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Monday, August 27, 2012



Monday, 8:30 AM.  70 degrees F, wind SW, calm at present but breezy a while ago.  The sky is cloudless with some haze in the east, the humidity is 40% and the barometer is up.  It will be a warm but pleasant late summer day.
    Chicory, Chicorium intybus, in the Composite family, is one of my favorite roadside weeds, as it is one of only a very few truly blue wildflowers of summer.  It thrives along sterile roadsides where little else will grow.  I don’t see as much of it north as further south.  It is of European origin, where it is (or at least was) much used as a winter salad, the roots dug up, potted and grown indoors and deprived of light, producing tender, blanched leaves.  The roasted and ground roots have long been added to coffee, both in Europe and in  the US South, and commercial mixtures of coffee and chicory are, I believe, still available.  It imparts a slightly bitter flavor to coffee but makes it less acid.  Chicory also had use in the treatment of tuberculosis in the past, before antibiotics.
    One of the biggest challenges for both political parties in the months before the Presidential election will be to formulate and articulate a coherent policy on how to deal with so-called entitlements, primarily Social Security and Medicare.  I have to inform the politicians and pundits that most of their worries are misguided. 
    The common approach to the present under-funding of these programs is to incorrectly assume that the present ascending cost curves are unending.  I have news for them;  mostly the straight lines on the graph represent nothing more than a temporary population blip (Baby Boomers) or perhaps a rise to a new plateau that will at worst level off and with the usual luck of human history fall drastically in the future due to the relentless actions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (war, poverty, ignorance, disease).
    The first man to leave his footprints  on the moon, Neil Armstrong, died the other day at 82 years of age, despite having the very best of medical care.  My good friend Tom died  last week at the age of seventy-five, despite having lived with terrible health habits for much of his life. Not much difference between the two lifespans. Most of my contemporaries will see they have one foot in the grave, if they bother to take a realistic look downward.  So do I.  I  read the other day that the longest recorded human life was 122, and that out of billions of modern recorded deaths.
    Relax, folks.  All we have to do is figure out how to fund a passing population blip and a few extra statistical life-years. Not exactly rocket science, and your life-insurance agent should be able to figure it out.  Nature is going to take care of most of the problem.  To quote the bible, "The span of a man's life is three score years and ten." Our life span is predetermined in our genes, or as the Gypsy used to say, in the palm of your hand. 

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