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Serpent in the Garden

August 26, 2009

After raining for the entire month of June and a good part of July, it has not been an ideal year for gardening here in the Northeast. I’ve had to replant several of my vegetables three or four times because of it and the growing season has been shortened considerably making this year’s harvest that much more precious. So I was greatly chagrined yesterday evening when I noticed a pile of rabbit sized pellets of poop beneath my tomato plants and a couple of gnawed green tomatoes at about head height for a small rodent.

As I investigated further I noticed the poop was not smooth and oval like a rodent’s but instead resembled tiny pineapples and I began pawing through the leaves of the plant in an attempt to determine what kind of beast had been banqueting on my beefsteaks. I quickly discovered that it was not a mammalian vermin inflicting the damage at all, but the giant viper you see pictured above. I also discovered that my vertical leap was quite a bit higher than I might have imagined.

After some smelling salts and deep breathing to regain my senses, I attempted to remove the great basilisk before it could do any further damage. As I tried to pry it off it began spitting a viscous dark green liquid which I can only assume was an acidic venom meant to dissolve the very flesh from my bones. But after an epic struggle, much like St. George, I prevailed. The only question now was whether to grant clemency and remove the wurm to a safe distance or to dispatch it to Tartarus where mythical beasts face eternal torment. Even after the great threat to my and my tomatoes’ lives and limbs I was leaning towards mercy until I noticed more piles of the little pineapples under my other plants and subsequently pulled off six more serpents. I consulted with the squidlet who gave the whole lot of them the thumbs down at which point I cast them from the garden and brought them to the sidewalk where quick work was made of them with a spade. Presumably their carcasses will provide several days worth of sustenance for the ants, who will hopefully find them more tasty than the crumbs on the counter inside my house. And thus goes the circle of life. Hakuna fucking matata, hornworms.

The thought of the fat juicy caterpillars was not as easy to remove as their physical presence however, and the popping of the plump succulent cherry tomatoes in my salad as I ate them last night was not nearly as pleasant a sensation as it had been previously…

19 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    August 26, 2009 9:05 am

    While searching for a picture to include in this post, I discovered that what I had in my garden were not tomato hornworms which have a black horn, but the red-spiked tobacco hornworm. You can see pics of both kinds here. Had I known that at the time, rather than squishing them I would have used them as an aid to quit smoking and turned them loose on my pouch of Top ;)

    • triv33 permalink
      August 26, 2009 11:53 am

      I’m trying to reply and the site is not letting me…

      • cometman permalink*
        August 26, 2009 12:22 pm

        That’s odd. I just checked the comments in the admin section and there weren’t any being held up. Maybe it was a wordpress glitch. Everything has worked OK for me today so far, but I’ll keep an eye out to see if anything weird shows up.

        • triv33 permalink
          August 26, 2009 3:56 pm

          okay…try, try again. I’m nothing if not persistent. It only seemed to happen when I included a link, so I’ll link to my comment over at FSZ.

          • triv33 permalink
            August 26, 2009 3:59 pm

            Yay! Happy dayz are here again…musta been Word Press messing with me!

    • triv33 permalink
      August 26, 2009 11:57 am

      Okay, try, try again…when I was camping in my younger days I came across a bug that made me doubt my senses. Nevermind that it happened immediately after a little wake-n-bake. I was able to summon witnesses. Turns out it was a Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar. It was fat and green and looked like a caroon. Talk about your freaky bugs…

  2. triv33 permalink
    August 26, 2009 11:49 am

    Hee hee hee! I know just how you feel. When I was quite a bit younger I came across a specimen whilst camping that made me doubt my senses. Nevermind that I came across it immediately after a little wake-n-bake, fortunately, I was able to summon witnesses. Turns out it was a Tersa Sphinx Catapillar. It was fat and green and looked like a cartoon! Talk about your freaky bugs…

  3. triv33 permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:06 pm

    When I was quite a bit younger I came across a bug whilst on a camping trip that made me doubt my senses. Nevermind that it happened immediately after a little wake-n-bake. I was able to summon witnesses. Turns out it was a Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar. It was fat and green and looked like a cartoon. Talk about your freaky bugs.

  4. triv33 permalink
    August 26, 2009 12:06 pm

  5. cometman permalink*
    August 26, 2009 12:25 pm

    That judge is not giving the rubber stamp to the BofA settlement deal which I’m sure the bank and the SEC expected. Good article which includes judge Rakoff’s statements from Zerohedge. Fuck ’em up judgy!

  6. cometman permalink*
    August 26, 2009 12:58 pm

    Paul Craig Roberts on snakes and getting screwed – From Citizen to Serf in 200 Years.

    America is a strange place. Liberals get emotionally distraught that the Founding Fathers stuck Second Amendment rights in the Constitution. For American citizens to possess firearms is considered to be dangerous. Yet, it is quite alright for Americans to possess deadly green mambas.


    I would put the stress level from a mamba right up there with the stress our politicians create for us. We never know when “our” government will next strike at our livelihood and liberty.

    The White House Office of Management and Budget just announced that the federal government will be running trillion dollar annual budget deficits for the next decade. If the past is a guide, this is an underestimate.

    Obama says he is going to attack the deficit by getting entitlements spending under control. He means Social Security and Medicare. Getting them under control means reducing the funding. Americans have paid taxes all their lives for retirement pensions and health care, but Obama is going to cut the promised benefits in order to fund his wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to pay for new US military bases in Colombia, South America.


    Obama’s Budget Director, Peter Orszag, says the US is in a “dire fiscal situation” and requires “serious steps to put our nation back on a sustainable fiscal path.” However, halting pointless wars is not part of the Obama administration’s solution. The wars will continue. Orszag says the US will be put on “a fiscally sustainable path” by “slowing the rate of health care cost growth in the long run.”

    Orszag says that health care reform will not only be deficit neutral–that is, provide no new services–but also “will incorporate changes that will help reduce the deficit.” The budget is to be balanced on the backs of Americans denied health care. And you thought your private health insurer was evil.

    Many thanks to Orszag for a clear statement of US government priorities.


    All you need to know about “governments close to the people” can be learned by examining the property tax response to falling real estate values, foreclosures, and homelessness. Jurisdictions everywhere are raising the property tax.

    In America government always comes first. The citizen last. The transformation from citizen to serf has been completed.

  7. cometman permalink*
    August 26, 2009 1:02 pm

    Dean Baker on the reappointment of Bernanke.

    … Bernanke is waist deep in responsibility for this mess. Before becoming Fed chairman in January of 2006 he had served on the board of governors since 2002, and had been head of George Bush’s council of economic advisers from June of 2005. After Greenspan, there was probably no one else better positioned to combat the bubble.

    The attendees of GreenspanFest 2009 may not want to be so rude as to discuss their culpability for this disaster, but that should not prevent the rest of us from raising the topic. It would be an insult to the tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings to see Bernanke reappointed. Failure should have consequences even for central bank chairmen.

    Hear hear!

  8. cometman permalink*
    August 27, 2009 8:29 am

    Looks like we’re in for another week of distraction from what’s really important with the death of Ted Kennedy. Everywhere you look today it’s Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, blah,blah,blah. He seemed like a decent enough man and as a Senator he was better than a lot of them, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. In recent years especially he talked a good game but not much of that was translated into beneficial legislation as the Senate continued to pass bills that aided big corporations while hanging massive debt onto the rest of us.

    So while the nation eulogizes and lionizes this man for the next several days, I think it’s important to remember the words of the following song from 20 years ago which makes mention of the Kennedys.

    Only you can set you free.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 28, 2009 11:07 am

      Looks like Poppy won’t be attending Kennedy’s funeral even though all the other ex-presidents will be going.

      A spokesman for Bush said Friday that he and his wife, Barbara, decided not to attend Kennedy’s funeral after learning their son, former President George W. Bush, would attend.

      Spokesman Jim McGrath quipped that Bush Sr. feels his son’s presence will “amply and well represent” the family at Kennedy’s funeral Saturday.

      Something tells me he won’t be missed by the other guests all that much and many would probably prefer that his idiot son stayed home too. But still, isn’t this something that is expected of ex-presidents and assorted dignitaries? Did Poppy dis Strom Thurmond like that? Or Ted Stevens? Oh, yeah, that bag of bones is still kicking. Hard to tell sometimes… Maybe Poppy is just freaked out and worrying that the bell will soon toll for him. Whatever the reason, you’d think he’d get off his ass and make an appearance if he expects anyone to show at his funeral who isn’t there just to do a little two-step on the tomb.

  9. cometman permalink*
    August 27, 2009 10:11 am

    Har har! In the ‘Turnabout is fair play’ department, someone ripped off one of the banksters for a change. Looks like Bernanke’s wife had her purse snatched. It also looks like those who did it will be going to the slammer, which just goes to show that if you steal a little you’re a criminal but if you rob every single last taxpayer in the entire nation, you get a raise. So if you’re going to steal, aim high!

    Meanwhile,the racketeering continues as the banks claim once again that the stars will fall from the sky and life as we know it would end if they are forced to disclose anything about all the money they’ve been handed in recent months.

    And so the guns come out blazing. The Clearing House Association, another name for all the banks that were bailed out over the past year with the generous contributions from all of you, dear taxpayers, are now threatening with another instance of complete systemic collapse if Bloomberg’s lawsuit is allowed to proceed unchallenged, let alone if any of the “Audit The Fed” measures are actually implemented.

    As a reminder, The Clearing House Association consists of ABN Amro, Bank Of America, The Bank Of New York, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

    In a declaration filed in the Bloomberg Case (08-CV-9595, Southern District of New York), the banks demonstrate no shame in attempting to perpetuate the status quo with regard to the Federal Reserve and demand that the wool over the eyes of the general population remain firmly planted in perpetuity.

    The logic here is truly mind boggling – we can’t know what’s going on because the banks would fail if they were forced to disclose that they don’t really have any money and should have failed a long time ago if we actually had a “free market”. They are nothing but giant tapeworms sucking the life out of all of us at this point.

    Let them fail already. How hard is it to start new banks who agree top play by the rules or simply transfer customer accounts to existing banks who haven’t engaged in the duplicity these ‘ too big to fail’ banks did? Why are these option not even being considered?

    • cometman permalink*
      August 27, 2009 10:48 am

      The Financial Times is starting to ask the right questions at least – Overmighty finance levies a tithe on growth.

      The protracted debate over how to clean up after the financial crisis – and how to reform our accident-prone financial system to prevent another such episode – is stuck on the problem of how to regulate markets without undermining the benefits they bring.

      What is sorely missing is any real discussion of what function our financial system is supposed to perform and how well it is doing that job – and, just as important, at what cost.

      The crucial role of the financial system in a mostly free-enterprise economy is to allocate capital investment towards the most productive applications. The energetic growth and technological advance of the western economies suggest that our financial system has done this job pretty well over long periods. The role of start-up companies in this process – Apple, Microsoft, Google and many others – testifies to the success not just of our entrepreneurs, but our financial markets, too. The financially triggered Great Recession of 2008 blemishes this record but does not wipe it away.

      Not sure I agree that Microsoft has been quite such a smashing success – they have stifled a lot of innovation and crushed competition precisely because they have so much money to throw around. But the premise of the article is spot on – the finance industry, like any other industry, is supposed to benefit all of us and not just operate to extract money from the rest of us while providing little or nothing in return. The author is a little timid with the conclusions however –

      What makes a more efficient financial system worthwhile is not just that it allows us to achieve greater production and economic growth, but that the rest of the economy benefits. The more the financial system costs to run, the higher the hurdle. Does the increased efficiency our investment allocation system delivers meet that hurdle? We simply do not know.

      I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the financial system has NOT benefited the rest of the economy in recent years. Wages are stagnant or dropping, people are losing their jobs and their homes, etc precisely because of the actions of the banksters and the financial industry. Time for a complete overhaul. Either that or the whole thing will collapse eventually. Ponzi schemes don’t go on forever and people are starting to get wise.

  10. cometman permalink*
    August 28, 2009 11:13 am

    Interesting take on the intertwined economies of China and the US from zerohedge. The author seems to think that China has already tried and failed to create its own middle class that would be big enough to pick up the slack once they stop financing us and thus they are still highly dependent on the US and both will go down in flames together.

    And any concerns that China may stop purchasing US securities are, unfortunately, groundless – China can ill afford to push the US middle class into a greater savings mode, and thus will cooperate as much as it can with the Federal Reserve in keeping both mortgages (for the illusory net wealth effect) and interest rates as low as possible for as long as it can. However, this being simply another fiat-funded bubble, and due to its Ponzi nature, a much more vicious one, the second this symbiosis ends for whatever unforeseen reason, the impact on China, and by implication on the US, will reverberate throughout monetary and fiscal policies and likely result in civil unrest both in the US and China, once Walmart can no longer provide cheap garbage to satisfy the American demand for constant credit-financed unneeded products, and once the China GDP illusion of minimum 8% growth is popped, resulting in an end to the Communist-Capitalist hybrid experiment.

    While I do think this experiment of running economies as Ponzi schemes will go down in flames, I’m not so sure it will be as bad for China as it is for us. Several of the commenters there seem to agree. We’ll find out soon enough if they’re right or not.

  11. cometman permalink*
    August 29, 2009 8:56 am

    Nice review of the latest performance of Wagner’s Ring cycle by the Seattle Opera. The author likens the plot to the current credit crisis and brings up a bit of irony regarding the ecological aspects:

    What this credit crisis masks, however, is a deeper imbalance in the natural world. The gold has been extracted from the bosom of Mother Earth and she is not happy the damage done her figure. In the Ring moral degeneration and environmental degradation are equivalent: no ecology is deeper than Wagner’s. Greed and lust threaten not only individual players but human existence itself.

    This ecological message lurks and lurches behind the current revival of Stephen Wadsworth’s Ring in Seattle, since 1975 a thriving outpost of the Wagner cult on the Western edge of the New World. The cycle has been performed three times this August. But deep ecology hardly counts as something new, since it was spawned in the forests of 19th-century Germany.

    I always get a kick out of these feel-good nods to the sanctity of nature, especially in such a grandiose medium as opera. The massive fir trunks rising towards the unseen primordial forest canopy in the first opera, Das Rheingold, in the current Seattle Ring, are indeed impressive. But one can’t help but revel in the irony that the President-Elect of the Seattle Opera Board of Trustees is none other than Dr. William T. Weyerhaeuser, the scion of America’s most notorious clear-cutting family, one responsible for logging off untold acres of the very Northwest rainforest depicted now on the Seattle opera stage. That the Weyerhaeusers have already given their name and a small fraction of their money to the University of Washington Press’s series of Environmental Books will have prepared many for the tortured paths these and other violators of nature navigate in pursuit of their own exculpation. Having Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books is something like Custer Studies in Ethnology. When he’s not at his box at the opera, Dr. Weyerhaeuser sits on the boards of pulp and paper companies, Clearwater and the scandalously-named Potlatch Corporation.

    Can’t we do anything anymore without the involvement of these corporate assholes?

  12. cometman permalink*
    August 30, 2009 9:59 am

    Humans strike back against tobacco hornworms! Soon they will be zombies that do our bidding.

    Scientists Aram J. Chung and David Erickson are using a novel approach to controlling flying insects: injecting them with different amounts of various venoms in order to control their metabolisms which in turn could control their movements.

    Chung and Erickson implanted Tobacco hornworm pupae with microfluid devices. The devices inject the moths with different kinds of venom (insect, spider, and synthetic insecticides). The scientists then studied the different venoms’ effects on the moths metabolisms and thus on their movements. Their experiment showed that they could indeed speed up or slow down the moths’ using the venom. Presumably the different venoms could be used on one wing or another or the moth in whole in order to control its motion precisely.

    Chung and Erickson then designed a new microfluid device, one that injected themselves with large amounts of alcohol in order to erase the memories and feelings of immorality associated with outfitting larval creatures with devices that inject them with different kinds of venom. It’s a vicious cycle, really.

    They wouldn’t feel nearly as guilty about it all if one of these monsters had scared the crap out of them while eating half of their tomato crop :P

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