Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pretty picture: Pelargonium peltatum 'Burgundy Ice'

Okay okay. That was fun. We've had a cold, a lizard, and gay marriage, but let's get back to talking about the plants.


I'm sorry; I got nothing. Could I maybe get a pass for today and just try to be, like, extra clever tomorrow, please?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa City Graffiti: The Birds

I'm afraid I have not yet completely managed to get my head around the Iowa Supreme Court's UNANIMOUS decision this morning. I'm still working (writing this very quickly while on lunch break, at home). Every so often, I remember what's going on and think to myself, HOLY FUCK, but then the moment passes and I forget again. This will probably be happening a lot for a few days.

For those who have asked: yes, the husband and I will be getting married (in as cheap and low-key a way as possible, I think) when the opportunity exists. I've been reading that it will take a while for the 99 county courthouses to get themselves set up to be able to do same-sex marriages (the delay, I'm guessing, has mostly to do with printing new forms? I'm really not sure, and nobody has said), but the Des Moines Register said that it should be possible by April 24. As I officially came out to my parents on April 30 (1997), I'm leaning toward April 30 to do the actual marriage (beats April 25, which is Mom's birthday), but we'll see how things go.

I appreciate all the people who have stopped by to say congratulations. I'm basically out of time now, but there will be more talking about this later, after I've had time to read some stuff and finish the plant-watering I started yesterday and so on and so forth.

Oh, and I would appreciate it if my co-liberals could refrain from acting like this is totally out of character for Iowa to do. The Upper Midwest in general (IA / MN / WI / IL) used to be progressive all over the place. There's a history. Try not to look so shocked that it's Iowa. We're not all a bunch of slack-jawed reactionary bigoted hicks here. If it were Oklahoma, or Utah, then maybe you could be surprised.

Now I want to try something.

I want a million, billion dollars.

Ah. Apparently Lantana pictures aren't magic. Oh well. Worth trying.

EDITED TO ADD: Like it says, the post was written in a hurry. I did not mean to suggest that everybody in Utah or Oklahoma are slack-jawed reactionary bigoted hicks. (For example, some Oklahomans have very taut jaws. I kid, I kid. . . .) I know they're not. But still, Iowa is a good order of magnitude less surprising than Utah would be. It's also worth noting that if you haven't already seen it, there's going to be a backlash coming: the way the Iowa Constitution is set up, it's hard to change, but you can bet that there are people organizing now who are going to try, and a lot of money is going to be changing hands in order to make that happen. No victory is ever so solid that it can't be lost.

One bright spot I see is that even the bigots are likely going to see Iowa benefit from this. We have no residency requirement for marriage here, so anybody can come across the border and marry, which means that not only are we going to be seeing a sharp spike in wedding-related business in the next few months, as couples who have been waiting for something like this start planning and having their own weddings, which will be awesome for those of us tangentially connected to the floral industry, but there's going to be a lot of money coming in from out of state too, and possibly people moving to Iowa. This will be good for Iowa. Maybe not so much for MN/WI/IL/MO/NE/SD, 'cause I assume they're the states that will be losing most of the people who do come here. And if the Iowa economy improves as a result, even the hard-core bigots are going to be a little less worried about it.

It also means that every drought, tornado, car accident, flood, or, you know, livestock escape from now until 2030 is going to be attributed to the Judgment of the Lord Upon the Wickedness of Iowa. But, you know, the 2008 floods happened when Iowa had last (barely) voted for Bush and had a Defense of Marriage Act restricting marriage to one-man-one-woman, so I'm not going to be convinced God cares unless our next disaster is a lot worse than that. Ask Cedar Rapids how bad that would have to be.

Pretty picture: Lantana camara 'Rose Glow Improved'

I continue to work on the plant-toxicity post, which is now looking like it's going to be a PATSP Special Event, something on the order of Houseplant Toxicity Week. (Hey, if the Discovery Channel can have Shark Week . . . ) Things keep getting added and subtracted and moved around, and at last check, the damn thing was up to 6400 words. Not unprecedented (the two parts of the Saintpaulia ionantha cvv. post, combined, were about that long), but unfortunately I think I was also only about 1/3 finished, too. So the plan at the moment is to find some way to break it up into a weeks' worth of small posts, though I'm unclear on how to do that, so we may get a Plan C at some point. I don't know.

What I do know is that Lantana camara is toxic. But it's also pretty. And butterflies like it. This was a popular variety last year; one of the nursery lot guys planted up a big tub with this, a dark purple Petunia, and a light blue-purple Scaevola, and the three of them together looked really nice.

On the down side, it's kill-you-dead poisonous. And it smells a little weird. Like citrus, but . . . wrong citrus. It's also, according to Toxicity of Houseplants, one of the ten most toxic weeds in the world, which is pretty impressive given the competition.

I like it anyway.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Prodigal Lizard Returns

Crazily trying to water the house plants on my day off, which as many of you know involves checking the 500ish plants one at a time to determine whether they require water, and then picking up those that do and taking them to the bathtub, where once the bathtub is full, I water the lot with the detachable showerhead, the plants drain, and then we move on to the next set. It's time-consuming and kind of sucks, but I have yet to find a system I like better for doing what I have to do.

So I had just finished a round, and was bending over the tub to get some out and take them back to the living room, when ANOLE! IN THE BATHTUB! I managed to get her into the living room, with some difficulty, and then she sprang (sprung? springed?) out of my grasp and led me on a tour of the carpet under couches and tables and plant racks for maybe twenty minutes. Much of the area in question needs to be vacuumed, it turns out.

In the end, I was victorious, so I gave her some fresh water and a drop of honey and order is restored in the household again.

Except now I think maybe I want to keep her, rather than taking her to the water treatment plant. I have little or no idea how to do this. (I also think I want to name her Rebecca Glasscock, which the two readers of mine who will get that joke will find it very funny indeed.) But so: is keeping a lizard something that's going to involve major changes to my life? Am I going to need to grow mealworms and stuff? I can google as well as the next guy, but I'd appreciate suggestions, references to good pages on anole care, whatever.

UPDATE: Due to public outcry, I have changed the name from Rebecca to Nina. I'm a little hesitant, still, to do so, because I'm unconvinced that getting a lizard named for you is always a compliment, and like the last thing I would want to do would be to insult Nina, who really was awesome. But if we all can understand that it's meant as a compliment, we'll go with it.

Now so long as I don't fuck it up and kill her, I suppose we're golden.

Personal-ish: Iowa Supreme Court Decision Tomorrow

PREFACE: Feel free to skip this one if you know it's going to rile you. We don't have to agree on everything. Abusive comments will be deleted as they appear; negative comments will be decided on a case by case basis; positive comments will mostly be allowed to stand, but I warn commenters not to go off attacking broad categories of people. The decision about which comments are abusive / negative / positive is, of course, mine.

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Varnum v. Brien by 8:30 AM (local time) on April 3. This case could, potentially, overturn Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. The "Brien" in the case name is Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien (Polk County = Des Moines, for all intents and purposes), who is being sued by six same-sex Iowa couples for denying them marriage licenses in 2005.

The District Court judge in the case, Judge Robert Hanson, originally sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that the due process and equal protection guarantees in the Iowa Constitution made it unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples; he subsequently put a hold on the ruling pending a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court.

This, obviously, is a kind of big deal for me and the husband, and I'm kind of anxious about it. It's not so much that there's that much at stake here, exactly, at least not at the moment: we can't file taxes jointly, but, you know, tax-filing is a fairly small part of my life, and I'm not expecting that to matter a whole lot. But I do worry, sometimes, about what would happen if. If I were to die, I don't know that my parents would necessarily try to prevent the husband from inheriting my stuff (and it's not like there's that much stuff anyway; nothing of any real value), but they're not necessarily big fans of his either, and the law would give them the right to if they wanted. (I'm fairly certain that the husband's parents wouldn't stand in the way if the situation were reversed.)

If one of us were to wind up in the hospital, I'm not sure how that would work, whether we'd be able to see one another. Iowa City is about as gay-friendly as Iowa gets, which is why we like it here, but I'm unclear on whether or not there are any specific laws in place covering that situation, so I don't know how that would go. And there are a number of other things like that, things I haven't even thought of, that -- well, I mean, it's not like it keeps me up nights. But there's always that low-grade anxiety in the background. So it'd be nice to have that dealt with.

I don't know how optimistic to be about this decision. I don't really know the court in question, I haven't seen anything about how people think it's going to go, and I've had kind of a string of personal unpleasantness lately that either means I'm on a losing streak or that I'm due for a win, so either way it'll seem inevitable after the fact. I also don't have any direct control over the outcome, and I'm not willing to pretend that I do by praying, crossing fingers, thinking positive thoughts of my own or soliciting positive thoughts from others. Which is uncomfortable, obviously, but it's really not up to me, and I don't see any particular harm in acknowledging that.

I know straight couples have their anxieties too: what if something happens to the kids? What if one of us gets sick? Etc. But the laws acknowledge them as a unit, too. As far as the state of Iowa is concerned today, the husband and I are just kinda friends who have shared some expenses for a couple years, and I deserve as much say on his life and stuff as I did with those of my college roommates, which is to say, basically none. Will that still be the case tomorrow? I have no idea. I really don't. This is a really uncomfortable situation to be in, and, I submit, not one that a country which truly believed in equal treatment of its citizens, and permitting behavior which does not damage the liberty or property of another, should ever put its citizens in. That is, I think even if the decision tomorrow goes the way I would like, I think the fact that it even had to be decided by a court in the first place is fundamentally wrong.


Change the things I can, accept the things I can't, wisdom to know the difference, yada yada.

While we all wait, let's enjoy some music videos (Be warned: very few people will like all five):

Random plant event: Tillandsia NOID flower

It kind of amazes me how fast we go through Tillandsias. I mean, I can see why people would be interested, in theory, and WCW loves them, but honestly, WCW's tastes are not what you'd call mainstream, so the fact that regular customers like them too kind of surprises me.

Of course, I wonder about the long-term survival rate of the plants we sell. Maybe we sell so many because the same five rabidly devoted people keep killing theirs over and over, not because they have broad appeal. I.e. that they're cult plants, like the way that The Cure is a cult band or "Firefly" is a cult TV show.

I'm finding it hard to have a reaction to that thought.

Anyway. So we have another true-flowers moment:

Plant / context

Close-up of flowers.

Meanwhile, my cold is sort of dissipating: we're now at the stuffed-head, my-ears-crackle-when-I-swallow phase. This beats the pants off the it-burns-when-I-breathe, my-whole-face-is-dry-and-hot phase. I can even do similes again, as you all witnessed above with the cult-plant paragraph.

Though it may be a few days before they're good similes.

Also, a side-note: I am shamed to admit that the brown anole from the post a few days ago has escaped, and is now somewhere in the apartment. I'm even more shamed to admit that this was totally my fault, and it was in fact so blindingly stupid that I'm not going to tell you how it happened, because if I tell you, you will point and mock me.

I'm not sure what happens now. So far, there have been no sightings, and this was long enough ago that she could be, literally, anywhere in the apartment. The situation is something like living in a haunted house, in that I'm now expecting that, you know, I'll step groggily into the shower some morning and ANOLE! Or I'll slide under the covers on the bed and ANOLE! Or I'll open the door on the microwave and ANOLE! Though obviously she's not going to show up until after I've forgotten that I'm supposed to be looking for her.

But then, maybe it's more like living with a benevolent ancestor of some sort. I mean, if she's doing anything, she's got to be eating bugs for me, right? And I wouldn't necessarily ever see her doing it? Sort of quietly guiding the plants toward health and prosperity behind the scenes?

I don't know. I told you it'd be a while before the similes worked again. Meanwhile, I am shamed and congested.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pretty picture: Zantedeschia x 'Picasso'

Apologies in advance for whining (but isn't the calla lily in the picture pretty?), but I had a cold in early March, and as of about last Friday or Saturday, I have another one. Sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, fever, aches, etc. As I write this (Tuesday afternoon), I'm feeling like . . . like . . . well -- I feel bad (facility with simile is one of the first things to go, when I'm sick).

Anyway. So somewhere in the snot-dripping, fever-induced haze that was March, we had calla lilies. And one of them looked like this:

It was pretty. But then it sold. And now I'm going to take a nap.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random plant event: NOID succulent white flower

This work plant bloomed a few weeks ago, and I wasn't sure at the time what it was. Eventually I came up with a guess: I'm guessing it's an Aeonium of some sort. (Can someone confirm?) The flowers aren't anything to get too excited over, but they definitely look different than a lot of the other succulent flowers at work, so I figured I'd share.

The plant, for context and ID purposes.

The flower.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pretty picture: Calibrachoa 'Superbells Saffron'

Calibrachoa has been a problematic genus for us where I work, at least since I've been there. Last year, they all did okay up until a couple months into the season, where most of them suddenly and irreversibly yellowed (probably a mineral deficiency: iron was suspected but never proven). This year, we gave them a different fertilizer, on Younger Co-Worker's suggestion, one that had trace elements included (last year we were adding the trace elements ourselves, based on calculations from 2007, which obviously didn't work out right for some reason or another), and worked a slow-release iron product intended for lawns into the soil for the Calibrachoa and Petunia plugs.

And the, er, survivors look great, so that was a good idea too. But there was some confusion about how much of the slow-release product was supposed to go into the soil, on a day when I wasn't there, and so some of them got a lot more than they were supposed to and burned and died. So we have, now, a lot of some colors, and not so much of others, depending on who potted them up originally and how quickly the error was caught and the plants repotted.

But like I said: the survivors look great. (And the Petunias, which had similar yellowing problems last year, though not nearly as severe, look amazing: there's actually a lot of hand-wringing going on at the moment about how we're going to stunt their growth, because they're so huge and vigorous that we don't have room for them anymore, already, well before the gardening season even begins.)

So far, only the yellow Calibrachoa variety has bloomed, which is strange. These are marketed to us as being nearly interchangeable except for bloom color, but clearly the different varieties have different ancestries, with different ideas about timing and conditions and such. Not so much as a bud on the coral, red, blue, pink, or 'Tequila Sunrise' (a color-changing speckled variety which is variously orange, pink and yellow), but the yellow ones have been blooming for a couple weeks now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Work-related: Anolis sagrei

This little lady (pictured) is going to be going through some serious caffeine and sugar withdrawals in the next couple days. I found her in a garbage bag full of soda cans (long story), where presumably she'd been subsisting on drops of Pepsi since arriving in one of the tropicals on March 6.

We will probably be taking her to the city water treatment plant, where they have a terrarium set up in a lobby-like area (It's not quite a lobby. I don't know how to describe it any better than "lobby-like area."), which is where we took "pensive frog" over a year ago.

Some light Googling convinced me that this is a brown anole, Anolis sagrei, and a female one at that. We've seen one previously, but I didn't try to catch that one and it's probably dead now.

Or possibly this is the same lizard as that one, which would be weird. (Incidentally: I comment in the post about the previous lizard that I thought it was a little strange that it didn't try to save me 15% on my car insurance. The reason is that only geckos do that, and this is an anole. So it's nice to have an explanation for that, finally.)

Anyway. Brown anoles are an invasive species in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas and a few other places. They're native to the Bahamas, Cuba, and nearby islands, but have been introduced repeatedly and have a permanent population in Florida. In most of the areas where they've been introduced, they are the most abundant reptile species, which is more or less the reason why we get them accidentally shipped up to us in Iowa: there are just so many of them that they're everywhere, apparently.

Individuals live between 18 months and three years (this is debated fiercely in the anole-lifespan-measuring community -- which as you can imagine is small but close-knit), and my individual is about maximum size for a female so she probably, sadly, doesn't have that much longer to live.

Hopefully we can find her a nice retirement community somewhere soon, though.