Saturday, January 31, 2015

Well, here we are at the last day of the first month of the new year.  The time goes so quickly.  We are expecting a new winter storm here which the weather people say will be the biggest snow maker of the year so far.  Since we have had so little snow so far as little as a bit over 3 inches will be enough to qualify.  The aftermath of the storm that hit the east coast has amused me throughout this last week.  I don't mean the physical effects which spanned the range from "So What?" to "Oh, MY GOD!!!"  I mean the grousing about the political and economic effects of the actions civil authorities took to deal with the potential effects and the criticisms of the weather forecasters because some areas got something less than the history making blizzard predicted.  Our local weather reporters always stress the uncertainties in their predictions.  We watch the reports with a those uncertainties in mind.  Several times we have planned for the worst and been pleasantly surprised.  Rarely have we been unpleasantly surprised.

Mitt Romney, it seems, has decided to stay out of the 2016 presidential race to (magnanimously) "allow" the rising generation of Republicans to shine.  Yeah, that is a bit of sarcasm.  I think Jeb Bush was eating his lunch and grabbing his donors.   The entire field of Republican hopefuls have impressed me mightily--in the most negative way.  I don't think I will be voting for president next time around.  Voting--yes; for president--no.

Politics in Europe should get very interesting this year.  Syria's victory in Greece on an anti-austerity, debt-reduction platform has emboldened other such parties in other debt-ridden, austerity-plagued countries.  Starting with Spain.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still dark outside but we could see a fresh layer of snow which, according to the weather people, fell on top of a layer of freezing rain.  Thankfully we aren't getting what the east coast is getting.  We did our grocery shopping yesterday during a lull between systems that gave us some welcome sunshine.  If the weather had been nasty we could easily have gone a week or more before we started running out of things and, with a bit of adjustment, we could have gone two weeks.  We are of an age when we refuse to go out in foul weather unless we have a real emergency and, being retired, we have no reason to go out.

Last Saturday we went out to the annual garden show here.  We missed last year's because of the extreme cold.  We didn't spend a lot of time there.  Most of what was on display were pretty but don't have the space for it.  If we could magically expand any two areas of our house, we would have a larger kitchen and a much large garden area.  Since we can't and we have a good location and great landlords, we live with what we have and make the most of it.

Talking about nasty weather, Yves Smith has an interesting take.  I was't surprised by the stories about masses of people jamming the stores out east to get stocked up for the storm.  I was surprised by the official response which, as Yves points out, makes being an idiot "illegal."  I remember fuming at idiotic customers who were out in not merely nasty but dangerous weather to get a particular pattern of party plates because that is what their precious darling wanted.  I remember being out in the same weather because the pay I would have lost would have been seriously painful and I wasn't willing to risk a job, however little it paid, by refusing to go out.  I am not a great fan of the "nanny" state.  You can't protect people from all of the adverse consequences of their choices, idiotic or otherwise.  But "protecting" people has become the go-to excuse for so many public actions whether people want that protection or not just as "job creation" has become the go-to excuse for anything business/industry wants to do whether the people most effected want it or not.  Sounds good until you look at the details.

Excellent little rant by John Beckett at Patheos.  Yes, life is complicated.  I am constantly amazed by our politicians, financial leaders and others who keep trying to control complex systems.  Reminds me of the interchanges in Jurassic Park where John Hammond tries to assure various people that everything will be fine "when we have control."  But he and his staff never gets control and everything they do simply make things worse.

I already planned to plant beans with sunflowers hoping that the beans would climb the sunflowers making trellises unnecessary.  I think I might have to plant one of the sunflowers with one of my cucumbers.

Friday, January 23, 2015

It is still quite dark outside (only about 6:30am).  I know the days should be lengthening but it doesn't yet feel like it.  I know, I know--it is only a month since winter solstice.  We got totally disgusted with the morning news so I turned it off an hour early.  Too much fluff and too little news.  And much of the real news was a repeat of last night's stories which we really didn't need to hear again.  Let's see what I find on the 'net.

We have "reached the end of materialism," have we?  Perhaps some of us have but I don't see "experientailism" as any great advance.  Just easier to lug around.  It is just another form of consumerism.  Instead of consuming things we are being told to consume experiences.  Getting off the consumerist train altogether would be a better idea.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It looks right now like all of the precipitation yesterday stayed away from us.  The temperature remains around 30F this early morning.  I haven't caught the weather on the news yet so I don't know what the forecast is for today.  I got two more seed orders in the mail from Totally Tomatoes and Burpee.  The only outstanding orders are for live plants and they won't come until sometime in April.

Huffington Post has a post which covers the oil spill in the Montana portion of the Yellowstone River.  Like so much else of our infrastructure, the pipelines are aging and no one wants to either maintain them as they should be or replace them.  Too costly.  Hurts profits.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It was foggy this morning and is overcast now.  Some areas north and west of us got freezing rain and a bit of snow.  Just enough to make driving a bit of a challenge for those who had to drive.  We, thankfully didn't have to.

So officials in Montana have finally issued a "do not drink the water" order for the residents of Glendive.  Four days after an oil leak into the Yellowstone River.  Another account here gives a bit more information.  But I do love how officials always minimize such events.  Nice also that they and their families don't have to use the water.

Evidently shape-shifters aren't confined to mythology or horror fiction.  Freedom Industries, which was responsible for the chemical spill that resulted in several hundred thousand people in West Virginia losing their water for an extended time, has changed its identity but not its practice.  Why can't we execute these criminal corporate persons?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another mild day, they say.  Temperatures in the mid 20s going into the high 30s or low 40s.

Reading: same as yesterday.  Didn't do much reading yesterday but I have a new book I might skim--The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr.

Internet reading:  I like the first segment on this article.  I have always thought that most of the apps out there for all our various devices are a waste.  I am especially skeptical of the "health" apps and ignore the ads I constantly see for them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Woke to temperatures still above freezing and large patches of grass cleared of snow.  I received the Baker Creek seed order yesterday.  Now all I have to do is wait for another month and a bit before I start the seeds.  That is always the hardest part.

Reading:  Green Wizardry by John Michael Greer; continuing with Being Mortal and the Human Age.  I usually have several books in my reading queue at the same time and go between them.  And several more in the "to be started" line up.

Needlework: finished a small (8in doily) and started another larger one.  Plan to continue that and, perhaps, put some more stitches in a cross-stitch dresser scarf that has been an on going project for some time.

If it were just Romney playing chameleon I wouldn't be so disgusted with politics.  Or is he simply pretending to be a chameleon.  After all a chameleon actually does change colors but Romney may simply be using rhetoric to mask the same old Mitt and the same old "free market, conservative" philosophy.

I usually ignore most economic data except to give them a passing giggle--especially "inflation" data. This is why and I love the title.  I read somewhere not too many moons ago that the economists' definition of inflation is not the definition most ordinary people use.  I forget what the distinction is now but it allows the economist to claim that there is no or low inflation in the face of rising prices.  For me, as a very ordinary person, the increase in prices is far more important than whether conditions meet an esoteric and technical definition of inflation.  And here is another verse of the same song.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Heatwave!!!  Our early (5am) temp is 35F and the weather people say it should rise to the low 40s.

I found this and almost threw up.  Nine scheduled debates with another three possible beginning in August of this year.  I don't see anything much in the field of likely contenders:  another Bush, Romney trying out his chameleon powers, Christie while he ducks and weaves around potential scandals,  Huckabee taking time off from his pontificating on Fox and all the lesser stars in the Repthuglican pantheon.  Crap-tastic.

I guess all the "reformers" who have moved our education "system" toward a bifurcated system have gotten what they wanted.  Those who can afford it send their kids to private or charter schools while those who can't continue to use worsening public schools whose budgets are continuously cut.  The majority of students in the public system now are poor.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oh, my--halfway through the first month of the new year.  Interesting stat on the weather yesterday morning:  we have had twice the amount of snow in this half month as is normal and half as much as we had last year in the same time.  We expect highs above freezing today and over the weekend so a good bit may melt.

Finished The Martian yesterday.  That was the second time around for that book and it is well worth a second visit.  Picked up The Human Age by Diane Ackerman which I had barely started some time ago.  Continuing with Being Mortal.

Ah, someone has finally called BS on the term "ride sharing."  I would go further and include all of the so-badly-misnamed "sharing economy."  None of it is sharing; it is a pay-for-service economy just like the rest of our economy.  The only differences between Uber and a taxi service is who owns the car, what regulations apply to them, what taxes and fees they pay and other such details.  As far as the customer is concerned there is no difference: each gives you a ride and you pay for it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A bit warmer this morning with the promise of sun and even warmer temps over the weekend.  Everything is pretty typical for this time of year--up and down between cold and colder.  Working through my e-mail and a brief scan showed that two of my seed orders have been filled and shipped--at least in part.  One of them included a live plant so that may be delayed until it is more a appropriate time for planting in the garden.

Reading:  Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and The Martian by Andy Weir.

On the internet:

This interesting piece from Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism on the disappointment on Wall Street over the Christmas sales season.  We listened to the feverishly optimistic news reports that touted robust sales with a strong dose of skepticism.  The reports simply didn't square with our experience or what our family was saying.  I have asked often over the last fifteen years what would happen in a consumer economy when the consumer couldn't (or wouldn't) consume in the heroic fashion expected of him.  The economy stalls is wha happens.

An Alternet blog asks "Is the U.S. Crazy?"  A question I have asked myself frequently over the last couple of decades.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Back to the deep freeze.  Our current temperature is either -5F or -2 depending on which site you believe.  Doesn't much matter because cold is cold.  We may be in deep, cold winter but my thoughts are definitely turning to spring.  I got my seed/plant orders in yesterday.  My new plants include a new Top Hat blueberry which I will try as a potted plant that I can bring inside over winter, three wintergreen and three lemon verbena.  I haven't had much luck with either the blueberries or the lemon verbenas over the last few years but keep hoping I will find the right way to grow them.  My rosemary is doing very nicely in its third year so perhaps a new attempt at the others will do well also.

What I am reading:  Found this by way of Naked Capitalism.  So we aren't rats running around the maze of life; we are hamsters on the wheel.

This story makes me very glad I am retired.  We have the food police telling us what to eat and a growing group of "health Nazis" telling us what to do to "improve" our health.  I resent both groups and give them both a "middle finger salute" before telling them exactly where they can go.  I have managed to survive my nearly 66 years without a great deal of medical attention for most of it and I intend to continue the same way as long as possible.  And allowing companies to penalize employees for not meeting weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol or other benchmarks is ridiculous when the medical establishment constantly reformulate their notions of what is healthy.

I agree about "Bush, Clinton and the Fatigue Factor."  Ever since the song and dance began to coalesce around the candidacy of Jeb Bush for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, I have been asking "Isn't there anyone else??"  I am heartily tired of all the Bushes and the Clintons.  Almost as sick of them as of the Palin clan.

I love the cartoon here this morning.  It is so true and has been for the last six years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We're back to low single digits this morning after yesterday's balmy 30F (+/-).  High enough to turn a bit of the snow to slush.  Lake effect patterns added a bit of new snow but not much.

So what am I reading today?  Just finished Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything.  It took me a while because I have read so much in this area that I know before hand where the author is going.  My attention wavers and wanders so I put it away for a while to continue at another time.  Every now and then I find a new piece of data or a new fact but the arguments are the same.

Found this piece on Stratfor that goes into what they call the "war between two worlds."  A lot of pure crap has been written about the threat of militant Islam but Stratfor, as usual, takes a very long view and goes much more into depth.

I have read about various intensive "farming" practices for some time.  I put the word in quotes because I have also read some writers who think that we ned to rethink the definition of the word to account for some very unconventional methods.  This article talks about one that grew out of the Fukushima earthquake a few years ago.

Bad news for Monsanto.  May they have more to come.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bitterly cold again.  Minus one air temp and feeling colder with the wind.  We are still hunkering down and doing as little outside as possible.  We did start the car to make sure it was functioning.  It started up nicely though with a bit of groaning.


Oh my, we have a mini-heatwave.  Temperature this morning is 25F.  After a week of low single digits and negative numbers it feels good.  Looks like we may get sunshine also.  However, they are predicting snow for this evening.  (Update:  hopes for sunshine cheated.  The clouds moved in.)

Interesting article in the Independent found by way of Naked Capitalism.  The past is never really past and the sins of the fathers do affect future generations--though, as the author notes, the past is never justification for atrocity in the present.

An interesting notion--boost your creativity by being bored.  I would rather call it "unplug and reconnect with the real world."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Not as cold today as yesterday at this time but still bitterly cold.  There are times at both extremes when the temperature on the thermometer doesn't really mater.  Can anyone really feel the difference between +5 and -5?  All I feel is COLD.  The official temp is +9 with negative windchill.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism provides a potential fall-out from the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris I hadn't thought about: a possible trigger for a French exit from the European Union.  The murders play directly into the National Front's anti-immigrant/law and order platform.  The party leader, Marine le Pen is calling for a referendum to reestablish the death penalty which would run directly contrary to the EU which forbids it.

I do love much of the Archdruidess's humor.  This one says a lot.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oh how cold it is.  Right now, just before 5am, our temperature is -9F with a wind chill feel of -32.  As we did yesterday we are staying in.  I am glad I got the bird feeder cleaned out and refilled.  I had to let it thaw out.  It had a layer of ice on the top and the little food still on it was frozen solid.

This post from the Contrary Farmer almost makes me want a porch.

When I was a teen the local mall was a treat.  We had one of the early mega-malls and often spent Saturday afternoons shopping.  The malls were the place to go to find whatever you wanted and to socialize.  However, the heyday of the mall might be over.  I have seen several stories over the last few years like this one.  As with so much else about our economy, those malls catering to high end shoppers are doing very well just as their customers have done quite well inspire of recession and excruciatingly slow recovery.  Those malls depending on middle and lower income customers are on the ropes.  It is sad that so much space and materials are going to waste.  However, I don't really miss the malls.  I remember working in one for one Christmas and spending two hours trying to get through the traffic jam going into the mall and then trying to find a parking place.  I have avoided shopping even in open air malls during the week before Christmas since.  Our shopping patterns have also changed.  We spend little time browsing or window shopping now and we buy little on impulse.  The malls were great for that but aren't so great when you know what you need and know that it isn't available in the mall.

Somebody has finally called BS on the old "work ethic" nonsense.  Nimue Brown does a good job of showing the class bias behind it.  Most of what passes for work today leaves you exhausted, irritated, and without any sense of accomplishment.  It doesn't even provide a living wage.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

We are snug watching a nasty wind driven snow outside.  All the little birds are trying to huddle on the lee-ward side of the feeder and fighting each other for the snuggest place.  We saw one little guy on the cement by the gate post having dug himself a little snow cave while pecking for seed.  I might move the feeder to a more protected place though I don't have many options on that.  We plan to stay in until this cold passes which won't be for several days.  The last morning weather report I saw said the temperature was about +1F but the slide is on and we will be in negative numbers if not there already.

Tom Englehardt always provides a good read and has done so again today.  I would comment but he has already expressed everything that needs to be said far more eloquently.  I really do wish our political leaders could begin to think outside the Cold War/Cowboy box we spent most of the 20th century in but, given who is in Washington, I don't expect any such development.

Ah, yes, there are some things that should not be privatized.  This is the second system of private schools that has collapsed that I have heard of.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Good day to anyone out there on this snowy morning.  December made the record books as the least snowy on record.  We debated when we should do our weekly shopping and decided that today would be best.  We managed to get out before the latest pulse of snow and the temp is still just at freezing.  Most of this coming week is supposed to be positively frigid with actual temperatures in the (often low) single digits.  We figured we could hibernate through the brutal cold.

Found this interesting article.  So Russians will know what is in their foods but Americans, held hostage by the deep pockets of big-ag, won't.  It is hardly the "land of the free" when we don't have the info to make a truly free choice.


My goodness,  how cold it is.  The snow squalls yesterday left us with, perhaps, an inch and a half.  We are supposed to get more later today and throughout the night.  But the temps!!!  Right now (at 5 am) it is about 0F here with some negative readings around the region.  The rest of the week doesn't look any better.

My planning for the gardens this year is proceeding.  I took inventory of the seeds I have on hand and discarded several packets that are more than 3 years old.  I have a tendency to hang on to things for much too long and seeds that old generally don't germinate well.  Cleaned out the seed/plant catalogs and tossed last year's collection.   Now I need to go through this year's and start my list of what might be interesting to plant.  After I get that list I will narrow things down to what I can actually put into the space I have.  Considering the strange weather patterns of the last few years I wonder what this year will bring.

Fascinating article in Salon.  I have never had any great regard for 'Creationism' or 'Intelligent Design.'  Glad to see anything that puts a monkey wrench in their spokes.

Aren't our corporate person's such good citizens?  They get the profits and we are saddled with the guilt and costs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hello, everyone.  The holiday season is finally winding down.  All that is left of it are the continuing Christmas themed ads on TV and the usual year end retrospectives of what happened last year.  We aren't getting as much of either as we used to because we turn off the TV for most of the day.  We check in for a couple of hours in the morning and evening for the (s)news otherwise we keep Pandora or Netflix on.  Recaps of last year don't interest me much because I don't see much worth remembering and I don't expect this year to be significantly different--let's not even talk about better.  Evidently that conclusion--that things will continue on their current trajectory--is shared by two of my favorite bloggers:  John Michael Greer and David Kaiser.

I love the title of this article:  "Must-Have Gadgets You Don't Need".  That neatly describes my assessment of most technology out there.  And, since I don't need it, I don't want it.

And another article the title of which I love:  "Are some diets 'mass murder'?"  We have become increasingly skeptical and critical of dietary advice.  A couple of years ago Mom's GP suggested a diet to help lower her cholesterol which provided us several good laughs.  We have totally ignored it.  What we have done is shift to whole milk, butter and almost totally cut out commercially prepared foods.  We also read the labels carefully choosing items with the fewest additives.  We also prepare most of our food from scratch.  I don't bother with any advice that talks about "nutrients" like fats, saturated fats, carbohydrates.  Food and nutrients are not necessarily the same thing.  And trying to link "nutrients" to diseases takes a leap of faith I no longer am willing to make.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome to 2015.  No, I didn't ring in the new year at midnight.  I can't remember when I have ever done that.  Perhaps when I was much, much younger--once or twice.  We don't even mark the event with any special ritual.  Haven't observed the popular habit of making "resolutions" either.  I have always disappointed myself with how dismal my progress on those resolutions were.  Many of the most frequently listed resolutions simply aren't as important to me any more.  Lose weight?  Isn't worth the trouble.  Exercise?  I hate going out to exercise simply to exercise.   And the touted health benefits aren't worth the effort.

Here is one tradition that seems to be going away--a victim of our modern social ills.  Citing the threats of abduction and identity theft, many hospitals won't be identifying the first baby of the year born in their facility.

I can remember a time some forty years ago when researchers enthusiastically predicted that we would soon find a cure for cancer.  Year after year passed and no such cure was found.  Slowly the scientists found that there is no singular cure for a singular disease.  There are many cancers which don't respond with mathematical predictability to any of the so-called cures.  This article goes a long way to explaining why some people get cancer--pure dumb luck.