Saturday, December 31, 2005

ENV: Circus of the Spineless #4


It is so hard to believe that this little blog carnival is already four months old! Yet here it is in a splendid compilation by one of the host blogs bootstrap analysis (which also features a brand new spiffy header logo!). If bugs, spiders, squid, snails, moths, butterflies or dragonflies is your thing, here's your chance to bone up (well, exoskeleton or calcareous shell or slime up) at Circus of the Spineless #4!




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ENV: About Texas' First Snow Bunting


Snow Bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis
First Record for Texas
TX: Polk & San Jacinto Counties, Lake Livingston
21-23 December 1977


photo by Tony Gallucci and Kelly Bryan

Just thought, since it was CBC season, and with the finding of a new Texas Snow Bunting, that i'd toss a little history out there.

I was living on Lake Livingston in 1977 (actually from 1971-1986) and started what would end up being the first of three CBCs i put together for the four-county area (Trinity, Walker, San Jacinto and Polk -- the area covered in full by TPWDs Lake Livingston checklist -- the CBCs were Lower Lake Livingston, Trinity Peninsula [later renamed Upper Lake Livingston], and JB Ranch).

This first one covered most of the lower lake. What it didn't cover was snatched by the Upper Lake count. Kelly Bryan and i and a handful of other stalwart east Texas birders (i.e. Dean Fischer, Louis Debetaz, Mike Musemeche, Ralph Moldenhauer, John Ford and David Stuart, if memory serves, perhaps some students and others that i've forgotten for now) fanned out around the edges, and worked part of the lake in boats. Kelly and i had the east side and split up for a while to try to get some things that we were still missing. I was ecstatic that i'd found an Ash-throated Flycatcher in perhaps the only "thorn-scrub" patch in the Big Thicket, when Kelly pulled up and told me to park my truck and get in his. I could tell by the look on his face that he'd found something good.

It was, of course. In fact it was to become Texas' first record of a Snow Bunting. Kelly found it serendipitously on the north causeway when it flew across in front of the car in front of his. All he knew then was that it was a small white bird -- and you can imagine what would go through someone's head at the site of mostly white bird -- the dreaded albino or . . . Snow Bunting(?!).

The causeway is not a place where you can pull over safely, so he had to go ahead, turn around and drive slowly back. He found the bird, and knew instantly what it was. He then had to try to crawl along the highway without getting smacked from behind while trying to take pictures with his telephoto. Luckily the bird was very tame -- seems to run in the species -- however there was a stout north wind blowing and besides struggling to hold the wheel of the truck steady, and the camera steady but for the wind, Kelly's fingers were about frozen.

Satisfied that he had at least some identifiable shots (before digital though, so there was no way to know until the pics were developed), he set out to find me so we could try for better pictures. Luckily i was headed his way to brag about the Ash-throat. We spent the rest of the fast-fading light with me hanging out the window with his camera, while he crept along, waved folks around, and sometimes had to just pull ahead and turn around and try again.

We put the word out as soon as we got back to town (no cellphones then either). At the time though, photos for ID were not quite en vogue. They had been accepted for an increasing number of records of rarities, but various pros were still debating whether or not they should be accepted for anything -- and we weren't yet sure how the photos would turn out. We got the word out for folks to come see the bird quickly -- we also didn't know a blasted thing back then about Snow Buntings, such as how long one might linger. Nevertheless, after three days of observers driving in to see it, and us nervous about whether it might leave and take its status with it, the bird was collected (yell at me, if you feel the need to yell).

It proved to be a female. Even the stomach contents were sorted and identified. And the record was published in (then) American Birds.

We thought it pretty special that a CBC had produced a new state record, something that at the time was a singular rarity.

Oddly enough, five years later, Kelly and i were sorting through a huge mass of gulls at the Lake Livingston dam on the fifth edition of this same CBC, and had found a number of new east Texas and area records including a gorgeous Black-legged Kittiwake, Laughing Gulls, and a variety of terns, when we started sifting through thousands of Bonaparte's Gulls sitting on the water above the dam. We silently were hoping for a Little Gull. While Kelly scoped i started making mental notes of the field marks we might need to pick one out. Soon enough Kelly was saying "what has a red bill" -- and i said "well, if it has dark underwings we're on to something".

We were, it was Texas' first Black-headed Gull, which stayed for days, allowed many observers their first look and tons of great photos. If you're keeping track, that's two new state records from a single CBC, a record i suppose is still unmatched, though i quit paying attention long ago.

Speaking of photos, only one photo of the Snow Bunting turned out sharp -- the very last one on the roll.

Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator!

COM: When One Year Fades into Another

The fact is that it's the low points of this year that will make it always memorable.

The losses are heavily palpable in a soul that grew up in an era it did not understand. An era in which it felt like it was not a part of so much so that it finds it incomprehensible to look back and realize it was a part of it.

And so when the gems begin to fade, when the rhinestones lose their silver backing and one begins to realize how many times one was lied to, well, when the real gems go, the loss is devastating.

Then there's the Christmas Tsunami, which was the first issue i dealt with on this version of the blog. And Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, including the maiming of one of my old players. And what we did during Katrina.

And so this one soul took a lot of hits this year.

Johnny Carson, who i've written of, is one of the last memories i connect with my father. Rosa Parks symbolizes everything that i did not know, and how that ignorance comes to shape an eternal shallowness of being that i can't seem to transcend. Pope John Paul II throws me back to another era of my own life, but more reminds me that even in disagreement there are true men of virtue in this world and they will win out. Georgie Best, as fragile and faulty a machine as he was, nevertheless was an idol, and remains so. Richard Pryor, in all the encomia given him for his pioneering (funny how we didn't realize that at the time) and barrier-breaking, will always be the one, who for me, taught me to laugh again.

Rosa Parks, Pat Morita, Don Adams, Simon Wiesenthal, Gordon Delaney, Eudora Welty, Edmund Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Sumner Dana, Linda Baumann, John Schmidt, Johnny Cochran, Chris LeDoux, Rinus Michels, Arthur Miller, all are chapters or footnotes in my little excuse for a life, and too damn many were personal friends, and those, of course, hurt the most.

There were small personal moments of victory but they pale. Nevertheless finally gaining some recognition for my stagework means that my work has made a difference, but remains a wakeup call to not relax. Trips, getting more frequent, with old friends, can never be underestimated, for when my time comes, i want it not said that i forgot anyone, even though i know i constantly do, and it pains me so. The reconnections made this year are some of those real gems.

And so where exactly does life go? Where has it gone?

In January and February i was in a dynamite play The Drawer Boy with Art Peden and Phil Kazen, directed by Catherine Babbitt and Cackie Hayes, and managed by Lauren Hayes. It was an incredible experience. The first piece i've done on a non-local stage in decades. It was a moving piece. I was honored to have shared the best actor award with Art, truly a gifted and professional actor. That was the last time i stepped on stage. And that because it was the fourth straight show i had done and i just needed to get off a stage for a while.

I will be doing Our Town in a special production by the Ingram Tom Moore High School Thespians, directed by Holly Riedel this coming January. It's nice to be back on the boards.

My feature film Diogenes/Dionysus was due to wrap filming in the spring, but most of the actors were part of ITMs award-winning UIL One-Act Play The Crucible. Since they came within a mouse's whisker of going to state, and i didn't want to conflict, we kept putting things off and before i knew it most of the kids had gone off to college. We're still trying to film the last few scenes and maybe that'll happen in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile my documentaries Wisdom, Texas and Ode to a River got their first showings and were well received. Odes is already lined up for more showings in Spring 2006, and maybe will head for the festival circuit. A few others are in the pipeline, and i'm especially anxious to get The Extra Mile off the ground and in festival rotation as well.

Two of the films i was in last year premiered in Austin this fall. Sons of the Rodeo i thought was just excellent and am proud to have been associated with. My scene mostly got cut from Everything or Nothing, no great loss. I've been waiting to hear of festival entries for both of those. And Zerosum which i did sound for, and helped film, is premiering two days before Christmas. Lastly in the acting realm, i was awarded the Pointy Award for Best Supporting Actor for my stumbling mumbling Mr. Schulz in Cabaret at The Point last fall.

I was able to spend a week in the Chinati Mountains and west Texas in September with a bunch of old friends and had a wonderful time, if almost no sleep. Mostly we were in search of bugs and snails, but saw some fine birds, and of course, were mesmerized by the landscape. Presidio County never fails to engage me so. I also spent a week in the Valley with Greg Lasley chasing odonates, and presenting at Dragonfly Days in Weslaco.

My writing has been largely limited to blog entries, some of which explore the areas i would have done otherwise. But i have had some papers pick some things up, and i just had a paper accepted for John Abbott's new journal -- The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas. I was also solicited to write a chapter in a new book about birds of the Valley. Both of those pubs are due out in 2006. And finally in publishing for the year, two of my favorite prose vignettes were picked up for publication next summer. I've always considered those two pieces among my best, but it took someone of a similar mindset i guess to pick them from among my other more straightforward pieces. Glad to have found them a home.

Perhaps my big discovery of the year is a couple of hip-hop musicians/bands. Greyt White and Vehicular. That's mostly Austin gigs, but check 'em out if you get a chance.

The summer was pretty fantastic from the standpoint of working with great kids. I gave out ten outstanding service awards, more than double what i've ever given out before. That, more than anything, speaks of the tremendous group of kids i had to work with. One of them, fresh off winning a state championship in lacrosse, William Lawson, has just won a state championship in football too. You'll be hearing from him, and a whole range of others from this group.

In working with the ITM Thespians on various projects over the past couple of years, thanks to great friends Holly Riedel, Roy Burney and Marie Cearley, i got the chance this fall to travel with them to the Texas Thespian Conference in Corpus Christi. It was great time, again with another wonderful and talented bunch of kids. Whitney Wilson got offers from a range of fancy schools including the Chicago School for the Performing Arts. That's another name you should remember. ANd keep in mind too Lillian Beaudoin, off to NYU's Tisch School of Fine Arts, and Meggie Nidever, off to Williams.

Coming up in 2006 will be a presentation of Ode to a River at the National Convention of the North American Bluebird Society. I'll be leading a half-dozen trips around the Hill Country for birds, and working on my usual projects documenting area flora and fauna, at least part of the time with a protege who is looking to become a biologist. And as i said i'm looking to wrap up some film projects also.

The World Scholar-Athlete Games, of which i am an alumni and now a nominator, is gearing up for the 2006 games. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for bright, talented kids. I've nominated 25 kids for this summer's games, and already know of one acceptance -- Thomas Boydston, a bright young photographer will be headed to Rhode Island.

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COM: Blogarithmic #91

On a small scale i hope 2006 is as good for everyone as it was for me in 2005. I can't think of nicer things done or said for or to me in a long time than what 2005 had in store. May all your days be filled with that kind of love.

On the flip side, i hope 2006 doesn't have one lick of the ugliness we faced in 2005, beginning with the realization of what actually happened in the tsunami, to war, to hurricanes, to earthquakes, to aftermaths, to deaths of our heroes. We, the world and this country, can't handle any more of that.

I've been working on what was a Christmas letter, but is now a New Year's Eve letter to friends -- think i'll post it here when it's done.



The Austin Chronicle's respected Austin Music Poll is accepting votes now. I would have anyway, but since Vehicular are the guys that let me know by email that the poll's open, and asked for a vote, i feel like it'd be a great thing to advertise on their behalf. Anything in the Hip-Hop realm would be appreciated by them, and me since i think they have something going that might start getting serious recognition. I'll be filming interviews and performances of them soon for Verbaceous. Here's a magazine article on them, if you need some help thinking about it. They're really tight, and if you get a chance you ought to check them out in Austin, at Redrum or the Red-eyed Fly or environs. And, of course, while you're voting, you might throw some votes to, by way of suggestion: Patty Griffin, Eric Johnson, Stephen Bruton, Robert Earl, Lyle, and maybe Ray Wylie Hubbard for the Hall of Fame.

Here's the link: http://www.austinchronicle.com/feedback/musicpoll/05/



Vehicular


Turtles were out again today -- crazy, the last day of December -- and there's ten moths on the windows tonight, a few Boxelder Bugs this afternoon, and a lot of Blue Jays around (wonder if they're after the bugs). It was a beautiful day.

Tomorrow is predicted to be in the 80s -- now there's a beginning for 2006!

New in the Archives:
Great Basin Pikas Disappearing
King Kong and Island Evolution
Best Old DVDs Released in 2005
Stealing Surfboards
New York City Ballet Stars
Danielle LeBlanc News Stories
A Story For Your Christmas
George Best Tribute
Fire Ants Targeted
Surf Foam Company Wipes Out
Windhover Literary Conference


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Friday, December 30, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #90

Interesting day. Full rehearsal for Our Town came in at about and hour and a half, notably quick, and a good session. Several folks are still out of town, but the principals have been there and things are shaping up right nice.

The show opens in a week, Friday the 6th, at Warrior Theatre next to the Administration building in Ingram. The show features Garrett Whitten, Cadi Hawkins, Irec Hargrove, Summer White, Kevin Fowler, Suzanne Attridge and Patrick Wade. It's directed by Holly Riedel, with Marie Cearley helping out. Gary Priour will do the lights (tomorrow in fact), and Carol Priour is the costume maven. I think you'll really enjoy this porduction if you chance to come out (two weekends only). I've been bragging about those Ingram kids; here's your chance to see them.

Well had to get to town tonight, and stopped by Hastings to check out the new batch of DVDs, and of course not only did i see the usual folks, but being as it's still holidays here (and another week for the collegiates) i ran across quite a few more. Spent a good bit of time talking to Zac Tiedemann, Mr. Theatre Major. We swapped ideas about good movies and caught up on the last year. Nathan was there too. Holy esmokess, he's 6'4" if he's half an inch. Playing JV BBall at Tivy, so i guess i'll have to get to a game. Also got to talk a while to Noel Monroe -- she was working. And Papa Edwards who wandered by and stopped long enough to tell me he had a second kid, a boy born a couple of weeks ago.

While i talked to them a bunch more folks wandered by, some waved or shook hands, some i never could quite get to, but they included: Will Hunter, Morris Arredondo, Marion Giesecke, Chuck Hopkins, and Michael Likin. And caught a moment to yack at Bryce Hawkins at the theatre where he's working.

Also saw Mr. and Mrs. Doran in town. Nice talk with them. Will's doing well. And told them i was rooting for UT this week. I guess i'm the only Aggie they know doing that.

At Warrior Theatre today was an Orange Sulphur, and the sliders were out again today en masse, along with, surprise a Cagle's Map Turtle. Sliders are not that unusual in December, especially early, but i'm not sure i have a prior record of Cagle's. Will likely feature that critter tonight for The Friday Ark.



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If you are able please donate to this worthy cause here

REV: 2006 Grammy Nominees

I haven't posted yet on the Grammy nominees -- as usual the state is well represented.

Some notable texans and others:
Green Day
Boulevard of Broken Dreams

U2
How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb
Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own
City of Blinding Lights

Bruce Springsteen
Devils and Dust

Bonnie Raitt
I Will Not Be Broken

Los Lonely Boys
More Than Love

Allison Kraus
Restless
Unionhouse Branch
Lonely Runs Both Ways


Jorge Drexler
Eco

Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte
Ya No Llores

The Chieftains
Live Tribute to Derek Bell

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Come On Back

Ry Cooder
Chavez Ravine

Rodney Crowell
The Outsider

Jon Prine
Fair & Square

Black Lodge Singers
More Kids' PowWow Songs

Daniel Lanois
Agave

Eric Johnson
Bloom

System of a Down
BYOB

Steve Vai
Lotus Feet

Spamalot

Napoleon Dynamite

No Direction Home

Ray

The Aviator

Million Dollar Baby


The Incredibles


And some selected past winners:
Lyle Lovett
Best Country Vocal Performance for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (1992)
Best Pop Vocal Collaboration with Al Green for Funny How Time Slips Away from Rhythm, Country and Blues LP (1993)
Best Country Duo or Group Performance for Blues For Dixie with Asleep at the Wheel (1995)
Best Country Album for The Road To Ensenada (1997)

Los Lonely Boys
Best Pop Peformance By a Duo Or Group With Vocal for Heaven (2004)

Ramón Ayala y Sus Bravos Del Norte
Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album for En Vivo...El Hombre Y Su Musica (2001)

Steve Earle
Best Contemporary Folk Album for The Revolution Starts...Now (2004)

Nanci Griffith
Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993)

Eric Johnson
Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Cliffs of Dover (1991)

Stephen Stills
Best New Artist for Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

Stevie Ray Vaughan
Best Traditional Blues Recording for Blues Explosion with John Hammond, Sugar Blue, KoKo Taylor, Luther Johnson, and J.B. Hutto (1984)
Best Contemporary Blues Recording for In Step (1989)
Best Rock Instrumental Performance for DFW with Jimmie Vaughan (1990)
Best Contemporary Blues Recording for Family Style with Jimmie Vaughan (1990)
Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Little Wing with Double Trouble (1992)
Best Contemporary Blues Album for The Sky Is Crying with Double Trouble (1992)

Lucinda Williams
Best Country Song for Passionate Kisses cut by Mary Chapin Carpenter (1993)
Contemporary Folk Album for Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998)
Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for Get Right With God (2001)

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #89

Well you can feel the holidays slipping away. Today we had our first rehearsal after a week and a half hiatus. Everyone was in great shape vocally and linewise. That was a nice, and welcome, surprise.

Durrell and Pierce Grisebaum and their mom stopped by yesterday to say hi and look for a sleeping bag left behind. They seemed to have had a great Christmas.

The Summer 2005 DVDs came in today and we're enveloping them now. We'll have them in the mail this weekend, but because of the holiday we suspect they won't be on the road until Tuesday. In any case, if you're expecting one it's on the way.

In the worst news i can think to ever pass on, one of our kiddos has died. Danielle LeBlanc was murdered a few days before Christmas, apparently by an irate boyfriend who was later found dead, probably a suicide. Danielle was only 22, and judging by the recent picture they used she was doing well and had some happiness. She has a two-year old daughter, who was left alone in the apartment and was found a couple days after the murder. While we got the news from Vista family, the bulk of what we know comes from a few news accounts. I've archived a couple of stories here.

On the brighter side, there were a bunch of kids below the Johnson Creek bridge and at the LWC today -- this is December 29th mind you -- in swimsuits, swimming! Now the water had to be cold, but it was a warm pleasant day, although the Weather Service says it didn't top 72, despite a forecast of 75. They've been way off the mark this week.

The best Aggie joke of the year (plug your ears if they're senstitive).

KGSR-Austin, about the only station i listen to, and the only great station within hearing range for me, has always had a pretty cheesy website (which was okay since the major reason i visited was to hook into the live broadcasts). However, they've unveiled not only a new site, but one that is very, very classy. Now i'll have to spend a little time there.

Mitch Heindel turned up a Hammond's Flycatcher in Bandera County last week, not far from us. It's important because it's the first record for the Edwards Plateau.

In Soccer News
Thank old age for keeping the petulant Diego Maradona off the soccer field. Certainly the lumpy old dude has none of his speed left and that would be a killer by itself for his fake-and-outrun game. Unfortunately the only part of his game left is probably the arrogant, obnoxious, Napoleonic streak. And that soccer can do without.

Kristine Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett and Briana Scurry were invited to the United States training camp in preparation for next month's Four Nations tournament. The World Cup vets were among the contingent of 28 invited.

Goals from Arouna Kone and DaMarcus Beasley enabled PSV Eindhoven to beat NEC Nijmegen 2-0 Monday to reclaim the lead in the Dutch league.

Kansas City midfielder Chris Klein and MetroStars goalkeeper Zach Wells were added to the roster for the U.S. national team training camp Tuesday. The camp starts Jan. 4. The pair replaced injured Chicago midfielder Justin Mapp and Columbus goalkeeper Jonny Walker.

Thanks to the U.S. National Team Players Asssociation and Clicked.


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If you are able please donate to this worthy cause here

ENV: The Odonata Survey of Texas

John Abbott's new group The Odonata Survey of Texas now has an online presence and a new journal. The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas is hot off the press today! Here's his note to the list-serves with all the details:

I would like to let everyone know that I have followed the lead of several other states and officially formed the Odonata Survey of Texas (OST). The primary goal of the OST is to solicit, catalog, and make available the most up-to-date and definitive information on the dragonflies and damselflies of Texas. I've included a more complete synopsis of the survey and its goals below.

The website contains a list of participants, available publications, and a Rare Odonate Alert for the state.

The first official publication of the survey is already in print. It is the Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) of Texas, volume 1. It contains a complete up-to-date synopsis of the species known to occur in Texas with maps, county lists, seasonal graphs, and much more. It also includes a number of contributed articles specific to Texas Odonata. The table of contents is as follows:

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Collection Guidelines for the Odonata Survey of Texas, J.C. Abbott -- 1
The Dragonfly Society of the Americas Guidelines for Collecting -- 2
Specific Collecting & Preservation Instructions, J.C. Abbott -- 4
Guidelines for Field Notes & Data Recording, J.C. Abbott -- 6
OdonataCentral.com: A model for the Web-based Delivery of Natural History Information and
Citizen Science, J.C. Abbott & D. Broglie -- 8
Hornsby Bend -- It's Not Just Birds, G.W. Lasley -- 13
Turquoise-tipped Darner (Rhionaeschna psilus): Backyard Surprise, D. Hardy -- 16
The Odonata of Kerr County and the Guadalupe River System of Texas, T. Gallucci -- 18
History of Odonata Study in the South-central U.S., J.C. Abbott -- 23
Odonata Field Guides, Resources, Societies, & Suppliers -- 28
Life History & Morphology of Odonata, J.C. Abbott -- 30
Seasonality of Odonata in Texas, J.C. Abbott -- 37
Statistical Summary of Odonata in Texas -- 53
Abundance & Distribution of Texas Odonata, J.C. Abbott -- 54
Diversity of Texas Odonata by County -- 55
Checklist of Dragonflies & Damselflies of Texas, J.C. Abbott -- 56
Dragonflies & Damselflies of Texas Listed by County -- 59
Distribution Maps of Texas Odonata -- 94
Glossary of Terms Relating to Odonata, J.C. Abbott -- 317
Index Index to Maps -- 319

You can order this publication through Lulu.com for $30 plus shipping and handling. It will soon be available through other vendors like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

I encourage anyone interested in Texas Odonata to register on the website. I would also encourage everyone else with an interest in Odonata to include their name in the OdonataCentral directory of Odonatologists.

The Odonata Survey of Texas

What is the Odonata Survey of Texas (OST)?
The OST, centered at The University of Texas at Austin (UT), includes a group of people with a shared interest in the study of the distribution, biology, behavior, and enjoyment of dragonflies and damselflies occurring in Texas. The purpose of the OST is to act as an official organization whose job it will be to encourage, solicit, and maintain the Texas database for dragonfly and damselfly distributional information. The OST is chaired by John C. Abbott of the University of Texas and Brackenridge Field Laboratory.

How to join the OST?
Membership is free and the OST is a volunteer organization. We need as many volunteers to assist in the documentation of the state fauna as possible. Primarily we are in need of field assistants; individuals who can assist in the discovery, collection, and otherwise documentation of species. We welcome collaborators from other institutions and agencies who are interested in sharing biological and environmental data, as well as specimens from sampling activities.

Goals of the OST
The primary goal of the OST is to solicit, catalog, and make available the most up-to-date and definitive information on the dragonflies and damselflies of Texas. Additional goals and priorities of the OST include:

1. Promotion of the study and appreciation of Odonata at various levels of understanding.

2. Survey the state of Texas as thoroughly as possible and practical to document the current status of all Odonata species occurring in the state.

3. Provide an organized clearinghouse for odonatological information pertaining to Texas.

4. Recognize and critically examine habitats where

species of limited distribution or threatened status are found.

5. Increase our knowledge of poorly known species.

6. Provide an internet-based source of information including, website, listserv, and printed materials.

7. Cooperate with agencies and groups where common goals are shared.

Contacts for Additional Information
Odonata Survey of Texas
c/o John C. Abbott, Ph.D.
Section of Integrative Biology
1 University Station #L7000
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712 USA

Official Website
Offical ListServ

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #88

One of the goofier things i do is collect bottles and cans. I have a kind of artistic display of things i've found (or sometimes bought). The set of it has no value at all (i don't think) since it has no organizing theme, and since it's not something i do obsessively. I just like designed (by humans) things, and they're commonplace and ephemeral. So, when i see something i kind of like i pick it up and stick on this shelf where i pay homage to liquid containership; or if i see something that reminds me of something from my past i might even fork up a bit of cash for it. I also occasionally find something for sale at the convenience store or supermarket that not only is cool looking, but looks like it might taste good, and so i end up with a bit of refreshment (or not) and something to add to the collection. Besides having a kind of random kitschy cool to it, a fair number of my pieces have made their way onto stage and film sets as props -- that's the sum total of their importance. And i don't drink, at all, but you'd never know that if you wandered into my collection, which has a fair number of oddball beer cans and wine bottles.

All that to say that once, while travelling some deep east Texas backroads, through the pine barrens north of the Big Thicket looking for bugs and obscure snails, i stopped at an old mom&pop store in the middle of literal nowhere. I do that a lot. Perhaps in search of some cinematic background for my later memories. And there, in the cooler found an array of Jones Sodas. Never heard of them before. Never seen them since. But, since they were labelled with oddly stark black-and-white photos and came in the kind of deep east Texas backroads flavors i love -- Cream Soda, Black Cherry, Root Beer -- i bought up a bunch, one in every flavor. They formed a lasting memory, not only for their additive value to my collection (indeed they are centerpieces), but because by the time i had finished the first a half-hour down the road, i'd wished i'd bought them out.

Well, it turns out (as i'm learning today in one of those chase the links around the blogs things) that Jones Soda is more widely known than i might have guessed (with a special edition Hot Wheels truck, and celebrity signature bottles), and puts out specialty sodas and packages. The cool pictures on the bottles comes from their method of using customer contributed photos on their labels -- there've been hundreds of them. That's probably as much as i want to tell you for now. What you ought to do is read the blogs in the order i found them . . .

starting at Pharyngula, then progressing to decorabilia, then to Jeri Massi's blog Bassenco's etc. (the pertinent part is way down the post, keep reading), then perhaps on to Jones Soda themselves (where they cheerfully offer a poll on caustic opinions) and the current holiday pack (if you're like me the regional pack seems more, well, tasty).

And then look around, they've been doing this for a few years.

P.s. their website lists only nine Texas locations, and none of them are for podunk east Texas, which sets me to wondering how in the world they got there, and what luck i had stumbling into them.

New Topics
Two big time blog carnivals are approaching deadline time -- first is the Big Spanking new Circus of the Spineless being hosted at bootstrap analysis. If you've got collo words or pics of the lesser critters, now'd be a good time to pass them on to Nannothemis before the Friday deadline.



Also on tap for next week is I and the Bird #14. Get your nominations over to Gwyn Calvetti at Bird brained stories!



Orcinus is back on line after a week's hiatus. Mighty nice to have that voice back in my day. Am also able to access comments there for the first time in ages -- don't know what changed, but that too is most welcome.

I keep track of who links to me, partly so i can reciprocate (and because if someone is taking me to task or correcting me, i want to know so i can either fix what i've said or rebut). Anyway, i found a new link today. Iconique Magazine has linked to my blog on its "fashionable resources" page. I'm a bit flattered and stunned. One term that has never been used to refer to me is fashionable -- but i much appreciate that someone thought so.

Interestingly the temp got about 6 degrees colder than expected last night, dropping to 32 for about 15 minutes. It also got 7 degrees warmer today topping out at 77 for about 15 minutes. I suspect we're in for a few more 80 degree days this week though the forecast still says mid-70s. Interestingly it's brought out not only more Boxelder Bugs (which i think i mistakenly [lapsus] called beetles earlier but can't find that post now), but they're tandemizing. Last night i also had about a half-dozen moths on the window -- tonight there's more -- plus i had an American Snout flying today. I halfway expect the tress to burst out in new greenery. . .

Karen at Rurality wrote to add some movies to the Obscure Movie Meme (i'll add them below, but they'll be easy to find later at the reviews site also). She also suggested a couple other memes and i'll likely take her up on them later (after things calm here in a couple of weeks) -- Cult Movies and Like-It-Even-If-It's-Dumb Movies, the latter for which she's already suggested Overboard (US/1987).

Here's her additions to the big meme:
Powwow Highway (UK/1989) (Rurality)
Eating Raoul (US/1982) (Rurality)
Start the Revolution Without Me (US/1970) (Rurality)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (US/1984) (Rurality)


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ENV: Observations late December 2005

TX: Kerr County, Rio Vista 27 December 2005
ca. 25 Boxelder Bugs
6 moth sp.

12 Texas Slider

TX: Kerr County, Rio Vista 28 December 2005
ca 50 Boxelder Bugs
10 moth sp.
1 American Snout

TX: Kerr County, Rio Vista 29 December 2005
10 Boxelder Bugs
4 moth sp.
1 Honeybee
1 Emperor sp.

8 Texas Slider

1 Golden-crowned Kinglet


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ENV: Imperial Search

Some recent word on an Imperial Woodpecker search from the AZ/NM listserv:

From: Narca Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 11:31:30 -0700
Subject: Imperial Woodpecker search

Hi All,
As Helen notes, we just returned from a trip to the Divisadero/Creel/Cerocahui/Urique area of Copper Canyon, where we searched the pine forest not only for signs of the recently-reported Imperial Woodpecker, but also for the workings of a large woodpecker. (Elevations are above the range reported for Pale-billed and Lineated Woodpeckers, though of course birds can wander out-of-range.)

An exhaustive search of trees near Divisadero revealed no certain workings of woodpeckers any larger than a flicker, and only one instance of a potentially-larger bird at work. Those of you who live near Pileateds know that their workings are obvious.

The interesting fact remains that there have been reports of a very large woodpecker over the past 5 years from locals in the Divisadero area. The Mexican biologist who collected these reports had planned to join us, but became ill at the last minute.

Our feeling was that if the bird still survives, it will be in an unpopulated area, far from humans. That is very hard to find in Mexico. It was, after all, considered "un gran pedazo de carne" in a protein-starved region.

There were plenty of big snags in the forests, especially between Cerocahui and Urique Rim, which were full of beetle larvae. Food did not appear to be a limiting factor.

A quick look at a Steller's Jay in backlit conditions might confuse observers. The jays in this region were occasionally hammering on branches. . .


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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #87

Folks from Rio/Sierra Vista who know Danielle LeBlanc should contact me by email.

Well it hit a whopping 81 degrees here this afternoon before it clouded over (forecast says clear all week), and got a bit windy. It's now down to a chilly 79. Cold front hits today (i assume that's the overcast and wind) and will drop the temps into the 40s tonight, but it's still supposed to be in the mid to upper 70s during the day all week. I can handle this!

[update: two hours later it's back to clear, sunny, warm. Hmmmm. By 4:40 it was back up to 82 and the forecast changed from "clear" to "decreasing clouds". Then (7:45), Holy Smokes, it dropped from 81 to 50 in three hours]

Knockout Rodney Mullen on the Board.

ITM star J.T. Aspra was named Hill Country QB of the Year -- heck from the talk they gave him Hill Country player the year. And Vista Bubbleite Jody Goldman made the All Hill Country Team for Harper at linebacker for the third consecutive year.

Saw Tommy Hurt last night at CiCis, says his bro Brad was in town recently, and will be back in the next few months. Irec Hargrove was there also. ANd it appears that Marshall Levit got married over the last year!

Watched the end of the Memphis-Akron bowl game last night. Almost. Almost had a surprise ending. Akron has a QB don't they?!

I'm still laughing . . .

Ten best movie scenes of the year . . .

Joseph and Mary would have had to cross 15 security checkpoints if the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem were today.

Movie Madness
Does anybody else have the feeling that cellphone ringtones have become the blaring car alarms of the decade. Remember those? They were obnoxious and ultimately worthless since they went off constantly and became electronic cryers wolf? Well, ringtones won't be quite so worthless, but i suspect they will long instill the same violent reactions from those who have to listen to them constantly until there is a national backlash and ringtones become declasse.

I am one of those who thinks that cellphones, and general rudity, has quite nearly ruined watching movies in theatres (such that i tend to go on weekday nights when few people are present -- see my pet peeves posts at milkriverreviews), and so it is with some gratitude that i see in the months since i began ranting that theatre owners are taking this seriously. It's about time considering that, coupled with outrageous ticket prices, it's driving my attendance down, and i'm sure that of many others.

Instead of jamming cellphones, what if someone came up with (probably already are capable) the technology to ring every phone in the theatre that's on, say during the ads or trailers, and when the patrons answer ask them to please turn off their phone, or set it to vibrate, and that if it rings during the show to please exit the theatre to answer it, lest they be escorted out permanently.

And frankly, though i'm mr. civil rights, i see no issue with jamming phones as long as there's a huge poster out front that notifies patrons that their phones are being jammed. The patron has a choice to enter and watch the movie unimpeded like everyone else, or they can go home and watch something on satellite. Or perhaps offer that, if they expect there could be problems with kids at home, to leave their phone at the desk to be answered for emergency purposes.

The idea, proposed in the article that it's dangerous to not have one on you in case of emergency is baloney. There's always help just out the door. We didn't have these things available until recently and unless i missed it there hasn't been a rise of any kind in lives saved by 911 calls from theatergoers. We could get hypothetical all day, but i still live in an America unfettered by terrorism, despite colored warnings (which seem to have quietly slipped away lately . . . anyone else notice that?).

Speaking of ticket prices. We're paying $6 here. When i have to go to SA or Austin to see a film i'm generally paying $10 or so. Well, besides being able to dictate my viewing environs, watching at home makes better sense for a lot of reasons. My chief one would be that, knowing already there are so many films out there i can't hardly keep up and, having a bit of patience, i can buy, on DVD, most anything that comes out for the price of a ticket. Best of all, i can then watch it ad infinitum, with friends if i want, lend it out, and have the benefit of all the extras including deleted scenes, commentary tracks and documentaries.

I suspect it's the same at a place near you -- once the initial renting boom is finished, the local video rental store puts its DVDs up for sale, used mind you, but almost always in near-perfect shape, for anywhere from $5 to $10. I can collect all the big-time shows for next to nothing. And patience and keep my eyes open means i can collect the more obscure ones, and even some that are years past their rental state for close to nothing too.

Wal-Mart (which i loathe, but will take advantage of because i'm poor) has rotating specials on overstock, some of which are outstanding movies. Recently they had some classics up for sale for $5 -- undoubtedly someone misgauged whether they'd sell -- now they're special pickings for connoisseurs.

None of that of course really beats seeing a great film up on the big screen in a theatre. What beats it is the constant distraction of people who you have to wonder why they spent all that money to not pay attention and enjoy the flick. So i'll still manage to go to some films at the theatre, but the bad is rapidly overwhelming the good of the experience.

If only there was CD rentals that you could buy cheaply afterwards. Music companies might still be happy instead of declaring war on their customers.

The reviews site is beginning to shape up, but has a lot more work to be done, including the transfer of some 75 reviews.

New to the archives:
On Israel and Self-Determination
Mossad Ops Dispute Munich
Dreaming of an Inclusive Christmas
Chasing Ivory-billed Woodpeckers
Hometown Disowns Schwarzenegger
Cellphones and Movies
Snowboarding 1080s
Nerds in the Hood
American Ballet Theatre
World Cup Future Stars
New Film Registry Entries
John Lennon Tribute
Georgie Best Funeral

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Monday, December 26, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #86

Well, Christmas was generally a good one here. Hope yours was as fine as could be.

If mine didn't quite end up as i wanted it too, it's because i spent the better part of the day composing a long Christmas letter to send out to all my friends. These things come diffultly to me. I have so many friends (don't we all) that i'd like to send very long personal notes to, then time runs short, and i end up some yeas sending out these long notes about what i've been up to over the past year. They seem rather self-oriented to me and i always end up regretting being so long-winded about me, and general enough that it might interest everyone i know from a lot of different fields and contexts.

Last year i was so discombobulated by what i'd written, that the note i finally sent out was a one-liner of good wishes. Then i felt really bad for making it looking like i'd mass emailed an afterthought, when it really wasn't.

So this year has been so good to me in so many ways (and i'm ignoring some particularly ugly things specifically so they won't ruin the rest of the year), that i thought i'd do the long letter thing again and send it out as email on Christmas Day so everyone would at least know i was thinking of them.

And so i finished the letter and fired up the computer to type it in and send it off, and the internet was down. It just came back up this afternoon, and of course, in the interim i reread the letter a half-dozen times and ultimately decided i didn't want to send it.

Now i'm no believer in any war on Christmas -- that's just ludicrous -- but i have thought for many, many years that the commercialization of the holidays (by retailers on every conceivable side) long ago took away the joy of the season. Returning the season to one of giving (in the philosophical sense) and family has been relegated to the relatively weak ability of parents to orient their family holidays towards something more gratifying. It takes a great deal of selflessness and a sacrifice of ego to do that.

And so, wanting to do my part, i tossed the letter. Unfortunately, because of the internet failure in these parts, i couldn't even send out a gratuitous, if sincere, greetings. And so, if you're wondering why i haven't written friends, that's why. I'll likely send out something for New Year's when my ramblings won't seem as shallow.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, AND Happy New Year.

My profuse writing and posting of late has led to my hitting the limitations of Blogger once again (pitiful error on their part). Because of that the many reviews i've been working on won't fit here, so i guess i'm going to start putting them only on the review site, which i regret somewhat. Anyway, you can find them here.



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Saturday, December 24, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #85

The Dead Rebels have been named one of the 100 Top Unsigned Bands. There's a story here.

I thought irony was dead. Here's the lead from a New York Times Story today: "The military will not turn over detainees to Iraq until officials are satisfied that Iraqis are meeting U.S. standards."

Ryan and Brooke and the crew, including Alex and Lizzie, came by today to record some voiceovers for Zerosum. Then Ryan and Alex came with me to feed Hip-Hop. It's been a nice day.

It was also warm enough for a slew of Texas Sliders to be out sunning in the middle of the river, and a few Boxelder Bugs were about as well. Hmmmm, supposed to be cold (31) tonight, and it was mighty windy today, but seeing as how it got up to 72 earlier, we'll hold off declaring it frozen until it gets there. Tuesday is predicted to hit 79!




skippy the bush kangaroo has this cool little Christmas gift idea from The Oakland Tribune -- check it out here.



And this seems destined for the next edition of blogarithmicly.

Here's some articles i've recently archived to make room on the main blog:
Forced end to Japanese Whaling
Targeting Emerald Ash Borers
Still Shopping?
NYT ID Editorial
College Dance
Alaska Drilling Decision
Evolving Movie Business II
A Cambodian Playing for Time
Evolving Movie Business I
Jack Anderson Obituary
William Proxmire Obituary
Paramount/Dreamworks SKG Deal
Reggie Bush Heisman
Harold Pinter Nobel Speech
Richard Pryor Obituary
Eugene McCarthy Obituary
Unlikely Hamlet
Pinter Rails
Educating Actors
Peter Sakai Tribute
The End of ID
Enough Dumb Professors to Go Around
Writing Iraqi Thoughts for Them
Western Grasslands
Sundance Numbers Game
Beckett's Closeup via Rosset

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ATH: Cruyff Scores


ATH: Cruyff Scores

This is a test blog video. Johann Cruyff pulls in a left cross
and pummels a lefthander before the defender can react.

REV: Zerosum (2005)

Yesterday i got to see Ryan Batley's Zerosum, a product of his Rampaging Rhino Studios, that plays like a feature film although it would technically be a short. It is a fluid little masterpiece.

Now, before i go any further, let me say that i helped film an early version, and some of that footage is in this film at the end as well as some of the sound. I also count as friends virtually everyone involved in the production. Normally i do not review films that i have been involved in for obvious reasons, other than to say skip it or check it out. I'm making an exception here for a couple of reasons. First, since it's just now on its legs you might not find anything about it anywhere else. Second, it's that good. If it weren't i'd simply not review it.

It's also 99% a different film that what i actually worked on. The original actress playing Ixchelle simply quit coming to filming sessions which necessitated new casting (including some other parts for folks who had already given months of their time), and included a switch to black and white and 16:9 framing -- all for the better in my opinion.

So let me tell you about Zerosum. It plays against a number of plot types, but in my opinion it would be hard, once the film is over, to not think of it as Romeo & Juliet. I won't give the whole thing away, but the plot involves an unspoken love interest, battling families, a misunderstood situation and final desperation.

There are three parallel stories taking place, and at first you may struggle with the relationships among the various characters, but as the stories begin to merge, each conjunction is a mini-epiphany. Ryan takes you through pieces of each story and kicks time around like a playground ball. It's only in the final sequence that you catch up and it's a stunning moment.

Jake is quietly in love with Ixchelle. They're high-schoolers, and in that stage when a lot of indulgent flirting goes on, but no one ever seems to be quite sure of who is "with" whom. And Jake can't quite bring himself to say the right words, perhaps because he, like too many guys that age would be devastated to ask and find out the girl is "with" someone else and he never caught on. So this dance is what the film is about.

Being high-schoolers they also are at least on the fringes of, and probably more deeply involved than they'd admit, in the drug scene. Smoking a bit of dope is casual and just a little bit thrilling, and would mean nothing except that it requires hiking to someplace -- a ditch here -- in which their little hobby can be engaged without attracting attention or rumors.

Well Jake, played superbly by New York actor Alex Dunbar, is a bit sloppy as is his buddy/pusher Derek Goldstein, played by Luke. And in the midst of covering themselves in the movie, one gets a mouthful of mushrooms and the other, in a weird accidental payback gets a mouthful of, well, something else. And the overdose creates problems.

Enter Ixchelle, played sublimely by the replacement actor Lizzie Bishop, as confessor, shoulder, mother figure and love quest.

Over the course of the next 35 minutes we see the machinations of both their families, watch them both burns short fuses over their family lives and unrequited love, see more than a bit of screaming, punching, and piles of weed. And when the two finally, simply, run away, there is no place to go but into each other's arms. But it's neither obvious where or how, and the way it ends will not be something on your radar.

Ryan, faced with a major problem at the loss of one of his stars, made a series of superb decisions -- choosing Lizzie, switching to black and white, and using the wider frame. And let me interject that Brooke Batley as camera and editor, and Leaman Valentine as writer, both were involved heavily in the project and it's probably safe to say that when i refer to Ryan, i'm also referring to the others. At this point i have no way to know who did what exactly, but the creativity in the three heavily weighs on the film.

There is a fine poetic eye in this film. Ultimately what one will remember, besides the fine story and stunning ending, is the black and white scenes that are nothing if not classy. There are a number of shots that were made literally in the dark and brought out in post that have a cutout/watercolor effect that changes the mood of the scenes, and at the opposite extreme there are scenes that are completely whited out by the camera's automatic light sensor that only darken into normal lighting when someone steps into the screen. It is a halo effect gone wild and it works magic.

I have long been a fan of long cuts that establish either time, place or mood or any combination of those. It's not something i'd discussed with Ryan that i recall, although i knew of the young filmmaker Olli Bettesworth by then who has made a complete art of this. Nevertheless, there are a couple of scenes where the length of the cut itself tells a different story, an effective one, than would have been told by Hollywood style jumpcuts. Thank goodness in private filmmaking you're not at the mercy of someone hollering "time is money". In particular a long cut of Jake's dad, played by Dan Groat, driving along a Hill Country highway is most effective at establishing place, time, and the simmering anger we seen begin to build at the top of the scene. Filmed with a wide-angle lens it also has the effect of suggesting a circling caged lion thereby heightening the tension.

There are also several camera angles, tilted just so, that seem to telegraph that something is off-kilter. It's a nice touch. And there are some cases where it appears that funky angles are the result of filming in tight spots, or of odd moments, where the angle helps elucidate the situation -- filming from the far end of a tunnel, or from above in the confines of a shower. And more is made of the wide frame than is usual for a project of this nature. It took a fine eye to know this in advance since it's one of those things that can't be fixed in post, at least on a PC.

Finally, Ryan Bailey's score is a gem. Around these parts we know about Ryan's talent -- he's scored some shows at The Point Theatre, but this is his first film work. He'll be working on my Dragons coming up, and doing the underscoring for my film Diogenes/Dionysus. After hearing his score on Zerosum i'd have to say i'm very anxious to get him working on my projects. Throughout this film he managed the mood without being either overbearing or obvious, and he never strayed into sound that felt faked. In some way it was anither serendipitous choice by Ryan et al. that paid off handsomely.

Most amazing of all is that this lyrical film was produced on a small digital camera and put together with a standard issue production package. In the end it is quite an achievement, and a most enjoyable film to watch.

Technical issues: Well, at this level it is always hard to quibble with details, expecially technical ones when someone is working with no budget, but . . . just so you know.

The sound is not Hollywood quality, but overall it is pretty good. Some of the issues are still being worked out and i'd expect that once a version hits festivals it'll be perfectly audible.

In total the acting is exceptional for a bunch of friends working together. There are a couple of performances over the top, but they're noticeable and easily to dismiss once you know who. More than likely you'll be so into the excellent performances that the others will have little effect.



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Friday, December 23, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #84

Clare at The House & Other Arctic Musings passed along a cool BBC article about a joint Dutch/Mauritian discovery of a mass of Dodo bones. It may be the first opportunity to piece together a complete skeleton since the last one disappeared in the late 18th century.

Just found out that Kevin Andre Elliott (of Slant Truth, Peaches of Immortality and Satellite Heart) is starting a carnival of poetics. He's named it Carnival of Speculum and he's soliciting entries now. You can find it right here.

I went to the first screening of Ryan Batley's (and Brooke's and Leaman's) film Zerosum today at Pampell's. About all i'm going to say here is Wow! They did an incredible job with a small digicam and limited resources. What they did have was a bunch of willing friends, great actors, a primo soundtrack, and some classy ideas. I'll review it in a separate post.

At the screening i got to see a bunch of folks -- as usual including quite a few folks i haven't seen in some time: Ryan Bailey (and yeah, he'll be working on the music for a little project we've talked about for a couple of years now, and he's still waiting on me to finish filming Diogenes/Dionysus so he can work on that soundtrack), Leaman Valentine, Ryan and Brooke, Luke, Isaac Dingler, Louise Leahy, Alex Dunbar, Chris Schubert, Ridge Floyd, Cody Schrank, and met the Bishops, whose daughter Lizzie was a last minute replacement and did a wonderful job. I know there's others but the names are coming to me right now (i'll update as i snap to).

My big news otherwise is that i think i'm going to take another big blogging jump and create a Carnival of Blog Film Criticism. There's a ton of criticism out there, but it's 90% available in the form of print media pros posted online or on designated criticism sites. I want to collect links (only) to criticism emanating from blogs. I've been thinking about this for some time, and well there are some difficulties that i've had trouble solving. It won't be like a regular blog carnival, but more like blogarithmicly -- where it is a regular compilation at one site. Because of that i'll probably post them here originally, but will develop a home site. At this point i'm looking to do it monthly -- criticism on films released during the previous month. I'll probably start with December releases. I'm tentatively calling it CineMidway. More here as it develops. Well, i've worked on this, including devising the base site, but already it's shaping up as a ton of work that i may not be able to continually work on. So, rethinking again.

We're just two weeks away from the opening of Our Town, with final regular rehearsals next end-of-week. Then the ITM kids are off and working on Playing for Time, their One-Act Play entry. It's going to be an exciting spring.


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COM: Elf Name Generator

    Your Elf Name Is...

    Snarf the Reindeer Eater and Elfin Plunderer.


. . . okay so maybe i cheated a little . . .

via The Modulator . . . and the Elf Name Generator

Your Fortune Is

Divinely inspired is
not necessarily intelligently designed.


okay i cheated on that one too . . . it's more fun than the real thing . . .

Thursday, December 22, 2005

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Be sure to check out The Friday Ark at The Modulator.

It's been just cold enough for just long enough that i'm beginning to miss the sight of little fluttering things about, slime on the windowsills, buzzings in my night. And besides, PZ's always hollering for more inverts. So for today's Friday Ark i thought i'd throw up something cool, well hot actually, something that can't hack the cold weather quite like our furry backboned friends. And, with a little imagination, one could imagine these critters as ornaments on a Christmas Tree.

So, properly mooded up, let's take a trip to Florida and look at some of the variants of the incredible Florida Tree Snail, Liguus fasciatus, which, by the way, is not limited to Florida, but also occurs in the Caribbean, most notably in Cuba, where its diversity very nearly matches that of the various races and color forms found in the mostly-gone hammocks of the Everglades.

Part of my intrigue here has to do with rewatching Adaptation a couple of nights ago in prep for a more in-depth review -- of course, that has to do with orchid thievery in the Everglades. And so a little searching will reveal that there is some sordid history involved in the world of Florida Tree Snails; part of which involves the high prices they once commanded among collectors, and the resultant production of man-made hybrids to sate their ever-thirsty obsessions.

Here's a look at some of the rarer and more striking critters in this bunch, and down below are some links to various sites that have more information for those curious about this gem of the spineless world. And, if you have a hankering for more, check out Aydin Orstan's post on his mini-quest to find these snails last spring -- it's here at Snail's Tales.

Florida forms of Liguus fasciatus
L.f. crassus, L.f. capensis, L.f. delicatus, L.f. framptoni



L.f. humesi, L.f. lignumvitae, L.f. margarettae, L.f. matecumbensis



L.f. nancyae, L.f. ornatus, L.f. pseudopictus, L.f. solidulus



L.f. violafumosus, L.f. vonpaulseni



Two from Cuba
Left: Liguus fasciatus goodrichi
Right: a different species in the same genus, Liguus carbonarius