Lilies, spines and more

Unlabeled mammillaria

I took a lot of pictures this weekend, which you can view at the following links:

Cactus and succulent show

Botanical garden

Orchid society show and tell

One advantage to taking pictures at Botanica on a wretchedly hot and humid July afternoon: you have the place pretty much to yourself, without swarms of pesky kids running all over.

Unboxing

Back in May I picked up five orchids at an auction. Three are in good shape and doing well, as far as I can judge. However, one turned out to be infested with mealy bug, and another promptly lost most of its roots; i.e., 40% of my purchases had problems. That is not satisfactory. (I think I managed to salvage the ailing pair, but it will probably be a year or more before they’re presentable again.)

Perhaps I might have better luck buying plants online. I recently ordered a few from Orchids by Hausermann. The box arrived this past weekend. Let’s open it up.

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The name game

Belamcanda chinensis. Or is it Iris domestica? Or Pardanthus chinensis? Or Morea chinensis? Or Ixia chinensis, Gemmingia chinensis, Vanilla domestica or Epidendrum domesticum? Taxonomists have too much time on their hands.

There are more pictures from Saturday’s trip to the botanical garden here.

Ad orientem

The big 360° panorama I did yesterday didn’t turn out properly, and I’m not publishing it. I did salvage a piece of it, above. It’s the altar of St. Anthony Church in Wichita, east of the central business district.1

St. Boniface parish was erected in 1886 to serve German-speaking Catholics in the Wichita area, and a wooden church was built the next year. Franciscans took up residence around 1890. When a more permanent church was built during the first decade of the 20th century, it was named for the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua. Nowadays the best place in the area to find German Catholics is western Sedgwick county, and St. Anthony has become a center of Vietnamese Catholic activity.

Update: Here’s the quick and dirty version of the panorama, using five images taken with a fisheye lens rather than 37 at the wide end of a cheap but sharp zoom. It’s much smaller and less detailed than the large one, but it gives you an idea of what the interior of the church looks like. I hope to return soon to the church, preferably on an overcast day, and make a full-size panorama that meets my standards.


St. Anthony Catholic Church, Wichita

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Snack time

Most websites give you cookies whether you’re hungry or not, but how many serve coffee cake? Come back next week; there might be brownies.

Update: And here are some brownies with crispy edges, in stereo.

Perfunctory animation round-up

As regular visitors have probably noticed, I don’t often write about anime any more. This is because I don’t watch much these days. My interests run in cycles, and it’s been about 15 years since I discovered Serial Experiments Lain. Although I still sample many shows, I usually abandon each within five minutes. Steven’s gone, too. It’s time for fresh obsessions.

There are a couple of series I did keep up with this spring. What turned out to be just the first season of The Return of the Son of the Bride of Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t terrible, but it’s not in the same class as the original. It’s mostly filler. The makers focused on the incidentals, such as cooking and singing and being pathologically nice, while neglecting to tell a compelling story until the last few episodes. The sequences in which Sakura obtains new cards seem perfunctory, as if the CLAMP ladies themselves are bored with the story. Perhaps the next season will redeem the flaccid mess, but my question is, do they even care anymore?

The third season Nobunaga no Shinobi is hit-and-miss — making bloody battlefield deaths funny can be tricky — but sometimes it works, and the brief episodes don’t overstay their welcome. Knowing what the characters will do later in their careers occasionally makes the nonsense feel a bit off. Monkey-boy Hideyoshi, above, will later order the execution of the 26 Martyrs of Japan. All three seasons are entertaining, though the first is still the funniest.

Elf, dwarf

Crunchyroll continues to add older anime to its library. Record of Lodoss War, which I’ve been meaning to watch for 15 years, is a recent acquisition. I watched the first episode of the 1990 OVA; it really is animated Dungeons and Dragons. The story isn’t promising and the characters are all stereotypes, and I doubt that I’ll watch more. If you are a D&D player, you might get more out of it than I did. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to sample for the pleasures of old-school anime, such as detailed hand-drawn art and characters with noses.

Another recent addition is Masaaki Yuasa’s wildly eccentric movie Mind Game. It’s difficult to encapsulate, and I’m not going to try, beyond noting that it ranges from claustrophobic noir to sheer goofy silliness. Instead, here are some screencaps from the first third of the film.

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Check

Chess was front-page news during July and August of 1972 as Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become the first USA-born world chess champion.1 (Or the second, if you count Paul Morphy.) Fischer didn’t defend his title, and since then no one from the USA has made it to the world championship finals.

Until now. This November in London, Fabiano Caruana, born in Miami, faces off against the current champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. Caruana, the third-highest-rated player2 in chess history behind Carlsen and and the now-retired Garry Kasparov, is having a terrific year. After winning the candidates’ tournament, he went on to win the GRENKE Chess Classic and Altibox Norway tournaments over strong competition. In the latter, he finished ahead of Carlsen, though he lost to the world champion in their match. (He did defeat Wesley So, who had earlier defeated Carlsen.)

Caruana seems to be decent, likable guy, not a demanding neurotic like Fischer. His candidacy is an occasion for national pride. So why isn’t this front page news? The Wichita paper reports in excruciating detail about football players’ knees, yet there has been no mention of Caruana (or of Sam Shankland from San Francisco, who recently joined the 2700 club and is also having a very good year). I suppose that unless something is easily politicized, it doesn’t exist. The Cold War is over, and apparently to the media there is nothing interesting about white males3 who are merely among the best in history at a deep, fascinating game.

A little something extra

The Phalaenopsis orchids I got back in November have been doing well, so I picked up a few more at an auction yesterday.1 When I took some close-ups of the ones in bloom, I discovered that I had acquired more than just orchids. The plant below is in isolation until the insecticide arrives later this week. (Click to embiggen; right-click and open in a new window to see at maximum size.)

Look very closely

Continue reading “A little something extra”

Purple dragon

Paeonia suffruticosa “Kokuryu-nishiki”

The botanical garden recently added a “Chinese” garden. It doesn’t look like much yet, despite the big ceramic dragon on the wall leading to the little pagoda, and the plants that catch your eye are as likely to be American as Asian. I did spot the tree peony above there yesterday, which is definitely Asian, albeit Japanese. It’s Paeonia suffruticosa “Kokuryu-nishiki”, first introduced at a Yokohama nursery in 1905. The name, according to at least two sources, means “Black Dragon Brocade,” though Giggle Translate says “Small clew nishiki.” More pictures from yesterday’s visit are here.

Surfin’ Suomi

Alfred M. Yankovic and Brave Combo have conclusively demonstrated that virtually any popular song can be improved by polkafying it. It’s also true that rendering a song as a surf instrumental almost always makes it better.1 Charles Hill posts a couple of surf transformations that are superior to the originals and links to a third. My favorite re-arrangement, though, is this one by Laika and the Cosmonauts, yet another eccentric band from Finland. They call it “Sauna Soul” for no obvious reason, but you probably know it by another name.

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.