Archive for May, 2009


Originally uploaded by kilgorebrian13

Another shelf, this one with an abandoned beer mug, fit only for holding small change.


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Shelf Life

Part of a series I am doing on the secret live of the shelf. 

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Ill be broke

I'll be broke!

In California, voters defeated five budget related propositions, passing only one in a recent statewide special election. Proposition 1F passed, which prevents elected officials from receiving any pay increase during years of budget deficit. Then, the California Citizens Compensation Commission voted to impose the pay cuts and said it was seeking a legal opinion that would allow the reductions to take effect in the middle of the officials’ terms. Under current law, the pay cuts would be imposed between December 2010 and the end of 2012, meaning lawmakers and officeholders would finish their terms without ever seeing a smaller paycheck. Nice try. I don’t know what a legal challenge will decide, but in the current mood, elected officials arguing against a pay cut won’t be re-elected. 

For the most part, elected officials in California are paid better than any other state in the country. With the pay cut, salaries of rank-and-file lawmakers would fall from $116,028 a year to $95,143. The legislative leaders’ salaries will go from $133,639 to $109,584. Not bad, considering the per Diem, which can amount to another $35K per year, and other legal (and not so legal) perks these people receive. Voters are apparently tired of loosing the shirts of their backs while elected officials, who helped create the current financial crisis, knock down six-figure incomes.

But Californians – why not take it to the next level? Base elected officials pay on state profits. If the state makes a profit, they get paid a percentage. If the state looses money, they kick in to make up the difference. To hell with the taxpayer, and forget about government. Who needs a government when every decision made is based on the bottom line?

Here is an idea to get things started. Kick every unemloyed single parent off welfare now, so state legislators in $3000 suits won’t have to worry about applying for it next year. 


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Except for the date, this could easily be today’s news –

“The most urgent emergency in the history of our nation is at hand.” So says W. A. Sheaffer, president of the Sheaffer Pen Company, who reports having had checks returned from banks in 24 states.

4,004 banks have failed in the first two months of 1933. $3.6 billion dollars in deposits have been lost.

As the banks close, business find themselves unable to meet their payrolls and stay open.

The country is in bad shape. Unemployment is now at an all-time high with 13 to 14 million Americans out of work. The breadlines grow longer, the shanty towns more crowded. 


Source: T. H. Watkins, The Great Depression: America in the 1930s, Boston, MA: Back Bay Books (Little, Brown and Company), 1993.


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“Popular cereal is a drug, US food watchdog says”

See full size imageAt first, it sounded ridiculous – the Food and Drug Administration calling Cheerios a drug? That was the headline which caught my attention. I half expected to read about the millions of kids becoming addicted to the little round bits of processed “oats”  I should have known better. It was a misleading headline about the misleading claims of one of America’s leading breakfast cereals. Cheerios is no more a drug than it is a cure for high cholesterol.

The FDA did not say Cheerios was a drug, per se. It sent General Mills a warning letter, telling them their health claims make Cheerios look like a new drug. As protectors of America’s health, the FDA takes exception to the manufacturer’s claims and threatens to seize boxes of Cheerios from retailer shelves. General Mills has 15 days to do something about all this, and they aren’t taking it lying down. The good folks at Cheerios are in a “dialogue” with the FDA over this dispute, and they hope to resolve it soon. 

In the mean time, I would like to point out that General Mills is in business to make money, not improve your health. This is only an advertising strategy and advertising is the method by which cost is added to a product without a corresponding increase in value. 

So how are Cheerios made?

Cheerios are produced in a factory. General Mills takes whole grain oat flour and then adds in some more oat bran and oat fiber (as well as a little sugar and salt.) The flour is then mixed together in a big vat with water and some “binders” like corn and wheat starch and pushed through machinery (also called “dies”) to create the little “Os”. The “Os” are then cooked in a pressurized steam cylinder, dried some more and sprayed with synthetic vitamins.


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Cherchez la femme

From: A Phrase A Week (apaw@phrasefinder.co.uk)

Cherchez la femme


The translation from the French is “look for/seek the woman”. It is used when a man behaves unusually or gets into a quarrel or other difficulty and the reason for it is sought.


‘Cherchez la femme’ is sometimes mistakenly thought to refer to men’s attempts to pursue romantic liaisons with women. In fact, the phrase, which is occasionally used in its loose English translation ‘look for the woman’, expresses the idea that the source of any given problem involving a man is liable to be a woman. That isn’t to say that the woman herself was necessarily the direct cause of the problem, as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth for instance, but that a man has behaved stupidly or out of character in order to impress a woman or gain her favour.

The expression was coined by Alexandre Dumas (père) in the novel The Mohicans of Paris, 1864, in the form of ‘cherchons la femme’. In John Latey’s 1878 English translation, Dumas’ detective, Monsieur Jackal, concludes that a woman must have been involved in the crime being investigated:

“Where’s the woman? Seek her.”

His opinion was later confirmed by a colleague:

“Ah! Monsieur Jackal, you were right when you said, ‘Seek the woman.'”

The phrase was adopted into everyday English use and crossed the Atlantic by 1909. It was well enough known there by that date for O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) to use it as the title of a story – Cherchez La Femme, which includes this line:

“Ah! yes, I know most time when those men lose money you say ‘Cherchez la femme’ – there is somewhere the woman.”

Monte-CristoDumas was, of course, the author of many popular novels, including The Count of Monte-Cristo, 1844, from which he earned a sizeable fortune. He had a bash at following in the footsteps of his eponymous hero when he had the lavish Château de Monte-Cristo built in 1846. Life copied art also in his ruinous attempts to attract women to the high life at the chateau. When biographers looked to see where all his money went, the only explanation needed was ‘cherchez les femmes’.

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Detail of Pfingstrose

Originally uploaded by kilgorebrian13

A close up of the same flower as below. I’ve starting shooting in RAW, a format which allows more control than .jpeg, the normal format for point and shoot cameras. The files are bigger, but a “digital negative” is preserved and there is no loss detail each time it is saved. I don’t think I’ll go back to the .jpeg again.

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Originally uploaded by kilgorebrian13

Another plant in the back yard that grows without any intervention on our part.

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Janis Joplin, San Jose, California, 1968

Janis Joplin, San Jose, California, 1968


Up steps a feisty young woman, one month short of her twentieth birthday. “Uh, this is a song called ‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do’, that I wrote one night after drinkin’ myself into a stupor.”

Janice Joplin had one of the most unique singing voices I’ve ever heard. There is no telling what she would sound like today, if she hadn’t drank and drugged herself to death in 1970. 

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer, songwriter, and music arranger, from Port Arthur, Texas. She rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Joplin number 46 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

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