I Knew The Human Female Was a Jackdaw…

The call has gone out from one of the departmental building proctor/inventory people, asking that all employees turn in a list of numbered university keys in their possession so that the (incomplete) records can be updated and so that key hoarders will be induced to return the ones they no longer need.

The human female, who collects shiny things, has examined her key rings and emptied her desk drawers.

These are just the ones she DOESN’T need and will be returning.


I think we know now who’s been doing all the hoarding.

And what might be happening to the ones no one can find…


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They’re Here! And I Demand A Rematch!

The rainy cherries are here.  That makes sense—we had about an inch last week.  As always, Sigyn is entranced by their beautiful red and yellow color scheme.

As always, the human female is stuffing her face like there is no tomorrow.

As always, I am wondering if I am ever going to win a cherry pull.


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A Little P. S.

Several of you commented on how “hard” the human female must work at the herbarium.  Seriously, a trained monkey could do what she does.  Look, I’ll make an advertisement and put it up on campus.  We’ll have a replacement for her in no time.

Unpaid Volunteer Wanted:  Database checker. Must be able to use PLANTS, TROPICOS, IDigBio, HUH, Handbook of Texas Online, and IPNI database websites, along with Excel and GoogleEarth. Must be familiar with collecting activities and foibles of major Texas and U.S. collectors (familiarity with foreign collectors a plus). Must have knowledge of current and historical geography, taxonomy of vascular plants, period collecting and labeling practices, and herbarium filing systems. Ability to read French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Latin, and reeeeaaallly bad penmanship with spelling errors a plus.  Must not be allergic to pollen, dust, mold, ink, mounting glue, or hyenas, or be afraid of large metal buildings that make creepy noises at night.

That ought to do it.

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Working at Cross-Purposes

I am out at the Herbarium with the human female today.  She is, as she likes to call it, “hunting bogeys“—finding and flagging errors in the herbarium database, finding the actual specimens in the collection, and correcting the errors.

The database, some 192,000 records in all, was cobbled together from multiple smaller source files.  Over the years, she has put in countless hours, correcting collector names; fixing plant family designations; correcting misspellings in county, location, and habitat information; splitting out elevation, plant description, longitude and latitude, and additional notes into their own fields, and the like.  Meanwhile, I am hard at work corrupting scientific names, blurring old handwriting, and whispering strange and capricious assumptions into the ears of the student workers preparing the next batch of records slated to be added.

Probably my best trick was teaching the student workers to just record the last two digits of the collection year.  When the output from the old software was brought into Excel, I nudged Excel to randomly assign a century to go with those two digits, so that there was produced a mangled melange of 19th-century specimens sporting collection years such as 1988, 2000, 2043, 2077, and 2068.  There are also 21st century specimens listed as having been collected in 1902, 1907, and 1910, etc.  I am really proud of this particular bit of mischief because I did it so that there is no pattern to the errors such that a blanket fix may be imposed.  I mean, once a collector is pegged to the proper century, all of his record years can be adjusted without looking each one up, but I made a LOT of one-offs for collectors without a lot of specimens that must still be checked one … by … one.

So that’s what she is working on today, hunting up those bad-year specimens and correcting the records.  While she’s at it, she’s fixing other problems.  She’s taken to marking corrections in green, just so she can look at the stupid database and feel like she’s making progress.  (Oh, the fallible mortal need for constant affirmation!)

For example, here’s a sedge-y thing that some enterprising student worker, at my urging, databased as having been collected by J. K. Wipff.  As you can see, he was merely an annotator, some thirty-four years after the fact.


There. Now it’s correct in the database.  W. G. Dore.  Good old W. G.  Bet he used to like to tell people it stood for, “Well, golly.”  Or perhaps, since he worked for the Department of Agriculture, perhaps it was short for “Weed guru.”  It’s so amusing to speculate.

herbarium records1

Great Frigga’s Hairpins!  Look at this one.  Ehehehehe!   I mean, tsk, tsk tsk!


Periploca is not in the Dioscoreaceaea.  It’s not even a monocot!  I’ll let her correct it to Asclepiadaceae while I go tug something else out of alignment.

Oh, now here’s a nice plant.  Yellow flowers, spiffy legume fruit.  Interesting provenance.


It belongs to the genus SennaSenna is one of the smaller genera separated from the huge, catch-all genus CassiaCassia was just too bloated—it contained several different entities that really are best treated as separate entities.  I saw to it that this one specimen was treated as all three.

It was collected fairly recently, so the original label clearly says “Senna,” which is correct.


However, it was databased as Cassia and filed in Chamaecrista, another segregate genus.

In a folder with a misspelled country:


The student workers didn’t really need much help.  They did a lot on their own.   Here’s a good one.  The label says “New Hanover Co., ” which is in North Carolina.  I had the student worker put it in as “New Haven, Connecticut.”  Here’s a label in German, which was databased as collected in Germany, even though it’s from the U.S.  And here’s another, databased and filed as African, though it’s from the canton of Valois, Switzerland.

And this little gem was databased as U. S., when it is from Natal, which is now part of a realm called “South Africa.”


Keep up the fine work, student workers!  All we have to do is work slightly faster than the human female to assure that this project is never,




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Mischief Update: Sometimes I Even Make Myself Tired

I am getting so good at beating the human female into the ground that sometimes I even exhaust myself.

She was whingeing the other day that she hasn’t a pain-free day since last September.  If it’s not a headache it’s a stomach ache or her wonky elbow or her crummy eyes.  Mostly it’s her trotters feet.  The surgery has mostly healed, but what with one thing and another, a lot of days it’s hobblesville.  I might need to stop warping her orthotics and messing with her shoes, though, because it has cut down on the number of walkies, and Sigyn is sad about the lack of botanizing.  I keep telling Sigyn that she really doesn’t want to go out these days, because the temperatures are about a squillion and a half degrees.

I have been keeping busy on the home repair front.  I managed to make repairing the garage ceiling into the handyman’s version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.  So the fellow came and re-attached the ceiling panel to the ceiling studs, but when he pulled off the drywall tape, it pulled for pretty much the entire length of the garage, meaning the tape and refloat was going to be a BIG job.  So he put the first coat of “mud” on the tape and turned his attention to replacing the two bathroom ceiling fans, both of which died horrible, squealing deaths some time back.   So he went to the store to buy two fans and came back to put them in.  Installation requires playing the game known as Now? No! How About Now?, otherwise known as find-the-breaker-by-flipping-them-all-one-at-a-time.  The humans’ list of what breakers go with what was sadly incomplete.  But eventually they got that circuit off and the fan went in without too much fuss.  But then the handyman came down from the attic and informed them that their AC unit was leaking—blowing cool air all over the attic— and that they should call the AC people and get it sealed up.  Then he went to put in the other fan and delivered more bad news.  That fan wasn’t actually tied into any duct–it was just venting into the attic and had probably died of insulation inhalation.  Oh, and the FAN ITSELF was a different size than the one he bought.  So he went to go back to the store to return one and buy one of the proper size, only he couldn’t GO anywhere because his truck battery had exploded in the humans’ driveway.  So the human male had to drive him up the road to buy a battery so he could come back and put it in and then go back to the store for a new fan.  When he finally returned from his search at three different stores, it was to inform the humans that no one made a fan that size anymore, so they could choose between a smaller one, which would mean patching the ceiling drywall around it, or a larger one, which would mean cutting a larger hole in the ceiling.  They opted for the larger, but by then it was so late in the day that he couldn’t do it.  He had to come back on the following weekend to do it, and to do the sanding and the second round of floating on the garage ceiling.  The second round of floating didn’t go so well.  He tried a “fast drying” mud so he could sand it soon after and finish up, but it didn’t work, so he got to scrape it off and start over with the regular stuff.  So now there are finally fans and a fixed ceiling, but the garage now needs repainting, and their is taping mud sanding dust all over the garage floor.

Still trying to get the AC people to come out.  Funnily enough, they are very busy in the summer.

We are also waiting for the sprinkler people to come again.  Remember that the human female had to grovel abjectly to get them to come out last time?  Well,  I have fixed it so that now a different station is not watering at all.  This explains the general unthrifty look of all the shrubs around half of the front and down the left side of the house.  Poor little quince bush can’t catch a break…

I have seen to it that the humans’ favorite cherry yogurt, the male’s favorite Asian noodle bowls, and their favorite sun-dried tomato paste are no longer available anywhere.  It’s a nice little racket.  I find out what products they like, then seek out the manufacturers or supermarket purchasing clerks and make sure those items are no longer made or carried.  I get paid for this by the manufacturers of competing products.  Oh, and I also totally rearranged their favorite grocery store so they they can’t find a thing anymore.

Mostly, though, it’s the human female’s work group that has been occupying most of my attention.

Long–time readers may recall that the human female and her staff spent a lot of time and energy to convert a basement Rat Room (AKA Room of Doom) into a functional classroom.  When they first moved in, it was a Botany classroom.  With the demise of Botany, it became a Non-majors Intro Biology lab (NMIB).  Last year, the lab for that course was downgraded to a short demonstration period. Now the Powers That Be have decreed that an Honors section of Majors Intro Biology (HMIB) is moving in, so NMIB is being shunted to the basement of a nearby building, one that is infamous for leaking like a sieve and/or flooding at the slightest provocation.  (The human female worked in that basement for twenty-eight years before moving to her current location, so she knows to be Prepared.)  This room originally belonged to Bio but was lost to Wildlife and Fisheries Science in a poker game.  Or so the story goes (when I tell it.)  But anyway, the human female and her staff are having to clean up and fit out a new room.  Demo microscope?  Computer?  TA desk? Whiteboard?  Projector?  Screen?  Safety equipment?  It was all decided, then it all changed– one day while the human female was at her yogurt class, a meeting was held in which all the decisions made at the meeting she just left were abrogated.  She’s not in the loop.  She’s not anywhere near the loop.  She’s heard the rumors that there IS a loop, but you couldn’t prove it by her.

The creation of this HMIB raises all sorts of questions.  Will the human female be doing the buying for this course?  Will her Prep Staff be prepping the labs?  The answers change almost daily.  HMIB will be autonomous and will order all of its own supplies.  HMIB would like back some of the equipment that NMIB moved out of the room.  HMIB has changed the door lock code so that NMIB can’t get back in.  HMIB would like Prep Staff to keep the gloves and paper towels stocked.  HMIB wants to know how to purchase X, Y, and Z and can you arrange to have all our pipettors recalibrated?

Well, the powers that be have now decided that NMIB should become an online-only course after the one upcoming semester, which means all the hard work on both rooms will become worthless and all the materiel toted into the room will have to toted right back out.   And just today she heard a rumor that the HMIB class will move *out* of the room of doom after one semester.  It’s all one big hilarious shell game and I’m loving every minute of it!

Now, has anyone noticed that all the courses associated with the human female seem to be doomed?  First the two junior-level botany classes, one after another; then introductory botany; then a full non-majors course; now the non-majors course in live form.  She’s an academic Typhoid Mary, that’s what she is.

Meanwhile, the Summer Session Majors’ Intro Biology Part II has begun.  I had a chat with the registrar, and the room numbers for the five sections were listed incorrectly. Chaos ensued on the first day.  One student was so confused that she went to the wrong lab section twice before figuring out she was supposed to be somewhere else.  Ehehehehe!

The door locks are malfunctioning again.  The swipe card lock on the Prep Staff office has failed altogether and the others operate more or less as the mood takes them.

Speaking of Prep Staff…  You recall all the fun and drama associated with hiring a new Prep Staff technician? Well, a second Tech left to pursue lofty educational goals (or just to get away from the human female.)  Trying to hire a replacement has been even more fun (for me) than the first–and that one was made more complicated by an offer letter that vanished before the new Tech could sign it.  For this second posting, fewer people applied.  Then, right in the middle of the hiring process, both people in the department who can actually navigate the proliferous piles of paper necessary to effect a hire went on vacation.  The hiring certificate could not be found.  The interview documents and the hiring matrix were misplaced.  Then HR (Having Regrets) demanded the new Tech’s Selective Service form before an offer letter could be produced, rather than as part of the first-day-paperwork.

This has been such fun that I have started the whole process AGAIN.  On Monday of this week, with the human female’s boss out of town and unreachable by any means known to mortals, one of two upper-level Techs handed in her slightly-less-than-two-week notice.  Now, this removes the lid from a whole new container of annelidous squigglies, because hiring a Tech II is hard.  The job requires knowledge of the University’s Introductory Biology Program that most people won’t have.  It is also hard to bring in and outsider to supervise people who have been in place for a while.  Even getting permission to hire this Tech II is not a given, since the Dean has to approve.  No doubt she is going to ask, “What did you do with the last one I gave you?” Even if approval is given, there might not be any good applicants.  It might be better to hire a third Tech I and promote one later, but the technicalities of getting a position reclassified make even my head hurt.  TLDR:  The human female faces the very real possibility of starting the big fall semester one tech short, and even if she manages to hire one, THREE of the four will be new.

Ordering fun continues unabated.  The human female received the multi-page quote for the big fall course order from the Vendor Whose Respnsible, but it was missing two items, and one item had a similar but not identical product switched in.  One line item quotes the price for the needed  pack of 10,000 pipette tips but lists it as 1,000 tips.  Since 1,000 tips has the same product number as 10,000, I think I’ll see if I can’t get them to charge the bigger price for the smaller number.  If it goes the way the Great Glove Incident of 2013 went, she’ll be required to send back the 1,000 before they’ll ship the 10,000.  Also, I noticed that the vendor’s website, for one of the items, shows that a case of six, one-liter bottles is out of stock, but six single bottles are available–for the separate one-liter price, of course.  The human female as asked for clarification on all of these questions from the sales rep, but none has been forthcoming.  Time’s a-wasting, mortal.  You need to order now so I can start working my mischief with the shipping and billing.

The humans have been dithering about adding a feline to their household.  They say it just doesn’t feel right to come home to an empty house.  They seem to have forgotten the “joys” of cat-fur tumbleweeds, mysterious pukings, litterbox-misses, and intemperate midnight serenades.   I’d just as soon do without, thank you, but Sigyn also likes kitties, so it looks as if there will be one.  The mortals have interviewed several likely candidates at the local pound and at the Vet School, which has some research cats being retired from a study.  They found a truly beautiful cat, one with a magnificently multicolored, marbled coat and mesmerizing eyes, a true paragon of feline pulchritude, one possessed of every virtue and no doubt a tenth life to boot—but someone else snagged it.  Their second choice bit the human female by way of introduction.  They are now dithering between one relatively calm gray cat of no especial beauty and a strikingly-patterned amber tabby that bounces about at warp speed and who ought to come with a friend to keep her amused.  The human female wishes she could adopt all the kitties, including the old fat ones and the yowly orange ones.  The human male is leaving it up to the female.  Fenrir’s fleacollar, woman!  It’s just going to shed, poop, scratch, and annoy me, whatever you pick, so just pick something.

Folks, I hate to brag, but on a scale of one to ten, the mischief this time is a solid ELEVEN.

I need a nap

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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

The University simultaneously expects the best and worst of its employees.  Take required trainings, for example.  The humans and their coworkers are required to know and comply with hundreds of rules with regard to Discrimination, Ethics, and Information Safety, but the Higher Ups must assume they are idiots because every year they have to do an online reminder training on every topic.

Each training is meant to take half an hour or so, but there is always an option to skip to the test at the end of each section and whip through it in a jiffy.  All one has to do is get 100% on the test.  If anything less is achieved, one has to sit through every slide in that section before one can try again.

I have had a hand in redoing the training this year.  The human female is about to try the Information Security module.  Let’s see how it goes.

Ehehehe!  I have disabled the “next” feature so that human female, who can read faster than the announcer in the presentation can read out the text on each slide, has to sit through all the words and clever animations.

Oh, dear.  It appears that the slides are not displaying correctly.


Let’s try logging out and back in again to see if that helps.


Not so much.

Oh, well, if she listens, she’ll be all right, yes?


She has skipped ahead and tried the first test.  Ehehehehehe!  I am rolling on the floor here because I put in a “pick all that apply” question and made it physically impossible to select more than one option!  YOU FAIL!!!

So now it’s back to having to sit through the full length of every fractured slide.


And she fails the test again!  I love multiple option questions.

Well rats.  She has figured out that perhaps the course works better with a different browser.  She has switched browsers, completed the course, and fired off a pithy missive when prompted to rate the training.  IT’s repsonse:  “It’s your own fault for not having the up-to-the-split-second latest release of your preferred browser.”

Ooo!  Look at her scream and slam things around!  Looks like it’s time for some Anger Management Training…

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