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Saturday, 14 January 2012

I'm worn out!

I will have more to say about this monster a bit later, but he
(or she) is curiously relevant to item 2, Curious Minds.
I did the sums, two days ago. That was when I realised that once again, I have no less than six books in the production cycle.  This is not unusual when writing is what you so for a living.

1.  Australian Backyard Naturalist, which is at the printer, but still needs stuff for the publicity people and work on the notes for teachers who may want to use the book in the classroom.  It isn't a textbook, but there are lots of ideas that teachers can run with, if they are pointed out;

2.  Curious Minds, which is with the editor and requires no action from me right now, except that I am always finding things I can use, of which more later;

3.  The Price of our Hunger for Gold, (working title).  This is a history of the Australian gold rushes from a social and environmental perspective, and it is about a quarter written and stopped while I do some more research;

4. Another book that I am about to pitch to a publisher, about strange inventions.  I'm cleaning up the text, just in case I get lucky;

5.  Another book that I am scoping and planning at the moment, on environmental themes; and

6.  A book project that I am scoping and planning on contract.

So what do you do when you are overloaded?

If you have any sense, in an Australian summer, especially when it is a cool and rainy day, you go walking.

We headed off with friends into a bit of wilderness outside of Sydney, where I got this shot which contains some interesting details that  may prove rather relevant to item 5.

I also picked up this shot of rain drops on Eucalyptus leaves, on a ridge, some 300 metres above the sea.

I will need to look further into this: I suspected at first that it is something to do with the oils in Eucalyptus leaves, but I have never seen it before.

After thinking about it, in all probability, it is more to do with the waxy layer on the leaves, because they are technically xerophytes, plants that do well in dry conditions.

I am a botanist by original training, but there's always new stuff to discover!  Incidentally, on a 15-kilometre walk, I managed to spot no less than 50 species of wildflowers in bloom, which isn't bad.

Here's a closer shot of those leaves, which may help the non-botanist to see why I am curious about why the water is forming droplets like this and not falling off the leaves.

All I can say for now is More Research Needed.

Now back to my monster, as seen above.  I knew this beastie as soon as our two companions found it and showed it to me. I even knew its common name, though until I got home and looked it up, I didn't know its eminent place in Australian biological history.

The last time I saw one of these was in a practical examination in Zoology II in 1967, when we were asked to give as much as we could of its classification. The main point of the question was to see whether we students could spot that this strange animal was a beetle, but my answer was succinct and to the point, because at the start of the year, I had been shown dozens of specimens of this insect by a co-worker. I wrote:

"Coleoptera, Curculionidae, Chrysolopus spectabilis, alias Diamond Beetle".

That might have been the end of my tale, but  I was having a senior moment when I was writing this, I couldn't recall whether the genus was Chrysolopus (correct) or Chrysolophus (wrong), and in looking it up, I learned that the first specimen was taken by Sir Joseph Banks, one of my Curious Minds, at Botany Bay in 1770.  This is why the title I have added to the picture above is "Botany Bay Diamond Beetle or Diamond Weevil".

To be precise, this species was one of just five insects collected (the others were an ant, a butterfly and two flies), so it was one of the very first insects ever collected in Australia.

To the single-minded, everything eventually becomes grist for the mill!!

Tomorrow, it is expected to be raining again, but we will walk later in the week: rainy days make photography problematical.  When we go, I am sure to find something to write about, and I will be going prepared, because all sorts of interesting things come out when the ground is wet.  Writing should also be about having fun and enjoying new discoveries!

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