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Praying Mantis (Stagomantis)

This charmer found a nice little space on our porch light last night.
Praying Mantis on porch light, Central Texas

common name Praying Mantis (or Praying Mantid)
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Arthropoda
class Insecta; subclass Pterygota; infraclass Neoptera
order superorder Dictyoptera; order Mantodea
family Mantidae; subfamily Stagomantinae
genus Cyanocitta
species unknown
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not tracked
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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Why I only wear red shoes

There’s nothing in the world like a pair of red shoes. —Hans Christian Andersen

I only wear red shoes. The shade and hue may vary from light tomato-red to dark wine, but it’s red. This has been going on for several years, and I’m not sure how long it will last. These are my favorite flats:

pair of red flats

There are many reasons I wear red shoes, but here are some of the top ones.

The fairy tale

I never liked the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It’s a caution against vanity, in which a young girl, Karen, is punished for being overly attached to a pair of red shoes. As a child, she has red feet and ankles from the cold. Her parent buy her a cheap pair of red shoes. When her parents die, she wears the red pair to their funeral (they are her only shoes). Karen attracts the attention of an older woman, who adopts her and buys her a much prettier pair of red shoes. She becomes obsessed with the shoes, wearing them to church despite being told not to, and preferring occasions for wearing them to more serious obligations.

One day the shoes are cursed by an old soldier, who tells them, “Never come off when you dance,” just before Karen goes into church wearing them. She is distracted during the service by them, and when she emerges her feet begin to dance. Karen can’t control the dancing, which behaves contrary to her desires and will not stop. She is unable to enter buildings and unable to rest. She has a vision of an angel further cursing her for her vanity, dooming her to “Dance in your red shoes until you are pale and cold, and your flesh shrivels down to the skeleton.” Eventually Karen begs the town executioner to chop off her feet, so she can stop dancing and ask forgiveness for putting the shoes ahead of God. The executioner does so. The shoes remain attached to the dismembered feet, and run off into the forest. The executioner provides Karen with crutches and wooden feet to replace her own feet.

When Karen attempts to return to church, the dismembered feet and shoes block her way. She becomes repentant and somber, and takes up a position working for the parson. But she cannot return to church. One Sunday, while everyone else is away, she has another vision of the angel. She is forgiven. She dies and goes to heaven, where no one mentions red shoes.

While I agree putting a pair of shoes ahead of family and spiritual needs is foolish, it was clear to me that this story was not about vanity, but about becoming too invested in something associated with her parents (the original pair of red shoes, the cold red feet), and which arguably saved her from poverty and hunger after her parents died, by attracting the attention of the older woman. The shoes were too important to her, but this was a natural result of the trauma and dramatic change in her life. Andersen was a good natural psychologist, and the story makes it clear that it was overdetermined that Karen would develop this obsessions. But chopping off her feet wasn’t the answer. Someone needed to make it clear to Karen she wasn’t valued for red shoes or appearance, but for herself.

I wear red shoes because I do not believe in punishing people for standing out from the crowd.

The movie

A few years ago, I re-watched The Red Shoes (1948, Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer). In it, Vicky Page, a prima ballerina’s breakthrough performance occurs playing the lead in a ballet performance of The Red Shoes. Page has an exceptional talent, which director Boris Lermentov wants to develop so that she can fulfill her potential. But Page falls in love with the ballet’s composer, Julian Craster, and must choose between marriage and her career.

Page replicates the fairy tale in her life, by being unable to step away from her art and the ballet (which requires she wear red shoes, of course). Eventually the pressure is too much, and she flees the theatre the night of a premiere, leaping to her death while wearing the red shoes. Dying in her husband’s arms, her last request is that he take off the shoes. The troupe performs the ballet anyway, dancing around a pair of still red shoes, turning her lack of presence into a memorial for Page.

Every time I watch this, I wonder if it was a deliberate piece of feminist art, or accidental. It’s played straight: no one questions whether it’s appropriate for a woman to be forced to choose between her love of her art and her love of a man. Today, while there still exist many challenges for women, it is at least possible for a woman to be married and have a career in this country. (In fact, it’s economically necessary for the wife or mother to work in many families). Advances are being made in countries where the woman’s role is much more restricted.

It was after this viewing I began wearing only red shoes. It’s a reminder to be grateful I live in a time and place where no one asks me to choose between my husband and my career. It’s not always easy, but at least it’s possible.

The color combinations

I don’t have favorite colors, I have favorite color combinations. My theory is that there are no bad colors, only bad color contexts, and occasionally wonderful ones. China blue and chocolate, gray and gold, tomato red and avocado greens (inside and out), violet and copper, cerulean and spring green: all have entranced me at different times.

The challenge of wearing only red shoes makes dressing a little more fun, and gives me the opportunity to indulge some unorthodox color combinations.

Red shoes keep me out of trouble…

…In shoe stores, that is. There are many delightful shoes, but most of them are not red. This protects my pocketbook. It also keeps me focused when a particular shoe need arises (flats suitable for work, for example).

Highlights from my closet:

line of red shoes

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Yellow Houseplant Mushrooms (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii)

These appeared in one of my mother’s flower pots a day after we had our first rain in months. They grew rapidly.
 

Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, a common mushroom

Post-storm yellow mushrooms | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, day 2

common name Yellow Houseplant Mushroom
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Fungi
phylum Basidiomycota
class Agaricomycetes
order Agaricales
family Agaricaceae
genus Leucocoprinus
species birnbaumii
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not tracked
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Early morning local fauna

Seen on the stoop early this morning.

We used to have Mediterranean Geckos all around the house. Since moving back I rarely see them, but I do see this Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) regularly.
Texas Spiny Lizard on our front porch

Agelenopsis (species uncertain), a.k.a. a Grass Spider. He’s lost a leg, possibly to one of the resident lizards. He’s fairly large; his body is about an inch long.
Grass spider

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Last of the Seattle photos finally uploaded

I’ve been putting them off with a million reasons: getting a new job, still unpacking, visiting my mother (whom I only saw once the past three years), etc. But now I have a great job*, and the unpacking has slowed a little since the house is now habitable.

Highlights:
Robin Redbreast

Crows through back door

Maple seed close-up

Rose

Rhodedendron in rain

Spotted towhee takes flight


*Update: the “great job” ended up not happening. Chickens, unhatched, counted…

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Now that I’m no longer with Memory Lane/Classmates, I no longer have photo opportunities on my bus commute, over Elliott Bay, etc. I’ve finally uploaded the last of those to Flickr. Here are some highlights:

Crow attacks Bald Eagle, from my window at work:
Eagle, seagull, crow

Canada Geese, from my window at work:
Canada geese

Seagull, head-on, from the bus:
Seagull, head-on

Seagull on train, from my window at work:
Seagull on train, take two

My old cube. When we moved I went from an office to a cube, but this view, and the neighborhood, was a complete joy.
My old cube

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Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Frequent visitors to our home in Washington.
Two Steller's Jays enjoying seed

common name Steller’s Jay
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passiformes
family Corvidae
genus Cyanocitta
species stelleri
location Renton, Washington
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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A ll over the world on Sunday, May 2, at 15:00 UTC, photographers took shots wherever they were. Some were planned, some not (there are rainbows, etc., that could not be arranged).

The New York Times has gathered it all into a global gallery – stacks of photos reaching out to the sky, browsable by stack. Beautiful images, and once again, beautiful UX from the New York Times.

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Northern Flicker

common name Northern Flicker
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Piciformes
family Picidae
genus Colaptes
species auratus
location Renton, Washington
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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You can’t see it clearly in this photo, but this snake is just finishing off what I think was an earthworm.
Lined Snake

common name Lined Snake
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Reptilia, subclass Diapsida
order Squamata, suborder Serpentes
family Columbidae
genus Tropidoclonion
species lineatum
location Central Texas
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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The pampas grass provides a glorious border between our lawn and the neighbor’s.
Pampas Grass

common name Pampas Grass
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Plantae; subkingdom Tracheobionta
phylum Spermatophyta; subphylum Magnoliophyta
class Liliopsida
order Poales
family Poaceae
genus Cortaderia
species selioana
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not evaluated
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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Carolina Chickadee

common name Carolina Chickadee
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passiformes
family Paridae
genus Poecile
species carolinensis
location Central Texas
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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We are told that the crape myrtle in our front yard is as old as the house, which was built in 1965. It’s a large, well-established, beautiful plant, taller than the roof, and I completely adore it.

Crape myrtles were introduced into North America in South Carolina, back in 1790, and have been tremendously successful. The genus originated in East and Southeast Asia.

Crape myrtle

common name Crape Myrtle
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Plantae; subkingdom Tracheobionta
phylum Spermatophyta; subphylum Magnoliaphyta
class Magnoliopsida; subclass Rosidae
order Myrtales
family Lythraceae
genus Lagerstroemia
species indica
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not evaluated
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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My mother gave me a pot with several flowering plants in it, but it wasn’t until one of them died back a little from the heat that I discovered this struggling charmer growing beneath it.
Begonia

common name Begonia
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Plantae; subkingdom Tracheobionta
phylum Spermatophyta; subphylum Magnoliaphyta
class Magnoliopsida
order Cucurbitales
family Begoniaceae
genus Begonia
species n.a.; garden hybrid
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not evaluated
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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The male of the species. Cardinals were named after the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical officials of the same name.
Cardinal

The female of the species.
Female cardinal in bath

common name Cardinal
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passiformes
family Cardinalidae
genus Cardinalis
species cardinalis
location Central Texas
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jay

common name Blue Jay
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Animalia
phylum Chordata; subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passiformes
family Corvidae
genus Cyanocitta
species cristata
location Central Texas
IUCN status Least concern
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.

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Pecan Tree (Carya illinoinensis)

Our pecan actually springs from a naturally seeded contribution from our neighbor’s pecan. When nuts appear, the squirrels have endless fun.
Pecan Tree

common name Pecan Tree
domain Eukaryota
kingdom Plantae; subkingdom Tracheobionta
phylum Spermatophyta; subphylum Magnoliaphyta
class Magnoliopsida
order Fagales
family Juglandaceae
genus Carya
species illinoinensis
location Central Texas
IUCN status Not evaluated
Extremely local species are itemized species seen at our homes: on the actual property, or in the air above it. (Across the street doesn’t count!) I began by itemizing species seen at our house in Copperas Cove, Texas, and later expanded the project to include our home in Renton, Washington.