Saturday, May 29, 2010

Good Saturday Morning, Everyone. We have another nice, sunny day today. It is already a bit warm outside so I am glad all my necessary garden work is done. Yesterday afternoon I found that two of the tomatoes I started from seeds are already starting to bloom as are a couple of the peppers I got as seedlings from Home Depot. Everything is growing so fast you can almost watch them grow. I found one of my nine broccoli has been dined upon but I cant find what has eaten it. I will have to get my insecticidal soap out and give it a shot.

I decided to check out something that had perplexed me for some time: consumer confidence--how is it determined and what does it mean. I found this little site that explained some of it and I can't think of a more meaningless statistic. Pollsters call up 5000 randomly selected and, allegedly, representative households and ask how the consumers are feeling about the economy. Most of the economic talking heads on the various business reports cite the uptick in consumer 'confidence' as though it really means that the consumer is 'back' and willing to spend as freely as they once did. Just how meaningless is this statistic? Take a look at the data for actual consumer spending at this story from MSNBC.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Good Friday of the Memorial Day weekend, everyone. Since most of my gardens have been planted I will spend some time getting things cleaned up. With everything I was planting or transplanting over the last week I forgot one important item--catnip. I have some small pots that will do well for that. Otherwise it is just tending and waiting for everything to fruit. Tending will be a bit more work this year--all of the wind borne seeds have found the beds. I will also have to watch for those nasty little butterflies whose caterpillars love my broccoli.

I got into this story on HuffingtonPost this morning because of the headline on the alert screen--What We Value: Wars get funded but unemployed workers don't. Unfortunately I have seen too much of how our government funding so seldom reflects what we SAY we value. The University of Illinois is jacking up the tuition rates because the State has failed to pay about a quarter of a billion in promised funding. There is a bill in congress which is supposed to extend financial help for education to the states and save something like 100k teaching jobs but it is unlikely to pass because of the budget 'hawks' who insist on austerity except for their damned wars. To continue on this line, read Robert Reich's blog. We say we want a robust economy but do nothing to help consumers who account for 70% of economic activity. Of course, that assumes that we SHOULD have a consumer driven economy.

Then I found this item on the Kansas City Star site. It gets pretty pathetic when someone has to steal plants others have paid for and nurtured. The brazenness of some of the thefts boggles my mind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hello, again. I thought I would separate any political/social/economic comments and stories from the garden stuff.

The first head has rolled in the oil spill mess: Elizabeth Birnbaum, once head of the Minerals Management Service which was supposed to be overseeing the drilling operations in the Gulf. The story I linked to said she resigned 'under pressure' while the headline for the FoxNews site claimed she was fired. I think this is a distinction without a difference. Everyone seems to be lambasting Obama for the lax oversight but how long has that lax oversight been going on? The first major hurdle, which we still have not crossed, is the belief that business can be relied upon to regulate itself. The finance industry, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry have all shown the fallacy of this notion. What is it going to take to knock the stuffing out of this notion?

Here is another story which contains no surprises but the implications of which have not been noted in the mainstream media. Many of the teaching jobs now on the chopping block would have been axed last year without the stimulus funds made available at that time. When ever the vacuous talking heads have posited 'good' news on the employment front I reminded my self of the fact that a large number of teachers had already received pink slips. I expect the unemployment and underemployment numbers to go up in September when those teachers file for unemployment benefits.
Good Thursday Morning, Everyone. We have nice cool temps today after several sweltering days of 90+. I was rather amused by all of the newscasters who had been longing for warm weather and who were suddenly wilting with the heat. I find anything above 70 and below 90 absolutely perfect.

I have been talking about my container gardens for a while now and thought I would show some of them off. The white buckets contain some of the tomatoes I started inside. These are the Big Rainbow and the Brandywine varieties. Both are heirloom plants and produce nice sized slicers. In about a week I will add some fertilizer spikes to each. I have learned over the last couple of years that you have to feed container plants more heavily because some nutrients will leach out with watering. The large blue containers have my peppers in them. I have a couple of new varieties and one favorite from last year I got as seedlings: Cow Horn cayenne, Mexibelle, and Big Bertha belles. I also have two varieties of basil (spicy Thai and Boxwood), spinach, marigold, yard long beans, and lettuce in the spots not devoted to peppers.

This stack of plants includes the other variety of tomato I started inside--the Fresh Salsa. Between them I put a pot of lavender and on the trellis supports I have marigold. I cut those small containers from plastic juice cartons. This is what I wanted to do with the milk jugs but I found that the softer plastic couldn't take the weight of soil. We are going to keep more of the juice cartons for next year. The only problem I have found so far is that some of these containers can get much too hot in certain areas of the patio.

This area here is one where I may have to modify my scheme. Some of these containers got very warm and I lost one, maybe two, spinach plants. I am experimenting now with covering the outside with some kind of paper to reduce the amount of heat they can absorb. If I get hopeful results I may change the configuration next year and put the trellis with the small containers in a different large container. The blue pot at the back contains stevia and the whit one at the front will have nasturtiums when the seeds sprout.

This incipient jungle contains the peppers I started from seed--False Alarm, Poblan0, and Gypsy. I also have marigolds, fairy eggplant and broccoli. And the big tomato is the Parks Whopper my sister gave mom for Mother's Day. It was already blooming when we got it.
Now you might just be able to see the first green tomatoes. We are eagerly anticipating the first fried green tomatoes of the season and the first homegrown salads.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Good Tuesday Morning, All. The weather people tell us that the temps should start declining from here to the end of the week. I was amused by the comments of many of the news casters and spectators. Two weeks ago they wanted summer; now, they say it is too hot. I just spent about an hour getting some more of my garden in. I filled three large pots to transplant my lavender, stevia and planted some nasturtiums. I also put some more beets into a section of one of the tubs that didn't have anything yet. Tomorrow I have some small containers to fill and plant. Those will have marigolds. I am planting the dwarf variety from Burpees called Embers. The ones I started inside are already blooming. I have discovered that one section of the small containers I have strung along trellis supports will have to be watched very carefully because they dry out very quickly. I almost lost three spinach plants yesterday. I had to stop just after 10 because it was too warm. So I watered everything very well and came inside.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Good sunny Monday morning, everyone. We hit 90+ yesterday. It was warm enough that the cat that usually insists on occupying my lap every evening decided to sleep on the couch by himself instead. I got a bit more done in the gardens but I am doing it in small stages. Today I will do some more--also in small stages because we are supposed to get another day in the very high 80s or low 90s. The containers should be dry enough to work so I hope to get the new seedlings in.

I have noticed an increasing number of voices asking if BP is really the entity to deal effectively with the oil spill and now the Obama administration is threatening to force them out though who will step in is not clear. Some time ago (and I no longer remember exactly in what context) I remember a commentator's response to the notion that if you have a broken leg you get a doctor to set it (in other words go for the expert. 'Not if he is the one who broke your leg!!' quipped the commentator. That, it seems to me, is exactly our current position. We have an expert who contributed to this situation and whose notions of how to handle it have so far been minimally effective--but who else is there. It is like being on a desert island with the doctor who broke your leg--who else can do the job. This Wall Street Journal article proclaims in its headline that "The US was ready for a major spill". But the article makes it abundantly clear that NO ONE (not the US government, not BP, not the Coast Guard) was prepared.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good Sunday Morning, All. Yesterday was foggy, overcast and cool for most of the day. We did finally get the sun the weather people said we would get but very late. Today, however, is bright and sunny. We are supposed to have temps near 90. I remember a line from one of my favorite authors which claims that Spring was one day between freezing your butt off and roasting. This year hasn't been like that since we have had some typical spring weather. But going from 70 to 90 is a bit disorienting and we do that often. The gardens are looking good although it is too wet to do any planting today.

I found this entertaining little blog wandering around through my e-mail alerts this morning. I can relate to his final point and extend it to container gardening. It takes time and a willingness to try something that might fail before you can succeed at these projects. I am sorry for the ground squirrels but I understand the impulse to vengeance especially after hard work and high hopes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIF, everyone. It is wet outside so I won't get anything done out in the gardens. But then I won't have to water anything either. I stopped by two of our home improvement stores yesterday while I was out getting books back to the library. I was so unhappy with one that I walked out without anything even though that store was where I usually get my bags of garden soil. The condition and selection were extremely poor. I did find some interesting things at the other. Two types of basil, two new (to me) varieties of peppers, broccoli (which I did not start from seed this year), and some lobelia (which I have never grown before.) Looking at what the two stores offered, however, I was struck by how limited their offerings were in spite of the full shelves: a lot of tomatoes, a lot of peppers and very little variety in anything else. I came to the conclusion that I really needed to find some other sources of supply for something else that isn't saturated locally.

I guess at least some of our Senators saw something in the primary results from Tuesday--they passed the cloture motion which sends the financial reform package to the full Senate for consideration. Now, if they can introduce some good amendments to it and not add a bunch of crap that weakens it, we might actually get something.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good sunny Thursday Morning, Everyone. We are supposed to get some showers over night. Again, I am thankful that nothing like the Kansas and Oklahoma storms appear on our horizon. I put up an odd little trellis yesterday with small containers cut from hard plastic juice containers and planted spinach and lettuce in them. The hard plastic does work much better than the softer milk carton plastic for this. When more plants are in and sprouting I will have to take some pictures.

I came across this item as I went through the news and e-mail. I am not much of a sports fan but every now and then an item attracts my attention. It seems that Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win for using performance enhancing drugs and has protested his innocence since, now says he was guilty. No surprise there. We have seen far too many of these cases. Only he is also claiming that Lance Armstrong and other top cyclers did the same. I have a quirky turn of mind on this issue. I would have much more respect for this idiot if he simply confessed and took his lumps but he seems to want a whole lot of company on his way down. That is the very essence of a scum bag.

I find this story both amusing and sad. A 'family-values' Republican Representative from New York whose DUI arrest 2 years ago led to the discovery of his mistress and 'love child' and his resignation has been selected as the Republican candidate for that same House seat by the Republican executive. By a resounding 2-4. This is really the best candidate they can field??

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good Morning, All, on this nice, bright, sunny Wednesday. After several days of dismal, wet weather it is nice to see the sun and anticipate temps above 70. The weather people have promised us some 80s by the weekend. All of the plants I have set out in the gardens are doing well and I plan to get some more things going later today when it gets a bit warmer.

The news media types are trying to make some sense out of the primaries of yesterday. The CNN headline this morning pretty much sums up the situation: "Open season on incumbents." Given the mood, which appears to be against both major parties, if the Tea Party could ever settle on a coherent platform they might be a force to scare the pants off everyone. I find it interesting how strong the anger over the bailouts has persisted. That played a big role in the results of last night.

Well, according to this story from MSNBC, the tar balls that washed up on some Florida beaches are not from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. My next question--where are they from? Evidently, the experts don't know yet. I have been constantly amazed by how much we don't know about this catastrophe: how much oil and gas are gushing from the leaks, what actually happened to cause this problem, whether there are plumes of oil and how big they are under the surface, who should bear the blame and the clean up costs? Almost a month after the primary event and we still don't have answers. Michael Klare, writing for Tomdispatch this morning, a nice succinct overview of the issues involved in our search for oil in hard-to-reach, environmentally sensitive areas.

An interesting little piece from yesterday's CNBC (I think) segments on the mortgage markets (mess): if it were not for FHA and cash there would be no mortgage market. For all the help the banks got they simply are not lending on home mortgages. And, why did the government give them all that help?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Monday Morning, Everyone. We are starting the week with a bit of rain. Thankfully, nothing like what came to Oklahoma. The last thing I need is hail. My peppers and tomatoes are all out and doing nicely along with eggplant, marigold and beans. We are going to one of the year round farmers markets this morning and will be looking for plants to help fill out the many spaces I have left.

I found this article on one of my aggregator sites (Google News, I think). Ben Heineman asks a good question: Who should investigate the BP incident in the Gulf? My problem with the whole thing: I don't trust anyone right now to get to any reasonable solutions. So far there is plenty of evidence of complicity for Transocean, BP, Haliburton, and all involved government agencies. Already we have seen the three companies try mightily to push the blame off onto each other. HuffingtonPost has this article which indicates the government's complicity in this: fewer inspections and missing paperwork. Last night 60 Minutes devoted 2 segments to the disaster which shed a very negative light on all three companies. BP's major goal was to get that phase of the drilling over with as quickly as possible and damn the consequences. Problems with that 'blow-out preventer' should have halted the drilling at least three times--but those problems were minimized an ignored. BP insisted on a speedier (but much riskier) strategy to cap the well which failed and, coupled with the faulty blow-out preventer, led directly to the disaster.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Good Sunday Morning, Everyone. We had a nice Saturday yesterday. It was cloudy and cool but no rain for a grand-nephew's birthday party. As the saying goes--a nice time was had by all.

I found this New York Times article by way of HuffingtonPost this morning. The author hits a major part of the problem with Wall Street and its peddling of exotic investment packages on the head. As I watched some of the Goldman executives giving their testimony before Congress I had some similar thoughts. One of the justifications those men gave for their actions was that they were 'market makers' and the customers for the 'products' they created and sold were 'sophisticated' investors who could read the prospectuses to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, while that may have been true for the managers of pension funds and, as in the case of the credit union cited in the story, banking institutions, those managers were NOT playing the game with their own money. And, as it turns out, they were not as smart and savvy as they thought they were. And, worse in my mind, they think they have done nothing wrong. But there is a lot wrong with all sides of this 'transaction.' There is something incredibly dishonest about 'market makers' peddling products they have specially constructed to fail to 'customers' (marks?) as a 'good investment.' The 'customers' were also incredibly lax in their duties to their own customers--those who owned the money they played with and lost. It is nice that there is a Federally guaranteed program to protect much, if not all, assets in most, if not all, banks and credit unions. At least the depositors don't get totally hosed. But, there should be some repercussions on the managers and 'market makers' in this. Since there are no such repercussions, I expect more of the same no matter what Congress chooses to do (if anything, and I am not holding my breath.)

Well, the President got angry this last week, again. This time the executives of BP, Haliburton, and Transocean drew his ire for their attempts, at the Senate hearings, to pass the responsibility for the oil rig blow out that is still spewing oil into the Gulf waters. I am not really that impressed. He was also 'angry' at Wall Street. He was also angry at the big banks. He was also angry at the Supreme Court for their decision that overturned campaign limitations on corporations. I can't see that his anger has made any real difference. Then there is this story, also from the New York Times by way of Google News. The government, trying to get a handle on a growing ecological/economic disaster, has no idea of how big the problem might really be. Their sources of information (the satellite pictures and BP) are, evidently, very untrustworthy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good Thursday Morning to everyone. It is still raining (off and on) here. Some areas have had a lot and are expecting a lot more. Our areas was, briefly, under a flood warning. Thankfully no tornadoes and none of that other weather related four letter word--hail. The tomatoes will go back on the patio today since I don't see any temps below 45. The only one that will stay inside is the big tomato my sister and her partner gave Mom for Mother's Day--it is already blooming and I don't want to risk the blossoms.

Happy Birthday to Lois at Looking to the Stars. Wishing you many more to come.

Good Friday Morning, Everybody. We have nice sun this morning. The skies cleared yesterday afternoon and the temps shot up to 80+ almost instantly. The humidity hit me like a wet towel in the face the moment I stepped onto the patio. Things should get dry enough for me to get some things planted in the containers. I did get the tomatoes (except for the Mother's Day gift tomato) back outside. I also got trellises put in them and added about two inches of soil to all of the pots. I plan to take the hot caps off everything else today.

Well, it is now Saturday Morning. As you can probably tell, I haven't had much to say lately. After reiterating my observations on current events for the umpteenth time, it gets a bit boring--for me and I am sure for you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hello, all.

I would say 'good morning' but it is very wet and on the cool side this morning. Really dreary weather. I am just very glad we didn't get any tornadoes. And the first thing I found was this item at Firedoglake Action detailing who Obama has appointed to the budget balancing commission. Talk about stacking the deck--most of them are for drastic cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and at least half support some form of privatization. It doesn't matter to me that all of these (supply your own epithet) claim that they won't change my situation with regard to Social Security. I find it incredibly dishonest that they want to cut the programs for anyone younger than 55. By that age most workers would have been in the workforce between 30 and 37 years. Suddenly they would be told that all that time they were paying for NOTHING. I call it a rip-off if someone only works one MONTH with Social Security taxes being taken out, if the powers that be are going to reduce or eliminate the benefits. So called privatization is an even worse rip-off. Social Security taxes would still be taken out--I don't see any provisions to lower or eliminate that but the individual tax payer would have no more say in how those funds would be distributed. And you now who would administer that money, don't you? How about the dear boys and girls at Goldman or JP Morgan/Chase, et al. If they want to do away with or limit Social Security for those under 55 then they should give all such workers every penny of their money back with interest. But then they wouldn't be able to hide the true size of the deficit.


It is now Tuesday and I will say 'Good Morning' today. Part of my snit yesterday was the result of the weather. I walked out on the patio to find that two of my plastic tents over the garden containers had collapsed thanks to the heavy rain. All it took was a slight low spot where the water could gather. I lost my sweetpeas and two peppers for certain. The one marigold that looked bad may revive and I think the other two peppers and my eggplants will also recover. I have all of those under the hot caps I cut from milk jugs.

I saw the headline on Huffington Post this morning that an incumbent Democratic congressman from W. Virginia has lost his primary fight to stand for re-election in the fall. Add that to the incumbent Republican Senator from Utah who also lost and I think the sum will be a very interesting fall election. The voters, it seems, are pissed with everyone in office.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Good Saturday Morning, All. We have a bit of sun today but it is very windy. Woke up to temps in the upper 40s which have since risen to the mid 50s. I still am going to bring in the tomatoes and tent the three tubs I have planted.

Update on the glasses. They feel a bit weird but I think that is because I haven't worn glasses past morning coffee in years. I went to my usual source for the new contacts and glasses: Target Optical. Some years ago I used to go to the Wal-Mart but switched. I don't remember now what ticked me off but something did and I haven't been back since. I was pleasantly surprised this year because the costs were less than I had anticipated. I pushed my last year's supply of contacts to two and a half because of my unemployment. The cost for this year's supply was only about $75 more than the last time I bought. My AARP membership took about $150 off the exam, glasses, and contacts combined. THAT was a very pleasant surprise.

I found this in my Google Alerts from the New York Times. I hope those New York judges get really tough on the debt collection lawyers and make them prove every bit of debt. Having had a couple of experiences with their ilk I have no sympathy with them or their clients.

Well, as you can see, it is now Sunday. Hope it is a good day for everyone and a Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers out there. I rather liked my sister's comments earlier--she wished all a Happy Mother's Day whether they are mothers or not. It is a 'girl's day,' after all.

I found this item which tickled my mind a bit. A bit over 10 years ago two men got into a fight in China and one man disappeared. A year later a headless body was found in a well and the remaining man was arrested. Under torture he confessed and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Earlier this year the 'dead' man reappeared. He, the 'dead' man, fled after the fight thinking he had killed the other man. My question: to whom did the headless body belong?

According to this article the SEC and others investigating the crazy stock plunge on Thursday still don't know what happened. Though the 'fat finger' hypothesis is still in the wings it is no longer the most likely explanation. Instead, investigators are looking a the relatively new and little known high-speed trading networks that interact both with each other and the traditional stock markets. The author notes that these are very much under the radar and not well known even to savvy investors. And, I would bet, very much unregulated.

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good morning to all on this wet and cool Friday. We had thundershowers throughout the night and some continue today. I am watching the low temp predictions and I think I will have to cover my containers. I found a couple of Mexibelle peppers and a stevia at the local Home Depot but I won't put then in the gardens until next week when it warms up a bit.

Well, wasn't that some wild roller coaster ride on the stock markets yesterday? They say the initial drop of about 300 points on the DOW was probably the result of jitters over the situation in Greece but the rest of the nearly 1000 points (which were regained before the end of the day) was a 'typo'. Someone intended to sell 16 MILLION shares but typed a B instead of an M. Goes to prove the old saying: to err is human but to really f**k up you need a computer.

I have been getting used to a new pair of contacts over the last week and reading hasn't been as comfortable as usual. But I hope to be back to normal now. I had to find out how much the new prescription took care of the near vision, how well the bifocal worked, and whether I needed any reading glasses. Well, the new lenses take care of almost all of my problems. The new readers are about half the strength of the old ones which is a big improvement. Tomorrow I will give my new glasses a try.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Good Wednesday Morning, Everyone. Our sun keeps going in and out but it is warming up nicely. I have 3 of my garden containers planted. I can quickly cover the plants if it gets too cold but I don't expect that. Everything I started that germinated is in the ground so now I will have to pick up plants to put in. We will see what hits our fancy.

I finished a table cloth yesterday. It is in the wash and, oh, does it need to be washed. I started it over a decade ago, then passed it on to Mom. She worked on it until the work was too uncomfortable for her eyes and it came back to me. It sat on a shelf in a basket for a lot of that time and all of the dust, tobacco fumes, and what ever else was floating around got all over it. I have since managed to get a number of plastic tubs for most of the fabric and projects.

The primary elections here caught us by surprise. Part of the problem is that we live about 40 miles or so outside Chicago in Indiana. Most of our news comes out of Chicago and it gives scant time to Indiana politics. I could get snippy and say that it gives scant time to anything that matters focusing on such ephemera as the latest eliminations from 'Dancing With The Stars' instead. What I have found to date leads me to think that I will probably do a straight Democratic ticket in the fall. I have been somewhat dissatisfied with our Democratic Congressman but all of the Republican candidates for the opportunity to replace him were saying the same things: overturn the health care programs, cut Social Security and Medicare, tax cuts. They lost my vote with the first two. Our Democratic Senator is retiring and, again, the Republican contender for that position is singing from the same hymn. I don't belong to that church. I do wish these guys would come up with ideas instead of sound bites. I don't find it at all strange that the vote turnout was abysmal around here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Good Monday Morning to all. It is nice and sunny today, and it is getting warm. The weekend was a bit wet with sunny intermissions. Most of the rain fell during the night hours but it did make it a bit too wet to do much outside. I have taken the plastic off all my containers and the hot caps off the individual plants. I don't think it will get cold enough to require them again and, if it does, I have the plastic close at hand. I am thankful we didn't get anything like what they had down in Tennessee and Kentucky. No hail, no tornadoes, no floods.

I think everyone must be following, to some extent or other, the story about the oil spill in the gulf. I am a bit frustrated with some of the reporting because none of the numbers are at all consistent. But I am also a bit frustrated because no one is going into the most fundamental question in this whole matter: aren't there some resources we simply should leave alone because of the damage extracting it might incur? I remember reading somewhere (maybe several somewheres) that the philosophy behind much of the Homeland Security Department activities is that, even if the chance of terrorism is 1 in a hundred that one chance has the potential of creating such havoc, we have to guard against it. Perhaps we should apply that theory to oil drilling and other extractive activities. Is the coal under a mountain really worth the very real costs of poisoning entire streams, killing a certain number of miners, and lopping off the top of a mountain while filling nearby valleys with the rubble? Is the oil in some of the deep areas of the ocean really worth devastating the wetlands and fisheries, crippling the fishing industry, and disrupting transport? This is an interesting equation that no one seems to want to discuss.