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On gardening


No conditions are permanent;
No conditions are reliable;
Nothing is self — The Buddha

Vegetables grown in my garden do not taste any better than fresh produce from a good shop. However, pilule it is infinitely better from the personal satisfaction viewpoint.

Correction: vegetables grown in my garden do taste much better because of personal satisfaction.

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Albahaca is the Spanish word for basil, search which was borrowed from Arabic together with a large number of other words. I have discussed before when is the start of summer in the Southern hemisphere: if the first of December or the twenty something of December (solstice). Both of them are arbitrary dates.

I propose another — even more arbitrary — starting date: the first time of the year when one eats fresh albahaca. Last Sunday (25th November) I had a potato salad with chopped albahaca: sublime and mouth watering.

Interestingly enough, basil (scientific name Ocimum basilicum) derives from Latin basilicum and Greek basilikon meaning royal or king. Related words and names: basilica (the buildings), basilisk (the creature), basilic (the vein), pesto (basil is the main ingredient of one of the foremost contributions to civilization).

Statement: any garden worth its salt must have albahaca planted in a sunny corner.

This is an extended version of my post in Spanish.

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Perfect moments

  • Late 80s, patient riding an old bus late at night feeling loved.
  • Going in a bus full of forestry students on the road to Constitución. It is autumn, view the Nothofagus forest is exploding with colour and the music is Mercado Testaccio.
  • A few days before leaving Valdivia in 1996, riding my old bicycle and the seagulls are flying around me. Everything looks still for a few seconds and we are part of the same flock.
  • Orlando comes running towards me for a hug, he can not stop and pushes me. Anybody would think that he has not seen me for weeks, but it has been only a few hours.
  • Marcela, Orlando and I are working in the garden. We are weeding and cleaning and that is it: simple.

Luis and Orlando during Wigram’s air show

There is something therapeautical about working with plants in the garden. There is the sense of achievement that is absent when working with intangible problems: I can see a small plant at the end of a day’s work.

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Current obsessions


I have slightly changed the focus of my attention during the last month or so. My current obsessions are:

  • Optimisation of breeding programs, diagnosis for which I am learning to use AMPL, with Fritz’s help. I will need to create and format some data to include in some simulations analysed by AMPL and I think I will use Python to prototype them. If I run in to speed bottlenecks I will reimplement numerically intensive processes in either C++ or Fortran 95.
  • Genetics of wood properties. After some early forages on wood properties—which finished when Carolyn changed jobs—I am back at it. John has been very welcoming and we are trying to put a couple of projects together. We should have some early results by mid next year.

There are a few bits and pieces that do not fall in these two broad areas, but they will converge pretty soon.


Working with Marcela and Orlando in the veggie patch. I have never had much of a green thumb, but I am really trying. We sowed coriander, parsley and chervil, and planted bok choi, onions, dill, lemon balm and capsicum. Apart from the capsicum seedlings that are struggling (a drainage problem is my guess) everything is doing fine.

Marcela and Orlando checking worm farm

Marcela’s worm farm is the old-new addition. We used to have a worm farm in Australia, but due to quarantine issues, we decided to leave it there. So we needed to get a new one plus order the first batch of worms by mail.

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