Spider Warfare

All right: I promise I’ve slept, and the universe is functioning properly again. I’m hungry, without any kind of appetite for food, but otherwise… back to normal.

Sunday night I wrote—wrote—from 11pm until 4:30 in the morning. Marty and I had been discovering baby spiders everywhere, at least twenty-five and counting in the preceding 48 hours. Earlier that day, he had killed five of them hanging from the top edge of his laptop screen, all in a row. But when I finished writing at 4:30 (what was Monday morning), I stood up from the couch and realized that there was an infestation of baby spiders in my living room. They had begun to create webs across the space between the wall and the lamp, and the couch, and the computer, and, imaginably, me.

The spiders themselves were tiny and very difficult to find, but the webs were pretty… obvious. I would wipe them away, or fluff them away with a dishtowel, and ten minutes later they’d reappear. Industrious little monsters. I am pretty tolerant of spiders in usual scenarios, but it was early in the morning and I hadn’t slept yet, so I was starting to feel… intolerant. (That’s safe. “Intolerant.”)

After some ill-conceived (and ill-advised) target practice with an ancient bottle of bug spray—useless, and toxic—I gave up and took a shower, thinking I’d go to bed.

Of course, showers wake me up. And so do apartments full of tiny spider webs.

I read for a half-hour; Marty woke up, got ready for work. And left me to my war.

I moved into my office, away from the source of contention. They obviously wanted the living room. Okay, I said, you can have the living room. I worked for awhile before discovering that they’d made little homes in here, too: My standing lamp was a great source of webbish innnovation! I became furious. I vowed to take back my home.

I read up on spider shooing. Lots of people had interesting things to say about how to keep spiders away and although that’s not normally something I’d care about—spiders eating other bugs, and all—this was absolutely unreasonable. (I’m afraid I also came across plenty of information on brown recluse spiders, which was NOT what I needed to see. Dear God.) I bought a dustbuster. It will probably arrive today. I thought, hey—I can barricade myself at my desk and suck them up as I see them! (I ordered the one that seemed to have the most possible suck—here’s a link, if you’re curious.) I appropriated my bottle of eco-friendly cleaning fluid in a handy-dandy spray bottle and read the ingredients. All safe, mostly essential oils. In fact, many of the same essential oils listed as anathema (and deadly) to spiders: peppermint, citrus, etc. I added a healthy dose of tea tree oil and shook the whole mess up.

Then I sprayed my whole house with it.

It smelled great.

It took a few repeat applications. I couldn’t get them to leave the living room, although after a few pushes they stayed around the tree. In fact, after awhile it was really clear that they had made the tree home-base, whether or not they came from the tree originally. (When we bought it, the Christmas tree folks put it in a machine that shook it back and forth, violently, to divest it of loose needles, hitchhikers, etc., but Mom is convinced that such a thing wouldn’t have loosed egg sacks or nests inside the tree. Sigh!) One portion of the bottom of the tree was covered in a gradually-thickening layer of spider silk—it was impossible to see from most angles, but with the light streaming in from the window, it was right there. I abandoned the living room again.

Eventually my office was livable, so I stayed there. I hadn’t seen any incidence of eight-legged inhabitants in my bedroom (THANK GOD) so I sprayed there too, just to be safe. Eventually Marty came home and dealt with the tree, vacuumed… and it’s been much, much better since then. But you can imagine how all of this felt on almost zero sleep—in the trenches, man!

Since the tree’s exit, I haven’t seen any more spiders. I’ve seen webs—and seen them rebuilt—but that has only happened once or twice and I have my spray bottle handy. The Pest Control Dude came this afternoon and he told me that I would have far more success (and less exposure to awful chemicals) filling a spray bottle with salt water and spraying spiders with that. I was astonished. He said it really worked, that he used it in nursing homes where he couldn’t use chemicals. He said that the salt touches the spiders and leeches the moisture of them (what a way to go! But even so, I imagine the tea tree oil burns them, so…), and that keeps them away or kills them, or whathaveyou. So I think I will add a spray bottle of salt water to my arsenal, and keep watching for the little bastards.

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with myself. But I’m really, really glad it’s over.

Sleepless in Meganville

I may or may not look like a girl who has not yet set head to pillow, but I promise you, that is most assuredly the case at hand.

In Defense of Food

God, I like food.

I like thinking about it. I like talking about it. And to be fair, I don’t exclusively mean the preparation and cooking of food, though that is a totally neat thing and often very exciting. I’d like to make it even more exciting. But what I really mean, right now, over all, is the concept of food.

The meanings I had for food growing up were so different from the meanings I have now. I don’t know if anyone ever taught me where my spaghetti came from, or maybe I just didn’t let that information in. Maybe it wasn’t interesting then. I had a (very) brief vegetarian phase in grade school, but I still ate the lamb my mother made for her dinner party—I just complained about it. I don’t remember that lasting very long, but at least then I seemed to realize where the food had come from.

These days I am fascinated with the dichotomy between what we eat and how it grew. Often the thing we’re eating bears no reasonable resemblance to the actual organism it once was. It was only in the last few years that I realized how anti-conscious my meat-eating had become, food is something you buy from a store, an object or faceless element, like pumping fuel into a gas tank. What is this funny pile of molecules called “chicken”, completely separate from an animal I’ve never met of the same name? But meat isn’t faceless (or shouldn’t be) and I am coming to believe that even a humble green bean or asparagus deserves more than the lot we offer them—as Reel Big Fish has suggested, even lettuce is worthy of a little consideration. If I’m going to respect a cow or a pig for its nutritional content and creatureness, I can likewise respect a handful of sprouts, or a cucumber, or a carrot. And I think I want to.

So finding Michael Pollan came at a really good time for me, a few months ago. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, having seen it mentioned in one of Violet’s articles, as well as having been recommended it by friends in passing. The message I got from this book was all about respecting food, and respecting myself, and being really conscious of the complex systems in the universe that led to me being fed at all—and conscious, too, of the additional complexity added by commerce and industry. And how complexity itself can sometimes be awe-inspiring… or scary. (Or both!)

I looked for Michael Pollan’s blog, feeling that he must have one. But he didn’t. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.) So I was sad. I wasn’t sure if his other books were anything like this one, so I let it go. But a few days ago, Missy pointed me to Science Friday—and an interview with Michael Pollan! It is this interview I point you to now, because it’s a great interview, and it’s about his recently released In Defense of Food. This vibes perfectly with the way I’ve been feeling lately and I am really excited to read it. In any case, you can listen to the whole interview right on the Science Friday website. (Please do!) It’s super awesome.

Science Friday: Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (Friday, January 4th, 2008)

I am really interested in your thoughts on this whole issue, if you care to comment on it. Food is awfully exciting lately!

Klimt (For Real)

I’m a great fan of Klimt. Many years ago a convention friend introduced me to his work and it’s always been something that particularly appealed to me, all those patterns, everything fitting together in impossible but perfect ways. My favorite painting was my friend’s favorite, too: Klimt’s Danae.

I keep a number of sexuality and art feeds in my newsreader, and this week something especially fabulous came up—a set called La esencia de Klimt, by a photographer named Moises González, basically a live recreation of many of Klimt’s works. They’re really gorgeous, and although they’re not quite accurate down to the tiniest detail, they’re beautiful in the same way and really, really enjoyable to look through. They do contain nudity (as you might surmise if you are familiar with Klimt’s paintings) but hopefully that won’t keep you from browsing. I think they’re just amazing.

Link: La esencia de Klimt, Moises González.

Pretty Lights

Pretty Lights

Sick World

“Wal-Mart: Save money. Live better.” This sickens me. Not only in light of all the reading I’ve been doing lately, but as an overarching theme; I am sickened by Wal-Mart. And lots of other things.

If the market follows our lead, friends and neighbors, we are doing a fuck-awful job.

So… how do we fix it?

Wild Red Sockeye

I’ve been doing salmon research. I’ve set my sights on wild red Alaskan Sockeye, and although I already keep my freezer stocked with Copper River filets from Costco, I’d like to keep canned salmon on hand, too. I have lots of ideas—salads, sandwiches, wraps. Hell, I might even eat it out of the can. This stuff is great.

So I embarked on a quest to find the best salmon, and the best prices available. At first I thought it was an obvious situation—the high quality salmon was super expensive, and the best deals seemed to be of negligible quality, or at higher risk of unreliability. (For instance, I’d never heard of “buythecase.net” before, and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel sending them money.) But the more numbers I worked out, the more I discovered that even the high quality, highly priced salmon did pretty well in bulk. Here’s what I came up with:

BuytheCase.net, Bumble Bee Brand, 14.75 oz cans
$0.3498 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.)

BuytheCase.net, Bumble Bee Brand, 7.5 oz cans
$0.4848 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Not sure I trust these folks yet.)

Vital Choice Brand (highest quality, say several sources), 7.5 oz cans
$0.4944 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Expensive but the more I buy, the less expensive it is.)

Amazon.com, Raincoast Brand, 5.65 oz cans
$0.6888 per ounce, including shipping to Austin (Amazon Prime)
(Amazon is convenient, trusted, but expensive.)

Vital Choice Brand, 3.75 oz cans
$0.7666 per ounce, including shipping to Austin
(Quite a bit more expensive than buying larger cans.)

Now, I’m pretty thoroughly certain that Vital Choice is the best quality, after the reading I’ve done. I’m fairly sure that Bumble Bee has reasonable quality salmon, and is a responsible company; I know almost nothing about Raincoast, though what I have found seems to suggest that they’re okay. I already know that Amazon is most convenient for me (and I bought a Prime account, a long time ago, which proves it). I expect good service from Vital Choice, no issue there. I’m pretty paranoid about BuytheCase.net, having not heard of them, so I’m not sure I can bring myself to give them a try.

The only reason to buy canned salmon on the internet is to buy in bulk, unless grocery store prices are dramatically higher (I’m betting they’re not). And if I’m buying in bulk, I can get good lower prices per can while I’m at it. So the logical choice seems to be to purchase 48 cans from Vital Choice, since they are the best amalgam of trusted and reasonably priced (at least in bulk). Of course, Vital Choice is quite expensive in smaller quantities, even at 48 cans—as you can see from the last item—but who cares, if I’m buying cases anyway? And I don’t mind buying larger cans, really, either.

Amazon would get my shipment to me the fastest, but I’m still not completely sure about Raincoast… and the Amazon option is the second most expensive on the list.

I didn’t expect to settle on Vital Choice, but it does seem obvious. How bizarre! And I don’t mind buying two cases that will likely last me a good six months. Forty-eight cans for $178 over half a year… sounds like a really good situation to me.

Of course, I may go to the store next week and find out that the prices are much better off the shelf, and if that happens the only reason to buy off the ‘net would be to save myself having to lug all the cans home. Not entirely unreasonable, but maybe I’ll take a look before I go buying anything. Still, it’s interesting! And I got to exercise my questionable math skills. ;}

Update: I picked up three cans of Raincoast salmon from Wheatsville, and their off-the-shelf price is fifty cents higher than Amazon’s—and Wheatsville’s prices are quite low, in the scheme of things. It’s possible that, if unable to spend almost two hundred bucks to buy in bulk, picking up five cans from Amazon at a better price makes sense. Something to take into consideration! Of course, then I’m supporting a great company with lots of money—instead of a small community co-op. Pros and cons all over the place!

Greek Yogurt

Last week I discovered Fage Greek yogurt. Fah’-yeh. I’d never heard of Greek yogurt before.

The reason I looked for it in the first place was this entry in Kalyn’s Kitchen; she is not kidding. Wow.

I haven’t tried to cook with it yet, but it’s super delicious; the zero-fat version is unbelievable, and I’m embarrassed to admit that the full-fat version is maybe a little much for me. It’s… obscenely creamy. It’s wonderful, but I don’t think I can eat more than a few spoonfuls of it; it’s like eating butter. (Em and I did eat butter out of the dish when we were little, but that was then and this is now. Unless she still eats butter. I’ll have to ask.)

My favorite part of pouring agave over plain yogurt—instead of mixing it in—is that the whole dessert doesn’t taste sweet across the board, the same sweet everywhere. If you don’t mix it together, you can taste the whole spectrum from the rich, tangy-sour taste of the plain yogurt to the sweet and syrupy taste of the agave, and all of the little changes in between. I never thought of liking tastes that way before, but I really love it now.

I’m sure my dramatically decreased sugar intake has something to do with how scrumptiously I adore this recipe, but I think that’s okay with me. I can’t imagine this not being delicious, even to someone who does consume more sugar. Someone will have to let me know. ;}

Ah ha! (Of Herbs, Acupuncture, and Awesomeness)

It’s actually just a little bit hard to write (or think) coherently when my sinuses are squirming to escape my head. Don’t I have a tasklist around here somewhere…?

Today I met again with Dave Jones of Austin Healing Herbs & Acupuncture at the AH!HA Clinic, a nom I desperately adore. We talked last week about my allergies and arthritis, having received a tip from Ragen that Dave was all that and could probably help me out. Ragen knows the awesomest people.

This week we meant to start acupuncture treatment, but a sinus infection stepped in early this morning so we decided to treat that first. I left Dave’s office with three paper bags full of fantastic-looking dried plants that smelled… like herbs! (Obviously.)

So, let me give you some background: Herbs excite me. The idea of treating myself with plant concoctions instead of chemicals with confusing, complicated origins gives me a thrill, and it’s probably just the thrill of experimenting on myself. But even so, when at my request Dave went down through the list of things he’d put into those little paper bags, and explained the effect each of them typically had, it was suddenly the best day I’d had in a week! (Maybe two weeks! Maybe more!) Because although I’m not learning in-depth about the application of traditional Chinese medicine, I am getting to brush shoulders with it. And for this reason, I have glee!

On my way home, I managed to squeeze enough energy out of my tired, illness-vexed body to pick up an herb pot from White Crane, plus a strainer and a juice container from Zinger on Anderson. The juice container turned out to be a mixed purchase—I’m not sure how useful it will be in this case, but oh well, we have another pitcher. That’s fine. The strainer—well, let’s just say that spaghetti dinners will be a hell of a lot easier now…

The herb pot is nuts, and by that I mean awesome. It’s very odd looking (being that I’ve never actually seen anything like it) but very neat to use. If I weren’t sick as a dog, I’d be showering you with pretty pictures of my new herbs and herbal accoutrements, but you’ll have to wait for me to feel better. My three bags of herbs are set to last me about five days, counting the batch I just made for the next 24 hours, so talk to me Monday. ;}

My apartment smells—Vixen concurred—a bit like a barn, minus the horse poo. Dry and boiled through, the herbs smell just like rolling around in a hayloft, and although the resulting tea is quite bitter and not what you would call tasty, the entire experience does give me strange deja va for riding days gone by. The last time I was on a horse… oh, six or seven years ago? But the smell of hay, it sticks with you, and you don’t stop loving it for lack of proximity. Of course, I have plenty of other reasons to love this experiment, but no harm enumerating the ones at hand. My head feels like crap, but I am having a ball!

I may or may not continue to update as the week goes on; I seem to recall that I left my tasklist on my desk, and I have some work to do…


If you share a porch with your neighbor, please don’t stand outside for five minutes and yell at your dog. Or your mother. Or into your cell phone.

If, in fact, your porch is connected to your neighbor’s bedroom window… Please don’t discuss your traffic tickets, or your public disasters, outside the privacy of your apartment. Please don’t play with the dog and whistle tunes for half an hour during your midnight smoke-break—your neighbor may, at that moment, be trying to fall asleep.

Please don’t shriek “FUCK!!” seven times as you slam the front door on your way to work, especially if it’s eight in the morning.

Please don’t fight loudly with your family members there on the porch, outside, where everyone (but particularly your horrified, sleep-deprived neighbor) can hear you.

And please don’t stand outside and talk about your neighbor during the day, especially if she works at home. Because chances are, she’s trying to take a nap and can hear every single word you say. To date, I would suspect that she knows too much about your life—far more personal information than you would ever volunteer face-to-face.

If you have been in the habit of doing any of these things… especially over the last ten months or so since your neighbor first moved in… consider this your official heads-up.

Save Your Dignity Now.

InfoDissemFri (etc) or, Hi!

Elsewhere Posting…

  • Of Old Friends & Great Surprises. Michael Match was in town this month! Oh my goodness.
  • Gratitude (appropriately). My life is awesome.
  • Chanticleer, part one. I swear I’ll finish—but for now, here’s the beginning.
  • Uberdesign Antibiotics. As bizarre as it is to be enthralled by medicine packaging…


  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I finished this book last week. I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • Blood and Gold, Anne Rice. Susan lent me this and it’s been years since I read anything by Anne Rice. Still as dark and emo and delicious as ever!
  • Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser. Vixen lent me this—I’m all about borrowing books lately, from everybody. This is really interesting and of course a natural extension to the other things I’ve been reading lately.

Super-Important Linkage…

  • I find only narrow solice in laughing my ass off at this video, as it was posted a year ago and likely many people have now done the same. I almost cried—and man, do I know icy roads. Whew.
  • Some of you will understand; some of you won’t:

Raphael Off To War by ~gabfury on deviantART


I bought portobello mushrooms—medium ones and large ones! A few hours ago, I flushed the apartment full of German opera, took the medium ones out, washed ‘em, de-stemmed ‘em, stuck ‘em upside-down in a casserole dish, and started cutting vegetables. I cut a big ripe tomato and a red pepper and two little jalapenos, and I mixed them all chopped up in a bowl! Then I put the chopped things into the portobello caps! And I had this cheese called “Da Vinci”—I think it was cheddar with Italian seasoning, sort of mellow and subtle, but I accidently threw the label away, oops! I put pieces of that on top of each full cap and stuck the casserole dish in the oven. And when I took them out, the cheese was all melted all over and they were delicious!

I was already thinking, with it almost being December, making yummy food, that listening to Hänsel und Gretel felt good, felt like holidays. I didn’t even realize that H&G was associated with Christmas until I looked up the Wikipedia entry to link in. Of course, I don’t know all the words when it’s in German. Er.

Today’s not turning out too bad at all. I think I’ll have another mushroom.

Chicken Bliss

My fridge is full of food—Robert inspired me. He came by for our yoga appointment Monday, but we got talking about food, and some of my food needs were just more important than my yoga needs at that particular moment!

I had a frozen fryer chicken in my fridge, and he patiently explained how I could cook it—even in my tiny casserole dish, with limited accoutrements. I have to tell you, that chicken turned out to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. On Robert’s recommendation, I stuffed it with halved lemons and fresh basil, and rubbed the outside with olive oil and cumin and sea salt, and beautiful black pepper, with dabs of butter. And I cut red potatoes and yellow onions to tuck around the edges, and put it in the oven at 350 for an hour or so, until the meat temperature hit 180. I ended up having to put it back in for a bit—it wasn’t quite as cooked as I wanted it to be—but when it was done, the skin was crispy and spicy and the kitchen smelled incredible. And then we ate.

And then I discovered the wishbone, so Marty and I made wishes and broke it. (I won, but my wish is equally applicable to both of us… so really, we both won.)

Throughout the rest of my discussion with Robert Monday afternoon, I kept a list—his suggestions about how to organize the kitchen and what staples to keep around were thoroughly excellent, so I carted my list with me to Wheatsville later that evening. And like I said: My fridge is full of food. Wow. Yum.

I can’t wait to have a new kitchen… but for now, I’m quite enjoying my current one. ;}

Good Friends (and Lab Rats)

Tim Ferriss made a super interesting post last week about revealing flaws of character by purposefully unleashing environmental and situational adversity on new acquaintances. It’s really thought-provoking, and went a little something like this:

3. Take them to a restaurant with good food but bad service. (Testing: how diplomatically they contend with and resolve incompetence, which is the default mode of the universe)

4. Invite them to an event or function and then profusely apologize when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet. Offer to repay them later or treat them the next time out. (Testing: how they relate to money issues. Wonderful people sometimes turn into irrational monsters as soon as even a few dollars are involved. It drives me crazy to keep a running ledger of who owes whom for a few dollars here and there, especially in social settings. Repaying the favor is mandatory, but dwelling on differences of pennies is tiring.)


Apparently a lot of people were sort of dismayed and alarmed, but as I read through his ideas, they didn’t look so shocking. And short of experimentation (of which I am a certain proponent), there’s something else I realized. As far as I can recall, the people I choose to spend my time with have already passed “tests”, just like those. They’re the people who chill in the face of uncertainty or loss of control. (Although if we’re going to talk about control, well… that’s an issue of mine.) They’re the ones who don’t get flustered when time or money or expectations get a little bent out of shape. I don’t think I ever thought about it that way, but as far as I can tell, it’s true. I wouldn’t expect any undue reactions to any of these things, from any of the people whose company I enjoy, whom I trust. Sure, I guess I could be wrong—but just think what an excellent gauge of character some of those “experiments” are. Tim’s got a point. (Especially about incompetence being the default mode of the universe. Oops!)

As regards experimenting on people you don’t know well, well, who knows! I don’t think it’s a particularly horrible thing to do to a person. It could perhaps become misguided! I don’t know that I will engage in it, but it doesn’t seem like a terribly bad idea. Maybe we’d all get a little wiser with the purposeful application of calamity.

I probably would, anyway.

I guess you’ll have to wonder the next time something wreaks havoc on our schedule. ;}

Update: He has a follow-up at the end of this post—apparently quite a few people were annoyed. Interesting!

The Usual Error (Blog!)

I read something recently about it being relatively pointless to fill a statement with extra question marks or exclamation points. It said you only need one instance of any given punctuation mark, and more is not better. I think in the case of the Usual Error, I tend to push this boundary the hardest. ;}

I don’t know why I didn’t see this when they posted it, but for some strange reason I didn’t. And something like two weeks later I say to myself, I wonder if they’ve posted anything? And so I mosey on over to the new Usual Error Blog, and I see this:

Welcome to the Usual Error blog! We wanted to dedicate our first post to Megan, our biggest fan, and the one who inspired us to create this blog in the first place. How did she do such a crazy thing? By blogging like mad about her experiences at Usual Error workshops!


And then… they listed all my Usual Error posts. Dude!!

One exclamation point just isn’t enough.

You guys make me all gushy.