Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy frigid New Year's Eve with snow.

Looks like we got around 2 inches of fluffy snow overnight.  More coming through some time tomorrow.  Temperatures are in the low single digits right now and not expected to rise very much.  Oh, well--it is winter after all.

Another train crash and fire.  I can't remember a year in which so many derailments have happened.  At least this one didn't blow up the center of a town.

And another take on the student loan fraud.  I call it a fraud because the whole scheme is designed to fleece one group (students) while ensuring the profits of another (financiers).  The borrower cannot get out from under not matter what because the debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  The lender is encouraged to hand out money to any warm body because the government guarantees the loans.  And the students are fed a line of bull by all of our cultural/political leaders that promise the degree is a royal road to prosperity.  I don't know which is worse: debt without degree or debt with a worthless degree.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bitterly cold last Monday of 2013.

I won't miss 2013 though it hasn't been as bad as some years past.  Just one of those unsatisfying years where nothing was disastrous but nothing was as good as you would hope.  Ah, well--2014 is another year and another chance.

Interesting--especially since I wiped out a couple of years of savings a couple of years ago getting some dental work done.  Thankfully, it didn't involve dentures or other replacement teeth.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday and waiting for the freeze.

Balmy day yesterday and beautifully sunny.  But the temps are supposed to drop rapidly today with a bit of snow.  Tomorrow is supposed to be colder (much) with about five inches of snow over night into New Year's Day.  We planned things so we don't have to do any errands and can (will) stay inside and warm.

So we may be headed for the "internet of everything."  Not here, thank you.  I really don't want my coffeemaker, refrigerator, light switches and whatever else talking to each other.  We have cell phones that do have internet surfing capacity but we don't use it.  We have a coffeemaker that doesn't even have a clock.  We figure it isn't all that much trouble to flip the switch each morning.  And how would all those devices do if the power goes out?

I saw this on the TV news this morning.  I wondered, at the time, how small the "small" earthquakes were that collapsed the road.  Turns out they were in the range of the "small" quakes that parts of Oklahoma is experiencing more frequently over the last couple of years largely attributed to fraking.  In one story on TV over the last couple of days, one resident thought the trade-off (jobs vs shaking) was worth it.  I wonder at what point the costs will outweigh the benefits.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday with a bit of warmth expected.

But tomorrow the bottom drops out of the temperature expectations--single and low double digits for the rest of the week.  But we don't plan on going out so it doesn't matter to us.  Hope you are staying warm and dry wherever you are.

With the end of the year people tend to both look back to what has happened and to look for portents for what is to come.  I hope this story is not an omen of what is in our future.  And I think it is interesting that the outlet posting the story is British Daily Mail which picked it up from the local Fox news channel.

An article I totally agree with.  It seems we have freedom of expression so long as our expression agrees with the mobs.  What is most frightening is how easily the mob goes from virtual to actual.

One of the news readers rejoiced that Christmas was over yesterday.  I thought "Not quite.  It won't be over until we no longer hear the bastardized carols urging us to buy everything imaginable."  And I am so tired of hearing Bolton (who isn't one of my favorite singers anyway) hawking what ever car it is I don't want.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Yes, it is still Friday. Interesting pictures of carding, spinning and weaving.

I try to separate the garden comments and photos from others for brevity's sake.  Otherwise the post would be quite long.

I don't spin or weave--yet.  But I enjoy reading about it and seeing pictures of people who do the crafts well.  This post features Navaho elders who provided an exhibition of wool to rug skills at a rug show this last year.

TGIF. Remembering the summer.

Good day to you all on this Friday after Christmas and before New Years.  I thought I would provide a reminder of the summer in this darker and colder season.  These are a three highlights from the garden this year.  The hibiscus was spectacular.  I hope it comes back in spring.  I plan to collect and dry the flowers.  I am looking for a rose that actually smells like a rose to add to the gardens this coming year.  I found several candidates.  This is the season for assessing what went well and what didn't.  Obviously, the hibiscus did well.  So did the bird feeders.  We had a number of hummingbirds this year and the goldfinches in addition to our usual chickadees, wrens and other usual visitors.
I plan to put up both of the seed feeders this coming year.  

As usual, the tomatoes did pretty well and went totally out of control.  We got about 24 pounds of stewed tomatoes out of the gardens.  This coming year I think I will put in the Amish paste and try out a couple of the small sized plants that fit in small pots I have seen in the catalogs.
The borage did really well and the bees loved it--so it stays.  I collected seeds from it and from the hibiscus.  I don't expect much form the hibiscus seeds because it is a hybrid but the borage should sprout well.  I plan to put it in a different place this coming season.  The chamomile and bee balm didn't do very well because I put them in the wrong place and near the wrong plants.  The chamomile had to contend with nearby peppers and tomatoes, and the bee balm had to fight the pineapple sage.  I didn't realize pineapple sage grew that big.  If I put in again it will be by itself in a separate pot.  It was an impressive plant.

The blueberry was disappointing and died toward the end of the fall.  I will try again--I am very stubborn.  This tim it will be in its own pot and I will make sure the soil is modified to suit it.

Other plants that did well: strawberries, stevia, spearmint, peppermint, grapefruit mint, and chocolate mint.  I will keep the first four but put in something else for the last two mints.

I have reconfigured the pots so I can reach all of them easily.  That is always a problem considering how small my space is and how much I try to shoehorn into it.

The catalogs are coming in.  I do love the wish books.  I usually note everything I would love to try out and then cull the list several times before I start planting--and after.

See what comes up this year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day.

For those of you who continue Christmas and Celebrate Boxing Day (or St. Stephens Day, or the Day of the Wren or any other such day after Christmas.)  And I wouldn't be Mary Contrary if didn't find something irritating to share.  The news media provides the irritation today with the stories about people who didn't get the packages they expected because of various glitches with UPS and FedEx.  I am so unsympathetic I find it hard to express my disgust.  With over half a million people without power and others experiencing a rough holiday or those who have had their holidays stolen by thieves or (name you own catastrophe), I think the customers upset because their packages didn't arrive--yet--should get a new grasp on what is truly important.  They are alive.  They are prosperous.  Their families are well.  A lot to be grateful for, don't you think?

On the subject of Christian values John Michael Greer has a very interesting post given that the season celebrates the birth of the founder.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Day and I intend to be lazy.

Hoping your holiday (whether it is Christmas or Yule or Kwanzaa--which begins tomorrow--or other celebration) is happy and warm.  We had a very nice Christmas Eve with my brother's family.  Today we intend to be very lazy.  Tomorrow I will start cleaning my plant starting/sewing & craft/storage room so I can use it again.  I don't make New Year's resolutions but I do set small goals for the year.  The first is to spend more time with crocheting and quilting projects.

The trip home from Brother's house gave us a surprise--a couple of large flights of geese.  They had disappeared from our area about a month ago.  But some are hanging around north of here where they can find deeper and wider ponds that aren't as likely to freeze over as quickly as the smaller pools aground here do.

This has become an all too frequent kind of story--power interruptions because of bad weather.  We hear these and we start reviewing our "what if" scenarios.  Evidently, from what relatives were saying yesterday, we aren' the only ones.  Nasty weather is ubiquitous, it seems.

So the the whales and orcas are staying around the Northwest longer than norma.  Makes me wonder. How about you?

I will continue my lazy Christmas Day off line.  See you all later.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve.

And it is frigid here.  The weather person said we are at 0F.  Hope you all are staying warm and enjoying good company.

Well, I guess this shows why the financial industry was so enthusiastic about the move to the 401k retirement plans.  And why ordinary people should make other plans.  I also loved the remarks about the Federal Reserve's unstated mission.  We have all heard that the Fed's job is to control inflation and to address unemployment.  But the unstated mission has become the propping up of the stock markets while facilitating the movement of funds up the economic ladder--into the pockets of the financial elite.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Another Monday. How stupid can someone be?? Snowy Owls in Chicago? Options!!

I am always amazed at how utterly stupid allegedly smart people can be.  This pretty much takes the cake.  And I don't mean the Duck Dynasty flap.  A&E should have known what they were getting.  Robertson didn't hide anything from them.  He is what he is and you can decide for yourself what that is.  I don't watch the program.  It is in a class of pseudo-reality shows that don't appeal at all.  However, the idiot whose utterly, incredibly tweet?  That is a different case.

Hmmmm!  That snowy owl sighted near the lakefront in Chicago wasn't a singular event.  Evidently more have been seen in New Jersey.  And the owls aren't the only animals showing up in odd places or not showing up where they normally do.  I read about the monarch butterflies a month or so ago.  Makes me wonder.  How about you?

Please don't disturb the elves.

Following the Target hack and checking on our own accounts since we did shop at the local Target during the time the hack took place.  So far we are find but in addition we think about options in the face of such attacks.  If we decided that using the debit/credit cards is too dangerous we would simply go back to using cash and checks.  One of the people interviewed for one of the stories this morning remarked on how inconvenient Chase bank's restrictions ($100 per withdrawal per day and $300 per day in purchases) are especially in the few days before Christmas.  Maybe she should relearn how to write checks.  But--let's be honest here.  No system is totally safe.  That is a fact those who are filing that class action suit against Target fail to recognize.  The best we can do is try to recognize the risks and mitigate the harm.  Even then something will pop up to bite us in the nether parts.

The whole Syria and chemical weapons story has the feel (and smell) of the "Iraq has WMDs" story.  Check out this one for some troubling info.

Sometimes you can learn from what people (and governments) do right.  Sometimes from what they do wrong.  I am not just amazed by how much we have done wrong but how persistently we insist on continuing the wrong policies.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Good Sunday morning. Thoughts on our commercial holiday season.

I don't know how much I will read, write or do.  Sunday's are usually a bit lazy--or lazier than usual.  Mostly we plan the week coming up.  Winter is the season when we keep our plans somewhat fluid.  Much depends on the weather.  Right now we are still under an alert for freezing rain and falling temps.

We don't celebrate many holidays any more.  Too much commercial hype and the family situations have changed.  My siblings are older and don't have the energy for the massive gatherings they used to host.  Their kids now have families of their own and juggling the combined families is a complicated dance.  Our local TV affiliate posts short video messages from troops serving overseas to their families over here each Christmas.  One caught me in a snippy mood after a stretch of particularly obnoxious commercials.  He said "remember the reason for the season."   Which reason, dear?  I know.  He meant the religious reason--the Christian reason.  But I of have noted before that Christians lost the war for Christmas over a hundred years ago when I became a commercial holiday.

For me--I prefer to quietly and privately acknowledge the changes of the season.  Spring I celebrate getting my new gardens in and anticipating what I hope will come out of them.  Summer I celebrate the sun, the warmth, my growing gardens and the early fruits of the planting.  Fall I celebrate the rest of the harvest, glory in what went right, and assess what went wrong.  Winter I celebrate the rest from the gardens, the shift to inside work, and begin planning for spring.  I like these quiet celebrations through out the year which don't depend on spending more money than we should on gifts that may or may not be well received.

And on the matter of faith, Huffington Post noted this poll on how much faith people have in science, scientists, and science journalists.  Evidently not much.  I can agree on the matter of political influence though most people expressing that objection are probably very far from my political orientation.  I see more pressure from right wingers and Christianists to trim scientific results to match preconceived belief systems.  But I have a concern which isn't included in the poll:  the pressure from commercial interests to trim the results (or manipulate the research protocols) to  financial benefit of some company or industry.

Found this interesting piece this morning.  We have all read stories of people who decide to walk across the U.S. for any of a number of causes.  Or, as the story notes, sometimes just because.

Through the various budget battles in the Federal government over the last couple of years, I have experienced a bit of foreboding.   It seemed that one of the two constants in the debates was that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare would be on the chopping block as an inducement to get the Repthuglican agreements on other matters the Damnocrats valued more.  (The other constant was that, as soon as the parties appeared to be on the brink of agreement, the Repthuglicans would change their demands.  This story from Forbes makes me even more uneasy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Solstice or Happy Yule. More miscellaneous thoughts.

Foggy this morning.  The temperatures are still above freezing--just.  Enough that we have fog but other areas have freezing rain and drizzle.  Our patio is wet but pretty well clear.  We even have clear patches on the big containers.

Al Jazeera has a story about "wardrobing"--the practice of buying a pricy dress, wearing it but keeping the tags on, and then returning it for a refund.  It isn't limited to clothing or to the pricy items.  I remember a couple of "customers" when I worked at a party supply store who would come in and buy various joke items for a particular party only to return them after for refund.  I think the phenomenon is a symptom of our thoroughly materialist and selfish culture that values appearances over reality.

I wrote the above couple of paragraphs yesterday and everything is about the same.  And I didn't really see anything to comment on other than the Al Jazeera story.

This morning the local ABC station carried a story which included some interesting reactions.  Evidently a bank robber killed in the commission of his crime has been linked to a robbery and double murder that occurred during the summer.  The interesting reaction?  People don't believe the police have actually solved the earlier crime with this latest one.  Why is this interesting?  It represents an increasingly skeptical reception for the Chicago police.  It doesn't matter if it is a solution to a crime, or the crime statistics, or how well the police and political panjandrums think the current police strategies are working.  Nobody seems to believe them.

The Activist Post has a number of good points and asks a question that came to my mind when I first heard the headline on the news that multivitamins are useless.  That question basically was "Who funded the studies that underpinned the headlines?"  When pharmaceutical and chemical companies fund studies of any kind one always has to ask what they expect to gain from their expense.  And whatever they gain will be entirely to their advantage not ours.  We do take a multivitamin each day and have for some time.  For a while we also took extra iron, extra D and a couple of others as well.  However we have cut all but the multivitamin and calcium.  We also changed the calcium to one with lower amounts of the mineral.  Why, you might wonder?  Well, we took a long and detailed look at our eating habits and found that we have been getting slightly more than the recommended amounts of the vitamins and minerals we cut out in our food.  However, given our ages, slower metabolism and activity levels we decided to keep the insurance of the multivitamin and calcium.  Also the fact that we two meals each day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Miscellaneous thoughts and readings.

Well, I'm back after a couple of days doing other things.  I did read the blogs and e-mail.  However, as has happened so often I didn't really see anything worth commenting on.  We had grocery shopping on Monday, a breakfast out on Tuesday, and shopping for boots yesterday.  We have been talking for the last couple of months about getting new boots as our old ones are pretty well worn out.  We just hadn't found anything we particularly liked.  We decided that we would check out all of the nearby shoe stores and finally found something suitable.

We are now considering what days would be best for our normal shopping for the next two weeks considering the intervening holidays.  We try to avoid the rush and the crowds.

It looks like the target of choice for cyber thieves this year is---Target.  We have been checking our accounts to see if we are part of it.  So far--not.  These kinds of stories make me wonder if it if I wouldn't be better off going back to cash.

I am often amazed by how broadly a natural disaster can bite.  Just found this item on NBC.com.  We don't use much coconut straight up here; but, I wonder, how many things coconut by-products are in what we normally buy.

Here is a gentle and biting bit of amusement by way of Tomdispatch.  And contemplate the question: if Twain referred to the late 19th century in America as a "gilded age," how would he describe our present tawdry age.

And, in this season of "peace on earth and good will toward men," a little essay on "The Undeserving" by Golem XIV.

There is little I agree with Fox news on.  I find it neither fair nor balanced.  This piece, however, is (for the most part) an exception.  It expresses exactly why I think the government's consumer price index is full of crap.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Another frigid Sunday. "Affluenza"??

We got the car swept off--the snow was light enough to move with a broom.  All my garden containers look like bowls of ice cream with their caps of six or more inches of snow on top.  Today we expect our temps to remain below 20F.

I have been following this story since I first heard it and was totally flummoxed by the verdict.  Unlike the anchors of Good Morning, America I had heard of "affluenza" but as a critique of modern (particularly American) consumer culture not as a defense for killing a bunch of people while driving drunk.  If I hadn't seen a piece earlier this week on the nearly $500k/year "treatment" center the boy is to live in for the next two years, I might have some sympathy for the defense attorney's notion that the boy needed psychological treatment to counter the parents' overindulgence.  However, that posh setting simply confirms the lessons his parents' imparted: wealth and social position has bought him out of serious consequences for his act.  I think the attitude expressed by some characters in one a couple of my favorite books:  sometimes mercy to the guilty is an injustice to the innocent.  This I think is one of those times.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Let it snow, let it snow... .

Well, not really.  But my preferences have no bearing.  And I am sure some really need the snow cover.  We have had about another 2 inches so far with more coming during the day.  The snow is light and fluffy so I shouldn't have any trouble simply sweeping off the patio.

I just finished clearing our patio.  Since I wrote the line above we have daylight and a couple of episodes of heavy snow.  I think we had about six inches.  More is coming down now.  The first thing I saw when I sat back down at the computer was this.  We have had the earliest negative temps in some 30 years while Cairo (Egypt) has its first snow in about 100.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Frosty Friday. Insurance?

With snow coming in.  How much is always a question here.  Temperature at this time is 11F.  Oh, well.  The seed catalogs are coming in.  Baker Creek came yesterday and three others came earlier in the week.  This is perfect weather for staying in and dreaming/planning of the spring.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has an interesting post on "Why Obamacare Cannot 'Insure' for pre-existing conditions."  She is right on both of her main points.  First, the insurance companies will make every effort to reduce their costs by writing the policies to shift as much of those costs as possible onto the insured.  Second, insurance companies are in the business of defraying the costs of an unknown risk for a premium payment which is adjusted based on their assessment of how likely the catastrophe is to occur.  I have always said that insurance is basically legal gambling.  The company is betting you won't suffer the loss you are paying them to "insure" you against.  You are betting it will.  Further, they also are betting that, if the conditions they are "insuring against" happen, the costs of the payout will be more than covered by the premiums.  The fact that what we are calling "insurance" for pre-existing conditions is really a socialization of the costs of illness makes it plain that as a society we should have instituted a system of universal, single-payer system.  And told the insurance companies to take a hike.

A couple of days ago I linked to another story about a meat recall and wrote a few comments on how interesting it was that no story discussed such incidents in terms of the waste.  However, yesterday we had an episode here that brings in another problem with the whole food waste in an industrial food manufacturing system.  Mom decided to try a new brand of frozen spinach.  We have been repeatedly disappointed by frozen spinach over the last few years.  Yesterday provided yet another disappointment.  Straw would have tasted better and I can't even begin to describe the smell.  Most of it went down the disposal.  I didn't even want it in my compost bin.  Once again we asked what the hell have they done to the spinach.  We have found an increasing number of totally unpalatable veggies over the last few years especially among once trusted brands.  Too bad because we really like veggies.

Firedoglake posted these comments on a power outage in Portland, Oregon a bit ago.  I don't live in Portland but I have a few comments of my own.  I have watched as power companies in my area have lobbied the regulating boards for hefty rate increases citing the need to upgrade their infrastructure.  Usually that story appears along with reports of shareholder payouts.  What customers paid went to pay shareholder bonuses and, barely, to keep the company going with not much left for maintenance or upgrades.  To do that the company wanted even more from customers.  Rationally one would think that shareholders would get their payout after expenses and after some reserve was put aside for maintenance, expansion and upgrades.  Evidently, that isn't how the executives of our utility companies think.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Still in the icebox. "We don't have emperors yet but..." Third World America. And another bit of insanity.

Woke to temperatures around -3 (or lower) and even more brutal temps with the wind chill.  One of the weather people said that this is the earliest we have had such temperatures in nearly 30 years.  As you can guess, we are staying inside for the most part.  I swept off the patio and put out the trash tote.  Later today I will pop out and sweep off the car.  I was going to do it yesterday but every time I thought about it we were getting more snow.  All total though we got less than 3 inches.

I love reading Moyers (or listening to his programs on public TV).  He has a very good piece on Tomdispatch.  I wonder how long it will be until we do have emperors.

Hope you all have a strong stomach or haven't eaten yet.  Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has a post that definitely questions our status in the first world.

To break an impasse in a trade dispute with China, the US will allow chicken raised and slaughtered here and processed in China into the country in return for China lifting their ban on US beef (ostensibly because of mad cow).  Details here.  The article speculates that within a year we will be importing processed chicken raised in China.  MaryContrary's simple rule: buy local and as unprocessed as possible.

The Harvard Business Review posted this blog and it should be thought provoking.  Unfortunately, I doubt that the right people will consider what the author says.  They simply are too welded into the "growth is progress" and "a rising tide lifts all boats" paradigm.  They aren't ready to shift the paradigm.

Been there.  Done that.  Won't do it again.

We heard a blurb on this on the morning TV news.  Given what has been going on with our Postal service we wonder if this is our future.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Not as cold today--yet! Food waste. Surveillance state. Convenient environmentalists.

We are at 17F so far this morning but the cold is coming in behind the snow of which we have about 2 inches more on the ground.  It is a good morning to do laundry which has piled up because we simply got lazy.

I have seen way too many stories like this one, or involving contamination by glass or plastic particles, or involving bacterial contamination.  Other stories claim that "we" waste as much as 40% of the food produced but they focus on the waste individuals generate.  How much of the waste is from industrial processes going wrong?

Interesting little take on our surveillance state with some "funny" anecdotes.  And, as the quotation marks should signal, not funny in a "ha, ha" way.  I agree with him--I would rather risk being the victim of a terrorist that live under what our country has become.  Unfortunately, my opinion has not been asked.

This is pretty goddamn sad but expected.  I knew as soon as I read a headline yesterday about the "surprise" handshake that Obama had shaken hands with Castro.  I absolutely fail to see why people should be so riled because our President was civil toward another President.  He doesn't have to agree with Castro or his government.  Rude Pundit gives the Repthuglican outrage all the rudeness it deserves.

California legislators, according to this article, are concerned with environmental damage from pot growers.  My question--why are you just concerned with pot growers causing environmental damage?  What about agriculture generally?  Has anyone heard about the Gulf of Mexico dead zone which is largely attributed to agricultural chemicals flowing down the Mississippi?  It seems to me their concern is somewhat selective and comes out of their dislike of the crop rather than true concern for the environment.  Especially since California may be ready to liberalize their marijuana laws.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Br-r-r-r!! And colder temps expected tomorrow!

The weather people say our temperature is now about -3F with a wind chill ten degrees lower.  Another day to stay in and stay warm.  At least I can be thankful that I don't have to deal with the record low temperature.

I wonder how soon the commercial dairy industry will come out with studies to counter this one.  But the results don't really surprise me.  I have been reading about the increased incidence of particularly nasty strains of e. coli in feed lot beef.  Cows aren't really designed to digest corn effectively.  They are supposed to eat grass.

I am in mourning.  I just got an e-mail from the owner of my favorite little quilt shop and she announced the is closing for good at the end of January.  She suffered a fire a few months ago but had wanted to reopen in another location.  She found the task simply too daunting.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stay at home Monday.

First conversation this morning:
       Mom: We will have to brush off the car before we go.
       Me:  But we aren't going anywhere.
       And Mom giggled.

The earliest we might have to go out will be late this week well after the next snow system comes through.  And they say it will be a bit warmer and sunny.  We hope.

The storms are a large part of the morning news and some of the pictures are incredible.  Both storms missed us pretty much.  We can see a light layer of snow and the cars look like dirty snowballs.  Only got about an inch here but the wind chills make the low 20s feel like single digits.

Watching a discussion on Al Jazeera coming out their account of the budget negotiations on Capital Hill and was totally surprised when the commentator mention the attitude of the hard right wing of the Repthuglican Party toward economic issues:  "almost religious" faith in unrestricted "free" market capitalism.  Finally, someone notices that phenomenon.  I have long felt that those right wingers thought that Moses came down from the mountain with 13 commandments and the last was "Thou shalt be governed by the free market in all things."  Ant that Jesus confirmed that with a long lost clause in the Sermon on the Mount.

Undernews has an interesting breakdown on what someone who earns $50k/year pays his taxes for and asks a very interesting question:  are you pissed off at the right people?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday and more snow expected.

Yesterday was cold but we had a good bit of sun at the same time a light snow fell.  Very little remains now but more is supposed to come in later today and overnight.  We are staying in--thankful we aren't in Texas and other points south.  We did our shopping on Friday as I think I said so we aren't likely to need anything that would take us outside.  We'll decide when to do our next shopping when we see what weather is likely to pass through at what time.

Experienced an interesting juxtaposition of stories today.  Al Jazeera had report on the polar bear and its prospects where the expert they were interviewing claimed that the bear's future would be brighter if the major countries would reduce severely their energy usage and thereby the greenhouse gasses associated with energy consumption.  At the same time I was reading this Der Spiegel article which started out with an account of the "Baby Bonus" offered by an electric company in the German city of Potsdam: 500Kwh for every newborn to start them off on their energy guzzling life.  I love the slogan which welcomes the little "energy robbers."  (and that is meant sarcastically)

That is about all for the day.  I will now pass on to reading other materials (The Drunken Herbalist) and crocheting a new shawl.  My favorite, which I made over 30 years ago, is beginning to fall apart. When the new one is done I will take the old apart and reconstruct it for more use.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Even colder Saturday with flurries. Miscellaneous stories and thoughts.

Our temps are in the low teens with wind chill in the low single digits.  Thankfully, we aren't going out.  We did all that yesterday.  The heavier snow is supposed to come in late tomorrow and, if the weather people are right, won't amount to more than a couple or three inches.  Right now we have a dusting on the cars, roofs, and skittering around on the pavement.

The eye exam went well yesterday.  For only the second or third time in my life I didn't need new glasses.  Wouldn't you know I had a nice 25% off coupon that could have been used with other discounts--and I didn't need it.  Oh, well--I saved even more since I don't get new specs.

This sounds so damned familiar.  I wonder if people really learn from the past.

And then this frightening story.  Thankfully not in this country--yet.  Although the stories I have read from some of the cities under severe financial stress has me wondering when, not if.

Amazing--and not in a good way.  If there is a good time for something like this to happen it is while the building is still under construction.

I get a definite sense of deja vu with this story.

Friday, December 6, 2013

C-c-c-old Friday. Deplorable semantic tricks.

The coldest overnight temps for a good long while.  The news posts the official temp at 18F.  Since we have to go out today (eye exam) we are going to do our weekly shopping three days early.  That will get us comfortably past the snow expected Sunday and Monday.

I guess 'tone deaf' covers this.  They blame that ubiquitous "third party" for the advice which (they say) comes straight out of Emily Post.  McDonalds evidently didn't bother to review the advice but I think someone would have had second thoughts since last month they got called out for their employee assistance phone line giving advice on applying for food stamps and other government aid.

June Calender has a post this morning that reflects some of our musings here.  So many of us are totally divorced from nature except when a storm of some kind inconveniences us.  Every now and then the inconvenience escalates to life threatening conditions (Sandi, Katrina, sudden blizzards).  Others of us are tenuously connected to nature but very few of us have any prolonged contact or are in any way immersed in it for any length of time.  That I find frightening because in the final analysis we are dependent on nature.  This morning a brief news segment noted that, after three sub-freezing temperatures, a large part of the southern California winter vegetable crops.  My first thought involved how soon we will see the effects on our food prices.  But how many make that connection?

I have read enough about ALEC to despise it.  This piece on Grist simply reinforces my antipathy.  For decades we have been told that we need to adopt green technology--individually and collectively. Now that a larger number of us are doing so, ALEC wants to label those who have managed to put roof-top or other solar and wind generators "free riders" and to penalize them for doing so.  The real problem involves the power companies who have been hit by reduced energy use (thanks to more energy efficient appliances) and the refusal of state governing boards to raise consumer rates at the companies' whims.  So they want to pay reduced rates the so-called free-riders for their surplus electricity (that the utility company can then sell at a higher price) and they want those home owners to pay fees for the infrastructure.  There is more but I will let you read it.

Nimue Brown at Druid Life takes a British politician to task not only for the life-destroying austerity but for semantic tricks that call the suffering a "sacrifice."  Obviously the "sacrifice" wasn't chosen by those sacrificed.  Austerity was, and is, sacrifice the way rape is sex.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday--waiting for the freeze. Science, reproducibility, and reliability.

The southern weather system is passing well to the south of us but the one hitting the northern plains and upper midwest is due in over the weekend.  By this time next week we expect high temps in the teens.  Oh, well--it is December.  I got three seed catalogs in the mail this week so I can look through them and dream about the spring.

I found this blog post on Scientific American this morning.  I find it interesting because I spent quite a while (many, many years) trying to reproduce an experimental program and its results but was totally unable to do so.  I had to spend several months formulating my own procedures to examine the same phenomenon.  Why exactly I couldn't reproduce the original research I have no idea.  But we place such reliance on so-called scientific "results" without questioning how those results were obtained or how trustworthy either the results or the researchers are.

Sometime last month I read a couple of stories which indicated a collapse of the sardine fisheries off the West Coast.  I read one this morning that the Atlantic States Marine fisheries Commission has cancelled the northern shrimp fishing season of 2014 because that population has declined precipitously.  That is a bit technical so you might prefer to read this article at Think Progress.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Off to a strange start on a getting-colder Wednesday. Let the looting begin. Curious juxtaposition. Another insane diet.

We are up way too early today.  I thought the clock said 5:30 and it actually said 3:30.  By the time I realized it I was up with the coffee on and some water on to boil.  I think I told you all once that I boil all of the water we use in our coffee maker to precipitate out at least a bit of the calcium and magnesium salts and get rid of the chlorine.  It does extend the time between treating the coffeemaker for the scale buildup.  I only realized the problem when I turned on the TV for the news and found only infomercials.  Oh, well.  I will doze on and off during the day today.

It was gray and misty with a bit of fog all day yesterday.  That kind of weather always makes us sleepy.  The temperature, however, made it into the 50s.  Can't get used to it though.  Today the temps drop into the 30s before going down to the 20s and lower for the rest of the week.  Oh, well.  We have only one more errand for this week--my eye exam.  It is time and I have a nice coupon that can be used in addition to one of my other discounts.

I hope the Mexican authorities find this truck--fast!  We have heard so many stories about the vulnerability of radioactive stock piles in the former Soviet Union but this was on our own doorstep.

I am sure of only one thing with respect to this is that the lawyers are going to make a killing.  And that a lot of people who worked hard are going to be screwed out of a fair portion of what they had been promised in return.  One of the commentators on one of the news reports yesterday noted that about half of Detroit's debt is owed to pensioners.  As Ben Bernanke said six years ago of Social Security: that's where the money is.  So let the looting begin!!!

The juxtaposition of headlines (one following the other in a Reuters feed) for two stories (pension "reform" in Illinois and advancing an incentive package to provide perks for ADM to remain in Illinois) illustrates what is so wrong about our political and economic system.  So the worker "Peter" gets looted to pay a corporate "Paul" or, perhaps a better description, corporate welfare queen.

I pretty much ignore diets except to wonder "What the hell are they thinking?"  With this one I have to ask "Are they thinking?"  I found a link on a blog I habitually read to a site I wasn't familiar with and had to check up on it for accuracy.  Well, finding in on ABC indicates the story is real.  The intelligence of the dieters, however, is in doubt.

This is the second case of passengers on an airplane being sequestered while authorities isolate other contagious passengers.  Over the weekend it was a passengers with TB in this country.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wet but mild Tuesday. Renting jeans? Why we need to separate health care from religion. Livestock associated MRSA. Mountains of toxic trash. Down the "memory hole."

We don't have anything planned away from the house today so the wet doesn't matter at all.  It usually doesn't matter anyway.  We figure we are sugar and we aren't the Wicked Witch so we won't melt.  Snow and freezing rain is something else.  That can get dangerously slippery and you can't always avoid the other nuts behind wheels on all those slick roads.

The TV (local) news this morning had a story that totally bemused me.  Evidently, in Europe, people who want to wear pricey designer jeans can now rent them.  The news story was very sketchy but this was probably what they were talking about.  The picture resembles the one the TV showed.  What do you all think?  As for me--I wouldn't pay $130 for any pair of jeans.

This is so wrong on so many levels.  First, Catholic hospital more concerned with religious based directives than the health and life of their patient.  Second, only hospital in the county.  Third, keeping the patient in the dark.  This is malpractice and I hope the woman gets a hefty settlement.

MRSA raises its ugly head again.  In turkeys in the U.K.  Although it evidently isn't a major cause of human illness, I agree with the author on her two major points: consumers should not be kept in the dark about the situation and we should be addressing the misuse of antibiotics in livestock farming.

After decades outlawed under the Soviets, polygamy returns in Kazakhstan.  I sympathize with the woman legislator who derailed the last move to legalize the arrangement by insisting that polyandry be legalized as well, I doubt it would work.  There aren't that many wealthy women.

The petcoke mountains in southeast Chicago has been the center of a growing controversy. Problem: there is a deeper question or two that aren't considered in the issue.  First, our industries put out increasing amounts of waste and we have no idea of what to do with them or how to safely get rid of them.  Second, the mountains of ash are the middle stage of a chain of economic actions that start in Canada and end in China and other Asian countries.  Tar sands oil from Canada is refined in a BP plant in Whiting, Indiana, and the residue (petcoke) is stored in Chicago before being shipped overseas.  How much regulation should be imposed at what stage in the process?  Third, how do you hold companies accountable for the damage done to the environment, health, and property along the way.  I saw a snippet from a company spokesman (during a segment on the evening news) who claimed that the ash wasn't any more dangerous than the refining, steel making, and other industries which operated for decades without the same level of opposition.  One of the residents countered that at least those industries provided relatively good paying jobs to residents.  The Koch brothers simply store the waste without providing much in the way of jobs.  Nobody benefits except the Koch brothers.

De je vous all over again??  I have watched the rise in housing prices over the last months (asking who is buying) and the euphoria among the economic talking heads (you know--those who didn't see the last crash).  Unfortunately, real estate is an integral part of a consumer based economy which demands that people heroically consume whether they have the wherewithal or not.

Al Jazeera's The Stream presented a conversation on the efforts of California and at least one other state to allow children (under 16) to "re-set" and erase embarrassing posts.  We listened and wondered exactly how workable such a system would be.  Given how quickly a post can travel around the 'net, can one really erase every trace of such a post?  Tomdispatch has a post by Peter Van Buren that ties into the issue and takes it to a broader level.  How much of our information is now in some kind of digital electronic blips on goodness knows how many different formats?  I have some 200 books on my Nook and have wondered if I shouldn't get hard copies of some of them to make sure I have them in case anything happens to the system.  After all, Barnes & Nobel has been on financial thin ice for a while and had at one point thought of splitting Nook off from the rest of the company to sell it.  Nothing lasts forever  and most of the hard copy books from past eras have disappeared but I have a gut feeling that digital blips are more ephemeral than hard copies.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Cyber Monday. Perplexing news stories.

And--no I am not participating.  We will do our usual weekly shopping and errands but we aren't buying, on-line or otherwise, anything beyond our normal needs.  A bit of the news amused me--last night the economic segments almost joyfully announced a wonderful increase in sales year over year but this morning the new readers were saying that the sales were actually down.  Shoppers were out in record numbers but "they seem to have left their wallets at home."  BBC just provided the numbers and the decline in the dollar value of the Black weekend was about 3% compared to last year.  They did try to supply an explanation:  deep discounts.

The news this morning about how improved the HealthCare.gov site is raised a question in my mind. One of the interviewees (I didn't catch who it was) said that the site was not up to private industry standards.  Why the hell not?  Private industry was contracted to build it.  They got paid for a substandard product.  Again--Why?

I suspected this when I was reading a couple of the bloggers from the U.K. I follow.  Too bad.  I wish there was a cure for this kind of insanity and punishment for the retailers, ad men, and others who whip up this kind of frenzy.

Buzz Feed had this list of 13 skills your grandparents had which you don't.  Actually I think they mean "grandparents" to mean people my age.  And I can perform most of them.  My hand writing is legible though not so as my parents or grandparents.  I can't do auto maintenance but then my high school shop classes were very strictly divided by gender: home ec for girls, auto and other such for boys.  As anyone who has read earlier blogs here knows, I garden.  I also sew, crochet, embroider, and do other needlework.  Many of the skills are rusty but I could get up to speed quickly.  Some of my younger brothers and sisters and their kids?  No, I don't think so.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lazy, cloudy, and cooler Sunday. Do we have any intact infrastructure? Polio and more. Emergency room alternative. Zero option. Another form of medical industry fraud.

I thought it was warm yesterday--and it was.  The thermometer on the patio hit 50F and most of the area was in the high 40s.  Most of the snow--except in deeply shadowed areas--is gone.  We expect more for late in the week.  Today we probably won't see 40.

Welcome, Florence.  Glad you stopped by.  I agree on the shopping.  Never was a devotee of the true national "sport."  And I won't be participating in the "Cyber Monday" madness.

Another train derails!!  This time a commuter in New York.  The key word there is "another."  It makes me wonder what is going on with our infrastructure across the nation.  Update: latest news claims 4 dead and 48 injured.

I didn't know any polio survivors, much less one or more still in iron lungs, still survived.  I have been following what little is put out about the outbreak in Syria and the assaults against health workers trying to give vaccinations in Pakistan.  And the sporadic stories of measles and whooping caught outbreaks over here.  I have heard about a growing resistance to vaccinations in this country especially from parents afraid of autism and who believe the vaccinations are a factor causing the condition.  I strongly suspect that very success of the vaccination programs to prevent deaths and disabilities from diseases that used to scare people out of their skins is partly to blame.  How many of us have seen anyone with polio?  I remember a girl in my 8th grade class who had been paralyzed by it and who had to have leg and torso braces to sit in her wheelchair.  We have little direct experience with polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria, or whooping cough now-a-days. So a suspected link with a condition whose cause(s) are as yet unknown looms larger in our nightmares.

Now this is an interesting program.  Perhaps it should be expanded.

I sincerely hope that the U.S. exercises this "zero option" in Afghanistan.  The whole "War on Terror" has been badly conceived and badly executed.  We have gained no safety, no stability, and no allies in the mess while spending more money than I can get my mind around.  We are in a deep hole and should stop digging.

This article confirms by conviction that the medical industry thrives by fraud.  Patients should ask what their status is and demand that they be officially admitted not "observed."  They used to call this kind of crap a "wallet-ectomy."

And then we have the cases of "misbehavior" from once reputable companies.

Mom's comment when I read this item to her:  "Ha! Ha! Bullshit!"

This article I can readily believe despite my normally skeptical nature when statistics are cited.  We have discussed whether to maintain our cable TV service with increasing frequency over the last several years.  Lately we have found fewer reasons to continue.  It is only a matter of time and we won't find enough reason to spend that money that way.  And we are far older the age group mentioned.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Small Business Saturday.

Not that the big retailers will be forgotten in the build-up to our next commercial holiday.  We just remarked this morning (for the millionth time) that we have no holidays in the traditional sense whether religious, cultural or political.  They have all been commercialized.  Oh, well.  I guess all we can do is ignore the hype as much as possible.  We are getting better at it.  And we get plenty of practice.

This rings a bell.  Given how the food industry treats cattle, it doesn't make me feel good about spending my money.  Perhaps that is one reason why we don't participate in what has become the major rite in our commercial religion.

Meanqueen posted this that also tickles my imagination.  I won't bother with the six-week cruise but I will abstain from the sport of excess everything that the season has become.

Here is an intriguing piece to get off the topic of our yearly exercise in excess.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Black Friday.

Good morning to all of you.  I don't participate in what has become the major participatory sport.  Those who have read this blog before know that.  It is an interesting phenomenon, however.  And I didn't stop reading yesterday.  I just took the day off from blogging.  Here is some of what I found

Thoughts on black friday.  Mother Jones.  Slate.

We watched the news and had some comments over our coffee.  We noticed that a lot of the people lined up were under 30.  One of the few older people seemed to have a couple of young kids in tow--grandchildren perhaps.  Another story caught my attention:  restaurants were expecting a lot more business this Thanksgiving and attributed it to young singles or couples who didn't have family nearby with whom to have dinner.  That I can understand.  Thinking back I can remember when our family was scattered over some 2000 miles and most of us didn't get a four-day weekend.  We talk about Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays as "family" occasions but how much "family" do we still have?  Certainly not the Norman Rockwell kind.

We did have a "family" dinner yesterday but a much reduced one:  Mom, Brother, and Sister-in-Law. I can remember when thirty people would sit down to dinner between Brother's family, Sister's family, Younger Brother's family, and other relatives and friends.  Now many of the grandchildren are also married with children but so many of them have to visit their in-laws as well and are beginning to scatter all over the geography of the country.

Then there is interesting little piece by way of Firedoglake.

Education.  Washington Post on apprenticeships.

Frequent visitors to this blog know that I am very critical of our educational system.  I am also very critical of the companies who complain that they can't find "qualified" workers but don't take any initiative to solve their own problems while negotiating for tax breaks from states and localities which means they contribute less to the local school systems.  Siemens has a good plan that addresses the problem: apprenticeships.  Our political leaders (and most of our educators) have only one plan for the future: push everyone through college and university programs.  I do hate the notion that all of us square pegs have to be shoved into the same round hole.

Unfortunately our news media doesn't consider this kind of story news worthy.  I am not Catholic and feel no affinity for the faith generally but I do like their new Pope.  I hope his efforts to reform his church has better and more long lasting results than his namesake's did.

This story seems very familiar.  I could find similar stories in our press but few that would note that the costs may not be worth the "benefit."  Nor do our media mention that many of the treatments don't "cure" the cancer (or other disease).  And we get tapped with a bill that exceeds our yearly incomes by ten or twenty times.

I think tea leaves and tarot cards would be more useful than our junk mail for telling anyone about us.  We have received catalogs from companies we never ordered and have no interest in.  Some come from companies we have ordered from but have no intention of ordering from again--for any number of reasons.  Credit card offers go into the trash unopened as do the letters from insurance companies trying to get business.  That junk says more about the companies sending it out than about me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Musings on a snowy day before Thanksgiving. Another toxic wreck. Bonding? Reverse Potemkin village?

I will wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving today because I intend to take the day itself off.  Hope it will be a good day of food, friends and family for you.

Is it me or is this kind of story appearing more often now-a-days?  And, if these incidents are more frequent, what should be done about them?  I readily acknowledge that our industries need to transport a wide range of volatile, dangerous, or toxic materials but people have a right to live in safe environments.  How do you balance the risks and benefits?  And who reaps benefits and who pays absorbs risks?

This totally resonates with me.  I think it says something sad about a society.  Some of my relatives are in the competitive camp and I have watched them planning their shopping "campaign" with the intensity and attention to detail Eisenhower and his generals planned D-Day.  But I think it says something very sad about our society when people have to bond over a shopping experience or they consider standing in a line for hours, if not days, to get the latest "must have" product or advertised deal (which may not be all that much of a deal.)

I have a stock phrase for the examples of ridiculous excess like the stainless steel and leather smart phone retailing for $4,000 that was featured on the morning news:  more money than brains.  Here is another exhibit that has me at a total loss for comments caustic enough to express my disgust.

 I have seen the commercial cited in this article all too often and I always grumble that, even if I lived in Illinois, the candidate's $18 watch means zip.  I wouldn't be voting for the damned watch.  Evidently, frugality is defined differently when you are a multi-millionaire.  Maybe he thought the cheap watch would make the unemployed, underemployed or declining middle class think he is one of them.  Sorry--hasn't worked.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Miscellaneous thoughts on a cold Tuesday. Afghanistan. Russia. Black "Thursday."

Woke to a dusting of snow.  We may get more later today and over night thanks to a lake effect system coming in.  We are watching to see how much will stay over till Thursday.

I don't know about anyone else but I rather hope Hamid Karzai doesn't sign that agreement for a long term (like till 2024) presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and we do pull out next year.  We should never have gone in as we did and we shouldn't have stayed as long as we have.  We haven't really accomplished anything unless you consider destabilizing Pakistan an accomplishment.  And please don't tell me that killing bin Ladin has really done all that much good--it hasn't.

First the Russians banned "homosexual propaganda," now Putin has signed a law banning abortion ads.  I agree with the critics who decry the assault on the rights of gays and women.  However, I wonder if there isn't something else behind the laws.  I recall reading a story some time ago which listed Russia as one a several countries experiencing a fall in population along with a very skewed age and gender distribution none of which bode well for future economic growth and social stability.

This is hardly a surprise.  I would hope that the picture showed House leaders hanging their heads in shame but I am sure they have no shame.  Probably just a show of faux piety.

Helen at Margaret and Helen has a letter to the family for this holiday and we laughed all the way through.  However, I think she has written a lot of what needs to be said about holidays, diets, and family behavior during the holidays.

I wish these poll numbers would translate in large numbers of Americans staying home instead of engaging in what has become the only sport in which many participate.  It would be nice if retail companies would, out of the goodness of their hearts, stay closed and let their employees enjoy what is billed as a "family" holiday.  But they have no more goodness than the politicians have shame.  The only way the trend will stop is if the retailers actually suffer losses from remaining open.  I can only hope.  Ronni Bennett's Crabby Old Lady persona has a few very apt remarks to make on the subject.  As a sad addendum to the above, I read a brief article some time ago which claimed that Medieval peasants had far more holiday time that we have in our so-called modern world.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Slightly warmer Monday.

Well, it is about 25F this morning though we expect some snow flurries this afternoon through tomorrow morning.  Given what is rolling through the south we are counting our blessings.  Frankly, if we were in those areas we would be hunkering down for the duration.

This doesn't sound good at all.

 For all of the positive spin various parties put on this, the key is in the last sentence.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Twelve frigid degrees!!! When aid isn't truly aid. Christmas giving.

Well, that was the official Chicago temperature.  Ours is still a bit above 20F.  At least it is sunny--for now.  Since I wrote the last couple of lines we have had snow flurries--but the sun still shone brightly the while.  No great accumulation and none stuck.

When I read the headline on this story I was curious because I hadn't read anything lately that would lead to a disaster declaration for Vermont.  Then I was simply aghast because the declaration is a response to the flooding and heavy rains that hit starting in early May.  Six months ago!!  I remember an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied.  Well, I would say that aid delayed is aid denied also.  And aid that is really loans isn't aid either--it is someone's chance to make a profit on someone else's disaster.

This is something I can readily go along with.  Over the years we have gone from a fairly traditional gift giving scheme involving racking our brains over what the recipients might like and spending freely to giving only to the youngsters (under 16) and the one adult we drew for "secret Santa" gifts to giving very few gifts usually to the hostess only.  Along the way we noticed that most of the recipients really did not appreciate what they received and a good many used the value (or perceived value) as some measure of how much they were loved and how much more or less loved they were than someone else.  I am always amused by public figures who crawl out of the woodwork each year at this time claiming we have to "reclaim" or "protect" Christmas.  From what?  Most of them take umbrage at rather superficial things--groups who don't want to be assaulted by Christian symbols every time the turn around, commercial entities who decide to wish "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" so they won't offend anyone, or some other imagined threat.  However, if they mean the reclaiming or protecting the spirit of Christmas--they lost that a long time ago when Christmas became a commercial holiday and the make or break selling season of the year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What to do with oil industry waste water.

Welcome to another Saturday.  Frigid--only 30F with heavy frost on the roofs.  We may have snow sometime this week.  Yesterday I saw a story about a late season heat wave in the southwest and today the news is full of accounts of heavy rain, flooding and areas of sleet or snow.  The weather gods really have it in for us.

Another brilliant idea!!  And that is sarcasm.  The oil industry contaminates massive quantities of fresh water that can't be cleaned up for any later use and somehow need to find a place for it.  So the companies involved in the Alberta tar sands want to flood the holes they leave from "harvesting" the tar and create large toxic lakes.  And they assure us nothing can possibly go wrong.  (more sarcasm)  I wonder if the fraking industry will adopt the notion.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Friday before Black Friday.

Well, sorta--given that the retailers have decided to ignore Thanksgiving almost entirely.  As I have noted before: if those guys and gals had to depend on me for their profits they would go belly up real fast.  I noticed that Wal-mart has posted a big loss for the third quarter and predicts a less than stellar fourth.  I would love to see some retailer decide to close on Thanksgiving claiming that they did't make enough to justify being open.  But it won't happen.  Too many of us would prefer jostling in the crowds for putative bargains to a relaxing holiday.  Not here, though.  We will be home enjoying our day without the crowds, the noise, and the exhortations to buy beyond our needs, wishes, or means.

So, Harry Reid finally exercised the "nuclear option."  Good.  I have never understood why the Senate should require a "super-majority" to get anything done.  I rather agree with this opinion at the NY Times.  If a minority feels some appointment is not wise or good, let them persuade enough of the majority into voting with them.  That is how democracy is supposed to work.  I notice that Reid targeted the measure: all nominations except to the Supreme court and not normal legislation.  That seems to be a bit short of a truly nuclear option.  The Founding Fathers were well aware of the threat of a tyranny of the majority but they also recognized the possibility of a tyranny of a minority.  We have seen that in spades over the last decade from both parties.  I hope that the firebrands of both parties can put out the fire and find some middle ground.

I remarked this morning concerning the weather person's comments about our temps getting "cold" that the mid to high 30s predicted for next week didn't seem so bad considering it is late November.  Then I saw this CBS report about the heat wave in southern California, Nevada, and Arizona.  That along with the floods I saw on the morning news--sheesh!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rainy, gray Thursday.

We had some rain over night though no much.  We expect more over the next couple of days.  Well, we are moving into the gray months when a clear, sunny, blue sky day is a real treat.

Gene Logsdon is always entertaining.  I read articles over the last year or so about the Amish study showing their incidence of asthma and allergies is far lower than the general public.  We have speculated frequently that our rising rates of such immune diseases are the result of our hyper-sanitized life where we are encouraged to use this, that, or another antimicrobial product.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Frosty Wednesday.

I didn't get the leaves swept up yesterday.  It looks like I won't till early next week because rain will be moving in for the next several days.  We went to the monthly senior breakfast yesterday and then went up to a little shop that stocks bulk nuts, beans, spices and teas.  It is a bit out of the way so we only go up there every three months or so and stock up while we are there.  They have some wonderful blends of tea that not only taste wonderful but smell heavenly.

Poor Campbell's is a victim of the shift Americans are (supposedly) making to fresh foods.  We are among those who have stopped buying prepared foods including soups.  The foods we make from scratch taste so much better and we can control what is actually in the food.  The last time we fixed some Campbell's canned soup we could hardly eat it because it was so salty.  If it hadn't has so much salt it would have had not flavor at all.  But that was only the latest in a long string of disappointments: chicken noodle soup that had too much salt and too little chicken, cream of mushroom in which there was hardly a mushroom to be found, etc.

I saw this in a snippet on the morning news: children today can't match their parents for running speed.  Well, duh??  We have seen thirty years of cash-strapped schools cutting physical education (as well as art and music).  Over that same time fast foods have gradually gone from a once in a while treat to a mainstay of children's diets.  Evidently, the phenomenon is not just nationwide here but worldwide.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Very pretty Tuesday.

We did have sun yesterday and this morning the sunrise was very pretty.  However, the temps are starting out just about freezing.  Later today I will see if the leaves are dry enough to sweep up.  I have containers I can use them in and the rest will go into the compost bin.

Oh, my!!  I never realized that the Mediterranean could have cyclones.  And Sardinia has just been hit with a nasty one named Cleopatra.

This really pisses me off.  We have wasted way too much blood, money, and materiel on this obscene absurdity.  Worse we have militarized our police, established a new layer of policing in Homeland Security and TSA, ramped up our spying on everyone, and the damned well cancelled the Constitution.

Well, it is official--the tornados that hit in Illinois on Sunday included the two most powerful November tornados to hit  that far north in over 100 years.  Hundred year events seem to be coming fast and frequent lately.

I don't know if Wal-Mart can get any more pathetic.  The most offensive part of this is the company statement that the food drive encouraging their associates to donate so fellow associates can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal indicates a "supportive" employee culture not miserably low wages.

I didn't know this but it doesn't surprise me.  Big question--what do you do when what you have done no longer works?

Monday, November 18, 2013

OMG!! What a wild Sunday it was.

Today (Monday) is starting out clear, calm, and sunny.  Very different from yesterday afternoon.  Those living west of us, a bit south and west of Chicago, had it far worse.  At least three tornados.  We had high winds we watched very closely.  Thankfully, our landlords have been very conscientious about topping and thinning the big trees in front.  About 1:30 Mom decided to delay fixing dinner until the worst of the storm passed to be sure she wasn't interrupted by a power outage.  We never lost power but our internet and cable went out for the rest of the day.  The cable went out in the middle of the news cast we were watching for info on the storm.  It was still out when we went to bed a little after 9pm.  At one point I looked out the back door and thought I was seeing things.  I thought I saw a snow flake--a big one.  A few minutes later the rain was coming down in a monsoonal torrent driven almost horizontal by the winds--and snow was definitely falling mixed in with it.  At the time the temperature on our patio was 62F.  Considering what we are seeing on the news this morning--we got off very lightly.  Addendum: it appears that southern Illinois and Indiana also got hit hard.  Those reports are a bit sketchy right now.

As we made our errands this morning we saw some damage--thankfully not a lot here.  A few limbs down.  A couple of fence sections damaged.  A couple trees uprooted.  One intersection was without power but the city had already put up the temporary 4-way stop signs.  We saw a lot of wood litter at another indicating that they had cleaned up a large limb fall.  One of our favorite cashiers at one of the grocery stores told us that her area north of here had much more damage.  The awning of her porch blew away and a lot of debris flew into her yard.  One of her neighbors picked up his belongings and helped clean up.  Oh, well--on to the 'net.

I have watched this obscenity grow over the years.  I remember seeing a number of so-called internships advertised and feeling a bit offended by the whole notion.  I remember telling one advisor who suggested that I apply for one that I couldn't afford to work for free.

And this is another obscenity courtesy of our predatory capitalists who seem to run most things now.  And to say that the wounds from these so-called deals were in part self-inflictedI  is more than a little ridiculous considering how opaque and manipulated the products were and how the financial groups selling them made sure that they would rake in a profit no matter how bad they went.

I have been following this story since I first read about it months ago.  It seems to be going from bad to worse and, maybe, worse than worse.

I was totally skeptical about the new guidelines put out last week for prescribing statins.  Now I am even more skeptical.  First question we had was "who developed the calculator?"  It seems tailor made to get more business for the drug companies.  I know two major medical groups advocated it but that doesn't mean they created it.

The title of this says it all: Barbaric Alliance.

I have noted before that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost more lives and more money than the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  This piece from Undernews tells us that we have lost a lot more: more people to the militarized police that risen since.  It is a sad commentary that we are now far more likely to die at the hands of those sworn to "serve and protect" than those they are supposed to protect us from.  Do you feel safer??

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcome to a wet but warm weekend.

The weather people say we should get a bit over an inch of rain over today and tomorrow.  However, the themperatures are also supposed to be above "normal."  The snow is pretty much gone even from the shaded areas--like my patio.  Let's see what is on the 'net.

We are now (Sunday) getting the rain and have the possibility of tornados.  We were watching the trees dance in the winds as we drank our coffee.  I noticed that the trees went from fully leafed and colorful to bare in less than a week.  I didn't see anything worth commenting on yesterday.  What could I say about most of the so-called news except "Oh, shit.  The idiots are still at it."

Good Morning America had a snippet about one of the major contractors involved with the development of the ACA web site--they had a long trail of failed public contracts behind them.  It isn't a case of one or two but a string of failures.  I have to ask--why were they given another?  I wonder if the old "tradition" of accepting the lowest bid was involved.  I wonder about that as I watched two commercials this morning.  The first was for All State.  A little girl asks her dad, who is on the computer, what he is doing.  He tells her he is changing his car insurance.  "Why?" she asks.  Dad informs her that the new policy is "cheaper."  "Why?" she asks again.  "Good question." says the announcer, who goes on to point out the obvious: the cheaper cost may be for less insurance.  In this case the government got considerably less than they paid for and now have the added cost of the fix.  (By the way that is at the bottom of the controversy over the Obama promise that if people liked their insurance they could keep it.  Not said was that they could keep it only if the policy met the ACA standards.  Quality, it seems, is never a consideration.)  The other commercial was for a politician running for governor in Illinois who main talking point is he is a businessman and can run the state like a business.  That, given the performance of so many companies over the last few years, is no great selling point.  And I am not one who thinks that business standards easily apply to government.  Government isn't in the "business" of earning a profit.  Most of the metrics by which government should be judged are not so easily quantified.

This little piece asks a question that resonates here.  Mom just got the information packet for her health insurance package which comes through a union because she is the widow of a retired worker. About this time last year her premiums doubled with a few new features were included.  Not only did the premiums double the co-pay for office visits went from $15 to $25 and they had to be paid before seeing the doctor.  Also included (though not new) is a drug plan and which seems a good deal on the surface but may be not so good a deal when carefully examined--which takes time, her time.  She is  still working through the numbers and possibilities.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday--another warm up. Computer housekeeping.

Well, we are supposed to have 50s--maybe touching 60.  Typical for fall.  I still have some snow on the gardens but probably won't have any by the end of the weekend especially if we get the rain the weather people have promised.

When I surf the 'net and I find an item I might like to keep handy, usually gardening info or crochet or quilting patterns, I often download them to my computer desk top.  I have been thinking of cleaning up the mess and printing off the info that still interests me.  That took the last hour.  Later I will make a start on my stack of magazines.

This is a fascinating story.  I wouldn't care to do it myself but I imagine that a history buff can get a better idea of how people in earlier times lived by trying to live and dress as those people did.  But I had another thought as I read one of the last paragraphs where Sarah Crisman describes the reactions to her Victorian attire as polarizing.  I have read a good bit about the reactions to Muslim women wearing hijab or niqab and the are about the same.  I am always amazed at how vitriolic some can be over what someone else wears (or doesn't wear.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Thursday. Improving economy??? The new welfare queens.

Hello, to all.  As I have said too often before "Oh, my--how the time flies by."  We are already halfway through November.  Let's see what I find on the 'net.

Here is one reason why I think anyone who believes the economy is "improving" is smoking something--or cherry picking the data.  The most telling part of the statistics is the 1 in 5 25-34 year-olds are "disconnected" from both the job market and school.  Add that to the stats I saw a couple of months ago which indicate that an even higher proportion of the 16-24 year-olds are in the same situation.

I saw the story on the morning news that Wal-Mart had reported lower than expect sales during the third quarter.  Then I found this on Huffington Post.  So the biggest corporate welfare queen is blaming cuts in food stamps for its dismal showing.  I wonder how many of their employees got a "pay" cut with the benefit cut?  Why would I even think such a thing?  Take a look here.  As I learned a long time ago, ethical is not a synonym for legal.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cold Wednesday. Labor unrest. Medical costs. Statins. Dietary advice. Government/Private partnerships.

Temperatures here are in the low 20s and high teens.  Coldest we have had in many a month.  The snow is still on the lawns and roofs but has disappeared from paved areas.  But 'tis the season of roller coaster temps.  We expect a warming that will put us back into the 50s in a couple of days.

I am entirely on the side of the workers here.  I was surprised only because I found the article on NBC.com.  Usually we don't get such stories on our (s)news media.  Of course, I notice NBC picked it up from Reuters.  Not good timing for Wal-Mart and other western clothing vendors with Christmas coming up.

This item belongs in the "Well, duh!!" file.  The drivers of health care costs are the chronic diseases and most of those afflicted are not the elderly.  And the medical "marketplace" is anything but transparent with respect to prices for services.

The news this morning noted that American doctors are being encouraged to expand the number of patients for whom they prescribe statins.  They estimate that as many as one-third of adults may be put on the drugs.  My first thought was that Christmas has come early for the drug companies.  My second thought was to wonder how many people who will be put on statins could control their risk without the drug if they followed the diet and exercise recommendations.  I also wonder how many people who will take the drugs to reduce their risk of heart disease will contract type-2 diabetes instead thanks to the statin.  Of course, those people will be prescribed insulin or other diabetes drugs in addition to the statins so the drug companies will make even more money.

Gene Logsdon at the Contrary Farmer has a humorous take on our various and contradictory dietary advice.  We have pretty well taken all of the advice with a ton of salt and reject most of it.  eLately the FDA has issued directives demanding food manufacturers remove trans-fats from their products.  We started that a good while ago.  When it comes to what we eat I think we have lost any kind of common sense a long time back.  Instead the American public seems to slew from one diet guru to another without any thought of what said gurus are really telling them and whether it make any sense at all.

A thought occurred to me as I read (and heard) stories that claim the government's ACA signup web site won't but fully functioning by the end of this month as promised.   That in conjunction with the totally (expletive, expletive) rollout of the VENTRA payment system in Chicago leads me to wonder about the efficiency of such government/private business partnerships.  In the case of the ACA the government partnered with private software companies to construct the web site and it has been a fiasco from the start.  In the case of the Chicago CTA, the CTA partnered with a company which promised to take the burden of collecting fares from the CTA for a cut of the profits.  It has been a catastrophe from its beginning also with lost cards, cards the customer can't activate, cards for the dead, and cards that bill multiple charges for each ride.  In each case the partnership has not worked at all well and the ones who suffer the most from the mess are those who depend on it to work efficiently.  I am sure both the Federal government and the CTA have good techs in house and could have developed the systems on their own.  The systems might have been a lot cheaper and might have  worked a lot more efficiently.  At least the CTA is demanding that the company responsible for the VENTRA system fix the damned thing before any more payments are made.  All I have heard about the ACA site is that more "experts" are coming in at who knows what cost to make it all better--sometime, maybe.