Saturday, January 2, 2010

Saturday morning Nina picture

Nina stared through the cold, dirty window of her prison. If only she could escape and find her way back to Florida again, she and Felipe could be together. It seemed half her life had been spent trying to get back to him, to be back in his room-temperature, scaly embrace. Her bosom heaved at the memory: his head, flirtatiously bobbing atop the fence, the first shy unfurling of his throat fan. If only she could figure out how to defeat the magical, invisible force which confined her!

Her vision blurred with tears as she made herself a promise: the next time crickets were delivered, she'd make a break for it. But where to go from there? Florida and Felipe were far away, and it was far too cold for an unassisted anole to travel on her own.

Unless she learned how to drive. . . .


(Heh. Lizard bosoms.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Site-related: Top Sixteen PATSP Posts of 2009

I posted to PATSP 406 times in the year 2009, with slightly over 210,000 accompanying words. Which is crazy. For each one of those 406, or at least almost every single one, I thought at the time that it was kind of crap and could use some polishing, but upon review, some of them weren't that bad. Even if there are some things I'd want to change. (One of the up sides of committing myself to daily blog posts is that it means things actually get posted: if I didn't have the deadline coming up every day, I'd spend forever polishing and nothing would ever be published.)

Unlike basically everybody else, I waited to do my year-end lists until the year had actually, you know, ended. This was maybe a strategic error, since you're no doubt sick of year-end lists by now, but at least this way all the 2009 stuff had a fair shot at getting in. (The Genital-Eating Bears of Alberta, in case you're interested, missed it by that much.)

So these are sixteen posts that stand out to me as the better ones I did last year, or that were especially significant in some way, or whatever. I'm apparently at my best in July and October.

(Why sixteen, and not ten, like everybody else does? I dunno. Why do they all do ten, and not sixteen, like I do?)

16. Pretty picture: Petroselinum crispum (parsley) Coriandrum sativum (cilantro) flowers (20 July 2009) Sort of an odd choice, I suppose, but the photos turned out really well, and I was surprised by how attractive they were.

15. Random plant event: Anthurium 'Pandola' seeds sprouting (!) (2 October 2009) Mostly made the list because I never, ever, expected to see this happen for myself. Plus the jelly stuff is cool.

14. [Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part XII (21 May 2009) It's hard to pick one of the transmitted light sets as being superior to the others, since I try to keep them all approximately the same, but the Plumeria and Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Tilt-a-Whirl' pictures put set 12 above the others as far as I'm concerned.

13. Pretty picture: Crocus 'Pickwick' (26 January 2009) I'm inclined to say this is the prettiest pretty picture I took all year.

So I guess I kinda peaked early.

12. Fun With Plant Names (14 October 2009) "Who's on First?" for taxonomists.

11. Fictional Botany: Vestisperma acidophora (9 July 2009) Very probably the best Fictional Botany post I've done yet. Or at least the weirdest. I have ideas for a couple more, but haven't had time/motivation to work on them. Perhaps we'll get to those again in 2010. (I'd like to see more of the Historical Illustrations series too. So many ideas, so little time.)

10. Lawn Ornament: Metal Llama (23 July 2009) A lot of the better posts come about when the husband and I take road trips. I don't think the metal llama is quite cool enough to unseat the pink and blue Pegasus as the best yard art of all time, but it's certainly in the ballpark.

9. Houseplant Toxicity Series Part 4 (21 April 2009) A substantial portion of March and April 2009 was spent researching for the Houseplant Toxicity Series, and the resulting posts from April do generate a lot of my blog hits, even nine months later. I don't have any particular reason for choosing Part 4 over the others, except for the fact that Part 4 appears to be especially popular: it must address especially common plants or something.

8. Fun With Google Trends (22 October 2009) I like graphs.

7. Cleve Backster Part III: Implication (11 September 2009) It's hard to single out one of the Cleve Backster posts as being superior, because they all sort of require one another, but this post was the one where I address the part of Backsterism that really confuses me and that got me to write the series in the first place, so it's the one that required the most thinking, and consequently winds up being the one I'm proudest of. Even if it's not actually that well-written or thought out, which it may not be.

6. Work-related: Anolis sagrei (29 March 2009) Nina's very first PATSP appearance, before we even knew she was named Nina.

5. Nightclub Owner (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) (1 November 2009) Not the best year for plant profiles: between work, moving, and keeping all the plants watered, I didn't have as much time to work on them, and the profiles I did do tended to be enormous, research-heavy affairs besides. Still, this one is a favorite, because I learned a lot while doing it.

4. Mr_Subjunctive Explains Modern Retail Horticulture to a Time-Traveler From the Year 1860 (17 August 2009) Everybody likes Dr. Ketchum. Someday, there will be a sequel to this story, when Ketchum and I travel to the year 2160 (plus or minus two years), but don't hold your breath.

3. Personal-ish: Not everybody uses Twitter (1 July 2009) Another sentimental favorite. Goodness but a lot changed for me in 2009.

2. The Ghost Greenhouses of Cedar Rapids (1 September 2009) Melancholy, but also kinda neat, in a post-apocalyptic way.

1. Party Planner (Cordyline fruticosa) (15 January 2009) I think this might actually be my best plant profile ever, in terms of readability and completeness. It's also been very popular with Google.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Random plant event: Hoya lacunosa flower buds

I buy a lot of plants that can flower without ever necessarily expecting that they will flower. In fact, most of the plants I have here have earned a spot whether or not they ever produce flowers, because I like the leaves, or the habit, or something else.

That said, it's always nice when flowers happen anyway, as they have lately for Cyanotis kewensis, Hatiora salicornioides, Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Rain,' and Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial,' and it looks like Hoya lacunosa is next in line.

I don't really know what to expect from this; I've seen the flowers once before, at work (my plant is the descendant of cuttings from the work plant), but only briefly, because the plant sold shortly after flowering. They were light yellow and fuzzy. I hear the scent is kind of perfumey/floral. I suppose we'll find out. I only have two peduncles (short stems on which flowers appear) at the moment, but I haven't looked very thoroughly, either. Updates as events unfold.


Meanwhile, here we are again on New Year's Eve, which I've long appreciated in theory, as a holiday. In practice, it never seems to go all that well (my best holidays, statistically, are Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day), but I like the concept: unwrapping a shiny new year, hope for the future, heaving a crappy old year into the dumpster, yada yada.

I've not been that impressed with the quality of recent years: they have their moments, but clearly we've started buying the knockoffs, not the brand names. I mean, 2006 looked like it was made by a team of bonobos out of saran wrap, discolored felt and a glue gun. (The tag probably reads "YEAP.") 2009 was marginally better, but all the same, I think I'm due for a year that's actually good on its own merits, rather than just looking good by comparison to the other years. There's a good chance I'll get it: years ending in zero have been good for me in the past.

The husband and I will likely be staying up until midnight tonight, but we do that pretty much every night, so it's not something special for the day or anything. Hope everybody reading this has something more fun than that planned. And of course it goes without saying that I hope everybody has a good 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The dame said she had a case for me. I put down my glass, looked her over, and said, "It looks like a case of spider mites, lady, and you can keep it."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random plant event: Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Rain' flowering

Content advisory: post contains castration-related imagery which may be uncomfortable for male readers with vivid imaginations. I mean, I didn't think it was that bad, but you never know.

This is very possibly a delayed response to the plant room evacuation in early December, but this particular plant had already been having a bad month. I'd let it get excessively dry, so it wilted, and I was sure it would pick itself up, like it always had before, but it stayed bent over this time. And then the evacuation, and I tried to prop it up against a wall in the living room so it would un-bend -- which kind of worked -- but I'm wondering now if the wall wasn't too cold for it to be leaning up against.

So this may be less an "I'm happy, so I guess I'll use some of my abundant resources to make flowers and reproduce myself" and more of a "Oh my god he's finally going to do it; he's really going to kill me this time. I'd better throw everything into some flowers so that at least some of my genes might be able to go on."

(If you're interested in weird Dieffenbachia flowering strategies and are too new to PATSP to have seen the last post on this I did, I recommend checking it out.)

I should probably cut the inflorescence off, rather than letting it develop. The plant doesn't need to be wasting its time on this, especially since I know there's no chance of it getting pollinated. But I have a hard time doing that kind of thing: it seems so darn benign for the plant to do what it wants to do, even if I know it's in its best interests not to do it. This is why I would make a bad parent.

Not that it's in children's interests to have their genitals cut off, of course! Or at least not usually. It might be worth your time if it's a situation like there's a bear dragging your son into a cave, and the bear is holding your son by the genitals. Possibly then, you could argue that cutting off your son's genitals would be a good idea, 'cause then it would be easier to get your son away from the bear. Except it probably wouldn't be a great idea even then, cause if your ungenitaled son survived he would resent you for it later, and if he was really young during the bear attack, when he grew up and was a teenager he'd be all like, oh my god, you let a bear eat my genitals? You're the worst dad ever! and would probably be a real pain about it, and you'd be all like, I should have just let the damn bear drag you into the cave and eat you instead of trying to be a hero; I wouldn't have to listen to all this whining.

But now that I think about it, this situation would never arise for me in the first place because I don't carry a knife. And even if I did carry a knife, it probably wouldn't be sharp enough to do spur of the moment amputations with, 'cause how often do you need a surgical scalpel? I mean really need. A scalpel. Especially in the woods. I mean, it'd be really awkward to be standing there, you know, next to the bear's face, just sawing away for a long time 'cause your knife wasn't sharp enough. So probably I'd just let the bear eat the kid, perhaps while yelling and waving my arms around a lot. "Hey! You there! Bear! Stop attacking my son's genitals! If you want to!"

Do bears even attack children's genitals in the first place? I mean, you never see documentaries on Animal Planet about the Dread Genital-Eating Bears of Alberta or wherever. And if there were Dread Genital-Eating Bears of Alberta, I think I would have heard about them, because it's a safe bet that there would be documentaries. The documentaries would be titled, "Holy Shit! The Fucking Dread Genital-Eating Bears of Alberta!" and they'd be narrated by someone super-serious and manly, like Patrick Stewart, and macho straight American guys would go up to Alberta all the time in large drunken groups for the purpose of shooting bears in the face because they'd seen them on TV.

You know how it would go. One guy would be all, I bet those bears aren't so tough, and the next guy would be all, yeah, those guys were just pussies, and then somebody would say hey, why don't we go up to Alberta and shoot us some goddamned genital-eating bears? And if anybody thought that sounded like a bad idea, they'd get mocked for not being manly enough to go up to Alberta to shoot the genital-eating bears until finally they'd say, okay, okay, I'll go shoot bears with you, Jesus, y'all are such assholes. And they'd get up to Alberta and the bears would get them and that would then be the material used to make the next documentary.

I'm glad I don't feel compelled to prove my manhood all the time. It sounds exhausting.

But. What was I talking about?

Oh, right. Plants aren't children. And I would probably be a bad parent.


Pretty bad.

Though I would tell awesome bedtime stories.

Monday, December 28, 2009

[Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part XXIII

Just to get this out of the way: I apologize in advance for tomorrow's post. I free-associated, and the post kind of ran away and wound up joining the circus. You'll understand when you see it.

Meanwhile, we have some transmitted light photos again. We're not quite out of the crappy-photos period I mentioned back in Part XVIII, but this is approximately the end of it; the photos should be getting better from here on. And some of these aren't that bad, actually.

(The previous transmitted light posts can be found here.)

Nematanthus sp. I tried this one several times before I managed to get a focused, flare-free photo. There is definitely an argument to be made that maybe it wasn't worth all the effort.

Dieffenbachia 'Triumph,' or similar cv. This particular plant has a tendency to produce really white leaves that photograph really yellow (in fact, all my Dieffenbachia photos tend to come out more yellow than I expect them to); I don't know how to explain this. The picture here is more or less accurate color, but I had to tweak it a lot.

Pachypodium lamerei. Even more difficult to get than the Nematanthus post: Pachypodium leaves are extremely narrow. All things considered, I think this is worth being proud of, even if the end result does look quite a lot like the Ficus maclellandii photo in Part XX.

Fatsia japonica. This is from the extremely short-lived plant I bought last summer, that I found mealybugs on. I think Fatsias are really attractive, and kind of want to try again, but they're extremely hard to come by around here. When I have found one, they usually have spider mites. The one time I found one that didn't have detectable spider mites, it had mealybugs. The plant may not be worth the grief.

Aglaonema 'Jubilee.' Very different from how the plant looks under reflected light. This may be my favorite from this batch.

Neoregelia 'Ardie.' Perhaps a little too Mark Rothko. Not that I don't like Mark Rothko.

Aglaonema 'Gold Dust.' I think this one suffered from too strong of a back-light.

Vriesea splendens. The colors remind me of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Though this leaf, if turned into ice cream, would be more like chocolate ice cream with mint chips than the other way around. I bet I'd like it either way.

Dieffenbachia NOID. This is one of two Dieffenbachias I've had for three and a half years; I bought this one thinking it would be a huge variety, like 'Tropic Snow' or 'Tropic Rain,' and then I went to the next store and found a 'Tropic Rain' which was already big, and bought it, and was stuck with this one. It's never been huge, though it started producing much larger leaves after a well-timed hit of fertilizer, and I've come to like it in that way you can't help but like a plant that does well for you over a long period of time, even if it wasn't your first choice.

Anthurium "hookeri," Very new leaf. I think this is not how this plant is supposed to work, and the weird paleness of the leaf indicates something bad (probably inadequate light). But it makes for a pretty striking photo nevertheless.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Random plant event: Hatiora salicornioides flower

I was afraid that something would happen and all the buds would drop off, but I have at last seen a Hatiora salicornioides1 flower. And although I kind of expected to be disappointed, I really wasn't.

First, the plant in general, to show the scale, more or less. The individual segments of stem are roughly 3/4 inch to 1 inch long (1.9-2.5 cm), and the flower is about half an inch (1.3 cm) long.

And then the flower itself, which on some plants is orange, or yellow with orange tips, but my plant's flower is just yellow.

Though it's a much brighter yellow than I was expecting, from the photos I'd seen.

So far, I've only got one flower open, and another five or six buds, so it's perhaps not going to be a huge show. Too early to tell, really, since the websites mostly agree that flowering can happen throughout the winter and spring.

Not that I care particularly if it continues. I waited three years2 to see any flowers (and never actually expected to see one), so it seems downright ungrateful to complain that it's not a bigger show. We'll see how it progresses.


1 (Possibly Rhipsalis salicornioides: Wikipedia and Cactus Blog go with Rhipsalis, but,,, and all go with Hatiora, as has PATSP to date. Virtually every place that gives you one name will give the other one too, so it's not a controversy with a lot of real-world application.)
2 I bought the plant in question in March 2007.