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Monday, April 20, 2015

Animals Who Perform

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on February 25, 2014. Image credit: FidlerJan at

A commenter on this post:

claims that it's cruel to make an animal do tricks. 

There are certainly ways to make animals learn "tricks" that cause pain rather than pleasure to the animal. Even without physical harm, animals as well as humans may suffer emotional trauma when they're confined to cages, cut off from their ordinary animal lives, and nagged into doing things that make no sense to them, merely to entertain other creatures whose enjoyment of their tricks the animals can't understand.

But it's also possible for animals to create their own "tricks," for their own amusement, and enjoy performing their tricks for rewards. Anyone who doubts this has never lived with an animal who has repeated its "act" just to make its favorite humans smile, laugh, or say that it's good, cute, clever, etc. 

Some of our chickens were that kind of pets. For years they never really became pets. Then one day I sat down beside the chicken coop and sang a few Sunday School songs. The chickens gathered around. They liked to listen to humans singing. They started to demand that we sing a few songs every night before they would go into the coop. They became much friendlier and more confident around us. The younger birds who had grown up being serenaded would cuddle into our hands or pockets, perch on our shoulders, follow us around, come when we called. They learned words. Probably they learned to understand some words as meaning something different than humans mean by those words. They learned that responding to a certain point in a song the same way every time we sang it would hold our attention and keep us singing longer. I'm not altogether sure who trained whom, because the chickens would squawk in protest if I got carried away and started to sing "sharp." 

We worked out one of those little vaudeville sort of acts that were popular in times and places where people didn't have television. One hen's name happened to be a word that was part of one song, so when that song was sung that hen's trick was to look around as if to say "Who, me?" One song included the words "lift me up," and one young rooster would step out and chirp as if volunteering to act out this phrase. Different birds would perch on shoulders, on hands, or in pockets at different points. And so on. We had one hen who was so bemused by human speech that she would warble in imitation of the rhythm of words she'd heard spoken.

For reasons I never fully understood, my brother's classmates started using the word "freebie" to refer to a fake karate chop that really only tickled someone's chin. Naturally my brother demonstrated this trick at home. As you fake-chopped a friend you shouted "Freebie!" and ran, inviting your friend to chase you and pay back this little blow to his or her dignity. Naturally my sister and I picked it up. And one night that little hen, a bantam who never got much bigger than a fat Central Park pigeon, nipped at her brother's wattles, said quite distinctly "Freebie!", and hopped backward. She seemed delighted to have found a human word to imitate, all by herself! She was disappointed when, as she matured, her voice changed and she couldn't say "Freebie" properly any more.

I've seen dogs spontaneously invent cute little acts like walking on their hind legs or dropping things into their humans' hands, too. Most cats seem to take themselves seriously--but a former Queen of the Cat Sanctuary called Mogwai used to do completely silly things, like folding herself up in a take-out food carton, just to get me to chuckle and call her my Cute Clown Cat. And most of the tricks bigger animals learn, from a horse "kissing" your knee or elbow to a horse striking the poses and doing the dance steps the Viennese Riding School do, are ways they've modified their instinctive behavior to please their human friends. 
Do circus performers lead unnatural lives that are hard on the performing animals as well as the humans? Probably. But I can't quite believe that it's inherently cruel to teach animals tricks, or "make" them do tricks for an audience. As Vicki Hearne observed years ago, in what was rated one of the Best American Essays of the year, some animals actually like human attention.

Book Review: Earth Magic

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Earth Magic
Author: Corinne Martin
Date: 1991
Publisher: Countryman Press
ISBN: 0-88150-184-0
Length: 222 pages plus bibliography, glossary, and index
Quote: “This is...a sharing of one person’s ex­perience in gathering and using herbs. The reader should avoid draw­ing generalized conclusions as to what will work successfully for any one individual.”
Do herbs work? In the sense that most medicinal herbs contain medicinal substances, there’s no question that they do. Will herbs work for you? Hard to say. It’s hard to predict how even controlled doses of medicinal substances will work in any given case. Prediction is even harder when it’s uncertain how much of the medicinal substance is in its natural form; we understand carotene well enough to say that you’ll get a good dose of it by eating a carrot, but there are larger and smaller carrots, drier and juicier carrots, carrots grown in different soils and under different weather conditions, and these different carrots contain different amounts of carotene and of other nutrients.Additionally your body might metabolize carotene differently than other bodies do, so you might need more or less carotene to get the same benefit from eating carrots. If you really study the properties of foods and herbs, rather than memorizing rules, it will start to seem that “the more we know, the less we know.”
Herbs work best as part of a natural lifestyle that’s aimed at preventing rather than curing diseases. The real “power herbs” are the ones, like carrots, that contain the substances the body needs to protect and repair itself. Some people would rather take some rare, probably foul-tasting, possibly toxic herb than use the cheaper, safer, more pleasant herbs found in their gardens, or even in the produce aisle at the grocery store...I don’t recommend this, myself.
The 52 herbs discussed in detail, in this book, are fairly common throughout North America. They are generally safe when used as discussed in this book, but their effects will vary. What Corinne Martin learned about the herbs she gathered and used in New England is only sometimes, not always, what she would have learned about the same herbs if she’d stayed in the Deep South; their seasons obviously vary and so do their benefits.You can use this book regardless of where you live, but as the author says, you must not be too dependent on it for advice on where and when to find herbs or what they’re most useful for. Even if you live in northern New England, you may find that your reactions to herbs differ from Martin’s, or that your symptoms came from a different cause, or even that there’s a difference between herbs picked in a wet year and herbs picked in a dry year.
The format of this book is distinctive. I find it distracting. The main text, which gives scientific descriptions of herbs and their uses, occupies a wide column and the author’s personal journal appears in a narrow column on the side. This does allow you to read either the journal or the reference work and ignore the other; if you’re reading through the book you might wish they’d appeared one after the other, so that the effect is less like the author’s two voices constantly interrupting each other.
Sections of text are also broken up with lined, blank pages for you to add your own recipes and results, in part so you can compare and contrast findings. E.g., “Willow: I have willow trees but have never used them. Most of us would have very little pain if we’d listen to the pains we do have. Common causes of headaches are dehydration, constipation, blood mineral imbalances, tension, or mild carbon monoxide poisoning—it’s almost easier to recognize what caused a headache, and cure it accordingly, than it is to pop an aspirin, much less brew willow tea for headaches. When pain can’t be immediately fixed, celery is easier to prepare than willow (just eat a celery stick) and about as effective. All the same I’m glad to have this information about willow just in case there’s a celery shortage some day.”
No, I don’t take anything for these outbursts of cranky criticism. I indulged this one because I think too many people try to use herbal remedies in an inefficient, ecologically unsound way, and are debarking too many willow trees. If you have to live with rheumatoid arthritis or some such horror, willow is for you. If you have headaches because you don’t drink enough water, please leave the willow for those who need it.
On the other hand, some real “power herbs” are undervalued because they’re common...treated like weeds, in fact. Plantain (not pl├ítanos but the little lawn weeds) is wonderfully soothing and healing to any kind of cut, bruise, burn, insect bite, sting, scrape, blister, or other simple skin wound. Clover is hard for humans to digest raw, but contains vitamins and minerals that can be leached out and taken in medicinal tea. Dandelion tea is a natural diuretic contining potassium, useful for hypertension, diabetes, and premenstrual bloating. Dock roots can be dug in the autumn and used in medicinal tea, as Martin describes, or left to sprout in spring, when the young leaves are only somewhat sour and can be cooked like spinach, or left to grow in summer, when the ripe leaves become tough and bitter to eat but are still soothing and healing when rubbed on skin wounds. This book can encourage gardeners to find uses for several wild plants and weeds.
The “other” parts of plants gardeners prize for their fruit and/or flowers can also have medicinal value; this book discusses the herbal benefits of garden plants like violet blossoms, berry leaves, cherry bark, rose hips (seeds), and pine needles.

Some of the drawings of herbs aren’t the easiest to recognize I’ve seen, but overall this is an excellent first book of household herbs. Many people use and recommend this book. 

At last report Corinne Martin was alive, and active in the Maine Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association, so this web site offers Earth Magic as a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, by sending $5 for the book + $5 for shipping to salolianigodagewi @, we will send $1 to Martin or a charity of her choice. (The shipping charge is per package; if you order more than one Fair Trade Book at one time, you pay only one shipping charge and the living authors receive $1 or more for each of their books that fits into the package.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Care of the Hand-Knitted Sweater: Classic Wool

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on February 5, 2014. Photo credit: Victoria Cooley. More about the wool sweater shown here at

Wool is basically the fur of soft, cuddly animals, and is best washed as you would wash an animal. Adjust the water in the sink to about body temperature, add a mild soap like Woolite or Eucalan, and gently swish the wool through the water without stretching or rubbing. Squeeze out soap. Rinse thoroughly by running water, as close to body temperature as possible, slowly through the wool. It’s important to rinse out all the soap; soap will irritate the skin and make you think you’ve become allergic to your wool sweater. Squeeze out the water and, working quickly but gently, spread the wool back to its original size and shape and secure it while it dries. You can use a box of straight pins to hold the wool against a big piece of cardboard, buy special wires called “Blockers” to construct reusable adjustable frames for each of your wool garments, or even buy boards cut to the shapes of socks, shapes, or mittens, on which to dry wool pieces. (Wool berets were traditionally stretched over a dinner plate to dry. Wool stocking caps are best dried on a wig block.)

Some wools are treated with chemicals that reduce shrinking and matting—a little—when the wool is machine washed. Gena Greene tries to avoid these wools since these chemicals also irritate the skin of anyone who tries to wear them. All wool, regardless of how many harsh chemicals have been soaked into it, will shrink if not stretched out to shape while wet. All wool will also mat or felt up if it’s wrung, rubbed, or squeezed together. 

Because cleaning wool is such a chore, we recommend not wearing large wool garments next to the skin. Coats and blankets don’t need to be washed as often as shirts do. Wool is supposed to smell like a clean, healthy, cuddly animal.

An alternative method of cleaning wool, misleadingly called “dry cleaning,” was used in the twentieth century and is still practiced in some cities. We don’t recommend it. The chemical fluids used to remove odors seldom completely cleaned the wool, frequently harmed the cleaners, and never did the environment any good. You may, however, be able to find a professional wool washer who will clean a wool sweater with the care it deserves.

Book Review: Wedgwood

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Wedgwood
Author: Marilyn Thomsen

Author's Linked In page:

Subject band's recent recording:
Date: 1996
Publisher: Pacific Press Publishing Association
ISBN: 0-8163-1343-1
Length: 176 pages including black-and-white photos
Quote: “The banjo has never been baptized.”
Wedgwood” was the name of a gospel group; this book is one long interview with the three singers who formed the core of the group. They are Seventh-Day Adventists (one of them is a minister). The surprising thing, for baby-boomers raised outside the church or for post-boomers, is that they used to be very controversial.
Say what? Well, as Marilyn Thomsen explains in the book, conservative Christians have been wary of the music industry. There has been some feeling that if people are singing for God’s glory more than their own, they shouldn’t try to promote their records and make their names household words. Church musicians are expected to be modest even on stage, rather like classical musicians, wear plain dark clothes, have the spotlights and microphones closer to their instruments than to their faces, and be remembered, if they travel beyond their own neighborhood church, as “that nice group of visitors from wherever-it-was.” The Wedgwood sang nice sing-along songs that were regarded almost as teaching records. Kids weren’t supposed to scream with excitement over the three regular guys who first became known as the Wedgwood Trio. They were supposed to listen to the songs—mostly the religious songs, although the group recorded some ordinary folk songs too—learn the harmonies, and be able to sing those songs around campfires, without bringing a tape player along. And so they did.
More recent original songs by Michael Omartian, Amy Grant, and Del Delker, who are mentioned in this book, and Andrae Crouch, who is not, also went through this folk process. I learned those songs from people with whom I sang, on stage, around campfires, or while waiting for school events to happen. It was not considered necessary to give the original composers and performers credit, even though those people were alive and recording and could have used the publicity. The little four-year college I attended for two years had an official school song. Nobody ever sang that. When my classmates met other young Adventists most of us, musicians or not, would share a few songs, and the song my classmates always taught other people to sing in our own peculiar way was our version of Andrae Crouch’s song, “The Blood.” I think I might have heard one guy mention that Andrae Crouch had written that song, once, before singing it on stage.
How bad is this? Should musicians be encouraged to think that they “own” songs? Can songs be “owned”? Should recording studios rake in millions from selling records by keeping some musicians from being heard and subjecting others to a level of stress and overwork that ought to have been covered somewhere in the Geneva Convention, in order to make a few people, not necessarily “the best” so much as the most willing to be tortured for the sake of music, into superstars? Is it possible that the Adventist church’s reluctance to recognize stars, whatever it cost “Wedgwood” and the recording studios, was actually the best thing for Bob, Don, Jerry, and the others who occasionally performed with “Wedgwood”?
Thomsen doesn’t seem to give this question much thought. Maybe you have to have been a young musician, maybe one who actually appreciated the Adventists’ tradition of giving musicians plenty of exposure without actually spotlighting any of us, to think about it. I wanted to sing, to travel, to harmonize and jam with lots of interesting people. I wanted to be recognized wherever I went, and paid whenever I was doing more, musically, than everyone else present was doing. But I wanted to have a job, a life, and eventually a family, too; much less health and sanity.
The question to which Thomsen and the Trio, Jerry Hoyle, Bob Summerour, and Don Vollmer, devote more attention was the 1960s question summarized by the quote above. Had folk music “been baptized”? Even allowing that spirituals and folk gospel songs might have expressed genuine Christian faith in some “low” churches, were these “hootenanny” songs serious enough to express the faith of Adventists? Maybe a very formal arrangement of a folk song, sung in the standard solemn manner and overtrained voice, occasionally, would show that the church empathized with “uninstructed musicians,” but wouldn’t any toe-tapping or rhythm-strumming be more likely to awaken animal feelings rather than inspiring reverence?
This question always seemed silly to me, but even in the 1980s some Adventist musicians were still agonizing over it, and in the 1960s the question of which musical influences could be tolerated in a Christian performance really burdened Bob, Don, and Jerry. Eventually their disagreements about whether electronic devices could be used onstage would fracture the Trio. On pages 92-96 Bob recounts how Don refused to sing anything with the “contemporary” sound that “sounds angry and arrogant and vain to me.”  So, after a tearful soul-searching session even “Sensitive New Age Guys” probably had to be Adventists to endure, he was replaced by Gary Evans.
The Wedgwood modernized their sound because two out of three of the Trio thought God wouldn’t mind an occasional electronic effect or even a drum. The amazing thing, to me, is that none of these three men seemed to consider that their audience liked a certain sound. Adventists spent so much energy arguing about the morality of music that they ignored the question of who was listening.
The difference between people who like a loud, intense sound or a soft, subtle sound, a solid bass or a soaring treble, an entire piece of all-percussion music or a pure melody without percussion, lots of harmony, no harmony, piano, guitar, trumpet, banjo, clarinet, or hammer dulcimer, all or any or none of the above, is probably hard-wired into the individual brain. I imagine that God might be glorified by a Christian rock concert with heavy drums and spontaneous solo dancing in the aisles; it’s my own personal taste for that sort of thing that is limited. I’m sure Bach intended God to be glorified by his harpsichord concertos, but I remember enjoying one, even on an old monaural record, in the office until a once well-known Christian radio personality, who was much older and more devout than I, walked in and gnashed her teeth.
God is not limited to one body with one set of ears. God may well, and probably does, appreciate any sounds believers make in God’s honor. But, hello? People who bought records because they loved the sound of three voices, guitar, banjo, and bass were likely to stop buying records when they didn’t know what to expect but knew it was going to include electric guitars and drums. The Wedgwood had succeeded in reaching a large audience for a folk-country type of Christian songs, and they lost that audience when they started performing more contemporary rock-type songs. Other Christian rock performers were already the favorites of that audience, which was small in the early 1970s. The Wedgwood had an audience of their own...and they lost most of it.
In the 1990s, Bob, Don, and Jerry made a comeback. It didn’t set the world on fire. Adventists are still Adventists. The men had kept their voices and remembered how to play the instruments that had made them semi-famous. As the cover of this book shows, their look and sound had “matured”—no  teen heart-throbs here, but in folk and country music grey hair is an asset.
Their choices of songs are unusual, but representative of their tradition. When the Adventist church separated from the various Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist churches to which members had previously belonged, some attempts were made to compose distinctively Adventist hymns that reflected what were then the distinctive beliefs of the church. The fate of these hymns was surprising. Perhaps separatism was not what Adventists were meant to achieve, or to want. During the 1980s I remember learning, and singing, one song about the early Adventist movement as such that seemed interesting as an historical ballad; “I Saw One Weary” fits into the history of American folksongs along with “Cross the Plains with Your Hand Cart” or “Paddy Works on the Railway.” But Adventists’ own favorites were not the distinctively Adventist songs—just as main­stream American folkniks’ real favorites were not the determinedly “American” songs of the late eighteenth century, as “Green Grow the Lilacs” and “Wondrous Love” tended to be preferred to “Hail Columbia” or “The American Vicar of Bray.” Most of the songs Adventists loved to sing are of pre-Adventist or non-Adventist origin.
Don Vollmer’s list of the top ten Wedgwood songs (on page 153) reflects this generalization. The popularity of “Shall We Gather at the River” is in a sense peculiarly Adventist. In many churches “Shall We Gather at the River” is a sad funeral song. For Baptists and Adventists it is a cheery song that suggests baptism first and resurrection second, and is sung in a lively, upbeat manner. Only one song on the list is an Early Adventist composition, “How Sweet Are the Tidings,” and even that one owes much of its popularity to a bubbly tune that originally celebrated “my blue-eyed Bonnie Eloise.”
Are these recordings worth looking for and listening to? I’d say they are. I’d say they might even be worth re-releasing. Students of world music should have the opportunity to experience the distinctive Adventist folk tradition, which is American of course, but a unique sub-genre of American.

Since 1996, the members of Wedgwood have continued performing and recording. They even have an official web site, but it's still under construction and doesn't open properly. There's also a page for them and their albums at .

Wedgwood is, however, out of print and not available as a new book through the Adventist Book Center website, so it's eligible to be offered here as a Fair Trade Book. When you send salolianigodagewi @ $5 for the book + $5 for shipping, we'll send Marilyn Thomsen or a charity of her choice $1. If you buy four copies, which will fit neatly into one package, you send us $20 for the books + $5 for shipping, and we send Thomsen or her charity $4. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Link Log for April 16

Categories: Animals, Business, Crafts, Education, Faith, Food, Funny Things, History, Pictures, Poem, Politics, Social Issues.


Should pets have nicknames? Well...if they're Listening Pets, you have to understand that the animal will pick up on the nickname right away, so you might want to plan on making it a word the animal will learn. The Cat Sanctuary used to have a Queen whose name was officially recorded as "Minnie," with "Minnie Mouse" having been the nickname, but at one stage in her life she would only ever answer to "Minnie Mouse"--not "Minnie." Later we had a Queen whose heir was officially "Princess Anne," but the cat answered to "Annie." Currently...well, sometimes I call Irene "Renie" as a term of endearment.

Since I'll probably never speak to him anyway, I've nicknamed +Ruth Cox 's dog Valentino "the Handsome Hound." Help the Handsome Hound and his human move:

Cute idea for enhancing your cat's favorite cardboard box...

Dogs...having fun. (Social cats are sooo much more highly evolved. Not!)


Is Google getting too big?


Knitters and crocheters agree: there's no such thing as too much can always substitute a yarn bin for any other piece of furniture! Ask +Theresa Wiza:

And, in case you're wondering how to use all those scraps, here's a tip for combining them in ways that add personal symbolism...

Got nuisance plants? Ailanthus trees? Kudzu? Bidens? There's a way to make all of them useful...

Here's a cute baby quilt design stitched by +Marsha Cooper :


How to get kids to write a research paper:


No comment:

But I can comment on this "faith" story: there are some disease conditions, and this family describe one of them, that can be miraculously cured by the patient spending some time in an unusual position. Senator Orrin Hatch's mysterious temporary deafness was a similar condition. Many massage therapists have cured these conditions, and some may even have sincerely convinced themselves they did it by some special power. In Neuro-Muscular Therapy we study the physical processes involved...not all of which are fully understood, or can be controlled, even by doctors who work with this kind of conditions. That does not keep us from respecting the "miracles," sometimes involving accidents, intuitions, or prayer/meditation/trance experiences, in which people who have no idea what happened to them are genuinely, permanently cured. It's not necessarily chance that guides people into the positions that put them right!


This is my kind of salad. On or off the lettuce.

Multiple recipes:


Want to laugh at a picture of Hitler looking really stupid? More so than he usually did, I mean. Reportedly an authentic live photo...


Yet another book documenting the complexity--eccentricity, even--of Abraham Lincoln, possibly our most unusual President...actually, his sympathy with European Jewish immigrants wouldn't have been all that eccentric, if it hadn't been part of a pattern of abnormal generosity and good will. Lots of people wanted to abolish slavery, but...Old Abe also awarded full college scholarships to all the children, male and female, of a Confederate soldier who picked up undulant fever in a Yankee prison. He was definitely a man you wouldn't have met every day.


How much time would you care to spend on this island?

Kid's picture:

Beautiful British phenology pictures, documenting that spring in Cornwall has reached just about the same stage as spring in the point of Virginia. (Thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for sharing the link.)

Spring comes later in Canada, +Susan Zutautas documents:

Red flowers in Florida:


Elizabeth Barrette also shared this:


"Dirt on the Clintons" was practically an industry in the 1990s. What can I say, it paid for a lot of my cross-the-state commutes. Here, Mother Jones turns supposedly friendly fire on Hillary Rodham Clinton with a short recap of the Clinton-bashing trade (strategically failing to mention some of the better Clinton-bashing books, like The Final Days and Partners in Power, but still a good starting point for young readers to catch up).

Social Issues 

Said it before, we'll say it again: The Meitiv family need to get out of Loco Mo.Co., because, even though "free-range parenting" is generally a good idea, a place where "kids" as old as Chandra Levy have indeed been kidnapped and murdered is not a good place for "free-range parenting."\

It doesn't really happen nearly as often as panic-stricken people seem to think...but if there's a place where it's likely to happen, the Georgia Avenue corridor is that place.

How bad is asking people to surrender their cell phones and cameras before meeting with a celebrity? This web site doesn't call it an outrageous request...but this web site would like to warn Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign staff that, even though it later came out that Elizabeth Taylor Warner had a valid, not even alcohol-related reason for asking people not to use flash cameras during her visit to my home town, she lost an awful lot of fans that way. For years everybody "knew" she'd been hung-over.

Morgan Griffith on Obamacare: 1.5 Out of 10?

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith:

"Obamacare an “8 out of 10,” According to President Obama

As part of a recent wide-ranging interview with ABC News, President Obama was asked to rate “the success” of Obamacare on a scale of 1 to 10.  I was shocked when he gave the health care law a rating of 8 out of 10.

The reasoning behind that very generous rating?  President Obama said, “And the reason I don’t put it at a 10 is because you can always improve something.”

Unfortunately, because ABC News didn’t press him on this issue, we are left to wonder how the President might “improve” his health care law.

Of course, I am of the belief that he can’t improve Obamacare – that it is a failure.  I believe it is broken, but like his foreign policy, he thinks all is well with Obamacare.

I desire to repeal Obamacare and have voted to do so.

The President thinks his law can be improved.  Perhaps he should start by keeping his promises to the American people:

"If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period."

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor."

"I want to lower premiums by about an average of $2,500 per family, per year, because people right now cannot afford it."

These are all promises broken by the Obama Administration.  There are many more.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  These broken promises have real consequences.  To borrow from a December 2014 letter to editor in the Roanoke Times:

"Until last year, our policy, which we liked, was $574 per month with a $4,000 deductible. Our new policy under the ‘Affordable Care Act’ is $1,704 per month with a $4,000 deductible. …"

"I looked at coverage though the act and it was much cheaper, but I could not have the same doctor I have had for 22 years. So as far as I am concerned, ‘You can keep your policy and your doctor’ is true only if you want to pay three times more."

Also, take Tammy S. from Floyd County, who in late April of last year submitted the following to

"My parents are self-employed and they were very happy with the health insurance coverage they had.  They received a letter today that their premiums will double in July 2014.  And the policy that they had would not exist anymore because it did not meet [Obamacare] requirements."

In a 2014 Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, I asked representatives of some of the nation’s largest health insurance providers if their companies expected that health insurance premiums for an average family would be cut by $2,500 a year, as promised by then-candidate Obama when campaigning.  Not one insurance company representative raised his hand, nor did they raise hands when I asked about a $2,000 reduction or a $1,500 reduction.

The President can’t keep his promises and keep Obamacare.

It just won’t work.  If he keeps just the promises listed above, the program will either go bankrupt or cost the United States so much the people won’t stand for it.

Despite these issues and others, President Obama thinks his law deserves an 8 out of 10.

He seems to think that by willing for his foreign and domestic policies to happen, they will become reality.  But this is not true.  This is not true with ISIS, it is not true with Iran, it is not true with Yemen, it is not true with Russia, and it is also not true with Obamacare.

The biggest problem with this Administration I think is that President Obama truly believes Obamacare deserves an 8 out of 10.

In reality, I believe it is hurting most Americans while helping some.  Accordingly, I give it a 1.5 out of 10.  Perhaps I am too pessimistic where the President clearly is wearing rose colored glasses.  But even if we average it out for our biases, the program is still less than a 5 out of 10.  It’s a failure, Mr. President.  Let’s work together to find a health care plan that is a positive for a majority of Americans.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives. "

[Averaged in with the ratings of the members of this web site, this gives Obamacare an 0.25 out of 10.]

Robert Hurt on IRS Service

This actually arrived in the e-mail before tax day, but I wasn't online long enough to have posted it. Now that tax day is over, do readers agree with Congressman Hurt? From his newsletter:

"Dear Friend,

Fifth District Virginians have been preparing for the April 15th tax filing deadline for the past several weeks, which is a burdensome annual reminder of just how complex and outdated our current tax code is. Families and small businesses spend billions of hours each year dealing with this most excessive example of bureaucratic red tape only to hand over their hard-earned dollars to a federal government that continues to make the process more difficult and unfair than it needs to be.

Americans make a good faith effort to comply with our complicated tax code, but recent reports indicate that they have not received the assistance they may need when filing taxes. These reports exposed that the IRS is only answering four in 10 customer service calls, leaving many pressing tax questions unanswered. This unsettling news comes at a time when thousands have questions about the mandates and reporting requirements imposed by the President’s healthcare law - questions made even more complex because more than 800,000 Americans who signed up for the federal healthcare exchange received the wrong forms. Tax season is stressful enough; the last thing hardworking Americans need is inept service from the agencies responsible for these important matters.

Many Fifth District Virginians also remain troubled by the reports of IRS officials targeting groups based on political affiliation, which is totally unacceptable given the agency’s authority. I was very disappointed to learn that the Justice Department will not seek the criminal contempt charges authorized by the House of Representatives against former Director of Exempt Organizations of the IRS Lois Lerner for her refusal to answer questions during a congressional hearing about the allegations. The American people deserve answers as to why certain groups were targeted for their political beliefs, and they have understandably lost trust in the IRS’s ability to fairly administer our laws.

I share the American people’s frustration that the IRS, whose purported mission is to, “provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all,” is not living up to that standard. The American people deserve better. My colleagues and I in the House of Representatives remain committed to reining in an out-of-control federal government that makes life more difficult for hardworking Americans.

This week, we will consider a number of bills to get the federal government out of the way and promote tax freedom and financial independence. We are continuing our work to overhaul our broken tax code and implement a simpler, fairer, and flatter tax code that will ensure that individuals and businesses have the certainty they need and that all Americans are keeping more of their hard-earned tax dollars. We will also consider bills to hold the IRS accountable and ensure fairness for all hardworking taxpayers, doing all we can to reform the IRS and make future April 15th’s are simpler and easier for all Americans.

If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.

"[nice signature graphic]

Mark Warner on Veterans, Firefighters, and Ex-Im

From U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-VA:

I wanted to let you know about some of my work up in Washington so far this year. Click here  to sign up for my newsletter in order for me to keep you up-to-date on the issues that matter to you.
The Export-Import Bank makes sure that U.S. companies large and small have access to the financing they need to export their goods. It levels the playing field for U.S. exporters abroad by matching the financing that other governments provide to their exporters.
The Bank’s charter is currently set to expire at the end of June. I have joined a bipartisan group of colleagues – four Democrats, four Republicans – in introducing the Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 , which will reauthorize the Bank’s charter until September 2019. 
From 2007 to 2015, the Export-Import Bank has helped Virginia businesses export two billion dollars in goods to countries around the globe. Last year, it helped companies like Bristol Compressors International and Optical Cable Corporation in Roanoke export tens of millions of dollars’ worth of goods across the globe. 
Altogether, the Ex-Im Bank supports more than 200,000 American jobs. It also operates at no cost to the taxpayer – in 2013, the Ex-Im Bank actually returned more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury. As someone who’s been in business longer than I’ve been in politics, I know a good deal when I see one. Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank just makes smart business sense.  
V-A to ease 40-mile rule
A rule change will now allow twice as many veterans to become eligible for a new V-A program, providing much-needed flexibility in how they access healthcare. At our strong and consistent urging, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing eligibility in its new Choice Program, which allows qualified veterans to receive health care outside of V-A facilities if they live more than 40 away from the closest V-A facility, or have wait times of more than 30 days to see a V-A physician.  
Driving distance, as opposed to straight-line distance, will now be the determining factor in calculating the 40-mile rule. In many areas of Virginia, this straight-line approach failed to accurately reflect driving distances over mountains or bodies of water. The 40-mile rule has been a source of great frustration among veterans, and I am pleased we’ve successfully pushed the V-A to reconsider and change the way it’s been implemented.
You have my pledge that our office will continue to stay on top of efforts to improve the V-A so that our veterans receive the care they have earned.
IRS fairness for firefighters, deputy sheriffs
At the request of Virginia sheriffs and many local firefighters, our office has successfully pushed the Internal Revenue Service to make a change: firefighters and police officers will no longer be expected to pay income taxes on common clothing items they are required to wear while on duty. 
Last year, Botetourt County, Va., was audited by the IRS and found to owe  $91,000 in back taxes, stemming in part from an IRS finding that the locality made a mistake in not taxing deputies for the value of certain common clothing items that are part of their uniforms. In January, our office contacted the IRS seeking clarification on this odd tax treatment for first responders. 
I am very pleased that the IRS now has clarified its policy. Our firefighters and police officers can stop worrying about getting taxed for their clothing and concentrate on what they do best: keeping us safe.
As always, please feel free to reach out to my office if we can ever be of assistance .
Washington, DC
475 Russell Office Bld.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2023
Abingdon Office
180 West Main Street
Room 235
Abingdon, VA 24210
Phone: (276) 628-8158
Roanoke Office
129B Salem Avenue, SW
Roanoke, VA 24011
Phone: (540) 857-2676

Audit This!

Years ago, friends who worked for the IRS told me that, when people have no taxable income and the refunds due for any taxes that have been paid on their behalf are small, the IRS actually prefers that those people not file tax returns. Saves time! Saves hassle! Saves paper! (And, of course, filing on paper saves security everybody!)

A frugal person can live quite well without having a taxable income. More years than not, I've not had one. Last year, when I was not living well, I certainly did not have a taxable income. I didn't expect that there'd be any need to file a tax return.

Last winter, though, a neighbor's child really wanted me to take over an online job for which she'd applied, during a desperate job search, and then decided she wasn't naturally well suited. I was willing to take over the job. I was also skeptical about the willingness of a company that hired a 25-year-old credit card junkie to replace same with a 50-year-old frugal champion, especially when we reviewed the job description, which mentioned that "the successful candidate uses" about a half-dozen web sites for which seriously frugal people have no use. Well, did the company need to know which of us it was paying? We decided it probably did. Well, personal information about me--the kind the IRS uses to identify taxpayers and identity thieves use to sneak into the United States for purposes of espionage and terrorism--is not available via the Internet. Period. But information about the Online Bookstore is available, of course; it's just not linked to anybody's real name, home address, working phone number, or any e-mail address other than salolianigodagewi @ yahoo. So why not set up a business account for the Online Bookstore at It seemed like a good idea at the time; so far the Online Bookstore has functioned entirely to advertise a few very small sales in the real world, but if we do start actually selling books online the IRS will of course have a right to know about that.

So we set up the account, and the company didn't work with us. So then, seeing that I was likely to be making only enough money for me to live on, not enough for babygirl to live on as well, at the hack writing site where I currently e-work, babygirl didn't want to share her computer with me. So I went back to public-access computers for the time being. The business officially to be known as "Priscilla's Internet Portal" still exists strictly as a theoretical construct that may or may not reappear in the real world later this year. It didn't exist even in that sense in 2014.

Nevertheless, someone prompted me to ask a professional tax preparer, who said I'd better file taxes. It was the fourteenth of April. "Apply for an extension," she said. I printed out the form, filled it out, and took it to the post office on the fifteenth of April, but didn't have the official tax ID number for the business. Getting that involved some late-evening drama with a sick, hostile child--I mean, babygirl has been around for twenty-five years or more, but her mother had warned me she wasn't feeling well, and she was carrying on like a five-year-old losing its first baby tooth, whining and distracting and failing to explain exactly how she'd messed up her computer...

So then I went over such records as I'd kept of my finances last year. Although information that evildoers could use against me or others is not available to the general public, the facts about my income aren't confidential at all. I write about frugality, and recently I received a bit of airheaded advice from a real lightweight in this field, +kathleen wallace , showing just how much some people don't know about what serious frugality means. So I thought I might as well take the opportunity to spell it out for you. I'm aware of people who do more with less than I do, but not in any part of North America. I believe I really am the most frugal person on this continent. I've made it an art form.

When filing for the extension I'd estimated my income to have been US$2375.00. On closer examination, I was off by $30. My income during the past year was US$2345.00. This includes barters of benefits to me, but does not include donations of food, medicine, or vaccinations directly to the cats at the Cat Sanctuary.

More specifically: $1560 for a weekly cleaning job.

$160 for small knitted items I carried around, displayed, and sold in casual conversations with people I met on the road or in public places.

$15 for books sold at the Tree of Fashion store during its last month in operation.

$50 out of the $170 Bubblews was supposed to have paid me.

$25 (as a gift card) out of the $50 this survey site was supposed to have paid me. Another gift card was supposedly mailed out to the Tree of Fashion store and was probably lost in the mail.

$10 in plumbing supplies, and $90 paid directly to the county tax office on my behalf, for one day's work at the official standard price of $100.

$165 in shopping sprees at stores friends were trying to boost.

$45 as a phone card from someone who felt guilty for wasting my prepaid phone minutes.

$15 for an antique window pane.

$50 for a load of metal.

$20 for casual help with moving.

$140 paid directly to a utility company on my behalf, balance paid in 2015, for two days' work at $100.

What some people who think they know something about frugality might want to know, at this point, is how on Earth a person can live on this kind of income. A few pointers:

* I inherited the house, and a bit of land on which I've encouraged useful plants and discouraged grass for many years.

* About the only electric-powered things I used regularly were the modem-free computer, a fan, a space heater, and a few fluorescent lights. From time to time I used a cell phone charger, turned on a burner on the electric stove, or plugged in the toilet (the Sun-Mar electric-powered toilet was discussed here last winter). I did not use a refrigerator, freezer, any kind of climate control system, any kind of TV, a water heater, or similar luxuries, in 2014.

* I didn't use a home phone.

* I didn't buy any new clothes in 2014.

* I didn't own a motor vehicle.

* I did manage a few donations to good local causes...but I kept them very few and far between.

* I did not eat every day. This was primarily unplanned and dictated by unplanned, uncomfortable reactions to unlabelled genetically modified food products; I spent almost half of 2014 feeling sick. I do not recommend this, either as a way to reduce food expenses, or as a way to lose weight...but I did both of those things.

* On several days, what I ate was what was growing near my home. (I'd like to take this opportunity to mention Grandma Bonnie Peters' persimmons. GBP grew up in a place that cherished the legend of Jonathan Chapman, an eccentric preacher of the early nineteenth century, as "Johnny Appleseed" who planted apple trees wherever he went. She liked our local species of wild persimmons and hoped to be remembered as "Bonnie Persimmonseed," but, for twenty or thirty years, saw no evidence that any of the seeds she'd planted had become a fruit-bearing tree. Some trees mature slowly...and although they produced a few fruit in 2012 and 2013, 2014 was the year when I actually gathered pints of wild persimmons from the trees GBP planted. I like persimmons, and made several days' meals of them.)

* I did not use any kind of medical care in 2014. I've resigned myself, very unhappily, to the fact that until the United States comes to our senses and prunes the parasites out of our medical system, no medical care is going to be available to me as I grow older. (Ironically, the fifteenth of April was a day when another of my elders reported another way another insurance scheme was cheating her...) I don't want to waste any money feeding the parasitic insurance industry; I believe it's immoral to feed parasites. I don't want anyone feeding any parasites on my behalf, either. If I break a leg and can't pay cash to have it set, which is what I've always planned to do, then I'll just go through the rest of my life with a crooked leg.

* I reflected at considerable length on the reality that, if any more of our insane "progress" toward socialism/chaos drives the U.S. economy any further down, such that I do become unable to support myself in my own home, I do prefer death to slavery. No food stamps, no housing projects, no bogus disability pension for me. Far be it from me to tell other people how they should answer the question, but for me, personally, if I can't market what I do well enough to feed myself, then it's time to stop eating.

This web site does of course realize that extreme frugality isn't doing the U.S. economy much good; this web site encourages those who don't have to practice extreme frugality to distribute their money in ways that will do good. (Send some of it to us.) This web site also wants everybody to be aware that poor Americans do have the option of practicing extreme frugality and, at least, not doing the U.S. economy any positive harm. Even if our bloat-crippled government is failing to ensure that you receive payment for what you've done, and our plague of social workers and bureaucrats is discouraging any prospective new clients from hiring you to do anything further, there are still honest and ethical alternatives to becoming a welfare recipient and dragging the economy further down than it's already gone.

Pear Blossom Haiku

Background: On Monday I posted from Big Stone Gap. In theory, a neighbor kid should have been in an evening class and should have taken me home. In practice, that kid has missed more classes than she's attended...and it was another windy night, with little gusts of rain that didn't build up to a real rain storm until about 4:30 a.m., which was about the time I got home. And this was something I walked past:

Before moonrise, pear
blossoms glisten, spectral white,
paler than the clouds.

A Vote for Radical Honesty

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on July 17, 2014. Some inspiration came from Individual , who posted Bubbles about "radical honesty" earlier that week. Image of Honest Abe from Krosseel at

Yesterday I noticed a funny thing about the changes we're seeing here at Bubblews.

I think all the web wizards in the world need to know that I don't appreciate any change in the way any web site looks. If you really have to add or subtract a feature at a web site, you need to make that change as unobtrusive as possible. Once a button is working, where it is is where it should always remain. And if you're a Bubblews connection of mine, you undoubtedly read that opinion yesterday, because I posted some version of it as a comment on all the cheerful posts where people were saying "Oh wow this is so wonderful."

So, did that mean that every other Bubbler had been just yearning to see our pretty pictures mangled and greyed-out, aching to see a button logically labelled "Notifications" replaced by an unlabelled graphic some of us have yet to figure out, pining to see our archives of older posts disappear? Not exactly. I then clicked over to Persona Paper, and over there people were complaining bitterly about the changes at Bubblews.

I know that sometimes radical honesty can seem like biting the hand that feeds us, and be interpreted and treated as such...but I have to put in a vote for making our complaints heard by people who can do something about them. Yes, I want all the web designers on Earth to know that I think of a web site as a tool, and think changing a working web site just to call attention to your cleverness is the antithesis of clever. But I think it's more important for Bubblews'' administration to hear what we have to say about Bubblews, specifically, than it is for the administration of Persona Paper or Chatabout or Facebook or whatever other sites people use.

That's not because I enjoy confronting people with whom I work, even in cyberspace. I've heard people say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt their feelings by telling them I don't like what they've done...but this friend to whom I've been talking about them behind their backs cares about my feelings." I've even heard this twisted reasoning defended as "feminine" and "caring." 

Bosh. I myself would much, much rather be told why you don't like something I've done, to my face, so that I can decide whether or not I want to try to fix it, than find out later that you've been talking behind my back to other people, who may then have passed the story on to other people until it's become a regular urban legend. I may not want to give you what you want, but I do want to know what that is. And ain't I a woman?

Book Review: How Congressmen Decide

Title: How Congressmen Decide
Author: Aage R. Clausen
Date: 1973
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: none; Amazon page here
Length: 239 pages with index
Quote: “[T]he news media are giving headline attention to a confrontation between the Presidency and Congress. That confrontation is dramatically referred to as a ‘constitutional crisis.’”
Clausen went on to assert that the congressional investigation of Watergate was “little more than an unusually interesting page in the annals of congressional-executive conflict, rather exciting new political phenomenon.” With this perspective,he analyzed the ways policy questions had been decided in the years preceding Watergate. The “five major policy dimensions” in the 1960s were “Civil Liberties, International Involvement, Agricultural Assistance, Social Welfare, [and] Government Management.”
Clausen’s language is scholarly and evasive rather than writerly and incisive, but high school and college readers should be able to understand this book well enough to get a good term paper out of it. Simply compare the behavior of Congress since 1973 with the behavior Clausen had observed by 1973, then discuss the extent to which Clausen had correctly predicted, as he believed he had, how Congress would continue to behave. Some changes in the pattern will have become obvious; some elements in the pattern haven’t changed much.
Reading this book for personal benefit, other than writing term papers, should be admissible as evidence to support the claim that the reader is a Real Washingtonian. Anybody can memorize all the stops on the Red Line but if you read this book on the Metro you’ve made the big emotional commitment: the Beltway encircles your home, and you may identify yourself publicly as a wonk.

Though Clausen died in 2011, copies of How Congressmen Decide are still selling on Amazon for prices fast approaching the collector range. If you buy a copy here, as of today, the price is still $5 for the book + $5 for shipping. Next week, who knows. And it's not even eligible to be sold as a Fair Trade Book. The only way I can recommend in good conscience that you buy this book from salolianigodagewi @ is to buy a Fair Trade Book and add How Congressmen Decide to the package. But I'd be delighted if you did buy this one; it was among the one percent of the books, in what had been a substantial private library, that my husband chose to keep to the end of his life.