Sunday, March 29, 2009

Long Long Longwood Days

I'm happy to have been to the Southeast Pennsylvania Orchid Society show at Longwood Gardens this year. Having heard such wonderful things about it, I can only say they were true, but still hardly prepared me for the reality. Longwood's massive conservatory complex is impressive enough on it's own unique scale. Adding the gorgeous orchids of the SEPOS participants was porcini and red wine gravy. Icing on the Martha Stewart wedding cake. Beauty writ large as sunshiny vistas of perfect lawns and masses of color, and writ small as perfect Dockrillas and Pleurothallids.

Thursday setup was overcast and [we] only began after 1pm, we left at about 7pm, stopped at Friendlys for dinner, and thanks to rain and slightly slowed traffic on the NJ Tpike didn't roll back into New York City til pretty late...reached my front door at 11:30pm. Hit Facebook, my email, uploaded pictures, and finally got to bed 1am. Up again at 5:15am, out the door by 5:35am for bagels at H&H on 2nd Ave, into a cab, and over to the west side to await my ride. I have never ever got across town in only 5 minutes before. 1 minute from 79th & 2nd to 79th and 5th!! The five of us arrived in timely fashion: parked at exactly 8:30am, as intended! The 2 folks clerking went off to work. The rest of us went shopping. O god did we go shopping. Eventually we made it to the show...left at a reasonable time mid-afternoon...I got home 7pm, ready for a sashimi delivery dinner.

Having taken well over 1000 digital pix and still going through them, I took a break today from culling and naming them and finally tucked my new babies into their new home. Only 12, not as bad as it could have been. Paphs and mini phals and a few choice species. Can't make sense of them yet...have too much to do after so many days burning out on orchids...will photograph them and list them eventually.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day Blog Post!

I'm grateful to my parents for many things, but foremost might be that they never once told me there was something, anything I could not do just because I'm a girl. They might've been horrified if I took up football or skydiving or international banking, but it wouldn't have been because "girls don't do that." ("Sane people don't do that" would be more like it.) Dad was an engineer, he worked for the telephone company for years and knew how to climb telephone poles -- still could at 62 and how cool was that??! -- and spent WWII and the Korean War in the Signal Corps. Mom was artistic, wanted to paint and loved to sew, but she also could take apart radios and wield power drills.

So I took after both parents, and ended up a graphic designer using Adobe PageMaker and InDesign and Photoshop. I was pretty good at math, in 10th and 11th grade, and by then I'd heard of in college, in 1980, I took my first computer programming class even though I'd already declared an art major. PL-C. Piece of cake! Assembler was a bit less cakey...and I stumbled blindly through Fortran hating every minute of it. No more programming classes. Painting and printmaking, much better. I still liked computers though. I admired a college screenwriting teacher who admitted she wrote several novels so she could afford a computer and printer in order to write more novels. (Is that tech-ie? Maybe...)

So I learned to use word processors, and bought my first (Radio Shack) PC (no hard drive) in 1986. Bought my next one (30 mb hard drive) in 1987. Cruel irony had me doing both DBase IV programming and PageMaker classes for a job. And even crueller irony that in a corporate role as a graphic designer/business communications guru I now and then ended up using my old nemesis Fortran on the VAX system to gather data. Irony complete when I, a designer on PCs, married a man who programmed on Macs. I'm writing this blog entry on my 7th lifetime owned computer.

But all this is everyday stuff. I'm just a geeky, nerdy female human who is not scared of math or technology, and make use of computers my everyday life. I admire everyone of my generation, and older, who has done this, same as I admire everyone who incorporates art in their everyday lives (by playing music or drawing or writing or taking pictures or dancing, whatever moves them).

I'm dedicating this (uh, mostly autobiographical) Ada Lovelace Day blog post to ladies of my personal acquaintance: Dr Margaret McMahon (rocket scientist) and Lori Bechtold (aircraft engineer). Fellow alumni of Hunter College High School, class of 78/79. We bonded over a mutual love of science fiction. They do stuff I can barely wrap my brain around, and they do it well, and I am extremely glad we live in a world where they and other women like them were encouraged and able to make the most of their talents and interests. You rock.

And also honorable mention to Barbara Krasnoff, who writes so well about techie-computer matters and makes it accessable to many other people over the years. And who also entered my life through interest in science fiction. And, Happy Birthday, Barbara!

May all of us be so fortunate as to find their bliss and follow it.

More Orchidy Goodness

Never did rant on about the orchids I picked up at the very nice Deep Cut Orchid Show in February. I figure since I'm heading to the SEPOS Orchid Show at Longwood Gardens this week, I might as well take stock...

Goodaleara Eurostar (above) is pretty much my Ideal Notion of an Under-Lights Friendly Oncidium Alliance Hybrid. Shortish spikes, 2 spikes per growth, abundant flowers, short leaves, and extremely compact growth habit. 7 spikes in a 3-inch pot! Damn! The whole plant is only about 1 foot tall.

Paphiopedilum (Stone Lovely x In-Charm White) is pretty awesome. I've seen few In Charm hybrids I haven't coveted. Love love love the perfect egg-shaped greeny pouch! Love those spotty petals! And it's got slightly mottled leaves, with multiple growths, so here's hoping it's a piece of cake to keep going.

Also got a Phal Mini Mark of large size and vigorious spike from Parkside, I've been wanting one for years and just never did. Glad I waited. Got Maxillaria sanguinea, which is not complaining since shedding a few old leaves the first 2 weeks of captivity. No new growths yet.

Also got an interesting small hybrid Odcdm Bob Burr "Yellow Cat". Strange parentage: one half its tree is straightforward old-fashioned Odontoglossum breeding, with a shot of Oncidium crispum for seasoning, while the other half is Odcdm Tiger Butter + Odm. harryanum, one of the funkier and prettier Odontoglossum species. (Tiger Butter also boasts Onc. crispum as an ancestor, same generation.) The buds are quite yellow with a few brown/red spots, and growling nicely.

Two phals I got last year bit the dust. Boo. Worse, they suffered the same horrible top-down leaf death my older batches of phals used to succumb to. I fear for the babies on the other shelves. I'm trying to keep them happy and well-sprayed with water and soap. I'm also not going to buy any more phals this year until I'm sure the contagion is contained.

The Oeniella polystachys that I got from Cal-orchid in January bloomed a few weeks ago, and they were incredible. 5 flowers the size of chocolate chips filled the entire living room with a haunting fragrance similar to carnations.

Fishy Experiments

We tried fresh sturgeon last week. That is, I saw fresh sturgeon fillets at the fish counter at Agata & Valentinas, and decided it was high time I finally gave it a go. Being told the texture was dense and firm, similar to Chilean sea bass, and that it takes well to broiling, grilling, sauteing or roasting, I went with sauteing.

The first time I cook a "new" type of fish I try to keep it as simple as possible, so we can really taste the fish itself and not just the seasoning. So I used butter/olive oil as the cooking fat, and used only salt and pepper on the fish. The fillet was about 3/4 inch thick, and cooked up in the usual amount of time, less than 10 minutes.

As warned, the skin was rubbery and not appealing to eat. The flesh itself was not flaky, cooked texture very similar to tuna, firm and meaty. And it tasted a bit like tuna too, like yellowfin steaks cooked well done. Interesting. But no compusion for a repeat.

Then we tried Alaskan black cod fillet, which also was abundant in the fish dept. I know I cooked it at least once or twice before but couldn't remember the results, which probably says much. This is the fish that Japanese restaurants (Nobu first, I think) marinate in miso before grilling. I did the minimal-seasoning thing again, in butter/oil again, but I added a dash of Penzey's Sunny Paris seasoning. The skin and flesh both browned nicely. The flesh was amazingly light on the tongue, like sole or turbot, and quite tasty. I'll use less oil next time...

Local wine store's March sales include Notro 2007 Torrontes, a lovely white wine from Argentina. The label boasts pairing with salads, light fish dishes, and spicy Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. They're right! Excellent with all the white fishes we've been eating. And with sushi too. REALLY good with sushi.

Please note: Penzeys Spices ROCK. I miss Ariana's Caravan being the spice merchant of Grand Central's food market, but Penzey's is totally cool too. I have never in my life used pre-blended seasonings other than Herbs de Provence or curry powder, feeling they were somehow cheating. And yes, pre-mixed curry powder is not subtle and I really only use it on a few vegs like buttered corn, when I'm too lazy to make my own mix for a small quantity. But Sunny Paris is completely addictive, utterly delicious, and I never would've thought of it myself. Contains purple shallots, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf and dill weed. Smells a bit sharp in the bottle, but once it hits the warmth of the pan it transforms and blossoms into come-hither yumminess perfect on fish, chicken, veggies, mashed potatoes and eggs. The price is pretty steep but a little goes a long way. Entirely worth it.