Sunday, June 25, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 290

Seedling 290 was one of the really good white Schlumbergera seedlings: the flowers were large,1 and it bloomed several times during the season. Some of this is probably because it was lucky enough to get a good spot near the window, not because it's intrinsically awesome, but lucky and good look the same at this particular moment.

The naming process has been agonizing, as a result. I had eleven contenders initially, ten of which had been considered for other seedlings, all of which could have been a perfectly good but not amazing name, and reduced that to the four names I present to you now: Giselle, Lyle Lovett, Mae West, and Our Lady Of Assumption.

Giselle is the new one. It was suggested anonymously in the comments for 128A Sloths Arrive Late, as a reference to the ballet of the same name.

Lyle Lovett was rejected for 128A Sloths Arrive Late.

Mae West was under consideration for 067A Cyndi Lauper, but was rejected on the grounds that the real-life Mae West apparently had a thing for wearing white in public, and decorating her home in white and gold, whereas 067A was very colorful.

Our Lady of Assumption2 was considered for 165A Assertive, but I rejected it on the grounds that it was a bad fit with a magenta flower, and I said I'd bring it back for this one, so here we are.3

Just as a point of interest, the smallest 50% or so of the petals have a stripe of yellow-green down the center. I didn't notice it until 290A bloomed, but when I went back and looked at the other white seedlings, I discovered that all the white ones do this to some degree or another. I couldn't tell whether the non-white seedlings do it too, since I don't generally take photos of the flowers' butts4 so there aren't a lot of examples to work from, but judging from the few cases where I did, it looks like non-white seedlings either don't have any green, or they do but you can't see it because the other pigments are intense enough to make it impossible to see.

Since all four name options would work, and I actually like all four of them, it's basically impossible to narrow down the list. So I tried to conduct an experiment: I imagined forcing myself to accept all four outcomes, and then tried to determine how disappointed I would feel in each case. Which is pretty difficult to do, it turns out, but I determined that I would be most disappointed by Mae West, and least disappointed by Our Lady Of Assumption, so I guess this one is 290A Our Lady Of Assumption. Which feels pretty weird, but it was kind of a weird situation to begin with. Better luck next time, Mae, Giselle, and Lyle.

Also, as a side note -- I have decided that I actually hate Europa as a name for seedling 190A, so I changed its name to the runner-up, Snezhana, even though changing all the blog posts and spreadsheets is going to be a pain. It's so much of a pain that I've never done it before, but I hate Europa that much.


1 Though there's a lot less variability in Schlumbergera flower size than there is in Anthurium spathe size. No doubt it's still possible to breed Schlumbergera for larger blooms, but I feel like it would be frustrating, and progress would be slow.
2 (Which is one of the names intended to honor a specific person from my life, and is in fact unusually perfect for the person in question. It should really be Our Lady Of The Assumption, but I'm trying to keep the names under 25 characters if at all possible.)
3 For the sake of completeness, the seven rejected names were: 14th Anniversary, Glass Slipper, I Made It All Up, Ice Castle, Magician's Dove, Pegasus, and Snezhana.
4 Fine. What would you call them, then?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Anthurium no. 0910 "Aria B. Cassadine"

Aria is the first, and so far only, seedling from 0063 Audrey Quest to bloom. Audrey was a pretty ordinary red / yellow, notable mostly because the first bloom or two she produced was oddly proportioned, shorter and wider than typical. Aria has only produced one bloom so far,

which is not without its charms, but it's smaller than I would like, and I'm not happy with the thrips resistance either.

It feels like a lot of the seedlings have been doing this pinkish-orange color lately; I think this indicates some genes from 'Orange Hot' in their ancestry. I didn't care for 'Orange Hot' that much, mostly because the name seemed misleading (it was neither orange nor "hot"), but somehow the color is okay on one of my own seedlings, that's not making any false promises about its color.

Anyway. Aria's probably a discard, but I'm willing to see what the next bloom looks like before committing either way.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Random plant event: Clivia miniata

In October 2007, Wonderful Co-Worker (WCW) gave me a Clivia offset. It looked like this:

I knew it was too small to bloom, but I like Clivia foliage anyway: it didn't matter to me whether it ever got around to producing flowers. And at this point you can probably tell where this post is going, so . . .

I don't know why it decided to bloom this year: it spent the winter near a window in the plant room, and I know cooler temperatures are necessary for Clivias to set buds, so that might be related, but on the other hand, it's been in the same general part of the plant room since we first got the plant room set up, however long ago that was (2010ish?). For several of those years, it lived on the floor in the corner of the room, which was surely cold enough in the winter, but might have been too dark. I don't remember how long ago it was moved up to a shelf, where it gets some direct afternoon sun, but that might have done the trick too.

Or, possibly, the plant was just picking up on the recent, much more Clivia-friendly vibe in the house since February.1

In any case. The plant's only been an actual problem once: it got scale this winter. Hand-wiping the leaves, plus dosing the plant with imidacloprid, seems to have solved that problem. There has also been some thrips damage, which isn't quite a problem, but is still irritating. (The petals are too thick for the thrips to do deep damage, and it's not particularly visible from a moderate distance away, but I'm still not happy about it.)

I've tried to spray the flowers with soapy water and then regular water, once. It didn't completely eliminate the thrips, but it does seem to have helped, a little. I'd do it again, except the rinse cycle snapped a petal off one of the flowers. Not that one petal is that big of a deal, but between that and worrying that I'll wash all the pollen out of the flowers and be unable to pollinate them, I'm probably not going to try it again until the flowers are nearly spent.

Thrips-related disappointment aside, I've been really happy about the flowers. I sincerely do like the foliage for itself, and sincerely don't care all that much about whether the plants flower, but they're lovely, and it's been such a long wait that I rarely even thought about it as a plant that was capable of flowering. So the flowers have been a nice surprise.

They are, alas, not terribly long-lived -- I first noticed the buds on 5 June,

the first flower was open on 7 June, and the first flower started to shrivel and die on 16 June. As I write this, it is 18 June, and there are still three buds on the stalk that have not yet opened, so there should be something still there for another couple weeks, but the blooming process seems to zip by really quickly. Probably I'm just spoiled by the Anthuriums. In any case, having accidentally figured out how to get flowers once, perhaps I won't have to wait a decade for it to happen again.


1 May as well do a seedling update while I'm here, I guess. The February batch started with 77 seeds. Some failed to germinate, some germinated but then died, some started, barely, to germinate and then stopped growing. I currently have 64 seedlings from that group, officially (photo below), 61 of which have produced leaves, and I'm thinking the other 3 seeds are going to be thrown out pretty soon.

There were 65 seeds in the May group, and I was getting kind of worried about them toward the beginning of June, because it felt like they were germinating more slowly than the February group did, but I think the problem was that I had unreasonable expectations, not that the seeds germinated more slowly. Looking at the records I have, the February batch was sown on 7 February and potted up on 31 March (52 days later); the May group was sown on 4 May, and 52 days after that would be 25 June. It's totally plausible they'll be potted up by then, or at least that they ought to be.
Of the 65 May seeds, it looks like 61 have germinated, so if the same proportion survives, I should wind up with 51 or 52 plants from the May batch by 12 September. Which is a lot of seedlings, obviously.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 201

Nothing terribly exciting about seedling 201 (though it photographed well), so let's jump straight to the names.

Finalists: Are We Not Men?, Maharaurava, Sweet Catharsis, Varian Fry.

As we get further away from the moment I chose some of the names for the seedlings,1 I'm finding it harder and harder to follow my own reasoning behind choosing some of the candidates. So don't expect me to explain why they're here, though I can still tell you where they came from.

Are We Not Men? is originally a quote from the 1896 book The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells, and is specifically a reference to Chapter 12 of the book, where it is the refrain in a ritual chant.2 Although I read The Island of Doctor Moreau when I was a kid,3 in this particular case it's intended as a reference to the band Devo, more specifically their 1978 album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (YouTube link; please be aware that some songs have aged better than others; track 5 is particularly iffy though I think the problem is more with the vocabulary than the sentiment), and even more specifically still the song "Jocko Homo" (YouTube), from that album.

Maharaurava is one of the Buddhist hells, previously considered for 058C Consternation.

I don't know where Sweet Catharsis came from. It might have been a random word combination.

Varian Fry is another World War II figure; he was an American journalist in Vichy France who helped a few thousand Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees escape Nazi Germany, including quite a few people you've maybe heard of.

So. Sweet Catharsis can go; I have no particular attachment to it, and this flower doesn't feel particularly cathartic anyway.

And Are We Not Men? gets the song stuck in my head. I find the song . . . interesting, but more thought-provoking and mildly uncomfortable than enjoyable. I get self-conscious about liking Devo sometimes anyway. And "Jocko Homo" isn't even my favorite song of theirs. If I'm going to have a Devo song in my head, I'd rather it be "Through Being Cool."4

Which leaves Maharaurava (which I'm getting better and better at spelling correctly the first time, by the way) or Varian Fry, and Maharaurava has two things going for it: one, this is its second time under consideration, and two, I just did a World War II name. I like Varian Fry well enough that the name will probably return next year, but this one's going to be 201A Maharaurava.


1 (the bulk of the remaining name options were chosen in December / January / February)
2 The titular Doctor Moreau has been performing experiments on people and animals, basically fusing them to one another to make half-animal, half-man creatures. The creatures have a "Litany of the Law" which they chant, which the narrator is drawn into, that names the rules they are to follow and declares their obedience to Moreau.
3 (I did not like it, but felt compelled to read to the end anyway.)
4 Which might or might not make an acceptable seedling name; I'll have to think about it.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anthurium no. 0779 "Hollee Luja"

Hollee Luja is one of those punny drag names that have been around for a while; I'm sure there have been queens who performed under this name, but as far as I can tell, no individual queen performs primarily as "Hollee Luja."1

The camera doesn't like Hollee: she's much, much darker red than the photos show. When the camera is tasked with taking a photo of a dark spathe on a dark background, it lightens everything up. Which would be objectionable if I could just turn the photo's brightness down and get an accurate image, but the camera manages to do it in a way that makes it very difficult to adjust.

The leaves are really interesting, though -- both very narrow

and with red veins on the underside of the leaf. This is a trait that shows up here and there in the seedlings (most notably on 0723 Tara Dactyl), but Hollee seems to do it about as well as Tara. This is possibly related to the fact that Tara and Hollee are siblings or half-siblings.2,3

The plant as a whole seems to be nicely compact, as well, though the photo below is more than a year old so it's not the best illustration of this. (Almost all of the seedlings are pretty compact when they're young.)

Anyway. I would like to move Hollee up to a 6-inch pot sometime, but space is extremely limited right now: I only have room for maybe ten seedlings to move from 4- to 6-inch. And there are a lot of deserving seedlings.4 So I'm not sure if that can happen anytime soon. Though I'm still having trouble with thrips, Xanthomonas, and ghost mites, so it's possible some of the current 6-inch plants will get thrown out, and then more room will appear. We'll see.


1 Which I mention only because I was sort of in the mood to do some drag queen research, which is not usually the case, and then today there's no research to be done.
2 Both Tara and Hollee are from seedling group BQ (seed parent was 0005 Chad Michaels, sow date 25 August 2014), which has produced a lot of interesting and pretty blooms:
0694 Brad Romance (very large plant, light peach / yellow blooms, long-lasting blooms, very thrips-prone, some weird bleaching on some of the leaves that I can't figure out)
0696 Jessica Wild (a pretty run of the mill red / red; small blooms, nice foliage, kinda slow-growing)
0698 Landon Cider (decently pest-resistant, long-lived red / purple-red blooms)
0721 Chandelier Divine Brown (unphotgraphably striking red / pink blooms, the first of which was pretty small but they've gotten a lot larger with time and a new pot)
0723 Tara Dactyl (large red / red inflorescences; underside of new leaves have strong red veining)
0842 Pretty Punasti (very large brownish-red to red spathes; spadices start out brownish and age to pink; large leaves)
3 Though I have noticed some tendencies toward red veining on 0116 Eileen Dover and 0120 Eliza Boutisecksis as well, lately. It appears only on very new leaves, fades quickly, and isn't as strong, but it's noticeable enough that I'm surprised it's taken me this long to notice it.
4 Promotion certain: 1299 Sinthia D Meanor.
Promotion likely: 0779 Hollee Luja, 0788 Owen McCord, 0805 Triana Hill, 1265 Inez Paloma, 1268 Li'l Miss Hot Mess, 1325 Dixie D Cupp.
Promotion possible: 0378 Annie Thingeaux, 0648 Bianca Del Rio, 0698 Landon Cider, 0716 Herbie Hind, 0728 Sister Dimension, 0771 Nina Flowers, 0791 Joslyn Fox, 0799 Hope Sandreams, 0811 Alma Children, 0910 Aria B. Cassadine, 1171 Chris of Hur, 1181 Tajma Stetson, 1212 Sweet Pam, 1224 Perry Watkins.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 135

Yet another white-blooming Schlumbergera seedling. This is one of the medium-quality white ones: I may or may not keep it around.

Name finalists: Chiune Sugihara, Fog Machine, Glass Slipper, Rental.

Fog Machine is kind of nonsensical, but, you know, fog is white, this is white, it sort of works. Rental is because from everything I've seen, available apartments are always painted white. Like, always always.1

Glass Slipper was previously considered for 193A Arcade Gannon; it works better as a name for 135A because the photos for this one were lit in a way that showed the translucence of the petals more often.

And then there's Chiune Sugihara. He was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania during World War II, who is now known for issuing travel visas to Lithuanian Jews (as well as Jewish refugees from Poland) to travel to Japan. (From Japan, they were then able to reach various other destinations as immigrants or refugees, with the assistance of the Polish ambassador to Tokyo, Tadeusz Romer.) Sugihara was officially prohibited from doing what he did. Per Wikipedia:
At the time, the Japanese government required that visas be issued only to those who had gone through appropriate immigration procedures and had enough funds. Most of the refugees did not fulfill these criteria. Sugihara dutifully contacted the Japanese Foreign Ministry three times for instructions. Each time, the Ministry responded that anybody granted a visa should have a visa to a third destination to exit Japan, with no exceptions.
By ignoring the official process and issuing visas anyway, he was risking his job.

Wikipedia says that Sugihara spent 18-20 hours a day, for about six weeks (18 July to 28 August 1940), writing visas.
According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kaunas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train's window even as the train pulled out.

In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, "Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best."
He is thought to have directly saved about 6000 Lithuanian and Polish Jews, though there's some dispute over the number.2 Not all of the people who received the visas were able to leave Lithuania in time, either: some were captured by Germans during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and executed anyway.

He did eventually lose his position in Japan over this, but not until 1947. He was also held for 18 months as a prisoner of war by the Soviets, in 1944-46. He died in 1986, at the age of 86. There's a lot more at his Wikipedia article, including a list of books about Sugihara.

And, honestly, I don't see any point to pretending to consider the other three names. There's something about this story in particular that I find moving -- I mean, there are a ton of other people who risked one thing or another to help save European Jews during World War II. But, I dunno, there's something about this specific story that gets me. (Best guess? Something about the contrast between the incredibly high stakes and the incredibly tedious act. Can you even imagine hand-writing visa documents for 18 hours a day, for 6 weeks?)

I do kind of like Glass Slipper, but this seedling is pretty obviously 135A Chiune Siguhara.

And lest I forget, here's a 352A bud update. The bud has dropped off, as I was expecting it to. So, if I can keep to the schedule I set up for myself and nothing really weird happens, we only have seven more Schlumbergera seedlings to get through this year.


1 Which I understand, of course: it looks clean, it looks bright, and people generally don't have strong feelings about it one way or the other. You probably could get someone to rent an apartment where all the walls in all the rooms were painted an intense tomato red, but not everyone is going to find that appealing, and you don't want to have to show an apartment to more people than necessary, 'cause every person you show to who doesn't wind up renting is a waste of your time. Therefore, white.
And yes, I know it's actually normally off-white. (I assume this is because white-white looks too sterile and cold?) Close enough for our purposes, I think.
2 Which is further confused because some sources cite the number of descendants of those Sugihara saved, instead of or in addition to the actual people. And also nobody was exactly counting at the time, and not everybody who got a visa was saved, and not everybody who was saved had been given a visa, and so forth. It gets confusing. The point is that it was a lot.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Anthurium no. 1447 "Daesha Richards"

Please bear with me, reader, I promise we'll be getting some more interesting Anthurium seedlings soon.

Which is not to say this one's boring; it's just not particularly good. The blooms have all been pretty small. The color combination is a common one,

and the foliage is not great,

so it's probably going to be discarded eventually. But there is something slightly noteworthy about 1) how many blooms it's produced, and 2) how hit-or-miss those blooms have been. I don't have photos for every inflorescence the plant has produced, but here's the first one:

and here's the most recent one.

And this one came in between.

It's still not extremely common, but the seedlings, collectively, are producing inflorescences on short peduncles more frequently now. I don't know if this is because of damage from pests, or if environmental conditions in the basement are causing plants to attempt to bloom before they're actually ready to do so, or if we're seeing recessive genes show up in the F2 generation that didn't have visible effects in the F1 seedlings, or what, but it feels like it means something.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 132

The name finalists for this one are giving me a bit of mood whiplash, but it's a nice seedling. One of the more interesting things about it is that it photographs as pink or magenta at different times, and I haven't been able to figure out whether that's because the flowers are actually changing color with age1 or because my camera's screwing with the color balance. Or both.

So what are these whiplashy name options? Glad you asked. Divoon, Pointy Space Princess, Rosenstrasse, Sweet Baboo.

Divoon keeps coming up and then getting shot back down, see 181A Margaret Atwood and 182A Padparadscha, but surely one of these times it's going to stick, right?

Pointy Space Princess is a nod to the character Lumpy Space Princess, from the show Adventure Time.

(warning: the video's volume varies substantially from one clip to the next)

The name actually describes the region of space, lumpy space, of which she is the princess; it happens to also work as a physical description, and she self-describes as lumpy so I'm not sure if this is an important distinction to make, but since I've just learned this I figure y'all may as well learn it too. In any case: I wanted to name a lavenderish seedling after LSP, but A) the Schlumbergera seedlings are not lumpy, they're pointy, and B) I didn't want to give the impression that the makers of Adventure Time or whatever company owns the rights to it approved this particular seedling or were affiliated with me. Therefore Pointy Space Princess. Which might still not be distinct enough, but it's the best I could do.

Rosenstrasse (German for "Rose Street") is the name given to a protest in Berlin, during February and March 1943, in which the non-Jewish wives of German Jews who had been arrested and were to be deported demonstrated until their husbands were returned. There's a ton of stuff about it at Wikipedia, and the story overall is, I gather, not so much that standing up to oppressive regimes can save lives (though it can, and did) as that if you stand up to oppressive regimes, you can sometimes embarrass them enough that they'll do what you want in order to shut you up, so they can do different horrible things. Not the ideal message, but we can't be too picky about where we find hope and encouragement these days.

Sweet Baboo is intended as a reference to the comic strip Peanuts: Charlie Brown's sister Sally referred to Linus as her "sweet baboo" a number of times, generally with Linus protesting that he was not her sweet baboo. I'm not clear on whether Sally ever actually defined what a sweet baboo was, but I suppose it's clear enough from context what she meant. I'm not sure why this seedling seems like it could potentially be a sweet baboo. It just does.

So the first name I'll drop is Divoon, less because I don't like it than because the other three names are just obviously better.

And Sweet Baboo is fine, except that there turns out to be a musician performing under that name, which would be a problem even if I liked their music, but is more of a problem since I don't.2

So we're stuck between a very silly name (Pointy Space Princess) and a very serious one (Rosenstrasse). Which is uncomfortable, and I'm not sure how to choose between them. I can't even eliminate one on the grounds of color-appropriateness, because the lavender/magenta photos work for Pointy Space Princess about as well as the pink photos work for Rosenstrasse, and I don't know which color is the "real" one, or whether either color is "real." Whatever "real" even means in this context.

I don't know exactly what tipped the scales for me, but after thinking about the question for a while I decided to go with 132A Pointy Space Princess. Which is mildly disappointing, but I was going to be mildly disappointed either way, and there will be more World-War-II-related names coming along shortly,3 and I imagine we'll see some pink seedlings next year, so it's not as if the Rosenstrasse opportunity is gone forever.


1 A theory for which there is some support: the early blooms tend to photograph pink, the later ones magenta.
2 Or at least I don't think I do, so far. This is less a comment about the quality of the music than it is a comment about me: I hate about 90% of music the first time I hear it, even things that I later wind up loving for decades. Dunno why.
So maybe if I listened to more songs by Sweet Baboo I'd eventually come to love them, but the first impression wasn't great. *shrug*
3 (at least 135A, 201A, and 271A)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 202

As of 8 June, the bud on seedling 352 is still there. I still think it's going to fall off before the flower gets around to opening, but I'm less and less certain about that than I was. (The biggest argument in favor of the bud aborting is that I'm starting to be the tiniest bit excited about the possibility of the seedling flowering.)

But anyway. Seedling 202A. The shape of the bloom has me wondering whether the pollen parent might have been Schlumbergera x buckleyi;1 I don't have a way to prove it, but most of the seedlings are bilaterally symmetrical (having a clear left and right side, where one is more or less the mirror image of the other), and 202A, buckleyi, and the one known seedling of buckleyi all look more radially symmetrical (symmetrical along multiple axes at once).2

The name finalists: Feeling Gorgeous, Joan Didion, The Die Is Cast, Thermite.

Feeling Gorgeous is what it sounds like. Not sure how it got on the list of prospective names. Joan Didion is a novelist and journalist who I know primarily from her two books of collected journalism (The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem). The Die Is Cast is the English translation of alea iacta est; as Wikipedia notes, it is often used "to indicate that events have passed a point of no return," and I imagine the reader can guess what that might be a reference to. (The Die Is Cast is appropriate to this particular seedling mostly from the way the flower photographed; it looks to me sort of like a comic-book version of the trail left by a die falling through the air.)

Thermite is the general term for a mixture of powdered metal, fuel, and metal oxide which burns briefly at very high temperatures,3 and I was pretty sure it had been considered as a seedling name previously, because it's been on the list of possible names for forever, but apparently it's never made it to the final round before.

I'm pretty comfortable with dropping Feeling Gorgeous immediately. It's not the worst name, but the other three are better.

I feel like Joan Didion is the one needing the most explanation. I love the way she writes -- there's always a tension between herself as a dispassionate observer merely recording the scene, on the one hand, and what she actually feels about whatever it is.4 She somehow manages to flip back and forth between the two in a way that seems perfectly natural, which in my case, at least, has a way of drawing me into the subject matter even if it's something I would normally not give a shit about. As an example, here is the second section of the essay "Good Citizens," taken from The White Album (1979):
Pretty Nancy Reagan, the wife then of the Governor of California, was standing in the dining room of her rented house on 45th Street in Sacramento, listening to a television newsman explain what he wanted to do. She was listening attentively. Nancy Reagan is a very attentive listener. The television crew wanted to watch her, the newsman said, while she was doing precisely what she would ordinarily be doing on a Tuesday evening at home. Since I was also there to watch her doing precisely what she would ordinarily be doing on a Tuesday evening at home, we seemed to be on the verge of exploring certain media frontiers: the television newsman and the two cameramen could watch Nancy Reagan being watched by me, or I could watch Nancy Reagan being watched by the three of them, or one of the cameramen could step back and do a cinéma vérité study of the rest of us watching and being watched by one anothr. I had the distinct sense that we were on the track of something revelatory, the truth about Nancy Reagan at 24 frames a second, but the television newsman opted to overlook the moment's peculiar essence. He suggested that we watch Nancy Reagan pick flowers in the garden. "That's something you might ordinarily do, isn't it?" he asked. "Indeed it is," Nancy Reagan said with spirit. Nancy Reagan says almost everything with spirit, perhaps because she was once an actress and has the beginning actresses's habit of investing even the most casual lins with a good deal more dramatic emphasis than is generally called for on a Tuesday morning on 45th Street in Sacramento. "Actually," she added then, as if about to disclose a deligthful surprise, "actually, I really do need flowers."

She smiled at each of us, and each of us smiled back. We had all been smiling quite a bit that morning. "And then," the television newsman said thoughtfully, surveying the dining-room table, "even though you've got a beautiful arrangement right now, we could set up the pretense of your arranging, you know, the flowers."

We all smiled at one another again, and then Nancy Reagan walked resolutely into the garden, equipped with a decorative straw basket about six inches in diameter. "Uh, Mrs. Reagan," the newsman called after her. "May I ask what you're going to select for flowers?"

"Why, I don't know," she said, pausing with her basket on a garden step. The scene was evolving its own choreography.

"Do you think you could use rhododendrons?"

Nancy Reagan looked critically at a rhododendron bush. Then she turned to the newsman and smiled. "Did you know there's a Nancy Reagan rose now?"

"Uh, no," he said. "I didn't."

"It's awfully pretty, it's a kind of, of, a kind of coral color."

"Would the . . . the Nancy Reagan rose be something you might be likely to pick now?"

A silvery peal of laughter. "I could certainly pick it. But I won't be using it." A pause. "I can use the rhododendron."

"Fine," the newsman said. "Just fine. Now I'll ask a question, and if you could just be nipping a bud as you answer it . . . "

"Nipping a bud," Nancy Reagan repeated, taking her place in front of the rhododendron bush.

"Let's have a dry run," the cameraman said.

The newsman looked at him. "In other words, by a dry run, you mean you want her to fake nipping the bud."

"Fake the nip, yeah," the cameraman said. "Fake the nip."
That's a long quote, I'm aware. But it illustrates how Didion is able to on the one hand describe the scene in an objective-seeming way -- by the time you're done, you know how many people there are, something about their motivations, what they were physically up to, what they were holding, etc. -- while at the same time having her own personal feelings about the scene lead you to the desired conclusion. Nancy Reagan is is acting (to the point of taking direction from the newsman and cameraman), is trying too hard, is not a serious person.

(It's worth noting that this would all have seemed a lot more remarkable in the late 1970s than it does now, in the era of "reality TV," where we all know that pretty much everything on television is staged to this extent. That Didion manages to write it in a way that makes it feel weird and off-kilter roughly 40 years later is what I'm talking about.5)

Anyway. Whew.

All three remaining names would be perfectly acceptable to me, so I guess it's time to disqualify some of them for silly reasons.

The Die Is Cast works best if certain very good or very bad things happen in the near future. Since I can't know what's going to happen in the near future, and neither can anyone else, it's maybe a little risky? Or maybe it's just more editorial than I'm feeling right now. In any case: gone.

Thermite is an especially good name for an actinomorphic orange and white flower, and I only have one more of those coming up. On the other hand, I really love Joan Didion,6 and this somehow seems like a particularly good flower to name after her although damned if I could explain why. Since I have to jump one way or the other, and since I've gone to all the trouble of transcribing a bit from her essay, I guess I'm going to go with 202A Joan Didion. There will be other opportunities to use Thermite.


1 (As with the majority of the seedlings, the seed parent is 'Caribbean Dancer.')
2 The fancy term for this in flowers is actinomorphic. Wikipedia has a whole article about floral symmetry, for anyone who is interested.
3 Thermite is also notable for being capable of burning under water, as it contains its own oxygen. The basic idea is that you combine a metal oxide with an un-oxidized metal that forms even stronger bonds with oxygen, and then heat it up until the oxygen starts jumping from one metal to the other, which releases more heat, which induces more oxygen-transfer, etc.
The main applications of thermite, as far as I can determine, are in welding, metal-cutting, and YouTube.
4 I don't think this is my original observation; pretty sure I'm duplicating a review of some work of hers I read a long time ago, though I have no idea what review, or what work. It is, nevertheless, a good and true observation, and well worth stealing.
5 Also, yes, there is in fact a hybrid tea rose named for Nancy Reagan, and it is in fact sort of pinkish-orange, though some photographs show it as thoroughly pink or thoroughly orange. says that it wasn't registered until 2003, which surprises me.
6 I mean, that's a strange way to put it, as her writing is rarely very warm or cuddly, and I don't know her as a person. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I feel a mysterious and strong affinity for, and admiration of, Didion.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Anthurium no. 0696 "Jessica Wild"

I'll spend most of this post talking about something only tangentially related to Jessica, but let's evaluate her first.

The blooms are okay -- the shape and color are fine, and although the thrips don't exactly leave the spathes alone, the damage shows up less on this color. The blooms are pretty small, so far, but several of the other seedlings produced bigger inflorescences after they were moved to a bigger pot (most notably 0360 Heidi Gosique, whose spathes are among the largest in the whole group of seedlings now: her first blooms were merely average). I don't feel like I necessarily need another red/red so badly that it's worth the space a larger pot would take, but the point is that Jessica's not to be dismissed just for having small spathes.

Mostly the same story with the leaves, though the leaves are pretty large, which is another reason to think that the blooms would get bigger under the right circumstances:

A little thrips damage here and there on the leaf, but we've seen worse. And the plant as a whole is okay.

For the moment, I think the plan is to hang on to Jessica and see what she does next. So far, I've only seen two blooms, and there's no big hurry to throw out a bunch of seedlings at the moment, so there's still time for her to do something impressive.

Meanwhile, I was bored last Saturday, and one thing led to another, and wound up plugging various things into a Markov chain text generator and saving the outputs for several hours. At this point you may be asking yourself, what is a Markov chain text generator? It's actually surprisingly difficult to explain, and the Wikipedia article has a lot of math in it which I, frankly, do not understand. But it's basically a simple computer program that takes a bunch of input text, and then tries to generate more text like the input text, by looking at what words or letters tend to follow other words or letters. Like, suppose you input the months of the year, in English:
january february march april may june july august september october november december

The program will look at what letters tend to follow other letters -- for example, two months begin with "ju," three months end with "ary," three other months end with "ember," that sort of thing -- and then starts generating words based on that. Given the first letter "m," for example, a Markov chain text generator that's only looking at one letter at a time will follow that "m" with an "a" some of the time (following the examples of "march" and "may"), and "b" some of the time (following "september," "november," and "december"). And then once the second letter is chosen, let's say it was "b," the next one has to be a letter that follows "b" in the input text, so it could be an "r" (from "february") or an "e" (from "september," "october," "november," and "december"). Repeating that process enough times will give you garbage like this:
juausembery july july jauaptepry junuly ner se nobry july mbectovember nober mbeceruly ser aril st march jaril anul noch mbembept ar juanovept apry aril ar mbecemanuapry ay anovery mber anugusebembrily seruguly aptobemberctembepteptept japt ay obery juguguanunery janustocemaril auguarcebe over juapr jusemapter
If you look at it hard enough, you can piece together how all of those strings of letters happened, based on the input.

You'll also see that sometimes the program recreates words from the input: "july" is in there three times, and "march" is there once.

Some of the online Markov text generators will give you the option to modify the rules a bit -- looking at more than one preceding letter at a time, or whatever -- but that's the basic idea.

So. The point is, I fed a bunch of different sets of text into this particular generator, including a set of proposed and already-used Schlumbergera-seedling names, and a set of proposed and already-used drag queen names, as a way of generating some more ideas to evaluate. Neither set worked incredibly well, to be honest, but I did get a few things that made for plausible names, though sometimes I had to clean them up a little first. It helps that ridiculously long drag queen names are more acceptable than ridiculously long Schlumbergera seedling names. From the drag queens (Anthurium seedlings):

Penne Pilates Las DuBois • Randi Iman Duran • Regina Creme • Billy Hilda Horror-Black • Nurse Leia Fridgaica • Cally Sheetah • Chanel Syrup • Anya L. Sans-Amor • Normika • Kimora Le Glüm • Laganza • Charlie Charmi • Cookie Mae Cousins • Fricky • Julieboo! • Lady Bellionzo • Linda Harpoonshine • Mink Martin • Mercedes Prayer • Rae Reshae • Sister Dharmani Evergay

Are they great? Well no, not necessarily (though I find myself weirdly drawn to a few from that list, especially Penne Pilates Las DuBois, Anya L. Sans-Amor, and Lady Bellionzo). And of course there's a lot of chaff to sift through.1 But it's a lot easier for me to go through a list and say no, no, no, maybe, no, yes, no, maybe than it is to come up with a bunch of ideas off the top of my head, so anything that can generate a lot of ideas to evaluate is useful even if most of the ideas are garbage.

I was less successful getting anything useful from the Schlumbergera seedling names because they have to be shorter and make some kind of grammatical sense, but in at least one case, swapping out one word made a name significantly less cliched, and maybe better,2 and there was an amazing, 101-character-long trainwreck: "Varidgy Circelicel Like Charporectuart Prophoreporle It Frogentarich A Wat Casted To The Chably Banja." Possibly (but probably not) useful:

Prophecy Of The Door • Admission Of An Owl • Credibility Monster • Inappropriately Icy • Message From Heaven • Brave Popular Babe • I Know You're Well • I Want To Continue • The Wrong Gorgeous • Women On The Beach • Accordion Problem • Golden Gate Bride • Lady Of The World • Partially Correct • Show Me You're There • Cat Congressman • Coconut Shrimp

So if you find yourself in need of a way to generate a lot of names for something, and you have some idea of what sort of results you want, and you have the time to look through thousands of garbage results in order to get a few dozen usable items, a Markov chain text generator is one possible tool you have available, along with search engines,3 pun generators, throwing long lists of words at one another randomly and sifting through the results, crowdsourcing recommendations, and, you know, believing in yourself and using the power of your own imagination or whatever.

I should also take the opportunity to draw your attention to Postcards From the Frontiers of Science, a Tumblr blog whose author has been using Markov-like techniques to train computers to come up with band names, action figures for 1980s-era toys, paint colors, recipes, fortune cookie texts, car models, pick-up lines, fruit, knock-knock jokes, and various other things. (The recipes are particularly delightful.)


1 A dozen of the longer drag name trainwrecks:
Chocean Curzawaynettanderstormand
E’Adapez Faheins ChtestcQue Eveeltatyabedilyary Ranttisheercy Meie Ganndaby Bell
Bix Dre Wanna Gadioa Stela Basiylohavedileh Dy Ale-Movije
Canaumouicay Hiarilen Ch Lang Cabelll Fielisdwe Su
Casber Havenna Babubrences Speci Lole Belly Punadeth
Tumotipe Deton Pe Shie Me Te Baven
Cheldydsis Dar Ittivilooxthule Ronenur
Vetengoto Viceynghnelhleva Motrton Ph Malo Roeysa Vonp'Dèovena
Chideniqus L'Aralwfe Inrguneya Veamue Lang
Jaumon F. Fola Vangi Tiabisomnsty Pamoug Lo
Joun ozausun Monoyle Ols Ma Rea Pann Qun Bariara Dit
Kenixie Chaploss Zadow Alis Flo Deccanofficham
2 ("Let's Make A Deal" --> "Let's Make A Drink")
3 At least a few of the pun-based drag queen names I invented came about by repeating a name to myself over and over until it started sounding like something else, then plugging the "something else" into a search box and letting autocomplete propose an ending. For example, I'm pretty sure this is where "Coraline Pilates" came from ("Coraline" --> "core ali__" --> "core align pilates" --> "Coraline Pilates"), and one could also get "Laverne Onions," "Leslie Vittolone," "Emily Andivery," "Cora Engenierce," "Sasha Mess," "Brandy Sheena Gunn," and "Alex Blaine Layder" this way, though that's probably not actually how I got all of them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 042

Eleven more Schlumbergeras to name and then we'll be done.1 Be strong.

Only one bloom on seedling 042A, and I only got two photos: one before the petals had fully opened --

-- and one the next day (further down in the post).

Our name candidates this time are It's Oh So Quiet, Mary Tyler Moore, and Retreating Light.

It's Oh So Quiet is a song from 1951, originally performed by Betty Hutton,

and covered by Björk in 1995 on the album Post:2

Before this post, I was only aware of the Björk version,3 and although I had seen in the CD liner notes4 that she hadn't actually written the song herself, I didn't actually believe that she hadn't written it herself. It's perfect for her.

Mary Tyler Moore is Mary Tyler Moore. Come on. You know who Mary Tyler Moore is.

Retreating Light is the title of a poem by Louise Glück, from her book The Wild Iris, which I've mentioned on PATSP before (1, 2). It is reproduced here, for anyone who might be interested (and it's only 32 lines long; you have time).5

So this is kind of an impossible choice to make; they all seem perfect in one way or another, and they're all exactly the same number of characters to type. But since a choice has to be made, I'll drop Retreating Light on the grounds that it's a bit abstract, and also vaguely depressing, and I'll lose It's Oh So Quiet because the song is very loud-soft-loud-soft, whereas the seedling is not really loud at all.

Which leaves us 042A Mary Tyler Moore, and that seems only appropriate considering she's the blog's patron saint or whatever. I mean, you should have expected it would win as soon as you saw the finalists.


1 (The bud I mentioned on seedling 352 still hasn't dropped, as of 1 June, but I still think it's going to before it opens.)
2 Point of interest: the video won the 1996 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography, and was nominated for six others.
3 (and to be honest I find Hutton's version kind of grating; it's the vocals, not the band)
4 (Paper included with physical CDs that contained the copyright information and performance/writing credits. Liner notes would also sometimes include lyrics, though only for bands that didn't need them. If the singer was really mumbly or screamy, you'd just have to guess at the words, as there was no internet to look things up on yet.)
5 I should possibly note that the poem I like best from The Wild Iris is not "Retreating Light," but either "Witchgrass" or the "Vespers" on p. 37.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Anthurium no. 0473 "Margo Howard-Howard"

Margo produced a first bud fourteen months before actually blooming. It's fairly common for the first bud or two to drop off before one manages to open, but fourteen months is an awfully long time to wait, and she's lucky I was patient.

The bloom is unobjectionable. Not a rare, one-of-a-kind color combination, but at least it isn't pink/pink or red/yellow.1

Not that impressed with the foliage, though, mostly because of thrips damage.

And as it's aged, the stem has become long and floppy, which doesn't show in the whole-plant photo below because it's an old photo, taken when the first bud appeared.

Margo is one of relatively few seedlings with 'Orange Hot' as the seed parent; about half of those seem to wind up with orange spathes, and the others have been some shade of red or pink. Margo's only sibling, the late 0480 Walterina Markova was pink/purple,

0480 Walterina Markova

so I'm hard-pressed to guess what Margo's pollen parent might be. But I suppose the plant breeding wouldn't be any fun if I always knew what was going to happen and why.

Margo's a keeper for the time being, though considering how little she's bloomed and the state of her leaves and stem, I don't really see her being a long-term, permanent resident.

I should possibly also mention that Margo Howard-Howard is not one of the names I came up with. There was a performer who worked under this name in New York City in the 80s, and someone wrote an autobiography under the name (I Was a White Slave in Harlem), but the autobiography is thought to be at least partly a work of fiction. (At best, it's full of unverified/unverifiable details.) There's something interesting going on there, but I don't have the time to look into it, and it's complicated by the existence of an author named Margo Howard, making the drag queen difficult to search for. If you're motivated to look into it and happen to find something informative, leave me a link or something.


1 Which are themselves fine and attractive combinations, but as you'll remember from the collage of the first 100 blooms, there have been a lot of both, so any seedling of any other color has a much better shot at being kept around.