Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm feeling up to a challenge...

Of course, I may regret it later, but let's not get ahead of ourselves! ;o)

Getting out the camera and taking some pictures around the yard, last week, put me in the mood for setting myself some type of challenge, photographically speaking. Despite good intentions, I've never really gotten into taking self-portraits, and I think that would be a good exercise for me.

However I feel about most photos of myself, these days, I imagine that someday, someone (myself, my family) will probably wish that there were a few more of them in existence. Besides, it's the fact that this isn't my usual "style" of photography that makes it more of challenging. Also, it hasn't escaped me that if I'm the one taking them, I can also more easily destroy the bad ones so that they never see the light of day. (g) So, I've decided to challenge myself to take (at least) thirty self-portraits in thirty days.

Thirty in thirty sounds like a lot (to me, at least), but I'm cutting myself some slack. They don't all have to be full shots of my face. Some can be shadows, reflections, intentionally blurry, or focused on parts of my body other than my face. (Um, by that I mean headless shots, hands-only, maybe feet. Nothing too weird. ;o) You know me better than that, right?) Also, I may take several in one day and let the extras count for the next few days. None of this "you must take one photo every day" nonsense. It's just not practical-- neither is it important-- and if I make that one of my "rules", I'll only be tempted to cheat.

I hope/think/hope this will turn out to be fun. I'll try to learn a few new tricks along the way. Maybe I'll get a few good photos to add to the one or two fairly recent (as in taken within the past ten years) photos I'm currently willing to share online. ;o) (Joking. Kind of...)

Of course, anyone who wants to join in is welcome! (I'm not expecting anyone to, but you never know!) I'm planning to post my photos in their own set (album) at Flickr, but I may also cross-post some of them here. If you want to see all of them in one spot, visit my Self-Portrait Challenge set.

Here's my first effort:

Reading in Bed

Taking that photo, it all started coming back to me, why I never really got into self-portraiture before. (g) I have a feeling this really is going to be a challenge!

Chopped the top of my head off, there, but oh well! Oh, and the bottom is one of those intentionally blurry shots I hinted at earlier. (So convenient for days when you're not feeling especially presentable!) This photo was my inspiration. Think I kind of missed the mark, though. I may have to give this one another try, but that's the point-- practicing until I (maybe) get better at this kind of photography.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Yesterday, nearing noon, I heard Molly barking at something outside. Not long before, I'd gone to investigate her barking and found nothing to occasion much interest, so this time I went with a grumble. "What are you barking about now?"

This time, it was a snake, cornered in about the same spot as (I think) she'd once cornered a moccasin. (That happened while we were visiting Sweden. Granny L. and our neighbor down the road came to the rescue, but from what I've heard, it wasn't easy. Molly is a stubborn dog and didn't want to move out of the way enough for our neighbor to get a clear shot at the snake.)

I saw instantly that it wasn't the poisonous variety. I wasn't sure what it was, though, and in any case, I didn't want her to be bitten. Even a nonvenomous snake bite can become infected. After running out and calling to her, fruitlessly, I thought about Trixie. So far, she had stayed on the other side of the house (despite Molly's frantic and outraged barking), but I realized that if I kept calling Molly, she might come check things out and get involved, too. Just what I needed-- two dogs refusing to listen to me!

So-- I ran and got Trixie-- put her inside-- and ran back out to Molly. More calling with similar results. She just tuned me out. The snake was rattling its tail (imitating a rattlesnake) and "striking" at her, which only seemed to further infuriate her. When the snake tried to turn and flee through a narrow opening, crazy Molly grabbed it and pulled it back!

I was making myself hoarse with calling her, but it was as though she couldn't even hear me. I had a thought-- ran back inside to fetch two of her most-coveted squeaky toys-- ran back outside-- and let the squeakies do my talking. To my surprise and immense relief, it worked! Molly finally looked in my direction and followed one of the toys as I tossed it out into the yard. I squeaked the other in my most tempting manner ;o) and eventually led her into the house with it.


I then went back out with the video camera and was able to identify the snake as a kingsnake. Fortunately, it seems that Molly was not bitten, and the last I saw of the snake, it appeared to be alright, too. I'm glad, because I'd hate to have killed a kingsnake. Not only are they themselves nonvenomous, but they also constrict and eat, among other things, other snakes-- including pit vipers like cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and copperheads. They have an amazing immunity that renders bites from venomous snakes relatively harmless.

Eastern Kingsnake from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

Sorry for the shaky camerawork! I didn't have time to set up the tripod, and I had to zoom in pretty far. We all know how well *that* works.

(Hm. Looks like I need to clean the area around our front door!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Talkin' 'Bout *Your* Generation

If you're a Baby Boomer, that is.

I happened to hear this story referenced on the radio today: A Grand Plan.

The basic gist is that as members of the Baby Boomer generation become grandparents, many of them don't want to be called "Grandma", "Grandpa", or other traditional/typical grandparent names. Instead, they opt for "Glamma" (which I find perfectly awful), "Grandude", "Grampster", and the like. (Is it just me? I can't say-- or think-- "Grandude" or "Grampster" without doing it in a silly bubble-headed surfer-dude voice: "Hey, kids! Look who's here! It's the Graaampster!")


I mean, sure, go ahead and have your grand-kids call you whatever you like. (Who cares, really, except for you and the kids?) But is it really that important what little Bobby or Susie calls you? Must you always stand out-- be different purely for the sake of being different?

For some reason, this just rubs me the wrong way. I guess it goes back to this feeling I've (almost always) gotten that "Boomers" think they're special, somehow. As if being born around the same time as a bunch of other people somehow imparted them with a rare gift.

It's the same feeling I got when I first saw this commercial and the others that went along with this particular ad campaign:

Reading that story, I just got the strongest impulse to tell all those Glammas and Grandudes-- and yes, the Grampsters, too-- "Get over yourselves!" Oh yeah, and get ready to make way for the next generation! :oP

Sorry for the lack of respect, "Boomers", but. . . well, to be honest, I don't respect you as much as many of you seem to feel you deserve. Or at least as much as the media seems to want us to respect (or at least admire) you. Because of all the great things you accomplished. Like, you know, Beatlemania. . . Anti-war protests. . . And, um, the whole hippie/free love thing. (Yeah, right on, flower child!) Aha! Don't let us forget a little something Wikipedia all-too-charitably describes as "experimentation with various intoxicating recreational substances". . . (Well, ok, maybe a couple of your social issue things were good causes, but I have a feeling they would've come about anyway.) All in all, just really good work breaking down the basic foundation of our society. You really did yourselves proud and, personally, I just can't thank you enough for all the good you did. Woo hoo!! (sarcasm ends here)

(By one reckoning, my parents fall in the very end of the Baby Boomer generation-- or at least my father does, and my mother was born only a few months later-- but I don't think of them as Boomers. I think of them more as "cuspers"-- like myself. Nope, you can't explain this away as deep-seated resentment against my parents. Sorry. (g))

Oh, and obviously there are plenty of Baby Boomers who were and are perfectly decent and admirable people. I give them respect according to their due. This was aimed more at the idea of the "typical Boomer" as promoted by the much-loved and oft-mentioned mainstream media.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Photos on Flickr

It's All or Nothin'!
Originally uploaded by MossyOwls

In case anyone's interested and doesn't check my Flickr photostream regularly, there are several new photos up (as of yesterday evening), including some of Trixie chasing bubbles and fetching a toy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mulch. Herbicide. Electricity. TV (w/ spoilers).

Nothing but a handful of tidbits today:

- - - - - - -

I've been spending the first parts of the past few days spreading mulch and pulling/digging out weeds from flower beds in preparation for mulching. I have it down to one pile of mulch in a place where it won't kill any grass, which means it can wait another day or two (if need be). The mulch is good for the plants and improves the looks of the yard. Spreading it is also forcing me to start tackling the weeding I'd been putting off. I don't enjoy weeding, but I feel better about myself (and the yard) after I'm done. (Like exercising. And chores in general.)

Next, I need to get serious about spraying weeds around the yard with Roundup. By which I mean I need to actually spray some Roundup instead of just constantly saying, "You know, I really need to spray some Roundup! One of these days... When the planets are in perfect alignment and there's a cool spell and my daily horoscope says 'Today is a good day for killing weeds.'" (Just kidding. Obviously. I'm so not one of those people who read horoscopes or know when the planets are aligned. The procrastinating, on the other hand? All too true, I'm afraid.) I have to see if I can find the "recipe" so that I get the potency right... I wonder if I can put some of the "home-mixed" stuff in an empty spray bottle so that I always have a little on hand, premixed? I'd be better about keeping weeds down if I had a little bottle at the ready.

Note: Don't ever look up Roundup or other herbicides online, unless you're prepared to read about how awful they are and how awful you are for using them. Oh, and that you're killing the environment and yourself with every squirt, or something like that. *whistles nonchalantly*

- - - - - - -

We had an electrician come this week to install an outlet box on the patio. For whatever reason (keeping costs down), our builder designed this house with outlets on only two sides of the house-- neither of which are the side we use most-- by the kitchen door and the main gate. Unfortunately, we had to have another (smaller) electrical box put on the side of the house, because the old one had no empty slots. If the electrician knows what he's talking about, though (and he should), this second box should cover us when we want to pull electricity to our (future, as-yet-unbuilt) garage, put in additional security lighting, etc.

It'll be nice to have electricity right on the patio. Much more convenient than dragging out the extension cords everytime we want to use the radio, a fan, or a power tool outside!

- - - - - - -

Here are a few TV tidbits, SPOILERS included:

Um... Did you see that part about how there will be SPOILERS?

Because I'd really hate to SPOIL your viewing pleasure with my SPOILERS about LOST and Survivor...

Still here, huh?
Well, ok. Don't say I didn't warn you.
About the SPOILERS, that is.

I don't really know what to make of most of the season finale. (But what else is new, right?)

I'm glad that we finally got to see more of the statue, but to be honest, I felt that Jacob was a little of a let-down. I don't know what I expected or wanted, but some average-looking guy wasn't it. Of course, he's obviously not just some average guy, but still...

I was disappointed to see that John was actually still dead, though by the time of the "big reveal" I'd already guessed he was in the box. (John goading Ben into doing the dirty work of killing Jacob just didn't feel right for the character, and I figured someone must be in the box. Oh, and is it just me, or isn't it kind of odd that this was the second time the writers tried to shock us with a dead John in a coffin/box.)

Of course, if the bomb-us-out-of-this-mess plan works, Locke will be alive again-- as will all the other characters we've lost (ha ha) along the way. I would be happy to see some of those old faces back again.

Other random thoughts:
  • Assuming the plane lands safely (and none of the past however-many seasons ever happened) what about the characters whose lives were improved by their time on the island? As Kate remarks, not everything that happened on the island was bad. For instance: Locke's cured paralysis. Rose's cured cancer. Kate's new-found freedom. ...I think there are others, but those are the only ones springing to mind. Well, except from the relationships formed, of course. For instance, Charlie & Blonde Aussie. (Clara? No, Claire. Had to look it up! She's been off-screen too long, and I'm not great with names.) The only things of this sort I noticed being referenced on the show are Kate's handcuffs and relationships with Jack and Sawyer.
  • I was disappointed that Ben killed Jacob. Not so much because I care intensely about Jacob as a character (partly due to the fact that he's apparently a supernatural being and ought to be able to take care of himself), but because I'd like to see Ben behave admirably just once in a while. I know he's one of the villains, but I feel sorry for the guy. And if you believe in redemption, there's always a chance. . .
  • The "Oh, yeah, we've been hiding out in the jungle for three years" thing with Rose and. . . Rose's Husband-- ah, Bernard, I think?-- seemed a little convenient and rushed in that lovely "we've gotta start tying up loose ends, stat!" sort of way, but I guess it's an acceptable explanation. I can't really blame them for wanting a peaceful retirement. More importantly, we see that the dog is okay. (Seriously, seeing Vincent was more exciting than seeing either of The Retirees, as they shall henceforth be known. (g))
  • Kate and the New Kids on the Block lunchbox. ...Gah... One more thing to not really love about Little Miss Freckles. She's one of those dratted NKOTB fangirls. ;o)
  • I just read someone's theory that Mr. Evil (aka Faux Locke, aka He Who Wants/Wanted Jacob Dead) is actually-- ready for it?-- the smoke monster! Why didn't I think of that?! I wouldn't be surprised if that's right.
Well, enough of that.

Coach was finally voted off. I wasn't surprised to find (via Google) that I wasn't the only one to notice some strong similiarities between the "sayings" of Coach and Michael Scott (from The Office). Both can be obnoxious, embarrassingly ill-informed, and egotistical-- but sometimes you see a glimmer of hope for Michael-- and at least you know he's a fictional character. Coach is (presumably) a real person (unless he's an undercover actor), and though I occasionally felt a little sorry for him, most of the time I couldn't keep from rolling my eyes whenever he opened his mouth. And I didn't usually feel bad about the eye-rolling, 'cause he so frequently was just plain mean.

- - - - - - -

The End.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Snake Eggs

Earlier this week, my maternal grandparents brought me a few tractor-bucket-loads of mulch for our flower beds. This mulch has been "waiting" (ripening?) down near the pond for a good while, and it seems very nice and. . . mulchy.

Ok, I don't know all that much about mulch, really, but there are lots of earthworms in it and it seems like good stuff.

Actually, earthworms aren't the only things I've found in it.

I think this is a black rat snake's egg. So far, I've found at least five of them.

When I came across the first one or two of them-- separately, and on different days-- I didn't pay them much heed. I assumed they were cocoons and didn't give them a second thought. (Yes, yes, I know they don't really have the same texture as a cocoon. Attribute it to the effects of heat on the brain.) But then I found three together in one shovelful of mulch, and something clicked:

Huh... Three of them in one spot? That seems a bit excessive. --Wait a minute! What if these are... (DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!) snake eggs?!?!

The mental image of multiple baby moccasins hatching all around our yard slithered before my eyes. I then proceeded to have a (very brief) mini freak-out and-- well, for the sake of any snake-lovers who may stumble upon this, I won't go into the gruesome details of what followed. . .

After making a phone call to Mom (because moms know something about everything, right?) and doing a little research of my own, I came to the comforting conclusion that these were not moccasin eggs. (For one thing, most pit vipers-- including moccasins-- don't lay eggs.)

On the Internet, some photos of black rat snake eggs seem a good match for "my" eggs, and my grandparents even remarked (before we knew about the eggs) that they saw a black rat snake on the piles of mulch right before picking up a load for me. So. They're probably black rat snake eggs, which is a huge relief. I can live with rat snakes much more happily than with moccasins.

After the. . . incident. . . with the group of three eggs, I've kept my eyes peeled for more eggs, and I raked through mulch I'd already put down, where I thought I remembered seeing a "cocoon" earlier in the day. So far, I've only found two more-- one of which was the model in my photographs.

I placed these two eggs out on the edge of the property. I do feel guilty for killing those other ones. . . Especially considering that whatever they'd have eaten would have been food from the lips (do snakes have lips? (g)) of my mortal enemies, Messrs. Moccasin and Diamondback-Rattler. However, I'm not sure that they'll even hatch. Based on some of what I've read online, they may have been jostled around too much to survive.

And there you have it-- my spellbinding tale of finding snake eggs. ;o)

Oh, and (P.S.) thank you for the mulch, Granny and Grandpa! It really is making a big difference in the looks of the yard, already! I bet all those earthworms will help improve the soil, too!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How much can $7.63 buy?

When you luck up and find a "4 for $1" sale, it buys 28 brand new pieces of clothing:

Not bad, huh?

It was one of them "psychotic moments"...

Or is it "psychic"? ;o)
You know, the kind of thing you hear about, but rarely experience.
Well, either that, or it was just a coincidence.

So, here's the story:

Yesterday morning, while busily sewing away at a few rag-quilted bags, I made a mental checklist of the various steps I still had to go through to complete the project. When I got to the part where I take them outside to shake off the (wet) fluff before tossing them in the dryer, a curious thought presented itself to me: What if there happened to be a snake at the gate, preventing me from going out to my usual "shaking" spot? "Well," I reasoned, "if that happens, I could just shake them in the yard, this time. Sure, it makes a little mess, but it's not a biggie. Either that, or I could shake them inside over a waste basket. ...Why are you bothering me with things like this-- today of all days?! I have sewing to finish!!"

Though I am a self-professed worrier and worst-case-scenario-ist, I don't usually worry about snakes barring my path. Honestly, I spend more time worrying about wasps than snakes. (I don't know why, for certain. Maybe because there are just so many more wasps than snakes around our yard.)

Fast-forward to that point in the day at which I was ready to shake off the loose threads. As I approached the gate, I noticed something unusual. Just outside our fence, only feet from the gate we use every day, there was an unfamiliar dark shape. Focusing on it, I realized that it was a snake. There was that momentary discombobulated feeling of unreality that I always get when I first see a snake-- and then a feeling of déjà vu as I remembered the strangely random thought that had occurred to me only hours before. It was weird and a little creepy.

Eeriness aside, there's not much to tell. The snake was pointed toward the fence, so I hurried to get the dogs inside. (I can't rely on them to obey me and leave snakes alone, and a bite from a venomous snake can easily kill a dog.) Then I grabbed the video camera and tried to ID the intruder. I thought it looked like a water moccasin, and Grandpa L. said it looked like one to him, too.

Here's the video so you can decide for yourself:

Water Moccasin / Cottonmouth from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

It didn't stay where it was for long, but the last I saw of it, it was still too close for comfort.

Now for a week or two of not feeling safe in my own back yard! You always know they could be out there-- and probably are-- but when you actually see one, it's uppermost in your mind, for a while. For a day or two, at least, I'll be walking the dogs on leashes and keeping them inside the rest of the time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"There's nothin' but videos here anymore!"

Yeah, sorry about that. One of these days, I'll probably write something more than video intros and outraged political snippets. Most likely. ;o)

In the meantime. . . Did you notice that I made some more videos? (g) Thumbnails for the three more recent are over there on the right-hand side of the screen (under "Most Recent Videos @ Vimeo").

I finally managed to render a second video of storm damage (from that particularly vicious storm we had in late March), and there are now three videos of Trixie playing with soap bubbles. Oh, and there's also one (still in queue, waiting to be "converted") where I strung together little bits we videoed* the last time we were in Fairhope (April 15th). So, that should keep you busy for a few minutes. ;o)

*"Videoed" looks distinctly wrong. What's a better alternative, though? "Video'd"? No... "Videoed" it is, then. Though, looking at the definition of "video", it seems that-- technically-- it might be the wrong verb to use, anyway. I guess I could write that I'm "recording" something. That's fine, but after a while, you begin to wish you had another word to spice things up a little. "Filming" would work, too, except that I'm not using film. It's digital. "I created a digital record of the moving image of Trixie popping bubbles." . . .Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone and just write "videoed".

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Bubbles

More bubbles for Trixie:

More Bubbles from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

The sound effects are as funny as the video, I think. First, the dungeon noises of clanking chains and "dyno-dog" roars-- then (in the last clip) that banshee wail! (Hey, easily amused means often amused. (g))

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Video

Trixie's first encounter with soap bubbles:

Trixie's First Soap Bubbles from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.