Natural flavor

It’s not that I’ve lost interest in blogging.  In fact, I have an endless supply of stories to tell and photos to share.

But the requisites of life care not for personal endeavors.

I’m the youngest person at our family farm.  I should add that I’m the youngest by decades.  And I’m the healthiest person here—healthiest despite back surgery, knee surgery, sinus surgery, leukemia, and all that jazz.

But this is a real farm with real livestock and real work to be done: animals to be fed and cared for, pastures to be tended, fences to be put up or fixed, crops to be grown and nurtured, vehicles and equipment to be maintained, pets to be managed, meals to be cooked, supplies to be acquired, technology to be administered…

And yet this is also a household with real needs beyond the farm: be the copy editor for family newsletters and stories; take care of everyone’s cell phones, satellite internet, computers and modems and routers and printers/scanners/fax machines; find the best deal for this, that or the other; fix televisions and satellite TV services; plant and care for flowers and bushes and fruit trees and vegetables and whatnot; find solutions to rodent problems that plague gardens and households and livestock and…

Well, let’s just say that this is a real farm and a real household with real work and real needs and a diminishing lack of able bodies.

Except me.

In my “spare” time I’m still writing books, still snapping photos, still looking for paid work I can do without taking away from the farm, still being there for my parents and family through their increasing health issues, still hoping for another visit with my nieces and nephews and brothers and sister and aunts and uncles and…

Well…  Still wishing life had dealt me a more manageable hand than the one I have to play, still thinking that I’ll catch a break as soon as the universe realizes it gave me bad cards, still trying to maintain a poker face whilst clinging to sanity.

Nevertheless, blogging and photography and…  Well—again—let’s just say that my aspirations cower behind a deck stacked against them, and they and I don’t seem to have any input into the deal or play of cards.

To wit, I want to do this but I have to do that.

I want to write more, publishing books and novellas and articles.  I want to delve into people photography, whether for profit or for fun.  I want to continue my nature photography, published or otherwise.  I want to keep abreast with technology and remain an expert in that arena, able to deal with any question or need no matter the platform.  I want to set aside my work for the people—Well, let’s just say that I want to focus on personal efforts instead of what’s required of me by the populace (who need me but don’t even know they need me).

Only I’m not someone’s bitch, not time’s nor life’s nor the world’s.  So here’s where I take control of my digital existence.  Or so I tell myself.

Close-up of a black & yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia) silhouetted by the sun (20081011_13628)

Because—let’s be honest here—we spin our webs and catch our prey without a thought for what we control.  We live life sans a care for what we feel, let alone for what we manage.

Early morning crepuscular rays seen through trees and ground fog (20131018_08774)

And the rays of light carry us from moment to moment, from morning to morning, from here to there.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) jumping a pasture fence (20140114_09569)

We jump our fences.  We find our way through the mayhem of what is and what comes.

Close-up of a Texas dandelion (Pyrrhopappus carolinianus) in sunshine (20140525_10603)

We bloom when nothing matters, when nothing counts, when the world measures itself for naught.

A beetle atop blooming prairie fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) (20140529_10696)

We stand upon the blooms we discount only because they hold us up and carry us forward.

A male giant stag beetle (Lucanus elaphus) walking across gravel (20140625_11524)

We march forward without a care for the world.

A zebra swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) eating minerals from the ground (20140703_11720)

We flit from here to there so we can consume sustenance, so we can survive.

A brown morph female blue-fronted dancer (Argia apicalis) resting on wood (20140811_12152)

We rest.  We lie comfortably so we can rest.  And we rest.

A leucistic female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) perched on a feeder (20140811_12304)

We stand out from the crowd when we’re nothing more than what is.

A female green anole (Anolis carolinensis) peering around a corner at me (20140923_12528)

And we catch a peek when we can.  We look upon what is and accept that we are what was.

Because we’re more than what we thought, we’re more than what we believed.  In the end, we are more.

Thus, I’m more.

And I want to be more.

And I will be more.

Because I’m going to move forward.

I’m going to win.

I’m going to survive.

I’m going to overcome.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Black & yellow argiope (a.k.a. yellow garden spider; Argiope aurantia) – female
  2. Crepuscular rays
  3. White-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus)
  4. Texas dandelion (a.k.a. false dandelion, Carolina desert-chicory, leafy false dandelion or Florida dandelion; Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)
  5. Prairie fleabane (a.k.a. daisy fleabane or rough fleabane; Erigeron strigosus)
  6. Giant stag beetle (a.k.a. American stag beetle; Lucanus elaphus) – male
  7. Zebra swallowtail (a.k.a. black-barred swallowtail; pawpaw butterfly or kite swallowtail; Eurytides marcellus)
  8. Blue-fronted dancer (Argia apicalis) – brown morph female
  9. Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) – leucistic female
  10. Green anole (a.k.a. Carolina anole; Anolis carolinensis) – female

Facebook, intellectual property, lies and damned lies

Mark Twain wrote that Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  And though we can’t prove the quote came from Disraeli—there are alternative sayings before that—it nonetheless came to mind recently while reading about Facebook’s upcoming changes to their various service terms.

According to their Terms of Service update, most notably the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” update, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015, anyone posting intellectual property on Facebook basically grants Mark Zuckerberg’s company free rein to do with that property as they wish.

So let’s see where this goes.

According to Facebook’s own document (linked above), we find this:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

  1. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  2. […]
  3. When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  4. […]

And then we find TIME toeing the party line.  To wit:

[People worried about their content being sold] are wrong, says Matt Steinfeld, Facebook’s Privacy Communications Manager. “The passage in our terms of service that covers your information and your content has not changed,” he tells TIME. “We can’t sell property that we don’t have. You own the things you share on Facebook.”

But let us be mindful and legal in our interpretation of these events.  Because clearly we’re being assumed as idiots.  Which we’re not.

The article goes on to say,

By signing up to the social media site, users agree to grant Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” This license, however, ends “when you delete your [Intellectual Property] content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Steinfeld argues that this license is required to allow Facebook to show that particular content on its platform. “But we can’t turn around and sell [it] without your knowledge or permission,” he adds.

At which point I—and anyone with a brain—immediately thinks of Mark Twain’s quote.


[…] you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).

Facebook’s own document contradicts their words.  It says that anything we post is automatically their property and they can sell it, license it, use it, and otherwise abuse it.

But does it mention anything about requiring our permission or notification to us?

Absolutely not.  Again, read the update in its entirety.

The TIME article goes on to say that the license terms only grant Facebook a use right for intellectual property but that a third party would have difficulty using that same property.  Which isn’t the case at all.  The terms grant Facebook the right to sub-license the content, an act that would grant a third party non-exclusive rights to use that content.

So claiming otherwise once again brings to mind Mark Twain’s quote.

Their terms make clear they can license our property to third parties without notice or consideration or compensation.  And it says that sub-licensing is not exclusive.  Which means even a third party has no obligation to notify us, let alone cancel or delete the content if we delete our content.

“I think people are rightly interested in making sure that they have ownership and control over the things they are sharing,” Steinfeld adds. “When people see things [that allude to the fact] that it might not be the case, they are understandably worried. But, the fact of the matter is that it’s pretty clear-cut. There’s no question that people own the things they share on Facebook.”

Unfortunately, it’s not clear-cut and there is room for question.  Facebook’s legal documents show that anything posted comes with all the licensing and use rights Facebook needs to sell or otherwise commercialize that content.  And it makes clear that we, the creators of said content, have no control over what Facebook does with it.

This is not complicated.  It’s as simple as being able to read plain English.  Because it’s right there in writing.

I’m not so much concerned about the rampant licensing of my content without notice or compensation as I am the confusion created when legal documents are contradicted by a spokesman.  It doesn’t change the terms to say something contrary to them, but it does mislead the public into thinking those documents say something that they clearly don’t say.

Again I’m forced to think of Mark Twain’s quote.

Discoveries in darkness

I’ve said it so often I’ve lost track of the count: I hate using flash for photography.  It sucks the life out of subjects.  It looks artificial.  Whatever’s in the photo tends to appear lifeless.  Pictures with flash don’t represent what the eye saw.

But I live in the boondocks.  As one local put it, my family lives so far out in the country that we have to drive to town to hunt squirrels.  Which is pretty much laughable yet almost true.

So photographing nocturnal wildlife forces one in my position to use flash.  And nocturnal wildlife we have in abundance.  As long as you can forgo sleep to see it, let alone photograph it, the nights here are filled with so much awesomeness that it’s hard to imagine.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12679)

Several weeks ago and long before sunrise, I discovered a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) meandering through dew-laden grass.  A bit of moonlight showed me its brightness on an otherwise dark ground.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12697)

So I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos.  With flash.  Which pretty much blinded me to what I was seeing, but I was OK with that.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in dewy grass (20141026_12701)

Because I knew where my subject hid and I knew how to snap the photos.

Then, three days later, I discovered three such treefrogs as they wandered about in the predawn hours.  Only one of them presented me with a photographic opportunity.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12702)

So I took advantage of the chance to photograph the bright amphibian.

And I snapped photo after photo.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12707)

Changing angles, I kept taking pictures.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12714)

The flash blinded me, of course, and I only knew about the frog I could see in the weak moonlight.

So everything was lost to me.  Except my subject.  Until I processed the images.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) beside a praying mantis (20141029_12716)

And that’s when I discovered a praying mantis hanging out beside the frog.  Even if it hadn’t been dark, the mantis was camouflaged so well that it would have appeared like a bit of grass—which it did.

The mantis only became apparent when I processed the photos later.

Though I can’t tell you the species, I suspect it to be a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). , Unfortunately, we have several mantis species here and these photos don’t identify it.

A green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in early morning light (20141029_12746)

Later, once the sun came up, I went looking for the pair.  Only the frog remained.

At least so far as I could see.  Because the mantis could well have been there, but it so well matched the grass that it might as well have been invisible.  Literally and figuratively.

Toads galore

This has clearly been a banner year for toads in East Texas.  For that matter, it’s been a banner year for walking sticks, frogs, praying mantises, grasshoppers, beetles, snakes, and a variety of other critters.

But we normally have a collection of toads in the immediate vicinity of the house, and this year that collection has grown into a horde.  Each night as they become active, it’s not at all uncommon to see six or eight of them just around the carport, all of varying sizes and color schemes.

An east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) hiding in the grass (20140926_12565)

The majority are east Texas toads (Bufo velatus).  We have other species, of course, but B. velatus is ubiquitous.

Close-up of an east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) (20140926_12583)

From sunset to sunrise, finding toads has never been easier.  (A little too easy since it’s been necessary to watch carefully when walking lest you kick one or step on it.)

An east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) nestled in a burrow (20141009_12640)

As morning rolls around, they begin heading off to their various hideaways and burrows.  Though the outside cats ignore them (they learned early not to mess with toads), the dogs are fascinated and just waiting for a chance to grab one.  We don’t really want that to happen, but it would be a lesson hard learned for the canines.

Close-up of a juvenile east Texas toad (Bufo velatus) (20141009_12628)

With so much food available, not one of them looks like it’s starving.  And if you catch them in the right mood, they not only look healthy but they also look downright adorable.


The sun had yet to show even a sliver of its bright disk above the horizon, though the ample light of dawn made clear it wouldn’t be long before that happened.  And as is always the case that early in the morning, my uncle and I were already busy tending to farm work.

Because white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) are common out here in the country, we often see them as we toil about the property.  In fact, some have become so accustomed to us that they don’t run—instead they look at us briefly before returning to whatever they’re doing.  Which is usually eating.

So on this morning we glanced into the largest pasture and noticed a doe standing perhaps ten yards/meters from the fence.  She knew we were close—standing at the fence—yet she never stopped or ran.

And what was she doing?  It was obvious from the moment I saw her, with her head far down in the tall grass.  I knew she had a fawn.  From the way she tended to it without fleeing, I also knew it couldn’t be more than a few hours old because she was still cleaning it, licking it, bonding with it.

So I grabbed my camera.

By then, as luck would have it, the newborn was able to get up and walk, albeit not fast and not expertly.  As I approached the fence again with my camera, we saw the mother turn and walk steadily away from us.

The only sign of the fawn was the grass bending and parting a step or two behind the doe.  That meant I’d have to go in the pasture if I had any hope of grabbing a photo or two. 

Over the fence I went.

I had to move at a good pace in order to catch up to the pair who had already made it across most of the large pasture.  They rapidly approached the corner of the fence.  I rapidly approached as well.

Though the doe made it over without a problem, she paused on the other side of the fence even as I neared.  I knew it was my chance.  She was waiting on the fawn who would have to wiggle and squeeze through the fence.

When the doe bolted, huffing all the while, and paused maybe ten yards/meters away, still huffing at me, I realized it was my chance.  The fawn had to be nearby since it couldn’t keep up with its mother, not to mention its mother trying hard to keep me interested in her.

Then I found it just a step away.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11370)

Nestled in tall grass and motionless, the fawn was perfectly concealed, at least from predators looking for a solid outline or something in motion or a contrasting coat.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11392)

While I snapped a few photos, the mother looped around through the woods nearby, huffing every few steps, stopping often to look at me, making sure I saw and heard her.  But I had no intention of harming her newborn, a baby just hours old, so I let her continue with her display and her antics as I focused on the fawn.

A white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11382)

Just a few images more of this beautiful creature, so young and so vulnerable yet so unflinching, and then I stood and walked away, not looking back, not pausing.

Close-up of a white-tailed fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) hiding in tall grass (20140623_11378)

Only when I’d crossed the pasture did I dare to glance back.  I saw only the doe as she meandered slowly back into the woods from where I’d just been standing.  And though I couldn’t see it for all the trees and grass between us, I imagined somewhere right behind her was a tiny little fawn pushing through grass much taller than it was, a newborn who knew when it was time to sit still and when it was time to follow its mother.

I smiled briefly, glad for the encounter, then I went back to work.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. I normally would not consider interfering with nature in such a way just to get a photo.  I prefer passive observation and in situ images.  But in this case I realized I could only get the images if I could get close enough to force the fawn into hiding.  And I also knew my quick visit would cause no lasting harm, what with the mother staying a stone’s throw away and keeping a close eye on her child.
  2. My apologies for my long absence from blogging.  It’s been a hectic and busy summer around the family farm.  I’ve had barely enough time to do some occasional photography, but for the most part I have worked and worked and worked with little time for anything else.  As the summer comes to a close and things begin to slow down a wee bit around here, I have ample pictures and stories to share.  And I intend to do just that.

a life in progress