Too cool, part 39

Just a quick one here, but check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day from Friday. It features an image of a meteoroid striking the moon during the total phase of the lunar eclipse the other night. This is pretty lucky timing, because had it occurred during any phase that had full sunlight on that portion, it would have been too dim to see against the reflected light of the moon itself, save for perhaps very sensitive measuring equipment, and even if it had occurred in the dark region of a partial moon, exposure times for the photos would likely have been too brief to register it.

edited estimated image of total lunar eclipse by naked eyeAnd seeing it in person? Not very likely, unless you had at least a decent set of binoculars or a telescope and were paying close attention. I edited one of my frames of the total eclipse here to give a rough idea of what it looked like to the naked eye – of course, back away from the screen enough until you can hide it under your thumb to get a more accurate size estimate. The meteoroid, by the way, was estimated to be quite small, perhaps about melon-sized, and to have left a crater 7-10 meters in diameter, which is roughly the footprint of a smaller house. So actually pretty cool to have been visible at all from 800,000 kilometers away.

Yes, I looked through all of my images, and no, I did not get even a hint of it. I only had a few frames from the approximate time period that it occurred within, and most of those were too badly focused to have registered it anyway, even if the timing had been bang on. So, fame eludes me once again. Well, greater fame, anyway…

Storytime 4

expressive sign on Rt 41, rural North Carolina
Not so much a story this time, as a more-than-accurate representation of rural North Carolina – or indeed, rural anyplace-in-America. I’d been out with The Girlfriend and, you know, that Jim Kramer, and we were returning from a little side trip out by Elizabethtown, NC, and Jones Lake State Park. Jim was driving, but I spotted the two primary elements in the image and made him turn around so I could get this shot – I assured myself no Buck-Roys were hanging around outside the hunting club before I positioned myself behind the sign, believe me.

I don’t do photojournalism much, mostly because it involves photographing people, but this is probably one of the most expressive shots that I’ve done, and it illustrates rural America pretty damn well, if anyone from another country wanted to get an impression from a single image. Pickup trucks are everywhere, and road signs with bullet dents are pretty common in any quiet area. And just to clarify for anyone that needs it, they’re typically from rifles, not handguns – this is not gang-related or anything of the sort, but bored yokels looking for something to shoot other than old bottles and cans (which require a hell of a lot more accuracy.) You’d think a hunting club would provide some other kind of opportunity, but there you go.

Now, I presently live in a bit more of an urbanized section, so bullet-ridden road signs are much less common. But there’s a different kind of damage instead, and it took me a while to figure it out. From time to time, really far too often, I’d see signs that were twisted and mangled, usually still attached to the posts and upright, which was what made them very curious. Mangled while lying flat, sure – some drunk-ass fuckhead, or some kid who wasn’t capable of handling a car at the speeds they were driving, had taken out a sign. But still attached to the poles? A utility truck lost a ladder in passing, maybe? But suddenly, after seeing one in a particular location and time, I knew what it was (especially since I’d almost seen it happen somewhere else): the guys trimming the roadside verges with the huge mower attachment on the end of a hydraulic arm are notoriously bad at watching what they are doing, and swinging the arm clear of the road signs before they make contact (or shutting the blade down when they lift the mower into a vertical position, as they really should and are probably required to do.) As you can see from my image above, most of the bullets never actually penetrated; road signs are tough. So mangling one with a mower almost certainly results in a bit of damage to the blades as well. I imagine that the budgets for such services could be vastly improved by hiring more people who can actually pay attention to what they’re doing.

[It occurs to me, as I type this, that I should see if there are any examples nearby to show you. Stay tuned.]

Stay with me here

You might recall that October 31st is International I Need Some More time Day and is actually 48 hours long instead of the usual 24. As handy as this is, it turns out there are repercussions, the biggest being that despite our valiant efforts, it still takes a certain amount of time for the Earth to orbit the Sun, which is where we get our concept of years. Thus, celebrating IINSMTD kinda screws things up by shifting the calendar around.

To compensate, January 23rd is January 23rd Does Not Exist Day, bringing us back to normal (well, nominal, let’s say.) This was determined by an astute group of astronomers, sociologists, and numismatists as being the least valuable day in the year, so the easiest to get rid of. Therefore, those that celebrated IINSMTD can find themselves back on track, perhaps soothing some of the enmity earned during the winter holidays.

You may have spotted what many perceive to be a problem, however. If January 23rd does not exist, then the holiday on that day cannot exist either, which is what eradicated that day to begin with, thus it exists, and so does the holiday. The majority of people consider this a paradox, but that’s actually incorrect. The existence or not of the day and/or the holiday are consequential; one relies on the other, so there is always a ‘then’ to any given ‘if.’ If we celebrate the holiday, then January 23rd does not exist. And if January 23rd does not exist, then we have no holiday to dismiss it. Rather than being mutually exclusive, they both exist in a constant state of flux relying on the other, creating not exactly perpetual motion, but perpetual changes of state at least. No energy is involved, and nothing physical, so this isn’t quantum indeterminacy or anything silly like that. Instead, this is Appellative Redeterminacy.

This is not to say that it has no impact, however. Since the day is in a constant state of flux between existence and nonexistence, then anything that happens today may not actually happen, depending on whether it happened (or not) in the picosecond between the day existing and the holiday eradicating it, or the picosecond between its nonexistence and the holiday’s extinction that brings it back. Just be aware that anything important today might not be.

Could be better, could be worse

Lunar eclipse at totality 01/21/19
So, if I had to pick something dramatic to get back into taking photos, the total lunar eclipse of 2019 really isn’t a bad choice. And it was certainly better than most of my other options, which are bare trees, overcast skies, and mud. We’ve really had too damn much rain lately.

The title has a double meaning. In part, it refers to the conditions: we had reasonably clear skies for this eclipse, which is rare enough because waaayyy too many astronomical events that I might have tackled in the past were clouded out (or on occasion ruined by a too-full moon.) A couple of very thin patches of clouds passed through, but very quickly, so I had mostly had a good view overall. That “very quickly” part is a hint at the down side of the conditions, which I mentioned in the previous post: markedly low temperatures with some gusty winds, making wind chill to be absolutely bitter – as I type this less than an hour after wrapping up photography for the evening/morning, it is -4°C (24°F) and dog only knows what the wind chill dropped it down to. All I can say is that, between brief sessions I was bringing the camera back into the house, and as I removed the memory card from the last session, the card itself was chilly. Touching any metal part of the tripod got painful in a hurry (yes, I was working without gloves because I needed the fine touch to keep making adjustments.)

The other meaning of the title refers, of course, to the images. The long lens I have is far from ideal and will be replaced eventually, but more of the impact came from the subject itself.

Total lunar eclipse of 1/21/19
What you’re seeing here is much brighter than what you’d see in person. The moon was so dim that I was having a devil of a time trying to get it within the viewfinder, and focus was strictly up for grabs – I did a lot of focus bracketing hoping to nail at least one in sharp focus. But there’s also the side-effects of all this, because a dim subject needs one of two things, if not both: a longer shutter speed, or a higher ISO. A longer shutter speed isn’t the best option, because the Earth is still turning, with the camera carried along, so there’s apparent motion from the moon at high magnification. But boosting the ISO doesn’t work all that well either, especially not with the Canon 30D, because its upper ranges are next to worthless – the grain and overall blotchiness at anything above ISO 400 doesn’t make for good images. The frame at top was shot at 1.3 seconds, f5.6, ISO 500, while the second one immediately above was 1.3 seconds, f5.6, ISO 320. I did a few at ISO 800, more towards the darkest phase (those above were very close to totality’s end,) and between that and the focus, they weren’t worth using.

The colors come from the sunlight filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere – the thicker, the redder; the top left portion of the moon was closest to the edge of the shadow cast by the Earth (the moon rarely gets centered in the shadow during an eclipse, and come to think of it, I’ll have to check to see if that’s even astronomically possible, given the inclination of the orbital planes.)

Twenty-some minutes later, I went back out to capture the emerging phase and demonstrate the huge difference in light levels.

moon leaving shadow, total lunar eclipse 1/21/19
At this point, by naked eye you can’t really make out much red in the shadowed portion at all, and you can see how badly I had to overexpose the sunlit portion to bring out the color in the shadow. This is .8 seconds, f5.6, ISO 320.

moon leaving shadow, total lunar eclipse 1/21/19
1/4 second, f5.6 at ISO 320. I will use this opportunity to point out how you can tell the difference between photos of an eclipse or simply a crescent moon: moon phases always describe a curve that touches the widest portion of the moon or, if you like, the centerline of the visible portion – call it the ‘poles’ if you like (rarely ever the actual poles, as in the axis of rotation, but the same basic idea.) Here, and especially in the photo from the previous post, you can see the tips of the curve are too far from the centerline.

moon leaving shadow, total lunar eclipse 1/21/19
1/5 second, f5.6 at ISO 320. Subtle difference, but 1/3 stop is noticeable in conditions like this.

moon leaving shadow, total lunar eclipse 1/21/19
We’ve dropped all the way to 1/80 second, f5.6 at ISO 320 now. The sunlit portion looks just about ‘normal’ while there is nothing to see from the shadowed portion. All four of these images were taken within 130 seconds of each other, so not a lot of motion from the shadow itself and the moon didn’t even leave my shooting frame (all of these are cropped, by the way.) To give you the translated numbers, there are six stops of exposure difference between the first and the fourth in the sequence, which means this last frame admitted 1/64th the light of the first in this series of four, and somewhere around 1/200th the first image in the post. A typical full-moon exposure would be around 1/640 second, f5.6 at ISO 320, but this exposure had to be longer because the sunlit portion is still is Earth’s shadow, the thinner penumbral one. I actually have an illustration I can use for this.

shadow showing umbra and penumbra
The sun is much bigger than the Earth of course, and while it’s distant enough to make the effect far subtler than this, it works the same. Notice the darkest shadow that gets narrower directly behind the lip balm, but the thinner ones spreading wider to either side of it. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon enters that darker shadow, called the umbra, but before and afterward it’s still passing through the lighter shadows to either side, the penumbras, which darken the moon a bit without being very obvious about it. Usually this can’t even be discerned by eye, but it does affect the exposure times for decent detail of the surface.

Anyway, that’s late enough – I’m going to bed.

We now go live to Walkabout Headquarters

Lunar eclipse in progression
I’m doing this mostly to thumb my nose at the Insouciant Mr Bugg, who likes to bray that he’s doing more than me and putting things up first. This was taken eight minutes ago as I type this, at 10:58 pm EDT, or 3:58 am Zulu (otherwise known as Greenwich Mean or Coordinated Universal Time, UTC.)

More will be coming, but it’s wickedly cold out there right now with a stiff wind, so no sequence shots or stacked multiple exposures or anything like that – I’m going to be lucky to keep the vibration out of the tripod. But I simply had to post this, because I’m evil.

Storytime 3

least tern Sternula antillarum
North Topsail Island is turning into a regular haunt for us, but years ago, I made a brief visit at the direction of a friend, since we were in the vicinity, and spent some time chasing the seabirds along the New River Inlet (and let me take this opportunity to chide people for ever using the name “New” for anything – what, do you think it’s never gonna get old or something? Hell, try to be a little creative at least.) The sky was clear, the sun was getting low but still bright and mostly behind me, and the birds were coming reasonably close – good conditions to do avian photography. One least tern (Sternula antillarum) in particular allowed me a nice sequence as it cruised along a predictable flight path. I don’t see terns very often, so I was happy to add it to my stock.

But now, take a look at the image below, shot in the same location and conditions not fifty seconds later, at only a slightly different angle.

unidentified tern showing catchlight
I could challenge you to find the difference, but there are far too many. I can’t even be sure what species this is because many of them sport these same basic characteristics, with subtle differences visible only in areas that I didn’t capture, for instance the upper body and wing edges. It could even be a juvenile of the same species above it. What I’m drawing attention to, however, is the eye, specifically the bright reflection therein that’s called a catchlight. I’ve mentioned this multiple times before, but this is a goal of nature photographers quite often, because it gives a bit of distinction and ‘life’ to the eye, and in species where the iris is dark against dark plumage or fur, it lets you know where the eye even is. If you go back to the first photo, you will notice that it’s missing.

I just don’t know why. The sun angle should have been more than adequate, in fact ideal. There’s no reason to believe the eye is not actually reflective, especially since one of the frames in the sequence shows a catchlight. The only thing I can think of is that the shape of the skull is such that it flared just enough behind the eye to shield it from the sun, but that seems farfetched considering that the spot almost immediately ahead of the eye, where that little white bump is, is a highlight area, bleached out to pure white. Believe me, I’ve looked at that image at high magnification and even then the eye is almost impossible to distinguish.

It’s very easy to be in conditions that don’t contribute to a catchlight – many animals endeavor not to be in direct sunlight, and even when they are, it doesn’t take much of an angle to prevent it. And I imagine that this is intentional at least some of the time, since it means the sun is glaring into one of their eyes, which can’t help them with predator or prey. But I’d have every reason to believe those were optimum conditions up there and still didn’t get it. I feel cheated.

It’s all behind us now

As I said, I have a handful of photos from 2018 that never made it to posts, plus I might add a couple more from even earlier that have just been sitting in that folder – dunno yet, we’re still in the first sentence. And yes, I know you’ve probably had it up to here with all of the “Let’s look back” shit that’s all over the place, but what do you want me to do in the slow season? “Let’s look forward to some of the photos that I’ll be taking later on this year:



Doesn’t work, does it? Okay then.

Now, I can tell you that another trip to North Topsail Beach is in the planning stages, so there’s a good chance some of those will appear around late May to early June. Beyond that, there’s nothing specifically planned, though a mountain trip is in discussion. It’s been ten years since The Girlfriend and I hit Florida, which is too long, but I’m not sure if such a trip is viable this year or not. Get out your Ouija board and see if you can figure it out before we do.

snow piled on unidentified berriesJanuary

Let’s start with the big winter storm that struck a year ago, and an image that never fit into the post-storm post – too similar to another, and nothing in particular to say about it. There’s still nothing in particular to say about it, really – I don’t even know what kind of plant this is, but the little indigo berries stood out nicely. I still suspect we’re due for another big winter storm at some point, though nothing is forecast as of yet. We’ll just have to see.

yellow trout lilies Erythronium americanum with sun raysFebruary

Three weeks further on brought us some remarkably warm weather, for a short while anyway, and during a froggy outing I sprawled on the ground to get this trio of yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) that were venturing up through the ubiquitous pine needles – the sun not only added a little backlight glow, but some accent rays. It would be easy to get the impression that we had an early spring, and that impression would be ever so wrong – the season consisted of warm spells interspersed with more freezes that lasted through the normal spring season for North Carolina, which stunted a lot of plants that were just as fooled as everyone else, but did at least kill off the normal hatching of ‘inchworms’ that tended to decimate one of our rose bushes, so that did well this past year. But yeah, even as we approached our beach trip in May we were wondering if spring had truly settled in – it had, finally, but that’s pretty late for us. My first year in NC after moving down from central New York, I was waiting for the apartment complex to open the pool, and it was a month late as far as I was concerned; it was scheduled for the first of May, and the weather had been so warm that I was hoping it’d be the first of April. Just so you know, on a good year in NY you might be able to go swimming by mid-May, but generally the water wasn’t pleasant until June. I don’t miss that.

But while we’re at it, here’s another photo from the same outing, another where I went down low for the personal perspective. The conditions were incredibly muddy, so I was propped on my elbows with the rest of my body raised out of contact with the muck. One of these days I’ll start my own line of nature photographers’ outerwear, with waterproof reinforced knees, elbows, and seats. And lots of pockets.

unidentified small frog, likely cricket frog, in debris at water's edge
Can’t tell you what species this is (because you don’t have clearance) – I’m leaning towards cricket frog, one of the Acris genus, but northern or southern variant is beyond my ability to determine from the photos I got. Only about 20mm in length, this one was exceedingly well-camouflaged against the debris at the water’s edge, and I only spotted it because I’d seen it hop there at my approach.

fruit developing on yoshino weeping cherry treeApril

Wait a second, what happened to March? Well, in March the weather was still being spastic, and I published everything that passed muster back then, so nothing was sitting unused in the blog folder. Thus we’re jumping to April. It’s not the only time it’s gonna happen either.

Despite the conditions, most of the plants still kept largely to schedule, and in April The Girlfriend’s weeping cherry tree even started producing fruit, as seen here – I wasn’t even sure there was anything around to pollinate it, but there’s the evidence. The birds, however, were not at all taken by surprise, and the cherries (tiny little ornamental things, no use for any decent sundae) vanished virtually overnight.

The wretched and hateful longneedle pines were not at all hampered by the weather, and produced copious amounts of pollen that got all over everything, even wafting through the screens and coating everything on our back porch. Below, a smallish wolf spider (genus Lycosidae) sports what passes for spring fashion around here.

wolf spider Lycosidae with pine pollen dusting
But wait! Let’s not forget the American five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) that sought shelter within a log crevice, then peeked out again a couple of minutes later while I waited patiently. Had I been able to hold still long enough, it may have ventured out farther, since reptiles are not terribly high on the reasoning scale; the skink was more attuned to my motion than my appearance, and stillness spells safety to them no matter how close I might have been. With a rarer species, or a more compelling setting at least, I might have exercised my patience more, but I have enough photos of skinks and simply moved on before I passed the lizard’s test.

American five-lined skink Plestiodon fasciatus peering from log crevice

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis pausing during calling
So with these, a little story – just never got around to posting this at the time. During the frenetic Cinco de Mayo celebrations around here, I ventured over to the pond and was chasing a few calling Copes grey treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis,) including this one which paused at my close approach and sat there with flaccid throat pouch, probably not impressing any females in the area. Remembering that another pond not far off usually played host to the green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea,) I drove over there and started chasing subjects therein – not quite as active as other times that I’ve visited, but I still found a few models.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea perched on limb
In fact, during this session I took the 50,000th image with the Canon 30D, but did not realize this until much later.

green treefrog Hyla cinerea sitting precariously on thin branch

damselfly, possibly female Eastern forktail Ischnura verticalis, sleeping on dried flower
A small damselfly, possibly a female Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis,) was asleep on a dried flower, so I was able to lean in close without spooking it off. Overall length was probably around 25mm if I remember correctly. Tiny, anyway. What gets me now is, what the hell is that in the background? It certainly looks funky at this level of defocus, but I never took note of it while there.

By this point the weather was normal and I was in my typical shorts and water sandals, with the headlamp for night work. I was being careful where I walked, partially because of the possibility of snakes, but mostly due to the wild nature of the undergrowth bordering the pond. Nonetheless, I missed a thick dried stalk of a raspberry bush, and raked it along my leg. I’m out in such conditions often enough that I’m kind of used to this, and felt the stinging but shrugged it off.

raspberry thorns embedded in author's calfA few minutes later, the stinging was still going on, and I glanced down to notice more than the expected thin lines of scratches on my calf – there were, in fact, several trickles of blood. Nothing I could do about it at the time, and I didn’t bend down to see it in detail, but I made a mental note not to wade too deeply and chance infecting the wounds with whatever might be in the water. On arriving home a bit later on, the plethora of embedded thorns became a bit more obvious, and I had to go into the bathroom for an extraction session.

raspberry thorns removed from author's calfIt turned out to be a nice little collection, not counting those which might have been brushed off earlier as I continued to walk around, or got into the car. This just goes to show you how dedicated I am to bringing you these wonderful photos and narratives (which, naturally, I then didn’t even bother with.)


Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis clearing mist from eyes
Yep, no June stuff, but we have a leftover from July, a juvenile Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) clearing water from its eyes after I misted it. Notice the nicely interlaced spines on the forelegs, providing an inescapable grip, which makes this habit all the more disturbing; mantids will clear moisture from their eyes and drink it in parched conditions (which by then we had reached,) but doing so with those wickedly-barbed forelegs seems to be just asking for eye damage.

But I still like the water drops. Someday, I’ll ‘shop in a smutphone for giggles…


Tybeee Island lighthouse Georgia from below
I had plenty of images from the Georgia trip, so I skipped these, but what the hell. Here we have the Tybee Island lighthouse from below, trying to make the most of the very wide 10mm focal length, but shooting up with such a wide angle is simply asking for sun flare – I just didn’t really expect it to be so distinct.

While below, a shot of what I believe was a sunset dolphin tour – I would have greatly preferred the roof line to have fallen either above or below the horizon instead of blending in like this. However, the crowded conditions and moody silhouette make me think irresistibly of something like a refugee boat – not quite the effect I was after. And I can’t imagine any reason why people would be fleeing America, either. Can you?

Nothing to do with Trump of course

May 2017

pink-stained pre-sunrise breakers and sky at North Topsail Beach
Wait, hold on – 19 months ago? But yeah, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want. This one from the first North Topsail Beach trip never made it into a post, but I like it a lot due to the color register and have been waiting for the right opportunity to use it – maybe this isn’t ‘right,’ but here it is anyway. The sun was just beyond the horizon yet turning the high-altitude clouds red, and this cast a pink glow across the entire landscape. The scattered clouds contributed a lot to the effect, since I have images from similar conditions without the clouds and they’re far less dynamic.

July 2016

katydid nymph consuming molted exoskeleton
I have this one marked as a composite though I don’t recall doing it, but then again it was two-and-a-half years ago and we’re lucky I can remember my house number. I figure I combined two for maximum sharpness to help illustrate what I considered a curious action. This is a katydid nymph, and katydids are vegetarian – or at least I thought they were. Yet this one is consuming a molted exoskeleton, which I suspect is its own. So does it count as cannibalism if you’re only eating a discarded skin? How about if it’s your own? Is this a particularly ‘green’ form of recycling? Please remit answers to the address below.

October 2015

unidentified mushroom with tatters
Okay, you’re welcome to accuse me of reaching now, but I still like this image and just never took an opportunity to post it. But one chilly fall morning I found a patch of larger mushrooms and chose one for a low angle approach; the little tatter is a great focal point in my opinion. Most mushrooms (that I’ve seen, anyway) erupt as kind of a sphere first, before this unfolds like an umbrella into the top shield (there are likely proper terms for these that I’m not going to bother looking up,) and this was a remaining fragment of that past state, like a poorly-cut pastry crust. The dappled sunlight communicates the conditions fairly well, I believe.

Anyway, I think that’ll do it for the year-end retrospective. There remains nothing to shoot around here, but if someone gives me a photo challenge or assignment I’ll be happy to tackle it in my free time – I would suggest the Caribbean or Belize or something, and I’ll let you know where you can send the tickets. Won’t even charge you for meals.

Do not read tag under penalty of law

It’s January, and that day you’ve been dreading is nigh – really, I don’t know why you keep reading this blog when you know what’s going to happen. Yes, I’m talking about the annual tag roundup, the time when we look back over the post tags that had only one use within the 1500-plus posts to see just why this might be.

On most blogs and suchlike phenomena, it’s because the topic has only been tackled once, and I have plenty of those; species names, mostly, but the names of articles that have been lambasted also get in there, and some topics that simply never came up again. But in these cases, it’s because the tag serves as additional commentary, usually something snarky from the little guy sitting on one of my shoulders, who has plenty of space up there because angels and devils are mythological and ludicrous. Unlike, you know, a sardonic alter-ego… can it be an alter-ego if my regular personality is snippish to begin with?

Pointless introspection aside, let’s dig to the bottom of the barrel and see what kind of muck has accumulated down there. Clicking on any of the tags will, naturally, take you to the post in question, probably making these the least-clicked links on the blog. I’ve said before that I’ll never have advertising on this site, but funny, I’ve never been asked either…

yeegads it doesn’t even have pincers or spikes or nothin’ – And you know how rare that is for this site.

stay on your side of the fence boah – Nature photography does have its hazards.

don’t roll your eyes at me – Also, “fitty towsen” and, really, every tag on that post.

boy that Turing – what a smart guy! – Too clever for my own good. Don’t make me explain this.

and that was the last we saw of Al – No such luck. But additionally, “I used to bullseye wharf roaches in my T-16 back home.” A case where the remainder of the movie quote is commentary on its own. Except I didn’t directly quote the movie, so if you don’t recognize how I altered it, good luck finding it…

the bitch hit me with a toaster – While I’m on the subject of movie quotes. That post has a fine selection of pop culture references that probably reflect my age too well. Also, “ya got any cornbread?”

uncooperative distant pedestrians – And how many times have we all thought exactly the same thing?

The little dickens – I was particularly proud of this one – don’t know why I never included it before.

tell me dammit – Didn’t work anyway.

that’s just you know my opinion man – It would work better if I could put commas in tags, but commas separate tags, so it’d come up as multiple tags of sentence fragments. But this post, a hugely important event in history, also includes “maybe I’d retire if this had helped pay for it” and more!

that’s how Maude bought it you know – Bet you’ve forgotten about this already. And if you have to ask what I’m talking about, I’m just going to tell you that you need to be on the webbernets more.

no it’s not a fucking ‘beanie’ jesus christ – Does it make you feel old when you use the same term that you’ve used for years and suddenly no one knows what the hell it means? But we go to the very next post for,

no combovers there either – Which is kind of a dirty trick, because it might take a bit of reading to get the reference, but I’m evil that way.

I didn’t want to see it in motion thank you very much – Also, “phlegm zeppelin,” which is an even better term than trash panda. With video!

of course I want cheese with it – Subtle, perhaps.

Hey I’m biking here! – Also “fly much Ten-Thousand-Eyes?” and “OMG I just hit somebody LOL Im such a klutz!”

bug photographers definitely gonna die out – I have no illusions.

butthole pachinko – Which also features “snotty chinos,” so you can see my dilemma in determining which should lead off. However, neither of these are actually mine, so there! Blame zefrank on this one (and go to that link.)

oh go ahead if you must – You’ll make me blush.

maybe “bugs and spiders” isn’t as much of a draw as I thought – Also, “first off stop whining.” But I said we were setting the pointless introspection aside…

how many horses ya got under that hood? – I can still see the car driving off…

Beau Blass or some shit – Also, “eradicate neckties now.” Join the movement!

Penultimately, we have “made you look!” and “now tell me if I missed any,” both tags on last year’s tag post, buried in among all of the others which I put in there partially to keep them from reappearing each year. Plus some other stuff. But I’d missed one: “spellcheck doesn’t like “Batlizard””… and nobody told me! Was this a practical joke, or do you mean to tell me no one checks all those tags at the bottom to ensure that I haven’t snuck in something?

Finally, “not to be confused with National S’More Time Day which is a fake holiday started by Hersheys” and “I myself follow the booby calendar” are both from the list of 2018 holidays, and that’s my segue, so let’s take a look at the holidays we all celebrated in the past year:

Find Something Hidden In The Shadows Day, January 29th

Ignore An Utterly Pointless Holiday Day, February 2nd

Relate An Obscenity-filled Story Day, March 21st

Put Something Off Until The Last Minute Day, April 26th

Relate Something That Happened Last Night That Has Nothing To Do With Alcohol Day, May 27th

Do Additional Research for a Blog Post Day, June 22nd… which some people might have found to be a load of fun, but I was working, so no time for levity. Even when it appeared so, I was just playing the part. Not done yet either, so the post is still is the works.

National Pointless Podcast Day, July 20th. No, I only celebrate this once a year – what’re you getting at?

Highly Debatable Humor Day, August 27th

International Look Back and Wonder What Happened Day, September 24th.

International I Need Some More Time Day, October 31st

Sudden Insight Day, November 17th

And of course, Forget Something Important Day, December 13th.

We’ll go back to the tags for a moment. To do these lists, I do a SQL query in the blog database that not only lists the tags, but how often they’ve appeared, so I can sort by the ones that have only appeared once (over 3300 at this point, when I’ve only done a little over 1500 posts.) On occasion, I spot a single-use tag that I’m almost positive should have been used more often – then I realize what happened. The spreadsheet that I use to do the sort has a spellcheck function, as does the blog – but this doesn’t apply to the tag window. Which is kind of small, and I’m often throwing them in there, and they can even scroll out of sight, so misspellings get in there from time to time. The spreadsheet can spot these of course, but it also picks up lots of proper names and scientific names that are spelled correctly, and things that I purposefully don’t capitalize like “christian,” as well as words that somehow never made it into the computer’s dictionary like “clickbait” and “fartsy” and “asshat.” But here are a small handful of the single-use tags that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to:

  • Amercian dream
  • Dayight Saving Time
  • Gerogia Sea Turtle Center (this is the one that caught me, since I’ve featured the place numerous times.)
  • healh
  • NC Musuem of Life & Science
  • not exactly photojurnalism
  • one goddman thing after another
  • pattern recogniton
  • praire kingsnake
  • resiving images
  • stablity
  • won’t somebody please think of the chidlren?
  • And now for some meaningless statistics. Last year contained 162 posts, which is about average among a fairly wide range (1 post in 2008, but c’mon, I started the blog December 27th, to 215 posts in 2017,) while I uploaded 496 photos, tied with last year – well above average, but still a far cry from 2017’s count of 706 photos. However, in July of 2018 alone I uploaded 103 images, which topped all other months to date – that’s largely due to this post with 29 photos alone, but this one and this one and this one had 14, 15, and 14 respectively. So I can’t feel too bad about the end of the year getting kinda slow.

    There will be a small handful of photos from last year that never made it into posts coming along, but this one is long enough for now – plus the more I stretch it out, the higher the post count goes, right? Get that headstart on a new record. So check back shortly – I’m still plugging away here despite the crummy weather.

    Almost had to get ugly there

    Last night I was planning on doing a few housekeeping chores on the blog structure, so I performed the standard database backup (to ensure that I could always restore back to an older version as needed,) then set to work. As is my habit now, I check the functionality after each change, confirming that nothing bad happened.

    Or, so I thought. Among the changes was catching up with updates, both with the current version of WordPress and with the installed plugins. Everything seemed fine until I went to create a new post this morning, and found some utter horseshit sitting where my normal post editor was. WordPress had been toying with a new editor function, something called Gutenberg, and finally decided to roll it out with version 5.0. I always wait for a couple of revisions following a whole new version, because bugs are virtually guaranteed, so I was updating to version 5.0.3 when I got greeted by this monstrosity.

    Plenty of software developers get involved in the, “let’s revamp the whole structure to make it cooler,” nonsense, which is one of the reasons that I never started doing web development on my own; I’m very much of the, “If it ain’t broke,” school, and usually couldn’t care less about the stupid-user-interface changes. That’s not referring to a stupid interface (though that’s usually the result anyway,) but instead an interface for stupid users, often icon-based, and with most of the useful editing tools buried someplace so all the options don’t scare the timid touch-screen crowd. And that’s exactly where Gutenberg is aimed. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to insert a goddamn image! Trying to activate either the old editor or simply some more complete toolbars failed. After a few obscenity-laden Google searches (noticing how many negative comments Gutenberg was getting in the process,) I found that there is a plugin to permit/reinstall the classic editor. I loaded that, and thankfully it worked perfectly, allowing both the previous post and this one to be done back the way that I always had.

    Meanwhile, the Impetuous Mr Bugg had changed his blog over to a new address, without warning or forwarding pages, making all of my links to him obsolete. This is no small number, and I was brainstorming how to go about updating these without a major headache, when I came across another plugin, Better Search Replace by Delicious Brains (I’m fairly certain that is not their birth name.) This allowed me to find all instances of his original URL and change them to the new one, including those to specific pages without needing to know each of them. Within a couple of minutes, all 41 links had been updated. Very smooth – I highly recommend this plugin if you find yourself in need. I should probably use it to correct all of my older references to Chinese mantises (there are several dozen) to reflect the new scientific name.

    I have found no plugin to get Mr Bugg to put his name and info on his site yet, though…

    Storytime 2

    cribellate orb weaver, possibly Uloborus glomosus, at buffet
    This is a spider from the family of cribellate orb weavers – near as I can tell, this is a genus Uloborus, and from the active range I’m leaning towards a U. glomosus. Curious body structure, to be certain, but this image from August 2010 marked the first time (and so far, the most detailed) that I captured a specimen from this family. They’re distinctive in that they’re the only spider family that has no venom.

    Now, the first thing I have to point out is that the reddish-brown thing is not its head, but its current meal, or what’s left of it – the arachnid was apparently loathe to relinquish the morsel even while it trussed up a brand spanking new leafhopper. Which is faintly amusing to me, because most monkey species will drop whatever food is in their hand if they have the opportunity to grab some more. This misshapen meal was blocking the spider’s eyes, so you’d think that was reason enough to at the very least set it aside, perhaps anchored someplace if the spider could determine some method of doing this, while putting its new meal in the to-go box, but here we are.

    Curiously, from the series of photos that I got at this time, it would appear that the species actually has fangs (chelicerae,) and so we come to the part that I’m wondering about, because as I said, they have no venom so they need nothing to administer this lack. Perhaps they have the fangs just as a prank, like those little spring-loaded fake stage knives, so they can scare their prey species:Ha ha!” they say right after they have plunged their fangs into a cringing caterpillar, “You thought you were going to start dissolving from the inside! That’s two for flinching!”

    This is the hazard of getting information in little chunklets, often from unreliable sources, because I’ve been slowly revising my understanding of arthropod habits over the years and (patently) don’t have an adequate understanding of them yet. Having been told that spider venom liquefies the organs of their prey so they spider can simply suck out this milkshake, I assumed that these handy little piercing bits also worked as straws. But no, the chelicerae are only venom-injectors; not all that long ago, I learned that spiders actually have mouths, hiding underneath behind the chelicerae, and that some of them simply chew up their prey (or what passes for such with their anatomy, anyway.) So, why does this species have them fangs? And two things occur to me: 1) because this family evolved from another which did have venom, and have the leftover fangs; or 2) that the chelicerae are functional holding/manipulating digits in their own right, which this photo would seem to attest to. Though I suppose there’s always a third option, which is that they obtained the fangs with the intention of developing venom, but just never got around to it. I know where I’d be putting my money…