Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day 

It will be busy with errands. The foot-plus of snow we got last week is almost a memory. The high temps of the last two days have reduced it considerably. We may get some rain/snow mix over night tonight but nothing like the last dump.

Here in Northern Indiana and in Chicago not too far away, spring is usually pothole season. We had a set of three by our parking spots that made getting in or out a tricky proposition. The city finally got around to throwing some asphalt into them last fall but I expect they will start growing again soon. Every year the pothole situation makes the local news in Chicago as the street crews struggle to make repairs faster than citizens have to take their cars in for repairs from running over the, often, unavoidable holes. Evidently, the problem is world wide as this article shows and people are finding some humorous, at least to the non-politicians among us, to draw attention to the failings governments to keep up.

Michael Hirsh at Politico has an interesting analysis on "Why Trump and Sanders Were Inevitable?" His description of our current political environment reminds me of what I read of the Populist era of the late 19th century. I also had a bit of a tickle in the back of my mind recalling, vaguely because it has been a long time since I read the book, Todd Gitlin's Twilight of Common Dreams. That one was about the unrest of the 1060s.

I had a fascinating little exploration on the internet today which came about because of a strange experience while shopping.. We did our normal grocery shopping and looked a small canned ham for beans tomorrow. We have a full half spiral-cut ham in the freezer but aren't going to cook it till Easter and we used the ham slices and chunks we bought late last fall. But the only canned ham in the grocery store was one that had to be refrigerated before and after opening. I remember shelves of canned hams in the sections with spam, corned beef hash and other such products but not a thing today. We found a canned pork shank product in the international section of the store and picked up one to try out. We did find a small canned ham at the local dollar store and got one of those as well. Why are the stores not carrying this item which once was ubiquitous? How did the internet enter in here? Well, I went on line at Walmart, Kmart, Target and other sites but they either don't carry anything in that line or it isn't available within 50 miles. Times have changed and we didn't realize it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Well, here we are at the last weekend of the second month of this year. It is already one-sixth gone.


Bread baking day. Yesterday was "clear the car and patio" day. I saw a lot of cleared lawn on the south side of our building as I got up this morning. The temps reached the mid-40s and should go to near 60 today. That will take care of a lot more snow.

The seedlings are doing well. I transplanted the first tomatoes and peppers into larger pots and moved the herbs that have sprouted over to the larger grow-light. They are all doing well.

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

Not much I'm afraid. See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Things should be pretty much back to normal today. The city crews and our landlord's crews got to our area mid afternoon yesterday. I was about to say "finally" but that sounds like I was impatient or put out by the delay but I wasn't and am not. We got a lot of snow. We still have snow on our patio but we aren't going anywhere till next week so we will let the warm temps (50s!!) do some of that job for us. One of the reporters last night called what we got "heart attack snow" because it is so wet and heavy. Mom saw two people trying to clear snow with shovels they had broken in the effort.

Helen at Margaret and Helen has a good post today. Her assessment of the debate (and the campaign generally, to my mind) as an asshole between a liar and a fool with two after-thoughts in the wings. The only thing I am not sold on is the notion that we should vote for who ever the Democratic nominee is. Yesterday Greer noted (in a piece I linked to) that the whole tenor of political debates for decades has been "My side will be less horrible to you than their side" and voting became simply choosing the lesser of the two (we)evils (for those of you who have seen and love Master and Commander). For my part I am getting sick and goddam tired of voting for whoever I think will hurt me less.

I have said often here that government should not be run like a business. The aims are not (or should not be) the same and the measures of success are (or should be) different. Case in point this article from The Morning Sun in Michigan.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Everything here is pretty much shut down here. The weather people say we had about 12-15 inches of snow which is still falling in some areas. We are in hibernation mode and won't even try to move that snow off the car and patio today. It is finally light enough to see outside and it is incredible. The snow was heavy and wet. The fence is plastered with snow and all we can see of cars is mounds of snow. The wind is still gusting but the snow is so wet and heavy it isn't blowing around. The news reports power outages including one that has stopped the train traffic between points here in Northern Indiana and Chicago. Our power flickered a couple of times yesterday but didn't have any long outages. I haven't heard any plows yet this morning so I guess the plows are working on the major roads. Local government and schools are totally shut down.

On a more positive note--the Moldavian balm I started over the last weekend has sprouted. Hope the other herbs do as well. I found that the little popsicle stick tags I set in the pots work well except that the pencil markings faded as the sticks absorbed water. I was able to decipher the markings and re-wrote the names with a sharpie. Sometime over the next few days I will start the tomatoes and peppers for the gardens and the sunflowers. I will use the sunflowers as "stakes" for the beans and snow peas as I did last year.

William S. Lind has an interesting post on The American Conservative. His main thesis holds ,in American politics, the divide isn't Republican vs. Democrat, or Conservative vs. Liberal but establishment vs. anti-establishment and, in that kind of environment, serial failure (which has marked our military adventures and our social policy) doesn't matter. Take a look. He has a good argument, although I think he could have found a better exemplar of a politician's failure to adhere to the establishment line than Gary Hart whose fall from grace was as much a personal failing as crossing vested interested.

Matt Taibbi wrote a blackly amusing piece in Rolling Stone.  He is right. Trump isn't a run-of-mill con man; he is much above average and he is eating the establish Republicans' lunches.

On the theme or serial failure consider Tom Englehardt's post today: "War, what's it good for? Absolutely nothing". Actually it has accomplished quite a bit but none of the publicly stated goals. Instead it has made sure that "red" Repthuglican states economies stayed marginally afloat, made sure that Repthuglican defense contractors stayed solvent, and made sure our government could plead poverty when it came to spending on infrastructure and social problems. I wonder how long before it notches another accomplishment: the bankruptcy of the U.S?. We are almost there.

I think there must be something in the air for the last little while. Three authors today have similar takes on the current political situation: that what we are witnessing isn't so much a struggle between the Republicans and Democrats (or conservatives and liberals) but between the Demopublican (to steal a term from James Kunstler--I think) establishment and the anti-establishment. The third is Archdruid John Michael Greer who is always right on the money and so very wide ranging in his arguments. He isn't making any prediction that the "Rise and Fall of Hillary Clinton" will keep her out of the White House, though a head to head contest with Trump might, but that the establishment she represents is on the decline even if she wins the election.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


No snow yet but it is very early (just after 5am). Mom had weather alerts for winter storm and lakeshore flood warnings. We are too far inland to be affected by the possible floods but the snow--we will simply hibernate. Newest weather report (6:40 am) puts us under a blizzard watch not simply a winter storm warning. New update (8:30 am)--snow started about an hour ago with the dry, pellet kind and has transitioned to flakes. It is sticking on the rooftops and cars but not as much on the grassy or paved areas--yet. Another update (10:45 am)--the pace of the snow has picked up and the wind has too. It is coming fast enough to accumulate on grass and sidewalks. Update the fourth (2 pm)--the blizzard has arrived. I don't know if it meets the technical definition of "blizzard" but the snow is piling up, falling heavily and is wind driven. To my mind, that is a blizzard.

A couple of days ago I became so disgusted with the table cloth I pulled it all out and started over with a new plan to adjust the pattern. It is supposed to lie flat and the instruction say you can make it any size by simply repeating the last two rows. Not even. It ruffles up so some how I have to adjust to take out the fullness that develops. We'll see how my idea works out.

The bread went well yesterday with a couple of glitches, neither of which are fatal. First I made the full recipe since I hadn't done this bread before. I suspected it would make a very large dough ball and I was right. I split it and froze half for later. I can thaw it, let it rise and bake it just like frozen loaves in the grocery store (if they still carry those). Then I had to gently work the loaf out of the dish because I didn't get one small section greased well enough. I managed to do it and made a mental note to line the dish with greased foil next time so I can simply lift and peel to get the loaf out. It tastes really good so I will be using that recipe again.

So Trump won Nevada caucuses. I have a new definition of schadenfreude: the joy of watching Trump throw the Repthuglican establishment into panic. Unfortunately, that is coupled with the fear he might actually win the Presidency.

I just saw an interesting headline on Naked Capitalism. I won't link because you can find it easily enough. It referred to San Francisco as "Baghdad by the Bay" because of the rise in "cop on black" violence. Not long ago we had a firestorm in Chicago because Spike Lee released his film Chiraq and the powers-that-be were upset at the implication that the Chicago street were as dangerous as Iraqi battlegrounds. I wonder if some of the politicians and other movers-and-shakers out there are equally insulted. Some claimed Lee's  film glorified gang violence because they were too culturally illiterate to identify the film's lineage--the Lysistrata. The Aristophanes comedy was, probably, the first anti-war protest more than 2000 years ago. He did with the Lysistrata exactly what Leonard Bernstein did with Romeo and Juliet--brought it into the modern world to tell a story about our modern conditions. What's old is new again.

I do love this story. Couldn't get victory but did get a measure of revenge.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Sometime today a new round of snow should move in. They just updated the weather putting the onset of snow off to tomorrow.The weather people say we may get between 4 an 6 inches before it ends late tomorrow Thursday. Well, we aren't planning on going out over the next few days so we will hibernate.

I planted hyssop, lavender, Moldavian balm, lemon balm, bee balm-lemon, lemon basil, and summer savory yesterday. Should start the rest of my tomatoes, sunflowers, and peppers by the end of the week.

Bread baking day. I will try out a recipe for a wheat/rye sourdough. The starter is on the counter bubbling nicely. I divided my starter and fed both parts putting one back in the fridge and leaving the other out overnight.

Yves Smith has carried this post on Naked Capitalism. In case you think the story is applicable over there and not over here see this post from the White House site.

Robert Reich has a post at Alternet that echoes the sentiments from the Naked Capitalism piece about the cluelessness of the political establishment, bureaucrats and others of that ilk. They are clueless because they inhabit a bubble which renders the lesser beings invisible along with their problems.

I had heard that Syngenta had agreed to a buy out offer from a Chinese company but I hadn't heard that Monsanto had been in the bidding for Syngenta as well. I am glad that Monsanto lost the bid. I am not fond of any of the big agribusiness companies--too much reliance on chemicals and GMO seeds. I don't know if the GMOs are dangerous but I don't trust them and so avoid them as much as possible.

Monday, February 22, 2016


I tidied up the planting area upstairs yesterday, filled some starter pots and moved the already sprouted pots to the larger grow light. We picked up some cheap cookie trays which fit nicely behind the big light stand and moved the lemon verbenas, blueberry, and eucalyptus to them. They will still get plenty of light. The newly filled pots have been in the tray on the heating pad since I filled them so they will be warm and ready for seeding. I will start that later today.

Why don't these assholes just bring back the "bastard" designation that was removed from birth certificates during the last century?.

Oh, how nice that Ted Cruz remembered that is is a Senator and introduced an actual bill. Too bad it is a worthless piece of crap to show-off his pretended toughness on China.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


We had extremely high winds yesterday. Some spectacular damage in Chicago where a couple of walls at construction sites actually fell over and a window or two went flying from a couple of high rises downtown. More locally we may have had some damage of our own. We had a two-hour black out that thankfully came just as I was ready to take my bread out of the oven. That is the problem of nearly all electric living. No lights, no heat (which thankfully we didn't need), no TV, no internet and no cooking. We have a small propane if such a situation lasts more than a couple of hours but we decided to try a little Mexican restaurant in the town just north of us my brother recommended. The power came back on soon after we got back home and we did enjoy the new restaurant. We will be doing our shopping today so I don't know how much I will write or read.


As you can see I didn't get much reading or writing done yesterday. We had a number of stops to make. Just one of those times when extras piled up and extended our shopping. I needed to replace my spare grow light tube. One of the other tubes burned out. Mom's computer mouse fizzled out so she needed to replace it. I needed new plant stakes. We had to replace out stapler. All that on top of our regular grocery shopping which included stops at Panera, the supermarket, and the meat market. It was an absolutely gorgeous day so we enjoyed being out.

So, Jeb! is out of the race in spite of the efforts of Momma Bush and Brother George to boost his lackluster campaign. At times, it was hard to remember he was even in it. A commenter on one of the sites I visit wrote that the American Electorate is tired of the Bush-Clinton tag team which explains Jeb!'s poor showing and Sanders' stronger than expected showing.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Found this almost first thing this morning. Beautiful way to start the day. I don't watch video clips, generally, but this one is precious.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink (if you are poor, black and living in Flint)--unless you pay an premium to be poisoned. Of course, we have to remember that Nestle has powerful friends and its CEO thinks clean drinking water is a commodity not a right. If you can't pay, die.

Another feel good story--visit Hachi the cat for good luck.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


We should have abnormally high temperatures today and tomorrow--into the high 40s and low 50s in February in Northern Indiana. Sheesh!!! Most of the last snow and ice that came through has melted leaving just what is in shadow (like on the patio) or piled (like where the plow or the shovelers piled it getting it off the sidewalks and street).

We noticed some time ago that the Parmesan cheese we bought had cellulose (shredded wood fiber) to prevent clumping. We would much rather not have the cellulose at all but we don't use much parmesan so choosing brands with the lowest possible amounts is the best option for us. The only option is to buy blocks of parmesan and great it ourselves. That may be coming. We have gone back in time here in other things--baking bread, cooking our own tomato sauce, freezing our own veggies. As I read the article that led me to the one linked above, I had a thought or two. Counterfeiting and adulteration of foods has been going on ever since man began commercially producing and selling foods. And I don't mean since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Medieval governments had draconian punishments for short-weighting baked goods and watering beer and ale. Hammurabi's law code was even more severe allowing the death penalty for watering beer. We have dealt with the problem using legal penalties. But we should also insist that companies truthfully label their products so customers can make informed choices. That is something companies and industries have resisted through their lobbyists from the beginning. As customers we need to be more aware of what is in our foods and read the labels for whatever information we can glean from them. I don't mind people buying foods with GMO ingredients but I would rather not and so want labels indicating what does and does not contain GMO. I don't mind people buying foods with high fructose corn syrup but I would rather not and so want labels that indicate its presence. And I don't want any chicanery such as getting the regulators to relabel it as "corn syrup" or "corn sugar." None of that means that some unscrupulous company, or, lets be honest, corporate executives won't find ways to get around any safeguards or decide that the penalties are "just the cost of doing business." Such people are like the poor which Jesus said "are with you always."

Gene Logsdon has a cute blog about "part time farmers."

Another example of how totally ridiculous Repthuglican politics has become. The Constitution says that the President nominates people to fill Federal appointments, including Supreme Court justices, and doesn't qualify that with "unless s/he is a Democrat in the last year of his term." It also says that the Congress is to give "advice and consent" and doesn't contain an exception for "unless we Republicans control the Senate and are having a snit about a Democrat President exercising his Constitutional authority in the last year of his term."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Didn't do much yesterday. Put another few stitches in the table cloth, checked out the sourdough starter which is doing well and should be ready to use in another few days, decided to postpone bread baking since we are going to be having biscuits today and tomorrow. I didn't see anything I really wanted to comment on. Let's see what happens today.

An interesting article on the Zika virus, microcephaly, mosquito control and pyriproxyfen. At first I took it to be another manifestation of the "dueling sciences" problem. You know the situation: a phenomenon occurs that is traced (tenuously) to A (a mosquito borne virus in this case) followed by assertions that A isn't responsible but B (a larvicide linked, perhaps wrongly, to that great corporate villain, Monsanto). The argument for B is just as tenuous as for A. Supporting the case for A is the presence of the virus (hitherto not known to cause anything more than flu-like symptoms) in the blood, tissues, and amniotic fluid of a few affected mothers and babies. I stress "few" because the proportions of cases showing evidence of the virus versus those affected but not showing evidence of the virus is less than 10% so far. The evidence for B consists of a map overlay showing a large number of cases appeared in areas where the larvicide was applied. The first rule of statistics is "Correlation does not mean causation." And the author makes a very good point about the rush to stop using pyriproxyfen: if the mosquito population increases because no one uses the larvicide, will the number of cases of other definitely dangerous mosquito borne illnesses increase? What are those risks? As he points out risks are a part of life.

I have read a lot more stories on both sides of the statin issue. On one side are those who claim prescribing statins to more patients whose cholesterol is slightly higher that "normal" and who may or may not develop any condition related to high cholesterol will have long term benefits and on the other side are those who note that the side effects may be more prevalent and more serious than the conditions the drugs are supposed alleviate. This story is definitely on the second side of the issue. I love the quote from the one doctor: taking statins may change the cause of death listed on the death certificate but it won't change the date. I have a feeling that most of our medical treatments do the same which puts a spoke in our search for eternal youth.

When I saw this story my first thought was of the old custom of placing coins on a deceased person (sometimes on the eyes, sometimes on or in the mouth) to give them the means of paying Charon to ferry them across the River Styx. This is an interesting modern adaption.

As soon as I read about Justice Scalia's death I wondered when the conspiracy theories would erupt so this is no surprise.

There is a devious logic to this notion that had me smiling a the thought. The self-serving call from Repthuglicans for Obama to refrain from nominating a candidate is a hope he will absolve them of any blame for not doing their duty to vote on such a nomination and any election year consequences of voting a worthy candidate down. He should nominate and tell them to get on with their job. As I think he is doing.

Interesting story about health insurance and how badly served we consumers are by the current "system."

Dmitry Orlov has a good post describing the current election cycle. I would love to sign on as crew just to get away from the inane (s)news coverage.

Monday, February 15, 2016


The snow the weather people promised has come in and right now it looks like we got about 2.5 inches. The skies are supposed to clear a bit before the next round comes in late tonight or early tomorrow and the temps are supposed to go back up to unseasonal levels.

Busy morning so far. Mixed up some sourdough starter which is now on top of the freezer catching what ever wild yeast and lactobacilli might be floating around. The last time I used sourdough starter my recipe called for using yeast to start it. All the sources I found so far said "No, no, no!! That isn't real sourdough." So I thought I would try their way and see where it goes. I cut an empty gallon juice jug to form a micro-mini greenhouse. I can't use the covers of the seed starter because my labels are too tall but I think some of the spinach could use a moister environment. One of the lemon verbena is showing some new leaf buds. When those come out I will trim it back a bit. I cut back my pot of oregano a couple of weeks ago and checked out the sprigs I put on a plate in layers alternating with paper towels. Both my dehydrators are stored for the winter. I simply don't have the room to leave them up in the slack season. But this worked very well. I stripped the stalks of the dried leaves and chopped them in the Ninja. After that I decided to try putting the dried egg shells through the Ninja as well and it worked very nicely. Normally I put the dried egg shells into the compost barrel but the Ninja made a nice pile of chopped shells that will go very nicely in the gardens straight away.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday--Happy Valentine's Day

another semi-holiday promoted to a consumerist orgy.

Well, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died. I never saw the charming side of him that so many friends and colleagues interviewed by the media have extolled. What I saw was a "conservative" who thought the Constitution had been brought down from the mountain by Moses and should be applied as written two hundred odd years ago. Unfortunately for Scalia's notions people change, conditions change and society changes over time and I doubt that the Founders (that sainted group that gave us that sacred document) really meant to apply an iron legal straight jacket to society. Why bother with a process to amend it if that is what they intended? So now the social/political war can be waged on another front. We not only will get no action from our politicians (it is an election year after all and they have more important things to do than legislate) but we probably won't get much from the Supremes either except, maybe, 4-4 deadlocks.

Does anyone else think this is a truly messed up argument for a tax increase? In the wake of Bobby Jindal's insane fiscal policies aren't there far more urgent problems that the continuation of LSU football? How about the continuation of LSU as a major university? Or the rebuilding of the black wards of New Orleans which still have not recovered from Katrina? your favorite program/cause? That LSU football needs the largess is such a lame reason for tax increases.

Another case of government responding to their true masters: business. Or at least some businesses. I want labeling on foods because I want the information so I can make a reasonable decision on what foods I buy. I think anyone who goes into the grocery and picks up "food" items without looking at the label is a fool and I am not in favor of protecting fools from foolishness. But I want the information and I think it should be readily available at the point where I am making my choice--in the supermarket, restaurant, etc. I also wonder how much Monsanto muscle is behind this effort to chip away at the legal requirement to provide information to consumers?

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Well the weather has turned more seasonal the last few days--cold with bouts of snow. Thursday we did our grocery shopping because it was the driest and warmest on the forecast and yesterday was bread baking day. I didn't see much to comment on on-line. The political scene has been as crazy as it has been for a goodly while now. I am ignoring it as much as I can given our (s)news media's penchant for repetition, drama and provocative sound bites.

I was reading some reports which gushed about the "health" of the U.S. labor market the last couple of days. Evidently the number of people filing for first time unemployment benefits dropped below the expected number. The unemployment rate (supposedly) fell--again. And, as one of the accounts said, the experts didn't expect any large scale layoffs in the near future. Given this article I have to ask "How do you define 'large scale?'" And, of course, there were the reports that Walmart is closing 150+ stores in the U.S. leaving some small towns totally without any grocery or pharmacy. No wonder the public (this "public" in particular) are skeptical about "expert" pronouncements.

The TV (s)news this morning announced that WHO is certain that the Zika virus carried by mosquitoes is the cause the the spike in cases of microcephaly in Brazil and elsewhere in South and Central America. I have also read that the number of microcephalic infants that have tested positive for Zika is extremely small--4 out of 4000 last time I saw a number. And yet the "experts" are certain Zika is the culprit. Then I saw this article and I suddenly had a flash of insight as to why they are certain--who wants to accuse Monsanto of producing a chemical that causes birth defects. The article should give us pause though because obviously the matter isn't settled and the evidence is certainly not all in.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Kunstler has a perfect analysis of our politics, especially the nominating contests. I have tried to keep my exposure to the contests to a minimum for my own mental health and well-being but I keep getting an unhealthy dose of the crazy through incidental exposure--a headline here or there on the internet or the brief viewings of the TV (s)news.

Mark Morford has a real snarky piece on the Super Bowl which impacted San Francisco tremendously and largely negatively, financially and socially, as far as most of the commenters I have read have reported. And SF wasn't even the real host of the affair. Over-hyped all the way.


This is fascinating. I do hope they find out why Madame de Florian never returned but continued to pay the rent.

Not Buying Anything has a post we find totally relatable. We haven't bought cold cereals for, maybe, four or five years. Since we started looking at the labels for the salt, sugar and fat content. And since we noticed that the so-called fruit was actually manufactured bits of whatever artificially flavored to resemble the fruit.

Ah, yes--it is vitally important to protect the profits of companies. People--not so much.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Naked Capitalism had this post this morning. I have criticized the notion that government should be run as a business often. Money has no inherent morality attached to it. How it is made and what it is used for may be good or evil but the standards that determine good or bad are outside money itself or the profits money measures. So how much money is a poor person's life, especially a poor black person's life, worth? I have read that Snyder's appointed "emergency manager" was told that a treatment to prevent the corrosion and leaching of lead from the pipes would have cost $100/day. Evidently that was too much.


Happy (Lunar) New Year, everyone!!

Weather is supposed to turn seasonally colder with snow showers through tomorrow with some accumulation possible. (Update: we are now getting the snow five hours after I wrote that first bit.) Hasn't started yet. I didn't get the seeds started yesterday so I will try to get it done after I bake some bread. Found a nice cranberry/walnut bread to try. (I said it was a "nice" recipe but I haven't like the feel all the way along. It is baking now and either works or doesn't. Either way I will find other recipes.)

Grist asks an interesting question: what is worse for women, alcohol or patronizing medical advice? I would say the patronizing advice and expand it to include the busybody political and religious types, usually men, giving women advice on how best to be women. The article does touch on that with the run down on all the actions taken to make sure women don't make any decision at all that might bruise the men's tender sensitivities.

Interesting retro development: wind powered sailing ship carrying cargo again.

The manufacturers tried to rehabilitate aspartame but this large study confirms earlier studies: drinking diet sodas with aspartame increases the chances women will have a heart attack or stroke and the chances they will die from that heart attack or stroke. And that is after the researchers accounted for other factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking, age, hormone therapy, etc.

Ah, the health Nazis are probably tearing their hair out over this article. I have been skeptical about the BMI measure of obesity since I first read, about thirty years ago, of professional athletes scoring as obese on a BMI index.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


A bit of a slow Saturday so not much to comment on. Instead I spent some time looking for a suitable pair of pots for the lemon verbena plants. They were pot bound and needed transplanting. I had one inside in the "horticultural" corner of our multipurpose/storage room. The other I had to rummage out of my little greenhouse. I also rinsed out a gallon jug that once contained orange juice. I will convert it into a micro-greenhouse for the herb seeds I plan to start on filter paper. I hope that technique will give me better results than starting the herbs in potting mix. The tomatoes are all growing nicely and both pots of peppers have sprouted as have two of the lettuce varieties.

I am really pleased with how the little blueberry I have in a small pot inside has been doing. I had absolutely no luck putting blueberries in the outside containers. The first barely survived its first winter before turning yellow and dying. Problem: soil pH was way too high. The second didn't survive the winter freeze. The third also succumbed to chlorosis, yellowing because the pH was too high and I found no way to control the pH in the big containers. I have been watering this last bush with a bit of acidified water (one-third cup white vinegar per gallon water) and feeding with an acid balanced fertilizer. That seems to have done the trick. It has a lot of new growth. I am thinking how I should prune it--if I should prune it at all.

We have been limiting our TV news viewing for sometime. It has become an exercise in annoying frustration. Constant repetition of inconsequential "stories," constant hype of the controversy du jour without any enlightening information, sports and more sports and more sports (hyped of course). I found this little post this morning which reminds me of an saying in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love "In a government of the people and by the people, don't tell the people." Journalistic black holes, indeed. We are all mushrooms--kept in the dark and fed shit.

France, if this Guardian article is accurate, has finally done something sensible. They have passed laws that ban supermarkets from throwing edible food items in the trash mandating they be given to food banks and the supermarkets can't use bleach or other means to make food inedible.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Big time sports have become the tails that wags the dogs. As another example: the city of St. Louis hasn't yet paid off the bonds issued to build the stadium the Rams are now abandoning to move to Los Angeles. Maybe they should have a provision is contracts with sports teams that if they move before the bonds which build their venues are paid off they are on the hood--not the host city.

Just out of curiosity, yesterday I went to a couple of sites I used to go to when I was looking for work (before I accepted the fact that I was "retired" whether I really wanted to be or not). One site was the on-line edition of the local/regional newspaper and the other was a strictly on-line jobs board. The first listed 13 jobs posted within the last 24 hours and the other only 12. That for a good sized geographic area with a large population and a mix of industries ranging from manufacturing, heavy industry, retail and medical. I had never seen such a paucity of job openings. The pundits say our unemployment rate is down to around 5% which sounds good but the listing I saw are only about one-tenth the job openings of a decade ago when the unemployment rate was around 4.5%. And remember we have added a fair number of people to the working age group. And the labor participation rate is at the lowest point since the late 1970s. I think they have redefined "recovery."

Every time I read a story on the "death of the American Dream" I was thinking, in the back of my mind, we need a new Dream that isn't driven largely by the consumer culture. Evidently a number of people think the same way. I notice that most of the exemplars in the article are young, highly tech savvy people in IT or related fields. But I can't help think that there much be others not in tech fields doing something similar.

Found this by way of Peak Prosperity: job announcement for a Farmer-in-Residence in Staten Island, NY.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


We didn't get the snow flurries the weather people predicted--yet. But it is supposed to be colder but sunny today. Nothing new sprouting but the remaining seeds of the remaining two lettuce varieties were pelletized so they may take a bit longer. I am looking at the calendar and deciding when to start the rest of the seeds. I think I will plant the herbs next week with the rest of the tomatoes, peppers, greens and sunflowers the first week of march. The beans and peas can wait until the first of April.

As I read this I thought of a friend out in Colorado who tries to raise bees on a small scale (2 hives) and reported that her supplier informed all his customers the he couldn't fill their orders for new queens this year. The TV news had a couple of stories last year about thefts of bee hives in Chicago. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised considering the price of honey but I hadn't considered the market for bees to pollinate crops.

Found the above cartoon at Bob Jellison's site. Says about all that needs to be said about the Flint water scandal.

Another Republican dropped out last night: Rick Santorum. Good. I still wish we had a place to write in "None of the Above" on the ballots. Then we would have a real choice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Although winter is half over it feels a lot like spring. Our temps have been warm for this time of year and last night thunderstorms rolled through. We got some spates of heavy rain out of the mess. I won't complain about that. Our area has been a bit on the dry side for the last few years though, thankfully not on the scale of the western droughts. I definitely saw a little pepper in the pots I started. It is unfurling its first leaves. I think I saw a little lettuce sprout when I turned off the grow lights last night.

The Republican field has narrowed one more. Rand Paul has dropped his campaign. Maybe he will now get back to being a senator--not that I like his policies in the Senate any better.

For years I have read advice to urban gardeners that told them to put in raised beds because of the risk posed by lead contaminated soils. After decades of exhaust from cars using leaded gasoline and even more decades of lead-based house paint, the soil had built up unsafe levels of lead which, experts warned us, might be taken up into the veggies and, eventually, into us. This article from the University of Washington modifies that considerably.  Most plants don't absorb much lead and the levels in the parts we eat are safe. Root veggies may absorb more lead from soil but if one washes them well and eats them with other foods they a also safe. Further, using liberal amounts of compost and other soil amendments dilutes the lead and reduces the risk even further.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Temperatures are still above normal for this time of the year and the weather forecast says we are in for rain from later this afternoon through Thursday. I think I saw one of the peppers, which have been slow to germinate, starting to peek through the soil. I changed the arrangement of the heating pad which has transferred more warmth to the pots. Another two weeks and it will be time to start the tomatoes and peppers I plan to put into the garden as well as many of the other seeds.

Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow so they say it will be an early spring. I would say the birds agree with him. I have seen robins (as I said in a previous post) and many of our geese didn't go further south. My brother has said the same and even seen a couple of unusual birds will outside their normal range--possibly driven here by the savage storms both west and east of us. I don't know what the rest of the year will bring but our weather has already been weird.

I guess the Iowa caucuses were good for some things in spite of the boring run up. First, Trump did not win. Cruz did which is almost as bad and those two make Rubio look almost sane by comparison but his fairly close third place showing provides an alternative for those looking for something resembling sanity. Second, two more contenders, on Republican (Huckabee) and one Democrat (O'Malley) have dropped out. That de-clutters the field somewhat. Third, Clinton and Sanders finished in a virtual tie. Rather puts a stutter in the theme of inevitability the Clintons have spewed. Third, IT"S OVER. Iowa that is. The rest oozes on.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Welcome to February. Groundhog Day is tomorrow, or Imbolc if you are of that tradition. I rather like the notion of marking the passing seasons and we are now at the mid point of winter. It has been mild this year, so far. January was very warm and most of the snow and ice were very short lived. No snow mountains like we are used to and the snow hills vanished quickly. I am not the only one noticing robins remaining when they should have gone south.

The Medievalist has a post on five things a Medieval time traveler would hate about our modern world. I agree with every one of them. There are times when progress--isn't.

Now this is an idea which has been rattling around in my brain for sometime. The promise of technology boosters thirty years ago that the advances in technology would create more than enough new industry jobs to replace those made obsolete in the process. Hasn't happened. Yes, new jobs have been created but not in the numbers of old jobs lost. And lets be honest--not everyone is suited to or wants jobs programming computers or manning call centers. The structure of work has changed and there aren't as many traditional full-time jobs (defined as 40+ hours/week with paid vacations and benefits) in manufacturing (which have largely moved overseas) and those that remain come with a lower wage and fewer benefits.

At last someone has the balls to call bullshit on the argument over "cultural appropriation." I remember the beginnings of this quarrel when blacks insisted that white historians couldn't possibly understand and write about the black experience. By similar logic modern historians can't study and write Medieval or Ancient Greek history. To say that modern white Americans can't appreciate yoga, tai chi, or Buddhist meditation is pure crap. And white American culture is an amalgam of all the cultures of Europe and the rest of the world. And, by the way, black American, Indian, Native American and other "cultures" aren't "pure" either. Everyone has borrowed from others. Live with it, you idiots.