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...