The samurai orchid

The Neofinetia falcata (or Vanda falcata) that I got back in November survived my inept care and is now in bloom. It’s a small plant, almost a miniature. The blossoms are about five-eighths of an inch across, and the length, including the spur, about an inch-and-a-half. This, I gather, is on the small side; an inch across and two-and-a-half long is more typical, according to what I’ve read. At night the flowers smell like vanilla with a slight hint of lemon.

I’ve mentioned before that the Japanese obsessed over these little epiphytes.1 Cacti, which would have been unknown in Japan until the later 19th century, turn up in everything from Martian Successor Nadesico to Elf Princess Rane, so there ought to be an occasional Neofinetia here and there in animated shows. But, as far as I know, there isn’t. Perhaps there’s one in the later episodes of Hyouge Mono, which I never finished, but probably not. I can’t think of any shows featuring orchidaceae.

Greenhouse in detail


Greenhouse at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas

I spent last Sunday afternoon at Southwestern College in Winfield, where there are a couple of humid greenhouses filled with orchids. Above is a panorama from inside the smaller greenhouse. It’s the largest panorama I’ve made yet, assembled from 37 individual pictures: 29,186 x 14,593 pixels, which works out to more than 400 megapixels. You can read the labels in the pots if you zoom in. It’s best viewed in full-screen mode.

If that doesn’t work for you, try the lower-resolution Flickr version below. (Panoramas in Flickr don’t work well in Safari, unfortunately.)

I also took some conventional photos in the other greenhouse, which you can see here. I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I had hoped, unfortunately. There was the inevitable society business meeting, which wasted half an hour. That was followed by a slide show, which wasted the remainder of my time there. Why would I want to look at pictures of orchids when I can see the real thing the next building over? Grrr.

Greenhouse at Southwestern College

Another minor anniversary

I’ve had some sort of presence on the world wide waste of time for about twenty years now, starting with a website on Geocities.com.1 Fifteen years ago today I launched my first solo weblog, after participating briefly in a group blog. I eventually abandoned it when the blogging software was abandoned by its originators, but not before starting a replacement on another host. There were further abandon-and-replace cycles over the years, but I’ve always had a weblog going since 2003. Nothing remains of the first weblog except the items in the “ancient texts” in the sidebar at right, but everything since then is preserved in the archives.2 I wrote a brief history of my blogging five years ago for the tenth anniversary, and there’s little to add to that.

Is running a weblog continuously for fifteen years a great achievement? Hardly. Just post something everyone once in a while, and you can call yourself a “blogger.” Keep doing it for years and years, and the word count will build steadily to a superficially impressive magnitude.

Maintaining one worth reading regularly is another matter. There are many bloggers out there who have written far more, and better, than me (though probably very few have as eccentric a range of interests). And then there’s Charles G. Hill, who makes all the others seem like beginners.

What I’m mindful of today are the many memorable bloggers who faded away or disappeared. Remember The Hatemonger’s Quarterly? The last post from the crack young staff is almost nine years old. How about Strange Herring? It’s gone, probably forever, and all my links to Anthony Sacramone’s wisecracks are dead.3 The Shrine of the Holy Whapping still exists but hasn’t been updated in years, as is the case with Quenta Nârwenion. I rarely suffer from nostalgia — I don’t have much to be nostalgic for — but I do miss these, and the many others who are no longer active.4

Snapshots from work

Over the years, we’ve acquired a modest collection of doorstops at the office. The above are currently exhibited on a shelf near my desk. The average price of each was around $25; none of them were of much use. I’d say that they illustrate my observation that the thicker the manual, the less helpful it is, except the thin ones were also pretty much useless.

This poster was taped to the elevator wall. Just wondering: do such posters actually do any good beyond making the persons who post them feel momentarily virtuous?

Kilts and daggers

It’s Tartan Day today, so here’s a Scottish fiddle tune, James Scott Skinner’sFingal’s Dirk,” in a not-quite-traditional arrangement.

Technical stuff, for those interested: This arrangement was assembled in Logic. The guitars are two instances of the AAS Strum GS-2, run through NI’s Guitar Rig; the bass is the String Studio VS-2; and, the percussion is Logic’s Ultrabeat.

(Want to make music on your own computer? If you have a Windows machine, you can download Cakewalk for free. Add a cheap MIDI keyboard (preferably velocity-sensitive, with pitchbend and modulation wheels) and download a few freebie VST soft synths (u-he has a generous selection, including Zebralette, Tyrell N6 and Triple Cheese), and you will have more more synth power at your fingertips than Keith Emerson could dream of during his glory days, for peanuts.)

Hanami II

The Yoshino cherry is coming into bloom now at the botanical garden. Unlike the crypto-British Okame cherry I photographed earlier, this one is a genuinely Japanese variety. (Click to embiggen and see with better color.)

Other colors on display include red-orange,

pink,

purple

and yellow.

There are many more pictures from yesterday’s outing here.

Real or not?

It’s hard to tell. The screencaps above I believe are genuine, but the pictures below might be fake. Then, again, perhaps London really is turning into an updated suburb of Scarfolk. In either case, it would be difficult to top these, and I haven’t had the time to work anything up.

Posts from previous years appropriate to the first day of the fourth month are archived here.

(I’m posting this a day early because tomorrow is Easter.)

Hanami 2018

Yesterday, the Okame cherry at the botanical garden reached peak bloom on a sunny day with light wind, and I was able to visit there then. Most years this doesn’t happen, so I took a lot of pictures to record the event. There are more here. As usual, click to embiggen and view with better color.

Curious fact: although Prunus “Okame” is a hybrid of asian cherries and has a Japanese-sounding name, it was actually bred in England.

The last Phalaenopsis, and some more yellow

Phalaenopsis. Cross your eyes to see this in three dimensions.

This orchid was already in bloom when I got it back at the beginning of November, and it kept going and going. Every single blossom lasted at least two months. We’ll see if I can get it to bloom again in the fall. (The other Phalaenopsis, the little P. equestris, is still going strong, and it looks like there is a new bloom spike emerging.) (Update (April 14): The last blossom finally dropped off yesterday.)

Click on the images to see them larger and in better color.

Continue reading “The last Phalaenopsis, and some more yellow”

“There is no conspiracy”

First Things? Really?

Yeah, right.

Carelessness and stupidity are insufficient to explain how this thoughtful religious, largely Catholic, magazine can be labeled a source of “hate” and “violence.” It’s extremely difficult to believe — impossible, in fact — that there wasn’t some active malevolence involved.

(Via Kim du Toit.)

The vision of noses

The Vision of Escaflowne dates back to 1996, when animators understood the concept “nose.” Crunchyroll recently added it to their library. It’s allegedly a classic, but three episodes in, I’m not convinced. It seems to be an attempt to combine as many genres as possible. It’s partly shoujo, partly shounen, partly mecha, partly science-fiction, partly fantasy, partly romance, partly war story, partly whatever. Aside from the noses, the show is noteworthy mainly for the soundtrack, composed by Yoko Kanno and her then-husband, Hajime Mizoguchi.1 I may watch more, or I may not.

Continue reading “The vision of noses”

Virus connoisseur

I’ve spent much of February sampling some of the current viruses. Although I’ve burned through more sick leave this month than I ordinarily do in a year, I’m not impressed with the quality of the ailments. None of them were memorable. In order:

Virus #1: A deplorably common cold. It opened with a rough throat, followed by moderate congestion and a steady, unspectacular nasal drip. Coughing was minimal, and it never more than hinted at the exploding-sinuses sensations that a well-developed rhinovirus can deliver. Score: two out of five; not worth the time.

Virus #2: Anonymous and characterless. Virtually asymptomatic, all it did was leave me utterly exhausted for 48 hours. I never felt sick, just tired, tired, tired. Score: one out of five; an absolutely worthless ailment.

Virus #3: Plain, ordinary influenza. At first it seemed to be just another cold, with chest congestion and a cough, but fevers and chills, exhaustion and wooziness indicated that this was indeed the flu, as did its persistence. I’ve spent most of my time since Tuesday evening in bed, and it’s still hanging on. Score: three out of five; definitely influenza, but nothing special. Compared to the intense malaise of last year’s episode, it’s just a trivial nuisance.1

For some real sickness and disease, see Ubu.

Today’s quote: post-Catholic Schools Week edition

Joseph Moore:

I’m also strongly opposed to the very idea of a classroom – a schoolhouse is a better idea, and even then, it should not be viewed as a place where children are managed. The example of my children might be informative: our oldest 4 (#5 is 13) all attend or did attend college, all are outstanding students – A students, magna cum laude, that sort of thing – and none of them took any formal classes at school or at home until, of their own volition, they signed up for classes at the local community college when they were teenagers. Having NO K-12 experience as commonly understood didn’t slow them down AT ALL.

I did hard time in attended four different grade schools and three high schools, some Catholic, some public,1 so I may have a somewhat broader experience of education in the United States than most people. At the Catholic schools I sometimes attended Mass, and there were religion classes, but in general there was no significant difference between parochial and public. There was occasionally a little actual education here and there during those twelve endless years, but mostly what I learned was to sit still and feign attention. There was also a lot of busy work. I eventually concluded that the purpose of school was not to “educate” students, but to keep them off the streets until they were old enough to get jobs. The American education system is the greatest achievement in the history of day care.

It still makes me angry how many years I was required to spend the best part of each weekday doing nothing. I could have been reading, damn it. My brother didn’t have my patience with pointless nonsense. After fourth grade, he quit doing any schoolwork at all. He was eventually asked to leave his Catholic high school, where his GPA was third from dead last.2 He promptly took the GED, without any preparation, and scored in the 98th percentile overall, getting a perfect score on the verbal part.3

An aside: The second grade school I was sentenced to was 30 miles from home. My home was the second stop on the bus’ route in the morning and the second-last stop in the evening, so I spent two hours every day confined with a bunch of cranky kids in a noisy vehicle with bad shocks. An under-used argument against busing students to schools other than where they would ordinarily go is that busing itself is intrinsically abusive.

I may not have been cynical enough. Joseph Moore has written five-part series on the history of Catholic schooling, putting its development in the context of the Prussian model of education, Irish immigration and graded classrooms. It’s worth reading. The first installment is here.

By the co-author of Gyűrűkúra

Since you can’t do much gardening outdoors in February, you might as well read some books. One I regularly consult is Henry Beard‘s Gardening: A Gardener’s Dictionary, illustrated by Roy McKie. Beard may be familiar as the author of such works as Latin for All Occasions and Zen for Cats. Those with long memories might remember him as the most reliably funny writer at National Lampoon and as one of the scholars responsible for the volume variously known as Nuda Pierścieni, Loru sorbusten herrasta, or Bored of the Rings. He’s also an expert on bad golf.

Gardening has been out of print for years, but used copies are available for reasonable prices. Here are a few of the definitions.

Yard
1. (penology) dusty open area where hard labor is performed. 2. (horticulture) dusty open area where hard labor is performed.

Vermiculite
Obscure order of nuns dedicated to gardening. Like other devotional orders, the sisters take the traditional vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, but in keeping with the demanding nature of their calling, the Vermiculites are the only such group with a special dispensation to drink, smoke, swear, and throw things.

Rot
Gardening advice.

Pest
Any creature that eats green vegetables without being compelled to.

Narcissus
Wonderful, early-blooming flower with an unsatisfactory plural form. Botanists have been searching for a suitable ending for years but their attempts — narcissi (1947), narcissusses (1954), narcissus for both singular and plural (1958) and multinarcissus and polynarcissus (1962, 1963) — haven’t enjoyed any real acceptance, and thus, gardeners still prefer to plant the easily pluralized daffodil or jonquil.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit
The state flower of Maryland. Shortly after being named, the designation was challenged by atheist groups who sued to have it removed on the constitutional grounds that its selection promoted religion. In a compromise that appears to have pleased no one, the plant was retained but officially renamed “Fred-in-a-phone-booth.”

Hose
Crude, but effective and totally safe type of scythe towed through gardens to flatten flower beds and level vegetable plantings.

Grape
Uninteresting larval stage of wine.

Garden
One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in a effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects, birds, and animals.

Fence
Wire barrier erected to protect garden produce against animal pests that lack wings, paws, teeth, or brains, and cannot leap, tunnel, climb, or fly.

Brochures and Catalogs
Forms of entertaining fiction published by nurseries, seedsmen, and tool manufacturers.

Bluegrass
Rare lawn condition in which normally brown, crisp lawns develop odd patches of a sort of hazy green growth. Don’t be alarmed! These strangely colored areas usually disappear within a few weeks.

Autumn
Delightful season that runs from the disposal of the last zucchini to the arrival of the first catalog.