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.