Spider fun facts!

I did a little research, and within no time, I learned Shelob’s true identity: she’s a common European cross spider (Araneus diadematus). I don’t know why she came from Europe; presumably, she heard about how most of the humans on this continent are flavored with pork grease, corn syrup, and MSG. But you can see why she’s a cross spider – the white cross on her abdomen stands out clearly in the photo I took of her in my previous post.

Anyway, a couple of interesting things I learned about cross spiders. They are orb-weavers, and rebuild their large webs almost every day. Most suburban yards around here have over one hundred webs in them, which I can believe given the number of webs on our front porch alone. When creating the radial support lines for the web, the spider takes advantage of the morning winds (she often anchors them a fair distance away, so uses the wind to carry her to an anchor spot), and the orientation of the resulting web indicates the morning wind pattern.

Also, the females will perch upside down in the web (like in my pictures below) waiting for prey, and when something hits the web, she darts over, immobilizes it with venom, then wraps it up in silk. I actually saw Shelob do this with a bee a few weeks ago – she was crazy fast, and she wrapped that sucker up good and tight in no time.

But here’s what I’m really not looking forward to. In late summer and fall (now!?), the females will lay egg sacs, which hatch out about a gazillion little spiderlets that hang out in clumps then disperse after a few days. While spiderlets sound cute, you can be assured that several will reach adulthood and wreak havoc upon the local hobbit population (or whatever else that will make an appropriate substitute, since I believe Shelob consumed the last of our hobbits). I am not crazy about the prospect of finding over a hundred of these clusters in my yard any time soon:

Bleck!

I’m now thinking that telecommuting may be the way to go, permanently. I can send Chris out to get groceries and cat litter, and if he doesn’t make it back, well, I guess that means my arachnophobia-induced precautions will be validated. I haven’t seen Shelob in a few days now, but I’m sure that’s because she’s off laying egg sacs or planning something equally nefarious. I’m glad that I got some photos of her before she disappeared so that the police will have something to go on when they find, in response to a neighbor’s report about a “funny smell coming from the yellow house”, our cold lifeless bodies sucked dry and wrapped in silk.

Shit. I just read the rest of the spider website…I guess we’re coming up on Tegenaria duellica season: the season of the giant house spider, which are common in this area. And since I’m pretty sure it eats cats for between-meal snacks, I’m guessing I’m screwed.

This here is a giant house spider. Sorry, I did not get permission to use this photo, but it was the only one with a reference to scale so you can see how utterly horrifying this creature is. And our basement is likely chock-full of them.

And you thought I was kidding about Shelob…

So very wrong, you were!

On the bright side, I took these pictures with my new camera so I was able to maintain a relatively safe distance. On the down side, I think I still managed to piss her off because after a couple of minutes of invading her space she scrambled up underneath the porch rail, presumably to plot my demise and eventual consumption. So I guess that means that use of the front door (necessitating crossing into Her territory) is off limits, at least until the first frost. But maybe I’ll not take any chances and just wait things out until spring.

Whooooops!

So, it looks like I completely forgot to write anything for this blog in September. Ooops! Sorry about that, folks! Because I know you were totally checking my blog at least once, twice, or maybe even three times per day to see if I’d written anything new…that’s how much you love my blog, huh? Ah, I have such a loyal audience! All three of you are the absolute best!

So now, on to a quick recap. In the beginning of September, Chris and I started our bowling league, which will go through April. Yes, every Thursday night you can find us at Bailey’s Classic Lanes, which is just down the street from our house in the basement of the Elks Lodge. It is only 8 lanes, has original wood floors, and is run by a really nice couple – Dennis and Robin. The people in the league are kinda nutty, so I guess we fit right in. I bought a fabulous pair of bowling shoes and a leopard ball, because style is apparently what I have going for me, instead of a decent average. On the other hand, I have a super-high handicap! Yay!

Yup, the shoes were the first thing I bought when it came to purchasing the necessary equipment.
That’s my leopard ball in the front there, and Chris probably bowling a strike. Too bad my ball is too light – last time I bowled with one of the house balls, 2 lbs heavier! I can’t say it made much of a difference in my score, but I was at least a bit more consistent.

We also made it out to Vancouver’s annual Sausage Fest. With real sausages. I’ve had better sausage, but how could we pass up Sausage Fest? Short answer: we couldn’t.

See – it really was a Sausage Fest. And you thought I was kidding.

    

Additionally, Chris and I spent a weekend at the coast in Lincoln City. Chris actually got me out on the golf course, where my talents were most usefully applied to driving the golf cart and keeping score. I did hit a few balls, but again, golf is perhaps something where I’ll have to get by on style and not on skill. Now, if I could trade my bowling average for my golf score, *then* I might have something going!

    

September was a good month, but I suppose it is time to say goodbye to summer. The rain has started to become more frequent, and I’m seeing new birds at the feeder. The spiders are now huge. In fact, Shelob has relocated from Mordor to our front porch and is feeding on small birds because of the hobbit shortage. We have an understanding, though – I won’t use the front door, and she won’t make me scream in terror and run around the front yard like a maniac. It sounded like a good deal at the time, but I’m ready for her to move on! And speaking of moving on, it is now October. And you know what that means…yes…Halloween!!! I’ve already got my entire costume purchased, complete with accoutrements and accessories. What will I be? Well, you’ll either have to guess or wait. But here’s a hint: we’re all mad here!

I’m already 2/3 done with my first bag of candy corn, but that simply means I get to buy more soon. I hope you have a splendid October, and are looking forward to the best holiday of the year. Because any day that combines costumes and candy is number one in my book!

Bikin’ It!

The weather is finally nice here in the Pacific Northwest, so I figure that I have at least another month or two of a suitable climate for biking to work. Yes, I’m kind of a fair-weather biker. But my bike it totally pimped out now and is great for commuting!

  • Note the rad fenders that prevent skunk stripes on my back (for when it rains, and when I have to bike in it, which will probably not happen very often)!
  • Observe the cushy seat that provides more padding for my bum!
  • Marvel at the bike rack that Chris just installed so that I don’t have to ride around with my backpack on, rendering my hands tingly and my back achy (and I also don’t resemble a turtle so much)!

And I’m all safety geared up too, with lights (when I need them), a reflective BRIGHT neon yellow jacket, and aerodynamic helmet (although, this does little for diminishing my turtle-like appearance).

It’s only 4.3 miles to work if I follow a route with bike lanes, so I figured I should probably try to bike more. So far this summer I’ve biked to work 7 days (biking 60.2 miles), which has saved the environment 48 lbs of carbon dioxide, 1309 gms of carbon monoxide, and 2 gallons of gasoline. Some people in my office bike 60 miles per day, so I know I can do better – how ’bout I update you at the end of the summer and let you know how it’s going?

In the meantime, read this: On Biking – Why Can’t the US Learn Lessons from Europe?

Extreme Home Makeover – Booyah!

The above picture is of our back yard, and it was taken about a month ago. The flower bed areas were a mess, there was chain-link fence against the house, random metal and wood poles sticking up from the ground, and general crappiness.

This was taken after our house was painted. The front looked great (see pictures from previous post), but the back still needed work. I trimmed the rose bushes and got rid of all the dead branches, but we still had a way to go.

Finally, last weekend, Chris’ teacher friends built our new deck! It is awesome!!! It is made out of composite material, but the deck actually looks more like wood than fake stuff. There’s a built-in bench in the corner, and we’ll probably put a custom-built table over the heat pump to hide it and have a useable surface. Also, we got rid of the weedy flower beds, random metal structures, and have room for our potted plants. We’re going to install landscaping around the deck starting at the end of the stairs (where the potted bush is), wrapping around to the house (where the rose bushes are). We’ll also put in some paving stones for a walkway, and we’re going to build a fire pit about where I stood to take the picture. Pretty sweet, huh?

I fear I’m becoming more domestic, dammit.

Ahhhh, the married life. It seems like it’s pretty much the same as the single life, with one major exception. Ok, two major exceptions. One of them I’ll not discuss today (dating anyone other than Chris is behind me, and Chris and I are still dating anyway), and the other is this: I suddenly want to do yard work. WTF is up with that???

We’ve got a lot of home improvement projects on deck (heh heh) this summer, including building a deck. We already painted the house, from a grayish-green rainy overcast color to a bright and sunny (a.k.a. “butter tart”) yellow. It is very yellow! There were two other “yellow” houses on our street, but after we painted our house, I don’t think they can call themselves yellow any longer. All other yellows must bow down before us!!! We also had our front porch and side porch (with the hot tub) stained a nice redwood color, which goes very nicely with the shutters and bricks.

This is the BEFORE picture. Sorry the picture kind of sucks – I was using the wrong setting on my camera, it got over-exposed, and I wasn’t able to do much to fix it in photoshop. But you get the idea. Sad color, weeds galore, boo-hoo.

This is the AFTER picture! Sunny! Yellow! landscaping under control! Flowers on the porch!!! We’ll be posting pictures of the back yard after we get the deck in. It will be an even more dramatic makeover! And you will be jealous of our awesome back yard!

So, along with the painting, I definitely wanted to clean up the yard. I bought lots of flowers (hanging basket, pots, long rectangle planters, and even a strawberry pot that I learned how to plant by watching a you-tube video) and repotted my old plants that were in desperate need of attention. There are three rose bushes in the back yard and I took out the waist-high grass and weeds surrounding them, trimmed the hell out of all their dead branches, and got rid of the aphids. I lopped off more of the butterfly bush, which thought it was going to be the boss of me, but it was wrong. I weeded the tall grass from the front yard, and chopped off the dead hydrangea branches. Everything is starting to grow back – the roses are much improved, and you can tell we have bulbs in the front. About a week ago we bought a weed-whacker – I started on the side of the front yard, but that will be a major task. But I think I’ve got it under control so far!

This is the strawberry pot that was abandoned by the previous home-owners. I emptied it out, watched a you-tube video, then Chris and I planted it with all sorts of herbs and flowers. We even put a PVC watering tube down the middle of it. It looks even better now because it has purple, blue, and yellow flowers blooming from the different plants oozing out of the openings.

Today, I decided not to go to work so that Chris and I could hang out (he leaves for nearly 2 weeks on Friday to go on tour with the Army band). We went to Home Depot and bought a few gardening tools, and scoped out some pavers for below the stairs of our impending deck. The deck is going to be suuuhh-weeeeeettt!!! Built-in benches, then stairs that will eventually lead out to a fire pit in the back yard. We’re going to landscape around the back of the deck to hide the septic tank covers, too. After Home Depot, I bought some blackberry bush herbicide, planted (almost all) the rest of the flowers that need a home, and glared at the surviving weeds in the front yard. Someday, my pretties, you will be mine!

All this domesticity is freaking me out. I’m going to go to work tomorrow and talk about fish.

A 2010 Retrospective…Lamenting the Passing of the Best Year Ever!

Happy new year, everyone! It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to 2010, the Best Year Ever. Behold 2010, a year that sidled into my life without presumption or pretense, and now a year that has slipped away like grains of sand through an hourglass…these are the days of our lives…Wait – haven’t I heard that somewhere before? Dang, and I don’t even watch soaps!

But in all *seriousness* (because we all know how Serious I am), 2010 was a fantastic year. I’m left wondering how 2011 could possibly be any better, seeing as how so many crazy-rad things happened in the past 12 months. Like what, you ask? Well, how about the following:

So, can you now understand why I might be sad to say farewell to 2010? Yes? Oh, I know…your response is that 2011 will probably be even better. How is that even possible? Well, I’ll keep you posted on how that works out – be sure to check back soon!

P.S. – Did you notice how I kept last year’s resolution? I totally maintained this blog! I posted way more than in 2009…let’s see if I can keep it up in 2011!