Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Morning, again.  It is gray and rainy but I am not complaining.  We got very little of the last two systems that came through and I have had a chance to see how my cold frames and hot caps are working.  Not bad so far.  They have proven their worth in a second way--protecting my young plants from a hard rain--not as hard as I have seen it but definitely hard enough to damage seedlings.  The skies are supposed to clear and, if they do, I will get out and finish putting up the plastic tents and set out my lettuce plants.  We'll see.  I took an early turn on the patio to see how the plants are faring.  The overnight temps got down to about 45.  But all of the plants are doing very nicely--even the sweet peas and yardlong beans that don't have any protection other than the fence and side of the house.

We did our weekly shopping yesterday and came across yet another example of the commercial tendency to quietly frak the customer.  We need new curtains in the bedroom.  The ones we have were the ones we put up when we moved in, nearly ten years ago now.  They are getting a wee bit worn, no longer wash up well, and are definitely losing their shape.  We needed some things at Target so we looked at the curtains while we were there.  Almost all of the packages contained ONE curtain panel.  Since when does anyone put up only one.  Usually, you put one panel on each side of the window, right?  To get two panels we would have had to spend about 20% more to get two individually packaged panels than we used to spend for the pair together in one package.  We went to the local dollar store and got a package of two panels for $10 as opposed to the $30+ Target wanted.  I will keep the old curtains and sew up some market bags from them.

On an ironic note, I just read the post from Congress.org that comes through my e-mail.  Evidently the Senate is considering a measure that would restore at least some of the $900M that was removed from President Obama's stimulus package for studying and preventing flu--removed at the insistence of the Senate Republicans.  Evidently their alleged frugality has returned to bite them in the ass.  Looks like the swine flu has arrived just in time to enter into a number of debates.

To continue the swine flu theme, this little post--if true, and I have no reason to doubt its veracity--supports my contention that it isn't the small producers (the ones who will be most harmed by the avalanche of food safety legislation) that we have to worry about.  It is the large, factory-style producers that are causing the majority of the problem.  According to this post, the source of the flu was a factory farm in Vera Cruz that is a subsidiary of Smithfield, an American company.  Evidently there have been reports of very lax sanitary conditions but the Mexican government is even more reluctant to bite the source of jobs and revenue than U.S. governments (at all levels) are.  Isn't globalization wonderful?  We export our jobs and import disease.  Great trade that!!

Whirled Peas also covers the Smithfield angle and contains a link to an article in the Times (London) and points out that, to date, no major national news media in the U.S. has mentioned Smithfield in any story concerning the matter.

Joe Sudbay at Americablog is one of several bloggers noting a seismic shift in the Republican ranks as Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania shifts over to the Democratic Party.  Since CNN has and MSNBC has also carried the story I guess it is true and we can celebrate.  I can't mourn over the implosion of the Republicans.  I am so sick of the moralizing and the attempts to enforce their morality (so often honored in the breach) on everyone else.  They were our parallel to those squads of purity enforcers from the Taliban and other conservative Muslim groups who like to go around bombing barber shops, whipping people who don't appear to conform, and throwing acid in the faces of women who don't follow their version of modesty.  Good riddance to them and may they stay gone.  Although I don't really think that will happen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Well, it was a beautiful Sunday.  We didn't get the rain that had been predicted.  Only 0.05 inches.  The new system is supposed to be more productive.  I got my tomatoes, sweet peas, yardlong beans, and sugar snap peas in their containers.  The cold frame arrangement seems to be working and so are the milk jug hot caps for the smaller pots.  The real test may come later in the week when the predictions say we will get an over night temp of between 36 and 40 degrees.  We'll see.  I am debating whether to put a couple of the peppers in.  Not the ancho because they are so far behind the others.  They germinated so late I thought I had killed them.  Not so.  They are trying mightily to catch up to the others.

I didn't really feel like putting more of the quilt together so I simply cut all of the remaining pieces for the last 2 dozen blocks.  They are sitting on the table ready to go later today.  I will be finished with that top this week and have a good start on the second.  I got the last corner of the spring pattern table cloth done.  I have an almost straight shot to finish the last long side.  Only a couple of small motifs left there.  My stash of commercially printed pieces is going steadily down.  Yeah!!

I found this blog post while going through my google alerts this morning. I am simply amazed by it.  No, I won't ever do anything like it; but, I certainly do admire it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Morning, everyone.  It is a nice quiet Sunday.  The weather people say that we are going to have unsettled weather with periods of sun and rain.  Maybe I can get out during the quiet periods to put the last plastic tent up over the last big container and get some of the plants in.  I have already had to make one adjustment.  We had hoped that the layer of gravel we put in the bottom of these containers would drain them sufficiently.  So far the largest container is doing well but the others were water logged after the latest rains.  Luckily the ice pick and hammer did a nice job in putting some drain holes in those.

I found this Scientific American article while trolling the web this morning.  It brings together some interesting (and concerning, if not frightening) trends I have seen on my various google alerts.  As I said a couple of days ago, there is so much that the news media has not mentioned--like the 11 serious dust storms out west this year alone.  Much of what this article relates has also not been mentioned by the American mainstream news media.  And, interestingly, the notion of global warming, mentioned but not emphasized, is only one of the trends mentioned. Even without the climate trends, the other problems would be major.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hi, everyone.  Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous.  It is amazing how much different the world looks when you no longer have plastic covering your windows.  We had the doors open and a really nice breeze flowing through the house.  I will be spending the day setting up my cold frames and planting.  I had thought to wait but the night time temps are supposed to be above 40 (often well above) even with the 'cold' front that is due to come in.  Our little patio seems to concentrate and hold heat and the cold frames and milk jug hot caps should do the trick.

Here is an interesting blog I found this morning.  Scavenging has some interesting ideas on how to minimize the cost of gardening.  I will definitely try to save the seeds from the Brandy Boy tomato at the end of the season.  We used the last of the seeds we bought two seasons ago.  I don't know what the 'expiration' date was on the package because it went after I planted the last seed but I got 100% germination.  I may do the same with some of the lettuce especially for any variety that does really well.  

Well, I am just back from a brief break to get the plastic covers on a couple of my containers.  It isn't pretty but will be functional, I hope.  I have never done this before.  The tomatoes are planted but the rain is moving in faster than the weather people predicted.  The leading edge is already here.  They did say that we weren't supposed to get this until this afternoon.  Oh, well!!!

I tried doing some containers when I lived in Colorado but was never really successful.  It was too dry and I had a large raised garden beds in our yard to work with.  Simply easier to go with that.  Now I have no choice but to do containers since all the space I have to work with is concrete.

USA Today has this article about how Americans may be redefining what is necessary in their lives.  I have seen articles and blog posts often over the last couple of years on this topic.  I find it interesting what people consider necessary.  I know we have re-classified a number of things recently.

Beth Maxey at Old Musings has a nice story on her blog today that is especially apt given the climate today--economically, socially, and politically.  I hope you enjoy it a much as I did.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Morning.  We did get sun yesterday but it was too cold especially with the wind that came up in the afternoon to do much outside.  I did get the tomatoes transplanted into larger containers.  No--not the ones outside.  It is still way too early for that and I haven't got the plastic yet to make the cold frames.  That will come later today.  I lost three plants.  Two were simply too weak to transplant and I broke one as I transplanted it.  I still have about a dozen.  I am trying two new varieties this year.  Both are from Burpee: a 49 day tomato they call the 4th of July and a very meaty variety named Fresh Salsa which is a mid season tomato.  My third variety is the Brandy Boy late season beefsteak tomato which produced well for us last year even though it became severely pot bound late in the season.

As I passed through MSNBC's home page going to my e-mail I found this article.  I thought it interesting for several reasons.  First, on the side bar of the second page they had video (which I did not view) of a multi-car pile up in California a couple of weeks ago--caused by a dust storm.  Second, according to the story, the Colorado high country has had 11 severe dust storms this year alone.  The highest number since the researchers cited have been counting.  Third, where the hell have the mainstream media stories been?  If that crash in California had been due to a snow storm it would have been all over the media.  Instead, we get the latest blow-by-blow description of the latest results from Dancing with the Stars.  I have heard that dust storms are increasingly frequent and severe in Africa and northern China.  In fact, wind blown dust was a major component of the pollution that so concerned the Olympic organizers and athletes prior to the Beijing Games.  But what I have heard comes not from news media but environmental channels like the Discovery Channel.  I wonder if we are in for another era of Black Blizzard which, by the way, is the title for a very interesting treatment of the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s aired by the History Channel.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hello, everyone.  We are supposed to get sun today but it will be too cool to do much with the plants today.  Besides, we are going to take down the plastic we have covering the windows tomorrow afternoon and I am going to use it to create cold frames.  This plastic has been used on the windows for the last two years and we are going to cut fresh pieces from our rolls next winter.  Since it will be warmer over the next four days I will transplant the little tomatoes and peppers into bigger pots and we are planning to thoroughly defrost and clean out our freezer.

Mark Morford has a sarcastic but right on post this morning on the right wing reaction to Obama's performance at the summit this last weekend.  It says what Mom and I were thinking (and saying to each other) as we listened to the news reports and commentary.  We finally get a thoughtful, articulate, and intelligent President and all the section of our political spectrum who can't move beyond the Cold War can do is mourn for the days when our Presidents swaggered, insulted and ignored everyone else in the world and those in this country who did not agree with them.  After it is so much easier to sling around epithets like 'commie,' 'pinko,' or 'terrorist', than to deal with the world realistically.  It requires so much less thinking and, besides, it makes it so much easier to justify looting them of their resources since we civilized people can make such better use of those resources.

Well, it is time to get in gear.  We have grocery shopping to do. Bye for now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Morning, again.  Today should be the last day of rain for a while.  We are supposed to see 70s and 80s by Thursday though early next week.  Good.  I am ready for some more sun.

Sort of continuing a thread I started yesterday, here is a post from Chip Ward on Tomdispatch.  He tackles the questions of whether bigger is really better and whether any long term benefit can come from trying to reset the economy to what it was before last fall (or December 2007 when they say the current downturn actually began).  He has some very good points to make.  Some of it parallels our conversation over coffee this morning.  We have become accustomed to a world in which jobs were plentiful and all you had to do was walk into someplace and put in an application to get a new one when the old one disappeared or became unsatisfying.  We have become accustomed to thinking that tomorrow will always be better than today, that we will always have more of whatever our hearts desired.  We have learned to not consider the negative possibilities, not to consider 'What if I can't find a new job, (or I can't find a job(s) that will allow me to earn enough to pay all my bills, or... fill in your favorite nightmare.)

Not much else to comment on today so I will continue piecing the first baby quilt.  Should have some pictures soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Well, our Sunday is gray, wet and dismal.  Yesterday, on the other hand, was bright, sunny and warm.  We were able to open the doors and get some fresh air into the house.  One of the weather people said that we just had the first back-to-back 70 degree days in five+ months.  As I have said before --it HAS been a LONG winter.  I put my seedlings out on the patio table for a few hours and they all seemed to love it.  Every one is a brighter green.

It is now Monday and it is still gray, wet and dismal.  We had a curious thought this morning over coffee.  We wondered if this has been a 'normal' spring but we have become so used to unusual spring weather (getting warmer and sunnier earlier) that we find normal somehow abnormal and depressing.  I remember going into winter mode (changing the closets to bring out the heavier cold weather clothing) in mid October and then reversing the process in mid April.  But I haven't done that in recent years.  Instead the winter shift occurred in November (and sometimes December with a couple of years being so warm I didn't shift at all) and the spring shift in March and sometimes even February.  Am I weird or has anyone else had this sensation?

Here is another sign of the times.  Bartering has been an increasingly frequent topic on my strolls through the internet.  However the Lansing State Journal covers an aspect which others have let slide: the tax implications of bartering.  I have often wondered how a cash strapped tax-payer would pay the taxes on bartered goods since the IRS doesn't accept payment in kind.

Another sign of the times: Depression or Pessimism Porn.  That is the term featured on a segment of the ABC Nightly News last night (Sunday night).  It even featured a shot of the cover of the New Statesman (and other magazines like Time) hawking their lead stories covering very pessimistic economic predictions for the near future.  The reporter asked an interesting but, I think, off-base question that trivialized the issue.  Why do people read these ultra gloomy prognosticators?  One little throw away line summed up the matter but the reporter didn't really pick up on it.  One of the people they interviewed noticed that the prophets of doom and gloom were right more often than their more optimistic colleagues.  In a recent blog post Robert Reich described the optimists as 'blinded by the bright side.'  I remember the conversation we had with Sister and her Partner over dinner a little over a week ago.  Commenting on the economic situations of several family members, Sister mentioned forecasts which indicated that the economy would turn around by the end of this year and that the turn around couldn't come soon enough.  I told her that those were the optimists and the pessimists were not expecting a turn around to even start before 2010 or even 2011.  Given the track records of the two groups I tend to believe the pessimists.

By the way, 60 Minutes had a segment that absolutely infuriated me.  The subject was the precipitous drop in the value of 401k plans and the impact on the people who had depended on them to fund their retirement, especially those in the 50+ age group.  The piece was largely split between holders of 401k accounts (all of whom were currently unemployed and attending a 'job fair') and an idiot from the lobbying group for the financial industry that administers the plans.  El Idiot basically blamed the victims for their own victimization.  He thought they should have been more savvy, more informed, more 'responsible.'  He tried very hard to absolve the industry for its hidden fees and charges that took up to half of the gains these accounts garnered in the good years and of any blame for stymieing legislation that would have required more transparency (wonderful word, that).  Three points I thought were very interesting but did not get much emphasis.  One was how, originally, 401k plans were supposed to be an adjunct to Social Security AND private pension plans.  But companies found them a cheap way to do away with the private pension plans altogether.  The other was a mirror image of the old Reagan argument about social security: it was never intended to be a self sufficient retirement plan.  Both 401k plans AND Social Security were marketed for years as exactly that.  And the poor idiots who bought that bill of goods were somehow responsible for the consequences of relying on the promises made them.  The third point was El Idiot's assumption that the holders of the 401k accounts had complete control over how the funds were invested and if they were not savvy enough to handle them then too bad for them.  I haven't been in a position to even qualify for such plans but the few times I was I would have had NO CONTROL over the funds until such time as I left the company and had to roll over the company plan into a new plan.  No amount of savvy would have mattered.  How many people found themselves in that position?

I questioned the concept of normal with respect to seasons and weather above.  Carolyn Baker questions the notion with respect to economic affairs and has some observations that parallel thoughts that have hovered on the edges of my mind for some time.  Everything our politicians and economists have done or proposed doing has been geared to returning us to 'normal' but I have asked for some time now, since the economic melt down became obvious to all last fall, what do we mean by normal and should we even be trying to restore what we thought was normal because we were used to it. It was really a crisis waiting to happen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Good Morning, Good Morning.  It is a very nice sunny day, so far.  We are expecting rain tonight into tomorrow.  But the temperature hit 70 yesterday and looks to exceed it today.  I have actually spent some time in tee shirts instead of sweats.  

Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts had a link to a quiz that tells which tarot card represents you.  My results 

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she

From Ronni at Time Goes By this link to a very nice on the need to revamp our Federal tax code.  I think the crux of the matter is this assessment of the last 30 years "We've now lived through 30 years of "shrink, shift and shaft" federal budget and tax policies. Right-wing pols, aided by Democrats who should have known better, have shrunk government and the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest 1 percent. The tax burden, consequently, has shifted off wealth and onto wages, off the federal tax system and onto the regressive tax systems of states and localities.

The direct result: States and localities have gotten the budget shaft -- and that has forced years of chronic underfunding for mass transit, education and myriad public services."

Also from Ronni is this op-ed piece from Peggy Noonan: "The End of Bland Affluence."  I can only hope that much of her prognostication comes true.

I was struck by something odd on this morning's news on CNN (I think).  They reported the 'profit' Citibank made in the last quarter.  But instead of rejoicing in that and leaving it unexamined they continued and noted that the profit was entirely due to a new accounting procedure and to the relaxation of the mark-to-market rule on their mortgage backed securities.  Without those the 'profit' would have been a loss.  Isn't accounting wonderful?  As Daddy always said "Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure."

A bit of a needlework update.  The table cloth is about two-thirds done now.  I only have the last long side to do yet.  The top for one of the two baby quilts is half done.  Another tablecloth is almost half done.  I simply have to get hard hearted with my cats and refuse to let them stay on my lap all evening.  I wish me luck on that one also.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hello to everyone on this nice sunny day when we are supposed to get into the mid 60s.  If the daytime temps stay above 60 for the next week we will take the plastic off the windows.  Yeah!!  As we went about our grocery shopping and errands yesterday I noticed that many of the flowering trees and the shrubs are starting to leaf.  Not much in the way of flowers yet but some nice, bright leaves.  It does feel as though it is a month late in coming.  This has been the longest winter in my recent memory.  I should have been wearing tee-shirts and jeans but I am still in sweats.

Has anyone else noticed the amount of coverage that all of the news media have given to these so-called 'tea party' 'protests?'  Or the number of states whose legislatures have recently invoked the 10th Amendment to try to restrain the Federal government?  Where were these idiots when dear George funded the Iraq and Afghanistan wars off the official budget books?  Where were they when his administration was shredding the constitution?  Oh, I know!!  They were enjoying the Bush tax cuts that didn't reach more than a third of the way down the economic food chain.  They were getting BILLIONS from the war to fuel their obscene profits.  Their companies were getting 'onerous' regulations rescinded so they could make even more money.  I am so sick of the so obvious news media bias that I am about to sign up for News Junkie Anonymous and kick my habit.

I found this little item in my morning trip through the blogosphere.  I haven't shopped at a Hobby Lobby for a long time.  But I may have to visit them again.  I just wish the two stores in the area were closer.

Ari Levaux in the Memphis Flyer provides a good overview of the most controversial of the new food safety bills currently under consideration in Congress.  He draws some of the same conclusions I have.  They are a 'do something even if it is wrong' knee jerk reaction to a serious problem.  As such, if passed, they will over regulate the portion of the food industry that is least to blame for the recent spate of food borne illnesses--small producers and local suppliers. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  We had a beautiful, if a bit chilly, Easter weekend.  Our dinners with Sister on Saturday and Oldest Brother on Easter were a pleasure.  Nice to catch up on all the family happenings.  We have rain coming in today and through tomorrow but then (finally!!) a couple of days in the 60s.

Oldest Brother forwarded an e-mail this morning this morning urging everyone to boycott Chinese made products from 4 June to 4 July as a protest over dangerous and/or toxic products from Chinese manufacturers that have been so much in the news over the last year or so.  The little blurb makes the point that we don't need the government to rescind China's trading privileges.  All we have to do is refuse to buy the products.  Good idea.  But I see two problems.  First, how much of the merchandise sold to us is made here in the U.S. any more?  Or even in Europe??  I can go into my closet right now and, I would guess, not find more than a half dozen items NOT made in China.  Second,  Americans have become accustomed to getting what ever they want and as much as they want at a cheap price.  I remember the syndrome, not very fondly, from when I worked at a party supply store.  People (I won't call them customers) came in and complained loudly that our prices were too high.  They could, they said, go to Wally World and get similar items for much less.  We simply told them that they should go to Wally World then.  Once upon a time Wal-Mart was known for supporting American manufacturers.  That changed when Sam Walton died.

While I am very glad the captain of the American cargo ship has been freed, I am also concerned that the real root of the problem of piracy in the area will go both under-reported and unresolved.  Only one national news story I have seen mentioned the fact that foreign fishing trawlers have systematically depleted the waters off Somalia destroying the livelihoods of Somali fishermen.  Johann Hari at Alternet mentions that and also something that hasn't made the national news here:  the illegal and immoral dumping of toxic and radioactive waste in the waters off Somalia.  We should take a strong stand against piracy but shouldn't we also do something about the underlying problem?  Or would it simply cost too much to make the situation right? (that last is a sarcastic comment in case anyone wondered)  Or to quote the last paragraph of the article: "The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Day to you all.  We didn't get any of the rain from the system that went through here yesterday.  That was fine with me since one of my garden containers needs to dry out--the one I mentioned in an earlier post.  The seedlings are coming up nicely with only a couple of exceptions.  I will have to take some pictures and show you.  I spent most of yesterday working on one of the quilts.  I found that I have to change my routine or I will be sewing these quilts forever.  Usually I spend the first part of the morning going through my e-mails and google alerts followed by the blogs on my Blogger reading list.  But when I do that I don't have enough time for the sewing before I am ready to call it a day.  So I now split the computer time (emails and alerts in the morning and reading list in the afternoon) and spend less on it.  But I do have the first row of the first quilt put together and am picking up speed on the sewing.

Hello and Happy Easter.  We spent most of yesterday at my Sister's.  She invited Mom and me to dinner.  We both had a wonderful time, a wonderful dinner, and enjoyed catching up on family news.  Since we are going to have Easter dinner with my Oldest Brother I won't get much done today either.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy so I will try to catch up on the sewing and such then.  

However, I came across this little item from SFGate by way of Beth at Old Musings as I went through my reading list of blogs.  I am not really a Luddite or anything of that nature but there are times when I am very wary of my dependence on modern technology and reading the SFGate article brings much of my suspicious nature to the fore.  

For another WTF moment here is this little item from the HuffingtonPost by way of Ronni at Time Goes By.  The commentary is right on.  Although I have described myself as a 'news junkie,' this story illustrates why I am, more often than not of recent days, desperately restraining myself from throwing a brick through the tv.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hello, again.  Yesterday was a bit chilly though nice and sunny.  We are expecting mid 50s today.  I will be out putting some new drain holes in at least one of my containers.  It was as water logged as I thought it was.  Surprisingly the other containers are not and they are sitting right be side it.  I haven't jumped the gun on putting plants out.  However impatient I am for the garden goodies I know better.  Not until mid May and then with fingers crossed.

I really don't know what has come over some people.  How many news reports have we heard or read about idiots who call 911 to report something wrong with the food or service at some restaurant or fast food place lately?  Here is one I found this morning.  A restaurant not putting enough shrimp in a dish to satisfy a customer is NOT a crime.  Complain to the management.  Complain loudly to your friends and family. Never patronize the place again.  But don't call 911 because that IS a crime.  I hope the witch bets well prosecuted.

This post at Instructables came by way of Elizabeth at Urban Garden Hoe who is a person after my own heart.  Right now my container garden has two large storage bins (one rescued from the trash), three Tidy Cat litter tubs, one litter box, one old fish tank, one old pet water dish and various pots collected over the years.  My seedling trays are old styrofoam egg cartons (with the lids providing the drip trays) and various cream cheese, cottage cheese and margarine containers are the transplant pots.  I might have to keep the plastic half gallon juice bottles for that now that we are no longer buying cream cheese and margarine in the plastic tubs.  We would love to try the upside down plantings but have no place we can hang them.  Oh well, can't do everything.

Kevin Phillips is always provides insightful pieces whether on TPM Cafe (as today) or in his books (like Bad Money and American Theocracy).  We are indeed witnessing the disaster phase of financialization.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  We still have wind but the precipitation will leave us alone for a couple of days.  I hope so.  I looked out on the patio yesterday and was a bit surprised to see one, and only one of my big containers looked fully water logged.  It doesn't look so bad today so maybe it was just a little slow draining.  I will have to check them out more closely tomorrow--when the temps will, I hope, be in the mid fifties.

I don't know if anyone stopping by tats.  I have been picking up the basics of needle tatting off and on for the last few months.  In my journey through the google alerts this morning I found this blog and the Tatting Goddess has a really cute picture.  Check it out.  It brought a smile and an 'Oh, how CUTE!' from me and a giggle from Mom.

Ari LaVaux at Alternet has an updated analysis of the Food Safety Modernization Act (H.R. 875) and the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act (H.R. 759).  As usual any time we have a perceived crisis we also get a flurry of proposed legislation some of which may be needed and/or well considered but most of which is overkill.  Both of these bills strike me that way.  The food contamination scares that have made the headleadlines came from industrial processing sources that should have been regulated by already established state and federal agencies.  Those agencies simply did not do their job.  Better to revamp the agencies and give them the money and people to do their jobs than impose a new set of complex laws.

Thanks to Kay at Kay's Thinking Cap for noting that Ronni Bennett's birthday is today.  I haven't gotten to Ronni's blog yet but I will.  I visit every day.  So here's wishing her a happy birthday and many more healthy and vigorous returns of the day.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Well, we got the wind, the heavy rain, and the heavy wet snow.  Luckily not too much of the last and it will be gone soon--probably before the day is out.

We got a call from my oldest brother last night inviting us over for Easter dinner next weekend.  We suddenly realized that it was indeed Palm Sunday and Easter was only a week away.  Surprised us because we didn't see any of the heavy advertising we have become used to over the last few decades.  Not much in the way of spring outfits or candy or other ads out there this year.  That might be a good thing.

Anyone who saw Rain's blog a couple of days ago about a fellow blogger's struggle with the various bureaucracies (governmental and insurance) to get her mother off a Part D program she never signed up for and then saw the first 60 Minutes segment last night has to be dead if they weren't outraged.  They structured the piece as one that examined the effects of the economic meltdown on health care at the only public hospital in Nevada.  They should have subtitled it 'yet another reason why we should have a single payer government sponsored health care system.'  Several things struck me forcefully about the story.  First, was the gender disparity.  I can remember only one man whose continuing health care is in jeopardy because of the cuts the Nevada legislature made in the funding to that hospital.  The other patients shown were all women.  Second, the list of the services cut appear, again, to disproportionately hit women hardest--especially the high risk pregnancy unit but also the gynecological oncology unit.  It brought back memories of the stories I read some twenty years back when I lived in Colorado about the closing of local hospitals, ambulance services, and clinics on the western slope.  Those most affected were accident victims and pregnant women who had to somehow travel 300-400 miles (or more) to get care.  At that time the culprit was the increase in malpractice insurance premiums and everyone what incensed over that issue.  And third, and what makes me most angry, is the impression that we have a class of people who are essentially disposable, throw-aways, of no count.  In this world you had better have insurance, have an insurance company that won't drop you if you get sick, make enough to pay for the insurance or pay for the treatment or your life simply doesn't have any value.  Hell of a world isn't it.

Here is another WTF moment from Boston.com which I found by following the link Chris in Paris provided.  I guess this is what Bush really meant when he talked about an 'ownership society.'  It is only yours when you have the right to decide what risks to take with it.  And he touted this as a reasonable alternative to Social Security?  Only if you have a totally off the wall definition of reasonable.

Enough of this.  Time to get sewing.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Good Morning again, everyone.  You know it is spring because we are on the temperature roller coaster.  We had a couple of really nice days with a transition today which will be followed by much lower temperatures and possible snow for tomorrow and Monday.  We will probably postpone our shopping and errands until Tuesday.

I just had to go into MSNBC's Week in Political Cartoons.  Check this one out here.  Or this one.
This one about sums up the feelings in this household with the recent increase in the Federal tobacco tax.  In the last two years Mom has seen the price of a carton of her cigarettes (pretty much the cheapest brand out there) almost double.

On the economic front--I noted yesterday that my former boss and I had selected the fabrics and materials I needed to do the two baby quilts she wants.  Something about the purchase stuck in my mind.  It involved the spools of thread she purchased.  They seem to be much smaller than I remember but, since I usually buy thread several spools at a time and I hadn't bought any in a long time, I wondered if my memory was faulty.  Not even.  The new spools appear to be about half the size of the old ones.  This wasn't mere appearances as an e-mail newsletter from a favorite little local sewing shop made clear. (I wish I had the resources to patronize it more often.)  The proprietor wondered how JoAnn's could sell thread for so much cheaper than she could. True she carries a top quality brand but to be so much less??  Well, it turns out that the spools JoAnn's carries contain about one third the yardage at about three quarters the price.  More of the charge a bit more for a lot less scam that has been repeatedly perpetrated on the consumers of late.

Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts has a post today that should make everyone angry enough to demand a universal, national health care system that isn't run by insurance companies.  Follow the link for all of the messy details.  Medicare Part D should have been subtitled 'the insurance companies profit assurance program.' 

Well, it is time to get back to cutting the pieces for the new quilts.  See you soon.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Good Morning, all.  Yesterday was better expected.  The temperature was warm enough to open the front and back doors though not warm enough to raise the glass portion of the screen/storm door and let the breeze really blow through.  Kuma loved it and spent a good bit of time outside on the patio (which has a 6 ft fence around it).  His little adventure hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for going out.  Too bad.

My seedlings are, for the most part, doing nicely.  They have been slow to germinate because we keep the house at 68 degrees and we aren't using grow lights.  Mom thinks we can rig lights easily enough if we want to.  I found that the egg cartons make very nice starter trays and they keep the plants very moist.  I don't have to water nearly as much as I thought I would.  I think next year I won't start the seeds until mid March, unless the plastic works out very well I still won't be able to plant anything until mid-May anyway.

I am starting on two new quilts today.  My former boss wants a pair of baby quilts for her new grandchild due in early May.  We picked out the fabrics yesterday and picked up all the supplies I will need.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good Morning, everyone.  This should be a good morning given the last two days.  Monday we had to be up at 4:30 so we could go to Hammond because Mom had been summoned for jury duty.  She could have gotten a waiver both on her age and the distance but she was under the impression, mistaken as it turned out, that the U.S. District Court was in Valparaiso.  I went along, under the, also mistaken, impression that there would be a lunch room or lounge where I could hang out while she was doing her civic duty.  No such luck.  Things have certainly changed since the last time either of us had to visit the court house.  They had three men stationed at the entrance by the metal detector.  One checked off the names of the jury pool as they came in.  Now that was NOT the entrance to the individual court room--it was the entrance to the whole building.  Mom said there were other guards (or whatever) every 15-20 feet to direct people to where they had to go, two outside the courtroom, two beside each doorway in the courtroom and two stationed at the defendant's table.  I am not at all comfortable with the level of security we seem to feel we need as a society.  I am definitely ambivalent.

Luckily I found a nice little Mexican restaurant across the street from the courthouse and was able to park my self there for most of the next six hours or so.  I always carry a goodly supply of reading material or other stuff to occupy myself so that was no problem.  The people running the restaurant were very nice about it and they did not have so much business that my long term occupation of a booth did any hinder their business.  

After a couple of hours I thought I would walk over to the public library and stay there for a while.  But I found I had no idea anymore where the library was.  Although I grew up in the eastern section of Hammond and went to high school just blocks from where the court house now is,  all my old land marks were gone.  Forty years ago this had been a vibrant down town section of about 10 square blocks with shopping, theaters, banks and restaurants.  If you jay walked you took your life in your hands because of the traffic.  Now most of it is gone.  It is like a ghost town.  Depressing.

Monday afternoon, after we got back, set the tone for Tuesday.  One of the cats decided to sneak outside behind me when I went out for the mail.  Kuma is a great sneak and very determined to spend as much time outside as he can.  He has also had a very nasty case of feline spring fever since the temperatures started climbing somewhat.  This time he succeeded and we did not miss him until we went to bed and couldn't find him.  We spent the next 24 hours anxious, depressed, more than a bit pissed with the little monster and hoping he would find his way back.  Which, happily, he did.  Next time I go out for the mail he gets put in the bathroom.

As a result of the early rising on Monday (neither Mom nor I sleep well when we have to rely on an alarm clock) and a very restless night Monday night, I am still feeling a bit fuzzy today.  

Chris In Paris (at Americablog) asked a good question today:  Why Wagoner and not Wall Street?  I am not exactly sympathetic to Wagoner but, to my mind, he certainly deserves to leave with a decent pension having given good service for 31 years.  Perhaps not to the tune of $20 million but he does deserve much more than the idiots who have been running Wall Street into the ground.  Or, rather, those idiots deserve considerably less than they or Wagoner got.  I wonder if Wagoner's ouster and the new more stringent conditions were meant to send a signal to Wall Street: straighten out the mishiva or you're next and don't expect us to have infinite patience.