Howdy, Nandi!

Let me introduce you to a new friend of mine, Nandi the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). Unlike most of the snakes whom I have encountered in my gardens, this one was much more amenable to being held, and didn’t thrash about, pee, or exude stink from its postanal gland. We decided to adopt him. (I think it’s a him; the tail after the vent is slender and shortish. Also, males emerge from hibernation first.)

Isn’t he just the cutest thing?

3/4 profile portrait shot of a Garter snake

Despite what pet stores may tell you (or told me), garter snakes are not insectivorous. So In his roomy terrarium/herpetarium, I ended up with a bunch of crickets (and some cricket feed cubes). The crickets will end up as chow for Rosie, my tarantula. Meanwhile though, the male crickets serenade the females, as well as Nandi and Rosie and me. Chirp, chirp, chirp! It’s the cricket equivalent of, “Hey, ba-by! Ooh, sexy!”

A pile of randy crickets hanging out atop the rock under the heat lamp

And as you can tell from this picture, Nandi is not a threat to them. In fact, he seems a trifle annoyed at times, and a few days ago after I fed him a hyuge earthworm, he burrowed into the soft plant substrate to digest, unmolested by the jumping jiminies.

At about 22 in. / 56 cm., Long Snake Is Long. Well, not really; that’s about an average size for an adult, although he could grow longer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sound check

“Testing, 1, 2, 3 …”

Hooray, I got my MacBook back from the shop!  It would completely lose the wireless signal two meters from the router, and kept getting hot.  Due to teaching commitments, I wasn’t able to take it in until now, just a couple weeks before the AppleCare programme expired.  Lessee … they replaced the main logic board, battery, top case, heatsink, fan, and airport (wireless) card.  Essentially, I have a nearly-new computer inside my old case.  (Yes, it’s my old case, with the spider sticker on top.)  So even though the warranty will expire soon, my computer ought to hang in there for quite a while longer.

Now I can finally get blogging again.

But meanwhile, let’s do a sound check to see if there’s anyone out there still … roll call!

Q.:  What’s your least favorite Ohrwurm?  (song that gets stuck in your head)

Sugar, Sugar … Billy don’t be a hero … Who let the dogs out … It’s a small world after all … that WHOOMP thing they play at ball games …

Getting there … or, Not.

The other day, my daughter sent me a link to this post by Xenakis, which describes the wonderful side of Universal Design. In other words, build something right from the start, and you won’t have to go back and tack on ugly access structures.

plaza in Robson Square, Vancouver, with long flight of stairs and ramps making diagonal switchbacks up the hill

plaza in Robson Square, Vancouver, with ramps making diagonal switchbacks across the long flight of stairs up the hill

There are a few problems I can see with this approach.  One is that it might be too easy for a wheelie to get off-ramp — perhaps there are guiding impediments that I can’t see in the image. Also, someone commenting on Xenakis’ post, points out that people who walk up ramps often need hand rails, and the rails are only along the stairs. Personally, I would also like to see some kind of contrast striping between the stairs and the ramps; can you imagine going up or down this in a rainy, dark night?

Nonetheless, it’s still a really cool advancement over the traditional Deep Flight of Stairs Up to an Official Building.

Next up in today’s post on accessibility:  some pix from the Fail Blog. When access is SO BAD that everyone but the installer can tell that It Sucketh, Big Time:

Stucco building with Female and Male bathroom signs over two doors, and between those, a Handicapped sign over a shuttered window

Stucco building with Female and Male bathroom signs over two doors, and between those, a Handicapped sign over a shuttered window

Escalator with a wall neatly built right at the first moving step up/down

Escalator with a wall neatly built right at the first moving step up/down

A man in sandals demonstrates the futility of trying to climb up a concrete doorway ramp (marked with Handicapped emblem) that is at least a 30° angle upwards

A man in sandals demonstrates the futility of trying to climb up a concrete doorway ramp (marked with Handicapped emblem) that is at least a 30° angle upwards

And last but not least (just for grins), Teh Dumb from a hospital somewhere. I’m not fond of MRI machines from the comfort perspective, for all they can make great pictures. The last time I was in one, I wore ear plugs and they gave me the clam-shell headphones to help block out some of the noise. But I have hyperacussis and tinnitus, and 45 minutes later my head was ringing so badly, I slithered off the padded bench and crumpled to the floor.

Powerful MRI with metal hospital bed pulled off the floor and stuck to opening

Powerful MRI with metal hospital bed pulled off the floor and stuck to opening

Hanging around the Web

Cruising the Web BW

A shiny robot spider hangs upside-down from a metal mesh

My son and I recently hauled a long dresser+mirror up two flights of stairs, and I cleaned up the master bedroom in preparation for the return of the new baby & parents from the hospital.  The downside of course is that after a day of labor, I must spend a couple-three days recuperating.  (In other words, I used up all my “spoons”, down to the last demitasse.)

I’m also on Day 2 of one of those low-grade-three-day migraines.  Right now it’s manifesting as misreads, which when I catch myself is kind of entertaining:

In light of all that, I thought I’d share some interesting reads/cool finds on the Web recently:

My sleep-deprived daughter would be envious of ant queens, who spend nine hours a day sleeping, while the workers must squeeze in micro-naps.

From the world of delightful architecture, an adult tree[less] house shaped like a bee skep, made of recycled lumber (wheelie adaptation not included).

The CitizenM hotels have the most amazing showers, which look like Star Trek transporter pads.  To start the shower, you simply shut the door.  I don’t know if they’re large enough for a wheelchair transfer to a shower seat, but with the zero-clearance there’s a chance of it (maybe Dave knows). Want!  (Or at least the trés geek LED shower head that changes from blue to red when your water’s hot.)

Reimer Reason posted It’s a Family Reunion! for the most recent Disability Blog Carnival.

In further hexapod news:  while I was distracted by our little geekling, Bug Girl has been faithfully covering Pollinator Week, including important information about CHOCOLATE. For more funs, Cheshire has teh latest Circus of the Spineless up.

And of course, what would a list of fun be without a LOLcat?

Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball

Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball. The photo caption reads, "PUZZLE PICTURE Find the kitten who has ADD."

Congratulations

to my daughter and her honey, on the arrival of their little geekling.  The boy is healthy and beautiful.  We’re all so proud and excited!

News Bees

Our carpenter bees are happy, but the short-haired bumble became extinct in its native country several years ago.  Fortunately, immigrant populations survived in New Zealand, and are being re-introduced.  The value of native pollinators is being rediscovered as honeybee populations have dwindled. Find out how to prevent jet-lag in bees and more here in the Guardian.

Elephants are also endangered, and Kenyan populations are pushed to resources where farmers are also trying to survive.  Fortunately, researchers are working with the elephants’ (and bees’) natural behaviors.  A report on BBC News describes how hollow-log style beehives have been used on the continent for centuries, and are used as part of the fences. (Of course, the honeybees also give the farmers good crop pollination, and some honey and wax harvests, too.)

Insect news from my own garden to come soon!

The benefits of buggy design

Ask people what insects are “good for” (in the anthropocentric sense), and most people will answer that bees produce honey and wax, or silkworms spin cocoons of fine thread. A few people may even realise that shellac comes from the shells of lac bugs, or that carmine & cochineal red food colorings are made from a cactus-feeding beetle. And of course, everyone knows that ladybeetles (ladybird beetles / ladybugs) are useful predators.

But aside from these direct uses of insects for their labor or their exoskeletons, 21st-century scientists are increasingly using lowly hexapods for rather different pursuits: insects are fabulous engineering models!

an iridescent Blue Morpho butterfly flitting by

an iridescent Blue Morpho butterfly flying by

The field of biomimetics is the realm of Read the rest of this entry »

Want!

Check out this small meeting room (one of a number of diverse, really cool nooks) at the Google offices in Zurich. Unseen in the first shot is the firefighter’s pole to slide down from the floor above! It sure beats the hell outta the industrial-grey cube-farm where I did tech writing. But what’s fabulous about these offices (and other Google buildings) is not just the physical environment, but also the social and business culture that values play and creativity, rather than viewing them as frivolous distractions from “real” work.

There is a world of creative people out there actually making living wages in different businesses, using their knowledge in imaginative, useful and positive ways, and I want in. I feel like a moth beating against the window pane … it’s enough to make one cry.

(But what kind of job does a worker bee with degrees in science, a teaching/special education background — but not a secondary-school teaching certification, and skills in art and communication do?)

You can find the coolest things on the Web!

Source: Democratic Stuff.com (an amazingly wide variety of interest groups are represented, besides Bug Enthusiasts.)

Congratulations!

Are due to the Kid, who managed to hang in there through the finish of the scholastic year, despite various difficulties with the school setting. The cool part is that (after securing the Official Paperwork from the school), our high school junior then went on to take the GED test and passed with flying colors, thus earning the equivalent of a high school diploma.

While the rest of his former cohort is gearing up to start their senior year of high school, our son is finishing up a second college class, and is enrolled for the fall term as a full-time college freshman.

Even better, he says that this is the first time in years since the sight of stores filled with school supplies has not filled him with dread. Additionally, having a summer job doing construction labor has made him realise the value of further education, and even given him moments of, “I wish I were in class.” We’ve not seen this kind of scholastic enthusiasm in years.

Way to go, guy!  We’re proud of you.

a blonde 12-month old boy seated on a chair, reaching up and pecking at the keyboard to an early 1990's personal computer

a blond 12-month old boy seated on a chair, reaching up and pecking at the keyboard to an early 1990's personal computer