It’s the Potatoes

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, which in the USA is generally treated as an excuse to wear green, eat and drink green things, and party.

Everybody’s Irish for a day, even if you’re Japanese:

Yokohama St. Patrick's Day parade.

By Kounosu (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This mystery might be clarified a bit with the information that the picture above was taken in Yokohama, which has a massive United States armed forces base in it. Which still begs the question of why St. Patrick’s Day is such a big deal. Sure, it’s an excuse for a parade and party, but we live in a city that has a two week festival for a two minute horse race. There are plenty of excuses, so why this one? Why the Irish, specifically?

A llama in a tiny hat.

By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia (Llama, Salta, Argentina) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A llama in a tiny hat. We’re not in Japan anymore.

The story of how St. Patrick’s Day partying went global actually starts in the Andes mountains of South America. Yes, really. Lots of wild potato species live here, and the people in the region domesticated some, and bred them into what would become a world-dominating staple crop. Potatoes are basically awesome in every way. You can feed a family for a year on just a quarter acre of potatoes. You can freeze dry them and store them almost indefinitely. Or you can put ’em in a giant warehouse with EPIC MUSIC. Even if they’re not freeze dried, they keep well as long as you put them in a cool dark place. Eventually, when Europeans came to the Americas, the potato was one of the many food crops they brought back with them.

MEANWHILE in Ireland, geopolitics and economical stuff was going on. Irish tenant farmers grew cash crops for export to England on behalf of their – again, mostly English – landlords. Enter the potato. Since you can get so many potatoes out of such a small amount of land, the tenant farmers came to depend on potatoes as a staple food crop. Less land devoted to food production means more land for the cash cropping, which also means more export profits. A large part of the population soon depended on potatoes to supply the bulk of their caloric needs.

MEANWHILE MEANWHILE a disease of potatoes  – now known as Phytophthora infestans or potato late blight – was introduced to Europe, which – combined with bad weather – caused a massive failure of the potato crop.

A very bad potato, rotten on the inside, thanks to potato late blight.

Potato Late Blight: that’s not good. It’s also not edible.

For people affected by the same potato disease and weather in most other parts of Europe, this was bad news, but they had other crops to fall back on. In Ireland, though, where much of the population relied very heavily on potatoes, this was a catastrophe. With the food crop completely rotten, and government failing to take effective action in time to prevent the food shortage, mass starvation set in, and much of the surviving population left Ireland. Here’s a map of Irish population decline during the Irish Potato Famine. Maps are wonderful things. There’s plenty more reading you can do on the Irish Potato Famine, and the Irish diaspora, too.

Long story short, famines aren’t like natural disasters; they require societal specialization followed up by food crop failure and breakdowns of organization or failures of supply in order to happen. So that’s how green cookies, South American civilizations, and why we have seed banks like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are interconnected. Everything is interesting, and everything is intertwined. Explore connections. Generally, the more you learn about something, the more interesting it becomes.

STRONGLY Recommended: Children of Blood and Bone

When I first got my library copy of Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood and Bone, I groaned a little. I had been excited about it because I had seen the hype surrounding its release – Adeyemi had publishers fighting for the chance to print it, the title has been *heavily* advertised in the book world, and there’s already a movie deal! – but I had missed that it was over 500 pages long! Usually that’s not too much of an issue for me, as I am a bookworm (heck, I work at the library!), but for whatever reason I just wasn’t feeling a long book. But I knew if I didn’t read it when I got it the first time, I probably wouldn’t be able to get my hands on it again anytime soon (as of my writing this, there are 20 people waiting on LFPL’s 5 copies). So I forced myself to check it out. And immediately got sucked in. I am so glad I read this book, and now I’m going to gush about it because no one else has had the chance to read it yet and I need to talk about it!

So, to start off, know that the author, Tomi Adeyemi is a 24 year old (!!!) Nigerian-American who LOVES anime, especially Avatar: The Last Airbender, and has said that her main inspiration for this series (that’s right, it’s the first book in a series) comes from that love of anime, the beauty of Yoruba culture, and the constant feelings of fear and hopelessness she has due to the reality of police brutality that’s so prevalent in the United States. So. That’s definitely a REAL and interesting combination of things, but it honestly does all come together in an amazing way.

Here’s the blurb that’s on the back of the book, and it does a much better job at summarizing it than I did when I tried (I tend to get distracted and go on tangents, which can be fun sometimes but not the best for summaries).Cover for Children of Blood and Bone

THEY KILLED MY MOTHER.

THEY TOOK OUR MAGIC.

THEY TRIED TO BURY US.

NOW WE RISE.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for an enemy.

If you can’t wait to get started reading it, here are the first 6 chapters of the book, made available in a Sneak Peek by the publisher! And, once you finish it, please come talk with me about it at Bon Air Library!

English Language: Bizarrely Precise Animal Vocabulary

As hinted at in the Amazing Mules post, due to some historical quirks, the English language has a truly ridiculous amount of incredibly specific words relating to animals. This goes light years beyond preschool “the Cow Goes Moo” stuff that everybody knows. In fact, most of this is so insanely, ludicrously exacting that you’re unlikely to ever use it or even know it, unless you take up a hobby related to the animal in question, in which case it falls under specialized jargon. Why learn it at all then? Because these words can reveal an awful lot about the history and society that produced them, and the people who need this vocabulary today. You’re not going to come up with and agree on an intricate vocabulary relating to, say, inducing a bird of prey to hork up a hairball made of its un-digestible prey remains – called casting, unless it’s really important. Rest assured, what you see here is just the very tip of the English animal terms iceberg.

Here’s your obvious LANGUAGE WARNING for the post: due to use as insults, some of these words have become “bad words” in modern English. I can’t censor anything, since the whole point is to learn the vocabulary.

 

Keep an Eye Out! It’s Historical Background!

There are a few processes at work here, as to why English has so many animal vocabulary words. Let’s look at four of them:

  1. Modern English is a constantly changing mishmash of several languages. At the time in which these animals were so important, the Normans were in power in England, and a lot of the courtly animal-terms were adopted from their language. This is especially obvious in the case of meat vs the animal it comes from. This is why it’s a quarter pound ground beef (beuf) burger, and not a quarter pound ground COW FLESH burger. As a contrasting example that proves the rule, this didn’t happen in the related language German, and that’s why in that language, pork is literally SWINE FLESH.
  2. (Highly ritualized) hunting was a foundation of medieval European society, and was a means of enforcing class dynamics. Proper use of the jargon separated the nobles from everyone else, and maintained the shape of society. There are several weird holdovers of this dynamic today, that we notice from the United States of America, where we jumped the tracks before a few key social changes in Britain, proper. There’s probably a whole post on this in the future, but, suffice to say in Britain hunting and hunting opposition is very much tied into class conflict, where here it isn’t so much. Robin Hood was outlawed for killing the King’s deer, but here everybody was eating venison to survive, and even today we just try to make a buck. Look for animals people probably hunted.
  3. Actual jargon. In the same way that we work with computers as a basic matter of keeping our society running, and therefore we have a bunch of highly technical terms for computers, what computers do, and parts of a computer, when everything ran on literal horsepower, there was a whole host of specialized horse terms. Look for animals people needed and lived closely with in their daily lives, or to do their jobs.
  4. The wanna-be brigade. For some of these animals, when they were beginning to be bred selectively in the 18th and 19th Centuries, people who participated in this dawning animal fancy wanted to make their hobby more respectable and legitimate by coming up with specialized vocabulary, to match the historical ones. Look for animals that were part of the selective breeding boom in the last 300 years, like cats.

 

Let’s Learn Some Really Precise Animal Terms in English:

Ankole Watusi cattle lying around in a field.

Ankole Watusi cattle in a field. My personal favorite breed of cattle. They’re a status symbol, a medium of exchange, and basically the cattle equivalent of a purse dog. Cows aren’t always about meat and milk.

The Cow Goes Moo!

The sound they make – low

Cows, as a species – cattle

A group of cattle – herd

Cattle-like – bovine

Baby – calf

Female, before first birth – heifer

Female, after giving birth – cow

Male, castrated – ox, steer

Male, adult and intact – bull

Female, born as part of a set of fraternal twins with a male calf, exposed to enough testosterone in the womb that she acts like a bull – freemartin (see what I mean about ridiculously specific?)

 

 

The Horse Goes Neigh!

The sound they make – neigh, whinny, snort, scream, nicker

Horses, as a species – horses

A group of horses – herd

A family group of feral horses – band

An all-male group of mostly unrelated feral horses – bachelor herd

Horse-like – equine

Baby – foal

Female, before puberty – filly

Female, after puberty – mare

Male, before puberty – colt

Male, castrated – geldling

Male, adult and intact – stallion, horse

Male, adult, and with an un-descended testicle – ridgling

 

The Ass / Donkey Goes Hee-Haw!

The sound they make – bray

Donkeys, as a species – donkeys, asses

Doney-like – asinine

A group of donkeys – herd

Baby – foal

Female, intact – jenny, jennet

Male, castrated – gelding

Male, adult and intact – jack

 

A small flock of sheep on a rainy day.

Sheep are also amazing. Shear them to get wool. The grease from the wool is highly prized lanolin, which is sold in high-end skin creams.

The Sheep Goes Baa!

The sound they make – baa

Sheep, as a species – sheep

Sheep-like – ovine

A group of sheep – herd

Baby – lamb

Female, intact – ewe

Male, castrated – wether (a wether won’t get your ewes preggers, or go aggro on the other sheep, and he’ll follow the herd wherever they go. They used to put bells on them, so that if you heard the belled wether, you’d know where the rest of the sheep were. That’s why the word for an individual that shows the direction that the rest are going, or where they are is BELLWETHER.)

Male, adult and intact – ram

 

The Whale Goes (cetacean vocal range extends from infrasound to ultrasound – good luck with figuring that out).

A group of whales – pod

Baby – calf

Female – cow

Male – bull

 

The Cat Goes Meow!

The sound they make – meow, hiss, caterwaul

Cats, as a species – cats

Cat-like – feline

A group of cats – clowder

Baby – kitten

Female, intact – queen

Male, castrated – gib

Male, adult and intact – tom

 

birds, flowers, and puppies silk scroll.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a human culture that doesn’t have dogs. The style of this Korean silk painting by Yi Am (Joseon Dynasty, first half of the 1500s) just makes them look even softer and cuter. PUPPIES!!

The Dog Goes Bark!

The sound they make – bark, howl, growl

The howling of a pack of hunting hounds on the trail of prey – bay

Dogs, as a species – dogs

Dog-like – canine

A group of dogs – pack

Baby – puppy

Female – bitch

Male – dog

 

The Falcon Goes Skreeee!

(Except they don’t, generally. The famous piercing scream used as a stock sound effect for birds of prey is actually very specific only to the Red Tailed Hawk, which isn’t even a falcon. Birds you’ve heard this used for, like Bald Eagles, actually make very different sounds – in their case, the Bald Eagle goes tseep eep-eeep eep eep … twitter-itter-itter-itter … twitter-itter … tseep eep.)

Falcons, as a group – falcons

Baby – eyas

Female – falcon

Male – tiercel (Male birds of prey are usually noticeably petite compared to the brawnier females, on average about 1/3 smaller. As such, the males are quicker, but the females generally take larger prey, and were the more favored birds to hunt with.)

 

 

The Chicken Goes Cluck!

The sound they make – cluck, cheep, crow

Chickens, as a species – chickens

A group of chickens – flock

Baby – chick, chicken

Female, adult – hen

Male, castrated – capon (Yes, this is a thing. Fun fact about puberty: the signal to stop the growth spurt, develop secondary sex characteristics, and put on muscle in male animals is sent by the testes. Some castrated male animals go through a growth spurt that never slams to a halt like this, since the signal never comes, and get bigger and fatter than they would have, until the rest of their hormonal system just kind of gives up on puberty and settles down. As the biggest, fattest, and most tender of chickenkind, as well as the fact that some surgery is required to make them, capons are pretty expensive. Check the specialty frozen meats in the store to see what I mean.)

Male, adult and intact – rooster, cock

 

ducks as far as the eye can see.

Although they’re not so common here, and therefore quite expensive, ducks are a hugely important livestock and eggs animal in other parts of the world.

The Duck Goes Quack!

The sound they make – quack

Ducks, as a species – ducks

A group of ducks – flock

Baby – duckling

Female – duck

Male – drake

 

The Goose Goes Honk!

The sound they make – honk, cackle

A group of geese – flock

Baby – gosling

Female – goose

Male – gander

 

The Swan Goes (…)

The sound they make – hiss, (there’s a reason they’re called Mute Swans)

A group of swans – flock

Baby – cygnet

Female – pen

Male – cob

 

What Does the Fox Say?

What does the fox say? – yip, yelp

Foxes, as a species – foxes

Fox-like – vulpine

Baby – kit

Female – vixen

Male – tom

 

Stealth Veggies

Spring is on the way, and it’s an exciting time of year if you’re planning a garden. What’s that? No space for a garden? Never tried it before? Afraid people will freak out if you plant veggies right in the lawn? Well, never fear, you can grow your own veggies anyway. Shinobi-like, these plants hide in plain sight, but are tough as nails, and hard to kill. They’re probably not informing on you though. Probably.

Cut the top off a gallon jug and stab some holes in the bottom for a portable planter you can put on the steps or a windowsill, or make some space for a new “flower bed” in your yard.

These plants have been chosen based on how tough they are, how tasty they are, and how much like a fancy ornamental garden plant they look.

 

Chives

Purple pom pom chive flowers.

By H. Zell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just as happy in a small planter as they are in the ground, chives grow lots of purple pom-pom like flowers. If anybody asks, it’s a flower bed, not baked potato topping, or massive amounts of an oniony food crop. As a perennial, chives will come back year after year.

 

Peppermint

Leafy peppermint growing on the ground.

Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Another perennial, and infamous for spreading like a zombie plague, mint doesn’t die unless you cut its head off or destroy the brain. Of course, it doesn’t have either. Mint will come back from even root fragments left in the ground. You’ll probably want to confine it to a planter, so it can’t escape. It also looks like a nice dark groundcover, and makes a good contrast to the chives. It’ll even grow in shade, too.

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm. Like mint, but slightly nubblier and yellower.

By Broly0 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A close relative of mint, although a little better behaved, Lemon Balm smells and tastes like (guess what?) lemons. Put crushed mint or lemon balm leaves at the bottom of a glass of water for a refreshing treat in Summertime.

 

Garden Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus

Yellow garden nasturtiums.

By Wouter Hagens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

They’re gorgeous, and edible. The leaves are weirdly water-repellent, too. Great for salads or sandwiches! They have spreading stems, so they can be trained to climb, or trail from hanging baskets, if you don’t have any ground to put them on. They’re annuals, though, so you’ll have to save seeds or buy them every year.

 

Okra

Okra flower and pods. Burgundy colored variety.

By Kristine Paulus from New York, United States (Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll need an actual patch of dirt on the ground, or at least a ten gallon bucket or bag and some serious sunshine for this tall garden showstopper. Okra is a relative of hibiscus, which is a very flashy old-fashioned garden plant with big, showy tropical flowers. The bad news? This far North, they’re annuals, so you’ll have to save seeds and replant. They love the heat. So, get a fast-growing variety if you can, and be sure to pick the pods while they’re still 3 – 4 inches long, so they don’t get too tough. You’ll have the main ingredient for all the gumbo you can handle.

 

Pole Beans Phaseolus vulgaris

Pink common bean blossoms.

By Schnobby (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If all your space is vertical, pole beans or other climbing veggies might be your best bet. Regular, plain old beans actually have beautiful flowers, in lots of different colors, including pink, white, yellow, purple, and red.

Other options might include sunchokes, globe artichoke, all sorts of colorful lettuce, kale, or Swiss chard, and even asparagus. Be creative, and you’ll find you can grow all kinds of things, even in limited space!

Carmichael’s Kids presents award-winning children’s book author & illustrator Peter Brown

Main Library, Thursday, March 15, 6:30 p.m.

From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes The Wild Robot Escapes—a heartwarming and action-packed sequel to The Wild Robot, his New York Times bestseller for middle schoolers about what happens when nature and technology collide. Brown is the 2013 Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Creepy Carrots! and his other children’s books—including The Curious GardenChildren Make Terrible Pets, and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild—are all New York Times bestsellers.

Join Peter Brown for a fun, interactive discussion of his work and his latest book,at the Main Library. This program is free, but tickets are required; click here to order.

99 Gross Creepy Crawlies

99 of Katherine’s favorite gross creepy crawlies! Click on a link or use your google-fu to learn about one at a time, or go ahead and binge-read. I don’t judge. (Yes, this is an exercise in the Way of Effective Search Engine Use. Don’t forget Boolean operators, too. It’s how you separate the birds from the baseball teams.) Some of them are strikingly beautiful, like this Pepsis wasp:

A glossy midnight blue wasp with rust colored wings on a yellow flower.

By Pavel Kirillov from St.Petersburg, Russia (Tarantula Hawk Pepsis sp.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Creepy crawlies are rated one * to five *****, as follows:

* = cute or charismatic, not even slightly gross, unless you have a specific phobia of some kind, like a fear of spiders, and even then, you might make an exception. Examples: Ladybugs, Monarch Butterflies, Peacock Spiders.

** = only mildly gross, if you have a thing about critters with too many legs or slime. Examples: Tomato Hornworms, Garden Snails.

*** = medium gross – the standard level of gross. Those things that skitter across the floor in the dark. If you were asleep in bed, you wouldn’t want one to drop on your face without warning. Examples: House Centipedes, European Medicinal Leeches.

**** = these might put you off lunch, or make you itchy just thinking about them, they’re so intensely gross. Most endoparasites like pinworms belong here. I say “most” because It Gets Worse. If that doesn’t make you want to wash your hands carefully every time, I don’t know what will. Examples: Pinworms, Head Lice, Deer Ticks, Hagfish.

***** = the grossest. Read about these, and lose your belief in Nature as a benevolent force. Pure, weapons-grade nightmare fuel. And it’s not even fictional, like the chestbursters from the Alien film franchise (which were based on a mishmash of several real animals, by the way, just scaled up to people size). Five stars and underlined is your official warning for seriously disturbingly gross content. Examples: Deer Nose Botflies, Guinea Worm.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

The Official List of 100 Gross Creepy Crawlies

  1. * Beyonce’s Horsefly (Scaptia beyonceae) – let’s kick this off with one we’ve already covered.
  2. *** Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula – First short entry!
  3. *Stink Bugs
  4. **Isopod Eating Spiders
  5. ****Cheese maggot
  6. * Green Banana Cockroach (Panchlora nivea) – if you never thought a cockroach could be downright elegant, this jade-and-crystal critter might just change your mind. It’s also the first outright link!
  7. **Banana Slug
  8. **Feather Mite
  9. ***Social Caterpillars on the march, in tents (we have Eastern Tent Caterpillars, if you see any like those), just chillin’ on a treeLonomia obliqua caterpillars are venomous, and falling into a colony like that can kill you. Although other caterpillars are venomous, these are notorious killers.
  10. **Scorpions
  11. ***Giant Weta
  12. **Bombardier Beetle – when threatened, these beetles mix chemicals inside their bodies and shoot a jet of boiling hot chemicals out their butts. Nice.
  13. *Water Strider
  14. *June Beetle
  15. *Aphid farming by ants – sweet honeydew.
  16. **Eyelash Mite
  17. **Carnivorous Butterfly – butterflies, feeding on my rotting flesh? It’s more common than you’d think.
  18. **Witchetty Grubs
  19. ***Tarantula Hawk Wasp – big bold beautiful wasps of the genus Pepsis that paralyze and lay their eggs on large spiders, which they bury alive for safekeeping. The grubs eat the spider alive from the inside out, carefully sparing vital parts until last. You’ll notice this becomes a theme, because there’s a LOT of pseudo-parasitic wasps. I’m not kidding. I wanted this to be interesting, so I didn’t just list 100 pseudo-parasitic wasps. Here’s a list just of the Pepsis species alone. Yeah.
  20. *Fig Wasp
  21. *Bee Moth
  22. **Edible Crickets – why of course there’s recipes! The word you’re looking for is “chapulines” and I hope you like spicy flavors and lime! If you can’t get fried crickets, you can substitute with plain corn flakes and season them yourself. Not the sugar frosted kind. Plain corn flakes taste just like fried plain crickets. Or is it the other way around? Hmm.
  23. **Fighting Crickets
  24. ***Deathwatch Beetle
  25. *Velvet Ant
  26. ****Demodex Mites
  27. ****Body Lice – like regular head lice, but adapted to live in your clothes. Lots of animals have lice adapted specifically to them, and the relationships between the lice actually tell you a lot about when the species split from its relatives. That’s how long humans have had clothes: long enough to get our very own clothes lice. They’re vectors for epidemic typhus, among other unpleasant infections.
  28. ****Snake Ticks – like regular ticks, but they specialize in snakes. Google image search at your own peril. Poor sneks. 🙁
  29. *Arctic Woolybear – like regular woolybear caterpillars, but they live in the arctic, and live over a decade as they freeze and thaw with the seasons, for brief speed-eating sessions, before they freeze solid again and spend the winter in suspended animation, like a science fiction space colonist on an interstellar transport.
  30. *Magicicada
  31. **House Centipede – one of the top predators of the basement ecosystem. They routinely eat the next item on the list, which is a great reason to be nice and encourage the centipedes to stay.
  32. ***Brown Recluse Spider
  33. *Ant Lion/lacewing – these guys are awesome, and they’re easily found in bare dirt or loose sand, where they dig pits and wait for ants to stumble in.
  34. **Cochineal – a scale insect that lives on prickly pear cactus, and the source of the versatile red dye carmine, AKA “natural red 4” in your list of food additives. It’s perfectly safe for consumption. Remember: it’s not a case of IF you’re eating insects, it’s a case of how much.
  35. ***Bagworms
  36. **Silkworms
  37. *Jewel Beetle – the beetles whose elytra are used for beetle wing embroidery.
  38. *****Deer Nose Botfly
  39. *Plant-eating Spider Bagheera kiplingi feeds almost entirely on plant matter: the beltian bodies of acacias.
  40. **Decorator Crab – crabs that decorate themselves with bits of their environment to blend in better, hooking debris onto Velcro-like extensions of their shells. Fabulous!
  41. ***Wolf Spider – widespread spiders that hunt actively rather than waiting in a web for prey. They take very good care of their babies, carrying them around until they’re big enough to take care of themselves.
  42. **Lac Beetle
  43. *****Tapeworms – brain cysts
  44. **Sand Fleas
  45. *Preying Mantis
  46. **Dung Beetle
  47. **Giant Isopod – the giant, deep-sea relatives of our familiar roly-poly. You can get phone holders in the shape of one.
  48. *Roly Polies – the roly-poly, everyone’s favorite land crustacean.
  49. **Puss Caterpillar – although the caterpillars of the Southern Flannel Moth have a cute name, their fluffy hairs can deliver a nasty sting.
  50. **Hissing Cockroach
  51. **Bullet Ant
  52. **Velvet Worm
  53. ***Honeypot Ant
  54. *Diving Beetle
  55. **** The Fish Tongue Isopod (Cymotha exigua) – It’s a parasitic isopod that replaces fish tongues for a living.
  56. *Lightning Bugs
  57. **Coconut Crab
  58. **Fire Ant
  59. **Jorogumo
  60. *Leafcutter Ant
  61. *Water Collecting Beetle
  62. ***Giant Red Leech
  63. ** Peacock Tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica)This royal blue and white tarantula is one of the prettiest spiders, which is actually saying something. There are some extremely fancy spiders out there.
  64. *Emerald Ash Borer
  65. ****Colonial Huntsman Spider
  66. ***Goliath Beetle
  67. ****Chigoe Flea
  68. **** Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) – you probably already know about these. And maybe you even know a few unsavory details about their personal lives.
  69. *****Guinea Worm
  70. **Gall Wasp
  71. ****Medicinal Leech
  72. *Rocky Mountain Locust – Everyone remembers the Passenger Pigeon, but not the Rocky Mountain Locust. Let’s fix that right now.
  73. *Cotton Boll Weevil – historically significant pest of cotton plants. Between the weevil and depleted soil, the South’s cotton cash-crop industry couldn’t survive the onslaught, and George Washington Carver promoted peanuts to help farmers transition to more sustainable industry, reliable profits, and better farming practices. He didn’t invent peanut butter, he saved the South’s economy… with SCIENCE. The only creepy crawly on the list to have its own public monument.
  74. ***Twisted Wing Parasite
  75. *Orchid Mantis
  76. *Giant Stick Insect
  77. ***** Human Botfly – Botflies generally lay their eggs on animals, and the maggots tunnel into the flesh to grow up. This one’s famous for feeding on people, although it’s not the only one that does.
  78. * Orchid Bee – glitzy green bees that collect orchid (and other plant) scents in special leg pockets. If these were humans, you’d try to get a date by going to a store, and stuffing your pants with the entire contents of the scents section.
  79. ** Diving Bell Spider – these mostly aquatic spiders spin webs that trap air under water like a diving bell. Hairs on their abdomen trap air as well, so that they can take their air supply with them.
  80. **Cat Flea – not just for cats, cat fleas feed on lots of mammals.
  81. *Vulture bee
  82. *Blowfly
  83. *Golden Orb Weaver
  84. ***Phorid Fly
  85. *Peacock Jumping Spider
  86. *Killer Bees – the story of the creation of “Killer Bees” is a fable in the problem with over-optimistic thinking. European honeybees are not very aggressive, and they live in large colonies to put aside so much honey. Sadly, they don’t do well in high heat and humidity. African Honeybees thrive in tropical heat, but live in small colonies, and are very aggressive, to deal with creatures like the Honey Badger. A scientist wanted to establish a beekeeping industry in Brazil, and thought that if they crossed the European Honeybees with the African Honeybees, they’d get tame bees that lived in large numbers and produced lots of honey, and also did well in hot climates. Unfortunately, what they got instead were bees that lived in large numbers and produced lots of honey but got the African Honeybee aggressiveness instead.
  87. **Saddleback Caterpillar
  88. *****Mangoworm
  89. *****Horsehair Worm
  90. ***Hagfish
  91. *Arachnocampa fungus gnat
  92. *** Black California Sea Hare (Aplysia vaccaria) – A huge black sea slug the size of a cat. Even though it’s just big and slimy, it got an extra star for its gargantuan size.
  93. **Sausage Fly – Siafu, African Driver Ant – specifically, the big, sausage-link looking males, and what happens to them.
  94. **Japanese Giant Hornet
  95. **Ladybug
  96. **Anopheles gambiae mosquito
  97. **Aedes aegypti
  98. ***Sea cucumber – these majestic sea creatures have a really basic anatomy. Basically, they are a tube from mouth to butt. Food goes in one end, and waste out the other. Some can also eject spaghetti-like tubes that compose part of their respiratory system as a defense mechanism, in the hopes that a predator will be entangled or leave the slimy rest of the sea cucumber alone. Don’t worry, the tubes can grow back.
  99. ****Sea cucumber butt tenants – being a relatively simple tube, sea cucumbers are also hosts to lots of other, smaller animals, some of which don’t merely live under or on the sea cucumber, but actually inside the sea cucumber. Since the mouth is surrounded by tentacles and backed sometimes by calcified plates, the prime real estate inside a sea cucumber is the butt. Nice. Here’s a sea pig – one of the most charismatic of these inspiring creatures – and its bevy of attendant shrimp.

The Underground Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

 

Jackaby is the first book in the Jackaby book series

Jackaby by William Ritter

I am very “eat with your eyes first” when it comes to picking books to read. This is the main reason why I picked up the book Jackaby by William Ritter in the first place. The book cover is a crisp aquamarine color with a side profile of a man in Victorian dress.  Side note to mention is that I love stories set in Victorian times, it’s my favorite story setting in both television and on paper. A splash of red in the center contrasts with the aquamarine backdrop and draws your eyes to a woman in a blood red Victorian gown walking down what seems to be a cobblestone street toward an illuminated crimson door. The second thing that caught my eye was a review featured on the cover by the Chicago Tribune stating “It’s Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

From BBC’s Sherlock

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Jackaby is the first book in a somewhat historical supernatural thriller series by William Ritter that takes place in the fictional city, New Fiddleham, which is located in the New England region of the United States in 1892.  Our main character, Abigail Rook, has just arrived in town and is almost immediately swept up into a grizzly serial murder mystery, which is fine for Abigail, who is tired of being treated like a porcelain doll, just because she is a woman from an upper class English household, and is in search for her next big adventure.  One of Abigail’s greatest fears is to have to return to her family home in England, having failed in every capacity in her search for independence.

There is a fleeting moment in Jackaby, which I hope that Ritter expands on in the series, where Abigail first realizes that she has left the stable security of high society and that it is that same high society, who now judges her by whose company she shares. The book picks up with Abigail in a time where she has just reached a crossroads and has made her decision to carry on with her quest for adventure instead of trying to return home.

From the very beginning I liked that she is a person who makes her own decisions and follows through with them. As the narrative is seen through Abigail’s eyes, we as the readers are introduced to the title character, R.F. Jackaby, when she is.  Jackaby the character is someone that society, including the police, has written off as insane which can cause some problems when your occupation is that of a private detective.

As our story progresses Jackaby opens Abigail’s eyes and mind to a supernatural world that goes unseen by all except Jackaby. Jackaby is a Sherlockian type who wears a coat with way too many pockets and who can’t tell the difference between gunpowder and paprika. What I like most about the character Jackaby is that he doesn’t care what society thinks of him, he only cares about helping people who are in trouble, be it supernatural creatures or an ordinary person on the street.

As I am a fan of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the CW’s Supernatural I enjoyed the creatures and legends that Ritter included in the story.  As I read I tried to guess the legends and creatures featured, but was surprised to find that I was wrong most of the time.  I found myself running along with Abigail and Jackaby on their investigation trying to piece together the evidence and find the murderer. I found the pacing of the book relatively fast without missing opportunities for description or helpful insights from Abigail.

However as I write this review, I have found that even though Abigail gives great descriptions of the people, scenes, and actions around her, she fails to really describe herself in great detail so I think I would like to give the book a second read. I think Jackaby hits many genres and would interest many types of readers from those looking for a new realistic fantasy to someone looking for a gritty mystery.

The book is also the beginning of a series so if you are someone like me who likes book series this is the book for you.

Abigail and Jackaby’s story continues:

Beastly Bones is the second book in the Jackaby book series.

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Ghostly Echoes is the third book in the Jackaby book series

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

The Dire King is the fourth book in the Jackaby book series.

The Dire King by William Ritter

Vocabulary Words

Why brush up on your vocabulary? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. As an exercise, you can also try to write a story using ALL of the vocab words, no matter how random.

Autogyro – An aircraft that gets its lift from autorotation (what happens when a helicopter loses power to the main rotor) of a large, unpowered rotor, rather than fixed wings. It gets thrust from a propeller in front (or behind). Hilarity ensues.

Blinkered – Blinkers are eyewear for horses that blocks the creature’s incredibly broad peripheral vision (horses can see almost 360 degrees around them, except directly behind their butt, and right in front of their face), making sure the horse can focus only on things in front of them. To be blinkered is to be blind to anything else but what you’re focused on, as if you were wearing metaphorical blinkers. The black cups behind the eye of this horse’s green hood are blinkers.

A horse wearing a green hood with black blinkers behind the eyes.

By nakashi from Chofu, Tokyo, JAPAN (P6053439) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Brazen – Incredibly bold. OR Literally made of brass. Whichever. The famous Benin Plaques (infamously looted from Benin) are made of cast brass. The palace roof beams were capped with these brazen relief panels.

Bunting – Another one with multiple meanings, none of which are remotely related! The act of hitting a bunt in baseball, where you intentionally hit the ball very short into the infield. OR Cloth streamer-like decorations for a parade or party. OR Certain species of small songbird. OR That “friendly headbutt” thing cats do.

Dewlap – Dangly skin under the neck. Anoles are lizards famous for their large dewlaps. This bull at a fair has a magnificent dewlap:

zebu bull at a mexican fair. With bouncy castle in the background. he's got a saddle on.

By A01333649 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ire – rage, wrath. Very much angryness. Flip all the tables.

Orthodox – literally “correct practice” – the conventional, accepted way to do things.

Rancid – Fat that has gone bad from exposure to oxygen has gone rancid. Rancid bacon smells gross. Don’t cook with it.

Scurvy – A disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C in the diet. That’s why you eat your fruits and veggies! Especially common with sailors, before people figured this out completely, because they’d be away for months at a time, and fruit and veggies wouldn’t keep, but ship’s biscuits (hardtack) and salted meat would.

Serial – Something that occurs more than once on different occasions. The reason Charles Dickens’ books are so long is that they were published serially, in chapters.

 

Everything in a Sentence:

An orthodox investigation – focused on mechanical causes and pilot error – would never have turned up the real cause of fatalities after the autogyro crash in the remote Canadian wilderness. Blinkered as they were by a focus on more common causes, the team did not accept the brazen insistence of the medical examiner that, although they had survived the crash relatively unharmed, the crew had died of scurvy, after the emergency beacon had failed to activate and all they were left to eat was a tin of rancid cashews.

The head of the investigation team looked out on the forest once the site was accessible in the Spring. Buntings flitted in the splintered trees. His jowly dewlap shook with ire – how many of these serial tragedies must occur before the emergency beacons were improved to survive crash forces, or flight crews required to carry lemonade concentrate? The accident report would be scathing, and take the industry to task for their negligence of health and safety.