Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A bird in the hand: mystery songbird at Piper Spit

Later identified as a tree swallow, but can't they come up with a more lyrical name than that?! This guy's song was intoxicating. Like all the birds at Piper Spit, he's too tame for his own good, and I know I'm not helping matters with my handfuls of seeds. But what can I say? I'm weak, and short on magic moments in my life. I have NO birds in my back yard all, and barely any squirrels, though last year it was just teeming out there. Don't know why. Even took down the new bird house in case they thought it was a predator (like those plastic owls you see). And our former favourite haunt, the "duck park" at Lafarge Lake, is being bulldozed to make way for a Nazi-like cement amphitheatre (just the name has Third Reich connotations to me - like something from Hitler's proposed monstrous empire, Germania). We may never get that lake back, but now we have this.

Blackbird singing. . . on Piper Spit

I can't describe to you the feeling of having this handsome devil fly right down to me without any prompting. I know I shouldn't be feeding him, but I am. I'm tired of feeling like an evil human being. I need my moments of utter magic, and I find so many of them in this magical place.

Blackbird, fly: magic on Burnaby Lake

I was astounded when this guy flew right down to me. Obviously he has no fear, which is not the best thing for him. But it's the best thing for me. He is magnificent and he knows it!

Cat Licking Vacuum Cleaner

Treat 'em rough and make 'em like it: MEOW!


Monday, May 30, 2016

How do you spell Mississauga?

You know that whatever may be going on in the world, at any moment, I can make a gif out of it.

This was what went on today in a parking lot in Costco. In Mississauga. That's one-Mississauga, two-Mississauga. . . whatever. It's Toronto, a cheap-ass, cut-rate version of Toronto, outlying scar(borough) tissue.

And here. Here are a whole bunch of people punching each other out. One guy knocks a woman over backwards, and that's not nice, no. Pushing a woman over onto cement. You can't hear the screaming here because I don't like posting videos (because I know nobody watches them), but believe me, it's fierce. The main word used is "fuck".

Depressing to think that Canadians used to be known as polite, as self-effacing, as peaceable. I don't see that here. I don't know what they're punching each other out for. The last parking space? The last 500-pack of  Cheap-Ass Brand toilet paper? Had this been the States, somebody would be dead by now, because of that inalienable Right to Bear Arms. As it is, people are just screaming and punching each other bloody. Over nothing, really. Nothing they'll even remember tomorrow.


NOTE. This is one of my gif animations, though I have to admit the images were sort of there already, borrowed from Google images. I guess you'd call this "fair use", like those ads with the animated raisins Maisie and Jake from the 1950s that show up on YouTube. I'm not quite clever enough to photograph falling cats this way, so I had to photoshop the cat at each pose on identical strips of black. This took a lot of experimentation and wasn't that smooth, due to being constricted to just five frames. Should I try again and make the cats closer together? Not sure it would make a difference. Anyway, here is the kitty falling at three speeds.

Before I dispense with this because it is becoming boring and I want to go to Piper Spit and feed blackbirds (which I never do), here's the cat falling over a shorter distance. This does show off the dramatic twist in the air which cats accomplish over very short distances, but it still isn't very smooth. Still, it's the best one yet.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Prawn killer! Thumb splitter! Must be the mantis shrimp

This is the picture that started it all. I think. God knows what I was actually looking for. Oh, I know. I was helping my granddaughter with an assignment. She said, "Nanny." "Yes." "I have to do the ocean." I wasn't sure what she meant. I had just printed out internet images of just about every animal that ever existed. But now I found out we had to "do the ocean".

So this led to me downloading a quite ordinary image of a shrimp:

God only knows how that led me on to THIS:

Like tardigrades, it's almost impossible to believe these things exist. Like tardigrades, they have some sort of supernatural strength. And they're icky. Plain icky. They're not pretty at all, no matter what that first picture looks like.

It's not so much all the swivelling around - which is creepy enough. It's the way those little holes in their eyes open and close. ICK. It's like some sort of evil wink. It also looks sort of like the top of an old microphone from the 1940s. I don't like any of those connotations.

For some reason I can see Louis Wain painting mantis shrimp. They have that hectic, even hellish quality that makes his cats look so scary. Most of the bright-colored stuff doesn't even show very much - it's kind of hidden under a buglike shell that I don't want to show right now.

I think the mantis thingie is eating something here. It's eating this fish which is probably still alive. It's sickening, really. The eyes remind me of Jeff Goldblum's in The Fly when he has made his final transformation into that sickening rotting thing stomping around.

I don't like it, in fact it shouldn't be allowed, when things in Nature diddle their parts around like that, especially when they have a lot of legs. This thing has too many legs, obviously. Anything more than four is always too many.

This shell may look pretty, but in black and white it would just be wretched, like a giant. . . mantis. I looked at the Wikipedia entry and it was too long, so I'll just quote the more interesting part.

Called "sea locusts" by ancient Assyrians, "prawn killers" in Australia and now sometimes referred to as "thumb splitters" – because of the animal's ability to inflict painful gashes if handled incautiously – mantis shrimp sport powerful claws that they use to attack and kill prey by spearing, stunning, or dismemberment. In captivity, some larger species are capable of breaking through aquarium glass with a single strike.

Along with being pretty frightening, this looks a bit obscene to me, as if the mantis shrimp has two penises like some legendary figure of myth. Bi-penal? Never mind. These creatures are the Sylvester Stallones of the sea world. I don't like Sylvester Stallone.

It turns out that, as with so many other things, there is a mantis shrimp subculture. I was charmed and somewhat taken aback when I discovered the tardigrade paintings on DeviantArt. It made the fact of tardigrades' existence somewhat more bearable. But I was blown out of my chair to see well over a THOUSAND images, artwork in all media including origami and paper clips, celebrating the mantis shrimp. All I can do here is provide the link, as I really can't reproduce any of it here. Well OK, just a couple, with accreditation.


Really, they're all good, and some of them are headspinningly wonderful, making me think I should just retire from all creative endeavour. It makes me marvel at the richness and depth of talent out there, and it pisses me off that most artists can't make a living from their work. They should be able to make a living just by painting mantis shrimp. Anyone who can make me marvel at images of something I hate is OK by me.

For more like this - and trust me, you DO want more like this - just click on this link.  It's helping me wipe out some of those gut-sinking mental images of Jeff Goldblum.


(Not Jeff Goldblum - I couldn't. But Jeff Goldblum played him once. Badly.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Things I used to hang around my neck

No, really. All of these. And this isn't the half. There is also the cloisonne cross from the Vatican gift store, the gold Celtic cross from Ireland, the serenity prayer silver cross, the hematite cross, the other hematite - no, wait, I sent that one to a friend of mine. Someone in need. But all these I wore, individually, because I wore crosses then, that was my milieu somehow, as I was deeply devoted to the United Church. Seems like another lifetime, because it is.

I don't really hate them, but church and mainstream Christianity really ran dry for me at a certain point, and yet I stayed. I probably stayed on for another two years after it ran completely dry, due to my wretched misguided loyalty and the sense that if I just hung on a little bit longer, it would all get good again. And it didn't.

So much for the cacophany of internet memes screaming at us to "never give up! Never give up! Never give up no matter WHAT!" I really should've given up back in about 2002.

In some sense, it was a crisis of leadership, and it got so bad at one point that our minister was ordered to leave. This reflects a church which has lost its way, but most of the blame went on "him", that dastardly devil - the one WE chose over four other candidates! But he simply had more glamour, and on some level we believed it would be a feather in our cap, not to mention a badge of our liberal-ity, because you see he was a black South African. Though no one ever admitted this, it was a blatant bid for status so that we would outshine all the other United Churches in the area.

I had to leave not just because of that meltdown, or the pallid non-leadership that followed, but because of a massive (though gradual) shift of the tectonic plates of my beliefs. I simply began to see through the isms of Christianity, and to see that ANY church I was part of, no matter how supposedly liberal-ish, was really hidebound and expected its members to adhere to a certain kind of belief system. But I had a problem. I used to get far too emotional. I used to feel I had an actual relationship with Jesus, and almost everyone thought this was either crazy, or deeply embarrassing (even though we were constantly exhorted to do just that).

I ended up feeling very alone, in a church I had attended for fifteen years.

But no matter. I recently re-found these little crosses, took them off their individual chains (and they DO come from all over, including the drug store on Granville Street) and strung them with glass pony beads on a single chain. I like to look at them now, drape them over things, display them. Sometimes I even briefly wear them, but not in public. Just for the mojo, and when I'm going to cast a spell or throw a curse (and after what happened to Paul, it looks as if it works, at least some of the time). And when I've got my mojo workin', you'd better look out.

I am not sure what these seven crosses mean exactly, but I think it's kind of nice they're not relegated to the drawer any more. And that is all I have to say about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

So who IS my favourite character in The Wizard of Oz?

I found myself writing this mini-essay in response to someone who posted something on Facebook about The Wizard of Oz. It's something I maybe, oh maybe wrote about already, but I want to write about it again because, ohhhh, I just do!

Everyone plays that game where you ask people, "So. Who was your favorite character in The Wizard of Oz?" Almost everyone chooses the Lion because he does slapstick comedy (really, old-fashioned vaudeville) so well, and sings in that quavery voice like every hammy tenor you've ever heard. But the point of the game is that your choice is supposed to reveal your deepest inner nature. One day it came to me, not so much "who is my favorite" as "who is the most important character?" NO ONE ever mentions this, I swear. It's not Dorothy or the Tin Man or Scarecrow or even the Wizard.

It's Toto.

Think about it: if it weren't for Toto, there would be no story at all. If Toto hadn't (deservedly) bitten Miss Gulch, she wouldn't have taken him away in her basket and Dorothy wouldn't have had to go rescue him (which in fact she didn't have to: he got away!). And thus, when the "twister" came up, she would've been at home and just gotten into the storm cellar with everyone else.

But no! She landed in Oz, where Toto always ran on ahead of her and was her companion and guide. It was Toto who discovered the Scarecrow and Tin Man, Toto who flushed out the lion from the bushes (feisty little thing), Toto who got away from the Witch when Dorothy was imprisoned in the castle (remember him jumping off the drawbridge?) and ran to alert her three friends so they could rescue her.  And all this with the Witch's evil henchmen throwing spears at him!

AND. . . (drum roll, please - this is turning into a blog post!) - just who was it who pulled back the curtain and revealed that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was in fact a fraud? 

At any rate, this Timeless Tale would not even exist without that scrappy little Cairn terrier, who is not a cute or a glamorous dog at all, nor even a Brave and Noble dog. He's just Toto, scruffy and nondescript. He's a little implausible as a farm dog, unless maybe he was a ratter (and can't you picture it? This dog is not afraid of anything). Dorothy is in some ways the classic heroine in that, at one point, she is literally imprisoned in the tower and must be rescued by the three heroes. But it is Toto who actually does the rescuing, risking his own doggy life in the process.

 I'm not sure what-all this says about me. Hmmmm - greatness is never recognized?

The best idea George Lucas ever stole from anyone!

So who's original any more? Who makes mega-billions of bucks on someone else's idea(s)? 

In the second gif, which I made myself, the characters are in almost the same position as in the Star Wars one (shared from FB).

Takes forever to see these things, then everyone in the coffee room exclaims "Ohhhhhh! That's so NEAT!", a response that used to represent intelligence, and now indicates that 90% of people have jello for brains. 

It isn't "neat", folks. It's plagiarism. Gee, let's have four characters set out on a Great Adven- no, no, skip that, a great QUEST. One will have a lot of fur all over. One will be the Token Girl. One will clank when he walks, and one - well, skip that one, it doesn't match up at all. We never see Han Solo dance and stuffing doesn't come out of him and he isn't set on fire.

But does he have a brain? He's still in Star Wars, isn't he?

And look ye! All right, the resemblance isn't exactly monstrous, but there definitely IS a comparison between Judy Garland's tempestuous life of substance abuse and mental illness, and Carrie Fisher's tempestuous, etc. etc. The two have similar brown-eyed/brunette hair and skin colouring. Though it was well-hidden in the movie, you can see here that Garland has a slight outbreak of teenage acne. Facial shape is very different, but look at the eyes! Dorothy here does not look frightened so much as amazed, and already figuring out the next step. This is not a frightened kid. The only time Dorothy is frightened is when she's in the Witch's castle and the Witch has turned over the hourglass and Dorothy sees Aunty Em in the crystal ball. .  .and. . . I start bawling, every time. It's one of two - no, actually three or four places in movies where I always cry, even though I know what's going to happen. Another is Mammy and Melanie going upstairs in Gone with the Wind, and then. . . "they got Charlie" in On the Waterfront, and oh. . . I'm going for lunch now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Facebook helpline: war of the trolls

Ah! God. I never learn. I keep on trying to find out things. When one is involved with Facebook, it is better not to know. I have NEVER had a question answered by their help feature, and if I get any answer at all it seems machine-generated and not at all related to my original problem. 

Not having had enough misery today, I did it, I asked Mr. Facebook, please tell me why my news feed never refreshes any more, or gives me "most recent" stories that are nine days old? It used to be I could "go on Facebook" for a couple hours if I had nothing better to do. Now after five minutes or so, I've blown through all the stories and am back to shit I read yesterday. And don't tell me there are no posts to read because I "don't have enough friends". There are five or so that I like, and the rest - I don't know what they're doing there, but they are there and they should be posting! At least some of them. 

Predictably, I found out nothing about this issue, but in finding out nothing, I found this delightful bit of correspondence between Andrew and Stephen. By the end of it, Andy n' Steve are barely being civil. One wonders why such arrogance, such hurt, why everyone takes all this shit so personally. And why do people say women are such bitches??

I used real names and real quotes because these are real people (if assholes) whose comments are really out there, somewhere. Not that anyone cares.

Why does Facebook continue to change my News Feed to 'Top Stories'?

News Feed

This isn't new and there are hundreds of topics in many different sites about this, yet Facebook continue to ignore everyone who complains about it.
I know there is a 3rd party extension to help with this but really, it that the lengths we have to go to? Are Facebook that blind that they don't see how damn annoying this "feature" is?
Made the control sticky and once it's set, leave the damn thing alone until it gets changed .. by the user!

Asked about 7 months ago by Andrew Roob

13 Votes · 4 Followers · Seen by 81

Good Question

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Stephen Peters 8,361 answers
0 of 1 people found this helpful

That wasn't really a question was it lol.. But you're right, you're defaulted back to top stories after a certain period of inactivity from you.

Helpful · Not Helpful · 7 comments · Share · Answered about 7 months ago

It doesn't really matter at the end of the day. People who spend all their time on Google posting complaints instead of clicking on "most recent" have far too much time on their hands. Yes. If I leave Facebook for a few hours I am reverted back to top stories. It's the same if I delete my cookies. So putting 2 and 2 together, it's all about the cookies. If you haven't emptied yours in a while, I suggest you do that. Maybe use a different browser, or have a look at your add-ons for anything that looks suspicious. If that doesn't cure your problem, at the end of the day, it's such a minor inconvenience it's hardly worth losing sleep over.
Posted about 7 months ago by Stephen Peters

Thanks for dismissing my post and then suggesting that I have far too much time on my hands (such a lovely community spirit). Obviously if it's something that you don't find painful then there is no issue. I didn't think there would be such a thing as a facebook fanboy but I guess I was mistaken. I can see that with 6 and a half thousand answers, that's why you don't have much time on your hands and can dismiss my issue. Please head back under your bridge and refrain from posting on my ticket.
Posted about 7 months ago by Andrew Roob

A punch in the face is painful. What you're suffering from is a mild inconvenience at best. However, I can see my answer isn't the sweet "oh let me help you" one that you were expecting, or perhaps a cure for your personal problem (which incidentally, everyone using Facebook has to put up with) but there's always one.
Posted about 7 months ago by Stephen Peters