Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ice Age-O-Rama!

Once, long ago, I studied anthropology. But even then I secretly wished it was paleontology. Eventually I ended up with a degree in zoology. I want there to be some way to make "zoo keeper" rhyme with all of that, but alas. I guess I'll have to just get to my point instead...

Which is just that I am still very much interested in paleontology. Almost as interested as I am in living tapirs. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that there is going to be a talk about ice age tapirs at a museum (sort of) within driving distance of my home!

Hopefully I can get the day off work and actually attend. If not, I'll have to content myself with factoids from the internet. For instance, did you know that the skull of a 1.8 million year old giant sloth was just unearthed in Palm Springs? Just picture it: a 12 foot tall sloth roaming the desert, maybe pausing poolside for a cool beverage... Too bad I never got that paleontology degree. If I had, I would know that the California landscape looked very different during the Pleistocene. Maybe I should just content myself with one of these 3-D ground sloth puzzles from the Tapir and Friends Animal Store instead.

Or I could buy myself some jewelry, like this tiny bronze Smilodon skull. Forget diamonds. Real women prefer tiny reproductions of fossils. At least, that's what this woman prefers. Hey, maybe I could wear it to the tapir talk!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meet the Bar-pouched Hornbill

Is that a dinosaur? What is that thing? Does it bite?

These are the three questions I hear most often about our bar-pouches (Rhyticeros undulatus). Well, to be fair, that last question is the most frequently asked question about any zoo animal anywhere. The answers?

1.) No
2.) A hornbill
3.) Yes, but not often. Which is a good thing, because it would really hurt.

Guests are understandably curious about these big birds. After all, there are only something like six of them in the US, so most folks have never seen one before. And they really are remarkable. The males may weigh up to eight pounds, which is quite large for a bird! They are LOUD too, vocalizing with a sort of rough whining laugh, knocking and thumping with their beaks on wood or metal, and flying with an audible rush of wind through their giant wings.

In the wild they can be found in forests from north-eastern India through south-east Asia. They are omnivores, eating mostly fruit, but occasionally consuming some small animal-based protein. Their bills aren't quite as solid as they look, but are still quite a lot to carry on the end of their faces. For this reason all hornbills have their first two vertebrae fused, providing a more stable platform for their tremendous beaks.

Another odd thing about hornbills in general is the way in which they raise their young. The female enters a cavity in a cliff or a tree, prepares the area inside, and then begins to "mud up" the entry. When she's done there is only a narrow slit left, just big enough to for the male to pass food through. And that's just what he does, sometimes for months on end. It's quite a burden on him, since he has to feed his mate not only while she sits on the eggs, but also while the baby matures after hatching. And of course, he has to bring enough food to feed the new kid too! If you look closely at the photo at the left, you can just barely make out our female's beak poking out of the tiny slit near the top. Hopefully they'll have a baby this year. That would bring the total up to seven bar-pouched hornbills in the US!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Super Show!

This month was supposed to be awesome. This was supposed to be the month we took not one, but two comic book conventions by storm. Emerald City in Seattle was first, and it was, indeed, awesome. Next up is Super Show, in Reading, PA, this coming weekend. But I won't be there after all, which is decidedly less than awesome for me.

But I will be there in spirit. And better yet, Gabriel will be there in person! He will be toting all of the stuff that it took two of us to tote last time, and he will be toting it a lot farther all by himself. So let's hear it for Gabriel Hardman! He will be doing sketches for $40 each at the show. If you would like to request one you might want to give him a tweet @gabrielhardman soon, since he already has 13 people on the list. He will also have copies of his new sketchbook for sale, as well as original pages.

Meanwhile, I will be at work all weekend, a prospect not nearly as fun as attending the Con. I mean, "Super" is even in the title. It isn't like this is the "Meh, It's Only Okay" Show. It's the Super Show! Is work ever called super? No!

My only consolation is that I will be able to keep a close eye on Fredo Cat, who is recovering from pancreatitis. He is currently taking four different pills with each meal in addition to his normal dose of insulin. Plus, he had to get his abdomen shaved for the ultrasound which diagnosed his illness. Having the pet sitter in might make him self conscious about his naked belly. Maybe I should let him think that I'm staying home just for him...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Emerald City Comic Con, the Wrap-Up

After experiencing my very first Emerald City Comic Con I have only one thing to say: fantastic!

Truly, this is the way a con should be. And I'm not just saying that because we sold out of our graphic novel Heathentown. I'm saying it because ECCC is all about the comics. There were tons of interesting creators to meet, interesting fans to talk to, and nice people in cool hats with great hair. Pacific Northwest Comics Community, I have to admit to being a little bedazzled. I know my name was spelled wrong on the banner attached to our table, but everyone was so sweet about everything I couldn't hold a grudge.

Gabriel was kept very busy signing his page in Monsters and Dames, the ECCC limited edition art book which was being sold to benefit a children's hospital. He also did a ton of sketches. I love this one in particular:
It was great to spend time with some of the creators from Periscope Studios in Portland, including Jeff Parker, Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, and Jeremy Barlow. I'm still plowing my way through all the books we bought in Seattle, but allow me to recommend the trade of Mysterius the Unfathomable written by Jeff with art by Tom Fowler. You won't be disappointed!

I was also amazed to meet several people who admit to reading this very blog! Sure, I love writing it, but what a thrill to know that someone is actually reading the darn thing. So a big thank you to everyone out there who does, especially Sigrid Ellis, a fellow blogger over at Fantastic Fangirls who was the first person at the show to mention it to me and an all around nice person.

We managed to see a little of Seattle too, including an expensive dip into Elliot Bay Books, my favorite North American book shop, and a tour of the famous underground city. Here's a view of one of those strange glass sections of sidewalk from below.

I can't even complain about our hotel. I mean, look at this view!

In short, we had a great time and we're already planning our next trip to the Emerald City in 2011 when the show is rumored to be three days long. Hear that, ECCC? You have a whole year to learn how to spell my name!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Emerald City, Here We Come

Guess what? Chicken butt!

Okay, not really. Maybe I'm still stuck on that last chicken post. Let's try again...

Guess what? Gabriel and I are going to be at Emerald
City Comicon next weekend in Seattle! We'll be holding down a table in Artist Alley. Table J-04, to be exact, but you can also find us in the program under either Gabriel Hardman or Corinna Bechko. We'll be selling copies of our graphic novel Heathentown and Gabriel's new sketchbook. Gabriel will be available to do sketches at the show too. If you would like one, he's taking pre-orders at $40 until Thursday evening. Tweet him @gabrielhardman. He'll do the sketches at the show, but if you wait to order one there it will be $45. Gabriel also did a piece for the Monsters and Dames charity book, so check that out! It's really cool, and it's for a good cause.

In short, if you happen to be in Seattle this coming weekend and like comic books, stop in and see us! We'd love to meet you in person. We'll even give you a Heathentown button.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And the Second Winner is...

That's right, a winner has been chosen! Who did the choosing? In the interest of random fairness, the universe was consulted. How did I contact the universe? With a random number generator that claims to use the background static of the cosmos to pull numbers out of thin air. Yay, chaos!

Anyway, the universe has spoken, and since there were only 30 entries it couldn't use its fallback answer of 42. Instead, the universe chose entry number 20. Tyler, step right up and claim your prize!

Tyler had a choice between a pair of earrings and a tiny beaded bottle (here's the post if you want to see what she won). She picked the bottle, so congratulations to Tyler! She has a blog too, so stop by and say "hi"! Or, better yet, check out her cute etsy shop. She has gadget cozies like this one for only $6, and the proceeds go towards her college education.

Many thanks to everyone who entered. These give away posts are a lot of fun for me, so I'm planning on doing another one soon. If anyone has any ideas on what they would like to win I'm open to suggestions. Sorry, I don't have any money or trips to Europe just sitting around, but feel free to browse my shop for inspiration.

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