Author: jessimatts

Photography Challenge Day 156: The white hairy caterpillar

So the winner for today’s photography challenge is the little white hairy caterpillar that was crawling around the bottom of the bug repellent (that had obviously been knocked over).

Hairy little caterpillar

Since we live next to a creek, and probably less than a block from some undeveloped areas we usually get caterpillars coming through the yard on a daily basis. Not many of them make it up to the table, but some do and usually I help them on their way.

So I’m not an entomologist by any stretch of the imagination, so if it is an unknown bug I will either turn to google or ask my cousin (who is an entomologist). Well today I decided to try my hand at google to figure out what type of moth or butterfly this was going to be changing into.

It turns out that this probably a fall webworm caterpillar. So this little guy at one point was up in a tree in a “web” with hundreds of it’s relatives. The caterpillar stage for this particular species lasts about four to six weeks–which means that by September it is going to try to find an area around a tree to spin it’s cocoon for the winter.

While their webs/nests are unsightly in the trees, they’re not killing the tree and I’m sure that there are industrious birds trying to figure out how to get through the webbing and feast on all those little caterpillars.

I might have to try and spot some of the tent caterpillars and see if I can get a picture for comparison.

No Comments insectsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 155: The household pest, the house fly

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is actually the common household pest—the house fly. I took a picture of this one outside, when I was sitting on the patio this morning. What caught my attention is it’s coloring—unlike the other flies that were being pests, this one (was still being a pest), but had a white body instead of the darker colored body that the other flies sported.

A white/black housefly in the backyard

Seeing this fruit fly, took me back to my high school genetics class, where we actually had to cross two flies and keep track of the progeny. We learned how to determine male from female flies (before they hatched from the pupa stage), so that we could separate them. Then we would do crosses, check the sexes, separate and look for specific traits (such as body color, eye color, and wing shape).

Just for those three traits, this particular fly has the recessive markers for body color (since it is white and not a darker color; and I’d assume the darker color is more dominant as I hardly see lightly colored house flies), but managed to get the dominant markers for eye color (as red eyes are more common), and the wings look normal (not curled, or thin).

So flies are pests (but can should be considered a semi-beneficial pest). They do help recycle organic matter, but can also transmit diseases as well—this along with their flying around being obnoxious is the reason why they’re considered pests. They are also one of the most widespread insects, as they can basically be found almost anyplace humans are.

They have at least a four week life cycle, and the female can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The life cycle of a house fly goes from egg to larvae (this stage is ~2 weeks, though can be as long as a month if eggs laid in cooler climates or cold front comes through) to pupae (this stage is 2-6 days, though again can go longer if the temperatures are cooler), then finally the adult. The life span of the adult is anywhere from two weeks to a month.

So this week’s theme for the photography challenge may be insects, or oddly colored objects??

No Comments insectsnaturePhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Day 153: Cooler areas for a hot summer day

So today’s photographs are yet more throwback/flashback winners. I decided that since we’re in the middle of the ”dog days of summer” with triple digit heat with even higher heat indexes I wanted to share some photographs that reminded me of cooler temperatures.

So when thinking of cooler temperatures, what automatically comes to mind? Swimming, being out on the water, but also being underground in caves.

One of the formations in the main cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We went to Carlsbad Caverns last year as part of a quick whirlwind trip through New Mexico. While it was my first time there, I enjoyed it and would love to go back and explore more. There is a lot to see within the main cavern, and I would actually like to go on one of the guided tours within other caves that have entrances via the main cavern. The only reason why I didn’t do one to begin with–I didn’t know that it was going to be a five hour round trip tour.

Besides the caverns, there are numerous hiking trails that one can go on as well. I also enjoy hiking, but wasn’t dressed for it and again we hadn’t planned on doing any-though I’d like to hike a little bit of a trail just to see what type of wild flowers or animals are around. I know there are rattlesnakes, we’ve heard them–luckily we didn’t see them on the trip.

My other favorite place to escape the heat is going to a lake, and not just any lake. I prefer sandy bottom lakes, that you can actually see where you’re walking and if it’s a little rocky that’s fine–they’re at least smooth rocks that you’re walking on. So one destination that I have enjoyed going to over the years has been Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota. This is a large fresh body lake that has actually become one of Minnesota’s latest state parks.

Sunset over Frazer Bay, Lake Vermilion St. Louis County Minnesota

Swimming, kayaking, bird watching, star gazing, and watching the sunsets are things that I have always enjoyed doing when going to Lake Vermilion. I remember kayaking out to an island and watching the bald eagles feed their young. This was the first place where I actually saw a bald eagle in the wild, and we use to see them sit atop of the large pine trees gazing out over the water before launching out to hunt for a meal (either for themselves or their young).

Going to the ocean is another way of getting away from the heat–though you do need to stay in the water, or have a really nice large beach umbrella to stay out of the sun. While I’ve been to the ocean several times (both Atlantic and Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico as well)–I’ve only managed to capture a sunset picture from the Gulf of Mexico, when we went down to South Padre Island years ago.

Sunset over the bay, South Padre Island Texas

What I liked about this sunset picture was actually managing to capture the heron hunting as well. There weren’t any clouds in the sky that day, so there wasn’t any pinks and reds streaking across the sky that I would see when looking at a sunset over Lake Vermilion. It was different, but just as beautiful. Now that I’ve gone back through photographs of different locations–I would like to try to capture more sunsets over water (be it lakes, rivers, or oceans). It’s a nice way of saying it’s been a beautiful day, and tomorrow will be just as nice.

That will be a goal for my travels in 2020–capture at least one sunset picture from one new location. If I travel back to areas I’ve been before (say Boston), then try to go on a harbor cruise and get a picture of the sun setting over the harbor (I do have one of it setting over the river). Also I should try to get at least one new sunrise picture as well in my 2020 travels.

No Comments National ParksnaturePhotographyState Parkstravel

Photography Challenge Day 152 (a day late): Flash Back Friday edition

So hopefully I’m all caught up on the photography challenge after today and it will be back to a daily posting. Last night the internet was acting up and my Friday post didn’t save as a draft. So we’re trying it again this morning.

So yesterday’s winner of the photography challenge is one of the anaconda snakes that live at the New England Aquarium.

I would recommend that you go to their Facebook page or their main page to learn more about these cool snakes (beyond the little that I’m going to be sharing here). One of the females (and I’m not sure if it was this one or one of the other two)—actually birth to a couple of baby anacondas, even though there are no males in the holding.

Green Anaconda at the New England Aquarium

So there are two main types of reproduction: sexual and asexual. Sexual reproduction, is reproduction with fertilization; whereas asexual reproduction is reproduction without fertilization. There are actually six to seven different types of asexual reproduction. Though when talking about more complex animals, if they asexually reproduce, it is usually through parthenogenesis.

Pathogenesis, is the process in which an unfertilized egg develops into an new individual. So, the female anaconda had several unfertilized eggs that developed into a couple of new little green anacondas.

According to the aquarium, the two young anacondas haven’t been put out in the display unit yet–it will interesting to see when they do, if one can capture pictures of them on the same day every year and see how they grow.

I find these snakes to be fascinating in terms of both their size and the fact that they thrive in water. While I’m not fond of snakes (living in the southern part of the US, there are quite a few that have nasty bites that can seriously hurt or kill a person), I do enjoy watching them from a distance—or when there is a solid piece of glass between us.

No Comments naturePhotographyreptilestravelZoos/Aquariums

Photography Challenge Day 151 (A day late): Throwback Thursday to old headstones

Well this post is a day late–while I had decided on the topic, I couldn’t quite decide on which exact pictures to share, so I decided I’d look through them again today and decided. So the pictures are all throwbacks to my trip to Boston last year.

Boston is one of my favorite places to visit—it has history, science, and numerous things to do; plus a semi-decent public transportation system. With it being one of the oldest cities on the east coast, one of my favorite things to do is walk the Freedom Trail (of course walking the whole thing depends largely on the weather for that day).

Marking the spot of the Boston Massacre

The Freedom Trail is a two and half mile path through the north end of Boston, that connects sixteen different historical sites and/or monuments. Most of the sites are free, though there are some that require an entrance fee (such as Paul Revere’s house, and one or two of the churches).

I find it fascinating and somewhat calming to walk through the old cemeteries and look at the different headstones that are still somewhat readable after a few hundred years. Some of the headstones you can’t read anything, but you still see some of the stone work that went into the headstones.

The artwork on the tombstone for John Hurd
Some more of the stonework that has survived centuries.

So when walking through Granary Burying Ground, you can see monuments to different historical figures such as:

Paul Revere’s burial site.
Monument to Ben Franklin
Monument to John Hancock

I have other pictures of gravestones (from this graveyard and others) from when I lived in Boston (I would head to the north end almost every other weekend, and I did enjoy wandering through the cemetery and look at the headstones), that I’ll post within other topics as well over the next few weeks.

No Comments Historical SitesHistoryPhotographytravel

Photography Challenge Day 150: Woof Wednesday edition

So I decided that today’s photography challenge should introduce the newest member of the family. My mom had decided around Mother’s Day that she wouldn’t mind getting another dog. I might have had something to do with it–the facebook pages for the humane society in town wasn’t play fair and there was a very cute puppy posted. So we went and put in an application for adoption, and two days later got the call that we could come pick her up.

Rolex, sitting on the table staring at the birds.

So we brought home an 11 pound whirl wind that we named Rolex–since she was going to be our new watchdog. She has steadily been growing since we’ve got her–she is up to a solid 27 pounds, and I’m hoping that she tops out at somewhere between 35 and 40 pounds.

Rolex’s opinion of the weather.

We’re thinking that she is part boxer, due to the under bite she has and shows every so often. What the other breed(s) are–we have no idea. She is a runner, and loves running in circles through the backyard (and house) as fast as she can. Luckily there are squeaky toys to amuse her partially during the day, and old plastic water bottles.

I’ve been wanting to get a puppy myself, as I’m almost over the heartache of losing Chewi back in October. The only thing is I want to have my transition more or less already happening. I figured it would be better to get a puppy once I’ve moved and get the cat adjusted to her new living quarters. That way the puppy will be accustomed to living in an apartment (not having to deal with it knowing that it could always have the run of a yard, then having to get it adjusted to walks only).

But Rolex is slowly starting to help ease my depression over losing Chewi, Piranha, and Spelunkers last year. We’ve had her for a little over two months, and the months do seem to have flown by since we’ve got her.

No Comments PetsPhotography

Capricorn Full Moon Goals

Well we’re a little over halfway through July already. The moon is moving into Capricorn today (or maybe it was yesterday or tomorrow for you). I’ve realized that while I can make lists—trying to make the master list is one of the things that almost put me into an anxiety attack. So, I’m going to try to do one this weekend—but I will call it a brain dump (and see how I emotionally process that).

So, since it is the eve of the full moon, one can look at “Moonology: working with the magic of lunar cycles” by Yasmin Boland and find a series of questions that you can ask yourself during this time:

Have I been ambitious to the point of ruthlessness?

Have I been obsessed with work to the detriment of my personal life?

Have I been hard-headed, hard-nosed, or just too hard on others?

Have I allowed my head to overrule my heart?

Have I been planning my life enough? Or too much?

So if I were to answer the above questions (again, numbering them 1-5), I think my answers would be as following:

  1. No, I don’t think that I’ve been ambitious to the point of ruthlessness. I’m pretty sure that people will tell you that I’m not ambitious enough, and that I currently go with the flow. I know that to make it in industry (at least move up the ladder or between companies, and to have good mentors), I need to become a little more ambitious that what I currently am. I also know that currently I’m not in a good mental space to really care of how ambitious (or not) others perceive me to be—there are too many other problems in the world, and I don’t rate this very high on that list.
  2. I don’t think I’ve been obsessed with work to the detriment of my personal life. That is one nice thing about having to clock my forty hours—even if I wanted to go over on the weekends—it probably wouldn’t be approved, therefore why bother. I will also be the first to admit that I really don’t have much of a life (I feel like I’m currently in the middle of a midlife crisis, with trying to figure out what the next career stage is going to be). Currently in terms of my personal life—I’m my own worse enemy here.
  3. No, I don’t think I’ve been hard on others. I really don’t interact with that many people in my current position, and I’m also the bottom of the totem pole in terms of hierarchy within my little unit anyway.
  4. Yes, I have let my head overrule my heart—while I really want to adopt a puppy, I’ve realized that I should wait until I either have moved (or am closer to moving), so that the puppy will be more or less totally raised in an apartment. I feel like it would be easier than having one that is used to the yard, and then having to all of a sudden be satisfied with two or three walks a day on a leash.
  5. Here, I actually think that I haven’t been planning my life enough. I’ve always been more to go with the current or flow and not try to battle my way upstream. This however has resulted in me taking several different positions that I probably should have passed on. I’m now trying to plan my life a little more—but going back to question 1, I have to try to do it in a way that it doesn’t induce an anxiety or panic attack.

So the Capricorn full moon is also going to be traveling through my third house (or my communications zone). This is the zone that deals with basically the people you see more or less on a day-to-day basis: friends, coworkers, and siblings. Also it reminds us that there is a to-do list that items that needed to be taken care of. Luckily, I can’t think of any major disagreements that I’ve had lately—I know that not everyone agrees with my idea of a “reboot break” but I’m going to do it anyway—I’ve decided that since I’m going to be 39 this year, it’s about damn time that I start putting myself first a few times.

So my goals for the Capricorn full moon period will include:

Continuing to work on my drafting my “reboot break” and also working on my transition plan to move from academia to industry.

Read (finish) at least one personal or professional development book.

Finish my second round of Country Heat.

Slow steps towards progress are better than trying to make running jumps and ending up falling behind on everything. I’m slowly figuring out ways of coping with my anxiety and stress, and as I continue to find better solutions to the triggers of both—I’ll continue to make more and more progress towards all of my other goals.

Motto for now: Progress not perfection.

No Comments Fitness ChallengesFull Moon GoalsPersonal Developmentprofessional development

Photography Challenge Day 149: The turtles are all in a row

Since I’ve been trying to do my walks at Boomer Lake a little earlier in the day–because let’s face it, summer temperatures in Oklahoma are not fun–especially mid-morning onwards. So, I’ve been trying to get up to Boomer Lake to walk, hopefully no later than say quarter after eight.

Turtles lined up in a row.

So, since I’m there fairly early it has been hit and miss with getting pictures of the turtles. Sometimes they’re out, and sometimes they’re not. This particular morning I managed to catch sight of almost half a dozen of them sharing a log on the other side of the small cove. The only reason why I managed to spot them–the sun was already warming up that part of the lake.

Red-eared sliders, are unable to regulate their own body temperatures–so they need to sit in the sun for a time to warm up. If they get to warm–they slide back into the water to cool off, then back into the sun to warm up again.

Depending on the size of the log or branch, there can be anywhere from one or two turtles upward of half a dozen or more.

One interesting thing about sliders–come fall to winter, you usually stop seeing them out in the wild. This is because they’ve gone into a stage of brumination, which means they become seriously inactive. They slow down all their metabolic pathways, their breathing, and their heart rate to the bare minimum that they need to survive. They can stay like that at the bottom of ponds and shallow lakes, or in hollow logs, or under rocks. This makes sense, since they can’t regulate their own body temperatures and the surrounding environmental temperatures start dropping and instead of trying to migrate or store food in a den somewhere–they just slow everything down and basically chill until late spring.

I wonder how many of them chill on the bottom of Boomer Lake in the winter??

No Comments naturePhotographyreptiles

Review of Sagittarius Full Moon Goals

So the moon will be transitioning into the Capricorn constellation tomorrow, and entering it’s full moon phase as well. This means that July is a little over half way over, and we’re a little over halfway through the year. The temperatures are sure saying it summer (currently we’re suppose to be in the triple digits for the rest of the week after today). So now it is time to look back on the few goals that I had set for the Sagittarius full moon last month, see how I did with them, what could be improved, and so forth.

So the goals that I set for the Sagittarius full moon included:

            Setting up July’s budget.

Scheduling a time to talk with the TIAA representative about my retirement account (and what to do with it when I leave my current position)—it depends on the times that are available.

            Working on my “reboot break” plan. I realize that I need to “reboot” myself before I can properly focus on working on my transition from academia to industry.

            Focusing on writing more content for the blog, and working on myself (yoga and meditation to begin with).

So my goals were basically in terms of finances, mental health, and trying to work on more content for the blog. So how did I do with each one?

I have my budget set up for July (I just need to remember to transfer some money to the saving account); since I’ve been trying not to buy candy on campus that often—I’ve been saving money there as well (about a quarter to a third of the week).

I haven’t schedule an appointment with the TIAA representative, for several reasons: a) I feel a little uncomfortable doing something during work hours (though it would probably be perfectly okay); b) I know that my retirement is small, and I don’t want to become depressed learning either how long I have to work or how much extra I would need to put into it to get it where I could retire comfortably in 30 years; and finally c) I don’t want to know how big of a headache it will be dealing with it after leaving my current position (as I’m sure the next company won’t be offering this particular retirement account). But there are some times available—I just need to force myself to do (there are times that I detest adulting).

In terms of working on my reboot break—I’ve at least informed my current supervisor that I probably won’t be signing an extension contract come November. I’ve realized that I am probably two or three steps away from being totally burnt out on science—not good since I have my PhD. So I’m going to take a little time off, and then hopefully come back to the transition with a lot more energy than I currently have.

Well I’ve been pretty good at trying to meditate nightly, and hopefully today I’ll be getting back into a workout routine (yes, it is a little late—night before the next full moon, but better late than never). I’m still trying to get into a good writing routine, and also trying to create good images to go with the blog posts as well (this will probably always be a work in progress).

So I’d say I managed about a third of my goals for the last full moon. I’ve realized that I need time off, and even if I only take the holidays off–it may be enough of a break that I can get back to job searching (though I’m going to aim for a little longer). But at least I’ve realized I really need to put myself first, and that nothing really should be worth my mental health.

No Comments AstrologyFull Moon GoalsLifestyle ChallengesPersonal Developmentprofessional development

Photography Challenge Day 148: Baby Mallards (short post)

Well, this week there isn’t going to be a theme for the photography challenge. It could be due to my mood–but I can’t think of a challenge that I’m willing to do for the week. So this week will be random photographs–though they’ll probably all share a common location–Boomer Lake.

Baby ducklings

So on my walk this weekend, I came across a mother duck and her duckling wandering around near the sidewalk. They look so cute and cuddly (though I’m pretty sure they’d peck at me if I tried to cuddle with them). There were actually five of them grazing under the watchful eye of their mother.

While pairs are monogamous throughout the breeding season–it is the female that takes care of the young.

I’d notice that even the ducks around Theta Pond on campus have ducklings–though they seem to be a bit smaller than these guys. But thanks to the rain we got this spring–it’s been a good season for the ducks and geese in terms of raising their young.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography