urbpan: (dandelion)
So, much of 2016 was terrible. I won't go into why, you either agree with me or you think the chicago cubs are more important than america. So much death and heartbreak, and my response has been to drink way too much, eat garbage, and scroll down my tumblr page with a dead look in my eyes. In an effort to become a healthy productive member of the Resistance, I am making this post to remind myself that creativity is the animating force of humanity, and that making an effort to be creative--even if that output is terrible, and much of it will be--will make me feel like a better human.

BLOGGING: if I can get god damned photobucket to work, I'll resume taking pictures of urban nature and dogs and public art and other things that make me happy, and post them here. And tumblr and probably facebook too.

NATURE WALKS: This continues to be vital--get out there, take pictures, talk to people about what we're seeing, blog about it, watch the seasons change, drink in life and nature.

PODCASTS: I kind of have two now: Species of Least Concern, which is about urban nature and such, and Doc Talks, which is conversations with my dad. I have other ideas too, the limiting factors are my own damn laziness, and the fact that it costs money to upload and store these things. I'm on soundcloud at the moment.

MUSIC: I love music and I wish I made some. It's kind of easy to make on GarageBand. It will be terrible, but I should just do it. No one needs to hear it. I'm better at coming up with titles than anything else--two songs that need to be written include "Kill the Nazis" and "White People Get Your Shit Together."

CLAY: My most persistent fantasies involve making stuff out of clay--I have an airy comfortable studio, Alexis throws beautiful pots and vases, and I make monsters to stick on them. I do not have a studio or a wheel, but I do have a box of Sculpey and I should get back to making monsters with it.

BATTLE VEST: I have no need for a battle vest, a piece of denim armor covered in buttons, patches, spikes, and bones. And yet I keep making one, in my imagination. I blame @KatieAaberg. I have a shit ton of patches and buttons, all I need is the vest and the ability to sew. It would be good to know how to sew. It would be fun to resume collecting bones, too.

Other things: I dunno. I'm writing this with an overcaffeinated brain during a break at work. The above items were making my mind itch, but I'm sure there's other stuff that I want to be creative with that I'm not thinking of right now. Also I ran out of anti-depressants two days ago so I should probably deal with that.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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On Sunday I did something that would have horrified my past self: I bicycled for the exercise. Here's my 3:00 snapshot break, at the Tahiti.
urbpan: (dandelion)
It was quite a nice surprise to hear my story of being covered with peacock lice repeated on the Caustic Soda Podcast! If you would like to hear all about lice, with a balance of good science information, dumb jokes, and grossness, listen here. Thanks to lj friend [livejournal.com profile] wirrrn for immortalizing my tale of bird lice in my beard.
urbpan: (dandelion)
Lately I've been enjoying Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, it's an NPR culture show but not on any local station--I discovered it because the eponymous authoritative nerd host's connection with John Hodgman. Jesse is the bailiff on the Judge John Hodgman podcast, but more than that he runs the Maximum Fun podcast network, with 3 or 4 podcasts that I subscribe to and a dozen or more that I don't. Only so much time in the day.

Bullseye covers some stuff that you'd expect from an NPR interview show--soul legend Bill Withers, noir pioneer Elmore Leonard--but also is unexpectedly hip. Punk, metal, and "heavy" music are covered, as well as "alternative" comedians and cult cinema. Most interesting is Jesse Thorn's fluency with the world of hip hop. I've heard him interview several rappers. Prodigy of Mobb Deep was disarmed by Thorn's respectful well-researched questions, Big Boi of Outkast seemed downright grateful for his thoughtful treatment, but Bun B of UGK took issue with Thorn's interpretation of one of his songs. But Jesse came to the interview with an interpretation of the song! He comes to all his hip hop interviews with an understanding of the context and artistry of rap--I can't decide if this is a benefit or a detriment to the show's future success on NPR.

Jesse is currently off on paternity leave, and has had a slew of entertaining fill-ins. His best friend and sidekick (on the comedy podcast Jordon Jesse Go!) had fun with a couple episodes, discussing cult movie bomb/sensation "The Room" and the Bad Religion Christmas album. NPR’s sports guy Mike Pesca is a seasoned professional but his voice sounds like an index finger being jabbed into your chest. Award-winning author Susan Orlean has a radio voice like a sexy android. The New Yorker columnist surprised with an almost fawning interview of Jack Black. She also revealed her taste in the heavy music segment when she described one piece of electronic metal as sounding like "a washing machine with something loose in it."

If you are an NPR listener and want something less dry and dusty than the usual fare, definitely give Bullseye a chance.
urbpan: (dandelion)
In case you haven't noticed, I'm momentarily obsessed with a certain band. Unfortunately, I keep writing their name incorrectly.

They are: The Darkest of The Hillside Thickets. My apologies for past instances writing "darkness" and omitting one of the "the"s. They are a Canadian concept band making music inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft.

I came to be aware of them on account of this song being available as Rock Band DLC:

I just bought their album "The Shadow Out of Tim" on the strength of the songs "Nyarlathotep" and "Marine Biologist" (best chorus ever? "He's got a bathyscape...!")

I'm trying very hard not to buy this t-shirt since I already have too many t-shirts and 25 dollars is too much even for one this spectacularly amazing. I would totally buy it at a live show, but I would have to go to Canada, since they refuse to cross into the US since our border security is obnoxious.

Members of the band are also involved in the Caustic Soda podcast, which I tried to listen to once and got annoyed with it. I'm going to try again.
urbpan: (dandelion)
There's a lot of talk about eating cicadas on the internet these days--probably I'm encountering it through my own self-filtering. Brood II, in case your own self-filtering has insulated you from this knowledge, is one of the 17 year cicada events on the east coast. From North Carolina to southern Connecticut there will be millions upon millions of large red-eyed insects emerging from their prime number slumber to ascend trees and emit their decibel-shattering love call.

I've only ever experienced annual cicadas--green, "dog day" cicadas which are loud and briefly plentiful, but nothing like these periodical events. I'm eager to travel to the action, perhaps to New Haven, a city I've never visited but that everyone assumes I'm from when I say I grew up in Connecticut.

There seems to be a certain amount of anxiety about this cicada event, fear driven by...I don't know what exactly. The way that cicadas look? The fact that there will suddenly be thousands around, making encounters between humans and these insects more likely? A friend posted a photo of a display of insecticides from (presumably) a hardware store, prominently advertising the fact that the products would kill cicadas. This is the worst kind of fear-pandering, since killing these animals does exactly nothing to control the "problem" of 17 year cicadas. They are active for a short period during one summer, mate and lay eggs, and then disappear again for the length of time that it takes a human to become an adult. So it may appear that by spraying whatever poison around you have made them go away, but they will go away with or without your participation.

The entomophagy community is using the UN recommendations and the Brood II emergence as a synergistic opportunity to promote bug-eating. Supposedly a southern Connecticut sushi restaurant is preparing to (or joking about) make cicada sushi. I'll take the tempura, please--uncooked invertebrates are likely to harbor parasites. This NatGeo Article helpfully adds "[their] plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor."

Of course most Westerners are not among the 2 billion people of the world who already include insects as part of their diet. There's a taboo on this class of arthropod, a disgust borne purely from cultural bias. My favorite recent analysis comes from (of course) a comedian, Andy Zaltzman, on The Bugle Podcast:

"There's no way I'm prepared to eat insects. Mashed up connective tissue of pigs? Yeah, yeah, I'm happy with that. The livers of birds that basically amount to aerial vermin? Yeah! The hacked to pieces corpse of a mechanically slaughtered baby cow? Absolutely! Insects? Never! Unless they're basically insects that live in the sea, in which case, OH YEAH give me a bit of mayonnaise and let me rip its head off! And eat it whole, stomach included, in one go--I don't care if it's dead eyes are staring at me, and if it was waving at me from a bucket ten minutes ago--YUM."
urbpan: (dandelion)
Thanks for checking in on me, Alexis and I are fine. I'm feeling weird inappropriate emotions, mostly rage--not at anyone or any thing in particular, just rage. So irrational, so out of control, you can take a deep breath and relax but then the tension comes into your chest and you can't stand it any more and take it out on a car door or a stick or something. You find yourself thin-skinned with buttons almost pre-pushed, so any little thing will make you fucking scream.

I've contacted my brother and father, and checked in with the facebook and the twitter. I don't have anything smart or good to say, but Patton Oswalt does: https://www.facebook.com/pattonoswalt/posts/10151440800582655

Patton says that the good people far outnumber the bad and he's right.

Another comedian philosopher I've been paying attention to is Paul Gilmartin and he reminds us every week: You're not alone.

Life update

Nov. 8th, 2012 05:55 pm
urbpan: (dandelion)
I feel like I should just update my life, since the snapshots don't show you everything.

Alexis picked us up 3 chickens on Monday, a buff Orpington and two "Easter-eggers." I will continue using scare quotes around "Easter-eggers" until I don't feel like it's an unbearably silly name. These are chickens that contain genes from South American araucana chickens, specifically the genes that lead to variable and unusual egg colors. None of the hens have laid eggs yet but can you blame them? I give them credit for not freezing to death.

Winter weather suddenly arrived this week surprising all including the meteorologists, who I think should be ashamed. Publicly. Italy sentenced their seismologists for manslaughter, we should punish our weather forecasters, maybe make them buy me long underwear or something. I've come to believe that extreme weather is the new norm, and we're all going to start dressing like mountain climbers year round and we'll all own kayaks and generators and fire-powered cell phone chargers.

I'm still working on my podcast--I'm in the writing stage of episode 12 right now. I don't think it's very good yet, but I know it never will be good unless I keep making them. I am in awe of the workaholic maniacs who produce the podcasts I listen to: Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick, Paul F. Tompkins, Dan Savage, John Hodgman, Jesse Thorn, John Moe, John and Andy, Helen and Ollie, and gods love her [livejournal.com profile] ursulav and her podcast "Lightweight nerds get drunk and eat bad food." I'm still looking for ways to get the podcast up on iTunes to make it easier for people to listen to, and apparently explicitly asking Alexis for help might be the key. I'll let you know.

We have a new foster puppy whose given name was "Tomato" but has earned the name "Turtle" for his habit of getting stuck on his back for amusingly long periods of time. Friend one or both of us on facebook to get far too many puppy updates, including videos.
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At long last, there is a new episode of my podcast! Episode eleven, only eleven minutes long.
It is HERE and I speak about orange mushrooms and domestic cats. I invite controversy on one of these topics--you guess which one.
Please listen, please give feedback!
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I want to make a proper lj post but the next ones I have queued up are about stilt bugs and moldy mushrooms--doesn't seem fair after you guys were so generous kicking in to renew my paid account.

I suppose I can say a little something about my podcast "The Species of Least Concern." The most recent episode I talked about the tiger bee fly and the cross orbweaver. Haven't seen the bee flies lately, though I saw a bunch in the week before I recorded the podcast. But I've been seeing cross orbweavers everywhere--don't know if it's because now I know what they are so I'm more tuned to noticing them, or if there are more of them around than there used to be.

My podcast has a website: http://speciesofleastconcern.com/
And if you'd rather download it than stream it you can do that here: http://soundcloud.com/urbpan/species-of-least-concern-2

Oh, I heard an story on NPR today about West Nile Virus: there is a lot of it going around this year. When they asked the expert why that was so, he said that it could be because of how mild last winter was or because of how hot this summer has been WITHOUT MENTIONING ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE. I mean, okay, you're a scientist and you make hypotheses you don't jump to conclusions, but come on dude. At least mention the fact that since temperatures are going up, that conditions for the mosquitoes that carry WNV will continue to be favorable, and the disease is likely to get worse and spread further north.

Not to alarm anyone.

Maybe I should mention that in my podcast and then enter my podcast into the Voices for Climate contest, whatever that is.

In conclusion, puppy makes me sleepy.

Thanks again for donating! I'll get you back when your time rolls around.
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Here's the newest Species of Least Concern Podcast, episode #005! In this episode I talk about our recent BioBlitz, identifying insects that are hiding inside plants, the beauty of plain moths, and how to make the most out of a summer trip to the zoo!

Links mentioned:

The Caterpillars of Massachusetts, a gallery of beautiful lepidopteran larvae by Sam Jaffe.

Bug of the day! Subscribe to get bugs in your email! or, See the whole set on Flickr.

Dedham Natural Wonders also Dedham Natural Wonders on Facebook

Species of Least Concern Podcast page on Facebook

Species of Least Concern website and iTunes availability coming soon!
urbpan: (Default)
Hey everyone! The second episode of my podcast is up!


Please listen to it and if you like it, "like" it on facebook. If you don't like it, don't be shy tell me why!

If you want me to keep making them, please offer suggestions for topics or send me stuff to identify! Future episodes will have other peoples' voices besides my own, as I hope to hold interviews via skype, or even in person if I can swing it!

It's only eleven minutes long, just put it on as you do the dishes or something.
urbpan: (Default)
I'm still feeling my way through all the technology, but I think I just created the first episode of my new podcast!

It appears to be here: http://soundcloud.com/urbpan/solc-001

There are many things I would like to change (such as knowing the software better so that the intro/outro music I made would actually be there) but I'm happy to have one done. Let me know what you think.

No seriously HERE it is: http://soundcloud.com/urbpan/species-of-least-concern

um. okay. here: http://soundcloud.com/urbpan/speci
*massages temples* *gets drink of water (wait is that really water?)*

Forgive me, I'm still learning the software.
I would still very much like to know what you think about it!
urbpan: (Default)
Hi gang! I missed a few days because I went to my dad's retirement party and then spent a couple days hanging out with my brother and my father*. I have dozens of photos to post and my regular stuff to catch up on. Do I start new projects in order to procrastinate the old ones? A question for therapy, which I will start when I need to procrastinate going to the dentist or something.

So I've written a few pages of script for the Species of Least Concern Podcast and I figure I'll ad lib for a few minutes about stuff people have had me identify lately. I'd also like to begin taking questions and starting discussions on a page totally devoted to the podcast. First I thought facebook made the most sense, then I took a look at it and remembered that timeline makes it so nobody can find anything ever, and I'd just get the same questions over and over again and no one would be able to look at it for five minutes without getting bored and frustrated anyway. I'm a little scared of Tumblr, and livejournal is my safe space where I can be myself more or less, as long as I use an lj cut. I will use my twitter feed because it's convenient (if evanescent) but I need a more stable home base for the print content of my podcast. You guys have got all the bright ideas, lay 'em on me!

*My dad's speech was great, but the best part might have been the vigorous frisbee game where both the 42 year old son and the 77 year old father fell down at different times. Ow my knee!

**There's some urgency involved, because I don't feel like I can start uploading podcasts until I have a place I can send people with questions and comments.
urbpan: (Default)
A friend sent me a news story entitled: "Venomous Spiders of Unknown Origin Take Over Indian Town." I won't encourage the news aggregator responsible for the sensationalist and nonsensical headline, instead I'll link to the Times of India story with a different, equally nonsensical headline, complete with scare quotes around the words "Tarantula" and "kill": ‘Tarantulas’ invade Assam town, ‘kill’ two

Okay, deep breath. So sorry that two innocent people have died in whatever happened in this place. First some pedantry: all spiders are venomous, very few are equipped to bite humans, relatively few of those actually cause harm in the extremely rare case that they do. Second, "take over?" "invade?" Are these spiders from outer space?

No, they may be from Australia, however, which may be worse. The famous Australian funnel web spider (are you out there [livejournal.com profile] wirrrn?) is aggressive and has a dangerous bite, and looks sufficiently tarantula-like to be called a "tarantula," as long as we understand the quotes to mean "not really." How then to explain the quotes around the word "kill?" That's usually a cut-and-dried situation, unless the headline writer was alluding to the victims' already living their next lives (either as spiders or science journalists, depending on their karma). Sorry, I hate to be making light of these poor people, one of whom was a six year old child. The story does offer some clarity in this paragraph:

"We cannot say for sure that the fatalities were due to the venom; it could have been because of allergic reaction to the venom, which triggered cardiac arrest in both the victims. But all the bite patients first went to witch doctors, who cut open their wounds with razors, drained out blood and burnt it. That could have also made them sick. Also, we didn't administer any antivenin dose, as we were not sure if the spider was venomous," says Dr Anil Phatowali, superintendent, Sadiya Civil Hospital.

He adds that the hospital is ill-equipped to handle crises due to manpower crunch, erratic power supply and equipment shortage.

So here we have a tragedy exacerbated by poverty and extremely questionable traditional medicine practices, and possibly allergies. The mystery remains: where did the spiders come from, why are there so many of them, and what species are they dealing with? Authorities apparently have at least one spider in hand (and if this is an "invasion" of some scale, it shouldn't be hard to get more) then it's a matter of getting a picture of them up on the internet.

I was sent this story via twitter, where I've been trying to crowd-source a title for my hypothetical new podcast; I was honestly planning to do much of the first podcast on the subject of spider bites. Still not a bad idea.

My new title idea, to run by you all, is "The Species of Least Concern Podcast."

I loved it a few hours ago when I was caffeinated, now I'm not so sure. Probably need more caffeine.
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Depending on how you measure the seasons, it is the beginning of Summer or the end of Spring. Here in the Boston area it means an explosion of living things into people's lives. All winter long people who are afraid of or vexed by insects and spiders and slimy things can rest easy, but now there are things flying, crawling, and oozing into prominence.

A coworker brought me a red beetle in a ziplock bag. "I found this on our lily plants. What is it and why does it scream?" I answered: it's a lily leaf beetle, and you are imagining the screaming. I assume that she's imagining the screaming, anyway. Alexis has been picking tons of these things off the tiger lilies and hasn't heard any screaming yet. I'll pay close attention when I find them. Interestingly (to me) they've only been in the US since 1992, and they were first found in Massachusetts. So far the best way I know to control them is to pick them off the plants (and drop them into soapy water or some other household doom). Their eggs are red things attached to the underside of the lily leaves, and the larvae are disguised by their own droppings as misshapen clumps of bug poo.

A friend on facebook posted a picture of some spiky yellow growth swarming over a plant (and tagged it with my name, forever on my timeline). I told him it was early stage Fuligo septica, or dog vomit slime mold. He was familiar with the species, but hadn't seen it in that stage before. I've seen it once or twice before crawling on a live plant, rather than along dead wood, and it does seem strange.

Also on facebook this week: a giant leopard moth, an ectobius cockroach (a European native that lives outdoors but occasionally gets inside and scares the crap out of people who think they have an infestation) and a badly mutilated luna moth. I am honored to be the person that people come to with creature questions.

Via twitter a friend described "a cross between a silverfish and a pillbug." I struggled with this until the friend, a graphic designer by trade, sent this very accurate rendering of a common striped (or "fast") woodlouse.

Now my question to you is: if I made this kind of content available in podcast form, would you bother to listen to it?
urbpan: (Default)

Futurama nap.

The new LJ cliche is to complain about spammers, and god DAMN it's getting bad.
Now it's about an 8 to 1 ratio of spam to real comments. I hate the idea of locking my journal, but I'm not sure what else to do. If I did that it would essentially block my journal from my dad. I suppose I just just ignore the spam like everyone else does, and just delete it as I come across it, instead of meticulously deleting every message that comes through. Do those people even sell anything, or are they just making money by having their scam be higher on searches than others (which I assume is the point of posting their stupid links on my journal).

Oh, that reminds me: on the Bugle podcast John Oliver was describing the current roster of GOP presidential candidates and dismissed Rick Santorum as "A Platinum-grade arsehole." I appreciated that.
urbpan: (Default)

Some day I'll present the mushrooms that occur in urban (man-made or strongly human-influenced) environments. Winecaps, oysters, turkey tail, earthballs, mica caps, stuff like that. What format should I use? Should I have a website, a zine, something else? Why does my internal voice sound like Marc Maron? I think between his podcast and the new CD I've been overdoing it--maybe it's the coffee: POW!

Anyway, this is Mutinus caninus, the dog stinkhorn, famous for really really really looking like a dog's penis. We had fun with it when it was 365 urban species #175. Like other stinkhorns, it produces a bad-smelling mass of spores called a "gleba" which attracts coprophagic insects to spread its spores around. At a recent mushroom lecture I attended, the presenter verified my suspicion that stinkhorns are relatively recently evolved (making them "more highly evolved" fungi than others, if you look at it that way, which I guess you shouldn't) since they depend on animals to reproduce (as do flowering plants, another relatively recently evolved group, by way of comparison). I don't know if that's why the ants are busying themselves about this mushroom or not. The fungus is commonly found in the wood chips and mulch of urban landscaping, as it is here at Franklin Park Zoo.

I identified another stinkhorn for someone via twitter recently, thus: "Phallus stinkhorns, complete with santorum-mimicking spore mass (gleba)." Yes I'm so proud of that, that I had to share it again. (Whoops, wrong podcast.)


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