I took this picture on the train station on my daily commute. There are four problem species in the picture: Asian bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, bamboo and Concord grapes. Of the four, only the grapes are native.
For us, this year is a particularly bad one for bittersweet. We’re finding it everywhere. They Gypsy moths, which seemed to like everything, leave bittersweet alone. We’re finding it pretty much anywhere there’s any kind of shrubbery.
Different vines use different methods of gaining a foothold. Grapes have tendrils that curl around a base. Poison ivy—one of my particular favorites—actually bores its roots into the barks of the trees it parasitizes. I don’t know if it actually vampirizes the tree but it’s creepy to watch a poisonous plant stick itself right into the bark like some snarling alien.
Bittersweet is just as nasty. It grows around whatever it’s based on, encircling and eventually strangling it. It’s quite prevalent up here in the northeast. I’ve driven sections of highway where both sides are covered in rounded mounds of bittersweet, their searching tendrils sticking out like triffids.
The good news is they’re non-toxic so you can pull them up by hand—and you have to pull them up. They’re like Hydra: cut off a limb and two more shall take its place.
But these are just the visible aspects of a larger problem. The US has a real problem with invasive organisms. In large part, it’s a self-inflicted wound.
This goes back to the very beginning of the United States. Earthworms were not native to the northern US since the last ice age. The result was deep beds of leaf litter and a rich understory. Enter the lowly earthworm brought over by English colonists in their fruit trees. Notice the lack of deep leaf litter in the area.
Not to mention sparrows and starlings. Sparrows were at least introduced here in an ill conceived attempt to control the linden moth. Ah, but the starling, a relatively ugly bird with noisy habits, was introduced because the American Acclimatization Society thought the USA should have all of Shakespeare’s birds.
There is also the Burmese python. Who would have thought it would have thrived in Florida? I used to have a Burmese but I, like a lot of other people, found it got too big and so I gave it back to the guy I bought it from. He had a 23 and 24 foot pair. They lived in the first floor of his house. These were big enough to eat him.
But my own personal favorite is pampas grass—which you can still buy! Up here if you drive by a marsh that should have an abundance of native grasses and cattails, you’ll see unbroken pampas grass. Nothing eats it. Nothing nests in it. It’s the Styrofoam of the plant kingdom.
It’s interesting that we in the New World seem to get the short end of the stick with invaders. It turns out that the New World has a significantly shallower evolutionary history than the Old World. See here and here.) I’m not sure why that is. When I read the original article I didn’t see an explanation. Could it be that the New World is the site of the Cretaceous meteor extinction event? Is it size—the Old World has Europe, Asia and Africa. We have North and South America connected by a fragile thread. Not clear.
Invasions are rarely pleasant for the invaders. For example, the brown marmorated stink bug destroys fruits and vegetables because it can reproduce without problems. Why? Because back in China, the bugs original home, there’s a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs on it. The larva hollow out the bug like United Fruit did Central America.
This is a pattern. Species get transported here and do well because they do not have the same predators they did back home. Birds and turtles will eat Gypsy moth larva but with the numbers produced, they can’t keep up. Thank you, Étienne Trouvelot.
Sometimes, I find this sort of thing discouraging. Okay, we’re poisoning the planet but putting out CO2, methane and mercury introduces passive problems into the system. Sure, it’s bad. But the CO2 molecules don’t go out there and make more CO2 molecules. Starlings and pythons are active agents. They’re the equivalent of Von Neumann or Berserker machines.
But from bittersweet to buckthorn to bullfrogs, human beings are one of the most successful couriers in biological history. We’re just going to have to live with it.
Interesting side links.
- 5 Invasive Species You Should Know
- China Eants to Eat Denmark’s Invasive Oysters
- Robots vs Lionfish and here
NY Invasive Species
Invasive Plants in Massachusetts
- Invasive Species in the USA
I was going to write about the Eastern Washington channeled scablands, but this article from National Geographic says it all; how they were formed and the scientific squabble over how they were formed. Also the photos accompanying the article are Nat Geo spectacular.
I could also write about Mount St Helens, one of the other catastrophic events that re-shaped 200 square miles of landscape in a few minutes, also featured in a National Geographic issue that I still own.
There is Crater Lake, formerly Mount Mazama. The Klamath tribe observed and recorded the explosive eruption that collapsed the volcano about 5600 years B.C.E. as an epic battle between the god of the underworld and the sky god.
Our house is situated on the Duwamish River, the blue-collar end of the Green River where it becomes a working water-way. We sit between two ancient Mount Rainier lahars. The Green originates at the foot of the mountain, and will send a wall of water, timber, the houses of Orting, and boulders down our valley when it goes off.
But there is nothing like the scablands. I’ve seen a lot of western drylands, from Death Valley to Canyonlands, where natural forces worked to fashion landscapes into the twisted and vast: salted plains, carven hoodoos, sandstone arches, golden canyons. But Dry Falls, Pothole Coulee, and Palouse Falls are eerie. To imagine walls of water channeling ancient lava deposits, smashing them to chunks and carrying these chunks hundreds of miles to spill into the Columbia basin and hurl them out to sea is just about impossible.
No evidence of human habitation has been found in or around Glacial Lake Missoula or the scablands, nor in my quick research for this blog, did I uncover a Native American explanation of what caused the massive floods. But I can only imagine that it was quite a fight.
I'm not going to embarrass them in public because they do try so hard and are quick to fix broken things when I bring them to their attention.
It's just that, by now, I'd hope they'd just email me, "Hey, Siderea, we'll be fucking up your email at this future date and time. We'll be around on Twitter until this subsequent date and time. Please be available during this window to exercise your account and let us know what we've broken this time."
Instead, I email them in response to the planned outage announcement and say, "Hey, what can we do in advance to make this work?" and they're like "nothing, it's all going to go perfectly!" and I'm like, "ooookay, when exactly will you be flipping the switch, (so I know when to check on you, but I don't say this part)?" and they're like, "oh, sometime on that weekend." *throws hands in the air*
(I miss nyip.net so hard.)
If I were for some reason forced to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a hotel, I would go to the Fogo Island Inn, off the northern coast of Newfoundland.
Or maybe a less ridiculously posh place with bonus icebergs, the Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat, Greenland.
I remind myself that I've already got a weekend booked in Iceland on my way home to the States in December. And I can sit and enjoy views of the cold sea from a lovely steaming hotpot at any number of municipal pools. And my room probably has a view of the harbor!
But that's a long ways off. I'm pondering whether to plan an August long weekend somewhere in the UK, and whether it would be worth the faff to travel somewhere more northerly, as opposed to just going to Brighton or something. I'm very fond of Scarborough. I also have this weird desire to see the Isle of Man after watching the national road race championships a few weeks ago.
Also worth pointing out that I'm going to Saint Petersburg at the end of August, and perhaps that counts as northerly if not quite with an unobstructed ocean view? I'm rather tempted by Kronstadt...
Meanwhile, we are getting to know Xia Dong, Princess Nihuang’s bestie, who still refuses to speak to Prince Jing. She is loyal and honest and a fierce warrior. (And she has a very, very bumpy ride ahead of her.)
Finally, Princess Nihuang is confused and intrigued by this reclusive scholar who has the power to send military aid to a province on the other side of the continent, and yet who refuses to set foot in a falling-down house . . . and we see the building emotional cost to MC when spending more time with the princess and with Jing.
The next few eps are the midpoint of act one, and reach a climax I thought really intense on the first watch. I couldn’t believe that the intensity was going to scale upward exponentially—but it does. And by intensity I don’t mean climbing body counts, which enervate me fast. I mean real, personal stakes. Emotional cost. Political layers with real cost. So much intensity, so much beauty.
( Read more... )
In the meantime, an interesting discussion, which I hope to wring another BVC blog post out of. (It's getting hard to figure out something to write, but I committed to it, so . . . besides, it's good for me to test my ideas against others. Too easy to get locked inside my head.)
Anyway, the discussion subject was words you don't use. I don't necessarily mean cuss words you avoid, but words that have too much freight for whatever reason. Like, the discussion got started when someone mentioned that when we were growing up, nobody ever said the word 'cancer' or wrote it. Sick, ill, other euphemisms, but she felt that there was this tremendous fear around the word because it was always a death sentence, especially as the constant cigarette atmosphere around us started catching up with people at not very old ages. Saying it was impolite, like saying pregnant (expecting was the word back then), but also there was a kind of superstition like mentioning it would invite it.
Another person said she refuses to use the word 'literally' because she hears it so much, usually used wrong, that is, as an emphasizer, which she sees as sloppy language.
A third person at that discussion said that that was weird, and why avoid any word?
So I was sitting on a muddy path in a wooded area because of reasons (ok, exhausted after climbing) when I saw movement and a tiny thing scurrying past me. I figured that glimpse was all I'd see, but I turned round to see where it'd gone and it was on the path on the other side of me, and with great caution so as not to startle it I managed to dig my phone out of my coat pocket:
(There's nothing to give a sense of scale, but the shrew is a few centimetres long. It makes mice look big.)
( Cut for blurry close-ups and blurry worm death )
It's challenge time!
Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.
Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!
Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!
Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.
I have STUFF. It accumulates. Being a frugal, responsible person, I kept a lot of it because "it might be useful" or "somebody else might find it useful" or "I could give it away on Freecycle" or "I could sell it on Ebay". And I did none of the above. None.
The effort and stress of listing something on Ebay has obviously been too great for me to summon up the energy to do. Likewise for Freecycle. This gives me much guilt, because putting things into landfill when they could be recycled is BAD. BAD KA! BAD BAD BAD! I have thus been caught between feeling guilty if I threw it away, and feeling stressed if I didn't. Because Stuff Taking Up Space is getting to really stressful levels for me. I have all these craft materials! I need to put them somewhere! I'm running out of space!
I have finally said "enough!" (or "too much", really). Forget Ebay. Forget Freecycle. Forget them all. One phone call, and I have booked a Hard Rubbish collection. My hope is that people round about will take at least some things off the pile before it gets collected by the Local Council. Shove my guilt, the stress has just gotten TOO MUCH. Stuff it!
So. Hard rubbish. Today I've been going around the house gathering stuff and clearing away stuff. Hopefully my nephew will help me tomorrow to put heavy things outside on the kerb.
( Read more... ) It will be good to get rid of it all.
Since retiring from teaching creative writing, I have not missed the teetering piles of stories and revisions of stories and revisions of revisions of stories to critique, but I find that I do miss leading workshops and mostly Talking About Stories. So I was looking for a book club to join. Then I found out that Kathy L. Murphy, the flamboyant founder of Beauty and the Book and 727 chapters of her Pulpwood Queens Book Club, was going to be returning to Bellingham, WA, to jump start a chapter here. The catch? I would have to wear a tiara….
This was my initial reaction, given my usual active-outdoor attire:
But I went to the meeting to learn more, and was reminded not to judge a book by its cover (even though Kathy acknowledged that book sales are driven by covers). She grew up as a tomboy in small-town Kansas, with a “running wild” outdoors upbringing somewhat like my own: we both had ex-military fathers with four daughters, and all of us daughters were put through physical drills to be tough. But Kathy’s mother, unlike my own, had beauty queen ambitions. She forced Kathy to compete in a humiliating beauty pageant, complete with tiara, when she was in high school.
Kathy reports that she escaped family difficulties through beloved books. Continuing her lifelong love of reading, as an adult she moved to Texas and worked in a bookstore, then landed her dream job as a publisher’s rep. When industry upheavals forced layoffs, she was unemployed and looking for direction. Her sister reminded her that she’d financed her college education by learning hairdressing, so she opened the first combo hair salon and bookstore, Beauty and the Book. The first Pulpwood Queens Book Club chapter followed, an opportunity to support authors and communities of women. Kathy humorously “made lemons into lemonade” by turning her early beauty-queen pageant embarrassment into campy fun. Book club members enjoy dressing in outrageous fashions and wearing their tiaras, because “every woman has a right to show her inner and outer beauty and say what she thinks.”
As word got out about the club’s sponsorship of deserving but not-always-recognized authors, more and more chapters opened around the U.S. and internationally. Kathy became known as a “taste-maker” as she choose the year’s reading lists for all the clubs, and many of the obscure titles she chose went on to large reprint sales and film deals.
She was approached by a division of Hachette Book Group to write a memoir, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. From the book:
In January 2000, Beauty and the Book, the only combination beauty salon and bookstore in the country and maybe even in the world, opened its doors…. My crazy little venture succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. If someone had said to me back then that in five years I would move Beauty and the Book from my rural home to a historic house in downtown Jefferson, Texas, I would have said, “No way.” If someone had told me that my book club, the Pulpwood Queens of East Texas, which started with six brave women, would grow to chapters running all across the United States and many foreign countries, I would have told him, “You are flat crazy.” If someone had told me that I would work with companies like Redken and International Paper to promote literacy in communities throughout East Texas, that I would get to hang out with the writers [like Pat Conroy] who have for so long been my idols, and—the icing on my cake—that I would make an appearance on ‘Good Morning America’ with Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson or see myself flashed on the screen during ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ I would have looked him straight in the eye and told him he was plum dee crazy. And yet, these and so many other wonderful things have happened since we opened Beauty and the Book.
I first met Kathy Murphy when she was a speaker at the Chanticleer Authors Conference a couple years ago. https://www.chantireviews.com/
I’m allergic to hair spray, so since the conference was held on May Day that year, I came as the May Queen with a flower crown instead of a tiara.
Chanticleer sponsored Kathy Murphy’s recent return to Bellingham to open our new book club chapter, present a workshop, and speak at our famous local indie bookstore, Village Books. We learned that two of her recent club picks, books she had sponsored and promoted—Same Kind of Different as Me and The Mountain Between Us—will soon be out in feature film versions. The book clubs also undertake service projects such as providing books for underserved schoolchildren, and helping to fund literary centers.
Authors who are fortunate to have their books chosen for the club find hundreds of new readers, and the buzz spreads. My friend J. L. Oakley, whose historical novel of early women in the Pacific Northwest, Timber Rose, was a club pick, reports a strong surge in book orders.
Kathy has a gift of picking stories with heart that resonate with readers across the spectrum. And she has an equal gift for irreverent fun. Her annual “Girlfriends Weekend” in Nacogdoches, Texas, now welcoming male members of the offshoot Timber Guys clubs, mixes silly costume parties and skits with presentations by prominent authors such as Pat Conroy and Alice Hoffman. Friends who have attended report that the community spirit generated, and the forging of friendships around books, are the biggest rewards of joining the groups.
Anyone can start a chapter in his or her own location by registering at www.beautyandthebook.com I’m polishing my new tiara and turning pages before our first club meeting in Bellingham!
photo credits: Kathy L. Murphy, Kiffer Brown, and J.L. Oakley
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara is counting down the weeks before she returns to Greece this fall for more research on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect.
( Talk about my Mom's employment situation, which includes talk of politics and racism )
( Media I'm consuming: the Holocaust, and politics in the Balkans )
I have gotten out of the habit of chasing down fan vids and would like to download some to my laptop for enjoyment purposes. I find them to be a lovely pick-me-up--they don't necessarily have to be cheerful vids. But I probably can't deal with extreme gore or realistic violence (I've seen half an extremely well done Hannibal vid that I had to nope out of because I am chicken).
Some vids already in my collection that I really like, to give you an idea (in no particular order):
- bironic's "Starships"
- bopradar's "I Kissed a Girl"
- Lithium Doll's "All These Things"
- laurashapiro's "Ing"
- giandujakiss's "A Charming Man"
- obsessive24's "Cuckoo" and "Remember the Name"
- shati's "Hope on Fire"
- sisabet's "Cowboy" and "Two Words"
Fandoms I especially like watching/or have some clue about:
- I like the visuals of Game of Thrones although I've only watched one episode (have read most of the extant books, though)
- The Good Place
- recent Star Wars
- The Great Queen Seondeok
- The Good Wife
That being said, if the vid can be understood without having seen the show, I'm happy to watch it. :)