Tag Archives: nature

Weekend Update 10/24/2019: Invasive problems

“It appears we have some breaking news.” “Good lord, what the fuck now?”
“It appears we have some breaking news.” “Good lord, what the fuck now?”

My weekends have been crazy lately, so I seldom manage to finish one of these Weekend Update posts. The idea for these is that if there is news to broke (or came to my attention) after I finished compiled the Friday Five, or if I become aware of updates or new developments in a news story that I have previously linked to, and especially if I want to make a bit more commentary on it that what happens in a Friday Five, I put them in a Weekend Update to share on a Saturday or Sunday. So, jump right in!

Let’s start with some good news: First U.S. Asian giant hornet nest found in east Blaine. These are the so-called murder hornets, and the danger is that if they get established, they can wipe out native honey bees, which has a scary impact on agriculture. All the signs have so far indicated that there is probably only one next in Washington state. So, this one (and its hornets) will be destroyed and we can all breathe a little easier.

In other news: NC Man Arrested In Terror Plot To Kill Biden, Vehicle Found With Explosives, Assault Rifle, $509,000 In Cash. He’s a 19-year-old originally from Seattle who last fall came into a large inheritance which apparently he’s been carrying around all in cash. He was initially arrested because when someone reported what they thought was an abandoned van in a bank parking long in North Carolina, the responding officers could see the stash of ammo, guns, and explosives through the windows. And when the kid came back to his van, he had concealed weapons on him for which he doesn’t have permits. He’s currently being held of child pornography charges, while a joint terrorism task force is continuing to build the case from messages he posted on white supremacist web sites and journals.

He was arrested back in May, and police have since shown that he was near the former Vice Presidents home in April, which is when he was posting online about killing Biden. I want to point out that his plot to kill Biden was not motivated by a desire to help Trump. His aim was to “save” Bernie Sanders. Again demonstrating the fact I’ve pointed out several times since 2016 that a significant fraction of Bernie Bros have ties to the same white supremacist communities that support Trump.

But this is a weekend update, not a blog post where I explain the origins of certain political factions. So let’s move on to Rightwing Agitator Shot Up Minneapolis Police Precinct In May, And He Is Under Arrest. Yet another example of a white supremacist guy hoping to start a race war by causing violence that he can hope to pin on the Black Lives Matters folks. What’s more scary than his actions are some of the others who he was coordinating with who actually succeeding in killing some cops elsewhere. And like the story above, this was some young guy traveling out of the state where he lives to go stir up the trouble.

Let’s move on…

I did not watch the debate. I urged people I knew not to watch it. Fortunately, we have a great (and more than slightly sarcastic) sum o of the debate by Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke. I’ll just quote my favorite bit:

“Demonstrating a striking change in tone from the first presidential debate, Trump did not come across as a writhing, angry body inhabited by the spirit of Charles Manson. Instead, he took on the more affable demeanor of a writhing, angry body inhabited by the spirit of Charles Manson on a day when Manson didn’t interrupt people quite so much.”

AOC Rips Trump For Disrespecting Her During Final Debate. Of course, Donald disrespects everyone. I don’t think he knows how to respect someone, just as I don’t believe he has one iota of empathy in his being. But that is a bit of her point: just because he does it all the time doesn’t make it right. And just because the Republicans in general disrespect anyone they disagree with doesn’t mean we should let it pass without some pushback.

Trump’s Strangest Lie: A Plague of Suicides Under His Watch – Social distancing hasn’t led to an increase in suicide rates, despite the president’s claims. But a prolonged pandemic might. I’m not sure I agree this is his strangest lie, because he tenaciously retells a lot of lies about extremely trivial stuff.

I suspect the author hasn’t had enough experience beating his head against a brick wall talking with Trump supporters. And the thing you have to remember is that Trump is always talking to his supporters. He doesn’t believe anyone else matters. He isn’t trying to appeal to voters outside his base. Trump’s base firmly believe that the quarantines are unnecessary and are a liberal plot being forced on them in order to undermine Trump. They sincerely believe that. And therefore, if the lockdowns were causing suicides to increase (which they aren’t), but if they were, those suicides wouldn’t be happening on Trump’s watch. Those suicides would all be the fault of the evil libruhls

The author of the article expects Trump and his supporters to think like normal people. In a normal election, people tend to blame bad things happening right now on the incumbent President. But trumpkins don’t think like that. They live in the world of all those conspiracy theories. Bad things are always the fault of those other guys.

It is a lie: quarantining and lockdowns are no causing suicides. But if you understand Trump and his supporters, it isn’t that strange at all.

I’m going to let Stephen Colbert take us out:

Trump Trashes New York, Joe Unveils ‘Bidencare’ At Final Debate – Stephen Colbert’s LIVE Monologue What’s got Steven Colbert feeling optimistic after last night’s debate? The fact that we’ll (hopefully) never have to watch Donald Trump debate ever again:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

We have birds coming to the bird feeder

Trying not to scare the birds away by taking a picture from the further window.
Trying not to scare the birds away by taking a picture from the further window.
At our old place we only sort of had a yard. Our first two landlords (yes, the property ownership changed hands twice during the 21 years I was there) were quite happy to let us manage the two flower beds near our door, and to grow tomatoes in containers, but the lawn portion of the yard and the bushes had to be left as they were. The original landlord had very specifically said he did not want Ray and I to put up a bird feeder, because in his experience they just attracted rats. When the new owner took possession (after Ray died and after Michael and I had gotten together), she said she had no objection if I wanted to put up a bird feeder. But then the question became where.

I will freely admit that much of the appeal of a bird feeder for me is to actually get to see (and hear) the birds. So I wanted to hang it somewhere that I could see it from a window in the house, right? But at the old place I almost always kept the curtains closed, because most of the windows were very close to either the sidewalk (and there was a lot of foot traffic in the old neighborhood) or the walkway to the neighbors’. So whenever the curtains were open it felt as if I were on a stage rather than in my own home. And because the lot the building was on had a steep slope, and our unit was essentially a split-level, the only window whose curtains were routinely open was in the computer room, where the windowsill was about 10 feet from the ground. So if I had found a location to hang the feeder where I could see it from that window, we would have required a ladder on uneven ground to refill the feeder. The upshot was that there was no place that appealed to me to put a feeder so we never had one.

At the new place our veranda is on the third floor (from that side of the building) with tall tress screening most of the view. There are blinds instead of curtains on all the windows, which give us more options. The blinds of the big living room window and the sliding glass door, for instance, are almost always open.

Shortly after we moved in, we bought a sock-style bird feeder kind of on impulse. A friend had been talking about all the goldfinches he got visiting the sock-style feeder he had on the balcony of his apartment, so when I saw one in the store, I grabbed it. After we hung it up, I got one sparrow, but not eating from the feeder. It was eating the seeds that had spilled on the deck when we first set up the feeder.

The feeder was out there all summer. We moved it a few times, thinking that maybe being too close to the window was a problem. It wasn’t just that we never saw any birds at the feeder, the amount of seeds never changed, and there was no bird poop underneath the feeder (something several people warned us we’d be cleaning a lot of once birds starting using the feeder).

I see and hear birds outside from time to time, but never at the sock. I eventually came to the conclusion that at least some of the seeds had started rotting inside the sock, and that clearly a sock-style feeder wasn’t recognized as a food source by the birds in our neighborhood. But I still wanted to try to get some birds visiting the veranda. So we picked up a different type of feeder and a fresh bag of birdseed. I hung the feeder up Saturday. It was raining most of Saturday, and the only birds I saw flying around were crows.

But Sunday morning, while I was out on the veranda having a mug of coffee. A chickadee started flitting in the vicinity of the feeder. It kept flying near it, then flitting away and chirping. Probably being scared off by me. So I went inside. As soon as I got the glass door shut and had walked over the the other window the bird was perched on the feeder and eating enthusiastically. And as I watched, a brown sparrow landed on the other side. They chirped at each other and kept eating. I figured if I opened the blinds further to try to take a picture that would scare them off, so I went over to the glass door to get a picture from there. The second bird had flitted away by the time I had the shot lined up. About five minutes later it was back. I sat down in the living room and just watched them through the blinds.

More birds coming to the feeder!
More birds coming to the feeder!
Over the course of the day, more birds showed up. Some birds went after the seeds that got scattered onto the deck by the other birds eating at the feeder. It appears that the new feeder is a success. I’m hoping this means that there will be a lot more birdsong audible at our house.

Fairy ring!

Toadstools on the lawn. (Click to embiggen)
The toadstools growing in a roughly circular formation in our lawn.
Late Sunday afternoon I ran to the store to stock up on certain things. The local union is about to start a strike against a bunch of the stores (specifically several of the big chain stores) and I really don’t want to cross picket lines. The closest grocery store to us is a union store but it is not subject of the strike because it is part of a smaller, local chain that isn’t screwing over the workers in the way the big chains are. But said store, even though I like shopping there, has a smaller selection than the other stores.

When I got home, Michael came out to help me unload, and he pointed out something I had missed: a fairy ring! Toadstools coming up in a large ring on the lawn, right next to the car. So I had to take a picture…

Continue reading Fairy ring!

The wettest September ever

Otter running on frozen pond.
Walking on water’s easy, if it’s cold enough!
We broke a bunch of weather records, again. Saturday was the wettest September day ever recorded in Western Washington. Not the wettest day, but the wettest ever in a September. And before Saturday, we had already gotten enough rain that 2013 was going to be at least the third wettest September in Seattle on record. Then we had the record-breaking Saturday, and Sunday was almost as wet, and it rained more on Monday…

Continue reading The wettest September ever

Green(ish) thumb

When Ray and I first started dating he had a small collection of houseplants, each with a story. Ray had been working in the home health care industry for several years at that point, and a lot of his work had been taking care of people who were dying. The families of several of his patients had sometimes asked him to take a plant that the patient had been tending. Ray said that often friends of people who were that severely sick would bring in plants to give the person a bit of the outdoors, or something. So after the patient died there might be a dozen plants in the person’s room

I had once or twice previously tried to keep a houseplant or two, but they never lasted long. When Ray and I first moved in together, taking care of the plants was his chore.

We acquired a few more. I wound up with some office plants from him (it had to do with my employer moving to a new building and several of us experiencing weird hay fever type symptoms in our offices; once I had a couple of big plants, mine went away). I had to learn to keep the plants alive. So I bought a couple of books. Soon, I was keeping multiple kinds of plant food around, managing the rotation of which nutrients and how concentrated based on the time of year.

When Ray got sick, I went from merely helping him with the home plants (while being fully responsible for my office plants) to being in charge of all of them. By the time he died, when a bunch of people sent flowers and sometimes plants, I was no longer convinced that any houseplant I was taking care of was doomed.

So it was a bit of trauma for me when one of the plants I had inherited from Ray—one of the plants he’d already owned when we met—began dying. At first I told myself that maybe it was just naturally dying of old age. But then I learned that Christmas Cactuses have lived for 70 years or more in greenhouses, getting to be the size of small trees. So, I learned more about them. I re-potted it, I checked the moisture level and pH of its soil every couple of days, and basically obsessed over it for weeks.

It still died.

This weekend I finally admitted that four of the houseplants that have been dying for months are unsalvagable and replaced them. Some of my friends think I should have given up on a couple of them a while back. I frequently adhere to the rule best articulated by the character of Keith the AIDS patient in the movie Latter Days: “We never throw anything out that isn’t completely dead. Right?”


According to the Shropshire Word-Book, written by Georgina Jackson and published in 1879, “It is called catchin’ time when in a wet season they catch every minute of favourable weather for field work.”

We have a weird relationship with time. When I was a kid, adults in my life put a lot of importance on how early one got up in the morning. If you were the sort of person who regularly got up at dawn (or earlier), you were obviously a morally upstanding, productive member of your community. If you slept in a bit later, but still got up “early” and started your workday sometime well before 9am, you were still a good person, though perhaps not quite as good and hard-working as the people who got up earlier. If you slept in until “all hours of the day,” there was something seriously wrong with you, and you were clearly leading a life of decadence bound for a (deservedly) horrible end.

Exceptions were made for people who had jobs that required them to work “graveyard” shifts, and the like, but even then, there were implications that this was only-just tolerated as a necessary evil.

I became especially cognizant of this in my early twenties, when I was juggling part-time college with multiple part-time jobs, one of which was a night job. A number of my relatives could not understand why I thought it was all right to sleep in past nine just because I had worked late, then stayed up to finish homework, and didn’t have to be at class or work until afternoon. They would quote folk proverbs and Bible verses at me about how early risers were healthy and successful, and only the wicked “slept the day away.”

Which, unless one is working in agriculture or some other vocation where sunlight is literally necessary to the work at hand, is nonsense.

While the human wake-and-sleep cycle is moderated by sunlight, it is part of a complex system of neuro-chemicals and hormones. The release of some of those chemicals are stimulated by the detection of sunlight, but it isn’t exactly the same in every person. There really are some people who are biologically wired to be morning people, some that aren’t, and even some who are definitely night people.

I am not one of those morning people. Getting me up and about before sunrise is a seriously unpleasant chore, no matter how early I go to bed. Even when I do get up regularly at a particular hour after a good night’s sleep, my brain never feels as if it is firing on all cylinders until a couple of hours after sunrise. In the summertime that’s no problem, but in winter—when sunrise at my latitude doesn’t happen until nearly 8 am—that makes working a 9-to-5 office job less than ideal.

Which is why I’m grateful that at least some flextime is fairly standard in my industry for my kind of work.

The flip side is that in the summer, when sunrise is much earlier, it’s a lot easier for me to get into the office and productive earlier in the day, and more likely that I will leave the office earlier, so that I can enjoy the sunny evenings.

Which is why I have a lot less hatred for the arbitrary annual movement of the clock forward and back than many of my friends. I understand perfectly well that the amount of sunlight we get in the summer is the same, no matter what any of us arbitrarily set our clocks to. But, because the official business world does follow that convention, and even in a flextime environment, one is expected to stay at the office until that hour hand creeps into the vicinity of the 5, the artificial temporary movement of that hour to earlier in the solar day gives me more time to appreciate and enjoy the sun when I am awake and out of the office.

So, it works for me. I’m sorry that it does nothing more than annoy some others.