Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!  Lower temps today but should be sunny.  Absolutely beautiful yesterday.  I got all of the strawberries out of the large containers but they aren't yet ready to put in their permanent place.  None of the Quinalt survived the winter and only seven or eight of the Sequoia.  Replacement plants are on the garden shop list along with sage and the basils.

The Ukraine story continues to percolate along.  But it is fascinating to watch the news accounts of Obama and Putin each accusing the other of failing to keep their "dogs" under control.  Each seems to assume that the other has control over the contending parties.  What if neither has all that much control?

Finally--someone expresses sentiments parallel to my own concerning the media's orgasmic spasm over the soon-to-arrive Clinton baby.  I am sure the family are overjoyed but that baby means squat to me.  The Rude Pundit gives the whole matter his usual rude treatment (which it so richly deserves) and notes the sexist nature of the mainstream media treatment.

We did our shopping and dropped into Panera's.  Mom noticed a sign at the register which offered a free bag of their coffee grounds for their gardener patrons in honor of Earth Day.  As the clerk handed me my bag I told him "My roses will love you."  He just smiled.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope you are enjoying Easter Sunday.  Ours is sunny and will be nicely warm.

Well, General Mills has backtracked on its forced arbitration policy.  I linked to it a story on that a couple of days ago.  Anyone who even "liked" the company on Facebook, downloaded a coupon, or entered a sweepstake contest.  According to Al Jazeera America said the company has taken the language off its website and claims it never (and would not in the future) enforce it.  The reporters also noted how widespread sweeping force arbitration clause are and are becoming.
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Good Monday after Easter to you all.  We spent yesterday with my brother's family and had a very pleasant visit.  We are always amazed at how big the youngest generation are growing.

A bit of garden cleaning up today.  The oregano I had hopes for earlier has given up the ghost.  I will replace it along with the sage.  I already have a lemon thyme waiting to find its place in the gardens as soon as the weather warms a bit more.  Still haven't seen anything from my hibiscus but I doubt that the soil temperature is all that warm yet.  It is getting more sun so we'll see what happens.  I am keeping empty milk jugs to cut for hot caps along with some of the vinegar jars.  I didn't use them last year but this year just might be a bit different.

For a long time now the news media has trumpeted new drugs with breath-taking price tags.  And for nearly as long I have wondered when someone would seriously question those costs--besides the patients who need the drugs but don't have the income to pay for them without assistance or politicians who give half hearted protests.  Evidently others are also questioning the drug companies' pricing policies.  It makes no sense to me that they price their drugs on the American market so much higher than on other industrial nations' markets.  Except that they can and profits are the holy grail of modern business.

I may actually get to see my foxglove bloom this year.  I cleared the dead plants but when I pulled the foxglove I found nice healthy roots and a bit of new growth that had been hidden by dead leaves.  I quickly stuck it back in the ground.  I hope that works.

I have been busy in the gardens already (as you can tell from the above comments.)  I cut back the six inches of stalks I left on the tansy last fall and found some nice green shoots.  Also cut back the dead foliage on the pyrethrum.  I don't think that really cold (about 30F) night a few days ago hurt it seriously.  I (gently) dug up one of the hyssop and found some healthy roots so it stays for now.  Hopefully, green will soon follow.  I am digging out the strawberries I had put in the large containers pots and all.  Saw the first bumble bee and decided to put up the hummingbird feeder now rather than wait for May 1 as I had planned.  I don't mind feeding them and the feeder will be up when the hummers arrive.  We saw our first goldfinches in summer plumage.  Definitely a needed splash of color after the winter we have had.

I saw this story on our morning TV news cast and I wondered:  if the manufacturers have to label for allergens and other constituents why don't they have to label for GMO ingredients?  Consumers might be a bit surprised to find that avoiding GMO is as difficult as avoiding high fructose corn syrup.  But then the products containing HFCS are labeled.

But--another thought on the food recalls.  I keep seeing stories about how much food American consumers waste each year--as much as one-quarter of all food purchased goes in the trash.  But then think about how much food is recalled.  In addition to the hot dogs in the above story another 27k pounds of chicken were also recalled also for misbranding and undeclared allergens.  I haven't linked to the stories because my point is more general than any one recall (of which there have been 40+ this year.)  But this kind of waste is built into our industrial food manufacturing system.  It is part of the cost of doing business.

Found this on the Agonist today.  Rather underscores my concerns about nuclear energy--storing the waste is problematic.  Yeah, the site for the low-level waste was a mistake and the site is very likely to flood.  But there is an old phrase about "the best laid plans of mice and men."  I guess those near the site ought to be happy it isn't high-level waste.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday.

Yesterday I linked to a post which said that the Federal government makes some $12 billion a year off the student loan program.  It would seem that ours isn't the only government seeking "profit centers" in these hard times.  The British revenue agency is trying to get legal cover for releasing "anonymised" data about their tax payers and exploring "charging options."  The legislation isn't a done deal.  Plenty of opposition and plenty of questions concerning past government failures in safeguarding data.  We have governments who either can't raise taxes (the population they can tax is too impoverished to pay them or those who can pay are politically connected and can resist or evade) and are too nervous about borrowing even more money that will (theoretically) have to be paid back. Where do they get the money they need to function?  Austerity can be pushed only so far before those hit hardest by the austerity (usually the poorest) explode.  Their options have dwindled to "privatizing" government functions and turning their former citizens into other-than-taxes sources of revenue.

I thought the agreement reached to defuse the Ukrainian situation was chancy to begin with.  First, the meetings did not include all of the parties to the conflict.  Second, there seemed to be an assumption that Russia is controlling the "pro-Russian" forces in Eastern Ukraine.  If Russia doesn't have the control our side thinks it does, the "demonstrators" can simply refuse to go along--as they have.  Third, the situation provides perfect cover for Putin in case he wants more than the agreement gives him.  He appears perfectly reasonable but can continue to stir up trouble that will derail any peace he doesn't like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hope you all have a good Good Friday.

Got the newest rose potted yesterday.  It is looking good with a couple of new shoots just starting.  The other is showing a large number of shoots.  It took me a while to find the kind of roses I wanted.  Color wasn't a consideration but I wanted varieties that are hardy to zone 4 a least and that had good fragrance.  I am amazed at how difficult those factors were to fulfill.  Finally found a couple--the Arctic Flame, from Jung, is a deep red and the Abraham Darby, from Burpee, is pale pink.

So far only strawberries, tansy and pyrethrum are showing signs of life in the gardens.  I have been worried about the hibiscus.  It hasn't shown any signs of life.  The variety I got is supposed to be hardy to zone 4.  Looked up info and the source I found said that they will break through the ground in 7 to 14 days after the soil warms to above 65F and within 5 to 7 days if soil is above 75F.  My soil isn't there yet.

I found this post at Jim Long's Garden that intrigued me.  I had always read that tulips were toxic.  Evidently it is a bit more complex.  I decided to look up a bit more info on the subject and found this much longer article that gives the details.  I don't have any interest in eating tulips.  I don't have any place to grow my own without taking space from plants I find more useful.  But the information is nice to know just in case.....

I guess our strange weather (world wide) has brought some good.  Check this photo and story about a rare Himalayan rhododendron in Britain that has bloomed for the first time in the 30 years since it was planted.  It was fooled by unseasonably warm weather following a wet winter into thinking it was back home in the mountains.  Absolutely gorgeous!!

Now this is a crock of manure!!  Her father was a citizen so she is a citizen.  What is the problem?  But on a lighter note here is another case.  Mom's question: What oath did he take that turned out not to be an oath of citizenship?  I wonder also since it wasn't the one for military service since he was already enlisted.  And now for another piece of bureaucratic bull##$t.  When can we stop pretending that we are truly a nation of laws?

I saw this item elsewhere yesterday.  I remember when solar and wind generators were being sold to homeowners, in part, because they could reduce their energy bills by selling their surplus to the power company.  Evidently, the companies are having trouble with the program.  I have seen accounts of legislation that would allow the power companies to buy a homeowner's surplus but at a drastically reduced rate so they could resell it at the market rate and make a tidy profit.  I have seen other stories about power companies demanding that the homeowners who install solar and wind pay a fee to the power company can "upgrade" their facilities to deal with the "power spikes" resulting from the back flow of surplus power.  But the best (in a very cynical way) story was of the power company in Southern California which used to supply one of the University of California campuses to the tune of about $10million per year.  The University recently completed their own power generating grid which supplies 92% of the campus' needs.  Ouch!  That last is, I suspect the real reason for the flurry of bills targeting home solar and wind installations.

I have been reading a number of articles lately about declining college enrollments.  Some like this one have an almost hysterical edge to them.  But, if enrollments are in fact declining, I see it as a hopeful sign.  I hope the current generation is looking hard at the costs in both time and money and making some hard-headed decisions about the worth of higher education.  There is too much "establishment" propaganda out there--news shows lauding schools whose entire graduating class has been accepted to four-year institutions, Michelle Obama playing chaperone to a group of youngsters on a visit to her alma mater.  Very, very few stories talk about the economics or give a realistic view of possible labor market conditions when those students graduate four years from now.  Or recall the truly pathetic conditions for graduates over the last five or so years.  An advanced education may be valuable but not as an economic investment.  This, however, is a very hopeful sign.

Ah, a likely explanation for the push for college education--the government makes a handy $12billion off of student loans.  Given that the number of grants and scholarships are down drastically how else will all those marks students finance their education?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday.

Oh, the tentacles of big business--how do you escape them?  Take a look at this before you clip that General Mills coupon or enter the Betty Crocker bake-off.  Given the number of food recalls for contaminants or foreign material in the product I don't think food companies should get a free pass through arbitration.

I got to this article via Teagan Goddard's Political Wire and wondered if the legal teams for the last two ex-governors of Illinois might make of it.  I wondered if the prosecution had actually met the burden of a "quid pro quo" corruption on video tape.  Interesting.

I like this--but I am sure it has about as much chance as a snowball in a very hot oven.  Elections are not necessarily synonymous with democracy.  And having a vote doesn't translate into having choice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday.

Cold but looks to be sunny today.  Still have some snow and ice on the patio but, if temperatures get up into the mid 40s today, it should be gone by tonight.  I did bring in the pot for the new rose.  It will be unpacked an planted today.

Interesting little article on the relationship between technological innovation and debt.  But some very basic questions aren't asked--like will the technology really make my life easier, save me time, make operation more profitable given the amount of debt I have to incur.  This is similar to the question I asked about education yesterday: does the front end "investment" (i.e., debt) backend result in sufficient "profit" (good job, lifetime earning) to justify the investment?

Is anyone else getting tired of the "anniversaries" of mass murders/terrorist events?  This morning, so far, I have seen "remembrances" of the Boston Bombing (one year ago) and the Virginia Tech shootings (seven years ago) on the TV news.  All this week the news has force fed their viewers with stories of the "resilient" survivors, the community's coming together to support the victims and heal, and what is (or, more likely, not) going on with the case against the surviving Tsarnaev brother.  I am getting indigestion.

Great!!  Another pollution concern with tracking.

This shouldn't surprise anyone.  With the rising movement to legalize (to varying extents) marijuana across the country, those who don't want such legalization (for whatever reason) will be pushing any detrimental studies they can find.  The story doesn't say who funded the story but I am sure Harvard Medical School did it for free.  Nor does it say anything about the structural aspects of the study protocols.  This jury member is skeptical.  And the study didn't address another interesting point--how does the so-called damage marijuana cause compare to the changes in human brains on alcohol and tobacco both of which are legal but regulated.

I found this article immediately after reading this one.  What would you do if your electricity failed and wouldn't come back for at least a month?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday.  I would say "happy tax day" but the only thing that most of us would be happy about is the deadline has come and will soon be gone.  I found this item first thing this morning.  For how long have we been bombarded with claims that our "job creators" are so overburdened by taxes that they are hampered in their job creating activities?  Well, evidently not so much.  What I like about this account is the researchers looked not simply at the nominal tax burdens at the federal level.  Instead they also looked at income and social security taxes less the applicable offsets.  The result: we are 25th out of 34 industrialized nations.  On a happier note: blessings to all who celebrate Passover.

We woke to snow on the ground but not sticking to paved areas.  I think I mentioned that the second rose arrived yesterday.  I will bring in one of my large pots to warm up so I can plant it tomorrow.  It will join the other in front of the stationary part of the patio doors until spring truly arrives--sometime.  The already potted rose is showing some definite and very welcome signs of life.  Outside the only signs of green are the strawberries and pyrethrum.

I wonder if they will give back what they have already taken.  Probably not.  I wonder who was the bright ass who stuck the item into the farm bill.  No one (that I have found so far) is taking credit (or blame).

Well, I guess we needed an academic study to tell us that what we have felt in our guts is true--the wealthy and business interests have far more influence than ordinary Americans.  In fact, "mass-based interests" and "average Americans" have no influence at all.

I am not surprised at this Zero Hedge article--as many as half of U.S. colleges and universities may fail within the next 15 years.  As one who has spent far too much of her life in academia, I don't think I am sorry about the prospect.  It is quite clear that our current model of education (public and private) is not working.  Most of the jobs available in our post-industrial economy don't really need tertiary education but HR departments can easily demand degrees as a means of weeding out the applicants.  Once upon a time the difference in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and someone without a degree justified the front end expense in money and time to acquire the degree.  That is no longer true.  But no one is asking some crucial questions.  Who is being educated, for what, at what cost and who pays?