Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Morning, again, everyone. We have nice bright sun for another day. My goodness but I feel spoiled. In spite of that we still have temps that struggle to break 20 degrees. We have snow on our patio from the last snowfall but neither of us is in any hurry to shovel it. We don't have to go out until Monday. Till then we are still hibernating.

I saw a little item about three weeks ago that got me to thinking. I planned to check out what I needed to get together to apply for Social Security this time next year. Then I saw a question and answer page that talked about surviving spouse benefits. That discussion indicated that a spouse over the age of 60 may qualify even if divorced so long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years. The information I found on line also looked promising and the phone call to the local office sounded even more promising. So Tuesday I will take everything in and see if it comes to fruition.

The conversations Thursday on the iPad amused me a bit. One of the women anchors (I forget which) kept asking if people 'really needed' the iPad. She must have asked that question half a dozen times before one of the men remarked that 'need' wasn't the major factor here. The real master factor in the equation was how badly people 'wanted' it. The mere fact that she asked the question reveals something of what pundits have called the 'new normal' while the man's response shows he is still thinking in the old normal. For a long time now Americans have not considered need but rather want. Being flush with money and/or credit we simply bought what we wanted when we saw it without any regard to what we actually needed. Now that both money and credit are tight we have to take a second (and, maybe, a third or fourth) look at what we want and judge it by a different yard stick--whether it fulfills a genuine need and whether that need has to be filled at that cost. We look at the iPad and it falls into the 'cute but...' category which means we won't be getting one any time soon, if ever. I guess a lot of other consumer gadgets are going to all into that category and that we are not the only ones doing that bit of calculus.

We put in our seed order online with Burpees yesterday. Yes, I have spring fever and am looking out at our snow covered containers with longing for warmer weather. My sister gave us a little terrarium style starting tray they bought and never used. I will try it out this spring. After considerable cogitation on what to order I finally settled on heirloom varieties of tomatoes (Brandywine and Big Rainbow), beets (bull's blood--the foliage should be visually pleasing as well as edible), and spinach (bloomsdale longstanding). We were not happy with the 4th of July tomatoes--too small, too few, and not significantly earlier than the others. We loved the Fresh Salsa tomatoes last year so it will join the other two. We still have some pepper seeds left from last year (Gypsy, Ancho Poblano, and False Alarm) so we will go with those and will also try to plant the seeds I saved from the Mexibelle. That one is questionable since it is a hybrid pepper so it may not sprout and, if it does, it may not produce the kind of pepper we got last year. We have plenty of lettuce seeds from Burpee's heat wave mix. I also have sweet pea, nasturtiums, dwarf marigolds, and viola seeds. I almost forgot--we also ordered stevia seeds so that will get a try out. We will see what happens.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. It is cold, cold, cold. Yesterday we didn't break out of the teens even though we did get some nice sunshine. We are hibernating.

Well, has everyone seen the new iPad? A lot of ballyhoo and it is interesting. However, I am no longer one of those people who want every new toy coming out. Mom's first question when we saw the excerpts of Job's introduction of the device was 'can we connect it to a printer?' The other problem I have is the tie-in to AT&T. I simply don't like that company. I have Verizon and have had very good service with them. I won't change to get a new toy. We would look at the iPad if we were replacing our computers (which we are not since we had to do that a couple of months ago). I imagine that when we are forced to replace the computers we will give it another look. For us the iPad would be attractive if we could consolidate all computer and phone functions into the same device. However, here is an article on the iPad which follows some of the morning coffee conversations here. The tv news this morning noted an AT&T announcement that the company is shifting a lot of money into capital upgrades after a rising number of complaints about its service with the iPhone customers. It comes down to a matter of numbers. After the telephone and automobiles were introduced it took decades before those items became ubiquitous in our social landscape. With the iPhone millions of customers had to have the device immediately and that was on top of the other smart phone customers with other band hungry devices.

CNBC carried almost continuous coverage of the Bernanke confirmation votes. Yes--that is plural. They required a cloture vote with 60 affirmative (minimum) to cut off the 'debate' and then a separate vote to confirm. The most asinine comment that came out of the whole thing was from the one senator (sorry, I don't remember his name) who lambasted Bernanke to hell and back and, then, said he would vote for to confirm because he was afraid of who Obama would appoint if Bernanke was not confirmed. First, Bernanke was originally a Republican appointee. Now, because he is nominated by a Democrat he has terminal B.O.??? Give me a break!! Second, if Bernanke would be such a disaster why not reject the renomination and then stonewall the process to get someone you like better. It would not matter who Obama nominated given that a super majority is required to cut off debate and move it to a confirmation vote. That sounded like someone trying to have his cake and eat it too. Which was confirmed by the CNBC breakdown of who was voting for and against Bernanke. Republicans facing re-election voted overwhelmingly against the nomination.

Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By has an excellent post on Crabby Old Lady's reaction to the State of the Union. We do need bold and vigorous leadership and we haven't had it, not even from Obama. It appears to me that he is trying to stay above the fray hoping to somehow achieve that nirvana of 'bipartisanship' he has been seeking. We need a president who will get down in the fight and call some of the obstructionists out as the 'economic royalists' they are. FDR was willing to do that but Obama hasn't been. I agree with Ronni that we need patience but we need something to be patient for and I haven't seen that. Instead, everything I see convinces me that people like me are being written off as expendable and I resent it. I can't believe I am the only one.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Good Thursday Morning to all of you. We have a stiffish breeze today with some weak sunshine. We have had brief sightings of the sun between overcast and snow. Thankfully not much of the latter. However we are back in the deep freeze. Temps in the low 20s for highs with wind chill in the negative numbers.

I didn't catch more than the last 20 minutes of President Obama's State of The Union speech last night. What I did see (hear) really did not impress me: the military brass sitting stone faced at the mention of overturning Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the Republicans sitting on their hands at the mention of the idiocy of requiring a super-majority to get anything done, the Supreme Court sitting righteously silent at the mention of their decision to jettison the caps on corporate campaign contributions. Bottom line--I see a reasonable man confronted with a stone wall of unreasonable opposition. Nor did I see the Republican response. What was on the news this morning was what I expected--opposition to the cost of any but security and military appropriations or bail outs for big business. Frankly, the political situation makes me nauseous.

Charles Hughes Smith at oftwominds makes some good points and--yes, I have done the math and have come up with similar results. The first time I did that math was when the mainstream media touted the oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Area during the last Presidential campaign cycle. The estimated reserves would only last the U.S. (maybe) three months at the level of consumption of that time if we could get every last drop out. Smith's point on the reliability of reserve estimates is also very well taken. I don't trust either governments or companies when it comes to data they provide. Too much incentive to put the rosiest spin possible on it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hello, again, Everyone. Hope the day will be a good one for you. I plan to do some stitching most of it. Remember the old bumper sticker that said 'a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work'? That is equally applicable to stitching.

Anyway, Archcrone, at The Crone Speaks, very eloquently expresses my conclusions concerning the mess that has been made of Health Care Reform. I, also, vote a resounding NO on the question of mandates. But then I have come to feel that much of the system has become extortionate. Or threatens to become so. Consider the perverse notion that a commission deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as a 'deficit reduction' measure. Of course, they aren't talking about the 800+ military bases of varying sizes) world wide. Nor are talking about legislators who make 4 times what the 'average' American family makes in salary alone (not including speaking fees, book deals and any other income them might have on the side).

Robert Reich has a good take on the current political situation. It reflects my own thoughts. Obama was elected on a promise of change, a hope for change. What change was never specified. Now many groups whose hopes haven't materialized are angry and lashing out. Unfortunately, the Republicans are taking comfort in the notion that the nation's voters have seen the light and will come to them for answers. Sorry, they are peddling the same old conservative nostrums that favor big business over the rest of us. The Democrats are scrambling to get ahead of the populist fervor. However, their leadership is not really aligned with populism. The deeds have never matched the rhetoric.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Morning, All. I won't say 'good' because the news is already depressing. I just found this almost first thing this morning. The article by James Ridgeway in the Baltimore Sun has links to the Washington Post story. I have written about this notion of appointing a commission to deal with the budget deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and other such programs. It was and is a coward's way out for our Congress Critters. My only hope is that given the structure of the commission it will be in as much of a deadlock as our legislature is. Unfortunately, given Obama's track record I am afraid he will appoint a couple of Democrats who are Republican except for the label.

It is Friday now. Not much has changed. We get a bit of sun and everyone's mood lifts a bit and then it gets overcast again. About half of the snow we had has disappeared but we are supposed to get more over the weekend along with cooler temperatures.

Along with the potential 'Deficit Reduction Committee' (I put that in quotes because it should really be named 'Let's Get Rid of Social Security and Screw Everyone Who Has Paid Into It' Committee) was another story in which the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down the regulations on corporate political donations. Susan Albert reminded everyone that Clarence Thomas (who voted with the majority) had been a Monsanto corporate lawyer before he became a judge and then a justice. I would dearly love to see the court or, barring that, our legislative representatives do away with that pernicious fiction that corporations are 'individuals' entitled to most of the rights of individuals. Corporate speech is not the same as individual speech and, because corporations enjoy the advantage over individuals of being deathless, have accumulated massive amounts of money they would much rather give to candidates who will push their agenda than to the workers who made their money.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. It is my day to go the the public library since I have books due. I find that I finish far fewer books that I used to. Not too many years ago I would have slogged through any book I got my hands on no matter what. No longer. It isn't that I am no longer interested in the topics. Rather I have read most of the information and conclusions elsewhere and either I already agree or they don't present any new argument or data to change my mind. Why waste the time. So I got four books this last time and didn't finish any of them. Maybe I will have better luck with new ones.

I really am about to resign my charter membership in the News Junkies Club. Perhaps I should start a News Junkies Anonymous club. The treatment of the Massachusetts special election has had me shouting obscenities at the news writers and readers. I don't know how often I have heard that "the Democrats have lost their majority.' Really??? Scott describes himself as the 41st Republican. Last I heard 59 out of 100 is still a majority and that would belong to the Democrats. Even I you remove the two so-called Independents (I think it was 2 last I heard) you still come up with 57 Democrats/2 Independents/41 Republicans. The Democrats still have a majority. The problem is that while the Republican have presented a nearly united front the Democrats are acting like Democrats--each off in his own self-important Never-Never Land. Frankly, I don't see that this makes a particle of difference as far as governing this country is concerned. We still have grid-lock.

Worse yet is the speculation of what it all means and no one in the media is asking whether both sides in the debate are misreading the results. The Republicans want to believe that Americans en masse are rejecting Obama's agenda and coming around to their way of thinking. The Democrats want to believe that most Americans approve of them but have been spooked by the scare tactics Republicans have so excelled at since the beginning of the Cold War and simply improved at since 9/11. They are both mistaken. What no Democrat wants to acknowledge is that Obama was elected on a promise of Change (with a capital C). But that Change meant different things to different people and not all who supported Change in general supported the change in the particular. There are a lot of people out there punishing the Democrats for having failed to deliver by voting Republican because they have no other means of expressing their displeasure.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hi, Everyone. The weather has warmed a bit--not enough to shed the heavy coat, hooded scarf, and gloves. But about half of the snow we accumulated over the last 3 weeks or so has melted. We still have some small mountains of it in the parking lot and some small hills of it covering our planters. Last night and earlier this morning we had freezing fog. It wasn't thick enough to hinder driving so we got our errands done. The effect on the trees and shrubs was really pretty--like someone had taken a fine brush and coated the tips of branches, evergreen needles and the remaining pampas grass fronds with silver.

This little article at the Energy Bulletin (by way of the Oil Drum) is very interesting. For sometime nuclear power boosters have been touting the French model as one to follow. Maybe--but then again, maybe not. I have several problems with the notion of expanding nuclear power generation. The waste generated is highly radioactive for hundreds of human lifetimes. Current nuclear plants have accumulated massive amounts of it on site because they have no where to put it. The Yucca Mountain site has been delayed for the last two decades and may never come on line. And there seem to be no alternatives. Even if it did come on line, who can guarantee safe transport of the waste to the storage site? The Republicans in the Senate and House have raised holy hell about the fiscal debts we are bequeathing to new generations into the distant future but they emit not a peep about the radioactive waste we are bequeathing the future even if we don't build another plant. Frankly the latter scares me far more than the latter. Then there is the problem of continued maintenance. We have a problem now maintaining the electric grid, the sewer and water systems, the roads, the bridges, and the levees. I am not at all sure I want to see what would happen here if there was a similar strike over here. (My major quibble with the author is his description of America as 'monoethnic' and homogeneous. I think I see where he is coming from but I am not sure the argument should be taken as far as he tries to take it.)


I had intended to post the item above last night but forgot about doing it. I am now working on Tuesday, Jan 19. They say we are supposed to get some sun later. I hope so. The January thaw continues. I can see patches of grass out front where we get the most direct sun. I am counting the days until we get above 45 consistently and I can put the heavy coat away.

It has been a bit busy already. I just finished pouring 8 scented candles. Everything I used except for the scent wax (only a small amount needed) was recycled. I have years of candle ends I have accumulated and a lot of the glass candle holders. I absolutely hate getting rid of things and anyone who burns commercial candles knows how much wax is left. So I now have 8 new candles, 4 each of rose and lilac. I also used old votive candles, many of which have lost their original scent, at the centers.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hello, Everyone. It has been a lazy day today. Have puttered around with all kinds of things but haven't finished reading my e-mails, google alerts or blog list yet. Two of the cats needed a bath. They took it better than I thought they would. They are sleeping off the upset and drying off.

I think I remarked sometime in the past few posts that we decided to start grinding our own beef and pork. Mom brought out the oldest of the roasts and round steaks we had, thawed them and ground them up yesterday. Just looking at the result I would guess that the result was equivalent to the 91% hamburger (the leanest available in the supermarket). None of the cuts cost us more than $2.50/lb but the product would cost about $4/lb.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. The news has, of course, been full of stories on the Haitian earthquake relief/rescue efforts. Then there are some other stories that should get better coverage but I rather doubt they will. Like this one from Common Dreams it deals with historical trends that contributed to the catastrophe but which few will want to even think about. But I wonder how often such histories contribute to the current problems. I have read about similar patterns of development intensifying famines in Africa, crop failures in Africa and Asia, drought conditions in various places. We have shown intense historical myopia consistently throughout our history. And we have shown an unwillingness to believe that, perhaps, our much loved theories of economic development simply don't work as we want them to. The attitude reminds me of a scene in the movie Independence Day. The first nuclear bomb fails to stop the alien invaders it was dropped on and the President calls back all of the other bombers while the Secretary of Defense protests that the others 'might have more luck.' Which reminds me of a particularly apt definition of insanity: trying something that hasn't worked again and again hoping for a different outcome.

I have been reading a good deal lately about various 'slow' movements. Last year 60 Minutes did a segment on the slow food movement. Just recently I found (and joined) a new group on Facebook called 'Slow Cloth.' Bloggher has this post which gives a pretty comprehensive view of the phenomenon. I have a lot of sympathy for these movements. I hate being rushed. When I read a job announcement that touts multi-tasking and fast paced I am totally turned off. I like to work more slowly and think about what I am doing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. Yippee!!! We have bright sun and blue skies for the first time in a while. Hope it stays. I do like the change of seasons but winter is the one season I wish were much briefer.

I am also glad that the latest season of public mea culpas has ended. I really don't care about any of them. Harry Reid merely said, in what he (silly man!!) thought was a private setting what many thought. I care even less about McGuire's confession and apology. I don't care how tearfully it was delivered and I don't care if he gets into the hall of fame. And the apology I care least about is Blogo's 'blacker than Obama" apology. The sincerity of the last two is totally underwhelming. I absolutely resent the ridiculous amount of time the news media spent on these non-issues.


Well, it is now the day after I started this post. That seems to be the pattern for now. There isn't much to say about the political mess that hasn't been said already. Especially now that the primary silly season has started in earnest. We got a bit of a laugh yesterday when we saw one of the Republican commercials. The candidate not only wants no new taxes but claims to have a plan to cut taxes. Mom was working a crossword puzzle and looking at a 3 letter word for 'no new taxes.' Are you stumped? Answer was 'lie.' Now that was not only clever but too true.

Then there was my 2 cents worth on the matter. I asked who the (insert derogatory noun) plans to push under the nearest bus. Does anyone remember when (under Dear Ronnie's regime) they reformed welfare to workfare and pushed mothers with small children into the workforce by providing state sponsored child care? Now some of those child care providers are closing because the STATE hasn't paid them. I will let you provide your best guesses on the looming situation.

We just had the sun come out. My goodness, I don't know what to do with myself. Sun two days in a row!!!

The earthquake in Haiti, coming just days after a more moderate one on the west coast, brought up the subject of weird weather and related phenomena over coffee this morning. It started with the massive snow falls of January and continued to the deep freeze of February followed by the wet and cold spring and the dry and cold summer. Oh, and I can't forget the dust storms that have come up from Australia to our southwest to the middle east and northern China. The recent blizzards in North China and the Koreas, England and our mid-west just continues the pattern. Georgia went from a multi-year drought that almost had Atlanta sucking mud to drenching rains that ended the harvest seasons before they actually got started. And there are the freezes that have threatened the strawberries in south Alabama and the citrus in Florida, and then sent temperatures to the low 40s in the Caribbean. Did I say weird? I think I did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. It was supposed to stop snowing but we have had more flurries overnight. I am getting very tired of it. Part of my problem is that I just got my new Burpees catalog and I really want spring to get here. I have already asked my local sources when they will be putting out their new seeds. Most say mid-February. Can't get here soon enough.

Lois asked about my kitties and how they are taking the snowy weather. Actually not to badly. Kuma has always been the most insistent about going out but he hasn't even tried very hard since the snow started. He simply doesn't like getting is paws cold and wet. The others haven't been that interested for a couple of years but then at nearly 19 years old the only things that get them roused is their regular feedings of canned food and a warm lap in the evenings. They get very demanding on those items.

The Red Tape Chronicles has a good post on what to expect from your credit card companies this year. It is a good read that provides some things to look for and sums up the real effect of the 'reforms' Congress passed last year as the last of the provisions comes on line in about six weeks: 'Congress gives and the companies take a way.'

I don't know what has been happening to Google and Facebook but I either can't get on at all or parts are not loading right. I guess all I can do is wait them out.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hello, everyone. It is still snowing here. It is supposed to stop but they promised that before. I don't think we have had a single full day free of snow since Christmas. They (the weather people) have also promised us a couple of days this week above freezing. We'll see.

I found this little item to be filed in the 'Move Your Money' or 'When Will These Guys Get a Clue' folders. I think the key conclusion is that although Citi and other mega banks a too big to fail (at least in the judgement of our political and financial leaders), they are also too big to succeed. They are simply so big the right hand simply doesn't know what the left is doing.

Robert Reich has a nice post on the probable results if the Senate's plan for paying for the health care reform plan (IF they can actually get a reconciled bill out of the joint committee. The Senate want's to impose a 40% excise tax on what they call 'Cadillac' plans. The key here is that the definition rests on the cost of the plan not what the plan provides. I have the nightmare vision of a female nurse who pays a higher premium for her basic service plan (because of she risks of getting pregnant or contracting a job related health problems) getting hit with this additional tax because.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good Morning, Everyone. There hasn't been much to say lately. Everything seems much of a muchness, as that silly old saying goes. Nothing is happening in Washington. I am not sure if that is a good thing over all or a bad thing. The Republicans and their allies (read: Liberman et al.) stymie what ever they can, snipe whenever they can and sanctimoniously pretend they are doing it for the good of the country. The Democrats aren't any better and we have a Democratic President who can't see that bi-partisanship requires two partners to get anywhere. The economy is still in the toilet and I don't expect it to improve (at least at my level) any time soon. Almost everything any of the mainstream pundits say about politics or economics seem so out of touch that I wonder what they have been smoking, or ingesting. They seem to be on a perpetual high.

Oh, well, enough carping. We have had snow most days since before Christmas and are getting more for most of this week. The weather people think we may get near normal temps sometime next week. Hope so. And we hope the forecast for Sunday is accurate since we have a birthday party that day--the one we thought was last Sunday is actually next Sunday. We put it on the calendar wrong.

I found this on MSNBC this morning. We caught a snippet on the morning news--which was about all the local news readers provided. Why should anyone be surprised that such a large percentage of American workers are unhappy? Even the article only scratches the surface of the problem.

The New American has a post that links to a Washington Post article I saw a little while ago. Any one ever wonder what happens to what the power generating companies and others accumulate in the scrubbers that take pollutants out of the smoke they generate? I didn't until I read this. Evidently it accumulates into a synthetic gypsum and they are piling up a really large amount of the stuff. Some they have made into wall board for construction so, if you have done any remodeling or building lately, you may have it in your home. But the demand for wall board is, evidently, not sufficient to take up all of what they produce. So now the EPA is encouraging farmers to spread the stuff as fertilizer on their fields. Instead of falling as acid rain all that sulfur, lead, antimony, arsenic and other heavy metals will be spread on the fields as fertilizer??? Makes a lot of sense doesn't it.

Mike The Mad Biologist links to another story, from the New York Times, that I read a couple of days ago. I didn't write anything at the time because I am really at a loss for words on so many levels. Late last fall, Mom and I decided that we were going to grind our own hamburger after reading about where the hamburger was coming from. Noticing also that the price of the cuts of beef and pork we would be using was equal to the price of the hamburger that was almost 30% added fat and fillers also helped move us in that direction. This simply reinforces that decision yet again. But I have had a very nasty thought--what about the pet food? Does any of this shit get into that?? Anybody got an answer?

Paul Farrell has an interesting post on MarketWatch today. If you are an economic optimist it just might make you reconsider.