The Cactus Patch
October 2015

Wasting Time
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We didn’t go anywhere or do much this last month, so I’ll describe how I “waste” time.  We didn’t go to Fresno (they had a members' sale) and we continued with our exercise group three or four days a week.  (Why not, it costs us nothing and is probably good for us.)

We did hear Attila Kapitany’s talk on orchids and ant plants of Australia.  It was fantastic, but he did try to fit in too much and left no time for questions and comments. I have just a couple of comments.  First was the question on the plant on the cover of his book which looks a bit like a balloon dog.  It is Halosarcia bulbosa, a member of the Chenopodiaceae family.  It is a salt marsh plant (like the pickleweed we have here) and as such is difficult to grow in cultivation.  This is a pity because it is so strange looking. 

Second is his statement that the orchid Dockrillia striolata has an upside down flower.  Actually it is the other way around.  It has a right side up flower whereas most orchids have a flower which is upside down because the flower stalk twists while growing!

On Sept. 2nd, I had a growth removed from my cheek and so missed the opening rehearsal of the Goldenaires choir.  I was there for the second rehearsal on the 9th.  We have a bit of Christmas music by John Rutter.  Does this mean we are getting in a Rutter?

On Sept. 10th we heard on Valley Public Radio about a new fossil human ancestor found in South Africa.  Polly then found more info on the internet.  Next day a short article appeared in the Californian.  I mentioned it to John who said, “As a caver I knew this was coming.  I saw the ad for skinny people with caving and anthropology experience.” 

On the 16th they showed a two hour National Geographic special on TV.  Finally on the 18th we received a copy of the Oct. Nat. Geographic magazine which had a cover article ( and advertised the TV special which had already gone by!)

I could write a book about this, but for now I will just make three comments. One, they are a bit premature with the announcement as they have not dated the fossils. Second, they have named it Homo naledi (a Sotho/Tswana name meaning “star” from the name of the cave which is Rising Star), but I think more specimens of Homo habilis are needed to say it is a separate species.  (The outstanding feature of the new discovery is the number of fossils found.) Finally, they claim this was a deliberate burial, but give very little evidence for this extraordinary claim.  

Next came Flics, the films shown every other week at the Fox.  The season started on 11th September with “Far from the Madding Crowd”, an excellent convoluted love affair.  On the 4th of December they will be showing “Timbuktu”, a movie I have been wanting to see ever since it was nominated for an Oscar in the Foreign Film category.  John actually got a copy and we have watched it at home.  It portrays the takeover of a village by Islamic extremists and is not a pleasant film to watch.  I do recommend it for anyone trying to make sense of events in North Africa and the Middle East.

On the 15th we watched the season finale of “Zoo”.  It just gets worse and worse.  The next to last episode started in Zambia where for some inexplicable reason people were speaking Swahili, a language of East Africa.  They needed medical help so suddenly they were in Harare Hospital in the middle of Zimbabwe.  I guess the program counts on American ignorance of Africa!

On the 20th we had a family dinner at the Roadhouse Grill and celebrated our niece Angela’s birthday.  After that I took plants to the fairgrounds.  The exhibit is very full this year. That evening we watched the last episode of “Arthur and George”, a very good production of how Arthur Conan Doyle proved George was innocent.  This was followed by the series “Sherlock” which is a very good modern version, and not quite as changed from Doyle as “Elementary”.

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