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The bright red blossoms and attractive green leaves of the poinsettia plant have become almost as closely associated with Christmas as the holly plant and the evergreen conifer. Technically known as Euphorbia pulcherrima, the poinsettia is a native plant of Mexico, introduced to the U.S. in 1828 by the first American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. A botanist, Poinsett was fascinated by the plant’s botanical oddities as well as its striking appearance and seasonal bloom. In its native tropical habitat the poinsettia is a low-growing skimpy-looking bush. The brilliant red poinsettia blossoms (which can also be striated, pink white or pale green) are merely leaves lacking in chlorophyll. The actual flowers are the small yellow clusters slightly beneath and surrounded by the leaves.

Cluster of bright red Poinsettia plants

The dramatic appearance of the poinsettia encouraged the Aztecs to value the poinsettia. They used the bracts (the technical name for the brightly colored, but not solidly green leaves) to make a dye, and as an anti-bacterial for dressing wounds. Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had caravans of the Cuetlaxochitl plants brought to the area now known as Mexico City since the plants did not thrive at high altitudes. Towards the end of the sixteenth century in Mexico, folklore references to a variety of stories about a little girl from a family too poor to afford a gift for the local before the church’s altar. Miraculously, the legend says, the leaves turned into bright crimson blossoms. By the mid seventeenth century, Franciscan friars serving missions throughout Mexico began incorporating poinsettia into their Christmas festivals.

The Eckes had two secret techniques for poinsettia propagation. First, they grafted two varieties of poinsettia together, thus making it possible for the resulting seedlings to branch outwardly, rather than merely grow upward. Secondly, they knew that the colors of the bracts derive from photoperiodism. The bracts are initially  green, but then change to red (or pink or cream) but the bracts require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.

It is thanks to the Ecke family of Southern California that we are so very familiar with the poinsettia as a Christmas and holiday plant. In their native habitat, poinsettias can grow up to ten feet tall. Until the 1990s, when a university botanist figured out how they did it, the Eckes controlled the secret of propagating Poinsettias so that their poinsettias were were bushy, leafy and compact, instead of the usual spindly, vertical-growing shrubs.

It’s not terribly difficult to keep a poinsettia healthy and in “bloom” during the Christmas season, and even after. It’s even possible to have the same poinsettia plant bloom year after year, since they are perennials. During December and January, while the plant has crimson or other colored bracts, check the soil daily. If the soil is dry to the touch, then water the poinsettia until the water runs out of the drainage hole (but do not leave the plant sitting in water). I usually put the pot in the sink and use the sprayer to thoroughly soak the soil. Poinsettias need sun, so avoid a northern window in favor of one facing, south, east or even west. Avoid direct contact with the window’s cold surface. For year-round care, see this page. . And, in case you were wondering, no, the poinsettia is not poisonous though some people may have a contact allergy to the latex in the poinsettia’s sap, a characteristic of Euphorbia plants, including Crown of Thorns. Cats and dogs, however, should be kept away from Poinsettias.

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Elsewhere for November 23, 2018

You should read this for 11/24/2018:

Art and Film

Classic film streaming service FilmStruck rises from the dead…sort of

While FilmStruck is still toast, the folks that own the Criterion Collection–a company that focuses on historically important classic films–is launching the next best thing: The Criterion Channel

YouTube quietly added free, ad-supported movies to its site

France will have to change its laws to return its looted African art “France is set to make good on president Emmanuel Macron’s promise to return Africa’s stolen art and artifacts.”

Books, Writing, and Language

Via Open Culture: Free: Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum


Texas schools make slavery a ‘central’ fact of the Civil War and no one can believe it

Lawrence Allen Jr., the only black member of the board, hopes the new standards will reinforce the connection between slavery and the Civil War since there’s no “consensus” over the war’s causes.

I can’t think of an accredited Civil War historian has a consensus who doesn’t cite the slavery as the motivating cause for the war.

Food and Drink

Aquafaba: the miracle vegan ingredient you’ve been throwing away “The cooking water from chickpeas is nutritious, delicious and whips up into a brilliant mayonnaise.”

In praise of vintage cookbooks “The pictures might be kitsch, the ingredients might be basic, but there is a value in simplicity”

Why Most of America Is Terrible at Making Biscuits Ultimately, it’s all about the flour; soft-wheat flour, aka as White Lily all over the southern states of America.

History and Archaeology

First ever Celtic chariot burial to be found in Wales This is a very important find, and includes the chariot, the tack for the horses, some of it ornamented with red enamel, and possibly human and equine remains. We’ll have to wait for spring for the full excavation. This would have been an important person, buried with a fair amount of ritual, some 2,000 or more years ago, c. the century of the Roman invasion of Wales; in other words, we don’t know yet if this pre-Roman or post-Roman.

Science and Nature

Out on the dark Gloucestershire hills on badger patrol as culling row returns… “With the number of cattle infected with bovine TB still rising, farmers and campaigners remain divided on the cause.”

Iain McGill, a former government vet, found that there were 22 herds with TB in the zone in the first 10 months of 2018, up from 17 herds during the whole of the 2016-17 culling year. . . .
Instead [Mcgill] blames the government’s testing regime, which he claims allows infected cattle to be bought and sold. “The standard screening test used by the government only detects approximately 50% of infected cattle. This is a disaster because it means the infected cattle are being moved to market and on to other farms in the country,” he says.

Via Scott: Every day’s Thanksgiving for the animal world’s extreme eaters


Productivity woes? Why giving staff an extra day off can be the answer “Firms that operate a four-day week with no cut in pay or benefits, as proposed last week by John McDonnell, can see improvements in staff morale and health as well as revenue”

“We have these promised productivity benefits, and we wanted to think about ways workers can get a fair share of them,” she says. “If the weekend was the achievement of the 20th century, the four-day week should be our aim for the 21st century.”



You Snooze, You Lose: Insurers Make The Old Adage Literally True

Last March, Tony Schmidt discovered something unsettling about the machine that helps him breathe at night. Without his knowledge, it was spying on him.
From his bedside, the device was tracking when he was using it and sending the information not just to his doctor, but to the maker of the machine, to the medical supply company that provided it and to his health insurer.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Via Vox:  Sean Illing interviews linguist George Lakoff about how journalists can respond to Trump’s strategy of lying to distract from the truth he doesn’t want covered: How the media should respond to Trump’s lies “A linguist explains how Trump uses lies to divert attention from the “big truths.”

Journalists could engage in what I’ve called “truth sandwiches,” which means that you first tell the truth; then you point out what the lie is and how it diverges from the truth. Then you repeat the truth and tell the consequences of the difference between the truth and the lie.

Read the interview, but first read this piece Lakoff wrote about A Blitzkrieg Strategy Of Lies and Distractions “Trump counts on reporters to chase his lies and distractions like dogs chase balls. Too often, they meet his expectations.”

The key takeaway:

It’s a numbers game. The more he can get his key terms and images repeated in the media — even as “fact checks” — the more he wins. That’s just how our brains work. The more we hear about something, the more it sticks. Even if it’s not true. When I say “don’t think of an elephant,” it forces you to think of an elephant. Repeating lies, even to debunk them, helps spread and strengthen them. The scientific evidence is clear.

Donald Trump’s $12 billion bailout of farmers who were hurt by his trade wars has been a big failure “very little of Trump’s $12 billion bailout has gone to struggling farmers.” See also the original New York Times report.

Women’s Work

Michelle Obama Answers the Questions that Matter

Stacey Abrams Says She Was Almost Blocked From Voting In Georgia Election

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Here’s how to better support people who are suicidal

Some oil rigs in California are absolutely teeming with sea life

In the hazy distance off the coast of Southern California, a couple of dozen drilling platforms loom as dark shadows on the horizon, a reminder of the state’s once friendly relationship with the oil industry. But beneath the surface, some of the rigs are teeming with biological life. Dozens of fish species, thousands of different kinds of invertebrates, and sea lions all call the rigs home.

TOMS founder makes an emotional announcement pledging $5 million to tackle gun violence

. . . the TOMS website now has a way for people to easily and quickly let Congress know they want to see legislative action on gun control. Filling out a simple form with your name, address, and email will automatically send a physical postcard to your state’s representatives to tell them you want them to support universal background checks—a legislative move more than 90% of Americans say they support. Sending the postcard literally takes 30 seconds—less if you have autofill provide your info.

Child’s note tells driver bus hit his parked car

Elsewhere for December 3, 2017

You should read this for 12/3/2017:

Books, Writing, and Language

Jane Austen, Literary Icon and . . . Home Brewer? “Those who’ve noticed that Austen’s characters often have a drink in hand may not know it was her love of brewing beer that was spilling over into her work.”

Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature “Over half of today’s YA readers are over the age of 18.”


It started as a tax cut; now it could change American life

The List of Shame “52 Senate Republicns just voted for a tax scam bit that will trigger $400 billion in cuts to Medicate ofer the next 10 years, all to pay for a MASSIVE tax giveaway to the super wealthy.”

51 GOP Republican SenatorsVoted to gut Medicare, Screw over Students, make it even harder to buy a house or save for retirement, and to line the pockets of the super rich. These people are not interested in your welfare; they are lining their pockets by robbing yours.

Women’s Work

Elizabeth Weil on Raising A Teenage Daughter With Comments And Corrections By Hannah W Duane, her teenager


Elsewhere for November 11, 2017

You should read this for 11/11/2017:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] For 98 years, Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform on 11 November – first as Armistice Day, and then, since 1954 as Veterans Day.  [/perfectpullquote]

Art and Film

Watch an Oil Painting Instantly Lose 200 Years of Grimy Varnish “Fine art is often coated with varnish for the same reason furniture is: it provides a protective barrier to the elements. But varnish turns yellow over time, and an even less attractive color after a few centuries—which is why art restoration experts need to strip old varnish off and reapply it when a painting becomes unsightly.”

Photoshop Experts Hello Kitty-fy Masculine Superheroes With Sparkly Pink Costumes

Found: A Dead Bug in a Van Gogh Painting 

Books, Writing, and Language

“Unbury the Future”: Martha Wells’ Full Speech from the 2017 World Fantasy Awards

Food and Drink

To Get Calcium, Navajos Burn Juniper Branches To Eat The Ash

History and Archaeology

Found: A Rare Carved Stone That Could Rewrite Art History “A miniature masterpiece from the Greek tomb of the “Griffin Warrior.”

A part of Hadrian’s Wall has been found in Newcastle city centre


Killing the medical expense deduction will hit the middle class — and hard “For them it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime tax break, but a provision that enables them to survive financially year after year. It wouldn’t give them more flexibility to use their paychecks, but would wipe out much of their income.”

Resignation syndrome: Sweden’s mystery illness

Maine Governor Paul LePage Refuses to Implement Medicaid Expansion After Ballot Measure Wins

LePage, who is term-limited out of office next year, previously vetoed five Medicaid expansion bills passed by the state’s legislature. Frustrated by inaction, Maineiacs gathered the required signatures to put the referendum on Tuesday’s ballot.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Send a girl to school in Afghanistan, Congo or Lebanon for a year for a donation of $59.00. A great gift for someone who’s hard to shop for, from

Science and Technology

Why This Fungus Has Over 20,000 Sexes

Where we have two traditionally recognized genders, male and female, some species of fungi can have thousands of sexes. It sounds confusing, but it’s actually helpful — with so many variations, the fungi can mate with nearly every individual of their species they meet.

Women’s Work

Jane Goodall, Redux

Goodall was a young, photogenic woman with a refined English accent, which she used to full effect in the voiceovers of her documentaries. Perhaps those factors coupled with her having no Ph.D or even a college degree meant her primate discoveries would not be taken seriously by many scientists.

But though she lacked scientific training, she was still making important discoveries.


Elsewhere for July 30, 2017

You should read this for 7/30/2017:

Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting

Via NPR: You Asked, We Answered: What Happened to the People in That N.H. Ghost Town?

Four Rice Boys Captured by Native Americans in 1704; Three Rice Boys Decide To Stay

A Barred owl, crows, and mobbing.

CTE was nearly ubiquitous among former NFL players who donated their brains to science “At a Boston University program that investigates the trauma-linked brain disease, researchers found that, of 111 former players for the National Football League who donated their brains for post-mortem examination, 110 bore the distinctive tangles, plaques and protein clumps now recognized as the neural hallmarks of CTE.” CRE or  chronic traumatic encephalopathy is usually associated with repeated blows to the head.

Alt-right commentator claims Romans weren’t ethnically diverse, gets owned by actual historian I’m beyond fed up with this kind of thing.

Who Was She? A Dna Test Only Opened New Mysteries.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Trump’s Mistake at the Boy Scout Jamboree “The president addressed the quadrennial gathering like a campaign rally.” He also talked about playboy millionaires, parties, gambling, yachts “hot women” and exhorted Boy Scouts to boo for former Scout President Obama

A White House Official Just Admitted The Real Reason For Trump’s Transgender Military Ban But that’s only part of it; this is the reason. “House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico. But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.” And here’s a perfect response: A Top Colonel Just Responded To Trump’s Transgender Ban By Calling Out His Entire Family.

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon He started by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. It escalated from there.

Elsewhere for July 9, 2017

You should read this for 7/9/2017:

Thomas Jefferson’s Enslaved Mistress Sally Hemings’ Living Quarters FoundThomas Jefferson’s Enslaved Mistress Sally Hemings’ Living Quarters Found “ Archeologists have excavated an area of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello mansion that has astounded even the most experienced social scientists: The living quarters of Sally Hemings, the enslaved mistress of Jefferson, who, historians believe, gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children.”

Justice Department’s Corporate Crime Watchdog Resigns, Saying Trump Makes It Impossible To Do Job “One of the Justice Department’s top corporate crime watchdogs has resigned, declaring that she cannot enforce ethics laws against companies while, she asserts, her own bosses in the Trump administration have been engaging in conduct that she said she would never tolerate in corporations.

Hui Chen — a former Pfizer and Microsoft lawyer who also was a federal prosecutor — had been the department’s compliance counsel. She left the department in June and broke her silence about her move in a recent LinkedIn post that sounded an alarm about the Trump administration’s behavior.”

No, NASA is not hiding kidnapped children on Mars “The situation for human beings on Mars is dire, and not just because the red planet’s atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and the average temperature is -81 degrees. There’s also the issue of the child-trafficking ring operating in secret on the planet 33.9 million miles from earth, according to a guest on the Alex Jones Show.”

According to a lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, craft retailer Hobby Lobby illegally imported thousands of Iraqi artifacts, intentionally mislabeled them and lied about their origins. “According to a lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, craft retailer Hobby Lobby illegally imported thousands of Iraqi artifacts, intentionally mislabeled them and lied about their origins.” See also The Atlantic: Hobby Lobby Purchased Thousands of Ancient Artifacts Smuggled Out of Iraq. Keep in mind that the money they paid for their stolen loot likely funded terrorists. And they’re looted, so there’s no context for them, no provenance, no record of what goes with what, and what level and era they’re from in terms of the actual site or sites.

Via NPR: Why You Should Think Twice About Those DNA-By-Mail Results “‘Race,’ Marks writes, ‘is not the discovery of difference; it is the imposition of difference.’ Inequality comes about because of unequal conditions imposed upon different groups of people through economic and cultural forces.”

Via The New York Times: Did Amelia Earhart Survive? A Found Photo Offers a Theory, but No Proof The photo, which History said was found in the National Archives by a retired federal agent named Les Kinney, appears to show a tall, trousers-wearing, short-haired woman seated on a dock in Jaluit, an atoll in the Marshall Islands, with her back to the camera.
It also appears to show Mr. Noonan [Earhart’s navigator] and maybe even the Electra itself, on a barge off in the distance.

Mexican Flourless Chocolate Cake

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

💩🔥💰 has a plaque at his golf course commemorating the æriver of blood” from an American Civil War battle that never actually happened.

NPR Tweeted Declaration Of Independence, And Trump Supporters Flipped Out.

Elsewhere for June 11, 2017

You should read this for 6/11/2017:

Tim O’Reilly via Medium: Do More! What Amazon Teaches Us About AI and the “Jobless Future”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos exposes her ignorance in front of Congress: What we just learned from Betsy DeVos’s painful appearance before Congress “DeVos said Tuesday on Capitol Hill that she won’t offer protections to ensure that public money is not used by for-profit education companies to make their owners rich.

She also said that private schools accepting federal funds in a voucher program would have to follow federal laws but would not promise to protect LGBTQ or other students from discrimination if the law on the issue is foggy.”

Muslim and Latino communities in Southern California mix during Ramadan ““Taco Trucks at Every Mosque,’ is about building community during an administration that really has tried to break our spirit with the Muslim ban and the building of the border wall and separating our families and instilling fear.”

More bad news for Devos: Senators accuse DeVos of ‘quick about-face’ on climate change “A conservative think tank that does not believe in human-induced climate change has been sending to hundreds of thousands of K-12 and college science teachers materials that reject basic principles on which nearly all climate scientists agree — and now, some U.S. senators are asking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos whether staff members in her department have anything to do with it.”

Harvard yanks acceptances from at least 10 students — and everybody has an opinion “In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

Homemade Ricotta Cheese


Elsewhere for March 26, 2017

You should read this for 3/26/2017: Education, Stonewall isn’t going to be forgotten, queers are here to stay, Easter Island has lessons to teach, roses are survivors and so are you, St. Joseph knew a thing or two about families, and apparently, pastry, and 💩🔥💰 is  . . . well. You go read the stuff behind the wall.

Hat tip to Bronwen (thanks!): Mike Taylor “ Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse” I love the takeaway at the end of the post; because it’s true, and it works.

Read Senator Patty Murray’s memo about the critical importance of public Education “The Trump Administration and some in Congress are pursuing an education agenda under the guise of providing students and families with so-called ‘school choice.”’ Though, on its face, this promise may sound appealing, in reality, this so-called answer doesn’t work for students and families for a number of critical reasons: It ignores the needs of students in rural areas without private school options, ignores the threats posed to students with disabilities and students who may face discrimination, and ignores the parents who believe in their communities and want their children to be able to attend strong public schools in their neighborhood. In other words, it is a false choice. The only true student and family agenda is one that delivers on the idea that every child, parent, and family should have the choice to attend a high-quality public school.”

A biographical essay on Sylvia Rivera, one of the people in front at Stonewall: “The crowd, according to witness Titus Montalvo, was 70 percent African American and Puerto Rican, and fronted in part by trans men and women, a fact that Rivera emphasized at every opportunity. ‘We were the frontliners,’ Rivera later told interviewers. “We didn’t take no shit from nobody,’ she explained. ‘We had nothing to lose.’”

The natives of Easter Island found paradise, and then destroyed it “For most of Easter’s inhabited history, deforestation was relatively gradual, and the people fell victim to “creeping normality,” gradual change that would be considered unacceptable if it happened all at once.” There’s good reason to loo at the Neolithic and early Medieval landscape of Ireland vs Ireland now and think of this story. As a species, we need to stop being such radical consumers and emphasize restoration and preservation, though it’s too late for climate change, we can mitigate.

Via Southern Living: The Rose That Survived Katrina

Zeppole di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day Traditional Italian Pastries)These are good, and more fun if you make them with friends using an assembly line approach.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰


Elsewhere for March 19, 2017

You should read this for 3/19/2017:

Or see this

Cornell mathematician Steven Strogatz writing for The New Yorker on Why Pi Matters This is well-written, to-the-point, fascinating and understandable discussion regarding why, really, Pi matters. I love this: “Pi is inescapable because cycles are the temporal cousins of circles; they are to time as circles are to space. Pi is at the heart of both.”

Via The New York Times Simple Pleasure, American Style On the history of the humble, and increasingly decadent, brownie. I note, by the way, that apparently the brownie may have originated in Bangor, Maine, the land of the Whoopie pie.

Women in Business: The Silent Menace

A court’s decision in a Maine labor dispute hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma. Let this be a lesson to all of us, including my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

Via Forbes: Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In The US

Dolly Parton’s recipe for Walnut pie

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee suggested Thursday President 💩🔥💰 disclosed classified information during a Fox News interview the night before.Rep. Adam Schiff

See also Slate’s Oops, he did it again: Donald 💩🔥💰 just can’t stop himself from blurting out state secrets.

Angela Merkel Just Fact Shamed 💩🔥💰 About the One Thing he’s Supposed to Know If you’re not familiar with German’s Chanceller, Angela Merkel, she’s totally awesome.

Elsewhere for February 18, 2017

You should read this for 2/19/2017 :An encouraging thought, life in crystal, of the making of ebooks there is no end; we just need a better way to read, stories with Picts, and twice-baked cookies.

Green Shoots (even in the Whitehouse

Via The Christian Science Monitor: Microbes that once slumbered inside giant crystals in a Mexican cave are alive and well, according to NASA scientists.

Michael Cohen via TidBITS on The State of iBooks in Early 2017For those of us who love ebooks, the iBooks app is a little bit of heartbreak.

Via Past Horizons: Facial reconstruction of Pictish man brutally murdered 1,400 years ago. Writers: There’s a story in this story.

Via Williams Sonoma Hazelnut and Dried Cherry Biscotti


Federal Elections Commmissioner Ellen Weintraub asks for proof regarding 💩🔥💰’s allegations of wide-spread voter fraud. You can see Weintraub’s letter here. More from NPR: 💩🔥💰 Adviser Repeats Baseless Claims Of Voter Fraud In New Hampshire. It’s pretty hard to commit voter fraud in a state where most of the polling places have been staffed by the same people for years, and everyone know’s everyone because they all went to school together. Just sayin’, as a native Granite Stater, I call foul.

The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins

Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail