Kitchen Widow


I don’t know if Black Widows are coming out of the woodwork because the weather is changing or if I simply hadn’t noticed kitchen window Widow because a plant was in the way. Barely 2 days after discovering basement Widow #8, kitchen widow has made its presence known.

My house is old; built in the 1930’s, and crying for a fresh coat of paint. My kitchen is first in line – the reason I moved the plants off the windowsill to give it a good wash and sanding. I caught sight of kitchen widow after moving plants; reaching over to give the sill a good wash – I saw her. In all honesty it was her pile of insect carcasses that caught my attention – like a pile of bones outside a troll’s cave.

Probably not the best photo of kitchen Widow; taken on my phone at a strange angle, doing little to showcase her distinctive black “bulb” of a body. Never the less, I assure you it’s there. I think it would be safe to say – my house is officially infested with Black Widows. I don’t want to disturb kitchen Widow too much – at least I know where she is, and it looks like she’s been there a while. The last thing I need is to make her mad before I can figure a way out of this problem.

Solar Flare-Up


Our sun has been busy, purging plasma with the vengeance of Thor. A X-1 flare from sunspot AR1875 on Oct. 28 is the third X-class flare since Oct. 25. This follows three M-class flares since Oct. 20. None of the recent flares are likely to give any direct hits to our magnetic field; instead “glancing blows” are likely to stir up geo-magnetic storms, resulting in spectacular auroras.

For the next 24 hours, Solar Dynamics Observatory predicts a 75% chance of M-class and 30% chance of more X-class flares. My secret wish is for solar hiccups to last long enough for my trip next week to the Canadian prairies; the home of endless, dark, crystal clear skies. A place to take in the majesty of Northern Lights.

El Dorado Wasn’t Lost


El Dorado is the stuff of legends; a lost “city of gold” in the jungles of South America, a myth stemming from Spanish conquistadors lust for gold. Within a few years of Francisco Pizarro’s 1532 arrival in Peru, the search for El Dorado was on. No one knows how much gold and silver was taken from South America; some estimates put the value at 500 billion in today’s dollars. Still – it was never enough, El Dorado was always just around the corner.

http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-us/how-much-gold-did-the-conquistadores-get

In 1537, conquistador Jimenez de Quesada left Peru with an army of 800 men, following the trail of El Dorado whispers. Quesada travelled into the Andes,  stumbling upon the Muisca people in what is now Columbia. The Muisca had a lot of gold; gold of spiritual and ceremonial, rather than monetary value.

To the Muisca, El Dorado was a ruler – a man so rich and powerful he covered himself in gold dust every day only to wash it off in their sacred lake by nightfall. Muisca crafted gold “Tunjos” , exquisite gold “offerings”, far superior to any gold crafted in Europe. These Tunjos had no relation to wealth or status. They were offerings, tossed into the sacred lake during ceremonies and rituals.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20964114

In 1636 Juan Rodriguez Freyle published a book called The Conquest and Discovery of the New Kingdom of Granada. He wrote of the ceremony of “El Dorado”, an elaborate ritual to appoint the “golden one” as successor when a king died. The ceremony took place over many days, culminating in the golden one – naked but for a covering of gold dust – travelling by raft to the middle of the lake to make offerings of gold and gems to the waters. Hundreds lined the shore, burning incense and throwing Tunjos into watery oblivion. Despite his accurate account of Muisca culture, the legend of the lost city El Dorado gained momentum. Gold was one powerful fever.

Archaeological evidence points more and more to El Dorado the man, rather than a lost city. I’m not sure how I feel about El Dorado; at least we don’t have to look for it any longer. It was never lost.

Gold raft from the Muisca people, found 1969 in a cave near Bogotá – depicting the ceremony of El Dorado.

Sneaky Basement Widow


Black Widow Spider number eight – I applaud your sneaky antics. You’ve been strutting your stuff in the laundry room; assuming perhaps that I hadn’t noticed. Dessicated insects litter the windowsill, your presence sensed for ages – visual confirmation eluding me until tonight. You are craftier than your seven predecessors; waiting until the light bulb burnt out – waiting for me to fumble about in darkness before making a move. Kudos number eight; you almost got away with it, but I saw you – the jigs up.

Black Widow number eight concerns me a little more than the others. Once I was able to wrap my head around a Vancouver basement alive with Black Widows, avoidance was easy. The other spiders stayed put, discovered under the broom or in a corner, it was easy to dispatch them. Common sense dictated a few precautions – we managed under the same roof without incident. Number eight is different; by far the largest, certainly the fastest and without question the sneakiest.

Until number eight tried pulling a fast one on me – I’d just about forgotten about basement Widows. On some level I knew I still had a Black Widow problem; never occurring to me I would have to do something about it in late October. Still pondering why seven Widows never bothered me, yet sneaky number eight crossed the line.

You have no one to blame but yourself number eight – we could have stayed the course, continued along the path of mutual respect and tolerance. You had to strut your stuff, get in my face and rock the boat. Now I have to hire an exterminator; at the very least, purchase your death in a spray can, insecticidal bomb or nasty trap. I wish you could understand how this breaks my heart – almost all Black Widows one – seven were captured and released outside. My sincerest apologies to number five or maybe six – you caught me at a bad moment – your stomping was merely a reflex. Number one was forced to live in a jar for far too long simply because you are handsome arachnids.

Prior to this evenings encounter with number eight I was prepared to share my house; the last thing I wanted was a spider war. You forced my hand number eight; I’m sorry to inform you – I know where you live, I saw you sneaking into the wall socket when you thought I was otherwise occupied. You’ve ruined things for everyone – why did you have to be so sneaky?

http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=f3dacb8c-84bc-412f-a82f-812bf3584ec8

Holy Sunspot Batman


Solar activity makes me giddy; I prickle with school girl excitement at the mere mention of an earth directed CME.  I knew the sun was getting a little uppity – a visit to http://spaceweather.com/ when I got home from work set my heart a flutter. Our sun has been busy – three flares between Oct. 20 – 22 have apparently merged into one; promising to light up our magnetic field with auroras. Another powerful M-9 class flare hurled earthward yesterday, arrival time as yet unknown.

Courtesy NASA – Solar Dynamics Observatory

Sunspots AR1875 and 1877 are ready to speak their minds – both strutting their stuff – ready to make a statement. Predictions of activity in the next 24 hours may not be earth shattering – 40% chance of M-class and 10% chance of X-class flares – still enough of a magnetic storm for ridiculous northern lights.

Meanwhile, Comet C/2012X1 exploded 450 million Km’s from earth. Of little significance to our little corner of the universe, yet worthy of a look low on the eastern horizon an hour or so before sunrise if you happen to have a telescope.

Solar winds are relatively low at 345 Km/second.

This concludes tonight’s space weather report.

Bad Bishop of Limburg


When the head of the world’s richest corporation suspends one of it’s executives for extravagance and an overly lavish lifestyle – I stand up and take notice. When that CEO is the pope, executive the Bishop of Limburg – you have my full attention. This is worth pondering; the Catholic church isn’t an institution known for airing their dirty laundry.

So what does it take for the Vatican to draw the line? At what point does the pope stand at attention and declare – “oh hell no”? It appears the Bishop of Limburg knows the answer to those questions – Bishop Tebartz-van Elst probably shouldn’t have spent $42 million renovating his official residence. Even if he bathed in holy water, a bath costing $20,000 is hard to explain. Travelling on a first class ticket to visit the poor in India is a no brainer. Perhaps his nickname – the “Bishop of bling” sealed the deal. Lies to the court under oath about spending, certainly didn’t further his cause.

What does the church do with a suspended Bishop? If this were a sexual abuse scandal, he might be hustled off to another diocese or “retired” to a sleepy little corner of the world. The Bishop of Bling is only 53 years old – retirement not much of an option. Pope Francis has a true papal quandary to resolve; abusive priests are old news – public admission of flagrant, self serving excess, poses an entirely new set of considerations. The outcome should prove interesting.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/pope-removes-germany-s-luxury-bishop-from-diocese-1.2186497

Image from theguardian.com

When Trouble’s Name is “Sister”


Trouble doesn’t necessarily mean “trouble”, it can mean sit down and enjoy the ride, hold onto your hat because the wind is picking up, or holy crap – this is unexpected. Trouble can mean the start of a very good day; a bat shit crazy day of wild abandon – troublesome only for those who reluctantly find themselves in a ring side seat.

I knew it was trouble when I booked a flight to visit my sister in a few weeks. It isn’t that I’m trouble or she’s trouble; the truth is – we’re trouble. We don’t mean to raise our families eyebrows or make too much noise at 3 AM – we just do, we can’t help ourselves. We are polite middle aged women who inexplicably turn into giggling morons if left alone too long. We dance, call bullshit on each other and collapse on the floor in fits of laughter.

This may not sound like trouble, yet assure you it’s troublesome to those in our path; we become idiots for reasons only we understand. In all honesty, we can’t understand what happens; what’s important is – it doesn’t matter.

I’m the little sister by ten months – she wasn’t even walking when I was born. If I was oil, she was water; two people couldn’t have been more different. We started school the same year, were known as the “sisters” and secretly loathed each others presence. We were always fighting or competing; she – outgoing, me – painfully quiet and shy. We drifted apart to the point of not even speaking to each other for years.

I couldn’t pin point the moment our lives changed; the moment we opened our eyes and looked at each other again. All I know is she’s trouble; the kind of trouble that makes me feel young and stupid, the kind of trouble that leaves us feeling sheepish as we apologize for disturbances in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know who’s crazier, nor does it matter. Life is over in the blink of an eye; pondering irrelevant details is a waste of time – I’m perfectly content knowing trouble’s name is “sister”. Somehow, a week with her makes all my troubles go away.