Friday, March 29, 2013


When Babe Ruth stepped up to bat
It was as if the sky stood still
And the birds listened for the crack
And the ball flying among them
To distant solar horizons.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

False CA Brown Recluse Spiders: they're Titotus, not Loxosceles

The soft squishy house spiders so common in Northern California, have a similar shape as true brown recluse spiders but they're fatter, their legs are also fatter, hairier, and they're more fragile. ergo, they're not brown recluses. But try and convince someone who's creamed the unfortunate spider to something resembling babyfood puree…

We used to call them violin spiders when we were kids. To go with the black widows who had little red violins on their tummies. We orchestrated stories that they were brown man widows. The male black widow is a stripy tan or gray‚ but also shiny like the lady spider who will eat him for post-coital lunch. So you don't see very many man widow spiders.

I don't know when we began to identify the faux brown recluses as true brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) but it was sometime during the 1980s. Blame it on the hyperbole generated by the news media.

Black widows or Latrodectus—Wiki

What we tend to identify as brown recluses are not, in fact, brown recluses—though they have similar 6/2 eye structure. They're of the Titiotus persuasion. Actually these Titiotus bhoys have the 3 compound eyes plus one big hairy eyeball structure too. Hence the confusion.

A rather wan and pale Titiotus sp. from CA —Wiki

Grass Valley poet Molly Fisk posted a photo of a real brown recluse on her Facebook page. And I realized that what we've been ignorantly calling brown recluses are in fact, not. However, another name for brown recluse is—violin spider. This is one time I'm SO glad I was wrong about them. The things ya learn on FB. Unfortunately one woman took umbrage at my debunking of the brown recluse myth in California.

Brown Recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa, has 6 eyesWiki

Let's say, when I suggested that it was a false ID, and provided links to many scientific papers on the false identification of brown recluses, her fangs came out. She lost her shit. I rarely defriend people on Facebook, or block them. But that's what was called for. Her vitriol was poisonous. What is is about social media where people can mouth off unsubstantiated drivel and expect NOT to be challenged?

Brown Recluse range—they don't spin webs or go outside. Spiderbytes

However, that said, apparently I am a delicious picnic for spiders: I've been chomped on by the best of them—many faux brown recluses, a black widow, possibly a woodbine spider—to dire results. So I don't stick around to ID them unless I have to. But I don't pulverize them on sight either.

That said, I did keep daddy-long-legs as pets. But they're not spiders, you knew that, right? Opiliones are an order of arachnids, aka harvestmen.

Here's a handy-dandy spider chart from Facebook (no one to credit). Note that the body shape seems to be a clue as to good spiders. Big butts are good. Rather than creaming or nuking that spider, take it outside. Please don't kill your house spiders. They're really beneficial creatures. Sadly, the harmless southern house spider, aka kukulcania, is often mistaken for a Brown recluse. They have hairy legs. None are in N. CA.

There are no populations of brown recluse spiders living in California. If you still don't believe me, read the highly entertaining  Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear, and Loathing  by arachnologist Rick Vetter Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, CA.
Only a handful of specimens (less than 10) have ever been collected in California and usually there is some connection between the spider and a recent move or shipment from the Midwest...The brown recluse has been elevated to a major urban legend status very much like UFOs, Bigfoot and Elvis....I emphatically state THERE ARE NO BROWN RECLUSE SPIDERS LIVING IN CALIFORNIA.
Got that? Good.

Update 6/19: Just Googled Brown recluses, still no reports in CA! But maybe people are mislabeling our native SoCal desert recluse (Loxosceles deserta), as Brown recluses, but they only live in the eastern deserts and rarely bite.

There is a lost Chilean recluse colony in LA They can pack a wallop of a bite too, but they also rarely bite, you have to seriously threaten them. They're really big, and sometimes are called fiddleback spiders too. I guess that fiddle means don't mess with me!

Knee blues

Living the solitary life, icing the knee. Will there ever be light at the end of the tunnel? My knee is improving daily. Today is not one of those days. Neil is still in Scotland, so I’m going all this alone. Solitary confinement. Life striped down to the bare essentials. I had physical therapy on Tuesday and then did too much yesterday, too—though it wasn't all that much. But I was knackered. Been trying to sneak around w/o crutches or cane. I don’t get very far. And I’m not going to take up ballroom dancing any time soon. I did 2 miles on the stationery bike at #1 tension. Breakthrough. Weenie stats. Knee is now killing me. But it is improving. Ibuprofen is my friend. And ice. Especially ice.

Thursday, March 14, 2013



Pi r square.
Pi r not. Pi r round.
U r square...
Square root of Pi is cake.
Don't be so constantpated.
You can't square a circle.
Way too radius.
It's circumferenstantial evidence.
Don't be irrational.
Integeresting. Reductio ad absurdum.
Why yes, I'd like 3.14 pieces of Pi.
Let them eat random numbered cakes.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

I injured my knee...

I did something to my knee. Other than uncontrollable copious tears, ice, ibuprofen, arnica and Topricin, what else to do? I ate some of my frozen peas (and corn—what was I thinking?) so I ziplocked the remainder of them and have the bag strapped to my elevated knee. Excruciating to put any weight on it. Only way I can hobble is with a patella strap. Meniscus damage? Dislocated patella?  Bursa is puffed on inside joint. Reading up on it now. Pain is unbelievable.

Funny ligament noises. Like knee trying to pop back into place. It's taken about a week to declare itself and to get to this state. I've been ignoring it. There was no specific pinpoint of pain. Now it's painful at the inner joint where the tibia and femur meet. Sounds like MCL sprain or tear along the inner joint line of the knee. Or it's a torn meniscus. I'm leaning toward that one.

Driving (clutch) is excruciating. Waiting until I can take more ibu. Called the clinic-closed for weekend. Urgent care in Fremont! Too far to go. Counting the minutes until the next round of ibuprofen. Someone wants to know why I’m not popping Vicodin. Then I'd be barfing on the far wall. I can't take synthetic opiates. Can you spell projectile vomiting? And that's just the floor show. It gets worse.

My knee improved in the shower, it seems to prefer heat, but I did ice it too. At first, it was excruciating. If I straighten my leg and flex my toes up, heel down, then I can walk on it. No bending allowed. Cane too. If it spasms, ditto. Contract toes up (no ballet moves!) I can bend it to 45* (almost). I can only hold toes flexed for so long. Getting rather good at odd isolated moves—those years of dance when I was young...good old psoas for lifting. Other leg to lift or reposition leg. Very glad to be limber right now. I look like an odd stork, when I move—everything is an economy of movement. Every move is premeditated. Pain is a quick teacher. I was terrified of being busted by my grannie, so I hid all my injuries.

What I've learned: brooms make good crutches—especially when you’ve left the crutches on the other side of the room.Dirt on the floor really bothers me when I can't move fast. Broom crutch is doubly useful. Canes need leashes—they tend to get away. Scrunchies make good leashes. With one hand, it's hard to carry plates, cups. Jamjar glasses, and an apron to stash gell icepack and food is good. In other words, I look ridiculous. I also need milk. Don't know if I can fathom trying to drive to the store. Clearly not working today. Or tomorrow. I’m doing this alone, Neil is still in Scotland.

I carefully plan all forays to the kitchen & loo. Scope of my limited world horizon. What I don't get is how easily I become tired. I guess I'm masking the pain so I don't feel it and it's a lot of work. Sh*ty, forgot to take ibuprofin this AM and it's time for round 2. Playing catch up with da meds. My knee feels like it's made of lead. Heavy, hard to bend.

I have to hobble into work & file a report, Will try & go to Dr tomorrow, and yes, I'd love to borrow some crutches, if they don't give me some. The locked knee with toe to ceiling trick is like a natural immobilizing splint. So that suggests meniscus. Phew! Doable. Shouldn't have ignored the pain Friday. We tomboys who grew up with the no pain, no gain attitude don't know when to say Uncle! When I was a child, I broke my left arm and never told anyone—nut until I was being X-rayed after an accident in 1997, that I knew about it. Stoic, stiff upper lip, and all that.

I hadn't counted on exhaustion from pain. Working up courage to go to Urgent Care Clinic. A two-hour wait. Reading opportunity! Nearly finished me off for the day to go to work & get the paperwork. Can only escape pain by keeping knee locked and toes up—as if to do leg lifts. Counter intuitive. Otherwise it's excruciating pain. Waiting for bu to kick in before I attempt to drive. Hard to bend leg to get into the car!

Catch-22. Morning chores made me nauseous (from pain), and I can't take any ibuprofin until I eat—and the thought of eating is—ugh. So the pain continues. First time ice has felt good on the knee. Today I can begin to use heat. Dr gave me cool icepack and heating pad with velcro! OK, that's done.

One week later...

Yup, Kevin McConnell was right. Torn meniscus. I'm in love with Polar Frost gel. Swelling is going down—knee looks almost normal. But I'm not supposed to put any weight on it. No can do. Too disorganized on two crutches. But one crutch is good, even better than the cane—which I favored until today.

I am now able to hobble around the house sans crutches, but need to bring them on outings. The PT taped my knee—amazingly simple process—an x around the kneecap on either side mimics the tendons/ligaments and adds stabilization to the knee. It looks like I'm wearing a bizarre form of painter's masking tape art! Just call me the Hobbl-it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Facebook request for baseball terminology

I was in need of baseball metaphors, similes and prosaic sayings for a poetry class (funded by the SF Jr Giants). I'd been making baseball word cards all night but am running out of ideas. So I posted on Facebook and it was still garnering comments eleven days later. I kept some of the best comments.