We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, April 2. 2014
On a related topic, Star Parker has this: The Problem Is Liberalism, Not Racism
As we have pointed out here, there is far more white poverty than black poverty in the US. It's not about skin tone.
Truth is, poverty is not a unitary phenomenon, and it's not all a problem. There are hundreds of sorts of poverty: poverty by life-style choice, poverty by location choice, poverty by bad luck, poverty by illness, mental illness, and addiction, poverty by personality traits or weak character, poverty from long-term unemployment, temporary poverty, poverty from being in grad school, poverty from being improvident, new immigrant poverty, poverty from having been in jail, poverty from being embedded in a poverty culture, poverty from trying to live on Social Security, poverty from being a single parent (a life-style choice, I suppose), fraudulent poverty from cash businesses and illegal activities, and so forth. It's not all a collective "societal problem."
Why don't the pundits talk about that? They never do. Even Charles Murray doesn't. I'd like to see a statistical break-down, but it doesn't exist. Worse yet, poverty stats fail to include government or charitable benefits so I am skeptical about all of it.
America offers great freebies even for those for whom poverty is a life-style choice because we do not let people starve in the streets, without shelter. Need a cell phone? We even have Obamaphones. America is a great country in which to be poor.
Tuesday, April 1. 2014
For your gardening and yard work calendar: overseeding, aeration (plugging) top-dressing, and Crabgrass prevention
Lawns are not natural, and they are a pain in the ass. However, they are needed for kid play, croquet, and summer cocktail parties. They can also look gracious and neat, when healthy and when surrounded by good plantings. They are really just one sort of garden, or part of a garden. Grassy garden paths are fine things.
Around here, most years you can overseed a thin lawn area in April (although the best time is early Fall). When I overseed an area in Spring, I follow it by raking in a thin top-dressing of my own concoction - a mix of sand, compost, rotted manure, a little peat moss.
What about crabgrass prevention? Crabgrass preventers need to be put down around the time the Forsythias bloom, or slightly before that. The problem is that it cannot be used when seeding a lawn - it will prevent germination of your grass seed. That's why overseeding is best done in the Fall.
What exactly is Crabgrass? It's an annual grass, Digitaria. It's not native to the US. It likes dry and compacted soil where it feels free to smother your lawn grass. Irrigated lawns tend not to grow much crabgrass, but lawn irrigation is for the 1%. Grasses are meant to go dormant in mid-summer.
What about lawn aeration? Heavily-used lawns (by people, dogs, wheelbarrows, lawn-mowers, etc) benefit from it annually. In Spring, you can do it after the third mowing. Not good to do it in mid-summer when the soil is too dry and the plugging tines cannot penetrate. I always go over an area a few times, not just once. It's a good work-out. Those plugs disintegrate quickly.
Heavy towable aerators are made for pastures, sports fields, and golf courses. Some do plugging, some do slicing, but I think deep plugging is best. 3" is the bare minimum because healthy grass roots are deeper than that.
A side-benefit of lawn aeration (and top-dressing) is earthworms. Earthworms cannot live in compacted soil, but they can happily aerate a soft and healthy turf themselves during all of the warm months. Besides aeration, they need food: your top dressing, grass clippings and mower-chopped leaves.
Grass is not Astroturf. Here's how to aerate:
Monday, March 31. 2014
Sunday, March 30. 2014
Reposted from 2012 -
I am studying up as I gradually learn about the places I am scheduled (by my tour planner, Mrs. BD) to visit over the next couple of weeks. I regret that our contributor, Roger de Hauteville, King of Sicily, cannot accompany us because I am sure he would have some good historical reminiscences from the time of his reign.
The Mediterranean world went through some or most of these cultural phases (or empires) which you can mix and match according to location:
Sicily experienced pretty much every bit of that sequence, which is how the Norman Roger de Hauteville became King of Sicily.
Best as I can tell thus far (I have a pile of books I am getting through), Sicily's high point was around 200 BC when it was still a Greek culture (Syracuse was considered the finest city in Magna Graecia), when the Syracusan Archimedes was busy discovering and inventing things in the old Greek way.
It's been downhill for Sicily since the kingdoms were abolished in the 1860s during the unification of Italy as a nation. But never unified, really. The "maffia" filled the power vacuum, and today they basically run the island. (Most people in Sicily speak Sicilian, if not Italian also. "Maffioso" is Sicilian for an entrepreneurial braggart or bully. It has been estimated that 80% of Sicily's businesses pay protection money to the Mafia, and Sicily's main exports are oranges, lemons, population (impossible to build a new biz there due to the mob "tax", so energetic people leave for the US and northern Italy and Europe) - and organized crime.
Despite their Greek history (genetically, Sicilians are a mix of European, Greek, and African), most Europeans to the north (which is all of them) look down on them just as the Romans look down on the Neapolitans, and the Italian Swiss look down on Romans - and even the Tuscans.
It's a lovely island, with around a 5 million population. The rural areas, the active volcanoes, and the well-preserved Greek ruins are the main attractions, and I plan to explore them.
Photo: Mount Etna -
Thanks to AGW, looks like we're in for two days of soaking rain. That's perfect timing, because I did all of my Spring fertilizing this weekend: lawn, perennial gardens, shrubs, Raspberries - and Holly-Tone for the Rhodies, azaleas, hollies, etc. (I also put down Preen on most of the flower gardens. It saves a lot of trouble to put it down before the first weed seeds germinate.)
It makes sense to fertilize before things green up, because the roots wake up hungry and begin growing many weeks before anything green emerges. Early Spring is when roots do most of their growing.
My grass should be happy this year because I plugged it last year. Big power plugger, a bitch of a machine to handle. I went over all of it twice. The plugs disappear fast.
The incredible truth about time.
Most physicists believe that it is an illusion, but some still debate the subject.
(Pic is this fancy Audemars Piguet. Timex is the official watch of Maggie's Farm, not AP.)
This 2003 movie, which had the misfortune of being overshadowed by Gibson's The Passion and was never released in theaters, would make a good Christmas present.
Sticking tightly to the language and sequence of this very literary Gospel which was written 2 centuries after Christ's death, the 3-hour version captures all of the key moments of Christ's ministry, and is especially good at capturing the rabble-rousing, reckless and provocative style of his ministry and its inevitable culmination on the cross. It's easy to see why people wanted him out of the way - he was a big trouble-maker and no-one was insulated from his demands or his harsh judgements. Not a go-with-the-flow guy, and John depicts more the Jesus of Truth than the sweet Jesus of Love, yet love of God is the whole story.
The role of Pilate is small but fascinating, and made it clear that we are all Pilates. What would I have done? Probably what Pilate did. Captain Vere in Billy Budd. The story of Pilate is a Greek tragedy, and I feel sympathy for his fate. My only complaint about the film is that Jesus spends more time talking about his relationship with God than he does preaching the rest of his message that was to change the world. I am not a Bible student - but that focus is a reflection of John's Gospel, which was a message to gentiles - "He is in me and I am in Him" - obviously not a message designed to engage the Jews of the time: "Crucify him. Crucify him."
The Jews were not quite ready for a Messiah, nor is anyone, anywhere, any time. How are we to know whether a messiah is the real thing? Pilate is us, and the Jews are us. A holy dream in which we ourselves play every role, as we do in all dreams. Anyway, powerful and very moving stuff, and the narration by Plummer adds a lot.
It is something special.
Saturday, March 29. 2014
I posted this once before, but it still cracks me up. Besides being a slice of life of a piece of NYC, it does a great job of depicting/satirizing one subculture of NYC. You have to know a bit about the Jewish subculture of the NYC environs to fully get it. More real than satire, though, according to a BD daughter who is not Jewish but knows the scene.
The real message of this is that, no matter how dorky you are, a strong self-confidence can go a long way. Lubel does a great job with that. He's a very cool dork, with a posse, too. I knew guys like him, and always wondered why they got so many chicks. As Sipp emailed me, rhyming Giapetto with Warsaw Ghetto gets a gold star.
Acting confident is a chick magnet, no matter what you look like or what your resume looks like.
I should have linked this article when I posted on the topic recently.
Another good one, which makes the point that over-fertilizing can be destructive.
I fertilized most of my shrubs and perennial gardens today, with Hollytone for the evergreens. In some spots, I had to put it down on ice but I wanted to get it done.
Friday, March 28. 2014
Simple and delicious. I think adding chicken ruins it, but some people prefer it like that. Bean sprouts are essential, as are chopped scallions on top. I usually sprinkle more soy sauce on top after it's done.
Angel Hair or Thin spaghetti are right for this. When you think about it, is normal-sized spaghetti good for anything? I don't think so. I hate it because the flavor/pasta ratio is too low with it.
Here's the recipe.
Thursday, March 27. 2014
Isn't all sex recreational in some sense of the word? Eating is recreational too, in part, and they are both fun. Well, unless these things are dutiful chores which they can be, sometimes, for some people.
What's wrong with recreational sex (eg FB's, friends with benefits, dorm trios - meaning studly guy plus 2 playful and adventurous gal roomies, one-nighters, etc) among the uncommitted? And isn't lots of marital sex really recreational, in some sense, anyway? If not "casual" - see "kitchen table sex."
It's a serious question. In the old days, people married in their teens so that an extended period of sexual ache, longing, and loneliness was more or less taken care of. Of course, we all have our morals, scruples, religions, ethics, and considerations for the feelings of others to take into account. That's the issue, isn't it?
Frequent sexual and romantic thoughts and desires are, for better or worse, a routine part of being human. People can fall into love, lust, or desire readily. (They can fall out of those things too, fairly readily.) I am constantly reminded in my work about how prevalent, but far from universal, recreational sex is among the young, and among older singles. (No, I am not one who views sex as sacramental but more as an animal aspect of humanity with an overlay, so to speak, of a hundred other meanings. In my youth, I think I was too sentimental, religious, soulful, respectful - and controlled - to ever have been a party girl. Some regrets? Not saying. My fantasies are exciting, but private.)
I informed our readers recently that it's a good idea just to toss a little bleach into your vases of cut flowers.
Here's another tip (also via Mrs. BD's garden club). When you force Paperwhite bulbs, always throw in a shot or two of vodka or gin into their water once they sprout up a few inches. It stunts their growth just enough to prevent them from getting leggy and falling over. It has no impact on the bloom - or the scent.
One might like to imagine that it cheers them up, too. Grey Goose, of course.
Here's a reference on the topic.
It is indeed true that our posture, along with our general comportment, attire, manners, speech, and capacity for chat are what others base their initial impressions on. Rightly or wrongly, those things matter to me too.
To stay strong and upright, I do deadlifts. Like squats, they are highly unpleasant but highly beneficial for leg strength and back strength. If we spend 15 hours per day sitting, we must do what little we can to remain vital and to delay physical decay.
Physical and mental decay begins, according to the experts, in our late 30s.
Wednesday, March 26. 2014
Things in Life That Really Matter: A Maggie's Shout-Out Request for Classic Easy Mommys of America Desserts
Our popular Maggie's Classic Mommys of America Comfort Suppers series reminds me to do a series on classic old-timey Mommy's Desserts. Most Moms today don't make dessert except for special occasions, but it was a nice touch and popular with the kids.
Furthermore, growing and physically-active kids need sweet and sugary treats - for health, energy, and peace of mind - and to feel the love.
Moms never used to buy desserts. People lived on strict budgets, and only the prosperous went to restaurants other than the hot dog stand, which was fast food. People raised in the Depression, or raised during WW2 or the 1950s and 60s, did not buy stuff, and a linen-napkin restaurant was very special, unlike today. They got off their butts and made stuff - even my Mom with 5 kids. I remember some my favorites:
Coffee Jello with Jiffy-Whip (that's how I learned to love coffee in my youth)
Apple Pan Dowdy or whatever version of that sort of apple thing
Blueberry Cake with Hard Sauce (she'd only make it if we picked the wild berries at the Farm)
Yellow Cake (from the box) with Mocha frosting for birthdays. Mom never bought a cake in her life (except for the annual Buche de Noel)
Indian Pudding for winter holidays, with ice cream or whipped
Bread Pudding +/- rum, and English-style custard or rum sauce on top
Apple Pie, from our apple trees, with ice cream.
Cherry pie, from my great-aunt's amazingly-productive cherry tree.
Home-made vanilla ice cream, hand-cranked machine. Sometimes, with home-made chocolate sauce, sometimes with rhubarb sauce, sometimes with butterscotch stuff out of a can or bottle.
Peach Melba, with canned peaches
Trifle with rum- or wine-soaked pound cake - for special parties
Strawberry Shortcake, made with Bisquick
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Brownies, occasionally with ice cream on top
Rice Pudding with raisins. Might be good with dried cranberries too.
Root Beer or Sarsaparilla Floats in hot weather
I'll get to work on an Official Mommy's of America dessert post, but only if you tell me what some of your favorite Mommys of America home-made desserts were. Since we are read all around the world, the whole world will appreciate, and benefit from, our homey memories.
Tell me in the comments.
When to put Preen on flower beds? Anytime. Just don't put it on bulb areas or on lilies.
Tuesday, March 25. 2014
As the last snows mostly melt, the soil de-freezes (OK, defrosts) a bit, and the blackbirds return, it's time to fertilize flowering shrubs and trees and perennial beds in Yankeeland. Any further snows will be short-lived.
Remember that roots grow long before green shoots appear. By the time growth appears, it's sort-of too late for plants' spring feeding - especially woody plants. It takes a while for the food to get into the soil, and even longer to get down to the roots and then up into the plant.
Rain is required. I cheat and put Preen on the perennial beds. It's not perfect, but it helps. For shrubs and roses, I use a stick to poke a hole near the drip line, and pour some all-purpose fertilizer in there.
If you got too busy to do it in the fall, now is the time. I did my shrubs, roses, gardens, boxwoods, and lawns yesterday, and used up an old bag of Hollytone and an old left-over bag of lawn dolomite (lime) too. I have hollies and hybrid Rhodies in sheltered spots and a few Azaleas too where they are well-protected from winter winds even though we are north of the hybrid Rhodie and Azalea happy zone. North of the Holly zone too, but I love my hollies and the birds do, too.
Heck, I can even get good hardy Crepe Myrtles to thrive here if they are well-sheltered and against the house. Green thumb, or dumb luck? They are well-sheltered, and close to walls and foundations. When they are in bloom up here in August, people wonder what the heck they are because they are a southern shrub/tree.
Need to remember to get my lawns plugged in early June, but I will probably forget to do it because it makes for a week of muddy dog paws on the beds and couches. A hard-packed lawn is an unhappy lawn, and our local tool-rental place rents lawn-pluggers. Fortunately, I decrease our lawn size every time we add a new garden. That's good - but weeding and mulching new gardens is bad. Too hard. In a while I will mulch the heck out of the gardens and let summer do what it will.
Can't win. But fertilizing is worth it.
Monday, March 24. 2014
Speaking of incentives, is virtue inalienable? Are there situations which can mitigate morally reprehensible behavior? Broadly speaking, I'd say no, not usually. However, context is important and always useful in developing a justifiable opinion about some very specific situations. Along these lines, what represents an unfair advantage in making an exchange? Would the person purchasing this egg be wrong to not disclose information he had about it? After all, we do have laws about not disclosing information about what is being sold.
These same laws should apply to the buyer, should they not?
Sunday, March 23. 2014
But this is a good example of how advertising can not only entertain, but co-opt a message which is designed to hurt a business. It may not drive business, but God bless the owner who realized how to turn a bad situation to his favor.
Many people believe corporations and businesses are strong, particularly if they are large and have huge profits (as many car dealers often do). It is my view advertising is proof businesses are weak and competition is intense. Finding new and useful ways to get your message to break through the clutter is good for business. Done poorly, it can annoy, distract, and possibly hurt business. Done well, it can keep your consumer base intact or grow the foundation of purchasers. Or keep your opponents off balance.
Time to prune back roses, too.
This season of Lent naturally has me thinking about the theme of sacrifice. I wondered when Jews gave up ritual sacrifice, and was interested to learn that the tradition was to eat the sacrificed animal - sharing it with the priest who no doubt got the filet, and to let the guts burn to ashes. In Christianity, Christ is the unblemished Lamb of God.
Those are the roots of Christ's instructions about what we now call "Communion." "This is my flesh, take of it and eat."
Saturday, March 22. 2014
Good posture makes people look better. It makes you look younger and inspires confidence, and it feels good.
Good posture is a habit, and so is poor posture. The military is effective at training good posture. Typical causes of poor posture are psychological, lack of training, aging, and physical weakness.
If you want to improve your posture, just imagine your Mom reminding to to sit up, or stand up, straight, all day long. Then you can work on your abdominal and back muscles, which are what make standing upright possible. Here you go: Exercises for Better Posture.
Life training matters, and can only come from home. Moms say "Stand up straight, look people in the eye, have a firm handshake and a pleasant but reserved demeanor. Nobody wants to know your natural self."
Friday, March 21. 2014
A Maggie's Farm Scientific Survey: Things we often want to avoid doing, but feel better after we do them.
No pain, no gain? This is about gratifications and pleasures earned in the completion of things one has the impulse to avoid which require possibly unpleasant exertion, effort or discipline in contrast to easy, unearned gratifications.
The capacity to delay gratification is considered a measure of maturity and life-competence, but we all struggle with something ever day. The enemies are "I don't feel like it" or "I feel like it." In other words, self-indulgence. The enemy is us.
The earned gratifications of accomplishment tend to feel better afterwards; unearned gratifications (eg food, booze and drugs, shopping, trips and vacations, watching TV, romantic affairs, surfing the web, etc, etc.) tend to feel good while doing but often worse after because they are easy pleasures or cheap thrills which have costs which are often out of proportion to meaningful gains.
I'll confess some of my personal routine challenges, some trivial and some not:
- Getting to church - hate to dress and drag us there on Sunday morning, but always glad we went
What's on your list of things you feel like avoiding, but feel good after you do them?
In recent years, we have had authors and commenters come and go. We're a voluntary commune. (nb: We encourage commenters. Please comment, readers, if you have anything to say even if it's not brilliant. Just show good manners, please. Polite disagreement - with hard facts - is always welcome.)
Our collective favorite Commenter was Marianne Matthews, a wonderfully-reflective Texan, a Barnard grad, a Taurus (the handy-dandy firearm, not the car) owner and a Greenwich Village folksinger in her youth who died in her early 80s with a pulmonary embolism. We miss her. She once mailed me, at my request, a CD of her recordings with a photo of her lovely self playing guitar. She loved NYC, but she loved her Columbia-trained oil-engineer husband more. She always wanted to come back from Houston after he retired, but was responsibly and lovingly caring for him there when I believe he developed a dementia.
Also missing - our old irascible pal Dr. Mercury. No mystery there. He's a ramblin' man, and rambled on to other things after a while (I do not know what) but left behind the useful Dr. Merc's Computer Corner.
Missing in Action: Buddy Larson, a popular and frequent Texan commenter who always brought something to the table, either deep, witty, or usually both. That's a mystery. I hope he is OK, and I hope we didn't do anything to piss him off.
Capt. Tom: He wrote posts for us for a while, but seems to have lost his writing desire. Writer's block? Perhaps the muse might return. I hope so, because he has lots of experience to share, and can write about photography, fishing, boating, engineering, guitars, and all sorts of things if he wants to. Maybe he is too busy living. He does find time to comment on occasion under his real name, Tom Francis. A Yankee, moved to the Carolinas.
Roger de Hauteville? Not to worry. He is around and healthy, but locked in the uninsulated attic for the moment. Those Norman barbarians need time-outs on a regular basis. He'll be back after the next war. In fact, we have planned a job of work for him which naturally involves Sicilia.
Bruce Kesler, our San Diego/New Yorker. He's sort-of on Sabbatical, but he is in touch with me almost daily and (among other emailers) contributes to our morning links, for which I am quite grateful. At some point, I think he may be back on the payroll unless he gets a better offer (he has had many newspaper op-eds published). And he has a day job plus young kids at home. Anyway, always take the better offer if you can get one!
Here's a poor recording of Marianne in New York, in her younger days (1950s), probably in some folkie den in the Village, long before Joanie, Bob, Phil Ochs, Sebastian, and all the others:
Thursday, March 20. 2014
For years, I have been explaining here that dietary fats are not a meaningful factor in heart disease (arterial disease). Your cholesterol level most likely doesn't matter either unless you have familial hyperlipidemia or diabetes. I believe those outliers skewed earlier studies.)
Here's more evidence: Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link.
The article also says this:
Once again, it's the carbs that are the problem. Best thing is to deal with that carb addiction.
Wednesday, March 19. 2014
Now, the lefties just use name-calling and "Shut up" as debating tools.
As a youth, I used to debate my Conservative friends over beers and/or a little weed. My political evolution from adolescent Lefty to conservatarian began happening when I entered the adult world and learned more about human nature and how it is expressed, in part, through the miracle of markets. My evolution continues, because each year I realize more how precious and rare freedom is, and how dangerous and oppressive the State is.
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