Friday, January 24, 2014

Beetles Again

I've been seeing too many news items on line and in periodicals that make me angry, some of which have to do with the future of natural history, to remain calm.  I've imagined rants about the Republican primary in South Carolina where there seems to be a contest to see who can be the most retrograde politician.  One said "true conservatives never compromise."  What idiots.  Then I've been seeing lots of Yahoo News items ranking the "10 worst college majors."  The only criteria seem to be whether a new graduate can get a high paying job and whether more of "them" will be needed in the next decade or so.  My two areas of greatest training, natural history and English, are always on the list.  Seems that the main purpose of a liberal arts education has become obsolete.  Maybe it all started when George W. Bush cynically would avoid saying "the L word."  In the present political climate, I am pessimistic about American education and about the health of our planet.  So, to remain somewhat sane, I revert to my friends the beetles.  A couple of weeks ago I came across a nice little booklet about spiders from Heyday Books.  I've decided to put together a comparable booklet about beetles.  I have more than enough beetle photos in my archives and beetle notes in my journals to tell lots of stories about the environment and the importance of getting generations of kids back in touch with nature and weaned from their stupid electronic devices.  More about the beetle project coming soon, after I catch up on a couple of other promised stories.  Meanwhile, can you imagine how much fun it was to relax by the side of a trail and watch this  Red Milkweed Beetle, Tetraopes basalis, munch on a leaf of the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Writer's Guilt

 You've heard of writer's block, but writer's guilt?  I've been suffering the latter.  Full of ideas and pockets full of writing ideas in tiny notebooks, but not enough time.  Tonight, while I was cooking a stir fry, my mind wandered to several recent blog entries in which I posted photos and promised that related text would soon follow.  But I haven't managed to post those texts yet.  Meanwhile, the colors of the vegetables I was gathering for the stir fry struck me as so beautiful that I had to run to get the camera.  The above photo shows all the veggies I used.  Other ingredients included two scrambled eggs, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, and Tabasco.  This mixture was stir fried then combined with egg noodles that had been boiled separately.
 I love how different patterns are revealed depending on which angle a cut is made.  Above we have a mid-saggittal view and a transverse view of mushrooms, and uncut celery.
 Concentric circles on the ends of scallions revealed after cutting off the roots.
 Mexican tomatoes.  Very beautiful, although I did have a flashback memory of the fact that our leftover DDT went there after Rachel Carson managed to bring a stop to its use in the USA (as far as I know). 
 Bell peppers look nice and geometrical in transect.  I think I need to pose all three colors together.  Maybe the next time I do stir fry or fajitas.

 Angular view, showing the difference in texture of the inner and outer surfaces.
A pile of chopped scallions finishes the job.  I didn't photograph the frying process.  Tomorrow I hope to get back to those unfinished texts.   I'll also post photos from a very interesting hike my wife and I took yesterday just north of the college.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thinking About Beetles Again

It's winter and there's ice on my windshield and on my sidewalk.  There are no beetles in sight.  But I just had to photograph this page from last year's journal to remind me that I have some things to say about beetles. Tomorrow.

A Mt. Hough Adventure

 Last Friday, my son Greg and I decided to head for the top of Mt. Hough.  Even though he has a 4WD pickup with good snow tires, we weren't sure we could make it.  After all, it's January, and there's supposed to be around 10 to 15 feet of snow up there.  Quite a surprise to find the road was clear almost all the way to the top.  Even the shady forested area on the way down to Crystal Lake had only a few inches of snow.  Kind of scary, actually, when we contemplated the coming summer fire season.  We parked the truck on the road just above and west of Crystal Lake and hiked toward Arlington Rock, the prominent outcropping that looks like the Matterhorn from the valley below.  Greg took the above photo of me with his iPhone.  The cameras in those things are getting more impressive every year.  Click on this photo for an enlargement and maybe you'll recognize some homes in Genessee Valley in the distance above and to the left of my head.  The Mt. Hough lookout building is out of the picture to the right behind that rocky prominence.
 Just below and south of Arlington Rock we came across the stump of a huge Red Fir.  Whoever cut it down apparently was too tired to take it as firewood, or only used a small portion of it as the main trunk of the tree was still on the ground and looked like it was at least a couple of years old.
 The amazing panorama feature of Greg's cell phone camera caught this scene.  I was photographing something on the ground below me, and you can see frozen-over Crystal Lake in the foreground and North Arm and the mountains overlooking Susanville in the distance.  These photos are out of order.  The ones overlooking Crystal Lake were actually taken first.
 Here's my photo of Greg overlooking the frozen lake.  Note in these last two, Indian Valley is completely filled with fog.
 It took us nearly an hour to get to the top of Arlington Rock.  If you click on this photo you can see Greg on the top of the rock, just below a branch of the fir tree on the left.
When I got to the top of the rock, I was startled to find the fog had almost entirely lifted.  This view is aimed due North, and I think I was able to identify my friend Joan's house on North Valley Road.
We took enough photos on this outing for several more topics and blog posts.  Coming soon will be photos of vegetation and scenic views of Lassen Peak, Lake Almanor, Crescent Mills, and Rhinehart Meadow.  Tomorrow is the first day of Spring Semester at the college, so I could get sidetracked.  The rest of the photos will appear at least by Tuesday.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nature's Numbers

Contemplative text coming soon.  Meanwhile, enjoy the depth.


Did we learn this pattern from the bees, or did they learn it from us?  I was wandering around near the college, ostensibly doing nature photography, when this roadside reflector caught my eye.  I immediately recalled the many photos of bee and wasp nests I took last summer out at Oakland Camp.  They are marvels of architecture and have certainly inspired many human creations.  So, there you have it.  Click on the photo for a closer view and imagine some insect highway engineers.

Experiment Over

 Here's what she looked like on December 28, and now ...
 on January 5, it is obvious that it's time to take her off life-support.  There's still a little green, but
we have at least two months of winter ahead, and I don't think she was meant to be kept above ground during winter.  I am curious about what species my weed was, but with the record I've kept since November 6, the day of the rescue, I can watch the area when her kin sprout and start to grow in the spring and then I'll report what the weed was.  If you missed the beginning of this story, scroll back to November 6, the day of the rescue.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Early Birds Get the Carcass

No imaginary birds this time.  Recommended: an essay in a 100-year-old book by Mary Austin titled "The Scavengers."