Archive for May, 2010

Dumb and dumber moments.

May 30, 2010

Well, for those of you who’ve tried to check out the links I had in the last two posts are no doubt aware that I know nothing about the software here. The links were not initiated properly when I made the first attempt, but they seem to be working now. I hope you will forgive my bumbling attempts to do things and give me at least the benefit of forgiveness in this error, allowing for my inexperience, and I hope I do not inflict any further such errors on you.



May 28, 2010

Someone I know has a talent for photography. She is also graced with some of the most amazing scenery any good photographer could ask for: County Donegal in Ireland.
She recently had several of her photographs selected for publication in a major Irish newspaper and I thought that those of you who read these pages might appreciate a thing of beauty to look upon in all these ugly words of mine.

Something amazing

May 28, 2010

With the seemingly never-ending oil leak in the Gulf reminding us how fragile and even useless our technology can be, a bit of amazement came our way today courtesy of the US Air Force. After some years of development, a team funded by the Air Force has flown a vehicle that makes every other flying machine look like it’s standing still. With over three minutes of powered flight at over Mach 6, the X-51A has become the fastest thing flying without the aid of a rocket. While the technology it represents has many applications (some of which are far from noble, such as super-fast bombers), the chance that something arising from the X51A could spell a new route into space is something to give techies at least a little bit of hope.
Full story at:

Watching the Follies.

May 16, 2010

The explosion of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has brought forth an odd mixture of feelings and responses. On the one hand, there is the tragedy of an ecological system already under stress facing a huge assault brought on by human stupidity and greed. Coupled to that is the plight of the people who live off of the wealth of that ecological system, people who now facing the real prospect of ruin. These bring out, as Lincoln said, our better angels, leading us to hope that the spill will be contained soon and that the environment will eventually be healed.
The other hand, though, holds a far less glowing prospect. Corporate ‘leaders’ who make it their first, last and only duty to find someone else to take the blame for what has happened. Stories of an industry and its regulators who seem to have grown so close as to be indistinguishable from one another. Finally, looming behind it all, the hypocrites in politics who one day chant slogans like “Drill, baby, drill!” while complaining about the ‘evils’ of government ‘over-regulation’; then the next day decrying the damage all of those policies can bring about.
What happened in the Gulf was not some freak accident, it was the result of government oversight and regulation of the oil industry having been treated for far too long as an afterthought. It came about because, with nearly no money to do their own research, government regulators drew more and more on the “expertise” of industry researchers and “safety experts”. That, in turn, lead the regulators to the point where they were being essentially directed by those whom they were supposed to be overseeing and regulating. The history of this nation is littered with examples of how terribly that can go wrong, but it seems as though we have to keep repeating the same mistakes.
That is the simplest question of all those raised by this accident to answer. The fundamental problem is that, given the chance, all industry will maximize its profits first, and worry about things like safety and the environment, at best, somewhere ‘down the line’. It is a thing so proven by countless examples that only an idiot would believe otherwise…..which I guess is why conservatives and their Republican allies seem to be the ones most likely to ignore it. In their eyes, Capitalism (which they no doubt refer to with that implied capitalization, much as one implies that God is always spelled with a capital G) is a force of Absolute Good. Capitalism Can Do No Wrong, and to suggest otherwise (especially by pointing out all those pesky instances when it hasn’t been true), is to make the person saying such things and Anti-Capitalist, and as such, an Anti-American (though how the hell that fucking conclusion has come to be believed I have never fathomed).
The problem is,

    it just ain’t fucking true!

There is one other thing that history proves: capitalism it at it’s absolute best when it keeps an eye on the bottom line….while knowing someone, preferably someone with the teeth to make it hurt, is watching it to make sure it doesn’t stray too far off the Straight And Narrow. Maybe, just maybe, if the conservatives can drag their heads out of their collective asses for a second or three, they might notice that fact. If they did, they might not have to stand in front of the TV camera sounding as sincere as Claude Rains in “Casablanca” as they complain about how “shocked, truly shocked” they are that industry has found some new way to screw things up because nobody was regulating them.

Strange days indeed!

May 15, 2010

I started this blog after the last one I had died….or did it? As I logged onto my mail account, I was confronted by no less than 16 comments awaiting my action. My first reaction was a classic “WTF????”, then I clicked on one and found out there is life after (cyber)death. All of the comments were posted to my old blog, which was, it seems, never really down. How it managed to disappear so well that no one could find it via any search method is beyond me, but the “Ghost of Blogs Past” is now available to anyone who wants a history lesson on my writings. Here’s the address:

(which, for reason I cannot fathom, I can’t make an active link. very strange!)

Clean up….and discovery!

May 9, 2010

After a cloudy and chill start to the day, the weather became…. well, not great, it just didn’t suck nearly as much. A few times, the sun almost broke through, though it was never present long enough to do anything to take the chill out of the air. Work, I have found, has an amazing way of warming the body, so I dug out the hoe and started getting warm.
The area around the potato patch wasn’t exactly covered in weeds, but it definitely needed some cleaning up. That didn’t take long, but it provided a small surprise: the vacant spot, where I’d planted a set and, after much waiting, had given up seeing anything, had a few leaves rising out of it. From their shape, I am fairly sure that that the last of my sets has decided to join its fellows in growth. With the clearing away done, it was time to lay down some mulch to try to keep the area clear. A couple of left-over bales of straw were in storage, under a tarp, waiting for their moment in the sun. Unfortunately water, like rust, never sleeps. Even under a (fairly) new tarp, water had found its way in, percolating through the two remaining bales to form small pools under them. With both of them showing all the signs of being water logged, the choice was simple: use the one that’s already open!

If you’ve never handled wet straw, I can tell you from experience that there in nothing in this earth quite as unpleasant and nasty as soggy straw. Worse, the shortest, most convenient path between the straw pile and where the potatoes were was blocked by a limb that has slowly been sagging closer and closer to the ground the last couple of years. So, before the straw moves, the limb has to go…..and the one next to it that isn’t much higher…..and the odd limb sticking down from a much higher limb that had also managed to get in the way….and… well, you get the picture. So off to collect the bow saw and do some much-put-off tree trimming. That, in turn, brought out my disgust at a couple of saplings that had taken hold in a stretch of black raspberries I tend. Which, in turn, led me to notice how shoddy a job I’d done the fall before cleaning up the old wild rose that graces one corner of the yard.

In the end, I had a very good-sized pile of trimmings and other yard waste for the city to come by and collect (someday, I hope). And the straw finally got spread around the spuds. With a little luck, the remaining straw won’t get too bad too soon so I can give the patch a follow-up covering when the first one starts to thin out from decay. All in all, it was a productive day I think. Who knows, the work might have done my body some good now, and the potatoes might do my body some good later on in the year when I harvest them. Of course, there is still the eating of them to take care of, but for now, I will leave that in the “Possible” category…. which is probably where I should have kept the harvesting of them too. Weather, pest and general fortune can conspire to ruin even the simplest of plans, so for now I will watch and wait, hoping my labors are having a positive effect.

A final surprise for the spring

May 8, 2010

Yesterday it rained fairly hard, which put a literal as well as figurative damper on my plans for the potato patch. Things did dry out enough by the end of the day to allow me to give the plot a quick inspection. That was when the patch delivered its most recent surprise: the next-to-last set, timidly pushing its way through the soil. It was a moment for celebration, that small set of leaves. Out of what would have been had come many bits of hope. Against my own expectations, only one set failed to sprout, which from my gardening experience, isn’t half bad even for potato sets that are intended for planting, let alone ones that are literally salvaged from the trash.
Who says spring doesn’t bring hope?

The politics of farce.

May 4, 2010

I don’t remember who it was, but someone once said that politics is farce without the laughter…..or was it a good plot. Either way, the citizens of Illinois have been getting a front-row seat to the concept of politics-as-farce for some time now.
The shows curtain rose when Barak Obama was elected to the presidency. With the prospects of a US Senate seat up for grabs, and himself as the person in control of who would be filling the slot, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich saw he had something of value. He earned that qualifying “former” when he took the idea of “the best government money can buy” to its logical end and decided to hold what amounted to an auction. Whomever could offer him the best deal, be it campaign cash, political clout (and all the corrupt contracts that could arise from it) or just plain old cash-under-the-table, Rod was open for anything. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the citizens of Illinois) the Feds where paying attention and had his phones all tapped. Worse, dear ol’ Rod was stupid/arrogant enough to think that there was no way the Feds could come after him. Nope, they indicted him for several different forms of governmental corruption, which gave the Illinois legislature a reason to boot Rod to the curb. Pat Quinn, who had been the official #2 guy, stepped into the slot and made a mixed bag of his efforts to change things. Quinn did manage to do well enough to win a shot at being elected to the office he inherited, but Illinois law dealt him a massive wild card on election day. That card was called Scott Lee Cohen.
Cohen ran for the job Pat Quinn had held. He didn’t have to coordinate his campaign with Quinn because, under Illinois state law, the two jobs aren’t automatically tied together. Anyone can run for either job, and whomever gets the most votes on election day is the one who appears on the ballot. Cohen ran a good campaign, filled with plenty of photo ops and cheery, positive campaign commercials. He talked about his efforts in “green” technology growth, about how he’d helped create jobs, how much of a “family man” he was. It sounded great and enough people bought the message that Cohen won the spot. Then the proverbial shit started hitting the fan.
Cohen wasn’t involved in any environmentally friendly, or even useful, concerns. His money came from a string of pawn shops his family ran. His job creation efforts were there all right…..if you were an actor who wanted to appear as an “ordinary working Joe/Jane” in one of his campaign commercials. He was in debt and, better still, he had several years worth of back taxes he owed to the IRS. The biggest lie, though, was his “family friendly” stand. He was divorced, behind on child support payments, and his new “girlfriend” was a prostitute who worked out of a “massage parlor”. Even worse, she had once called the police and told them how, after an argument, Cohen had smacked her around and then put a knife to her throat.
Like a cockroach caught in the light, Cohen had made a mad scramble for cover, but once the details where out, he did one sensible thing: he stepped out of the election. Mind you, he staged the “press conference” to make the decision official in a local bar… the middle of happy hour…..without letting the bar owner know what was happening. He also managed some crocodile tears during the announcement, but for the most part, the people of Illinois were more than happy to give the late-night comics another reason to make them the butt of their monologues. End of story, right?
After a month or so out of the spotlight, like some massive mutant mushroom, Cohen began to appear again. Rumors began to surface that he was giving thought to running for public office. When the rumors started to firm up, and then when Cohen finally announced his “new idea”, he seemed to have decided that, if he couldn’t humiliate himself and the state of Illinois on a secondary scale, why not do the same job on a larger scale? Cohen came forward to announce his plans to run for…..the governorship of Illinois.
Some people seem to have a need for attention, for the glare of the media. With a background like the one Cohen has, you have to wonder what sort of mind would want that sort of attention. Then again, in a nation that seems to worship “reality” TV programs that revolve around people showing just how much they can debase and degrade themselves to “win” the show, maybe Cohen has hit the mark.     The politics of service are dead, long live the politics of the “show”! Gods help us all.

A world of surprises

May 2, 2010

Today’s perusal of the potato patch finds the first evidence of any activity from the “front” patch: one sprouting set of leaves. Soon it will be time to mulch, and the material is already in hand, but I want to wait just a bit longer in hopes that I’ll get another surprise from the front patch.
Otherwise, YAHOO!!!!!!!

I have a “DUUUUH!” moment.

May 2, 2010

In my last post, I spoke of not being able to find someone on a social networking site. After I wrote the post, I went back and made what I thought would be one final try at finding her. Turns out, there’s an option on the search bar that lets you do the search via email address…..which I hadn’t noticed before. Found her in one try after that.

(smacks his head and screams “DUUUUUH!!!!!!!”)