Thursday, May 17, 2012

My day in a few multitasking sentences

I found myself lecturing my son yesterday about the underpants-covered state of the entire house -- everywhere, in fact, except the laundry room.

Later, I found myself delivering the underpants lecture -- to my husband.

Sometimes I call my son the cats' names. Or call the cats "David!" at the top of my lungs.

I don't think I'm that scatter-brained. I think it's just that I have a handful of multitasking phrases that I recycle to get through each day. They might have different connotations depending on which person/animal I'm addressing, but these are most of the things I say in a day, in one form or another.


  • I don't care. Just take off your clothes. Right now!
  • You don't understand the Marvel comic universe at all. You can't go by the freaking cartoons.
  • Put the $%#@ garbage in the $%#@ garbage can!
  • You know what? Fine! If you want to wear your holey underwear from three years ago that doesn't even fit you anymore, just keep putting your laundry wherever you want.
  • It's simple. If I'm on the couch with you, talk to me. If I'm writing, leave me alone.
  • Hey, can you hold up this thing over here so I can take a picture? No, like this. No, in the light! No; now you're in the light! Seriously, do you even WANT me to be able to take pictures? Fine. I'll do it myself. What? Why are you upset?
  • Trust me; you find your penis much more interesting than anyone else does.
  • Quit throwing a football in the house!
  • Quit throwing a Frisbee in the house!
  • Quit throwing a... what is that even? A giant branch? A small log?
  • No. I totally meant to turn the wrong way five times on my way to Phoenix. Now shut up.
  • Seriously? Did you come in here just to fart?
  • Fine. You can use the computer. Just leave my stuff alone.
  • No, as a matter of fact, I don't think Phantom Menace was better than Return of the Jedi. What are you; nuts?
  • I love you.


  • Did you just barf on the rug?!
  • Your food is just fine. And I just filled your water. And stop crying.
  • I need to cut your nails, and squirming like this is only going to make it worse.
  • It's just a vacuum, not the end of the world.
  • We really don't need you to announce every time you go to poop.
  • Quit licking me.
  • Don't climb on the shelf.
  • I really don't understand your obsession with butts.


  • Honestly, are you snoring or starting a lawnmower in your throat?
  • Are you going to sleep all day?
  • Get you paw off my boob.
  • You're adorable.


  • What a funny coincidence! That thing you called to check on, because it's so late? I was just doing it/sending it over!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spider Sunday 5-6-12

It's Sunday, so it must be time for spiders! Here are a few updates from the world of the coolest arthropods there are:

Just in case you thought your size protected you

Snake-eating spiders! A few weeks ago, we had the orb weaver in Cairns eating an unlucky brown tree snake, and now, here's a redback spider from Port Hedland in Western Australia enjoying a similar meal. It's not just in Australia, either! A while ago we had one locally, at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, where a black widow made a slow but gluttonous meal out of an unfortunate coral snake. And those are just the ones we know about. Snakes beware.

Speaking of black widows...

I did a Friday 5 post on the beauties, and why they're my favorite spiders. It's just my own measly blog, but it is my blog, so I can promote my own stuff if I want to. Go check it out if you're so inclined and tell me about your favorite spiders!

I, for one, welcome our new robot spider overlords

Don't worry, it's not really a spider. More like a giant ... robot ... arm ... thing. At an MIT Media Lab, scientists are teaching a robot to weave webs, based on preset structures. One day, they hope to make the process autonomous. I already said I welcome them, right?

Peter Parker's web shooters can't be far away

Scientists , including Jeffery Yarger from my alma mater, Arizona State University, are using high-energy X-rays to study spiders' dragline silk (the webbing they let out to dangle in front of your face). Ultimately, they'd like to produce artificial spider silk that makes use of the same amazing mechanical and elastic properties.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday 5: Black widows, the actual best spiders

I said some time ago that I was going to write a response to The Dragonfly Woman's post, Why Jumping Spiders Will Always Be My Favorite Spiders. Sure, they're cute. And hilarious dancers. And ridiculously photogenic. She picked a good family. However, my loyalties lie elsewhere. I'm sure you already know what's coming.

Five reasons black widows are actually the best spiders

You have to seek them out

Black widows won't come after you. This might be good news if you're, well, normal, but if you're a spider lover -- or just that rare breed of bug-loving, camera-toting nut that really isn't so rare in this crowd -- it might be vexing. Black widows aren't out during the day. They build webs in corners. They vanish into little hidey holes when they sense the slightest movement, and then they won't come out for hours, sometimes. (I know. I've waited.)

Somehow, this hard-to-get routine makes them that much more appealing. Like those CDs that used to be so hard to open, or a dish that takes a while to cook. (I assume. I spend more time with the spiders than in the kitchen.) I've spent more hours than I should probably admit, poised by the corner of our patio or next to the broken pipe that houses a big female every year. I genuinely get excited when those first legs tiptoe out of the gloom. 

You have to look closely

Gimme a kiss!
Not everyone I run into knows or has looked carefully enough to note the shape of the red or orange abdomen marking on a black widow (it's an hourglass, sometimes two disconnected triangles). But there's much more; and unlike some big-eyed, fancy-dancing, well-coiffed spiders who shall remain nameless; black widows play it a bit closer to the chest (or cephalothorax). Have you ever really seen a black widow's eyes? They're smaller than a jumping spider's, but kind of endearingly buggy. Do you know the exact sheen on an adult female's abdomen, and the dimples that invariably form? Have you ever caught the pinprick glisten on a widow's fangs as she eats a moth? Either most people are missing out, or I really need a life. OK, it's probably a little of both.

They're sexy

Come on. Even if you don't think the two terms belong within a mile of each other, think "spider" and "sexy." What's the general shape in your mind? It's a black widow, isn't it?

Apparently, Google agrees. Over the course of the past few years, I've had reason to search for "black widow" and "black widow female" several times. Here's what usually happens:

Now, there's plenty to be annoyed about -- the feminist in me and the "No, I meant the spider!" in me both take issue with the results. But you've got to admit, this is a spider with presence. A spider people want to be. Just imagine people trying to emulate any other spider. Try to imagine a Marvel hero named "Salticidae" or "Orb weaver." (OK, so there are a few "Tarantulas" in Marvel and DC, but they're all super lame.) The jet-black color, the curves, the long, slender legs. And yes, the venom and (mostly apocryphal) mate eating. The black widow spider is iconic. If jumping spiders are great ambassadors because they're adorable puppy-dog "gateway" spiders, then black widows are the conversation starters. They're the quintessential spider spiders.

Their webs are awesome

I know, there are prettier webs, larger webs, and a few stronger webs. But black widow webs remain my favorites. The thread is shockingly strong. And although the web looks like a disorganized mess, it functions like a three-dimensional pulley system and sensory grid. It's a machine. And it's fascinating to watch the operators at work. Black widows are a little like penguins or seals in one way -- on the ground, they're awkward and clumsy, toddling and wobbling about, but in their environment (their web, rather than water), they're full of sinuous, remarkable, swift grace. They run through the web instinctively, throwing silk loops around prey moments after it becomes entangled.

No one expects it

For black widows to be my favorite, that is. (Also, the Spanish Inquisition.)

They're venomous! I have pets and a kid! They traumatized me! And they're venomous! I know a friend of a friend of a friend of etc. that could have died once from what was almost kind of certainly maybe a black widow bite!

First, they're not as dangerous as all that. Yes, they have potent venom; but they bite people so rarely, and only when directly threatened, and even then the person is usually fine; as to make actively fearing them make about as much sense as fearing cars. (Actually, you're in much more danger around a car, probably.) Just be careful. And let the venom and danger prompt you to learn more. Also, I love adorable jumping spiders and their ability to bring more people into the spider loving fold. But if we can love these spiders too -- the most venomous spiders around, the ones who get such a bad rap for mate eating, the ones with freaking danger signs on their abdomens -- then maybe we can love them all. And by extension, all critters. Look closely. Be amazed.