An Owl Picture. Sorta

I saw this owl while on my way to the convenience store. It flew into a tree, and I could see its squat little shape up in the branches. It was a little after dark, so I turned on the flash on the phone. But all you can see is the reflection of one eye. I think I blinded the poor thing. owl

austin giant spider

Giant spider in my garden

humongous Texas spider
I was turning the soil in my garden, and this great big spider fell out of a clump of leaves. I didn’t want to kill it, because I am a gentleman, so I scooted it onto the shovel to transport it somewhere safer. It didn’t want to get onto the shovel, so I had to poke its giant, blobby abdomen with the tip of my finger. The butt sack of this spider might be the same size and shape of a human pinky, but it felt totally different: warm, soft, fuzzy, and slightly gelatinous.
large texas spider
I took its picture as it scurried into the grass. According to the internet, it might be a sort of trapdoor spider. Which means, at this very moment, it’s hiding in a little hole beneath my yard, waiting for my soft pinky toe to get a little too close.

austin cicada

Austin Cicada Pictures

So there I was, walking through the back yard to the garage, and there’s this ear-splitting screech right at ear level. Normally the cicadas are high in the trees, filling Austin with that noise that sounds like heat feels, but this one was on a low-hanging branch. Even so, I never would have found it if it hadn’t rustled its wings from time to time, making a dry paper crumpling sound. I tried to video it with the phone, to see if I could catch it buzzing, but it saw me and backed up behind a branch instead. Oh well.
austin cicada

manhattan xmas fair tree

How They Get Christmas Trees into Manhattan

ny public library xmas tree

Julia, my food frakking deputy, and I spent last Christmas in New York. Well, technically it was Boxing Day in New York City, and Christmas in Connecticut, but I feel it was a reasonably iconic way to spend the holiday nonetheless.

We had a very interesting walking tour of Midtown Manhattan from an actual native, so of course we had to go by Rockefeller Plaza. It was the day after Christmas, so the place was a madhouse, virtually should-to-shoulder humanity. And presiding over it all, looking down at the swarms of ice skaters was the Christmas tree.

Julia can confirm that I wondered out loud how they got the tree into the city. The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree was about as wide as three lanes of traffic. It was definitely too big to come into the city by truck. There was simply no way that a tree that big could have the branches tied back far enough to get through Manhattan traffic, the toll booths on the bridges, etc. And it was, looking at it, a perfectly formed, perfectly conical tree, not something that had been battered by a lot of limb-tying.
manhattan xmas fair tree
My initial thought was they must use a helicopter, but that seemed dangerous and ridiculously over-the-top even by New York standards.

Yes, that’s right, I’m a country boy at heart. Take me to the Big Apple and I mainly think about the trees.

It wasn’t until we went to the Manhattan public library that I got a chance to look closely at one of these big-city trees. Behind the library they had a Christmas fair with a tree that could be the twin of the tree at Rockefeller Plaza. The crowds were thinner, so I could get right up close to the tree, and actually look through the branches to the horrible lie within.
the re-assembled tree
The truth is, there are no giant, perfectly formed trees in Manhattan on Christmas. They chainsawed all the branches off these trees, trucked them into the city, and then tied the branches back onto the trunk. That’s why the trees make a perfect cone, which actual conifers do not actually do in the wild. It’s just a sculpted heap of rope, nails, and dead tree.

Sure, I can dig how the ritualized slaughter of an evergreen tree represents the rebirth of life in the middle of winter in a Germanic paganistic sort of way. But do you really have to mutilate the tree too?


Pictures of Big Bend

Here’s some pictures I took while visiting Big Bend last month. People keep telling me that Big Bend is beautiful. I dunno. I guess there are uglier places in America, particularly if you count a lot of the urban areas like Dallas.

Here for instance is the Rio Grande as seen from the road between Lajitas and Presidio. I somehow angled the camera so that the image looks sideways no matter what the orientation.
Rio Grande Canyon
By the way, Presidio? Not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Here’s a picture of some mountains, taken during the ten minutes in which Texas is beautiful. And when I say “mountains” I really mean what passes for mountains in Texas: big piles of naked dirt. Considering this is Terlingua, they may actually be tailings from a mercury mine.

The place where we stayed had a lot of debris just lying around.

Here’s some piles of rock:

But I did get some relaxation in.


MetroRail on the Weekend

I’ve written a lot about the Austin train system. Let’s face it, I’m a public transportation groupie. So I was pleased to see that our commuter train is now running on Friday and Saturday evenings. In which case it stops being a commuter train and starts being a drunk train. But it’s another step in the direction of Austin being an actual city and not just a bunch of houses connected by highways.

I caught a picture of the train as it barreled through the SXSW crowds one Saturday afternoon.

I think this is the only picture I took during SXSW.


Electric Drive Tiny Car

The Car2Go car share service has added a couple of electric vehicles to its fleet. I’d been seeing them around town, but it was a while before I passed one that was available for rent. I didn’t particularly need to use the service at the time, but how could I pass by an electric vehicle and not try it out?

The performance wasn’t that much different from the normal tiny car experience. I had the window rolled down, so I could hear the whispering whine of its little motors responding to my slightly demanding calls for more acceleration.

After about fifteen dollars of joy riding I left it at the curb.


Close Encounters with Nature on a Porch

Austin has had some spring rains, and with that comes the renewal of life and stuff. I was helping a friend put away some trash on his porch, and we found a chameleon hiding in a crumpled piece of butcher paper. I tried to catch it, but it immediately jumped onto my shirt. Don’t worry, the lizard survived without any problems, he didn’t even lose his tail.

I was impressed with the speed in which he changed from the brown of the butcher paper to the bright green that largely failed to match the color of my shirt. It couldn’t have taken him more than twenty seconds. And when he fell on the ground an took shelter behind a bicycle tire, he returned to a brown colors just as quickly.

Then last night some friends were hanging out on our porch late at night. The evenings are still cool around here. And then we had a visit from a giant moth making a spastic leap at the porch light. It repeatedly fluttered against the backs of necks, or buzzed the tender flesh around ears and throat.

I had to grab it and carry it to someone else’s porchlight. The light on the porch was dim, so the photo doesn’t do the beauty of its feather wings justice. It felt a little like a baby bird in the palm of my hand, soft and furry and maybe just a bit warm.

I found myself stroking its wings and singing the Mothra song.

And yes, I know the Mothra song.

sights, Uncategorized

The High Price of Taco Signs

When I was at the grocery store I saw this sign and took a picture. No good reason for it, I just thought it was kinda funny and taken generally a repudiation of all those bastard vegans.
taco sign
But then a manager yelled at me. “You can’t take pictures in the store.” No explanation why. Is it a homeland security issue? Do they not want people to know what products they offer? No clue. I guess over-weight grocery store managers just have to yell sometimes.


Weird Austin House

I’ve been biking to work a lot lately, and I make it a point to bike a slightly different route every day. So I tend to see some odd things, this being Austin and pretty weird and all.

I saw this house on the south side, just a little further south than the nice parts of Travis Heights. It seems like a perfectly ordinary, and even dull, cinderblock house. But someone seems to have gone wild with the paint.
weird austin house