Tuesday, December 29, 2009

idly thunk

1. Is there nothing going on in the world today besides exploding underwear?

2. We're leaving town tomorrow. You know where we'll be!

3. More and more people we know are using C-PAP machines. When you get by the annoyance of them, they're pretty good things.

4. Our friend Jim Thill says:
A lot of people who tolerate and even enjoy winter have not learned to accept it. Many northern-climate people look at winter as an inconvenience, and spend that part of the year engaged in futile combat against the forces of nature.
I suppose this is true, and it certainly would apply to me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

about pickles

I see that some politicians are criticizing the President because he didn't come out and make some flamboyant statement about the terror attack on a jetliner on Christmas. (I assume this would be what W would have done.) To those people, including especially Congressman King, I say this: Go suck a pickle!

is he?

I saw Dave Somebodyorother on TV this morning commenting on the AP's selection of Tiger Woods as "Athlete of the Decade" and he was saying this perpetuates two myths: That Tiger is an athlete and that golf is a sport.

BIRCHES welcomes comment on these charges.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

some things on my desktop

Swinging birches.

This is the town of St. Just in Cornwall, England, with a dusting of snow on the rooftops. Love it!

It's Caturday!

A scene from the life of our
friend FELIX where
EVERY CAT is safe and

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Congratulations are in order for all Americans now that the health care reform bill has taken a big leap forward.

It will no doubt be many years before the system is made to work well. For one thing, it will be fought against and confounded by some big interests in the country: Republicans, insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and so on.

But we're on the road! Be strong until we all have medicare.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Aussie court fines, bans e-mail spammer

BRISBANE, Australia, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A New Zealand man accused of being an e-mail spam mastermind has been fined and banned from e-mailing for seven years, Australian officials say.

Lance Thomas Atkinson, 26, was sentenced Tuesday by the Federal Court in Brisbane to pay a $185,000 fine and $13,000 in court costs for filling the inboxes of Australian Internet users with e-mails prompting them to click through to Web sites using allegedly false claims to sell prescription drugs, "male enhancement" products and weight-loss pills, The Brisbane Times reported.

The newspaper said Atkinson has already been fined $14 million by U.S. authorities for sending millions of spam e-mails in what they called the world's biggest such operation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission found Atkinson and his U.S. accomplice allegedly controlled a "botnet" of 35,000 computers, capable of sending 10 billion e-mail messages a day.

Prosecutors told the Brisbane court that Atkinson and 45 commissioned workers sent spam to Australian internet users on 61 days during a 14-month period between October 2006 and December 2007, the Times reported.

A person would have a hard time convincing me that not a single one of the Republicans who has been elected to the U.S. Senate is capable of finding in their souls a "yes" vote on the health plan. Then why didn't one or two vote for it?

Because they are Republicans and that party does not represent any intelligent interest in the United States apart from the greedy. This is a political party that is without any sense of propriety and that is lacking in any sense of the purpose of democracy. The Democrats are better, but not by much. These days, a moral person would not be either.

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
H.L. Mencken

Monday, December 21, 2009

Add to your day -- A Song of Joy

It was a world-wide popular hit in 1970.


Or Julio Iglesias: CLICK

Come sing a song of joy for peace shall come, my brother
Sing, sing a song of joy for Man shall love each other.

That day will dawn just as sure as hearts that are pure,
Are hearts set free. No man must stand alone
With outstretched hand before him.

Reach out and take them in yours with love
That endures forevermore. Then sing a song of joy
For love and understanding.

Come sing a song of joy of freedom tell the story.
Sing, sing a song of joy for Mankind in his glory.
One mighty voice that will bring a sound
That will ring forevermore.
Then sing a song of joy for love and understanding.

Come sing a song of joy of freedom tell the story.
Sing, sing a song of joy for Mankind in his glory.
One mighty voice that will bring a sound
That will ring forevermore.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


ONE of the most interesting thoughts I've heard lately is the idea that scientists from the future have been shutting down the Large Collider in Switzerland to prevent it from doing something irreversibly dangerous. AND that this idea has been floated by perfectly reputable scientists now alive. Isn't that a head clanger of an idea?

Anyone know anything about this?

A train idea for the greater good

Pardon me for repeating myself. I know I have some themes I keep returning to, and here is one of them.

This is Japan's bullet train readying for it's next run. At 180-190 miles-per-hour, it will make the run in short order. Here are some other countries who have invested heavily in bullet trains, and who are finding them very efficacious: France, Germany, Japan, China, Spain.

What if America decided to build such a system, even just coast-to-coast. What if we required that the trains be American-made? What if we required that the electronics to operate the system safely, be American made. What if we required that the materials to rebuild the crossings of rivers and roadways be American manufactured? What if we made the Federal government and the state governments partners with private corporations in the ownership/running of the system?

What a recession buster the whole thing would be. And what a tremendous answer to the collapsing airline industry.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

...and one more friend!

This is Mickey, who has adopted our friend Jerry.

Friends Report on December 18

Obama in wonderland.

I do not believe that the global warming problem will be dealt with constructively. I think it will go forward, the oceans will expand, more deserts will appear, millions will starve. We should admire people like Al Gore who have tried to make it otherwise, but this is not slowing the downward trend. Obama has gone to Denmark, the home of famous fairy tale writers, to explain the problem to the world. But why? They already know but will not resort to any serious action.

If you doubt this, remember some facts. There are several million people living in the area of Mt. Vesuvius. When it one day blows up again, they will want the world's help, even though they know it's going to happen. There are millions living along the San Andreas fault. When the earth splits, they will roll their eyes in wonder and ask for help.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Add to Your Day - go play with the animals

From 1964, some really great rock 'n' roll.


the freedom of speech

Ah-h, Democracy. The freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition.

I'm sick of these Republicans who get elected as Democrats. It's long been true that if you want to win election in some places, you have to act like a conservative and pretend to be a Democrat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Books -- update

I have been impressed by what people have recommended this year, and there are now at least three of your recommendations which I'm adding to my book list for the coming weeks. One of them is Russo's That Old Cape Magic. Another is Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which sounds really good. And now, one recommended by Marsha.

MARSHA - My civil war and post-war anthology. I welcome suggestions for additions. What these have in common besides (and far more important than...) the setting, is the human, tender, lyrical telling of extremely compelling stories that happen to involve this particular conflict.

My favorite, of course, is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
Besides the fabulous story—made into a wonderful movie--I have a personal connection to this one. Frazier got his PhD here at the University of South Carolina and his thesis professor is a wonderful teacher whom I’ve come to know well and admire.

Second, and not by much, is White Doves at Morning by James Lee Burke. I’ve been a long time fan of Burke’s crime novels featuring his detective Dave Robicheaux. These are often rather mystical, but this novel of survival, love and hate amidst the war and reconstruction is very different and absolutely wonderful. The villains are delightfully colorful, and the battle scenes are unforgettable.

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks is a terrible and satisfying novel based on a real woman and the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in which 9200 men were killed in a matter of hours. Carrie McGavock’s home was taken over as a Union hospital, and the effect upon her led to a wonderful gift she gave to those who died there. It is a remarkable love story, but also tells about how this nation’s largest private cemetery came to be. I must visit this place.

And now I am reading Howard Bahr’s The Year of Jubilo. I cannot put down this story of post-war Mississippi whose characters are so vivid and idiosyncratic. Like in Cold Mountain this is the story of a man returning from the war hoping to reunite with a former love, but it is really quite different in tone and pacing. Reads like a thriller with interruptions for character and setting development.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Today's favorite headline

At first I thought: all of them? Wow!

Women to Row The Atlantic Naked

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It seems to me ...
The comments being made about the 5 Americans now arrested in Pakistan for whatever terrorism charge it is, seem to me to conjure a whole new dimension to the world of hate and violence.

Everyone says that they were not the type of boys to do this. They were wonderful people. They loved America. They were religiously devout. They had no deep-seated dislike for the United States. They had not been under eye of law enforcement as desperadoes. This is not the story we've heard about other "terrorist" prospects. Those other guys had developed a lot of hatred, and they had been talking evil.

One of the very worst aspects of this development with the innocent American image is that it will lend credence to the position of those who maintain that all Muslims are to be suspected and feared, and that the religion itself is the problem.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

new book recommendations

IRENE - I intended to comment - here's my pick:

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Just a lovely story - a great way to spend a day.

WNNCO - If you have interest in science fiction, I would recommend reading the Arthur C. Clark/Stephen Baxter trilogy "A Time Odessy" consisting of "Times Eye, Sunstorm, and Firstborn". Masterful work! Also, if you have any interest in interwoven astophysics with a riviting series, read Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence culminating with "Ring". Just keep your physics texts close.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"the junk science of global warming"

Yep, those are words attributed to Her Royal Fishery.

You have to admire Sarah Palin's advisers. They have no fear whatsoever about sending her into battle without any armour. (She couldn't have even dreamed of some of those words spoken - or written - in her name.) And I bet you also admire the way she takes up the cause no matter how hopeless she looks without that armour.

Taking on Al Gore, without any science or logic at all?

This is the nature of runofthemill fascism. It's not what you know to be true that matters, it's what you will to be true.

Thursday Smile-Maker

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

another lover

This is GILDA GARDENHUMP who is another of the young beauties who are crawling out from behind the woodpile claiming to have been a Tiger mistress. Hey! Where there's money to be made, there's maids eager to be made! And to tell about it. And to cash in on it.

comments overheard

Comment heard from an elderly woman standing with an even more elderly man at the prescription counter at the drugstore (not any of the big chains): "I don't know how we will ever afford it. I can pay for mine, but not his."

Comment from one of the eight local gents sitting at the long table at the local eatery (not one of the chains): "Obama ain't done shit about getting this country going again. Where are the jobs? Just a couple-a firemen and teachers."

Comment seen on Facebook: "[I'm] gutted that the Tigers are going to trade Granderson. Looks like a done deal."


Two of the cartoons sent to me recently that made me smile.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

update on Sparty's question

I see that according to polls discussed on the news today, about 60% of the American people are now supporting Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan, and that Republicans and Democrats are supporting it by about the same percentage.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Recommendations from Birchies

Here are book recommendations I have received so far. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you meant to but didn't get around to it, there's still time. I will post an update if there are more recommendations. If I missed someone's email, forgive me, for it was not intentional.

HOMEFORPAX - Recommends Amy Goodman's new book: Breaking the Sound Barrier. "In place of the usual suspects, the “experts” who, in Goodman’s words, “know so little about so much, explain the world to us, and get it so wrong," this accessible, lively collection allows the voices the corporate media exclude and ignore to be heard loud and clear."


ALICE - These are some of the books I've read lately and appreciated for a variety of reasons. Most of the books I read fall in these categories. Historical, political, social awareness, historical novels.
1. The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, by Jonathan Kozol He has written a numbber of books about eduation over the past 30 years.

2. The Working Poor: Invisible in America, by David K. Shipler He won a Pulitzer Prize for this one.

3. Cane River, by Latita Tademy, The author has produced a novel about four generations of African-American women based on her own genealogy. It's a wonderful and inspiring read about perserverance, pride, family and love. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this rich story.

4. The Hemingses of Monicello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed. A Pulitzer Prize winning, heavily researched and thoughtfully written history involving Thomas Jefferson and his slaves. Powerful.

5. The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family and the Birth of Christianity, by James D. Tabor. Very interesting and highly notated from a wide variety of reputable sources.

6. Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds and Restore America's Original Vision, by Thom Hartmann

7. Theives in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back, by
Jim Hightower

PAM - I have been reading "The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists" ... not really the stuff of gifts unless you are giving presents to therapists.

Recently, I read Pat Conroy's last book and while it was fun in ways, I would not recommend it.

PAT C. - I read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld and found it very captivating. Some think it is based on George & Laura. Nonetheless, it presents unexpected happenings that influence their lives and those around them. I had a hard time putting it down. Not really political, but it shows how events & wealth influence how nominees are chosen. It could appeal to those interested in politics, but the wife's story is interesting in that she experiences tragedy early in her life, begins a career for herself, and ends up disagreeing with her the husband on some important issues, but making a go of it.

Also, The Last Lion about Teddy Kennedy. I loved the book (believe a person can actually reget, suffer and try to make up for causing a tragedy of his own making), but I would not recommend it for Kennedy haters.

BUD - I am ashamed to admit that I had never read this book before. But I highly recommend UNCLE TOM'S CABIN to all people interested in American history. It is definitely a barn-burner and a book of great historical importance.

I have also read several books lately by Philip Roth, who is just an excellent writer.

BOB T. - read Highest Duty by Capt. Sullenberger. He found it inspiring to read Sullenberg's beliefs in our country and in doing the best job you know how to do. He is well educated guy with much humility, something you don't see tons of today.

SPARTY - Last week I finished What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe, a detailed (800+ pages) history of the social, economic, religious, cultural, technological, and political developments in the U.S. between the end of the War of 1812 and the war with Mexico. Quite critical of the Jacksonian Democrat's defense and sponsorship of the slave-based economic system during the 1820s-1840s. Even if you don't want to commit to reading the entire book the chapters on the annexation of Texas and particularly the war with Mexico will be eye openers to those who think Bush 2nd is the first U.S. president to scheme and lie this country into an unjust war.

Prior to the Howe history I read Karen Armstrong's The Bible - details the creation of the Jewish and Christian canons through their various edits - I highly recommend any of Karen Armstrong's books on religion (A History of God, The Great Transformation, The Case for God) - might be challenging to those who believe there's only one true religion and/or church but they are mind-expanding, maybe even faith expanding

Best novel I've read in the past few months was Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic. In order to thoroughly enjoy Russo's books you probably don't have to be a middle-aged male who's gone through some sort of crisis/awakening, but it helps. My favorite line in the book, "In late middle age everything is inevitable, but you never see it coming."

Of the books I've read these past few months the one I would recommend most enthusiastically is William Greider's Come Home, America, a thought-provoking analysis of the impact of globilization on the U.S. and a prescription for how this country can right itself. Should be required reading for every U.S. voter - maybe completing the book entitles you to a permit-to-vote issued by the public library.

PAT W - I will always recommend, expecially to women, the books by Barbara Kingsolver, the very best of which is Prodigal Summer, but I also recommend her books, Bean Trees, and Pigs in Heaven and you should read those two in that order.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Very nice
concert at SVSU
last night!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Look for comments people have made by clicking on "comments" -- a word found below a posting right after the time of the posting and by the little envelope with an arrow on it.

It's Caturday!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sparty's question --- moved forward

SPARTY sent a question by email which I have answered with my opinion, but now I refer it to any of you who wish to answer.
what do you think? Is our involvement in Afghanistan a war of necessity or a war of choice?


I am thinking of starting a new pressure group to try to influence the media. It will be called SOWP, which means SCANDAL ONLY WITH PICTURES. The idea is that the media will be forced to reveal sexual scandals about celebrities only if they have at least still pictures and preferably video. Otherwise, shut up about it!


Two cartoons sent to me lately that made me smile.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If you do not know how to post a comment, or if you are having trouble doing so (which often happens) just send it to me by email, and I will post it.

Thursday Morning Smile Maker

Asleep at the wheel

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

interdickted email

Dear Fox News -

I am a dirty slutty whore and would like to tell you my story. I was involved with a very famous person, and by involved, I want to tell you, I mean INvolved. He was like you know, a big sports MAN, and I really mean BIG. It's not many times that a slutty barmaid gets to screw around with a BIG sports star like this one, and I mean like he could really hit a golf ball, if you catch the meaning.

I will be willing to tell you all the details of this love story - if you will pay me fifty thousand bucks. I really love him with all my parts, I mean heart, and wouldn't do anything to hurt him, ya know, but a bitch gotta make ends meet in more ways than just one, if ya get me. Besides he's just like all the rest of them big time famous guys, he don't know how to treat a lady. Always just looking out for himself.

I bet you know all about trying to make ends meet any way you can, huh?

signed Dolly Parton look alike,
if you catch my meaning

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

first answers to the question: Where's George?

MARSHA - This is like ‘Where is bin Ladn?’, right? I think I heard a rumor that we had him cornered somewhere. --

DASHMANN - Maybe he is off somewhere working up his comedy act !!
P.S. My comment on Bush working on his comedy act is punchless unless you see this video

TRASE - Five years ago, I was teaching a lesson on the three branches of government to my 4th and 5th graders. I asked them the open question of "What does the President do...?" A fourth grader from the back of class crouched down in his chair and in a surprisingly dead-on imitation of George W., cackled and said, "Why... I go out at the ranch, and I ah... heh heh... shoot armadilla...."

I think George is still doing just that... For his own sake, I hope Cheney isn't with him...