Were it not for Emily, we'd be hip deep in flies

Emily's been doing some interesting things over the past week. She's been moving, every day or two, about a foot to the south. She doesn't take down her old web, she builds a new one right next to the old one, and attached to it. Right now she's got four orbs together (Like OOOo), and she's hunting in at least two of them. No idea why she's doing this.

She's been catching and eating flies like gangbusters. Often I'll go out back to check on her and find her wrapping one fly while still eating another one. It's amazing how much her size changes after she's eaten, her opisthosoma can double in size from one day to the next if she's been particularly lucky. I've no idea how many flies she's actually eating since it doesn't take her long to dispatch with them -- it could be one a day, or it could be ten. But she's guarding my door, which is nice of her.

Here she is hanging on to her web by two legs, (like she's doing a spidey pullup,) twirling a fly in four, and guiding silk from her spinnerettes with the back two. The whole thing is happening very fast, she's twirling that fly like it's a Rubik's cube and she knows the solution. Hackled orb weavers like Emily use about 450 feet of silk to wrap and crush their prey.

[photo behind this cut in the event youd rather not see cute spiders.]

Emily wrapping a fly. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

trillian_stars is out at 5 am kickboxing. How's your day?

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Music
    Damon Buxton

Emily three webs

So, interesting things happening with Emily's web. That tangle of silk wrapped around an egg sac? She moved it. The whole thing. The moved it about a foot North. No idea why.

She also has done some very interesting web construction. Over the last four days she's built two additional webs both connected to her original one. So she has three orb webs that she's currently the owner of. One more and she can put a hotel there.

This is the spider equivalent to having a car on blocks in your front yard for two years.
Clickenzee to untangle the mystery.

Spider Expert Catherine Scott turned me on to this textbook written by a guy with one of the best names on Earth, Rainer Foelix called The Biology of Spiders, so I've been reading that in addition to Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Leslie Brunetta & Catherine L. Craig (in odd weird fact, Leslie Brunetta tweeted at me after a photo of Emily got picked up by the Spider Community and sent around -- she may even be reading this). Her book is fantastic, it's funny and all about the very complex biology that allows spiders to do this crazy thing -- spinning silk with their bodies and forming it into complex designs all with a brain smaller than a pinhead.

Anyway, reading about Uloborus and webs ... maybe this offers some insight into her recent construction kick.

"If the web is only slightly damaged, as, for instance, after catching small prey, the spider may or may not mend the hole. In general, repair does not consist of reconstructing the original design but of patching the holes to make the web stable again. The cribellate orb weaver, Uloborus, however, often performs elaborate reparis, sometimes repalcing the entire half of a web in an orderly fashion." Rainer F Foelix, Biology of Spiders

[pix of Emily & her web behind this cut.]

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Music
    emigrate: babe

Emily's babies are all dead.

There was some activity in Emily's egg sac the other day and I discovered Pteromalidae Parasitic Chalcid Wasps emerging from it. They lay their eggs in spider egg sacs, the larvae eat the baby spiders and then hatch from the egg sac and fly away to do more evil. If you look closely, you can also see what look like some sort of worms burrowing in or out -- not sure what they are, if they're related or not. And also, a mystery.

You'll notice in the upper right, that thing that looks like an alien skin? That's a spider moult. I don't think it was one of Emily's babies though, I think it was another spider that just happened to moult near the egg sac.

Happy to hear input from spider experts.

It's worse than a sad day at Fortress Hennepin. I was looking forward to Emily's babies. She was unaware the entire time, just sitting there in her web. No idea where George is. I've gotten used to him vanishing though.

Wasps ate Emily's babies.

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Mood
    sad sad

Oddities of Emily's Web

So ... not a whole lot of action lately. Emily's just been hanging out in her web, sometimes she faces one direction, other times she faces another. I haven't seen her catch anything in a while and she doesn't seem to want any help. She IS gaining weight & girth, which makes me wonder if she's thinking about laying more eggs. Who knows. This might be the best photo I've taken of Emily just chilling. This is what she looks like. You can see her web which is vaguely orb like, and you can see her stabilimentia. Her abdomen seems to be getting larger again.

[photo of emily behind this cut]

Emily in her web, clickenzee to embiggen!

I wish I knew more about spiders. About Uloboridae, or cribellate orb weavers specifically. Why isn't there a book? Then maybe I'd have some idea what the heck is going on. All I know is that I've gotten involved in the life of this little thing and I don't know what's going on in her life and that I'll be ... inexplicably sad when there's no life to be a part of anymore.

Sometimes Emily makes a ... relatively nice web, it's never immaculate, and then other times she's like a drunken frat boy with a can of silly string. Case in point -- this ... which has been in her web for a few days now.


I've no idea what she's thinking when she leaves this.
You may clickenzee to figure it out yourself.

No idea what purpose it serves, what it's supposed to do ... although, only while looking at the photo I noticed that there's an egg sac buried in there, so maybe she's doing this to protect the eggs? But it's not on all of her egg sacs, so ... why this one? Was she like "oh heck! Can't stop the spinerrettes!" -- No idea.

So many questions, Emily. I wish I knew what you were up to.

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Music
    Andy Guthrie: You be King.

George is back

No fanfaire, George just showed up again. No idea where he's been.

He's back to splitting babysitting, or eggsitting duties with Emily.

The other night George caught a beetle I can't ID -- any thoughts? You have no idea just how varied the insect kingdom is until you start paying attention to a spiders web and realize that you've never seen ANYTHING that she catches before.

He's about 1/3 the size of Emily and you will notice that his pedipalps are larger.

Yesterday while cleaning the house a fly was killed (by me), it was a gigantic thing and I thought "why not recycle it?" so I tossed it into Emily's web and she Freaked Out, screaming "Godzilla attack!" she ran off to a corner of the roof. Later she came back and cut the fly out of her web and threw it on the ground like a petulant child. I've decided not to try and be helpful anymore.

[photos of George the spider and his dinner behind this cut]

George finds a beetle. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

George finds a beetle. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Music
    buffie st. marie

Tall Ships and History

So the Tall Ships came to Philadelphia last week. One of them was a French ship named L'Hermione which is a recreation of one of the ships that belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette, who, if you remember your American History, arrived in the colonies in 1777 and proceeded to save our bacon from the English with all his tactics and genius. He was 19 years old at the time and wildly popular with ... everybody. L'Hermione (the recreation of it) took 17 years to build, with the express purpose of sailing from France to America to deliver us Lafayette -- or at least someone playing Lafayette.

trillian_stars who is in on the ground floor of these things, told me that her friend, John Lopes, who plays General Washington was taking Layafette out for dinner after the arrived in Philly and they did their thing on the tall ships. SWEET BARKING CHEESE! HOW DO WE INVITE OURSELVES TO THIS?!? I wanted to know. I seriously wanted to be a fly on the wall of conversations between learned scholars who spent their lives figuring out what Washington and Layafette would have said to one another.

And, since Washington and Elizabeth Powel were BFF's (According to historian Richard Beeman: "there was certainly no one in Philadelphia… whose company Washington enjoyed more" than Elizabeth Powel") and I knew Eliza Powel (or at least the woman who plays her on TV) I thought it would be nice to get them all over to the Powel house (which still exists as a museum) and photograph something that might have happened right around this time in 1777 and then, you know, casually suggest that since we had such a good time taking photos that I should get to go along for dinner..... Which left convincing the Powel House that they should let us in for 20 minutes after hours and that I'd be really fast and that I wouldn't break anything and that I'd send them copies of the photos after. (One of the big lessons I learned from Mary Ellen Mark is that photography isn't about f-stops and shutter speeds, it's about being able to talk to people. It doesn't matter how great a camera you have if you can't talk a historical landmark into staying open late so you can bring some people in costume in to use their museum as a set.) The Powel house was super nice about it and they sent someone to let us in and we did some quick photos. The best part was that they all talked like they would have talked had they been in that situation, so the Marquis told a very funny story about Marie Antoinette and how she stopped a ball to point and laugh at him because he couldn't dance very well and everybody laughed and I, for a brief moment found myself peering through a hole in time to something that might have happened in that very spot.

(Photo Geekery: I shot this with a Leica M9 and a 35mm f1.7 lens using all available light, plus the skills that I picked up from Mary Ellen.)

Then we all went out to National Mechanics and met some of the crew of L'Hermione who didn't speak English (but Layafette did of course) and had a splendid time.

That was our Friday. How was yours?

Layafette plots with General Washingon. Mrs. Powel enters the room.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette,
The 19 year old Major General with no troops or battle experience, won over not just
General Washington, but Hamilton, Jefferson, and all of Philadelphia society.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Layafette, Elizabeth Powel and General Washington.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

The Powel's ballroom, which celebrated all of Philadelphia society, exists as it did in 1777.
Something very much like this probably actually happened.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Spying on the Chew family who lived next door.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Behind the scenes photo by Mickey Herr from Philadelphia Landmarks
who was kind enough to let us into the museum.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished

Spider happenings

George is gone. I haven't seen him in days. He's gone missing before but returned -- and by "missing" -- he might have moved a foot into the rafters and then back, but no. Emily's in the web by herself now. All the spider experts have told me that females don't eat the males so I've no idea what happened to him. No real idea what eats spiders either. There are plenty of possibilities -- someone walked past while he was dangling on a thread and they carted him off on their clothes -- he fell off the web and is now making new webs somewhere by my feet -- he wandered out ... But anyway -- Emily is a single mother.

I find myself oddly saddened by this. I was a little attached to this spider I'd anthropomorphized into some unlucky guy who couldn't catch a fly, who built his webs in crappy places where no bugs went who was just waiting his opportunity to be a dad.

Emily, on the other hand, is still performing like gangbusters. The other night I was standing on a chair watching her when some insect flew into her web. She was already eating something in a silk feedbag she was holding in her mouth but that didn't stop her from pouncing on this thing and wrapping it up.

She's very elegant, and yet mechanical and also precise. All of her eyes are on the top of her head and she's doing all this wrapping by feel.

[nice photo behind this cut.]

Clickenzee to figure out what this is that Emily's eating.

I read online on io9 that hackled orb-weavers will wrap their prey in more than 450 feet of silk.

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Mood
    sad for george

This is Not a Fitness Blog: You Win Some, You Lose Some

I've run the Oddyssey Half Marathon twice before. (2013 race recap here. The next year I finished 40 minutes faster in one hour fifty-seven minutes.) It's a great race, if your understanding of "great" means "it has lots of hills and it's in the middle of the summer where you will bake like a pie". But it is fun and pretty and people often wear costumes doing it. This year I decided a while back that I wasn't going to kill myself running it because it's in the middle of the freaking summer and that's awful. Lately trillian_stars has been watching this TV show called "Outlander" where everybody wears knitted things and makes outlandish decisions and the "hero" is a dude in a kilt named Jamie Frasier. I told Trillian that if she came out and watched the race, I'd shave my beard, dress up as Jamie Frasier and run the whole thing in a kilt and long sleeved shirt. (You may think this erases any benefit you might get from running the race "slow" and you would be right.) Oddyssey isn't Oddyseey unless you're suffering -- which is why it's in the middle of the summer. The only goals I had really were to finish respectably under two hours and I wanted to sprint up the giant hill at the end. It had totally wrecked me the first two times and I wanted to have enough steam left to charge up the hill yodeling a battle-cry.

To make things more ridiculous I signed Trillian and myself up for a 5k race the day before.

Things were going well until two days before the race when I injured myself in a completely inheroic way. I was loading the dishwasher when I felt this searing pain across my tramp-stamp area, like my spine had become disconnected from my pelvis. Like, serious, incredible, stabbing pain. I couldn't stand up. All I could do was lay on the floor for a while feeling very old and doomed. I was seriously worried that I'd completely screwed my race. I managed to get up after a while and found that it only hurt when I bent. Left, right, forward, backward, searing pain. But standing up and laying down, I was mostly fine. I couldn't sit in a chair, but I could lay in bed.

I went to bed early and nothing had changed by Saturday morning. I decided to try and run the 5k slowly to see if it would be possible to still do the half marathon. I was mostly fine walking, so who knows.

Saturday's race was hot and miserable but they'd turned all the fire hydrants on, so every half mile or so, there was glorious rain. Trillian ran it with me in the event that I collapsed and died she could point and laugh.

Hot, wet, slow 5k

I did the 5k in 35 minutes mostly pain freeish. That's about 11 minutes slower than my normal 5k and like 15 minutes slower than my best. I figured I coud do Oddyssey. Or, at the very least, I'd just stop at one of the aid stations and the medics would have something to do.

My favorite costume. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

It was brutally hot and the start was moved from 7:00 to 7:30 because some technical problems kept a few hundred runners from getting to the start on time. Every minute the sun got higher, it got worse. Finally the race started. I ran slow, then I ran slower and around mile 10 I pretty much gave up and ran even slower. If I ran bolt upright I was ok, but anytime my form started to collapse and I leaned forward or slumped, the dagger shot up my back. I finished in two hours and five minutes, which is six minutes slower than I'd hoped to do, but still 30 minutes faster than my first half marathon.

Jamie Frasier is Finished! Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I got home by 10 am. Took a glorious hot bath and I've been standing up ever since.

Back hasn't gotten better. I have a doctors appointment (July 10th). My insurance company's healthcare plan is to cleverly schedule appointments so far in the future that their patients are dead or healed by they time it comes around and nothing needs to be done.

How's your week been?

(Also, if you're one of the millions of people dealing with chronic pain, I'd love to hear your story.)

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished

In which Runner's World steals my free photo

***EDIT*** Eight minutes after I posted this to Twitter and after a quick firestorm of retweets, Runner's World added my credit & apologized for the oversight. The benefits of having a big voice on the Internet. ***EDIT***

I noticed last night that Runner's World was using one of my photos (I noticed this because I subscribe to their magazine and I follow them on twitter.) The photo they're using is one I put in the Creative Commons, so it's great they're using it. But clicking on the article, I see they didn't bother to credit me. Seriously, like the meme says YOU HAD ONE JOB.

How hard is it to type "Thanks to Kyle for letting us use this free photo". (Hint: not hard, I just did it.) The big problem is that if people, like Runner's World, DON'T do this, then nobody is incentivized to let people use their photos for free and the people who suffer are the bloggers & schools & libraries that rely on the creative commons. Just BE NICE people and the wheel keeps turning. That's all that's required.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Add me: [LiveJournal] [Facebook] [Twitter] [Google+] [Tumblr]
  • Current Mood
    oh the humanity!