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  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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

First snow.

Our first snow came in late yesterday through last night.  We still have snow falling lightly thanks to the lake effect.  We did our grocery shopping on Sunday when it was dry, mild and sunny.  So far the accumulation is less than an inch--just enough to make driving a bit miserable.

This amuses me and not in a "ha-ha" way.  After years during which educators focused attention and resources on the so-called STEM subjects to the detriment of the reading and writing, employers now complain that job seekers can't communicate.  I don't think the blame should be laid on the colleges and universities.  By the time I was out of sixth grade I knew the difference between its and it's, and could name the parts of speech as well as use them properly, and was reading at a 12+ grade level.  Remember that scene during the George Zimmerman trial (for killing Trevon Martin) where Martin's girlfriend was shown a letter she said she couldn't read because it was in cursive?  I heard some comments on the girl's mental abilities which the pundits assumed were lacking somehow.  I thought "Well, duh!!! Are they even teaching cursive writing any more?"  I ask because just about that time the Indiana legislature was considering requiring schools to teach cursive after many years of not.  It has been, admittedly, a long time since I was in grade school.  Both the technology we depend on and the jobs most of us do have changed.  Those changes do require us to change our education system to adapt.  But what will happen if we have to "write" something someone else will need to read and we haven't a keyboard, a computer, and tablet, etc.?  Will we be able to use a pen or pencil to write the message legibly and can the person who has to read it actually read it however legibly we might write it?  What happens if you have a power outage and your computerized cash register doesn't work any more?  Can your employee (or you) write down the items a customer wants to purchase, add them up and correctly calculate the tax, and then make change accurately?  I remember when that happened at a little store where I worked at the time.  The owner and I were able to do all of that for the customers in the store at the time and then we closed until the power was restored.

It was only a matter of time before this happened.  Why those very smart idiots who developed the malware that it wouldn't go beyond its original target is beyond my understanding.

I saw this story first on Sunday on either Reuters or the Daily Mail--not on any U.S. national media.  I guess it wasn't dramatic enough since the the fire and explosion after the derailment of a train of oil tankers didn't take out a large section of a town.

Remember what I said yesterday about water?  Well, here is Nestle at its old tricks.  I love the semantics of the ploy: water is a "need" not a necessity."  Therefore, it is ripe for commercial exploitation and, if you or your children don't have the money to buy it, tough on you.  Between Nestle (and its fellow pirates) and the fracking industry--we are well and totally screwed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans' Day.

I didn't find much I wanted to comment on yesterday and there was nothing to talk about in the garden so, to state the obvious, I didn't post anything.  Today, so far, is much the same.  I am constantly amazed by what crap is on the "news" and how little is truly informative.  Mom grumbled this morning that the story about Charlie Trotter's death wasn't as new as the readers said.  I pointed out that the "new" part was the little snippet of the story concerning the scheduled memorial which they promised to cover live later today.  Oh, well.  Let's see what I can find that is far more interesting.

I love this post by Xanthe by way of Firedoglake.  I feel the same way when I hear one of those oh-so-reasonable (NOT) politicos talk about "shared sacrifice."

Of course, for most of the politicos on both sides of the party divide the notion of "sacrifice" is covered by the "for thee, not me" credo.  Greg Abbott probably feels the same way the CEO of Nestle does: water isn't a right; its a commodity that goes to those who can pay and screw anyone else.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mild Saturday. Another blast from the past--rickets. Some honesty at last.

Well, it will be somewhat warmer today but the weather people say the temperatures will tank and we may see some snow Monday.  But--'tis the season for it.  It is also getting to the season when we check the forecast before deciding when we will do our weekly errands.  Since we have the flexibility we would rather not go out when the weather is bad.

So, another disease that had nearly disappeared is making a comeback.  That story concerns the U.K. but evidently the U.S. is also seeing an uptick in cases.

I like this guy.  I have seen very few times when someone somewhere discourages people from pursuing expensive advanced education for over-crowded fields in which the jobs they expect may no longer exist.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Frosty, Frosty Friday.

Yes, indeed--it is frosty.  Heavy frost on the roofs and cars.  It looks like today will be sunny.  That will be nice.  I still have a few clean up chores in the gardens so I hope the sun sticks around through the weekend.

So the FDA has decided to "eliminate" trans-fats from foods.  Well, kinds--sorta.  The article was more accurate in saying they will "severely limit" the amount allowed.  The broadcast news was much less accurate.  We have been looking at the labels for a good while now and trans-fats are only one category of additives we watch for when shopping.

I am not at all surprised by this item.  We are becoming an intensely surveilled society.  From red light cameras, to security cameras, to GPS locators etc., what we do when is generally known to someone somewhere.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nice sunny Thursday. Another Supreme Court hearing on prayer.

Good day, again.  Sunny but very cool this morning with frost on the roofs.  The weather people say we may get snow in the middle of next week.  Some time this weekend I hope the patio will be dry enough for me to sweep up the leaves.

I see the issue of prayer in conjunction with public/political meetings has come before the Supreme Court--again.  This is only one of the stories I have seen on the matter.  I have a couple of thoughts on the matter.  First, only one (and I can't remember where it was) made the point that the city at the heart of the matter opened their council meetings with a "moment of silence" until a very fervent Catholic was elected who decided that prayer opening the meeting of another government's meetings "worked" and should be emulated.  So this city had a history of opening meetings with a non-sectarian, non-coercive ritual.  The move from the "moment of silence" to what the "in your face" Christian prayers was coercive from the beginning.  Second, I think religion should be a private matter and we should not be subjected to what amounts to proselytizing in what should be a public space which should accommodate people of diverse belief.  I note the picture shows a meeting being opened with a Baha'i prayer but the date was earlier this year--well after the current law suit was filed.

I caught a brief comment on one of the news shows--probably on Al Jazeera or BBC, certainly not one of our main stream media outlets--that intrigued me.  The commentator mentioned the fact that people generally live in their own bubbles.  The rich rarely interact with those poorer than they are.  The financial and political elites rarely have to deal with real people who are not also part of those elites.  Sometimes it gets interesting when they have to--as in the so-called town meetings that turn raucous unexpectedly.  Usually, the political pundits speak critically of the bubble surrounding the President and how that bubble puts him out of touch with the ordinary citizens.  But I would guess that that is an endemic condition for anyone in that stratospheric altitude.  Why should the original comment intrigue me?  Well, how often have you heard anyone acknowledge that we live in a country where the divide between the privileged and not-so-privileged is deep and growing, and that there is very little real interaction between the two America?  That someone would in our infotainment media would actually utter such heresy is amazing and intriguing.

Firedoglake has an interesting piece.  Wireless communications have been pushed for some time.  We shifted to cell phones about 6 years or so ago because we didn't see the sense of paying for both a land line and cell phones, and the only calls we got on the land line were from telemarketers.  We had to change out our computer router and replaced the old wireless router with a new wireless.  But every now and then we get a twinge of concern about the reliability of such systems especially in an emergency.  We recently saw a documentary on Superstorm Sandy and one of the people profiled got help by way of her computer and twitter after the cell phones failed.  Technology may be nice but there are always downsides to it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Obamacare problems. "Pink slime" rises from the dead.

I didn't see much to comment on yesterday--just the next two items.  And the second really doesn't need any comment from me.  Let's see what I find today.

Undernews has this interesting bit on the Obamacare disaster.  There is a saying I am rather fond of: to err is human; to really f*#k up use a computer.  The Canadian system was set up in a law consisting of 13 pages.  The Affordable Care Act is set out in a 900 page tome.  When Medicare started they signed up 20 million people in six months using index cards.  In this case I think the government did what bureaucracy normally does--took something simple and complicated it.  The difference, I believe, is that medicare was implemented to help people who needed it while the ACA was really a corporate welfare program.

Truer words were never written.

Well, at least Cargill is going to label the crap.  "Pink slime," or "lean finely textured beef" as the industry would rather call it (sounds so innocuous, doesn't it?) is something I wish would simply go away.  I deeply resent the notion that we should be willing to pay beef prices for processed crap.

This is absolutely mind boggling.  When that mess finally hits the west coast we will need a major clean up.  But, interesting thought--has this amazing amount of garbage in any way related to the disappearance of the sardines off the coast?  I noted some time ago reports (the accuracy of which I can't guarantee) that the fishing fleet went back to port with no catch at all.

Maybe the Chinese (and by extension, the world at large and the U.S. especially) need a new definition of success.  The current one is certainly not working.

The constant whine from world leaders that "friends don't spy on friends" amuses me.  What makes them think any country is really a friend of another country?  "Ally" is not synonymous with "friend."

As I read this piece from Jesse's Cafe Americain I felt my cynicism vindicated.  As a society we have no ethics or morals.  All we have is the all-mighty dollar and, if you have enough of them, anything goes.  As for "law," those boys have written the law so everybody else is screwed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ah, Monday--again. Cyber-security??? Garden thoughts.

Good day to you all.  We are trying to get our internal clocks adjusted to the change in clock time.  We hate it.  The earlier daylight isn't any compensation for the earlier darkness.  Oh, well, since we don't seem to have any choice in the matter I guess we will simply have to adjust.

I found this Daily Mail article.  It was only a test but, if creating a fake identity (posing as a pretty, young woman on social media) is all it takes to crack a government agency, who needs an Edward Snowdon?

I didn't see much else to comment on.  So I think I will muse a bit on the garden that was this year and the one I am thinking about next year.

I have felt a low grade dissatisfaction this year.  Everything seemed so slow.  I didn't get ripe tomatoes until August.  The beans were luxuriant but produced very few pods.  I have already documented my failure with the blueberry.

I am not so sure that things were really as slow as they seemed.  Rather it may have been normal and I just haven't seen a normal year (whatever that means) in so long I can't remember what it is like.  I actually got as much in tomatoes this year as last year--about 22 pounds of stewed tomatoes in the freezer plus what we ate fresh with our dinners.  That may be about the limit I can get without turning all of my space to tomatoes and I don't want to do that.  We have a couple of hot house growers that sell early tomatoes in the local farm market.  We plan to buy more from them next year so I will cut back to only a couple of sauce tomato plants.

I tried a couple of plants (one tomato and one sweet pepper) designed for patio growing.  Both performed as advertised.  Both small, compact plants that were prolific.  But I didn't really didn't like either one much.  The flavor was only so-so.

My other peppers, both heirloom varieties, did very well  and we have a nice supply in the freezer--those we didn't eat right away.  I still have seeds from one of the varieties and will try to harvest seeds next year.  I may get more seeds of the other or try a new one.  I also want to get a Mexibelle transplant.  That variety is a bit spicier but it is a hybrid so seed saving is not practical.

The cucumber did well but the lemon squash did not.  But I don't intend to plant them again.  They require too much space and don't train well.

Next month (or later this month) I should start getting the garden catalogs and the planning will begin in earnest.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saturday--cool and wet. It's (Love Canal) Baaack!! Whose elites?

Well, Love Canal is back in the news.  I remember the stories and the buy out of the residents.  I remember the promises that the site would be cleaned up.  You can't really fault the people who bought in the area with assurances that the site had been either cleaned up or contained.  But I think it underlines the concerns I have about our modern industrial economy.  We create a lot of waste, haven't even considered how that waste will affect people and the environment, and we have never really held those who generate the waste accountable for the clean up.  And when the companies fail to clean up their mess (or escape through legal loopholes) the government (meaning tax payers in general) has to come up with a solution.  I haven't heard of a single attempt, government led or private effort, to rectify such a situation that has succeeded in fully restore land and make it safe.

This Pocket Paradigm from Undernews is an accurate statement of our current circumstances.  I had a  similar thought over two decades ago when I read The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch.  We had similar thoughts with all of the discussions of globalization and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs here.  Most of our elites have no roots in any geographical area any more.  They move where ever they wish for what ever reason but they don't relate to or have any empathy for the local people.  Companies who earn their money from a global market have no economic reason to treat their local workforce as anything more than an expendable and replaceable component.  I often wonder about this rootlessness and its consequences for both society and individuals.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Other comments on this dreary 2nd day of November. When we all are "the usual suspects."

Throughout all of the brouhaha over the NSA data vacuuming operations I had one constant question: how in the hell do these guys sift through all that shit to find a few nuggets of gold--and would they recognize the nugget when they saw it?  This piece on Naked Capitalism finally deals with that question.  The answer is they can't and they would not necessarily recognize a real threat.

Angry Mom calls bullshit on all of the self-serving crap arguments the government has put forward for their indiscriminate spying.  However, I think her remark about NSA scooping up data on "innocent, non-target/non-suspect individuals"  makes my point: we are all suspects and targets now.  One of the bloggers I always use (sorry, I didn't save the link and don't remember who) said that our so-called betters see those of us in the lower socioeconomic levels not as fellow citizens.  The financial elites exploit us (by any means, honest or not) for financial gain and the Government sees us as a threat.

An interesting take on the real beneficiaries of the various social safety net programs.  If you think the poor, you would be wrong.

Garden comments and pics.

Good wet Saturday to you all.  As I mention in an earlier blog, now is the season for evaluating how last year's gardens went and planning for next season.  I saw a quote from May Sarton on a gardening blog I thought was absolutely right on.  I will paraphrase because I don't remember the exact wording: gardening is a lot of disastrous failures with a few spectacular successes.  The hibiscus was one of the successes.  It did beautifully.  And I discovered three seed pods so I will see what some of them yield next year.  The mother plant should come back unless we have a truly brutal winter--knock on wood that we don't.

 On the other hand, my worst failure was the blueberry.  Actually, the second attempt at growing blueberries.  Next season I will try again after I have treated the soil to lower the pH to suit.  Given how alkaline and hard our water is I will be giving all of the beds a bit fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

The borage was another success.  I will grow it again but in a different spot.  It is a big plant but the bees loved it.  I harvested seeds and will try them out.

And the cypress vine was a a beautiful success.  Not only is it a pretty flower but the hummingbirds often went to it before going to the feeder.  Next season I will put it in the container rather than in a pot on the fence.  I collected seeds from it also.

Bee balm, didn't do well.  I made the mistake of putting it along side the pineapple sage which turned into a much bigger plant than I expected.  But it might turn out a success if a new stand comes up from the roots.  I still have seeds from this year to try again if it doesn't.

This one is pretty, isn't it?  We found it at the big farm market in a town just a bit north of us.  I was intrigued by the unfamiliar trumpet shaped blossoms.  For a while, I toyed with the notion of bringing it inside for the winter but it sheds blossoms all over and it would have been a pain to clean up.  I saw some other types of begonia that might be interesting next year.

The chamomile did not do well at all.  I did not expect the tomatoes to go wild.  I had difficulty getting into that area.  I will put in chamomile nest year--in a better spot.

The tomatoes did as well as last year.  I got a lot of cherry tomatoes--so many we were actually tired of them.  All of the tomatoes were very slow this year and we were left with a lot of green tomatoes at the time my gardens went into shade (after fall equinox).  The did not really ripen.  They went mushy before they turned red. Next year I will reduce the tomatoes to only two sauce style plants.  For the rest we will visit our farm markets more frequently.

And to finish off this garden assessment--the goldfinches that showed up delighted us all season.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome to November.

We didn't get many kids out trick-or-treating last night.  Yesterday was very wet and a few towns around us postponed all the Halloween festivities till today.  Ours was not one.  The system that gave Texas and points south some serious flooding is sending high winds our way and more rain.  But the temps should stay in the 50s for the next week so no snow is likely.  I am glad I got the last of the necessary garden work done before the rain hit.  I won't need to water anything for a while now.

I got busy and went through a part of my closet yesterday.  I gathered a large bag of clothes I hadn't worn in well over a year.  I am always amazed at how long I hold on to things.  May finish off today.

We noticed something interesting about the coverage of the expiration of the emergency increase in food stamp allotments instituted in the depths of the Great Recession four years ago.  All of the stories we have seen noted the cuts but made sure to mention the "temporary" nature of the increase.  Contrast that respect for facts (the cut of a temporary increase) with the lack of respect for the facts of the "increase" in the payroll tax a while back which reflected the end of a temporary tax "holiday."  I guess some temporary measures are less temporary than others.

This is an interesting study which links home ownership to high levels of unemployment.  For years, especially after WWII, home ownership was desirable.  Pundits preached it as a way to create a stable society and financial interests touted the economic boost that came with home owning.  As long as we had an expanding economy and jobs were readily available no one saw any possible downside to homeownership.  Now the values of stability and rampant consumerism are clashing with a new economic/social/political reality.  They want a mobile labor force that can rapidly shift to new geographical areas quickly--not possible if the workers own property they can't readily liquidate.  It is interesting how quickly conditions can change.  George W. was touting the "ownership" society to very end of his presidency.

I am constantly amazed at the idiotic intolerance I see in our society.  Hallmark has been hit with protests over a new Christmas ornament.  The ornament is a replica of the tacky holiday sweaters with a slightly modified version of an old carol: "don we now our fun apparel."  Most people would know the original lyrics said "gay" not "fun."  But gays are insulted.  What a load of crap!!  The news this morning carried a story about a school in Chicago that demanded a boy who dressed up as Jesus remove his costume.  They said they banned all costumes that might be thought offensive to someone.  They changed their mind after the boy's mother protested (and after the news media got the story).  I see more and more of these stories about thin-skinned, spineless, and/or intolerant idiots