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I fought the lawn… and the lawn won

Super Sabado: Congratulations, Mr. Argiope, it’s a blob

Filed under: and More,Decidedly Unscientific on Saturday, September 23, 2006

Yesterday morning I took out the trash and passed Mrs. Argiope’s bush, and wah! She wasn’t in her web.

I dropped the trash and went into defense mode, just in case she was hovering overhead, about to land on my neck and suck me dry.

I mean, everything I’ve read about these creatures says they’re peaceful, non-aggressive types, but there’s no harm in being cautious, I always say.

Mrs. Argiope, in laborWhen my breathing returned to normal I searched until I found her right next to the little egg sac she’d made last week.

Aha, I thought, her time had come! She was in labor! About to knit that second egg sac and birth a couple thousand more alien children!

Throughout the day I kept checking on her with my camera, hoping I could get some stellar shots of spider birthing rituals or Lamaze breathing or even Mr. Argiope giving her a hand, but no. She just sat there, like she had nothing better to do.

When I checked on her with my flashlight last night I was worried: was she egg bound? Sick? I’d read that some argiopes die at the end of the summer; was she was saying goodbye to her egg sack?

And then this morning I went to look and found her back in her web, all skinny again, and in the bush were TWO egg sacs. Not only had she knitted up a second one, she patched up the first one with some old leaves:

Two egg sacs

So have a virtual cigar, everyone. I’m an arachno-godmother—who intends to let the boys take out the trash from now on.

No time to dilly dally… I’m late with my Super Sabado! Hurry, hurry, hurry! (Read the rest of “Super Sabado: Congratulations, Mr. Argiope, it’s a blob”)

Yikes!

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific on Friday, September 22, 2006

Several projects that were happy to play by themselves have suddenly started throwing tantrums and demanding all my time. I had to put two of them down for a nap and one into time-out, just so I could escape for a few minutes and let you all know I haven’t been hit by a bus.

And I also wanted to show you something quite alarming. Take a look at this!

Mrs. Argiope, fat and pregnant! Mrs. Argiope, skinny and no longer pregnant Mrs. Argiope, fat again!
A pregnant Mrs. Argiope on 9/02/2006 A not so pregnant Mrs. Argiope,on 9/10/2006 Mrs. Argiope on 9/19/2006

(That cloudy stuff isn’t junk on my lens; it’s her web.)

I’m sensing a trend here, and frankly, I’m beginning to wonder if I am as arachno-tolerant as I made myself out to be earlier.

I mean, it’s one thing to have a token Argiope family living nearby, but now it looks like they’re going to take over the whole neighborhood!

On a side note, I haven’t visited anyone in a long time… I’m sorry! I’ll catch up tomorrow.

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New kids on the block

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,So Cal Living on Thursday, September 14, 2006

When a neighbor suddenly looks thinner, you want to compliment her, right? Tell them how great she’s looking, ask her what diet she’s been on, or at the very least, make sure all is well in her life and she’s not sick or anything.

But what if the neighbor is one of those stand-offish types, you know, with eight legs?

Spider before, all plump and round Spider after, much thinner
BEFORE AFTER

You can really see a difference, can’t you? I mean, she’s practically svelte in the AFTER photo. (By the way, that cloudy stuff in the BEFORE picture is her web.)

So I wondered, what would cause a spider to lose so much weight all of a sudden?

BONNIE: My, you’re looking slim! What’s your secret?

ARGIOPE: If you were smaller, I’d paralyze you with my spider venom, wrap you up in silk, and suck you dry at my leisure.

BONNIE: Ultra low carb, then?

And then I noticed this, about six inches from her web:

Argiope Egg case

(Click on the picture to get a really big image, suitable for the ultimate gross-out!)

According to this site, the eggs inside will hatch this fall. They won’t leave their playpen, however, until the weather warms up in the spring.

And if any of you urge me to do some spider squishing, I’ll remind you that these spiders LOVE flying insects. And since Hubby and I hate flies, the bloodthirsty Mrs. Argiope and her children get to stay.

So there.

ARGIOPE: Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I could take you. Come a little closer.

BONNIE: Um, no.

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Our new neighbor

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,Meet the Family,So Cal Living on Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Big yellow and black spider

BONNIE: Just a little closer…

TIGER: What, and take my life in my hands?

BONNIE: The ruler isn’t even in the picture!

TIGER: You want me to die just so you can get a ruler in the picture?

BONNIE: You won’t die! They aren’t poisonous.

TIGER: Easy for you to say! How about I hold the camera and YOU hold the ruler?

BONNIE: Um, no.

Big yellow and black spider

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Better living through filtered dog thongs

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,Meet the Family on Friday, March 31, 2006

And now, the winning project of the 52nd Annual Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair: The filtered dog thong!

Picture of dog wearing a thong
Now you, too, can stop canine flatulence at its source!

No… wait. I lied. This clever device has nothing whatsoever to do with the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair, even though I believe it would’ve won top prizes if it had been an entry.

I mean, 2004′s sweepstakes-winning “Quantifying The Effect of Tungsten Illumination on Color Rendering of Low-Pressure Sodium” was an excellent science project, warming the hearts of astronomers all over the world. No argument there.

But what do science fair projects like that do for those of us suffering from the unbearable heartbreak of canine flatulence? Nada, that’s what.

Ah, well. Maybe next year.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see the real grand prize winner because by 7:30 pm the judges had only finished listing off the third prize winners, junior division, and Squirt still had Geometry homework to do. Even more pressing was the fact he hadn’t eaten in 2 hours and was gnawing on the IpayOne Arena‘s metal folding chairs.

We did stay long enough to come home with one ribbon, though: 4th Place Senior Division in his category, which I’m not allowed to describe here because it might humiliate poor Squirt, who, while most proud of his stinky underwear, is shy about any positive academic achievement.

I thought winning a prize was cool, though, for various reasons, but mainly because of out of 12,000 qualifying San Diego science projects, only 800 made it to the fair, and Squirt was one of the 800. Hoo yah! An achievement made even more noteworthy when you consider Squirt was born of a science-impaired mother who still twitches when remembering her high school Chemistry class.

Still, behind every science fair winner is a supportive parent, and I think it would’ve been nice if I’d gotten a little recognition, too. Here are just a few of the possible awards I could’ve won:

The Constant Vigilance Award: For successfully preventing a determined bulldog from scarfing down Squirt’s science project, even though Squirt often found the need to leave parts of it ON THE GROUND. The noodle.

The Fast Driving For Science Award: For successfully making it to the Foam Display Board Store minutes before it closed, even though her son knew MONTHS in advance that he’d need a new foam display board by 7:45 the next morning.

The Resourceful Solutions in Problem Solving Award (AKA, The Stoic Self-Restraint Award): For listening to Squirt’s repeated assurances throughout the afternoon that his project was packed up and ready to take to the exhibition hall at 5 pm, and then discovering at 5 pm that his entire project was not “here”, but rather “locked up in a classroom at school.”

Here’s to all the winners, when they finally post the list. You done good, kids, even though none of you managed to solve the pervasive problem of canine flatulence.

(Thanks, You Can’t Make It Up.)

So do I keep taking these dang pills or not?

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific on Thursday, February 16, 2006

Take a look at my Google News Health headlines:Screenshot of Google news headlines

Of the 105 related news articles on the results of a calcium and vitamin D study, the top two featured articles say:

The study showed better hip bone density in the group given supplements, but they ranked no better statistically in avoiding fractures of all kinds.

Associated Press, MSNBC News: Calcium not as protective as believed, Supplements offer limited defense against broken bones in older women, Feb. 15, 2006. (The Google screenshot shows the source as “Newsweek,” but the link was to the Associated Press article at MSNBC News)

… and…

Although hip fractures were significantly reduced, the supplement did not affect overall bone density scores very much. On average, they improved by about 1 percent for women taking the supplements compared with those taking a placebo.

Joy Victory, ABC News: Hip Fractures Reduced by Taking Vitamin D, Calcium Supplement, Seven-Year Study of Women Over 50 Shows Benefit, Feb 15, 2006

I may not be the sharpest knife in the flatware set, but I sense a contradiction here.

(Read the rest of “So do I keep taking these dang pills or not?”)

But it’s expensive vomit

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific on Wednesday, January 25, 2006
A picture of what looks like a bunch of beach rocks
Yup. A big ole’ bunch of rocks. Who knew?

I don’t know about you, but this just looks like a bunch of rocks to me. Yet it’s not a bunch of rocks. It’s ambergris.

And do you know where ambergris comes from?

Sperm whales. They vomit this stuff up and then it floats on the ocean until it washes ashore someplace.

And ambergris is pricey. An Australian couple found what they thought was a waxy rock on the beach, took it home and learned it was really a piece of whale vomit—worth approximately $295,000!

This raises some interesting philosophical questions, like, how do I get my very own rock whale vomit ambergris worth several hundred thousand dollars?

Read on.


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And the connection between velociraptors and noodles is…?

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific on Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I just love this kind of stuff. Imagine: some ancient mom’s noodles, preserved for all posterity!

Dr. Phil Manning and velociraptor clawAnd what about this debunking of Jurassic Park?

Remember that scene in the beginning of the movie where Dr. Alan Grant waves a scary-looking claw at a snotty little kid and describes how velociraptors used those claws to disembowel little boys who bother really important paleontologists?

He lied!

Turns out the cast members were in more danger of shallow puncture wounds from velociraptor claws than disembowelment. Velociraptors would still chew the stuffing out of you, but that whole claw/disembowelment thing, that’s all wrong.

Science to warm a teenage boy’s heart

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,Meet the Family on Friday, October 7, 2005

Giant Balls of ‘Snot’ Explain Ocean Mystery.

Yes. Well. I think I might have phrased that one differently, but you know how hard it is to get the general public interested in science nowadays. I think the author is trying to hit the Dave “Boogers are My Beat” Barry demographic.

But that’s not what I wanted to show you. THIS is.

Picture of glowing sea“The newly released images show a vast region of the Indian Ocean, about the size of Connecticut, glowing three nights in a row. The luminescence was also spotted from a ship in the area.” Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos” by Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience, Oct. 4, 2005

“The source for the light emission is under debate,” says Stefan Millinski, a Naval Research Laboratory scientist on the research team, “but my hypothesis is that the glowing is caused by bacteria colonizing the organic material in large quantities of laundry rinse water from a suburban home harboring two especially large and stinky teenage boys,” he said.

“Satellite detection will hopefully allow us to target the origin of this suburban washing machine source, and with our properly equipped research vessels we can then definitively answer the question of how two human beings can produce so many chemicals that not only smell bad, but which can cause an entire undersea neighborhood to light up like a Christmas tree.”

Millinski says he has asked authorities to be on the lookout for the laundering parent of these teenage boys. She can be recognized by the usual signs of stinky chemical exposure: facial lines and creases from constantly wrinking her nose, the compulsive grabbing for every box of Tide she passes, and/or a Tourette’s-like nervous tic that causes her to cry unexpectedly, “GET those dirty socks OFF my kitchen table… NOW!”

Will Worm Castings Keep Garden Pests Out of Your Yard?

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific on Thursday, April 5, 2001

Based on my personal experience in the last few months, I have to say, “yes and no.” (Nothing like a definitive answer, is there?)

Certainly they seemed to have absolutely no effect whatsoever on whiteflies, aphids or Argentine Ants. However, I observed sow bugs and earwigs leaving the plots treated with worm castings. (Read the rest of “Will Worm Castings Keep Garden Pests Out of Your Yard?”)

 
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