"Tina Bird, of Campbell, said the rat community was in the process of mobilizing when the rodents were killed."



We watched Mommie Dearest last night. I hadn't seen it in a couple years. Wikipedia has a Christina Crawford entry. I didn't realize she was in Cassavetes' Faces. I haven't seen that in a few years either. Now I'll have to watch it just to see Christina.


A visit to the east bay

Normally, we don't go there. It's hot and the traffic is terrible. But today is special. We have reservations to tour the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. The Bancrofts were the biggest booksellers in the West in the mid-19th century and later became a dynasty of agriculturists and philanthropists (i.e., the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley... Bancroft Avenues in every old California city, et cetera).

Ruth Bancroft, the first woman to graduate from UC Berkeley's architecture program and grandaughter to the original family rainmakers, saw her first succulent in the mid 1950s and started collecting them in clay pots. By the time she amassed 4000 potted succulents, it was decided she should have her own garden. The docent says she's 98 years old today, and still gardens. The Garden has incorporated and there's an appurtenant "conservation easement" on the land so it can never be developed.

A tree in the parking lot catches my eye.

Cestrum tree

A yellow-flowering cestrum? No, I think it's Tecoma stans.


I like the leaf on this plant.

Cool leaf

Inside the garden...A visitor asks what this is and the docent tells her it's a daisy. We know better. This is California's other native poppy.


Romneya coulteri
, aka Matilija Poppy or Fried Egg Flower. Tough and invasive, many call it a monster. It's hard to get started (very delicate roots) but once it gets going, stands easily reach six feet high and form expanding thickets. Flowers in late spring through summer.

romneya stand

Moving on. Looking one way...

Garden view one

Looking another...

Garden view two

The perfect mix of control and uncontrol.

Echinocactus grusonii, Barrel cactus. Weaponized plants feel too threatening in my small yard. But sometimes I think it might be nice to have one of these.


These snaky ones are hip right now.

cactus snakes

Nice flower.

red flowering cactus

I love the green fissures running down the trunk of this thorny tree.

thorny tree

The thorns are cool too.


But in my garden, I'd prefer to live with the deeply fissured Valley Oak.

valley oak bark
He called this a Bottle Tree. Does that make it
Adansonia gregorii
? According to Botanica, the other common name for the Adansonia is "dead rat tree".

UPDATE: Ah, not Adansonia; this is Brachychiton rupestris. (Thanks, Sue!)

Bottle tree trunk

He says this is the endangered Brazilian wine palm. I don't know the Brazilian wine palm, but I know of two rare Chilean wine pams in San Francisco. They look different than this one, so perhaps it is Brazilian.

wine palm

I like the plant growing over this lava rock.

growing over lava rock

I had a euphorbia like this once. It was an indoor plant and I put it outside to get some sun one day, and it promptly died a very brown, gooshy death.


My camera didn't know what to focus on in this salvia. Is it 'Whirly Blue'? I'm not sure. Its fragrance suffused the garden.

Salvia 'Whirly Blue'?

Back home, my little rock garden seems pathetic in comparison.

rock garden

But I've got some flowers.

Rock garden flower

Unrelatedly, but next to the rock garden, I'm pleased with my combination of orange zinnia and silvery Verbascum bombyciferum in a dirty terracotta pot.


My last garden post here.


"This school has saved my daughter's life," said Marcia Shear of Long Island, whose 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, used to punch herself in the head so often that she detached both retinas.

After she received a few high-level shocks, Shear said, the self-abuse stopped. "I am livid at these people and pieces of garbage who think they know what they're doing. Let them come and sit with my child and go through what I've gone through for 11 years."

Link requires registration.

Metafilter commenters object.
After we saw Super Size Me we left the theatre absolutely dying for a double cheeseburger. Well, [Feed] finally did it. We've officially given up food. Eating disorder here we come!

Possibly not-safe-for-work trailer here.



What food can you bring through customs?

Cheese. "If it's runny and gooey, we won't let it in," says Janice Mosher, manager of the customer service center for the CBP. But interpretations vary on which cheeses are enterable, and inconsistency abounds. For years, American cheese lovers have exchanged tales of smuggling in young raw-milk cheeses, such as raw-milk Camembert, which is illegal to sell in this country because it has been aged less than 60 days. The raw-milk cheese regulations are the FDA's bailiwick but, at least for the time being, the FDA doesn't care what you bring in for yourself.

"Currently, there are no restrictions on importation of cheeses for personal consumption," writes FDA press officer Michael Herndon in an e-mail.

But the USDA is another matter. The virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease, a livestock illness, can persist in high pH (low acid) cheeses, according to Dr. Christopher Robinson, senior staff veterinary medical officer at the National Center for Import and Export, a branch of the USDA. So the USDA frowns on fresh ricotta and cottage cheeses from abroad because they may have high-pH whey added back to them. Also suspect are cheeses "that pour like heavy cream," says Robinson, who mentions mascarpone and Vacherin Mont-d'Or.

In theory, then, only the softest, moistest, runniest cheeses should raise a customs agent's eyebrows. But in the field, agents may operate more cautiously.

Pet's Rest has interred more than 13,000 pets, ranging from goldfish to rabbits to a monkey to dogs, in nearly 60 years of business, C'de Baca said. He said that decades ago, the founders of Pet's Rest, C'de Baca's in-laws, and one of the principles in Cypress Abbey Co., agreed verbally to allow Pet's Rest to use vacant property next to the cemetery.

After C'de Baca took over the cemetery, he entered into a formal 20-year lease with Cypress Abbey in 1986, saying he believed Pet's Rest would be able buy the property outright.

But the lease documents make no provision for a sale, and indicate the property had to be returned in its original condition within 90 days of the lease ending in May 2006, said David Friedenberg, an attorney for Cypress Abbey.

C'de Baca said he made multiple attempts to try to purchase the land.

"I'm an optimist," C'de Baca said. "I thought (Cypress Abbey) would come around."

Friedenberg said Cypress Abbey "feels bad" for pet owners, but said a sale was never in the offing.

"The lease is very, very clear,'' Friedenberg said. "We're concerned about what happened, but (Cypress Abbey) needs the land, and they've been waiting 20 years to get the land back."



Astronomers have spotted a huge cloud of fiery gas speeding through a distant cluster of galaxies. They say it is the biggest object of its kind ever seen.

The gas ball contains more matter than a 1,000 billion Suns, and is plunging through the Abell 3266 cluster of galaxies at about 750 kilometres per second. The fireball is about 3 million light years across, roughly 5 billion times the diameter of the Solar System, and reaches temperatures of tens of millions of degrees.


I love astronomy and cosmology. But everything's always gotta be "1000 billion" and "3 million light years". It makes me think of Cordelia in Buffy 1.3: "Okay, enough with the hyperbole already."
"The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday." Link.

I can't think of many things more depressing than that.


"[E]x-Black Flag frontman [Henry Rollins] pens a letter to everybody’s favorite right-wing nutcase author, Ann Coulter."

NSFW (bad language) Link.

If you know Henry Rollins at all, you most likely knew he was Black Flag's ex-frontman.


News from a small city garden...

What's the latest?

Looking down from the deck, I see the Dragon arum opened.

arum from above

Let's have a closer look.

Dragon arum

What can I say--it was an impulse buy. Happily, it doesn't smell like death. Yet. It's supposed to--it attracts flies as pollinators. I didn't know that when I bought the bulb.

I found out about the bad smell after I bought it and decided not to plant it because I figured my boyfriend would object. But when he found the bulb starting to grow in the garage, he suggested I go ahead and plant it anyway. Even after I explained the noxious smell of death part, he said go ahead. )Sigh( If that's not true love, I don't know what is!

In the same bed:

Yellow monkey flower.


Salvia and penstemon.

Penstemon and piggy

A visitor complaining about poor service.

blue jay

Asarum caudatum, wild ginger:

Asarum caudatum

Not the culinary ginger, but you can make a refreshing tea from the roots. Or so I've read. Maybe I'll try that next year when the clump is big enough to divide.

Geranium maderense:

Geranium maderense

A groovy biennial. Before dying its second year, it throws up a huge infloresence of sorta rank-smelling flowers. If I let the flower die, the geranium will self-sow heavily in my yard and I'll have these plants popping up for years to come. And so will my neighbors. Heh, heh.

This deciduous fern comes up every year. I should learn what it is.

Deciduous fern

Coreopsis gigantea:


Native to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. It should be dormant right now, but this one's only a year old. Maybe it'll be dormant next summer. It makes a big display of sunflowers with the first fall rains.


The tree fern will grow out for a couple years before it starts to grow up. I will be happy if it makes it to ten feet before we sell the house and move. I've got some yellow clivia planted behind it. Once the fern gets up, I think some Nicotiana and Cineraria would be nice in front of it. Maybe a Lapageria growing up into it.

You might guess this is a dahlia if you know what dahlia stems look like. You'd be right.

Dahlia imperialis

Dahlia imperialis. It grows ten feet in one year and makes big flowers in the dead of winter before going dormant and blowing over to start again next year. Here it was just a few months ago.

Aother big grower: Bartlettina sordida.

Bartlettina sordida

It will outgrow its space this year and I'll have to make some difficult pruning decisions. Well, it'll be fun.

Behind it, Illicium mexicanum. Mexican star anise. I'll show you pictures of this one when it blooms.

Illicium mexicanum

The garden: a work in progress...always.

Last gardening-related post here.


Very, very cool.

The result is a kind of "magnet sense" -- people who've had the [strong, rare earth magnet] implant[ed in their fingertips] report that they can tell when a wire is live and when they're going through a magnet security-scanner at a store, even when their laptops' hard drives are spinning up.

Quinn Norton of Wired News has had the operation and writes in detail about how it felt, what the problems were, and what she was able to do once it was in place. The most amazing part is that months after the magnet implant fragmented and Quinn lost her "sixth sense," it reassembled itself (magnets tend to draw towards one another) and the sense returned.


Those rare earth magnets are astonishingly strong.