Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bonsai Extravaganza -OR- Slowly Spring Comes to the Capital of the Empire

Daffodils growing at the National Arboretum its hill "Mount Hamilton" (which is actually famed for its many azaleas but that were weeks away from blooming), Washington, D.C., 2:47PM April 6, 2013.

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The pictures in this entry include some that I took yesterday with my (poor quality) cellphone camera at the National Arboretum where I went with Andrea, Imara, Nick, and Jake. I took some pictures of age notable bonsai plants and outdoor trees and flowers. I did not take any of the old Capitol columns that are located here.  I had not been to the Arboretum -- located in a very inaccessible part of  D.C. without a car -- in at least a decade.

An expansive view of the National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 1:43PM April 6, 2013. I realized when I took this that I hadn't actually walked on an expansive area of grass in months.

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Jake took some excellent pictures with his really good camera -- including from the top of "Mount Hamilton" in the Arboretum with the sweeping view of D.C. with the Capitol dome and Washington Monument most prominently visible. If I get any of those, I will post them in a subsequent entry.

Note in the outdoor pictures that very little is yet in bloom including the cherry blossoms. While some flowering trees are in floral bloom (especially around Dupont Circle and other "inner" D.C. areas where it is a bit warmer), it is really only the daffodils and forsythias that are area-wide in flower. This is because it has been so chilly with below normal temperatures since the beginning of March.

Anyway, long story short, many of the pictures in this entry are UNRELATED to the content of the entry.

Yours truly beside a cluster of daffodils on "Mount Hamilton" on a gentle early spring day in the National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 2:54PM April 6, 2013.

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This is my planned regular entry, except it is already Sunday night as I post it, and not only do I have to work the next two days to finish that technical paper report, but I am also borderline sick at this point with some kind of head cold. In addition, I went out both Friday and Saturday nights and that only made matters worse what with a hangover and headaches. Nevertheless, I did make it to the gym for an hour -- a bit over a half hour on the treadmill jogging and just 15 minutes in the pool before the lifeguard blew the whistle (5 minutes earlier than he should have) and told everyone it was now closed.

Yesterday featured temps. in the mid to upper 50s Fahrenheit with lots of sunshine. Today was warmer -- the first 70F of the season -- with a south/southwesterly breeze and surging levels of pollen. Things should really start to bloom in the next few days (see below for weather update).

The Chinese pavilion at the National Arboretum with its many bonsai plants, Washington, D.C., 2:03PM April 6, 2013.

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After going to the gym (the YMCA), I walked back home via 17th Street -- and on a sunny, warm Sunday, it was naturally packed. The D.C. Gay Mafia [NOTE: content removed - 5/15/2015] have completely co-opted the use of Stead field in some sort of Sunday gay kickball frenzy with about 200 people. It's like that every Sunday from early spring until October, except when it's time to move the D.C. gayborhood en masse to Rehoboth for sundry summer beach weekends.

A Chinese elm bonsai "in training" (according to the accompanying sign) since 1906, National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 2:05PM April 6, 2013. Obviously, most of these bonsai plants started their lives long before they were moved to the Arboretum.

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M. Wade Tipamillyun himself was probably in that noisy crowd. I think he referees, always making the call for the most fabulous party. This D.C. gay sports league with softball, kickball, flag football, and whatnot has metastasized into a sprawling homo extravaganza with literally thousands of members, so naturally JR's is at the center of it.

A Japanese black pine bonsai "in training" (according to the accompanying sign) since 1895, National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 2:07PM April 6, 2013.

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I would've walked up 16th Street home but I had to go to the Safeway for a few items. Anyway, I'm home now for the start of my work marathon on that report. I'm going to start it the moment I finish this damn entry, which has already taken me three days of intermittent effort.

As soon as I post this entry, it is urgent that I turn my attention for the next two days to my work report. Of note, I was able to get an extension to early Tuesday morning, which means I have all Sunday and Monday nights (i.e., the wee hours of Monday and Tuesday) to work on it from home (although I have to submit a partial draft on Monday morning).

A Japanese red pine bonsai "in training" (according to the accompanying sign) since 1795, National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 2:11PM April 6, 2013. This tree is basically as old as the United States itself.

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At this point, I shall post some links to a few columns that I read and liked in the past week. In particular, here is the Friday regular New York Times op-ed column by Paul Krugman entitled The Urge to Purge.

Excerpt:

"To deal with the crisis that's already here, we need monetary and fiscal stimulus, to induce those who aren't too deeply indebted to spend more while the debtors are cutting back.

But that prescription is, of course, anathema to Mellonites, who wrongly see it as more of the same policies that got us into this trap. And that, in turn, tells you why liquidationism is such a destructive doctrine: by turning our problems into a morality play of sin and retribution, it helps condemn us to a deeper and longer slump.

The bad news is that sin sells. Although the Mellonites have, as I said, been wrong about everything, the notion of macroeconomics as morality play has a visceral appeal that’s hard to fight. Disguise it with a bit of political cross-dressing, and even liberals can fall for it.

But they shouldn't. Mellon was dead wrong in the 1930s, and his avatars are dead wrong today. Unemployment, not excessive money printing, is what ails us now -- and policy should be doing more, not less."

"Mellon" here refers to Andrew Mellon, President Hoover's Treasury Secretary, who at the start of the Depression told the president to "liquidate" everything because it "will purge the rottenness out of the system."

As ever, I highly recommend that you also read Krugman's regular blog in addition to his Monday and Friday columns.

Here is the prize possession of the National Arboretum: A Japanese white pine bonsai "in training" (if the sign is to be believed) since 1625, Washington, D.C., 2:23PM April 6, 2013.

I'm not sure if this is the bonsai that was transported from Hiroshima (AFTER the 1945 atomic bombing). This is certainly the oldest known bonsai at the Arboretum (as it is, most just simply have an "unknown" age written on their accompanying signs) and belonged to the Japanese imperial family.

This little tree is almost 400 years old. That's hard to fathom. It is also probably the oldest living thing in the District of Columbia.

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Also, Michael Lind had a three-part series on Social Security and why it should be expanded rather than cut.

This is in total violation of the fundamental tenet of the "Very Serious People" / "Washington Consensus" -- embodied in the WaHoPo editorial board page and the paper's stable of op-ed pundits -- that Social Security must forever be slashed and "privatized" into a 401(k) based one with middlemen galore skimming fees ("rents"), their retirement money of tens of millions of Americans at the whim of the stock market casino.

Remember that pensions are mostly a thing of the past.

Part 1: Safety net cutters are seriously selfish on why the professional deficit scolds are self-serving charlatans doing the bidding of billionaires such as Pete Peterson.

This chart from Part 2 of his series shows the percentage breakdown of the main sources of income for Americans 65 and over by income quintile. It is from the Social Security Administration itself in an October 2010 report. Click on it for larger version.

Is it any wonder that the top 20 percent -- or rather, the top 1 percent and their D.C. imperial court propagandists -- want to dismantle this system by pretending it is "in crisis" when it is not?

Part 2: Abolish the 401(k) on why the 401(k) model for retirement is so obviously a conceptually badly flawed system.

Part 3: Obama making historic mistake on Social Security: This is actually a lengthy piece that (in addition to criticizing Obama for even entertaining the notion of cutting the program's benefits rather than expanding it) also talks about how an expanded program might work.

Long story short, all the propaganda and lies aside, Social Security is just fine until the 2030s and could be massively extended with a few payroll tax changes. And when you look at how much the bottom two quintiles of income earners (and for that matter the bottom four quintiles) rely on Social Security, it really is disgusting to see who is urging these changes

The fact that the Washington Very Serious People embodied in "Uncle" Fred Hiatt, Jackson Diehl, and Ruth "Mother" Marcus of The Washington Post Editorial Board are (1) fanatically "free-trade" obsessed; (2) refuse to consider the need for a living wage in a highly inequitable economy flooded with unused cash and inadequate demand; and (3) are fixated with "entitlement reform" makes sense when you consider that they are the propagandists for corporate oligarchs and billionaires.

Ditto all the "neutral" think tank pseudo-academic types such as Sebastian Mallaby sort (another one-time WaHoPo editorial writer who now lives a life of gilded corporate whoring dressed up as Deep Policy Thoughts and Profound Solutions at the Council on Foreign Relations).

Mallaby is pictured here -- looking oddly like David Hyde Pierce.

Then there are the denizens of the foundation-funded right-wing whose entire existence is dedicated to more overt forms of propaganda (anyone at AEI, Heritage, or Cato).

Tulip poplar trees just beginning to bud as seen against an afternoon deep blue sky at the National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 3:04PM April 6, 2013.

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I'm very chagrined that Obama is apparently going to offer a "chained CPI" approach in his upcoming budget in exchange for modest tax revenue increases. Of course, given the nature of the radicalized Southern-fried Republican opposition he faces, there is no chance of any such of even a "small bargain" let alone a "grand" one -- and no matter how much The Washington Consensus pundits demand he show some mythical "leadership" quality that "brings everyone to the table" to achieve this noxious end. Again, I refer you to Paul Krugman for his comments on this.

More towering trees at the National Arboretum seen against a deep blue afternoon sky, Washington, D.C., 3:59PM April 6, 2013. This was in the fern section of the place.

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As for Medicare and Medicaid, those are different issues and their cost problems related to the general extreme inflation in America's health care economy with its bizarre model of for-profit giant health insurance companies forever trying to ration out everyone from the system. I don't think that "Obamacare" will really get at this fundamental issue.

A wooden bridge (looking very Pacific Northwest-ish) at the National Arboretum, Washington, D.C., 4:07PM April 6, 2013.

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Oh, and here is a good piece on the sham that is law school in America (sorry these are all in Salon). But the same applies to higher education in general and the rent-extracting monopolists (in the form of crazy tuition and fees) who run it -- requiring 20-somethings to indebt themselves to the tune of $80,000 or more for a basic four year degree that many (but not all) will need, yet that is nothing more than an extension of high school today and is required to avoid a life of menial service industry jobs. Higher education in America has become a ugly scam.

OK, enough of that.

A view from my 5th floor apartment on a late rainy night in Washington, D.C., 12:05AM April 5, 2013.

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Weather / Seasonal Climate Update ...

(The pictures in this part of the entry were taken over the past week including last Sunday on Easter as I was riding up to Silver Spring with Quill to go to her parents' place for lunch.)

The rainy night intersection of Q and 17th Streets NW, Washington, D.C., 10:28PM April 4, 2013. I was walking back from the gym when I took this.

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As I noted earlier, it has been quite chilly the past month. For the full month of March at the three regional airport climate stations, it was -3.0F below normal at both KDCA and KBWI (43.8F and 40.6F, respectively) while KIAD was -4.0F at 40.2F. (Of note, March 2012 -- the warmest on record -- featured temps. of +10.0F to +10.1F above normal, so it was a whopping 13F colder this March than last March at KDCA and KBWI and an even greater 14F colder at KIAD.)

Approaching the Hughes Memorial Tower transmission tower located in the Brightwood section of Washington, D.C., with its accompanying smaller tower next to it, as seen through a windshield on a gray and showery Easter Sunday, 2:15PM March 31, 2013.

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For the first six days of April, it is running -5.2F at KDCA (at 47.7F); -6.0F at KBWI (at 43.7F); and -6.8F at KIAD (also at 43.7F). And we are still below normal on precipitation, though it still seems to be more of a climatological rather than a genuine hydrological deficit.

Another closer view of the Hughes Memorial Tower transmission tower with its accompanying smaller tower and a nearby crane tower as seen through a windshield on a rainy Easter Sunday, 2:15PM March 31, 2013.

I've never the night time flashing light pattern since it was changed from the old incandescent lamps to the LEDs that all blink in unison (rather than the "rocket ship" type pattern going up the tower as it used to have).

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Today was sunny and pleasant with temps. reaching the 70F mark for the first time this season (it reached 71F at KDCA and KIAD but 68F at KBWI) with a gusty south/southwesterly wind. Pollen levels are surging. Temperatures may reach 80F on Tuesday and Wednesday for highs and there are a few chances of rain in the next five days.

A 1983 directory for the Calvery Lutheran Church in Silver Spring that was wonderfully randomly in Quill's mom's kitchen drawer, as seen on March 31, 2013. When I saw this, I had to take a picture of it. It is also the kind of kitchen drawer that my grandmother used to have in our house in New Jersey -- filled with delightful old stuff. She wasn't thrilled that I took the picture ("People are gonna think we're weird ..." she said).

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By next weekend, the natural world should be blooming and blossoming like crazy -- including the frickin' Japanese Yoshino cherry blossoms that help to bring a bazillion tourists to D.C. this time of year.

The Yoshino trees at floral peak earlier today at Scott Circle (I was walking to the gym when I took this), Washington, D.C., 4:17PM, April 7, 2013.

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Of note, the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade® is next Saturday on April 13th, and the blossoms on the Tidal Basin itself may actually still be on the trees (somewhat past peak but some still remaining). That never happens -- usually they are long gone by that point, which always seems kind of silly to me.

Flowers of an unknown sort to me in Quill's parents' house in Silver Spring, Md., 6:15PM March 31, 2013.

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And with that, I will be signing off from this blog until at least Tuesday night and possibly not until Thursday night.

--Regulus

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