Tuesday, October 31, 2023

New Book Review: Unexpected Roomie

Title: An Unexpected Roomie 

Author: Laura Langa

Date: 2023

Publisher: West East

Quote: "Mom and Dad are in a hotel because they're finally renovating the bathrooms...So that leaves Rowan's." 

Claire planned to stay with her best friend Meg, but Meg's just about to leave Tucson. Their parents would invite Claire to stay with them, but they're not in their home either. So of course the couch where Claire will sleep during her time in Tucson will be Meg's brother's. Claire never told Meg that she'd always been attracted to brother Rowan. 

What needs to be said about what happens next is that it's not as normal as my parents' generation thought it was. Young men and young women can share houses as peacefully as sisters and brothers do. For my generation, mixed-group houses were normal. We just understood from the beginning that opposite-sex housemates can help people stay celibate and same-sex housemates can form unwelcome attractions, that gender alone does not guarantee celibate peace, so the only thing to do is share with people who can agree on standards for cleanness, quietness, and morning shower times. But some old rules remained...I rented rooms next door to single men's rooms, rooms that shared kitchens and baths with men's, but I never spent a night in a house occupied only by a man, or men. A mixed crowd was presumed wholesome; one woman and one man were still presumed to be a couple. Meg's and her family's cheerful assumption that Claire and Rowan will feel like siblings, alone together at his house, may be a new thing for the young. 

In any case it doesn't work. Claire and Rowan haven't really felt like siblings since their early teens, and when they find themselves compatible as housemates too, there's only one way the story can end. Well, it's a clean romance novel. 

Halloween Story: The Grim Reaper, Revisited

Years ago, as part of a fiction writing exercise, I wrote the first third of a story about something that scares me—a young man with Prozac Dementia, armed and out to kill. Read scene one here.

I don’t know how many people followed the links to the second third of the story another participant wrote—here. It built up the horror. We started with a madman; now he’s possessed. He’s still going down in flames, but the body count could be much higher.

I was looking forward to someone else’s ending for the story. Nobody wrote an ending. Like most of the stories, mine remained unfinished. So I’ve had to finish it myself, drawing on the “archetypes” trope (best handled by Piers Anthony, in his Incarnations of Immortality series)....

Entering the building, Blake began to giggle uncontrollably at the thought of the evening ahead of him. He envisioned hmiself darting from couple to couple, his sickle slicing through body after body. People tried to follow him but he, Blake, the Grim Reaper, slipped through their fingers and capered on, mowing down one couple after another. The force he had felt at home would possess him and...

He found the prospect so very amusing that he needed to stop in a restroom. Only one other guy was in there and, to Blake’s surprise, the man had chosen the same costume he had. He felt a kind of force field around the other man. It was not the one he was looking for.

Two Grim Reapers at one dance, huh?” Blake muttered, pulling up his robe.

No,” said the other Grim Reaper in a voice so deep and sinister that it made Blake fumble, dribbling on his own shoes. “No…I came for the drunk drivers myself.”

Ha ha ha!” Blake tried to recapture his lost merriment.

Ha ha ha,” repeated the other Reaper, but there was nothing giggly about his laugh. It was the laugh to end all laughter.

Definitely alarmed, Blake looked at the face under the other black hood. The man was older than he, shorter by an inch or two, darker by several shades. “Great costume, man,” Blake said, forcing good cheer. “Were you ever in movies?”

Various actors have played me in movies,” said the other. “I am the Lord of the Harvest. Some call me Saturn. Some call me Grim.”

Sounds good,” Blake said with sincere admiration. He looked at himself in the mirror. “I am the Lord of the Harvest!” His mind groped for the memory of the deadly power he had expected would fill him, but he couldn’t feel it now. Was it intimidated by Saturn, or Grim, or was he?

You are no such thing,” said Saturn, or Grim. “You are very sick, though very young. It is possible I might help you.”

I don’t think I want your help, thanks.” Blake felt very sick and very young. “Someone else...”

You don’t think. You feel. That is the trouble.” Blake felt as if the older man were holding him with his glittering black eyes. “I know who offered to help you, and he’s exceeded his harvest limit for this year already. I’m the Reaper now. Lay down your weapons.”

Blake found himself laying down not only his blade, but a lighter and a little flat can he’d filled with kerosene.

A swirling trail of metallic glitter seemed to gather itself up and pour itself out through the sealed, opaque window. The weapons had disappeared from the floor.

The atoms will reunite in similar configurations after everyone has gone home, when no one will stumble over them,” said the Reaper. “Give me your arm, lad.”

Blake felt compelled, though quite sure his arm was about to come off at the shoulder.

Have you not read,” said the Reaper, “that the Lord of the Harvest was wont to show his age by leaning on a young attendant’s arm? Forth to the dance, my page.”

They walked slowly down a corridor. Small groups of students stopped chattering and watched them pass. They entered the main gymnasium, hung with orange-shaded lanterns, draped with orange ribbons of crepe paper, and full of costumed students. None of them said a word.

Dance on,” the Reaper boomed. “Death awaits only a few of you tonight.”

Let’s go home now,” suggested the male to the female of a couple of black cats. Catching their tails up over their arms, they almost ran out of the gym. So did a half-dozen ghosts, a dozen witches, sixteen Disney princesses, and a racing car.

A young man with a large envelope attached to a chain around his neck approached. “I am a Chain Letter,” he said. “The last fellow that introduced me to ten girls got promoted the next week. The last fellow that failed to introduce me to ten girls got mono and flunked out of school.”

The Reaper laughed. The young man looked at him and suddenly hurried out of the buildng.

I think one of the Sleeping Beauties was waiting for him,” explained the Reaper. “Well, page, find us a pair of partners, that we may dance.”

Wondering whether he was about to faint, Blake approached a pair of misfits who looked as if they might be desperate enough to dance with a pair of Grim Reapers. The one without a costume rushed toward Saturn, or Grim. The one with the pencil behind her ear looked at Blake, shrugged, and stepped forward.

Don’t you have to pay if you’re not in costume? Or something?” Blake said, tapping his foot more or less in rhythm, which was as close as he came to dancing.

I am in costume.” The girl showed him her pencil. It was yellow. “I’m a dull student. See how dull?” She touched the point before replacing the pencil behind her ear. “And you’re that loser who passed out in that math class and never came back, aren’t you. What were you, sniffing glue?”

I’m the Grim Reaper,” Blake muttered furiously. “I’m here to kill people.”

The girl danced away and spoke to a teacher. Blake sat down on a bench. The music stopped. The girl dancing with the other Grim Reaper screamed and ran out. The Reaper approached Blake.

What did you say to her?” Blake wondered out loud.

I told her not to have the abortion. Now be truthful.” The Reaper moved away, back to the dance floor with another girl dressed as a real Renaissance princess.

The school guidance counsellor approached Blake. “What did you tell Lacey you were here for? People care about you…”

I told her I was here to dance,” Blake said, locking eyes with the counsellor, daring him to dispute Blake’s word.

The counsellor moved away. One of the stoner crowd held out a hand to Blake. Blake stood up and followed her moves. He never had had much sense of rhythm. He danced badly with her, and with some other people. Dancing strained his stiff, tight muscles. Each costume was less attractive than the one before it. He had no idea who any of them really was until he found himself facing Saturn, or Grim.

You should have been truthful,” said the Grim Reaper,

Then the music built up to a scream, and Blake felt himself dissolve into a trail of dust, and knew no more.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Link Log for 10.29.23

It looks as if there's more bad than good news today. Persevere. There are some pleasant things in this link log.

Status Update 

It's Serena's turn to be sick. She was chasing a glyphosate-poisoned bird in the orchard yesterday; it must have suffered long enough for her to go back and find it. She found grass to eat but evidently failed to bring up the poison. She is feverish and miserable. I used up most of the food-grade charcoal in the house last week, but had enough left to mix up a cup for Serena. She took a dose and lay down to rest. Around midnight she rushed out to the sand pit. After midnight she came in for another dose but was feeling frisky enough to want to rest on top of a stack of storage bins on the porch, as usual. At the time of writing I expect her to recover, but she has had a very bad day.

Serena had kittens this spring, and lost all of them. Before she even started to look positively pregnant she had two more, in summer, and lost both of them too. One survived, after a fashion, long enough that we reenacted the trying-to-get-the-heart-going thing Samantha and I did with Serena's brother. The kitten's heart would start ticking evenly, it squeaked and wriggled and voided its meconium for about 30 hours after birth, but then its heart would slow down or speed up. Finally it stopped altogether. 

Serena has seemed subdued, not resentful but discourged, ever since. Less energetic, less eager to play the games her daughters still want to play. 

I know who did this. I saw it done; glyphosate was illegally sprayed on my hedge, the home of the cardinal family who've been part of my family since I was six years old. What made Serena sick today may well have been a cardinal. I know the vehicle the poisoner was leaning out of; all I was not able to see, around the hedge and the slope below, was whether the Professional Bad Neighbor did it himself or induced the young woman who looks exactly like his sister to do it. 

I expect he's the one who will suffer for what he's done, all the rest of his life in this world and whatever he may have in the next, anyway. 

I say this to my heirs, whenever the time may come. Our ancestors were Christians. They came here to practice peace. Let their legacy be preserved. Let any of his close relatives who may outlive this fool, as so few of them have done,  live in peace, so long as they never come within sight of our land. 

Food (Yuck) 

Despite the long popularity of chocolate-covered ants as a novelty candy, insects' outer surface is quite indigestible. A couple of small ants are more than enough. Moses identified four insect species, all in the grasshopper family and none positively identifiable today, as being safe for human consumption. Some other insects that have traditionally been eaten by humans, like mopane "worms" and witchetty grubs, might have been left off the safe protein sources list just because the ancient Israelites weren't going to find and eat them anyway, or for other reasons--who knows? Anyway Tyson, the factory-farm chicken giant, whose owner claims to be a Christian but has not publicly repented of the sin of shipping bricks of cocaine shoved up the back ends of chickens some of whom were still alive, wants to start processing insect protein as an alternative food for humans? It can be done--large insects like grasshoppers do contain edible protein, once shelled--but if you don't trust them to use only kosher insects, it might be a good idea to eat only recognizable pieces of chicken. No more "nuggets" or "tenders" for me...

Glyphosate Awareness 

Almost all childhood cancer is in the "leukemia" category. 

Links they recommend...some should be familiar: 

1. Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally

2. Glyphosate: Unsafe On Any Plate

3. Glyphosate and Its Degradation Product AMPA Occur Frequently and Widely in U.S. Soils, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Precipitation

4. Glyphosate persistence in seawater

5. UCSF Presentation: Bio-monitoring of glyphosate across the United States in urine and tap water using high-fidelity LC-MS/MS method

6. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate

7. The BfR has finalised its draft report for the re-evaluation of glyphosate

8. Advisory panel divided over EPA glyphosate assessment

A more detailed summary: 


A charming idea, for those who don't get into the silly decorations and costumes of Halloween For The Tots, but do want a day to pray for the rest and remember the company of their departed relatives...

(My family tended to laugh like loons at things that wouldn't make any sense to anyone outside the family. As with some of Sara McNulty's ad-lib-comedy gems, you had to have been there. Nevertheless, Mother's limerick deserves to be remembered. It was written for a contest sponsored by a company that processed silver...

There was a fair maiden called Sylvia
Who was wooed by a young man called Wilbur.
He was valiant and bold,
And he offered her gold.
She said, "Thanks, but I'd rather have silver."

The company didn't buy it, but it's always made me smile.)


While you might want to boycott Twitter...this is a tweet-thread the censors hate. It's extraordinary because it's a passionate obituary/biography/summary/advertisement by someone who knew and loved the deceased, and because it fully exploits the tweet as a (probably short-lived) literary form. It's a work of art as tribute to a doctor whose patients obviously adored him. 


Leland James ponders the perfect pumpkin.


Zazzle now offers patches. What took them so long? How could anyone look hip without a decorative patch somewhere? Yes, of course there's a butterfly patch, as of today. They offer several shape options and, of course, you can substitute any picture from the Save the Butterflies Collection or your own. Zazzle is a legitimate computer printing company with a good reputation for delivering good quality merchandise. 

Not mine, but pretty:

Unfavorable Book Review: The Reformation of Marli Meade

Title: The Reformation of Marli Meade 

Author: Tracy Hewitt Meyer

Date: 2023

Publisher: BHC

ISBN: 978-1-64397-357-9

Length: 228 pages

Quote:  "The church...nestled atop Ophidian Mount...Wound around the base of the cross was a snake."

There is no Ophidian Mount. There are no confirmed records of a snake-handling cult, in which believers waved snakes about in a belief that they were miraculously protected from any venom the snakes might or might not have had, in Virginia. There is no confirmed record of a church like Marli Meade's father's "Church on the Mountain" anywhere, at any time. 

An ostensibly Christian church that never mentions Jesus, love, God, joy, or virtue, but focusses on the serpent in the Garden of Eden, is the stuff of which a snarky Flannery O'Connor novel or a wonderfully creepy Stephen King story might be made. Jessamyn West managed to make a story in which a man killed a snake deliciously spine-tingling, in Cress Delahanty, with only a series of suggestions that the man's allegedly Christian practice was guided only by his own troubled mind. Meyer seems to be promising readers something of that sort. This novel started out with a suggestion that it was going to be fun to read.

Well, it's not. Though the Ophidian Mount church is a creepy cult whose religious practices sound more satanic than Christian, Meyer is not writing horror or satire or even comedy. Nor is she writing with the kind of genuine empathy and good will for a character whose religion her author doesn't understand that M.E. Kerr showed in What I Really Think of You. No attempt at either a realistic, balanced view of a real cult like the Branch Davidian, or an exaggerated, satirical warning to real religious fanatics about Where That Sort Of Thing Might Lead, is being made. As I read, I became convinced that, although nothing like her fiction's setting and characters ever existed in the real world, Meyer wants to believe they do. Keeping it fiction absolves her of criminal charges for libel, but she wants people to imagine that every little rural church that's not paying tribute to the World Council of Churches is a satanic cult where murdered members' bodies are slowly decomposing on the spooky pale-lavender peaks of the Appalachian Mountains.

Hello? I live here. I've prayed and sung in little isolated "interdenominational community" churches, which flourished about a hundred years ago as people stabilized their farms enough to want churches but the population wasn't dense enough to accommodate every denomination. They are vulnerable to the same sins big-city churches are: gossip and snobbery among the congregation, egotism and competition for promotion among the staff, greed and embezzlement and lechery in the pastors. Just as most unvaccinated people do not actually have diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, or smallpox, so most small-town churches are not heavily infested with any of those sins, but they are vulnerable

/But they are not satanic cults. That comes from the twisted mind of a social worker who's trying to demonize all things rural, independent, unaffiliated, off the grid or out of the mainstream. It's a vile slander. This book is well written by academic standards--clear transitions, consistent storyline, good grammar and spelling. It even includes a few felicitous insights into the way a nervous teenager flattens spaghetti with the back of a fork. But I say its intentions are dishonest and unethical, and I call foul. Nobody should pay for this book. It has no other purpose or message than to demonize the independent rural churches.

You might reasonably say, "In a world where almost anything can happen, isn't it possible that an isolated, unaffiliated community might turn their little church into a satanic cult?" Yes, of course that's possible; as a horror motif it's been exploited by gifted writers in novels like Harvest Home or The Dark Tower. It's not actually recorded but people could get so wound up in their own troubled minds that members of a church might secretly practice human sacrifice, or members of  religious community might become vampires. But Meyer tells Marli and readers matter-of-factly that there really is a whole network of crypto-satanist rural churches...blatantly libelling the rural churches that don't marry same-sex couples or pray for the success of the "World Health Organization" in taking over the world.

Somebody ought to write a novel about the way we oldfashioned "Bible Christians," with or without neighborhood nondenominational churches, out here in the backwoods really live. The simplicity. The freedom. The joy. 

Meyer might do well to write a novel about the lucky escape of a teenager who's a ward, or more like a prisoner, of a tyrannical state that separated person from well-intentioned but flawed parents--addicts, likely--and placed them with modern-style abusive foster parents, who have them diagnosed and "medicated" for conditions they don't have, exploit their developing sexuality and, when they complain, try to sell them on "gender reassignment," and alienate them from friendship and life by keeping them doped on profitable pharmaceutical products. That's what I see actual teenagers in search of an escape from. A real nondenominational church, attended by people who make their own clothes and do other useful work, would seem like Paradise to such a child after the drug addiction wore off.

I hesitated to finish and review this book. My goal is to encourage writers--generally. When we know more about a particular topic than other writers do, we should educate them gently, with good will. But I don't believe it's possible for Meyer to have written a book as libellous as Marli Meade in honest ignorance. I think she needs a good punishing--not with an ordeal by exposure to venomous snakes followed by branding and/or whipping, but with the end of her literary career.

Butterfly of the Week: Baronia Brevicornis

This week's butterfly, Baronia brevicornis or the Mexican Comet, is endangered. It can resemble the Monarch, and, like the Monarch, it is a tourist attraction for Mexico. But that's only about half the reason why scientists write about it. Some scientists are absolutely fascinated by evolutionary theory, and, theoretically, they speculate that Baronia ought to be the oldest living butterfly species on Earth. (The structure of its wings resembles the structure of one of the very few butterfly fossils that have been found.) Since these scientists weren't there when Baronia evolved into its present form, or when anything else did, either, this web site will  acknowledge that these scientists exist and that they write papers, and then move on. We are interested in the facts about Baronia today.

Dozens of scientific studies of these butterflies are online. Most are written for scientists, which should make them only slightly slower than average reading for The Nephews. Many also require that you either pay to read them, or log in from your school, or else put information about your school and name on the main Internet (not recommended). This post was, however, written by merging my notes on a handful of scientific papers that are available online and adding some of the multitude of fair-use photos. A bilingual document by Ivette Galicia-Mendoza et al. was especially informative.

Baronia commmorates the first specimens having been collected by Oscar Theodor Baron. Brevicornis means "short-horned," and describes its short antennae. Apart from its wings, it could be mistaken for a wasp. It can't bite or sting but it just might have gained some survival benefit from looking as if it could. Photo from Ivette Galicia-Mendoza et al., in https://www.redalyc.org/journal/425/42571635087/html/.

Osbert Salvin's two-page description of "this interesting species" (printed in 1893) has been preserved online at https://archive.org/details/transactionsofen1893roya/page/331/mode/1up?view=theater.

All Baronias don't look alike. There are subspecies, and within subspecies there are different genetic types. However, scientists consider Baronia brevicornis a unique species, part of the swallowtail family but different from all other swallowtail butterflies. (For one thing, it does not actually have swallowtails on its hind wings.) So brevicornis is the only species in the genus Baronia. This makes Baronia brevicornis what some scientists call a "monotypic" species, although it is anything but monomorphic.

Males have spotted wings. They can be generally classified into three color types: light brown with yellow spots, dark brown with yellow spots, and yellow with barely noticeable yellow spots. Brown individuals are much more common than yellow ones.

Dark brown male by Luc Legal. This and other photos from the same source are in the Butterflies of America gallery at .https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Baronia_b_brevicornis_a.htm.

Females have three more distinct color patterns, none of which is easily confused with the males. They an be brown with lots of white spots, blackish with just a few little white spots, or orange with black and white spots. The black or "melanic" type resembles a faded, tailless Black Swallowtail, and the orange resembles the Monarch or Viceroy. The brown type looks more like the males than the other female types do, but is easily recognized as different from the males. The brown type is most common, the orange type most rare. Females are slightly larger than males.

Orange female from Luc Legal.

Melanic female from Luc Legal.

There is considerable individual variation within each of these six categories. A melanic female may be faded black all over with only a few little lighter spots at the edges of her wings, or have orange and white spots.

Photo donated to Inaturalist by EChame.

Though brown females are agreed to be the most numerous type in Mexico, the reverse is true in cyberspace. Photos of the more unusual types seem to be seen as more interesting  Google has lots of images of brown females, which Wikipedia seems to have chosen as the most representative of the species...all of museum specimens, not living butterflies.

This photo by Christopher Taylor (http://taxondiversity.fieldofscience.com/2017/08/papilionidae.html) does at least document the butterfly's size--wingspread about two and a half inches. A male might be closer to two inches. Once the female has unloaded her eggs the size difference is not great. Egg-laden female moths and butterflies always look much fatter than males and usually weigh more, even in species where males are bigger--if anyone has a scale that accurately weighs butterflies.

Food plants are thorny bushes, Vachella campechiana, Acacia macrocantha, Acacia pennatula. Caterpillars do not need a forest environment to survive and would, in fact, be at a disadvantage in a fully forested environment, since tall trees would shade out their host plants. They could probably coexist with humans, if people left their host plant alone or protected it from cattle during the one month of the year when the butterflies use it. The form of "habitat degradation" that most threatens them is probably not even domestic plant cultivation, since native bushes can form useful hedges between cultivated fields, but "pesticide" spraying. Mexico has had a history of doing very little to reduce the damage done by reckless use of poison sprays, which, of course, ultimately tend to produce more of the unwanted species.

Motor vehicles are another threat to these butterflies, observes Diego15.

Acacias positively thrive close to humans, and many humans even like to look at them. A Cambridge University study found no need for humans to avoid Baronia habitat, but an opportunity to help conseve this species by creating more fields where butterflies'' and caterpillars' food plants grow within sight of each other. Any association with a college or university, even if it was thirty years ago, should open the document for you free of charge:

Adults are pollinators and sip nectar from only a few kinds of flowering plants. These butterflies are not long-distnce travellers. They all need a relatively specialized environment, where both butterflies' and caterpillars' food plants grow close together. Having grown up in a place that meets those requirements, they tend to stick to it. Males hang around where a female butterfly is emerging from the pupa. As if they knew that their time is short, males and females seem to agree on the benefit of the female's mating as soon as possible, providing the maximum possible time to distribute her eggs as widely as possible. After a female has mated, males flit on in search of another female, but they tend to stay in the same neighborhood. Butterfly populations do shift from field to field, year to year, to avoid predators but stay close to the coasts of Mexico.

Butterflies recognize one another by smell, so it doesn't matter to this male what the female in the pupal shell is going to look like. She smells fine to him. Photo by Eric Tigrerito.

While females are ready to mate as soon as they can fly, males may have to wait a few days. Since they have only a few days to live, they spend this time behaving, as much as a butterfly can, like immature males. Incapable of doing any real harm to anything, they claim territories and pester other butterflies with nonverbal demands to mate or fight. Since their bodies do not yet contain spermatophores, either of these threats can only be regarded as a joke. Butterflies do sometimes 'play chicken" by flying directly at each other; in a few species, like Monarchs, they may actually collide, but since neither butterfly weighs enough to do any damage, even the collision is more of a game, and an opportunity for courting couples to sniff and touch, than a real threat. Nature has made butterflies completely nonviolent animals. They usually humor the immature males and leave them alone. The actual effect of the males' jackass stage of life may be, some naturalists think, to help females find fresh territory where the next generation of caterpillars may have to avoid fewer stinkbugs. Since the caterpillars are not at all good at avoiding stinkbugs, some researchers think foolish young males may contribute to the species' survival without knowing it. 

When ready to fly and/or mate, the newly eclosed female flies up into a tree. The favored male follows, and they can mate either back to back or in a modified hugging position, facing each other around a twig. 

Females lay eggs by ones on food plants, spreading them as widely as possible. They live in a dry climate where it's possible for a caterpillar to eat leaves faster than the host plant is able to replace them. Eggs hatch in about five days.

Egg photographed by Luc Legal.

Once hatched, it takes a baby Baronia about a month to eat its way through five skins. These skins are plain, camouflaged as bits of their host plants, with green sides and a brown, black, red, or yellow stripe along the back. Their food plant is not very toxic, nor are they, and many are eaten by other animals before becoming butterflies.

Caterpillars photographed by Luc Legal.

Caterpillars are very vulnerable to predators. Butterfly watchers report that they are more often eaten by stinkbugs or lizards than by birds or by the wasps sometimes released on farms to control nuisance species. Their only defense is not tasting good to predators. Stinkbugs do not consider this a problem. For most lifeforms a stinkbug is fairly easy to see and smell, but the caterpillars seem oblivious. Some of them pull leaves around themselves and tie them together with silk. 

Photos by T. Covarrubias-Camarillo suggest that, although the drawn-in leaves may fool some predators, they would not stop a determined stinkbug. Stinkbugs have their place in this world as predators on pests, and local populations of this generally rare butterfly can be dense, but generally sticks and stones can be good for stinkbugs, helping the population evolve tendencies to avoid us. T/ Covarrubias-Camarillo found that predators recognized a caterpillar through a rolled-up acacia leaf, and were able to get at it, but were more likely to look for an unwrapped caterpillar to eat first. Thus the caterpillar's shelter, like its parents' resemblance to wasps and/or less edible butterflies, has a small survival benefit. 

After eating all it can eat, the caterpillar pupates on the ground for a few days or several months, depending on the weather. During a rainy summer one local population was observed to produce a new generation every six to eight weeks, though the May-June generation was much larger than the subsequent generations in the year. In drier conditions another local population was observed to have only one generation per year, with butterflies and caterpillars active at the same time, the caterpillars then pupating for ten to eleven months. 

Pupae photographed by Luc Legal.

The butterflies may fly for as long as three weeks, but it seems likely that most survive less than one week. Despite their resemblances to inedible species, females don't seem to live longer than males; in the Galicia-Mendoza study, their average adult life span seemed a little shorter than the males', possibly because laying eggs creates a moment of disadvantage when the female is easier for a bird or lizard to grab. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Book Review: Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back

I give up. Serena's illness took up too much of the day. I'm not going to be able to finish reading a new Christian book in Spanish and write a fair review of it, today. So here is a review of a classic book that I happen to have for sale.

Title: Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back 

Author: Charles R. Swindoll

Date: 1980

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

ISBN: 0-8407-5723-9

Length: 191 pages

Quote: “More of us in God’s family ought to admit that there are more ‘growig and learning’ days than ‘great and fantastic’ days.”

Like all of Swindoll's books this one is well written and uplifting. Nevertheless, it has disappointing patches. 

According to the blurb on the back jacket, Swindoll recognized that “life’s problems can’t be solved by all-too-easy cliches” and attempted to offer “practical ways to cope with fear, stress, misunderstanding, inferiority, personal loss, anger, and temptation.” I hate to imagine how airy the other books of advice for people facing these problems must have been...well, it was the period immediately before Dave Hunt debunked Positive Thinking. In any case, much of what this book contains are now, if they weren’t then, all-too-easy cliches.

What actually does help people “persevere through pressure”? Duh...try letting some of the pressure off? (For example, it’s easy to relieve money pressure.)

The poetic summary of people who always have a pep talk to offer to anyone who has a problem used to be well known: “The Toad beneath the Harrow knows exactly where each tooth-point goes. The Butterfly upon the Road preaches Contentment to the Toad.” And there may actually be times when people appreciate the “help” of a Butterfly upon the Road; there are times when anger is useful...but what Butterflies upon the Road do for pressure is raise it. Blood pressure, specifically.

Then again, Swindoll was counselling yuppies in California, who did not typically see themselves as Toads Beneath the Harrow during the Reagan years. To borrow another cliché of the same vintage, they saw the World as Their Oyster.

So maybe it’s the focus on the feelings that makes this book seem out of touch to me. We “feel” emotions associated with the mix of hormones in our bodies, and some psychologists currently think that that’s why people report a similar range of emotions about wildly diverse life experiences, but most of us do realize that some of the events about which we have emotional feelings are more life-threatening than others. Swindoll doesn’t, quite. He hands out the same little pep talks for people who’ve lost their homes or their children that he offers to people who’ve lost their jobs. For the people who’ve only lost jobs, pep talks may be helpful.

Swindoll is known for writing Bible studies for use in counselling. He does that well. If you know (or are) a melodramatic type who tends to think of the insolence of a store manager who doesn’t want to give you a refund by analogy with the murderous persecutions of the mad King Saul, then it might be helpful to sit down and work through the emotions by working out the analogy between your strictly emotional crisis and the life-and-death crises narrated in the Bible

This strategy should not be used if you or the person you are counselling is having a life-and-death crisis. In that case, a better therapeutic approach might be Duct Tape Therapy, in which the person tempted to sit around “counselling” applies duct tape firmly to his or her mouth so that he or she will be able to focus on doing something useful.

My college classmates and I found this book helpful for talking ourselves through the socioemotional crises of late adolescence. If I’m blasting it with faint praise now, it’s probably because I’ve not found “Just rise above your feelings...you can do it...all by yourself...you can do anything” at all helpful in any situation that still stirs up my faded, jaded, middle-aged emotions. My suggestion would be: if tempted to turn to this book, ask yourself whether anyone has been materially harmed, or placed in danger of material harm. If so, do not use this book. Use DuctTape Therapy.

Web Log for 10.27.23 and 10.28.23

Status Update 

A new Christian book review will appear here some time today, if it hasn't already. A new Christian thought essay will appear here either today or next Sunday. I now have 75 new e-books in Book Funnel, about twenty PDF, and a few dozen in Kindle. I'm starting to feel a bit like "Bar the doors! They're coming in the windows!" More arrive in almost every e-mail. I'm reading as fast as I can, and already the blanket I've been knitting as I read is big enough for me to lie down under and rest my eyes. I will read your books, dear fellow writers...I just can't promise which ones I'll be able to read and review in this calendar year. But I am grateful for all the free reads and, to answer one author's question--no, I don't give everything five stars or recommend it to movie makers, or even hardcover publishers, but so far none of the self-published romance or detective stories has been really bad. Frivolous fun for those who like that sort of fiction is what they are. All book lovers who have computers need to be on board helping identify the new books that really should be printed and kept in libraries.

How do you get on these lists? Stand still in cyberspace, don't move--they'll find you! Seriously, Net Galley and Edelweiss are two good sources of digital copies and advance reader copies of books that frazzled commercial publishers recognized as having strong market potential--new books from authors of very popular and/or well reviewed books, e.g. Book Tasters is a good source of quirky self-published books that are good. I seem to be on about a half-dozen other lists and I don't even know where they're based or how I got onto them. The flash flood of free books will subside...if you're a book lover I highly recommend enjoying it while it lasts.


Not every home is suited to become a Cat or Dog Sanctuary. Gentle Readers, one of the authors who's been trying to market books by sending out free copies of volume one is a sort of accidental pet rescuer. Animals were dumped on her doorstep or being judged unadoptable at the shelter. She did what she had to do and, as a result, needs to find a new home fast. Fortunately houses are relatively affordable in southern Ohio. If you want to help a half-dozen furballs and a writer find a Fur Ever Home, here's the Go Fund Me link:



Hill Faith is an interesting site for a specific niche of readers--federal employees in Washington. It combines reports on job openings and promotions with Christian essays, mostly on explaining the faith to unbelievers, and on Sundays it presents a Christian contemporary song. 


I didn't find dVerse Poets while this poet was an active member...


Martha DeMeo cruises along the Blue Ridge Parkway to bring youall the sort of views I've been living with lately...


Can a quarrel do more damage than a flood?

Politics (Election 2024)

Hahaha. At TheViewFromLadyLake.Blogspot this was recommended as a way to annoy left-leaning neighbors. If I were an annoyed left-leaning neighbor, I'd sneak out and reverse the heads. And if I were going to decorate for Halloween and invite pranks from kids who wanted more or pricier candy, I just might hand them something obvious like that.

Photo ganked from this post. I don't know that Joe Jackson's header violates any site contracts; it uses a phrase that even aunts use in some parts of the country, but aunts of my vintage, in Virginia, do not.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Morgan Griffith on Mike Johnson

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:


We Have a New Speaker

On October 3rd, a motion to vacate was brought to the House floor and eight Republicans voted with Democrats to oust the Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

The Republicans were frustrated that Congress was unable to pass all 12 fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills before the September 30th deadline and so we had to pass a continuing resolution to give us 45 more days of government funding so that the House could further debate and vote on the bills.

Though I understood their frustration, I disagreed with this move. It was my belief that there was nobody at that point in time who could quickly obtain the 217 votes needed to become speaker.

It seems I had a point. For the next three weeks, Republicans debated and voted on who to nominate. Three different candidates were put forward by the Republican conference: Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Tom Emmer. But they did not have the votes to win on the floor.

On October 24th, after numerous rounds of voting, it became clear Mike Johnson of Louisiana had the support within the Republican conference and on the floor to become the 56th Speaker of the House.

On the floor, he received all of the votes of Republicans present, 220.

Besides calling on all of us to work together and for a restoration of trust, Speaker Johnson laid out his vision for how the House should conduct itself moving forward. Below are his core principles for our nation.

First, Individual Freedom.

All Americans are endowed with individual, God-given liberties that are to be preserved against government intrusion. We must all work to maintain and promote our rights and liberties.

Second, Limited Government.

This country was founded on the belief that legitimate government is more efficient and less corrupt when its size and scope are limited. This means decentralizing authority, limiting government regulations, and reducing bureaucracy.

Third, The Rule of Law.

In order to maintain a civilized society and for our liberties to be respected, we must adhere to the Constitution and ensure that justice is administered equally and impartially to all Americans.

Fourth, Peace through Strength.

A strong America is good for the entire world. As our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel, faces violence and with tensions high in the Indo-Pacific region, it is more important than ever to show the world that we are able to defeat any adversary or threat, no matter the circumstance, because we have the strongest and most capable military in the world.

Fifth, Fiscal Responsibility.

Our country’s national debt has reached over $33 trillion, and Congress has a duty to rein in spending, balance the budget, modernize federal entitlement programs, pursue pro-growth tax reforms, and restore regular order in the budget and appropriations processes. Speaker Johnson said that he would be establishing a bipartisan debt commission to begin working on the debt crisis immediately.

Sixth, Free Markets.

Free markets and free trade encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to pursue their dreams and with that, our country and economy can thrive. Our country will see more growth, more jobs, and a greater chance of upward mobility because of free markets.

Seventh, Human Dignity.

All men and women are created equal, and every American deserves respect and dignity. As a society, we must encourage education and hard work so that every American has a fair shot at a good and fulfilling life.

In fact, earlier in his speech Speaker Johnson talked about how G. K. Chesterton, the English author and philosopher, noted that the United States is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed, spelled out in our Declaration of Independence, is that all men are created equal and are endowed with the same inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thankfully, once elected, Speaker Johnson immediately got to work.

His first move was to bring a resolution to the floor to show our support for Israel and its right to defend itself. As our number one ally in the Middle East, it was imperative that the House show its bipartisan support for Israel.

After the Israel resolution, we immediately began debate on the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. I was able to speak on the House floor on behalf of my amendment to better balance fossil fuel and renewable energy research funding at the Department of Energy.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.