Readers’ feats

October 16, 2022 • 1:30 pm

I used to have a “meet the readers” feature in which readers could send a photo and tell us a bit about themselves.  Today I’m putting up photos from emails I just got from two readers, informing us of their feats.  Well, the first one could be seen as a feat, but an unpleasant one. Readers’ explanations are indented.

This one comes from Darryl Ernst:

Not sure if you might remember a “Photos of readers” post that featured me and a picture of my beautiful Yamaha R1 motorcycle. Unfortunately, after decades of riding, I finally dropped my guard and allowed someone to hit me, and what was my favorite of many motorcycles over the years has been destroyed. In slow, heavy traffic approaching a busy intersection the light turned and I came to a stop at the red light. As is my SOP I checked behind me before I decided to stop. If I don’t like what I see, I go through the light, but in this case what I saw looked fine. The vehicle behind me was well back from me and was slowing down as if he too was coming to a stop, so I went ahead and stopped. And a couple of seconds later he plowed into me anyway, catapulted me off the bike and then would have run me over if I had not rolled out of the way. I’ve no idea what led to him doing that. Fortunately I’m fine, stiff and sore is all, but my favorite bike isn’t so pretty anymore. Which has me feeling a bit sad. Nothing lasts forever.

Before (from 2020)

Yesterday.  Good thing Darryl wasn’t hurt!


From Max Blanke, who appears to have considerable skills:

Not wildlife, of course. My wildlife images tend to be horrible. Anyway, I finished this today, and had consulted WEIT commenters on the engraving prior to cutting.

Understanding that your site is not “Why Knives are Stabby”, I figured to send the attached images along anyway.

I combined late Roman and Anglo Saxon elements to come up with the basic design. The scales are Llanite, which we quarried ourselves this summer. The blade is laminated steel, the bronze salvaged from scrapped machine bearings. The blue stone accents are sodalite, from my big pile of interesting rocks.

It will be in the post to the new owner on Monday, who only knows that it is some sort of bladed weapon.

European blades are not my specialty. I did make a crusader’s sword not long ago with “Hello, I would like to chat with you about Jesus Christ” engraved on the blade in Middle English.

According to Max, the Latin on the blade translates as “”Now the die is cast”, attributed to Julius Ceasar upon crossing the Rubicon.

UPDATE:  Linda Calhoun just sent this “feat”. Her words:

Pumpkin pie: this is as close as I will ever come to a “feat”.

I have to admit it looks good!

Readers’ wildlife photos: senior Teddy bears

November 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

In 2014 I did a post showing “readers’ childhood plushies” (plush dolls or animals). We had many photos, but since the other day was National American Teddy Bear Day, I put out a call for readers to send me photos of their Teddies. Not all of these are Teddies, but most are, and the others are also cute (check out the completely unstuffed horse). Go to the first link to see other readers’ bears and dolls; the ones here are all new.

First, my own Teddy, familiar to readers as Toasty. I got him when he was born, so he’s a septuagenarian.  You can see that most of his fur is worn off, my mother had to replace the eyes several times, and his neck was sewn on when he was nearly decaptitated (he’s a “Frankenbear”).  He resides in my office

To cover his shame (even though he’s not anatomically “correct” my mother made him overalls. Here we are in my office in 2002:

From Cynthia Baron Radtle, who wrote on Facebook,  “OMG! Toasty looks exactly like my Teddy.”  Well, Teddy looks a bit more beat up, but there’s definitely a resemblance. 

Cynthia added this:

I will post a pic without the baby shirt. His body was so worn my mother had to sew a little body suit on him to keep the stuffing in. I’ve had him since infancy so I have no idea where I got him. Probably mom or dad.

Leonard added this on Facebook (no photo): “My step-daughter, half our age, has a similar bear in similar condition. When she took it to UBC to do her post-grad, it attracted the nickname ‘roadkill’.”

From Lynne Bond:

When I showed my husband your Toasty, he insisted I send you a photo of his Ah Baby:

From Chris Taylor:

Ok he is a Scottie not a Teddy, but he is my oldest soft toy.
This is Wowser, and he is exactly the same age as me – 65 last weekend!  He was made for me from sheepskin by a friend of my mother who worked with her as a nurse.  He is mostly intact, but has lost a bit of fur, and has a bandage on his leg where the sheepskin went a bit brittle. Not at all bad, because he was also played with by my brothers and sisters, and was even passed down to a niece and nephew for a while before coming back to me.
Wowser now lives with quite a lot of younger teddies.  For about four years I had a registered business making and selling hand-made bears.  So here also is Manuel, who is one of my bear designs!


From my friend Fred Crews, retired English professor (and chair of English) at Berkeley, critic of Freud, and writer for the New York Review of Books.

Your teddy bear has been brawling in the streets of Chicago, and he shows the effects. Not advisable. Here is my mother’s Steiff from 1908, when she was four years old—an indoor pet ever since.

When I pointed out to Fred that Steiff co-manufactured the original bears starting about 1904, and he may have a valuable antique on hand, he responded thusly:

We always knew it was a Steiff. I now remember that my mother called him “Oscar.” And here she is below, shortly before receiving the bear as a gift from her uncle (not shown). My mother’s name was Robina Gaudet, but she was always Ruby. Those are her parents in Bethel, Maine.

From Linda:

My bear Mikey is about 85 years old. Some fur is missing due to being thrown back and forth across the street. Sorry, no overalls 😀

And another from Linda, which she made herself:

I thought you might get a kick out of “ShakesBear” that I made for my mother.  I think it was in the 90’s when there was a fad on Bear names, e.g.: Bearishnikov, etc.  She was quite taken with the idea, being a bear aficionado, so I made this one for her.  Not as old as Mikey, Shakespeare is probably only 45.

A punny bear from Joe McClain:

And I thought you might be interested in a rare adult-onset teddy. My daughter Lauren gave him to me about 10 years ago, inspired by a story my mother told her. When I was little, I misunderstood the hymn “Gladly, the Cross I’d Bear.” So, please meet Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear. I had no teddy when little, but I did have Ruffy, Tuffy (dogs) and Harry the Owl.

From Steve Pinker. This website once had a contest to guess the name of his bear, for I didn’t find it on the Internet and thought readers could do some sleuthing. It turns out that Steve mentioned Wilfred in his lectures at Harvard, and one reader had attended one. So here’s Wilfred with the backstory from Steve:

Wilfred was a gift from my ex-wife Ilavenil Subbiah (a graphic artist and publicist working with MIT and with Commonwealth Fusion Systems, the fusion start-up), when we were first dating. She has a collection of more than a hundred bears.

From Matthew Cobb. I featured this in the previous post, but I’m putting it up again because it’s Matthew.

Here are pictures of my Teddy, who’s just called Teddy. I have had him for over 55 years, maybe since I was born – not sure. My sister Liz  made him the tartan trousers when I was very young – never known him without them. He has got a bit battered – his eyes were bits of brown  glass stuck on very long rusty dangerous bits of wire, which were  shoved into his straw-packed head. They were removed, probably for safety reasons, long ago. Now he looks a bit blind. His paws were covered with some kind of fabric, but that obviously rotted and got replaced about 20 years ago by my mother, who looked after him until about 10 years ago when I reclaimed him. My mum also did some brain surgery when, about 50 years ago, Teddy got left too close to a fire and suffered a nasty singe-based trepanation on the back of his head. She patched him up – not with vinegar and brown paper but with a piece of some old yellow curtains. He’s not very cuddly (the straw is very solid), nor very flexible, and  is getting rather threadbare (threadbear) but I suppose that’s also a  description of his owner. .

From Rik Gern:

What a coincidence you should be asking for teddy bear photos; I arrived at my mother’s house for a visit the other day and found this collection in the closet of the room I’m staying in! None of them had been mine though. I had a favorite monkey doll as well as a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll that went everywhere with me, but no teddys. I believe these belonged to one of my sisters.

Matt Young, who writes on The Panda’s Thumb website, proffers his own bear, Steph-Steph:

After seeing your splendid Teddy bear, my wife reminded me that my Teddy bear is a panda. Her name is Steph-Steph, and she is named after Stephen Jay Gould. Her cousin, Professor Steve-Steve, is a founder of The Panda’s Thumb. Here she is in 2005 lecturing about giant tortoises to a crowd of one.


From Cicely:

Not a childhood toy– but a current companion with his constant companion..

Eloise, the bat and Edward, the bear:

From Professor Jean Greenberg, member of Team Duck:

Here is my bear,  uncreatively called Teddy.

This is one of my oldest beloved childhood treasures. I used to stage little tea parties with my Teddy, also accompanied by a small stuffed lion and a beautiful cat hand puppet. The tea set was a mini-set that I gifted to friend’s little one after I found it in my mother’s apartment after she died. I could not bring myself to part with the bear, the lion and the cat puppet, which now sit in my bedroom together.

From Norm Gilinsky, the most messed up plushie of all!

Hah! I thought about this when you mentioned your Teddy the other day. Here is my childhood stuffed toy—a dog named “Sooty.” I carried him with me night and day until the stuffing came out of him. He’s completely flat! My mother kept him for many years and eventually gave him back to me. If you look closely, Sooty is mounted behind glass in a Riker Mount display box—a type of museum case. Sooty is somewhere between 63 and 64 years old. Doesn’t look a day over 60!

Photos of readers

August 11, 2019 • 2:00 pm

Well, here’s a new feature: photos of readers as they go about their everyday lives. If you want to be part of it—and this will hopefully be ongoing—just send me a photo of yourself doing something interesting, even if it’s just you at work, petting your cats (you do have one, don’t you?), or just about anything. The idea is to put faces to the names we read here every day.

The only Rool is that you should give your real name, though if you feel strongly that you don’t want to use it, your posting name.  And here’s the first one, sent by lutist Daniel Shoskes. It shows him and another regular, Peter Nothnagle, who, you might recall, wrote an epic document on the fictionality of Jesus. (Peter’s “regular” job is producing classical-music CDs.) There are two other musicians as well, though I don’t know if they’re “readers.”

Daniel’s caption:

Peter Nothnagle and I, faithful readers working together again to record another CD. (We have made 3 CDs together in the past. This is #4). I’m playing the Renaissance Lute. Soprano is Elena Mullins, with Rebecca Landell-Reed playing the viola da gamba. Church of the Resurrection near Cleveland, please forgive us our sins.
I invite readers to send similar photos, and I’ll put them up one at a time over an extended period.  Thanks!

Note to readers

March 16, 2018 • 1:00 pm

This policy has been up on “Da Roolz” site for some time, but I have been a bit lax in enforcing it. Please be aware of it, and, if you want people to see your website, connect your real name to that site. This is note #18.

If you post a link to your website, referring us or asking us to read something you’ve written on that site, the site cannot be anonymous; there must be a real named person who writes it. You have every right to keep your site anonymous, but I don’t have to link to it, for I believe people should stand behind what they say publicly. That said, I’m not demanding that commenters on my own site reveal their real names on this site.

If you’re a new reader here, please do look at the commenting rules (link above) before you post. Links by readers to their anonymous or pseudonymous sites will be removed.

Thank you.

A bad squirrel; and Gus lagniappe

March 19, 2017 • 7:30 am

Reader Chris sent us this amusing anecdote of domestic food thieving.

The dominant squirrel got impatient and gnawed his way into the feeder:

So I got out the tinsnips and an old tin can:

I see I’m not much of a tinsmith as yet, but I guess I am an example of an animal learning tool usage because of another animal….

Score: Human 1 Squirrel 0 (so far).

And a bonus Gus photo. Someone knows how to live life for comfort.

Readers’ Wildlife Photos: Hummingbirds & a Tanager

August 1, 2015 • 12:55 pm

Biologist and naturalist Lou Jost, who lives and works in Ecuador who regularly sends WEIT examples of his amazing photography and art has sent in some more photographs of hummingbirds, this time with a difference. Here’s what he wrote to Jerry.

In case people think that all hummingbirds are like the little buzzy things we have in the US, here is a hummingbird I saw last week that was almost as big as a swift or swallow. It’s called the Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus). It is a very high elevation Ecuadorian and Colombian hummingbird, living around timberline at 3400-4000m. These huge hummingbirds have a more stately flight than the little guys, and they glide a lot. This is one of the largest hummingbirds in the world.
I watched it feeding on the turquoise-blue flowers of a giant terrestrial bromeliad (Puya sp.) whose wooly flower stalk was about 3-4m tall. This was a strange paramo (tropical high-elevation alpine grassland) studded all the way to the horizon with white-leaved Espeletia plants, in the aster family. These Espeletia are only found in very wet paramos and have a limited distribution in Ecuador. WEIT readers with good memories might recall reading about this genus of plants in relation to the recently-rediscovered Oxypogon hummingbird in Colombia. We were looking for Oxypogon hummingbirds here, but we didn’t find any, and none have ever been seen in Ecuador. But we have Espeletia in some spots, so maybe some day we’ll find one. (If one is ever found here, it will surely be a different species from the rediscovered one.)
In the shrubby transition zone just below this paramo, my group saw another iridescent blue bird, the Golden-crowned Tanager (Iridisornis rufivertex). This is one of my favorite birds for its subtle but beautiful colors, and I was really happy to finally get pictures of it. We lured it in with recordings of its own song and the songs of small owls (which little birds love to mob).
For more info see:

Readers’ Wildlife Photos: fledgling harriers

July 29, 2015 • 9:30 am

WEIT regular Bruce Lyon sent Jerry fantastic photographs of some young harriers that we have visited before here and here in June when the parents were nesting.


As always, click through on a photograph twice to see it in its original size.


Bruce writes:

Jerry kindly posted two previous batches of photos of nesting harriers I have been following north of Santa Cruz, California. This batch focuses on the fledgling harriers—with the the theme of ‘prey’ and “play’. The fledglings were fed by both the adult male and female harriers and they got the food in aerial prey transfers from the parents. Here is a photo of the female arriving with what I think is a small rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata)—someone can correct me if this is wrong.  The chick successful got the snake from its mom but the klutz then dropped it into the vegetation.
A couple of times when a parent brought in food it was chased by both fledglings. In one case, the prey transfer did not end the commotion and a dogfight ensued between the fledglings over who got to keep the mouse:
The winner:
One evening I was confused because I looked up and saw three birds chasing each other and I knew that none of these birds were the adults. It turned out that the third bird was a fledgling peregrine falcon from a nearby nest. It seemed to me as if the peregrine was having fun chasing the harriers—perhaps a form of play that helps it learn to chase birds, the main type of prey consumed by peregrines. Below a couple of photos of the peregrine and harriers interacting:
Same encounter:
Here the peregrine threads the needle and flies between the two harrier chicks. This whole encounter was really fun to watch:
Later that same week I watched a peregrine fledgling from the same family chasing gulls and cormorants the same way it had been interacting with the harriers. I suspect it was probably the same chick that had the raptor playdate with the harrier fledglings. The falcon chick seemed really feisty and over the course of a couple days it chased a lot of birds. None of these chases seemed like serious hunts—they seemed to me more like play My best guess (‘hypothesis’) is that this play behavior helps the young raptor learn how to effectively chase things. Eventually these chases will be associated with dinner. Below, a couple of photos of the young falcon terrorizing western gulls. What sport!
Finally, just a couple of photos of the gorgeous young harriers:
Thank you Bruce!

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 28, 2015 • 7:15 am

Stephen Barnard sends us some photos from Idaho: stills of the aerial dogfights (or ballets) he sees daily between two species of hummingbirds battling around the feeder on his porch. You should know by now that these little guys, while adorable, are fiercely territorial. I’m not sure what damage they can do to each other while defending a feeder: perhaps those sharp bills can poke out an eye! His notes:

The Rufous (Selasphorus rufus) and Black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri) have been fighting over the feeder. So far it’s a standoff. The Rufous are pugnacious but the Black-chinned are persistent and by no means shrinking violets. They go at this all day long, with at least hundreds
of other aggressive encounters.

(Don’t forget, you can see the photo at its original size if you click through on it twice.)







In an email, Stephen asked me if I knew of any other vertebrate that had antagonistic encounters with members of other vertebrate species on such a constant basis. I responded that hummingbirds probably didn’t attack each other like this except around a huge, defensible resource like a nectar feeder—something that doesn’t occur in nature (though big masses of flowers do); and if that’s the case, then perhaps lions defending the remains of their kill from hyenas or wild d*gs would compare. But, as Stephen pointed out, the d*gs and hyenas never win.

Readers’ Wildlife Photos: Arthropods

July 27, 2015 • 8:30 am

Mark Sturtevant has sent us on some more great photographs and commentary to go along with them.


Here is yet another installment of budget close-up photography of local arthropods. I am having a wonderful summer doing this, and I think I am slowly getting better at my hobby. The pictures are numbered in the order of my comments here.

A stink bug nymph, possibly in the genus Apoecilus, feeding on an eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum). In this picture you can see something of how a piercing-sucking proboscis works in insects. The proboscis is really homologous to the generalized chewing mouth parts of other insects. The thick, jointed part under the head that is bent aside is the labium (which is like a lower lip), while the thin whitish line seen entering the labium is really a bundle of piercing, needle-like mouth parts that are the mandibles and maxillae. The labium guides the piercing mouth parts into the prey, and those piercing mouth parts alternately pump up and down to scissor their way deeper into flesh. Digestive juices are pumped in, and the insect slurps up a liquid meal. The design is seen here:

Interestingly, the piercing mouth parts of some other insects like mosquitoes are very similar, and so this should be a good example of convergent evolution.


Marsh fly (Tetanocera). I do not have a lot to say about this one except that I am finding that many largish flies do not mind if a big camera lens draws in close to take pictures. I also like all the hairs since that makes ‘em interesting.


Six spotted orbweaver, Araniella displicata. This pretty little spider is so-named because it has six spots on the dorsal side of its abdomen. According to Bug Eric in this post: it is actually very common for this spider to spin a small orb web within the curl of a single leaf, as this one has done here.


Male harvestman (Phalangium opilio). One can recognize this to be a male by its elongated pedipalps. This widespread species is described as the most widely distributed harvestman in the world, and so possibly every reader of WEIT on every continent has seen this small, harmless species of harvestman. Well, harmless to humans. I have seen these animals eating surprisingly large insects.



Readers’ Wildlife Photos: The Moth Edition

July 26, 2015 • 12:00 pm

Jonathan Wallace from England sent Jerry some amazing photographs of moths.

As always if you click through twice on a photograph you can see it in its original size.

Jonathan writes:

I thought I’d send you a few pictures around the theme of protective colouration in moths to help top up your tank.

First, two aposematic species, the Six-spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena filipendulae) and the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena lonicerae). 

0169 six-spot burnet

0171 Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet bThese moths are noxious to predators such as birds.  As they are closely related I am not sure if they could be said to be mimics (as presumably they could both have inherited the same colour pattern from a common ancestor) but the two species do fly together in grasslands and presumably they reinforce each other’s aposematic signal in the manner of Mullerian mimics.  There are a number of other Zygaena species all with variations on this same colour scheme.

Another two aposematic species the Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).  This species is widespread in the UK but has declined significantly in recent decades.

2057 Garden Tiger b

2057 Garden Tiger c

The Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaea) has conspicuously striped larvae which feed on Common Ragwort (Sennecio jacobaea) from which they sequester toxins.  The adults superficially resemble the Burnet Moths to which they are not closely related.

2069 Cinnabar Moth larva

2452 red underwing

A final picture of a cryptic species.  I guess a majority of moths, certainly in the UK rely to a greater or lesser extent on camouflage to avoid getting eaten.  This one is a V-Pug (Chloroclystis v-ata) resting on a tree branch.  I should state that this is not where I found the moth, which was caught in a light trap and I released it onto the branch.  I was struck by how well it blended in.

1858 v-pug

Thanks Jonathan, for the beautiful photographs and the fascinating comments to go with them.