Long Weekend Recap

Serendipitous. That’s what I’m calling the events of this past weekend. Although, to be honest, not all of the happenings were unplanned, but they were all happy.

Studly Doright left early Thursday morning for a grand adventure in dual sport motorcycling with buddies from Tennessee, Virginia, and various other locales. While I don’t mind time alone, I had no clue how I’d get through the long weekend without going a bit crazy out here at Doright Manor. Fortunately for me, I found ways to fill the time. Unfortunately for you all, I’m going to recount them.

Thursday:

Olli class at FSU. It was the fourth of six on The Parallel Universe of Ants. I take copious notes during these classes even though there’ll be no test, no grades. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Afterwards I had a long lunch at a Tallahassee restaurant before buying some goodies for dinner. I rented a movie on demand (Lion King) and snuggled with Scout on the sofa.

Friday:

This was the day I was most concerned about. No plans, no estate or garage sales on the calendar. Just me and two cats. I did all of the week’s laundry early in the day, and decided to make a run to Target. While I was wandering the aisles a friend, Michelle, texted me, and we chatted back and forth. I told her where I was and she asked if she could join me. Yay!

We browsed Target for awhile, talking more than shopping, then decided to go to lunch. Afterwards we went to a consignment shop and then to a bookstore. We completed the afternoon with a beer at a pizza place. Okay, I had a beer, Michelle had a slice of pizza. We talked and talked. Everyone went home happy.

Saturday:

Several members of the Olli class enjoyed a field trip to Ant Heaven.

https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/11/02/ant-heaven/

Afterwards I came home and took an epic nap. I hadn’t looked at my email all day, so when I logged on I discovered over 200 messages. Most were easily deleted, but there was one from the Olli group. One of the class members who’d ridden to Ant Heaven with me asked if she’d left her keys in my car.

Immediately I went to the garage and sure enough, her vest with her keys in the pocket was in my backseat. I emailed her. No response. Called and left a message. Nada. Finally I texted her, and she replied soon after. Thank goodness.

In my wild imagination I’d pictured her standing in the Publix parking lot where the group had met that morning. Forlorn and hungry. Shaking her fist at the woman who’d driven off and left her alone to fend for herself. In reality, she had a spare car key and was at a movie when I’d tried calling.

Sunday:

In spite of my long Saturday nap I slept well. Thanks to the time change I lolled about in bed way longer than I normally would. Instead of having my regular breakfast I decided to have brunch at Sweet Pea Cafe, where I enjoyed french toast with fruit, cheese grits, and hash browns. Yum!

Afterwards I returned home and watched football well into the evening. Studly called saying he’d made it safely to his hotel in Dillard, Georgia, and would be home mid afternoon on Monday. I had such a lovely weekend, but I’m ready to see my guy.

Peace, people!

Ant Heaven

(Note: I made the mistake of taking an epic nap after my trip to Ant Heaven and before writing this post; therefore, a great deal of what was learned on the field trip just floated away into nothingness. I used to be so much better at retaining information.)

Normally I’d spend my Saturday morning running around Tallahassee, going to the Farmer’s Market or to estate sales. Today, though, I went on a field trip to a place affectionally dubbed “Ant Heaven” by Dr. Walter Tschinkel, our Olli instructor extraordinaire.

I’m not totally sure where Ant Heaven is, even though I drove my car in a caravan of other Olli participants to the spot. If it were a secret location I’d never be the one to spill the beans.

Soon after our group of a dozen or so arrived at Ant Heaven, Dr. Tschinkel put us to work laying bait trails.

The orange stakes indicate the location of an ant nest, while the pink substance is a mixture of mashed up cookie with a non-toxic pink dye added. Our job was to place the small piles of bait at various distances from the nest and then to observe foraging ants carrying bits of bait back to their respective nests.

Prior to our visit, Dr. Tschinkel had gone to the trouble of raking away much of the detritus (pine needles and leaves) from around several nests so we’d have a better opportunity to watch the ants in action.

Mine is the annoying voice saying, “It might be a carpenter,” which is totally wrong. What it might be is a Harvester ant. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. If I had a penny for all the times that was the case, Bill and Melinda Gates would be borrowing money from me.

As we watched ants foraging for bait Dr. Tschinkel set up the kiln to melt aluminum for casting a nest.

It takes time to heat the aluminum to beyond the melting point, so I wandered around trying not to step on any ants.

This video above is from a Harvester Ant nest. The black bits surrounding the nest, as well as those scattered on top of the nest, are pieces of charcoal. Apparently no one knows why Harvester Ants collect charcoal and mark their nests with it.

One of the critical tools of the professional myrmecologist is a shop vacuum. Seriously. The shop vac is used to clean debris from a nest and even to suction up a large number of ants to take back to the lab for studying.

In the video above, Dr. Tschinkel is using a suction tube to pick up ants as he searches for a fungus garden in the nest of a Northern Fungus Gardening Ant. These ants collect caterpillar droppings and “feed” them to a fungus that the ants tend as nourishment for the super organism that is the colony.

I believe you can see some of the ants suctioned in the picture below; although, these might not be the fungal gardening ants.

Once the aluminum had reached approximately 1,000° C, Dr. Tschinkel began the process of casting.

Now, a lot of work went into this prior to the pouring of aluminum. He had to clean around the nest, (shop vac) and scoop a large amount of sand away from the area. It’s a labor intensive task. Oh, lest any of you worry about loss of ant life, the castings are made from abandoned nests.

This first pour yielded a small casting.

They’re incredible little sculptures.

A second pour produced a larger piece; although, I didn’t get a picture of it for some reason. Both sculptures were sent home with lucky attendees who happened to guess a number Dr. Tschinkel had in mind.

I did get a couple of pieces leftover from previous pours. Generally such pieces are melted for future castings.

One teeny tiny ant (whose name I have forgotten) coats the chambers of its nest with a black seed-like fungus. No one knows why. It’s one of Dr. Tschinkel’s newest research topics, and one of our group members found a nest of the little guys. Dr. Tschinkel excavated one of the chambers and will study it further.

After the excavation we headed back to Tallahassee. I was tired and hungry but not grumpy. After a nice meal at a sushi place I returned to Doright Manor and took a three hour nap!

Ant Heaven was an adventure. I had a great time learning a little bit more about ants, and I’m leaving out incredible stuff here. We’ll blame the nap.

Peace, people!

Fabulous Ant Fact #4

Fire ants aren’t native to North America. Chances are they arrived in the U.S. in nursery stock (trees, etc.), in the 40’s and 50’s.

And, while early on the U.S. government hit the little guys with heavy duty chemicals in a number of eradication campaigns, all that was ultimately accomplished was widespread damage to birds and other wildlife in and near the treated areas. Meanwhile, fire ants continue to thrive. Indeed, the eradication efforts might’ve even aided the insects in their expansion into new territories.

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, members of our Olli class are heading to a location our instructor, Dr. Walter Tschinkel, calls “ant heaven.” If conditions are right we’ll attempt to make a cast of an ant nest.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having mixed feelings about pouring molten aluminum into a colony of ants. It won’t break my heart if we don’t get to do the casting. I guess I’m an old softie. Sure hope the fire ants remember that next time I accidentally blunder into one of their mounds.

(That’s not my foot pictured below, by the way, but I’ve endured fire ant bites, and they are extremely painful.)

From the Black Cat

Dear Inferior Beings,

You probably think Halloween is all about tricks and treats, goblins and ghosts, witches and jack-o’-lanterns. Wrong! Wrong, I tell you!

We black cats rule on October 31, and don’t you forget it.

Now, make sure you leave me a tuna flavored treat and no one’ll get scratched.

Meow, people.

Witches

I’ve known some witches in my time

Not the cloistered crones of legends; although, they, too exist

Cackling over crackling cauldrons

Working at wickedness for fun and profit

No, those I’ve encountered don’t give a newt’s eye for sinister stews.

They are the progeny of those who could not be burned, who steadfastly refused to drown.

Is it any wonder, then, that men fear witches?

Happy Halloween, people.

Double Edged Reblog

https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/10/30/double-edged/

For some reason this attached piece never appeared in my published posts section, yet it’s no longer in my scheduled section. Weird. I know it was published because folks have commented on it, but just to be safe, I’m doing a reblog.

Here’s an irrelevant photo of a cute kitten.

Double edged

Do you build bridges or burn them?

Are you a crafter or a crusher of dreams?

Which side of the coin are you carved on?

It’s not always as clear as it seems.

Heads, some win; tails, some lose

While the joker plays both sides

A doubled edged sword cuts the work load

But seldom serves as a guide.

Good intentions don’t count for much

‘Cept on the road to hell,

Build that bridge or swing that sword

Your actions surely tell.

I was just playing with thoughts on this. As poetry, it’s fairly lame, but it suited my mood.

Peace, people!

Tuesday Tech Miscellany

Yesterday (Monday) I wrestled with my internet connection all day long. Studly was traveling, and I didn’t want to exacerbate the technical issues by doing something stupid in his absence. Instead, I was mostly tech free all day, and it was kind of nice.

My understanding of WiFi and connectivity and the million other little things that go into making my devices communicate smoothly is limited. I know that some of the little lights on my home router need to be flashing while others need to remain constant, but beyond that I’m lost. Thank goodness Studly Doright arrived home in time last evening to tell me how to fix the problem. (Basically I had to unplug the router, count to five, and plug it back in.) My hero!

Speaking of being lost, one of the things I like best about my Apple Watch is the gps feature. When I ask Siri for directions to a location, my watch will sync up and provide brief instructions as well as a pleasant buzz on my wrist as I approach a turn.

For some reason, though, on Saturday the watch lost its ability to guide me. I was heading to an estate sale using iPhone guidance and kept driving mile after mile waiting for the friendly buzz to indicate I needed to turn. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot and realized the watch wasn’t doing it’s part, and I was stuck with just the phone instructions. Plus, I was way north of Tallahassee. Not lost, but not where I needed to be either.

When I returned home I googled possible remedies to the situation, but none of them bore fruit. I figured I’d need to seek out some technical assistance at a local tech shop. Then this morning I noticed the little airplane icon on my watch. Hmmm. Had I accidentally switched it to airplane mode?

Why, yes. Yes, I had, and as soon as I figured out how to take it out of airplane mode the gps was back in business. I literally just asked Siri for directions to Trader Joe’s and my watch responded with a turn suggestion. It’s a bit confusing since I’m still inside my home, but still, I’m back in business.

Now, at the risk of making myself seem even more foolish, my car has a gps built in. Yes, I could, and often do, use it for directions. But it doesn’t buzz on my arm. I like the buzz.

No, not that Buzz; although, the wallpaper on my Apple Watch can be set to Toy Story.

To infinity and beyond! Or to Trader Joe’s. Whichever is closest.

Peace, people.

Things I Know (War of the Worlds version)

These are things that occurred to me as I watched the War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise edition, on HBO Sunday evening.

–Studly Doright would absolutely be able to maneuver through traffic to put distance between us and the Martians. Whatever it took, he’d keep me safe.

–I’d be the one to declare we were up against Martians. Studly would try to convince me it was a natural disaster.

–I’d rather have Studly by my side in an emergency than Tom Cruise. Unless snakes were involved, then I’m going to go with Cruise.

–Martians are not good people.

–I really shouldn’t watch scary movies when I’m by myself.

–Tom Cruise hasn’t aged in years. It’s creepy.

(War of the Worlds, 2005, top. Mission Impossible: Fallout, 2018, bottom)

–Maybe he’s an alien.

–Dakota Fanning’s character is annoying as hell.

–The scariest scene of all is when humans are attacking Tom Cruise’s car with him and his family inside, begging the question, “Who are the real monsters in this movie?”

–Have I mentioned what a total pain in the ass Dakota Fanning’s character is? Shrill little fart.

–Storm shelters can provide some protection from alien attack. Unfortunately I live in Florida, so a cellar is out of the question.

–“Little Deuce Coupe” is a passable lullaby when sung by Tom Cruise.

–Society breaks down quickly in the face of catastrophic events. Why does that always surprise me?

–Never trust the crazy guy who invites you to stay in his storm cellar.

–Mirrors are our friends when used to confuse Martians.

–An idiot with a gun can threaten the lives of everyone.

–Sometimes good guys have to take extreme measures to insure their children survive.

–Dakota Fanning. Can we get a muzzle?

–It’s hard to beat a good hand grenade detonated in a timely manner.

–Remember why the aliens die? We’re toxic, that’s why. Big surprise. Not.

–It’s a better movie than I’d remembered it being.

Peace, people.

Backstory on “Encounter”

Yesterday I posted a piece based on an encounter I had at a Publix grocery store a few days ago. https://nananoyz5forme.com/2019/10/26/encounter/

I’d tried to explain the event in narrative form, but no matter which way I placed the words on the page I felt like I was misrepresenting the encounter. As I told one commenter, in my attempt to tell the story I came out looking either judgmental or saintly, and neither is accurate.

Let’s give it another go, shall we?

I’d met a friend for lunch at a sushi restaurant across town in Tallahassee. On my way home to Doright Manor in Havana, Florida, I stopped at Publix to purchase a few items. Normally I’d park well away from the store in order to increase my daily number of steps, but I’d hurt my back doing heaven knows what last weekend, so I found a spot on the row nearest the store.

As I got out of my car, I noticed an older model Chevrolet sporting sun faded blue paint and a cracked windshield. It was idling erratically, directly in front of the Publix entrance, and the driver had to keep revving it to keep the engine from dying. From the passenger side a woman emerged.

In her bare feet, the woman would easily have been taller than my 5’8″, and her stilettos added at least three more inches. Her sleeveless leopard print mini dress rode high on her thighs, and she tugged on the hem as she toddled towards the store.

I reached the door about the same time she did, and realized just how unstable she was on those heels.

“Careful,” I cautioned. “These floors are going to be tricky with the shoes you’re wearing.”

She nodded, and her long blonde hair fell over her eyes. “Great,” I thought. “Now she can’t see where she’s going.”

I hurried in front of the woman, at least as fast as my back would allow and suggested she borrow one of the electric scooters the store provides. She thought that was a fine idea, and I guided her to the nearest one.

After she settled into the scooter chair she looked up at me. There were tear stains marring her heavy makeup and mascara in places mascara isn’t supposed to be. Her eyes were unfocused.

“Is there anything you need?” I asked, fully prepared to give her money or contact someone who’d come pick her up.

“Would you pray for me?” She asked.

“Of course. Tell me your name,” I said, thinking she meant later when I was home saying my nightly prayers.

To my chagrin she struggled out of the scooter where she’d been relatively safe and stood, towering above me, swaying on those toothpick heels. She grasped my hands in hers and looked me straight in the eye. I was supposed to pray. Right then and there. Heaven help me.

“My name is Stacy,” she said.

I looked down to gather my thoughts, noting the not-so-subtle track marks on both arms. My words needed to be healing. Deep, even.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I intoned. “Please forgive us our sins.”

“Hey. What’s goin’ on?” a male voice croaked behind me.

“Oh, baby, this nice lady just helped me. We’re prayin’ here.”

“That’s enough,” he said.

To me that sounded ominous. I pulled my hands out of Stacy’s grasp. “Take care,” I said, grabbing a basket for my shopping.

I left her in the hands of this man. It felt wrong, but I was really out of my depth there. As I went about my shopping I saw the two of them a couple of times at a distance. He was driving the scooter. Stacy was sitting in his lap, her head on his shoulder.

That night at home in my room I prayed for Stacy. I’d let her down. I can’t forget the feel of our hands clasped together during that aborted prayer. If I was her lifeline, I was a frayed one. I’d snapped and she’d floated away.

For all the Staceys in this world, I don’t know if prayers do any good, but that’s all I’ve got right now.

Peace, people.