Author: lokispeaks

Ridiculously smart and incredibly good-looking

A Fall Scramble, Part II: Thar She Blows (Whatever The Heck That Means)

The human female is becoming a bit concerned because she hasn’t seen any of her rare flowers  yet.  I think it is one of those things, though, that you have to see the first one, and then, once your eye is trained, you start to see them everywhere.

Augh!  Now she’s squealing abominably.  I suppose that means she’s spotted some.  Yes, there they are, hiding in the tall grass.

agalinis-grass

Sigyn says she has learned how to tell the rare ones from the common ones.  The flowers can be the same color on both, but the common ones have wider leaves, and the flowers have almost no stalk at all.  It’s an over-all thickish sort of plant.

agalinis-het

The rare ones have very narrow leaves and long flower stalks, so that the whole plant is open and airy, sort of tricky to spot if it’s not in flower.

Agalinis-nav

There are some differences in the flowers, too, but you have to be as big a plant nerd as the human female to understand.  I don’t pretend to, nor do I listen when she rattles on and on about “anther placement” and “calyx sinuses” and “stigma color.”  As  Future Ruler of Midgard, such details are beneath my notice.  I’ll have minions for that.

Odin’s eyepatch! Now that she’s spotted them, the human female now proposes to walk over every inch of the outcrop and count the rare plants.  I don’t know whether to hope that there aren’t very many this year so that this will all be over quickly, or to hope that the rare plant is having a good year, even knowing that it will mean listening to the idiot woman try to remember what comes after “threety-eleven.”

This is, unfortunately, going to involve some clambering.  Sigyn insists on doing it all herself.

need-a-hand

But my love, would you not appreciate a magical boost?  Maybe just a little one?

(a bit later)

We have reached the top and completed our survey, having counted about one hundred plants, which makes this a good-ish year, though not a great one.  Now we are free to look about at other members of the flora.

This wafer-ash is also known as hop tree, presumably because of the flat fruits.  (Apparently someone thought it looked like beer-brewing hops and the name stuck.  I don’t see it myself.)

ptelea

It is very good for dangling, though the foliage is looking rather tattered.  The human female says this tree is a relative of oranges and lemons and, as such, is considered  yummy by the giant swallowtail caterpillar.  Sigyn says she would like to see one of those caterpillars.  However, they are camouflaged to look like bird droppings, and I’ve no real desire to go poking piles of bird poop to see which ones are wiggly and have legs.

But here is a good one for you, love!  (No poop-poking required!)

swallowtail-thelesperma

I actually learned this one because it has such marvelous horns.  It is the larval stage of the pipevine swallowtail.  It ought to be munching on pipevine; I’ve no idea what it thinks it is doing with this greenthread.

There really is a splendid view from up here.  I can see a good portion of the county, though the removal of a few junipers would improve the vista even more.

topview

Sigyn and the human female are still oohing and aahing and speaking in slanty names, enthusing over fall favorites such as this blue sage.

salvia azurea

I, on the other hand, propose to divest myself of my hot and heavy (though noble!) helmet and relax on this pat of moss while they fossick about.

sleepnumbermoss

Who knows?  I might even doze.  Being magnificent and knowledgeable about caterpillars is hard work. Wake me when it is time to go home.

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A Fall Scramble, Part I: Here We Are Again

It is Autumn here in the northern part of Midgard–or at least, that’s what the calendar says.  I’ve been tinkering with the weather, alternating hot and cold days so that everyone has the sniffles and no one knows what to wear or what to serve for dinner.  Woolly hat or shorts and flip-flops?  Cool salad or hearty stew!  Ehehehehe!  The mortals are all cOnFUseD and there’s no end to the see-sawing in sight.

But, by the calendar, the rare plant that the human female discovered, and which she keeps an eye on, ought to be blooming.  She’s grabbed her boots and sunscreen and insect repellent and is heading for the outcrop in the next county over where the plant is to be found— if it’s up.  It is one of my warm days, and I could certainly do without being cooped up in the car with the human female for twenty minutes each way, but Sigyn really, really likes “botanizing,” so she is going.  And if Sigyn is going, I am going, because I don’t trust the human female in the field one tiny little bit.  With me along, there’s a much better chance that my sweetie comes home in one smiling piece.

(laterish)

And here we are at what the human female calls, “an outcropping of calcareous Oligocene sandstone of the Oakville formation” and what I call, “a tilty chunk of inconvenient climbiness.”

The first plant to greet us is the very conspicuous, electric blue dayflower.  It’s fairly common in this part of Midgard.  There are even some back at the house.

dayflower

They look better out here than coming up around the compost heap, though.

The human female is checking to see if the “usual suspect” plants are up where they normally are.  The redwhisker clammy-weed is right where it is every year.  The bright sun is washing out the pale pink of the petals and the bright red of the stamens.

cleome

It really is very sticky to the touch.  Sigyn, be careful as you go—I don’t know how well the sticky comes out of red velvet.

Ugh.  It really is uncomfortably warm and bright today.

hotouthere

Here is a plant I don’t recall seeing out here before.  Look at the fat, funny leaves!  The human female says it’s a cousin of the moss roses that people grow in pots.

portulaca-2

Step into the voluminous shade the human female is casting, and let us see if we can get a better photo.

portulaca

Those really are tiny flowers!  Sadly, too small for Sigyn to try on as a hat.

Great Frigga’s hairpins!  If you thought that was a tiny flower, dearest, come look at this one!

heliotropium-tenellum

Heliotropium tenellum.”  It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

This one’s not much bigger.  It’s one of the broomweeds, the human female says, either Gutierrezia texana or Amphichyris dracunculoides.

broomweed

I’m of the opinion that if she’s going to call herself a botanist, she should KNOW which one it is.  She’s making noises about tiny “pappus” this and “receptacle” that and saying that she needs to look at various bits under a microscope.  Flimsy excuses, woman, and if you need a microscope, you bring it on your various traipse-alongs, because I am not going to tote it for you.  Nor will I waste my magic summoning something you should have thought of in the first place.  Besides, I think you make up all those slanty, sciency names anyhow.

Time for some climbing!  Autumn is definitely the season for yellow daisy-family things, and here is another.  If you can believe the human female, it is part of the whole golden aster mish-mash, and it goes by the improbable name of Heterotheca subaxillaris.   The common name, camphorweed, is much less of a mouthful.

heterotheca

Sigyn, after sniffing its gland-dotted foliage, confirms that it does, in fact, smell a little granny’s-closety.

Stand over there next to that pale purple one, my love.

ruellia

Look at that!  The flowers are more than a Sigyn long!  If it didn’t have just the one blossom, I would pick it for you and make you the pointiest hat ever!

Norns’ nighties!  Are we really only halfway up?  This hill goes on forever.

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Les Tubas, Ils Sont Arrivés

The human female was finally able to order her snorkels.   I made it a little hard for her, because she finally found some affordable ones at Rampartmart.  She had to order them online, because the local bricks-and-mortar store didn’t have as many as she wanted to buy.  I mean, who buys THIRTY snorkels all at once?

Now the human female and her Prep Staff have a tax-free card to use when they shop at the local Rampartmart, but of course they could not be allowed to use that number online.  Oh, no, no!  The human female had to set up an account and choose a password and send them a copy of the Department’s State of Taxes tax-free status before they’d even let her buy them.

They just arrived.  Sigyn, let’s see what we’ve got.

snorkelbox1

They’re green!  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t green.  I approve.

snorkelbox2

There are a lot of them— a whole mountain for Sigyn to climb, but I don’t think there are thirty here.

snorkelbox3

Eleven, twelve, thirteen…. Nope. Not thirty!  Looks like the internet is no better than bricks and mortar.  The human female is hoping that when she finds the packing slip it says that more are coming from somewhere else.

Sigyn has never used a snorkel.  It’s easy, my love.  One end goes in your mouth and the other sticks up above the water into the air.

snorkelbox4

This is not how I imagined this would go…

snorkelbox5

(later)  A lot of huffing and puffing and a little dab of Vaseline and some steady traction, and I finally have my sweetie back.

Oh, now you want to try on the included goggles?  Didn’t I just rescue you?  Be careful with these! They’re not like lab goggles.  These are for diving and the nose bit is covered. They’re kiddie sized, and if they fit tightly, you’re not going to be able to breathe.

snorkelbox6

Yeah, somehow I don’t think that’s going to be a problem…

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I Have Taught Them Well

The human female’s Prep Staff and the Teaching Assistants spend an inordinate amount of time trying to train the students to take proper care of the expensive equipment the labs are stocked with.  I spend a not inconsiderable amount of my time going around behind them and teaching them all my bad habits.

Pipettors, now.  Those are practically my stock and trade these days.  I haven’t actually counted how many the students have manhandled out of alignment or flat out broken. They absolutely do keep trying to abrogate the laws of physics and put 1800 microliters in a pipettor that holds 200 to 1,000.

And behold the fine job they have done with this one:

wonkypipette

They’ve discombobulated this one so thoroughly that the numbers no longer align!  That little beauty is going to have to have a little vacation and a nice trip back to the manufacturer to see if it can’t be cured of its dialular scoliosis. There’s another few that have been over-dialed so much that the piston-plunger has come right out and the pipettor is in two pieces.  I’d show you the photos because I love them dearly and shall treasure them always, but they’re just too gruesome. This is a marginally family-friendly blog, after all.

And then there are the microscopes.  Expensive, heavy, AND delicate, the trifecta of accidents waiting to happen.  The students insist on stealing eyepieces, using the coarse focus with the higher magnifications and ramming the objectives into the slides, smearing the focusing oil all over the lab when using the 1,000x magnification, tying the cords in knots, and putting them back oh, so improperly.

How should a microscope be put away?  The checklist goes something like this: Remove the slide.  Rotate the nosepiece so that the low power objective (the shortest one) is in position. Raise the stage, fold the cord neatly and tuck it between the stage and the light, and then lower the stage. Cover the scope and then put it into the cabinet front-first and hand-hold facing out so that when the cabinet doors are shut they don’t slam into the eyepieces.

Now, all that sounds much more complicated than it actually is.  A toddler, if he could somehow heft one of the heavy things, could do it.  I’ve convinced the college students, however, that it’s just too much trouble, so the human female and her staff are confronted with scenes like this:

badscope

That is stunning.  I’m not even sure how they got that in there!  The cord’s under the stage, all right, but this uncovered mess has one of the long objectives still rotated into place.  And then there’s the placement!  Whoever put this away transcended backwards and opted for sideways and SLANTY!  I sort of want to track this person down and shake their feckless little hand.

And wait–there’s more! There’s a bonus! My new favorite person has left the last-viewed slide in place.

badscope2

Well done, anonymous student! Well done.

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Fun With Unidentified Seasonal Fruit

The human male has come home from doing the marketing with a surprise for the female. And here it is. It’s a… It’s a…

quince1

I have no idea what it is.

Sigyn, is that anything you recognize? It looks like an apple, a pear, and a lemon had too much to drink and this was the sad  result. It’s hard as a brick, too, isn’t it?

quince2

Volstagg’s straining waiscoat buttons! Look at the arse on that thing!

I have a hard time believing that this is actually supposed to be edible. Surely this is a Joke Fruit. I don’t trust it. Nope, Not. At. All.

The human female says this is something that isn’t meant to be eaten raw.  She’s whacked it into pieces with extreme prejudice and no finesse, and now she’s got the pieces simmering with sugar in a saucepan.

quince3

Careful, dearest!  Don’t fall in!

Hmmm. I detect a hint of dessertification happening here.  The human female has added apples, sugar, spices, and a little corn starch.

quince4

Sigyn approves of sugar and spices.  If allowed, I believe she would wallow.

(later) The human female chucked the whole mess onto a crust in a pie plate. I “helped” her roll out the top crust. Oopsie. She cut out some pastry stars to cover up the giant tear.  It’s been baking for a while now, and it smells as if it might be done.

quince5

Oh, yeah. Those stars are totally disguising your failure.

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There’s That Word Again…

It’s a universal phenomenon. Happens on all nine realms and in all the places in between. You hear a new word, something you’re absolutely certain you’ve never heard before. And then suddenly, boom! You run into it three times in the next week.

Today’s word is: SNORKEL. Sigyn ran into it at the pen show last week and fell in love with it. Every now and then she’ll say it to herself and giggle. “Snorkel.” It is indeed a funny word.

Believe it or not, the human female is trying to buy some. She needs them for an upcoming lab exercise. The students will be conducting an experiment on the diving response in humans. Apparently, this primitive species retains some animal hard-wiring. When their faces or heads go under cold water, their heart rate slows. The human female wants to see if this response occurs if the test subjects can still breathe while their heads are under water.

Searching for “snorkels” brings up a wide array of options. Everything from professional divers’ gear to cheap plastic kiddie models. The human female is now muttering under her breath—the really good ones are upwards of $30.00 apiece, which is not at all within the target price range for a state-supported institution.

Now she’s checking to see if perhaps the Vendor Who’s Responsible has them. I’ve tweaked their search algorithm for “better functionality,” and I’m delighted she gets to try out its new features. Ping!  Her search has yielded results.trying to buy snorkel

Ehehehehe! Cheap plastic kiddie models it is, then.

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Dental Hygiene Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

The human female doesn’t have a “beauty routine”—and believe me, it shows—but she’s usually pretty good in the cleanliness department.  I mean, she doesn’t reek or anything.  (Unless she’s been doing yardwork, in which case all bets are off.)  She washes her face and combs her hair and prefers clean clothes to dirty ones.  If there’s one thing she excels at, though, it’s tooth-brushing.  I understand that she spent a lot of ugly duckling years undergoing orthodontic rearrangement, so she’s sporting an expensive set of (sadly still misaligned) chompers that she wants to take care of.

She was brushing said teeth this morning when she felt a bit of breakfast get stuck between her two front teeth on the bottom.   Like the dutiful drone that she is, she then reached for the floss, and when she flossed, she felt something fall out over her lip and into the sink.  She’s curious by nature, so she looked in the mirror to see if she’d removed the offending particle. What she saw made her search for the offending particle in the sink in disbelief  She scooped it up, and here it is.

tooth1

(poke, poke, poke)  Is that what I think it is?!  No!  Ewww, Sigyn, look but don’t touch.  I’m magically protected against her cooties but we can’t take the chance that you’re not immune.

What I have in my hand is…

tooth2

one corner of her lower left central incisor.  It just— “poof”— cracked and fell off.  She keeps poking at the broken edge with her tongue, and apparently there’s a REALLY sharp and pointy point left there, because not only does the tooth hurt, but she’s sliced up her tongue a little too.

Now, we all know that “Schadenfreude” is my middle name, but even I draw the line at tooth owies.  They’re just no fun.

There’s a part of me, though, that is beyond tickled that she now has a dentist appointment, the annual smash-the-frontal-lady-bits, and jury duty all in the same month!  If I can get her to lose her keys or suffer a flat tire, I’ll have a bingo.

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