Month: July 2017

Things That Go Bloop, Part III: Taking Care of Close to Home

Sigyn was very inspired by our trip to the aquarium.  She is now infatuated with all things piscine.

The human human female has a pond tank.  It is full of water plants and green algae for study.  When she collected the plants from a local creek (sadly, the one no longer extant) she inadvertently collected a tiny little fish as well.

Sigyn wants to see it and has enlisted the human female’s help to get a good view.  Here it is:


No, Sigyn, I don’t see the widdle fishie either.  He is a good hider!

The good folks from IACUC  (Institutional Animal Coddling and Understanding Committee), on a previous visit, spotted the fish in the pond tank and mandated that it be checked on every day and a meticulous record kept of its care.  Now there is a checklist and everything.  Since no one has to feed this fish (presumably it eats algae and tiny water beasties), the daily log notes tend to consist of things such as “come out, come out, wherever you are” and “fish are friends, not food.”  Humans are weird.

IACUC came through the human female’s work place again the other day, making sure that all the critters were being cared for properly.  Actually, they really only care about the vertebrates, so I am taking that as tacit permission to experiment with the krakens and anemones…)  One of the inspectors said that since this is a schooling species of fish and it is being housed by itself, if they wanted to take the regulations to the extreme, they could demand that the fish be provided with enrichment activities so that it does not become sad and bored.

Sigyn has taken this very much to heart and has brought a few things she thinks the fishlet might enjoy.


If it does not feel like playing conductor, perhaps it would like to play with some stretchy caterpillar blocks.


Or, if it wants a friend, a hug from a teddy is always good.


I just hope the stuffing is waterproof.

Oh, sweetie, no.


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Things That Go Bloop, Part II: All Wishy-washy and Spineless

Not everything here at the aquarium is a fish.  The collection includes a plethora of creatures that aren’t bothered with the upkeep of a skeleton.

The sign on this one says “leather coral,” but as near as I can see, it’s made of well-organized goo, same as all the others.


Great Frigga’s corset!  What is this thing?!  A kraken, I’ll be bound.  Stand back, Sigyn!  These things are vicious and can punch right through glass!


Oh.  Just a brittle star.  They’re harmless enough.   Hey, little fellow!  I like the snakey legs.  Well done.


Look at this, Sigyn!  The sign says that a seastar can grow back its arms if they’re lost or damaged.


I think I’ll call him “Nubby.”

Eehehehe!  Sigyn has found the itty-bittiest seastar ever!  It’s a six-legger, which is a bit unusual.


Whoa!  This one is even smaller!   Wait.  One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.


This little goober has SEVEN legs. They don’t all match, but they’re there.


Sigyn’s verdict on the Aquarium?  “Squee!” and two thumbs way, way up.

:  )

Things That Go ‘Bloop’, Part I: Something’s Fishy

I think there must be a planetary alignment/swap or something, because it’s hot as Muspelheim outside. Sigyn and I, wanting a little diversion (or in my case, wanting to get as far away from the human female as possible!) have opted for something indoors, cool, and slightly educational.

Welcome to….The Aquarium!

There are fish here of all shapes and sizes.  It’s hard to get good photos, because they move so much.

This fellow is broad and stripey.


Make that narrow and stripey.


These two look like little finny convicts.


And this little guy looks worried.  And well might he be!   It is lunchtime, and he’d fit quite nicely on a cracker.


One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.  Plus that yellow one.


This one looks decidedly put-out.


Odin’s Eyepatch, Sigyn!  Look at this one!  He’s all spiky and has a fold-uppable fin-thingy on his back.  He’s the Swiss Army Knife of fishes.


Sigyn likes this one, says it looks as if it’s smiling.  It is also sporting the University’s preferred color scheme, maroon and white.


There’s supposed to be a blue wrasse in this tank too, but I don’t see him.  The little sign says they like to sleep burrowed in the sand, but that can’t be right.


(tap, tap, tap)  Hey fishes!  You’re so stupid!  Swimming back and forth and around and around and I don’t know if anyone told you, but you’re not actually going anywhere.


Argh!  By Fandral’s Mustache!  You know how Sigyn has that unfortunate maladay that renders her physically incapable of not mooing at every cow she sees?  Apparently now I’ve caught the disease and am talking to fish!

That probably means it is time to take a little break.  Let’s go get some lunch, Sigyn.  I hear the aquarium has a great seafood restaurant.  You can order whatever you like.  Personally,  I am in the mood for some ceviche.




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The human female went to have lunch with one of her friends (Yes, she has them.  Yes, I am as surprised as you are.)  The friend works for one of the departments that falls under the College of Agriculture, and female came back with a little giftie.


(poke, poke, poke)  I don’t know about this, Sigyn…  It looks all ripe and yellow, but it has a decidedly weird texture.  I do not think it would make a good roasting ear, nor do I think we should attempt to put it in the microwave to make popcorn.

Wait!  Stop!  Get back there, you!  Where did you come from and what do you think you’re doing?!


Ah.  That explains the weird texture.  It’s not sweet corn—it’s feed corn.

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Ugh! Not Again!

Every time someone pens a tale of my oafish brother’s insipid adventures, I am forced to endure months and months of what the humans call “hype,” and I am assaulted on all sides by his unlovely visage.

Here we go again.


Ugh.  Can it be January already?

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Any Cat But This One

I mentioned recently that since the demise of the humans’ superannuated feline some months ago, they have been entertaining the notion of acquiring another cat.  The female has been conversing with someone at the Vet School that has lab cats needing good homes.  She has also been combing the website of the local animal shelter.

Black cats, white cats, gray cats, orange cats, particolor cats.  Stripey cats, spotted cats, blotchy cats.  Plenty of Callies, Muffins, Kitties, and Felixes.  Some are quite attractive.  Some, I suppose, have mothers somewhere who loved them.  I could take them or leave them, but Sigyn likes them, so I’m not averse to acquiring one.

Not that anyone has asked my opinion, but guess which beast I do NOT want.


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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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