Spider Update

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”
“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”
“Small world,” said Coraline.
“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Trinity River Levee
Dallas, Texas

Only two days ago I wrote about the spider that lives in the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car.

He has been there every morning. Today, watching his behavior closely, I realized what he is doing.

When I came to my car he was nowhere to be seen, but his web was stretched out from the mirror capsule to the door. It was oval, complex, symmetrical, and beautiful shining gossamer in the rising sun.

As I drove down the road, suddenly he emerged, fighting the wind, moving over his web as best as he could.

Why didn’t he stay put? Why did he come out of the safety of the mirror housing to flap around in the speeding air?

I watched him (as best as I could… I had to drive) and suddenly realized what he was doing – what he was doing every morning out there.

He was eating his web. First, he gathered all the disparate strands into one, thick, sturdy rope and once that was accomplished, he devoured the strand surprisingly quickly. Only then did he return to the safety of the mirror housing.

I wasn’t sure if I saw it right, so I looked up “Do spiders eat their old webs?” on the internet. Sure enough, they do.

From Indiana Public Media:

Look around many homes and businesses today, and you’ll see recycling bins full of paper, metal cans, and plastic.

In a world of limited resources, it makes sense to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. That’s why humans aren’t the first to try to conserve natural resources by recycling. Spiders have their own program to recycle valuable protein.

Tangled Prey

The spiders we’re talking about are the orb-weavers, the ones that make those rounded, intricate webs you see shimmering between branches in a garden or forest. To increase their chances of capturing prey, orb-weavers’ webs are often located in high traffic areas. This makes damage to the web more likely, either when a scrumptious morsel gets tangled in it or when a bumbling human gets hung up for a few seconds!

Some orb-weavers remake their webs every day, whether it’s damaged or not. Since spider’s silk is made of protein, all this web-weaving requires considerable amounts of protein. What if a nice, protein-rich insect doesn’t get trapped in the web every day? What’s a hungry orb-weaver to do?

Recycling

That’s where the spider’s genius for recycling comes in. When the orb-weaver takes apart an old web, it actually eats the silk. The protein from the old silk is never wasted, from the spider’s digestive system, it goes to the silk glands to be made into a new web. Even if a spider misses a few meals, it can still go on spinning webs. This is thanks to the efficient recycling program that lets spiders conserve protein by eating old webs.

You learn something new every day.

Spider In the Darkness

“If there is a God he’s a great loathsome spider in the darkness.”
John Fowles, The Collector

Louise Bourgeois, Spider

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art

spide_w
(Click for full size version on Flickr)

There is a spider living inside the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car. It’s a modern, streamlined plastic capsule that holds, in addition to the mirror, the mechanism for remote adjusting of the view, so there’s plenty of room. Since the mirror moves, there’s a gap around it, so the spider can easily slip in and out. It is pretty much ideal for a spider to live in.

When I say he lives there, I mean he spends the day there. At night he spins a web between the mirror and my driver’s side window. He must catch plenty to eat, because when I first noticed him, he was a tiny little arachnid-ette but now he’s a big fat Shelob-ish thing. I don’t see the spider every day, but it isn’t rare.

You see, the problem is, being a spider, he hasn’t figured out the whole car thing. I notice the spider when I drive to work – he is next to my face, after all, on the other side of the glass but right there. I guess some days, maybe the days I’m running late to work (usually) he takes down his insect-trap and retreats inside the mirror assembly before I come out and start the car. But if I’m early or he’s late he gets caught out there, on his web, while I drive down the road. These are residential streets so I don’t go much faster than forty – but that’s a lot of wind for a spider in a web. He swings and flails and hangs on for dear life.

Does a spider feel pain? Does a spider get dizzy? He must not because he was caught in a certain configuration this morning such that he started to spin in the wind hanging on a strand of web behind the mirror. When I say spin I mean spin. Like a tiny top on a string round and round extremely fast. A little pea sized arachnid blur – his legs held together, disappearing with the speed. But when I came to a stop sign he calmly set about his business of tidying up his web until I took off again – then he spun some more.

That’s the funny thing, during my ragged commute he alternates between swinging or spinning wildly in the wind when I’m moving to working his web remnants at stop signs or red lights. He has a mysterious spider purpose in arranging what’s left of his nightly web. I don’t know why he can’t simply let it go… he’s going to make a new one each night anyway. At any rate – usually about halfway to my work – I’ll stop for a minute and he’ll calmly move up the web and disappear behind the mirror to do spider things the rest of the day.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t really rescue him – and I’m a little afraid of him. But one day soon I won’t be going to work, but will have to drive somewhere on the highway. There’s a difference in the spider world between a forty mile per hour wind and one going, say, eighty.

Crash

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status — all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).
—-J. G. Ballard

Deep Ellum, Texas

I saw something very strange on the drive in to work today. To see something, anything, different along the route I drive every morning, have for well over three thousand times now, is strange in and of itself… to see something strange is double strange.

First, I remember moving to Texas. Like anyplace that is of itself, Texas has a few things to get used to – two driving things, for example.

First, people park facing the wrong way on residential streets all the time. Anywhere else – this will get you towed immediately… in Texas, it makes no difference – half the cars are on the left hand side.

Second, people run lights. I remember moving here, hitting a yellow and going, thinking to myself, “Wow, that was close, probably should have stopped.” Then I would look in my mirror and a half dozen cars would be running through after me.

The other side is when that light turns green, don’t jump out right away, wait for everyone to come to a stop.

At any rate, I was on my way to work (had some equipment to haul and was driving instead of riding my bike) and waiting at a long, busy red light… you know the one, the one at Grove and Centennial , with the McDonald’s and the Chilly Mart across from me. The light turned red as I arrived, so I was the first one in the ever-growing line, waiting for the light to change.

The cross light went from red to yellow to green and I looked up to make sure the traffic was stopped. A small black car was approaching on my left with a huge dumptruck behind. I assumed both would run through, so I waited. To my surprise, the small car braked hard and stopped at the light – I think there was a little brake squeal.

The truck behind didn’t expect him to stop, and plowed right into the rear of the car. It had one of those huge steel bumpers, set high, and completely smashed in the trunk of the car. There was that POP-Bang-Crunch of metal rending in a crash. The impact pushed the little car through the intersection like a pebble from a slingshot. As it passed in front of me, I thought, “Good, it is past the intersection, I can drive through, I won’t be late for work.”

Then came the strange part.

The car never stopped. It just kept on driving. Because I was first in line I could see around the bend to the right for quite a distance, maybe half a mile, and the car didn’t slow down – it simply sped away. I guess the high bumper on the truck smashed in the trunk without damaging the wheels or anything important, as far as moving goes.
The car disappeared around the curve and I turned back to see the truck – it didn’t have a scratch. That huge slab of rusty steel bumper looked indestructible. There was a surprisingly small amount of debris in the intersection… my light was green… I couldn’t think of any reason not to… so I drove through and went to work.

So why did the car drive away like that? The accident was 100% the fault of the truck and it was a commercial vehicle – basically, insurance would buy the guy a new car.

I can only think of a few possibilities.

One, the car was stolen… but I don’t think that would happen at that hour of the morning.

The most probable reason was the driver had warrants and didn’t want to deal with the cops.

Or maybe the driver was a complete idiot and didn’t realize the rear of his car was smashed in like that (doesn’t make sense, I know).

All in all, a pretty strange thing to watch on a morning commute.

What I learned this week, October 26, 2012

13 Reasons You Should Start Biking To Work

The ponds at Huffhines.

My Commute Home from Work

Since I wrote this blog entry, the weather has cooled off a bit and now I’m able to ride both to and from work. I shoot for about two to three times a week. Now, though, it’s getting dark sooner and pretty soon it’ll be dark when I leave for work and dark when I come home. I have put lights on my bike but I’ll have to think hard about fighting rush hour traffic pre-dawn and post sunset.


Alice Munro is about to have a new book of short stories come out. I’ve always said I think she is the unquestioned master of the form. Her writing is beyond language.

You can read one of the stories, “To Reach Japan” – Here.


This clip is a few years old; I remember the good old days when this is the biggest problem we had to worry about.


Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

My 6,128 Favorite Books

Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder.


TEXAS Tells UN Poll Watchers: Don’t Even Try It


Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

Sheaffer Inlaid Nib

Notes about Notes
Fountain Pens

A surprising number of very technical people have recently re-embraced the fountain pen for everyday writing. They’re drawn to fountain pens not from nostalgia or from a desire for expensive jewelry, but because they enjoy the way the pen feels in their hand — or the way their writing looks on the page.

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Triumph Nib

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib

Sheaffer Dolphin Nib


It’s nice to see an Oak Cliff Restaurant, Smoke, get this sort of attention. Nice burger too.

Best Bacon Burgers in the US – Dallas – Smoke


 ONN’s Presidential Debate Gives Average Americans Totally Unsupervised Airtime




The Rise of the DFW Brew

I Need a Victory

This is the one year anniversary of me starting up my blog again. I’ve gone one year, posting every day. Actually, according to WordPress, I’ve published 369 posts. It was leap year… I know I published two in one day on one occasion… I wonder what the other extras are?

My first post was on the Monk Parakeets that live in a power yard near my house.

My goal was to go a year publishing every day and now I’ve done it. I think, going forward, I’m going to relax a little and be willing to skip a day if I don’t have anything. I want to go for quality, rather than quantity I want to write more and photograph less. I want to try different things, write out a few more ideas and push it more.

Any comments, opinions, or suggestions would be appreciated.

Pack Straps

My bike with an experimental bag I tried out. The panniers work a lot better.

I carry a notebook (at least one) around with me always, along with a quiver of fountain pens, ready to record any fleeting thoughts that creep into my thick skull, on the off chance one might prove useful someday. Things… things have been tough lately and last Friday I wrote down, “I need a victory.” Then I followed this observation with a short list of attainable goals I’ve been working toward. I perused the list, crossed a few off, then circled the item “Ride my Bike to/from work.”

First, I scribbled through the “to.” I have come across a possibly insurmountable obstacle to riding my bike to work – there is no place to take a shower. I’m working on that, but it will take time, politics, and a budget from somewhere. However, there is no reason I can’t ride home after work.

I have been working on a route to/from my work for a long time now, and have it figured out. The route is important because my goal does not include me being killed and ground beneath the wheels of unstoppable traffic. However, I have found a route made up of paved bicycle trails, wide sidewalks, empty residential streets, quiet alleys (I have to be careful there – cars can back out unexpectedly) and parking lots.

One weekend a while back I did some extra work and was rewarded with a gift card. Looking around, I found a surprisingly inexpensive set of panniers from Wal-Mart and bought the things. They are cheaply made, but well designed and they fit on the rack on my old crappy bombing-around-town bike. I can haul any work I need, plus stuff extra clothes in them.

On Saturday, I decided to test my route. Loading up the panniers with a dummy cargo, I rode from home all the way to my workplace, about 5.2 miles, along my chosen low-danger route. I looped around the parking lot and rode back home. No problema. So I knew I could make the distance.

Candy agreed to drive me to work on Monday morning, with my bike in the back of the car. I set it in the rack (there are about a dozen other folks riding bikes – a pitifully small number) and carried the panniers to my desk. At the end of the day I changed clothes, clipped the panniers back on the bike, and headed out.

My bike needs some adjusting and lubrication, I need to work on the pannier mounting (my heels clip the bags every now and then), and I look like a complete ridiculous idiot… but otherwise I really enjoyed the ride. The bicycling itself is the easiest part – the difficult thing is the logistics of it – what to take, what to pack, getting this here, making sure that is there…. Everything is too complicated.

Once I was on the bike and moving, it felt like freedom.

My goal now is to ride home at least twice a week. On the days I can’t do that I might get up a little early and ride for forty five minutes around the neighborhood at dawn – that would be nice. I can go to the store too, those panniers will work well for groceries.

Sounds like a plan. Sounds like a little victory.

Mass Transit – On the Red Line

Dallas has never been seen as a city that is amenable to mass transit. Unlike an east coast megalopolis it was created in the age of the automobile – vast suburban tracts vomited out across the endless cotton fields along the pulsing arteries of constantly rebuilt freeways. But, for fifteen years now, we have had the DART rail. Always controversial, overly expensive, oft-reviled – the colored lines – Red, Blue, Green, Orange – crawled out inexorably across the map like vines on a brick wall.

Two tattooed guys – one skinny, one not – the skinny guy stands holding his skateboard, the other one sits hunched over a single speed bicycle – like a low slung bike for a kid a third his size. I am used to bicycles used as transport – this would be useless for that. It’s a bike used as a lifestyle statement. He rocks and stares at the chain like he’s afraid it will leap off the cogs if he lets it. Tired middle aged men slumped in seats, a guy playing a game on a smartphone, and a young couple standing in the door holding hands.

These are the people I live a lot of my life with. They are the same people you live a lot of your life with. Perfect strangers. Strangers on a train. I want to know these people and I want their stories.

The two guys, the skateboard and the inefficient but cool bicycle – they may be gutterpunks but they look like they are having fun. The guy on the bike moves back and forth at each stop to let folks get to the door or their seats. When their stop comes (one before mine) he shouts, “Off to another adventure” and shoots out the open door.

Looking at the young couple makes me ache. They may be poor and doomed… but together, today, right now, they are a thing of beauty. Beauty is so rare and so fleeting.

The others… all forgettable. But I know that the forgotten folks all have stories that will raise the hairs on the back of your necks. But we all sit and sway, look around, adjust our headphones, and get off at our stops.

Two and a half miles

One problem when the kids are home from school is that we do not have enough cars. It’s especially a problem on the days that Candy, Lee, and I are all working – there simply are not enough vehicles to get all of us to our places of gainful employment. That means I end up taking the train and the bus.

The other day was cold and wet. It rained hard most of the day but by the time I was able to leave work it was only a light mist. Then I discovered I had screwed up. I didn’t have any cash. I can buy a train ticket with my credit card but when I arrived at the Arapaho station I didn’t have any change for the bus… plus, when I checked the schedule, it would be over an hour before a bus arrived.

So I decided to hoof it. It’s about two and a half miles from the station to my house… not very far under ideal conditions, but it was dark, cold, muddy, and I was worn out from a day at work. Still, I gathered myself and strode confidently across the parking lot into the darkness.

Most of the distance between the Arapaho station and my neighborhood is made of of light industrial buildings. These are gridded out streets lined with rows of small offices, warehouses, small companies leasing space in industrial parks, and a few larger establishments with parking lots and multi-story buildings.

It’s actually sort of interesting stuff to walk through. Everyone sees these places from their car – but it is rare to take the time to see them slowly and up close.

I’m fascinated by the hundreds of mysterious names of these companies – it’s the poor suburb of the nearby high-tech telecom corridor – Greenfield, Polytronix, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Pizarro, Exteris… along with some more mundane small businesses – The Jalepeno Ketchup Company, Cameron Machine Shop, Granite World. I like to walk along and look at those signs, think about the work that goes on within, imagine what it would be like to start up one of these.

Of course, there are quite a few FOR LEASE signs too. I walked up to a couple of these and peered into the darkness as best as I could, looked at the layout posters taped to the front doors, and imagined what I could do with the space. I couldn’t come up with anything concrete.

There were very few other people out and about in this awful weather and prematurely darkened night. One woman working late scurried by on the way to her car, obviously skittered at seeing me walking along unexpectedly. One odd guy cruised by slowly and unevenly on a bicycle – either drunk or worn out or both.

Before I knew it I was at the park at the end of my block and almost home. It went by very quickly and I wasn’t as tired as I thought I was.

Maybe I should do this walk more often. Maybe when the weather isn’t so nasty.