Failure to communicate

I’m quite tolerant when it comes to letting critters nest in and around my home.  Rats and mice, not so much; I mean insects.  I’ve let moths pupate in the living room because they somehow found their way inside and built their cocoon in a corner.  I’ve let various wasps nest in the garage and on the patio for many years.  Several different ant species nest around the patio, from acrobat ants to a species of tiny black ant so small that they mostly go unnoticed unless I’m on my hands and knees looking very closely.

A Male eastern cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perching on the sidewalk (20080609_06336)

And I’ve thrilled at the existence of a massive colony of eastern cicada-killer wasps (Sphecius speciosus) that stretches around my entire home.  These leviathans intimidate most everyone who sees them, but they’re gentle giants, docile behemoths that bring me great joy.

In fact, during my rather terrible sleepless period, I stayed up one night and built a homemade nesting box for solitary bees and wasps.  You see, last year for the first time I decided not to tear down the old mud dauber nests on the patio.  Usually I remove them to make room for the next year’s nests.  But having left them up last year, I found myself the proud guardian of an autumnal group of mason bees who discovered the old mud tubes and found them quite useful for their last generation of the year.

So in early spring this year, I discovered mason bees emerging from those old nests and immediately searching for new nest sites.  Mason bees like to nest in the same general area where they were born, so I decided to help them.  The nesting box I built has about three dozen nesting tubes in it, and they vary in size from straw diameter to perhaps the diameter of an index finger.  This has drawn in leafcutter bees, at least two species of mason wasps, at least one species of mason bee, and the requisite parisitoid cuckoo and chalcidoid wasps.

And I’ve already become a proud papa from their efforts.  Three mason wasp nests have erupted with tiny mason wasps, one mason bee nest has birthed an army of tiny mason bees, and one mason wasp nest has given rise to a cuckoo wasp.  Fun stuff!

Yet my tolerance for these species notwithstanding, I do have limits.  That is never more evident than when it comes to social bees and wasps.  Solitary bees and wasps are welcome, even if they’re communal, but social bees and wasps are not welcome.

Perhaps it’s the lack of fighting for the bathroom while growing up, the lack of shared chores, the lack of sibling rivalries, the lack of being picked on by older brothers and sisters, and/or the lack of parental favorites, but solitary stinger species have such amiable dispositions whilst their social cousins are usually downright mean.  And the best example comes from paper wasps.

A female paper wasp (a.k.a. common paper wasp or Guinea wasp; Polistes exclamans) collecting wood pulp from the patio fence (20080516_05312_n)

In the typical pulp-making stance with stinger held high, this female paper wasp (a.k.a. common paper wasp or Guinea wasp; Polistes exclamans) has been busy preparing to start her nest.  Unfortunately for her, she has insisted on building that nest on the patio.  Which I can’t allow.

The first time I found her handiwork, the little stub of paper was hanging under the fence railing in the southeast corner of the patio.  That puts it just about at chest height.  Um, nope, that’s not gonna work.

So I waited for her to leave before I knocked it down, hoping she’d get the message and move her efforts elsewhere.  Not so much.

She spent the following day pretty much absent, but then the day after that I found her building in the corner near the ceiling.  In the southwest corner of the patio.  Broom at the ready, I made short work of that building effort, but this time I took a swing while she was there as I hoped it would show her that this is not a friendly neighborhood.

Two days later she was at it again, this time under the fence railing in the middle of the west side of the patio.  I had to laugh when I found this new nest because (a) she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer, and (b) she was working her way clockwise around the outside of the patio as though just a little further away from the last incident would make all the difference.

Well, her shenanigans went on for almost two weeks, eventually landing her new wanna-be home on the outside of the patio door in the bedroom.  This was her seventh attempt and it brought her about three-quarters of the way around the patio from where she started.  I swung the door open to step outside and found myself—quite literally—face to face with her.  She was building at eye height on a door that swings inward when opened.  That’s a really bad idea.

I made sure to hit her with the broom for that one, and despite our failure to communicate for such a long time before then, getting smacked down seems to have driven the message home.  She didn’t come back after that.

Now, as they did last year, I’m more than happy to let social bees and wasps nest in the tree outside my patio.  This puts us at a safe distance where they’re not bothered by me and I’m not threatened by them.  But as she eventually learned, we don’t allow nesting on the patio or inside—not even inside the garage.

If she and her ilk ever get better personalities, maybe I’ll rethink that rule.

Declaring war on spammers

I’m not just a blogger.  I’m a web host.  I own, manage and operate multiple web servers that provide service to individuals and corporations.  This fact implores me to take action against the bad guys: the scrapers and the spammers and the scammers and the hackers and the nefarious individuals and groups who continually look for ways to fuck you up on the web.

So it’s with great pleasure that I declare my personal war against such cretins with a return to my technological roots, a new ongoing series of posts about how to overcome this collective group of assholes.

Why am I doing this?  It all started…  When I had to get up every damn morning and filter through hundreds of spam comments.  I can’t tell you how many days went by when I would simply dump the queue because I didn’t feel like spending that amount of time reading everything marked as spam.

Yes, good stuff got thrown out with the bad stuff.  Oh well…

But during those rarely short but often long sessions, I began to see patterns.  And those patterns helped me create a different kind of bullshit shield, one that now provides value-added service to my hosting clients.

Yet it’s a complicated issue, from browser sniffing (something Opera decries, and shame on them for being so supportive of the bad guys) to IP correlation (when does a server deserve to connect with a web browser User-Agent?) to proxy denial (rare is the valid user who connects through a proxy).

Truth be told, from the likes of Hashlog Ltd. to Kevin Duraj, the dicks are aplenty and the defenses are few.  So I’m going to help you by showing you how to identify the riffraff and how to kill the crap that’s clogging your inbox, your time and your attention.

Now is for smart people to kill this crap and make the web more amenable to regular users.

Oh, and as a final note, China: Clean up your fucking act!  Your IP space is terrible.  Most people of sound mind will block your entire nation without thinking twice.  Instead of telling me that 121.124.0.0 – 121.125.255.255 belongs to some obscure and indecipherable Chinese telecom company, split that shit out and tell me who the hell owns that massive address space.  Otherwise—and I can assure you of this—the entire fucking world will block your asses and leave your country to its own firewalled demise.

At night, the ice weasels come

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) at night (20081007_13476)

OK, so it’s not a weasel.  Heck, it’s not even in the same ballpark taxonomically speaking.  It’s a marsupial, a Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) in point of fact, but that’s as close as I had to a photo of a weasel at night.  For that matter, minks are as close to weasels around these parts, and they’re about impossible to photograph since we’re in the middle of Big D and the critters stick to a strict nocturnal routine given all the diurnal activity. But anyway…

The point is that I’m alive, that xenogere hasn’t gone the way of the dodo, and that life goes on regardless of my meanderings about its many peripheries.  Hopefully—and soon—I’ll get back to a more regular posting schedule.  And hopefully I’ll get back to visiting my many online friends.  But until then…

Be well!

— — — — — — — — — —

Title is from a quote:

Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath.  At night, the ice weasels come.
— Matt Groening

As for the opossum:
Photography at night is difficult.  Doing it without using flash is near impossible.  But I hate flash, hate using it, hate seeing it, hate trying to pretend it doesn’t suck the life out of everything it touches.  I’ve gotten better, though.  I have some photos of Baket taken after dark—around the same time this opossum photo was taken—and it shows a marked improvement in quality even without using a flash.