Another clueless, airhead model

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poison Ivy and my super power

My super power is that I cannot be harmed by poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).  I've read that 15-30% of people also have this super power.  Resistance can diminish with repeated exposure to poison ivy but after 12 years bushwhacking through it my super power is as strong as ever.  The "poison" in poison ivy is urushiol, a compound found in the sap.  Reactions to urushiol can range from itchy rash and blistering skin to anaphylaxis shock, even death.  People who react to poison ivy will have similar affects from mangoes and cashews which are in the same family - Anacardiaceae

I don't know how to use my super power for the greater good of mankind.  Perhaps if the United States is attacked by urushiol missiles and most of the government is disabled then I can take over and lead my band of urushiol-resistant super heroes to save the day.

                                                          Leaves of three, let it be!

                                  Tree hugging a water oak (Quercus nigra) with poison
                                   ivy creeping up its trunk.  Palm Unit, San Bernard NWR

                                  Biologist Roland Davis is a mere mortal who does not
                                  have super power resistance to poison ivy.

The Brazoria Palms

by Bob Harms 

The Brazoria Sabal Palmetto (Sabal × brazoriensis)

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria County, TX

Until recently the palmetto population in SW Brazoria County remained a taxonomic puzzle. Botanists, even those specializing in palms, either tended to ignore this population or present speculations without compelling evidence. New genetic research by Douglas Goldman provides strong evidence that it is "a hybrid, but an old one, with clear genetic distinctiveness," with a validly published name, Sabal × brazoriensis. Goldman's work seems to confirm unpublished earlier work of Mark Brunell (Origin and relationships of the Brazoria palmetto (Arecaceae: Sabal) based on AFLP data), and suggests:
a closer affinity of the putative hybrid with S. minor and S. palmetto than with S. mexicana, excluding the latter species from possible parentage.
The possibility of Sabal hybrids had been around for a long time and was noted in Scott Zona's [Flora of North America Sabal article.]
The Brazoria palmetto is easily distinguished from S. minor (dwarf palmetto) by its often strongly costapalmate leaves* and, when mature, by its trunk; from S. mexicana (Texas palmetto) by its small fruits (cf. fruit comparison). Evidence from juvenile ontogeny would seem to distinguish it from S. minor, S. palmetto and S. mexicana. The possibility of a connection with the wild Sabal population in Fayette County - never studied - cannot be ruled out.
*Goldman notes that blades vary from "relatively flat to strongly costapalmate, the latter unlike S. minor."
The images below are of a Brazoria Sabal palmetto grown from seed from Brazoria County at the Rare Plants Study Center by Marshall Johnston and Anders Saustrup. The small palm from a 1-gallon container was planted in N. Hays County in the Texas hill country, in a constant seep with full sun in 1977. After that it received no care.

      S. mexicana —                       S. minor —                                    Sabal × brazoriensis
      strongly costapalmate         weakly costapalmate                         — strongly costapalmate

Abaxial (bottom side) view of the midribs of Texas Sabal species

The costa (midrib) is an extension of the leaf stalk (petiole), clearly visible here. Viewed from the top (adaxial) side S. minor, with its short midrib, typically appears to be palmate, since all leaf segments radiate from the immediate area of the hastula.

 Brazoria Palm (Sabal x brazoriensis)
Palm Unit, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)
Palm Unit, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge 

                                                              Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Zombies of Dungpileton

All characters, living or dead, and locations or events in this web novel are entirely fictitious or merely coincidental.  

Chapter 5

 Texas Gulf Coast Refuges.  Complex Office. 
Brazoria County, TX

But directional drilling one mile from the site will cost us another two month and over ten million more dollars!

Abigail Cheavers, the representative from Deliverance Oil and Gas, was panicking now, unsure where to go with negotiation between herself, her lawyers and the staff of the refuges.  They wouldn’t budge now that they were armed with biological and botanical assessments of the drilling site.  Assessments which determined the proposed drilling would severely impact breeding grounds for black rails (Laterallus jamaicensis) and dozens of flora conservation species.   Biologist Jessica Walters and the Rogue Botanist glanced at each other and could barely contain their snickering.  After two hours of negotiations Julia Sandoval, the complex project leader, was going in for the kill.  Ms. Cheavers, there is nothing more I can tell you.  If our biologists say the drilling site will harm critical habitat then you have to reach it by directional drilling from a mile away.  I might add that further delays through litigations could delay drilling for years.  With that Julia bid Ms. Cheavers a good day and closed the meeting.  Cheavers walked out to her vehicle in the parking lot, waving off her lawyers to make that dreaded phone call to the thin man as she drove onto a county road. 

Sir, I’m sorry to report that we could not gain access to the drilling site unless we directional drill.  There was a pause on the other side then...

What is the cost and time setback?

Ten to fifteen million dollars and 2 months.

I see.  As Cheavers waited for more orders the thin man punched in four numbers on his cell phone which sent a command to a microchip in her phone.  The chip commanded the battery to to send an electrical pulse to a tiny blasting cap.  This provided the necessary charge to explode one quarter ounce of clotrimethylene trinitramine aka C4 plastic explosive. The resulting blast completely blew off Cheaver’s head, sending scattered brains and bones through the shattered driver window.  Cheaver’s vehicle veered off the road and into a large oak.  The air bags deployed as expected, keeping the rest of her body intact for the coroner to identify later. 

The thin man dialed again, reaching a waiting man and woman in West Columbia, TX. 
Mr. Alexandrov, you and Ms. Rachmaninoff are to proceed with the mission.

Victoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

There he is, hacking away.

Jessica Walters honked and waved to the botanist from her government vehicle. She was towing a boat on her way to monitor piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) on the shores of the refuge coastline.  He paused to wave back then continued with his relentless extermination of tallow trees (Triadica sebifera), an introduced species from China that has overrun and smothered other plant species over thousands of acres of habitat on the Texas Gulf coast.  His preferred method was individually notching the bark with a machete then spraying in the cut a formulation of the herbicide Garlon 4 and a surfactant to promote uptake by the tree's phloem and xylem to the roots.  This ultimately caused rapid cell expansion and rupture.  During this time the botanist was in his own world, disparaging the tallows with taunts of seeing them in hell.  The summers were always oppressive with heat indexes well above 100 degrees.  This left him drench in sweat within thirty minutes.  It was not a job for a man his age but he mitigated it with chewing on leaves of the coca plants (Erythroxlum coca) he grew in his backyard.  The alkaloids in the leaves gave him the energy to cut hundreds of tallows in an afternoon. 

Jessica found an area to deploy her tunnel boat.  She was in the process of guiding the trailer and boat into the water when her phone ranged.

Hello, this is Jessica.

A male voice replied.  Hello, Ms. Walters, this is Apex security.  A lineman with Excel Energy has called in to say there are periodic power outages in your neighborhood which explains the triggering of the alarm system we monitor for you.  He’s working on the damaged line in your yard right now.

Should I go to my house?

Probably, because your air conditioning may not be running right and the rising temperatures in your house may affect your dog.

OK, thank you.

You’re welcome replied Vladimir Alexandrov.

Jessica walked back to her truck and drove to the complex HQ to pick up her personal vehicle.  Her paranoia has hardly abated since moving from Dungpileton to West Columbia.  Her black belt in Brazilian jujitsu and Glock pistol offered little solace considering the growing infiltration of criminals from Dungpileton.

Why did the security company only mention one dog?
A year ago she informed them she had two dogs that may set off her house alarm and they did not know of the recent passing of her beloved Buck.  Now there was only Maggie, her twelve year old medium size mix breed.  This thought faded as she reached her house and noticed a van parked along the curb in front of her house.   Seeing its Excel Energy logo she assumed the lineman was working nearby.  He was.  On an utility pole in the open lot adjacent to her house.  Sighting her, he climbed down.  He was a large, clean cut handsome man, easily 6’5 and nearly a foot and a half taller than her petite frame.  Jessica scanned his muscular frame through her sunglasses, noticing the company badge clipped to his shirt pocket.  His physique was easy on her eyes and he spoke with a southern accent reminiscent of her childhood home in east Tennessee.

Ma’am, I’m with Excel Energy and will be working on that pole to fix a blown transformer.

How long do you think it’ll take?

I reckon another hour.

That’s fine, I’ll be inside if you need me.

Again, her passing paranoia made her wonder why the lineman’s voice and accent was identical to the Excel rep who phoned her.  Inside the house Jessica greeted Maggie and turned on the radio to a country music station.  Her plans for today were a bust until her home power was restored.  Might as well clean the pile of dishes in the sink she thought.  She let Maggie out in the backyard to take care of business in the grass with the backdoor left open for her return. Her barking was attributed to the lineman on the utility pole who now was silently entering through the front door.
After washing dishes Jessica moved to her computer/hobby room.  On a small table was a half-finished stain glass project.  Picking it up, she admired her handiwork then noticed in the reflection a distorted figure moving behind her.  She spun around, flinging the glass towards Vladimir.  It shattered on the wall beside him, throwing off the aim of his pistol as he fired at her.  The bullet whizzed by her head, embedding in the wall.  From here on she was in pure adrenaline and instinct mode, rushing without hesitation towards him with another piece of glass.  She slashed his pistol hand, forcing it to drop the weapon.  In one continuous movement she kicked the pistol under the computer desk and spun around to land a punch fully into his groin.  As he bent forward she swung upwards with the end of her elbow into his nose.  Blood flowed profusely from the ruptured cartilage.  Vladamir's surprise from this retaliation was short lived.  He countered with a back hand to her face that sent Jessica sprawling back and falling to the floor. She shook off the grogginess and quickly crawled under the table.  He followed, stooping down to see the heel of her shoe smash into his jaw.  As he fell back, spitting out broken teeth, Jessica crawled out from the table and ran for the doorway only to slip and lose her footing on a pool of blood.  Vladimir was upon her quickly and once again a well-placed heel met his jaw.  Jessica knew she could not match his strength.  If he grabbed her he would snap her neck like a twig.  It was unlikely she could get outside to retrieve the Glock under her vehicle’s seat so the alternative weapon would have to be a knife. Regaining her footing she ran to the kitchen and withdrew a large carving knife from the drawer.  Turing around, she saw Vladimir in the kitchen doorway, brandishing a dagger with a 6 inch fixed blade.  He smiled, speaking through a bloody mouth and broken teeth.

Это заканчивает здесь Вас маленькая сука! (It ends here you little bitch!)

Jessica didn't understand Russian.  She frantically search for an explanation to this nightmare but none of it had any basis in reality.  She was not a knife fighter and didn’t have the angle to escape to the other door to the backyard. It was either fight or reason with this animal.  She was nearly hyperventilating but had to know why this was happening.

Why are you trying to kill me?

He arrogantly replied, It is the will of the Lord!  You and that devil botanist will burn in hell and a new kingdom of God will rule America.

So this was it, a fight to the death with a madman.  The combatants circled each other, thrusting their knives, searching for an opening at several kill points on the body.  Vladimir continued to smile, knowing size and speed was to his advantage.  He would toy with her for a bit more.  Now every missed thrust by Jessica was countered with slices to her arms and torso until her clothes were stained red and dripping blood on the floor.  She thought to herself, if this is the end then he is going down with me. With her knife she swiped blood from her trousers then licked it off and and called out to her assailant - Come and get me you bastard.  We’ll die together!

Vladimir was taken aback.  So much that he didn’t see Maggie lunge for his calf, sinking her teeth through trousers and deep into muscle.  Vladimir howled in pain, swinging his leg out with a snap that released Maggie’s grip and sent her flying into the kitchen wall.  The impact knocked her unconscious but the distraction was all Jessica needed.  As he turned around Jessica plunged her knife into his chest and through the heart. A look of horror accompanied his last breath as he dropped to his knees and fell face first on the floor.  Jessica immediately ran to Maggie who had regained consciousness and was limping but otherwise fine. 

Five patrol cars were at Jessica’s residence within minutes of calling 911.  The police were stymied as to why she was attacked and could only speculate it was another derange citizen of Dungpileton.  What Jessica left out in her statement at the hospital was the connection between this attack and the botanist.  It all happened so fast.  She would try to sort it out after her cuts were sutured.


The conversation with the thin man was brief between he and Darya Ivakov.

No sir I won’t fail you.

Darya knew there was a problem with Vladimir's mission when he didn’t rendezvous with her in Dungpileton.  The police scanner confirmed her suspicions.  He was betrothal to her as decreed by the thin man but she was not in love with him.  She believed her two missions in life were to give birth to followers of Jesus Christ and assassinate the followers of Satan.  No matter this heathen atheist botanist didn’t believe in the Devil. He didn’t believe in God either so killing him would be especially delightful. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

KISS/Motely Crue Concert

I purposely arrived late to this concert at the Mitchell Pavilion  in The Woodlands to miss Motley Crue but not late enough and still the band play too long.  Their guitar riffs were amateurish and the singing was laced with excessive vulgarity.  Rock and vulgarity can work when it's done right but this was on the level of a 10 year old boy trying to impress his peers.  About 30 minutes of the concert was filler with gibberish rap or something akin to it.  It was as moronic as it came when lead singer Vince Neil lead the crowd in an insipid reply :

When I say Fuck, you say You

I can't begrude them though because this type of performance has made them millions since the 1980's.  Whatever works I guess.

In contrast, KISS gave the crowd a solid hard rock performance albeit short.  Probably because they were playing in Dallas the next night.  They opened with Detroit Rock City and closed with Rock and Roll All Night and Party Every Day.  Very little vulgarity and great guitar solos.  Just the great rock and roll showmanship that you'd expect from Gene Simmons and the band.   I noticed a generational difference in the crowd when KISS played.  The thousands of boomers stood up and rocked and the teenagers sat disinterested in the very back of the lawn to get high with their backs to the band.

I really love you baby
I love what you've got
Let's get together, we can
Get hot
No more tomorrow, baby
Time is today
Girl, I can make you feel
No place for hidin' baby
No place to go
You pull the trigger of my
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun), love gun

You can't forget me baby
Don't try to lie
You'll never leave me, mama
So don't try
I'll be a gambler, baby
Lay down the bet
We get together, mama
You'll sweat

No place for hidin' baby
No place to go
You pull the trigger of my
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, love gun

Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun)
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun)
Love gun, (love gun)
Love gun, (love gun)
Love gun, (love)

Rock On!