Tuesday, September 2, 2014


              A few days ago I noticed a praying mantis perched above the feeder ports on one of my hummingbird feeders.  I assumed it was attempting to capture insects that are often drawn to the nectar in the feeders.  I was wrong.

              After watching the mantis for about an hour, I noticed it was ignoring wasps and other insects, but was snatching at hummingbirds whenever they dared to get within reach.

              A friend of mine shared this video with me, and it confirms what I was seeing:  praying mantises are capable of capturing hummingbirds.

              This little drama is going on as I type in my front yard.  I've been standing with my camera set on movie-mode, but so far only have video footage of the mantis turning as hummingbirds approach, no attempted strikes.

              I'm not sure what I will do if I actually see a mantis capture a hummingbird, but I'll probably do the same thing the photographer in this video did... I'll try to rescue the hummer.

              Who knew bugs could stalk and capture birds?

Monday, September 1, 2014


          Completely random observations made while looking for other things...

          The people who make International Delight liquid coffee creamer should know that anyone trying to open their product has probably not yet consumed their first cup of coffee. Putting a tin foil condom over the top of the bottle that requires needle nose pliers to remove is not the best way to start someone's day.  People have probably been murdered for less...

          The same people who make the adhesive for the International Delight coffee creamer must be providing the glue for the labels on Yuengling's beer bottles.  I was trying to boil off the labels on some empty bottles in order to convert them to hummingbird feeders, only to find that those labels were affixed with the same glue NASA must use to keep the heat shield from separating from the space shuttle upon reentry. 

           The praying mantis that has crawled down to one of my hummingbird feeders isn't trying to capture nectar-loving insects, it's hunting birds.  I carried my camera out to watch a couple of hours of this drama, and saw the mantis repeatedly attempt to snatch hummingbirds out of the air.  I put a post to that effect on Facebook, and one of my friends provided a link to the videos proving bugs do hunt birds on occasion:

            And finally, on a completely different note...

             The Republican National Committee is trying (desperately) to raise money by selling colorful socks autographed by former president George H. W. Bush (only $35 a pair!).  I think conservatives should save their money and wait for the fall collection of Rick Perry and Chris Christi autographed handcuffs.   


Friday, August 29, 2014


           Maybe I should just allow my inner cynic to become jaded to this sort of thing, instead of ranting about it.  After all, venting my opinion on policies of routine police overreach don't really do much to alleviate the problem (though it might alert travelers from other states to avoid our part of America...).  But, this offends me, and I don't suffer quietly.

           If you're rolling along in your car this Labor Day weekend and see flashing blue lights ahead, check your GPS device and make sure you're not driving through Tennessee.  It's not that we don't welcome you here, it's just that we happen to have some truly insane laws on the books you might want to be aware of...

           State and local police departments have announced a slew of "no refusal" DUI checkpoints this holiday weekend in the Volunteer State.  They plan to block public streets, sometimes funneling traffic off into a vacant parking lot, so that officers can question individual drivers in an effort to force that person to prove their innocence.  If they suspect a driver of being impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can ask that person to perform field sobriety tests on the spot.  If a driver refuses to do stupid human tricks for the police, they immediately lose their license for violation of the "implied consent" clause.  But that's not the end of the ordeal, by a long shot.

            Due to a law passed in 2012, drivers on Tennessee's highways can be required to have blood drawn involuntarily.  The officers just have to call in and request a rubber stamp warrant, haul the driver back to the nearest police station, strap them down to a gurney, and take a blood sample by syringe for use against that person in court.  In fact, forcible blood draws are now mandatory if the driver has a prior DUI conviction, or has anyone in his vehicle under the age of 16.

             Law and order types like to trumpet the fact that thousands of lives are lost annually to drunk drivers, and that these draconian steps are necessary to force compliance of our drinking and driving laws.  They also like to point to the fact that the times and locations of these "no refusal" checkpoints have to be made public through newspaper and new accounts ahead of time, which (we're told) justifies the "no refusal" clause, since anyone driving through one of those checkpoints would have had reasonable expectation to be stopped, questioned, detained, and searched.

             Never mind that a person stopped at one of these checkpoints might be from out of town or out of state.  Never mind that a driver might not subscribe to the local newspaper, or watch the local news for updates on DUI checkpoints.  Doesn't matter.  Their response is basically the same one given by those who advocate the erosion of our basic privacy protections: "If you have nothing to hide, you won't have a problem!"

             When the Founding Fathers were debating the Bill of Rights, I'm pretty sure mandatory blood lettings would have been considered a fine example of an "unreasonable search or seizure" of a person's property... in this case, the property being that person's own bodily fluids.

  1. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly ...

               We've gradually surrendered our rights to privacy, and in some cases we've completely handed over our rights to even object to physical abuse at the hands of those we pay to serve and protect.

                So if you're planning on sliding through Tennessee on your way to the beach or the mountains, be careful you don't imbibe before turning the ignition key.  And even if you're stone cold sober, don't be surprised if a cop decides your attitude is just a little too uppity for his tastes, and decides to have your ass strapped down for a blood letting.  

                Y'all come back now, y'hear?


          Promises, promises...

          Back in March of last year, our multi-millionaire governor went into the political equivalent of the four corner stall in basketball, refusing to go along with provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would expand Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of needy Tennesseans.  Fiscal conservatives lauded his stance, primarily because it was a thumb in the eye of a president they despise and refuse to cooperate with.  Governor Haslam told anxious Tennesseans that he wanted to tinker with the government's plan first, in an effort to leverage federal funding in a way that forced disadvantaged people to purchase private health care insurance.  He told the world he would propose his own "Tennessee Plan" to the feds, a plan that would make sure those receiving help had "some skin in the game."

            That was about a year and half ago.  Since then, no one's seen Haslam's mystery plan, although he did (reportedly) meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius twice back in February to discuss the matter.  The governor has never released any details of his "Tennessee Plan" to the general public, and there's been no confirmation that he ever submitted a proposal of any kind to the federal government.  Basically, he's been sitting on his thumbs while people and rural hospitals suffer.

             Why the delay?  After all, neighboring states that took the plunge and expanded Medicaid have seen vast improvements in health care coverage.  One estimate suggests that Tennessee loses $2.7 million PER DAY while Governor Nero fiddles in the executive mansion in Nashville.  Hospitals that desperately need those federal dollars are on the verge of financial collapse, meaning that vast rural areas of the state will lose their only emergency medical facilities.

              The feds are offering to provide 100% coverage for Medicaid expansion through 2016, and after that it scales back to a baseline of 90% coverage in 2020.  One might say the federal government is tapering off their funding in incremental stages so that individual states might have "some skin in the game" and not become totally dependent upon federal dollars.  But that tapering off thing has the panties of our blood-red teabaggy legislature all knotted up.  They've even passed a law requiring their approval before the governor can move forward with any expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee, something those hearty riders of the Pander Express are unlikely to endorse.

              You see, it's far more important for conservatives in Tennessee's legislature and executive branch to appear uncooperative with this president than it is for them to provide much needed health care services to the people they represent.  If a few rural hospitals have to go belly up?  No big deal.  After all, it's not like they would be losing THEIR insurance coverage, right?

              Protests have begun to take place at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.  Pressure is being applied by the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Chamber of Commerce.  People have probably died due to a lack of medical coverage and affordable treatment options while the governor watches the clock.  And so he's decided now's the time to let everyone know he's working on a proposal that he plans to submit to Washington "sometime this fall."

              Right.  He's working on it.  Promise.

              In the meantime, you poor folks who can't afford to check into that county hospital might want to go down there and help them box up all the supplies as they close down and lock the doors.  But don't forget to pay your sales taxes, folks.  Other states need your money for their Medicaid expansion.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


     On this day in 1990 we lost one of the world's most intuitive, boundless guitar legends, and I miss him to this day.

     RIP, SRV...