Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Morning, all. The weather people tell us that the sun is going to shine today and the temps will get up to about 50. They also think that we may get an 80 degree day towards the end of the week. Yippee!!!! I looked at my little starter tray this morning and things look good there. I need to transplant the spinach and tomatoes. We were trying to figure out what to do with the tomatoes and peppers we plan to give my brother. The cottage cheese cartons we keep for transplants are too small. We are going to try cutting the top off the cardboard juice containers and putting the plants in them. I do like using what we have available rather than buying new.

HuffingtonPost linked to this article this morning and it should be enough to get anyone's dander up. Then again we shouldn't be too surprised that the insurance guys are parsing the health care reforms in such a way that they can continue to rake in the premiums and find excuses not to pay. My own feeling: we should treat banks and insurance companies as 'public utilities' and regulate them just like most areas do power companies. They have become necessities for modern life just like power companies did a hundred years ago. Some areas have tried to 'privatize' them but with little success. Most states regulate them so they can't arbitrarily deny service nor charge through the nose. We need to do something similar to banks and insurance.

Frank Rich has a good op-ed piece in the New York Times today that came to me by way of Susan Albert on Facebook. I think he nails this one on the head. Some 25 years ago I saw demographic predictions which projected a non-hispanic white minority in this country by 2050. It may come sooner. I don't think it is any accident that one of the stories last night and early this morning on the news covered FBI raids on a 'Christian militia' group that are alleged to have made plans to attack Muslims. We had better fasten our seat belts because this is going to be a bumpy ride. (Update: as of the Monday evening and Tuesday morning news the group planned to kill a police officer and then detonate IEDs at the funeral sometime in April hoping to spark a general uprising against the government.)

Good Tuesday to everyone. Not too much has changed here. Still waiting for some warmer temperatures. Instead of gardening I have been doing some needlework trying to get a couple of the UFOs cleared out. I did get the lace trim attached on a table scarf and hope to get a table cloth finished over the next week or so. The only way I will get this sewing area cleaned up is to clear some of the backlog. Why is it so much easier to start something than to finish it.

Evidently the recently publicized position of the health insurance industry on covering kids with pre-existing conditions (see above) has caught the attention of the White House. According to HuffingtonPost, Secretary Sebelius plans to send a letter telling them that the regulations she plans to formulate will mandate that they do issue the insurance. I love the title: It's Over, You Lost, Stop Looking For Loopholes.

We have all seen the food safety recalls but this is one of the few stories I have seen on food 'fraud,' or selling a food as something it is not. It is interesting that the FDA really cannot deal with this because they lack the manpower and resources. As one spokesman noted 'if it doesn't kill people' they don't investigate. Major companies like Kraft and Heinz have to deal with the problem from two angles--they paid premium prices for a substandard product and they may take a recall hit it turns out to be dangerous to the consumer. Little wonder they are being more aggressive in the matter. The consumer--well the individual is likely to file the matter in his brain so that next time he won't buy that brand. Unless, of course, it damages his health. This is yet another example of the downside of globalization--one often doesn't know where the products one buys comes from, what they are made from, or what contaminants they carry with them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good Sunday Morning, everyone. We did get some rain over night but the temps did not drop too far over night. I hope the sun will shine and it will be warm enough to get some of the trellises up today. You don't have to get too exhausted thinking about my gardening, Lois. Even in the height of the growing season when I have to check for bugs and do more trimming, etc., it doesn't take more than a couple of hours a day. I really like the container system though it is somewhat limited in space. Most of the experts say that you can grow anything except corn but I wonder if that is more a limitation of the size of most containers. I haven't had the itch to find out yet.

I found this little item on HuffingtonPost this morning. They got it from the New York Times. Several things struck me about the story. First, I wonder what percentage of the Tea Party members depend on government programs for their life lines. The article features several. Further, I wonder how many have looked at the number of their compatriots who advocate ending the Social Security and Medicare benefits they depend on? They aren't necessarily for less over all government; they are against the corporate socialism that has grown up during this latest economic downturn. But there was another item that hit me: the comments from Diana Reimer who said that with the Tea Party Movement she 'felt respected.' I can relate. It wasn't often during my working life that I felt respected, emotionally satisfied, or well compensated. That is as corrosive to one's spirit as being extremely short of money.

I also found Jeffrey McQueen's comments interesting. He blames the government for the loss of American jobs, including his own. Again, I can relate to this argument. Both parties have pushed so-called free trade agreements which have made it easier for companies to take jobs overseas. Problem, again, is that one of the two parties who were very committed to those agreements is now trying very hard to harness the movement for their own political gain. What makes Mr. McQueen think that, if the Republicans ride to power on Tea Party discontent, they will change a philosophy which has contributed to his troubles?

My last observation on this article: I have long noticed the growing and increasingly bitter distrust of the government. I have shared it. My distrust of politicians and government is one reason why I was very skeptical of Obama's promises. It is also why I spend time looking at politics; not because I think I can change what is going on but because I want to see what the bastards are doing so I can mitigate the impact on my life.

I understand your dislike of generic drugs, Lois. I often wonder if they are really equal to the name brand. I know one case in which they are certainly not. My mother takes Synthyroid and when she questioned her doctor about why he insisted on the name brand he told her that the generic tends to give false readings on the blood tests. Having just spent a year trying to get her thyroid medication balanced out again she gets the Synthyroid and pay extra because it isn't 'formulary' on her drug plan. We would like to see the rules changed so that drug plans have to allow you to get the drugs your doctor prescribes for you. Unfortunately, can and do insist on the cheaper alternative of generics whether the physician has reasons for prescribing the name brand or not.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good Thursday Morning to you all. It is raining and has been since yesterday. Nothing much but just enough that I would rather remain inside. But the weather people are predicting that we will get into the 70s by this time next week. Glory be!!!

Now for a garden update. That little shelf greenhouse has worked wonders. I have spinach, marigold, all three varieties of tomatoes, stevia and eggplant seedlings up and thriving. I will have to transplant the spinach early next week. Oh, and some portulaca seedlings are poking their leaves out also. I didn't get any of those last year. We also stopped by the Home Depot store yesterday and got a 20 gal round garbage can with a locking lid which I converted into my new compost bin this morning. I drilled lines of 5/8 in holes in the sides for air and drainage. I can easily mix the contents by tipping it on its side and rolling it back and forth on the patio. I will wash out my two other (former) compost containers and repurpose them. We also found a small short-handled spade. A full sized long-handled spade would be too big to work in my 30 gal tubs and they are much big for working comfortably with a trowel. We are supposed to get clear weather over the weekend and I plan to get the trellis pieces put in so I can put up the plastic tents over the tubs. That should warm things up nicely.

Another bit of good news is that the first Social Security check came in. That did a lot to improve our mood here. There is something very corrosive about not being so short that the little pleasures are ruthlessly put aside to say nothing about larger pleasures. We can't go hog wild but we aren't looking at being nibbled to death and we can actually plan for different contingencies.

On the issues front--I found this blog by way of Elaine of Elaine's Place. The author makes a number of points that are really well taken and reflect many of my own thoughts. The whole process has been (and is) a total embarrassment. Worse that embarrassment is likely to continue when other contentious issues are considered (like financial reform and immigration reform). And, most of the more fundamental issues are not at all addressed. Who pays but not how much they pay. It obliquely deals with the cost of insurance to business and individual consumers but not in any way does it deal with the cost of the services that insurance is supposed to provide. Nor does it deal with a major problem--medical procedures and medications peddled to the general public many of whom will then pressure their doctors for those procedures or drugs. I recently saw a news story on 'what you shouldn't ask your doctor for.' People who go into the doctor and ask for an antibiotic are likely to get it even if the antibiotic is not effective for their condition. The author of the cited blog notes that many patients with back pain want MRIs even though for 98% of them it is useless. Think about how we are whipsawed between competing studies like the ones recently released on a couple of osteoporosis drugs; one claimed that the drugs might contribute to hip fractures in long term users (5+ years) followed within days by another claiming no such result. I will say that the news I saw did a decent job of indicating the shortcomings of BOTH studies.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello, everyone. Nice and sunny again. The weather predictions keep changing and they say that now they expect snow next weekend. I hope that turns out as accurate as last weekend's snow did. We got some rain but temps were 10-15 degrees higher than they thought.

Still thinking about the health care reform act (since by now I would guess that Obama has signed it). The Republicans are trying to either get the mandates declared unConstitutional or to repeal the whole thing. I don't think they have much chance either way. Certainly they won't be able to get the repeal going until after November when they hope to have shifted some of the political power their way. I don't really like the notion of being forced to buy insurance although by the time that kicks in I will be in Medicare and I won't have a choice either way. I would much rather that the insurance companies had been forced out of most of the health insurance business totally. However, I can see one silver lining in the mandate. From what I have read the maximum fine for not having insurance is going to be $695/person. The fine is capped at 2.5% of family income. For a family that makes $50k/year that would be about $1300. Given that families of four are now faced with the about $13-15,000/year, the fine sounds downright economical. I don't know fully what the business provisions are but I have heard that small business will get a tax credit for providing employee insurance or they will have to pay a fine. I don't know the dollar amounts of either. By the way, the fine isn't much above the amount Congressmen and Senators pay now each year for their health insurance. The insurance companies are going to have to find a way to live with this and I think they will be harder pressed than ordinary Americans will be.

Unfortunately, four years is a long time for the Party of No to get up to some mischief and I can see them pecking away at the various provisions starting with the mandates. That would be a reasonable, to their small minds, tactic. After all, if you can destroy enough of the funding, you can destroy the whole thing. I don't think the Supreme Court will go along with their arguments on the Constitutionality of the mandates. After all, striking down that legislation would call into question a whole range of mandates that force people to make economic expenditures they would otherwise not make by all levels of government: taxes (of all kinds), auto insurance, vaccinations, school enrollment. That would be a royal can of worms.

I saw a discussion yesterday on CNBC of a study (sorry I forget who did the study) that concluded that in a very few short years we will have a reversal of the current job market conditions--instead of too many workers for too few jobs we will have too many jobs and not enough workers. I am skeptical as were the commentators featured on the segment but for a very different reason. I remember about 20 years ago when I decided to go for a Ph.D. and then into college teaching. It seemed like a good idea because the demographics looked promising. The WWII/Korean War veterans who went into academia back in the fifties and early sixties were going to be retiring in droves and the children of the baby boom generation (my generation) would provide another large pool of potential students that would need a lot of new teachers. Well the veterans didn't retire in the numbers projected. Not all that many slots opened up. Worse, those that did were either not filled at all or were filled by temporary instructors or were were filled with cheap part timers or teaching assistants. Colleges and universities were caught in a budget vise and trimmed costs the same way businesses did--slashing payroll. Too many of the baby boom generation--the ones they are depending on to retire--have taken a hit on their retirement savings and are hanging on to either up the amount of social security they will get or to recoup as much as possible of what they lost. Mom looked at that and had much the same skepticism I did. She retired from nursing and, during her working life, saw repeated dire warnings of shortages of nurses followed by gluts as the hospitals recruited cheaper labor from overseas and the nursing programs flooded the market with new graduates. In the one case the shortage never materialized. In the other, cheap LEGAL immigrants took the jobs before enterprising students could finish their course of study.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. It is a nice sunny morning now that the clouds have gone away. The week coming is supposed to be warmer, drier, and sunnier than forecast last week. Good. I have some prep work to do with the garden containers.

Well, the House passed the health care reform bill. I am glad it is done and would have been which ever way it went. I am heartily sick of all of the vitriol and venom. I don't know how it will all work out and those of you how drop by here every now and then know I am a skeptic by nature. Evidently Virginia's Attorney General has promised to sue on the grounds that the Congress lacks Constitutional authority to force people to buy health insurance. I don't think he has much of a leg to stand on here since state governments universally require people to buy auto insurance and fine them if they don't.

There are a few things about the political debate that I really resent. First, there is the tendency of some, mostly on the Republican side, to somehow equate their positions with the 'American People' thereby writing those who disagree with them out of the nation. Second, is their insistence that a majority of 'The People' agree with them. I haven't heard anyone ask me or anyone I know what we think and most of us disagree with them emphatically. Third, most of those same people claim they aren't being heard when all I have heard is their shouting, chanting, and other kinds of noise. How can they hear themselves let alone anyone else? Fourth, we have had damned few discussions of any of the issues. Instead, one party (usually Republican and/or conservative) tries to hog all of the air time and shout down his counterpart. Fellas (and Gals) shouting down the opposing side doesn't mean you have won the argument; it just shows that your parents failed to teach you any manners (or you failed to learn them). And, perhaps, you should consider that the people you are trying to steamroll have actually heard you--and aren't convinced by the few arguments you have presented.

James Kunstler at Clusterfuck Nation has, I think, an excellent take on the whole health care brouhaha. We have managed to finance, somehow (mainly through national debt), a myriad of other programs and now to say that we can't afford health care reform?? After two wars, funded largely by black magic off the books, the Dept. of Homeland (In)security, and god only knows what else, suddenly they cry about the burdens of debt we will leave the next generations. Can anyone else spell 'hypocrisy?' Like Kunstler, I don't know whether we can really afford the program but I would much rather err on the side of justice and mercy than warmongering and fear.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. We have nice bright sun for the second day in a row and the temps are going to around 60. I have been busy getting my garden containers uncovered and rearranged, sweeping the patio, and getting some seeds started. I used the little peat plug greenhouse my sister gave us last fall. I have never used one of these things before so we will see how things do. I got my three varieties of tomato, four varieties of pepper started along with marigold, spinach, viola, stevia, lavender and portulaca. I hope those last two work out this year because they were a big flop last year. Those pretty well filled the greenhouse. I will start some lettuce and a couple of other items in my egg carton starters tomorrow.

Well, it is now the 19th and the above was written on the 17th. I think I am going to have to put dates on these entries--definitely.

Our string of nice days is supposed to end later today with snow coming in over the weekend. I won't complain--after all, it is still March.

I have been busy cutting up some plastic juice and milk containers for use in the garden this year. I thought that providing some of the plants with their own mini-pots inside the large containers might protect them a bit from more vigorous and larger competitors. I have also thought that it might be a nifty way to take the garden vertical since all of the horizontal space we can comfortably use has been used. When I get it going I will take some pictures. I am postponing starting the remaining seeds until next week because I want to start getting the large containers ready. That will take some compost and considerable mixing of existing soils with the compost. Then I can plant some of the seeds in the small containers to sprout inside and later be transferred to the large containers.

I haven't done much needlework either. Again it is housekeeping that is getting in the way. I still have a long way to go to finish that task. I had some bags of plastic bags to turn into plarn. Rather than cut them up as soon as we got them I simply stored them and then had beaucoup bags to cut. Last year the static was so bad I couldn't get through one bag without fighting the strips to keep them out of the way. Strangely the static hasn't been as bad this year. That has been done and the strips are ready for use. But that barely scratches the surface of the things I have to get organized. It is getting done a little at at time.

I was surprised this morning that the news carried a story about the drought that has hit southwestern China. They noted that it is the worst drought in more than 60 years. It just took them better than 2 months to notice. The blogs and my google alerts has had coverage of this story for that long. Here is one of the latest ones.

I received an e-mail this morning that made me just a bit sick. I won't include it here because it is more than a bit offensive to me but it does present an attitude that I think has been all too evident during all of the hullabaloo over the health care reform legislation heading for a vote this weekend. It is supposed to be from a young physician to President Obama detailing why he is opposed to the measures. I say 'supposed' because I don't know if that physician actually exists or if he really wrote to Obama. All I can say is that if he exists and if those were his words, he is racist, selfish, and self-righetous. He claims he had to evaluate an obese black woman sporting a gold tooth, serious bling, 'expensive' tattoos, who smoked a pack a day of 'expensive' cigarettes and was on Medicaid. He resented the notion that he would have to pay for her Medicaid since she obviously didn't care enough about her health to forego some of that bling, tattoos, or cigarettes in order to pay for her own health insurance. This smacks all too much of the old Reaganite mantra about 'welfare queens' who were always black, obese, and whose many children all had different fathers. To my way of thinking the gold jewelry, gold tooth, and tattoos speak of a more prosperous past when she might have even paid for her own health insurance. That she is obese merely says that she is a part of the majority of people in this country and that is hardly a condition that occurs over night. As to her smoking--does that little 'doctor' know how many times the woman may have tried to stop smoking? Did he even bother to ask? Or did his racism, envy and resentment blind him to the possibility that his assumptions may have been totally wrong? That attitude is what I see all too often in the 'Tea Baggers,' the Republican opponents and others involved in this debate. It is the attitude that was apparent at one of the 'town hall' meetings last fall where hecklers shouted down a woman in a wheelchair whose insurance company had dropped her. "It's YOUR fault," they yelled. Really?? The sanctimony is overwhelmingly nauseous!

Friday, March 12, 2010

TGIF, everyone. Yet another week ends. It doesn't really make much difference here since both of us have no demands on our time and aren't bound by the workweek cycle. Since today is my library day I won't be spending as much time on line as usual.

Thanks, Jane, for dropping in and I plan to return the visit a bit later.

However, I found this Newsweek article in my Google alerts this morning. It tweaks a couple of chords in my mind. For some time I have been cogitating and daydreaming about what it would be like if a large part of the population decided to drop out of the rat race we have been conditioned to accept. The little comment the author makes about college degrees being pricey status symbols and little more really hits home since I am the proud owner of four such degrees and have little else but pride to show for it. Over the past couple of decades I have found most governments, especially at the Federal level, less and less responsive to my needs. Worse what ever I had expected to receive for my taxes has been repeatedly threatened by so called budget hawks who feel no moral responsibility to follow through with the promises made in the past.

Jay Bookman at makes a point I wish those self-righteous idiots who voted against extending the unemployment benefits would take notice of--not that there is much chance they will. It must soothe their souls to think that the unemployed are lazy and need only the swift kick of eviction and starvation to get their butts in gear to find a job. That way the vote against aid becomes a moral stand for which they can pat themselves on the back. But it would be nice if, as they argue for tax cuts for business because they think that would enable businesses to hire more people (which doesn't necessarily happen), they would realize that even if every one of the jobs that are allegedly open were filled that would still leave 4 of the five unemployed still unemployed. What do our political leaders plan to do to help them?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Morning, again, everyone. We have the rain the weather people promised. The snow has steadily retreated and another few days of round the clock above freezing temps will probably eliminate what remains.

We don't have any of the free medical clinics around here--at least none that I know of. Last fall they had a big free clinic down in Tennessee, I think. It was temporary and for a very limited time. People traveled in from neighboring states to get their ailments attended to. Mom tells of free clinics in every neighborhood of Chicago when she was growing up. All the kids got their vaccinations. All the mothers got their prenatal care. If any serious conditions showed up the patient was sent to one of the nearby hospitals. Now there are fewer hospitals and no neighborhood clinics.

The local news has been focused the major budgetary problems facing Illinois and several school districts. The reports have an almost formulaic pattern. The reporters note the almost unfathomable amount of the deficits facing whichever agency, city or the state and then focus on the people who will be most affected: teachers facing layoffs, students facing the cancellation of popular programs (including sophomore sports, OMG), poor children whose support programs face closure or personnel cut, etc. Often the dramatic focus is on the demonstrators protesting the cuts or on the administrators caught between a very large rock and a very hard place.

However, I noticed something that seems to pervade the various discussions on any of the major issues whether budgets or health care reform or financial regulations, or whatever. Several parents and teachers decried the cuts because without the sports programs the students would be on the streets unsupervised and getting into who knows what trouble. But at the bottom of their comments was the notion that the schools should be society's baby sitters. I have to ask 'what is the fundamental role of education in this society?' And, once that role is defined, the next question should be 'how does any given program further that goal?' If budgetary restraints compel program cuts then each program has to be rated on how directly it achieves the goals defined for education. Unfortunately, no one asks those questions.

The health care debates follow a similar pattern. Rain, at Rainy Day Thoughts, has some excellent comments on it. And I am afraid that her discussions reveal a deep hypocrisy in our attitudes. We say that an educated citizenry is necessary to our political and economic strength and yet we saddle the individual citizen with the sole responsibility for becoming educated. Worse we have no real definition of what 'educated' should mean. We often talk about the economic losses that accrue because of poor health but then we saddle the individual with the financial responsibility for health care. Neither of those costs are easily predictable and over the last couple of decades have been going up faster than either the inflation rate or the wages people receive for their work. Collectively we say one thing and then do something entirely different.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Wednesday morning, everyone. Can you believe it--the 10th of MARCH already. We are getting rain, which I don't mind because it will melt the remaining snow that much faster. The weather people predict a string of days when the highs won't be below 45. Yesterday the thermometer on the patio registered 62. It was still just above 50 this morning.

I found this article at the Dissident Voice site this morning. Michael K. Smith makes a number of very logical arguments on the health care (or as he calls it, the Disease Care) debate. Anyone who has read anything I posted on this issue knows that I am a confirmed skeptic on the question of how much the proposed reforms will really benefit anyone. The most likely beneficiaries are the health insurance industry and the medical/pharmaceutical industry. If that mess they call reform passes one of the provisions most likely to pass is the mandate that everyone carry health insurance or face a fine for failing to do so. I am sure our legislators (or rather the representatives of big pharma, big insurance, and big medical) think they are being kind and generous by offering need based programs to subsidize the poor and tax credits to take some (not all, by any means) of the sting out of what the middle class will have to pay. That is a massive windfall for them while I have seen nothing that will ensure that costs are in any way contained. Another point that Smith makes that is well taken but largely ignored is that reform fails to address any of the real causes of illness and, if they did, the economic hit for individual companies and industries as well as society in general would be massive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good Monday to all. We had some light fog this morning but it looks like it will burn off soon. Over night light rain has washed a good bit of the snow away but there are still small mountains over my garden containers. The weather people have promised us a couple or three days of 50 degree weather. I really do hope so. If they are dry and the snow has disappeared I will try to get out and erect the plastic over the big ones. In the mean time I have to get the seeds started inside.

I found this item on MSNBC this morning. It is yet another attempt to deal with the housing mess which has really not been fixed although it has, for the most part, fallen off the mainstream media radar. How effective will this one be given that the loan modification programs have had very little impact? My guess will be not all that effective. After all who owns these mortgages which have been bundled into collateralized debt obligations or mortgage backed securities and sold off in slices to whom ever? I have been reading stories every now and then about foreclosures that have hit legal brick walls because the bank trying to foreclose has been unable to provide the 'paper trail' that proves it has a right to foreclose.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Howdy, all. Another nice day coming up. Plenty of sun and warming into the 40s. I will be glad when we get into the 60s and can open the doors for a bit of a breeze. Still a bit too early to take the plastic off the windows.


And today looks to be as nice as yesterday with some rain coming in overnight. As you can tell I didn't find a lot to say yesterday. We'll see how today goes. We noticed that one of our all-year garden and farmer's markets has fresh asparagus on sale for $.99/lb and jumbo eggs at 2 dozen for $2.99. We are going to go and take a look. As I said before 'God bless whoever invented the modern freezer.'

As I passed through MSNBC on my way to my e-mail I found this article. It is long and only the first two pages are on MSNBC. They provide a link to the rest of the article and thankfully it isn't behind a pay wall. The health care debate is often ridiculous and petty but this article puts the issues into focus. It also indicates how incredibly insane this system is and how little the tepid measures under debate will really do to rationalize health care and its costs. Be prepared to have your emotions yanked. I read a story a good many years ago--just when a lot of people started questioning the efficacy and cost effectiveness of some (especially 'end of life' care). One of the people profiled survived the Nazi concentration camps and, when faced with the decision of whether to have treatment or not, wanted any treatment that would give even the slightest hope of more time. Having experienced one miracle, another certainly wasn't out of the question. Luckily, he was not faced with the prospect of how much his insurance company would pay or what Medicare would pay or whether he would be financially cleaned out by the treatment. That was before insurance companies dropped customers at the faintest hint of costly medical treatment, before they instituted life-time caps, before costs after Medicare plus insurance payments could still bankrupt a person.

Sunday Mar. 7

Well, I never did get back to this. We did make our little trip to the farm market and got a bit more than we had thought. The asparagus was nice and we now have, I think, 10 meals worth in the freezer. We also found tangerines for $.99/bag and picked up one bag. We haven't done that for quite a while. I get weekly e-mails on the specials so we will visit frequently over the season.

I found this article at Newsweek by way of MSNBC on the rise of a complex global middle class. These kinds of articles always amaze me--largely because they are so amazed at how the assumptions that underlay so much of our interaction with the rest of the world can be so wrong. The idea that as more of the population of the developing world moves into the comparative prosperity of the 'middle class' they would become more like us was ludicrous to any one who gave the matter more than a fleeting thought. 'Middle class' merely defines an economic group who may or may not have social, religious, or political values in common. Members of that class don't have to be liberal, secular, or democratic in their values as the author of this article have found out. We might ask if our own middle class is not becoming more authoritarian, religious, or conservative in responses to events that seem to threaten their economic status. We might be very unpleasantly surprised.

There has been a bit of talk on the news stations about the Postal Service petitioning Congress to allow it to cut delivery from 6 days to 5 by cutting out Saturday deliveries. The first time this balloon was floated it caused more of an uproar but this time--not so much. I found this op-ed piece from a small Colorado paper this morning. Everything the author says rings a bell with us. We don't mail nearly as much as we once did. None of our bills go out in the mail any more. We schedule our bill paying through our bank's on-line banking service. The only bill we don't pay that way is our rent and we never mailed that. We drop the check off in person because we like to chat with our landlords and their manager. Mom does get her prescriptions by mail and she sends out family birthday and anniversary cards by mail. Dropping one of the delivery days won't matter to us at all and it doesn't matter if it is a weekday or Saturday that is dropped.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good Morning again , everyone. We are having another day with sun, at least to start out with. It seems the cloud cover ended somewhere near Chicago for the last couple of days. It can stay there for all I care. The snow cover is disappearing at an amazing rate on the south sides of our buildings. The difference between our front spaces (south facing) and the ones across the street (north facing) is startling. Hardly anything left on our side. Unfortunately the back patio is not so far along. The weather people predict some rain along with the higher temps over the weekend and I wouldn't mind. It will wash away the snow more quickly. I am getting up the gumption to get some of the seeds started in that mini-greenhouse my sister gave us last fall and to get some of the plastic jugs cut for planting. I hope that they will provide a protected space for some of the plants that had a hard time competing for root space last year and that they will work on the trellises. We will see.

I hear you about the games on face book, Lois. I am also thinking about pruning the games I play. Too many and they waste time. A good many I got into because family wanted neighbors. I can not play them and still be a neighbor for them--and a couple are going to go that route.

I just found a sneaky little item on the blog this morning. I said a while back that I wasn't going to approve any comments that were anonymous or selling something. Someone came in and tried to post a comment on a post I put up more than a month ago. I accidentally approved it and had to go in and find the blasted thing again to correct my mistake. I wonder if someone found an old post and either didn't realize it was old or thought they could get it in under the radar. Don't know. Anyway, it is now gone.

I have noticed a number of stories on the mainstream broadcast news concerning the cost to the U.S. economy of food borne illness lately. Sometime ago I established a google alert for just that kind of thing. Mainly I want to see if the recalled food is something I buy and if it is sold at any of the stores we patronize. So far, except for hamburger, not much has affected us. But I will continue looking at that alert very carefully and any other news stories on the topic.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Good Monday morning, everyone. Well, the weather people say we are now in meteorological spring. It may start to feel like it by the end of the week. So far this has been the fifth snowiest winter on record and one of the coolest. However, though we had fewer than normal days over 40 degrees we also had fewer days than normal below 0. Right now I want temps high enough to melt those mountains of snow covering my garden containers.

I rather thought you were feeling as disgruntled and dissatisfied with the political scene as I am when I read your blog yesterday, Kay. I feel like I am listening to a very broken record (and that I am sounding like one). And we agree that cooking for one is a royal pain in the you-know-where. Thank god for who ever invented freezers.

The Olympics are over and I am so glad. It has been some years since I enjoyed sports programs. Now they mostly irritate as they preempt my shows, the few I have left since the 'reality' game shows have taken over television. Hardly a week goes by that we don't see an advertisement for another half dozen. If we are lucky they are on channels we don't watch but all too often they push out something that was much more interesting. Of course, over the last two weeks almost all of our favorite shows have been in rerun mode because none of the producers wanted to compete with the Olympics. I really do hate having a plethora of non-choices.


Well, it is now a nice sunny Monday morning. We haven't had any more snow since early Saturday, Lois. And the temps are supposed to get into the low 50s by the weekend. I do hope so. I have mountains of snow on top of all my garden containers and we take our lives in our hands when ever we have to go out because of the mountain that the crews scooped out of the parking areas and off the streets.

I find it very interesting how the mainstream media has picked up on the Republican attitudes toward the budget and their blocking of the infrastructure and unemployment extension bills. One nice bit of info that came out of that indicates that Kentucky Senator Bunning is not planning to run for reelection. Now if they can only get someone more moderate elected in his place. What I resent most about these guys is that they gave George II everything he wanted including the TARP and two wars that were entirely off the books financially. I really find it hard to stomach their past support of bankers bad decisions and unconscionable risks taken with other people's money giving them financial motivation to continue their bad behavior and yet they get on their hind legs to protest unemployment extensions because that 'encourages the unemployed to remain unemployed.'

I have been thinking about your comment, Lois, about your grocery bill. It doesn't surprise me nor does it seem out of line in any way. Our grocery bills have declined steadily over the last ten years as our situation has changed. At first I was working and attending school. I tried to carry lunches but what I could carry depended on specific conditions at work. Sometimes I didn't have access to a microwave so heatable meals whether prepared from scratch at home or purchased off the shelf at our local supermarket were not practical. I also absolutely hate to carry sandwiches--the bread always got soggy and the lettuce, if any, was always wilted. I am afraid cheap has never trumped aesthetics for me. During those few stretches of time when I could heat up a meal at work our grocery bills were about where yours are because we purchased a number of prepared meals for lunches. However, they were always unsatisfactory either in taste or quantity. Since I became unemployed two and a half years ago we have stayed mostly at home for meals and we both can cook. Mom does most of the cooking but it is nothing I didn't do myself during the nearly two years I lived by my self between my divorce and when we decided to set up house keeping. Most of the changes we have made to what we buy were not made solely from cost concerns but, rather, from multiple reasons. We stopped buying dry cereal when the amount decreased while the cost increased and none of the remaining options were palatable, usually because the manufacturers add way too much sugar. We find we haven't missed them. We buy very few prepared foods any more. No cake mixes or even prepared cakes from the bakery at the super market. No mac and cheese mixes. And when we see a sale on something we use we get the most we can easily store. Also when we buy meats we repackage it into more easily managed pieces. Pork and beef roasts usually come in 4 or 5+lb packages. They are cut into 4 or 5 packages of about one lb each. We can prepare them as roasts or cube them for soups. Each package will last us between 2 and 3 days when fixed. Sometimes we will slice part of the roast for sandwiches or dice it for salads. To give you an example of what it is we do--Mom has a mac and cheese w/ham cubes ready for baking a little later. She fixed it up from scratch and the ham is left over from a small ham roast that had originally been part of a full ham when we bought it. We will have that as a side dish with salmon patties that had originally been made up in a larger batch with the left over frozen for later. We will have a green veggie with it and any that we don't eat will be fixed with the remaining mac and cheese and hamburgers tomorrow. The hamburger was ground here at home from some older roasts.

We do have a major advantage--we are both retired. But then neither of us have found the so-called labor saving packaged foods all that labor saving. Our system works well for us but it won't necessarily work for everyone. One thing the cost cutting gurus have touted that we find doesn't work for us is using coupons. We have found very few coupons for the things we buy and we really don't want to buy what coupons advertise just to use the coupons.

The Times On-Line has an interesting article that puts 'green ambitions' and a robust continuation of our consumer culture in question. Actually, Mom and I had some questions about the rosy predictions and assumptions of many of our political and financial leaders and they resolved around this very question. As usual, none of them are really thinking about what would happen if the demand for high tech toys really expanded, especially things like fully electric cars. The raw materials are both rare and, like oil, in some very unstable areas.