Saturday, March 31, 2012

Good morning to you all on this last day of the warmest March in (I think) 60 years.  We did get a bit of sun yesterday afternoon but it is cloudy now.  I don't have anything much planned today in the gardens.  I still need to cut a couple the milk jugs to start some more lettuce, radishes, spinach and, maybe, beets.  Thankfully, right now, I don't have anything I absolutely have to do now.  That will come later.  Next week, during the warmer and sunnier days, I want to finish reconditioning the last of the big tubs and start on the 5 gal buckets.  The tomatoes, pyrethrum, tansy, marigolds, and peppers are growing nicely inside.  I am a bit worried about the rosemary--it isn't looking very happy.  I moved it to a more protected spot.  It was on the fence with the mint, lemon balm and lavender.  But we had high winds with cold rain over the last couple of days.  I will see if it recovers and, if not, I will try another seedling.  As I told Kay a few days ago, plants have little minds of their own and may keel over for no reason you can discern.  Gardening is an art not a science and all you can do is try, try, and try again.  And even if you seem to have found the magic formula things may change.  For most of my life I couldn't get African violets to grow at all.  It seemed they died as soon as I touched them.  Then for about fifteen years while I lived in
Missouri and just after I moved back to Indiana, the violets flourished.  But just as quickly the magic touch vanished.  At least as far as violets are concerned.  Don't ask me what changed--I con't know.

Well, the FDA did its usual--refused to ban BPA because they claimed they didn't have enough evidence of harm.  Disappointing but hardly unexpected.  We have a wide spread notion--one that even I fall victim to though I know better--that agencies like the FDA are there to protect the health and welfare of the citizenry.  All government agencies, whatever they say, are largely concerned with protecting the corporations' bottom lines and will do so unless something truly egregious happens.  And by egregious you can read 'kills a lot of people outright.'  Take a look at how the various state governors and the Federal officials are rallying around 'pink slime' 'finely textured lean beef.'

Welcome blogger at Ngo Family Farm.  Glad you stopped by.  I didn't know that canning lids have BPA.  Damn!!  I decided to check it out a bit and found this post at Treehugger.  I like their suggestion of the Weck all glass jars but those are a bit pricey.  We decided that one of our rules is to get our fruits and veggies in glass where possible.  At least that will limit the BPA exposure.  We already refuse to buy much canned because of the salt content and the unpronounceable preservatives.  We will be using the glass ball jars and lids but that at least cuts the exposure to the lids alone.  As with so much in our lives it is more practical to limit rather than eliminate.

We were somewhat amused by a news story this morning.  Evidently a European health study has linked alcohol consumption and breast cancer.  Evidently as little as one drink a day increases a woman's risk. Why were we amused you ask?  Earlier in the week another study claimed that one drink a day will protect women from heart disease.  So to protect against heart disease women can have a beer or glass of wine each day but then they will have an increased risk of breast cancer.  Which do you fear the most--breast cancer or heart disease?

I have followed stories of odd thefts over the last few years.  What do I mean by 'odd'?  Well, copper phone and electrical wire, air conditioning units, plumbing pipes and other items from buildings (including siding), metal urns and decorations on graves, and so on.  Since the meltdown of 2008 these stories I have read these stories on a more frequent basis.  It is one of the things that I think shows the lie of mainstream media and political figures that the economy is in recovery mode.  This morning I found this one--thieves stealing the tailgates off pick-up trucks.

I noticed that several of the economic reporters were practically orgasmic over the increase in consumer spending in February.  I have learned to take so many such joyous pronouncements with a ton of salt.  All too often the cheerful numbers hide other not so happy facts.  I saw one article this morning which noted that the increased spending came along with reduced savings and increased debt.  This article also cites increased prices which would naturally increase consumer spending without yielding any increase in actual goods purchased--and which may hide an actual decrease.  And the Fed keeps telling us that inflation is low!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  Can you believe it--one quarter of the year gone.  I don't think I will get much done outside because we have the good possibility of rain today.  I have four milk jugs to cut down today so I think I will start another stand of spinach, lettuce, beets and radishes.  Otherwise, just some rearranging and cleaning up a bit.  The plants in the mini greenhouse seem to be doing pretty well as are the blueberries, mums, roses, lavender, lemon balm, thyme, strawberries and mints.  They provide a very welcome bit of greenery on the patio.

We should know by sometime tomorrow if the FDA will act to remove bisphenol-A (BPA) from plastics that come in contact with foods.  I hope they do but I won't hold my breath.  We made a decision some time ago to eliminate as many canned goods as possible and to shift from plastic storage containers.  We didn't make that choice on BPA alone.  Too many of the canned veggies contain way too much salt, sugar, or preservatives.  And the plastic containers have become way too inconvenient because when the lids get separated trying to get the right lid back with the right bowl is very frustrating.  Besides they take up space we could use for other things.  The last line also sums up my own attitude--they may remove BPA but that doesn't mean 'safe.'

I have seen several stories like this one over the last couple of days.  I was surprised when one of the compounds they listed (in another story) was 'synthetic pythrethroids.'  I usually use pyrethrin on my plants when the Colorado potato beetles decide to hold their summer convention on my veggies.  I like it because it is the least toxic and the most transitory of the alternatives.  If you use sevin you have be careful of the timing because it persists for several days to a week after you apply it.  Pyrethrin lasts only hours.  However, I will make sure to change how I use it--only early morning before the bees are active or late in the evening after they have gone back to the hive.  And, maybe, the pyrethrum mums, and the tansy, interplanted in the garden will discourage the little &%##^s.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Good Thursday to you all.  Nothing planned today.  I brought the rosemary inside last night.  I probably didn't need to because the temps didn't reach freezing.  It has greened up nicely and shows a lot of nice new growth.  The lavender is also growing well.  All of the dead-looking branches have new growth.  I am very glad I didn't cut it back more last fall.  I may get some more reconditioning of the soils done if it gets into the high fifties that the weather people predict for today.

The Afghan authorities have not allowed U.S. investigators access to the massacre sites.  On the one hand, I really can't blame them.  I don't necessarily trust our military/government so I don't see why they should.  But, then, I can't see a U.S. court martial relying on evidence their own investigators have had not access to and can't really judge the validity of.  Can anyone else spell 'Catch-22.'  But then I don't think the Afghans would be satisfied with anything less than a public execution out of this.

Well, we had to know that this would happen: all of the business aficionados and apologists are coming out of the woodwork to 'defend' 'finely textured lean beef' (a.k.a., 'pink slime').  Some are even insisting the will eat it.  Unfortunately, none are really addressing my major objection:  my choice not to eat it is negated by their refusal to label the products containing it.  A lot of things are safe to consume but that doesn't mean I want to consume them and I definitely don't want to eat them because someone has incorporated them into something else.  I amused one of the butchers at our local meat market when I reject the 'bologna' make with turkey.  I told him that if I wanted 'bird' I would buy bird.  If not, I don't want to get it in something else.  'Pink Slime' violates two of my basic principles for the foods: as little 'processed' as possible and as close to the original as possible.

I love Katerina van den Heuvel's op-ed piece in the Washington Post this morning.  And I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hello, again, on what looks like another sunny day.  Today is appointment day--Mom has one with her primary doctor and I have the next dental visit to fit the permanent crown.  Then I have to make the appointment for the last crown.  I still hate dental work but at least it should all be done by the end of April.  I visited my second favorite garden shop, Home Depot, yesterday to check things out.  They have more of their plants in but nothing I wanted.  I am mulling over getting a new rosemary and a couple of heirloom tomatoes.  But they don't have the tomatoes yet and I haven't decided on the rosemary.  I need to replant the bullnose pepper--none of the four seeds I planted came up.  I may have to bring the rosemary I have in a pot on the fence tonight because we may have frost tonight.  But that should be the only one because the other plants all came through the winter with no problem so they should have no problem with a frost.  I finally got the probe I wanted to check the pH and soil fertility so I want to check out what is in the garden now.  That should be interesting since I have conditioned about half of the containers so I will have an idea of what the original containers had before I started working with them.

I find this story a bit--curious.  I remember when the arrests were announced two years ago--great fanfare and a lot of publicity from the FBI and Justice Department.  Now--not so much as the acquittal is announced.  What happened??  I would have thought that the FBI would have had a better case given undercover agents and then two years to investigate further.  This is incredibly sloppy.  And incredibly wasteful.  And then there is the injustice of 8 people jailed for two years while the FBI failed to provide a convincing case against them.

Now this is interesting.  So the 'Millennials' are not buying into the car culture.  Good.  We have often said that we would do without a car if we could.  But we only have rudimentary public transportation, and seeing Mom's doctors and our family are all quite a distance away.  If we lived in Chicago, as an example, we would not have a car at all.  We do the next best thing--reduce our errands to a minimum.  Especially since the price of gas this morning was $4.45 and a bit per gallon.

And on the subject of gas prices this little BBC piece provides an interesting insight.  The powers that be have pointed fingers at international political flash points like the Straights of Hormuz or Nigeria, or the change from winter to summer formulations, or to 'speculators' although for the life of me I can't tell the difference between speculation and regular, plain old investing.  A couple of astute commenters noted that the drop in U.S. demand is very nicely made up for by the growing demand in places like India and China.  Now it seems someone has noted the irony of the talks between the U.S. and the U.K. to open up their strategic reserves for a momentary blip (maybe) while South Africa, India, and China (and god knows who else) are building their reserves.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good morning, All.  Sunny today and a bit warmer.  But as I said yesterday this is our pneumonia roller coaster--up a couple of days and down for the next couple.  I may be able to get some more of the containers reconditioned as we haven't had any new rain for a couple of days.

We saw this story on the morning news and quipped that we have to fix our deficient diets--add a bit of chocolate and a beer a day.

This story was also on the news last night and this morning.  It is nice that the company that makes the 'pink slime' is going to pay its laid off workers for 60 days while they try to rebuild their business.  They seem convinced that all they have to do is convince consumers that the product is safe and things will be like they were.  My problem isn't with the company making the product.  My problem is that they insist that the product not be identified in the down stream products.  If anyone wants to knowingly buy and consume something with 'pink slime,' that is their choice.  But I don't want to and, if they aren't going to label the product, I have no choice.  That pisses me off.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good morning on this last Monday of March.  Very cool today--my thermometer read 40F on our patio and Kuma is very unhappy because I refused to open the door for him.  The week looks like our typical spring pneumonia roller coaster.  I don't think I will do anything in the gardens because the weather shows a strong possibility of rain.  Otherwise everything looks good.

I saw this item first thing this morning.  I really cannot formulate a coherent thought on the situation I am so disgusted.

Yves Smith posted this today.  She makes a point that reflects what I have seen over the last five years.  I remarked early and frequently that the notion of a contract has become meaningless with respect to employment.  All a company or other employer had to do to get out of their labor contract was to declare bankruptcy and the courts would allow those contracts to be cancelled and new conditions imposed without negotiation at all.  The con man has become the modal personality of our society and we have a kleptocracy not capitalism.

Kunstler continues his account of the scam that is much of modern medicine.  We laughed a bit this morning as we were grocery shopping when we passed through the dairy cases (where we picked up half-and-half and whole milk) and by the beer shelves on our way to checkout.  About what, you ask?  I asked Mom if she wanted to add a beer a day to our diet because a recent report said women who drank a beer each day had a much reduced risk of heart attack.  We laughed because we recalled all of the reports that told us how bad even one alcoholic drink a day is for us.  Every time a report comes out telling consumers how bad one food or drink is you get a push back from the industry showing how healthy the product really is.  I agree with Kunstler's rather dismal view of the processed food industry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good morning to you all on this cool but, I hope, sunny Sunday.  I won't do much in the garden today except look the plants over.  I will wait till tomorrow or Tuesday so it will dry out a bit more.  I saw some radishes and lettuce have broken the soil along with a new stand of spinach.  Over time I have tried the advice to soak spinach seeds and I tried, as you all know, to winter sow spinach seeds.  However, the new pot yielded a better germination rate just by sticking the seeds in the soil than either of the other methods.  And the winter sown aren't really much further along that those I started as I normally do.  In addition, two of the peppers have emerged along with two of the pyrethrum, both starts of tansy and four of my marigolds.  I don't follow the advice about sowing for the most part because I am not growing anything in the ground in rows.  I plant my seeds one at a time unless they are really small.  So where most gardeners will plant a whole packet of marigolds (or what ever) I will plant only 3 or 4 or so depending on how many plants I want to put outside.  That is also why a packet will last me three or four years.  I notice that one of the tomatoes did not sprout at all but that variety is about three years old.  With another (the same age) only half came up.  I plan to find an heirloom transplant to replace the one and save the seeds from it and the heirloom that has sprouted.  I will use those seeds next year.  Where do I keep them, you ask?  In the refrigerator.

Glad you like the weather, Kay.  Enjoy the sun we are getting today.  I can't complain about the cooler temperatures as they are 5 or 10 or more degrees above normal instead of the 20+ above we had over the last two weeks.  I know what you mean about the so-called news.  It annoys me because it is a bunch of verbiage that gives very little real information and then it is repeated, often without any change in wording at all, to the point it becomes meaningless.  We now have our new legal issue to be tried in the media--the Trayvon Martin case.  What real annoys me is that, in the end, there will be no justice for either side.  And the legal aspects are given far less emphasis than the emotional and dramatic.  I was reading a blog this morning about the rising municipal bond defaults but the topic has not appeared in our mainstream media. It mentioned Indianapolis as one that is trying to overcome a multi-tens-of millions of dollars deficit but there hasn't been a word in the media about it--even our increasingly worthless print news is silent on the matter.  I don't know how often one or the other of us has read something and wondered out loud why it hasn't made the news.  I find my self turning off the TV and putting on Pandora or one of our movies.  It isn't worth raising my blood pressure over.  But, like you, I can't give it up completely--can't totally turn away from the horror show.

"Mostly, I believe somebody's lying, I just don't know who."  That pretty well sums up this mess.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  We are drying out after heavy rains last night.  Our streets looked like little rivers for a while.  I will let everything dry out for a couple of days before I continue with the garden work.  I will say we needed the rain and, thankfully, we didn't get the tornados that rumbled through downstate.  Once the sun is up I will check everything outside.

Good to see you again, Kay.  Glad you enjoyed the weather.  Wish I could take credit for it.  You know I agree with you about our political troglodytes.  Unfortunately, they have way too much power and the will to do me damage.  The garden is going well.  I have to restrain myself and not try to do too much all at once.  After all, it is still just the end of March.  Too many of my plants would not survive if I put them outside now.  Read tomatoes and peppers.  I am glad to see the spinach, radishes, and lettuce are all doing well in the greenhouse.

Well, the MF Global mess gets murkier and dirtier.  I hope criminal charges are filed but, somehow, I doubt they well be and, if they are, I doubt any substantive penalties will be levied.

One of my favorite 'Celtic' tunes is Leaving St. Kilda.  It is a lilting, haunting melody.  A few years ago I found out that the song referenced a real event: the evacuation of the 36 residents in 1930.  Here is an interesting account from a man who what five years old at the time.  Interesting account of both the hard life of the residents, the difficult decision to leave, and how the transplanted people fared after.

All I can say about this is 'It's about damn time.'  I wish I was sure the FDA would act quickly but they have been aware of drug-resistant microbes arising from the non-theraputic use of antibiotics in livestock since 1977 and have done little or nothing.  And I am sure the livestock industry will somehow fight any regulations the FDA tries to impose.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Good morning, to you all.  Can you believe we only have one more week of March? We hit another record high yesterday--over 80F.  With the rain and clouds we won't see another record but that hardly matters because our temperatures, even for the next week, are still predicted to be between 10 and 20 degrees above normal.  As we discussed what to thaw out for dinner over the weekend we were again reminded of exactly how odd this winter has been.  Our usual fare for the cold months is soups/stews, casseroles, beans, and chili.  We haven't had as many over the last five months.  All I did in the gardens yesterday was water the plants in the fence planters and the greenhouse, and check the larger plants.  I won't need to water anything else because it is raining now had has been for at least part of the overnight hours.  I don't mind that because I won't have to water the plants myself.  Instead, I will putter inside.

I turned off the so-called news one minute into the national news broadcast this morning.  The leads were the autopsy report on Witney Houston, the interview with the young man just found guilty of hate crimes for posting his room-mate's homosexual encounter, and some other story already covered in nauseating detail by the local morning news.  I simply wasn't willing to suffer through the trash to get the few nuggets of real news.

I have always been skeptical of these kinds of 'deals.'  I had seen some of them on TV but I wondered exactly how they worked.  I am glad that the dealers got taken to the legal woodshed but I notice that they don't have to admit guilt.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good morning to you all, again.  The weather people were not sure this morning whether we would hit 80 again today though they thought we might possibly break the temperature record.  It is quite warm right now (10:30am).  We had a nice drive this morning because Mom had an appointment for blood work for a doctor's appointment first week of April.  We also went to our favorite farmer's market.  We get our eggs there and I wanted to check out how far along their green houses are because I get some of my more exotic plants there.  They are about three weeks away from having their stock out.  Given how warm it has been it is hard to remember that we are in the week-and-a-half of March.  Even though I am actually on schedule, the temperatures make me feel like I am seriously behind and time is slipping away. The news irritated me this morning because the weather person showed a map with a 'Bermuda high' which he said could set up in the position to give us warm weather 'for weeks' promising more information later.  Well, we never got the further information.  I just did a Google search and found out that that high pressure system is a summer phenomenon.  I commented to Mom this morning that the temperatures make it feel that we skipped spring altogether and went straight to summer.  I may not be far off.

An interesting sight along the drive this morning:  price signs at the local gas stations.  On Monday I noted that the price we saw as $4.15/gal.  This morning?  Between $4.25 and $4.29.

Illinois is definitely feeling unloved by FEMA and the Federal Government.  After that really nasty spate of tornados that hit through southern Illinois, Indiana, and northern Kentucky about three weeks ago the Feds denied the state's request for a disaster declaration and the rebuilding funds that would go with it.  Governor Quinn appealed but yesterday was refused again.  I feel for them.  A couple of years ago a similarly destructive tornado struck about 100 miles east of us and that area was also denied disaster status inspire of significant destruction in the area.  For the same reason: the amount of the damage was not sufficient to trigger a disaster declaration.  I don't know how well the area is doing now because, of course, the news doesn't follow up on such stories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good Wednesday, All.  We expect another record setting day--the eighth if you are counting.  I am still waiting for the rain they promised us.  I think we got a bit overnight a couple of days ago but not much.  Yesterday was an easy but productive one.  I got my chives, basil, oregano, beets, radishes radishes started along and transplanted my spearmint.  As long as the weather is tolerably warm and dry I will continue the reconditioning of the big containers.  I don't intend to start anything more for the next two weeks except some succession plantings of spinach, beets, radishes, and lettuce.

Well, the good news this morning: Safeway, the second largest grocery chain, has withdrawn ground beef  containing 'pink slime' and will no longer carry such.  That is good but I have to wonder if it can be in an other products and, if so, what products.

Here is an interesting and sickening story on the chickens you may be eating.  A bit over year ago we stopped buying our meats at the supermarkets.  Primary problem: really poor quality.  Instead we found a small local meat market which had a nice supply of meats from local suppliers.  The turkey and chicken are from Amish farmers who don't use hormones, antibiotics, and free range.  Our eggs come from another year round farmer's market and the hens are cage free.  Yes, we do pay a bit more but what we buy tastes better and cooks better.  We find less gristle, less fat, and fewer bone chips.  Some of the meats we got from the supermarket were almost inedible.

Now this just might be a looming problem.  I have seen a couple of very isolated stories over the last few years about standard vaccines becoming less effective.  I know there has been a growing backlash against vaccination based on a range of complaints, many not proven.  However, I have often suspected many of the problems arise out of the very success of vaccines.  The risks now from the diseases themselves are so low that the risks from the vaccines seem so much more pronounced.  That may change if the mortality rate from whooping cough, pneumonia, and other such disease suddenly go up dramatically.

For several years I have believed that the powers that be in this country pays lip service only to the rights of free speech and petition for redress of grievances.  That is the foundation of the right of Americans to protest.  However, since early in Bush II's reign, it has become clear that those rights are exercisable only out of sight and hearing of those toward whom the protests are aimed.  Note the struggle to hold legal protests and marches in Chicago for the Nato summit.  Of course, the Emmanuel administration falls back on arguments of public safety and order to justify their stonewalling and obstruction.  They will have a new weapon in their arsenal since Obama signed this new law.  Business also had this on the same topic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hello, again.  Now that I got the gardening report (with pictures) out of the way I will take my usual trip through the internet and see if I find anything interesting to comment on or link to.

This idiocy has been sprouting up faster than pigweed in a GMO cotton field.  A long, long time ago I applied for a retail job where part of the application included a 'personality' test.  The whole thing so irritated me that I answered the questions honestly instead of giving the answers I knew would ensure I was hired.  I knew that the company was looking for a 'yes woman,' someone who would take the company line over all, be uncritical of the company, and would not likely join a union.  What I also resented was the notion that my moral/ethical values were for sale for whatever was the going minimum-wage rate at the time.  The current fashion takes that even farther into the realm of invasion of privacy on par with the companies demanding drug tests to determine if you are smoking (tobacco, not illegal substances) in your off time.  I have seen a number of conservative bloggers who decry the growth of the 'nanny state' but who are absolutely silent about the violation of individual rights by corporations.  And to justify the violation with the notion that 'they could have refused' ignores that desperate people might feel they have the choice between giving up their privacy and eating--which is no choice at all.  And the one idiot who said that the Facebook friends would know more about the applicant than his physical neighbors is totally ridiculous.  Almost all of my Facebook 'friends' are people who play the same games I do.  They know nothing else about me and I know nothing more about them.

On a humorous note--have you heard the one about the 9-year-old called up for jury duty?

Here is one for the 'garbage in, garbage out' file.  I think our economists need to define 'productivity' and what exactly it means for the economy much more carefully.
Good morning to you all on this first day of spring that feels like early summer.  We had another 80F day yesterday and expect another today with another two or three to come.  The weather people tell us that we should have slightly cooler weather starting Friday.  Slightly meaning 60s and 70s.  I thought I would show some of the pictures from the gardens over the last  three weeks.  That was snow between the blue tub and the stack of 5 gal buckets.  The milk jugs (without their bottoms) covered the the blueberries.

Here is a close up of one of the blueberries.  Notice the leaf buds on the pretty green stems.  You will see pictures of these plants without their covers taken today.  Oh, what a difference.

This is the other side of the the patio and, yes, that is snow on the cement.  The milk jug is actually a tiny greenhouse I used to try the winter sowing technique I found on-line.  I split the jug just below the handle on three sides leaving the fourth as a hinge and filled the bottom with potting soil in which I planted spinach.  I am not really all that impressed with the technique.  I could have started the spinach in the bottom half of a milk carton inside just as easily.  On the far right you see a couple of very dead looking plants.  Well, those are mums (in the blue container) and lemon balm (in the pink.)  Under all that black, dead foliage there was green growth.

This is the frame for the mini-greenhouse without its cover as it was all winter.

These are the strawberries I planted late last week.  You can see the same tub in the last photo three weeks ago.

Here are the blueberries.  I took the photos just after I transplanted them from the large tubs they in which they spent the winter into their individual pots.

And this is the mini-greenhouse with its cover.  Inside I have my rosemary which spent the winter inside with the cuttings from last year's spearmint.  Also, I planted a new stand of spinach, lettuce, cat grass and cut off the tops of the milk jug greenhouses.  The spinach in those are doing well although only a third of the seeds sprouted.  I will see what happens with the newly planted spinach seeds.

This is the newly transplanted German thyme that spent the winter in the container with the roses and mums.  It came through marvelously--obviously a very hardy plant.  The container is an old laundry detergent container I cut the top off and washed out really well.  I am a big believer in using what you have whenever possible.
 Although I am not above taking advantage of a sale when I find one.  The large black pots were $2.50 each at the end of last season--about 75% of their usual price.  But the silvery pot and the smaller black pot were found in the street last year.  The smaller pot has the mums that looked so dead in the earlier picture.  I still have trimming to do on them but I will let them get some more growth first.  The large pot has roses that spent the winter with the mums and thyme.  All three are miniatures.  Two of them were gifts early last year.  When we got them home I almost gave up on them.  The arrangement looked good until you took off the pretty paper covering the pots and saw the seriously stressed little plants.  Each pot contained 3 or 4 individual rose plants and in the end only two (one of each pot) survived.  They look better now after a winter outside than they did last spring.  The third I found at one of the garden shops and loved the scent but that was the only scented variety they had.

This is what I do with the empty 1 gal vinegar jugs--cut the top off and punch holes in the bottom with an ice pick and stick in a plant. You can barely see the green growth of lemon balm (two on the left) and lavender.  I wasn't at all sure the lavender was salvageable but the roots were very healthy so I transplanted it.  Now I see a lot of new growth.

The next two photos show the blueberries today.  Look at all those pretty leaf buds!!

 The next two pictures are inside.  The first show my tomatoes (black cherry, sweet 100 cherry, brandywine, and fresh salsa).  The big rainbow failed to germinate.  I have added a slicer transplant to my shopping list along with a roma style plant.  I just planted the peppers so they haven't come up yet.  The last picture is my little bay tree--the one I almost killed last year when I put it in the mini-greenhouse that reached 120F.  I will put the bay outside when it gets warmer and take it in over night. And I am keeping closer tabs on the temperatures.  So far it looks like a good start.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Monday to you all.  Another unseasonably warm day but likely to tie the record not break it.  The skies cleared yesterday after the morning cloudiness so we had a sunny day after all.  The weather people predict a mixed day with periods of sun alternating with rain.  I am amazed at how much the plants are growing.  I can see changes day to day.  I planted my tomatoes about 10 days ago and so far, as I think I said yesterday, they are doing fairly well.  I see a couple of trouble spots, however.  The Big Rainbow has, so far, failed to germinate.  Those seeds are from 2010.  The Brandywine has had a 50% germination--also from 2010.  And the Fresh Salsa has also had a 50% germination rate--dated 2009.  I think I will look for heirloom varieties to replace the Salsa and Rainbow.  Then in the fall I will save the seeds for all of the heirlooms.

I have gotten a good bit accomplished, Nicola, but I have to remind me we are still in the last week of winter--the spring equinox comes this week.  This has been, as I have also said, a very unusual winter.  Last year I couldn't even get my shovel into the frozen soil till a month later.  I haven't even got my potatoes yet.  We will be visiting our favorite year-round farm market for eggs and we will get an idea of how far along their greenhouses are.  I will pick up some of my transplants if they have them.  I have plenty of room inside and, for the hardier plants, in the greenhouse.  Sounds like you are making progress.  I have read about the possible 'hose pipe' bans for southern England and wondered how they would affect you.  I have seen so many stories about severe weather in areas and at times that are highly unusual.

Hey, Kay, chill out a bit.  I have found that plants have minds of their own.  You can tend them lovingly to the best of your ability and, for no reasons you can discern, they fail to thrive.  I am relieved and delighted that all of the plants I left to overwinter in the outside containers have come back.  That doesn't mean that they will next spring or that they will thrive through the summer.  Relax and see what comes up.  Plan to replace what doesn't come up and see how things go.  You may be right that they didn't get enough cold.  I know that last year at this time my shovel was bouncing off the frozen soil.  I spend a lot of time on line checking out plants I grow or want to grow.  Even though I lost my lemon verbena after I brought it inside, I am going to try again this year and see if I can change something to make the new one happy.  In the end I may be forced to treat it as an annual and get new each year.  Gardening of any kind is a 'live and learn' proposition.  Give yourself some slack and enjoy what goes right.

We just went out on our weekly grocery shopping rounds.  It was a light day because we didn't have to visit the meat market or Panera.  Big shock as we parked at the supermarket--gas was $4.15/gal.  For several weeks we noticed, as I think I have said before, that the price of diesel has gone well above the price of regular gas, sometimes by as much as $1/gal.  For most of my life diesel has been much cheaper than regular and has been one reason why a lot of car owners opted for diesel engines.  This might explain the sudden change.

This story comes as no surprise to me.  We live in an environment saturated with chemicals that our grandparents would never have recognized.  And for all too many they were put in use for one purpose or to have one effect without any regard for the possible negative consequences.  And this story actually made our mainstream bureaus of misinformation news broadcast over the weekend.  I loved one of the comments: pharmaceutical companies are far more interested in developing drugs that people will have to take day after day for the rest of their lives.  Drugs people only take for a brief period of time infrequently don't pad their bottom lines.  The wonder drugs of yesteryear are neither wonders nor effective now.  I saw a story on PBS last night about malaria in Africa which noted that the organism that causes the disease is now highly resistant to chloroquine and other standard anti-malarial drugs.  The search is on for new treatments.  Interesting, chloroquine's parent compound, quinine, is still effective.

James Kunstler at Clusterfuck Naiton has some interesting thoughts on modern medicine.  When it comes to diet we take any advice with a ton of salt.  Mom is on Zocor and has been on one or another statin for the last 20 years.  She is still on it but we decided over a year ago to go back to whole milk, whole milk cottage cheese, and whole milk cheese.  We also went back to butter reserving the margarine for cooking only.  Her last cholesterol levels were well in the 'normal' range--hadn't gone up at all.  One thing we have done is eliminate as much salt from our diet as possible.  We were stunned to discover exactly how much was in the foods we were eating.  We took the salt shaker off the table and replaced it with a herb/spice mixture that is quite tasty and smells wonderful.  We eat very little that isn't prepared at home from scratch.  I agree with Kunstler's last observation: many of the once respected authority figures in our country--bankers, politicians, and physicians--are no longer accepted without question.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good wet Sunday morning.  Yes, I said wet.  We had rain with our morning coffee.  I don't really mind because I won't have to water my plants.  They will get plenty from Mother Nature over this week which is supposed to be, still, much above normal--70s to low 80s.  We have already had four days over 80 (officially) with another three possible.  So far that is 1) the longest 80 day streak in March since records have been kept, and 2) the warmest March on record.  Even the lower temperatures forecast for the end of the coming week are above normal.  Given the rain, I will give the gardening a break.

I have been busy over the last few days, Nicola.  So far all of my cherry, plum style, and Brandywine tomatoes have sprouted. Also half of the Big Rainbow are up.  I have my peppers, tansy, pyrethrum, and marigolds started also.  I have to give it a bit of a rest because I shouldn't start the next seeds until April at the earliest.  I got the strawberry plants in and transplanted the blueberries, mums, lavender, lemon balm, and roses.  All came through the winter very well.  Of course, we have had an extremely mild winter.  I have to get off my butt and get the pictures downloaded and posted.

Some visitors may remember that I had been rethinking whether to plant tansy because it can be toxic for pets and Kuma has shown a taste for blueberries, strawberries and beans.  I will plant the tansy but I will also make up some sprays from used coffee or other things cats dislike.  I really want the tansy because it is supposed to be a very good colorado potato beetle repellant.  I intend to plant some potatoes and I have found that the little nuisances love beans, tomatoes and peppers as well.

While the American mainstream media is obsessing on who the soldier was who allegedly shot the Afghan villagers, his possible marital and financial problems, his, maybe problems with the law, and his anger problems.  But not a one has covered this aspect of the story.  It is possible that he acted alone but I wouldn't put it past the U.S. military to try to limit the damage by sweeping anything that indicates other soldiers were involved into a very dark closet.  As one blogger said--they don't need an Afghan Mia Lai.

The Oil Drum picked up a report from NASDAQ (they have the link to the article if you want to follow it) that the U.S. government has asked the Saudi Government to increase their production when the new sanctions on Iran go into effect in July.  There are a couple of points that make me skeptical.  First, can the Saudis actually  increase their production by almost one-third?  I doubt it.  And notice that there is some big discrepancy between the official production reports and analysts' estimates which are considerably lower.  Second, notice that all of the Saudi fields produce sour crude--whether light, medium or heavy all of it is sour.  Remember during the early phases of the Libyan uprising when the Saudis promised to increase their production (which they didn't do) analysts noted that the Saudi oil couldn't replace the Libyan light sweet crude. Also, I don't have much faith that the new sanctions will have much more effect than the old ones have had.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good Saturday, Everyone.  We are still in a March heatwave.  I think the weather people said that the 82 we had yesterday was the highest temperature ever this early.  They predict another couple of 80s and then a bit of a cool down.  But even with that we are expecting higher than normal temps.  I found three of the four cherry tomato seeds have sprouted and one of the two Brandywine.  I will take a closer look when the sun comes up.  Right now all I see is a light streak that promises a nice sunny day.  They say we may get some pop-up storms.  I transplanted the thyme yesterday but didn't split it.  It is still a nice compact plant.  The leaf buds on the the blueberries are swelling rapidly so they appear to have come through very nicely.  Most of what I did yesterday was clean-up--sweeping the remaining leaves for the compost bin, emptying the long planter, hooking up the water hose, sweeping off the table/potting bench, and filling the newspaper pots to plant today.  Today I hope to transplant the roses and clean up the mums.  I haven't decided where I will put the mums.

I have already turned off the TV news.  Everything is either fluff or repeating stories with no new information.  Last night they had another segment on 'pink slime.'  Some chef decided to compare the cooking quality of beef patties with and without the product.  He said you could definitely tell the difference because the 'slime' patty produced less fat/water and had a different consistency.  Problem--what quality of beef was he using in his comparison.  We buy ground round which is about 93% lean and get very little fat/water off of it.  When we ground our own the result was even leaner.  I still resent the notion that the industry is trying to sell us ground beef that contains scrap that once was considered fit only for pet food.  And I don't want something that has been subjected to ammonia no matter how safe they say it is.

Well, I didn't see much to comment on in my trip through the internet.  But I did get the roses, mums and lavender transplanted.  I have all of my largest containers clear of plants so I can start shoveling the soil out of them to be mixed with new garden soil and vermiculite.  By the time I am ready to transplant seedlings into them they will be ready to receive them.  I also started the pyrethrum, tansy, and marigolds.  I still have to trim back the dead branches on the mums but that can wait till tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Good morning to you all.  It looks like we will have another day of 70s.  Good for working on the containers.  I did get the lemon balm split and repotted yesterday and started the peppers along with some lettuce and some more spinach.  I want to get the herbs and flowers started.  I moved the mint cuttings and the rosemary out to the greenhouse.  They both appear to enjoy the stronger light.  It is so hard to remember that we are still in mid-March and restrain the gardening urge.  It feels like I have procrastinated too long but I am really right on schedule.  I have a lot of clean-up and some rearrangements planned.

Another entry in the "Oh, what weird weather we are having" file: tornadoes formed in southwestern Michigan overnight.  This is the earliest for tornadoes that far north.

I like this doctor's prescription for Medicare.  I especially like his second prescription--stop focusing on 'low-yield' medicine.  Mom and I have noticed how over the last few years more and more people are considered 'at risk' of high blood pressure at what used to be considered very normal readings.  And once someone is considered at risk there is a pressure to do something.  I wonder if in 20 or 30 years we will come to the same conclusion 'experts' have come to with respect to prostate cancer: most men diagnosed with it don't require treatment.  Most often the cancer grows so slowly that the patient would die of another old age ailment before they did of the cancer.  But considering the uproar that erupted after the FDA changed its recommendations on breast cancer screening the greatest problem with implementing the prescription might be the American public and its expectations.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good morning again to you all.  Oh, it was soooo beautiful yesterday.  High temperature in the low 80s.  The weather people say it is the third earliest 80 on record.  Today won't get that high and a 'back door' front is supposed to come in off the lake to reduced the temperatures this afternoon.  Well, yesterday I got the strawberries (Sequoia variety) planted in their permanent home.  They look good this morning.  I have a problem with Kuma because he likes strawberry leaves as much as he likes blueberry and bean leaves.  Need to get something to keep him away from them.  Also transplanted the blueberry plants.  The roots had not grown much out of the form of the container they were shipped in but I did see a number of pretty bright green leaf buds on them--the iridescent green I often seen on trees in the spring just before they leaf out.  On the schedule today--fill the newspaper pots I made up last night and some other containers with potting soil and start some more seeds.  I also need to clean up the lemon balm and mums to get them ready for transplanting.  But before I transplant I have to get another container filled with reconditioned soil.  The mixing is a tiring process so I will see what I can get done.  Slow and steady as they say.

I am disgusted this morning with our local news.  Disgraced, impeached, and convicted ex-governor of Illinois Rod Blogojevich leaves for prison today and the media thinks it is a story worth absolutely unbelievable coverage.  They covered his 'news' conference in front his home starting with the 5pm news segment and continued it into the national news.  Now this morning they have dedicated most of the last hour to his progress from home to the airport.

I have seen stories on this topic frequently over the last couple of yeas.  On the one hand, I almost can't believe the level of waste cited.  When I read that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month I wondered who was taking up the slack for Mom and me.  But then I recalled the various recalls over the last year and the over all figures for wasted food don't surprise me.  The industrial food production system (from farm to factory to supermarket) is really geared to producing as much as possible whether people will buy it or not.  Over the decades the processors have added one chemical after another to extend shelf life to lengthen the time for people to buy the product before it expires.  I noticed that Dupont is working with Kenyan farmers to lengthen the shelf life of their milk so they can get it the 20km to market before it spoils.  How about using the milk locally??

Glad you stopped by, Annie's Granny.  We love tomatoes and pictures of early ones make us all the more eager for our to pop up.  I just started our tomatoes Monday or Tuesday of this week so, like your starts, they aren't up yet.  Your picture reminds me of what started us growing our own.  My sister gave Mom a potted tomato for Mother's Day about 5 years ago.  It was already blooming and had a couple of tiny green tomatoes already growing on it.  We were so disappointed with both the taste and price of tomatoes that we hadn't had any fresh for a couple of years.  Those tomatoes were a delight and a reminder of what we had missed.  I have grown several plants each year since.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good Wednesday to you all out there.  I found my strawberries yesterday and picked up most of the soil I need to fill my new containers.  I will probably need more but that will be later.  Also found the vermiculite I wanted and the potting soil.  I did pull the remaining peat plugs out of the shed but I don't think I will use them.  I haven't been all that happy with them over the last couple or three years.  Anyway I have some plans for working in the containers today--after the sun comes up and the temperatures rise.  I would love to hook up the water hose but I just don't trust the weather.  Mother Nature can be a cruel and fickle bitch.  I will pull out my lettuce and radishes to start in the greenhouse and the peppers to start inside.  Nice busy day.

I hear you, Kay.  I think I am feeling better since I started turning off the news--not nearly so depressed and angry.  With gardening season starting early, my mood is definitely improving.

I know what you mean, Nicola.  Spring seems to have arrived here a month early.  I just finished turning my compost bin.  I had hoped to mix some in the soil I am reconditioning for my containers.  It isn't ready yet.  I try to take things in manageable segments.  Turn the Compost.  Read on line and post a bit.  Dig out some of the first container, mix in the vermiculite and new soil, and replace.  Read on line and post a bit.  Plant the strawberries and water. And so on.  Usually I look back on such a day and am amazed at how much I actually got done.  Happy gardening!!

Just finished mixing the soil for the strawberry bed.  Surprised that the soil was so workable.  I expected it to be far more packed.  Most of the gardening sites advise against using garden soil for containers but I simply couldn't afford the potting soil on that scale.

Gottalaf at The Political Carnival makes a point I have made now and again here: the key to the right wing assault on Social Security and Medicare is to reframe the programs as 'welfare' and then to cut the programs for all on the grounds of fiscal responsibility.  These programs are not welfare.  People pay into them in the expectation that the promise they will receive monthly checks when they retire will be honored.  That is how it has worked for the last 80 years.  Millionaires are as entitled as the working poor to collect the benefits. I have no problem with that and I think that is a good argument for taking the cap off the income subject to the payroll tax.  If an average person (one who makes less that $106k/year) has to pay on all of his income so should the un-average person who makes more than the cap.

This makes me incredibly jealous!!!  I am still at least 4 months away from anything like it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Tuesday to you all.  The sun is just starting to rise here.  They say we should get plenty of sun and temps in the mid-to-high 60s.  I checked the temperature in the mini-greenhouse yesterday afternoon and the thermometer read 80F.  That is without any direct sun.  It won't get any direct sun for a month or more.  When it does I will have to arrange to cover it a bit.  I saw a couple of spinach plants peeking through the soil in the containers I put out a month or so ago when I tried the 'winter sowing' techniques I was reading about.  Given how quickly spinach grows we should have fresh greens before our average last frost date (May 15 here).  I plan to get the over-the-fence hangers out of the greenhouse where I have stored them over the winter and put them on the fence.  I want the space to put new containers of lettuce.

The Murdoch phone hacking scandal rolls on with the six more arrests.

So now thieves are targeting Tide.  The morning news said that drug dealers are accepting Tide in payment for their merchandise and then reselling the Tide at half the supermarket price.

I found this interesting piece at Prudens Speculari by way of Chris Martensen's Blog.  It provides an excellent case against the big banks.  Someone (sorry--I don't remember who) yesterday expressed the opinion that sooner or later these banks will be broken up.  I can only hope it is sooner.

I have been bemused, as you all know from earlier posts, about the attention the news media has given the rising gas prices and the impact those prices are having on President Obama's popularity.  I am bemused because I simply don't see what he can do about the situation.  Michael Klare has a new post at Tomdispatch dealing with oil that illustrates some of the difficulties and none of them are really within the power of the President to influence greatly or for any length of time.  As Klare makes clear, the problems is not that we are running out of oil in an absolute sense but rather at what price, economically and environmentally, we can extract it.  I saw an interview a couple of weeks ago where the industry analyst said that, at present, oil costs about $50/barrel to extract.  Klare estimates oil companies need a price of $90+/barrel to profitably harvest the 'tough' oil which now is about 10% of the world's oil supply.  The problem isn't how much oil is out there but whether, when it finally reaches the end consumer, we can afford the gas, plastics, fertilizers, and other petroleum based products we depend on.  An interesting report on the morning news claimed that public transportation systems have seen an increase in the number of riders thanks to the increasing gas prices.  But that comes as a number of such systems are cutting service.

Al Jazeera has an interesting article on the 'maker movement.'  I hadn't heard of it but it seems to take the old 'do-it-yourself' notion to an all new level.  Al Jazeera, of course, focuses mainly on the non-western phenomenon.  I will have to put this on my list for a Google exploration.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Good Monday morning, Everyone.  Though today has started out cloudy after overnight rain the temperature was about 50F. Kuma is a very happy cat because I opened the doors and he could go in and out at will.  He hasn't been able to do that for about 3 months.  The wind has died down, for now, so we weren't uncomfortable leaving the door open enough for him to squeeze through.  This week is supposed to be in the 60s and 70s with periods of rain.  Oh, you are so right, Kay.  This weather is weird.  Don't worry too much about the bulbs.  See what comes up and replace what doesn't.  That is why I keep watching the blueberries, herbs, roses and mums--to what works and what has to be changed.

And I agree also that this country needs to get a big dose of sanity.  We had news commentators this morning noting the rising price of gas and Obama's falling (again) popularity numbers wondering what he 'needs to do' to turn things around.  The implication is that Obama, all by his lonesome, can do something to significantly change the economic environment.  The problems go well beyond Obama or the Republicans or the Democrats.  To think any of them have any real options to improve the economy is like thinking that someone could have prevented the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.

Oh, yeah, the economy is really getting better.  I remember asking three years ago, when the Federal government funneled all that money to the states and cities all that money to keep teachers, police and firefighters employed, what would happen when that money ran out.  I guess I was realistically pessimistic about when the economy would turn around.  But I do notice that these kind of stories don't make the national news even when we are talking about mind-boggling bankruptcies of cities and counties.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Good Sunday morning to you.  The sun is up and looks really pretty.  They say we are in for a week that would be more normal for mid May--60s and 70s.  I got my tomato seeds started yesterday.  I used pint half&half cartons with the top cut off.  I can't start anything else till mid week when I will get some more potting soil.

I get e-mail messages from several seed companies.  I don't mind getting some ads and these are always informative and thought provoking.  This morning Burpee sent me one that is intriguing: grafted tomato plants.  They are pricey and I won't be buying them but it is interesting to see heirloom varieties grafted onto hybrid rootstock.  So far they are offering three: Black Krim, Brandywine Pink, and San Marzano.

Gaius Publius at Americablog asks an interesting question that  Paul Krugman asks in his column: do the very rich need the rest of us?  Unfortunately the answer may well be a resounding 'NO!'  Krugman's op-ed piece centered on higher education and it is right on the bull's eye.  However, as I read the article, I remembered a couple of movements in Missouri and Vermont (I think) to remove the legal barriers on child labor and mandatory school attendance.  Gingrich has proposed teaching poor children 'good work habits' by making them do janitorial chores (without pay) in school.  It isn't just Repthuglicans pushing the education bus over a cliff.  Even Democrats and supposed liberals have gotten on the 'charter' school bandwagon which allows for-profit 'educators' to skim off the cream leaving the rest for an increasingly impoverished public school system.  An educated workforce is not necessary in a global economy where companies are able to either import foreign workers or export jobs.  Nor is an educated workforce necessary when the production processes are so broken into unskilled segments that minimal training suffices to fit a worker into an industrial slot.  Nor are American consumers necessary because newly affluent populations in India, China, or Brazil are buying like there is no tomorrow.

And don't forget the changes in our education system that enrich the standardized testing industry while providing minimal educational benefit.

Undernews posted this article they found at the Washington Post that sheds some interesting light on the government and the banks.  Both have trumpeted how much of the TARP money has been paid back.  None mention that the banks are paying TARP money back with money borrowed from other government loans.  So nothing is really being paid back.  The debt simply migrates from one government balance sheet to another and taxpayers are still on the hook.  It makes me wonder exactly how healthy the 'too-big-too-fail' banks really are?

Also from Undernews this bit on the Alan Stanford conviction on fraud.  What is really interesting is the account of political contributions which the receiver is trying to claw back but the recipients are refusing (so far) to return.  Another indication that there is very little difference between Damnocrats and Repthuglicans.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Good morning to you all on what looks like it will be a sunny Saturday.  The wind is kicking up though not as much as a couple of days ago.  Hope you get rid of that cold so you can enjoy this nice weather, Kay.  What you say about driving across town and spending hard cash on movies reflects our own feelings.  I don't think we have been to a theater since Return of the King was released.  I saw on your post yesterday that your Repthuglican governor changed his mind about Federal aid for the tornado victims.  I hope he and a whole bunch of others are ousted this election cycle.

Another entry in the 'Oh, what weird weather we are having!!' file.

And then there is this new post destined for the 'Don't you just love political double speak' file.  So 'energy independence' = 'transporting oil in a pipeline to the gulf coast so it can be exported to other places.'  And it may make gasoline more expensive in the midwest because the pipe will take our supply to the gulf to join the export stream.  And the Canadian company admits that the oil is not destined for the U.S. market but they want it to go across U.S. territory.  I say let them build it over their own country, risk polluting their own land and water supply, and send it wherever they want.  The Repthuglican politicians pushing the Keystone XL pipeline are serving the interests of their true paymasters--oil company executives and investors.

Why does this sound so familiar?  Oh, yes, I remember now.  The executives of Lehman Brothers and other companies involved in the financial crisis also got nice bonuses for helping unravel the mess they created.  These idiots have it made coming and going.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  The rain cleared out yesterday about midday and we had some nice sun.  This morning is clear and sunny but expected to be colder (actually more normal.)  I have a dental appointment today so I don't know if I will be in the mood to do much today.  Thankfully, by the end of the month all of that work will be done.  Damn!!  Just got back.  They only did one of the two teeth that need crowns.  I go back at the end of the month for the permanent crown.  Next month I will get the other done. I do hate going to the dentist.  Oh, well.  Since I want to keep my teeth I will get this all done.  But next week we expect in the temperatures to be in the 60s; perfect time to see how workable the soil in the containers is.  I want to get the tomatoes and peppers started inside, and cut back the lemon balm, mums and roses.  Can you tell I have a serious case of spring fever?

The news last night and this morning carried stories about the decisions by Coke and Pepsi to alter their formulas.  They evidently acted to forestall action in California to require them to put cancer labels on their products.  It seems the caramel coloring agent they use contains a potential carcinogen.  The BBC has more here.  And I noticed the 'pink slime' story still has life.  ABC carried it again last night.

It is wonderful the economy is picking up (at least according to those in the Never-Never Land of high finance or the Federal government.)  But this is another story that intensifies my skepticism.  Detroit is simply one of many extreme examples of cities that can't afford to provide their citizens with basic services.  Recent stories from Chicago show a a less extreme side of the problem but one that makes one wonder how stable the city's finances are.  The consolidations in both the police department have triggered concern and outrage in the neighborhoods where residents fear increased crime and longer response times.

Ezra Klein at his Wonkbook provides a needed and sobering look at the employment data that has been so anticipated and greeted so enthusiastically by the mainstream media.  It also shows why I don't trust either the mainstream pundits or the statistics.  The pundits, more often than not, are boosters taking the most positive pollyanna view and there is the old saying about statistics: lies, damned lies, statistics, and government statistics.

I found this Washington Post story this morning and I had to wonder if the new measures the Obama is going to introduce to try to boost the housing sector might have been behind a story which said Bank of America is planning new policies that would reduce the debt for as many as 200k homeowners to the market value of the home--a write down they had here-to-fore refused to consider.

The morning news had a story which struck me as a bit--odd.  The reporters talked about 'social media shopping' and asked what kind of a 'social media shopper are you?'  They ran down the list with the characteristics for each.  At the end I had to conclude I wasn't any kind of 'social media shopper.'  But I was reminded of that broadcast news story when I read this piece from Huffington Post.  The comment from the former Director General of Al Jazeera is right on:  the American news is presented without any real context and no sense of what should have priority.  The news media, like politics and finance, appears totally divorced from the real world in which most people live.

We just had another discussion about the current movies and our lack of interest.  For the most part it is 'been there, done that.'  John Carter of Mars?  I read the books, all of them, 50 years ago along with the Tarzan series and the Venus series (all by Edgar Rice Burroughs.)  And they were 40 to 50 years old then.  The Hunger Games?  Cross Roman 'bread and circuses' with 'Theseus and the Minotaur.'  And most of the adaptations of books I have loved have been disappointing.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the numbers of movies adapted from book I have loved that have met or exceeded expectations.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Good morning on this cloudy, rainy Thursday.  Yesterday was beautiful except for the strong winds.  We felt like we should have lead weights to keep us on the ground.  The parking area and street were obstacle courses with the wind driven, wheeled garbage totes rolling down the pavement.  But the temperature hit mid 60s.  The national news last night said that 2012 has seen the warmest winter in a century.  Two-thirds of the country was either above or much above normal for the season.  Makes you wonder what the summer will be like.

I just saw an ad from a bank (I have already forgotten which one) that amused me.  It showed a woman looking at merchandise on-line and every time she puts something in her 'basket' the tally shows how much her choice 'saves' her.  At the end she has 'saved' $280.  Then there is a knock on the door and on top of the package propped up on the door frame asks 'do you want a better way to save?'  Under the line on the computer showing how much she 'saved' is another flashing line showing she spent $580.  She cancels the purchase and closes her computer.  Perfect.  I don't know how many adds I have seen on TV that tough buying X, Y, or Z and 'saving' megabucks or fantastic percentages of the price.  I always look at it and remark that I will save 100% because I won't be buying at all.

The mainstream media has finally found the 'pink slime' issue I have mentioned a couple of time in previous posts.  Recently, McDonald's and other fast food chains agreed to eliminate it which means they were using it until the issue became too hot for them.  Now the issue has shifted to grocery chains.  ABC news conducted a study and found 'pink slime' in 70% of the ground beef on their shelves.  They don't have to label it as an ingredient because an under secretary in the FDA over ruled the agency scientists saying 'it's pink so it's meat.'  She left the FDA soon after was appointed to the board of directors for the company making the crap.  When we first heard about the 'additive' we made a simple decision: our ground beef comes from our local meat market which grinds their own or we grind it ourselves.

I keep hearing various talking heads saying that the economy has turned around but I see far too many stories that make me wonder what they are smoking.  Stories like this one from Kentucky where the state budget may eliminate any cost of living increases for state and local government retirees.  Or this and this from California where school districts are laying off significant numbers of teachers to try to close their budget gaps while the State contributes to the uncertainty because it is depending on passing tax increases.  Or this from Maryland where the governor has proposed a 'doomsday' budget with drastic cuts to close a $1.1billion deficit unless the legislature acts to raise revenue.  I could go on but I think you get the point.  But then the good news on this morning's report: consumers are going deeper in debt to buy new stuff.

Lynn Parramore, posting on Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism, thinks somewhat like I do:  there is a good bit of crowing from those who got bailed out and their fiscal position has eased but at the expense of almost everyone else.

Well, Apple has announced the 'New iPad' which will be on sale soon (I forget when exactly).  The tech reporters talked about it last night.  Besides all of the new features they were also considering what the decision to continue making and selling the iPad2 at a greatly reduced price would have on the Nook, Kindle and other e-readers.  The reporter said something that reflects my own experience: some users want devices that have a single dedicated function.  I have had my Nook for about a year and I am not at all tempted to go over to the iPad.  I can read my books, magazines, newspapers on the device.  I can look up what I want on-line because it has web access.  I can even take a break and play a couple of rounds of a game.  And I am an Apple user from a long way back (like Apple II days.)  We are the same way about our phones as I have indicated on several blogs over the years.  The drive to make these devices all inclusive and multifunctional drives us nuts.

Herschelian at Jasmine Tea and Jaozi posted this item on a subject about which I have been reading the occasional article from time to time: the drastic gender imbalance in a number of countries.  Boiled down the problem is too many boys and not enough girls.  And it is widespread across Asia and north Africa, and parts of eastern Europe as well.  As indicated the problem isn't simply rooted in China's one child policy (which, according to some stories I have read, the government has modified significantly) because no other country has any similar policy in place.  Modern medical technology has opened another Pandora's Box.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good morning to you all.  Well, we got into the mid 60s yesterday and will probably match that today.  But we will also have clouds most of the day with a strong possibility of rain overnight.  I noticed that the overnight temperatures for the next week are at or slightly above freezing.  Good--that will start thawing my containers.  I might be able to work them soon.

Here is another entry in the 'cure is worse than the disease' file.  I have seen several articles on the problem of toxic flame retardants in children's clothes and products.  I remember the push a couple of decades ago to protect children from the easily flammable clothing that was killing children.  But manufacturers went for a 'neat' technofix--incorporating chemicals into their products to make them harder to catch fire.  Unfortunately, those going for technofixes almost always have blinders on--they only see the 'problem they are trying to solve' and have no idea what problems they may be causing.

I always like learning something new.  I have read a number of stories like this one on the Round-up resistant weeds farmers have found infesting their fields over recent years.  Pigweed, evidently, is a really aggressive weed that will choke cotton plants if it gets into a field and it can be nearly impossible to eradicate.  As the story says farmers have few choices and all are expensive: plant a cover crop that will prevent the weed from taking over, hire hand labor to chop the plants out or spray more of more toxic chemicals hoping the weeds won't become resistant to those chemicals also.  Of course, the chemical/GMO companies want the last because that is where their profits lie even though past experience  shows that the fix is expensive, temporary and is harmful to the environment.  So what did I not know, you ask?  Pigweed is apparently edible.  It is in the amaranth family and the young leaves can be used like spinach, lettuce or dandelion.  The author's description of pigweed comes about half-way down the article.

Found this cute idea this morning.  I won't be trying it because I am not skilled at cutting glass and don't know anyone who is, and I don't have any long-necked glass bottles.  Actually, I just remembered I still have a couple of bottles of cheap beer I use as slug bait but I still don't do glass cutting.  But the little self watering planters are interesting.  I wonder how this would work with plastic??

It seems Australia has a problem we have joked about for years.  Years ago my dad quipped about youngsters who thought beef came in a plastic wrapped package from the grocery store and milk from a bottle.  Over the years my siblings and I picked up the observation as did some newspaper writers.  But is it surprising when the U.S. became an urban society over 80 years ago?? Most of the younger generations of our family have had no real experience with farming of any kind.  My generation had only two or three weeks every summer when we visited the paternal grandparents who finally sold their farm when I was in my late teens.

As I wrote the above paragraph I was reminded of several stories about schools that are developing classes that introduce youngsters to gardening.  A couple even use the garden produce in the school lunch room.

Charles Hugh Smith has a very accurate assessment of our present economy and our 'system' of higher education: let's pretend.  I would go a bit further and not limit the pretense to for-profit schools.  A lot of the graduates of traditional colleges and universities are in the same boat: their degrees are not worth the paper they are printed on, the time invested in getting them, or the money (most often borrowed) spent on them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  We expect mid 50s today.  Right now we have some clouds but, hopefully, they will clear off.  Don't worry, Kay.  This should be going your way.  I was cheered by the forecast because the temperature roller coaster appears to be moving up a bit.  Instead of oscillating between the 30s and 40s it is swinging between the 40s and 50s.  I told Mom that I will change out the door wreath on the spring equinox.

Well, the G8 conference has been moved from Chicago to Camp David.  The city's boosters and political leaders are mourning the 'loss.'  They were hoping for an economic boost from all of the anticipated spending on food, accommodations, and what ever else the attendees might spend money on.  The Occupy and other protestors are claiming a victory.  I think the move is a good one.  With the meeting at Camp David, the costs of the meeting falls entirely on the Federal Government.  On the issue of whether Chicago was ready for both of these conferences at the same time, one of the local commentators made the point that no city is prepared for even one of them.  All you need to do to see the truth of that is to look back at any of the recent G8 meetings.  They have been lightening rods for all of the discontent and anger over globalization.

It seems that Rush isn't the only Repthuglican idiot who has to spew forth inanities.  John McCain thinks we should bomb Syria in support of Assad's opposition.  That worked so well in Libya, didn't it?  It has become such a free, democratic, and stable society now that Qaddafi is gone.  (Sarcasm alert)  MSNBC published this account.  'Humanitarianism' has become a catchall with all of the meaning 'national security' has now.  In other words, no meaning at all.  It means what ever the speaker/writer/observer wants it to mean.  The Arab League has condemned the assault by the Syrian army and have called for Assad's ouster--Let them take the lead.

Red Tape Chronicles presents another article concerning what has become an increasing invasion of privacy: companies and other organizations demanding user names and passwords for applicants' social media.  I have often said that anyone who expects privacy in their internet activities is living in a dream world.  Once something is posted it is there forever.  Just in the last couple of days, I saw the story of a Brit who is suing Google Earth for invading his privacy over pictures they got of his neighborhood that showed him taking a leak in his yard.  He wants Google to retrieve and erase all of those pictures--an impossibility.  However, though I don't believe in any such thing as true private in the cyberworld, I don't think we should accept companies, etc., demanding the right to invade password protected sites and pages.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Good sunny Monday morning, All.  A bit colder than normal today.  How often have I been able to say that over this winter?  Not often!!  We got maybe 2 inches of snow overnight--thanks to Lake Michigan.  The weather people expect highs in the mid to upper 30s but going into the 50s tomorrow.  Maybe 60 by Wednesday.  A very nice sight this morning was the sun on part of my fence.  The more sunlight the fence gets the more my patio gets reflected onto it and the faster it warms up.  I checked the thermometer in the mini-greenhouse after I cleared the snow off the patio.  The temperature is holding at about 5F above the temperature registered by the other thermometer on the patio door.

Well, it looks like some of Rush's sponsors are not accepting his 'apology.'  Good!!  Hope many more join them.  I agree with you, Kay.  The whole idiotic episode is nuts.  Rush may have researchers but they don't really have much input.  His whole modus operandi is to engage mouth while putting brain and ethics in neutral.  Truth doesn't matter.  He claimed in his non-apology that he aimed to use absurdity to put a spotlight on absurdity.  That was massively disingenuous.  He intended to use absurdity to diminish and make absurd a political/social argument he disagreed with in the process dehumanizing and marginalizing the person making the argument.  The conservative arguments against contraception and abortion have never fared very well in an honest debate so Limbaugh fell back on the old tactic favored by those bereft of reasoned arguments and common sense: personal attacks against those arguing for the opposite position.  As I said yesterday: Rush lied when he said he never intended to attack Fluke personally.

Another good reason to not shop at the big-box stores.  They could stop this by simply demanding their subcontractors follow all legal requirements instead of insisting on the lowest price possible.  It is funny that the news media has made a big deal over the treatment of chinese workers at companies that supply Apple with its products but haven't made a peep over the treatment of warehouse workers in the U.S.  And, in case you wondered, I have read several posts over the last few months dealing with the issue so it isn't as though nobody knows about it.

Ezra Klein has an interesting question on his Wonkbook this morning and provides a very cogent answer.  What will President Obama do if he wins a second term?  Answer: whatever Congress lets him do.  That is something our political campaigns obliterate.  Every candidate of whatever party from the national levels down tell voters what they will do if elected but never a one ever indicates that s/he depends on the cooperation of other elected officials fulfill his promises.  The problem is that no one (individual voter or member of the press) asks exactly how the aspiring politician hopes to fulfill the promises.  I heard a commentator (and not one of the mainstream media) say bluntly that Presidents get too much blame for what goes wrong and take too much credit for what goes right.  He was absolutely correct.  But then we, the voters, encourage that.