Friday, November 26, 2021

 November 26

Well, it is Black Friday.  No we aren't going to do any shopping today. That isn't anything unusual because we have always avoided shopping from Thanksgiving through New Year's. Simply don't like the crowds. I once worked in a store in the largest local mall and had to work during that stretch of time. One day I was scheduled for an 11am start but the traffic was backed up for at least five miles and even though I left home in time to be half an hour early I wound up an hour and a half late. I only had one other retail job after that one--at a small party supply store in a strip mall. Even that store was slammed at times during the season. Nowadays I am very glad to be retired.

Thanksgiving was quiet and we stayed home. Mom fixed an almost traditional meal. The turkey was leftovers from a breast we fixed about a month ago. That provided two meals then and several packages of meat in the freezer. The sweet potatoes, dressing, and green bean casserole were all made from scratch. We will be eating on it today also--maybe even tomorrow.

The big family get togethers over Thanksgiving and Christmas went by the boards about five years ago. My sister and brother usually hosted those but each were getting to the point that their energy wasn't up to it. Sister turned 62 last year and my brother will be 71 this coming year. Besides the nieces and nephews were breaking off into their own family groups and usually showed up long enough to say "Hi," give us all a hug and leave.

I noticed all the people on the news/talk shows (including the Macy's parade coverage)--both the talking heads and the interviewees gushing about the "near normal" feeling of the holiday. Everyone is so desperate for something that seems normal even if only for this one day--or two if you throw in our post-gastronomic-orgy shopping orgy.

The one cloud coming late yesterday was the news that a new COVID variant has popped up in Southern Africa with more mutations of the spike protein than any previous variant have shown. They don't know yet how those mutations will affect the virus but several European countries have already announced travel restrictions on those coming from several countries in the area. (Update: they gave the variant its Greek letter this afternoon--Omicron.) Very early last year I wondered if masks would become part of our everyday dress and distancing an automatic behavior. As rapidly as COVID mutates that might still happen.

Friday, November 5, 2021

 November 5

The weather people say we will get a stretch that is dry and a bit warmer than normal. Sounds like a good time to get the plants I hope to keep through the winter mulched and protected.

We had to make a quick trip to Michaels to pick up some yarn I need to finish an afghan (or something else, I haven't decided for certain) done up in granny squares. It is a great way to use up leftovers. But the color is the one I am using to edge the squares and to edge the finished project. Didn't have near enough. Of course, I don't know how long ago I acquired that yarn (or any of the yarns) so there was no exact match but I did find something close. I got the last two large cakes and lucked into a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale. I also found a small quilting ruler (marked in quarter inch measures) in a set with a small rotating cutting mat. I am hand piecing my current project and need to cut some small (or smaller than usual) pieces in a small place (my lap desk).

I found this piece on Crooks&Liars concerning that most cited study on the efficacy of ivermectin. It has been pulled by the authors because the data is entirely bogus. They blame a research assistant for mistakenly incorporating a dummy used to train new assistants set of data into the experimental data. It reminds me of the oft cited study which supposedly showed a link between childhood vaccines and autism. It was also totally bogus.

My first thought on seeing the headlines on this story was a sarcastic "Oh, I guess he has been hanging out with Elvis somewhere in an alternate dimension." That JFK Jr. faked his death is absurd to begin with but to think he would come back to play second fiddle to be the vice-presidential candidate on a new run by  the Former Guy is even more absurd.

Just saw an interesting interview on Morning Joe which supports my gut feeling about the last election. The question concerned why last Tuesday's election results were so dismal for Dems. Susan Del Percio cited statistics which indicated that policy didn't drive the debate; personality did. Her statistics said that about 37% of the Former Guy's voters approved of his policies (I always wondered what policies they perceived in his verbal diarrhea) and another 6% (if I remember correctly) voted for him because he wasn't Biden while 27% of Biden voters voted for him for his policies and another 30% voted for him because he wasn't the Former Guy. First point: more than a third of voters chose based on their dislike of the candidates not because they liked the policies. Second point: the Former Guy wasn't running and was mostly absent from the campaign in Virginia, but the Democrat tried and failed miserably to paint his opponent as "Former Guy lite".

The Rittenhouse case might be with us for some time if this piece by Crooks&Liars is an accurate foretelling.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

 November 3

Another cold but sunny day. We saw frost on roofs, cars and grass when the sun came up this morning. I won't do any more gardening today.

A blogger I read regularly posted just before Halloween that the pandemic and its various work-from-home schemes or lockdowns etc. pushed him to a pattern of comfort reading or comfort movie viewing. He decided to break that by choosing movies and books he had on his to-read (-view) list but hadn't yet read (or viewed). We have had a similar pattern but the pandemic isolation isn't the primary factor pushing the emphasis on comfort books or movies. We just haven't found very many items that interest us. I have been reading old favorites, many of which I hadn't read in a long time: The Lord of the Ring trilogy, Dune, The Emberverse series and others. I do have a number of non-fiction books I have been nibbling on including histories of Egypt, the Civil War, Roman Britain.

I just finished reading John Michael Greer's latest post on Ecosophia. He always makes fascinating connections and conclusions. He is right that people of modern industrial societies dismiss the notion that history has anything to teach us. Pay particular attention to his last paragraph.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

 November 2

Beautifully sunny bit a bit on the cold side. We just broke 40F and it is almost noon. We aren't likely to pass 50 at all today. But I did get out and cut down the three sunpatiens, the impatiens and the last dahlia. All looked pretty bad. Everything else will stay and provide some cover over winter. The roses are looking somewhat better though I will be cutting some of their growth before I bring out the straw bale and pack them. The red one survived last winter without any protection but we had quite a bit of snow piled up over them last year during the worst of the cold. I don't trust the weather. One of the pots had some spindly peppermint trying to grow. I will leave it alone and see if it comes back next year.

We are listening to Pandora today. I have really had enough of the coverage of the various off-off year elections. All I heard over the weekend was speculation over what the consequences of a Republican (or a Democratic) win would be in New Jersey or Virginia. One or the other will win and long term consequences won't be known for some time. I am at the "pox on both your houses" stage right now.

I have said for some time that the official statistics on inflation (or anything else) tell any kind of accurate tale about what people at my level of the economy experience. This piece on NPR explains part of why we have that disconnect. The statistics have been weighted with various adjustments to make inflation seem less than it really. However, all the adjustments fail when we are faced with tactics like "skimpflation" or shrinkflation as another author has termed it. For the last 50 years economists have been concerned with changes that they thought enhanced buying power like computers that are faster and can do more functions or cars that have more bells and whistles. I noticed that much of the shrinkage we experienced (4 lbs of sugar for what 5 used to cost or 14 oz cans of a product for what 16 oz cost before) never got into the equations. Now, however, too many goods and services are being skimped or shrunk.



Monday, November 1, 2021

 Welcome to November--

Hope you all had a good Halloween (or Samhain or what ever you call the day). We had no trick-or-treaters--at all. We haven't participated in the tradition for several years. After the last big scare over contaminated or sabotaged candies the numbers of children coming around dropped precipitously. Instead various civic associations and parents put together alternative parties--which I think was a good thing. Covid, of course, put a nail in that coffin last year. But also we don't like having left over candy--even candy we like. Our tastes have changed and most isn't as enjoyable as it once was.

I have remarked in political conversations here that we are entering a post Enlightenment era. That age has been dominated in our faith in reason and the ability of the human mind to understand anything. The United States Constitution was the epitome of that philosophy. It was the result of the application of reason the the problem of how people should be governed. That whole ethos is disintegrating. David Kaiser's latest post is primarily a summary of the latest Covid data but his last paragraph basically says what I said in slightly different words.

The early morning news/talk show we watch noted that the Oxford English Dictionary people have announced their word for 2021: Vax (or Vaxx). Given how the Covid vaccines roll out and controversy over them have dominated the news for this year, that is appropriate. About a month ago I mentioned that we might be as glad to see the end of this year as we were to see the end of last year. I just wish I felt next year would be better. It will be different but not necessarily better.

The Rittenhouse trial  starts today. The Judge decided that the victims can't be called victims or alleged victims but can be called rioters, looters, or arsonists (if the defense can produce proof). That last is a restriction without real teeth. I will make my summation here: that 17 year old crossed a state line with a gun he had no legal right to have in the state to which he traveled, proclaiming he was "protecting" people and businesses though he wasn't in any way authorized to do so (in other words he was a fucking vigilante, and when three people try to stop him (at a time when no looting, arson, or riot was taking place) he shoots them killing two and wounding one, and his lawyers are claiming "self defense." By the way the three victims had no weapons. I think the judge's ruling is a way to stack the deck so the little F-ing idiot gets a free pass.

We just finished a small shopping trip. We were out (or almost out) of several kinds of meat we use quite frequently and we needed lettuce for todays chef salad. We noticed that the meat prices were a bit higher that we have seen in the recent past. Not a surprise. This Financial Times article gives a good recap of trends we have been seeing in other media.

I haven't seen it in a long time but I remember an auto repair outfit whose ad finished with "You can pay me now or pay me later." That is the basic message of this ProPublica story "There Is No Cheap Way To Deal With The Climate Crisis." I heard a bit ago that we had already had 18 $1billion+ weather/climate events in this country as of early October. I tracked down this piece from NOAA to check my memory. Another article had a graph which indicated that this year has been the third most expensive year ever behind only 2005 and 2017. But the projections indicate worse to come and the price of doing nothing and merely repairing some of the damage (because not all of it will be repaired).


Friday, October 29, 2021

 October 29

It has been dreary yesterday and today with rain and chilly temps. I got a couple of items pulled from the garden and some more on my list along with some rearranging of the containers. It hasn't been dry enough for long enough to completely dry out the cement so I will have a bit of sweeping to do hopefully before snow falls. None is in the forecast for the near future and we haven't had another frost yet. I want to see what seeds are in my ca    che but I don't think I will place any orders for the spring--just rely in the local nurseries for plants and the seeds on hand.

The little clinic we went to for our covid vaccination back in March just opened up appointments for the boosters early this week and we got our slots for yesterday afternoon. Since they had all three vaccine types we didn't have to think about mixing or matching. We just matched what we had already. Interesting--there was no delay for appointments and no packed waiting room this time. Another interesting change--we had less reaction to the vaccine. Last time we had a sore arm and a bit of heat at the injection site. This time less soreness and only for a couple of hours and no warmth at the site.

Annoyances:

1) Several pundits spent their time on the morning talk/news shows arguing that the Democrats should just accept the "bipartisan" infrastructure deal because "something is better than nothing." The whole process leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The original package was $6 trillion which was then shaved to $3.5 trillion and now shaved again to $1.85 trillion--maybe. I say that because the key senators haven't yet agreed. To be fair, the only part of the reconciliation bill already produced has been an "outline." And as they say the devil, and any angels there might be, is in the details of the language. Isn't 50% of something better than 100% of nothing, you ask. Well, Joe Manchin supposedly told Bernie Sanders that he would be quite comfortable with $0 for that bill. I have always said that the old notion of something being better depends on whether the something is distinguishable from nothing and the trajectory of the negotiations is tending towards the indistinguishable.

2) Another aspect of this process that offends me is the whole process that has pushed the so-called "hard" infrastructure into one bill while relegating the "soft" (human) aspects into another which some people are trying to whittle down to nothing. It seems to me that the bridges, roads, broadband, etc., that people need to work and function is much more important than the people, the individuals, that will use that hard infrastructure.

3) I have seen, more frequently than I like to think, an ad insisting that the proposed tax increases (which are now in limbo, I think) would cripple our businesses especially with respect to overseas competition (a.k.a. China). The spokesman insists that we can't let our politicians continue to devastate business as they did when "they" sent our manufacturing and its jobs overseas. Point: the biggest factor sending manufacturing and jobs beyond our borders was the drive for profits. Decisions on that came from the CEOs, CFOs, stockholders not the politicians. The worst you can say about the politicians was they did nothing to stop the process.

4) Talking about the supply chain situation Yves Smith asks "Will the Supply Chain Crisis Lead to More Onshoring?" Spoiler alert: not likely.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

 October 26

Sunny but cool today. I got out on the patio and pulled the marigolds which looked very sad. We haven't had a frost yet but they obviously don't like how chilly the nights have been. They also didn't like the wet weather of the last several days. We had rain, sometimes heavy, for three days from late Saturday through late yesterday. The soil in the pots I emptied was very wet. I still have the geranium, the sunpatiens, and the last dahlia to pull soon.

The covid boosters are rolling out. The clinic where we got our vaccinations back in March sent an e-mail telling us we could get our appointments. Mom called and set us up for Thursday. They have all three booster varieties--Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. We got the J&J vaccine originally so we are staying with the J&J for the booster.

This post on TomDispatch this morning makes one ask if Jan 6 was a dress rehearsal. A supposed quote from Benjamin Franklin has made the rounds over the past months. Asked what kind of government we were setting up he allegedly replied "A republic, if you can keep it." Keeping it requires people have faith in the system and I wonder how many of us have that faith any more.

October 27

I didn't get back to post this yesterday--obviously. I don't know yet what the weather will be because the sun isn't yet up. I take the weather forecasts with a big dose of salt.

Well when the sun came up we saw frost on cars, roofs and grass.

I haven't had much to say about the politics because the whole mess makes me feel we are on a treadmill--getting no where not very fast. The notion that they are "close" to an agreement on that very stripped down reconciliation bill is getting to be as much of a joke as the Former Guy's "infrastructure week." Given the lack of movement the various poll results that show broad dissatisfaction with President Biden, dissatisfaction with and lack of trust in the election process, and a feeling that the economy isn't really as good as the so-called experts say it is.

On that last point--we did our shopping on Sunday morning. We don't usually shop on Sunday but we normally do shop early. We like to avoid crowds (even before the pandemic) and were surprised at the number of shoppers also out. Most of them had heavily loaded carts. Hadn't seen that since the first three or four months of the pandemic. We needed dish soap and saw big gaps on the shelves with signs limiting individual customers to two items posted. More big gaps in the juice aisle in the cat food. At times over the last year we have noted bare shelves for certain brands of cat food but never were two major brands almost completely missing. Stopping to fill up the gas tank our total $30+--one third more than we have ever paid before with our current car. The "experts" tell us that the shortages and the inflation we see are only temporary. I don't know about the shortages but I have never seen price increases that were ever temporary.