If citizen science appeals to you and you love birds or have always wanted to have an excuse to start birdwatching, this Saturday, May 5, is a golden opportunity!
Global Bird Day is a “virtual” event in which participants take as little as 10 minutes in their favorite spots—even in their backyards—and count the number of birds and species. Participants then log what they’ve seen in Ebird. This effort is important, because it shows the ornithologists at Cornell a real-time snapshot of which birds are where—especially now, when we are in spring migration, which got off to a late start due to the colder-than-normal weather patterns.
Participating is easy; you can do as little or as much as you want, and a free Ebird account takes just a couple of minutes to set up. You can download an app, too, if you prefer—but you don’t have to. You can do it the old fashioned way, like I do: take a notebook and a pen and record it later.
Nathan and I are hitting up four locations; the first one will be easy, because it’s our back yard (thanks to 18 feeders, we get 14 species on a slow day). We’ll head up to hike a few miles through Audubon Bent of the River in Southbury, visit the nature preserve behind our favorite cemetery in Bridgewater (we’re hoping for lots of water species), and spend the remainder of the day at another preserve in Brookfield.
If you’d like more information on how to participate, visit https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-5-may-2018.
If you’ve got Kentucky Derby or Cinco de Mayo invites (we do), those are probably at the end of the day, so you can still do both! Don’t miss out!
Lots of birders recall their “spark bird” – the sighting that gave them the bug to bird – fondly.
I don’t have a spark bird. I have a spark weekend.
There’s this neat bookstore in the nearby town of Bethel called Byrd’s Books. In this do-or-die time for independent book sellers—there’s a lot of competition out there from Amazon, mostly, but from other large outlets that sell books at a cut price as well, such as BJs and Costco—they constantly have to invent new ways to keep themselves alive.
One of the ways Byrd’s does this is through the creation of community. Alice works hard to host a number of interesting events. In late January, her newsletter heralded an introductory session to the Great Backyard Bird Count—an annual event that takes place around President’s Day Weekend. It’s when birders everywhere count the birds in their yards or anywhere else they visit, and make reports each day. The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology then use these reports to create a real-time snapshot of local bird populations. In prior years, this count has been exceptionally helpful in noting increases and decreases in certain populations and, for example, how changing weather patterns have affected them.
I signed us up immediately—Nathan has been a birder for years, and I’ll admit I never understood the appeal of it, but it would be an interesting date for us. I was excited, because I knew Nathan would be; I also love going to lectures on just about anything, and I love participating in citizen science. Besides, maybe I could figure out what the heck it is he loves about sitting out on our back porch for hours watching birds.
Whatever it was Read the rest of this entry
Looking for a Rain God, Bessie Head
This is considered a classic and is taught in many literary classrooms, but I think of it as a horror story: when pushed to the brink, there is almost no limit to what atrocities humanity can commit. This extremely short tale examines the effect of desperation on a family stricken with drought–but it’s the matter-of-fact way in which it’s rendered that gives one chills.
My blood curdles every time I read this. It’s not an easy piece to find because it mostly appears in textbooks, but there’s a wonderful collection—Looking for a Rain God: An Anthology of Contemporary African Short Stories—here.
I’m not one to go crazy over viral videos. But due to my fascination with volcanoes–and my being traumatized as a child by certain movies (i.e., Devil at 4 O’Clock) when I found this it made my blood curdle, so I had to share.
The first-person perspective while the lava consumes the camera is disturbing–there’s something about feeling hopelessly trapped as the flow moves toward the camera, the relentless crackling of the beast itself, and the flames consuming us while we watch.
I’m pleased to announce that the anthology I’ve spent a year curating, Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Anthology Volume 7—Decay is now available! Containing fifteen pieces by young, fresh, and seasoned voices alike, the stories in this volume focus on the various ways decay permeates our lives and very beings.
I’ve always wanted to put together an anthology, so it was thrilling when Dark Alley Press gave me the opportunity. It’s been an incredible journey—I’ve worked with some very talented writers, and was able to put awesome new discoveries as well as stories that haunted me for years either into print or back into print. One of the most exciting things about this anthology is that it contains writer Daniel Pearlman’s final first draft, which his widow, Sandy, graciously agreed to let us publish.
Ink Stains is available wherever you purchase books. Here’s the Table of Contents and a specially prepared preview you can print or download (at the bottom of this post). Get your full copies here:
Amazon Print: http://bit.ly/inkstains7
Amazon Kindle: http://bit.ly/inkstains7K
TABLE OF CONTENTS
As We Rot – Taro Turner
Christmas in Connecticut – Robert Mayette
The Depths – Elizabeth Allen
Heroes – Jackie Logsted
The Mating Habits of the Late-Adopting Smoker – Dorianne Emmerton
Stikini – Travis D. Roberson
The Fate of the Worms – Page Sullivan
Ignorance Is – Rhonda Zimlich
Black-Hooded Caller – Pablo Patiño
The Cold Gets In – Mary Thorson
Do the Faceless Remember? – Megan Neumann
Suicide in Reverse (After Matt Rasmussen) – Bri Faythe
The Leaf People – Heather Sullivan
Letting in the Cat – Kaitlyn Downing
Overdrawn at the Time Bank – Daniel Pearlman
Photo: The Singer’s Last Stand – Christopher Petersen
Get a PDF sample here: Ink Stains Sample
In This Writing Life Episodes 11 and 12, things are fine–until I have a nightmare, which could result in a great short story that would work for a looming deadline (but only if I can pull myself together).
You can watch both episodes below.
My 9th grade science teacher, Mr. Coleman, gave us an assignment to “create our own solar system” and “describe each planet, its atmosphere, and geological/geographic properties.” Something like that, anyway—I don’t really remember the exact parameters.
I loved doing homework, and I especially loved projects (my home life sucked, so anything that could help me mentally escape—and have an excuse to not do ridiculous chores—was a win). I threw myself into this one whole hog, but strayed a little bit from the hard-core science paper by adding lots of fiction and poetry (like, seriously? Who does that? Who even thinks it’s a good IDEA to do that?) So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Mr. Coleman called me in to “discuss my paper” because it “was of some concern.” I don’t remember the conversation as a whole, but I do remember, word for word, a few things he said, among them, “I mean, planets moving back and forth like clocks? Planets that don’t spin at all? It’s ridiculous!” and also, that what I had dreamed up was scientifically impossible.
I remember thinking, as I left the classroom to go to—lunch, I think it was—that while he was a science teacher, he was kind of not too swift. Yes, it’s true, I didn’t give him what he asked for, but I mean, why couldn’t planets move in ways we’ve never seen? Wasn’t it true that there were whole expanses of space that had never been explored? Didn’t we just get done learning in biology class that a long-extinct fish called the Coelacanth had turned up in someone’s nets in Madagascar?
Later on, I felt stupid: Of course not, silly. Of course planets can’t move contrary to whatever we’ve already seen. It’s laws of physics.
I never forgot that conversation, but I kept my admittedly cringe-worthy paper.
I never dreamed the day would come when it would be proven that some of what I’d dreamed up was not only possible, it existed. I recently read that scientists had discovered a planet (known as 55 Cancri e) with a permanent day and night side—which means the planet doesn’t spin as ours does. You can read more about this place—which they now think might even have an atmosphere—here: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2017/11/nasa-scientists-debate-alien-planet-55-cancri-e-does-it-have-an-atmosphere-like-earth-venus.html
We’ve still yet to discover a planet that moves back and forth like a clock, but…you know, I’ll keep hoping.
If you’d like to read my really bad science paper, I’ve included it below—you can judge for yourself if I really deserved that 19/25 (which works out, I think, to a B+, if each grade is worth five points…I guess he didn’t hate it that much?)
What makes Session 9 truly remarkable is its location: the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, where the film was shot, becomes a character in itself. If you didn’t get the chance to urban explore the place when it was still a decaying wreck (which really wasn’t a great idea anyway since A, it was dangerous, and B, they were very hard on those who trespassed), watching Session 9 is probably the next-best thing.
That said, the history of the place is fascinating. Here are the links and videos I mentioned in the Dark Discussions episode on Session 9. And yes, I know I promised pix of me when I “urban explored” Fairfield Hills—an infamous abandoned asylum just fifteen minutes from my home—back in 2002. I put Read the rest of this entry
If you’ve been following me on any social media or have read some of my work, you know I have a thing for all things abandoned. On a recent Dark Discussions episode, we reviewed the 2001 film Session 9—it has some small issues, for sure, but you can’t beat the atmosphere; it was shot in the real former Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, which today is home to luxury apartments (yes, really).
I decided it might be fun to pull together a list of my favorite movies that are set in abandoned locations. I didn’t include films that have one or two stunning scenes in such places—believe it or not, the animated love fest Happy Feet would rank high on that list, with its most disturbing scene playing out in an abandoned Antarctic whaling station—only films that are almost entirely set in them.
Please note: The only thing these films have been judged on is the quality of the abandoned setting. Check out your favorite review venue if you want more detail on the film’s other aspects before watching.
Session 9 (2001)
An asbestos cleaning crew takes on a big contract at a crumbling, abandoned asylum, not realizing that they’re going to get a lot more than they bargained for when they find cassettes of a patient’s hypnotherapy sessions. Many people consider this one of the most terrifying movies of all time, but I maintain it’s because of the claustrophobic setting. Shot at Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts (before it was gutted and became Bradlee Danvers Luxury Apartments—check it out here), this is a fine example of how setting is sometimes the biggest player in what makes a movie scary. Watch Session 9
Ghost Ship (2002)
A salvage crew thinks they’ve hit the jackpot when they find a passenger liner that went missing forty years ago—one that had long been rumored to harbor massive treasure. But it also harbors something else: ghosts for sure, but I’m thinking more along the lines of splendid furnishings corroded by four decades worth of exposure to the salt air. For most of us, this is as close as we’ll ever get to exploring a derelict liner. The set is so ably rendered it’s easy to envision the grandeur that must’ve been. Watch Ghost Ship
A filmmaker and his crew go to an abandoned hotel twenty years after Read the rest of this entry