Friday, August 31, 2012

Bumper Sticker

I was coming back from doing an errand at lunch one day recently and nearly ran off the road laughing when I saw a “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper sticker on a car.  The driver’s window was open and I desperately wanted to congratulate him for this wonderful sense of humor, but I was not able to catch up to him before I got near the entrance to my workplace.
For those of you who don’t know who Voldemort is, or understand the humor, let me try to enlighten you. Voldmort was the evil wizard from the Harry Potter series.  In the movies they often referred to him as “he-who-should-not-be-named” because he was so evil that even mentioning his name would cause terror for the wizards just hearing the name.  Now, I am not saying that Republicans are evil, but anymore when I hear some of the things that are uttered by their high profile people, I wonder if maybe they are heading in that direction. 
Like what, you say?  Well, take for example one of the GOP congressmen who is running for re-election now. Congressman Akin.  William Todd Akin is the U.S. Representative for Missouri's 2nd congressional district. He is the person who declared that women have special defenses that prevent pregnancy if it is a “legitimate rape.”  Really?  Where does one even get these ideas?  It is a similar vein of misinformation that many of the Tea Party people claim.  God help us if these people get into power.  If that isn’t an evil power, I don’t know what is.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


For the last 20 years or so, Norristown has tried many things to try and re-invent itself and each effort has largely failed. I have been reading as many articles as I can get on how areas go from crime-ridden, trash strewn places, to hip and upcoming neighborhoods that improve a city’s tax base as a way to try and determine why.  In every article it points to similar themes, one being a very controversial issue, that being re-gentrification.
One article, published in New York Magazine decries the negative connotations of hundreds of poor being thrown out of the homes they have lived in for generations. Lance Freeman, who undertook the study that the article is written about, says that the previous residents actually appreciated the work that was done and were less likely to move from these neighborhoods.  He points to the fact that with many of the houses abandoned anyway those who are living there stay there.  Of course there are those areas where the rent is raised and the people who can’t afford move out, but his study this happened less than expected.
A few things come across as positive ways to improve an impoverished area in many of the articles that I read and one of them was a Business Improvement District (BID).  This was tried in 2004 in Norristown and failed miserably.  It failed because a few near sighted business owners failed to see the potential outcome and only saw that the government was charging them yet another tax.  That negativity spread and soon the other businesses climbed on board and voted it down.  Perhaps it was because the municipality fronted the idea and was too closely associated with the project.  People at that time were just recovering from an administration that was corrupt and mismanaged and they were still gun-shy for things from government officials.  Almost 10 years have gone by and maybe now it may be accepted better.
The bottom line is that no one thing will make the difference.  It has to be a total policy toward urban revitalization which affects not just economic development and lifestyle change, but a way to improve the living standards of the residents.  Norristown can build all the pretty buildings they want but with no one there who has the knowledge and will to maintain them and help the people who live in them, they will decay like the falling leaves of summer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bad Name of the Day

A few years back the radio station I was listening ran a humor segment during the morning show called Bad Name of the Day.  The point was to find names that were funny, seemingly obscene, or silly sounding.  It was purely fun, intended to create a laugh but sometimes it offensive even if I am sure they didn’t mean to be.  I am not sure if they run the segment any longer since I don’t listen to that station, but I often wondered if people ever complained.  People are often way too sensitive and can’t seem to laugh at themselves any longer.
The point of bringing this up is that the other day I received a copy of an email at work and happened to glance at the recipient’s names in the header of the email.  9 out of 10 of the names on this email were practically unpronounceable.  It does point out the diversity of the employee pool for the company I work for, but it made me pause for a second to think why aren't there more American names on this list?  

Bad name or not, many of the people that are working in the United States are from foreign lands and often their names sound silly to our ears.  When spoken, they remind me of some of the goofy words that could be in a Dr. Seuss story.  On hand it is statement of what this country has to offer.  The people who come here to work often have very little opportunity for jobs in their country.  The United States offers them a way to work and earn a lot of money in comparison to the lifestyle they left.  On the other hand it is taking away jobs from the workforce we have in this country and there are still many, many Americans out of work.  Are they skilled for the technology jobs that are available, is the question you have to ask.  If they are not, then we need to look more closely at what our schools are teaching our kids.  If they are not getting what they need then we will see more and more foreigners coming over and "stealing" our jobs, and that is a downright shame.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Method

Last year, you may remember that I started a lot of seeds in a portable greenhouse that I had gotten.  I was using a grow light but since it could not hang from the top of the greenhouse, I mounted it vertically behind.  That really didn't work as the plants were stretching to find the light and did not grow short, squat, and healthy.

This year I am trying something different.  All of the blogs that I have read about starting seeds say that the light source needs to be right over top.  So I modified the lighting quite a bit.  The greenhouse has four shelves, so I got  eight extension cords and daylight colored 75 watt CFL bulbs and set up each shelf like the picture.  I put some broccoli seeds in little containers that were growing (rather unsuccessfully on the window) and put them in there.  As you may be able to see, the plants look very good.  Like the other set up, the lights are on a timer and get 14 hours of light.  I can see a difference already.

My gardening app told me that this weekend was the time to start celery seeds for a fall planting.  So I put in another bulb (you can see a small portion of it in the lower left hand corner of the picture) and put the celery seeds in seed starter right under it.  It will be interesting to see how they do.  This is kind of a trial run for the seed starting "season" that I anticipate for next year.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I live on a rather busy street and they recently did some utility work the other day and put a rather bad patch across the street.  The trench was filled in only part way and there is a lip all around of about 6 inches.  It is acting very similar to a speed hump, but instead of sticking up, it is down below the surface.

My husband and I sat out on our porch enjoying our morning coffee both Saturday and Sunday and were quite amused watching the people attempting to drive over the thing.  Several were obviously from the area and knew it existed and would come down the street at their normal too fast speed and then slam on their brakes as they remembered the thing was there and go over it slowly.  Others didn't even notice it until it was too late and they are into it.  Some would come down the street right after another driver and nearly rear end the first driver.  One guy came down on his bicycle and we would hear him exclaim "oh Hell!" just before he went over it.  On his tires, going in would be fine, but he would most likely get a flat getting out.  Several work trucks filled with equipment and things would come over it, hit it and then have the equipment come crashing down into the bed of the truck with quite a racket.  One woman came speeding over it and barely noticed because I could see her texting while driving and was probably more attuned to her phone than the road.  It was better than watching an episode of the Keystone Cops.

In a way I hope they don't fix it anytime soon.  I just love seeing those people who speed all the time down the street hit the thing and drive away swearing.  I hope they learn to slow empty hope I am sure.  Oh well, it is fun watching.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I came across an article this morning titled 12 Worst Supermarkets in America.  On this list was Weiss, at which I have shopped a few times since they took over some of the Safeway stores in our area, otherwise known as Genuardi’s.  I didn’t have too much of a bad experience at the Weiss in West Norriton or the one in Plymouth, so I was relatively surprised to see them on this list.  Maybe because they are new stores to the area, they are on their best behavior.  The two stores I was in were clean and the prices were reasonable.  They have an incentive program going on now where you get points toward a cookware set, and the brand of the pots is the same brand of a saucepan my mother gave me a few months back.  I really like the pot and if I can get more pieces of that same brand just for shopping somewhere, it works for me.
On the list was Wal-Mart.  The thing that struck me reading the reason this chain was on the list was that despite the fact everyone loved the prices, everything else was unsatisfactory.  I found that really interesting and telling in that it seems that if the price is right, most Americans will deal with unclean stores, poor customer service, and questionable quality.  I know my personal experience shopping at Wal-Mart has always been less than satisfactory because I am frequently treated poorly.  I try to get in and out of there quickly because I just get a bad feeling there.  The store near my house is not always the cleanest and the people aren’t the friendliest.  There are no smiles and thank yous when I check out, and even the other shoppers seem grouchy.  I guess pleasantries do make a difference.
I have blogged about Wegman’s in the past and their prices are pretty reasonable considering the type of store they are.  My personal test of a good supermarket is the produce and Wegman’s has the best by far in my opinion.  Customer service is less important to me because I generally accept the fact that most shop clerks are going to be less than pleasant so when they are overly friendly it is a surprise, but customer service is not something that I would give as a reason not to go back.  Generally if the store has what I need at a reasonable price, I will shop there.  The few pennies difference I have found between Wegman’s and Weiss is worth the drive for me specifically for the fact they have what I want.  I am very happy there was no sign of Wegman’s on that list.   

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Upon pressure from my mother, I sent away for a copy of my father’s will.  She has been after me since my father died to get back her furniture he took when they got divorced.  My stepmother won’t speak to my mother so she has imbued my brother and me with this task.  I received it yesterday and basically it said she gets everything, which was what my stepmother said when she called to tell me there would be no reading of the will as she suggested there would be.  Also, apparently they don’t do that kind of thing any longer.  I won’t go into the nasty details of the strained relationship between my mother and my stepmother here suffice it to say that it is quite hideous.  My relationship with my stepmother is rather icy so I wasn’t about to ask her about the furniture to begin with, so my only hope was that it was mentioned in the will.
I received the copy the other day and read through it.  I was hoping to see some reference of me in there.  My stepmother, rather unceremoniously, gave me a box of his CDs and told me that my father instructed that I was to get the proceeds of their sale.  I supposed I wanted to see that behest in there, or perhaps some other item.  My name was not there at all!  My brother’s name, on the other hand, was there.  It says that if my stepmother can’t perform the duties of an executor, he was to do so.  I was shocked.  I am the first born and I felt it should be my responsibility to have that honor. Granted, my brother and he got along much better than he and I did, but after all I am his first born child. I suppose since I am a woman, he in his old fashioned ways didn’t feel I was up to the task.  When he wrote the will, he knew he was not going to outlive my stepmother.  She is his junior by at least 15 years to start with.  There was a very small chance that she would not be able to perform the necessary duties in carrying out his will, so having an alternate was routine anyway.
The only thing I can figure out is my gender.  I just can’t believe that in this day and age I, the first born child, would not have that responsibility simply because I am a woman.  Of course I can’t ask him, but it really riles me.  I feel slighted, I feel worthless, I feel small. My father was a very conservative person.  He and I fought about many social issues because of the difference in our beliefs.  Perhaps my brother wasn’t as vocal as I was about standing up to his views even though my brother and I often share the same.  Maybe this was my father’s final word.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I don’t usually use this venue to be political – well maybe once or twice – but not generally.  Today, however, I am making an exception.  I heard something last night that really boiled my blood, and that is a recount of a person who heard a Congresswoman talk about her experience in session.  She said that whenever President Obama starts to address Congress, certain members will start booing him and saying “Nay” even before he finishes speaking.  This is hearsay, but it is not the first time I have heard this kind of thing.  If it is true, I think that is the height of rudeness.  Acting in that matter, even if you disagree with the man’s policies, is just plain rude, and one major reason why nothing is getting done in government.
My belief is that if you are elected by the people, you are a representative of the people, and all the representatives need to work together for the benefit of the people.  I have been an elected official as a Councilmember both in a council that had a majority of the opposite party, and a council where my party was the majority.  Granted it was much easier in the later case to get things done, but even in the former case, I never simply disregarded another council member simply because they were of the opposite party.  I may not have agreed with what they had to say or their proposed legislation, but I would listen and then engage in a healthy discourse toward a mutually agreed upon solution to the situation.  Not to pat myself on the back, but that is the respectful, adult way to do things.
I am very troubled by the Conservative Right’s platform.  For all their rhetoric about family values, one would think that decency and respect would be part of that equation.   Isn’t that a Commandment anyway; love thy neighbor as yourself? Isn’t following the “Golden Rule” part of what is taught in church?  These people are making a mockery of the democratic process.  I can’t believe that a majority of voters put them there thinking that they would actually accomplish something beneficial when they stated their agenda was simply to make the current president a One-Term President.  I my humble opinion that mindset creates a hostile environment that does nothing to address those issues affecting millions of people. It is time to make a change, yes, but unlike the change I hear from certain sources, the change needs to be to elect people to office who are genuinely interested in making a difference and will treat each other, and their constituents, with respect and in a manner that they themselves would like to be treated. Keep that in mind when you head to the polls in November.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Reason to Vote

I am reading a book right now entitled Farm City written by Novella Carpenter.  Her book was recommended by a gardening blog I follow.  Novella lived, or maybe still lives, in Oakland, California and created an urban farm on a neighboring vacant plot next to her apartment building.  She speaks of her personal history and the fact that her parents eked out an existence in the “hippie” lifestyle when she was growing up and all she wants to be is a farmer because of it.
Oakland is a county seat city and a major transportation hub in the San Francisco Bay area.  Because of immigration during the 20th century along with thousands of African-American workers relocating from the Deep South, Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse major cities in the country. Oakland is also known for its history of political activism, and Novella speaks of her interaction with the Black Panther chapter in her area.  She provided them with fresh salad ingredients for their kids program and learned a great deal from them about the city and its history.  She lived in a downtrodden part of the city filled with trash and violence, which is not a strange situation considering Oakland has a very high crime rate.
At one point in the book, she recounts the history of Oakland.   “Urban Renewal” practically decimated the community in the early 70s when they first built the city’s main post office.  It was said to be to create jobs but in reality, there were only a few available after the project was complete.  The public transportation system, BART, razed hundreds of homes and businesses and they built expressways and highways right through predominately African American areas which bisected and destroyed close-knit communities.  “There was no question that these neighborhoods had been slated for destruction because they were the least political powerful” she says when describing the history of the city. Translation of that quote is that no one votes in these voting districts.
People often fail to realize the power that voting has.  When an area has a high percentage of the vote, things like unpopular development, deep budget cuts, and razing of historical buildings do not take place.  Those people vote and they have a powerful voice so the politicians will not anger them by destroying their neighborhoods.  But in areas that run rampant with voter apathy and lack of participation at the voting booths people are not given that same consideration.  If a large development project comes along which will benefit a majority of the citizens but would negatively impact an area, those areas that have low voting performance are often the targets for destruction.  It is a sad but very true condition and something to keep in mind when Election Day comes in November.

Friday, August 3, 2012


This is a picture of my friend's hive- at least a section of it. It shows a great deal of activity and the beginning of the production of honey.  My friend lives about 2 blocks from me but his bees do not come in my yard despite my planting wildflowers specifically for his bees to come to. 

Urban beekeeping is getting to be a rather big hobby.  Pennsylvania has a backyard beekeeping organization that helps hobby beekeepers with everything they need.  My friend and I attended a seminar back in early March and he picked up his package of bees in May and so far they have been doing well.  He has been trying to talk me to into doing honey bees, but the hobby is rather expensive so for now I will try to attract his bees to my yard and work on keeping Mason Bees which helps in the pollination aspect but does not produce honey.  They are much less expensive to keep and actually do a better job at pollination, which is really what I want for my garden.  Since this is his first year, honey will probably not be harvested, but next year for sure.  I am quite anxious to have a little and I am sure that it will help me as these bees will have collected pollen very locally that can be used as antibodies to combat any allergies I have.

As we, as a nation, get more and more concerned about the environment, I hope that bees will be part of that equation and more people will consider keeping them.  Honeybees, although not really native to this county, have become a permanent part of our culture.  The part they play in our ecosystem is very important and maintaining a hive or two could mean the difference between substandard crops and excellent crops, other factors being equal.  Urban beekeeping is somewhat controversial as people in close proximity to the insects they may be allergic to can have some issues, but I think that if more people are educated on the facts of bee stings, the more accepting they will be.  The fact of the matter is that the incidence of death due to a bee sting is quite low in comparison to other causes and it is often not the honeybee that stings but another similar insect such as a wasp or hornet.  Bees are our friends and there is really nothing to be afraid of. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Over the past week, we had some pretty powerful storms.  As you can see in the picture, my husband is shown cutting up the large branch that was blown down by the wind over the weekend.  We have a tall corkscrew willow in our back yard that we planted when we first moved into the house over 20 years ago.  It is really big now and slowly dying off, and we really can't afford to have professional tree person come in and trim it or analyze it.  We have been kind of letting Mother Nature take care of it for us.  This is the largest branch that has fallen so far and fortuately it didn't fall on the patio and destroy what was there.  I have a number of containers with plants there and it would have been a real shame to have lost those although it would not have been that costly to replace.  My biggest fear is that the tree will fall on the house.

A friend of mine did have a tree fall on her house and it was pretty serious.  Fortunately there was no one home at the time because if they had been home, her son would have been seriously injured, if not killed by that tree.  The damage was through the roof, her son's room, and the kitchen, and they have to move into an apartment for about 6 months until the repairs are complete.  The upside to this is that she is getting a new kitchen out of the deal, which was on the list eventually anyway. 

I guess I can live with that proposition now that I think of it as this tree is situated in the rear of the house and if it does fall on the house the same rooms will be affected in my house as in hers.  The kitchen has been a sore point for me in all the years we have lived there but my husband has not gotten around to updating it so I continue to live with it as it is.  But then again, I need to be careful with what I wish for because despite the fact insurance will cover most of it, the cost of the new kitchen I want along with repairs to the house caused by the tree will far exceed the amount of coverage we have.  At least now we have a great supply of firewood for our patio firepit for the next year or so.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I have a few classical music selections on my iPod and occasionally they come up in the random play.  This morning, the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony came up.  It is probably one of the most well known melodies he wrote and it amazes me that after 150 years, his music is still being played.  I don’t think you will be able to say that about the popular bands today.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 and was first known as a pianist.  His parents were musicians and his father was his first teacher and exhibited musical talent very early in life.  He was seven when he first performed publically, a fact that I didn’t know until I read his biography in Wikipedia.  It is very interesting to me as my father was a child prodigy as well and publically performed when he was six.  Also like my father, he started out as a performer and ended up as a composer.  Also like my father, at least according to this biography, he was well known as an improviser and I am sure had the same talent where he could compose something on the spot. 
He wrote the 5th Symphony in what they call his “middle” period when he composed various works in the “heroic style”.  The 5th Symphony was his most important works, according to many musical scholars and the four note motif which opens the work is the most well known appearing in other types of music in today’s music.  It took him about 4 years to complete the work and he wrote other significant pieces during that timeframe.  The 5th has by and large remained the most loved of all despite the rather lukewarm reception it originally received at its premiere in 1808.  That could have been due to the fact it was last on the program in a very long concert and by that time the audience was quite fatigued by the time it was performed.  It doesn’t matter to me as I will continue to listen to it time and time again, and it remains one of my favorites.