Friday, July 31, 2009

Endeavour Is Safely Back

Another successful space mission. Welcome back guys.

Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven astronauts returned to Earth on today, completing a long but successful construction job that boosted the size and power of the international space station.

The shuttle mission lasted 16 days and spanned 6.5 million miles, one of NASA's longest. The shuttle astronauts carried out five spacewalks – tying a record for a single flight – and helped their station colleagues when a toilet flooded and an air purifier overheated. The commode, one of three on the linked shuttle and station, was fixed in a day. But the air-cleansing system remained out of order Friday.

There are now seven shuttle flights remaining to finish the space station, now 83 percent complete with nearly 700,000 pounds of mass. The next launch, by Discovery, is targeted for the end of August.

Great job NASA!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not Only Organic Food But An Organic Life

UPDATE: Jill at LaVidaLocavore has a good post on why this whole report needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

The front page of the British tabloid Daily Express has a headline in type two inches high: “ORGANIC FOOD NO HEALTHIER.” The article begins, “Eating organic food in the belief that it is good for your health is a waste of money, new research shows.”

The article is based on the conclusions of a lengthy report just released from the British Food Standards Agency, Comparison of composition (nutrients and other substances) of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs: a systematic review of the available literature. The report is by the prestigious London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and looked at the results of 162 studies comparing organic to conventionally grown foods for their content of nutrients and other substances. Although it found higher amounts of some nutrients in organic crops, it found higher amounts of others in conventional crops, and no difference in others. On this basis, the report concludes:

There is no good evidence that increased dietary intake, of the nutrients identified in this review to be present in larger amounts in organically than in conventionally produced crops and livestock products, would be of benefit to individuals consuming a normal varied diet, and it is therefore unlikely that these differences in nutrient content are relevant to consumer health.

That is fine and dandy but a very narrow view of what 'organic' really is all about. The 'organic' movement has diverged from what the original intent of the 'organic' concept really was. It's now become some official designation which frankly doesn't mean shit. There are not nearly enough inspectors to actually insure that things labeled 'organic' are actually organic and the reality is that the whole concept has actually become rather meaningless. Regulations now allow for 'non-organic' additives and there is no real system to truly trace the origins and heritage of all the ingredients in your box of 'organic corn flakes'. The chances that some of the corn in the box is actually GMO is very high.

We actually need a new word instead of 'organic'...something that incorporates the things that are actually really important in defining the food that we eat. We need food grown locally. We need food grown sustainably. We need food grown as naturally as possible with as little industrial chemicals as possible and it means organic fertilizers and natural insecticides where possible. It means crop rotation and maximized use of our arable land. It means fresh foods and foods that taste good. If we have to use insecticides and fungicides then we need to use those derived from natural sources like BT, pyrethrins and neem and we need to reject things like DDT, and glycophosphates and chlorodane. We need to encourage beneficial insects and take advantage of companion planting as well as heirloom varieties that have proven their worth over the generations.

Like I said, fine and dandy, I know food that is grown locally or in my backyard is fresher and better tasting and probably more nutritious than food flown in from New Zealand or Chile or even grown on some mega farm somewhere in the U.S.. It is also cheaper in the broader sense. If the farmer down the road doesn't strictly abide by all the 'organic rules' like buffer zones and such but he does try and grow his food naturally and with care then I think he still wins...strictly organic or not.

Caught In the Act

Who knew squirrels liked tomatoes? This fellow is on his second or third. Do you think he is the one that ate all of the Italian parsley as well? You'll notice that it doesn't look like he/she has missed too many meals.

Is It DOA?

Matt Taibbi on the impending death of health care reform:

It’s the same with this health care bill. Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writing on the Wall

The people driving Wall Street are usually a good predictor of what's going to happen in the near term with respect to laws and changes that will impact private industry. It looks as if they are seeing a big win for the health insurance industry and a big lose for we the people. Now that we see that a public option is not a part of the Senate plan we, like Wall Street, can begin to see who is going to benefit if the public option gets dropped from health care reform. Clue: It ain't us.

Shares of U.S. health insurers rose broadly on Tuesday on hopes a health reform bill would not include a government-run option, which has drawn strong opposition from insurers who fear it would destroy the private marketplace.

The S&P Managed Health Care index of large U.S. health insurers closed 6.5 percent higher.

Aetna rose 12.6 percent, Coventry was up 12.7 percent and Cigna was 7.7 percent higher, all on the New York Stock Exchange. Centene rose 7.9 percent.

If you want to bet against yourself then it looks like the health insurance stocks are the way to go. Maybe you can make enough profit to pay for your medical care.

Weather Change

It's finally raining here in Atlanta...and it is much needed. No work outside today but there is plenty to do inside. There are enough tomatoes very ripe to make a batch of tomato puree. It is arduous but well worth it. I will preserve it in pints which is just right for the two of us and later in the cold of winner I will be able to open a jar of summer. Even though we canned tomatoes two days ago you can see that dining room table is once again ready for another batch.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Losing the Corn Fight

As you can see I am rapidly losing the 'battle of the corn'. I think it might be squirrels but it could be birds just as easily. I haven't actually been able to catch anyone in the act but it is very frustrating and discouraging. Next year I may have to resort to that awful 'liquid fence" stuff that smells so bad the critters won't come near the garden and that's a shame because the smells in the garden are part of the attraction. They are now getting the ears that are just forming and not even waiting for them to fill out before they attack.
I guess I should be glad that they don't like all veges...

Screw Bipatisan, We Need Health Care for All

The Senate Finance committee is getting ready to reveal the results of their long and tortuous debate on health care reform. In case you are unaware, the committee is made up of three Republicans...Snowe, Enzi and Grassley and three Democrats...Baucus, Bingaman and Kent "co-ops" Conrad. In the glorious search for 'bipartisan agreement' the Dems have caved on most of the important aspects of the President's reform agenda...

David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear write in the New York Times:

The fate of the health care overhaul largely rests on the shoulders of six senators who since June 17 have gathered — often twice a day, and for many hours at a stretch — in a conference room with burnt sienna walls, in the office of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana.

President Obama and Congressional leaders agree that if a bipartisan deal can be forged on health care, it will emerge from this conference room, with a huge map of Montana on one wall and photos of Mike Mansfield, the Montanan who was the longest-serving Senate majority leader, on the other.

The battle over health care is all but paralyzed as everyone awaits the outcome of their talks.

When I read this this morning I got really mad:

Already, the group of six has tossed aside the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, which the president supports but Republicans said was a deal-breaker.

Instead, they are proposing a network of private, nonprofit cooperatives.

They have also dismissed the House Democratic plan to pay for the bill’s roughly $1 trillion, 10-year cost partly with an income surtax on high earners.

The three Republicans have insisted that any new taxes come from within the health care arena. As one option, Democrats have proposed taxing high-end insurance plans with values exceeding $25,000.

The Senate group also seems prepared to drop a requirement, included in other versions of the legislation, that employers offer coverage to their workers. …

…In the House, centrist Democrats have temporarily stalled the health care bill, many lawmakers want to see what Mr. Baucus’s group produces before voting on tax increases in the House bill.

Think about it, the lives of millions of Americans rest with this crew that in some degree or another are essentially owned by Big Pharma and the health insurance industry. That they are holding the keys to the future of America is absolutely outrageous. The is the complete and utter failure of American democracy writ large by a very small part of America.

Based on 2008 state populations these six senators represent a total of 8,444,956 people. That's roughly the population of New York City yet they are going to ignore 78% of entire country who want a public option and health care available to all at reasonable cost.

My favorite quote:

“If this is the only bill with bipartisan support,” Ms. Snowe said, “that will really resonate. It could be the linchpin for broad bipartisan agreement.”

If you care and haven't called your representatives and written emails then you should do so. Elections should have consequences and the insane pursuit of 'bipartisan' does not reflect the results of the last election. The Democrats control the entire government...end of discussion and we don't need 'bipartisan anything' to pass something so badly needed by Americans. This is not just about health care but the future economic viability of America to compete on a global basis. If we don't get a very progressive change to how health care in the country is delivered then we will finally know that our elected officials just see us as worthless peasants and that we should just toil and serve and shut up. They have their 'government run health care' and the rest of us can just SFU and die.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Canning Menahunies

I went out to get some milk thinking that surely the menahunies would take care of the 9 pounds of green beans picked yesterday. Somehow they didn't get the word as the beans are still in the bottom of the fridge. Looks like the balance of my afternoon is spoken for. It's not really that hard but standing at the counter and trimming that many beans takes a toll on the old back and knees. I can't seem to work effectively sitting at the kitchen table but maybe I will give it a try. This should make a full pressure canner load of 8 quarts...a lot of beans. These are the last of the Kentucky Wonder pole beans which got pulled up in preparation for a fall crop of Trail of Tears and Hidasa for drying on the vine. Both are heirloom beans courtesy of the Native Americans and I grow them both (as I do the October, Hutterite, Boston Soup and Dark Kidney) for food and to continue the genetic line for another year. All of the beans will have some reserved for replanting next year.

No, I still don't hear the menahunies at work in the kitchen so I guess I will get to work. Maybe they are mad because I don't have any tarot planted in the garden? I do have two Hawaiian Ti plants on the deck but I guess that is not enough.

Okra and Tomatoes

While we are talking about food....

Very few people outside the South eat okra and that is understandable. It is a little weird and if you do nothing but boil it, it can be a little daunting what with the 'slime' and all. The thing is that with a little knowledge and the right handling okra can be a delicious food and for gardeners it is pretty easy to grow. It is a required ingredient in a good gumbo since its natural 'slime' thickens the stew just like file powder(sassafras powder).

I did this recipe for the dinner party last weekend for 48 and since that time it has received many compliments...even from people who thought they didn't like okra. While my bread is baking I thought I would cast it out to the ether and save it for eternity.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in 'How to Cook a Pig and Other Back to the Farm Recipes' a cookbook from a previous First Lady of Georgia, Betty Talmadge. The original recipe comes from the Talmadge family black cook Cile.

You'll need:

2 Tablespoons of olive oil (the original recipe calls for bacon drippings)
1 pound of okra, cut in about half in pieces(stem end removed). You can use a 10 oz. package of frozen okra just make sure it is not breaded)
4 fresh tomatoes cut in pieces(peel optional) or a 1 16 oz. can of tomatoes
1 onion chopped ( I use Vidalia onions but use what you have)
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil or bacon drippings in a large frying pan and add the okra to the hot oil and sprinkle with a dash of kosher salt. Stir the okra over medium high heat until 'the slime goes away" but I just watch until I start to get a little browning on the cut ends of the okra. The high heat will make the slime go away. Add the tomatoes and onions, Worcestershire and sugar and pepper and additional salt if you want and transfer to an oven proof casserole. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour in a 350F oven. You can keep this warm for a while before serving. One thing you don't want to do is add any additional water or will get the slime back. This should serve 4 or 6 people as a side dish. You can cook this dish all on the stove top but I think the baking makes a better product.

Like I said above I made a large batch based of this recipe (5 pounds of okra) for 48 people last weekend and it was a big hit even with non okra eaters. I did use canned San Marzano tomatoes in my dish because that is what I had on hand and I also added thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes on top before baking. It held up very well even after sitting in a warm oven for two hours.

Give it a try.

Homemade Chewy Granola and Fruit Bars

Madam and I both like a chewy granola and fruit bar for a snack but it is getting impossible to find a commercial one that doesn't include some unpronounceable chemicals and other questionable ingredients(like HFCS). Not to mention that some are really expensive. If you'll remember the peanut recall you will also remember that even the expensive Kashi granola bars were recalled because they contained potentially contaminated nuts. The only way to really know what is in your food is to make it yourself so if you like the occasional granola bar for a snack, here is a reliable recipe that makes a nice chewy bar. You can make them in less than an hour and the actual hands on time is only about 15 minutes. You can use other fruit than what is listed here but this makes for a nice combination...regardless just keep the amounts of whatever you use the same. I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook.

You'll need:

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (not the cooks in 1 minute stuff)
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds(shelled of course and salted or unsalted)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup raisins or you can use chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries( I use the sweetened ones)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter an 8 x 12-inch baking dish for thick bars (or a 9x13 for thinner ones) and line the bottom with parchment paper for easy extraction.

On a sheet pan toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the wheat germ.

Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

In a small saucepan melt the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the raisins, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and using wet fingers, lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. You need to allow this to cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. I wrap them individually in waxed paper and then store in a larger container or big zip bag. These will keep for a couple of weeks at room temperature or for months if kept frozen.

Depending on how big you like your bars this recipe will make 12 or 16 and I usually make 16.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Off The Wagon

My mostly vegetarian diet took a big hit today. Knowing that Madam and I would be canning and freezing most of the day I decided that the urge for dead pig was in need of satisfaction. I made a grocery run first thing and found a nice little Boston Butt that needed some love. It spent about seven hours on a slow fire today and produced a wonderful meal of pulled pork BBQ. My okra crop has recovered from the dinner for 48 last weekend so fried okra and cole slaw were the two partners for the BBQ. It was lovely and delicious but we froze the remainders of the BBQ for meals down the road. When you get used to nothing but fresh veges your tastes change I guess and I don't even want to think about meat for a while. I'll enjoy the BBQ again in a couple of weeks and for us Southern have to have some pork now and again or you die.

And was another day of 'putting by'...more tomatoes and green beans. We are pretty much caught up on tomatoes but we still have about 9 pounds of green beans to freeze. I guess that will be tomorrow. In addition to the canning and freezing I made a loaf of banana bread and a pan of granola bars for Madam's lunch. I kept looking at the prices for the 'better' bars and decided I could do a lot better and control the ingredients. they're pretty good if I do say so myself. I also got a batch of bread started which will be baked tomorrow. It should have been done today but I ran out of steam. Letting it rest in the fridge overnight won't do anything but improve the flavor. The bummer is I won't have toast for breakfast in the morning.

So yes, there hasn't been much on the old blog but there is only so much time.

I did watch some TV tonight "The Next Food Network Star" and wasn't surprised by the results. I was trying to figure out what I would have fixed for the 3 course meal for all the food stars and am at a loss even considering the $1000 they were allowed to spend on ingredients.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Killing Profitably

Killing us is very profitable...United Healthcare the largest health care insurer in the U.S. reported its 2nd quarter earnings on Tuesday. It earned $859 million, or 73 cents a share, up from $337 million or 27 cents a share, in the same quarter of 2008. Revenue came in at $21.7 billion, up from $20.3 billion in the second quarter of last year. The rest of the big insurers will report their Q2 results over the week but you can rest assured that they will be equally impressive.

I'm sure a lot of the folks at United Heath are going to be very happy with the extra money in their paychecks earned by denying folks needed services and dropping people that are too sick to insure. It is really profitable to collect buckets of money from healthy people and then drop them when they actually get sick.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's the Democrats, Mostly Blue Dogs

FireDogLake has a petition urging the House to stay in session until health care reform passes. Jane Hamsher reports the petitions will be delivered by Mike Stark to the House (on video) next week. Why is this important and why should you go over and sign the petition?

Let's face the reality of the situation on health care reform. There is no question that the GOP is bound and determined to defeat health care reform. They see it as a test of the Obama presidency and its failure will be a failure of his presidency. We understand that and that is really no change from what the GOP has been doing for years and years and that is put politics ahead of what is right for America. In spite of the insanity spewing from idiots like DeMint, Steele, Rush and the rest, the hard truth is that Republicans don't really have the power to stop health care reform regardless of their rabid desire to. The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Presidency. Democrats either pass health care reform or own the failure excuses. So, here's a simple message for Democrats. Don't go home for vacation without a health care bill:
You know what happens if they allow health care reform to be delayed until after the August recess? These Members go home, they get hit by hundreds of TV ads from the murder-by-spreadsheet industry, and they get phone calls from angry voters about "socialized health care." Then they come back, scared to pass real health care reform, so they end up passing health care reform that may not include a public option or a national insurance exchange. The stakes are very high this week.

If major health care reform fails then President Obama and the Democrats own that failure completely. Delaying action only works for the opponents of meaningful reform.

The problem is that the Blue Dog Democrats are being stooges for the GOP. What is amazing is that they don't seem to realize it. We all know that that the Blue Dogs come from very conservative districts but they should realize that if the Democrats take a big hit on health care reform and lose progressive momentum then the Blue Dogs will feel it first in their own districts. By following the GOP line on health care reform the Blue Dogs are giving the conservatives much more energy and therefore actually hurting their reelection chances. They are setting themselves up for a big loss. The thing is, the Blue dogs are getting what they want, "pay-go" legislation. That's what they've been asking for and that will give them the budget conservative credentials they need in their conservative home districts. What they need to do now is get on board with the President's agenda and solve the American health care crisis. Otherwise, the Republicans can just relax, spew their bull shit and let the Blue Dogs do their dirty work and defeat meaningful health care reform. What is so hard to understand?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Pressures and Pleasures

Sorry for the light posting around here but the pressures of high summer are keeping me busy. Canned more tomatoes today and a batch of tomato preserves from all the yellow pear tomatoes. I also have a batch of tomato preserves from the cherry tomatoes waiting to be canned tomorrow. It looks like Wednesday will be another tomato canning day in spite of the efforts of the birds to damage every ripening fruit before I can harvest.

Speaking of birds... I had a rewarding experience in the garden today. While working quietly...I tend to go into a sort of meditative state in the garden...a small bird (Eastern Pee Wee) alighted on a post just inches from my head and then fluttered even closer as if to alight on my shoulder. He/she decided not to but again landed just a foot away and just watched me go about my chores. This close surveillance went on for the better part of a half hour and then he/she flew off down the row of tomatoes. It wasn't two minutes until it reappeared with a large bumble bee in its beak and took its position by me once again. I got the impression that it was showing me the bee and letting me know it appreciated the fine hunting ground I had provided with the garden and all its blooms and attending insects. I acknowledged the attention and let it know it was welcome. Off it flew to the bluebird house I have mounted on the garden fence where it seems it is raising a family. Maybe it was saying thanks for the apartment as well? That is one of the great pleasures of spending time in a garden...especially if you silence the mental chatter and just let the life around you guide your thoughts. Beethoven has nothing on the symphony of sounds in a healthy garden all intertwined with the constant hum of bees creating another generation of life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Big Success

Well the "Dinner from the Garden" event was a big success. All of the feedback was very positive and even though a lot of work I had fun. I was very pleased that there were many trips back for seconds on my green beans and okra and tomatoes and potato salad. A number of people who said they didn't really care for okra wanted the recipe for the okra and tomatoes.

Madam sold all of the little baskets of product she had prepared though they went so fast I think they might have been under priced at $3.50. Each had a very large heirloom tomato, yellow pear tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and an assortment of peppers for color. We had absolutely perfect weather upper 70's, nice breeze and low humidity. We should have charged extra for that.

Now we just have to recover. Two days and an evening standing and cooking is hard on these old knees. I still have to do a little cooking today as there is unused corn to blanch and freeze, more tomatoes to can and the weekly bread baking to do but I'll sit some in between. It's also another glorious day with a high maybe in the low 80's. Very nice for the middle of July.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RIP - Walter Cronkite

He talked to me during the civil rights movement.

He talked me through the space race.

He talked me through the moon landing.

He talked me through the Vietnam war.

He talked me through the assassination of John Kennedy.

He talked me through Richard Nixon.

He talked me through most of my life and I trusted him.

Television news has been going down hill ever since he left.

Walter Cronkite...the most trusted man in America has died. Here is the story from the CBS News :

Walter Cronkite, who personified television journalism for more than a generation as anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News,” has died Friday night in his New York home following a long illness, surrounded by family. He was 92.

Known for his steady and straightforward delivery, his trim moustache, and his iconic sign-off line -”That’s the way it is” – Cronkite dominated the television news industry during one of the most volatile periods of American history. He broke the news of the Kennedy assassination, reported extensively on Vietnam and Civil Rights and Watergate, and seemed to be the very embodiment of TV journalism.

Walter Leland Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri on November 4, 1916, the only child of a dentist father and homemaker mother. When he was still young, his family moved to Texas. One day, he read an article in “Boys Life” magazine about the adventures of reporters working around the world – and young Cronkite was hooked. He began working on his high school newspaper and yearbook and, in 1933, he entered the University of Texas at Austin to study political science, economic and journalism. He never graduated. He took a part time job at the Houston Post, left college to do what he loved: report.

It's War

According to Jane at Firedoglake...big pharma and insurance is panicking over the slightly positive news coming out of the health care debate and have declared full throttle war. If you have not contacted your congress critter and told them that a complete reform of the American health care system is important to you then you should do so. The money will be flowing.

There is never going to be a better time to get the health care system in this country fixed.

One More TIme, With Feeling

Paul Krugman on what Goldman Sachs' record profits means:

First, it tells us that Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America.

Second, it shows that Wall Street’s bad habits — above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis — have not gone away.

Third, it shows that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis, and, in fact, has made another crisis more likely.

That's what so damn frustrating about this whole thing....just a little thought will tell you that we have made no net progress and are just setting ourselves up for another and probably worse fall.

And another thing...if Goldman Sachs is doing so damn well how come the money I have invested in Goldman Sachs Growth Strategy is still worth 32% less than what I paid for it?

Good for the Brits

This is great! All of the Brits I know have been carrying their shopping bags to market for as long as I can remember and it prompted me to do so as well years ago...long before it started to happen with any regularity here. I couldn't count the number of strange looks I have gotten over the years from clerks and other shoppers when I proffered my own reusable bags. Still today my favorite shopping bag is one I got as a gift from a British friend which has M&S (Marks & Spencer)stenciled on the side. It holds a ton and has strong hard plastic handles. It probably holds the equivalent of 5 regular plastic shopping bags. I get compliments on it from store clerks all the time.
It began in 2007 with a few traders in the small town of Modbury in Devon refusing to give out plastic bags. But yesterday their small green revolution reached a national milestone: British shoppers have nearly halved the number of single-use bags they get through.

Figures from Wrap, the government's waste and resources programme, show that whereas 870m single-use plastic bags were handed out in the UK in May 2006, the figure for May 2009 was down to 450m – a 48% reduction, and 4,740 tonnes to send to landfill against 8,890 tonnes in May 2006.

Nationwide rejection of the bags, which take up to 1,000 years to decompose and clog drains and pollute oceans, followed a government challenge to retailers to voluntarily halve bag use by June 2009.
I am actually surprised that so many are still used in the UK.Like I said above, every Brit I know has been using reusable bags for years and years. It is starting to catch on here and some progressive stores like Whole Foods actually give you a small discount when you use your own bags. I bet more people would use their own if you were charged a quarter for each bag used.

Regardless, great job you guys.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Now That's a Flyby

Check out this photo from the Mail of a US Navy F18 doing a flyby of an apartment building in Detroit. If you have never been close to a flying F18 you will have a hard time appreciating the impact of such a close flyby. If you were not expecting it, it might give you a fright!

Super cool!

Critter Problems Again

More boring garden blogging but at least this one has a villain(s). Someone, probably squirrels have discovered that the corn is almost ready for picking and decided to beat me to the harvest. Two almost ready ears are shredded and consumed and I am sure there will be more to come. They must be able to smell it. Maybe they will leave me an ear or two. The birds have gotten a few tomatoes but only the ripest and do they know?

In other news...Madam and I are cosponsors of a fund raiser for the historical society this weekend. It's called "Dinner from the Garden" and while the pickled beets, squash casserole, green beans and okra and tomatoes will be from the garden we're going to have to buy corn from a farmer up the road and buy potatoes from Whole Foods for the potato salad. The other sponsor has plenty of blueberries so the blueberry cobbler will be authentic as well. We are also letting Bill Green (Green's on Green St.) do the fried chicken and biscuits. As of right now we have 48 people who have bought tickets so it should be a good crowd. I am only responsible for the beans, beets, potato salad and okra and tomatoes so tomorrow will be a busy day of cooking for the do on Saturday. The beets are done and the potato salad can be done the day ahead. the only thing last minute will be the okra and tomatoes which have to be done fresh. I can prep and blanch the beans tomorrow as well and just do the final cooking on Saturday afternoon. The other cosponsor is a retired doctor and his wife and we'll be having the dinner under the trees at their little farm outside of town and the weather looks like it will cooperate.

Meanwhile, I think I will take a lawn chair and pitcher of iced tea out to the garden and sit in the corn for a few hours. Since I live in the city limits I am not allowed to take a gun but I may be able to save something to harvest by just looking grumpy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Robotic Nightmare

I think the Pentagon has seriously lost it. I knew they were a little crazy and we have seen many cases of bad ideas going even worse but I think we have reached a new low. According to this story at HuffPo ...
A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find -- grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot -- that's right, "EATR" -- "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material -- animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

It may be just me, with my long history of Science Fiction, but there are all kinds of bad scenarios imaginable with this kind of device. First of all, I don't see any mention of Asimov's Three Laws which scares me spit less and then there is the whole fuel gathering and selection nightmare. This is a very strange thing indeed.

Oh! and if you really want to be irritated by web "technology" the follow this link to the original story on and note the embedded ads in the article. If your cursor crosses over the double underlined words like 'mobile' and 'technology' you get a splash ad for Verizon which you have to manually close. Talk about pushy!

New Potter Today!

The new Harry Potter flick hits the theaters today...I'll go see it but not right away and it will be on the early afternoon cheap ticket. Sometimes I wait until a movie is out on DVD before I bother but I am a big fan of the Potter series(yes I know they are kid's books) and I have thoroughly enjoyed the movies and the books.

I did make the peach tart last night but I also fixed a little proper dinner. Seeing as how I am overrun with yellow plum and cherry tomatoes I decided to half and roast some in a moderate oven until they were just showing signs of black on the edges...about 40 minutes at 400F. I drizzled them with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I also caramelized some pearl onions(about a cup) that I found in the freezer in a little butter and olive oil. I mixed the onions and tomatoes with a little fresh basil and served it over a cheddar polenta. Wasn't bad for a main course but would be best as a starter. I will do it again. It was also very pretty with the bright yellow polenta and the toasty white, yellow,red and green of the tomatoes, onions and basil. Should have taken a picture.

The fresh Georgia peaches made a brilliant little tart. I used the standard light pie crust mixture of a cup of A/P flour, 4 TBLSP unsalted butter, 1 tsp sugar and 4 TBLSP cold water. this makes a nice crust that is not too greasy but still a little flaky. Just try and not overwork the dough and you'll be fine. Just roll the dough out into about a 10 inch circle on a cookie sheet and put the fruit in the middle leaving about two inches of exposed dough all around. Fold up the dough over the fruit making little creases about every 3 inches to form a rustic little tart. Sprinkle with a TBLSP of sugar and dot with a TBLSP of unsalted butter and bake in a 400F oven for about 45 minutes or an hour. You want the crust to brown. These little free form(no pan) tarts almost always leak sticky syrup so be prepared. I didn't do anything to the peaches but mix in a TBLSP of sugar and a TBLSP of corn starch. I used 4 ripe peaches which came to about 2 and half cups of sliced fruit. You can do the same with any fruit and it is especially good with granny smith apples(a little extra sugar required). It is also nice since there is no additional pan to deal with. Blackberries and raspberries are great as well and now is the time to be picking the wild blackberries.

I am off to can some more tomatoes...I think I have enough for 5 or 6 quarts so it is worth heating up the kitchen and if I don't can them today tomorrow will be too late and they will be past their prime. I think I have enough ripe Cherokee purple tomatoes to make a quart of those exclusively. I have never canned them and it will interesting to see what the purple tomato looks like in a jar. They ar so luscious sliced that we have never had enough to can.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nothing Much

Pretty quiet around Monk Manor today. Haven't followed any of the Supreme court hearings except for a bit on the web but it looks as if the GOP are confirming their status as supreme assholes. I would probably being pulling my hair out if I did watch them.

Trying to figure out what to do with vegetables for dinner. I am running out of creative ways to use the harvest as there are only so many ways to use summer squash, green beans and tomatoes. I am seriously thinking of just blowing off dinner altogether and just making a rustic peach tart which Madam and I can split. In addition, the cherry tomatoes have hit their stride and there is now way I can use them all. I had them for breakfast and lunch and with pasta last night for dinner and I still have a mountain of both red and yellow ones. Maybe a tomato cobbler?

Anyhow, I'm off to at least make the peach tart. We'll play the rest of the dinner by ear. Maybe Giada or Ina will inspire me this afternoon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Sheriff is Back

It seems the sheriff is back in town and he is telling us that health care reform is still very much in play even though we are seeing some serious missteps among our overlords in Congress.

I think Obama has sensed that is is time for a little presidential leadership. President Obama took advantage of the TV face time this morning while introducing America's next Surgeon General this morning, Dr. Regina Benjamin, and he talked about the state of play on health care reform and what he expects to happen.

"[M]ake no mistake: The status quo on health care is no longer an option for the United States of America. If we step back from this challenge right now, we will leave our children a legacy of debt -- a future of crushing costs that bankrupt our families, our businesses, and because we will have done nothing to bring down the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, will crush our government. Premiums will continue to skyrocket -- placing what amounts to another tax on American families struggling to pay bills. The insurance companies and special interests that have killed reform in the past will only continue to benefit even more -- and they'll continue to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. People will continue to lose health insurance just because they lose their job or they change jobs.

"This is a future that we cannot afford. This country can't afford to have health care premiums rise three times faster than people's wages, as they did over the last decade. We can't afford 14,000 Americans losing their health care every single day. We can't afford a future where our government will eventually spend more on Medicare and Medicaid than what we spend on everything else. [...]

"This is no longer a problem we can wait to fix. This is about who we are as a country. Health care reform is about every family's health, but it's also about the health of the economy.

"So I just want to put everybody on notice, because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone: We are going to get this done. Inaction is not an option. And for those naysayers and cynics who think that this is not going to happen, don't bet against us. We are going to make this thing happen, because the American people desperately need it.

"And even those who are satisfied with their health care right now, they understand that if premiums keep on doubling and if employers keep on shedding health insurance because it's unsustainable and if you look at the trajectory of where Medicare and Medicaid are going, then inaction will create the biggest crisis of all."

That's good and it needed saying. Maybe it will be strong enough to give Congress and especially the Democrats a kick in the ass.

Also of note is that Obama is hosting a meeting this afternoon with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel at the White House.

Let's hope that what we are seeing are the first forays by the President into the health care battle.

What's Up?

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Yours truly did what he does pretty much every weekend right now and that is all garden related. This weekend we put up a batch of bread and butter pickles some tomatoes and pickled a few peppers. Very exciting.

We finally got a pretty good rain last night and this morning involved fixing some of the damage from the too heavy limbs on the tomatoes and peppers. All of the tomatoes have outgrown their cages and stakes so there is a lot of flopping going on and the garden is getting more Rube Goldberg with each day.

Surprise, surprise Darth Cheney is somehow hooked up in "assassination squads and lying(by omission) to Congress. Whouda thought?

Supreme court hearings start today and will be a good thing to miss unless you like to watch a bunch of conflicted old white men beat up on a Latina woman who is way smarter than they are. Sessions from Alabama is the star for the GOP and that is sure miss.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Late Tomato Blight

I posted on this a little while ago but I found a picture of tomatoes suffering from the disease. If you are a backyard gardener and especially in the Northeast then you should be on the watch for trouble in the tomatoes and potatoes. Both plants are in the same family (nightshade) and suffer from the same diseases and pests. The rainy weather in the Northeast has been perfect for the spread of the disease and outbreaks are being found as far south as South Carolina but the Northeast is hardest hit. If you see symptoms of the disease you should contact your local extension agent. Late blight is the same fungal disease that wiped out potato crops in Ireland in the 1840s, leading to the infamous potato famine.

It appears that the plants sold by the big box stores are the source of the problem so if you bought your plants from Home Depot, Lowes, WalMart or the like then you might be at risk even more.

You can sometimes proactively prevent the disease on healthy plants organically with Neem oil but it requires diligence and spraying weekly.

Photo courtesy of Cornell University Department Of Plant Pathology And Plant-microbe Biology

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vege Bonuses

It's going to be another nice day here in Atlanta with the high only reaching about 85F. That's two days in a row. Should be back to normal July tomorrow with 90's again. We are at the high summer point in the garden with nothing much to do except harvest, preserve and fight the never ending weeds. Even though I mulch heavily they are still a problem.

Today we begin to harvest the dried beans. October beans and Boston Soup beans are pretty much dried on the vines and are ready to be pulled in and shelled for storage. I didn't plant a lot of each and a good part will be reserved for planting again next year in greater quantities but some will make their way into soup over the coming months. As soon as get all these harvested and the beds redone a second crop of drying beans will be going in as there is still time for another harvest here in the South. With August fast approaching us Southern gardeners also have the fall garden to look forward too. Another crop of beets, spinach, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and more peas. If I was really industrious and lucky I could possibly get another crop of corn planted and harvested before frost.

Some people don't realize that in addition to the great food you get from gardening yourself a lot of vegetables also have wonderful flowers as well. Here are just two examples. Probably the prettiest is the okra blossom but the lowly squash blossom is not far behind.

Off to the garden while it is still cool. I am not sure but an unseasonably cool day in July with a nice breeze might be best thing there is.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

In the Garden

Getting a late start today as I had to go to Home Despot and get a new manure fork. My old one failed while digging potatoes. Anyhow I made a run to Gainesville yesterday as the daugter(minimonk) had taken my utility trailer with her on the last visit and loaded it with fresh horse manure. This is stuff right out of the pasture so no shavings mixed in...Number 1, clear quill stuff and I need to unload the trailer this morning and get it composting. I snapped a few pics in the garden yesterday...I can't help myself...and I thought a I would share since many of you can't or don't have a garden. You can live vicariously through mine!

As you probably know I experiment in the kitchen all the time and I have come up with a couple of things that have promise.

First, I posted a recipe for an Old Fashioned Fruit Cobbler the other day and the other night I was wondering if I could use something similar for squash(zucchini in this case) and so I tried it.
I subbed a mix of 50/50 flour and cornmeal for the flour and buttermilk for the milk and left out the sugar. I reduced the baking powder to 2 tsp and used a half tsp of baking soda (because of the buttermilk). Instead of fruit I used about 2 cups of shredded zucchini and a half cup or so of shredded cheddar cheese. I assembled it the same way but used a quarter cup of olive oil for the butter. It turned out pretty nice. Next time I will leave the veges in looser "clumps" instead of spreading it out and maybe the batter will bubble up between and not just the edges. A finely chopped hot pepper might be a nice addition as well. Anyhow, something different.

Last night, being overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes and small yellow pear tomatoes I reduced 2 cups of chicken stock by a half and threw in a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes. I mixed the yellow and the red. Salt and pepper and two tablespoons of fresh chopped basil. Cooked it for a few minutes until the tomatoes started collapsing and served it over Japanese style cooked rice. Very simple but surprisingly nice. The flavor of the tomatoes comes across very well. I served some sliced zucchini (1/4 inch thick the long way) sprinkled with olive oil and rolled in a mixture of 50/50 grated Parmesan and panko and baked in a hot oven(450F) for about 15 minutes until browned. Also very nice and I used another zuke!

There is my trailer full of black gold that needs to be unload.

A bush full of Serrano chiles and some Italian heirloom tomatoes promising some glorious pasta sauce in the very near future.

Out to shovel poop!

What's With Texas?

Are they going to do it again? Via Fred Clark via appears that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (Good Hair) is considering the appointment of Cynthia Dunbar,a right-wing extremist Christian to head the state’s Board of education.

She is evidently seriously jumped by Jesus and as crazy as a shit house rat. This is the woman that published a book last year One Nation Under God that advocated actually getting rid of public education altogether.

[...] In a book published last year, Dunbar argued the country’s founding fathers created “an emphatically Christian government” and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” She endorses a belief system that requires “any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”

Also in the book, she calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”

The establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even “tyrannical,” she wrote, because it threatens the authority of families, granted by God through Scripture, to direct the instruction of their children.

Perry’s appointment of Dunbar would send a statement “that
the governor shares her shocking hostility toward public education,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that monitors the State Board of Education.

“Just as bad, he would be siding with a faction of self-righteous politicians on the board who have made it crystal clear that they believe the only real Christians are the ones who agree with them,” Miller said. “If the governor really decides that selling out our kids like this is a good re-election strategy, then this state has an even bigger problem than we thought.”

Come on Texas let's get with the program.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Excuse Me!

Via Bloomberg:

Morgan Stanley plans to repackage a downgraded collateralized debt obligation backed by leveraged loans into new securities with AAA ratings in the first transaction of its kind, said two people familiar with the sale. ...

Two years after the credit markets began to seize up, costing the world's biggest financial institutions $1.47 trillion in writedowns and losses, banks are again taking so- called structured finance securities and turning them into new debt investments with top credit ratings. While the Morgan Stanley deal is the first to involve CDOs of loans, banks have been doing the same with commercial mortgage-backed securities in recent weeks.

Can someone explain to me why this is any different from the practices that screwed us the last time? Isn't turning toxic crap into AAA rated investments with without any rational justification kinda, sorta what precipitated the financial crisis. If I am missing something here please let me know.

Insanity Squared

If you want to understand why the U.S. is in the sorry state it currently is suffering from then all you need to do is see the results from the latest Gallup/USA today poll on Caribou Barbie.

Republicans by 71%-27% say they'd be likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2012

This is frightening on so many levels it is actually difficult to think about. You don't know whether to laugh out loud at the utter stupidity or hang your head in shame for what your country has come to. There is always the option of just crawling away and hiding.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Loose Ends

I'm kind of at loose ends today. We got a little rain last night(and the night before) but we need more. It is, however, too wet to work in the garden. All the beans and squash that are ready are harvested and frozen(or eaten), the weekly bread baking is done. The first flush of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are now two quarts of gazpacho that was delicious for dinner last night and will be again.

I did go out and stand in the garden for an hour or so and just listened and absorbed the activity of the bees as they industriously visit each squash and melon blossom and search the rows of butter beans for just opening blooms. I am overjoyed at the number of honey bees in action. Last year it seemed there were more bumblebees than anything else and it is good to see all the honey bees hard at work. They seem to be effective too since there are a good number of acorn, butternut and various melons ripening. Never have much success with melons but this year might be the charm. In spite of the bee's hard work the cucumbers and zucchini are a disappointment. I expected to be overrun but only a few of each so far. Both are doing so poorly that I planted more in one of the raised beds up by the house.

I also spent a good while this morning watching three newly fledged red headed woodpeckers at the suet feeder. For such young ones it is fun to see them bravely fend off the crowd of blue jays that want access to the feeder. The little woodpeckers just stand their ground and stare down the noisy jays who finally give up and fly away. Sometimes there are as many as 10 jays fluttering at the little red heads but they stand their ground. The only time they give way are when mom and pop show up for their share.

I have work to do in the garden when it dries. We harvested potatoes and beets and hence have two rows that need planting with something and the pea bed is still fallow and should be prepared as well. It won't be but a week or so and the Boston soup and October beans will be dry enough for harvesting and shelling as well. We are staying ahead of the tomatoes for the moment but it will soon be time to begin serious canning. Barring some disaster there will be many quarts of tomatoes to get in jars very soon.

I've got a couple of errands to run for Madam this afternoon and I have to go get 2$ worth of lottery tickets...the big prize is now $133 Million and even with the astronomical odds against winning I can't see not throwing away 2 bucks on a couple of chances. Whoops! I hear thunder so we may get another shower soon...we need it so I am not complaining. I haven't had to mow for several weeks and the lawn is pretty brown. While I don't enjoy mowing I really need the clippings for mulch. Lots of mulch is the only thing that will keep a garden healthy in the heat of a Georgia summer not to mention it keeps down the number of weeds you have to pull.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Old Fashioned Fruit Cobbler

It is definitely summertime here in the deep South and here in Georgia it means blueberries and peaches and a little later blackberries. All of these fruits make wonderful cobblers and while there are hundreds of variations on how to make a cobbler, I thought I would share a very old fashioned Southern recipe that is easy and works well with all three fruits. You will find this recipe in all kinds of compilations of Southern recipes or slight variations thereof. I am going to give the basic recipe but you can cut back a little on the sugar in the batter and, of course, adjust the sugar you put in the fruit depending on how naturally sweet it is or how sweet you like it. This is really best when it is still warm from the oven with a little cream(whipped or not) or vanilla ice cream. It is absolutely decadent with a creme Anglais or boiled custard. It is still edible the next day but not nearly as good as when it is warm. This recipe will make enough for 8 good servings.

Preheat your oven to 350F and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
In a largish casserole( I use a Pyrex 8x12 inch rectangular one) melt one stick of butter(regular butter( not unsalted) and don't substitute margarine)

Make a batter of:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk

If using peaches, peel and slice enough peaches to wind up with about 2 to 2 and a half cups of fruit. Depending on the ripeness and sweetness add up to a cup of sugar to the peaches and let sit for a few minutes.

If using blueberries mix 2 or so cups of fresh blueberries with a half cup of sugar and let them sit for a few minutes. The same applies for blackberries just adjust the sugar for the sweetness you want.

If you want you can mix peaches and blueberries ( a cup of each).

Assemble the cobbler:
Pour the batter mixture into the pan over the melted butter but DO NOT STIR. Carefully spoon your fruit mixture over the batter and butter(make sure you get all the juice) and again DO NOT STIR. Place this in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour or until the top is nicely brown and you can see the fruit juice bubbling along the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 20 or 30 minutes before serving with cream or ice cream. Best when served still nice and warm from the oven.

Of course you can use other fruit besides these three(nectarines and plums or greengages come to mind) and you can even use frozen fruit(just thaw it first and add the right amount of sugar). In the dead of winter you can used canned sliced peaches as well. The variation using canned peaches is what you will find at the end of many Southern buffet lines.

Warning the basic recipe makes a pretty sweet cobbler, especially if you use the whole cup of sugar in the fruit but with good fresh fruit it is a wonderful treat.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth! Got your flag out? Everybody have a safe and fun holiday. Nothing happening around here other than a little gardening. I'm happy that my goal of having fresh tomatoes by the 4th of July was met with a couple of days to spare. I would have had fresh corn as well if I hadn't had to replant. Had the first fresh okra last night, and even though we have ripe tomatoes I made fried green tomatoes for dinner. The first since last year and they were great.

Tomato Trouble

Here is the reason it is a good idea for you to start your own plants from seed and not buy them from a big box store. This is not good news:

Tomato plants have been removed from stores in half a dozen states as a destructive and infectious plant disease makes its earliest and most widespread appearance ever in the eastern United States.

Late blight — the same disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s — occurs sporadically in the Northeast, but this year's outbreak is more severe for two reasons: infected plants have been widely distributed by big-box retail stores and rainy weather has hastened the spores' airborne spread.

The disease, which is not harmful to humans, is extremely contagious and experts say it most likely spread on garden center shelves to plants not involved in the initial infection. It also can spread once plants reach their final destination, putting tomato and potato plants in both home gardens and commercial fields at risk.

Meg McGrath, professor of plant pathology at Cornell University, calls late blight "worse than the Bubonic Plague for plants."

"People need to realize this is probably one of the worst diseases we have in the vegetable world," she said. "It's certain death for a tomato plant."

Tomato plants have been removed from Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Kmart stores in all six New England states, plus New York. Late blight also has been identified in all other East Coast states except Georgia, as well as Alabama, West Virginia and Ohio, McGrath said.

If you did get your plants from a retail store make sure you get a refund from the store if you lost or lose them.

Like I said at the beginning...grow your own or if that is impossible buy from a local gardener.

I'll be the first to admit that is is a whole lot easier to stop by the local Home Depot or Lowe's for your plants but you take an awful risk in losing everything when you do. You also are restricted to buying the varieties they have.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"It was a dark and stormy night."

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

That's the Grand Prize winner of the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest.

The winner is David McKenzie, a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. A contest recidivist, he has formerly won the Western and Children's Literature categories.

David McKenzie is the 27th grand prize winner of the contest that began at San Jose State University in 1982.

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

What Green?

So much for the hope that the economy had bottomed and that things were beginning to turn around. The unemployment trend was going in the right direction. While the overall unemployment rate was going up, the month-to-month declines were showing some signs of a positive trend. March was better than February and April was better than March and May continued the trend...the bad news is that June didn't stay with the trend.

The pace of job losses quickened in June after falling sharply just a month earlier, casting a shadow over the Obama administration's attempts to stanch months of stark declines in the labor market.

The American economy shed 467,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent, its highest level in 26 years, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. Job losses were widespread among the construction, manufacturing and business and professional services sectors.

The forecast expected 365,000 job losses in June which amplifies the pain for the June numbers considerably. Don't let the 9.5% unemployment rate fool you as the U6 measure now climbs to 16.5% which includes those working part-time while looking for full-time employment, or those who've simply given up. The U6 measure is at its highest point since the government began keeping track in 1994.

There have now been 6.5 million job losses since the start of the recession in December 2007.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Taco Hell Goes Green

Taco Hell for sure! Leave it to The Onion to hit the nail on the head about the current trend in 'greenwashing' everything. Take a look at the most satisfying send-up of fast-food greenwashing your ever likely to see.

H/T Ethicurean

Tomato #2

Tomato number 2 of the season has just adorned a tomato sandwich on homemade sour dough. A couple of slices of avocado and plenty of good mayonnaise..oh and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Damn fine!

Good News on the Franken Foods Front

Newsweek has an interesting article about companies like Monsanto and Syngenta that are shifting away from transgenic seeds (those in which genes from one species of organism are inserted into another) and going back to traditional yet modern methods of selective breeding. There is a growing resistance to GMO foods especially in Europe and parts of Asia and Africa but it also because it is gradually becoming apparent that the most widely commercialized GMOs do only two things; resist herbicides and pests and are doing that decreasingly well, as was covered recently covered in the Ethicurean. GMOs aren’t living up to the yield gains promised.

“Conventional breeding still does better at building up qualities that require a complex suite of genes, such as the ability to fight off certain insects or to resist drought, which involves a host of genes that determine the way plants take up and manage water,” writes Margolis. And thanks to high-tech tools like marker-assisted breeding, “traditional farming still has a brilliant future.”
This is great news for the world as it has been readily apparent for some time that the GMOs were a bad idea from the get go.

New Fiscal Year for California

Today is the beginning of the new fiscal year in California and it's not looking good at all:
California prepared on Tuesday to resort to issuing IOUs as the giant but cash-strapped U.S. state struggled to approve a new budget in time for the new fiscal year that begins on Wednesday.

The IOUs, which are notes promising payment to vendors and local agencies, or shutting down some public services, are among measures that California and other states may have to rely on as they contend with staggering budget gaps caused by the U.S. recession.

Several U.S. states are due to start their fiscal years on July 1 with budget talks at an impasse. California, the most populous state, is especially hard hit.

The Golden State, hit by a leap in unemployment and a crash in property values, is suffering its worst tax revenue fall since the Great Depression and faces a $24.3 billion budget deficit.

"It's been a sort of perfect storm, of a very deep recession hitting us and exposing the weakness of depending on revenue sources sensitive to economic cycles," labor lobbyist Barry Broad said.
There are several regular visitors here from California and I wish them well. It's going to get very ugly. This crisis is going to really hurt those who can least afford it. It's going to hurt them were it will do the most damage long term as health care, nutrition and education. You can live without state parks(though you shouldn't have to) and some of the other things but the basic promises of a civilized society are another thing. I hope everyone that voted for Arnold is real, real happy and have big bucks in their savings accounts.

I researching recipes for IOUs BTW.