SEC surfing

The SEC scandal really caught my attention. That would be the finding that more than a few SEC officials were spending work time surfing the net for porn. It raises so so many issues in my mind- not the least of which is how an employee can spend that much time on the internet doing non work related stuff and still be getting the job done sufficiently to stay employed. According to the reports one high level official was spending 8 hours a day on porn surfing. One thing this tells you for sure is that the agency is overstaffed. I can’t imagine any place I’ve ever worked where a person could spend that much time on personal endeavors and not be noticed. I really don’t care that it happened to be porn they were viewing and would find it just as disturbing if they were using taxpayer funded time watching golf, sports, movies, Oprah or whatever. It bothers me that the media is focusing on the fact that these loafers were surfing porn rather than the fact that they were stealing from the public as if the content is the problem. I would guess there are orders of magnitude more time spent/wasted (by gov’t workers) on U-tube and Facebook than surfing porn and guess what, it costs taxpayers just as much to surf social networks as porn networks.

And unless you think there’s something perverted about the SEC, you have to know that this same personal surfing is going on throughout the government. I’d like to see an experiment using the SEC as a test case – dump 10% of the employees and see if in any way, shape or form the output of the agency is impacted. We all know the answer to that – probably end up getting more done with the reduced head count. Clearly there’s a way that the tech weenies can figure out how much time is being spent surfing personal stuff so assign a team to do a lookback for the last 6 months. List all those who have had non work related computer activity and the amount of time spent by each. Use that list to identify the ones to be canned-the one with the most personal time on the computer is the first out the door. I think it’s important not to try to assess the kind of personal surfing and designate some as not so bad – time wasted is time wasted and it costs the taxpayers just as much for people to check sports scores as porn. After the SEC, quick jump on the IRS, depts of education, energy, and all those other do nothing agencies.

Summer projects

Have a new and no doubt tasty ingredient going into the compost pile. My neighbor has 3 Koi ponds, each about 20’x7′. He does a major clean out every few years to remove the muck and debris that accumulates on the bottom. The ponds are, more or less, shaded by oak trees so they collect their share of leaves,pollen, squirrel droppings and whatever else falls from the trees. I mentioned in an earlier blog that we have experienced a heavier than usual leaf drop which triggered George to clean out the ponds this year. In addition to Koi, there are hundreds if not thousands of other tropicals in the ponds including swordtails, mollies, and guppies. So to say that the muck that accumulates on the bottom is rich in organics would be a major understatement. There are now several hundred pounds of this muck in the compost pile working it’s magic. One thing for sure, the vegetables in the garden can’t complain that they don’t get a variety of organics to munch on and there’s something in there to please the palate of even the most fussy plant. The mix du jour is Koi muck with a hint of key lime tree clippings and overtones of peas, cabbage and broccoli. Yummy!

I mentioned before that my neighbor is a firewood guy and that we literally spend hours cutting down trees and then splitting logs into firewood. With big oak trees, the log splitting is a real task involving pure brute labor. That is until now. George’s nephew bought a hydraulic log splitter and we used it today. What a great piece of equipment. It’s got 22 tons of force and splits a log that would have taken us an hour in about 1 minute. We went through 2 big oaks in a couple of hours and have enough firewood for next season. Without a doubt it would have taken us two or three days to split the pile and totally wore us to a frazzle.

Have two big projects in front of me to be accomplished in the next couple of months. I want to add an extension to the dock to add space for a picnic table. When we have events everyone invariably drifts down to the dock and unless a bunch of them are out in the lake, it can get a bit close and not a good place for serving a meal. My expansion will add about 150 square feet, under shade, which is more than enough for an eating area. We’ll have to sink two pilings which I have left over from the original job, construct an under frame using rough cut lumber from a local sawmill and then top with standard decking. I estimate that with Joey and Mark, we should be able to do the job in 2-3 days. I haven’t got a hard schedule but want it ready for Simon’s graduation party in early June. I would have started earlier this month but the cold winter means that water is still uncomfortably cold and there’s lots of wet work involved.

The other project is to add square footage to the garden. We’ve talked about expanding it for a couple of years but I’ve held back until I could get the soil built up in the space we started with. I had figured that to be a 3 year job and that’s how it turned out. The expansion area will be about 200 square feet. My strategy is to overlay the new area with clear plastic sheets to kill the field grass then dump loads and loads of mulch after the grass has given it up. The compost making operation along with the Shop Vac leaf mulcher should provide plenty of material to build up a nice organic base without having to till into the field at all. If my estimates are anywhere close, I should be able to actually plant in the new area by November. If not, by next summer for sure which would give us enough room to make another run at growing corn. I do want to hold off about a month before starting to make sure that I’ve broken the code on controlling the nematodes in the current garden. If not, no sense in just having more area for nematode grazing.

So all in all, I should have a busy summer.

current events commentary

This Icelandic volcano is going to provide much needed cover for the global warming scientists and allow them to officially switch from a warming mode to a cooling mode. Last year’s mild hurricane season and the so far mild tornado season has been giving them heartburn trying to explain how a more energetic climate is consistent with obviously milder weather. With the volcano they’ll be able to crank a new factor into their models and start acknowledging that, guess what, it’s cooling off and their reputations are thus salvaged.

I had to chuckle last night when it was announced that criminal charges were either coming or being contemplated against Goldman Sachs for selling risky investments and at the same time selling insurance to protect against risky investments and even taking a position against some of the investments they were selling. First, nobody is going to jail from Goldman unless they can find some stooge willing to take the fall for a bundle later. If you take a census of big wigs in the financial management of the country – I mean inside the government – you will find loads of Goldman alumni. In fact I’m not sure you can have a senior position in Treasury or with any of the Fed financial agencies without having done time at Goldman. So expect lots of smoke and zero flame. In my opinion, the people that should be raked over the coals are not the folks selling risky investments, but those in a fiduciary position buying them; for example, the financial managers of pension funds where the really killer losses occurred. They call bonds paying ultra high interest rates Junk bonds for a reason. The most unseasoned investor knows that when you’re buying instruments paying double, triple or way higher multiples of the CD rate, you’re playing with fire. So in my mind, when a pension fund manager or someone managing public funds takes a position in risky investments, that’s bordering on criminal.

Another interesting article in the paper was that UF won the National College Bass Fishing Tournament this year – the first year for the event. The season consisted of 40 events country wide culminating in Lake Loudoun outside Knoxville. There were 25 teams in this final event including Auburn, Ohio State, and Oregon. How sweet is that. So Florida officially owns Ohio State with national wins in football, basketball, and now bass fishing. A trifecta; a hat trick; a turkey.

And while on the subject of college athletics – I heard on the tube that Rollins College took 7th place in the Playboy annual party school competition. Something fundamentally wrong with that. What next, Stetson???

Believe it or not, I’m actually ok with some of Obama’s plan for NASA. I’ve never been a big fan of NASA so getting them out of short range space travel is fine with me. But I think the only way you get private enterprise in the loop is for the gov’t to commit to wanting to use the space transporter a certain number of times over a certain time interval and willing to pay $X for that. I don’t have a clue what numbers make sense. Is it 10 trips a year for the next 10 years at $40M per trip??? Do they need to move people or just cargo? With that info, Boeing or Lockheed or whomever will turn the crank and see if it makes sense. Can the development expense be amortized over the customer’s commitment? Is there really a market outside the US Gov’t which can change priorities every couple of years with each new election cycle? Let NASA look at the big picture of putting a permanent base on Mars or something of that magnitude. A plan to land somebody on an asteroid in 2030 is a fairly lame goal unless the asteroid were made of gold or something valuable. Not that landing on an asteroid is easy, just that asteroids have no sizzle as a 20 year goal. When you think about it, we let private contractors design and build all of our military gear. There’s not any question about whether or not they’re as well equipped to do it as the military itself so why is NASA any different than DOD? My concern is that if NASA’s goals and objectives are all these 20 year out projects, nothing will ever get completed. In the high tech world, 20 years is an infinity of time and midway or a quarter of the way through project of that length, we’ve gone through a couple of generations of technology and trying to mesh new techniques with ones that were current when the project was started. Put on top of that the fact that over the course of a 20 year project the political body has turned over a couple of times with each changing wanting to put their mark on the future. The only reason we got to the moon when we did was that the timetable was set relatively short. The only reason the feds were able to pull off an interstate highway system is that it was nominally low tech and done at a fever pitch with clear, definable goals.

Last news commentary – watched a special the other night on how Detroit is collapsing. Went through all the history of how great it was and how nasty and broken it is now. Tell us something we don’t know. Detroit never recovered from the race riots in the 60’s which about burned it down. And the reason they’ve never recovered is that the UAW and other unions have such a grip on Michigan that it became a place for businesses to avoid. And they did. So when non-unionized auto manufacturing took up outside Michigan, it was all over. The new mayor, Dave Bing of basketball fame, has a plan to shrink the city. Tear down all the boarded up, blighted neighborhoods to create a giant green field for new starts. I think that might work so long as the mind set of the folks still living there can adjust or move away to Cleveland or something. I think the job of making Detroit a clean livable city without the corruption and crime it’s famous for is not too much different than remaking Afghanistan. So good luck Dave.

lots and lots of leaves

One thing we have in awesome quantity this year are leaves. We lived in a heavily treed area so you would normally expect we have an abundance of leaves and we do but this year is incredible. Our driveway is about 10′ wide and roughly 300′ from the road to the house. It’s been totally covered with leaves for a couple of months now and I decided to use my new mulching shop vac to convert these leaves to garden ready compost. In just 10′ of driveway I picked up 3 large loads of leaves which converted into one 50 gallon black plastic bag. I’m guessing that I actually put 36 gallons in each bag since a full 50 gallons is too heavy to handle. I now have 4 full bags and probably twice that amount left to go before I have the driveway finished. Between that and the normal compost being generated from garden waste and shredded jungle clippings, I am now in a serious overload mode.

I’ve contemplated adding a couple hundred square feet to the garden in the past but decided against it because I didn’t think I’d be able to generate enough compost to support more area. Don’t think that’s a problem now. And also because it’s a real back breaking job to till up the field. What I see now is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by using all this excess mulch to do the heavy lifting. I’m going to block off an expansion to the garden and just dump the mulched leaves and jungle clippings there over top of the field grass. I’m 100% confident that all the growth underlying will rot and die, just becoming part of the organic mix. I have in mind that it will be no problem starting out with an 18” deep topping and then add to that as the early layer decays. Then in about 6 months, till it all to create totally organic garden area. I’m also confident that this deep blanket of mulch over the summer will totally cook the underlying soil and kill off the nematodes with a combination of starving them and roasting them. The only question in my mind is do we really need a bigger garden?. We can’t consume all we generate now. The added space would maybe let me do a better job of stagger planting so the harvesting is spread out to better fit how we actually use the produce.

The garden itself is doing fantastic. Already see teeny tiny squash, itsy bitsy cucumbers and tomato blossoms. And so far, no creepy crawlies gnawing on the leaves. Even so, I’ve sprayed it all twice – once with an organic potion name Neem and once with a natural oil called Pyola oil. I don’t think either of these is potent enough to deal with a full onslaught of bugs but maybe ok to deal with the first wave of invaders. We’re going to have a nice overlap this year between the winter crops and the spring crops. Still picking peas, spinach, and cabbage for the next 2-3 weeks which is just about when the first squash and cucumbers should be ready. Even if we weren’t still harvesting, there’s enough stuff in the refrigerator to last at least another 2 weeks

Garden happnin’s

The garden is just about at the halfway point in terms of winter and summer crops. Still picking peas, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, celery, spinach and onions while the recently planted tomatoes, green beans, squash, and cucumbers are getting noticeably bigger. By the end of April we’ll be 100% into summer goodies. At this point I can say this has been an excellent winter garden and I just hope that the success continues on for the next few months. Between bugs and rain, last summer was a total disaster. I’m hopeful because the soil has been enriched by as much as 12 cubic yards of compost and the row levels are perhaps a foot higher than at this same time last year. Another thing I’m going to do differently is set up a regular bug spraying schedule instead of the ad hoc approach I’ve taken in the past. I think what I’ve learned is that once you start seeing signs of critters, it’s too late – they own you.

Got something interesting going on in the compost pile. George wacked down a cedar tree and the UPS guy knocked a few branches off the big camphor tree on the driveway. I got to thinking that people use cedar wood for chests and closets because it has bug fighting properties; ditto camphor. So I got to thinking that maybe a bit of both in the mix might have some insect protection properties. Worth a try. Also tried something different on a new compost pile start. I usually use a mostly palmetto frond base run through the chipper which is a fairly course starting point but decided to this time do a double shred – run the fronds through the chipper twice. My thought is that the compost should cook up faster with the finer starting material. For sure it won’t hurt anything except it took quite a bit longer to build the pile. I’ll know is a couple of months if it shortens the cycle or results in a finer end mixture.

Aside from the garden, spring is bursting on the scene big time here at the lake. We have more than a few large azaleas in full bloom. This is the best azalea bloom we’ve had in a couple of years and it’s happening right in line with our Easter party. Ditto the citrus trees. I have a strange thing going on with the Satsuma tree. The first and worst freezing spell we had last December caused the Satsuma to lose most of it’s leaves. I wasn’t sure whether the tree was history or could recover. None of the other trees showed any signs of stress at all. Now all the trees are full of blossoms including the leafless Satsuma. I guess showing blossoms must mean the tree is ok but I sure hope it decides to add some greenery one of these days. If not, I’ll just tell folks that it’s a new leafless variety.

And just so you know that my string of mini disasters is still holding fast, got up this morning and noticed that I had a flat tire on the Toyota. Do I smell recall? What a way to start a day.