Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Four Disconnected Topics: Week of 6/23/11

1.Milpas: I am growing “Los Tres Hermanas” (The Three Sisters) in my garden this year, just as the ancient Mayans of Mexico and countless generations since have done. I prepare the soil by forming small "hills" and plant several kernels of corn, bean seeds, and squash seeds in each. The corn is the fastest growing and is already 2 feet tall, the bean stems are twining around the corn stalks, and the squash appears to be happy in the partial shade provided by the corn. My "corn field" is only a few dozen plants nothing like the field shown below!

Milpa in southern Mexico

The beans are adding nitrogen for the soil and keep the soil from becoming nutrient depleted. In addition cattle are permitted to eat the cornstalks after the harvest and they contribute their manure. These three plant varieties really make a very happy family all growing together. In Southern Mexico I saw many small cornfields ("Milpas") where the corn is permitted to grow to maturity, the mature bean pods climb the stalks and dry in place, and the variety of squash grown is a 8-10” turban squash that we would classify as a winter squash for its good “keeping” quality.

Soaked corn is directly ground into fine meal, mixed with a bit of lime, and made into a dough called "masa" used for making tortillas, tamales, and other tasty foods...

2.Fighting Chaos: Most people that I know have a part of their home where chaos reigns! – For me it has been my garden shed and the small side yard beside the house. “This tool is broken but I might fix it some day.” – Throw it in the shed. “Do I have an arm full of old plastic flowerpots?” Stack them up alongside the house - right next to the broken pieces of tile. This week has been the time of reckoning! I hauled everything out of the shed, went to the Home Depot and bought 1" by 12" boards, built beautiful new shelves inside, and made the tough decisions about what to keep…

Sorry not to have a "before" photo to go with this "after" photo

Filled with success, I tackled the side yard – order out of chaos – more stuff for the dump. There is something powerfully symbolic about organizing my physical life that satisfies inner needs. My whole self feels more together for my organization!

Side yard - after cleaning

3. Quote of the week: Andrew Bacevich in Bill Moyers latest book: Bill Moyers Journal; The Conversation Continues

“When American power was at its apex after World War II, through the Eisenhower years, into the Kennedy years, we made what the world wanted. They wanted our cars. We exported television sets, our refrigerators – we were the world’s manufacturing base. (We were) an empire of production.

Figure representing prosperity

Sometime about 1960 there was a tipping point when the “empire of production” began to become the “empire of consumption”. When the cars started to be produced elsewhere, and the TV sets, and the socks, and everything else. And what we ended up with was the American people functioning primarily as consumers rather than producers. Americans are no longer masters of their own fate. – Our negative trade balance with the world is something on the order of $800 billion per year. American policy makers have been engaged in a de facto Ponzi scheme intended to extend indefinitely the American line of credit.”

A bargain for everyone - and on credit!

Many of these problems are the fault of we American consumers ourselves - we like a bargain! - and some developing countries were wise enough to spot this trend and produce what we wanted at bargain prices, undercutting American prices. There is plenty of blame to go around to both political parties and both branches of government - They have all permitted the trade imbalance to go unchallenged year after year, and have all kept a blind eye to allowed American companies to move their operations abroad to maximize profits. It will be tough for us to develop the economic discipline needed to get our economy back on track, back to producing new American jobs. What would it take to get Americans to seek out and buy American products even if they cost a little more... especially when everything from clothes to tools to appliances seem to be made elsewhere? Its going to be difficult for many folks to stop their addiction to “saving a few bucks” by shopping at Wall Mart and other “discount” stores. Every time we spend a dollar we are voting either to support American jobs or foreign jobs.

"Failing to do something can result in consequences"
Spotted on the wall of a Modesto Coffee House

4. Three links to book mark on your home computer:

Taegan Goddare’s Political WireDaily collection of links to political and current affairs news on the Internet: I like this site because it is one of the most politically unbiased sites I know. Mr. Goddare reports fairly all sides of the issues.

Daily Kos: - Daily weblog with political analysis on US current events

Snopes: - The Urban Legends Reference Pages, is a web site discussing urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of uncertain or questionable origin. It is the best-known resource for validating and debunking such stories in American popular culture..