Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Why sending humans to Mars is bullshit

Well here we are in early 2021 and the new Perseverance rover has sent back its first pictures from the surface of Mars. Yup, Mars is still a shithole.

For a start you can't just go to Mars whenever you want.  Mars should preferably be on the same side of its orbit as the Earth, so as to minimize the distance travelled.  Even then it takes seven months to get there, which would expose a human to the long term health effects of space radiation and zero gravity. 

By "health effects" I mean for example that astronauts who spent long periods of time (months) in space return to Earth unable to walk due to muscular atrophy caused by zero gravity, as well as numerous other health problems with their heart, eyes, and other organs. They have to be carried out of the capsule when they return to Earth and sent off in a wheelchair for rehabilitation. You typically don't see that on the news, because space flight is supposed to be glamorous and courageous, like it is in Star Trek or Star Wars.

You would also need to take all your supplies, food, water, and air for your seven month journey. No one has embarked on such a long journey since probably the days of sailing ships, and even those ships were able to resupply some materials as they sailed around the world.  

Then when you get to Mars the atmosphere is only about 1% as dense as Earth's. There's only 38% gravity and we don't even know what the health effects of that are. There is only 43% as much sunlight as Earth and even noon would look like dusk, and the average temperature is an incredibly cold -80°F (-60°C). Mars has no magnetic field and little atmosphere, so radiation from space bombards the surface at about 12 times the rate on Earth.

Then you have to assume any human explorer would need to make the return journey.

All the technologies that need to be developed and tested for Mars MUST first be developed and tested on the Moon. Since we don't have a base on the Moon yet, then we're not about to have any humans visiting Mars. Possibly lava tubes could be a good place to start building an outpost. They might provide some ready-made radiation shielding and therefore lessen the construction payload.

So as you can see, the main problem with sending humans to Mars isn't getting there. We've already sent car-sized object to Mars several times.  The problem is the health effects of long term space travel, and the extremely harsh conditions on Mars.

Here are Elon Musk's plans for Mars, which are obviously just marketing hype.

Don't believe any hype you hear, we're not sending humans to Mars in the foreseeable future.

- Dave Bad Person

Another surge in immigration but no hysterical shrieking

Another surge of immigration from Central America has seen 78,000 immigrants turned back from our southern border in January and another 100,000 in February. The immigrant surge from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala continues, but there doesn't seem to be such intense media coverage of it this time. Among these immigrants are thousands of unaccompanied children who have to be detained, yet no one is shrieking hysterically that we're "tearing children from their families" or that we have "child prisons". Mind you, many of these "child prisons" are the same detention facilities used during the Obama era.
Most of these immigrants come from countries that the US tried to give functioning industries to back in the mid-20th century: fruit farming, a banking system, and all the machinery of capitalism. But they didn't like that so they had socialist revolutions, which led to them becoming the crime- and gang-ridden shitholes they are today, which is why people are leaving these countries in droves. Oddly enough though, we don't seem to get any Nicaraguans arriving at our border. They also had a socialist revolution but somehow the Sandanistas managed to rout the corruption and gang activity. Now Nicaragua is starting to become a tourist destination. We also don't see Costa Ricans arriving at our border because it's now an idyllic tourist destination with industries and investment. It's often described as the happiest country in the world, and they don't even have a military or defence force.
There's a lesson in all this somewhere, but I can't quite figure it out. Oh well. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Nature and Purpose of Political Conspiracy Theories

The excerpts in this blog post are quoted from the following web page:


Political conspiracy theories are usually the most intricate.  They arise most often when the "official version” of events seems inadequate, flawed, or incomplete, and these situations present an opportunity for all sorts of bizarre and facile "explanations"

However, the entire purpose of most political conspiracy theories is NOT to carefully present evidence and then use reason and logic to arrive at sound, verifiable conclusions.  Instead, most political conspiracy theories are primarily an intellectual device by which individuals and organizations identify and demonize their perceived enemies whom they propose to vanquish.

The substantive content of a political conspiracy theory is often completely irrelevant to the underlying purpose of the theory and, in any event, there is no possible way to refute or disprove most such theories to the satisfaction of their authors or adherents because most political conspiracy theories are constructed to be self-sealing so that contradictory data can be instantly dismissed, ignored, or de-valued.  The reason is because the theory functions as a problem-solving device but the actual “problem” has virtually nothing to do with the details regarding people and events which are part of the conspiratorial narrative.

The actual “problem” which political conspiracy theories seek to address is explaining one’s sense of impotence, i.e. providing plausible reasons for why one’s values, ideas, policy preferences, and political candidates seem to be repeatedly ignored, disparaged, violated, or defeated, particularly over long periods of time.   Consequently, the conspiracy theory expresses the rage felt when a person perceives himself or his group as persistent “losers” in all matters of importance.

Therefore, the conspiracy theory functions as a “rolodex” of people and organizations who should not be permitted to have a place at the table, because “they” despoil our country, “they” defile its true values, and “they” plan to rob us of our heritage and “they” seek to make impotence a permanent feature of our lives.

That’s the reason why a political conspiracy theory can never be refuted, because it does not rely upon the individual facts, assertions, or conclusions which make up the literal text of the theory.  Instead, it is a primal scream against perceived villains whom are thought to have ruined our society or whom are working toward destroying our individual sovereignty.

Conspiracy theories are usually authored by persistent losers in public policy debates to account for why those persons are frustrated and seemingly impotent to affect public policy decisions and elections over long periods of time.

Anger and frustration is a normal human response to feelings of endless impotence.  Conspiracy theories "solve" the underlying problem by explaining WHY one perceives oneself as powerless, disrespected, unappreciated, and ignored.  It’s really very simple, malevolent powerful beings, working in secret, are responsible.

Conspiracy authors almost never concede even the hypothetical possibility that their paradigm might be flawed in some fundamental respect.  Furthermore, conspiracy authors/researchers don't simply allege that a critic or skeptic is mistaken in their viewpoint.  Instead, they almost always assert that critics or skeptics facilitate the success of evil cabals who consciously are working to destroy our way of life. 

In short, conspiracy believers proclaim that their interpretation is not just intellectually superior to other interpretations, but theirs is the ONLY interpretation possible and any disagreements are the result of morally and intellectually defective beings, who are, perhaps, even agents of the conspiracy! 

Similarly, conspiracy believers usually declare that every issue or controversy is susceptible to only one correct interpretation and, furthermore, our public policy options are limited to only one correct position, which “coincidentally” always conforms to the conspiracy believer’s personal political preferences.

Typically, conspiracy adherents will entertain questions and comments about their theory only so long as their fundamental premises and conclusions are not challenged.  Rigorous critiques are instantly perceived as hostile attacks by hopelessly naïve, ignorant, or “brainwashed” individuals, or perhaps, “smears” initiated by “agents” of the conspiracy who are seeking to “divert” attention away from themselves and thus "waste" time and resources in “pointless” intellectual debates or “disinformation” campaigns. 

Furthermore, conspiracy believers are pre-disposed to believing the worst possible motives regarding their adversaries.  Consequently, conspiracy proponents often arrive at conclusions without asking their perceived adversaries a single question.

Conspiracy advocates often assert that their fellow countrymen cannot be relied upon to understand events and make correct decisions. Why not? Because they believe that vast numbers of their countrymen have been “brainwashed” and “cannot think for themselves”.  In their scheme of things, only conspiracy believers are able to recognize and escape from the clever mind-tricks and ulterior motives of their adversaries.

Further reading:

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Pachypodium. The Complete Guide To Cultivation

This searchable text version was produced from the document found at the following link:

You can also view, print, and download a Word version of this article here:


The Complete Guide

To Cultivation

Learn all the basics for success in growing these valuable plants



l. Form and Function

A little theory but not too much

We construct a cultural profile based on form and behavior

II. Methodology

Now down to culture basics

No laundry list of Do’s and Don’ts but a highly integrated approach

Key issues specific to Pachypodiums are examined in detail.

We examine all factors under our control and how to put them together in a way that’s right for your growing conditions


Learn How To Grow Quality Plants Like These Large Perfect Specimens

Pachypodium rosulatum - interesting twin stem plant. 5 years old grown from seed


Pachypodium saundersii compactum - the beautiful Zimbabwe form. 6 years from seed.


Pachypodiums are some of the most popular in-demand plants in horticulture today but unfortunately very little cultural information exists to help the large number of attempting to grow them. The special appeal of these plants lies in their exotic form and very beautiful flowers both of which cannot be realized without a sound understanding of their culture.


You're On Your Own

Most of the truly interesting plants usually present us with a challenge on how to care for them This is part of what makes them rare and interesting. Pachypodiums certainly fall in this category and require a certain degree of personal involvement a little beyond the “it’s putting out leaves so I guess I should water it" level.

This guide is presented in the spirit of developing a consciousness or greater awareness of what you can learn from your plants just by trying out sound cultural practices along with your own ideas and observing the results. All of us possess, to some degree, the ability to "pick up" on these cultural ideas or we wouldn't be attracted to these strange plants in the first place. The solutions to our problems are usually there right in front of us. All that's left is to train ourselves to see them.

Your efforts will be rewarded. With a little experience, the end result will be a degree of independence in solving your own problems. If you want to grow very good plants, you actually have no choice. Your plants are totally dependent on you for their care and only you can make the most of them. You are in every sense on your own.


l. Form and Function

The Two Schools

Culture studies can usually be divided into two groups. One school of thought which you still see quite often is that plants should be grown in a manner that mimics their habitat conditions. This is a holdover from the early days of the 50s and 60s. The other more contemporary school favors maximizing their potential in the man-made artificial environments we have set up for them. This will be our method.

What exactly do we mean by maximizing their potential? Above all else, it means growing plants that look natural. No plant grown under artificial conditions will ever look exactly like those found in the wild but in most cases we can come very close. By the time you finish this guide, you will be to recognize a natural looking plant.

All plants possess a genetic make-up which makes them favor conditions similar to those of their native habitat but when we are growing them under artificial conditions, all the rules change. It is totally impossible to duplicate habitat conditions but we do incorporate these habitat preferences into our cultural methods, but only as one element and not the big picture.

Life Cycle

Good culture depends on your understanding of the different phases your plants undergo during the course of a year. When to water, feed, repot. prune, and rest all relate to an understanding of the basic life cycle of Pachypodiums. It is actually quite simple follows: Reproduction - Growth - Rest.

Figure 1. Healthy Pachypodium roots

Here in the northern hemisphere, flowering and hence reproduction for most species begins in late February and merges with the growth cycle in May. It can take from 4 to 10 weeks for flowers to fully develop on their long peduncles and a slow process, Most are in full flower in April and May with a few taking until June. The rest period is from November - January when they will shed most or all of their leaves as they sleep for three months or longer.

Between reproduction and rest we of course have growth. Even though all species are indigenous to the African mainland and Madagascar, which is in the southern hemisphere where spring normally begins in September, they readily adapt to our northern biological clock and shift 180 degrees. The only exception is the rare P. namaquanum which does not have one set growing period in cultivation. Instead it will bust into growth usually three times per year roughly occurring in June. October, and January depending on your conditions. Many succulents exhibit this "confused" state and you simply must play along.

Most cultivation naturally must take place during the growth period but what is most critical is not stopping altogether during the rest period.

This is the number one reason for failure.

Certainly at this point you have a good idea that there is considerably more to cultivation than just watering. Pachypodiums must absolutely receive some moisture when dormant but by not stopping cultivating we mean you can't just forget about them until spring. All of your observations and attention to keeping conditions just right must also continue through the winter months. For example: moisture, temperature, and light levels must be monitored and you need to be constantly on the lookout for root loss, insects and a fungus that causes tip dieback. These are just a few.

A Starting Point

After you have grown many different types of plants, you easily see cultural patterns or traits begin to emerge. Often you can just look at a new plant and have some idea of how it should be treated. This is exactly what we mean by developing a greater sense of awareness about your plants. It's amazing what you can learn just from observation and it pays off with superb, not average plants.

In the natural world form usually follows function, so as a cultural starting point, let's make a few simple observations of the inner structure and outer form of a typical Pachypodium. We begin with the way water and nutrients move through the plant.

Pachypodiums have huge fibrous feeder roots (see Fig. 1) that mop up moisture very rapidly. In habitat. rains are far and few between so they must act quickly. By their very size you can see they mean business. Must succulents have much smaller, hair-like roots.

Most species have large leaves relative to body size and therefore transpiration is fast and plants rapidly make food. This is an obvious sign that they require generous amounts of moisture and nutrients compared to must succulents.

The caudex or stem is composed of a soft pith structure for water storage with the vascular tissue lying close to the epidermis as two narrow concentric rings This enables plants to withstand periods of less than ideal moisture. Next time a plant is lost, make a cross section and you can see these features.

The epidermis or outer skin bright and shiny. This highly reflective covering directs the harsh sun away from the body thereby conserving moisture.

So what does all this tell us? If we sum it up, we must conclude that Pachypodiums are relatively fast growers and in general are very opportunistic plants In habitat. The growing season is short so they must make the most of it. In cultivation where conditions are so much more generous they really move and this means that they will make too much of a good thing if given the chance. By comparison, plants in the wild are held in check by the ever present force of the elements and have that "natural" compact look so desired.

So our cultural profile can now be fairly well defined. Pachypodiums can be a little too robust in cultivation. We can't just let them go their own way so they must be held in check somewhat. We know that they must have a definite winter rest and be carefully monitored during this period. By holding them back a little we certainly don't mean starving them or making them weak. On the contrary, this will produce the exact opposite result which is a more compact natural looking plant. Many growing techniques are available to us which will work with this approach.


II. Methodology

The big three: Light. Temperature, and Water form the basis for most discussions on cultivation. All aspects of growing usually relate in some fashion to one of these key elements.

What is normally presented however is a big list of do's and don'ts which reduces cultivation to a mechanical process with little regard for the relationship between these primary elements. If you want to be a first rate grower, you must know why you are doing something. Merely following a prescribed list will take you nowhere. For example, no one can possibly tell you how often to water. You must determine this yourself.

Our approach will therefore be that the three elements Light. Temperature, and Water define your growing. They cannot be considered separate entitles but are interdependent parts of your cultural formula. Change any one and the others must also change.

Light Requirements

All species of Pachypodium require strong, hard light. This means at least 3-4 hours of direct light each day. Direct light is defined as an unobstructed southern exposure. It does not mean so many hours of sunshine, but only that the exposure not be blocked by trees. house eaves, or anything that will create shade. Nothing should come the sun and your plants except the window or greenhouse glazing if that.

Pachypodiums grown in low light hardly resemble their true form and are indeed a sad sight with their etiolated (stretched out) stems and huge floppy leaves. Plants grown under such conditions become very weak over time and generally fail. The classic symptom that plants are not receiving sufficient light that the new leaves will turn black.

Properly grown specimens will always have what is termed a small internode distance. This is the distance between the stipular spines. Figure 2 illustrates this point with two plants of the same species. Notice the distance between the spines is much greater for the poorly grown specimen on the left while the other is nice and compact.


Maximum temperatures are usually not a concern as all species will tolerate the very hot and dry conditions of habitat. Plants grown in greenhouses without proper ventilation (total inside air replaced once per minute) can easily be damaged. The first sign of this is the clear sap weeping from the growing apex. This is permanent damage and branching occurs around such an injury. Quite often, plants grown in excessively hot conditions will just go dormant.

In cultivation our biggest concern is the minimum temperature which coincides for duration with the rest period. Due to the general robust nature of Pachypodiums with some moisture required during dormancy, a minimum of13°C (55°F) should be maintained while 16°C (60°F) is preferable. Some will tolerate lower levels but most will not. The Highland reference collection of seed stock Pachypodiums, consisting of hundreds of plants including all known species is kept at 18C (65°F).


Figure 2. Internode distance for two plants the same age of horombense.



Pachypodiums are heavy feeders requiring generous amounts of water. This is the main obstacle for growers new to the genus to overcome. It's a natural tendency to be overly conservative with watering especially with the rarer more costly species but the idea should be not how much but when to water. As a good starting point use this simple rule: do not let containers become dust dry at any time. It works. Water, wait until it uses what you gave it, then water again.

How can you tell if a plant has used what you have given it? Pick it up. If the pot feels light, water it. If you want to call yourself a real plant person learn to do this. Experienced growers can tell if a plant needs water just by looking. You won't catch them lugging pots around! Again it's that special sense of awareness that makes the difference.

Don't think of watering as an exact science where every drop must be measured. It’s just not that critical. Make sure your plants are well watered and forget it. More Pachypodiums are killed by underwatering than everything else combined.

Finally, do not push anything into the container to test the moisture level. This means your finger or those dreaded moisture meter probes. Succulents have delicate, fragile roots and you will only damage them. Pachypodiums are especially sensitive to this treatment and broken roots can rapidly lead to rotted plants from this bad habit.

The Dormancy Dilemma

The most critical and least understood time in caring for Pachypodiums is the dormancy or rest period. Most losses occur during this time because plants are kept too dry and not monitored. It's not that they are difficult and in fact are no more demanding than most caudiciforms. Due to their very robust nature and general character of quickly responding to culture, these plants will simply not survive long periods, i.e. months. with no moisture. Yes some will make it but many will not.

Dormancy is a fact of life. Plants gradually move into a rest period in response to dropping light and temperature levels. You can 't force them to do anything by applying or withholding water. You simply must give them what they require.

Pachypodiums just don't sit there like rocks while dormant. You can’t see much happening on the outside but on the inside transpiration is still going on at reduced levels, and this moisture must be replaced. They need feeder roots to take up this moisture so naturally plants cannot be kept so dry that these roots are lost. This can easily happen and the consequences will not become apparent until spring when growth commences and plants begin to fail. Plants are failing not because of what you are doing in April but because of what you did over the winter months.

So how often should you water during dormancy? It largely depends on humidity levels, i.e. how fast plants dry out If you live where it's cool during the winter. Your house or greenhouse will be dry so one or two waterings per week may be required. If you live in a mild climate with little heating equipment operating, possibly once every other week will work. Just water, give them a good dry spell to the point where the pots feel light. then water again, but do not keep dust dry!

The relationship between light, temperature, and water should now be coming into focus. Each certainly is a topic by itself but often it is extremely helpful to think of them collectively. Solutions to problems can usually be found in the cause-effect type relations that exist.

As an example consider the winter situation for growers with no greenhouse. When you move your plants inside in autumn. you are significantly altering your environment. If you think of this in terms of the three key elements the most obvious change is a big decrease in available light It thus becomes crucial to adjust temperature and water accordingly keeping growth to a minimum and thereby avoiding ruinous etiolation. Conversely plants must be watered enough to maintain roots so you can see it becomes a delicate balancing act of providing the three essential elements in the correct amount.

Root loss

With any sizable collection you will have a few Pachypodiums each year that lose their roots and in this condition their survival depends on careful and quick treatment. Signs to look for are a shriveled caudex. small irregular leaves. Pots that stay wet, and algae on soil.

Figure 3. The proper removal of roots should be back to healthy white tissue.

First, ascertain that the roots are in fact dead. Do not unpot to check this. Disturbing live roots one of the worst things you can do. Water well and wait 7-10 days. If the caudex fills back out even a small degree, leave the plant alone and monitor it carefully until it recovers. It is very easy to make the wrong diagnosis that a Pachypodium is rotted because the caudex has become soft, only to find after removing all the soil that the roots are in perfect shape and all it needed was a good watering. This is especially true in very hot weather when plants can desiccate in a hours. Usually it takes much longer for a plant to fill back out than to shrink.

If the plant fails to respond to your initial watering, unpot and remove all mix. The dead roots will usually fall away with mix but trim them back to clean white tissue and apply a rooting hormone. Fig 3 illustrates the procedure where the dead feeder roots have been removed and the primary roots trimmed back.

Finally, let things dry for a few days to heal the root tips then pot in straight perlite or pumice. Place in bright but not direct light and keep evenly moist When new growth evident. unpot- shake off excess perlite or pumice and pot in your regular mix It works just about every time. Plants can even stay in rerooting pots until the next season if it becomes too late in the year to disturb the delicate new roots. Timing is critical and must always be considered.

Figure 4. Ratio Rule applied to two plants the exact same age. L-2.5" pot. R-4" pot

Technique: The Ratio Rule

Now that we have the basics down we return to the idea of restraint developed in our cultural profile and explore techniques you can use to keep your plants in check. One of the most effective is the standard horticultural principle called the Ratio Rule. It states simply that for any plant there exists an ideal ratio between its roots, stem (caudex}, and leaves. This is right from Hort 101.

This principle can be applied to Pachypodiums by restricting root space. In habitat they grow in cracks and chinks between rocks and this is what gives them their nice globular character. In cultivation most new growers overpot in the mistaken belief that you must give your plants plenty of root space if you want them to grow well. In fact it has the opposite effect as plants slow to a crawl. If roots are grown out of proportion to the rest of the plant, the growth energy will be channeled to the branches and leaves and not the caudex ie. the ratio of roots to stem and leaves is not correct. Plants with a large crown of branches and leaves but without much of a caudex are usually in a container much too large in relation to plant size.

Figure 4 illustrates this principle applied to a pair of densiflorum. The nice fat one on the left is in the correct size container while the one on the right is over potted. When selecting a container choose one in which the plant will just fit and move up in increments of one half inch. This technique can be used with many types of plants and it works! Bonsai enthusiasts use it extensively to develop big fat trunks.

Growing Medium

The key factor for any good Pachypodium mix is light weight. The large roots can simply push themselves through a light and airy mix easier than a heavy one. A degree of moisture retention is also required as in any quality medium.

The new soilless mixes that have been developed for commercial growers the past few years are excellent. These come in a variety of formulations with the composted bark based being the best. Few growers today use soil based medium as the results realized with soilless mixes are so outstanding. You can adjust the porosity of any soilless product with perlite for an excellent Pachypodium growing medium. Superior results are obtained with perlite over pumice. Avoid using any mix containing sand, gravel, or any aggregates. Sand based mixes are heavy, compact, and suffocate roots.

A constructive way to think about this subject is that any quality mix will provide a margin of error in watering. Your plants should be able to withstand short periods of over and under watering such as outside during summer rains. If you experience frequent plant losses, you may want to consider another mix no matter how good you think your current one is. Go slowly and experiment.

A constant low dosage feed strategy is best. Use a commercial brand of fertilizer with trace elements, such as Peters, at one-quarter strength or 50 ppm nitrogen every time you water. Avoid hobby or gimmick brand products. Your feeding program should commence in March and end in October.


Fortunately most insect pests are not attracted to Pachypodiums. Most collections will see the odd breakout of mealybug but difficult pests such as mites and whiteflies leave them alone. If the need arises for chemical controls. absolutely do not use petroleum based products. These are labeled "liquid" this or that such Malathion and are designated emulsifiable concentrate, "EC", or just “E”. Systemics such as Cygon also fall in this group and are highly toxic to you and your plants. EC's will severely burn succulents so avoid them at all costs and use wettable powders and water based (aqua flow} products. It's up to you to do your homework on the insect you are trying to control and the right chemical to use for your plants.

The Big Picture

It is hoped that if you obtain one piece of practical advice from this guide it is that quality plants are the result of quality cultivation. Just about anyone can get Pachypodiums to grow even in the worst conditions. Cultivation can indeed be negative. It's the quality of that growth that is the whole point and true measure of your efforts.

Consider this guide no more than a starting point. Use the ideas presented here along with your own to experiment and observe. You are on your own.  


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

At what times are the hands on a clock aligned?

At what times do the hour and minute hands on a clock face become perfectly aligned? Obviously 12:00 is one time. Now think about that at 6:00 where the hands are opposite each other. By the time the minute hand has moved to the 6, the hour hand has already advanced halfway from 6 to 7, and by the time the minute hand moves halfway from 6 to 7, the hour hand has advanced a little more, and so on. At 11:00, by the time the minute hand reaches the hour hand, the hour hand will already be at 12, and the hands will be aligned at 12:00 again. So the two hands actually only align 11 times during a 12-hour period, or 22 times in 24 hours. So the secret then is simply that the hands align at multiples of 12/11ths of an hour, or about 5 minutes and 27 seconds. This can be described as T=12n/11, where 'T' is the time and 'n' is the integers from 1 to 11. You can see in the table below, the right column has the alignment times, but there isn't one for 11, because it becomes 12.

One of my childhood mysteries is finally solved!

Other than 12:00, there are no times when the hour, minute, and second hands become perfectly aligned. See the link below.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Cultivation of Aloe polyphylla

Cultivation of Aloe polyphylla from seed - Fall 2020

Alan C Beverly - Ecoscape Nursery

424 National St. Santa Cruz CA 95060

This seed was harvested In Aug-Sept 2020 and stored at refrigerator temperature. It is hybrid seed produced by hand pollination of differing genotypic parents. Other researchers (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) have found that a good way to proceed is to soak the seeds in water for a few weeks until the root begins to emerge. Then transplant the germinated seed to real media to establish a seedling. I have performed a partial scarification using 150 grit san paper to break the outer dry "wings" to facilitate imbibition of water before planting the seed into the media. This facilitates faster germination but exposes the endosperm to micro-organisms which kill the seed. There must be an anti-microbial compound in the seed coating (wings) that protects the seedling. As each seed germinates remove it from the water and place into shaded media. Do NOT cover the seed with mulch. The root emerges and the first seed-leaf is formed. The root descends into the soil but may not find sufficient spaces between the soil particles to descend, resulting in the seedling lifting itself up. This is the critical moment to help the seedling to establish a downward pointing root in contact with soil and the reason I recommend using no organic matter, only red lava. You may want to manipulate seedlings which have a looped root to help establishment. In week 4 you will want to watch and manipulate each seedling carefully to anchor the root. Grow-lights and a fan on a 16-hour day length are helpful. You may begin to use a crystalline fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro at label rate. Recent trials are showing that 100% red lava, 8mm (5/16”) washed, offers the best result. When the first root begins to explore the soil, the soil must conform to the physiological needs of the root tissue to provide enough oxygen. Only COOL soil temperature fosters seed germination, bottom heat is NOT necessary. Temperature range of 4-21°C (40-70°F) is suggested. When the first cotyledon leaf is formed with a root your seedling is beginning to establish itself. The soil media as prescribed has little water holding capacity, and your seedling wants a very porous soil now, so decrease water applications to about 1x/3 days lightly.

At the 4-leaf stage you may safely transplant seedlings to increase personal space required for plant development. The media should be 50/50 red lava and perlite. Do NOT overwater believing it to be essential to the seedling. This is just one of the counterintuitive factors I have come to realize growing this species.

Cultivation of Aloe polyphylla - Fall 2020

Alan C Beverly - Ecoscape Nursery

424 National St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Thanks for your business and interest in Aloe polyphylla. Here is a brief set of instructions and caveats to start your journey of wonderment growing the Spiral Aloe. Please visit our website for updates and more information.

1. Soil Mix: I have experimented with several concepts of soil formulae and now recommend this: Very Little POTTING SOIL- Use 50% RED LAVA, 8mm (5/16") washed, and 50% #3 PERLITE. For tub specimens this is amended to read 100% 19mm (3/4") red lava, with some potting soil (10%) and/or perlite permitted.

2. Prevent the soil temperature from going above 27°C (80°F) by using a large container of ceramic, wood, or terra cotta. Overpotting is the rule for good growth. The leaf tolerance of high air temperatures is much higher than the root’s tolerance.

3. Plant must have some outdoor light quality with UVA, UVB radiation to achieve good spiral form. Remember that it is infrared radiation which heats up the container, but that UVA & B radiation is the energy which drives photosynthesis.

4. Use only water you would drink and enjoy, No chlorine, No salt, Not alkaline. No graywater.

5. Adult plants with 150+ leaves have a rated hardiness of -12°C (10°F) if winter sun is ~6 hours/day. Juvenile plants have less hardiness and should be protected.

6. Organic materials fertilizers are NOT safe. The added microorganisms are facultative, meaning they can act as both a pathogen or in a saprophytic benign behavior. No osmocote, No salty granular formulations. I use Miracle-Gro at 1 teaspoon/gallon only (this originally said 1 tablespoon/gallon but that seems excessive. I suggest clarifying this with Alan C. Beverly).

7. Be watchful of ant activity and use chemical warfare to kill and deter them and aphids and mealy bugs by using 1% soap with some pyrethroid additive. Mites have proven to be a major threat, see #14

8. Never pull off a leaf with tip necrosis mid-spiral. The only plant grooming is to pull off the lowermost leaf when paper thin. The plant will release its hold on it when the goo is resorbed. At a maximum size of ~175 leaves the dynamic ratio of new leaf creation to old leaf retirement is 1. Fusarium infection of roots alters this ratio to less than 1, and mites in the root stump do the same.

9. Healthy roots are yellow, dead roots are brown. Some live older roots will have a brown color due to suberization . If the plant collapses pull it up, clean off the dead roots, jet wash, scrape the root stump with a penknife down to hard tissue, removing all dead tissue. Let the plant dry before replanting on moist soil in shade. In 2-3 weeks, new roots form. I call this plant rehabilitation and is a normal and expected event in the life of A.p. Adult container specimens require this every 5 years. Do not water the plant until a "push test" proves that new roots have formed to grab the media, creating resistance to push or pull. Healthy roots require much oxygen to inflate each leaf. High soil temperatures and/or flooded soil will suffocate the roots.

10. The above recommendations are written with reference to container plants. In the landscape a mound of sandy loam free of root competition from other plants will be a good start for 65-75 leaf plants and diminish concerns of high soil temperatures.

11. I warranty each plant for 60 days after shipment. If you follow instructions and your plant suddenly dies, I will send another only if you provide a pic via email of the plant. Upon receipt, expose the plant to air and light, there is no immediate requirement to install in the specified media. Prepare the media and water it. Place your plant high in the center of your container and wait several weeks for new roots to form. You may apply liquid fertilizers at this time.

12. I enclose a sample of the media to show just how radically different it is from other commercial "cactus & succulent" media. It is closer to what is used in hydroponic grow systems than any media specification you have seen.

13. Your plant has been treated with systemic insecticides and miticides to protect it against the Springtails (Collembola) and the Eriophyid mites which may inhabit the root stump. The Springtails are easy to eliminate, but the red mites are very small and cause a very big problem for A.p. The mite adults are visible with a hand lens, but the larvae measure in at about 250 microns, making them invisible to even those with hand lens. They occupy the live/dead tissue boundary in the root stump. A mite-infested plant will die slowly from symptoms which mimic death by Fusarium. After 30 years of dealing with this I'm convinced that the major pest of A.p. is actually the red spider mites, and not Fusarium, which is now listed in second place. Most other Aloes in Southern California can be plagued by subcutaneous mites which generate a hyperplasia (tumor) easily viewed. There is NO CURE. Prevention is then the only strategy. Abamectin is one miticide but is not systemic. Spirotetramat is a systemic miticide. The use of essential oils such as garlic, clove, rosemary, and castor (Mite-X) has value in surface treating the root stump by soaking for plants undergoing a rehabilitation procedure. The Orange-guard product has limonene which is also good. For A.p. infected with red mites there is a stasis reached where they simply stay put in the root stump. They cannot live outside of the root stump, like termites, are very vulnerable to desiccation and UV light. Plants so infected may begin to lean to one side and have an altered dynamic leaf ratio, losing more leaf than are being grown. This is all you will witness unless the mites are disturbed by carving back dead tissue of the root stump to reveal the live/dead tissue boundary. I cannot report any success to spray or soak mite infested plants with any miticide.

14. I receive many questions regarding tip necrosis. This is the effect of a limited soil volume, insects, or the Fusarium fungus. If the symptom occurs only on the oldest leaf, then this is considered a symptom of pre-retirement of the leaf, but if this occurs in mid-spiral with larger lesions then I would recommend pulling up your plant and inspecting closely for insects etc... clean dead tissue, jet-wash, and re-root. The root stump should be hard. If soft, cut away all soft tissue, spray with an aerosol insecticide and re-root.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Devil Wedding, a Georgian folk tale


Tales of the Uncanny by Václav Černy, Zlata Černá, and Miroslav Novák.
Published in Czechoslovakia, 1976.


The Devil Wedding

Aluda Sazikauli lived at the edge of the village of Shatili. He had neither wife nor children, his father and brother had been killed by Kists, and his mother had died of fever during a pilgrimage to the Cross of Gudan. Aluda took his revenge on the murderers of his father and brother, provided for the funeral of his mother, and from that time he lived alone. He was respected by the villagers, for he was a good hunter and an amusing drinking companion, who always knew how to add to the general good cheer with a fine story. “To the Cross of Gudan,” he would say, “you should have been with me and now you could make me choke on every lie you catch me telling. Can I help it if you are all so unadventurous?”

One day Aluda Sazikauli set off to hunt mountain goat. There were great numbers of these shy creatures on the distant mountain slopes. He travelled until dusk and spent the night under his cloak in a sheltered valley by a spring. The next day he climbed the bare mountains. Boulders jutted out from the rock-face like the teeth of a fairy-tale giant, but not a mountain goat was to be seen. He crossed over the summit and descended into the next valley, but again he had nothing better to eat but bread, cheese, and water from a spring. In vain did he call on Ochopinto, the herdsman of the wild animals of the forest. By late in the afternoon of the third day he had seen nothing. Then suddenly he saw three nanny-goats and a mighty he-goat with powerful horns standing outlined against the sky. Taking cover behind boulders, he crept close to them, and felled the he-goat with a single shot. The third night was fast approaching, and he could not spend the night on the bare mountainside. He put the mountain goat on his back and began to climb down the steep slope.

Suddenly in a narrow valley, between the trees, he saw smoke rising, and before long he came to an extraordinary building. It was a stone castle made of rough-hewn boulders. The castle was built right into the hillside and had a crumbling watchtower. A drawbridge led to a wooden portico, guarded by twin towers. The castle was gigantic. Its doors were so huge that a rider with his spear held high could pass through them, and two knights in armor could ride side by side along the battlements.

“To the Cross of Gudan,” said Aluda Sazikauli to himself.  “There are no castles built like this, today. Our ancestors must have been mighty men! “

The light was fading and smoke was rising from the chimneys. Singing could be heard from the great hall and Aluda longed for a warm hearth where he could rest his weary limbs. Easing the goat from his shoulders, he called, “Masters of the house!“ There was no reply. He called a second time, and there was no answer. When he was about to call for a third time, the door opened. Dusk had fallen and Aluda thought that his eyes were deceiving him in the gathering darkness. Out of the house and down the lowered drawbridge came a man with seven heads. The heads twisted in every direction and they spoke one after the other in the same voice:

Welcome, guest! Come in and accept the hospitality of this house!”

At that moment, Aluda realized that he stood before the terrible seven-headed devil, Baqbaq, whose very name cast fear in the hearts of ordinary men. Aluda was frightened but it was too late to draw back and decline the invitation. “May the White Rider help me," he thought to himself as he stepped bravely toward the seven-headed monster.

“I see you are a hunter “ The devil laughed so heartily that the valley shook. “I shall call my son to take care of your prey.” He turned two of his heads and called into the house. The door opened once again, and his son stepped onto the drawbridge. He was even more misshapen than his father; he had three legs and his arms brushed the ground.

“This is my youngest son, Forest-Howler,” said Baqbaq. “My son, take our guest into the hall.”

“Come in, my guest,” Baqbaq turned to Aluda. “You are not the only one who will be feasting under my roof tonight. We are celebrating the marriage of my daughter, Three Eyes-beautiful Eyes. I am sure you have heard of her.”

Aluda was terrified but all the same he smiled politely and followed Baqbaq and his son into the castle. They passed through an anteroom and entered the great hall. A cauldron hissed and steamed above a great fire that roared in the hearth. The guests were sitting on benches along the walls, and they fell silent as Baqbaq led Aluda inside.

“Our house has been honoured by a new guest,” said Baqbaq, “a Khevsur hunter. I don”t know your name, guest,” he turned to Aluda, “but I see by your weapons that you are a brave man, and a mighty hunter.”

Aluda turned a little pale, but his host continued:

“You may put your weapons aside, because you are safe in my house.”

Aluda drew back a pace, but he was instantly surrounded by hideous claws that reached out towards him. “Entrust me with your gun and scimitar, so I can hang them in a place of honour.” It was Baqbaq’s middle son, Mangy-Polecat who spoke. Reluctantly Aluda placed his gun in one of the claws, even more reluctantly he unbuckled his scimitar and put it in the second claw, and then the third claw seized him and stood him in the centre of the room.

“Allow me to introduce my guests, Khevsur,” said Baqbaq. “I am sure you have never met any of them before.” Baqbaq laughed in all his seven throats, and the company joined him until the rafters shook with their roaring. It was, indeed, fine company. There were fewer of them by far than there were heads; they stared at Aluda out of many eyes; they stretched out so many arms that Aluda thought that they could have taken Ananuri Castle apart stone by stone before he could count to five.

“You should tell us your name, guest,” said the ghastly Thundershaker, who was presiding over the wedding feast, “so that the bride and groom may later remember this day with pride,”

Aluda Sazikauli hesitated. If he told them his real name they would come to visit him and the rest of the villagers would avoid his house in horror. He would become an outcast in his native village, and mothers would frighten their children with his name. He made up his mind to lie to them.

“My name is Seven-Devils-Enemies-of-the-Gods,” he said.

“You have a strange name for a Khevsur,” said Thundershaker in surprise. “I have met a great many of your fellow countrymen, and they had all sorts of names, but I have never heard of anyone with a name like yours. We know that Khevsurs swear to the Cross of Gudan. You ought to do so now, so that we can believe you.”

The rest of them joined their voices to his until an indescribable uproar set in.

“To the sock on the gam, my real name is Seven-Devils- Enemies-of-the-Gods,” Aluda hurried with his response before the noise had quietened. No one heard him properly, and so everyone believed him.

The master of ceremonies then called for silence. He delivered a toast and handed Aluda a goblet of arrack. The goblet was as big as a warrior’s helmet, but without batting an eyelid Aluda drank it all. The devils growled in admiration and Thundershaker called out:

“Bring me the cauldron and I shall give our guest a portion of honour!”

At once Baqbaq’s sons jumped forward and handed him the huge, steaming cauldron from the fire. Thundershaker fished something out onto a dish. Forest-Howler knelt down beside Aluda and placed the dish before him. Aluda saw that the dish contained a human head. He blenched and his hands began to shake; he tried to swallow but his throat was dry and he felt nausea rising in his throat.

Baqbaq was watching Aluda’s expression intently, and he guffawed with all his seven mouths:

“It seems you do not feel well, guest. Surely you do not mean to say that the food I offer you does not appeal to you ?

“Actually, I have lost my appetite today,” lied Aluda. “I tired myself out with my long journey, and your portion of honour seems a trifle too rich for my stomach, weakened as it is with hunger. If you would not be offended, I would prefer some cheese which I brought with me.

All the demons present began to bawl at the top of their lungs, but it appeared they were not offended by the refusal. On the contrary, they were bubbling over with sympathy, and each was recommending his own proven remedy against nausea.

“The best is snake’s bile,” screamed a toothy goblin from the corner.

But the seven-voiced Baqbaq shouted the rest of them down: “Give him a vat of beer, that will restore his appetite.”

Everyone agreed and at once they brought a full vat. They held it to his mouth and poured the beer into him until he thought he would drown. With all his might he pushed Forest-Howler away who thought Aluda wanted him to pass the vat around the circle. The demons drank, a river of beer gurgled down their throats, and soon they had to bring another vat. The beer tickled their palates, and they began to pat their furry bellies, and all at once they burst into their own wedding song:

“Ho, ho, hyde,

We have a bea-oo-tiful bride.

She’s lovely and furry from head to toe,

Hunchbacked, warty and pigeon-toed.

The bridegroom comes from far away,

And he’s even furrier, hey, hey hey!” 

When they thus reminded themselves of the bride, Thundershaker bellowed out once more:

“Show our bride to the guest, for that is our custom. He is a human and he will spread tales of her beauty among his people.”

They all agreed, and as one body they led Aluda to the bride’s chamber. There sat Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes surrounded by her bridesmaids. She was not as hideous as Aluda had feared, in fact she would even be quite comely if she could only hide her third eye.

“Be in good health, beautiful bride,” Aluda greeted her. “Never did I see a more beautiful devil bride. I never would have thought that devil maidens were so beautiful.”

“I like you too, guest,” said Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes, and when none of her bridesmaids were looking she added: “You are almost as fair as I, and fairer by far than my groom. You are no doubt courageous and they told me you are a good hunter. I am sure you could support a loving wife and a family of devil children. Kidnap me!”

“How could I dare to do such a thing?” Aluda protested. “I would insult the house in which I was made welcome, and I would make blood-feud enemies out of my friends.” “But you said that I appealed to you, and I want you,” Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes stamped her foot stubbornly. “I shall order my maid to saddle a horse secretly and you will kidnap me.”

Aluda refused, he resisted, why he even tried to run away, anything to escape from this two-fold danger, but all in vain. Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes snatched him up and tucked him into her sewing basket, and then she whispered something to the hideous old woman who was her maid. In a little while she released him and took him out into the courtyard and through the wicker gate, into a pasture where a saddled horse stood waiting.

At that moment joyous shouting burst out from the front of the house. The groom had arrived to claim his bride. Aluda was scared beyond thinking. What was he to do? He could see no way of escape. Before very long the wedding guests would discover that the bride had disappeared, and he with her. They would pursue them both, and he had no means of fighting them. And even if he did manage to escape how could he live with a wife like Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes?

Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes, noticing his dejection, snuggled up to him and said: “You kidnapped me and I can never return to my father’s house. But I shall defend myself with you and if worse comes to worst, I shall die with you. For didn’t you say that you were fond of me?”

From the house came the wailing of the bridesmaids, and the terrible roar of the frenzied wedding guests, and above it all the dreadful voice of the insulted bridegroom thundered out:

“Who has kidnapped my bride?”

“Seven-Devils-Enemies-of-the-Gods,” answered all the demons at once, one louder than the other.

“Even if there are fourteen of them, or even twenty-one, swore the groom, “not one of them will escape me. I shall tear every one of them into a thousand pieces!”

Aluda tried to hide behind a boulder, comforting himself that they might overlook him, but Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes misunderstood his intention; she leaned against the boulder, for she thought he wanted to roll it down on the house. She wrenched an enormous crag out of the mountain-side, and the crag went surging down towards the house below with a deafening roar, tearing down everything in its path. Then she snatched Aluda under one arm, the horse under the other and bounded up the mountain slope.

When the crag crashed into the castle below, caving in the walls, the devils set up a terrible howling. Only the groom lost no time and stormed after the runaways up the mountainside.

“Ha, now I”ve got you,” he called out behind them in a thunderous voice. “Stand still, all seven of you!”

Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes set Aluda and the horse down and leaned against another boulder. In the dark she could not see who was where, and the devils could not see her.

By the sound of the shouts, though, it was apparent that they were not far behind them. Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes rolled another boulder down the mountainside and the groom roared out in rage and in pain.

“What is the matter with you?!” asked Baqbaq’s seven heads.

“Nothing, but I am becoming more and more cross!” said the groom, not wanting to confess pain in front of his father-in-law.

And the narrow valley replied to his thunderous voice with the echo:

“Cross… cross… cross…”

“Ha, there is that Khevsur,” said the devils who were higher up the mountain. “He’s swearing to Gudan’s Cross!” And they started to topple boulders down in that direction. Those who were lower down picked up rocks and pelted them uphill, all of them bellowed, those who were hit roared out, rocks rumbled and trees cracked. No one knew who was fighting whom in the confusion.

Aluda took his chance and jumped up on the horse and started out on the narrow sheep trail along the mountain precipices quite unmindful that with every step he could break his neck, while the devils battled amongst themselves mercilessly. Perhaps they all truly believed that their adversaries were enemies of the gods, or perhaps in their boundless rage they wanted to revenge themselves on their comrades for the blows they had received. Who can say?

Suddenly, the voice of Thundershaker boomed out Of the valley:

“Ho, ho, not one of you will escape ! I know what I shall do”

He stepped up to the side of the mountain, leaned his mighty shoulders against it, braced his feet against the opposite precipice and leant so mightily that the side of the mountain cracked and collapsed, its peak tore off and buried the entire valley. For miles around the earth shook, the mountains twisted, and in the fissures new valleys appeared. And from that spot where the terrible horde of devils lay buried, there rose a column of dust and acrid smoke as if from burning limestone.

But by then, Aluda was in safety. At that very moment he was crossing the mountain pass, and carefully he guided his horse through a narrow gorge between two escarpments and down into the valley which he knew well.