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The Big Sweat is upon us

Dripping after moments in the heat and humidity, and salty at the end of the day, with stinging eyes when one rinses the face in the garden hose. Good for tomatoes and peppers, kinda hard on humans. My peppers really are not that well, as the slugs have eaten them off as fast as I can set them out. Hmmmm. Hotsauce futures not looking good, but I take heart in that the more slugs there are, the better the box turtles will get their protein. Balance.

The second crop of sunflowers and first crop of peanuts and field peas are doing well. Lotta rain this Spring, and kinda coolish. A friend who grows commercial garlic has suffered (rot, green sprouting, hard to get in the field), and I empathize with every commercial grower who has difficulties. What is a pastime for me is deadly serious for others, and I am so glad I am not a farmer/gambler. Would love to have a bigger patch to work, and be able to have a diversity of crops, including an orchard—but then I would have thousands of flowers and millions of weeds (instead of my current hundreds and thousands).

Reading some Barbara Kingsolver non-fiction, called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It’s about trying to live in a self-sustaining manner on a patch of land in southwest Virginia. What she lacks in biological and botanical knowledge, Kingsolver makes up for in enthusiasm and a thorough exposition of the out of control corporate “food” industry. We have traded calories for quality. Wonder if Kingsolver and Michael Pollan know each other?

This trend of calories over quality may be reversible, like global climate change, but my generation will not know for sure. THAT is the question. Will this generation act to better coming generations? Same as it ever was. This is always the question, and improper, wrongheaded answers are the norm. Bless us all. The only comfort may be that those who have nothing (the subsistence folks, the meek) will do the best when it all comes crashing down. When the developed world is in turmoil because the grocery stores are empty, the meek will just be waking up to another hard day of surviving. Bless them, most of all.

May we all practice subsistence in our own ways, mliswilltravel.

Summer advances, my reading flags

Back in the arms of The South, sweaty, clinging, suffercating. We still have a breeze, so we are not in full Summer. This is the season where begins the rain envy. These days, one can see thunderheads, see the curtains of rain falling, and envy those under those rains for the good it is doing their gardens. This envy, of course, increases as the season dries and advances. It is so tempting to hear other folks’ thunder, smell their washing rain, and know that the clouds just aren’t coming your way. Ahhhhh. But so nice to be under one of those showers. There are a million drops in the air right now, falling to Earth and mobilizing the nutrients so the plants can use them, dampening the pets among us and making them appreciate their humans even more, and the thunder is making us all go back to our more primitive selves—staying indoors and staying out of the wet.

Finishing up Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” and trying to catch up on my magazines. Harper’s had a great play by play of the Snowden leaks in the May 2017 issue, I bleve, and the Funny Times chugs away on the humor and satire side of things. My reading comes in 15 minute segments as I doze off. Hmmmm. Need to apportion more time during the day, perhaps.

Read well, think well, act well, mliswilltravel.

Just can’t out-repurpose those librarians

Challis, Idaho–refrig and washer

Travels and readings

Did I see a librarian from Tennessee at a rest stop in New Mexico on 22March?? Did I? Was charmed by the desolate aspect of the place, and the Beware of Rattlesnakes sign, and did not have my brain in gear. As I went down the road, it occurred to me that the lady I saw looked suspiciously like a fellow chile hotsauce maker who once worked at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center library. Likely mistaken, but I missed my chance to play the do you know game. Dang.

Still have not the courage to assay Orwell’s 1984, and am pandering to my delicate sensibilities by reading James Michener’s Chesapeake. It has been thirty years since I picked up any of Michener’s works, and I am reminded why. Methinks that when he dined upon English peas, Michener individually pierced each pea separately and conveyed them to his prim and fastidious mouth. Just sayin. But, when traveling, large books that last are an advantage, and I certainly have that advantage in Chesapeake. Next time I get to the Eastern Shore, I will ask around to see if anyone read the book and then, for their assessment.

Also picked up Blue Latitudes by a Mr. Horwitz, who excerpts Captain John Cook’s logs on his voyages of discovery, and then re-traces those voyages by modern transport and reports from what used to be Paradise. The news ain’t all that good, but the reading is better than average.

Regrettably, am finishing Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life which lets me know that there can be no mistake about the erosion of good sense and culture. The Kardashians are just the titty tip of the iceberg. Left this book in the lobby of a university science building with an inscription that said take this book, please.

Please pick up E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat. Also, please see an excerpt below from the essay titled “Sabbath Morn.” White was writing for Harper’s and The New Yorker pre-WWII, and in those unsettled times, was addressing many of the upsets we still suffer from, especially with President Tweet in charge. Edifying. Comforting. Slantingly insightful.

“When I feel sick unto death, I cry out in agony to God, and when I speak boastingly, I knock on wood. Here is a clear case of divided responsibility, for there appears to be for me a power in wood that God doesn’t possess.”

Was also re-introduced to the High Country News, which was a prescient title to pick way back when for a publication originating in Colorado. Quite good, quite slick, and very informative regarding the Western mindset. They have a website, but am uncertain as to how open the access is from there.

Dawdling, wandering, reading, maundering, mliswilltravel.

Does this make sense to you? Make all of your charitable donations in opposition to the policies of Donald Trump, and have acknowledgements sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW / Wash DC 20500?????. ACLU? Planned Parenthood? Public Radio? Just thinking that those of us who are not rich enough to have a voice in politics can at least have a voice in the non-profit world. If money is speech, I am a mute.

Just have not been able to face 1984

Well, I thought it would be good to re-read Orwell’s 1984, but I have not been able to face it. Every day seems like a 1984 reprise, so why submerge into that world just as I am heading off to sleep?? Am reading a history of bourbon whiskey by Dane Huckelbridge, and will report when I know more. Generally when “history” is part of the title, one can expect a nap to ensue soon, but Bourbon: A History… moves right along. Fine so far.

And now, having read more, Bourbon remains amusing. Despite some editing slips, we are now to the turn of the 20th century in the United States, and corn booze is ascendant. Here come the prohibitionists and the gangsters. Huckelbridge puts many asides in footnotes, and it is clear that these snippets wound up in the “not quite” bin, but provide pleasant sidelights to a bourbon-centric narrative.

Lives of a Cell (Lewis Thomas) held up throughout in terms of reportage and relevancy. Written between 1971 and 1973, that is quite a good prescient look at today’s world. What some might miss is that scientists have always been interested in just the facts, ma’m, so blowing irrelevant smoke is not the scientist’s forte. My foray into management gurus’ writings have more than warned me about the kind of reasoning and lionizing that soon falls flat on its face. Peter Drucker still holds up, but the first requirement of Drucker management is that you trust people. The folks who have followed Drucker have been backsliding on this trust equation, and have had little to offer, in my opinion. The genuine article tends to stand out, so I hope to find other works by Lewis Thomas to read. Checked my local library and struck out, but I will keep looking.

As a great example of recent irrelevant smoke, have you heard that Donald Humpty Trumpty’s “friends” can’t get loans? You mean they can’t get loans at the favorable rates and conditions they used to? Where tax breaks and depreciation pretty much led to a zero sum game for the cabal of Trump and his friends, while said Trump and friends were free to rake in the rent—or just walk away from failing properties and non-performing loans? I care not for Trumpty’s friends to continue to make profits at my expense, and endanger the financial system again ala 2008. Just sayin. Dodd-Frank should be strengthened, not weakened.

As usual, I get enough to get along, but my wishes for a fair society wind up in the ditch. I have just been through the medical insurance marketplace after my COBRA coverage expired. What I did not realize is that in order to qualify for Obamacare coverage, one must have some sort of projected earned or taxable income. This, in my opinion, leaves the most vulnerable and needy among us without health coverage, which leads to clogged emergency rooms and uncompensated care—which costs are shifted to those who can pay. Better we should put more money and effort into Medicare and Medicaid for all instead of lining the pockets of insurance executives. Whomever put the pharmaceutical and insurance industry in charge of medical care was dishonest and shortsighted—and knowing who made those decisions and knowing they are covered for life by Cadillac health coverage—easy to make decisions in an offhand manner that will never affect you and your family.

Dear One Percenters and Congress Critters, I care not about you and your families, mliswilltravel.

Spring bursts upon us

I sniffle, I sneeze, I clog up. Must be Spring. The pines are about to let loose their barrage of pollen, where every gutter runs yellow after a rain, and breezy days spawn visible clouds of hopeful sex cells. Dr. Ben Channell used to remark about all the plants having sex in public like that, and he would characterize what we saw in pond water under dissecting scopes as “…a veritable Mardi Gras of activity.” Doctors Ben Channell and Elsie Quarterman were mainstays of a Vanderbilt University biology department before molecular biology and biomedicine took over the field there. Long ago, far away, RIP, Ben and Elsie.

I have been diverted from Orwell’s 1984 by The Lives of a Cell (Lewis Thomas), which I found by happenstance at a Little Free Library. I seldom re-read books, but made an exception in this case. This was exciting reading for a young biology major, way back when, and Thomas’ reasoning and attention still hold water. He likens the Earth to one large cell, and then in a series of essays (first published in NEJM), explores everything from the nascent molecular biology craze to language and population projections (on target, btw). Just as an illustration that scientists have been on the right page for a long time re Earth’s future, anthropogenic pollution, and the fitful progress of medicine and applied science, this work deserves another look. Unfortunately, too little of what Thomas regarded as urgent business has been addressed, and the takeover of medicine by insurance interests was foretold. Sad.

Hope you are hopeful, in a very constructive way, mliswilltravel.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”–Neil deGrasse Tyson

Doctors Ben Channell and Elsie Quarterman:
Dr. Ben Channell, left, and Dr. Elsie Quarterman view the mystic bubble, a plant propagation unit, at Cheekwood on Sept. 5, 1963.

Settling in

As a measure of my settling in to retirement, my time to rise in the morning has gone from 6 to 7 to 8am over the past year. Hope it does not continue to rotate forward through the morning, as 8am is enough of the day gone for my taste. Just sayin. Planting sweet corn and snowpeas already, and the spring flowers are well on their way. Cats sleeping in my container garden efforts have done nothing positive for those experiments, but the peace and comfort of the kitties is more important than my horticultural efforts. Glad I don’t have to live on my produce.

My readings in the 100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet left me puzzled, as humans were not included in the most dangerous. Quite a flaw, and the folks at Scholastic should be ashamed. The Dangerous Book for Boys was a “hail fellow well met” effort by some toffs to recover their youths, and while some good info was contained, even they mentioned how hard it would be to penetrate the online market. The copy I found had some marks of use, but not enough to counter the computer games that suck kids into screens and seldom let them out. Just my view.

I hope your view is lent credence in your circles, mliswilltravel.

In Appreciation of George Orwell

Animal Farm and 1984 were revelations to me way back when, and were perhaps my first exploration of literature that went beyond the obvious “truths” of society, school, and religion. I was thoroughly basted in science fiction between the fifth and eighth grades, and Orwell’s imagined societies drew me in easily. With my own observations of said schools, churches, and society, I was well on my way to developing my own hard core cynicism—and Orwell just gave me a boost.

Now, I find myself returning to Orwell and his filters. I left my last supervisor a copy of Animal Farm as a parting gift, after re-reading it myself. My message to her was that she could learn a lot about management by reading it, she seemed a bit puzzled, and I doubt that she read it. “Some animals are more equal than others” was very relevant in that departed workplace, and I was hopeful that she would get it. Smug inattention is not the way to lead people, nor is making your “equality” equal to a greater sum than others.

And I have picked up 1984 again, since duckspeak is all the rage now, and my laughter ends in tears. More to report as I read, but the dangers of autocracy in a so-called democracy are damaging to every democratic institution. If money is speech, I am a mute, but what money I have will fund the lawyers that make the autocrats’ lives even more miserable than they already are. Of, for, and by the people, even those who don’t vote. America, my home.