Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good morning, Everyone. We had rain last night--nothing like the East coast with post-Irene flooding. But enough that I won't have to water the gardens. It no longer resembles a jungle. I hadn't planned on it but I transplanted the mini-roses into one of the large containers where they are keeping company with the mums. The spearmint cuttings are doing very nicely though I will move them over onto the table/potting bench sometime today because the temps over the next two days are predicted to be in the 90s tomorrow and Friday. I don't want them cooked in the pots. I will pick some of the green beans today and we will have some with the pork roast tonight. The rest will go in the freezer. The verbena and rosemary are doing well--so far. I found new growth on both when I put them outside for a while today. But I have a long winter to go before I will know if this experiment will work. I have threatened for the last week to take out the Juliet and yellow cherry tomatoes. It is time to follow through on the threat.

I decided to grow strawberries here next spring and this article simply reinforces that decision. I read articles several months ago about this but the topic simply disappeared from my normal alerts and other reading. The issue illustrates both the need for government regulation (contrary to the pie-in-the-sky notion of the Repthuglican anti-government fringe that industries can reliably self-regulate) and the need for that regulation to consider health and safety first and company profits last. Unfortunately, it seems that the California regulators were far more concerned with profits and too willing to risk health and safety.

Vertical gardens are increasingly popular if the increasing number of blog space devoted to them is any indication. I found this by way of the Facebook group for container gardeners. All three are ingenious but I especially like the second one which incorporates a fish tank into the gardens.

I agree, Kay. If Jesus returned tomorrow a lot of Christianist hypocrites would be confused as he denied them. They are suffering from an old malady--conflating their will into God's. We aren't much for Wal-Mart either. We only go when price is the major consideration and the higher priced goods aren't of any better quality than the low. But the last few times we found their prices way too high for the items we were looking for. I can understand why Wal-Mart has been taken to the cleaners by the dollar stores. Much of what we used to buy at Wal-Mart is much cheaper at the dollar store we frequent. We had been doing pretty well on the grocery front until the last couple of years. We eliminated all of the high priced prepared foods (except for the dried fruits we added to our diet) and all of the high sugared cereals which are the most expensive in the aisle. But lately we have noticed the prices on everything is going up--sometimes by an incredible amount. The oatmeal and farina both went up by nearly 80%. We give the store brands and generics a try--if we don't like them we simply don't buy them again.

Terry Newell at Huffington Post has an interesting article this morning on the 'misrepresented majority.' I don't know how often I have seen a news story where some poll is presented in which the vast majority favor (or oppose) a given policy, bill or whatever followed by some politician favoring the position the majority rejected claiming that 'the American People demand' his position. I sit here and scream 'which American People, you (choose your own epithet--mine are quite raw)?' Well, Newell explains how it has come to pass and how these political hacks can ignore the will of what may be a majority. And, if he is right, we will need a massive revolution in voter attitudes to break the lock the respective parties seem to have on the 'safe' districts to shake things up. And if the news surrounding the redistricting, largely in Illinois, the number of safe districts are likely to grow.

Evidently NY Attorney General isn't the only state AG to resist white-washing the mortgage mess. According to David Dayen at Firedoglake Nevada's AG has filed papers to pull the state out of a multi-state agreement with Bank of America concerning the morass they took over when they acquired Countrywide on the grounds they have repeatedly failed to abide by the agreement. And she has added the charge that Bank of America has illegally foreclosed on homes they had no standing to foreclose on because they had failed to properly securitize the mortgages thereby breaking the chain of title.

Helen at Margaret and Helen has summed up the problems with at least two of the Repthuglican field. And with about as much respect as those buffoons deserve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good morning to you all. Plan to do up some stewed tomatoes today following up with tomato sauce tomorrow. Then I should pick some of the green beans. Should be an easy schedule. See what else I can put in here and there. The errands we planned (less one we put off for later in the week) took all morning and part of the afternoon so nothing else got done here. But we did get a couple of irritating shocks. We picked up some Roma tomatoes (to stretch what I have from the garden which are mainly slicers) and glanced at the sweet corn--$5 a dozen. That is more than double what it was last year. There are some cheaper sources out there but those are still much higher than last year and the quality is pretty poor. It makes me wonder if our weather has put a bit of a dent in the supply. The second was how hard it was to find a simple, plain cold cereal. Almost everything out there was highly sugared and had all kinds of faux fruit additives. We could only find two--old fashioned cherrios and some shredded wheat. There may have been some corn flakes but I have never really like them--they get soggy too quickly. A third surprise was how much they have shrunk the refried beans section. So much that we want is disappearing in the supermarkets.

It would seem that the stealth price rises we have noticed at our supermarket is a far more common pattern and even Wal-Mart is engaging in the practice. We noticed two weeks ago an increase in the cost of the cat food we normally buy. The normal price had been between $0.47 and $0.49 with sales taking it down to between $0.42 and $0.45. The new tag read "10 for.." and we though 'Oh, great--a sale!!' But then we read further and saw it was "10 for $5.00" which is no sale at all. I wonder how many people never got past the "10 for" part of the tag. Hey, retailers--how about some straightforward honesty here. I would appreciate it as would others I am sure.

I don't know about anyone else but I am getting tired of the hype surrounding and leading up to the coming 10th anniversary of 9/11. I don't think there has been a day without some maudlin piece on the 'news' concerning some aspect of remembrance. I wish this country would move on instead of being stuck wallowing in the amber of the past. Unfortunately, we seem to have learned all of the wrong lessons from the event much like we did from the debacle that was Viet Nam.

So Missouri's senators are pissed off with FEMA because some payments for tornado recovery in the Joplin area are going to be slowed or suspended to help the agency deal with the immediate aftermath of Irene. Perhaps Blount and McCaskill should talk to the Senate Minority Leader McConnell and that pin-head in the House, Cantor. Where is the money supposed to come from if Cantor's demand is met that any disaster relief be paid for by cutting elsewhere? And, perhaps, they should have a word with Ron Paul who has recommended the elimination of FEMA because all states and localities should deal with such disasters from its own resources and not expect any help from more distant parts.

Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog had this item this morning. Monsanto's GM corn that poisons corn root worms that have the audacity to munch on the crop may be facing a variety of root worm that is resistant. The new bug has only been found in four spots in northeast Iowa but how long will it take to spread. Probably as long as it took Round-up resistant pig weed to spread out of fields of Round-up resistant commercial crops. Already Monsanto is looking for new genes that will give bugs tummy aches. Of course that is a strategy which will ensure future profits when the bugs develop resistance again.

Job Jones has a right on point commentary on all the crazy Christianist idiots (read Bachman and her ilk) taking God's name in vain.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Good Monday morning to you all. Today is our errand day and we have a more extensive series of errands than usual so this might be a bit abbreviated. Well, Irene was bad--thankfully not as bad as it might have been. Now comes the flooding--or more flooding as the case might be. They say it may be a week or more before all of the power is restored to those who have lost it. That doesn't surprise me because I remember how long it took for the power to be restored for the 800k in the Chicago area who lost it during that spring storm not too long ago.

So, finally--ten years after 9/11--someone is asking how much the so-called security our 'Homeland Security' spending has increased our security and whether it has been worth the cost. My answer is: too much for not a lot. Unfortunately, we have been in a frenzied search for absolute security which we can't ever achieve. Worse, that mind set has allowed us to uncritically spend a lot of money so long as some tenuous tie to 'security' can be allegedly shown. I also remember how senators and representatives from less populated states and cities insisted on parity with states like New York and California, and cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. Small town police departments were like kids in a candy store with their parents' credit cards trying to spend the windfall. What pisses me off--I am sure when Cantor insisted that funds for relief after Irene (as before with Joplin) would be available only if it were offset by funds cut from elsewhere he wasn't thinking of taking it from Homeland Security grants.

I noticed that MSNBC and CNN both have polls asking if Irene was 'over-hyped.' I don't know. Can you over hype a storm that has, at last report, caused 14 deaths, caused $7 billion in damage, interrupted power for a couple of million, and flooding over most of the east coast from Main to the Carolinas? I rather wish Katrina had been over hyped.

Redtree Times has an good post this morning which echoes some of my thoughts after reading a bit of Ron Paul's tirade on FEMA. Ever since Ronald Reagan a seemingly growing number of pundits, politicians, and (perhaps) just plain folks want to go back to some kind of simpler nirvana located in some idealized past. The past is gone and it was never as nice as they seem to remember.

I couldn't agree with you more on Cantor and his fellow pustules, Kay. This item should raise your blood pressure so take a couple of deep breaths before reading. I wish our spineless and morally deficient press would take the Repthuglicans to task for their hypocrisy. But, since so much of it is corporate controlled and beholden to the interests of big business and the wealthy, I am not holding my breath.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Good morning, All. Most of the news remains focused on Hurricane Irene. Our local news this morning noted that a local (Chicago) Guard unit had been activated to help in the aftermath. That is what the Guard should be used for--disasters here at home. Several bloggers noted that our wonderfully sensitive and caring Repthuglicans are insisting that any disaster relief be paid for with further cuts in the budget. (Sarcasm alert.)

I am back to reading (and maybe posting) after a session with the spearmint that is turning out to be more work than I had thought. I intended simply to cut it back and dry another batch but I found that all I had left was a bunch of bare, woody stems. So I cut it down entirely except for a few sprigs that were very low. I will cut a few of those out and transplant them to small pots to nurture over the winter. Otherwise, I will clean out the entire pot and wash it out for next season. I am not unhappy with the experiment--I hadn't grown spearmint for nearly two decades. I got three large cuttings from it and will enjoy it in my tea during the cold months. Next year I may put it on the fence and try to keep it smaller. And I just finished totally with the operations on the spearmint. I have two small cuttings with good root systems in small pots on a shelf of the mini-greenhouse. I also changed my usual procedure for cleaning out the pot. It was incredibly root bound. I could have chopped up the rootball but this is a very invasive plant and I decided to simply discard the rootball entirely. I really don't want to be pulling spearmint out of other plants because the roots (like the arms of a starfish) spawned new organisms from the pieces.

Joshua Brown at Reformed Broker has an excellent take on pundits of all stripes--not just the financial pundits.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good morning, all. Not much planned for the garden today. Got the lemon verbena, rosemary, and mums transplanted and that was the main work for yesterday. The verbena and rosemary are half the size (above and below ground) they were and inside. I will put them out on the patio when the temps warm up. We have low 60s right now. Otherwise, all I need to do is trim here and there and check for any ripe veggies. Next week I have to order a couple of Top Hat blueberry bushes. By the time they are shipped I will have clear spots in the beds for them. I hadn't intended to do that till spring but I checked the Burpee site and they accept orders for fall shipment. Makes sense. That gives them the fall and winter to get established for next year. Update--I decided not to wait on lacing that order. Just did it.

All of those regulators and politicians who were so hot to protect individuals from the potential dangers of buying drugs from foreign sources ought to be going spastic over this story. But I haven't heard a word of outrage over either the shortage os so many drugs or the back-channels many hospitals are forced to use to get them.

Yeah, Kay, the garden is producing well--the best yet. The peppers may produce enough that the only ones we will buy are the nice big belles for stuffed peppers. We just finished what we got last year as this year's plants started producing. We won't get enough stewed or sauced tomatoes to carry through the winter but it will put a dent in what we have to buy. And ours smell and taste so much better. I hope the beans produce enough to completely take care of us. Right now they are developing nicely and I should be able to start harvesting next week. So far the timing has been really good. As the tomatoes slacked off the peppers have picked up. I haven't been overwhelmed by picking and prepping. On the string ball gardens--I suspect that they either move the balls indoors in the winter or they clean them out and store them for next season.

Now this is a 'contract' I can totally agree with!! Much better than that Repthuglican nonsense.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hi, again. Now that the garden report is in I can go on to my trip through the news and internet.

The big story is, of course, Hurricane Irene. Being in the midwest, we are aren't affected. Every now and again, we hear a bit of emergency preparedness advice which can be applied to the kinds of weather emergencies we are likely to experience.

Just finished transplanting my rosemary bush. I cut off about half of its height. Went from about 12 inches to 6 and cut back the root ball by about half. Hope it works because I really want to keep this thing small. It is sitting on the top shelf of the 4-shelf stand in front of the immobile side of the patio door. In a bit, after I have rested a bit, I will wash the cuttings and put them in the freezer. I just found a nice site called Kalyn's Kitchen which described how her efforts worked. I put her site on my regular reading list.

Time for another rest. I just finished cutting down the ground cherries and that was work. I still have to pull the roots, or cut them out, which ever is easier. In a bit I will transplant the mums from their pot so I can put the lemon verbena in it to move inside for the season. That will be some more heavy work because that is getting to be one large plant. Another I need to trim radically both above and below the soil.

Here is something for the 'cute but' folder--as in cute but not something I want to do. I will simply admire the ingenuity.

Good morning to you all. Very cool this morning and we expect the high will be in the very low 80s. Nice and comfortable. I thought I would show a little of what we are getting out of the container gardens. The first picture shows the Zavory peppers. These are among the earliest of them to ripen and there are a lot more on the plants. Small (only about 2 to 2 1/2 inches long) with a bit of a kick and an interesting over all flavor. We used the first two in the first batch of stewed tomatoes. I definitely plant to plant these next year. This is a new hybrid Burpee introduced this year.

All of these came out of the garden either today or yesterday. At the far left are the same three Zavory peppers I showed above and below them is the first of the False Alarm. Those are a very mild jalepeno style pepper. Good flavor without much of the bite. I have grown these for three years now and been very happy with them. Another Burpee hybrid. The white blob at the top is the last of the Dragon's Egg cucumbers. Planted for the first time this year, I will definitely plant them again. Small (about the size of a turkey or goose egg when fully developed), thin skinned and sweet. Mom doesn't care much for cucumbers for the most part but she likes these. Wonderful in salads and we have three pint baggies of the spicy pickles from them. The seeds for these came from Bakers Creek which specializes in heirloom varieties. The red tomatoes are Brandywine an heirloom variety. This is the third year I have planted this variety and this is the best harvest so far. The yellow are Big Rainbow, another heirloom. It is delightfully sweet. Also the third year for this variety. I got the seeds for both from Burpee. The green tomatoes are a mix of Brandywine and Rainbow I picked accidentally while trying to clean up the vines.
These are the Giant Marconi peppers. It is a new variety for me. I got the plant from the local Home Depot and was really surprised at the variety of tomato and pepper plants they carried. The peppers are about 10 inches and were bred to be grilled. We don't grill but the flavor works very well fried with potatoes or put into omelets. Usually you harvest these green but they surprised me. Actually, we really like the flavor of the red ones better than the green. I will keep this variety in mind for rotation in my gardens.

Today I hope to start getting some of the transplanting done. The lemon verbena and rosemary are not hardy for this area so they have to come inside. I need to get the ground cherries out. This was another new plant for me. I got the seeds as a freebee with my seed order from Baker Creek (I think--it may have been Jung's also) so I planted them out of curiosity. According to the descriptions (on line and on the package) the size made the plant an ideal candidate for a container garden--about 2 feet tall with a two foot spread. The fruit does have a slight strawberry flavor--and, for me, the emphasis is on slight. If I want a strawberry flavor I can plant strawberries. So I won't be planting these again. I will be planting strawberries and I found a small blueberry that grows only 2 feet tall with a 2 foot spread. I will put those in instead. That's all for today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hello, again. Now that the garden update is done it is time to see what is happening in the blog world and the world at large.

They announced last night Steve Jobs is leaving Apple as CEO (but remaining as Chairman). That is the kind of announcement that at first surprises one and then, on second thought is not so surprising. For the last several years, investors and financial pundits have been putting Jobs and Apple under a microscope hoping to divine where the company will go in a post Jobs era.

And here comes Irene. The hurricane has already pounded the Bahamas and other islands and is still (or again) a category 3. They are increasingly concerned that NYC and Boston have bull's eyes on them. We will see. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it will go inland where the rain it will dump would alleviate the drought.

Don't worry, Kay. I definitely don't want to over do. The whole point of keeping a garden is to enjoy the proceeds. I have a sneaky hunch that even if the NY AG doesn't back down (and he is under extreme pressure from both other AGs involved in the 'investigations' and negotiations and from the Obama Administration which appears to be more interested in a quick end of the problem rather than a fair or just end) the too-big-to-fail-banks are going to get off lightly. The last I heard the fines being considered (which may not be called fines) are in the neighborhood of $30 billion. That sounds like a lot and is to us ordinary mortals. But it is chump change to companies who have trillions on their books and have recorded profits in the $1 trillion range.

I just found this item at Huffington Post and if it doesn't make you sick it should. And this is the new Repthuglican front runner.

You might find this post interesting, Kay. It deals with the concept of 'moral hazard.' I found it by way of Yves at Naked Capitalism.
Good morning to you all on this cool and bright Thursday morning. And we expect it to stay cool and bright all day which is good after yesterday when we got up to 90 with high humidity. We had to close up and put on the air. Thankfully, most of the garden has been able to get along without a great deal of attention for the last two weeks. I thought I would show a few new pictures taken yesterday afternoon.

My roses are doing very well now. After an earlier episode of black spot the are looking very good. As I clean out the spent tomatoes I will put them in a main container for the winter. Thankfully, the containers don't all have to be cleared at the same time.

It may still be summer but fall is already in the air. I was right when I wrote earlier this week that I thought I saw the first faint signs of color change. We saw much more of that when we went out on our errands especially among the lower trees and shrubs. With fall I start assessing how the gardens did--what succeeded, what didn't, should I try the failures again under what changed conditions. The was an unqualified success. I bought the spearmint along with the ginger mint and stevia. Only the stevia was planned. Both mints are vigorous and very pretty. But, thankfully, I was smart enough to put the mints in their own pots because they would have taken over. I will take cuttings for new plants to over winter inside and transplant into pots for next season. I got a lot (and will be harvesting more) of both mints that I dried for tea during the cold months.

These are Blue Lake pole beans. After a slow start these pretty much took over the container much to the detriment of the Fresh Salsa tomatoes and the Dragon's Egg cucumbers. We decided on this variety to replace the Asparagus Yard Long beans I grew over the last two years. Though prolific the Yard Longs are a bit tough. Next year these will get their own pot as will the cucumbers.

These are the Vietnamese Multicolor peppers which though absolutely beautiful and vigorous will not be making a repeat appearance in the gardens. We wanted a small pepper with a bit of a kick--less than jalepeno but more than the False Alarm. The Multicolor is way too hot. It is curious though how differently the plants grew. Two of the seeds I planted grew into shorter fully green plants whose fruit went from green to red. One seed grew into a tall plant with purple foliage, lavender seeds and fruit that went from purple to lavender to cream to gold to orange to red.

If you look closely you can see the little splashes of color that are the peppers. I wonder if the differences represent a natural variability that carries through and if I saved seeds from the purple plant they would produced the mono-colored variety as well as the multicolored variety. Oh well, that ends this phase of the evaluation process. I will bring back the mints, cucumbers, and beans next year but not the peppers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good morning, Everyone. Right now we have our doors and window open for the morning air. But we expect the temps to go to around 90 with a strong probability of thunderstorms this afternoon so we might have to put the air on. I have to finish off the pickles and stewed tomatoes today. By the time they were ready for me to package them for freezing I was totally wiped out. So I shoved everything into the fridge till this morning. I have a few other small items to do up--like a couple of the Marconi peppers that I should clean out and cut up for freezing. Do you get the notion that we use our freezer a lot? Well, we do. It takes a lot less processing and much less equipment.

Thanks, Kay. We are on the mend but bronchitis always seems to hang on forever. The notions of 'moral hazard' and 'transparency' are ideals that are, as a professor who taught several classes I took used to say, more honored in the breech than in the observance. And in this political economy are very selectively applied. I hadn't heard of freezer pickling until I picked up a couple of new cookbooks over last winter. They have some interesting recipes.

The mortgage fraud morass keeps getting stickier and messier. Now the NY State Attorney General has been removed from the executive committee trying to come to some settlement with the major mortgage banks on the charges. He has been pushing for a thorough investigation with criminal charges where warranted. But the powers that be and the too-big-to-fail banks want a quick resolution with a token payment to (supposedly) be used for the relief of foreclosed homeowners and broad immunity from future investigations but without any admission of guilt. Cushy wouldn't you say? Some animals are definitely more equal.

Well the tomatoes and pickles are done. Two quarts of tomatoes and three pints of pickles--minus a little for freezer expansion. I looked at the remaining vines and figure that the Brandywine and a few of the Rainbows could be put into either sauce or stewed with a bit of additional plums. Those I will have to get from the farmer's market because my plum varieties are pretty well spent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good Tuesday morning to you all. The possible rains evaporated yesterday so we had sun and moderate temps. We are in the process of catching up on chores that have languished while we were down with the bronchitis. Laundry is spread out all over the living room floor and it will take all day. Not a usual situation for us. Later I have some cucumbers to pick and pickle and some tomatoes to pick and stew. But right now I get to start on my trip through the net and e-mail.

This was the first story on the agenda. Don't you just love the whole notion of 'transparency?' How about the notion of 'moral hazard?' I really do resent the way the financial tail wags our economic dog. And I resent the slight of hand that gave the banks almost $2 trillion of our money with two thirds under the radar. And I resent the fact that the Fed gave it out with no strings attached.

Well, my first two chores are done. No, not the laundry. Rather the tomatoes are stewing with a nice mix of onion, thyme, basil, and the first two of the Zavory peppers. The pot is already giving off the most scrumptious odor. And the cucumbers/onion/salt mix is curing in the fridge while the elements for the pickling liquid are mixing on the counter. I will rinse off the salt early this afternoon and mix in the liquid before putting the future pickles into freezer bags and freezing them. Oh--I didn't tell you--I am doing a spicy freezer pickle. No muss with jars and hot packing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good morning, All. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful. Not too hot, nicely sunny, and dry. We may get showers today but I don't expect much. I am planning to water everything later. You know the seasons are changing when you start planning when you are going to take expiring plants out of the beds, where you will put plants you want to try to overwinter, and which you are going to transplant or take cuttings of to put in pots inside. So far I want to transplant the lemon verbena, rosemary and part of the thyme for inside. All of the other herbs I will put in the beds and cover with a plastic tent over winter. The plum and cherry tomatoes are almost spent so I will pull them soon. Same for the cucumbers. It is almost September and I think I see the first hint of color change in the trees. It is just a hint--like a shimmer of change in the dark greens.

I love the optimism embodied the title of one article I saw (but did not read): With Gaddafi out of power, oil prices should fall. Right!! That assumes a hell of a lot. Such as--the rebels have a coherent power and command structure which will be able to control the country and its oil supply. Such as--the oil infrastructure in Libya isn't too badly damaged and can be brought quickly back up to full production. Such as--the Gaddafi supporters won't be able to mount an effective counter attack. And such as--that the price of oil is really more responsive to supply/demand factors rather than speculators. As the old saying goes: assume makes an ass out of u and me.

I fully understand and agree with your comment on yesterday's post, Kay. I remember reading a good bit in sociology and anthropology in my way too long academic experience including numerous accounts of ancient or primitive peoples 'discarding' the weak or aged or otherwise undesirable among their population. The Romans, Greeks, and Chinese had traditions of infanticide, particularly female infanticide. The Roman sentiment was to 'raise all sons and kill all girls at birth.' Obviously that dictum wasn't followed faithfully. One of the few improvements Christianity ushered in was a prohibition against infanticide for any reason. Spartans rigorously examined all children at birth and exposed any who did not meet their standards. It was not unusual for adults in these and other countries who suffered from serious, debilitating, and incurable diseases to suicide rather than prolong the agony for themselves or their families. Nor was it unusual among nomadic peoples to abandon the elderly who could not endure the rigors of their migration. But all of those exemplars lived much closer to subsistence and the threat of starvation. None of them were affluent as we have been for at least the last 150 years in the West. It feels to me like our culture is losing its right to be called civilized when I read headlines like one yesterday claiming that the 'pro-life' governor of a state (I forget which) slashed funding for the medical care of critically ill infants. Or stories from Arizona and Texas about the cutting of health care and education funding which will most severely affect those who cannot handle any extra costs at the same time the governor of one of those states (Texas, in case you couldn't place the referent) is campaigning for his party's nomination for the presidency on the strength of his economic achievements (which have been seriously questioned in several quarters.) Like you I would like to make some serious changes but I not at all sure where to go with that notion.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good morning to you all. We finally got sun yesterday afternoon--after several hours of rain and clouds. It looks like we got some more rain overnight. I picked some tomatoes already this morning and I really, really should get back to doing more serious maintenance. I have let it go trying to get over the bronchitis. The mints are getting over grown again and the mums and marigolds need to be dead headed. Some of the peppers are also ripe.

I thought I caught a bit of a story on this issue but wasn't sure. It was there and then gone before my attention caught up with it. I wonder how common this arrangement is--where a major company farms out its personnel to one or more contractors with no clear idea of which is responsible for what. A few years ago Wal-Mart experienced something similar when they hired a custodial company charged with abusing their employees, violating their rights, and cheating them of their full pay. Wal-Mart then, like Hershey now, claimed 'plausible deniability.' It occurred to me as I read this that we have several conflicts of interests and expectations here. The students signed on to what was billed as a 'cultural' exchange program; what they got was long work hours with little cultural exchange. The staffing company merely looked for low cost workers and promised them what ever to get the positions filled. And, in the midst of a recession with stubbornly high unemployment, we have the State Department allowing in low wage student workers who under cut wages. That is a notion the students themselves expressed--they were hired for jobs local workers could do but for less money. And the fact that Hershey has eliminated a significant portion of their full time staff and plans more lay offs.

And for all of those who believe the hooey that we have the best medical system in the world there is this little item that should put a chink in your faith. Some news outlets have carried stories about the shortage of certain classes of medications for the last couple of years. Last night was one of the few times the mainstream broadcast media decided to cover it. Again, I see a number of contradictions here. I remember all too well the news stories about the government's efforts to interfere with Americans getting drugs from foreign suppliers--although I, among others didn't see what was so foreign about Canada. We were told that getting drugs from beyond our borders was risky because the drugs might be contaminated, adulterated, diluted, or just plain fake. Gee, that sounds about like the situation inside the U.S. Think about Bayer and other such recalls over the last couple of years. Now one of the reasons given for the shortage is that many of the scarce drugs are made overseas and are often contaminated somewhere along the supply line. Many of the drugs come from (surprise, surprise) China. And there is the problem all of the media sort of glides over without much comment or analysis--companies stop producing a drug because it is not profitable enough for them. Isn't capitalism wonderful!!

I managed to get the catnip and thyme off the fence after having a fight with the bean and cucumber vines. They were well entangled in the plants and on the holders. I put the thyme back up (after looking it over well) but in another place well away from the beans and melons. I cleaned out the catnip which was looking very ratty. It did bloom well and the bees loved it but it was time for it to retire. Had a devil of a time getting the root ball out of the container. It was totally packed. Luckily, this year, I got a new trowel based somewhat on the Japanese hori hori knife. It has a straight cutting edge on one side, a serrated cutting edge on the other, and a notched tip which makes it easy to cut tough stems at or below soil level. It cut the roots very nicely as I chopped up the ball. Right now--I am resting. That was exhausting.

From the party that specializes in hypocrisy comes this notion. I will say first off that I was never in favor of that so called employee payroll tax holiday. I saw it as a back door effort to defund Social Security and it did worsen the long term financial projections for the program. I also never believed that it would either help create jobs or increase in any meaningful way the ability of ordinary Americans to jump start the economy by going on a spending spree. I was incredibly disappointed (extreme understatement) that Obama thought purchasing this 'break' for ordinary employees was worth extending the Bush tax cuts which benefitted the wealthy above all. And I really, really, really resent Hensarling's quip that not all tax relief is equal for the purposes of stimulating the economy. First, the extensions of the Bush cuts did damned little for either stimulating the economy or for creating jobs. Second, it sounds just a bit too much like 'all animals are created equal, but some are more equal.' We know how that story ended.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It was dry and sunny yesterday. The possible rain was moved to today--maybe. Thankfully the temperatures are in the low to mid 80s. No air conditioning needed.

Thanks for the background on Russ, Kay. We have been subjected the the lunatic fringe of the Republican party for so long that I forget that the party once was considerably left of where it is today. The policies of the traditional Republicans would seem quite liberal by comparison. A number of pundits and bloggers note that the patron saint of the party, Ronald Reagan, would have no place in it today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Good morning, everyone. We have cloudy skies at the moment. That may change though we do have a chance of showers off and on over the weekend. The rain would be nice, if it comes. So far we have been pleasantly surprised by the water and energy costs this summer. Given how warm it has been our bills have actually been a bit less than for the comparable period last year. According to the weather people we have had almost the same number of hot days both years. I can tell the growing season is winding down. The earliest tomato vines have almost stopped producing. The later maturing vines are ripening now. I pulled the sole surviving poppy a couple of days ago (during one of my few energetic periods). It produced a very pretty peony-like flower so next year I will try it again next year. I found out a good bit about how not to plant the poppy seeds this year so I can correct my mistakes.

The local PBS station aired an interesting program last night: The Botany of Desire. Michael Pollen was the primary narrator and guided the viewer along the journey of development of four plants and their relationship to man over time. He tried to present it from the plants' point of view with their development as active strategies to ensure their own continued survival. I think he could have done without that particular narrative slant. But on the whole it was an interesting program that focused on apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. I already knew most of what he brought up but there were a few surprises. I didn't realize that up and down history of apples and their connection to the temperance movement. Most apples grown in the 19th century were used to produce hard cider because the fruit was bitter and not edible. Every now and then a sport produced a sweet apple and those were propagated by grafting because growing apple trees from seeds is genetic roulette--the trees grown may or may not (probably won't) resemble the parent plant. If you get a chance see the film. It is well worth the time.

Interesting comment you had on LBJ, Lois. However, it isn't surprising. A lot of people have noticed that in certain respects the differences between the Repthuglicans and Damnocrats are more a matter of degree than substance. Both are very pro business. Until recently the pro labor stance of most Damnocrats masked their business links. Now, however, that so many have decided that social programs and social justice are negotiable but the advantages for big business, especially the military suppliers and the finance sector, are not, that bias is clearly visible. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. The rise of broad based democratic governments began during the 18th century with the rise of a large middle class outside the traditional social/political structure that came out of the Middle Ages. This commercial and urban class had no real place in the tradition that divided society into 'those who fight, those who pray, and those who work.' But their financial and commercial power demanded they be included in the political power structure. The history of the intervening three centuries has been the history of including more and more people into that middle class--into the exercise of political power. The history of the last thirty years has been the collapse of that middle class and the usurpation of political power by the concentrated financial power of large companies and trans-national corporations. Mitt Romney took a bit of flack when he claimed that 'corporations are people.' Actually, he wasn't wrong--corporations are persons in a legal sense. The question of course is how they exercise political power.

I agree, Kay. I love Russ' blog also. He is such an unabashed liberal, as am I.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good morning to you all out there. Still under the weather with this bronchitis. At least it seems to be breaking. Mom is much better and I am about 4 days behind her in the recovery process. She felt well enough to make up the last batch of tomatoes as sauce for freezing. I trimmed the tomatoes again and pulled the melons. Neither of us really liked the flavor so I won't be putting them in again. They sounded perfect for a small container garden since the fruit was only 1 to 2 lbs a maturity. That part was right on the money as was the description of the very strong aromatic smell. Unfortunately, the flavor was the deal breaker. I found a whole bunch of small beans developing so we may get a nice batch for the freezer. And with a couple more cucumbers almost ready to pick I need to think about pickling. One of my books has an interesting recipe for freezer pickling small batches. That may be interesting. Anyone out there done anything like that? Another of my books say that freezing reduces the potency of spices used in pickling. Anyone have any experience or information on that?

Thanks, Lois and Kay, for the good wishes and energy. You lift my spirits. And I love the roses, Lois. Thanks again.

Russ' Filtered News has a very good editorial cartoon on Rick Perry's "Texas Miracle."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good morning, All. I am still under the weather. We managed to get our grocery shopping done but didn't have much energy for anything else. We wouldn't have gone out at all if we hadn't run out of a couple necessary items. Today--I will get a bit done when ever my energy levels are high enough.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Good Sunday morning to you all. I didn't have much to say yesterday. I am a little under the weather because Mom's bronchitis has traveled to me. Not too bad--just no energy and a bit of a cough. Hopefully it won't go any further. We had rain late yesterday and overnight with a bit of hail. Thankfully, the hail barely qualified as pea sized. No damage in the gardens and I won't have to water anything. Other areas weren't so lucky as the news from the Indiana state fair showed. On the good news I have two small melons that were close enough to ripe to fall off the vine. And the one I accidentally cut a few days ago has ripened on the counter. We will try one later today. I hope it tastes as good as it smelled. I had to take the largest of the red bells this morning. They were about half red but one had developed a soft spot. I got two pint freezer bags of stewed tomatoes out of the Romas I harvested to date. The next batch I plant to make into sauce.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Good morning, again, Everyone. I don't know what I will find as I traipse through the internet this morning. The stories don't seem to change just a few minor details. The Repthuglican candidates for that party's nomination are acting like it is early 2012 not mid 2011. Once upon a time we had a respite from national election politics. The 'super committee' is set and I have even less hope for it than I had before the selections were made. All of the Repthuglicans signed Norquist's asinine pledge not to increase taxes so unless a miracle happens that is off the table. I am not sure about the Damnocrats. But given how eager some of them are to screw us out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--lets just say I don't expect any of them to stand up for those of us in the lower 80% of the economic jungle. And a barely mentioned story from this morning's new tells us that the U.S. Postal Service will ask Congress to change its collective bargaining policies so they can fire as many as 20% workers and get out from under their pension and health care programs. Sounds like the USPS is channeling Scott Walker. Here is the MSNBC story. Most of what I would say about that is incredibly uncouth--so I will leave it to your imaginations.

I have to finish the stewed tomatoes today but otherwise there isn't much to do. It will soon be time to wind down, clean up, and get things ready for winter. And start planning for next season.

There isn't much I can say about this story except we need to give the (unnamed) federal judge a vote of thanks and some kind of medal for not accepting the slap-on-the-wrist plea bargain the prosecutors originally accepted.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good morning to you all out there. Overnight temps reached the high 50s--first time in a long time. Nothing much planned for the day. I got a good bit of the bean, cucumber, melon, and tomato beds trimmed. Unfortunately, I cut the wrong stem and detached the largest melon--and it wasn't ripe. But in the process I found two more that were well hidden in the thick growth. Also far more tomatoes than I thought I had. I still have a lot of trimming to do. I want to stew the Roma and Fresh Salsa tomatoes for freezing. I should get a couple of pint freezer baggies out of them. Doesn't sound like a lot but given the space it is. This is the best year yet for my little container gardens.

I just finished putting the tomatoes on to stew (along with a generous portion of green pepper and onion). I started out thinking that I would try the little slow cooker but soon found I had way, way too many tomatoes for it. I wound up using our tock pot. Didn't realize how many tomatoes I had. And almost all of them were from the Juliet Roma. The Fresh Salsa has just started producing and the standard Roma is a good way behind the others.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good morning, Everyone. Overnight temps were just above 60 and the prediction is for high 70s with, perhaps, an 80 somewhere up here. I got quite a bit done yesterday in the gardens. It has finally been cool enough for me to get out more than a brief time to water in the morning. The rains we had Sunday and Monday were nice. I didn't have to water till today. I got the lemon balm cut back and dried yesterday along with the basil. I need to get to the oregano today and, maybe, the stevia. My main effort is to get the east side containers trimmed back to take pressure off of the trellises. There is so much foliage on them that a good wind might collapse them. Also I was surprised to find more Fresh Salsa tomatoes and cucumber than I thought. And a lot more bean blossoms. I don't want to lose the harvest because it is hidden behind a lot of leaves. I took the first of the slicer tomatoes this morning--off the Big Beef, I think. I found a whole bunch of the Brandywine I didn't see because of the thick growth of leaves. I really need to sit down and check out the maturation times on these varieties. I wonder how much more I will find when I get more of that jungle cleared. July was just so damned hot that only the minimum tasks got done. I am surprised, given the heat, that I managed to keep everything watered well.

I am about half way through my morning reading on-line. Haven't found much to comment on. Yesterday's stock market seemed a bit manic-depressive. But no matter--it is still out of touch with the real economy. Out of curiosity I just checked Market Watch to see what the markets are doing and right now all are down. That slightly-more-than 400 point gain the Dow had yesterday has been almost cancelled out. In a summer of re-runs this is all too familiar. As is yesterday's trading range of -400 to +400. I wonder how the pundits are going to spin this. Of course by the end of the trading day the reversal may have reversed itself. As I said--manic-depressive on a massive, collective scale.

I read this item yesterday and I immediately thought of a quip from a favorite fictional character, Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long: In a government of the people, by the people, for the people--DON'T tell the people. Evidently that applies even to those governments that hove no tradition of (usually violated) reverence for the people.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good morning, all. As the song says "Summer time and the living is easy." I don't have much other than maintenance in the gardens. I want to take a good look at the slicer that is almost ready to pick. First one of our own of the season. I have some cherry and Roma tomatoes to pick as well. After that I want to continue thinning the leaves on the beans and go on to the cucumbers and melons. We had some high winds Sunday night and I was a bit worried about how that trellis swayed. Thankfully, the bean/cucumber trellis is very stable but thinning it should make it even more so. The beans seem to be making up for lost time and blooming very well. I probably should take the two cucumbers--they are ready. Still waiting for the melons to ripen.

Although there is a lot of 'sound and fury' in the political/economic situation all the noise 'signifies nothing.' The talking heads keep talking about a 'double dip' or a second recession but we don't see where we had even started to recover from the first one. Now with the drop in the stock markets they are bemoaning the lost 'wealth.' I am afraid I simply don't see stocks as wealth. They are merely pieces of paper whose value depends on the willingness of someone else to buy them when the owner wants to sell. Theoretically, stocks are at least tangentially backed up by the value of the company that issued them and bonds are somewhat related to the ability of the issuer to redeem them. Unfortunately, too much of our financial paper is totally divorced form the real economy. After all, CDOs are simply pieces of paper that are at least once removed from the debts that are simply valuable only because of a promise to pay the debt. What was it the Bible said about a 'house built upon the sand?'

Well, this came out of nowhere. At least no where as far as the news on this side of the Atlantic goes. They are scrambling for explanations. "Thuggery" say police officials. Someone yesterday noted the economic situation, especially bad for young people. The original reports (three days ago) reported on demonstrations over a disputed police shooting that spiraled out of control. But the way the riots are spreading indicates some seething anger underneath.

Do you ever get the feeling that our political leaders and economic experts are mostly engaged in boosterism? I get that feeling because most of them busily insist that everything is fine and, if not exactly fine, then 'immanently fixable,' as our President said in his very short and very non-specific remarks yesterday. They seem to be operating on the principle that if they express positive thoughts long enough and emphatically enough it will translate into a positive economic and political environment. I keep thinking of Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, here. Unfortunately, reality is sometimes not so obliging. This little piece from the New York Times provides an explanation for this boosterism.

I found this Stratfor report in my in-box this morning. I think the assessment is right on. I would go a bit further. While we have a 'global' economy we don't really have a global political system. Each individual political economy is trying to deal with the problems in their own bailiwicks generated by events that have connections to problems in other areas. This is the downside of a global economy. The last point of the report is the most troubling. We can see the incipient crisis in legitimacy and, if it becomes something more than incipient, we will be in very deep s**t.

I read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed back when it first came out. What she wrote closely reflected my own experience in the low wage work force. I had a number of such jobs over the years. Usually they were tolerable only because I expected them to be temporary while I finished that degree or this program which I hopefully expected to lead to a career earning a secure income that would support me comfortably if not luxuriously. I got the degrees and finished the programs (mostly) but the second half of that equation never appeared. Instead the mirage of a single job that paid me a living wage was always out of reach. I think the most depressing point came when I realized that, if I somehow could do with out eating or sleeping, I might be able to support myself--if I could hold down 3 of those jobs simultaneously. Ehrenreich has a guest post on Tom Englehardt's tomdispatch this morning titled "Nickeled and Dimed (2011 version)." Like the original, the new version confirms my intuitive notions of what is happening. Life has become much harder for those who have little while those who have much want, and feel entitled to, more.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hello, again, All. We have another lazy, hazy summer Monday. Temps aren't bad--in the mid 60s so far and expected to rise to the mid 80s. If the humidity stays tolerable we won't have to put on the air. Nothing much planned for the gardens today. Just picking the ripe tomatoes and some trimming.

I haven't had much to say about the political/economic mire we find ourselves in. There isn't much I can do about it other than try to figure out what my individual options to mitigate the possible harm might be. There isn't much I can say about it that I haven't said before. This post at Jesse's Cafe Americain says everything very clearly.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Good morning, all. Not as humid as yesterday but we expect the temperature to be higher. We got a bit of rain early yesterday--enough that I didn't water the gardens. I just picked a whole bunch of the Roma and Fresh Salsa tomatoes. We are watching the red bell peppers because one is ripening nicely. I also saw a nice cucumber that is ready any time we are.

Now this is interesting. A Spanish football (soccer to us) team gets a loan from a bank to pay the transfer fees for two star players. Then, a after the bank merges with another, the loan is put up as collateral with the ECB for needed funds and, if the loan goes bad, the ECB could 'own' the players?!!! Exactly what that means isn't made clear. Would they be forced to stay with that team, with or without contract, until the loan is paid off?? I believe that would qualify as slavery. Worse Moody's rated the loan collateral as AAA.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Not much going on here. The transplanting got done yesterday and everything seems to be adjusting quite nicely. We may get some rain today. It is cloudy now so I will wait and see if it clears off. The only thing I really need to do is pick one of the green slicing tomatoes to be fried later today. This is a strange year. Normally, we would have been waiting anxiously for the tomatoes to get large enough to be fried green. But, with the heat this year, our appetites just aren't there. The only reason we are having our seasonal favorite today is that while I was trimming the plants one of the green tomatoes fell off.

We have had a bit of trouble with our computers this week. Nothing that kept us off the internet but enough to be very irritating. We upgraded to Lion. After the upgrade Mom couldn't get into her bank account and had to go through the process of re-authenticating her machine. I had no problem on that front. And it totally screwed up her start up page and we had to reset that. Those are operations we don't have to do very often so we have to re-learn the process whenever something messes up those procedures. My problem was different. I used Appleworks for my word processing and spreadsheet work. Lion doesn't support Appleworks. Textedit (the word processing program that is part of the operating system package) is simply not adequate and can't translate my files into a useable form. So I had to get iWork and am now converting my files to that system. I have a lot of files. Apple, I am not a happy camper!

This Huffington Post article can be filed in the 'solve one problem and exacerbate another' file. The notion of biodegradable, plant-based plastic products has been pushed for a number of years. The answer, we have been told, to the depletion of a non-renewable resource and to the persistence of the plastic trash in our environment. Now a new study show that the biodegradable releases methane before regulations require landfills to begin to capture the gas produced.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sorry, y'all. Fat finger struck again. I intended to save what I had done so I could take a break and do my transplants and eat breakfast. I published instead.

I agree with you, Kay, on the mess that is our (mis-)education system. I mentioned my sarcastic comment on the teaching of 'texting' instead of cursive. But my disenchantment with education at all levels goes much deeper. Ant that from a person who has multiple advanced degrees and once bought into the notion that the road to economic advancement was through education. To continue with the comparison I started yesterday. One hundred years ago my grandfather was qualified to teach elementary school classes--because he graduated from 8th grade. By the time I was graduated from 8th grade teachers had to have a bachelor's degree. Now the bachelor's is only a toe in the door. You had better plan to go on for a master's. One hundred years ago a young person without either wealth of his own or family to rely on could work for four or five years and be able to save enough to pay for his college education. When he graduated he had no loans hanging over his head but a world of opportunity thanks to that education. By the time I was in college (on the GI Bill, thank you very much Uncle Sam) many of my friends worked over the summer and earned enough to pay for their next year's classes and often enough to live frugally with at most a part time job during the school year. Now the new graduates usually come out with the degree in one hand and a hefty loan in the other. And, as I have noted before, the economic benefits (spread out over a working lifetime) don't justify the expenditure. The grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's graduates were a scarce commodity in a world when less than half of the working population had a high school education. Now, graduates with a bachelor's degree are a dime a dozen. The world has changed but our cultural assumptions haven changed with it. The basic questions--education for what, at what price, and for whom--haven't been asked much less answered.

I wonder if our legislators will hear confirmation of this poll which shows very low approval ratings for them and for the Tea Party. Unfortunately it is rather far from the next election and people have a tendency to say we should throw the bums out but they rather like their own bums.

Here is an intriguing story about our wonderful bureaucracy. Two sisters who were born at home, were home schooled, and have no medical records are forced to spend a fortune suing the state to get birth certificates and then have to sue the U.S. government to get social security numbers.
Well, here it is--Friday again. The first Friday of August. Hope you all have a very nice day. We expect another in the low 80s which means no air conditioning needed again. Tomorrow and Sunday may be a different matter with the predictions for mid to high 80s. It really depends on the humidity. It is time to take out my sunflowers. I have a nice pot of yellow mums to put in their place. I also want to transplant a couple of pots of petunia from the bunches in the large containers that are either too crowded or in too shady a spot to be happy. I also have to start on another round of herb harvesting. I know, I know--I have been threatening that for the last week.

The lead story for the Good Morning America news this morning is the huge sell off on the markets round the world. They all seem so surprised as did the CNBC talking heads yesterday. We look at this and wonder why they are so surprised. Everybody has suddenly realized that there are other concerns in this global economy besides the U.S. debt limit debacle. I think most of those people have a very short term memory, a very limited attention span, and a very effective set of blinders restricting their vision to one thing at a time. One of the reporters just made my point for me--there was nothing new to really drive the selling. We have known about the European sovereign debt problem. For those of us with a longer memory the term PIIGS once stood for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. All of this has been on the horizon for the last three years (or possibly longer.) Another commented that the notion going around that the U.S. is headed for either a double dip recession or an new recession leaves a lot of people wondering when the original recession ended. That is the beauty of statistic--the numbers can obscure as much (or more) than they reveal.

I read this Guardian article yesterday but didn't link to it then. Greek banks have experienced a 'silent' run. No long lines of desperate people struggling to get in and demand their deposits in cash. Instead just an increasing number of desperate individuals withdrawing their money hoping to find a safe place for it somewhere, anywhere. I was reminded of it this morning during the news segment I discussed above. One of the investors interviewed said he was withdrawing from the bond and stock markets, and putting his cash in the bank. At least it would be insured and he would get a minimal couple of percent interest for it. My thought--hope he isn't depending of the FDIC which depends on the 'full faith and credit of the United States.' Depending on how much a depositor has the full amount may not be covered. And if we have a serious depression will the government have either the wherewithal or the will to meet that commitment?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good morning to you all. Yesterday was a very nice low 80 day with sun late in the day and a nice breeze. That should be the program for the next week and maybe longer. We were able to open the doors and upstairs window. No air conditioning!! My beans are finally deciding to bloom as is the sole surviving poppy and the Fresh Salsa tomatoes are starting to ripen. I pulled one of the lemon balm patches I had in a small pot sunk in one of the large containers. It wasn't happy given the shade the cucumbers and beans provided. I put it in a new pot in one of the fence hangers. It should revive nicely. I saw a couple of similarly unhappy petunias so they might find a new home later today. The Teddy Bear sunflowers are nearly spent so I have to think about taking them out and putting in something new. A trip to Home Depot is in order--for tomorrow, I think. Today I need to continue trimming and cleaning up a bit after the heat of the past month kept me limited to minimum maintenance.

While we are enjoying a break from the heat we are amazed by the continued heat in the south. My jaw dropped when the news reported that some people had to replace air conditioners which melted from the load. The highs aren't the only thing about the heat wave that is amazing--how long this phenomenon has lasted (33 days in a row in Dallas) is also mind boggling.

This item from MSNBC bring up a problem I have seen for the last 30 years. The issue has kicked into a higher gear thanks to the economic problems but has actually been in the background for a very long time. I remember newspaper accounts (back when I subscribed to and read newspapers) of a school district which didn't have enough money to repair the toilets and whose text books were more than 10 years out of date while another not far away had computer labs (at the beginning of the computer age) with one machine for each child. Needless to say the toilets in the second school district worked.

On another aspect of modern education--Sister and her partner invited Mom and me to lunch the other day. She filled us in on all of the family news. Her daughter lives in a relatively affluent town and has two young kids in school. The school district decreed that all students will be 'given' a laptop and their parents charged $250 per year per child for the computers and after 4 years they would it. That raised a stink because although the town is relatively affluent they do have a sizable number of people who are not all that affluent. So they changed the program only $150 per year per child and at the end of five years the parents could pay there remaining $250 on the cost of the machines to keep them. I had would have had a number of objections if I were a parent in the school district. No choice of brand, no choice of available programs, and no choice of whether giving a young child (including kindergarteners) a computer at all. And, adding to my disgust with the whole issue, the schools there are no longer teaching cursive writing. Instead they have instruction in 'texting.' Evidently my niece asked how the thought the kids would sign their names in the future and she was told that they won't have to because they can sign with and electronic 'x.' My comment: Oh, my what a long way we come. One hundred years ago illiterates signed with an x and now the modern illiterate signs with an x.

I saw this mishigas coming three years ago when the layoffs started to soar and a lot of states borrowed from the U.S. treasury to cover their increased costs. I wondered at the time what would happen when those bills came due. I guess we are going to find out. Don't you just love the states cutting the original 26 weeks of benefits back to as little as 20? At a time when the average time between losing one job and finding an new one is somewhere north of 45 weeks? I think that our leaders have failed to imagine exactly how deep and prolonged this 'recession' would be. Or how long (as in how many years not weeks or months) it will take to reduce the unemployment rate.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It is cooler though still humid. The weather people say the humidity should drop over the day. I won't do any gardening until the clouds dissipate. We had rain overnight with some winds and lightning. Unfortunately, the rain wasn't enough to do the gardens any real good. I will have to water anyway.

Here is an interesting little piece from the Guardian (which I found checking out this item on Natural news.) I have been skeptical about scientific papers and the reporting on them for some time. Too often we get a big splash for preliminary studies and nothing for the later studies which qualify or even totally discredit the initial results. The tobacco industry had their bought researchers construct studies designed to discredit all of the studies which showed connections between smoking and disease. The drug industry it seems has taken the fraud to another level by simply writing the studies themselves and paying scientists to allow the papers to be published under their more respectable names. Bottom line: you have to carefully consider any information even from supposedly reputable sources.

I really like this story from Natural News (citing the Minnesota Star Tribune). A couple years ago I read stories about Monsanto (primarily) suing neighboring farmers, many of whom were seed savers, for infringing on their patents for GMO crops when the farmers' crops showed genetic contamination from the GMO crops. Now organic farmers can sue for trespass when the neighbors' chemical applications and Monsanto's crops pollinate their crops. Good!

Now this is curious. I don't necessarily endorse the study. Statistics are always slippery and malleable. But I do know that Repthuglican politicians seem to drive me crazy--in or out of the White House.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Good morning, again, everyone. Warm and muggy today going to hot and muggy. But we have the promise of 80s for the next week. I really need to get out in the gardens because I have a lot of trimming to do. Also the cherry tomato is showing signs of heat stress and early blight. I am thankful that the Roma next to it looks fine. For the most part, Lois, the gardens are looking very good considering 19 days of 90+ and not enough rain to hardly wet the ground. The really drenching and flooding rains fell north and west of here. And when we did get a goodly bid it was in one fell swoop, like that 4 inches in two hours a bit over a week ago. But I will say this year's garden is the best I have had since I started keeping more than a could of scrawny plants on that cement slab. I need to dead head the marigolds--another job I have put off because of the heat. Mom and I have complained constantly this summer that we simply don't tolerate the heat well any more and remembering times that don't really seem that long ago when this summer would not have phased us at all. I guess we can be thankful that we aren't living in Texas and other parts that are still directly under that heat dome.

Sorry, Snowbrush, that your original comments didn't make it on. Hope you visit and try again.

I agree, Kay. I have come to tune out certain people because 1) their sanctimony puts my back up something fierce, 2) they trot out the same old arguments without anything new and the same old unproven assumptions, and 3) with the same old claims that they have the royal road to jobs and economic growth but without any scrutiny to see if the claims have any logical structure. The only question is which group of Americans they think they can safely kick under the bus this time.

Helen at Margaret and Helen has the perfect take on our current political situation. Can't say it better myself.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good morning to you all on this first day of August. We expect highs in the low 90s with enough humidity to push the heat index into the low 100s. I did not get the lemon balm done yesterday. That energy you noticed, Kay? Well as the old saying goes my get up and go got up and went. I did manage to get the watering done, fertilized the large containers and put a little cheese cloth hammock under the largest melon to take the stress off the stem. That one should start turning red soon. I found several new cucumbers developing so the work the bees have been doing is having good results.

I haven't had much to say about the political mess and don't have much to say even though the pundits and politicians are so optimistic about the deal the leaders have worked out. It hasn't been voted on yet. And the 'solution' to the debt limit 'crisis' doesn't even begin to address some of the larger issues facing our political/economic condition. Read this item if you are at all optimistic just because the politicians have forged an at-best temporary solution.