Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Good day to you all.  I recently found a blogger who posted a couple of pieces on the "blog catacombs."  Infidel753 listed a number of blogs he read consistently but which have disappeared and are missed.  I have linked to his second post on the topic in which he speculates on what may cause a blogger to simply disappear from the blogosphere.  I know that several bloggers I used to read have disappeared.  I know at least two have died and I do miss them.  Another has had serious health problems coupled with family matters that have taken precedence over blogging.  But I wonder how many are in the category Infidel talks most about: political bloggers who are burned out.  I know I have often felt burned out by the politics.  After you have said what you think of the political assholes and their half-assed proposals (or non-proposals) for the hundredth time you get rather tired.  There are far more assholes and half-assed pronouncements than you have energy.

I enjoy needlework and fiber arts.  I have done embroidery, quilting, and crochet for decades with gaps in time when other things have taken my time and energy.  I remember still weaving a belt on an inkle loom when I was in 8th grade.  I didn't get to warp the loom myself--my teacher insisted on doing that.  I had the strap for the next 20 years before it disappeared during one of my moves.  I thought of that as I read this blog.  I once tried backstrap weaving but never finished the project--again because other matters were more urgent.  I never got to the point of showing off anything as beautiful as the pieces pictured.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I was reading this piece and had a contrary question.  We have a power generating sector that wants no regulation, a free pass on the pollution they produce along with the electricity, and the right to profit off those who go to solar or wind power.  We have a populace which doesn't think beyond the flipping of a switch.  But so much of the discussion on this topic puts first blame on the regulations for rising prices.  So what are we supposed to do?  Swallow the mercury and other heavy metals, breath the toxic gasses, and get dumped on by acid rain while unthinkingly flipping that switch?  And what should we expect from the energy companies besides pollution and rising prices?  Is there no middle ground here?


Didn't find much to comment on yesterday.  Still busy with the spring cleaning.  But with the very brisk winds and cool temps haven't done anything outside except look at what is (and, more often, what isn't) sprouting outside.  I am so ready for a bit warmer weather but I half suspect the heat will come all too soon.

I am so glad that I am not the only one totally pissed off by the (s)news industry's obsession with trivia at the expense of real news.  Sam Smith says it well.  It is sad when the only discussion of important issues takes place in fiction.


We shifted our shopping to yesterday.  The belt on our vacuum cleaner broke and we had to find new ones so we decided to do all of it at once.  Otherwise not much else going on.

We have been watching the weather news.  The tornado season my be starting late but I think it is making up for lost time.  Thankfully, nothing that severe up here although we have heard the wind actually howling most days for the last week.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


More cleaning.  Damn--I remember when I would have cleaned the entire apartment (thoroughly) over a weekend.  Not any more.  We got the living room done with all of the furniture moved to get at the carpet, moved back and then vacuumed.  We plan to do the dining area today.  Our cleaning this time involves a major reorganization--getting rid of things we don't use any more and putting others in a more convenient place.  Our patterns of activity has changed and what we do where but our organization hasn't kept up.

I bet there are a whole lot of oil execs who are apoplectic over this.  I keep thinking of all the BP ads which assure us that fracking is "safe and proven."  I am not a damned mushroom and I hate being fed bullshit.

I linked to the story earlier this past week which proclaimed another dimension of the US decline: Canada's middle class is "wealthier" than our middle class.  The author of this piece says that is old news.  And he points out a fact I have repeatedly made when ever I take apart anything I read: how has the author(s) defined their terms and chosen their data points.  You can fudge a lot if you are judiciously selective.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday.  Another busy day of spring cleaning.  That will be on going for some time.  We had rain over night so I don't know if I will get anything done outside.  It may be too wet.  It is dark yet so I can't really see much outside.

I am not surprised by this but I still get angry when I see these stories and when I remember my late ex-husband who died seven months before the only appointment with the VA hospital near him he could get.  He had made the appointment five months before he died.  Explains why I get a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth whenever I hear some politician tell a veteran "Thank you for your service."

This must be a day for medical related posts.  Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has a long one on the growing commercialization of medicine thanks somewhat to Obamacare which intensified longstanding trends in the health care field.  She covers most of the trend and implication rather well. However, as I was reading this I had a question that isn't covered:  what happens if the patient refuses the doctors advice.  Mom has done it once with an osteoporosis drug.  She had several reasons for refusing to stay on the meds.  She had been having leg pains that were described as a side effect.  She also found the stories about major thigh bone breaks associated with the drugs after prolonged use and she had been on the drugs for several years.  And she noticed that the drugs did not improve her bone density at all.  Tests after she stopped her drug showed no deterioration without the drug.  But what would happen if she did that with her statin (which she is thinking about)?  Would her doctor at some point decide she is an uncooperative patient rather than an informed and engage customer?  What if he decides to drop her and she can't find another?  Do we really want medical care reduced to a commercial transaction?

And for another post on the same theme--Susie Madrak links to a story about doctors refusing to follow new guidelines for when and for whom statins are prescribed.  I questioned the use of guidelines that would double (or more) the number of people on statins some time ago.  Evidently some cardiologists are also.  I wonder if the drug manufacturers had a hand in writing up the guidelines.

Unfortunately, elected despotism may be what we are moving towards.

How many times can a company's facilities fail (in any way) before some government takes action to protect the people?  Oh, I forgot.  That would cut into the sacred profits.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hope you all have a good Thursday.  Ours is starting out cool and damp.  We had rain overnight and some areas have it now.  More expected later in the evening.

We got the front door windows and the front windows cleaned, the curtains washed and put back up, the venetian blinds scrubbed, and a start on dusting done yesterday.  That pretty much exhausted our energy and left both of us ruefully remembering when we would have thoroughly cleaned the entire apartment in a single day.  We will tackle the rest a bit at a time.  We need to do laundry today so more spring cleaning is put off till tomorrow.

On the garden front--nothing much happening.  I transplanted the pot of lemon thyme into a larger pot.  It badly needed more room.  I need to bring in another pot for the bee balm.  Our average last frost date is around May 15th and I get the feeling that I might not be putting much outside till then.  The first rose is putting out branches and leaves while the second is slowly waking up.  If I get a couple of reasonably warm and dry days I need to get a couple of things done in the gardens before I can move them into their permanent homes.

Now for something in the "cute, but--" file by way of Naked Capitalism.  I agree with Yves--my cats would never have taken the table over my hands petting them continuously.  After all, I had no other reason for existing in their universe.

Our local TV news readers are asking a silly question: who would vandalize the Easter display featuring a humongous poster of Jesus.  (Note: it is an annual display put up by a private group for nine days starting Good Friday.)  My answer: the same kind of assholes who would vandalize mosques and synagogs--as happened a few months ago.

I have seen a couple of other stories about this topic over the last week.  I didn't link to them but it is interesting that older couples are responding to the economy in the same way that the younger cohorts are--moving in with their parents.  As with so many other aspects of life, Mom and I seem to be ahead of the trends.  We moved in together because that way we could both be comfortable.  And it saved my ass through about six years of under- and un-employment before I finally decided to take social security.  Now we are back where we were before that rough stretch--more comfortable than we would be by ourselves.  The old system of rampant individualism isn't working anymore.  It may be time to go back to a more "communal" style where families live close and help each other.  However, if the responses of the family featured is any indication, that won't be happening any time soon.

My initial response to reading this is pretty much unprintable.  The kleptocracy is definitely alive and well.  We no longer have a legal system that applies to rich, middling, and poor alike holding all to the same standards.

Now I wonder why this item didn't make the news.  While the middle and lower income groups in the US have fared badly compared to similar groups in other countries our wealthiest citizens have done well in that comparison.

Accurate assessment.

As I read the Archdruid Report I thought of the old quote from Euripides:  Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.  I have thought for sometime that the US (collectively) has been of the rails.

This is sweeeeet!!!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good Wednesday to you all.

Most of areas here, including mine, are under a frost advisory.  Our temps haven't fallen that low and I see a slight edging of frost on the rooftops across the way.  No gardening planned but plenty of spring cleaning.  One of our toilets quit working over the weekend and Mom decided to give the maintenance man a list of things that needed fixing.  We are the type that will find a work around, unless there is no work around, until we can call the landlord.  Often enough we forget to call and continue with the alternative, unless it is an urgent matter like the toilet.  So we got the one toilet replaced and the slow leak in the other fixed.  The stove had been giving problems for a while and our last maintenance man has fixed it several times.  This time we got a new one.  Windows we hadn't been able to open for a while, without straining muscles and joints, now slide easily.  Now, however, the cleaning spirit is up.

I wrote a while ago that I have given up on the notion of growing blueberries.  Keeping the soil in the container sufficiently acidic given that the water here is extremely hard and alkaline is a very difficult prospect.  I had thought I might try blackberries but I wanted seedless.  Well, that isn't possible.  As I understand it those varieties that are labeled "seedless" actually have very small seeds.  Oh, well.  Now I have to think about plan "C" which isn't even a nebulous notion at present.

I saw the title and said "WTF??  Why is that important in a comparison of electric and hybrid vehicles?"  I don't give a damn which drivers of which car is younger or richer.  I would rather  know which gets the best mileage, which is the most cost effective, which is the most reliable, etc.

Susie Madrak says some of what I have been thinking about the Ukraine mess.  Several historians have observed that Americans seem to need an enemy and have always found one.

I saw a version of this story on the news last night and this morning.  Some of the talking heads were making a big deal of it.  I guess not being number one hit at some nerve.  Funny.  I don't feel any different.  But then Maha reminds us that the decline of the middle class has been going on for more than thirty years.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!  Lower temps today but should be sunny.  Absolutely beautiful yesterday.  I got all of the strawberries out of the large containers but they aren't yet ready to put in their permanent place.  None of the Quinalt survived the winter and only seven or eight of the Sequoia.  Replacement plants are on the garden shop list along with sage and the basils.

The Ukraine story continues to percolate along.  But it is fascinating to watch the news accounts of Obama and Putin each accusing the other of failing to keep their "dogs" under control.  Each seems to assume that the other has control over the contending parties.  What if neither has all that much control?

Finally--someone expresses sentiments parallel to my own concerning the media's orgasmic spasm over the soon-to-arrive Clinton baby.  I am sure the family are overjoyed but that baby means squat to me.  The Rude Pundit gives the whole matter his usual rude treatment (which it so richly deserves) and notes the sexist nature of the mainstream media treatment.

We did our shopping and dropped into Panera's.  Mom noticed a sign at the register which offered a free bag of their coffee grounds for their gardener patrons in honor of Earth Day.  As the clerk handed me my bag I told him "My roses will love you."  He just smiled.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope you are enjoying Easter Sunday.  Ours is sunny and will be nicely warm.

Well, General Mills has backtracked on its forced arbitration policy.  I linked to it a story on that a couple of days ago.  Anyone who even "liked" the company on Facebook, downloaded a coupon, or entered a sweepstake contest.  According to Al Jazeera America said the company has taken the language off its website and claims it never (and would not in the future) enforce it.  The reporters also noted how widespread sweeping force arbitration clause are and are becoming.

Good Monday after Easter to you all.  We spent yesterday with my brother's family and had a very pleasant visit.  We are always amazed at how big the youngest generation are growing.

A bit of garden cleaning up today.  The oregano I had hopes for earlier has given up the ghost.  I will replace it along with the sage.  I already have a lemon thyme waiting to find its place in the gardens as soon as the weather warms a bit more.  Still haven't seen anything from my hibiscus but I doubt that the soil temperature is all that warm yet.  It is getting more sun so we'll see what happens.  I am keeping empty milk jugs to cut for hot caps along with some of the vinegar jars.  I didn't use them last year but this year just might be a bit different.

For a long time now the news media has trumpeted new drugs with breath-taking price tags.  And for nearly as long I have wondered when someone would seriously question those costs--besides the patients who need the drugs but don't have the income to pay for them without assistance or politicians who give half hearted protests.  Evidently others are also questioning the drug companies' pricing policies.  It makes no sense to me that they price their drugs on the American market so much higher than on other industrial nations' markets.  Except that they can and profits are the holy grail of modern business.

I may actually get to see my foxglove bloom this year.  I cleared the dead plants but when I pulled the foxglove I found nice healthy roots and a bit of new growth that had been hidden by dead leaves.  I quickly stuck it back in the ground.  I hope that works.

I have been busy in the gardens already (as you can tell from the above comments.)  I cut back the six inches of stalks I left on the tansy last fall and found some nice green shoots.  Also cut back the dead foliage on the pyrethrum.  I don't think that really cold (about 30F) night a few days ago hurt it seriously.  I (gently) dug up one of the hyssop and found some healthy roots so it stays for now.  Hopefully, green will soon follow.  I am digging out the strawberries I had put in the large containers pots and all.  Saw the first bumble bee and decided to put up the hummingbird feeder now rather than wait for May 1 as I had planned.  I don't mind feeding them and the feeder will be up when the hummers arrive.  We saw our first goldfinches in summer plumage.  Definitely a needed splash of color after the winter we have had.

I saw this story on our morning TV news cast and I wondered:  if the manufacturers have to label for allergens and other constituents why don't they have to label for GMO ingredients?  Consumers might be a bit surprised to find that avoiding GMO is as difficult as avoiding high fructose corn syrup.  But then the products containing HFCS are labeled.

But--another thought on the food recalls.  I keep seeing stories about how much food American consumers waste each year--as much as one-quarter of all food purchased goes in the trash.  But then think about how much food is recalled.  In addition to the hot dogs in the above story another 27k pounds of chicken were also recalled also for misbranding and undeclared allergens.  I haven't linked to the stories because my point is more general than any one recall (of which there have been 40+ this year.)  But this kind of waste is built into our industrial food manufacturing system.  It is part of the cost of doing business.

Found this on the Agonist today.  Rather underscores my concerns about nuclear energy--storing the waste is problematic.  Yeah, the site for the low-level waste was a mistake and the site is very likely to flood.  But there is an old phrase about "the best laid plans of mice and men."  I guess those near the site ought to be happy it isn't high-level waste.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Yesterday I linked to a post which said that the Federal government makes some $12 billion a year off the student loan program.  It would seem that ours isn't the only government seeking "profit centers" in these hard times.  The British revenue agency is trying to get legal cover for releasing "anonymised" data about their tax payers and exploring "charging options."  The legislation isn't a done deal.  Plenty of opposition and plenty of questions concerning past government failures in safeguarding data.  We have governments who either can't raise taxes (the population they can tax is too impoverished to pay them or those who can pay are politically connected and can resist or evade) and are too nervous about borrowing even more money that will (theoretically) have to be paid back. Where do they get the money they need to function?  Austerity can be pushed only so far before those hit hardest by the austerity (usually the poorest) explode.  Their options have dwindled to "privatizing" government functions and turning their former citizens into other-than-taxes sources of revenue.

I thought the agreement reached to defuse the Ukrainian situation was chancy to begin with.  First, the meetings did not include all of the parties to the conflict.  Second, there seemed to be an assumption that Russia is controlling the "pro-Russian" forces in Eastern Ukraine.  If Russia doesn't have the control our side thinks it does, the "demonstrators" can simply refuse to go along--as they have.  Third, the situation provides perfect cover for Putin in case he wants more than the agreement gives him.  He appears perfectly reasonable but can continue to stir up trouble that will derail any peace he doesn't like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hope you all have a good Good Friday.

Got the newest rose potted yesterday.  It is looking good with a couple of new shoots just starting.  The other is showing a large number of shoots.  It took me a while to find the kind of roses I wanted.  Color wasn't a consideration but I wanted varieties that are hardy to zone 4 a least and that had good fragrance.  I am amazed at how difficult those factors were to fulfill.  Finally found a couple--the Arctic Flame, from Jung, is a deep red and the Abraham Darby, from Burpee, is pale pink.

So far only strawberries, tansy and pyrethrum are showing signs of life in the gardens.  I have been worried about the hibiscus.  It hasn't shown any signs of life.  The variety I got is supposed to be hardy to zone 4.  Looked up info and the source I found said that they will break through the ground in 7 to 14 days after the soil warms to above 65F and within 5 to 7 days if soil is above 75F.  My soil isn't there yet.

I found this post at Jim Long's Garden that intrigued me.  I had always read that tulips were toxic.  Evidently it is a bit more complex.  I decided to look up a bit more info on the subject and found this much longer article that gives the details.  I don't have any interest in eating tulips.  I don't have any place to grow my own without taking space from plants I find more useful.  But the information is nice to know just in case.....

I guess our strange weather (world wide) has brought some good.  Check this photo and story about a rare Himalayan rhododendron in Britain that has bloomed for the first time in the 30 years since it was planted.  It was fooled by unseasonably warm weather following a wet winter into thinking it was back home in the mountains.  Absolutely gorgeous!!

Now this is a crock of manure!!  Her father was a citizen so she is a citizen.  What is the problem?  But on a lighter note here is another case.  Mom's question: What oath did he take that turned out not to be an oath of citizenship?  I wonder also since it wasn't the one for military service since he was already enlisted.  And now for another piece of bureaucratic bull##$t.  When can we stop pretending that we are truly a nation of laws?

I saw this item elsewhere yesterday.  I remember when solar and wind generators were being sold to homeowners, in part, because they could reduce their energy bills by selling their surplus to the power company.  Evidently, the companies are having trouble with the program.  I have seen accounts of legislation that would allow the power companies to buy a homeowner's surplus but at a drastically reduced rate so they could resell it at the market rate and make a tidy profit.  I have seen other stories about power companies demanding that the homeowners who install solar and wind pay a fee to the power company can "upgrade" their facilities to deal with the "power spikes" resulting from the back flow of surplus power.  But the best (in a very cynical way) story was of the power company in Southern California which used to supply one of the University of California campuses to the tune of about $10million per year.  The University recently completed their own power generating grid which supplies 92% of the campus' needs.  Ouch!  That last is, I suspect the real reason for the flurry of bills targeting home solar and wind installations.

I have been reading a number of articles lately about declining college enrollments.  Some like this one have an almost hysterical edge to them.  But, if enrollments are in fact declining, I see it as a hopeful sign.  I hope the current generation is looking hard at the costs in both time and money and making some hard-headed decisions about the worth of higher education.  There is too much "establishment" propaganda out there--news shows lauding schools whose entire graduating class has been accepted to four-year institutions, Michelle Obama playing chaperone to a group of youngsters on a visit to her alma mater.  Very, very few stories talk about the economics or give a realistic view of possible labor market conditions when those students graduate four years from now.  Or recall the truly pathetic conditions for graduates over the last five or so years.  An advanced education may be valuable but not as an economic investment.  This, however, is a very hopeful sign.

Ah, a likely explanation for the push for college education--the government makes a handy $12billion off of student loans.  Given that the number of grants and scholarships are down drastically how else will all those marks students finance their education?

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Oh, the tentacles of big business--how do you escape them?  Take a look at this before you clip that General Mills coupon or enter the Betty Crocker bake-off.  Given the number of food recalls for contaminants or foreign material in the product I don't think food companies should get a free pass through arbitration.

I got to this article via Teagan Goddard's Political Wire and wondered if the legal teams for the last two ex-governors of Illinois might make of it.  I wondered if the prosecution had actually met the burden of a "quid pro quo" corruption on video tape.  Interesting.

I like this--but I am sure it has about as much chance as a snowball in a very hot oven.  Elections are not necessarily synonymous with democracy.  And having a vote doesn't translate into having choice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Cold but looks to be sunny today.  Still have some snow and ice on the patio but, if temperatures get up into the mid 40s today, it should be gone by tonight.  I did bring in the pot for the new rose.  It will be unpacked an planted today.

Interesting little article on the relationship between technological innovation and debt.  But some very basic questions aren't asked--like will the technology really make my life easier, save me time, make operation more profitable given the amount of debt I have to incur.  This is similar to the question I asked about education yesterday: does the front end "investment" (i.e., debt) backend result in sufficient "profit" (good job, lifetime earning) to justify the investment?

Is anyone else getting tired of the "anniversaries" of mass murders/terrorist events?  This morning, so far, I have seen "remembrances" of the Boston Bombing (one year ago) and the Virginia Tech shootings (seven years ago) on the TV news.  All this week the news has force fed their viewers with stories of the "resilient" survivors, the community's coming together to support the victims and heal, and what is (or, more likely, not) going on with the case against the surviving Tsarnaev brother.  I am getting indigestion.

Great!!  Another pollution concern with tracking.

This shouldn't surprise anyone.  With the rising movement to legalize (to varying extents) marijuana across the country, those who don't want such legalization (for whatever reason) will be pushing any detrimental studies they can find.  The story doesn't say who funded the story but I am sure Harvard Medical School did it for free.  Nor does it say anything about the structural aspects of the study protocols.  This jury member is skeptical.  And the study didn't address another interesting point--how does the so-called damage marijuana cause compare to the changes in human brains on alcohol and tobacco both of which are legal but regulated.

I found this article immediately after reading this one.  What would you do if your electricity failed and wouldn't come back for at least a month?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday.  I would say "happy tax day" but the only thing that most of us would be happy about is the deadline has come and will soon be gone.  I found this item first thing this morning.  For how long have we been bombarded with claims that our "job creators" are so overburdened by taxes that they are hampered in their job creating activities?  Well, evidently not so much.  What I like about this account is the researchers looked not simply at the nominal tax burdens at the federal level.  Instead they also looked at income and social security taxes less the applicable offsets.  The result: we are 25th out of 34 industrialized nations.  On a happier note: blessings to all who celebrate Passover.

We woke to snow on the ground but not sticking to paved areas.  I think I mentioned that the second rose arrived yesterday.  I will bring in one of my large pots to warm up so I can plant it tomorrow.  It will join the other in front of the stationary part of the patio doors until spring truly arrives--sometime.  The already potted rose is showing some definite and very welcome signs of life.  Outside the only signs of green are the strawberries and pyrethrum.

I wonder if they will give back what they have already taken.  Probably not.  I wonder who was the bright ass who stuck the item into the farm bill.  No one (that I have found so far) is taking credit (or blame).

Well, I guess we needed an academic study to tell us that what we have felt in our guts is true--the wealthy and business interests have far more influence than ordinary Americans.  In fact, "mass-based interests" and "average Americans" have no influence at all.

I am not surprised at this Zero Hedge article--as many as half of U.S. colleges and universities may fail within the next 15 years.  As one who has spent far too much of her life in academia, I don't think I am sorry about the prospect.  It is quite clear that our current model of education (public and private) is not working.  Most of the jobs available in our post-industrial economy don't really need tertiary education but HR departments can easily demand degrees as a means of weeding out the applicants.  Once upon a time the difference in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and someone without a degree justified the front end expense in money and time to acquire the degree.  That is no longer true.  But no one is asking some crucial questions.  Who is being educated, for what, at what cost and who pays?

Monday, April 14, 2014


Not much going on here.  Temps are in the mid 40s and are supposed to drop.  Today and tomorrow will be more like winter with possible wet snow.  Yesterday turned out very nice with plenty of sun and warm.  The patio dried off nicely and I got it swept--again--before rain fell in the afternoon.  Several new spinach coming up but I think one variety of lettuce is a bust.  The seeds are too old.  Update:  I may have written too soon on that lettuce.  I just found a sprout.  Tomorrow is transplanting day--into larger pots not outside.  Second update: just checked the status of the second rose I ordered back in January.  I has been shipped and should arrive in a couple of days.

In case you consider this far, far away and of little to no impact to us over on this side of the broad Pacific, think about the hundreds of thousands of cattle in the Dakotas and Montana that died in last fall's unseasonably early and severe blizzard.  I noticed that all of the news segments concerning rising food prices cite the drought in California and other points west.  That has been conveniently forgotten.

Last week I linked to a site that gave the results of a poll which showed (supposedly) that a "the less Americans know about Ukraine's location, the more likely they are to support armed intervention."  I found this one today that takes the statistics apart.  Though only 1 in 6 of us can locate Ukraine on the map only 13% of us say we want armed intervention.  That, thankfully, isn't a resounding vote of confidence in such a policy.

When is insurance not really insurance at all?  This might give an indication.  After the Obama Administration withdrew the notion of a single payer I gave up on the whole thing.  I figured it was simply a transfer of money from those who had worked for it to those who would rake it in while making sure as little of it as possible would go for what it was supposed to go--health care.

Been there, done that, and here we go again.  What really gets me is that they don't know how long the breach might have gone on.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Assorted comments and contrariness.


We actually got to 80F yesterday.  Not expecting any thing similar today.  A system is coming through that might give us snow overnight tomorrow.  Oh, well.  I got the patio pretty well cleaned up yesterday--swept up the leaves and other windblown trash.  I took off the top half of my compost bin contents and used the bottom half to mix with soil as I emptied the kitty litter buckets to fill up the new buckets.  Replaced the cover on my mini-greenhouse.  I had intended to take the old one apart and reuse the plastic but it was way too fragile.  I don't have any plans for today--just a half formed list of small tasks that aren't as critical and can easily wait until warmer and dryer weather later in the coming week.  On the seedling front--I have spinach now.

I guess I won't do any of the remaining clean-up chores outside.  It is wet and cloudy.

I saw this last Friday (I think).  Did the idiot who parked his shiny new BMW in front of a fire plug think the fact it was a BMW would insure he would suffer no consequences?  His bad luck there happened to be a fire.  I agree with the neighbor: he brought it all on himself.

This post makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.  I have thought often enough that true change requires a fair number of funerals among those standing in the way of that change--though I have no interest in hastening the natural process.  Evidently, much the same can be said of cycles of war enthusiasm.

I read this small post and it triggered my suspicious mind.  I remember a few months ago reading the furor in Britain when one of the bigger banks decided to limit its depositors' cash withdrawal unless the "owner" of the account could provide an acceptable (to whom) reason for wanting more of his/her funds.  I put OWNER in quotation marks because once we put money in a bank we become unsecured creditors of the bank who promises to give us the money when we demand it (maybe).  How easy it would be for banks to simply cite a "computer failure" for limiting what depositors can withdraw?  No, I really don't trust banks.  Use them but don't trust them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Miscellaneous contrariness on a beautiful day.


Temps hit 70 yesterday and should again today.  First time since October that we have had temperatures that high.  And for the second day we turned off the furnace and opened the doors.  Our agenda today is patio clean up.  I am always amazed to see what junk blows in with the leaves.  I couldn't resist visiting our local garden centers just to see what they had.  I didn't expect much because of the cool spring so far.  The one that usually takes part of its parking lot for large trees and shrubs had only half of that area filled.  I did find transplants of some herbs--the hardiest ones.  I picked up another rosemary, a pot of bee balm, and a lemon thyme.  I saw some spearmint and peppermint I mentally marked to pick up later.  My own starts are still doing well.  I saw a spinach peeking.  I should pop those little peppers into bigger pots but I will do that tomorrow when we expect storms to move through.  Hope your spring is progressing well.

Teaser on the Al Jazeera news this morning had us hooting with sarcastic laughter.  "More moms staying home with the kids--but that might be bad news for the economy."  Yeah, we said, they aren't spending god-awful amounts for child care, or for the wardrobe they need for a job, or for meals out during the work day, or from gas or other requirements for transport.  Isn't it wonderful to live in a consumer economy where what ever you do at home is shit and what ever pittance you earn outside the home is an economic gain, probably for someone else.  Interesting--that is much the conclusion the interviewee makes.  Love the part where she notes that "choice" to stay home may not be a choice at all.  It isn't if the wages a woman earns doesn't cover the costs as noted above.  I also like the assertion that women work whether they have an outside job or not.  Reminds me of Dmitri Orlov's comment in a blog sometime last year--jobs aren't always available but we always have work.

Well, duh!!! What's not to love?  The dogs housebreak sooner and easier than children and they don't whine as much as the male of our species.

Ok--but do you think it will make any difference in what the companies do?  Not when they are blinded by the dollar signs in their eyes.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Good day to you all on this pretty Friday.

We didn't get much, if any, rain yesterday.  The temperatures were high 60s and we finally yielded to the impulse to turn off the furnace and open the patio door and raise the storm window on the front door.  We did turn the furnace back on when we got up this morning but the temps hadn't dropped to less than 60 inside.

I have a couple of errands to do today but I hope to get some bit of gardening clean-up done.  I need to put drain holes in four new five gallon buckets we picked up to replace the Tidy Cat buckets that are too fragile after four or five years as garden pots.  I pulled the leaves off the last three pots hoping that might speed up the thawing.  Those are the only pots that haven't thawed out yet.  They are also the ones that get the least sun.  The rose is slowly coming to life.  I think it might benefit from being outside when it is reasonably sunny and warm.

Hi, Florence.  Glad you stopped by and commented.  I agree but I think we need to rethink a lot more than just the notion of saving for children's college vs our own retirement.  I am convinced that much of the received wisdom most of us grew up with is no longer very wise, if it ever was.  A college education is no longer a smooth and, almost, guaranteed path into the prosperous life of what used to be the "American Dream," which is also something that needs to be rethought.  I was talking to a nursing student several months ago about careers and we both noted how ephemeral career paths have become.  I remember about 40 years ago when "experts" suggested that people plan for at least three changes of career in their working life time.  She said her advisors were telling her to plan for seven shifts.  As for retirement--I remember my grandfather who was a small-stake farmer in Southern Illinois a long time ago.  He was getting too old to do the work on the farm but none of his kids were interested in taking over but selling out and moving into town.  "What would I do?" he asked.  "Sit on a porch whittling with the other liars?"  Aimless basking in the sun isn't all that attractive when it is likely to extend a decade or two.  But I have noticed that the most pervasive purveyors of that image are the investment companies who urge viewers to save, put the money with them "to grow," so they can "maintain" the life they are accustomed to.  But the image being sold is one of continued heroic consumption though without a "job" to sustain it.  Oh yes, we do need to reconsider everything about the so-called dream we have been taught to strive for.

This is not surprising at all.  We have noted an increasing number of power outages affecting more people over the last few years.  We have experienced and increasing number also--though, thankfully, not for any prolonged period.

Nor is this a surprise.  As the old saying goes we have the best legislators money can buy.  The problem being that we aren't the ones who have bought them.

Jaw dropping if not surprising.  Puts a different light on the problem of saving for a child's college education.  A number of years ago I realized that the only way it pays to have both parents working is if the smaller income (usually the woman's) covered the cost of child care and more.  And I didn't know many jobs that provided that kind of money.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Another mild day coming with a chance of rain--though not much of one.  The soil in my containers is thawing quickly but still has frozen areas.  I saw more lettuce sprouting and everything up there appears to be doing nicely.  Two more kale and several more lettuce sprouting.  Debating on whether to put the peppers and shiso into bigger pots.

I found this item first off and it hit my irritation button hard.  Somehow Americans are expected to save for their kids' college expenses which might easily hit the $100k mark for a 4-year program (per child), save for their own retirement (with no notion of what costs at that future time might be or how long it might last), save for down payments for a house, pay for mandated insurance (health and auto right now).  The woman in the story was trying to put $200/month toward her daughter's college fund and $500/month toward her own retirement.  Some might think that is reasonable but I look at it as a rent payment plus a utility bill each month.  On a yearly basis, that is $8400/year.  Ouch!!  Mom has a serious talk with our auto insurance rep every six months when the bill goes up $5 (or more).  We wonder every time we see a series of commercials for whatever insurance is being hawked what people are going to have left to pay for food, gas, rent or mortgage, and other necessities.  But middle class incomes (adjusted for inflation) have stagnated (or fallen) for the last 30 years.

The makers of Tamiflu are not happy and, of course, claim that the analysis that lead the researchers to critical assessments was flawed.  The story raises my skeptical antennae on several points.  The story says the new review drew upon previously unpublished data from the company itself and notes that companies rarely publish all the data from their studies of their drugs.  I wonder how much of that data had been available to government agencies charged with approving the drugs.  I also think the usual criteria for judging medical treatments (generally safe and more effective than placebos) should be expanded.  Drugs should also be judged on whether they are safer and as effective of currently available drugs and on how much the cost compared to alternatives.  How many new drugs would have been approved if they had been judged by those metrics?  My guess--not many.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


We should have sun and temps in the 60s.  I hope I will be able to start digging and getting the patio cleaned up next week.  It does feel like this winter is never ending but a few signs give me hope it will move out and let spring take over.  I just saw some sprouts on the canes of the rose bush.  When the soil in the container that will be its permanent home is warm enough I will transplant it there.  It should work.  I did the same for the hibiscus last year.  I looked up the other order and noted the other rose is scheduled for shipment sometime in the next three weeks.  The kale has also started sprouting.

Isn't predatory capitalism wonderful.  These boys/girls are so creative in finding ways to take customers' money and put it in their own pockets.  I have said more frequently of late that our financial class simply cannot stand to see a pile of cash they can't dip into.  All that "equity" in your home simply sitting there?  Access it for what ever consumption you want--for a fee/interest payment.  Or, if you are of retirement age, access it with a "reverse mortgage" which you don't have to repay because the bank gets the house when you die or move out.  Offer "overdraft protection" for checking accounts so the customer won't be embarrassed when their debit card is declined--for a fee.  How many other ways can these vampires find to bleed us?

I hate to link to this sordid piece of hypocritical shit.  I have seen it on the TV news way too much since it broke.  Now the Congresscritter asshole, who was elected on a platform of Christian family values, is begging for forgiveness and demanding an FBI investigation into who leaked the footage of him engaging in a prolonged kiss with a female aide (who is not his wife.)  The aide has "resigned"--that is lost her job--while he vows to remain in his.  Let's have some equal justice here.  Rude Pundit has an interesting slant on the issue.  While agreeing that what was good for a Democrat (like Wiener) should be good enough for a Republican (McAllister), he speculates that the leak of the video may be related to Republican family feudes.

Oh, Yeah!!!  We're No. 1.  But not on any of these metrics.

This is something I simply don't understand.  Why bother???

Something else I don't understand: a politician who acknowledges that what he wants to do won't solve (or even mitigate) a situation but wants to do it anyway.  Why waste the time, money and other resources.  But then I don't expect good sense out of any politician--especially a conservative Republican.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Still gray and damp.  But temps are in the 40s so the thaw continues.  Looking forward to the next four days of 60s.  I need to check the containers for how much they have thawed.  The lettuce I started last Thursday have sprouted.  We should be having salad soon.  And, OMG, a couple of our trees have suddenly started budding out.  I can almost believe spring has come.

I did finish up the crocheted hat yesterday.  I think it is time to get some work on the scarf I have started the embroidery on.

Now this is pretty, amusing and intriguing.  I have seen a lot of stories over the last couple of years about "tiny" houses.  Most are pretty but conventional--just small.  This is quite definitely different.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Gray skies this morning.  It may rain but I don't think I will do more than look around outside and see how much more ice has disappeared.  One of my second starts of borage has peeked above the soil.  Everything else that was doing well is still doing well.  I am about four rounds from finishing that hat.  Should be done today.

Saw an interesting segment on one of Al Jazeera's programs last night which confirms my opinion of news today--much of it is a meaningless waste of time.  The reporters traced the phenomenon to the rise of CNN and other 24 hour news outlets.  The major problem is what to do with all that time especially when you don't really have anything to say.  And what they do is spew forth with repeat information without anything new or they pull speculations, only sometimes noted at such, out of their asses or they resort to absurd shifts like moving away from an interview with an important politician on an important ongoing problem to the newest court appearance of an idiot personality.

Anyone out there know about "pedestrianism?"  Evidently it was a popular sport in the late 19th century.  I knew that it was popular in England.  One event was the background for Peter Lovesey's mystery novel Wobble To Death.  Endurance walks or runs haven't died out.  I saw a piece on TV last night about an annual 152 mile "marathon" across the Sahara.

And this is a foretaste of what happens when government is run like a business and profits are the only metric that matters.  The only good point--the law hasn't been corrupted enough to prevent private parties from trying to do the government's job.  But how long before the environmental equivalent of "ag gag" laws come into play?

Interesting notion!!  Label politicians according to where they get their money and whose interests they serve--just like how many want to label food.  Local money+local issues benefiting local people=local politician.  Money from distant millionaires and billionairs+issues benefiting those benefactors and the local people marginally or not at all=GMO (generically modified by oligarchs) politicians.  Of course the oligarchs will oppose the prospect with as much energy as Monsanto has opposed labeling its genetically modified organisms.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday odds and ends.

I didn't plant the spinach and lettuce yesterday.  Instead I put in more epazote (none of the first seeds sprouted) and shiso.  Will get the other done today.  Mild temps but still too cold to leave the doors open.  I saw only a bit of ice on three containers yesterday.  It should be gone by the end of this coming week since we expect a couple of days in the 60s.  I am beginning to think about what transplants I will need to get from the garden shops.  Definitely need some new spearmint and peppermint.  Well, I did get four pots each of Garnet Rose (lettuce), Petite Sanguine Ameliore (lettuce), Baby Leaf (spinach), and Big Ruffles (spinach) planted.  Nothing new coming up.  I made good progress on the hat I am crocheting.  Working on the brim now and should be done by tomorrow at the latest.

Oh, how this story resonates.  Computers made me feel stupid 25 years ago and continue to do so now.  Every time some new computerized function is added to a "smart" phone, car, or kitchen appliance I grumble "I don't want a thing that is smarter than I am."  (By the way my IQ is around 170).  But my real quarrel with computerized gadgets isn't how "smart" they are.  I really don't want something that has wonderful features that are only wonderful for separating me from my money and not for helping me do anything I really need to do.  And I don't need time saving devices that don't really save me time.  It is a bit like instant oatmeal--it isn't really instant and it doesn't taste any better than the old fashioned.  The more features are incorporated the thicker the instruction book gets and the longer it takes to learn how to work the damned thing.  Has anyone else noticed that the more complicated our things get the shorter their life?  They tend to fail so much more quickly.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Nothing much planned for the day.  It may be dry enough to sweep up some of the leaves and other detritus that has settled in the crannies of the patio.  It needs a good washing down thanks to all the messy birds who scatter their seed all over.  I should start some more lettuce and some spinach upstairs.  Otherwise, I have a spring hat to finish crocheting over the next couple of days.  I am in stash busting mode between the hat and the new shawl.  Well the shawl is new in that I am crocheting a new pattern.  All of the yarn is left over from other projects and from an old favorite I took apart because use had finally (after about 35 years) worn a couple of holes in it.  It is becoming a "coat of many colors" with all of the remnants.

I have watched this phenomenon for a long time now.  It has become increasingly difficult to separate the shit from the pearls in the information tidal wave we are subjected to daily.  For many years now I file most of what I see and hear in the category of "yeah, but..."  The first question I ask about new studies is "who funded it and do the results pass the common sense test?"  Too often the answers are suspect on both counts.

I wonder if the real problem is with reporters asking the wrong questions.  The question shouldn't be are we or are we not concerned about climate change but what we can or cannot do about it.  In the background of articles like the one linked above is the notion that we have to have collective action but as I have asked before: what if there is no "we" to do what "we" should do?  Although there seems to be a consensus among climate scientists that climate change is happening, there is no political consensus either among populations or among governments on what should be done or who should pay.

I have written here before that I am very annoyed by the rise of politicians who view politics as business by other means much as Von Clausewitz saw diplomacy as war by other means.  Unfortunately we may be entering an era that will be dominated by that ridiculous notion.  Illinois has a gubernatorial candidate who promises to "run Illinois like a business."  We have seen two Supreme Court decisions which contend that corporations are persons with protected rights of political expression and basically equate money with political expression.  We have seen a billionaire arguing that votes ought to be proportional to the voter's wealth.  In case you think I am over stating the cause take a look at this.  The winner of the latest Supreme Court contest talks about the "political marketplace."  I just had an "ah ha" moment here.  I remember (thirty or so years ago) when the notion of academic freedom was justified in terms of a "free marketplace of ideas."  We now have bought science churning out the results the purchaser wants (and will boost the bottom line) and pressure groups insisting that their version of the "truth" be included in various schools often to the exclusion of other ideas.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Cool, wet and foggy.  Next week--from Sunday on--looks nice with temps in the 50s and above.  Sounds like perfect conditions to get some cleaning up done outside.  But inside is another matter.  I got all of the tomatoes put into larger pots.  Just dropped the whole thing--paper pot and all--in and added what ever soil was needed.  I pulled two that were obviously losing their battle with their larger mates.  For other pairs the struggle continues.  I will wait and see what develops.  Planted four pots of kale (Red Russian) and four of lettuce (Lollo Rossa).  Every time I walk past the rose I can't help looking it over.  I just planted it two days ago so I know it won't show any signs of sprouting so early but I simply have to look.

I also had to look at what is going on outside--no work, just look.  Still have some ice under the leaves in most of the strawberry and in the hibiscus containers.  I may have lost sage and fox glove.  Darn--I hoped to see the fox glove bloom this year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Wet and cool today.  The temperature is mid 40s now and not expected to rise much.  No work outside today and probably none until the weekend.  But the temperatures are warm enough that I brought the rosemary and "Christmas" cactus downstairs to the living room.  I put both upstairs during really cold period because I don't think they liked the frigid air they got when we had to open the front door.  Both have come back nicely and the cactus is blooming.

So good to see you back, Kay.  I agree with you on the news and our idiot politicians.  We don't watch much news anymore.  It is repetitive, uninformative, and frothy--for lack of a better word.  They give scant time to important issues and huge amounts to time to the inconsequential.  Do we really need blow-by-blow coverage of the results from Dancing With The Stars??  We turn the news off as soon as the local news goes off in the morning.  We don't even watch Good Morning American anymore and that used to be a favorite.  Mom commented recently that we are watching more science, and history programs or listening to music.  I won't even go into the political or economic commentary which seems to be coming from another planet and totally divorced from my reality.

A while ago I saw part of an interview with one of our "entitled" billionaires (sorry, I forget who it was) who argued that because he had so much more money than most people he should have more votes.  Though not quite saying that, the Supreme Court seems to agree.  Dmitri Orlov posted a piece a few days ago titled "American Democracy is Dead."  In an era when corporations are people and owners of companies claim those companies have "deeply held religious values" which should exempt them from legal duties, and the wealthy can buy what ever politicians they want--I agree.  We used to say "one man, one vote" now we are moving rapidly toward "one dollar, one vote."  Though the decision left the caps on donations to individual candidates, it removed the overall cap so that those who have the money can give to as many candidates (or campaigns) as they want.  During the last election in Chicago we saw billionaire (then) mayor of New York Bloomberg supporting a candidate there.  How much more will we see of this?

Interesting set of photos of derelict and abandoned shopping malls.  I look at them and think "what a waste."

Tom Englehardt has a post which resonates and illustrates very well why I am a recovering "news junkie."  There is no real news on the news.

I remember reading some many years ago that one of the favored tactics Soviet authorities used against dissidents was to imprison them in mental hospitals.  The mere act of defying the state was evidence of the dissidents' mental disease.  I thought of that as I read this piece from Susie Madrak.

And then there is this tactic to suppress dissent--declare it terrorism.  And so is participating in (undefined) "hostilities" in other countries.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Colder today though well above freezing.  Partly cloudy but we are supposed to get rain later in the afternoon extending through Friday morning.  I just got the rose potted.  This pot is temporary and the rose will be transferred to its permanent place when the containers thaw completely and warm up a bit.  I can't believe how that little bit of effort wore me out.  I am also surprised at how quickly a couple of the containers drained completely over night.  They had about two inches of water and ice last night.  It is gone now.  However, the gardens are far from ready to work.  I used piles of leaves that blew onto the patio last fall as mulch and found ice under the leaves.  We should have dry and slightly warmer weather over the weekend so I will schedule some of my clean up for then.  I saw several tomatoes I should transplant into bigger pots.  It will be a while yet before conditions outside will be suitable for them.  I have to remind myself that our average last frost date is around May 15.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday.  Welcome to April.

We had an absolutely gorgeous day yesterday.  Temperature nearly 70F, bright sun.  I left the patio door open for least most of the day--hasn't happened for over four months.  It was pure joy to listen to the wind chime singing.  Oh well!!  Cooler weather today and for the next week.  But, with no temps (lows or highs) below freezing (fingers crossed), we should get rid of the rest of the ice and snow.  My starts of summer savory, poppies, and cypress vine aren't doing very well.  I think the best bet for these will be to wait till late April and early May and sow them where I want them in the containers.

I think y'all know by now that I am a total skeptic about medical advice and a medical minimalist.  This article indicates why.  I am especially skeptical about advice to start a drug regimen on the off chance a disease might show up.  It is one thing to treat a condition that you know exists but another thing entirely to tread a condition that might never appear.

I think Susie Madrak should have put a question mark in her title.  Deeply held principles???  This reminds me of a sardonic joke that went around the neighborhood where I lived as a child.  The proprietor of a local bar was a good Catholic who sold alcohol to teens on Friday, went to confession on Saturday, and received communion on Sunday.  Now-a-days, people like the Greens invest employee pension funds in companies making the kinds of contraceptives which they don't want the health coverage to allow their employees to use because their religious beliefs would be violated.

There are times I wonder what world Repthuglican politicians inhabit.  Of course, wherever it is, their voters are right there with them.  My first question was: if not FEMA, who?  After all, no private  insurance company offers flood insurance--at any price.  Then I had a perverse thought.  Perhaps FEMA should get out of the flood insurance business.  Then the only people who could build on flood plains would be those with more money than brains, or those who could ignore the risk (and then bleat for help when the obvious happens), or those who recognize the risk and prepare (mentally and emotionally if not financially) for catastrophe.