Saturday, July 31, 2004

Given the stresses of planning the second major trip of the summer, which like the first will include some intense professional obligations in addition to sightseeing, the blog has been sparse at best and banal at worst. So, I'm going to try another approach for a while, to get some creativity chugging along. (The fact that our neighbors' garage band is playing blues and oldies covers in their garage -- very well, in fact -- is causing me major creativity envy.)

Here's how it works. Each blog entry for the next week or so will relate to the one that came immediately before it. Maybe heavily, maybe tangentially. Maybe in a premeditated manner; maybe spontaneously. Maybe daily, maybe twice daily, maybe twice weekly. Or maybe I'll change my mind.

So, let's see, what shall I start with? I know -- how about a bug-related anecdote?

A few years back, I took an imaging course in Western Michigan University's microscopy lab. Like many other workplaces, especially those around universities, the lab sported topical newspaper clippings over many of its wall surfaces. One comic, consisting of a single long panel, has always stayed with me. It started with a drawing of a large, nondescript scarab pushing a dark ball of glop in front of it. The bug was labeled:


Behind it was a smaller frass pellet, labeled:


Pushing the pellet was a second beetle, labeled:


... and behind this equally incontinent insect, a teeny-tiny-pellet labeled:


Now, by itself this was a source of considerable amusement to a scatologically-minded entomologist wannabe, and of course I wanted to share the amusement, so I pointed it out to a few classmates and started to read the legend aloud -- and only then realized the true nefariousness of the caption. I really don't know whether the cartoonist intended this, but if you read that caption aloud, and you're either my age or a fan of classic TV, you'll realize to your horror that the caption can be sung to the tune of the theme from Bonanza.

Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle,
Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung dung dung.
Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle,
Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung dung dung.
Dung dung dung,
Dung dung dung,
Dung beetle dung dung dung,
Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle,
Dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung beetle dung dung dung.

You're welcome. If you'd like an earwig to chase away the earworm, I can get you some from my milkweed patch.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Wish me luck during my second bout with progressive bifocals. The first ones, a couple of years ago, were never quite satisfactory. The new ones seem to be a much better match. Plus, I was able to find plastic frames that are big enough to not only accommodate the lenses, but to look good in combination with my eyes. Southern European ancestry plus childhood hyperthyroidism make one permanently unsuited to the tiny little peeper frames that seem to have become so popular over the last few years. Plus, my newly retired (non-bifocal) glasses were wire-rims with nosepieces that always managed to hurt after an hour, something I've never experienced with plastic frames.

The accompanying prescription sunglasses are pretty cool too. If you ever wondered what a member of the 1980s new-wave crowd would hang on her face to combat both UV and presbyopia twenty years later, watch this space.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Just washed off a sweaty cocktail of sunblock, DEET, and formic acid, which had built up in layers after we first re-annoyed the Formica exsectoides in the Allegan State Game Area and then chopped up some of the weedy trees that are taking over our yard. The first task is something I've blogged about in the past; just as I did on my first excursion to the ant mounds last year, I was trying to ascertain whether the ants were rearing reproductives yet. I didn't see any queen or drone pupae, nor any pupae at all for that matter, and Cathy had given me strict instructions to avoid destroying any mounds by digging too deeply, so I gave up after an hour or so. There's really little incentive to dig too far into an F. exsectoides mound, and quite a lot not to, because the little buggers (as previously noted) are ferocious as hell, defend their nests like a militia chapter on crank, and occur in immense numbers -- probably literally tens of millions in a large colony. If I wanted to come up with a mildly crude "bug-off" T-shirt slogan that would be appreciated by most eastern U.S. myrmecologists without question, I think this one would work:

20,000,000 Allegheny Mound Ants Can't Be Wrong

As for the weedy trees: What I can't understand is how -- if Rick can spend about seven or eight hours chopping, hacking, and bundling away, and I help for at least a third of that time -- we still seem to have exactly the same biomass of weedy trees around our property? I think we should forget the yardwork and put in a vine swing. The appropriate leopard-print athletic wear shouldn't be hard to find, given the number of retro-themed used clothing stores around Kalamazoo.