Latin name: Latrodectus mactans

The black widow is a poisonous spider found in most of the United States and in southern Canada. Unlike other spiders, the black widow is completely bald and a shiny jet black, with the exception of a red hourglass on its belly. It has long, spindly legs which support an oversized abdomen. It looks as wicked as it is. Black widows are known to eat their mates after mating. I do not know the evolutionary advantage of this.

If you are bitten by a black widow, you are not likely to die (only 1% of all cases), but are more likely to cramp up and go into cold sweats and nauseous convulsions as you are subjected to up to 48 hours of intense pain in the place you were bitten. Hopefully you will recover fully within 5 days. Black widow venom is 15 times as toxic as the venom of the prairie rattlesnake, but is given in a minute amount, which is why the mortality rate is so low.

If you are bitten, remain calm. If you can, collect the spider in a plastic bag for identification, and go to the hospital. You will be given antivenom or calcium gluconate to relieve the pain. If you are younger than 16 or older than 60, you may have to stay for observation as you ride it out. First Aid is of little help, but application of antiseptic to the bite is recommended to prevent infection.

My family had a black widow as a pet once. It wasn't intentional. My sister found it on some grapes we got at the grocery store. After the screaming stopped, my Mom managed to capture it, and put it in a terrarium. My family is like that. We named it Blackie. Blackie spun for us an irregular, silky web, on the twigs we stuck in there, which she used to trap the crickets we fed her.

We know that Blackie was a she, because she laid a couple of egg sacs while we had her in captivity. We were a little worried, because she was in a habitat made out of mosquito wire, which was small enough to block an adult spider, but not a horde of babies. Fortunately, the eggs never hatched. Blackie met an untimely end when her habitat was knocked onto the floor.

If you don't want to have a pet like Blackie, then you should keep the area around your house clear of debris and rubble, and keep the house itself clean and sealed of cracks. When you handle firewood, use gloves. Insecticides are also good against spiders, because the mist gets caught in the webs.

Thanks to http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~ohioline/hyg-fact/2000/2061A.html for the scientific and medical data.

The hourglass on my back
Counts backwards
When it is uncovered
I am never deserted
After love

Yama Ha, 1777

Also a female who systematically murders close friends, spouses, or other family members. Generally done for seeking profit, sometimes done purely in cold blood.

Apparently, black widows favor a warm climate, which is probably why I saw so many of them around my childhood home in Arizona. Black widows don't like the daylight, possibly because they are black and would absorb a lot of heat from direct sunlight. Even when the spiders were hiding, it was easy to identify their webs, which are incredibly strong, supposedly stronger than the same thickness of steel. If a web I was inspecting could catch and hold a small twig dropped on it without breaking any strands, it was definitely was made by a black widow.

The black widows near my house were particularly fond of building their webs in corners, and would quickly scrunch themselves up in there as tightly as they could when disturbed. When that happened, whacking at them with a shoe was futile; they could only be touched with a pointy stick or with fire.

That's right; I was officially allowed by my parents to battle black widow spiders with fire. At first, it was only to destroy their white, pea-sized egg sacs (it was thought that some individual eggs might survive a mere squishing of the sac), but it gradually evolved to lightly spritzing the spiders themselves with Aquanet or rubbing alcohol and lighting it with a match, creating a barely audible woof. Since the exterior of the house was mostly brick, and the surrounding pavement was concrete, there was little risk of burning down the house or starting a brush fire.

It wasn't just typical childhood pyromania that led me to fighting spiders with fire. Anyone who wonders why I didn't simply use bug spray has obviously not encountered many black widow spiders. These tough bitches drank Raid and Black Flag like it was orange juice, perhaps a screwdriver, if you consider the way some of the stronger store-bought insecticide sprays sometimes intoxicated and disoriented the spider without actually killing it. A dazed black widow will just hang, stupefied, in midair, making it much more dangerous to pets and humans than a healthy black widow that still has enough wits to hide during the day.

If fire was out of the question and I had to use a spray to kill a black widow, I would use oven cleaner every time. I will attempt to describe the thrill of killing things with spray-on oven cleaner. A black widow hit with a glop of oven cleaner goes into a full freakout before it dies, running in circles, twitching, and flipping over like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Unfortuately, not every surface is suitable for spraying with oven cleaner, even if a black widow lives there.

As a world-class juvenile black widow hunter, I had developed my own rationale and code of ethics concerning my slaughter of these living creatures. Black widows in the wild are a necessary part of nature, even a desirable part, considering the sheer number of insect pests they devour. However, they are not as important as the safety of humans and their pets, so it was necessary to create boundaries to keep them out of the house and away from entrances. I followed orders, contributed to the safety of my family, and killed with quickness to minimize suffering. Except for the oven cleaner part, because - let's face it - that shit was cool.

A member of the super-hero team the Avengers published by Marvel Comics.

Natalia Alianovna Romanova is a decendent of the Russian royal family. Found by a Russian soldier, Ivan Petrovitch, Natasha, as she is sometimes called, was raised by Ivan and he served for a time as her chauffer.

Natasha was an excellent student and athlete, performing for a time with the Russian ballet. She married Alexi Shstakov, a Soviet test pilot, who became the first Soviet super-hero, Red Guardian. While training for his new role, Alexi was reported to be dead. Natasha told the Russian government that she wished to begin training as spy in memory of her husband. Natasha was trained in the Red Room, a legendary facility for spy training. There she again excelled, becoming known as the Black Widow.

The Black Widow's first cases put her in conflict with Iron Man as she sought to steal military secrets from Stark International. She partnered with Hawkeye, but he eventually left her to seek a pardon for his crimes and serve with the Avengers. She came into conflict with the super-hero team and was convinced to defect to the United States.

She served as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. for a time and was a crimefighting partner of Daredevil as well. She helped found and led the shortlived super-hero team the Champions.

When the Avengers were taken to an alternate universe during the Onslaught conflict, Black Widow attempted to keep the team alive, but eventually was forced to shut down the Avengers, due to a lack of commitment from other members of the team.

Recently, Natasha has come into conflict with a new spy from Russia, Yelena Belova, who is the new Black Widow in the Russian spy network.

The Black Widow is a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant and acrobat. Her costume allows her to stick to walls and she is armed with wrist bracelets that fire a cable for climbing, as well as an electrical blast Natasha calls her widow's bite.

The story

Black Widow was an old vector arcade game released by Atari Games way back in 1982. Use two joysticks to control a spider in this uncommon Atari vector classic.

The game

In Black Widow you have to move around a web using two joysticks to control the action. The left joystick moves, while the right joystick fires. Robotron 2084 players will feel right at home playing this game, as the controls are identical.

You have to defend your little vector spider around her vector web in order to keep out all the deadly bugs. Shoot down bugs and they turn into bonuses. Watch out for eggs, if you see any eggs, then you should quickly push them off the web before they hatch. Other enemies include mosquitos, beetles, and hornets.

All in all this is a pretty fun game, it is quite a bit like Robotron 2084, but differs with the vector graphics and the more varied gameplay.

The Machine

All Black Widow games were conversions of other Atari vector titles. Even the brand new ones were actually Gravitar games that Atari converted at the factory. In general this title shared a lot of common components with Gravitar and Space Duel, and Black Widow machines are often used to repair those titles.

Where to play

MAME supports this title perfectly, although you will need some sort of twin joystick setup if you plan on controlling it correctly. You can either purchase an I-Pac and some arcade controls and make your own, or purchase one of those little gamepads that have the dual analog controllers on them (I believe they are called "Dual Strike", or perhaps "Dual Shock").

You might want to consider adding this to your arcade game collection. It is quite a fun game, but games that use X-Y monitors tend to be very problematic, and not to mention expensive. Checking over various eBay auctions from the recent past, I have been able to determine that a non-working Black Widow machine is worth about $300, while a working one will not sell with an $800 price tag. So figure the value of a working one lies somewhere inbetween those two extremes.

Slow death on two legs.

Sure, there may be a male variety, but the female variety is the course of study in today's class. We're not misogynists here. We're students of the game of life.

There is a broader definition of the black widow which makes her out to be the kind of villain that kills her mate, mimicking the behavior of the spider of the same name. The true black widow is a more dangerous creature. A wounded image of beauty that needs to feel love and caring and yet rejects it when it becomes too close to bear.

All You Need Is Love?

Most of us will admit, at least to ourselves, that we need to be loved and to feel wanted. The world is otherwise a very cold place. The black widow has those needs as well, but the wounds cause her to react differently. Usually there are men from the past who caused her great pain and trauma. Many black widows were molested or raped as children. Others were in abusive relationships in their younger days. The causes come from a wide array of painful and emotionally devastating sources.

Why then won't she allow herself to be loved? Not all women with such pasts become black widows. The emotional make-up of the individual impacts their development and how they handle these traumas. The black widow develops defense mechanisms to keep her from being hurt again. It is the emotional pain she seeks to avoid at all costs. She will allow herself to be loved. She will allowed herself to be cared for. She will only strike when she begins to find herself emotionally attached to the man in question.

The Panic of Attachment

Emotional attachment and the stirrings of love cause the black widow to panic. It is all too dangerous, even if she is certain the man in question would never harm her in the ways she has been hurt in the past. The loss of emotional control is dangerous. The potential pain that could come with losing this person once the attachment forms is too much to consider. The walls go up. The barricades are erected. The defenses take whatever form necessary to wound and drive away what has now become a threat to internal security.

You are suddenly left holding the bag and you don't know why. Yesterday everything was so beautiful. The calm before the storm presents itself in confessions and her heart opens like a flower. If you have penetrated the fortress she will tell you everything, opening herself and letting you see how much she needs you, but she masks the deeper pain. She might even ask you to promise you will never give up on her. The next day you will find yourself outside a strengthened fortress with fully armed weapons of mass destruction. There is now a bullseye on your chest and you must be eliminated at all costs. The fear makes her feel very small and so she must make you smaller to defend herself. The inner dragon drives her now. You got too close and now you must pay the price.

The Anticipation of Regret

The black widow regrets everything she does before it happens. Yet she convinces herself it must be done. This is not a twisted, evil creature. This is a woman who cannot reconcile her pain with feelings of love for another human being. She loved those who hurt her in the past. She trusted them. She will clutch the memories of the time you had and escape out the back door. It is possible she might just disappear, but more likely she will drive you off instead. Harsh words will come. Threats and accusations will be thrown in your direction. Your very essence will bear the full brunt of the hurricane she has become. She knows your weak points and attacks them with impunity. "Leave me alone!" And yet you will likely have no idea why she is acting this way. You try to apologize and understand. In doing so you become weaker and thus an easier target for her rage. She will attack you with the anger she feels towards all men and especially those who wounded her in the past. She surrenders herself to the defenses. They have convinced her they know what is best.

Respect Yourself

What you must understand to survive is that none of this is meant for you. There is only one recourse. You must walk away first. In doing so you may validate her belief that no one would ever be willing to stay. However, in most cases, you lose her respect by standing in the line of fire and taking her barrage of psychotic insults and humiliations.

Then you must decide if you are truly willing to stand by her and help her. She is not emotionally healthy and you must realize this. There is a path you can follow, either out of her life or parallel to it. The only way to help her is to keep step. You must reassure her without knowing where to start. You must prove that you respect yourself and that you are confident enough to handle the possibility of losing her forever. "I love you and I care about you, but I will not take your shit. Good-bye." Practice those words in front of the mirror. You'll need them.

Identification and Certification

The operational methods of black widows vary with the subject. Some will utilize liquor or drugs to accentuate the pain and enable them to act freely with fewer reservations. Their behavior is often self-destructive with little or no consideration for the future. They may be focused on future goals with tunnel vision. There are things that are important to them. Identify those things and you will know what brings them peace as well as what intensifies their suffering. The alcoholic black widow only finds peace at the bottom of a bottle. Some varieties may find peace in more productive ways. Others have taken to enjoying their special power to consume and destroy men in quantity. "It is so much fun to watch them cry when I tell them to get the fuck out."

The Danger of Commitment

If you are truly in this for the long haul you will need your own arsenal, but you cannot use it to hurt her, only to defend yourself. At the onset she will appear very needy and fragile. That will change outwardly, but her sudden ambivalence comes from greater fragility. She doesn't usually realize it and neither do you, but she is testing you. She is waiting for you to prove to her a series of things that she herself cannot define. Believe in yourself and once again, always be willing to walk away. Never let another person abuse you, either physically or emotionally. Prepare yourself for the day the dam finally bursts because if and when it does, you will be caught in a flood of emotions. When the last line of defense falls there will be a lot of healing to be done. The wounds run deep and they never stop bleeding.

Obligatory Lyrics Section

(she claims)
Blood in the streets,
on the river of sadness.
(she claims)
Blood in the streets,
it's up to my thigh.
(she claims)
Yeah the river runs red,
down the length of the city,
(she claims)
The women all cry and the river is weeping.

She came to town and then she drove away
Sunlight in her hair


Lyrics from "Peace Frog" by The Doors
Written by Jim Morrison
(Who knows your deepest secret fear)

The Black Widow’s Habitat: a Comparison with Contemporary Design & Construction

The misunderstood Latrodectus, or female black widow is shy and nocturnal in habit. She does not leave her hidden web voluntarily and is completely out of her element when away from it. These arachnids spin three-dimensional tangle webs of coarse silk in dark places, usually outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, the female only eats the male in extreme situations and it is not a regular occurrence.

The Web Material & Method of Construction

The structure is purely tensile because that is the nature of the materials in use. The breaking strength and elastic modulus of spider dragline silk (up to 2 GN m2 and 30 GN m2, respectively) exceed the values for highly drawn nylon (0.7 GN m2 and 2.4 GN m2, respectively). Black widow spider silk happens to be on the stronger side of the scale. Thus, an industrial product that is spun at elevated temperatures for optimum tensile properties is matched by a natural material spun into fibers under ambient conditions.

It is remarkable to note that silk, while light and elastic, is stronger than steel yet easily recyclable, potentially replacing plastics for many uses. Spiders also have several silk glands, producing different silks for different purposes.

One such example is its scaffolding silk: The spider builds a small platform at the hub, from which temporary spiral scaffolding works out to the edge of the web. Once the scaffolding is in place, the spider walks on the non-sticky scaffolding, from the outer edge to the centre, attaching sticky threads that form the trap. The spider cuts away the non-sticky scaffolding as it progresses toward the centre.

The thread is produced from a group of spinnerets located on the underside tip of the abdomen. Here’s another instance were our own construction principles mimic that of nature: The spider uses its rear legs to pull taut the excess coagulated silk from the spinnerets. As in concrete technology, by pre-stressing, the silk is strengthened.

The Form

Both Eastern and Western Black Widows’ webs are particular because they seem to possess no visual geometry. However such “Spatial” webs are distinguishable because of their three-dimensionality. Their so-called “tangle webs” lack form and are erratic in appearance. By wind-gliding, this particular spider swings from support to support (leaves, twigs, outdoor furniture) without pattern.

This is in sharp contrast to that woven by the common garden spider. The latter has a distinct pattern and is said to simulate illusions of flora when in harmonisation with the rays of the sun.

For example, the pattern and complexity of orb webs varies from species to species and some scientists have suggested that the very pattern of the spider web is designed to attract insects. These webs are thought to produce patterns that resemble patterns reflected by many flowers in UV light. Thus insects who are searching for their favorite type of flower see the decorated web in the UV light and fly into the trap.

Inevitably, the tangle web has an opposite effect on humans, who generally are made very wary by the visual effect of such a web.

Are such erratic methods so alien to architectural design methods today? Principles of Open Architecture describe design methods based solely on feeling. Drawing becomes a one-man journey through an escapist’s realm.

Created from a design drawn explosively, quickly, with closed eyes. Unbroken concentration, the hand as the seismograph of feeling, which calls the constructed room to life.

Coop Hmmelblau, from an essay on “The End of Architecture” 1992

Similarly, Deconstructivist buildings too may seem to have no rational visual logic: They may appear to be made up of unrelated, disharmonious abstract forms. And yet there is sense to it. Reason can be seen in the tangle web when we examine its structural properties.

The Structure

The impact of a common fly on the web may be likened to a punching shear action. This action would cause all members within the structure act in tension. How does this mechanism translate in our every-day use of this phenomenon, particularly when the Black Spider’s web is so non-geometrical?

I referred to a study on fibre-reinforced glass concrete slabs whose findings related to my question. It was very interesting to see that within their results, the sample which was reinforced with short randomly distributed fibres had the highest ultimate punching shear load and ductility, without changing the structure's failure mode. The explanation given is that short fibres which are uniformly distributed yet randomly oriented have a better chance of bridging the structure diagonally wherever impact occurs thus increasing the shear strength.

The paper also documents the importance of irregularity in structures since, in say, a concrete slab. Irregularly shaped glass aggregate would increase the bond between the aggregate and the reinforcement matrix. In fact, the punching shear strength of glass aggregate concrete slabs are much higher. It was also noted, that a glass concrete slab was more easily improved by arch action than an ordinary concrete slab... a result which may nevertheless be translated in our case since the web can be considered to be an upside down arch.

In fact, any spider web is even capable of stopping a bumble bee at full speed. To calculate the shear stress impact causes, all you need to know is the weight of the insect and the speed at which it travels. Lets use the common fly as an example:

For punching shear failure:


shear stress =       	                 (failure load )
				      __________________	
    (structure depth) x (average circumference of failure surface)


where the failure load = mass x accelaration



Therefore,
shear stress =       	              mass x acceleration
				      __________________	
    (structure depth) x (average circumference of failure surface)


Where,

mass =			mass of a common house fly = 12mg    (0.000012kg)

acceleration = 		20 000m per hr
(since it would take circa 1 second to decelerate this is 
approximately equal to the speed which can be up to 20 000m per hour)  

 
structure depth = 	v. small since it is related to the diameter of a Black Spider silk thread
	i.e. approximately 0.00000015 m

average circumference of the failure surface = 
	approximately double the circumference of the fly = 0.00122m

Therefore, a typical punching shear stress = 1.3115 GN m2 (less than the afore-mentioned 2 GN m2). Since the impact is less than the strength of the web, the web does not fail under collision, thereby stopping the common house fly dead in its track. Bzz bzz?

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