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I think it's time to keep track of some of the lesser known GOP douchholes


Rep Mark Walker NC 6th Duck Ramp douchehole -- tweeted about a duck ramp at the Capitol Reflecting Pool being government waste while the Trump Russia story was still white hot

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen NJ 11th -- Sent fundraising letter to bank, complaining that an employee was a progressive activist

Darryl Issa CA 49th -- Important switch from undecided to yes on the AHCA bill; reported to have flipped off a journalist


to be continued
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)
Loving a dog means getting your heart broken in 10 to 15 years. You know it's going to happen, but there is no way to prepare for it. This week he stopped eating and drinking, and on the infrequent times that he would walk, he would shake himself and fall down. We sent him back to the universe at 10 am this morning.



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The day before Halloween we had an Urban Nature Walk at good old Mount Auburn. Among other things, we saw North America's most massive bird species.

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I decided on a bit of a whim to do an Urban Nature Walk in Franklin Park. I took Charlie. We met one other walk participant there. I was there to find mushroom species for the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project.

many more pics )
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Turns out there's some nice fall color a short walk from the front door.

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On October 8th, we went to Cutler Park.

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I got some pictures off my camera today, from a walk we took the first weekend of October. As it turned out it was one of Maggie's last walks, so I'm glad I captured it.

14 more pics )
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When we first got Maggie she was 16 pounds and cute as the dickens. Here she is, 13 years ago tugging on the cord of a non-digital camera.
urbpan: (dandelion)
The pest control industry is a highly regulated multi-billion dollar global industry. The discovery that vinegar attracts fruit flies, or kills weeds, will not drive them out of business. As with most internet claims, if a helpful hint for pest control sounds too good to be true, it is. A good test of whether a substance or a product is effective at controlling pests is if a major pest control product distributor carries it in its inventory.

You see, critics of the pest control industry are right about one thing: they’re in it for the money. But their business model isn’t “conceal the fact that cinnamon works as a mild insect repellant so that we can sell more bug spray.” Their business model depends on developing and selling products that work as directed, and marketing them effectively. They know that some common substances like boric acid are effective—but instead of ceding the market to the laundry detergent folks, they have formulated products that contain boric acid, but that are more user friendly (contain anti-caking agents, or are combined with food-based baits, etc).

If you want to see if a pest control product distributor is serious about selling effective merchandise, look for ultrasonic repelling devices. These are popular plug-in devices that make a sound that humans can’t hear that other animals can. They don’t repel pests. This has been proven scientifically. If the distributor is selling these then they care more about making money than solving pest issues. Or you could check to see if they sell diatomaceous earth—this is an all-natural mineral substance that (when used properly) effectively kills insects and some other arthropods. It’s relatively safe to use around humans and other vertebrates, and is inexpensive. If the distributor refuses to carry DE products, then they likewise care more about the bottom line than serving their customers.

Of course prevention is always the most effective method of combating pests: if your house is clean and tidy, if all of your doors have doorsweeps and your windows have intact screens, if there are no holes in the walls or gaps at the bottom of the garage doors or cellar bulkheads, if you have properly landscaped your yard to keep it sunny and dry, if you have trash cans and recycle bins that are designed properly and removed and cleaned regularly, then you will have very little reason to spend money on either dangerous poisons that threaten your children and pets, or to misuse dryer sheets and mothballs in a misguided attempt to scare away mice, ants, and evil spirits.
urbpan: (dandelion)
Seven Ways You Can Make Yourself Sick Eating Wild Mushrooms

This is a speech I give during mushroom walks when there’s a lull between cool discoveries. I’m doing a mushroom walk for the first time in a few months this weekend so I could use a refresher, and hey maybe you’ll like it too.

1. The mushroom was poisonous. There’s a significant number of mushroom species out there that are poisonous. You can’t necessarily tell by the way they look, taste, or smell, or by cooking them with silver spoons. The only way to tell is to positively identify the mushroom, to species or at least species complex. It’s a difficult skill that can only be developed though study and especially experience. When in doubt, throw it out.

2. The mushroom itself wasn’t poisonous but it grew somewhere that provided some poison that the fungus put in the mushroom. There are some perfectly edible mushrooms out there that become sickening when they grow on Eucalyptus or Pine. There is one case I know of where a morel hunter gave himself heavy metal poisoning by collecting and eating lots of morels that all happened to be growing in old apple orchards that had been treated with Lead Arsenate decades earlier. Some people avoid collecting mushrooms along roads or railroad tracks for fear of fuel additives and other contaminants.

3.The mushroom wasn’t poisonous until you had booze with it. There are a few kinds of mushrooms that are considered edible but when you eat them within some time after (OR BEFORE) drinking alcohol, the reaction can make you sick. The anti-alcoholic drug Antabuse works the same way. Also, alcohol is a known poison, so if you drink more than you are used to you can make yourself sick—just because you happen to throw up mushroom fragments doesn’t mean the mushrooms are the culprit. If you are trying a new wild mushroom that you have positively identified, don’t have booze at the same time.

4.You are allergic. Some people are sensitive to some species of wild mushroom that are considered edible. Don’t try more than one new wild mushroom at a time. Did I mention that it should be positively identified as an edible species yet?

5. The mushroom is too old. Imagine you found a steak or a carrot in the woods—it just has a little slimy rotten part on it, just cut it off and eat the rest right? An old mushroom is probably growing bacteria, and you have no way of knowing if it will make you sick. Eat only fresh mushrooms that you have positively identified as an edible species.

6. You ate too much. But I had three pounds of chanterelles! The dry weight of mushrooms is mostly chitin, the indigestible polysaccharide that also forms the skins of insects, the beaks of squid, and the horrible mouthparts of some parasitic worms. If you load your stomach with it, it’s as if you ate a heaping casserole of shredded newspaper. Also keep in mind that the dose is the poison—people who die from Amanita poisoning usually ate a ton of them. Survivors report that they taste good. There are some edible Amanitas, but I will never eat them, why chance it?

7. You didn’t cook it long enough. Some cultures call certain mushroom species edible—but only when they are cooked. I avoid these. Remember the chitin? The longer you cook it the more digestible it becomes. Chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sp.) is a highly prized edible—I lightly sautéed some because I didn’t want to lose the chicken-like texture, and got made myself real sick. If you are going to collect wild mushrooms for food, get a reputable guide—something made of paper, not some weirdo’s web page—and follow the most timid instructions. I should have cooked the Chicken mushroom for at least 20 minutes at high temperature. Now I know.
urbpan: (dandelion)
The grief is very fresh as we said goodbye to Maggie yesterday. She had a mast cell tumor and it spread to her central nervous system. We eased her to final sleep outside on the grass on a beautiful fall day. If you've been following this blog for a long time you know how important she was to us, if not, here's a little gallery of memories.

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Where were we? Oh yes, the 98 meter pyramid on the bank of the Mississippi in the city of Memphis Tennessee. It's a sporting goods store.

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The zookeeper conference this year was in Memphis, meaning a new city for us to explore!
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While searching for some back-up for my crazy pest control notions (clean trash cans and dining areas with a pressure washer to keep yellow jackets away) I came across this horrifically wrong article. I won't link to it for fear of driving unsuspecting traffic their way.

With summer on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about picnics and barbeques and all those fun outdoor activities! Wherever you bring food outside, inevitably pests like bees and wasps turn up ready to ruin your party. How do you keep bees away from your food? Here are some tips for getting rid of bees and wasps:


1. Clip On Bee or Wasp Repellent. This is an easy way to get rid of bees and wasps without using traditional wasp or bee repellents that come in spray bottles. The clip ons are just as effective, but there’s no worry about getting chemicals into your picnic food!


There is no such thing as wasp repellent (I'm going to ignore every time they say bee when they mean yellow jacket. I'm getting used to this bit of taxonomy fail.) Anyone who tries to sell you wasp repellent is guilty of fraud. Perhaps this blogger is talking about mosquito repellent. Knock yourself out.

2. Dryer Sheets. Dryer softener sheers are an easy way to keep away bees and wasps without using chemicals. Just leave a few sheets around your picnic table or areas you’re serving food. Best of all, your picnic will smell clean and fresh! You can also use dryer sheets to keep bees and wasps away from people. Simply rub the sheets on exposed skin, or keep a sheet or two in your pockets.

Not proven to work, but hey, as wastes of time and money are concerned this one is pretty minor. If your brand of dryer sheets don't have chemicals in them, you are being swindled. Do they have an odor? Chemicals.

3. Mothballs. These musty smelling balls act as an effective wasp repellent. Scatter them around your picnic area to get rid of bees and wasps. To ensure they don’t get in food or eaten accidentally, try tying a few in old pantyhose. Though mothballs are intended to kill moths in enclosed areas, in open spaces they perfectly safe for humans. Bees and wasps don’t like the smell so they work perfectly as a bee repellent.

HO LEE SHIT. Perfectly safe for humans?? This is by far the most irresponsible part of this article. Not only is this an "off-label" use of a pesticide (against federal law) but it's one of the most dangerous pesticides still in use.


4. Brown Paper Bags. One of the easiest ways to keep away bees and wasps is to hang up a blown up brown paper bag. Simply fill a bag with air and round it off to look like a bee or wasp nest. Bees and wasps are very territorial and will not venture near areas where there are other bees or wasps. It may sound silly, but it works.

Again, this is a harmless waste of time and money. Let me tell you about the times that I have found 3-5 different eusocial wasp nests in the same hundred square feet area.

5. Cut Up Cucumber. Bees and wasps dislike the scent of cucumber slices, so leaving a few of them around your food platters on a picnic is an easy way to keep wasps away with something you may already have on hand. And if your guests are hungry for a snack, you have a healthy one at the ready!


Do they dislike cucumbers enough to ignore the tuna salad and the apple juice? Try it and let me know.


6. Cloves. Bees and wasps don’t like the strong smell of cloves. Scatter a few around the perimeter of your picnic, to get rid of bees and wasps.

This is based on a grain of truth: clove oil is an insecticide. Is there enough clove oil in a jar of cloves that you scatter on the ground to keep aerial pests from visiting your picnic area. I'll stay skeptical on this one.

Hopefully these easy tips have taught you how to keep bees away from your next picnic, using a few materials you probably already have around the house!

And here's the real problem. There must be an easy fix using materials we already have around the house right? That easy fix is called don't eat outside in the summer. OR if you do, don't use anything containing sugar or meat, and while you're at it don't wear any products that smell like flowers or fruit. The truth is that there are (depending who you ask) about a dozen species of yellow jackets, two or three of which are very very attracted to human sources of food. Yellow jackets can be unpredictable: I have eaten an entire "meal" of chicken fingers, sweet and sour sauce (their favorite! Smells like fermenting fruit juice), and soda, all the while with yellow jackets all around, crawling on my hands and on the food. I was not stung. I have been stung, randomly, out of nowhere, just because I wandered close to a nest I didn't know about.

Use common sense and please don't misuse pesticides.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Urban Nature Walks happen on the last Sunday of the month--this shouldn't surprise me, but it often does. I sent out the call: is anyone else planning to walk somewhere? Fortunately my friend Teá said she was heading to Stonybrook Reservation to look for caterpillars! We ended up circumambulating Turtle Pond at a leisurely pace looking for all kinds of living things! This pair of bullfrogs is a good first sighting.

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Every growth, marking, bump, or blemish on a plant was made by something, and surprisingly often the cause can be closely traced to a particular animal. I could see from a distance that these hickory leaves had orangish spots on their underside.

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On close examination the spots were furry balls! These little growths are galls that have grown around insect eggs, in a weird bit of mostly harmless and stunningly common parasitization.

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These orange tribbles hide and protect the larvae of the hickory gall midge (Caryomyia sp.). The creature inside is a helpless pinpoint of a maggot that will grow into a fly so small that it would otherwise go completely unnoticed by humans.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I was called up to see a tree up in a non-public part of the zoo, which (the thought was) might have a hornet's nest in it. A hornet's nest in a tree is pretty obvious--either it's a big gray paper football, or it's hidden in a big dead cavity in the tree. This was a pretty small elm, with no big holes, no big paper nests, but plenty of wasps and hornets on and around it. However, there were other insects involved as well, such as this Calliphorid carrion fly.

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