Perusing The Paper

In the front section of today’s L.A. Times there were three items that caught my eye. One was how not to report about tarantulas, another was how to report about ground squirrls and the last sparked a bit of a personal outrage:

Let’s take the first one last…

In a page-one story about how Sudan is just saying pffft to U.S. economic sanctions against the country over the past and continuing genocidal violence in Darfur, I learned that both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are utilizing a loophole in the embargo that allows them to sell their products to Sudanese factories. Apparently gum arabic, a tree sap used as an emulsifier in a bunch of consumer products — among them Coke and Pepsi syrups — was strategically left out of the sanctions put in place by Congress because Sudan controls most of the world’s market for that commodity.

While I can understand the cola giants’ need to purchase that ingredient, what bothers me is the decision made to keep selling their stuff there. Well, it’s good thing they’ll be making profits there because they won’t be making any off me anymore, or at least for as long as they still continue to reap what amounts to me to be nothing more than blood-stained revenues from their sales there.

And now in overtly sensationalistic spider news…

It’s a trifle really, but one that irked this spider lover. A short item in the paper’s “Nation In Brief” section looking quickly at how SPCA officials in New York have taken in a pet tarantula that its guardian said he could no longer look after. But from there on through the quick end of the piece you’d think golden baboon tarantualas are the evilest arachnid out there:

“This is the kind of spider that nightmares are made of,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

He said the African spider can jump three feet and its bites are dangerous to humans.

Of course the hardly veiled implication from that last sentence is that this tarantula is deadly to humans and won’t fail to take an opportunity to sail unprovoked the yard distance between it and the nearest person to plant its fangs into a neck or ankle.

Please. The things eat roaches and crickets and mealworms — that make the mistake of entering its denweb!
Sure, the golden baboon tarantula is considered one of the more aggressive of the species and not a good tarantula for beginners to keep in captivity, but it would’ve been nice if in the short-shrift the Times Wire Report spent painting the creature as “nasty” or “mean” had even the slightest attempt been made to balance the coverage with a little less exaggeration, or at least made mention that their bites are not deadly (except to some of those at risk of anaphylaxis).

And lastly yet more reason why ground squirrels rock:

In the “Science File” section I found this awesome story about coming to understand why ground squirrels employ a certain weapon in their defensive aresenal to ward off rattlesnakes. If you didn’t know it already, ground squirrels are literally fearless when confronted by the predators and won’t hesitate to go nose-to-nose with them to protect their young — in part because they’ve evolved with an immunity to rattler venom.

In a face-off, the rodents will kick dirt, scratch and bite and do a lot of exaggerated tail waving, the latter of which Aaron S. Rundus, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, recently figured out why — and it’s totally righteous fascinating… at least to me:

Researchers long ago noticed that squirrels used their tails to wave off rattlers, even at night when the effort seemed useless. But snakes’ heat sensors don’t require sunlight.

On a hunch, scientists staged a confrontation between a snake and a squirrel, separating the adversaries with a wire mesh while recording the action on infrared video. The squirrel’s tail shot to 82 degrees, which made the animal’s infrared image look bigger.

To study the snake’s reactions, researchers created a robot from a taxidermy squirrel. As the robosquirrel’s tail grew warmer, the snake’s body posture shifted from a slithering offensive mode to a coiled defensive position.

Vaya Con Dios, Antonio Y LBC

I attended the service for Antonio Ruiz today. I was pleased to see he drew a crowd (of about 80 people), but I was not pleased to see that he was displayed in an open casket. I am not a fan of those. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of funerals in the first place, but those with the added morbidity of putting the corpse on view — and usually a corpse so heavily made-up as to look inhuman — are even more uncomfortable making.

Arriving after the reading of the rosary began I signed the guestbook and then took up a place in the rear of the small auditorium, electing to remain standing near the aisle door. The attending priest spoke only in Spanish so I had no idea what was being said. Finally he turned from the attendees and addressed the coffin in song before exiting. After that various people got up and went to the coffin. One woman was near inconsolable in her grief and I guessed that might be Antonio’s sister.

I recited the 23rd Psalm (or what I could remember of it) to myself and fought the urge to stand up in front of all those people and tell them something along the lines of my not coming here to grieve for El Circo Loco but rather to celebrate his remarkable spirit… but I didn’t have to fight that urge too hard. It wouldn’t have been proper at all.
After about 30 minutes a mortuary worker came in and spoke only in Spanish but I got the sense through his arm movements that he was trying to wrap things up by directing people first from the back rows up to the front to come forward for one last moment with Antonio before exiting. I debated getting in this line for the same reason I always debate viewing a dead body: I don’t want some mortician’s handiwork (or lack thereof) to replace the living breathing person for whom I came here to respectfully say farewell.

But I lost that debate and got in line and I made my way up to the side of the coffin and I looked inside, and immediately regretted doing so. The lifeless face with its thick layer of phony make-up was just a poorly decorated mask over the shell of the character who enriched me with his energy and his spirit. I bowed my head and bid him goodbye and moved on — straight out of the building to my truck and down Cesar Y Chavez Avenue all the way back from East LA back through downtown and onto my next joyous stop: the Lacy Street animal shelter near Lincoln Heights, where I promised I’d go on the off chance the stray we called LBC (for Little Black Cat) had been caught up and was being held.

I didn’t linger. I beelined it in, headed straight for the cat room, didn’t see the LBC and headed straight out. Looking at the poor cats (thankfully few), their cramped cages reminded me of open caskets.

Daze Like These

Fair warning: this is a scattershot post of little consequence, flitting between whatever topics are bouncing around my brain until I get bored and go to bed.

• The Grammy Awards were on TV last night. I do not care for awards show, least of all the Grammies. I interact so little with whatever they’re calling popular music these days that I do not give a rat’s ass who is awarded the trophy for best song or best album or best use of blonde highlights in a music video (comedy or drama). I’m so out of that realm only up until way too recently I thought Kanye was just an affected way to spell Kane. I had no idea it was pronounced Con-Yay! Pffft.

• Having said all that, I am addicted to American Idol, just like I was last season. Other “can’t miss” shows for me are 24, Lost, and Survivor.

• I got my jury pay today. A check for $15. For what amounts to a roundtrip comp’ed busride and about 30 minutes of standing around and waiting before I got cut loose.

• I had my first extended Costco run today in a long time. Mostly I’d just go in get water or cat litter or socks or whatever other specific thing I needed and then bust outta there. Today I cruised every square inch of the aisles and spent $264.63 and got a whole buncha stuff. Like water and cat litter. Figured I’d give Gardenburgers a try, and five pounds of tangerines… although I held off from buying 10 pounds of grapefruit and now I’m sorry I did. I’m fucking loving grapefruit right now. Craving it. And surge protectors — not that I’m craving surge protectors, it’s just that there was a two pack of the things and one can’t never have enough of them. Oh, and olives stuffed with bleu cheese. Dang, those are tasty.

• The jury came back in favor of Angels owner Arte Moreno renaming the Anaheim Angeles, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I think the Dodgers owner should rename them the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles.

• I planted a bay laurel sapling we got for bringing our Christmas tree to one of the city’s recycling centers last month. It’s been sitting in our kitchen window dying, so I dug a hole in what I hope is a good place for it in the front yard and filled it in with potting soil and plunked the little guy down there. Hope the little fella recovers. Then I watered the rest of the front, back and side yards because it’s been hot lately.

• There’s a new cat on the block. A gray tabby with collar that sports a very noticeable red tag. I’ve seen it twice in two days. I’m not sure if it’s lost or just a neighbors pet, but I’m hoping if it’s the former that I’ll be able to rescue it. It doesn’t seem too afraid of people.

• Tomorrow night is the monthly Midnight Ridazz ride. The prelim info has it as a “long” ride with a kickass hill at the end up to Dodger Stadium. At least it’ll finish close to home. I’m sure I’ll have to shake off the urge just to stay put that hits me around 9 p.m., but I’ll top off my flask of Drambuie and shake it off.

• Saturday as something of a Valentine’s Day dinner, Susan and I are going to the Spanish Kitchen on La Cienega. We’re going to get there early and throw back some mojitos first.

• I gave in to a late-night craving and had a serving of the peanut butter filled Hershey’s Kisses that I’ve been meaning to get over to Cybele. I counted out nne pieces and inhaled them. No more, no less. 230 calories at 11 p.m. Funny thing is I’m wondering if doing so somehow made me less hungry today. By the time dinner had rolled around I hadn’t even hit 1,000 calories, finishing off with 1,800. The lowest daily total since I began the dietJanuary 8. Maybe it wasn’t metabolic in anyway, just guilt.

• In the meantime, the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate truffle bar that I bought two weeks ago, still sits in plain view on the corner of my desk, unopened. That’s a fucking record.

• I’m planning on biking down to the YMCA tomorrow and becoming reacquainted with the treadmills there.

• I literally have nothing else I want to say. Goodnight.