28 May 2011

Cleaning Out

Dear Reader,

I am in one of my occasional fits of orderliness, when I can no longer stand the clutter I have created. Most of what crowds me is paper. I am awash in books and magazines that are years old and overdue for a read.

Anyway, I have begun to chew my way down through a collection of NYTimes Sunday magazines, which are as rich as the Atlantic but mercifully thinner. I take one or two to the gym in the morning, and digest them while walking faux miles on the elliptical trainer (to preserve my knees and ankles). As I have read, a few things came up worth keeping. But sometimes I find something worth sharing.

Like essays from the "Lives" page which is always inside the back cover. "My New Kentucky Baby" from last week's issue. You gotta read it.

Also this one, called "Hank's Road."

How about this one called "Jumbo Buffet?"

Finally a quirky one called, "Bunch Muncherasi MD"

I cannot tell if these are flowers or weeds, but they sure got my attention.

25 May 2011

Go Ahead, Make Me Wait

Dear Reader,

Judging by my followers, at least half of your are Social Security and Medicare proximal. That is, if they are not eligible, they are not far off either. I am eight years away now, just to be open and all that.

Anyway, with all sorts of talk about Medicare and Social Security these days, and politicians hand-wringing on one side or the other, I want to say something as a GIT, geezer-in-training.

Make me wait longer.

Social Security was designed to provide support at a time when the average life span was about the same age as eleigibility. Today, the average lifespan is nearly 80. Social Security was never meant to be a long term thing.

Congress started dealing with this a while ago, but most people still look forward to collecting Social Security as soon as they can.

Man Up, folks. I say move it to 70 for everyone between 50 and 60 now, 75 for those between 40 & 50 and the 80 for those 30 & 40. And no 'early retirement' either.

Also, raise the ceiling on SS taxes. Right now, anyone who makes more than $137k pays no FICA or SE taxes on the amount above that figure. Why?

The idea is that social security would be a "dollar in-dollar out" program. I think the American people would welcome that, even if it meant waiting longer and paying more. We don't mind paying for what we buy, as long as the rules are clear and everybody plays by them.

You probably know more than me about whether this would work, so feel free to correct me. But do the ideas work - everybody wait longer and everybody pay for it? Tell me.

22 May 2011


Dear Reader,

The lazy gardener is at it again. Only this time I had to work hard. You see, in this instance, the lazy part was husbandry. I am married, right? And my spouse of nearly 35 years said we had to remove the upper layer of soil in our veggie patch and replace it with new soil.

I was not convinced of this course, but could not mount an argument to convince her either. While it seemed to me a whole lot of work to replace all that dirt and thus the antithesis of 'lazy,' the effort it would take to persuade her (and myself honestly) was even greater. The lazier option was to hail about 400 lbs iof dirt around.

Good thing I go to the gym. But I think Ibuprofen is in my future.

Stay tuned!

13 May 2011


Dear Reader,

Spring is so swift. For a month we had colder and wetter days than normal, as I have noted. It finally ended last week and in just that much time the daffodils came and went, my asparagus came (and went) and now the flowering treees have come are almost gone.

The tulip tree is almost empty, its blossoms now smeary and slippery on my driveway. Thankfully, the flowering crab is still there, but a patina of petals lies on the ground. How long will the semblance of the tree in blossom last? A day or two more, but that is all.

This morning (having had to wait to post this becaue of a Blogger glitch) March returned like a climatic Freddy Kreuger who refuses to die. Cold hard rain has denuded the crab of its last blossoms and made a mush of the petals that my tires squished over onn the way to church.

Sakura is a famous Japanese song, almost a cliche, meaning cherry blossom. To savor the sakura is a custom dating to the 8th century in Japan. It embodies mono no aware, the 'ahness' of things, because they are are so beautiful and come and go so quickly. Mono no aware means that brief, almost unbearable, moment of insight into reality. By the time you notice the moment, it is gone. All you can do is day "ah!"

Or squish.

Like life.

11 May 2011

Stray thoughts While Sorting

Dear Reader,

Well, the asparagus is done. How much can I expect in the third year, anyway? A compost bin is in my future, which will be great. And even though work is heading toward the summer slow down there is enough deferred work to keep me quite busy for some time.

I am between books now. My policy is to read very old fiction and very new non-fiction. A month ago I finished the last volume of the Divine Comedy (which took years as I waited for a new translation to make it to paper back form). There are some luscious books waiting for me, but I am guilt ridden about the stack of unread magazines on my shelf.

One stack is NYTimes Sunday magazines which are too good to toss without reading. They date back to the last administration. Thus my new practice is to reduce that stack, which has the satisfying effect of tossing things out regularly.

Every issue has something interesting, but now and then something sails over the rest as having pertinence or insight that touches on other things. An example is an article from the October 10, 2010 magazine by Ted Fishman.

The Old World examines the fact, as he demonstrates, that the world's population is aging. That is, the average age is getting higher. Not everywhere and not all at once, but overall and inexorably it is aging.

And what's really interesting is that this is actually very good in some ways. Older nations (think Europe) have more stable, more democratic, more equitable societies. They are less likely to go to war and other sorts of indecent things. It reminded me of a book I read fifteen years ago, "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches," which also noted the correlation between war and high levels of young males in society.

Fishman's article took a wide-angled lens perspective that I find helps to connect political turbulence, poverty, religious fanaticism, and resurgent American conservatism. So go back up and click on the Fishman piece. The other link is to a Youtube summary of the other book. No endorsement is intended in either case, but maybe you will have the same intriguing thoughts I did.

Back to my weeds. Yay!

05 May 2011

Something Sprung Up

Dear Reader,

We have had the longest coldest wettest April ever, sort of "March - The Sequel." This has bummed a bunch of folks, yours truly included.

But yesterday I saw genuine signs we will overcome. The flowering crab is flowering (shivering as it blossoms) and the tulip tree is almost there.

What really proves it is that my asparagus is up.

Two years ago I planted asparagus in my little lazy veggie patch, the one I share with the bunnies and other creatures. We came back from a wedding weekend to see green things pointing upward. They looked like real asparagus.

They were. I cut them and we cooked them and they tasted wonderful. More is coming. And the best part is that they will be back again next year.

Tra la. it's May!