Without question our only beloved child turned out as she did because of heavy doses of Calvin and Hobbs cartoons and oldies rock music, which wasn't so old then. Ah, well. At any rate, in a recent fit of nostalgia, perhaps instigated by rummaging through our attic for her "lost" photo treasures and other stuff, she forwarded this link to remind her Father of just how creative this cartoon was especially with snow. And just so you know how warped her upbringing was, here's a link to the song (Fleetwood Mac's Tusk) TPP used to wake up a late-sleeping F1. Sorry, but your little speakers and puny computer amp just won't do this window-rattling song justice.
A light dusting of snow and the gathering dusk has produced a rather cold-looking landscape study in black and white. After the lushness of the tropical rain forest this stark coldness is particularly hard to deal with. TPP has spent much of the day cooking, preparations for some Tico food for his students' "picture party" to cap off the semester in a few days and some curried meatballs for din-dins today. Corms and rhizomes drying and curing in the basement were packed into some cocoa shells and stored in a cool spot. For some reason, TPP has had a very difficult time reconnecting to the calendar and upcoming events. Mrs. Phactor has taken to giving me a daily briefing, to-do lists, and then a quiz. When given direct orders, he's doing OK. Will you make me a New York cocktail, please? Yes, my dear. What a good choice. First, take 2 oz of bourbon, 1 oz lemon juice, and 1/2 oz simple syrup and shake with ice. Then pour on the rocks. Then float an oz of dry red wine on the top. It's super nice looking and pretty simple to make. As you drink the mixing changes the taste. Will you please feed the kitty-girls? Yes, my dear. Kibble equals happiness. If TPP stays helpful, he may not get put out in such nasty weather.
To compensate for a missed class, TPP's students were given an out-of-class assignment before Thanksgiving break that is 16 days ago and it was due today. However on Weds when normally they would have received another out-of-class research part of their final exam (1 week ahead), TPP told them the pre-Thanksgiving take-home assignment was actually to be part of that part of their final exam and it was still due today, there was such consternation! Even outrage! You see rather than using all that time to good advantage, many of them had not done a thing and now it's due and it's part of their final. How terribly unfair is that? This is just one of the easier ways to separate the sheep from the goats. Two students who had handed in their work early wanted it back to do a better job! You mean you didn't do your best job? What is TPP to think? And those who had not done anything yet feel they got cut short on time because they expected an assignment due next Wednesday, but after having more than two weeks to work on this assignment they hadn't done anything. And you point out that the problem is actually their own work/study/learning ethic and had they treated the assignment as an excellent opportunity to learn something interesting they would now be in good shape as quite a few students were. More outrage came from the fact that their textbook doesn't provide an answer or even all of the information they need. And this is the internet generation? This isn't how they did things in my high school/junior college. That's right, and you're not there any more.
TPP has been going to Costa Rica for research and teaching for 20 years, so discovering completely new things outside of the rainforest happens a lot less frequently. So it was with a bit of surprise to find La Sorbeterade Lolo Mora, a rather small ice cream shop buried in the middle of San Jose's Mercado Central warren of aisles and shops. Far from being something new, this shop has been serving their "traditional ice cream" in all its many flavors (1) for well over 100 years. The ice cream was unlike any other and best described as "a heady mix of
cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla with a granita–like texture". Yep, spice ice cream that's sort of icy, but make no mistake, it's wonderful. And getting it in a cone would be a mistake; it melts pretty fast. Generally my students only get to spend an afternoon and evening as tourists in San Jose, and in the past, it was a Sunday, and most of the Mercado shops were closed. However, Sunday shopping, including grocery stores like Super Mas, early Christmas, and even black Friday sales have all come to Costa Rica. My dear Ticos, let TPP apologize for our cultural exports and the invasion of our fast food too. Please do not let a DQ open anywhere within two kilometers of the Mercado. Protect your national food heritage.
80 years ago this week the 21st amendment was ratified which repealed the 18th amendment and the 13 year social experiment in the USA called prohibition ended. Of course prohibition did not mean people quit drinking, it was just that the drinking was all illegal and the quality of booze was poor if not down right bad, and with limited supply to meet the demand, why there was a lot of money to be made if you didn't mind doing something illegal. Where TPP grew up very fast boats were used to smuggle booze in from Canada by crossing Lake Ontario. The lesson of prohibition has not been learned. The war on drugs in the USA has simply made a lot of criminals out of mostly marijuana smokers and some narcotic users. In fact here is the one single thing where the hyper-patriots who always shout "USA is number one!" are actually correct. Our country has more people locked up, incarcerated, per capita than any other country on Earth! It's pathetic on so many levels. Look how far down the list you find any other comparable countries like Britain or Canada, or Germany. Yes, here in the USA people are still focused on punishment, the harsher and the longer the better, in spite of virtually all the data that says that doesn't work at all. So rather than treat addicts as being ill, the USA just locks them up as criminals. Talk about cruel and unusual. And then somewhere today, TPP read that Sweden is just closing its prisons because it has so few people to lock up. TPP needs a cocktail, something made with Swedish vodka perhaps.
Returning from the tropics to the northern temperate late fall is not a good idea, just a necessity. At the coffee shoppe this AM the friendly clerk asked if it were still warm outside? It was 40 F. How a particular temperature feels depends a great deal upon what recent ambient temperatures you have been experiencing. So, no, it's bloody damp and cold. As much as TPP would like to gently and gradually adjust to regular academic life, the re-entry plunges you directly into the deep water since there are only 3 days left in the semester. At one of the last class meetings, a student asked if there was a lab scheduled for today. No, no lab, but there will be a regular 50 min lecture. Apparently about half the class tuned out as soon as TPP said, no lab. This will certainly help the teaching evaluations as the situation guarantees half the class will be pissed no matter what you do. Since there is no jet lag, you wouldn't think the change would be so bad. However without the constant white noise of the rainforest at night, or in the rain, TPP finds it hard to sleep. Guess that sound track needs to be packaged up and sold, and with the additional gimick that you can set a wakeup time, and then a recording of howler monkeys greeting the day will be inserted. And no really ripe, succulent pineapple for breakfast. Such a downer. Good thing TPP got a couple of kilos of dark roasted Costa Rican coffee to bring home, which set such a good example that the class cumulatively brought home well over 20 kilos of coffee, so much that a 5% discount was given. "Do you have anything to declare?" Just some coffee. "How much coffee?" Just two kilos. "Where is it?" In that big blue duffle bag. "What's in the bag with the coffee?" Just more coffee. And yet it's good to be home.
The only thing worse than packing for a field trip is repacking everything for the trip home. All the careful packing has degenerated into near chaos as students have pursued their projects, and then revised their projects, and then punted, and then finally succeeded in wringing a bit of information, some data, some new understanding, out of the rainforest. Now all this stuff has to get put away. You figure out that biologists use way too much plastic; what would happen without Tupperware and zip lock bags? Biological progress would grind to a halt. But you get real pragmatic on the way home and you have to make room for some Costa Rican coffee, a lot of coffee, 40-50 pounds of coffee (it's 15 people after all). If you get to Costa Rica, do visit Café Trebol on the Calle Ocho side of the Mercado Central. Getting everything clean including your boots is difficult; getting it all dry is next to impossible especially as it is pouring buckets outside. The troops are sorting everything on the veranda of their cabina, so it continues. Unfortunately, the students don't/won't pack for their instructors. Go figure. Monday the trip will start at 5:30 AM bus loading to reverse the trip down. Too bad all that coffee is packed away and inaccessible.
OK, firstly, TPP abhors the rush into the Christmas season, so he is very happy to be avoiding some of it. However, TPP does not live in a cave so it is hard to ignore all the ads. This particular item caught his eye, and it's the one time he wishes he had a standard bicycle rather than his BikeE. You know you can tuck a loaf of bread under your arm and put a cork screw in your pocket, but then what do you do with your bottle of wine? Well, this wine carrier certainly solves that problem. My colleague, a commuting biker, only had one question. What do you do with your second bottle of wine?
Well, how ridiculous is that? TPP is in the tropics and he allows a Friday to sneak by without posting a flower picture! So here you go. This plant has several nicknames, but the most common one is lipstick plant (Psychotria elata) in the Rubiaceae (coffee family). Up in the northern temperate zone this is not an important or common family, but down here in the neotropics rubiads are everywhere. There are over 45 genera here at the field station and more than a couple of dozen species in the genus Psychotria. Most of them have fairly small white or yellowish tubular flowers, and not very conspicuous, so like many such plants, the flowers are surrounded by pairs of very conspicuous red bracts. The bracts persist into the fruit stage surrounding the several sky-blue berries. Several flowers have already bloomed and several more fuzzy buds indicate it will flower for several more days.
Costa Ricans, Ticos, are some of the nicest people in the world. They prepared a 1st class Thanksgiving dinner for us gringos, a dinner that was good enough and fancy enough and pretty enough to impress almost anyone, especially at a rainforest field station. And everyone had to really work like dogs (the station manager was washing dishes!) to do so because 44 hrs earlier a kitchen fire in a warming oven came very close to putting the kitchen out of commission. If you didn't know otherwise, you would not have known anything was amiss to see the results. Simply amazing! What great people!
Among our students there was much discussion of Thanksgiving traditions and how they differed. And what foods they liked and dislikes (marshmellows and sweet potatoes - yikes!). Yes, TPP has a Thanksgiving tradition in answer to their query, he always listens to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant. A gallery of blank looks. One asked if Arlo was related to Woody because she'd learned something about an inherited degenerative disorder he had in a genetics class. Yes, they are father and son; both folk singers. More blank looks. Folk? Ah, well. No need trying to explain. No one had heard of This land is your land either. Anyone want to listen to the Alice's Restaurant song? How long is it? Probably about 25 mins. No. And no need really because a protest song about a war they probably don't know about would not make much of an impression. Makes you feel old. Did TPP mention that they did clean up and dress up nicely for the dinner? Still TPP was thankful, so he retired to his casa and listened to some Sidney Bechet recordings. Who? (Sorry can't provide the link to an earlier blog about Sidney; search function isn't working.)