Well, that was horrifying.

I checked the boards about what could be bothering my torch coral, and thought "Hmm. Maybe somehow an evil nudibranch got in. I will squirt a little water on it with the turkey baster and see if I see any alien intruders!"

Half the tentacles fell out of the polyp.

I did the only logical thing, which was to scream bloody murder, because an animal–a simple animal, perhaps, an animal without a brain or much of a nervous system, an animal that doesn’t feel pain as we know it, but nevertheless an animal–had just dismembered itself in front of me. That was not restful. Most of the zen I have acquired over the last six months from gazing into a fish tank got undone in about three wrenching seconds as dead tentacles rained through the tank.

Well. Once I calmed down and fished out most of the dead bits, at least I had a diagnosis. Torch Bob has brown jelly, a bacterial infection that affects large stony corals. Unfortunately, on torches it gets way down inside the polyp, and you don’t see it until the torch starts acting upset, by which point it’s already rotted out half the base of the tentacles and you’re left with a very sick coral.

So, off to the fish store I went. Torch Bob is currently sitting in an iodine dip. He may live, he may not–just have to see.

I am wracked with coral owner guilt. If he dies, I’m probably just getting a rock of palys for his spot–they’re the only thing that seems utterly unkillable. *sigh*

Heh. Finally succumbed to momentum and finished drawing the Shadowchild story arc–it’s only two more pages, but it felt good to knock it out rather than wait another couple days to finish it.

Other than that, it’s Monday. It isn’t quite the crushing weight of normal Monday, but it’s definitely a weekday feeling. Blargh.

I have nothing useful to say. There are bugs and hummingbirds all over the garden, and I’m up in the studio staring out the window.

Since I haven’t updated for awhile on the topic, the tank of Bob is…well, not tanking, but it’s doing the thing that Brooke warned me about, which is to crash after six months. (Apparently all tanks do this.) I’ve got bloody digitate hydroids everywhere–I’m told they’ll go away eventually, and there’s not really a cure other than breaking down the tank. Every now and then I scrub a few off with a toothbrush, but they’re nearly impossible to get. The zooanthids all seem fine–I managed to catch and remove the predatory mini-starfish (curse you, Starfish Bob!)–the palys are happy as heck, the little blue clove polyps I got from Brooke are doing fabulous, Crab Bob comes out to worship the Great Chopstick God once a week.

No, the real problem is the torch coral, who is Not Happy. He isn’t coming out and waving around, he’s just sitting in his polyps and sulking. I can’t figure out why. I fed him, it didn’t seem to do much. I increased the temperature in the tank, which was on the low side, in hopes he was just cold. He didn’t seem to care. He’s just been sulking for a week or two now. One of the palys might have bitten him–I saw one grab one of his long sweeper tentacles once–but he seemed fine for days after that.  There aren’t any hydroids around him, the water parameters are the same as they always are, he’s just…unhappy about something.

Losing him would be heartbreaking, as he’s my very favorite coral and absolutely the centerpiece of the tank. I guess it’s time to try dipping him. I have no idea how to do it, but I’ll give it a try…

Feline Accompaniment

For the last week or two, every night, something very strange has been going on in the master bathroom.

Kevin will go in there, to do what people do in bathrooms. And I will hear "Hi, Ems! Aww…there’s my girl…" and then he will begin whistling.

Now, Ems is short for Emily, which is one of our cats. She is the fat one. She is large and black and very sleek despite her weight, and the one one of the horde of cats who is overweight. She’s a very nice cat, although a bit shy, but once she happens to be somewhere to be petted, she is a very friendly cat. I am rather fond of her.

She also is driven into mad realms of delight by whistling.

I cannot whistle. I used to be able to, and then I got braces as a child, and one of the casualties of that, along with my overbite, was the ability to whistle. Absolutely can’t do it. I think something weird changed in the shape of my mouth or something. (I know, I know, Mae West, "You know how to whistle, don’t you?" I can provide signed testimony as to my ability to purse my lips and blow.* I still can’t whistle for crap.) 

Kevin, on t’other hand, can whistle astoundingly well. Even at my best, I was limited to about one note, but he will sit there on the toilet, and provide a miniature concert that spans Beethoven, Wagner, the Nutcracker Suite, the Imperial March, the theme from the Andy Griffith Show, and other perennial favorites like "Whistle While You Work" and "Pop Goes the Weasel."

After about five seconds of this, the person in the next room–i.e. me–will hear a peculiar accompaniment to this performance, as Emily begins mewing frantically.

It drives her nuts. She stands on her hind legs–and at her girth, this is quite an undertaking–purring thunderously, mewing every few seconds, rubbing herself wildly on Kevin’s legs, hands, and at one point during a particularly dramatic rendition of "Ride of the Valkyries," hefted her rather large bulk onto the back of the toilet seat and tried to engulf the back of his head.

She purrs the whole time. She is ecstatic. Whatever this is doing for her, she loves it.

It only works with whistling. Kevin tested this in the interests of science–at least, he claims it was science that caused him to sing an impassioned few stanzas of "Don’t Cry For Me Argentina" in the bathroom, and I prefer not to exam the veracity of this claim too closely–and it doesn’t do much for her. Let him whistle the opening notes to Beethoven’s Fifth, though, and the cat will run from any part in the house–the high-speed, belly swinging waddle of an overweight cat on the move, a run she does not break into for food or fear or any other purpose–and come sit in front of him and sing along with the music.

On the bright side, if anybody ever wonders how Kevin lives with someone as bizarre as I am, I have at least one excellent example of how I’m not the only weirdo in this relationship…

ETA: I am chastised, it was Lauren Bacall, not Mae West. Well, still.

*In several cases, highly enthusiastic testimony.

From the Journal of Lady Absentia Wrathbone:

August 11,

Have finally succeeded in sketching one of the clockwork insects present at this location. It appears at a distance to be a common skipper butterfly, but upon closer examination, it became apparent that there had been extensive technological modifications to the creature. Contrary to my initial expectations, the creature clearly possesses organic traits, and is not merely a clever mimic. Whether the technological additions were impressed upon the developing chrysalis, or were grafted upon an adult specimen is one of many mysteries that I hope to uncover in time.

While it is difficult to conceive of such tiny mechanisms, I am determined to keep an open mind as to the origins of such creatures. That idiot Farthington sent another missive to the Society’s Proceedings claiming that these insects are the products of a race of miniature homonculi who are undergoing a very small Industrial Revolution, proceeded to speculate for two pages on society of said homonculi, including some clap-trap about their society being based on the Atlantean elder model. Fatuous moron. To believe in such a race without evidence is to believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden. For all we know, the insects are doing it themselves, and this is merely a more elaborate manifestation of the eusocial structure that leads to ant-hills and bee-hives. Cannot believe the Society continues to publish his letters. Can only hope that gout and general dissipation carry him off before he muddies the waters of this field of research any further.

Heat is beastly. Have chiggers in my knickers. Cannot get decent tea in this place–locals seem to feel that "tea" is a sticky mixture best suited to hummingbird food. Beginning to wish that I had stayed in England. However, if I am to publish a decisive monograph on the topic before Farthington–minus the homonculi–I must travel to where the insects are. I feel I am making progress. No discomfort is too great for science!

Steampunk Skipper

I had a very strange and complex nightmare last night. It was an odd family thing, although nobody who was my family were actually members of my family (or exist at all, as far as I know.) When I finally woke up from being pregnant and destitute in a weird little post-apocalyptic community, I staggered into the bathroom, talked briefly with Kevin, and fell back asleep, whereupon I was in a library attempting to locate the sequel to my dream on the shelves. (I found it. It was titled "Faithful Ich." Ich is a fish disease. I don’t know either.)

In other news, there’s a warbler of some sort on the feeder. I originally thought it was a female goldfinch, but it’s moving wrong. I could not, if pressed, even begin to tell you how a goldfinch moves, I have apparently absorbed it on a non-conscious level, but I know that’s not moving like a goldfinch. It’s very slow and rather uncertain. Finches are not uncertain birds. It’s also in the dappled shadows of the little tree holding up the feeder, so I can’t get a terribly good look at the field marks, so we’ll chalk it up to Generic Unknown Warbler unless it decides to move somewhere else.

Okay, enough complaining. Let’s talk about something else–books!

I don’t make that many book recommendations, but I’ve read two good ones recently (and a lot of mediocre ones, of which we shall not speak.)

The Court of the Air, by Stephen Hunt, was really entertaining. The writing was decent, the worldbuilding was awesome, the steammen–sort of steampunk robots–had an awesome religion based on the Steam Loas. (Loas are from Santeria–aka voodoo–and are gods/spirits/thingies that "ride" their worshippers. Divine Horsemen is arguably the seminal work on the topic, or was back when I was in college taking classes on it.) Furthermore, it did something completely novel for a dense fantasy/steampunk epic…it ended in one volume.

Seriously. I was blown away too. I was reading the final battle, waiting for the cliffhanger and…there wasn’t one. It was self-contained. I didn’t have to wait three years.

Madness.

I bought the sequel–same universe, not the same plotline–but haven’t yet dug into it. I’ll letcha know.

For a comic book, let me recommend The Stuff of Legend, which is still in the first volume, but a really neat premise about stuffed animals going into the darkness to fight the Boogeyman to get back their boy. Sounds corny, I know, but there’s a lot of blood and violence. Sort of reminds me of "A Game of You" in some regards. It gets the Damn I Wish I’d Thought Of That Award, which I hand out relatively rarely.

And that’s all I can remember for now, although I swear there was another one…wish I could remember what…

I think the garden may just be off-limits until fall.

Thirty-one seed tick bites over the weekend. (Maybe they were chiggers. I don’t know.) Today I went out to fill the birdbath, since it’s supposed to get to be a hundred degrees, and in the time it took to do that, I got four of the little bastards on my ARMS. What the hell, man? (They must be lurking under the pineapple sage, where I had dropped the hose.)

And they itch. I have ripped holes in my skin kinda itch. I am spraying up with Benadryl and slathering with camphor and taking hot baths and cold baths and putting socks on to prevent accidental itching, and they are dire. (Oddly enough, wearing The Boots was the most comfortable thing, because there was absolutely no way to scratch them, and there was no chafing.)

The scars from this are gonna last for at least six months. God, I hate getting old.

Today I reached the halfway point on the art for Dragonbreath 3! 76 down…76 to go.

Also I took more photos of garden bugs. This led to a phone call to Kevin that went something like this:

URSULA: I have a hypothetical question.
KEVIN: Yeeeeeess?
URSULA: Absolutely hypothetically, if somebody were to be out in the garden taking photos and did not apply bug spray and was maybe, to use an example completely at random, taking a photo of a spicebush swallowtail on the mint…
KEVIN: Uh-huh.
URSULA: …and that person stood in a seed tick nest, would it happen to look like a whole bunch of little black dots surrounded by slightly reddened rings?
KEVIN: Lots of little black dots, yup.
URSULA: …Huh.
KEVIN: You’re going to scream and run around now, aren’t you?

He brought me Benadryl spray. So that was mostly okay.

Anyway, that aside, more photos! Today I started mucking about with raw files, and I gotta say, there really is a significant difference in output if you’re willing to muck with them in that state. It’s all color and exposure and whatnot, but you can totally tell if you pull two files up next to each other.

The good ones are on my Flickr, my favorite is uploaded to DeviantArt:

Bee on Hyssop

(I do not need a macro lens, I do not need a macro lens, I do not need a macro lens…)

Also! I am told that marketing for Book Two of Dragonbreath will include–drumroll please–TEMPORARY TATTOOS! I’m stoked.