Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We Have a Winner!

And the winner is... Lucky number 7! Commenter PSYL will receive a black jaguar. Congrats, PSYL!

And thank you to everyone who entered. I'd like to offer all my blog readers 20% off of everything in my etsy shop through the New Year. Just enter HOLIDAY as the coupon code at checkout and you will automatically receive the discount.

I have some other cool giveaways planned for next year, so keep watching this space!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giveaway Time!

Between visiting family, deadlines, plumbing issues, cat issues, dog issues, and filling orders, November was a bit hectic. Yet when I look back over the blog posts I've completed the number seems rather paltry. I wasn't that busy. Even so, more than 450 souls (or perhaps bots?) now follow this blog. I don't think I've earned it this month, but I'm really happy about each and every eyeball pair (or single) that reads my ramblings. And so, without further ado, I'd like to do another giveaway to say thanks.

You could win one of these pendants:

How? Simple! Just comment, and tell me what you'd like. Here are your choices:


Gian River Otter




And tell me what color you'd like:






I'll pick a matching bead and make you a lovely pendant if your comment is picked.

The winning comment will be chosen at random next Monday (December 6). You can comment until Midnight on Sunday (December 5). If you tweet about this, or post it on Facebook, please come back and leave another comment saying that you did. That way you can have up to three chances to win!

Thanks so much for reading my blog, and good luck with the giveaway! Of course, if you'd like to just buy a pendant, they are sold on the Tapir Preservation Fund website. If you have a questions about special orders, you can always contact me at my etsy shop or through the Tapir Preservation Fund!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Today I present pumpkins...

Gabriel's, on the top, was inspired by Monsteroso from Amazing Adventures #5.

Mine, on the bottom (next to the frog, of course) was inspired by a very poorly remembered owl face.

Now,  Monsteroso lit from within:

And the owl...

Both together:

And the parade of tiny pumpkins leading to our front door:

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Tale of Drowning in Free Beer and Corporate Treachery

On my way to work the other day I heard mention of something called The London Beer Flood of 1814. Turns out that October 17th was the anniversary of this unhappy event, one which I was surprised to have never heard of before.

It seems that a brewery, owned by Meux and Company, used to operate on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street in London. It was located in the middle of a terribly crowded slum. The brewery was large though, and boasted some truly huge barrels. One was over 22 feet high. That's about two stories of porter! The batch in that particular barrel had been fermenting for almost 10 months and the metal bands holding the wooden staves together were beginning to show fatigue. One of them snapped, causing a chain reaction that sent debris flying into other barrels, exploding them too. Some people said they could hear the explosion from five miles away.

Soon 1,224,000 liters of beer were flooding the streets. Two houses were completely demolished and the brick wall of a nearby pub collapsed on top of a 14 year old barmaid. The area erupted in chaos. People ran towards the tsunami, trying to collect as much free beer as they could in pots and jars. Some people drank with their hands. But others were washed away by the tide or drowned in tenement basements. As injured survivors started making their way to nearby hospitals the smell of beer followed them. One hospital nearly had a riot as people rose from their sickbeds demanding to know why there was a party going on and why they weren't being served ale too.

In the end, at least 7 people drowned and one died from alcohol poisoning. The area was horribly poor; some people decided to display the corpses of family members killed in the disaster for a small fee. One home hosted so many ghoulish onlookers that the floor caved in, plunging the thrill-seekers into a basement still filled with beer.

The area stank of rancid ale for months since the brewery did very little clean-up work. In fact, they didn't even pay for the funerals of the victims. Instead, residents of the local slums left coins on the coffins. When someone finally took the company to court over the accident the judge ruled it "an act of God" and therefor not their fault. Meux and Company were eventually reimbursed by the government for the money that they had already paid in taxes on the lost beer. No one reimbursed the residents for their lost homes, of course.

Still, it could have been worse. 100 years later, in Boston in 1919, a huge tank of molasses exploded, killing 21 people. Death by treacle is doubtlessly worse than death by beer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Soft sculpture by Weird Bug Lady
Recently my friend Karl sent me a link to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity website which was highlighting "Species You Didn't Know Existed". It's a really interesting list. Even though I have a zoology degree and try to keep up with species discoveries lots of these were new to me. And even better... There is lots of information about critters that you may have heard of but know nothing about. One of these is the tardigrade, also know as water bears or moss piglets.

Tardigrades really are among the strangest creatures on the planet. They are microscopic, yet quite cute when viewed under magnification. They are almost transparent, have eight legs, little claws, and can withstand just about any insult researchers can throw at them.  Would you believe that they are just about indestructible when in the dehydrated resting state known as "tun"? It's true! These tiny weirdos have been frozen to just above absolute zero, shot into space, radiated, boiled alive, you name it. But stop the abuse, add water, and all is forgiven. The tardigrade continues about its business as if nothing has happened.

Brooches by Bobbie and Lola
These critters are so unlike us that they even have their own phylum. We are more closely related to sea squirts than to them! But that doesn't mean that we have nothing to learn from them. In fact, they make great research creatures. If you don't believe me, just watch this great video from Science Friday.

After seeing a photo of a tardigrade it's hard not to wish it was macroscopic so you could give it a hug. Luckily, some crafters have made squishy, personable stand-ins, like Weird Bug Lady's soft sculpture above, and Bobbie and Lola's brooches to the right.

Want to learn more? Check out the links here!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

City Parrot, Suburban Parrot, Country Parrot?

Two members of the San Francisco flock, from the L.A. Times
Loud, colorful, smart, and resourceful... What animal is more entwined with tropical daydreams than the parrot? Yet all over the world these birds are becoming common at backyard bird feeders.

Los Angeles, my home, is host to thousands of wild parrots. And their numbers are increasing. Almost daily I see flocks of amazons and conures fly past overhead. Military macaws roost in eucalyptus trees and on deck railings. Where are these birds coming from? Not all, or probably even most, are escapees. These flocks are established and reproducing. Of course, their numbers are added to by escaped birds, and by birds that have so annoyed their owners that they have been set free. Brooklyn, San Francisco, London, and even the Netherlands have established flocks too. Few things are more incongruous than walking down a cobbled lane in Amsterdam and seeing a macaw dart past.

A wild military macaw in Pasadena
But how are these tropical birds surviving? L.A. has very mild winters but its hard to imagine that they enjoy the weather in London. The answer lies in the way humans have changed the landscape. Cities, and even suburbs, have lots of areas that are protected from the elements. Perhaps more importantly, all of these cities are full of plants that are just as exotic as the parrots themselves. Fruit trees, ornamental shrubs, non-native flowers, all of these things make the parrots feel right at home. Another similarity is that most of these cities have man-altered watercourses: rivers and canals that have been tamed and plastered with concrete, creating fly-ways for the birds.

Unlike most introduced species, wild parrots don't seem to be causing too much environmental havoc. This is partly because they haven't yet crossed over into the wild lands that ring most cities, and partly because they live almost exclusively off of non-native plants. In other words, the environmental harm has already been done. The parrots are merely the beneficiaries.

Are we going to someday see huge flocks, hundreds of birds strong, wheeling over our cities? I don't know, but it's a remote possibility. After all, prior 1904 when the last native North American parrot was killed in Florida, huge flocks of Carolina parakeets were a common sight in the Eastern U.S. So grab a Mai Tai and keep an eye on that bird feeder!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Thing About New York Comic Con...

Well, the main thing for me is that I won't be there this year! Working on the weekends does have some disadvantages, and a big one is that sometimes getting time off to go to conventions is impossible. But that doesn't mean that copies of Heathentown will be absent!

And better yet, Gabriel Hardman will be there to sell them to you. He'll be doing sketches too, holding down the fort at table I-15 in Artists Alley while I hold down the fort at home. This is our last Con for the year, so be sure to stop by if you get the chance. Wondering about prices? Here's the breakdown:

9x12 Inked Single Character Full Figure Sketch: $75

9x12 Inked Two Character Full Figure Sketch: $100

9x12 Inked Head Sketch: $30

He'll be there all weekend, October 8th through the 10th, or you can catch him while he's signing at the Marvel Comics booth on Sunday from 12 to 1 PM. His work on Hulk has been getting lots of attention so try to catch him early to get on the sketch list!

I'm sad that I can't be there too, but I'm glad that Gabriel is going. We lived in NYC once upon a time and have many fond memories of our time there. Like the time we put a box of old comic books out on the street and watched from our fire escape as people came by and plucked book after book out, happily taking them away to read. There were homeless guys, young kids on skate boards, a guy in a suit jacket... Obviously New York is a comics-loving town. So be sure to find table I-15 and show Mr. Hardman some comics love!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vancouver Recap

Since I just returned from Vancouver and the trip is still fresh in my mind, I thought doing a little recap here might be helpful. You know, for the sake of posterity. Trouble is, my calender tells me that my Canadian sojourn was almost three weeks ago! How is that possible? Time and space have obviously come undone! Oh well, guess I'll post a few pictures and a bit of a travelogue anyway...

View from the 33rd Floor
Vancouver really is one of my favorite cities. The people are so nice, the food is so good, it's beautiful... The list goes on. This time we stayed at the Empire Landmark on Robson. On the 33rd floor! The view was amazing. A friend told us over dinner that it was Vancouver's first skyscraper. 

Capilano Suspension Bridge
Speaking of views, we finally visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 450 foot long bridge which spans a 230 foot deep gorge. The park also has tall bridges suspended between huge trees. Definitely not an attraction for those with a fear of heights! But quite lovely and a lot of fun... And full of cute tiny squirrels which moved so fast that I could never capture any in a photo. I later read that they were actually a type of flying squirrel, which explained the neat ripple of extra skin and fur along their flanks. 

Banana Slug?

The next day promised rain, but we didn't mind. Rain is quite exotic if you live in SoCal! Plus, it brings out the slugs. I love the slugs that live in the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea if they are a bother if you actually have to live with them on a day to day basis, but they are very cool to see. And huge! Most of the ones we spotted were at least as long as my hand. Gabriel made fun of me because we ended up with more slug photos than anything else. What can I say? Giant slugs have personality!

On our last day we attended the Vancouver ComiCon, where Gabriel was a guest. Leonard, our host, made it a wonderful experience. He even brought us vegan dim sum for lunch! Our table was next to talented writer Greg Rucka's, and it was truly a pleasure chatting with him and his charming daughter. It was also great to meet some of the Vancouver comics community, including Ed Brisson. If you can find a copy of his Murder Book I suggest you pick it up. And to top it all off, I finally got to meet one of my favorite etsy people, Emmarts, also known as Fluur! I have admired her work for a couple of years now, and am always happy to run into her in the virtual etsy world, but getting to meet her in person was a real treat. Turns out, she's even nicer in person. And I can't thank her enough for gifting me with one of her beautiful abstracts. 

So maybe I didn't just return from Vancouver. But hopefully time and space will rearrange themselves in such a way that we will be able to return there before too long.

Yes, I'm a fan of the giant slug.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Who can resist an excuse to visit Vancouver? Certainly not me! The last time I was there I tripped over a Canada goose in the park, ate authentic Indian food, discovered an amazing beach, and found a hot dog vendor on the street who actually sold veggie dogs from his cart!

Gabriel is going to be a special guest at the Vancouver Comicon this Sunday, September 12. That's the same weekend as our anniversary, so of course I'll be there too. We'll have two full days of doing fun Vancouver-type things (spotting orcas! Hiking in a northern rain forest! Buying books!) before settling in at the Con on Sunday. Gabriel will be doing sketches and selling sketch books, we'll have copies of our graphic novel Heathentown, and we'll be very happy to meet you if you stop by.

I was excited to see that writer Greg Rucka will also be there. I recently read his Batwoman trade and really enjoyed it. So if you're in Vancouver this weekend, come to the Con and say hello! If you're not in Vancouver this weekend, I bet you wish you were!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ol' Cactus Ranch...

"Some day I'll have to take you to the mutant cactus mausoleum".

What? Was I dreaming?

I was told of a wonderland of bizarre plants, right in the middle of Reseda. One that was full of giant metal dinosaurs. Mutant cacti and huge dinosaurs tucked into a nondescript corner of The Valley. Could it be?

The answer is: how can it be that this place isn't incredibly famous? It's only open to the public on the weekends, but damn, I can't believe I'd never heard of it before! Nothing that my friend Carole told me about it could have possibly prepared me for what waited behind those chain link fences.

Every square inch of the 1.5 acres is covered by strange cacti and succulents. And many of them actually are mutants, which are apparently quite prized by collectors of such things. There's a subculture of mutant cacti collectors? Who knew?

Merely saying that every square inch of this place is covered may give the wrong idea, as if orderly rows of plants line carefully arranged beds. Wrong! It's more like a treasure hunt, with weird little succulents tucked in here and there; beautiful gem-like potted plants sandwiched between huge yuccas and aloes. Things are arranged broadly by type, but never boringly.

And I haven't even mentioned the greenhouses yet! They go on and on, filled side to side, floor to ceiling, with even more plants.

And best of all, none of these plants are taken from the wild. They are all grown from seeds and cuttings, except in the rare cases when they are rescued from construction sites. 

Obviously, owner Dave Bernstein has a passion for these plants. Supposedly over 100,000 fill the property, and that doesn't even count what he grows in other greenhouses in San Diego county. Want to check it out for yourself? Don't bother bringing a credit card. It's cash and checks only here. Even the phone number is unlisted. But everyone is friendly and I promise that you will feel like you have been transported far away from Los Angles. 

To a magical place called Reseda, where the cacti are mutants and giant metal dinosaurs rule the day. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Horror of the Flies!

Since people know I work with animals they sometimes call me to deal with something that isn't, strictly speaking, a member of the zoo. People seem to equate "zoo keeper" with  "person who will touch things that I wouldn't touch with a cattle prod".

This happened yesterday when I got a call to "remove a bug that's bothering a guest". Okay, not really my job, but I was curious to see what kind of silly person couldn't remove a harmless bug themselves. And I was curious to see what the bug was. I grabbed a small jar and a net and headed off.

What I found was completely unexpected. No interesting spider. No giant centipede. No weird beetle. Just 50 MILLION FLIES, all congregated in one corner of the room near the floor. Okay, so maybe there were only hundreds of flies. But it seemed like more.

What were they doing there? The room was spotless. No food anywhere, no spilled drinks. No dead squirrels outside the window. Nothing to draw them in! And oddly, they seemed especially attracted to a coaxial cable plug. Could it be Satan?

Well, no. At least, I think there is a more parsimonious explanation. After I removed the flies I did a little research. I assumed that they were house flies, but I think they may have actually been something called cluster flies. These insects look a lot like house flies (the difference is just a few golden hairs) but their life-cycle is different. They feed on earthworms, staying out of sight in the soil most of the time, and hatch out at the end of summer. As the weather cools they tend to emerge en masse and head into structures where it's warmer, usually congregating on the interior of the sunniest wall while trying to get inside the wall. Yesterday was much, much cooler than the preceding week. It's the end of August. They were on the interior of the warmest, west-facing wall. Check, check, check. The only thing I didn't discover was what their exact range is, but I think the mystery is solved. Unless anyone else has a better explanation for me?
Thanks to google image search for the fly pictures.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baltimore vs. Work

How exciting! The 11th annual Baltimore Comic Con is this weekend! I've never had the chance to go to Baltimore. And sadly, I'm not going this weekend either. I have to work instead.

But all is not lost because Gabriel is will be there! He'll be doing sketches and signing things and selling copies of our graphic novel Heathentown as well as copies of his sketchbook. His sketch list is almost full, but if you want to grab one of the last slots you can still tweet at him.

So if you're going to be at the Con this weekend stop by and say hello, check out the pretty new second printing of Heathentown, and send some sympathy back to Los Angeles where I'll be battling the heat and traffic and thinking of Baltimore.
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