delphipsmith: (damnsnow)
It's snowing again still. Argh.
delphipsmith: (ba headdesk)
Because news. Mostly this, but also everything that the Orange Hobgoblin says or does, because it highlights how incredibly incompetent and stupid he is. (Just look at all the tags I've applied to this post -- I couldn't stop, they are my frenzy made visible.)

So instead, I give you the peaceful February view out our back windows yesterday:

(click to embiggen)
delphipsmith: (its so fluffy)
So this is who came to visit us this afternoon. I want to hug them, but I suspect they might object, in their small bitey way.


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delphipsmith: (George scream)
So, just to be sure we're all clear on this: That was the MOLT I was posing with, NOT the actual spider. Please don't think me braver stupider than I actually am lol (For those of you want to look at it again, which may be none of you heheh, note how stiff the legs are and the clump of tissue filling the abdomen. Those are, er, "dead" giveaways!)

Also my apologies for not putting the picture behind a cut. I should have done, so as not to freak people out. There are things I just really do not want to see ever, and for some people, spiders are that. So sorry, guys!!

Here's the really funny part, though: when my brother and I were kids, he had snakes, rats and tarantulas. Our bedrooms were right next to each other, downstairs in a walkout basement. I had recurring nightmares that the spider had escaped and was sitting in my face. I swore that when *I* was a grownup, I would NEVER have those creepy things in my house no never not ever.

And now, here I am, *mumble* years later, with Mr Psmith, a room-full of tarantulas and snakes, and I'm letting him pose the damn thing's exoskeleton on my face.

Oh karma, you are a bitch, aren't you??
delphipsmith: (damnsnow)
The worst of Epic Snowmageddon has gone south of us, so all we have to contend with is what fell earlier this week. Here's hoping that all of you in the Winter Warlock's path are home safe and warm with plenty of beverages, company, and snuggly lap pets of your choice!!

(In my case that would be wine, Mr Psmith, and the poosy cats.)
delphipsmith: (busy busy busy)
All that and more, here in this very entry!

A friend of mine has opened an Etsy store to sell her awesome fabric tote bags. My favorite is the Star Wars one. If you need a tote bag, make this your first stop.

Signups are ongoing over at [livejournal.com profile] sshg_giftfest -- there's still space for both authors and artists/crafters so hop on over! I'm thrilled that we have lots of people returning from last year as well as some new faces. Also signups are open at [livejournal.com profile] hoggywartyxmas, so start thinking xmassy thoughts!

This past weekend Mr Psmith and I went to the State Fair where we saw, among other things: llamas, sheep, goats (why are their testicles so enormous? why???), adorable baby piglets and monstrous full-grown pigs, and many many flavors of dairy cow including an adorable Jersey calf being raffled off. I wanted to enter but sanity in the form of Mr Psmith prevailed. As always, the food on offer ranged from standard to startling, the latter including a "Gators and Taters" food booth, kangaroo spiedies, and Shark-on-a-Stick. Sadly, we did not get to see the draft horses -- Percherons, Belgians, Friesians, etc. -- which was our main reason for going, as the barn was closed for some reason, drat the luck. But we did get to see the arts and crafts building (quilts! cross-stitch! handmade lace! paintings on sawblades! tiny model rooms!) and the sand sculpture, which is always amazing. One side showed a train going into a tunnel watched by some woodland creatures, including a very alarmed-looking beaver.

My life continues to be far too busy, and sometime between now and the end of September, we have to pack up our entire house. Eek.
delphipsmith: (starstuff)
From Lawrence M. Krauss, internationally known theoretical physicist. Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, Chairman of the department of Physics and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, author of over 300 scientific publications:



Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.

Which of course makes me think of this:

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delphipsmith: (busy busy busy)
...because a Certain Someone (::waves at [livejournal.com profile] teddyradiator::) likes keys and I found these on Etsy and had to share:

Keys of Azhar
Keys to Atlantis

I devoutly hope to be back on LJ more regularly in another week or so. I have been so busy with freelance work, regular work, co-mod duties for my writing group, prepping for teaching a workshop in a couple of weeks, and getting everything settled for my upcoming two weeks of vacation that I have had zero time for anything else. Not only have I not posted here, I have not even had time to read and so have no idea what's going on with y'all (though I did catch [livejournal.com profile] shiv5468's post about the hoo-ha fairy which made me laugh immoderately). I hope everyone is well and happy.

In other news, it's actually really truly finally spring here!!!!!!
delphipsmith: (magick)
An evocative and beautiful blog post today from photographer Mark Deeble: Raindrops in the dust, about the first storm in months coming to Tsavo in Kenya. His description of how things come to life in the aftermath (the baby leopard tortoises!) is amazing -- right up there with the best of the nature writers.

I started following Mark's blog after I saw some of his photographs and read his piece on Satao, last of the big tuskers. My grandparents loved Africa; they went on safari to Kenya several times, and one of my treasured possessions is a photocopied set of my grandmother's letters home to her daughters (my mom and two younger sisters) during a trip in the 1950s.

So I have a soft spot in my heart for the wildlife there, not just because they're beautiful and so, so precariously balanced on the edge of extinction, but also because they make me think of my grandparents. Mark's blog is a wonderful way to feel like I'm really there.
delphipsmith: (pentagram)
So it's still snowing here (ugh) but Mr Psmith and I were amused the other morning to wake up and see that the nasty weather hasn't stopped the mice in the neighborhood from venturing out on their daily rounds. I can only imagine what their sub-surface tunnels must look like, and how annoying it must be when the walls start to melt!

View from our front porch:

20140227_074347sm

Close-up of the plunge into the snowbank:

20140227_074347cropped
delphipsmith: (pentagram)
"I saw one once," said Piglet. "At least, I think I did," he said. "Only perhaps it wasn't."
"So did I," said Pooh, wondering what a Heffalump was like.
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin carelessly.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of the year," said Pooh.


Lots of elephant-y things have crossed my path lately. A recent issue of The Economist focused on biodiversity and conservation included a fascinating piece on the success of a demand-side approach to reducing elephant poaching. Back in the 1980s Japan was the largest importer of ivory, at something like 500 tons a year. A group called Traffic launched a campaign to basically make ivory uncool:

[Traffic] worked on the newspapers and helped persuade them to write anti-ivory editorials. But the big breakthrough...came when Britain’s Prince Philip gave a rousing speech at an event organised by the World Wildlife Fund, which encouraged Japan’s crown prince to speak out. “It was the first time that Japanese royalty had taken a stance on a wildlife issue. It was an amazing moment,” says Mr Milliken. Ivory became uncool.

Japanese ivory imports today are down by 90%, to roughly 5 tons a year. Isn't that incredible?? ::does happy dance::

So after that the elephant population rebounded pretty well, but in recent years two things have caused elephant killings to go up again. One is demand in China. To combat this, a group called WildAid is trying the same approach as was done in Japan, only using celebrities, sort of the Chinese version of royalty, I guess. (The picture of the giant basketball player next to the baby elephant is just adorable!) WildAid was really successful in a recent campaign to reduce demand for shark fins in China, so there's a good chance this could help. ::does hopeful dance::

The other problem, though, is terrorists -- Al Shabab, for example, who killed all those people at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. They're using poached ivory to fund their activities. And these aren't some local yokel with a 20-year-old rifle. These guys are organized and they have higher-tech equipment, like night vision goggles and laser scopes, and their effect on the elephants is devastating. The LA Times and Huffington Post both recently ran stories about the ivory/terrorism connection. If there were no market for ivory, these guys couldn't make money on it and they'd leave the elephants alone. Sadly, this also has an indirect death toll because it leaves orphan baby elephants who aren't old enough to survive on their own. ::does sad dance::

This is the sort of thing that makes me wish that homo was more sapiens, or at least that our position at the top of the food chain was automatically accompanied by compassion and rationality...

Well, then yesterday I got a newsletter from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant rescue operation I've contributed to for years in honor of my grandparents. The DSWT is an organization in Kenya that rescues/raises orphan baby elephants and then returns them to the wild. They're a fantastic organization, founded by a British woman (Dame Daphne Sheldrick) but staffed and run largely by native Kenyans, and the work they do is incredibly important. The newsletter mentioned that they're currently doing a fund-raising campaign -- sponsored by Kristen Davis of Sex and the City, of all people! -- on crowdrise, including a video with some beautiful footage of elephants in the wild. This gave me mixed emotions because yay! publicity and they're doing well with their campaign, but sad :( that they are busier than ever with so many orphaned elephants to care for.

Christmas is coming -- maybe you know somebody who's hard to buy for? You could contribute to the campaign in their name, or foster a baby elephant in their honor!
delphipsmith: (George)
1. Kenneth Branagh (squeee!) will be directing a live-action version of Cinderella. Helena Bonham Carter plays the Fairy Godmother (so, presumably, not a crazy hag -- surprise! Though she's also playing Miss Havisham, so maybe this is an anomaly).

2. Chickens: the Steadi-Cam of the animal kingdom

3. Miss Piggy wearing the Hope Diamond. Yup, the actual Hope Diamond.

4. The Secret Life of Bees and The Necromancer's House (yeah, I need to write a proper review, but trust me on this: they're both -- in very different ways -- fantastic.

5. New Pope rocks.

6. Queen + physics = Bohemian Gravity:

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delphipsmith: (bookgasm)
Tomorrow there will be pictures of lobsters and sailboats and osprey and swing bridges. Today, the first step in post-vacation catch-up: reviews of the books I read while away.

Mara and DannYou wouldn't think that anyone could make four-hundred-plus pages of trudging through dust and heat intriguing. And yet somehow Lessing does it. The very end was a bit of an anti-climax, and I didn't really find it credible that Certain People (who shall remain nameless to prevent spoilage) could successfully track Mara and Dann across an entire continent that's decaying into anarchy and chaos. But if you can look past those two points, it's an interesting take on a distant-future slow-motion environmental collapse.

Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the SexesThis is a funny, occasionally warm, sometimes biting, and in places rather horrifying satire on gender. In the world of Egalia's Daughters absolutely everything gender-related (except the actual act of giving birth) is reversed: females are in charge of the government, hold most of the important jobs, and make all the decisions for the family, while males stay home, curl their beards, gossip and raise the children. The reversal extends even to language itself: females are wom (sing.) and wim (pl.) while males are manwom (sing.) and menwim (pl.) -- since it was translated from the Norwegian, major kudos go to the translator for successfully retaining such nuances. Written in the late 1970s during the height of the feminist movement, its historical context is reflected in the story in the form of agitation for equal rights for menwim(!). While I expected story elements like menwim being "homemakers" and wim running the country, the story incorporates the entire spectrum of gender-related experiences, including rape and domestic abuse; in some cases it was downright startling to realize how, even today, society is less appalled by certain behaviors from men than they would be from women. The preceding 200+ pages do such a good job that the last chapter, which consists of the opening paragraphs of a novel the main character is writing about a fantasy world where men are in charge, actually seems weird. Definitely worth a read.

The Savage Tales of Solomon KaneAn energetic blending of the sword and sorcery of Michael Moorcock, the mysterious jungle cities of H. Rider Haggard, and the lonely -- possibly mad -- knight-errantry of Don Quixote, with a smattering of H.P. Lovecraft. Solomon Kane is an incarnation of the Eternal Hero; he doesn't remember where he came from, but he has occasional fleeting memories of a far-distant past in which he -- or some earlier incarnation of himself -- battled the Old Gods of fear and darkness as proto-humanity tried to free itself from their bloody grip. And like The Gunslinger (Stephen King's high opinion of Howard is quoted on the front cover), Solomon Kane doesn't know where he's going, only that he is bound to protect the innocent, battle evil, and go forward towards an unknown destiny. (There is, alas, a discomforting racist element to the stories set in Africa; one paragraph in particular is a paean to the Aryan race's strength, intelligence, military abilities, etc. Like Haggard, he was a product of his times, I guess.) That aside, these are tremendously fun adventure tales in the classic Indiana Jones or Allan Quatermaine style, with a dusting of morals/metaphysics. Evil is always defeated, the damsel is always rescued, and the good guy always wins. (Admittedly, sometimes the good guy is the only one who survives, but hey, he is the hero, right?)

The Three MusketeersI re-read this on vacation last week. I'd forgotten what fun it is :) Milady the thoroughly evil, a sort of 17th-century Black Widow; d'Artagnan so chivalrously romantic, falling in love at first sight; Porthos the lovably pompous goofball, gambling away his horse and inveigling a replacement from his wealthy little old lady; Athos, very obviously A Man With A Secret; Aramis so endearingly bipolar ("I'm going to be a priest...no, she loves me!...no, I'm going to be a priest..."). And oh, the melodrama, the desperate races against time to foil yet another plot, the swordfights and duels and feathered hats! What more could one ask?



Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHBest rat-and-mouse story ever, bar none. I so much wish there was a sequel -- I want to know how they're doing in that valley. (And I don't care what anyone says, Justin isn't dead!)
delphipsmith: (snoopydance)
Much goodness this weekend!

Goodness the first: Friday night Mr Psmith and I saw The Marriage of Figaro -- a great performance, not just well sung but well acted with lots of physical comedy. I kept thinking how much it reminded me of the old screwball comedies from the 1940s and 1950s. Figaro was a riot in his facial expressions and movements and had a fabulous bass-baritone voice, and I even liked the sopranos, which usually I don't, finding them too screechy. Countess Almaviva in particular was lovely, very smooth and lyrical. I was a little thrown by the fact that Cherubino was played by a female; I know that minor "page-boy" parts were often played by women but it was a little odd to hear her singing about her infatuation with the Countess. And everyone else. Bonus: The venue has changed its policy and now allows you to take drinks into the performance hall, meaning you don't have to slam your intermission merlot. Sweet!

Goodness the second: Saturday was a stunningly gorgeous day so Mr Psmith and I decided to venture downtown for dinner. We chose a brew-pub we hadn't eaten at in a long time; it was the first day that their outdoor seating area was open, and lo, we got a table! Mr Psmith had an elk-burger with Black Magic Stout and I had a catfish burrito with a nice peppery merlot, all eaten outdoors in the sun and the breeze while people-watching (some very funny) and car-watching (some very posh!). And the waitress had some amazing ink, an octopus that twined two-thirds of the way down her arm. I do love seeing good ink, although I have none of my own.

Goodness the third: Today was also a stunningly gorgeous day so we opened all the windows and doors, chasing out the winter staleness and making me feel as though I were outside even though I had to work (after helping Mr Psmith put up the trellises -- trelli, trellorum? -- for the clematis, of course). I completed an editing project for client and then rewarded myself by (finally!) taking the time to write up a long-overdue response to a friend's excellent novel manuscript. It's a classic space mystery/adventure with wonderful characters and many twisty plot strands, all cleverly integrated in a highly satisfying ending, so I really enjoyed writing a nice long meaty feedback/critique. I hope she sends it off to a publisher, because it's as good as anything I've read and better than many.

Now, off to grade some student projects and then (since the kitchen is still a war zone) wash dishes in the bathtub and order pizza for dinner. Nomz.
delphipsmith: (honor dragons)
Our local zoo does occasional special fund-raising events focused on a particular animal. You pays your money and you get to come to the zoo in the evening, have drinks and hors d'oeuvres, the keepers give a little talk about the species (both in general and specifically about the ones at our zoo), and then you get to do some kind of special behind-the-scenes activity. We've done several of them: for the lions, we got to get up close near their cage (you could feel them eying you, thinking "Hm, they look tasty..."), for the primates we got to watch a training session, etc. So Mr Psmith and I went to one on Thursday about penguins and the special thing was...we got to actually pet a baby penguin!!! It was so amazing, so soft and warm since it still had all its downy grey baby feathers. Very sweet.

The zoo is also doing major construction work, and as we were leaving we saw they had posted this on the chain-link fence surrounding the construction area, which we giggled over and thought rawther clever esp. the bit about "loud vocalizations lol :)

zoo
delphipsmith: (calvin books)
[But first, a quick PSA: you've only got two days left to listen BBC Radio 4's half-hour program on fanfic. It actually verges on the scholarly, featuring authors China Mieville and Henry Jenkins and going all the way back to the Iliad and the Odyssey. "Stories are there to be played with, changed, made into our own. They always have been. And that's a good thing." Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] inamac for the link.]

Now, on to the Danish ducks! When I was in high school I joined the German Club, where I learned that in Germany dogs say "wau wau" and wolves say "knurrt." Here is a hilarious (and educational!) video about the sounds animals make in different languages; the pictures accompanying it are a riot, especially the ducks. And I totally agree with him about Hungarian doves :)


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delphipsmith: (kaboom)
Nice bit from the NY Times summarizing storm damage in the city. The photos of water flooding into a PATH station and highway signs just about the water level are pretty amazing.

Also, NASA has some great footage of Sandy from space!

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