Monday, December 29, 2014

Good December 28th to you all.  Hope you had a nice holiday.  Ours was quiet and totally at home since my brother's family, with whom we were supposed to spend a bit of time Christmas Eve, were all down with the flu.

It has been quiet on the posting front also largely because I haven't really felt like commenting on much I have seen on-line.  The news hasn't really been new--the names may change a bit but the basic stories are the same.  And has anyone else noticed how little of it merits the time the programers devote to it?


To continue the thoughts from yesterday (it is now December 29)--I remarked a while ago that we reduced our cable subscription to simple basic though the representative tried very hard to induce us to go to a bigger package.  The change was the culmination of several years of increasing dissatisfaction with cable TV generally.  The provider wasn't the problem--the content was.  More often than not we simply couldn't find anything we wanted to watch.  After almost a decade of debating the situation as the we found our choices more and more restricted (not everyone loves the "reality" shows or Duck Dynasty) we cut back on cable.  If we had found an indoor antenna that would have functioned with our constraints, we would have cut it entirely.  The final straw came when we realized that even the news programming had shifted to more infotainment and less of what we considered real news.  We don't care what is going on with the Kardashians or which former child star is misbehaving or what new idiocy Justin Bieber is up to.

Ah, for a bit of relief from my grousing and grumbling an absolutely cute bit from the Archdruidess.

Yesterday Mom suddenly remarked that she just read an article which listed 75 TV shows that have been cancelled--and we haven't seen a single one of them.  Didn't want to see the ones we saw promoted.  We both chuckled a bit over that but it does go a long way toward explaining why we cut back so severely on cable.

OMG--gas prices here were down to $1.84/gal this morning.  Haven't seen prices that low for the last 8+ years.  We'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Does anyone else get the feeling that a lot of bloggers and others on the 'net are very glad to see the end of 2014 but don't feel any great enthusiasm for 2015?  I do feel that way to an extent.  The political deadlock was frustrating and annoying coupled with the unending campaigns.  Some of that was fueled by the (s)news media which simply has to hype the controversies and speculations.  And more of it was fueled by the gigantic egos and small brains of the politicians.  I would be more welcoming of the new year if I felt that anything would change on that front for the better--but I feel in my bones it won't.  The weather has been just as strange as ever and that is something else I don't see reverting to what had seemed normal for most of my life.  The economy is as absurdly surreal as it has been since well before the 2007 meltdown.  That is something else I don't expect to change for the better in the coming year.  Wall Street and the politicians do well and try to convince the rest of us that things are improving.  2015 just doesn't appear to offer anything to be enthusiastic about.  Hope I'm wrong; afraid I'm right.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy and blessed Solstice to all.  The sun will be making its return journey north toward spring.  Another seed catalog came in yesterday.  I only skimmed through it.  I will settle down with all of them, weed out the old versions and start making my list of seeds/plants I might like to try out this coming year.  I will make my final list early January.  Gardening never really stops--it just shifts gears from planning to planting to harvest to clean up.


I have been reading about the effects of deforestation for the last 30 years.  Here is one I find interesting because I have also been reading about the drought in Brazil, the drought followed by flooding in Thailand and other such weather anomalies over the last decade or so.

Every time I think I have seen the absolute limit of selfish insanity some idiot ups the ante.  Watching the TV news this morning and saw a report of asshole drivers who decided to evade the section of Lake Shore Drive (Chicago, for those who don't know) closed because of a fatal crash by crossing over to a parallel bike path.  One mental giant (sarcasm, big time) was running without his headlights and came close to hitting joggers already on the path.  Here is another interesting article on changing weather patterns.  In the Bible Christ asks (Mark 8:36) "what profiteth a man if he gains the whole world but loseth his should?"  I would amend it a bit to "what profits business if it extracts all possible resources but creates a world in which humans can't live."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

One of my favorite series of novels calls the winter "the dark months."  This year, so far, that has been an accurate description:  dismal, gray and with half the number of sunny days as normal.  We don't even have any snow to provide a bit of white to brighten up the landscape.  That pattern isn't going away any time soon.

The Atlantic has a nice article just in time form cold and flu season.  We recently (as of a few years ago) switched from name brands to generic over the counter drugs.  A couple of things drove the move.  First, the massive recall of Excedrin two years ago left us scrambling to replace it and we certainly weren't going to get on Ebay and pay $300 or so for a bottle as some desperate people did.  We checked out the ingredients and found a generic that had all the same ingredients in the same proportions and switched.  We didn't switch back after new stocks arrived some months later.  Second, we started looking more closely at all our over the counter meds when warnings started coming faster and more insistently about the dangers of overdose with those drugs.  When we started looking at the ingredients we suddenly saw how easily it would be to take more (often much more) than the recommended doses.  Think about it for a moment.  You have a headache so you take your usual headache drug.  But you also are running a bit of a temp so you take a dose of Tylenol.  Well, you headache med might just have Tylenol's active ingredient in it also.  Oh, I forgot--you also have a cough so you take some cough medicine also.  Guess what?  You may just have taken another dose of Tylenol because you cough medicine may also contain it under its generic name.  The article is a good read.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Well, the final push of Christmas shopping and the frantic exhortations to spend heroically has started.  The first news report this morning concerned one retailer who is going to be open for 100 straight hours beginning at 6am this morning through 6pm Christmas Eve.  As usual, we abstain from the annual ritual honoring the commercial gods.

The State Department has, evidently, decided not to release its volume of foreign relations history that covers the 1953 CIA lead coup in Iran for fear that it will upset delicate nuclear negotiations.  Since the Iranians are quite aware of our meddling in their affairs I wonder if there aren't some little known or unknown bombshells lingering in the dusty archives.  I don't think they have to worry about reactions over here.  Most Americans are terribly ignorant of their history and, given how little reaction the Senate report on CIA torture elicited, couldn't care less.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Glad to see this.  Our first thought: about damned time.  This crap has been going on for way too long.  Mom's second thought: who is tired of sneaking his Havana cigars into the country?  I can already hear the knee-jerk conservatives and Cuban-American community howling.  (Update: I won't link to the stories but evidently the news media is picking up on the dismay of both groups.)

Like the author at Crooks & Liars, I hope Wal-mart simply pays up but I don't think they are that smart.  Chiseling their workers has been a major tactic for padding their bottom line for years.  They simply don't get slapped often enough or consistently enough to stop.

I never had any intention of going to see The Interview.  Not possible now that Sony has pulled the movie it isn't an option.  The style of comedy is not one I appreciate.  Can It Happen Here? has a few cogent comments concerning Sony's stupidity in making the film in the first place and I concur.  I though the comments the stars made in their own interview on ABC which indicated surprise at the attack on the film exhibited a cultural blindness of colossal proportions.  They thought it all good fun.  They simply don't understand one of the major characteristics of the 'cult of personality' which holds sway in North Korea.  It is a religion and the personality at the pinnacle of the cult can't tolerate being the butt of a joke and especially one which postulates a plot to kill him.  Why did they think the Koreans would react with any better grace than some Muslims did to the Dutch cartoons featuring unflattering depictions of the Prophet?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We spend most of this wet, foggy morning out.  Only got back a little bit ago and have just started to slog through my e-mails and other items on the computer.

On this one I can only say--DAMN!!  We do not need another Bush in the White House.  I wish Mitt Romney would simply fade away also.  However, I have seen nothing, Democrat or Republican, I am willing to vote for in the next election cycle.  I may just leave that one blank since I don't have the choice of "None of the above."

I am also a little ticked off.  I went through a Google alert for new blog postings for "crochet patterns" and found three that looked interesting until I clicked on them.  They were all hard core porn.  I checked what I had clicked on but nothing at all in the description or title would have tipped me off about what was really on the site.  I don't mind that there are porn sites on the net.  I don't want to visit them and I certainly don't want to be suckered into visiting such sites.  Another DAMN!!  Anyone else come across that kind of thing?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oh, how strange the weather has been.  Yesterday and today the temperatures are more like early March.  Three weeks ago--like early January.  We saw a bit of sun that disappeared way too soon.  Not expecting much more today.

Had a nice e-mail that announced the new Jung seed catalog will soon be coming.  I already have the new Baker Creek, Totally Tomatoes, Seeds & Such, Pinetree and Vermont Bean catalogs.  Several more are yet to come.  I have so much fun looking through them and planning what will go in the gardens.  Also how the some of the containers will be arranged.  The largest ones will stay in their places but the five-gallon buckets and lager pots change each year.


Didn't see much I wanted to comment on yesterday.  Let's see what I find today.

Well, so much for promises any government agency makes.  And for any expectation of fairness.  Banks steal millions with full knowledge of what they are doing and get off keeping their ill-gotten gains but little people are dunned forever for "debts" they never knew about incurred by parents decades ago.  Rule of law??  Only important when our leaders want a club with which to beat perceived enemy governments.

I really wish our government would stop interfering in other countries.  We have done no good and a lot of harm from what I have seen.

Several bloggers noted that this is the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791.  HMMM--no celebration.  I wonder why.  Perhaps because most of it has been shredded in the last couple of decades.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Good Saturday to all.  Supposed to warm up today and tomorrow but not much sun expected.

David Kaiser always puts out thought provoking pieces on his History Unfolding blog.  There is indeed a "war" going on in American politics and I agree that there is no end in sight.  I read an article in the last couple of days which said that the last WWII veterans in Congress are retiring.  That is the generation Kaiser referred to as the cohort who were young adults when the Progressive "edifice of government and workers' rights" was established to be built on over the next 70 years.  That edifice has been chipped at for the last 30 years and now is under persistent assault from the Republican demolition teams.  Kaiser also links the process to a phenomenon I have seen for some time: the rise of unbridled individualism.  Individualism has always been valued in our culture but always restrained by communal values.  But those restraining values have weakened and almost disappeared.  We may well have a 40-year war to define what the next century or so will look like in America.  I am afraid it will look more like the worst of the 19th century than the 20th:  rampant individualism (especially for corporate "persons" and the financial elite) with few legal constraints and a broad mass of people with few legally protected rights and fewer opportunities for advancement.

For a good while now I have read, repeatedly, the phrase "rule of law"--most often contrasting the U.S. to China with exhortation that the Chinese government needs to establish such a legal regime.  This piece from Joe Firestone cross-posted at Naked Capitalism pretty well shows how that is merely the pot calling the kettle black.  We have a rule of law only so long as the authorities enforce the law and enforce it equally for all.  Certain sections of our society, economy, and politics take the law as "suggestions"--at least for them.  They can be certain that any laws they break will be punished lightly or not at all.  The rest of us can look forward to being beaten up, pepper sprayed, shot and maybe killed for minor or even imaginary infractions.  I will leave you to tie this into the last paragraph.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good Thursday to everyone.  We have been and continue to be sandwiched between weather extremes on both coasts.  Thankfully, the worst of it has by-passed us.  We constantly comment on how strange the weather has been--world wide.

I can agree that we need a way to deal with  the mountains of trash in our land fills but redefining tires and hazardous waste as "renewable" is ridiculous.   The waste isn't from any renewable source therefore to call it renewable stretches the word beyond any reasonable meaning.

And now for Friday.  Looks like clear skies--at least for now.  I saw a very bright moon when I looked out this morning.  Update: clouds have moved in.  Blast!!

Let's hope this doesn't spread and doesn't last long.  Serfdom was such an efficient system the idiot dictator of Belarus wants to bring it back.  Well, you don't need brains to be a dictator--just a lot of men with guns and the will to use them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our rain yesterday turned into a light snow overnight.  Not much but enough to cover the cars and the grass.  The pavements were all too warm for it to stick there.

Interesting but... .  There are times (more so as time goes on) when technology definitely raises my skeptical antennae.  This is one.  Not something I want or trust.

So the guy's attorney thinks he is being unfairly singled out??  Martha Stewart got prison time for perjury.  I think they got him on that and the fraud charges should be interesting also.  Anybody who oversees an operation that dumps toxins into the drinking water should be held accountable.  Especially since we haven't found a way to execute or imprison "corporate" persons.

The author of Another Old Woman has a take on vaccinations that I relate to.  Like her, I had all the "childhood" diseases way back when.  And at that time we had to have the smallpox vaccination as well.  I am one of the few people I know who has met someone who had polio--an eastern European refugee who was in my 8th grade class for one semester.  I often think that the real problem with vaccinations is their success.  When the consequences of contracting measles, mumps, chicken pox, and whooping cough were often severe and potentially fatal, parents lined up to get their kids vaccinated.  Now the alleged possibilities of the vaccines appear to be more frightening than diseases most of their parents have no experience with.

There is little John McCain says that I agree with.  My opinion of him, usually, is so far down in the basement that going lower is nearly impossible.  However, this is one issue on which I agree wholeheartedly.  I absolutely hate the very notion that agents of our country tortured people in my name.  I repudiate them and their actions.  A "stain on our honor" is an right on--or it would be if we truly had any honor.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Good day to you.  Some rain yesterday varying between moderate to misty.  Nothing froze though here but evidently it did on highways.  The morning commute was a total mess.  See how things go today.

The news media appears on the edge of hysteria on the anticipated release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.  I am amused by the emphasis I have seen so far.  It is supposed to contain graphic descriptions and conclude that the torture continued, in some cases, well after all "useful" information had been "extracted."  Where the reporters and some of the more vocal politicians get hysterical is considering how they fear the release might "endanger" Americans overseas.  You can see some of that here.  But saying that the information might cause more agitation against America overseas is like saying that you are going to raise the level of the Pacific Ocean with an eyedropper of water.  I notice the TV media gives little to no time to two bits expected to be in the reports:  in at least three cases the "enhanced" interrogation techniques produced "no results" and the CIA lied repeatedly to the Congress, to the White House, and to the American people.  None of this is really new.  It has dribbled out bit by bit since shortly after 9/11.  At no point in all this time has anyone really spent any time questioning either the effectiveness or the morality of the whole process.

Somebody has one hell of a sense of humor.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Here we are at Monday again.  Rain and freezing rain coming in.  Didn't get here yesterday but is just in time for rush hour today.  Thankfully we don't have to go out.  We don't have anything we need so we are postponing our grocery shopping to sometime later in the week.

Oh, my--the TransAtlantic Trade treaty the Obama administration is negotiating (in secret) is getting some push back from Europeans who don't want their food safety standards modified to something more like the U.S. standards.  I don't blame them.  I don't want those standards either but our corporate-captured government has saddled us with them.  All we can do is try to avoid the worst of it.

Industrialization has some benefits but serious downsides as well.  Unfortunately, those who suffer the downsides rarely experience the benefits.  Didn't the first time around and won't this time.  Those who benefit are far away in clean(er) environments.

Another reason why I simply don't believe any of the hype of an improving economy--anywhere.

Sen. Tom Harkin's last gift to his financial cronies???  I am sure glad this pseudo-Democrat is retiring.  A Repthuglican did win his seat (Joni Ernst) but you know where those idiots are coming from and we know they aren't our friends.  Better the enemy you know than a stab in the back.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Good cloudy Sunday to you.  The weather people say we will have a "wintery" mix today and maybe tomorrow.

So there are seven states who have constitutional barriers to atheists.  And some Christians say they feel there is a "war" against them???

As if we needed another indication that our government has been co-opted by financial interests.  A few weeks ago the G20 formalized rules for so-called bail-ins where depositors take "hair cuts" before stockholders and holders of credit default swaps if a bank is insolvent.  Legislation is before congress which will allow struggling public employee pension plans to reduce payouts to current retirees.  Many of those plans are struggling because state legislatures and other political entities failed to make required contributions when they should have but the short-fall is to come out of the hides of retirees.  The only "property" rights protected anymore are those of big finance.  The rest of us are pretty well screwed.

When political issues divide powerful interests it makes some very strange bedfellows.

Ouch!!  It isn't even summer down under yet.

The post-antibiotic age has dawned.

Sounds like the GOP majority in the Montana legislature are channeling the Taliban, Islamic State, and Al Qaeda.  Perhaps they will insist on "virginity" tests for all unmarried women as at least one Muslim country has done for women on its police force.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Good Saturday everyone.  Weekends don't mean much to us since we are both retired.  No need to rush around and do all of the chores we neglected all week because we were working somewhere away from the house more hours than we were at home.  Of course since our society has moved to a nearly universal 24/7/365 commercial environment, especially, at this time of year, I guess weekends don't mean much to most people anymore.

Found this by way of a friend on Facebook.  I will be looking for the tags this spring.  I plant a number of plants that are both pollinator friendly and useful to us.  I would rather attract and feed the bees not plant something that might help kill them off.

David Kaiser has another good stroll down history lane--this time dealing with the Republican mantra that tax cuts on wealthy individuals and corporations would release a tsunami of economic activity that would generate more tax revenue than would be lost through the cuts.  It has never worked but now the Republicans hope to put people into the Congressional Budget Office who will adopt book-cooking formulas that will prove their point.

I agree with everything, point by point, with what John Beckett has written at Patheos.  I will add only that I don't see that the victims--meaning Rice, Brown, and Garner--did anything to deserve an execution.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Best wishes on this Friday morning to you all.  Gray and dismal so far with possible rain in the forecast.  The temperature isn't bad but it feels colder than the thermometer says.

Found this piece on Casey Research.  These guys think like I do on a lot of things--though not all.  My first question when I hear pundits talking is "how do you define your key terms?"  A major trait shared by both pundits of all stripes and politicians is their sloppy use of language--a kind of bait and switch that leaves their audience thinking they mean one thing when they mean something entirely different.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Good morning to you where ever you are.  Since nothing much is happening here I will see what is going on in our world today.

It looks like the looting of the middle class is accelerating.  And, as usual, it will hit those least able to respond flexibly to the losses that looting will cause.  I could hope that the congress might be sensible and bail out the pension funds just as they did the banks but I have long ago lost that hope.  Pension plans are worth just about as much as most insurance--which is about zero.

Another good post on Tomdispatch this morning penned by Tom Englehardt.  I have long argued that there are precious few differences between the two parties.  The Democrats are slightly more liberal on social issues while the Republicans are more right-wing, religious conservative.  Both seem to give only lip service to economic issues that will help the lower 90% of the economic food chain.  As Englehardt notes they are both part of a "war party" and vote the interests of the military/industrial complex, to use Eisenhower's phrase.

Gene Logsdon has another good take on herbicide resistant weeds and the chemical industry that aims to get rid of them.  You would think that they would take notice of the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which, thanks to our misuse of the drugs, are now becoming resistant to multiple families of antibiotics.  But the powers that be in industrial agriculture don't question their tactics any more than the "war party" in Washington.

I have been reading stories about the controversy, in Europe especially, over Muslim women wearing their traditional veils.  It doesn't seem to matter what level of veiling the women practice but someone objects.  France has passed strict anti-veiling laws and other countries seem interested in following suit.  Today I came across this story and wondered if these women would face the same, often violent, reaction.  Especially if they decided to extend the tradition beyond church.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

We woke to a dusting of snow this morning.  Last I saw the weather people hadn't predicted any great amount of it.  We seem to be between torrential rain on the west coast and heavy rain/freezing rain on the east.  Otherwise nothing much going on outside.  I got three more seed catalogs in the mail.  They are giving me some ideas for the next season.

The first story on the morning news reiterated one on last night's news: with the falling gas prices sales of SUVs are rising.  The best sellers appear to be the biggest ones and the most gas-thirsty.  I guess people think the low prices are going to last forever.  Some may be feeling richer because the money they would spend on gas can be used for something else, but how temporary will that situation b?  Since most people buy their cars on time, when conditions change they may find themselves saddled with the car payment and fewer resources to keep them up.  Although I will say we recently drove an SUV that we would consider buying if we needed the hauling capacity.  We took our new-to-us car in to have airbags serviced.  They weren't part of the recall but the service light was on and the car was still under the 90 warranty.  The dealer loaned us a new Escalade while the work was done and we were impressed.  It drove beautifully.  We loved the rear-view camera.  I quipped that if we were planning a great deal of traveling and needed a home-away-from-home we could live comfortably in while traveling, this would be it.  But we aren't traveling, we don't need its hauling or passenger capacity, and it is way beyond our financial capabilities.  Just had another thought--I wonder how significant the so-called is?  If an incident increases from 1 to 2 that is a 100% uptick.  But how significant is the increase?  One more SUV sale in a market of 1000 vehicle sales isn't all that big a deal.

I saw this on-line yesterday and the evening news had a brief mention that said the outage was caused by two aging cables that failed.  The power company managed to fix the problem in a few hours.  One report noted this was the second recent power outage and that such failures have been increasing in frequency and duration over the last several years.  Given the state of U.S. infrastructure (pretty much awful) and the fact that most governments are under severe financial stress (Detroit is in bankruptcy) I wonder how they are going to fund basic repairs without even considering the improvements pundits say we need.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Good morning on this last day of November.  Yesterday was as nice as the weather people predicted.  I got rose trimmed a bit but not wrapped.  The ground in the containers is as frozen as I thought it.  But it was warm enough that the ice in the bird bath melted. I was able to get it emptied partially dried.  The Baker Creek seed catalog came yesterday so I am busy going through it to see what I want to order.  I always look forward to the new catalogs.


As you can see I didn't have much to say yesterday and we are now in December.  Several of the bloggers I read asked where the time has gone a question I am asking more frequently as years pass in the blink of an eye.

Good points on our yearly "feeding" frenzy.  About a decade ago I wished my boss a happy birthday with the hope that he would "have enough.  Neither more nor less but enough."  He looks at me like I had insulted him.  Bill McKibben, I think, noted that through out most of human existence "more" and "better" were like twin birds perched so closely on a branch that a rock thrown at one would likely hit the other as well.  Now the two are so far apart that more doesn't always mean better and may actually mean worse.

To continue on a related theme: evidently sales weren't all retailers hoped they would be.  I wonder if people are like me and have no interest in this national contact sport or if people have less money than the pundits hoped.  Or both.