Thursday, January 18, 2018

Question for the Hive Mind, Dynasty Edition


A few weeks back, the husband and I started watching the original Dynasty1 on Amazon. I don't remember wanting to watch it when it originally ran, but it wouldn't have mattered if I had, because I was a child and it was forbidden. I was nevertheless very aware of the show, because it was a big deal (Dynasty was the top-rated show across all networks in the 1984-85 season, and in the top ten for three other seasons). Without ever watching it, I would have been able to tell you that there were characters named Alexis and Krystle, and they fought with one another a lot, and that the show was sort of generally glamorous and soapy. It seemed like people took it sort of seriously -- I remember reading stuff about it being trashy and shallow, and yet also collected a lot of nominations and awards, so clearly people thought it was "good" TV for the time.

So watching it now has been really eye-opening in ways it couldn't have been if I'd watched it then, because it is terrible. Like, astoundingly so. I won't deny that it's entertaining (the outfits alone, my god), but the writing is frequently nonsensical. Like, characters who start at come on, unlock the door, we can't settle our problems if you won't even talk to me will, 15 seconds later, find themselves at fine, I hope you rot in your locked room, with no attempt on the part of the actor or writer to show any kind of thought process bridging the two. Just boom, 180-degree turn. Dynasty seems to be a TV show written by people whose only knowledge of humans is from watching other TV shows. It's amazing.

Also, a lot of the technical stuff is remarkably amateurish. Like, I don't remember which episode it was in, but twice now, I've caught the microphone boom dipping into the top of the frame and they used the shot anyway. There are occasionally shots of jewelry to which crude animated sparkles have obviously been added, and periodically the film quality gets abruptly worse for a single scene, presumably because a shot had to be redone with a different camera(?). "Romantic" scenes are designated as such by the addition of a filter that makes every point of light into an "x," as in this example:


State of the art at the time, I'm sure. But it hasn't aged well.

However! There are some moments that make it all worthwhile, which are highly recommended to any readers who want to watch on Amazon.

For the first big Alexis-Krystle catfight, check out season 2, episode 16, at 41:25.2

Joan Collins "singing"3 and dancing in leather pants: season 4, episode 15, beginning at about 28:30.

Have you ever wanted to see Linda Evans and Joan Collins fighting in a lily pond?4 Season 3, episode 23, beginning at 27:05.



To see the most hilariously awful sex scene I've ever seen (and be warned: it is really, really bad; I'm not exaggerating "most awful"), go to season 2, episode 22, at 43:36. There's a shorter version on YouTube, but watch the long version if you can, because part of what makes it so wonderful / terrible is that it goes until you're like okay, I get it, sexy sexy, let's move on and then it keeps going, and going, and going.

My younger siblings, when shown the sex scene, compared it to watching a box turtle eating a strawberry,


which is so precisely correct that it delights me each time I think about it, and cannot be unseen once seen.

And finally, how about a dull cameo from former president Gerald Ford and his wife Betty for no reason at all? (Season 4, episode 11, 25:51. Stick around until 29:55 and you'll get a bonus Henry Kissinger.5)


Anyway. So I wouldn't exactly say I'm enjoying Dynasty, but I'm not not enjoying it either. Nothing will convince you that the past is truly another country like watching their television programs will. Dynasty's treatment of Steven Carrington (only like the second gay main-cast character in U.S. television ever, I think I read somewhere) isn't up to modern standards, but it's pretty progressive for the early 80s. (On the other hand, he's only gay part of the time, and it was apparently acceptable to use a certain anti-gay slur in prime-time TV in 1981,6 which shocked me a bit.)

Another thing that would never fly today is the amount of fur being worn by the characters (mostly Alexis). I wasn't even looking very hard, and still managed to find these examples within like ten minutes:


More than anything else, though, I notice that the treatment of women is astoundingly bad by modern standards. Not just rape -- though Dynasty is in fact super-rapey7 -- but if you took a drink every time a male character grabbed a female character roughly by the arm, to stop her from going somewhere, force her to go somewhere, or demonstrate his manly man-ness, you would literally die of alcohol poisoning somewhere in the early to middle first season. It's alarming. I don't think Krystle changes rooms without male assistance once in the entire first season. Depending on how much of an optimist you are, this can be depressing or heartening; I choose to think of it as heartening. Sure, things aren't so great for women now, but they used to be so much worse that you could show characters doing this kind of shit on the most-watched TV program at the time and not have to worry about the audience losing sympathy for the grabbers and rapists. Change does happen sometimes.

ANYWAY.

The reason we are actually here, though, is plant-related. I am occasionally surprised by the plant choices the set decorators make,8 but I can at least usually determine what they are. And yet there are two I can't identify.

The first is obviously enough a bromeliad of some kind, but I can't even narrow down a genus for it. Closest thing I can think of would be a Guzmania, but it's awfully big for a Guzmania. Maybe they were bigger in the 80s?




UPDATE: Anonymous in the comments suggests Guzmania wittmackii. I'm not 100% certain on the species, but a Guzmania of some kind seems likely. See comments for links to photos.

The second plant has been driving me crazy for weeks, because the set decorator really likes them, and sticks them all over the place, but I can't figure out what it is; it reminds me variously of Schefflera actinophylla (compound leaves with large leaflets), Polyscias balfouriana and P. scutellaria (large leaves, produced from cane cuttings), and Ficus spp. (leaf venation, bark color) but doesn't seem to be any of them for sure. The bark is wrong for Schefflera; compound leaves are wrong for Ficus, it doesn't look like any Polyscias I've ever seen.

It's possible that the reason I'm finding it so difficult is that they're not all the same species of plant. The overall "tuft of large compound leaves at the top of a long, bare stem" appearance is consistent from specimen to specimen, but there are differences in leaflet angles and coloration that makes me unsure. In particular, I'm not sure if the two plants in this shot are of the same species:

Adam Carrington (played by Gordon Thomson), left, with Tracy Kendall (Deborah Adair). They're both more or less evil.

The guy here is Mark Jennings (played by Geoffrey Scott); he's the most pointless character and I hate every scene he appears in.

80s fashion!

Joan Collins, enjoying a morning half-grapefruit, as all Dynasty characters were apparently legally required to; it's rare when a breakfast scene shows them eating anything else.

I don't hate her outfit, though. I would totally wear something like that for all my personal grapefruit-eating scenes, if I ever ate grapefruit.

UPDATE: Pattock points out in the comments that it's actually a papaya, not a grapefruit. I don't like papayas, so I would not be willing to eat papaya while wearing Joan Collins' outfit. PATSP regrets the error.

More Adam and Tracy.

So what do we think? Any guesses on either plant ID? Thoughts on Dynasty? Anything?

UPDATE: David Gray, in comments, proposed Bombax, which after a lot of looking around in search engines got me to Pseudobombax ellipticum, a few photos of which look enough like the plants in question that I'm prepared to consider the plant definitely ID'ed. See comments for links to photos.

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1 There is also a . . . severely unnecessary-sounding reboot on the CW, which I have not seen, and cannot imagine ever wanting to see. 1981 Dynasty or nothing. Accept no substitutes.
2 This is especially delicious because while I'm not 100% certain, I think that for some of the fighting, Joan Collins' stunt double is a man on whom the producers have put a wig, a dress, nail polish, and maybe a little makeup. It doesn't show up well in screencaps, unfortunately, but:
If true, the likely real reason is that they were having difficulty finding a stuntwoman of Joan Collins' proportions, but I prefer the magical realist interpretation, that Alexis is so enraged that she physically transforms, à la the Incredible Hulk.
3 More "talking in a lilting way," really, though apparently Collins actually can sing: she just wasn't doing it for this particular performance.
4 (heck yeah, you have)
5 (Of course Alexis Carrington would know Henry Kissinger socially.)
6 Yep, it's the one you're thinking of. The really bad one.
7 Blake, Jeff, Mark, and Adam all either commit or attempt rape at some point, and all four of them are intended to be sympathetic characters at least some of the time. I'm probably forgetting some, too. Dex, maybe? Nick Toscanni?
8 Here's what was hot, plant-wise, in the 1980s, as best as I can determine from watching all of two shows (I'm also including data from our hernia-surgery-driven re-watch of Star Trek: The Next Generation), in order of increasing surprise (to me) when it showed up on screen:
Epipremnum aureum (pothos)
Syngonium podophyllum (arrowhead vine), though I think some of them were artificial so maybe it doesn't count?
• The presence of palms wasn't a surprise, but the number of them were. I'm not good at palm IDs, so the only one I'm sure about is Caryota mitis (fishtail palm). I feel like I've noticed Caryota being more popular on recent TV as well, which is interesting if it's true: I've never had great experiences with them personally.
Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise)
Dracaena marginata, Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig,' Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree)
Spathiphyllum cvv. (peace lily), though mostly only the big cultivars, and not nearly as often as I expected
Codiaeum variegatum (croton)
Ficus benjamina (weeping fig)
Dieffenbachia cvv. (dumb cane)
Yucca guatemalensis (spineless yucca)
Monstera deliciosa (split-leaf philodendron)
Aechmea fasciata (silver vase plant) and bromeliads in general
• There was actually a plot line involving African violets, starting in the middle of season 4, though the way the show dealt with them, I suspect the writers didn't know that African violets (Saintpaulia cvv.) and violets (Viola spp.) are different, so I'm not sure this one should count either.
Maranta leuconeura erythroneura (prayer plant)
Pachira aquatica (money tree)
Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island pine)
Fittonia albivenis (nerve plant)
• orchids in general, but mostly genera that aren't Phalaenopsis (in particular lots of Cymbidium)
Philodendron erubescens 'Red Emerald' and the occasional self-heading Philodendron
Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy)
• large columnar cacti (e.g. Cereus peruvianus) and Euphorbias (e.g. E. ingens, E. trigona); presumably this is part of the 1980s southwestern obsession even though neither of these are native to the U.S. southwest
Pachypodium spp. (Madagascar palm), in both Dynasty and ST:TNG
Gynura aurantiaca (purple passion plant)
Dynasty had a few Chamaedorea metallica, which surprised hell out of me, because I would definitely have remembered it if I'd seen any in stores or books at the time, and yet I'm positive I didn't encounter the species until the late 2000s.

Plants I expected to see a lot, based on my memories of the 1980s, and either didn't see at all or saw only very occasionally:
Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig) and Ficus elastica (rubber plant)
Crassula ovata (jade plant)
Anthurium andreanum hybrids (there are some, but almost always as cut flowers, rather than entire plants)
Strelitzia reginae (orange bird of paradise) (again, always as cut flowers)
Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant, airplane plant, mala madre)
Aglaonema cvv. (Chinese evergreen) (though there were a few)
Tradescantia zebrina (wandering Jew)
Asparagus cvv. (asparagus fern) (though Dynasty has a few in exterior shots, and there is an A. plumosus in an interior shot early in season 5)
Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant) (there are a couple in Dynasty, just not many; Star Trek: TNG has several)
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (split-leaf philodendron) (though Dynasty has some in outdoor landscaping shots because they filmed in California, where P. bipinnatifidum can grow outdoors, instead of Denver, where they cannot, even though the story is supposedly set in Denver)
Cordyline fruticosa (ti plant)
• cane Begonia cvv.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Anthurium nos. 0818 "Miss P" and 1541 "Miss Bounce"

Oof. Where to begin?

I'm not saying I'm back yet, because I don't think I'm quite up to that, but it's been almost a month now and I figured I should check in. What happened was: camera died, and then I spent about two months trying to get a suitable replacement, which took enough time and energy that I was constantly feeling like things were never going to get back to normal. And then the non-routine doctor's appointment I alluded to on 6 November was a consultation about an inguinal hernia, which meant that the first half of December was about trying to get things done in advance so that I could spend the second half of December recovering from inguinal hernia surgery.

As far as I understand these things, the surgery went the way it was supposed to. My life is now about 80% back to normal, the main differences being that I still can't work out at all, and I still have more pain than I was expecting to have at this point, though I no longer need to take acetaminophen to cope with it so maybe it's not as much pain as it seems. Walking around is fine, and watering plants works out okay except for the very heaviest plants, in which case the husband does the lifting.

So. Not back to normal posting, which is a shame because now we're up to a truly staggering number of unblogged seedlings1 and getting further behind every day, but since you're here, and since I'm here, we may as well take a look at a couple plants, right?


0818 Miss P is one of only two surviving seedlings from the NOID pink,2 and looks exactly like it. Same bloom color, and very similar foliage -- the NOID pink's leaves were similarly broad and flat, with a texture in between matte and glossy.



The leaves are fairly unbothered by thrips, as well, though the spathes have more trouble. Here's the first bloom the seedling produced:


Something that's not apparent from the photos, because they're pretty old, is that the seedling is a strong offsetter: it's much fuller-looking now than you'd think possible from the whole-plant photo above, even though that photo is only four months old. And there have been at least three, maybe four, full blooms since September as well, though none of them have been what you'd call pretty, because of thrips damage.

Miss P isn't really doing anything all that special; I like the foliage, bloom rate, and the habit (so far), but I don't really need another pink/pink. So probably not a keeper in the long-term, though I have no immediate plans to discard her.

Pretty sure there's an actual queen performing as "Miss P," but I declined to take the time to look her up.

1541 Miss Bounce is roughly equal in quality, but for more or less opposite reasons. Where Miss P has a boring color,3 Miss Bounce is an unusual light orange:


Miss P blooms a lot; Miss Bounce has only produced one bloom so far. Miss P produces leaves which are broader than average, with rounded lobes; Miss Bounce's leaves are narrow, and pointier.


Miss P offsets a lot; Miss Bounce has produced only one sucker, and it's not very big yet.


Miss P is all but indistinguishable from her seed parent, while you couldn't guess Miss Bounce's seed parent from looking at her. (It's the NOID red.4)

Miss Bounce has a big family, with 15 siblings from the FK sibling group; only two of her siblings have bloomed, though, and only one bears any family resemblance (1546 Gia GiaVanni; the other one to bloom is the dark red / yellow 1547 Shavonna Brooks).

I'm more interested in keeping Miss Bounce around, for the interesting color if nothing else, though I'd be more certain about keeping her if she would rebloom.


There will be new posts, but I make no promises about when. Probably in less than a month, though.

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1 (39 Anthuriums and 29 Schlumbergeras, as of Sunday morning)
2 The other is 0596 Alisa Summers, who has looked better, but is still with us. Alisa's main trouble is a lack of compactness: the stems have gotten really long, and are constantly threatening to tip the pot over or cause other mayhem.
3 Not that there's anything inherently boring about pink; it's just that pink/pink and red/yellow are the two most common color combinations from the seedlings, so I'm tired of them.
4 The foliage is a bit similar to the NOID red, in that it tended to have longer, pointier leaves than most, but the NOID red's leaves were also usually darker and glossier. And the NOID red's inflorescence is nothing like Miss Bounce's: hers is both a different color and much smaller.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anthurium no. 1589 "Anita Waistline"

Hello again.

So I've gotten to the point where the camera and I are sort of getting along (except for the speck of something that's gotten into the lens, which I haven't done anything about yet because I don't want to send the camera away while there are Schlumbergera seedlings blooming for the first time, lest I miss the chance to document the flowers entirely). The adjustment process has been about 25% finding default settings to use and about 75% adjusting my expectations for what the photos "ought" to look like.

After sitting with the last post for a while, and encountering other reading material and etc., I've decided to change the name of seedling 1592 "Maliena B Itchcock," but the next several names on the list of possibilities are also problematic in various ways, and I'm beginning to think that maybe the whole drag-queen-name thing was ill-advised from the beginning. So I don't know what the new name is yet, or when I'll have time to make the changes.

Anita Waistline isn't a brilliant or unproblematic name either, but it's okay, much like the seedling it designates:


The spathe is small. I think the plant has only produced one bloom so far, too, which isn't exactly a recommendation. The foliage is probably the best thing about it.



The seed parent was 0330 Faye Quinette; I was expecting much more interesting colors than this. But that's Anthurium-breeding for you.

Anita is a sibling of both 1592 (whatever her name's going to be) and the also-uncomfortably-named 1594 Roxy-Cotten Candy.

Let's see. What else?

The Leuchtenbergia principis seedlings (mentioned about a month ago) did in fact germinate, or at least a lot of them did:


When these photos were taken, the seedlings were a mere 15 days old.


Presently at 15 new first-time Schlumbergera seedling blooms, including a very disappointing one from one of the NOID yellow's offspring, which I won't spoil for you. You can find it yourself in the Schlumbergera seedling gallery, if you so choose: it's seedling 369A.

Have become more or less convinced that Schlumbergera 057A Pyrotechnic and Schlumbergera 057B Oxomoco are in fact the same seedling, and have begun calling them both "Pyrotechnic."

Also have some news about the weird yellowing-veins thing that "the Erlenes" do with their leaves, which doesn't answer the question of why they're doing it. but does provide more evidence.

I'll try to get that into the next post, whenever that is. Life is actually pretty acutely stressful right now and I'm having a rough time of things, so I'm not going to make any promises. But I haven't forgotten about the blog.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Anthurium no. 1592 "Maliena B Itchcock"

Not quite sure what the correct form of the name is here. The "Maliena" part is consistent in internet searches, but the rest of it appears variously as:

Bitchcock,
B Itchcock,
B. Itchcock,
B ItchCock,
B-itchcock, and
b itchcock.

And I could be leaving out a few variations.

The no-period, separate initial, non-CamelCase, capitalized surname version seems to be what Maliena uses on her Facebook page, so I'm going with that.

The name makes me a little uncomfortable, as I imagine it was meant to. I admire the compactness -- it's quite a feat to reference a filmmaker, a gendered slur, and venereal disease all at once1 -- but otherwise it's gross, which I'm sure Maliena knows (it's probably deliberate), and I'm thinking we probably don't need to spend any more time on it than that. Though now that I've spent all this time thinking about and disapproving of the name and puzzling over which version of it is correct, there's a decent chance that I will eventually change it.

Anyway. There's a seedling! It's . . . not amazing.


I mean, I guess that isn't terrible, either. Smallish, but it did manage to do this in a 3-inch pot, so there's reason to think later blooms might be larger. The color is reminiscent of the seed parent (0330 Faye Quinette) without being identical. Though that might change with the next bloom as well.

Foliage is okay. Thrips damage present but not extensive.


Not a ton of offsetting yet, but too much suckering is sometimes as bad as no suckering at all, as far as I'm concerned: some of the seedlings produce so many offsets that they're constantly needing to be repotted.


So the overall grade is about a B-, and Maliena has been moved up to a 4-inch pot already. Though this has not induced her to bloom again yet.

As for the state of the blog, and me personally, and so forth:

I've been being absurdly careful with the new camera. The main reason the photos from the old camera got blurry and crappy was because stuff got into the lens housing, so that by the time the camera actually died, I was shooting every photo through a layer of uncleanable dust. Since the main thing the new Canon's had going for it is that the photos are really clear, I was doing everything I could to keep this from happening to it too: I barely took it out of the house, never put it in my pocket, kept it in a file cabinet instead of out on my desk when I wasn't actively using it, took pains not to let the camera actually touch the plants when taking photos, etc. And you'll see where I'm going with this by now, so I'll just show you:

(Schlumbergera seedling 079A Yayoi Kusama)

That lighter circle in the lower right? Yeah, that's a piece of something or another that got into the camera and is now sitting on top of the lens. I can't reach it to remove it; I can't blow it off the lens. In this particular case, I could crop it out of the photo and everything would be fine, and in some situations I can angle the camera away from the light such that the speck isn't visible, but it's a sign of what's to come. And this is after having the camera a mere two months, and being as absolutely careful to keep dust and particles away from it as I could possibly be. Which is terribly discouraging.

The good news is that it's still under warranty, and I can send it to Canon and they will fix / clean / replace it as necessary. And I'm probably going to do that. The bad news, obviously, is that doing so leaves me without a camera at all, in the middle of Schlumbergera season, for an unknown period of time. And I may have to do it again in January, when another speck of something gets into the lens. And then March. And May. And July. At which point the warranty will expire and I'll have to just live with the slow crudification of the images.


In other other news, the current posting schedule is likely to continue until at least the new year. Don't want to say why publicly, but there is a specific and unavoidable reason, and not just me having a difficult time keeping up with life in general. Not happy about it, but this is how it's going to have to be, so.

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1 I tried throwing together a joke name that hit the same three items, a la "Dick H. P. V. Kurosawa," but didn't come up with any that worked half as well. Which is not surprising, of course, since I imagine I'm the first person ever to set out with that specific goal in mind, and since it's kind of a dumb goal to set specifically.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Random plant event: Cyperus alternifolius

This is sort of two random plant events in one, actually. The first is that the Cyperus alternifolius plants in our east window started to bloom about a year ago.


I mean, that photo is from January, but I assume it had been going on for a while before I got around to taking the picture. In any case, I was surprised that the plants would do this indoors, and even though the flowers aren't particularly beautiful, it was interesting.

I was less happy about it by the summer, because the flowers were kind of messy, dropping a fine dust all over the place that might have been pollen and might have been dead bits of the flowers; I couldn't actually figure out what it was from looking at it. Mainly I was just irritated with the dust, because I was having a bit of a ghost mite problem on some of the nearby plants, and the dust made it hard to see whether I had ghost mites or not.

I'd gone in with the paintbrush and kind of randomly brushed flowers around a couple times, just to see what would happen. Nothing changed in any kind of obvious way, so I concluded that my technique or timing or something had been wrong.1 Then at some point this fall, I discovered scale on the Cyperus and dealt with it by cutting down all the leaves. I'd wanted to see what the plants were going to do in the end with the flowers, but stopping a scale infestation is more important.

But then in early November, I noticed these:


So it would appear that at least some of the dust the plants were throwing everywhere was probably made of teeny-tiny seeds. And now we know it can be done.

As far as I can tell, the scale problem is over. At worst, it's been much reduced.

Meanwhile: some of the new camera's photos have already been added to the Schlumbergera gallery post, if anyone cares. 208A Raspberry Possum's new photo is worth checking out, in particular.

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1 (And in any case Cyperus is so easy to propagate from cuttings that it seemed kinda silly to worry about growing them from seed. It's always interesting to see if that sort of thing is possible, but worthwhile is another matter.)


Monday, November 6, 2017

More of the Same

A nice photo of Schlumbergera 070A Delia Webster. 070A appears to be campaigning pretty hard to win the Schlummy for Most Improved Returning Seedling, 2016-17 Season: it started blooming early (23 October), it's been blooming heavily and continuously since then, and the flower color seems a bit more intense this year besides.

The Canon is now officially mine, paid for and everything, and we are . . . getting used to one another.1 I have some default settings to use,2 and I (briefly) managed to get gallery photos for all the Anthurium seedlings that had bloomed up until that point. (Some seedlings have bloomed since then, so I'm not caught up anymore, but for a little while there I was, and it was glorious.)

Unfortunately, I feel like I'm not that much closer to resuming regular posting than I was a week ago; things keep coming up. Purged the 3-and 4-inch Anthuriums, moved a bunch of the survivors around, potted up 64 new seedlings, started a bunch of Anthurium and Leuchtenbergia seeds,3 replaced some light fixtures, had a (routine) doctor's appointment, another (less routine) doctor's appointment is coming up, I've been mildly sick (just a sinus infection; unrelated to the doctor stuff), I moved a batch of Schlumbergera seedlings into the plant room on 17 October,4 I still haven't found new places for the Coffeas that summered outside this year to live during the winter, there are a couple family visits coming up, and so on and so forth. Just a lot of stuff going on. None of it's a big deal, some of it's actually nice, but all of it takes time and energy to deal with, and the blog is the logical thing to drop while all this is happening.

So the good news is that everything is basically fine; the bad news is that I don't know how much longer it's going to be before I can start blogging like I was, because I don't know how much more unusual stuff I'm going to have to deal with. In the meantime, I'm still taking, sorting, and editing photos, and sooner or later posting will have to get back to normal.

Probably around Thanksgiving / Hanukkah / Christmas / New Year's when you are all too busy to read the posts.

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1 (, he said, through gritted teeth)
2 Not the same default for all photographic subjects, unfortunately: currently there's one group of settings for light orange, tan, beige, and brown; one for red-adjacent oranges; and one for everything else. Which still doesn't work all the time, but it's better than what I had before, and I don't have to take a dozen different sets of photos in the hopes that one of them will give me something serviceable.
3 I don't know whether the Leuchtenbergia seeds will be viable; they're from the cross-pollination in 2013. I mean, you'd think that a desert plant would be willing to wait around for a few years before germination, in case there was just no rain that year, but I don't know. Either way, I suppose the odds of germination were getting worse the longer I waited, so better this year than the next.
4 All of which are new, and a couple of which are definitely old enough to bud, because they started and aborted buds a few times while in the basement. They all got moved too late to be blooming now, but I'm guessing they'll start in mid- to late December. When that happens, the hope is that we'll see a bit more color variety from the Schlumbergeras: the seed parents of this batch include a few we've already seen (the NOID magenta and NOID white, both pretty boring seed parents last year), a couple we haven't seen previously but that aren't likely to give us anything terribly new (the red/white 'Exotic Dancer' and the red-orange/white 'Stephanie'), some second-generation seedlings from 025A Clownfish, 026A Brick Wall, 057A Pyrotechnic, 082A Strawberry Madeleine, and 088A Cyborg Unicorn, which might or might not do anything interesting, and then a solid chunk of NOID yellow seedlings, from two different batches, which are probably our best bet for something interesting to happen.
And so we wait to see buds.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Progress!

I am still here. I also keep having unusual, somewhat urgent things happen that are of higher priority than the blog.

Three camera-related developments:

1) The Amazon third-party seller has removed the camera I tried to buy from their list of products, demonstrating, I guess, that they can be communicated with. Not by me, apparently, but by somebody. Amazon continues to tell me that the order I've cancelled at least three times is being processed and should arrive by October 12;1 since the order remains technically open, I cannot rate the seller.

2) I have started to deal with the enormous backlog of images on the computer (~2500 total; I hadn't done any photo-sorting or -editing since 1 September), and as a result am feeling somewhat better about the quality of the Canon images compared to the Olympus ones, in general, and

3) I have identified some Canon settings that produce more accurate colors than others, though there doesn't seem to be a single setting that consistently produces the best results, and the Canon remains bad for color reproduction in one particular group of subjects.

The way I achieved number 3 was through brute force, more or less: I took photos of two different Schlumbergeras using all possible combinations from the two menus having to do with color balance,2 then compared the photos to one another and to the actual plant to see which combinations were most accurate, then worked backward from there to determine what settings were my best bets for a serviceable default setting.


For both photos:
Columns from left to right: automatic, sunny, cloudy, fluorescent, alternate fluorescent, "this is white."
Rows from top to bottom: off, vivid, neutral, "positive film," light skin, dark skin, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom.


The best settings for one bloom weren't the best settings for the other, of course, but this does at least narrow it all down to something like a manageable number of options.3 So that's progress.

I get poor color reproduction, even with those settings, from Anthurium blooms in the peach / tan / brown area. Anthuriums 1299 (Sinthia D Meanor) and 1727 (Mercedes Sulay) in particular always come out bafflingly green and terrible. I plan to try all 60 combinations on those soon, though I'm worried that I'm going to find out that no combination of settings results in accurate colors for those particular plants. Which would be upsetting.

My hypothesis is that the Canon is confused by colors which are basically [skin tones + green], and decides to amplify the green as a way of coping with the confusion. Just a guess, though, and if true it doesn't really suggest a way to compensate.

In the course of trying to deal with a mix of Olympus and Canon photos all at once, I've done a lot of comparing of the image quality, and the Canon really is better at everything except color: the pictures are much sharper, the colors more vivid (sometimes too much so, but that's easy to fix), it takes photos much faster, and it gives better results in low light. Also the Olympus had a lot of crud behind the lens, that gave every bright object in a photo a halo, which I guess I had just gotten used to because it happened gradually and more or less disappeared if I turned the brightness down enough. The halos are really noticeable in comparison to the Canon pictures.

So if I can just find a way to cope with the skin tones problem, then we're back in business, more or less. I could even wind up happy with the new camera. I mean, don't hold your breath or anything, but . . . eventually. Maybe.

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1 (fingers crossed!)
2 One menu: automatic, sunny, cloudy, fluorescent, alternate fluorescent, set white balance by pointing camera at something and telling it "this is white." There's also an incandescent option that I left off because it has always been obviously terrible and I'm not sure we even have any incandescent lights in the house still.
Other menu: off, vivid, neutral, positive film, light skin, dark skin, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom settings.
The second menu's custom settings option includes seven sliders (contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue, skin tone) each with five options. If I ran through all the possible combinations there, I'd end up getting 4,687,500 different images of the same bloom to compare to one another (4,687,500 = 6 * 10 * 57), which seemed a little too thorough, even for me.
3 The orange bloom, 101A Julius Erving, was closest to reality on cloudy + positive film; the NOID yellow looked best with cloudy + custom. The differences aren't huge, though, so I think I can probably get away with any combination of (sunny, cloudy, "this is white") x (off, vivid, positive film, vivid red), for subjects in the magenta-pink-red-orange neighborhood. Which is like 90% of the Anthuriums and Schlumbergeras.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Still ugh.

Looks like we're headed for either Plan B or plan G, as the person who offered to send an unused but functional camera (Plan D) has not responded to e-mail asking if the offer was still open. As it was a generous offer when first made, and I felt a little uncomfortable about considering it then, I feel like it would be bad of me to pester them with more inquiries, so I'm just going to let that option die, scratch my head about what happened, and hope that the person in question is okay.

Amazon is still claiming that my order (for the Olympus which would exactly replace the camera that just died; this was Plan C) is being processed, and I should expect it to be delivered by October 12. I don't care about the order still being open in and of itself: clearly there is no camera, and my credit card hasn't been charged and it feels safe to assume that it won't be. However, I'm really pissed about the order still being open, because while it's open, I can't rate the seller. And I really, really want to rate the seller.

Saturday is the last day I could return the Canon to Target. In theory, I could still work my way through the other four to six models of camera in my price range that Target sells, using each one for two or three weeks and then returning it until I luck on a camera I like, but if I'm honest with myself about it, I don't actually believe that I'm likely to find a camera I like better than the current Canon, even if I don't actually like the current Canon. And the idea of dragging this out for another three months because maybe one of the unexplored options is exactly what I'm looking for, is just . . . I can't. I don't have the energy to keep caring about this. Caring about things is exhausting. The amount of time and energy the stupid camera replacement has taken from me already is ridiculous; why through good energy after bad?

So Plan G (end blog, become Amish, die in threshing accident) is looking better and better all the time.

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UPDATE 10/22/17: A reader e-mail made me realize that I've been keeping you in suspense, which I didn't mean to.

Elected to keep the Canon. Didn't really expect another camera to be any better, didn't have the emotional energy to keep trying and returning them anyway, and didn't have the physical energy to return one even if I'd decided to. It's been a rough month.

I've also realized, kinda, that the timing (camera dies right as we're headed into Schlumbergera season again: camera died on September 19, first Schlumbergera bloom was 069A Sweetie Darling, on September 25) made this all much harder to deal with than it would have been if the camera had died in, say, June. If there's any time a person needs a camera with accurate color reproduction, it's at the beginning of Schlumbergera season.

The newer photos have been better than the earlier ones, partly because I found the color-balance settings menu (none of those options seem to work by themselves, but some may give more easily-edited images than the default automatic white balance) and partly because I figured out that the camera has been trying to tell me that images aren't in focus all along, it's just that it did so with a rectangle in a different shade of green than the green rectangle that means the photo is in focus. (The Olympus used orange-red and green for the same messages.)

So. Not going to begin my farrier training right away, I guess, though I'm not ruling it out, either.

Blog posting will likely resume soonish, though I do need a little time yet to get my feet under me again. There have been sixteen (!) new Anthurium blooms and one new (?) Schlumbergera just since the camera died, so I have a lot of catching up to do. You'll never guess what color the Schlumbergera is.



Kidding. Of course it's orange.