Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Lichen, lichen, fungi, squirrel!

There was a time, many years ago, when I wanted to study fungi and lichen. Mostly mushrooms. Mushrooms, if you ask me, are just so cute! But I got sidetracked. Now I'm studying birds...as much as taking pictures of them and looking them up in my Sibley Field Guide to Birds is studying them.

Anyway, I was looking through some of my photos today, deleting most and selecting a few to post on my iStockPhoto page, and I came across a shoot from Turkey Creek done in October of 2017. (Oh, last year...you seem so far away now.)

I wanted to share the lichen!

Lichen is defined as "a simple, slow-growing plant that typically forms a low, crust-like, leaf-like or branching growth on rocks walls and trees."

So, this is lichen:

If you want to know all there is to know about lichen, you can read all about it on its Wikipedia page.

Fungi is defined as "any of about 99,000 known species of organisms of the kingdom fungi, which includes the yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms." Seriously, rusts and smuts? I really need to consider getting to know fungi better.

And, here is some fungi:

I don't know what kinds of lichen and fungi I'm showing you because I never learned. And there are so many! It will take a while to find their names.

But one thing is for certain, if you learn the difference between lichen and fungi you can really impress your friends when you're out on a nature walk. Unless your friends are smart, in which case you'll just sound like a tool.

More lichen:

Another thing I tell myself I'm going to learn about is flowers, especially the wild variety. I think I've learned that this is a morning glory:

But as I haven't really studied, I could be wrong. You'd let me know, wouldn't you? Here are a few other cool pics I have in that bunch.

I have no clue what these yellow flowers are.

And you never know when you're going to come across some cool trash in a sanctuary.

Here's a bee on another flower whose name I don't know. (Do you say "whose" for plants? If not, what do you say?)

And as promised, a squirrel.

Thanks for spending time looking at my Florida pics.

Monday, August 20, 2018


There it was...on Facebook. The call. Who, it asked, was in charge of planning the Class of '79 forty year reunion?

Strangely enough, my first thought was, "Didn't we already have the 40th reunion?" So, my second thought, "Are we that old?" doesn't really apply. Apparently I thought we were even older than we are.

So there it is. Next year, 2019, it will be forty years after I graduated from Titusville High School. Ah, memories... Hmph.

I do have some memories that are...funny, I suppose. I had the coolest pair of peach-colored bell-bottoms. Huge bells! HUGE! God, I miss those pants. And the tiny little body that fit into them. I got crapped on by a bird flying overhead one time and the dookie ran down the back of my hair. That was nice. I cried during school. A few times. I got yelled at by a teacher for writing "EAT ME" on the blackboard, really, really big. (I didn't understand why it was a bad thing to do. I guess I saw Animal House but just didn't get it.)

Our Spanish teacher ordered a banner with the mascot on it, the THS Terrier--grrrrrr!--and got a Scotty instead.

The Fightin' Scotties!
Paddi, by La Sequencia at Flickr

I didn't see that; she just told us about it. And one time, the club I was in was having a practice for our homecoming skit at Riverview so I went to the school, because the old section was called Riverview--it was originally Riverview Elementary--but they meant [the newer] Riverview Elementary, which I didn't even know existed. So, I didn't make it, obviously.

High School was just plain weird. And the reunions aren't much different. There you are, older, wiser, wondering what the hell that was all about. And there they are, still the same, it seems. Still the cliques of popular girls. The studs who are now fat and bald but think they're still studs. The nerds who are now doctors and the potheads...still chill. But everyone is really nice. And they've probably changed as much as I have and look at me thinking I'm still the same.

And every year the poster with the pictures of dead grads gets more and more populated.

Honestly, I think I go to the reunions just to show people that I survived.

Anyway, 1979 was an okay year. We killed disco that year with My Sharona.

There was a school shooting in San Diego, early in 1979, and I was hoping I could say it was, like, the first one ever in the US. But...it wasn't. Dear lord was it NOT the first. The first school shooting was in the 1700s. Shit you not. Then there's a long list for the 1800s. Then a list for 1900-1930. After that, it goes by decade. When you get to 2000, you can see the historians were exhausted and stopped listing every single one. Now they just list how many people died in school shootings each year. Shit.

See for yourself at the History of School Shootings in the US.

Anyway, Voyager photos revealed Jupiter's rings in 1979. We got our first Space Shuttle, Columbia, that year. The Happy Meal was introduced. Of course, we had the Unabomber too. Oh, and the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar! I had one. I probably don't anymore. OMG. Off the Wall came out in 1979. It was excellent! Every song a winner.

Jimmy Carter was president. Man, what a sweet guy he was/is. Such a good, honest man. But we had the Iran Hostage Crisis, too.

Okay, so, just to make myself feel really, really old, get this: Chris Pratt was born in 1979!

In 1979, we had soap operas on tv all afternoon. I miss that. We had Eight is Enough, Laverne & Shirley, [Can you believe Lenny is doing that Food: Fact or Fiction show now?] The Love Boat. [I just saw Doc on The Last Sharknado!] Things were so...simple and stupid back then. Lou Grant. Wonder Woman. M*A*S*H.

And movies! The Amityville Horror. The Jerk. The Muppet Movie. And well, Roller Boogie. Maybe not the best year in film. I still haven't seen the Oscar films: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, and Norma Rae. I don't even know what Breaking Away is. I never saw Kramer vs. Kramer, either.

Speaking of Apocalypse Now, did you read about Trump arguing with representatives of Veterans Affairs over whether the film featured Agent Orange or Napalm. What a tool.

Yeah, so. Meh. I graduated high school in 1979. It was an okay year. My hometown is stagnant, if you ask me. But it was an okay place to grow up, I suppose.

I think the best thing about 1979 is the song, 1979. Seriously, one epic song.

Friday, August 17, 2018

I went outside today so you don't have to...

Snowy egret. Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

This morning, we went out to the Viera Wetlands and, like idiots, tried to walk it. It was so ridiculously hot we practically melted. The only reason I don't have a headache and stomachache right now is Red Robin's bacon cheeseburger and garlic fries. The only thing that cures heat exhaustion (and hangovers) is cheeseburgers and fries. (That's not true, by the way...except for the hangover part. They really do help hangovers.)

Limpkin at Viera Wetlands, Veira FL
August 17, 2018

We cut the walk short. Normally, the walk we make is about two miles, if I recall correctly. Today we might have done a mile. So hot. Back in the car, the temp said something stupid like 81°. No friggin' way. It had to be 101°. Add in your humidity factor heat index exchange or whatever wacky thing it is that weather people do and it felt like 115°!

Alligator at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Anyway, wildlife isn't as stupid as we are so we didn't see much. Alligators. Some really cute little ones, but not the smallest ones we've ever seen. Ibis, white and glossy. Red-winged black bird. Tri-colored heron. Snowy egret. Great egret and great blue heron. The usual anhingas. Gallinules with chicks. The two limpkins we always see. Black vultures. Even a red-shouldered hawk that caught and ate a small snake. I guess that's not bad, now that I've listed it out like that.

Gallinule with chicks at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

So, yeah, after taking a second shower (Florida!) we headed out to Red Robin and saw an Ohio license plate. Why would anyone come to Florida from Ohio in the dead of summer? We figure you northern people think we're joking about the heat and humidity. You say to yourselves, "Bah, heat. We know heat up here in O-Hiya-Oh." Well, we hope that dude learned his lesson.

Great blue heron and anhinga.
Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Only the hardiest of folk leave the air conditioning in August in Florida. You know that thing you northerners have called "spring cleaning?" You do that after you've been cooped up all winter and the house needs airing out. Well, in Florida, the closest we come is falleluliah. That's when the weather starts to feel less hot, sometime after Halloween. We might open up some windows and clean. Or we might just open the windows and forget the cleaning.

White Ibis at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

I really hate that beer commercial where the dude digs into a cooler on the beach, pulls out a can and shouts, "Summer is here!" Please. We don't go outside in the summer in Florida. Summer is painfully hot. There's nothing natural about sweating under your bra, folks. I guess I'll admit that if you go to the beach in a bikini you could enjoy a summer day, but you can't drink beer in the Florida sun. You'd die. Seriously. You. Will. Die.

Little gator at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Anyway, we heckled the people sitting outside at Starbucks and Chipotle--Idiots. Isn't bad enough they're drinking coffee or risking getting violently ill? They've got to sit outside in the Florida heat to do it?--and made it safely back home from our safari none the worse for wear. Whatever that means.*

Great egret at Viera Wetlands, Viera FL
August 17, 2018

Stay chill, people. Stay indoors.

*None the worse for wear means "not damaged, harmed, or made worse by something. Sometimes used ironically to indicate that someone or something would be improved by doing something." Hmph.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Out and about and the meaning of life...

Happy, relaxed squirrel.
Erna Nixon Park
August 8, 2018

We visited Erna Nixon Park last weekend. We haven't been there in quite a while. It's a boardwalk path through some natural Florida landscape. That means scrub, marsh, pines, oaks, vines, and maybe a squirrel.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

Typically, parks like this are well peopled and that equals very little wildlife to be seen. People talk. Loud. Why do they talk on a nature walk? I have no idea. Sometimes people yell. Children yell a lot. And people also like to clomp clomp clomp. Maybe they think there are bears and they're trying to scare them away.

Leaf fallen onto the boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 12, 2018

But, despite there being people there when we visited, and they were talking and clomping, we saw quite a few woodpeckers, even a pair of downy, and a blue-gray gnatcatcher chittering away to himself as he went about his business of, apparently, catching gnats.

Pileated Woodpecker
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

I think I'm coming back to something like normal. For so long I've struggled. I continued getting out into nature, but only because we were birding (quite amateur-ly). I could be in a very dark place, sobs just below the surface, but once outside, in the park, surrounded by trees, butterflies, dragonflies, water, and animals, hints of smiles filled my head and very often made it all the way to my lips.

Leaves suspended in spider web in corner of boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

I'm grateful for that. Glad that I was able to get out of myself even for a while.

Upside down woodpecker, probably red-bellied.
Erna Nixon Park, FL
August 8, 2018

But these last few weeks, everything has become brighter. I think I'm actually normal now. Not that there is a normal...not exactly. But I feel what I think should be normal. I don't wake up sad; I don't fight off tears all day waiting until nighttime when I can drug myself back to sleep. Nope. I wake up normal. I remember more dreams. I'm somewhat happy most of the time. Sad occasionally. And spend the day doing something. Several somethings. As opposed to sitting around trying to figure out why this world is such a mess. Sure, it's a mess. But there is good here. And I intend to root it out everywhere I can.

Fallen leaf.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

That's normal.

Munched on leaf.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

So, let's try to keep the raging against the dying of the light (democracy, not my life) to a minimum, kept to its place in the grandiose scheme of things.

Bolt sunk into boardwalk railing.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

So, here's the plan: more blogging. And I have a big schedule for the fall book festival season coming up. I'm getting excited, even though events like these are stressful for introverts like me. But I expect to have a lot of fun. Here's the line up:

Decatur Book Festival. September 1-2, in Decatur, Georgia, of course.
Space Coast Comic Con, in Cocoa, Florida. September 7-9.
Sirens & Scrolls panel kicking of Brevard County Library Con. September 29.
Florida Writers Conference. October 19-21 in Altamonte Springs, FL. Always a great time.
Epcot's Food & Wine Festival. October 25. Not about books, but I'll be blogging!
Cocoa Village Book Fest. November 3, in Cocoa, Florida.
Miami Book Fair, pending, November 16-18 in downtown Miami, Florida.
Amelia Island Book Festival, pending, February 16, 2019, Fernandina Beach, Florida.

That's quite a lot of events!

Green leaves in the sunlight.
Erna Nixon Park, Melbourne, FL
August 8, 2018

Come visit me if you're in those areas at those times! Not only do I have books to sell, but I will have free candy and stickers with bling. BLING!

Shelf fungi. Erna Nixon Park. August 8, 2018

Did I tell you that I've got an account at iStock Photo? I'm looking for some other outlet for photography, but it'll do for now. I mean...other than the stuff I post on social media. The better stuff can be found at my iStock Photo page, though. That's right, sorry folks, you're getting the castoffs.

Downy Woodpecker.
Erna Nixon Park, August 8, 2018

But you're not interested in artsy fartsy anyway, right? Pictures can't all be "compelling" and "imbued with meaning." Sometimes it's just a bird. Nothing wrong with that. Amiright? Of course I am.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Good news...you are nothing

Good news: you're nothing.
Photo by Salvatore Gerace via Flickr

I've been struggling quite a bit lately. I'm supposed to be finding something good in every bad thing that I find myself confronted with. I'm told there is, undoubtedly, something good in everything. I don't agree. That something good might come out of something horrific does not, in any way, mean that that good thing is part of the evil.

There was nothing good about people drowning in a boating accident. Nothing good at all in a child dying after being left in a daycare van. There is no good in fascism. No redeeming quality in it.

Anything good that might come out of those awful things is accidental. That evil thing should not be rejoiced in, honored, or cast in better light because we managed to wring out of the ashes something acceptable.

I think that searching for and imagining something good in evil is delusion.

In this struggle, I remembered The Swerve and I recall writing about it. So, today, I am republishing my original post about what I learned.

From June 15, 2015

Some time ago I wrote a post called What if We are Nothing. It's basically an essay on the idea that humans are nothing more than a material part of this world and this universe, no greater or lesser than any other life form..or any other form for that matter.

The essay was an attempt at helping me live better with the objective world I am presented with daily--murder, defeat, death, horror. I didn't expect the idea was new, of course, but it was something that I don't think I have contemplated with any seriousness in the past.

Recently, my husband and I were on a road trip and the radio stations in the car kept going in and out so we did quite a bit of surfing. At one point, we caught part of an interview on NPR with Stephen Greenblatt on his book, The Swerve. What I got in the little bit that I heard was that the book was about an ancient poem by Lucretius, written in about 50 BCE. It was lost to us for centuries, then found by a scribe on the hunt for just such literary treasures. The finding and dissemination of this poem, Greenblatt said, helped to usher in The Enlightenment.

As soon as I got home from our trip, I ordered The Swerve.

More than about Lucretius' On the Nature of ThingsThe Swerve serves as an early history of books, literature, and writing or rather, copying. Various parts fascinated me, while others angered me. The discussion of the manner in which Christians murdered Hypatia and went on to effectively destroy much of our world's literature, as well as our pagan and freethought culture, was difficult to accept. Suffice it to say, we're lucky we have what we do of the time period in question.

But what surprised me most--so far, as I haven't finished reading yet--was the synopsis of points found in Lucretius' poem. If I'm understanding correctly, the poem was not merely Lucretius' philosophy of life, but also an homage to Epicurus--a much maligned and denigrated individual (along with his philosophy) by...you guessed it...Christians.

In general education, we are taught in these modern times that the idea of evolutionary theory is relatively new, sparked by Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Not so. Evolutionary theory--early, rudimentary--is there in Epicureanism and outlined beautifully in Lucretius' On the Nature of Things.

But what spurred this blog post was this passage, in which Greenblatt explains Lucretius' thoughts on being and nothingness:

Understanding the nature of things generates wonder.
The realization that the universe consists of atoms and void and nothing else, that the world was not made for us by a providential creator, that we are not the center of the universe, that our emotional lives are no more distinct than our physical lives from those of all other creatures, that our souls are as material and as mortal as our bodies--all these things are not the cause for despair. On the contrary, grasping the way things really are is the crucial step toward the possibility of happiness. Human insignificance--the fact that it is not all about us and our fate--is, Lucretius insisted, the good news.
It is possible for human beings to live happy lives, but not because they think that they are the center of the universe or because they fear the gods or because they nobly sacrifice themselves for values that purport to transcend their mortal existence. Unappeasable desire and the fear of death are the principal obstacles to human happiness, but the obstacles can be surmounted through the exercise of reason.
The exercise of reason is not available only to specialists; it is accessible to everyone. What is needed is to refuse the lies proffered by priests and other fantasymongers and to look squarely and calmly at the true nature of things. All speculation--all science, all morality, all attempts to fashion a life worth living--must start and end with a comprehension of the invisible seeds of things: atoms and the void and nothing else.
It might seem at first that this comprehension would inevitably bring with it a sense of cold emptiness, as if the universe had been robbed of its magic. But being liberated from harmful illusions is not the same as disillusionment. The origin of philosophy, it was often said in the ancient world, was wonder: surprise and bafflement led to a desire to know, and knowledge in turn laid the wonder to rest. But in Lucretius' account the process is something like the reverse: it is knowing the way things are that awakens the deepest wonder.

I struggle trying to understand and come to terms with the behaviors of humans and I still cannot understand the ability of most of them to turn away from what is all around them every day.

My first thought on reading this passage was a revulsion of the human condition--one that suffers and scratches and tears at existence with no awareness of what we really are. We are temporary; what we are is eternal. I wonder if there aren't some of us who imagine a future in which humans have evolved into a deep and satisfying understanding of their existence--I bet there are.

I'm not one of them.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sea World's Food Festival has nothing on Epcot's...

Well, apparently Sea World saw how fabulous the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is and had to have one of their own. 2018 is the second year for Sea World's Seven Seas Food Festival. They've got a long way to go to be Epcot.

Sure, Epcot has twenty-two years on Sea World, but it seems to me if you start out this bad, your chances aren't good in the long run.

On the plus side, the portions were huge. But so are the prices. We purchased a supposedly money-saving badge that gave us fifteen items for $60. I didn't keep track of the prices, but they were all at least $5 and most were more like $6.50. So, I guess the badge did save us money.

But the booths were really unorganized and poorly run. And the food wasn't great, either. Here's a rundown on what we had (so you don't have to):

1. Caribbean Market
Crab cake with jicama* slaw and Key lime mustard.

We really liked this one. Lots of crab (well, it looked like crab). But very spicy. We were told that the serving is usually one crab cake, but they were small today so we got two. Jiminy.

*That's pronounced HI-cuh-muh isn't it? Because I keep thinking je-CA-muh.

2. Florida Market
Conch Fritters with pineapple and jalapeno salsa
Shrimp mac-n-cheese
Key lime martini

The conch dish was sort of confusing. The conch had absolutely no flavor, of course. But the pineapple salsa, if that is what it was, was delicious. There was something else on the plate, however, that looked like pink tartar sauce. Very spicy. We liked it, overall, considering it had little flavor.

The shrimp mac-n-cheese had so little flavor it could have just been creamy macaroni. There was a shrimp in it. One shrimp.

The Key lime martini was, basically, key lime pie in a plastic martini glass. Very nice. We ate all of that.

3. Mediterranean Market
Sea scallops provencal with wild mushroom risotto
Dark chocolate Guinness mousse parfait topped with Bailey's infused whipped cream

Okay, first of all, the description is sea scallops...plural. But what we got was one huge scallop. (Hubs is certain it's a fake scallop. You know, circular plugs of stingray. And why not; they've got a tank full of sting ray right there in the park.) That said, it was cooked perfectly, but had no flavor--except for salt. But it's a scallop, so how much flavor was it going to have? Chef Ramsay would have been so pissed about the risotto! It was icky mush with a weird flavor. I can hear him cursing now.

The mousse was excellent! (You knew that, didn't you?) I should have spent a few credits on more of that.

4. North Atlantic Market
Bacon and cheddar hush puppies 
Bananas Foster cheesecake cones

The hush puppies were supposed to be served with honey butter, but we got something like a BBQ salsa instead. It was rather tasty, if barbecue is what you want with your hush puppies--and it's not. The puppies themselves were okay. Very mild with a hint of sweet corn.

The Bananas Foster cheesecake cones were pretty much just banana pudding in a cone. But not really good banana pudding. Banana pudding that tastes just a tad...odd.

5. Pacific Coast Market
Fried calamari with yuzu dipping sauce and pickled vegetable
Warm pear maple cobbler served in a waffle cone

Okay, well...I think it was calamari. But it had no flavor. Not even a decent "fried" flavor. The yuzu was clearly canned tomato sauce. And the pickled vegetable was a piece of cauliflower.

The pear cobbler was served in a waffle cone. The cone seemed to be a theme. It was wrapped in a paper napkin and dripping caramel, or whatever that was. Hard to handle and hard to eat. Large pieces of pear don't make for eating without a fork, after all. But when you put your fork in, all the whipped topping and caramel just fall out. Whoever put this together wasn't thinking of the diner. Form over function, am I right? So, anyway, this was basically pears in apple pie spices. It was very sweet.

6. Asian Market
Peking duck lo mein

Undercooked lo mein noodles with some juicy, but tasteless, duck on top. I don't recall what that white thing is, there in the middle of the lo mein. Probably a vegetable of some sort. The lo mein was inedible, so we didn't find out.

7. Brazilian Market
Brazilian churrasco: grilled skirt steak with chimichurri and garbanzo frito

Well, the skirt steak was very nicely cooked, with a rather nice, if not extremely mild, flavor. The chimichurri was excellent--tasted like garlic butter. Just a bowl of that, please. The "garbanzo frito" was just some garbanzo beans.

8. Bacalaitos

This was in the special Latin Inspired Cuisine section that didn't run during the entire festival. We got the bacalaitos, a crispy, salted, codfish pancake. Funny though, there was also a sign at the booth that said "funnel cake." And that's what it felt like. Unfortunately, we were right there when they pulled this huge, flat, cake out of the grease and put it on a plate for us. It was so greasy, and so salty, it was nearly inedible. Hubs had one bite and that was it. I took two.

9. Gulf Coast Market
Cheese grits and shrimp casserole

This was so disappointing I can't tell you... One piece of tasteless shrimp on top of another martini glass filled with bland, mushy grits. It's like they didn't even try.

10. Polynesian Market
Hawaiian pineapple dream cake

OMG! This was fabulous! It was delicious pineapple cake, with creamy whipped topping and a slice of pineapple. We at the whole thing, even though we were stuffed.

So we ended on a good note, eh?

This creepy statue got up and sprayed people with water while were eating.

Anyway, the festival also includes concerts and that day it was somebody called Nicky Jam. I thought it was a girl. But I looked him up and he's some reggaeton (like...Latin hip hop) guy from Massachusetts. (Massachusetts?!?!) I don't like the look of him, I'm afraid. Big face, beady little eyes. I could see him on the evening news, if you know what I mean.

He was supposed to go on at five but people were already there claiming seats at noon. And when we left at three, the place was packed. And still, people were streaming through the entrance. They were going to have to watch from the other side of the pond. Apparently this guy has fans.

We did all the usual stuff, saw some dolphins, pet and fed stingrays, fed the sea lions, saw manatees, etc. It was a fun day. But despite what some people say about Epcot's food festival going downhill, it's still ten times better than Sea World's.