. I'd better get some lunch so I can finish my ... oh no.

Act 4: Everyone's against me

[Get some lunch. Put it on desk. Son calls from living room, even though husband is also in living room. Playing a video game.]

Can I have a snack?

[Get snack. Bring it to him. Sit down in office.]

And a drink?

[Get drink. Sit back down.]

And a sandwich?

[Get sandwich.]

Are you sure there's nothing else?

Hmm. Could you watch me jump off this ledge?

No! And why are you doing that?! Is that what you do when I'm in the office?

No... [Looks guiltily at husband. Husband looks abashed.]

[Consider fighting with husband. Decide eating would be more fun. Go back to office/lunch. Cat is carrying my chicken down the hallway in his mouth. Give up. Have cake.]

OK. Work. For real.

[Write three whole paragraphs. Yea me!]

Act 5: OK, fine then.

Well, look at those paragraphs! I'm on a roll. I never thought I'd get that part written. OK, then. I just have to paste in this quote...

[Copy quote from other file. Paste. Word says F you. Shuts down, taking difficult paragraphs with it.]

[At the same time, evangelists knock on door, son runs into office, cats start fighting, and phone rings.]

[Play on Flickr.]

[Play on Facebook.]

[Play on Google+.]

Son: Mom, are you still working?

[Feel immensely guilty. Am done.]

And that, my friends is how not to write an article, in 45 easy steps.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday goodies: My kid, animal listener

Horse whisperer. Dog whisperer. Fill-in-the-blank whisperer. You hear it about people who have an affinity for a certain animal. I've even used it on my son before: lizard whisperer, bug whisperer. But really, the fundamental assumption seems to be that you can sort of tame the animal, at least for that instant -- that you fundamentally understand what's going on, from its point of view.

My son's not that kind of animal whisperer. For one, it's nearly all animals. For another thing, he doesn't tame them. He doesn't want to. "Whisperer" seems to imply that he's the one doing the talking, and he doesn't care about what he has to say with animals. He doesn't whisper. He listens. He seems to understand their otherness. If he truly bonds with an animal at all, it's in the sense that he knows they, he and the animal, are separate beings, that this is an Other -- and he loves that. He revels in it.

He doesn't pose with animals, except for once in a while when I ask him to. Usually I just catch him at it. He doesn't seem to understand that this is a special or uncommon gift.