email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Old Whisker

Because the composite deck gets very hot (something I did not know when having it installed), AND removing a tree made it sunnier, the cats were not happy going out on the deck in mid day. 

So, I found a roll of outdoor carpet to give them a cooler path around and off the deck.  The carpet was leftover from when I used it on my aluminum Jon boat in 1994 to reduce glare and deaden sounds. 

Well, when I unrolled it, I found a cat whisker.  I can't tell which cat it was from.  Skeeter, LC, maybe even Tinkerbelle.  But it definitely the oldest cat whisker I have.  I haven't mixed it in with the others; it is "special".  It is 22 years old!

One of those really odd things you discover digging into the past...   Which reminds me that I should pour out my bottle of collected cat whiskers and take a picture of them.  I have a lot, but I bet I missed most of them while cleaning.




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cats

Cats are predators, possibly the purest mammal for of that.

So Ayla was out on the deck with a bunny.  I initially assumed Marley had caught it and left it for  Ayla.  But then I saw Marley was inside,  And so was Iza.

So Ayla caught it by herself!  Good for her...  I praised her for her catch.  When she left it, I let Marley and Iza out.  Marley ignored it.  Iza went lunch on it.

Now, I thought it a bit weird that she chewed on the ears first.  I mean, wouldnt she go for the meaty parts first?  But no, she ate the whole head!


I was shocked myself, but fascinated and curious too.  What could possibly be better than the haunches than the head.  But it was her decision, so I just let her do her thing.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Little History

A century ago, the US economy and government was in the grip of what were called Robber Barons.  People so wealthy and powerful that they formed business monopolies, chose political leaders by themselves, decided what laws would be passed and considered everyone else but themselves "losers".  Working people were poverty-stricken, there was no "Middle Class".  You were either rich or broke.

People had few legal rights to complain.  Courts were packed by judges appointed by the rich to defend their overbearing methods.  Does that term "losers" ring a bell when you listen to a Trump speech?  It should.  Trump wants to return to those years.

The Republican party is to blame for this.  They have denigrated the value of government for years.  They refused to admit that government for the People is a good thing.  They desired that political success go only to the rich and powerful, so that they could get more than any human could possibly need to thrive in the world.

The Republican party has yelled for several decades that all we need to succeed is to have no government regulation.  That outsiders "know best".  That inexperience in world affairs is somehow "purer" than experience.  Basically, that ignorance is better than knowledge.  Now they have their purfect candidte for an upcoming humiliation of that view.  Trump will be crushed, and they might lose both the Senate and the House.  And later, the Supreme Court, as vacancies will be filled in the next 8 years.

The Republicans hate government so bad that they slashed the budget of the IRS, whose only function is to collect taxes and make sure we all pay what we owe.  They call it "starving the beast".

But the IRS is merely the agency that collects taxes declared by Congress.  The audit function doesn't bother most of us.  What they look for is very rich people who aren't paying their fair share.  They aren't after those of us earning $30,000-100,000.  They are after those multi-millionaires and billionaires who are paying nothing in taxes by gaming the system with secret accounts overseas or claiming massive business losses through indirect multiple company tricks.

We WANT more IRS agents to find those cheaters and get the Government revenue for schools, military support, VA hospitals, and roads and bridges!  What we don't want is the Donald Trumps of the world to get richer by cheating on their taxes.

More IRS agents don't threaten me or you.  They threaten the most wealthy who have been cheating us all.  We should SUPPORT more IRS funding for auditors.

The government does a lot of good things.  Defense, education, infrastructure, personal rights, helping poor States, assuring honest elections, managing the general economy, protecting the right to religious freedom, the whole Bill Of Rights...

That takes some money.  Not much in exchange for the common good.  In some countries, it is more; in some it is less.  I think we are doing pretty well where we are.

The Republicans want to lessen Government to enfeeblement; Democrats want to expand it in some few directions.  That's general human progress.

Let's consider insurance.  The theory of insurance is that the larger the group, the less risk there is to any member of the insurance group.  Doesn't it therefore make sense to increase the insurance pool?  YOUR medical costs go up everytime an uninsured person needs medical care.  So shouldn't we increase the number of insured people?  Fewer uninsured people mean lower costs for the rest of us.

Now let's say that the roads are failing in your area.  And in other areas.  And will fail in the future in other areas.  Isn't it a better idea to all get together and share the expenses gradually overall instead of all at once locally?

Isn't that what helping your neighbors now so that they can help you tomorrow is all about?  Government is merely the organized method of sharing todays costs with your neighbor tomorrow.  What you need to accept is that your neighbor might be several States away.

We understand that when some community many States away suffers a natural disaster.  A hurricane, an earthquake, a tornado.  We help them then.  That's what government is.  Society agreeing to hel each other in bad times...

And the Republicans fight against THAT!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Politics As A Profit Center

I suspected many months ago that Trump was playing the money game by running for office as he gave his speeches.  Now I have more evidence.

The recent Federal Election Commission filings provide information Trump would preferred to hide.  But unlike tax filings, those are public.

Trump says he is financing his campaign.   Well, not really.  He is LOANING money to his campaign (and loans usually have interest charges). That's right, he is loaning personal money (and it may be more tricky than that) to his campaign.  That means he is signing the checks on both sides of the loan!  The campaign is obligated to back Trump back for the money he is essentially loaning to himself.

Don't you wish you could borrow money that easily and expect payment back?  But it gets worse... 

Trump is using his own businesses to support his campaign.  And he is charging his campaign a hefty sum for "privilege" of using his own services.  The idea seems to be that he will use his own companies to benefit financially supporting his Presidential campaign.  Its a great gig, if you can arrange it.  And Trump does.

Use his his own jet to fly to campaign stops?  Trump charges himself high fees.  Staying at his own residences in various States?  Trump charges the top rates to his campaign.  Eat at a fundraiser (and yes he has them though he says he doesn't) you eat Trump steak and drink Trump wine.  Get given a framed picture of The Donald for a donation?  That picture comes in a Trump Picture Frame. 

Play a round of golf with Trump?  High green fees for the round charged to his campaign.   He charges the campaign to operate his campaign in various business locations he profits from. 

Staffers and campaign supporters eat at Trump restaurants, fly accumulating Trump miles, and wear Trump T-shirts made by Trump companies.  Those Trump hats he tosses out at campaign rallies?  A staffer company makes those and the campaign pays top dollar for them.

On the single day Trump announced his campaign in June 2015, his campaign cost generated $506,846 to Trump businesses.  One single day!

By the end of just 2015, the Trump campaign paid out $2.2 million, $2 million of which went to the airline where Trump is the CEO...

$90,000 went to staffers eating at Trump Cafe and Trump Grill...

Unspecified amounts went to Trump Payroll Corp. and Trump Tower Commercial LLC to pay for campaign staff payroll management, but that work isn't cheap...

This isn't a campaign, its a profit-making scam!  The Republican party has finally produced the perfect example of its long-held claim that businessmen (and it's usually men) are the most suited to run the country for the benefit of all the citizens.  If running for office is now a profit-center for Republican candidates to operate as a business, do you want to see what laws they pass?  I sure don't. 




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Politics

Trump loves insulting nicknames for people, and they are usually wrong...

1.  "Crazy Bernie" - Bernie Sanders is passionate, but he certainly is not crazy.  He has very long-thought-out views, and in a more rational world, they would be assumed.

2.  "Crooked Hillary" - Show me any instance where Hillary Clinton has been shown to break a law.  Endless Republican claims are not evidence of wrong-doing.

3.  "Little Marco" - If I thought Trump was knowledgeable about history, I might grant him the fact that he knows that taller candidates for President usually win.  But he isn't that knowledgeable about anything and that isn't what he meant by "little".  So he was just reaching for another baseless insult.

4.  "Lyin Ted" - Well, Ted Cruz does lie about almost everything.  He is despised by his fellow Senators, and he is disliked by many Republicans.  But Trump never specified a lie by Cruz.  He just makes unspecified claims and lets his supporters fill in the blanks in their minds.

5.  "Low Energy Jeb" - Jeb Bush is not the most charismatic campaigner compared to Trump.  But he was active in FL, is well-regarded, and has a following.  Trump thinks that activity equals success.  Quieter people with actual ideas can do better than Trump.

6.  "1 For 41 Kasich" - Yeah Kasich didn't win any primaries other than his home state.  But in a normal year, he would have been the Republican nominee.  Bad timing...

7.  "Goofy Elizabeth Warren" and "Pocahantas" -  Elizabeth Warren is passionate but certainly not "goofy".  Her ideas are well-thought-out, her arguments valid, and her now-famous "you didn't build that" is the best destruction of the wealthy claim "we built that" I have ever heard.  For those of you not familiar with this, she pointed out that the wealthy depend on the educational, infrastructural, national financial and legal systems that we have all paid for, that the rich use to create their wealth..

Trump is a bully.  A fake.  A sham.  He lives on his brand, and there is no substance to it.  He is like a tofu sausage, claiming to be the latter while only the former.

He claims to support working people, but he cheats them all the time in his business deals.  He refuses to pay them and dares them to sue him.  To Trump, cheating is "winning".  He glories in cheating working people.

I have a sneaking suspicion he does not want to actually be President with all the restrictions and personal limitation involved.  I bet he manages not to be elected..  He might even manufacture an arguement to prevent his nomination.

Think about it.  Trump would go crazy under the restrictions of being President.  His business drive would be stopped cold, his freedom of movement restricted, his every word examined and parsed, and he would have to make real decisions involving the well-being of US citizens (and world events).

I predict that he will panic, and find a way out of being nominated.  More about his reasons for running tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Assorted Stuff

Some days, I get more work done in the house and yard than usual.  I've been busy the past couple of days...

1.  The door to the garden enclosure is on a slope, so it is set above the highest ground (to allow it to open).  Unfortunately (in theory), that would allow Evil Squirrels to get under it.  The gap is 2" at one end.  So I need a barrier that doesn't block the door but blocks the gap.  I decided on a way. 

The door opens outwards, so a small barrier at ground level inside the door will work.  But I also need to get a wheelbarrow in there so it has to be removable.  And it is in ground contact, so it can't be wood that rots.  Well, I have leftover pieces of the composite decking and THAT won't rot.  So if I made some holder for the composite piece that could allow it to be lifted out easily, that would be perfect.

Being a woodworker of minor skill, I thought to cut a dado slot in 2 pieces of pressure treated 2"x4" wood 6" long (the width of the composite decking piece).  I've done router work before and am usually successful at it.  But I learned that router small pieces of wood does NOT work well.  Too late, I recalled advice from a woodworker magazine that said to do the routing first on long pieces and then cut the wood to size. 

Hindsight (or, in this case, hind-memory) is 20/20.

It was a disaster.  Trying of router 6' pieces of wood just chewed them up badly (Don't worry, my fingers were never in danger.  I may be only moderately-skilled, but I am EVER so cautious!).  But that attempt failed utterly.

So I decided to BUILD a slot.  A little table saw work, and I had 1"x1"strips of wood to glue to a 3" wide base |__| and the inside was the slot I needed.  When the glue dried I added screws for permanence.  The slot for the composite deck board is 3/16" wider than the board for easy removal.  It doesn't matter if the board is a bit loose; an Evil Squirrel can't lift it.

2.  The 3 areas I surrounded by edging last Fall are not working out as intended.  The closest one was planted with tulips and hyacinths in wire cages to protect them from the Voracious Voles and Evil Squirrels (who consider them delicacies), and daffodils (which are toxic and unpalatable to both).  But the hyacinths never came up (I suspect the 1/2" wire mesh was too small for the stems) and there weren't enough daffodils to cover the intended area.

So I have to dig up the hyacinth cages and try again this Fall, and add more daffodils.  The tulips did nicely and I expect them to be around for many year.   I have some tulips in places where voles and squirrels do not think to dig, and they have been blooming for 20 years.

But in the meantime, weeds are growing.  Most are easy enough to pull up by the roots, but there is a clumping grass with deep roots and pulling on them just takes off the tops so they grow back.  So for 2 days, I've spent an hour each day digging under the roots and prying them up.  I have some impressive piles...   Those will be composted after they spend a week in sealed plastic bags set in the full sun until they are as thoroughly dead as the Wicked Witch Of The East in Oz ("not only merely dead, really, most sincerely dead.”).

The poaching shovel really works well for that (a really narrow shovel).  I got almost all of those dug up!  The remaining weeds are kinds that can be cut off just below ground with my scuffle hoe.
7

3.  The Evil Squirrel live cage has been set again.  I didn't mind the 2 new squirrels around the birdfeeder (they can't get past the barrel baffle and the round disc baffle above it), but I saw one climbing on the garden enclosure trying to find a way in, and THAT one has got to go.  I'll get it; squirrels are suckers for peanut butter.

4.  The 2d edged circle is not planted.  I meant to move a plant called Lymachia to there, but it is too invasive, so I am killing all of it .  I thought it could be controlled in a circle I could mow around, but I've found them growing in 3 spots around the yard (1 spot 150' away from the patch) so they have to go.  I'll just keep cutting them down to ground level with my hedge trimmer until the roots are exhausted.  Meanwwhile, I will use the rototiller to turn over the soil in the circle and cover it in newspaper (the newspaper uses harmless soy ink).  That should kill off all weeds by Fall.  I think I will move the numerous Black-Eyed Susan volunteer plants from around the flowerbeds there.

5.  The 3rd edging area was planted with wildflower seeds last Fall, but it is mostly weeds.  I'm not sure what to do there.  On the one hand, there ARE wildflowers growing, and I want those.  On the other hand, 90% of the plants growing there are weeds.  I might try selective weeding, but not knowing what the good plants are (that might bloom next year) I might just undo some good plants.  But there are some plants I KNOW are weeds, so I think I will pull them and see what happens.

6.  I'm preparing to paint the rebuilt bathroom.  Have pale mossy green paint, dropclothes, rollers, etc.  Have TSP (trisodium phosphate to clean the 30 year old walls, gloves for protection, sponges, etc.  Ive painted every place I've ever been in (many apartments), so I know the routine..  It taking all the stuff off the walls that slows me.  That mirror has sharp edges!  I want to surround it with a wood frame.  And I have the frames.  But they are dark wood and the wood in the bathroom (towel bar, TP holder, toothbrush holder, light switch cover etc are light wood.  I need to see if I can stain those dark (danish walnut).  And I need to score the mirror smaller by 3" to account for the wood frame size.


7.  Weeded the old flowerbeds for an hour until I came across poison ivy plants creeping in.  I used to be immune to poison ivy, but 10 years ago developed a terrible rash from it.   It is one of those things that don't bother you until they do.  I'll need to wear heavy duty rubber gloves, have a bucket of bleach nearby and dip my trowel and gloves into it regularly.  And hope I don't forget and wipe my brow.

8.  Pulled up a dozen or so thorny thistles.  I wore heavy leather gloves that beat the torns, so it went well.  The thistles don't have deep roots, so they come up easily.  But they have enough stored food to mature their seeds after being pulled up (like dandelions) so they will go in the plastic bags with the poison ivy.

9.  A lot of my trees have the habit of sending out new branches from the trunks anywhere they can get sunlight.  So they drop down to walking level.  Since I get tired of pushing branches out of my way while I mow the lawn, I went after them yesterday.  I bought a pole pruner (a limb saw on a 10' pole) a couple years ago and this is the first time I used it.  It worked great!  A few cuts under the branch then more cuts on the top.  The undercuts prevent the falling branch from peeling off a foot of bark on the tree trunk (allowing diseases to start).  Hard on the arms though.  I may try my electric chain saw next time.

10.  Cleaned the riding mower deck completely.  The top collects dry grass clippings, the underside packs wet grass clippings on the undersurface like paper mache!  It took some real scraping.  Actually, I couldn't figure out how to get to the underside safely.  But I have these 2"x8"x8' boards with metal ends that you can clamp to trailers and other flat surfaces.  So I placed the boards on a 2' high landscaping box and drove the mower up on it. 

After detaching the spark plug wires for safety, I was able to crawl under and scrape the deck clean of packed dead grass clippings.  Took an hour though.  That mower blade really stays in the way. 

11.  I left the mower on the boards last night.  It occurred to me that I should sharpen the blades.  But I had enough old grass on my face and it was time to feed the cats.  So the blade sharpening is for tomorrow...

12.  The edged circles are too small for using my large roto-tiller.  But there are smaller electric versions.  The advertised gas one is called a Mantis.  But I found one with better ratings (Earthwise, with a 4.5 of 5 rating) and ordered it from Amazon.  It should be perfect for the smaller spaces and I've always wanted one like that.








Earthwise 11-Inch 8.5-Amp Corded Electric Tiller/Cultivator, Model TC70001

13.  Next project is to whack down the underbrush in the far back yard.  It has gotten amazingly overgrown since just removing a few trees back there 2 years ago.  I have a 4-stroke gas powered Stihl whacker with a metal blade but I've resisted using it because I hate the noise (I'm really a very quiet person), and it seems vaguely dangerous, but it is time to bring it out!  Serious work needs serious tools.  I'll be careful with it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cooking Misadventure


Deli roast beef is a bit pricey at $7.99/pound here, and roasts of the same cut are often on sale at half the price.  So I bought a slicing machine last month to slice my own sandwich meat from roasts I cook myself.  I'll probably have to do that a whole year to pay for the slicer, LOL!  But I bought a steamship round roast last month and cooked it to perfect rareness and cut it into 3' thick slabs.  The slicing went great for the 1st slab.  I froze the other 3 slabs for later slicing as needed.  And forgot I had them. 

So when I used up those 1st slices for sandwiches, I bought another roast ( a rump roast this time).  Two things went wrong with that.  First, I immediately discovered I still had most of the steamship round in the freezer.  So I might have a year's supply of roast beef sandwich meat. 

The second wrong thing was the cooking of the rump roast.  Now, I know how to cook it.  I stab it all over with my steely knives ('Hotel California', anyone?).  I push slivers of green pepper, onion, and garlic into the slits.  I even inject it with some red wine.  It comes out quite flavorful.  I don't like boring sandwiches... 

I slow-cook it 225F for several hours, fat side up for basting, and put a digital thermometer probe into the center set to alarm at 130F internal temperature.  Well, after several hours, I began to wonder why it hadn't reached temperature.  Yes, the oven was on.  The digital alarm, however, was NOT.  It was 145F internal when I checked, and of course the temperature rose above 150F as it rested on top of the stove after I took it out.  That is up into the "well-done" range, and I don't like it that much cooked.

ARGGGHHHH!

Well, I cut it into 3" slabs and put the slabs into plastic bags after it cooled in the fridge overnight.  Those are all in the freezer for some future use.  But I had the most-cooked pointed end of the roast left out.  Not liking to waste anything, I thought of what to do to save it.  Well, I had red and green bell peppers, and thought that with it sliced real thinly and a lot of moist veggies it might be OK.  And a sauce might help. 

So I got out my jar of beef boullion paste, put a teaspoon into a 1/3 cup very hot water to dissolve it, added some cornstarch to thicken it, added some spices and hot pepper flakes and a splash of soy sauce and shook the heck out of the container (easiest way to make a sauce I know of).

Then I sauteed the bell peppers slowly till softened, added the sauce to heat and thicken.  Added the very thinly sliced beef to heat through.  Well!  I've had worse pepper beef from chinese restaurants...  And the beef will probably be good with mushrooms and onions with regular beef gravy over noodles too.  So its not a loss; just a change in menus for a while.

I have a LOT of cooked beef roast to get through in the coming months...  LOL!

I'm more into pork and chicken and shrimp than beef, but after the poverty days of my 20s, I can eat nearly anything rather frequently if it is what I have.  And I am more creative about using what I have these days too.

My cooking motto is "whatever goes wrong, deal with it".

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Veggie Garden

Things are going well with the veggies this year.  The garden enclosure has made a real difference!  No squirrel or groundhog as gotten at the garden, and few insect pest.  Interestingly, bees and other good bugs have had no problem. 

This is a Kohlrabi.  It is a member of the cole family (broccoli, cabbage, etc).  But it grows a swollen part in the bottom of the plant.  Here, you can see the swelling that will grow.  It will become about the size of a tennis ball.  Cole crops were bred in various locations to produce large heads (cabbage, cauliflower), open heads (broccoli), small side heads (Brussels Sprouts), and middle swollen stems (kohlrabi). 

Sometimes I try to imagine why someone decided to grow a swollen stem plant.  I can't.  But it is both "broccolish" and a bit sweet, so I try it every few years. 
These are some of the heirloom tomatoes.   This year, I have Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Pruden's Purple, Ponderosa Pink, and Striped German.  I also have 2 hybrids of Brandywine (Garden Treasure and Garden Gem) and will see if they have the "heirloom flavor" they claim to have.  All the  plants are thriving; no signs of disease.
My first successful planting of Spinach.  I could have Spinach every night and as much as I like it, that's too much.  Next year, I will plant half the row.
The regular cole crops are doing well.  I found caterpillars on 2 plants and killed them all.  They are usually a BIG problem here, but with the garden enclosure, the cabbage moths don't find them as well.  Yay!
I have high hopes for the corn.  I'm growing 2 kinds of bi-color corn this year.  One early type and one late.  The further back 2 rows are the late ones and the 2 front are the early ones.  I will plant 2 more rows of early ones next week for succession harvesting.  At the very back are cucumbers.  They will grow faster than the corn, so they won't be shaded much.  And corn doesn't make much shade anyway.  You can't see, but there are cantaloupe melons at each end.  They will grow along the ground and shade out weeds around the corn. 
Here I have Italian flat pole beans.  The 1st planting only had 3 beans grow.  A 2nd planting got 100% germination.  I LOVE Italian flat beans.  And you can see carrots growing in the corner.
I took pictures of the Zucchini  and Bell Peppers and Honeydew melon seedlings, but they didn't come out well.  But they are there and growing.

Believe it or not, next week starts the Fall plantings!  I have left a few empty spaces for Brussels Sprouts and Garlic.  And I will continue to plant lettuces and radishes to the end of September as I harvest them in their squares. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Varmint Wars

I was dismayed to step out on the deck yesterday and see a brown shape near my garden.  I initially thought I had left a log out there, but I gave a shrill whistle and it turned to look.  A groundhog!  And it was checking out my garden enclosure.

Well, I sort of trust the garden enclosure.  Its chicken wire around all the sides and top, and there is even 2' of chicken wire off the sides and onto the lawn to discourage exactly that varmint digging under the enclosure.

But I'd rather not have a groundhog beat my defenses one day when my melons are ALMOST ripe.  So I set my live have-a-hart cage baited with a melon slice and strawberry trimmings.  Caught it that night!

I dispatched it humanely and swiftly as possible.  It is now returned to the environment...  I found the burrow and dumped a load of cat poop in there.  There is probably another opening to the burrow, but it seems to have pulled the boards off around the bottom of my raised toolshed and I can't get at anything under the toolshed easily.

So this time I will place cinderblocks against the boards and hope that discourages any new groundhog visitors looking for new homes.

I guard my garden zealously!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Garden Harvest

I got my first garden harvest of the year today.  Radishes, Spinach, and Snow Peas!  I ate the radishes before I thought to take a picture.  They were outstandingly good.  Both spicy and slighty sweet.

The spinach was great.  I had never grown it before, reading that it was hard to grow.  But I planted 6 square feet of it and nearly every seed germinated.  I harvested the largest leaves recently.

Spinach is an odd crop.  You cook it and it wilts away into almost nothing.  A basketful of spinach is a small bowlful when cooked.  But oh goodness it is tastier than anything I have bought in the bags in the grocery store!

A bit of olive oil or bacon fat in a large pot, heated moderately, spinach tossed in, covered 1 minute, tossed and cooked 2 minutes, served with a dab of butter and a dash of lemon juice and it is wonderous!

Here is the raw stuff...
And my late-planted snow peas are fruiting!  Picked while small and slim, they are so sweet and tasty!  The grocery store ones are too mature; tough and with strings on the sides.  Yeah, I know how to peel of the strings of mature ones (grab the lower end in one hand and press a thumbnail into it, pulling gently up toward the front).  But my new ones don't have strings and taste better.  
My chinese cabbage is next to harvest.  Plus more radishes.

My garden enclosure is working perfectly.  No squirrel or groundhog attacks.  The corn is growing great, I have tomatoes undisturbed, melons and squashes doing well, cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) of many kinds, and many small crops like carrots, chard, beets, carrots, etc.  This is going to be a GREAT harvesting season!

I have high hopes for the tomatoes.  I plant heirloom varieties because they just taste so good.  So far they seem healthier than in past years.  And I have 3 plants of 2 Brandywine hybrids developed by the University of Florida that were bred for flavor and disease resistance instead of shipping durability.  One is a large main season tomato called Garden Treasure and one is a "salad" tomato called Garden Gem.

"Supposedly", they have an heirloom taste with good disease resistance.  We'll see.  This is a hard area for heirloom tomatoes.  The humidity is very high in Summer, which encourages fungal diseases, and the Winters don't get cold enough to kill off soil parasites (nematodes, etc).

Meanwhile, I have the heirlooms Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Striped German, and Ponderosa Pink.  And for backup, I have a hybrid called Big Beef which is the best-tasting hybrid I know of.

And I also have my upside-down growing cherry tomato plant.  I grow it out the bottom of a 5 gallon pot hanging 10" above ground.  More about that some other day.  I just hung it yesterday, so there isn't much to show other than a scrawny seedling confused about which way is up.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Yet Another Mass Shooting

I want to recognize the shooting tragedy in Orlando Florida US.  50 people died and 53 others were wounded.  Some of them may not live.  There is some uncertainty (as I write this) about the motive.  It was at a popular evening club for members of the LBGT community.  I haven't seen evidence yet about whether the club was a target because of the LBGT  audience of just the large audience.  Regardless, my thoughts go out to all the friends, family, and residents.

This level of hatred just astounds me.  I assume it is good that I can't comprehend the level of anger that drives some people to such violence.  But comprehending it might help to find ways to reduce the prevalence of such terrible acts.  We need to capture, not kill, such shooters in order to understand their motives through prolonged psychiatric evaluation.

Part of the problem is the gun culture in the US.  We have way too many guns.  Something like 350 million of them; more than one person man/woman/child.  I heard one commentator say that stopping all gun sales today would not have much effect because the existing guns (and available parts for repairs) would would last 500 years.  I suspect that person was correct.

I know the National Rifle Association claims that "if more people were armed, the shooter would have been killed".  That is quite possibly correct.  The problem is that if that many people were carrying arms around with them everyday, more people than the 50 would be killed around the US for other reasons of personal passion or suicide.

Too many people want easy solutions.  One side says "arm everyone".  The other side says "confiscate all weapons".  Neither would work. 

The first would have us all carrying handguns.  Handguns are notoriously inaccurate.  There are videos of trained police shooting at criminals only yards away and not hitting them.  Or maybe we should all carry AK-47s.  So we would shoot the shooters; and everyone to the sides of them.  Too many people couldn't shoot a barn wall from inside the barn.

The second would have us ban and confiscate all guns.  A wonderful idea that will not work.  You would never find most of them.  If I wanted to, I could buy a dozen serious guns this week and hide them all for decades.  And as the non-NRA guy said, they last for centuries.

One solution is obviously identifying the potential shooters.  But that won't work either.  What are you going to do?  Identify all angry people and lock them up "pre-crime"?  That's science fiction dystopia. 

The real solution is to solve the causes of such virulent anger.  But that will probably not happen because it is too difficult, would require massive governmental interference in our personal lives, and create a Police State that would be the envy of dictators everywhere.

So what do we do?  Well, we try to solve the causes of hatred and anger.  That's hard, and we aren't used to that KIND of massive effort.  It could be done.  And there is some comfort in the fact that we (worldwide) have been learning to avoid mass war for scores of years. 

We used to just routinely kill each other in wars over local politics, power, and greed (medieval Europe for example.  Then we "advanced" to  wars for international influence and territory (exploration and colonialism).  That culminated in WWII and faded slowly as colonial empires collapsed and subjugated population freed themselves (Vietnam, Africa, Former Soviet Union territories).

Today, we are facing the leftover hatreds of religious differences.  And they are numerous.  No religion is free of the guilt.  The primary murderous contention today is between Moslems and Jews and Moslems and Christians, but there is mass murder between Hindus and Moslems and Buddhists in Asia and minority religions are attacked by other majority religions all over the world.

The majority of mass murders are religiously-oriented these days.  And someday, that will pass too.  As standards of living slowly rise (an assumption I accept), economic and political reasons to commit mass murder will decline.  Hopefully religious causes will will also diminish. 

As tragic as the Orlando and other mass murders are, it is worth putting the numbers into perspective.  103 killed and wounded is serious and terrible.  But so many more people die every day.

The US population was 324 million in 2013.  Of that, 2.6 million people died.  Of those, the vast majority died from diseases.   136.000 died from accidents.  43,000 committed suicide.  15,000 people were murdered.  137 were killed in mass murders.

Mass murders are horrific.  They are cruel, terrible, evil, and unnecessary.  They do not accomplish the goals of the mass murderers.  But they are also a negligible minor footnote on the world population.  We can survive this insane strategy until the impetus wears out.

Meanwhile, we will properly mourn the accidental victims, try to discover the causes, and move on.

And, BTW, it is not a "War On Terrorism", it is a "War On TerrorISTS"...





Sunday, June 5, 2016

Politics

After the last post, I want to make it clear that I do not think Hillary Clinton is perfect.  I know, "DUH"!  But thinking one candidate is essentially unfit to be President does not automatically make the other major party candidate better.

There are concerns about Hillary Clinton, as well.  Some go back a long way.  None of the buckets of charges against Hillary Clinton appear to hold water, though.

1.  Whitewater -  One of the earliest charges against the Clintons involved the Whitewater Development Company.  The Clintons lost money in a real estate deal.  The Whitewater Development company hired the law firm at which Hillary Clinton worked at the time for a separate failed investment.

Republicans claimed a conflict of interest and possible payback to the Clintons.  8 years of Republican-led investigation and millions of taxpayer dollars spent resulted in no finding of any wrongdoing by the Clintons.

2.  WalMart - In 1986, Walmart (based in Arkansas) was under pressure to name women to their Board of Directors.  Hillary Clinton, then merely a talented lawyer (from Arkansas) , was chosen.  As a Board Member, she championed ethnic and gender management diversity and supported corporate environmental responsibility.

Republicans claim this proves she doesn't understand business priorities and that she supported low worker wages..

Today, these are recognized as legitimate business concerns.  Her 6 years on the Walmart Board of Directors gave her considerable experience about how major business operate.  And while there, she never supported the WalMart "low wages" strategy.

3.  Monsanto -  Republicans sometimes like to claim that Hillary Clinton once sat on the Monsanto (multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation) Board of Directors.  This is a false claim designed to undermine her reputation for environmental concerns.  There is no evidence for the claim.

4.  Vince Foster -  Republicans claim that the Clintons arranged to have Vince Foster (Deputy White House Counsel for Bill Clinton for a few months) killed to protect unspecified secrets.  Mr Foster sufferred from depression exacerbated by the stress of some political failures (Kimba Wood and Lani Guinier recommendations were unsuccessful).  There were several suicide notes, and there is evidence he spent some time organizing "end of life" concerns.   The Clintons were cleared of involvement by the FBI and several independent investigations.

5.  Wall Street And Bank Donations - Not all wall street investors and bankers are Republicans.  But Republicans like to think they are.   So they get really annoyed when VERY rich people Wall Street people support Democrats.  They attack Hillary Clinton for being supported by some very wealthy people as some sort of flaw, when they glory in the very wealthy people who support THEM!  It makes no sense that all wealthy people have to support Republicans.  Some wealthy people support Democratic Party values too.  And they like to hear from the Clintons.

6.  Citizens United - Speaking of the false claim that Hillary Clinton favors the Wall Street Investors (above), she doesn't support the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  However, it being the current law, she has to operate within it's guidelines in order to run a viable campaign.  She desires this Supreme Court ruling to be overturned in the interest of fairer campaigns in the future.

And I will add something here.  MONEY is not "speech".  One person, one vote does NOT mean "one dollar one vote"!

7.   Benghazi - Diplomatic service is dangerous in some nations.  There were 13 attacks on US Embassies during the George W Bush years, resulting in at least 60 deaths.  4 people died in Benghazi.  All were tragic.  The Benghazi situation was confusing of initial cause, and seems to have changed from a minor protest about religious images to an opportunistic attack for more political/religious/insurgent reasons by more violent elements.

The deaths at Benghazi have now been misused as attacks on Hillary Clinton while Secretary Of State.  This is wrong.  Several investigations have found no evidence that Scretary Of Stae Clinton, either allowed the attacks or refused to send military aid.

As best I can tell, the main Republican attack is that she did not call the incident a "terrorist attack"  early enough publicly AND that she called it one to family and friends before the facts were certain.  Public officials SHOULD be circumspect publicly.

In any case, there was no willful failure of duty.  The idea that any Secretary Of State would willfully allow fellow officials to die is reprehensible.   Numerous Republican investigations have failed to find any failure by Secretary Clinton.  And they wasted $7 million of our taxes trying to do so.

8.  Email server - It was an agency regulation, not a law.  And every Secretary Of State since email was created ignored it.  They are in charge of the rules and get to define them.  And Clinton's server was never hacked.  I wish more companies could claim that...  That being said, it wasn't the smartest decision she ever made.  But like my first boss told me, "everyone gets one minor screw-up".  And this one is minor.

9.  Dollars To Iran - Well, the dollars to Iran were Iran's money that we managed to lock away from them for years.  We didn't GIVE them a dime.  We (the international community) unlocked their international assets after negotiating a cessation of their nuclear research program.  It wasn't Clinton's decision; it wasn't even Obama's decision.  It was an international agreement. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Politics

During the Political Season, I engage in political comments.  And with the conventions and general elections coming, I'll start seriously.

Hillary Clinton delivered a serious speech castigating Trump yesterday, and made what I consider to be some serious points.  I'm taking them from from MSNBC, but I listened to the speech and they are all in there...  Clinton's quotes are in italics:

1. “I believe the person GOP nominated for president cannot do the job.”
 That's an opinion (and stated as such), but I agree that Trump is not actually able to do the job of President.   Conversely, one can hardly say that Clinton, a Senator from a large state and Secretary of State, is not generally qualified to be President.

2. “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes.”
 Yes, no essentially thoughtless person ever should.  And Trump has demonstrated that he does not think much.  Asked what he had read lately, he couldn't even come up with a newspaper.  He finally allowed "All's Quiet On The Western Front" which is something he might have read in high school.

3. “They’re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.”
 True.  Trump never says anything specific.  He just makes unsupported claims to "do things".

4. After calling out Trump’s “nasty” tweets, Clinton said: “I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.”
Trump did in fact tweet during the speech.

5. “I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain [Trump’s] affection for tyrants.”
I have to agree.  I've read enough about abnormal psychiatry to judge that.  Trump loves dictators.  He is one himself in his pond.

6. “There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course deal, but it doesn’t work like that in world affairs.”
Clinton makes the very good point that failure is a constant among real estate developers that is not permissible on the world stage of international relations.
 
7. “Making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake.”
An opinion, but a valid one.  Trump has said he would encourage more nations to build nuclear weapons (Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan).  He actually does not understand what nuclear weapons can do today.  A serious exchange of nuclear weapons would end human life.

8. “This isn’t reality television – this is actual reality.”
Trump does not see reality as you or I do.  It is all about him.  He thinks he can change the world after events occur.  Well, that's how it works on TV or in Real Estate.

9. “[Trump’s} ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent.”
Trump changes his mind daily.  He denies what he says on video.  He might not even KNOW he changes his mind daily.  Such people are very very dangerous.

10. “Letting ISIS run wild, launching a nuclear attack, starting a ground war; these are all distinct possibilities” with Trump “in charge.”
Trump as variously said that ISIS is dangerous, that it is not, that they are a serious threat, that he could kill them easily, that we spend too much on our military and that we do not spend enough.  Such daily changes in thinking is a sign of lunacy.

11. “It’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”
Trump really is thin-skinned.  He can't stand criticism.  He is surrounded by "yes-men" and if they don't yell "YES" loud or fast enough, he fires them.  He goes well, "Trumpish" about it.  Children are like that.  Teenagers are like that.   Some adults are too, but most adults learn to control their emotions enough to maintain working relations with people who annoy them.  Trump doesn't.  He sues everyone who annoys him.  He is involved in about 3500 lawsuits right now.  What is he going to do with Putin, sue him?  Threaten to cancel a casino project?

12. “I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.”
Trump probably can't even imagine nuclear war.  To him, it's just a "big bomb".

13. “If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin.”
Putin would eat Trump for lunch and still feel hungry.   Trump depends on his lawyers to get his way.  Putin doesn't care about lawyers.  Neither does any other world leader, friendly or not.
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bathtub Area Replacement 4

Finally, the "after" pictures...  It all looks great.
Higher tiles, better showerhead.
I have to repaint though. I can do that part.
They tiled all the way down the sides.  Better than it was before.
 I'm really tired of that pale gold color anyway.  30 years...
But the new bathtub looks great!
I figure white fixtures work with any color wall paint.

I chose a very very light mossy green to paint the bathroom.  It matches the (and I'm almost ashamed to say this as a guy) towels and bathroom mats.  Well, I didn't want bright white paint...