Posted by: Mark | March 6, 2015


2015-03-06 15.44.52

As I was leaving campus, I saw this guy, flitting from spot to spot. I can’t tell for sure but he’s either a Northern Mockingbird or Gray Catbird. I’m leaning towards Mockingbird.

Posted by: Mark | March 6, 2015

Nine to Go

I’m not surprised that a class that’s sandwiched after a snow day and before Spring Break wasn’t highly attended. Only nine students showed up so we did a quick exercise and got out early.

It should be better once the weather warms up.

Posted by: Mark | March 5, 2015

Resolution Update IX

Yet another day that the kids were off school. I’m holding up but it’s been rough.

1. Blogging. Goal:  300 posts for the year. What I have: To be on track for the year, I needed 52.6. This is #80.

2. Writing. Goal:  100,000 words for the year. What I have: I needed 17,534 but I have 25,427.

3. Running. Goal: 2,200 miles for the year.  What I have: Needed 375.75 miles, but have 470.4.

4. Publishing. Goal : 105 manuscripts sent out. What I have: I needed 18.4 but only have 14. At least it’s better than last week.

5. Video. Goal : five video projects.  What I did: Still only one. That’s actually above schedule.

6. Weight. Goal : lose 35 pounds. What I did: Lost a pound this week. I may yo-yo to victory or not.

7. Art. Goal: Photograph 100 species. What I did : 37

Mammal (6): Gerbil, Robo hamster, Campbell’s hamster, Syrian hamster, Rabbit, Gray Squirrel

Bird (18): Budgerigar parakeet, Rock doves (pigeons), Northern cardinal, House sparrow, Mallard duck, Canada goose, House finch, American robin, Red-tailed hawk, Common crow, European starling, Tufted Titmouse, Ring-billed gull, Swan Goose, American tree sparrow, Herring gull, Downy woodpecker,  Red-bellied woodpecker

Reptile (2): Red-eared slider, Leopard gecko

Amphibian (2): Dwarf aquatic frog, Fire-Bellied Toad

Insect (5): Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, Stink bug, Wax worm, Mealworms, Cricket

Myriapod (1): Millipedes

Annelid (1): Canadian nightcrawler

Planaria (1): Planaria

8. Kids. Goal : 300 events.  What I did: 38 events (Ayer School festival and Campbell County Library )

9. Exercise. Goal : 8,000 leg lifts and 5,000 push ups.  What I did : An improvement from last week:

Leg lifts: (1,275)

Push ups (1,001)

10.  Read “The Very Old Folk” by H.P Lovecraft. I’m running out of Lovecraft stories.

Posted by: Mark | March 5, 2015

No Wire Cages

For a long time I’ve read about the debate over if glass aquariums or wire cages are the best homes for hamsters.  After today I’m going with glass.

One of our dwarf hamsters was climbing on the bars of his cage just before I cleaned it. I left the room to make lunch for the kids and when I came back,  he was dead with his head stuck between two bars.

It looked like he slipped while climbing and broke his neck.

I’ve never even heard of this happening before but it has definitely turned me off wire cages.

Posted by: Mark | March 4, 2015

The Very Old Folk

This week I read Lovecraft’s “The Very Old Folk.” After “Hypnos, ” it was somewhat of a let down but did a fantastic job in building mood and setting.

The story is about a Spanish settlement under Roman occupancy. Lovecraft developed a strong sense of politics by having the Romans debate what should be done about ancient hill dwellers who terrorized the area with unholy rituals.

The protagonist named Rufus wins the debate to put down the rites. This turns out to be a very bad decision.

The story ended with “it was only a dream” which wouldn’t have been that bad if Lovecraft hadn’t hit his quota of them about 15 stories back. The payoff just wasn’t there.

Until the end, the story was moving fine but the lack of a climax kept it from being among Lovecraft’s best.

Posted by: Mark | March 3, 2015

Looking for a good book?

Looking for a good book?

Sharing this for local author, Stephen Leigh. Written by P. Andrew Miller.

Posted by: Mark | March 3, 2015

Were-Gecko of Hemlock Grove

I started watching Hemlock Grove and initially was on the fence about it. Then they had a werewolf transformation scene that sold me.

When I was in college I made a werewolf (actually a white German shepherd) transformation by blurring the camera and a dding shaving cream to a guy’s face and finally substituting the dog.

In Hemlock, the actor’s eyes popped out with wolf eyes appearing beneath them. This reminded me a little too much ofJudge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Normally evoking a children’s movie would hurt a horror show but the judge is suitably creepy enough for it to work.

The wolf burst out of his human skin and, in a gross touch, ate it.

That’s exactly what geckos do when they she’d and was enough to pull me back into the show.

I’m waiting for it to start eating cat poop out of a litter box.

Posted by: Mark | March 2, 2015

My Favorite 11 Issues of Marvel’s What If?

Looking back, What If was a crazy idea for a comic book. No regular cast of characters, stories hinging on minor to huge changes, completely inconsistent. That’s what I loved about it. It was the only mainstream comic book where anything could happen, the only comic where the main character could actually die.

And they died like crazy. Before the movies, I hated Iron Man and it seemed every alternate universe killed off its version of Tony Stark within a couple of pages. In terms of literary criticism, that’s not a very good standard. I don’t claim that these issues are the best of What If?, just my personal favorites.

11.  Issue 11, vol. 2 (1990) What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power? Looking back, everything in this issue could have been better but at the time I liked the concept and variations.

10. Issue 41, vol. 2 (1992)  What if the Avengers had fought Galactus? Cosmic destruction and mayhem? Check? Dead Iron Man? Check. It makes the list.

9.  Issue 43 (1984) What if Conan the Barbarian were stranded in the 20th Century? (Shouldn’t that be “was”? If this story really happened, the title shouldn’t take the subjunctive.) What would happen? He’d become a pimp, that’s what would happen. Seriously. The sight of Conan decked out in a Superfly pimp daddy wardrobe was worth the cost of the issue.

I also liked the backup story which expanded the ending of issue 32.

8.  Issue 37 (1983) What if the Beast and the Thing Continued to Mutate? The first story with the Beast was iffy but I loved the second one with the Thing. The change from this story and the mainstream Marvel universe was that Black Goliath acted selflessly in the mainstream but selfishly in the other. So instead of curing an even more hideous mutating Thing, Goliath shrugged and looked out for number one. Normally, this would kill off half the case, but as much as What If? loved bloodshed, it actually worked out for the best. Everyone ended better off because Goliath was a selfish jerk. Maybe it was an homage to number one Ayn Rand fan, Steve Ditko.

7  Issue 34 (1982) Many silly stories. I’m not sure if I would find any of these funny anymore but I remember laughing at them in the 80s.

6. Issue 32 (1982) What if the Avengers had become pawns of Korvac? One of the deadliest issues ever, killing everyone in the universe except for Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, and Phoenix. It was well enough received that it got a sequel in issue 43.

5.  Issue 29 (1981) What if the Avengers defeated everybody? Backup story “What if Namor had never regained his memories?” Another bloody issue with the Avengers, as it says on the tin, defeating everyone. Not just defeated but killed permanently, something not easy in the Marvel multiverse. Looking back, the Avengers were pretty stupid to fall for the main villain’s trick but I enjoyed it at the time.

4. Issue 26 (1981) What if Captain America had been elected president? This is another that I’m afraid to reread. I enjoyed it back in the 80s but I wonder how well it would hold up.

3.  Issue 52, vol 2 What if Doom became Sorcerer Supreme? I loved this story because it hit on an idea that I first thought of as a kid:  Doctor Strange got his powers by finding a weird cabal of monks in a hidden cave in Tibet. Doctor Doom got his armor by finding a weird cabal of monks in a hidden cave in Tibet.

In What If #52, Doom found the Ancient One and became a dangerously efficient Sorcerer Supreme. I would have liked to have seen a switch with Stephen Strange getting armor but the ending of the story tied the plot points together well.

2.  Issue 24 (1980) What if Spider-Man had rescued Gwen Stacy? I remember hating J.Jonah Jameson for the crap he pulled in this issue. Despite the fact that Earth 616 Jameson was never this bad, this issue poisoned the character for me until J.K. Simmons rescued him.

1.  Issue 22 (1980) What if Doctor Doom had become a hero? This was one of my favorite comics as a kid and I plotted out stories in this parallel universe (I’m glad Deviant Art wasn’t a thing back then). Doctor Doom was Marvel’s best villain before the 90s made him dark and grittier. I’m hoping that Marvel’s upcoming changes to their universe turns him into something less stupid, but, if not, I’ll have the memories.

Posted by: Mark | March 1, 2015


2015-03-01 18.41.42

As a change of pace from mealworms, I bought the gecko a bag of crickets.

I hate the idea of insects in the house but mealworms are slightly less disgusting.

Posted by: Mark | February 28, 2015

Completion List Update

A while back, I posted about my completion list of authors and television shows.

I’m added many more, not as much by watching more TV but by checking episode guides.

Black Books – a funny show but Bill Bailey stood out the most for me.

Dirk Gently – Despite some people’s view that the book is always better than the movie, often times the opposite is true: The Godfather and Jaws being proof positive. Dirk Gently is the only case of the television show being better than the book (although MASH is pretty close).

Dexter – The show was about the same as the books. Both started great but went off the rails towards the end.

Entourage – This was hit or miss but overall ended well.

Flight of the Conchords – The show could have used more editing but overall fun.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The book and radio series were better but they did their best with their budget.

The IT Crowd – One of my favorite shows. The American version fell apart before it started.

Jekyll – my one complaint was that after watching the first half of the series, it was almost impossible to find the second.

Spaced – I’d heard so much hype about this show that I was expecting more but it was still funny.

Whitechapel – I thought this was going to stink but it managed to rework the Jack the Ripper murders in a new angle.

Young Justice – This was the best superhero series I’ve ever seen. Naturally it was canceled.


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