Monday, 28 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 26th: Swiss chard rainbow

Swiss chard rainbow by torresk
Swiss chard rainbow, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

When we bought the seeds we were indeed promised a marvelous display of colored stalks. But this is way more impressive than I expected. There were white, red, yellow and even some orange ones. Hope they are as tasty as they look; they will be sautéed in a few minutes!

Friday, 25 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 25th: Towel Day

Towel Day by torresk
Towel Day, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

This one requires a bit of an explanation, if you're not a Hitchhiker's fan. A Towel is, according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or HHGG, the most useful thing interstellar travelers can carry with them. HHGG is perhaps the best-known book by Douglas Adams, and there have been radio series, a TV series and a movie based on it. One of my favorite books by DNA is Last Chance to See, about endangered species. A must-read!

The date was picked by fans two weeks after Douglas Adams died, May 11th 2001, and has been observed ever since. I became a fan a few years before he passed away; it's too bad we won't get any more genius works by him. Even The Salmon of Doubt, posthumously published, is brilliant, although it's unfinished and doesn't make a great deal of sense.

I'm not saying that the rest does, either. But it is absolute genius!

1 pic a day 2012, May 24th: Easter Cactus

Easter Cactus by torresk
Easter Cactus, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding Easter and Christmas cacti, apparently. If I understand correctly, Christmas cacti are Schlumbergera while Easter cacti are Hatiora. Mr. Subjunctive has a great profile on Schlumbergeras.

I'm pretty sure this is an Easter cactus; the timing is right, and the shape of the flowers matches what I have read. These have radial symmetry, as opposed to Christmas cacti, which show bilateral symmetry.

Anyway, the flowers are gorgeous. You can see the similarity with "traditional" cacti; I posted a picture of Mammillaria a few days ago, and the flowers look almost the same, except for the size.

1 pic a day 2012, May 23rd: Sprouts!

Sprouts! by torresk
Sprouts!, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

These are healthy AND look really nice! I like the color (and taste) combination ;)

Green ones are mustard, purple ones are cabbage. Have been sprouting these at home for a few years now, and we recently started saving the water from the daily rinses and also from the final rinse, just before eating them. Not rinsing properly and often can lead to bacteria growth and all sorts of unpleasant situations.

The problem is that this is a lot of water; saving it and using it to water the plants is working great. The plants love it, and we do our bit for the environment. Win-win!

Next batch will probably be watercress and mungo beans. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 22nd: Vintage-y

Vintage-y by torresk
Vintage-y, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

I went for an old look with this one. I pass by this building at least a couple of days a week, on my way to/from classes. It had never occurred to me to find out what is in there.

Yesterday I took this picture, and after posting, decided to look it up. It turns out it is now a Clinic (Clínica Creu Blanca), but couldn't find further information about its history.

But still, it is a nice building!

1 pic a day 2012, May 21st: Clouds over Barcelona

Clouds over Barcelona by torresk
Clouds over Barcelona, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

Lately, the posts have become all about flowers and skies. But seriously, isn't this amazing?

It's the season, so I guess I'll roll with it. Maybe tomorrow we will have something different? ;)

1 pic a day 2012, May 20th: "Cappuccino"

Cappuccino by torresk
Cappuccino, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

As in flowers, not coffee. More specifically, Petunias.

I had vowed not to buy any more Petunias, as they are taking over the balconies, but I saw these and couldn't resist. I mean, WHAT color is THIS?

Apparently, it's Cappuccino.

I couldn't describe this color to my mother; the best I could do was compare it to a car we used to own (yes, I know). Weird color for both a car and a flower, but it worked/works somehow. What do you think?

1 pic a day 2012, May 19th: Gazania

Gazania by torresk
Gazania, a photo by torresk on Flickr.

These were inherited from a friend that recently moved to Germany. For a long time I thought I disliked Gazanias. Yellow flowers, black rings, greyish leaves left me cold. Until I saw this one, that is.

Friday, 18 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 18th: Pink Crown

Pink Crown by torresk
Pink Crown, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
I discovered this one yesterday. Was facing the street, so I hadn't noticed the flowers. This cactus has never failed to bloom every spring for the last 5 years or so. According to Google Images, this is a Mammillaria zeilmanniana, but it has so many synonyms that maybe I didn't choose the most common one. Everything fits the description and pictures, so let's say it is.

I just noticed that this one already has a fruit, bottom/center of the picture, just above the Asparagus that is growing there. It looks like it's trying to take over the balcony, this one. I removed at least 7 yesterday alone. It's not that we don't like it, but one is more than enough. They tend to "eat" the soil and at least on one occasion one of them has broken the pot. So they have to be kept under control!

1 pic a day 2012, May 17th: In the sun

In the sun by torresk
In the sun, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
Sofía again. I went to the kitchen to make some tea, and saw her soaking up the sun. In the afternoon, is the only spot where you get direct sun, which she needs to recharge her feline batteries. I think.

Her expression is priceless!

1 pic a day 2012, May 16th: Pink Quill

Pink Quill by torresk
Pink Quill, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
This is technically known as a Tillandsia cyanea. But Pink Quill is a fancier name, apparently.

We got this one as a gift for a friend we hadn't seen for at least a year and a half, which is a shame, as we live in the same city. But you know how it is.

The plant flowered the next day; I wasn't expecting it, and for a few seconds couldn't figure out what was that thing on the plant. Further inspection revealed a nice purple flower (which here shows as blue-ish, for some reason. I guess CCD sensitivity to blue or something techy).

Today I discovered a second flower; supposedly they last a long time, and we should expect more where these came from. Apparently, bromeliads die after blooming, after having produced pups to perpetuate the species, but I have found several sources that say otherwise. In particular, Mr. Subjunctive says that this is not always the case, and I trust what he says. (He writes an amazingly entertaining blog, where I have learned lots about houseplants). So I will keep you posted on any further developments.

1 pic a day 2012, May 15th: Arctic White

Arctic White by torresk
Arctic White, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
This is supposedly an Arctic White Hippeastrum. At least that's what the label said. I bought it because it was a new color for me, and so far we have three: red, red+white and salmon. So white was novel if maybe a bit boring.

Boy, were we in for a surprise.

The label showed the usual (for me) six-petal flower, so that was what I was expecting. Not THIS show. I didn't think that white-on-white was going to work, but this must be my favourite flower-themed picture so far (and you know there are a lot of those!).

Sadly, it seems the season is over; I haven't been able to find other colors, but if things work as planned, these bulbs should put on quite a show again next year!

1 pic a day 2012, May 14th: Allium

Allium by torresk
Allium, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
A bit behind with the "daily" posts. Won't even try to make good excuses: work, work and more work. Anyway. I don't know what variety this is, but it is an Allium; so basically an ornamental onion :P

I love the geometry here; the flowers are perfect six-point stars, so the whole thing screams of hexagons. I suspect that a fuller flower (we weren't that lucky, or maybe this is the best this variety does) would resemble a geodesic dome.

I know; I'm a geek.

Monday, 14 May 2012

1pic a day 2012, May 13th - Shapes & Light

Shapes & Light by torresk
Shapes & Light, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
At Sant Pere de Ribes; a nice day, spent with friends over amazing food, good wine and nice conversation. This is what Sundays are for. After that we took a walk around and these clouds caught my eye.

1 pic a day 2012, May 12th - Parsley

Parsley by torresk
Parsley, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
Huge plant, did not expect it to grow this much. Have started to cut it down a bit, so it doesn't take over the whole pot. It is supposed to be sharing it with Lemon cucumber, Swiss chard, coriander, dill and catnip. We'll see who survives.

1 pic a day 2012, May 11th - Down

Down by torresk
Down, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
Waiting for some friends by the elevator, I decided to look down the staircase; something I never do, on account of being afraid of heights. Played a bit with B&W and grain, turned out OK, I think!

1 pic a day 2012, May 10th - Food Porn: Paella!

Food Porn by torresk
Food Porn, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
Great food, great company for that day.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Aloe vera

I was having a conversation with some friends the other day, when I mentioned Aloe vera flowers; they gave me this baffled look: apparently, they had never seen those before. I guess I take it for granted, as we have had flowering Aloe vera in our balcony for several years now. The one that is currently in bloom has actually not one, but two flower stalks:

I'm not sure how common this is. Back in Paraguaná, where I used to live, this plant was all over the place, and now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing a lot of flowers. Maybe it's the age of the plant; this one is 3rd or 4th generation from the one we originally had and had to give away on account it didn't fit on the balcony anymore. This one is a bit smaller, but still impressive: roughly 110 cm in diameter, and the flower stalk is about 115 cm long!

Anyway. Went to the balcony to get a few more pictures for the post. The flowers are actually quite nice:

And then I noticed the floor was all sticky; further examination revealed there was syrup-like stuff all over the leaves - nectar leaking from the flowers:

So, of course, I had to try it. Extremely sweet stuff! Google did not reveal any information on whether this is actually used for sweetening food or something (probably not practical), but I did learn that hummingbirds dig it. Since I am most certainly not one, I have no idea what effect it could have on me. I know that ingesting some parts of the leaf is not recommended, so maybe this could be my last post :P 

I should have learned my lesson a few years ago when I spotted a new plant growing in one of our pots, saw some black fruits, and decided to try one. It was Solanum nigrum, also known as Hierba Mora or the more descriptive Tomatillo del Diablo: definitely poisonous, as I learned from Google AFTER having tried one. Nothing happened, of course, but I was quite worried for a few minutes.

At least this time I Googled first. But seriously, it is sweet and it comes from a plant. That should mean it's safe, shouldn't it? Supposedly all the other stuff that one is not supposed to try smells bad, is bitter or something. I think. Oh well.

1 pic a day 2012, May 9th: Snow-like

Snow-like by torresk
Snow-like, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
The ground was completely covered with white flowers -no idea what kind- and the sun made it look like snow. Right after a session with a group of teachers, where we discussed potential applications of board-like tools, such as Pinterest, Sworly and The New Hive, which we are testing. These are very rewarding sessions; they have been working with us for almost three years, so they are more friends than colleagues at this point, and are such a creative and inspiring bunch, that you wished you could always work with groups like this!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 8th: Langoustines - 129/366

Langoustines by torresk
Langoustines, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
...or "Cigalas" as we call them in Spain. Went to this place for dinner with friends last night. It's set up as a fish/seafood market stall; you choose whatever you want, pay by weight, then it's sent to the kitchen and they will call you to pick it up when is prepared. Cool concept, great food!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The PLE Conference

I had promised to write a blogpost on The PLE Conference, but as usual couldn't find the time to do it. So, finally, here it goes.

The PLE Conference first became an idea back in 2009. A bunch of us got together for another conference, and at some point got fed up with it: same traditional format, people doing their thing and then disappearing (I know, we kind of did the same), the audience being basically the presenters themselves, no networking spaces, spotty WiFi and so on. It was not the only conference I had been to with those characteristics; 2009 was a very busy year for me in terms of conferences and events participation, and most of them failed to live up to my expectations.

Anyway; here we were, Graham, Cristina, Maria, Tobias and I. We also managed to kidnap Andrea, whom we had met after his presentation. We went to the seaside and a couple of drinks later, started talking about why conferences should be so, well, boring.

And then someone said "we should host our own conference".

After a couple of minutes of silence, everyone started talking at the same time, with lots of ideas and suggestions. Eventually, we settled on PLEs as the focus of the conference: that was the reason we first got together as a team, and a couple of searches on Google showed there had been no face-to-face conferences on that topic yet. The only reference we could find was a virtual event.

After this, it was a question of deciding where to host it. (This is where I got tricked). Everyone said "Barcelona, of course!". Called one of my supervisors at the time, who assured us we would have 100% support from the foundation (Citilab, where I worked between 2008 and 2011), and that was it. Barcelona would host The PLE Conference 2010.

What I didn't realise then was that of course I was also automatically being appointed local organiser. If I had known the implications! (well, to be honest, if I had known, I would still have done it).

A couple of months later, we met again, at (surprise) another conference. By this time we have had a few emails and Skype meetings, and were ready to start working. Ilona became part of the team, as well as Linda and Rafa. And the hard work began. It was a lot of work: issuing the call, having weekly meetings, deciding on budget, trying to find sponsors, simultaneous interpretation, keynotes, accommodation, getting the venue sorted out, WiFi, setting up social networks presence and disseminating the info, getting papers, finding reviewers, deciding the final programme, sending papers back for corrections and revision, logo, banner, programme, finding "volunteers" (some of my students: Aleksandra, Andrew, Alex, ChengMarinaMartin), catering, setting up a space for the posters session, for the wine & tapas, lunch... It is amazing what happens behind the scenes, and you learn to have some respect for the people that organise this things. I can understand why some of them just go for the tried and proved template: thinking outside the box and trying to be innovative is risky and creates even more work.

You cannot do it alone. Yes, I was in Barcelona and had to deal with a lot of things other members of the team simply could not do. I had a lot of help from Citilab and many of my colleagues there worked really hard on this. i2Cat were also very supportive and sponsored the interpretation and part of the keynotes accommodation expenses. Some of the teachers that were participating in the HortDigital project also helped and María José even offered to host Joyce! The organising committee did an outstanding job, and we had several people helping just because they wanted to. My only regret is that I couldn't participate in all the sessions, and that I had to completely miss some of them, as most of the time I was running up and down the building sorting things out.

For the second PLE Conference, I was still part of the organising committee, but with way less pressure; we had new members, and a great local team. Southampton was amazing, and kept the spirit alive. This year it has been harder for me to participate actively: lots of changes, both personal and professional, mean less time, but I have tried to keep the Twitter conversation going on, made it to a couple of meetings, did my reviews. I'm sure this year's conference will be great, and I know that both the Aveiro and Melbourne teams are working hard on it, day and night.

BUT. It is worth the effort. Gemma has already written about this, so I won't go over it again, but the unKeynotes, the backchannel, the networking, the participation... all this has made The PLE Conference an event that is fixed in my calendar. Even if I don't attend any other event, this is the one I won't miss. How long will it keep running? I don't know. Would the name still be appropriate in 3 or 5 years? Probably not. And that's actually a good thing, in my opinion. But if something will remain, it will be the spirit, the inspiration, the camaraderie. I am extremely proud of being a part of all this, and hope I can continue helping and participating for many more years.

Why are you still reading? Go mark July 11th to 13th in your calendar right now! You won't regret it ;)

1 pic a day 2012, May 7th - 128/366

Wow by torresk
Wow, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
No idea what hybrid this is. Got it as a gift two years ago and it has never failed to bloom. Known as Amaryllis, but technically an Hippeastrum; it looks like "Desire", but it could be anything, seriously. From what I have seen online, the differences between some of them are so subtle that sometimes I don't know why they have different names. But it's pretty, so I don't complain!

Monday, 7 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 6th: (Canadian) Swiss Chard - 127/366

127/366 by torresk
127/366, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
First harvest of the spring... some seeds we brought from Canada, that promised nice, bright colors... and they delivered! This one was as tasty as nice to look at!

1 pic a day 2012, May 5th - 126/366

Nice Day! by torresk
Nice Day!, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
The sculptures, the reflection of the water, the (ugh) pigeons, the trail in the sky (what's the proper name for that?): it made for a nice composition. This was taken right before a great lunch with friends. Nice way to spend a Saturday!

1 pic a day, May 4th: Star Wars Day - 125/366

May the Fourth be with you and all that. Posting this a few days later, but I was celebrating, so that's my excuse. The caption for this one was "I have a bad feeling about this". And if you make fun of the action figure/puzzle, be afraid, be very afraid: there's more where these came from.

Friday, 4 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012, May 3rd - 124/366, Watercolors

Watercolors by torresk
Watercolors, a photo by torresk on Flickr.
I pass by this square almost every morning on my way to work. On Thursdays, it's even earlier, as I have a 8:00 class. Around that time, they usually have the sprinklers on with -I guess- the intention of watering the grass. What actually happens, the way the sprinklers are set, is that a small stream is created and it runs down the street. This particular morning it was very bright, and that red patch really got my attention. It was the roof of a nearby building, but the reflection on the water is so colorful that it looks as if it was burning. decided to crop it so the buildings and tress don't show. I like it better this way.

By the way, I'm trying the direct connection from Flickr to Blogger. It works OK, although I don't think I get a lot to say on the post layout; maybe I need to explore a bit more. And then I have to log in to Blogger anyway if I want to add labels and such. Will try it for a few days and see whether I like it.

I also started to try the Pinterest function, which is pretty good. Managed to Pin all my 1picxday images to boards organised by month.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012: May 2nd - 123/366

Today's picture almost didn't happen. Had a hectic day, as usual, and there was not much that caught my eye during the day. But when I was walking home, there was something in the way the light hit this building that made me stop.
   I was in a hurry, so I just took a picture and run to my next (and final) meeting of the day. It was afterwards that I realised the contrast was all wrong and had to play with filters to get some of the details back. Thus the weird glow on the top left corner. It had some nice comments on Facebook anyway, so I can't complain!

I guessed this must had been listed somewhere, so after a bit of Googling found out it is called Cases Salvador Andreu; apparently, the style is more Eclectic than Modernist. More information on it may be found here.
Clicking on it will open the original on a separate window, in case you want to see more detail.

This led me to this other site, where 115 works (or 116, the site doesn't seem to make up its mind about it) are listed and together create the Modernisme Route. After reading it, I realised there are several buildings and places around Barcelona named after Salvador Andreu, and two clicks later I learned he is the guy behind the cough drops I took the last time I had the flu. Which proves that everything is connected and that it is very easy to get lost on the Internet and forget what you were doing in the first place. So that's it for today.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

1 pic a day 2012: May 1st

Well, May starts and with it a new approach: to try to write a daily post for each picture that's part of the #1picxday2012 group. I'm not really sure I will be able to keep up with it but it doesn't hurt to try. I never thought I would get this far with the 1 pic a day challenge, and here we are entering month 5!

Today's picture is a snapdragon (Antirrhinum) that bloomed last week in our balcony. It's growing in the same pot as the Araucaria (which is featured in the April 1picxday pictures, post coming soon), and that I have always known by the name "Perritos" (little dogs). I don't really remember how they got there, but they are thriving and producing blooms left and right, so I guess they like it here.

Clicking on it will open the original on a separate window, in case you want to see more detail. It has gorgeous colors, so it's worth it!

As the work that was being done in the balconies has finally been finished, we could move the plants outside again. We have 138 plants! Actually, 137, as one of them was accidentally crushed to pieces a few minutes ago. A curved support and a square rail don't match. The poor thing was featured as 52/366 on February 21st, so its legacy will live on. Plus we still have hope that it will survive.