Thursday, December 31, 2009

Howdy, everyone. We have had light snow yesterday and last night. Not much accumulated. However, we expect some really bitter cold. Luckily we have no where we have to go until Sunday. We are just west of the area under a lake effect snow warning, thankfully.

The banking situation has become more and more interesting as the economic situation has unfolded. Now, it seems, there is a movement to encourage people to move their money from the mega-banks to the small community banks. Take a look at this by way of HuffingtonPost. When I moved here ten years ago I opened my accounts at a small community bank. I left my Bank of America account open because I had automatic deposits set up I didn't want to go through the hassle of changing. (I had the BoA account only because of a series of mergers over the years whereby my original community bank was acquired by successively larger banks until eventually my accounts were with BoA.) BoA had no local branches and very few ATMs so cashing checks or getting cash out was very inconvenient. I closed the account when the automatic deposits ended and transferred everything into my local bank. This bank had a very nice program which provided free (that is, no fee), interest bearing checking accounts without a minimum balance for anyone over 50 which fit me to a tee. I briefly had a credit union account during an unfortunate stint as a teller at that credit union. That is one job I simply am not cut out for. I closed it when I no longer qualified for free checking without a minimum balance when my employment ended. The fees would have killed me. Mom had a similar experience. She opened her account at the same bank I did because it was local but kept her other accounts at another (at that time) community bank to handle her automatic deposits. Then her bank was acquired by a larger bank which did not value customer service. Unlike the BoA in the video linked to above, they did care enough to ask why a long time customer was leaving and Mom told them exactly why.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hello, all. We are supposed to get more snow today and all day tomorrow. Well, the sun was nice yesterday. We hope the weather will be good for Sunday because it is my sister's partner's 50th birthday party. Looks good so far but the forecasts have a way of changing rapidly around here.

I haven't started any new projects lately. Instead I have been trying to move some of the UFOs (unfinished objects for any non-needleworkers) to the finished column. I have been making a little progress there. After the 1st I will start new things but right now finishing seems the more appropriate action.

As I noted before, the assessments of both the old year and the old decade are flying thick and fast. And, as I also noted before, many assessments, on both a national and personal level, indicate that for the most part we have been running like crazy just to remain in the same spot. However there are some areas of movement but the direction seems to be backward rather than forward. I will let others write about the broader social and national scenes. I will look at the personal instead.

We have frequently commented here how everything old seems to be new again. Ten years ago our weekly grocery purchases would have included cake mixes and frosting, packaged macaroni and cheese, ice cream, dry cereal, frozen pizzas, soft spread margarine, packages of shredded cheese, Tide laundry soap, a name brand soap for the dishwasher, frozen fruit pies--just to name a few of the items that are no longer on our shopping list.

Why these items are no longer on our shopping list is a bit complicated. The easiest to explain are the Tide and dishwasher soap. We no longer use the dishwasher. We would have to double the number of dishes we have (not enough storage space) and wash only every 5 or 6 days to get enough dirty dishes to fill the dishwasher to the point where it would be economical and efficient. So instead we buy the really cheap dishwashing soap and do up the dishes every day (or every other day if we get a bit lazy.) I grew up with Tide and used it most of my adult life. But then the men in the family usually had jobs that involved getting clothes very dirty and often greasy. We no longer need that kind of cleaning power and the cheaper detergents get our clothes clean at a fraction of the cost.

The other items fell off the shopping list due to a concatenation of factors. We noticed how the packages either no longer contained the customary amount of product (ice cream, dry cereals, margarine), suddenly changed the size and quality of the ingredients (pizzas, fruit pies, pot pies), or the flavor changed as they changed the ingredients in response to the latest food fad (dry cereals, lunchmeat.) Bottom line: we make our own cakes, fruit pies, and pot pies from scratch; we use stick margarine; we go out for ice cream occasionally; if we get a yen for a pizza, which we haven't lately, we will go out for that also. Many of these things crept onto the shopping lists 20 or 30 (or more) years ago so in eliminating them we are stepping back to patterns and products older yet. Or we discovered how much sugar, salt, or preservatives were included and decided to either do with out of make from scratch so we knew what was actually in the final produce. Or we discovered how much water was added to the meat we were buying and decided to get something with less processing.

I think I will end this entry now. A lot more changed over the last year but those changes should be considered on their own on another day. See you next time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Morning, again. We have sunshine for the first time in over a week. Boy, does that make a difference in my moods. We have a couple of waves of snow coming in over this week but I hope that the sun will shine in between.

Pundits have produced a lot of opinions on who is responsible for the financial meltdown of the last couple of years. Depending on you mood and affiliations you can place the blame on any number of people or groups: greedy bankers, shady mortgage brokers, dishonest borrowers, haphazard and lax regulators. Bob Sullivan at Red Tape Chronicles has an additional factor to add to the mix: innumerate Americans. I think he makes a good case that it rather hard to spot the frauds and fixes when you can't handle basic math. Much of what he wrote doesn't really surprise me. Some 30 years ago when I started on my first stint in academia I had to take a basic remedial math course even though I had had good grades in high school math courses including business math, algebra and geometry. Eight years ago when I entered into another stint of academic training for a new career I again had to take a remedial math course even though I my previous courses included finite math, statistics, and calculus. Even though I didn't need the refresher most of my fellow students needed it badly. Between those two classes the news media frequently bemoaned the deficiencies of American students in math and science. The media still bemoans those deficiencies.

Thanks for the comments, Kay. The gloomy weather seems to seep into my psyche and I have almost no motivation to do anything. I hope the sun stays out more because I have so much more enthusiasm when it does.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. Hope you all had a really nice Christmas. We spent ours at my sister's for a small gathering for dinner. Nice and quiet with good company. Now we are looking at the result of two days of snow. Luckily we are not in the strip north and west of Chicago that got a foot or more. Ours only totaled, maybe, five inches. And it will be here for a while because the temps are supposed to remain below freezing.

The retrospective shows are beginning to sprout like dandelions. Some are focused on the year that was while others look at the last decade. (There are the purists who insist that the first decade of the century doesn't end till next year but frankly I wish they would shut up. I don't think it matters much whether you think a decade should go for 0 to 9 or from 1 to 0.)

MSNBC has an article that sums up my feelings--we have been running fast to wind up where we began and, perhaps a little behind where we began. That is pretty much my situation. I am pretty much where I started out but with a much less clear notion of where I might go from here. After a fruitless job search back in 1999 I shifted gears and went for training in a new field. It looked like a good fit for me and like a growing field with plenty of opportunity. As it turns it didn't work out on both counts. And after a decade I am back where I started with fewer prospects and considerably less enthusiasm.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Just a short message--

And a
New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Good Morning, Good People. The weather isn't anything to talk about so I won't. The politest word that comes to mind is 'miserable.'

The weather isn't the only thing that is miserable. I found this on MSNBC while on my way to the e-mail. It seems that if pouting Republican Senators can't stymie legislation with their 40 votes (of 100) in the Senate they will try to do so by urging state governors to challenge the constitutionality of the 'Nebraska Compromise' (and by implication the other bribes to specific states). The really sad thing: I think they have a good case. If Nelson and the some of the other Dems were walking the streets they would have been arrested for prostitution and Reid for solicitation. This is a sad and disgusting spectacle.

Here is another item from MSNBC that is sad and disgusting. I hate these wars. I think our leaders went into them in a fit of testosterone poisoning that disconnected their brains and then they badly mismanaged the enterprises from the start. But the veterans are not to blame and should be given all of the benefits promised them not jacked around by the inept bureaucracy our government has become (whether run by Democrats or Republicans.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good Morning, all. Not much to say about the weather. Same as it has been for the last few days. The sun teased us with a very brief appearance but is now hiding again. We are hoping that the system that is coming for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday speeds up and goes through faster than expected or brings less precipitation that expected. Or both.

I found this assessment of the Copenhagen agreements and of the climate change meetings in general. Especially good are the authors thoughts on why the negotiators failed to make any real, enforceable, or meaningful progress. I think the prognosis about the next round is right on and the whole notion of going to a plan b (namely, adapt) is probably our only reasonable course of action. I expect any such adaptation will be a mishmash affair with a lot of pain and suffering. Unfortunately, it is a global problem and there is about as much will to deal with it in a communal manner as there is for the U.S. legislators to find a truly bipartisan solution to our national problems. Somewhere between zip and none.

Well, here it is--Tuesday before Christmas and the day after winter began. Happy Solstice to those who celebrate it.

I have been hearing a lot of positive "news" on the employment front lately. Most of it concerns the statistic on temporary workers--that has gone up for four months in a row. The mainstream pundits are crowing since (they say) such increases come just before businesses gain the confidence to start adding on new workers or calling back old ones. This morning's local news presented that argument. However, every now and again one hears some skepticism. A couple of the bloggers I read (and who have had a better track record for predicting the economy) have expressed the opinion that what we are seeing is a shift to a 'just in time' workforce (to go along with 'just in time' supply.) Meaning that the companies will keep a small permanent staff and expand with temps when they have a big deadline. In other words, jobs will be far more tenuous. I will let you fill in the rest. I don't have to imagine the consequences. I have a relative by marriage who has been struggling with this for the last 3 or 4 years--he gets work for a week or two and then nothing for another two or three, or four weeks.

I found this by way of HuffingtonPost this morning. Questions: how is the Federal government going to get the money to loan the states and how are we (and it will be 'we') going to pay it back and when? What struck me most about the story was the abysmal lack of forethought and planning. State legislators simply did not use the resources available during the fat times to prepare for the lean. I suppose they all felt that the good times would roll forever.

I saw a bit of this on CNBC yesterday afternoon. I think the investors have rendered their verdict on the Senate health care plan. It mirrors my own verdict. This plan secures the profits of the insurance industry and little else.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. It is still snowy and cold though not too cold. Just cold enough to snow instead of rain. The weather people are telling us that we may get a white Christmas IF the system coming in on Thursday is cold enough to snow but there is a bit of a chance that precipitation might be rain. Hope not. And I hope it lightens up enough to not interfere with our trip to my sister's for Christmas dinner.

I found this assessment of Obama's recent 'victories' on health care and the Copenhagen 'agreement.' I seem to be using a lot of quotation marks lately. Largely because you have to stretch the definitions a long ways to use the terms to describe what has happened. 'Pyrrhic victories?' Actually it may turn out to be so for both sides. The health care legislation does nothing to control costs and may not, in the end, make either insurance or care more available. The Copenhagen mess is toothless and lets everyone set their own non-binding targets. But that doesn't mean that the Republicans or that China (especially) actually won. China has alienated the other members of the underdeveloped nations coalition who wanted strong sanctions and a binding treaty for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions. I wonder how they will feel towards China at the next round of meetings two years from now? And the Republicans--well I wonder if Democrats can make charges of obstructionism and hypocrisy stick next year. Sure hope so. But then getting more Democrats in the Senate may not do much good. After all it was Democrats who allowed the Republicans to play Grinch.

Beyond Paycheck To Paycheck (at totalcandor) has a good post on 'the real unemployment rate." The video says it all. Take a look.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hello, again, everyone. The weather isn't much to talk about. Cold, overcast and snow expected. They say we have a good chance of a white Christmas.

I found a couple of entries in the 'companies acting badly' folder. This one is by way of MSNBC and concerns a lawsuit filed by the Washington (state) Attorney General against DirectTV. In case you think that the article makes a good case for going with DISH Network instead, not that they settled a lawsuit earlier this year that claimed similar abuses. Then there is this (also by way of MSNBC.) It simply re-confirms my decision to never carry another credit card again.


We woke to a light coating of snow--perhaps an inch and a half. We are expecting more though not nearly as much as the east coast is supposed to get.

So Obama brokered a deal that allows countries to set their own non-binding agreements on carbon reduction, has no enforcement mechanism and provides a pittance to the most vulnerable undeveloped countries and is now crowing about it. I am, as I have been so frequently of late, totally underwhelmed. The TimesOnLine provides a pretty good summary. One comment I get very tired of hearing is the one citing such 'achievements' as 'good first steps' or 'not everything everyone wanted.' Actually it is everything SOME wanted--which is precisely NOTHING.

We have had light snow all day but the temps were high enough that not a lot stuck to the sidewalks and the car. But it was enough that our handy man was out plowing the parking area. It is supposed to snow through some of tomorrow but, for now, Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be clear and sunny.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good morning, everyone. We are supposed to get sun later today but the temperatures are supposed to fall as the real cold air that is over the upper plains comes in here. We did our weekly shopping yesterday. We decided that we would rather dodge the rain drops than shiver our way through our errands. As it turned out we had fog and mist but no actual rain so I guess we made a good call.

I have been reading this morning and it seems that Joe Liberman has won and the rest of us have been screwed--at least those of us who need some kind of positive movement on the health care front. He has scuttled the proposal that those over the age of 55 be able to buy into Medicare. I don't know how many out there know anything of European history, specifically Polish history before Russia, Prussia and Austria divided it between them in the 19th century. Their political situation reminds me somewhat of what we have now. They had a king who was essentially powerless and the major ruling body was an assembly of the nobles. Each noble had a 'librum veto' meaning any individual nobleman could derail any piece of legislation simply by getting up on his hind legs and yelling 'Veto!' Does anyone else see the similarities here?


Good Wednesday morning to you all. It is cold but the sun will soon be up so it should be cheerful even if a bit frigid.

Continuing the thought from yesterday: I saw several headlines concerning Obama's meeting with the bankers that asked the same essential question. What can Obama actually do to get those guys to fall in with the program? I think the answer is not a hell of a lot. Now that they look healthy and are feeling frisky they think they can go back to the 'old normal' of business while acknowledging the 'new normal' to justify doing what they please. I saw one on CNBC yesterday I would love to have knocked on the head with a 2x4 that being the best way to get the attention of either man or mule (as my grandmother and mother have often said.) He asked if we expected his bank to make loans to unqualified applicants. After years of making loans to anyone who still had a pulse (and trying to figure out how to get around that requirement) they now self-righteously talk about qualifications.

Obama, like the Polish king, has limited power to do anything. Unfortunately, I think Obama is also hamstrung by his own inclinations. He wanted bipartisanship not acknowledging (at least publicly) that bipartisanship requires TWO parties willing to work together. He has never had that. But he doesn't have any plan b now that plan a is mired in deadlock.

This little obscenity caught my attention this morning. No it isn't the latest celebrity misbehaving. It is the IRS giving Citigroup and other companies who have received bailouts a pass on some billions in taxes they would other wise have paid. This is a spiral that will not end. We give them money (to make loans, which is supposedly their business, but which they haven't done, blaming unqualified applicants for their reluctance). Now they are trying to pay back that money but are getting tax breaks??? So, essentially, they are paying us back with foregone tax revenues??? I have a number of expletives but I will leave those to your imagination.

The DailyKos has an excellent analysis of the Senate health care bill as it now stands. And I think the conclusion is also right on: kill the damned thing. For years I have seen AARP and other groups grab what ever they could get, however little or ineffective, in the vain hope that they will be able to get closer to what they wanted at a later date. We saw the effects of that with the drug assistance legislation. The drug companies made out like bandits by quadrupling their prices before the legislation went into effect and have continued to make out by raising prices each year. It did nothing to contain costs.

John Aravosis at Americablog sums up the Federal legislative situation very well. And it is why so many are so disappointed with the Obama Administration. We voted for change and found, instead, a continuation of the Bush policies we rejected at the polls. But I have another question: what will happen when political authority collapses? When the government no longer has legitimacy? I don't mean that in the legal sense. I mean what will happen when a significant number of people simply don't see the government as worthy of respect and obedience or worse actively try to minimize its effect? I think you can answer that for yourself.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hi, everyone. It was a lazy day yesterday. Didn't do much of anything. We had some nice sunshine for most of the day. Then in the afternoon the clouds came in. No precipitation though and the next system may miss us.

This is the kind of story that makes Mary VERY Contrary. Actually it pisses Mary off totally. This is a variety of 'rationing' that the Republican and conservative Democrats don't mind. I say that because they obviously are doing everything to either perpetuate it or even extend it. One of the newscasts earlier this week discussed the extension of Medicare to people between 55 and 62 which appears to have replace the very weak public option and the reporter noted that the cost would be $1500/month for couples and families. That is simply not acceptable. Not when the gold plated coverage our legislators can get costs one third of that PER YEAR.


It is now a damp and cold Monday. What I said about Saturday applies several fold to Sunday. Part of the problem was boredom. I looked at what was on tv and turned the damned thing off. We have a good collection of dvd and tape but I really didn't want to see any of them again. I am still somewhat disappointed with the new Harry Potter movie and, unfortunately, my disappointment isn't because I have compared the movie to the book and found the movie wanting. The movie on its own is lacking. It doesn't develop Voldemort or explain him. It doesn't explain how Dumbledore was injured nor does it really develop Dumbledore's character. The special effects were as good as always but the character development simply wasn't there.

Hopefully, this week will be more psychologically satisfying.

To continue with other things--THIS is why I really don't expect much out of the Copenhagen climate talks. We aren't getting much news about the talks from our news media and what we are getting seems to focus on unruly demonstrators and arrests of the more violent ones. No one seems interested in the issues behind the disputes and confrontations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good morning on this very frigid day. The temps sank to low single digits last night and are not supposed to get above the low teens. With winds in the 30+mph range the wind chills will be really nasty. But, then, we don't have to go anywhere and can enjoy the bright sun and blue skies without suffering the cold.

Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds has another interesting post today on fragile systems, of which our political/economic/social structures provide an example, and the problems of sustaining them. I think it is worth a glance. Take a look at some of his other posts. He makes a lot of sense.


As you can tell I didn't finish off yesterday's post. I had a bit of a frustrating time with the internet yesterday. Some of it was connectivity problems where the Comcast link failed and another was an early problem with Facebook. Those seem to be resolved now.

It is still cold but at least the wind has died down. We didn't get much snow and most of the sidewalks and streets cleared up quickly.

I found this interesting article at MSNBC this morning. I have seen some stories about the problem of drug resistant diseases resurfacing (TB for example) but this is the first story that links climate change to the spread of a disease and its vector, mosquitos in this case. An interesting point to this story: even if we are looking at simple weather variations the problem will not go away if a 'normal' weather pattern comes back because the vector and the disease organism are rapidly adapting. I wonder how many other old 'friends' are out there waiting for the opportunity to rise up again and bite us in our posterior regions?

On that note I will give this up for the day. See you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good Morning, everyone. We did get some snow yesterday but not much and we did get a bit of sunshine no one predicted. None of the snow stuck around except in very shady places. The weather people predict that the snow we are supposed to get will turn to rain later this afternoon and evening. It will be a sloppy mess that we hope to avoid by getting all our errands done early.

The first story to catch my attention this morning was this one on MSNBC. It struck me for several reasons. Earlier this year one of the Chicago suburbs had a donnybrook that hit the news. A couple of decades ago the state EPA had found high levels of contaminants (including formaldehyde, if I remember correctly.) The city officials claimed they had stopped mixing the well water with Lake Michigan water but were caught in the lie. The question now is--when did they stop and did any residents suffer health problems because of the contamination. But water pollution and supply problems pop up frequently in my reading: in the southwest where uranium mining has contaminated a large part of the ground water which is flowing toward more populated areas and in Wyoming where local groups have been fighting a gold mining company's plans to establish an arsenic leaching operation. And then there was a story on the Nightly News earlier this summer about the small town not too far from the gulf coast where no one has potable water. In fact they can't even use the water for their gardens. Worse the population is too poor to pay the local providers to extend service to them and no government agency was willing to help. It is interesting how many stories on water have popped up over the last year.

Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds sums up the political/economic state of affairs very well, I think. The political action on the economic problems have, for the past year, have been either a 'sound and fury signifying nothing' or a massive transfer of money to some of the very idiots who put us in this situation. And all we are getting (and are likely to get) is more of the same.


I interrupted this yesterday for our shopping. We are in full winter mode and look at the longer range forecasts to decide which days would be best for shopping given the projections. The predict rain changing to snow for our area although the northern and western counties in Illinois are getting much more snow. Also we are supposed to have high winds and falling temps. So far no snow has accumulated here. has an interesting synopsis of 7 key decisions dating from WWII that have shaped out current health care insurance 'system.' I put the word system in quotes because it is obvious that there is no system here--there is no coordinated, thought out plan of action. Unfortunately, we do have a number of large and powerful entities who have benefitted greatly from our lack of system and they are the key stumbling blocks to reform.

Yesterday I linked to a story about contaminated water and the lack of action on the part of the EPA. Today NPR has a story about a source of contamination not mentioned yesterday--confined animal feeding operations which provide an increasing percentage of our meat and milk in this country. Of course, theNew Mexico dairy industry (the focus of this story) wants to blame the individual owners of the contaminated wells for the problem. But no one really wants to address the underlying problem--too many cows in too small a space. Nor do they even want to begin to address that problem since they don't even want to think about reducing the number of animals or the consequences of that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Good Morning, Again. We have measurable snow this morning and expect more tomorrow night into Wednesday plus the coldest temps of the season so far. Luckily we can choose when we go out and can miss much of the mess. The traffic reports detailed multiple car crashes on the northern highways as people who have forgotten how to drive in these conditions relearn the art.

Thanks for the comments on the quilts, Kay and Lois. I do love the ways these have turned out. I love color and then to see new patterns come up because of the interaction of the color and positioning of the pieces and blocks. My piecing is always improvisational. I start with a general idea and then see where it goes. We put up the design wall as I was doing the Mother Goose quilt and I simply love it. I can try out the fabrics and positioning before stitching.

Anecdotal Economics has a cynically amusing dissection of last weeks labor statistics that is worth a read. He expands the traditional categories of deception that I refer to frequently (lies, damned lies, and statistics [giving credit to Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain for the phrase]) and expands it with 'white lies,' 'Government statistics,' and 'campaign promises.' The last two take deception to a whole new level of artistry.

I went in to continue the post I started yesterday (Tuesday) and found this one which I thought I had already posted. That is what I get for thinking!!! Well here it is now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Good Morning, again. I thought I would separate my quilts from the political commentary. That seems a wise decision given what I found soon after I started going through my e-mail alerts.

So let the games begin with this article from the Miami Herald. Four years ago a class-action law suit was filed against the State of Florida on behalf of poor and disabled children. The lawyers for the children claim that their clients had to endure unconscionably long waits or long drives for medical or dental care or pay out of pocket (if their parents could scrape up the money) because no doctors or dentists would accept Medicaid. Federal law requires that states which accept Medicaid money must provide reasonably prompt care that is comparable to that provided to children in the same area who are covered by private plans. Evidently similar law suits had been filed, and won, in several other states. What rally burned me up was the Florida Attorney General's defense agains the claims: the State is merely required to PAY for the care not ensure it is actually provided. As I commented to Mom over our morning coffee as we listened to the news: one sure way to get me swearing a blue streak is a story like this one. We had several this morning all dealing with the political games going on with the health care reform debates in the senate.

Here is another entry for the health care games from my local newspaper. There are actually two stories both involving Blue Cross/Blue Shield/Anthem which demonstrates why we need to have a public option that is fully funded and includes everyone, provider and recipient alike. In the first the patient received a triple by-pass on an emergency basis and then treatment from a cosmetic surgeon (including skin grafts) when her wound became infected and wouldn't heal. Then she was hit with a $10k bill because the cosmetic surgeon was not in the network. She was in a network hospital, her heart surgeon was in network and he recommended the cosmetic surgeon who was associated with the (in-network, remember) hospital. The other story included in the article is similar. Patients at the Porter emergency room got a rude surprise when they were billed for the services of the ER doctors because, although the hospital and specialists were in network, the ER physicians were not. And Anthem suggests that it is the patients' duty to find out if the doctors are in network. Yeah.!! Right!! You are in an emergency room with a medical condition that needs to be treated NOW and you are going to say "Wait a minute, Doc. Are you in my network??' And what are you going to say if he isn't or worse if no doctor at that hospital (as happened at Porter) is in the damned network?? The ER doctors evidently are now having signed (under duress, they say) a contract with Anthem.

Good Morning, Everyone. As promised here are some pictures of the new quilts. As you can see I have made progress on this one which is still on my design wall. I added the last four yellow pieces soon after I photographed this and downloaded the picture. I am debating on how to finish it. I have never liked putting a binding on the quilts. Usually I use the pillow turning method. But I am betting an itch to try a simple binding on this one. I will do some kind of simple in the ditch quilting.

Here is the finished baby quilt. I will be taking it over to my favorite local quilt shop to brag a bit. There are a couple of flaws but I think it is still worth a brag or two. This one is going to my niece for the baby she is expecting around the end of the month. They say it will be a little girl and I thought this quilt begged to be given to a girl.

Here is a close up of the center. As you can tell, I like the scrappy kind of quilt. The central fabric is left over from a quilt I did earlier in the spring which featured Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The rest was from my stash. The unfinished one is similar in that I used left over material from the other quilt from the spring. I had to use different reds and yellows because I did not have enough of the ones I started out with to go all the way through with them.

This picture shows a detail of the edge treatment. This quilt has also started me thinking about doing more elaborate quilting. It might have been nice on that yellow. But I don't have the maneuverability with my sewing machine to do it after the quilt is completed. I don't have a long-arm machine and won't be getting one. So I will have to think about how to over come that handicap.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Good Morning, All. It is nicely, seasonally cold today. We are back in our winter mode of looking at the long range forecast and adjusting our shopping day to which ever day is (we hope) driest.

I absolutely loved this HuffingtonPost article I found this morning. There is nothing so cheering as seeing right wing ideologues hoisted on their own petard. They should have been listening to all of the commentary which supports the notion that our legislators should have to partake in any health care reform measures they impose on the rest of us. The Democrats evidently have been listening.

CNBC spent a lot of time yesterday talking about the surprisingly good employment data. Allegedly, the economy lost only 11,000 jobs last month. I simply don't believe it. And I am not encouraged since we are still loosing jobs during a season when the new jobs statistics are usually inflated by seasonal hires. It makes me wonder what January will bring. They were also touting the increase in temporary hires. Such an increase, they say, usually comes just before companies begin to increase permanent hiring. Unfortunately for their argument, another commentator undercuts that cheery notion. He argued that companies are trying to find a way to treat labor as they have their supply line--going to a just in time system. They will hire enough temporary workers through a temp service to handle their peak production periods and then cut those workers when the peak has passed. Nice for them but not so nice for the workers. One of my relatives by marriage knows this first hand. He was caught in that cycle and would work a week or two followed by two or three weeks without work. Worse he was listed with employment service not a specifically temp service that sent him out on these stints knowing he wanted full time work. My own experience with such employment agencies reinforces my skepticism. I have been listed with such agencies several times over my working life of some forty years and have never found satisfactory service from them. They work like hell to get you signed up but then fail to follow through. The talking head on CNBC touted the benefits the service offered its employees but failed to note that those who don't get enough hours don't get the benefits and, I suspect, many, if not most, of their 'employees' didn't get those hours.

Continuing on the jobs theme, MSNBC had an article this morning that dissected the employment numbers and found at least one other troubling trend--a bifurcation in the population of the unemployed. The number of unemployed workers out of work for 6 months or more grew while the short term unemployed declined. We used to have a saying in economic downturns 'last hired, first fired.' Now I guess we can add 'last fired, first hired' to that.

Anthony Vitello at Benzinga has a concise and very pointed assessment of Bernanke's testimony in which the Fed Chairman advocated a raid on Social Security and Medicare which would essentially eliminate those programs.

Casey Daily Dispatch has a totally cute take on the week's economic data cast in a Star Trek scenario. I especially love the description of 'bernankeium,' a hallucinogen that leads to mistaken perceptions that the economy is getting better. Take a look. I think you will get a good laugh.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hello, on this very frosty Friday Morning. We woke up to temps under 30 for the first time in months. No snow here, however. At least no accumulating snow. North of Chicago was a different story according to the news. They got enough to make driving miserable for people who have forgotten how to drive in it. Have I said before how glad I am that I don't HAVE to go out in that kind of mess? I am sure I have but it is worth saying again--I am so glad I don't have to go out in that kind of mess.

Well, I did something today that I haven't had to do in three years of blogging--I rejected a comment. It wasn't really a comment. Whoever the anonymous e-mailer was I have no idea but I do know I don't want my blog to be a vehicle for people selling either to me or misusing the comments to sell to others. So, with a snarl and sneer, I hit the reject button.

I saw several headlines describing Bernanke, at his re-confirmation hearings, as channeling Willie Sutton. Firedoglake has an extensive quote which puts the whole thing in context. Willie Sutton, as Bernanke noted, said he robbed banks because 'that's where the money is.' And right now, the money to balance the budget is, in Bernanke's mind, in entitlements. The basic point they aren't saying out loud is that the proposal is still robbery except that it won't be done with a gun but with a vote in congress and a stroke of a Presidential pen. Of the two thieves, I prefer Willie Sutton. At least he was honest. (For a fuller description, which only increased my nausea, look at this HuffingtonPost blog.)

Update on the weather--we have had episodes of sun punctuated with very light flurries. Would be nice but for the wind.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boomer Chick

Boomer Chick
Good Morning, Good People. We may get snow flurries today. The weather folks are not predicting any accumulation. For the first time in many years I don't dread the coming weather. I don't have to go out in it. If we get snow on our usual market day (so enough snow that it takes a day to shovel out the path and car) we have enough reserve to shop later in the week. The cats have definitely shifted to their cold weather patterns. After a summer when they shunned our laps and stayed off the beds, they are now demanding their lap time and insist on taking their share of our beds out of the middle. We have also pretty well shifted. The extra blankets and afghans are on the beds and we are in sweats. I will have to put the heavy sweater away and bring out my winter coat. We expect highs over the next week to be in the upper 30s and lower 40s with flurries on a couple of days.

As I listened to a couple of the talking heads on CNBC yesterday a couple of points they made stuck in my mind but with questions of my own that I am sure they did not think of. The topic they discussed was the need for companies to invest more in research and development. A couple of barely stated premises lay beneath the discussion: 1) that we, as a nation, no longer lead in the development of new products and processes which is hurting us economically and 2) that such development will lead to new jobs. I can agree with the first but disagree with the notion that simply increasing R&D budgets will revitalize the economy or translate to new jobs. There is no sure fire linear path from the increased spending to the desired economic or employment outcomes. Here is the scenario as I see it playing out. Company A increases its R&D budget, hires a few new technicians and researchers, and upgrades its facilities. That may result in a new product or process but, because Company A has all of its production facilities overseas, the real benefit in terms of economic boost and jobs goes elsewhere. It doesn't stay here. This whole argument reminds me of the notion that giving the banks the TARP funds would allow them to lend again. "Allow" does not mean "Will."

The result: take a look at Elizabeth Warren's article on HuffingtonPost this morning.

Matthew Jaffe and Karen Travers ask a good question in their ABC article this morning. Unfortunately they don't really answer it. The Obama Administration and the news media have been touting the 'Jobs Summit' all week. But I don't really expect anything new to come of it. I expect a mishmash of old ideas. Already business allied attendees are suggesting tax cuts or credits for businesses who hire workers. That is a temporary fix at best. Businesses may hire if the cuts or credits help their bottom line and for only so long as it takes to qualify. What we will get is a new kind of 'seasonal' work: tax season. A Republican idiot floated the notion of rolling back the Federal minimum wage. May he boil in Christmas pudding. What I don't see them offering is to roll back the salaries he and his compatriots in the Legislative Branch get. Like the wonderful adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is no skin off their noses and no sacrifices will be demanded of them.

See you all tomorrow. Hopefully with pictures over the weekend of new quilt.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hello out there. The reaction so far to the President's speech is about what I expected. He is giving the military what the generals wanted--just not all of it. Of course, the Republicans are objecting to 'time tables' while the Democrats are objecting to the expense. My take--we didn't set time tables in Iraq and wound up still there after 8 years with little to show for it except the most expensive embassy complex in history and a couple of military bases that rival small to moderate American cities. I also object to the expense also but I have been from the beginning. Where were these guys when Bush put the whole thing off the books?? I laughed when the news reader quoted a Taliban 'spokesman' who said that we couldn't solve Afghanistan's problems in a year and a half. I don't give a damn about Afghanistan's problems. Most of those were brought on by the Taliban itself when they gave al Qaeda a safe haven. They can solve their own problems.

We have some sun this morning. I have one of the two quilt tops ready for final quilting. I will do it tomorrow. I have been playing with a 'chromatography' technique I read about on line. So far nothing even passable to show. I still need a good yellow patterned fabric so over the next couple of days I will try a tie dye with some of the plain fabric. If I can jazz it up a bit I think it will work. See you all later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good Morning, All. It turned into a nice sunny day yesterday and is supposed to be the same today. However, they expect that will change as of tomorrow. Two overnight chances of snow this week. We'll see how that turns out. If we get any it will be sloppy. Thankfully we don't have to go out in it.

Didn't have much to say yesterday. The news has been dominated by the faux pas of party crashers at the White house and Tiger Woods' accident. Nice that the news media has such light weight stories to follow and can ignore or give short shrift to any meaningful news.

We have also been subjected to a series of reports concerning that study that found that most of our chicken (gasp!!! horror!!!) are growing various bacteria and, of course, how we can avoid getting sick from them. What the reports tell me is that people just don't know how to cook any more. And by that I mean more than simply sticking the damned bird in the oven, or stew pot, or frying pan. People evidently don't know that they aren't supposed to cut up vegetables they intend to eat raw on the same board they cut up the chicken on unless they wash the board first. As I listened to the report I remembered my grandmother walking out in the barnyard in the morning, choosing her victim, decapitating it on the spot, gutting and cleaning it in the open air before taking it back into the house to cook. Most modern researchers would probably mess their drawers thinking about that. But I don't remember having even a case of the runs after eating any chicken Grandma served.

There isn't much to say today either. I won't be watching the President's address on Afghanistan tonight. He inherited a mess and none of his options are good. I will read all about it tomorrow. See you then.