More fall

August 31, 2009

It was such a nice day yesterday that the wife dragged the younger son and I from our various electronic fantasy-lands and out to a stretch of serpentine barrens not far from the house.  It’s very similar, in some ways, to the more famous Pine Barrens of New Jersey, but without the dwarf pine fields and vast extent.  Like the Pine Barrens, it has stretches of scrubby pine and oak woods, but unlike the pinelands, our barrens has expanses of open, prairie-like grassland.  The Pine Barrens is built on sand, but our barrens is built on a bed of serpentine rock.  This makes sure that the soil is thin and metal-rich, but nutrient-poor, and consequently unable to support the normal community of plants.  There are some very nifty wildflowers there, and the area is quite different from the “standard” forested parks in the area.  Typically, I forgot to bring the camera, so I’m unable to append any photos of the cool flowers we saw, but the birds included Bluebirds, Peewees, nuthatches, chickadees (“check!”), titmice and downys, TVs, Chippys, Goldfinches, and a big female Sharpshin who came booming around the old house trying to jump the bluebirds and sparrows and went zig-zagging off through the trees when she saw us resting there.  There were also some very nifty mushrooms, which I have mostly forgotten the names of, but I believe that I recognized a Honey Mushroom, a nice blue Parrot (?) mushroom, and some nice, fully-expanded, snowy-white Amanitas of some sort.  No unusual spiders (some huge funnel-webs, though)  or any snakes at all (drat).  Nice weather, though, and all in all a very pleasant afternoon.


Full Speed Ahead!

August 24, 2009

It’s been clear for some time that the present Republican Party has decided that there is no patriotism other than loyalty to The Party.  This sort of thing happens, of course, and generally works out poorly, as with VI Lenin and his buddies.  Still, that simply doesn’t stop the next version, so we keep living through New and Improved versions of The Only True Vision of how The Homeland should be (which invariably requires that the Visionaries be in charge to bring their Vision to life).   This is all perfectly trite, of course.  The trouble, as always, is that the True Believers are completely convinced that their way is The Way (and that they must be in charge), and this impervious self-confidence is irresistable to many people.  Generally, once the True Believers have won, The Leader turns out to be more interested in his Personal Power and His Vision, which requires some Sacrifices to be made (often, ironically, by the True Believers at first).  The only real chance to fight it, I suspect, is for a wide-spread, effective response from some respected source.  Unfortunately, the only system that comes close to that sort of thing in the US (the media conglomerates) have essentially thrown in their lot with the Visionaries, or at least made a strong effort to be Scrupulously Fair which allows murder and jaywalking to be portrayed as equivalent.  It’s horribly fascinating to see this seemingly unstoppable progression playing itself out, almost as if Orwell had written a Broadway musical/black comedy.  The Big Lie continues to be effective, and continuous repetition has its standard effect.  Karl Rove gets well-paid speaking posts as if he was respectable, and blatant, obvious lies become common knowledge truths.  These guys are simply impervious even to satire, as the music-hall comedians found in Berlin 80 years ago.   A lie is exposed, debunked and then ignored and accepted as truth.   It then, becomes the stepping stone to the next lie, which also becomes a widely-known Truth.  How can you stop this?  Reason always fights irrationality at a disadvantage, especially when “polite” has become universally redefined as “weak of will”.  Where is the King or Gandhi who will politely stand up to the insane toddlers that are marching against us all?


Outdoors

August 18, 2009
A trip to Soldier’s Delight on Sunday – somehow I’ve never been there, even though it’s more or less just across the street from a major developed area.  Almost 2,000 acres of scrubby woods and Serpentine Barrens; it’s really quite cool (to quote Casanova Frankenstein).  Some very nifty flowers, a nice flock of Bluebirds and a smattering of other birds and insects of various kinds.  Alas, no Copperheads in view, not that I actually know whether they’re found there or not.  or not.  Even though it was a pretty hot day, there was enough shade and breeze to make the afternooon hike quite pleasant.  Some very cool-looking webs in the scrubby underbrush, but I was constrained by my wife from dashing off in all directions to look for spiders, just because the rules say stay on the path…

I wish I had remembered to bring along my camera – the Grass-leaf Blazing-star, in particular was very snazzy.  Still, to see what it looked like, check out Darryl Searcy’s photos: http://wildflowers.jdcc.edu/Grass-leaf%20Liatris.html

It’s interesting that both Solidago graminifolia and Liatris graminifolia are found there, and bloom at the same time, and _are both commonly found associated with grass!_  Coincidence?  I think not!  Anyway, we didn’t actually see any Grass-leaf Goldenrod, which is a shame, as that is the most attractive varity to insects I’ve ever seen – even though the flowers are grouped in small clusters instead of big sprays, many of the plants are hosting one or more flower predators like Flower Spiders or Ambushbugs this time of year; they eat well in graminifolia.  It must put out relatively more nectar or something.


Perfection!

August 16, 2009

Om my way in to Church this morning, I encountered the Ideal Asswipe Driver.  A youmg man in a medium-sized sedan, he sped though the residential area, using his horn liberally, ran the only stop sign on the stretch of road, and made 3 turns that I saw without using his signals.  I would have made an uncharitable finger gesture at him, but I was afriad that he might be an unmarked policeman.  It’s become exceedingly dangerous to be disrespectful to policemen any more.


fall arrives!

August 15, 2009

A few things of note before I forget them too.

Thje tree crickets are so loud in the backyard now that they drown out the regular old field/grass crickets.  It’s almost painful – almost as loud as the 17-year locusts the other year.  It’s a massive, synchronized high-pitched, pulsing, shrieking noise.  Something vaguely ‘Psycho’ about it, except that it doesn’t stop.

Even fewer butterflies around this year than last, and last year had fewer than the year before, etc.  About all we ever see now are occasional whites and a few skippers.  A silver-spotted skipper today, but that’s small potatos to what we got not ten years ago.  When we moved into this city house back in 1994, we had Blues, Tiger and Black Swallowtails, a couple of Red Admiral sightings, Whites and Sulfurs both, some smallish fritillaries, 1 Painted Lady, Monarchs in the Fall, several different skippers, and even a couple Hummingbirds and once a Hummingbird Hawkmoth of some kind.  Now, only 15 years later, today we’re down to a single White, a single Silver-spotted Skipper and a couple of Bumblebees on the Butterfly bushes and flower beds.  Some folks down the block have a sedum bed, but about all they have is the small skippers and a White or two.  I haven’t seen a single Honeybee all year, and even the small Bumblebees which were coming back with the decrease of the Honeybees have simply vanished.  A couple of Leafcutter Bees earlier this year is about it for the small bees.  I think things went downhill about the time people in this neighborhood went heavily into TruGreen and Chemlawn and all that stuff, but that may simply be coincidence, and I notice it because that’s what I would expect to happen.

On the good side, a couple weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch watching a David Attenborough DVD on arthropods when I felt a tickling on my head and found I had a young Praying Mantis watching with me.  Beats me how he/she got in the house, but I was able to snag it gently (boy, they can jump suprisingly well at that age) and deposit it onto a handy bush.  It didn’t seem to want to go, either, but I insisted.


Quiz Time!

August 5, 2009

I see on the news that John Bolton (“My moustache is an Internet phenomenon!”) is annoyed about Bill Clinton’s little overseas trip to pick up a couple of pretty young ladies.  This reminded me it’s way past time for a current-affairs quiz, so without further ado:

John Bolton is:

A .  Furious because negotiation with North Korea succeeded, showing America’s weakness.

B.  Furious because Bill Clinton is getting some positive press, showing America’s weakness.

C.  Furious because Barack Obama is President, showing America’s weakness.

D.  Furious because he’s not collecting a government paycheck, showing America’s weakness.

E.  Furious because North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Russia, large parts of Africa and sections of the United States are not smoking, radiated wastelands, showing America’s weakness.

or

F.  Furious because people keep referring to him as “that guy with the really silly moustache”, showing America’s weakness.


A brand new week

August 3, 2009

Well, nothing is finer after a bitter, unhappy weekend than a new week of work that promises (based on the last decade) failure, partial failure, and incomplete success with unsatisfactory results.   Good thing I’m basically an optimist.