Tag: spider

5 Word Challenge: When Good Nursery Rhymes Go Bad

This week's challenge: carpet, jury, pasta, shapeless, whey

My apologies to Mother Goose.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider who sat down beside her,
and frightened Miss Muffet away.

Miss Muffet came back, with a big burlap sack,
shapeless and ragged and brown.
She started to sneak, and before it could squeak,
stuffed the spider inside with a frown.

As she stomped on the bag, her face started to sag,
as she realized the results of her fury.
Murder most foul, the public would howl,
and conviction by judge and by jury.

She snuck into her house, as soft as a mouse,
dragging the sack behind her.
Under the carpet she loved, she roughly shoved
the bag (complete with the spider).

She was cooking her dinner when something within her
made her sit down with a start.
The pasta au gratin lay burning, forgotten,
as the guilt grew and grew in her heart.

She went and got dressed, and promptly confessed
to Little Boy Blue down the lane.
Although he was shocked, his emotions all rocked,
sympathy to her he did feign.

They went for a stroll to see Old King Cole,
and find out what he would say.
That jolly old stinker threw her in the clinker,
and there still she spends all her days.

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Ross Reads: Variable Star

Variable Star
Robert A. Heinlein & Spider Robinson

Hold the phones, stop the presses – Robert Heinlein is writing new novels from beyond the grave!

Well, technically, it's a collaboration, but Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson reads like a Heinlein novel, and delivers everything you could want from a book written by two of the greatest writers of modern science fiction.

Set in the not-too-distant future, just a little while past Heinlein's Crazy Years period, the protagonist is a young musician (saxophone) and composer named Joel Johnston.  Joel's pride and stubbornness (and a whirlwind series of events) cause him to book passage on a colony ship destined to become the Earth's 20th colony, on a planet 85 light-years away from everything he held near and dear to his heart.  The novel is as much about humanity, kindness, love, music, and hope as it is about the Joel's experiences on his voyage to the stars.

The novel feels like a Heinlein juvenile, and for good reason.  During the period that Robert A. Heinlein was writing his juveniles, he put together a very dense-but-unfinished outline of eight typed pages and fourteen 3×5" index cards of extensive handwritten notes about Variable Star.  And then, for some reason, he never wrote the novel and instead put them in a desk drawer, where they sat undiscovered until members representing his estate went through all of his works, and in 2003 asked Spider Robinson to turn the outline into a full novel.

Spider Robinson, first called "the new Robert Heinlein" by the New York Times Book Review in 1982, eagerly accepted the challenge to turn the outline into a novel that would make the Grand Master proud.  He managed to follow faithfully in the classic model of a Heinlein Space Opera, complete with RAH's own trademark phrases and quips.  Yet Robinson also poured his own life and soul into the story, bringing about a depth to the characters and scenes that only Spider Robinson could dream up.  Although he restrained himself somewhat compared to other of his novels (like his Callahan series), Robinson still managed to sprinkle a liberal dose of puns throughout the story – but rarely, if ever, do they appear to be puns for punning's sake.

Readers should be aware that Robinson does bring a bit of the contemporary to the stereotypical '50s style of Heinlein's earlier works.  There are some references to sex & drugs, and some minor profanity that you wouldn't expect if the novel was solely authored by Heinlein.  However, these are not very graphic at all, and I would say the book is a safe read for anyone 13 years and older.

This book is a fantastic read that kept me up way too late for many nights in a row until I devoured it from cover to cover.  As a long-time fan of both authors, I could not think of a more enjoyable story to cap off Heinlein's long writing career.  This is a definite must-read for anyone who is a fan of Robert A. Heinlein's books, and fans of one of Heinlein's greatest students will not be disappointed with Spider Robinson's latest creation, either.

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Hello! Would You Like to Meet My New Neighbors?

The wonderful weather this past weekend meant my family and I spent a lot of time outside.  During our forays into the great outdoors (read: our backyard), I had the dubious pleasure of meeting some of my new neighbors.  These aren't neighbors of the people persuasion, however, but rather of the creepy-crawly kind.

First up is our resident skink.  Also known as the blue-tailed skink, or the five-line skink, these little buggers look like a snake with legs.  They wriggle like a snake, they can move ungodly quickly, and they have a bright-blue, eye-catching tail (at least while they're juveniles).  From what I've read, they have the ability to detach their tail if caught, so they can escape while their predator is distracted by the wiggling appendage.

Our skink, who lives either in the eaves of the house above the soffit, or under one of the gutter drain splashguards (I've seen it both places).  When I caught it for posterity, it was in the middle of an afternoon meal.  That thing in its mouth is a little wriggly centipede of some sort.  I've named him Snape the Skink.  No resemblance to persons living or dead, real or fictional, is intended.


Next up is our resident writing spider.  No, not Charlotte, but a black and yellow garden writing spider (scientifically, Argiope aurantia) who has taken up residence outside a window of our sunroom.  It appears she's there to stay, as she happily puts up a new web each day, with a slightly different variant of the writing pattern.  I've named her Phyllis Stiller, the Steelers' Spider.

On my way to check out Phyllis' new web on Sunday, I came across another arachnid resident of the grounds around my home.  Freakishly white all over, this little guy looks like he would be better suited to living under the house (if our house had an under to live in).  And just so you know, his name is Momo the Albino Winged Lemur Spider.  I have no idea what type of spider Momo is…if you know, I'd love to hear from you.

When I got around to Phyllis' new web on Sunday, I was surprised to see that Phyllis had hauled in the mother-load of insects…a grasshopper bigger than Phyllis herself!  She seemed pretty proud of herself, and I think I caught her during her coffee break, because all she was doing was sitting there, occasionally tapping the grasshopper with one leg.  I'm not sure if she was doing something spider-like, or just checking to make sure that the thing was real, but either way, Go Phyllis!

Those are all the new neighbors who were willing to be photographed.  Not pictured are the little toads that hop around in the flower beds, and the little black cat who lives in the barn behind our house.  I'm waiting until I capture them on camera before naming then, but I'll keep you posted.

Join with me in welcoming my new neighbors to the 'hood.  As long as they don't bother me, I won't bother them.  I'm sure we'll both appreciate keeping things that way.

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