Monday, June 28, 2021

Wonky weather

We the end of June.  Not quite to the beginning of July.  And, since Saturday, we've been having April rain.  And late April/early May temperatures. 

We've had the wrong geographic location's weather at multiple points, so far this year: we've had one week of weather normal to this area (i.e., hot as hell and muggy) at this point of the year, so far.  Only one.  Usually, we'll have had June come in starting at the upper 80s, and shooting upwards fast.  At this point in June, we should be topping 90 every day by midday, and getting hotter until about 4:00.  This year?  Not so much.  We've had low to middle 80's for the most part, with a couple days flirting with 100, but most days no hotter than the mid 90's.  

Granted, that's still too hot to cook indoors with the size and capability of our current AC unit (it's an air exchange heat pump.  Not the best for our area).  But we now have that fully managed: we've got a propane grill that gets used for making pizza for the other half and kids (it's basically an outside oven), and it has a stove-top type burner off to the side for if we need to use it.  And recently, we found a nice, big toaster oven/convection oven/rotisserie/air fryer, built a decent counter, and have been able to do other stuff that the grill's not precise enough for.  The next plans are to get a small, table-top charcoal grill.  We've had the propane grill for two years, and...while it does a decent job, there's nothing that beats a charcoal grilled burger.  

The other mess we've had this year...and last year...and the year things have been wetReally wet.  Like double (or more) the normal amount of rainfall one year, and half again the normal amount for the other two.  We've had at the very least minor flooding issues for the past three years in a row.  And yeah, it's kind of done bad things to the crops in the area.  Some fields have damn near drowned.  

And when you combine that with it getting colder than normal over the winter, and warming up later than normal, and starting to cool down earlier than see where I'm going, here.  The growing seasons have been something like a month, month and a half shorter for the past couple of years.  

This isn't a new trend, by any means.  It's been cycling cooler for years.  Instead of having a month or more at or near 100 degree highs, we've had a few days to a week or so in a row.  Maybe twice or three times per summer.  

Global warming this ain't.  

The plants are not doing as well as they have in years past (with a few exceptions).  The crop yields in truck gardens have improved, yes; however, some of the major food crops in the local fields have had some...rather skinny years.  The winter wheat, for example, this past year, has been kinda wimpy.  The heads are skinny, and the crop is about a month, month and a half late.  The corn's tall, but hasn't put on ears yet, that I'd seen in the trip out to visit my family last weekend.  It's about two weeks late on that.  Soybeans are usually a second or even third crop (following winter wheat, and sometimes corn...which gets harvested in July...most years).  It's...really not looking that wonderful, around here.  

Something tells me that the "global warming" alarmists...never learned that plants love carbon dioxide, and thrive in an atmosphere rich in it...and a warm one, at that.  Plants don't do well when things cool down.  The only things that do are the really hairy mammals.  And even those don't do well when things cool down too much, and food sources die back. 

"Follow the science," indeed. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Can't help someone who doesn't want it.

I keep forgetting that.  

One of the big things I've tried to teach my kids is to fix a problem, rather than just whining about it.  It's...a work in progress, but they're 10 and 12.  They start whining, I thank them for articulating the problem, and ask them how they want to fix it.  

It works, for now.  For their age.  For their maturity levels.  

I'm hopeful it'll keep working.  

I've heard people whining that they can't afford this, that, or the other...while they fiddle with their iThing (phone, pad, whatever).  Or that their car payments are eating their life.

Well.  I wonder.  

I've pointed out Dave Ramsey.  I've offered to loan books.  I've laid out, step by step what they need to do to get their ass out of the crack.  

"It's too hard!"  

No, it actually isn't.  It just takes some self-discipline, a little bit of the ability to delay gratification, and a willingness to have it happen slowly over time--they didn't get in massive debt overnight (I hope), and they won't get out of debt overnight.  And they won't stay out of debt without building new habits and dropping old ones.  

I've applied the same ideas to keeping my house in reasonable shape.  The FlyLady is to house cleaning and clutter control what Dave Ramsey is to financial housecleaning and debt control.  It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.  

Assuming, y'know, someone's actually willing to start.  All it takes is 15 minutes.  A willingness to do something however imperfectly.  And a willingness to let go of crap you've kept because "it might come in useful someday."  

Here's a hint: it doesn't.  

"But I don't know where to start!"  

Anywhere.  Just fifteen minutes.  FlyLady starts with "take the dishes out of your sink--wash them, put them in the dishwasher, stack them on the counter--and shine your sink.  Clean it and shine it."  If your sink's empty and clean, that stack of dirty dishes looks pretty awful.  Take fifteen minutes and wash a sink full.  Then go do something else.  Come back and do fifteen minutes more.  

"It's not my kitchen.  All I have is my attic that I live in."  

Okay.  Cool.  That makes it even easier.  Make your bed.  Look around your bed--tackle the pile to the left of your bed.  Fifteen minutes.  Three piles: keep/give away/throw away.  Put "keep" in a box, for the moment, since you claim to have no idea where any of it is supposed to go, and bag up the "give away" and the "throw away."  Throw away goes into the dumpster--do not stop at the kitchen trash, do not let anyone look in.  Give away goes in the car trunk.  Do not stop to let elderly relatives look through it.  It goes.  Or it's going to wind up back in your possession.  

"I don't know where to get started." 

I just...


Fifteen minutes.  Set a timer.  Work steadily.  Don't rush--focus on one thing.  Then when the timer goes off, look at the dent in whatever task you'd set for yourself.  

It may not be a huge dent, but it's there.  

Thing is, people don't want to change.  "The Good Lord will save me."  But they don't want to work to save themselves with the tools God has already given them.   

I'm done.  No more trying to help. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Lies grownups tell children

There are two general types of lies grownups tell children.  There are the type that are supposed to be for fun,* and others are supposed to be helpful.**  The fun ones are easy: the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause...things like that.  



"Good job!" when there was patently nothing good about it.  Kids believe grown ups.  And if their fuck-up is a "good job," then obviously being a fuck-up is okay, right?  

Wrong.  Fucking up and being a fuck up is not okay.  It'll ruin their life if they fuck up in the wrong way or at the wrong time.  Could even kill them.  

"You tried, and that's all that matters."  This one implies that actually persisting, and finally succeeding, doesn't matter at all.   

It also implies that the kid actually tried.  Kids know better.  I knew better.  And that taught me that snowing others about my level of effort was easy.  And got the same amount of praise as the kid that busted their ass and still failed because they had no ability.  I can't speak for other kids who were capable of success, but I decided to not bother, since nobody else could tell the difference.  And that...grew into a habit. 

"You're special and fine the way you are."  

Oh, dear God, what I could say about that one.  Yeah, let's take that in pieces.  

"You're special."  Special doesn't necessarily mean good at anything.  Or capable.  Or useful, even to one's own self.  Among kids, "special" has become an insult, meaning "stupid" or "useless."  

Believing that you're "special" in ways that others aren't leads to bad things, too: finding out that you're not and totally shattering because your belief system depends on the fact that you are (at best), all the way to toxic narcissism at worst.

"You're fine the way you are."  

Uh.  No.  Really, not.  Not a single one of us is fine just the way we are.  That lie is what gets kids to not strive to improve.  To not try to get better at whatever it is they want to do.  That is the lie that leads to someone in their 40s screeching for $15/hour minimum wage, because that's the only jobs they're qualified to do.  And those jobs were never meant for adults.  

"Follow your heart."  

Don't.  Your heart is stupid.  Learn to think, and to think clearly.  If your heart screams for music, but you can't sing, can't play anything with anything other than technical competence, can't write music, you can't make a living at it.  You can keep it as a hobby.  You can enjoy others' gifts.  But you cannot do music for a living.  

If you have to do something involved with music...learn how to do staging.  Learn how to build equipment.  Learn the technical side.  No, you won't ever be famous, but you can make a damn good living doing the stuff musicians either can't do, or can't do well.  Or that takes time away from honing their craft.  

I love music.  I can (sort of) sing.  I can't read music, can't play.  I don't do the technical stuff.  Never learned more than the minimum necessary to write and/or teach writing on computers.   But I do love music, and I enjoy the hell out of other people's gifts.  I won't starve because I made the stupid choice of pursuing music despite a near-total lack of talent. 

"Follow your dreams/your passion, and the money will come to you."

Again, bullshit.  This is the same stupid lie as "follow your heart."

My son, for example, loves his Hot Wheels.  He wants to make Hot Wheels.  He doesn't understand why he can't own a Hot Wheels factory and make Hot Wheels in the United States, but the cold fact of the matter is that he can't.   Not because I don't think he can figure out how to own such a factory, but because of the screaming assholes demanding a stupidly high minimum wage because they have no skills.  

Because grownups lied to them when they were small.  

Or sometimes, not so small.  

Kids trust their teachers.  College kids trust their professors.  College professors don't realize how much harm they do when they tell kids "of course the jobs are there--all you need is a degree!"  Maybe the college professors believe it.  Often, though, they know better, and are simply protecting their cushy jobs.  

"Do the degree you love!  The money will follow!" is a flat-out lie, in most cases.  I did the degree I loved, but I had no intention of making a living, much less of becoming rich.  My intention was to be a secondary income.  My intention was to have something where my hours were flexible and I could raise my own kids.  

Most people going for an English degree believe that they'll be able to find a job with that degree...and I know why.  My professors took a lot of pains to point out that an English degree confers skills like critical thinking (nope--never saw that), the ability to understand and use persuasive techniques (did see that, but it wasn't nearly as universally applicable as they implied), and a whole host of other useful things that every employer wants.  

A very close friend of mine got her primary degree in psychology.  She had a plan: she wanted to do counseling, partially because she'd been extensively helped by psychologists.  She didn't know which path to take--a masters' degree in psychology, or one in social work.  The program pushing social work lied to her, outright, with statistics.  The stats checked out; however, the lie was in what they left out.  The social work program told her that she'd get a larger percentage of what her going rates were reimbursed by medicare/medicaid if she went with a master's in social work.  That was true; however, what they left out was that her bottom line would be far lower...because a counselor with a master's in social work wasn't allowed to charge as much as one with a master's in psychology.  

And either one would have qualified her for the student loan forgiveness plan she'd enrolled in, where serving in underserved areas for five years got her student loan debt--all of it, not just her master's degree--written off.  Over the past twelve years, she could have had all of her debt--including her medical debts and her husband's student loan debt--paid off with the difference in income that the master's in psychology would have made.  That's how much believing the wrong person cost her.

Life is hard.  It's even harder if you never learn to spot the lies. 

*Even "fun" lies backfire.  I've been careful to point out exactly where a lot of the myths come from, and that, at one point, Santa Clause was a real person, without telling my kids any lies...or spoiling their fun.  But I've seen kids that find out that their parents lied about one thing (or more) decide that their parents have lied about everything...including things like how addictive drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol can be (depending on the family lines).  

**No greater harm has been perpetrated upon multiple generations in an attempt to help than the self-esteem movement. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Collard way

When I make collard greens, I do tend to make a lot of them at once.  And then freeze them in individual portions for my picky imp that won't eat other veggies.  I made them on New Years, and took them to my mom-in-law's for the traditional New Year's Day lunch of ham steak, black eyed peas, etc.  She'd never had greens before (her mom had hated greens of any type).  And she thought they were pretty good, and has requested them again, once or twice.  

I start with the 2lb bag of chopped greens I can find at some of my local Walmart stores.  I could start with fresh bunches, but I'd probably need at least three bunches to make sure I had enough once I'd picked through, washed it, and chopped it up.  Yeah the chopped costs more than two bunches, but doesn't cost more than three, so it...evens out.  And yeah, they may say "washed and chopped" on the bag, but I wash them again. 

First thing I do is drop about a tablespoon of bacon grease in the bottom of a large stock pot, and start that melting while I roughly chop a large onion.  And when I say a large onion, I mean damn near softball sized large onion.  You can do more or less, depending on tastes and what your digestion will tolerate.  Drop your chopped onion into your melted bacon grease, and saute it a bit.  

Next, dump the greens in the pot.  All of them.  It's gonna take some cramming to get them all in.  And then I add 2-3 quarts of chicken broth.  You can use plain chicken broth, bone broth, or water and bouillon--I've done all three, depending on what I had on hand, and they all work.  I usually don't have pulled pork on hand, but I always have bacon bits.  I add about half a cup of those.  And a touch of Cajun seasoning--just a touch, because you can add more later, if it's needed, but can't correct the other way. 

Bring everything to a boil and let it go for about 40 minutes.  Collards are tough.  Check it around 40 minutes, and keep in mind it may need longer.  It probably will, but not a whole lot.  Again, collards are tough.  You want them tender, but not limp.  

I'll usually serve them with whatever else we're having, then package them in 1/2 c servings for my imp, plus one more larger, family portion.  

 Damn it, now I want greens...

Collard greens

2 lbs bag of chopped/washed, or equivalent of fresh (some places may have them chopped, blanched, and frozen, but our local area doesn't).  

1 tbsp bacon grease (you can use olive oil...but why?)

1 large onion (more or less), chopped 

2-3 quarts chicken broth

1/2 c bacon bits

Cajun seasoning--to taste, but be careful when you add it

1. Saute the onion in the bacon grease in the bottom of a large stock pot.  2. Cram collard greens in stock pot, then add chicken broth to not quite cover (they cook down fairly quickly).  3. Add bacon bits.  4. Bring to a rapid boil, cook for 40 minutes or longer.  5. Serve hot with barbecue, ham, or whatever.