Wednesday, September 30, 2009



chinese mantis in tall grass woods.

end of septembering.



Saturday, September 12, 2009


This photo was in the alley, on the left side, as I walked down two days ago. It is one of those photo-postcards that you almost never see anymore, but perhaps was never sent, given it's lack of a stamp.

On the back it says:

"What I looked like before the race."

"Hopkinton, 1980"

From that I realize it must be a image from the start of the Boston Marathon, 26 outside of the city.

The blurriness and peacefulness of everyone in the background, including the cherry tree

The website is very nice, and shows the times of the last-year's winners. "Dire Tune" came in second for the women. I'm sure in Ethiopian that name sounds and seems different than when I read it English. Deer-ay Too-nay. It sound like the name of a French delicacy.

What is so surprising the exactitude with which the men's and women's times are split. The top four finishers for both categories are piled up on each other within one minute of each other, and yet the the genders are split by 23 minutes. What explains this? As I biologist it seems natural for me to think of something physiological, but even that seems a bit fantastical given just how precise this 23 minutes difference is. Looking at other years, the clustering of top finishers is similar, but the split varies - 19 minutes, 25 minutes.

Clearly then I think that the leading racers must truly set the pace for the others. Even still the gender difference persists. What to make of it? perhaps nothing, as it is too much is being made of gender presently in the track and field world....

As for the emotions around such exertions, the competition and scrutiny, I remember the drama of "Heartbreak Hill" always covered by the commentators when I watched it on TV growing up. A map of the course shows an elevation profile; for your knees and mind both, this marathon is a monster thing.

It makes me finally wonder if the fellow in the photo I found had a picture taken at the end of the race, captioned "This is what I looked like after the race." At this point though, I'd rather leave it to the imagination.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

lost wings

________I'm preparing for the autumn season of teaching, of cooling air, and of insect collecting. It is a pleasure to go out with students to round up the last of the six-legged's before the season's over and mid-October snaps that frosty door shut on all things invertebrate. It had me rooting through jars and nets and boxes and rearranging my collection kit in my office.

Among other things, I also peeked into an old collection of butterflies and moths I caught early in my graduate school days down in North Kacalaky. A summer's worth of learning the local Lepidoptera there, the collection had been through some hard times, including being knocked down by my cat and chewed on by some other insects.

That said, nothing prepared me for the carnage I came across in the butterfly box, devastated by another brutal round of those beetles that specialize on eating dead insects, and which somehow had found their way into my tightly sealed collection crate once again...

All told, perhaps a third of the collection lay in tatters, the little beetle larvae culprits weaving around below as well as inside the hollowed out carapaces of what were fine swallowtails, lunas, fritillaries. Now I'm in the process of freezing all the remaining specimens for two days in hopes of purging them of whatever eggs lurk inside, ready and waiting to whip through the box again like some wicked hexapod tornado at any possible time.

Meanwhile, I gathered just a few of the wings that lay at the bottom of the box and made a tidy pile of them. Perhaps some butterfly passing by my desk window will take confused notice of the eyespots and colors and wonder what Shiva-like butterfly species lived inside my apartment. If Nijhout had to figure out a "groundplan" for the wing patterns of such a mythic creature he'd had have to been twice as brilliant as he already is, or at least twice as patient.