The grayness of the day was making me moody. There’s nothing in particular to be depressed about, life is generally good, but you know how it is…the gray…the dank…the dark…you get that kind of hollow knot under your sternum and find yourself drinking tea by the gallon and trying to find something good to brood about.* Living in Arizona sort of broke my light meter, I think.

I stood looking out the back window, feeling vaguely sad. Then a female cardinal landed in a nearby tree, fluffed herself up, and began preening extravagantly. I watched until she flew away, and just as I was about to descend into a Robert-Frost-esque moment of melancholy introspection about the healing power of nature, balm to the rueful human soul, etc, one of the squirrels came up, plopped his butt down on the railing about two feet from me, and began cleaning his ass with the sort of dedicated enthusiasm generally reserved for a certain class of Mapplethorpe photos.

Robert Frost would not have approved, but hell, you gotta laugh.

*How many times a day you have to go to the bathroom because of all that friggin’ tea is not a good subject for brooding, but if you’re desperate…

Minor Amusements

A quick little painting, but of course, Deeply Relevant, as I explore the social ramifications of birdwatching-as-hobby, the relation between subject and object, causing us to question the very nature of Art itself, wherein the viewer is invited to question who is the watched and who the watcher, using that universally relevant symbolic language of cute li’l mousies with things on their heads.

Even More Defective Wildlife

There’s a new squirrel in town, with some kind of lump. It doesn’t look like a botfly lump. It does look rather painful. It’s on the left side of belly, a swollen round node with dark red skin on top. My guess is “very well-fed tick” but “abcess” is also a contender.

I almost got a photo of him. I saw the poor thing, got out the camera, screwed on the telephoto lens, set up the blind, found him, zoomed in, focused, and…the battery died.

By the time I took out the camera, changed the battery, and got back, Scarface had chased off the miscreant for the crime of standing within twenty feet of the feeder, and I missed my shot.

We’ll see if he comes back, and hopefully I can play Spot That Malady. I hope it’s a tick. I hate ticks, but “Ticky” is a better name than “Abcessy” by a country mile.

Squirrel Topiary

Some bastard gnawing mammal–and I suspect I know which species!–has been pruning my rhodedendron! And trying to bury the evidence! I went out to water it today, and discovered that several of the green branches have been gnawed off, and the heads buried in the pot. Why?! What did the poor innocent rhody ever do to them?

James, while occasionally prone to peculiar behavior, is not given to random attacks of bonsai madness so far as I know, and probably would not use his teeth.

Those bastard squirrels.

Rambling thoughts on Mothman, Animal X, and cryptozoological birding

So last night, I got stoned and did something I regretted.

I watched “Animal X” on Animal Planet.

For those who have been spared this horror, I will explain. It’s a…cryptozoology show. Not a good one. One of that crop of unbelievably stupid ghost-hunter shows, where people who would make the average three-year-old look like a beady-eyed skeptic run around with a shaky camera and say “There’s definitely something here!” They interview a handful of witnesses, many of whom would require a bath and anti-psychotics to be considered merely uncredible, and their idea of hard questioning is “Do you think you could have been mistaken?” “Um…no?” “WOW! That proves it, then!”
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Shadowrun again today! Woo!

Important lessons learned…

If you hear a helicopter on the roof, it does not mean “Everybody run in all directions for no apparent reason.”

However, should you happen to run into a gift-shop, the uses of a troll-sized “Chicago Museum of Art” T-shirt are many, and include hiding a sleeping mage.

A man impervious to bullets is not impervious to a sledgehammer wielded by an angry troll.

Never say “Dude, I’ll just get in melee with him. He can’t fire something THAT big at point blank range.”

Spells that kill people are all fine and good, but spells that cause people to be overwhelmed with guilt for having shot you are useful.

Sometimes, despite all the technology available in 2060, what you really need is a live sheep.

The small blue giggling eyeless child with black teeth and a charred lower body, in the room full of corpses and magic items, is probably NOT merely a victim of circumstance.

The price of being a sledgehammer wielding monster, with the ability to take a cannon blast to the chest and walk away, is having the willpower of a small and stupid eggplant. This can be a distinct liability.

The only thing that can carry an unconscious troll up a 150 ft elevator shaft is another troll. Bring a spare.

As Vlad Taltos tells us over and over, “No matter how good the mage, a knife between the shoulders will seriously cramp his style.” This can be amended to include “a bullet to the back of the head.”

If the nuclear warhead bleeds when you poke it, there is probably more to the situation that meets the eye.

When attempting to use your possesion of the detonator to a nuclear warhead as a negotiating point with your employer, keep a sense of perspective. “PAY FOR MY AMMO, OR I NUKE CHICAGO!” is generally not appropriate.

The Great Dismal Swamp was cool! And not at all dismal.

While it was definitely a swamp, it wasn’t…y’know…swampy in the dripping Spanish-moss and roving alligator sense. It was more like a forest with a flooded basement.

Didn’t see all that many birds, but we can chalk that up as much to my being a neophyte with binoculars as anything else–we sure heard plenty Lake Drummond, in the middle, is supposed to be Chock Full ‘O Waterfowl, but my doughy little limbs aren’t gonna do a nine mile hike in muggy weather. However, I did see a few–primarily yellow rumped warblers, a few titmice, and then, to my delight, prothonotary warblers! They’re spectacular! They’re so…yellow. I’m used to yellow birds being sort of like the pine warblers, where they’re a streaky, feathery, mottled yellow, but the prothonotary warblers were this pure, solid yellow shading back to gray, a color so absolutely crisp, it was like a musical note. They were fabulous. I wanna paint them.

And I also, with much squinting and straining and focusing of binoculars and consulting of books, spotted a red-headed woodpecker. I’ve been wanting to see one, because they look amazing in the photos, and I’m glad to add it to El Lifelist, but I wish I could have seen it better–I was trying to spot it against a blown-out white sky, so it was a dark cutout, and while the white breast and big white wing patches were visible, it took a lot of squinting to tell that the head was red instead of black. They’re amazing looking birds, and I’d love to have a chance to see one up close. But I suppose that’s why people KEEP birding. *grin*

There was something else, too, but I wasn’t able to ID ’em–they were hanging out on the very top branches of a tree next to some more warblers, and looked to be about the size of a blackbird. What I could see had a very, VERY streaked breast, to the point of being pinstriped, with a dark tail and I think dark uppers, although since I was squinting upwards against a white sky, take that with a grain of salt. The things that matched the closest were female red-winged blackbirds, which would be a normal species for the area, but why several females would be hanging out together, with no males, and a pack of yellow-rumped warblers, is beyond me. Then again, they’re birds. Birds are weird.

A Prisoner In My Own Home!

I wanted to go out on the deck and check the plants, but I am trapped inside. For on the inside of the screen, right next to the handle, is an earwig as big as the Ritz. The sort of earwig that must have roamed the earth during the Ice Age, feeding on…um…Jumbo Earwig Chow For Large Breeds.* A dire earwig. I know in my heart of irrational hearts that if I risk opening the door, it will utter the mechanical scraping roar of Godzilla and lunge for me, butt scissoring in a mad ritual of death.

Okay, it’s probably not that much bigger than any other earwig, but it’s got me held hostage. Fortunately, the front door is safe. Or at least opaque.

*What the heck do earwigs eat? I know silverfish like paper, but I’m unclear on the difference, if there is one.

Well, it’s official.

I bought a pair of binoculars and a bird book. New, not “yanked from the used bookstore.” Actually paid full price for it. And am going on a trip in order to see birds.

I have succumbed to birdwatching. It is officially a hobby.

The only thing in my defense is that it’s a guide to solely Carolina birds, and still has the little color codes, since otherwise it takes me an hour to figure out what species something is so that I know where to start looking. And I still can identify exactly two birds by ear, those being the domestic chicken and turkey. And my lifelist is mostly made up of things seen on the birdfeeder. So it’s not bad yet. Yet.

I really need to save up and get a mega-uber-zoom-lens for the camera…

The juncoes have gone, and been replaced by chipping sparrows, although the later aren’t nearly so numerous or likely to hit the feeder. The squirrels are trying to eat the deck railing. This baffles me. They’ve gnawed the corners round. Since I don’t know what they’re after, I can’t exactly stop them, and my landlady, animal lover that she is, feeds the squirrels even more than I do, so I’m just bemused. The flickers occasionally go nuts on the siding. Since it’s vinyl siding, they don’t get far, but the jackhammer racket of a northern flicker with a full head of steam will get you out of bed in a hurry, believe me.

One lone blue jay has discovered the feeder, but I have not yet caught him on film. The cardinals are becoming more frequent, but they’re skittish. I am trying not to lunge for the camera whenever I see them, as this only reinforces the fact that the deck is a dangerous place to feed, but I dunno how much actual memory is going on inside those brightly crested little noggins.

Today I’m preparing for the jaunt to the Dismal Swamp, cleaning out all the camera memory, buying Deet, and seeing what a cheap pair of birding binoculars runs. And of course, being me, there’s a painting going. My personal swamp’s in good shape–I finished the mini-comic, so now I just have to replace one page of Digger that was mysteriously lost (the jpg’s around, but the TIFF has vanished) and I’ll be ready to ship it all off to the ever-patient guys at Sofawolf. And I actually got an extra Digger done this week! Woot!

My potted honeysuckle is continuing its sneaking campaign of world dominion. I’m training it along the deck rails. It has engulfed a couple already. Unfortunately, for whatever weird reason, it never blooms. It didn’t bloom last year, it hasn’t bloomed yet this year. I have read that one must prune honeysuckle back after it blooms. I would be happy to. Hmm. I picked up some swamp jessamine, a native vine, and am hoping it can also be trained–there’s a whole lot of deck rails to cover. The part-shade clematis I picked up is growing with furious enthusiasm–I can’t quite SEE it grow, but it’s definitely adding an inch or more a day. SOON! SOON MY VINES SHALL CONQUER THE WORLD! MUAHHAAHHA!

Also, modern medicine is amazing. I am generally a five-Tums-a-day person, due less to stress than heredity. I don’t mind so much, because I need to get the calcium somehow, but my doctor, having visions of my esophagus looking like swiss cheese, gave me some samples of an acid reflux treatment. I took one. The next day I had six cups of coffee, one coke, two glasses of lemonade, and ate Mexican for dinner. My stomach remained as placid as a mill pond. I am deeply wowed.