Thursday, March 31, 2016



There was a time when the title to this blog would have been as oxymoronic as jumbo shrimp, military intelligence or happily married. "Excellence in Television" ... years ago that was an elusive concept.

There also was a time when I would be the last guy alive writing a blog like this. I've always been a film buff, but I've gone through periods of time as long as ten years plus when I didn't even own a TV. I am (or was) a TV hater. Idiot box. Boob tube. Wasteland. 400 channels of shit to choose from.

Then there is the Internet. Although without TV and cable for years, I'm eternally online. So, I became involved in streaming media. I discovered the rare exceptions to the TV is shit rule. Often these came as recommendations from TV using friends and family. I soon learned that film had become the medium where good movies are scarce, whereas TV had surpassed anticipated quality in writing, acting and production.

I became a BINGE WATCHER. With no TV I streamed everything and between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, etc. I could binge watch the series that friends, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes had made me aware of. I love watching episode after episode so there is a continuum of story. Since I was breeding and selling spiders until recently, I had the time while feeding slings all day, every day.

Before I get into my list of favorite television programs, which I offer up as recommendations to you, I should comment on my current use of "live" television. You see I have a very nice modern TV these days. Most of my life I didn't, but when I bought, remodeled and decorated my new house 3 years ago I decided that if I'm going to get Comcast/XFinity internet service I may as well add on cable as well. It mostly goes to waste. My monthly bill is obscene; somewhere around $174. Although I use the Internet incessantly, I can count the number of things I watch "live" on TV on one hand. I don't have a DVR, but I do have OnDemand. Therefore, in fairness, I do watch some current TV programs on delay.

The only "current" network programs I watch are:

  1. Chicago Blackhawks games
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Better Call Saul
  4. Game of Thrones
  5. UFC
  6. Barclays Premier League (real football, not American).
If I had to stretch a list a bit more:
  • Ink Master
  • Modern Family

One of the first shows I binge watched when I was all set up in my new man cave three years ago was Breaking Bad. It was odd because I think I started watching at the beginning right when the final episode aired. Or maybe I was dreaming it. But, anyway, as far as shows go, you can't do any better and I rolled right through the entire catalog. I had heard so many people talk about it that I gave it a shot and it took immediately. A show that didn't grab me right away but is a favorite up until the present is The Walking Dead. I remember seeing an episode set along a highway and it may have even been live. I caught a couple partial episodes after that, but wasn't immediately taken in. It took a few re-watches, and there were a few stretches where I almost gave up on it, but it became something special and I can't believe that next Sunday night is the season finale.

Anyway ... here's a bunch of shows I recommend (in bold), in on particular order, with or without comment:

True Detective - The first season with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey was the best television I have ever seen. I could not get into season two and the new cast.

The House of Cards - This show defines the excellence in television for which this blog entry is named. It also is the masterpiece creation of Netflix Original Series, which has produced some of the best shows ever. Season one and two were gripping and superbly twisted. Season three was somewhat less so and delved deep into the politics. Season four (just recently released) was brilliant and tied it all together so far. Sticking in the Netflix arena - let's go with the resurrected Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black, the saving and revivals of The Killing and Longmire, Bloodline, as well as partnership with the UK to bring the absolutely brilliant Sherlock, Peaky Blinders and Ricky Gervais' witty Derek.

You should know that I am a huge Gervais fan and grew up a huge John Cleese fan. British comedy has really been the only comedy for me. I am rarely a fan of American humor. When I was in my teens I watched Monty Python, Two Ronnies (RIP Ronnie Corbett who just died today - see how I tie things together?!?), Dave Allen at Large, Fawlty Towers and such. Later it was The Young 12. Gervais' original The Office and Extras has been watched over and over. MI5, Skins, Coupling, etc. are all great shows. But as a huge fan of the Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington XFM radio and podcast series, I'd have to say my favorite is An Idiot Abroad, where Karl is sent to the worst spots in exotic countries to Gervais' amusement.

What else? Sons of Anarchy would be at the top. I've watched it all several times. One of the many shows I arrived to late and had to catch up with some Netflix binge watching. The Wire I discovered long after the fact and binged as well. On Amazon Prime I love Bosch. Season two's eight episodes were just put online and it didn't take me long to binge through those. Hannibal, of course. Rectify. Believe it or not, I never even had heard of 24, and then eventually binged it via Netflix. I didn't start Six Feet Under until eight or nine years after it had been off the air, but I binged and re-watched.

There were a few shows that I gave a chance to, and watched a lot of episodes of, but eventually gave up on: The Following, The Americans, and Blacklist come to mind. All were interesting initially, but eventually some combination of bad script (e.g., cheesy dialog or unbelievable scenario) and bad acting (all too common in Blacklist and The Following) would turn me sour. The Americans is the diamond in the rough. I just can't get re-interested.

Of course, some modern major network sitcoms have been outstanding. Modern Family is one of the best written and performed, extraordinarily clever and witty comedies ever. And it's American. Go figure. Parks and Recreation was also special.

Guilty pleasures? American Ninja Warrior

And perhaps my favorite TV show of all time: Law and Order. The original. All casts. Current? TWD and The Game of Thrones. Can't wait for the latter to start again in April!

There are many more and I've meandered off into new territory long enough. Just think if I got going on music ...


For over forty years I have fed little bugs to bigger bugs and rodents of all sorts to snakes and such. For geckos I used assorted arthropods and mollusks, but many are omnivorous (e.g., nectar feeders), which to leads to all sorts of concoctions of bee pollen, fruit mashes and other sticky messes. Believe me, I've used it all. I've gone through cycles of preferred prey items for my captives regardless of invertebrate or vertebrate; herbivorous, frugivorous, insectivorous, or carnivorous. Some prey item acquisition was interesting; as when I used to build termite traps in Nashville to feed my dart frogs. For those who don't know, using termites as dendrobatid food will allow the natural toxins to return to their skins. I've bred my own Zoophobas, Tenebrio, countless roach species and, of course, crickets. I've raised prey as small as D. melanogaster fruit flies and springtails to mega food like jumbo rats.

For feeding tarantulas I've always gone through phases. I've documented in many places my disgust with crickets and my allergy to them. After all, I am the author of "Crickets Suck". Yet over the decades I've always found myself returning to their use. On paper roaches are so much better, but in practical use they present their own problems, and when it comes to convenience the domestic cricket reigns supreme.

This morning a box arrived from Armstrong Crickets. Now that I am down to only 33 spiders, feeding has become a bit more problematic as I don't need a lot of prey. That makes bulk buying wasteful and raising food myself to be time and resources wasted. However, I am cool with the wastefulness of bulk buying as I can afford to splurge a bit. I weigh the cost of buying a box of 500 crickets for $18 and paying an equal amount for next day shipping (today's invoice was for $36.52) against the astronomical price of pet store crickets or the two hour round trip drive to our local little fleabag all animal show and the 30 minutes of browsing time spent. The All Animal Expo in Wheaton, IL requires 2 1/2 hours of time, a $5 entry fee and dealing with a crowded old fairgrounds hall where people sell everything from roosters to piglets to puppies to sugar gliders in addition to herps and arachnids. Fuck that. Sure I can pickup 1000 crickets for $15 ($20 if you include entry fee), but I'd rather shop the way I buy every single thing except for groceries. That is, on the Internet. (Truth be told, that last bit about groceries really just means fluids and the microwave Lean Cuisine dinners I eat because I don't really cook and frequent restaurants).

So, $36 bucks for 33 spiders it is. Once the weather is milder I'll be able to save a bit with two day shipping. At least half of the 500 crickets will be set free in my backyards. I like to watch the birds swoop in an pick some of them off. I simply cannot use 500 crickets. However, I am completely fine with spending $36 a month to feed the spiders. Fortunately, all of my spiders can be fed from one size – at least until I hatch something. Currently I order 2/3 grown. The smallest are immediately selected for the smallest spiders and I feed off as many as I can after I give them two days to gut load on the chow I offer. I give them my own homemade cricket gel (from polyacrylamide crystals I buy in bulk from - just add one 2 oz. condiment cup of crystals to one gallon of water and let sit overnight) for hydration, Fluker's cricket diet as their primary food and occasionally (actually, rarely) some thawed-frozen mixed veggies and dark greens. I clean the cricket's holding cage once a day without fail. One week from now the 2/3 grown crickets will begin to molt and become winged. At this point I will feed off as many males or females that have yet to display long ovipositors to the spiders again. I feed my spiders very heavy [as often as possible] for the first 7-10 days after receiving fresh crickets, and pick out smaller crickets for the spiders that need them. Once the spiders begin to chirp, mate, die off and otherwise disgust me, it's off to the ponds next to my house where I scatter them on the surrounding grasses. The birds, bullfrogs and toads are happy. I go two weeks or so without any crickets in my house. Smile.

So what about my days of breeding roaches and crickets? Simply put, it is unwarranted for 33 spiders. It's nice to every now and again be able to acquire some Blaberus sp. adults to feed my adult female Poecs and M. balfouri. My bro Apple has been helpful here. When he visited two weekends ago he brought me about a dozen big Blaberus. I have one adult female Poecilotheria rufilata that hasn't regained weight since she double-clutched and, over the course of four or five days, she ate about five herself. Thanks John! When I was away in Costa Rica, John was kind enough to bring some roaches by my house, but unfortunately they were Blaptica dubia. This species is shite unless you have bearded dragons or monitor lizards or similar. There is no mystery to why they are commonly called the Guyana burrowing roach. Unless you're into offering from forceps (I'm not!) or are fortunate enough to have a ravenous tarantula immediately pounce on one, a dubia tossed in the terrarium becomes a cohabitant. It probably won't harm the spider. It will burrow out of sight and scavenge on detritus. You will see them occasionally at night or after a misting. Rarely, if ever, will you see them between the chelicerae of their intended predator. As I've discovered the dubia Apple tossed in my tanks I've removed them and tried to get M. balfouri to eat them. If I find them live in their enclosures I will toss them on my next door neighbor's balcony. I'm not fond of them or the roaches.

Ordering 500 crickets for 33 spiders is a bit daft. But it is my interim solution. Long-term I want to further reduce my collection. Eventually I suppose I'll just buy a couple dozen crickets at a pet store like some n00b. Better still, I'll get down to zero and have no worries. I'll just have to keep buying parrot food as Jesse is going to outlive me.

Cheers, MJ

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Been about 11 days so I figured I'd at least write something today, even if, topically, it may spray about like an unneutered male alley cat.

The big news is that the first issue of the Journal of the British Tarantula Society [31(1)] with me as its sole editor and designer has hit mailboxes around the world, including those in America. At the same time, I released BTS Newsletter 1, and it was made available for member download.

I actually caved on my principles and asked Mark Pennell to once again make me an Admin of the BTS Facebook Group and Official Page so that I could post announcements of the print journal arrival, and the fact that both the Interactive PDF web version and the premier newsletter (in the same format) were available for download.

Obviously, in order to be a Faffbook Admin I needed to have an account. Well, the weekend before this past, Chad Campbell outed me on FriendFace by letting it be known that I have created what is now my 4th incarnation on FB. I've noted elsewhere that I had done so, but it was mostly overlooked. The sole purpose of creating a fourth page for myself was to create a business page for Triggercontrol Tactical and I tried to be stealthy. I'm not accepting friends for the most part. It's not for that. I won't use my page or follow a news feed. And, just because I'm a BTS FB Admin again, does not mean that I will be moderating those pages or posting personal things there (e.g., all the photos I used to post there). I will only make posts related to my committee responsibilities: the publications, first and foremost, and then the events, membership, etc.

Ironically, when Chad stayed with me 10 days ago, I finally talked him into using my preferred social media - Instagram. Give Chad a follow @phormingochilus. Of course, I hope you're following at least my @exoticfauna (if not also my @dailyhandgun and @triggercontroltactical). If mine and Chad's pretty pix don't satiate you (I realize mine are all over the spectrum), give Jason Newland a follow @newlander85.

One of the many humorous occurrences during Chad's two-night stay in my home was when he and I began to put away the beer and decided to harass Tom Patterson. He was out at a concert or something and unreachable. So Chad then dialed the Scher's. For those of you don't know, Scott & Debby Scher are the owners of Arachnoboards. They are old friends of mine and the three of us did a lot of the organization together for their ArachnoCons in 2006 and 2007. Chad's never met them in person, but of course he works with them as a moderator for Arachnoboards. Debby made the mistake of answering the phone. They live in NYC and it was about 2 a.m. there. Unlike single gypsies like Chad and I, Scott and Debby have a family including two kids. The call started awkwardly, but eventually we got to exchange some laughs, some of which did come at the expense of Tom. (He knows what I'm talking about; we'll leave it an inside joke).

Speaking of Arachnoboards, I also have stated that I am just as much done with it as I am with Faffbook. To be fair, although I've been a member for 13 years, all I've used it for over the past 9 or so is to post advertisements, occasional photos and announcements of updates to my Tarantula Bibliography. I was just discussing with Chad whether I would keep updating TTB and keep it alive. Don't worry. I can't see giving it up just yet. And, as far as AB, I just posted an advertisement there a little while ago. What? An ad? Don't worry - I'm not selling spiders ;). I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I brought back some BTS T-shirts during my Lectures visit. I mostly have Ladies Cut shirts available, and I posted an ad on AB to sell them. Click on the preceding link if you're interested.

So, what else is new? Well, after Chad's visit I am happy to report that I am now down to 34 tarantulas! Getting closer to ZERO all the time ... It's a nice little group now. My spider room has become my office. My office just happens to have two four foot black wire shelving units of tarantula enclosures along one wall and a breeding arena. Nothing fancy. No thousands upon thousands to feed. Here it is:

Speaking of office terrariums ... maybe a snake for my new TCT office ... Hmm ...

Over the past three decades plus, I've had many frantic dancing around the topic conversations with landlords. Whether looking to lease commercial or residential space, I was always finding myself shocking a realtor or property owner by saying, "well, um, I, um, kinda have a, sorta, pet business", "Oh really? Is it live animals or just supplies?" "well, um, I guess, you might, um, call them live exotic animals" "What are we talking about here?" "Well, I breed snakes, geckos and tarantulas and raise roaches and beetle larvae and small rodents to feed them!"

I can't tell you how many times I've had that conversation or a much less honest, indirect white lie version of it. As they say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

I've also experienced the top secret, smuggled in during the night, don't let the neighbors see scenarios. Very often those lead to the "oh, fuck. It's time for routine roach and ant spraying at the apartments". I can tell you from experience that this situation may require some under the cover of darkness in the wee hours of the morning panic or full blown anxiety attacks as you try to stash 100 terrariums into a friend's place.

So, after many years of smuggling animals into apartments, and looking for business space just for the enjoyment of shocking questioning lessors, I now am doing the same thing. "So, you're not one of those "exotic animal" breeders who wants to bring snakes, spiders and roaches onto my property, are ya?" "Um, well, um, no, sir, I'm, well, I used to be like that, but now I'm, kinda, sorta in need of classroom space to teach civilians how to defend themselves with handguns and get them qualified to be able to hide a weapon on their person at all times". Fart in church. Yeah, I've always been you're traditional sorta guy.

Well, anyway, just wanted to say hello. Also wanted to let you know that I've advertised what I have left in BTS T-shirts on AB and the brand new BTS Journal and Newsletter are available to BTS members. Drop me a comment below and let me know you're still reading. Ask a question. Any question? I don't censor and never lie. It will keep this conversation going.

All the best, M

Friday, March 18, 2016


Today after work my buddy Chad Campbell will drive down from Minneapolis to spend the weekend in my home. Tomorrow morning John Apple, Rob Mitchell and a couple of ladies I've yet to meet will be headed our way and, after spending the afternoon out at Andy's Tat2 Crue, will join us. Hopefully, Jason Newland will join us for drinks & grub tomorrow night.

I've spent many of my years in a one bedroom apartment. I even lived in my SpiderShoppe for awhile after my separation from my eventual ex-wife. Twice when I arrived in Seattle to run Northwest Zoological Supply I lived on an air mattress in an extra office in our building before finding an apartment. I'm easy. My requirements are few and I am currently considering spending the entire year 2017 in a tent. My three-level 1600 sq ft. home is a lot of house for just me and my parrot. I'm fortunate that when arachnomates like those mentioned above stop by, or when by brother-from-another-mother Mark Pennell and his family visit from the UK, I am able to host houseguests in style.

So what do arachnohouseguests do? You guessed it. We eat, drink and talk about spiders. We trade and sell them too. Apple will have a running monologue going on obscure native araneomorphs I expect. He's a force of nature. Chad will likely force shots upon people and suggest playing "My Penis, My Vagina". I'm just guessing, but my dear friends - like me - do have their quirks. Mine is that I am a highly trained armed civilian and firearms instructor. I am launching my new tactical pistol and concealed carry business and think I might set up a little laser shooting course for people to try.

If you're local feel free to email me today or tomorrow and I'll invite you over. You'll either have to go home (preferably not drunk driving) or better still bring a sleeping bag and pillow for crashing on the floor. I think the Inn is about full up as far as beds and sofas go. Spring has come early and the winter was mild, but I think it might still be a bit chilly for me to put up a tent in the backyard. However, if you're willing, I'll erect it. (That last sentence goes for other things as well!)

It's only coincidental that all of these friends are visiting me on the same weekend as NARBC. I won't be attending and there is no ArachnoGathering #3 to be held. I have thought about the fact that this weekend would normally be very busy for me as I hosted my event and peddled spiders. But both are behind me and I'll be the chill guy on my back deck with the Cuban cigar and glass of Jameson Signature Reserve.

This weekend is also our weird little local show. Called the All Animal Expo you won't only see snakes, lizards and spiders; you'll also see pigs, roosters, rabbits, sugar gliders, degus and other madness. The owner of the show is the sharpest knife in the drawer and he continues his defiance, obstinance and ignorance by scheduling his podunk fairgrounds show the same weekend as what I consider the most professional reptile trade show. Apple & Co. tend to flee back home first thing Sunday morning, but I am in need of crickets so perhaps I'll talk Chad into checking it out with me before he heads back home. Our friends Randy Sr. and Randy Jr. of Evil's Arachnids exhibit there and I haven't seen them in some time. That reminds me ... should send Randy a text about my informal Saturday night replacement ArachnoGathering. I hope now that I've called it that nobody expects a lecture. Excuse me while I send a text ...

I don't sleep well. I'm a deep thinker and my mind never wants to rest. When I do manage to put two or three hours of consecutive shut-eye together I tend to have tortuous dreams. I absolutely hate dreaming. It is not relaxing. I wake up agitated, wound up and often with a headache. I drink loads of water and go to bed each night with a fresh liter with Propel packets added so I know I am plenty hydrated. I've tried Melatonin. I accuse it of making the dreams worse. Most of my dreams are intense; like action movies where I am constantly chasing, running and fighting or tormented dramas where I am at odds with family, friends, strangers. I actually started typing on this laptop at 3:30 a.m., which is very typical. I think I finally drifted off at midnight. This means that I nap every afternoon. The best part about naps is they seldom contain dreams; at least ones that I remember or that disturb me. The point of all this is that when I woke in the middle of the night the day before (I'll soon turn 52 and I've already mentioned how much water I drink during the day and night, so that means frequent middle of the night pisses), I started thinking about writing my memoirs. I'm now looking at 44 years of keeping spiders and snakes. I just realized that I created Exotic Fauna 34 years, 2 months ago. I actually think my story could make an interesting self-published e-book, but then another part of me says just put it out for free as part of Kiss My Big Hairy Spider. Perhaps I'll poll this weekends arachnoguests and see what they think.

I'll get back to y'all next week.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Greetings to all who have stuck with Kiss My Big Hairy Spider despite my reduced output. I appreciate every one of you who still checks in with this blog. My last series of posts, which chronicled the 14th BTS Lectures, sadly only had 25-35 page views each so I definitely have lost readership. But since I know that some of my closer arachnocultural friends like John Apple and Tom Patterson continue to read KMBHS so that is enough for me to keep writing. Hopefully I will find some topics with wider appeal and some of you will help me by sharing the blog link via forums and social media.

The real reason my readership is down is that I have retired and have ceased using Facebook, Arachnoboards and the like. I am not promoting the blog except to share each new post via Google+ (pretty automatic as Blogger is a Google product) and also via my @exoticfauna Twitter account. Also, Scott and Debby Scher have been kind enough to give me a banner ad on AB. I ask that y'all help me by sharing new blog entries as I'd at least like the page views to double.

As I review the page views of the last 111 posts it is obvious that my early rants and the more instructional spider keeping posts are favored above others. However, to be honest, I will write what I want. I'm an independent prog extreme metal guy ... I'm not looking to make a pop single (if that analogy works).

So ... although I am sure there were readers not interested in the BTS posts, I would like to wrap up that series here as I know some of my primary readers are already members. I won't solicit new members again. I think it's a no-brainer for anyone seriously into arachnoculture to be a member even if only via the budget digital only method, but I am not going to flog a dead horse. I will just say that, as the attendance at the Lectures proved once again, the BTS is an INTERNATIONAL organization. The "B" stands for British, but our membership is worldwide and there is no arguing that it is the premiere English-language organization and the best option for American arachnid enthusiasts.

So, to wrap up the series of my trip to Bristol for the 14th Annual Lectures, I would like to report on the AGM (Annual General Meeting). This is the committee meeting that all members can attend and it is held Lectures weekend to make it easy for regular members who are at the Lectures to attend. Sadly, the non-committee attendance was disappointing. However, it was an important committee meeting as the couple that have been running our Membership Office have resigned and we now are seeking new qualified volunteers. In the interim, the Head Office, ran for years by Angela and Ray Hale, will handle membership duties. Another major topic was the Journal and the transition to my taking over as Editor. I proposed that we create a bi-monthly digital-only Newsletter to give members more bang for their buck and to have an appropriate home for some features that I do not consider appropriate for the Journal (e.g., Letters to the Editor, Book Reviews, cartoons, brief breeding reports, etc.). The motion was passed and I am now working on this project and hope to have the premier issue online within the next 30 days. Finally, another important topic was our Research Grant. The BTS accepts proposals for funding and we select a project to fund with 500 of those British Pounds. We only had one submission and therefore voted to contribute to a Brazilian graduate student's work. Dr. Stuart Longhorn oversees this Research Grant, and I will get him to write some info on this work for the new Newsletter. By the way, this blog entry is the first public announcement about the new Newsletter. So my KMBHS readers get a scoop. I appreciate you following me here and will give you little scoops when I can.

Since I keep mentioning the BTS, in fairness I will mention that the ATS is holding a conference this year. As most of you know, they cancelled the conference for the first time in 16 years last summer and "Ken the Bug Guy" held what he and his wife Georgi called a "placeholder event" at the same resort. I was an ATS member from the beginning, but admit I have no intention of being one again. In my opinion all the ATS has ever offered is the conference. It is now held at an amazing location in Tucson, Arizona and I highly recommend attending. When I spoke in 2014, I was duly impressed with the weekend. I must give kudos to those who ran it. However, the ATS has been plagued by poor leadership over the years or had a decent leader whose volunteer board members didn't pull their weight. There has never been a cohesive unit; there has never been a publication worth reading save for the odd decent article (such as Joy Reed's report on breeding Grammostola pulchra). The conference is their one success and I encourage my readers to attend. Remember, these are just my opinions based on involvement since the Carlsbad days and Spider Bob's questionable operation. I wish them the best and I hope they prove me wrong and find a way to succeed. However, they need some qualified volunteers who can produce a professional website and periodical. For 15+ years they have had only the most amateurish internet and printed publication presence. What makes the BTS succeed is committee members who are dedicated and pull their weight. Each has the skill set required for each job. We don't just take anyone willing as these type of people soon have waning interest and drift away. We also wouldn't have, for example, a Treasurer who can't even balance his or her checkbook. You need QUALIFIED, highly dedicated volunteers in EVERY position on your board/committee and the ATS has never had this. But their conference is very good and their current location is amazing. I doubt I'll ever attend again as I travel so much for my own pursuits (including my own trips to Arizona). They'd have to invite me to be keynote speaker and pick up my tab to get me to come again. I don't expect that will happen and, to be honest, in retirement I think any arachnid related lectures I do in the future would be reserved for the BTS. I also have been asked to lecture in Hungary in 2017. I will need to take another field trip in the interim to come up with material as I don't really have much to offer as far as keeping and breeding go now that I've ceased doing so. I am still working with a group of Avicularia sooretama and Harpactira pulchripes, but I don't think there is lecture material there. As far as field trips go, in February 2017 I plan to return to Langkawi, Malaysia with Mark Pennell and company and it is likely that we will spend a weekend beforehand in Sarawak, Borneo. Mark found an interesting new arboreal on Langkawi last month so perhaps there is a lecture or a paper in all of this. However, most of my public speaking will now be limited to teaching defensive handgun technique.

But, let's return to the BTS Journal for a moment... For those of you who are members and are wondering when the next issue will be released, I am happy to report that I will be sending 31(1)/March 2016 to the printer in England today. I won't reveal much about the content, but I will give you a scoop. Tom Patterson and I have collaborated on an article about Heteropoda sp. huntsman spiders. I'm not going to mount an American takeover of the Journal, but it does make me happy to include American authors other than myself. I encourage some of you to consider writing. If you need my help I am happy to come on as co-author. If it is a brief article that may not be a Journal piece I now have the Newsletter to publish it. All I need is notes and outline and I can write it, so you need not worry about your ability as a writer. Of course, photos are always welcome too (preferably 300 dpi CMYK TIFF files, not iPhone pix!). On that note, let's all ask Chad Campbell to do a photography article for the first Newsletter. Chad will be my guest this coming weekend (along with Jason Newland, John Apple and some yet unnamed friends - probably Rob Mitchell). I will talk to him then. An article by Chad would be a great feature piece for the debut of the Newsletter.

In closing, I will mention that I apologize that ArachnoGathering became a two years and out event just like ArachnoCon. This coming weekend is the March NARBC when #3 would have been held. When I created ArachnoGathering I had planned for a longer run, but in retirement I have no desire. It's funny that even though Chad and Apple and Co. will be here this weekend, none of us have any interest in going to the NARBC show. 33 professional years of reptiles and spiders; over 40 as a keeper. Enough for me.

OK, I must get back to putting the finishing touches on the Journal file and get it to the printer. I'll leave you here. Until next time, MJ

Monday, March 7, 2016


Hey y'all,

Back from cool and drizzly Ireland, Wales and England to the unseasonably sunny & warm farmland west of Chicago. It's 4:30 pm Monday but that is 10:30 pm back where we were, and I have been awake since 4:30 a.m. their time, or 10:30 last night here.

I apologize for finishing up my series of 14th BTS Lectures posts with an advertisement, but as promised I brought back some BTS Merchandise for U.S. arachnoculturists. Perhaps I will bring back a variety of BTS Logo schwag when I return to the UK in May*, but this first offer is all T-Shirts in several designs and various sizes in both men's and ladies' cuts.

Now that my SPIDERSHOPPE website and its e-commerce abilities are shut down, and I no longer use libtard Mark Zuckerbergs anti-gun social media site, I have no other option but to first advertise these shirts here. Whatever is unspoken for in two weeks will be advertised on Arachnoboards.

Note: See photos below. I'll take more pix ASAP. First I must sleep for a day. All shirts are $23 each plus shipping. Shipping is by small Priority Mail box and runs $6.80. In other words, $30 shipped with payment via PayPal to These shirts were made in the UK. They may run slightly small.


Design #1 - Black BTS Exhibition 30 Years shirt with concert tour style back with show list

2 - Men's XL
3 - Ladies M

Design #2 - Grey with white Poecilotheria design

2 - Men's L
2 - Mens XL
2 - Ladies L

Design #3 - Black with white Poecilotheria design

2 - Ladies XXL

Design #4 - Black with small white BTS logo on front left chest and color Poecilotheria metallica on back

1- Ladies L

This is the front of Design #1. The back features the 'tour dates" of all the events.
A similar logo is on the left breast of Design #4

This is the front design of #2 and #3. There is nothing on the back.

*What is the first thing I did when I walked back in the door of my home? I logged into Expedia and booked my flight and Bristol hotel for May's 31st BTS Exhibition. I already had the Exhibition host hotel up in Warwickshire booked for that weekend. I can't wait to return to my "home away from home" in Bristol for a week with the Pennells & Co. before heading up to the Midlands for the Exhibition. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Breakfast is done and the AGM and Committee Meeting begins in 40 minutes. I can't believe that in 24 hours I'll be about to land back in Dublin and then land at O'Hare at 2:10 pm Monday afternoon. Our UK week has flown by and I'll be sad to leave the Pennells and my home away from home.

I will be bringing back a very limited number of BTS t-shirts for distribution in the US. I made a couple of Instagram posts but haven't had any replies so I thought I'd advertise it here. Here's some pix. 

The above black T has the BTS logo and celebrates our 30th anniversary last year. It is an exhibition shirt and the back is like a concert tour shirt with all of the past Exhibitions listed. 

This shirt also mentions the 30 years of the BTS and is available in this grey version as well as black. 

Email me at if you are interested. The cost will be around $29 shipped or two for $53 shipped. I'll work out exact price when I return, but preferred payment will be check made payable to me and sent snail mail or friends/family PayPal payment to As I wrote, this will be a limited availability offer and I'll only have L-XXL shirts. 

Tonight I'll give you a final wrap up of the 14th BTS Lectures and our UK adventure   MJ 

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Today's BTS Lectures were brilliant!

Last night 22 of our attendees gathered for dinner and night before party. The Aztec Hotel and Spa is a posh boutique hotel and has a cozy pub area and nice restaurant. Hopefully you've seen some of my pix on Instagram. It was especially good to see old friends like Jean-Michel Verdez. Many pints were drained and I think I drank my weight in Guinness. This morning Joel and I met Mark and Kim for breakfast and then we began to prepare the Costwold Suite at Aztec for the Lectures. It was great when dear friends who couldn't make it last night, especially Ray and Angela Hale, begin to arrive. 

The lectures kicked off at noon with an opening talk by BTS Chairman Peter Kirk. As is the tradition, the first talk is a humorous opening act delivered either by Pete or Ray. Pete's theme was "Spiders and the Media" and he pointed out the ridiculous and sensationalistic way spiders are portrayed with great wit and clever slides. Peter was followed by Mark Pajak who works at the Bristol Museum. His interest is the native spiders of Bristol, which include the mygalomorph Atypus. He gave a great presentation on both urban and rural populations of spiders in the western country of England. Next up was Benoît Menárt from France. He is an arachnoculturist who has made four trips to peninsular Malaysia. He travels to the Lectures with mon ami Jean-Michel and is a lovely, dread-locked, reggae-loving young man. He was nervous to lecture in English, but did an excellent job. His extensive lecture covered all of the known tarantulas from the region as well as some yet to be described, and also included some great photographs of other arthropods, reptiles and more. Then it was time to break for coffee, tea and biscuits, which for people like me and Mark meant a trip to the bar. After our brief intermission Ray Hale kicked off a brilliant talk on adaptation in organisms. He was followed by our special guest speaker Dr. George McGavin. George is an entomologist who worked at Oxford Museum for 30 years before launching a second career as a nature program television presenter in the mold of David Attenborough. He specializes in tropical insects and has a great interest in spiders. His BBC series include a number of Lost Land expeditions and Monkey Planet. His talk was full of energy and great wit and included some behind the scenes looks into the filming of nature documentaries as well as clips from the series he has been involved in. If you haven't seen the Lost Land of... specials I suggest you look for them. Again, please check out my Instagram for photos from the day.

After the afternoon's lectures concluded we headed to the hotel bar and I sat with George and Martin Nicholas for awhile. Once we all freshened up and reconvened for dinner our head table was comprised of George and Martin, Mark and Kim, Ray and Ange, Peter Kirk and Connie, Lee Cole, and Joel and I. A fine bunch and we were treated to more of Dr. McGavin's stories and, of course, the sharp wit of both Hale and Pennell. Dinner was very good and once dessert had been served Andrew Smith kicked off his traditional after dinner talk, which this year was about the field trip to the Atlantic Coast of Brazil he took in December with Dr. Stuart Longhorn and Benoît Vignaud. Then it was spider talk and drinking for all, although I must admit many topics were covered including the upcoming American presidential elections.

It's now 1:30 a.m. and I must crash. A day of Guinness and a few vodka tonics as a nightcap are in me and we are meeting for breakfast at 8:30. The Annual General Meeting runs from 10:00-11:30 a.m. and then it's "Sunday Funday" with Mark, Kim and family and friends. Rumor has it that we will hit the social club to play skittles. More on that soon ...


Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Greetings from Bristol, England. Tuesday morning my stepdad Joel and I arrived in Bristol after leaving Chicago on Sunday and spending Monday in Dublin, Ireland. Tuesday we picked up our sweet rental car, a Volvo S80, but soon discovered that the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Then as I pulled away and entered traffic I learned that it was best to stay to the left to avoid a head on collision. This is a funny country ;)

Actually, although I had piloted a right side steer vehicle on the left side of the road in Suriname, it is madness to try to do so here in the UK. Roundabouts, narrow roads, foreign signage and pavement markings and loads of pedestrians make driving here quite the harrowing experience. Worse still was the fact that I had printed directions from Bristol Airport to Mark Pennell's Serious Ink Tattoo Studio from Google Maps. Unlike GPS (or what they call "Sat Nav" here), when you miss a turn there is no electronic voice informing you that "she" is "recalculating". We were soon properly lost. The pretty Hungarian girl who assisted us at Europcar asked me if I wanted GPS. Silly and confident, I declined. However, our luxury Volvo has built-in GPS so it was time to figure it out. Unfortunately, the last renter must have been French. As I explored the controls while driving a car completely back asswards, I found that the entire vehicle's electronics were in Français. Fuck me running.

Eventually I pulled to the curb and invested the time in figuring out how to change the Volvo's language to English. American English wasn't an option. We had driven through Bristol's City Centre for at least 30 minutes, driving in circles while doing our best not to kill anyone or ourselves, and now we finally had instructions on how to get more ink. I was "happy as Larry" (as they say) when I pulled into Hung Road and saw Mark's studio on Nibley at the end. As we pulled in we saw Mark and his daughter and apprentice Brandon waving. Mark is my brother from another mother and Joel and I were "chuffed" to finally get to spend the day with him.

Hopefully you're checking out my @exoticfauna Instagram and have seen my pix thus far. Mark did his usual absolutely brilliant and skillful job of finishing off my right sleeve. The tattoos all represent death and loss and pay tribute to the two important "women" of my life: my mother and my sweet pup Taylor. They are gone but never forgotten. The finishing touch on the inside of my bicep/tricep area was to add a couple more roses and a raven sitting on a skull. The raven's head has a partially exposed skull itself. During the day Mark's wife Kim came by and later his sister Chris and brother-in-law Alan plus friend and client Harri. It was a great day that ended with awesome curry at Bengal Raj. Thanks once again to my great mate Mark for graciously and permanently displaying his talent on my skin.

We are staying at the Aztec Hotel and Spa, which is the home of the BTS Lectures. Now in its 14th year, this weekend's lectures promise to be outstanding. This boutique hotel is quite posh, and has a classy and cozy lounge and pub, plus every luxury amenity you could ask for. The full English breakfast is delicious and service charming. Yesterday morning at breakfast we were served by two people who were American-philes. One was a baseball freak whose father had worked in Arizona, and the other a pretty young girl who had traveled to Orlando a few times. They both paid special attention to the Americans in the corner.

Yesterday Mark's sister and brother-in-law took us on a "lovely" day trip to Wales. During my last visit to Bristol we had done the same, but I was eager to return and also have Joel experience yet another country. This is Joel's first visit to the UK so it is awesome to be able to have him visit Ireland, England and Wales all on the same trip. The weather was chilly and a bit wet, but we had an amazing day. Again, pix are on Instagram @exoticfauna. We returned to the hotel about 5 pm and had a beer and freshened up. At 7 pm Mark, Kim and Brandon collected us for dinner.

As I type this it is 6:45 a.m. here and I'll meet Joel for breakfast at 7:30 and then we will drive towards London. It is 105 miles almost due east. Hopefully my second day in the Volvo will go well. We will drive to Hounslow West tube station and then take the tube (underground train) 41 minutes to Piccadilly Circus station. We will then walk about Piccadilly and Leicester Square, etc. and up the Strand to a pub called The Coal Hole. Andrew Smith is supposed to meet us there just after noon to take us on a walking tour of London. I've been a guest in Andrew's home on several occasions (he lives in southeast London [Lewisham]), and on each trip he was an excellent guide to London. The three of us will walk about and visit St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey... the usual tourist spots. More pix will follow tonight.

But back to the Lectures...

This is just my first installment and I will keep you up-to-date on the weekend's festivities. It is my goal to get at least one of you to start setting aside funds to make the trip over here for the 15th annual Lectures in February 2017. Tomorrow kicks it off as guests will start arriving. We have 68 people registered and over a third will join us for a Friday night dinner and party in the hotel lounge. It is the best opportunity to meet and mingle with some of Europe's great arachnoculturists. I love May's yearly Exhibition too, but the committee, traders, and eager buyers are distracted by all the goodies. There is work to be done; commerce to take place. People are busy. The Lectures is the better venue for socializing. Kim and Mark do an awesome job of putting on the event and it all starts with tomorrow night's social. Then Saturday morning many of us will meet for breakfast and then midday the lectures will commence. To celebrate our 30th Anniversary, this year we have booked a celebrity keynote speaker. He will be unfamiliar to my American readers, but based on his bio I expect a very interesting talk. Between the Lectures and dinner those of us on the BTS Committee will have a brief meeting and then after dinner Andrew Smith will deliver his after-dinner Lecture and then drunken debauchery will continue. Sunday morning we have the AGM (Annual General Meeting). This is a chance for the members in attendance to take part in a committee meeting as it is open to all BTS members. I expect my taking on the role of Editor of the Journal will be a hot topic, as I know there will be some in attendance that disagree with a few papers published in the past year, most notably the Phormingochilus and Ornithoctoninae revision that Andrew Smith and I co-authored. There are always dissenters and critics. They are free to publish their own findings. Andrew may be a "splitter" and old-fashioned in methodology, but he certainly has made his mark on Theraphosidae taxonomy. He continues the great tradition of "amateur arachnologists" who have worked on tarantulas. He admittedly is a throwback to the 1900s and the work of Pocock and others, but you can't deny his expertise and contributions. The opposition should be respectful, and I challenge them to do better. People won't find much result in critiquing me. Whether they are happy with the American in charge or not, I am the Editor and the BTS has always given each Editor complete creative control of the Journal. I take my responsibility very seriously and am honored to take over the prestigious publication. I won't be bothered by the unruly.

More Saturday morning as I give you a report on Friday night's social (most likely with a pounding hangover). I'll have some hair of the dog and set to typing regardless. I want to take a few blog entries to do some journalism; sideline reporting from the great 14th BTS Lectures if you will. Maybe you'll decide to join me next year. You are very welcome to!

Thanks for sticking with Kiss My Big Hairy Spider. MJ