April 7, 2012

Red Moon at Night

Last night's conditions were perfect for observing a full moon rise above lake Michigan and I was pleased to see a fair number of people gathered along the lake shore to watch.

The event did not disappoint. The rusty hue you see in these photos is pretty close to reality. If anything the moon's ruddy complexion was actually more vivid.

The moon lost a bit of its rosiness as it continued to ascend, and with its brightening the little crowds of lakeside spectators gradually disbursed.

I looked to the west. Jupiter and Venus--who have in the previous weeks appeared so close together in the sky--were now widely spaced and sinking out of view behind some buildings. Mars glowed a rusty red high in the east, and as the sky darkened a few of the brightest stars began peeking through the dusk. I knew the Dearborn would be open that night, but it had been a long tiring week and despite the lovely sky I couldn't quite bring myself to head back to campus at 10:00 pm for an hour of viewing.


One of these days I'm going to get excited about "things" again. The last couple months, though gratifyingly productive, have left me feeling a little empty and uninspired. I'm just a little gray inside these days. And trying to remember how to dream again.

April 6, 2012

Twisted Rainbows

Years ago, when I was still a student at the University of Utah, I went snowshoeing with my friend Jon Richardson in Little Cottonwood Canyon (at right is a photo I took looking down the canyon in autumn). It was a beautiful sunny day and we worked ourselves into a vigorous sweat trudging up the wooded mountain side through feet of snow. After thoroughly exhausting ourselves we returned to the car to catch our breath. I looked toward the top of the mountain and was stunned when I saw a veritable blizzard of snowy ice crystals swirling around in the blue sky above us. In the midst of those crystals was a rainbow that snaked through the squall like a giant stretched-out "S". I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought it was some sort of trick. I had no idea that rainbows could contort themselves into anything but a single gentle curve. That was back before I had a handy digital camera to tote around and I have nothing to show for the event but my own (undoubtedly imperfect) memory.

Today's EPOD may have solved the mystery for me. I think the S-shaped rainbow I saw above the mountain may have been part of an upper tangent arc--similar to the one depicted in the EPOD photo. How exciting to have my experience explained after so long!

April 5, 2012


This morning I shared my breakfast with a cockroach.

He gulped down a slice of apple, but hesitated before digging in to the oatmeal.

Maybe its because he had oatmeal for dinner last night...picky picky!

A couple days ago I had to clean his cage. I've discovered that cockroaches have a distinct and powerful odor to begin with, but after a couple days of living there were certain...substances...he'd left behind that magnified this odor. It would be nothing short of cruel to force any creature--no matter how disreputable--to live surrounded by his own waste. So I formulated what I thought would be a good plan and got down to business. Unfortunately, because of my own carelessness and a gross underestimation of his climbing abilities, my new buddy escaped during the cleaning process and managed to elude all initial attempts at recapture.

Even while he was safely contained I had struggled to quell my gut reactions of constant disgust. My thoughts when I was home were filled with images of scurrying critters invading every inch of private space. If I were eating dinner, I imagined each bite contained an insect. I feared there'd be cockroaches hiding in my shoes, underneath my sheets, crawling between sheets of paper before I picked them up. I'd approach the roach's cage cautiously--the hair on my arm bristling in anticipation of a sudden movement.

Knowing he was loose again made this feeling even worse. When I got into bed that night and finally turned out the light I was sure I'd wake up with him running up my arm, or worse, seeking refuge in my open mouth. And of course having him out and about made it that much more likely that he'd bring more friends back with him.

The next morning I pulled back the shower curtain and discovered him scuttling around the bottom of the tub. I knew it was him because he had the same broken antennae as before. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I could feel relief upon finding a giant roach in my shower, but this time I knew I had him for sure. I've so far seen this guy climbing smooth painted walls and the plastic sides of his little fish tank with no trouble, but amazingly he didn't seem to be able to get enough of a hold on the edges of the tub to scale them. With a lack of fear that surprised me (maybe I was still a little groggy from sleep) I herded him back into his container and closed the lid.

And there he remains.

I'm starting to feel a little less skittish around him, and (for better or worse I suppose) he's also become less inhibited with me (now I definitely can't let him loose again!). On the first day he'd freeze whenever I approached him--almost playing dead with his head tucked tight up underneath his shielded neck. Now he moves around slowly, inspecting or nibbling on the bits of food I leave, and feeling out his surroundings with surprisingly dextrous antennae. I wouldn't say I'm getting attached at all, but I do find it strangely interesting to watch him go about his business.

If I end up getting the teaching job in Atlanta I hear that roaches will likely remain a constant in my life. Maybe hanging out with this guy is good practice for the future.


April 1, 2012

Bathroom Buddy

I wish I were April Foolin' about this one.

This morning started out like any other. I woke up grumbling about the noisy spinning class downstairs (Boom boom boom boom...WHOOO!), drank a glass of water (a better pick-me-up than coffee), ate an apple (gala), showered, and finished up with a bowl of quaker oats and an egg (over hard).

When I went back into the bathroom to brush my teeth something caught my eye...something horrible and big and black and leggy. It was clinging to the wall up near the ceiling in the corner. A cockroach. And not one of the little baby ones I'd occasionally seen running for cover when I'd come home after a long day at school and turn on the lights (the last one of those I saw was months ago. I put down traps and hadn't seen another since). This one was clearly mature...and had probably eaten way too many cheese fries over the course of its lifetime. I shuddered. I've always been told, "If you see one cockroach, there are always hundreds more nearby".

A thousand images flashed through my brain: sleeping with my mouth open and a big cockroach crawling inside...taking a plate out of the cupboard and sending couple running for cover...lifting up some dirty laundry while half a dozen scurry away beneath my feet...UFF DA!!!!!!!!!

I came up with a plan. I emptied a big cardboard box I use to store all my financial documents until tax time (no cockroaches in there...whew!), grabbed my handy dandy swiffer sweeper, and inched my way into the bathroom...hardly daring to think what would happen if I startled the thing and sent it running all over the walls. Slowly, carefully, I wedged the box into the corner about a foot below the roach. He didn't move. "Maybe he's sleeping," I thought. My heart was racing, but I clung to my wits as I reached up with the swiffer and touched one of its legs. In a burst of energy it fled...but in the wrong way...away from the box! I countered with my swiffer and herded it back toward the corner. Finally--after a couple minutes of terror--it dropped into the box and started scuffling around against its edges trying to escape. It took every ounce of control I had to not drop the box and run screaming from the room.

Instincts are amazing. There's very little this bug could ever do to me--even when totally free--but something about it...its long sweeping antennae, thorny legs, sickening brownish-gold exoskeleton, and mad scurrying, pushes every skittish button in my body.

I dug out an old plastic fish container I used to use for keeping spiders (yes, that's right, I've happily kept spiders as pets--my favorites are black widows in fact--but can't stomach thoughts of a cockroach in my house) and laid it against an inside edge of the box. Willfully putting my hand so close to the frantic cockroach was not easy, but eventually I managed to herd it into the plastic container, quickly tip the vessel up on its base, and slap a lid over the top to seal in the captive once and for all.


Isn't it just great how the multi faceted reflections make it look like he's already part of a swarm...eeew!

With my bathroom buddy all sealed up I breathed a sigh of relief and went to get the only real measuring device I currently own--a clear pink plastic protractor. I wanted to measure this thing so I could bolster my superlative-laced story with a bit of objectivity. Not counting its antennae (which more than double its length) it measured an inch and 1/2...not quite the 3 inch tropical horrors you hear about in traveler's worst vacation stories, but plenty big for me.

So now what? Should I try to keep this thing as a pet? The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is actually a surprisingly popular pet with some people. However, on Wikipedia it says that roaches leave pheromone trails that tell others where to find food and where they are hiding. If I keep a caged cockroach on my dresser will others swarm in thinking dinner must be close by? Just thinking about it makes me nervous. I can't squish it. I am really bad at killing things of any kind--even creepy things--and it makes me especially nauseous if they pop and get goo all over the place. When I encountered the first little cockroach in my apartment here I swatted it with a shoe out of desperation and it splattered all over--I don't even want to consider the kind of mess this big guy would make. And if I let it go--even far away from my house--it'll just go out and make more of itself (as I'm sure its done already...sigh), and start a big infestation somewhere. Cockroaches are legendary survivors too. They have been observed to revive after being totally submerged for more than a half an hour so if I were to flush it down the toilet, it might still find its way back up out of the pipes.

I have to admit to being slightly curious. Maybe I'll keep him for a while and see what happens. I hear they eat pretty much anything so feeding will be no trouble. If, however, I wake up one morning to find a couple of his friends hanging out by the cage...it's OVER!!