Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dawn of Indentation

In resolution to a problem that I noted near the start of this blog, I notice that in my last few posts, Blogger has finally started letting me use the tab key to indent the start of paragraphs.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Summer, Summer, Summer

Summer, it turns me upside down.

The Cars sang these words long ago, when the world was young.

Summer has been taking its mandate to turn me upside down a little too literally recently with the historic Virginia earthquake. As someone who works in the field of geology, I observed the earthquake with a certain detached interest, except for that period of about two seconds when I thought that the building that I was in would come down and I would die.

Once again, of course, I am tardy in my blogging; everyone has forgotten the great East Coast earthquake, and moved on to the great East Coast hurricane. I am unsure what will happen here next; I am leaning toward either meteorite or volcano.

But, once again (again), summer, it turns me upside down.

And indeed it has been a very long time since the Cars released that song. In fact, as I understand it, it was originally intended as a duet between Ric Ocasek and Dimetrodon.

Summer is the most tightly constrained of the seasons. Like all seasons, it has an astronomical definition (a period starting on the summer solstice and ending on the autumnal equinox) and a meteorological definition (June, July, and August). (The meteorological definition is superior, and I could explain why, but that sort of serious science writing is not what I'm going for here.) What makes summer tightly constrained, though, is not its scientific definition, but its public perception. Summer is popularly viewed as the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or the time between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, or even the time between the end of one network television season and the beginning of the next. There can be an early winter, but there can't be an early summer, because winter can be seen to start when a certain threshold of cold is reached, but summer can't start until certain benchmark date arrives.

Now summer is almost over. A while ago I was watching Jimmy Kimmel's show, and he said that, even though he hadn't gone to school for years, he still felt sad when he saw the back-to-school sales. I feel the same way. (I usually did pretty well in school, but I hated it.) In the unlikely event that I ever have any children, I don't think that I will be sad about them going back to school, but I will be sad about everyone else's children going back to school.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Skink Adventures

I thought that it was time to put the scaly back in Scaly Distractions, to do some serious herpetological blogging rather than making lame comments on lame elements of popular culture. I don't often blog about incidents from my daily life, because my daily life consists almost entirely of working and sleeping. But earlier in the month I took some time off from work, and had several skink-related adventures. (In case you didn't know, skinks are lizards of the family Scincidae).

(In the spirit of skinks, I began the post with a photograph from 2003 of an adult male Five-lined Skink in breeding coloration. See the full-sized original here.)

On Friday, August 5, I went to Leesylvania State Park, in search of the Eastern Fence Lizard. I saw sixteen Five-lined Skinks . . . and one baby Eastern Fence Lizard.

On Monday, August 8, I explored some locations in Loudoun County, where I encountered more skinks. I will have to analyze my photographs to be sure, but I think that one was a Broad-headed Skink, which would be the first member of that species that I've ever seen, and also the first verified record of that species in Loudoun County. (As to why I went to Loudoun in the first place, that is a skink of a different color. Perhaps I will tell the story one day.)

On Tuesday, August 9, I didn't feel like going anywhere major, so I just walked around in one of my favorite wildlife-watching areas of Alexandria. I randomly encountered a Five-lined Skink in the middle of a paved bike path. There seemed to be something wrong with the lizard, because it was having difficulty moving and its right front leg seemed to be missing. I tried to pick it up. The skink eluded me, until it ran under the upturned front of my shoe, and I was able to catch it (the skink, not my shoe). I discovered that the right half of its body was coated with a tar-like substance, and the right front leg had become entirely glued to the side of the body. I walked around holding the skink for a few minutes, not sure what to do, during which time the skink bit me two or three times. I thought about taking it home, but that wouldn't have worked for several reasons. Fortunately, the animal shelter was located only about two hundred yards away, and I dropped the skink off there.

A while later I was walking in the other direction when I got to where I had found the skink. The veterinarian from the animal shelter came out to release the skink, which had been cleaned off with mineral oil. She (the veterinarian, not the skink) said that Five-lined Skinks were frequently seen on the external walls of the animal shelter building. I mentioned that in 2006 I had seen a Ground Skink in the area, but had never seen one again. The veterinarian said that Ground Skinks have been found in the shelter's dog exercise yard.

(This is the Ground Skink from 2006. See the full-sized original here.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Harry Potter

Three weeks ago the final Harry Potter movie had its opening weekend. (I meant to blog about it then, but I don't have the energy to stay current.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 made huge money and received inescapable media coverage, which was at least marginally more interesting that the debt ceiling. I, unfortunately, did not care.

I'm down with all the major topics of nerd entertainment—Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, X-Files, Buffy . . . But I don't find myself having any interest in Harry Potter in any form. Will Thimblethorpe find the magic thugwump? I don't know, and I don't feel like reading several thousand pages to find out. And I also don't feel like watching several hours of film to find out either.

Maybe Harry Potter is too silly for me. I know that there are elements of Star Wars, Star Trek, etc., that are silly, but the Harry Potter series looks entirely marinated in silliness. And I know that the Harry Potter series is in large part a gigantic fight to the death. But it's silly people having a gigantic fight to the death.

Or maybe I've just passed my nerd expiration date. Maybe I've gotten too old to absorb anything new in the science fiction/fantasy category.

I do, however, enjoy the new Seven-Eleven LARPing commercial.