December 19, 2011

Qualifying Exams

This week I'm finishing up this semester; one final, one presentation, and one "let's talk about your semester project" to end this semester of "fun."well parts of the semester have been fun but others not so much.

I'm also meeting with all of my committee members to talk about what I need to study and the test format of my qualifying exams. For those of you who don't know what that means, comprehensive exams over everything I know! I must pass these exams in order to defend my thesis and then get a Ph.D! There are five exams: insect toxicology, insect ecology, insect behavior, integrated pest management, and sanitation and food quality. After I pass written exams for the five topics then I get to take an oral exam! This fun process starts the last week of January; I will get less than a month to study for all of these tests. Am I worried? NO Should I be worried? Maybe but I have been working with these topics for four years; I should know everything. If I panic it will be all down hill so.........

My new mantra is "I will not go insane, I WILL NOT go insane!" So let's listen to one of my favorite songs!

I guess that makes my point for me?!

November 16, 2011

Still Here?

I apologize for my complete lack of ability to manage a blog, eight credit hours of PhD coursework, plus research! However, I will be back just hang with me.  I have several blogs I want to do and I haven't given up on blogging but I have had to re-prioritize what was important to me in order to keep afloat with the PhD program.  I have one more year left and I'm NOT giving in now!

This is how I felt when I found out that I won't have to take classes next semester and I get to move my PhD qualifying exams forward!

Of course, I can't dance as well as that young man but I did go home and DANCE and sing; I can't tell you how happy I am that I won't be taking classes and qualifying exams at the same time!!!

Here's the song he was dancing to; the lyrics are "messed up" but the beat is kick ass and I love to dance to this song. I'm sure we can have a philosophical debate about the lyrics but I chose to just listen and dance, dance, dance.

I will be back "soon;" there are only three weeks left in this semester plus Thanksgiving week so I'm finishing up my last few projects and getting ready for the qualifying exams in February. I plan on blogging a few times before the exams start but I need to finish this semester! Have faith!

September 6, 2011

"Self" Date "Night"

I decided to start a self date night.  This is where I take myself out and do something fun for myself.  I kicked this great idea off with a trip to the Lego Exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, KS.  I decided to "dress up" and have fun.  I planned on picking up chicken and having a picnic in the park but that didn't work out. I have included my favorite Lego pieces!

All ready to go; you can't tell but I'm wearing a skirt that a friend gave me.


Disintegration from the front

Disintegration from the side

Can you see the optical illusion in this piece?

How about now?  If not I will let you in on the secret (there is an eyeball in the sculpture).

My personal favorite- the solar system! I had a good time and I'm looking forward to my next "date night!"  I learned that the Mulvane Art Museum is small and takes very little time to tour.  So the next time I go to one of their exhibits, I will pair the trip with some other activities.

July 15, 2011

Celebrating 37 years of Bastille Day

Yup it's that time of year again; the annual birthday/Bastille Day celebration. This year I had cake for breakfast.

Over my lunch hour I watched some videos of the parade in Paris, fireworks from a city which already celebrated Bastille Day, and revisited the song Bastille Day by Rush.

I treated myself to Thai food for dinner, drove home and opened my gifts from myself and un enexpected surprise from  my dad.

It was a good day and I'm glad I decided to take charge of making my birthday more meaningful and special to me. After I cooked my cake I couldn't help but think that this really isn't all that hard; I did get hot while the cake was cooking but afterward I went outside for a walk and it was better in the kitchen after the walk. I had a blast decorating my first cake and I'm looking forward to my next birthday adventure. Of course no birthday/Bastille Day celebration is complete without some fireworks from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. ENJOY

July 12, 2011

Stuff I like to do

If you look over to the right of your screen you will see a new space on my blog.   This space is for "stuff I like to do."  As you can see there is already a link to a page which a friend of mine sent to me today.

I looked at it and I  like it so much I thought I would add it to my blog and share with you. 

You can join their e-mail list serve and they will send you an e-mail of nice things you can do for others. This time it's send sugar-free foods to food banks.  They provide a food bank you can send the food to as well as other activities to do.

My personal goal is to try to do at least one nice thing for someone a month.  I have always wanted to do some form of community service but graduate school really takes up a lot of time.  Hopefully having a web-site send me easy ideas will help me perform community service.

While on my lunch break I thought I would work on their On-line Scavenger Hunt:
I accomplished Mission I ( answer the daily quiz question & donate 10 pieces of kibble to an animal shelter) and Mission II (answer questions correctly & donate 10 kernels of rice to hungry people in the world).  I answered 20 questions in a row correctly so I donated 200 kernels of rice. Clicky-clicky on the purple to reach the links!

Maybe tomorrow I can do the same and add a few more.  I challenge you to do one nice thing this week!

July 8, 2011

Fourth of July Long weekend

I decided to use pictures to capture my long Fourth of July weekend. Sorry the pictures are in no particular order because I'm tired and I still need to get groceries before I go home for the day (sigh).

Of course, I went for a walk and the "orange army" followed me. Funny story the other day the "kids" got distracted and didn't follow me home. They usually make their way back but not this time. I went for a walk the following evening and half way back I heard the boy talkign to me from the field so he followed me back to the driveway. Then we heard the girl but couldn't find her for awhile. She was back up by the stoplight between the dirt and chipped road. She wouldn't head back my way until I walked back up to her, she greeted her brother, and then she would follow me back home. Have I mentioned lately that cats are weird?

On Friday, one of my neighbors was shooting off fireworks so I admired them from my yard (sorry the picture is so dark). I think next year I will try to go to a fireworks display and watch fireworks.

I photographed the first tiger lily to bloom; now I think there are 4 or 5 different ones blooming. They are slow to start but then they stick around for awhile.

I took some pictures of the blooming day-lilies. I think this is one that did not bloom last year. There are a couple blooming this year which I don't think bloomed last year; I could be wrong but I don't think so.

Pandora being cute and well behaved in an attempt to get me to pick her up and pet her. So I took a picture and then petted her. (Please don't look at my bad toe-nail polish, I haven't had time to repaint my nails; hopefully this weekend)

Tzani wanted to go outside and sit on the porch. She hadn't been in physical contact with the outdoor cats since January so she had to re-introduce herself. They get along with her and she with them. I was sort of hoping the neighbors black and white cat would come along so Tzani could let him know how irritated she is with him attacking and chasing our boy kitty. She will sit in the window and if he does this she will start talking to me about it and hissing at him at the same time. Apparently, she thinks the orange kitty's are hers so they should be left alone.

July 1, 2011

Professional Development

I'm sure that many of you have heard the term professional development.  I had not heard this term until I became a graduate student.  Now it seems like everybody in the department uses this term for a wide range of activities. "You should attend Friday seminar because it is part of your professional development." "Participating in the department activities improves your professional development."  "I think that learning how to work with Glimmix enhances your skill base and therefore improves your professional development." "Part of professional development is learning balance and prioritizing." After a while, it seems like the term professional development is used to describe everything that occurs in a graduate students life but no one has defined what professional development means.

Wikipedia defines professional development as the skills and knowledge which is obtained to further personal development and enhance career achievement and advancement. Okay; looking at the definition there are two objectives to consider: personal development and career advancement. While I agree that mentors should play a role in career advancement my personal development is "entirely" up to me and therefore in order to improve my "professional development" my opinions should be heard and considered.

Here is an example:  I attended an NCB-ESA meeting where there was a graduate student mixer; I chose to go back to my hotel room to work on homework that was due the day after I returned from the meeting.  An hour or tow later I returned to the mixer,   grabbed some food, talked to a few people, stood at a table by myself for awhile, and then go back to my room. Later one of my roommates stating that she didn't see why I even bothered to go since I wasn't that social! WOW- how dare you judge my progress especially since you have about 10-20 interactions with me in a year.

Speaking for myself, I was really proud of myself for attempting to go to an activity and participate on some level.  Was it the best experience? NO but is my response based on the the actual participation level or the fact that someone who doesn't know me very well acted like judge and jury on my abilities without the evidence. I'm not sure but it could be either one.  Should I attend another conference you can bet that she will not be sharing a room with me!!!!

I would like to say this conversation ends here but it does not.  Similiar scenarios have occured with individuals who could be viewed as mentors.  I realize that as a mentor it is your "job" to identify areas where students are lacking and encourage them to participate in activities which may bolster their confidence or aid them in gaining new skills.  However, I disagree the "cookie cutter concept" where what is good for one student is good for all students. Additionally, it irritates me when someone throws the term professional development into the mix as part of the argument for participating in some "required" activity.  Yes, in the broad sense, I agree that all activities which the department have a varying amount of professional development.  However, I feel that I should have some input into my OWN professional development and be allowed the autonomy to make decisions.  After all, making decisions and prioritizing activities (choosing to start your take-home finals instead of attending the department picnic) is a part of professional development.  Why should I allow "you" to make these decisions for me?  Shouldn't I participate in my own professional development?  Additionally, by participating in my own professional development then I'm taking ownership of my development.  Once you understand the importance of my ownership then and only then can we have a partnership where "we" can improve my current skills and expand the list to include those which I currently don't have.

Final word(s):  As part of my professional development I volunteered (of my own free-will and interest) to serve as the student representative for the Course and Curriculum committee for this fiscal year (July 11-June 12).  Today (Friday, July 1st) I was informed that I have been "approved" to sit on this committee.  Additionally, the interim department head included charges (objectives) that he would like the committee to achieve.  Interestingly, one of the objectives is that "we" develop a course for graduate students on professional skills!!!!!!! Yes, really! My life is often full of similar "coincidences;" I do belive that the goddess is good to me and she gives me purpose.

I hope everyone enjoys a nice long weekend for the Fourth of July.  I believe I will be writing or doing some data entry but I'm going to try to watch Independence Day and Last of the Mohicans for the Fourth of July.

June 27, 2011

Orange Army

When there were seven of them they really could be called the orange army; it appeared like they were everywhere but now I'm down to two but I may have more some day in the distant future. But for now here are some of the pictures.

I'm not sure which cat this is they all seem to like to sleep curled up in the grass. WHY??? I don't know.

I'm confident that this is a picture of Boman since he is the only cat that liked to curl up in the middle of the tree trunk. It doesn't look comfy but he liked to be able to see what was coming and stay hidden in plain sight. Unfortunately, Boman was either struck by a car or attacked by a large predator. I found him at the side of the road on my way to school last May. I really miss him, he was such a talker and would run across the yard to greet me every day.

This is probably Cinman; he likes to sleep under the propane tank or curled up in my hibiscus plant. I have yet to get a picture of him in my hibiscus but I'm sure I will at some point.

This is Cinman and Mama (because I didn't want to name her since she wouldn't let me pet her and she was pregnant and the mama cats always leave) at the stop sign down the road from the house. Yes, they were following me on my walk. The local farmers have gotten quite used to seeing me walking with the "kids" about a 100 yards behind me. They always smile and wave when they see "us" taking a walk.

Don't I look happy? I was trying to do my homework but "Little Girl" wanted to be petted and had to show me her butt. Little Girl is missing in action; I haven't' seen her since the first part of June but that doesn't mean she's not around somewhere and just hasn't decided to come home. I have decided that if I haven't' seen one of the outdoor cats in three months then they are gone.

See, I really was trying to do my homework but Little Girl was persistent in her petting demands.

So this is some of the kittens all grown up. I'm sure I will have more kitten pictures but it will be a matter of time especially since the last batch of kittens did not survive long.  Unfortunately, I never did find them but Mama is currently in heat so we could have another group of kittens in a few months.

June 15, 2011

Mutant Dandelions............................................ or Polyploidy?

So in May, I was walking across the yard, trying to get away from all that writing I needed to do to finish the semester.  I looked down and this is what I saw.

I flipped it around looked at it some more because I wasn't sure if I was seeing it correctly or if my brain was so tired it just thought it saw a ginormous dandelion head in the yard.

Yup, ginormous dandelion head in the yard, confirmed! So, I ran inside and grabbed my camera and took some pictures before I thought to myself (how am I going to show just how big this thing is) and then promptly ran back inside to find a standard house key for comparison.  You all have a house key right? Look below and check this ginormous dandelion head out.

I looked around the yard but I didn't see anymore mutant dandelions just this single one.  So what would cause this kind of mutation? I looked on the Internet but couldn't find any good information on why or how dandelions mutate.  However, I did find several blogs with pictures of similar mutations so I added their links below. If you are interested in specific dandelion information then please click away.

Dandelion Mutation Pictures on Blogs:
Big stem, tiny heads from Garden Thyme with the Creative Gardener
Big stem, tiny heads + possible mutation explanation from Nuttin'
Big stem, tiny heads + my favorite mutation explanation (polyploidy)  from TYWKIWDBI ("tai-Wiki-Widbee")

Polyploidy is any change in the number of chromosomes in an organism.

June 7, 2011

What are those red things?

So I was talking to a friend and she asks, "Do you know what these bright red things are?"  Yes, in fact this does happen to me ALL the time (I'm glad I love being an entomologist so I can answer this questions).  Fortunately, I knew the answer and could provide some "mostly" (I will explain this further in a later section) accurate information about the "critter" in question.

I'm guessing you know what's coming next.  A lot of information about the "critter" and you would be correct.  But before I go any further, I want to direct your attention to the label section below my blog.  I have decided to label blogs that are specific to arthropod identification, biology, and ecology as AFRAID BugZ.  ARAID stands for Angela's Fabulously Reliable Arthropod Information Document (unless someone can help me come up with a better abbreviation) and BugZ just because I wanted to do so. So when you see this as a label you know I'm providing specific information on the "critter" in question.

Alrighty then..... so what was that "red thing?"

Phylum Arthropoda (arthropods = "jointed foot")
Class Arachnida (Spiders & mites)
Order Acari (Ticks & Mites; largest order of arachnids)
Family Trobidiidae
Scientific Name: Trombidium sp. (short for species if you are new to the blog)
Common Names: Red Velvet Mite, Trombidiid Mite, Chiggar (yes, yes I'm going to talk about this {my sort of mistake you see}), Red Bugs, and Harvest Mite

I'm sure you have seen these tiny red dots running around on stones and sidewalks near soils particularly in the springtime.  These mites are considered to be one of the largest and that is because you can see them with your naked eye whereas most mites require a microscope in order to be seen.

Red Velvet Mite
Identification: Bright red color (seriously- this is the best description one of my references provided; I do admit that it is accurate but rather unhelpful particularly when you think of how many insects are bright red in color) and velvety (unfortunately, you really need to observe them under a microscope to see this characteristic); has 6  (larva) or 8 (adult) legs

Life History:

The adults lay eggs in the vegetation.  Larvae will emerge from the egg and crawl through the vegetation looking for a suitable host.  After a suitable host is obtained, the larvae will since their mouth parts into the outer layer of skin and excrete saliva into the epidermis (skin).  This saliva will help digest the underlying tissues which the larvae will feed on for a few days and then drop off. 

I bet you are asking yourself, "What is a parasitic form and what is a free-living form?" Have no fear I'm going to explain it to you.

Parasitic form is parasitic on arthropods and "related organisms." Please click to read more and see pictures of this aspect of their life history:  Water Mites on Arthropods 

Chiggers is a relatively common name used to describe parasitic arthropod life-stages, forms, which are annoying and/or pests to man. Okay- so my friend asked if the "red things" bite humans and if they are okay in gardens.  My responses were no and yes.  However, in my research I have found that there are some species in this family which attack humans, however, they considered to be uncommon. So, I'm wrong on the biting part but I have suggestions for prevention below.  I'm told that these chigger bites are quite irritating and appear unsightly.

Free-living forms are quite abundant in soil where populations are estimated to be several million/acre of land. The adults primarily eat insect eggs and are considered soil insects.  Soil insects provide a variety of garden benefits such as soil aeration due to tunneling activities and adding to the organic content by leaving their excretia (insect pee and poop) and dead bodies in the soil.  There are many soil insects which are harmful for gardens and plants but I do not include the that information here since it is not relative to the red velvet mite.

Pest Management:  so the adults are not pests but if the larvae are of the "chigger" variety then they would be considered a pest particularly if they find you "tasty." I'm not one of these unfortunate souls but I will offer my recommendations for prevention. First of all, for those of you who like to kill everything which looks like a creepy crawler I have very "bad" news for you....... Mites are difficult to kill.  Sorry, these are just the facts I'm reporting here.

So no killing methods today- we have repellents (these repeal the insects; think skunk spray and you have the right idea). There are two recommended repellents and they are dimethyl phthalate and diethyltoulamide otherwise known as DEET.  Dimethyl phthalate is commonly used in cosmetics such as hairspray, deodorant, and perfumes.  Chigger bites tend to be around areas where clothing is tight (bra lines, socks, waistband, etc.); I rarely get bitten but I also rarely wear socks or jeans when I'm working outside so you might try changing your clothing and applying some repellents.  However, if you do get bitten by chiggers try using a tincture of benzyl benzoate. Benzyl benzoate can be found in several flowers so you might take a look at that link if you are interested in preparing your own tincture. Yes, I could do a blog on tincture preparation, however, I have never tried it myself I just have instructions on how to prepare it.

I hope you find this information useful and happy gardening, weeding, insect watching, bird watching, whatever you do outdoors!

June 3, 2011

Even More Irises

Irises out in the "triangle"
Irises by the steps
Two-toned lilac (?) Iris
Lilac Iris
At first I thought the two "Liliac Irises" were the same but now I don't think so. However, I'm sure I could be wrong and the "Iris Queen" will surely set me straight.

Purple Iris
Two-toned purple with white spots and yellow beard Iris
Yellow Iris
Yellow and Purple Iris
I bet you thought I was joking when I said that my friend has many varieties. I'm sure I missed some but hopefully next year I will be able to capture them. However, there are more flowers waiting to bloom so I'm sure there will be more flower pictures on the blog horizon.

More Irises

Irises around the propane tank

Burgundy/Bronze Iris.

Please let me know if you can come up with a better color description for this iris.  It is beautiful but the color is difficult to determine.  I was surprised that the outside buds look black but this is the inside color.

Another view of the Irises in the "triangle."

Irises by the stairs


My friend, the "Iris Queen", "Iris Maven",  or  "Iris Obsessed," has several varieties of Irises on her property.  I have been trying to take pictures so she can see that her irises are doing well; I'm also trying to prove that I'm a "good enough plant mom" that she can give me some of her babies when I get my own property and rest easy that the babies will be well cared for.

This year, I took over 30 pictures of her irises; it was difficult to chose which ones to show but I have narrowed it down to about 17.  Yes, I will have multiple blogs with iris pictures- this is really the only way to do this.

First up, Oriental (Japanese?) Iris: my friend said these are hard to transplant as they are very particular and I decided to start with them since she has not seen them bloom.

Do yuu see the sphecid wasp in the stem?  I didn't know it was there until after I took the picture.  I'm just glad it didn't try to sting me since I'm allergic to hymenoptera stings.

Can you see the pentamid bug curled up the bottom petal?  I tried to get a better picture but it kept curling back up in the petal.

This is what I call the purple striped iris.

It is my understanding that this is supposed to be the same as the one above but it looks more blue than purple and the beard (fuzzy, caterpillar looking section on the petal) is a lighter, much lighter yellow.

Group of irises out in the "triangle" on the other side of the driveway.

May 13, 2011


For the last three days I have been observing the poppies in my yard.  Yes, I probably should have been working on my take-home exams or my final research paper but seriously I just want to play in the yard.

I observed some things about poppies that I didn't know so I'm going to share them with you. 

This is what I call a poppy head. I'm sure that you know that the bloom is inside the head.

 I captured this photo right before I went to bed one night.  I can't remember why I went outside to begin with but clearly I wasn't with it or I would have noticed something special about this head to bloom process.  Did you notice it?  If not look below and maybe that will help you out.

Yup, those are the "petals" which the bloom was inside.  Notice the silky, white inside and the hairy rough outside.  I guess Mother Nature is taking car of the bloom while it is maturing.

Pink poppy; I don't think this one bloomed last year and the bloom appears more delicate than the others.

Red/Orange poppy; I finally figured out why I can never remember what color this poppy is and I keep changing my mind- NO, I'm not color blind.  One time I look at it and it appears red and another orange.  I think its a conspiracy to prevent me from telling the property owner what color her poppies are.  Mother Nature is laughing at me but I still love her!

Here is the other thing about poppies; these pictures were taken the same evening as the above bloom pictures.  Do you see what they do that is different from many flowers such as irises?  There are two more pictures to help you out.

Did you figure it out?  The poppies close up during the evening and then re-bloom in the morning. Odd little things aren't they?  The other thing about them is the plant is UGLY!!! Yes, I said it UGLY.  If I didn't know it was a poppy, I would remove it from they yard because the plant looks like a weed unless it has a poppy head.  Fortunately, Anne told me what these guys were so I left them alone.  This year I weeded around them so they could get more water; they seem to need more water than the other flowers in the yard.

One final shout out to the poppies blooming next to the Irises.

On a personal note, I'm f*cking glad this semester is over with.  I walked into finals week with 2 A's and 1 maybe C.  I'm hoping to keep the A's and move the C up to a B; I have already determined my reward for such activities. Being a Ph.D. student is not easy; definitely not as easy as being a MS student.  I better be able to get a job after this.

With that being said, I look forward to lots of summer blogging.  I have several pictures already which I took while I should have been studying.  Consequently, there are multiple blogs in progress (cats, irises, insects, unknown flowers to be identified, and mutant dandelions) and hopefully I will get a couple of them done next week so be on the lookout.  That's right, I wrote "mutant dandelions" and you know you HAVE to know what that's all about!