Friday, September 28, 2018

Status Update: Beleaguered Bilingual Writer

I'm still here, Gentle Readers. I've not made time to post anything, although I wrote some posts over the weekend and somebody's paid for them. Senator Kaine, who has been e-mailing everybody enough that I can post his press releases to show that I'm alive, seems to be taking a well earned break this week.

I've been busy writing a simple document from research. It would have taken one day if the research had been all in English. It's taken a week because most of the research is in Spanish; the document is for Spanish-speaking people but is being written in English, with parallel translations. I've spent most of my online time hanging out at the Collins online dictionary site, continually looking up the precise match for words I "know" in a vague general way, choosing the sense of the word that belongs in a sentence. I write more slowly than some e-friends do in English, at best, so the job has gone very slowly.

Apart from that everyone's health is about what's usual for this year. Everyone is complaining of a lot of different things they've noticed increasingly in each of the past five years. None of us is growing younger but the funny thing is that, although everyone's complaints are different, primary school children are complaining at the same rate active eighty-year-olds are complaining.

Earlier this week I saw a crowd of what looked like old ladies of my parents' generation, fat and awkward. By their conversation I realized they'd been in between my brother's class and mine at school, so they're only about fifty. Then I heard a girl of forty-five complaining of arthritis-like pain and slowing metabolism. "Getting old, getting old," they wailed. Also this week I noticed a store employee acting rude and obnoxious, to several people who were waiting in line ahead of me, impartially. I was inclined to give her a free pass because her snow-white hair, obesity, and unhealthy face made her look older than my mother, but on the way out, grumbling with a friend, I had one of those "Aha" moments: people who are old enough to get away with being rude to me are too old to work, legally, in minimum-wage jobs, and why should I imagine this hag is even as old as I am? Some people are fat before they're twenty; some have white hair before they're forty; all people have unattractively "old," sick-looking faces when they are ill.

All baby-boomers are older than we were in high school--duh!--but that does not necessarily need to look or feel bad. Some of us remember schoolmates who looked repulsive at school--fat puffy red faces, or skinny flabby sallow faces, with that "pizza face" look from infected acne and other skin diseases--and are now slim, healthy, and well preserved. Some of us have grey hair, and by age seventy most of us have thinner, dryer skin, whether or not our skin tones are light enough to make it conspicuous...but those of us who are active and healthy don't have that ugly, sickly look that people have in mind when they see even young people's faces as "old."

Physical exercise helps. I move like a young person, whether my face looks "younger" or "older" than fifty, because I've not stopped moving like a young person. Actually when I was a young person I usually felt ill, so after going gluten-free at age thirty I've had a lot of running and skipping and tree-climbing to catch up on, and I've done it. I don't like hearing my contemporaries blame our age for their reduced mobility. People in their seventies run marathons. If you've become stiff and slow-moving as a result of sitting at a desk all day, driving or riding a bus to and from work, and watching television until you fall asleep, obviously you're not fit to run a marathon, but you're not too old. People in their fifties can start with brisk aerobic sprints across the yard or parking lot, and work up from there. In a few months we can be fit to finish a marathon.

But physical exercise has become harder every year during the past five years, for children as well as adults, because of glyphosate pollution. Unlike other biocides, this particular poison not only soaks into spinach and strawberries when it floats past on the wind, but has been sprayed directly onto grains, nuts, beans, and some fruits to make more of them seem ripe at the same time. They may look like ripe, pretty food but they're actually poison and should be banned from the market. They are making people sick, and only because some of those people are under age ten do we know that we have to blame farmers rather than believing that lie about "getting old."

I've been reading all week about Mexico and our border States, California, Texas. I've been looking at pictures. What pretty landscapes they have out there. What I've remembered most has not been the pretty landscapes; it's been being an even weepier little weed of a skinny, flabby, sallow, sniffly, grumpy child than I was in my home town. Back then glyphosate hadn't been invented and DDT was on the way out; it was mainly chlordane that would have been making me ill. Chlordane has since been banned. Glyphosate should not actually be hard to get banned since weeds and vermin are evolving resistance to it by now, although Bayer spokesmen are fighting like a lot of damned fools that they are, rather than dropping it as they would do if they were decent human beings. Glyphosate has been banned in California and suddenly all those western landscapes look much more attractive to me. The danger is that, as they've threatened, lazy farmers who've become dependent on poisons will replace glyphosate with something worse, the way they replaced chlordane with glyphosate and chlorpyrifos, rather than learning to work with nature.

This week a farmer tweeted that, without glyphosate, he'd be producing only 25 tons to a previous 40 tons of whatever he raises on his farm. Oh, the poor fellow! When my parents went all-organic, our little vegetable garden hardly produced anything that wasn't insect-damaged during the first year, because the pest species rebound first after poison spraying. You couldn't plough or till deep enough to keep the resurgent weeds from depleting the soil. Picking off insects daily couldn't stop them from chewing up the puny vegetable plants that did grow. Every ear of corn contained a worm; many contained worms, plural, although corn earworms are solitary animals; we shucked corn in the chicken yard to shake off all the worms and the clumps of frass surrounding them, then toted most of the damaged ears straight to the cows and the pony, and ate our corn by "cobbettes." The tomatoes made a good start, and we even had a few early fruit to eat before the plants all wilted down and died of blight. It seems in memory as if we spent the whole summer picking wheelbarrows full of weeds, gallons of insects, and maybe a bowl of salad to eat, every long hot afternoon (it was a sultry summer). We produced nothing to sell, or even preserve for winter, at all. Sometimes to get a bowl of salad we mixed in the edible weeds...oh those ground-cherry pies and dandelion salads! The good news is that, when you stop poisoning, you have one absolutely terrible year. After that every year's crop will be better. The important thing to keep in mind is that if you go from producing 40 tons of poison that make people sick to producing 1 ton of ugly but healthy veg, that is an improvement.

The other good news is that a lot of people who have a lot of different, chronic, unspecified symptoms as part of a reaction to glyphosate poisoning are going to feel much better, "younger," within days after we do get this poison banned. I don't want to be one of those people who raise false hopes. Chronic pain existed before "pesticides" were invented. Some people who are currently identifying as "Spoonies," people living with pain and disability at levels that vary from day to day, will still have pain and disability in a glyphosate-free world. But most of them will have more and better good days, fewer bad days; many will be able to get off their prescription medication.

Amazon link? Of course. Book I'll have to dig up at home, if unable to do all the translation online:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Morgan Griffith on WOTUS

WOTUS? Wot wot? U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith identifies wot's wot with WOTUS:

Cutting Red Tape
Our part of Virginia understands the damage that can be inflicted by excessive regulation. The War on Coal was largely waged in this manner, as the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed layers of rules providing no benefit to the environment but imposing massive new costs on the coal industry.
The coal industry is not the only subject of overzealous regulation. After Hurricane Florence, I toured Floyd County to see flood damage with Sheriff Brian Craig and Board of Supervisors Chairman Lauren Yoder.
I was reminded that under the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, it appears that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would call the shots over much of Floyd County as well as other mountainous farmland areas. WOTUS covers lands such as dry branches, puddles, and areas that get waterlogged after prolonged rain, whether they are flooded or not. This is the type of power that unelected bureaucrats have currently.
The numerous, arcane rules issued by the “alphabet soup” of federal regulators have enormous consequences for small businesses, from the restaurants to the nursing homes to the farms of our communities.
The costs of compliance are considerable, and penalties and fines for infractions, even those committed without ill intent, often far exceed the seriousness of the violation.
A local restaurant has been forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy for an infraction the owners didn’t understand and did not profit from. Other businesses have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for relatively minor infractions.
These types of unreasonable penalties suppress economic growth and kill jobs. They do not protect employees or clean up the environment. So the House of Representatives and the Trump Administration have gone to work cleaning up the federal rulebook.
I’ve been working on a bill that targets a textbook example of counterproductive regulation: the EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) permitting program.
NSR definitions require owners of certain factories and power plants to obtain permission when they want to upgrade. No one wants air pollution, but NSR’s burdens deter facility owners from making improvements that would actually reduce emissions. This state of affairs hurts jobs and economic growth while doing nothing to protect the environment.
My bill, the New Source Review Permitting Improvement Act of 2018, clarifies the rules so that upgrades to existing facilities would not need NSR permits unless they increase emissions. Businesses would have more certainty in planning for the future. They would be better positioned to invest in technologies that promote efficiency and reduce pollution. It’s a win for them and for the environment.
The New Source Review Permitting Improvement Act of 2018 passed the Environment Subcommittee in July, and I look forward to further action in promoting this commonsense regulatory reform.
Part of the problem with regulation is that the executive branch has grown accustomed to writing the rules without interference from the other branches of government. By reclaiming their authority, the legislative and judicial branches can check unneeded regulations.
The House has acted to fix a bad Supreme Court ruling that gave wide latitude to the executive branch. The ruling in the case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., decided in 1984, declared that courts should accept an agency’s interpretation of federal law if the law is worded ambiguously and the interpretation is reasonable.
The practice of “Chevron deference,” as the ruling’s effect came to be called, effectively gave the executive branch broad new authority to write regulations.
Subjecting regulations to judicial review would force the executive branch to observe more closely the intent and language of laws passed by Congress. Regulations would have to respect statutes passed by the people’s representatives rather than the wishes of unelected bureaucrats.
I am an original cosponsor of a bill to end Chevron deference, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act. Its language was included in a bill I supported when it passed the House, the Regulatory Accountability Act, which included numerous other regulatory reforms.
This Congress was also the first to use the Congressional Review Act repeatedly to undo excessive regulations. Before 2017, the act had only been used successfully once; during 2017-18, it was used successfully sixteen times.
Some Ninth District manufacturers have told me that regulatory relief in particular contributes to their success. Along with tax cuts, regulatory reform has fueled job creation and economic growth.
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.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Schadenfreude Song

This one was prompted by Fireblossom at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads:

The prompt was to write a poem that gives people an excuse to say a word that's just fun to say. Schadenfreude just happens to fit a jingle...I think the jingle was originally a parody of a popular song, but I know only the jingle. Its tune is almost as repetitious as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and/or all the rock songs that have been released since people realized that, hey, Gordon Lightfoot got away with that...Note to pop singers: You are not Lightfoot. I know I'm not Lightfoot either so I've kept this piece of Bad Lyric Poetry short.

When the head of every class
fumbles on a simple pass,
Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!

Own a sport for twenty years?
Then walk off the field in tears?
Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!

When a candidate you hated
's blocked by someone he once dated,
Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!

When the home-and-family spox
find their marriage on the rocks,
Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!

Etc. Etc. Kids can expand it if they like; aunts have to have some sympathy for parents. But not so much sympathy for parents that aunts can't enable kids to learn the parent-banishing classic song...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Edge of Extortion (Updated): How Florence Hurt Inland Virginia

(Updated for those who read all the way down and wanted to know: Yes, someone "voted" to keep me and the cats on the grid. I'm glad. I'm even grateful, which is a horrible feeling to have toward a fellow mortal; gratitude, like worship, should be directed toward God. We should show gratitude for our fellow humans by repaying the nice things they do for us. And yes, I have a workable plan in mind for doing that; you know who you are and what the plan is.

I'm still not pleased with the outcome. I still want the companies to be required to appreciate customers. Not only should all property owners have a legal right to get ourselves off the grid, at least for our primary energy requirements, as fast as possible; not only should companies be required to meet our private requirements for any use we may allow them to make of solar, water, or pedal power generators on our property; but also, allowing a reasonable amount of time, the companies need to be making steady progress toward relying on our surplus private energy supply rather than on dams or coal-burning plants as a primary energy source for everyone. We may always need the companies and a few of the big unsustainable plants they've built, but we don't need them as much as they've tried to make people think, and they should be forced to acknowledge continually that they need us.

Not only do I agree that people should stop using electricity before they run up bills they can't pay; I'd be in favor of people's being able to shut off their own main switches, at that point, without the company sending anyone out. No kilowatts flowing into the house, no mounting bill! But I'm opposed to the companies being allowed to charge extra fees, especially when the fee is more than twice the amount of the unpaid bill, for disconnecting people's electricity. It does not cost $50 to flip a switch, nor should companies be allowed to think in terms of "punishing" the customers on whom their existence depends.)

Hurricane Florence came and went, with none of the melodrama associated with the word "hurricane," but a lot of rain. Two feet, about 0.6 metres, of rain is bad enough in low-lying ground, but as the rain moved west, more of it poured down over the East Coast. A lot of buildings got wet. Damage was done to the power grid.

What do our beloved utility companies do in this kind of situation? They finance rapid restoration of service, in a weather emergency, by creative billing techniques.

The biggest electricity bill I ever got was the "estimated" bill for a month during most of which there was no grid-based electric power in Scott County. When I went online that winter, I went online from Kingsport. I received a bill for approximately four times my average bill for months when I'd been using refrigerator and water heater and all. I paid up, complaining vigorously, and received a refund a few months later. I knew the money had been used to bring in laborers up from Atlanta, down from Cleveland, to clean up cables that were buried under a foot of snow.

This month, I had some other bills to pay, so I let the bill for electricity wait. After all, the amount that was overdue was, what, $25? I'm frugal with electricity, and it's been a mild summer, with little need for climate control. My bills have been below $20 each month. "We don't send people out to disconnect people for that kind of small change," I've heard, in other years.

The hurricane changed everything. I went home yesterday and found that my electricity had indeed been disconnected. The exact amount overdue: $19.43.

I have no use for the whole idea of a central grid, and monthly bills, and all those dangerous cables strung through forests to crash down every time the wind blows. The weather was quite pleasant. After eating a cold dinner I lighted a candle, worked a New York Times Sunday crossword I'd been saving, and went to bed as usual.

One of those unusual bills I had to pay this month is for repairing my own dear desktop computer. I should probably explain this, too.

All North Americans are not actually the same size, but almost all North American furniture comes in the same size. Basically that means too small to be ergonomically correct for most men and too big to be ergonomically correct for most women. Massage therapists can make livings just treating the aches and pains people develop from working at one-size-for-all desks every day.

In my home office, there is no one-size-for-all desk. Of the three I used to own, I've sold two; one is still in Grandma Bonnie Peters' home office, where its being too high doesn't bother her so much because she spends so little time typing at it. I sit on a nice low bench made by putting a board over a camp cot, which is the right distance from the floor for my less-than-5'10" legs, and put my computer on an unmatched pair of nice low tables with the big fat CRT monitor slightly higher than the keyboard, which is just right for my less-than-5'10" arms. I can type literally all day long. I've made a habit of giving myself hand, eye, and walk-about breaks at intervals in whatever I'm typing, but I have, as an experiment, typed in my home office for twenty hours. No shoulder pain. No carpal tunnel syndrome.

This, of course, was when I had the desktop computer's keyboard right at the edge of its table, so it fitted right under my hands and I worked with my elbows at a right angle. At a standard desk, even with the desktop computer's keyboard, my elbows would be at a less comfortable acute angle. I used to get cramps in my right shoulder from using a desktop computer mouse at the computer center.

The desktop computer eventually used up its memory. A hard drive had to be replaced. That was done at Christmas. It cost over $100. In the shop the computer came on flashing a message that a cable was not connected. "That doesn't seem to mean anything," said the man who'd installed the hard drive, "it boots up and runs just fine."

It did--but not for long. The message flashed every time I started the computer and, toward the end of June, the new hard drive died. Back to the shop I went. "How can we back up the files in case the next hard drive dies, too?" I asked. So the man looked inside the computer and found that, although the cable it had was adequate for all the actual work I'd been doing on it for twenty years, the newer hard drives--like the one installed last winter--were designed to require an additional cable, which "everybody" had already installed to power a modem. (My own desktop has never had a modem.) No wonder the new hard drive had burned out fast. It had been drawing more electricity through an inadequate supply...

I have been working on laptop computers at home. It's not obvious, to the minority of humankind who are exactly 5'10", that putting the battery compartment out in front of the keyboard would cause carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact that design innovation was touted as helping prevent carpal tunnel syndrome in taller typists. Let's just say that having the battery compartment in front of the keyboard forces me to type with both wrists and elbows at odd angles, so every day I have backaches and, if I've been seriously writing, numbness and tingling, and also a stiff neck from sitting with my shoulders hunched up as if I were doing an impression of Richard flippin', just using a laptop as my main computer is not an option.

Let's just say that, even in winter, I don't want the radiation of a laptop going into my actual physical lap all day, so that's not an option either. Laptops as main computers equal disability. Desktop computer is a physical necessity for me.

Electricity is necessary only for the computer. If I don't have a computer at home...I'd miss being able to write on weekends, but I wouldn't miss being on the grid, either. There are public computer centers. The Internet Portal does at last have a locally sponsored storefront, and if I weren't paying for electricity at home, I could use the money to pay for it at the store, stop using up bandwidth at cafe/school/library computer centers, and start storekeeping already.

I've not had the extra money to do it, but for the past two years I've been thinking seriously that even a gas-powered generator, much as I'd prefer solar or pedal power, could give me the best of both worlds.

I've also heard, not in Virginia but in less civilized parts of the country, of people having gone completely off the grid and then being told they couldn't prove they were living on property that somebody wanted to grab using "eminent domain." I know very few natural-born citizens of these United States who want to live on property without a cushy paved driveway; that does not mean that assets like the mountain spring, the natural waterfall, and the sunny bank, might not attract evildoers who don't intend to live there.

"Farmers are the new Indians," somebody told Kathleen Norris, years ago. Hah. I actually am part "Indian," some of the last of the indigenous blood on the ancestral land. I'm not young. I've had a rich life. I'm not eager to die on my land rather than live off it, but I'm not afraid to do that, either. (Introverts avoid unnecessary risks, so we seem cautious, even timid, when we do things like buckle our seat belts; that's in no way to be confused with a fear of necessary risks.)

So when I talked to the anonymous robot-girl at the utility company, I had all this in mind. Any attempt to extort money from me will cost your company a lot more than you hope to gain, I said.

You pulled this stunt in 2016, I said, and as a result you lost all payments from me for six months. And it would've been a lot longer than that if relatives hadn't wanted electric heat and lights for Thanksgiving. And, due to Mother's health, we're not planning Thanksgiving at my house this year. You can lose a whole account for ever if you tick me off again.

Robot-girl kept repeating "I'm sorry," obviously not being it, and repeating that the new company policy now required that somebody scrape up not only the total amount of the bill, but a fee that would raise the total price above $100, until I think even the battery-powered phone I was using got bored and switched itself off.

There is a church fund that's set up for the express purpose of keeping the lights on at the homes of widows who don't ordinarily depend on handouts, who give something back to the church. I'm not a regular church member, not all that old, and not in any physical danger, but I did happen to have a nice blanket to give to the church, worth more than I was asking for; I did happen to have an ongoing writing job that would make it very inconvenient not to have a computer at home this weekend.

Let's see what happens, I said to myself, and I walked up the street to the church, blanket in hand. I found the church secretary talking on the phone.

There is no way...I could not believe what I was hearing. "There must be some mistake...A, could you check this? B, could you call C? They're threatening to cut off our electricity in the church...I know we've paid the bill, but..."

The church was being double-billed, just as I'd been double-billed in 2016!

"If we have the money, we'll pay your bill," the church secretary said hopelessly. I knew and she knew that the mistake was not made by the church, and will not be found and fixed for a few months; and meanwhile the church does not have the money for me, nor does it have the money for who knows how many old widows are on electric-powered oxygen pumps and are being hit up for money this month. The one thing I've done today that I'm not proud of was asking. On hearing what the church secretary was saying I should have just walked out the door--although I don't know how much she would have suffered from curiosity.

I enjoy having electricity; I use electricity as a tool of my trade. I do not, however, need electricity.

Time for a vote, Gentle Readers. What do you think I should do? It is now possible to vote with Paypal!

If you think everyone should be charitable, because people on the East Coast are less prepared to go off the grid than I am and keeping them on the grid really does take money and everybody should be willing to contribute something to disaster relief, click here to pay the bill:

If you think I should just go off the grid permanently now, click here to pay for the generator to be put in before the cold weather arrives:

(Well, those links have served their original purpose, but people can still use them to pay for more of whatever they want from this web site. We can even add one. The church has a sleek-looking web site at , and they'll gladly process checks sent directly to them by mail, but they don't seem to have links. Paypal users who'd like to contribute to the emergency fund may use this one to route cash directly to the First Baptist Church. Their emergency fund is distributed as sudden needs are reported so it's more likely to be used for the benefit of relatively well-off widows who live in Gate City and attend Baptist services, but they don't discriminate against non-members, non-Christians, or people in other towns, at all. To support the fund by Paypal, please be sure to type "FBC" into the message field when using this link: links are price-specific; I picked US$25 as an average amount people contribute to church funds, with kids putting a dollar in the plate and businessmen writing checks for 10% of their weekly income, but here's a tip. You can go into the browser bar, backspace over the number at the end of a link, and type in the number of whole monetary units you want to contribute, and the system will generate a new page for whatever whole number you type in. If you type in "FBC" I'll carry that amount of cash to the church--and if it's an amount that looks silly for an adult to deliver to a church, I'll mention your screen name.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Morgan Griffith on U.S. Oil

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

Good News for American Energy
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States now produces the most crude oil of any country in the world, passing Russia and Saudi Arabia.
This is good news for America’s economy and its place in the world. It increases our energy independence and diminishes the influence of oil-producing countries that don’t share our interests or values. More American oil production also means more jobs here.
America’s surge in crude oil production also shows that, just as his policy on coal was wrong, President Obama’s oil policy was wrong. At the 2008 Democrat convention, he proclaimed, “Drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution.” Ten years later, American oil drilling has propelled us to a dominant position in the oil market.
Americans should take this feat to heart. It’s an achievement that shows just what American ingenuity and a true “all of the above” energy strategy can deliver.
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

Morgan Griffith on Knowing the Cost

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

Monday, September 17, 2018 –                                
Bipartisan Health Care Legislation
Health care policy touches on some of the most important and personal decisions people make. From my vantage point on the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I continue to look for ways to improve health care in the Ninth District.
Health care policy revolves around quality, availability, and affordability. All three of these goals can be promoted by the use of telehealth, in which medical services are provided remotely through electronic and telecommunications technologies. I have long supported telehealth as a solution to some of the challenges faced in Southwest Virginia. In rural areas like ours, telehealth can provide access to treatments that patients would otherwise have to travel far to receive, if they receive it at all.
Recently, I joined with several of my colleagues on both side of the aisle to introduce the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations Act (RUSH) Act. Our legislation would expand telehealth’s use in skilled nursing facilities. Rather than require seniors to be transferred to hospitals, it would allow for telehealth to be utilized to treat Medicare recipients in place at these facilities when appropriate.
By embracing opportunities created by telehealth, the RUSH Act would reduce risks for seniors and save money for taxpayers.
As part of a September 13 hearing on improvements to Medicare, I was able to discuss our bill with Dr. Timothy Peck, the founder and CEO of Call9. His company has achieved success bringing telehealth into nursing homes, treating seniors experiencing a health episode there rather than transferring them to hospitals.
He testified that Call9 can treat patients in place roughly 80% of the time. Those seniors can be treated at the time of their emergencies rather than go through the ordeal of completing an ambulance ride and waiting to see an emergency room physician. In addition to saving the time and cost of an ambulance ride, these seniors are spared the stress and confusion of a ride accompanied by blaring sirens. Further, they are spared bright lights and the possibility of a bed in the hallway at the emergency room.
Current law, however, prohibits Medicare from providing reimbursements for telehealth, inhibiting his company from expanding, especially to rural areas. The RUSH Act would encourage his operation and others providing similar services to go into nursing homes in rural areas or that depend heavily on Medicare. As I pointed out in the hearing, seniors in these homes deserve the same quality of care as those who live in urban or wealthy areas.
Support for telehealth has brought together Democrats and Republicans.
Some measures to lower prescription drugs prices also unite both parties. Everyone recognizes that people are paying too much to have their prescriptions filled.
The issue is a tangled one, but I believe transparency is an essential part of untangling it. That’s why I am an original cosponsor of the Know the Cost Act, which would ban the practice of “gag clauses.”
Gag clauses may be imposed by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) on pharmacists, prohibiting them from telling patients about cheaper out-of-pocket alternatives to their prescriptions covered by insurance.
This is unfair. Patients and pharmacists should have the freedom to fully consider their options when filling prescriptions.
The Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony on September 5 from a pharmacist affected by gag clauses, and Democrats and Republicans both recognized their negative impact. When the Know the Cost Act was introduced, it had ten sponsors. I was one of five Republicans and five Democrats.

It passed the committee unanimously on September 14. I believe this bipartisan cooperation will produce solutions to help bring down prescription drug costs.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Bill Carrico on Opioids

From Virginia Senator Bill Carrico:

Virginia Opioid and Overdose Stakeholder Meeting 9/28

The co-chairs of Governor Northam’s Executive Leadership Team on Opioids and Addiction will be hosting a stakeholder meeting on Friday, September 28, from 1 – 3:30 pm in House Committee Room 2 in the Pocahontas building in Richmond.

The meeting agenda, which will be posted to Virginia’s Commonwealth Calendar prior to the meeting, will include overviews of Virginia's opioid and overdose policy framework and initiatives, including a review of federal funding and an update on Medicaid’s ARTS outcomes. Time for public comment will be provided.

How Can I Serve You Better?

It is an honor to represent Southwest Virginia, so I am always looking for ways to better serve you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your questions, comments, and suggestions. You can contact my office by phone at 804.698.7540 or by email at

If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to (804) 663-7447.

Bill Carrico for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Gentle Readers, I apologize for this one. Senator Carrico didn't do it. Some person who's been educated beyond his level of intelligence thought you couldn't pay attention to the sentences below if they were printed in a simple straightforward manner that would display correctly on any device. No, the bright boy thought, you needed the "excitement" of garish colors and images of little bells and whistles. In the twentieth century nothing was wrong with adding this kind of frivolity to printed posters hung on walls; in the 1990s printers came with certain amounts of colored ink, and frugal people looked for ways to use up all the colors at the same time. It didn't make announcements "exciting" but it did show that you were the kind of person who didn't waste purple ink. This is the twenty-first century, and nobody should ever presume to add this kind of silliness to a document you might be trying to read on a computer or, bless your poor little heart, a cell phone.

I've shrunk the image so it will fit on everyone's screen; if you're using Google Chrome, you can use CTRL-+ to enlarge it so you can read the words. Feel free to use the comments to express feelings about how public information should be made available online in the form of plain text. People who use computers know how to read. People who don't plan to turn their computers into toxic waste every year know that letters and numbers don't use up nearly as much memory as graphics do, and that graphics should therefore be used only when readers really need to match an image to a real object (maps, diagrams, photographs).

Free Training for Parents of Children with Disabilities


Bill Carrico on Public Transportation in Virginia

From State Senator Bill Carrico:

Public Input Sought On Prioritizing Transportation Projects
The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will hold nine meetings across the Commonwealth from October through November at which the public will have the opportunity to get the latest information, ask questions, and provide input on the prioritization of transportation projects.

The meetings will consist of an open house where attendees can view displays to learn about transportation planning, interact with subject matter experts, and review the proposed local and regional projects that have been submitted for scoring through SMART SCALE, an objective, data-driven prioritization process to score projects according to critical transportation needs. For this funding cycle, 468 applications for projects were submitted by 158 local and regional transportation planning organizations and partners across the state.

Following the open house, there will be an opportunity for the public to provide comments about transportation projects and priorities.

Projects that have been determined to meet a need identified in VTrans, Virginia’s statewide transportation policy plan, will be advanced for evaluation and scoring. Scoring results will be made available to the public in January 2019. Following public meetings in the spring, the CTB will use public feedback and the scoring data to select which projects to fund and be included in the next Six-Year Improvement Program by June of 2019.

A public hearing will be held for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan in conjunction with the meetings in the Bristol districts.

For the latest on the I-81 Improvement Project, please click HERE.

Meeting Date/Time: October 22, 4 PM

Meeting Location: SWVA HigherEd Center (1 Partnership Circle, Abingdon, VA 24210)

If you are unable to attend a meeting, you may view the displays and provide your comments online.
You may also mail comments on highway projects to Infrastructure Investment Director, VDOT, 1401 E. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23219, or

Comments on rail, public transportation, and transportation demand management may be sent to Public Information Officer, DRPT, 600 E. Main St., Suite 2102, Richmond, Virginia 23219, or

Comments will be accepted until Dec. 13, 2018.

Bill Carrico on the Edge

Once again, that would be the Edge of Hurricane Florence that some meteorologists expect to smash into the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. From State Senator Bill Carrico:


As the impending storm approaches, I want you to know that our lines (276.237.6240/ will be open to assist you in any way that we can. Please be safe, and consult with the following helpful information.

Find your local Emergency Manager HERE. Your local

Flood safety guidelines provided by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management HERE.

Flood Safety Tips HERE.

Emergency Outage Checklist HERE.

Dominion Energy customers can report outages in two ways:
  1. Online at
  2. By phone at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)

Appalachian Power customers can report outages:
  1. Online at
  2. By phone at 1-800-956-4237

Motorists should visit or call 511 for the latest road conditions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dog Blog Rant: On the Other Paw

Growl...growl...growl...I typed this on a Saturday in August and thought for a while about whether I wanted to post it. I don't want to join the chorus of "Oh let's pamper domestic animal species into extinction by screaming that every single domestic animal, including hens, needs to be locked up in solitary confinement and sterilized!" I want that chorus to be recognized as coming from pet haters; I want people who actually like animals to start answering it, whenever they hear it, with "Oh go neuter-and-spay yourselves." But then, once in a while, I do see things that make us think, “On the other paw...” and that would be one of Candice's paws with seven claws each.

I was walking to work as usual, one morning in August, and I saw a car stop on the bridge where Route 23 overpasses Route 58. The car then started again, and two dogs ran down along the road. I didn’t photograph the car because I hadn’t seen whether it was the car from which the dogs were dumped out on the bridge, or a passer-by’s car that had stopped to avoid hitting the dogs, who obviously were not accustomed to dodging traffic. The smaller dog ran up the bank above the road and scampered into the weeds. The bigger dog looked as if she considered it and realized she wasn’t small or fast enough to scramble up the steep rocky bank. She was so scared of being in a strange, dangerous place, approached by a stranger, she didn’t know whether to go into a threat display or try to curl into a small ball in the ditch. Oops, she couldn’t curl into a small ball any more. She decided to cower beside the road, shiverinng visibly and wetting herself in panic.

She would have been a dangerous dog if she’d wanted to be. She looked like a mix of bull terrier and something a bit bigger. She looked as if she had never entertained an angry thought, but you wouldn’t want to be around her if she ever did.

Possibly that was why somebody didn’t want her to have puppies. When puppies out of that (well, you know what the correct word is) start scampering about and chomping on things, y’know, they could really chomp...

Or maybe it was because she wanted to be a sweet pet dog, and whoever bred her wanted puppies who were vicious fighting dogs. “Pit bulls” are so called because rather than being trained to herd actual bulls, like bulldogs, they were made to fight other dogs in pits. Bull terriers aren’t nearly as big or ugly as some other dogs. You can carry them around in your arms, let them sleep in your chimney corner or under the cow’s manger to watch for rats, and that is what nature intended them to do. Terriers can wipe out a rat colony where cats fail. But the “sport,” so called, was proving that some terriers can also kill those bigger, uglier dogs. Back in jolly old England there used to be people (?) who thought that was as much fun as a horse race. Most of those people were hanged or shot, but some escaped to America. If you turn over the wrong rock you might still find one somewhere.

Anyway this dog looked as if she might have weighed twenty-five pounds, at least five of which would have consisted of unborn puppies. She was white with blackish brown and tan spots. She had a terrier face, the jaw square and strong but not wider than the rest of the head. She was pregnant, not yet nursing, and looked close to term.

What she actually said was, of course, “Ow ow ow,” which was easily interpreted as “Where am I? Why did they put me out here? This place looks very dangerous. What’s going to become of my babies and me? Can you help me find my way back home?”

I thought that if she made it past the Cat Sanctuary to the home of the Young Grouch, she might be all right. The Grouch is not so very young any more, a Gulf War veteran and a real misanthrope, but he is kind to dogs if other humans keep out of the way and let the dogs find him for themselves.

All I could do was call the police, before this dog found her bearings and became desperate and dangerous. She had that in her. She had learned to depend on humans for food; if she couldn’t do that, she was likely to start killing chickens or kittens, or lambs, or even calves.

I didn’t have food for her. I had a job to do. I was lucky to have a cell phone to report the dog’s plight with.

People. (Is “people” even the applicable word?) If you don’t want your child to learn all about the wonders of birth and nursing and the joys of finding homes for anything that resembles the scare-word “pit bulls,” it’s not all that expensive to have a terrier spayed. If you’re employed and don’t want to be hit up for an inflated veterinary fee, you can always bribe a retired person to claim the dog and get her spayed for a reasonable fee. 

You cannot throw a pregnant bull terrier out on the highway and abandon her like that. You know she’s going to give birth, and then she’s going to want to eat for six, and people are going to panic about "A STARVING SNEAKING DROOLING PIT BULL! PROBABLY RABID!" and probably be so hysterical they only break her leg when they shoot her.

Whereas if you’d done the decent thing...the feed store near the retirement project would be the first place I would have tried to place her. They have dumpsters, and rats. They also have customers who might have wanted to give that dog a good home.

What did she do, anyway? Snap at somebody who bumped her and disturbed the prospective puppies inside her? You didn’t know that terriers are like cats only with stronger jaws, fierce little predators who nibble on people they like and bite when they’re scared, and when terriers bite they draw blood? Is that not the first thing everybody learns about all terriers, and don’t reasonable people live happily with terriers as pets, anyway? 

Or did she eat a chicken? Like duh, pregnant animals have big appetites and sudden cravings just like pregnant humans; so what? You couldn’t keep her away from chickens?

I had no facts to share with the police except that this friendly pregnant ex-pet was wandering around beside the highway. I walked on into town, where I heard that another whole pack of dogs, this time bigger than the ones people hauled up past the Cat Sanctuary to abandon "in the woods" during the Big Freeze, had been dumped out on the bridge. Other people hadn't seen the pregnant terrier and her smaller companion because they'd been more concerned about two bigger, scarier dogs they'd seen stravaging around, heading downtown, as if looking for stray children to devour. Lisiwayu would probably have brought those dogs into her house if she'd been in town. Lisiwayu was not in town. The dogcatcher wasn't either, and I didn't see a police car drive out from town toward where the pregnant terrier had been.

I didn't see her on the way home either. I might have tried to bring her to the Cat Sanctuary and lock her into a cage where she could give birth in peace, if I'd seen her, so I'm sort of glad I didn't see her. I have no experience with newborn puppies. The dog might, con suma suerte, have found her way to the Young Grouch. 

What could she possibly have done to deserve to be dumped out in a suburb, with a lot of town people, while being "A BIG FAT PIT BULL"!?

I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a pregnant bull terrier myself, but what of it? You were feeding her before she was pregnant. You could have made sure she wouldn’t become pregnant. You were what she had for a friend, whoever you were, and with friends like you, who needs enemies.

If you have a dog, and don’t want to have dogs, and if your dog is a mixed breed with a bull terrier look, get her spayed now.

Because bull terriers are so much harder to place than Dalmatians.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Snowflake Time

Yes, Gentle Readers, it’s true: I am urging women on Twitter to adopt a new rule that “f’you!” should always be treated as a threat of violence.

Kyle Kashuv, school shooting survivor, is taking the wrong tack by engaging the one of his former schoolmates who actually seems to want more young men shot in the back:

Young Hogg has had time to recover from the shock by now, and to know that gun bans in Washington, D.C., actually led to a flood of murders, 0.9 per day for years until murderers were told that nonviolent Washingtonians just might be able to shoot back again, and then the murder-a-day rate sunk back to a rate of homicide comparable with those in Maryland and Virginia overnight. (He knows this all right, because he's on Twitter and I've told him. With solid links; if anyone wants to review the links, send money and I'll post them again here.) He's not interested in keeping other school children safe. He's a hater who wants to be free to mow them down, himself. 

How do we know? By the fact that he continues to scream for gun bans, and by the way he reacted to an older woman who'd been kind to him. Males who say "f'you!" to females also say it to males. It means that they want to believe that (a) they're entitled to kill anyone and (b) they're able to kill women by rape. (Both beliefs are generally false and we might be a better society if we faced what really happens when the most sensitive part of the male body confronts the mighty female fingernail. Men can die that way, too...not that I'm recommending it.) 

Hater-boy needs and deserves to be ignored to death, on all media of communication, and in social life. (If he actually committed suicide because he was being ignored, no loss.) He needs to know that, for the rest of his wretched life, the only way he can hope to get the attention he craves is by saying "I humbly beg your kind and generous pardon, Ma'am." With appropriate body language. Until he starts to feel it. He needs to know that the only response his nasty little mouth is going to get, otherwise, is that if he yells loudly enough or spews out ugly enough words, he might find himself alone in a padded cell. 

Toward that goal, we need to eliminate hater-boy's hatespews from all public discourse.

This should not be done by robot censorship (although that's worked for some private forums). Though the F-word itself attracts bad things to computers when it’s not banned by site contracts, so typing it into a computer is always stupid, it’s not always a threat. People make babies in all kinds of moods and ways, so the rude word for that act is heard in all kinds of contexts. The way people use this word seems to correlate with the quality of their private lives. Desirable mates use any word that refers to making babies sparingly, but lightheartedly, with twinkles in their eyes. The ones who constantly talk about making babies in a bored, sullen, depressive, hostile way are advertising what they’re like in bed, and should be free to do so, just in case anyone might otherwise have been attracted to them.

I mean...the poster boy for using the F-word to express general hostility used to be Richard Nixon.

“‘F*k’ is my comma,”tweeted one poor little thing, identifying with too many young-and-hopeless types on whom it used to be fashionable for ladies to waste empathy. I don’t know that any amount of empathy for these people ever did them any good. So far as I've seen, they can’t be helped. They don’t have depression so much as they are depression. Their freedom to express themselves in ugly words at least makes it easier to avoid them. So let’em refer to excrement every time they open their mouths, since the easier it is to avoid them the better...but it’s time to call them to account for using a word that means making babies as a threat to commit rape/murder.

Defenders of printing “f*k” and using it in movies used to claim that they enjoyed making babies and wanted the world to be more comfortable with talking about making babies in a loving way. (There used to be a theory that if people felt more sensual pleasure they’d feel less violent etc. etc., as expressed by the slogan “Make Love Not War.” It’s considered to have been disproved.) Fine. You want to go on Twitter and tweet to your Significant Other about how you want to go home and f*k, fine. I don’t think that should be censored.

I do think it’d be good for Twitter, and especially good for angry millennial left-wingnuts, if everyone agreed that “F*k you” or “F*k teachers” or “F*k Trump” is a threat (even if it’s clearly an idle one) and/or a curse, expressing hate of a large demographic group (women), and profoundly offensive to the same. Somebody tweets it? Report it as a threat. Read “F*k you” exactly as you’d read “Shoot you.”

A lot of people have expressed idle thoughts about sex-free forms of when somebody told young Justin Carter that he was craaazy, maaan, and Carter replied something like “Right, I’m crazy, I’m going to a primary school and kill a lot of kids,” and, not content with just banning him from social media or making him write ten thousand words about why that “joke” wasn’t funny, adults literally, physically put Carter in jail.

Right. If Justin Carter’s idiotic joke put him in jail, then not only any threat of rape/murder, but also any statement of tolerance for the rape-terrorism “f*k you” implies, should put the speaker in jail. Hogg needs to be where Carter has been.

I posted a tweet to this effect. Somebody using a female-sounding screen name typed “I’d be serving multiple lifetime sentences.” Well, if you plan to continue threatening violent crimes, that may be appropriate. Burden on the State...not necessarily. This web site has endorsed the idea of nutritional therapy for convicts who are genuinely trying to control their impulses and subdue their rages, but this web site has never taken the position that convicts who aren’t trying to improve themselves necessarily need to be fed at all.

If you mean to say “I hate Trump,” which I’m sure is what the Twit meant, then that’s what you should say. Own your hate, your hysterical rage at a man you probably have never met and will never meet. It sounds like a mental illness that way. That is because it is one. When you admit your pathological hostility, you at least open a door for people to help you work through the emotion and find the real cause. For example, a young woman who feels a need to hate a politician who might defund her “right” to “choose” abortion is likely to be repressing awareness of how much she hates herself for letting herself be used to start an unwanted baby and then abort it. She may not have much difficulty finding her rage at the baby-daddy, but she needs help to find her self-hate before it gets even worse.

Some of the worst offenders in posting rape/murder threats on social media are the same individuals who whine that...

* wishing people “Merry Christmas” is “hurtful”

* referring to “the postman” (when “the letter carrier” might be female, horrors!) is “hurtful”

* allowing students to pray for a good safe game, before a sports event, is “hurtful”

* saying that someone shouldn’t have committed suicide upon receiving some bad news is “hurtful”

* and, of course, observing that this whining is silly and tiresome is terribly, terribly “hurtful.”

Right, kids. You want people to spare your tender sensibilities by not reminding you that some of us are celebrating holidays you don’t, not praying for their friends’ safety...and you want to be allowed to trample on the sensibilities of thousands of people Out There who have actually been raped, not to mention millions of women who’ve been denied jobs and even bullied about walking on public streets because the prospective employers and other bullies have failed to do their duty of removing rapists from the area, and it would be terribly hurtful if women showed them up by doing that ourselves...

It’s time to call foul.

Justin Carter had no serious intention of killing children, but instead of the social media ban he deserved he got actual jail time (and quite a lot of it). I’m sure the Twit who self-identified as a 25-year-old woman had no serious intention of raping Trump, either, but “she” certainly needs a social media ban and a thorough investigation.

I’m sure that anyone who uses a word that basically means making babies as a threat or curse definitely needs to be in a place where it’s 100% certain that s/he will not be able to make any babies. Or hurt anyone by trying.

Morgan Griffith on the Edge

That would be the Edge of Hurricane Florence, heading our way...From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith:

Preparedness for Hurricane Florence

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 – Our part of Virginia will likely face heavy rain and winds from Hurricane Florence. Be prepared. Pay attention to the forecast and emergency updates, and make sure you have enough food, water, medication, batteries, and other supplies to last for a few days if necessary.

Also, don’t forget to check in on your family, friends, and neighbors who may need some extra help. Does anyone you know have a medical device that depends on electricity? Have a backup plan in the event of a power loss and other contingencies.

Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn around, don’t drown.

To learn more about hurricane preparedness, please visit

(Edited, with apologies for pasting what looked like plain text in what was actually a messy graphic format so nobody could see the link...)

Phenology: Pests Recovering First, with Christmas Present Hint

Here's the follow-up from last week's post: Rereading, I realize that 

could have been better written. I described the scorched earth along Route 23 for people who'd been there, and thus omitted a crucial detail. Every yard of this roadside was not equally poisoned. Real moonscapes where everything had been killed appeared along guardrails. Selective spraying of bigger plants was visible along other segments (about as long as city blocks) on the three-mile roadside I described. There were greenish patches and browned-out patches.

During the past week, after the storms we've had hot humid weather, the kind we normally get in late July or early August but had missed this year. (We have still not had a true Code Red Day! All summer long!) That was what some plants had been waiting for; and although most plants are harmed by glyphosate, some plants react to it (and to other "herbicides" that haven't completely killed the roots) with bursts of explosive, aggressive regrowth. 

As a result, the eastbound side of miles 4-7 on Route 23 now has a weird, patchy look. Here, with predictable swirl effects, is the best I could do toward documenting it with a cheap cell phone camera. You still see scorched earth along the guardrail, but in this particular spot you can see positively lush regrowth with all your favorite late-summer flowers, not far away! 

That's of my favorites,'cos people used to blame it for my hayfever and asthma and it is so not an allergy trigger for me, but not necessarily one of your favorites,'cos it is a weed that crowds out garden plants and it does trigger some people's allergies. It felt the burn from the poisoning nearby. Close up you can see a few withered leaves. But it's roaring back. So are the other roadside standards I missed last week. Chicory, Ladies' Bedstraw (so called because it smells the way good perfumes try to smell), daisies, Queen Anne's Lace, wild sunflowers, native vetches, jewelweed (both orange and yellow), petunias, dandelions, late honeysuckle and red clover, morning glories, kudzu, a few early asters, had all been blooming slowly or not at all before poisoning, then withered by poisoning, but oh how they're roaring back now. Along some stretches of Route 23 the blue, yellow, pink, and orange are positively screaming at each other. If you can't be here later for the leaf peeping, you might want to drive through now for the flowers.

Along those can actually see a few things starting to grow back. Spanish Needle's preliminary rosettes appeared first but wild garlic, dandelions, and convolvuli grow fastest. But don't eat any of those wild garlic and dandelions, delicious though young sprouts of both species are when they pop up in your unsprayed not-a-lawn at home. They are cleaning poison out of the soil along Route 23 and are probably poisonous enough to send some people to the hospital.

The convolvulus varieties called bindweeds, or "bad bindweed," grow much faster than the varieties called morning glories, which have prettier flowers. I saw two varieties of bindweed and three of morning glory blossoms. More about this large family of flowering vines:

When you poison anything, even with natural disease germs that affect some other lifeforms but are harmles to humans, you always see more of the unwelcome lifeforms sooner than you see more valuable species that are vulnerable to the same toxin or pathogen.

Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, nobody wants to see heirloom orchards and historic forests munched up by the unlovable larvae of Lymantria dispar, the Dreaded Gyps, so various bacteria and virus cultures have been cultivated for the purpose of making Dreaded Gyps sick. These are diseases that caterpillars naturally get; human interference is being limited to collecting and concentrating the pathogenic microorganisms so that more caterpillars succumb to these diseases. Caterpillars are alien enough from birds and animals that most of the diseases they get do not affect most of their natural predators.

Predators are important because the only real problem with the gyps is that in North America they don’t have enough predators. Nature controls populations of this over-reproducing species in two ways. In Europe, where they’re native, birds eat them; and also in Europe trees have evolved to be less nutritious or even toxic, so that it’s harder for little gyps to survive. In North America, where neither of these natural processes has had time to occur, humans have to become predators on gyps, which is a nuisance—even though the most efficient way to do it does not involve handling either poison or caterpillars.

To control Lymantria dispar, which is required by law in some parts of the Northeast, you just look for light brown furballs that adhere to vertical surfaces, showing that they were not coughed up by a cat. They actually consist of a froth of gypsy moth eggs covered by the parents’ long loose hair. (Most moths have a lot of body hair. Gypsy moths are positively furry when they emerge from their cocoons, but shed most of their hair in the process of fertilizing and laying eggs.) You scrape this egg mass into a bucket and burn it. You don’t even have to kill anything that can feel pain.

The Blue Ridge Mountains contain enough acres of forests that so far nobody has felt confident about recruiting students to collect all the gypsy moth eggs, although it’s the kind of tedious job that seems naturally suitable for convicts.

Anyway we’ve had almost a mothless, butterfly-less, wasp-less year at the Cat Sanctuary. Mainly I’ve missed my colonies of Polistes fuscatus, which are almost exclusively insect eaters and, being insects, are vulnerable both to insect diseases and to nest predation by stinkbugs. If you hate having gnats dive at your eyes and nose as much as I do, you too can positively warm up to paper wasps.

I’ve seen only one pair of Tiger Swallowtails, our state butterfly. Normally there ought to be dozens by early September. They’re great composters and particularly like slurping up oil-slicked mud; males gather in masses at polluted puddles and females fly around checking them out. But not this year.

I’ve seen only three cute little Desmia moths, who eat wild grapevines, which are native but a nuisance.

I’ve seen none of the amusing Tiger moths, of which my favorite is Haploidea bipuncta...but I’ve not seen any Isia or Arctia either. (Then again, I have seen encouraging numbers of Hyphantria cunea in the fall, and several caterpillars of a related family that have the English name “Daggers.” Daggers caterpillars are mostly covered in long pale fur, with a few ornamental tufts of dark hair that might suggest daggers on a belt.)

This cell phone takes bad, bad pictures, even under ideal conditions, but that's the general shape of a Daggers caterpillar crawling on the rim of a water dish.

I’ve seen no Sphinx moths all year. (Big Sphinx moths in the genus Manduca are pests; smaller ones are interesting, with long lives and strong bodies as moths go, enough sense not to be distracted by lights, and in some species the ability to hiss or squeak.)

I’ve seen very few of the pretty Zebra Swallowtails on which pawpaw trees depend for pollination.

I’ve seen none of the smaller dark swallowtails the female Tigers imitate.

I’ve seen no Tulip Tree Beauties and very few of the smaller Geometrid moths whose caterpillars are called inchworms.

I’ve seen just a few little dark Skipper butterflies, none of the Silver-Spotted ones, which can be a nuisance but are another species of great composters.

I’ve seen one or two Red-Spotted Purples, one or two Vanessas, but no pairs...and no Fritillaries.

If I’d seen the Hibiscus Leaf Moth in time, I wouldn’t have seen...actually, only ten or twenty Hibiscus Caterpillars got past the wrens and cardinals, but as Mother planted only two Hibiscus syriaca that was enough to blast the flowers and defoliate one of the bushes.

And then on Sunday night I went out looking for hibiscus caterpillars at night. I didn’t see any. I did see spiders watching for them, which was sort of heart-warming (I like spiders, and anything else that eats gnats and mosquitoes), and then I also saw the “Packsaddle.”

Books usually call this caterpillar “Saddleback,” but its four branching bristles, and the color pattern that suggests a vented cover, look remarkably like an oldfashioned pack saddle. Funnily enough, when I was growing up I heard people calling the more common Daggers “Packsaddles” too, since some of them have four tufts placed at the corners. That may be why the local common name is not used in the books. If you touch them you'll know the difference. Daggers look spiky, but their soft fur feels almost like a cat's fur. Packsaddles' bristles sting.

Out with the loppers and I brought this nasty little animal indoors. Packsaddles’ branching bristles are loaded with venom so, although interesting, they’re another species that needs for humans to be predators, not poisoners. I didn’t think the local population needed to be allowed to evolve a taste for hibiscus leaves and I think they always need encouragement to evolve a preference to stay as far away from humans as they can get. As with gyps: see one, kill one. They have thick little hides so this one didn’t seem badly hurt by being picked up in the loppers. (I use loppers to pick thinner-skinned hibiscus caterpillars off the leaves and kill them.)

They’re in a family of moths, the Limacodidae, defined by the caterpillars’ peculiar feet. Note how smooth its underside looks. The feet have suckers rather than claws and stick out at its side edges.

This specimen of Acharia or Sibine stimulea is in a tin of wax I use for off-grid cooking, perching on kitchen matches, to illustrate how small it is. I don’t particularly care that it’s hardly an inch long; if it had got down someone’s neck it could leave more than an inch-long rash. No points for guessing what’s about to become of it.

Most insects have relatively thin exoskeletons so burning them in a tin of wax is a very efficient, humane way to kill them, almost as humane as crushing them with sticks or, if one happened to be a bird, in one’s beak. The Packsaddle, unfortunately, has a thick skin and might have had half a minute to feel the heat before it stopped quivering and sank down into the melting wax.

Moths and butterflies are so small, with so little room for brain, that many species display mind-boggling “stupidity”—lack of perceptions and defenses other animals have. The Packsaddle is able to depend so completely on its thick skin and venomous bristles that it didn’t try to escape while being photographed, even when handled (with burnt matches, held like chopsticks). For this caterpillar, unlike most, standing still and letting itself be gripped is its most effective defense, so nature has not provided it with others.

When transferred from the loppers to the matches propped up in the wax like candle wicks, it bit into a charred end, spat out a lump of charcoal, and flopped down onto the solid wax. (I took a picture of its little beady black head biting off an end of a match, but that one came out even worse than these pathetic pictures you see above.) When turned upside down to display its slick underside it did display a righting reflex (few animals want to stay upside down), but it didn’t try to move off the wax. Even when I lighted the matches the Packsaddle showed a lack of survival intelligence, a complete reliance on survival instincts that were all wrong for the situation. It clung to the wax as the wax melted under it, quivering but not budging, holding up its bristles.

The appearance of the Packsaddle, Daggers, and Fall Webworms shows that autumn caterpillars are less affected than spring ones, which means local populations of moths and butterflies that have two-month life cycles may begin to recover this fall. Swallowtail caterpillars and inchworms can be considered fall as well as spring species.

But you notice which species are recovering first! In the fifteen years since Mother planted the “Rose of Sharon” hibiscus bushes, this is the first time they’ve attracted a Packsaddle.

Can this post use an Amazon link? Oh totally! Click here to improve the quality of photos at your favorite web site...