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

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm a Cat Person

Oh, I like dogs okay, but I'm really a cat person! I have 2 cats... my big tabby cat is just like me, old, cranky and chunky. And I really do mean she's cranky. That's her in the photo above, demanding I build a fire for Her Highness. She's about 15 or 16 now; she showed up on my porch as a flea-covered tiny kitten years ago. I named her after a character in the book deJour, who turned out to be a Terrorist. NEVER name a cat after a terrorist!

Then, I have this young, svelt, part-Siamese I got from the Shelter about 2 years ago. She's my big game (in her mind) hunter, and presents me with her trophies... that is, when she's not stretched out warm and comfy inside after her expeditions.

I love both my cats, but neither plays enough to amuse me anymore. So this link really made me laugh... it builds up as you watch the video. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are We Building up to War?

Photo Creative Commons License by dunechaser

We all know the economy is in deep trouble, and most of us remember from our history lessons that wars make money. Not everybody makes money, of course... and not everybody wins. But the folks who have the deep pockets and hidden control of the public decision-makers always increase their fortunes, regardless of which side they back.

Historically not everybody dies, either. If there is another global war, that may no longer hold true, given the technology available today. You no longer have to even 'see' your target, just the button to push.

There are several underlying currents hinted about in the news media over the last few weeks, mostly since the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. None are overt enough to conclusively point to groundwork for a global war, but just enough to warrant closer observation.

Wars are always fought for a "Cause" believed by the populace to be just, whether the cause is religious, or political in nature. The underlying force is always to gain (or keep) power and control, whether it's control of the people, or the oil.

In the heyday of the British Empire it was control of Trade, which translated into money. The US War for Independence happened basically because England controlled our imports. They refused to let us purchase goods from any other country (which they could not tax), and they essentially blockaded our ports. That of course begat Privateers who sailed to the Islands for trade goods, or to New Orleans, where French and Spanish goods could be bought and smuggled in back at home. Ultimately, we gained the wherewithall to make our own goods and trade them globally.

The United States has nothing to trade anymore; we don't
make anything. We are now truly a service country, having outsourced almost all manufacturing of goods, and in the last several years we have even outsourced service in the IT sector. What we have left to protect is the image of global power we have had based on the USD as the premier world currency.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hoar Frost

Photo Creative Commons License by Andrew Michaels

I awakened to a thick blanket of hoar frost covering almost everything. We also had frost 2 nights ago, but it didn't produce hoar frost. So, why did this happen?

The white ice crystals that form on the ground or exposed objects during clear, cold nights happen because heat losses into the open skies cause objects to become colder than the surrounding air. In certain conditions hoar frost can occur even when the air a few feet above an object is well above freezing, because the objects themselves are at, or below, the temperature of freezing water.

The effect here is that the hoar frost was beautiful, but the rising temperatures today have left most of my garden a thawing, brownish-green slimy mess.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

About the Brain...

Photo Creative Commons License by brain blogger

The brain evolved to predict, and it does so by identifying patterns. That's what I have been doing a lot lately: trying to identify patterns.

When those patterns break down, as in a situation (chaos) that makes no sense, or items placed where they shouldn't be (an easy chair in the deep woods), the brain tries to find
anything that does make sense. The persistent urge to find a coherent pattern makes it all the more likely that the brain will find one.

Researchers call this implicit learning, or knowledge gained without awareness. How often have you arrived at a decision, or an understanding, only to realize you have been 'processing' that thought for some time, without even being aware of processing?

New research supports what many experimental artists, free thinkers and others have always insisted: at least some of the time, disorientation begets creative thinking.

I sure hope that's true. I've become bogged down in what feels like my very own gerbil cage, spinning around and around. What was it Shakespeare said, something about being full of sound and fury and signifying nothing? Or was that the Bible?

I could use a creative breakthrough!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Food Tips

Photo: Creative Commons License by clairity

Some random food tips My niece wanted to bake something today, and wondered if the baking powder was too old. Here's how to test it: Place 1 teaspoon baking powder in a cup. Add 1/3 cup HOT tap water. If it bubbles, it is okay to use. If you are uncertain, make your own in a pinch. Mix 3 parts cream of tartar and 1 part baking soda. It works just fine.

I've been collecting random tips concerning food for eons, it seems. Of course they are not all in one place and easy to find when I need them so I thought I'd start posting along a few tips here.

If you need a square of unsweetened chocolate, you can substitute 3 tablespoons cocoa powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil.

Here's one of my favorites... I love bananas. I'm opposed to buying them because of the cost of shipping them thousands of miles, and I choose to eat local when I can. Never-the-less, I sometimes break down and buy a few bananas if I can find them fairly green and unbruised. I dislike the taste of fully ripe bananas, but if you separate the bunch when you get them home, the individual bananas will not ripen as fast as if left in a 'hand' of bananas.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Roasted Chestnuts

Well, I roasted a bunch of the chestnut hoard Buster gave me, and most of the first batch got moldy before I could get them peeled and processed. I suppose I didn't roast them long enough to fully dry out the nutmeats.

Here's another batch. Those suckers are hard to peel even with the "X's" put in the shell before roasting. I think they will go in the freezer for a project on another day later in winter.

Meanwhile, thanks for all who posted about my friend Buster's son. Today is Day 16 or 17 in a coma and on life support. They almost lost him at least twice, perhaps 3 times this past week, and had to do CPR once. Finally he seems to be stabilizing, and he is now on dialysis. They hope (if there's some small improvements in his stability) to put in a Trache tube next week and get the ventilator tubing out of his mouth. I don't know about the feeding tube.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Heavy, Wet Snow Expected, Are You 'Prepped'?

Imagine my surprise this morning when I heard the words "Freeze Warning"! Mind you, they didn't say Frost, but Freeze. The National Weather Service has issued several winter storm advisories, watches and warnings across the northeast.

Snow that falls very early is usually wet and sticky and readily clings to tree branches. The situation is compounded because the still fully foliated and colorful fall trees collect much more snow than they would otherwise. This adds a huge amount of extra weight that becomes too heavy for the tree to support. First, weaker branches break away, then sturdier limbs rip from the main trunk. In some trees, the root structure is not terribly strong and those usually topple pretty quickly, especially in already wet, saturated ground.

The storm hitting the Northeast now is one of these tree destroyers, and you can expect much damage. In addition, the falling tree branches are forceful enough to knock down power lines, causing widespread power outages.

We haven't even had our first frost yet, so a freeze warning is unusual. I should be below the area expected to get the potentially dangerous heavy, wet snow, but here the mountains have elevations high enough for freeze pockets.

Today will be a nasty, wet day but I shall have to go out anyway to bring all my tender perennials into the root cellar, and stock firewood on the porch. Must remember to take up the garden hoses and be sure the hose bibbs are shut off under the house. Sigh.

Some winter prep tips from emergency management teams:

Make sure tires are properly inflated and have decent tread.

Check locally for any requirements for snow chains.

Keep a small broom and windshield scraper in the vehicle for ice and snow removal.

Keep your gas tank full. Top it off frequently.

Prepare a winter car kit to keep in the vehicle all winter. It should contain a flashlight, extra batteries, a small first aid kit, any necessary medications, blankets, pocket knife, matches, extra mittens and socks (dry socks are very important!), a wool cap, small shovel, some small tools (pliers, screwdrivers, wrench) and at least one brightly colored piece of fabric to use as a distress signal. Flares are wonderful, but I have a hard time finding them locally.

Keep several packets of high energy snacks in the kit, and several bottles of water.
Restock it often.

Make sure someone knows your route and time frames. Try not to travel alone.

Dress in loose-fitting, warm layers. Outer garments should be tightly-woven and water repellant. Mittens are warmer than gloves because the touching fingers generate more warmth.

If you are working outside
(shoveling snow, pushing a car out of a drift or chopping wood), do some stretching exercises first, and take frequent breaks. Overexertion causes many heart attacks every winter.

Stay dry. Change into dry clothing frequently, especially mittens and socks.

If you have been a smart cookie and have been prepping all along, you will not need to join the stampede today in the stores to get the last gallon of milk and loaf of bread. You will already have food and water on hand to use in an extended home power-outage, and plenty of candles, flashlights, blankets and a back-up heat source. Having all the warm bodies (including the furry ones) all in one room closed off by blankets generates a fair amount of heat.

The last big storm that caught me unaware was about 15 years ago, in 1993. I was living in suburban Atlanta and even that far south we got hit hard. That storm was not predicted, catching even the weathermen off guard. This area here where I live now got over 3 feet of snow, and many folks had no power for more than 2 weeks. The big ice storm in Ohio and Kentucky last year was not expected either.

If you are a Prepper, you will be prepared for almost anything that comes your way.

Cattle Tonsillectomy??

J.F. O’Neill Packing Company, an Omaha, Neb., establishment is recalling approximately 33,000 pounds of beef tongues that may not have had the tonsils completely removed, which is not compliant with regulations that require the removal of tonsils from cattle of all ages, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday.

Imagining cattle having their tonsils removed is just too funny, even though I'm sure it is done post-mortem!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Course I'd Love to Take!

The Soil Food Web and Compost Technologies Workshop is being offered in Santa Barbara, California Oct. 30-Nov.1.

This is the short blurb about the course:

"In this course, you'll look at the elements of a healthy soil food web, learn how to analyze and improve your own soil, and learn how to make composts and extracts to strengthen the soil food web. The Soil Food Web course provides knowledge and research findings for those at the grass roots level of working with soils. That includes not just farmers who grow crops, but also those who graze cattle, sheep and other livestock, fruit and vegetable growers, greens keepers, parks and gardens workers, nursery operators - in fact, anyone who grows things. The course offers a way of improving the soils we work with now and a way to keep soils in this healthier state without damaging any other eco-system."

I have been convinced for a long time that the soil food web is key to growing healthy, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately my own garden isn't making the progress I want, at least so far. This course would be very beneficial. Hmmmm, I wonder if I can wave my magic wand and Poof! be there in an instant?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm Writing a Book...

Photo Creative Commons License by happysweetmama

Yes, I am starting to write a book! Not the kind you will find on the regular bookshelves, though.

Actually there will be 2 books, with one written in collaboration with a cousin, about our family in the United States. I think that one will not be done in less than a year because there is so much still to research, and then to document. There have been a couple of basic books done before on our family, but they are full of errors and incomplete even in the first 2-3 generations.

My solo book will be about the men in our family who fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, French-Indian Wars and the Civil War. I had not thought there was enough material for a book but now that we have been working hard on the family tree, I have more than a hundred names. A lot of them are from Ohio, or at least came to Ohio after the Revolutionary War as pioneers.

In the War of 1812, long before Ohio was a state and still barely settled, there were over 26,000 men from what became Ohio who enlisted to assist the nation in this war. The numbers of Ohio men in the Civil War was staggering... over 310,000. Of those, 11,000+ died in battle and another 13,000+ died from disease.

After Ohio's participation in the Civil War (Why do they call it that? It certainly wasn't
civil.) several veterans later became Presidents of the United States: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and William McKinley.

I have never lived in Ohio, and my family has been gone from there a hundred years. However, I'm gaining a healthy respect for Ohio in the early days of the westward migration of this great nation, in spite of the many adverse things the government did. (Think broken treaties that drove the native population almost into oblivion, not to mention the buffalo that were still abundant in Ohio and Kentucky in the early 1800's.)

I hated history in school, but now with the perspective of my family background, it takes on a different image for me. Wanting to know
why my people (not just one family, but whole families) moved from Maryland to western Pennsylvania, and then Ohio before going west to Iowa has caused me to look at the politics and economics of the time, and in turn, that has cast a whole new light on the American history we are taught in school.

Bear with me, and I'll try not to bore you too much with "history"!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CIT in Trouble

This has been brewing for some weeks now, but today (Monday Oct. 12) Reuters is reporting CIT Group may soon be filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Citigroup announced a couple of weeks ago that they would be closing many branches in an effort to scale back their operations. Looks like that isn't enough.

Citigroup is one of the largest recipients of government aid via the
'Troubled Asset Relief Program' (TARP), where they got $2.3 billion in December. CIT has more than a million customers, and over $70 billion in assets, but many of their borrowers are small businesses who are struggling in the current economic atmosphere. This does not bode well for the economy here, or abroad.

I wasn't planning to write any Doom and Gloom, but my spirits are down. My neighbor's son is still in a coma, and now has developed pneumonia in both lungs. Even the ventilator at the max isn't getting his O2 levels up enough...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flu Vaccination, or Not?

While I have been spending a lot of time around sick people in the last few days, I have heard a lot of discussion about taking the H1N1 Flu Vaccine, or not. I don't have any advice to offer, but a few other thoughts come to mind.

In some recent blood tests I had, my doctor also ran my vitamin D levels. It is commonly believed that we make enough vitamin D if we get a few minutes of sunshine three or four days a week. At the time of my blood tests, I had been working out in the garden almost every day for several hours all summer, unless it was raining. I wear a sleeveless tee and shorts so I have good skin exposure to the sunlight, and I drink lots of milk, which is labeled as having Vitamin D added.

With all that exposure, my level of D was still deficient. Not merely low, but deficient. So, I've been reading up on vitamin D. Many factors affect the body's ability to absorb D, plus the receptors in the skin diminish greatly with age. Surprisingly, as many as 40% of older people living somewhere like sunny Florida are deficient in vitamin D. Other factors also affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin D such as some diseases, taking a lot of medications, and some interactions in the digestive system. (I don't think we know enough about the interactions of everything that affects our metabolic function.)

Vitamin D is found only in small amounts in a very few fatty foods like sardines, herring and mackerel. I believe the amount added to milk is probably just enough to make the label legal. Diseases like osteoporosis, or even just having aging kidneys, will affect vitamin D levels.

The role of vitamin D in the body is to regulate the use of calcium and phosphorus (think strong bones), and to enhance immunity. It is also necessary for thyroid function and blood clotting. Studies are showing vitamin D is a good preventative measure for breast and colon cancers. I'd say that's because of how vitamin D affects the immune system.

Fortunately, vitamin D is easy to synthesize, and inexpensive to purchase. My doctor has me taking 1,000 units of D3 daily, and said if I get a cold, or the flu I could increase it to 5-10,000 units daily.

Vitamin D is one of the fat (lipid) soluble vitamins, which means the body may store any it doesn't need, and although very few cases of any vitamin toxicity have ever been reported it is possible with mega-doses. The water-soluble vitamins (we excrete any excess) are the B vitamins and vitamin C. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is also water-soluble.

I am not recommending you take vitamin D, only saying I take it and why. I also take an immune-building homeopathic remedy, wash my hands a lot, and carry wet-wipes when I go anywhere.

The best anyone can do is do their own homework before making a decision about anything you put in the body.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking a Break

I may not be posting for a day or two. My good friends and neighbors are sitting in an ICU waiting room down in Tennessee, where their 19 year old son was airlifted and on life support from an automobile accident 2 days ago. I plan to drive down and be as supportive as I can.

Thanks for your patience.

How Smart is a "Smart Choice" Label?

There is a new industry-sponsored food label named "Smart Choices"... but some are not really smart choices, like Froot Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms.

The problem is that although there are indeed many healthy foods elgible for the label, the industry-backed board members have good backing. The application process and high fees are less a barrier for the industry giants compared to the unadorned, unprocessed and unbranded foods like fruits and vegetables.

American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association have already walked away from the Smart Choices Initiative but food companies are maintaining their commitment to it.

In response to the program's questionable decisions, the FDA has announced their intention to study front-of-the-package labels and possibly develop its own, a process that could take years to complete.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Salmon Win!

Photo: Creative Commons license by david.nikonvscanon

"End to the Klamath War"

After a long and bitter battle, 4 dams on the Klamath River will be removed by the utility company PacificCorp who owns them, although the 2 in California and Oregon will not come down for another 10 years.

The winners are the salmon, the farmers who will get more water downstream, Native American tribes, and the controversial Endangered Species Act.

Actually there are no losers. PacificCorp said it will cost around $200 million to take down the dams, but that's about what it would cost them to build fish passages around the dams to increase the chances of survival for the salmon. Salmon die after they spawn, but if enough don't get the chance to spawn, there are fewer salmon every year.

Salmon is one of my absolute favorite foods, although I don't eat much of it anymore. I cannot afford the wild salmon, now running over $16 per pound if you can get it at all. Too bad, because wild salmon is not only delicious, but high in protein, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

The more affordable salmon in the grocery stores is all farm-raised. They are fed a fish chow, which is rather like the grain-based cat chow or dog chow, and contains all sorts of questionable ingredients. Farmed salmon often contains high levels of dioxins, and up to 8X the PCB's of wild salmon. The farm-raised salmon also develop much lower amounts of Omega-3, and in a form more difficult for the human system to utilize.

In addition, farm raised salmon is dyed the orange-red color we associate with salmon. Wild salmon get that natural coloration from their diet which contains
krill (a tiny shrimp-like zooplankton) and other tiny shellfish.

99% of the Atlantic salmon world-wide is farmed-raised; they out-number wild Atlantic salmon 85 to 1. More of the Pacific salmon is wild-caught, and most canned salmon is Pacific salmon. Trout are in the same family, and the statistics are very similar for wild vs farmed.

Another Kind of Recovery is Happening

I really believe some Recovery is happening, it's just not economic recovery. What I see is a "Recovery of Self".

Recovery is a long and often slow process, often fraught with failure. In the recovery programs for substance abuse, they say more folks in recovery fail than succeed. I don't really know if there's any statistical proof for that statement. (The term for repeated failure is recidivism, which means repeating undesirable behavior after experiencing the consequences, and is widely used for criminals who are re-arrested.)

Somehow I don't see this recovery of self failing
en masse, at least not among mature adults. The young adults like my 22 year old niece may be a different story, but the changes I see happening are not likely to go away in a single generation.

I don't think many folks will go back to living on credit, plus folks will have a stronger sense of ethics, and awareness of what's really going on in the economic and political world. It will be more difficult to pull the wool over our eyes about a lot of things, but especially money and a slick pitch.
We are finding out we can live without many things once thought necessities.

Families are discovering that family time spent together is not unpleasant after all. I actually saw the kids across the street (ages 8-14) playing together outside today. Church attendance is up, and so is community involvement.

Maybe we are finally shedding our fake skin?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mill Trivia...

Photo: Creatve Commons License by chefranden

I always thought a grist mill was just another name for a mill that ground flour. Wrong!

In the colonial days, there were several types of mills. A Grist Mill ground corn into meal whereas a Flour Mill ground wheat, rye or buckwheat into flour. Flour Mills were developed later than grist mills because flour was more expensive than meal, and corn was easier to grow and harvest than other grains.

A Merchant Mill was a flour mill where the miller purchased grain from farmers, ground it, and then sold the meal or flour rather than milling grain in return for a percentage of the meal or flour as had been the earlier custom.
A by-product of grain milling was Offal, sometimes called "awful". It was the screening, bran and shorts of mostly wheat, and used as animal feed. Not exactly the same as the term 'offal' we use for so-called waste animal parts (even edible parts like sweetbreads, tongue, tripe, heart etc.) although the root definition is the same.

There were Bone Mills that ground bones into meal to be used as fertilizer. Plaster Mills ground local gypsum to be used as fertilizer; it was known as 'land plaster'. The advent of railroads made other fertilizers more economical and the plaster mills dwindled away.

There were also some "manufactories" (mills) of the time. A sumac manufactory would grind sumac leaves and berries (which are high in tannic acids) into a sumac sauce which was widely used in tanning hides. As technology increased there were mills to manufacture woolens (fulling mills), and paper. Distilling, even on a small scale, was a part of life for most of the population.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I've been posting for several Friday's now about how the Feds always announce the bank failures after business hours only on a Friday along with a statement that the "new" bank owners will open for business on Monday morning. It has all been with a sardonic attitude, even if you didn't notice.

Well, it's Friday again... and I'm actually trying to avoid the news channels and web sites. The economic news this week has been bad enough. I have been viewing a few of the 'survival' sites off and on for months, or maybe years, but because of my history with hurricanes and other unexpected emergencies. I believe in being prepared, or even overly-prepared.

The survival sites for the last year or more seem to have a lot of doom, gloom, and conspiracy theories, and I have passed over that content as being just 'fringe' elements. Now as I look at just the simple evidence of how the Feds feed us the information about bank failures, it gives me pause to wonder if there isn't more to what's happening than we are told.

Then I read stories about a young(er) girl living (in FL, I think) with her grandmother since early childhood who is being denied citizenship because she refuses to take the cervical cancer vaccine, even though the vaccine is still controversial with some medical authorities. Or the story this week of a grandmother dragged out of her house at 5 AM because she bought 2 bottles of cough medicine within a week last February, one for her husband, and one later for her daughter's kids who were sick. If the Feds were bothering to check drug store purchases, why didn't they also check her out to see IF she was part of a Meth lab ring?

I really love my country, and what we used to be. I wouldn't want to be the guy trying to get us out of this mess that took decades to build. I don't know that he's right, nor that he's wrong. He is our President. In either case it doesn't matter as long as our elected officials fight for their interests only. It all seems to boil down to "Follow the Money".

We have destroyed so much of the natural beauty and health of our country by our collective wanton greed mixed with lack of understanding or concern for the environment that nourishes us, my generation included because we believed what "They" said. After all, "They" were the Authority and surely knew better than we did. We also believed they had superior moral fiber.

I remember a full-page cartoon I cut out of a magazine years ago; it was a cave man overlooking his terrain. The caption said, "Mankind owes his entire existence to 6 inches of topsoil, and the fact that it rains." Nowhere did it say we owe our existence to power, wealth or social standing.

Rivers of Tears...

Photo Creative Commons License by landeth

I've been think a lot lately about tears, and have shed quite a few. I have been working on my family genealogy hard and heavy, and I finally found some data for a missing family. It turns out the oldest son went off to fight in the Civil War at age 17. He was furloughed about a year later and came home to the joy of his parents and his 9 brothers and sisters. The joy soon turned to ultimate sadness, as he had been exposed to Diphtheria. Within 3 weeks of his return home, he and 8 of the other 9 children were dead.
I cannot begin to imagine what that mother felt, nor the tears she shed.

Our several kinds of tears are chemically different, depending on why we shed them. Some tears are protective; they keep the eye lubricated and help wash the eye of debris. Those are called basal tears and are mainly water and salt, but they also contain antibodies that defend against pathogenic microbes, and enzymes that destroy foreign bacteria. The biggest difference in basal tears and protective tears is usually in the amount of them. For example, it takes far more tears to wash away airborne dust, or sand in a windstorm, than to keep the eye moistened in normal circumstances.

The tears produced by slicing onions is the body's attempt to wash the eyeball of strong irritants. The fumes given off by the onions contain
sulfenic acids. You can peel an onion under running water to avoid most of the fumes, but a trick that works when chopping onions by hand is to hold a slice of bread in your mouth. Sure, you'll look goofy, but it will prevent the irritants from reaching your eyeballs!

Sad, emotional tears are another matter altogether. They are the body's way of discharging toxins built up by negative emotions. Those tears contain lots of hormonal proteins, and 30 times as much manganese as blood serum. Autopsies of severely depressed people reveal unusually high concentrations of manganese in the brain tissue. Thus it seems that crying releases some of that excess manganese, preventing other biological complications.

Emotional tears also contain mood-elevating and pain-reducing endorphines, which explains why we feel better after a good cry. Crying is the most inexpensive, natural and powerful mechanism we have for coping with pain, stress and sorrow. Happy tears are mostly just the body's normal saline solution.

So, cry as much as you want to; it's probably good for you. But no cheating by cutting onions... your tear ducts know the difference!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saturn cars will be no more...

Photo Creative Commons License by Saturn

The Washington Post today carried the story of the demise of the Saturn, a
"different kind of car company" owned and made by GM. As a result, more than 350 dealerships are slated to shut down, and 13,000 jobs are threatened.

GM, now largely owned by the federal government, has been trying to shed several product lines, including Hummer and Opel, besides Saturn. They thought they had a deal with Penske (of Indy Racing Car fame), but that deal fell through simply because Penske could not find a car manufacturer here or in Europe to build the cars.

The first Saturn off the line (pictured above) was just 24 years ago, and in 1993 they rolled #500,000 off the line. I couldn't find a current estimate of how many Saturn's have been made.

My mother drove a Saturn. It fascinated me because it had three doors, not immediately apparent from the outside. When the driver's door was opened, a second door (without an outside handle) could be opened allowing access to the backseat, and it had no rigid column between the front and rear doors.

I'm sorry to see Saturn go, but at least it wasn't an Edsel.