Tag Archive: sheepish


new beginnings

i realize that it looks like the sand people got us in the end, since we disappeared in the middle of death valley and have posted nothing in the intervening [wince] nearly three months.  oops.  all i can say is, my laptop died the blue-screen death, locking the remaining trip photos inside until recently, and with it perished my photo-processing software, so visual aids to the posts i’ve had in mind have been a little paralyzed.  add to that the fact that the pebbles and i will be joined by a small new human in june, and a semester-start with 1500 first-year students, and you get the idea — not as an excuse, but by way of an explanation.

but it’s time to begin 2012, however belatedly, as i have intended all along — with butterflies!

– – –

in our back yard, we have a large swan plant (Asclepias physocarpa), a species of milkweed that has become well established in nz, probably by dint of playing host to the beloved monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus.  while neither is native, monarchs most likely colonized nz under their own steam, and were later assisted in becoming established by the increasing popularity of swan plants in gardens.  both seem to be well tolerated although i can’t find much information on the weed status of Asclepias.

in any case, we had some caterpillars last year, but only a few made it to adulthood due to a combination of wasp predation, aphid infestations and probably also a very fat praying mantis i discovered lurking under one of the leaves late in the season.  so this year, when i noticed tiny caterpillars starting to munch the swan leaves, i decided to bring a few inside for observation once they got larger, and hopefully save them from predation while enjoying some living-room science.  i selected a few nice fat ones a few weeks later, as well as some of the earliest chrysalises, and set them up in a small terrarium.

over the next few days, the ones i had brought in pupated obligingly, although i was amazed at the speed with which it happened — so quickly that i didn’t get a chance to photograph the metamorphosis, although a nice series can be seen here.  one in particular took up the telltale j-posture one evening, was still in it the following evening, and then had already changed into its smooth green chrysalis when i checked back an hour later, although still somewhat elongated and contracting gently.  i had not realized previously that the pupa forms inside the caterpillar skin; the latter splits open and peels back, falling as a tiny shriveled husk once the chrysalis emerges; this was one of several fascinating revelations i had while watching the process.  another was the gorgeous detail of the chrysalis structure — edged in black and iridescent gold, with the patterns of the future wings already visible as soon as the chryalis forms.  (apparently it’s not uncommon for pre-schoolers observing the monarch life cycle in new zealand to mistake the chrysalises for green lollies… an error i don’t imagine is often made more than once by any given child.  EW)

about two weeks later, my first butterfly hatched, again with astonishing speed: the chrysalis turned black and transparent overnight, was still whole first thing in the morning, and half an hour later had a trembling butterfly clinging to its emtpy membrane as the wings slowly filled.  we kept it inside until the wings appeared stiff and finished and the butterfly began to climb, and then took it outside to make its maiden flight and contribute to the next generation.  the remaining three followed over the next week, allowing me a good look at them as they hung to dry, but never actually emerging while i watched.  at last check, the swan plant still had new caterpillars appearing on it, although it is now mostly stem and strange seed pods, the voracious first generation having mostly decimated its leaves and the aphids busily finishing the rest.  but hopefully our monarch population will return each year, so we can share the amazing details of their transformations with our own next generation when it joins us.  :)

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life, in a nutshell

really, it’s been three months since i posted anything – anything – other than spiders?  wow.  i do love them, but i never really intended to become an arachnid-only site.  amazing how time gets away from you, when you’re busy, oh, buying houses and finding new jobs.  that’s right – first-home-ownership is  on the horizon for us, with a new job starting for me two weeks before.  i suppose some of this requires a bit of explanation, so let’s see…

when i returned from the ship last november, i discovered that my ‘definitely to be renewed upon expiry’ one-year research post-doc, which finished halfway through the voyage, had in fact not been renewed, and that i’d been unemployed for three weeks already.  surprise!  actually not entirely a surprise, given the extreme dearth of funds in our research institute.  but anyway, to skip quickly past all that messiness and the politics of being moved to a different building, and make a long story marginally shorter, i haven’t been working full-time since then.  i picked up some teaching, on a first-year paper (course) that introduces students to university-level writing (can you hear my hands rubbing together gleefully?) and literature reviews.  that was good fun on many levels, and paid a reasonable part-time wage.

i did apply for some overseas jobs, just to try my luck, but (again, not so terribly surprising), no one anywhere seems to be serious about hiring.  the pebbles and i decided to wait for a response from one final overseas application, and then get serious about a house instead.  when that last rejection came in, we’d already done a fair bit of house research, and we’d had enough fun poking around open homes that the prospect of owning one really was a good plan B.  (reading that last sentence again, i wonder  whether the home-buying process is a little like giving birth, in that you suppress the memory of it so thoroughly that you can eventually be convinced to try it again.  every time we drive past an open home we don’t have to go to, we still chuckle sadistically.)  so, yes: to spare you some more details, we found a place.  it’s on the north shore, which means we’ll be leaving our beloved mt albert after seven years, but the location is still pretty good, and there will be plenty of room for guests!  and this is where the house and job tie back in together (other than the neat congruence of starting the job in late august and settling on the house two weeks later – paycheck and mortgage, probably a useful combination).  the new job, which is really a full-time extension of the part-time teaching this semester, is also based on the north shore.   it involves further work on the same paper as last semester, extended to full-time employment and encompassing some research time.  pretty much ideal.  it starts the day after we return from our annual sojourn to the states (goodbye, august in nz!  we won’t miss you!), although i was already invited to my future department’s midwinter christmas party, which bodes well.

so here’s the first house photo – the tip of the iceberg, no doubt.  9.5 weeks until moving day!

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it’s 2010! woot! … aw, crap.

crickets and tumbleweed, begone!  let the archives sneer ‘2010 (0 posts)’ no more.  yes, it’s been a very quiet month over here, but that’s just because i’ve been letting everything pile up into a huge backlog, waiting to burst through the dam of inertia and bad metaphors into the new year like a really big, bursting thing.  coherence is my middle name – tinten coherence fisch.
(how’s this for a brilliant start – glad you waited around?)
so, by way of a quick catch-up (and some thinly veiled excuses) the last month has involved: adjustment to non-full-time working schedule (sometimes optimistically called ‘early retirement’ or ‘between contracts’); surprise christmas visit to family in nelson, followed by three-week visit from parents, followed by weekend visit from the final remaining set of parental figures; interspersed visits from belgians and germans; hikes, beaches, barbecues, scrabble, food food and more food, a lot of presents; not enough spiders.
unfinished business on the inkspot that i hope to attend to within the next few weeks will include:
– the final photos and sealogs from my time on the ship in november
– the resurrection of webnesday, which i intend to see through to the full 52 episodes, even though this will stretch over more than the planned calendar year
– the supremely overdue conclusion of last summer’s trip to the US
– other bits and pieces as they crop up.  for example, opportunistic additions (i typed ‘addictions’ first – what does that suggest, hmm?) to the occasional 2×2 photo series.
– photos of the moon!  if i can improve my technique for shooting down the barrel of my extremely shiny new telescope (thanks, pebbles!).  initial results are not bad but could definitely use some refining…

so here we are, silence broken and first post out of the way.  bring on the tigers!

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squid suck. and so do i.

i don't seem to be very good at this lately.  perhaps i should offer a spider drawing in lieu of the long-absent posts.  it may have something to do with the wedding, honeymoon, new job and now deciding to move house – paradoxically all these things are exciting and bear many interesting anecdotes in their wake, yet leave so very little time for actually documenting.  woe, woe is me.

to be continued.  soon, i hope.  in the meantime, here's some south island romance… awwww yeah.

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why the… big paws?

(a polar bear walks into a bar… )

hi.

things have been a little quiet here recently.  for the past six weeks, to be precise.  i apologize.  rarely do momentous life events transpire so densely as they have in the time since i last posted.  first there was this…

and then, nine days later, this…

to say nothing of the out-of-town (and overseas) visitors who attended both events, the additional wedding in nelson two weeks earlier, and the fifth annual hallowe’en party.  i confess that i’ve been a little distracted.  but now (or perhaps soon, post-honeymoon) life is returning to normal, and we can pick up where we left off.  there’s still the rest of the US-canada trip to post, plus the pebbles gave me a fabulous new camera, particularly adept at the creepy-crawly shots i like so much.  so please bear with me for just a few more days. :)    

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lynx alert

so far, in the inkspot's 19-month existence, i have mostly managed not to do the list-of-external-links thing.  today i can't help it.  there are more vacation stories to tell, plus the defense, but now i'm scrambling to get my final thesis version to the publishers and i must accept that others are far more entertaining right now.  and send you in their direction.

the facebook version of hamlet

oktapodi.  [link updated – works again now!)]

(is two a list?  yes, technically, yes.  the smallest list possible.)

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insert sound effect here*

* the sound effect intended is the collective gasp made by westley and buttercup as they emerge from the lightning sand, but that was way too long a title.  thank you.

so, here we all are, nearly a month after the horse-trampling debacle.  i could say that the leg turned out to be much worse than anyone suspected, became gangrenous, and ultimately had to be amputated, thus providing a handy excuse for my absence.  but that would be a lie.  i did develop some spectacular bruises, my knee is still a little stiff and i actually still have a hoof-shaped and -sized patch on my shin that is completely numb, but other than that i can’t really complain.  as i said, i count myself very lucky.  i do intend to go riding at the same place again in a few weeks when our pet canadian returns to nz for a visit, so i’ll let you know if anything else of excitement transpires.

mostly what’s happened to me in the last month is: theeeeeeeeeessssssiiiiiiiissssssss.  i managed to get the whole thing assembled into a first draft, submit it to my poor supervisor, receive the first round of comments, respond and update accordingly (a process that ultimately drove me to a college-worthy near-all-nighter just to get the damn thing finished again), and now it’s in his hands for round two.  should go to review in the next couple of weeks.

there have also been various visits from out-of-towners, toings and froings within auckland and surrounding counties, dress parties, concerts, the purchase of a suprising number of potential wedding garments, sick kuhli loaches and a small but persistent obsession with season 3 of boston legal.  now we’ve moved on to flight of the conchords.  there have been sweepings of autumn leaves from the driveway as our japanese maple does its annual shakedown of all leaves (whomping willow-style).  there have been the usual cat-cuddlings and spider-feedings.  and i have applied for a couple of jobs, but more will not be revealed until more is known.  (enjoying the cryptic statements?  plenty to go around!)

in any case, in the relatively chaos-free interlude that marks the final throes of my phd, i will try to maintain more of a presence here, so i don’t have to condense weeks into paragraphs again.  and if that all falls apart, well, there will be photographs of the next trip in a little over 6 weeks.  :D

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a short intermission

i am away this weekend (away i say!  from my thesis!  from everything!  from planet earth! … in any case, the interweb) and so, alas, no bugs or herps or other miscellaneous wildlife will be appearing here for several days.  and the fact that i need to walk out the door in 5 minutes for a smashing pumpkins concert (eeeee!) means none of the above for today either, even though i did catch the mantises again this afternoon (all three of them).  they will make their debut soon.  in the meantime, happy long weekend!

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spotting ink since 2007

it's not my fault.  i can explain everything.  after my all-too-informal references to the hedgehog gods, a small but spiky army tricked the cat into letting them in, marched up the stairs, and bore me away into the night to do penance.  on a small but mobile sea of pincushions, i was brought before Their Most Divine Pricklinesses.  luckily the journey had taken us through dense underbrush, and i was able to surreptititiously pocket a large number of juicy, crunchy snails along the way, which mollified and distracted the assembly long enough for me to steal away unnoticed, in spite of zebra-striped pajamas.

actually, i was on the moon, with steve.

and from our lunar hideaway, although largely beyond the reach of the interweb, i was able to finally get this paper submitted and make some other thesis progress.  i also managed a few earthside interludes, during which we hiked the tongariro crossing again, visited family and crazy dogs in nelson, and i did a marine mammal medic course that prepares me to assist at future whale strandings.

also, it's summer in new zealand, which looks like this:

… so i confess that mustering the motivation to spend time inside on a computer has been more difficult than usual, and that the aformentioned indoor time has been largely spent thesising in order to rationalize having earned a few more hours outside.  (and, er, playing scrabulous.  evil, evil scrabulous.)  my new mountain bike from the pebbles has been an added distraction – so fast!  so red and shiny! – but i tell myself that anything that moves me further away from the troglodyte end of the spectrum is probably a good thing.

but look, i came back just in time to notice that this site is one year old tomorrow.  and as one of the inaugural posts was about our local household spiders, of which we once again have a considerable and diverse population, perhaps i will manage to get together some more spidery goodness to share.  bet you can't wait.

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*whew*

after a loooooong delay, i’ve finished adding the rest of my photos from japan.  of course, now they’re all buried under each other and the more recent posts, so here’s the quick rundown – asakusa & tokyo at night, the national science museum, the imperial gardens, and our last day in tokyo.  sorry it took so long – at least i managed before the new year!

don’t think that i haven’t been (using a lot of negatives because i have and) collecting material for the last month, though, because it’s summer in new zealand and that means outdoors – showing ww3 around while he was here, and then diving, beach, and using my new mountain bike (since christmas anyway).   so keep an eye out here – 2008  looks like a fairly easygoing year (cough, snort) so those should be appearing here soon.  ;)  in the meantime, here’s something real purdy that appeared for me under the christmas tree…