I need to improve my drawing

I need to improve my drawing skills enough to draw a recognizable raccoon and opossum. I will then do a series of comics in which brave opossums hold off the raccoon threat, with the help of an occasional hedgehog, sloth, and slug.

Edited to add: And a box turtle. Box turtles are also on the side of right and good.

Gathering garlic mustard

I’ve been occasionally joining Jackie when she does stewardship workdays at natural areas around the county as part of her Master Naturalist work. They’re fun, and they fit in very well with my shift away from exercise and toward movement. Our work Sunday, clearing garlic mustard from the South Arboretum Woods, is a great example.

(Garlic mustard is a nasty invasive, largely because the first-year growth leafs out very early, and covers the ground almost completely. Native plants emerge a little later in the spring, by which time they can’t get enough light to get going. The upshot is that the understory loses most of its natural diversity, becoming just a vast carpet of garlic mustard.)

What we did Sunday was make our way through the woods, spotting and then pulling up all the second-year garlic mustard. (It’s a biennial. The first year is the low ground cover. The second year it puts up a flowering stalk and produces seeds. If you can get the flowering stalks before they set seed, you can make a dent in the local garlic mustard density.)

What struck me was how similar our activity was to “gathering” à la hunting and gathering. It was physically similar—walking through the woods, and then squatting, bending, reaching, and pulling. It was also mentally similar—doing exactly the same pattern-matching that someone seeking to gather edible or medicinal plants would do.

I suspect that both of these aspects of this activity enhance the well-known beneficial effects of “forest bathing” (aka spending time in the woods).

The area we were clearing has a lot of downed branches, big and small, some partially or completely hidden by the ground cover, making for a complex walking surface—more good stuff for both the body and the brain.

Of course, volunteering for and participating in a stewardship work day produces all sorts of additional benefits—in particular, doing something good for the local communities (both the human community that uses the space and the natural community that inhabits it) is rewarding, as is making social connections with the other volunteers and engaging together on a common effort.

Every time I do one, I am reinforced in my desire to do more stewardship workdays, despite my slothful nature.

(The picture at the top is another view of the Cecropia moth that Jackie spotted while we were there.)

Doctor Emery’s Nightmares

If you’re a fan of anime-influenced art jam-packed with memey goodness, I’ve got a treat for you: Doctor Emery’s Nightmares.

[Update 2013-12-06: Doctor Emery’s Nightmares is back! I’d take the original link down when the site was taken over by some advertising crap. Now Doctor Emery has a new tumblr site, so I’m pointing there.]

When it comes to physical objects, I’m at least a generation behind the cool kids. (I not only still have an iPod, my iPod still has a hard drive.) But when it comes to internet memes, I figure I’m only two or three steps behind. I mean, I read BoingBoing. I have an account on Reddit! Even so, I usually have to visit Know Your Meme two or three times for every one of Emily Mongeau’s comics.

But if that’s not you—if you already know your memes—then you’ll find Emily’s comics great fun. And if, like me, you’re a few steps back on your memes, you can still enjoy the art.

Oh, and I should also mention: Emily drew the picture I’ve been using for my favicon for a while now. It’s a picture of my totemic animal: the sloth.

Here it is in slightly less faviconic form. Have you ever seen such a handsome creature?