November 29

Wednesday I took my Ecology class out for the goldenrod gall fly lab.  We found an abundance of galls, and fairly quickly.  We had a high yield of larvae, and I saved them for bait, as usual, but also for photographic purposes.  In the evening I met Jay at Lori’s for dinner.  We went to book club and had a lengthy discussion.  We reassessed our purpose, which was very healthy.  We also had a small birthday celebration for Jammie.  Lori made key lime tarts with raspberries, and they were awesome!

Thursday only one out of my four students showed up for Environmental Science.  One had a good excuse; she was in a rollover accident over the weekend.  She was bruised and battered, but will be better soon.  I think this is the second best excuse all-time I have heard in my career.  Her accident (and her name) made the TV news.  The first place excuse will be hard to beat–one of my students had her entire city (Kobe, Japan) destroyed by an earthquake in 1995.  With the one student we skipped lecture and got some work done.  We identified some of the mussels for her research project.  We designed a banner for the environmental club, to be hung in the student center.  The colors won’t be exactly like this.


I pulled out the refrigerated larvae and mounted my camera on the stand.  I attached the macro lens and adjusted my lights, but when I turned the camera on the display was dark.  I tweaked my lights but could not get a brighter image.  Before I went for my flash, I checked the lens again, where I had attached the macro lens to the lens cap.  That was an easy fix.  Yeah, I photographed maggots today.  
  
Goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) larva, AKA maggot.   Wasp (Eurytoma gigantea) larva: not a maggot but not pretty either.

Last summer when I was in California we all went to the Portuguese Festa, ate bunch of sopas, went back to Mike & Cindy’s house, and crashed.  My sneaky sister-in-law Cindy snapped a rather telling shot, which I just scanned.  Below you can see how my Dad, my brothers and I inherited the afternoon nap gene from Vova. 


Upper left: Dad, Center: Mike, Upper right: me, On floor near ball: Mark, Lower right: Mike’s son Racin.

Recently, I completed a project that I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years.  I’m not going to reveal how I did it, just click on the link below.  It’s a small movie file (.avi).  I’m fairly certain you will not be disappointed. 

The Metamorphosis

Wasn’t that cool?

Friday I went out to Lowell’s.  As usual, we got our walking exercise by taking a dog through woods and fields while carrying guns.  No quail bothered to appear.  We did find that the deer carcass had been gnawed upon.  Later Lowell examined the contents of the trail camera, revealing the fiercest predators in the region.


The deadly tabby!


A murder of crows.


Wile E. Coyote.

There was also three-quarters of an opossum in one frame.  Kane had a good time swimming and running around.  After lunch we did some logging.  First, we took an old hay bale feeder out of the east side and put it near our logging site to serve as a wood pile support.  We dragged some logs out of the woods using the tractor, some of which we had felled last year, some of which were volunteers.  We motored around in the Mule part of the time.  Lowell says that all of Kawasaki’s promotional literature shows the dog riding in the bed of the Mule, but Kane insists on riding up front, right at my feet.  Near the end of these efforts, Kane found an old deer gut pile and rolled around in it, thereby supplementing his own special scent.  Good thing he rides in a crate in the back of my truck on the way home.

In the evening we went to Palmyra to watch our high school basketball teams lose.  At least the girls game was close.  We watched Savannah cheer.  It was the first time we saw her “fly.”  She didn’t look entirely comfortable up there, but at least they didn’t drop her.  We all agreed that Palmyra’s dance (or “kicker”) team, which performed at half-time of the men’s game, was awesome.

Saturday had an icy beginning–freezing rain.  Kane’s kennel was like an ice rink.  I heard on Stacey’s pager that there was a rollover accident in La Grange.  We stayed home.  So did the birds.

Black-capped chickadee under the icicles.  Goldfinches eat seeds from trumpet creeper pods.

Sunday Stacey stayed home, as church was cancelled due to the ice storm.  While we were hanging around and getting ready to go to Savannah’s piano recital, she got an urge to shoot a bird.  I brought up her BB gun and she shot the next available house sparrow out the sliding glass door.  Kelly Cat is no longer here to eat them, so I saved it for a study skin. 

Shooting birds in your nice clothes is probably against standard practice.

We went to the piano practice, which was held in a new auditorium this year, which was TOO SMALL to fit all the people.  That sucked, but at least there were fewer musical numbers and it was over quickly.  Savannah faked her way through her piece.  We won’t have to sit through one of these again, as she is giving up the piano.

Monday morning I took Stacey’s car in for new front tires.  One was a blowout waiting to happen.  I took the truck in to work and hauled the recycling.  That night I had the last Galapagos class before we leave on the trip.  I talked about the history of the Islands, and the other prof talked about the ethics of ecotourism.  We had some good discussion.  Before class I went to the eCommerce Club meeting, hoping I would learn some things, but didn’t get much out of it.  There was, however, free pizza and drinks. 

Tuesday I showed a movie in one of my classes, but I had never previewed it, so I didn’t know that the sound was all messed up.  When it was over, I threw the tape away.  In the evening I went to our High School basketball games.  We won both.  The girls’ game was a blowout, but the boys’ game was a nail-biter down to the last two seconds.  Savannah’s cheerleading team did a really cool pyramid thing, but I had no camera.





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November 21

Wednesday I had the day off.  I had the Tracker inspected, and  took it in to get it registered.  I did a job that’s so unpleasant that I only do it once a year: move the cockroach colony into a fresh, clean aquarium.  The worst part is digging through the dried poo looking for babies.  Now they’re all cleaned up and indoors for the winter.  I repacked all my Galapagos stuff; it just barely fits in my internal frame pack.

My camera is still working, but the zoom ring and power button are a little stiff, presumably from the dried mud in them.  There isn’t too much dirt inside the lens, but I’m worried it will die at some point, such as in the Galapagos.  I ordered a new camera, and I have to tell the story.  First, I waited a week to order it, and the price dropped almost 100 dollars.  I did a Google search and compared all the online places.  TechonDigital had the lowest price.  They require telephone confirmation of their orders, unlike most online vendors, so I called them.  After being on hold awhile, I spoke to “James.”  You guessed it: James had a heavy Indian accent.  First he confirmed my address and stuff, then said that I would need a memory card.  Did I want the 512 Mb model or the 1Gb version?  I said I had lots of memory cards.  He said I would need a battery.  I said I had batteries.  Then he said that this was a grey market camera I would be getting.  I asked what he meant by that.  He said it was a Japanese model, with a Japanese manual and no US warranty.  I said, “So if you ship me a broken camera, there’s nothing I can do about it?”  He repeated that it had no US warranty.  I told him to cancel my order.  I had an inkling that this might happen.  I bought my current camera (Panasonic FZ30) two years ago from an online vendor, who called to say there was a credit card problem, then tried to sell me a spare battery.  That’s how these places make money.  They lowball the price of the camera, then make it up with WAY overpriced accessories, like $60 for a 512 Mb SD card, which is 6 times too high.  I really hadn’t counted on the grey market camera strategy.  I’ll bet if I had ordered a memory card and battery I would have gotten a USA camera.  So a couple days later I order from a different company (86th Street Camera), whose web site touts their customer service and 21 day guarantee.  Now the price has dropped again.  I get a confirmatory email, then another email indicating I needed to call them.  Big surprise.  He starts in with the confirmation of the address thing, and what a fine camera I’ve purchased, and if I have any questions, just ask.  Well, it’s the FZ50, almost the same as my FZ30, so I’m pretty sure I know it better than they do because they have about two hundred cameras to learn and I only one.  But I digress.  Then he starts telling me how bad the stock battery is, and how I need to order a second one.  Over the past two years I’ve run the battery down exactly once.  The stock battery still works great, while the aftermarket one I bought has recently died.  I told him I didn’t need a battery or a memory card because I had the spares from a broken FZ30.  He said, “Well, sir, enjoy your camera and use it in good health.”   I’m still thinking about the tone of his voice when he said that.  Stay tuned for new and, perhaps, improved pictures.

It rained on and off all day.  In the evening it snowed a little bit.  Starts to feel like winter.  The house is toasty from the wood furnace, though. 

Thanksgiving
I winterized the dog kennel.  Savannah and I combed out Kane and cut the huge mats of hair off of his butt and tail.  We decided to have a quiet holiday at home.  Stacey cooked an excellent meal, but we had no guests.  It snowed a bit today.  

Here’s the next chapter in the camera saga:

Dear Valued Customer,
We regret to inform you that the products you have ordered included in order# xxxxxx-W are sold out temporarily.  However, these products shall be available again within about 5-6 weeks from the date of this email.

Yeah, in about 5 or 6 weeks I’ll be back from the Galapagos already.  I wonder; if I had ordered a memory card or battery, would the camera have been in stock?  Remember, I talked to these people on the phone already.  Their web site still says the camera “usually ships in 2-3 days.”  I’m starting to get pretty pissed off at these places.  And furthermore, the price of the camera has jumped back up again.  I cancelled the order. 


OK, I found this great web site called resellerratings.com.  People write reviews and rate different vendors.  It turns out both places I dealt with are at the BOTTOM.  The first one has zero out of 10.  Zero.  Some of the reviews are hilarious, after you accept that everyone has had the same experience, with minor variations.  This practice of calling and trying to peddle expensive accessories is called upselling.  Apparently, it’s not entirely illegal.  I’ll be using a more reputable vendor if and when I buy a new camera.

Friday I took Kane out to Lowell’s.  We attempted quail hunting, and had about as much luck as last time.  At least we all got some exercise, and Kane enjoyed swimming in and drinking from all the ponds.  Water must taste better when you’re swimming in it.  I’ve never tried.  We had lunch in Ewing, and went back for some catfishing.  We got no action at the catfish pond, and moved down to the big lake.  Those catfish love smoky links.  I caught a beautiful channel cat almost immediately.  Kane wanted to retrieve it as it thrashed on the surface, but I let Lowell net it instead.  Not long afterward, Lowell caught a massive cat.  After that, they shut down.

  
Kane looks disappointed that he didn’t get to retrieve it.  Lowell was happier than he appears to be in this image. 

As we were walking back up the hill, I saw a large grey object out of place.  I said, “Lowell, is that an old log or a dead deer.”  He said, “A dead deer.”  I hiked across the ravine to check it out.  It was a button buck, slightly bloated, stiff, but no obvious signs of injury.  It must have been shot somewhere else, then run onto Lowell’s and keeled over on that little ridge.  Kane tried to cover it up with leaves using his nose.  I suppose he thought he was saving it for later (though Savannah thinks he was giving it a respectful burial).  I dragged it downhill to the pontoon boat dock while Lowell went for the Mule.  We heaved it into the back and drove it over to a little meadow, where a trail camera will record everything that comes to snack on it. 


Bambi won’t make it through this winter.

Saturday I stayed home and did odd jobs.  I finished a project I had started probably a year ago and never finished, a little animation.  It may not run in this message, but you can see it at my cicada killer page here:  http://www.showmejoe.com/thriller/CicadaEclosion.gif



We watched a few movies.  In the evening I went to the QU vs. Culver men’s basketball game.  Culver actually got out of the gate first with a decent lead, but it didn’t last.  QU came back and eventually ran away with it.  One of my students had the hot hand, scoring a career best 37.

Sunday I stayed home all day.  I did a short meditation, then rode the exercise bike while watching March of the Penguins.  It didn’t live up to the hype, and is way too slow for exercise purposes.  It was another day for lots of little jobs around the house and on the computer. 

It was a bad weekend for my students.  One totalled her car back in Indiana, but was uninjured.  Another was thrown from the back seat of a car and pinned under the trunk.  I awoke in the morning hearing about the accident and her name mentioned on the news.  She’s battered but OK.   

Monday night I went to our high school girls basketball games, both JV and varsity.  We were slaughtered by stronger teams.  It was embarrassing.  The first JV girl on our team to score was Savannah’s friend Katrina.  She’s short, but very athletic.  It was Savannah’s debut as a cheerleader at a real game.  I thought she did a great job.  I guess she made some mistakes, but I didn’t notice.  I attempted some photography, but even my big flash won’t light up that gymnasium.  All it does is give Savannah demon eyes.


Savannah with poms.  The whole squad performs during a time out (Savannah at right).

Tuesday afternoon I took my class out to Lowell’s again.  We put up a bluebird house next to the lake, and wired a bunch of small hollow logs into trees for bird nesting.  It was a good day, not too cold. 

I was notified that all four of my images submitted to the 2007 Insect Photo Salon were accepted.  Considering the international competition, I was happy with the results.  Here were mine:


Green Darner.  Meet the new me (periodical cicada).

Irridescent fly.  Monarch on butterfly bush. 

If you have some time, visit this page where you can see all the winners.  Some of them are extremely good:
http://www.peoriacameraclub.com/Insect%20Report/sect_1.htm


November 13

This is one of Savannah’s rules for her boyfriend:  You can only be friends with ugly girls. 

Tuesday we did a noise pollution lab in Environmental Science.  One of my students, a member of the women’s basketball team, can scream at 121 Db (at 50 cm from the sensor).  That’s at the threshold of pain.  I could only make 115 Db with my best karate yell.

A student is keeping his tarantula in my office.  I don’t mind.  I gave the baby snake to another student, Cameron, who has appeared in this space several times.  You should have seen the huge smile on his face.  I promised him one probably two years ago.

Wednesday morning I taped an introduction for a NOVA episode that will air on our local PBS station, next Tuesday, I think.   It’s called Master of the Killer Ants.  This was much more fun than the last one, The Dimming Sun.  It was taped in HD, but will air in standard, fortunately.  Wouldn’t want all my gray hair and facial imperfections to be too obvious!  I had book club Wednesday night.  It was a good one.

Here’s a link to the show:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ants/

Thursday afternoon we had an electronics recycling program on campus.  I had some students help me load my car and a student car with old computers and stuff.  Then we had to wait in line for an hour and a half.  I wanted to take a couple more car loads, but it would have taken forever. 

Friday I went in to work just for a meeting, which I mostly had to run.  It went OK.  That night we took Savannah and her friend over to their cheerleading coach’s house, where all 15 of them were going to spend the night.  I think the coach is nuts, but it’s her choice.

Saturday Stacey had to go to class.  I stayed home, ran errands and worked on stuff.  I went down to the riverfront and saw the first eagles of the year (November 17 to be official).  They were on the other side of the river, so the image is a bit small.  I waited awhile to see if they would fly, and took photos of seagulls to practice my BIF technique.

  

Tiny eagles on the left, lone seagull on the right.

In the afternoon I cleaned the leaves out of the gutters, and prepared the outdoor furnace for the burning season.  In the evening I went to “Tiger Madness”, the kickoff to the High School basketball season.  They had some instrasquad scrimmages among the teams.  The dance team did their thing, and later the cheerleading team did several cheers.  The lighting makes photography a challenge.  Next time I’ll take my big flash.

  
Savannah is in the center on the second tier.                                 Scan of class picture.

Sunday I stayed home, read the paper, rode the exercise bike, got logs from the brush dump, and worked on a variety of little projects around the house.

Most of my FYE students didn’t want to keep their cockroaches.  They still taste good to Yoda.

Monday night I had the Galapagos class again.  It was fun stuff, but that’s why this blog did not go out on time.  Tuesday I showed my FYE class the images of their roaches be eaten, as above.  They were a bit dismayed.  The ones that won awards were very happy.  The best roach poem was printed with a nice border and framed.  The trainer of the winner of the cockroach race got a framed photo of his beast.  It was the last class, so I’ll have slightly less work for the rest of the semester.  Now I’m on Thanksgiving Break.  I finally fired up the woodburning furnace tonight.  It’s supposed to be below 50 F for the foreseeable future.  It gives me a perverse pleasure to burn some of those big logs I cut up last summer.





November 9

Thursday afternoon I was a judge for the QU Academic Challenge–a quiz bowl for high school students.  It will be televised around Christmas.  I wore a tie for the whole 5 seconds I’ll probably be on the air.  There wasn’t too much eventful, except that some teams were MUCH better than others.  The moderator was Brian Inman, our local TV weather man.  I talked to him for a bit.  Turns out he’s a real nice guy. 

Friday morning I went out to Lowell’s to get my last licks in on the deer hunting before the gun season starts.  I sat in my favorite tree, but saw no deer, or anything else I could shoot at.  I wanted to stay out awhile longer, but I had underestimated the cold.  I climbed down and stalked around the place.  Still nothing.  I warmed up in Lowell’s house, and we went to lunch at the new Mexican place in Ewing.  It was good, and a lot of food.  We spotted a cat that’s been hanging around. I sneaked around the shed to get a picture of it.  It was kind of dirty.   Turns out it was quite tame, and I petted it a bit (NO, I DON’T NEED ANOTHER CAT AT HOME).  When we left, it was rolling in the dust on a trail.  Now we know why it’s so dirty.  Made me think of a song I know.


“Kitty at my foot and I want to touch it.”
   –The Presidents of the United States


We fished for catfish out of the floating dock.  Lowell got some big bites right away, but couldn’t hook them.  This is typical for these catfish.  I missed one, then hooked another one of good size.  It fought a bit, jumping in the air and doing a complete 360, but the cold was too much.  Lowell netted it and photographed me with it.  I released it.  We got a few more bites (they love smoky links), but things slowed down.  We moved up to the catfish pond, where I immediately caught another small channel cat. 


Second cat of the day.  We didn’t eat this one either.

After I turned it loose and baited up again, my camera fell out of my coat pocket, tumbled down the bank and into about 4 inches of water.  I pulled it out quickly, rinsed some of the mud off, and wiped it dry with a rag.  It powered up when I tried it.  I figured it would be OK after air drying.  On the way home I stopped to photograph a hawk, but it wouldn’t power up.  At home I found that I could shake water out of it.  Bad sign.  I shook out as much as I could, but noticed water inside the lens.  Very bad sign.  The pics on the memory card were still good, as you can see above. 

I let Kane out to run around while I covered our fish pond with netting to keep the leaves out.  He started rolling in something down by the little sweetgum tree.  It turned out to be a dead garter snake, probably killed by the neighbor’s mower.  Looked about the size of the one that used to live in the rocks around our fish pond.  Sad.  I went down and pulled some logs out of the brush dump after that. 

Saturday I went to the Kibbe Field Station for the 40th Anniversary celebration.  I saw some of my old friends, Rick and Mike, and caught up on news.  Found out my old buddy Tom Dunstan had a heart attack last week.  He gets this blog, so, Tom, take a look at that catfish if you want to keep your blood pumping!  For those of you who don’t know, Tom’s son Marcus cowrote the script for Saw IV, which just made about a bazillion dollars at the box office.  I expect to see a new Lund in the driveway soon, Tom.

Sunday I stayed home in the morning and rode the exercise bike for an hour while watching a movie.  It has to be a really good movie to distract from the pain and tedium of pedaling.  The camera appears to be dried out, but there’s some remaining crud inside the lens.  I took a photo of a clean piece of paper and the spots do show up.  I dread sending it in for repair and being “soaked” again.  In the afternoon I took Savannah and Dustin to Quincy to the rehearsal for the Christmas piano recital.  At least I sat by some friends there and had some friendly conversation. We hit WalMart afterward and got Burger King on the way home.


Monday was fairly uneventful, except that a woman brought me a snake for identification.  It was another black rat snake, apparently a hatchling.  My student assistants and I handled it, and it bit every one of us.  Fortunately, it’s too small to cause much damage.  I will probably give it to another student.