Misc. Part 1

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Rick Barry

Well-Known Member
Dec 16, 2006
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November 2, 2008
San Jose

As has been my custom in recent years, I ventured out early on the morning of November 1 for a brisk walk around my neighborhood, my annual celebration of All Hallows Day, the zenith of the fall season here in San Jose. Unlike in other regions, where winter has already begun to apply its icy grip, the first of November is the ideal date to enjoy the Santa Clara Valley in its full autumnal splendor. The season arrives late in our area, reaching its fullest expression upon the passage of Halloween.

A chill wind greets me as I begin my stroll about the neighborhood. Leaves of various hues dance a minuet in the occasional gusts, accompanied by a multitude of gaily colored candy wrappers: M&M's, with their rich chocolate brown envelopes bedecked with brightly colored images of the treasures contained within; Kit-Kats with their pumpkin-orange jackets, so in keeping with the spirit of the season; the soft pastels on the Sweet Tarts, evoking the promise of the spring to come after the darkness of winter. The breeze inspires a plastic shopping bag to take to the air, a ghostly apparition reminding the viewer of those whom this day is intended to honor, its sojourn to be abruptly ended snagged in a nearby tree or cyclone fence. My dog usually recoils in fear at such a sight, but is distracted by a half-eaten Twix bar lying in the gutter, and seems to be debating with himself whether the ants covering this morsel will be similarly delectable. He seems conflicted in outlook toward the ants: condiment or competition? Quicker in judgment than he, I urge him onward, knowing that he might have been far more decisive had he discovered the parcel left by some neighbor's cat on the lawn on the opposite side of the sidewalk.

In my All Saints' Day reverie, I consider some recent submissions to various orchid-related forums on the internet. I don't defend my participation in these forums, but I do find them sometimes informative and frequently amusing. Like all social settings, internet forums reveal a great deal about human nature. Like all human intercourse, they also inspire exchanges which range from the collegial to the defamatory, which, coincidentally, aptly describes my recent experiences with dating.

I consider online forums to be more entertaining than mailing lists. They provide the ease-of-use and sense of real-time conversation that previously was available only in those internet fonts of wisdom, chat rooms. Anyone who has ever entered a chat room, even if only out of curiosity, knows the level of discourse to be found there. Online forums, even if they come with more bells and whistles, are essentially chat rooms with referees (oftentimes, referees with agendas). Most submissions on orchid forums are little more than repetitions of cliches that could be applied to nearly any thread. Subscribers are able to customize their submissions by decorating their posts with emoticons or 'smilies', the Have-a-nice-day Happy Face (one of the few successful attempts by the Soviet-era KGB to undermine the American way of life) become computer animations. Emoticons are very useful to those incapable of expressing themselves in words, or are simply mesmerized by bright colors and movement. Some participants, who momentarily overlook the permanence of items submitted on the internet forums, occasionally say some very regrettable things. At times such as this these forums can revert to the level of orchid cage fights, but at least the rest of us have ringside seats, even if we do occasionally get caught in the crossfire.

I spot a wet-but-intact five-dollar bill in the rain gutter. Bending to pick it up, I notice a couple tiny zip-lock bags containing what looks like chunks of flour. I pocket the five-spot and kick the bags through the grate on the storm drain, satisfied that another crime had been prevented.

In comparison, orchid forums like Orchid Guide Digest (operated through e-mail listservers) offer a higher level of discourse, with occasional exceptions. The fact is that the OGD requires a certain amount of literacy and a willingness to 'go that extra step' in attempting to communicate via the internet. All those extra keystrokes required to send an e-mail may seem like more effort than it is worth if you don't really have anything to say. The problem with Orchid Guide is that it tends to lack submissions of original content and is chiefly comprised of orchid-related RSS feeds submitted by a single subscriber. I can't comment on the non-English articles, but what I can read appears to have been written by persons to whom orchids are a relatively new subject, articles written not out of any real interest in the subject matter, but written instead to satisfy the demands of a journalistic assignment, the equivalent of a high school book report. I do have to admit that I get some perverse sense of satisfaction at the occasional falsehoods perpetuated by some of these articles.

I gaze down the avenue towards the rising sun, basking in its warmth, the shards of broken glass shimmering like so many gems embedded in the asphalt. An empty fast-food soda cup rolls by, the straw through the top its broken axle. A glance into the goundcover on the park strip reminds me that while instruction in the use of condoms seems a necessary and worthwhile part of any sex education program, the proper post-coital disposal of such products must be more strongly emphasized.

(end Part 1)
(Part 2)

I recently saw an online reference to a Paphiopedilum niveum var. semi-alba. Curious, I searched the internet for a photograph, and discovered a few other references to semi-alba Paphs. Mostly, the results have yielded photos of flowers with faded-looking markings, but they aren't albinos. Isn't this just a case of trying to produce demand through 'branding'? I think we should save the designation of semi-alba for Paphs that appear albinistic, but with a typically-colored lip. Good luck with that.

I find a morning walk (or a hot bath) to be most efficacious in helping me organize my thoughts. Failing either, an afternoon nap assists me in simply putting them out of my mind altogether. However, I rarely nap on All Hallows Day since my mind tends to be in a heightened state of alert, a result of the previous day's Halloween activities. Halloween evening can be a very unsettling experience, with all manner of ghoulish and ghastly creatures roaming the neighborhood, with their bizarre hair styles, outlandish clothing and cabalistic symbols tattooed into their skin. Fortunately, they tend to stay on the sidewalk while their children, garbed in a variety of costumes, approach the homes begging for small morsels of food to sustain their frail, famished bodies. In previous years I had attempted to acquire bite-size packets of nutritious and life-sustaining grains (wheat, oats, and feed corn) to offer these unfortunate urchins, but I was unable to locate anything in the appropriate packaging. As a result of my failures in this respect, I left the razor wire in place and added a few extra 'Peligro/Danger' signs in order to avoid any unpleasant confrontations with disappointed supplicants.

One of the less heartwarming aspects of the orchid hobby is the liquidation of large collections, whether due to death, disability or business failure. Whatever the reasons for selling off a substantial collection, the process inevitably results in the appearance of a flock of vultures gathering to pick over the rotting corpse before it is finally interred. It is the responsibility of the executors of such a collection to keep the wolves at bay while providing the collection with a decent and respectful burial.

The truth is that I tend to discourage visitors, but especially those whose presence may threaten the well-being of my orchid plants: Dogs, who are constantly supplementing my feeding schedule with massive doses of urea nitrogen; cats, who send my own rodent-like dog, Arthel, into paroxysms; children, because, let's face it, they're vandals by nature; men, who, frankly, I find vaguely threatening; and women, though in this case I do make exceptions. Must accept major credit cards.

Most long-time orchid growers are accustomed to witnessing the liquidation of the collections of members of our local societies who have either passed on or lost the ability to maintain their collections due to advancing age. We have seen the arrival of prospective buyers motivated by the most base of instincts: greed. These are the people who try to get their foot in the door before the liquidation sales even begin, often presenting themselves as experts or professionals. They are there to gain influence over the owner or the heirs of such a collection, angling for an advantage with the aged, the infirm or the ignorant. Many of us have arrived at such sales only to find the collection already picked through, or, as the operators of such sales might prefer to consider, 'sorted'. Even buyers that are not involved in this 'screening' process frequently attempt to negotiate low ball prices privately with the principles, often citing their own bona fides as judges, society officers or commercial growers. In the case of the death of the owner of the collection, some applicants may describe their warm and longstanding relationship with the deceased, a claim that can be very difficult to gainsay.

I pass by the building which over the years has housed a succession of supermarket chains, and which is now being remodeled in preparation for its re-opening as a British gourmet grocery store. I wonder what they will do with all the extra space. From what I hear of British cuisine, it seems a catering truck would suffice.

The closing of a prominent orchid nursery also tends to bring out the bottom-feeders, whether the liquidation is conducted as a sale or as an auction. The auctioning off of the stock at Hoosier Orchids is a case-in-point. It seems certain that at least some of the bidders at this auction were the same buyers who complained of the high prices before the closure of the business was announced. Feeling that they now had Hoosier at a disadvantage they sallied forth to gain by someone else's misfortune. If they are now dissatisfied with the results of the auction they have no cause for complaint. If they were unable to buy plants at what they assumed would be bargain prices it must be because they were either outbid or that Hoosier simply refuses to give away plants at a fraction of their perceived value. That is the nature of auctions, regardless of what is being sold. To hear anyone complain about how an auction was conducted is to hear someone simply expressing their frustration at not getting their way, or perhaps regret because they passed on the opportunity to acquire desirable plants under Hoosier's pre-auction terms. Save your sympathy for the folks at Hoosier Orchids.

Having been reduced lately to wearing loose-fitting clothing with expandable waistlines, I depart from my usual itinerary to check out the schedule of classes at Pontius' Pilates, next to our local 'Pot Club', the dispensary for medical marijuana. The presence of these two businesses side-by-side presents a stark choice: Buzz or Buzz-kill. Had I maintained my prescription, the choice would have been clear. Acknowledging my aversion to any activity which tends to produce sweating (and the potential loss of trace elements and micro-nutrients vital to human life), I choose instead to drop into the Buy-and-Fly, the mini-mart strategically located on the other side of the pot club, for a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, my nearly daily contribution in support of conservation.

The value of any given orchid plant can be highly debatable. A plant is only worth the price that is paid for it. If a plant remains unsold its value is essentially zero, regardless of what a seller thinks it is worth. If the price tag on a plant attracts no buyers, then that plant must be considered overpriced. That isn't to say it is overpriced absolutely, but only under the conditions under which it is being offered for sale. At a different location or perhaps at a different time of year it might be more attractive to customers, but the fact remains that a plant's value can only be accurately determined at the time of sale. A commercial grower that overvalues his products (and depends upon a certain level of profits to remain in business) is bound to fail, but they probably don't need to be reminded of that reality after the fact. I don't know if Hoosier overpriced their plants, but I have heard rumblings of such. I only once purchased plants from them directly, and all the plants were in excellent condition and well-packaged for shipping. The pricing seemed reasonable enough to me once I realized the condition of the plants, and I especially appreciated the recommendations from Leon concerning the selection of plants.

I know you recommended that I put down my thoughts in a daily journal, but my orchid collection increasingly demands more of my time and energy, so I hope a seasonal journal will suffice to assist you in understanding my thought processes. Office visits are still out of the question, at least until the restoration of my driver's license and the removal of the ankle bracelet. Upon reconsideration I agree with you that my mom's saying I had been 'acting funny' wasn't her way of encouraging my pursuit of a career as a humorist, though I still think that gay people should be particularly tolerant of alternative lifestyles. You were also correct in assuming that my phone had been disconnected again. Should I need to contact you regarding new acquisitions, I will contact you by e-mail.

Seems like someone had a lot of extra time on their hands.
Rick you must live in a wierd neighborhood because the litter and other descriptions seem to be excessive even for NYC standards! On the Hoosier auction, I didn't find any of their prices excessive, I was not able to afford to buy one or more of their 'lots' and made the minimum $300 bid on individual plants, of which I got about $170 that was available. My only complaint was that when I found out what part of my order was available I wanted to add to the order but was told I couldn't; and if I held up my order it would go on the bottom of th packing/shipping list. I'm very happy with the plants I received and have sent in a follow-up request for more plants. According to the original info the prices were supposed to be reduced again but I don't know if this is true. I don't care because if I get the plants on my additional order at the prices [and conditions] listed I'd be happy. Thanxs for the little discourse and insight into your thoughts, Eric.
I saw this posted on the OGD this morning. I suspect Rick wrote this, at least in part, as a response to some complaints about Hoosier's sale voiced on the OGD recently.
Aquacorps (if that truly is your name),

Thanks for obscure literary reference. It's good to know those Cliff's notes haven't been completely forgotten!


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