Terrarium 1

widow and hornet

Of the inhabitants in Terrarium 1, none have had official names. Any suggestions are welcome.

first day with terrarium

The original purpose of purchasing a 14$ wahl mert aquarium was to retain moisture around the Venus fly trap. I soon added a small circular container with a perforated plastic/rubber lid with 3 locally grown peaches (from my neighbor).

Life box behind black widow

This “life box” provided many fruit flies for consumption of the Venus fly trap as well as later editions to the terrarium “world”.

These include jumping spiders, grasshoppers, box elder beetles, crab spiders, an orb weaver, a black widow, a velvet long-horned beetle, caterpillars, common beetles, house flies, and probably several more.

rose orb weaver venus fly trap
orb weaver rose venus fly trap

So, as I mentioned none of the spiders have had names. And honestly my two favorites have already passed on. The two jumping spiders were by far the most consistently entertaining to watch in a terrarium environment. But one died of possible starvation via misunderstanding, and the other was eaten by the Venus fly trap (if you look really close you can technically see him/her in the 2nd rose picture).

However, I am considering “8” as a good name for the black widow. Wha tchu thank? 8 is having a great day today, as you could see up top. I wonder if spiders get bonus crazy-juice points for eating something that’s potentially lethal.

orb weaver and bee

Don’t worry, I didn’t leave the orb weaver out. She got a nice bee from me.

So now my main concern is about my arachnid responsibilities. I have saved these spiders from destruction. Each were rescues, from spray, eviction/crushing, and then the approaching elements of winter. (The jumping spiders were captures)

But what now? I certainly cannot release them into the winter and expect survival. Insects are becoming less ubiquitous. This is my current question of terrarium care.

“It Takes a Man to Make That”

I once volunteered to perform a violin/piano duet for the Mission Training Center (MTC) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sao Paulo Brazil. I was 24 years old at the time. It was a huge devotional with the presiding bishop of the church visiting from Salt Lake City Utah. He was to be the keynote speaker.

The purpose of the musical number was to bring the spirit of reverence and introspection into the room and into the hearts of all in attendance regardless of their primary language.

I had played the cello, stand up bass, and electric bass guitar in middle and high school in orchestra and Jazz band. But I had never really learned to read music well and had never played the violin. I figured that it would be pretty much the same as the bass but smaller, and that I could just memorize the piece beforehand as I had done throughout high school. I was wrong.

Problems started during our 1 week of practice as we found spare time between our classes on teaching the gospel (proselyting) and learning the portuguese language. My companion (each missionary had a companion with them at almost all times as we worked as missionaries in pairs), Elder Blanchard (“elder” being a title such as doctor or professor followed by the missionary’s last name) played a little bit of piano but was not known for his skills on the keys. I had trouble choosing the right key, and we made adaptations to make the piece easier for us to try and play together.

I don’t know why we thought we could do it. It wasn’t a joke or prank. Maybe we were learning so much about faith and miracles that we just figured it would work out. The day came and we started to play. Because of all the attempts to make it easier I think we were playing in slightly different keys. Some of our sounds seemed to match up but others did not. As a room full of hundreds of American and Brazilian missionaries, including the MTC president, medical staff, the presiding bishop and their wives sat silently and stupefied we played “Come follow me” occasionally in different keys and with all the screechy terrible sounds of novice playing a small string instrument in a auditorium.

Our rendition resembled a hundred-car pileup on the highway. The destruction seemed to be unending and no one had the power to stop it. I could see the bewildered faces of the presiding bishop, those around him, and the horrified face of the MTC president’s wife (who was in charge of organizing the musical talent). Most of those present couldn’t look up at all. What was worse was that it was close enough to the song that everyone knew what we were trying to play, and must have assumed that we were so nervous that we were tripping all over ourselves. No one had known that I didn’t know how to play the violin in the first place. Likely, because why would anyone ever volunteer to do something like this who didn’t know how to do so, and never had performed on the violin? The MTC president’s wife never even heard us practice, likely for the same reason: why would someone volunteer for something they absolutely could not do?

That’s the question you know? That’s the mystery we are left with.

That “performance” was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. The situation actually sounds like it could be a common trope for nightmares. As the veins pulsed in my forehead and my body shook I worried that an aneurysm or panic attack was imminent.

We finished the “song”, went and sat down, and time passed as blur until the devotional ended and I was approached by a Brazilian missionary. He casually beelined over to me, looked me in the eye and said in beginners english:

“It takes a man to make that.”


By the way, there were plenty of other missionaries that could have played any number of instruments for that devotional. Since musicians were not scarce it was even more bewildering as to why I had volunteered in the first place. Since that experience, a new rule was instituted that all musical performances had to be previewed and pre-approved prior to the performance at the Sao Paulo Mission Training Center.

Minimum Wage Bakery

A lesson in time management.

So this was when I was about 22. I had two full-time jobs. I was a window washer in Fond Du Lac Wisconsin and I was working at a sandwich shop in Oshkosh Wisconsin. While working both of those full-time jobs I decided to get another job at a bakery… I guess it was just a real good time to get jobs. I liked baking and had some experience baking scones. 

I quickly realized there was a lot less baking involved than I had imagined. Basically my job was to put little dough slugs onto a pans and move the pans. Those slugs were going to be baked into hot dog buns. I spent my day standing up, leaning forward, lifting metal trays of dough slugs, and twisting with them. 

My dad is a physical therapist. He told me that the BEST way to get a back injury is to be standing, leaning forward, lifting something, and twisting with it. Which is exactly what I did for my whole shift.  My dad explained that that’s what UPS drivers do for most of their day and they are a large number of his physical therapy clients [at that time].

So I knew that I was doing exactly what I needed to do, to ruin my back. But that’s not a big deal, you know? I figured I’d move my way up in the bakery world? I mean working at a sandwich shop you’re not really going to go anywhere with that perhaps. And window washers, well they’ll all fall to their death eventually. (It wasn’t a high rise job but that’s where you’d move up to, I assume, in that career. So I figured a bakery was a good way to go. I was no stranger to hard work or back pain 🙂 And I think baking’s cool because it’s like the metallurgy of the cooking world.

I saw at least one cockroach in the sink supply room. This is Wisconsin btw. Cockroaches aren’t super common, because it’s cold sometimes yo. So you have to be pretty dirty to have cockroaches in Wisconsin. Which that bakery was. 

I worked there for a week and I got my first paycheck. Then I realized I had never asked what I was getting paid. I figured since it was such a labor intensive job (throughout the whole shift) that the pay must be pretty good, but it was pretty not. The pay was crap. I was getting minimum wage ($5.15ish at the time) which is a lot less than either of my other jobs. Definitely less than both combined. So as soon as I looked at that paycheck I politely quit, right then and there. That was the only time I never gave 2 weeks notice. Because holy crap how can you pay someone that little for that much work?

Okay, so about the other two full-time jobs. I pretty much got fired from the window washing job. I mean I came in to quit. And that’s when they were going to fire me. So it was kind of a tie. But I mean, obviously I had gotten really far behind on my window washing route. It was in a city 20-25 minutes away, I already had a full-time job at a sandwich shop, and a part-time job at a disgusting Bakery for crappy pay. But the sandwich shop that I worked at was going to throw away these two gallon jugs of Dawn dish soap because something happened, and they bought them in industrial size bottles before they got something installed in the wall that dispenses soap. And now they gotta get rid of the dish soap. Well, I happened to know that window washing place I worked for used Dawn dish soap for all the window washer stuff. 

OK, back to the tie. So I’m coming in and they’re all there. And they say 

Hey, we got to let you know that you’re really far behind on your stuff, and your route…

And they’re all looking at me. So I say, 

Hey, I… have a different full-time job and a part time job at a bakery right now. Turns out that’s too much stuff to do. I’m so sorry, do you guys need 2 weeks notice? 

And the boss said no, we were actually going to fire you right now… 

So I said great, okay, no hard feelings here’s 2 gallons of dish soap that you guys use; that’s kind of cool right? 

They were like oh thanks. 

So that went pretty well. 

I don’t know if it was before after that, but I became a manager at the sub sandwich place. So, Movin On Up in the world. 


The Smoking Contest

I used to make videos when I was younger for funsies. They were very simple and very few people saw them so we just did whatever we wanted. I became friends with Brandon who’s actually a very skilled videographer and editor. Because I liked making stupid films and Brandon actually knew how, we made several films together over the years.

The Smoking Contest was an idea for a video in which two guys decide that they’re going to smoke and exercise until one of them dies–the one who dies wins. They win money.

Brandon filmed, edited, and directed the video, and he played it on a local public TV station where he volunteered. Apparently people we knew saw it and thought it was a statement piece against smoking and the dangers of smoking.

Well truth be told that was not our original intent. It was just something cool we wanted to do. Thanks to friends like Brandon, when I got obsessed about putting an idea on film we could make it happen. No matter how dumb it sounded. And no matter how dumb it truly was.

Shane and I were the smokers in the film, Brandon and our friend Jordan were the trainers/coaches who yelled at us to smoke harder. So basically for a whole day we had to take shot after shot of us doing intense physical exercise while actually smoking cigarettes. Not just holding them in our mouths, but actively smoking. Because we didn’t have special effects, the only way to commit to the idea and make it look real was to literally spend hours simultaneously smoking while exercising vigorously.

We ran as we smoked. We biked as we smoked. We did push-ups and pull-ups and chin-ups as we smoked. We fried cigarettes and carrots in a frying pan as we smoked. For one shot I had to get as much smoke as I could into my lungs and then yell long and loud, take after take, so that smoke would be coming out in thick clouds while I yelled.

It was horrible. Cigarettes are disgusting. And although Shane and I were regular smokers during that period of time he quit smoking immediately after filming. I quit soon after.

If you or your loved ones would like to witness and be inspired by the smoking contest (original footage) please follow this link below:


Once I was a Boy Scout in Wisconsin. It was great. For some merit badge we had to build a shelter out of stuff from the woods. Our troop didn’t earn a lot of merit badges but for some reason we decided to get this one. Our scouts were known for things like bringing more boxes of matches than underwear. We all had multiple boxes of “strike anywhere” matches and would sit around the fire flicking them at each other so they would ignite in midair. We had many shorts and lawn chairs with burn holes in them.

 Since the Boy Scout motto is “be prepared” we waited until the last day to get it done. Instead of making our own shelters (like we were supposed to) we decided it would be easier to do one big one together so we could all get the credit with minimal effort. The scout leaders were so happy we were doing anything they agreed that it would count.

Our plan was a tepee covered in fern bushes. After we set some logs against each other, we needed mounds of ferns. To speed up the process we cut them at the stem instead of cutting them at the frond. It was faster to stick the fern bushes in stem first (as if the log gaps were vases) than to lay the fern fronds lengthwise across them. By then the rain was already falling. 

We were supposed to sleep on the ground and things seemed to be going pretty good until we saw rain water pooling around our tepee floor. We waited until the leaders went to bed and snuck some cots in the tepee. Problem solved. But not really. A completely soaked cot and sleeping bag woke me up at about 3am. I realized that plants, by nature’s design, are shaped to catch as much water as possible then funnel that water to themselves. The way we placed them between the logs caused the ferns to funnel rain into the teepee. This may have caused us to get even wetter than we would have if we had just slept outside. Nobody wanted to wimp out after wasting all afternoon building, so nobody left the shelter. 

Our determination did not pay off. We did not get that merit badge for several reasons. As mentioned, we totally cheated by using cots. And, as it turns out we were only allowed to use materials that were already dead, as opposed to recklessly harvesting Wisconsin’s bounty. Usable materials were old dead trees or branches that had already fallen off. Not only did we cut down somewhere between 50-100 newly growing fern bushes, we also felled a whole living tree for the center support. We needed a center support because none of us could lash well enough to make a real teepee.

Cutting down a living tree is super against the rules for the merit badge for the camp, and just for life in general. You can’t just cut down trees, that’s usually illegal. Plus we were only supposed to use our personal knife, not an axe. When the leaders found us,  we had already chopped through half of it (the tree wouldn’t survive after that). They compromised by saying we could use it as long as we didn’t use the hatchet anymore. Maybe they thought we’d give up. But instead we had one of the scouts climb up as high as he could and the rest of us rocked it back and forth until it broke and he fell. As I said, we did not get that merit badge.

2 Plymouth Breezes Pass in the Afternoon

I drive a peeling red 1998 Plymouth Breeze. I did buy it on purpose, it was not a hand-me-down car. It is the second Plymouth I have owned. Please don’t do this to yourself unless your only other option is a Saturn.

Over the last 8 years, my kind friend Ryjan and I have fixed almost every part of this squeaky doored, crooked belted, Chrysler embarrassment. It’s not an easy car to work on due to its strange design and poor quality. For example, the car battery is in the wheel well and you have to jack it up and remove a tire to get to it. It has power steering. That is its only feature. No power locks, windows, not even anti-lock brakes.

One day in 2018, I was driving in a neighboring city when my phone’s gps routed me through an area I had never been before. While going around a curve I saw another red Plymouth Breeze coming from the other direction. It quickly caught my attention, because I have rarely seen even a similar model/year of the Breeze since I have owned it. It wasn’t a very desirable car when I bought it in 2010. It probably wasn’t even a desirable car in 1998. I have put a lot of work into keeping this thing running, and by 2018 I had good reason to believe that I was the only person who still had a functioning version of this crappy car. In fact, I cannot recall a single instance when I saw the same car in the same color as my red Breeze. Once I realized what I was seeing I looked closer and could see the clear coat peeling off the red paint of the other car. Just like mine. I felt like I was somehow seeing myself.  A rare glimpse of what I look like while going about my day to day in my stupid old car.

As we passed each other it was apparent that my identical car had caught the other driver’s attention as well. We both had our heads turned with slightly puzzled looks on our faces. We both had medium beards. One of us was bald.

After we passed I stuck my arm out the window to give him a wave of solidarity, like I used to give other motorcyclists back when I was cool. As I did, I looked at the rear view mirror and saw he was already waving to me too.

Normally I wouldn’t have the windows down because the air conditioning technically still works. But I had manually rolled them down because it was a really hot day – high 90s – and sometimes the car dies when it’s too hot and I run the A/C. Since we passed and were out of each other’s sight so quickly, I wondered if he had the same situation as I, and therefore already had his windows down with time to wave as well.

I also wondered if he had spent hours and hours fixing his Breeze. Since many mechanics won’t work on a car so old and rusted out. They always say, “if we try to fix this we’ll just end up breaking something else in the process.” And that’s true. Every time I fix the car I break something else and have to fix that too.

I wondered If he saw my bald head and thought he was getting a glimpse of his future. A future where he had lost his hair, but somehow still had that terrible car.

Shart Support

At this time in my life I was working Technical Support over the phone for H&R Block. I hadn’t yet gotten to the point with my Crohn’s disease to be full-on pooping my pants. However, I was perpetually on the brink of shatting myself on a fairly regular basis.

To protect my underpants I usually wore one of my wife’s feminine pads. But on this day I had forgotten to wear one. I was sitting at my semi-cubicle and like usual I had to pass some gas.

I don’t ever hold in my flatulence. I have enough intestinal discomfort naturally, I don’t need to add to it by trying to be polite. So I farted, as per usual.

And I shat my pants; as happens on occasion.  It would normally be fine. I just would go clean up in the bathroom and put in a fresh pad.  On occasion some mess gets outside the pad. In those cases, I would either just get another pair of clothes from my car, or just try to clean up as much as possible and then just stuff a bunch of paper towels in my pants. You know, like most people do.

But this time there was a lot of intestinal mucus mixed in. By the way, a Crohn’s shart is mostly intestinal mucus that smells like poop. This time there was enough that it went all the way through my underwear, pants, and into the call center’s padded chair they provided me.

So I called my supervisor over to let him know what happened and I ask what we should do. I figured they would clean the chair or something but he just wheeled it outside and tossed it in the dumpster.

That’s the whole story. I shat my pants, it leaked all the way into my chair, and they threw it away.


Later on, in that same company I was promoted into workforce management. I was charged with giving an introduction to the new hire classes about our department. For an icebreaker I would ask for everybody’s most embarrassing (work appropriate) story. I frequently set the bar high by telling this one.  

It seemed like a good choice, since I had never met any of these people before and I was supposed to make a good impression for the company. But let me tell you, on occasion one of these brand new employees would tell something even more embarrassing than I to this group of people they just met, and their new manager. And they were my heroes.

Naked in the Rain

One time I decided to go streaking. I was with my friend Joseph and we lived near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was one of those warm evening summer thunderstorms that would inspire even Thor to bare his cheeks.

No, there weren’t any girls with us. And no, we hadn’t been drinking. I don’t know why we did it. I remember that I wanted to. But I don’t know why Joe came with me. What a great guy.

It was obviously a bit awkward because, even though we were in an instrumental funk band together, we had never seen each other naked. And, as far as I know we still haven’t. At least, I didn’t look at him and I assume he didn’t look at me. Although I did see a photo that his ex-girlfriend took of him doing a naked kickflip in a hotel hallway in Barcelona.

Did we streak past the college dorms? Yes we did. Were there sexy college girls there impressed with our manhoods? No there weren’t. This was during the annual EAA convention. (The Experimental Aircraft Association). That is the week that Oshkosh’s population goes from 60,000 to 300,000. And I believe it’s during spring break or in between semesters, so the dorms were full of old men who love aviating. I saw a couple of them walking to their rented rooms. They were super old, and really into airplanes.

So, I was a sober 20 year old, streaking with his bandmate in front of old dudes in dorms. To be truthful it felt kind of gay.

Besides that, it felt amazing. I had never streaked before and I came to realize that it’s not all about the exhibitionism (at least not for me). I felt natural and free. That sounds stupid. But it was something like that. Especially during the lightning and the rain.

When Joe and I got back to the house, we didn’t talk about it. And we never have.

Weiners Ole’!

I want to share a recipe that my mom got from her mom. It’s jam packed with sodium, almost all the ingredients come from cans, and it is topped with hot dogs. It’s called Weiners Ole’.

You will need several of “cream of” cans; such as cream of potato or cream of mushroom soup. The can should have at least 800 milligrams of salt per serving. Mix that with a couple of cans of sliced potatoes (not fresh potatoes), and canned green beans.

Then add the piece of resistance; take a handful of hot dogs, slice then the long way, and delicately place them on top in a fancy pattern or shape. (If you have small hands, get two handfuls.)

Bake that mess, probably, at 350. Basically, by the time the hot dogs are starting to curl up it’s good. All that stuff in there has been cooked already so the cook time is up to you.

This delightful fall and springtime delicacy can be cooked in a glass hot dish or a cast iron dish. My momma puts it into a stoneware dish because we classy like that.

As mentioned, once those hot dogs are curled you got yourself a big fat helping of carbs, fat, crude protein and sodium that the kids will love. But only when they are kids. They’ll crave the texture of baked hot dogs until they realize it is stunting their growth, receding their hairlines, and supporting terrorists.

I probably cannot eat this anymore, but maybe you can?


The concept of “hot dish” is apparently foreign outside of the Midwest. I did not know that other places don’t have “hot dish”; or maybe they call it something else. But in Wisconsin we put whatever we got in a casserole pan and it becomes hot dish. In my family’s case it’s Wieners Ole’!

Birthday Tea from Me

     It was coming up to be my birthday. Some people don’t like to celebrate their birthdays, but I love to make a big deal out of it.

     I was turning 22 or 23 (it doesn’t really matter after 21) and I decided that I was going to have a tea party. I had been doing self-taught calligraphy and buying weird old tea sets from thrift shops in the area. Therefore, I had all the makings for a fancy tea party with fancy invitations.

     My band mates, I, and another musician, lived in a tiny house on a tiny street. There were 4 of us total. Each of us had our own room. Mine was the back room with the water heater. It was so small I put up ceiling corner hammocks (normally used for extensive stuffed animal collections) to hold my clean and dirty clothes.

     The Lincoln house, as it was called, was a great place to live. It wasn’t unusual for us to be drinking, smoking pot, or jamming (that means playing music). And so this tea party was obviously going to be more than just drinking tea–especially since it was going to be my birthday.

     I bought some fancy cards to make the invitations, and did all the invitations by hand with my calligraphy pens. On the back of all of them I splattered ink so that when you put all the invitations on the floor together they would all fit together like a puzzle. I also gathered my European and Japanese tea sets.

     I invited. I think,  8-10 people. It wasn’t going to be a big party like we normally had. And I wanted to make sure that people didn’t come that weren’t invited. This gathering was going to be a bit different. It was crucial that I knew exactly who was eating these scones and drinking this tea. Because… I baked hallucinogenic mushrooms into the scones.