Field of Science

Home again travel and pre-wedding Monday blues

Friday was the travel day. Up at 3 am in Edmonton; home by 3 pm, almost exactly 12 hrs. Driving would take 24-25 hrs so air travel is at least twice as fast as driving. In neither case do you get fed. It was your typical hurry up and wait. Everyone advised TPP to be at the airport quite early, a task made more difficult by the distance to the airport located it seems somewhere in BC. It actually only took 1 hr to check in, get a bag tagged and go through customs & immigration to end up in the good old USA airport lounge? Weird. Clearly though as the time progressed things were already getting further and further backed up, so this is one of those things where you either waste your time by getting there early or stand in lines. The former is quite preferable and you get time for breakfast and a newspaper. After sitting around for a couple of hours, and just before boarding, the "tard" sign went on, and TPP saw his way too narrow 56 min connection time in Dallas, which is like saying, you don't have enough time period, dwindle before his bleary eyes. The flight to their credit arrived in Dallas 30 mins early, but of course no gate was available, so the connection time continued to dwindle, but with a couple of 10-15 min walks, a short tram ride, and shazam, TPP made his flight home with 12 whole mins to spare! Who says that was a tight connection? Miss it and you're stuck in Dallas for another day. Breathing the same air as Ted Cruise for that long can be dangerous to your mental well-being. But home on time!
Saturday dawned with the knowledge that a week later 230 people would be descending upon our gardens to be present for the F1's wedding! If you ain't invited by now, well...sorry. The rest of the day and Sunday were a blur of errands and lawn mowing. Yes, a great deal of the Phactors' estate is in  gardens, but it's a big place and TPP has only mowed all the lawns in one day once or twice before. It's a 3.5+ hr job without bathroom stops, or coffee breaks, or distractions, or cocktails, or anything. It took all day, but what good exercise!  If the excellent food TPP ate in Edmonton put on any extra weight, it was certainly gone by now.
The wedding countdown continued and TPP awoke somewhat warm sweaty at 6:30 am; the ceiling fan was not turning. It's always on in the summer. Listen to the silence. Yes, the electricity was out. Not just us, or our particular neighborhood, but maybe the whole city because the university was out too (email warning in case you got science going on). You don't realize how much your life depends on electrons flowing until they don't. Ms. Phactor suggests going to the coffee shoppe for breakfast; one, the garage doors open electrically and the coffee shoppe won't have electricity either. And the bloody place was closed for remodeling anyways!! Moving into campout mode, the gas range was lit and the Italian espresso maker put to work while some milk heated. Melon needed no juice for its juice, and just as TPP was getting ready to fry some English muffins in butter, the juice came back on. Outage was only 1 hr.  English muffins are great fried, really.  Try it sometime, on camp outs preferably.  At any rate this has all been rather much. But at least the juice was back on for some professional house cleaners who were working on things and carpets and all.  TPP was working on weeds, but wackers take juice too. If this happened very often, the Phactors would be thinking about some back up generator system. Fortunately the neighborhood includes a big city hospital, which generates too much traffic, and other problems, but the power gets turned back on real quick. Now pass TPP a gin and tonic!  Quick!  Will he survive the week?  Stay tuned.  

Botany 2015 - Over and done

Exhausting. Nothing else describes scientific meetings like these. So many things to do in such a short period of time. Skipped the last lecture and some awards to eat dinner with some friends. One of them got two awards. Oops! AoB lecture by Robert Raguso of Cornell was very interesting; he studies how floral scents interact with insect behaviors. And different parts of flowers can have different scents particularly on the scale of insects. Another interesting talk concerned mycoheterotrophic plants, non-green plants that obtain their food from interactions with fungi that interact with other plants. Another talk dealt with a difficult biogeographic pattern to understand, a South American-Australia disjunction unless you look at continental positions about 50 million years ago. Last meeting ended early this morning, but no way to get home until tomorrow and that requires TPP to get up at 3:30 am to deal with air travel constraints at an international level. Edmonton is sounding a bit like the Hotel California.

Botany 2015 - Tuesday

The fatigue of almost non-stop meetings and talks is beginning to set in. From the street level, the meetings are taking place on three lower levels. There are 130 steps from the top to the bottom, and only the up escalator is working. Everyone is getting a workout. Let's see what has been learned?
A tremendous diversity of herbaceous sphenophyllophytes existed in the Permian; those would be horsetails and their close relatives. Pollen tube growth is not related to flower size in waterlilies, in fact they grow slower in the huge Victoria waterlilies. A lot of creative ways exist for small collections to relate to people and if you want such information you can find it at small collections network.  It's still OK to call yourself a morphologist, which is good because TPP are one. A lot of nasty plants are terribly invasive and rather hard to control. Botanists can take a long time to decide how to spend very small amounts of money. Botanists in general are really nice to students who come to these meetings. Such a small sampling. Oh, and TPP discovered a lovely new sandwich: a toasted brie with red onions and blueberries sandwich. Seriously good stuff.

Botany 2015 -Monday

Botany 2015 is huge for a botanical meeting, around 1800 people attending from a dozen or so different scientific societies; this is about double our usual annual meeting. The meeting is taking place in the colossal Shaw Center which sprawls down from "uptown" toward the river like a tiered greenhouse, which is strangely appropriate and partly what it is, but a lot of up and down stairs. TPP pities a colleague who blew out her Achilles tendon and arrived with a walking boot on!  TPP has learned that Edmonton is sort of a surprising city but you can't get here from anywhere very easily, and everyone has travel horror stories. Yesterday was a lot of meetings, followed by a lecture about how "cool" botany is, and then a big social event. Nice to see so many old friends and colleagues, young and old, and to catch up on everyone. Spent the morning listening to research about invasive plants. Take home advice: do not fertilize tree of heaven. 

Botany 2015 is happening!

Maybe it's a certain environmental cue that triggers an urge to cluster, but around this time of year, somewhere around the continent, botanists gather for an annual event, a meeting, a convention, a social fest, a gab fest, a marathon of science, all rolled into one. This year the event is being held in Edmonton, Alberta, which is pretty far from the upper midwest and explains why it's so hard to get to from here by air and takes too long by ground. At any rate TPP is getting packed for a later flight west. Botany is a far flung field and generally the job situation is such that not very many of us can cluster on a regular basis. Meetings like this are actually pretty important because business gets done face-to-face, you learn new things, you meet new people, you catch up with old friends, and you generally wallow in botany and botanists. TPP will try to send along some of the botanical news from the meeting, but dang they're so jammed packed with activities getting some time to blog isn't easy. At any given point in time the many organizations, the many disciplines and specialities, assure us of having numerous events to attend at any given point in time. Just trying to schedule what you should be doing is difficult enough.

Recycled tires & gardening.

A lot of used tires out there need recycling. TPP decided to try a recycled tire product that looks like brown bark mulch except it's shredded tires. In this case the tire "product" was used to replace a wood mulch garden path and it won't decompose and need replacing in just a year or two. Just days after it was installed a gully washer washed 6-7 feet of the path out, but try, try again.  Then while thinking about this problem and tire recycling, TPP saw these at a local garden shoppe.  Old lawn mower/garden tractor/trailer/car tires painted and decorated by a local artist who moonlights at the shoppe. Although TPP has never been a fan of folk art made of tires, these painted tires when used as garden planters are pretty cheerful and really brightened up an otherwise pretty dull wall. Think of these on a stockade fence or on an around a pool fence. They should last for years and you could always repaint them to match your new drapes or carpeting. TPP has seen tires painted like this before, but they were still attached to the car and it was painted likewise. That fellow has since moved on to paint bigger and better things in various and sundry parts of the world. Who knows where such things can lead?

Friday Fabulous Flower - rose mallow

TPP may have done the rose mallow before, but these flower merit a repeat. Quite honestly TPP doesn't know what species of mallow this cultivar comes from because there are several large flowered wild mallows and rose mallow (either one word or two) is a common name applied to at least 3 species in two genera, so there you go. These are one of the largest, showiest flowers you can easily grow; these are just over 20 cm in diameter. And of course they flower in the mid-summer garden. This image was captured early in the morning just after the buds opened; a few hours later the Japanese beetles had riddled the petals with holes. They love members of the rose family and mallow family. Groan.

Best garden photographer 2015

Every year Kew Gardens has a garden photography contest. Sigh. Overlooked again. But not really once you see the winning photographs in this year's international contest in all these various categories. Well, wow, just wow. TPP would be hard pressed to pick just one as a favorite. As art, the monochrome is just great. The still-life flowers in a vase are probably my least favorite of the lot and it's a wonderful photograph. The vineyard landscape is just fantastic as is the dune and grasses shore line. TPP will be unable to post any of his photographs for a while.   

Interesting counter point on the environment this week

In terms of sustainability here's an interesting counterpoint that both turned up this past week: the State of the States report (news article at Treehugger) by the Global Footprint Network and the National Association of Scholars report on Sustainability. The latter arrived in what TPP thought was a missive from the Heartland Institute, perhaps it is sharing its mailing list with other like-minded organizations. The State of the States report concludes that the USA running a natural renewable resources deficit having passed the break even point just this past week (July 14th). TTP had never heard of the National Association of Scholars before even though arguably he are one. The over all goals of the NAS sound OK, and TPP even agrees with some of their positions, e.g., free speech on university campuses. However when you read their report on sustainability you get the idea that this topic has become another political football where devious, lefty academics are brain-washing our college age youth into thinking sustainability is a good idea, just like we do with that nasty evolution stuff. Once you see where the NAS gets its money, their political perspective makes more sense. A quick scan of their advisory board revealed no one TPP has ever heard of.  As far as TPP can tell, the Global Footprint Network tried very hard to offer a fair and unbiased position, and they did it by using something called "data".  The GFN advisory board is another matter; it includes many notable conservation scientists, ecologists, and environmental thinkers. Sort of funny that our conservatives don't like to conserve and they don't worry about deficit spending of renewable resources. Thought they like balanced budgets?  

Ludicrous speed! Really?

Ludicrous speed! How funny is that? Tesla has a car with a speed mode of Ludicrous in which it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph (about 96 kph) in 2.8 seconds! That is rather ludicrous! Who needs that kind of acceleration? No one but it's still funny as hell, that is if you think Mel Brooks is funny (see link provided above), at least in isolated moments. So now you have a ludicrously expensive electric car that is one of the top 10 fastest accelerating production cars. It ties for 10th with a Lamborghini Murciélago LP 670–4 Super Veloce, which is also a tad pricy and a very impractical vehicle. The now fastest accelerating production car is a Porsche 918 Spyder (2.2 sec vertified, 0 to 60). Wonder how far down the list TPP's VW van would be with its whopping, stomping 1.9 L fuel injected engine? Well, compared to the old 1.3 L carbureted vans, it was fast. Mine would actually go 60 mph, but not that much more!  The point of this is probably to convince people, very rich people, that electric cars are not big blocky heavy black batteries on wheels, but for those of us who think of vehicles as more like toasters where you want them to be economical, reliable, and make good toast, this is no big deal, but let's give Tesla a couple of points in the humorous marketing category.