V1brat0rs for Ensuring All Your Cucumber Needs

Bug G. Membracid recently had a radio show appearance!  (Is it called an “appearance” when you’re on a wireless programme and no one can see you?  Nevermind.)
But it featured her line about honeybees being ‎”little flying phalluses” – which is really funny when you remember that worker honeybees are girls!
That in turn reminded me of a story during a horticultural study tour to a Dutch production greenhouse …
Tomatoes and peppers do not need insects to transfer pollen between flowers, as the flowers are “perfect” (have both male & female parts). But for the pollen to get moved/bumped from the pistils to the stigma there still needs to be some kind of wind or other vibration.
There’s not enough wind for this to naturally happen (or rather, efficiently happen) in a greenhouse, especially when the panes are shut to the weather. So it used to be that the operators would equip their greenhouse workers with *little vibrating wands* (oh yes), which they used to buzz-pollinate Every. Single. Fresh. Flower. (Insert inevitable sniggers from the undergrads.) Of course, that’s a lot of paid worker hours.
Nowadays the thrifty Dutch use bumblebees, who work for much cheaper wages of cardboard nesting boxes and some supplemental nectar. The big, gentle bees still visit all the flowers for the pollen, and resultant heavy buzzing results in flower fertilization for good crops.
 
[N.B.  Derf; “cucumbers in the title is incorrect – they DO need to be insect pollinated! Except of course for the parthenogenetic cukes, which basically set fruit by a sort of “virgin birth” process…]

4011 IF EAT THEN SIT

My hungry 9-month old grandson is being a wiggle-worm.  He wants his banana now, and like Prot, is trying to eat it whole, peel and all.
“Come on lad, let Grandma mash this up for you – no, we don’t eat the peel – here’s your high chair -”
Much squirming and complaining, “NANA NANA!”  (I’m not sure if by “nana” he means banana or some pet name for grandma; I’m usually the one who brings home the bananas from the market, and the one who feeds him an evening snack of “happy smile fruits” — our code name for the nosh of choice, especially if we’ve run out.)
“Ow no let go of my glasses, Grandma can’t feed you until you’re in your chair-”  This operation of Insert Boy B Into Chair C almost takes two women.
I revert back to child-training using simple commands. Given enough repetitions, it will sink in, just like “OPEN” [mouth], “NO BITING”, “TOUCH GENTLY” [flowers, cats], “STILL” [stay in place for diapering], “REACH UP” [un/dressing], and all those other thrilling conversations.
“IF eat, THEN sit!”
The lad was sufficiently startled by this novel command to pause a split-second, thus allowing us to plop his tuchis on the chair and snap on the tray.  We’ll be using the IF-THEN logic construct for the next few years, along with FIRST-THEN.  (There’s nothing like reinforcing order of operations, whether mathematical or procedural.)
Now I can finally start spooning mashed banana into the lad’s mouth, and he’s thumping his feet and smacking his hands on the tray with delight, exclaiming a pleased, “Nom-nom nom!”  (Seriously.)
“That’s a good boy,” cooed his mum, “Listen to Grandma’s Boolean logic!”
Ah, the great moments of geeky family life – gotta love ’em!

P.S.  4011 refers to an imaginary line of programming code, and also to the grocer’s PLU number for bananas.

Web buzzing

Just wanted to share some cool things I found recently!

INSECT-RELATED FUN

Amazonian ants apparently adore Tetris – ’tis a tee from Threadless Tees.

Cartoon with a green background, the upper half with five army ants on a branch, carrying pieces of leaves cut into various Tetris shapes. Below, the crowned queen ant awaits by a Tetris-shaped stack of pieces. (Unfortunately, she's about to get a square and won't have a place to set it!)

and,

NPR has a short episode with guest comments by the inimitable entolomogist and highly entertaining author, May Berenbaum,

There has been a worldwide proliferation of urinal flies, observed May Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois in her new book The Earwig’s Tail.

You can listen to the episode and/or read the transcript, “There’s A Fly In My Urinal”.

realistic black and white fly decal

and,

Jessica (the painter) and James (the author) of Project InSECT have a couple of books out, How Mildred Became Famous (book I and book II).  Mildred is a mantis, and one of the many gorgeous, large paintings that Jessica has done.

Detailed painting of Mildred, the praying mantis, plain chiaroscuro background

GARDENING / NATURE

A brief video:  One year in 40 seconds. Eirik Solheim’s gorgeous time-lapse of Norweigian woods.  Suitably short for the ADHD brain or a coffee break.  (Alas, I’ve tried several ways to get this URL embedded so it will display from this post, but WordPress is being funky.  So you’ll just have to copy-paste it to get to the YouTube page directly.)
youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmIFXIXQQ_E

and of course, a bit of geeky

ACCESSIBILITY


A dismotivational poster with the image of a Dalek (robot from Dr Who show) stuck in a concrete room with only stairs as a means of exit; its word balloon says, "FUCK". The poster caption is, "LIMITATIONS everyone has them"

Occupational Hazards

No matter what your job, there are some frequent questions or comments from the general public that get, shall we say, a tad tiresome.
I thought it would be interesting to make up a brief questionnaire and select a few nominees.  If you would also like to join in, please do!  Just post your answers below, or put a link on your blog to this post.

Q.: What term or phrase from your job/occupation do people mangle?

A.:  Entomology often gets changed to “Ant-o-mology”, as though we only study ants.  Not even Edward O. Wilson is an “antomologist”; he is (among other things) a myrmecologist.

Q.: What broadly erroneous assumption do people make about your preferences and your career choice?

A.:  That I love all insects.  Really, I don’t. (Although I will be quick to point out that only 1 % of the insects are pests.)  I do find grasshoppers to be kind of gross, especially after scrubbing their encrusted remains off my automobile windshield, and spending hours driving a riding mower and having them bounce off my face.  Blech.

Q.: What trivia challenge do people pose when they hear about what you do for a living?

A.:  “Wow, I bet you know all the bugs!”  No.  There are over one million species, mostly beetles, and I’m more familiar with butterflies.

Q.: What basic fact about your job/occupation do people rarely understand?

A.:  That insects are animals.  “Yes, they are.  They’re not plants, not fungi, not single-cell organisms.  They have organ systems and behaviors, and are not photosynthetic.”

Q.: Did you always want to be a/n  ___?

A.:  “Huh?  Sorry, distracted watching this bug.  Look here at what it’s doing–“

Q.: You musta been a weird kid, huh?

A.:  Yeah, but now I get paid to teach the other weird kids.

Q.: How did some totally unrelated previous job prepare you for your current occupation?

A.:  I went from doing behavioral observations of insects to behavioral observations of students with severe emotional and behavioral problems.  There are more similarities than you’d imagine.

Q.: So what do you do for a living?

A.: Do you mean my daytime, evening, or weekend job?

I would love to hear the answers from Dave Hingsburger, Bug Girl, Dean Dad, Wheelchair Dancer, and YOU.

Goldfish resting by an open fire

What a day!  There’s nothing so “fun” as grocering the day before a holiday, especially when the meteorology report is dire.  Guess what I found while stocking the doggy chews?
Yes indeedy, The Bad Goldfish were back, undeterred by the possibility of ending up as frozen fish from the weather.  Planning for their Christmas, they had picked up a couple bags of fresh chestnuts, but once again, got distracted and left their produce behind.
“Ooh, look!  Oyster-shell treats!”

Bags of chestnuts, abandoned in front of a packet of oyster-shell dog chews.

Merry Christmas to folks, and don’t forget to remind the kids, “Now remember, put your things away, lest The Bad Goldfish come and steal them!”

The Goldfish are back!

So today when I was stocking groceries, I found some more evidence of malfeasance.  This time it was not a compromised package with the seal broken or contents used, but rather, groceries abandoned in odd places.  (Thankfully, not perishables, like lunch meat stuck behind cookies, or yogurt tubs amongst the baking tins, ugh.)
This time, it was a russet potato and a couple of yellow potatoes left on the bottom shelf underneath the peg racks of razors.

“Must be them Bad Goldfish again,” I mumbled to myself.   Apparently they thought you could peel taters with a disposable razor!  Stupid goldfish.
So why were the potatoes left there?
Because goldfish have short memories, of course.

Thieves!

Grocery stockers are well-familiar with the sight:  random empty boxes that are the hidden leftovers to stolen goods.  Cold medicine.  Hair coloring.  Condoms.  Diapers. Candy.
A couple days ago I found a different wrapper stuffed behind the tidy stacks of soap bars, a small cylinder of fish food, with the plastic lid missing and the foil seal compromised.  About a teaspoon of flakes were gone.
I showed it off to my coworker, Becky.  “Don’t you just hate it when those damn goldfish come into the store and steal things?!”

Hanging around the Web

Cruising the Web BW
A shiny robot spider hangs upside-down from a metal mesh

My son and I recently hauled a long dresser+mirror up two flights of stairs, and I cleaned up the master bedroom in preparation for the return of the new baby & parents from the hospital.  The downside of course is that after a day of labor, I must spend a couple-three days recuperating.  (In other words, I used up all my “spoons”, down to the last demitasse.)
I’m also on Day 2 of one of those low-grade-three-day migraines.  Right now it’s manifesting as misreads, which when I catch myself is kind of entertaining:

In light of all that, I thought I’d share some interesting reads/cool finds on the Web recently:
My sleep-deprived daughter would be envious of ant queens, who spend nine hours a day sleeping, while the workers must squeeze in micro-naps.
From the world of delightful architecture, an adult tree[less] house shaped like a bee skep, made of recycled lumber (wheelie adaptation not included).
The CitizenM hotels have the most amazing showers, which look like Star Trek transporter pads.  To start the shower, you simply shut the door.  I don’t know if they’re large enough for a wheelchair transfer to a shower seat, but with the zero-clearance there’s a chance of it (maybe Dave knows). Want!  (Or at least the trés geek LED shower head that changes from blue to red when your water’s hot.)
Reimer Reason posted It’s a Family Reunion! for the most recent Disability Blog Carnival.
In further hexapod news:  while I was distracted by our little geekling, Bug Girl has been faithfully covering Pollinator Week, including important information about CHOCOLATE. For more funs, Cheshire has teh latest Circus of the Spineless up.
And of course, what would a list of fun be without a LOLcat?

Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball
Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball. The photo caption reads, "PUZZLE PICTURE Find the kitten who has ADD."

Hotbed of Apathy

*sniff, sniff*
“You sound sick,” stated my daughter’s fiancé, M.
“I can’t be sick,” I mumbled in protest, and honked into a tissue.
“Redunculus; you’re sniffling.”
“I can’t be sick; it was Mr W’s day to be sick,” I explained.  “He got first dibs on being out sick today …  If all the classroom staff members who were sick stayed home, there wouldn’t be anyone left!”
I’m sure the students wouldn’t have minded having some of their classes cancelled.  But no, we slogged through the day, hour after dreary, mind-numbing, O-PLZ-STFU hour.  It was, I decided, a veritable hotbed of apathy.  The lead teacher was battling a sinus infection, and I was suffering from what felt like temporal phase-shifts.  And my aches ached.  My ears were ringing and making sharp pains and I was having dizzy spots and nausea.  I was cold and then would have a sneezing fit and then be hot, and would have some odd spastic tic and then be cold again.  They cannot invent a vaccine for this shit any day too soon.

It’s worse when you’re feeling crappy and working 60 hours a week. But it seems like every few days I discover yet another person who’s working multiple jobs, the latest being a cashier with two jobs and Lupus.  (Maybe what the economy really needs is for everyone to take a week off just to get some rest already.  All in favor say, “Aye!”)

And then there’s the strange stress nightmares I get before a semester starts, going through an interminable dream about teaching 3rd grade but starting the same day the students do, and having an unworkable U-shaped classroom without a chalkboard or whiteboard, and the women’s bathroom stalls all cost 75 cents in quarters to use, and …

If you, too, are ready for a diversion, our favorite engineers (previous post) have a new video up on Advanced Cat Yodeling.  M just about ROTFL, as he has been Yodeling with his cats for a long time, and favors the Machine Gun Kiss™  approach.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxLG2wtE7TM]

Gone Bananas

A few weeks ago …

“4011 !” I exclaimed to my daughter.

She looked up from her Mac where she was composing her latest essay. “What?” she asked in confusion.

“They started me on cashiering today at the grocery.  4011 !”

And then we both broke out laughing.

“4011” of course being the PLU (Price Look Up) code for bananas.

shipping cartons full of bananas
shipping cartons full of bananas

When she started as a grocery cashier the other year, my daughter had commented in amazement at how many people came through with bananas.  So many in fact, that she too had learned that number the first night, just from sheer force of repetition.
I would have thought that apples would be the most-commonly purchased fruit.  But no, endless bunches of bananas came through.
Not only bunches of bananas, but also bunches of people with similar behavioral patterns, which I found to be rather interesting:

  • People with a large bunch of greenish bananas.  (I wondered if they were feeding a lot of people, or simply don’t care about the stage of ripeness when eating them.)
  • Customers trying to balance their fruit bowl with a couple each of greenish and yellow bananas.
  • Parents herding several small children, with bunches of bananas that had the requisite number of stickers for each child to have one. These were difficult checking assignments — not because of the parents, but because as a cashier I was also trying to keep track of the assorted tots with regards to alerting their adult to their safety, or asking their adult if the candy or toy items coming down the conveyor belt were approved purchases.
  • People with bunches of the organically-grown bananas (PLU 94011; all the organic produce starts with a 9).
  • Tired working folks picking up a sandwich from the deli, a banana, and an energy drink for their meal.
  • Frazzled parents rushing through with bananas, applesauce and bread. ( = “BRAT diet”: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, a menu for dealing with diarrhea via dietary intervention.)
  • Frequent shoppers with just a few yellow bananas — I heard a lot of apologetic explanations about not being able to plan ahead for weekly menus and shopping lists, and wondered why some people felt the need to explain their purchase choices, unbidden.
  • A few elderly shoppers who explained that they couldn’t carry many grocery bags, or used frequent shopping as a means of getting out of the house.  After a while, I realised that such explanations were probably a curious form of chit-chat.

Although I began to develop my own “scripts” for appropriate cashier dialogs, I found that cashiering is a more challenging position than I had anticipated.  This is because there are a number of different kinds of simultaneous cognitive demands, involving spatial handling, operational sequencing, data entry, calculations, communicating in a noisy environment despite my auditory processing issues, struggling to identify numerous coworkers despite faceblindness, and socialising with the appropriate amount of eye contact and proscribed chit-chat.
Cashiering doesn’t just mean scanning groceries and making change.  I am not only trying to scan accurately and quickly, but also:

  • performing subtle security checks to make sure that no one is walking off with unchecked goods on the bottoms of their carts or pocketing the candy and other small goods near the register racks;
  • sorting the goods as I move it down towards the bagger courtesy clerk in whatever organisational method that person prefers;
  • querying the customer about coupons and whether they wanted the gallon milks bagged and if they want candy and greeting cards handed to them instead of bagged
  • explaining discounts and how gift cards work;
  • looking up endless PLU codes for the numerous types of untagged produce;
  • watching out for children’s safety;
  • greeting the next customer in line so they didn’t feel neglected during the wait;
  • trying to remember who the manager is that night for when I need to call them to void a mis-scan;
  • and of course, bagging while I check when the regular courtesy clerk has switched from my lane to another with greater need.

When bagging, bananas are a tricky item.  I can put vulnerable loaves of bread atop the fragile egg cartons, but aside from soft packs of sugar, toilet paper or maxi-pads, there are few items that will co-exist happily with bananas when packed in limp plastic bags.
Given that bananas are nutritious, don’t require refrigeration or heating, and can be eaten quickly, they have recently filled my lunchbox, er, meals-box that carries both my lunch and third meal.  I drive directly from one job to the next, with just 10-15 minutes for a snack to tide me over between 11 a.m. lunch and clocking out again at 8 p.m.  (I usually have a fourth meal when I get home; call these breakfast-lunch-tea/supper-dinner or whatever, but the third meal is usually rather minimal.)  So what’s the best way to transport a banana safely?  I drop it into a tall plastic drink cup.
Thankfully, I spend most of my time at the garden center end, rather than endless hours of checking. But in this latest addition to my repertoir of work roles, I have literally gone bananas.