Field of Science

No money for tiger chow

Is there some contest among GnOPe governors to see who will be the "REAL" fiscal conservative as determined by who can make the most drastic cuts?  Now there are cuts, and then there are cuts, but the GnOPe always takes aim at the same two things, social programs for the poor and public education. Until recently, the USA could look to public education as one of its great achievements, institutions that allowed kids like TPP from blue collar backgrounds to become college professors, of course in the process, of becoming educated and gettting ahead, it makes many of us into liberals.  Gasp! Being able to think has never been good for ideologies, so when your party's policy is to create, maintain, and reinforce a wealthy elite, to which us college professors while comfortable, are not a part. So little Bobbie Jindal who once said the GnOPe has to stop being the party of stupid, is proposing a whopping 82% cut to LSU's budget! No institution can absorb such cuts in the short term, so this is designed to be damaging to the state's premier institution of higher learning. In truth, illiterate and uneducated is different from being stupid, so clearly the LA governor is aiming for the former not the latter. Does it ever occur to these fiscal conservatives that higher education pays back for its cost in spades?

Friday Fabulous Flower - snow Trillium

Oh, this really is a fabulous flower, and it really is Friday. This is Trillium nivale, the snow trillium, the smallest trillium and earliest flowering woodland wild flower in these parts. This species is a new addition to our gardens and trying to find a place where it could be seen and yet not over whelmed was quite a challenge; too bad we don't have one.  A sloping rock garden would be just right. This plant is about 3" tall and about 3" across when the leaves are fully expanded. It flowered on March 21st when other early spring wild flowers have yet to make an appearance; Hepatica buds are just beginning to show, bloodroot hasn't appeared, and the next earliest trillium around here, T. recurvatum, just has the tips of its shoots showing. This is truly a cheerful harbinger of spring, although another plant has that common name. It was nice to find this species available in the trade. (And dang but TPP's new iphone takes decent pictures.) 

OK spring weather

This spring weather is not okay, but it's in OK which generally in my experience has rather poor weather. Spring does begin our storm/tornado season. TPP lives at the very northeastern end of tornado alley, a belt that runs northeast to southwest from the upper midwest down to the Texas panhandle. So here you do, rather than the first flower of spring, here's your
first tornado of spring (Tuesday March 24th) photographed by a friend of a friend in Tulsa, that weather Eden of Oklahoma. This is a bit like the fellow who was killed by a bear because he stopped to take a picture of a bear running at him rather than getting the heck out of there, and people knew this because of the pictures on the camera. Fortunately friend of a friend did get out of there. Hope the Golden Driller was unharmed.

Life in the trenches - teaching biology to non-majors

For nearly 2 decades TPP taught biology to non-majors or freshman majors (but the class was still half non-majors) in large lecture sections, and he was very good at it. Although the upper mid-west is above the Bible belt, evolution was still a controversial subject for many students. Some students were adamantly opposed to evolution and all for religious reasons, some had never been taught evolution and were curious about why it was an issue, probably because high school teachers simply wanted to avoid any problems with their students, and some who had been taught something about evolution but wanted to learn more. Here's an essay by a biologist who long has taught non-majors at the U. of Kentucky, and TPP assures you that he knows exactly where this guy is coming from. Similar things have happened to all of us who have so taught. TPP actually always felt sorry for those students whose religious beliefs prevented them from learning, and even worse for those who did learn something and then decided that their religious leaders, their parents, had been deceiving them. Here's the Botanical Society of America's statement on evolution for which TPP was the primary author.

Fruits and vegetables up close and personal

Here's some pretty neat images of young, immature, fruits and vegetables. See if  you can figure out what you're looking at. Oh, the strawberry does not show you the individual seeds, but the individual fruitlets on the fleshy receptacle, an accessory fruit that will clearly get much larger.  Warning: the images are flogging a book.

Research tidbits - AJB March 2015

The American Journal of Botany is a publication of the Botanical Society of America. Highlights of several interesting articles is a new feature of each month's volume; this is vol. 102 (3).  Mostly these are brief, non-technical descriptions of a study and they include a nice image. They give you some idea of the types of research, the diversity of scientific interests, and the kinds of questions that interest botanists these days.  You can also access the cover illustration and its legend from this link. Very much bragging rights to get the front cover.  Let TPP know if this is a feature you like or if there are any access problems.  

Lighten up people, we're just messin' with you!

Oh, those fun-loving GnOPes.  Thank Tom Tomorrow for letting us in on the joke. To think anyone ever took them seriously. Seriously.  

Corned beef tomorrow

It's just about time, no, not for St. Patrick's Day, which TPP missed, but for his annual corned beef brisket for which St. Patrick's Day is just an excuse. This year's brisket got started about 4 weeks ago when TPP happened upon a huge brisket and having determined that the necessary ingredients were on hand proceded to begin curing this brisket. It isn't really necessary to cure the brisket this long, but larger briskets do take longer, and this is not a process to be hurried. There is really no comparison between this home-cured brisket and what you buy in the stores, and the curing time is clearly one of the variables. Although it doesn't really need a lot of dressing up, a glaze is nice to finish the brisket during it's brief baking. Found a really nice sounding glaze made of orange marmalade, Irish whiskey, mustard, and nutmeg, however a field trip is necessary to get the marmalade. Also need some carrots for a veg on the side. For a nice change of pace a bottle of 2 Gingers Irish whiskey is on hand offering a considerable difference from the standard Irish whiskeys; it has a bit sweeter taste, a touch of tartness, and is somewhat lighter and smoother, and much to the liking of my Irish wife (their target market) in a not at all blind taste test. Hope Beam doesn't ruin Kilbeggan, but for now it seems OK.  Now to go and find some grasshoppers for the pie, although dessert is not TPP's responsibility.  Clearly a few friends will assist with the consumption of assorted foods and drinks.

Friday Fabulous Flower - Filberts

The filberts (aka hazel-nut, Corylus americana) are in flower in the upper midwest in March this year. Most people being quite plant blind don't even notice the catkins (3 shown here), the dangling inflorescences of pollen flowers some 3-4" long. So no one at all, including botany students, ever notice the brilliantly, dark red pistillate flowers. OK, they are pretty small, but they usually come in clusters of 2-3 flowers enclosed by bud scales (2 such clusters are in this image). Actually all you really see are the stigmas, the pollen receiving parts of the fruiting flowers, which are quite red. Such colorful stigmas are quite common among wind pollinated trees. It takes some pretty good powers of observation to notice the tiny red flowers when distracted by the big, conspicuous catkins at least in terms of size. Flowers adapted for wind pollination generally lack big conspicuous perianth parts because they have no need to attract pollinators. Now that you know, keep your eyes open. TPP is quite impressed with the camera in his new cell phone; that technology has come a long way fast.   

Schocking political news here in Lincolnland


Our state’s young congressman really likes to place fast and loose with money. The public was paying for all sorts of questionable travel, and he accepted an office remodeling job, a questionable gift of questionable taste, and has been involved in all sorts of real estate deals with political supporters, some real sweetheart deals all of us would like to be in on.  He has paid back the travel and paid for the remodeling, but only because he was caught and exposed by the press.  All of this smacks at the very least of poor judgement, and quite possibly questionable ethics, and certainly a disdain for the rules.  But what do you expect?  You give a 30-something guy a lot of power and money, and you expect them to behave? Maybe when he grows up. 
Zounds! Maybe not!  Yes, while this blog was being written our Schocking congressman resigned!  Wow!  That's close to a TPP exclusive!  But not even close; amazing how fast news travels on the internet! Of course it was also amazing how quickly one alleged misconduct was followed by the next. Boys and girls, let that be a lesson to you.