Category Archives: Did you know?

Did You Know?—Spirals in plants

Did you know?

Fibonacci Numbers
1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 8 – 13 – 21 – 34 – 55 – 89 – 144 ….

One of the cool things about spirals based on Fibonacci numbers (i.e., the golden spiral) is that in many plants, one can see both clockwise spirals and counterclockwise spirals.

The number of spirals in each direction in a mature plant almost always are consecutive Fibonacci numbers.

In the following picture of a mammillaria seen at the Los Angeles County Arboretum on February 13, 2020, there are 34 clockwise spirals and 21 counterclockwise spirals.

Mammillaria at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

I just found out that I died in 1998!

Did you know?

Once a year I do a little genealogical research to see if I can find additional family medical history through newspaper obituaries.

Yesterday was the day for 2019.

I didn’t find out any new medical information.

However, one of the links led me to one of those sites that has everything about everyone, and you can see it all, as long as you’re willing to shell out some serious bucks. Since I already know everything about myself, I didn’t shell out any bucks.

However, there was lots of “negative information” about me, and some of it was free.

I found out that I have five bankruptcies. Well, I can tell you that I have, indeed, been involved with five bankruptcies, two in Texas, one in Michigan, and two in California. In all five, I was the “attorney of record.” I wasn’t actually the attorney because I don’t have a law degree, and the only bars I have passed are those that don’t serve margaritas. Courts don’t expect anyone other than attorneys to file bankruptcy documents, so there usually is no place on the filing forms for anyone other than petitioner and attorney of record. Thus, when I created and filed bankruptcy documents, I always entered my name as “attorney of record” and typed in below, “not an attorney.”

Bankruptcy laws for each state are different but are very explicit, mainly because there can be a lot of money involved. To the best of my knowledge, none of the 50 states require that one actually be a bankruptcy attorney, or even an attorney, to file the documents for a bankruptcy. Those laws allow you to file documents for your own bankruptcy!

The caveat is that you have to know and understand the bankruptcy laws. But if you can read and comprehend very explicit laws, you can file bankruptcy for yourself. Another caveat, though, is that the fewer assets and debts you have, the easier the bankruptcy. If you have your main home, a summer home, a vacation home, a ski home, a fishing home, etc., that’s going to be a difficult bankruptcy because you probably can sell a few of those homes to pay off your debts, and that’s usually what the bankruptcy judge will order. It might not pay off all your debts, but the bankruptcy judge doesn’t want to see a lot of assets if you’re filing for bankruptcy. Same with multiple cars. No, except in very rare circumstances.

In my case, law always has been one of my interests/hobbies. At one point I wanted to be an attorney. Then I found out how much addition schooling beyond college would be required. No. That, though, didn’t stop me from studying law on my own time, especially since, being self-employed for most of my 53 years in business, I needed legal documents for all the companies I have founded, for my Clients in some cases (home inspections come immediately to mind), etc. For all my companies, I created the documents and then simply passed them by an attorney in whatever state I was in for his approval for that state. An attorney simply reading and commenting takes less time (and time is money!) than an attorney meeting with you for consultation, drafting documents, meeting with you again, revamping documents…. on and on and on. One’s startup company could be bankrupted by the attorney before it ever got going!

Apparently, everything about everyone services provide for corrections if you’re interested in doing that. If I was 30, not self-employed, and climbing up the corporate ladder, I probably would have corrected all the misinformation I found. Might even have shelled out some big bucks to see what private misinformation they might have had, and corrected that which was wrong.

Being somewhat anal (somewhat?!!!), I have records of every place I have ever lived, every mailing address I have ever used, every phone number I have ever had; and I know the names of my roommates and relatives. I found phone numbers that never belonged to me…. addresses where I never lived…. people whom I have never known….

The funniest (perhaps) item was my incarceration. Twice! Once I knew about. I spent the night in jail for peeing in public. There was (probably still is) a tradition at Texas A&M University (for guys only) that when one receives one’s senior ring (rings and controlled by the university, one of less than 10 which do that. No ordering from Zales!), one does not immediately put it on. Instead, one pockets it and heads to one of the bars at North Gate. There one orders a pitcher of beer, drops one’s senior ring in the pitcher, proceeds to drink the whole pitcher by oneself, and catches one’s ring in one’s mouth with that last swallow out of the pitcher. Only then does one put the ring on one’s finger.

Well, remember that I said this was guys only? That’s because the tradition continues outside in Bottlecap Alley. The restrooms on Aggie Ring Day have long lines, resulting in many guys going out to Bottlecap Alley to relieve themselves. Guess who else knows about this tradition? Yep. The coppers. And they have no problem meeting their annual arrest quota on Aggie Ring Day.

I didn’t get arrested on my Aggie Ring Day. Instead, it was about 15 years later when I had six employees all getting their Aggie rings at the same time. Being the good employer that I was, I took all six of them over to North Gate and bought them their pitchers of beer at the Dixie Chicken. Of course, I could not let them drink alone, so I got a pitcher for myself and, like reaffirming wedding vows 25 or 50 years later, I dropped my Aggie ring in my pitcher and had fun with the guys. Later, we all went out to Bottlecap Alley to do our business. Two of us got arrested for peeing in public. Oh, well. I do believe that at least 25% of Aggie male graduates have an arrest record….

Olivia the black & white catMy other incarceration I did not know about. I spent 1981 to 1997 in prison in Missouri! I wonder who was impersonating me at all my businesses while I was in a Missouri prison. Even funnier is that I died in 1998, shortly after getting out of prison. Maybe I have nine lives like Little Queen Olivia?

Anyway, this was a great learning experience for confirming that anything on the Internet is there forever, good or bad, you or your doppelganger.

Thus, my recommendation for anyone just entering the work force or climbing up that corporate ladder is to do two things:

  1. Check your credit rating once a year. There are three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. By federal law, each one has to provide your credit report to you once each year, but you have to request it. They won’t just send it to you. Because of that, you actually can monitor your credit report every four months simply by requesting your credit report from a different agency every four months, like so:
    Experian – January 2020
    TransUnion – May 2020
    Equifax – September 2020
    Experian – January 2021
    TransUnion – May 2021
    Equifax – September 2021
    Etc.
  2. Check one of those everything about everyone sites once a year just to make sure that nothing weird shows up…. and just in case you decide to change jobs and the new company looks up your information on one of those sites. That could be awkward, and the company might not even let you know why they didn’t hire you. They simply didn’t hire you based on the (wrong) information available.

If my home inspection clients from 2001-2016 had known that I died in 1998, they never would have let me inspect their homes!

Russel grave headstone

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.

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

Did you know?

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: