Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Celebrations

We celebrate this holiday world-wide, and the most famous tradition is the dropping of the ball in Times Square. This tradition began over 100 years ago in 1907; the first ball was made of iron and wood. The traditional ball has been made of Waterford Crystal, and it was 6 feet in diameter, weighing over 1,000 pounds. The 2010 ball is twice that size, and very colorful. The descent takes exactly one minute, arriving at the base at exactly midnight.

All over the world the tune (and sometimes all the words) of
Auld Lang Syne is heard, played, and/or sung. The lyrics are from Bobbie Burns' poetic update of an old folk tale talking about old times. However, the popularity of the tune belongs to bandleader Guy Lombardo. He first heard it in his hometown in Ontario sung by Scottish immigrants.

When Guy and his brothers formed their famous dance band (
Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians) it became one of their standards. They first played the song at midnight at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC in 1929, and a tradition was born. After that, Lombardo's version was played at the Waldorf Astoria from the 1930's until 1976, broadcast first on the radio and later on television.

Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886, long before a football game became part of the celebration. The first parade was members of the Valley Hunt Club who decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California.

In much of the US, the New Year's celebration isn't complete with just the Times Square Ball, Auld Lang Syne, and the Rose Bowl and parade... it takes specific foods to complete the picture. In the south, it's black-eyed peas and collard greens, representing coins and dollar bills. In Little Havana (Miami) it is 12 peeled grapes, one for good luck in each of the upcoming months, a tradition that originated in Spain and Portugal.

Pork or ham is traditional in many nationalities. The tradition stems from catching wild boar in the forests and butchering them on the first day of the new year. New Englanders may choose pork and sauerkraut (cabbage leaves are associated with paper money), and some nationalities choose herring served in a cream sauce, or pickled.

In some places fish is the lucky food, like salmon in the Pacific northwest. In other places, a special cake baked with a coin tucked inside is traditional.

Thousands of miles away, the Japanese may choose the long toshikoshi soba
(sending out the old year) buckwheat noodle.

Whatever your food traditions, they are important to continue to celebrate as part of the individual and unique heritage of each of us, lest we all wind up celebrating at McDonald's in the future.

Another tradition in this country is partying, and champagne at midnight; if you choose this tradition, please appoint a Designated Driver, and arrive safely in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ancient New Year's Celebrations

The celebration of a new year has been around for about 4,000 years. Babylonians celebrated the new year during an 11 day feast beginning with the first new moon after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). Why then? Well, why not?

The beginning of spring is the logical time... the time of planting new crops, emergence of dormant perennials, and blossoms opening. January 1st on the other hand, has no agricultural nor astronomical significance.
It's merely arbitrary.

The Romans continued to celebrate the New Year in late March but as various emperors fiddled with the calendar, the date soon became out of sync with the sun. When Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar in 46 BC, the New Year was established as January 1st. The Romans continued to celebrate with feasting throughout the first few centuries AD, but the Catholic Church condemned the celebrations as Pagan.

As Christianity became more widespread, the early Church began having its own religious celebration concurrent with many of the Pagan celebrations, including New Years and naturally there has been some overlap and mingling. Some Christian denominations still celebrate the day as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision.

It has only been in the last 400 years or so that the Western world has celebrated January 1st as the New Year's Holiday but many of the traditions have deep roots. The early Bablyonians started off the new year with a clean slate by returning borrowed tools. The Scots celebrate with what is called "First Foot" where they visit other homes, bringing gifts of food or coal.

I'll list some more current traditions in another post about New Year's Celebrations.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I LOVE Blueberries, but....

I love blueberries, but...there's a catch.

I love blueberries so much that I bought a few plants last spring and plan to buy more this upcoming spring. It is a challenge to grow my own blueberries because my soil here is not nearly acidic enough, but I'm working on lowering the pH with sulfur.

Blueberries are readily grown within 50-100 miles of here because most of the mountain soil is great for acid-loving plants like blueberries and rhododendrons. This past summer I went to a couple of U-Pick blueberry farms and picked several gallons of blueberries that I froze.

My favorite way to eat blueberries is to drop a handful of slightly-thawed berries onto a bowl of plain yogurt. It's a tasty treat for me, and I do it often. I labored under the delusion of a side benefit for me besides the taste: fresh (or frozen) blueberries are known to be great antioxidant powerhouses, destroying the free radicals in our systems that contribute to many health problems like macular degeneration as we age. They also fight high cholesterol, cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and cancer.

Now a new study reported in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine shows that blueberries lose their power when eaten with a protein, including milk or milk products. The study assessed the bioavailability of phenolics after consumption of blueberries with and without milk. (Phenolics are the active compounds in plants that give blueberries their antioxidant potential.)

Their suggestion is to eat high antioxident fruits 1 hour before ingesting protein, or 2 hours afterwards. In fact, the general health suggestions across the web are to eat 3 servings of fresh fruits every day... blueberries just happen to top the list of fruits highest in antioxidants. By the way, the antioxidant properties in fruits are destroyed by heating, thus blueberry muffins are merely tasty but do not offer the health benefits of fresh or frozen berries.

Sigh. There goes my favorite snack of blueberries and yogurt unless I don't care about any health benefits.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas is celebration

"Christmas is celebration and celebration is instinct in the heart. With gift and feast, with red ribbon and fresh green bough, with the sound of music and merriment, we commend the day– oasis in the long landscape of the commonplace.

Christmas is celebration, but the traditions that cluster around the day have significance only if they translate the yearnings of the human spirit to encompass and express Faith and Hope and Love. Without this intention the gift is bare, the celebration a touch of tinsel, and the time without meaning.

Faith and hope and love which cannot be bought or sold or bartered but only given away, are the wellsprings firm and deep of Christmas celebration. These are the gift without price and the ornaments which cannot be imitated. Faith and Hope and Love are discovered only in one’s self and therefore are unique. They are not always easy to come by; but they are in unlimited supply, even in the province of all.

This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Encourage youth. Show your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout envy. Take up arms against malice. Examine your demands on others. Be kind; be gentle. Appreciate. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Cry out against complacency. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the wonder and beauty of the earth. Speak your Love. Speak it again. Speak it once again.

I read this about 50 years ago in a Look magazine and saved it (but unfortunately not the name of the author). The portion above is my "Christmas Card" to all of you...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sister Mary Had but One Child

I like Christmas Carols, and can even remember when it was safe to go around various neighborhoods singing carols. However I must admit, I am very tired of hearing the same carols over and over, year after year. Plus, it seems like every year the selections played become smaller.

One of my favorite lullaby's usually heard during the Christmas Season is
All Through the Night, although I have not heard it played on the air in years. Here's a link where you can hear the tune if this song is unfamiliar to you. In my group of friends long ago, we always played it on Christmas Eve, and one of our members would read aloud A Child's Christmas in Wales written by Dylan Thomas.

Here's a wonderful old African-American spiritual I first heard on NPR many years ago while driving through South Carolina. I looked in vain a long time for a copy, but now with the internet, many are available. The version I first heard was (to my ear) much nicer than this one, but at least it's not "Rudolph".
Merry Christmas!

Sister Mary Had But One Child

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mini Mountains

I finally made it into town today to pick up a prescription, and found the town looking a lot different after our big snow. Wish I had taken my camera. There are mini-mountains of snow piled up everywhere, and the ones in the strip center parking lot are about twice as tall as the top of most pickup cabs. Unfortunately, it's all dirty, yucky gray snow, not pretty at all.

The main street downtown was closed off while they were transferring the snow piles into dump trucks to move elsewhere, leaving the on-street parking once again available. The business section of downtown is just 4 blocks long if you include the full block with the courthouse, so snow removal is not as large as job as a bigger town would have.

I stopped at the jewelry store, hoping they could order the minute hand I'm missing from my dress watch. The store was jammed... I forgot about last minute Christmas shopping! The older woman who tried to help me spoke very little English, so it was a bust. I tried asking her how she ended up in this little burg in moving from Bogata, Columbia, but her English was no better than my Spanish. The language initially surprised me because the whole family (in the store) was blond/blue eyed, not Latin-looking at all.

Back home, I let my fingers do the keyboard walking on Google for a minute hand. Problem is that this watch is vintage
and collectible (although not that old, I bought it new in 1971), and I want an original hand so there's no devaluation. I just emailed a place in Rhode Island that may have original parts.

The minute hand became loose in the case after I had it cleaned 15+ years ago, and I opened the case to stick it back on the pin. Well, I managed to drop the tiny hand in the carpeting and never found it, so the watch has been in my drawer for years now. I'd really like to wear it occasionally; I'd even sell it if I could get half what it's worth, but that won't happen in today's market.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the full year it takes our lovely blue planet to complete one orbit of the sun. It is an important day, and has been around longer than any other celebration.

In times past, winter was a potential time of starvation if enough food was not put by for survival of the family or community. The shortest day meant the turning point, the re-birth, the anticipation of the return of days long enough and warm enough to grow more food, and it became a celebration.

During the same time of for winter, people often slaughtered much of their livestock to cut down on the need for feeding them over the winter. Thus there was an abundance of fresh meat. Any grains or fruits set aside to ferment usually had matured by this time so there was usually plenty of mead, beer or wine to drink too. Perfect components of a celebration!

In modern times, we still hold winter celebrations to combat the 'winter blues'. Many people suffer from what we now know as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) characterized by feeling cold, tired, and depressed much of the time. We know the disorder has to do with ambient light, and certainly the shorter days have an effect.

What's commonly known as 'Cabin Fever' or 'Winter Blahs' is not the same as SAD which has more complex causes, although the amount of sunlight has an effect on both. One antidote for cabin fever is to get outside, away from the house, and mix with other people. I know I feel much better today with the bright sunlight reflecting off all the new snow than I did over the past 3 days that were gray and overcast.

I once flew from Montreal to Boston sitting next to a doctor who was to speak at a medical convention. His topic was the reduction in incest rates with the advent of the snowmobile.

We continue to hold and value winter celebrations for emotional comfort, notably the celebrations of Christmas, New Year's, Twelfth Night, and the pre-Lenten festival of Mardi Gras. I suppose technically football should be included in the list, especially the Super Bowl parties.

I used to hold a beach party every year in February. We cleared all the living room furniture, covered the floor with beach towels, and turned up the heat. Guests were required to wear bright summer shorts and shirts, even if it meant bringing them to change into, or wearing under their overcoats. Food was picnic fare, and of course, beach music. It was great fun, more so if it was snowing outside.

So if you are feeling down, have a party. Celebrate!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yes, Snow....

The day was overcast so the photo isn't very bright, but this is the picture from my front porch yesterday. They did finally get our road plowed, so now we have a 3' high ridge of icy snow where the driveway should connect to the road.

It warmed to about 34º during the day so the snowfall compressed quite a bit and it doesn't look like 15" anymore except by the fences. The 3 dark spots at the right center edge are 3 automobile tires leaning upright against the fence. (I use them for planting potatoes.)

My sister made it home last night, after sleeping 2 nights in the guard shack where she works. Her car is parked down the road because The Kid's car is blocking the driveway between our bridge and the road. Looks like more snow shoveling is on my agenda for today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Global Restrictions on Religion

Since I decided to post notes on religious holidays in December, I have paid more attention to stories online about religion. The recent Pew Report covered religious violence, intolerance, intimidation and discrimination in 198 countries around the world.

The report notes that 90% of those countries have some requirement that religious groups register with the government, usually for a benefit such as a tax exemption. About 25% of countries have majority groups that use force or threats of force against minority groups, and more than 2 out of 3 people live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.

The US has a low level of government restriction but a moderate amount of social tension. Hate Crimes are reported to the FBI, and they include crimes of religious bias. About 1400 of those are reported every year, and from nearly all 50 states.

I live in the South, where racial tension is more evident; laws against hate crimes do not eliminate hate crimes. A nearby motel is owned by an older couple from Pakistan, and I notice they are seldom seen out in public. My favorite librarian is of Far Eastern background, and although she does not wear the traditional dress, I suspect she is generally shunned for being 'different' and probably under surveillance as a potential terrorist just for her ethnic heritage.

Is anyone safe anymore?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow, Snow, and More Snow!

As predicted, we had a snowstorm yesterday... heavy and persistent snow. I'd say we got about 15" total, and the roads are a mess. School is out for the holidays so this road won't get plowed, a priority for the school bus routes when school is in session.

The Kid (22) got home about 10 PM, and we had only about 8" of snow by then. I had told her mother to tell her to park on our bridge (covered) across the creek but she didn't quite get the message straight, and drove into the yard. When she remembered she was supposed to park on the bridge, she tried to move the car and managed to get it sideways across the driveway. We shoveled it out enough today to get almost out to the street, then she tried for the road, got it sideways again and I gave up. She got a ride to work and will spend the night with friends.

My sister never made it home at all last night as the hills around where she works weren't passable; she spent the night in the guard shack. At least she had heat, food and water!

It has snowed off and on all day today, without much additional accumulation so I guess the bulk of the storm has passed. The snow is really beautiful and I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snowstorms and Babies

The major weather news in the US for today and tomorrow looks like the big snowstorm forecast for the mid-Atlantic and northeast states. That reminds me of a funny story in my family.

My middle brother had finished his tour of duty during the Vietnam war, and finished a degree in graphic arts after returning home. His first big job was art director for a Virginia Beach, Virginia newspaper, and he and his young wife soon settled into their new home.

Virginia Beach seldom gets any snow so they are ill-equipped to handle a major snowfall, and every thing comes to a stop. Well, almost everything but babies that are due. My sister-in-law went into labor with her first child during that snowstorm, and of course the roads were impassable. I don't remember exactly how much snow they got, but more than 18" sticks in my mind.

In desperation, my brother called everyone he could think of, and no one had a 4WD vehicle. Finally, someone contacted the National Guard, or maybe the Army itself, and a half-track like the one pictured above came to their rescue.

They delivered the baby, a boy, in the half-track before they could get to the hospital! I'm sure my very proper SIl was mortified, but both she and the baby were safe and healthy despite the cramped quarters in the tank.

My brother nick-named the baby boy "Tank" and everyone called him that for about 2 years until my SIL put her foot down. Ever since then, whenever I hear of snow forecast for the beach area I think of that story!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ox Tail Stew

The ox tails cooked down nicely! I chilled them overnight, removed the fat layer from the top, and pulled the meat off the bones.

Since it has been damp and chilly, I decided on a carrot and barley stew with the flavorful oxtail base. What you see in the photo doesn't look very soupy but that's because it was chilled again, and the gelatin in the broth was still thick before it was re-heated to serve.

No real recipe, I just simmered about 2/3 cup of pearled barley in the broth, added several chunked carrots, a pinch of sea salt and a generous grind of fresh black pepper. Eat with a chunk of a freshly baked hearty bread, and maybe grind a tad of Parmesan over the bowl. YUM!

(For some reason, the colors in my photos look bright when I'm editing them, but washed out when I post them. Sorry.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Religious Holidays 2

When I decided to write about some of the religious holidays in December, it was mainly because I don't really know much about religions other than the prevalent Protestantism in my family. My own personal beliefs are a mix that basically has no single description. Rather, my beliefs have evolved since childhood and have been heavily influenced by years of personal experiences, diverse exposures, and education.

So I was somewhat surprised to see a New York Times report a day or two ago on that very subject. The article was titled
Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths; Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread. (Sorry, I neglected to note the URL, but any good search engine would probably find it.)

BTW, I do not intend for these blog notes to become a debate topic; we all have our own personal beliefs and as long as they harm no one else, we should at least respect the rights of others to have their beliefs.

The NYT story was about the just-released report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and there were some interesting statistics. Here's a look at a few:

"Though the U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country, significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs. For instance, 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation -- that people will be reborn in this world again and again.

And similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology. Nearly three-in-ten Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, almost one-in-five say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts, and 15% have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic.

Roughly one-quarter of adults express belief in tenets of certain Eastern religions; a similar number (23%) believe in yoga not just as exercise but as a spiritual practice. 25% profess belief in astrology (that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives).

Twenty percent of Protestants and 28 percent of Catholics said they believe in reincarnation, which flies in the face of Christianity’s rapture scenario. Furthermore, about the same percentages said they believe in astrology, yoga as a spiritual practice and the idea that there is “spiritual energy” pulsing from things like “mountains, trees or crystals.”

Uh-oh. Someone’s God is going to be jealous."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ox Tails

Ox tails used to be common in the butcher shops, and often were the fare of a poor man's dinner despite being very tasty. Think braised beef short ribs but with much more flavor. Today's supermarkets seldom carry ox tails so I was pleased to find some a few days ago in the freezer section of a natural foods market.

As I'm writing this, I have the oxtails browning in a cast iron pot on top of my wood stove. When they are browned all over, I'll add a mirepoix and then some homemade stock and let them simmer.

Oxtails are cut from a steer's tail, which is a muscle, so they need a long, slow cooking for several hours to be tender. Because the segments are vertebrae, they have lots of iron-rich marrow. I like to simmer them several hours (a crock pot is good for this), then chill overnight so I can remove the excess fat.

I haven't decided for sure what I'll make with the braised oxtails, but probably a carrot and barley stew. There are many, many good recipes for oxtails. I'll post tomorrow when I make the final dish.

FEMA suggests Christmas gifts for the disaster age

Imagine tearing open that large present under the Christmas tree with your name on it and finding inside... a fire extinguisher.

Or a foldable ladder.

Or a smoke alarm in that smaller box.

Those, plus a home disaster kit including food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, or a first aid certification course are just some of the
gifts that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is suggesting Americans give their loved ones this holiday season.

FEMA also advised that, in addition to reading "The Night Before Christmas" to the kids, you take the occasion of having the whole family together to "develop a family disaster plan."

Do they know something we don't??

Friday, December 11, 2009

Religious holidays

December brings many different religious celebrations, some familiar and some not. If we are to survive globally, we should have a respect for other people, their culture, and their religious beliefs, just as we expect them to respect ours.

Here's a look at the first one on my list, Hanukkah.

Jews all over the world will begin celebrating Hanukkah at sundown, Dec. 12. The celebration, often called the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of the victory Judah Macabee and the small Jewish army won over the Syrian/Greek forces 2,000 years ago in a fight for religious freedom, and the miracle of the oil used for the lamps in the desecrated temple.

The oil found in a small jar was only enough to last one day, and the miracle was that it lasted for the entire 8 days it took to fetch in more oil.

Happy Hannukah to my Jewish friends!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are YOU Drinking Dirty Water?

A New York Times analysis of federal data for the last 5 years on drinking water reveals that the water provided to more than 49 million Americans violates key provisions of the Safe Water Drinking Act.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

In some instances, drinking water violations were one-time events, and probably posed little risk. But for hundreds of other systems, illegal contamination persisted for years, records show.

The majority of drinking water violations since 2004 have occurred at water systems serving fewer than 20,000 residents, where resources and managerial expertise are often in short supply.

An analysis of E.P.A. data shows that Safe Drinking Water Act violations have occurred in parts of every state in the country. Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.

In the prosperous town of Ramsey, N.J., for instance, drinking water tests since 2004 have detected illegal concentrations of
arsenic, a carcinogen, and the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, which has also been linked to cancer.

Today (Tuesday, 9 Dec 2009), the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will question E.P.A. officials about the agency’s enforcement of drinking-water safety laws. The E.P.A. is expected to announce a new policy for how it polices the nation’s 54,700 water systems.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Should have taken my camera...

I knew I should have taken my camera yesterday when I went to North Carolina! On the way home, I saw 2 things that made me laugh and would have been good pictures...

The first was a sign outside a florist's shop: "NOW... FRESH SILK FLOWERS"

The second was a SUV in a farmyard, surrounded by a few other vehicles. The SUV stood out because it was up in the air several feet, and tilted at a 30º angle. As I got closer, I saw a front-end loader had lifted the vehicle from the driver's side (between the wheels) by the bucket on the front end.

On the passenger side was a man in coveralls working on the front passenger-side wheel. I would never have thought to use a front-end loader as a jack, LOL.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I've mentioned several times that I am researching (and documenting) one family line in my heritage, with the intention of writing both a genealogy book, and an historical fiction book based on their early life in America.

Yesterday I had a long talk one of my cousins in New Mexico who is also working on the project. We have 12,000 names so far and we're not finished. That number didn't sound too bad, until we talked about some realities. To print out a family sheet on each of those people would take
over 24 reams of printer paper... and we didn't even bother to try and estimate ink consumption!

Clearly, that's a daunting task... and who would buy a book that large anyway?

So we're re-thinking the project, and best way(s) to organize the geneology data to make it available in reasonable sections. I'm thinking that if my family had been in Kentucky for generations, the relatives out in Iowa would not interest me very much.

The very earliest generations, say maybe 1700 to 1840 or so, will still be slated for a book since none exist that are accurate, but those generations are manageable (we think).

Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on how best to do the genealogy portion?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Losing Weight... the Hard Way

The maker of the Slim-Fast diet drinks is recalling all of its Slim-Fast ready-to-drink products in cans. The recall involves all Slim-Fast ready-to-drink products in cans, regardless of flavor, Best-By date, lot code or UPC number.

Officials at Unilever United States, the New Jersey company that makes the drinks, cites possible contamination by Bacillus cereus. This is a micro-organism that can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

I think I'd rather be fat!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I awakened to a light dusting of snow this morning, our first winter storm of the season. In the time it took to make a pot of coffee, the snow changed to wet and dense, with a temperature hovering at 36ºF.

We are right at the edge of this storm so it's difficult to predict how much snow we will actually get. The Weather Liars say from 1 inch up to 8 inches. I am pretty well prepared if we lose power, except I overlooked the scant amount of cat food on hand.

I hope it's enough snow for a decent blanket over my garden beds for several days; I started prepping the beds last week with some biochar and organic worm castings covered with a thick layer of leaves. I wish I could get someone to come and till it all in but it may have to wait for early spring.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Does the Right Hand know...?

Does either hand know what the other hand is doing? Sometimes I wonder... This past February, 10 months ago, I applied for a 2010 Census job. About 2 weeks later, they called me in with a group to take the initial test... which I did, and passed with a decently high score. At the end of that test, we were informed there would also be Supervisor's positions available, requiring another test.

So I notified them I was interested. Months passed with no word. Finally in May I received a call that the test would be given in a town about 45 miles up the road, and it would be a Pass-Fail only test. At the appointed time, I drove up there and took the supervisor's test. Results were to be available by telephone within 2 business days. A week and a half later I was finally able to get my score: Passed.

Several days ago I received a call from Roanoke reminding me I had inquired about taking the Supervisor's test which was given this morning in a town 100 miles away. I informed the caller I had already taken the test months ago and had heard nothing about a position, but was advised I should take it again and hope for a good score.

So early this morning, before the sun was even breaking the horizon in my area, I drove out of my valley and headed up the highway. As luck would have it, the manager in charge at the 13-County Census Office actually had her head on squarely, and with some correct information.
Turns out it was a total waste of $25 in gas to drive the 100+ miles each way, for 2 reasons. Yes, I'm already in the computer as having taken and passed the supervisor's test. Secondly, today's test was for 2 office supervisor's positions, based IN THAT OFFICE, and that would be a very long daily.

She did apologize for the man who called me, saying some new folks didn't have all the information... but that man told me he had been working in that census office since January. I'm really beginning to wonder about all the ineffciency in government positions. I do know the probability of securing a position in my county is practically nil. Despite all the advertising about equal employment opportunities, I live in an area run by the Good Ole' Boys, and it's "Who's Your Daddy?" rather than capability that lands a job.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Garden 2010

My 2009 garden was such a dismal failure (mostly thanks to Ma Nature) that I had decided that I would not bother with a garden this next spring/summer.

This is the first Fall in many years I have not planted an abundance of garlic and shallots, and I have enough 'seed' garlic cloves in my root cellar to plant several gardens.

Somehow, I just haven't had the heart for another garden, and the fact that my 'family' here in this house prefers food ready-to-nuke out of boxes doesn't help.

However, reading now that 1 in every 8 Americans (and 1 in every 4 children) exist on Food Stamps is giving me cause to re-think another garden. Surely the weather won't be a repeat? I hold on to that hope kinda like the folks in the Dust Bowl held hope for rain...

Meanwhile, the seed catalogs with all their seductive pictures begin to trickle in, and I feel a germ of anticipation beginning...

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Music...

The Golden Years... makes me think of old lucky married couples.

If you are about 44 or older, this might give you a jolt: The BeeGees are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Well, not all 3 of the Brothers Gibb, because Maurice died in 2003.

The BeeGee's were among the many groups I saw in person in the early 1970's when I lived in the area around Baltimore and Washington, DC. Of course I was familiar with most of their popular songs, and danced to all of them. But it was a huge surprise when I saw them in person... the stage was first occupied by a medium-size orchestra before the brothers came out. I never would have imagined their rock music had background music made by an orchestra... string bass, violins, the whole kaboodle. But what a sound!

If you want to fool yourself into thinking that they (and thus you) are not really that old, you can ignore the early Bee Gees and just start counting from the year that “Saturday Night Fever” hit, sending the disco craze over the moon and producing six consecutive American No. 1 singles and the top-selling movie soundtrack ever.

Still, that would be 31. And how can you stop the rain from falling down? How can you stop the sun from shining? What makes the world go round?

Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive. We’ll rely on each other, uh-huh. You should be dancin’, yeah. Kinda dumb words to live your life by, but can you think of better ones?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of my all-time favorite vocalists is Ella Fitzgerald, and today I read that Verve has just released 4 CD's of newly rediscovered recordings done by Ella in a small jazz club in Hollywood in the early 1960's. The master tapes had languished in the vault all this time.

I saw Ella in person about 1960, not long before these recordings were made. The young man I dated worked at the Fontainbleu (hotel) on Miami Beach and over the course of a year or so, he took me to see some great performers at the hotel's dinner club. Ella was one of them, perhaps the best.
(Of course, Nat 'King' Cole wasn't bad either!)

When Ella sang, it was like the world shrank to just Ella, and me listening. She was totally captivating, and sang out joy with every note.

With the exception of
“Ella in Hollywood” and “Live at Mr. Kelly’s,” a 1958 Chicago date (which wasn’t released until 2007), there are no Fitzgerald albums recorded live in a small club.

I'm sure putting these recordings on my Wish List!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Waldorf Salad

I finally realized what I missed the most about a big Thanksgiving Dinner this year, besides the camaraderie. It's the Waldorf Salad!

For as many years as I can remember, my family always had a Waldorf Salad on the table at Thanksgiving. It's an easy salad, and like all dressed salads, it doesn't keep well.

If you aren't familiar with this salad, it was created at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York in the 1890's. The original recipe was just diced red-skinned apples, celery and mayonnaise. Later, chopped lightly toasted walnuts were added to this now American classic. Some folks add sliced grapes and use yogurt in place of some or all of the mayo, but I'm a traditionalist.

I generally use both sweet red-skinned apples, and green-skinned Granny Smith apples, for color diversity.

Waldorf Salad Recipe

1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced

1 sweet apple, cored and chopped

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice




Optional: 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced (or a 1/4 cup of raisins)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (or yogurt) and the lemon juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Mix in the apple, celery, grapes, and walnuts. Serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.
(I like Bibb, or Boston, it looks pretty.)

Serves 2.

Keep this recipe in mind, it's a great winter salad!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heritage Turkeys

Last year I ordered a small organic Heritage Turkey (locally from my Farmer's Market) to cook for Thanksgiving dinner. I must say it was the most flavorful turkey I've ever eaten, quite different that the standard 'butterball' type turkey. You can see my photos and story about it here.

I had intended to do a repeat performance this year but I'm "On Strike", refusing to use the kitchen here. Most of you know I love to cook, and it takes great restraint to refrain from making a daily issue of the nasty kitchen here. (I refuse to clean up after 2 grown women, capable of doing it themselves.)

Slowly (
very slowly) I'm getting set up to cook in my end of the house, but that won't provide a Thanksgiving Dinner this year. The important thing, however, is that I am Thankful for lots! What I will miss the most is sharing the day with friends, but you are always just on the other side of my computer screen.

I am invited several places to share the holiday weekend but I'd rather not travel on holidays. Nor will I feel lonely. In fact I hope to help deliver holiday meals to some who are shut-ins.

Wishing all of you a very pleasant Thanksgiving, early before all the kitchen work sets in!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chickees and the Everglades

While I was thinking about my father when writing about Veteran's Day recently, I remembered bits of the few times he was home on leave during WWII.

On one of those visits when I was about 2-1/2, my dad took me out the Tamiami Trail to 40-Mile Bend in the Everglades, to a Seminole village where one of his friends lived. The road from Miami went due west straight as an arrow for 40 miles and then a bend in the road changed the direction directly towards Naples on the west coast. Some trading villages built up near the bend, and it adopted the name for identification.

My dad's friend was one of the grandsons of Osceola, and regretfully I no longer remember his first name. He had gone to high school with my dad, and he was a football hero. What I remember is that he played football barefoot!

The Seminole villages are small clusters of chickees built of upright bald cypress posts with a raised floor and a palmetto thatched roof. One of the chickees is always the Council House, usually round and on the highest portion of the camp. It is where the Council of Elders and Warriors met. Women and children were not specifically forbidden, but by tradition were not seen in the Council House.

My dad lost track of my whereabouts (the small villages were
very safe) and when he found me, I had crawled up the short ladder to the floor of the Council House. The Chief had me on his knee and was entertaining me!

Chickees have fascinated me ever since. There is always one larger chickee used as the cook house, and each family has their own personal chickee for living quarters. Chickees have side curtains that can be hung in rainy and wet weather, and stored when not needed.

The chickees are built several feet above the potentially swampy land which covers about 9 million acres of the Everglades. It is mostly sawgrass (early on it was called the
River of Grass) and just a few inches of rain/water enabled canoes and flat bottomed boats to traverse the area.
Dotting the landscape are hammocks, which are pieces of firm ground like islands a few inches to several feet above the water. Some hammocks are as small as a footstep, while many are an acre or more and support thick forests.

It's all very different now, and not just because of exponential growth. The Army Corps of Engineers had no idea what they were doing to the shallow flow of water in the 'glades by building essentially a barrier (road) across the 'glades, and still didn't know many years later when they built the parallel Alligator Alley a few miles farther north.

In the last several years I have read of several proposals (and some actual projects) to restore the natural waterways in central and south Florida. Marjory Stoneman Douglass wrote
The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947, which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp.

Douglas was an interesting woman; born in 1890, she came to Miami at an early age to work for the Miami Herald but soon became a popular free lance writer, working nearly to the end of her 108 years for the restoration of the Everglades. The River of Grass has been said to have the impact of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Health Care Legislation

Up to now, I have avoided following the fracas... it's all double-speak anyhow. Has to be, when the public words of our congressmen and women are penned by the lobbyists paid by the drug companies (which some of our representatives have actually admitted!).

BUT... today's mail brought a notice my Medicare Drug Prescription plan will be going up January 1st. so in the next few days I need to do some heavy research. The feds have already said there will be no COLA (cost of living increase) for social security and military retirement recipient. It also looks like the flat $250 our President bandied about in lieu of the COLA won't happen either.

I dare not try to calculate how much my 'real' normal and ordinary expenses have increased in the last year; I only know I have cut down to the bone and it's not enough. There are folks in worse shape, some even living in culverts and sleeping over heating grates in the big metro areas.

I could handle it better if we all shared in the deprivation equally. Instead, the Fat Cats are not only allowed but apparently encouraged to skim the rich, fat cream of the top, leaving a tiny dollop of skim milk for the rest of us... if we are lucky.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For a fairly bright woman, I can be pretty dumb sometimes

By 8 pm last night, I was back to having fever and chills, remembering that's how it started before... the pain under my scapula for a couple of days, then fever and chills. I really thought the back pain was from something I pulled while working on my short wall and door last week.

I don't know if the earlier round of Z-max didn't kill it all, or if I inhaled more bacteria when Mike and I took that nasty sheet of paneling to the dump about 10 days ago. Either way, I'm pretty sick again, and have no resources to see a doc for a script.

Well, I could go to the ER but they'll run $1,000 worth of tests again... I don't have a local doc; both of the ones I had before have moved elsewhere, and a new doc will want to do an expensive full work-up. Cwap and more cwap...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Egg Trivia

• There are now over 200 breeds of chickens.

• There is no nutritional difference between a brown egg and a white egg. Hens with white feathers produce white eggs; hens with brown feathers produce brown eggs. Exotic breeds like arucana vary in egg shell coloration.

• The color of the yolk has to do with the hen’s diet. The more carotene eaten by the hen, the darker the yellow yolk.

• An average hen lays 300 to 325 eggs a year.

• A hen starts laying eggs at 19 weeks of age.

• A hen must eat four pounds of feed to make a dozen eggs.

• Occasionally, a hen will produce double-yoked eggs throughout her egg-laying career.

• As a hen grows older she produces larger eggs.

• The mother hen turns over her egg about 50 times per day so the yolk won't stick to the sides of the shell.

• “Free-range” has a wide legal interpretation. A large factory with a single window to the outside may qualify even if the hens are packed tightly on the floor area.

• The larger the farm the more crowding there will be, along with practices such as debeaking. The secret is to find a small local source (usually at the farmers' market or farm stand).

• Organic eggs are healthier since organically raised chickens are not given antibiotics (plus growth hormones for poultry are not legal in Canada).

• The new 2009 Canadian Organic Standard requires that organic livestock management aim "to utilize natural breeding methods, minimize stress, prevent disease, progressively eliminate the use of chemical allopathic veterinary drugs (including antibiotics), and maintain animal health and welfare.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That Glittery Stuff...

Yep, gold is in the news again with record prices.

What isn't so apparent is the changes that affect gold in production. Back about 1950, ore generally produced about 12 grams of gold per ton. That number has dropped to about 3 grams per ton in most mining areas, and even the quality of the ore quality had declined.

The picture above shows the most sought after gold bar for investment, the 100-gram bar. It will just about fit in the palm of your hand, and costs a cool $3,500.

Foreign governments continue to buy gold over US Dollars for safe investments. The Reserve Bank of India just bought 220 tons of gold from the IMF (International Monetaru Fund) for $6.7 billion. Sri Lanka recently disclosed it too is buying gold, and of course we know the Chinese are investing heavily in gold.

Gold has been around as a stable investment for over 6,000 years, while other monetary forms have come and gone as governments rise and topple. Despite the increased value of gold, if we adjust the price for inflation it will have to top $1885 to set an all-time record high.

Meanwhile, be very cautious if you choose to sell your scrap gold. Many folks are getting a mere fraction of the real value as fast-talking salesmen make their pitch.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Wanderings...

No, I'm not wandering... just my mind! Actually I would love to have enough gas to wander around these hills for the day, but that's not possible this month.

My 'extra' money for the month went for sheetrock, and 2 x 4's so I could finally finish the doorway and wall I put up to close off my end of the house. I got around to starting on it yesterday, not nearly finishing all I thought I could do in one day.

Did you know sheetrock gets heavier as you age? It must weigh almost twice as much as it did when I was 60! I actually think fiberglass insulation itches more, too. The harder part, building and sheetrocking the door jamb 90º to the wall, will happen today. Fortunately, my wall is narrow enough that there will be very little mudding and sanding to do, mostly just the drywall screws.

Buying the trim for both sides of the door jamb was a real sticker shock. Real wood moulding was priced out of the question, so for about $1 a foot, I bought what looks like pressed and molded paper with a primer coat on one side. It's properly called "Medium Density Fiberboard" or MDF. I guess I'll have to drag out my pancake air compressor and finish nail gun to put it up.... I'm not sure the stuff would hold a real nail.

There's a wonderful door casing I would love to have used, called Howe Casing. Some of the big box stores carry it in MDF, but none local to me. Howe casing in real wood would probably run more than $3 a foot. It generally comes in 8' lengths and I'd need 5 pieces at a cost of around $150 for 1 door. Yikes.

Somewhere out in the barn I have a box full of very decorative antique bronze door knobs (similar to the ones pictured above but most of mine with escutcheon plates are nicer) and mortise locksets I've been carrying around about 40 years. I always thought I'd install them on the last house I ever planned to occupy. When I first lived in Baltimore in the 1960's, the old row houses were falling down and there were a couple of salvage yards nearby, in an area you didn't want to be in after dark. That was long before renovation was fashionable, and I was able to buy knobs, escutcheon plates and locks here and there, even at yard sales. There's probably a small fortune in that box!

I also have an old brass teller's cage window (think of the small banks in old Western movies), with a small hinged area across the bottom to allow passage of large sacks of coins or bills. I used to have a brass and beveled glass bank president's office door, but it weighed over 300 pounds and I grew tired of moving it.

I suppose it's time to think of selling some of that stuff... sigh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Hate Funerals

I hate funerals and I am so glad this one is over. It rained, of course.

It rained when we buried my dad; it rained when we buried my step-father; it rained when we buried each of my grandparents. The 7 young men who carried the casket had a tough time on the slippery slope, struggling to maintain control. Brent was a big fellow, 6'4", and not a light weight.

The little old country church where the graveside service was held is only about a mile from my house, and is really a lovely chapel. It's close to 200 years old, and maybe someday I can go back for photos of the wonderful woodwork on the interior.

The adjacent cemetery is full of very old, tilted, fallen and weathered markers; many have not been readable for maybe a hundred years. There are a few shiny new markers scattered about, and an occasional bronze military marker partially hidden in the overgrowth here and there. It is a rich history of people who lived, and loved, and died.

From the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (and based on Genesis 3:19):

"... we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes. dust to dust..."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Freedom is not Free

Photo: Creative Commons License by Elessar

Today is the day we set aside to honor the men and women who have fought for our freedom. Why those men and women, who often gave their lives for the effort, are only remembered on a single day once a year is a mystery to me.

I come from a military family, in fact many generations of them. All 3 of my brothers were in the Viet Nam war although only was one deep in the combat zone, and became disabled. My father fought in the Pacific during WWII, and the picture below of him shaving using his helmet as a vessel was taken in the Solomon Islands. You may not recognize that name, but surely know Guadalcanal. My father had rolls of snapshots of the Japanese (and American) dead but he would never talk about the war.

All my mother's brothers fought in WWII, and all the husbands of her sisters. Thankfully, they all survived. My young mother worked for a factory that made women's bras, and during the war they converted the line to make parachutes. Her father went to Ohio and packed munitions at Atlas Powder. My other grandfather, although a bit long in the tooth, was in the US Navy.

I remember the blackout curtains every night because we lived a mile from the ocean. here were enemy submarines off our coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember squeezing that nasty orange pellet into white stuff called margarine to make it look more palatable (it wasn't), and I remember my 5th birthday cake made in a coffee can because that was all the sugar and flour my grandma could get with her ration stamps.

Both of my great grandfathers on my mother's side fought in the Civil War, along with over 90 cousins (a third of them died). Among my blood ancestors, I count over 20 who fought in the War of 1812, nearly that many in the French-Indian Wars, 7 in the Frontier Rangers who protected the western flank (around the Great Lakes) for General Washington, and 6 men that I know for sure fought in the Pennsylvania Continental Line during
the Revolutionary War.

So, here is my question for Veteran's Day: How many of you
actually own a printed copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (besides the one in that dusty antiquated encyclopedia set)? How many of you have read it again within the last 2, or even 5, years?

I will confess that only recently did I buy a pocket-size copy to re-read and keep handy. I still cannot tell you all the amendments and when they were voted into law, although like most of us who watch TV, I am familiar with at least some, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and the right not to self-incriminate.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788

"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves." ~D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Genealogy, Nutrition and Longevity

I have had quite a bit of time lately to just ponder, and one persistent thought has to do with the genealogy I've been doing. In tracking one man and his descendants from 1706, several things have become apparent.

Before the mid-1800's and the time of the Civil War, they bred like rabbits. Almost all of them married, and if a wife died in childbirth, the husband just married a spinster or widowed sister to take care of the brood and perhaps add to it. A family of more than 10-15 children was not uncommon, nor was living a 100 years or more.

After the Civil War, all those numbers changed dramatically. WHY?

We know that before the war, the majority of most household's food was home-grown. If a man grew grain, he took it as needed to a local mill to be stone-ground for bread. If a man didn't grow grain for his family, he probably pitched in with several neighbors in his community for grain. In all cases, they ate whole grains because mass-milling and de-germed grains were not heard of at the time.

They ate locally grown food and humanely-raised chicken, eggs and meat. Fresh, full-bodied milk was available daily, and clean, potable water. Everyone had a garden on land that was teeming with microbial life and had not been over-worked. They knew to let alternate fields lay fallow to replenish the soil.

It was a lot of hard work, and I'm not surprised how easily newly-invented machinery became 'essential'. A team with a wide row of plows could do more work than a man with a single mule and plow. Imagine how much more they could do with machine-drawn equipment!

The local stone mill had a limited capacity, although usually adequate for their community. As men were able to grow larger amounts of grain, the need arose to mass-mill it... then they discovered milled grains soon grew rancid from the exposure of the germ and oils to oxygen. So they de-germed it. I doubt most folks realized the change in nutritional value of de-germed wheat bread, and once bread itself was available from a merchant, I'm sure the over-worked housewife was delighted.

So I believe nutrition was an important factor in the overall decline of longevity. Of course, nutrition is much more than just local availability. The land itself is the contributing factor. As a man could farm more land, he also unintentionally destroyed the viability of that land by removing (within the crops themselves) some essential elements that were not replaced. After all, the tractor didn't produce tons of manure to put back on the fields and it would have been impossible to compost a thousand acres. Chemical fertilizers didn't come along until after WWI when they needed to make money from old munitions factories.

I remember my grandfather, who had been a Kansas county ag agent, talking about growing food in the rich muck of south Florida when he moved his family there about 1920. The muck was so rich that vegetables grew rapidly, to the point of splitting and spoiling in the field. (
Muck is the soil made up primarily of humus from drained swampland, easily blown away when dry, and also burns easily.) Fortunately, we no longer destroy as much of our wetlands by draining, for they are a valuable wildlife habitat in the natural cycle of life.

Another thing I notice is after the Civil War, many men married much later in life, and had fewer children. Many men and women did not marry at all, and I doubt availability of a spouse was the big factor. So what was?

Was there a mass PTSD across the land? Or some kind of evolutionary switch that controlled the population rate?

In my research, my solitary ancestor of 1706 had generated over 6,000 people in my database by 1900, 46% of whom bear his surname, and with no more than a generation or two traced who do not bear the name. (i.e. Hardesty women who married into a different surname.) What if all the men had lived, and had offspring at the rate the earlier families did?

The estimated death toll of the Civil War is around 600,000-700,000. More than a million Americans died in WWI, and nearly half a million American servicemen numbered among the 60 million total deaths from WWII.

I am still convinced nutrition was the big factor in the decline of longevity. I just wish I had a better understanding of all the factors in the reproduction rate... not that we need more people to feed
, but just that I wonder why?

Monday, November 9, 2009


My friend Buster lost his son yesterday.

For 6 weeks, Brent put up as much fight as he could, but in the end his body was just too broken. For that entire time, his parents stayed at his bedside around the clock, holding his hand and encouraging him even though Brent was in an induced coma. He knew they were there, though. Any time his mother got upset, Brent's vital signs wavered.

As Brent became weaker and weaker, clearly losing the fight, his mother and dad finally told the doctors "no more"... poke no more holes in him, no more CPR, just DNR. I hope his transition was peaceful, as I believe it would have been since his parents let go.

Sadly, that's the third boy between 18-20 on this street within 2 blocks of my house to kill themselves in an automobile or motorcycle accident in less than a year. No matter how much legislation is passed about drunk driving, it seems to have zero effect.

I don't know the local tradition, but in most of the South, neighbors bring food. (In North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia the food always includes fried chicken and peach pies.) I think I'll buy a stack of disposable plates, utensils, cups, napkins and even trash bags, along with a nice ribbon arrangement for the mailbox out by the street.

I hate to go over there because I never know the right thing to say.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FDA Cracks Down On Misleading “Smart Choices”

Photo is by Mikelight, Creative Commons License

I wrote here about how smart is the "Smart Choice" label about a month ago. Now it seems the FDA is taking action, arguing that the labels may mislead the public by implying that sugary foods are healthy.

This is from another writer, but the words could have been mine if I was feeling better already:
"I’m amazed that the “Smart Choices” label has gotten this far, considering it was trying to suggest that Froot Loops are somehow nutritious, and happy that the FDA is taking decisive action to curtail the manipulative marketing scheme. However, given that Kraft has announced that they are phasing out the label, and General Mills, Kellogg and Unilever plan to follow suite, I have a feeling the label will not be around for much longer regardless of what the FDA does.

Navigating the supermarket to find healthy food and deciphering additive-laden labels is already challenging enough without deceptive packaging. A great way to steer clear of unhealthy ingredients is to stay to the outer perimeter of the supermarket, where you’ll find fresh produce and more whole foods. Better yet, take some advice from Diane Hatz, founder of Sustainable Table, and learn how you can eat more local and sustainable foods that truly are smart choices."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Feeling a bit better...

Thanks everyone for your concern, and the birthday wishes!

We have found the source of my infection: bacteria on a sheet of paneling I had stored in the barn for 3 years. When I moved in here 3-1/2 years ago, I removed all the pet-stained carpet and padding, and took out the wall between this tiny bedroom (now computer room) and the hallway so it didn't feel like a closet.
I saved the paneling because it matches the LR.

Recently I installed a door across the hall to give me some privacy from the rest of the house, and that created a very short wall. About 2 weeks ago I brought up that piece of paneling from the barn, sprayed it with clorox clean-up, and then washed it down. It was literally covered in a greenish powdery substance which I apparently breathed.

Don't even ask why I wasn't wearing a mask, since I know better. I can only assume my mind was partially elsewhere!

The paneling will go to the dump this week; it would be impossible to ever get the bacteria out of all the wood pores. So when I feel enough better to work on my wall again, I'll make a trip to Lowe's for sheetrock.

What an expensive lesson in stupidity.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Taking Sick Leave

Not that I actually get any 'sick leave' since I'm retired and not employed, but the fact remains that I am sick. Very sick.

For about a week or more, I had been brewing something and seeing a low-grade fever every evening. Then 3-4 days ago I started getting chills so fierce that I couldn't stop shaking, and I couldn't get warmed even with a roaring fire and 3 blankets. After 36 hours of that, my temperature had escalated to 104.7ºF and I called an ambulance. (None of my family was home, and there was no way I would dare try to drive.)

The good news is that the swab for H1N1 was negative, and the chest films showed no pneumonia. My O2 stats were low, and best they can assume is an acute bronchial infection. They gave me Zithromax at the ER; my niece filled my prescription for the remainder yesterday. If you aren't familiar with Zithromax, it's usually called Z-Pack and the dosage is just one pill a day for 5 days although it keeps working systemically for much longer. It is used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections.

Sometime during the night my fever finally broke, and I awakened awashed in thoroughly soaked bedding. My temp is normal right now. I'm up, and sitting in my ergonomic office chair
only because my lousy mattress has given me a terrific backache after 4 days in bed.

I have not felt this sick in years, and doubt that I shall bounce back as quickly as I did when younger. I'm glad it is not H1N1, although I didn't think it was anyway. The ER nurse said they are seeing 15-18 cases a day, none any more severe that the normal flu they see.

I'll be back to posting again when I feel better, and can track better. With some of the delirium I've had, my mind isn't very clear right now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Photo by pocarles
'Nuff Said...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why a "Special' H1N1 Vaccine for some?

The German government has reported that their troops and their government people will get a special H1N1 vaccine, while the general populace will get the regular vaccine. I want to know why that is? Is one better/safer? And if one is better/safer, why isn't everyone getting the best one?

The general polulation will be offered the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine called
Pandemrix, which contains a new booster element, or adjunct, as well as a preservative containing mercury.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, her cabinet members and ministry civil servants as well as those working for other agencies will get
Celvapan, produced by US firm Baxter, which does not have the adjuvant or the mercury preservative, according to Der Spiegel.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Huge Commercial Real Estate Lender files Bankruptcy

This has been blowing in the wind for a while, but finally on Sunday Bloomberg reported that Capmark Financial Group (who used to be GMAC Commercial Holding Group) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a second-quarter loss of about $1.6 billion.

They are one of the largest US commercial real estate lenders, and it seems they owe $7.1 billion to 30 of their largest debt holders, without having any collateral to back their debt. The biggest three of that group are Citibank N.A., Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, and Wilmington Trust FSB.

If the commercial real estate market goes the way of the residential real estate market, things won't get any better for a longer time, as trickle-down always happens.

Off the Mountain...

I haven't been off the mountain in about 3-1/2 years, so today was a bit of almost culture shock. I had not planned a trip, but the power adapter for my laptop bit the dust. My choices were either drive 140 miles down to the Winston-Salem / Greensboro (NC) area to the nearest Apple store, or wait a week for an internet purchase and hope that the problem really was the adapter. (It was.)

The first thing I noticed (once I got off the highway) was how few signs of poor economy I saw, compared to my little corner of the world. People were evident in large numbers in all the shopping centers and the Apple store had a gazillion customers. iPods seem to be the thing to have these days.

Then there were the interstates. Whew. When I last went through that area, there was only I-40, crossing the N/S interstate highway I-77 which runs from West Virginia and down to Charlotte... probably farther but I don't know that area. Now there are 3 additional interstates, including a new I-40 which basically parallels the old one; the old one is now Business I-40. Who ever heard of an Interstate being a business route.

The amazing thing was watching where my mind wandered during the 7 hour trip in my old truck that has no radio. I sang songs I had forgotten I knew, mostly old spirituals and gospel music I heard traveling all over the south when I was growing up. I probably sang more of those mainly because I could remember most of the words! (And because I was by myself... I really can't carry a tune.)

Here's a favorite although I could not find a freebie one in the cadence I remember best.

Then there were bits and pieces of poems I remember, like the Ballad of Sam McGee (...strange things done in the midnight sun...), and a long-time favorite, Jenny Kissed Me. It's by Leigh Hunt.

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,

Jumping from the chair she sat in;

Time, you thief, who love to get

Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,

Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,

Say I'm growing old, but add,

Jenny kiss'd me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Upcoming Sustainability Films has just announced 3 upcoming film screenings on sustainability being put together by DCTV, a non-profit documentary organization. The series is called "Sustainability Season" and focuses on exploring responsible and courageous practices to better our waters, our land and our world.

Here's the line-up, and links to the trailers:

1. The
Age of Stupid, by Franny Armstrong. Here's another link related to it.

2. The
End of the Line by Rupert Murray

HomeGrown by Robert Falls