Saturday, March 31, 2012


This beautiful structure is the rear view of the main entrance to the Fiarchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG.) Established in 1938, this beautiful 83-acre garden is my favorite place for the weekends. Many of the structures here are built with Florida's limestone just like what is seen here on the ornate staircase to the meeting rooms on the first floor. The ground floor serves as the gift shop where visitors to the garden buy souvenirs of their trip.
Gift Shop

Friday, March 30, 2012

Collision Center

This is how a car is being prepared before work begins at one of many body shops in South Miami's Commerce Lane. The cars are marked with yellow chalk marks and I really do not understand what is being done here because I do not see any dents on this car. If it were mine, it wouldn't be here.
Body Shop

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thunder God Thor

There are more than 600 species of oak in the world, more than 80 in North America and 19 different species of oak trees in Florida alone. Here is the trunk and telltale bark of a Quercus alba, the white oak, which is one of the preeminent hardwoods of eastern North America. It is a long-lived oak of the Fagaceae family, native to Eastern North America. Oak trees in Miami are everywhere and they serve as hosts to all sorts of plants and animals alike. They grow very large and tall and live a long, long time (hundreds of years.)

In Norse mythology, the oak was sacred to the thunder god, Thor. It is often speculated that the reason for this is that the oak – the largest tree in northern Europe – was the one most often struck by lightning. That, I can attest to. My oak tree was struck by lightning once but it survived. I love the beautiful flowering vine that lives on this oak tree. Can you see the green lizard?
White Oak

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Here is a window peek at a very elite shop, the Hip.e Boutique for upscale ladies. To let you feel being pampered when you shop, you will be offered champagne and coffee and your boy friend who dared to take you in here can calm himself down while waiting in his own haven. The chandelier you see is the very nice red Murano chandelier. I like their "Rich & Skinny" jeans, and the "Young Fabulous & Broke" ready to wear but not so much their Diane Von Furstenberg swimwear. I like the Brazilian tongs better.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Too Tall

The lychee (Litchi chinensis) is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. I have seen many lychee trees in Miami, but these three are by far the biggest and tallest of them all. Lychee trees normally are less than about 30 feet, but these are at least 45 feet or taller. Lychee fruits are well sought after. The fruits, when ripe, are beautiful on the trees and they are delicious to eat. Do you know that it was the favorite fruit of Emperor Li Longji (Xuanzong)'s favored concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei?) The emperor spared no expense and had special courier service with fast horses to bring the fresh fruit from Guangdong where the trees grew wild. It's good to be a favored concubine of a big shot, don't you think? All the lychee you can eat!

In traditional Chinese medicine, lychee is known for being a fruit with "hot" properties, meaning if you eat too many, you will have high fever, thirst, concentrated urine, red face, red tongue, yellow tongue fur, rapid pulse among other nasties. May be that's why the emperor did not mind getting his favorite concubine these fruits. Hot is good!

But I digress... I am looking at the flowers on these trees and am trying to figure out how I can get the fruits come this summer. Time to befriend the people of the fire department with trucks equipped with tall ladders.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lotus Nursery

This is the time that the lotus are actively growing. Here is another incubator in full Miami sun. New leaves arrive quite fast and I would like to know how a leaf would decide to push itself away from staying on the surface of the water. The new leaf on the right seems to do that. Life is full of mystery.
Baby Lotus

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Miami Twilight

Here, at 8:10pm, Miami is seen in its twilight zones: Civil twilight has ended, but nautical and astronomical twilight are still in effect before dusk will set in soon. The sun has set at 7:34pm and it is already below the horizon and this is what you see looking due West. Beautiful Venus is atop the crescent moon and Jupiter is to its left. There is still enough scattered sun light to paint streaks of clouds in pretty pink. This is Miami at its best.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Well, this is not quite Rooney Mara, not even close. I am not even sure if this is a dragon tattoo. But she does look formidable on this motorcycle. Riding with guys like this, she can have any tattoo she likes. If you look real close, the license on the motorcycle on the right says "Live To Ride." Sir, Yes sir!
Girl Tattooed

Friday, March 23, 2012

Illustrated Miamian

In Miami, you regularly encounter people with many tattoos on their bodies. Here is a prime example.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beautiful Day in Miami

Today is a beautiful day in Miami and everyone I talked to agreed. You should know the name of this tree by now. They flower like this in March every year.
Beautiful Day

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lotus Reflections

Reflection of the blue Miami sky over a single young Egyptian Pink lotus pad. This is the time that new lives emerge from hardened lotus seeds to blossom into beautiful blooms in the summer. Did you ever experience lotus scent? Intoxicating is what it does to me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Another automobile accident on a clear day under beautiful weather.As usual, traffic is tied up. This seems to be quite involved and the woman driver is being tended to on the other side of her car by the rescue team. A fire truck was called and it arrived a few minutes later. Looking at the positions of the cars, I can't even guess what may have happened. Can you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Golden March

In March of every year, Miami is painted yellow by its numerous Tabebuia chrysantha trees. The flowers do not stay very long on the trees, and here they create a nice golden carpet. Even the carpets are gone after a day or two. So long... see you again next year.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Youth Fair

It's March, and it's Miami Youth Fair's time. This is an annual event that many small business owners and vendors depend on for a recurring yearly reliable source of income. But the crowd tonight is much thinner than that of previous years. The rides are quite expensive and riders are very sparse. Rides cost an average of US $5.00, food is $8.00 and drink is $4.00, not counting admission cost of $10.00 If you have more than one kid, you can go broke quite quickly here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green Night

It's St. Patrick's day again and tradition in Coral Gables makes it a green night street party. Blocks of streets in downtown Coral Gables, the City Beautiful, are closed to traffic for everything green to blossom. Every year, I come to help selling beer, US $8.00 for each plastic cup of quite hefty size, and they are selling like hot cakes.

I can guarantee you that one can get drunk just from the beer's vapor coming from the beer pourers on the side of huge trucks full of beer. Ice cold Harp, Guiness, Smithwick's, Half and Half, Black and Tan made me gaga tonight and I can't blog straight!

Friday, March 16, 2012


A happy event of late yesterday/last night trumped all of my other wonderful ideas for today's blog. The photo I took for it is really lousy, but all you need is to trust my narration. I do have a very good digital camera with superb macro, but I am too lazy to dig it out from under my clutter, so I am using my trusted iPhone 4 camera that is the worst to take macro photos. But I am ecstatic. So ecstatic that I am lacking words to describe my happiness. Therefore, I looked up to tell you that I am:

very happy, blissful, athrill, beatific, crazy, delirious, dreamy, elated, enraptured, enthusiastic, entranced, euphoric, fervent, floating, flying high, frenzied, gone*, high*, in exaltation, in seventh heaven, joyful, joyous, mad, on cloud nine, out, overjoyed, pleased as punch, rapturous, ravished, rhapsodic, sent, sunny, thrilled, tickled pink, tickled to death, transported, turned on, upbeat, wild... and more...and why is that?

At the end of February, I got about a handful of seeds from the two mature Alstonia scholaris, the object of my intense search for many years. I immediately planted them according to expert recommendations, expecting some assured germination in about three weeks. That happened and I counted five baby plants so far. To see them, you should click on the photo and enlarge it to original size. In a few days, I expect many more will come out from the soil and technically I can grow a small forest of A. scholaris. What a journey! I will get at least one to grow into a mature tree. That will happen, is there any doubt? None!
Cloud Nine

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Holy Cow!

Smack in the middle of the city of Miami Lakes you can find a swath of land where cows graze in peaceful surroundings. Actually, there is a lot of controversy about the existence of this dairy farming business here. The owner of this land where cows are herded for milk clash with neighboring residents who complain that the cows' smell of uncleanliness ruin their homestead.

Dairy cow (Bos taurus) herds in the United States range in size from small farms of a dozen animals to large herds of more than 15,000. You are looking at a small dairy farm in the middle of a thriving Miami urban area.

These cows all have number tags attached to their ears for identification... and they just enjoy a beautiful day in Miami. Knowing that to maintain high milk production, a dairy cow must be bred and produce calves, cow number 2438 was very busy with several attempts to interrupt a "leave me alone, please" grazing miss cow. She obviously was more interested in her dinner and did not want to be disturbed. This is the second failed declaration of love. I had to leave the scene so I can't tell you whether this hot love call ended in success or failure.
Cow in Town

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm Going Green

I am not talking about the color "green" per se. I am sure you are all aware that there are the so-called green organizations worldwide whose purpose in life is to go all out to protect the environment, preserve earth's natural resources and living naturally. Today is one of such days designated to be "green" aware. Many groups are giving presentations of why bottled water is harmful to both you and the environment, how to grow "green" products that you consume etc... But this is a first, a green blender.

What you see is a cycle-powered blender machine. It has not been perfected so it takes two persons to operate it. By sheer leg muscle power, the young (she's green, what do you think) lady powering the bicycle is having the time of her life turning the blades of the blender that is held by the young green lady assistant. The blender does turn furiously and it did blend whatever they put in it to puree. The irony of this is that after expending the energy (which is good) to blend the smoothie, she may need a refreshment and gain back many times the calorie over. If it were up to me? I would have put in the blender: 1 cup of vanilla ice cream, a half cup of whole milk, 1/8 cup of half and half milk, one and a half table spoon of sugar, a dash of vanilla extract. Then I would do my best to huff and puff and blend all of that together into a thousand calorie vanilla shake... Oh so good! Let's go green!
Green Blender

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ruby Tuesday

I rarely venture into the Northwest section of Miami. Today is a rare exception because that's where I got to go for dinner. This restaurant is also a first for me: Ruby Tuesday. This is a franchise restaurant business that started in 1997 and this restaurant is on 67th Avenue... all the way at 152 street in the Northwest of Miami, in Miami Gardens. Their Asian Glazed Salmon was not bad, not excellent... OK for a Tuesday.
Ruby Tuesday

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm In NO Hurry

Remember my blog about the Coco de Mer? More than 7 months have elapsed. I returned to the planting site and this is what I saw. Nothing happened! This double nuts looks exactly like it was in July last year. You may have noticed that a humidity gauge was added to monitor the health of this nut. It's nut! This is worse than watching grass grow, because if you waited a few days, you would have seen some movements. This is also worse than watching paint dry because it does dry in a few days. This is really taxing one's patience. I am lucky I have plenty of it, so I'll come back next year. I have the feeling that nothing would happen then either. I understand that this nut starts to germinate (if it ever will decide to do so) and grow downward into the ground for a while before curving back up to break the ground and emerge into civilization. That's all right... I'll wait.
Slow Poke

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love or Hate?

Since Friday this week, there is an orchid festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) and today is the last day. I wanted to go there for some snap shots, but could not get around to face that chore. But have no fear, my orchid is right here, and this one has a tale to tell you. This is part of my Oncidium sphacelatum orchid, one of over 750 species in the genus Oncidium which is a member of the large Orchid family (Orchidaceae.)

I have this orchid for years and it grows into spectacular specimen. Oncidium is Greek for swelling tubercle. Interestingly, sphacelatum means dead or diseased. This species, along with its close relatives, has long been associated with the dead by the native peoples of Central and South America. For years, I knew that this orchid is insect pollinated but I always had the wrong information that it is pollinated by male bees trying to mate with the flowers because they move with the wind just like a swarm of female bees. But that behavior really belongs to orchids of the genus Ophrys and Trichocereus, which I do not have. These orchids use sexual deception to attract pollinators to their flowers. In sexual deception, an orchid attracts male pollinators by producing the sex pheromone of virgin female pollinators in addition to providing visual and tactile cues, in this case, the flowers mimic female insects.

The truth is that this O. sphacelatum is pollinated by aggressive bees that drive other insects from their territory. Their flowers mimic the invading bees and got pollinated by the attacks. Now I stand corrected. This orchid is not pollinated by love. Rather, it is impregnated by an act of war! Can you believe that?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hamburgers & Such

It's the weekend... and it's time to reload on good but bad food. Good because they taste so good... and bad because they are so bad for your metabolism. Just about anywhere you go for lunch, you have a choice of... drum rolls please... hamburger or fish sandwich. Here at an open air (outdoor) on the water restaurant, you see two hamburgers with the customary calorie and cholesterol loaded delicious french fries and a fish sandwich. Americans are nowadays more conscious and they drink more water and ice tea, and less sodas and beer... until dinners and during especially happy hours at the end of the work day, then it's beer a go go. The sun glass and towel are ubiquitous and you know you are in Miami.
Open Air Fast Food

Friday, March 9, 2012

Exotic Fruits

You may remember in an earlier blog, I mentioned that star fruits are under utilized in Miami, yet that fruit is rather expensive to buy, and sometimes hard to find. Here is how they are sold in a Publix grocery store. Two US dollars a star fruit is rather excessive, I think. In the same basket are a few smaller fruits, also quite expensive. They are the Sharon fruit.

The Sharon fruit is a cousin of the persimmon or kaki (Diospyros kaki,) an edible fruit in the genus Diospyros of the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae,) named originally after Sharon plain in Israel. It is an Israeli-bred cultivar of the D. kaki fruit. The sharon fruit has no core. It is seedless, particularly sweet, and can be eaten whole. Eating the sharon fruit regularly is believed to reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis causing heart attacks. At $1.29 for a tiny fruit like this, I'd take the heart attacks.
Sharon Fruit

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Peacock's Tale

I was pondering this question for a long time: Why do peacocks pay the price of dragging a long and heavy tail (it's called a train) all their adult lives? It turns out that that is the price to pay to attract the attention (and get them) of peahens. A theory goes to say that peahens prefer peacocks with large and colorful fan tails when they propose. Then there are them "eyes!" There is a scientific research asserting that a successful peacock must have an average of about 150 "eyes" on its tail. If the number is less than about 130, he can forget about getting the girls to pay any attention to him. Well, Greek mythology says that queen Juno, wife of Zeus, was mad at Argus, her 100-eye watchman for not doing a good job keeping all of them open to spy on Zeus, put all 100 eyes on the peacocks. Sorry to say, only 100 eyes? These poor peacocks would never, ever be able to get a date. They need 150 of them, according to 21st century life science studies.

I followed this peacock around this morning and felt tired just looking at him dragging his heavy tail across the asphalt and the grass. And to think that to impress his potential mate, he has to hold this tail erect and dance around! What they won't do for love!
100 Eyes

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Once in a while, the streets of Miami are graced with cars with custom artwork on their entire bodies. Here is one, an "alelooped" Austin Mini Cooper. Aleloop, also known as Alejandra Leibovich, Neo Pop artist native of Argentina works in her art studio in Coconut Grove, designing, illustrating & animating for commercial products. She has won many awards for her work and has put her signature on ten art Mini Coopers. They are: Fine Arts, Grunge, Video Game, DJ, Mini Me, Free Hand, Comics, Pattern, Designer and Nature. You can tell from the names given to the Mini Coopers that she is "Op." Being "Op," she is said to love peacocks, wild giant iguanas, weird stuffs, cats , minidogs and imaginary creatures. In other words, my kind of artist. Here is one of her work, the "Video Game" art Mini Cooper.
Neo Pop Art

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


There was another cold front passing through Miami last night... only a mild one, but that seemed to be too much for this "chispojo" fellow. That's the Cuban name for this critter that was found unconscious this morning. Well, that's what chispojos do: they pass out during cold spells... just like me!

The knight anole (Anolis equestris) is a species of lizard in the Polychrotidae family, and it is the largest species of anole. Other common names include Cuban knight anole. Chispojo is native to Cuba, but has been introduced into Miami-Dade, Miami Beach, Broward, Palm Beach, and Collier counties of Florida. It grows to a length of 13 to 20 inches (33 to 51 cm) including the tail. It is now widely introduced in South Florida where it reproduces and spreads readily. They absolutely cannot withstand freezing temperatures and in winter freezes in south Florida they drop semi-consciously from tree canopies. This guy was not entirely unconscious, but he was rather lethargic and easily got caught. He is in some kind of trouble by the look of his tail. Two minutes after I took this picture, a surgical intervention was performed and he became much uglier than he looks right now with his long tail. I was told he didn't feel a thing. Really? I would scream murder if someone snips off my tail like this, even if it's a bad tail! Can you tell me if the tail will grow again? I know the answer to that question. Yes? No? May be?
Cuban knight anole

Monday, March 5, 2012

O. Serrulata

I was reviewing this blog and realized that I am totally biased towards the flowering plant that is the Ochna integerrima (hoàng Mai in Vietnamese, meaning yellow as to distinguish it from another much rarer alba form called bạch mai.) This species grows as a tree of the family Ochnaceae. The spectacular yellow flowers of this plant make it very popular in southern Vietnam, where the cut flowers of this plant are purchased by every family during Tết, the traditional Vietnamese New Year. In Vietnamese, the variety of O. integerrima whose flowers have five petals is called mai vàng (hoàng mai, yellow mai) whereas mai núi (mountain mai) flowers have between five and nine petals.

Ochna is a genus comprising 86 species of evergreen trees, shrubs and shrublets. Better known than O. integerrima is the O. serrulata, aka the Mickey Mouse plant. To be fair to this species, let me talk about Mickey Mouse today.

O. serrulata is indigenous to South Africa. It is planted in southern African gardens and is considered an invasive species in Australia and New Zealand. I can attest to that fact. Years ago, freshly arrived in Miami, I was looking for the O. integerrima but found an O. serrulata instead. Today, I have at least 7 of them growing in my yard, and hundreds of baby plants all around. Very invasive indeed. They are all in bloom right now and the beautiful flowers last but one morning. You may want to know that the binomial name of serrulata comes from Latin's serrula meaning "little saw," that describes the fine saw-toothed structure seen on their leaf margins. In fact, all Ochna species have that feature.

Let me tell you another obsession of mine: I have been in the hunt for an alba O. integerrima that is so elusive that if I ever find one, I am certain I will be in cloud nine; and you'd be the first one to know.
Hoàng Mai

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Casuarina Art

I found this very nice self portrait painting (I assume that's a self portrait) on this tree's stump. I wish I had this kind of talent. If I did, I would paint on natural canvas like this that is plentiful in Miami because trees have to be trimmed often due to our subtropical climate. But I wouldn't paint my self portrait, it's too unsightly! My subject would be something much more beautiful. Any suggestions? Did you say lotus? Now that's a wonderful idea. This painting is on a Casuarina equisetifolia of the family Casuarinaceae native to Australia and the Pacific Islands. This tree is known as "Phi Lao" or "Dương Liễu" in Việt-Nam where Casuarinas are planted in dense rows to be used as wind breaker for windy beaches and other naturally unprotected locations. For that reason, in Vietnam, Casuarina is metaphorically associated with wind and they naturally seek each other as do separated lovers.
Phi Lao

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mushy Mushy

I didn't feel like cooking tonight, especially not looking forward to doing the dish after eating so I jumped at the offer for a Saturday night out at this Romano's Macaroni Grill on Kendall Drive and about 123rd Street. The quite spacious restaurant was packed... telling me that we of the US of A don't really like to eat at home. Well... my Grilled Chicken Spiedini was a shade on the B-- side and the accompanying roasted veggies were kind of mushy mushy. B-- in my book!
Viva Italia

Friday, March 2, 2012

Music Break

Despite being cooped up in this uncomfortable position (I know, I've sat here and this is all hard concrete without a cushion,) this student is clearly enjoying a sunny music break between classes.
Music Break

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Volts and Amps

It's March already! Can you imagine that? It's the first day of the month... and this blog thing always wants to have a theme day! They want to talk about electricity... I hate electricity because I can't touch it... but have no fear because I can talk at length about it. So here we go ...

Do you know how at a flip of a switch, you can turn on the light? It's magic! In a contemporary society, we use electricity. We need it and we love it. Your electricity is created at a power plant by a giant type of generator to yield between 300,000 to 400,000 Volts or even higher (you can fry a lot of eggs with this kind of power!) This monster electricity is transported on power lines efficiently because the voltages are so high. These power lines form an enormous grid that everything using electricity is attached to. In the US, virtually the entire country is wired to this same grid, with perhaps the exception of Texas. Then substations reduce the voltages to the less formidable level of about 10,000 Volts to be delivered to local distribution lines that carry the electricity to a transformer, a device used for reducing voltage to a level that matches the level of your home of 240 Volts.

Now look at the photo I took today. The three wires at the top of the poles are the three wires for a 3-phase power system. The three cylindrical objects are the transformers. The other fat cables are not part of the electrical system. They are cables for TV, telephone or internet. Because a house or a business needs only one of the three phases, a tap takes the 7,200 Volts of one or two of the three phases down a service line to a meter outside your house. Yes, a meter so they can count how much you use and send you a bill. That's the magic! You now know that the meter is the most important part of the rambling above. I still hate electricity!
High Voltage