Category Archives: Did you know?

October is breast cancer awareness month, and not just for women

Did you know?

I bought a huge bottle of Sutter Home white zinfandel yesterday and opened it last night.

The cork was pink and had HOPE on it.

HOPE cork from Sutter Home wine bottle

The sides of the cork reminded me that October is breast cancer awareness month.

Sutter Home wins my heart.

Male breast cancer awarenessWe learned in Health 101 (men’s class) my first semester at Texas A&M University that men can get breast cancer, too. According to Wikipedia,

About one percent of breast cancer develops in males. It is estimated that about 2,140 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States. The number of annual deaths in the US is about 440. The tumor can occur over a wide age range but typically appears in males in their sixties and seventies. 

In Health 101, we learned self-examination of our testes and our breasts. The teacher’s assistant told us to remember it as B&B—Boobs and Balls.

As an aside, one of the advantages of living in a dorm for one’s first year at college is that it is easy to make friends. I had Health 101 with one of my new dorm friends. By Christmas time, he was dead. He discovered a lump in his breast when we were learning how to do breast self-examination in class. He had it checked out, was told that he had breast cancer and that it had metastasized already. He was only 18. That was my first experience with the death of a close family member or friend.

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When you wish upon a star….

Did you know?

It’s no secret that the world loves stars. After all, “When you wish upon a star….” More:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
—Stephen Hawking

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground
—Theodore Roosevelt

The sight of stars makes me dream.
—Vincent Van Gogh

I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
—Og Mandino

Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.
—Draya Mooney

There wouldn’t be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one.
—Frances Clark

I would be willing to stake my reputation (what reputation?) on stars being the number one shape of Mother & Father Natures beautiful flowers. Indeed, stars are a significant portion of my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray(Book is being sent on Monday to publisher for printing
and should be available for purchase around November 1, 2019.)

I am not ashamed to admit that stars happen to be my favorite flower shape, especially when the star is extraordinarily well pronounced, as in these two pictures from this past week of star flowers in my gardens:

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia gigantea by far is my favorite flower ever. The flowers are up to ten inches in diameter, somewhat hairy, feel leathery, and just look like something that an alien Mother & Father Nature might come up with on a star millions of light years away from us.

These two flowers, particularly Stapelia gigantea, attract flies for pollination like today is going to be the last day on Earth for pollination opportunities. They do this by smelling horrible, like rotting flesh. As a friend of mine said, “Lovely….”

Although mine attract flies, I have not yet smelled any rotting flesh, and I even have stuck my nose deep into the flower, after shooing the flies away, of course. I used to think my nose simply wasn’t working properly, but I can smell pizza, Mexican food, and margaritas from miles away. Maybe I just don’t have any “rotting flesh” sensory cells in my nose. Yeah, that’s it.

Stapelia gigantea flowers are so big that it is easy to sit and actually watch the big flower buds open and attract flies. In 2019, I had 23 flowers on my one Stapelia gigantea (there are 17 so far this year), so I started doing time Stapelia gigantea flower lapse photography last year.

Following is my best time lapse video from last year. Note the number of flies enjoying their time at the buffet. This video is 5 hours of photos taken every 5 seconds (3,500 photos!) and condensed into just 1 minute and 4 seconds. The flower on the left opened the previous day, and the middle flower will be opening in the video.

How to become a native

Did you know?

 

After I retired on December 31, 2016, I got extremely bored.

When I get bored, I get depressed.

I endeavored to find something to do with all the time I had available to me (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), so I decided to try to find something to do which I had never done before.

After several months of searching, I settled on driver.

I got positions delivering packages for Amazon Prime and people for Uber.

Both companies suck, but it took me six months with Uber and eight months with Amazon to finally call it quits.

Zoey the Cool CatBoth were minimum wage jobs, which really didn’t bother me per sé, but neither Uber nor Amazon allowed tipping. Courtesy of Microsoft Excel, it was very easy for me to determine that neither of the two jobs could provide long-term income to put a roof over one’s head, food on the table, clothes in the closet, and feed Zoey the Cool Cat.

Once one added in gas, maintenance (brakes, tires, etc.), and special insurance for multi-stop professions, a long-term driving job like these two would put one into bankruptcy unless one had a spouse who also worked, or had a higher-than-minimum-wage job, or more than one job.

Uber, however, could provide short-term income, especially if one’s car was bought and paid for by mom & dad (high school graduation present), a situation that I found was quite common, and insurance and maintenance also was provided by mom & dad.

College students would drive for Uber but not on a daily basis. Usually just on weekends, especially Friday & Saturday nights in nightlife areas. By sticking to those areas, and with Uber paying every Monday, one could make a couple hundred dollars for the weekend. For someone with a family, not good pay. For a college student whose expenses are paid for by mom & dad, said college student could make a little money so that mom & dad weren’t always lecturing said college student on how much money said college student spent, as if mom & dad really cared anyways.

One day I had an Uber request from an 87-year-old man in a wealthy area of San Diego. He needed to go to Irvine, about a 60-mile drive. Sounds like good pay, but unless one can find someone in Irvine coming to San Diego, the pay for 60 miles turned into pay for 120 miles roundtrip. Now the pay doesn’t look so good.

I took the excursion because it would eat up some time in that 24-hour day.

He was a talkative man, and friends (husband, mostly) say that I like to hear myself talk, so we had quite a good conversation about many things.

About half-way through our journey, he said, “Your accent sounds like you might be from Australia or the southern United States.”

Great Nation of Texas“Texas,” I replied.

We talked about Texas and how long I had been in San Diego.

After a few minutes, he asked me if I was a native San Diegan.

Well, in his defense, he was 87.

I told him again that I was from Texas.

“I know that,” he said, “but are you a native San Diegan?”

“I don’t understand.”

He said, “You are a native when you no longer go home because you are home.”

Well, then, by that definition, I became a native San Diegan on April 30, 1993, after having spent four days in San Diego. I never went “home” to Texas again, and only set foot in the state 4 or 5 times between 1993 and 2001.

And that’s how you become a native, regardless of where you were born!

San Diego Panorama

Pereskia, the grandmother of all cacti

Did you know?

Yellow rose

When I was but a youth of 15, my wise old grandmother employed child labor (me!) to create a rose garden for her. I do admit that she had some beautiful roses, but that experience, as well as all those pokey pokeys hiding in that lush, green foliage forever soured me on roses. They are beautiful, as long as they are on someone else’s property.

Fast forward fifty years and I discovered the rose of the cactus world. Looks like this:

Pereskia grandiflora v. violacea

That’s Pereskia grandifolia var. violacea. It’s a very leafy plant, and the opened flowers look like miniature roses. Just like rose bushes, it has some serious pokey pokeys hiding in that lush foliage, albeit far worse than any rose bush I ever have come across. Here is a tall bush at Waterwise Botanicals in Fallbrook, California:

Pereskia grandifolia v. violacea

Mine is on its way to looking like that.

I discovered this plant in May 2018 and was so enamored of it that I did an education display at the Summer Show & Sale for the San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society, garnering second place:

Pereskia education

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Perhaps if we renamed them

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About a year ago a friend of mine was out trying to buy milkweeds for her gardens. That reminded me that I wanted a milkweed, too. I went searching but couldn’t find regular, everyday milkweeds at any of the nurseries. I’m thinking that, perhaps, if we were to rename them, say, butterfly bushes, the nurseries might carry them. Anyways……..

The last nursery I stopped at had an interesting tree near the checkout stand. Looked like this:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I wandered around the nursery looking for plants that I didn’t have, that I needed, that I wanted. I found a few, but I kept coming back to that tree with the Chinese lanterns hanging on it.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I had not seen any for sale so I asked about it. The plant lady told me that it was a Gomphocarpus physocarpus, that it was in the milkweed family, and that it always had monarch caterpillars and butterflies on it each year. She said she thought it was about ten years old.

I asked her if she had any for sale. She had “a few in back” so she went to get me one. It was just a little thing on July 17, 2018:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Here is what mine looked like on May 26 when I saw the first monarch butterfly on it:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

It looks like this today, full of Chinese lanterns:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

This thing blooms year-round, and I have seen monarch butterflies on it, lots of caterpillars, but no chrysalises. I’m thinking there might be some predators around who snack on the caterpillars before they can hide in their chrysalises.

Here is a 31-second video of a monarch caterpillar chomping down on it:

Did You Know?—Perfection creates perfection

Did you know?

It’s hard to believe that my last blog post was March 26. I guess I have some splainin’ to do.

Since I have been extraordinarily bored in my third attempt at retirement (the first two were equally boring), I have been out & about looking for things to do. I found it! A long-time acquaintance, now a 3-time author, hired (uh-oh; there goes retirement) me to do the final editing and design layout of his fourth book, titled “Spiny Succulents.” Right up my alley.

Spiny Succulents, by Jeff Moore

I got his final draft on January 28. At 358 pages and over 1,300 pictures, I’m still working on it. Close to being finished. Just Index, Table of Contents, minor changes, and a final read-through, and that’s it!

After I get back from my trip to northern Utah for the 150th anniversary celebration of the driving of the Golden Spike and the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, I’ll be writing my own book. Two books, actually (that should keep me busy for a while in retirement!). The first will be Nature’s Geometry: Flora with Nature’s Geometry: Fauna being a natural follow-up.

Both will be picture books mainly, so I will be able to combine my love of nature, photography, and books. I’ll be looking at stars, circles, triangles, symmetry, and spirals.

It was spirals that got me interested in doing the books because then I can add my love of mathematics to this endeavour (I misspelled endeavour for my Canadian friends).

I have been enraptured by spirals in nature ever since I discovered my first spiral succulent back in 1973. It was an Aloe polyphylla:

They grow high up in the mountains in Lesotho in Africa. They like it cold, often being covered in snow for half the year. I grew one in a terrarium from 1978 to 1993 in Texas, adding ice to the terrarium each day to mimic it’s natural environment. I now have another one, a juvenile that is not spiraling yet, also in an “ice terrarium.”

Aloe polyphylla in an ice terrarium

Spirals in nature are quite predictable by using the golden ratio that exists in the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The Fibonacci sequence begins with 0 and 1. Succeeding numbers are created by adding the two previous numbers. So the sequence would be:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

Yesterday in my gardens, I found a mammillaria which perfectly illustrates the sequence and shows the spirals very well.

Mammillaria exhibiting Fibonacci influence

See the spirals? Very beautiful.

Since I know a lot about Fibonacci number sequencing, I’m expecting to find a total number of spirals that equals a number in the Fibonacci sequence. Look what I found:

Spiral count on a Mammillaria

There are 13 spirals (red) going counter-clockwise, and 21 spirals (black) going clockwise. Total of 34 spirals. Here is the Fibonacci number sequence again:

0   1   1   2   3   5   8   13   21   34   55   89   144   233   377   …

And there we have it!

13   21   34

As one gets into the higher numbers, problems creep up, most often related to events that interfere with how Mother & Father Nature wish to do things—extreme weather events, pests, diseases, and damage from humans. That’s where standard deviation comes in, but I won’t get into that here.

What all of this tells me about my mammillaria is that Mother & Father Nature are very happy, no extreme weather events have interfered with its growth, no pests have tried to eat it, no diseases have ravaged it, and humans (me!) have not damaged it.

So, basically, I have a perfect plant.

Well, duh.

It’s my plant growing in my gardens.My wise old grandmother

“Perfection creates perfection” my wise old grandmother used to say……………

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Did you know?—Actinic keratoses, skin cancer, and photodynamic light

Did you know?

I have been fighting actinic keratoses and skin cancer on my face and scalp for several years now. Nothing serious, just ugly and itchy.

Last month my new dermatologist recommended a procedure called PDT (Photodynamic Light). Wow. What a procedure. I can highly recommend it, though.

More interestingly for me is that I got 16 opioid pills to alleviate pain. I can’t say that they specifically alleviated any pain but they did let me sleep up to six hours.

I have been a “polyphasic sleeper” all my life, so sleeping up to six hours was quite interesting, especially since I had dreams for the first time in my life. I always died in the dreams, which is when I woke up.

Now that I’m out of opioids, I’m back to sleeping “normally” for me, up to 2½ hours at a time. No dreams.

All of that makes me wonder just what effects opioids have on all those people who are addicted to them.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post