Bugs in the City

NOTE: The Smithsonian is crowdsourcing! Read all the way (or skip) to the bottom to learn how to become an online volunteer for the Smithsonian Museum’s bumblebee records project!

One thing that is extremely noticeable about our new location is the increase in the number of bugs inside the house. In South Minneapolis we had the occasional ant attack, and once some demon flies infested the apartment after I downloaded a desktop wallpaper, but here it seems that there are more and greater varieties of insect home invaders than we experienced in the city. It makes sense; our new house is in a more wooded area, and we now have a direct entry to the house rather than an apartment lobby entry. But what can you do? Once we got over our initial revulsion it just became a fact of life. Bought a fly swatter and it’s all good now. The cat is ecstatic to be able to put her long-dormant hunting skills back into play.

And really, I appreciate insects way too much to be grossed out for long. Also, it’s perhaps in part because of the greater number of insects that I’m also finding a greater number of spiders in the house. I like spiders. The Hubby rolls his eyes because I coddle them. I can often be heard encouraging a wayward spider to crawl behind the bookcase before the cat finds it. I’ve interrupted conversations to catch a spider and release it outside.

I am not, however, a huge fan of stinging insects, which makes these little nests in the eaves of the garage and in a tree on our lawn a little disconcerting – but still frickin’ amazing to look at. From a distance. Through a 200mm lens.

A honeycomb nest with white bulbs in some of the holes and wasps walking all around on it.

How cool! Look at all of ‘em go! *shudders*

A bee or wasp nest, papery looking with a nickel-sized hole in the side.

I could be much more appreciative of this gorgeous bee (or wasp?) nest if it wasn’t approximately two feet above my head and two feet away from the sidewalk that I walk on to get to and from my car every day.

I found this guy chilling on my screen door when I came home this evening:

Grasshopper hanging upside down from a screen door frame

But I’m not the only person in my area who is having fun with creepy crawlies.

My friend, Courtney, captured this yellow garden spider in her apartment (and released it outside upon learning that it wasn’t venomous). Apparently they make a cool zigzag shape in the middle of their webs called a stabilimentum for reasons not wholly agreed upon by entomologists.

Close up of a Yellow garden spider

And Jodi has had two neat bug sightings in Minneapolis. Last week she photographed a cicada:

A small gray winged bug resting on a shiny green leaf.

And today she posted this video of a disgusting/awesome grub:

Suggestions for what this might be include a baby sandworm from Beetlejuice, a parasitic alien, a larval Goa’uld, and a buried anteater or tiny elephant. Cattle grub has also been suggested.

On another bug news front: As I may have mentioned once or a bazillion times, my sister, Erin, has a job at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I know. So jelly. Her newest project is participating in the digitization of the museum’s approximately 45,000 bumblebees. And they need our help! The Smithsonian Museum is crowdsourcing online volunteers to help transcribe original labels into digital records. Repeat: The Smithsonian Museum wants us all to participate in a science project which will live in our national archives forever evar and possibly be used by scientists to help shed light on the reduction of pollinators.

If you want to find out more about becoming an online transcription volunteer for the Smithsonian, their website will walk you through the simple hows and whys of the process. Go go science crowdsourcing! And insects! And spiders!

Why I work late

Oy. Tonight was a long one. Deadlines aren’t always as flexible as one might hope, and science sometimes does not play by human clocks. But it’s all worth it for a chance to piss off the anti-science, pro-God set. One of my secret atheist coworker friends (we have a secret handshake okay no we do not but I’d totally learn one because who doesn’t want to be part of a club that has secret handshakes), gave this to me today:

2014-07-29 13.15.51

Text on a small scrap of paper says: “SCIENCE: The study and investigation of phenomena based on rigorous study and experiment, conducted solely for the purpose of pissing off those who think God did it all.”

Yup. As Fox News has known for years, science-ing is actually part of the Atheist Agenda. I do what I can. You’re welcome.

RH Reality Cast

I’ve finally started listening to RH Reality Cast, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. If if there’s one thing that I enjoy more than reading Amanda Marcotte’s caustic wit, it’s hearing her passionate take-downs of patriarchal, religious, and right-wing bullshit flow from my car speakers. A new half-hour episode airs every Monday, so it’s always an exciting, blood-boiling start to the week. This week Amanda warns us that Todd Akin is back in the news, this time wanting us all to believe that we just didn’t understand what he meant by “legitimate rape” (from his infamous quote in 2012), she interviews Teddy Wilson about the Operation Save America harassment and trespassing currently taking place in New Orleans, and of then there’s my favorite segment, The Wisdom of Wingnuts.

If you like hearing from strong women who don’t mince their words when they’re pissed off about attacks on reproductive freedom and sexual health, you might want to try out RH Reality Cast.

Two Strikes and We’re Out

On Wednesday July 9th, 2014 my apartment flooded. Now, if this sounds familiar to you, you might be remembering this post.

That’s right, this is the second major flood to hit us in this location. The Hubby and I live in a garden-level apartment, but the flooding has never been due to excessive rain, or to an upstairs neighbor forgetting to turn off a faucet. This is has been burst plumbing every single time. I say every single time because we’ve actually had plumbing issues which resulted in water being outside of the pipe in which it belonged four times. Twice the flooding was caught early (stains on the ceiling), and before theyt caused any damage. Another time the pipe burst we caught it as soon as it happened and we were able to get everything out before anything was irreparably damaged. The fourth time – this last time – the pipe burst sometime during the workday and I came home to water pouring from the ceiling and thousands of dollars of private property damage. Let me be clear – the thousands of dollars of damage happened to our stuff – I’m not including the landlord’s property.

Flooded carpet, soaked bed, shoes, a dog bed and a bunch of cords sitting in water.The water had been streaming from the weakest point in the ceiling: the light fixture. The light fixture is located directly above our bed.

We did lose a lot of things in this most recent flood – our bed and mattress, some art prints and frames, our big, comfy CordaRoy bean bag, some shoes – but that’s all replaceable. The only thing that bums me out is that we lost our IKEA 5×5 Expedit shelving. We thought it would be easy to just order up a new base to replace the waterlogged particle board, but it turns out the Expedit was discontinued earlier this year. *sniff*

To paraphrase an infamous president: Flood me once, shame on — shame on you. Flood me — you can’t get flooded again.

Translation: We moved out.

Our landlord was very nice and professional about the whole thing. We’ve always enjoyed renting from him, but we just didn’t feel comfortable continuing in that space.

Our friends were amazing. I started putting out calls for help on Facebook almost immediately upon discovering the mess, and before I knew it six people had arrived to haul out wet furniture, clothes and books. One of our friends drove me to Home Depot to pick up moving boxes (I was not in a good mindset to drive), my in-laws came by to pick up the cat and dog, and then everyone started boxing up everything that wasn’t wet. We also had multiple offers of storage space, and several people sent information about properties that were available to rent. <Big heart swells>

We had everything out of harm’s way late on Wednesday night. On Thursday we rented a U-Haul truck and started moving things into that. More packing, more packing, more packing. Late on Thursday night we reviewed the properties that had been emailed, texted and DM’d to us by friends and we picked out four that might have worked. We sent inquiries by email that night. On Friday: More packing, place a claim on the renter’s insurance and follow-up phone calls to the rental properties. Two didn’t respond, the third was already taken and the fourth invited us to stop by to tour the property at 11am. By noon we had filled out the rental application and by 1pm we were back home to continue packing and loading the truck.

Because the application wouldn’t be processed until Monday we had to drop our stuff at a temporary storage space. That sucked. It would have been much less exhausting to unload the truck directly into the new apartment, but the U-Haul fees would have been extremely expensive to keep it that long. And if there had been any delays on the application we would have had to keep the truck out even longer. Plus, after having taken Thursday and Friday off to deal with the initial disaster, the Hubby and I had to get back to work; we couldn’t afford to take Monday off to unpack. So on Saturday we and a number of friends loaded and unloaded the truck – twice – into a friend’s garage. After that we cleaned the apartment as well as we thought was warranted; we spackled some holes in the unaffected walls, cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen cabinets, oven and fridge. We left one final half-load of stuff in the truck and went back to Roseville (where we had been staying with family since Wednesday) at 2am. We woke up at 6:30am, came back to Minneapolis, brought the last truck load over to the garage, unloaded it and returned the truck to U-Haul at 10am – 30 minutes before it was due back.

And then there were massages. Seriously. We each booked 60 minute full-body massages and then went to lunch. Because that’s what needed to happen.

The next week was a blur. On Monday I spoke with the insurance adjustor. Later in the day we signed our new lease and picked up keys. On Tuesday we stocked the new place with the essentials. On Wednesday night we found our air mattress and began sleeping at the new place. We worked really hard at our jobs to catch up from the unexpected time off. We moved a few car loads from the temporary storage garage to the new place every night. We shopped for a new bed. We were both bone tired from the mental stress and the physical exertion.  And this past weekend we rented another U-Haul and moved everything that was left in the garage to the new space.

So tired. A deep weariness that feels like I suddenly gained 100 pounds across my entire body. But we’re in good spirits; nobody was hurt or got sick during the move, and there is a feeling of optimism and a confidence that moving out was the right thing to do. We already feel much lighter knowing that everything is now in the right location. And we’ve even started unpacking.

A coffee maker is on a counter. Boxes and newspapers are stacked in a small room. In the middle of the chaos is a shelving unit filled with neatly-arranged board games.

The Keurig and board games. Because you have to have priorities.

Wasp Threesome

Today at work we found some wasps enjoying the lovely sunshiny afternoon.

Three mud daubers stacked one on top of the other.

I think these are mud daubers. I can’t find much on why three mud daubers might be stacked together like this, but whenever there’s odd behavior and animals involved, there’s a good chance that it has something to do with sex.

Muscle guy having his arm groped by an impressed-looking lady.

Cross-Country Connections: Sculpture

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Sculptures.

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

A large gold-colored sphere is poised on top of a metal column. In the foreground is a white bridge over a stone-riddled stream and a grassy park.This is the Sunsphere from the 1982 World’s Fair Park. Saw it with Brianne on our Southern tour last year. Love car trips.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

A giant spherical mass of curling glass hangs near a ceiling. Photo is in B&W and only the ball is in focus.Artsy-fartsy filtered photo of the artsy-fartsy Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland:

A green mowed field and blue sky with white clouds dominates the photo. In the distance an obelisk-style sculpture is seen.One of the 90+ memorial sculptures at Antietam National Battlefield in Western Maryland.

Cross-Country Connections: Hidden

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Hidden.

From Erin in Takoma Park, Maryland: 

Small black dog digging in the dirt

Searching for groundhogs at Antietam National Battlefield.

From Mom in Hagerstown, Maryland:

A backyard garden with a large butterfly statue.Mary Maloney’s has a hidden garden right in the middle of Biloxi’s casino strip. The tree, The Patriarch, is said to be 2000 years old! The giant bug is not.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

CCC Hidden BrianneNO – do not want to wake up. Cannot make.


Cosplay: We Made A Thing Today!

One of my favorite things about CONvergence -and of which there are many – is all of the cosplay. The Hubby and I love to people-watch, and we like to dress up when it’s creative and convenient. This year we decided that we had the time and energy to put together a few costumes. We spent yesterday planning specifics and shopping, and we made some amazing finds. I’m not going to put up photos of the complete costumes until CONvergence weekend, but here are the descriptions:

The Belcher FamilyTina and Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers – Aaron is repurposing a wig from a previous V for Vendetta costume for Tina, and he has a pair black thick-framed glasses that will serve.  We found a simple blue skirt, blue t-shirt, and yellow barrette for the him at Target. Black high-top Converses came from Famous Footwear. The retro tube socks will be picked up from Sox Appeal tomorrow. We had a bit more of a challenge finding a green dress for my Louise. There was nothing at Target, Savers or TJ Maxx, but then we lucked out at the Dress Barn: Kelly green with sleeves on the clearance rack, only one left AND in my size, 35% off. SCORE! Pink bunny ears hat ordered from Etsy. Black flats with strap from Famous Footwear. [Read more...]

Sadomasochism isn’t a dirty word.

Today Planned Parenthood supporters and opponents spoke out on Twitter with the hashtag #SexEd. The tweetfest was organized by the anti-abortion organization, Live Action, to denounce the Lurid! Disgusting! Immoral! Dangerous! advice given by Planned Parenthood counselers to a young woman who pretended to have honest questions for them about BDSM. She filmed the clinic workers – without their knowledge – answering the questions openly and honestly. Live Action calls this “undercover investigation.” I call bullshit. The film that Live Action is so very proud of can be seen on YouTube.

[Read more...]

Freeze-Dried Plasma

My nerdy interest du jour is battlefield medicine, tactical combat casualty care and field medicine (the non-military side of emergency medicine, used in disaster relief). The concept of triage and how to tackle logistical hurdles such as how to carry or transport sensitive equipment and items that need special storage (like refrigeration or freezing) in sparse or hostile environments is fascinating! I just ordered Battlefield Angels: Saving Lives Under Enemy Fire From Valley Forge to Afghanistan on my Kindle and can’t wait to dive into it (just have to finish A Feast for Crows first…)

[Read more...]