Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maize Madness

Well, maybe we can debate the merits and ethics of using corn as a heat source in another post.

In the meantime, what we have learned is that two and a half tons of corn is more fun than should be allowed...

Corn angel!

C'mon in, the corn's fine!

It's raining corn!

Can you drive us around?

The corn is surprisingly comfortable to sit or lay down in. Lori and I were thinking of starting a corn-mattress business. You tend to sink in up to your calves if you stand up, which is an interesting sensation. You can't dig a hole in it because the kernels just falls back in, but it's not too hard to submerge most of your body. It stays cool just below the surface, and compresses around your limbs just enough to feel good. It's very dusty, but the dust doesn't seem to bother your lungs. You end up feeling like your feet are covered in talcum powder, and with pockets full of corn.

Sorry, the photographer's wife declined to be photographed, and a self-portrait wasn't worth the trouble. But we all had fun... Strange. Do other people do weird things like this?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

The Joy of Parenthood

So many people will tell you that the best day of their life was the birth of their child. Kids bring such joy to your life. You won't know what you did before you had them. Kids are a little bit of work, but the reward is in watching them grow up - seeing their first step, hearing their first word, all the way up through their first kiss, graduation, marriage.... [sniff]... Parenthood is so beautiful....

Lies. It's a trap to brainwash you into wanting to have kids. It's some sort of evolutionary adaptation to perpetuate the species. Kids are actually parasitic little creatures that suck the life out of you. They reprogram your brain to do their bidding, and they reward you once in a while with something really cute, just to insure their continued survival.

Can you tell it's been a bad couple of days? I am obligated to disclose that I love my kids, that I'm pretty confident in my parenting skills, and they are cute and wonderful children. I'm obligated because of the mind control tactics they're using on me right now.

Here's what we've been getting for our efforts lately...

Kid #1: After I spent the morning cleaning the living room, she took every single toy out of the toybox. She went toilet snorkeling. (Use your imagination.) She dropped her glasses out the window of a moving car. She dribbled 75% of her drink down her chin and onto her shirt every time she had a drink. She made several attempts to empty the toybox a second time. Spit a lovely little fountain of medicated milk across the kitchen just before bedtime. Threw several inexplicable tantrums.

Kid #2: He picked fights where there were none. He pushed his sister numerous times, including once while she was climbing the stairs. Threw tantrums at every opportunity. (One tantrum got so ridiculous, Lori and I had to fight back laughter.) Broke every rule he could find. I can't even list them all. Lost a long succession of privileges for the day, and even dipped into tomorrow.

Whew. Let's hope bedtime has drawn it to a close.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Speaking of...


Well, welcome to entomolgy corner! How ironic is it that the morning after I posted about mimics, I ran across this fly on the wall:

A fly disguised as a bee. Note the side view where the stripes don't go all the way around the abdomen:

I haven't actually researched this carefully, but I think it's called a dronefly.

Where else in the blogosphere can you go to get closeups of flies that look like bees?

Butterfly mimicry

The slightest thing will send me off to Google. Sometimes it's boring, but very often it's fascinating. All the monarch posts lately reminded me of something I learned a long time ago - that the monarch butterfly has a mimic. The mimic is called the viceroy butterfly, and they look incredibly similar:

More images to compare here.

Now the original theory on this was that the monarchs dine on milkweed, which contains toxins. The monarchs are immune, but the toxins are unpalatable and/or toxic to their predators. The bright colors and distinctive pattern allow predators to spot the monarchs and avoid them.

There are many types of mimicry in nature. It was always assumed that the viceroys were using something called Batesan mimicry. Predators avoid eating things that look like monarchs, so the more you look like a monarch, the less likely you are to be eaten.

But a study was done that indicated that viceroys were just as unpalatable as monarchs. They are now classified as Mullerian mimics, where two species adopt a common appearance, so that predators only have to distinguish one pattern instead of multiple patterns.

But wait, there's more... The viceroy is apparently the Rich Little of the butterfly world. Both the caterpillar and the chrysalis have the appearance of bird droppings. In some regions, a relative of the monarch called the queen butterfly is more common. This source says that in regions where the queen is more common, "the white spotting of the viceroy becomes less noticeable, and the orange coloration is replaced by a deep mahogany brown."

Ain't nature fascinatin'?

Friday, September 15, 2006



That's the sound of a nasty cold moving through our house. I'm usually not one of those people who turns into a big baby when I'm sick, but yesterday about did me in. I haven't felt that bad in a long time, and definitely not from a mere cold.

I stayed in bed most of the day, alternately reading and dozing. I still went to bed at 8:30pm, and then overslept.

But I can't leave you, my ever loyal readership, without something to stare at. Just be sure to wash your hands after you leave here. But since you've already contaminated yourself, here's some randomness...


This might be the most impressive thing I've ever seen on somebody's blog. And I've seen some pretty impressive stuff.


On the way to the store today, my three-year-old son started going "Raarrh! Raarrh!" in perhaps the cutest, most non-frightening monster voice you could possibly imagine. I said, "Are you a monster?" He says, "No, I'm trying to scare my hiccups away."


Monarchs, monarchs, everywhere.


We had duck eggs for dinner the other night. You remember how high and mighty I was about people being afraid to drink our goat milk? Well, I was afraid of the duck eggs. Dumb, huh? Yeah. I think it was because I read a book in which the author was inexpicably afraid of eating duck eggs. He called the orangish yolks big and fat and sassy. Plus, it's just... well... the unknown. I'm lame, what can I say. Turns out they taste just like chicken... eggs. Go figure.


While typing this, I thought I heard a noise out in the garage. I wondered if the garage door was left open, and a cat, or possum, or raccoon might be rummaging around in there. So I stuck my head in and turned on the light. The garage door was down, no critters in sight. After a pause of the exact length to achieve perfect comedic timing, a cricket chirped.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Another paradigm shift

I already know we've bitten off more than we can chew. But it's too good to spit out.

I sit at my desk at work, mentally listing off all the hundred things I need to do, and frankly, that I'd rather be doing. But it's not time yet. When the weekend comes, I tend to do a brain dump of all those hundred things, and then I try to cross as many off as I can before Monday morning. Of course, daddyhood, and Mother Nature, and life in general usually intervene. They don't really know about workdays vs. weekends. I never get much done, or so it seems to my list.

I never used to be this way -- all task oriented. But here I am. And it's not really working that well.

Soooo.... I thought maybe it was time for a change. I came up with a new method. Necessity is the mother of Invention. (Well, Necessity used to be the mother of Invention. Now it's the great-great-grandmother. Today, Invention is the bastard son of Sales & Marketing. But I'm wandering off track again...)

Old way:
- Make a to-do list
- Get sidetracked by kids, Mother Nature, life in general
- Only cross off one or two completed items from your list
- Feel discouraged

New way:
- Do stuff
- Make a list of what you did
- Cross off every single item on the list
- Feel encouraged

Now all I need to do is think of a catchy name, pad it with another fifty or sixty thousand words, a few charts and diagrams, inspirational quotations, and a blurb on the back cover from some fabricated book critic... That should be enough to get me on the AM radio circuit, a morning news magazine show or two, and voila, a couple hundred thousand in book sales!

Oops. I think I just made a to-do list.

I guess I need to do a little fine-tuning...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The prophet and the sovereign

So I was weeding the front flower beds today.... actually, weeding may not be the right word. Weeding is when you pull out a few dandelions or thistles or plantains. This weeding probably would have been better accomplished with a lawn mower. I was pulling out huge clumps of overgrown grass that had nearly taken over the whole bed.

At any rate, I was pulling unwanted plant material out of the flower beds, and e5 shouts, "Dad! Dad! Come look at this big bug. It's really big!"

He wasn't kidding. He'd found a very large praying mantis. The post in the photo is a 4x4 corner post on our front porch.

It's interesting to note that we've seen a couple smaller
mantids earlier in the year, both solid green. This one was
a mix of green and brown. I wonder if it's a clever seasonal
camoflage trick, with the young green mantids turning
brownish as they get older, late in the season...

Are you looking at me?!?

So e5 comes off the porch to get a closer look...

And he discovers another cool friend...
Look toward the bottom of the photo below,
in amongst the grass.
The monarch butterfly gives you another
reference point to get the scale of the mantis.

E5's newest friend...

Friday, September 08, 2006


Lest we bloggers take ourselves too seriously (by using words like "lest" and prefixes like "meta-", and writing in first person plural) here are some thoughts on blogging, brought to us by wired.com:

"Blog" itself is short for "weblog," which is short for "we blog because we weren't very popular in high school and we're trying to gain respect and admiration without actually having to be around people."

Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it. One popular technique for building readership is to send e-mail to more well-trafficked blogs offering to exchange links with them. One popular response from those blogs is to laugh derisively and hit the Delete button.

Another approach for advertising your blog is to mention it as much as possible in conversation; you'd be surprised how many people are fascinated to hear you have a blog and want to know more, especially if you were expecting the number to be greater than zero.

The rest of the article seemed fairly irrelevent to me, but this section made me laugh out loud...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

We're gonna be rich!!!

What happens when you give a camera to a three-year-old? You get museum quality Modern Art, that's what. All we have to do now is call SFMOMA to find out when they want to exhibit the brilliant work of this up-and-coming artist. I figure these should go for at least $20,000 apiece. But you get them here for free...

Abstract Collection No. 1,
by e5

Study in White

Portrait of Queen Anne

dirty mouth


Pineapple Lobster Dibble Dobble

Troubador Zzzzip Ding?
Still-Life #1

Still Life #2

Holst, opus 32

Caves of Wonder

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Strange Days

How is it that I got more crossed off my list today, a work day, than I did in an entire three-day weekend without a minute of job-related time?

I suppose completion of a task isn't the right way to measure it though. It took me several hours and visits to three different hardware stores (one of them three times) to get the "universal" trailer hitch mounted on our truck. But it all seemed like wasted time until the thing was finally done. And from the directions, it looked like an hour's worth of work, tops. I guess I need to adopt the Zen mindset that "the obstacle is the path."

Speaking of paths (sort of), why is it that the strip of grass that has sprouted down the middle of our gravel driveway is so pleasing to me? I'm sure I should be dowsing it with Round Up or something, but I like it.

Speaking of obstacles (sort of), we've come to an uneasy truce with Chaos Girl. She's welcome to get up in the middle of the night, turn on her light, and play with her toys until all hours, as long as (A) she doesn't expect us to be in the room with her while all this is going on, and (B) she doesn't expect to nap much during the day. This has been working fairly well most nights, but every once in a while, she decides that (A) is not acceptable. And every once in a while she decides that an entire jar of lavender scented vaseline needs to be flung and smeared all about the room, including in the carpet, on the doors, on the walls, on the toys, on the bed, on the pillows, on her feet, and in her hair. It's taken about half a dozen shampooings (is that a word?) to get her hair free of perfumed petroleum jelly. It does give it a nice sheen though.

She's been attending special needs preschool, which includes a ride to and from school on the school bus. She's happy to see us when the bus gets to our house, but she tries very hard to stay on the bus. I think that's her favorite part.

The other advantage has been that it's kept her from napping in the afternoons, which has helped the sleep problems a little. We've decided to eliminate e5's naps too, which has helped immensely with bedtime. Lori and I were actually able to sit down together and watch an actual movie the other night!

Out in the pastures, the animals are thriving. We had to dry off Betsy because we couldn't find anybody to milk her while we go on vacation at the end of this month, and I miss the milk. So does our daughter. She's turning her nose up at the store bought stuff now. The goats are getting bigger and bigger, and all are healthy. At least we think so. I'm starting to wonder if this turkey buzzard knows something we don't thoug. He was hanging around our pasture all day today...

I did see quite an array of critters while mowing out there the other day, including several frogs, toads, rabbits, mice, and moles. I also saw a wide array of butterflies, from monarchs to swallowtails, to some butter-yellow variety that I don't know, to a small blue type that it's hard to get a look at.

I was also fascinated by the giant thistles that popped up here and there. I think they are Canada thisle, but I'm not sure. From what I understand, they're a nightmare for farmers because they spread underground as well as by bajillions of fluffy little seeds. (And despite the name, they're of European origin.) They look like some science experiment gone wrong. We had some that were about five feet high, four feet wide, and covered from top to bottom in half-inch thorns. I'm not too worried about them at this point, because they thrive in tilled fields, and I plan on tilling very rarely if at all. And goats will theoretically eat them, though I'm not sure how. The flowers were really pretty, and covered with all kinds of beetles, bees, and butterflies.

So that about catches you up with all the things I haven't been posting about lately. Somehow I've still got a blog backlog in my head though. Where do all these words come from anyway?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Four things

I don't usually do these, but I haven't been able to finish writing anything else, so here goes...

Things you may or may not have known about me in no particular order:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Scoreboard animator (you know, those big goofy cartoons at sports stadiums? Yeah that.)
2. Bus boy
3. Web site designer
4. Editorial staff of a newspaper (does it count as a job if it was unpaid?)

B) Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Fellowship of the Ring
2. The Two Towers
3. Return of the King
4. Office Space

C) Four places you have lived:
1. Cuyahoga Falls, OH
2. Columbus, OH
3. Cincinnati, OH
4. Circleville, OH
(Apparently I can only live in Ohio cities that start with C. There's still a long list to choose from. Off the top of my head: Cleveland, Chillicothe, Coshocton, Canton, Clintonville, Cambridge, Caldwell, Chagrin Falls....)

D) Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Firefly ... :(
2. Dirty Jobs
3. Mythbusters
4. Survivorman

E) Four places you have been on vacation:
1. The Carribean
2. England/France/Switzerland
3. Kayaking in Washington State
4. Canoeing in Minnesota

F) Websites you visit daily
1. Friends blogs
2. Various news sites
3. Google
4. hmmm.... daily?

G) Four of my favourite foods
1. Chipotle burrito (with black beans, chicken, rice, corn salsa, a little green chile salsa, cheese, and lettuce, since you asked...)
2. Potatoes, in all their wondrous and varied forms
3. Good pizza
4. Good hot wings

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Outside, getting stuff done
2. Floating in a canoe or kayak somewhere
3. Cedar Point
4. Right here at home