Thursday, September 29, 2016


An interesting historical/archeological mystery: how did ancient Roman coins get to a medieval Japanese Castle?

This is a fascinating piece Mauldin put on his Outside the Box blog. Some long time ago I criticized the policy described as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) in much the same way as the author Mauldin featured does our response to radically fundamentalist Islam (code name ISIS). It works in a positive sum game where each side can negotiate a way to "divide the pie). However, it doesn't in a zero sum game where one (or both sides) are fine with their own destruction so long as the other bastard is also destroyed. His critique of Obama with respect to the negotiations with China, Russia, and Iran is spot on but should be extended to his negotiations with the far-right so-called conservatives in Congress. Obama came up as a "community organizer" whose strategy was to negotiate a division of the pie--in other words he has always played a positive sum game. It hasn't worked in a world where the opposition is playing a zero sum game. We have a whole lot of True Believers out there--fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, social/racial justice activists white supremacists  and the list goes on.

AHHH! Margaret and Helen are back with a wonderful piece on trying to find a word that adequately describe the cesspit that is Donald Trump--and coming up empty as no word seems to fill the bill. Sorry, Helen, even asshat isn't adequate. But the Archdruidess has a suggestion "Super Callous Fragile Racist Extra Braggadocious."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Good morning after the debate which I did not watch. I made up my mind who I wouldn't vote for when Trump clinched the Repthuglican nomination. I just haven't decided whether the election is so close I would rather hold my nose and vote for Clinton or use it as a protest and vote for someone else. You can't tell from the polls. Those are like the old story of the blind men describing an elephant based on which part of the animal they touched. What the poll tells you is what a group of people selected by what ever method the pollster chooses decide to say at a given point in time. Often one
 headline shouts that Hillary is up and is followed by another shouting just as loudly that Trump has the edge. However, I did find this humorous story which indicates that drinking while watching the debates might be injurious to your health. I haven't engaged in drinking games since I was much younger and before age began to cure some of my youthful stupidity. Alcohol poisoning wouldn't have been my worry--rather a stroke from sudden elevated blood pressure would have been a major risk.

Now for a report from the East Coast drought.


Once upon a time there was a joke about Chicago politics: vote early and vote often. It seems that notion has gone over into internet polling.

I have often wondered how useful the annual physical exam is. When I was a child (and our family's insurance program paid for such exams) we got one every year. As an adult I have seen a doctor maybe 8 to 10 times (in almost 50 years) and only when I had a specific problem (stitches in a cut knee, a bout of strep throat).

Monday, September 26, 2016


I don't know how much I will have to say today. We had three days of activity largely out of the house. Eye doctors appointments on the first two--Mom's one day and mine the next. They weren't scheduled for the same day because one of us has to be able to drive us home. Yesterday we had a day coach trip up to Saugatuck, Michigan which, though thoroughly fun, was exhausting. Today will be spent puttering and recovering.


We did spend the day yesterday puttering and resting. I did get things in the gardens watered and, on cue, we had a ten-minute monsoonal deluge. But I doubt that rain, or what fell last night, did enough by themselves. I shouldn't have to water today only because the plants are slowing down and need less now. The mums I put in a couple of weeks ago to brighten up the areas the tomatoes used to be are doing very nicely. I need to dead head some on one plant--but not today because we are expecting more rain. Well, maybe later today since the clouds have moved off and we have sun. But, as happens right around autumn solstice every year, my gardens will now spend most of the day in shade because the shadow of the house covers the fence. The two corners will still get direct sun and reflected light for about another month.

An interesting article on justice and punishment from Rebecca Gordon on Tomdispatch this morning.

Stephanie Land at the New York Times has a good opinion piece on the decluttering/minimalism movement and class politics. I have known people who have suffered deprivation at different times of their lives and, once they had the money, tended to accumulate things. A woman who has spent most of her childhood very short on food came home every month from the PX (military family paid once a month who shopped on base) with boxes and bags of food she had to somehow cram into spaces already jammed with food. At some level she knew it was a compulsion but she couldn't resist getting more while she could. She wasn't a survivalist/prepper and wouldn't have fit in well with that crowd and wasn't stocking up with an emergency/disaster in mind. Other people I knew had spent time very short of cash and the amenities/comforts it could buy and then made up for lost time when they were flush. Land is quite right to note that the "Black Friday" shoppers aren't all well off people who are clawing for things they don't need and would be better off without. Sometimes they are just getting by and plan their "Black Friday" campaigns with military precision to get what they need to make life a bit more comfortable. Minimalism can be a choice in which case it can be good. But it shouldn't be prescribed for everyone at all times.

Something else we need to watch out for: pumpkin puree that isn't really pumpkin. Damn!! I read the article and then went straight to the cabinet to find out if we had any and exactly what is in it. Mom doesn't get the pie filling or the puree but rather canned pumpkin and our cans say they contain only pumpkin. Hopefully, the processor doesn't take the same attitude as the FDA: a squash is a squash is a squash.

So another medical study, the results of which became standard treatment recommendations. has been shot down. Getting such studies re-evaluated is difficult because too many people (researchers whose reputations may be tarnished and journals who might get a reputation for publishing bad science) are invested in the original results. The problem with not getting such studies thoroughly re-evaluated is that people may suffer as much from the treatments as from the conditions for which they are being treated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Cut back the lemon balm which yielded three trays in the dehydrator. I also got a tray each of peppermint and spearmint. I will get the leaves ground and put in jars later today. I didn't have to water anything. I was surprised to see the soil was still very moist. Hope that is the case today as well.


Nothing much worth commenting on yesterday. I did get the herbs finished and did some needlework. I should check over the peppers for any ripe ones ready to pick. I didn't have to water anything but today is a different story.

I have been ignoring the polls almost as much as the campaign "news" generally. Every now and then something tweaks my interest and I read the story. This story isn't so much about polling results as how pollsters reach their results. And it confirms my tendency to take the results with a big dose of salt.

Now this is a good tax reform proposal. I have long hated the fact that things are generally more cheaply and easily replaced than repaired.  And France has enacted a bunch of new laws I can agree with as well.

Interesting (and long) piece by Andrew Sullivan on our distraction-laden lives and the cost to our psyches.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I haven't had much to say lately and have been avoiding the "news" like it was a plague. Actually, perhaps it is--a mind numbing plague of inaccuracies, outright lies, and fluff. The election is a farce and every time I see Trump's orange countenance I quickly shift to something else. I think too many people think like my long-deceased and longer-ex husband did too often--do something even if it is wrong and if it is different all the better. Unfortunately, all we have is the illusion of different and the choice between wrong and wronger. I will be so glad when the election is over and I can figure out how to survive which ever of the two evils gets to park their ass on the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office.

I have been watching the shadow of the house creep up the fence. It was at the bottom a month ago and by equinox will be brushing the top. After that the gardens will be in shadow except for brief periods in the morning and evening when the corners will get direct sun and the rest strong reflections off the white fence. I have peppers out there yet as well as another cutting or two of peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm. I need to water because we got no rain yesterday and expect none for the next week.

Peter Van Buren posted an interesting article at Tomdispatch today. I agree with every bit of it. I remember talking to a young woman co-worker who was thinking of taking a job in Chicago and hesitated after 9/11 for fear she would be caught in another attack on some iconic tall building. I told her she had a better chance of being shot down on the street than dying in a similar attack. She gave me a look of total incomprehension. I have been amazed at the interviews with "people on the street" who meekly accepted every pat-down, bag inspection or restriction and new metal detector at the gates of sporting arenas with the bland "well, if it makes us safer I'm all for it" statement. No one bothered to ask if the measure really made us safer.

And here is another commentary I agree with entirely from Ray Williams at Psychology Today. I had to call the tech support for one of the two sources I go to for e-books because my latest purchase hadn't downloaded properly. The person I talked to was surprised I has some 500+ books listed. "I read a bit," I told her. That is five years worth of purchases and doesn't include the two dozen (and counting) I have from the other source and the probably equal number of physical books I bought over the same time frame. And those books cover a wide range of topics. I can't understand people who a) don't read, b) are proud they don't read, c) are ignorant of basic facts and d) are proud of that as well. We used to watch hours of news shows before the repetition and superficial coverage irritated us. Then we cut our viewing to the morning local (a.k.a., Chicago) and the so-called national news morning and evening. Then we cut out the national broadcast because the local had the same items presented the same way. A few months ago we went even further and cut it to half an hour morning and evening. Now our latest satirical joke is to ask "which three minutes of news do you want to watch--morning or evening?" We find the on line sources have more complete coverage and we can ignore Trump's orange self-satisfied face and the Kardashian (or other such) fluff. That has done wonders for our blood pressures and moods.

Ah,--a problem I can sympathize with. We have simplified our shopping considerably but we still take a good bit of time because we are label readers. By reading the labels we have winnowed down the choices to many fewer options: no highly processed foods, no anti-bacterial soaps, few canned goods (unless we have canned them ourselves, and as few GMO products as possible.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I cleaned out the shed and rearranged things so I can actually step into it and find things. I have certain areas where things accumulate until I have to sort out the jumble to find what I have buried over time. As I have gotten older those areas are fewer. I don't like not finding what I absolutely know I have when I want it and I hate buying a new item only to find the one I had after the fact. I have a couple of spots that need some reorganizing but, for now, order has won out over chaos. The little greenhouse is also tidy--until next year's growing season. The early part of today should provide a window for me to harvest lemon balm to dry; tomorrow, however, is predicted to be nasty. Good day to make some progress with needlework.

I found this item at Global Voices. I try to cross check the veracity of items on certain websites--usually ones I visit rarely but know are unreliable either from their slant of the stories or even what they consider "facts." Over the last few years I have become more and more skeptical of sites I once trusted. It isn't what we don't know that trips us up badly but what we know for certain that just ain't so.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Here is a long but very interesting post by Bill Moyers at Tom Englehardt's Tomdispatch site. I remember teaching Western Civ I (to 1500 CE) and inevitably, when we reached the section on Ancient Greece, one of the students would ask how cities like Athens could be described as democracies. I always went to the board and wrote "demo(s)ocracy" explaining that "demos" meant "people." And pointed out that it all depends on how you define "people." Think about that as you read the first part of Moyers' article about the "housewives rebellion." I don't know how many others feel like I do--that I am being read out of the demos by someone somewhere with far more power and influence than I have.

I spent yesterday cleaning out the tomato patch and various other areas. We will get some fall flowers to fill in the open spots. As I clean out the shed and get things rearranged (and some of it thrown in the trash) I consider what will go in next year's garden. I am beginning to come to grips with the fact that I no longer have the energy to do everything I would like, or think I would like, to do. So next year's plan for our garden mainstays: only two varieties of tomato (an oxheart and the Roselle) with two plants each and three (maybe only two) pepper varieties with two plants each. The weird weather this year took a toll both on me and on the tomatoes. I had narrow windows of time when the heat hit to get out and take care of things which didn't give time for everything. Then we had two, almost three, weeks of monsoonal types of rain with sunny sauna days scattered few and far between. Got nearly all of August's quota in less than ten days. I had intended to take out the Moldavian and not plant the fernleaf lavender next year but we caught sight of a large male hummingbird visiting nearly ever blossom on each plant. I think I will keep both.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Another very warm day coming today. The lavender needs a bit more time in the dryer before grinding. I don't like to leave the dehydrator operating overnight. Call me over cautious but the thought of something going wrong (overheating and causing a fire, perhaps) is unappealing especially when we are asleep. The lows overnight were at the same level as the highs normally are. But I also saw a story about an early snow in parts of the Montana mountains which got 10 or so inches of snow.

Ah, yes--another story from the dark corners of the "ownership" (as in "you're on your own") society. The story brings back memories from almost thirty years ago my (then) husband and I were on the fringes of a "caregiving" saga. We weren't the primary caregivers being over a thousand miles away. As relatives we did get phone calls from caseworkers who had suggestions about "affordable" living arrangements that would provide the round-the-clock care his mother needed. They were so indignant that we couldn't, somehow-possibly-maybe, come up with the equivalent of twice our combined monthly earnings to pay for that "affordable" arrangement. The worst of the situation fell on a cousin with whom she lived and who (with his wife) tried desperately to deal with her care to the detriment of his marriage, his and his wife's health, their jobs, and their children's welfare. In the end, stretched nearly to breaking, they refused to take her back after the last crisis landed her in the hospital. She remained in the hospital for several months until the social workers finally found a facility that would provide a barely adequate level of care and took all of her social security, all of her meager savings, and medicare to do it. The author is right: no one gives a rat's ass about care givers. I would amend: perhaps those on the fringe of the problem and are frustrated they and guilty they can't afford to do more than give moral support and, often metaphorical, shoulders to cry on.


Finished off the lavender yesterday. I don't have anything planned unless the weather clears enough for me to cut the lemon balm. We did get some rain overnight so I don't have to water anything.

Another reason why I am not following the media on the election. Listening to the news coverage last night where Trump called for removing the military budget from the sequester and increasing it massively I nearly exploded with profanity. We spend (and have for decades) more than the next ten highest spending nations on our military. And for what?? Every election cycle we are told how under funded, staffed and armed our military is. Where has the money been going? Why hasn't the "greatest" military since the Romans romped across the Mediterranean world (hyperbole and sarcasm intended) not been able to bring closure tenth rate wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why has everything we have done with our military from the Atlantic coast of North Africa to the Indus River resulted in continuing chaos? Perhaps because we have fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapons? This is a continuation of the "War on Terror" and IS/al Qaeda/al Nusra/Boko Haram et al. are simply the shifting face of a technique/strategy/tactic. Terror isn't a person or group of people that can be fought and defeated militarily--a fact we haven't learned in fifteen gods-damned years. I feel like I am watching that scene in Independence Day where, after the first nuclear weapons fail to destroy the alien ship, the Secretary of Defence protests against the President calling off the rest of the attack: another attack group "might have better luck." It isn't a matter of "luck." It is a matter of intelligently recognizing your strategy and weapons are accomplishing the desired ends and creatively thinking about better strategies. (And, by the way, Matt Lauer deserves every bit of criticism he is getting.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I often wonder how many people actually listen to the news any more. We find it far too annoying and uninformative. About half the time is taken up by ads and a quarter of the rest is spent promoting what is coming up some time in the broadcast. It spends a lot of time on promos for the "hot" programs like "Dancing With The Start." Throw-away one line promos lead to throw-away stories that you miss if you are distracted for two seconds and leave you wondering what happened to the important story they kept teasing you with. Is the news and, perhaps, anything else on the glowing box simply background noise to fill with meaningless images and sound a void we don't want to acknowledge much less fill ourselves.

I am finally beginning to feel like I have some energy. Sometimes you don't realize how not-good you feel until you start to feel better. I don't say "bad" because I didn't really feel bad--just terribly tired. As a consequence my garden has gone to pot--at least the tomatoes have. I took the plants on the fence down an discarded them. In spite of all the rain we had the wind that came with and after made sure nothing in those pots got any good out of it. Because I was so thoroughly out of sorts I didn't realize how dry they had gotten. But I got things watered and today (after watering which is a daily chore when the temps hit the high 80s and beyond) I harvested a full dehydrator of lavender. The house is starting to smell of lavender. I plan to harvest lemon balm tomorrow. The hyssop and Moldavian balm I am leaving to the bees which are working the plants vigorously.

May she go to the hell she so richly deserves!!! One headline said "she will be missed." Oh, really!! Not by me and I would guess a good many others.

Monday, September 5, 2016


Happy Labor Day--a holiday more honored in the breach than in fact.

In fact hardly honored at all. Like so many of our holidays it has become an opportunity to sell a multitude of fools a massive load of crap they neither need nor can afford. Do I sound cynical? Well, in some cases I am. We don't really honor labor. The national commercial sport is how to gouge workers most effectively to pad the bottom line. Just like "thanking" veterans for their "service" is a cheap way to get out of doing a damned thing that would really benefit them.

My mantra when it comes to nutrition has been "moderation in all things." The current fashions in nutrition don't hold with that. It is "full steam ahead and damned the torpedoes consequences." Now the value of "anti-oxidants" is coming into question. We like blueberries and every year or two we get a ten pound box to freeze. They go into yogurt or cereal or muffins or ... whatever. We do eat kale--occasionally. We don't choose our food for the antioxidant quota but for variety. "All that kale for nothing?" Well, only if your sole purpose was to fill the quota.

Ah, yes--Kunstler is on a good roll today.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


It was nice and cool yesterday. We had the doors and window open and I got peppermint and spearmint cut and dried. Also planted the mums and moved a few things around. Lavender and lemon balm are on the agenda today.  Maybe I will even tackle that mess in the tomatoes.  The gardening season is winding down slowly.


I have been under the weather since late on Friday. Not much good at all. I hope whatever it was is passing. I sat in my easy chair and alternately read and slept all day.

I should get out and do some clean-up in the gardens but I don't know if I am quite that much recovered.

I saw that inane comment by that Latino Trump supporter about how we will have taco trucks on every corner if Hilary is elected. My first reaction: So?? I like tacos. I also like carne asada, and carnitas and chilis rellenos also. A proliferation of taco trucks just doesn't seem like a very dire threat. For the record I also like kielbasa, sauerkraut, pizza, spaghetti, spring rolls--I could go on but I think that makes my point. We are a tossed salad of a country affected by influences from all around the world.

I saw another headline that elicited a "So what?" It was something about Hilary socializing with the ultra wealthy. I didn't go into the article. It simply doesn't matter. Hilary may hobnob with the ultra wealthy but Trump is (at least according to himself) ultra wealthy. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Sept 1 and meteorological fall has arrived. Astronomical fall comes with the equinox at the end of the month--Sept 22.

So NPR tackled the problem of "polypharmacy" and over medication of seniors. Given how medical practice has morphed I expect it will become a larger problem in the future. What do I mean? Well, consider a situation where a person has a GP and a specialist who treats a specific condition. Does the GP get a copy of the test results the specialist ordered and, if s/he does, can s/he understand the implications for the patient? For instance thyroid function can affect blood pressure, heart action, and other systems. Does a patient whose blood pressure spikes or heart rhythms suddenly go a bit wacky need the thyroid medication adjusted or a blood pressure med or something else? If a person goes into the hospital his/her own doctor doesn't admit them or treat them more often than not now. Instead a "hospitalist" is assigned who oversees treatment for what ever malady brought the patient in to the hospital and gathers what ever specialists are needed to address that problem. The hospitalist can oversee the treatment and, hopefully, spot potential drug interacts for what is prescribed by his team but does he know what the patient is already taking? Or what interactions to expect? There is an old saying about the number of cooks and the quality of the broth that might be applicable here.

Should this surprise anyone?