Friday, April 14, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 070

Seedling 070A is maybe a little more pink than the usual orange/pink, and looks to have suffered more thrips damage, but it's otherwise unremarkable.

I had four name finalists this time around, just like usual, but once I started to write about the first name, I realized that the other three were kind of irrelevant: I want seedling 070A to be Delia Webster.

So who was Delia Webster?

Delia Webster was a Kentucky art teacher and abolitionist who was part of the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves escape to free states in the 1840s. She was arrested, tried, and sentenced to two years hard labor in the Kentucky Penitentiary, the first woman to be imprisoned for assisting escaped slaves.

(Webster was also the only woman in the penitentiary; she was housed in a small wooden cottage in the center of the prison yard, which isn't really relevant to why she was a badass but I think it's interesting.) Anyway. So the penitentiary warden, Newton Craig, liked her. It's unclear to me whether there was a sexual relationship or not; one source says he was tempted into a compromising relationship with her, which presumably means they did, but is vague enough that I'm not positive. In any case, Craig urged the Governor of Kentucky to pardon her. Which he did (Webster only served five weeks of her sentence), though she did have to say she wasn't an abolitionist, as one of the conditions for her release.

(And then Webster had the nerve not to contact Craig right after her release, so he was pissed that she'd "tricked" him -- which, come on, dude, you were the warden and she was a prisoner, she wasn't exactly in a position to say no to you about anything.)

All the sources agree that she traveled around a bit after that; Wikipedia says she was governess for Craig's family for a while in the early 1850s, too, though I'm not clear how that worked. In any case, eventually she returned to Kentucky and bought a 600-acre farm there for $9000 with help from investors, Northern abolitionists, and Newton Craig of all people (to the tune of $1100, which in 2017 dollars is at least $27,0001). She employed freed slaves, and then farms in the area started to have a problem with missing slaves again, so naturally (and correctly) everybody assumed that Webster was responsible.

So they cut down her trees, burned her buildings, threatened her life, and so on. As you do. She was re-arrested in 1854 and released on a technicality. Then they indicted her again in 1854, for charges related to her 1844 arrest, but she managed to escape before they could arrest her. She hid in Indiana for a while, but they eventually found her, took her to Kentucky to stand trial for the 1844 charges, released her again on a technicality, and then she came home to find about $9000 in damages and theft to her farm.2 Abolitionists from Boston gave her enough money to enable her to keep making her loan payments, and she planned to build a school on the property, but arsonists started setting her buildings (and the materials for the school) on fire in November 1866, and she eventually lost the farm in 1869.

Webster never married. She returned to Indiana and taught African-American children in Madison, IN for a while,3 then lived with her sister Martha Goodrich in Wisconsin briefly, then they both moved to Iowa;4 after Martha died, Webster lived with her niece, Alice Goodrich,5 in Des Moines, where she died in 1904, at the age of 86.

So. Yeah. It just kinda has to be 070A Delia Webster.

Refs.: (recommended)


1 For reasons I didn't have time to look into, the inflation calculators on-line won't go any earlier than 1913.
2 At least $220,000 in 2017 dollars.
3 (Significant because African-American children weren't permitted to attend public school at the time.)
4 First to Le Grand, Iowa, then to La Porte, Iowa.
5 Who is interesting in her own right: Goodrich was the first woman to graduate the University of Iowa's medical school.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 190

After the mess of naming 089B Haunted Houseboat, I'm apprehensive. Let's see how it goes.

It wasn't an especially good seedling: I think it only produced the one bloom, it's a boring color, and consequently I wasn't looking terribly hard for good names for it. The finalists were: Europa, Snezhana, White Album, and Whited Sepulcher.

Europa is a lot of different things, but I was thinking of it mainly as the moon of Jupiter or the figure from Greek mythology. It's a pretty neat moon, as moons of the solar system go;1 the mythology is, as with most Greek mythology, pretty bizarre-sounding: Zeus takes the form of a white bull because he's hot for Europa (a Phoenician woman), she sees the bull and is like, whoa, what a hot bull, and climbs on top of him, at which point Zeus runs to the sea with her on his back and swims to Crete, reveals his true identity, gives Europa some magic shit, and makes her the queen of Crete.

Snezhana is a Slavic, Circassian, and Lithuanian feminine given name, which Wikipedia thinks probably derives from the words for "snow" and "woman." I find it a pleasant-sounding name, and it seems appropriate enough for a white flower, so why the hell not, right?

White Album could be taken, I guess, as the Beatles album from which we get "Dear Prudence," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," and "Helter Skelter." If you want to, that is. For me, it's more a not-very-well-thought-out pun on the meaning of "Album" ("white," in Latin; the story of how it came to mean record album, when records were mostly black, is complicated). But think whatever you like.2

Whited Sepulcher is Biblical, from Matthew 23:27. In the New International Version: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." (Jesus was so judgey.)

So. Timely though Whited Sepulcher always is, and as amusing as I find White Album, it feels slightly tacky or something to use the bloom color as part of the name. Plus the former's pretty hostile. And it's not even necessarily certain that future blooms will be white, considering how the seedlings have collectively behaved this year.

Which leaves Europa or Snezhana, and I feel like Snezhana has to be white more than Europa does: snow's pure white, but Phoenician women were presumably not. I mean, the part everybody remembers about the story of Europa is the white bull, but the point is that I feel like Europa gives me more leeway if the color's different next year. So: 190A Europa.

Update, 23 June 2017: I changed my mind.

It turned out that actually I hated Europa as a name for this particular seedling, so I took the unprecedented step of changing a name after it had been officially decided. 190A is now 190A Snezhana instead.


1 Though my heart will always belong more to Jupiter's Io and Neptune's Triton. In fact, I kind of wish we could get a rover to drive around on Io and take some pictures, 'cause I bet they would be metal as hell. There are a lot of reasons why we're unlikely to do that -- the surface contains lots of reactive chemical compounds, and charged ions; it's both very cold (most of the time) and very hot (at the volcanoes), and there's intense radiation from Jupiter. Hard to build a robot that could do anything in those conditions. But I keep hoping.
2 I looked at the Wikipedia track listing for the White Album and was like, ennh, probably not my favorite, I should look at some of the Beatles' other albums to see which one has the songs I like best, and then I can make a throwaway comment about being more of a Revolver man, or whatever. But after looking at the track listings, I think maybe I'm just not a Beatles man. Which is weird, 'cause . . . I kinda thought I was?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 089 (again)

Had a terrible time naming this one. It's a nice seedling, in a color I don't see very often (it most closely resembles 208A Raspberry Possum, but 054A Helpful Gesture, 078A Art Party, and the still-nameless 132A are also similar), and I really wanted to get a good name for it, but on the first attempt, I managed to eliminate all four name finalists, and then I had trouble coming up with replacement names that seemed any better than the ones I'd eliminated. Possibly I was in an overly critical mood; possibly I just have trouble naming seedlings that are this color.1 I don't know.

So now it's been a week, and this is like the fourth time I've written this post, and as nice as the flower is,

I'm honestly pretty sick of looking at its face. And I need to name it something so I can move on to the next post, so even though I kind of didn't like it, I'm going to go ahead and go with one of the rejected options, Haunted Houseboat.

The reason I rejected it originally is, when I did a search for it, I found a "Spongebob Squarepants" connection, and I find Spongebob pretty grating.2 But I found the name inexplicably appealing until then, and it's the least problematic of the four options I started with.

The other three were Galveston, Joycelyn Elders, and Pink Disco Trilobite; it may not be immediately apparent to you why these couldn't work, but I assure you that there were problems.3

It might not be obvious why they could have worked, either, I suppose.4

Anyway. Next up will be Schlumbergera seedling 190A. I'm not crazy about the names I came up with for it, either.


1 208A Raspberry Possum's post also failed to select a name the first time through and had to be rewritten.
2 Apologies to any readers who are also Spongebob fans. It's just not my thing.
3 Galveston and Pink Disco Trilobite weren't color-accurate, in my opinion. (Galveston should be a light yellow, or maaaaaaaybe a yellow-orange, and this seedling is too red to be "pink.")
Joycelyn Elders was Bill Clinton's first Surgeon General (1993-94), and was controversial on a number of subjects (sex education, primarily) because half the country is out of their damn minds. Also there was a lot of deliberate misrepresentation of what she had said. As lots of people get really upset about anything having to do with sex, or anything having to do with the Clintons, it seemed unwise to give a name that would evoke both sets of associations.
Pink Disco Trilobite is also pretty long.
4 I visited Galveston a long time ago and enjoyed it; at one point I was even going to move there.
Joycelyn Elders is obviously amazing, but if you don't already think that then I'm probably not going to be able to convince you.
I don't actually know what I find so appealing about Pink Disco Trilobite either. I just do.