Field of Science

Midwestern USA and food

When TPP first moved to the midwest in the fall of 1970, nobody knew what a bagel was. To a kid even one from upstate NY, no bagels was an indication of a lack of civilization, and even if they had been around, no one would have eaten them with lox. Bagels are now fairly common although they still do not seem as good as the ones from NYC bagel shops. So grad school, then a post-doc, and then a job all within an adjacent 4 state area of the midwest means TPP has spent 2/3s of his life in this area. Things have gotten a lot more sophisticated in terms of food even in small college cities such as ours, but a couple of general trends persist. People in this area are generally not big fans of seafood, or even fresh-water fish, and they don't like their food spicy. So when you put the two together, well, you can sort the "natives" from the "fureners" real easy. The graduate students are in charge of a fall grad student & faculty picnic, and they decided that having a crayfish (crawdad) boil would be a good idea. So they got them some Cajun spices and borrowed TPP's cooker and they went to town: potatoes, chicken, sausage, sweet corn, and crawfish, not necessarily in that order, but boiled to a nice spicy perfection! There was even some shrimp butter for the corn, an authentic southern LA recipe. Plenty of other food existed, and let me say, some of the Indian grad students bring the best items to pot-lucks like this, so you could easily see who had a pile of shells and who didn't ("natives"). Of course this just meant there were more for the more adventurous eaters. TPP used to bring a load (50-60) pounds of crawfish back from Baton Rouge each spring break having used collaborative research as an excuse to travel south. But it has been awhile since having had crawfish aplenty. So it was sort of fun. You could also tell the adventurous but inexperienced eaters who needed some technique lessons. The students only made one mistake, they waited too late to make their hush puppies and everone was filled up by the time those goodies made their appearance. The lesson is this: embrace new experiences, especially food.

Guns, safety, and the OK confedreracy

Here's another update from an OK science missionary. And what Stan says about guns and safety is sadly true enough for almost anybody in this country today. Like TPP said before, best to leave rednecks alone.  

Darth Cheney & Iran

The surfacing of Darth Cheney to 'splain the problems with negotiating with Iran was so very predictable. First, all of the knee-jerk GnOPers who exclaimed that they were against the anti-nuclear agreement before they even read it tells you everything you need to know. Obama = bad, oppose at all costs. Our local representative is part of that crowd, and not the brightest bulb at that. And their alternatives?  Nothing other than belligerent saber rattling, the limits of their idea of diplomacy. And just see how well Cheney's approach worked in Iraq. Already Europe's corporations are rushing to do business with Iran, and maybe with the exception of Halliburton, an accord with Iran would benefit many investors, and a curious thing happens when fiscal interests get involved, the political rhetoric gets toned down because both parties have butter on the same side of the bread. In this case it would seem that the GnOPe is so eager to thwart Obama that they would throw their corporate babies out with the bathwater. At this point in time anyone who trusts Darth Cheney to tell the truth about anything is so gullible that they have no business in government or foreign policy. Trying to stablize the middle east region appears to be an anathma to Darth. Oo, Iran isn't a real democracy like our friends and allies the Saudis. Sure. So what does the USA have to lose by trying diplomacy rather than belligerence? Nothing. Except Halliburton gets to sell less because their butter is on the conflict side of the bread, and Cheney is their mouth-piece. Go back to your death star, far, far away!

Botany 2015 by the numbers and some plant identification

TPP has been struggling with a few plant identifications these past couple of hours; a sunflower (just checking the id - Helianthus laetiflorus var. rigidus), a rosinweed, a couple of species (maybe?) of Solidago, and an unknown Aster with tiny little rayless heads. Does everyone know what SYC stands for? At any rate if you have ever waded through identification keys for any of these, especially the aster and goldenrod, you'll understand why TPP is allowing some email distraction followed by a bit of blogging.
The final report on the North American botany meetings that TPP just attended in Edmonton, Alberta, provided some encouraging numbers and demonstrated that this was one of the most diverse and best attended botany meetings in any ones' memory. Over 1600 students and faculty, and at least one dean, were in attendance, and while largely from the USA and Canada, over 50 countries were in represented. Over 900 talks and lectures were presented and there were acres of posters (almost 500 posters) and not enough time to see any thing close to all of them. This meeting was a collaboration among 14 scientific societies. It was just great. If you want to get a flavor of all this botanical science here's a link to some youtube videos of people presenting their posters. There are a couple of TPP's favorite colleagues in there, but they won't be identified so as to not sully their reputations.
Back to plant IDs. Ah, TPP guessed rightly about the aster being an Aster; it was tricky because it's a species that lacks ray flowers. Surprisingly, only one herbarium specimen exists of Aster brachyactis for positive comparison probably because of this plants drab, ho-hum floral display and weedy demeanor. However, that was an old field guide (but familiar) and the Flora of North America indicates that this species has been moved to another genus and reduced to synonymy with Symphyotrichum ciliatum. Here's a link to this beauty. 

Infantizing college students

TPP taught biology to freshman non-majors and majors for a long, long time, for over 20 years total. So just about every intellectual student-faculty interaction you can think of has happened along at one time or another. Over the years, especially among non-majors, you run into students who have been taught a lot of nonsense about evolution, and some have frankly said that they don't believe in evolution. Now to a point TPP was OK with this; he did not allow any student to imply or out and out state that he was being dishonest. Changing their beliefs was never an educational objective, however the students were obligated to show that they understood why science said what science said. And when some clearly could not demonstrate such understanding, a few cried "religious discrimination" and asked to be let off the hook. This particular attitude has become way more prevalent and unfortunately the most common administrative response has been to tell faculty to be more accomodating, to be more concerned about students' feelings, and to just feed them with a bigger spoon. TPP's basic philosophy was that while you are entitled to your beliefs you are not entitled to avoid discomforting or contradictory ideas, you are not entitled to a free-pass when it comes to a critical analysis of beliefs like yours (individuals were never picked on). After all this is about education. These days parents and students still want the higher education passport, a degree, to jobs and careers, but the current attitude is that when parents present you with a narrow-minded, anti-science, parochial, self-satisified, entitled little twerp, the twerp is to be returned in the same condition, which seems totally antithetic to higher education. Apparently though business schools are pretty good at doing this; the sciences and humanities not so much. Our administrators, protectors of quality higher education all, give faculty advice about providing trigger warnings and the rules to follow if students want to "opt-out" of discomforting parts of your courses, so religious students can avoid learning about evolution. The only way to do this in TPP's opinion is to not take biology at all and yes, medical schools may object, at least so far. This is all the more troubling because one of the few things where the old USA was really number one was in the size and affordability of our public education system, and the way basic research and scholarship was encouraged. This system is being dismantled as fast as anti-education people can go; under fund it, restrict research areas and support, destroy shared governance, take away academic freedom, and weaken tenure. Apparently many in our country no longer value the ability to think, the ability to understand that bumper sticker slogans are not thoughtful foreign policy nor good education. Never mind that higher education has long been directly and indirectly connected to this country's productivity and prosperity. So let's not challenge students with new ideas or make them think, certainly don't encourage them critically examine anything. The minor non-protest at Duke about freshmen who don't want to read a particular book that might make them uncomfortable, a book they may disagree with, which is OK, but these are the very students who need this type of education the most. TPP isn't even slightly sympathetic to their cause. Twerps.

Nighty night nightshades

This hasn't been the best growing season for nightshades: tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, petunias, etc. Both the combination and the sequence of weather seems to be not to their liking. Firstly it was too wet and not warm enough early on, and tomatoes being grown by some of the best gardeners TPP knows got no further. TPP had  his nightshades in containers, so the extra drainage kept them from completely crashing. Nightshades are also susceptable to quite a number of diseases particularly wilts and blights. Those along with mildews got off to a great start during the wet weather of early summer, and now the plants look terrible, their vigor is waning, and they won't last much longer although usually gardening is fine through the end of September around here. In particular it was a bad year for petunias, and the wave type seem to have done particularly poorly. In contrast verbenas that sometimes struggle are doing quite well. Remember that these nightshades are not tough plants, but cultivated softies. Now that the weather is cooler and drier, which requires some watering, plants should be doing well, but they are already too far gone. So for about 5 weeks tomatoes were abundant. There were plenty of eggplant for a month; the plants do show some signs of rebounding. Chili peppers produced well for about 6 weeks and now some varieties are almost leafless, others are recovering and will probably provide a few fruit. The petunias are just shot; wave goodbye. Glad our survival doesn't rely on potatoes this year, although strangely, perhaps because they are harvested earlier, some decent crops are being reported.

A science missionary in dangerous country (state)

Teaching if done well is a difficult task, although it does get easier with practice. Teaching is also easiest when the students are interested, eager, and willing. When they aren't one or more of those, it can be very difficult especially when they view some of your subjects as wrong or even evil, as in evilution. However, for TPP it has never even been slightly dangerous even in those large, non-majors lectures where you almost failed the star basket ball center. Not all of us are so fortunate to live in an area as enlightened (??) as the upper midwest.  Here's a link to a blog of one of my colleagues living in a "different country". Best if you read his story in his own words. He's a brave fellow; personally rednecks are best left alone.

Not just in time

Having been brought up to never throw away anything that might be useful, TPP has accumulated quite a bit of stuff over the years: screws, wire, rope, wood, flotsum, and so on. But it's only useful if you have a good inventory and know where things are. Our telephone quit working, the land line that's still in use, was telling us the line was in use and the problem was not the service. A bit of sleuthing and it was discovered that the problem was a couple of corroded connector terminals, the result of too much communing with house plants, although a telephone on a sunporch is a very pleasant location. Memory suggested that spare telephone cable and even a spare DSL filter were on hand, but the search of the premises found plenty of stuffs, but not the right ones. You can guess the rest. After purchasing a new line, a new terminal, and a new filter, and rewiring the terminal, Everything worked just fine. Later while seeking a bag of grass seed, the missing telepone line spare parts were found exactly as remembered just not the location.  Dang. Doesn't do us any good to save bits and pieces if they can't be retrieved when needed. However both an inventory and a storage system just isn't going to happen. Sigh.

TGIF Seminar

A strange, eclectic group gathers every Friday sometimes at commercial establishments if they don't remember the group from the last time and sometimes at the houses of "members". In this particular group the Phactors anchor the young end of the member spectrum. Now since the gardens were still fairly neat, and the patios and lawn furniture were still fairly clean, the group was invited to have their TGIF Seminar in our garden yesterday. An inordinate number of mathematicians belong, which is a bit funny, funnier than they are, but the Phactors have been socializing with some of these people for close to 40 years. A lot of wine has flowed in that period of time. A few people had never seen the estate and gardens before and the weather was just perfect, a lovely early evening. As this group is dominated by university faculty and Unitarians, the diverse political discussions were kind to Jimmy Carter and unkind to Donny Trump, concerned about investments, and trading summer travel stories. Athough the semester had just started, this largely retired group was not at all concerned.  The TGIF group numbered about 1/10th the wedding group, so the aftermath was much less to deal with, and the empties didn't begin to fill the recycling dumpster that the wedding had easily topped up. This affair was not catered but 5 pounds of meatballs went somewhere, as did a lot of salty, crunchy snacks, which make you thirsty, thus starting a vicious cycle that everyone enjoys. Wonder where the next seminar will be?  And will the person who brought the bottle of pink zin please stop by and retrieve their wine.

GOP outreach to women voters

Once again Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World explains GOP voter outreach. How this gonna work? 

Five plants to save the world

In botanical circles, especially among those of us who teach about economically important plants, a lot of discussion has centered around how many plants keep us from being naked, miserable, and hungry. Even in the broadest sense, it isn't really very many species really, 100 to 300 at the upper limit. So whenever someone says here's five plants that can save the world, well, you have to take a look. You think maybe wheat, rice, and maize, which together provide over 50% of human calories, but this article takes a very different perspective, one that looks at current problems around the world. Maybe you were thinking of Moringia oleifera, Rinorea niccolifera, Azadirachta indica, Botryococcus braunii, or Pleruotus sp. TPP sure wasn't thinking of any of these, although he knows 2 of the three flowering plants (1st three names) pretty well, and he's seen the algae under a microscope (many years ago) although probably could not identify it now, and has no idea how it could be so important. Neem is a pretty well known medicinal and is becoming more widely known outside of India. Lastly there are the oyster mushrooms, but how could they possibly be in the save the world category?  So to enlighten yourself, here's the link to the article. This is interesting stuff.

Starry starry night

Here's a weather map of two typhoons that are currently forming and getting stronger in the Pacific Ocean, and a double header like this hasn't happened for about 40 years. And people think the upper midwest has bad weather!  But still TPP got a strong sense of deja vu all over again, like this image had been seen before and then the memory kicked in.  Strong resemblance don't you think? 


How to run a university - This is your budget (Right!).

One of the good things, a tiny silver lining to a dark cloud, of having no salary or pension that depends upon the state, or not having any budget for running your herbarium, or not having any staff to support, is that your budget can't really be cut. Sigh. And of course since Lincolnland has a GnOPe governor, the state budget must be cut, especially higher education, that most dangerous of public institutions. More on this later. Let's suppose you are a department chairman, and here any similarities to real people are completely accidental, and your dean tells you you have a budget of say 4.5 million dollars. OK, that sounds like a lot, but mostly that consists of the cumulative salaries of your faculty and staff. However, that total is used to calculate how much you must cut your budget based on some magic percentage figure. Well, suppose professor Z is retiring in December, so you decide to cut the budget by an amount that equals half of his current salary. No, you can't do that because as soon as he retires that salary is no longer part of your budget. Well, can that half salary be deducted from the budget now so that the percentage cut is based on a smaller total? Well, no, you can't. Now this folks is a budget catch-22 where the total only counts against you and never counts for you. Actually, only about $140,000 exists that isn't salary, so your cuts must come out of that amount, and departments with more highly paid faculty will suffer larger cuts from other funds than others. Now TPP has pointed out before that departments never get the tuition dollars that their courses generate either, or the decision about which administrative services to retain might solve the budget cut problem easily.

Something strange in the neighborhood

Wut happened? Universities are such nice quiet places all summer, and then bam!  Something happens! It's noisy, it's crowded, it's a longer line at the coffee shop, it's hard to find parking (if you drive to campus).  Oh, yes, the students have returned for the fall semester, an event TPP avoided last year by taking a  sabbatical in Tuscany from life as usual. It hasn't changed. Students can be seen wandering around looking lost. iZombies wander the sidewalks. TPP is still concerned about the preparedness of today's students, what has been called the infantization of college students, the idea that students should be protected from discomforting and disturbing ideas or concepts. Nothing whatever should challenge their carefully crafted parochial world views. It never dawns on people that this severely limits learning.  Memos from deans suggest how to include "trigger warnings" in your syllabus as a precaution. Yes, probably a good thing TPP has retired with his record to having been accused of being a sexist, a racist, and a religious proselytizer all in the same semester while teaching botany. Some records you just have to be proud of and TPP wasn't even trying to slay any sacred cows or even advocate any cultural changes. It was however a non-majors class, and that semester prompted the move to change the class to an upper division majors class.  The thing about this is that some of these new students will not just do fine, they will do great, prosper, and take advantage of all the neat things you can do at university, like research, but it's impossible to tell ahead which ones. Finding those who wanted to learn was one of the great things about being a university professor. So from the sidelines, TPP wishes his colleagues and all the new students well. The formula for success is pretty easy: go to class, take time to think, and make an honest effort. As for the students, well, the same advice applies to you too.

Gardening by-products - butterflies

The Phactors did not set out to plant a butterfly garden, and yet we did as a consequence of trying to generate season long flower color and plant diversity. A number of butterflies have always been fairly common in particular painted ladies and red admirals, and the ubiquitous white cabbage butterflies. During the late afternoon, groups of red admirals dance in colorful tornadoes in sun spots that appear here and there in our gardens, undoubtably a behavior associated with reproduction. Monarchs have been fairly common this year, which is good because many biologists are concerned about their declining population levels. Milkweeds, their larval food plant, have never done well in our gardens although at least 3 species have been tried, but milkweeds are common enough in many places. The most common fairly spectacular butterfly is the tiger swallowtail, and tulip trees, their larval food plant, are quite common in our neighborhood. Black swallowtails are also fairly common and their very distinctive black-yellow-green larvae can be found eating your parsley and dill, another butterfly with a family level dietary restriction. This year a rare sighting of a giant swallowtail was a nice surprise, but TPP does not know their food plants. Now that several spice bushes, Lindera benzoin, have gotten to a decent size, as well as a largish Sassafras tree, spicebush swallowtails have become regular residents. Note the variable bluish-green coloring mostly on the lower wings, a marking that quickly distinguishes them from black swallowtails. Now all of the plants mentioned above are larval food plants, the adults are all nectar consumers patrolling the many different flowers, particularly mints, pinks, composites, and the like. Even from here in the kitchen the various butterflies can be seen flitting about the flower garden. This image of the spicebush swallowtail feeding on a blazing star is from the Ohio-nature website and you can find many more butterfly images there. 

Gardening advice from Consumer Reports - Not very impressive

How did TPP miss this? The Phactors do subscribe to CR, but no recall of an article on gardening, but then again TPP seldom reads gardening advice columns or articles. At any rate organizations and publications like CR have value only when what they report is well-researched and accurately presented. So why did the good people over at The Garden Professors' Blog get so exercised? Because the advice to use clove oil was not well researched nor accurately presented. And TPP would further point out that among the various essential oils, oil of cloves is expensive and a known carcinogen. The lesson here is that not all of the alternative chemicals suggested to treat garden problems work and they are not themselves problem free. The CR response is quite unsatisfactory, but go to the link and check it out yourself. Clove oil used to be part of many histochemical recipes, but generally much cheaper oil of wintergreen, which can be synthesized, was used as a substitute even 45 years ago when TPP did that type of research. Our labs did smell pretty good at times.

Electric get about

Aw, isn't it cute!  This is the GEM e2, an urban electric get-about vehicle which is made by the Polaris people who make the ATVs.  It does come with doors, hard or soft, and various back carry racks and containers, and you can plug it in anywhere. With a 35 mile range, one charge would keep people like the Phactors in business for a normal work week. And that is the point, us urban dwellers don't actually go very far, but sometimes public transportation just doesn't work in terms of convenience, times, and routes. At any rate, Mrs. Phactor is planning to get an electric car for her next vehicle. Oh, and just wait until you see the limo (GEM e6)!  HT to Treehugger.

Garden wedding aftermath

Everyone has now gone home or elsewhere; one went to Peru, one went to Turkey, one went to San Francisco, two went to Chi-town, actually several live there but these two are from Germany, so you know, to see the Bean. Things are beginning to feel normal again although food and drink leftovers or extras may be around for awhile yet. The last vestige to the wedding-party remains - a cooler of beer on the patio that was emptied and refilled many times must be emptied, and not by drinking all that remains!  Those days are long gone by. Oh, and the terrible stuff the nieces and nephews drink: Landshark looks like a urine sample. Oops, sorry about that product endorsement. Some cups and bottles will undoubtedly continue to show up, but unless the lily pond is drained all probably will not be found (using the #2 law of ponds here - If there be water, someone will throw something in.).  The dining room table is not longer covered in wedding presents, so no need to keep cats away from the ribbons. Cats have reclaimed the guest beds as their own. Patios' furniture has all been returned to its regular places. The reasons for having a single child have never been clearer, not that it wasn't worth it, just not sure we have the energy to do this again. Actually the Phactors did not have the energy this time but for all the helpful participation of friends and family for which the hosts are very thankful.

Whatta weekend!

The gathering began 5 days ago. Slowly people arrived, in ones, twos, and threes, and sometimes more; from out of state, out of the country, drawn by some primal urge, some pheromonal attraction, some ancient calling, friends and family gathered, until it was a deluge, all for the occasion of the F1s wedding. The gardens cooperated, the weather cooperated, the chairs cooperated, the friends and family cooperated, and the result was an utterly charming wedding. In the process the Phactors gained a son-in-law and neighbors became family, a small town thing, but there you have it. Still it was quite a party, and most of the participants are now well fed, perhaps overly imbibed, some newly met, some long between visits, some new acquaintances, and Mrs. Phactor heroically managed this marathon while ill. At this point the many participants are now dispersing, a reversal of the gathering in somewhat shorter time. On the whole the thing was quite satisfying, the more so because the F1, just before walking down the aisle asked her Father if he believed that she'd be married in about 25 mins? It only took about 9 years, plus 25 minutes, so yes, it seemed quite possible that this was going to happen in the very short term, and a prediction that proved most accurate. Congratulations to the young couple, may they be as happy as the Phactors have been and for even longer. 

Buckets of flowers

Isn't this pretty? Buckets of flowers for the bride and bride's maids all sitting together keeping fresh. Garden came through with the flowers when needed. It's a bit humid and some light showers are threatening.  Don't want TPP's Hawaiian wedding shirt to get wet.

Naked ladies at a wedding

Now that's a click bait title, so don't be disappointed that this is just a Friday Fabulous Flower.  Wednesday it began with a trickle, yesterday was a steady stream, and today it will be a raging torrent of friends and mostly relatives pouring into town, into our gardens, and into our refrigerator. Things are getting pretty hectic, but at least now the Phactors know that 250 chairs will fit in our side yard, an area that was a tennis court some 80 years ago. Flowers for bouquets will be harvested from the many things blooming in our gardens, but there is always some concern about having enough. Well, the dozens of clumps of "naked ladies", one of the many common names of Amaryllis belladonna, an epithet that means pretty lady. Where TPP grew up they were called "magic lilies" because their lush leaves popup in early spring and die back in early summer leaving no trace, then in August the flowering stalks emerge, sans leaves, thus the "naked", and are soon topped by a whorl of pink flowers. This is a pattern of growth associated with wet-dry climates and with temperate deciduous forests; grow leaves when conditions for that are best, and then flower using stored food and water when pollination conditions are best. They make good cut flowers lasting for several days in a vase. So naked ladies to the rescue; flowers aplenty. The biggest problem is remembering where the many clumps of bulbs are hidden below ground. Each year the Phactors discuss counting them, or mapping them, but it won't happen again this year either. Now to post this and get started on a to do list. 

Bird interactions

It's a beautiful summer day here in the upper midwest, as nice as they get. With a high in the mid-80s, it's probably a bit warm for some people, but with lows in the mid-60s, the house stays very comfortable. Things are pretty well spruced up inside and out for all the visitors from near and far. One of the farthest is due to arrive in about 30 min. by train, although a distance train horn can now be heard; north bound or south bound? Can't tell. Rain is skirting our area to the south, and the gardens could use some watering. Containers had to be watered, but some beds need watering for the first time this year. August is always dry. Areas of the lawn that got flooded a few times earlier this summer are still in bad shape, and now the soil is beginning to crack. Lovely. The Phactors are not the tallest of people, so some dangling bald cypress twigs had to be trimmed so as not to mess with tall people's heads. No top hats are expected for this wedding.
Oh, yes, this was to be about birds. It was a very birdy day; lots of activity. While ruby throated hummingbirds are very common out in the countryside, they are more uncommon in our urban setting, however with lots of good butterfly and hummingbird flowers open a lot of both are around. Tiger swallowtails are pretty common, but a giant swallowtail made an appearance. And spicebush butterflies are more common this year probably because we have their food plant. A couple of hummingbirds were operating throughout our gardens. What was most interesting was to watch a hummingbird interact agressively with a house wren. Now of course they do not compete for the same food at all, so TPP really doesn't understand why the hummingbird was so intent on chasing the wren out of the area. Watched the hummer fly up and dance back & forth right in front of the perched wren until the wren bailed out with the hummer on his tail. Strange.

Summer garden assessments

As always, the garden is a combination of the good, the bad, and the ugly; what keeps you gardening is that it's never the same. Here in the upper midwest, the very wet June and July zapped many people's tomatoes and bush beans. TPP got lucky in using containers this year, and while the early  blight will forshorten the tomato season, right now the Phactors have a lot of tomatoes. Crab grass is beginning to make its way into our gardens. Ugly. Finally getting on top of the unusually large crop of maple seedlings.  And where the ever loving heck do all the poke weeds come from, and how do they grow so bloody fast?  Annual and summer flowering plants are providing a lot of color and hopefull a lot of flowers for wedding decorations. Last year wax bells and beauty berry were a bust, but this year they look to be pretty spectacular. After dealing with very wet conditions so far, now some rain is needed or gardens will have to be watered in ernest. Actually had to water the annual cut flowers to keep them going strong for use as wedding flowers. Limelighter hydrangea is looking great. Oops, TTP thought he was planting late bush beans, but they are pole beans so had to put up some supports. Fall snap peas are up and growing too. People forget that in August you can replant spring crops, as long as you keep them watered. After the wedding craziness is done, fall lettuce will be planted too. Got a couple of cheapy late season specials to add some color in places where plants have pooped out making a blank spot in our gardens. On the whole, the gardens are looking OK for this time of year.

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.