Ladybugs, free while they last

Free-range, live ladybugs, 189 at last count. A variety of lovely red and bright orange shades with delightful dark polka dots to brighten up your walls or windows. Have a garden-style room that you like to relax in? You need these! They will complete the theme! Each is about 3/8 inch in diameter. Some will spread their wings and treat you to aeronautic gymnastics.

Want to do amazing trick videos? You need these! Occasionally there is a friendly one that likes to perch on your shoulder. Amaze your friends as they watch you let a ladybug crawl up your raised hand, perch on the end, then lift off! Tame enough to let your friends join in the fun. Simple enough to let children give it a go, too.

Environmentally friendly! Do you have aphids on your indoor plants? You need these! Teach children the green way to deal with plant pests. No toxic chemicals. No any kind of chemicals.

Speaking of aphids, do you like awake at night, racking your brain for a science project for the kiddies? You need these! Fetch the plants with aphids, get the camera, let the kids draw a chart, add ladybugs, then record observations. Following science fair guidelines, of course. Simple.

Want a pet without a litter box or newspaper on the bottom of the cage? Tired of scooping up Rover’s presents? You need these! All are housebroken; never any output.

Hungry for a delicacy? Again, you need these! I don’t make any stipulation that these must be kept as pets. As I mentioned, they probably are organic. Covered with chocolate–has to be good. It’s protein on protein. Right? I’m just saying.

Need a varied diet for your pet lizard, turtle, or other reptile? You need these! Arachnids also might like them. Share them freely; there are always more arriving.

I will have another supply tomorrow, and another the day after that, most likely throughout the winter, but don’t delay — they die quickly here and I’d like to relocate them as soon as possible. Daily arrivals vary from a dozen to over 300 hundred.

Do NOT miss this deal!

Poker with the girls; Grandma’s pride and joy

Today my granddaughters asked me to teach them to play poker. Since they’re 7 and 9, I gave them some elementary instruction in suits, straights, flushes, and so on. The seven-year-old was really paying attention, as an hour later when her big sister tried to bluff us out, she refused to cave and took the pot with a full house! I’m so proud of her!

Day 2 of the sleepover: more poker! Hours and hours of poker! When I got up this morning, they were already playing. We invited Grampa to join us. He introduced the girls to Seven Card Stud, and we introduced him to wild cards. 🙂


The funny side of telephone spam

From February:

I had such a good laugh this morning. Rich (my husband, for those of you who don’t know) answered a spam phone call and kept the caller on the line, which we do from time to time for a little free recreation. If you get a similar opportunity, I recommend it highly. Here’s how we do it.

This call was a little different. On the other end was a guy with a very foreign accent–you know the kind, he sounded just the same as when you call a company for some help and it’s outsourced to a third world country. Barely intelligible. And he said he was calling to help us! Rich stalled until he got into my office and put him on speaker phone. This guy started right in with how he was calling to diagnose our computer woes and walk us through a fix, how does that sound? Oh boy! Yes, help us! Rich let the guy walk him through computer testing, but asked him to repeat himself over and over, keeping him online, believing that he’s doing what the guy is telling him to do.

So anyway, this guy tells Rich to get on the computer, look at the monitor, and tell him what he sees. Icons, he says. Rich says birds. Then come more instructions: go to the lower left side of the keyboard and find the Control key. Where? Rich asks. What key? Oh, okay, got it. At this point, I think we’re up to about ten minutes of play. I’ve been silent so far. Rich is “struggling” but he finally understands that he’s supposed to push Control R, which he states that he just did. There’s like half a minute of silence, and then–as if I’ve just come in–I say, “Oh my God, what did you do to my computer?!!” The “tech” sounds panicked: “What happened? What do you see??” I’m cracking up, silently. Rich says the birds flew away. The tech starts dialoging in the background in another language. Really, this much fun shouldn’t be free.

Rich leaves the office. The guy’s still on the speaker phone in MY office, though, so I’m left with a couple minutes of, “Sir?” and “What do you see?” I wanted to say that he went to the bathroom, but I resisted. Now that I think about it, I should have said my husband was throwing up, or there was smoke coming out of the CPU. Darn, I missed that opportunity.

Rich returns to my office. He’s been on his computer finding out that this kind of spam call is gaining in frequency. Techie-sounding people call, get people to push a couple keys on their keyboard, then the tech says he sees a problem with the computer and can fix it for $75. Would anybody really fall for this?? I guess so. I mean, it’s hell enough when you HAVE to deal with real outsourced calls, why cooperate AND PAY FOR an unsolicited one?

Be prepared. If you get the call, be devious. Work it. Slowwwwly. Be evil. 🙂

Scores of hawks in Arkansas

My husband and I drove an 80-mile stretch through Arkansas this week. The sun was just right to light up the white breast feathers on hawks sitting sentinel in bare tree tops and on stocky wooden fence posts. Once I pointed them out to my husband, we were both saying, “Another one! Another one!” Sometimes there were hawks every tenth of a mile, then a couple miles without any, and then scores in rapid succession again. I wish I’d started counting them at the border. Well over one hundred, probably closer to two. 70 mph was too fast to snap photos; probably too far away anyway. It also was too fast for a couple of unlucky birds on the shoulder. I watched one hawk pounce on prey in the grassy median, then lift off with its catch. Had the pickup truck in front of me been a foot taller, or say, a semi, the bird would not have cleared. As it was, it struggled to rise high enough, fast enough, but finally made it.

A few thoughts come to mind. Why were the birds facing the highway when there were thousands of acres of fields and trees behind them? Were there thousands more studying the peaceful farmlands and woods? How can they sit there, watching vehicle after vehicle roar by and not “get it” that more vehicles are coming? (It’s probably some survival of the fittest test.) Were they out in large numbers because the colder-than-normal winter has been killing off the birds’ food source?

I would look forward to driving south again and seeing if the high numbers of hawks were steady. However, I have driven due south four times. First time–water in the gas tank when we filled up. Second time–ran out of gas. Third time–rear ended by a taxi in New Orleans. Fourth time (this time)–the transmission in my vehicle broke. Jeez Louise!! But unlike the hawks, I have learned something. Never drive due south again!


The hit of the party


Oh, and wasn’t this a lot of fun! This was a morning Christmas gift, which went right into the powder room when I returned home. Guests were in and out of the house all evening at my annual open house celebration. Every once in a while, all throughout the main level, we’d suddenly hear a huge belly laugh which signaled that another person had seen the paper. Shortly followed by him or her calling out to someone else, “C’mere. You have to see this!” Our family and friends lean two different ways when it comes to politics, but one thing we all have in common: love and respect. The TP was a big hit across the board.

Crystal Wonderland

Today is day two of one of the most awesome sights in the hills around my home. Yesterday morning, I awoke to ice-covered trees. It was well below freezing all day, so today I was graced with another day of jaw-dropping awe. I’ve had iced trees here before, but usually it melts off after an hour or less. This time, as the sun moves across the sky hour after hour, it highlights a hill of trees there, a ridge over there, even the valleys, for miles, turning the ice to a glowing white canvas of crystal branches. These photos are from below the trees, but looking out my wall of windows, I have an even better show from above. Yes, have. It’s still there.

icy trees 3 icy trees 4 icy trees 2 It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow–Christmas Day–so I doubt it will still be there to share with guests. But that’s okay.

What’s the best part of road kill?

My husband and I set out on a quest last week. We have what we consider a prime view here in the midwest. A city with a million or two, and we’re way out on the western fringe, also possibly the eastern fringe of the Ozarks. And way, way off on the horizon (we never knew the mileage), suddenly there’s a water tower one month and a ginormous fake tree shortly thereafter. I wouldn’t have noticed the water tower except for the crane towering over it. Out came the telescope! As for the fake tree, my daughter walked in and knew what it was immediately–a cell tower. I’d feel bad about not “keeping up” but none of my girlfriends knew either. :-p

hawk and vultures 4With the aid of google earth, we finally tracked down some data. My husband calculated the two legs between which we’d find our goals. I was able to determine a longitude and latitude on the two structures, eliminating other towers because they were outside his parameters. This also revealed that the horizon is about four miles out. I would have bet on more, but I defer to technology. Next step–see if we can find them on a drive. We’d looked before, but we’d made a wrong turn early on. Now, with longitude and latitude known and GPS in the car, we went the right way.

So we’re in a isolated subdivision, most of the time the road is one lane only. I crossed my fingers that no one else was going the other way, and I lucked out. Our eyes were not on the houses, barely on the road, as we saw glimpses of the cell tree and tried to get closer. It got bigger and bigger, but there were a couple more wrong turns. A right turn brought up the above view. Two large birds winged away. My mouth dropped open, and I slowed to a stop, watching these four awesome avians. One red-tailed hawk; three turkey vultures. I see these birds soaring in the same sky quite often. I’ve never seen them on the ground together. See the hawk–second bird from the left? He’s not part of a parade–he has a bloody tidbit on the ground. Now, my husband has watched me watch animals for over 40 years. This day, he was as in awe as I. Fortunately, he thought to reach for the camera and get some shots.

hawk and vultures 3

Hm, the vulture on the left isn’t going to let our presence deter him from getting a little closer to lunch. There were no squabbles while we were there, just the hawk pulling off a bite or two while the vultures slowly jogged position for a better look.

hawk and vultures 5

Notice the vulture on the right moving into the dry grass. It started pulling at a branch. My husband totally missed the next photo op as we both said, “I thought he was pulling on a branch!” Eww. That branch turned out to be the tip of a very long, very dead animal that we could not identify as the bird took flight, the corpse floating behind it like a banner. The other two vultures quickly followed. And in the blink of an eye, the hawk grabbed its tasty morsel and pursued. The first two birds who’d taken off when we arrived–another vulture and another hawk, I think–joined them. But it was the last we saw of them.

We still wonder what that dead animal was. And why the vultures were watching the hawk eat a teensy bit (the best part?) while the bounty lay in the weeds.

Yes, we found the cell tree. And while the water tower looked to be in someone’s back yard, it is actually quite a distance away. We drove miles to circle around and approach it from a closer vantage point in St. Albans. Google earth, however, shows “invisible” (grayed out) roads going to it. And I’m not very good at following invisible roads. I have this thing about not trespassing.

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