A Vertical Life

Such suction power!

Such suction power!

OK, yes. I already discussed snails here. But I find them fascinating, so I am discussing them again! I spotted this snail doing the snail trick of descending an almost vertical surface. Snails like to climb on walls and other weird things. What’s up with that (pun intended)? I can’t imagine they’re searching for food on these long treks. Walls, outdoor chairs and planter pots just have no food on them. What do snails eat? I turned to my trusty snail resource, Snail World, to find that plants and algae are big on the menu for land snails.  In trying to find out why snails climb, I discovered a page of snail facts that was quite interesting, although it didn’t explain the why behind climbing. The reason for such vertical journeys still seems to be up for debate: it could either be to escape heat on the ground, to escape some chemical danger, to migrate, etc. I’ll keep looking!

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We Got Dewed!

Dewdrops bring a whole new layer of beauty to things :-)

Dewdrops bring a whole new layer of beauty to things 🙂

So, what do you call it when everything outside is wet, but it didn’t rain? I’m familiar with the concept of morning dew, but the amount of water in this dew was pretty spectacular. All I could think as I observed the new look of everything was, “We got dewed!” Love it.

Face To Face With A Bee

I'm guessing that this is a honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I’m guessing that this is a honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I like bees. I think they’re cute. Bees buzzing around flowers are my favorite. If you knew me, this might seem a bit odd, because I’m horribly afraid of spiders. I guess the addition of wings and lack of two more legs make a difference! (Being outside is a big help, too!) Anyway, being a fan of bees, I stop and look when I notice one. On cooler days, it’s sad to see some bees lying flightless on the ground or some object; they can’t fly when it’s cold. The other day I saw this bee on the roof of a car. I didn’t think it was cold, but perhaps it was cool enough to make this bee pause. It didn’t seem to mind when I put my cellphone only a foot away to capture a photo. Imagine my surprise when I enlarged the photo later and noticed that the bee seemed to be looking at me! I think this little guy is a honey bee, but identifying bee species is not my forte. But then I noticed, does the bee’s face seem to be deformed, or is that just an illusion because of the angle? And what is up with the middle leg on the near side — as in, where is that leg?! I’m thinking either this bee was in quite a battle or maybe it’s got a disease or parasite. Either way, this fuzzy buzzer has a story to tell. I wish I could speak “bee.” I hope this one got to fly another day. Bees aren’t just cute though, they’re fascinating. Really! Just check out some of the bee facts at the International Bee Research Association. And scientists now say that some bees not only put the colony first via altruistic suicide by stinging to protect the nest, but also some Eastern honey bees are more susceptible to the Varroa mites that have been decimating some bee populations. By being more susceptible, those bee larvae get the mites first and die — and healthy bees push them out of the nest before the other bees can be infested. Wow, huh?

What Is It?

Is this an Aeonium arboreum? Your guess is as good as mine!

Is this an Aeonium arboreum? Your guess is as good as mine!

The more I look around, the more I realize I have no clue what things are. I’m talking specifics here, not generalities. Of course I know that something is a plant or animal or rock, etc.; the problem comes when I try to actually identify such things specifically. Take this plant. I’m pretty sure it’s a succulent, but the exact type of succulent is still a mystery. I searched around the internet for almost two hours trying to identify it for sure. My best guess is that it’s Aeonium arboreum, also called the tree aeonium. This website gave me the best clue about it.  I did try using Google’s reverse image lookup. That told me that …. tada — it was a plant. Thanks. Thanks, a lot. So, even though I have always had respect for scientists, that respect grew even more. How they can possibly catalog and identify all of the billions of things in existence is a marvel. And finding a species is sometimes not enough, as there can be hybrids or variants to add to the challenge. Happily, I can still enjoy such things even without knowing exactly what they are!

Discovering Leeroy Jenkins

Hmm. Didn't the other players notice that Leeroy was AFK?

Hmm. Didn’t the other players notice that Leeroy was AFK?

I first found out about Leeroy Jenkins maybe five years ago. I’ve been a fan of massively multiplayer online role-playing games since the early days of “Everquest,” but at the time I heard about Leeroy Jenkins I hadn’t yet played “World of Warcraft.” However, I certainly knew about quests, fighting monsters, lag and grouping. I laughed and laughed after I first watched the YouTube video of Leeroy Jenkins (warning: there is R-rated language in the video). What MMORPG player hasn’t ever had something crazy happen during a game — and those unexpected events usually end up causing laughs. Those are really one of the best parts of playing such a game. I could just imagine being one of the other players who was seriously discussing strategy when Leeroy comes back from being AFK (away from keyboard) and just dives into battle. Initial shock quickly followed by pumping adrenalin as you try to run to the rescue — and everyone ends up dying. The good thing is that it’s only a game, but there is some cost to dying. The video soon launched Leeroy Jenkins into the realm of pop culture, as detailed in a Wikipedia page. There are many Leeroy Jenkins videos now on YouTube. I don’t know if this is the original video, but it posted in 2006 and has had more than 45 million views. The link I gave earlier has only a couple million views, but the video quality is better. Why is Leeroy Jenkins a viral video. For me, the quick switch from serious to ridiculous really got me laughing. And I still laugh to this day, which is why I’m even mentioning the video. Was it staged or spontaneous? That’s still being debated. I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos, but only a few stick with me — Leeroy Jenkins is one of those.

Caterpillar Close-Up

This caterpillar looks like a fuzzy friend, but is it really?

This caterpillar looks like a fuzzy friend, but is it really?

I’m sure this fuzzy, little caterpillar had no thoughts of being immortalized in a photo the day this was taken. It probably still has no clue of its “fame.” That’s OK. Nature often provides the best subjects to photograph. Once I got the photo, I wondered what type of caterpillar it was. Sadly, as with the snails, there seem to be so many in the world that it’s difficult to identify individuals. I found a fascinating interactive identification guide at DiscoverLife.org, but I didn’t find any caterpillars that I thought matched my photo. And in researching caterpillars I was surprised to learn that some can sting and be toxic. That was news to me! Being a fuzzy fellow, this one likely became a moth when it matured. Why do I say that? Because caterpillars either become moths or butterflies, and butterfly caterpillars are never fuzzy, as noted at the Purdue University website.

Snail Safety

Go, little snail, go!

Go, little snail, go!

On a rare damp morning that also had a bit of a breeze kicking up, I spotted this little guy crossing a walkway. Not a very safe spot for a slow-moving snail. What caught my eye was his natural “safety vest.” I know the wind just blew that bright petal onto his shell, but it made me notice him. After snapping his photo, I made sure others also saw — and avoided stepping on — him as he traveled his ponderous path. Yes, I know that many people consider snails a pest. But I think this little guy’s unique safety feature earned him a free pass. What type of snail is it? Well, with hundreds of snail species out there and even experts having difficulty telling the difference, I’d have to say this snail is … a lucky snail 🙂 He wasn’t stepped on that day. Interesting snail fact, courtesy of the  Snail-World website: Did you know that snails in the wild typically live from 2 to 3 or 5 to 7 years, depending on the species? In captivity, they can live even longer! Seriously, for some fascinating reading, check out Snail-World. You will be amazed!

Why Wouldn’t Teaspoons Have Tea Stains?

Bye-bye tea stains!

Bye-bye tea stains!

I’m not a big fan of tea. It takes a lot of sugar and milk before I can drink hot tea, and iced tea is just a no-go at any time. But my father really likes tea — and his teaspoons show it. The spoons ended up getting really brown, so it was past time to clean them. Dish soap allowed the stain build up, so cleaning the spoons took a bit of rubbing with a stainless steel cleaner. Now, the teaspoons have that silver sparkle again. Although tea stains are unsightly, they at least clean up well, as shown by before and after photos. But tea stains aren’t all ugly. I found out that some people use tea stains to create art!

A Tire’s End

There'll be no more driving on this tire!

There’ll be no more driving on this tire!

Yup, that is definitely a flat tire. Sad to say this was on my car. It didn’t happen while I was driving (although I experienced that years ago). This flat developed while in a parking lot. I met a friend for dinner and afterward got into my car to drive away. As soon as the car started to move, I knew something was wrong. Then I realized the entire car was tilted a little. Previous to parking, I accidentally drove over what looked like a bottle in the road, but I traveled about 5 miles afterward with no trouble, so I thought everything was OK. Obviously, it wasn’t. I’m lucky the tire held up so well as I continued driving. What’s stunning to me is that I did not notice this VERY flat tire as I walked up to and got into the car. Wow. It really is wise to do a little mini inspection each and every time before getting into your car.  If you’ve ever wondered what all the numbers and such on your tires mean, check out the diagram at the NHTSA website. It also has some tire care tips.

A Fine Start To The Morning

This isn't a child's game, it's serious business.

This isn’t a child’s game, it’s serious business.

Imagine walking outside and seeing this on your street. It happened to me earlier this week. Had children gone crazy with spray paint or sidewalk chalk? A closer look showed me that it was some sort of coded message, but by who and for what? A few white markings had shown up in the street days earlier, but this explosion of color and marks was shocking. A neighbor was walking by and pointed out a few words naming some communication companies. I was amazed that the marks had been made with no notice from the city or whatever agency was responsible. What was going on? A search of the internet provided a clue to some of the code, thanks to an article at the Smithsonian website explaining road graffiti by utility workers. The colors represent different underground cables: red is for electric and power, yellow is gas or oil, orange is communication, etc. White designates proposed digging. So, it looked like someone wanted to dig in the street, and the marks were showing where all the underground utility stuff was buried. I called the city and learned that the graffiti was called “a mark out.” A communication company had requested it because it wanted to do a dig. It’s been days and so far nothing else has happened. This will be interesting.