Saturday, March 1, 2008

Work-related: the Vincaphant and the "C Game"

A lot of the outdoor spring stuff we get in arrives in trays of what are called "plugs." (I'm told this is because they're roughly the same size and shape as a spark plug.) They're just seedlings that have been germinated in a tiny plastic cell (depending on the plant, this can be as small as half-inch / 1 cm squares), and by the time we get them, they're often getting pretty close to rootbound already.

Tray of Vinca minor seedlings -- or is it?

A lot of what needs to be done in the late winter, then, is to transfer these plugs to whatever container we want to sell them in; for some plants, this means "six-packs," which are roughly hand-sized plastic trays containing six cells, each of which contains a plant. (There are also four-packs, and for some plants we plant plugs directly into a three- or four-inch pot, or even a gallon pot, something which I don't advise you to do at home with just any old seedling.) The transplanting is a long and tedious process, which I sort of wish I could do more of, because instead of long and tedious but simple and comprehensible, I wind up running all over the place putting out (metaphorical) fires and being interrupted by somebody or another every time I turn around. (I tried to deal with this by just not turning around, but that didn't work either: I still got interrupted, and I kept getting further and further away from stuff besides.)

It's done now, but a large part of the last week or so has been Vinca minor, "Lesser Periwinkle," which I have issues with right off the bat because there's also a Vinca major, and a "Madagascar Periwinkle" (Catharanthus roseus). If the plant we are doing is in fact Vinca minor, then I'm irritated because it seems obvious to me that the names should be the other way around, and major should be minor and vice-versa. But from looking around on-line, I think actually the plant I've been calling Vinca, because everybody else calls it Vinca, is actually Catharanthus, which all makes me want to take my ball and go home, because it's hard enough to learn all these names without people deliberately trying to confuse the issue by calling things by the wrong name.

Anyway. So but the point is, potting up plugs basically works like this, for six-packs: you take a six-pack, fill it with dirt, water the dirt, make six holes in the six cells of (now-wet) dirt, stick six plugs in the six holes, and then move on to the next. In practice, this is done more assembly-line, with lots of watering, then lots of hole-poking, and so forth, but that's the basic process.

And this gets really, really boring in short order. Since we don't have the teevee or the intertubez to occupy us, we have to make our own fun, which can be difficult to do. What one of my fellow pluggers and I did was, we started to "draw" pictures in the trays by pulling plugs out selectively, sort of like a Lite-Brite in reverse. Co-worker did a credible bird head (aiming for a puppy, but what're you going to do), which I didn't get a picture of, but I came up with a marginal elephant, which I did get a picture of, and which I referred to at the time as the "Vincaphant," though now I'm thinking it should probably actually be the "elepharanthus" instead, since the more I look at the pictures the more convinced I am that what we're planting is not Vinca at all.

The Vincaphant / elepharanthus.

The other good way I've found to stay entertained while doing mindless work is called the "C Game," and is something that we used to do during long tedious periods at a previous job. The "game" is just, you take turns naming words that begin with a pre-specified letter (which at the other job used to be the letter C, most of the time, because those games seemed to be the most entertaining and long-lived, but which I played with M for the one attempt so far at this job, and it went okay. From previous experience, I know that J and K are not good letters; R, S and T are all pretty workable.). This is every bit as easy and mindless as it sounds (an advantage, because you don't want something that's going to slow down the tedious work you're doing), but it's also unexpectedly fun sometimes. Also you'd be surprised how quickly you run out of words.

The C Game has no scoring: you can't use a word that has already been used by someone else, and plurals are discouraged. You only "lose" if you give up and drop out of the game of your own volition. There's an "oooo" bonus (where everybody says "oooo" admiringly) if you come up with groups of words in a row that are 1) meaningful as a group and 2) start with the same letter, e.g. "belly button" for the letter B, "Marilyn Monroe" for M, or "chocolate chip cookie" for C, but nobody keeps track of who's gotten more "oooo" points; it's just something that can happen. I don't anticipate a lot of C-Game time, because for obvious reasons it only works when a bunch of people are all stuck together for long periods: normally we're bringing stuff in and taking stuff out kind of all the time, so there are constant interruptions. But try it yourself if you like.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Cool elephant :)