Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

Nina sheds her skin a lot. Or at least I think she must -- I see it fairly often, and I figure it must happen occasionally when I don't see it, because it's always over really quickly when I do. I think anoles (and lizards generally) are supposed to eat their shed skin? It'd make sense: protein is hard to come by, and it'd be mostly protein.

Anyway. She's clearly a little shy about shedding in front of me, which her pose captures quite well. (Maybe I should buy her a little curtain?) I didn't notice the cricket hiding underneath her until I was flipping through the photos to choose the best one to post, but that's an interesting detail too. A cricket paparazzo looking to get some photos of Nina in mid-shed, perhaps?

I also hadn't noticed the crud on the glass. The stuff on the left is silicone, which is supposed to be there to seal the aquarium's corners, but the spots elsewhere are the usual hard-water spots. There doesn't appear to be a way to keep those from happening. Believe me, I've tried. So it doesn't wind up a pretty picture at all, but it's enough of a candid, day-in-the-life-of-Nina picture that I figured it was worth sharing anyway.

Friday, November 5, 2010

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

Today we bring Transmitted Light Week to a close, with a set that leans toward green-and-yellow combinations. I hope you enjoyed the week, but if you didn't, you will be relieved to learn that it probably won't happen again for a long time. It turns out to be really hard to come up different and interesting things to say about 60 pictures of plant veins, which is why only some of the commentary was different or interesting.

What did you think?

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

Agave lophantha. Not terribly interesting as a transmitted light picture, though you can see the slightly-lighter stripe down the center of the leaf, which I like. Undecided about how I like it as a houseplant; it's surviving fine under lights in the basement, but the new leaves are much longer. I don't know if that's because it's not getting as much light (bad), or because it's been divided and now the individual plants have more room to stretch out (good). I suppose I'll find out soon.

Eucharis grandiflora. Kind of looks like ripples on a pond, to me.

Neoregelia NOID. Most of this batch of photos wound up being too dark. I was still learning the camera. This one is also too dark, but it turned out okay: the subtle warping of the lines pleases me. The plant's doing well also, though I've cooled off quite a bit on Neoregelias in general, since the one got scale and a couple of the others have bloomed out and started to die.

Agave NOID. (Possibly a variegated cv. of A. desmettiana.) Whatever this plant is, I love it. It's probably going to get too big to keep indoors pretty soon (it's already noticeably bigger than it was when I bought it, and that wasn't that long ago), but it's got a gorgeous form and color (turquoise and yellow), and it seems to be tolerating the lower indoor light well. So it's got a place here as long as I can make it fit.

Schefflera actinophylla. My second favorite picture from the set.

Tradescantia pallida. I'm beginning to think that this is just an ungettable photo. I keep trying, but I never manage to capture the way it looks to me in person.

Peperomia clusiifolia 'Rainbow.' I've had this plant for a long time now (since January 2007), but I've never been able to bring back the vivid pink edges on the leaves it had when I bought it. Not enough light, obviously.

Epipremnum aureum 'Marble Queen.' Not yellow enough, on this one. I overcompensated. The plant this photo came from has mostly reverted to solid green, unfortunately, due to an extended period without much light.

Aglaonema 'Golden Bay.' Way too yellow, though if you didn't know that, it'd be a pretty decent photo. Still very happy with the plant; 'Golden Bay' is a good cultivar.

Aglaonema 'Cory.' This one's my favorite photo of the set, I think. I like when there are multiple layers of variegation visible.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

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

Mostly greens this time around, but they're interesting greens, with fairly distinct textures. But first, an uncompensated product endorsement.

The husband and I finished watching The Wire last night. For those who don't know, The Wire is an HBO series that ran from 2002 to 2008, and it's about, among other things, the drug trade, police department, city government, prisons, and school system of Baltimore, MD. And it's the real Baltimore: filmed on location, with lots of actors who are actually from Baltimore.

It's also the only show I've seen lately that's genuinely suspenseful, the only show that sets up rules about what can and cannot happen in this world and then sticks to them (I'm looking at you, Caprica), the only show with characters who seem like they could be real people and change in ways that real people might change, and some really fascinating things to say about American society, the War on [Some People Who Use] Drugs, politics, being a police officer, redemption (as well as fucking up), and a ton of other stuff.

Except not all boring and shit, like that made it sound.

Also, the realism and occasional bleakness mean that they can make some amazingly funny jokes sometimes. Seriously. You'll die. People have called it "the greatest television series ever made," and meant it. (Dunno about that, but it's surely got to be in the running.)

The Wire is not for you if you blanch at strong language, including but not limited to slurs relating to race and sexual orientation. (Though if that's a problem, you probably stopped reading a couple paragraphs ago.) You're also not going to like it if you have a problem with occasional nudity, simulated sex, drug use, or graphic and frequent violence.

It's also often very sad. Bad people don't always get what's coming to them; good people either. Also it's frequently very hard to tell the difference: this is not a show where everybody's either good or bad and they all have color-coded hats on at all times so you know who is who. You'll be amazed at some of the people you'll eventually feel sorry for.

The Wire is also frequently hard to follow: like most shows, they'll tell you what you need to know, but unlike most shows, they won't keep telling you and telling you to make sure you get it. (Closed captioning helps, as does watching with someone else.) But paying close attention pays off. Also, do yourself a favor and start watching from the beginning of season 1: we were getting DVDs from the library, but we missed some episodes in season 1 because some people hadn't returned the relevant discs yet, which made our experience more confusing than it had to be.

Anyway. If you're looking for more specific things about what the show's about or what it's like, you can check the Wikipedia page for the show; the above is just what I like about it. If you've heard nice things before and thought, oh, I should check that out sometime, this is me letting you know that you really, really should.

Anyway. On to the leaves.

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

Rubus sp. Good leaf, but bad photo. With a lot of these, I was taping them to the light on Nina's terrarium and then taking pictures that way (It's easier to keep the leaf still when it's unable to move.), and this one apparently caught more of a shadow than I intended.

Plantago major. I'd been curious about what broadleaf plantain would look like by transmitted light for a while before I actually got around to doing it. It's one of my favorite weeds, going back to when I was a kid. The photo, obviously, was disappointing. These things happen.

Vitis sp. Surprisingly similar to the Rubus picture, just in a different color. Which I guess is kind of cool?

Trifolium pratense. My favorite picture from this set, for reasons I don't quite understand. I like the plant quite a bit, too, as far as that goes.

Begonia NOID, possibly 'Texas Coffee Star.' I've done this plant before, but this wound up being a slightly better picture than the previous one.

Aspidistra elatior. So far, this is working out much better for me than A. lurida ever did; it hasn't been that much time, and it's not growing very fast, or at all, but I'll still be ecstatic with the plant if it makes it through the winter. Wish me luck.

Musa x 'Cheeka.' Picture's pretty cool, but this was a really bad purchase. Although the plant is still alive, it's not happy: each new leaf is smaller than the one before, and it's gotten better-than-usual care, by my standards -- more light, more warmth, more fertilizer -- so it shouldn't be complaining the way it is. We won't be trying any Musa or Ensete species again. At least not unless something big changes around here.

Asclepias syriaca. Was not expecting the common milkweed to have so much going on, vein-wise.

Abutilon 'Bella Red,' petals. The color is wrong here; it's a lot less orange than this, really. I blame the camera.

Ficus elastica 'Tineke.' (ID uncertain; there are lots of variegated Ficus elastica varieties out there.) Also too orange. I don't know how many pictures of this species I've tried, but I don't think I've been happy with one yet. I blame myself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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

Five green pictures, five orange pictures.

As I write this, I have no idea how yesterday's election went, but the odds are that I was pleasantly surprised by something and unpleasantly surprised by something else. Since bad news always hits me harder than good, this means I'm probably in a bad mood today. I mean, I saw a "vote no on retention of activist judges" sign1 yesterday in someone's yard while walking Sheba, and it ruined a good chunk of my late morning / early afternoon. And that was just one guy. So today is probably not a good day for me. Be gentle.

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

Persea americana. We started a couple avocado trees from seed during the winter, less because I had a burning desire to grow avocados than because the husband likes to eat them. One is doing pretty well; I'm having trouble communicating with the other. I pinch it, it grows back one replacement growing tip. I pinch that tip, and it grows one replacement. The first plant understood that it was supposed to branch; I'm not sure why the second one is having such a hard time with the idea.

Unknown Cirsium sp. I was more certain about IDing this as a Cirsium then than I am now.

Salvia elegans, dead(ish) leaf. Arguably closer to pink than to orange, but whatever. When I first put the Salvia elegans outside last spring, some of the leaves turned weird colors from the cold. This is one of those. Not really pretty, exactly, but it's something I didn't know this plant could do.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Rustic Orange.' Not especially pretty, but I think the irregular red spots on the underside of the leaf were odd enough to call your attention to.

Populus deltoides. Fairly similar to yesterday's Liriodendron tulipifera photo.

Ambrosia trifida. Probably the prettiest ragweed-related photo you're going to see all month. Lucky you!

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana.' Pretty much what you'd expect it to look like, I suppose. The main motivation for taking the picture was that this is a plant we cut back, and the newly-sprouting leaves, once they reached full-size again, looked very pretty.

Malus sp. My favorite from this batch. For some reason, I even kind of dig the blurry bits on the sides.

Zingiber malaysianum. The range of colors I get out of this plant continues to please me. I wish there were some way to do them all at once.

Heuchera 'Venus.' I prefer this to yesterday's Heuchera photo, though not by a lot. There are some very nice Heuchera varieties that are really plain by transmitted light; this isn't one of them.


1 (Translation for non-Iowans: "How dare the Iowa Supreme Court try to tell me f*gg*ts are people!")

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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

Transmitted Light Week continues!

I think I may be self-sabotaging: on yesterday's walk with Sheba, I wound up collecting several dead leaves. Brought them home, and then spent half an hour or so taping them to the kitchen window, getting pictures, and pulling them down. I think I probably got enough photos yesterday that I technically lost ground. (I may have gone a little nuts with the oaks.) But oh well. I'll still be ahead for the week.

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

Iris cv. There seems to be some kind of mathematical pattern to how lit up the different veins are, but I can't quite figure out what it is.

Rheum sp. Whatever. A lot of transmitted light photos wind up looking like this.

Acer platanoides key, red cv. This seemed like a good idea at the time, though now that I look at it again, six months later, I'm not sure I like it. In person, it was very pretty, though. I guess the camera didn't capture what I was hoping to capture.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum (?) 'Spicy Dog.' From the venation, I think it probably is either P. bipinnatifidum or a hybrid of something with P. bipinnatifidum: it looks very much the same, except that P. bipinnatifidum's leaves are more deeply split. The plant is growing fine for me inside, though it's getting to the point where I think I'm going to have to find it another spot already: it's gotten big fast.

Iresine herbstii 'Blazin' Rose.' I like this photo better than the Iresine picture from Sunday.

Unknown Spiraea cv. I wouldn't have had any idea on the ID for this plant had it not been flowering when I took the picture. Very pleased with how it turned out: this is probably my favorite from the batch.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Tilt a Whirl.' I'm surprised at how similar this is to the last 'Tilt a Whirl' picture I took, a long time ago.

Liriodendron tulipifera. The full-size photo is nice. I was really excited about tulip trees this spring, when they were blooming, and even though we don't actually want to plant a lot of trees in back ('cause I want whatever sunlight we can get for the plants inside; it's bad enough having the maple out there blocking a lot of the afternoon light), I thought about trying to get one of these. Then I found out they get to be 120 feet tall (eventually) and have a tendency to fall apart in high winds, and I gave up on that plan.

Heuchera 'Green Spice.' I feel like I ought to like this one better than I do. I mean, the texture is interesting, it's in focus, there are interesting shapes. I think I must be having trouble with the color combination. Not a big fan of mustard yellow and brown.

Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer,' petal. Probably Schlumbergera petals are too small to do this effectively, but at last it's a nice, bright color.

Monday, November 1, 2010

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

Okay. Well. The "good" stress is over now, I think/hope, so now we're just waiting to see what's going to happen from it. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get some plants watered and some blog posts written, so I can make the time to have a small nervous breakdown later. (It's possible that I've had a nervous breakdown already, on Friday and Saturday, but you can never have too many, right?)

Meanwhile, Transmitted Light Week rumbles along with another batch of ten pictures.

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

Lycoris squamigera ("naked ladies"). Plain though the picture is, I kind of like this one. I like the plant, too, though the flowers I saw around town this year didn't look very good, compared to my memory of 2009. Perhaps they don't do as well in wet years?

Juglans sp.? I'm not sure on this one, because there are several trees around here with odd-pinnate leaves, and although I can tell that they aren't all the same, I've never been able to figure out how many there are or how to tell them apart. This was growing in someone's yard, so a walnut tree seems like a reasonable guess, and it's a very new leaf, so there isn't much to go on for an ID anyway. And it's not like it was that great of a photo to begin with, so why are we even talking about this?

Salvia elegans. Now that we've had a hard freeze, all the plants I stuck in the back yard have died, so I'm hoping that I can get a post together about the progression of the blooming. Some of this is just for my own curiosity about when it was actually at its peak, and some of it is that I took pictures every two or three days for weeks and I'll be damned if I'm not going to get something for all that effort.

Plectranthus amboinicus. If you tilt your head to the right, there's a Christmas tree in this picture. Or at least I see one.

Hosta NOID. In case you didn't believe me about these pictures being from the spring, I think this photos should convince you. When's the last time you saw a Hosta leaf that wasn't all ragged from wind and holey from slugs? Was it spring?

Syringa vulgaris. Probably my second-favorite photo from this batch. Also further evidence of spring photo-taking.

Nematanthus cv. These always look like they'd be perfect for transmitted light photos when the sun hits them right, but the leaves are so small that I can never get very good pictures out of them.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Henna.' Not a variety I'm terribly familiar with; we didn't carry it when I was working in the garden center. The photo doesn't do much for me.

Colocasia 'Coffee Cups.' This was an unusually difficult picture to get; the camera wouldn't focus on it properly. I like the color I wound up with, but I've seen (and taken) much better photos of Colocasias before.

Calathea makoyana. My favorite from the set, which I suppose is sort of predictable: plants in the maranta family (Marantaceae) are terribly photogenic in general. Less predictably, I've had the plant for six months now, and it's still alive. It's had spider mites once already, and the new leaves aren't very big, but with Calatheas, technically alive is accomplishment enough.