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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.

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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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A Long-Overdue Mischief Update, Part I: Slow, Silent, and Costly.

Apologies. I have been so busy being wicked that I haven’t had time to write about being wicked.  Grab your favorite beverage and settle in for a long one, because Loki has been a very, very naughty boy.

The human female and her Prep Staff have been dealing with a new classroom this semester, one located in the basement of a different building.  They went to the trouble of overhauling it and fitting it out, only to be told that the course will no longer be taught after this semester.  One of the amenities they needed for proper teaching was a big  whiteboard.  This was no small job, since the building’s walls are solid masonry and hanging anything requires an act of of Congress and a special drill bit.  They requested a board be hung weeks before the beginning of the semester and were promised a timely install by  Slow, Silent, and Costly  (SSC), the University’s outsourced maintenance division.  True to form, it finally went up in the second week of the term, and the installers did not take away the old pull-down projector screen. Actually, that turned out fairly well, because it’s this screen, not the whiteboard, that lines up with the projector.

These run-ins with Slow, Silent, and Costly are a regular  thing.  Take the Great Key Incident of 2017.  In each lab classroom, several of the drawers and cabinets lock, so that computers and remotes and whatnot may be kept securely.   Most of these are all keyed with the same key.  Except for the ones that aren’t.   This means everyone has to carry multiple keys, most of which look exactly alike except for the tiny, stamped numbers.   Recently, the human female and her staff put in a work order to have the locks changed in one of the rooms, since a few were missing and it was one of the “weird rooms.”  SSC came out, got the info, and disappeared back into the private alternate dimension that they so frequently  resort to.   After a bit, they did come back to install new locks —and the lock assemblies were the wrong size for the drawers.   So SSC gathered  up all their locks and  keys and vanished  again, for a bit.  And another bit.  And another.   Prep Staff called to track them down, and someone from SCC came out again —to check up on the other folks and to say that SCC had managed to lose the keys Prep Staff had sent them so that the locks could match, and that the person originally on the job had been let go.  This new person tut-tutted, looked at the still lockless drawers, and disappeared.  They came back a few days later with the locks and a handful of keys.  But not the one that the human female and Prep Staff needed.  No, they were key 60.  Now extra keys are useful, so the keys were accepted with a smile and a request for the proper ones as well.   Some days later, someone came back with more keys—all key 60.  It took some more phone calls and emails to get the last of the work order taken care of, about a month all told.  There are a couple more drawers that need new locks.  The human female is afraid to ask…

Two of the rooms on the floor are walk-in cold rooms. I like to hide out in them when the building AC is less than optimal.  I can have a good think amidst all the bottles of methylene blue, saffranin, and Gram’s crystal violet. While  I’m in there, I usually loosen a few dropper-stoppers, so that the bottles will spill all over  when the students pick them up by the tops. Well, just before the semester started, I poked room  312, and the cooling went out.  Prep Staff had to move a lot of things into the other cold room.  They filed a work order and waited.  Maintenance showed up, took a look, fiddled a bit, went up on the roof to check something, and then disappeared.  For the better part of a month.  The human female called the main SSC office, and they contacted the workers the job had been given to and asked the techs to check in,  but… silence.  More emails, more phone calls.   Checking the status log showed all sorts of activity–one tech teaching another, ordering parts  (they seem not to keep any on hand), and whatnot. Still, 90 degrees in the cold room.  The human female checked in with the SSC office and again, no contact from the actual workers.  Then, one day, the room was working again.  The human female had to check the online progress tracker to find out that there was a new motor— and a bill for over $1,000.00.  Slow.  Silent. Costly.

The best part of that  little prank was that the packets of yeast being stored in the cold/warm/cold room were not moved and did not take kindly to being so warm.  When it was time for the little saccharomyceous beasties to perform their duties in the Metabolism lab, they all politely declined.  Cue mass purchases.  Hope no one in town wanted to bake bread that week.

You remember the eyewash.   It was finally installed, but SSC did it by completely relocating the faucet.  It works now, after a fashion.  The eyewash knob won’t stay pulled out, so it will only run unattended for about twenty seconds.  It must be wedged open with a rubber stopper. Oh, and the hot and cold taps are reversed.   Perhaps one of those S’s stands for “substandard.”

More recently, I fiddled with the fridge in one of the teaching labs.   It wasn’t keeping things cold enough.  The human female asked the Department’s Instrument Shop to come take a look, since the tech there is very good and does do appliances.  He was too busy, though, with a new film processor.  He referred the human female to SSC.  A work order was filed, and two techs (they travel in pairs; it’s safer  more expensive that way) came right out and looked at it.  Then they came back the next day and tweaked something.  Prep Staff moved it into a different, non-teaching room so that they could come and fix it any time. The techs came back the next day to  to check on it and discovered that it had iced up.  (DuhFrost Giant.)  Then they disappeared for about three weeks.  Again, the human female called the main SSC office to find out what was going on.  Again, the office contacted the techs assigned to the job and asked them to get hold of the human female for a debrief.  Again, nothing.  Are you seeing a pattern here?   Then one day two techs showed up and told the human female that since the fridge was rated to hold flammables (all the working guts are sealed) they couldn’t do a thing with it, couldn’t open the seal, etc., etc.   $199.00 and counting and no fix.   They told her the Departmental Tech would have to do it.  The Departmental Tech, by this time, had fixed the film processor (mostly) and eventually did come to look at it.  It took him about 5 minute to deduce a bad thermostat, something SSC should have been able to fix.  (Bad thermostat!  No biscuit for you!)  Hooray, a diagnosis!   Boo, hiss, the fridge is too old for any retailer or the manufacturer to have the part in stock.  He  said he’d try to locate a compatible one,  elsewhere.   So, no fix in sight.   But at least the Departmental tech communicates.

It has now been a month, and the classes in room 305 are still having to share the fridge in a different room.

Slow.  Silent.  Costly.  

The human female’s left eyelid has been twitching for two weeks.

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Mischief Update: Here We Go Again

It’s been quite some time, I believe, since I have enlightened my readers as to my progress in making the human female’s life a nightmare.  Let me rectify that!

I was not idle over the Yule holiday.  I managed to manipulate both space and time. Something the human female ordered on December 12 was tracked to Hutchins, Texas on December 13.  On the 14th, she was told it was in Ocala, Florida on the 13th and was in Hutchins, Texas at 1:00 p.m., even though it was then only 9:00 a.m.  I like to watch that vein in her forehead bulge.

Two Yule gifts that people said they were sending to the human female have yet to arrive.  She does not know whether the gifts were, in fact, sent; whether Unrepentant Package Squashers or Usually Smashes Packages Significantly has made some grievous error; or whether I have been holed up somewhere, secretly eating chocolate, reading botany books, and drawing mustaches on photos of the grand-nieces and -nephews.

My gift to the male was a nasty cold.  Generous soul that he is, he shared with the human female, so that they both hacked and snorted their way through the holiday.  The female is still coughing, so I’m getting some good mileage out of a few microbes!  It’s called Thrift.

Of course, the fact that record cold has been followed by record heat, then rain, then fog, then wind, then cold again so that no one knows what to wear hasn’t helped.  Thor’s not the only one who can fiddle with the weather!

Following my recommendation, the local utility company has instituted a monthy “road improvement” fee to be assessed on all households.  Ostensibly, this is for Road Improvement, but it is actually the “Loki Roadtrip Improvement” fee.  By spring break, Sigyn and I will be able to go someplace really nice.

On the work front, I continue to be quite busy.  The new semester has started, which means the usual chaos of out-of-department teaching assistants, computer users who manage to delete their entire mailboxes, multiple conflicting versions of each syllabus, malfunctioning thermostats, and no-shows at critical meetings.

BAMN, my beloved purchasing software system, that which has caused the human female so much grief, is being phased out.  That is all right.  I have wrung about as much mayhem out of it as I can.  I will be able to confound her with just vendors and shippers and bookkeeping!  Why, already this semester, the Purveyor of Squiggly Things has shipped termites on the wrong day, increased all their prices, and lost the human-female-approves-all-shipping-charges-so-please-do-not-call-on-every-order note that was hanging in their shipping office.  There’s no fear anyone will forget BAMN, though, because there will long remain that open commitment with the Purveyor of Dead Things for that last order of stiff kitties.  It will remain on the books for-ev-er.

She is also haunted by the Ghosts of Piglets Past.  The Landfill Guardians have decreed that the preserved porcine cadavers are too much all at once.  The female must PAY the University’s Vet School to pick them up and incinerate them.  The good news is that she finally made contact with the people who can make this happen.  The bad news is that all the little piggies have to be unbagged before they will take them. File under “eew.”

The human female produced a small spate of actual useful activity in re-organizing the Biology Image Library, a vasty collection of images and review questions which the students may use (but mostly don’t) for study. Responding to numerous student requests, she sorted the images in each review set by lab.  Wanting to keep her occupied and out of my hair for as long as possible, I tinkered with the underlying code so that the images in each set display in alphabetical order by file name–no exceptions.  The only way to accomplish the sorting was to save each image, rename it with a name beginning with the name of the lab, and re-upload it.  Repeat for each review set.  Lest she become too complacent and file the sorted gallery as “completed business,” I deleted the script that alerted her to new faculty users requesting faculty access to the library, so now each new user will have to email her so that she can log in and enable them.  And then mail the new user back to let them know they can access the library.

I have engendered a war betwixt the human female and the main office copier-printer.  She was unable to print to it, getting only the message that the printer was offline due to a document “stuck” in the print queue.  When she tried to delete the document, she discovered that it was not one of hers.  It belonged to the IT tech who last set up user access to the printer–so she couldn’t delete it!  The IT tech was able to remotely log-in and delete it, but I guess his finger slipped (innocent whistling), because then the human female’s computer couldn’t see the printer at all.

I have also had my wicked way with the Department’s back-up server, with its array of hard drives.  I have had the drives fail one after the other, usually during a major backup session or an array rebuild, and at the most inconvenient times!  Such as last thing on the last day before the Yule holiday.  And on weekends.  And when the humans were out of town.  The human male does not often indulge in profanity, but he has learned some new words!

Astute readers will recall that the human female had a teensy little tiff with one of my hymenopterous associates back in October.  Since then, her swollen knuckle and advancing avoirdupois have kept her from wearing her engagement-wedding ring combination.  After determining that the swollen joint was not going to return to its accustomed size any time in the near future, she took the ring to a local jeweler for re-sizing.  They kept the ring for a few weeks, then reported that they could not do the job without separating the rings from one another, nor would they do the work unless she agreed to re-tipping all the prongs and having some additional work done, to the merry tune of $400.00+.   She asked them to return the ring to her, saying she will seek aid elsewhere.  So now she has it back and has added “find a different jeweler” to her ever-increasing to-do list.  The longer it sits about, off her hand, the more time I have to shove it down the sofa or feed it to the cat, so by all means, mortal, procrastinate away!

The humans and the feline continue to rely on various prescriptions for their continued miserable existence.  I have had had some fun with the mail-order pharmacy, Pills-R-Us, before.  They  used to think 11 pills was an 11-day supply and so not count it as eligible for autoship. Well, now they think that 9 pills is an 11-day supply.  I’m going for seven next month.  Meanwhile, the pharmacy that compounds the feline’s nostrums continues to invisibly under-fill every syringe of transdermally-applied medicine  (they look full), with the result that estimating what is left in any given syringe is indeed a crapshoot.

Let me think….  What else?

I made a funny smell in Room 313, prompting a round of everyone’s favorite game, “Hunt the Stench.”  The consensus was “mouse,” and I scattered a few dry droppings about, so the past week has involved traps, peanut butter, and a sort of rodentiferous paranoia. Except no one has caught anything.  Except perhaps hantavirus, but eh, Frost Giants are immune, so who really cares?

I made a steam leak in the autoclave, such that the resulting cloud set off the fire alarms and the whole building had to be evacuated.  On the first day of the semester.  In the rain.

The fridge made a puddle.

The feline made a puddle.  I have also taught her to lick the leather sofa, so now there’s a light, very smooth patch in her favorite spot.  Well, actually the middle of the dining room table is her favorite spot, because that’s where all the good sun is, of course.

My favorite spot is anywhere Sigyn is, about four inches to the left.

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Michief Update

This week is definitely more harried than last, thanks in no small part to my efforts. Mischief Level: 7

1. The human female’s teaching labs continue to vacillate between hot and cold. Right now they’re hot, the temperature set-point having been overridden somehow to allow rooms warm enough to kill starfish in the tanks. Killing marine life was *not* my intent. It’s just fun to see instructors sweat.

2. One of the Big Vendors With Whom the Female Spends Many Dollars drew up a nice little quote on some scientific equipment she’d like to buy. It was due on a tight deadline. I jiggled his hand and had it show up with someone else’s name and address in the Bill To and Ship To fields. Oopsie. Ehehehehehe.

3. I’ve arranged for the building’s only elevator to be down for repairs precisely when the human female and her staff want to bring in all the supplies for summer classes.

4. The cat’s voice lessons are really starting to bear fruit. The feline’s range, vibrato, and dynamics are all wonderfully expanded. Performances at 11:15 p.m., 2:35 a.m., and 4:45 a.m. daily. Admission free!

5. The human female had to give a talk on a botanical subject yesterday. I improved her presentation with numerous images of Sigyn and myself, then addled her notes and threw in some extra slides so that her talk went on forever and she made a right idiot out of herself. (I began by disabling the Presenter View option so she couldn’t find her notes, but she figured out a workaround, the wench.)

6. There is a big nature science day “thing” in town this coming weekend, with field trips and walks and talks and booths and activities for the younglings. I’ve ordered rain.

7. I convinced all of the local grocery stores to cease carrying the humans’ favorite flavor of fizzy water, and their favorite salsa has been discontinued by the manufacturer altogether. (It was mild. Who eats mild? Wusses.)

8. The humans are expecting a few more rounds of out of town company. That’s always good for some stress. If she’d just quit being such a sloven, the female wouldn’t have to scramble so much when someone wants to visit.

The copier’s been behaving well. Must go see to that…

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Mischief Update

While Sigyn and the human female dither about what color to make the eggs, I will note progress on my campaign to turn the human female into a babbling idiot. Mischief level: 5 out of 10.

1. Glassware. I tried. I really did, but the glassware vendor finally came through with the refund for the apothecary bottles. I was hoping I could stretch that prank out for a whole year, but I only managed 315 days. Note to self: Try harder.

2. Plumbing. No new leaks to report, but my work with the lab and office temperature controls is bearing a lot of fruit. The humans have caught wise to the fact that the thermostats on the wall are essentially decoys and that the displayed temperature is only an approximation, but I keep arranging little surprises. One week there was no hot water and the growth room dipped to just above 60F, which the plants and animals did not care for. This week two of the water pumps that supply chilled water went out at the same time, so the inside temperature went from bearable to “shuck-all-clothing” over the space of about two hours. The humans opened some windows and got to enjoy the record pollen count and some construction noise.

3. Pollen! Pollen everywhere! I have encouraged the trees that overhand the humans’ various parking spaces at work and at home to be extra prolific this spring, so their blue vehicles are now green. Birds have added some white dots, and the whole effect is very avant garde. (That is a Midgardian term meaning “disturbing and unpleasant to view.”)

4. The cat and I have figured out that 2:40 a.m. is the perfect time for a howl-and-prowl, especially if it is followed by hairball-harfing at 4:45 a.m. At that point, it pretty much does not pay to go back to sleep.

5. I also have a little project under development having to do with medical bills and insurance claims. I’m hoping to add hypertension and stress migraines to the human female’s other physical ailments.

Piddling stuff, I know, but it all adds up.

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Mischief update

Fog-shrouded trees and fungal excrescences are all very well, but don’t imagine for a moment I’m not keeping up with my campaign to make the human female crack before her next birthday.

So. Glassware. Remember the Beakers? Well, the vendor replaced the suspicious one, so she now has the one that came first, three more good ones, and one that can’t be trusted. (That one’s my favorite.) A refund was issued, even though there was really no need. That may seem like good news, until you realize that it wasn’t in an amount that corresponds to any number of single or multiple beakers, which is going to drive the accountants mad, and they will scream at the human female. And I will laugh.

Meanwhile, The Great Apothecary Bottle Snafu, which the human female thought might be resolved…isn’t. The Head Beancounters tried to tell her that the aforementioned refund took care of the four cases she succeeded in returning, but the amount is much less than the price of the returned goods. So that’s still hanging, and if I can keep this up through May, it will have been a year exactly!

I have suborned some of the maintenance employees, and now the temperature in the plant and animal room is seesawing nicely between 65 and 80F in no discernible pattern. We spin a dial to determine which component of the heating and cooling system will malfunction next. (If you have a preference, I can be bribed.)

Oh, and I’ve created a fine, is-it-a-dead-mouse-or-just-damp smell in one of the classrooms…

I did tinker with the weather last weekend, and when my spell weakened enough for them to TRY to go do something fun, I arranged for one of them to fall just ill enough that leaving the house was not an option. They then tried to do some home improvement, but I thwarted that too. That deserves a diary entry of its own!

The front yard is full of weeds, the grass isn’t green yet, I have taught the feline to on eat the houseplants and harf them up, and I arranged for the carbon monoxide detector to go off in the middle of the night. No dangerous gas, of course, just a malfunctioning unit. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

I like to keep busy.

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