Thursday, March 31, 2011

World record: Smallest orchid flower...

This orchid flower is so small that you can barely see it (2.1 mm across), and the petals are just one cell layer thick (just like moss leaves). Read more here.  Discovery and photo by Lou Jost, in Ecuador.

Oh, and in case you wondered, the world record for the tallest dandelion is from Norway, with 108 centimeters.

Gorgeous: Sheets

drying laundry, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Simple things can be really beautiful, like line-drying white bed sheets in the setting evening sun in Costa Rica.

The most gorgeous seed packets ever

At the Philadelphia Flower Show a new little start-up seed company had the nicest booth and the nicest seed packets. Hudson Valley Seed Library, I love you!   Every seed packet design (ArtPacks) is made by different local artists in the Hudson Valley and adjacent areas. Hudson Valley is that wide valley along Hudson River that stretches north from New York City up towards the state capital Albany. The packets are unique, gorgeous, personal, and artsy.  You can even buy the packs and use them as nice gifts, or frame them as art to put on the wall.  Wonderful.

All their seeds will soon be locally grown, while many other companies buy seed in bulk and repackage it.  Look at this corn package, isn't it marvelous? Or the spotted trout lettuce above. Things like this makes me happy. A nice thoughtful design for a nice thing based on ethical concepts that involve both nature and culture.

Their showbooth had nice wooden shelves with old rusty tagholders on it, like items reclaimed from an old grocery store or pharmacy.  The whole exhibit and design, from the seed packs to the metal tags on the shelves, looked more northern European than American to me. It was a wind of fresh design air at a show that mostly otherwise was about the biggest, colorfulest, and boldest combination of colors - and that is not usually the best thing.  More design and thoughts like this please!  Thanks Ken and Doug!

the best seed packets ever

the best seed packets ever

the best seed packets ever: Borago

Rainbow laundry

clothes pins, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

This photo from KV's laundry rack in their backyard in Sweden was just selected as Sweden picture of the Day by the Swedish government. Fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hairy heads on the railroad

It is amazing what you can find accidentally on the internet. This photo is from the archives at a university and shows the taxidermy department at Kansas Pacific Railway. The stuffed buffalo heads where apparently used for advertising. Times were different back then. I wonder if this was the only railroad that had a taxidermy department. (I better ask PP and BV, they know everything important about railroads, or they can find out if they don't know.)

Gorgeous: Ocean Jello

Australian spotted jellyfish, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Jellyfishes are amazing creatures. They just float around, swim a little, are full of water, and captures whatever comes by. And their mushroom-like symmetries is what I love, pattern, pattern, it is all about repeated patterns and organic shapes.

Weather uncertainty

It is March.  Nice warm days.  Sunny skies.  Rain. Snow. Frost. Ice. Sun. Fog. Warmth. Lukewarm breeze.  Cold breeze.  But through it all the grackles are making nests, forsythia bushes are opening their butter-yellow buds, and the weeds are charging at full speed before anything else is planted.  It WILL be real spring soon. (And in poor Sweden, they are a month behind us spring-wise.)

Day 1
Day 1: Spring finally

Day 2
Day 2: winter again, sigh

Dandelions can make it through anything. 
Dandelions shooting through soil

But through it all the spinach is growing!
Spinach is up!

And the arugula too.
perennial arugula, the best!

Bits and pieces from the internet: fish edition

Great Blue Heron

This is perfect for AREA, she is desperate for a pet. (portable fishbowl; Core77)

A stranded fish that ate a fish that ate a fish.... (scroll down a bit on the page and you'll find it, but I bet you will get stuck on the pictures above it too; part of the Accidental Mystery series on Design Observer)

The first photo of the LIFE magazine series Into the Deep: Odd, Scary Sealife is of tiny cute pygmy seahorses. Scary?  Really? OK, there are sharks later in the photostream. Check out number 11, the eye of the blue-spotted stingray.  (LIFE Magazine archives - I love them!)

Next time you go to the bathroom, be careful when you flush. (Geekologie)

Oy, koi!  And truly neon. And, in case you are unsure what this is, you can just read the letters on the animal.

Tree puzzle

This non-real resin-based split-sawed tree-trunk art-piece called Billion was just featured on Core 77 and was made by Vincent Kohler.  Interesting.  But I found myself looking and looking at the cuts and parts and I don't think those parts can be fit into a circular shape.  There are too many of the small square pieces to the central-right below the central trunk, don't you think? I think that if you take all the pieces and glue them back together, there will be too much wood in the bottom right corner.  No? Yes? Fascinating.  (Photo by Geoffrey Cottenceau)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vintern gäckar oss!

Winter still holds a grip over Sweden, but flowers defy the cold and push themselves up through frosty, snowcovered ground. This is "vintergäck" at Barking Dog Plaza, yesterday. Today more snow fell, but they say on the news that "the German-heat" will reach us soon. I guess it means warm air from the south... :-)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Twentytwo old men and one nude lady...

OK, maybe they are not that old, but they are men. 
Date: 1889
Occasion: A meeting in the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, in Stockholm.

The photo is uploaded by the Swedish National Heritage Board, which as over 700 photos on Flickr now. Check it out, there are many photographic gems there.Comb-overs, runestones, and south Stockholm (Söder) 130 years ago.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Costa Rica nightlife

Catching bats at night, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
One of the most amazing experiences in Costa Rica this year was when we got to catch bats in the early (but dark) evening using mist nets, the same kind of nets you use to catch birds. Usually the bats would 'see' (hear) the nets and avoid them, but we set up the nets near a water hole where they get some needed drinks before they go out hunting. During about 1.5 hours after darkness had fallen at 6 PM we caught 9 bats from 6 different species. Some larger, some really tiny. Our project leader was bat expert extraordinaire, Don Wilson from the Smithsonian. There are photos of several of the species we caught on my Flickr website. Some were male (easy to see!) and one female was pregnant.

Part of the experience was also to get chewed up and bitten by many many chiggers, tiny little mite-like creatures that suck blood and give you big itching welts for days after wards. They are so small they crawl through sock and pant-fabric, unfortunately. I probably had 100 bites, but most are healed by now. We have chiggers in our yard in New Jersey as well. Not much to do about them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I made some new dishcloths for the kitchen

knitted ballband dishcloths

knitted ballband dishcloths
The pattern is called Ballband Dishcloth and is a classic knitting pattern.  Cotton of course, so you can throw them in the washer.

The knitting mafia strikes again: It is spring!

Daffs on parade, originally uploaded by thechristinejolly.

The knitted daffodils are lining up. Lovely!

Sometimes old things get a renew value. This is a pin from the time when the Swedish people had an vote about nuclear power. This is the No-pin. I have one and now one is out on auction on Tradera (like E-bay) and people will pay a lot of money for it apparently. But I will keep mine, it´s a piece of history.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things we didn't know we needed and don't.

The craze of the year in floral arrangement is to buy colored jelly balls that suck up the water in the vase so you don't need to see that ugly water. They come in many colors of course. If they are recyclable and reusable? Probably not. I bet there are a nice breeding ground for some rot-inducing bacteria. This item sold like crazy at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Report from spring: Philadelphia Flower Show 2011 (LP = Long Post)

Before I left for Costa Rica I managed to squeeze in a daytrip to the annual, international, famous, fashionable, and extravagant Philadelphia Flower Show to check out what is going on in the world of horticulture and gardening.

scented plant competition

 These shows have three components.  Two are competitions, one are large or small installations of gardens or other plant-themed exhibits, flower arrangements, themes, and so on.  The other competition is which can grow the largest Hoya with the most green leaves, largest Christmas cactus in perfect symmetry, or smallest rock garden (and so on, in perpetuity).  I am sure they have at least 200 classes you can compete in.  Only the best plants are shown, so there must be a lot of weeding done by the judges among the submissions early on.

lavender satchels

The last part, is a giant area with vendors selling everything that have to do with flowers - tools, seeds, knick-knacks, salad dressings, ugly garden decorations, deer fencing, super cutters, and water hose attachments. Yes, I did spend some money, mostly on seeds :)  Strange, there are really no books for sale here, which makes no sense to me.


This year's theme was Springtime in Paris, which was followed by some, but not all exhibitors.  In fact, the winner of Best in Show for major exhibits showcased a fishing cabin in a bayou in Louisiana (OK, that is kind of French, but neither spring nor Paris).  Outside it was freezing, and inside the convention center it was flowers, flowers, flowers.  And people, thousands. Here are some personal reflections on this type of living botanical art (and science).

theme Dresses
Making a flower arrangement inspired by a dress?  No problem.

flower ball
We are having a ball!

Wonderful Oshibana Club (theme Pressed Plant Material)
This painting is 'painted' with only pressed plants.

Touch smell and feel garden (horticultural therapy)
A touch-feel garden table for blind people - horticultural therapy in action and a wonderful thing for all.

 A garden in the bayou (Best in Show award)
And the winner is.....  this!  Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades did a great job, but it is too clean!  Make it look worn and old and more real... that would have been even more charming.  But I realize that control over dirt might be something many horticultural people love, so the cleaner the better in their minds....

thin glass vases on wall
These handmade glass vases were nice and are for hanging on a wall.

Paris Underground: floral design projects
The 'Paris Underground' flower design contest was interesting in its macabre combination of skulls, metals, blood and flowers.  National Geographic just had an article on the catacombs under Paris, and what they do and did with all those bones....

Under Glass by John Whitenight
A bit overdone and overwrought?  Nah, this is America. No wait, it is Paris, right!

Reve de Fleurs
Something pink for all the girls and ladies.  I have no idea what this was inspired by.  Often when I go to these shows I wish the designers used less of everything.  It often turns into a mishmash of large and colorful plants, but not particularly beautiful. Just like many American Christmas trees - more color, larger is better...

floral design overkill
This got many ohs and ahs by the flower ladies.  I didn't like it at all (that is why I took a photo of it!). Why throw cheap junkglitterish from China onto nice flowers?  This is just like when they spraypaint little living cedar trees with glitter and sell them in the stores at Christmas.  Come on, fake is not better. (more examples, here and here). It looks so cheap, don't they get that?

instant delight
Next time, bring a flower to a friend.

Urban Graffiti by Michael Bruce
Now this was cool and different.  You get some junk and garbage together, some cutting tools, and a spotlight, and whips, and you have created a can-can girls out of cans. Michael Bruce had four installations and they were all fantastic and unusual. Innovative and wonderful.

Monet's Allee by Groundswell Design Group
This I loved and it was made by Groundswell, a company not far from where we live.  A fake tree allee, supposedly from Monet's garden, but reinterpreted as cedar trunks standing in water with blue fake waterlily leaves, red gold fishes, and dripping water from the tree branches and leaves above.  Creative and very different.  And very dark, too dark to get good photos. 

Back Road State of Mind
What are the daffodils doing out in the Pine Barrens when you are camping?  Did you plant them there last year and then came back to camp at the same spot just to look at some Narcissus? Even the pine needles on the old army tent were over-arranged, probably with tweezers.  Come on! Garden designers are sometimes so crazy about the colors that they put together plants based on their colors, not on where they can or should grow.  Many landscape architecture students know very little about plants, and design with 'red bush, 2 feet tall', instead of knowing the plants and their natural shapes and forms and environmental requirements.  Oh, there was a tiny pond in this sandy pineforest exhibit too, about one-two square meter, and guess what - there was a fishing rod rigged up by it.  Fish in a tiny pond like that in the pine barrens?  The pink ladies loved the whole thing - so romantic... I didn't.

La Vie en Rose
La Vie en Rose - is this conceptual flower art?  This didn't do much for me, but kind of cool.

An American in Paris
This was inspired by the movie An American in Paris. I don't know what it represents, I guess I have to watch the movie again. Skirts and legs maybe?

tulips, of course
Superpredictable and ugly. Keep it more simple.

at the florists
Now this kind of overdone coloring on the design palette I can understand, because this is supposed to be a Parisian Florist Shop.  You go here to pick out a few select colored things to bring home from a vast variety of colors, shapes, and scents.

carousel animals
Carousel animal made from flowers. What do you think? Any opinions?

All my show photos are here if you want to see more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bits and pieces from the internet, business edition

One company that I really like, Burt's Bees, who make nice natural lipbalms and schampoos, are now owned by Clorox.  Ick, how did that happen?  I found out because I was thinking about investing a little money in LUSH stocks, a similar company, but it turns out that it is still privately owned with no stocks (which I now think is a good thing).  Clorox is not mentioned on Burt's Bees website, hmmm... I wonder why?. Read more here about green-washing and big nasty companies gobbling up small nice ones.

The New York Times have decided that if you read a lot of their articles online you will have to pay a monthly fee and become a subscriber.  However, if you follow a link from a blog or other media site, you should be able to read it for free. If you read something on an iphone it costs your more than from a laptop, and if you are rich and have an ipad, you have to pay 133% more than if you just have a laptop ($35 per month).  I think they are crazy.  So, from March 28, there might be much fewer New York Times articles e-mailed by me to some of you, but maybe more posted here on the blog for you to see.  We will see how it goes. 

Newsweek has changed owner and editor, and I like most of it so far, except for the font for the headings.  But the articles are more interesting, and less about celebrities and more daring and thoughtful. Tina Brown, the current editor, is going in the right direction.  I have subscribed since the early 1990s, wow, that is 20 years, and a year ago I was ready to quit, but now I am giving them a 2nd chance.   NPR, International Women's Day, Ignorant Americans... that is a bit different from before.

These strange black and white photos are not straightforward business.  What is going on here?

I wonder what the French business woman that praised nuclear energy as the best thing ever in the recent Newsweek is thinking now, since her article was published just a few days before the Japanese tsunami and earthquake that led to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.  She is probably thinking just the same thing as before, but many other people are not.

The same viewpoint was featured in this 1 minute energy video which is rather cool until it ends with a nuclear power plant and a city were mindless people dance to rock music on a roof of a building.  But the graphics were good, steam trains and viking ships... it is just the ending that really bothers me, especially considering what has happened in Japan.  Guess where the oldest American nuclear reactor is?  Yep, in New Jersey. 

Bad customer service? Check this one out...

Some Belgians do a payback for bad customer service at a local company, really hilarious.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Things we ought to do:

Motivational Poster, originally uploaded by Forrest Fossil.

Make Time for Things You Love.

Easier said than done. This great photo by Forrest Fossil on Flickr was made with a flashlight, and isn't it great? It probably took a longer exposure time than normal to spell out those words in the dark. Make time... as if you could make time, but you can rearrange time and thereby make time...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things that are different from home: cows

cattle in evening light, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
The cattle of Central America have ears like sheep and goats, long hanging things flopping around in the wind. They love to graze in the wetlands, for example in Palo Verde National Park where they are used as cheap grazers to keep weeds at bay.

Food and radioactivity, a good read

There is a very good and clear blogpost on Daily Kos about radioactivity in food, and I recommend reading it if you want to know more.  It also reprinted this excellent description of the difference between being 'exposed' to 'contaminated', from a Vermont brochure:

If you have a manure pile and you are close enough to smell it, you are exposed. If you go across the road to your neighbor’s house you will not expose or contaminate them. If, on the other hand, you also step in the manure, you are now contaminated. If you go across the road to your neighbors’ house without decontaminating your shoe or boot, you will expose your neighbors and probably contaminate their house. It you do contaminate your neighbor’s house, they may also contaminate themselves. 

Radiation is similar. An exposed but uncontaminated person or animal does not pose a risk to other people or animals. Contamination can be detected with radiation meters. External contamination can be removed by vigorous washing with soap and water.

This catastrophe in Japan brings back memories of the Chernobyl accident ('Tjernobyl' in Swedish) in 1986, during my last year of high school in Sweden.  The day or two after it happened me and friends were scheduled to leave for a birding trip to Hungary during spring break, but since we didn't know where the radioactive cloud would land we aimed for southern France and the Camargue delta instead. We had no books, plans, or maps for southern France, but we couldn't risk going to a place that might mean we got radioactive dust on us.  

When we came back to Sweden all cars wheels were checked with Geiger counters at the border, and we found out that the cloud had changed direction and hit the Baltic countries and Scandinavia.  For many years thereafter you could (=should) not each wild mushrooms, berries, and reindeer meat from northern Sweden, due to Cesium 137 contamination.  The reindeers eat the lichens which has accumulated the radioactive particles. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Palo Verde, Costa Rica

I already posted some about my recent trip to Costa Rica, but without photos, so here is some more of the story, with photos this time. Some of the text is the same, some is new.  Enjoy!

OTS Palo Verde field station
The limegreen painted concrete cinderblock walls are characteristic for the Palo Verde Research Station, which is run by OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies), a consortium that arranges classes for students in the tropics and research facilities for scientists.
sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

sunset over Palo Verde marshlands

The sunsets at Palo Verde are unbelievable beautiful.  The sun sets over the marshlands along the river Rio Tempisque, and as in all tropical countries the sun sets rather suddenly and you can see how it moves down the horizon and behind the bend of the earth.  

It is the dry season, but the marshlands still have water in them, enough to attract many ducks, herons, and other wetland birds.  For the birders, here are whistling ducks, roseate spoon bills, several kinds of white egrets, great blue herons, wood storks (crazy giant white birds), and many more.  Frogs in the millions, which you can hear but not see, and crocodiles you only see when they try to catch something and cause a splash.  It is a gorgeous place.

lookout point at Mirador

This morning I did I hike up on to the Mirador limestone hill, which is more like a tiny mountains.  The limestone is sharp-edged and has holes in it, so not really a nice thing to fall one, but sturdy to hold on to when you climb to the top.  I started in the early morning (8.30 AM), before it got too hot, so it was only maybe 27 degrees outside (Celsius that is, I guess 80 in Fahrenheit or so).
tropical forest
The dry season means that many trees have lost their leaves and are bare-branched temporarily, which makes it perfect for birdwatching.  I saw parrots (the screamiest bird in the forest!), woodpeckers, kingbirds, and a hummingbird.
tropical dry forest in dry season
After climbing the Mirador and looking at the fantastic view over the enormous river valley, with its snaking, meandering river on its way to the sea, I continued on the trail and ran into some other hikers from OTS.  They had just been watching two monkeys, two white-faced capuchins, try to catch a black and white owl.  I saw both the owl (flying away), and the monkeys who had given up the hunt and now were splayed like tired jaguars with their bodies and limbs draped across horizontal tree branches, high up in the trees.

white-faced capuchin monkey

bird watching

In a little grove of evergreen trees we saw two long-tailed manakins, which look like small birds of paradise.  Imagine black velvet colored small birds, with bright turquoise colored sides and wings, and then the most intense scarlet red on the back of their neck.  And that is not enough!  From the tail, two special feathers have developed into two long lyre-shaped extensions.  Incredible.  They meet and have leks, like competitions between the males over who gets to mate with the females, and we saw one of these lek places, even if it was too late in the day for lek activities. 

My Costa Rica photos are here if you want to see more, and the most recent ones are towards the end of this photo set.