A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part II: A Few Surprises

The tree-identifying has been snoring boringly along:  yaupon holly, winged elm,  yaupon,  yaupon, post oak… one mostly-naked tree after another.

But the Park has a few surprises up its planty sleeves.

The students are losing their collective tiny mind.  The human female has told them that there are PALM trees in the Park and they think she’s crazy.


But here’s proof.  The human female is crazy, of course, but this is undeniably a palmetto.  Sigyn and I last saw these in East Texas.

Ah.  Here is a nice “pop” of color.  (That’s something the human female says.  I have no idea what she means, but this coralberry is certainly colorful.


It’s only a foot tall, though, so dangling here just doesn’t have the thrill one can get with a taller species.

At last!  Some actual non-arboreal blossoms!  Sigyn likes this camphorweed, not only because it’s flowery, but because it is her favorite cheery yellow.


It’s short too, but by the end of the season, it could be four feet tall.

(later)  We’ve been traipsing up and down all morning, and it is time for a break.

Clever Sigyn!   She has found us this lovely green and reddish resting place.

salvia lyrata

The human female says it’s cancerweed.  What an ugly name for such a delightful plant.  It’s not moss, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part I: Adventures in Tree ID

Sleipnir’s fetlocks!  The human female has ACTUALLY shoved her trotters into hiking boots and dragged her saggy fundament out into the woods.  She’s out at Lick Creek Park, helping some Honors Biology students who are learning how to run transects, census trees, and measure weird things like Diameter at Breast Height. (I don’t want to know.)

Because of all the cold weather and gray skies this winter, the local flora is LATE.  Things should be leaping into flower right about now, but nary a blossom is in sight.  The human female is having to dust off her knowledge of Trees in Winter Condition.  I’m letting all the talk of bud scales, leaf scars, and lentils go in one ear and out the other, but Sigyn is hanging on every syllable.

Oh, well, I guess I am hanging too.


Now that I look, this is very interesting.  We have here crustose, fruticose, AND foliose lichens, all on one branch.  Not precisely plants, but they are at least green.

Now we are getting to the trees.  This is winged elm.  No leaves, but the twigs are good and weird.

winged elm.jpg

They are all flat, and.. bacony.

Hold!  What’s this?!  Finally, something in bloom!  And it’s not some tiny, timid, little spring wildflower, it’s a big tree!   Mexican plum doesn’t look like much when its wearing its leaves later on, but it’s surely showy now.


Time for some serious dangling. Sigyn’s out of practice–we both are–but look at that form!


She’s perfection.

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Midgardians Don’t Need My Help

Some days I think it is going to take years of hard work to achieve the complete domination of Midgard and its denizens.  Other days, I’m pretty sure the foolish mortals are going to stupid themselves out of existence and I’ll have no populace left to rule over.

Case in point:  In this part of the realm, the citizens got together today to choose those who would contest (at a future date) to rule them.


I wasn’t allowed to participate.  Some silly thing about aliens not being allowed to vote or my not having the proper identification or splashing all the campaign signs with green paint and pasting on “Loki for God Emperor” stickers.  One of those, probably.

But as I said, with choices like these, all I need to do is sit back and wait for Midgard to drop into my lap like a ripe plum.  Behold this idiot’s legal name:


Lest you think one faction has a monopoly on absurdity, take a look at the other slate of options:


Oh, yes, that’s the one you want.

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Where Expensive Equipment Goes to Die

It’s a sad fact of science that equipment breaks, especially with undergrads around.  It’s a sadder fact of life with me around that the likelihood of a piece of apparatus malfunctioning is directly proportional to its usefulness and is proportional to the square of its price.

The human female and her Prep Staff have thoughtfully provided Broken Equipment Forms in every room, whereupon the teaching assistants note what item is broken, a detailed yet concise description of what the problem is, what they were doing to it when it gave up the ghost, and what feeble attempts they might have made to repair it.  They then leave the form and the equipment in a prominent place in the lab room where Prep Staff can find them.

That’s the theory, anyway.   As often as not, I see to it that the TAs are busy teaching when something fails to function, and Prep Staff just finds a lonely thingamajig sitting out later with a cryptic note next to it (or not.)

Today I’m visiting room 317.  This is where all the spare bits like bulbs and cords and batteries are kept.  It’s also the Broken Equipment Graveyard, where all the dead things go.  Also the things that are only mostly dead.  Prep Staff will take a look and do what they can for each patient.  Whatever they can’t fix gets sent to the Instrument Shop.  When the Shop can’t resurrect something, this is where solemn, respectful final rites are held before the deceased is cannibalized for parts.

Let’s take a look around.  Odin’s Eyepatch!  It’s like an mechanical leper colony in here!

This is the kind of thoughtful, detailed note Prep Staff gets, carefully penned on the appropriate form.


Obviously, the difficulty was that the 40x and 100x objectives on this compound microscope were not giving a clear image.  Just as obviously, when the scope was examined, the problem failed to manifest.

Here’s another:


I think I see the problem.  The problem is room 322.

Whoever left this one at least tried to point out where the problem is.


I love this next one.  Short. Terse.


Completely lacking any indication of what bone-headed maneuver produced the damage.   Because, of course, nothing is ever anyone’s fault.

Ah, here’s a broken equipment form truly after my own heart.  Behold.


Here are a couple more.  What room are they from?  What’s wrong?  Who knows!


Uh, oh.  The dreaded Left Ocular Broken.


Tsk, tsk.  Oculars.  For something that the students aren’t really supposed to mess with, they seem to break a lot.  The lenses inside come loose, and when they do, there really isn’t a way to fix them.  (Fun Fact:  most adhesives that would fix a lens in place give off gases that instantly and permanently cloud glass.)

Thus the human female ends up trying to buy replacements.  They look like this:


Looks like something that should be a few dollars, max, right?

Uh, no.  Turns out that precision optics don’t come cheap, when the human female can even find them.  I’ve seen to it that about half of the microscopes on the floor are discontinued models, so the manufacturer won’t sell her replacement parts.  The poor woman has been forced to descend into the world of after-market surplus and refurbished parts.  She knows a guy who knows a guy…

She’s located someone who’s willing to sell her something that is “100% guaranteed to fit your model.”  Of course, they won’t work with the original equipment, so they must be installed in pairs.

And bought singly:

ocular price

Ouch.  (Ehehehehe)

But she has gritted her teeth and submitted the PO.  It has been approved and sent to the vendor.  Except, just for funsies (love that Midgardian word.  “Funsies”–heh!) it never arrived.  The vendor has not set eyes upon it.  It’s as if it has just evaporated into the ether.  Dear me, where could it be?

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Bored, Part III: Take Only Photographs, Leave Only… Mischief

Well, Sigyn took Fisi home.  That creature has a huge time-out coming.   No biscuits for Fisi until all the spikey fellow’s stitches come out.

I figured, though, that while I’m here I should do a little of what I do best.  Pay the human female back for having such an untidy workspace.  I’m sure I can make her life more annoying somehow.

Great Frigga’s corset!  It looks like some other practitioner of mischief has been here before me!


Oh, wait.  That’s just the natural state of her desk drawer… My bad.

Look at all these keys! Does she even know what they all go to???


Well, if she does now, she won’t once I swap around all the labels.

Rubber bands!  Rubber bands are always useful.  Or, they are until they lose their boinginess…


I will noodlify these and then sit back and laugh as she goes through three or four… or eight, trying to find one that doesn’t break at first stretch.

Oh ho!  These will come in handy!  These are the transfer slips the human female writes out to schedule students for make-up labs if they have a good excuse for missing.


I’ve become quite adept at forging her signature, so I’ll just sign a bunch of these and start randomly assigning students to other labs.   We’ll see how long it takes them to figure out I’ve even changed their courses….

And since I’ve left some fun surprises, I’ll just take a little something for my trouble, and not just photos.

This.  I choose this.  I like this.


It is a paperclip truly fit for a god.  I can hold all of Midgard together with this!

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Bored, Part II: The Desk of Doom and Sparklies

Since I am still bored, Sigyn and I are still poking about (carefully!) on the human female’s desk.  There’s no telling what—or who—we’ll encounter.

Sleipnir’s fetlocks!  What is this creature?!  It’s all…spikey!  Be very careful, Sigyn!  It looks friendly, with that enormous grin and come-hug-me posture, but it has beady little eyes…  I don’t trust it.


Wait!  Um.. Sigyn?!  Ack.  Too late.  She is far too trusting and will hug anything.   If you so much as think of poking my sweetie, you bespined whatsis, I will blast you into next week.


Well, that turned out better than I thought it might.  Sigyn remains unperforated. Come, my love, let us leave your new “friend” and see what else is here.


Sigyn is delighted!  She loves tiny boxes.  I think the red one held labels for microscope slides.  The flowery one appears to have been folded out of paper.  Go ahead and open it, dearest.  I don’t think the human female will mind,  And if she does, tough luck.  If she’s not here to defend her clutter, she doesn’t deserve to have it.


Spangles!  The human female collects them when she finds them lying about.  This must be one of her stashes.  Looks like some stars and a couple of balloons.  You’ve hit the twinkly jackpot, my petal.

<Grrrr… Squeal!>

What on—?  BAD hyena!  NO BISCUIT!   No, Sigyn, don’t look!!!


Disaster on the desk.

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