Loki does science

What’s Behind Door Number 302? Part IV: ‘Cause This is Chiller

There is more than gloves, Squiggly/Leggedy Things, and Planty Things in this room.  This is also where the human female and her staff keep the ultra cold freezer and the special refrigerator that can hold flammable things.  That last appliance doesn’t make any sense.  If something is on fire, it’s not exactly cold.

Let’s see what we have.

This is the inside of the ultra cold.  It runs at about negative 50 centipede.


I know what you’re thinking, that I used the wrong word.  I, Loki, the Silvertongued, do not make errors of vocabulary or elocution.  This is where the human female’s staff puts the naughty, vicious centipedes after they are done observing them.  You thought I was joking about Centipede Valhalla, didn’t you?  By now they have probably run more than fifty centipedes through this thing.

The colorful blocky things are for holding test tubes of DNA and whatnot.  Congratulations, human female!  Now all your equipment has been contaminated with Jotun DNA.  Your next PCR experiment should be very interesting.

Oh, Sigyn!  You are shivering!  Let us move to the flammable fridge.  It’s bound to be warmer in there, one way or the other.

Some of these containers look very old.  Look at the dates!  They haven’t been used in years.  (I don’t think they clean out this fridge very often…)


Hmm.  Two jars of lanolin.  Greasy sheep paste!  You could have yourself some very soft skin, Sigyn.  But if I’m reading the labels correctly, the humans use this stuff as a carrier for plant growth regulators.  What do you think, my sunflower?  Shall we open the tiny container of indole-3- acetic acid, an auxin which promotes shoot growth, mix up a little batch, and see if we can make you taller?


Just kidding!  You are perfect the way you are.

Sigyn is interested in these jars of green liquid.  “Chlorophyll extract.”  <sniff, sniff>  Whew!  Essence of spinach, with hints if diethyl ether, petroleum ether, and acetone.  Whiffy stuff!


Yes, my love, chlorophyll is supposed to be healthy for you.  No, I do not think you should drink this.  I do not think the acetone would do you any good.

If you are still craving something green when this adventure is over, we can go and have a nice salad somewhere.

In the far corner of the room is the ice maker.  Sometimes, when the human female has been particularly vexing, I come in here to think and cool off.

There’s a big sign saying that the ice isn’t for human consumption,


but I’ve been known to nibble…

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The humans, bereft of magic that can make anything be anything, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why things are the way they are and how they get that way.  Hence, next week’s biology lab will address the subjects of genetics and heredity.

I confess I do not know much about this subject, just that if you cross a mortal with another mortal, sadly, you will probably get another mortal.  There seems to be no way around it, which is why Midgard is so backward.

Since there are laws regarding the obtaining, studying, and disposing of humans, the students will be examining an even less intelligent organism — corn.   Apparently if you cross corn having some big letters with corn having some other, smaller letters, you get a crop of corn that has mixed big and little letters.   This excites the mortals for some reason, as does the fact that if you take those mixed-letter corn plants and let them make plant whoopie, you get some specific ratio of big to little letters.

I know. I don’t get it either.

Thus, the students are to be presented with several dry ears of corn that supposedly illustrate some of these phenomena.  The corn is useless for anything else, including eating.  Why?  Well, first, because it is not “eating” corn.  Also, it is very dry, and very old.

And also bug-ridden.  You see, there is a small, reddish-brown beetle that has made its life’s work, its noble contribution, the eradication of all this boring, alphabetic corn.   It is quite persistent and completely tireless.  It seeks out dry corn wherever it may be found and gobbles it right up like Volstagg at a feast.  It leaves behind quite a lot of powdered corn starch mixed with beetle poop.  This makes the ears unpleasant and messy to work with.

I may or may not have shown it where all the corn is stored…

At any rate, I have arranged that last week and this, the human female has had the task of cleaning all of the corn ears, brushing away all the fecal fallout, dusting out the display boxes, and re-shrink-wrapping all the ears.

Let’s drop on on her progress, shall we?

Here’s a really messy display box.


Those little beetles have been very thorough.    This one’s even worse!  Look at all that frass!


After some vigorous thumping and brushing, the box now looks like this:


I suppose it’s an improvement, but now the poor students will actually have to study.

The bagged and/or shrink-wrapped ears are just as infested.


Look at all those sad little corpses of beetles who gave their lives for the cause.   I bet the human female doesn’t even stop to mourn.


She’s dusting off the ears, putting them in this plastic tubing,


and using this tool to shrink the tubing to fit the corn.


It is currently off, which is why I can bear to be near it.  Heat guns and Frost Giants are non-mixy things.

Here’s an ear all ready to have its diaphanous cocoon shrunk to fit.


The close-fitting plastic sleeves will keep the kernels from falling off the cob and keep the beetles from re-attacking the ears.


Right up until the point I poke holes in all the plastic…

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Floral Remnants, Part I: Beware the Bilabiate Corolla

The students in some of the human female’s biology classes actually get around to studying flowering plants.  Sigyn thinks that might be the best week in the whole semester.  Not only does she enjoy going to the market and buying armloads of snapdragons, Alstroemeria, and carnations, but the human female lets her have all of the posies that survive the week.

Sigyn especially  likes the snapdragons, because the little flowers can be made to open and close.  A little imagination and a bit of practice, and you can make them talk or sing or tell stories.


This semester, the snapdragons are pink. 

Usually, these blossoms are safe to play with, Sigyn, but watch out!


The pink ones can be a little feisty.

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Great Frigga’s Corset! She’s Actually Doing Work! Part II: Mischief In The Mix

Before the human female can fill up all the jars, she has to make the cocktail that goes in them.  Behold, the sacred, secret recipe her Tech II has left:


This makes a little something called FAA–Formalin Acetic Acid.  It’s toxic, carcinogenic, flammable, explosive —you name an unpleasant characteristic, and it has it.  And someone trusts the human female to MAKE this?!

Since PPE (personal protective equipment) is incompatible with horns and messes up Sigyn’s hair, I’m just going to throw a protective spell around us while we are here.  The human female is on her own.

She’s starting with the glacial acetic acid.  Think of this as vinegar turned up to eleven.  It’s so awful that it’s kept in the flammables locker


The mischief I could do with just one spark…

That’s the bottle she needs. That big one, there.  The one too big to accurately pour from.


Next she’s adding the formalin.  It’s a preservative, a watered-down formaldehyde, if you will, but it’s still very bad for humans.

It’s in an unwieldy container too.  She plans to pour some into a beaker and pour from that into the graduated cylinder.  Good plan.  We’ll see if it works.


The last ingredient is the ethanol.  This stuff is very flammable.  And also explosive.   And she has fifty liters of it.  Leaving quickly and going for a walk outdoors is sounding better and better all the time.


Well, at least she has the carboy pushed back and the spigot not hanging over the edge of the bench (where someone walking by, might just happen to nudge it open a bit…)

What will she use to measure out the 2700 ml she needs?

Fenrir’s Fleacollar! Sigyn is trapped in glassware again!  What is it with her?!


Oh, whew!  She was just behind it.  Sigyn, that is one TALL graduated cylinder.  You fall in that one, and I’m not sure even I could fish you out.


So now all the ingredients are in this big beaker inside a running fume hood.  Fume hoods are good.  They keep chemicals from filling a room with nasty vapors.


I quite like the little tornado that the magnetic stirrer is making.  I think I shall devise a spell to do the same thing in my morning grape juice.  Juice with a tornado would be super cool, just the sort of thing one would expect the ruler of Midgard to have!

And that, light of my life, is our exit cue.  In just a minute, the human female it going to try to pour neatly from this big beaker into a large carboy with a spigot.   Then she will do this all twice more, to fill the carboy.  Think she can do it without spilling?

Me, neither.

Fortunately, I have the good folks at Eek! Hazards, Sickness, and Death on speed-dial.

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Great Frigga’s Corset! She’s Actually Doing Work! Part I: The Task At Hand

Uh, oh.  The human female’s Tech II is out of town, right before labs start for the semester, when the team is already one person down.  That leaves the human female in charge of the two Tech I’s.  IN CHARGE.

Those words should terrify you.

So, on top of dealing with vendors who can vend but not ship, trying to ride herd on all the teaching assistants, and trying to push through the hiring of a new Tech II, the human female has become, essentially, another Tech II.  Who on Midgard thought THAT was a good idea?!

All the members of Prep Staff have their tasks to do.  The human female got stuck with her share of the scutt-work.  I have no intention of getting my hands dirty and helping her, but Sigyn and I have come to see what it is that actually has her in a lab coat, goggles, and gloves.   (I thought she couldn’t get any more hideous, but those goggles make her look like a demented insect.)

Ugh.  Sigyn, look at this mess!


Two whole counters of the main Prep room is taken up by jars of preserved plants, fungi, and algae.  Hundreds and hundreds of jars.  What are they doing out of their basement cabinets?

Oh, I see.  Heimdall’s helmet, these look bad.


I think these are the specimens that need topping-up with preserving fluid.  And it looks like that fluid can eat right through metal lids.   (poke, poke, poke)  Yes, indeed!  Rust!  So she’s got to open all these rusted-shut jars, top off the fluid, find them new caps, and then lug them all back down to the basement.  This is going to be a perfect storm of unpleasant—stuck, smelly, leaky, toxic, tedious, and heavy.

I could do it all with a wave of Gungnir, here, but I decline to assist.  This will build character.

But Oooo!  Looks like she might expand her lexicon of  profanity in the process…


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Well Done, Fenrir!

Fenrir, the great wolf who will swallow the sun at the time of Ragnarok, is making a pretty decent practice run today.

This part of Midgard should see about 68% of the sun’s disk swallowed up.  Of course, I have also arranged for it to be about 68% cloudy.  (It is a true fact that, if there is anything occurring of astronomical interest, be it a comet or a meteor shower or a large canid noshing on the primary, the local skies will almost always be overcast.)

The human female was too cheap to buy me a telescope and, no doubt, too stupid to know how to use one, but she did consent to do the bare minimum and poke a hole in a piece of cardstock so that Sigyn and I can use the old-fashioned method of tracking Fenrir’s snack.

Here we are.  It’s fairly near the beginning of the event.  (Notice that the human female had to weigh down the paper with her big, ugly eyeglasses.  It is breezy AND cloudy today.)


See, Sigyn?  The little sun spot is still mostly round.

We’ve all walked over to the plaza in front of the student center.  The Astronomy Club has several telescopes set up. The lines are long, but we have hopes of getting a peek.


(Some time later.) Well, that was a rip-off.   The human female saw something, but Sigyn was too short to peek in, and my horns got in the way.  We’ll just have to make do with our cardstock apparatus.

Look!  It’s working!  Our spot is more of a D- or crescent shape! 


Here’s a close-up.  I must admit— I am impressed.  Fenrir should be able to swallow the whole thing when the time comes!


(I am also a bit surprised that the human female’s cheap card trick actually worked, but don’t tell her that.  She’d get a swelled head and it’d take me a week to get her good and humble again.)

>|B [      (approved eclipse glasses)

M is for “Milam” and also “Mosquito” and “Midge” and “Mess”

Today the human female got up off her well-rounded hindquarters and actually did some field botany.  She has been mentoring corrupting the Master Naturalist Group from the next county over.  They’re the same group that went bog-trotting the day the human female ran afoul of the wasp-hornety thing.   The plan is to collect and catalog all of the species that grow along the Camino Real, the old royal road used by conquerors of this part of Midgard hundreds of years ago.

Someday future botanists will catalog the flora of my swath of conquest through this realm!

Today they are concentrating on the area around and just west of the bridge we visited once before.  There are a lot of things blooming!  Sigyn is very excited.

There is a whole team of naturalists here today and they have set up the plant-smashing station under a nice shady canopy.  The human female is traipsing about, collecting things and passing them off to the note-takers and pressers, which is a surprisingly efficient way to to do things.

What have we got coming in, sweetie?

Oh, you are right!  This one does look like lace.  And it has some great, bristly fruit that I can stick all over the human female’s socks!


The human female says it’s called “hedge parsley.”  As I’ve noted before, I think she just makes this stuff up.

Then there’s this.  <sniff! sniff!>  Mmmminty!   See, this is the stuff that should be growing at Minter Springs…


The flowers are quite unusual up close–yellow with maroon dots.  Ehehehehe!  They looks like they have MEASLES!


This has been a good day for everyone!  Sigyn has looked at lots of flowers.  The plant-nerds have managed to fill the press to overflowing, and  I convinced the human female that she had dropped the BORROWED digging knife, so she spent quite a while retracing her steps over and over, trying to figure out where she’d dropped it.  Ha!  The joke was on her.  She’d handed it off with an enormous batch of samples.

Extra bonus:  ALL the gnats and mosquitoes on the planet have been out here today, so all of the humans have been swishing and swatting and snorting and cussing.  Such language!  I even made one little dipteran fly up the human female’s nose!   Since I’d replaced the contents of her insect repellent sprayer with Liquid Insect Treat, she had more than her share of affectionate little visitors.

The plant press is full and like to burst, and the plants still need to be neatened up from the initial press, so the human female has offered to take the bloaty thing back to town to separate it into multiple smaller presses, tidying the specimens at the same time.

So here we are at the herbarium.  Sigyn, you might not want to wave too vigorously.  This whole mess is quite unstable and could self-destruct avalanche-wise at any moment.


Just look at everything hanging out.  Sloppy, that’s what it is.

So now the human female is repositioning the plants one by one.   There are 58 species, with two collections of each, so she is going through a LOT of blotters and cardboard spacers.

Look—here’s the measle plant again.  Too bad the human female was vaccinated.


She was not vaccinated against mosquitoes, though, and now she’s really starting to twitch.  Let’s catalog her itchy bug-kisses:  Two on one shoulder, one behind her left ear (or maybe it’s the earlobe–the whole thing is swelling so it’s hard to tell), one in the corner of her left eye, one on her right eyelid, and one on her bottom lip.  She has no self-control when it comes to scratching, and she’s starting to look like a mutant.  (Or more like a mutant than she usually does.)  By tomorrow, when the chigger bites start flaring up, she should be ready for sedation.  Isn’t it just serendipitous that her biggest passion (plants) always seems to lead to her greatest annoyances?

I love nature.

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