Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bush and the FISA Court

It appears that Bush's decision to bypass the court is based not so much on the inconvenience, but on the probability that his request will be modified or rejected by the court. Brad DeLong quotes the UPI story:
U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation.

But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration, the report said. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004. And, the judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejection of a wiretap request in the court's history.

Is there any possible way to justify this?

Maggy's Home

Maggy's home. One beautiful ice candle survived the unseasonably warm weather.

And the Christmas tree is decorated.

Monday, December 26, 2005

South Padre Island

From Pratie's Place came a link to this story at Nature Noted about Willacy County Texas beginning condemnation proceedings against the Nature Conservancy's 1500 acre preserve on South Padre Island Texas to facilitate building a ferry dock to enhance the tourist trade.

The Houston Chronicle's December 18 article says:
Willacy County officials who want to ferry people to the pristine beaches of South Padre Island have astonished conservationists by taking the first steps toward condemning an entire 1,500-acre nature preserve.

Please read it and tell me this can't succeed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Koufax nominations

Coturnix at Science and Politics, bless his heart, has nominated this blog for a Koufax Award in the category "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition." While it's hard to imagine this going very far, it certainly is flattering.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I And The Bird #13

Thanks to Cindy at Woodsong for a fabulous new edition of I And The Bird#13 including lovely graphics and helpful comments. And thanks to the dozens of writers for sharing their experiences. I'm hard put to choose a favorite. But the photography at 75 degrees south is worthy of a special mention. I hope Maggy's on the way to the bus station so she won't click on that link. The plight of the penguins in the pictures, though beautiful, is very sad.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The solstice ice candle was beautiful.

Christmas tree decoration proceeds apace. We added lights last night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Star Map

Omigod. Another cool tool from Heavens Above. This is customizable for exact location. (It's interesting to see the difference in exact latitude, longitude and elevation between Dryden and West Dryden. Okay. Maybe not all that interesting to everyone.) Anyway, you can then select date and time you plan to be looking up and voila!

It's hard to take a picture of the sun. But here's a good idea of the highest point the sun will reach today. I found a spot sunny enough to show the sun's angle. Here's ten inches of a fifteen inch ruler casting a twenty-seven inch shadow.

Great New Toy

From Clear Dark Sky comes this fabulous forecast of skywatching conditions. (See the bottom of this page for a more readable, full-size version.) The first row forecasts cloud cover, hour by hour, from white for completely overcast to darkest blue for clear skies. Visit the site for explanations of transparency and seeing. Darkness accounts for moonlight as well as sunlight. The bottom three lines (wind, humidity, temperature) give you an idea how comfortable you might be outside. This would be useful, also, for bird-watching. The forecast is available for thousands of other locations as well.

I'm linking to this forecast at the bottom of my main page. So you'll always be able to see it if you scroll all the way down. I'm tempted to put it at the top. But, face it, not all my readers are that geeky.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Here's the star on the tree - the only decoration, so far. I don't rush into anything.

And here's a new thing I'm trying for Solstice. I'll be celebrating the ability to make ice - one of the few things winter's really better at than any other season. I got this idea from an article I read a long time ago. The author lived in Alaska and made candle holders by filling a container with water and partially freezing it. With the weather we're having it takes about twelve hours to freeze sufficiently. Then break the thin ice on top and pour out the slushy ice in the middle. The remaining ice container is a perfect votive light holder.

When I was planning my house without electricity, the final obstacle was refrigeration. As you know, I gave in and included electricity in the design. But if I hadn't... We'd build an icehouse and cut blocks of ice from the pond. It would be stored in the icehouse, insulated with sawdust in hopes of using some and preserving some through the summer 'til the return of cold weather. So I'll be celebrating the ability to make ice.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gale Norton and ANWR

Tuesday morning, when I was feeling kind of warm and fuzzy following the rational discussion of treatment of prisoners, C-SPAN ran the speech of Gale Norton at Heritage Foundation regarding oil drilling in ANWR. C-SPAN describes the event this way:

Secretary Norton spoke about U.S. energy policy and proposals to expand oil exploration and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In her remarks she outlined the benefits of future oil drilling in meeting U.S. energy requirements in and increasingly tight global market. She also talked about the potential impact on oil prices and estimated size of the reserve.

Heritage described it this way:

Opening ANWR to limited drilling has been strongly advocated by the Bush Administration and those who recognize the necessity of moving toward genuine national energy independence. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton has long believed that energy production and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive goals. Join us as the Secretary addresses the critical role the Department of the Interior plays in advancing a sound natural resources policy essential to achieving the security of our nation's energy supply.

The person introducing Gail Norton described drilling in ANWR as a "win-win situation." The government gets billions of dollars by selling drilling rights and we get the oil. What's missing from that analysis? The "negligible" environmental impact.

I understand when someone wants to present only one side of an issue. But I don't excuse deliberate deception. Norton says, "At peak production...the oil from ANWR would supply every drop of oil used by Florida for twenty-nine years, New York for thirty-four years, Illinois for forty-three years, California for sixteen years or New Hampshire for three-hundred and fifteen years. Catch the tiny "or" in there? By the way, why is Florida using more oil than New York? When asked later how long the oil from area 1002 would serve the entire country, Norton replied, that looking at it that way presents "a somewhat deceiving picture." She said that although it would supply the country's entire need for a only short time, it would contribute to the economy for decades. Surely she could do the math with the same figures used to calculate the state-by-state statistics. My understanding is that it would supply a fraction of a percent of US consumption for about ten years.

After emphasizing how cold the area is, Norton goes on to point out the it contains "no trees, no deep-water lakes and no mountain peaks." That apparently means it has no value except for the oil.

Norton goes on to describe the environmental protection measure that could be used in ANWR including ice roads and machinery with oversized tires. Hmm...Description of existing environmental on the North Slope

I realize whenever I talk about ANWR that it comes down to whether or not you value the land for it's own sake -- whether, in legal terms, it has "standing" or rights of its own. If it was a life and death struggle between the human race and the land, the human race would have to prove that it had done everything in its power to survive without damage to the land. Man, are we a long way from that.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dinner Party

My friends are absolute champions at dinner parties - both giving them and enjoying them. The table is set while we enjoy a cocktail.

Here's the beautiful view from Leslie and Ally's east door.

Congratulations to Chris on his prize winning gingerbread house.

Pets are welcome to join in. I'm sorry the flashing lights on Tia's antlers don't show up.

My favorite Republican. Well, the only Republican I know except the ones I'll now be working with on the Dryden Town Board. Never mind that he's sharing Tia's costume.

Those of us who were there will remember Joe and Ally making snow angels. The rest of you will have to imagine.

And here at home, my Christmas Tree is up, thanks to Belinda. Watch this space for decorations.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Snow Day

It looks like a snow day to me. What do you think?

By default my camera turns on to automatic flash and I always forget to change it before the first picture. I sometimes get unexpected good results. What you can't appreciate from the picture is the way the snow actually looks in the second that the flash fires - each snowflake a bright light.

Here's what it looks like in the summer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Charlie's coat

It was one degree when I got up this morning. An hour later it had dropped to zero. That was discouraging. So now Charlie's got a coat. He didn't seem to think he needed it. He wouldn't stand still 'til I put a halter on. I think he thinks it's sissy. It's up to fourteen degrees now, but he's stuck with the coat for a while.

Here's my new, new best friend. Look, Maggy, you'll be able to wash your hair while you're home. It's not that the shower is new. But the nozzle, after twenty-three years of hard water, even though I clean it occasionally with vinegar, had seen better days. I didn't really notice the decrease in water pressure day by day, 'til I realized it was really just gravity getting the trickle of water to my hair. (Notice I'm not saying the "Theory of Gravity." Gravity's a real thing, just like evolution.) Anyway, for $1.99 at Target I picked up this cool nozzle and now showering is a pleasure. Ah, the simple pleasures.


The story of the man who was shot by an air marshal has been reported in two different ways. One version reports that the man "claimed he had a bomb in his backpack." The other reports that the man "said there was a bomb in his backpack."

I don't which is true and I have no tone of voice to work with. But I can imagine, "I have a bomb in my backpack," sounds either threatening or maybe bragging. "There's a bomb in my backpack," sounds scared or surprised, particularly when you're thinking of the man being paranoid.

I'm not saying it would have made a difference to the air marshal. But it certainly does make a difference if the journalist is trying to rationalize the air marshal's response.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tone of Voice

I wish I could put my finger on a description of the difference in tone of voice between when someone is speaking informatively or argumentatively. I'm getting close to understanding what's so annoying about Bush's speech pattern. But it's hard to describe in writing. His voice rises at the end of sentences. Not in the manner common with young people implying "Do you understand?" at the end of each sentence. But more like an exasperated parent telling a child for the fourth or fifth time to do something. "GO - CLEAN - your ROOM!" Like, "What's wrong with you that you don't understand what I'm saying?" "I - HAVE a PLAN!"

Bush does it more when he's speaking ex-temp than when giving a prepared speech. A few months ago I realized Scott McClellan was speaking that way, too. Now it seems like most Bush supporters are speaking that way. I have to tell you, it's really annoying. It's insulting

I raise the issue because this morning I heard a good speech by Congressman Schiff (D CA) at the Brookings Institution Forum on the Future of the Geneva Conventions. You can watch or listen to the speech on C-SPAN - Brookings Institution on Detention and Interrogation of Captured Enemies. The entire program is an hour and a half. Schiff's speech is about 45 minutes into it but all the speakers are worth listening to: the lawyer defending Kuwaitis held in Guantanamo; Brad Berenson, former assistant to Gonzales; David Cole, Georgetown law professor; David Rivkin, born in Russia, international law attorney and former State Department official.

Schiff lapses into an argumentative tone midway through the speech. Still I'm happy to hear someone speak so clearly about the question of what treatment of detainees is permissible and who gets to decide.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Braedy Patrick James

Welcome to the world!

Born November 29, 2005. Good luck to him and his mom, Emily, and her mom, Ruth.


I've had these glasses for twenty years - a dozen each of three sizes. Raised kids with them and no one ever broke one. 'Til last night.

It was pretty impressive. I dropped one on the slate floor and it shattered - kind of like safety glass - into lots of small pieces. The pieces scattered from one side of the room to the other. I imagine I'll be finding more pieces over the next few days. Luckily they aren't very sharp.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weblog Awards

Some mornings I can be completely mesmerized by Washington Journal and blogs. This morning it's the Weblog Awards. After reading Coturnix's favorites, I started looking at some of the nominee's for Weblog Awards.

The Best Blog category is mostly the biggies you already know. But new to me is a military blog, Mudville Gazette - certainly a different perspective. And Captain's Quarters which may satisfy my search for a tolerable conservative blog.

In the New Blog category Respectful Insolence is certainly worth a bookmark. Performancing has some good info about blogging - geared, actually, for professional bloggers. Yellow Dog Blog is fun Democratic raving.

Best Liberal Blog and Best Conservative Blog - you look at them. I'm tired of politics.

Best Media/Journalist Some of these are packed with good stuff. Especially Poynter, Pundit Review and maybe Amy Langfield if you like New York.

Most of the finalists in Best Photo Blog are worth looking at. Especially Chromasia and Sopheava de Lumiere

Best of the Rest would be my category - TTLB ranking 8751 or more. But, hey, I like my blog. So, probably some of these are worth a look. I like Oval Office 2008, a Brit blogging objectively about the upcoming presidential election. And My Election Analysis, a self-declared conservative blogging objectively about upcoming elections.

Some criteria for blogs I like:
  • Regular, preferably daily, updates. Even tho' I don't visit most blogs more than weekly, the ones I really like have so much to say, they pretty much have to get it out daily.
  • Good writing and good ideas.
  • Some technical knowledge.
  • Some info about the author and a picture of some kind.
  • Sidebar content: I can do without the ads, but I like to see good links and categories.
  • Objectivity, tho' I admit it's hard for me to recognize objectivity in conservative blogs even when it's there.

And ones I don't like:
  • Bubble-gum pink.
  • Typos, maybe. But spelling errors more than once or twice and grammar errors almost guarantee that I won't read it again.
  • Vulgar language. I just don't need it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Canadian elections

I've been reading about the upcoming Canadian election. There comes a point when you just have to share. I think you should know:

It is illegal to eat your ballot in a federal election or by-election. Six members of the Edible Ballot Society, a protest group, were charged after the 2000 election under paragraph 167(2)(a) of the Canada Elections Act for willfully destroying a ballot; two were found not guilty for lack of evidence, and charges against the other four were stayed.

But seriously folks... A few things you might want to know...

Canadians elect only the 306 members of parliament. The prime minister and senators are appointed by the Governor General, who is appointed by the Queen.

Canadian elections are not regularly scheduled. Elections must be held at least every five years, but may be held sooner if called for.

The election must be held no less than thirty-six days from the dissolution of the current parliament. I don't know if there's a maximum limit but obviously, it's practical to have the election fairly soon after it's called for. The election now scheduled for January 23, 2006 allows for an unusually long campaign period - perhaps to allow for some leeway around the Christmas season?

In this interval, the non-partisan official in each "riding" (electoral district) must establish an office, hire clerks and registrars, update voter registration, etc. 170,000 temporary positions are filled.

And in about eight weeks the whole election is over. How cool is that?

A few more things about Canada that I find interesting:
  • Canada has about the same area as the US and one-eighth the population. So, the population density in Canada is 9 people per square mile as opposed to 83/sq mi in the US.
  • Life expectancy is about 3 years longer in Canada and infant mortality is lower.
  • There are about 5 passenger cars for every 10 people in Canada as opposed to 8 cars per 10 people in the US.
For more information:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blog Categories

I may have found a more graceful way to design blog categories without using Technorati or I went to Skeptic Rant to read his (her?) Skeptic's Circle post and was immediately attracted to the use of tags there. I spent a while figuring out how to do it, then found the post explaining it.

This involves using Google Blogsearch and in the process I learned a bit about Google search operators. So, my tags are links to a Google blogsearch for the subject word with 'inblogtitle:" Five Wells" ' (it looks like this: bird OR birds inblogtitle:"Five Wells" ). There are some powerful advantages to this system.

1. Search results include articles using the search word whether or not I've included it as a tag. So the tag is really only necessary if the category word is not part of the text of the post. Or as a convenience to readers looking for similar posts.
2. You, the reader, can use it to search for a subject I haven't organized as a category or tag - solving what Coturnix lists as the biggest obstacle to categorizing, namely choosing the categories. Notice Coturnix has twenty categories - entirely reasonable compared to Brad DeLong's sixty-four categories.
3. One interesting way to come up with the categories is to Google your blog for words you think might be important and see how many posts come up in which you've used the word. Caution: use "OR" liberally, for example: bird OR birds.
4. It's a good idea to be sure you link to the search sorted by date rather than by relevance.
5. Reminder to self: until I remember how to force the link to open in a new window, use shift+click link.

Tags: Blogging

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wildlife Photo Contest

Go enjoy the results of the National Wildlife Federation 2005 Photo Contest.
Really. The photos are great. This one is from Victor S Lamoureaux in Vestal NY. I'm surprised the website let me copy it - and disappointed that they let me copy it without credit to the photographer. I presume they'll forgive me, since I'm trying to drive traffic to them. In this picture, the frog on the right is female and the other three are male. Need any more be said?

Tags: Photos

Good News for Science

Well, this is certainly good news. NSF's FY 2006 Budget Increases 3 Percent. I wonder how this happened without the usual ridicule of research project titles. Who decided that this year the transportation appropriations and the "bridge to nowhere" would be the scapegoat? And kudos to the NSF for quoting the appropriations bill without dumbing down the language and making me search for the original.

Language... hmmm... Can I just say I wish people would be more careful with words? To think clearly, to make a point, you have to think carefully about the meanings of words. Few things make me stop listening more quickly than cliches. Could we have a moratorium on the phrases "cut and run" and "stay the course" while people think through what they actually mean? Let's see: cut and run = stop shooting at people and being shot at. Stay the course = continue shooting at people and being shot at.
Fair enough?

Tags: Science, Language

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Using blogs to teach

Cathy Resmer at 802 Online writes about three blogs started by students for a UVM class titled Politics & the Internet. Her point is that sets a high altruistic bar for UVM Barf (about dining hall food) and Burlington Noise (about the local noise ordinance.) I imagine the course requirement did not address topic choice. And setting that aside, the different approach the three blogs have taken is interesting.

All three have clearly stated goals on the front page. That was probably a course requirement. (which should probably be titled "Keep Vermonters Warm") has a .com address and an interesting design, which, it turns out, doesn't work very well. They've only managed two posts beyond the front page.

UVM Barf and Burlington Noise are using Blogspot. UVM Barf makes good use of the sidebar, but should adjust preferences to show more posts on the front page. They've post-dated a post stating the site's goal in order to keep it at the top of the page - crude but effective. and UVM Barf have links to petitions, one at and the other at I had no idea it was so easy to create online petitions.

All three sites could benefit from more careful writing or editing. But they all seem to be learning about local issues and blogging.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sidebar Updates

Daniel is a neighbor. Though we haven't met, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he voted for me for Dryden Town Board. He blogs on "the Assaults on Science" at A Concerned Scientist.

Michael's blog at Groovy Green is "bringing you good news about the green life." He links to many interesting and useful events and groups in and around Ithaca, NY.

They're both writing lots of good stuff about energy, peak oil and other environmental issues.

Tags: Local, Environment


The new feeders are so successful I think I'll start posting at eBird again. Among this morning's visitors are a Hairy Woodpecker, two Titmice, and two Juncos. There are now two Blue Jays, three Goldfinchs and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

I don't know why sparrows are rare at my feeder, but this morning there's a lone Tree Sparrow (not pictured).

And what's with the two Cowbirds (not pictured)? I thought they went away for the winter.

Tags: Photos, Birds

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Maggy's helped with the turkey and stuffing so often that when she makes the leap to Thanksgiving Dinner hostess, she should be right at home. I'm not sure you can appreciate the smudge of Bell's Seasoning on her hip in this picture. I'm afraid she learned the technique of measuring with her hand and brushing her hand off on her pants from me.

Fastening the turkey skin together to hold the stuffing, Maggy says:

Sometimes I think I should be a surgeon.

I hope everyone's having as nice a day as we are.

Tags: Maggy

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Baby Steps

This is why we make changes in small easily reversed increments. They're not always improvements. Today the header background is color #C60, same as the post titles. That will probably not be true tomorrow. I haven't accomplished a font change yet, but I did manage an underline.

Now, I have to go worry about Maggy on her way home for the holiday. As my sister says, "I think worrying works. None of the things I worry about ever happen."


There's probably no practical limit to the number of feeders birds will enjoy if you provide them. I've had three tube feeders, a shelf feeder and two suet feeders for a long time. They're about twelve feet from the deck and it's delightful to sit practically among the birds as they enjoy their evening snack and I enjoy my cocktail. It's November and I don't think there will be any more cocktails on the deck. So, I thought it would be fun to have a feeder closer to the window. Belinda had a spare tube feeder and Candace gave me a suet feeder which I hung from a hook over the deck where the fuchsia was in the summer. Next day there they were. Many chickadees, a goldfinch, a titmouse, a downy woodpecker and a bluejay eyeing the tube feeder and cleaning up the dropped seeds.

Does anyone study the "last man standing" syndrome of mourning doves and other flocking birds? A dozen or more doves are feeding contentedly on the ground under the feeder when a squirrel runs up. The doves scatter amidst noisy wings and coos and in a few seconds there's one dove left looking around as if to say "What?" Is it always the same one? Is the bit of energy saved by not fleeing enough to balance the increased risk of being eaten?

Monday, November 21, 2005

New Best Friend

Bear with me. There's not a political thought in my head. I've been cleaning for days. There are several things about my life that make it unlikely that any two rooms in the house will be clean at the same time.

First, my technique involves moving all the stuff I don't know what to do with to another room. I clean the, thus unencumbered, room and sit back with a beer to appreciate the effect. The next day, I notice the room(s) that inherited the random stuff and the process starts over.

Second, the self flagellating that goes on seriously impairs the energy I have to give to the actual cleaning. "Why the hell did you let it get this bad?"

Third, I have a tendency to think about probabilities when I'm bored. If there's a lot of dirt around, the probability that you're going to miss some is greater than if there wasn't so much dirt in the first place. See #2, "Why the hell..."

Fourth, I have pets. And plants. And lots of hobbies.

So, meet my new best friend. Robin was commiserating with me about pet hair. She recommended this cordless vacuum cleaner and invited me to go with her to the Target lending library with the things she was returning. I haven't given myself a present in a while, so I bought the little angel. $30 - a bargain at twice the price. Next morning, after charging the battery, I thought, "I'll just whisk up these crumbs on the kitchen floor." Within 15 minutes I'd gone over five rooms. It works great! I imagine it works best on "fresh" dirt. But it's so much easier than my wonderful Kirby that I'll undoubtedly use it more often. Well, "undoubtedly" may not be the right word.

To give the new vac the respect she deserves, I cleaned the cleaning closet. Really. I moved the washer and dryer to collect all the dryer lint and actually whitewashed the wall that had a grimy outline of a dustbuster that has long since gone to the great cleaning closet in the sky.
(Spellcheck rocks again - change "dustbuster" to "Dostoevsky?")

Sunday, November 20, 2005

More Colors

Last week, at an all-day grant review panel, I met local artist, Laurel Hecht. Here's the image on her card. The panel moderator thoughtfully provided Ithaca Art Bars to keep us going. The art card in my chocolate bar is shown here with Laurel's picture. I love the colors of both and the coincidence of finding both of these in the same day. I think I'll experiment with designing a webpage with these colors - not here, don't worry.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I boldly changed the background color of this page thanks to the easy color chart at Mandarin Design Daily. Watch for improvements to come in the oh-so-plain Blog Title.


I want to be able to blog about lots of different things without boring the hell out of the people who aren't interested in all the same things. So, I've started what promises to be a tedious process of creating some kind of categories in the sidebar (scroll down to "Good Old Posts"). The best advice I've found about creating categories without or Technorati was at Theatre of Noise. This involves creating a post with links to other posts on a particular topic. What I'd really like is a page that actually contains the text of the other posts of the same topic. But linking to the links will have to do for now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Brad DeLong links to a new blog by Arthur Silber, Once Upon a Time... About culture and politics, and the narratives that inform them. Silber touches eloquently on several important points in the current torture controversy (Can you even believe that there is a controversy about torture?) and the power of the stories we tell about ourselves. He refers to the Suskind interview in which a Bush aide is quoted as saying, "We create our own reality." You've heard Bush say, "We don't use torture." No matter what horrifying treatment of prisoners is described, it isn't torture because we're doing it and "We don't use torture."

The torture methods under discussion were learned from Communist interrogators not for gathering intelligence, but to force compliance. Silber says of the torture methods, "Make no mistake: this is sadism for its own sake, with no further aim or purpose." It reminds me of the NPR story tonight about the teenager that died in a fraternity hazing incident.

"It's kind of like the medieval castle dungeon," says Keeney. In February, at the time of Carrington's death, the dark and dirty basement would have been very cold, says Keeney. Repeatedly scribbled on the walls was the phrase, "In the basement, no one can hear you scream."

Carrington died during Chi Tau's "Hell Week." Junior fraternity brothers were in charge and were told to be tough on the pledges. ... The two pledges were ordered downstairs and told to do
calisthenics in raw sewage that had leaked on the floor. For hours, according to district attorney Mike Ramsey, they were interrogated and taunted. There were forced pushups and trivia quizzes. Through it all, the Carrington and Quintana were ordered to drink from a five-gallon jug of water, which was filled over and over. Fans blasted icy air on their wet bodies. They urinated and vomited on themselves. Then, according to DA Ramsey, something went terribly wrong.

Carrington collapsed and started a seizure. Fraternity members didn't initially call an ambulance. By the time they did, it was too late. Carrington was taken to Enloe Medical Center, where his heart stopped. At about 5 a.m. he was pronounced dead from water intoxication, which caused the swelling of his brain and lungs. Not a single fraternity brother was there, a fact that still haunts his mother.

Read Silbers blog. It's worth it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The blog world

Bitch, PhD has walked headlong into a hornet's nest. The apostrophe is correct. There's only the one hornet: one nasty, irate commenter on Bitch's excellent, popular blog. Coturnix is providing the best running commentary on the conflict.

The conflict is framed loosely around the question of "How much freedom of speech do bloggers have?" and "How much freedom of speech do commenters have?" (Look at my post on Dryden Democrats about Frameshop and the Iraq war for more information about how to reduce an issue to its simplest factors.) Is freedom an absolute? Can you have more freedom or less? Is it something like having enough rope to hang yourself?

Anyway, Bitch and the bloggers who've joined the conversation are among the best of the bloggers I read. I should list them all in my sidebar when I get around to it. Rana, at Frogs and Ravens, has a great viewpoint. There's a enormous amount of variety in the blog world. We tend to read the ones we like. I like the ones that help me figure things out. If you're not telling me something new, don't waste my time. Controversy is welcome in good blogs. But it has to add to the discussion, not block it. The degree of courtesy required varies but is entirely at the discretion of the blogger.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day

Why is Cheney, and not Bush, at the Veterans' Day Ceremony in Arlington?

Who decided that if one flag is good, two or twenty are better?

How long will it be 'til I can enjoy Stars and Stripes Forever again, complete with its piccolo solo?


Can anyone help me figure out the relative cost and environmental impact of propane heat vs electric (thermal storage) heat?


Discover Magazine’s December issue (not yet up on the web) includes a social psychology article referring to the work of Lee Ross and others at Stanford on the “False Consensus Effect” - the tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.

Maybe I’m not as affected by this as most people are. I’m pretty sure most people disagree with me about a lot of things. That makes me rather more determined to change their minds. While I admire some people who boldly express extreme positions, I find I have more success influencing people when I start from a place where we share some common belief – however close to the edge that place may be.

Many bloggers are shrilly preaching to their own choirs. This may rally support among those who already agree, but it doesn’t change minds. Granted there’s no reasoning with some people (i.e. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh) but most of us can be open minded if our own positions are respected and the people speaking are offering objective information.

The False Consensus Effect may have lulled Democrats into complacency in the recent past. It’s important to listen to people, to question them, to discover their opinions and the rationale underlying those opinions.

Changing Minds has a common sense, if cynical, take on false consensus: “Build rapport by assuming their behavior, attitudes and beliefs. Other people are very often taken in by such false empathy as they see it as normal that you are like them.” Take a look at this site for more ideas about creating change.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Election results

My inbox is full of congratulations this morning. I'm happy to report that I've just become a Town of Dryden Councilman. I'm not implying gender change, but I don't think the Board has accepted the extra syllable in Councilperson yet. I am now the only Democrat and the only woman on the Board. And I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I was copying some old posts into a Word document this morning to archive when I realized how many typos and outright spelling errors there were. Clearly I'm doing this wrong. I should be writing them in Word. I don't know why I don't use spellcheck all the time. It usually gives me a laugh. This morning it wanted me to consider changing Whitehouse to outhouse.

The weather’s been delightfully sunny and warm for November. The house seems to have stabilized at around 61 degrees – a little less in the morning, a little more in the afternoon. The west wing is about four degrees colder. I’m surprised how easily I’ve adapted to it. Socks, an extra shirt, a fire at dinnertime and I’m doing fine. Still, it reminds me of Maslowe’s hierarchy. When I’m cold I just can’t think of anything else. In fact, it makes it harder to get up and start the fire.

Then I start debating with myself. That wood is a lot of work. Maybe I should start the furnace and save the wood 'til it gets really cold. But, you know, the price of gas... Maybe I should start the ETS heaters. But, no. I've been doing so well cutting down the electric bill.

Then I get a bit of insight into energy conservation. If I put on a sweater I can put off starting the fire for a while and save a few sticks of wood. I know exactly how much work went into cutting, splitting and stacking the wood - not to mention growing it. I probably worked just as hard to earn the money that buys the gas. But there's no connection. It's not like you wake up in the morning and say, "I think I'll go out and earn the money for some gas today."

Friday, November 04, 2005

All the news ...

Thanks to Lance Manion for the link to Unpartisan. I try to keep up with divergent viewpoints but it's hard to find rational ones. Unipartisan provides links to news articles, left-wing commentary and right-wing commentary.

I agree with Nance at who clings (figuratively) to print newspapers for the surprise element. "There's always something there that I didn't know I was interested in, and it turned out I was." Radio's even better for this. And you can have your hands free while you listen. A few years ago NPR did an article about the narrowing of news. When you read a print paper, you scan the headlines and skip the articles that don't look promising. On the internet it's even worse - in seconds you search for only the articles you're interested in. But on the radio, you're going to have to listen to pretty much everything they're saying. And if you're doing, say, the housework while you're listening (or you're trapped in your car in traffic) you're not going to resent the time it takes to listen and you're probably going to hear something you didn't know you'd be interested in.

From Unpartisan's links to news about the Senate's approval of the budget
bill including the ammendment to open ANWR to oil drilling, I got drawn into
commenting on Say Anything where Rob says:

What I don’t understand about Democrats is, while they’re very concerned with America’s dependence on foreign oil, they’re not willing to allow for the exploitation of domestic petroleum resources.

By the way, I like the comment format at Say Anything a lot. Tags are very easy to use. It shows a preview simultaneously with the html. And you can subscribe to comments posted after yours.

Typos corrected.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Barnes & Noble

I buy books from Barnes & Noble, partly 'cause I love the "People who bought this..." links. In the process of putting up the link in the sidebar to Voyage of the Beagle" I found this:

People who bought this book also bought:
The Oresteia: Agamemnon, Choephoroe, Eumenides
Aeschylus, George Thomson (Translator), Richard
Seaford (Introduction)
Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle and Martyrdom of St.
Polycarp, the Fragments of Papias, the Epistle of Diognetus
Walter J. Burghardt (Editor), T. C. Lawler (Editor), J. Quasten (Editor)
Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To
Michael J. Behe
The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected
Albert Camus
Notes from Underground Richard
Pevear (Translator), Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I think that blows the mind of even the most eclectic reader.

South Woods

Another nice day gave us a chance to tour the south woods. The highlight of this walk is usually the creek. This upstream view shows the remnants of the earthen dam that formed the mill pond used to cut the lumber that built Bill's house and others in the neighborhood in the early 19th century. Wideboard American Chestnut was used for siding. I've watched this area mature for thirty years. What used to be primarily huge white pines is now giving way to maple and oak. Still it's hard to imagine how the three foot diameter Chestnuts must have looked. Or how someone decided "I think I'll pile up this dirt to build a mill and cut these chestnuts (with an axe) and build a house.

Here's a poplar that's surviving insect infestations and the resulting Woodpecker work. When I see woodpecker holes like this, I always hope they're providing Chickadee nests. I've never noticed holes healing over like the bottom one in this picture.

Finally, on the home front, these fall crocuses are blooming. Here's a bumble bee scrounging for a last taste of nectar.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

North Woods

Bill and I took advantage of this lovely day to look around the north woods. This powerline right-of-way has given us a few headaches over the years. But it does provide a good edge for birds who like that sort of thing.

There's been some talk around town about developing powerline right-of-ways into pedestran trails. I was horrified when I first heard about it. Then I thought about how much I've enjoyed the Shug Trail around Dryden Lake. It occured to me that developing a pedestrian trail might not be so bad if it meant the town would enforce a prohibition against vehicles. We have a continuing battle to remind people with snowmobiles and ATVs that, despite the powerline, the land belongs to us and we do not allow anyone without permission to use it and we do not allow vehicles period.

Then again I realized that, although this powerline is well out of sight of my house, it crosses several properties right through the yard. You just can't expect people to welcome the public that way.

The patterns in the leaves are fascinating to me. I couldn't resist picking up a few dozen to use for decoration around the house.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Circus of the Spineless and Alito

I always think "Circus of the Spineless" should be about the people in the White House. But I'm glad it's not. Milkriver emailed me to remind me of the latest edition now up at Snail's Tales. Even if you think you're not interested in invertebrates, take a look at this cool carnival format with links to interesting people, great photos and stories. In the comments there's a little tempest in a teapot regarding Aydin's exclusion of a submission based on his blog policy of not linking to any creationist sites.

And thanks to Coturnix at Science and Politics for this timely roundup of links to info about the Alito nomination.

Friday, October 28, 2005


I admit defeat. Apparently I cannot slow the advance of the season by continuing to wear sandals and refusing to turn on the furnace. Bill's first frost, at South Five Wells, across the street (and maybe 5 feet lower) was a couple of weeks ago. He had already turned on his furnace and started wearing boots.

Maybe my first failure was after Labor Day when I stopped wearing white . Then I demonstrated my lack of faith by bringing in the porch plants yesterday.

Anyway, last night we had a frost here at North Five Wells. Today the Black Walnut trees are dumping their leaves all at once, as they always do when the temperature hits 31.9F. I once caught this in a movie. It's pretty dramatic.

I'm not a narcissist or a control freak. It's sheer denial that makes me ignore the obvious signs that winter is coming. It's been so rainy I haven't been able to enjoy fall as much as I usually do. There are some things about winter that I enjoy. It's just that it's soooo loooong. If only it could hold off a few more weeks... If only the computer screen could provide the sunlight we northerners so desperately need...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Raingauge Runneth Over

Welcome to new readers from Feministe, Philobiblon and Science and Sarcasm. So many thoughts, so little time. I'm having trouble adapting to the change of season. It looks like we'll have to depend on the Hickories for color this fall. Maples and Oaks haven't really chimed in yet. And it's raining, raining, raining. There are a few important outdoor chores to do. Lots of indoor chores have piled up over the summer. I can't believe the cobwebs, pet hair and dust bunnies everywhere. I just don't notice it in the summer when I'm outdoors most daylight hours. And if I don't get some ironing done soon I won't be able to go out in public at all.

But the big adjustment problem is heating. The house was designed before I had kids. Kid #1 was on the way as construction began and I made my first huge concession to kids - I added electricity to the design. Here in the country we need electricity to have running water and I couldn't picture toilet training with an outhouse. As it turned out that would have been one of the simplest parts of family life. The washing machine and refrigerator have been the most important electric appliances. But the house was heated delightfully with the wood cookstove and ingenious convection for circulation.

Kid #1 was on his feet (and on the tractor, on the ladders and up the trees) when we moved into the house and Kid #2 arrived. By the time she was walking I realized that the original 24'x32' design was really ideal for one person, or two people who really liked each other. But with kids we were going to need more space. So construction of "the west wing" began, doubling the square footage of the house. That wing has always been hard to heat with the fireplace, so we reluctantly added some supplementary electric thermal storage heat.

Finally a few years ago, living solo and working full time away from home to help put Maggy through college, I splurged on a small gas furnace. The magic thermostat on the wall was my best friend for a year - at least my favorite mechanical device. But now, with no kids for tax exemptions, I'm back to my original tax protest - keeping my income low enough to avoid paying taxes. That means keeping expenses to a minimum, too. So, I'm retreating into the original part of the house for now, hoping that will eliminate the need for the electric heat and minimize the need for gas heat. I'm home full time now so I'll be keeping the home fire burning.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wild Apples

Last spring Bill and I walked up toward the northwest corner of our woods - a walk we've taken regularly for more than thirty years. But that morning there was a strong floral scent in the air. I kept looking around for the source 'til we spied a gorgeous, full-grown apple tree in full bloom. How could it be that we'd never seen it before? It's just a little off the trail - far enough from home that we're usually deep in thought or conversation. We wouldn't have noticed it this time except for the fragrance. Apparently in thirty years we've never happened to walk by on the right day - the peak bloom day. Today we picked ten pounds of delicious, crisp tart apples!

More on Rural Internet Access

I enjoyed reading the first few entries in the new Carnival of Feminists up at Philobiblon this morning. Go look at it. Really. There's something for everyone.

Then Maggy sent me a link to this great Salon article on Broadband Internet Access. Among other things, the article reports on a Bill introduced to the house by Congressman Sessions (R Texas) to prohibit local governments from developing improved internet access. I this another example of Republican support of Free Markets? I did a little research, wrote another letter to Boehlert and posted about it again on Dryden Democrats.

Once again, I'm way over my allotted time for blogging.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Frivolous Lawsuits

Sometimes even CSPAN drives me nuts. It's not their fault, they broadcast the House and the Senate live. The straw that breaks the camel's back this morning is James Sensenbrenner (R Wis) introducing the "Personal responsibility in food consumption act," limiting the right of obese people to sue food companies - I kid you not.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for personal responsibility in lots of areas. But, in the true Republican spirit of free markets, why can't we count on lawyers simply to decline to take frivolous cases? Don't bother trying to explain this to me. I really do get it already. But where is the logic that informs Republicans it's a good idea to limit liability for doctors, gun manufacturers, food companies but not to restrict the amount of toxic waste they pour into the air and water? Or the amount of critical habitat they can pave?

Who thinks Congress should spend their time on frivolous lawsuits when they could be considering solutions to health care issues, poverty, world peace, better education? Ah, maybe there's the key... education standards for national leaders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rural Internet Access

When I teased Coturnix, at Science and Politics, about time management and being interested in so many things at the same time, he replied that he writes his blog posts in his head, then takes about 20 minutes to post them. That made me think about what a handicap my modem is. I'm used to it and I take it for granted (like I take hand-washing dishes for granted). But it means my internet reading, not to mention blog writing, probably takes ten times as long as it would with broadband access.

It's not that I'm personally technologically challenged. I was programming with COBOL on a mainframe Univac in the early seventies. Does anyone here remember "do not fold, staple or mutilate" punch cards and 12" reel-to-reel data tapes? And it's not that I'm stupid or stubborn. It's that, in my rural neighborhood, the only high speed access available to me is satellite. And it's simply not worth the price.

I'm affected by the digital divide because I choose to live in the country. I wonder how many of my friends in the "ecology" section of my bookmark list are similarly affected. We may be among the last of the underrepresented minorities.

My Congressman, Sherwood Boehlert (whose Congressional page loads in seven seconds), is on the House Science Committee. I've sent him the following message.

I would like to bring your attention to the problem of internet access in rural New York. In the Town of Dryden, where I am running for Town Board, Time Warner provides broadband access to any area which has twenty or more house per mile. My mile-long road has 17 houses (if you count the subdivision with its own dead-end side road). So, I continue to rely on my modem.

It takes 5 to 15 seconds to load a page of your House website. Clicking on "Contact Your Congressman" on your sidebar takes me to the House Contact page ( where I have to look up my representative's name, 'though I already know it's you. After I fill in my name and address and click "continue" I come to the House "Write Your Representative" page (where, incidentally, "useful" has been misspelled since the page was designed years ago.) So, I'm about two minutes into it before I begin to write my message.

In a search of FirstGov for "rural internet access" seven of the first ten articles reference North Carolina, already a leader in rural technology. If I'm having this much trouble in Tompkins County, what must it be like in the Adirondaks? The digital divide is affecting a large number of your constituents, not because we're poor, but because of the population density of our neighborhoods. Perhaps New York could follow North Carolina's lead in making rural internet access a priority.

Following a two minute and fifteen second wait for the New York State homepage to open, a search for "rural internet access" returned no matches at all.

I'm way beyond the amount of time I had alloted for blogging this morning. I'll cross post this at Dryden Democrats and get on with my Town Board campaign.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I'm really going to have to commit to a book a week! I picked up the following 22 books at the Friends of the Library Sale for about $40.

  • Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Political Issues, McKenna and Feingold
  • The Choice: How Clinton Won, Bob Woodward
  • Talking it Through: Puzzles of American Democracy, Robert Bennett
  • Public Education, Democracy and the Common Good, ed. Donovan Walling
  • The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Means of Ascent, Robert Caro
  • Sketches From A Life, George F Kennan,
  • Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton, David Gergen
  • All Politics Is Local, tip O'Neill
  • The Vantage Point, Lyndon B Johnson
  • Heavens on Earth: Utopian communities in America 1680-1880, Mark Holloway
  • The House on Beartown Road, A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting, Elizabeth Cohen


  • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • The Liar, Stephen Fry
  • China Court, Rumer Godden
  • The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
  • The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi, Jacqueline Park
  • The Country Girls Trilogy and epilogue, Edna O'Brien
  • The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
  • The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank
  • Isle of Woman and Shame of Man, Piers Anthony

Add to these the uncounted things already lined up, waiting, on the shelf and the ten upcoming bookclub selections.

If you're near Ithaca, don't miss the last weekend of the Booksale. You'll be amazed how many good books are left and priced at .25 or .10. And Monday, a grocery bag full for $1.00! Finally, Tuesday books are free for teachers, homeschoolers and not-for-profit organization. The Booksale is truly one of Tompkins County's greatest institutions. More than 300,000 books in what seems like a lending library with no due date.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


The blog's been short of pictures lately 'cause my downstairs office, with the serious photo software, is cold. I'm using the upstairs computer so I can delay starting the fire for a few hours. I don't know if I can count this as energy conservation or sheer laziness. But it amounts to the same thing.

Coming home from the store yesterday, the clouds were just gorgeous. Thanks to Maggy for coming with me to take pictures from the top of Mt Pleasant.

This is the Cornell Observatory. I don't know what the guys with the telescopes were looking for in daylight. But I must remember to go there at night. My house is surrounded by trees, so I don't get much of a look at stars and such.

And this is the "rural character" of the Town of Dryden that I blog about at Dryden Democrats.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Coturnix has posted on the Ethics session of the ConvergeSouth blogger conference:

The session was actually quite tense and contentious, struggling over the ageless question of who has, or deserves, more trust: professional journalists or bloggers...until someone really smart suggested to stop thinking "Who do I trust" and ask instead "Who do I believe". At that moment, everyone in the room relaxed.

Words are great! "Trust" implies the trusted object is, in fact, trustworthy. A journalist or a blogger might feel personally threatened that the reader doesn't trust him. He isn't trustworthy.

"Belief" requires no rational support at all. It's when you close the book on "I think..." "I'm done thinking about this. I believe it. There's no need to discuss it further." If a reader doesn't believe what's written, it isn't necessarily the fault of the writer. It may be that the writer hasn't made a good enough case. But it may be that the reader has a conflicting belief and isn't willing to re-examine it - not the writer's fault at all.

I've thought a lot about the difference between "know" and "believe." I'm an extreme skeptic, so there aren't many things I claim to know with certainty. There are things I know from direct experience. Do I know that the theory of gravity is true? I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what the theory of gravity is. Let's see - something about attraction of bodies toward each other relative to their respective masses? I know that every single time I've dropped something, it has fallen down. So, though "past performance is no guarantee of future results," and, in fact, there may be some other explanation for things falling, I can claim to know the theory of gravity is true because people I trust have told me so and because I'm unaware of any plausible alternative explanation. (n.b. "people I trust")

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dryden Town Budget

Last Friday's Dryden Town Board budget workshop was interesting. Honestly. Members of the Board were cordial to Simon and me - the only representatives of the public present. The clerk was kind enough to get a copy of the preliminary copy of the budget for us - all 86 pages of it. I've had a chance, over the weekend, to condense those 86 pages to 10 more meaningful ones. I've been in touch with Supervisor Trumbull with some questions, but here are a few salient points.
  1. Total expenses budgeted (about $6.5 M) remain nearly the same as expenses budgeted in 2005.
  2. Revenue includes:
  • Property taxes (about $2.5 M): budgeted to increase as a function of increased assessments and tax rate remaining constant.
  • Other income (about $2.5 M), including: sales tax (budgeted at the same level as 2005), state aid (increasing 15%), interest income (increasing)

The gap between total expenses and the total of property tax and other income is covered from the substantial surplus remaining from prior years. The surplus has accumulated apparently as a result of a generous contingency line item and apparently years of spending less than is taken in. And here a quiet debate begins. Should we continue budgeting for a surplus?

Dryden Town taxes, a small fraction of total property taxes, have declined steadily in the past decade. According to figures provided by the Tompkins County Board, the Dryden town tax rate has declined from 2.65% in 1995 to a projected 1.5% in 2006. The tax levy (the total amount raised through property taxes) has declined from 1,311,451 in 1995 to $914,240 in 2005 despite rising assessments. The surplus occurs as a result of either increased other income or increased control of expenses.

Should we decrease the tax rate and stop accumulating a surplus? Should we apply the surplus to increased town services? Or are we happy to continue accumulating a surplus? A public hearing is scheduled for October 27, 2005 at 7:00 PM in the Town Hall. Try to find out all you can about the budget before then so that time at the hearing will be well spent.

Next week I'll try to look at what may be the larger issue: assessments - up 25% since 1995. Or School taxes: about 90% of the Town of Dryden is in the Dryden School District where the tax rate is up from about 16.8% in 1995 to 22.1% in 2005 on top of the increased assessments.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I and the Bird

I and the Bird #8 will be up at Science and Sarcasm Thursday the 13th. I think it will include a link to my post about Bill's show. It's a great site. Check it out.

For a laugh about my prep for the show go back to my notes about matting.

Art show

I'm finally finishing framing Bill's paintings for the show that opens at the Laboratory of Ornithology Thursday. Bill is William C Dilger, Cornell Professor Emeritus and my dearest friend. The oldest of the paintings here, is the barred owl he did in 1942 when he was nineteen.

I've finished framing seventeen paintings. I've made horrible compromises on nearly all of them. But they look good. I can't scan larger than 11x14. So I made mock-ups of the deer (bottom right), the screech owl (top right) and the bittern as place holders in the layout which will actually be two rows about 16 feet long each. When we talked about the layout today we decided to add two of the mouse paintings and another field sketch.

I especially like the field sketches Bill did when he was in the Army. The cardinal was done in Washington D.C in 1944 and the Myna bird in India in 1945. Field sketches always include information about the specimen and where it was collected. The Myna bird is labeled "Collected by S/SGT Louis Van Guelpin. Area #1." They weren't allowed to say where they were. Bill says when he corresponded with Dr Allen he made a point of mentioning animals with narrowly overlapping ranges, thus letting Dr Allen know where he was.