Friday, February 28, 2014

Still cold but sunny--for now.  The weather people say snow is coming in three waves beginning later during the evening.  We may get anywhere from 3 to 8 inches.  They also say that spring might be a bit slow in coming because of the record setting ice cover on the great lakes.  I got 32 paper starting pots made up yesterday.  Not many but then I don't have a very big space to fill.  Those filled one tray and I have another available when needed.  I need to clean up the area today and then fill the pots tomorrow.  And Spring can't be too far away.  In the morning and evening now the light does bounce off the corners (northeast and northwest) of the fence.  When equinox comes the fence will provide more and more strong indirect light for the gardens.

Hey, Kay, glad you are back.  Keep warm and cozy because it is cold and what we have had is probably coming your way.  Actually my attitudes toward medicine are probably not much different from your own.  I don't go looking for problems but if I have one I get it taken care of using the least intrusive methods and fewest medications possible.  You can have seven doctors and four meds and still have a minimalist philosophy towards medicine.

I have seen more and more on this topic in the last few months.  I am not in the totally "no poo" camp.  But I have reduced the frequency of shampooing and amount of shampoo I use.  I cut out the old advice "lather, rinse, repeat" a long time ago.  That simply left my hair and scalp dry and itchy.  I have looked at the various major commercial brands and don't like the chemical soup.  Have been looking at alternatives but haven't found one I like yet.

The Agonist posted this item and a "quick and dirty" Google search indicates it might be very real.  My first reaction was "Oh, Shit!!"  My second was "Another good reason not to go with AT&T."  My third reaction was "What if all the carriers go along?"  I agree with the first commenter:  if this goes into effect I will no longer bank on line; I will no longer shop on line; I will do nothing on line that requires any kind of security.  Period.  I still have paper checks and I know how to use them.  Or, cash or money orders.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

I am getting very tired of this winter.  We had a slight dusting of snow overnight (which continues at this moment) but the temps weren't quite as cold as predicted but still single digits when we should be right around 40F is a bit much.  And we have another week of much below normal temps.  I plan to make a bunch of paper pots today, clean up the potting area and plant some seeds on Saturday.  I really do want my garden back but Winter just doesn't seem to want to let go of it.

I am not really surprised at this item.  But I have a question:  how many of the supposed authors included the fake papers on their vitas?  Academic science has been dominated by the "publish or perish" paradigm for decades.  And another question:  what happened to peer review?  Did the reviewers not read the papers?

I always thought the panic over the perceived shortcomings in American science education was just that--a mindless panic.  This L.A. Times article provides some of the absurdity over the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in our schools.  I remember the panic after Sputnik.  Suddenly, all of the educational experts demanded more concentration on science and math at all levels.  Only a couple of years before the panic was over Why Johnny Can't Read.  We seem to slew from one fad to another but it seems to do no good.  Our schools always seem to be failing.

This has an eerily familiar ring to it.  Does anyone remember the political crisis in Georgia with Russia-leaning provinces breaking away with the help of Russia?  That is still on a slow simmer on the back burner.

A couple of dramatic photos from California.  The picture from July 2011 morphs to January 2014.  And even though parts of the state are going to get as much as 5+ inches over this weekend it won't even dent the 15+ inches they need to really break the drought.  It is enough to cause serious problems but not enough to do any lasting good.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunny, but very cold.

We have sun outside and blue skies.  I don't think we set a new record for cold--yet.  But we have another couple of chances over the next few days.  We, as we planned, are hibernating.  Hope you are all keeping warm and, if you are on the west coast, hope you aren't too waterlogged.  The weather people say parts of California should get in the next four days as much rain as they have had in the last twelve months.  Not enough to break the drought but too much for areas burned bare by fires last year.

Oh, I do hope Karzai continues to refuse to sign that agreement which would allow the U.S. to keep troops in Afghanistan bast the end of this year.  And I hope his successor, who ever that will be, will follow his example.  While the commentary on the proposed "downsizing" of the U.S. military has focused on closing bases in this country I would like to see a serious discussion of downsizing our bases overseas.

So, there is scientific evidence that a significant number of the uber-rich are assholes--or as the author of the study says "jackasses."  Nice to have confirmation for my gut instinct.

I have been somewhat following the Rancho Feeding beef recall.  This article gives a different take on the situation.  The only thing we know for sure is that the FSIS issued a recall for a massive amount of beef because "diseased or injured animals" may have been included in the 2013 production.  I noticed right off that they didn't specify what disease or what kind of injury the animals may have suffered.  If this article is accurate, I think we may have a case of failure by the FSIS which may put a perfectly good company out of business.  They may talk about acting out of "an abundance of caution" but it seems to me we wouldn't need the caution if they did their primary job.

To continue on the food theme, Grist has a piece on the rise of food fraud in the EU.  I have been reading nasty accounts over the last year.  Welcome to our future--especially if our weather conditions make food scarcer.

So very well said that I can't add anything.

This has already been an expensive winter for cities who have had to plow massive amounts of snow. But it is getting more expensive with as the potholes bloom profusely.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lazy Tuesday

Those who have read this blog for a while know that I describe my self as a "medical minimalist."  Stories like this one may explain why.  Our current medical industry is geared to finding and aggressively treating any and all conditions--even if there is nothing to find and no treatment is the better option.  We have seen a lot of these stories lately which have re-written the old rules on what tests need to be performed when and on whom and what kind treatment is really needed.

Oh, the pains of the global auto industry.  I have read about some of these trends for several years now.  The may be accelerating--which I consider a good thing.  We wish we could do without the car but we can't.  Everything is just too spread out.  However, we have eliminated a lot of our driving by consolidating our errands on the few days have to drive.

I have often been amused and annoyed by the overuse of certain words and phrases.  Our hype driven culture seems to drive meaningful language into meaninglessness.  We are constantly exhorted to "save" by spending or express our "individuality" by adopting the latest fad.  Ira Chernus takes on the widespread use and misuse of "apocalypse."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Assorted contrariness on a nice, cold sunny Monday.

Ah, to start off with a bit of contrary humor.  I have always said I didn't want a phone smarter than I am.  I guess that is no longer an option.

If I thought these Pentagon plans would actually come into being, I would be celebrating.  However, Federal government spending (especially defense spending) is too big a part of the economies of all too many states and cities to be cut effectively.  If it is cut effectively, it is too painful for political comfort.  And, probably, economic comfort as well.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Not-as-cold-as-it-soon-be Sunday. When fruit isn't such a good choice. Contrary thoughts on debt.

We did something we normally don't on a Saturday.  We did out shopping and errands so we won't have to go out for anything over the next ten days to two weeks.  We would rather hibernate than deal with the brutal cold.

We picked up some apple and banana "chips" in addition to our usual packages of dried fruit.  I cook the fruit up in our hot cereal.  We had a hard time finding what we wanted and the chips weren't exactly what we were thinking.  We remembered when we could get dried apples and banana slices but, evidently, they no longer sell those items in the stores around here.  The chips are actually designed for dipping.  We won't be buying any more.  The deal breaker was the calorie and fat content.  The apple chips have a whopping 160 calories for 12 very thin chips.  A whole large raw apple has only 112.  And fat?  Well half the calories in the chips come from various fats used in the processing.  That whole raw apple only has--wait for it--zero.  I found similar information for the banana chips vs. unprocessed bananas.  We will use what we bought but we will dry our own over the summer.  By the way, drying doesn't change the calorie or fat counts--just reduces the "package" by removing water.

I read this piece yesterday and liked what I hope is a trend.  Our economy is heavily dependent on credit (a.k.a., debt).  We are encouraged to go into debt for anything.  Do you want a car, a house, an education, that to-die-for sweater, whatever?  Charge it.  Get a loan.  Hock your future for what you want now.  And don't believe the notion that going into hock for your college education is a way to ensure your future.  For all too many it is simply a step into debt serfdom.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

I have always thought that the CEOs and other officers of polluting companies should be forced to live in the areas where their extractions are endangering people's livelihoods and health.  I would love to see them deal with flammable water coming out of their tap, or noxious fumes, or seeing their pets suffer from chemical exposure.  File this under "Hypocrisy Poster-boy."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beautiful (though cold) Saturday and I am still Contrary.

Now for a bit of contrary humor.  I didn't follow the link to the source--the New York Daily Mail.

And something not so humorous.  It does come from the Daily Mail in the UK but I have to wonder if it isn't popping up over on this side of the pond.  But then, considering the number of entitled assholes we have seen on the news lately who unfortunately happened to be armed  or the number of road rage incidents or the idiots who seem to think they can beat people up because they are offended by the sports team their victims support, we may actually be further along on this path than the Brits.

Question asked here today: do we have any holidays anymore that are simply celebrations and not hyped commercial binges? It seems, to us anyway, that the verb "to celebrate" is now a synonym for "to buy."

This is interesting given things I have been reading and watching on news shows.  Most of the mainstream coverage of the unrest in various "hot" spots across the globe treat the events as simply political eruptions with no underlying features uniting them.  I am often surprised by how little our news tells us about economic conditions and by that I mean something other than the stock market or gasoline prices.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Strange, strange weather. Fake news. Pet food recalls. Triumph of politics over principles.

We didn't make it to the 50F our weather people had predicted.  Not a surprise.  But, oh my, did we get fog.  Rarely have I seen fog that heavy here and never in the mid afternoon.  We couldn't even see across the street.  Our current temp is right about freezing and we have high winds continuing through late evening today.  A new round of cold is supposed to move in over the weekend and continue through next week.  Well, we are still in mid-winter.

This has been a year for massive multi-car accidents.  The fog caused another in Illinois yesterday--or rather a "cluster" of multiple accidents.  They also had tornadoes.  We have come to a point where there are no real 'seasons' any more.  Tornado season up here used to be late April through about July 1.  Fire season in California used to be September through November.  Nature is definitely not at all happy.

I am always skeptical when I read or listen to any news story.  Too often the real story is somewhat different.  I didn't see the original of this piece but it well illustrates why I am a skeptic.  The real situation for Syrian refugees is bad enough without this sort of fakery.

So my mind wasn't playing tricks on me--we have had more pet food recalls last year than previous years.  We don't have pets any more but I said before that, if we still did, I would be preparing their food myself.

I would like this better if Obama were the chained-CPI cuts off the budget table because he realized that bipartisanship requires two parties at the table.  So far the Repthuglicans have been missing in action.  But his budget proposal is simply meant to insulate his fellow Damnocrats against the anger of a base constituency that might otherwise stay home in November.  Politics over principle and fairness--again.

Another Catch-22--highway funding.  Since 2007 consumers have been driving less.  Because they are driving less they are buying less gasoline.  As less gasoline is sold the amount of taxes government gets on gas go down.  As the taxes revenues on gasoline go down, the Federal government has less money to spend on highways.  I could continue but anyone who has dodged pot holes lately (and we have already replaced two tires this month) should recognize an ominous pattern.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heavy rain with lightening.

The temperature this morning is already at 35F.  We expect low 50s today.  I am amazed at how much snow melted yesterday.  Some of the containers I haven's seen in two months are now visible.  I brought in the partial bag of potting soil I (foolishly) left on the patio pavement last fall.  When last I checked it was frozen to the cement.

I have noticed this phenomenon over the last few years.  Repression becomes much easier if the powers-that-be label their opponents "terrorists."

I wondered yesterday whether that new contract Capital One sent out to its credit card holders was legal.  It may not be but this article, though asking the question, doesn't really answer it.  And I don't believe the company's claim that somehow they mixed up clauses from different contracts.  They simply hoped no one would notice.

Of course, if these predictions about the increasing cost of beef pan out, it won't mean anything for the inflation rate.  Food and fuel prices are too volatile for the economists.

Our internet went out yesterday and stayed out for about four hours.  We didn't realize it until we were in the middle of something that simply wouldn't work.  After a few minutes of frustrated cursing we managed to figure out that everything here was fine--we just weren't going anywhere.  Mom got the usual message when she phones: we are having problems and are fixing them.  A bit ago we had the same problem again and the cable went out also.  Not for long but our response this time?  Shut off the cable box; shift to the blue ray player and put on CDs; and pick up the crocheting project.  The outage on the internet didn't last long but it seemed too much like work to put the cable on again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Heat wave!! ;-)

Yeah, I do mean that with a bit of a wink but the 40 predicted for today and the 50 (OMG) for tomorrow is warmer than anything we have had for almost two months.  But now we have to worry about flooding.  Or rather some people do-those along the Des Plaines river and the Little Calumet.  Given the mountains of snow we see here--more of them and larger than we have ever seen--I think flooding is a definite possibility.

The California drought has gotten a few mentions (very few) on the mainstream media news.  This morning the anchors were warning that consumers can expect higher milk prices in the months ahead.  Of course, the segment was followed by an ad for California milk producers.  I am not surprised since I have been following stories about the drought for some time.  Expect to pay more for the coffee since there is a serious drought in Brazil.  Considering the cattle lost in the early snow storm in the northern plains last October, better plan on paying more for beef.   And yesterday we saw gas stations prices over $3.40/gal.  The switch to summer gas blends isn't due a bit more than a month which will drive the price higher.

I remember when federal legislation reigned in the worst behavior of credit card issuing thugs.  They couldn't call you at work; they couldn't call between 10pm and 6 am.  Although over time the restrictions have eroded but every egregious example of consumer abuse was a flash in the news media pan--quickly dismissed as "rogue" behavior.  Evidently Capital One has decided to go back to the bad old days using a unilateral declaration on their credit "agreements" as cover.  Another excellent reason to refuse to use credit and credit cards especially.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Captive government or "Its good to be the rich."

If you wanted an indication of exactly how the rich have captured our government agencies, take a look at this item.  I remember stories of less privileged homeowners who were slammed with high insurance bills after being slammed by major storms.  Several were hit even though they suffered not damage at all.

When I hear or read about a food recall I look at both what the product is that has been recalled and then I think about what that product might have been incorporated into.  This is why.  The problem isn't just the primary product, beef in this case, but the 'downstream' products as well.  One reason why I simply don't trust the supply chains that criss-cross the planet before they coalesce in a given plant that makes a product that shows up at my local store.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Another commercial holiday.

President's Day.  Once upon a time we had Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday and some of us had days off.  Then they started holding sales on those holidays.  After all, if people aren't working they should be shopping--right?  So now we pretend to honor our President's (select ones actually--just take a look at the ads) while exhorting "consumers" to worship at their local altars of commerce (checkout stands).  Ah, well--let's see if there isn't something else to be contrary about.

I have seen articles over the last two or three months on drought in Brazil.  This, however, definitely puts the situation in the "ouch" category.  Imagine having water service for 13 hours--every three days!!

From Senior Planet yet another way to rip people off.

So President Obama is promising large amounts of aid for drought-stricken California Farmers.  I have to wonder, in my contrary fashion, exactly what the aid is designed to do.  If you say it is supposed to help farmers recover,  I think you need to specify what you mean by the term "recover."  Do you mean buy new livestock to replace what they sold off because they couldn't afford to feed or water the animals?  Or do you mean helping them change their practices to something more suited to a dry climate?  The latter is something that might be helpful while the former is a waste of money and effort.

It's time for a bit of humor given the dismal winter.  Enjoy!!

Found this L.A. Times article and the headline figure blows me away.  This year is only a month-and-a-half young.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More snow Sunday. Various items raising contrariness.

We got a little more than an inch of snow overnight and have blowing snow falling now.  According to the weather reports this morning this will continue through tomorrow.  At least we don't have the dangerously low temps.  What this system will do east of us is anybody's guess.

Found this on the Agonist.  I guess we are now the United States of Surveillance.

And also this on the Agonist.  Does any one remember the time when Woolworth stores were happy to take black people's money at the front register but refused to serve them at the lunch counter?  I do--though dimly and from a distance (I lived in the north).  I remember reading an excerpt from Colin Powell's autobiography (and I didn't read or buy the book) where he described traveling as a young officer with his family across country and having to arrange with friends and family places to stay overnight because motels wouldn't accept them.  Does any one remember the term 'miscegenation'?  All of those forms of discrimination were supported by some people's dimwitted religious "beliefs".

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday and more snow is coming. Indonesian volcanoes. Winter on the Great Lakes. Comcast/Time Warner possible merger.

I haven't seen anything--yet--to get me into a contrary mood.  But I found this Atlantic piece which has some really mind-blowing  pictures ranging from the stunningly beautiful to gruesomely beautiful.  They are scenes from Indonesia which has had two volcanoes erupting over the last two months.

Here are some fantastic pictures of the winter we are experiencing around the Great Lakes.  Though the snow and cold are major pains in the butt the winter can be beautiful--if we let ourselves slow down and see it.  One of our TV news channels showed the ice caves on Lake Superior a couple of weeks ago and said this is the first winter in five that people could actually actually cross the ice and see the caves.

The news over the last couple of days has featured the proposed merger of Comcast and Time-Warner.  I won't link to any of the stories because you can easily find those stories yourselves.  But one small comment one of the pundits debating the pros and cons of the deal caught my attention.  He said the major threat to cable TV providers is from services like Hulu and Netflix and he thought that the merger might shift the power in contest between such subscription services, which use the cable infrastructure, and the cable companies, who own the infrastructure.  That may allow the cable companies to charge more for using their lines which Netflix and others would have to pass on to customers.  But I had a slightly contrary thought on that notion.  I wondered if the real threat to the cable companies' profits aren't people like me and Mom.  We have been discussion getting rid of cable with increasing seriousness for the last four+ years.  And we are talking about not replacing it with anything--no Hulu, no Netflix, no anything.  More often than not, we find there is nothing new we want to see and the rest we have either seen (and don't want to see again), or couldn't sit through the first time.  Each time (so far) we find channels that provide us a reason to keep the service but are finding fewer and fewer such reasons.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Statistical contrariness.

Good day to you all on this slightly warmer Friday.  We got a dusting of snow late yesterday--not enough to do anything about.  Let's see what I find to comment on.

Watching the Al Jazeera news this morning and saw a mind-blowing picture.  Parts of southwestern England are flooded and they showed swans swimming down the flooded streets of one of the waterlogged towns.  It looks like 2014 will be another real strange weather year.

I tried to get onto an article on Yves Smith's blog, Naked Capitalism, so I could link to one of her posts but evidently it is down at this moment.  The article concerned the numbers being reported for the ACA sign-up and calls into question the government figures.  As usual, I am not surprised.  I take all government issued statistics.  The old saying on that is "lies, damned lies, statistics, and government statistics."  Yves cites a New York Times article which raises some interesting questions. The latest figures claim that 3.3 million people have signed up for insurance under the ACA.  But the figures don't indicate how many were uninsured or how many had insurance but signed up for lower cost plans under the ACA or how many had been pushed out of plans because the insurance company raised the cost or cancelled outright.  We had been sold this program on the grounds that people who were shut out of the insurance market because of cost but the numbers really don't give us any indication of how many of the uninsured actually have been signing up.  And then there is the stat which indicates that one-fifth of those who sign up fail to pay even the first payment.  That is a bit of an indication that the Affordable Care Act is, perhaps, not so affordable.

I agree, Kay.  Avoid Wal-Mart when ever possible.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

We got mail!!! Some tawdry money grubbing.

Good Thursday to you all.  Well, we got mail yesterday--for the first time in almost two weeks.  I'm not really being contrary on this.  I said yesterday that we have more and bigger mountains of snow than we have ever seen in the nearly fifteen years we have lived here.  The mail boxes appear to be sitting on top of four foot drifts.  That is the height to which the plows have pushed snow from the street.  But the mail trucks couldn't get near enough to the boxes for the driver to reach them.  Even during the summer, if one of our neighbors parks too close to the boxes, we don't get delivery.  For us the mail isn't a bid deal usually.  We weren't expecting anything important and the only bills had already arrived by e-mail.  I did get a seed catalog I wish I had gotten earlier.  But I will definitely consider it for next year.

However, this is something I am totally contrary about.  I hadn't heard of the quilt pattern, Light in the Valley, so I had to look it up.  I just don't see what is "copyrightable" about it.  It is a pretty pattern but it is essentially a bargello needlepoint pattern translated into a pieced quilt.  It seems to me that someone has had an attack of money-grubbiness and it isn't pretty.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another winter Wednesday.

We had some bright sun yesterday.  That was nice though it didn't warm things up much.  For that we have to wait till next week when our weather people say we may get near 40F.  I have to bring the bird feeder in and re-fill it.  Those little gluttons have almost emptied it.  Mom and I were wondering if we had imagined seeing robins but our local TV news had a picture a viewer sent them of a robin on her deck railing in the snow.  Someone was out clearing snow with a front loader and dump truck. We don't know if it was the snow removal service our landlord hires or if it was the city.  Now maybe the postal service will deliver mail.  Haven't seen a mail truck on this street since sometime last week.

We have been watching the city snow removal today--again with the front loader and dump truck.  Looking out at the mountains of snow it occurred to us that those mountains of snow are higher and broader than at any time at any time since we moved in here about 15 years ago.

Now this is mind blowing.  Nature can be very surprising and not just in delivering ice and snow storms.

I do love the Onion.  This is so on the mark.  I remember telling an an agent I was talking to trying to straighten out a problem with my student loan status that the debt was the worst "investment" decision I had ever made.  And I have no way to get out from under except dying--and I am not ready to do that.

Yesterday (or the day before) I read a blogger I follow frequently who recounted a recent experience at Wal-Mart (Wallyworld as she called it) which reminded her of how much she hates to shop at the Evil Empire.  I sympathize because we have almost eliminated it as a shopping destination going only when we can't find what we need somewhere else.  This item, however, explains a lot of why the shopping experience is so excruciatingly painful.  Low priced goods aren't really cheap.  The true cost is simply hidden.

I truly wish there was a cure for this kind of insanity.  If the Repthuglicans want to oppose spending they should do so through the budget process.  They shouldn't then be able to fight the same battle by way a raising the debt ceiling.  One of the best reasons I can think of to get rid of the damned thing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mind blowing weather stats. Pushed beyond contrary. Something to warm my contrary heart.

Hope you all are staying warm.  We are but we aren't going outside for anything.  The weather people say the snow fall so far (61+ inches) has put this winter into third on the list of snowiest winters.  We have hit 32F only 13 days this year so far and we are below 0F yet again.  My gardens are under four feet of snow. Since my gardens are containers 18-20 inches deep, the snow is almost to the top of our 6ft fence.  The little birds are hitting the feeders heavily.  We watched one little goldfinch perch on the twigs of the hyssop extending above the snow and then stretching out over the snow to pluck seeds off the surface other birds had scattered.

I have been reading stories like this more frequently lately.  They push me well beyond contrary to downright scared.  The author here tries to connect the events to Fukushima and, after a story presenting stories from Japanese English-language sources I linked to a day or two ago, given the symptoms it seems plausible.  And I don't give much credence to the notion those unspecified scientists expressed that the "harsh weather" is to blame.

I do like this and the hope the trend continues warms my heart.  And I hope that, eventually, wind and solar will replace gas generation of electricity.  The only way, in a capitalist economy (even in crony or predatory versions) to really change what is going on is for it to become unprofitable.  We have complained about that from the other side when products we like disappeared because the companies making them couldn't sell a bazillion copies of it.  But it can work for the things we don't like as well.

We caught the news story this morning which covered Tim Armstrong's "apology" and the restoration of 401k benefits he had previously cut blaming Obamacare and "distressed babies."  I was perplexed because I couldn't seen the connection.  Well, this makes the connection quite clear.  Frankly, even with an apology and the restoration of the retirement plan, Armstrong is a piece of privileged crap.  Note, AOL had had good profits and he pulled down a $12 million salary.

I definitely am not surprised and once we did grind our own meat.  We can again if anything happens to our little, local butcher shop.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Sunday. Contrariness on Fukushima, food recalls and testing,

Snow fell all day yesterday--sometimes small and light flakes, sometimes large and fluffy.  Looks like, perhaps, 3 inches.  I don't know where they will put it when they get around to clearing out the streets and sidewalks.  I hope they don't block the mail boxes--again.  We didn't get mail all last week because the mail carrier couldn't get to them.  I really should get some pictures.  Our new mountains are rather impressive.

I didn't see anything I wanted to comment on yesterday.  Glad you stopped by, Kay, and I agree the trend Wise Father blogged about is an astounding reversal of the notion that people should be judged on their merits.  I am also glad to be retired and out of that rat race.  Glad you had a nice outing.

I found this by way of Naked Capitalism.  We used to have a saying that one of the biggest lies you can hear is "I'm from the government and I am hear to help."  Another category of big lies would be anything that comes from an energy company dealing with the crisis of the moment.  Whatever their national affiliation their basic loyalty is their own skin and profits.

To continue in much the same vein, consider this.  I think it illustrates a couple of my contrary views expressed lately.  You can't really trust the government to protect the food supply.  Food inspections and testing are among the first expenditures cut when budgets get tight.  We have seen the same trend on this side of the Atlantic.  Even though a recent poll indicated that 75% of Americans wanted more government oversight of the food supply, the recent budgets "compromises" have actually cut the funds for such oversight.  But there is another major problem: how much of the regulation of the food supply has actually been written by the food industry through their tame legislatures?  This morning TV news noted that a couple of fast food chains were going to follow Subway's lead and remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.  However, as this article notes, our FDA approves it for use in foods--unlike the EU and Australia.  The only way that chemical, or any other chemical, allowed by the FDA out of our food is to choose foods that don't contain it.  Which is why we should have a right to know and the food industry should have a duty to tell us what is in the foods they are selling us.

I saw this story on the morning news and thought I misheard the details.  Imagine a full year's worth of meat products recalled because the company processed diseased animals.  The waste of this offends me as much as the (as yet unspecified) diseased conditions which should have precluded the animals being processed for human consumption.  And it leads to a question: why was the company not inspected during that entire year?

I read about this a couple or so months ago--long after the fact.  It sounded so bizarre that I checked it out on line and found local articles giving some of the details.  But every time I see a new article the story gets more serious.  The original stories down played the incident as much as possible.  Officials, company and law enforcement, attributed the damage to some one (singular) shooting randomly while playing up their quick actions to prevent a blackout.  Later stories upped the ante to, maybe, two shooters hitting transformers.  Now the account says definitely multiple shooters who not only targeted the transformers but also cut the phone lines.  I wonder how much worse the story can get.  Slyck News has a more detailed account here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Another frigid Friday.

Oh, is it frigid!!!  I just stepped out to bring in one of the bird feeders to refill it.  The small birds have been hitting the feeders hard.  I think they were scared off for a bit after I put out my wind chime.  But they are used to it now and will sit on the feeders just feet away for several minutes at a time chowing down on the seed.  I have seen several goldfinches in winter plumage along with the sparrows and wrens.  Strangely we have seen several robins--they evidently didn't head south.  Mom saw a couple of blue jays also.  Well, the feeders are full now and I am glad I didn't have to be out there longer than the few seconds to knock off the snow, take them down, and put them back up.

This is disturbingly familiar.  Wise Father at Raging Wisdom has a few apt comments on the trend.  Not so long ago I was reading about employers who complained that they couldn't find qualified applicants.  They blamed the job applicants for not having the all of the high tech skills employers insisted the job required.  We heard story after story about the "skills gap."  Now we have a "culture gap" and whether you will sing on command or share the interests of the interviewer or dress like the CEO seems to matter.  I wonder what else--skin color, ethnic group, university, gender, religion??

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Good day to you all. Miscellaneous contrariness.

The snow has stopped for now.  This winter has now moved into the third place in the snowiest winters list.  To break the record another 30+ inches would have to fall--not a likely event.  As it stands, we have nearly double the normal snow for the year with half of winter is yet to come.  Oh, well, we are snug and have no plans to go anywhere.

I guess the problem with arose because they were changing the home page.  I don't really like it.  It is a busy mess.

This blogger has the perfect attitude towards winter weather:  stay in and do needlework.  Lovely pictures of both the snow covered landscape outside and the products of her efforts indoors.

The ABC news last night had a story that irritated me.  It concerned Subway's announcement that they were reformulating their bread recipes to remove a chemical that had generated a lot of signatures on a petition demanding they do just that.  Diane Sawyer went through the (very short piece) without saying which chemical Subway was removing.  Our local news readers did the same this morning.  Well, I looked up an article on line to find out what was going on.  The chemical is azodicarbonamide and you can find a bit more info here.  I suspect the reporters had a hard time pronouncing the word.  We did which confirmed our little rule for looking at food labels: if it contains chemicals we cannot pronounce, we don't buy.

I wasn't going to link to this story but I simply can't resist.  As usual I have a definitely contrary take on it.  The poll, according to the story, indicates that some 75% of Americans want the government to take a larger roll in food safety "oversight."  I see a few problems with the notion.  First, how much is in our food because the government allows it to be added?  See the comments above on Subway.  And once something is allowed how difficult is it for government agencies to get it removed after evidence shows a correlation with adverse health effects?  (Note I use the word "correlation."  Most of the statistics that arise out of scientific studies show correlation not causation.)  Third, in an era when we have a rising chorus demanding greater "austerity" in government, where is the money going to come from?  How much do we want to spend overseeing food production?  And at what points in the production process do we concentrate our efforts?  We have had foods contaminated at the grower (the melons last summer), in storage before processing (a spice processor in California shut down because of rodent and insect contamination in its warehouses), in the manufacturing (several episodes of "foreign substances" like plastic or metal from the production line),  or even later (episodes of product tampering).  And that doesn't by any means exhaust the possible ways in which food might become unsafe.  My contrary notion: we need to be more proactive in our food choices and rely less on someone else to ensure what we eat is safe.

For the last few years the articles I have read on climate change have been divided into two camps: those who want action to halt and roll back the changes underway and those who advocate "adaptation" to the changes.  This article seems to indicate that U.S. policy may be coming down on the adapter's side.  On this topic I am as contrary as ever--maybe more so.  I have long questioned if, by the time enough of us recognize a problem, we really don't have the time to nudge this ship into a different course.  Also, I don't have much faith in "our" ability to do much because so many of "us" have a vested interest in things as they are even if we know they will change whether we want them to or not.  I suspect the so-called climate hubs are nothing more than a very ineffective bandaid.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The snow finally arrived.

Looks like we got between three and four inches over night with another three or four yet to come.  Along with another round of sub-zero and low single digit temperatures.

And another military scandal--the second in a little over a week, if you are counting.  So some recruiters gamed the system of bounties offered for service members who brought in new recruits.  Mary has a contrary question to ask:  why the hell do we expect the military to be more honorable and honest than the rest of the culture?  We tolerate banker's frauds.  We "tsk-tsk" at the stories of plagiarism which is just another kind of theft.  We shake our heads when we read about students (or military officers) cheating on proficiency tests.  We are only mildly outraged when teachers are caught fudging their students scores on achievement tests (the results of which may affect the money the school gets from governments and their own continued employment.)  We have become a society that tolerates ethical "lapses" so long as the miscreant appears to be successful (which means having plenty of money or the things money buys.)  Bernie Madoff, you ask?  Well, he is the exception that proves the point.  And his punishment has certainly not been applied to others and has not in any way been a deterrent.

On another note: what has happened to  I haven't been able to load it at all.  Didn't even get the notice that Safari couldn't find the server.  Just a blank screen.  Anyone else having that problem.

I hope this part of the Farm Bill will lead to more sanity.  The prohibition against hemp growing was part of the insanity over marijuana.  Hemp is a cousin of marijuana but not one that anyone can use to get high.  But that familial relationship was sufficient to induce zealots to ban its cultivation.

I don't often agree with Al Sharpton but on this issue he is absolutely right.  The struggle we have now is minimum wage vs. maximum greed.

I was intrigued with the title of this article which proclaimed Argentine consumers were up in arms because McDonalds had run out of ketchup.  I was then amused reading that the government (especially their president) are the targets for Argentine anger.  It seems the problem lies with the currency restrictions which limits and taxes conversions of the Argentine peso for dollars.  And the value of the peso has been falling drastically lately.  That becomes something of a problem when you have to get your ketchup packets from Chile.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Still waiting for the snow. Being contrary--again.

The snow we expected last evening is coming in a good bit more slowly than originally thought.  Now we aren't expecting it till later today through Thursday.  Doesn't matter.  We don't have any errands or shopping to do till next week sometime.  Everyone is very tired of winter but we have another six weeks till the vernal equinox and the beginning of spring.

So the Feds want to require vehicles to have "vehicle to vehicle" communications to prevent the large number of fatal crashes that don't involve some form of driver intoxication.  My contrary thoughts:  First, how much will this cost?  Second, do we really want another operation (driving) deskilled to the point where people have only rudimentary abilities to take control if something the system can't handle occurs?  I have recently read and heard accounts of airline pilots who can't really fly their planes without the computer control systems often with lethal outcomes.  Do we really want millions of drivers on the roads in similar circumstances?  Third, we are already hearing about the possibility of hackers using appliances as platforms for their hacks.  I have seen some stories speculating on the possibilities of such attacks on the semi-smart cars we already have.  What would happen if someone hacks into the really smart cars the government proposes and causes accident on major highways in major cities at rush hour?

Land of the free??  Home of the brave??  I saw one reference to Snowden's German network interview on either BBC or Al Jazeera.  Not a breath of a word otherwise.  Al Jazeera had a piece this morning about an alternative news site that was taken down in Turkey by the government which evidently can shut down sites they find offensive, for any reason, in less than an hour.  I saw a couple of stories which described the efforts of the Saudi government to criminalize every criticism as "terrorism."  How is our government any different?  I think our government has gone from valuing an informed electorate to deciding that "in a government of the people, by the people, for the people" they shouldn't tell the people.  Or allow them to find out from any other source.

Just had an interesting phone call.  Interesting even though I didn't talk to or text anyone.  I heard one of our phones ring and before I figured out which it was--mine as it turned out--the caller had hung up and the phone recorded a "missed call."  Well, I didn't recognize the area code or the number so I decided to try to check it out on line.  I entered the number in the search bar and came up with a number of options none of which told me exactly who was calling.  The top two were message boards complaining about the unknown party on the other end.  The call was a phishing expedition trying to get information.  We have seen several stories about new phone scams like the "one-ring" ploy that routes those unwise enough to call back to foreign exchanges which results in huge bills for the respondent.  Better safe than sorry.  I prefer to check out the caller before calling back.

While on the subject of scams, Maha has a few words about the newest Repthuglican scam.  Evidently the (less than) Grand Ole Party has put up several web sites that look like the official websites of Democratic candidates but when the unsuspecting visitor clicks to donate they are shifted to the GOP fundraising site.  As I said: "scam."

Here we go again!!  Different state, different substance but the same problem.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Myths we live by. Contradictory advertising.

Good sunny though cold Monday.  Sunny for now but snow is expected to come in later this afternoon and dump (perhaps--depending on the model the weather people use) ten inches more of snow on us by Wednesday.  That won't be good for some of the neighbors around here.  Our landlords provide a snow removal and lawn care service for which we are thankful.  It is one of the many reasons we haven't seriously considered finding another place.  Just across the street that borders the parking area not much snow removal is evident.  Different owners who seem to have left snow removal to the renters some of whom are physically and financially unable to accomplish the task.  I see an even bigger mess coming.

I rather like this take down on Tom Perkins ridiculous article.  You remember--the one which claimed the criticism of the 1% was approaching Kristalnacht proportions.  He later said he regretted the use of the word but stood by his contention that his class of people are being cruelly abused, verbally if not physically.  The truth so many don't want to recognize is that no one accomplishes anything entirely on their own.  I remember a few decades back reading the comments from a young woman who had just been awarded the first ever Rhodes Scholarship awarded to a woman who claimed she owed the Feminist Movement absolutely nothing because she won it on her own merit.  Well, yes--but just the year before her own merit would have got her squat because Rhodes Scholarships were restricted to men only.  Someone educates the workers businesses employ.  Someone builds the roads and other infrastructure they depend on.  And more than their taxes support schools, roads, courts, police and all of the other structures without which their endeavors would be thwarted before begun.  Yet we all pay homage to the "self-made man."

Two pieces of advertising came on in the same commercial break that tickled my contrary bones.  The first was from H&R Block telling the audience that Americans left a billion dollars on the table because they did their taxes wrong.  So all of us nincompoops should simply leave tax prep to the experts. "Nincompoops" is my word.  The ad didn't use it but the implication was clear.  We are all incompetent when it comes to getting our tax returns right.  The ad right after was from Quicken Books and assured the viewers that, of course, we are capable and fully intelligent enough to do our own taxes.  All we need is the right tool--Quicken Books.  So all we need to do is fork over the cash and we are fine.  Of course, the old fashioned pencil, tax form, puzzling out the instructions, and calculator simply aren't adequate to the task.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super (whatever) Sunday. (No) crime and punishment.

Whenever I think I have seen the most extreme example of our money-grubbing culture something (or someone) shows me there is an extreme beyond.  The award today goes to the NFL and their insistence that they own the name of the "big game."  They want to reserve the use of the term for their corporate sponsors.  Several news readers and comedians made fun of the whole thing.

I found this as I checked out the TV schedule.  Bill Moyers is interviewing David Simon this week.  Simon's critique of modern America echoes many of those I have expressed over the last several years.  And it answers a question I have asked frequently:  is there a "we" to do what "we" have to do to reform our way of life.  At the moment I don't think so.

This story made our TV news last night and I am somewhat bemused.  The excuse given for almost scalping the woman in custody was that she was a suicide risk.  But she is restrained so how can her braids and weaves influence the procedure?  The logic totally escapes me.  Especially since the charges have been dropped.  Punishment without crime??

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Welcome to February.

February is starting out as January ended--snowy.  The weather people say that if we get the snow they are expecting we will have, by the end of the first week, all of the snow we normally get for the entire month.  Hope you all are staying warm and dry.

I guess Fukushima won't be going away anytime soon.

Every new article on this gets more dire.  I am watching a heavy, steady snowfall here I am sure they wish they had there.

Huffington Post has this article which gives readers an abbreviated "Cliff Notes" version of 9 so-called literary classics so they fake having read them.  I actually have read four of the nine.  I haven't read their condensed account because I have no interest in pretending to be more literate than I am.