Field of Science

University admissions

Things have really changed. There was no stigma to attending a state college.  And certainly no one was in the business of bribing admissions people, although some wealthy legacies existed, but they were the exception not the rule, and mostly they went to a particular college it was because it was where a parent or older sibling attended.  It didn't seem likely that this connection was going to be influential later in life.  It does explain perhaps why some of the people you meet professionally who graduated from a prestige school don't seem all that exceptional. The people who do the admissions bribery are the type of people who are impressed by the perceived prestige of certain institutions.  Out here in the great Midwest, our huge state universities sort of blunt the prestige of smallish private school, so big damn deal.  TPP has a talented niece whose writing was impressive enough to get admission to Oxford, clearly meritorious.  TPP's undergraduate record was so unimpressive that a department chair actually began to question, what such a record told you about potential success in graduate school.  It only meant that TPP had changed, grew up, transitioned, whatever, to academic life.  Of course TPP was not in Business school, but in botany, and you only decide on something like botany because you love it.  Do MBAs love their subject, or is it just a ticket to make more money?  

Friday Fabulous Flowers - Snow drops

Here and there around our gardens are little clumps of early spring flowers, the ones that pop up and bloom anytime the temperature gets above freezing. The weather has be unsettled of late, rain and wind, so generally nasty.  How TPP managed to get a non-blurry image with the wind blowing except maybe taking the shot in between gusts.  So these little bulbs and flower stalks are only a few inches tall, but after a longish winter, they are very cheerful.  Freezing and even some late snow don't seem to bother them at all.

Monday morning musings

It's a pretty springy morning, but it doesn't leave TPP in a very upbeat mood.  An article in the Chicago Tribune was about the disappearance of check out lines, and their replacement with self-serve scanning lines.  The whole article made it sound inevitable, but the article never mentioned the loss of cashiers whose jobs are just disappearing. And so who does the scanning, well you do, working for free as a cashier.  People are apparently shopping online for their weekly groceries, and having them all ready for a drive by pick up, or even a delivery.  And the excuse is too busy, no time.
TPP is one of those people who never uses a drive-up lane or window.  Going into the store always seems to take less time.  Maybe if you have a backseat full of kids to herd around, this makes sense.  
And in the same vein. The Phactors live about 20 mins walk from a small urban center and a grocery store is a similar distance in the opposite direction.  A CVS or Walgreens is at either location.  No one ever thinks to walk to either one, although TPP does recognize the lugging a gallon of milk is a load, even with a good shopping bag.  Now that the weather is warmer, walking becomes once again a feasible, and enjoyable what with all the plants coming out of dormancy.  TPP knows that he sees way more things than most people in terms of trees and gardens.  
In fact TPP is going to relocate his kitchen garden to a lawn area that receives more sunlight.  So springy in this case is a reminder of the work that needs to be done part of our gardening exercise program.

Friday Fabulous Flower - 1st of spring (almost)

Officially our spring is late.  The earliest spring flowering events will be later than any of the last 9 years, and TPP knows this because he has the data.  The earliest flowering in our entire neighborhood is a very old patch of winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, in the buttercup family.  As this image shows the plants are ready, but the weather has just been too cold, which will change in just a few days according to our weather guessers. Plants like this actually with sprout and grow under snow as this little plant has done, and when it all melts, the buds turn upwards and open.  No leaves are in this image, a whorl of green bracts sits just under each flower.  Ours will flower a week or so later because they are in a shadier location.

February tropical greens for winter blues

The wind is howling outside, making temperatures just below freezing seem very cold indeed.  And the temp is predicted to drop to 0 F tonight, which is cold.  So to help my readers (and TPP) keep sane during the February winter doldrums, here's a bit of tropical greenery and scenery, Pouhokamoa falls on Maui.  This is a pretty lush looking view, and if you look closely, there are several African tulip trees (orange flowers) in the image, sorry.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bracts II

Seems to be a theme among the  images TPP accumulated while in Hawaii, and with few exceptions, none of them are natives.  Lots of things got imported for the cut flower business, and this "flower" is no exception.  This is the genus Protea, but not sure about the species.  Wonderful symmetry exhibited by this big inflorescence where the outer parts are all punkish bracts just not quite as colorful as the ginger.  The much smaller individual flowers are just beginning to open starting at the top and continuing around the spiral in a clockwise direction.  This will continue until they are all open.  Again proteas are a great favorite of the cut flower business because they are fairly spectacular and last a long time once cut.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bracts part I

Bracts are a type of modified leaf associated with a flower.  Some times bracts are responsible for both protecting and advertising flowers, and in such cases they are both colorful and long lasting.  No wonder some of these attractively bracted plants are big favorites of the cut flower business.  In tropical areas some of these plants are planted as ornamentals, mostly gingers, heliconias, and spiral gingers.  This is called a red wax ginger (probably Tapeinochitos ananasse).  A somewhat less conspicuous yellow flower is associated with each bract, but clearly the whole inflorescence functions in attraction of bird pollinators. The look waxy because of a heavy cuticle, which also means they last for a long time. So this is not a flower, but a whole cluster of flowers, and yes, this is one of the things that makes TPP's blog a great flower blog, so some dubious correspondent suggested, one which the ever suspicious blogger never responded to, but already people know the FFF (no matter what day it comes out) is a quality product given away free.  

Good timing is important

OK, the Phactors decide to escape as much winter as possible by going to Hawaii for 3 weeks (Maui and Kauai).  During that time we escape the polar vortex, although we fully expect to see the ravages of extreme cold when spring arrives.  Arrived back on Feb. 5th and 3 days later a freaky winter storm hits Hawaii, and Maui even gets snow!  Went up fairly high on the volcano to see some native vegetation and birds the subject off this blog just a few days ago.  And they got snowed on, and the Phactors missed it.  Usually our timing is not that good.  Much better to remember our lodgings on Kauai without any high winds or snow in the picture.  This was great.  

Bleak and cold

TPP is home after a bit more than 24 hrs of travel.  Hard to believe how bleak and cold the upper Midwest can be especially having left a fairly lush tropical place.  The air is so dry.  The kitty girls are certainly glad the Phactors are home; it will take them awhile to get less clingy.  Several little things need attention, that's entropy for you.  Fortunately the polar vortex came and went while we were enjoying much warmer weather in Maui and Kauai. Arriving home last evening the temperature was about 30F, but it was very damp, and being most inappropriately dressed it seemed much colder.  Snuggling cats were determined to keep us close and warm.  The ultimate price of the extreme cold weather will await an evaluation of the damage come spring.  TPP already has a long list of plants that might be rather susceptible to such cold and no one else is at fault for having planted some not quite cold hardy in zone 5 plants. It has been nearly 40 years since the area has experienced near, or beyond, rock bottom zone 5 temps (around -20 F).  This is an interesting temperature barrier for freeze avoiding plants. TPP has blogged about this several times.  

Fruit ID revealed

Well, nobody suggested nuthin'.  This doesn't surprise TPP because it was not easy to find online, but out of a long list of tropical fruits grown on Kauai, the first name that was unknown was googled and it turned out to be correct.  That would be the caimito or star apple, Chrysophyllum canito (Sapotaceae).  This means the caimito is related to the sapote and several other fruits in the same family, none of which are high on TPP's list of favorites.  But a new fruit is a new fruit, and it grows on a large handsome tree.  If you cut this fruit in half you can avoid the outer fruit wall and skin where most of the latex is located by spooning out the central pulp, which has a sweet, creamy taste.  This is a neotropical fruit that is grown in Florida, and probably Costa Rica, but had escaped TPP's attention.