Happy Saturday morning to all of my readers! Today is 23 August — only FIVE days until Vanderbilt football and only SEVEN days until Texas football begins! Happy days!! We can all finally crawl out of the darkness that is football-free into the light that is football season. Cherish these days – they will be all too short. In just four more months, it will be Christmas, and we’ll be in the midst of bowl season, gorging ourselves on as many games as possible (because America celebrates mediocrity!), until we get to the last sweet morsel, the “championship” game on 12 January. (“Championship” is in quotes since it’s only a four-team playoff and there are way too many people who are either too involved to vote without bias or who really don’t know anything about football on the so-called “committee.” Why can’t Division I football have a “normal” playoff like EVERY OTHER COLLEGE SPORT IN AMERICA? I guess that’s a topic for another day.) On 13 January, we will be forced back into the cold, dark months without any football. No more tailgating. Televisions and radios stop working both ways (my beloved and sainted father, glory be unto his name tells me that, during football season, if you yell loudly enough at the TV, the coaches and players can hear you). We are stuck with “sports” like rhythmic gymnastics and ping pong. I could cry just thinking about it.
None of that now — in just a few days, football season begins, and we can enjoy 132 beautiful days in the Sun that is college football.
That said, some of my readers might wonder about the title of today’s post. Let’s see:
- We have two beautiful passion flower plants. These climbing vines produce beautiful flowers (an example of one my mother grew is shown below). If you find them, enjoy them while you can — flowers open around 11 AM and last only one afternoon (especially on the Caprock). While the passion vine is chemically protected by cyanogenic glycosides (that prevent plant-eating bugs from eating it), it is fed upon by caterpillars of two specialized butterflies that basically do not feed on anything else. The nasty-looking larvae of Agraulis vanilla (the gulf fritillary) are ALL OVER both of our vines, and have almost completely destroyed them. These grotesque things look like like the picture below; there seem to be ZILLIONS of them, and they are remarkably resistant to my mother’s efforts to irradiate them (which continued until she realized they were going to become butterflies; see the picture below the nasty caterpillar). It’s hard to believe that nature would allow a species to completely destroy its larval host, but I think next year, we’re going to make good use of insecticide (we might plant milkweed, like Asciepias tuberose L. (a.k.a. “Butterfly milkweed”) so the damn caterpillars will have something to eat and Mommy can have her freaking butterflies). I just want to see more passion flowers passion fruit!
- The Crimea is a really beautiful part of the world. Until 2014 (which is really none of our business — let the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the EU handle this mess without us!), the only time anyone heard about this place was either the Crimean War (1853–1856) or the famous song about the principle waterway of the region (here). Seriously. This mess needs to end. Get over yourselves, Russia.
- The group calling themselves the “Islamic State” (or ISIS; a violent, terrorist organization claiming to have established a caliphate in Syria and Iraq) is committing the most heinous, abominable, and abhorrent crimes across the Middle East. There really are no polite words that can express what’s going on over there. Beheading men, women, and children (and not with a single, quick stroke, either). In some cities, this freakish group demands that Christians (those who do not believe in their so-called “prophet” and their bizarre interpretation of the Quran) must pay fines, leave, or convert to ISIS’ heathen beliefs. This is genocide in its ugliest and most base form. In any case, ISIS marks their property with the arabic letter nūn – “n” for “Nazarene.” All Pekingese (and really, all decent human beings) stand with these Christians in defiance of ISIS and their unforgivable crimes! For future reference, when you see someone wearing, carrying, or otherwise displaying a picture like what’s below, they are standing up for these persecuted people. We encourage you — in the strongest possible manner — to stand together with us – #WeAreN
Finally, for some poor souls (like my mother), school has started. For others (like my beloved and sainted father), classes begin on Monday. This is the true invasion.
My mother is now teaching VERY young children (who should be seen rarely and never heard – you KNOW they would yell into my ears and pull my tail!). Some of these lost souls have yet to experience the bathroom, and get some of the fundamental concepts confused. For reference:
These are sinks. Wash your hands. Use hot water AND soap. That means you have to get your hands wet AND get soap on them AND rinse them off. You are little Typhoid Marys, and you don’t need to be passing any of those cooties to my mother, because she’ll bring them home and infect my poor father. Especially since my mother has not allowed the construction of an emergency bleach shower just outside the front door.
These are urinals. This is where you go to mark stuff (don’t do it anywhere else, or you’ll get into BIG trouble). A quick reminder: ONLY LIQUIDS GO HERE. I’ve heard that some of you missed this point already…
These are toilets. This is where you leave your scat (again – don’t leave your scat anywhere else!).
None of these look similar, so try not to confuse them (again). Just a little help for my mother.
My poor father’s condition is even worse (although, granted, he probably doesn’t have to deal with poo on a daily basis). This semester, his teaching load has DOUBLED! That means that he’ll be working on a new lecture EVERY DAY FOR 15 WEEKS! These aren’t terribly puffy classes, either. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, he is teaching a graduate class on applied nuclear physics called “Nuclear Matters;” on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he is teaching a special topics course on nanostructured transition metal oxides. If you want to try to keep up, you can periodically check his university website. If it is slightly dated, please forgive him — this promises to be a truly hectic semester!
In addition to classes, my beloved and sainted father’s laboratory has been transformed (finally!) from a filthy hole full of broken crap into something that resembles a fairly clean, fully functional, operating material science laboratory! Deo gratis! The last major piece of equipment was delivered and installed during the week of 21 July, and things are settling into place nicely. I don’t believe that “before” pictures exist, but the current configuration looks like this:
Pictures will, I’m sure, be forthcoming. Let’s look at the timeline:
- Started work in January 2013; assigned crap lab that could never be used for science
- ~March 2013: Assigned better lab space (the one he is currently using)
- ~May 2013: Original occupant leaves newly-assigned lab space
- ~June 2013: Renovation begin
- ~August 2013: Last bits of trash leave the lab, and the lab is cleaned for the first time in (months? years? decades?)
- ~December 2013: Realization that purchasing new equipment “isn’t working well”
- January 2014: Purchasing solution realized; equipment starts coming in properly
- July 2014: Final renovations completed; last major piece of equipment arrives
- August 2014: Final equipment checks started; minor issues still need to be resolved
This means that the laboratory really went from empty to full in ~8 months. That’s amazingly fast — especially given the way certain bureaucracies work (or don’t, as the case may be). The goal is that the major systems are characterized and initial data is generated during the fall semester (while teaching a double load; ha, ha). This means that “real” work could begin in the spring.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… Perhaps one of Murphy’s Laws of Combat is more appropriate: No plan survives the first contact intact.
For all of our friends out there, think of us as the semester begins (i.e., the invading hordes arrive). St. Albert, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Cassian of Imola, St. John Cantius, St. Ambrose, and St. Bede the Venerable, pray for us!