Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Man vs Nature

This is my boss trying to persuade that cottonmouth there on the floor to go into a clear plastic tube. I know, it's not the greatest picture, but I was wearing sandals and didn't want to get closer. It is not recommended to wear sandals when there is a venomous snake on the floor, but I had no idea when we started that putting it on the floor was going to be part of the technique.

The point of getting the snake into the tube is so we can safely do medical procedures without being bitten, or, like we were hoping to do here, figure out what sex the snake is. Which, unfortunately for the snake, requires a bit of poking into its private parts.

It didn't work this time, by the way.

(PS: Click on the picture for a closer view.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Low tech

Here's a six month old green tree python with my fingers for scale. I promised earlier I'd post one together with the baby and fingers picture for comparison. But I realized that figuring out how to lay out the pictures next to each other was harder than figuring out how to lay out the snakes next to each other and take another picture:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mother and child reunion

Here's one of those baby green tree pythons again, this time with its mom.
(It does not live with her - our professional green tree python wrangler is offscreen, holding the baby's stick, as you can see on my Flickr.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Psychic powers

You know how when you're in a rush, every light seems to turn red as you approach?

I also have the opposite problem if I am driving and have an idea that I need to write down. Today I was having a normal commute till I suddenly figured out how to restructure this week's column. The minute I had the thought, every single light was green. Finally when I was almost at work I managed to check my mirror and stop safely at a yellow before I forgot what I needed to write down.

I don't know how they do it, but obviously the traffic signals can read my mind.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

General announcement: Laws of Physics

I don't know whether all the drivers in the DC area have Spring fever or what, but it's obvious that some clarification is needed:

It is a fundamental law of the universe that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. So STAY IN YOUR OWN DAMN LANE.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


So, I write features for this local free newspaper in DC. It's very local - only certain zip codes. A while ago, I wrote a personal essay about a 'favorite place' - I suspect it's something my editor asks for when she's desperate for a last-minute story. No interviews, no research, no need to leave the house - so she gets something fast and it's easy money for the writer.

But then I found out they needed a PHOTOGRAPH of me. I almost took the story back... Actually, the photo turned out OK. The only real problem was that through various Metro and scheduling disasters, it practically took longer to meet the photographer than to write the whole damn article.

This evening - several weeks later - I was walking the pugs, and a couple walked by, and the guy stopped to say something, which I naturally assumed would be about the pugs. It always is - I have long understood that I am unimportant, merely their entourage.

But no - he said he'd seen my story in the paper and recognized my photo, and that it was a good story and a good photo. He was very nice about it and I thanked him.

I didn't really recognize this guy, I don't know where he lives, I don't know how he lives in my neighborhood and reads the newspaper in question, which is not delivered here.

I assume that in fact, this occurrence really was about the pugs - that he has noticed me in the past because of them, which is the only reason he recognized my photo.

But hey, I'll take what I can get. It's still the first time I've had a fan stop me on the street!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Strange feeling of deja vu

Today I tried to listen to a guy give a Powerpoint presentation about amphibian decline. I managed to stay for about an hour. Then I had to leave before I started to gnaw my own leg off.

Here's the thing: I gave up lifetime job security so I would never again have to sit in a room listening to a PhD utter the words "controversy in the literature." And it turns out it doesn't make a damn bit of difference what topic he's saying it about.

(To get the same information as his talk in about three minutes, click on the link to my Year of the Frog article over there on the right, if it's still there.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Here's a six month old baby - well, toddler - green tree python starting to change color. Compare it to the yellow baby in the post below. You know you can click on the pictures to see them huge, right?

I have some pictures with my fingers to show the size comparison too, which I will post whenever I have time to figure out whether it's possible to layout pictures next to each other.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The writing life, Things Not To Do edition

From that article about blogging jobs in the New York Times that everyone was linking to a couple weeks ago:

He said he was well equipped for the torture; he used to be a Thai-style boxer.

“I’ve got a background getting punched in the face,” he said. “That’s why I’m good at this job.”

Maybe I should stop applying for those blogging gigs.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The writing life, today's step-by-step how-to edition

1. Think about an article that my famous friend Beth Harpaz (hello, Google!) suggested that I write and submit to a book that she got a call for submissions about
2. Decide that it's impossible and besides there's no way I can meet the deadline
3. Go about the rest of my day
4. Sit down at 9 on a Saturday night and start working on the article.

I need to remember that at least half the time when I sit down with notes for a piece, I am positive that there is no way I am going to be able to figure out how to write it. And then I write it. This one still might crash and burn for other reasons, but the principle seems to be sound.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cherry Blossom Festival

These two nice blond ladies came all the way from Okinawa to perform at the rather crummy DC Sakura Matsuri.

This turned out to be a little less interesting than it seemed at first glance. First because they are in Japan with the military, which is the least interesting way to end up there, at least to a Japanophile sort of person. And then because the group didn't exactly play taiko drums after all, but rather did dance routines with the drums to recorded music. I mean that they danced while actually holding and playing the drums. They had somehow even convinced their adolescent sons to do something that seemed like a combination of taiko drumming and Morris dance. Maybe it seemed manly enough because of the loud noise and hitting with sticks component, or maybe this says something about the strength of military families in strange places, I don't know.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Great Pug Art

I have nothing to say today - or possibly any day - that is more worth your time than looking at this set of pictures from Zoomar on Flickr.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Note from the dogwalker

"I did some dancing with Rose. She seemed to like that."

The Technical Staff's comment: "A waltz? Jitterbug? Zydeco?"

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Blessed event

Look at this snake:

Now look at this snake with my fingers!

So cute and tiny!

Here's another:

These are baby green tree pythons born about a week ago. There might be a link over to the right there to a story I wrote on green tree pythons. If it's gone, there's an illegal copy of it at the end of this thread.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Note from the dogwalker:

"We took a nice long walk today because the weather was nice. Lilly pooped."

The clear implication seems to be that Lilly was on the walk.

Someone on the Web somewhere sells a shirt that reads "A constant source of disappointment." I'm waiting for Lilly to buy me one for Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The benefits of professional misanthropy

I have a cold. So there's another reason to go back to being a work-at-home freelance writer instead of a regular person with a full time job. I can't even remember the last time I had a cold - it must have been at least a year ago. You just don't have a lot of chances to pick up germs when you only interact with people over the phone and email.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Last time the dogwalker came, she reported that she called from the bottom of the stairs and Lilly did not even get out of bed and come downstairs.

I think it's probably because Lilly knew it had been raining earlier (the pugs do not like to get their precious feet wet). But I'm waiting to see what happens today. Was it the weather, or has the dogwalker been judged to be just as big a disappointment as I am?

She said that after walking Rose, she sat on the couch, and "Rose went upstairs and got Lilly." I have a hard time imagining this - Rose and Lilly don't usually have that kind of relationship, and I don't know what she could have said to change her mind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Strange feeling of deja vu

"Midlife is when you reach the top of the ladder and find that it was against the wrong wall."

--scholar of comparative mythology Joseph Campbell, quoted in an article in today's Washington Post.

Been there, done that. Hmm, if I've got it wrong this time too, does this mean I STILL haven't reached midlife?

I could get to live forever, this way.