May 2009

Saw a truly enormous beetle in the garden earlier, sitting casually on the bee-balm. Turns out it’s an eyed click-beetle!  (Seriously, the scale in this is totally as big as you think it is–they’re thumb sized critters.)

Their larvae are called "wireworms" and fortunately, in this species they live in dead wood and eat destructive bugs, so he’s a welcome addition to the yard. Hello, Mr. Eyed Click-Beetle!

Also, my pineapple sage has put out its first bright red flowers. Woot!

ETA: Link fixed, sorry…

Ah, Marketing…

More adventures in publishing!

First interesting fact: If you get a starred Kirkus review, they send the sales staff back out to the booksellers, waving copies of the review and saying things like "Are you sure we can’t interest you in another hundred copies?" I did not know this. Apparently the Dread Name Kirkus carries a LOT of weight.

Second, your agent is worth their weight in gold. Being an artist who within the last decade had a net income of aroundnine grand for the WHOLE YEAR, I would probably have said "Oh god, thank you so much for even thinking of publishing my inferior work, thank you, thank you, can I come into the office and do any odd jobs for you?" it’s good to have somebody mercenary on my side demanding that they go up to the next round number on those book deals.

Thirdly, when the publisher does merchandising, the author isn’t necessarily drowning in samples…they’re giving away Dragonbreath breath-mints in custom tins at BookExpo America, and I covet one desperately. My editor is trying to track down a couple for me. I don’t even have my author’s copies of the book yet. (I am possibly more excited about the breath mints than the book…I mean, I’ve READ the book.) 

Breath mints are not as left-field as you’d think–at one point in the book, in order to breathe underwater, Danny’s cousin gives them "breath mints" (now in Wintergreen!) –and the marketing department thought it was a great idea to have personalized Dragonbreath tins.

Also, speaking of, there’s a release party for Dragonbreath at Chapel Hill Comics on Saturday, June 27th. I’ll plug it a few more times before then, but come out! Get a copy! Get it signed! Watch me hyperventilate! It’ll be fun!

Yes, In My Backyard

I am getting bloody tired of all this fearmongering about Guantanamo Bay detainees winding up in the US. "Oh no, they want to put suspected terrorists in US prisons! Oh no, if they’re innocent, they might even want to release them! Run away!"

Since when are we such cowards?

Jesus christ on a pogo stick, having a terrorist in your jail doesn’t suddenly give everybody in the state cancer. I will state categorically that they can bring them all to North Carolina, as far as I’m concerned. My metaphorical backyard is open.* I live down the road from a nuclear plant, and I’ll lose a lot more sleep after that. (Current sleep lost over that: 0 hours, 0 minutes.)

I love my state. I cringed at the notion of filling in wetlands for more airbases, but you want to put prisoners here? Knock yourself out. Particularly if they come with extra funding.

I have lived in prison towns. I have done it several times, in fact. I grew up in one. (We also had the main mental hospital and the mushroom plant. Of the three, the mushroom plant was by far the biggest effect on my quality of life–the compost STINKS.)  But the prison’s generally a large ugly building out on the edge of town, surrounded by a moat of grass and lots of barbed wire. It’s not much good for the surrounding property values, but it’s certainly an employer, and I don’t think anybody’s suggesting building new jails anyway. Like landfills and sewage treatment plants, it’s nasty but neccessary, and I acknowledge we need them somewhere, and if you’d like to put terrorists in them, go right ahead.

These are not superheroes, people. We’re not trying to contain Juggernaut or Magneto. So far as I know, not one person at Guantanamo has displayed any ability to walk through walls. If we can keep a serial killer behind bars without anybody freaking out, we can keep terrorists, assuming they’re even proved to be terrorists, which is obviously in doubt for a whole bunch of ’em. We’ve got half a hundred Hannibal Lector’s behind bars, and they notably fail to escape. What are the fearmongers thinking here–that they can somehow make a nuclear warhead out of a sharpened spoon and their own poo?

Jesus, people, they’re humans. Some of them are bad humans, but they’re not any better at escaping from jail cells than the average bored Eagle Scout. I don’t get why people think that they’re so much worse than the usual run of rapists and cannibals. If you’re worried they’ll ideologically corrupt the other sterling citzens in maximum security lock-up, then if you must keep them in solitary, fine. Chain gangs probably out. (Do we even do those anymore?) But these aren’t magicians. They aren’t going to touch American soil and go "Ha ha, you fools!" and vanish in a puff of smoke, to roam the countryside mutilating goats and eating people’s cats. (Fun fact: Guantanamo detainees are NOT chupacabras!)

If I’m confident that my prison system is keeping very bad people locked up and away from me–and for the most part, I am–then that confidence is in no way undermined if it’s an enemy combatant in there rather than a child molestor. I don’t think one is significantly better at escaping than the other. I don’t stay up nights worrying about either.

So, speaking purely for myself–you go right ahead and put them in North Carolina. And I’ve written my congressman to that effect.

…god, I’ve got to stop listening to NPR with low blood sugar.

*My real backyard has an old swingset in it, but if they want to haul that away…

Finally finished the thing that disturbed Kevin!

He allows as how it’s less outright creepy with the textured white background on, somehow–I think he might be right, although don’t ask me why–but it still kinda weirds him out. I am proud.


ETA: The nearly even split in the comments between "This is creepy and disturbing" and " Aww, it’s so cute!" amuses me to no end…

Went out into the garden. Discovered squirrels fighting.

Realized after a minute that they weren’t fighting, per se.  Decided to leave them to it.

Allllrighty, then….

Working on a new painting…I have great hopes, but I’m not sure if it’s going to actually work in practice. The underpainting is done, but we’ll see if my ultimate vision is achievable. I’m hoping to have pushed my basic tendency toward cute things to a point where it just gets freaky.

Meanwhile Kevin saw the work-in-progress, and was unsettled.

URSULA: So, what I’m going for here is the border between cute and disturbing…
KEVIN: Uh…no, it’s really just kind of disturbing. 
URSULA: That’s good too!
KEVIN: No, I mean…it’s kind of squicking me out.
URSULA: Is it the eye? The hands?
KEVIN: No…it’s…the top is sort of like a fetus, and this bit here…it just looks so unfinished…like it slid out of the womb stillborn but its eye is open and it’s talking.
URSULA: Awesome!
KEVIN: It took a year and a half, but with that painting, you’ve finally managed to weird me out. 
KEVIN: You realize that no one will buy this.
URSULA: Are you kidding? That definitely makes it real art.

He’s still about fifty to one for successfully weirding ME out, including that one time in the Anthrocon Art Show, which was sort of self-inflicted. Still. I take what victories I can.

There are flower buds on my butterfly bush! And the swamp milkweed is just starting to flower–one bud has popped (it’s a compound flower head.) The male cardinal and the technicolor goldfinches are providing a riot of color

ID’d one of the weeds in the Bed of Evil as Daisy Fleabane. Not too worried about it. It’s a cheerful little plant, it isn’t hurting anybody, and anyway, I have the Lovecraftian honeysuckle to deal with yet, and if anyone survives the Great Spraying (come on, dry weather!) we can renegotiate later.

It’s a gorgeous day today, cool enough that I can open up the house and get a good breeze going, which is nice.

Spent yesterday out in Wilmington. That would have been better if anything was open on Sunday, and if we hadn’t gone in the middle of a scouring rainstorm, but it was still fun, and one of the places that was open had a barong mask of a style I didn’t yet have, so I had to add to the collection.  Tried on a dozen hippie skirts. Sadly, everything that fit was hideous, and everything that was a color I loved didn’t fit. (Quoth Carlota, about the peach-and-cyan tie-dye: "It’s hideous. It actually works very well on you, but it’s still hideous, and no one should ever wear it.") The one wrap skirt that I loved did not wrap quite far enough, and a stiff breeze would have revealed to the world what sort of underwear I favor. (Quoth Carlota: "So wear interesting underwear, then!" I declined.) 

Lots of "one size" skirts. Apparently that one size is "small." My god, people! Have you ever MET a hippie? I realize you’re hoping for delicate big-eyed waifs with waists the size of the daisies they’re wearing in their hair, but the majority that I know are a bit more "earth mother" and a bit less "Amy Brown." Give us tie-dye for women with child-bearing hips! I’m a gardener! I’m liberal! I grew up in Oregon! I will wear tie dye without shame if only you will give me the chance!

Ahem. I should be working or something.

Red-eyed vireo in the backyard!

Not that uncommon, but very nearly impossible to spot in this case–I got lucky with a glimpse through the branches of one of the live-oaks in the backyard. My brain sent two conflicting signals back–"hummingbird" and "warbler." The warbler for general size and shape, the hummingbird because it had a big honkin’ beak in proportion to its size, and was perched with its tail fanned when I caught the glimpse of it. Plus it had a buzzing call that was rather like the hummingbird.

ID seems straightforward–only other contender is Swainson’s warbler, which isn’t supposed to live in the canopy, and the buzzing shows up on the recording of the vireo’s song.

So, that’d be a lifer!

A good day today. Went to lunch with friends, right next to the local fish place, so I ducked in and discovered that they had a green mushroom coral, one polyp (they’re big polyps) for $5. I was unable to resist, since my one blue mushroom is more purple and refuses to DO anything. All those horror stories of mushrooms taking over the tank, and the bugger’s done nothing but sit there for three months, while around him the zoa colonies triple in size and the torch covers a quarter of the tank. Time to bring in reinforcements.

Spent some time in the garden. Yesterday was a heavy-duty pruning day–Kevin and I went out and chopped down all the invasive autumn olive, and I did some selective pruning in the Bed of Evil. The Bed of Evil is overrun with–not bindweed, but, to my dismay, non-flowering Japanese honeysuckle, which is unkillable, merciless, and strangling everything in sight.* There’s a bed of dayliles under there somewhere. I saw it briefly in spring. I tore it off my holly two weeks ago, at the cost of significant poison ivy expenditure, and every few weeks I go rip out great masses of it, just to keep a few inches clear around my indigo.

A plant biologist friend of mine came out last weekend to do an invasive species survey of the yard as a favor, and gazed into the Bed of Evil for several minutes, with the air of a nuclear physicist gazing into the shattered core of Chernobyl and trying to find something positive to say.

"Well?" I said hopefully. "What do you recommend?"

"Agent Orange." She considered. "Maybe fire." 

Apparently the woods around our yard is what biologists try to PREVENT from happening. (She was very nice about it, but it is what it is…the place is overrun. Not our fault–developers disturb the earth and put in houses, and the opportunists are invasives.) My commitment to organic gardening crushed under the implacable leafy foe, I went and got three gallons of the herbicide she recommended as least likely to poison the watershed and everything ELSE in the yard, and I’m waiting for a forecast of a couple of rain-free days to go through and unleash chemical death.

Even that won’t STOP it. All it’ll do is buy me a little space. If I can keep it fought back into the woods (It’s now the primary understory plant) I can go about my gardening in relative peace. Controlled and multi-year burning might actually kill it, but we’d take the woods down with it, and probably the neighbors, who would be understandably upset.

"At least it’s not kudzu," I said, in an attempt at cheer.

"Um. Heh. Actually, kudzu’s much easier to kill than Japanese honeysuckle."


So I pruned and I hacked and I bathed in DEET and I got the black-eyed susans in the ground, and I tore out the pink scabiosa that died suddenly and inexplicably last week and replaced it with a nice coreopsis. (The blue scabiosa next to it? Happy as a clam. No clue.) 

I have so much energy when I’ve just finished a book. I think I’m trying to prevent guilt at not working by working like a fiend on other stuff. When Digger finally ends, I’ll probably walk to the Moon and back.

Also fooled briefly with a technical experiment this afternoon. Have to keep at it…I don’t quite know what I want yet, as is my usual MO, but maybe I’ll know once I get there.

Not Quite A Lion

And now I think I’m going to celebrate all those calories I burned this afternoon by eating some potato chips.

*I beg of you, do not start in on "but honeysuckle is so pretty and smells so nice!" This is sort of like going on about how sexy the mugger looked while he was taking my purse. This stuff is not pretty, it is not nice, it is not a charming Southern institution, it’s a goddamn vegetable sociopath.

More Hitchhikers!

Man, with live rock, you just never know…

Haven’t added anything to the tank in a month (and that was quite a small rock)  came in this morning, saw something odd in the water in the corner of the tank, turkey bastered it into viewing position, and discovered…an asterina star!

Asterinas get a bad rap, but most of the FAQs I’ve read would indicate that it’s undeserved–they’re scavengers, and many people consider them valueable members of the clean-up crew. Also, they’re adorable, not that that’s influencing me in any way.

Mine was still alive, as indicated by wee little tube feet extending, and promptly vanished into the rock, so I probably couldn’t remove him even if I wanted to. Godspeed, little starfish!

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