Monday, August 29, 2016

It's a beautiful morning in Paradise...

It's a beautiful morning in Paradise ... and I have some beautiful sunflowers on the north side of my barn.  When I walked toward the sunflowers a few minutes ago, there was a flock of American goldfinches hard at work stripping all the seeds. :)

More memories...

More memories ... from my mom's photo collection...

Here's one that I'm sure will amuse my siblings: it's me, in an undated photo.  In my mom's handwriting (with a fountain pen!) on the back: “Tommy - note the wet pants”.  Really, mom?  Really?  That photo was clearly taken in our home, I'm guessing in 1954, but I'm struggling to place it.  I have no memory of a doorway with a curtain.  From the placement of the two doorways, it can't be our living room.  From the paneling it must be a bedroom.  I'm going to guess it was the boy's bedroom, in the southeast corner of our house.

Here are a couple photos of my sister Holly.  The first one is a studio portrait, dated (in pencil on the back) 1964, when she would have been eight or nine.  I'm guessing it was a school portrait.  The second one is dated (by the lab) February 1959, when she was almost five.  Holly is holding a holly in a pressed peat moss pot.  For a few years, roughly 1958 to 1964, my dad was selling hollies of this size by mail order.  I got involved in this business in many ways, but the two I remember the most are packaging the hollies for shipment, and printing the marketing materials (newsletters and brochures) on our own offset printing press – a monster in the basement.  Packaging them was straightforward enough: we wet the plant and pot thoroughly, stuffed them into a thick polyethylene bag, secured the top of the back with a twist-'em, then stuffed them into a red cardboard cylindrical tubes (with a tin top and bottom).  These tubes were very nicely made, with bright shiny red cardboard on the outside, and a cap that slid on tightly.  We just circled the cap's joint with some tape and we were done.  Then we slapped on a label and my dad took them to the Post Office for shipment by Parcel Post.  For some reason I don't remember either Scott or Holly helping with this, though that could just be my memory failing.

This photo is of a scene I have utterly no memory of.  It's dated (by the lab) December 1955, though it was clearly taken before fall 1954 (given the trees still have leaves, and they're swimming.  On the back, in my mom's handwriting (again in fountain pen): “Mike Dilatush Bonnie”.  Mike (my cousin, son of my Uncle Earle) is furthest away in the photo; he's holding my brother Scott.  Bonnie I don't know – possibly his wife or girlfriend.  That's me in the foreground.  There's something (or someone?) under Bonnie's left hand, but I can't identify it.

Update from Mike, responding to my query:
Boy, you do bring back memories! One time when I was about 15 or 16 (maybe less) I stayed with you and your folks for a week. This pix is of me, you and Holly (I think) and a young girl about my age named Bonnie who came along with us on a day trip to a cedar colored lake down in the pine country of south jersey. Your dad took the picture as I recall. The water was warm and so tea colored you couldn't see much more than a foot or so underwater. I do remember that the mosquitoes had a feast on us that day.
That tea-colored water Mike refers to is the norm in the New Jersey pine barrens – the streams are quite acid from the tannins in the tree roots they wash for tens of miles.

Here's my brother Scott in an undated photo.  On the back, in my mom's handwriting: “Scott flag he designed in Navy”.  That scene looks like boot camp to me, which would put this in the early '70s (maybe Scott remembers better?).  Another clue that it's boot camp: the “Co. 016” (Company 016) – that's an organization I saw only in boot camp.

Here I am again, in a photo dated (by the lab) March 1955 when I was two and a half.  This one messes with my mind, as the location is clearly on the north side of our house (those three adjacent windows were in the kitchen bay) – but it's full of things I don't remember at all!  I don't remember a swing set like that we ever owned, and I don't remember that fence (with a sidewalk behind it).  There's something weird on that swing set.  Look at the left end of the upper bar – there's a weather vane, tilted over at about a 45° angle.  What's up with that?

Finally, here are three photos that include multiple kids.  The first one is dated (by the lab) September 1957.  Left-to-right it's my sister Holly, my brother Scott, and me.  I've no idea where we were.  The second one is undated, but I'll guess it's in 1955 from our apparent ages.  That's me on the left, my brother Scott on the right, and my dad.  There's something in my dad's pocket, but I can't make out what it is.  That couch used to be in our living room, which had knotty pine paneling, so I'm pretty sure that's where the photo was taken.  The last photo is undated and has no notes on it.  Left-to-right it's me, my sister Holly, and my brother Scott.  From our apparent ages I'll guess this is from mid-1955, when I was almost three.  I can't tell what room this was, but from the paneling it had to be either our living room or a bedroom.  We're sitting on something draped with a blanket, but I've no idea what it was.

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  Debbie and I took a nice long drive up state 162, the gravel road from Avon to Liberty.  We were going slowly, looking for wildlife, so it took about three hours.  We went to the highest pass on the road, just over 6,500' high (and just to the left of the label “James Peak” on the map at right).  The only mammal we saw was one perky red squirrel, but we saw a lot of birds.  The avian highlight was over a dozen kestrels, some at quite close range.  We also saw a golden eagle, gliding very high above us along a ridge, a lone cedar waxwing high in the dead crown of a spruce, a gaggle of turkeys, and a kingfisher very focused on fishing.

Later in the day I cooked our dinner: chicken with a raspberry glaze (yummy!) and roast vegetables (at left, just before they went into the oven).  There were quartered Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips.  To keep the sodium levels down for Debbie, I tossed these in olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and some Mrs. Dash.  I actually liked them better this way than our previous versions with pepper and garlic salt, but Debbie misses the garlic.  I'm going to have to find a way to get garlic in there without the salt...

This morning we had a beautiful not-quite-new moon hanging just over the Wasatch Mountains to our east.  The sky was clear enough that I could still see many stars, despite the bright moonlight.  Best of all: the earthshine illuminating the “dark” part of the moon was particularly bright – so bright I could make out many features even with the naked eye.  Generally this happens when the albedo (reflectivity) of the earth is particularly high because there are lots of clouds.  Looking at a current satellite photo (right), there is indeed a greater than average cloud cover.

Everything is proceeding exactly according to plan..

Everything is proceeding exactly according to plan...  From this morning's The 10-Point (an excellent free daily email from The Wall Street Journal):
Nearly a third of U.S. counties look likely to have just a single insurer offering health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges next year, an industry retreat that adds to the manifold challenges facing the law. A new study, by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, suggests there could be just one option for coverage in 31% of counties in 2017, and there might be only two in another 31%. Companies including UnitedHealth, Humana and Aetna have cited their losses in withdrawing from ACA marketplaces, as have smaller insurers. Those that remain are in some cases seeking sharp premium increases for next year, a demand made much easier when there is no competition. And at least one county is at risk of having no insurers offering marketplace plans next year, a problem especially for lower-income Americans who are generally required to buy ACA plans to qualify for federal subsidies.
Left unsaid in that paragraph: this is exactly what the conservative and libertarian opponents of the ACA predicted during the debate preceding its passage.  In other words, not only was this predictable – it was actually predicted (and by more than a few people).

What happens as the ACA (aka ObamaCare) spirals down into complete meltdown is far less predictable than the death spiral itself.  Personally, I suspect the most likely outcome is massive taxpayer subsidies.  I fully expect to collect zero dollars of the Social Security I paid at max rate for over 30 years, and I am expecting my savings and investments to be taxed (or at least concerted attempts made to do so).  I can't imagine where else the federal government would find the money they need, short of a politically unpopular VAT or something of that sort.  Other outcomes are of course possible, and some of them I'd be very happy with.  For instance, a repeal of ObamaCare and a return to a conventional insurance market would suit me just fine – I'd be signing up for an old-fashioned major medical policy in a flash!

Meanwhile, we're facing a more traditional insurance issue, albeit one greatly exacerbated by ObamaCare's mandates and homogenization.  Our insurance company has denied coverage for a drug that Debbie's doctor wants to prescribe.  It's an expensive drug, and her doctor warned us to expect the denial.  They're now appealing the decision, and we await the outcome.  If they continue to deny coverage, we'll foot the bill ourselves – luckily, we have the wherewithal to do so.  But this drug costs more each month than most people pay for their mortgage – so there must be quite a few people being denied coverage who cannot possibly afford to buy the drug themselves.  This is what happens when the insurance companies have incentives to not offer premium policies.  Despite paying a premium price for our insurance policy, we're getting a crappy one – but because we can afford to do so, we'll end up with better healthcare anyway.