January 2011

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

Papyrus update

In an earlier post this summer, I showed a few pics of 5 new papyrus plants I had acquired, with encouragement from my friend Kent Russell. In September, I moved them indoors ( a bit early, but I went travelling, I knew I wouldn’t be around to tend them outdoors). I have them in our 12′ tall south-facing windows, and they’re growing like crazy. Along with the great growth have come a couple of pest problems.

Papyrus in the south window

The Cyperus papyrus has exploded upwards to over 9′ tall. The previously needle-like leaves of earlier growths have been replaced by trifurcated strap-like fronds on the best stems. The weaker/older stems have been compromised by spider mites, which the newer growth is vigorously resisting.  These mites showed up first on my Cyperus isocladus and soon spread to the neighboring Cyperus involucratus. I was able to keep up on the C. isocladus by scrupulously pinching and wping the mites from the leaves, but once it got into the hair-fine foliage of the C. involucratus I was forced to go another route.

Cyperus papyrus fronds

I first introduced a vial of predatory mites into these plants. I’m not sure of the results of this; they couldn’t have hurt, but I didn’t wait for the predators to show domination before moving onto another avenue of attack. I began, (and continue) to twice-daily spray the plants with a fine misting of dilute colloidal cinnamon with a drop of Physan 20. This, I believe, is what has really done the trick.

The other pest in the pots has been those annoyingly ever-present fungus gnats. The solution has not been a difficult one, but in future I’ll attack it more vigorously and more thoroughly. The trick has been a combination of the aforementioned spray, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis pellets in the pots and waterings, and yellow sticky-card traps. This attack has completely evicted the gnats from the papyrus. Unfortunately, the gnats have moved on to other plants around the house. From this, I’d recommend that anyone using BITS to control fungus gnats should go ahead and treat ALL the plants in their home, not just the obviously-infested ones.

A little later in the fall, friends dropped off three pots of Cyperus alternifolius. These are winter refugees from a summer pond, but had outgrown their previous owner’s capacity to winter them indoors. I cut all the drying summer growth completely back, and in less than a month have seen it all replaced with bright and vigorous indoor growth. Having come in from a pond, these three pots are ugly, unwieldy, and fully root-bound. Both these and the other plants have been placed into tubs in the window, half-filled with (very lightly) fertilized water.

Cyperus involucratus overwintering in the south window

The “other” papyrus, the Cyperus albostriatus has proven to dislike the growing conditions favored by the larger plants. While it certainly doesn’t like to be dry, neither does it like to be swamped. I have potted it into a nice 8″ clay picklepot with a more conventional watering scheme and am experimenting with differing placement around the house to see what it really prefers.

Cyperus albostriatus recovering away from the cold swamp of the windowsill

It’s been fun having them inside during the winter! The tall stems and firework-like heads are a great exotic contrast to the snowy scene beyond the windowpane. I can hardly wait to get them back outside for the summer where they belong and see how they really do!

My good friend Gillian has inspired me to make this list/fill out this questionnaire.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Deliberately and proactively commit to self-employment.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I make the same resolution every year, and always keep it: the resolution to never ignore my bladder and always pee as soon as possible once the urge strikes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A couple old friends out west had babies this year… I wish I was closer!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My grandmother.

5. What countries did you visit?

Not much international travel this year; just a quick trip to Canada.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

A slightly larger and more stable client base, the increased self-confidence to close the sale, and a proper mobile workshop that gets better than 7mpg.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Sadly, no single date springs to mind.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Setting up house with my ladyfriend.

9. What was your biggest failure.

Follow-through in business.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Abscessed tooth removed, knee ligament strained, major lower back spasms, one bout of major bronchitis… geez, I’m a wreck!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

All the parts to build my new desk/computer, and orchids!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Janute, for keeping her chin up and not letting the financial roller-coaster throw her off the tracks.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The Tea Party and their ilk.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Housing, tools, travel, plants.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Taking my lady to Nelson, and having Cory and Jody meet us there. My new desk.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Evil Boy by Die Antwoord

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

A) the same B) the same – I lost weight, gained it back, then lost it again C) Probably richer, but easy-come, easy-go!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Ride my bike.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Procrastinate and second-guess myself.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

A Christmas Day meal with all the available Booths.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

No more than usual, I suppose, although my relationship with Teddy really strengthened this past year.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I don’t own a TV, but then again, neither does Gillian, and she still managed to answer this question, so… Dead Like Me (which was cancelled in 2004).

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Pithos player for Pandora radio.

26. What did you want and get?

The financial freedom and free time to choose my own course rather than have it dictated to me.

27. What did you want and not get?

More of the above.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Modern Hollywood cinema is a wasteland.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I think I turned 37, but I can’t remember a dang thing about the day itself.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A new 2010 Ford Transit Connect XLT with a complete custom storage package.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

I wear whatever my lady brings home for me from the thrift-store.

32. What kept you sane?

I stayed sane?

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Radical partisanship.

34. Who did you miss?

Cory and the peeps at home.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

Nobody new, but a did reacquaint myself with several old friends.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

I have learned the unfortunate American truth that silence, patience, and selfless effort are seldom rewarded; if you want something to change/improve, you have to speak up, make your move, and take what you want before anyone else does.

Age has found me becoming increasingly aware of several aspects of my character. Of these, two that stand forth are my growing awareness and sensitivity to family, and my strengthening adherence to moral principle. Occasionally, these two come into conflict. Take, for instance, this comment recently posted on Facebook by my grandfather:

“Profiling has been in all creatures brains (including humans) since the begining of time. Survival! It’s saved our lives! Only a current Marxist Liberal would say we shouldn’t do it because of political correctness. I could take you down some Seattle streets right now and you’d be experiencing good old PROFILING”

Despite our marked moral and political differences, I do care for my grandpa, and want to believe that he is essentially a decent and caring person who wishes the best rather than the worst for his fellow man. Furthermore, I feel that it is important to state that I do not want to have my ideas forced down anyone else’s throat, and neither would I ever wish to constrain another’s right to form and freely express their own ideas. However, faced with such a comment, I find myself compelled to author some sort of response, if only to frame (and perhaps quell) my own revulsion at seeing such ignorance and hatred furthered in this modern world, especially by a member of my own family.

Firstly, the issue of Profiling. Obviously, he has confused some of the concepts of Evolutionary Psychology with the practice of Racial Profiling. Neither Neuroanthropology nor modern Criminal Psychology can be said to be exact empirical sciences; the muddling of the two can only serve to cloud the issue. To whit, Evolutionary Psychology views human nature as a universal set of evolved psychological adaptations to recurring problems in the ancestral environment, while Racial Profiling is the usage by law enforcement of an individual’s race or ethnicity as a factor in articulating reasonable suspicion to stop, question or arrest. The former applies to the idea that there may be some forms of innate subconscious fear and/or recognition hard-wired into our brains; the latter applies to active concious judgments based upon biased comprehension. I cannot and will not equate the notion of a subconcious early-childhood ability to discern snake-shapes within cryptic surroundings with an active biased judgement of other human beings based soley upon race or ethnicity.

Secondly, the issue of Survival. The notion that human beings have relied upon blatant racism “since the beginning of time” to assure their survival is pedantic at least, outrageous at best, and utterly dangerous at worst. Even if one could find some merit in the idea, wouldn’t the vast non-caucasian majority on the globe tend to suggest that we’re not the ones being set up to survive?

Thirdly, the issue of Marxist Liberalism. This is one of those ridiculous Tea Party portmanteaus that only holds traction amongst those whom I dub “The Illiterati”. The very notion is a nonsensical oxymoron; Marxism is essentially opposed to liberal democracy, which it sees as the worst sort of bourgeois dictatorship. In the context of my grandpa’s quote, I must assume that by “current Marxist Liberal” he is actually referring to people like myself, ie., folks who believe in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause and the Fourteenth Amendment which requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.

Fourthly, the issue of Political Correctness. Equal rights, guaranteed freedoms, and social justice are sacred and above political ideology, and should never be confined to definitions falling withing the ranges of what is correct or not correct. The ACLU puts it this way:

“Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or on any other particular identity undermines the basic human rights and freedoms to which every person is entitled.”

I’ve written on this topic before; given a population where all citizens are presumed equal, any action that dimishes the rights of any single individual diminishes the rights of all other individuals. I don’t rail against racial profiling because of some perceived “political incorrectness”; I rail against it because it is fundamentally wrong, because it reinforces base racism, and only serves to pit the entitled oligarchy against those who are least able to defend their rights and diginity.

Fifthly, the (apparently dangerous and segregated) streets of Seattle. The typical gentrified American city, compared to a staggering majority of other locations around the globe, is a veritable social paradise. Anyone who feels that they are conciously or subconciously engaging in Racial Profiling in such an environment is actually doing nothing more than succumbing to fear, ignorance, and prejudice on a level that can only serve to dehumanize both Profiler and Profilee alike. I feared more for my own safety when Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested then I ever have while walking along any ethnically-diverse city street at night.

I have been exposed from an early age to Third World conditions in Central America, and have lived and worked abroad for several years in locales where the priviledges of my white middle-class male North-American upbringing have been largely ignored and often derided. Contrasted with these experiences, it is my belief that the only profiling commonly occuring within the typical gentrified Pacific Northwest community is that practiced by racist police forces and fearful Caucasians.

I have been subject to racial and ethnic profiling myself on many occasions, living in parts of the world where my name and skin color have placed me in the minority. Discrimination and prejudice come in many shades other than blatant racist hatred. For all that, whether in the West Indies, Central America, Seattle, or Manhattan, I have never encountered a non-caucasian human who fundamentally felt that I was some sort of inferior animal worthy of suspicion or derision merely on account of my race. Full disclosure time: I am an educated blonde male middle-class Canadian/American Caucasian with an obviously ethnic Russian name…

Now, I understand that many people have a very limited first-hand world-view, and it’s not my place to force their comprehension. Furthermore, I will defend the right of the entitled white American middle-class to refrain from travelling to or living in any other country or culture. Generations of Americans fought and died to protect isolationism and xenophobia, and the fruits of their sacrifice ought to be protected and enjoyed by those entitled middle-class Caucasians who freely wish to. See? I can profile too…

We have collectively conqured the elements and risen as masters of our Earthly domain. There remains no further outward impediment to equal rights, justice, and peace for all. The only enemies mankind has left are those of its own creation.