Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Words from the Wise

Don't look at this if you want to have faith in Experts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Auto-workers take note

Somebody wrote in Wikipedia:

"Although non-fraudulent in intent, a pension fund can share some of the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme in that, except during the final period of the fund's life-span, the outgoing cash used in any month to pay pensions is usually taken from the incoming contributions of the active members of the pension scheme. In a year of poor equity returns such as 2008, a pension fund can often perform worse for its members than a Ponzi scheme."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Puzzle Unexplained

Regarding Madoff, what I don't get is how he could have gone 50 years like that. I guess it helped that big banks, a lot of them European, got sucked into the greed as well. But still, seems to me his deal should have collapsed long ago as the image shows.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Madoff Aftermath: Some Durn Good Advice

Particularly haunting in this article: "... my poor neighbor had all of her retirement money in a Madoff fund. All of it"

And something else that has been bugging me regarding the current meltdown regarding Retirees: don't blame the financial advisor if you got slaughtered because of the stock market: no financial advisor worth a durn would ever tell you to have a bunch of your money in stocks and then go and retire! Another mistake this lady made, evidently.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bill Ayers

Forget Obama's guilt by association. Voters rejected the notion.

But don't buy into the spin that Bill Ayers is an OK guy without anything to answer for. Or that we need to be unconditionally accepting his resurfacing in public life. This Washington Post article seems pretty balanced.

Yeah, I think Obama needed to answer questions about this.

Just a hunch: not impossible that some of the Chicago political dirt might not have gotten scrubbed off clean for Obama's presidency. For the sake of our country, I hope it did.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Mad Are You?

I don't know about the rest of you, but for me, the stuff that is surfacing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has me the most steamed about our current economic fun and games.

I usually don't watch Hearings, but I am going to be tuned in to these. I say heads should roll... then again I said that about the Savings and Loan fiasco a couple of decades ago. I was dreaming.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And you thought Mugabe was the villain!

Matt has me keeping up with Zimbabwe and South Africa. Now here's something I didn't know, it's actually greedy shopkeepers that are causing all the problems.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fishing Humor

If needing a laugh, search for Bill Dance videos at you-tube. Some guy with a fishing show, I guess.

Here is my favorite sequence so far.

PS: changed the title.
PS: didn't realize the sequence was as long as it was! 30 snippets! You are forgiven if you can't watch all that but the first few are very good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In Some Ways it Ain't Funny

But I'd call it funny and actually informative. A you-tube link.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Leonard Kyle Dykstra Phenom

Go figure. Nobody could be 83-0 in anything right? Actually, I'm guessing that claim is exaggerated, but even so, this guy has had a pretty amazing second career.

"Since retiring from baseball over a decade ago, Lenny has opened a chain of car washes that he sold for $52 million (what?), started a magazine that tells rich athletes how to spend their money (seriously?), and launched his own investment newsletter that charges subscribers $1,000 a year to receive his personal advice (excuse me?)"

My best guess is that this is the phenomenon of what might be called the "Perspective of the Lottery Winner". Odds are Dykstra is just getting lucky like that lottery winner, nonetheless he can now take that to the bank while he gives us doubters the Bronx Cheer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Now a boy!

Just hearing now about a confirmed case of a boy surviving rabies, one day after the last post!

BTW some other claims have not been reliably confirmed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't Ask

I am quite capable of getting interested in some pretty wierd stuff. Don't ask me why. Lately I have been checking into Rabies. Big problem in the third world it seems.

I'm finding out people in general are quite misinformed. It bugs me to hear someone say they think squirrels pose a rabies risk; as a hunter, I know that isn't true, check it out. But it struck me that it is a little odd that we hunters generally aren't warned at all about any rabies dangers;
here is one rare exception. After finding out recently that all mammals can get rabies, it got me wondering. Why is there virtually no risk with what I typically hunt? [which btw doesn't include raccoons for me].

It turns out that the experts don't seem to be sure why so many animals just don't pose a risk. Once in a while you hear one of them theorize that any, say, rat that would be attacked by another animal usually gets killed by it. [yep, rats also pose almost
zero risk; the opposite contention, one I adhered to as well, is one heck of a widespread myth! see that first link]. As far as that they-die-instantly-theory goes, I don't really buy it. If one animal bites another, is it always a fight to the death? I don't think so, and when you hear about rabid animals biting, seems like it's often a quick fleeting thing. My own personal theory I'm now developing is that low risk mammals just don't go into aggressive mode, instead they just get sick and die, and thus don't spread the virus. Apparently no one knows, but it's not like birds and reptiles, which can't get rabies. Deer and bears also pose no real risk; the latter case would seem to blow holes in my just-don't-get-aggressive theory and certainly torpedoes the they-die-instantly-theory!

There are videos out there on the story of the only person who has ever been known to survive rabies once symptoms appeared and they had not gotten the shots. So far no one else has been able to follow the protocol they used on this girl and save anyone else. Brother don't dismiss the risk for anyone in contact with a bat! I found the story interesting so here it is:

video one
video two
video three

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hunting Humor

Check it out here.

You need the sound on.

The joke is not explained, but I think it is pretty obvious. The guy is so serious, it's delicious.

Another one. Need the sound again.

No sound needed this time.

Risky Investments Department

If I understand this, looks like T. Boone Pickens is taking a bath with his wind ideas. I can sympathize, losing some money back in the last energy crisis trying to invest in energy alternatives. That was a real 'ouch' as I had little to invest. But it's just risky to invest in something so connected to commodity prices. I'm thinking the drop in oil prices is killing him.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The TV Viewer's Dilemma: Who to Vote For?

Well, first on a while back, it was clear to the TV viewer that this Obama/Osama guy was totally suspect. Can't vote for him, we learned, he's not black enough. Then, he rolls a gutter ball as soon as it's down the lane 5 feet when he tries to bowl, and that's a concern he might not be Polish enough. On the other hand, he can sure shoot some hoops, and that's what our guy is supposed to be good at. Oprah has confirmed him black enough now after seeing that.

McCain was too creepy from the start, laying on that bed in black and white with the creepy look. All the commercials ending with the creepy smile, even now, both Obama's ads and his own ads. Has a creepy wife too. Creepy, creepy, creepy. Halloween comes, though, that could put him over the top just before the election. Any kid who shows up in a creepy McCain mask at my door, though, and his 'Halloween bump' could backfire on him with me.

Sarah was supposed to get us with the librarian look, ala
The Music Man, if you've seen that musical. In case you were worried about her, that business of being a witch got driven out of her with the exorcist thing [actually the TV viewer might have had to go to you-tube for that one]. But then she was too easy to make fun of on Saturday Night Live and seems finished.

Biden, Mr. Gaff-0-matic, is busy living up to his reputation. Otherwise, Sarah has made that goofball look like a good choice. We may see an African witch doctor show up and work on him, too, I'm suspecting. Then the demon that causes the gaffs to blurt out will be driven off and Joe may have the edge.

The vice-presidential candidates are in a exorcist-off, and until that's resolved, the TV viewer just has to go by the candidates themselves. Looks to me like it's coming down to Halloween and the Oprah show.

Health Care and the Election

The election is upon us, and seems like with the way the economy has gone down the tank, this has distracted the public focus away from the candidate's positions on health care. I have wanted to blog about health insurance for some time, but I have hesitated to do so for a number of reasons. In particular, I really seem to be the Lone Ranger when it comes to ideas about how to reform it. Again, I have decided to mull it all over more and it'll have to be a future blog. One thing I seem to be deciding: if empoyer-provided is going to be our system outside of Medicare and Medicaid, true reform may be impossible.

I got this far and thought I'd pass it on.
I checked it somewhat and Web MD seems to have the best comparison on the candidate's positions on health care. Health 08 is more comprehensive but gets over my head pretty quickly.

For what it's worth, here is something else I came across.

Monday, October 13, 2008


This required verification by snopes dot com. Go to the video.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gunn City Revisited?

Wall Street Fat Cats lined up and this gun in my hands? Would a jury convict me?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Ruin the U.S. Economy

According to Ben Stein who says it here.

The buzz amongst some is that it is indeed the Hedge Fund folks who are causing the stock market to be unable to "find the bottom" as I like to say. John Edwards types can't take it and are pulling their money out like crazy.

I'd like to think the buy-and-hold types like most of us are getting revenge. At the moment, it's hard to cheer. Or know the best thing to do. Certainly, the thing to do is *not* pull your money out!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Something Stinks...

Don't think that politicians aren't at the bottom of the current financial problems. Some links:

Keating Deja-vu for guess who

Remember a 2003 $11 billion accounting fraud at Fannie Mae? Very Interesting, Frankly, so to speak.

And I'm not a Gingrich fan but this is worth reading.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mbeki Bites the Dust

However, this may mean he just lost in some political infighting to someone potentially even worse? I'm not sure, but this blogger is not impressed. "Bring me my machine gun" doesn't sound good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Berwyn Heights Raid update

The Link will take you to a speech by the Mayor. Ironically, I think he could really benefit from this if he has further political ambitions.

Wow! is RealPlayer outdated now in the age of youtube or what?? Trying to watch this has been frustrating for me. RealPlayer was always some kind of user-unfriendly, fairly useless monstrosity to me. I see it hasn't changed a bit.

I hope you have better luck, perhaps this will show up on youtube and it can be watched there. In the meantime if you have the same problem I did, getting stuck in "buffering", try moving the advancement bar around.

Smooth Operator

Matt found something on this, good job Matt! Evidently not a Federal program after all, although one of the "sponsors", whatever that means, is Federal. Matt sent this link.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


currently [and often for some reason] seem to have a problem with uploading images. I upload them and the post looks fine but later does not. This ruins the joke in "earth in 2 months"

The Earth in 2 Months

Alas, Mad Scientists refuse to listen to reason and this is what is going to happen.

Regarding very small black holes, here is a wikipedia link talking about them. It doesn't seem to mention the idea of ravenous consumption except in the "fiction" section. It does say the energy required to create them with collisions is probably beyond what is possible today, and that they would in any case be "immensely unstable, and almost immediately disintegrate." However, the writers of these calming statements are being challenged to produce citations. So look at the picture and plot how you're going to get out of that thing.

Wikipedia has it's detractors but is supposed to be pretty good when it comes to science articles anyway.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What I learned at the Newseum

Sue and I checked it out over the weekend. I found it more interesting than I thought I would, and recommend it. In particular saw a good film on the 1798 Sedition Act. I have a dim memory of it from taking American History as a teenager, but the film did a good job of bringing out what the school course did not (assuming I was paying attention), especially how completely unconstitutional the law was. Sue and I agreed that this museum, like other good museums, leaves you with the feeling you haven't done it justice. You could spend an entire single visit just in one section of one floor.

Something else stood out: it's some kind of DC employment project. An amazing number of workers were milling about, which made it nice in a lot of ways. Typically you didn't walk far without someone paying attention to you, sometimes just to say "watch your step" getting off an escalator, and so on. There were something like 100 different employees I spotted. If I'm right, I can't see how that would be less than something like a 5 million dollar payroll, assuming there isn't some kind of part-time employment going on. This in addition to any unseen folks getting paid. It's an untaxed foundation called the Freedom Forum that runs it, so I guess I can accept that it's none of my business if they are in fact going overboard with it all. But it sure caught my attention. Tickets were $20 apiece.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mr Thabo Mbeki is something!

Matt tipped us off, you gotta wonder about this guy. Check out this link.

Friday, August 22, 2008

PS: Junk Scientist?

Got some emails urging me to revisit Breggin. After doing so I admit there are some indications Breggin's opinions may or may not be worthy of your attention. His testimony has a way of getting tossed out in court, for example.

So maybe I should relist his blog link under "blogs to be taken with a grain of salt."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Remain Silent

Aaron came across a good link about the right to remain silent. Quite fascinating.

Go to the next part to get the response.

Just another example of how easy it is to believe you don't need the Bill of Rights if you are a law-abiding citizen.


Another link from this blogger.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Virginia Tech Lawsuits Revisited

Berry picking thoughts are in eclipse, and now back to ranting. [g]

My next posts may be about my experiences with the medical community. If so, let's start out with the psychiatric division. I wouldn't go near these people with a ten foot pole. I truly believe that in future times that the practice of subscribing so many drugs for so many things will be considered the scandal of our day.

Think that the parents who brought lawsuits over the Virginia Tech shooting were out of line? I thought so, but check out the link and come to your own conclusions. I'm starting to feel a little sympathy for those parents if they knew these allegations.

Here are some highlights:

"Almost certainly, the police were hampered in taking appropriate actions by being encouraged to view Cho as a potential psychiatric patient rather than as a perpetrator. It's not politically correct to bring criminal charges against someone who is "mentally ill" and it's not politically correct to prosecute him or to remove him from the campus. Yet that's what was needed to protect the students. Two known episodes of stalking, setting a fire, and his threatening behavior in class should have been more than enough for the university administration to bring charges against him and to send him off campus."

"How would a police action have affected Cho? Would it have humiliated him and made him more violent? There's no way to have certainty about this, but anyone with experience dealing with threatening people knows that a good dose of "reality," a confrontation with the law, is much more of a wake up call and a deterrent than therapeutic coddling."

Thank God for people like Breggin.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I don't think I posted this before, a "wanted" poster for wineberries.

Item 2: Marsha sent a link explaining the concern about the raid on the Berwyn Heights mayor. The link I sent around was too lame, sorry.

I looked and looked for a you-tube or other video for the skit Dave Chapelle's old show did that was a spoof on Law and Order. But the premise was, "what if" the police conducted white collar crime arrests the way they do drug busts? It served as commentary on race relations, too.
I really thought of the skit when this news came out. They shoot the dog and otherwise terrorize the white couple in a manner reminiscent of the raid in the news now. Meanwhile, in role reversal in the skit, Chapelle plays an Af/A drug dealer who is mollycoddled. If you saw it you will remember in the end he joyfully takes the "Fif" over and over again.

There is some evidence that the skit is out there on the internet, somewhere if ever so briefly. I did find some sites where it has been "yanked." Warning, if you come across the video but have never watched Chapelle, the show can be pretty profane and just plain gross. Sorry I couldn't come up with it. Remarkable that basically Chapelle warned the police that they should never make this mistake, yet here they have done just that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Huckleberries, Wineberries, and MD

OK, listen up Louise, here's the current developments on berry picking.

*we need something closer.
*Matt and Marsha, who live in Maryland, like to pick berries.
*I used to hunt in Maryland, and have an idea about some good spots.
*I would like to check out both sides of the Potomac, actually.
*there's a new development: we might be able to try a new berry.

When I checked out Bill Heavey's blog, I found out that he basically is blogging about

"his quest to feed himself for one year by hunting, fishing, cultivating, and gathering wild foods around his suburban Washington, D.C. area home."
So far it's been more than just about hunting and fishing sure enough, and naturally in the summer he's got to be thinking about berry picking. Quoting him in one post (he has a great sense of humor) he vents a little about the frustration of trying to use one of the guides you can buy today:

"Personally, I’m not finding the green world quite so accommodating. In fact, I’m starting to believe that many plants have no desire whatsoever to be eaten."
He hasn't breathed a word about huckleberries, but is one to something about what he is calling wineberries, apparently these. Judging by his post above, what he is on to is that transplanted Asians (evidently) have been planting in their yards a variety that has escaped and is really thriving in the wild. I'm gleaning that people are really catching on to finding and picking them now. Furthermore, there may be things about them that are an improvement over blackberries. Perhaps a typically better picking situation? As far as eating blackberries, the seeds bug me (making wine out of them seems to be the best use) while huckleberry seeds just don't seem to be a problem. Hopefully, this is also the case with wineberries. Ideally, it will mean two different types of berries we can pick locally. Having a choice is good, as huckleberries sometimes are a bust. We'll have to see how it goes with the wineberries, Heavey's last post on the subject gives some pause.

I think this'll have to be the last at my blog on huckleberries, as I'm sure I've exhausted everybody if not the subject. There is one more thing in the vein of a tongue-in-cheek "that really bothers me" but I'll save it for another day when I might also combine it with thoughts on cornbread, yankees, and "how they do it up North."

BTW I am getting the following feedback sort of sotto voce:
*claims that only the South does deep-dish is incorrect.
*I am some kind of lard-monger!
*my pie is too tart and I should not use lemon juice, or not so much of it.

So far no one has tried to defend the heinous act of putting sugar into cornbread.

This subject amazed me. Once I started blogging it just poured out of me. Go figure, brother Forrest gets the credit this year for advocating we really give the huckleberries a go.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

All Huckleberries to Me

When picking these berries, I make quite an effort to find taller bushes. This makes for less stooping when picking, and potentially you can find a few bushes with the motherload, since taller bushes tend to be larger generally. I think there have been times when half of what I picked came off such finds. We tend to call these bigger bushes deerberries, but as mentioned in an earlier post, in some cases may be juneberries, bilberries, or serviceberries. In order to really identify these things correctly, evidently you have to study them when they have their blossoms. Certainly, judging by the variation in size and color on the taller bushes alone, more than one species or sub-species is involved.

Here is how I think someone could put all the rest of us to shame picking these things:
*quit your job and move near the patch so you can check it constantly.
*in particular try to ascertain when the larger bushes are really ripening.
*head out on the ideal morning and pick a gallon or so, perhaps more.

I believe this is possible, but it is also possible that the 'green berry' factor will limit success. You just can't pick them green, I tried taking a bush home and seeing if I could simulate leaving them "vine on" to ripen, but this failed completely. And when they do ripen, the birds etc. are very effective competition. So it does seem that to some degree you have the problem of finding too many green ones and fast-disappearing ripe ones.

This last trip I was awestruck by one large plant I found. It had a few branches that grew over my head by several feet like many of the others, but this time I noticed that these were coming out of some kind of old stump. It occurred to me that what I was looking at was quite old; the plant looked vigorous, and I got the idea that it would continue to be able to send new shoots out of this old stump as needed fairly indefinitely. It was inconceivable to me that it would only be a decade or so old. If an expert looked at it and said it was 20, 30, 50 years old or more it just wouldn't surprise me.

Running out of topic? not yet, stay tuned.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Making a Pie

I carry a recipe in my head, and don't claim to be a real cook, so I wouldn't mind if somebody wants to point out any stupidity they spot in my procedure. I get pretty good reviews, though.

In my book, the main thing is to make a Deep Dish Cobbler. This seems to be a Southern thing, and certainly to me it is the only way to go. I am quite opinionated about it, and am ready to believe that some of the things they do "up North," such as putting sugar in cornbread, were the real causes of the Civil War! Taking huckleberries and making some kind of thin spread with thin crust on top is just beyond the pale! Alton Brown does sometimes cover Southern cooking and notes

"Now where I grew up, a cobbler is usually a very deep dish application with layers of hot fruit interspersed amongst these kind of thick layers of crust."

I'd subscribe to that, including that the crust be thick, although as far as layers, not sure what he means, but for me it just goes on top.

Now you might be better off following one of Alton's recipes, but here's what I do. One good thing about a 'winging it' recipe is that it fits any quantity of berry that you have:


Take a cool iron skillet and grease it up a bit [very lightly] with shortening. Start stewing your huckleberries in a separate pan, adding lemon juice instead of water. [After some advice that what I come up with is too tart, I am going to try not so much lemon juice, maybe half lemon juice and half water]. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar, seeing that it tastes plenty sweet as you start the heat. Heat the mixture until the berries start breaking up. ESSENTIAL STEP: the berries now release a bunch of flavor that will overwhelm the sugar you put in, taste again and add more sugar as needed!

At this point make biscuit dough enough to cover the top. Add more shortening than normal, until the mixture acts pretty crumbly. This will mean it will be flaky. I don't add any sugar myself. You can use Bisquick if you add more shortening to it. If the stewed berries cool a bit that's good.

Pour the berry stew into the skillet after you have double-checked the sugar level. Cut the biscuit dough into strips, and put a row of dough around the edge of the skillet. Lay strips of dough on top of this allowing a few spots to be uncovered. Place in oven at about 375 degrees. When the filling is bubbling and the dough has started to brown, it's done.
IMHO, a recipe for failure here.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Huckleberries Cont.

Bearing in mind I am talking about Virginia, and that if you attempt this in another area, your results may vary: How does one go about finding huckleberries? It seems that first you want to find a hardwood forest that has been been around for decades, then search a portion of those woods that definitely has an understory of vegetation. Some forests will be too mature or, for some other reason unclear to me, just not support an understory. But where you find an understory, there amongst the small to medium size bushes you'll have a chance to find huckleberries.

As Marsha remembers for her childhood blackberry picking days, wearing long pants, long sleeves, and boots is pretty much what you'll want to do. If it's hot and steamy, you'll be tempted to wear shorts and sneakers, but you need more protection than that from insects and briers. I'd look for poison ivy, and if your plot seems to have a bunch of it, you might want to pass it over for somewhere better. Actually, I think it can be easily avoided anywhere there are huckleberries, the poison ivy seems to be rare in an authentic older natural setting. The vile vine really seems to follow human activity around, no kidding. I especially notice if there has been mowing in an area, poison ivy will show up in the regrowth and amongst the understory nearby. No human activity nearby will probably mean little or no poison ivy.

So, how to recognize the quarry? I pulled out my Peterson Field Guide / Edible Wild Plants book. It says to look for "low to small shrubs. Leaves elliptical, short stalked, toothless or minutely toothed, " a description that is pretty useful and any of the rest not so much. Looking further in the guide, I'm thinking now that what we typically have only been calling huckleberries and deerberries could also include bilberries, juneberries, and serviceberries. This would explain why we were starting to conclude that there must be a bunch of huckleberry subspecies. For sure, the berries can be all sizes and any color from blue to black. Some are really tiny, and as is supposed to be the case with huckleberries (apparently) never as big as what you see in the store.

One would have to be an expert to recognize for certain all these berries we have been picking; even the Peterson guide is not enough. The good news is that one thing distinguishes these morsels, and is readily identifiable, is the way the remnant of the flower is recognizable at the end of the berry as in the store-bought blueberry.
The Peterson calls this calyx lobes. If you are out picking and see them on the end of your berry, it will definitely make you recall the store-bought blueberries. You have an edible berry on your hands, pick it!

Which brings us to the next question, would it be possible to pick a poison berry by accident? The Peterson is always careful to show what to avoid, and only warns against the Buckthorn. This plant too can have elliptical leaves, so potentially you could get confused, but we have had no problems. I have come across what I think are these berries, and as the guide says, they taste bitter, so you can do a quick test and spit it out. But mainly they are easily avoided because although the right size they do not look right, they do not have the
calyx lobes and this is just something that can be spotted instantly. I have picked enough of these huckleberries now that I know in just a fraction of a second that I have the right berry, it really is that easy. Not to worry, newbies catch on fast.

Finally, this brings up the question of who should pick the berries. Frankly, I don't think small children should even try, not because they might pick the wrong thing, but honestly the whole picture of getting up early, braving bugs and briers, having to hunt sometimes pretty hard; these things would be a problem. More mature kids, if they want to go, could pull it off in some cases. If you had any doubts, the cook or the person getting the berries ready for the cook can check out what's been picked at the necessary stage of going over the batch. This'll get rid of misc. leaves and stems that have been collected and makes a final quick double-check that all the berries look right.

Stay tuned for one more post regarding a development I'm following, which will explain why operations could move to Maryland. Perhaps we can keep scofflaw Matt out of the hoosegow, too!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Huckleberries and the case for 'why we aren't crazy'

I'll have you to know that we are talking Superfruit here! Turns out blueberries are great anti-oxidants, and furthermore, the wild ones in particular are. Certainly a huckleberry is nothing but a wild blueberry. In some areas, as Louise noted, the term used is 'wild blueberry' rather than 'huckleberry,' but there possibly is no real difference and certainly no substantive difference.

And when I say Superfruit, I mean Superfruit! Check it out:

And do note that the wild variety, as opposed to the cultivated variety, is especially superb.

Friday, July 11, 2008

So you'd like Huckleberry Pie?

For the first time in years, my brother Forrest and I went huckleberry picking this July. If it has occurred to you that you've never eaten any of these berries, well, probably there is a reason, at least why not any picked in a southern state. These things ripen in the middle of July in Virginia, so if you want any, you find yourself having to brave the woods at their steamiest. Frankly, it can be pretty awful with the humidity, heat, and insects. But the thing that had been discouraging us lately was the way traffic continued to get worse and worse on a weekend. A decade ago several of us on the weekend would make the trek to this patch below Fredericksburg that's loaded with the plants. Our champion picker turned out to be my wife, Sue, who always put the rest of us to shame. This time around, though, brother Forrest and I went mid-week a couple of times to beat the traffic. But this meant only the two of us could put the time aside. One thing stayed the same: we would wind up marveling that there was a time that these berries really got picked in earnest, at least in the South. I gather that there is a tradition of picking huckleberries in Montana, perhaps the Northwest in general, with festivals and such. I'd like to think they have a better situation there.

In our family, there was a pretty dim recollection in our age group regarding the berries. We had a memory of Grandmother Baird making huckleberry pies, the berries apparently provided by an Uncle Joe. I absolutely do remember how good those pies were, even though I must have been just a tyke last time any pies were made. At Mom's High School, they had a cheer:

Strawberry Shortcake!
Huckleberry Pie!
V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! [spelled out]

which was certainly suggesting that it was a common enough treat not so long ago. On the other side of the family, Grandfather Williams had a story of going to pick huckleberries along the Arkansas River and giving it up, joking that he only was able to find ticks and chiggers. But that was it, and we kids ourselves, and I mean no one we knew either, ever even came close to thinking about picking our own huckleberries.

Something possessed me to buy a guide to edible wild plants a long while back; was it to pick huckleberries? I doubt it, but there indeed was a section on huckleberries. I remember noting the details of how to find them and being surprised that the plants were reasonably easy to locate. The mystery of why nobody was picking them, though, was solved quickly when we found they ripen in the nastiest part of summer. You really have to admire how hardy the pioneers and their immediate descendants really were. It was food and they went out and picked it!

Pretty remarkable is how consistent the experience has been. Almost invariably the first thing that happens is you walk out into the patch and get discouraged. There are clearly huckleberry plants everywhere, but at first it seems there are none with any berries. Slowly you realize that there are a few ripe ones if you look hard enough, and sometimes plenty of green ones. You realize you are going to have to hunt for the things. Usually, it takes a couple of people all morning (you want to start early enough to beat mid-day heat) to pick enough for a pie or two. There's no point in picking the green ones, they won't ripen after being picked like some things. We wind up trying to time a trip for when the berries would peak, but usually can't pull it off. This year was no different, after our first trip we guessed the next week would be perfect but couldn't go. By the time we made it the following week, it was clear we missed it.

So you spend all morning hunting for berries, and you've had it at that point, not once has anyone wanted to stay and pick, that one morning is enough! If it happens to be one of the days of July that is the hottest or steamiest, it is absolutely amazing what it takes out of me physically. Slowly it dawns on you that this pie better be mighty good or you are certifiably crazy, one or the other. When the pie is produced, though, it is indeed just unbeatable. The result is similar to what you get if you just buy blueberries at the store, but it is better by far, the wild berries are just packed with flavor.

So is it worth it? Well, probably not, unless you're a person who enjoys getting out into the woods, regardless. Those that do understand what I mean, and those that don't, well, you may never taste huckleberry pie!

Stay tuned for more posts. Yep, believe it or not, the topic can be expanded.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Good comment by somebody:

"Kimberly Wake Up"

As a reporter, if this is your attempt at research, then it is pathetic at best. There exists SERIOUS concerns about MyGallons. Where do I start?

First let's look at the found Steven Verona - filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and has a history of dubious business ventures. More importantly, NO material history of effective commodity risk management.

Second, the company currently has NO way to provide it's 'members' with a fuel card. He claims he will find a replacement card provider, but that takes months of work. he should shut down the site until he is ready. He is currently still accepting members and collecting $30-$40 in fees.

MyGallons is operating out of a 'virtual' office in Miami. The address of MyGallons on their site is 1221 Brickell Ave, Suite 900. Regus (the office leasing company) uses that address for those looking to have a "virtual" office with the benefits of a 'credible' address. Rent starts at $250/month. The operation may not even physically be at that address. Does that not raise another flag for you?

The US Bank/Voyager logos along with logos of Exxon, Sunoco, BP, Shell, etc have all been removed from his site in recent days. Hmmmm, why would that be you think??? That doesn't help those that signed up when those logos were present on the website launch.

The honorable thing to do is shut down the site until all the pieces are in place. Otherwise it IS misleading regardless of the defense MyGallons will list on their site or in the press. The currently have NO facility to provide it's members with a card - FACT. The list goes on Kimberly. MyGallons has an "F" rating for a reason.

Peter of ME

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Gallons Dot Com

Check it out, an idea my brother Forrest and his wife Linda came across:

I think I would want to talk to someone who has taken the plunge. It's not $30 a year if you don't sign up for automatic funding... they can forget that, so that means $40 per year for me.

They say "virtually all" gas stations will accept the card. I'd like to hear from someone we trust who says in fact he hasn't had a problem with that.

Clearly, anyone who signed up last year would be looking brilliant now, and any hassles would be easy to blow off as unimportant. Signing up now is less clearly advantageous, but even if we had signed up earlier, that advantage would be gone [I think] by having spent the investment. It will be a crap shoot every time you try to decide how much money to lock into at the lower prices? Less than $500 might be a waste of time when $50, or $100, gets eaten up instantly? I'm using question marks because I haven't really gotten into those details.

testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What Happened?

I started a big long post on the Fundamentalist Mormons, but have decided to make it a short one. I kept looking at what I wrote and just keep wanting to write it again, thinking I can't say what I want to say. One of my problems is I that I don't want to seem like I'm really sympathizing with the largely unsavory aspects of that community in any other way than to say that I can't stand to see even a despicable group's rights violated. And I don't believe it was necessary to do so in this case. I am capable of feeling differently; sometimes I lose my high and mighty notions. I certainly have been known to go around claiming the Gunn City Massacre is a model of how we ought to handle some of the scoundrels involved in some of these fiascos like the Sub-Prime scandal. I guess such a claim is a type of bluster that I don't really subscribe to. If you make me get "all serious" you could get me to disavow such things as rooting for Vigilante action. But if it seemed to me that a lot of wrongdoing was going on with the FLDS while they hid behind their rights, that could bother me too. Just the same, to my knowledge, no member of that Mormon community has been charged with anything since the raid, which hardly sounds right. So far this seems to have been the sole result: State of Texas Shells Out 14 Million Dollars after FLDS Raid .

Something that struck a lot of people were reports that the same Child Protection Agency that was so eager to take these kids, claiming they were mistreated, then basically began to mistreat them, albeit in a different way. Particularly poignant was the report that Texas Child Protection employees reacted to children crying for their mothers by following these kids around and taking notes. Of course the agency was totally overwhelmed, something that these kinds of agencies never seem to be able to foresee is going to happen. It does seem to me that the same agencies with people who are totally ready to sympathize with the plight of the families they are supposed to help have no concept of how impossible they themselves are making the situation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can a Greenie be a Safety Nazi? Maybe not!

Yep, turns out there are some things we should have known about the notion of saving the planet by buying hip light bulbs. I have to admit, it bugged me to see that roughly 100 watts was the highest equivalent that seemed to be out there for the new fluorescent bulbs. And you don't want anything to make you hesitate when you are paying extra. In the meantime, looks like we get to see a civil war between Safety Nazis and Tree Huggers.

The below is some highlights from:

Is everybody going to be happy with what they see when using fluorescent bulbs?

Not unless there are some significant improvements over the fluorescent lights available in the marketplace today. The New York Times did a comparison of the quality of light from 21 bulbs, including 14 compact fluorescents. The results were not encouraging. They found that the response of the testing panel went the range from a collective groan to enthusiasm at what they saw.

Are there other concerns?

Yes, cleaning up breakage and recycling are challenges because of the mercury in fluorescent bulbs. Since the mercury can be a health hazard, you need to use care before cleaning up a broken bulb. Everyone, including pets, should leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage on the way out. Open the windows and let the room air out for at least 15 minutes before attempting to clean up the mess. Also, shut off the central heating or air conditioning system so you don't get residue in the ducts.

Recycling also is a challenge because you should not just place them in your regular trash. Unfortunately, at this point recycling can take some effort on the part of consumers [blah blah blah] [are you kidding me?]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Do Despicable People Have Rights?

Apologies in advance for what's possibly a too-controversial post for what basically is a friends-and-family blog. I'll keep it brief. But something that is going on is "really bothering me."

Reading and listening to TV and radio, I'm finding that not everybody agrees that what is going on in Texas with the Mormon Fundamentalists is a totally unacceptable violation of the civil rights of these people. The current line of thought for people who aren't bothered by it seems to be something like: "the DNA is going to nail a bunch of these men for underage sex and polygamy, so that's going to justify everything."

As far as what is actually wrong with this, maybe Ben Stein has said it best. (hyperlinked)

Those who think this is all OK seem to say that because they aren't child abusers themselves, there's no need to be concerned about the heavy handed tactics. This reminds me of the argument that we shouldn't mind giving up our rights to improve our security in this age of terrorism. Such people have said, they don't mind if the government listens to their phone calls, because they aren't doing anything illegal. And so on with other examples. I guess you could go down the entire Bill of Rights and say, what's there to worry about amongst us law abiding citizens? Search my house without a warrant, what do I have to hide anyway?

Wrong thinking! It does matter that we keep our rights, and that authorities respect "due process." No! you shouldn't say it's OK for the government to listen in without warrants on private conversations; maybe today you don't care but maybe tomorrow you'll wonder who is listening when you are complaining about the Government. And although I am someone who wonders if criminals get mollycoddled a little too much sometimes, I have to admit that even with the Miranda rights in place, some poor souls get railroaded anyway. New ability to use DNA evidence, as a matter of fact, has made it clear that some people must have been executed who were innocent. A lot of them got convicted on the basis of (notoriously unreliable) eyewitness evidence, but more than a few went down in a process of police interviewing that is becoming more and more discredited. So now is a time to relax standards for due process?

People are used to the police pretty much leaving law abiding citizens alone. I get this feeling it's hard to explain to many that this can change fast. A little taste of the "Officer Owens" - of an early post here - can make you understand fast that no sooner than certain people of that ilk get the message that it's time to give citizens of category X the business, you indeed will be getting the business. And the next thing you know, you find that same person thinks it is OK to misrepresent the facts in court (which happened BTW); after all, you are supposed to go down. Seems like, too, the further away from local government such messages get sent, the more radical the notions get about how to handle those of category X.

I can't say it any better than Ben Stein. Those people getting railroaded today on the basis of a crank call might be despicable as Hell in a multitude of aspects, but I want to say that anybody who can watch the videos of the state overreacting and just say, "it's OK, I don't like those people anyway," is somebody who is part of the problem instead of the solution. The right thing for us to be doing is to decry such things when we see them, and pray to God it won't spread to us next.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Modern Times at the Store

I've felt a blog coming on about "modern times and the shopping experience" for a long time, and finally something has happened to get me motivated enough to write about it. It's going to be hard to keep this brief as there sure is a long list of things "that really bother me" about the various stores we've been shopping at. This'll take more than one post.

What really bothers me? It's not just about high prices. But that too - like onions that nearly cost a dollar and apples that cost more than two - but what else is new? I'm striving, though, to avoid being like my father, who I remember remarking, when he himself was middle aged, that elderly people live in a world with a skewed evaluation of what things are worth, going back mentally to all the old prices of their younger days and tending to be unable to comprehend just how much the dollar had changed in value. Dad seemed to say (like I'm saying now) that he "wasn't going to be like that." Yet he was unable to avoid this fate when he got to be in his 80's, generating some family stories about various things he said and did. He did develop a form of dementia, I should note; but are we all doomed to wind up living in the past when it comes to the dollar?

Outside of inflation, though, I find myself getting quite aggravated shopping, especially at the grocery store. Things have changed. Not so long ago, we'd be able to go to a single store and get all of our shopping done at once. Now, though, it takes a trip to at least two different grocers, and not because we are too picky; stores are perfectly capable of being out of staples. You can't get these stores to admit it, but a large part of the problem seems to be computerized inventory control. Sometimes it seems clear someone has been assigned to check out the shelf stock the old fashioned way, but this never lasts long. It seems clear when this is just being done by computer; you have the phenomenon now of finding empty shelf space one day, going back for the next few months and discovering it still empty. A sample of the things that have been missing for months from certain shelves that I have noticed include cranberry juice, lime juice, black peppercorns, tomato soup, lard, specialty brands generally, and club soda; in some cases what was missing was the most popular size container.

The reactions of the store employees has been very interesting. In modern times, the idea is to provide lip service, while doing nothing to actually correct a problem. One employee told Sue that she wasn't finding black peppercorns because of the difficulties the neighborhood was causing as far as when they were allowed to empty trucks. Supposedly this problem was causing the peppercorns to be missing from the shelf for months on end. Another employee, told that lime juice in an economical size had been missing every time we checked, reacted by getting temporary approval to reprice the smaller size if we bought several. I'm sure that guy went home and told his wife that he was proud of how he solved this problem for us. But really, he didn't do what I would want him to do, and that is to make sure in future that the proper size was going to be there so that we didn't have to stop and try to find an assistant manager or somebody every time we needed the item. After all, he didn't deny it was supposed to be available, but as the weeks went by I saw that nothing had been done to correct the stocking error. When we stated we felt computerized stocking was the problem, oddly these employees tended to deny it.

Now I do have a slight sympathy for those trying to use computers for stocking, humans are not perfect either. My own experience with it is that you tend to overstock certain items, especially popular ones, fearing a loss of profit and wanting to avoid that reputation of being out of essential items. I've screwed it up in my day, and I've seen others do worse; company Buyers can absolutely put a company out of business with their mistakes. We once had a neighbor who could explain what happens when computerized stocking goes bad, though, and it's not all the machine's fault. We went over the missing cranberry juice phenomenon with this neighbor, and I complained the shelves were full of a dazzling array of choices, cranberry juice, cran-apple, cran-grape, cran-apple lite, low fat low salt cran-lemon, high-fiber sugar free cran-mango-soy that doesn't harm the environment, etc., yet the plain regular cranberry juice was not to be found. He concurred, saying his job was to try to make these very systems work, so he would find some guy doing inventory at the cranberry juice aisle grouping all these different choices together as just cranberry juice "because they are all the same price." Well, now of course the computer thinks the store is jam packed with regular juice and desperately needs to order all the other items, being absolutely out of them. I've even become convinced that some items vanish completely, never to be seen again, because some computer notes that the very product that supposedly is vastly overstocked also never sells!

It would seem to be true that buying the items, which all get bar-coded, has no effect on stocking decisions. And all these choices have another irritating effect: it's too darn easy to grab the wrong item, wanting the regular version and accidentally picking up the "lite" version or whatever. Anyway, we are finding ourselves having to go to more than one store these days, we just accept it as a fact. So shopping is a lot more involved, and burns up a lot more time and gas, than it used to. Al Gore call your office.

This isn't what set me off enough to do a post, so stay tuned.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Vote for Ron Paul

I can definitely be a one-issue voter. I can remember somebody saying when Gilmore was running for Governor of Virginia: "tsk, tsk, it's awful that people voters can be one-issue-voters and elect Gilmore because he's promising to end the 'car tax' " I immediately responded, "yeah, well that's me, I hate that tax!"

Now I'm absolutely all wound up again and brother I had to vote for Ron Paul and yessir yabetcha it's a one issue thing again!

What burning issue has me riled up? The tax man cometh, and I was reminded yet again that the tax code does not allow people to deduct medical expenses unless they are enormous: the first 7.5% of your income. I think this is outrageously wrong, personally. It certainly flies in the face of the modern notion as to what a person should have to pay out of his own pocket for health care [i.e. as close to absolutely nothing as possible]. But think about it - it does fit perfectly with the government's notions about personal health care expenses, which is that those personal expenses can cost next to nothing as long as part of the payments go to support the Bureaucracies they have created.

Last year our family had some dental expenses, and we didn't want to wait to cover these unexpected expenses by setting up a Flex plan. There really are a lot of problems with these Flex programs, the major problem being it is too hard to predict what your uncovered medical expenses are going to be. Yet you have to able to do this perfectly in advance or any excess money you set aside actually can be taken from you. Dental expenses are a good example of what Flex plans are not good for as they often arise on an emergency basis and often are not in the nature of something that can reasonably be postponed. So yet again I'm thinking, maybe we'll be able to take it off our taxes, but oh no, the amount would have to be far greater than it is and we just have to eat these expenses. Thanks a lot US tax code!

So how does this lead me to vote for Ron Paul in the Virginia primary? Let me explain.

I decided I needed to finally bone up on how each candidate stood on the issue of health care. Then by golly I could vote for the guy who represented my views the best! Each candidate's website has a section for "issues, " so, it was pretty easy to do. It was interesting to read between the lines.

For example, looks to me like the issue of Universal Health Care has become urgent for some reasons I didn't know about. Turns out one of the things breaking the bank for Medicaid is that people who wind up on it are usually uninsured, then when they have health problems they really sock it to the government. To be put in this position is like allowing a person to drive around without car insurance, wait until they get into an accident, then go get whatever insurance they need and use it to cover them for the accident they just had. Of course private insurance isn't done that way. In fact one of the notorious techniques they have to control costs, canceling that insurance after paying off, is unavailable to the government. Seems that policy wonks have really decided this situation has to go, believing that it's going to be possible to collect some kind of payments out of most of these same people while they are healthy. Supporting Universal Health Care, then, is win-win for these candidates, as the policy wonks are going to be in support of what they say while they get to look like what they care about is all the poor people.

It was also asserted by Obama that three quarters of health care costs today are generated by people with chronic problems like diabetes and heart disease. I didn't know that either; and man that has to be clobbering Medicaid now.

So anyway I went through all the candidate's positions on health care and most of them weren't really saying what I want to hear. For one thing, one of the things that is really wrong with our system IMO seems to be only mentioned by Huckabee. He points out that the employer based insurance that predominates is a flawed thing that came about "as a way around World War II wage-and-price controls." I'd like all the candidates to home in on this, and I'm ready to rant about it, but am going to save that for another post.

When I got to Ron Paul things frankly weren't much better but I have to give him credit for saying one thing I wanted to hear: he says he's for "making all medical expenses tax deductible." Hooray! Mr. one-issue, Yours Truly, zoomed to the polling station and gave Paul the honors.

I suppose I have to let you know that I often just do a "protest vote" and really this was one of those times. If Paul had any chance at all, I'd have to reconsider really voting for him. But as it was, it felt really good!

PS: while researching positions I came across a set of really, really idiotic stuff from so-called experts. Some moron is actually quoted as saying a good idea is to eliminate health insurance altogether [#7]. Now I'm as ready to listen to varied opinions as anybody, but that has to be the stupidest thing ever said when it comes to ideas about fixing health care. The other dolts are not much better. God save us from experts!

Monday, January 21, 2008


I meant to include this link on the last blog. This has to be the ultimate !!

more post-script:
another dubious TV show on the supernatural has hit the airwaves. I am glad to say I have not watched it, but it sounds just as bad or even worse than "Ghost Hunters".