Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Halloween Urchin, Aquarium Society Show, Balboa Park. Credits to Chris for the handiwork on the urchin! So, from one urchin to another, Happy Halloween to one and to all!

Sweet Bread Recipe


7 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
2/3 cup sugar
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pineapple juice
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1.In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, potato flakes, sugar, yeast, salt and ginger. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter and pineapple juice to 120 degrees F-130 degrees F. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add eggs; beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
2.Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/4 hours.
3.Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a ball. Place in three greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
4.Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Spiny Stuff

Close-up of a Jimson Weed Fruit, Datura meteloides. Jimson Weed is a common roadside plant that is related to petunias, tobacco, potatos, peppers, eggplants and tomatos. You can recognize them by their furry (hirsute) leaves. All are a bit toxic. Some more than others. I've been told that the toxin in tomatos and peppers causes allergic reactions in some people and joint pain in others. I'd guess that, in nature, the toxins keep bugs from making a meal of these attractive plants. In any case, Jimson weed is quite attractive with huge, tubular, trumpet-like flowers. It is also highly narcotic and has been known to be fatal. The fruit are spiny, resembling a green rambutan, but the resemblance obviously ends there. Still, they make nice photography subjects.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

Paphinia Majestic, Paphinia cristata x Paphinia herrerae, close-up of a dew drenched flower. I cannot begin to imagine what must pollinate that flower, navigating the white frilly appendages on that lip. Your guess is as good as mine! Sure enough, though, if you camped out in the forest looking at it's Paphinia parents (Paphinia cristata & Paphinia herrerae), you'll probably find a matching bug!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Catasetum pileatum

Catasetum pileatum 'Oro Verde' HCC/AOS. This plant is native to the hot, humid, lowland forests of Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador where it may grow exposed to full sun up on palms. There are also red, white and spotted forms.

The really fun thing about Catasetums is their amazing habit of launching their pollen. I have to admit, it is still a little unnerving to have it fling pollen at your finger. It's like waiting for a albeit small rat trap to snap on your finger.

If you look at the column of the flower (central white area that protrudes from the flower), you'll see a little trigger underneath it. A light touch to the trigger causes the pollen and the viscidium (little sticky pads that hold the pollen to the insect pollinator) to launch at decent velocity and stick to the unsuspecting bee or, in my case, my finger. The bee would then take it to the next flower for pollination.

An older man, Mr. Sato, showed me this when I was a kid (aka around 10 y.o.). I still remember him telling the ladies to sniff the fragrance and WHANG, EEK -- Pollen on the nose. It was pretty amazing entertainment for a little kid.

The adhesive on the viscidium is pretty strong, however; as it was intended to stick to a flying bee until it pollinated another flower. I was told that some poor, unsuspecting guy got nailed in the eye and needed to visit a doctor to get it off. Not a pleasant thought. So, when sniffing a Catasetum...sniff with care and a little bit of distance (grin).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Living Stones

Two species of Lithops in bloom. When they're not in bloom, they look just like rocks. In bloom, however, they're quite flashy little guys. Notice that the two different colored Lithops have different flowers as well. For some plants, you need to have a bloom to decide which species they are. In this case, both leaves and flowers are different.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Foggy Morning

Looking down into the foggy marine layer that carpets the valley and ridges below in the evenings and early morning. The marine layer is caused by the cold Alaskan current that flows down the California coast.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friendly Turtle

Borneo Painted River Terrapin, female, Pet Kingdom, San Diego, California. This friendly Borneo Painted River Terrapin was coming up to beg for food. They're pretty friendly and come right on over for a bit of turtle chow. This is the female. The male of the pair had a bit more red on his head. The pair was for sale for a healthy $1250 if you are so inclined. Coming from Borneo, they need year round heat and a nice sized pond. Beware, however, that they are occasionally inclined to munch on electric heater lines so the heater will need to be enclosed in a box lest your little charges bite their way into a cold oblivion when you're not paying attention! If you've ever dealt with a shorting heater in your fish aquarium, it packs a nice little zap to it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How do you know if you're an Orc-a-holic?

San Diego International Orchid Show, San Diego Botanical Gardens. The nice lady smiling in the photo came all the way over from T-Orchids in Thailand and had the most wonderful vandas at very reasonable prices and a beautiful smile.

How do you know if you're an Orc-a-holic?
1. When you prefer the sales area at the orchid show over the display floor.
2. When you'd rather look at orchids than eat lunch.
3. When you'd rather hang out with other orc-a-holics than normal people.
4. When orchids start looking prettier than people.
5. When the orchids take more space in the house than you do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Furry Wasp of Fury (or not)

Dasymutilla sakeni, sometimes affectionately called "velvet ants" or "cow killers," Tijuana Estuary Reserve, San Diego, California. These are really wasps, not ants, and appear to mimic spiders, possibly to prevent predation. Some of them, at least, pack quite a sting as evidenced by their name. These wasps belong to the Mutillidae family and have larvae that are parasitic on wasps, bees, ants and other members of family hymenoptera. The question of the day: did you get the corny pun? Hint: think Bruce Lee. ;-P

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cracking Mussels

Seagull with mussel, Tijuana Estuary Reserve, San Diego, California. Seagulls will drop clams and mussels repetitively until they crack open and they can get at the animal inside. This one is dropping his mussel on the sand but others will find a stretch of cement or asphalt walkway to crack open their dinner. The unknowing pedestrian will see the litter from hundreds of broken clams/bivalves and wonder where they all came from!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Semipalmated Sandpiper, Calidris pusilla, Nickname: "Peeps," TJ Estuary Reserve, San Diego, California. Based on the dark legs and somewhat stubbier beak, this appears to be a Semipalmated Sandpiper that has wandered South on the West side of the Rockies rather than to the East coast with most of its bretheren. The more typical Western Sandpiper or Least Sandpiper are, at least according to the bird guides, more commonly found here in the West. I happen to think these are fairly frequent at TJER but I haven't stared at enough of my photos to prove the point.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lend Me A Hand, Please...

Guan Yin (Kwan Yin), Wood, China, Early 19th Century (Qin Dynasty), Field Museum, Chicago. Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, shown here reaching out to save others while delaying her own Nirvana/Salvation. She is shown, as usual, sitting on a Lotus Leaf. The multiple hands are atypical for Chinese Kwan Yin. If you look closely, there is a child riding on her crown as well. Out of curiosity, I looked it up and here is what I found at

In depictions she is shown with pearls of illumination in one hand; and with the other she pours out "sweet dew", the nectar of Wisdom and Compassion from a small vase, blessing all with physical and spiritual peace. Her cupped hands are a symbol of the womb and the universal feminine principal. She sometimes holds a sheaf of ripe rice, a metaphor for sustenance supplied. The dragon is often seen with her, a symbol of wisdom, strength, and the power of divine transformation. A Divine Mother, always there are children around her or being held by her. There are two small attendants that show up periodically, a "young man of excellent capacities" and the "daughter of the Dragon King," both related to the legendary Miao Shan. As reference to fishermen, sailors and water, she can be seen on a boat or a lotus flower crossing the sea. Other things related to her are a dove, a scroll of prayers which are the teachings of Buddha, a rosary of white crystal beads showing the rounds of rebirth, and a willow spray with which she sprinkles the divine nectar of life.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of China, Wikipedia has a great quick summary.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Turnagain Pass

Turnagain Pass, Alaska in mid-June. Beautiful huh? The wind and the tide really rip through here. Makes for some awesome windsufing or so I was told. Hoho! Wait, I cropped out the water didn't I? Grin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Striped, Horned Caterpillar

Striped, Horned Caterpillar. Sometimes nature is stranger and cooler than fiction. Here, we have a striped, horned caterpillar that was cruising across the path to the Makapu lighthouse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Something Fishy

Bronze Fish, Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan. It is a very beautiful area and quite tranquil, considering that it is in the middle of Tokyo!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Surfing Sunset

Surfer, Sunset Beach, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii. These guys are pretty amazing and the waves were consistent and frequent. That's the North Shore on Oahu in the Winter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dendrochilum magnum 'Arnilicious' HCC/AOS

Dendrochilum magnum 'Arnilicious' HCC/AOS. These titans of the Dendrochilum world hail to the Philippines. They make huge masses of flowers in a multitude of pendant inflorescences each year. The sepals open greenish but mature to a rich orange.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Oerstedella schweinfurthiana

Oerstedella schweinfurthiana, San Diego Botanical Gardens (International Orchid Show), Encinitas, California. These are native to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at around 5,000-7,000 ft. I've seen these plants grow to about 8 ft. tall with bountiful keikis. They like a loose mix and lots of sun/water.

For the curious: The genus Oerstedella was named after Herr Anders Sandøe Ørsted, the Danish collector of the genus type and the specific name, schweinfurthiana, was named after Charles Schweinfurth, American botanist who conducted research in the Andes in the early 1900s.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Rainbow of Color

Tolumnia Rainbow. The genus Tolumnia is closely related to and relatively recently split off from the genus Oncidium. They are native to the Carribean islands and tend to live in humid but semi-arid areas near the ocean. The grow on low shrubs where they receive nightly mist in lieu of rain. Tolumnia hybrids come in a host of colors, particularly in yellows, reds, orange and brown. A few are nearly black.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Black is Beautiful

Black Lizard in foliage (Anole?), Foster Botanical Gardens, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kandy's Dragons

Bearded Dragon bred by Kandy's Dragons, a local breeder; Pogona vitticeps. These are native to Australia and grow to about two feet. The one in the photo is only about 6 inches. They puff up their "beard" when excited and have been successfully raised/bred in captivity. I'm not sure who Kandy is but apparently she's quite good at breeding these little guys.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Red Footed Kittiwake

Red Footed Kittiwake, Seward, Alaska. Huge colonies of these guys nesting on the cliffs along the water in Alaska.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Orchid Show

Cattleya hybrid, San Diego International Orchid Fair, San Diego Botanic Gardens, Encinitas, California. Orchid show sales areas are kind of a feeding frenzy for the orchid-addicted. There is something in every color, shape and frangrance for every taste.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mexican Tiger Moth

Notarctia proxima, Mexican Tiger Moth. Couldn't find much about this beautiful moth other than its name and that it ranges from the Southwestern United States down into Mexico and appears to be related to the lichen moths. This one was sitting on the steps by the food court at work as I walked by.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Beetle on Daisy

Beetle with Long Antennae on Daisy. I thought this beetles was really cool because of his long antennae. I was wondering what he uses them for. You would think they would get in the way of general locomotion but, as with most creatures, they probably have some very practical function.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hairy Grasshopper

Unknown Hairy (Hirsute) Grasshopper. For you grasshopper experts out there, here's a really cool, hairy grasshopper I found perched on my Plumeria tree the other day. IDs are welcome. Google was not much help on grasshopper IDs. Maybe somebody will make a grasshopper's of Southern California page one of these days!

As for me, I've never seen anything like it. I will note that I have seen quite a variety of different grasshoppers in Southern California - nothing at all like the two species we had back home in Hawaii and nothing quite like this one.