Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swab the deck

For our rooftop deck, we eschewed the typical wood in favor of a composite material - TimberTech. One advantage of TimberTech is the low-maintenance. I like that.

Of course, over time, things happen
and some stains on the deck are inevitable. The deck is only 13 months old, but we had a couple of stains from growing things in containers. The TimberTech people recommend cleaning the deck once or twice a year with a special cleaner - Corte Clean - made specifically for composite materials, so I bought some.

Naturally, you also need a pump sprayer to apply the stuff. And a five-gallon bucket.

Mix the product in one gallon of hot water, stir till dissolved, then load the gallon into the pump sprayer and lay it o
n thickly over about 100 sq ft of deck at a time. Which I did. Here's a before picture...

And here's the "after" picture.

I see no difference at all, AND the obvious stains left by a couple of containers are still there. Big whoop. But I probably didn't apply the product perfectly. As with so many products, the instructions are a little off.

I get so tired of products
that give contradictory information on their labels. You're supposed to apply this stuff in direct sunlight. Lay it on heavy. Let it sit for 10-45 minutes after applying. (If we're in direct sun, it is going to dry). Don't let "dirty" product dry on the deck (say what?). Keep it wet. Well, if you lay it on heavy, there is no product left after covering the deck. If you apply it during direct sunlight, it is going to dry out well before 10-45 minutes. Keep it wet. There's none left!

Meanwhile, we finally got some bird netting for the tomato plants. None too soon. Those little suckers are relentless on the fruit.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Earth may be destroyed in August

No, not because the Democrats will come together in Denver.

Because protons will start coming together in France. Or Switzerland. At high speed. Against their will.

Wouldn't this be some really bad poetic justice? After all the warmaking we've done and nukes we've produced, we snuff out the planet during a science experiment. I suppose that, if it happens and we destroy the planet, it'll probably happen so fast you won't even know it's happening. Or maybe you would be aware, but there wouldn't be much you could do about it. Conjecture, I know.

Scientists: Collider in Europe won't bring end of the Earth

...the most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.

But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?

The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million — long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries. (Ed. note: Uh, someone wins the lottery all the time. That's supposed to calm the critics?)

The full story, sans snippage, is here. Unfortunately, it's on AP, so it's suspect.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Striking Quotes: Glenn Greenwald

I'm still reading Glenn Greenwald's 2008 book entitled, "Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics."

STRIKING QUOTE: "In the world of right-wing Republicans, actual bravery, courage, and military service are irrelevant. What matters is a willingness to strike the pose of a warrior."

He's referring to Democrats who actually serve in the military being painted as weak and cowards by Republicans, while draft-dodging, he-man posing Republicans are considered strong and brave. It's still happening, and we need to break the spell.

Read more from Glenn in the Huff Post, Democracy Now!, and in Salon, a good excerpt on, and a good book review at Amazon.

We quit watching Countdown when Keith Olberman started jumping overboard with his Hillary-bashing and Obamania. Eventually, we'll start watching him again, as we get further away from the final primaries.
I see that Keith and Glenn had a tiff lately over Obama and FISA. I'm confident they'll move on and heal the rift, much as Barack and Hillary are trying to do. I can certainly understand the ire generated by Obama's apparent support of the current FISA bill, and I can begrudgingly understand Obama's stance on it at the same time.

A little cognitive dissonance, anyone?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The birds are decimating our tomatoes

Seems that birds are attracted to the red color of ripening tomatoes, so they swoop down and peck big holes in the fruit. They leave the green ones and the yellow ones alone. So far, they've claimed about half of our crop, the beautiful little pests!

I'm pretty sure that the chimney swifts that swoop and screech around here are the culprits. They fly really really high, then plunge straight down towards the ground, swooping up only at the last second to soar up and do it again. And they'll chase each other, swooping and squawking, over and over. Looks like fun.

We should have bought bird netting by now, but have we? No. It's just one of those things that we keep forgetting to do, until we get back upstairs and look over the plants. Then it's, "D'oh!"

It's almost as frustrating as being a Democrat!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The only constant in life... change. And you know how women like to change things around now and then. Well, the wife just had to move the plants around on the deck. So we (she) grouped all the vegetables in the southwest corner. It works pretty well. In the northwest corner, we've moved most of the flowers.

OK, so not quite everything in the pictures are vegetables.

And here's the rest of them...

...the basil flowered, and will likely drop seed and start up again. We snipped several of the flowering stalks and put them into vases inside the house. They make a gorgeous and very fragrant bouquet. I like to just rub a leaf between my fingers and inhale.

...we still haven't harvested any eggplant, but probably will tomorrow. There must be 30 fruits on this bush, so we'll snip a couple and cook 'em up.

Typically, I get conflicting information with each gardening source I reference. One says let them get 4" before harvesting, one says they'll get 4-5", another says harvest them young, at 1-2oz (how long is that?!), another one says they grow 2-4". So I think we'll experiment with a couple Saturday and take it from there. Better harvest before the bugs do.

...first try with yellow squash and they're doing very well. I hear they love the heat. They should feel right at home around here. Today was the first official day of summer, but highs have been over 90 degrees for three weeks straight.

...the Mariachi peppers are sprouting nicely, but this next shot is the next batch of cucumbers. One would hope that one would learn from one's past experiences, wouldn't one?

...the three Early Girl tomato plants are laden with fruit. So far, however, the skins have been pretty tough. The insides are wonderful, but those skins. Damn.

Again, one source says the skins could be tough because we're harvesting them too soon, another says the skins can get tough if the soil is allowed to dry out too much between waterings. We're learning all the time. Just pulled another one off this bush that was deep red and starting to soften, and we'll eat that one Saturday also.

No salmonella here.

We'd been tossing around the idea of building a cover over part of the rooftop deck to give us some shade. After getting a couple of bids from contractors, we've decided not to do it. We think the cover would just take away too much from the view. So, we chose instead to get another table with an umbrella.

Open, sesame...

Unfortunately, the next picture is probably how it will look most of the time. Closed. Or, the actual umbrella portion will be taken inside. The winds up on the roof can be really strong, and while the umbrella is bolted into an 80lb weight and is not likely to blow away, I don't want to see it straining against its leash, so to speak.

We'll see how the umbrella thing goes for awhile. I reserve the right to re-visit the plans to build a cover up there. I can change my mind too, ya know.

Yes, McCain said it.

...funny what catches your
attention now and then.
The uncensored version.

A "safe for work" version is here:

Dedicated to those too squeamish to discuss an incident related to the temperament and character of a guy who'd like to be President.

McCain's freaky-mean '92 outburst is a well-sourced story found in Cliff Schecter's book "The Real McCain." Due to the particularly profane nature of the offense it would probably be useless to wait for the press to give it the full-on, endlessly repeating, 24-7 Reverend Wright treatment. So we'd love to help.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Military-Industrial complex rules the USA

....or you might call it the military-corporate complex. Either way, our U.S. military machine is way out of control. We didn't listen to Dwight Eisenhower.

Yes, I heard several of those speeches that Barack Obama made, with all those "CHANGE" signs waving all around him. Change the political atmosphere. Change the dynamic. Change from despair to hope. Change from Bush, at the least.

When I think of the kind of change that this nation needs, a move away from the military-industrial complex would be very high on my list. Our military budget - around $500 Billion per year - almost dwarfs all other nations military spending COMBINED, and we don't even HAVE the money in the first place. We're BORROWING it. Much of it from the Chinese. (And that $500 billion does NOT include ANY of the money that is being shipped - in pallets and otherwise - to Iraq or Afghanistan.)

In the 1990's, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain, it seemed like we might finally have a chance to reduce the appetite of our military. The so-called "peace dividend" seemed within our grasp.

Then came 9/11. Now we're spending like drunken sailors again. Drunken deficit spending sailors. The military-industrial beast reared its ugly head once again and sunk its teeth into our pocketbook.

It is no surprise to see John McCain out there pitching to increase our military budget and the size of our military. He's military through and through. More. More. More.

It was disappointing to hear Obama recently say that, "
given the depletion of our forces after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will probably need a somewhat higher budget in the intermediate future just to restore readiness and replace equipment." How measured. We would not need to spend ANY more if we would just cut some of the outrageously expensive military hardware that many in and out of the military say we do not even need. Obama wants to add 65,000 troops and 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism.

To fight terrorism. You remember those guys that used $3 boxcutters to bring down a few of our airliners? Yeah, those high-tech guys. We'll spend over $500 billion on defense per year to keep us safe from those guys. It's insane. We've fallen down drunk on military hardware, and we can't get up.

Cutting the military will be difficult. The shrieks from the freaks on the right will be shrill indeed. But Barack has built up quite the expectation. Shrinking the military is fundamental to reclaiming our democracy. If we don't, it's just going to suck the life out of most everything else.

Monday, June 16, 2008

High-Speed Trains?

What is wrong with America? Why are we in this state of paralysis? High-speed trains have been built in many countries of the world, and yet America continues to hunker down inside its cars while our infrastructure just crumbles away!

What's that? We're at war? Oh, we can't afford to do anything besides wage war? Oh. Right. Sure.

California Gov. Ah-nold Schwarzenegger is fully behind a high-speed train system linking San Diego to San Francisco, and it looks like things are happening there. Barack Obama is talking about high-speed trains linking major cities across the country, but he won't be able to do anything until we get more Republicans out of office, restore some sanity and stop this insane "war."

In Texas, we've been talking about linking Houston/Galveston to Dallas to San Antonio/Austin for years and years with high-speed trains, and nothing, that is NOTHING, is happening on that score. What do we do instead? Plan more freeways. Brilliant.

You may have heard of the Trans-Texas Corridor, which is planned to link Laredo in the southwest part of the state with Texarkana in the northeast, with links to McAllen and Brownsville. Some people are calling this the NAFTA Superhighway. A lot of people (here and here, among many others, and me among them) don't think it's a very good idea. Just wait till they hear the "number" of that planned road - I-69. Ohmigod! It conjures up images of...of...SEX! Can't have that!

The current plan is to have a freight-train line down the middle of the Corridor, but I'll just betcha that they scrap those plans, like they did with the plans for Interstate 10 west from Houston. Years ago we agreed on absurd plans to build a 24-lane freeway from Houston to Katy, with a train line down the middle for commuters.

Naturally, eventually, the plan was changed to delete the train line and replace it with commuter buses. Now, we're in the middle of that project and the highway has been chaotically under construction seemingly forever, with another several years of construction still to go. And by the time it's finished, well, whudda-yaknow, there will be tons more subdivisions built to put more cars on the freeway, and it will be stuffed to capacity again.

We used to have vision in this country. We used to be on the cutting edge. We sent men to the freakin' moon. Now we're just fat, lazy, driving insanely huge cars, and have fallen behind the rest of the world in so many categories, while we continue to wage a stupid war and put practically all of our energy into weapons production. Surely we can do better than this, but not until we get the corporate fascists out of power. And that includes some Democrats too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sign the "Ex-Hillary Fans For McCain" Pledge

Sign the "Ex-Hillary Fans For McCain" Pledge
(Found on Alternet)

Dear ex-Hillary fans who are showing their support for her by ignoring her call to support Obama and supporting McCain,

First, I'd like to congratulate you. You've asked yourself WWJMD and you've decided to vote against your own interests and principles while furthering Senator McCain's. Before you're allowed on the band wagon, we are asking you to sign the following oath. A McCain presidency will mean different things for different people, so we have tailored the oaths accordingly.

The McCain Loyalty Oath for Gays

I, ____________ ___, pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...
  • promise to protect "the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman."
  • commitment to banning federal recognition of gay marriage and domestic partnerships.
  • commitment to the Army's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy because to "even reopen the issue" would be a "terrific mistake."
  • opposition to gay adoption which he doesn't think is "appropriate. "
  • opposition to expanding the federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.

As a gay person, I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

  • stop engaging in gay sex.
  • never try to marry or adopt.
  • enroll in a program to treat my homosexuality and "straighten" myself out, such as a "M.A.N.S. Journey" (Masculinity, Authenticity, Need Fulfillment, Surrender Journey).
  • install nanny cams in my house to prevent any gay relapses.
  • take responsibility for natural disasters*, including Katrina.

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and his programs and I will not complain about my loss of civil rights. And I will continue to refrain from gay sex.
Signature ____________

The McCain Loyalty Oath for Women

I ____________ ___ pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...

  • fight to overturn Roe v. Wade and my right to choose.
  • fight against equal pay for men and women.
  • opposition to providing low-income and uninsured women and families with health care services ranging from breast and cervical cancer screening to birth control.
  • opposition to sex education and support of abstinence-only education.
  • making birth control covered by insurance.
  • endorsement of women's rights more "in theory" than in practice.
  • pet name for his wife.

As a woman I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

  • call myself and my female friends the C word.
  • picket abortion clinics.
  • not use contraceptives.
  • drink bleach so I don't catch HIV and drink Mountain due so I don't get pregnant.
  • give back part of my salary to male coworkers.
  • not vote, but pursue education and encourage my father/husband/ brother male friends to vote for McCain.

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and I will not complain about my losing my right to choose, and other reproductive freedoms. And I will continue to refrain from pursuing equality for women.
Signature ____________

The McCain Loyalty Oath for Straight White Men

Straight white men, I bet you thought we left you out. This country may have turned its back on you, but we haven't. Here's a pledge of your own:
I ____________ ___ pledge to transfer my support from Hillary Clinton to John McCain. I agree to do all I can do to get McCain the vote. In order to achieve this noble goal I promise to support McCain's...

As a straight white man I promise to apply McCain's principles to my own life and vow to...

Once McCain is elected, I will continue to support him and I will not complain about my loss of limbs or life. And I will continue to refrain from questioning the war in Iraq or any other wars we will be fighting.
Signature ____________ _________ _________ ____

*Although McCain and Hagee have since unendorsed each other, that was not until Hagee's controversial Holocaust speech was discovered. McCain didn't think Hagee's position on gay people (or women of Muslims, for that matter) warrant his disavowal.

For more, visit Hillary Fans for McCain.

"Mom would have said that women voting for John McCain would be like chickens choosing to vote for the Colonel" - Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood of America and daughter of the late Texas Governor Ann W Richards

Habeus Corpus Restored (again)

One small step for man. One giant leap for sanity. But if McCain gets elected, he's going to pack the Supreme Court with Scalia/Alito clones, and goodness knows WHAT they'll do to the Constitution. It's somewhat ironic that those who proclaim their patriotism the loudest are busy dismantling the Constitution. Crazy times, indeed.

from the New York Times, via Truthout:

Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts
Friday 13 June 2008
by: David Stout, The New York Times

A protester holds up a copy of the US Constitution while demonstrating in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detainment in US courts.(Photo: Getty Images)
Washington - Foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba have constitutional rights to challenge their detention there in United States courts, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, on Thursday in a historic decision on the balance between personal liberties and national security.

"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.

The ruling came in the latest battle between the executive branch, Congress and the courts over how to cope with dangers to the country in the post-9/11 world. Although there have been enough rulings addressing that issue to confuse all but the most diligent scholars, this latest decision, in Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, may be studied for years to come.

The justices rejected the administration's argument that the individual protections provided by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were more than adequate.

"The costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody," Justice Kennedy wrote, assuming the pivotal rule that some court-watchers had foreseen.

Joining Justice Kennedy's opinion were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter.

The dissenters were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, generally considered the conservative fascist wing on the tribunal.

The 2006 Military Commission Act stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by detainees challenging the bases for their confinement. That law was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in February 2007.

At issue were the "combatant status review tribunals," made up of military officers, that the administration set up to validate the initial determination that a detainee deserved to be labeled an "enemy combatant."

The military assigns a "personal representative" to each detainee, but defense lawyers may not take part. Nor are the tribunals required to disclose to the detainee details of the evidence or witnesses against him - rights that have long been enjoyed by defendants in American civilian and military courts.

Under the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, detainees may appeal decisions of the military tribunals to the District of Columbia Circuit, but only under circumscribed procedures, which include a presumption that the evidence before the military tribunal was accurate and complete.

In the years-long debate over the treatment of detainees, some critics of administration policy have asserted that those held at Guantánamo have fewer rights than people accused of crimes under American civilian and military law and that they are trapped in a sort of legal limbo.

The detainees at the center of the case decided on Thursday are not all typical of the people confined at Guantánamo. True, the majority were captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But the man who gave the case its title, Lakhdar Boumediene, is one of six Algerians who immigrated to Bosnia in the 1990's and were legal residents there. They were arrested by Bosnian police within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks on suspicion of plotting to attack the United States embassy in Sarajevo - "plucked from their homes, from their wives and children," as their lawyer, Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general put it in the argument before the justices on Dec. 5.

The Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered them released three months later for lack of evidence, whereupon the Bosnian police seized them and turned them over to the United States military, which sent them to Guantánamo.

Mr. Waxman argued before the United States Supreme Court that the six Algerians did not fit any authorized definition of enemy combatant, and therefore ought to be released.
And our Torturer-In-Chief Bush is already making noises about passing NEW legislation to thwart the Supreme Court yet again. Not this time, asshole. The last time they rammed something thru - the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - it was just before the 2006 elections and they effectively blackmailed 11 Democratic Senators to go along with the Republican majority. Now, with a Democratic majority, we can only hope that a little sanity will be restored to our government.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gardening sorrow and joy

Yesterday, we had a line of storms blow through Houston. They were nothing like the severe weather that has been repeatedly pounding the midwest U.S., or other areas of the globe, for that matter, but it was bad enough. But it could have been much, much worse. We dodged yet another bullet.

It was the first real chance at rain we'd had in weeks. A line of storms from the south and a bigger line from the north were converging on downtown. Classic summer pattern. Made for tornadoes or floods. Parts of the city lost power. The radar was full of angry orange, yellow and red images, growing and swirling. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued. Nickel-sized hail was reported in some areas.

The southbound system raced through town and the skies were totally clear by 2pm. And it was sweltering again. Rather typical Houston weather, actually.

Upon arriving home after work and getting upstairs to water the plants, it looked like we'd had a tornado. Ten plants were blown over, a couple were upside-down, spilling their plants and soil all around. It was a real mess, but it could have been worse. Much worse.

One of our very healthy plumerias was just destroyed. It was close to blooming. It was really painful to see. As bad as this was, it is only the slightest taste of what farmers must go through now and then, nurturing their fields until close to harvest, and BOOM! A tornado comes along and just rips everything to shit.

On the other hand, the Early Girl tomato bushes were not harmed, tied as they were to the wrought-iron table. Good thing we had the foresight to bind their cage to the table, or we would not have been able to harvest these two beauties.

And there are many more to come. It was just like a tornado. Over there, ripped to shreds, over here, untouched.

The tomatoes off this plant are the most wonderful we've ever tasted. So, amidst all the destruction and sorrow, there is still joy. There is still joy.

Look! In the sky!

Got this note today from NASA. The times noted below are for Houston.

DOUBLE FLYBY ALERT: Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station on Wednesday morning, June 11th, at 7:42 am EDT. This means many sky watchers will be able to see the two spaceships flying in tandem, separate but closely-spaced points of light, gliding among the stars on Wednesday night.

9:35pm tonight
8:46pm on Friday evening.

Kids really love seeing these fly overhead…me too!

Picture (Metafile)
Date Satellite Rise time Direction to look Transit time Max elevation Magnitude
06/11 Genesis 2 03:24:09 am NNW 03:28:23 33.4 4.5
06/11 ISS-Discovery 09:35:52 pm WNW 09:38:20 25.4 -0.9
06/13 ISS-Discovery 08:44:57 pm WNW 08:46:58 27.5 -1.1

Robert M. Kelso
Manager, Commercial Space Development
Commercial Crew & Cargo Program
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
NASA-Johnson Space Center, Mail Code QA

It was rather awesome to sit on our rooftop deck in the dark and watch the two objects rapidly cross the sky from northwest to southeast. Two bright, shiny dots, one chasing the other. Look, a flash of light as the sun hits the ISS just so! And there are people on board both of those tiny dots. Living. Breathing.

Here's the STS-124 crew:

There are few things like the stars and the heavens to instill a sense of awe and wonder in us feeble humans. I dream of all the possibilities that await us in space, the search for life and knowledge, the drama, the thrill of exploration. And then I'm reminded of our Cretin-In-Chief, George W. Bush. Bummer.

I'm Voting Republican

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Senate Phase 2 report is out - *yawn*

Finally, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's Phase 2 report was published last week. Phase 1 came out July 9, 2004. The big media, so complicit in the march to war, almost totally ignored it. I guess it's just old news that the Bush Gang lied and manipulated the nation into war. Ho hum.

From one vantage point, this Phase 2 report is the "evidence" needed, the evidence that had been heretofore missing, to proceed with impeachment of Bush and Cheney. And that's exactly what Dennis Kucinich is trying to do, by introducing 35 Articles of Impeachment in the House. It is to the Democratic Party's utter shame that their leaders continue to try to sweep the impeachment issue under the rug.

Which reminds me of Barack Obama's mantra of "change." You know what would be a really nice "change" would be if the Bush Gang were actually held accountable for their actions, for a change. Now THAT'S change that I can believe in. But I'm not holding my breath.

Check your license plates!

With the escalating cost of gasoline, this should be expected. No telling what other innovative methods of stealing will be dreamt of next...


A woman said her son found his license plate missing so he called the police to file a report. They told him people were stealing the plates to get free gas. Given the rise in gas prices, people have taken to stealing license plates, putting them on their car, then getting gas and running. The gas station will have 'your' license plate # and you could be in trouble for 'pump and run.'

Check your car periodically to be sure you still have a plate. If you should find it missing, file a report immediately!!! Keep an eye on your license plate! Make sure you always know it's there! When the license plate is reported as the 'drive off vehicle', it's YOU they contact! Be aware!!!! Be aware of your license plates, most of us never look to see if the plates are there or not.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm on a reading binge

...better than an eating binge, no doubt.  Food for the mind.  Today I happened to notice that I am reading nine books, somewhat simoultaneously.  While I've always been a "reader," I can't recall any other time when I was reading so many books at the same time.  George W. Bush is doing strange things to this dimension.

I do wonder, however, how much of this reading material I will retain, and not just because it may be disjointed.  They say that your brain records every single experience during your lifetime.  Presumably that would include every single word that you had ever read.  If we only possessed total recall, how different things could be.  And as we get older, the memory seems to fade and falter.  One might say that we're simply living TOO long in this age.  Dementia and Alzheimer's suggest this may be true.  But I'm not going to sacrifice the sheer pleasure of reading simply because I may not remember every word and phrase of what I'm taking in.

Here's my (and my wife's) current reading list:

1) The omnivore's dilemma: a natural history of four meals/Michael Pollan
2) Mac OS X Leopard edition: the missing manual/David Pogue
3) Dreams from my father: a story of race and inheritance/Barack Obama
4) The audacity of hope: thoughts on reclaiming the American dream/Barack Obama
5) Great American hypocrites: toppling the big myths of the Republican politics/Glenn Greenwald
6) Moyers on Democracy/Bill Moyers
7) Dream: re-imagining progressive politics in an age of fantasy/Stephen Duncombe
8) Seeds of change: the living treasure/Kenny Ausubel
9) Songs older than any known singer/John Phillip Santos

All of them exceptional.  

Shit!  Happy Belated Birthday, San Frannef!!  I've uh...had my nose buried in some books...yeah, that's it!  Birthday #26.  Wow.  I remember #26.  I think.   

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grow your own food

We made another salad for dinner tonight. The quantity of grown vs purchased ingredients is changing. Getting better. Tonight's salad consisted of:

2-winter purslane
3-black-seeded simpson lettuce
4-red salad bowl lettuce
5-tomato (yes!)
6-cucumber (yes! yes!)
8-nasturtium flowers & leaves

1-grated cheese
4-thin-sliced leftover brisket
5-salad dressing

So, out of 13 ingredients, we grew eight of them. Hey, not bad. In the future, I could see us growing or producing - or having friends produce - everything but the brisket.

The first few Early Girl tomatoes to ripen were stricken with blossom end-rot, dammit.

Today, we clipped two more: one appeared perfect and the other had what looked to be the beginnings of more rot. Upon cutting them, the perfect-looking one in fact had some odd white wormy-looking things in it, and the one that had a blemish turned out to be, after trimming the blemished area, probably the tastiest tomato we've ever had.

Oh. My. Figure of Speech.

There must be another 30 tomatoes on our three Early Girl plants, and none of them show signs of the rot. Yes! And the green tomatoes growing on the two Big Boy plants look clean so far.

Graduates launched into space

This past weekend we attended my youngest niece's high school graduation ceremony. The good thing was that it was held at 9am, before the heat of the day really kicked in. The bad thing was, it was held at 9am!!

Some 400 kids were graduating from McAllen High School (MacHi, for short). The school was started in 1908, and it graduated its first kids in 1912. More recently, Mike Fossum, now a NASA astronaut, graduated from MacHi in 1976. In fact, Mike launched in the Space Shuttle at 4pm that very afternoon. At the ceremony, they played a short video of Mike doing "spacey" things, and wishing the new graduates well. It was pretty cool, and a good example of what you can do, if you stick to school and graduate. Reach for the stars, kids. It did make me feel rather puny, considering what I've done since graduation. Oh well, it takes all kinds of people, and all that rot.
The parents of the grad organized a party for that afternoon, and much food and too much beer was consumed. It was blisteringly hot, easily over 95 degrees, but fortunately they had a swimming pool to help us stay cool.

This was the first time I over-imbibed in many a moon. I didn't notice anything particularly wrong, even after the last beer. Lost track of how many I drank, but it must have been around a dozen. Very unlike me, but hell, it was so hot out, and, hey, is this a party? I didn't start to feel bad until everyone had left and we tried to hit the sack. Without all that motion, my body gave me the unmistakable signal, and I promptly hurled several times (in the toilet, fortunately) before being able to fall asleep.

The older we get, the slower we recover, and I was moving pretty gingerly and slowly the next morning. Was it worth the pain? Hard to say.

Is it worth the pain to get "ink?" One of my nephews was sporting a new tattoo. His Mom couldn't get too upset about it, though. Look at what it says...


We had a good time at the party, and I enjoyed "argu
ing" with a couple of the partygoers. Didn't really argue so much with the fundamentalist preacher as "discuss" religion. This preacher just would NOT condemn Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for their insistence that God had punished America for its sins, such as gays, lesbians, and our allegedly "permissive" culture by "allowing" 9/11 to happen. My patience with God-fearing people is short, but he's a nice guy overall, so I didn't slam him too harshly.

I saved the hard slams for one of my wifes old boyfriends. Her first boyfriend, in fact. His initials are, fittingly, BS. We began arguing politics rather loudly and a few of the other partygoers cleared the decks for us. He produced almost every hackneyed excuse for Republicans you can think of while insisting that the Democrats are just as bad. I tend to agree, somewhat.

The Democrats have fallen far, far short of what I consider to be a viable, strong party that stands up for their ideals. In my short time on Earth, the Democrats will screw you JUST A LITTLE BIT LESS than the Republicans. Of course, if you're a big businessman, you tend to lean Republican, but what irks me is people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder who STILL think that the Republicans are their friend.

I can't remember every single thing that we said (see above reference to too much beer), but, in my mind, I was fucking BRILLIANT! (see again: beer) heh heh. I do wish we could have had a recording of the
exchanges. For all I know, I could have been totally full of shit. Fortunately, we kept it on a relatively friendly, even-keeled "disagreement" level and didn't come close to blows. Good thing, because the guy is rather much larger than me, and he's an ex-Marine. Certainly doesn't make him a genius, however.

Sunday morning was rather painful. We had a 350-mile drive ahead of us, augh! Fortunately the wife drove most of the way while I recuperated.

Once again, congratulations grads! Good luck cleaning up the total mess we're leaving you!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gore Vidal sums it up

I've often referred to myself as a "cynic," but I am a total amateur compared to a professional cynic such as Gore Vidal. I find myself in agreement with a whole lot of what he has to say below.

Amy Goodman recently interviewed Vidal...and here are some excerpts...

AMY GOODMAN: I asked him (Vidal) for his thoughts on this election year and on the last eight years of George W. Bush in the White House.

    GORE VIDAL: Well, it isn’t over yet. You know, he could still blow up the world. There’s every indication that he’s still thinking about attacking Iran: ‘And the generals are now reporting that the Iran are a great danger and their weapons are being used to kill Americans.’

    I mean, you know, I think, quite rightly, the Bushites think that the American people are idiots. They don’t get the point to anything. There are two good reasons for this, is the public educational system for people, kids without money, let’s say, to put it tactfully, is one of the worst in the first world. It’s just terrible. And they end by knowing no history, certainly no American history. I didn’t mean to spend my life writing American history, which should have been taught in the schools, but I saw no alternative but to taking it on myself. I could think of a lot of cheerier things I’d rather be doing than analyzing George Washington and Aaron Burr. But it came to pass, that was my job, so I did it.

    AMY GOODMAN: You wrote United States of Amnesia. Why?

    GORE VIDAL: That’s a good title. You must remember, this is a people that has no culture, that has never had one. After all, I was first published when I was nineteen, and the first time I was a bestseller I was twenty-one, twenty-two. I thought by the time I’m old, this place is going to be greatly improved, not just because I was around, but I was going to contribute to it. But then I saw how the New York Times had blocked in their little tight world of New York publishing, which they really did to publish each other’s books. The results have not been very good.

    AMY GOODMAN: You wrote two books during the Bush administration. Two of the books you’ve written are Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War. Why these two?

    GORE VIDAL: Well, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, that’s my main book during that period. That was the foreign policy of the Bush administration: perpetual war. This was also Harry Truman’s dream. He started the Cold War. If any history had been imparted to our people, they’d know all this. And if you think I enjoy having to be the one to tell them about it, I don’t.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what about Dreaming War?

    GORE VIDAL: Well, same thing. They were dreaming war. You can see little Bush all along was just dreaming of war, and also Cheney dreaming about oil wells and how you knock apart a country like Iraq and of course their oil will pay for the damage you do. For that alone, he should have been put in front of a firing squad.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe in the death penalty?

    GORE VIDAL: No. But in their case, yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, here we are, moved into the sixth year of the war with Iraq, longer than the US was involved in World War II.

    GORE VIDAL: Yes, incredible. That was such a huge operation on two great continents against two modern enemies. And we’re fighting little jungle wars for no reason, because we have a president who knows nothing about anything. He’s just blank. But he wants to show off: ‘I’m a wartime president! I’m a wartime president!’ He goes yap, yap, yap. He’s like a crazed terrier. And look where he got us.

    I didn’t realize—I think I’ve always had a good idea about my native land, but I didn’t think that institutionally we were so easy to overthrow, because it was a coup d’etat, 9/11. The whole went crashing. And when we got rid of—when they got rid of Magna Carta, I thought, well, really, this wasn’t much of a republic to begin with.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, Magna Carta?

    GORE VIDAL: Well, you know what Magna Carta means?

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain it.

    GORE VIDAL: Tell your readers, your viewers. It’s the basis of our law. Out of it comes the whole theory, practice, on which our—certainly judicial system is based: due process of law. You cannot deprive somebody of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, because that is a right, constitutional right. And that is—I mean, every proper American, that’s graved on his psyche, certainly was on mine. There wasn’t a day passed—I was brought up by my grandfather in Washington—hardly a day passed that he didn’t want to talk about due process. And he was blind from the age of ten.

    AMY GOODMAN: You’re also cousins with another Gore: Al Gore.

    GORE VIDAL: True.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of what happened in 2000?

    GORE VIDAL: He was robbed. I don’t know him. I never see him. But within the family, I gather it was a great shock to him. He did everything right in life. He was the good boy and loved the Supreme Court and went by the rule of law, due process and everything. And then the Supreme Court bites him in the throat, because they have a lot of crooks on it. And I watched the Dred Scalia the other day on television. Did you see him?


    GORE VIDAL: Oh, he was saying, “Get over it! Just get over it!” He was talking to the liberals, and you know what awful people they are—and about 2000, about the interference of the Court in a national election, which is unheard of. It’s not their job. They’re not even supposed to be referees. They’re just—they’re doing something else. And he was a snarling: “Get over it! Get over it!” I felt, go back to Little Italy, you know? It’s a type I know very well from Naples.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, Gore Vidal, when you say you think what happened after 9/11 was a coup?

    ...GORE VIDAL: Yeah. So the coup d’etat comes out of this. They saw their chance. They—Cheney, Bush—they wanted the war. They’re oilmen. They want a war to get more oil. They’re also extraordinarily stupid. These people don’t know anything about anything. But they have this—there’s a thick piece of—sheet of—a thick series of actions to be taken, among others—I think one of them was to lock up every person of color in the United States in order to protect us from the enemy within. It was evil stuff. So they latched onto that. I guess Mr. Gonzales was already in place by then. And that was the coup d’etat. They seized the state. And from that moment on, they were appointing all the judges, they were doing this, they were doing that, they got rid of Magna Carta—I will not explain what that is a second time—and they broke the republic.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did we get to be so hated, Gore Vidal?

    GORE VIDAL: Well, there are many odious traits that Americans have that the rest of the world doesn’t like. Constant boasting with not much to boast about, that gets on other people’s nerves. The idea that, somehow or other, the whole world belongs to us and everybody should do what we tell them to do, they don’t really like that. Weird, but they don’t. There has never been a people less suited for world dominion than the Americans of the twentieth century and twenty-first century.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Iraq saved Latin America? We’re seeing a major shift in Latin America.

    GORE VIDAL: Well, I’m something of a fan of Chavez. He’s just what certainly Venezuela needed, and he’s continuing in a sense the reforms of Castro. But you must remember, I know too much about media to be taken in by anything that most people read about Castro. “He’s got people in prison!” But yeah, a lot of rich people lost their money, and they’re very angry, so they exaggerate his crimes. But he never came up with Abu Ghraib. We did that, because we were fighting for democracy everywhere. So important to bring all this League of Nations together.

    Now, any dum-dum president—this is a guy who could not be a freshman at Swarthmore. His brain’s too feeble. There’s no information in his head. To take him seriously is the biggest insult to the American people. He should not have been president. It’s fascinating. You remember when his father broke down in tears on television?


    GORE VIDAL: Well, it was guilt. It was intended by that not-particularly-royal family that Jeb, Governor—by then Governor of Florida, would run for president in that slot when W. ran. And Jeb would be easily elected. He’s an intelligent person and a source of pride for the Bush family. Then little—the black prince breaks out of order and goes after it and gets it. And that’s what you saw the father weeping. This was Shakespearean, this collision. And old Bush was historical. I’ve never seen a grown man so out of control, and one who’s used to television. And there he was, and they couldn’t stop him, because he was praising Jeb for all of his good qualities, and as he was doing it, it was all coming back to him, ironically, and he’s the one who should be president. Let’s hope one of my atavars will make a play out of that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Will you write more about Bush?

    GORE VIDAL: Of course not. I’ve written too much already. I mean, it’s a non-subject.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen right now?

    GORE VIDAL: It’s happened. We’re broke. Do you follow television, as they find out we’re running out of food? That’s never happened in my lifetime.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there’s a way to fix this?

    GORE VIDAL: A crash will do it. But that’s pretty extreme.

    AMY GOODMAN: For people who say there needs to be a New Deal today, what do you say to them? What does that mean?

    GORE VIDAL: Well, I don’t want to—we don’t need another repetition of the original New Deal, which is economically structuring, but if we had something like that—or we may need something like that because of the mess—it’s going to take two generations to undo the mess of the Bush people. Too much has been damaged. Too much is now—just look at the judicial system. Look at these, you know, judges they’ve been appointing. No, the power was seized using the 9/11 adventure as a cause to overthrow the government of the United States, and it was overthrown.

    And was any voices raised against it? The first one was Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. So I wrote that one, because I was seventy, and I didn’t want to sit down and do a whole batch of political books, but there was no choice. So I wrote that first to try and explain who the enemy was. Every time I hear “Islam” or “terrorism is on the march”—

    AMY GOODMAN: Or “Islamofascists”?

    GORE VIDAL: Oh, “Islamofascist,” the phrase makes no sense. How can a non-Italian be a fascist? It never spread that far. The stupidest group of people that I have ever seen in public office are in it, have been in it for the last ten years, whatever. They don’t know anything. And you can see, when George Bush is trying to read his notes—“Well, we’re trying to protect the Grecians who are on the march. No, I mean, it’s the Turks. We’re having problems with Turkey. Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah.” And when Americans don’t know stupid people, the country is out of business.

    AMY GOODMAN: How do you want to be remembered?

    GORE VIDAL: I don’t give a goddamn.

You can read the entire transcript or view the video here.

It's pretty sad to see the all crap that Bush has wrought while President. What's even sadder is when you come across people who still think Bush is a good guy, and a smart guy who's done a good job as President, and, besides, the Democrats are worse. Argh. Oy. I'm not sure America is going to "make it."