She’ll Feel A Fool, All Right, In About Another Week

The human female’s team at work has been scrambling busily, trying to turn in-person  classes into online classes.  The lectures have not been too difficult, but turning the labs into online experiences has been more challenging.  For the Heredity unit, the students usually observe crosses of  various mutant strains of Arabidopsis.   Normal seedlings have hairy leaves:

seedling with hairs

…but some of the mutants are bald.

Regular seedlings behave like proper plants, but some of the “special” ones are trans-genic–they’ve been gifted with the DNA that makes them produce a protein that glows an eerie green under blue light.

f1-hybrids-gfp1 x gl1

If they don’t have the glowy gene, they don’t show up at all under blue light–they’re just dark shapes:

homozygous gl1-no gfp

Since there isn’t a way for the students to have a petri dish of seedlings to look at, the human female had the bright idea to make sets of virtual seedlings.  She came up with little images of hairy and bald plants, and has been making spreads of what they’d look like in regular and blue light.

It’s very painstaking work.  She had to wrestle all the inheritance patterns and do the math to figure out how many seedlings should be hairy and glowy, how many hairy and not-glowy, how many bald and glowy, and how many bald and not glowy.  Then she had to divide up the hundreds of fictitious seedlings into twelve sets such that the students can only figure out the inheritance patterns if they score their seedlings their arrays and then pool their data with folks who have the other sets.  Each set has to be laid out exactly the same way in the visible light view and the blue light view so that the plants can be scored accurately.

It involves manipulating layers and layers of images.

She’s stepped away from her desk for a moment.  Let’s just scoot some of these little plants around, shall we?  (I don’t need to use a mouse–I have magic!)


Let’s see….I’ll take out two of the hairy/glowy ones and substitute a hairy/not glowy and a bald/glowy.   And I’ll shuffle them around in the blue-light view…  And I’ll make set G a duplicate of set B…  And then I’ll re-label set J as set number 7

And then I’ll throw in another mutation that makes them grow upside down, and…

…and then I’ll fix it so that her original files show on her computer screen, but the changed ones will go up on the server for the teaching assistants to give to the students.

I will not get to call her April Fool today, but next week, when the assignment is given out and the frantic phone calls, texts, and zoom sessions begin, the tears and wailing of the human female will be very sweet indeed.

I can wait.

>|: [


A Visit To an Old Friend

Last year the human female’s bad trotters kept her off the outcrop that’s home to the rare plant she studies.  But this year, things are a bit better, and we finally have a bit of a break in the rain, so we’re off to see if the Agalinis is blooming this year.

It’s a nice day for a drive.  I can’t wait to get there, because after being cooped up indoors with the human female for ever because of the rain, it’s just more torture to be cooped up in the car with her for another forty minutes!

The landowners aren’t home today, so we’ll have to park on the roadside at the base of the outcrop, walk down to it, and then climb up.  Do you have your sturdy shoes, Sigyn?  I would hate for you to turn your pretty ankle.

Opposite the base of the outcrop is a fence full of yellow camphorweed.


It smells good in the sun and is not too bad for dangling, though barbed wire and horns do not mix.

On the outcrop, the first thing that has caught my beloved’s eye is this dayflower.  Electric blue really stands out against the greens and tawny browns of the grasses.


It appears to be a banner year for asters.  There are purple ones and an entire galaxy of white ones.


The shining goldenrod is right where the human female left it last time she was here.


Perennials are so predictable.

And,  yes!  Yes, there it is!  The Agalinis navasotensis is in bloom!


Now that we know it’s in flower, the human female and her colleague will need to get down to business and count* the plants carefully and mapping their positions with a GPS unit. (GPS is Midgardian shorthand for “Gotta Pinpoint Something”).

That sounds like work.  I think I will leave it to them and just relax here on this moss tuffet.


The Rightful Ruler of Midgard does NOT do fieldwork.

>|: [

* Not that I believe for a second that the human female will be of any use once she runs out of fingers

Mini-break, Part II: And I Thought the Human Female Came Home From Shopping With Odd Things

We have left the disappointing detective exhibit and are now wandering through an area designed to showcase the museum’s most recent acquisitions.  It’s a motley assortment, for certain.

Sleipnir’s fetlocks!  Why is the human female’s head in this glass case?!


Oh, sorry.  My mistake.  It’s just a reconstruction of some stone-age nonentity.  The horrible hair, the bushy eyebrows, the beady eyes, the hairy chin—the resemblance is astounding.  You can see why I was momentarily confused.

Sigyn is intrigued by the simply enormous seashells.


Sigyn,  you’d need an awful lot of garlic butter for that escargot!


Ooooh!  Pretty!  The exhibit card says what this is, in terms of minerals and cracks and heat and nodules and blah, blah, blah, but all I can think of is…

rock slice

…what an amazing table top this would make!  I shall have to visit after hours and…acquire… it for my eventual palace.

I saw this armor from across the room, and I had to come over and take a closer look because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it’s made of.


Turns out it’s really, really hard seed pods.  Because nothing is more terrifying than…vegetation.

Oh, look!  Someone has made some cunning architectural models.  Nicely done.


I’m definitely taking notes for my eventual palace.

>|: [

It Is Winter and the Garden is Very Confused

According to the Midgardian calendar, today is something called the “Winter Solstice,” the day when this mortal-infested rock does something in relation to its G-type main sequence primary involving synodic rotation and axial tilt and all manner of astronomical foolishness.  Long story short, it is now winter, but you couldn’t prove it by the state of the local flora.

The local elms are bright golden-orange, the ashes are yellow, and even some of the oaks are reddish.  In short, FALL COLOR.  In December.  Ridiculous.  We recently had snow–real, measurable snow, and it fell on blooming roses.  Preposterous!  

Listen, you silly plants, and repeat after me.  “It is WIN-TER and I am supposed to be asleep.”

Sigyn and I are making our way around the yard, exhorting the plants to get with the program.

Here are some little grassy asters, but they get a free pass.  They’re fall bloomers and frequently hunker down and hold over until spring.


This sunflower, however…  What is wrong with you?!  Your relatives finished blooming and died MONTHS ago!


The whole thing is highly suspicious.

Likewise this thing that has sprouted in the compost heap?  I don’t recognize it.  Sigyn, do you know what it is?


What?!  Beloved, surely you are joking!  A potato plant that has come up, all on its own?  In December?!

Absurd.  It must have come up from some kitchen scraps.

But I suppose that also explains this onion, which has done the same thing.


This is just great.  If we can dig up a recipe for compost heap soupwe’ll be in business.

>|: [

I’m Not Going To Try It. YOU Try It!

The human female has gone to some sort of fancy reception on campus.  Someone retired or got an award or was executed or something.  I don’t particularly care.  I do care that she brought back some goodies from the reception.  She has left this rectangular comestible in plain view.


Sigyn is excited.  I’m…  Let’s say I’m giving it the good old Jotun side-eye.  

(poke, poke, poke)  On the one hand, it might be some sort of sweet shortcrust pastry full of luscious cheesecake and topped with lovely pastel pink chocolate curls.

On the other hand, it could just as easily be pizza crust, full of yummy mashed potatoes and topped with little bits of savory ham…

Or cardboard, full of caulk and topped with rolled up snippets of band-aid.

It’s outsourced campus food services so, really, the odds are about even…

>|: [

Still In The Throes of Gaming

Some of these games have definite possibilities.

For example, this one looks like it might be right up my alley:


And this one, which involved destroying skyscrapers with monsters could be a lot of fun.


And I have fallen in love with this majestic ship.


Come, my beloved!  Let us sail over to the food table and see if any new goodies have appeared today.

>|: [


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.

>|: [


Science on the Outcrop (Sigyn Speaks)

I just love botany! When the other botanists arrived, it was time to get down to work. Loki made himself scarce, but I eagerly joined the hunt for a rare plant called Prairie False Foxglove. Loki says that is a ridiculous name. I looked up the slanty name: Agalinis navasotensis, which is quite a mouthful.


The pink flowers in this picture are one of its much-more-common cousins, while the yellow flowers are something the botanists called Broomweed.

This is a somewhat better photo of the not-rare Agalinis. The human female knows all about the rare one–she discovered it! It has longer flower stalks and much thinner leaves, giving it a more open aspect and making it nearly impossible to photograph against surrounding vegetation, as well as practically invisible when out of flower. This is why they come out to count it in the fall, when it flowers.


This one of only two places in the whole world where this plant grows, so we were very glad to count over 400 of them.

After we counted plants, we did what the botanists called "transects." We sampled the plants by laying out a long tape measure and identifying the different species at fixed intervals. We made Loki hold the end of the tape measure, which he did with rather a lot of grumbling.


I was in charge of reading out the distances. Here at 30 cm from the start, we have a small, yellow-flowered plant called Horseweed. Loki, you should like this one!


It was good of Loki to help, even though he was bored and didn’t enjoy the sciency bits of the day as much as I did. He perked up noticeably after we were all done and the botanists began discussing setting fire to the outcrop some time next year.* Something about the glint in his eye tells me the human female should leave him at home that day…

I wish I could play with plants ALL THE TIME! You can read more about the outcrop and its plants at this virtual field trip.



* A controlled fire now and then helps the plants grow and keeps the brush and non-native species down.