Cloud Appreciation Society


In 2004 Gavin Pretor-Pinney of the United Kingdom formed CAS, the Cloud Appreciation Society. The following year Yahoo declared their website “the most weird and wonderful find on the internet for 2005”. As of May 2016, the society claims over 40,000 members representing 165 countries.

“We believe that clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save money on psychoanalysis bills.” – from the CAS Manifesto, full document at – https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/manifesto/

Membership will set you back around $50 (annual membership plus a one time “sign-up fee”)  Sign-up fee covers postage of the CAS member package – a shiny enameled lapel pin, official certificate stating member will “henceforth seek to persuade all who’ll listen of the wonder and beauty of clouds”, and a handy pocket cloud selector. Members submit cloud wonders via the CAS app. Every morning a “cloud of the day” image is sent to member mailboxes. Member info at – https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/cas-membership-intro/

Below – November “Cloud Of The Month” photographed by James Tromans over Warwickshire, England.

Cloud of the Month - November 2016

Four images above – a selection of daily clouds.

Start Milking Tasmanian Devils


Until this afternoon, if asked to draw or describe a Tasmanian Devil my best guess would have resembled Bugs Bunny’s cartoon nemesis. Animated Saturday morning impressions – enormous mouth, exaggerated teeth, wild eyes, muscular body, large torso and pointy ears.

An image search did little to vanquish childhood assumptions. Other than black not brown, ears pinkishly rounded and tail longer than recollection, Taz appeared much as expected. Moving forward demanded a wiki search.

Who knew Tasmanian Devils were listed as an endangered species in 2008? Or that since the late 90’s drastic population decline was attributed to devil facial tumor disease? Enter a link to Tim Stark at Devil Ark. Located in New South Wales, Australia Devil Ark is a non-profit organization dedicated to preservation of Tasmanian Devils.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_Ark

For the sake of brevity I’ll get to the point – milk from Tasmanian Devils contain peptides capable of wiping out antibiotic resistant superbugs. Obvious considerations such as how do you milk a devilish marsupial, or why ponder doing so in the first place aside – this is news.

Overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizing germaphobia are bacterial microbes wet dream. It’s too easy, all they have to do is mutate as we flub about in a cloud of assertive ignorance. Oblivious to hundreds of thousand superbug casualties each year, we wake up every morning convinced humanity is invincible. Along comes Tim Stark, director of a non profit Tasmanian Devil preservation society, a man struggling to save obscure cartoon marsupials from terminal face cancer extinction. A man who milked Tasmanian Devils and stumbled upon a cure for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/10/18/tasmanian-devil-milk-is-a-new-hope-in-fighting-superbugs/

Basement Widow’s Domain


A few days ago I noticed bathroom widow had moved on. She does this every autumn, bathroom widow is always the first to go. It took her conspicuous absence to prompt a reconnaissance mission. Scolding myself for being so remiss I took a long overdue, busy is no excuse tour of my house widow lairs. “Reconnaissance mission” is a tad dramatic, in truth there are only two widow camps left in the house. (There used to be four – bathroom widow moved out and bedroom widow succumbed to an unfortunate vacuum mishap several weeks ago ).

Kitchen widow hadn’t budged, nor by all appearances had she consumed a proper meal all summer. Much as I respect impeccable manners and polite adherence to house rules, she could learn a thing or two from basement widow.

Basement widow didn’t flinch when pulled blind thrust her into the spotlight. Presiding over a berm of skeletal remains, her marquee read “this is my domain”. “Outstanding” rolled off my lips. Beaming respect accompanied a closing of blind retreat. Reign on basement widow, reign on.

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Immortal Jellyfish


In 1988 science stumbled upon proof of eternal life – immortality thrived in the form of a minuscule jellyfish. German marine biology student Christian Sommer spent a summer on the Italian Riviera studying invertebrates. Long story short (see link below) he noticed something unusual about Turritopsis Dohrnii – a tiny jellyfish only 4.5 mm wide at maturity.

http://immortal-jellyfish.com/

Observing petri dish specimens, Sommer watched them reproduce followed by an astounding transformation – reverse aging to juvenile polyp stage. Liken it to a butterfly becoming a caterpillar or bird becoming an egg, hatching as a new chick. Instead of dying, they started their life cycle over again.

Science can’t explain the immortal jellyfish beyond understanding cellular trans-differentiation happens during rejuvenation – one cell type is converted into another (skin cell might become a nerve cell ). Crazy as it sounds, mankind’s elusive quest for longevity might have it all wrong. Immortality’s secret could be locked in an obscure jellyfish content to reproduce and start over again.

The “immortal jellyfish” can transform itself back into a polyp and begin life anew. Credit Takashi Murai

Fat Deck Widow


Last night I met the biggest baddest Black Widow spider. In polite residence behind a flower pot, she exhibited outrage when my broom swept her onto the deck. Stopped in my tracks, this was no ordinary widow. Reflex trumped reason, instinct called for capture. There I stood, mesmerized by the cup of deck widow in my hand. Behemoth is an understatement, abdomens of bedroom, kitchen and basement widows combined wouldn’t equal the girth of deck widow’s belly. Now what?

Couldn’t say how much time lapsed between scrutinizing her magnificence and impulsively running downstairs to show my husband. ” Caught the biggest widow I’ve ever seen” – no match for “Are you crazy? Kill it!”. What was I thinking – he’s snakes I’m spiders, together we have it covered and obviously the two will never meet. “Relax, I’ll take care of it”.

Logically, deck widow needed a new home. Not all arachnids can be trusted, sometimes spiders call for catch and release. Cup in hand I crossed the street, depositing deck widow on the sidewalk for one last look.  The couple walking their dog couldn’t hide assumptions I was out of my mind. Intent on capturing photos with my phone, they didn’t ask, nor did I explain deck widow was one bad ass spider.

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Basement Widows’ Fat Beetle


Misplacing bedroom widow has me questioning guidelines of my liberal position on house spiders. Far from the first time a bedroom widow went missing, it may be time to tighten parameters of leniency. It was there this morning, tucked under the windowsill, politely respecting our agreement of six weeks – “stay as long as you like, but stay where you are”. I distinctly recall saying “have a nice day spider” as I left for work.

Maybe bedroom widow found the room a tad stifling, it was freaking hot today. Approaching midnight and the thermostat reads 82 degrees Fahrenheit on the main floor -unpleasant by any standard, I’m going to visualize lost widow blissfully sipping bug juice cocktails beneath soft cool mist falling from my garden canopy.

Downstairs is considerably cooler, almost bearable. As such, basement widow hasn’t made travel plans. Older, wiser and familiar with summer heat, basement widow is an asshole for not mentoring bedroom widow on the intricacies of household habitation. Greedy basement widow – I guess she wanted all the fat beetles for herself.

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Anyone faced with losing a spider, knows to take stock of all house spiders. Basement widow was right where I left her, busily bundling a fat beetle.

I Don’t Like This Spider


An understanding exists between myself and spiders – polite spiders can stay, uppity wanderers are shown the garden. This spring I said “welcome back” for the third year to a well mannered black widow who fancies a vent in the frame of my bathroom window. Several weeks ago a small widow moved to a quiet plot beneath the bedroom window frame. The epitome of graceful respect, the world would be a better place if all house spiders took a page from the widow book.

Clearly spiders will be spiders, just as some people grind my last nerve, certain spiders are oblivious to matters of decorum. Of course spiders don’t  conceptualize cause and effect, driven by instinct they go about their merry way without cumbersome moral restraint.

Household spider sightings elicit urgent requests for immediate dispatch of arachnid horrors. At my discretion they’re shown the door, catch and release is the avenue of choice for cheeky spiders. “Off you go, stay in this lovely garden” usually solves the problem. Calm resolve ends the crisis in all but one situation. No quarrel exists with behemoth basement spiders or errant wolf spiders, the demon pictured bellow is another matter.

The photograph is lousy (taken in haste on my cell phone), I have no idea what kind of spider it is, all I can tell you – I don’t like this spider. It receives no mercy. Night after night it taunts me with unpredictable actions and glassy eyed defiance. Lurking under my pillow, uttering taunts from ceiling, wall and blinds, laughing brazenly when opening a drawer. Much as I want to say “out the door you rascal”, relentless bullying forces “take that you little shit” as I squash it in a tissue. I don’t like this spider.

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