More Fun With Summer Fruit

Every year about this time, the wild, high-climbing grape vine in the backyard makes a lot of big, black grapes that the lazy local wildlife can’t be bothered to eat.

I can’t say that I blame them.  It is far too hot and humid to want to climb trees in search of grapes that, while they have a sweet pulp, have some of the thickest,  most astringent peel known in all of grapedom.

The result is that most of this viniferous abundance just drops off the vines and collects on the pavement.  The car, on the rare occasions we drive anywhere, just makes what I call “driveway jam.”


Poke, poke, poke.  Even if I can reach them now, I don’t really want to eat them, but there has to be something useful to do with them.

If the human female had a package of black table grapes in the cooling box, I’d sneak some of these wild ones in among them, just to watch her face.

Hmm.  Maybe I can make her a puckery little surprise and leave it in the freezer…


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Mind-boggling Berry

Great Frigga’s hairpins!  Will you look at the size of this thing!


Sigyn, it makes about seven of you!

It’s cherry season, but we haven’t found any twin cherries yet ripe for the pulling, so we’ll have to amuse ourselves with this gargantuan beauty.

Two more like this and we’ll have enough for pie!

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I Invited A Few Friends Over. I Hope You Don’t Mind

All of this forced stay-at-homeness is playing havoc with the human female’s resolve to exercise more and eat less.  Can you say, “sedentary snacker”?

She’s tried to keep the sweets out of the house, and to be fair, I haven’t seen a lot of cookies or cake around here recently.  She did, however, buy a bag of marshmallows, for when she wants “just a little something sweet.”  Mmm hmm.  “They’re mostly air, anyways,” she says.

Uh, huh.  Keep telling yourself that.

It’s summer, and it’s Texas, and that means ants.  If it’s dry, they come in looking for water, and if it’s wet outside, they come in to get dry, and if there is a food molecule available, they come in for a visit.  Recently, a non-bitey but annoying sort of minuscule black ant has become common here.

I think you can see where this is going…

Did I accidentally-on-purpose loosen the twist-tie on your bag of puffy self-delusion?

ants in marshmallows

Just being hospitable, ma’am.

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A Cure For Cabin Fever, Part II: Stupid Names, Plants With No Sense of Schedule, and the Human Female Yapping Just to Hear Herself Talk

It’s very hot and humid today, as well as hazy and sprinkly and generally not conducive to a long expedition, but I suppose I can tolerate it a little longer, since Sigyn and the human female are still looking at plants.

There are a lot of plants to look at.


All that yellow stuff is partridge pea.  No.  There are no partridges locally.

It’s about the right time for partridge pea, though the human female swears it used to flower later in the year.

This blanket flower is more or less on schedule also.


And so is this… This…  What is this, again?  No, not the viney thing, the other one, the ferny-leaved one with the clusters of white flowers.  Is this some more of your “prairie clover” stuff?


What do you mean, it’s either prairie acacia or bundle flower?  Don’t you know?  Pfft!  And you call yourself a botanist!

Do you at least know what this one is? I’ve seen it before, I think.


Siygn says she remembers it’s called frog fruit.  That’s right.  Now I remember.  It’s another one of those plants with a completely stupid name.  Frogs don’t eat it, and the fruit certainly doesn’t look like a frog.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When I take over Midgard,  things are going to have logical, pronounceable names.

NOT like this thing.


The human female said it’s called “Cuban jute.”   Or did she say, “Juban cute”?  Again, I don’t really listen when she talks botanese, and the two options are equally silly.

And this one.  “Prairie tea“?  Really?

croton m

It’s slanty name is Croton monanthogynus.  Who can wrap their tongue around that?

And I will make sure plants stick to a prescribed schedule, too!   There are plants flowering out here today that should have finished long ago.

Take this dock, for example.  It should have flowered back in March and be dry, crunchy toast by now.


And this!


There’s just no excuse for this!

Okay.  I’ve had enough.  I’m overheated, sweaty, hungry, and just generally fed up with binomial nomenclature, plants that can’t be bothered to check their planners, and stuffy botanists who don’t know as much as they think they do.

The human female says I need a nap.  Woman, that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all day.

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A Cure For Cabin Fever, Part I: Signs, Flowers, and Meeting Up With Kinfolks

The humans are still supposed to be self-isolating so that if they’re sick, they don’t make anyone else sick.

Oh, now the human female has declared that she IS sick, that she has a “horrible, horrible case of CABIN FEVER” and she misses the daily walks and if she doesn’t get out of the house she will go crazy and start snapping at people and saying whatever she’s thinking and she can’t be held responsible for her behavior with sharp objects and….oh, wait.

That’s me.

So the human female put on her thinking cap (the one that looks like a cactus; long story) and come up with a place where we can all go walk without meeting anyone.

And here we are!  It’s Minty Springs! We’ve been here before, more than once, though I’m not sure we’ve been here in the summer.  Let’s see what kinds of mischief I can get up to.

Well, for starters, I’m on the wrong side of the fence!


Neener neener neener.

Sigh.  Sigyn says we need to stay on the *right* side of the fence.  Very well, my love.  I applaud your efforts to make me a better man, though I’m not sure it will “stick.”

Great Frigga’s hairpins!  Look at all the enchanter’s nightshade!


This really is a gorgeous plant.  I don’t know why everyone doesn’t just fill up their pastures and lawns and gardens with this and call it done.


It’s prolific and prickly and poisonous.  What’s not to love?

Sigyn is very enthused about this “nifty” legume.  It has “poofy” clusters of little white flowers and “teeny” little leaflets.


The human female, whose language tends to be a little more scientific, says it’s something called roundhead prairie clover, a “locally uncommon, taprooted perennial with gland-dotted foliage and a short, globose to oblong inflorescence, shorter than that of white prairie clover.”

Or that’s what she would tell you she said, anyway.  I can’t verify.  When she starts rattling botany, I mostly just hear, “whhhhhhsssssshhhhh.”  My personal antenna just is not tuned to whatever frequency she’s broadcasting on, and all I get is static.

Apparently this is another unusual find.   The human female likes the way it sets all of its flower buds and then blooms backwards down the stem.  Sigyn likes the purple color.


I approve of the spiky leaves and floral bracts.  Careful, my sweet!  I wouldn’t want you to poke an eye out.

Odin’s eyepatch!  What is that awful screeching-creaking-whistling noise?!


hee haw

Human female, you didn’t tell me we were visiting your relatives today.  You be sure to stay at least six feet away from your cousin, do you hear?  Sigyn and I will stay farther away–I saw some big teeth when it hollered, and it seems like a perfect time to practice some antisocial distancing. 

Hmm.  I think perhaps Cousin Jack is not the only hoofed thing out here.


I think some undercooked venison came this way…

To be continued…

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A Bit of Housekeeping

I’ve attracted a few new followers minions recently, so here are a few tips for making the most of your opportunity to bask in my radiance and be in on the ground floor of my campaign to dominate this realm.

–The blog looks best on your computer.  If you’re reading on a phone, you’ll miss the tags, which is often where my snark really shines.

–The tags will help you find posts that are similar.  You might do a search for “floral millinery”, for example.

–Enjoy the archive.  To read about how Sigyn and I met, go back to February of 2014 and read forward.

Welcome!  It’s six kinds of chaos all up in here.

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Of Wax and Wearables

Sigyn knows my stance on organized religion*–she never tries to get me to go to Mass with her.

The human female, on the other hand, keeps threatening to send me to Hel if I don’t shape up—as if any place could be worse than stuck in this house with her.  By my precious pointy helmet, I have grown weary of her nagging and trying to churchify me.

Thus, when I became aware that she would be attending a recent church service which would involve lit candles, I arranged a little tele-jiggling spell, and “somehow” melted wax ended up all over her black skirt.

wax on skirt

Tsk, tsk!  Right in front, too.  I guess some people just shouldn’t be allowed to have candles.  Ehehehehehe!

Sigyn says she thinks maybe the human female will be able to iron it out.  Ah, well.  Even if she manages to do so, I’m sure it will take her quite a while to get round to it, and the skirt will just sit there, mocking her, until she does.  And in the meantime, I’ll see to it that it collects more than a modicum of cat hair and dust, so it’ll have to be ironed and washed…and then ironed.

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*Or, at least, religions not organized around ME.

Chaos by the Numbers

There seems to be some notion that I have been “slacking off” recently,  doing nothing but eating take-out food and traipsing about the neighborhood, looking at wildflowers.  After all, it is summer!  Usually by about this time, I have the human female’s work life all tied up in knots with large course orders for fall from the Vendor Who’s Responsible and the Purveyor of Squiggly things and the Purveyor of Dead Things.  Not to mention plans for the Dead Cat Ballet.

This year, everything is different.  Instead of dealing with so many concrete objects, I have extended my mischief largely into the realm of the abstract, and believe me when I tell you:  the numbers add up to maximum chaos.

Days remaining in the self-isolation/quarantine the humans are having to do, on account of being exposed to The Virus: 10

Number of weeks that the human female has been working from home: 14

Number of pounds she’s gained: Approximately (There is probably a correlating number of bags of chips consumed, but she has been hiding the evidence, so it’s hard to tell for sure.)

Number of days per week the human male spends at least some time on campus: 3 to 4

Number of times he has found construction vehicles occupying or blocking his reserved, numbered parking space: 8

Number of Zoom meetings per week:  2 to 5 for the human female, 10 for the male.

Number of times per day I jiggle the router and make the home internet connection drop3 to 10

Number of times I have made the human female’s internet browser seize up so that it will not make bookmarks or remember her history, causing her to scramble to try to figure out where was that thing she needs to find again: 2

Gigabytes of personal files she has removed from her work system in preparation for retiring: 8

Number of personal file folders that vanished in download entirely: 1

Number of major projects the human female is working on: 6

Number of minor projects: 3

Number of Tech Is Intro Bio is short: 1

Number of Bio lecturers who have decamped to other departments with not a lot of warning: 1

Average number of undergraduates in the Intro Bio program in the fall: 3,000

Percent increase in Biology enrollment predicted for fall: 15

Number of persons the largest classroom on campus this fall will hold: 600

Number of persons that will actually be allowed to occupy said room: 120

Usual number of Intro Bio lab sections:  About 120

Percent occupancy allowed for teaching rooms: 40

Usual number of students per lab section: 24

Number of half-sections per section this fall: 2

Number of students who will be allowed in each lab half-section in the fall: 12  (Because, of course, 12 is 40% of 24.  Ask the Provost.)

Original number of minutes in a lab section: 170

Minutes in the new, shorter sections for Bio 111 and 112 in the past few years: 110

Minutes in the Corona-shortened, online sections this spring: 60

Minutes in the Biology 107 and 112 half-labs this fall: 70

Minutes in the Biology 111 half-labs this fall: 50

Minutes mandated between lab time slots for passing and cleaning: 30

Minutes mandated between half-lab time slots: 20

Minutes mandated at noon for deep cleaning everything on campus: 45

Average number of days between conflicting “This is how we will Do Things” directives that come down from University Admin: 7

Man-hours spent trying to figure out what to teach in tiny bites of time and how to teach it: Dozens and dozens and counting

Percent of fall course order that can be ordered until lab syllabus and activities are firmly decided upon: 0

Weeks wait time for glove orders: 5? 7? 10?  No one knows.  (That’s not true.  I know, but I’m not telling.)

Percent increase in price of biodegradable nitrile gloves: 30

Percent budget cut everyone is sure is coming: 15

First day of fall semester:  August 19 (moved up)

Estimated date of completion of second floor construction:  August 19 (moved back)

Weeks between first day of class and first day of labs: 1

Number of times Anatomy and Physiology will have been moved in the last few years:  (Let me count:  up, down, up…down): 4

Rooms which will not be ready when the semester starts: At least 1

Number of stools which will have to be carted downstairs to put in the new labs whose stools will not yet have arrived: x/2, where x is the number of stools on the third floor.  (Guess having half the students per lab on the third floor works out well for the second.)

Number of rooms that have to come *off* the Biosafety Level 1 permit: 1

Unscheduled AC outages so far: 1

Scheduled AC, power, and water outages: 1 eachAnd no one knows when or how long.

Square feet removed from room 302 for new conduits: 25

Number of currently-intact walls in the Prep Staff office: 3

Number of from-out-of-country Teaching Assistants who will not be able to be in-country when the semester starts: Unknown, but most assuredly someone will be stuck somewhere!  Visa problems, quarantine, take your pick.

Number of new international Bio grad students who have deferred coming to the U.S. because of the pandemic: 1 so far, with almost certainly more to come.

Percent of Bio faculty who secretly or openly believe the University will have to shut down completely again at some point in the fall: 100

Number of times the human female’s Prep Staff have got the forensics electrophoresis gel to work: 0

Chapters of the horrible digital/online course text book the human female has reviewed to date: 44.5

Pages of notes and corrections on said book: 365 and counting

On the home front:

Number of masks made so far: 63

Number of times Taffy Cat has to be shoved off the laptop every time the human female tries to work sitting on the sofa:  Average of 7

Number of piles of upchucked breakfast Flannel Cat left in the living room this morning: 4

Number of days per week the struggling baby hollyhocks must be hand-watered: 7

Height, in meters, of the tallest sunflower this year: 3+  And half of them try to get into the car with the human female every single time.

Days over 100°F so far: 1

Days that have felt like over 100°F: Half of May and all of June

Weeks without in-person church attendance: 7

Number of old TV series binge-watched: 3

Episodes in the English-dubbed Chinese fantasy drama the human female has been working her way through: 50


Ah, But Which Ones?

The human female has been cleaning up the files on her work computer.  Working from home, it’s feasible, but it’s not the simplest task.  She has to remote into that system from the house, find the files she wants to delete or send to storage in the cloud (whatever the “cloud” is–it always sounds to me as if things are going to vanish into thin air–) and then make the transfer.

This works very well for small files and folders, which travel quickly and accurately, but larger files and directories are another proposition entirely.  At my nudging, her cloud storage program doesn’t always want to sync up properly.  For instance, when she looks at the cloud storage from her work system it sometimes shows one set of files, but when she looks at the storage from her laptop at home, it doesn’t always show the files that have been transferred over.  Cue panic.  She can usually solve the problem by going into the settings and manually aligning the folders one by one, but she always has to check each one.

Even when she gets a “successful” transfer without error messages, she can’t be sure I haven’t meddled.  Recently she copied over a huge directory with thousands of files, mostly plant photos from field excursions long past.  Here are the stats for the folder as it sits now in her cloud:


Three thousand, two hundred and seventy files in 130 folders.  That is a LOT of plant nerdery!  You might assume that if that  many transferred,  the whole thing ought to be there.  But noooo!  The source directory on her work system has several dozen more.  They didn’t all transfer.

Now–and here’s the fun part for me–she has to try to figure out which ones didn’t make the trip.  She can either examine every folder and every file therein, or she can grit her teeth, assume that if she hasn’t needed them in the years since she archived them, she isn’t going to, and just let it go. That would be the thing to do, wouldn’t you say?

But I know her.  Even if she calls it good enough and walks away, she is always going to wonder…

The cherry, the absolute cherry on this sundae of pain is the fact that, every so often, I go over and kick the router so the internet goes out.

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Sometimes We Just Find Weird Stuff

In our walkies and pokings-about in the neighborhood, sometimes Sigyn and I find…odd things.  I’ve shared written about a few of them here before, and today I have another batch.

Shiny streamers.


Every time we go by the park, there are shiny streamers in the grass.  Sometimes silver, sometimes colored.  This batch is a sort of sheer blueyrainbowy mylar.  Sigyn is delighted.

Once we found some red ones and she couldn’t stop squeaking for a solid quarter hour.

Oriental Treasures.

The other day she found a Sigyn-sized parasol.


It is a little broken, but she loves it anyway.

Fierce Adversaries.

Often, if we walk early enough, we find these slimy, legless creatures wriggling down the sidewalk.  Scouts, no doubt, of an invading army.


Tremble before Loki, you foul annelid!  This neighborhood is under my protection!  Return to whence thou came!  Begone!

(The braver I am, the more hugs I get from Sigyn later.  Not a bad way to start the day.)

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