Friday, April 27, 2007

Herp Friday: Broadhead Skink, Eumeces laticeps

This broadhead skink, Eumeces laticeps, has been seen hanging around my house several times in the last few weeks. I was able to get some extreme close-ups of it one day when it was cool outside and he was a little sluggish. I had a fairly easy time identifying it simply based on its appearance, but to be certain, I used the key to the lizards of Arkansas contained in the excellent book, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas by Stanley Trauth et al. Here are the basic steps I went through (not numbered here as in the key but as the number of steps I took):

1. Four legs present.
2. Body scales smooth, shiny and overlapping. (That places them in the family Scincidae).
3. Frontal scale rectangle shaped; supranasal scales present (see below); lower eyelid without transparent disk. (not pictured)
4. Dorsal and lateral scales in parallel rows with the long axis of the body (2nd picture above).
5. Chin with 2 postmental scales. (not pictured)
6. Eight or nine upper labials; no postlabial or if present one or two small postlabials, the sixth labial is the first to contact the orbit (see below); maximum SVL over 85 mm (didn't measure)........Broadhead skink, Eumeces laticeps

These are relatively large lizard for this area. The adults are usually tan or brown except for the head which may turn red or orange in males during breeding season. This lizard's home range is essentially the southeastern quarter of the U.S., which overlaps with that of the Five-lined skink. These species have very similar appearances as hatchlings and can easily be confused. Some people incorrectly call broadhead skinks "scorpions", probably because they may bite if mishandled, though their bite is not poisonous.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saturday Night Live, Internet Celebrities

Last night's episode of SNL had a skit involving a talk show with the stars of some of the more popular viral videos present as guests. I had seen all but one, and was able to round up the links from my saved emails so here they are for you under one roof:

The first one can be found on YouTube as Worst Commercial Ever, another key phrase that might get you here would be, "Its just like a mini mall".

The next was the one that I hadn't seen. It is posted to YouTube as Grape Lady Falls, which is exactly what happens. After you watch that one be sure to check out the Grape Lady Music Video.

The third one was probably the one you would have a little bit more difficult time finding it you hadn't seen it and saved the link. It is on YouTube as Little Superstar. It is beyond description. It has over 5 million views on that site alone.

The last one has made it around the block a few times, This is the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the words viral video. It is none other than the Star Wars Kid. The one shown here is the original unedited footage. If you go to YouTube to view it, you can see the limitless spin-offs in the sidebar.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thoroughbred Thursday: Curlin

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This fine specimen is Curlin. He is a breed of horse, Equus caballus, known as a thoroughbred. I took this these pictures at the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas last weekend where he blew away the field and set a record for the greatest margin of victory in an Arkansas derby. He led the second place finisher, Storm in May, by 10 1/2 lengths. It looks as though this undefeated racehorse will be a favorite at the Kentucky Derby on May 5. The weather was just almost too cold for watching the races outdoors, but I managed to get outside for most of them. Luckily the rain had already passed through the day before. We had a great time. I saw Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones several times during the course of the day and even got a picture. As far as the betting goes, I didn't win but I still had some money left in my pockets on the way home so I call that a good day.

Don't forget to check out Modulator's Friday Ark.

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Toy Torture and Bad Karma

After gaining a greatly increased workload over the last few months, I began looking for ways to blow off some steam. One day, while browsing YouTube videos, I found a new pastime, called circuit bending. This is a process by which LOW-VOlTAGE, BATTERY OPERATED, electronic audio devices are short-circuited to create new musical devices or sound generators. A fellow named Reed Ghazala is one of the pioneers of this practice, he has even written a book called Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments, which is a very worthwhile read if you are interested. Some of the instruments of choice are old Speak and Spells, and Casio keyboards. I have an old Casio keyboard which I was fully prepared to exploit, but it wouldn't even turn on, so that was out. I have saved it to harvest some of its switches,circuits and potentiometers for later projects. The poor toy in the above video was my child's. It was useful to him about two years ago, but hasn't been seen since then, until I raided the storage room looking for something to tear apart and practice on. All I did was take the back off, lay out the circuit board and go along with a screwdriver in each hand (holding them by the metal parts) touching separate wires with each screwdriver, while holding a button down. When I found a good connection where the sound was altered, I soldered a wire to each spot. Then I took each wire and soldered the opposite ends to the bolts that I had screwed into the case. Now by varying the pressure, body surface and moisture level to the "body contacts", I can change the sound drastically. This is a very very simplified project compared to what other people are doing, but was still a very enjoyable waste of time. Now you ask, 'what does circuit bending have to do with bad karma?' Well, posting this video to YouTube was one of the last things I did with my laptop before it decided to bend its own hard drive ciruits in a fatal show of solidarity for its fallen electronic contemporaries.

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