Doodlebugs & Antlions, oh my!


Over the week-end I picked up a copy of Jennifer Ackerman’s Notes From The Shore, a book of essays about shore life along Cape Henlopen, Delaware. Books about the ocean are always sure to catch my interest, and since we had the good fortune to be able to visit Cape Henlopen a few years ago, I was doubly interested.

I’m not very far into it yet, but I love her writing style and I’m learning more about the natural world, which was one of my reading goals this year.  Today I’m fascinated by the antlion; here’s what Ackerman writes:
Here on a sunbaked slope is the pit of a creature with a name like an oxymoron or an odd chimera out of my childhood bestiary: the ant lion. It is the larva of a delicate, long-bodied insect. In its adult form, the creature looks like a damselfly, but its larva is a grotesque, wedge-shaped thing the color of slate with long, bristling sickle like jaws. It digs a conical pit by moving backward in a circle, plowing the sand with the tip of its sharp abdomen and flipping the grains upwards with its flat head. The pit is about the width of a child’s thumb and perfectly engineered as a live trap. The smooth, sloping sides form an angle of exactly 32 degrees, the angle of repose for sand grains. The ant lion lies in wait at the apex of the pit, all but its jaws concealed. When an ant stumbles over the edge, it starts an avalanche of sand on the slipface, loses its toehold, and tumbles into the jaws of the larva. With a quick jab, the ant lion pierces its prey, sucks out the juices, and flips the empty body out of the trap.”

I found a National Geographic video of an antlion in Africa setting its trap and capturing prey. I showed it to the children (shuddering the whole way through; it *is* grotesque) and they are, of course, now playing antlions in the bedroom. The type described in the video can remain in the larval stage for up to three years. Isn’t that crazy?!

According to Wikipedia, they are “worldwide in distribution,” and here in America, we call them doodlebugs because of the marks they leave in the sand. Or, rather, other Americans apparently call them doodlebugs. It sounds vaguely familiar to me, but I’m certain I’ve never used it before. The name refers to the shape they leave in the sand, their “doodles.”

What really caught my attention in Ackerman’s description was how perfect the angle formed by the antlion was ~ the 32 degrees. This precision made me curious and I found an article in the Journal of Experimental Biology that discussed the antlions and their traps.  As the article summary says:

  “Antlions produce efficient traps, with slopes steep enough to guide preys to their mouths without any attack, and shallow enough to avoid the likelihood of avalanches typical of crater angles.”

As I skim the article (children have moved on from playing antlion to playing in the chilly backyard, coming in for a hot cider snack break, talking to me about their outdoor play, and going back outside again. plus I put the baby down for a nap. So concentrated scientific reading is Right Out and skimming is In Order), I’m amazed at the beauty and design in this less than beautiful creature.  Yes, I said it. Design. I know the authors of the scientific article may think it nonsense. Ackerman may think so, too. But as I read about the “near perfect” cones constructed by the sandlions, as I marvel at the efficiency of their system, the academic forces required to research and share what this creature does so effortlessly, I am left with these verses reverberating in my mind:
  “…God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out,

      who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

     who gives breath to the people on it

    and spirit to those who walk in it…”

(Isaiah 42:5)

As God spread out the earth, He made room for the lion (the mammal), the ant (the insect), and the antlion (that weird little larva!). Plus the millions of other animals out there. And then US. Who are we, that He is mindful of us? What an intricate, beautiful world He’s created… and then He shared it with us, so we could discover it. What a precious gift!

Posted in Books, Nature Study | Leave a comment

Government Cookie Jars

Who has total control of our tax dollars? Who takes them? Who decides where they go? Who decides to raise our taxes and take more from us to give to others? Who is who chooses to give some firms our tax dollars as corporate welfare? Politicians.
Corporations do lobby for money and favorable legislature, and accept those perks when they are given.   However, they can’t force politicians to give them our money. Politicians CHOOSE to do that. Remove the politicians’ ability to do that, and you stop the problem at its root.

Many of those who claim to object to corporate welfare really do not have a problem with politicians giving away our money to businesses, it’s just that they would pick different winners in the corporate lobbying game.  For those people, the complaints they have about big, bad business are simply a power struggle, not principled objection.

Salaries for CEOs are determined by the shareholders and board members of the business. Shareholders include pension funds for teachers, police officers, state employees, and others. Many of the so called 99% make 100% of their retirement money from the 1%.

Salaries for politicians are determined by… themselves.  And their money comes directly and only from ‘we the people.’

The mortgage crisis?  *Politicians* demanded that mortgages worth zip be offered, right? They *required* it, so here again we have a case of the government being the instrument responsible for economic destruction, and corporations merely being a willing enough tool in the hands of the politicians.   Most of the left seems to want merely to punish the tool (and only a few of those, based entirely on politics, not principles).  I am in favor of yanking corporate hands out of the cookie jar, but I want to also limit the power of the tool wielders so that they do not have the ability to own and operate a cookie jar for favored corporations and cannot do such damage ever again.

One argument that really amuses me, while it depresses me as well, is the complain that businesses who receive corporate welfare, government bailouts, are then ” refusing to invest taxpayer money back into the economy.” Hello?  This is a charade and more than a bit of a shell game.  Why not let the taxpayers KEEP their OWN money and decide where in this economy WE want to invest it?  Why do we need the middle men of government and businesses the government chooses to support to do this for us?

Note well: Obama has been giving taxpayer money away to his friends and supporters. Corporations are his biggest supporters. I do not want to see more of the governmental power grab so government officials can continue to enrich themselves and reward their cronies, regardless of whether those cronies are successful at business or not (Solynydra, anybody?)

If you want taxpayer money invested back into the economy, why not let *taxpayers* do that by letting us keep our money?


But corporate hotshots are merely thieves.


Hmmm.  I’m not admiring their moral code.  But it’s not stealing when the powers that be *give* you the money. That’s what politicians did. That’s what crony capitalism is- it is the problem. The way to fix crony capitalism is to remove the incentive to lobby government for its political favors, and you do that by getting the politician’s hands out of the cookie jar and putting a wall between them and corporations. Get them out of the business of picking winners and losers in business.


Posted in economics, politicians, Politics | Leave a comment

Shocking: Child sex offender behind Charlotte bathroom ordinance push

The leader of efforts to pass the Charlotte bathroom ordinance is a convicted sex offender. Chad Sevearance, now-former president of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce, worked as a youth minister in the late 1990s. More

Paypal, doing business around our world in places where gays and transgendered are legally stoned to death or thrown off buildings, gets the jitters about those who are not in favor of letting men and little girls use the same bathroom at the same time.  Paypal’s headquarters are in Singapore

Germans demanded ‘breathing room,’ too.

When reasoned discourse, or merely a chalk scrawl is ‘unsafe,’ your position and your reason are weak.


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God, give us men! A time like this demands

God, give us men! A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty, and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

Josiah Gilbert Holland

Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

Games to play when you don’t share a language

One of the things we want to do with our four Ukrainian orphans when they come is play some games. Unfortunately, our game supply, once massive, has become sadly depleted, and many of them rendered useless thanks to the depradations of our two American boys, Blynken and Nod. And we learned when the Ukrainian boys were here what sorts of games would work and what wouldn’t- the fast pace of Dutch Blitz is not good. They could just handle Blink because it’s a two player game. When we adapted it to make it multiplayer, the youngest became a bit aggressive- not even on purpose- he just found the fast pace overwhelming and it brought out the worst. So turn playing works better. Heavy text or complex instructions don’t work well. Here are some games I’m considering (some recommended by others). I can’t get them all (over 300 dollars of games currently in my cart, eep). So if you’re familiar with any of them, what would you suggest?

Pop Up Pirate Game by TOMY
We owned an original, purchased in Japan around 25 years ago. We played it regularly with all 7 of our children over two decades and with many, many guests and it lasted well. In the last two years, B and N have broken the pirate in half and lost nearly all the swords.=( So I am getting this one- it’s fun, it’s turn based, requires no language, and we’ve never had a kid around who did not love it. Only I’m locking it up in between use- in my closet, probably.

Travel Qwirkle Board Game– going with travel game because travel versions are often cheaper and also take up less space, so we can take this to the Philippines when we move there in November. Yeah, did you know that?
Recommended as quick playing, similar brain skills as Dutch Blitz, but turn based.

Considering for my Big Boy- he has the gift of gab, so he may enjoy this.

Sounds fun- addition practice, some strategy, don’t need much in the way of a mutual language to play.

Sushi Go!

Small World
recommended as like Risk, but shorter, faster, easier. Not sure about the language barrier, or the fact that our four boys are not the best sports about losing (and they lose so much in life already)- We won’t cheat to make them win, because i think a good that come from their stay with us is learning to be good sports, but at the same time, I don’t want that hurdle to be too high, you know?

Tsuro: The Game of the Path

Ticket To Ride – Europe

Tokaido Board Game

Takenoko Board Game

Gravity Maze

Melissa & Doug Suspend Game

Science Wiz Cool Circuits

HABA Rhino Hero Stacking Game

So, we’re looking for games they can pick up by watching them being played or by playing through- they don’t have enough English for complicated game instructions.
We’re looking for turn taking, not everybody playing at once, because they didn’t do well with that type of game.
We want to be able to play together, so four or more players.
Playing together itself has educational value- they pick up English vocabulary and some sportsmanship via example. But it’s nice if there is also some additional educational value that will be of use to them.

Games we have:
Uno- they have two sets at their orphanage, too, and they play well but it’s kind of boring now.
Dutch blitz- they hate it.
Go Fish- I upgrade this into a vocabulary game using memory cards, they like it.
Jenga- they enjoyed this.
Simon- a travel version, they got bored quickly because I couldn’t get it to a more cmplicated version. We may need the full sized.
Racko- we never got around to playing this one, but we will this visit.

What are three games you could recommend? You can choose from the ones listed above, or make new suggestions. I can’t buy 15 games, and we can probably realistically play 5 new games on a regular basis. Let’s hear your suggestions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Responses

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