Saturday, July 26, 2008

Random plant event: Ficus benjamina figs

We had a Ficus maclellandii produce figs last winter (or at least we didn't notice it until last winter), but this is the first time I've seen them on F. benjamina.

I'm surprised that they're spotted; it makes them cooler somehow. Unfortunately, I think customers, or maybe co-workers, are noticing them and pulling them off or knocking them off accidentally, so I may not get to see the full progression (and even if people stopped pulling them off, the plant in question might sell). But at least there's been this much.

Weirdly, this is the only plant that's doing this, even though we have several others of more or less the same size (and one that's quite a lot bigger). Don't know what the cue is, but apparently it's pretty specific.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On entitlement

Mr. Subjunctive, street fighter.

I spend a lot of time at Garden Web's House Plant Forum. It's a nice enough place, and one of the more active forums, but there's one thing that comes up every once in a while that annoys me enormously. I was reminded of this by a recent post there from someone who wanted to know if she should, or could, put used tea leaves in her potted plants' soil. She got an answer a few hours later from one of the forum regulars, a guy with a lot of experience and good advice, saying basically, no, why on earth would you, and in the response he used the word "allelopath."

Her reaction? To ask him for "English, please," inform him that sometimes he sounded "arrogant," and tell him she didn't want to have to use her dictionary. She capped it off with "not everyone here is a master gardener, some of us do it for enjoyment." Which I think is just as snippy as it sounds; he didn't seem to take it that way, but he's a nicer person than I am.

So, you see, it's okay to pop on a forum and ask a complete stranger to take time out of their day to answer your question for free, using their experience and knowledge, but looking up one word is out of the question.

Well. Windmills do not work that way, so I posted back:
If you don't want to learn, don't ask the questions. If you do want to learn, you might expect that it's going to take the teeniest bit of effort on your part. Be prepared to use a dictionary. Or Google. Or Wikipedia.

And if you want to talk about coming across as sounding arrogant, feeling entitled to a free answer to your question, in a few hours, from a more experienced gardener, and then feeling free to complain that it wasn't presented at the exact vocabulary level you want it in is very. I mean, who are you, that you're too busy to spend two minutes googling a word? At the very least you could ask nicely for clarification, if a dictionary is just completely out of the question.

And then after I posted that, I realized that it would be funny to answer the question after all, but answer it really wrong. I was going to go with "oh, and just to answer your question, even though you asked rudely -- an allelopath is a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of dogs that are one-half Lhasa Apso," but Garden Web has an anti-spamming measure in place that won't allow a person to post consecutive multiple replies to the same post, so I couldn't put that up until after someone else had replied, and by that time I was no longer in the mood. Which is probably just as well.

It's a touchy subject for me, as you can see. I myself have been asked to speak English on forums (specifically, to provide common names for plants I mentioned, at this post), because "not all of us have degrees in botany or horticulture." Yes. Well. And with that kind of attitude, you never will, either.

What is it about this stuff that intimidates people so? It's not like I have a degree in botany either. They're names. Nothing more, nothing less. If you can learn that your neighbor is John Smith and your daughter-in-law is Mary Brown, you can learn that a Dizygotheca elegantissima is a Dizygotheca elegantissima. (Hell, if you can learn that Mary Smith is Mary Smith but used to be Mary Strazynski before she got married, then you can probably learn that Dizygotheca elegantissima is more correctly called Schefflera elegantissima, to boot. Brains are marvelous things. Often.) If you can't learn a name without a face, then by all means, stick a couple googly eyes on the plant. If you have some kind of name-specific learning disability that makes that just impossible for you (not being sarcastic: I'm sure such things exist), you can still use a search engine. What you don't get to do is pretend that you're entitled to dictate the vocabulary level of the explanation you get, or get huffy because OMGWTFBBQ somebody's using big words and how dare they treat you like somebody who might know stuff or own a dictionary or something.

I've been noticing this kind of thing a lot lately, and it weirds me out. Bad Astronomy, a few weeks back, had to put up a post explaining that his readers, though he appreciates and treasures every one, don't actually get to tell him what topics he's allowed to post on, and if he wants to talk about the election or "Doctor Who" instead of astronomy, then that's what he's going to talk about. Boing Boing recently had a similar thing happen (they took down some links to another blog because they used to like it and then they decided for some reason that they didn't like it anymore, and a thousand screeching netmonkeys descended on them throwing around words like "censorship." Um. No. It's not a freedom of speech issue: the speech is still there. It's freedom of association, which is also important.). I not too long ago saw a post at IO9 about politics where a good third of the comments were in the vein of "I don't come here to read politics, I come here to read about science fiction."

I'm not sure what this is. Why do people think that they deserve never-ending free entertainment and information, to the degree that if they don't get the exact subject matter they want, with the exact vocabulary level they want, they feel entitled to get angry with the provider? (As opposed to, say, looking elsewhere, or skipping that post, or googling an unfamiliar word.) I mean, this is part of the beauty of blogs, that you can post about whatever interests you at any given moment, without having to stick to a single topic all the time. Even within the plant posts I do, I try to throw in other stuff that relates the plant in question to the rest of the world, be that contemporary Hawaiian or Puerto Rican culture, Buddhist goddesses, "Futurama," my personal semi-estranged relationship with my family, British royalty, eighteenth-century children's literature, actual honest-to-God botany, The Breakfast Club, drag queens, medical research, the Holocaust, Amy Winehouse, plant patents, Aboriginal culture in Australia, hard-boiled-detective novels, tree frogs, cathode-ray radiation, evolution, Greta Garbo, Patty Duke, my old crappy jobs, my current occasionally crappy job, etc. etc. and etc. I don't expect that anybody's interested in all of those things except me (and I wasn't necessarily interested in them myself, until the research got me interested), but the point is to show that things are connected to one another, that everything, looked at in the right way, is familiar. And that everything is strange, viewed from the right angle, as well.

(In fact, if PATSP has a mission statement, this is it: to take familiar plants and make them strange, and to take strange plants and make them familiar. How am I doing?)

So let's get something straight here, you and I. I love that you're here reading this, and that you might actually care enough about it to comment, or Pick the post for Blotanical, or even that it might upset you enough to leave a comment, angry, encouraging, or otherwise. There is, however, no way that you get to dictate to me how I will talk about a particular topic, or which topics I'm permitted to cover. You have that kind of control on your own blog, if you have a blog (and if not, how come? All the cool kids have one. Some of the really cool kids have several, even.). But this is my blog. Don't confuse the two.

Not that I thought anybody was going to be doing that here in the first place. I just wanted to be really really clear where I believe the line to be. And also to vent about it, because it turns out that I'm still mad, even though it was a couple weeks ago, and this was the only way I could think of to get over it. Which I probably shouldn't be making your problem, but there you go.

I also don't mean to imply that this is all that common a thing. I mean, most people on line are very good about just asking, "what's an allelopath?" or looking it up, because they actually want to learn something. Maybe two people out of ten thousand feel entitled to complain about the answer instead of attempting to understand it.

The woman who got me all riled in the first place, incidentally, responded to my post by saying that of course she knew how to google, and it didn't take her two minutes, as I'd said, it took mere seconds.

Yes. I know. I was being extremely (almost uncharacteristically) generous. So go do it already.

She also said that she wasn't looking for answers from a "more experienced gardener," she was looking for someone who had tried it before.


Because trying things is different from having experience, I guess.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"This investigation is closed. . . ."

ALLERGY WARNING: Contains sarcasm and bitterness.
Manufactured on equipment that processes snark and strong language.

So I've heard back from the hospital about my complaint with their Occupational Health doctor. (Previous hospital-related posts here and here. The latter is the one relevant to this post.) Oddly, I've only received a bill for one of the two emergency room visits, the latter one. I'm not complaining exactly, but it leaves me waiting for the other shoe (or bill, in this case) to drop.

As predicted, crappy hospital regards themselves as not at fault for any of the crappiness they inflicted,1 though naturally they're also seriously regretful that my trip to the Occupational Health doctor was anything less than a delightful romp through a meadow full of balloons and kittens. E.g.,

. . . The medical record shows you were instructed to drink plenty of fluids such as Gatorade and juices. You were clinically stable to return to work. It appears that we could improve our instructions regarding fluid replacement in these situations.2 We regret if this caused you any unnecessary worry or inconvenience.

Please accept our sincere apology3 that our care did not meet your expectations; we are sorry that you did not feel you were treated in a timely manor.4 The Occupational Health Department was exceptionally busy that day.5 Our goal is to provide quality care and improve patient satisfaction.6 . . .

I appreciate that they're pretending to give a damn, but come on. The best they could do is "whoops! We were really busy!"? I can fake caring much, much better than that, and I'm just some guy, not someone who's received (one assumes) hours of instruction in how to pretend to care about people. Geez.

So that's my last voluntary visit to that hospital. Tell me you didn't see that coming.

Gratuitous bromeliad photo. This, incidentally, is the consolation Neoregelia I was talking about earlier, that I only get if I go to the E.R. three times in a week.


1 Which leaves open the question of who was, exactly. I'm pretty sure it wasn't my fault, either. Maybe monkeys? Terrifying Occupational Health monkeys? Should I write back and ask? (50,000 points and the all-expenses-paid trip for two to Rio de Janeiro to the first poster who recognizes the "Terrifying Occupational Health monkeys" reference)
2 I guess you guys are lucky providing sound medical advice for fluid replacement in these kinds of situations isn't, like, your job or anything, 'cause if it was, you'd be so fucked.
3 Gosh. I hope nobody lost any sleep worrying about me or anything. I'd hate for them to be feeling so guilty and angsty about me that they give somebody else the wrong prescription or something.
4 [sic]. Though it makes me want to try to find this Timely Manor place, since it comes so highly recommended. But seriously: "we are sorry you did not feel you were treated in a timely [manner]?" That I didn't feel I was treated in a timely manner? You guys see nothing wrong with a ninety-minute delay between appointment time and seeing the actual doctor?
5 Really? That's really weird, 'cause I didn't have anything better to do with my time. Y'all should have said something. I could have come back when it was more convenient for you. Maybe when you guys set up the appointment, you could have made it for a time when you weren't going to be exceptionally busy. God forbid I should inconvenience anybody by asking for medical attention.
6 Yeah? How's that working out for you?

Dork (Chamaedorea metallica)

Parlor palms (Chamaedorea elegans) and I don't get along at all. Never have. I have no idea why this is, but I've accepted it and moved on with my life, as all the horticultural self-help books1 say to do.

So I was a little intimidated by Chamaedorea metallica when we first met at Pierson's, in Cedar Rapids, a year and a half ago. It's not always the case that if one species in a genus gives you trouble, the others will too, but it's true often enough that I worried. I bought it anyway, though, because 1) I'd never seen it before and they looked awfully cool, 2) It was AVDPVD50POS time at Piersons,2 so it wasn't outrageously expensive, 3) I'd come all that way and really wanted to buy something.

My Chamaedorea metallica.

So it came home with me anyway, and, surprisingly, it's not like all the other Chamaedoreas, and we've gotten along quite well, once we got past a few early misunderstandings.

Having had a good experience with them personally, I wanted to try them professionally, so when I had the opportunity to get some in at work, I did. And I don't think we've sold a single one. (Okay, maybe one. I think WCW might have gotten one.) Why not? I'm not sure. They're not outrageously priced: compared to the other tropicals we have, in fact, they're downright cheap ($10 for one plant in a six-inch pot, $40 for four plants in an eight-inch pot). This was deliberate on my part, to try to encourage people to buy them, but it hasn't helped.3 They're in no worse shape now than they were when they first arrived (probably December, maybe October). They're prominently displayed: maybe ten or fifteen feet inside the greenhouse door, in a large group at the base of a big pyramidal stand. But nobody so much as stops and looks at them.

So perhaps it's just that they're not bright, flashy colors. Maybe they're a little too rough around the edges. Maybe people are scared away by the sight of bare stems. Really couldn't say. But it offends me, slightly, in that way I get offended on behalf of a plant (see also Tradescantia pallida), because they're really quite nice once you get to know them. They certainly don't deserve to be shunned like Klingon-costume-wearing, slide-rule-carrying dorks.4

Chamaedorea metallica is a Mexican native, primarily found as a rainforest understory plant. It has gray-green leaves with a metallic sheen to them, which is strongest on plants grown in darker conditions: with good light, plants tend to look more green and less metallic gray. This metallic coloration is, to one degree or another, a feature of a lot of Chamaedoreas. (C. cataractum being another example, though the cataractums I've seen were more of a metallic green-blue, not a metallic green-gray).

The leaves are ordinarily "fishtail" shaped (all one piece, but with a large symmetrical notch taken out where the leaf tip would be). A few of our plants at work have developed a couple leaves which look more like the traditional palm, with multiple leaflets arranged along a stem. This may be normal, but I haven't seen it anywhere other than on our plants, and only with a couple of them. Possibly they got overfed this spring, or they're reacting to the frequently extreme heat somehow.

Plant with split leaves.

C. metallica is one of the easier plants I know, too. Not that telling customers this results in any sales either: a few times I've gotten back an oh, interesting, and that's about as far as it goes and eventually they decide to buy a Dracaena marginata instead and I: yawn myself into unconsciousness.5

Light: Chamaedorea metallica will adapt to most light conditions, though I wouldn't try full sun. My own plant is sort of off to the side of a south window, where it gets mostly bright indirect light, with a little bit of direct sun in the late afternoon, and it seems to like it there so I haven't messed with it. Still, though, the ones at work got thrown under a table when we started getting annuals in this spring and had to make more room: they actually loved it there, did beautifully, even though they couldn't have been getting much light at all. Started blooming and the whole bit. So I don't think it's possible to get this wrong.
Watering: Chamaedoreas in general don't have very impressive root systems for the size of the plant, so it's easy to drown them. Use a soil that drains quickly, and then water often. If you can't do that for one reason or another, aim for watering when the soil is about halfway dry. The plants at work stay pretty wet all the time, but then it's also hot and humid in there, which means they're growing a lot faster and need more water.6

Temperature: According to at least one site, mature, established plants outdoors can handle temperatures down to 28ºF (-2ºC) for four days without any leaf damage. The growers' guide says that Chamaedoreas in general (i.e., not metallica specifically) do best between 75 and 90ºF (24-32ºC), and tend to be injured below about 45ºF (7ºC). Probably better to be safe than sorry, especially for a containerized plant, but if you forget to bring yours in on a cold night, you won't necessarily lose it.7
Humidity: They're said not to do well in dry air, and many of the sites that address keeping them indoors recommend making an effort to add some humidity. I can't really tell how serious this is.
Pests: I haven't seen anybody say these are much bothered by any pests, and a couple sources specifically said that spider mites weren't a big deal for these (which is significant, since other Chamaedorea species are very bothered by mites). Mealybugs, however, were mentioned once or twice. My own plant has been pest-free since I got it, and the plants at work seem to be too.
Grooming: Pretty minor. Flowers (see propagation) fall off after a week or two. They're not a big deal to pick up, but you will have to pick them up. Old flower stalks hang on for a long time and are somewhat difficult to remove. Leaves that have died need to be pulled off, though that's not a frequent occurrence. Chamaedoreas do not do well in soil that has begun to break down, as container soil inevitably will, so checking to see whether the plant needs repotting every once in a while also counts as necessary routine maintenance.

Feeding: Light to none. Not only will tips burn if the plant is exposed to excessive fluoride or boron, they'll burn a little bit if there are high soluble salts of any kind. Plants are naturally found in fairly alkaline, limestone-heavy soils, so adding conservative amounts of calcium very occasionally will help with the fluoride and boron problems.8 They don't have very high requirements for nutrients to begin with, says the growers' guide, so go easy.
Propagation: Plants will produce bright orange (if not especially attractive) flowers, even indoors. Usually this happens in spring and summer, and it may happen multiple times over a period of months. As far as I could determine, C. metallica is not self-fertile, and (as with some other species we've covered) individual plants are either male or female. If you're lucky enough to have one get pollinated, blue-purple berries will form (they look very much like the berries on C. seifrizii). I was unable to find any very clear instructions about what to do with these berries once you've got them, but the growers' guide says seeds should be shallowly buried, kept evenly moist, and sprout quickest with bottom heat (aiming for a temperature of about 90ºF / 32ºC). Without bottom heat, they may take as long as a year to germinate. Seedlings should be kept cooler (around 80ºF / 27ºC) and out of direct sun until about its third leaf.
It's also sometimes possible to divide: some species of Chamaedorea do offset, but I have yet to see metallica do so. It may or may not happen.

Anyway. C. metallica is actually endangered in its native habitat. I couldn't find any specifics about why (disease, development, collection, etc.), but this is also the case for parlor palms (C. elegans), which are from the same area, so habitat destruction is surely a strong contender.

A common thread in the various websites I found is that a lot of them refer to this plant as small. I suppose this is a matter of perspective, but they can get five or six feet, at least, which doesn't seem all that tiny to me. There are some pictures of this at They won't hang on to their foliage all the way up the stem no matter what you do, it looks like, so don't beat yourself up about that.

Chamaedorea metallica could use some glamour, some pizazz. It's true. They're a little bookish, a little odd, and we're not used to seeing them everywhere yet, either. And the naked stem thing is a little embarrassing. And then there are those funny twenty-sided dice they carry around with them all over the place. I mean, they've got problems. But it's not like they won't meet you more than halfway, as far as care goes, and there are no other plants I can think of with that color and shape -- which is an interesting color and shape, okay? They just need a makeover or something. Queer Eye for the Straight Plant. Something to make them a little bit sexy, a little bit dangerous. Little leather jackets or something. Slimming vertical stripes. Throw pillows. I don't know.

At least I don't have to worry about keeping them alive until I figure out how to show them off to their best advantage. However long that might take.


Photo credits: all mine.

1 A genre which includes such classics as I Overwater . . . and That's O.K., How to Win Plants and Influence Other Plants, and Learning to Love the Plants That Love You Back: a Gardener's Guide to Coping With Codependency.
2 Annual Variable-Duration Post-Valentine's-Day 50%-Off Sale; see post here about my last AVDPVD50POS.
3 (Stupid, unappreciative customers.)
4 I never had a slide rule, and I never wore a Klingon costume, but I was still a dork. An exceptionally suave, brilliant, and jaw-droppingly handsome dork, obviously, but a dork nevertheless. In about 1992, I tried to write a Star Trek novel. (This was in the days before internet fanfic communities, remember.) It didn't go very well, and wouldn't have sold if I'd been able to finish it: I found the regular "Star Trek: Next Generation" characters too painfully dull to write for, so the first part of it was supposed to take place on some other ship, and then eventually I was going to bring in the Enterprise people and they'd have to put together what had happened on this other ship. Like a mystery. I got really tired of the regulars being all noble and pure all the time, so for my own crew, I piled on the imperfections with a shovel: the captain was, effectively, a clinically depressed alcoholic, the doctor was killing people (including the ship's counselor) over some quasi-racist bullshit, and in the middle of this they find a planet with intelligent life on it, which they weren't expecting (and obviously neither was Starfleet Command, or else they wouldn't have sent these people), and who they then immediately pissed off by being too inept or self-absorbed or distracted by all the corpses piling up to recognize that it was intelligent life. The last time I re-read it, which was forever ago, I kind of got the impression that these were not exactly the top fiftieth percentile in their Starfleet Academy class, if you get what I mean (and I think you do). Other characters were having fairly dire personal problems too, besides the alcoholism and serial killing; I don't remember it all. It's been a long time ago. So I think I'm allowed the occasional joke at the expense of Trekkies: I was invested at one time, just never in a way that involved costumes. Not that there's anything wrong with costumes.
5 Not that there's anything wrong with Dracaena marginata really. I just don't really like the look all that well, and it frustrates me that they remain popular even though there are much more interesting plants out there, like with Spathiphyllum spp. Perhaps if I did a D. marginata profile, I'd like them better, but I've been trying to steer clear of Dracaenas and Euphorbias in particular lately, because I feel like I've already done several of each of them, and I should be trying to profile genera I haven't done before. (I did eventually do a D. marginata profile, which is linked to in the main text, so this no longer applies.)
6 Of course, it's a slowish kind of faster.
Also they may not be as wet as they look: we don't usually stand there and soak the hell out of every single plant, because if we did that, watering would take twelve hours a day. So sometimes only a little water lands in the pot. Watering in the greenhouse is a very different thing from watering at home; I keep meaning to do a post about this.
7 (The important thing, like always, is not to panic. Plants have crappy long-term memory; you just have to immediately start treating them properly again, not overdo it, and see whether they come back.)
8 The reason calcium helps with fluoride toxicity is because calcium fluoride is not very soluble in water. Adding calcium doesn't make the fluoride go away, but it locks it up in the soil so that it can't do any more damage. I think flushing with large amounts of water is probably the better way to deal with any kind of high-salt toxicity, but if this doesn't work for you for some reason, there's another option for you to try.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Okay. Well, life does go on, despite the loss of Dr. Horrible (but there'll be a DVD! Shiny!). And so there's some blog-related business to tend to, this being that in the past couple days I've been given an Arte y Pico award and been tagged by Kate at The Manic Gardener with the six-random-things-about-yourself meme that I was first hit with back in November. Except then it was eight things.

So the "rules" are:

* Link to the person who tagged you. (above)
* Post the rules on the blog. (doing right this second)
* Write six random things about yourself. (in a minute)
* Tag six people at the end of your post. (not going to happen okay, fine, I'll do it after all)
* Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. (working on it)
* Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (fine, I will)
Six things:

1. I do not like 70s rock. Like, any of it, I think. Not crazy about the 60s either, but I especially do not like the 70s. Steve Miller Band embarrasses me ("Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree?" Seriously? *facepalm*). I do not want to rock and roll all night and party ev-a-ry day. Jeremiah, though admittedly a bullfrog, is barely even an acquaintance of mine, much less a friend, and I am not going to drink wine that's been touched by frog lips. I do not think Rod Stewart is sexy; I'm not sure I think Rod Stewart has ever been sexy. "American Pie" makes me want to claw my ears off. I could go on. I didn't like top 40 music from the 1970s at the time, I didn't like it as a teenager, and I don't like it now.

Rod Stewart, being questionably sexy. Photo by Helge Øverås, found at Wikipedia entry for Rod Stewart.

2. The journal-tracking stuff that I mentioned in the November post (#4) is also a source of artistic inspiration. Abstract, yes, but art nevertheless. Or maybe not art. It's hard to explain. What I do is, I make a continuous line of pixels. Each pixel in the line is a specific color. Here's where it gets complicated: each pixel refers to a block of thirty-one days. So the pixel, for example, that ends with July 17, 2008, is supposed to reflect the period from June 17, 2008 to July 17, 2008. How do I pack that much information into a single pixel? Color. Through a process which is even more elaborate and hard to explain than this has been already, the proportion of good days in that stretch of time determines the amount of red in that pixel. Green is used for normal days. Blue is for bad days. As these pixels are stacked up next to one another, left to right, the color gradually fluctuates. So for example a period that was pretty good, followed by a period that was pretty bad, would gradually change from reds and oranges and yellows into teals and blues. At some point I stretch the one-pixel-wide line into something a little more readable, and then we have a picture.

So in a sense, I can literally (or at least literally in a figurative kind of way) have "blue" periods. Or chartreuse. Or fuchsia, muddy brown, or coral. (Of those, coral is the best. Fuchsia is stressful. Muddy brown is more fun than you'd think.) Lately things have been mostly teal. Below is the (very long) image made from the period between October 3, 2002, and June 1, 2008:

Click image for a (much!) larger version.

You can see that the end of 2002 was a pretty happy time (I'd just met the husband), that something really awful happened in the middle of 2005 (If I remember right, that was probably asthma and financial difficulty), and that for quite a while now, things have been just kind of ennh.

The colors are pretty. Even when they mean life sucked.

3. The husband and I met in a bar. I never liked going to bars, so it was the one and only time in my life I ever worked up the courage to go to the local gay bar by myself. I think it worked out okay. It's nice that there are more options for people now. (There were then, too, it's just that I was still relatively new to the area, didn't have internet access at home, and my gaydar always gave lots of false negatives until I took it in to be recalibrated.)

Not the bar in question. Photo from Wikipedia entry for bar (establishment), taken by Ragesoss

4. My favorite novel is probably still Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, which I first read in 1996. I used to re-read it on a pretty regular basis, though it's been a long time now. Honorable mention to Cat's Eye (Margaret Atwood) and Anagrams (Lorrie Moore). New fiction mostly leaves me cold; I'm not sure why that is but have never put a lot of time into trying to figure it out, either. It might be that fiction is like pop music: you only really connect with the stuff you encounter at the age when you're ready to really connect with it. (However old you are, for most people, the best music was being made when you were somewhere between about 14 and 25.) Stuff that's very different from the normal novel, like for example World War Z (Max Brooks), still works for me, though.

Infinite Jest cover (hardback). From the Wikipedia entry for Infinite Jest.

5. Jalapeno pizza is one of the best things ever. I was a picky eater as a kid, and I still tend to be a very monotonous eater (long stretches of the same two or three things day in and day out), but I did occasionally branch out and try new things, and jalapeno pizza is the best of the new things I tried.

6. Furthest south I've been: Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Furthest north: Bayfield, WI (someday: Canada!). Furthest east: Washington, DC. Furthest west: Casper, WY. The husband is better-traveled.

Create your own visited map of The United States

I wasn't going to tag anybody originally, but I decided that there are a few other bloggers I'm curious about, so consider yourself tagged:

J at Pleasant Hill Ramblings.
Annah and/or Jordan (however you guys want to do it, or not do it), at Plant Crazy.
Wicked Gardener, at Wicked Gardener.
Aiyana, at Water When Dry.
Benjamin, at The Deep Middle.

Anyone who would rather not participate is of course immediately and comprehensively forgiven. Anyone who has already participated like sixty times already and is sick of this meme is not only forgiven, but I would happily accept a link to one of the previous posts: I was trying to pick people who didn't appear to have been tagged before, but I didn't make an exhaustive search of everybody's archives, either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pretty picture: Hamatocactus setispinus orcuttii flowers

I don't actually get to see all that many cactus flowers at work, contrary to what you'd expect: plants sell when they're in bloom, and cactus especially so, so I usually don't get any farther than seeing that there's a bud.

I'm not positive on the ID here; that's what the tag that came with it said (though it spelled part of it wrong), and a quick perusal of Google images didn't obviously contradict that identification, but it's always questionable to me, whether the right tag is in the pot or not. Too many things can happen. (It's especially horrible with things like geraniums, where we have eighty gazillion varieties which, if not in bloom, all look exactly the same. One distracted helper, one day, and the oranges are mixed in with the reds for a whole spring and summer.)

I'm not really looking to add to the cactus collection, but the flower is very personable. I'd consider it.

EDITED TO ADD: Aiyana has a post up today with the same cactus (no, we didn't plan it that way), though she calls it Thelocactus setispinus instead of Hamatocactus setispinus. You say tomato, I say Lycopersicon esculentum. It's the same plant.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Random plant event: Sansevieria trifasciata leaf section sprout

When I was doing the Sansevieria trifasciata post, I took some leaf sections to try to grow into new plants, just to see how that worked. Also I wanted to see what colors the new plants would be, whether they'd keep the coloration of the original plants or revert to the normal green. I've never propagated Sansevieria before, and frankly I was expecting it to take a long time, but I've already had one sprout come up:

It's a little early to tell for sure, but so far it looks like the sprout is not going to be as dark as the original leaf (which if I remember right was a 'Black Coral'). I'd been told to expect this. Karen and sheila, in the comments of the original post, both said that the colors on new growth are not necessarily the same as the parent leaf, and sheila actually said that she'd tried it with a darker plant like this and had gotten a medium-green plant out of it. So I'm not especially surprised, but we'll give it some time yet and see whether it's going to stick with this color or pick another one.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pretty picture: Hemerocallis 'Miracle Maid'

I know there have been lots of daylily pictures already, and I don't intend to claim that these are particularly special. But I do like the color, and a pretty picture is a pretty picture, so better late than never, I guess.

I actually had no idea whatsoever that there were so many varieties of daylily out there: around here I see a lot of plain orange ones, and occasionally a plain yellow one, and that's it. Discovering the existence of red and black and two-toned and lavender, etc., has been eye-opening.