Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good morning all on this foggy Wednesday.  We had a good rain overnight.  They say there were some thunderstorms but all I heard last night was rain.  I don't mind the rain--it will help my containers thaw out.  So far the roses, blueberries, and thyme look good.  The mums and lavender are questionable.  I will start the tomatoes and peppers next week and get a list of what I want to start when.  I did make notes on the plants including when to start the seeds but now I want a chronological list.

Well, all the noise seems to be concentrated this morning on the Tuesday primaries in Michigan and Arizona (barely 'won' by Romney) and the new line up for Dancing With The Stars (which I don't watch and couldn't care less about.)  Oh, and the severe weather with tornadoes that ripped parts of Missouri and surrounding states.  I saw an interesting little article this morning with a poll indicating that Americans are finally coming accept the notion of global warming climate change.  Evidently the strange weather (heat wave, drought, and warmer, drier winter) over the last year finally means that their perceptions match their ideas of the theory.  I thought one of the quotes was interesting--the scientist was glad Americans 'believe in thermometers.'  That says something about our general competency (not high) in science.

As Mark Twain (I think it was) said: history doesn't repeat; it rhymes.  This piece underscores that premise.

A relatively new item on TV that has amused us for a while is the prevalence of commercials offering a cure for 'low T' (testosterone deficiency.)  Given the number of commercials for cures for 'erectile deficiency,' I have wondered how historians a hundred years from now would view our poor fragile and beleaguered males.  Evidently, according to this Financial Times piece, the crap really hit fan (or the fragile male egos) after the financial crisis and dealing with it is now making some people very rich.

Grist had an interesting little article on an insect pest that has been showing up increasingly at import check stations.  Mom wondered where it came from and I told her that the Wikipedia list was so extensive it would almost be easier to list the countries where it isn't found.  The Khapra beetle originally came from  India and enjoys a very wide range of foods--most of which humans depend on as well.  And, from what I was reading we don't have many ways of controlling it if it does become established.  As if we didn't have enough problems with the zebra mussel (which has devastated the the lake perch population in the Great Lakes) and the Asian carp (whose possible invasion of the Great Lakes has been the subject of repeated lawsuits going all the way to the Supreme Court.)

Grist also posted this intriguing notion: a little, free library on the front lawn.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Good morning, All.  As you can tell, I didn't find anything to comment on yesterday.  I didn't watch the Oscars and I don't think the awards are worth the news time they have been getting for the last two months. I am so tired of Angelina Jolie's leg. The morning news has been going on about the line up for the new Dancing With The Stars season.  I don't watch it and I really wish I could hear less of it but they seem to think the program is worth repeated stories.  Last season we got the pre-show, show, post-show, post-post show stories and a repeat on Sunday afternoons.  In between we get a sprinkling of real news much of which we have already read on-line.

However, this should get interesting.  I have thought for some time that we should have a 'corporate death penalty.'  There are corporations that exhibit a predatory and corrupt culture--take a look at the accounts of Murdoch's News Corp.  Yet we have no legal way to deal with that.  At best a few 'sacrificial lambs' are prosecuted, get slaps on their wrists, and the company continues on its way having learned new ways to cover up its crimes.  I agree with one blogger (I'm sorry I don't remember who) who said he would believe corporations were persons when Texas executed one.  Amen!!  For more see this from NPR.

For the 'they keep telling us the economy is getting better but...' file--the local (Chicago) news last night carried a story about a major theft from a local cemetery.  It seems someone (or several someones) blitzed through and stole every kind of metal they could find--urns, grave markers, and so on.  The police are investigating but even if they find who did it the families of the dead are still stuck with the expense of replacing what was stolen which will be expensive.

I commented when I first read about this scandal that Japan seems to have its own MF Global mess.  Jess' Cafe Americain has more info and I may have been more accurate than I thought.  I wonder which 'major European bank' got the money by way of the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Hong Kong.

Barry Ritholtz wrote this commentary for the Washington Post which rather nicely sums up the so-called settlement between the big banks and the (now) 49 states' attorneys general.  They used to say that justice delayed is justice denied.  But that was when we had a government of laws.  Instead we now have a government of corporate 'persons' not laws.  To continue with a related theme this story on Fox Business really pisses me off.  Once upon a time there was another saying: ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Now, it seems, if the boys at MF Global didn't know they were committing fraud by raiding supposedly sequestered customer accounts they aren't criminally liable.  First, it was their job to know what they were doing.  Second,  WTF does 'sequestered' mean besides keep your hands off?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good morning to you all.  Thanks Nicola.  We are having a nice quiet weekend. Hope your weekend is a good one also.  Mom tried a new recipe yesterday for a spaghetti squash casserole that turned out very nice.  I found it on Kalyn's Kitchen.  She changed it a little by adding crumbled hot Italian sausage and, inadvertently, leaving out the chard.  She fixed the chard any as though it were spinach.  We are trying to incorporate more different veggies into our diets.  It is amazing how one gets into a rut using a limited number of foods.  We will have the casserole again today and maybe tomorrow as well.  Usually the third day reduces these things to a side dish.  If we had wanted to we could have frozen two thirds of the casserole. We do that every now and then.

Glad the storm didn't dump on you, Kay.  These things can get tricky and winter isn't over yet in spite of our mild weather.  We lucked out but I guess this tells us where the really bad weather went.

The BP oil spill trial is due to start--unless they come up with an acceptable settlement.  I saw the dueling news segments on the President's weekly message and the Republican's response.  I noticed that the Gentlewoman from Texas didn't mention BP while castigating the Administration for not handing out drilling permits hand over fist.  I also noticed that she didn't mention the jobs and incomes lost while moaning about the 'jobs lost' because those permits haven't been granted.  I am sorry if I simply don't believe that what BP has already fully compensated all of the people who lost jobs or work or income from the spill.  And I don't believe that the oil has been totally cleaned up.

I found this item at the Slog today and it supports my own suspicions concerning the Greek bailout 'deal.' It was set up to both fail and to buy enough time to make sure that all of the biggest investors in Greek debt have a chance to mitigate the effects on them of a Greek default--which is pretty much inevitable.  The Testosterone Pit says much the same thing.

Although this story came from the Daily Mail (UK) the action took place in California.  Don't you just love arrogance in full display?!!  But then he is in good company as I remember a similar story of abuse of a sales clerk at the hands of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good Saturday to you all.  We have sunny skies so far this morning.  The snow wasn't as bad as the weather people feared--at least here.  Up north they got more snow.  It was a bit of a shock to all those who have had a bad case of spring fever and forgot how fickle our weather can be.  Hopefully, you won't get any more than we did, Kay.  The hot chocolate sounds like a perfect prescription.

There hasn't been much to write about.  Same old, same old.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Friday to y'all.  Our weather people are calling this a 'fickle Friday.'  And they are right!!  When we woke up it was raining but that switched to heavy wet snow about half an hours ago.  They say we should get even more thanks to lake effect.  Oh, yes, Kay!  Batten down the hatches because it looks like it is coming your way.  Knowing that winter is only about two-thirds done has kept me from going full throttle on seed starting.  That is still in the planning and preparation stage.

The teaser headline for this article caught my attention: 'Does BPA-free=safe?'  My first thought: depends on what has replaced it.  The article hasn't said what manufacturers are using in place of the BPA.  I think the actions of France and any other countries to ban BPA that comes in contact with food will do far more than any of the petitions to or law suits against the EPA.  Manufacturers have to change if they don't want to lose markets to India and China, who have already changed.  The question of course is 'what are they using in place of BPA and what are its unintended effects?'

Every year over here, during high summer and deep winter, our local news broadcasts carry appeals for neighbors to check on their elderly or otherwise vulnerable neighbors.  And every year they also carry one or two stories about someone who has died but whose deaths weren't discovered for days or even weeks.  Evidently we aren't alone in this.  The Japanese call it 'kudokushi,' or 'lonely death.'  But that story led me to this one from 2010 about 'missing centenarians.'  Two of the cases cited in the article may have involved fraud where families kept the deaths quiet to continue receiving pension or other payments.  But I wonder--how many are simply people who have outlived their families or have not close contact with friends and family.  Given our atomized and individualized modern world that is not at all unlikely.

And this story, also from Japan, is all too familiar.  And the losses involved make MF Global seem moderate.  I think a phrase from War Games sums up the state of investing and finance today: the only rational move is not to play.

Most of the studies I have read on the decline of the Classical Maya claimed that the society succumbed to severe drought of many years duration.  Evidently, new information indicates that the drought may not have been as severe as originally thought.  But the key to the article is the indication that the drought, though only 25-40%, combined with evaporation to cause a water crisis.  That corresponds with what I have read of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  Expansion of agriculture removed the original grass cover which allowed moisture to evaporate at a faster rate which then combined with a severe drought to create the Dust Bowl.  Essentially the drought was largely man-made which also parallels what I have read of the Mayan case.

I don't know which part of this story is more insane.  Is it the part where a crowd waiting to buy a newly release Nike shoe becomes unruly requiring heavily armed and armored riot police to restore order?  Or is it the fact that all those idiots are willing to part with $220 for a pair of shoes?

One could say that everyone talks about the tax code (like the weather) but nobody does anything about it.  Ezra Klein gives a good account of why and of the intricacies of tax reform here.  The big difference: one really can't do anything about the weather but our representatives could do something about the tax code if they weren't so busy trying to appear to do something without really doing it which might piss off their contributors.  I seem to suffer from your hopeless condition, Kay.  I want our representatives to act like responsible adults.

I checked out that Daily Mail story about erasing search history on Google, Nicola.  I found it interesting both in what was included and what wasn't.  I also was surprised to see one search that I made from my Nook not from my computer.  I am glad to see the option there but I don't know how helpful it is to me.  I don't know how much it would help Google's marketing to know that I searched 'neem oil' and 'greece negative income' yesterday.  I haven't seen any gardening ads so far.  And I find it very easy to ignore ads for the most part unless they are particularly annoying.  I also don't really care who know what terms I have searched.  I imagine such knowledge would thoroughly confuse them.

Natural News had this item this morning and link to the BBC story here.  So scientists want to develop vaccines against food borne illnesses like salmonella and e. coli.  This strategy fits in with our cultural worship of high tech solutions.  I have two problems with this whole notion.  First, the food poisoning problem can be more easily and cheaply contained by insisting on better sanitation and humane treatment of our livestock, better inspection and serious penalties for companies that violate health and safety standards, and by teaching people to properly handle food again.  But then of course the drug companies would not get a nice windfall from developing the vaccines and the food industry would have to spend more money to comply with what would normally be considered common sense sanitation and safety rules.  The second problem comes from the British scientists trying to treat diabetes, cancer, and 'degenerative diseases' as though they were the same as measles and HIV.  The causative agents are not the same.  And then there is the problem of unintended consequences.

Then there is this little bit of insanity.  The Obama Administration proposes a budget that will eliminate the only agency that monitors fruits and vegetables for pathogens saving the government $5million each year and untold losses for the growers who have been suffering when their contaminated products are recalled.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good day to you all.  Frosty and foggy this morning.  The temperature should go up to about 40F again.  Yesterday I peeked into my little milk jug planters and I think I saw a couple of little sprouts breaking the surface.  Since I started with potting soil the only thing those could be is spinach.  I didn't get much else done yesterday.  Kuma has been off his feed for the last couple of days.  He is 17 and such episodes are a major concern.  I didn't know if it was just a short term bug or something else.  But I focused in on the food because he threw up one can, had a nasty case of diarrhea with an other, and refused to eat another.  This is food he has rated readily for all his life so it was a bit of a surprise to have three days running like this.  I decided to change things up and get some other kind of food.  Well, he is eating again.  He went after the new canned food after having rejected the old all morning.  And he ate the new dry food even though he had a helping of the new canned available.  (Actually, he ate a bit of both.)  I also decided to change his water bowl.  I have remarked before that he is very insistent about drinking from puddles and run-off from the containers outside.  Well, I put ice in his water and put the it all in a different dish.  He immediately drank from it.  I wonder if something is leaching out of the old dish he didn't like.  He is now back to his usual self.

Sometimes these boys really do worry me.  Question: what faction do you arm?  Another question:  what makes you think what will come after Assad will be any better than Assad?  Third question: how much stability has resulted from siding with the rebels in Libya and why would Syria be any different?  Fourth question: wouldn't it be better to spend that money here?

Ezra Klein's Wonkbook post in the Washington Post this morning presents an interesting dissection of the four remaining GOP contenders' budget proposals.  Interestingly, Romney's proposals are so vague that getting a good estimate of what they will mean for the future deficit is impossible.  But all except Ron Paul's program would increase the deficit.  Also interesting: Paul's proposals would be only marginally better, on this one metric, that President Obama's.   Follow this link to a Washington Post story with more detail on the report.

Just when you think things can't get worse in Greece, it does.  Zero Hedge had this on a way to screw your workers: negative salary.  I guess we have finally come to the point where something really is nothing--or less than nothing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Good Wednesday morning, Everyone.  We have another round of overnight snow flurries.  Not much accumulation and if the temps go up today, as they did yesterday, it will be gone by this evening.  (I may be wrong on that--it is still snowing and our temp is 40F)  I didn't get anything done on either the tablecloth or the deconstructing yesterday.  I remarked yesterday that our shopping trip Monday was disappointing because some of what we wanted wasn't available at our usual grocery store.  Well, we decided to go out to the other nearby grocery to see what they might have and check out the prices.  We did find our spaghetti squash and many of the prices are comparable.  We spent some time in the spice aisle also because Mom is making up her own seasoning mixtures.  She was totally shocked by the amount of salt the ones we had been using contained.  I had to remind her that we had homegrown basil, oregano, and thyme.  She almost bought some other herbs--ones I don't grow.

On the same trip we dropped by the nearby Lutheran church.  They have a food bank so we donated several canned foods we are no longer using because of the salt.  We are constantly amazed by how much salt is in the things we have unquestioningly eaten over the years.  We didn't think it would be so complicated but we have to consider not only how much salt is in each serving but the serving size.  The salt in the soups didn't seem so bad until we realized that our serving size is one can each.  Theirs is 2.5 per can.  Supposedly that is half a cup but we have never had less than a full cup for a meal.  We decided then and there that we can do without prepared soups.  Other things we decided to keep using because we use a small amount to flavor a pot of food that will provide meals for two or three days.

It seems to be a morning for unintended consequences.  I remarked after a news segment this morning concerning the 'accidental' burning of the Korans in Afghanistan that the burning was not accidental.  The riots that ensued were the unintended consequence of an intentional act.  Then I found this story.  Authorities have closed a border crossing between Chile and Peru because recent heavy rains have swept land mines onto the road.  The article didn't say when those mines were laid.  I doubt that anyone intended to close a road.

Well, this should get interesting.  When the news stories first came out about abusive banking fees and how much some banks rely on those fees for their profits I thought it said something unsavory about the banking industry.  I can understand charging customers a fair amount for overdrawing their accounts to cover the expense the bank incurs.  But it certainly doesn't cost them as much as they are charging.  But there is another facet to the story that isn't mentioned.  The bank not only charges the customer who overdraws the account.  The person to whom the check was written may also be charged a fee by their bank.  This is especially true for commercial customers as I found out working for a small retailer some years ago.  My boss was charged a fee for every NSF check she tried to deposit that she had received from her customers.  Thankfully, the local prosecuting attorney had a policy of prosecuting these cases and she could get back both the amount of the check and any fees she was charged in the handling.  But the process could take a while and in the mean time she was out the amount of the check and the fees which was deadly for her bottom line.

I was wondering why the news shows were interviewing so many Republican politicos this morning (so many I turned off the news early).  Then I discovered that they are having yet another debate tonight.  As you can tell these have long ago exceeded my tolerance.  I am ignoring them as much as possible.  Evidently, I am not alone.  I would disagree with one of their experts though.  I don't think Americans are uninterested in elections.  Granted that, in a good year, only about half of Americans vote.  But that isn't due to a lack of interest.  I don't care about the candidates' personal lives or religion.
I am going to have to amend that.  Normally, I don't care about the candidates' personal lives or religion.  However, I am not Catholic and I heartily resent Santorum's intent to enforce his understanding of Catholic doctrine on my behavior.  I would like to trust the politician to tell me the truth but I find it hard to trust the promises of a man who has violated his marriage vows not once but twice.  I also find it hard to trust the steadfastness of a man who disavows everything he has done in the past to garner votes now no matter how effective or how beneficial those actions.  And I believe that some level of government is necessary and we should be very careful about dismantling government.  You can agree all you like with the old saying that 'government governs best that governs least' or that we should have a 'small' government. But what is a small government considering that we have a country now of over 300million and communications/transportation that has collapsed the distances between the states?  It certainly wouldn't be the government of the Founding Fathers when the population was just over 5million (1800) and it took two weeks to travel between Philadelphia and Boston.

And this is why I think all of the idiots pushing for the elimination of unspecified regulations on business and industry are full of crap.  They treat 'capitalism' as a branch of Christianity--a moral and religious system.  The only moral values involved in capitalism are imposed from outside it.  Otherwise the only value is the bottom line and you can kill as many people, pollute as much of the land and water, or sell as many defective products as you can convince an unsuspecting public to buy so long as you make a profit.  And its boosters will trumpet the jobs created while hiding the lives lost or blighted in the process.

Why I don't believe the talking heads when they tell us the economy is getting better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hello, All.  Snowy this morning.  Kuma cried so piteously I let him out.  He came back in with a sprinkling of large, wet flakes all over him.  He hasn't wanted back out since.  I don't expect it to stick around because all of the highs for the next week are in the high 30s to high 40s.  I guess Nature had to remind us that it is still winter.

Consider yourself patted, Kay.  Over the last few years I have gone more toward small projects.  I have several large afghans completed and all but two given away.  I have also done a several large tablecloths back when I had a large table.  Those have also been given away since.  But small projects are easier to handle.  Holding yards of cloth or crocheted blanket is very hard on my hands and arms now-a-days.  Hope your girls enjoy the baskets.  For Christmas you might try hand made stockings for them to hang.

I have seen a number of articles trumpeting the notion that the U.S. (at least for the last couple of months) has become an 'energy exporter.'  They all announced the end of 'peak oil.'  Supposedly, the Canadian tar sands, the Marcellus shale, and the Bakken were the answer to our energy needs for the indefinite future.  But this article illuminates one of the problems I see with that boosterism:  what do you do with the waste water.  But the problems don't end there.  I have seen articles describing flammable water coming out of peoples taps in the areas bordering the Marcellus shale areas.  But the Canadian tar sands and Bakken require large amounts of water in an area where water is a scarce resource.  Over last summer during that severe drought (which still hasn't broken in parts of the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico) I read stories about the effort of oil companies to expand tracking operations because of the demands that would place on already extremely strained water resources.  I remember the slogans from the 1970s when OPEC declared their oil embargo:  'let them eat their oil.'  We can't drink oil and we can't irrigate fields with oil.  The oil and gas may be there but can we get it at a price we can afford without depleting an even more essential resource?

Well, the Eurozone finance ministers have voted to approve a new loan for Greece.  In spite of the euphoria in the stock markets I noticed that the deal isn't fully done yet.  The vote comes with more onerous conditions on Greece that the Greek government must approve.  The German and Dutch parliaments have to vote on the package.  This loan will only cover the bonds that mature next month.  Will the Greek government be able to make future bond payments (even though the holders of Greek debt are supposed to take a big loss) considering that their economy contracted 7% over the last quarter of last year?  The new measures demanded will only make their economy contract even further.  And I find something repugnant in the notion that somehow payments foreign bond holders will take precedence over the government services the Greek people need.  Gavin Hewitt makes a suggestion in his analysis of the situation that has occurred to me:  the new money is simply to buy time for the other countries and their banks to shore up their positions so that a default will cause less pain--for them, not the Greeks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Good morning on this new Monday.  Frosty but the sun is rising and we should be in the mid 40s again.  I transplanted my mints yesterday.  They and the bay tree sense spring is coming.  Each has nice new growth.  The rosemary is putting out secondary leaves also.  But all of the containers are frozen and won't thaw out very quickly.  I did notice that the fence gets a bit of sun mid-morning that reflects into the patio area.  That fence is a complicated blessing.  On the one hand, being white, it reflects sunlight and heat into an area that generally would not get enough sun to grow many of the plants I put in.  The heat is nice early in the spring or late in the fall because it warms things up.  But in the high summer that area can become a big oven.  I recorded temperatures in areas of 120+ last summer.  That is one reason I moved the little greenhouse toward the house where it will get more shade.  I don't know what will happen this year because I plan to put in corn which will shade part of the fence.  Maybe that will keep things a bit cooler.

I didn't get any stitching done on the tablecloth because I spent my time in deconstruction mode.  I think I mentioned the old cloths and pillow cases I had accumulated.  Well I got some of that processed.  The old brushed cotton nightgown that had the shoulder seams shredding I cut into strips for crocheting.  A pieced strip I had planned for a quilt top that never really worked out well I took apart to the individual blocks because I have a workable plan for them.  I ripped the seams out of several pillow cases.  They will make a nice base for some crazy quilt blocks and the embroidered panels will be put into other quilted projects.  I don't get rid of any embroidery unless the stitching is so far gone that I can't repair it.  I still have a pile of deconstructables to finish off.

Damn!  Another vampire that won't die.  The teaser headline read 'Lock up your e-mail.'  I think they need a bigger legal stake.  And the willingness to use it.

The financial world is anxiously waiting to see if Greece will get the anticipated bail out when the Eurozone finance ministers meet.  I wish that bailout would alleviate the conditions for ordinary Greeks.  But it won't because the programs that most affect them are the ones being cut in the name of 'austerity.'  But then the Greeks aren't the only ones facing growing poverty at the same time government aid is sharply cut back.  And the increased demand for Medicaid in suburbia isn't the only statistic that has shown a troubling trend recently.  They say that 47 million now depend on food stamps and the food pantries report a growing number of their patrons used to be donors.

This BBC report asks a good question: when was the last time any members of the Troika or any of the finance ministers walked the streets of Athens and saw what austerity has accomplished.  But something else in the story struck me.  First, everyone believes that there is no alternative.  They are in an either/or box of which no one is trying to think outside.  Second, the minister quoted as saying that what people have left after the draconian cuts to wages and pensions is better than nothing at all.  But having been on the receiving end of such cuts I have to ask 'when is something indistinguishable from nothing?'

We just got back from our weekly shopping trip and are a bit bummed out.  Our local supermarket has is in the middle of a make-over and we are disappointed so far.  They redid the produce section and, while it looks nice, we noticed not a single acorn, butternut, or spaghetti squash in the area.  We have never seen that before.  We were also looking for unsalted butter and found only a couple of brands.  We will give one a try and see if we like it.  It is sad in a way that we could find star fruit, papaya, baby bananas along but not a single winter squash.  I hope the bush butternuts I plant to grow produce a bumper crop this summer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Good Sunday morning.  Frosty again but the temperature should go into the high 30s like yesterday.  I got another small motif on the table cloth finished yesterday and started the last before Kuma insisted I put it away and let him have his lap time.  After that I have only the last large corner motif and the stitching will be done.  I will still have to hem it and I have been thinking about a pattern for a crochet edging.  I also got some more straightening done in the sewing room.  I have a pile of things--embroidered pillow cases and old clothes--that need to be de-constructed.  I have been thinking of using the embroidered panels in new items.  The clothes provide nice pieces of cloth that can still be used.  I didn't do anything in the gardens but then everything is still frozen so I can't work the soil.  I have to sit down with my lists and make up the seed starting schedule.  Some of that should start in the first two weeks of March.

It is indeed amazing how quickly some technologies become 'necessities,' Nicola.  For most of my childhood we got along with one car.  Families now seem to need one for each family member over the age of 16.  I didn't learn to drive till I was 27.  I have seen stories indicating many young people are figuring out how to do without a car because they find the associated costs (monthly car payment, insurance, licensing, and maintenance) daunting.  We have yet to get on the smart phone bandwagon and probably won't until we have to replace ours and find the only phones available are smart phones.  We don't surf, or play games, or text on our phones.  We just need one that will allow us to talk to someone we want to talk to.  My sister was amazed when we told her that.  She texts to everyone (except us) and often checks driving directions or shops using her phone.  We check directions before we leave and do our online shopping with our computers.  I often think that Mom and I are a marketer's worst nightmare.

I found this article by way of Chris Martensen's blog this morning.  I, of course, am in no position to know whether there is truth in it but it rather reflects my gut feeling cynicism concerning the whole Greek mess.  I have felt for some time now that the powers that be were trying to set up an 'un-reconcilleable differences' divorce between Greece and the Eurozone.  Every time the Greek government agreed to one set of onerous terms some new conditions were demanded that seemed to test exactly how much pain and humiliation Greeks would take before they flipped 'Merkozy' et al. the bird and left.  But they have stretched the process out long enough that the biggest banks may be able to soften their part of the pain.

Another example of how breathtakingly fast economic and social changes can sweep over us comes in this article.  I can remember the pre-mall and pre-big box store days.  Thanks to the internet we aren't going back to those days entirely although our own shopping patterns have split between on line and the local specialty shops or specialty chains.  I bought most of my seeds online but others and my plants will come from our local all year farmer's market or Home Depot and Menards.  We get our meat from a local butcher shop not the supermarket.  Putting all that empty mall space to other uses sounds like a good idea.

I found this illustration at Undernews.  It assesses the situation perfectly.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good morning on a frosty Saturday.  The weather people predict sun later on and temperatures near 40F.  The official temp in Chicago was 50F--very unusual for mid-February.  I got the cover on the mini-greenhouse but wasn't able to zip it up because the plastic is too stiff.  I will work on it as it relaxes.  I am making some headway upstairs in the sewing room but that will take a while as I sort it all.  I found three cross-stitch pieces half finished the I totally forgot about.  I will keep that box out so I don't lose it again.

We do have the TV on a lot, Nicola.  But we don't simply sit and watch.  Normally, we are on the computer--Mom has a number of games she likes and I have a very long list of blogs and news sites I read each day.  I recently noticed that a number of bloggers hadn't posted in a couple of years and weeded those out of my list.  Our programs?   Well, news for a good part.  Early morning local (Chicago) and late afternoon local and national followed by NHK World.  During the day we may put on CNN, or CNBC, or something on the History Channel.  But we watch segments that interest us and ignore the rest.  Mom has a touch of tinnitis and a background noise helps her.  More often now-a-days the news of any kind is annoying so we put Pandora on and listen to music.  Evening viewing is variable.  We like Bones, the Finder, Lost Girl, Alcatraz, The Mentalist, CSI (not the spin-offs though), Criminal Minds, Castle and a few others.  But again, we usually read or work (or play) on the computer.  We don't care much for the game/reality shows.  I need to put the computer away intermittently and pick up my needlework.  We both have the habit of saying we will stop after just one more (blog or game) and finding that we are still going five blogs or games later.  But Mom's latest check up with her doctor showed a trend toward high blood pressure so we both think some more activity that gets us off our duffs and moving is called for.

I think I should amend the section above a bit.  I said 'news for a good part.'  But our news viewing has been cut in half or better over the last few years.  We find the news programs so annoying or so unenlightening that we put on some other noise.  We both find we get more actual information on-line that we do over the airwaves.  We often review our budget and think about what we would do if we had to make cuts.  If we had to choose between cable tv and internet service we would choose internet.  Right now we don't have to choose.

I was surprised by this story because we had heard nothing about it in the mainstream media.  I checked  it out at other sites including the WTO official site.  Evidently the decision came last November so if the U.S. were planning to appeal the decision they should have done so already.  But again nothing in the main news.  Supposedly meat is the exception to this decision and can still carry a 'country of origin' label.  Good but not nearly good enough.  We read labels religiously and want to know not only what is in the product (especially food) but where it came from.

We got a big laugh out of this story.  I wonder if the little idiot tried to smoke the plant he stole??  Here are more details.

It is hard to believe but it has been 50 years since John Glenn's first orbital flight.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Friday to all of you out there.  I have to do some housework this morning.  And I think it is about time to put the cover on my mini-greenhouse and put up the tents on the containers.  I know I have been saying that for a while now but I just don't trust the weather.  But the next week indicates above normal temps with mainly rain and, perhaps, a touch of snow over night.  We stopped by one of our local home improvement/lumber yard/garden stores after Mom's doctor's appointment to pick up some drip pans for our stove and I went over to the seed racks to pick up a couple more packets of spinach seeds before asking the stocker if she knew when they would get in their potatoes in.  She didn't know and kidded me about having spring fever.  Yeah, I have a serious case.

And I do have to pick up the needlework on a more regular basis.  I have been puttering for the last long while and haven't got much done.  I am sure many of you know how that goes--you get into a pattern of bad habits and have to break them.  Thanks, Nicola, and hope your weekend is productive in both gardening and needlework.  Although I am amazed at how much you get done.  And I always love the pictures of the needlework, the birds, and the flowers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  We had light rain over night but the temperature was 40F on our patio this morning.  Much above normal.  Most of the snow has melted.  The seven-day forecast showed more of the same--rain or rain mixed with light snow and higher than normal temps.

The morning news this morning said that the last 'FEMA trailer' is now or will shortly be empty.  The 80+ year old occupant refused to move unless she could move back into her original house.  Evidently her house and the neighborhood around it has been rebuilt and she can go back.  The news mentioned in passing the problem of formaldehyde and other chemical contamination in the trailers before saying that the thousands of trailers would now be sold.  Unless the buyer is a scrap dealer who will take them apart I have a major problem with that.  I resent the thought that some poor schmuck would buy a polluted trailer from the government to live in or resell for some other poor schmuck to live in.

Just what we need--another Repthuglican hypocrite.  Government loans to alternative energy start-ups is bad (unless of course it is an alternative energy start up in his state that he supports or unless Repthuglicans support the company.)

Weather up-date--we now have some nice sunshine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Good morning to all out there.  It sounds like a broken record, the weather does.  Cloudy, again, with the possibility of some rain.  The temperatures, as you can guess, are again above normal.  I really don't mind the rain because it will begin to thaw my containers gardens.

I have always liked libraries but for a long time now I have preferred to buy books.  I had access to a couple of very extensive libraries when I was growing up but after most were very limited in their collections.  That didn't matter when I was a university student because the universities had large collections and interlibrary loan.  Valparaiso's public library has a surprisingly large and up to date collection.  I have been making more use of them over the last several years because I have to be much more careful with my money.  I too often have more month than money, as Kay so rightly says.

Bill Frezza at RealClearMarkets has this little editorial that echoes much of what I have been saying.  I don't agree with all of the directions in which he is taking his observation (see the paragraph on 'fairness' for example) but I agree with his overall argument.  Another point of disagreement--the issue of 'tax rate.'  I don't know where he got his figures but it goes hard against my own observations and I trust my lying eyes more than his statistics.  I remember figuring out many years ago that what I paid my own wages every four months from what I paid in taxes and I didn't get back very much of that on my tax refunds.  That is closer to a 20-25% tax rate for me and I certainly never earned close to the average income.  However, I agree that our political/economic system has stripped much of our language of any kind of meaning.  'Religious freedom' for the Catholic bishops and right wing religious reactionaries means the denial of freedom for many who are not Catholic or fundamentalist Protestant.  'Right to work' means the right to work for less and the 'freedom from onerous regulations' means the right to dump poisons into the air and water or on the land with impunity.

Mom had one of her regular quarterly consultations with her doctor this morning and coming back we passed a couple of gas stations that made us shake our heads in disbelief.  The price for regular wasn't so surprising at about $3.40/gal.  But the price for diesel was $3.95/gal.  Most of my life diesel sold for less that regular gas--as much as half the regular price.  Last summer I noticed that it had edged up to about $.30 less per gal.  Now it is $.50 more.  And they are predicting that regular gas will go up to about $5/gal by the end of this year.  Damn!!!  Oh, I forgot--we are lucky because fuel doesn't enter into the official inflation figures.  I found this on MSNBC which perfectly expresses the situation.

I have been repeatedly amazed by the obtuseness of school officials over the last few years.  From confiscating a child's charm bracelet because it contained a miniature pocket knife to giving a child a cheese sandwich for lunch because the parent is late paying for the meal plan to this piece of idiocy.  The food Nazis were out in force.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  Our skies are overcast this morning and we have an unpleasant mix of snow and freezing drizzle that fell overnight. One of the weather people this morning called it 'snizzle' which I thought was cute.  I had planned to go to the library this morning but I think I will renew the books on line and go next week.  I really like being able to decide whether to go out and--in nasty weather--I simply decide not to.

Well, it seems that someone else has come to the same conclusion I have about Mitt Romney.  I was a little nicer.  I just labeled him a chameleon.  But 'serial liar' has a certain truthiness about it.

I agree, Nicola.  I have flirted with several different Christian denominations including Catholicism and Mormonism.  None of them took on any level--spiritual, intellectual, emotional or moral.  Something was always lacking.  I have acquaintances who became Catholic because they found the doctrine intellectually satisfying.  I have acquaintances who adopted Judaism because they the moral demands satisfying.  In the end I am satisfied with my own conscience and moral standards, and will keep them.

We caught a piece of a teaser on the soon-to-be released retail sales figures for January this morning.  The piece seemed a bit--tepid.  I wondered aloud about the whole holiday season because it seemed that, although we had boosters touting it and speculating on how stimulating it would be for the economy, we hadn't seen much enthusiasm since.  With good reason it appears.  January numbers were anemically better year-over-year.  December was flat.  Nothing to be enthusiastic about.

And then there is this story--only the latest example of Repthuglican anti-labor bias.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good morning to you all.  This Monday is starting out with the sun about to rise but by later this afternoon the weather people say we will have another snow system.  Should give parts of the area 1 to 2 inches of snow.

Hello, Kay.  I agree on all points.  My problem with the Catholic Church is the equating their freedom to choose with a restriction of my freedom to choose.  I can give you a specific example.  A family member gave birth at a Catholic hospital some years ago for the second time in less than three years.  The couple wanted to limit their family to the two and the second had been difficult so they wanted the doctor to tie her tubes and do a vasectomy on him.  The staff refused and, because they were on public assistance and that hospital was the only one in the area accepting public assistance patients and the alternative birth control methods failed, three months later she was pregnant again.  They are not and were not Catholic.  What about their freedom to choose?  I do not mind the Church preaching the moral standards believers should abide by whether it is birth control, or divorce, or who should marry within the Church.  I deeply resent what I see as an attempt to enforce those standards on those of us who are not Catholic and that is exactly what their political activism is all about.

I think you all and Kay especially might enjoy this link.  John Aravosis at Americablog take up the argument the Bishops and equally obtuse Repthuglican politicians that to require them (or by extension their insurance firms) to provide contraceptives to their employees violates their religious freedoms enshrined in the Constitutions.  Reading this I doubt they have much of a legal argument.

John Robb at Global Guerrillas has a post this morning that echoes and expands on some of my remarks yesterday on the morality or rather the lack of morality in modern capitalism.  At base, the problem is a lack of trust on any level and the lack of any restraints which would build  trust.

You might like this one, Nicola.  Chris In Paris (another blogger at Americablog) links to a Guardian story which reports the lawyer for some of the victims of the phone hacking may try to bring legal action in the U.S.  Evidently, News Corp is headquartered over here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  Yesterday was one of those days when I just didn't want to do anything and couldn't find anything worth commenting on or linking to.  The day itself was very pretty once the snow stopped and the sun appeared--which it did by about 11am.  I did get two of the little milk jug micro-green houses filled with potting soil, planted with spinach and put outside.  But that is about all I did--besides read.  Later in the week the weather people predict mid 40s again.  I will see about setting up the little plastic tents over some of my containers.  I also need to find the seed-starting trays in the shed and clear off shelf space for them inside.  I want to start peppers and tomatoes during the first week of March.

I did see the news stories that new arrests have been made in the U.K. in connection with the Murdoch scandal, Nicola.  I can't say much more about it than I have before.  Unfortunately, no one has really commented on the root problem in this and similar stories.  The only standard in modern capitalism is money and it doesn't really matter how that money is made.  Put more plainly--capitalism does not provide either ethical or moral standards.  And as far as legal standards?  Well, it appears than anything that you can get away with or for which the monetary penalties are a fraction of the profits made are acceptable as far as our financial elite is concerned.

Well, the news this morning concentrated almost entirely on Whitney Houston's death.  Sorry about that but is it really worth all the time devoted to it?  A short, decorous announcement would have been sufficient but we don't seem to remember how to do decorous.

Everyone's talking about the weather.  And this is why.

Maha has some very good comments on that very surreal 'controversy' between the Catholic bishops and the religious Right wing nuts and President Obama over contraception.  All through it all I had the dizzy feeling that comes when the news reports are so far off my perception of reality.  Repeated polls show overwhelming support for contraception so I can only think that our unfriendly neighborhood bishops and religious idiots are living with their heads up their asses.  For the most part women are ignoring them until the shrill nonsense annoys past bearing as it did in Oklahoma.  Too bad the amendments were withdrawn.  This from Crooks & Liars.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Good morning on what may be a snowy day today.  The weather people predict falling temperatures (from mid to low 30s to low 20s) over the day and for our area--lake effect snow.  As much as 6-8 inches.  We are going to make a trip to the gas station to top off the tank.  We want a full tank just in case.

I have found three or four needles the hard way over the years, Nicola.  Now, when I loose one,  I search until I find it.  And any spent needles are put in either a paper shroud or into a vial that is being thrown away also.

I have to ask--what the hell is going on?  Saw this story this morning and have seen 3 or 4 in Chicago over the last month.  I think every one of them involved a drunk driver.

Well, the banks, the states, and the Federal Government have reached an agreement in the mortgage mess.  I am glad the big five banks will have to pay something.  However, the payment of $1500 to $2000 for those who lost their homes when the banks wrongly foreclosed may be a lot of money until compared to what those homeowners lost.  It is nice that the banks have to start renegotiating with homeowners to refinance and may even have to reduce the principle for some.  But they have three years to do so.  That is a kick the can down the road provision that keeps people in mortgage limbo.  And I wonder how long before the banks lobbyists go to their tame congress critters to get relief.  The only really good thing--the agreement did not grant an immunity from criminal charges.  At least from what I have read so far.  Only one commenter last night noted a big potential problem--the homeowner who has been trying to refinance only to be told by his bank that he 'doesn't qualify' but sees his neighbor getting the refi.  How long before such homeowners just flip them the bird and walk away?  For a better discussion on which criteria should determine how good this deal is (or is not), see this piece from Crooks&Liars.

The local news had a small segment this morning that I didn't hear all of but had some interesting aspects. Health insurance companies are resisting measures, whether on state or federal level I didn't hear, that require them to tell their customers in plain language what procedures are covered.  They say it would be too onerous a burden on them.  Really??  It is too burdensome to deal honestly and plainly with the people whose money you are taking.  What bullshit.

And here is another example of the eyeball level of bullshit in our economic/political system.  The politicians who yell the loudest about 'waste' in government will gladly subsidize big businesses that are already highly profitable.  Worse, the federal agencies which are supposed to protect our health and welfare are thoroughly subverted by the businesses they 'regulate.'  And, though I agree with the sentiment in the last paragraph that we protest the incestuous mess by not buying the products, how can we do that when the FDA decides that the industry doesn't have to list certain ingredients (like neotame) or the industry tries to mask their ingredients under innocuous labels (like calling high-fructose corn syrup 'corn sugar')??

I have already used the term bullshit twice so I am going to have to find something else to describe this. Another health threat that our FDA chose not to make public.

When we went out (and yes we completed the errands I mentioned at the beginning) we decided to stop and renew our supply of Excedrin.  I had put a dent in it when I had that infected, broken tooth just before Christmas.  Well, the local Walgreens had none.  They have a blank spot and a notice of the recall from January 9.  I would have thought a month would have been sufficient to get things straightened out and new supplies in.  We settled for the Walgreens version which is almost the same.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Good morning to you all.  Looks like clear skies today but frosty for now.  They say the temperature should reach 40 today--again.  Sorry for the messy look to yesterday's post.  I thought I had set things up for nice, tidy columns but, evidently, the actual post is several spaces narrower than the composition space.  Oh, well, next time I will know better.  Let's see if there is anything worth commenting on this morning.

Yes, indeed, Nicola.  It will be busy and it is rewarding, as you say, to the eye and the tummy.  It is also rewarding spiritually and intellectually.  It is far better than a therapist.

I have read a couple of stories lately about law enforcement using drones in U.S. skies.  This Washington Times story indicates that it may become very common before this decade is out.  I had heard that the FAA reauthorization had passed but as usual our useless mainstream media totally failed to cover what was hidden in it.  Just as they have failed to cover the use of drones.  Ties in nicely to the story on our local news concerning the approval by the Illinois state legislature of a bunch of new traffic cameras in Chicago.  We are quickly becoming have become a highly surveilled society.  What is next?  Travel permits issued by the local or national police?  We are very near that with the TSA's 'Trusted Flier' program.  Simply give then all your private information and endure a 10 minute interview and they will issue you an identity card allowing you to bypass TSA scanners and gropers.

And here comes Monsanto yet again.  So they have tweaked aspartame, called it neotame, and have gotten the FDA to approve it without anyone having to list it on the ingredients label.  Isn't that loverly.  And I did go to the link for the FDA pdf and, frankly, it is incomprehensible gobbledygook.  I really don't care how 'onerous' it would be for a producer to list all his ingredients because I should have the right to know what is in the 'food' I eat.

For another installment in 'Pity the poor businessman' bull$hit look at this article.  They say the minimum wage is 'killing' them so they decide to push the legislature to let them pay starvation wages to their employees.  Or I should say pay less than the starvation wages they are required to pay now.  And having worked as a waitress a long time ago I can testify to the fact that the tips don't make up the difference for most servers.

These two stories (here and here), found by way of the Oil Drum, are disturbing.  It would seem that so-called 'targeted' measure directed against unfriendly governments are about as surgical as the drones targeting 'terrorists.'  There is always collateral damage.  I wonder if Elizabeth I would have described embargoes the same way she did wars: I do not like wars. Their outcomes are unpredictable.

I found this interesting story by way of Confessions of a Remedial Stitcher.  I would say we should all give thanks to our humble tools when they have outlived their usefulness.  Perhaps, even before.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Morning, All.  Yes, indeed, the weather has been amazing, Kay.  Get ready though--we expect more winter like temperatures over the weekend.  You should have something similar soon after.  It has been an unusual day because we had to be out early for a medical appointment and we ate breakfast out afterward.  We did most of our computer browsing early before we left and I didn't see much to comment on then.  I still don't see much now.  So I will shift gears and talk about the garden planning which I have worked on for a bit now.

So far I have the following planned:

In the greenhouse--Lettuce (lollo rossa, petite rouge, sanguine ameliorate, heat wave mix)
                              spinach (bloomsdale longstanding)
                              radish (purple plum)
                              beet (bull's blood)

In 5gal pails--tomatoes (brandywine, big rainbow, chocolate cherry, supersweet 100, fresh salsa)
                      peppers (albino bullnose, lipstick)
                      cabbage (cabbage babies)--after salsa and cherry tomatoes spent

In large tubs--corn (ruby queen)              sage                                               roses--miniature
                      pyrethrum mum                 winter squash (butter bush)           lemon balm
                      stevia                                 cabbage (cabbage babies mix)       blueberries (top hat)
                      German thyme                  sunflower (teddy bear)                  
                      kale (red Russian) after corn

In large pots--cucumber (dragon's egg)   summer squash (lemon squash)     potatoes

In individual mid sized pots--                poppy (black peony)       mint  (spearmint, orange)
                     lemon verbena                  rosemary                         bean (dragon tongue)
                     basil                                  love-in-a-mist                  bachelor buttons

in small pots on fence--                         marigold (embers)           lemon balm
                     oregano                             lavender        

In small tub--strawberries

It seems like a lot but some items are planned for a late crop after some of the summer plants have finished producing.  And the plans are subject to change depending on what happens.  I have already changed one and removed the tansy from my list.  After all the effort to find a supplier, I discovered this morning that it is poisonous for pets.  Kuma hadn't bothered plants until he went for the blueberries.  I wanted it because the Colorado potato beetles don't like it and lady bugs do.  I will rely on the pyrethrum mum to help discourage the pests.  I also have plenty of room for small plants in the greenhouse.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hello, Everyone, on this cloudy Tuesday.  Our temperatures are on a roller coaster going between well above normal and about normal.  The forecast today has the possibility of lake effect snow but not much or long lasting with about normal temps in the low 30s.

Well, the news last night and this morning say Germany and France have issued an 'ultimatum' to Greece: reduce government spending or no new funds.  Their action reminds me of some of the scifi movies where the guys with guns blaze away, and blaze away, and blaze away with weapons that don't have any effect or may make the situation worse.  Greece has cut government spending repeatedly and then, because the cuts actually reduce economic activity, failed to meet deficit reduction targets because the tax revenue also fell.  This is a downward spiral with no go end in sight.  But something that intrigues me is the coverage of this Greek tragedy.  The stories always allude to 'necessary' budget cuts without specifying those needed cuts.  I have seen only a couple of stories which said anything specific on the matter and those were in bloggers who did not link to their sources.  They said the demands included a 25% cut in the minimum wage (translate that to going from $7.50/hour here in the U.S. to just over $5/hour), cutting the pension benefits by 35%, and eliminating 100 government agencies throwing another large number of Greeks into unemployment.  What effect do you think that would have on tax revenues and how likely do you think it that Greece will meet the next deficit reduction target?  This piece  in the Financial Times explains some aspects of the situation and confirms the numbers cited by the bloggers.  Maybe they would like to make the proposed changes retroactive to all of the employees who have neither been paid (some for as much as 18 months) nor laid off (so the employer could escape paying unemployment and severance.)  Here is the link I provided a couple of days ago.

This is an intriguing story I have been reading about for a little while now.  Interesting that the number of states contemplating legislation to authorize gold and silver coins as payment of debts has gone from 3 three years ago to 13 this year.

I hear your sentiments on religion, Lois.  I think my comments on history yesterday (that each generation reassess the interpretations in light of their own circumstances).  I said before that I am not much of a gambler.  Well, I am not much of a joiner either and churches are among the institutions I resist joining--vigorously.  I remember a very apt line at the end of Angles and Demons where a cardinal asks Langdon to treat the church gently when he writes of it because religion is flawed 'because men are flawed.'  What ever deity I believe in it isn't the deity of organized religions/churches--any of them.

A few weeks ago the news announced Sears Holdings planned to close 100+ stores across the country. It caused a furor because it came on the announcement that Chicago and Illinois had come up with a package of bribes tax relief measures Sears demanded to keep its headquarters in Chicago.  I noticed that no Chicago stores were slated to close but just a bit ago Mom was reading an article which listed two local stores on the chopping block.  Today, on our way to our favorite year-round farm market, we passed one.  It is the largest local K-Mart and, I think, the only 24-hour store.  It is also right across the road from the Super Wal-Mart.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Good foggy, frosty Monday morning.  The weather people say it should clear out and we will see partly sunny skies today.  They are warning us of a change toward more normal temps for a couple of days.  I was amused when the news anchor observed that normal now feels cold because it has been so warm lately.

Glad you enjoy the commentary, Gina.  I don't often listen to talk radio but I know the kind of comments you wrote about.  They don't surprise me, again, because of my readings in history.  Most people have heard of Malthus and Darwin, and most can give a sketchy outline of their theories.  What most don't remember, however, is that Malthus was an English clergyman and Darwin, between discovering how unsuited he was to study medicine and making his mark as a naturalist, was sent to Cambridge to prepare for a career in the clergy.  The moral foundation of Malthus' economic ideas are most often overlooked.  He saw the plight of the poor as resulting from their moral failings.  Unlike the upright middle-class, the poor were unable to control their baser urges and limit their family size thereby ensuring they would have far more children than they could care for and continuing their impoverished state.  It is more difficult to see the same foundations in Darwin but they are there.  Some years ago science historian James Burke produced an episode of his series The Day the Universe Changed titled Fit to Rule.  There Burke traced the influence Darwin's theories, especially the part concerning the 'survival of the fittest,' on the three dominant -isms of the 20th century (Capitalism, Communism, and Nazism.)  In all of them, the struggle for survival and domination were raised to a moral imperative and those individuals, societies, states that failed in this struggle did so because of natural law which was, for Christians, a reflection of God's will and law. Even Christians who revile Darwin's notion of descent from an ancestral form of life embrace his struggle for existence.  And that idea meshed very nicely with the 'Puritan Work Ethic' that so many of our pundits trot out every now and then.  Calvinist doctrine, from which a number of Protestant varieties trace their origin, insisted that Christians had a duty to work hard in a socially beneficial calling.  Work became a religious imperative.  But John Calvin's followers were beset with severe anxiety.  The doctrine of predestination held that God had decided at the beginning of time the fate of each individual, damnation or salvation.  It was entirely in God's hands and the individual could do nothing to change that fate.  Even the most faithful and observant member of the church may harbor a failing that would condemn them and, worse, neither they nor their companions in the church could ever be absolutely assured of their postmortem fate.  Calvin did throw out a tenuous lifeline: a believer who worked hard in his calling and prospered may be favored by God and likely saved.  Calvin never absolutely equated prosperity with salvation; after all, many of the unGodly prospered in this world.  Others would do that for him.  And I can't blame Calvin; after all, Christ himself said 'by their fruits ye shall know them'.  I think you can see where this is going.  Though morphing over time, the connection between morality and prosperity, or fitness, or success has remained.  And we have people blasting the poor for being lazy, the foreclosed homeowner for gaming the system, the long term unemployed for preferring handouts to honest work, etc.  And of course, those condemning their fellow citizens are bolstering their own fragile egos because the implicit comparison is 'how good am I that I am not them.'

Oh, yes, Nicola.  Greece is in deep and not likely to get out any time soon.  I find it interesting that the pundits have gone from discussing whether Greece will default to when Greece will default and what the ramifications will be among the other fragile Eurozone countries.  Very few really note how pervasive debt has become over the last thirty or so years.  When the total debt of a country (individual, corporate, sovereign) amounts to several times the GDP, you are in trouble.  Most of the advanced economies around the world are in exactly that position.  I read a bit ago that U.S. debt last year equalled GDP.  Of course, government officials claim that we are still below that by excluding the debt owed between government agencies--but that is fiddling the books.

This interesting read comes from Club Orlov.  I am not much of a gambler and so it fascinates me to watch various aspects of gambling in our society.  I had to look up the 'Legion of Thebes' and the notion of repeated decimations is interesting albeit frightening.

For those who are, like me, always on the lookout for frugal living tips, check out Rhonda's latest post at Down to Earth.  We immediately bookmarked the Budget101 site.  It has a wonderful, long list of seasoning mixes you can make yourself.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Good morning.  We woke to heavy fog that is lifting now.  I hope, looking out at what look at the moment like clear skies, to see the sun today.  That storm that buried Colorado lost its steam out in Iowa somewhere so we got just a dusting of snow and some rain.  The weather people say our temperatures over the next week will be closer to normal.  I think I will go ahead and prepare the milk jug 'greenhouses' and winter sow some spinach.  I am in the process of going through all the seeds, left overs and new, to plan when I will start what.  My list looks absolutely too much for my containers but then some (like the cabbage and kale) will be started in the summer for late fall harvest.  I am still debating putting in a few potatoes and have some time to decide.  I noticed that the edges of my containers have started to thaw a bit.  The interiors are still frozen but the plants still look good below the dead foliage.

Welcome, Gina.  I am glad you came by.  I think Mark Twain is credited with the quip that 'history doesn't repeat but it does rhyme.'  He was totally right.

On the notion that we never learn, Lois, Robert Reich in his 2011 book Aftershock says that part of that comes from 'loss of generational memory.'  Few now remember the devastation of the Great Depression and those that remember World War II are getting fewer in number every year.  Those were times when Americans agreed, to a very large degree, that we were all in the soup together and we had to get out of it together.  This time a significant part of our society seems to have decided that everyone is on their own.  Also, each generation reassesses history in the light of the cultural and social values of its time.  I noticed the beginning of such a shift about fifteen years ago when I was a teaching assistant in a university history department.  I was assigned to work with a professor temporarily hired for the year who had decided that slavery had absolutely nothing to do with the coming of the Civil War and totally dropped it from the curriculum.  A friend, also assigned to work with this fellow, was totally outraged by this historical myopia and made sure her students were thoroughly informed on how intertwined slavery, politics, and economics were.  And, in case you wondered, the idiot also totally ignored aspects of northern labor history as well.  In other words, labor unions played no roll in U.S. history either.  The so-called titans of industry (Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, et al.) however were thoroughly covered.

NPR featured this article on the Greek disaster.  There isn't any other way to describe their fiscal mess.  I noticed over the last week that hitches in the negotiations with employers and labor were stalling the long anticipated agreement on the next installment of bailout money the government needs.  Talk about a Catch-22.  Employers don't pay their employees but don't lay them off either.  That way they don't shell out the owed wages and avoid the severance pay they are legally obligated to pay workers they lay off.  And for those who are unemployed the government is having difficulty keeping up with the stipends they system promised.  And getting a new job in the current depressed economy--not likely.  I just love the Repthuglican argument that our 'overly generous' unemployment benefits encourages workers to stay out of the workforce and on their lazy butts.  It reminds me of the arguments slave holders in the Old South trotted out to justify their harsh treatment of African slaves.  The congenitally lazy and immoral slaves wouldn't work hard unless they felt the bite of the lash.  Well, obscene compensation for the our financial whiz kids and top CEOs really yielded good results for our economy, didn't it?

Talke about deja vu--this story seems to come back to life like a vampire in the dark of every winter.  If I were a head of state of any European country one of my top priorities would be finding a way to do without Russian gas.

It is interesting that al Jazeera asks the question most in American politics refuse to ask.  I saw one of the interviews with Buddy Romer, former Louisiana governor, which may be the one the author is citing.  He came out and stated directly that our system 'isn't broken. It's been bought.'

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Good Saturday morning, All.  A dusting of snow fell over night.  It looks like we are catching the northern edge of that system that dropped snow by the foot on Colorado and points east.  Kuma cried so pitifully that I let him out.  He was't happy when he came in and is now skulking upstairs.  Glad to see you are back, Lois.  Hope your internet problems are solved.  Given the snow out your way I gathered your boys would be sulking, also.

There isn't much in the news I really feel like commenting on so I will go off on a tangent.  Every now and then I get a feeling of deja vu looking at the events of today.  Not that I feel that I have been in the same place personally but rather that as a society we have been here before.  It comes I think from having studied history for way too much of my adult life.  As I watched the Occupy movement take shape and the 'official' response (i.e., sending in the 'troops,' a.k.a. police) the deja vu feeling was especially strong.  It didn't take long to recall my readings on the Great Depression and the Bonus Army.  In 1932, a bit over 30k people (men, women, and children) including 17k veterans of WWI camped on the Mall in Washington, D.C. demanding that the government honor immediately the bonus certificates given veterans in lieu of part of their military pay.  The certificates were not due to mature until 1945 when the government was obligated to pay the back pay plus interest.  However most of the veterans had been unemployed since the beginning of the Depression 2+ years earlier.  After the city police met with resistance during which some of the veterans were killed, Hoover sent in the army which cleared the National Mall and set fire to the tent city.  Commanding officer was General Douglas MacArthur with junior aid Major D.D. Eisenhower supported by 6 tanks under General John.

The military roll in the suppression of the Bonus Army tickled another memory in my mind and I finally tracked it down:  Coxey's Army of 1894.  In the wake of the depression of 1894, Jacob Coxey inspired several groups of varying sizes across the U.S.  All demanded government help for the unemployed and others hurt during the severe economic crisis.  Coxey led a band from Ohio through a large swath of Pennsylvania while another band took over a train in the Northwest which they rode through Montana.  Large numbers of supporters prevented U.S. marshals from arresting the party so the government sent in the army which succeeded in intercepting and ending the ride in Missoula.  The army was used to disband other segments of Coxey's 'Army' providing the blueprint for the use of Federal troops against the demonstrations during the Pullman Strike in Chicago a few months later.  Though all of these groups intended to carry their protest and demands to Washington itself,  none made it that far.

I guess we have been there and done that.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Good morning to you all on this foggy Friday.  The weather people say there is a monster storm with blizzard and heavy snow warnings for the plains from Colorado through eastern Kansas.  They don't expect us to get more than variable amounts of rain.  High 30s here and low 30s in Chicago.  I will see what the forecast is late next week before deciding when to put the cover on the greenhouse.  I am still collecting the milk jugs because I can put them in the green house to start the hardy plants.  I did some errands yesterday.  Stopped at my favorite quilt shop and, of course, I couldn't leave getting a small bundle of fat quarters.  The colors and patterns always raise my spirits.  I also stopped at my favorite source for seeds.  Found two of the specific varieties I was planning to order on line from Burpee along with a couple of good substitutes for two other varieties.  And, of course, I found a couple of impulse seeds.  The only thing I didn't find was the Christmas basil but I will put that on the list for next year unless my favorite nursery has transplants.

Your weather has made our news over here, Nicola.  The snow in eastern Europe is stunning as are the temperatures.  I hope they don't make the news because of spring flooding.  With that much snow that is entirely possible.  And, yes, the labeling on foods is frightening both for what is included and for what is not.  Our food industry has been fighting any requirement that they label GMO foods or GMO ingredients included in processed foods.

Hey, Kay.  What is Jobs and Family Services doing to restrict your food choices?  I know that many of our 'social service' organization seem to bend with faddish wind that blows and to do so with intrusive insensitivity.  The news said that Punxitawny Phil saw his shadow while another groundhog didn't.  I guess you can take your pick.

The news last night had a short piece on a salmonella scare that no one knew about--because the FDA and CDC did not release the information and when they did they referred to the fast food restaurant chain only as 'Restaurant A.'  Restaurant A has been identified as Taco Bell which makes this the second time in three years and so far, in neither case, has the source of the contamination been identified.  But what is really troubling is the lack of information given to consumers.  It is rather hard to make an informed decision on what risks you want to take if you are kept in the dark.  It seems that our health and food safety agencies are more concerned with the financial 'health' of businesses rather than the physical health and well being of consumers.

Well, I guess the kitchen got a bit too hot for the Komen Foundation.  This came by way of Crooks&Liars.

New flooding in Australia.  If I remember rightly, parts of these areas were hit last year.

The mainstream media is celebrating the wonderful (tongue in cheek alert) economic news that 243,000 new private sector jobs were created last month--far more than expected.  But I don't take any economic data at face value.  We have inflation data that eliminates most of the goods and services that affect me because it is 'too volatile.'  This piece in the Agonist shows why I don't trust the employment data either.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Good Thursday morning, Everyone.  It looked very foggy in the news/weather pictures of Chicago.  They say we should get clearing skies and sun later.  I am rethinking the notion of 'winter' sowing.  I haven't seen a high temperature forecast below 35F for the next week.  I may just put the cover on the mini-green house earlier than planned.  The whole reason for winter sowing seems to be to allow the freeze/thaw cycle to work to crack the seed cover and then the seed will sprout when the temperature gets warm enough.  I remember reading that some seed need exposure to cold to sprout.  I don't have to worry about that because between seasons I store my seeds in the refrigerator.  Oh, well--one needs to be flexible.

I agree with you totally, Nicola.  We have become much more cautious of what we eat.  We began reducing the number of prepared foods drastically.  We are often amazed by the amount of salt and sugar in the foods followed by the number of chemicals whose sole purpose is to extend the shelf life.  Yesterday we had a beef pot pie for supper but it wasn't a name brand from the supermarket.  We got it from our local meat market and they prepare it from scratch.  We prepare our cakes and pies from scratch and have done so after becoming very dissatisfied with the mixes.  More and more we find that the industrial food system fails on every level--taste, health, and (surprisingly) convenience.

The news media have focused on Mitt Romney's very callous dismissal of the 'very poor' while claiming that he focuses on the middle class who 'are hurting.'  As though the middle class isn't dropping into the 'very poor' category in increasing numbers.  As though somehow the pains of the middle class are worse than the pains of the very poor.  But I remember quipping when GW Bush proclaimed himself a 'compassionate conservative' that the phrase was an oxymoron.  And, as if we really need any reminder, John Boehner was cited in this story as opposing the new Administration programs to help underwater homeowners refinance.  They used to talk about a 'throw away' society in terms of the things we discarded.  Now, it seems to me, we have to talk about our 'throw away' society in terms of the people we are discarding--elderly, poor, workers, the sick.

To pick up the nutrition thread again--the news this morning featured a segment on a new study in which the authors claim that 'added sugars' in the American diet are as destructive of health and as addictive as alcohol and should be taxed.  This BBC story provides more details.  I put quotation marks around the phrase because it isn't entirely clear who is adding the sugars to the food.  The reporter interviewing their medical expert asked for clarification on that part.  Most people do add a lot of sugar to their foods but a lot more is incorporated into the prepared foods by the manufacturers.  The advice: start by eliminating sodas, sports drinks, and limiting your juice to one glass per day.  I also noticed that the report doesn't distinguish between sugars.  The food industry has for the past couple of decades been adding high fructose corn syrup--which the industry wants to relabel as 'corn sugar.'  Recent studies have indicated that this sugar is far more dangerous than other sugars.  My prescription: more label reading.

They keep telling us that the economy is getting better but stories like this make me wonder.  Over the last five years I have been reading a constant stream of similar stories.  However, this takes the story to incredible new lows in thievery.

I absolutely love the old girls (if they are old and girls--there was some question of that a couple of years ago) at Margaret and Helen.  I agree with Helen on all three points in today's post .  Mitt and Newt are getting boring.  That W.Va. state senator is wonderful.  We got a kick out of her amendment to the pre-abortion ultrasound bill. And I agree on the Susan G. Komen issue as well.  I haven't walked in their Race For The Cure myself but one of my nieces has and I have supported her.  No longer.

The folks at Rural Revolution has this cute anecdote which should tickle all you animal lovers out there.  I loved it.