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.