‘Tis the season

Yes indeed, another holiday rolls around… what? No, not that holiday – the day before a holiday isn’t a holiday itself, for christ’s sake! I’m talking about Capture Something Inadvertently Day, which is at least productive in some way. And no, you’ll never find anyone celebrating Capture Something Inadvertently Eve, unless the holidays get totally out of hand.

Now, unlike some of the events that we’ve celebrated this year, I find this one to be rather poorly conceived. How can you capture something inadvertently when you already know it’s the day to do this? It’s like running four times around a church without thinking of a fox. Try it – you’ll never make it to four. A mosque, maybe, but never a church.

And yet, somehow I pulled it off anyway, so while countless people out there are struggling with this pseudoparadox, I can post something smugly and hug myself all day. Behold.

new hydrangea bud with unnoticed tiny fly atop
I grabbed the camera to snag a couple of frames of a hardy (but likely unhappy) ladybeetle outside, and then wandered around to see if anything else was worth the effort. A hydrangea bush that we’d transplanted late this fall was surprisingly showing two new buds, so I went in close for a detail shot. It wasn’t until after I unloaded the memory card that I spotted the minuscule fly on the tip, probably no more than 3mm in length, and was lucky enough to have a paler oak leaf in the background for some decent contrast. It’s still pretty chilly out there, running around 7°c, so generally the only things stirring are birds and squirrels.

I did a few more frames of other things, including a serendipitous find, plus I have some experiments to refine, so more will be along at some point, but for now, I’ll just wave this holiday in your face and laugh, because I can.

Profiles of Nature 51

We know – you’re looking at that number up there and hoping, praying that this is just a year’s topic, and we can only grin evilly and think to ourselves, That’s what you get for praying…

unidentified flat fish Æðelflæd
This week we have Æðelflæd, demonstrating the power of professional makeup since she’s actually a pufferfish, moreover, one that you wouldn’t give a second glance to if you passed her on the street except to suddenly ask yourself, “What the fuck is a pufferfish doing on the streets on this side of town?” But you wouldn’t think it was a particularly sexy, smouldering pufferfish, is what we’re saying. Æðelflæd perfected her command of come-hither looks like that seen here by studying the photographs of women eating salads, as well as shoppers in the backsplash section of home improvement stores. What is it with that? She had a traumatic childhood, because every time the class was told to line up in alphabetical order, a fight ensued, though therapy helped her get past this; she still can’t utter the words, “Webster’s Unabridged,” though. She took up modeling on the advice of her school’s guidance counselor, though since she lived in a very rural, income-depressed district the counselor was just a Magic 8-Ball, but it presently has a better success rate than the majority of guidance counselors. Æðelflæd has a solid career and is happy with it, even when she has yet to use anything learned in Home Ec, but she knows her looks can’t last forever because her face will freeze that way (her parents are pretty old.) When the time comes, she plans to sabotage the career of her young upstart rival, look haughty in the court proceedings, vanish into obscurity only to reveal that she was hiking through Australia, write a few books, hold down her own spot in Hollywood Squares for five years, make a few cameos in crime dramas, start an overseas gardening business, get prosecuted for tax fraud, become a born-again Capricorn in prison, settle down on a ranch without actually owning one, and finally play her own mother in the biopic about her life. Or maybe research why field hockey is only considered a girls’ sport – it could go either way. Until then, she’s going to claim that “Æðelflæd” is pronounced a different way every six months or so just to screw with the gossipy types. She insists that her favorite fashion accessories are those little feathers on a lanyard and clip from the eighties, but we suspect that’s just to watch the eBay listings explode.

You know you’re just gonna suck it up for another week, so don’t bother feigning otherwise.

Not quite on top of it

I had gotten involved in other things this morning and wasn’t playing close attention to the time, and then suddenly realized that I was missing the solstice! So I grabbed the camera and dashed out to snag the shot, to salvage what I could.

just a grey sky - lol, as they say
This was actually nine minutes past the solstice time of 15:59 UTC, and as you can see, the sun is a few hundredths of an arcsecond higher than its lowest elevation for the year, but I’m counting on people that aren’t that well-versed in elevations (or believe that Walkabout Studios is further south than it is) to miss this detail.

Ah, who am I kidding? I blew it, and it’s obvious, so a real man would own it and embrace the shame, and do better next year.

Though in this case it really is The Girlfriend’s fault for interrupting me so often this morning…

On this date 60

Well, first of all, on this date every year (more or less,) it’s the winter solstice, the time of the year when the Earth’s axial tilt places the sun at its southernmost point, meaning the daylight for those in the northern hemisphere is the shortest of the year; from this point on, the ‘days’ will be getting longer. A little victory to most of us up here.

‘Course, in the southern hemisphere it’s the longest daylight period, and it’s summer. That’s because they have to do everything different down there, and even when they speak English, they do it weirdly. But whatcha gonna do?

I also slipped in “more or less” above because the solstice does not always fall on the 21st, because orbital mechanics and leap years and so on. It’s sloppy. Technically, the sun doesn’t reach its lowest elevation until 3:59 PM UTC today, which makes it 10:59 AM locally – I posted early so you can run out and see it dip the lowest before starting back up. Should be exciting.

But while we’re here, we’ll examine what I was shooting on this date in other years, because I haven’t picked up the camera since the failed attempt at the comet. I suck, I know, but I’ve actually been getting some other stuff done, and some of it may show here eventually. Mostly, however, I suck.

So, let’s see, in 2012 we had:

shed exoskeleton of unidentified grasshopper Orthoptera
Just one, really, but that was because I started this session late and subsequent frames fell on the 22nd. This is the shed exoskeleton of an unidentified grasshopper/Orthoptera, that I collected for detail shots, switching to the ring flash for different lighting after this. Don’t ask me what that circle in the eye is, because I’m not sure, but I suspect that it’s a moisture droplet on the inner surface. Yes, this is very small.

A minor observation, while we’re here. You’ll notice that the overall exoskeleton/chitin is very thin and translucent, except for the antennae. Which is curious because the antennae are sensing organs, so I would have thought the ‘skin’ covering them would be the thinnest, or perhaps perforated or something; this has the appearance of being much hardier. Or heartier, Perhaps both, but not what I’d have expected.

And then, a whole bunch for the next year, but I’ll only feature two.

larva of green lacewing Chrysopidae showing underside and camouflage
Freaky, I know, but if you’ve ever noticed a little ball of lint or fluff or debris meandering along a plant, this is what it looks like underneath. This is the larva of a green lacewing (family Chrysopidae,) head-on – the reddish-brown tongs are their chelicerae (fangs,) while at the base of those, the dark spots are the eyes. What I was pleased to capture are those pale appendages extending upwards and ending in a spray of ‘fronds;‘ these are the anchors for all that fluff, gathered by the lacewing and attached thereon to provide both camouflage and something for any predators to latch onto that isn’t the lacewing itself. Without the camouflage, they look like they’re sprouting a bunch of backscratchers from their bodies, but to see this, you have to gently and meticulously pluck the fluff away, which I know because I have. Yeah, yeah, I hear you, but I’m still waiting on those tickets to someplace exotic, so it’s at least partially your own fault.

dew on sails for small unidentified seeds
In like vein while being wholly unrelated, we have dew on the seeds of… something, a plant at least. I was just having fun with the high magnification lenses because, you know, it was winter. I was also probably already done with the christmas projects, or The Girlfriend was home and so I couldn’t work on them – more likely the latter, because I tend to run closer to the wire with such things (if not kilometers across it.) One of these days, I’ll have a nice, enclosed, heated workshop where I can do gifts away from prying eyes – it’s drawing closer, at least.

[By the way, if you followed that second link, you should know that they both still routinely drive those cars, even though both tire covers have been replaced by newer versions. Hondas last forever.]

What the deuce?

For psychological reasons that no one has fully fathomed yet (or maybe they have, and I just never looked it up,) we get some kind of satisfaction, even a little thrill, from meaningless numbers that nevertheless form a pattern. In that vein, I am letting you know that this is the 2,222nd post on the ol’ Walkabout blogoblob here. I just popped one of those little holiday crackers in celebration. We already celebrated the 2,000th post back in March, so don’t bother trying to tell me that I missed a better one.

Naturally, the only meaning this has is that we use a decimal/base 10 numbering system – in binary it’s the 100010101110th (or is that the 100010101110st?) post, so… yeah.

But anyway, to recognize this remarkable accomplishment, I decided to be a little thematic – only I was thwarted slightly in that regard, so we’re doing bookends instead. Thus we have the 2,222nd photos taken with the first digital camera that I’ve used, and the most recent.

unidentified amphipod within tank, Sony F717
May 23rd, 2004, using the Sony F717 that had been loaned to me before it went on to its new owner. I was making the most of it, and shot over 3,300 images in less than two months. This is an unidentified amphipod, only a handful of millimeters long, in my casual saltwater aquarium. Yes, those are algae spots – it was due for a cleaning, but I had the opportunity when the little scud paused against the glass.

ice frozen to branch, Canon 7D
February 21st, 2020, with the Canon 7D that I presently use, the aftermath of the last decent winter storm that we’ve had. For the record, the most recent frame that I shot with that body, as of this writing, is the 27,927th, so that was fairly early in the tenure for that camera.

I was going to do the 2,222nd image for each body I’ve used (add four more,) but some of those were simply deleted for not passing muster, and some were personal, so I just did the first and last. But those are still well away from the start of my photography, so for giggles, I’m adding another.

unidentified exotic deer from unremembered safari park, probably 1998 or so
This is the 2,222nd slide in my stock drawer, which doesn’t mean anything because they’re not in chronological order, but by category – this is the best I can do. This series doesn’t have a timestamp, so I’m guessing somewhere around 1998 or ’99, mostly because I switched to slide film not long before. I know this was in a wildlife park not terribly far from Atlanta, but that’s all I can recall. Not even sure of the species – not domestic, anyway. I do know this was with the Canon Elan IIe though, my film workhorse until I got the EOS 3 in 2005, I think.

How many cameras have I used? (No one asks.) I doubt I could give an accurate count. The first was either a Polaroid Land camera or some unidentified 126 film box camera, both from garage sales somewhere around the age of ten (so, the seventies.) Got a little Palmatic 110 camera for christmas one year, I think when I was thirteen. Got my first 35mm (the impossible-to-find Wittnauer Challenger) when I was fifteen, rummage sale find. Had a handful of Olympus bodies and a Minolta, before finally getting the Elan IIe as my first ‘serious’ (and brand new, except for the 110) camera, likely 1997. Then the EOS 3 and an Elan 7, as well as a Canon Pro90 IS as my first digital. Digital bodies progressed through the original Digital Rebel (300D), the Canon 30D, a T2i (which allowed video,) and finally the 7D. Add in a Mamiya 645E and 1000J. A Graflex Graphic View II. A couple of esoteric models like a Minolta 16 ‘spy camera’ which I recently replaced after having lost the original years ago (plus the Soviet counterpart, a Kiev 30,) obtained solely because I like them – not sure I could even locate film to fit them anymore. And I’m probably forgetting a few. Mind you, I’m not a collector or even concerned about getting new and better bodies – most of these were used. I’ve just been shooting for a while. Want me to dig out the 2,222nd negative in the books? I can, ya know…

Profiles of Nature 50

Back again – if nothing else, we always have the Profiles! Now isn’t that a warm and fuzzy for you?

green heron Butorides virescens Silas with unidentified protein
This week we make sure we greet Silas by name, as we catch him cheating on his widely-espoused churro diet – we debated about either hitting him up for hush money or seeing how much the tabloids would pay for this shot, and then asked, “Why not both?” Sucka. Silas is one of those spokespeople who is fame-fluid, meaning no one is quite sure if he’s a celebrity or not, having landed a couple of one-off characters on multiple television series before hawking his ‘wonder diet’ throughout late night infomercials, counting on the idea that we’ve seen him before, can’t recall where, to somehow translate into ‘worthy of giving nutritional advice.’ Unfortunately, this seems to work on enough people that we keep seeing it. But we’re not here for social commentary, we’re here for unfounded gossip. Silas reportedly gained his few acting parts through mob connections, which is about as vague as it can get and still imply something illicit. We mean, aside from the weaselly term, “reportedly,” someone could easily be a member of the mob and still accomplish a lot legitimately, right? Has anyone seen The Sorpranos? We ask because we haven’t – everyone seems to assume we wasted money on HBO, don’t know why. And isn’t it goofy how we associate broad, family-controlled aspects of criminal enterprises with the first thing any infant utters? “Mob.” Say it a few times – it’s a stupid-sounding word. Silas also, according to sources, votes Republican, but even we won’t repeat something that distasteful, mostly because no one would believe it anyway. Even though he protests fiercely whenever someone calls him, “green.” Lots of Tea-Party mobsters insist on chromatic accuracy – it doesn’t mean anything. And it’s certainly not true that chartreuse eye-shadow on the nose bridge is a secret sign of Djibouti descent. Not that there’s anything wrong with this – some of our best-… well, no, we don’t know any Djiboutis at all. We don’t think – are they fond of minnows? Regardless, Silas enthuses that his favorite blessing when someone sneezes is, “Damn, you got that on my leg!

Half a hundred! Seems like an accomplishment until you say it that way, doesn’t it? But we’re still going, over and over, relentlessly…

*     *     *

So a little investigation was sparked by the Profiles choice today, when I noticed that Silas up there is only showing two toes on the left leg. Most bird species have a specific pattern to their toe placement, and with the waders it’s three-and-one: three toes forward, one toe back, what we consider ‘typical,’ though some of the raptors adopt a two-and-two stance, essentially their ‘thumb’ and ‘pinky’ going backwards. So there was a faint suspicion that my model here was missing a toe, and I knew this was taken from a sequence, so I dug into the stock.

green heron Butorides virescens stalking down snag
This is among the first in the series, and it doesn’t help yet, since it shows the placement we expect, but we can’t count the front toes.

green heron Butorides virescens having stepped forward
Then it stepped forward (I can’t tell you if this is male or female, nor the level of fame.) You can see the right foot hasn’t actually moved, so perhaps this is just an aspect of twisting its body sideways?

green heron Butorides virescens still not displaying adequately
The Profiles shot fell just before this one, and now we can see a hint of a fourth toe peeking out, but still not enough to know that it’s all there. The suspense is horrific, isn’t it?

green heron Butorides virescens displaying all toes
Ah, good – I feel better now. It seems the odd position was just because of that crossover step, and my model here can indeed count up to eight. But yes, I really was inclined to check on this out of curiosity, though it was also an excuse to get a handful more photos up since I’m not shooting anything. Sneaky, I know.

This is not a comet

waxing gibbous moon
Well, I mean, duryea! But I did not go out tonight with the intention of shooting the moon. I was out attempting to see and/or photograph comet C/2021 A1, otherwise known as Leonard (and somehow not “Al” as it seems to imply,) because it’s been visible along the horizon not long after sunset, and I finally got clear skies and a free schedule to get out and try. It was not the best of conditions no matter what; the comet was expected to hit magnitude 4-ish, but as a diffuse spot rather than a distinct point like a star, so easy enough to miss, but also too low on the horizon too soon after sunset, competing with the afterglow. And in my case, competing with the humidity on the horizon, visible as faintly colored bands at sunset. I didn’t see a damn thing, even with some long exposures to try and draw it out – some of the stars captured, around that magnitude, were diffuse themselves because of the humidity.

So while out there, I shot a few frames of the moon – and a few more, but only to try and lock in super-tight focus that I could then turn towards Venus and Jupiter, very visible themselves. Even with the 600mm lens and 2X converter, the planets (and any comet) are very small in the frame, so critically sharp focus is necessary, and the moon had enough brightness and detail to allow for an initial lock, and then several tweaks determined by chimping at the image in the viewfinder afterward, zoomed in significantly, to see what came up the sharpest. This technique isn’t perfect itself, as I noticed when I got back and unloaded the card, but it was the best method available.

So, we have another moon shot. Whoopee shit. I even tried for decent pics of Venus (showing a nice crescent right now) and Jupiter with the classic four moons, but nothing was sharp enough to really use. Another factor was in play, in that the air was pretty chilly by this time and it was cooling down the equipment, which in turn altered focus; I noticed this when I put down the meticulously-focused binoculars for a few minutes and found them out-of-focus when I picked them back up (and slightly damp from condensation.) Ideally, I should have let the equipment sit out for a solid half-hour or better to get close to ambient temperature, but I didn’t get down there soon enough to do this before Leonard dipped below the horizon.

For giggles, I took the same image above and boosted the contrast and saturation to enhance details, plus brought the color register closer to neutral. The moon still remains faintly yellowish even when high in the sky – humidity and smoke particles, I’m guessing. I even did a short video clip, but nothing additional was revealed by this, no birds or Batplanes or secret Nazi bases. Though I may have missed an excellent opportunity to frame an airliner against the moon, having looked up shortly after it passed and it seemed like it was right in line – dammit anyway. I’ve had that as a goal for years, though I’ve only specifically set out to capture it once; It’s harder than imagined.

Still the slow season, still haven’t received those airline tickets to someplace better. I say this only as a reminder, you know, just in case…

Chances are…

Naming this post that probably wasn’t the best idea, because it immediately makes me think of the song by Johnny Mathis, which predates me significantly, but was one that my mother liked (I think – memory may be bad.) I thought it was older than it is, but it was released in 1957 which is well after the time period my parents’ would have found it most influential, and in fact they were married and had their first kid by then. Maybe the second kid (not me) was conceived to it…

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, it’s one of those thought experiments that I’m prone to at times – which may make it even more nonsensical than the paragraph above. You have been warned.

There’s a bit of trivia that pops up from time to time along the lines of, “Every time you shuffle a deck of cards, it’s almost certain that the card order produced has never been seen before, ever,” or something along those lines – it is often expressed even more definitively. The basic premise is, the number of possible combinations from a standard 52 card deck is a huge number, and well exceeds the number of times that cards may have been shuffled throughout the history of the standard deck. And it’s wildly misleading at best, but in any wording similar to the above, it’s dead wrong. This becomes an illustration of randomness, or the lack thereof.

We’ll start with, the mathematical idea of how many possible combinations there are assumes that the order starts with one card randomly chosen from a deck, then another from the remaining, and on until there’s only one left. Which is certainly not the way that anyone shuffles cards at all. As an example, we’ll just use the most common method, which probably has a name but unless you work at a casino you don’t know it either, so there’s no use looking it up. The deck is split into two roughly even piles, held in either hand slightly bowed, and then overlapped slightly and ‘fanned’ together by releasing the cards one at a time (more or less) so that the cards in two portions of the deck alternate into one complete deck again. This is a hell of a lot easier to show you than to write out, but I’m going to assume that you get the idea and move on.

The first point of failure in this randomization exercise (which is what shuffling is intended to produce) is the starting point. Almost all decks ship with the cards in numerical/value order, within suits or not, so far from random. The act of splitting the deck takes place with the intention of having a nearly matching number of cards among both hands, so the deck is very likely split within, say, five cards of smack in the middle (26 in either hand.) In the case of a deck shipped by suits, this means that either hand has nearly two full suits in it, still in order, and fanning them together actually produces an order more like two suits interspersed – two aces, then two kings, two queens, and so on. The order would be slightly less coherent if the either deck was shipped in numerical order instead of suits, since it would likely place cards from the middle of the deck (like 7s or 8s) alongside the end of the deck (2s or Aces,) yet still dependably close to those orders.

If the shuffles were perfect – as in, perfectly alternating cards following a perfect split – then with two shuffles the deck would be returned to the exact same order that it started from! Granted, the chances of two perfect shuffles are low, but way the hell higher than “never again in the universe” or whatever completely random concept has been proposed. In fact, with practice, you could probably do this almost dependably, and I imagine that this technique has been exploited more than once out there, given how often people equate playing cards with gambling.

“But all that only applies to a brand new deck,” you may have (correctly) protested. Though if we consider how cards are usually played, the gathering of similar cards in some kind of order (values/suits) is the goal of most games, so even picking up a well-played deck that you’ve never handled before gives a very good chance that the cards therein are in some kind of order, or close to it. Most shuffling methods won’t completely randomize these at all, and if it’s an even number of shuffles, there remains a notable chance that it only switched around a few cards within. The cut is what assists this, breaking the deck into two after a shuffle and reversing their order, but this only produces two smaller decks in rough order, and the cut usually takes place near the center of the deck anyway – again, far from a ‘random’ location. This means that the closest that we can get to the premise in normal circumstances is to repeatedly shuffle and cut the deck (avoiding the middle) without ever playing it. Which is not how the vast majority of decks are handled, so again, we’re subverting the idea that this applies to all decks, everywhere.

Casinos know this, by the way. They typically use several decks in a single shoe, and the shuffle (which cannot be done with that many cards at once) takes place between ‘half-decks’ taken from already shuffled and unshuffled portions, while the final ‘cut’ (by a player at the table) is done among a much broader span, so far less chance of finding the perfect middle. Before the shoe is more than half empty, the cards are shuffled again. Mostly, this is to prevent card counting, the technique of remembering what’s already appeared and thus knowing what still remains to be played from the deck, allowing a faint statistical edge. It may seem trivial, but players have used this to their advantage hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

There are other factors to be considered as well. A slightly weaker card, more easily bent than the others, will almost always fall directly alongside the same card it was already in order with because it negates that little resistance than we rely on for shuffling, slapping down as two when we only intended one. Wear on the edges of the cards does the same thing. I know that when I’m shuffling, the last card from the right hand virtually always falls on the top – why I don’t know, but there it is, and I imagine that I’m not the only one.

Now, in defense of the premise, all that’s required is for one card in any location to break a pattern and produce a ‘unique’ deck order, which is easy enough to do. However, the chances for cards to be in any kind of order exponentially increase the odds that the same deck has appeared multiple times, and the chances of order, while not high per se, are much higher than that implied by the premise.

There are two things that this demonstrates. The first is that mathematics is only an abstract, and its application to real-world conditions can be very haphazard. The second is that the real world variables always have to be taken into consideration, and these are rarely ‘random’ – it’s not even clear that such a thing actually exists, or if the laws of physics dictate that a specific set of conditions must take place (our ability to know and predict this order would be exceptionally difficult and may remain forever out of reach, however.) The application of numbers to any given circumstance always has a degree of uncertainty, and nothing is ever 100% accurate.

So did your last card shuffle produce a pattern never before seen in the universe? Possibly, but don’t bet on it.

Today’s sorting find

It’s funny – when sorting photos into their respective folders (or, often enough, deleting them from the drives,) I often find something to comment upon, or something that I meant to feature earlier but forgot about. In this case, it’s a detail that I didn’t notice at the time, and “the time” was the day following the not-total lunar eclipse. I could have featured it then, but I was more intent on selecting the best and most illustrative images and simply missed the subtle details of this one.

Here’s an image part way into the eclipse, purposefully overexposed to try and get the shadowed portion to show up.

partial lunar eclipse showing umbra and penumbra
As you can see, I just barely brought out the shadowed portion of the moon, while completely blowing out the sunlit portions. But what I didn’t realize is how well the penumbra shows.

illustration of converging shadow from larger light sourceIf you recall, there’s this thin, ‘outer shadow’ of the Earth during an eclipse, because of geometry. A light source larger than the object that creates a shadow will have thinner outer edges but a darker cone in the center; the outer edges are the penumbra, and the center cone the umbra. For a lunar eclipse, the penumbra isn’t too noticeable because the light isn’t reduced very much, less than the normal contrast between the highlands and mares of the moon itself. But when I overexposed the image above, I brought out the distinctions a bit better, and what I took to be simply the indistinct edges of the umbra turned out to be the more-visible penumbra – you can actually see the curved edge of it before the moon is bleached pure white. Here’s the same image, but after I dropped the mid-tones a little more:

enhanced version of eclipse showing umbra and penumbra
The penumbra seems smaller than I imagined it, though this is hardly a definitive measurement due to the exposure, but you can see that it clearly has a width to it and is not simply a gradient between the shadow and the sunlight. You can also see the color cast from portions of the light coming through the thin edge of Earth’s atmosphere, possibly enhanced by local humidity conditions.

gif comparison of pre-penumbral and pre-umbral eclipseAnd then, because I’m me, I stopped typing right here and went back into GIMP with two of the images used previously, to do a comparison between them with an animated gif (pronounced, “gez-OON-tite.”) These two show the moon just before entering the penumbra (so, “full,”) and just before entering the umbra. Shown together this way, it’s a little easier to see that the penumbra is larger than the images above seem to indicate, but the edge distinction is a lot vaguer. There are slight variations in the exposures between the two images, so this isn’t a precise comparison, but it does seem that the penumbra extends past Tycho here.

You might also note that the bottom edge of the moon is actually a wee bit darker in the full phase, but I’m putting this down to scattered clouds more than anything else; the sky wasn’t perfectly clear before the eclipse, though I waited for the clearest conditions before snapping the full image.

Anyway, those are your curiosity illustrations of the day. But I’ll use this space to mention that the Geminids meteor shower is due to peak in three days, so check it out if you like. The moon is more conducive to it this time, closing in on the first quarter (“half”) but setting before midnight, when the storms tend to start increasing activity. The nights have been far from balmy here (and far from clear most nights,) so we’ll just have to see if I’m brave enough to, um, brave them for the abysmal luck that I’ve been having with meteor storms.

Profiles of Nature 49

By now, you’ve determined that there is no way to sneak a peek around the corner of a blog to see if a post really is here without it noticing you in return, so you might as well stop embarrassing both of us with even trying. It’s Thursday, we don’t miss deadlines, and we certainly aren’t inclined to have any mercy and give you a break. Just the thought of it makes us want to double-down on you.

giant water bug Belostoma flumineum Abayomrunkoje and backswimmer Notonecta Hoowanneka none too romantically
This week we visit with Hoowanneka and Abayomrunkoje, seen in the promo poster to their smash hit romantic thriller, Gratuitous Shirtlessness. The critics raved about their on-screen chemistry and steamy love scenes, amusing because they actually detested each other so much that the director was forced to keep tasers on hand for their scenes together, after that one incident with the hedge trimmers. On hearing the public enthusiasm and fearing a sequel (even though they both died at the end but we all know that doesn’t stop Hollywood, Highlander 2 we’re looking at you,) Abayomrunkoje and Hoowanneka decided to have an affair just to bait the paparazzi with a public, messy breakup, preferably in the gardening section of a Home Depot. They consider this a public service, by the way, since without such juicy stories, people might start paying attention to science and medical news instead, a trend that could lead to the upfall of civilization. They are of course both married, and not to each other, but unbeknownst to either they are married to the same person, so scheduling their trysts has been a lot easier – if we were you we’d snag the movie rights to that eventual reveal as soon as arthropodly possible, before some sepulchrally-narrated TV show does. We’re still wondering what happened to Short Round, by the way – this has no bearing on our subjects but we have no place else to put this. Hoowanneka’s favorite airport taxiway is B9 at CCS, which makes Abayomrunkoje’s preferred file compression algorithm of .lz4 hard to comprehend.

In the event of a blizzard next week, the Profiles go on as scheduled, but we’ll include a moment of silence in recognition.

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