Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  It is still cool, damp and we are expecting periods of rain today and tomorrow.  So I am not doing more than brief inspections tours of the garden containers--those that are planted, that is.  Yes, that plural is intentional.  I, usually, look things over several times a day.  I don't know what it is about plants but looking at them, talking to them, etc., is addictive.  Can't do it only once.

Speaking of container gardens, head over to this site and get a good laugh.  I will say that this is one item I NEVER thought to convert to gardening use but I don't want to give away the punch line.  Enjoy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day, Everyone.  A character in one of my favorite books described spring as the day between freezing your ass off and broiling in a summer heat wave.  That is about what last week felt like.  It is supposed to be cooler and wetter this week.  We will see.  I don't mind the 70s (which is what the weather people forecast) but would prefer it without a northerly breeze coming off the lake.

Since we have doubled the size of our container garden we now have to look for plants to put in.  We found a new pepper to try out.  The Mexibelle is supposed to be a bell with a bit of a kick.  We'll see.  We will be visiting one of the home improvement centers to get some more garden soil for the new containers and will take a stroll through the plants.  We will also visit a couple of our favorite farmer's market/garden centers later in the week--after the predicted rain ends.  Who wants to lift bags of soil out of a car trunk in the rain?  Not me!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  We have had absolutely gorgeous weather out here.  Sunny, dry, in the 70s Monday and Tuesday and mid 80s yesterday.  We are expecting more of the same today.  I took the plastic off my little cold frames Tuesday.  I don't think I will need it until fall when I need to protect the cool weather plants I plan to put in.  The tomatoes are all doing well.  All of the peppers are also although the poblanos are lagging somewhat.  I hope they pick up.  The sweet peas are doing nicely and I have planted a few more.  The beans have been slow to take off and two of the three plants are not doing well.  I started some more seeds and put the survivor in a different spot.  The lettuce is doing very nicely.  We should have some nice lettuce at about the time the first tomatoes come in.  The biggest disappointment is the lavender which totally failed to come up.  I will start some more seeds today or tomorrow and see what happens.  The portulaca has also not done well.  It may not be worth it for me to start these from seeds.

Has anyone else notice the play that 'secret' meeting of billionaires has been getting in the media.  It was all over the evening news last night, the afternoon business programs on CNBC mentioned it, and MSNBC had a story also.  Of course, it was two weeks ago and no one knows what they all discussed.  Question: who gives a (insert your favorite pejorative here)?  I don't, unless, of course, they wanted to hand me a whole bunch of money.  Not likely.

I have also noticed an uptick in the number of stories about bartering.  Every time the economy took a down turn there have been a spate of such stories.  This one, from the Denver Post, is unusual only in who is doing the bartering.  A chiropractor!! In previous recessions I don't remember references to professionals or businesses engaged in bartering.  Evidently business to business bartering is also becoming more visible.  Another Denver Post story on bartering is here.  Perhaps this is a clearer indication of how little money is actually circulating??

Robert Reich has a post today that echos some of my thoughts on our government's efforts to rescue our economy.  Given the amount of our money the government has spent on both the auto industry and the finance industry we seem to have gotten very little in return.  We haven't saved or created any jobs (except among the bright lads who put us in this mess in the first place) and credit is still frozen (although a few of the big banks appear to have amassed enough capital to try to buy their way out of the TARP).  In the end I wonder if it wouldn't have been cheaper, more efficient and, perhaps, less painful (for Main St. anyway) to have let them go under.  And the point he makes about the industrial Midwest needing help shifting to newer industries is well made.  However, we have needed that for a long time.  Ever since the steel industry started its decline.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Good morning, everyone.  It's cool and sunny.  I made sure to move all my plants that were movable under cover yesterday.  The only ones not were some lettuce, the sugar snap peas, sweet peas and asparagus beans.  The last three have out grown all my milk jug cloches.  The temp did dip below 40 degrees last night but all plants are upright and look good so far.  I will take a closer look when it warms up a bit.  Tonight is supposed to be as cool.

Mom was overjoyed yesterday to see the little pea pod developing on one of the snap peas.  That same plant has two more blossoms but the plants in the other pot are sandbagging--no blossoms yet.  All of the tomatoes are showing vigorous growth and, if the 4th of July variety lives up to its name, we may have tomatoes by the 4th.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Morning on this gloomy Friday.  Yesterday was beautiful but that is gone for a while.  We have gotten enough rain that I had to punch some drain holes in the biggest of my garden containers.  The water had not reached a level that threatened the plants but it wasn't too far from it.  How would I know?  The containers I buried to provide a water supply for the deeper portions had about 3 inches in the bottom--and they weren't draining.

I mentioned a couple of days ago the minor play a new study on the salt content of restaurant meals was getting in the news.  It was a bit of a flash in the pan.  Not like the on-going sagas of Drew Peterson or the dysfunctional Cook County Commission or the results of your (least) favorite 'reality' show.  Here is another entry I gleaned from the web this morning.  Archcrone at The Crone Speaks writes about the responses of government and industry to food poisoning which have been anemic and ineffective at best.

Chris In Paris has this item this morning.  So, now the insurance industry needs a bailout because they couldn't possibly pass up the potential profits to be made by investing in all of those speculative investment vehicles, could they?  They haven't lost money because of some catastrophe involving their main business.  They lost because they invested heavily in derivatives that had an ephemeral value and a much larger risk that acknowledged.  This reminds me of a story (which also did not get much play in the news media) from a decade ago.  The malpractice insurance providers were pressing congress hard to produce legislation to limit the amounts juries could award victims of malpractice.  They claimed that those awards were forcing them to raise insurance rates which in turn were forcing doctors out of medicine.  Bull!!  A university professor looked at insurance rates and tried to determine which factors were most instrumental in raising the rates.  The ONLY factor which showed any positive correlation to the rates--losses in the stock market.  Every time the stock market lost ground the rates increased.  As they say--it doesn't take a rocket scientist.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Well, it is morning.  Good is somewhat debatable since it is raining, sometimes heavily.  I don't mind rain but much prefer that it comes at night--when I am asleep.  We may get severe storms and the weather people mentioned that nasty four letter word--hail.  But I have all my plants under as much protection as I can manage and I don't expect to lose anything.  They are all progressing nicely.  The little sugar snap peas are putting out more blossoms--the first plants to do so.

I got the spring tablecloth finished last night.  Totally pissed off my cats who didn't get the amount of lap time the wanted.  Of course, if I gave them all the lap time the want, I would never get any needlework done.  I will show a picture of the tablecloth when it is washed.  Now to finish the fall pattern tablecloth.  I started that before we moved in here.  The Mom took it over until her eyes gave her too much trouble to continue.  It languished until I cleaned up the sewing area and decided that it really had to be finished.  When it is done all of the large embroidery pieces will be finished and I hope not to do any more.  Large pieces, that is.

Any one else see the stories on the news about the survey that was released revealing how much salt is in restaurant meals?  Astounding to think that you can get three times (or more) of the recommended daily allotment of salt and not even hit a fast food joint.  I am amazed at how much we don't know about the food we eat.  How much calories, how much salt, how much high fructose corn syrup?  And yet we have congresscritters wanting to give businesses the right to penalize workers who are overweight (among other conditions)?  Can we please have a reality check here?

In another case of mental whiplash, I just passed a headline on MSNBC that proclaims that retail sales were down last month for the second month in a row.  That after a brief upswing in February, I think it was.  Wasn't it just last week that some pundits were proclaiming that consumer 'confidence' was up and that was one of the 'green shoots' signaling the end of this downturn?  Yeah, ri-i-i-i-ght!!  And they are actually paying these guys.  (I didn't bother to read the article.  I figure it is just a waste of time.)

However, Robert Reich's post, at TPM Cafe this morning, is a good read and makes a good deal of sense in this new round of Chicken Little-ism over Social Security.  Every so often the usual cabal of (fill in your favorite epithet) whose major goal in life seems to eliminate Social Security comes up with another O-M-G moment hoping that this one will be the one which will convince everyone that we really can't afford all those old codgers anymore.

In another 'blame the victim' moment, at least two local news stations have been carrying the on-going soap opera in Cook County, Illinois, in which the County Board President just vetoed the attempt by the County Commissioners to roll back the 1% sales tax increase put in place last year.  Let me say I am totally disgusted by all parties that have gotten air time so far.  I am extremely skeptical of el presidente who bemoans the cuts to vital health care services that will be 'necessary' (including the closing of one hospital) and the disproportionate impact on lower income groups if the veto is overridden. That at the same time that he has created positions paying six figures and filled them with relatives and supporters.  But I also despise the commissioners who yell about the taxes but do not suggest how the budget short fall should be remedied.  But I reserve my scorn for the news media who led on this with the headline that the woes of the health care system stems from people who can't pay for their health care.  The pictures that went with that lead off was a woman in the middle of chemo.  Cancer treatments are expensive as is most of modern medicine.  But that is where the story leaves.  We had nearly 50 million people without health insurance before this last economic debacle.  That has only increased because of the recent job losses.  We do not have any kind of universal health care system in place.  What are people who don't have insurance or the kind of income that will permit them to pay out of pocket supposed to do when they need medical care?  Die, maybe.  But no one wants to say that or acknowledge that that is the ultimate result of our current arrangement. 

Well, it's now time to play for a little while.  Got three quilt blocks done while reading and writing.  A little reward is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good Morning, All.  Nice sunny day already now that the clouds have cleared out.  Temps should be in the low 70s.  I am going to have to move some of my plants--the ones I am going to give oldest brother later this month.  He lives slightly north of me and doesn't put in his garden until Labor Day.  But we are expecting rain and, the weather people say, some possible small hail.  It won't get cold enough to freeze but I don't want the hail to tear up the plants.

Archcrone at The Crone Speaks has an interesting take on the announcement from the health care industry that it will shave 1.5% per year off its costs for the next 10 years for a total 'savings' of $2 trillion.  All of the news reports have jubilantly reported it as though it were a real cut in costs but it is in reality a reduction of the growth rate.  In other words, consumers won't see a real reduction in costs and will, in fact, be paying more.  When ever any of these big industries start talking about making sacrifices I am extremely skeptical.  I wonder why they think such 'sacrifices' are worth the effort.  I think one commentator had it right.  They are angling for a place at the table so they won't end up on the menu.  This is an industry that has gouged consumers for decades and now they are promising to just gouge us a little less.  We need a single payer, universal health coverage system--NOW!!  Cut these bastards off at the knees.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hello, Everyone.  Well yesterday was nice.  A bit cool with intermittent showers but still nice.  Mother's Day at Sister's was nice and they had the cook out as planned.  It wasn't so cool or wet that we had to go inside.

This morning the news media finally mentioned the rise in stamp prices.  On the very day the increase goes into effect.  Luckily the Forever Stamps are still good--no running to the Post Office to buy a bunch of 2-centers to make up the difference.  And since I pay my bills on line through my bank, stamps aren't as big a worry as they once were.  Perhaps that, and the fact that the law now provides for yearly increases that don't exceed the inflation rate, is why the media didn't make as big a deal as they once did.  It still sucks.

I think Chris In Paris (at Americablog) takes just the right tone concerning the 'savings' the healthcare industry has offered up.  Let's see--$2 trillion over 10 years--OMG that is a whole $200 billion a year.  And what proportion of the profits they make because Medicare is legally prevented from negotiating drug prices does that represent?  And all so that the Obama Administration can extend health insurance to another 50 million Americans currently without.  I hope that this only a prelude to universal health care and not a means of short circuiting the drive towards that goal.

Ronni at Time Goes By has a heads-up on yet another set of proposals from our national legislators to control our behavior--for our own good, of course.  I agree with her on all points.  I deeply resent all of these efforts to force me to conform to someone else's notion of health.  I don't care to be put into those kinds of boxes.  I don't smoke but my mother does.  Should I be denied a job, a promotion, or penalized because she smokes and the nicotine shows up in my blood test.  Why should I be penalized because I weigh more than the charts say is normal when my blood pressure is lower than that of many 'normal' weight people and my cholesterol is at better levels than my mother's who is on lipitor? God, how I hate these Health Nazi's and wish they would be content to mind their own business and not meddle in mine.

Here is another entry from Chris In Paris.  If the particulars are what is portrayed in the article (to which Chris has a link), then I have to ask why it is more important for the Government to protect us from drugs (which is a personal choice--though not one I would condone) than from having our savings looted by acts of fraud perpetrated by clean-cut, mannered, 'respectable,' businessmen.  And this is the kind of people they would have monitor our health??

Well, I think that is enough venting for the day.  I will go onto something more pleasant.  Have a good day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good Morning, and Happy Mother's Day.  We are supposed to have a cool but sunny day.  Perfect for a trip out to Sister's for a potluck dinner.

This little story caught me by surprise.  Did anyone out there know that the Postal Service was raising stamps by 2 cents as of Monday?  I hadn't heard anything about that.  It didn't make the news.  Apparently it is now automatic.  They can raise the price yearly so long as the increase doesn't exceed the inflation rate.  Crap!!!

On the other hand, this blog entry did not surprise me.  I haven't bought into the notion that a minor decrease in the RATE of jobless increase is cause for wild elation.  Yes, 500+k new unemployment claims is better than the 600+k of the last several months.  But it is still half a million and change newly unemployed people.  It is wonderful that 4+M new jobs were created but there is still a big deficit.  I agree totally with Meteor Blades at Daily Kos.  And, as Daddy always said, figures don't lie but liars sure can figure.  All they have to do is carefully choose which numbers to use and then put the best possible spin on those numbers.

The Economic Populist has an interesting analysis of U.S. debt and China's willingness (or lack of willingness) to purchase that debt.  Given that our recovery is being fueled by debt, this may have interesting repercussions and not pleasant ones.

Again, have a happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Good Morning, All.  We have had a very pleasant several days with temps in the 70s and only sporadic rain.  Even though Mother's Day is expected to be cooler with a northerly kind of wind coming off the lake it should be sunny.  Sister's cook-out may be shifted inside but we still expect a pleasant day.

Given Oprah's track record for creating a best seller for anything she features can anyone really be surprised at the response to the KFC promotion?  Evidently KFC was.  Huffington Post has a piece and I am sure there are a lot more around the web.  No, we weren't caught up in the mess.  We weren't even tempted.  Sometimes free isn't worth the trouble, especially for something we don't consume anyway.

Ronni at Time Goes By has a snippet on a new House Bill--the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act (HR 1966).  She provides a link to the full text of the bill.  I have only scanned the text but I have serious doubts about it.  It is broadly written and defined.  Almost anyone who writes anything critical on line could be liable, in theory.  But worse, I doubt that it could have provided the basis for a successful prosecution of the case that prompted the bill in the first place.  As I understand the particulars, that case involved a woman who posed as a teenage boy to cultivate a friendship with a young girl with whom her daughter had a conflict.  Then having gained the girls trust posted several hateful and damaging posts which drove the girl to suicide.  But whether the actions would have been covered by the bill is questionable.  How sustained were these posts?  Over how long a time?  I don't doubt that we need some way to hold malicious idiots accountable but surely we can do so in a more targeted way that preserves our right to publish negative opinions?

Chris In Paris, at Americablog, asks a very pertinent question--is there ever going to be an end to the bailouts?  I rather doubt it since out government is making sure that none of the big boys in finance or industry are going to fail.  Has anyone calculated how much the jobs that remain in the various bailed-out entities (including those in bankruptcy) have cost per job?  Or how long we will be paying for them?  After all one of the major excuses for our orgy of bailouts has been to preserve jobs.  Oh, and, of course, to keep the credit flowing--which by most accounts hasn't happened either.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  Even though we are expecting spotty showers with possible thundershowers for the rest of the week, I am feeling pretty good.  One of my little sugar snap pea plants has actually put out a bud.  Am I anticipating?  Oh, yeah!!!

Is this another (maybe) sign of the times?  The Washington Post has an article on a new web site that will help the consumer haggle with those merchants listed with the site on the price of the goods offered.  I know the economy is bad when I see an uptick in the stories about bartering in the mainstream media.  This simply adds a 21st century twist to the phenomenon.

I got a kick out of this blog from Texifornia.  Have trouble getting plants to survive in your containers.  Try putting in plastic plants.  The artificial foliage protects the seedlings until they are large enough to make it on their own at which you can take the plastic out.  It makes sense.  I am doing the same with my plastic canopies and milk jug cloches.

Foreign Policy In Focus has a new entry that is interesting: "Capitalist Pigs."  I have said often that globalization has downsides that we never hear about as our media and politicians generally ignore them.  Put this beside the story that "60 Minutes" featured about the aftermath of the 'partnership' between American oil companies and one of the government owned South American oil companies in the Amazon and see the similarities. We got a large part of the oil, the government of that country got the money, and the people living in the area were left with the toxic waste.  That triad is also repeated in Nigeria with more violent results.  But we seldom hear about this aspect of globalization.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Good Morning, All.  We are supposed to have another nice day with plenty of sun and temps around 70.  Perfect.  It is amazing how much better I feel after a few days of sun.  The weather people said that for the 16 days ending last Friday we had 14 days of rain.  No wonder by energy level was low.  We are expecting rain tomorrow and Saturday.  Maybe this two week period will be a mirror image of the last one.  Hope so.

I found this suggestion as I trekked through the blogosphere this morning.  The blogger gave instructions for making your own seed tapes.  I am going to have to write this down and do it over the winter.  It would be perfect for the small seed plants like the lettuce.

I didn't see much else so I will quit for today.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  I had a productive weekend.  I planted most of the seedlings we had started.  The picture above shows one of the False Alarm peppers we got from Burpees.  If you look to the right you can barely see another container that has a plastic milk carton.  That is my improvised hot cap and the pepper normally has one on it.  I took it off just to show off the transplant.  The hot caps and cold frames seem to be working very nicely.

This container has our tomatoes in it.  The plastic things there are our improvised watering system.  I can fill those and the water will seep out through the holes I punched in the sides.  We hope it works out well.  I just cut off the bottom of half gallon juice containers and buried them in the center of the container.  We put in three different varieties: a very early, a mid-season, and a late beefsteak.
Kuma is looking things over.  Now that the weather is milder he wants to go out on the patio more often.  Actually, almost constantly.  He would love to get out the gate but we try very hard to keep him contained.  He gave us a bit of a scare when he sneaked out the front door a couple of weeks ago and disappeared for about twenty-four hours.  
This is the sample block and line pattern diagram for the two baby quilts I am doing up.  I have mentioned them over the last couple of weeks.  I finished the top for the first this last weekend and you can see it below.  I will be honest and say that this is one of the best sections.  Not all my points meet up so neatly.  But I subscribe to Ellen Burns' 20 mph rule.  Hang the item on a clothes line and drive by at 20 mph.  If it looks good, it is.