Updating a couple of our top stories:


"If one lands on me, I cannot control my behavior, which is to go berserk."

That's what Cora Eng said in April as she contemplated doing her job in the midst of the Brood X cicada outbreak. Her job? Cora's a tour guide. And she was dreading a particular assignment: shepherding two dozen World War II veterans in town for the dedication of the WWII memorial.

So, Cora, how'd you fare?

"I survived," she said. "The group was very protective of me. I explained that I had a problem with cicadas landing on me and they should encircle me whenever we get out of the bus. . . . And if one does come, they should just pick it off me."

Thus protected by a cordon of octogenarian veterans of Iwo Jima and other battles, Cora strode around town. She said her anxiety level was high the whole weekend. "But no, I never totally lost it. But I'm glad it's over."

For a while, Mike Raupp was sad it was over. He's the University of Maryland entomologist whom media types such as myself relied on for pithy quotes about the periodical cicadas.

"We were bummed out for a while," Mike said yesterday about the inevitable disappearance of the chorusing insects. "But then we thought, well, the blessed event hasn't even happened yet."

The blessed event is the birth of the billions of eggs laid at the ends of tree branches. Mike and his students are studying that now.

He confirmed that the brown tree-tips visible all over the area are the legacy of our now-absent friends. The female cicada uses her razorlike ovipositor to insert eggs into a branch. The branch is weakened. When a wind comes along, the branch breaks but remains attached to the tree. Water can't reach the leaves, however, and they turn brown.

"They really have a rather striking appearance, and it's not unpleasing," Mike said of the oddly patterned oaks, maples and chestnuts. "On some of these trees, it's actually quite interesting. I'm not saying it's good for the trees." Just how bad it is for little trees is something Mike is studying.

Mike thinks 2004 was a pretty good year for Brood X around here. "We're primed for a spectacular brood in 2021," he said. "I'm pretty revved. It's going to be hard to wait, frankly."

Son of a Sailor

"I'm confident, but I'm sure we'll get our butts kicked out there."

That's what Brian "Murf" Murphy had to say in April as he and Les Bissell were preparing to embark on a round-the-world sail in a 28-foot sailboat named Hope. Les, the captain, had had a stroke, and that life-changing event persuaded him to sail around the world, raising awareness of the malady.

Well, butts have been kicked, but not in quite the way anyone expected. I talked to Les a few weeks ago and discovered that Murf had decided that he didn't want to sail around the world after all and had flown back to Wisconsin.

"I think it was a combination of things," said Les of Murf's decision. "I think he missed his family. Also . . . I think the reality of sailing day to day and the trials and tribulations were different than what he was sort of envisioning."

Murf told Les on a Friday, and by Saturday he was gone. "It was a disappointment, but what could I do, really?"

So Les sailed solo to Miami and placed ads for a replacement crew member on various Web sites. He thought he had the perfect first mate in a man nicknamed Peter the Kiwi, who said he had been a paramedic, had a doctorate in art history, had crewed for New Zealand's America's Cup boat and had himself suffered a stroke.

But Peter the Kiwi spent the stormy overnight crossing from Miami to the Bahamas getting seasick and was, Les wrote in an e-mail, "totally useless." Then an ex-girlfriend of Peter's saw him mentioned on Les's Web site, www.voyageofhope.org. She e-mailed Les to say that Peter the Kiwi was a scam artist whose parents live in Pennsylvania.

"Basically he is a bad apple and I kicked him off the boat," Les wrote in his message. "I am okay and the trip will go on."

Les is looking for a crew member. "Doesn't anyone out there want to go sailing?" he wrote on his Web site.

Mercury Rising

Imagine a huge thermometer that goes from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 212 degrees -- in other words, from the freezing point of water to its boiling point. This thermometer tracks the progress of our Send a Kid to Camp campaign, from zero dollars to the $750,000 we need to raise by July 23.

As of yesterday, the mercury was resting at about 90 degrees. That's a hot summer day, but it's not enough to boil an egg, which is what we need to do, metaphorically speaking. Washington Post readers have donated $248,027.88 to support summer activities at Camp Moss Hollow.

Want to help us raise the fiscal temperature? Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.

To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."

To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.

I would be honored if you would join me at 1 p.m. today for my online chat. Simply visit www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.