Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween or Samhain or All Hallows Eve, etc.

It is wet for this Halloween and it is supposed to continue all day and well into tonight.  I don't know how many kids we will see tonight but we make sure that we get candy we like.  Whatever is left will be small treats for a while.

I spent some time yesterday taking inventory of the seeds I still have on hand.  They are in the freezer now and will remain there until I start next year's gardens.  I also got all my garden pictures arranged and transferred to the folders for the year in which I took them.  Soon I will start making my tentative shopping list for the 2014 gardens.  I already know I want a rose--an old fashioned rose with a strong scent.  And a new blueberry.  I am stubborn and we really like blueberries.  I discovered this year that my water is very alkaline and very hard neither of which is good for blueberries.  I have a plan to address the problem and hope for better results next year.

Perhaps our congress would like to investigate these computer "glitches."  But since it isn't part of Obama's "flagship" program they might not see any political advantage.

Reading this piece I wonder where the polls will be when next year's elections come around.  I would used the old curse (a pox on both your houses) but I don't see any third party out there I can identify with.

The news readers on Al Jazeera asked an interesting question this morning.  They noted that another set of hearings was going on at the same time the Sebelius grilling was going on: on the NSA and CIA spying.  The story noted the talking points paper which instructed spokesmen and officials for both agencies to play up 9/11 and they certainly did do that claiming that because of their spying no successful "mass" casualty attacks have occurred.  The question you wonder?  How long can security officials play the "9/11 card?"  I don't know but they have gotten really good milage so far.

Our local news had this a couple of days ago but it is cute and worth a link.

According to the op-ed in the Bangkok Post the U.S. is number one--for the amount of spam generated here.

An Italian architectural firm is taking the notion of "vertical gardening" to a fantastic new height.  The pictures are amazing.  For more info and pictures go here.

The Contrary Farmer has an entertaining post on the intersection of local art, farming and business.

The controversy over Asian carp in the Illinois River that might migrate (or might have already migrated) into the Great Lakes has appeared at intervals over the last few years.  Not long ago the news noted that the fish had been found in a couple of the Indiana watersheds that feed into Lake Michigan.  I do not doubt that the voracious fish would do serious damage to the ecology of the Lakes and the economies of the bordering states but I wonder which would do more damage--the Asian carp or this.  At least the carp is edible and can be processed for fertilizer (and maybe other products) but the plastic microbeads?  What do you do with them?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday and fall is very evident. And now it is Wednesday.

The gardens are a bit ragged and bare.  The hibiscus is the only tall plant that is still tall.  I cut back the tansy and removed the pineapple sage earlier as I said so the fence is the dominant feature right now.  The hibiscus leaves are dying off now but it looks better than the ones in the local park and along one of the main streets.  I guess that is how the plant deals with the end of the growing season and growing cold.  But I think I see a new shoot coming from the roots and similar growth around the stump of the bee balm.  And the tansy and pyrethrum are showing new growth.  Those last are very hardy plants--among the very few that survived last winter.  Ah well, the seasons do change no matter what we feel or want.  The leaves finally have gone into full color mode--about a month late.

Well, once again I didn't find anything worth commenting on yesterday.  I don't know what I will find today.  Most of the airwaves and the ether is clogged with the same old issues and none of it is any nearer to resolution.  I am so tired of self-important idiot blowing hot air from both ends.  I have begun to tune it out.

I saw a couple of stories on the death of former Congressman Ike Skelton yesterday.  What struck me about the politicians praising Skelton was that they praised the virtues they saw in him that they are not willing to practice themselves: moderation, courtesy, willingness to compromise.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Sunday to you all. Followed by a good Monday.

Sunday and nothing on the schedule.  I got the pineapple sage out yesterday and that was some bit of work.  It had grown into a robust bush.  If I plant it again next year it will be in its own pot because it really doesn't play well with others.  I still have the oregano that needs a winter home and I think I will put it where the pineapple sage was.  I watered a couple of strawberry beds.  Though we had cloudy skies for a good bit of the last couple of days we got nothing out of it.

Well, there wasn't anything much I wanted to comment on yesterday.  I don't know what I will find today.  Most of the news, as usual, is fluff or nothing new.

Another kind of marriage "inequality" seems to be a growing phenomenon.

I have noted before that the more dependent we are on computerized systems that 
can be remotely accessed the more likely someone will interfere with those systems.  And few of us plan for that possible (probable?) event.  Or can even conceive all of the ways such an attack can mess up our lives. Another article from an Israeli news outlet claims not cyber attack happened.   However, I am agnostic on the matter.  It might be the authorities would rather not publicly admit such an attack occurred or it might be a system or equipment failure.  How would you tell?  And it appears the hackers are getting more devious about how they get into their target computer systems.

James Kunstler has an interesting post this morning.  He ties up three of today's headlines into one story: the spy scandal, prevalent accounting fraud, and Obamacare.  I think he may be right about the notion that our leaders in our complex society are trying to manage that complexity and failing miserably.

We had a thought this morning on the spying issue--how many of the governments who are so outraged by the NSA activities have benefitted from those activities?  Probably every damned, hypocritical one of them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Good Saturday morning.

Supposed to warm into the 50s.  I will wait till it warms up before doing anything outside.  I am about ready to take the pineapple sage out and clean out that corner of the gardens.

Sorry you are having all that trouble with Google, Kay.  I haven't posted your last comment because I don't know if you want your contact info out in the ether.  Hope things get straightened out soon.

This story illustrates one aspect of our modern politics that I find truly abhorrent.   this had happened anywhere but in the halls of Congress it would be called extortion.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Last Friday of October.

Oh, my where has the year gone?  Only two more months left in 2013.  Nothing going on in the gardens.  Though I hooked the hose up again yesterday to water a couple of the large containers but found the hose had broken down.  I like the expandable hose a lot and did not expect that.  We will get a new one next spring.  I did drain the hose after each use but next year I will detach it when I am not using it.  For the rest of this year I will use my large watering can.

Considering how many stories I have seen over the last year about venture capital firms buying up foreclosed homes to rent out, this is the next logical development.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cold but no snow. Computer upgrades.

Thankfully, no snow.  I am not ready for that.  Other areas west and north of us got anywhere from a smidge to a couple of inches.

We spent a good chunk of time yesterday upgrading our MacBooks' operating  systems.  Apple is providing the download free to those who already have the latest versions of OS X.  Finally!!  And I also got several of the programs I use regularly upgraded as well.

Before and after I did my usual trek through the internet but didn't find much to comment on or link to.  Let's see what I find today.

Ah, Margaret and Helen have some keen observations about the current state of the Repthuglican party.

Just when you think you have read the worst story about stone-cold, insensitive, bastard employers, this kind of story crosses your screen.

A couple or so years ago we heard stories about serious bone breaks (like breaks of the femur, the strongest bone in the body) in people taking Fosamax for osteoporosis.  And those breaks occurred with very little stress on the bone (as in simply walking slowly on even ground).  At the time, Mom was taking a related drug and had been for several years after bone scans showing bone loss.  We start ed checking out the problem and Mom insisted in going off the drug.  Her doctor tried to get her back on it and his nurses called her several times to persuade her to resume it.  However, we both noted that her subsequent bone scans showed no further bone loss and none of her scans while under treatment showed any improvement.  Now there is yet another reason not to take these meds.

I have read several snippets over the last couple of days about the Saudi Foreign Minister's comments and the indicated shift away from a close alignment with the U.S.  They aren't at all happy that the U.S. hasn't taken a harder line or more active role in Syria.  Well, they may have even more reason to shift out from under the U.S. shadow: China now buys a bit more oil from Saudi Arabia that the U.S. does.  That may be a real game changer.

I clicked on this link because I remember hearing some unsavory stories about Diebold during a couple of national elections.  Most of those stories involved possible shady dealings in rigging election results.  Evidently, the company is now charged with a worldwide pattern of criminal behavior.  And, as the author notes, no one is going to jail because how do you jail a corporation?  A real person would have suffered sever consequences (unless they were really well connected.)  No matter what the Supreme Court says that is the key difference between real people and those fictional legal constructs--you can execute the one but (so far) not the other.

First we saw the financial industry develop "investments" based on the promises of borrowers to repay their mortgages.  So-called mortgage backed securities--though not all that secure.  Now another financial idiot is going to marked "securities" based on the income from rental properties.  I am sure they will find buyers--after all, P.T. Barnum noted a long time ago: there's a sucker born every minute.

I guess it is more cost effective for a low-wage company to maintain a "help" line for its own employees, and the employees of franchise owners who pay for the privilege of allowing their employees to use said line, which directs them to government services than it is to pay them adequately so they won't have to get food stamps, heating assistance and other taxpayer paid services.

Now this makes a lot of sense and it parallels what I have been thinking about the stock market.  It has almost no real relationship to the real economy where real people work (if they have a job) and buy things that keep going up in price (though we have almost no inflation.)

Remember the link I had a few days ago about the sardine fishing fleet that went arrived back in port with no catch at all.  Well, read this and weep.  We are well and truly fucked.  Just haven't acknowledged it yet.

The spirit of Lysistrata is alive and well.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More seasonal changes.

Over the years we have become more conscious of the changing seasons.  We just put the plastic up over the living room window.  As soon as the storm window comes back from the glazer we will put the plastic up there.  I tried to lower it last week but it stuck and then released suddenly.  I couldn't hold it.  Thankfully it didn't shatter in a million pieces.  Most of the glass stayed in the frame.  We are discussing whether we will raise it next spring.  We like the fresh hover air however raising and lowering that window is getting too difficult.  Our menu has changed--no more chef salads or cold meals.  Now it is hot casseroles, soups, chili and other more hearty fare.  For the second morning in a row we look out to see frost on windshield and roofs.

This is frightening--or would be if we still had pets.  The most frightening part--no one knows the source.  If we still had cats we would prepare our pets food ourselves.

Maha makes a point that I have seen made only once and that once on Al Jazeera.  The ACA sign up has been a snafu so far.  However none of the loud voices (largely Repthuglican) note the reason it is such a snafu.  Basically, the government contracted the development of the site and the programing to private companies who failed to make sure their parts of the system worked well together.  And then this hodgepodge was expected to play nicely with the various systems the myriad states and insurance companies use.  And she is totally right: the private sector screwed up.  And they would have been fired and fined but because they worked, for the federal government, they will probably keep their fees and, maybe, get a bonus for cleaning up their mess.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brrrrr!! First frost.

The temperature, as of now, is 30F.  I saw frost on the windshield of the cars and the nearby roofs.  Overnight lows for the next week expected to be in the 30s with high in the 40s.  I heard our furnace go on last night.  We keep ours set at 68 so it got a wee bit cool.  The weather people say we should see rain and possibly a mix of rain and snow so I don't think I will do anything outside.

Well, I guess I lied.  I did get some more work done outside--another pot tower, transplanted two strawberry starts, and the lemon balm.  I will try to get outside in a bit after I get warm again.  Though it is still cold, it is sunny.  I did dump the begonia.  It did not like the cold last night.  I thought about bringing it in over winter but the way it shed blossoms makes it a very untidy plant.

I think you all can guess my thoughts on this--the same as my thoughts when Macy's announced the same and every big retailer since.  I remember reading something a little while ago that said Medieval peasants actually had more time off than modern workers.  True they didn't get two weeks vacation but that is a benefit fewer and fewer of us receive.  But how many real holidays do we get any more?  Hell, even vacations are not really vacations--not with smart phones and tablets keeping people tethered to the work force.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another week starts. Smog--again. Pollution as Carcinogen.

As you could see yesterday I didn't see much to comment on and I didn't do much, anything actually, in the gardens.  It is wet outside now and we expect a wintery mix of rain and snow tomorrow so I may not get anything done till Wednesday.

I read too much politics, also, Kay.  I have tried to get away from some of it.  The idiocy is simply--I have run out of suitable adjectives.  I will let you all fill in the gap.

Bill Moyers had an interesting program yesterday.  I especially liked the interview with Sherry Turkel centered on her new book Alone Together.  She writes about how technology has affected our behavior and our interactions with real people.  We seem to have a lower tolerance for boredom because we always have our smart phones and can shift away from what is happening in our immediate  physical area.  And we have lost the distinction between solitude and loneliness.  I may pick up her book--not yet though.  I have a number of books in my queue.  But I have noticed that we here are somewhat out of step with modern culture.  We don't have smart phones and have no intention of getting one.  Though we can access the web on our phones we don't--by choice.  Nor do we play games on them.  We don't watch movies on our lap-top computers and don't want to.  We don't text much to the annoyance of our hipper relatives.  Like Turkel, I wonder where it is all going and what it will mean for us as humans.

This seems to have become an all too frequent story in China.  It was also a lead story on Al Jazeera today.  We saw it and responded "Well, duh!!  They are between a rock and a hard place.  They have a large population that is moving at a fast clip onto the cities.  They need power for both consumers and industry.  Where do they get it?"

Evidently, at least according to the U.N., the pollution can be ranked with asbestos as a cancer causing agent.  Green Prophet has bit on the report.  The report got a scant mention in our news media over the weekend.

I am not at all surprised at this development.  I am somewhat surprised at the outrage expressed by those who made an unwarranted assumption based on Obama's assurance that "they could keep their insurance plans if they liked them."  After all, insurance is a business transaction meaning that there has to be a seller and a buyer.  The buyer assumed that because he wanted to continue buying the seller would continue to sell.  Another "Well, duh!" moment.  I am bemused by the political response to the snafus involved in the Obamacare enrollment while there has been absolutely no outrage over insurance companies canceling policies whole sale.

Here is something both surprising and shocking.  Once living creatures turned to stone.

Here is an interesting article that sheds some light on how the civil war in Syria might end based on how such wars have ended over the past 70+ years.  The chance of a negotiated settlement, as Obama has advocated, is about as good as the proverbial snowball in that proverbial very hot place.

This raises waste to the level of immorality.  War is a waste no matter which way you look at it.  But a war fought for no good reason against any kind of common sense magnifies the waste.  I think we should follow the old rule for backcountry hikers--what you take in, you take out.  I am really amused by the Afghan attitude: they are being cheated.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Very cool Sunday.

High 30s this morning.  The frost/freeze warnings are coming closer.  We had some rain again overnight so I will wait a bit before I do anything outside.  Besides I would rather it get a bit warmer though we don't expect to get out of the fifties.  I still have a couple of pots to place and fill and a few plants to transplant.  But over all the work in the gardens is winding down.

I have said often that there are good reasons not to privatize government services.  This illustrates why privatization is not the panacea its proponents claim.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good Saturday, All.

Cool and wet at the moment.  The clouds moved in late afternoon yesterday and should move out a bit later today--for a while at least.  I did get the peppers pulled collecting the few remaining that of are any useable size.  The plants were blooming fantastically and if I had another month and a bit I might have had another crop.  But the freeze and frost warnings are coming closer so I (and they) didn't have that time.  And yes, Kay, you will be getting some of this weather.

I also got some of my containers rearranged.  I wanted do a dry run on an arrangement I had in mind but found it simply wouldn't work in my small space.  It simply takes up too much space.  So I am going to plan b which seems to be working.  We'll see next season.  I plan to replace the Tidy Cat buckets with new five gallon buckets.  As I moved them yesterday the rim splintered nearly taking several of my fingernails along with it.  Thankfully, only one nail actually broke and I cut it off to make sure it didn't tear.  But those we haven't used those buckets for litter for at least four or five years.  We went to smaller quantities because we couldn't easily handle the weight any more.  In between waves of rain I should be able to finish and get my remaining plants protected.

Found this post on Naked Capitalism this morning.  I like it for a couple of reasons.  One, the author questions, as I have, our political and economic leaders' commitment to "growth."  I put that in quotation marks because, as he shows, sometimes the growth is an illusion.  The "growth" we saw for the last forty years was an illusion based on debt.  He also points out, rather starkly, the consequences for our society when a blind faith in an illusory growth (based on cherry picked data) conflicts with real world conditions.  We have been assured that the economy is growing though not at the pace the pundits want.  We are assured that all we need is patience and growth will resume at the desired pace and we will all be prosperous again.  But what if that doesn't happen?  How do we live in a world of no or slow growth or, perhaps, contraction?  And how do we define "we" in that case?  Our politicians and economists can't answer that because they are all busy denying the very possibility that the economy won't grow the way they want it to again.

And then I found this Economist article (by way of Naked Capitalism also).  I spent more time than I, sometimes, like to think engaged in academic science.  I have both bachelor's and master's degrees in biology/zoology.  And I remember spending a lot of frustrating time trying to verify other researchers' work in the process of going on to my own.  Most of what I found then I couldn't verify.  I have watched over the years as dueling studies coming to seemingly opposite conclusions made headlines only to be debunked (quietly) some months later.  Unfortunately, our news media is (for the most part) scientifically illiterate, are given too little time to tease out the real significance of the studies, and assume (perhaps correctly) that their audience isn't either interested enough or educated enough to understand the issues.  But how do ordinary Americans make informed choices about health, nutrition, the environment when we don't know what information to trust?

Now this is a perplexing item.  Where have all the sardines gone?  Note it wasn't just the sardine fishery in British Columbia that seems to have collapsed.  That off South Africa also evaporated.  I wonder if this is in any way related to the numbers of seal pups that washed ashore on the west coast severely malnourished.  No one seems to have any answers.

Well, someone with the food industry has finally made some sense on the issue of genetically modified foods: tell the consumer, advertise the benefits, and stop trying to stop the labeling movement.  I don't know that there are really any benefits.  The GMOs, to date, have failed to deliver the higher yields and lower pesticide/herbicide usage promised.  And the pests are becoming resistant.  I, also, don't trust the assurances that the GMOs don't have any detrimental effect on those (human or otherwise) that eat them.  I totally resent the companies' attitude that the consumer has no right to know where in the diet these products appear.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Very cool Friday.

We definitely feel the change in the seasons.  The weather people say we might get to 60F on Sunday but otherwise only 50s.  We have already started wearing our sweats and I just turned on the heat and checked the setting.  We keep it at 68 over winter.  We have been talking about replacing our old winter coats for the last three or four years and finally did a week ago. We follow Treebeard's advice: don't be hasty.  It has been too wet to do anything outside.  If we don't get any more rain I will try to get a bit of the reorganization I want done.  We'll see.

What you could have "bought" for the $24 billion it cost the taxpayers during the sixteen days of the shutdown.

I read the headline of this Edinburgh News article and asked "What the hell are conkers?"  Evidently that is what they call horse chestnuts over there and the heatwave Scotland experienced this year produced a lot of them--and the trees are now shedding large numbers.

I saw this on BBC this morning.  Saudi Arabia has declined its election to the U.N. Security Council saying the body is incapable of solving conflicts in the world citing the civil war in Syria.  Well, duh?!? It was designed that way.  National sovereignty was a key principle on which the U.N. was founded and unless conditions align the national interests of the permanent members to favor intervention.  That favors inaction.  But not many countries really want to give up sovereign powers to a true world government and I am not in favor of the U.S. doing so.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Doomsday postponed. "Full faith and credit"??? A "Clean" bill??

I guess it is a good morning.  Our dysfunctional national legislatures gave us a reprieve from financial/political/social armageddon and passed a reasonably clean continuing budget resolution and a reasonably clean hike in the debt ceiling.  I say "reasonably" because the only extraneous attachment tightened up the means testing for Obamacare subsidies which was already part of the original legislation.  If our legislators think I am grateful, they have another think coming.  They should have done their job a long time ago.  We haven't had a real budget since Obama came into office.  And I am pissed as hell with the notion that the last month or so may be repeated in about three months.  I know some pundits are blowing some hot air that the Repthuglicans have learned from this experience and won't be so stupid next time.  I wouldn't place any bets on that.

Nancy Pelosi mentioned the cost, $24 billion, to the economy thanks to the shutdown of the Federal government.  I have heard several other references to that figure.  However, there are other costs as this article mentions.  We have heard references often about the "full faith and credit of the United States."  That statement has two parts.  First, it says that the U.S. will honor its commitments; that it will pay its debts and keep its promises.  Second, that others can rely on, have faith in, our promises.  Right now I would say that both parts are in serious doubt.  Can we, and others (friend and adversary alike) depend on the U.S. government to fulfill any promises, financial or otherwise?  And this piece from Politico indicates that the erosion of faith, of trust, is biting very deeply.  And Yanis Varoufakis describes the unbelievable, from the European point of view, antics of our politicians in rather clear terms.  I will translate for you: the driving force here is selfishness and hypocrisy.

And I wouldn't call the legislation passed last night a "clean" bill given the add-ons nobody mentioned. See that here.  By what definition of "clean" does this qualify?

John Michael Greer has an interesting post on the Archdruid Reports.  In a way his thoughts parallel some of mine on some recent events like the controversies that have roiled education in Chicago.  The budget problems have led to very contentious curtailing of childcare and education either because the providers weren't paid or because the school board consolidated schools removing facilities that generations of residents had depended on.  I thought that the local churches should have been involved in re-establishing those services and establishing their own communities.  Some may be doing just that but they don't get the attention of the news media.  I am not a great fan of modern Christianity (or a lot of what goes by that name) but I can readily see that the churches may, indeed, be the institutions that will pick up when the secular political and social structures fail.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wet Wednesday.

I won't get anything done in the gardens today because it is too wet.  I am not complaining.  We need the rain badly.  And I don't have anything pressing out there: cleaning up, pulling the few remaining tender plants.  But we aren't expecting a freeze in the next five days.  So what is still in the garden?  Four peppers, the hibiscus, a whole bunch of strawberries, tansy, painted lady daisy (pyrethrum), purple hyssop, bee balm, begonia, sage, oregano, spearmint, peppermint, foxglove, lemon thyme and pineapple sage which is finally blooming.  The begonia, pineapple sage, and peppers are much too tender to overwinter.  I had thought of trying to keep the begonia as a houseplant but it makes a mess when the blossoms drop.  I will look for a different one next year.  Of the more hardy plants I want to move the spearmint to a new home and all will get some protection against the cold.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Another day....

Another day older and deeper in debt.  Another day closer to the debt ceiling.  I know the media talking heads and, given higher futures on the stock market, Wall Street are giddy at the prospect of a deal but I am not celebrating and I won't even if a deal is struck.  I will be asking who they are going to screw to get it.  And, from what I have seen so far, the whole mess will be on the agenda for early next year.  I have no great confidence that those idiots will do anything constructive.

I know where you are coming from, Kay.  I try not to be angry about the situation we find ourselves in.  Not easy.  Instead I try to figure out how to keep from being too screwed to badly.  I would love to find a way to get along without relying so much on Social Security but that is hard when it is 100% of my income and when jobs that will provide an income sufficient to replace it are few and far between.  What really burns me up is the broken record we can't seem to get off.  The parties in Washington haven't been able to agree on a budget for the last four years and so we have inadequate continuing resolutions that are anything but inadequate.  And how many debt ceiling confrontations have we had? And now they have set up another for early next year.  And elections don't seem to mean anything any more.  Not when the Senate requires a 60 vote majority to move legislation to a final vote.  And, as noted yesterday, the Repthuglicans leading the house have rigged things so that any legislation they don't want passed can't even be brought to the floor even if it would likely pass.

Evidently my pessimism isn't all that out of line with our current zeitgeist according to this poll.  I think this sums up the whole situation (my emphasis):
People feel eroded,” said Democratic pollster Daniel Franklin, who helped conduct the survey. “They’ve seen the strength of the middle class wane, and correspondingly, the country as a whole begin to falter. Now they’re looking for new ideas, new strategies to rebuild their hopes and they haven’t found them yet.”
The Agonist sums up the problem right nicely.  We have a bunch of fraudsters and psychopaths in Congress.

Evidently a number of Google users aren't happy with the new policy to used subscribers' profile pictures and comments in ads.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Almost forgot about Columbus Day.

Wouldn't have even noticed that this was end of the three day Columbus Day weekend if the news hadn't noted that there is no mail delivery and there is a parade today.  Actually, I have no emotional investment in the day.  Italian is one of the few European nationalities to which I have no claim.  Oh, another reminder--we just had a commercial for a car dealer's Columbus Day sale.  But my irritation meter went up a notch when the news said that Macy's is going to open at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Phooey!!!!  Is there a holiday out there that hasn't been commercialized?  I can't think of one.  Last week I saw a headline which said that Hanukkah falls right with Thanksgiving and some retailers are trying to mash them together as Thanksgivinukkah.  Or some such crap.

I heard a comment on a discussion last night of the failure of the political idiots to reach any kind of agreement on the debt and budget.  The talking brainless head said that the only way out of the impass was for the parties to each "give" up something.  He mentioned specifically that the Damnocrats  would have to yield up Social Security and Medicare.  THEY won't have to "give up" anything.  WE will be stiffed on the benefits many of us depend on and have contributed to for most of our lives.  Let's please be clear on who is being fleeced here.

Various international and foreign voices have chimed in on the impasse.  Here is one from China that proposes the international community start building a "de-Americanized" world.  I wondered yesterday about the results of states taking financial responsibility for the "national" parks and monuments.  But no one in our media or among our politicians about what the shutdown means for the U.S. dollar as the world's "reserve" currency.  China has been in the middle of a move among very dissatisfied countries to get away from the dollar in their bilateral trade and to establish their alternative to the World Bank.  I wonder how far the ripples of this self-inflicted crisis will go.

And the Chinese aren't the only ones wanting a "de-Americanized" world.  Various organizations involved in the operation and governing of the internet also want a divorce from the U.S. government.

The old cliche says: to err is human, to really f--- up you need a computer.  While one computer glitch prevented food stamp recipients from seventeen states from using their cards, recipients in two Louisiana towns had cards without limits.  Some in the news media (especially shills for the corporate or financial powers like CNBC) have magnified every glitch of the roll out of ACA enrollment.  Isn't technology wonderful.  There is another old saying: complicated systems are likely to foul up and (MaryContrary's corollary) the more complicated the more likely it is foul up spectacularly to everyone's detriment.

Well, the news says that Social Security recipients will get an increase of 1.5% next January--God willing and Congress doesn't f--- up.  They didn't say how much the Medicare B will go up.  One hand gives and the other takes away.  And you all know that what we have to buy has gone up by more than 1.5% so we will probably loose on the deal.

This is hardly a surprise--The Repthuglicans made sure they could keep the government shut down.  If you can't win the vote, make sure there isn't a vote.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday and the weather is changing. More comments on technology. Thoughts the Pink campaign might not like.

The temperature is definitely on a downward trend here.  The weather people expect frost by next weekend.  I cleared out the stems of the tomatoes and put the strawberries (pots and all) in those areas.  I have a couple of strawberry daughter plants to get moved.  As I move things around I have to do some major clean up.  I have never had so much mold growing on the cement before.  I may have to use some bleach on it and wash everything down well.  I still need to split and move the oregano and spearmint and find information on overwintering the hibiscus and pineapple sage.  I took the hummingbird feeder down earlier in the week--much to the disappointment of a couple of lonely little bees.  But the hummingbirds are gone and the bees can feed on the pineapple sage which is finally blooming.

Sorry to hear about your frustrations with Blogger, Kay.  But I have remarked frequently over the last couple of years that we have had more glitches with technology than I can remember in earlier years.  I know blogger has given me a few problems that have left me sputtering profanities.  Those have usually cleared up leaving me with no clear idea of why it happened or why it suddenly righted itself.  On a couple of occasions I have toyed with notions of trying out other services.  I did just that when they cancelled reader.  I don't like my routines being disrupted so.  As far as the information getting out goes--so much of mine is out there in different databases that I think protecting our traditional notions of  privacy is a lost cause.

An interesting story on the morning TV news that touches on our dependence on technology involved a "glitch" in the processing of the food stamps debit cards in more than a dozen states--including Illinois.  You can get more info here.  Xerox, which runs the system, is "investigating."  My philosophy on this is a version of "trust, but verify."  I "trust" that the technology will be there but I think about work arounds in case it doesn't.  We have been doing that kind of thing in response to other monkey wrenches over the last few years.  When the big banks started hiking fees, we asked ourselves what would be our response if our bank did the same.  When storms interrupted power in areas around us, we started looking at what we need to function in case of an extended power outage.  You always need a "plan B," "plan C," and sometimes a "plan D."

More on the glitch with the food stamp debit cards.  Reuters is reporting that the trouble related to a power outage which has been fixed.  I heard that on one of the news broadcasts (but only one) and that the outage took out both the primary system and its backup.  Sounds like someone needs a backup for the backup.

I have a new "What if" question to ask.  I think we have an answer to the question I asked starting back six or seven years ago: what happens in a consumer driven economy when the consumer can't or won't consume on a heroic scale any more?  With declining income, disappearing wealth, and few (if any) benefits for the middle and working classes, discretionary purchases have declined and economic "growth" has stalled.  My new question?  What is going to happen to our so-called "national treasures"--you know, the parks and monuments that "we" as a "nation" hold in common--when the states assume financial responsibility for operating and maintaining them?  We have already seen several states taking over those operations because the local economies are so heavily dependent on the tourists spending their money there.  But how long before those states decide that perhaps the Federal government should get out of the parks business?  How long before those so-called national treasures no longer belong to the "nation?"

You all may remember that I describe myself as a medical minimalist with a very skeptical attitude.  This article explains why.  There are times when the "pink" campaign to "combat" breast cancer irritates me.  First, I am disgusted by the commercialization and by that I mean all of the companies selling everything under the sun decked out with pink and promising that a (small) part of the price will go to some (usually unspecified) charity engaged in the "war" on breast cancer.  Second, I don't trust the statistics that supposedly show how far we have progressed in the "fight."  Third, I absolutely detest the no-prisoners philosophy which demands aggressive treatment and considers more time an ultimate achievement.  If you are too sick (thanks to the treatment) to enjoy that time, why bother?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Easy Saturday. Comments on technology.

Nothing much planned for the day.  I cleaned out some of the stems from plants I cut down over the last couple of days and cut down the cayenne peppers.  They say we might get rain today which I hope--I saw a couple of containers that could use some water.  I need to cut back the tansy and did part of that yesterday.  Got a pleasant surprise.  I thought one of my two foxglove plants had given up.  They didn't really like the shade they got from my overgrown tomato plants.  But I found a bit of new growth so it may decide to live after all.  But I lost both of my lavenders and my small rosemary.  I will replace them next season.

I just got the little message from Google that they are making changes on the privacy policy and how they will share your profile and pictures.  I don't put any pictures of myself or family or many of other people who might wind up in my pictures.  I have minimal information on my profile. I do not endorse anything and haven't clicked like on any products.  I can sympathize with your frustration, Kay.  We never know where what we put out there will wind up and, often--usually, have no control over it.  And the policies change without notice.  Also we have to remember that these companies are in business and will do what ever they can to increase their profits what ever it does to their users.  By the time they cure a problem the damage is done.  But that is a problem that pervades our technological lives.  We depend on these computer driven systems and greedy, insensitive service providers aren't the only problem we face.  Chicago rolled out a new automated fare payment system that has a number of glitches: multiple charges for a single fare, charging fares on other cards that happen to be in the rider's pocket, etc.  Adobe recently suffered a hacker attack that exposed customer information.  I have read about repeated attacks on banks, governments, businesses.  Computers are some what like air--you don't realize how much we depend on it until we are suffocating.  Huffington Post has a bit on the new policy here.

In a way Google's attempt to use its customers' pictures and comments in advertising isn't all that surprising.  Our economy and culture has swum in a sea of advertising for the last hundred years.  It only gets more pervasive with each year.  Think about that the next time you want to throw a brick through your TV screen because of the suffocating inundation of ads interrupting your favorite show.

So the House of Representatives is finally going to move the farm bill to conference committee.  All it took was a freak blizzard that has killed some tens of thousands of cattle.  If they (particularly the Repthuglicans) hadn't insisted on (their own) ideological purity a farm bill could have been passed and channels of aid in place already.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ahh! Friday.

Well, it is Friday--although it doesn't mean as much as it did when I was working and looking forward to the days I wouldn't be working.  As time has passed the old markers of the week, or month, or year have faded in importance.  There isn't much difference between the days of the week when we can schedule our work as we need rather than to fit into external work schedules.  We don't have to pack laundry, housecleaning, shopping, or whatever, onto two days.  The holidays that played so much of a part really don't anymore.  Christmas?  The commercial aspects grate on me now.  Gift giving?  Well, we were turned off when we realized how competitive our relatives are--constantly looking to see how much (in dollar values) they got versus how much another got.  I had given hand made gifts for a couple of years but stopped when I realized how little they meant to the recipients.  I guess they couldn't appreciate what they couldn't put a firm dollar value on.  Thanksgiving?  Hasn't that been lost somewhere between the buying frenzies of Halloween and Christmas?  I could say much the same for most of the holidays.

What means more to me now are the seasonal changes.  Seed starting in late winter.  Prepping the containers in early spring and setting out the plants in mid spring.  Harvesting in the fall.  Cleaning up in the late fall.  And evaluating the season in the winter while planning for the next season.  That is a lot more satisfying than the commercial cycle of the year with its constant exhortations to worship frequently at the cash register.

I agree, Kay.  The "new" stuff, more often than not, is neither really new nor fun.  I find my self trying to ignore the so-called news.  All it does is raise my blood pressure and push me into swearing a blue streak.

This, however, is very interesting.  I have remarked before that, though polls reveal a deep discontent among voters with congress as a whole, most voters were willing to "throw the bums out" except their own bums.  Evidently that may be changing with this poll.  Sixty percent of respondents said "throw the bums out--including ours."

I am absolutely amazed by how little it takes to encourage enthusiasm on the stock markets and, the media they own.  The Repthuglicans offer a six week extension of the debt limit on the promise of discussions on the budget and the Dow goes up by 300+ points and the news anchors piss themselves in giddy delight.  The government is still shut down and we get to go through this brinksmanship just before the holiday commercial season.  Oh, how the retailers will love that.  What we really need is a budget--a real budget not a continuing resolution--honestly negotiated and voted on.  And maybe a return to the Gephardt rule which required that all spending bills that automatically raised the debt limit to ensure they are paid for--one way or another.

Every once in a while the situation in Afghanistan comes to the fore in the media.  The stalled negotiations with the Karzai government over the conditions governing the U.S. military presence in the country.  I think the U.S. ought to use the zero option and get all troops out.  We wouldn't have to worry about the restrictions the Afghan government wants to impose and will negate any open ended security promises.  We have spend I don't know how many trillions of dollars on George Bush's war and lost more people (our own people) than we lost during 9/11 itself.  What a piss poor return on investment!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tomatoes ripening on the counter. Magical thinking. Biiig jigsaw puzzle.

I picked all of the sauce tomatoes of any useable size yesterday.  A couple of dozen are ripening on the counter now.  I don't know how many I can actually use.  I threw out a couple that were already going soft without getting red at all and another this morning the was turning red but also going soft.  It has been a very strange year for the gardens--everything just shifted into a very slow gear in early summer.  Time to start pulling the plants.  The weather people expect colder temperatures next week.

My grandmother had a saying I think applies to politicians.   Whether trying to get the attention of a man or a mule the best option is often a two-by-four between the eyes.  This story suggests that perhaps we need something of that kind for our politicians.  The outrage expressed by some of those boys and girls over the Pentagon's failure to pay death benefits is just so much self-serving crap.  They were told that would happen but chose to believe it wouldn't.  Don't you just love magical thinking?  We seem to be ruled by masters of that art.  If I believe something bad won't happen, it won't.  If the bad thing hasn't happened to me, it hasn't happened at all.

This assessment of the Repthuglicans by First Read is almost on the mark.  They don't like what is going on and haven't since FDR was in office.  They resent not being able to convince the other major party of the righteousness of their views.  It isn't that they don't know what they want.  Rather they want to erase the last 80 or so years with one giant eraser.  Another case of magical thinking.  They want to go back to a "golden age" of American virtue and prudent government--which was never so golden and prudent as it is in their fevered imaginations.

Just what we need--another easy-to-cook-at-home drug.  This one sounds particularly nasty.

If you like jigsaw puzzles this might just be a challenge for you.

Now this is a good idea.  As most of you know I believe that we should all try to get as much as we can of what we need from local sources.  And I don't mean the local Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Another Wednesday. More political idiocy.

Cool and sunny again.  I would say something about "hump day" but that atrocious GEICO commercial has ruined that notion for me.  Instead I will simply wish you a good day here in the middle of a beautiful fall week.

We had some errands to run yesterday.  Mom had to renew her driver's license and her car plates which went very smoothly and quickly.  And we decided to check out the new Hobby Lobby that opened up this week in town.  I have wished for a long time that the local Michaels would get some serious competition.  I bought the flowers for the new fall wreath before Hobby Lobby opened--they didn't have a firm opening date--but with what we saw yesterday, I wish I had known.  Oh well, we found a little Thanksgiving ornament to put on the wreath after Halloween and have a couple of items we plan to put on the winter wreath for Christmas/Yule.

Some things that make me scratch my head:

  • The story this morning that those who heat with natural gas can expect to spend 13% more this year--but didn't we just get the "good" new that the U.S. is poised to take over Russia as the top natural gas producer this fall???
  • And then there was irate John Boehner lambasting the Administration because the death benefit for soldiers who die in the line of duty aren't being paid.  It is one of the many government program on hold because the government still has neither a budget (hasn't had one in four years) nor a continuing resolution.  But, of course, the House is scrambling to restore that particular program.  I rather liked Nancy Pelosi's description (not played often enough) of the Repthuglican tactic:  releasing one hostage at a time.  One of the commentators did remark that it appears both sides are setting up the blame game for when the debt ceiling is breached.  So far most polls say that the Repthuglicans are ahead on who is getting the blame.
  • A food processing company has recalled raw chicken products for contamination with some seven salmonella strains (at last count) including a couple of particularly nasty drug-resistant varieties.  People have gotten sick in, I think, 18 states and the CDC has recalled their inspectors and investigators to deal with the problem.  I guess making political points is far more important to the House of (Non)Representatives than protecting the well being of people.
  • I have way too much blather about how the Repthuglicans only want to talk--to negotiate on matters of the budget.  That is a bunch of bullshit.  They had their negotiations on all of the laundry list of demands they have made.  THEY LOST.  They lost on Obamacare in the House, in the Senate and in the Supreme court.  They lost in the last election.  Now they want to pretend that somehow, because they don't like the law (and it is a law) that they weren't "consulted."  Please!!!  By what definition of the words "consult" or "negotiate" have they not been?  Winning is not a part of the definitions.  Losing doesn't negate the consultation.

Now this is an interesting idea.  I was reading one of the blogs I always follow and the author has the same problem I do--not a lot of space.  So I haven't even tried to harvest tomato seed because the plants would likely cross pollinate.  I wouldn't get the original variety.  However, the blogger decided to take cuttings.  Evidently, tomatoes root easily.  Evidently, you can do the same with peppers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cool Tuesday. Fall gardens. Political assholery.

The weather people have taken the rain out of the forecast till the weekend.  I should get some more done in the gardens.  I have decided to pick all of the remaining tomatoes (Amish paste and Super Sauce) and let them ripen on the kitchen counter.  Out on the patio they are ripening slowly and unevenly.  I plan to let the few small bullnose peppers ripen and take the seeds.  Otherwise I will have to order new next year.  The cypress vine, chocolate mint and grapefruit mint are history.  I pulled them over the weekend.  Next year I will put in other mint varieties to join my peppermint and spearmint.

Thanks, Kay.  We were disappointed but things like that happen.  We are considering other tours and, perhaps, some short week-end trips within the state and a couple of neighboring states.  I hear you about next year's mid-term elections.  But I don't see anyone to vote for.  If I vote, I will be voting against every damned Repthuglican I can.  The only exception will be our Republican mayor who is doing a good job at what he was elected to do.

I watched the Moyers & Company show which featured Wendell Berry and found Moyers' comments on our current political quagmire at the end right on target.  He reminisced about the time he worked for politicians in Washington and the changed attitude between those politicians and the present crop.  Then, he said, the different parties and factions fought hard and debated vigorously about issues and legislation but at the end they voted.  They then accepted the vote and moved on.  Those against the way the vote went might, if they had a case, try to bring the issue before the Supreme Court.  But, once the Court ruled, the matter was settled.  Key here is that the parties did what the public sent them to Washington to do--they governed.  They didn't engage in political sabotage or passive-aggressive delaying tactics.  For the past decade or so nothing is settled any more.  It seems to me that politicians used to have a healthy respect for the political processes and institutions--even when they didn't have control of those processes and institution or over the final outcome.  Now we have a significant group who don't respect the legitimacy of what they don't control or of outcomes with which they disagree.  Do we have democracy anymore.  I don't think so.

By the way, the entire episode is interesting.  If you want to take a look you can find it here.

I had a thought as I watched the news last night which featured a sound bite from the Stephanopolus interview with John Boehner on Sunday.  Boehner insisted that he didn't have the votes in the House to pass a "clean" continuing resolution or debt ceiling bill.  My first reaction was to ask if he meant that he really didn't have the votes or if he didn't have the Repthuglican votes to pass it without any help from Damnocrats.  That has been a widely debated issue as this article shows.  What really drives me bats is that Boehner is supposed to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives not just the Speaker of the Republicans in the House of Representatives.  And right now I don't think he is either in anything but name.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Back again. Best laid plans etc.

When I wrote that it was time for a vacation I didn't just mean that I was sick and tired of the impasse in Washington and all of the rest of the political assholery going on.  We had intended to take an 8-day bus tour.  That was derailed when Mom got sick.  I know they say you can't get flu from the flu shot but within hours of getting her shot she was flat on her back and remained that way for the next three days and was weak for another three.  She gets her shot every year and generally has a minor reaction.  This one was far more severe.  I don't get flu shots.  Haven't since I had a bad reaction to one a bit more than thirty years ago.

So we stayed home.  Mom slept a lot and then slowly got back to doing a few things around the house until this past Saturday when we did did some shopping we had planned to stock up on foods we let go down before the aborted trip and Mom got the kitchen reorganized on Sunday.  I pulled some of the nearly spent tomato plants and disposed of some of the herbs I didn't want to try to overwinter inside.  I may get some more done today if the skies remain clear.  I can handle the cool with my sweaters.  I also managed to take inventory of my seeds.  That is a prelude to a full assessment of the garden this year.

I did read the blogs and news sites--I just didn't comment.  Just when I think I can't get any more disgusted and pissed with the government by extortion and crisis--I get more disgusted and pissed.  Der Spiegel's on-line edition says everything in its headline: America is already politically bankrupt.  Anyone who still believes in the myth of the U.S. as the world's only "hyper power" are delusional.  And it is quickly becoming clear that our status as a "superpower" is hanging by a very thin and frayed thread.

Oh, how I hope this story from Firedoglake is accurate and it holds through the mid-term elections.  With the way various state legislatures have gerrymandered their districts all too many of our elected representatives worry more about challenges from their own fringes rather than any real competition from the other party.  I have thought for a while that the only way this is going to change is if there is a political tsunami that results in voters throwing their own bums out of office.  And I haven't mentioned parties because, although the Repthuglicans have more safe districts than the Damnocrats, both parties have engaged in such activities.