Friday, September 30, 2005

No Backbone

Just a little note to say that the first Circus of the Spineless is up!

If you like creepy crawlies, go have a look!

Me me meme again

Nuthatch over at Bootstrap Analysis wanted me to do this little questionnaire meme. I did, but couldn't resist getting all smarty-pants about it in parts.

10 years ago.
I lived by myself in Birmingham, and worked as an electrical engineer at BellSouth. I was growing to dislike the corporate environment more every day.

5 years ago.
I lived in the same house, only now I'd married my hubby and gotten two step-cats in the bargain. I'd quit my job and started a little handmade soap business. Hubby and I had more hobbies than most. One thing we liked to do was to look at land.

1 year ago.
We had bought some of the land we'd been looking at. (Well that's one less hobby to worry about anyway.) We'd moved here to the country and started our critter menagerie in earnest. The soap business got its own workshop.

Spent most of the day online, shopping for (and ordering) new things to go into new gift baskets I'm planning for the fall. Got a sore back from sitting down too long. Wanted to look around the yard for more birds, but did some cooking instead. (I'd waited, but those veggies from the farmer's market just didn't want to prepare themselves!)

5 songs I know all the words to:
Eastern Meadowlark
babbling brook
wind in the leaves
dog day cicada
spring peepers

5 snacks:

5 things I’d do with $100 million:
Besides the obvious (give some to charity, give some to family):
Start the Karen Museum of Modern Art (KMOMA). Mostly buy works from as-yet unfamous artists that I like. Scour the country to do so.
Buy up all the surrounding neighbors' property, and put up lots of fencing to keep coyotes and trash-dumpers out.
Buy up a bunch of property where we like to watch birds, so it wouldn't get developed.
Become a patron for local musicians or artists I liked (The Karen Endowment for the Arts).
Follow the Formula One racing circuit for a year.

5 places I’d run away to:
I'd really rather stay.

5 things I’d never wear:
Never say never.

5 favorite TV shows:
Documentaries are really my favorites, but as for recurring shows, we currently like House, Rome, Monk, Southpark, and anything with "Law and Order" in the title. We loved "Six Feet Under". We also like "Huff" but series that make five episodes and then take two years off are getting on my last nerve. I'm exaggerating, but only slightly.

5 greatest joys:
I don't want to jinx them!

5 favorite toys:
The portable dna analyzer.
The machine that stops time.
The levitator.
The cloak of invisibility.
The jetpack.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention.

Earlier this year I was discussing suicide with someone. I can't remember who I was talking to or how the subject came up. Possibly because of the suicides of the writers Hunter S. Thompson or Spaulding Gray.

"I've known three people who've killed themselves. Is that a lot?" The other person seemed to think so.

The mother of a friend, the older brother of another friend, a college classmate.

Suicide Prevention.

Those were the ones I knew. There was also other boy at college, and the father of another friend, but I'd never met either of them.

I divorced my first husband many years ago, and haven't kept up with him or his family. For a while I'd hear from one of his friends now and then, but over the years we all lost touch. And since they're all in Europe it's not like I ever run into any of them.

But recently my mother ran into Mrs. A, who knew my ex's family, and learned that my ex-mother-in-law had died, of suicide. Mom's not one for prying, so I don't know the when, where, or why.

I have many fond memories of the lady, who was probably the nicest one in that family. The last time I saw her, she cried that I was leaving.

So now it's four.

Suicide Prevention.

Suicide Prevention.

Suicide Prevention.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Toronto Calling

My e-pal Stewart Reynolds has a dilemma. His band, Brittlestar (fantastic, by the way) wants to play the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

They have an opportunity, but the only catch is that it's on a Monday night (Nov 21st). And they need to be able to draw at least 50 people. (Which is 38 more than Sting played to, when The Police played their first Toronto show there, according to Stewart.)

I think I have a few readers in the Toronto area, so if you think you might be interested in going, let me know and I can pass along the info.

End of blog-o-mercial!


P.S. I saw The Police during the Synchronicity tour on 8 November 1983. They played a note so low that I felt it vibrating in my bones. I went to the concert with the man who is now my husband. (There were a few more than 12 people there.)

Brittlestar is now booked to play the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Nov 21st at 9:30pm. Go see 'em!

Warbler neck

You couldn't tell it by the weather. (It was in the 90s all week.)

It wasn't evident from the beautiful colors of the changing leaves. (A lack of rain has them all turning brown.)

But the invasion of neotropical migrants heading south must mean that it's really true. It's autumn!

Around this time of year you can spot birders easily too. They're the ones walking around massaging their sore necks.

Warblers, the ne plus ultra of passerine migrants, are known for spending most of their time high in the tippy tops of trees. So birders spend most of their time craning their necks to spot them. And we're among those nuts who spent more money on their binoculars than on their TV sets.

Another funny thing that most birders do is to keep lists. Life lists, year lists, trip lists, and so forth. It can become very competitive. (I've seen more birds than you have, nyah nyah nyah!) We are not such great listers, but we do keep a yard list. At our last house in the suburbs, we had such a great yard list that I hated to leave! We are gradually building the list here.

This week we had two new yard birds to add to our list. The first was one of my favorite warblers, the Blue-winged warbler (Vermivora pinus). I love the "raspberry" noise that is their song. Sounds like they're continually thumbing their little beaks at you. We saw two males travelling together, and heard a third one singing. A treat!

The other new birds were unexpected: a flock of Double-Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) flying overhead! Not exactly warblerish, but I did strain my neck a little.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blue Snake

The first time my husband and I saw a blue snake, it took us forever to figure out what it was.

"There's no picture in this book of a blue snake. Argh!"

"The internet shows no blue snakes in Alabama. Arrrgh!"

"There's no such thing as a blue snake. Arrrrrrrgh!"

Only by reading the fine print did we realize that the Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) turns blue after death.

The Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys [Liochlorophis] vernalis) does the same thing, but they're a more northerly or westerly snake and are not in Alabama.

The snake's green color is made up of blue and yellow pigments in its skin. When it dies, the yellow fades more quickly, so the snake looks blue.

This one looks like he had a little run-in with the postal service. They've also been known to come out on the wrong end of duels with lawnmowers.

(And talk about holding your breath until you turn blue!)


This site sugguests that the snakes can also turn blue when excited.

Here's another cool pic of the snakes.

Monday, September 26, 2005

County Fair, part 2

I wish our county fair had 4H animal exhibits - I have no idea why not. But there are contests for several foodstuffs, agricultural products, and handicrafts.

A row of prize-winning jellies.

A spotted watermelon.

Apples. The judges seem to like the stems left on.

Apple gourds.

Little white pumpkins.

The best honey with comb.

Lots of beautiful quilts.

This one won 3rd place, but was actually my favorite.

That looks like a lot of work.

I loved this little container in the plants section.

Friday night entertainment.

If aliens really turn out to look like this, we're going to be so embarrassed.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

County Fair

We had barely gotten over all the excitement from our only-four-days-apart birthdays, when it was time for the county fair.

Several years ago I discovered - all of the sudden - while I was actually on one - that I didn't really like rides anymore.

But I thought it would be fun to try nighttime photography.

This one is called Wipeout. It also does this:

No, thanks.

Hey, is that Cyclops from the X-Men?

People seemed excited to get aboard "The Tornado".

There was a lot of high-pitched squealing and loud whooping. But the line was very long, so the ride was very short. I think the people were too dizzy to complain about being short-changed.

More my speed nowdays:

We're having several of the real version of this throughout Alabama this afternoon, thanks to storm bands from Hurricane Rita.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cue the Hallelujah Chorus

There was a small problem with my business toll-free number.

It's fixed.

Some crazy company is still publishing my number as theirs, although apparently not as widely, so the spate of calls from irate Walgreens stores has slowed to a trickle.

And I'm no longer being charged $1 a minute for the insane answering machine ravings of people who don't understand the part where I say "You've reached Natural Impulse Handmade Soap" instead of "This is That Other Company Who Ripped You Off" at the start of the message. (I finally had to just unplug it.)

And it's finally ringing to the right number.

I could have sworn that I heard a little angels' rejoicing.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Indian Runner Ducks

We ordered Indian Runner Ducks from a hatchery. I expected them to look like the pictures in the catalog.

Here is what they really look like:

Somewhat upright, especially compared to the Mallard, but not exactly the bowling-pin posture we were led to expect.

And I was a bit disappointed when the yellow fuzz of the Fawn and White ducklings gave way to the mishmash of colors that barely resembled the catalog drawings.

At least the black ducks' color was mostly correct.

Notice that the black duck in the foreground has a couple of white feathers though. I thought it was kind of cute when they first appeared. A black duck with a few stray "white hairs".

Now that they've molted, she can't seem to decide what color she wants to be.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


New York Ironweed (Veronica noveboracensis).

I think.

Turns out that there are other very similar species: Tall Ironweed (Vernonia angustifolia, previously altissima), Missouri Ironweed (Vernonia missurica), Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), and maybe even a few others. That database (USDA plants database) is good for showing ranges, but not so hot for ID purposes.

It's not in my Wildflowers of Alabama book. The author seemed prone to ignore flowers that could be considered weeds.

Whichever one it is, it's in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, as are lots of other fall flowers. And the butterflies love it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yellow fuzzy caterpillar

BugGuide to the rescue once again!

This is a Spotted Apatelodes moth caterpillar (Apatelodes torrefacta).

I had to look through 39 pages of moth caterpillars to find it, but BugGuide.Net came through again in the end. Apparently these moths are normally white instead of yellow.

Here's what he'll look like once he's a moth.

I can't decide whether he reminds me more of Cousin Itt or a Tribble.


I should point out that the adult moth link above deserves plenty of your time if you have an interest in moths. The site, Moths in a Connecticut Yard, is full of helpful information about attracting moths.

The sugar, beer, and blacklight bait combination would probably work on some people too, but it might not be the type you'd want milling around in your back yard.

The web site author wrote a book about moths that might interest you as well.


See this previous post about fuzzy white caterpillars. Since I wrote that, I've read that many fuzzy caterpillars, if not stinging, can be irritating to the skin.


Edited to add:
If you're interested in bugs or other critters without vertebrae, you'll want to check in over at Circus of the Spineless. Submit some entries yourself if you're so inclined! Deadline for the first edition is Sept 28.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Cats and dogs will shake their tails

George getting into trouble

Some outdoor time. What is that dog doing?

Just being friendly.


No rain since Katrina. It's dry, dry dry. One website says that ragweed "flourishes during dry hot spells which promote growth and pollen formation." I'm a believer.

The moon has been so bright that you could read by it. Moony phrases keep popping into my head. "The road was a ribbon of moonlight" and "by the light of the silvery moon" and so forth.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005


My birthday is within a week.

While looking for something else recently, I came across a folder of old pictures that included some birthdays.

I've been meaning to scan some old pictures for a long time. Seeing hurricane evacuees talk about losing all their pictures made me want to do it all the more. Now I am inflicting them on you.

My first. Awww.

Four generations, at the old house. Mom says I used that coffee table to teethe on. She still had those tables and lamps up until about 8 years ago.

My third birthday. I must have really been wanting that book! That's my partner in crime Janie to the left.

The calm before the storm that was my 10th birthday. For some reason this picture makes me a little sad. I have no idea why!

Playing Bingo. Basically this is every girl in my class, except for Pam who must have been sick, plus a few from the neighborhood. I remember them all very well, and am still in contact with three of them. I'm the skinny one in pedal pushers on the right, the one with the unfortunate glasses. I'm waving.

Obviously there was not racial integration in schools in my town at this time. Schools were either all white or all black back then. I think they started mixing the schools up about 3 years later. I imagine it was the same in most of the south.

Today's not really my actual birthday, but it is the birthday of one of the other girls in this picture. Back then new mothers stayed in the hospital for about a week after giving birth, so she and her Mom were still in the hospital when my Mom went in to deliver yours truly.

My little brother and sister got their own table in the front.

One of the girls at the middle table used to help me tie my shoes in kindergarten. One of them moved away, and we never heard from her again. Another one got falling down drunk at our 20th high school reunion. And one of them was the class valedictorian, and finished college in 3 years. While she was away at school, her family's house burned down and they lost all their pictures. She now lives in a beautiful house with her husband and 3 sons, has a great art collection, and is as skinny as ever.

I look even goofier in this one, but just dig all those flowery pants!

Gimme a break, it was 1969.

Nowdays kids seem to have birthday parties every year - I know my nieces do. But besides one other (that I couldn't find any pictures of), I think this pretty much sums up all my parties.

Maybe I'll have another one when I turn 100. Maybe not though. I'm not really all that big on parties anymore.

Edited to add:
Although it galls me to have to admit that photos of my childhood are now considered "vintage", have a look at Square America for more old photos.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I brought home something unintended from the craft show: a bad cold.

I usually swear by Cold-Eeze. They are magic! For me, they can fend off colds altogether, but you have to use them early.

It hadn't rained in Stone Mountain lately, and I naively assumed that the reason I had a stuffy nose was due to all the dust I'd inhaled over the course of four days spent outdoors.

Until my throat started hurting and I got a fever. I really should have known better, especially considering that the same thing happened to me last year.

So since I feel too crummy to go out and take pictures, here's one from a few weeks ago, of some of the eggs from our chickens. I love it when we get speckled ones! Yesterday there was a decidedly beige one too.

I haven't slept well in several nights, but I did have a good dream... I dreamed that a lady came to the craft show and bought ALL the soap. I woke up and thought how great that would be. Then I fell back asleep and had the same dream again, except this time it was Stephen Duffy who bought all the soap. Cool.

Hubby has the same cold, only without the fever. As far as I know, he hasn't dreamed about any pop stars though.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Before we left for the craft show, I took a picture of hubby and Jasmine that I liked. But someone thought was a bit unflattering from behind, so I tried to fix it.

That kind of ruins the whole effect though.

He's not really in the witness protection program.

There. Just a lonely dog taking a walk.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Yellow Daisy

We're back!

The Yellow Daisy craft show was lots of fun, as always, and I managed to not quite spend all our profits buying other peoples' crafts. (There were three coffee mugs I couldn't resist though.)

Reminders of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath were everywhere. Driving to the show, we saw several military convoys and an armada of Power Company trucks heading south. When we arrived at Stone Mountain, I realized I'd forgotten to pack some essentials, so we headed out to Walmart for pens and a toothbrush. The young couple with a toddler ahead of us in line turned out to be hurricane evacuees. Then the cashier turned out to be one too. She said that the employees could continue their jobs at any Walmart in the country. I thought that was pretty nice. She said her house was underwater, but that she felt blessed to be alive.

At the show there was a large jar at the entrance, for donations to the Red Cross. One customer wrote them a $2000 check!

Hubby and I are both bird nuts, and have been birdwatching at Dauphin Island many times in the past. The island, especially the west end, got hit hard by the hurricane. Boardwalk Realty has been doing a great job chronicling the changes on the island. They seem in remarkably good spirits too, considering that their office was destroyed, 37 of the 90 houses they manage are gone, and most of the remainder sustained heavy damage.

They posted some interesting pictures of the hurricane damage (including an alligator under one of the houses), and are keeping a journal of the island's recovery.

A soapmaking colleague's husband sent these pictures from an oil rig near New Orleans.

Damage on the rig.

Snakes! Big snakes!

For comparison, that's a 12-inch pipe the water moccasin is on.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How to get your electricity back on

How to get your electricity back on:

Move 600 pounds of soap to another location.

They got our power back on last night! Thank you Alabama Power.

Now I'm so far behind in my show preparations that I don't have time to write much though.

We've done the Yellow Daisy craft show the past three years and have a lot of fun there. People come from all over. But I'm not sure that they're going to drive across several states with gasoline going up 20 cents every day... keeping my fingers crossed.

This tree in our old neighborhood had a little problem.


Edited to add:

In my addle-brained state I didn't explain things well I suppose!

I make handmade soap. The soap in question is the soap I'm wrapping for the upcoming craft show. I didn't want to leave it in the workshop, because without electricity it gets very hot & humid in there. Unlike most soap, handmade soap contains a lot of glycerin. When it's very humid, the glycerin attracts moisture and the soap looks like it's sweating! Not good.

So I edited the above to say "Move 600 pounds of soap to another location". ("Move all the soap" didn't sound enough like the colossal pain in the patootie that it was. And of course now I've got to move it all back!)

I still had a small amount of $2.15 gasoline in my tank when I grumbled about having to refill with $2.54 gas. Then yesterday I still had some of the $2.54 gas in the tank when I refilled at $2.80 a gallon. And felt lucky to get that, as it went up to $3.00 later in the day. Then last night I noticed one station that had already changed their sign to read $3.10 a gallon.

Several stations in Birmingham are out of gasoline altogether. Someone told me they'd seen the owner of an SUV filling up several gas cans stowed in their cargo area. The radio said there was a rumor of a gas shortage, but I think it's more likely that people are just trying to beat the daily gas inflation.

Also: it's not our tree. It belongs to someone in our old neighborhood.