Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Well, now that I have shown some pictures of my gardens I will continue with other things.

Two headlines caught my attention this morning. I didn't read the articles so I won't link to them. I am sure you can see similar on any news site. The first implied that Judge Sotomayor has some tall explaining to do now that her (and another appellate court judge's) decision on that firefighter test bias case has been overturned by a narrow Supreme Court decision (5-4). The other noticed what I had suspected given the news coverage so far: the Court handed the decision down but failed to give any real guidance on what constitutes fair hiring. You may be sure that there will be more law suits over this issue.

On the first point I can only say "SO WHAT?" If every judge who had a decision overturned was not eligible for the Supreme court then I suspect very few of those who are on the court or have been in the past would have been appointed. Are we expecting omniscience from our justices now? I thought that was an attribute of God not humans.

On the second point: If, during my various stints as a college teacher, I had given a test in which ALL of the black (or insert any other group here) did not make the cut I would seriously question the fairness of the TEST. But now it seems we don't have to do that. So, Supremes, what constitutes a fair hiring standard? Got any ideas on that?

Bernie Madoff has been handed the maximum sentence for his fraud--150 years. I commented to Mom a couple of days before the sentencing that a nice 10-12 years for each count would be nice. I never thought he would get it since we have a history of treating extravagant white color criminals with kid gloves. But I have also been thinking of Madoff as a symptom of what ails us in a broader sense. I see that The Glittering Eye has been thinking along the same lines.

Hello, again. It is nice and cool here today. We had light showers last night so I don't think I will have to water. They are predicting more hit and miss rain showers for this afternoon and tonight. We'll see. I hope I won't have to water the gardens.

Speaking of gardens here are my latest pictures.

These are about 10 days old so everything is a bit bigger now.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. After a week of high humidity and 90+ temps we are getting a nice break. Temps in the 70s and low 80s for this week. We were supposed to have rain all day today but that has changed and it will be mostly sunny. We had to put the air on last week however much we hated doing so. The cats hated it even more since they had to stay inside.

I haven't had much to say so I simply haven't said anything. What can you say about politics when it is just the same old rigamarole? One side proposes and the other side simply stonewalls. Polls tell us that Americans favor a public option health plan by a wide margin but the Republicans simply bleat 'Communism!!!' and dig in their heels while President Obama's administration waffles on the matter. Illinois politicians are still trying to work out a budget compromise but getting nowhere fast. All of them are looking to next year's elections and trying to avoid doing anything that will alienate anyone. Evidently, Indiana politicians are having trouble with their budget but I don't have any details. We get most of our news from Chicago outlets which, naturally, don't carry much from downstate Indiana.

Has everyone heard that there is a really big generation gap? The biggest since the '60s apparently. I checked into the story on MSNBC this morning. I am afraid they ticked me off to start with. The first set of numbers (covering religion) cites three age groups: 19-29, 30-49, and over 65. There are a whole lot of people missing there. Did you notice. I did. I guess those of us between 49 and 65 don't count a whole lot. A large part of the story covered young people's perceptions of what will happen when they grow older and older people's reports of what they have experienced. No discussion of course of the implications of those attitudes. Meaningless 'facts' dissociated from context.

Is anyone else tired of the 'coverage' of Michael Jackson's death? I certainly am. I am sorry he is dead but I don't want to know all of the gory details or any of the manufactured controversy. And I resent how it has driven useful news out of the picture. Instead of covering the energy bill (that just passed the House and is going to the Senate) or the proposals for health care reform, or any of the numerous stories that we should really know something about, the news media covers this exhaustively. And we let them get away with it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Morning, again. It is another very warm and humid day. Unlike many other counties around here we are not under a heat advisory. The breezes are supposed to come off Lake Michigan making us a little cooler than surrounding areas. That doesn't make much difference to us because the little fenced cement patio concentrates heat. The temperature there can be 10-15 degrees warmer than anywhere off the patio.

I just finished harvesting the second batch of lettuce. The first went for two large chef salads and two small dinner salads. I splurged and bought one of the first tomatoes that appeared at local farmers market. My own are developing nicely--maybe three weeks away from fried green tomatoes. Mom and I both made the observation that anticipation is a rather nice feeling. We so enjoyed that salad. Tonight we will have cold sandwiches with lettuce and the remains of the tomatoes. Cold meals are so inviting with the heat.

I found an interesting take on the notion of 'green shoots' that has been such a catch phrase in the economic reporting lately. Kurt Cobb makes some interesting points and observations in his article at the Energy Bulletin. I have followed news stories for the last 15 years that describe the state of the nations infrastructure. I know the Obama administration has tagged a lot of the stimulus money for this purpose. (I almost wrote 'earmarked' but that word has such a nasty connotation now.) But the amounts I have heard experts cite as necessary just to repair roads, bridges, sewers, etc., doesn't come close to what the total those experts throw about. We already are spending mind-boggling amounts on financial 'infrastructure' deemed too large to fail. Our physical infrastructure is in much the same condition. All the bills are coming due at once.

Rhea at Boomer Chronicles pays tribute to the latest casualty of our digital age: Kodachrome. I also remember it fondly and am a little saddened to see it go. But hardly surprised. I learned photography in the Navy 40 years ago. For years I continued taking pictures and Kodachrome was one of my favorite films. Sadly, I had to discontinue the hobby almost two decades ago. Between the cost of the film and the cost of getting it processed (never mind any special costs like enlarged prints or framing) that I simply couldn't keep up with it. I am slowly getting back into it now that Mom and I have a decent digital camera. I am sorry that they have 'taken my Kodachrome away.' (No, I am not that clever. They played the old pop tune during the story on last night's news program.) But I am so glad to find the hobby is back within my slender means.

On that cheerful not I will sign off today. Have a good one, all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Well, somebody flipped another weather switch. For so long we couldn't get out of the 60s and now we're going to be in the mid-to-high 80s (if the weather people have the right info here). You know the weather is crazy when the national news starts carrying weather related stories as frequently as they have. We don't seem to have any real transitions any more. It goes from winter to spring to summer suddenly--nothing gradual at all. As usual, we seem to be well situated. The rain has been heavy enough that I haven't had to water our garden containers and not so heavy they get flooded out. No power outages or wind damage so far.

Not much else to say today. I have some fabric calling me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. We have rain here this morning. It was heavy enough that the rain alone woke me. Thankfully, we didn't get any hail. The weather people have predicted a string of dry days. I hope it comes to pass but the weather has surprised even the most experienced of the meteorologists.

I have added a new link to my side bar. We have cats and the melamine scare of last year had us all very nervous. I am always looking for sources of information on cat foods.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Morning. And, yes, it is a good morning even though we have rain and have had a few bouts of thunder. I planted the last of my planned garden yesterday: broccoli and the next succession of lettuce. I don't have to water any of the garden. Hopefully we will have some sun later before the next run of showers tonight.

I found this little article on the my trip through the news and blog listings on my google alerts. My own assessment of the situation: this company wants to break the union and has chosen to do so by misusing the immigration laws. I notice that the company never produced the letter they say triggered the termination so I think that the company's veracity on this matter is very suspect. Especially when they refuse to reinstate workers who provide evidence of valid social security numbers. Further evidence of their real intention comes up later in the article: the workers hired to replace the terminated union members at less pay, no benefits and on part time status no matter how many hours they work. I wonder what the farm grown (or processes) and whether I can eliminate those products from my life.

I just did a little research on what products they make. It is mainly processed foods, which we don't buy anymore, and food service products. The most recognizable brand I saw was 'Adobo' which had been advertised here somewhat infrequently.

And here is another entry in the 'Companies (or Industries) Behaving Badly' Sweepstakes by way of Archcrone at The Crone Speaks. As I said before the scam that is being perpetrated by the health insurance industry and their tame politicos simply hides the fact that no one has any real choice in the matter of insurance. To define the matter as one of choice hides that fact. And to define the matter as one of capitalism vs. socialism (or communism) simply means that we, as a society, seem to favor some privileged entities' excessive profits over the majority of less privileged people's health and very lives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hello, All. It is foggy this morning. They say we should have a dry day after it burns off. We got a nice bit of rain yesterday afternoon and last night. Nice for me since I didn't have to water the gardens. Not so nice for the Chicago baseball fans who went to see a Cubs-White Sox game that was cancelled because of the rain. Hopefully it will be dry enough for me to get the broccoli and next course of lettuce in. It is still unseasonably cool. At least it isn't cold.

Did anyone catch the news story this morning where British Airways is 'asking' its employees to work for free 'to save the company'? It is so nice that the CEO is willing to work the month of July for free but I wonder if he is going to go around to all of the people his employees have to pay (landlords, utility companies, etc.) and ask them to forego those payments (or whatever proportion of them the time off would equal.) Of course, it is nice they are 'asking.' Walmart did something similar for years without asking. Anyone remember the law suit filed because workers were locked in the stores, forced to work through lunches and breaks or after hours off the clock?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good Morning, again. We had an absolutely beautiful day yesterday. Another (rare) day at or just above 80 degrees. The weather people are saying we will have a week of higher temperatures (near just or above normal) with afternoon thundershowers. That is a pattern we expect for early summer. But then nothing has been normal and the weather forecasts seem to change almost hour to hour.

There may be a limit to what the Federal Government thinks is too big to fail. According to MSNBC this morning California has requested aid and the Obama Administration has (for now, at least) refused. I can sympathize with California because I see the same problems in Illinois. We may be having the same problems here in Indiana but the news media we get comes out of Chicago so we actually get better information about what is going on next door. They are fighting about how to close a double digit billion dollar budget hole and no one in any political party has had the political guts to make any hard decision. The Republicans want to cut the so-called fat without defining what is or is not fat and don't want to alienate their constituents by supporting increased taxes. The Democrats want increased taxes without cutting the programs their constituents depend on which includes a lot of programs very vulnerable people who have already been severely impacted really need. Given the looming elections next year no one wants to do anything they might be held accountable for and so are doing nothing. There is also a question of fairness. After all, California does have one very large economy--large enough to impact the world economy. We bailed out AIG and other financial giants on the premise that their failure would damage the world economy and now we balk at helping California? Where does this end? As anyone who has stopped in here from time to time knows, I have always been skeptical of the stimuli and bailouts. One of the reasons is we don't know where it will stop and I seriously doubt that, now that we have started, it will stop. Until the country is bankrupt and has to stop.

Found this blog post this morning. It gets bad when companies shave an inch off of lasagna noodles but I am not surprised. About a month ago we noticed that the juice bottlers have reduced most of their containers. Instead of 64 ounces (half-gallon) they are now mostly 48 ounces. Of course, the price is still almost the same as it was for the old standard volume. We also were very unhappy to find that the cake mixes don't make the nice 9-inch square cakes any more. They don't even make a nice 8-inch square. We have gone back to making cakes from scratch since all of our recipes are old ones that haven't been downsized. And we are buying more frozen juices. Those make up 48+ ounces for half to two-thirds the price. I do hate being snookered.

Well, it looks like this is really catching on. First the Obama's at the White House and now Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. I seem to be in very good company.

Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts had a link to a color/personality test. Here is the results of mine:
Your rainbow is intensely shaded indigo, red, and brown.

What is says about you: You are a deep thinking person. You appreciate energetic people. You get bored easily and want friends who will keep up with you. Friends count on you for being honest and insightful.

Find the colors of your rainbow at spacefem.com.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone. We have had a couple of relatively dry days--sunny even if unseasonably cool. I think everyone is hoping for a bit more summer weather. My tomatoes are all blooming well as are two of my peppers. The ones I started from seed are lagging a bit but I think they are also hoping for more warmth. We are so looking forward to salads and sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce this time next month.

Barbara Ehrenreich had this op-ed piece in the New York Times this morning. She is right on several points. The real poor have disappeared from the news media. Unless, of course, they can be woven into a story that supports conservative notions that the poor deserve what they get because of their inborn flaws. Her observations on the labor market developments for the last decade or more are also right on. I wonder how many observers remember the last recession and the accounts in the news of a 'jobless recovery?' I do. And I think that this recovery will be equally jobless.

Chris In Paris has an accurate take on the debate over health care reform. So the price for some form of limited expansion of coverage and minor reduction in price is to be bought by limiting malpractice liability? We give up the right to sue (perhaps) incompetent or negligent doctors and hospitals so the insurance industry won't take a hit in their pocketbooks to get really miniscule (if not illusory) improvements in cost and availability. Worse has been how the insurance, pharma, and AMA has been allowed to frame the debate as one of individuals losing powers of choice if the Federal Government enters the mix. Look, people, most of us have NO choice now. If we are lucky enough to have a job with health insurance attached we don't have any real choice. We take what the company gives us, if we can afford it. If we can't afford the company policy we have to try to find our own. No choice there!! If we can't find a program we can afford, we do without. Again--no choice. For the 47+ million people without health insurance--NO CHOICE!! The only people who won't have a choice under a government sponsored public option will be those who don't have a choice now--the uninsured. But at least we will have health care. Which we don't now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  We had a fairly nice day yesterday--after the clouds cleared out.  We got a couple of brief cloud bursts.  Although it looked impressive from inside it didn't rain enough to more than moisten the gardens.  I will have to water thoroughly this evening.

MaryContrary's gardens are growing nicely, thank you.  Here are some of the latest pictures.  

The blue tubs (30 gallons each) are the latest additions. So far I have yardlong pole beans, acorn squash, zucchini, snap peas, lavender, double petunias and lavender in them.  I will be putting in more snap peas this weekend.  The red tub has gypsy peppers, lettuce, and more yard long beans and the Tidy cat container next to it has a false alarm pepper and portulaca.  My first snap peas are in the pots and will be replace soon.

In this corner we put all of the tomatoes and the rest of the peppers and lettuce.  As you can see from the leading picture we already have tomatoes blooming.  We were not surprised by the one shown in the picture.  That is the early 4th of July.  But the late season Better Boy is also blooming.  Just for the heck of it we bought Mexibelle and Chocolate Beauty bell pepper plants to try out.  Our little fairy eggplants are still hanging on but they simply haven't thrived--yet.  Since they ain't dead yet we will leave them in and hope.

I found this little item on Forbes.com this morning.  It goes along with comments Mom and I made over coffee.  The news these days is all about jobs 'saved' or jobs 'created' with the various programs to use the stimulus money.  Chrysler goes into bankruptcy and the U.S. Government 'invests' $80 billion (when all is finished) to 'save' less than 1/3 of the jobs Chrysler once provided.  How much per job is that costing us?  We reminisced about stories over the last two decades in which local and state governments provided millions in tax abatements and infrastructure improvements, etc., to lure companies and the jobs they promised only to have the companies move away in less than 3 years.  It seemed to us that the math never added up even when the so called multiplier effects were included.  The number of jobs and the revenue generated never quite justified the public costs.  The Forbes article raises another question:  why should public money be put into businesses to 'create' jobs in industries that produce for a glutted market?  If your business have produced too many goods, whether chickens or vehicles, why support the production of even more of those goods?  There has to come a time when the better strategy is to cut your loses.

James Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation post this morning parallels these notions.  Perhaps our failure to recognize the situation we are in is exactly why we aren't cutting our losses.  We hope that things will return to what we had thought of as normal and most of us are unable to think outside that box.

John Aravosis at Americablog makes some observations on the current quality of Republican intellectual leadership and gives a link to another excellent blogger, Eric Bohlert at Media Matters.  Engaging these people on the field of ideas makes me feel like I am engaged in an intellectual battle with an unarmed opponent and/or as though I need a long hot shower to get clean of the slime being thrown in my direction.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good Morning again.  Well, it is morning.  However we have cloudy skies and cool temps--again.  This see-saw of above average temps for a week followed by above average temps for a week is getting old.  I would really like to have just average temps.  And I would love it if everything dried out so I can get the rest of my plants in the containers.  Then I can think about what to get to fill out the space.  We doubled our space on an impulse so all of the plants I started from seed and the few we bought would have fit in the old space comfortably.  Now I am scrambling.  Oh, well.  At least everything is doing very well so far.

I found this Chicago Tribune article this morning.  GM is closing 14 plants and just axed more than 800 dealers ( unless the bankruptcy judge does something both fair and surprising) but NOTHING at all changes in the company's Middle East operations.  Tell me again why we are bankrolling this company to the tune of about $70 billion including the money we are expected to fork over after the filing is completed?

And then there is this, by way of John Aravosis at Americablog, from a company that should be the poster child example for 'Bailed Out Companies Behaving Badly.'  But what should we expect from AIG?  Of course, those poor executives who made all of those bad decisions REALLY do need the charity more!!  Worse, the company and its offshoot foundation were bankrolled by former AIG execs from their own money not AIGs.  But because it paid dividends and bonuses to the AIG execs who founded it AIG believes it is entitled to the whole swag?  WTF!!!  

The third example of companies behaving badly also comes from John Aravosis.  Prime example of why we love to hate insurance companies.  I think we are going to have to upgrade the old saying about being 'nickled and dimed' to death.  It is no longer so penny ante.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Good Morning, Everyone.  Yes, I'm back.  I finally finished the baby quilts and have delivered them.  For the last week I have concentrated on getting them done, negotiating my fee with the recipient, and recovering.  As a consequence I have been neglecting the blog.  I haven't even read many of the blogs I normally visit.  So here is what I neglected the world for.  I started with the sample block on the left and then created the variations below.