Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 ASM Conference in San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA
I recently attended the ASM conference in San Diego, CA. It was a good conference, I attended several interesting lectures both related and unrelated to my own research, and also enjoyed just being in San Diego in the few off hours I had. My traveling companion and I stayed at the Hilton in the Gaslamp Quarter, which had the lovely advantage of being directly across the street from the center point of the massive conference center, making for easy access. The hotel was, sadly, otherwise rather ordinary and middle-of-the-line at best. If you go, swanky places to stay in the area seem to be the Marriott on the North end of the conference center, the Hard Rock hotel (which you can see in the photo), and the Embassy Suites.

Incidentally, we could see the terrace of the Hard Rock hotel from our room in the Hilton, and on Sunday night they had a raucous party up there, complete with loud music, not very talented go-go girls, and grid of these large queen sized beds for people to chill out on. Might have been some fire pit action as well. It really looked like fun. Then, while milling around town that afternoon looking for Gluten Free food, we heard that the Gaslamp Quarter used to be a red light district. Don't know if its true, but I fond it amusing, so now I refer to the Hard Rock terrace as "the den of iniquity". (Note to folks of the Hard Rock - I mean that in the nicest/most fun way. :P )

Anyhow, I have lots of photos to share with you, most of them plants.

This is a mall we stumbled across on First Street, I think it was. It had an odd feel, multilevel with haphazard construction sort of jammed between two other buildings. I thought I was walking around in an Escher print. Very fun!

This is, obviously, the Dole cargo ship. It was hanging out in the bay behind the conference center. I wanted to grab a bottle of rum and storm the boat for pineapples, but nobody else seemed interested.

As far as plants go, about the strangest thing I saw were these three very large Platycerium ferns (sorry kids, not sure which, possibly superbum?) hanging on the side of a building. I was totally weirded out by this, since it seems like (a) too bright a spot, (b) too dry a climate, but there they were. There were also a couple smaller ones just by the door.

On the front side of the conference center, near the atrium (or whatever they called that giant, permanent tent-like room), the stairs were decorated with an array of what I think were very nicely grown Aloe ferox.

Some random succulents from the same area. Incidentally, they had whitefly.

Strelitzia nicolai
Strelitzias were a common sight in the area, along with cycads and palms. This is a very nicely grown Strelitzia nicolai that was on the back (West) terrace of the conference center. I basked in the sun for about an hour one day back there, while watching the birds repeatedly land on the flowers. I assume they were after the copious amount of sap that always seems to be all over strelitzia flowers.

Agapanthus africanus
I don't know what this is, but they were lovely. I assume based on the flowers and plant form that they're in the Amaryllis family. Please leave a comment if you know what it is. Note: They were purpleish, not blue, my camera doesn't seem to understand that particular shade. I fixed the color balance as much as I could, but it might still be a little off.

NOTE: This has been identified as Agapanthus africanus by Beverly. Thanks Bev!

As above, I don't know what this tree is, but they seemed popular in the area. Please leave a comment if you can identify it.

I'd like to go back sometime and experience more of the area. The weather was phenomenal, 65 and sunny every day (glad I checked the forecasts before leaving, that's a good 20 degrees F less than MD!!), and it just seemed like a quiet, easy going area. Incidentally, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, located on Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter, has the BEST GLUTEN FREE PIZZA EVER!!! Sammy, when are you opening a shop in the state of Maryland!? I miss you already.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Advice for the Lazy Gardener: Radishes!

Some of you may recall my approach to lettuce. It just so happens, I take a similar hippie approach to radishes. I don't always plant them, but I always have them owing to the fact that I usually let a few bloom and drop their seeds everywhere. This year I was delighted to find that I finally have some hybrid radishes. The crop is long, like a white radish, but have a slightly milder flavor and some color on them like the little red radishes. I like this because (a) they're bigger than the teeny red radishes, and (b) the horseradish-like flavor of those white radishes is a bit much for me. Not that I don't like spicy, just not that type.

Another reason I let my radishes go to seed is they young seed pods are a right tasty snack as a fresh munchie of salad topping. But here again, the white radishes produce a very strong seed pod, that while lovely pickled, is not to my taste fresh. Hopefully these hybrids will find a nice balance somewhere in-between.

Flowers are a standard brassica-type shape and color (yellow), held on a big, bushy inflorescence. To store seed, let the pods mature and dry, and select branches with no evidence of mould. Then crush open the dry pods and sift out the seed. To let them do their 'thing' in the garden, just knock the seed pods off the dry stems or let them fall on their own. The seeds may or may not actually come out of the pods, but they often still manage to germinate through them. I never put any effort into that part, that's why its called "Lazy Gardening."