August 31, 2016

What I did this summer

Filed under: commentary,history — jchatoff @ 7:17 pm
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Not very damn much, to tell the truth. June and July just kind of slid by, the weather generally mild – often below normal – and pretty benign compared to the rest of the country.

At least until this month, when the wild fires started. They got quite close and for several days the air was nasty and cars were covered with ash.


Sunset through fire smoke.

It didn’t last too long though and soon things went back to normal here in Pleasantville – normal until Sunday night, when an aggressive raccoon decided to make a meal out of my little Doxie-MinPin mix.

She’d barked just once and then run out of the room, barrelling through the screen door to chase the intruder off the porch. Seeing her mistake almost immediately, Lola turned and headed for the safety of the living room.

But the raccoon wouldn’t let go of her back leg until my sister-in-law grabbed a broom and whacked the crap out of him.

So we wound up in the pet ER and Lo came home with a big bandage on her foot and a pack of meds. The docs and techs were great and she seemed to be the only patient, so while we waited, we got into a little convo with the receptionist and I don’t know how – probably my doing – we started talking about Social Security.

She was shy of 30 I think, and mentioned in passing that she doubted that there would be any benefits for her by the time she retired and it just made me feel so sad.

It isn’t only the pitiful job market, student loans and climate change that have been dumped on Millenmials, it’s also the shocking inadequacy of mass media, which delights in fear-mongering and which can’t be bothered to provide actual facts.

Here’s a fact: Raising the cap or raising the tax – or both – would make benefits available for the indefinite future.

As it is, we are good until 2030.

At the moment, the cap is $118,500. After that amount, no SS tax is deducted. If you make 300,000 or 3 million, you pay FICA only on the first 118,500.

Raise that by 100,000 and every Millennial can enjoy a spartan but predictable old age like the rest of us.

For more actual facts, check out The Motley Fool:


December 31, 2012

Turning the page

Much as I dislike odd numbers – they never feel quite right – I must say I’m looking forward to the new year. I had high hopes for 2012, but they dimmed considerably thanks to politicians, mad killers, the media and Bashir Assad.

Lola and the Mailman

Lola and the Mailman

There were personal sad occasions to be observed and a few impersonal ones, although any year that sees the entrance of not one, but two wonderful dogs into one’s life is more than a little redeemed.  Alice the Beagle was my Virgil, a guide through the canine world who led me to Lola the Doxie and Lo is not only a fabulous dog, but a comedienne of superior talent. (See photo.) And to be guaranteed   laughter every day is no small thing.

While it’s disappointing to realize that the human race is no more just or honorable or kind than it was a year ago, there is nonetheless one small corner of endeavor that continues to be a comfort and that is the field of scientific research. Just this week the University of Copenhagen announced the discovery of a method of removing Volatile Organic Compounds from the air, a method that is both cheap and effective.

In this case, a chemist named Matthew Johnson had his eureka moment when he realized nature already had a system for removing pollutants – he just adapted it.  The sun causes gasses rising into the atmosphere to combine with ozone and other natural compounds to create particles that are then washed out of the atmosphere by rain.

“I have investigated the self-cleaning mechanism of the atmosphere for years. Suddenly I realized, that the mechanism is so simple, that we could wrap it in a box and use it to clean indoor air,” Johnson explained. The whole story can be found at Science Daily.

Johnson was working with a company that treats bilge water from oil tankers, but lots of things give off VOCs – paint, furniture and floor finishes, etc. – and his method should be applicable in many areas.

It’s nice to be reminded from time to time that there is an island of sanity out there, where creative minds are trying to solve real problems – mostly by using real facts – for the betterment of us all.

October 18, 2012

Dog days

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:12 am
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An eight hour round trip to the High Desert in 90-degree heat, but well worth it: Alice the Beagle has been retired to a 15-acre rescue ranch – but the deal was, leave one, take one, and so Lola is now in residence.

Portrait of Lola by Jan Stewart using the ‘Paper’ app.

Since she is a dachshund/something else mix, she fits the available space much better and since she is not a working dog by nature, she is as happy in the house as out of it.

But I am learning a lot about doxies – apparently they are notoriously stubborn and every expert warns against expecting too much.

Here is a nice bit from E.B. White about the breed, including his own doxie Fred:

“Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.”

Hmm – note to self: don’t raise your voice or your hopes…

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