Rest painting finally available as a print

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people asking for this little painting as a print. Unfortunately, I painted it about 3 computers ago in art software I no longer have. So I sat down and repainted it.

waterfall, robin, nest, birch, tree, rest, peace, netraptor

“Two painters were once asked to paint a picture illustrating his own idea of rest. The first chose for his scene a quiet, lonely lake, nestled among mountains far away. The second, using swift, broad strokes on his canvas, painted a thundering waterfall. Beneath the falls grew a fragile birch tree, bending over the foam. On its branches, nearly wet with the spray from the falls, sat a robin on its nest.

The first painting was simply a picture of stagnation and inactivity. The second, however, depicted rest.” –Henry Drummond

Print finally available here!

Magnetic field musings

Every so often, I start reading about magnetic fields and thinking about science fiction concepts.

I was reading this article about what might happen to the animals if the magnetic poles reverse, and I found this interesting tidbit:

Numerous experiments undertaken by him and others since then have shown that many living things avail themselves of the magnetic field. Organisms as diverse as hamsters, salamanders, sparrows, rainbow trout, spiny lobsters, and bacteria all do it. “I would go so far as to say that it’s nearly ubiquitous,” says John Phillips, a behavioral biologist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University who himself has detected this ability in everything from fruit flies to frogs. (There’s no scientific evidence that humans have this “sixth sense,” though curiously, our brains do contain magnetite, the mineral thought to aid other animals’ brains in detecting the field.) (Emphasis mine)

I started poking around, looking for articles about what magnetic fields do to the human body. This article says generally, nothing, but there has been some correlation between sickness in humans and living in proximity to high-tension powerlines.

There’s also problems with what happens if people move too much during an MRI:

An MRI scanner is essentially a big magnet that produces a powerful magnetic field of around 3 tesla (or 3 million microtesla) — millions of times larger than the fields we’re normally exposed to. But because it’s a static magnetic field, MRI scanners don’t exert any noticeable effect on the body. That would change, however, if the patient inside the scanner were to rapidly move his or her head back and forth.

“Moving quickly induces a time-varying field, so by doing that you are inducing currents in different structures of your brain,” says Legros. Those currents may lead to nausea, loss of balance, a metallic taste in your mouth, or in some cases, magnetophosphenes.

I’ve heard other stuff about humans and magnetic fields, but I’ll be darned if I can find any sources for it. I’ll list it here, and just take it with a grain of salt.

Apparently humans get headaches and nausea if they’re isolated from the earth’s magnetic field for too long.

I saw a video of a fox pouncing in the snow to find mice. The photographer observed that the fox had better luck catching mice when he was oriented north/south.

Mammal brains have a particular electronic resonance at a certain frequency. This resonance is compatible with plant life and makes plants grow better when they are around animals and people. This seems to be what’s happening in the Mythbuster episode Talking to Plants, where they had greenhouses with recordings of voices talking nice to plants, voices cursing plants, heavy metal music, and silence. Heavy metal grew the biggest plants, but the ones with voices also thrived more than the ones with silence.

(And not being able to find sources for this is driving me nuts, but the internet is a cesspool of new agers selling magnetic bracelets, or SEO farms with AI-generated articles.)

Anyway, all this is more or less a springboard for some science fiction worldbuilding. Just say, in general, humans are attuned to Earth’s magnetic field and we need it to live and be healthy. Now, let’s talking about Jupiter’s magnetic field.

There’s a band of red near the north pole where the force lines emerge, but there are two blue areas, one near the equator that researchers dubbed “The Great Blue Spot” where they re-enter as well as another blue area near the south pole, in essence giving it two south poles. A large part of the magnetic field also appears to be concentrated in the northern hemisphere instead of being evenly distributed between the poles.

“It’s a baffling puzzle,” Kimberly Moore, a planetary scientist at Harvard University and first author of the study tells Ryan F. Mandelbaum at Gizmodo. “Why is it so complicated in the northern hemisphere but so simple in the southern hemisphere?”

Jupiter’s magnetic field is super weird and has two south poles

Jupiter’s field is so strong that it tends to short out probes we send to check it out. That’s why NASA tends to send more probes to Saturn than Jupiter, even though Jupiter is closer.

What might that do to humans who colonized those moons? Would a stronger field drive us mad or give us cancer? What if it made us smarter and stronger?

Now extrapolate that out. There’s lots of gas giants in the neighborhood of our solar system, and they all have loads of moons to live on. Imagine one gas giant that makes people super smart, and we built universities there. Imagine there was one that granted superpowers. Imagine there was one that enabled us to teleport, or “go between” as they did in Dragonriders of Pern. Imagine there was one planet that caused humans to go mad, without exception, and people avoided it like the plague.

Has anybody written books like this? And if not, I think I might have to write them.

Bloganuary: What makes you feel strong

This one is a bit tough for me. What makes me feel strong? As in, spiritually? Emotionally? Physically?

I don’t feel particularly strong spiritually or emotionally. I’m kind of a wimp in those areas. But then I remembered the other day, how I physically conquered an obstacle. And boy, did it make me feel strong and empowered.

Out here in Arizona, there is this terrible thistle thing. I don’t know what it’s called, but it smells like a corpse and it grows about three feet tall and … infinite … wide. I’ve found mats of them that were six or eight feet across. If they keep getting water, they keep spreading. Their roots go down about two feet, and they’re just about impossible to get rid of.

I don’t know what this stuff is, but it’s horrible

We have a concrete slab in our back yard for parking a trailer on. The kids use it for riding bikes and playing games, kind of an impromptu patio. Anyway, one of those terrible thistle things had taken root under the edge of the concrete slab and had spread to about three feet wide. The only way I’ve successfully killed one of these things was when I poured an entire container of ice cream salt brine on it right before a rain, and the salt soaked into the ground. Nothing else touches these. I have not yet tried Round Up because I hate the smell.

Anyway, it had rained and softened the ground a bit, so I decided that that plant had to go. I got my shovel and clippers and a T-post. First I hacked the plant to the ground, then I went after it with my shovel. Once I had excavated a few feet of soil, I started levering the roots out of the ground with the T-post. The plant came out in sections, like it had just grown copies of itself to construct the root mat. I tore out pieces of it for a solid hour. Fortunately it hadn’t grown as deep under the concrete as I’d feared, and I tore out the last section of roots with a triumphant laugh.

So there you go. Pulling weeds makes me feel strong. Really big, invasive, horrible weeds that smell like a dead animal. Just one more step on the road to reclaiming our yard from the wilderness. I swear, nobody has touched this yard in 30 years.

Bloganuary: Something mysterious: chupacabras

I recently saw one of these mysterious canines as it ran across the road in front of my car in broad daylight. I had to go back and find this post I made about them in 2015 when I did a ton of research on them. Here’s what I saw:

He was a smallish dog, probably not more than 40 pounds. He was in the median, and dashed across the road so close that I had to slow down or hit him. He had a huge, boxy head, like a pit bull, and at first I thought he was somebody’s pet that had gotten out. But he was too small for a pit bull, and his color was blue merle, like an Australian shepherd. And he had very short hair. Actually, I think in my drawing here, I still drew the head too small. He was weird looking. And I was way out in the Tucson Mountain Park with no houses around.

I went back and looked at this old blog post, and the Texas Blue Dogs are very close to what I saw. Except with an even bigger, pit bull kind of head. That’s all I can think to compare it to.

The animals below look much closer to a coyote-dog hybrid than the dog I saw. I’m still not sure what he was, but I do know that I don’t want it getting into the yard with any chickens.

From 2015:

Mention the word “chupacabra” anywhere online, and you get two reactions:

The wide-eyed nod of the believer, and

The frothing, spluttering, teeth-gnashing of researchers and scientists.

I’ve heard about the strange, bald dog people have seen running around killing livestock, and how it seems to prefer drinking the blood of its victims. I personally don’t see anything too weird about this–there’s stories of sheep-killing dogs that only kill to drink the blood (see the novel Bob, son of Battle, for example). Heck, foxes will butcher an entire coop full of chickens just for the fun and flavor.

So here’s the results of my research.

The first place I ended up was the family in Texas who trapped a weird hairless animal that was eating corn. But if you look at its little hands, and the remnants of silvery hairs all over it, it’s totally a sick little raccoon. And it doesn’t have the jughead that the bigger dog chupacabras do. This theory is talked about here:

Another clue about the animal’s origins can be found in where it was discovered: in a tree. This is a typical place to find a raccoon, but unlikely for a dog or coyote. Furthermore, in a video of the animal, the Ratcliffe chupacabra picks up food with its paws to eat. This behavior is also typical of raccoons. The mysterious critter is currently being fed a diet of corn and cat food, but if the creature truly is a chupacabra, that theory can be easily tested: Put it in a pen with a goat or chicken, and see if it attacks them and sucks out its blood.

The reason that the Ratcliffe chupacabra has been called a chupacabra is not that the mysterious animal’s characteristics match those of the legendary vampire — because they don’t — but instead because those who found it didn’t know what else to call it.

But that still leaves the big nasty dog-thing.


This is the taxidermized dog that Phylis Canion dealt with–it killed a bunch of her chickens, then she found it dead and had it mounted.

Here’s another one that taxidermist in Blanco mounted, and it caused quite a stir:


Phylis Canion sent her specimen around to have its DNA tested.

However, quickly it became clear that the animal was not a dog when a genetic marker identified it as a coyote. Forstner notes, “We got the sequences back, uniquely within coyote there’s an area of the D-loop, which is the area of mitochondrial DNA… it gives us data on things that are closely related… Uniquely in coyotes there’s a deletion of several bases in one section, and another deletion in another area of an additional seven-base block. Turns out that the sequences that came back had those two unique deletions, and did not match any dogs or wolf. It came back with 97 percent confidence that it was Canis latrans, which is the coyote.”

Canion was not happy with the results, so she commissioned a second DNA test at a genetics lab st the University of California at Davis. Essentially, the new test confirmed the findings from the University of Texas.

However, with a slight twist: Canion’s animal turned out to be a hybrid.

A comment on the article pointed me to the Mexican breed Xolo. Otherwise known as the Mexican Hairless dog. And what do you know:


They look suspiciously like the dead animals above, don’t they?

So, probably, what we’re seeing is a strain of hybrid coyote/Mexican hairless dogs, running around killing things the way coyotes do–except they look so weird, nobody knows what they are. And boy, do the experts get MAD when you call them chupacabras. But if they fit the description … why not?

Wildflowers in the desert

With all the rain we had through July and August, the Arizona desert is lush and blooming. It was slightly cooler than usual this morning, so I went for a walk with my husband and took pictures.

Morning glories

We have morning glories everywhere. I didn’t know what they were and I’ve been ripping them out. Now I feel bad!

Moonflowers/desert thorn and morning glories

Little gardens have sprung up in every corner of every yard.

Arizona poppies
Barrel cactus?

The desert was so clear and pretty, I was able to get some long views.

Kitt Peak with the observatory

The desert here is mainly creosote bush and coyote bush, with the occasional cactus or mesquite. The distant desert sloping up the mountains is very green.

The butterflies are amazing. Driving up the mountain, I thought there were leaves blowing out of the back of the car ahead of me. Then I realized it was butterflies. They are yellow, white, orange, black, and green. The air is just full of them. It’s like those pictures you see of a monarch migration, except these are just native species.

I’ve lived in Arizona eight years, but I always lived in the city and never got to experience the desert like this before. I’m constantly in awe.

Moonflowers in the desert

We’ve had a ton of rain this summer in Arizona. I’ve been frantically chopping weeds, but I let some of them grow to see what they would do. Particularly these broad-leafed things that I hoped would be flowers. They’re starting to bloom, and here’s what they look like:

According to PlantNet, the app I use to identify plants, these are either moonflower, or desert thorn flower, which are in the same family. They look identical to me! These flowers only open in the evening, after sunset, and close up again in the morning when the sun touches them.

We have an abundance of insects right now, especially butterflies. Last month, I noticed that there were caterpillars everywhere, and figured that by August, it would be butterfly city. And it is! Bright yellow butterflies. My husband was driving down the road and one got stuck in his windshield wipers. The thing is, the stupid butterfly was still crawling out of its chrysalis! In fact, the chrysalis was what got stuck on the car. The butterfly was already flying around. It eventually freed itself and flew away, despite the moving car. Desert bugs are tough.

Of all the things I expected to find in the desert, butterflies and moonflowers were not one of them. 🙂

A stroll down the arroyo

An arroyo is a stream bed that only fills up during a flash flood, when the desert gets more rain than the ground can absorb. We’ve had so much rain this year that our little arroyo has deepened by at least a foot. Let’s check it out.

Here is the entrance to the wash, where the water crosses the road and flows between the yards.

To an apartment-dweller these past 15 years, this a magical place. The trees on either side are mesquite, acacia, and Palo Verde.

My daughters join me as we enter a green tunnel. They’re telling me how mosquitoes sound when they buzz around your ears.

Some variety of cholla cactus, these suckers are nasty.

This acacia is so green and fluffy! It hide the thorns that lie in wait on every single twig.

Thornless prickly pear. These are worse than regular prickly pear, because each of those dots are fine hairs that stick in you by the hundreds. A flamethrower is pretty much the only way to deal with them.

Thanks for coming with me for our little walk down the wash! One more weather pic:

Jumping cholla flowers

A walk around the wilderness yard

We’ve now lived in our new house almost six weeks. Due to hot weather and persistent rain, we haven’t been able to do much with our blank slate of a yard. The wilderness has decided that it needs to reclaim the whole thing. Each morning, I go out and do battle with it.

Unchopped broad leaf weeds of unknown species

I don’t know what these weeds will become. Probably they will grow ten feet high and have obnoxious allergy-laden flowers.

Baby mesquite

This is a mesquite tree. I have about 5000 of these coming up. They send down a taproot that is impossible to dig out, so I’m chopping them as fast as I can. I already have multiple mesquites that I’m grooming to be shade trees, and I don’t need 5000 more.

Jumping cholla flower buds
Sweet acacia beginning to bloom
Silky mesquite beginning to bloom
Mud holes where mom tried fruitlessly to dig out a mesquite make for fun places to play.
A horned toad who visited to eat our 10.3 billion ants

Our wilderness yard has no end of things to look at and blog about. Look forward to plenty more updates as we try to tame the wilds of Arizona.