Wherever he went — Kenya, Mongolia, Iceland, England, China, India, and on and on — Jack E. Williams spread the bright red-and-green message of the poinsettia.

Well, not any poinsettia. He promoted those from the Ecke Ranch in Encinitas in particular. He became the ranch’s ambassador at large, charged with selling the plant around the world. And that’s not all: he’d teach people about poinsettia varieties and how to grow and maintain the Christmas mainstays. 

“He always got to pick his snake, and he got the choicest bumblebee,” says his wife Cheryl of the culinary delicacies offered him in exotic places. 

Williams, who died unexpectedly recently, carried a surprising secret with him throughout his career: He was color blind, unable to see the poinsetta’s trademark red and green.

“He always said it didn’t matter where you went, plant people were the same around the world,” his wife tells our reporter Adrian Florido. “They all loved plants, and he loved that.”

Woe Is Walmart:

Despite an expensive campaign by Walmart, the City Council canceled out a mayoral veto and approved requiring superstores to go through extra hoops that could make it impossible for them to build here. However, the council will ultimately make the final call if projects come up, meaning that poor neighborhoods’ Walmart dreams aren’t entirely snuffed. Just mostly. 

Bribery in North County?

In the NCT: “The San Diego County district attorney’s office has filed a felony charge accusing Tri-City Healthcare District Director Kathleen Sterling of soliciting a bribe, according to court documents that give few details about the allegations against her.”

She has previously been accused of trying to swap a vote for a board position.

We Can Make It After All, Maybe:

Our commenters have plenty of thoughts about how Balboa Park, threatened by a decline in city support, can be saved but there’s caution about exactly who should be in charge.

Buy and Bye:

• Buy: The U-T reports that three local hotels are on the block after falling victim to foreclosure. They’re the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego, Holiday Inn Express San Diego (both of Old Town) and downtown’s iconic Holiday Inn. We examined the mess facing San Diego’s hotels earlier this year. 

• Bye: The U.S. isn’t getting the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. That means San Diego’s hopes of being a tournament co-host are dead. 

A Controlled Burn to Remember:

What do you do with a house that’s possibly full of explosives? You light it on fire. That will happen soon up in Escondido at the now-infamous home of a man who allegedly liked to both rob banks and build bombs. (NCT)

A New Front in Gays in Military Battle:

A local physician is making a splash in the medical world: In the newest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, he says the military’s ban on gays who serve openly threatens both their health and that of the general public. His point: Gay service members are often afraid to seek treatment or testing for diseases like gonorrhea and HIV because they fear being discharged. (Of course, a complete ban on gays in the military — if ever possible — would eliminate this problem.)  

For more on the issue of gays in the military, check our interview last year with a local ex-Navy sailor who was viciously abused at the hands of fellow service members and became an activist.    

Check It:

The American Journalism Review magazine says fact check features are popping up at news organizations all over the place, including our own. (The San Diego Fact Check blog gets a mention.)

Journalists have long analyzed campaign advertisements and issued verdicts about their truthfulness. But the idea of checking a whole variety of alleged facts — and bluntly stating whether they hold up — is still new. And it makes some journalists nervous, particularly those who prefer to simply provide information and let readers make the call. 

However, readers seem to really like fact check pieces. (They’ve been popular on our site too.) A journalist dubbed the father of the fact check says the movement is important because the public is “awash in all sorts of unverified, false, misleading information.” My verdict on his statement, based on our dozens of fact checks: true. 

On Stage and in the Ring:

• A busload of African refugees headed from City Heights to La Jolla not too long ago to see a play. In the play they saw themselves and the horrors they experienced back home. Arts editor Kelly Bennett checks in with two of the refugees — both originally from the Congo — about their stories, which are similar to those told in the La Jolla Playhouse production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined.

• Finally, arts writer Dani Dodge watches as an artist takes on the logistical (and weight-bearing) challenge of installing an upside-down boxing ring inside a downtown art gallery. The idea is to “explore the juxtaposition of strength and translucence.”

Sounds like the ring will host a match for the ages. I know who’s going to win in a TKO: Gravity.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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