Mary made me do hard manual labor today. She has some serviceberries she wanted planted in the back yard, so I had to help cut chickenwire and bend it to make a protective circle around them — we have lots of rabbits around here — and then we had to dig holes in the thick, glue-like, clayey soil in our backyard (which, I know, isn’t the best for these bushes). Look what it did to my shoes!

Unfortunately, these are my only shoes. We’re poor, and I was supposed to get a new pair for my birthday a few months ago, and we never had the energy to drive all the way to Cabela’s. I guess I’d better make the trip soon.

Also, I’ve got a blister on my right hand. I am not made for hard manual labor.

We did find something interesting, a Masked Hunter.

Now though, I have to lie down and recuperate.


  1. voidseraph says

    That’s a cool fucking bug. The nymphs have evolved this unusual camouflage strategy. Human kids take note: next time the parents try to make you take a shower, tell them your mud bath is a sign that you’re more evolved than them.

  2. says

    Not only do I have shoes, they have new soles made of inch-thick cake of solid mud & grass! Eat your heart out!

  3. consciousness razor says

    Are you saying you need a heart transplant? I know a good doctor for that. Do you know a good doctor?

  4. birgerjohansson says

    You have a back yard? We grew up in a hovel that was back to back with a leaky sewage treatment plant.
    And we did not have ‘mud’ or ‘topsoil’. Everything was built on top of debris from a collapsed WWI poison-gas factory.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Consciousness razor @ 4
    Is the doctor by any chance known as ‘Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbs’ from Ankh-Morpork? I think it is better to choose an Igor from the Igor clan.

  6. nomdeplume says

    Assassin Bug?

    Perhaps we could crowd-fund a new pair of shoes for you…

  7. consciousness razor says

    Sorry, I don’t practice humorism professionally. I’m really just a dabbler in it, I guess, so I don’t know all of the lore … very well!11eleventy!!!

  8. consciousness razor says

    “We all ought to have a very deep well of lore,” is what I’m saying, but I don’t, because I’m actually kind of shallow like that,but I have no idea (currently) when this will ever end.

  9. Tethys says

    You can order online from Cabela’s, and they offer free shipping for a $50.00 minimum purchase.

    I came across an assassin bug nymph while sweeping up the house earlier this spring. I was surprised when some of the dust started walking away.

  10. watchfulstone says

    The serviceberry leaves in the photos on the linked site are much more elongated than those of the saskatoons I have in my yard. The leaves on my saskatoons are nearly round. Do you recall the variety name of the ones you planted?

  11. raven says

    While we are making obscure cultural references, the word woRk in this context could be taken from an old obscure sit com from the 1950s.


    For example, whenever the word “work” is mentioned, even in passing, he yelps “Work?!” and jumps with fear or even faints.

    I’ll leave this here for a while and see if anyone else remembers the 1950s.

  12. phein39 says

    Ever been bitten by an assassin bug? Think angry hornet. We have them all around our house due to the farm fields behind us. Ours are of the wheel bug variety (google it). I know, if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone, but: They’re also called the “kissing bugs,” as they like to sink their proboscis (probosces?) into the lips of sleeping humans. We haven’t found any in the house yet, but if we do, we’re moving to Norway.

  13. phein39 says


    Bob Denver in that Dobie Gillis show? I used him for my kids as an example of how much work it takes to get out of work.

  14. chrislawson says

    Sad state of affairs when a tenured professor can’t afford a second pair of shoes.

  15. phein39 says

    Tethys: The nymphs bite, too! Whatever their venom is, it kills the tissue around the insertion point. I had a hole in my thumb a few summers ago from an assassin bug nymph that hitched a ride on my push mower, and it took at least 6 months to heal.

  16. John Morales says

    chrislawson, nah, it’s not that PZ can’t afford some clodhoppers (though, once the new shoes come in, the featured (nice-looking without good heel support, but) shoes can become that, and the new shoes the routine shoes), but priorities.

    (Me, I use my old steel-capped work shoes for gardening. Toe protection FTW)

  17. raven says

    That wasn’t that hard.
    Phein39 got it in 7 minutes.

    Yes, this is the character, Maynard G. Krebs from the Dobie Gillis show. I never watched much TV as a kid but I remember that show. Maynard G. Krebs was by far the most interesting character on that show and for that matter, even the most interesting on late 1950s to early 1960s TV.

    Maynard G. Krebs was played by Bob Denver, who went on to be the Gilligan of Gilligan’s Island.

    Speaking of deprivations growing up, at that time, there were only 3 TV channels, ABC, NBC, and CBS. At that time, most people only had TVs that produced black and white pictures. Color TV didn’t catch on until the mid to late 1960s.

  18. raven says

    What bug transmits Chagas disease?

    The cause of Chagas disease is the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread from an insect known as the triatomine bug, or “kissing bug.” These insects can become infected by this parasite when they swallow blood from an animal that is infected with the parasite.

    Chagas disease – Symptoms & causes – Mayo Clinic
    Mayo Clinic › syc-20356212

    I had to look it up.

    The insect vector for a deadly disease called Chagas are the kissing bugs. They aren’t quite the same as assassin bugs but they are in the same family and have the same type of feeding strategy. They differ in hosts though, assassin bugs attack insects while kissing bugs feed on mammals.

  19. Silentbob says

    @ 19 raven

    The joke, of course, is that decent folk have a “work ethic” while the younger generations are “long-haired layabouts”. (That is; it is good and righteous to work long hours for your boss with little thought of reward.)

    Ah, the insidious indoctrination of capitalism.

  20. StevoR says

    ..then we had to dig holes in the thick, glue-like, clayey soil in our backyard (which, I know, isn’t the best for these bushes

    Try the rock hard baked dry Adelaide (South Aussie) soil. Very rocky and I expect much less fertile and poorer in nutriants since we haven’t had an ice age or volcanoes here to create good soils by recent weatrenewal and subsequent weathering of minerals. Australia’s soils gnerally have geologically aged and lost alot of quality organic nutriants over time plus had a saltinity issue. Last glacial period, – see amiong other places The Geography of the Ice Age by Atlas Pro -15 mins Australia were just very dry and windy with very dry and cold and hot desert extremes. Minnesota, so I gather, was under quite an ice sheet which would’ve sucked at the time but I’m guessing left your soils in much better shape than ours..

  21. says

    Raven @ 19. Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld both had supporting roles in that show (Warren’s of a shorter duration) Ask me any question about useless trivia, more important stuff eh….

  22. says

    Hey, I can afford new shoes! The problem is that I live in a shoe desert, and have to drive a fair distance to get a good variety. I really need a solid walking shoe that is also appropriate to wear in the office, with good ankle support (the older I get, the more finicky I am about shoes). Locally I could get steel-toed farm boots or cheap flimsy tennis shoes that wear out in 3 months, and I need something in-between.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Consciousness Razor @ try the Discworld novels by the late, great Terry Pratchett. He developed a rich surreal lore that in sheer size is second only to that of Tolkien.
    So it is no disgrace to be unaware of the Igor clan, masters of applying recycled human parts (“he has his father’s eyes” could be a literal starement).
    And never, ever buy any meat product from Dibbs. Even if he swears it is of bovine origin.

  24. chrislawson says

    Glad to learn I got the wrong end of the stick there. One solution that works for me is to find a shoe I like and order the same model and size online when it wears out.

  25. rockwhisperer says

    I live in the northern (near-bay) part of the South San Francisco Bay Area, on “soil” that is largely composed of a kind of clay that is spectacularly sticky when wet and almost lithified when dry. Two decades ago we put an addition on our house, a bedroom/bathroom/sitting room arrangement for my late father so he could move in with us. We started the work in February, when the mud is at its stickiest, and the poor construction crew laying the foundation were scraping centimeters of muck off their boots at the end of the day.

  26. brucej says

    chrislawson @27 I did that for several years with serial pairs of trail boots by Marmot.

    That ended when they stopped making them. :-( Nowadays all the shoe manufacturers change their models like you or I change our clothes so it’s hard to get a standard like that without going to stratospheric prices like Danner.

    Nowadays I haunt Woot, they frequently have good brands (Merrell in this instance) on sale

    They buy odd lots and surplus though, so you have to hop on them when they come by.

  27. VolcanoMan says

    Those are decent boots, PZ, and they look well taken care of (especially if they’re old enough that you’re searching for new ones). I keep going between Merrells and Keens for my own boots, as I find that they are almost interchangeable in terms of quality and aesthetics (not that I care a lot about the latter). And I wear the crap out of them too (to that point, I do find the mesh material visible on those boots to be a major point of failure in the past – if it didn’t tear due to an incautious brush against some sharp surface, it would separate from the leather, leaving me with a big gap in the boot). I was curious about how long shoes can last me (in terms of total steps before they are damaged beyond repair), so I have scrupulously tracked my steps whenever I wear my current pair (which are Keens), and they’ve sustained over 2.3 million so far (since I got them at the beginning of May, 2023), or ~1.15 million per boot. Apparently, that’s pretty much twice the design capability of the average boot (which I have learned is ~800 km, or about 1.0-1.4 million steps, depending on stride length).

    Also, boots lasting me a long time is a very good thing. Due to an old skiing injury (a comminuted fracture of the right proximal femur – surgeons had to piece my leg back together like one of those 3D puzzles), and specifically to the way it healed, my right leg is 33 mm shorter than the left, so every time I get new footwear, I pay a bunch of money to get an orthotic specialist to cut the right sole open and insert a bunch of synthetic material, raising it up so that when I walk, I am balanced. So I don’t own normal tennis shoes/sneakers, or sandals…they offer me less lateral support, and I don’t want to pay to get multiple pairs of footwear adjusted. I only wear boots. And like I said, I get everything I can out of a pair before replacing them (hence me tracking how much I have walked in them…if I’m to have any “brand loyalty” it will be because that brand reliably makes boots that last a really long freakin’ time).

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