Sunday, July 24, 2005

paging Sherlock Holmes

May 2007 update: am removing letters from trigger words, in the hope that this will keep Google from misleading people into looking at the lovely photo. If *I* don't know what bit me, this page isn't going to help *you* identify anything either.

[photo of bite]
Who did this?

It happened this morning, in garden and/or on lawn. It started out a mosquito-bite-sized white lump, with a red pinpoint center; now - 15 hours later - it's 4 inches in diameter and fixing to take over the free world.

Not a black w---w - their bites are supposed to cause intense pain, and this doesn't hurt.

Wednesday update - it's less impressive today, but here's how it looked by Tuesday morning, at roughly 8 inches wide -

[photo of bite, 2 days old]

(there's something awkward about flaunting one's bloated corpulence like this...would that it was a shapely leg instead. On the other hand, seeing as how I get to keep it, maybe a little more gratitude is called for. And fortunately it is not the leg of two weeks ago, after weedeating in gravel, which could have passed for an Appaloosa's)

In any case - Anonymous in comments has raised the specter of L---, and Russ wanted an update ASAP (sorry Russ; my excuse is "the venom made me slothful" - sad to say, this was no radioactive sp----.)

I would fear L--- too, but: first, I got it in the backyard, which a) is in town and b) is occupied by a very suburban lawn and ground cover; no self-respecting t--- would visit here. (although it does call forth the memory of one afternoon at the movies after a morning hauling brush, when in Theatre Number Two a t--- made its tactile presence known. I grabbed it between thumb and forefinger, but didn't want to walk out right in the middle of the scene to flush it; later on when I left, I looked, and - the t--- was gone.

Whoever you were, who next made its acquaintance, by engaging in that high-risk behavior "going to a movie" - sorry.
(And if you're the same person who was outdoors in Orinda decades ago, when my cousin's lunch exited the plane after I'd shown her how much fun parabolic-flight-induced weightlessness can be - double sorry.)

Related - respect and appreciate your Western Fence Lizards, whose blood purges t---s of L---.

Returning from digressions -
It also shouldn't be L--- because
  • It was sudden - bite and rash happened in same day
  • No t--- visible.
  • The colors, man. They're not the right ones, or not in the right order, for L---.

Shades of the Firesign Theatre's "Name that Disease" ("you've got...the plague.")

The California Poison Control System's sp---r bites page had a description which matched perfectly:
While most sp---r bites are not dangerous, there is a group of sp---rs that can produce bite wounds that look similar to a br--- rec---e sp---r bite... the running sp---r, jumping sp---r, wolf sp---r, taran---a, sac sp---r, orbweaver sp---r and the northwestern brown sp---r.
...pain or burning at the bite site in the first 10 minutes. The bite from this group is usually described as looking like a "tar--t" or "b---'s----." The center of the wound is usually a bl---r surrounded by a r------d area. A pale or blanched area may surround the discolored r------d area. The bl---r may rupture, leaving an open ulcer.

With the benefit of hindsight and web research:
  • Do not sit down upon the lawn in shorts, early, when it's cool and moist and the lawn denizens are likely to be about, to feel threatened by the imminent descent of mountains of pallid meat.
  • Wash the wound and put antibiotic ointment on it.
  • Contact your doctor and ask if s/he wants you to get oral antibiotics - sp---rs typically don't put a lot of effort into hygiene, so their fangs can inject microbes as well as v---m.

Nobody's proposed a br--- rec---e culprit, but since we're on the topic of venomous sp---rs -

Unfortunately The Union's Search function is, as of Sunday at least, still defective - has it been a whole year yet? - so when I searched for local citizen scientist Bob G.'s discovery of the "plaid re---se"* - yes, EZ-Off Oven Cleaner has eight legs and a f---le on its back, and is considerably more likely to attack - I couldn't find it, else would provide the link.

oh, the marketing...searching Google for brown re---se info, this Google Ad came up:
Rec---e Sp---rs
Great deals on Re---se Sp---rs Shop on eBay and Save!

[Quote from re---se arachnologist Rick Vetter (as recounted by B.G.) along the lines of "Why is it that a carpenter can recognize a br--- re---se from 20 feet away while I have to look at its [private parts]?" will appear here, when the scrap of paper it's written on resurfaces.]
Meanwhile, from Vetter here-

There are no populations of br--- re---se sp---rs living in California. ... The br--- re---se is the Richard Jewell of the sp---r world.
People get all worked up and say, "BUT IF THEY FOUND ONE BROWN RECLUSE IN CALIFORNIA THAT MEANS .." It means they found one, it is smashed, mangled, mutilated, pickled in alcohol, dead, deceased, passed on, no more, ceased to be, bleeding demised, bereft of life, resting in peace, gone to meet its maker, pushing up the daisies, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible, etc. and no longer poses a threat to humanity (not that it posed a great threat to begin with). THIS is an ex-sp---r!


Mon. Aug 1: I don't think anyone saw this sp---r either, but it must have been a whopper. Bet they had to repair the roof...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Restoring honor and integrity to the White House

It seemed Karl Rove violated the Espionage Act - "(1) possession of (2) information (3) relating to the national defense (4) which the person possessing it has reason to believe could be used to damage the United States or aid a foreign nation and (5) wilful communication of that information to (6) a person not entitled to receive it."
(update - as Russ Steele points out in comments, this assumes that Rove _did_ provide the info to Novak, but newspapers now report he says he didn't, he merely confirmed it.
On the other hand, apparently he did volunteer the info to Matt Cooper of Time, so...)

The Union sees the news as "Rove's publicity could jeopardize his image" - this being the headline they applied to Tom Raum's July 12 AP story*, elsewhere* titled "CIA Leak Probe Focuses on Rove".

It echoes their June 20 "Downing Street memos reveal British reaction to U.S. plans for 'regime change' in Iraq" - I did an informal survey to see if anyone could infer the actual news from this, and the only person who had any inkling was an NPR listener, so knew full well.
(although the article's apparent AP title, "Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War", isn't a whole lot better)

Monday, July 11, 2005

The mind reels

Tuesday update: toned down some wording, added a question.

It takes a lot to raise me from the moribund, but The Union has done it.

They've won prizes from the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest (PDF evidence) - for a feature by David Mirhadi*, and for Becky Trout's reporting, which was used to form part of The Union's pre-election volley against Conklin - widely regarded to have been a (successful) smear.

Four questions for Becky Trout -
  1. Are you proud of this series, as it appeared in The Union?

  2. When you wrote the "Crowd Defends Land Trust" story (the more informative headline, "Investigation Finds No Wrongdoing", wasn't used) for this series, was it published as you wrote it? (did you wait until your sixth paragraph (and the story's jump to the back page) to note that "[counsel found that]...based on current evidence, Conklin's hiring by the Land Trust did not violate any laws governing conflict of interest for public officials", or was this the editor's doing?)
    (For any newcomers to this story, here's a summary with links; Yubanet's report is here)

  3. Would you be willing to discuss how this series came to be written, on the record?

  4. Who (plural) thought it was a good idea to submit the series in this contest?

I went looking to see what the judges for the contest were like, and ran across this from Jack Ronald * on the hardships in running a newspaper in Russia:
...civil war that tore the country apart...killed about 50,000 people and continues to haunt the country’s politics. Newspapers played an unfortunate role in the conflict, Ronald said, fanning the flames of ethnic and religious hatred.

"More than one editor in Tajikistan has told me that the country’s newspapers have blood on their hands," Ronald said.

"Ironically, that excess may create an opportunity," he said. "Newspaper editors in Tajikistan have realized that if they are ever to win back credibility and the trust of their readers, they are going to have to go down the path of objective reporting.

"The best of the editors I’ve worked with are far ahead of their colleagues in other parts of Central Asia simply because they’ve seen the consequences of political rhetoric passed off as journalism."

Contest judge Chris Braithwaite also has thoughts worth reading.