Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music Video: Norwegian Recycling "Singularity" (Travis / Iyaz / Kelly Clarkson / Oasis / Christina Aguilera / No Doubt)

I'm not positive the embedding is going to work here; the first couple times I tried it, the video didn't show up in preview. (Here is the link to YouTube, if it doesn't work.)

This one is unusual because 1) A lot of people have heard it already (the video has 280,000 views), and 2) It's pretty. "Pretty" isn't a quality one normally finds in mashups (I can think of a few others; "Building an Enigma" comes to mind [UPDATE: Sorry, the link to "Building an Enigma" was broken shortly after I posted this. It's Sarah McLachlan / Enigma, if you want to try to search for it.], as does DJ Earworm's 2008 United State of Pop, at least in places), and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's harder to do?

Anyway. I got very excited about Norwegian Recycling when I heard this, hunted all over the internet for more of his stuff,1 downloaded a shit-ton of it, and then was quietly disappointed. It's not that the other stuff is bad -- it may yet grow on me, actually, and I like "Miracles" (which also probably counts as "pretty") well enough2 -- but it all sounds very much the same, somehow. Maybe I just haven't listened to them enough yet. I don't know. In any case, this is easily my favorite of the songs he's done.


1 Why is it always "his?" Where are the female mashup artists? I know there have to be some out there somewhere. 1000 PATSP points to anybody who can point me to one. (PATSP points are not redeemable for cash, goods or services.)
2 Actually, more people seem to like "Miracles" than "Singularity;" "Miracles" has over a million hits. I think "Singularity" is the better composition, though. Some of that is because I get all itchy whenever I hear the word "miracle" that many times in a non-mayonnaise context.

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

On either Wednesday or Thursday this week, I got up, let Sheba out of her crate, drank coffee for a while, and then went into the plant room and found a small pile of greenish vomit with leaf chunks in it. This much has happened before, usually when I'm watering, and I've been assuming that she was just picking up dead leaves that had fallen on the floor as the plants got moved around, and the leaves in question were usually safe stuff like Pilea and Nematanthus, so I didn't worry about it much. But in this case, I hadn't been watering yet, and these leaves were awfully green. Investigation of the plant room turned up a Yucca guatemalensis with some recently-torn leaves.

Obviously nothing happened, and she's okay, but it was still alarming. She's never acted particularly interested in the plants before (though the Beaucarnea on a low shelf in the plant room has tipped over, repeatedly, under suspicious circumstances). I don't know what would have changed.

The husband noted that she hasn't been able to eat grass lately, like she used to do a lot, because the grass is all dead and/or under snow, and I suppose Yucca would sort of resemble grass (especially this particular plant, which is a couple cut-back canes that resprouted two weak little baby shoots). I guess if throwing up was the point, then it worked the same as grass, too. And the Beaucarnea also looks grassy, barely, so we might have an explanation for those cases as well. But that all sort of begs the question of why the sudden need to eat grass in the first place. It's not like her diet's changed.

Anyway. So it looks like maybe it's time to go spray everything with the bitter-apple stuff again. I feel sort of silly doing it, because it'll wash right off again the next time I water, but if she needs the reminder, then I suppose I will anyway.

Meanwhile: picture of Nina beginning to shed (you can sort of see in the picture that the area behind her head, and around her left front foot, is a little lighter than the rest of her skin). She sheds her skin all the time, but I don't usually notice until it's well underway.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music Video: DJ Lobsterdust "Knock Out Eileen" (LL Cool J / Dexys Midnight Runners mashup)

I'm not sure what to say about this one. It's another mashup that's maybe not so much good as it is surprising. But hey. Maybe you're in the mood for surprising?

Pretty picture: Buddleia NOID with Vanessa atalanta

Another out-of-season photo (this is dated 28 August), because I'm kind of at a loss for ideas and the plants here have abruptly stopped being interesting. (The Peperomia pereskiifolia is blooming, but if you've ever seen Peperomia inflorescences, you'll understand why I didn't think that was exciting enough news to turn into a post.) But everybody likes butterflies.

Everybody except the Moth Supremacists, anyway.

I also have a wee bit of news, which is that Wallace's Garden Center, in Bettendorf, IA, is in fact going to do the Orchid Show thing again this year, on March 12 and 13. I'm planning to be there on the 12th, so if you live in the vicinity and go on the 12th too, then we could both be in the same building at once. Which is exciting enough on its own, but of course if we told one another how to recognize us, then we could also meet and talk about the orchids as well. We could have conversations like,

"Did you see this one over here that I can't pronounce?"
"I did! I couldn't pronounce it either!"
"Yes. It is very unpronounceable."
"Pretty, though."
"Oh yeah, sure, pretty. Definitely."

I don't know whether there are actually that many people reading PATSP who live in the area, or, if there are PATSP readers in the area, whether any of them would find being in my vicinity and having conversations about verifying the viewing of orchids particularly exciting. But this would be the time to start making plans, if anyone is close enough to the Quad Cities to think this sounds like a good idea. (If we planned it well, we could hit the QCBC before or after, too.) E-mail if you are so moved, and we'll make plans to make plans.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Botanical Taxonomist's Junk Drawer

The spreadsheet I use as the master census for all my indoor plants has a column for the family of each plant. Most of the time, filling it in is straightforward. Stenocereus is in the Cactaceae. Vriesea is in the Bromeliaceae. Phalaenopsis is in the Orchidaceae. However: a fairly large subset of plants were problematic, when it came to determining family affiliation, because the usual sources of information didn't agree.

Aloe vera.

For example: is Aloe vera in the Asphodelaceae, as Wikipedia claims, or should I go with and put it in the Aloaceae? Or maybe GRIN and Tropicos are more authoritative, in which case I should put it in the Xanthorrhoeaceae. Or maybe the old cactus and succulents book I bought at a secondhand store a few weeks ago should be considered, in which case there is a case to make for the Liliaceae. Without a compelling reason to take one source over the others,1 I was left to guess, or go with the first one I encountered, or whatever.

And this scenario happened over and over and over, see below.2
  • Dracaena: Ruscaceae, Ruscaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae
  • Agave: Agavaceae, Agavaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae, Amaryllidaceae
  • Chlorophytum: Agavaceae, Liliaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae
  • Sansevieria: Ruscaceae and Agavaceae, somehow; Ruscaceae; Asparagaceae; Asparagaceae
  • Haworthia: Asphodelaceae, Aloaceae, Xanthorrhoeaceae, Xanthorrhoeaceae, Liliaceae
  • Cordyline: Agavaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae
  • Aspidistra: Ruscaceae, Ruscaceae, Asparagaceae, Asparagaceae
  • Beaucarnea: Ruscaceae, Ruscaceae, Asparagaceae, Liliaceae

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonglow.'

Which is discouraging, if you like to know how your houseplants are related to one another.

But then, a couple weeks ago, The Phytophactor (whom you should really be reading, by the way) posted a link to The Plant List, an on-line database of plant names. TPL isn't the only database on-line that includes the obsolete names, but it does appear to be up-to-date,3 and it's the only one I know of that's been endorsed by the Phactor, as he calls himself sometimes, so, you know, whatever the hell. So I looked up every genus of plant I've got, checking to see that I had the right family written down, and -- hold on to your mind securely, now, because I am going to BLOW IT4 -- every single one of the cases I was unsure about, according to TPL, belongs in the Asparagaceae.

Aloe? Asparagaceae.

Dracaena? Asparagaceae.

Aspidistra, Haworthia, Aloe, Beaucarnea, Agave, Sansevieria, Chlorophytum? All Asparagaceae.

Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi.'

Now. There's no particular reason to believe that TPL is more right about this than Tropicos, or GRIN. There may in fact not even be a way to be right about this at the moment, given that taxonomy is normally a somewhat fluid science, and this has only gotten worse lately, with the arrival of cheaper gene sequencing and all the close genetic analysis it permits. But one will notice that TPL's Asparagaceae-as-junk-drawer policy has one big advantage over Tropicos and GRIN, which is that it's really, really simple. Faced with a dauntingly huge number of unclassified or ambiguously-classified plants, one can take fifteen minutes or so to put them all in the Asparagaceae and then take the whole department out for drinks for the rest of the day. Which is why I'm happy to ignore the possible existence of (for example) the Xanthorrhoeaceae, which is sickeningly difficult to type anyway,5 and follow their lead. If taxonomic consensus changes later, as it surely will, well, at least I know I didn't waste a lot of time learning useless information.6

So if you're ever in a situation where you have to name a houseplant's family, and you have no idea -- which, okay, I can't think of any plausible scenarios when that might happen, but you never know -- guess the Asparagaceae. Everybody else is.


1 Okay, it's not that tough of a decision: GRIN and Tropicos are the best bets, because Wikipedia and collect their information from their users, and one hopes that GRIN and Tropicos have higher standards than that. And the book, being from 1958, doesn't really have a chance of being correct. But still -- unless I'd heard otherwise at some point, I used to assume that family assignments were fairly solid, and that information from one source ought to agree with information from the others, so frequently I only looked at one source and went with whatever it said. So in a lot of cases I didn't know what GRIN and Tropicos said.
2 (In order, references are: Wiki, dave, GRIN, Tropicos. When there's a fifth, it's the 1958 book.)
3 Mostly I'm assuming it's up to date because it includes such personal bugbears as the reclassification of Dracaena marginata as Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia, which is so obviously wrong that I refuse to accept it, and I am confident that future taxonomists are going to back me up on this one. Sadly, the more plausible substitution of Dracaena fragrans for D. deremensis is there too: I'm reluctant to give up the name D. deremensis.
4 Original source of this line: Sady Doyle. Ordinarily I wouldn't give credit, but ordinarily I'd try harder to change the line to make it my own, too. Also I think Sady is awesome.
5 Seriously, like two thirds of the name is "aceacaceaeceae." How are my fingers supposed to keep that straight? I suppose at least I can be grateful that I'll probably never have to prounounce it.
6 For the record, I'm not actually accusing TPL of being lazy. I'm sure they have their reasons for classing all these together, which are all scientifically-based and everything. I'm agreeing out of laziness, though.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music Video: Titus Jones "Good Girls Burn Miami" (Sean Kingston / Cobra Starship / Shakira / Lady Gaga / LMFAO mashup)

Another thumpy/throbby club-type mix, like "I Wanna Bulletproof Dancer." I like "Dancer" better, but "Good Girls" has going for it that it's sort of made me okay with Sean Kingston, who I took an extreme and irrational dislike to when "Beautiful Girls" was on the radio all the time. (It was lunge-at-the-dashboard-if-the-first-two-notes-came-on-the-car-radio kind of dislike. I still feel that way about that song, but at least the disgust no longer bleeds over to Kingston's entire repertoire and makes me want to scratch out his eyes with potato peelers and stuff.1) The Shakira helps.


1 I don't knoooooooow. I don't! I just hated the song the first time I heard it, and ever after. At least some of this has to do with feeling like it was trivializing depression, but that makes it sound like I had reasons, which I really don't think I did. Maybe some long-repressed childhood trauma involving a similar-sounding song. I don't know. For obvious reasons, I've never listened carefully to "Beautiful Girls" to see whether I could figure out the problem.

Random plant event: Dendrobium keiki

I was worried at first that this meant that the plant was upset with me about something, or that it was giving me a keiki instead of flowers, but what I found on-line seemed to be suggesting that although a Phalaenopsis producing keiki might have a backhanded, passive-aggressive meaning like that, Dendrobiums don't necessarily mean anything by it: it's just something they do from time to time. Which, if that's the case, then I'm happy for the opportunity to propagate, I guess. Can anybody confirm or refute?

I also don't know which of my two Dendrobiums this is, 'Karen' or "Humphrey Bogart." They're in different media, but at some point I lost track of which was in fir bark and which was in coir. I'm about 60% sure this is 'Karen.' I'd have preferred to propagate "Humphrey Bogart," given the choice.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Music Video: 10000 Spoons "Precious Bleeding Love" (Depeche Mode / Leona Lewis mashup)

As I sort of hinted at last Saturday, I think a lot of the reason I find mashups interesting and worth listening to is that a good one can make me like a song I previously hated.1 There's one mash-up out there that actually sort of makes me feel warmly about Journey. (You're not going to find it at PATSP, though, because anything with that kind of destructive potential needs to be tightly restricted. Obviously.)

I didn't necessarily hate Leona Lewis, but the song sounded kinda dumb to me the first time I heard it. And it didn't help that I misheard "keep bleeding" as "keep breathing," the first time, which was just confusing.2 Put her in front of a Depeche Mode song I already really liked, though, and suddenly I like the lyrics just fine. So I'm forced to conclude that I'm mostly interested in the particular palette of instruments playing behind the singer, not what he or she is saying, even though I'd always thought I mostly cared about the words. Better to find this out sooner rather than later, I suppose.


1 Or at least that's the right-brain reason: the left-brain reason is that I am continually amazed that pop music is so interchangeable, that so many songs change chords at the same moments, that so many have the same structure, that it's all so homogeneous. Even songs that sound like they have weird chord progressions, like Nirvana's "Lithium" or Beyonce's "Single Ladies," seem to fit right in with everything else. Somehow, this manages to surprise me every time.
2 I also heard "Baby, this time I'll be bulletproof," in La Roux's "Bulletproof," as "Maybe this time I'll be bulletproof," which changing that one consonant sound makes it a very different, and much more depressing, song. In my defense, I don't think she's enunciating very well.
I also always mishear Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," though: I always hear "It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" as "It doesn't make a difference if we're naked or not." That's the only reason I like the song at all, and it makes no sense unless you know how I'm interpreting that line.

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

There's probably a name for the condition of having writer's block, but having it with everything you try to do, not just writing. I don't know what the term would be, but I lived the experience all day yesterday (Monday). Couldn't bring myself to water, couldn't get anywhere writing the blog, mildly depressed (the AdSense decision factored into this, but I don't think it was the main cause), couldn't even manage to take a nap. In the end, I wound up on the couch, watching Beavis and Butthead Do America, which is my emergency self-treatment of choice for depression. It worked, in that it cheered me up (it always does; that's why it's the treatment of last resort. It'd be the treatment of first resort, but I'm afraid overuse would decrease the potency, so Beavis and Butthead only get brought out in extreme situations, maybe once or twice a year), but it didn't make me any more able to get anything done.

Which is why we have transmitted light photos again. Although I traditionally try to come up with a comment about each photo individually, I'm going to stop doing that unless I can think of something worthwhile to say: not only does this save me time writing, it also saves me the agony of trying to come up with something clever (or interesting (or even remotely connected)).

For this particular batch, with one pink exception, we have a green-or-orange thing going on. Hope you like.

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

Homalomena 'Perma Press.' It's turned out to be a less-terrible houseplant than I was expecting, from my experiences with H. 'Emerald Gem.' The main problem is that it wants to be really, really big, so all the petioles are bent and twisted because I don't have a spot where they can extend themselves the full two feet that they want.

Neoregelia NOID. It's really, you know. Pink.

Anthurium andraeanum cv. I don't know what happened to cause the water-soaked patches here: I didn't do anything to the leaf as far as I know, and although it's happened before, it's pretty rare. But it makes for a more interesting Anthurium photo than usual.

Ficus benjamina 'Midnight.'

Hemerocallis NOID, flower petal.

Syngonium wendlandii. Bad photo, but it's a good plant. I'm happier with my S. wendlandii than I have been with any of the S. podophyllums, amazingly enough.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID (most likely 'Petra.').

Zingiber malaysianum.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Splish Splash.' Tied for my favorite picture from this batch.

Canna 'Tropicanna.' The other picture that's tied for favorite. Less dramatic than the previous Canna photo, but arguably that works in its favor. The other one was pretty intense.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Unfinished business: Ads

Okay, well, raise your hand if you're shocked:


Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate the additional information you've provided, as well as your continued interest in the AdSense program. However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we're unable to reinstate your AdSense account.

As a reminder, if you have any questions or concerns about your account, the actions we've taken, or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting


The Google AdSense Team

This was particularly delightful because it was the very first thing I got to read this morning when I got up. Nothing like starting off the day with a hot cup of coffee and an enormously powerful multinational corporation telling you to go to hell.

So if you're thinking about signing up for AdSense, you should maybe take into consideration that they don't have to give you the money. In fact, since they don't even check to see that you're following the rules until you've got $100 in clicks, you get the added cruelty of getting to watch the amount slowly increase, over however many weeks or months that takes, and anticipating the money and looking forward to it, and then they take it away because you've broken the rules that, apparently, are impossible not to break. I don't know how the people who do get AdSense checks manage to do it, but I suspect my mistake was in posting about having the ads and drawing attention to them. Like, the first rule of AdSense is, you don't talk about AdSense. Maybe not. Apparently I'm never going to know.

Random plant event: Breynia disticha cuttings rooted

Okay, well, I knew I was being optimistic about how long the Persea americana profile was going to take to write, but apparently I was even being optimistic about how optimistic I was being (Optimism: it's a slippery slope, kids.), because that's not anywhere near happening. (UPDATE: It's done.) Also, when I set up this schedule, I didn't know that the in-laws would be visiting on Saturday, so that complicated things too.

The point being that I don't have much for you today, because I haven't had much time to work, and what time I have worked was spent on a profile which is nowhere near completed, so this might not be my most interesting week. Similarly, if I owe you an e-mail or you've donated via PayPal, it could be a while before I get back to you. For which I apologize abjectly, of course.

The plant-related content today has to do with my trying to propagate my Breynia disticha. It's not so much that I wanted or needed more of them; I was just unhappy with the way my plant was getting taller without really getting any bushier, and was hoping to cut it back to induce branching. Which, when you cut back a plant, you're left with pieces of plant, and as long as I had the pieces I figured I'd try to propagate. So I put some damp vermiculite in a cup, stuck the Breynia pieces in, taped another cup over the top, and waited. And behold! Roots!

And actually it didn't take long to see new leaves and roots. I don't remember any of the dates in question, but it couldn't have taken more than two months. That is more or less in line with what everybody says about Breynia as a weedy ornamental in semitropical climates like South Florida: the page on it includes many, many people complaining about the suckers and seedlings. The plant wants to reproduce very badly.

It's less enthusiastic about growing, at least indoors. My plant has been with me for roughly two and a half years (since October 2008), and I haven't always been able to keep it as wet as it would prefer. It drops leaves when it gets too dry. But it's been a robust grower and is mostly pest-free (there have been occasional minor problems with spider mites), plus it turns out to propagate readily, so I expect it to be around for at least another couple years.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, January 2011

Last year around this time, I got upset about the number of GBBD participants who were bemoaning the lack of blooms in January, as though houseplants were never invented. And I still, as far as it goes, don't have much sympathy for those people, 'cause it's not like indoor plants are some big secret or highly technical thing nobody knows about. Why, there are even entire blogs devoted to them! But: on the theory that you catch more flies with honey,1 I have decided to lead by example instead, and try showing the uninitiated masses that flowers in January are not only conceivable, but nigh inevitable, even in cold climates, under certain circumstances.

Will anyone decide to give houseplants a try because of this post? Oh, probably not. But it feels more productive than waving my arms and shouting at people again. And it's less douchey. Better to light a candle than to curse the damn darkness. Also it seems like I have sort of a responsibility, as an intense indoor gardener person, to provide flower photos for all the deprived outdoor-only people at this time of year. So here we are.

The photos were all taken on January 11, not January 15, which I don't know the precise rules of the GBBD but I'm hoping that that won't get me thrown out or put in stocks or anything. If I didn't start a little early, I wouldn't be able to post at all -- photo-heavy posts take a long time to write. (This one took me most of last Wednesday.) Anyway. Here's everything that's blooming at the moment in the Subjunctive Botanical Gardens.

Anthurium 'Pandola.'

The biggest group of bloomers right now is probably the Anthuriums, partly because they bloom readily for me and partly because the blooms last a ridiculously long time.

Anthurium NOID. (background: Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime' and 'Malaika.')

Anthurium 'White Gemini.'

Anthurium 'Gemini.'

Anthurium 'Florida.'

Anthurium 'Orange Hot.'

Anthurium NOID.

Anthurium 'Pacora.'

The Pileas bloom off and on throughout the year, but especially in the winter. They're not hugely ornamental, but they're still flowers, so they count.

Pilea 'Moon Valley.'

A handful of succulents are flowering at the moment too.

Euphorbia milii.

Kalanchoe millotii.

Echeveria coccinea.

The white NOID Schlumbergera I bought a little while ago dropped almost all of the buds it had left, but one held on and opened last week anyway.

Schlumbergera NOID.

The big peace lily blooms for me at very irregular intervals, though the flowers are usually very short-lived. Feeding tends to bring on blooms, though it's never guaranteed.

Spathiphyllum NOID, possibly 'Mauna Loa' or 'Sensation.'

The Murraya paniculata had stopped flowering for a month, month and a half recently. I gave it some fertilizer with micronutrients two waterings ago, and it responded with a huge flush of new buds. The micronutrients thing seems to be extremely important for Murraya.

Murraya paniculata.

While we're talking about fertilizer producing flowers, I suppose I should tell you that Abutilons will stop flowering if they run out of fertilizer. It's almost like a switch gets thrown; it's weird. But pour some Osmocote on the soil and in a couple weeks you'll never know it had stopped. They're admirably direct that way.

Abutilon 'Bella Pink.'

Abutilon 'Bella Red.'

Abutilon 'Bella Vanilla.'

Lastly, the gesneriads are starting to step up. Nematanthus usually gets excited at this time of year:

Nematanthus NOID.

And although it's technically too early to count as a flower, the developing buds on N. 'Tropicana' are sort of pretty in their own right.

Nematanthus 'Tropicana.'

I had thought that the Aeschynanthus speciosus was finished for the year, once it stopped flowering a few months ago, but it surprised me by producing one last batch of flowers.

Aeschynanthus speciosus.

I don't think my old NOID African violet has been flowerless in more than a year now.

Saintpaulia NOID.

And the just-purchased Saintpaulia 'Shimmer Shake' is pumping out blooms like crazy; it didn't take it that long to do, so I'm puzzled as to why it ever stopped in the greenhouse where I bought it.

Saintpaulia 'Shimmer Shake.'

And finally, Episcia 'Coco' has almost been in continuous bloom since it arrived. I've gotten two other Episcias that haven't yet, and I'm not sure why not, though they're probably in less light. Maybe that's all the explanation one needs.

Episcia 'Coco.'

I didn't count: the two recently-purchased orchids that still have blooms on them, because I didn't do anything to cause those blooms to happen so I don't feel I should get credit for them.2 I also didn't count the Hoya lacunosa (just buds at the moment) or the H. lacunosa 'Royal Flush' (ditto). The Hoya polyneura seems confused at the moment about whether or not it wants to flower: the buds I talked about a while ago are still present, but they don't seem to be getting any larger. One of the Spathiphyllums technically has a flower, but it didn't get photographed because the flower appeared a long time ago and is all but dead now.

Even so, that's 23 1/2 flowers, in more or less presentable shape, which appeared spontaneously, in mid-January, in Iowa.


1 The full saying is "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." It's not actually true, of course (additional evidence), but then folk wisdom often isn't. I suggest the revision, "you catch more frat boys with free beer and strippers than with warm flat 7-Up and trigonometry." Though that's longer to say. And begs the question of why anyone would want to catch frat boys in the first place (but then, nobody ever gives a reason for wanting to catch flies, either). At least it's got the advantage of being true.
2 Yes, I counted the Schlumbergera, which already had the buds on it when I bought it, but I think I should get some credit for it, since the overwhelming majority of buds on that plant dropped off.