Sentient Meat

science, plants and the culture

April 28, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

An affordable wager—how an agnostic or atheist mind can help others

All minds face death and pain

All minds on this earth, like this mind, must face death. Large and small; fast and slow; past, present, and future. This much seems unavoidable. All minds must also face pain, including the awful pain of the awareness of death.

This mind’s good fortune

In spite of this tragic predicament, I seem to be one of the lucky ones. This mind seems to have a surplus of time and attention. This mind begins to predict that if it makes an effort, it can take care of its own needs and to spare. To help make the way easier for other minds in a similar predicament. Large and small; fast and slow; past, present, and future.

To reciprocate the selfless efforts of past minds

Perhaps this mind through effort can even help to validate the sacrifices of minds who made an effort before, minds that did this mind a similar favor, even minds that did not know me personally.

If I repay these forerunners in this flawed and somewhat impersonal way, perhaps that is better than nothing. Perhaps I am giving those past efforts a posthumous gift of attention and appreciation.

Perhaps even if my efforts do exactly nothing to help those past minds, for observation says past minds are truly gone, perhaps I will benefit myself and future minds as well, at a cost I can well afford.

To help present and future minds

Perhaps I can lengthen and enrich the experience of present and future minds in the current context. In this oddly non-intuitive, observable, space-time milieu. If there is nothing else, perhaps this is the optimal influence I can hope to be. Based only on what this mind can observe.

The affordability of this wager

Perhaps I will not lose too much in opportunity cost, in spending some of this mind’s precious time and attention to help these other minds. And from time to time, perhaps I can afford to remind myself of this perspective. For this mind’s clarity and priorities are so easily clouded and distracted.

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June 25, 2012 @ 12:22 am

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa

Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa is reportedly known only from the region of Blanco Encalada in the coastal mountains of Antofagasta, Chile. It has been known under many synonyms, especially Neoporteria floccosa and Neochilenia floccosa.

This young specimen has white spines and wool obscuring the green body. Some individuals are not covered quite so completely.

Flowers have the appearance of antique paper, with the outer petals a darker pink, fading to pale pink for the inner petals.

Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa are noted for long hairs under the flowers. Full grown plants look somewhat different, but the plant pictured in habitat is just as completely covered by long spines, wool, and hairs. (This photo is at cactushabitat.com.)

Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa in habitat from http://cactushabitat.com/Chile/AntofagastaRegionII/Botijavalley/neoporteriafloccosa.html

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June 10, 2012 @ 11:59 am

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Copiapoa hypogaea

Continuing the theme of “odd miniatures”, Copiapoa hypogaea is a spiral, brown or bronzed disc-shaped cactus, 3 or 4cm in the wild or larger 7cm in cultivation.

The pictured plant shows the larger, luxurious, 7cm size of its cushy lifestyle. In habitat, most of the body is under the ground’s surface. Spines are small and relatively harmless. Some individuals lack spines entirely. Flowers are yellow and reportedly somewhat fragrant, though I didn’t notice much fragrance wafting from the pictured plant.

More unusual is the ‘Lizard Skin’ variety with a wrinkly epidermis found in only one of the two subpopulations of C hypogaea in the wild. Pictured here is the more typical variety.

Native to area near Chañaral (Coastal Chile, 02 Antofagasta).

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June 3, 2012 @ 11:59 am

Coryphantha compacta, synonym Coryphantha palmeri

Active today is this lovely Coryphantha palmeri, native to Chihuahua, Durango, and Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Reported used in shamanic rituals, Coryphantha palmeri makes a nice container specimen, too.

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May 28, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

SUCCULENT SUNDAY HOLIDAY: Astrophytum cv ‘Onzuka’

I’ve had mixed results with genus Astrophytum. I’ve lost some of these cacti to mysterious, chunk-devouring pests—I suspect rats, but it could be squirrels or birds. I’ve lost others to rot… perhaps underwatering, dead roots, and then rot growing on the dead roots.

This individual Astrophytum cv ‘Onzuka’ is doing really well so far. It overshadows its 3-inch pot with a full 3.5-inch diameter. I’ll repot it soon. I’ve heard from an advanced grower that he cuts off the taproot at a certain age, forcing the stem to grow smaller, less rot-prone roots. Sounds radical but I seem to recall he claimed everyone in Japan does this.

It’s hard not to like Astrophytum cv ‘Onzuka’. It has strange, white-speckled skin, its body is oddly geometric, and its flower is understated but beautiful.

Speaking of Japan, that’s where this justifiably popular cultivar of Astrophytum myriostigma is said to originate.

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May 13, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Gymnocalycium leeanum, cool as a cucumber

You won’t find a blue-flowered cactus—the entirely family Cactaceae famously lacks blue flower pigment. Green cactus flowers, however… while not common, green cactus flowers do exist, for instance on this week’s South American cactus, Gymnocalycium leeanum.

As it matures, this Argentina cactus often forms clumps of several round bodies. Its central spines (outward-facing spines) may be lacking, as in the pictured specimen. The radial spines are held close to the round body, as if ironed flush to the cactus’s outer surface.

Gymnocalycium leeanum flowers range from yellow, yellow-white, or greenish yellow, as in the plant pictured.

Gymnocalycium leeanum, grown and photographed by Mr Sentient Meat

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May 6, 2012 @ 11:11 am

Rebutia neocumingii (Backeberg) D. R. Hunt 1987

Bolivian cactus Rebutia neocumingii was known under genus name Weingartia from its description by Backeberg in 1950 until Weingartia was combined under Rebutia by Hunt in 1987. Its flowers can be yellow, orange or red depending on locality. It’s normally solitary and unbranched, though the individual pictured is sprouting additional heads. Typically this species has much longer spines; this plant was obtained as form brevispina. It is about 7.5 cm across; at full growth, it can reach 10cm across and up to 20cm in height.

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April 29, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Parodia microsperma, riot of dark orange

Returning from a month-long hiatus, I worried that many Sentient Meat plants would be dead. Luckily the casualties were few, and many of the survivors have put on noticeable growth in my absence. Since spring is the most active season, many are also now in riotous flower… like today’s Parodia microsperma.

This plant was obtained without a label, and I believed it was Parodia herzogii. Consulting Anderson The Cactus Family and other references, I see this is not wrong, but the accepted name for this type is Parodia microsperma. I also see this cactus has been described under literally dozens of different names, all likely synonyms for this one species.

It has a reputation as a showy plant, and this individual indeed puts on a show. Flowers range from yellow to deep orange (like this one) and even blood-red.

Parodia microsperma and its many synonyms are native to southern Bolivia and northern Argentina.

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April 15, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

Hiatus for one more week

Succulent Sunday has been on hiatus while Mr Sentient Meat is out of the country. Plans are to resume upon returning to Los Angeles. —SM

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March 19, 2012 @ 3:33 am

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Turbinicarpus valdezianus pseudopectinatus, little Thumbelina

Turbinicarpus valdezianus is one of the smallest and slowest-growing cactus—small even within genus Turbinicarpus, not known for their tremendous size. The diminutive body is the size and shape of a thimble. The spines are minute, almost microscopic, and flattened against the body in harmless tight formation—more like scales than armament. Flowers are pink, often striped; occasionally white.

Turbinicarpus valdezianus

Turbinicarpus valdezianus is found in Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, Nuevo León, and Zacatecas.

Turbinicarpus valdezianus showing more of body

Correction: The plant was originally identified as Turbinicarpus valdezianus. A fallen label was discovered, and this plant is the related Turbinicarpus pseudopectinatus.

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The title Sentient Meat was taken from Terry Bisson's short story, “They’re Made Out of Meat”
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