Daily Happiness

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:48 am
torachan: aradia from homestuck (aradia)
[personal profile] torachan
1. Had a pretty relaxing day off. I wish I'd spent less of it practically falling asleep at my desk, but oh well.

2. We had chipotle tuna sandwiches for dinner tonight. (Mine also had avocado, sprouts, and cucumber on it, for extra tastiness.)

3. It's so chilly tonight I actually have on a sweater. (Though sadly we are in for some hot weather in a few days.)

4. I've never seen all three kitties on the living room shelves together before, so I'm really glad I was able to get a pic!

Finished TAZ: Balance

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:05 am
owlmoose: (moose sign)
[personal profile] owlmoose
So I kind of blew through the rest of TAZ, including all the freely available live shows except the one that posted today (but not the two Flophouse episodes). I am probably not sucked in enough to shell out the five bucks a month to get at the bonus content -- paying for one D&D show seems to be my limit -- but who knows. From Crystal Kingdom right through the end, the story and characters grabbed me in their teeth and refused to let me go, and I found it one of my more satisfying listening experiences in awhile.

I have a lot to say, but most all of it is spoilers. I am VERY glad that I was not at all spoiled for the main story arc, because watching it all unfold for the players as well as myself was a huge aspect of my enjoyment. So putting a spoiler cut here.

Spoilers through the finale. )

It'll be interesting to see how things change when they start playing their new games next month. I expect that I'll enjoy whatever the Critical Role gang gets up to next, in large part because I've already seen them do other things with their various one-shots, so I feel confident that my attachment is as much to the players (and especially the DM) as to the specific team of Vox Machina. I haven't gotten the opportunity to know the McElroys quite as well yet, so I'm not sure whether the changes will take with me, especially if someone else is GMing. But I'll certainly stick with it, at least for now. I look forward to discovering what direction the boys go.

Weekly Reading

Sep. 21st, 2017 06:14 pm
torachan: (Default)
[personal profile] torachan
What are you currently reading?
I'm about a third of the way through on Satan: A Biography and enjoying it so far.

I've been finding it hard to make progress on Meddling Kids, though, as despite being really excited by the premise, the book itself is kind of disappointing so far. The writing itself is not great, and the story is not making up for it. I'm hoping it'll get better as it goes along, though.

I also started Beezus and Ramona and am about a third of the way through that, too. I downloaded all the Ramona ebooks a couple years ago to do a reread and then never did, but then iTunes was updated the other day to remove ebooks and apps from the interface, and when I finally figured out how to add ebooks to my phone the new way, I tested it with this book, and then since I wasn't feeling Meddling Kids, just started reading it.

What did you recently finish reading?
Volumes two through five of Giant Days, as well as a bunch of single issues after that (I still have a handful of issues to read before being completely caught up, and then I will be sad because I love this series so much).

What do you think you'll read next?
The rest of Giant Days, for sure, and also volume 10 of You Will Hear the Voice of the Dead came out the other day and I'd already preordered it so it's on my ipad awaiting me.

(no subject)

Sep. 21st, 2017 06:09 pm
meganbmoore: (why trick icons are rare)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 I watched the first season of The Good Place a few weeks back when Netflix added it and the season 2 premiere last night.  It's excellent, but it really is a show best watched knowing nothing but the general premise.  I actually did go in spoiled, due to tumblr fandom's need to gif one actor's perfect comedic timing in the season 1 finale, and it was interesting to see all the clues as I watched it, but I also wish I'd gone in unspoiled.

I'm not usually a fan of sitcoms (including this, I just barely need two hands to count the US sitcoms I've watched as an adult) and this one is rightly loved both by sitcom fans and people who don't usually watch sitcoms.  Season 1 is on Netflix and season 2 is on Hulu, and I think NBC's website has all episodes.

The Good Place: Season 2, Episode 1

Sep. 21st, 2017 12:32 pm
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Absolutely fantastic. Do not click on cut unless you've already seen it. The whole series is streaming on nbc.com.

Read more... )
jesse_the_k: Knitted red heart pulses larger within green and blue square (Beating heart of love GIF)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
Thanks to a [personal profile] liv-triggered happy rabbit-hole I just read Marissa Lingen's fabulous post illuminating why most people find the experience of impairment so mystifying.

AND YOU MUST READ IT TOO!

http://mrissa.dreamwidth.org/720690.html

if you need convincing: an excerpt )
bibliofile: Fan & papers in a stack (from my own photo) (Default)
[personal profile] bibliofile
Just took this back to the library, so I want to mention it before it drops out of my short-term memory. An excellent book, or as [personal profile] jaeleslie put it, "Theodora Goss is a fucking genius."

It starts in London with Mary Jekyll, mixes in mysteries (is Dr. Jekyll still alive?), suitably dismal nuns (caring for Mary's half-sister, Diana Hyde), adds in a bit of Holmes and Watson (on their way to another gruesome murder scene), further explores what Dr. Jekyll was trying to do (oh, and he was an alchemist, and they had this alchemist's society), and goes on from there.

It's not just one girl's quest for anything, though: there's the mystery of whether Mary & Diana's father is still alive. Mary tries to hire Sherlock Holmes for the task. There are other interesting people that they meet, especially the women. There is some science involved, and sexism (c'mon, it's the Victorians). A bunch of nuns trying to teach poor women some work skills to save them from sin, in suitably dreary conditions. And a couple of ghastly murders occur, too.

If this sounds anything like your cup of tea, READ THIS BOOK. Like Jae said: Theodora Goss is a fucking genius.

Daily Happiness

Sep. 20th, 2017 11:19 pm
torachan: (Default)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I had to go in to work earlier than I'd hoped, which meant I didn't get much sleep, but I did manage to get out of there by midafternoon, so that was good. And I have tomorrow off.

2. Carla arrived back safe and sound tonight.

3. We watched last week's Rick and Morty, which I hadn't seen yet because Carla was out of town and I was too lazy to watch it on my own. It was pretty good, but not as awesome as the week before or Pickle Rick.

4. Jasper is such a cutie.

Mishmash post

Sep. 21st, 2017 01:04 am
umadoshi: (kittens - Claudia - thoughtful)
[personal profile] umadoshi
--I want to say it feels weird to think that I'm going back to the office tomorrow, but it doesn't seem real enough yet to feel weird. (Having had only something like a week of work in the spring is not really helping. I'd barely sat down at my desk and then we were finished!) What does feel weird is thinking--hoping!--that when I get home tomorrow there'll be a window where there is now a solid wall.


--The first few days back are usually pretty reasonable. (I could conceivably even be home for supper tomorrow evening!) Thankfully, today I was able to finish and submit the half-volume that's due tomorrow, so that's not hanging over me...but I'll need to go pick up my and [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose's con passes, and then on Friday, no matter what time we wrap up at the office, I'll be going straight from there to the convention. I even made it as far as looking over the schedule and making notes this evening, although in practice I rarely make it to more than a small percentage of the panels and talks that catch my eyes. So many people. O_O (The "rarely" applies to cons and similar things in general, as this is only my second Hal-Con.)


--When I was poking around in my tags the other day to see if I could figure out when I stopped bouldering, I came across this 2013 post about Claudia from when she and Jinksy were about five months old. Oh, my kitten. *^^* (*finds baby!Claudia!kitten icon*)


--I have this half-formed theory that Casual Job is the appropriate excuse to actually start figuring out lipstick, since I really haven't, despite buying a bunch in Toronto. The defense I have to offer is that I'm usually at home living in pajamas when Casual Job isn't on (I'm very glad I'm not one of the many people who needs to Get Dressed to successfully work at home--although if it'd help my focus, you bet I'd do it), and when I go out it's usually either quick errands (hard to convince myself to bother) or to have dinner out with someone (and I know people eat and drink with lipstick on all the time, but it turns out I find it intimidating to consider needing to immediately touch it up while out if it smears/wears off).

Scanlations: Musume no Iede ch. 16

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:17 pm
torachan: (musume no iede)
[personal profile] torachan


Title: Musume no Iede
Original Title: 娘の家出 (Musume no Iede)
Author: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Jump X
Genre: Seinen
Status in Japan: 6 volumes, complete
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations + muge
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates

Summary: When Mayuko's mom announces she's getting remarried, Mayuko runs away to live with her dad and his boyfriend. This heartwarming slice-of-life series follows Mayuko and her family and friends as their stories interweave.

Chapter Summary: A girl named Ako has a crush on the single father of her little brother's preschool classmates. But after planning a birthday party for her brother just so she can see this guy, he ends up unable to make it due to work and sends his sister, Niina, instead.



Chapter 16: Love Me on the A-Side

Movie notes .

Sep. 20th, 2017 06:57 pm
sasha_feather: Black, white, and red image of woman with futuristic helmet (Sci Fi Woman)
[personal profile] sasha_feather
Logan Lucky - in theaters, PG-13

A heist movie about Southern, redneck-type folks who plan and carry out a complicated robbery. Very little violence (one bar fight), little in the way of bad language, no explicit material. Pretty light, fun, and clever. Channing Tatum is the mastermind of the heist; his brother is played by Adam Driver. Daniel Craig cleary had a lot of fun playing a bomb expert with a thick Southern accent. This movie didn't have a lot of substance, but it was fun. My main irritation is that Adam Driver plays a guy with a partial arm amputation from a war wound. How much money did they spend on CGI for this, and also he took away a great opportunity for an actual disabled person to play this part. There are a couple of jokes involving the prostetic that didn't feel mean to me, but might feel mean to someone else.

Silver Linings Playbook

I loved the beginning and middle of this movie. Bradley Cooper is tremendous in it-- he takes a character that could be (and sometime is) creepy and unlikeable, and makes that character sympathetic. I liked that they showed some of the realities of mental illness. I liked the friendship between his character and Jennifer Lawrence's character. I did not like the ending, which seemed to wrap everything up in too neat of a bow-- a happily ever after sort of ending, when you know it isn't going to be so easy for anyone.

What Happened to Monday - Netflix

A dystopian film set in the near future, in an unnamed European city. People live under an oppressive government, the main crux being a strict one-child policy. Seven identical sisters live in secret, sharing one legit identity as Karen Settman. They each get to go out one day a week, the day they are named after. At the end of the day, each catches the others up on what they need to know to keep up at their high-powered job. One evening, Monday doesn't come home, and the others must find out what has happened. Noomi Rapace plays all of the sisters. It's fun to watch them being badass and fighting, but there is quite a lot of violence and mayhem. Content notes for child harm and death; violence; gore. I enjoyed this film quite a lot.
jesse_the_k: mirror reflection of 1/3 of my head, creating a central third eye, a heart shaped face, and a super-pucker mouth (Default)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
Kim Nielsen is a disability historian. Her one-volume A Disability History of the United States provides an overview of living with disability in these colonies from founding to 1990. What particularly interested me is how non-white-male bodies were defined as disabled, and then how the divisions changed.

http://www.beacon.org/A-Disability-History-of-the-United-States-P836.aspx

On Worldcat in print, braille, and ebook

On her author blog, her essay "God’s Real Name: On Rescues, Ableism, and Unexpected Empathy" explores her reaction to a homeless man who blesses her.

begin quote
My own ableism, my own class squeamishness, and bigotry, my interpretation of his religiosity as distasteful insanity, had led me to dismiss the man. I had excluded him from our joint rescue plan--indeed, had understood him as something to be rescued from--and ignored his offer to gift me with help and rescue.
quote ends


http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2014/03/gods-real-name-on-rescues-ableism-and-unexpected-empathy.html
umadoshi: (kittens - sleeping)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Fannish/Geeky/SFF Things

"Seanan McGuire on What She Learned From October, Plus a Sweeps!" The interview is about what writing Toby's series (AKA her first novel and series) taught her, and the contest, which is open until September 30, is for all eleven books to date.

"Transcript for OTW 10th Anniversary Chat with Seanan McGuire & Martha Wells".

"Exclusive Interview and ARC Giveaway: In Other Lands author, Sarah Rees Brennan". This contest has closed, alas, but I really liked the interview (and its entirely appropriate attention to mermaids): "My protagonist Elliot is a huge nerd, so when he arrives in a magical world he immediately asks ‘Show me the mermaids!’ rather than ‘Explain to me this strange word… magic…’ and mermaids are for him a shorthand for him wanting to behold the many wonders on offer in a magic land–in other words, harpies, unicorns and mermaids, oh my. He then keeps asking about the mermaids, having lessons about them, researching them, getting different answers about mermaids from different people, until he finally does meet one–with consequences I will not spoil for those who do not yet know!"

"Sci-fi author Martha Wells on writing a series about a robot that calls itself Murderbot".

"‘SHEroes’: Wonder Woman meets Bionic Woman". "Lindsay Wagner, aka Jamie Sommers or “The Bionic Woman,” posted her photo with Lynda Carter, aka Diana Prince or “Wonder Woman,” on her Facebook page recently and, as expected, fans went wild with nostalgia."

"Superheroes for the Jewish New Year". [Book Riot]

Over at [dreamwidth.org profile] ladybusiness, [dreamwidth.org profile] renay posted a great interview with Kate Elliott.

"Present-Day Devices as Props". "Every Star Trek production requires a large number of props to act as technical devices of Starfleet or of aliens. There are custom prop designs for standard phasers, tricorders or communicators. But in most cases there is a need for additional props that either serve a specific purpose in the story or are used as generic futuristic decoration. Several of the props that could be seen are actually slightly modified devices of the 20th/21st century. In particular, game consoles have been used repeatedly for handheld scanners."

Sarah Gailey (author of the hippo-wrangling AUs River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow) currently has an unrelated serial, The Fisher of Bones, running in Fireside Magazine, who've just announced that the whole story is now available for preorder (and...get the ending before folks who're reading it/choose to keep reading it in serialization, which seems a bit odd to me, but sure).


TV/movie news

"Linda Hamilton Set to Return to 'Terminator' Franchise".

"MISS. FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES Movie Is a Go, Thanks to Kickstarter".

"“Madam Secretary” Showrunner Barbara Hall Developing CIA Drama for CBS" about "a multigenerational family of spies."

"The real hero of Netflix's "The Defenders" is the way Jessica Jones throws very heavy things".

"REPORT: Marvel Studios Developing a Power Pack Feature Film".


Miscellaneous

"Dictionary of the Oldest Written Language–It Took 90 Years to Complete, and It’s Now Free Online". [Open Culture]

"A 68 Hour Playlist of Shakespeare’s Plays Being Performed by Great Actors: Gielgud, McKellen & More". [Open Culture, 2015]

"Street Artist Paints Fantastic Fake Shadows Under Objects Perplexing Sidewalk Pedestrians Walking By".
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
I've been watching MBC's latest sageuk, The King in Love, which is also the latest in the recent trend of youth fusion romance sageuks, though that little subgenre seems to have run its course.  (Hopefully the fact that Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People is the only sageuk this year that's really considered a success will influence future sageuks, though they seem to be over and done with for the year, unless we count Live Up to Your Name, which is very good, but also a time travel drama set more in the present than in the past.)  For the most part, it's been enjoyable, though I'm a couple weeks behind because it looked like it was headed toward one of several endings that I would have considered dealbreakers for the whole show.  (I haven't watched it yet, but I do know it does have my preferred ending, so I should catch up with it this week.)  The one area where it completely fails, unfortunately, is in one of its central conceits:  presenting a love triangle in which a woman loves  two men, and it's unclear which she loves more.  Discussing possible endings with a friend reminded me of the love triangle in one of JTBC's few sageuk outtings, Maids, which also had a triangle in which a woman is in love with two men, but does it much better.



spoilers for both series )

Hands across the ocean

Sep. 20th, 2017 02:00 pm
rydra_wong: The display board of a train reads "this train is fucked". (this train is fucked)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Thanks to [personal profile] cesy for the heads-up -- Hope not Hate have launched a US site:

Hope Not Hate (Twitter: [twitter.com profile] hopenothate_USA)

By way of making a dramatic entry, this seems to have been timed to co-ordinate with the announcement of their epic undercover project: Patrik Hermansson, an extremely brave young Swedish grad student, infiltrated the alt-right and lived undercover in the movement in London and the US for nearly a year, wired for sound and carrying hidden cameras. This ultimately included being at Charlottesville and witnessing the car attack that killed Heather Heyer.

The documentary is coming soon, and the comprehensive report on the international alt-right (for which the infiltration was part of the research) is here:

The International Alternative Right

News reports:

New York Times: Undercover With the Alt-Right

Raw Story: ‘It’s gonna end with concentration camps’: Alt-right executive boasts of a future Europe with Hitler on their money

As you will have noticed, I love HnH. They have a long history working against fascist and far right groups in the UK, through research, infiltration, legal action, anti-racist/xenophobic education and campaigning, and their work seems to have naturally become international as the "alt-right" has (e.g. with the "Defend Europe" boat). I think their expertise (and the willingness of their reporters to put their necks on the line, holy fuck) will be a formidable addition to the US scene.

Also they will allow you to give them money to help sue Nigel Farage, and honestly I would love them for that alone. PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, PLEASE.

Daily Happiness

Sep. 20th, 2017 03:25 am
torachan: john from garfield wearing a party hat and the text "this is boring with hats" (this is boring with hats)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I was at work from 9am to after 2am, but inventory is over and I don't have to think about it for another six months. Also unless I get an emergency call or something tomorrow morning, I'm planning on only going in for a few hours in the afternoon to do my ordering and anything else that urgently needs to get done.

2. I walked in to see Chloe being super cute on the couch.

rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
The Guardian: Medieval porpoise 'grave' on Channel island puzzles archaeologists

I love everything about this story:

Archaeologists digging at an island religious retreat have unearthed the remains of a porpoise that, mystifyingly, appears to have been carefully buried in its own medieval grave.

MAYBE THE PORPOISE WAS A MONK, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THAT.

... and now I eagerly await the medieval monk were-porpoise shifter romance.

For a different kind of wonderful:

The Fader: This Artist Is Filling London With Murals Of Extraordinary Black Women

The art is gorgeous, but what I really love is that he's portraying his female friends, people who aren't famous but are ordinary/extraordinary people - a youth worker, a psychotherapist, and so on. And I love the shots of the murals with the real women posed next to them.
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
The GOP broke off bipartisan talks with Dems to shore up ACA's insurance markets, and now they're trying - again - to unilaterally repeal ACA and take with it a huge chunk of Medicaid (which will, of course, completely destabilize our entire healthcare system, but that's where we are).

You can find more information by googling Graham-Cassidy, but here's one link.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham - one of the bill's sponsors - got on Breitbart radio (yes, now we're integrating Breitbart into GOP mainstream, fun times ahead) to urge listeners to call in support of the new bill, so it's VERY IMPORTANT that the Senate be flooded with opposition calls.

Here is one script and information resource.
pameladean: (Default)
[personal profile] pameladean

This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.

 

On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.

 http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Odonata/lere.html

 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:

 https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-horsemint

 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenucha_virginica
 
There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.

 

Pamela

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