Fall Setback

Fallen Apples

Fallen Apples

I slept for twelve hours last night fighting a cold I hope doesn’t turn into something else.

The big comforter kept me warm, and except for doing two loads of laundry around 1 a.m., I slept in four two to three hour parcels.

I feel achy, this morning, but the coughing reduced significantly. I’m easing into a day of writing, yard work and cookery. There is no other choice than to get to work.

The Social Security Administration sent us an annual statement last month. At the current benefits level, we should be fine if we can make it to full retirement age of 68. The current authorization is expected to fund it until 2041, in which year I will turn 90. After that, who knows if the Congress will address the program in a positive way. There’s a lot of living to do before then.

An acquaintance from working in the warehouse stopped at the orchard yesterday. He left as well, taking a part time job at a different warehouse store for $16 per hour. He said others have left. I’ll check the job out, and if accepted, and it fits my writing schedule, I may take it. All of those are unknowns — part of this week’s discovery. It was good to see him again.

Today seems like it will be alright. Not perfect — what day ever is — but serviceable. Perhaps a portal to potential unrealized in a turbulent world.

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It Takes More Than A President

Bernie Sanders at the 2014 Johnson County Democrats BBQ

Bernie Sanders at the 2014 Johnson County Democrats BBQ

It’s hard to disagree with Bernie Sanders (I-VT): a political revolution is needed to make sustained, progressive change in the U.S. political system.

It takes more than a president.

“No president, not the best intentioned in the world can implement the changes we need in this country without a political revolution,” Sanders said at the University of Chicago on Sept. 28. “I am talking about the need to transform the political system.”

Unless Sanders can inspire more Americans to participate in the political process, any top-down plan for revolution is set to fail. He knows this.

“There is nothing that I am telling you today that is pie in the sky, that is Utopian. Nothing,” Sanders said. “We can accomplish all of that and more, but we will not accomplish that if 80 percent of young people do not vote. We will not accomplish that if 63 percent of the American people do not vote.”

Let’s say Sanders overtakes Hillary Clinton’s double-digit lead for the Democratic nomination for president. There is time for him to do that, and key Clinton endorsers acknowledge privately it is possible.

Much of the Democratic establishment in Iowa, including former senator Tom Harkin, has endorsed Clinton. Journeyman blogger Pat Rynard details some of them here. If Clinton secures the endorsement of Democratic politicos and Sanders wins the Iowa caucuses, what then?

What we know, or should, is once the nomination is finalized the party needs a kumbaya moment to elect the nominee. Mine is a history of picking losers when I have caucused in Iowa. Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, John Kerry (won caucus, lost presidential election), and John Edwards. I’m well familiar with having to settle for someone who was not my first choice.

Some, like aficionado of the sport of kings Jerry Crawford, will pivot or lose what credibility they have left. The rest will go along with mixed levels of enthusiasm. That’s not the core issue.

Without legislative support any president’s agenda is reduced to a small number of victories combined with executive actions. The power of the presidency is not insignificant, however, implementing the proposals evident in almost every Sanders speech will prove impossible if the Congress continues to be dominated by money, corruption and the influence of corporations. To be effective, the new president will need congressional support in the form of an Iowa congressional delegation consisting of more than Dave Loebsack (IA-02).

We each have some take-away from Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week. Mine was his pointing to the bas-relief portrait of Moses by Jean de Marco hanging in the House chamber. It may take a Moses figure to lead us out of the political quagmire where we find ourselves in exile from the democracy created by the founders.

“You are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face,” Pope Francis said on role of Congress. We are a long way from that, and both Sanders and Clinton know it.

My bet is on Clinton winning the nomination, but a focus solely on the presidential horse race misses Sanders’ point. Winning the general election is by no means a slam dunk for Democrats. Key to Democratic success in 2016 is organizing now to bring more people into the process. This is where the use of corporate money, control of the media, and emphasis on religion is serving Republicans.

While voter registration matters to the party, it’s importance is eroded by the clear expression of more than a third of the electorate that “No Party” is better than any party. The focus on the Iowa caucuses and the presidential pick is a distraction from what we need to do to accomplish Sanders’ revolution.

There are no easy answers to Sanders’ call for a revolution. As long as Democrats focus on the horse race, revolutions will remain a part of history — something to distract us from today’s problems, the ones many avoid confronting.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Fall Cookery – Preserving Local Food

Hay Bale

Hay Bale

I connected with Local Harvest CSA last week. The farm looked great.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey stopped there with my state representative, Bobby Kaufmann. I spent a couple of hours chatting and collecting information for an article that appeared Saturday in the Iowa City Press Citizen.

The next day Susan provided three crates of bell pepper seconds to eat and preserve. The freezer and vegetable drawer are now full. The good news is there weren’t many clinkers among them.

Our garden kept me busy this summer, producing more than enough for our kitchen and some to give some away. Tomatoes, kale and hot peppers are in abundance. The rest of the Red Delicious apples will soon be harvested. I spent most of Monday in the kitchen preserving food.

The kitchen day began with picking a bucket of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in the garden.

Cutting the bad spots from the tomatoes, I cooked them and made sauce using an old timey tomato juicer with a wooden cone. The byproduct was 1-1/2 quarts of juice which is chilling in the ice box, ready for soup.

Coring and cutting bell peppers into slabs for the freezer is straightforward. I freeze them on a cookie sheet, then bag them for storage. That way they don’t freeze together. Two bags left from last year were in good shape so I added six more — a full year’s supply.

A bag of roasted red peppers and one of jalapenos was left in the freezer from last year. After thawing, I cut the jalapenos in half and put both into the Dutch oven. Adding bits and pieces of pepper leftover from the freezing operation, once tender, the lot went into the food processor until the mixture reached the consistency of relish. I put the result into half-pint jars and processed in a water bath.

I make some applesauce each year even though there is plenty in the pantry. The labor produced two quarts which wait in the ice box until more jars are ready to process in the water bath.

The remainder of the first crate of Red Delicious apples was juiced. I spent half an hour managing vinegar, bottling what was finished from the two-quart jar started in the spring and adding new juice to the mother. There are three finished quarts in the pantry. I may never buy apple cider vinegar again.

When the sun set, the implements of preservation were scattered on the counter — clean and drying. Yesterday I used my hand tomato juicer, a sieve, an apple peeler, an electric juicer, the food processor, a turkey baster, the granite ware water-bath canner, and the usual lot of bowls, jars, lids and rings. Knowing what to do makes it easier with each passing year.

There is a sense that these days of harvest cookery can’t go on forever. Suffice it I’ll keep living them for as long as possible, trying to learn from every season.

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Electricity and Our Future

Annual MeetingIt would be great to just plug into a socket, use electricity and be done with it. There’s more to it than that.

We take lighting after sundown for granted, as we do preserving food in the ice box and proper functioning of the myriad of appliances in a modern home.

Since before the Christian Era, humans have attempted to understand how our universe works. I was reminded of this while doing research on tonight’s supermoon lunar eclipse, the mechanics of which were worked out by the ancients around 200 B.C.E., according to Robert Mutel at the University of Iowa.

Since the industrial revolution began, humans have increased development of community solutions to improve lives. The expansion of electrical usage is one of the great things to emerge, transforming lives where whale oil, then kerosene were the primary fuels used to illuminate darkness.

People continue to pay limited attention to electricity. Friday the Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative annual meeting was held at the Teamsters hall in Cedar Rapids.

The report from staff was that while the number of new connections was down in 2014, crews found plenty of maintenance work to do. The organization is financially sound.

The event turns out a lot of elderly couples who use the occasion to get out of the house, socialize with friends and neighbors, and take advantage of the free lunch, door prize drawing and gifts. Among this year’s gifts was a portable mobile phone charger, something even octogenarians might use.

LED - Incandescent Light Bulb Demonstration

LED – Incandescent Light Bulb Demonstration

A demonstration comparing electricity usage of incandescent and LED light bulbs was set up outside. When the demonstrator threw a switch, changing which bulb was turned on, the change in speed of the rotating gear on the electrical meter indicating usage was obvious. The message was buy energy efficient light bulbs and when you do, look at the number of lumens rather than wattage when picking one.

While attendees ate lunch from their laps on folding chairs — choice of cheeseburger or chicken sandwich with sides of baked beans and potato salad — a slide show enumerated financial incentives for home owners and businesses to take advantage of to reduce electricity usage when installing new appliances or constructing a new home or business.

Would that life were so simple when it comes to electricity.

The REC has this statement about how their electricity is generated on its current website.

Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative is committed to providing electricity that is reliable, cost effective and sustainable. One hundred percent of our electric power needs are provided by Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO), a generation and transmission cooperative.

CIPCO meets our energy needs with a diverse fuel mix of coal, nuclear, hydro, landfill gas, wind, natural gas and oil energy resources. In 2013, approximately 95 percent of the power CIPCO provided to its members was generated right here in Iowa; and over 60 percent of its electricity is generated from carbon free resources that minimize the impact to our natural environment.

Specific generating capacity is listed on the CIPCO website.

CIPCO Map of Generating Sources 9-27-15

CIPCO Map of Generating Sources 9-27-15

There is some political posturing here, in that CIPCO draws electricity from the NextEra Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa’s lone nuclear reactor. One assumes that is part of the “carbon free resources” mentioned, even though tremendous carbon-based resources are used in preparation for the moment heat is produced by nuclear chain reaction to boil water.

There’s probably more obfuscation here if one took the time for analysis. It’s not worth the time. Scientific evidence is clear that the ceaseless emission of CO2 pollution by electricity generation stations using fossil fuels is a primary cause of global warming. If people are distracted and assuaged by door prizes and flowery language, they won’t be for long. Global warming is impacting our climate in a pronounced, negative (to humans) way.

The Environmental Protection Agency recognized CO2 as a pollutant and this summer rolled out new regulations in the Clean Power Plan. As with all things governmental, there is a political aspect to the plan. Some states are resisting implementation.

Each state is required to locally implement the Clean Power Plan. In many ways the Clean Power Plan is an opportunity for democratization of how energy is produced and used, and we should take advantage of it, said historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz. He called for “an all-out mobilization with potentially far-reaching consequences,” as states adopt a plan.

In Iowa, Governor Branstad has been resistant to the Clean Power Plan, saying only that he would wait and see the final regulations before commenting. The future is well known as Iowa has consistently said the state will adopt no stricter regulations than those required by the federal government. One expects the state to take minimal steps in compliance, and only after hearing from the American Legislative Exchange Council, and waiting out initial litigation regarding the new rules.

The trouble is transition to renewable, carbon-free sources of electricity can’t occur fast enough to undo the CO2 pollution already emitted into the atmosphere. Urgency at our annual REC meeting only took the form of opening water bottles and cutlery packs with reduced physical capacity.

A lot of good work is going on regarding development of new electricity sources that directly harness the wind and sun. Our future is to accelerate development and implementation of carbon-free, nuclear free electricity. That means a lot more than using the phrase on the REC’s website or in a blog post.

People don’t react well to non-imminent threats. Our future is raising awareness of the climate crisis without causing people to withdraw from society.

While looking up a link for this post, I saw a Bobby Jindal web ad on my article. Jindal referred to the negativity in our world and said, “It’s time to turn to God.” Maybe. For those of us already oriented that direction, there is plenty of work to be done on earth to improve the human condition. Mitigating the causes of global warming is an important part of it.

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Next Steps as a Writer

Sorting Station

Sorting Station

I plan to reduce my blog writing to one post per week to focus on a couple of larger writing projects off line.

This platform will continue to address sustainability issues. I hope regular readers will find future posts thoughtful and engaging.

The clock on this life is ticking, and there is a lot to accomplish during the next five years. Hopefully the results will be worth sharing.

I’ll continue to freelance for newspapers and post links to my on line work on my Facebook page. Like the page here if you want to follow along.

Thanks for reading.

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Not Much of a Boycott

Geifman Food Store on LocustWord from a friend was to leave discussion of the Solon city council’s minimum wage vote at home when I visit later in the week. It’s nice to know stuff like that in advance.

More than a few locals are upset about the decision to lower the city’s minimum wage to the state figure after the county raised it. Some, including people who live here, have called for a boycott of Solon businesses.

My response is a boycott won’t matter much in our household.

Our main dining out is at Nomi’s Asian Restaurant where we have been going since she and her husband opened. Asian takeout will continue to be on our menu when we don’t want to cook at home. It is too far to drive anywhere else to get it. We only visit bars and eateries in town when there is a specific meet up with people we know, and not many times in a year.

I’ll continue to buy convenience foods at the grocery store. The staples are secured at a variety of other stores for lower prices, better selection, and to meet specific needs. We go to the grocery store more often than we dine out, but not by much.

When I worked in Coralville I bought gasoline at Costco because of the convenience and a slight discount. This business will transfer to Solon, but the impact on the local economy will be almost nil. As everyone knows, margins are slim on retail gasoline sales. At our two Casey’s General Stores the revenue goes directly into whatever bank the Ankeny based corporation uses. Casey’s has the city’s lowest price for a gallon of milk, so when we run out of Costco milk at $2.60 per gallon, I’ll buy at Casey’s for a dollar more.

I visit the hardware store for certain needs. I buy canning supplies there even though they are more expensive. It is the kind of hardware store where a person can take in a bolt or screw and buy more like it — exactly how many are needed. They carry things used in a typical garage: lawn mower spark plugs, clips, fasteners, hand tools, lubricants and sundry items. If a need develops, they will be the first stop because of their inventory. The two women who run the place may or may not be making a wage. They didn’t come to the city council meeting. I suspect they have an opinion, but don’t want to share it publicly. Likewise for every other business owner that didn’t speak at the meeting.

All told, the amount of dollars we spend in the community never amounted to a hill of beans, or any other legume. If I participated in a boycott of local business it would hurt me more than them, increasing the isolation that has become home to us. In any case a boycott is not being organized like others that have been successful. The boycott talk is more fantasy than reality.

In 1965 our family boycotted grapes to support the Delano Grape strike. I remember Father explaining who Cesar Chavez was, that grapes were grown mostly in the California Central Valley, and the importance of a fair wage. We weren’t buying them at the Geifman’s Food Store near our house and didn’t for the duration of the boycott. I loved grapes, and still do, but accepted that there was a shared cause that required sacrifice.

There is none of that in the relatively wealthy Solon environs over this issue. If there were, a boycott would be more viable. For now, life goes on much as it did before the city council voted to lower minimum wage.

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Sunday Writing

Notebook and Passport

Notebook and Passport

These days I wonder less about my readership than I used to. While my numbers are nowhere near the popular Jackie Collins who succumbed to breast cancer yesterday, I continually run into people who read my online work and provide positive feedback.

It’s not an income source, but it could be the start of something.

My Autobiography in 1,000 Words, has been the most popular post on On Our Own.

Some of my newspaper work gets more page views, and of course there’s the print version, but still, the autobiography post has gotten lasting attention through the almost two years it has been out there.

When a person writes, having an audience is an important part of it.

When he was in Cedar Rapids, Al Gore spoke about raising readerships and its importance in the post-Internet adoption era. He used Finnegan and Jackson Harries, identical twin brothers who developed the YouTube channel JacksGap: A Story Telling Project Inspired By Travel, as an example. The site has over 4 million subscribers.

Finn Harries sat at my table, and while I was supposed to be his mentor, he offered a lot more for me to learn than I him. When Finn Harries posts something, in any medium, people read and respond. They have been able to commercialize what they do, and that’s important to sustainability.

The limited amount of paid writing I’ve done has served my craft more than my wallet. What is a suitable goal for someone like me to generate income from writing?

It seems more important to work on readership. There may someday be enough readers to support formal publication of my writing, or lead to a paying gig. Gaining a readership is more important than an accumulation of posted pieces that get a couple thousand page views, which is where I am today.

That means continuing daily writing, and posting some of it on this blog. Learning my craft is important, but less so than understanding why people read me and mining that vein. Going forward that’s where I plan to spend my writing time.

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