EEK, ICK, YUK

Wolf Spider (Virginia, USA)

Wolf Spider (Photo: Wikipedia)

I’m afraid of spiders. Not because they are dangerous, though some are. Not because of the potential toxicity. I’m afraid of spiders because they are creepy, make my skin crawl, and make me scream like a little girl.

EEK, I shriek and jump straight out of my chair with my heart pounding like a trip hammer. The loudness of my EEK and the hysterical pounding in my chest is in direct proportion to the blackness and largeness of the spider. Bigger is scarier. Big, black and hairy might actually kill me from sheer panic and irrational terror.

A friend of mine was attacked by a wolf spider while sun bathing on her patio in Arizona. The thing was the size of a dessert plate. It landed on her breast and proceeded to take a chunk out of her. The pain was minor compared to the fear. Her terror was so intense she sold her house and moved to a place where there are no wolf spiders.

I’m with her.

But today, I am a warrior. I am a woman of power and pride.

I went into my bedroom to change my clothing this afternoon. There, in the middle of my white blanketed bed was a medium-sized black garden spider. Did I scream in panic? Did I even go EEK?

I rallied my womanly strength, balled up my clean pink tee-shirt I had just taken from my cupboard and squished it. Kept at it until it was nothing but a black smear of used-to-be-a-spider. Then, I put the tee-shirt on.

I went and told my husband. He gave me a proud thumb’s up.

I wear dead spider proudly. I am woman. Hear me roar.

IT’S NATIONAL SQUIRREL DAY! MEET PROJECT SQUIRREL!

Become a Citizen Scientist. Click the link to read about Project Squirrel and to tell us about squirrels near you. Project Squirrel has been operating since 1997. During this time, over 1000 people have offered their knowledge, provided observations, and filled out the forms. We have been able to learn a great deal about these squirrels, particularly in the Chicago Metropolitan Region. Observations from other parts of the country have also been welcome and interesting.

Source: www.projectsquirrel.org

In honor of National Squirrel Day …. What, you didn’t know? Well, today is National Squirrel Day. Project Squirrel gives you the opportunity to participate in … well … watching squirrels. Taking pictures of squirrels. And sharing your squirrel stuff with other squirrelly people.

Happy National Squirrel Day!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

SNOW FALLING WITH PAW PRINTS

For once, our weather forecasts were dead on. They predicted a little bit of snow. Less than an inch. I’m always suspicious because so often, they predict “a little bit of snow” and I wake up in the morning and we are buried under two or more feet of white stuff.

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But this time, Wunderground predicted snow would start falling around 9 in the morning and end an hour or two later.

Indeed it did. When I got up at eight, it was overcast, but nothing was on the ground nor was anything falling. I went back to bed. I got up an hour later. It was snowing. I grabbed a camera, took a few pictures. Always trying to capture the falling snow. It’s easier to see the flakes at night than it is during the day, but you can judge for yourself whether or not I succeeded.

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Bonnie thought I was offering her a rare opportunity to explore the deck and had to go out and poke around, so her paw prints are all over at least one picture.

Bonnie was a Christmas puppy and her natural habitat is snow. I remember housebreaking Bonnie during one of the snowiest winters we ever had. Up to my hips in snow, with more of it falling and the wind blowing. It was dark and so cold. There I was, saying “Bonnie, please just go already.”

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And Bonnie was playing with the snow, making tunnels. Bounding through drifts. Rolling and digging. Never mind poor mom who needed to go inside to defrost.

She still loves the snow, although these days she is equally happy with piles of leaves that drop from the oaks every autumn. Anything in which she can dig and tunnel. Terriers. Earth dogs indeed. But also, snow dogs.

THE ASS END OF LIFE – CREATION, DESTRUCTION, AND A CAT

Patricia was a silver-tipped Persian cat. Although she was not an outdoor cat, she managed to slip past us where her fans, the local toms, were eagerly waiting for her. She was unspayed because I had hoped to breed her. She apparently harbored the same hope, but had her own ideas about who would father the next generation.

On local roads ...

Not surprisingly, Patricia (she was so patrician) showed up pregnant. It was not the first unplanned pregnancy among our felines, nor would it be the last. Fortunately, we had plenty of friends who were more than happy to adopt one of Patricia’s progeny, purebred or not. When her day came, it turned out she was carrying only one enormous kitten who barely survived delivery. Breathing, yes. But that was all. Too weak to nurse and likely doomed. Patricia was fine, but utterly uninterested in the entire business.

A friend and his girlfriend were visiting at the time. She and I were fussing over the kitten, trying to convince it to nurse, or take a little formula from a doll-sized bottle. It wasn’t going well. Patricia was ignoring her kitten, a sure sign she did not believe her offspring could live.

Bob commented: “That kitten is going to die. Don’t get all weepy about this. Death is just the ass end of life.”

dark cemetary

It’s so many years later I can’t even count the decades, but that really stuck in my head. “Death is the ass end of life.” Not very romantic, but then again, there’s nothing romantic about death. It’s the final part of the cycle of life. Beginnings, endings, and there’s some stuff in the middle.

I have not died yet (what, you didn’t notice?) but I fully expect the day will come. Maybe sooner rather than later. I always hope for the best, but you can only play dodge’em with Death so many times until he outwits you.

Meanwhile, a few observations.

It’s not just that every creature born will die. It is that everything ever created — by nature or man — will eventually disintegrate. End. Stop working. Disappear. Need replacement. From your expensive kitchen appliances, to the even more expensive car you drive, to the pyramids in the Nile Valley. The trees and the flowers in the garden. From the day of creation onward, everyone and everything is marching to a final destruction.

Let’s not worry about the future so much. Despite what happens along our individual paths, our end will be the same regardless. The ass end of life awaits. I plan to have as many laughs as I can on the way.


CREATION AND DESTRUCTION – The Blacklight Candelabra

For the inaugural writing prompt, I am challenging you to discuss the interrelatedness of creation and destruction.

These are prompts for those of us who would appreciate prompts which are more of a challenge than those offered by WordPress. This is the first of what I hope will be many!

NO ONE WILL NOTICE

No one will notice.

Our cat, Big Guy, was a very smart feline. Beautiful, sweet, funny. We lived in Boston back then and he was not allowed outside. Between the traffic, disease, and stray dogs, it was not a world to which I would expose our gentle boy. Of course Big Guy wanted out. I could not blame him, but there was no way he was setting paws onto those mean streets.

Big Guy

Big Guy

Yet, every once in a while, we would have the door open, bringing in packages, or coming, or going. Big Guy, tail at full mast, would walk out the door towards the street. No running. Measured steps.

No one will notice,” he must have thought. “I’ll just casually stroll out and inspect the neighborhood.” Of course we noticed. When his attention was called, he looked at us as if to say, “What? Don’t I do this every day?”

Then there are the dogs. Bishop, the size of a small, but extremely furry pony, calmly walking out the back door. Like it’s an everyday occurrence.

Or Bonnie, with her long black claws clacking down the hallway, in her ongoing attempt to get into the laundry basket,  or Nan, trying to steal the mouse from my computer. They are sure no one will notice.

Last night we were watching Castle. The bad guys were trying to kill them. The last of the good guys had been shot and was in the hospital. Castle and Beckett decide to interview the guy — secretly, in his hospital room. Except … you mean … no one will notice this famous author and his cop partner going into the room of a heavily guarded near-victim?

Beckett and Castle were working under the same fundamental belief as Big Guy. No one will notice. We’ll just casually stroll into the hospital room, no problem.

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Sure enough. When the scriptwriter is on your side, anything is possible. Of course, it got the guy killed, but he was merely a guest star, so it didn’t matter.

In real life, everyone notices. I have never successfully snuck anyplace without someone hailing me, asking for my identification, or deciding they need to chat about something. Maybe it’s me. I do not seem to have a stealthy bone in my body.

Sad, but true. Despite the premise in so many television shows and the belief of my dogs that no one will notice whatever they do … not even that big furry butt skulking towards the forbidden exit … I never get away with anything. Ever.

Probably it’s time for me to give up my plans of becoming the next great international spy. You think?

TESTING 1-2-3

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This Christmas cactus was too dark, too grainy, very crooked and distorted. In a single operation, I straightened, skewed, cropped and de-noised it. Surprise!

I finally made the decision to buy onOne’s Perfect Enhance 9 module. I had already decided against buying the full suite. Too many of the tools in it were ones I’d rarely or never use, or duplicated tools I had in other software.

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This picture was not only out of focus, but so crooked I did not expect to salvage it.

The enhance module has a bunch of features I can and will use, and they may help me rescue borderline pictures which are too grainy or too soft. The sharpening and noise reduction functions in this software are exceptional.

Cleaned up, with the tones more even. And, of course, straightened.

Cleaned up, de-noised, and straightened.

Another feature I didn’t expect but am enjoying is the multi-faceted crop function. It lets me straighten, skew, and crop in a single operation.

Adjustments were made on just about everything, from brightness, to contrast. It has been straightened and sharpened.

Adjustments were made on just about everything, including exposure, saturation, and contrast. It was straightened and sharpened.

As far as I can tell, it is not well-integrated with the Windows Photoshop CS-6. All the onOne tutorials use a Mac version which has different menus from my version. I’m not sure what version of Photoshop they are demonstrating, but I have not (yet) been able to integrate this module as a Photoshop plug-in. It remains essentially a standalone application which uses some Photoshop features and formats. I like it anyway.

CRAZED SQUIRREL DEFEATED BY BAVARIAN CREME (FILM AT 11)

The Daily Post offered this prompt today:

Under the Snow – You were caught in an avalanche. To be rescued, you need to make it through the night. What thought(s) would give you the strength to go through such a scary, dangerous situation?

But … Bill Brown at Evil Squirrel’s Nest proffered this juicy idea:

The last thing you see before you wake up in the hospital!

The last thing you saw before you woke up in the hospital!

You’re out on the street one day minding your own business… perhaps humming your favorite Steely Dan song or taking random pictures for a blog post.  All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a wild, ferocious squirrel starts barreling towards you with a nut in his mouth!!!  What do you do!?!?!?

Seriously, what choice did I have? Squirrel 1, WordPress 0.

The competition was too unfair. WordPress could never compete with this kind of sheer brilliance … so I had to write about crazed squirrel attackers bearing nuts.


Should I run? Try to hide? What thoughts run through my head?

{Thoughts …}

My insurance company is not going to believe this.

My husband is not going to believe this.

I don’t believe this.

This will make a great post on my blog.

Ow. Get your pointy little teeth out of my leg you wretched fur piece. I will turn you into a muff! What do you mean “what’s a muff?”

Thinking quickly (because I do not wish to have my leg chewed off by a squirrel on Boston Common), I reach into a greasy paper bag and hand its contents over to my squirrely nut case: “Here, have a doughnut. Now, isn’t that better than some tasteless acorn?”

Crazed squirrel, calmed by the sudden onrush of calories, fat, and mm Good Bavarian crème drags the doughnut to the nearest tree where, for the next several hours, he attempts to haul it up the trunk to the safety of branches above.

With each attempt, he is forced to consume another bite until eventually, bloated, sated, full of cholesterol, and calories, he lies in a semi stupor on the grass. It’s a well-deserved nap for a valiant squirrel who fought the good fight, but lost to a Bavarian crème doughnut. As so many of us have before and will again.

Good night Sweet Prince.

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I haven’t seen any swans around here at all in months. The local ponds, rivers, waterfalls were all  dry, with their muddy bottoms showing.

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Kaity tells me she’s seen a lot of swans, but not in the usual places. I assume they went to deeper water. Before the rain started in October, you could walk across Whitin’s Pond.

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The ponds are full again. Full of water, full of ducks. I’ve never seen so many ducks. And today, down by Lackey Dam, one swan … and a lot of ducks. The leaves around the pond are dark red to bronze and so, by reflection, is the water.

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A fine day for waterfowl.

WATER BIRDS AT LACKEY DAM