Thursday, March 12, 2009

Well, crap.

A week and a half ago, in a post called "Coming Attractions," I made reference to something so super-cool that I couldn't even tell you what it was. Well. Um.

What it was, was a digital microscope, which I am sorry to inform you turned out to be kind of a piece of crap. The basic idea sounded good. There are all kinds of interesting things that I'm sure would be even more dramatic at a micro scale:

the stomata of a Ficus elastica leaf!

by the growth of a Saintpaulia shoot from a leaf cutting!

at the texture of a Gynura aurantiaca!

in terror as the true hideousness of a spider mite is revealed!)

However, this particular one had pretty crappy image quality, I couldn't get it to take still photos, and the lights were those weird blue-white LEDs that turned anything I tried to look at weird colors. The software that comes with the microscope has a hue-adjust slider, but however much I played with it, I couldn't get it to produce anything like realistic color.

And all the other products Amazon carries seem to have problems, too. Either 1) it's more of the same, a cheap, low-powered, poor-image "microscope" that's not even as impressive as my digital camera, or it's 2) a good-looking, presumably competent, microscope without digital photography capabilities, or 3) a digital microscope capable (one assumes) of taking excellent pictures, but which costs several hundred dollars. Also, for some reason, none of them have any examples of photos that were taken with the 'scope in question, so the customer can get some idea of what they're capable of. This seems like a really obvious thing to include, so I'm confused about why none of them do.

So. I'm returning the one I got, but I'm open to suggestions for a replacement. I must have at least one reader who knows something about the subject.


The book I mentioned (Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants), though not nearly as disappointing, also failed to be as comprehensive as I'd hoped. It does include some solid information about a number of houseplants, and it's exceptional in that it actually tells what parts of the plants in question are poisonous, and what the symptoms of poisoning are, and what the actual toxin (when known) is, and OMG even pictures, so I'm happy about all that. But it doesn't contain a list of safe plants, and most of the toxic plants I knew about already, so it didn't add a terrible lot of new information. A handy book, a good book, but not quite the book I was wanting. It's beginning to look like if I want that book, I'm going to have to write it myself. And, since I can't find the information I'd need to write that book, I'm guessing I'm going to just have to eat one plant at a time and write down what happens, which sounds like a slow, painful, and expensive way to proceed. I'm open to other plans.


Anonymous said...

Oh, dear, Mr. S. Don't you just hate it when that happens! I hope somebody comes on here with a recommendation for a great (but still affordable) digital microscope. As for the book, I have that one and agree with you. I also have a few others. I'll try to find a minute to dig them out and see if I can give you a recommendation before you start eating anything...

mr_subjunctive said...

I actually found a great-looking book on (Toxicity of Houseplants), and was complaining to the husband last night about it being $150. His very sensible suggestion was to see if I could get the Iowa City Public Library to bring it in for me via Interlibrary Loan, so we're going to try that next.

Then we'll try the eating.

Dreamybee said...

Perhaps not any less expensive, but probably less slow and painful-pay college kids to eat plants and report their findings. They're usually willing to do just about anything for money. No? Then I got nothin'.

Anonymous said...

Well, afforable depends on your point of view I guess. The cheapest scope I could find that was suitable for your needs was from Fisher Scientific, and costs 445.00. I remember when I was a kid, we had a wonderful microscope that was really excellent quality for a child's scope. It wasn't digital however. The url for the scope is:!ut/p/c1/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3iTQCdLP3MPIwN_U39TAyMvP39DZyNvQ38LM6B8pFm8n79RqJuJp6GhhZmroYGRmYeJk0-Yp4G7izEB3cGpefrhIDvxmwGSN8ABHA30_Tzyc1P1C3IjKjx1HRUB-i8U3Q!!/dl2/d1/L0lDU0lKSWdrbUNTUS9JUFJBQUlpQ2dBek15cXpHWUEhIS9ZQkpKMU5BMU5JNTAtNUY4OXchIS83XzRRQjlON0gyMDBSMkUwMkZUVk5HUEczMFYyL0s1cl9fMTY3L3NhLlBvcnRsZXROQVZBY3Rpb24!/?ru=http%3A%2F%2Fprodwcsserver%3A9060%2Fwebapp%2Fwcs%2Fstores%2Fservlet%2FFisherProductDisplay&catalogId=29101&productId=1092147&langId=-1&distype=2&isChemical=false&fromCat=yes&catCode=SE_SC&brCategoryId=null&hlpi=&highlightProductsItemsFlag=&fromSearch=Y

Anonymous said...

Urgh. Sorry about the weird formatting. You could always go to the home page and search for what you want. url is

Anonymous said...

Makes me ill when something performs so poorly. How disappointing!

themanicgardener said...

That's the pits. If it comes down to testing eating your way through several hundred possibly poisonous plants and shelling out $150 for the book, buying it yourself might being to look a little better.

Have you checked into online sites about toxicity? I feel as though a number do include at least some information on this. They might help you write your book.

Lance said...

I've really wanted one of these microscopes, but the ones I see at Target and Hellmart I figured would be about the same issues as you describe. I know that has one for $99, but I don't know how well it works. They have another that shows the images, but of course it's $325 or so.

If you do find an affordable option, I'd be interested as well.