Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

gone to seed

September 20, 2020

Today’s morning name, the PSP form of the English idiom go to seed, originally botanical, then metaphorically extended to use for people.

From NOAD:

go (or run) to seed: [a] (of a plant) cease flowering as the seeds develop. [b] [AZ: metaphorical extension of sense a] deteriorate in condition, strength, or efficiency: Mark knows he has allowed himself to go to seed.

Plus, a near-synonym, one sense (1d below) of one of the verbs bolt (the ‘rapid movement’ verb bolt). From NOAD:

verb bolt-2: 1 [a] [no object] (of a horse or other animal) run away suddenly out of control: the horses shied and bolted. [b] (of a person) move or run away suddenly: they bolted down the stairs. [c] [with object] (in hunting) cause (a rabbit or fox) to run out of its burrow or hole. [d] (of a plant) grow tall quickly and stop flowering as seeds develop: the lettuces have bolted. …

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Marrow among the courgettes

September 19, 2020

(This moves pretty quickly to men’s genitals, so it’s not appropriate for kids or the sexually modest.)

From the distinguished phonetician John Wells (in England — the England part is significant) on 9/18, this garden photo, with John’s caption:


(#1) Look carefully, and you’ll see a big marrow hiding underneath the courgette.

A FB reader (since I’m not sure about privacy protections, I won’t use their name) then wrote:

[A] Oh what a beauty

to which John replied

[B] …never seen one as big as that before!

taking us right into the world of sexual double entendres having to do with penis size. I admired the move (John and I are both openly gay, and that too is significant), and John delicately provided me with the source of the A – B sequence; it’s a famous quote from BBC comedy.

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The post-celebratory day

September 7, 2020

The fourth installment in the story of my 80th birthday. The core of the story:

The day itself was quiet but pleasant (though I refused to go out of the house for any purpose, since it was a goddamn oven out there). Kim Darnell brought me a large assortment of salmon-based sushi, plus a collection of tartlets, mostly with fruit — enough for two substantial meals, the second of which was my breakfast today. Mostly I spent yesterday responding to birthday wishes, of which there were many hundreds. I know an awful lot of people.

A surprising development was that for this birthday I got not one, but three (different) Jacquie Lawson ecards (charming brief animations developing a scene or story, accompanied by music, usually classical music). Details below.

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The rainbow party dog

September 5, 2020

Arrived yesterday, from Rose Cart Florist in Sunnyvale CA, a rainbow variant of their Another Year Rover floral arrangement, as a present for my 80th birthday (tomorrow). Their basic item:


(#1) Their ad copy: “Turning another year older is a lot more fun with our signature birthday a-DOG-able®! This party pooch arrives wearing a festive hat, surrounded by a mix of colorful blooms to liven up their celebration. A great gift idea for any age, he’s here to deliver your best wishes in truly original style.”

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Creature log in the smoke times

August 25, 2020

On the temperature front, we’re into a period of highs in the 80-85F range, which is merely hot, not drastically hot. The air quality index is down to 127, merely Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (like me); it was noticeably worse in the morning. The lightning strikes that lit up the night sky seem to have stopped for the moment, at least here. There haven’t been power outages here, and no ash is falling from the sky. So all of this counts as locally, and possibly temporarily, improved, and I judge that to be a blessing, even though it still hurts for me to breathe.

Meanwhile, my creatures — the birds and squirrels — are back to merely feeding, instead of eating ravenously as if the world were coming to an end. I now have two transparent bird feeders attached to the big windows by my work table; the birds that eat from feeders quickly became familiar with the new one, and they now come to the two of them about equally.

Thanks to Kim Darnell and to Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, I’m now stocked up on a large assortment of foods for wild creatures (details to come), and I’m increasingly intrigued by the complexities of squirrel behavior — also challenged by the task of keeping the squirrels happy (they provide me with a giant circus of activity to watch) but out of the way of the birds.

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Please don’t eat the flooring

July 20, 2020

Jeremy Nguyen in the 7/20/20 New Yorker:


(#1) “This is the precise reason I didn’t want bamboo flooring.”

Everybody knows that pandas eat bamboo, but what they eat is bamboo-bamboo, the shoots (and sometimes leaves and stems) of several bamboo species, not items made from the stems or fibers of the plant — furniture, other household furnishings, fabrics, and, yes, flooring.

Yes, the joke turns on a systematic metonymy, an ambiguity between reference to a plant and reference to items created from parts of that plant.

So: pandas and bamboo and metonymy too.

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Meet the Jays

June 27, 2020

A follow-up to my 6/9/20 posting “The June flora and fauna report”.

The apricot cymbidium orchid I’ve called Cuppy (in #4 in that posting), aways the last to bloom, finally came to an end on 6/24, extraordinarily late. The orchids will now put their energy into their root systems and into shoots that will spring up when the rainy (and cool) season begins in late November.

Then there was the bird feeder (#3 in that posting), which on 6/9 had not attracted any birds, nor had the birdseed spread out as a lure, on the ground near it and on the fence tops. But as the days wore on, I came to be adopted by a pair of California scrub jays — big, often noisy (though not for me), territorial, seriously clever, and amenable to human company (they are corvids, like crows and ravens). They are also crazy fond of peanuts (which my birdseed provides) and acorns (which they can get from the California live oaks that are all over the place here, and in which they are probably nesting).

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The June flora and fauna report

June 9, 2020

Continuing a long series of postings about things I happen to come across in my immediate neighborhood. Particularly plants, sometimes with notes about their taxonomy and their names. And particularly plants I can see out my window, and the various creatures that afflict them. My most recent posting in this series seems to have been from 1/21/20: “A squirrel in the hand” (excerpted below).

Now the 2020 report.

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Trois lapins pour le premier mai

May 1, 2020

It’s the first of the month, which I have learned to greet with three rabbits — by starting the day saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”. More than that, it’s the first of May — by some cultural reckonings the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and also (in some countries) International Workers Day, so: dance around the maypole, set bonfires for Beltane or Walpurgis, prepare for outdoor bo(i)nking (rabbits again!), break out the lilies of the valley (muguets pour le premier mai), cue the choruses of L’Internationale, and march in solidarity with the workers. (Feel free to choose from this menu, as your taste inclines and your schedule allows.)

Into this rich multicultural stew, Julie Taaffe forwarded to me a Facebook posting for the day by John Forti, “the Heirloom Gardener”, whose centerpiece is this leporine re-working of Botticelli’s Three Graces from La Primavera (Spring):


(#1) Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: Melinda Copper’s Dancing Graces

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Easter eggs 2020.1: Mussorgsky chicken with crocuses

April 10, 2020

The first of two entertaining Easter egg postings on material that came in my mail today. This one is sweet and playful; the other one is raunchy and homoerotic. There’s a lot you can do with eggs.

Ee2020.1 is a Jacquie Lawson animated ecard for Easter, illustrating the Mussorgsky piece “Ballet of (the) Chicks in their Shells” / “Ballet of (the) Unhatched Chicks” from Pictures at an Exhibition with chick after chick hatching, while one egg rolls about in struggle, with its chick finally emerging triumphantly among crocus flowers:


(#1) Eggs, chicks, and crocuses: all symbols of spring and (re)birth

(The sound track has an orchestral version of “Ballet”, with cheeping sound effects.)

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