Happy Super Spreader Sunday!

Somehow I don't think the citizens of Kansas City are planning to stay isolated today.

Er, I mean happy Super Bowl Sunday! Aka NATIONAL DIP DAY, one of my favorite holidays (because: dip). We are celebrating by not leaving our house for the next 14 days, as we’re fairly certain everyone in Kansas City will be attending Super Bowl parties this weekend, and, you know, COVID. #GoChiefs

We will, however, be watching our new hometown-team play, and making our favorite dip, sikil pak. It’s a Mayan dish we couldn’t get enough of on our honeymoon to the Yucatán. The recipe is something like this — smash up some roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), roasted tomatoes, a habanero or jalapeño pepper, cilantro, and parsley in the food processor until it’s about the texture of hummus. Chives optional. (And don’t listen to any of those other recipes that call for onion and garlic; none of the many sikil paks we had in Mexico had them.)

Even though it’s cold and snowy, I spent most of yesterday reading about garden design and plants native to Kansas City. I learned my ecoregion is 47f — that’s the Western Cornbelt Plains, Rolling Loess Prairie — and that the natural vegetation here is a “mosaic of big bluestem-Indiangrass prairie and bur-oak woodland,” which is pretty much all I’ve ever wanted. Hardiness zone 6. While browsing the depths of the gardening internet, I happened across Better Homes and Gardens’ garden plans, which look amazing (look! amazing!) and useful to a newbie like me. I have historically been bad about putting too-tall prairie plants in too-small beds (see: our house in Lansing, MI), so this sort of thing is good intel. (For instance, sources say: A tall plant shouldn’t be taller than than 2/3 the width of an edge bed or 1/2 the width of an island bed… meaning my 7-foot-tall prairie plants need a minimum 10.5-foot-wide, if not 14-foot-wide bed. Oops.)

I also suited up and paced out the yard so I could start mapping out some plans. This may have been a totally unnecessary exercise, since who knows if we’ll stick to this, but it was certainly a fun way to spend an afternoon. Here’s how far I got:

Pencil sketch on graph paper showing the layout of a backyard.
The yard edges are to scale (1 cm = 1 meter-ish, graph paper is in ¼ inches) and the rows of rocks are there now. But the rest of the details are aspirational. At the moment it’s mostly empty lawn and a semi-rotten wooden deck. 

I’ve also scoped out some places to get some veggie seeds and native plants, and I really like the looks of the Kansas City Community Gardens and Happy Apple’s Farm. (Someone recommended the latter to me but I can’t remember who; if you’re reading this, show yourself! They seem awesome.)

Last but certainly not least, I just found out you can register your yard as a place on iNaturalist — a website and app where you can log all your species observations (and get help with identification). This sounds very fun. Check out this guy’s garden in New York — he’s up to 605 unique species in his 2,200 square foot yard! I’ll get going on mine directly. I know I’m at about 18 species so far with my birds, squirrels, deer, and bunnies. Only 587 species to go!

Two stories:

My first non-Discover byline is live! Sadly it’s not terribly exciting, since I just updated this article about COVID-19 for Stacker. But, first is still a first, and here it is! Enjoy:

When can I get vaccinated? And answers to 30 other coronavirus questions

For something a little more fun, here’s a story by Jake Buehler that I edited for Discover’s March/April issue that just came out online. It’s about these super-cute rare birds that live on a remote island in Alaska. Check it out:

One of America’s Rarest Birds Lives on Alaska’s Loneliest Island. Scientists Are Finally Exploring Their Private Kingdom

One book:

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. This book has been recommended to me SO many times I’ve lost count. It was really good… and yet, I hated it.

It’s a really good representation of the pressures and attitudes in academia (at their worst), and I think really hits on the nose why I quit. There’s even a mention relatively early on where Jahren says she had a grad student quit in a huff, declaring “I don’t want your life!” … Yeah, that’s the most relatable character in the whole book. Anyway, if you want a clear picture of what I consider the ugly, unhealthy side of science, read this book. The praise I had heard for it made it seem like Jahren was some sort of science communication hero; I think she might actually be a monster. To each her own, I guess. I’ve you’ve read this already, I’d love to hear what you thought.

One show:

The Expanse season 5. OH MY GOODNESS. Have you watched this yet?

If you’re not familiar, it’s a realistic (meaning, not Star Wars-y fantasy) sci-fi drama that takes place in the near-ish future — humans have only just started to colonize the Moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt. It’s an awesome adventure story with really compelling characters. And somehow it gets better and better over time, not worse. Season 5 was amazing.

Next time, on the Funkyard:

We are waiting for the snow to melt so we can start building our new beds! I suppose we’ll have to distract ourselves in the meantime by painting the living room or something. Sigh. I’ll also be sure to tell you how much fun I had at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which is this week!

Share The Funkyard

That’s all for now, time to go make some DIP!

Go Chiefs,