Monday, April 27, 2015


It is cold today and feeling colder because of the brisk wind that chills brutally.  I went out long enough to rearrange a couple of things so I could move the bird feeder (after I filled it of course.)  I am feeling a bit washed out so I don't know how much I will find worth the energy to comment on.

However, Robert Reich has a piece that I think is right on the money.  In most areas of our lives we do feel powerless.  Sometimes the only power we have is the power to say "No, we don't agree with this."  That is what the voter who no longer votes is saying.  Over the last weekend I had a similar experience.  We got our new MacBooks and part of the package included the tech's services to "migrate" the contents of our old MacBooks onto our new ones.  Mom's went beautifully but mine gave all kinds of problems.  This was Saturday and we left the shop with the new computers and the promise that we could come back Sunday when a more skilled tech would be working and get it done.  Well, we did that and the tech told us that they would need "two or three days and would call us."  I said "NO" much to their surprise.  I got the process done in two hours and took my machine home with me functioning much like my old one--only better.  We have said no to a lot of other things as you know if you have followed this blog.  No to On-Star in spite of the dealer's persistence. No to expanded cable service--again in spite of the company's desperate attempts to "upgrade" us.  No to highly processed supermarket foods in spite of constant advertising during the few times we have the cable TV on.  I think the only way this will change is when enough of us decide that the TINA alternative (There Is No Alternative) is not an alternative, say "NO!" and look for the alternatives they say aren't there.

Ah, yes!! Leave it to Kunstler to lay out a potential nightmare that so many of us are ignoring.  I have been hearing about the push for a "cashless" society and in many ways I am in it now.  My Social Security is automatically deposited and I use the debit card attached to my account--though I try to reserve it for large purchases or to purchase Nook books.  Otherwise I try to use cash.  I am and have been uneasy about the ease with which unknown and unnamed parties can trace what I buy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Cold still--only in the mid 30s.  We got some dry granular snow yesterday that didn't stick around.


Another cold day.  We are back in winter mode for our meals--turkey casserole yesterday and chili today.  A week ago we were looking forward to salads and other summer fare.  I got re-potted the mustard seedlings and plan to do the same for the mizuno today.  I need to start new pots of orach because the ones I started earlier haven't done well.

I wonder how widespread this is going to become.  I have heard, frequently over the last three decades, about the plight of small colleges.  LSU is not a small college.  It is (or was) Louisiana's "flagship" university.  While I have, often, questioned the emphasis our political leaders have placed on higher education (seemingly for all, regardless of qualifications, talent, or inclination) I have never question that public colleges and universities are a public good and service and should be publicly supported.  Evidently a certain faction of our Repthuglican party thinks otherwise.


Chilly but a bit warmer to start--mid 40s rather than the high 20s to low 30s.  We had rain last night.  Don't have much planned for today.  May be content with being lazy.


It wasn't quite a lazy day yesterday.  It was miserable, rainy and cold so we decided to do some shopping.  Mom wanted some blue jeans--has for some time.  So we looked at clothes.  Unfortunately, we didn't find any that fit her.  The inseams were far too long.  I didn't find any in my size.  We have been talking about computer problems for about a year now and finally decided to  check out what was available at our Simply Mac store and Best Buy.  We didn't get to Best Buy because Simply Mac had good deals on MacBooks so we both now have new computers.  Now we have to get used to them and get what we need back on them.

An interesting take on our modern economy which doesn't make things any more but seems well geared to creating assholes.

I have seen a few articles on this issue.  File it under "Downside of Computer Technology."  The problem is one I have contemplated often--the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of nearly everything we own.  Ford (I think) is pitching their cars wi-fi capabilities.  On-Star has been touted as a reason to buy this, that, or the other car.  I forget which car maker it is that talks up its internet connections in its commercials.  The cutest one shows an awed Granny gushing that she can update her blog from her grandson's car and Grandson says in astonished tones "You have a blog???"  We here at Chez Contrary have recognized that the days are long gone when a bobby pin (anybody out there remember those?) was all you might need to get your ancient Volkswagen beetle running again.  Our new-to-us car is On-Star capable but we choose not to spend our money on that.  Our most frequent discussion here on technology is whether we want to spend money on whatever and whether whatever will actually do something valuable for us.  I took us over a year of increasing frustration with our old computers to decide whether and when to replace them.  I just bought some earbuds for my new computer and couldn't find any without a microphone.  My only choice was to get the combined unit and not use the microphone.  That seems to be our only choice now--to get (and pay for) capabilities we don't want and won't use.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


The calendar does say "spring."  I checked.  But the weather says "not yet."  It is cold right now (mid 30s) with frost likely and snow possible.  Yes, I did say snow.  It is already reported in areas not far northwest of us.  Needless to say, no gardening today.

Asthma is one of the serious medical conditions which, like obesity and diabetes, has been increasing in recent decades.  Usually, writers tell us that the "experts" don't really know why such maladies are exploding in our modern age.  This article gives some indication that modern life itself is at the bottom of many of our health problems.

I am not at all surprised by the results of this poll.  It follows my own opinions down the line.  I don't trust either the federal government or the state government.  They are too far away from me and what concerns me most.  I don't matter to them while they are very sensitive to the concerns of businesses who want a free hand in polluting the environment, privatizing public services, lowering taxes that pay for things like infrastructure, education, health (all of which affect me directly.)  I vote but the elected officials don't really serve my interests.  Therefore, I don't trust the state and federal officials (elected or otherwise.)

This is something I hope spreads throughout the modern industrial economy.  I like Akio Toyoda's comment about "big-company disease."  They aren't replacing robots see a definite place for human expertise.

If the conclusions presented in this article are right, our current problem with antibiotic resistance is far more complicated than we thought and probably not amenable to technological solution.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Wet today and cool for the whole week.  I have nothing planned in the gardens but have a number of plants to transplant into larger pots.  We still have about three weeks before it is safe to start planting outside.  I might be able to put a few plants out with protection from wind and frosts.

With our Senate and House of Reps getting ready to ram through the "fast track" authority it is amazing how little our mainstream media says about it.  Leave it to the writers at Naked Capitalism to detail the implications of the move "Toward Absolutist Capitalism."  I really hope the other nations  involved in the negotiations balk at the provisions the multi-national corporations have been writing in secrecy.  And I wish I could hope that some of our so-called nationalist law makers would also get up on their hind legs and scream about it.  Given how those companies have bought so many governments and legislators I don't hold out much hope.  What galls me is so many of those idiots bray about the Founding Fathers and the principles enshrined in our constitution only when the NRA perceives a threat to gun rights and Christianizes feel threatened because they are told they can't discriminate against whomever they say their religion doesn't condone.

I have been skeptical of the "sharing" economy from the first and my skepticism has grown.  This tells you why.  It was never really sharing and it provided a way to cheat both traditional workers of their livelihood and the new workers these companies engage.


Well, it is definitely cooler.  I put the furnace back on as the temperature is about 40F and won't get out of the 50s.  That is supposed to be the pattern for the rest of the week.

Our western wildfire season has started (as you can see on the news so I won't link to anything) and evidently the Siberian fire season is also off to a roaring start also.  You can read an interesting account here.  As I read the piece I was struck by how very similar Russia and the U.S. really are.  Anything that affects the centers of power get far more coverage than anything on the "periphery" (i.e., anything outside the capital and other centers.)  I don't know how the Russian media is on mind-numbing fluff but that is where ours spend most of its time.

Enjoy these pictures--they had us smiling and laughing throughout.

I don't know why I didn't see this coming.   It will definitely ensure a steady stream of customers cash for company sanctioned repair shops.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The blueberry arrived yesterday but not the sweet potato slips.  I will let it rest before getting it into a larger pot.  That will give me time to condition some soil for the acidity blueberries need.  I transplanted several of the seedlings and plan to do more today.  And unplug the heating mat.  I don't think it is needed now.  I am also conducting an experiment to determine how fast I can lower the pH of my soil.  I have two pos--one with soil treated with a very dilute vinegar solution and the other with the amount of quick acting sulfur recommended for that size pot.  I will water each daily and check the pH.  Hopefully, one or the other (or both) will work.  Mom was surprised that I ordered only one blueberry.  I told her I prefer to kill only one plant at a time.  I may get more if this one survives.


Should be cooler today with rain coming this afternoon.  I am getting my seedlings transplanted a few at a time.  I got a good germination rate.  I still haven't found the key to getting anything from stevia seeds.  Not a one sprouted this year--just like last year and the year before.  I need to get the garden hose out, connected and tested for leaks.  However, next week is supposed to be colder.  Continuing my experiments in adjusting the pH of my soil.

One would think that this incident would have made the national news but we don't remember any account of it and I couldn't find any reference on the site nor any national coverage in the first page of a google search.  Worse it is the second explosion at a fracking site over the last month and a half.

Interesting notion this although our first question was how Walmart and those are going to survive when they have no customers.  Robots don't buy anything.

I have seen some articles on the "negative interest" rates some countries are allowing.  Here is an account from Australia.  It suddenly occurred to me that this seems (to an ordinary person, namely me) that this would be a sneaky way to devalue the money without actually coming out and doing so openly.  The apparent value remains the same but people lose buying power because they have to pay the bank to keep their cash for them.

Friday, April 17, 2015


It may be a lazy day today.  We had rain overnight and may have on and off rain for most of this morning.  All the seeds I want to start have been started and are doing well.  Now I am considering what transplants I want to buy.  A few strawberries, spearmint, peppermint and stevia for sure.  What else depends on what I find at the garden shops.  Signs of spring have started appearing--low bushes leafing out and daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and some of the flowering trees blooming.  The color is a feast after the bleak drabness over the winter.

I am often amazed how often the technology that is portrayed as some kind of savior creates as many problems without really solving any of ones it was supposed to save us from.  As an example look at this article at Naked Capitalism on the electronic medical records.  And those urging the adoption of the technology often (almost always??) have ulterior, unspoken motives for wanting it.  We were sold the notion the the electronic records would reduce errors and facilitate patient treatment and welfare.  The real motive was to control doctors and increase profits.  Any harm patients suffer is simply "collateral damage."


Should be dry and sunny today--and warm.  That will be good because I received an e-mail that my blueberry and sweet potato slips will be delivered today.  I didn't expect them quite this soon but have everything nearly ready for them.  That will leave the wintergreen and lemon verbena yet to arrive.

I read the headline for this article and thought of the ad I saw on TV last night trying to sell nuclear power to secure our energy future.  The narrator noted that a number of nuclear plants are nearing the end of their engineered lifetime and that we urgently needed to build new ones to replace them or face crippling energy shortages.  Given Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three-Mile Island I would say it is well past time to phase out nuclear altogether.

'Tis the season when potholes blossom along with the tulips, daffodils, and other early spring flowers.  This WGN story shows an artist making the potholes almost as smile-worthy as the other signs of spring.

While I can agree with this article that our infrastructure is suffering from serious and long term neglect, I think they are way off base in concluding that the deficiencies of the infrastructure is a threat to democracy.  Most of us forget that, though Presidential elections are held in early November, until the 20th Amendment moved the date  inaugurations were held in March not January.  That four month gap allowed the votes to be counted and transmitted from remote areas, Electors to meet to cast their votes and for the wining candidates to travel in mid winter to his inauguration.  We functioned quite well as a democracy without a modern infrastructure and would again without it--assuming we have the will to maintain democratic structures.  We have far more compelling reasons to maintain our various infrastructures.

Susie Madrak asks a good question in her post--what does it mean for our voting systems?

I saw this and simply don't believe it.  I haven't seen any decrease in prices and several prices that are definitely higher.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I am already irritated with the news.  Between the coverage of the next national election (still nineteen months away, for goodness sake), the "coverage" of developments on other shows carried by the network (which I don't watch and which are not news) and the continuation of stories that are already so old they are starting to smell television news is becoming a major time-waster.  The rain yesterday came in sporadic bursts so I didn't get anything done in the gardens.  I will wait until the weather comes on to decide what and how much to do outside today.  It is about ten degrees cooler (F) so far than this time yesterday.  Temperatures are doing their usual springtime imitation of a roller coaster.

So someone has finally noticed that human beings do better with a regular "dose" of nature.  Now all they have to do is define "dose."  We have been so busy--and in some places still are--destroying our natural environment that there seems little of it left.

"Food Forager"--now that is an interesting job title!!  It is what we do for our own benefit June through October when the farm market is open.  Didn't know you could get paid for it.


Nice weather yesterday.  Dry, sunny and warm.  I got some of my gardens set up and some cleaning up done.  Temperature right now is mid 40s (F) with probable highs in the mid to high 60s.  I have some plants I should transplant into bigger seedling pots and a couple of seeds I should start (or start more of.)  I also got one of the beds cultivated to put a damper on a whole lot of sprouts where those messy birds dropped the seeds.

Ah, I do love to see this.  The "testing regime" has grown into an ogre and needs to be killed.  I don't mind real tests having taken many and constructed more than a few for the classes I taught but it was mainly to assess how I or my students were doing in the classes.  The results didn't determine whether my teachers got their raises/bonuses or even kept their jobs.  And most of the tests were not multiple guess.  They required thought and a good mastery of the subject and an ability to organize the information to provide a coherent answer.  The tests mandated by Common Core and such programs are usually multiple guess the answers to which are quickly and thoughtlessly memorized and just as quickly forgotten.