Natural History of the Lady Centipede

Biologists with the Middle Journey Expedition have returned from the distant, little-known land of Japane with startling accounts of a new species they have termed the Lady Centipede. Tentatively assigned the scientific name Villampectus abundans, these creatures have caused quite a stir at the Royal Society, both for their unusual appearance and their truly bizarre life history. Let us begin.

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Natural History of the Lady Centipede
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Paludarium 3: Return of the Crab

I couldn’t stay away, and I am making it work.

Readers may recall my recent attempt to build a paludarium and how badly it ended. I tried to make a self-watering planter combined with a fish tank and the mess of incompatible needs and compromises forced me to abandon the project. That became a riparium system that is running well to this day as a home for Congo tetras and African butterflyfish. But I was not satisfied. Emergent foliage is exciting, but I wanted emergent animal life, too. The vampire crabs called to me from beyond the known realms. And I would make it happen.

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Paludarium 3: Return of the Crab

Missionaries in the Park

Gosh, I’m so glad you’re here. It brings deep joy to my heart every time I see people like you out and about. Every one of you is a living, breathing reminder that, no matter what challenges I face or how low I sink, I’ll never actually reach the bottom, because I’ll never be the kind of grotesque, depraved monstrosity of a human being who would set up to promote Christianity in a park full of religious minorities during Pride month. Gosh, it feels good to look something truly despicable in the face and know that, no matter what I ever think of myself, I’m still better than that.

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Missionaries in the Park

Transit Stations to Insult and Dampen, or, Stop Making Me Walk in the Rain

Ottawa’s transit stations have a problem.

I know, I know, the many trials and tribulations of the O-Train have been documented within an inch of their lives and, with little doubt, the opening of the Phase 2 lines later this year will reveal a few more. But today, I want to focus on what might be the most emblematic yet least discussed aspect of Ottawa’s failure to truly attempt a transit-oriented city: making me walk in the rain.

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Transit Stations to Insult and Dampen, or, Stop Making Me Walk in the Rain

Ropa Vieja, Alyssa Style

Ropa vieja is hearty stewed beef with a complicated history. Translating as “old clothes,” this dishes’ name most likely comes from the fact that the beef (usually skirt or flank steak) is shredded rather than cubed or sliced, giving it a metaphorical resemblance to threadbare clothing. Some go so far as to attribute the name to a folktale about a desperate farmer cooking old clothes until, through the force of his love, they transmute into beef stew. The name may instead refer to how ropa vieja is often made from the leftovers of other meals, an “old dressing” for something else.

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Ropa Vieja, Alyssa Style

Rando Farming

As the description of my Patreon benefits reveals, one of my pastimes is diving into the filtered folders of my Facebook and Instagram messenger accounts and engaging with the …entities…I find within. I do so while taking on comedic personas ranging from “vampiric last queen of Hungary” to “demon cultist seeking sacrifices” to “someone who collects and tans the hides of infidels.” Once each month, I perform a dramatic reading of one of these chat logs and post it on Patreon as a benefit for my patrons. I’ve been doing this for a long time and the results have been both very funny and decidedly edifying. Let’s begin.

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Rando Farming

The Capitalism in Our Ledgers

I recently trained as a bookkeeper to diversify my skills and bring new functions to my workplace. It’s not much like my official role as a science writer, but it was a natural fit for someone as comfortable with spreadsheets as I am. Entering this distinct sphere was an interesting experience that broadened my horizons more than I expected. Bookkeepers are the unsung heroes of so many human endeavors, places where records all combine and become comprehensible summaries to guide the future. Bookkeeping is an extraordinarily old profession, and its current form traces back to the practices of 14th-century Venetian merchants.

Despite literally predating capitalism, bookkeeping is also one of the places where the base logic of capitalism sneaks into our lives, and it starts with the accounting equation.

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The Capitalism in Our Ledgers

The Worst Sound is the Silence

I used to write about atheism, until I said everything I needed to say about it. Anything I write about it now would repeat my own past words. I’m just as unimpressed with the tangle of sometimes consciously illogical and impossible things religions expect people who take them seriously to believe; I am just as uninterested in community that comes bundled with authority figures; I am just as convinced that the wonder of nature does not require a magical guiding hand to explain or enjoy; and I’ve already said all those things. Saying them again is, at best, a game with search engine optimization. I’m bored of it. People still need those messages, but I’ve already written them.

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The Worst Sound is the Silence