If you ever get lost in Beverly Hills, get lost at Camden Dr & N Santa Monica Blvd to visit the awesome historic cactus garden.
If you ever get lost in Beverly Hills, get lost at Camden Dr & N Santa Monica Blvd to visit the awesome historic cactus garden.
The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
I became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.
A couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.
That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.
Then, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.
When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.
I don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.
Yesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.
The Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.
I was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.
Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:
All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.
Ever since I joined my first cactus & succulent club in February 2017, I had been wanting to do a presentation of nature’s geometry using the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…..). It’s an additive sequence, meaning that the next number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers.
The program chairperson for the first club told me in April 2018 that they had just had such a speaker a year ago, that he was very good, and that I would be hard-pressed to follow him. I told him that, since 1973, I had been studying the Fibonacci numbers and how they are expressed in nature, so I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to follow anyone. However, having a speaker just a year ago meant that having another speaker on the same subject the following year probably would not go over well. I got the name of the previous speaker, and it turns out that “a year ago” was defined as “five years ago.” More importantly, though, I since found out that the program chairperson for that club doesn’t schedule anyone who is not already on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. That, of course, begs the Catch-22 question, “How do you get on the speaking circuit to begin with?”
Turns out that one has to make contacts in a club which will take a chance on you, and that happened in June 2019 for me with the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Club of Escondido, California.
I recently found out two other ways: (1) write many articles throughout the years and have them published in reputable books and magazines, and (2) to publish a book, which I did in October 2019:
My book is for sale at my Etsy shop, $30 with free shipping to United States locations: etsy.com/shops/russelrayphotos
Many decades ago, being an author of a book was a pretty good indicator of expertise. In today’s world of self-publishing, not necessarily. That’s a problem that I dealt with with my own head when looking at publishers.
I wanted desperately for the Texas A&M University Press to publish my book since Texas A&M University is my alma mater, Class of ’77. However, the cost of having the Press publish it would have been about $44 per book, so I would have wanted to sell it for $50 to make at least a little money. The only books that are 174 pages that sell for that much money are academic books by academic publishers. So that was out.
The other problem was the time frame. It would have taken up to 18 months to publish the dang thing.
So self-publishing it was…. inexpensive and as fast as I wanted it to be. I chose BookBaby because they are a print-on-demand service. I can have one book printed, hundreds of books, or thousands of books. Of course, the more books one has printed, the less expensive the cost per book.
I could choose to have BookBaby completely involved in everything, or nothing. I chose nothing because I have been doing writing, editing, graphic design, book and magazine design and layout, and publishing all my life.
If I used all of their services, the cost would have been right up there with the Texas A&M University Press, and the lead time would have been up there, too. By buying an ISBN number from BookBaby and then using their printing services, I kept the cost low and the lead time short.
I am extremely happy with BookBaby’s printing, paper, and binding.
Having a book published immediately got me on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. I’m also exploring many other speaking circuits, including horticulture clubs, gardening clubs, community retirement homes (I had no idea that so many of them have regular programs; two already have expressed an interest), and city and county libraries, many of which have up to five programs each week.
The reception of Nature’s Geometry: Succulents also has me looking at doing another book. My two immediate choices are Nature’s Geometry: Flora and Nature’s Geometry: Fauna. However, my main goal is to stay on the cactus & succulent speaking circuit where I already know my intended audience and their likes.
I have noticed that a great majority of the cactus & succulent speakers give presentations on their travels to foreign countries. The Atacama Desert region of Chile and the Oxaca region of Mexico are two of the most popular. That, though, caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, the southwestern United States has a lot to offer.
There are a lot of cacti & succulents that grow in our region, many of which are found only here. Carnegiea gigantea (the saguaro) comes immediately to mind, but there also is Ferocactus wislizeni, the Southwestern barrel cactus (picture at right), Agave utahensis (which, you might guess, occurs in Utah), Ferocactus cylindraceus, the California barrel cactus, and Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree.
Knowing this, I have decided to do a second book, tentatively titled
SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. For my purpose with this book, I will define “southwest” as California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
During 2020, I will be endeavoring to go to all the national parks, national monuments, botanical gardens, zoos (many zoos in the southwest also are botanical gardens), state parks, and cities with a population of at least 50,000. There will be exceptions, I’m sure. I already have a few million photos from excursions in the southwest, so I’m well on my way before I even start!
The nice thing about this second book is that, for people back east, going to the southwestern United States can be very much like going to a foreign country, so I might be able to get on cactus & succulent speaking circuits outside of my home territory of the southwest.
It’s the time of the year when poinsettias invade our lives.
Did you know that the poinsettia is a succulent? Yes! It’s true! It’s scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. The genus Euphorbia has over 2,000 species, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants.
Did you also know that those red leaves are not flower petals. Those simply are modified bracts, or colored leaves. They help draw bugs and insects in to the flowers for pollination because the flowers themselves are very small.
Here in San Diego, poinsettias grow year-round and bloom year-round, and they can get to be a small tree or bush about fifteen feet tall. Here are a couple that I see on a regular basis:
Euphorbias are spurges. They have a white, milky sap called latex. That latex has varying amounts of diterpenes and oxalates in it, which can cause skin irritation. If it gets in contact with mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth, the result can be extremely painful inflammation.
If you get this stuff on you, wash it off immediately and thoroughly with an emulsifier such as soap, or even milk. If inflammation occurs, get emergency medical help because permanent blindness and kidney damage can occur.
Consequently, because these things are so beautiful, children like to touch them and smell them. Don’t let them! Pets also are attracted to them, so keep them out of reach of those jumpers and chewers.
My wise old grandmother had several poinsettias growing along the driveway in Kingsville, Texas. My basketball court was the driveway, and sometimes we’d lose the basketball in the poinsettia bushes, which had broken stems at that point. I’d often notice inflammation and itching whenever I got the sap on me but never made the connection. I mean, it was South Texas, full of bugs and such, so after playing basketball for a couple of hours, one expected to be a little itchy.
It was until my second year living with my wise old grandmother, in 1967, that I was tasked with pruning the poinsettias. If you cut them back in October, they will be absolutely gorgeous in December. After pruning them one day, I spent the night in the hospital. I was one great big ball of inflammation. That was back in the days before the medical industry in South Texas understood euphorbia latex, and that incident was my last experience with poinsettias. I have never had them in my house at Christmas time.
Another plant that my wise old grandmother had a lot of as the Crown of Thorns. Notwithstanding its many thorns which make it look like a cactus, it is not. It is a succulent, a spurge, a euphorbia—Euphorbia millii. I do have many crown of thorns because the thorns act like an early warning system, making it easy to keep the sap off my skin. Most of my Euphorbia millii are hybrids, with big, beautiful “flowers”:
Although I have been growing cacti and succulents since 1968, it wasn’t until January 1, 2017, that I started learning their scientific names. Turns out that my gardens are full of euphorbias. Always have been, and they all have that caustic latex. Not all people experience the worst from the euphorbia latex, but I do.
Except for my crown of thorns, my euphorbias are small with large bodies rather than stems, making them easy to care for and easy to keep the sap off me. Here are some of the euphorbias in my gardens:
Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’
As an aside, 50% of the world Christmas poinsettia market is produced right here in the Encinitas, about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego.
Update on Little Queen Olivia.
It took 3 days of over-the-counter medicine—medicine for humans recommended by a vet!—but the little queen is back to her rambunctious, psychotic little self.
She is back enjoying her catio, and I have been watching her closely. Yesterday she was on the catio chair intently staring up at a corner.
She looked like she was saying prayers to the Great Cat. I looked up in the corner several times to see what she was watching.
Finally, I saw it.
The largest praying mantis I had ever seen. Only the fourth one I have seen in the 26½ years I have been in California, and all of them in the last 2½ years out here in the East San Diego County boondocks.
Here it is after I rescued it from the catio and relocated it outside.
I’m not a biologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that praying mantis is a gal, and I do believe she is pregnant, perhaps looking for some place to lay some eggs. I hope it’s in my yard!
The third praying mantis I saw was one day earlier. It was outside on one of the windows of our bedroom. You know I rushed outside with my Canon camera to get a picture, yes?
We have dual-pane windows, which created interesting shadows. The first shadow was on the outside pane, and then there was a shadow of the shadow on the inside pane. Pretty cool. The little black dot in the lower left is a little fly, obviously being stalked by that praying mantis.
Lake Cuyamaca, California
I have been retired three times in my life: 1983, 1993, and 2017. None of them have stuck.
In 1983 I was living in Houston, Texas, and playing the “Keep up with the Joneses” game. Suddenly, though, everyone started getting engaged, getting married, and having children. None of those were for me. I knew quite well that I was gay and that getting engaged and married to someone of the same gender probably wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. And children! Ha! I was one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents. I was pretty sure that if I had children, one of them would be the next great serial killer…. You know, karma.
So I moved out of Houston, 90 miles northwest to College Station, a place with which I was familiar since it was the home to Texas A&M University, my alma mater. I wanted something different, but not too different.
I stayed out of the work force from April 1, 1983, to February 29, 1984. On March 1, 1984, I took a job as a life insurance sales rep with Fidelity Union Life Insurance. I enjoyed it, even earning Sales Rep of the Month for three of the six months I was there. I quit because there were no benefits…. no health insurance, no sick days, no vacation days, no pension, not even any life insurance!
I went to work for Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter. Each entity paid 25% of my salary, and since none of them had to absorb a full salary, I was rolling in money. Had any one of them been required to pay a full salary, I probably would have made about 25% of what I was making. And the benefits! Mama Mia! That was when I understood why people wanted to work for the government.
Sadly, the person who had hired me and put me in those four positions took early retirement and moved to Palo Alo, California, where he was a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University. He gave me the same positions at Stanford, and I worked there from June 1, 1986, to September 30, 1986. I got homesick for Texas.
I had a side business in College Station—Just Your Type—that I had been running since 1973 when I was a freshman at Texas A&M. My wise old grandmother had helped me start it in 1966. I decided to go full-time with it and turned it into a thriving typing, word processing, desktop publishing, and editing business. Over the years, I had several customers who now are quite well-known: Chuck Knoblauch, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett come immediately to mind.
One of my weekly customers was on the 7-year plan, and when he finally graduated, his dad set him up in a competing business on the north side of College Station whereas I was on the south side. Each year he would come by and offer to buy my company. Each year I declined his offer.
Finally, on April 15, 1993, he and I were standing in line together at the Bank of A&M and talking. He asked me if this would be the year I would sell to him. I told him to come by and we’d talk about it. He was impressed with my (anal) record keeping and accepted my selling price.
I took off.
Unfortunately, I didn’t tell anyone that I was taking off. I just left. I actually left with the intent of committing suicide. I was tired of living life as a closeted gay man but didn’t know what else to do. That suicide journey was a failure, and I wound up in San Diego. Again I retired, and succeeded at staying out of the work force for 11 months. I got bored doing nothing each day.
On February 14, 1994, Valentine’s Day, I was at Ocean Beach with friends. We were swimming, sailing, and surfing. Suddenly, one guy asked if we wanted to go skiing. Sure! It starts with an S, too, so no problem. Turns out that he was talking about snow skiing, not water skiing.
Everyone went home, changed into snow clothes, got their skis and such, and we headed to Big Bear, California, about 90 miles northeast of San Diego. That was when I understood why so many people want to live in California, especially California. One can go to the beach in the morning on a warm Valentine’s Day, eat lunch, and then go snow skiing in the afternoon just 90 miles away. What more could one want in life?
I’m a fan of snow as long as I can go play in it and then come home to my non-white winter landscaping. Every time it snows in the mountains, I head to Julian to take snow pictures. Such was the case the last two days in November this year when it snowed heavily in Julian. I went to document the event.
Lake Cuyamaca in the picture at the top of this post is a great rest stop after getting through the first half of the winding mountain roads. Here are some other pictures from November 30:
Crowds were out in force, most from the city, just like me.
I had never seen so many snow people!
On the western side of the mountains, where the snow had melted, I found a flock of wild turkeys celebrating their success at surviving another Thanksgiving.
In Southern California, there’s no need to wait for the weather to change.
How come WordPress does not yet have an icon for changing text size? I still have to go into the HTML code and change the text size manually. Every other program I use has an easy way to change text size….
When I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University in 1974, I was enthralled by the Nixon impeachment. The only other impeached president was Andrew Johnson in 1868. It had been over 100 years.
Although Nixon resigned rather than being impeached, I found the workings of the United States government under its Constitution to be fascinating. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, within a mere 45 years, two more presidents, Clinton and the current president would be impeached.
Granted, the current president, whose name I have not uttered since November 9, 2016—I call him Twitler because he likes to destroy people using Twitter; Hitler on Twitter—has not yet been impeached, but considering all I have read and heard about the impeachment hearings, I believe he will be impeached before Christmas Day. It might even be faster because the people in charge of impeaching him—the House of Representatives—have to get home for Christmas. Actually, when I think about that, impeachment might happen before Thanksgiving!
Of course, impeachment simply means that the Grand Jury—the House of Representatives in this case—believes there is enough evidence to impeach (indict) him. The trial occurs in the Senate, and at this point I cannot see Twitler being convicted.
I legally changed my name in 2004, dropping my last name and taking my middle name as my last name. I’m about convinced to change my name again, this time to Doctor Doctor so that I’ll know that Robert Palmer really is singing about me.
Previously, the only group to ever sing about me was the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”:
Did you hear it? Right at the 1:43 mark: “I can still feel the breeze that russels through the trees.”
Over on Facebook there’s a meme trending that has a woman screaming at a white cat. I find the cat’s response each time to be quite funny, so I decided to make a contribution:
Since I’m now making a concerted effort to do things with my photography using three business names—Russel Ray Photos, Photographic Art, and Double R Creations—I’m being more active on Instagram and with my Russel Ray Photos page on Facebook. You can follow me on those two platforms.
I’m very political, but not on Instagram or that Facebook page. I do have a personal Facebook page where I am very political. ALL. DAY. LONG.
I should have another calendar at my Etsy shop by the end of 11/22/2019, this one on birds. This picture of a peacock and a white-faced whistling duck will be my cover photo:
I put that picture on Facebook and those commenting were only too ready to provide captions. Two of my favorites:
I have so many great bird pictures that I’m pretty sure I’m going to do at least two bird calendars. Possibly even three.
The rainy season arrived on 11/19/2019. So far there has been 5.25 inches of rain in three days. When I went to the garage yesterday morning in the wind & rain, a rabbit took off in front of me. It was slipping and sliding as it tried desperately to get away from me as quickly as possible. Poor thing. I looked at where it had been and found a big pile of poop. Upon closer examination, turns out it’s not poop. Just the ugliest mushrooms ever have I seen.
I like to go into the gardens right after it’s rained and take macro pictures of raindrops on plants. Key phrase in that sentence is AFTER IT’S RAINED.
The rain just won’t stop, and I’m not willing to trod around in the water and mud with my expensive Canon 760d and expensive macro lens. So here’s one of my favorite macro raindrops on cactus photos. Taken on 3/23/2018 at 7:55 a.m., so it must have rained the previous day and/or night.
As I was focusing on that picture, I initially had wanted every to be in focus, but then I saw that first rain drop twinkling at me (just barely visible at WordPress resolutions), so I decided to focus on it and let everything else be a little less sharp.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a calendar featuring macro pictures.
Another bird from my 2020 Birds calendar. Who knew that some birds were flashers?
The resolution of the following picture isn’t good enough for my calendar at 12″x8″, but at a smaller size it’s fine.
Once again, Facebook users came through with captions:
After I graduated from high school in May 1973, I quit celebrating holidays. I never liked them, finding them too artificial. With that said, though, Thanksgiving (when we celebrate the beginning of one of the great genocides in human history) is next week. I do believe I shall have some turkey wine for Thanksgiving this year.
My retirement years are allowing me to catch up on movies and television shows that I have missed since 1973. For both my train friends and my history friends, I can highly recommend the TV series, “Hell On Wheels.” It’s about the building of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. People and events are historical facts with only the unknown added or minute details changed. A very intriguing series. Available on Netflix.