Saturday, May 31, 2014

Friday.  Nice and sunny so far.  Temperatures should rise into the mid-70s.  Nice for doing some gardening.  I was just thinking I should take some pictures.  I am well behind on doing that but then the garden itself is behind.  I still have some bare spots that need filling.  Some of the plants I had started inside didn't make it and I haven't yet figured out what I want to put in their place.  Usually, this late in spring, I would have every space filled and have several pots on the table or scattered around the patio in every spot I could place them.  Oh, well, the gardens have always evolved over the spring and summer.  They never fall into the shape I imagined in the winter and early spring.

Saturday.  Should be warm and sunny today.  Yesterday's weather was as advertised and delightful.  We had to go out to get a couple of items at the grocery store and mom need a couple of items from the drugstore so we went back to one of our favorite garden shops to try to find a hanging plant that would counterbalance the new bird feeder.  Well, we found an interesting iron spiral with three rings for small pots and picked it (along with appropriate pots) and some transplants to fill them.  It seemed to work when we put the frame and pots on the hook opposite the bird feeder.   So I moved my large pots of blue lake pole beans and exchanged it with the same sized pot with spearmint.  Otherwise the pole beans would grow tall enough to obstruct our view of the planter.  And then reassemble the pot tower.  Well, as often happens, my plans went askew.  The filled pots and hanger more than counterbalanced the bird feeder and I couldn't find a way to stabilize the shepherd's hook.  So, I shifted the hanger to another hook where it seems to be doing quite well.  That still leaves one hook free for the pheromone trap I have planned for those pesky Japanese beetles.

I have a few other gardening related chores planned today: finding a place for the last of the transplants we got yesterday, moving half of the hyssop to another container, bringing out the dehydrator, and starting a new round of some of the plants that failed inside earlier this spring and, maybe, take some pictures.

About four or so years ago I saw an interesting construct but didn't try to construct it myself.  Finding space in my gardens for something new is difficult and usually requires taking something else out which can be physically taxing and logistically mind bending.  But the Tipsy pots (or topsy-turvy planters) were intriguing.  No, I won't be doing any of my own but my local Home Depot has them on sale this year.  I have noticed they are carrying more of the patio and container gardening supplies and plants.

An interesting thought on the movement to legalize marijuana at the Federal level.  Be careful what you wish for.

I found this disquieting item by way of another site.  I generally don't read or view Fox News and most of what I do get from it I take with a ton of salt.  However, this I have found on other sites as well (or similar stories.)  And most of the "threats" were hoaxes or expressions of frustration that in a saner age would have been taken with a grain of salt.  And too many of the real threats have slid under the radar.  When your society seems to have gone insane you don't know how to react to what.  I hadn't intended to link to the site where I found the original link because I usually try to link to the source.  However, the last quote asks a very good question:  what does it teach the kids that we consign them to prison for 13 of their first 18 years?  And, in case you are as skeptical of Fox (or Faux, as some call it), here is the local NBC account.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday.  Starting cool and overcast.   Had enough rain Monday night so I didn't have to water anything yesterday.  The weather people are calling for possible scattered showers that may or may not hit here.  Right now most of the activity in the gardens is inactivity--waiting for the plants to do their thing.  Some of the strawberries and the lemon thyme are the only plants blooming right now.

Found this post on Daily Kos this morning.  I noticed fewer honey bees last year.  I plant flowers they and the hummingbirds like but I didn't see many honey bees at all.  And only one bumblebee so far.  We have neighbors who have a goodly crop of dandelions which bees are said to like for an early season snack but I haven't seen any bees.

Thursday.  Cool but clear to start today.  Another errand day.  Our car needs a bit of attention and we have an appointment for that.  Otherwise nothing else planned.

Ah, yes--one metric where we are still number one!!  Though the rest of the world is catching up in this category as well.  But surely it isn't all that surprising since you can hardly go anywhere in the world without finding a KFC, a McDonalds, or any of our other fast food companies.  You know--the ones that supersize the salt, fat, and sugar (and the waist lines.)

I have been reading about this for some time now.  It makes me wonder how minutely governments can try to control our lives.  Thankfully, I don't live in Europe but I can easily see attempts to push similar legislation here if Monsanto, et al., and ALEC combine to push it.  Hopefully, the latest elections over there will make Brussels rethink some of their policies.

Just saw a segment on our TV morning news that hit my skept-o-meter.  Evidently there is a new study out from Sweden that claims that cynics are more likely to suffer from dementia (as well as heart disease and other such problems.)  I was "skeptical" enough of the report to do a quick search on Google and I think my skepticism (cynicism if you will) is thoroughly justified.  The researchers used a definition of cynicism resembles paranoia and not the dictionary definition of the word.  And, as happens so often, the study shows a statistical correlation which is not causation.  Question: did the "cynics" suffer dementia because they were cynics or were they cynical because they suffered dementia?

A "graduation address" with a difference!!  Thank you, Tom Englehardt.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday.  Had periodically heavy rains from late yesterday afternoon.  We are between showers now but more may be coming.  I checked everything in the gardens and nothing was damaged.  I finally see some sprouts of hibiscus.  The sources I checked to find out if I should have been worried were right.  Outside the plants emerge in the late spring.  I started the bare-root plant last year inside and it was growing well early.  This year it had to contend with our very cool spring.  The tomatoes and peppers are all doing very well as are two of the three begonias (one of which is showing buds.)  I still have room for more plants which feels strange.  Usually I have the entire area filled with extra plants I am trying to find someplace for.  A very unusual spring season all around.  Oh, well--next Tuesday is opening day for our city farm market.  I will check out what plants the venders there have.

I was glad to see reports about a month ago that the Social Security Administration was stopping its practice of going after family members to repay overpayments to recipients.  Most never knew about the overpayments until they were contacted by the SSA or had tax refunds confiscated.  This story warms my heart. However, why did it take the publicity to make the SSA correct the problem and refund the money?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Saturday.  Clear and cool today.  Supposed to warm up into the low 70s.  We didn't get out of the 60s yesterday so a bit warmer will be nice.  We had to take the car in for its long-delayed oil change and to check out a grating sound that started just recently.  Thankfully the sound came from a dislodged part that the mechanic was able to put back in place.  However needed the automotive work was it cut a large chunk of time out of my day so I didn't get anything done outside except watering the plants.  In spite of the rain we had it seems that the containers dried out quickly.

Sunday.  Supposed to be warmer today--perhaps getting into the low 80s.  We have had a steady stream of hummingbirds at the feeder.  And an equally steady stream of the chickadees, sparrows, wrens and goldfinches at the seed feeder.  I planted the latest six strawberries and pulled the three that weren't recovering from the winter.  One had given up and two were close.  Also got the pots cleaned out and re-stacked in the mini-greenhouse.  I decided it was time to cull the plastic pots I had converted from the plastic food containers over the years.  Each year we do buy some starter plants from the local garden shops and the pots they come in have actually gotten sturdier so I kept them as well.  As a result I was drowning in pots.  I would complain about my lack of storage space but I have suspect I would never have enough given how things seem to accumulate.

Monday.  Hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day.  Didn't do much in the gardens except rearrange some of the pots.  I did get the upstairs starting bench cleaned up a bit and started getting the trellis stakes sorted out.  They are metal tubes coated with a heavy plastic.  After a couple of years the plastic turns brittle and starts cracking.  I am stripping off the plastic and plan to bend them into supports I can use to make frames for protective covers.

On the TV news this morning I saw a teaser that claimed pregnant women are at risk of iodine deficiencies.  I haven't seen the actual report yet but found this during my perusal of the news on line.  They mentioned the prevalence of processed food and I had a hunch that those foods don't use much iodized salt.  Makes sense especially considering how much advice out there tells us to limit our salt intake.

There are so many "vampires" I wish would stay dead after being staked.  "Pink Slime" sorry--"finely textured beef" is one and it seems it is making a comeback.  The fast-rising price of beef (and other meats) is, evidently, pushing the fast food industry to use it again.  Well, our rules are in place:  we get our ground beef from our little meat market or we grind it ourselves.  And we don't go to the burger joints.  We don't even go to Stake 'n' Shake any more for burgers.  The insist on cooking the burgers to charcoal.  Hope they don't mess with the shakes because that is the only thing that takes us back there.

I could say some dirty words on this but I don't think I want to spend the energy.  I plan to avoid the "internet of things" as much as possible.

I guess I had better clean up my language.  I don't know how many commercials get my more caustic language over a day.  And many more get the "cute, but..." comment--cute commercial but I'm not buying.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday.  Hope you all have a nice Memorial Day planned.  Ours will be the usual--quiet and at home.  I did get the shed cleaned out.  Oh, my!!  We can actually step inside and reach anything we have stored there.  I am always amazed at how much we accumulate.  I kept about ten of the plastic milk or vinegar jars I cut to use as cloches and tossed the others.  I hate to throw away anything that might be useful but we simply don't have the space to keep them.  We get white vinegar by the gallon because we use it in cleaning up almost anything and as a fabric softener.  And combining that with the gallon of milk we consume each week I get a lot of those gallon jugs.  I have also put plants in them but I also kept the "temporary" pots from the garden centers so I don't need as many of the gallon jugs for that purpose any more.

On tap for today--going through the pots I have stored on the lower shelves of the mini-greenhouse.  I want to separate the small starter pots and put them upstairs for seed starting.  The bigger pots will stay n the greenhouse till needed outside.

I have been listening to the morning TV news and am totally irritated by the coverage of the Mark Cuban remarks.  Anybody else notice how the focus has been entirely on the "black kid in a hoodie" part of the remarks?  Entirely lost in the coverage is the second part of that remark about the skin head with the full-body tattoos.  Cuban would have avoided both and I don't blame him one bit.  Everyone has totally passed over his point in the whole conversation:  we all have our prejudices and act on our stereotypes.  Worse we almost never carefully think about them.  I may not trust either the black kid in the hoodie or the skin head but that doesn't mean I trust the guy in the business suit or the cop in uniform either.  As I watched the original sound bite of Cuban's remarks which included both parts of the comment, I thought of the scene toward the end of the first Harry Potter movie where Harry confronts Professor Quirrell expecting to find Professor Snape.  Quirrell smirks "Snape?  Yes, he does seem to be the type."  We interact with people first on the basis of what we expect of their type, of our stereotypical perception of them.  We may be right but we may also be very wrong.  To use another movie analogy--I agree with the union soldier in Gettysburg:  "Anyone who judges the individual by the group is a pea wit.  You take men one at a time."  But every one of us are pea wits frequently in our lives.

I would agree that cataclysmic is an apt description of the GM recalls this year.  Key stat: GM has recalled, so far this year, more cars than it sold between 2009 and 2013.

Isn't globalization wonderful?  An Israeli drug maker recalls lots of three different drugs intended for the U.S. market but made for it by an Indian company.

I (still) wonder who will buy the goods manufacturers make when all their workers are robots.  It is nice that robots don't need time off, don't need health care, don't need food, don't have families to interfere with the work.  But they don't need the cars, don't order merchandise, don't eat the food being processed either--and since they don't get pay checks couldn't buy them any way.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday.  Cool last night which made it lovely sleeping.  Temps are supposed to be a bit cooler today and dry.  Good time to get some of the garden shed cleaned up and straightened out.  I still have some large spots in the garden to fill.  I will be going through my seeds to see what I can direct sow and have a reasonable expectation of something growing.

I started to write "sew" in that first paragraph because I had just read this article.  I would love to see a similar mindset on this side of the Atlantic.

Yippee!!  The hummingbirds are back.  One found her way to our feeder this morning.  They may have been here for a little while already.  I realized that we changed our morning coffee ritual.  We used to drink our coffee at the dining table which gives a good view of the feeder.  Now we take our wake up juice in the living room with the TV and our computers.  I can see the feeder but might easily miss a small bird flitting around the feeder.  Oh, well!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tuesday.  Expecting warm temps and some sun today with possible storms later.  But all week looks springlike--finally.  I got the geraniums and tomato planted yesterday and trimmed back the area where a combination of hyssop and bird seed were sprouting thickly.  I don't need as many hyssop as were popping up but I did want some for the bees--and it does add a nice flavor to tea.  I may not have to reseed the cypress vine.  Though damaged they are still alive and may come.  I have most of the mini-greenhouse straightened up.  Now for the shed.

I thought the same thing when I was listening to and reading our sanitized news reports on the various controversies at the time--democracy in Europe is pretty much dead (unless the results can be jiggered to reflect what the money interests want.)  And our democracy is pretty much moribund because there is not much difference between our two "major" parties--except in their rhetoric around election times.

Wednesday.  Wet outside after a stormy night.  I rushed around last evening covering everything could and moving the rest under cover because the weather people said we could get sever thunderstorms with hail.  Their weather maps indicate the hail stayed well west of us.  I haven't uncovered anything yet.  An unexpected chore for yesterday--moving the purple and sweet basils.  They may like full sun but evidently not as much as they were getting where they were.  Oh, well.  I'll see if they prefer a shadier place in their own pots.

The latest mega-beef recall is disturbing for a couple of reasons.  First, the CDC and other agencies are not telling consumers where that beef went so there is no way of avoiding it with any certainty.  It appears that the government is more interested in protecting the profits of restaurants and retailers than the health of consumers.  The second reason is encapsulated in this paragraph
 Wolverine officials said their products did not test positive for E. coli O157, but CDC and FSIS epidemiological and trace-back data indicate that meat from the firm was the likely source of illness.
Notice that the company claims its product didn't test positive for the bacteria and the CDC and FSIS have said only that the meat from Wolverine is the "likely" source.  In other words:  the CDC and FSIS don't know for sure what the source of the E. coli is.  This reminds me of the salmonella outbreak of a few years ago when officials identified the source as peppers and then shifted to peppers and in the end, having devastated farmers in two countries, had to admit they didn't know where the salmonella had come from.

And then there is this item.  I can understand Petco and Petsmart deciding to discontinue sales of dog and cat treats from China.  I can also understand the delay.  For the last seven years government agencies have tried to trace the cause of pet illnesses and death--and have not found a confirmable cause.  And I am sure they have contracts with their Chinese suppliers which would be difficult to cancel abruptly without a confirmed cause traceable to their operations.  For pet owners an interesting dilemma.  I have said before that if I still had pets I would be making their food and treats at home.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday.  Not bad start to the morning.  About 50F and expected to get up to the low 70s.  I hope I still have some cypress vine seeds because the seedlings didn't survive the cold at the end of last week.  Everything else survived pretty well.  I got some cleaning up done yesterday and unpacked the geraniums.  Put them in the greenhouse overnight to harden a bit.  Mom loved the scent.  We are both looking forward to seeing it bloom.  More cleaning up on the schedule for today.

I really hate all of the "nanny" organizations out there.  Now a couple are spearheading a movement to "regulate" food the way cigarettes are regulated.  And put pictures on food products showing the nasty effects of obesity.  Crap!!  Pointless Crap!!  None of the suggestions touch the most basic problems concerning obesity: a largely sedentary culture, a food manufacturing industry that has taken a couple pages out of the tobacco industry's play book (deny their products are a problem, pack as much salt, fat and sugar into them as possible, and pay tame scientists to get the "scientific" data to exonerate them), and buy off the legislators and government agencies that want to regulate them.

What do you do when you live in a small, isolated village without any resident armed law enforcement and any other law officers are a long plane ride away and someone threatens violence?  Banish him!!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saturday--cold but not as cold as I feared it would get.  The weather forecast maps showed our location on the good edge of a frost warning area.  I managed to find or make covers for all of my tenderest plants and everything looks ok this morning.  Some of the rain we had was hard enough to knock leaves off a couple of the plants--mostly on the little lavenders.  Warmer--much more seasonal--weather is supposed to come in over this next week.  It certainly hasn't felt like any kind of spring this year.

Sunday--much the same as Saturday but hoping for warmer temps and sun.  We actually got into the low 60s and may get warmer today.  I have a tomato and scented geraniums to get planted a bit later.  I may get everything uncovered--depends on what I see on the weather forecast.

I wanted to get a pheromone trap for those pesky Japanese beetles and debated earlier when I put in my seed and plant orders whether I should get them from one of the companies I was getting seeds from.  But I decided I would see if one of the local stores had them.  Glad I waited.  I found a couple of brands when I went looking for a new tomato to replace the one I broke while transplanting it.  They were considerably cheaper than what the mail order companies carried.  I am not a "cheap is always good" type of person but I figure cheap is a good way to go to try out something I haven't done before.

I have seen a lot more heirloom varieties of veggies at our local garden shops.  I found a Biltmore tomato and decided to give it a try.  You can see details of the variety here.  We'll see how it works out.

When I saw the headline on this story I thought of the California company which had to recall a year's worth of product because the meat hadn't been inspected.  However, it appears to involve a bit more.  In my mind, using inspection documents issued for another plant should constitute fraud.

Interesting!!  Farmer's Insurance is filing a class action lawsuit against 200 or so communities in the Chicago area for failing to prepare their sewer and storm water systems for the more frequent and heavier rains that are predicted to come with climate change.  I wonder where the money is to come from for either the upgrades needed or the costs of the suit--win or lose.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday--and it is starting out just like Thursday left off: wet and cold.  We turned the furnace back on as our inside temps fell to 65F or a bit less.  Probably less since the thermometers we have away from the controlling thermostat for the furnace are registering 60-62.  Outside the thermometer read about 40.  (Update: it is snowing slightly northwest of Chicago.  Yes--I said "snowing."  Hope it stays north of us.)

So far everything already planted is fine.  The cloches are doing their job especially with the tomatoes and peppers.  The last of the plants I ordered--the geraniums--arrived yesterday.  They will stay in their box until tomorrow or Sunday when we hope to get warmer temps and some sun.  By then I will also have a new tomato to replace the Amish paste that broke as I tried to transplant it.

I won't tell you what I thought as I read this item.  Privatization marches on and the results won't be pretty.  I am not surprised at the sneaky way it was slipped into a bill extending tax breaks.  I am sure it will get bi-partisan support from our bought-and-paid-for legislature.

For a very long time now I have refused to participate in any of the dietary fads that flow through our society repeatedly.  I refused to buy turkey "bacon" or "sausage" or "bologna."  I resent having to buy beef bologna but  try finding old fashioned pork versions.  I don't buy the light or low or no fat products.  My milk is full strength as is my cottage cheese, cheeses, sour cream and yogurt.  I don't believe in the health claims on any of the "heart healthy" products and "gluten free" has never impressed me.  I am as skeptical of the dietary noise as I am of the medical noise.  This explains why.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday--and still wet.  Also COLD.  Over night temps got down to about 40F last night.

We also had more rain.  The weather people say we won't get sun until the weekend.  I am glad I got all my most tender plants under cloches.  I will check everything out later when we have more light.

I didn't see anything I wanted to comment on yesterday.  Let's see what is out there today.  I found a nice stand of borage has emerged in its container and about half of the beans and melons.  Still nothing from the hibiscus but I am trying to be patient since I saw nothing on the hibiscus the city planted in its patches.

Want to be happier?  Take up gardening!  Gardeners, according to research, are happier than average and the more time they spend gardening the happier they are.  Works for me.

As I read this piece I thought: how nice!!  Another "solution" to a problem that will be about as useless as teats on a bull.  I thought the quotation marks because given I felt that refinancing student loans at a lower interest rate would be as effective as refinancing underwater mortgages at lower interest rates--not very.  All it does is keep up the pretense that the debt is repayable under current or likely future economic conditions.  What we really need is a means of discharging student debt by bankruptcy which we aren't likely to get.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday--rainy, rainy Tuesday.

Won't be doing much outside today.  Thunderstorms rumbling through right now after a night of sometimes heavy rain.  Everything outside is doing well.  Glad I decided to get the smaller plants covered before this mess came in.  I saw a nice stand of cypress vine emerging.  My attempt to start them indoors was totally unsuccessful so I thought I would sow them in place.  That worked.  I think I saw some borage coming up as well.  I got two plants started neither of which looked all that good and I scattered some seeds out where I wanted plants.  If that succeeds I will simply let them and the cypress vine self sow in the fall.  That happened last fall with the hyssop which I will have to thin out when the rain stops and things dry out.  I am watching the morning news as I type this and they are showing flooding north and west of us.  Evidently areas north of us experienced some severe damage from straight line winds from the storms that came through Sunday night and some areas are still without power.

I wish Monsanto would meet the same kind of road block in this country.

The Rude Pundit is right on here.  The proportion of time the news programs spend on actual news and idiots like Sterling or Beyonce's sister beating up on Jay-z explains fully why I spend less and less time viewing news.  Take a look at the first sentence of this account of the mine collapse.  Of course, we have to remember that West Virginia is a wholly owned subsidiary of the coal industry.

I can't help but follow the inane coverage of the kidnapping of those Nigerian school girls but I have noticed how limited the coverage is.  For the last several years I have seen other stories--of poverty, of pollution from western oil companies that make the Exon Valdez look like a minor drip which has destroyed the economy of the Niger delta (and elsewhere), governmental corruption that makes sure those who suffer the worst of the effects of the pollution got the fewest of the economic benefits, and religious divisions exacerbated by all of the above.  This is the only story that puts some background on the story.  Don't care much for Boko Harum (and certainly won't excuse them) but there are plenty of scores waiting to be settled over there.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Garden update.


We had thunderstorms last night with heavy rain.  I woke to find two of my peppers, one tomato, and the shiso lying down.  Not broken, thankfully.  I put them back upright with a support and today I will make some more cloches because we are supposed to get more thunderstorms later today and overnight.  The news reported a tornado just four miles south of Rensselaer--not all that far away.  And flooding north west of here.  I got all of the plants put out--three lavender added to the container with the shiso and roma tomato; two lemon basil and two gold leaf lemon thyme in another; one each of patio princess tomato, corno di toro rosso pepper, lipstick pepper and albino bullnose pepper in their own pots; three stevia and one sage in the container with the borage; purple basil and sweet basil in with the bee balm; and spearmint and peppermint in their own pots.  The scented geraniums haven't arrived yet and I still have the better parts of two containers and four fence pot hangers to fill yet.  Oh, I almost forgot--all my strawberries are in.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First open air market of season/Hyper-accumulateors/The spring of our discontent/

Sunday.  Happy Mother's Day.

Although we spend a good bit of time out I did finish getting the pots on the second tower filled, set up, and the area swept up.  I will get some more of the plants set out today.  We should have nice temps and a goodish amount of sun today and tomorrow.

We went to the open-air market up north of here.  It is the only one open for now and the largest in the area.  Our own city farm market doesn't open for another three weeks.  I found golden lemon thyme and stevia and picked up several plants of each.  I hope the stevia this year is sweeter than last year's.  I didn't find a replacement for the tomato plant that broke during transplanting.  A large number of venders show up each year selling everything from fresh veggies to plants, from baked goods  to jellies, jams, honey and maple syrup, and hand made goods of all kinds.  The growers selling fresh veggies all use high tunnels in this area.  We have seen more of those on the farms around here.

On a different gardening tangent, this article led me to a bit of online searches on the topic of hyper-accumulators--plants that can incorporate large amounts heavy metal without dying themselves.  I had never heard that term before though I do remember stories about using some water loving plants in ponds to remove pollutants and purify the water.  Wikipedia has an impressive list of such plants and the metals they accumulate.

On the one hand someone has finally had an attack of honesty.  The whole notion of selectively paying U.S. creditors in the event of an interruption of government cash flow (via Congressional failure to raise the borrowing limit) was a minor chord in the cacophony over the budget and debt last time around.  Of course the major groups who would be shorted were American citizen (active duty military, seniors, whoever) while foreign debt holders (China, et al.) would continue to get paid.  On the other hand, I have to wonder why the topic comes up again now.  Then I realized that the last agreement runs until March of next year--ten months from now with the mid-term elections in between.  Getting ready for another battle??

I can definitely relate to this article.  I fee like I am at least two weeks--maybe three behind.  I have a friend in Colorado who posted on Facebook that she is facing a winter storm watch and trying to figure out which plants she can save.  My first rose came when I still couldn't get a spade into the soil in my containers.  The other came when it was still too cold to plant though the soil was (barely) workable. Both started out inside in large pots.  I put them out in the containers just last week.  I didn't visit the garden centers until late April.  In a normal year (whatever the hell that might be anymore) I would have been scoping them out in early April.  They are just now getting their usual stocks in.  We expect a cool down (to the low 60s) later this week so I will be cutting up milk and vinegar jars for cloches.  Strangely enough, I follow a blogger in Texas who has given up on a cool season garden.  They have already had temps in the 90s--higher in some places.  I hope this spring of discontent will morph into a summer and autumn of abundance.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

work-life balance??, truth??,


Yesterday was wet and dismal for the most part.  And then it got very warm out on the patio when the sun finally came out.  We simply took the day to do nothing much.  Everything outside is doing very well.  The Arctic Flame rose actually has a bud on it.  I will get some more done out there today.  Tomorrow we expect rain again so probably won't get much more done until Monday.

For sometime I have read articles which tell say that the jobs that are growing are those which can't be exported or automated.  Well, this article tells me that if employers can't export or automate they will do their infernal best to force people to function as robots.  Algorithms don't have to worry about "work-life balance" so why should people.

I saw a teaser headline that reminded me of so many others I have read so often.  It reads "What must subpoenaed VA chief tell Congress."  How about the truth?  That might be refreshing.  But framing the issue as what he must tell Congress hints at something else--as in what Congressmen/women want to hear for their own political purposes.  And I don't expect the hearings to produce any positive results.  That would require Congress to do its job and pass a reasonable budget.

The political points may be cheap but the committee will be costly--as in paid for by the taxpayers.

Friday, May 9, 2014

gardening progress, a new Concorde??, back to the future??, no longer left behind but discarded,


We got rain overnight.  And more coming.  Thankfully it was neither plant-crushingly heavy nor accompanied by hail.  This has been a year of jaw-dropping weather conditions.  I have been watching the weather on the news and can hardly believe what I see.

I don't think I will get much gardening done unless it dries out by this afternoon.  I got my roses put in their permanent place.  Also put in shiso, roma and patio princess tomatoes, and lipstick peppers.  I still have some peppers, tomatoes, basil, and lavender to plant.  I lost my Amish paste when the root ball fell apart and it broke just at the soil level.  I will look for something similar at the local garden shops.

Our temperatures hit 89F--90s in some areas.  If we hadn't waited so long for warmth we would be complaining.  It was hot enough that I did my gardening in spurts.  Moved the roses and rested.  Filled the pots for and planted the pole beans and freebee mellon and rested.  Positioned the hangers, filled the pots and planted two more strawberries and rested.  Tilled the dirt in a container, added soil and fertilizer, and planted shiso and tomato--and rested.  I did that a few more times until I finally decided I had done enough for the day and put everything away.  It got hot enough that I would have removed the cover on the mini-greenhouse if we had been expecting more.  The next week we expect cooler temps and plenty of sun with showers every now and then.

I rather doubt that this project is seriously under consideration--at least on our side of the equation.
A good part of the Repthuglican party probably wouldn't support it because of the funding it would require even though the article says the Chinese are willing to foot most of that bill.  And the only reason I can see for a high-speed rail along the proposed route would be national pride--U.S. and Chinese pride specifically.  I doubt there is enough traffic to make it profitable.  A reincarnation of Concorde???

Is this really where we are headed??  I hope we aren't headed "back to the future."  "Did he really witness that??"  Mom asked.  I don't know but, sadly, it is believable given the demands from religious assholes for the right to discriminate in business based on their religious beliefs.

I think Tom Streithorst has hit on something here although he doesn't  push a key point as forcefully as he might have.  Universal manhood suffrage had already become a fact in many European countries and America well before WWI.  The major beneficiaries of their wartime efforts were women who finally joined men in the voting booth during the decade after.  What really drove movements toward social equality was the fear of socialism.  In the 1860s Bismarck's Germany became the first modern industrialized nation to implement social security--though few of the lower classes could expect to live long enough to collect.  With the emergence of the Soviet Union after WWI the fear of socialism became much more acute.  But by the time Reagan and Thatcher assumed their offices it was clear the Soviet Union was dying and by 1989 was dead.  The only way socialism remains as a threat is in the minds of the political hacks who support the upper .01% and who use the cry of "socialism!!" as a club against anyone who would redress the imbalances in our society and economy.

I said a long time ago that the "No Child Left Behind" was accurately named because Left All Children Behind.  I should amend that to we leave no child behind unless that child is poor, doesn't speak English as their first language, are non-white minorities or simply don't do well with the damned tests.  So what is a hard pressed school district (or state education department) to do when their grant monies rest on good aggregate test scores, or teachers and administrators whose pay raises, bonuses or even continued employment depends on their students doing well as a group?  Well, here is the answer.

Oh how politics have changes--and not for the better.

This piece at Crooks & Liars asked why the seven Democrats who voted with the Republicans to establish that Benghazi Select Committee are still Democrats.   All you need to answer the question is look at the states they represent: two from Arizona, one each from Florida, West Virginia, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Georgia.  All hot purple or red with right leaning electorates.  And remember--the entire House is up for election this year.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Yesterday was a good day for gardening and I will get more done today.  After we get a few errands done, that is.  I planted the strawberry tower planted with four Quinault and three Loran.  Still have six Tristan and three Loran to put somewhere.  The roses spend most of yesterday and all night out on the patio.  I plan to put them in their permanent places.  Still nothing from the hibiscus but I haven't seen anything from the ones the city put in the park and other places along streets.  I don't expect much of the borage plants I started inside so after I put them in I scattered some of the seeds I saved last year.  I did the same with the cypress vine seeds.  The ones started earlier this year sprouted but failed to thrive.

Finished Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer's Thoughts on Living Forever by Gene Logsdon.  I have enjoyed his posts on the Contrary Farmer blog and the book didn't disappoint.

I don't know if any of you out there read Granny's Family Garden as I have for a goodish while now.  She recently documented her battle with cancer and how her family stepped up to plant the garden she no longer had the strength for.  Sad to report she lost that fight.  I, for one, will miss her posts.

I read this and thought of the banquet scene in the Dune miniseries where the Spacing Guild representative asks Dr. Kynes, "Fremen drink the blood of their dead, don't they, Dr. Kynes?"  To which Kynes answeres, "Not just the blood but all of a man's water.  The human body is 70% water and surely a dead man no longer needs it."  Whereupon the questioner, squeamishly, puts his glass of water back on the table.  The truth is every drop of water has probably passed through thousands of humans (and other animals) during its existence.  Those who are upset about proposals to purify sewage water might try buying bottled water but then that water is just like all other water in the world.  Most of it comes straight out of some municipal tap.

After reading some of the assholery that masqueraded as a judicial decision from the Supreme Court on the issue of public prayer I rather expected this.  Fundamentalist Christianists insist everyone stay respectfully silent while they invoke their Deity but refuse to be respectful of other's invocations of other Deities.  Religious freedom for thee but not for me.  I guess they want to take us back to seventeenth century Salem where Quakers were as likely to be hanged as witches.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I got the top two shelves of the greenhouse cleared and all of the plants I intend to get transplanted today and tomorrow.  That includes two intriguing strawberry varieties: Tristan and Loran.  From what I have found so far they are new cultivars from Europe designed to be edible ornamentals.  That sounds perfect for my small space--good looks and food.  They don't put out many, if any, runners.  The Tristan is already putting out blossoms--red!!  That is what drew my eye.  None of the Quinault plants from last year survived but six of the Sequoia did so I have 18 strawberries to start off.  This last winter, as I have said all too often, was brutal.  Next year I will try to give the overwintering plants more protection.

Well, I do hope this continues and yields some positive results--like more realistic pricing.  Some of the stories I have seen over the last couple of years about the costs of treatments for cancer had me shaking my head.  I have Medicare coverage but the 20% (minimum) I would have to pay for many medical procedures would bankrupt me.  I put that minimum in because we have seen that Mom pays considerably more because of the nickel and dime charges she has to pay up front and that aren't reimbursed.  We also noticed an ad for a cancer center that noted they don't accept Medicare or Medicaid.

And on a similar note I found this.  None of it was surprising and I have read it before.  Doctors order tests because they are afraid of lawsuits, because patients demand them, or because insurance pays and their medical organization profits from them.  But in my circle I have seen a willingness to refuse tests if they don't appear to be necessary and the willingness is spurred by the fact that insurance and Medicare have limits.  That is a bit problematic at times.  Mom gets a routine test that Medicare will pay for only twice a year.  If her conditions goes out of control she may need as many as four of those tests per year to get it back under control.  But getting Medicare or her supplemental insurance to pay for necessary tests that their one-size-fits-all schedule is like pulling teeth without anesthetic even if the doctor is willing to submit the bill with an explanation of its medical necessity.  And she has another complication: two doctors who don't always talk to each other.  Of course her appointments are not synchronized and sometimes they order the same tests.  She has to watch that so that the testing lab sends the results to both and so that they don't exceed the authorized number.  Sometimes the whole process is bewildering.

Ah!!! Finally someone else is asking questions I have been asking about the conflict in Ukraine--and other parts of what used to be the Soviet Union.  And Putin may indeed be more aware of 21st century geopolitical realities than our politicians.  Ain't globalization wonderful??  I had an interesting thought as I read the part about how including Russia in the G-8 (now back to G-7) hoping that its integration into the world economy would prevent aggression but that Russia had figured out how to flip that and get away with aggression.  Haven't any of our leader read Isaac Asimov's classic sci-fi novel Foundation???  Salvor Hardin tells his political enemies (inside and outside the Foundation) that it is a poor blaster that can't be aimed in "both directions."  A weapon that can be directed against an enemy can always be aimed back at you by that enemy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Grocery shopping on the agenda for today and voting in the primary here.  And getting some of the gardening done.  We stopped at two of the local garden shops to get the garden soil I need to add to my containers.  Found some unusual strawberries and picked up the sweet basil, purple basil, spearmint and peppermint.  I need to clear out the mini-greenhouse and move the seedlings upstairs out to it.  We should be getting 80s tomorrow and thursday so I think it is time to get plants out in the containers.

On the latest Supreme Court inanity--the Rude Pundit says it well:  public prayer is always coercive.  And all too often we are constrained to grit our teeth and bear it because we have been taught good manners.  Sam Smith at Undernews has a few good remarks as well.

And here we go again!!  I have yet to read a good explanation.

Our evening news here had a segment on the new public report from the Federal government on climate change.  Evidently the Obama administration wants to do something about it.  Right after that a soundbite from Mitch McConnell pooh-poohing any political action.  The Agonist has this time which tells volumes on people's reaction to the science.  I especially liked the comment.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Very little in the gardens yet.  I have a nice small stand of foxglove and several strawberries that need to be transplanted.  But the weather is still uncooperative.  Showers for the morning and sun later.

Found this by way of Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.  I saw the headline on earlier but didn't read it.  I had the same reaction Yves had: "shades of Countess Bathory."

And for a tongue-in-cheek look at future (and present) job opportunities.  Makes sense.  I know that my advanced degrees haven't helped me any at all.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Sunny and cool today.  The weather people say we may stay in the 50s.  But they also promise us an 80 later in the coming week.

Saw this item this morning.  The author makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.  After reading about the botched Oklahoma execution I though we should bring back hanging.  At least, if the hanging was screwed up, the condemned man would not have taken 45 minutes to strangle.  And I agree with his comment that executions are more often about vengeance than about justice.

This is interesting.  I saw a headline sometime last week on a theme of how our poor aren't really poor because, after all, they can afford cell phones and flat-screne TVs.  I didn't read the article so I don't know what side of the argument that author came down on.  But the graph presented in the linked article explains that phenomenon.  Everything we need has become more expensive (food, transportation, health care, child care, education) while things we need to a lesser extent or not at all are have become less expensive.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday.  Hope we get the warmer temps and sun the weather people promised.  I want to start cleaning up the mini-greenhouse.  I may put the roses out on the patio to get some sun. (Update: the roses are basking in the sun.  I also took my soil test meter out and checked the fertility and pH levels.  Need to add some fertilizer and I will definitely start using the fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.  The pH is just above 7 so I want to bring it down just a bit.

Since we live about an hour south east of Chicago, we have seen this repeatedly on the morning TV news.  I have been following reports of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) since they first surfaced a while back.  I figured it was only a matter of when not if it would surface in this country as I have seen reports of it popping up in UK and other places.  One interesting comment from an epidemiologist this morning: the actual mortality rate may be much less than the 30% or so noted so far.  Those numbers reflect the death rate among those who were hospitalized with identified cases of the disease.  No one knows how many people have actually been infected and recovered with minimal or no medical treatment.  As I have said before: isn't globalization wonderful.

I saw two headlines that set my mind going in intriguing directions.  The first asked "What would America fight for?"  I think the question would be more accurate if expressed as "What would Americans fight for?"  I don't think many of us would think Ukraine is ours to fight for or that we really have anything of value involved there.  The American government might decided to get more involved but the American people will be half-hearted about it and, I think, resentful of the costs in lives and wealth.  I noticed another story (which I can't find now to link) which claimed that the number of Americans moving abroad and renouncing their citizenship is on pace to beat last years record setting pace.  True, the numbers last year were only about 3000, but it seems to indicate a softening of American identity or patriotism.  I just watched Angela Merkel talk about holding to our "principles" to which I have to ask "What principles?"  And it is evident that German multinational companies don't share what ever principles she was talking about.  I saw a news segment that listed several of their largest asking her government to tread carefully so their very lucrative business relationships in Russia aren't damaged.  That leads to the second headline "Together against Putin--for the moment."  The underlying them of that piece, as I read it, is the fragmenting of the post-WWII world order.  That world order has been fragmenting since 1989 when one of the poles of the international alignments (the Soviet Union) collapsed and fractured into a lot of nationalistic shards.  So what is my point?  Simply this--buckle up, darlings.  It is going to be a very bumpy ride and what comes out on the other side is going to be very different from what we grew up (and, in the case of my generation and earlier ones, grew old) with.

My thoughts on this bit from Sovereign Man:  what's next?  Travel permits inside the US?  I can understand  State Department warning that travel to certain areas and countries is dangerous and citizens should travel there at their own risk.  But to ban it outright with prison sentences?  What if you have family there?  You can't even send funds home to help them?  I have seen some promos for a documentary on our prison system which makes the point that "the Land of the Free" has the highest percentage of the population in prison than any other country.  Makes me wonder if this is the prelude to making all of us prisoners.

Now this is a fascinating piece of history.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday--and the cool temps and rain continues--though they say we should get less rain, more sun, and slightly warmer temps today.  I have seen some nice growth on the beard-tongued fox glove.  Nothing yet on the hibiscus but the info I have seen says it emerges in late spring so it might be a little too early yet--as well as too cool.

I wonder if "affluenza" is the disease of our times.  First we saw that spoiled brat who got drunk and killed a couple of people while driving drunk get off with "drug rehab" in an expensive resort style "clinic" his parents had to pay for.  I'm sorry.  I'm simply not buying it.

I read this one sometime ago.  It is just as funny the second time around.

Been there, done that.  Many, many years ago a fellow grad student who was applying for adjunct positions in California where her family lived described the kind of life she would have working as an adjunct as "genteel poverty."  Since then I have learned that there is no such thing as "genteel poverty."  Though we didn't realize it at the time the job market in academia was changing and for many (if not most) of us the adjunct route was going to be permanent--not the bridge to tenured professorships we hoped for.  The signs were there but few of us put together the dots we were seeing:  the highly credentialed and enthusiastic temporary prof who was filling his fifth one-year visiting position and about ready to give up on his dream job, the number of new or soon-to-be PhD's from first tier schools with long publication records (already) applying for a job at a second (or third) tier school, the articles in the Chronicles of Higher Education detailing the travails of new PhD job seekers.  This is yet another reason I think the emphasis our political leaders place on college education for all is greatly misplaced.  What is the quality of the education when the teachers are just another type of migrant labor?

We have been entertained this morning watching the sparrows and chickadees at the feeders.  They don't seem to know whether they want to build their nests or eat.  Several flew in with materials in their beaks and had to drop that to eat.  One smart little bird dropped the straw on the perch, held it there with her foot and then picked it up when she left.

The teaser for this article said "Pipeline company says: oil spills create employment opportunities."  The article softens that considerably and quotes the company as saying the "economic effects are both good and bad."  So let's see: is it a good thing that fisherman who were productively employed before the Deepwater Horizon spill had employment cleaning up the spill when they otherwise wouldn't have been working at all?  And is it a good thing they had that income since they are still feeling the effects in reduced (and no) catches four years down the line?  The problem here is that whether the fishermen are employed catching fish or cleaning up BP's mess their employment is considered a positive for the economy.  I think the first is the only positive.  The second doesn't really produce anything and doesn't even bring the situation back to original condition.  The best description I have heard: paying the doctor who broke your leg to set it.

This is hilarious in so many way.  After we finished laughing we both had the same thoughts.  First, perhaps it isn't such a bad idea to leave the system as it is.  It might be less vulnerable to hacking than a modern system.  Second, we can't even remember the last time we saw an 8-inch floppy.  Hell, how often do you see the 5.25 inch disks.  I still have a few but I haven't used them in years.  I haven't even used the CDs.  Third, where the hell have they been spending our money?  Oh, yeah--building substandard schools in Afghanistan and lining Karzai's pockets.

Oh how jealous I am looking at the pictures posted on San'in Monogatari.  We have seen more green lately and the daffodils are blooming along with some of the dog wood and crab apple.  But I so want the spring we haven't really had yet.

As usual Charles Hugh Smith writes a lot of truth in a small post.  I saw a new book about the consequences of our involvement in Afghanistan that had a title appropriate for our political situation: No Good Men Among the Living.  We haven't had good politicians killed or driven into hiding.  Ours have, instead, sold their souls to the highest bidders and have made bad bargains in the process.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thursday.  Welcome to May.  At least that is what the calendar says.  Looking at the temperature and the dismal, cloudy scene outside our windows one would think it was mid-March.  The temps won't rise much today and won't get into the sixties again until Saturday.

I found this item on the news this morning.  I live in an area that is criss-crossed with interstate highways.  Most people going from anywhere to anywhere will go by an interstate.  We also live near the major toll road that goes from New York (state) to Iowa.  We used to travel that toll road when we visited my sister who lives about 40 miles west of here--but haven't since they selectively raised the tolls several years ago.  Just after the politicians leased our part of the road to a private management company.  Selectively?  Well, they raised the tolls for those who pay cash for the privilege of riding on that road.  For drivers who installed the I-Pass sensors and could go through the unmanned gates they left the tolls alone.  We were pissed.  We made that trip--maybe--twice a year.  The cost of the equipment and installation was a couple hundred dollars.  To save $.50 a trip???  We decided to save even more and went by other roads.  U.S. infrastructure has deteriorated badly and I have seen little political will to really deal with it over the last 30 or so years.  About 30 years ago, during a conversation about one the conditions of a road we were on, a remark summed up the basic problem--the politicians love building roads and other structures, campaigning on how much money they have brought into the area to build them, noting how their constituents benefit from the building but they don't do much about getting the funds to keep the infrastructure repaired and renovated.  Another problem no one wants to talk about--the economic conditions over the last half-dozen years has induced Americans to cut back on driving and/or transition to hybrids, electric or highly fuel efficient vehicles which means they are buying less gas which in turn means less revenue for highway construction.

And we now have "medical homelessness."  I totally agree with one of the people quoted--why pay for what you can't use?

Interesting piece by Peter Van Buren on Tomdispatch.  I pretty much knew where it was going when Englehardt mentioned Van Buren's new book: Ghosts of Tom Joad.  I wondered how many reading that title would get the literary reference. Or the reference behind the title of the post.