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Black Swallowtail Butterflies Like Parsley

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

This weekend, I have learned something new and interesting about, arguably, some of the prettiest insects in the animal kingdom, butterflies. Lining our driveway, in the rainwater runoff path, we have a butterfly garden planted with many pretty blooming plants (and currently, a healthy host of weeds). On our deck, we have an impromptu herb garden in a giant whiskey barrel. We have discovered, however, one particular herb is quite popular with the bugs &http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8212; curly parsley. As of around lunchtime, I counted five black swallowtail caterpillars hanging out and eating my herbs. While I&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8217;m not thrilled the wannabe butterflies are chowing down on my parsley, I&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8217;m also not currently using it myself, either. I hope they hang out and we get to see the big boys (or girls) they will become at their next stage of life.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating parsleyTwo Black Swallowtail caterpillars eating curly parsleyA handful more pictures of the garden so far at my Google+ profile: Garden 2014.


Sadface Man: Origins

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

Sadface Man

So, yesterday, I posted to Facebook about Sadface Man and there being a story behind him. Like anyone within spitting distance of Ikea and at one point on a relatively tight budget, we are devotees of the Expedit bookcase. The husband and I bought our house in 2009 and needed a new option for our desks and used Expedits to make it happen. As everyone knows, Ikea instructions are well known for not using words to put together your new flat packed interior design pieces. In the early part of the instructions there are a handful of pictograms. One of those basically tells you that you should put together the bookcase with a friend. If you do, everyone has smiley faces. If you do not, you are Sadface Man, putting together your bookcase sad and lonely.

Trey and I were putting together our new desks and he, seeing that I apparently had it all under control, he started to move off and leave me to it. I whined and frowned that he was leaving me saying, &http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8220;Noooo!! Don&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8217;t make me Sadface Man!!&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8221;

He responded with, &http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8220;Oh no! Not Sadface Man!&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8221; Smiled at me with that goofy &http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8220;I love my silly wife&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8221; smile only husbands wear and resumed being my faithful furniture assistant.

Thus the inside joke was born whenever we pout jokingly at eachother (and it&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8217;s usually me making husband the pouty one), one has made the other &http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8220;Sadface Man.&http://www.viciousgrin.com/blog/#8221; He has no superpowers and, instead, is unable to assemble furniture alone, has an adorable pout, and gains the trait: Pitiable.


Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

My brave, idiot cat, Luna is a mouser. She stalks and attacks critters that invade her home. She’s kind of awesome that way. She also sometimes just sees crap and stalks it vigilantly. Today, she swiped at something in my basement office and I heard a sound that sounded a bit more agitated than a wounded cricket trying to get away from her.

I ran upstairs to quickly find a flashlight so I could see what she was stalking. I shone the light and saw what appeared, briefly, to be a coiled up computer cord of some variety. All in all, not too unusual. Not until it moved.

The following chat conversation then occurred between me and the husband:

Me: Snake. There’s a snake in my office.

Trey: You are worried she found one or she did? Oh shit. Can you get a picture of it?

Me: no. It is hiding I don’t want to disturb it.

Trey: Ok well take the cat and yourself out of the office and close it up.

Me: I grabbed a flashlight to see what it was. The snake can get out of my office if it wants.

Trey: Ok. Um could you get a good look at it?

Me: It’s black.

Trey: Ok that is good. Solid black yes?

Me: Yes. It’s also kinda big.

Trey: Ok good. It’s not poisonous, then if it is just a black snake.

I kicked Luna out of the office because she was still fascinated by the snake, we’ll call him Lucius. She was still fascinated by Lucius and I was pretty sure she was bound and determined to make him pay for making her dinner late.

While Trey drove home, I spent the next hour looking up different Maryland snakes, snake removal, snake infestation horror stories, and shining my light on Lucius to ensure he hadn’t moved.

Lucius is a Black Rat Snake. Removing snakes from your home, you should cover them with a blanket and call someone to take care of the critter, or sweep it into a box or bucket and release your snake buddy out into the wild away from your house.

Somewhere in the space of a 10 minute block of time where I hadn’t checked on Lucius, he fucking moved. I could not find him. By that time Trey had gotten home, so he could help find Lucius. My hero!

He started taking apart my office looking in the various crevices Lucius had previously occupied. No joy. (Tiny upside, my office got a little cleaner out of the deal) Trey was convinced Lucius had left our abode and I asked if he had looked under my desk.

Black Rat Snake

Um… Hi?

He clearly had not. Because that is where Lucius had relocated… In the 10 minutes I wasn’t monitoring his progress, he MOVED CLOSER TO ME! YAY!

Trey tried to get him out from under that small corner of desk using a long closet dowel. That didn’t really work. Lucius poked his head out to say hello, but otherwise, just crawled back under. The whole time, Trey kept saying, “Wow. I’m glad you didn’t realize how huge this snake is, you would have been much more panicked!” Thanks, sweetie, you’re a helper.

At one point, Lucius, thoroughly pissed, brought his head out, coiled sideways very much ready to strike and fuck us up. We backed off, but unfortunately, he tried to find somewhere else to go hide.

That’s when he crawled into my computer.

Me: I think he’s in my computer!

Trey: How would he get in your computer!?

Me: Because there’s a big hole back there!

Trey: …Oh.

My computer, unfortunately, was still on. Shut it down and Trey veeeeeerrrrry gingerly pulled the computer off the shelf and unplugged all the wires. Still no sign of Lucius anywhere behind the desk. “Oh! Yep! He’s in your computer!” -_-

Well, he made it easier to get him in something to get out of our house!

Trey threw a blanket over the back of the computer and out of the house we went. We put the computer on the grass in our yard and tried to figure out whether we would let him crawl out or open up the side of the case and give him a bigger egress.

He took the decision out of our hands when he poked his head back out the back of my computer. He sniffed around seemingly very excited by the prospect of outside sniffs. And a 4-foot Black Rat Snake, formerly of my basement office, found new digs at the base of the pine tree in our front yard.

No offense, dude, but let’s not do this ever again, k?

This is the Story of How I Almost Died

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

Warning: Um. Sad.

2012 was the year my husband and I started to really try and start our family. We’d already spent our 2nd wedding anniversary, in June 2012, heartbroken when I suffered a miscarriage at five weeks. In the intervening months, we kept trying and “got lucky” on Christmas Eve.

I knew better and to keep it all under my hat until the magic 10-week mark. We told a very small number of friends and I made my first appointment for 8 weeks out.

I had some lower abdominal pain that I considered was just my body adjusting to growing a person inside. I woke up the last week of January with vicious morning sickness. After spending the morning throwing up and being miserable, I started to also get serious neck pain on the right side of my neck. I presumed I pulled a muscle.

I didn’t get better as the day progressed, so I called for a late appointment with my GP to try and figure out what was up, informing them I was pregnant. My doc examined me and diagnosed me with a bladder infection.  My neck started spasming while she was examining me and I screamed in pain and cried, it hurt so bad. I don’t do that.

After some hilarious comedies of errors getting my urine sample, I was sent home with scripts for antibiotics and anti-nausea pills for my morning sickness.

Two days later, February 1, still fairly miserable from my neck hurting and my bladder infection, my doctor called and told me that my urine cultures were negative. They strongly encouraged me to call my OB/GYN and get in for an ultrasound, immediately.

The receptionist tried to convince me that everything was normal, I was gestating a person these things are normal, and to wait for my appointment the following week. I protested and insisted. They got me in that day.

The ultrasound tech couldn’t find the fetus using the external method. She needed to use the ultrasound wand to check internally. Yeah, that one. I could see on the screen as she moved the ultrasound around to check everything out.

She told me that she found the fetus, but it was not in my uterus. It was implanted in my right fallopian tube. If you didn’t know, babies can’t grow there. Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening to the mother.

I heard the heartbeat. At 7 weeks, your baby already has a heartbeat. I didn’t know that.

The tech went off to find a doctor to see me because we needed to take care of this, immediately. I sent my husband a text message that the pregnancy was ectopic and that we’d be losing the baby. I didn’t understand the severity of my condition. At all. I thought they were going to administer something to end the pregnancy and send me home to follow up in a few days.

My doctor told me that she was admitting me to the hospital for surgery and they’d have to remove the tube. She was straightforward and said that the worst case scenario was a full hysterectomy but she didn’t anticipate that being necessary. I was devastated.

I left and called my husband to tell him I needed surgery and he needed to leave work. He was an hour away. He told me to call my best friend, one of the small crew of people that gets early notice of wtf is up in our lives. She asked if she could come to the hospital and sit with me.

I am a fiercely private person (there’s a reason you are reading this rather than hearing it in my voice or face-to-face) and my instinct was to tell her no. I would be fine. But I surprised myself and told her yes. I’ve never been happier to disobey my instincts yet.

And then I did something that baffles my doctors to this day: I drove myself to the hospital. By all rights and logic, I should have been doubled over in pain, unable to do anything, least of all drive. Not only did I drive myself, I parked ridiculously far away, too and walked all the way around the hospital to get to the emergency entrance. I didn’t even valet park my car. When I do give birth, I will be a fucking champion of pain tolerance, I can only assume.

I sat in the waiting room with my BFF for about 25 minutes trying not to cry and concocting an elaborate plan to say she was my husband’s sister so she could come back with me. She said she’d gotten his permission for the clever ruse. Why not my sister? She’s nearly a foot taller than me… No one would have believed it.

I was admitted, hooked up to IVs, blood drawn, and I think a super classy urine sample taken in the emergency bay with a portable potty in the presence of two nurses (one male) and my friend. Dignity? Bah.

My doctor, who was also going to be my surgeon came in and ran through everything with me after an initial exam by the prior doctor on call at the hospital. When my doctor asked me if I had any questions at all, I asked her when I get my cyborg replacement tube? She patted me on the arm like, “That’s nice, sweetie, but no.” I am officially initiated as a Lathrop – I joke in the face of fear and harrowing hospital visits.

My surgery was apparently uneventful and nothing unexpected or otherwise exciting happened. They removed my right fallopian tube, orphaning my right ovary. They also drained the blood that had built up around my liver and was putting pressure on my neck on the right side. So that problem went away, too.

I was given a doctor’s order for two weeks of rest and to avoid long car rides during that time. Eating could resume, normally. I would not be denied Jell-O, however. That shit is required when I am laid up and unwell.

This isn’t a story about my recovery or my ensuing months-long depression, so I’ll leave those for another time.

I never really felt any fallopian pain until about 45 minutes before my surgery. That was because at that point, my tube had completely ruptured. If I had waited for my 8 week scheduled appointment, I would have been dead in hours.

The key here is to listen to your body. Some pain just isn’t normal and okay in the early stages of pregnancy. Abdominal pain plus neck pain plus vomiting are signs of something seriously wrong. Do not convince yourself it’s nothing and everything is ok, because “some discomfort is normal” and “it’s just morning sickness.” Your discomfort may be someone else’s doubled-over, crippling agony.

Or in my case, my discomfort was my brush with death. She looked at me and said, “Not today.”

I Play Video Games, Jackass

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

Gamer Girl's Revenge

I have been sitting on this story for a looooooong time. But, a particular badass tweet by Rae Johnston yesterday has spurred me to share my tale.

Middle of last year, the husband decided that he was really excited and interested in playing Dishonored. So much so, that it had earned exalted placement in the list of games that gets pre-ordered. The interesting thing about the Dishonored pre-order, though, was the perks were different based on where you pre-ordered: Best Buy vs Amazon vs GameStop. Each offered different in-game rewards as well as a physical trinket or doo-dad.

I was interested in the game, but Trey was EXCITED about it. He had all the knowledge and had done the reading up on the gameplay and all the other things excited nerds do in anticipation of a new shiny. He picked the pre-orders that seemed most intriguing, which meant GameStop was the winner. I don’t recall the in-game perks, but the physical doo-dad was a deck of tarot cards. I am not too proud to say that if he’d picked a different retailer, I would have lobbied for the tarot deck people. I wanted the tarot cards :P

October 9th rolled around and I headed over to GameStop to pick up our pre-ordered copy of Dishonored + doo-dads. The clerk retrieved the game and set it out, starting to ring it up. I looked at it funny and asked if the tarot cards were in the game box knowing full well they could not possibly be. I thought it was a decent indication that maybe I knew what I was purchasing.

He grabbed the cards from the box of them they had, put everything together, and rang me up. He handed me the receipt and helpfully pointed at the DLC code to retrieve pre-order goodies and said to me, “Okay, he’s going to need this code to…

I don’t remember the rest of what he said because I probably didn’t hear him. I couldn’t hear anything over the sound of how pissed off I was.

I cut my eyes at him, cocked my hip to one side and clucked my tongue, “How do you know the game isn’t for me? You be careful with that kind of shit.” gave him another disapproving side-eye over my shoulder and sashayed the hell out of there.

I don’t care if he thought the game was for my husband, boyfriend, brother, or (god forbid I don’t look that old yet) son. That he thought, at all, for one minute, the video game was intended for anyone other than the person completing the transaction, standing in front of him because that person was not a MAN is why he is wrong. I’m also pretty sure I was wearing a video game and/or comic book t-shirt at the time.

I vowed that I am going to play the SHIT out of that damn game. I’ll let you know how that goes once I’ve finished playing Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, my 2nd playthrough of Bioshock Infinite, and Borderlands 2. AFTER I wrestle the Xbox 360 from the husband. (We don’t need two Xboxes, but sometimes, we really do)

Edited to add: Trey picked the perks, I placed the pre-order, so not only was I the one picking it up, MY NAME was on the order itself.

Lions and Dogs and Squirrels, Oh My

Yes, yes, I know I post really infrequently. Life has been… crappy horrible insane busy. Shut up.

I was “catching up”  on my lolcats RSS feed today and stumbled upon the brilliantly adorable short film starring Zachary Quinto, Dog Eat Dog.

From the video’s description:

“Dog Eat Dog” is a short film based on the true story of how actor/producer Zachary Quinto finally adopted his first dog in a Los Angeles Animal Shelter.

About 5:30 into the film, I noticed a piece of decor in the background.

Lion Plaque WTF



I am not at all ashamed to say that there was a lot of flailing, pausing the video, backing up to the right spot and taking a screencap. I had to share my discovery with Trey and no, goddammit, it could not wait for me to finish watching the heartwarming story of how Spock adopted his first doggie.

Trey has had that little lion guy his whole life. He’s kitschy and speaks to you saying, “Greetings, I come from the 70s.”

Some research (aka, random Googling for “vintage lion plaque”) dug up that he does come from the 70s, was sold under the company name of “Homco” (think Mary Kay, but for home decor), and is apparently a minor collector’s item.

Also by looking at various etsy, ebay and other online auction/collector/reseller websites, there are matched pairs of the little dudes, one facing right, and the other facing left. Obviously, that means our lion guy is the long lost brother of the lion guy hanging on Spock’s wall. They should be pen pals. Clearly.

Anyway, watch the video. It is incredibly adorable. Then, if you are so inclined or enabled, go adopt a shelter pet. =^_^=

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

New Keyboard = Yay!

Over a year ago, I mentioned that I was going to write a post about new pens and notebooks and the overwhelming desire to break them in, nearly immediately (I made that post and then proceeded to post a picture of the doodle, only).

Well, the same impulse applies to new keyboards, it would seem as well. In my ever-expanding need to change/improve/revamp/organize and rearrange my working space, I found myself in need of a smaller keyboard.

And yes, I did buy the one that was pretty over just a standard solid-color one. Neener.

This post brought to you by the need to break in a new keyboard and just type something. Tra la la!

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

Fostering Young Nerds

I was killing valuable time at Target last weekend, among running other errands for the house. Whenever I wander off to Target unsupervised (always a dangerous prospect), I try and find a small trinket or toy to bring home for the husband. This trip, I decided to pick up cards for the 2013 Magic: the Gathering Core set.

While deliberating over starter decks and boosters and Fat packs (oh my), a dad and his two boys come up beside me to look at Pokemon cards. The older of the two, who was maybe 8-years-old at the most starts explaining the difference between boosters and starter decks to his dad as:
*pointing at the starters*: “Those have more cards.”

I couldn’t help but clarify the difference for them. The three of them looked taken aback and confused by what I’d said. I asked the dad if he played Pokemon before. He chuckled and pointed at his boys, “No no, they do.” The oldest was quick to interject, helpfully, “I do.” From that point, I addressed my knowledge to the kid card shark.

I told him, sure, starter decks have more cards than the boosters, but they’re all set, pre made decks. You want to get booster packs if you’re good at making decks and starters if you aren’t. His dad was in awe and said, “I don’t know how you know all this.” I just smiled.

I’m sure dad appreciated that I helped his kid understand, and subtly clued him in on what he was looking at, too. If kid was trying to weasel his way into the “more cards” avenue by playing dumb about the difference between the packs and decks, I’m sure he didn’t appreciate my “help.” Otherwise, he probably liked me taking him seriously and honestly helping. Even if I am a girl. ;-)

I feel my duty to foster young nerds has been fulfilled for a little while. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish making my magic deck cozies…

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

Office Redecoration: Take 1

So, I’ve finally gotten around to redecorating my office from being a disorganized drab room into a place where I can be productive. As someone who works from home, four days a week, this is essential for my sanity.

I actually have two desks: one for work and one for play. My office is in the basement of our house in the “fourth bedroom.” I use the term loosely because to be counted as a bedroom, there must be a closet and a window for emergency egress. The closet rod was barely hanging on to the horrendously installed drywall screws. The window is too high, too small, and I’m not convinced it opens. First order of business when I set the room up was get rid of the closet doors followed by lightly tapping the closet bar and letting it come clattering out of the wall on its own. I moved my desk in, set up my workstation and largely left it at that the past two years.

When the husband and I were getting hitched, I made up a seat assignment board out of steel sheeting, spray painted one of our wedding colors and accented with ribbon. They never saw the light of day because 1) We had no place to stand them up at the reception and 2) It was so hot the day we got married, the hot glue holding on the ribbons, melted and wouldn’t stick to the sheeting. Because of this, I was determined to repurpose them. Or purpose them, I guess, since they never saw their original destiny take form. They are now the backdrop behind my computers where I can put notes to myself or keep information I always need but haven’t committed to memory. And they are magnetic! I have lots of magnets. It’s the little things that amuse me most.

Last but not least for this round are the shelves in the closet. None too fancy shelves from IKEA, drywall screws properly installed with a suitable weight limit and I was good to go. Let’s just gloss over the fact that those shelves have been languishing in the basement for 3 months while I goofed off in my spare time playing video games. (along with the lights I need to install on either side of my desk to give me more light in the space…) I needed a place for my work notebooks, programming, books, and assorted other bits of documentation that I will need when working. One might say I have an unhealthy relationship with flat surfaces, so, I was bound to say “hell yes” to some shelves. That they are level and didn’t fall out of the wall the second I put books on them is a feat enough to make me giddy.

Not pictured are:

  • my papasan on the other side of the room, usually occupied by Felix, my older cat
  • gate leg craft table with drawers in the center console
  • Expedit 4×4 bookshelf on the adjacent wall cluttered up with craft things, old papers and other various flotsam
  • plastic craft drawers for yarn, fabric, and various crafty jetsam (to go with the flotsam, you see)

The room is still pretty messy, but it’s coming together, slowly but surely. I have mad dreams of taking out all the ceiling tiles in the basement and seeing what is up there fully exposed and properly lit. You should know, my dreams are usually terrifying. So far, I’m pretty happy.

Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.

New/Old Restaurant in my Town!

Two posts in one day? What is the world coming to!? But, I was checking my oft-neglected RSS feeds and had to reblog this from Frederick Maryland Online.

Mealey’s Table will open in “Spring 2012.” Here are some articles about the chef, the excitement of the town, and jobs at the new restaurant.

Mealey’s Restuarant has been closed ever since we moved up here. I think we started looking to move out this way maybe six months after they’d closed up shop for good. Color me officially super stupid excited.

We have Milo’s which is cute and great and we like Morgan’s which is a hair further up the road out of town. But, getting something new/old back into the mix of offerings is super awesome. It’s also going to be open for breakfast on weekday mornings which has me SUPER psyched.

The only coffee shop in town when we moved in (now closed) was open only on specific days and NEVER early in the morning which was a huge bummer. We never went there because it was never open. :(

Join me in shouting “YAY!” won’t you?


Originally published at Nerd Girl in the Country. Please leave any comments there.