Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rain, science and politics

It seems my leaving the laundry on the line trumped Belinda's putting away her deck chair cushion. We're getting all summer's rain at once. Happily, there's no wind involved and we're well above sea level. We were warned that the ground was too dry to absorb the heavy rain and to expect some flooding. That doesn't seem to be the case. My stream is still dry and the ground seems to be happily absorbing the water.

Thanks to Cosmic Variance for pointing me to the New York Times article Scientific Savvy? Jon Miller has conducted this survey every two or three years since 1979. It consists of 278 items including demographics. It includes true/false questions like:
  • Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.
  • The continents on which we live have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.
  • All radioactivity is man-made.
  • The center of the Earth is very hot.
  • The oxygen we breathe comes from plants.
  • Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
  • Electrons are smaller than atoms.
  • Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
  • The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.
  • It is the father's gene which decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

While it is encouraging that results indicate increasing understanding of science in recent years, it is still discouscary (or sad or scarey) that 75% to 80% of respondents do not have a grasp of basic concepts in science.

On the other hand, I'm glad to see Wes Clark engaged in the public forum and perhaps planning a 2008 campaign. Check out his guest posting at Talking Point Memo. It's a joy to see so many respondents to Clark's initial post with literate, insightful comments, questions and ideas. Also, check out Clark's site WesPAC. I supported Clark in 2004 and would be glad to do so again. In 2004, after my initial kneejerk reaction "Oh, god. Not a retired general," I found that he was best educated of the Democratic candidates - well, of all the candidates - and that's definicriterionll my top criteron for choosing a leader.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dryden Town Board

I recently agreed to run for Dryden Town Board and was nominated last week by the Dryden Democratic Committee. You can read the announcement in the Ithaca Journal (if you're quick - Ithaca Journal links don't remain active very long.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005


After a 15 minute argument about "You said Route 90," we were off to Sonnenberg Gardens for the Arts at the Garden show. There were five booths at which I was tempted to buy something: a painting from Pat Rechlin, a black glass vase from Pinkney Studios, a fiber artwork by Linda Hansee, who promised to email me a picture of it so I could decide, a pot from Mountain Star Pottery and a box from Frosty Morning Jewelry both of whom have no website. I did buy a lovely Ikebana flower holder from Hillbottom Pottery. Many of the artists at this show will be at the Clothesline Festival in Rochester in September, the same weekend as the Plants for Life Sale in Ithaca.

I'm glad we had time to walk around the gardens, too. This view reflects what I'd like to do around the meadow south of my house.

I think I was the only person in the Rose Garden taking a picture of a fly.

I've been really interested in stonework lately, but I doubt I'll ever manage an arch like this.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Eight Square Schoolhouse

I visited the Eight Square Schoolhouse today. Built in 1827, it served students within two miles until 1941 when the Dryden school district began transporting students to the Freeville school. The History Center in Tompkins County brings fourth-graders here every year for a taste of 19th century school days. Nicely refurbished with desks and slates, it's easy to imagine the twenty-eight foot diameter room containing up to twenty students in eight grades.

The decision to build the octagonal schoolhouse was influenced by Quaker tradition making efficient use of space and maximizing light and ventilation. In 1848 Orson Fowler began advocating octagonal buildings for the beneficial effects on health. Fowler, a phrenologist, also crusaded against corsets. His advocacy for sex education contributed to his eventual downfall.

I rode my bicycle to the schoolhouse, two and a half miles from my house. That doesn't seem far by any measure. But as I rode out of sight of my house, I remembered that it's been a few years since I've ridden the bike more than a mile. Happily, it turns out that two and a half miles really isn't far. The gravel shoulder provides an adequate safety zone for those moments when pickup truck drivers insist on passing too close to me. I know I'd have to grit my teeth if Maggy insisted on riding in sandals with no helmet, but I must admit I enjoyed it.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Not to be outdone by Maggy's kitchen cleaning... Though I have no one to blame by myself and the hundred and eight two projects I try to keep tabs on, I do sometimes notice that stuff is getting out of hand in the rooms I use a lot.

You certainly can't tell from these pictures that this cleaning included washing the windows. But you may detect from the missing spot of sunshine on the floor roughly how long I spent doing it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Notes on matting

  • It's harder than it looks.
  • If step 1 goes well, don't be overly optimistic about step 2.
  • Start out with 10 or 12 sharp pencils. If the phone rings or the cat wants to go out, you're gonna lose your pencil.
  • Measure twice, cut once. Be prepared to start over.
  • If for some misguided reason you're double-matting with black over white, find some way to keep your hands clean (the black rubs off on everything).
  • Expect to drink more coffee (or beer, depending on the time of day) and smoke more cigarettes than usual.
  • Do not, repeat DO NOT put your drink down near your workstation.

This is a field sketch of Bill's dated 1951. I "float-matted" it on white to reveal the ragged edges characteristic of a field sketch. Then double matted it with off-white over black.

I like the result. If I don't use it for the show we're mounting at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, I'll use it in my bedroom.

Other pictures that may make it to the show:

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sushi Salad

I have mixed feelings about posting recipes, but this is so easy and good - if I forget about it, I'll be glad to find it here.

3 Cups cooked sushi rice
3/4 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 pound small cooked, shelled shrimp
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Line a salad plate with lettuce. Top with 2 scoops of rice mixture and sliced avocado. Season with sesame seed, kelp and/or soy sauce.

1 cup serving: 256 calories, 13 g protein, 5 g fat, 44 g carbohydrate

Monday, August 15, 2005


I used to scorn the practice of campaigning for links to a blog site. People who have little to say tend to do this to increase traffic to a site which has no other way to attract readers. Well, come to think of it, I still scorn that practice. But the blogs I like best are the ones with good links.

This morning I started, somewhat randomly, in my list of bookmarks for "Things to read when I have a chance," at Cognitive Daily. From there I traveled to Mixing Memory and an interesting article about language and color. I didn't know that English speakers have 11 basic color terms: green, blue, purple, red,pink, orange, yellow and brown. Wait, that seems to be only eight...

This graph was developed "by having people name Munsell color chips, which depict colors across the visible spectrum. You then determine the color names that were used to describe the bulk of the spectrum. In doing so, you get graphs that look like the following for English-speakers (from Roberson et al. 2000)"

Why is pink a separate concept when there is no word for light green or light blue? Why don't lilac or lavender count? Why are the colors yellow and orange so "small?" Why is brown just kind of dark orange? I'm a redhead. These are important questions to me. My horse, my dog, one of my cats and my hair are all very similar colors. We call the horse chestnut, the dog brown, the cat orange and me, well, red. Interestingly, the shape of the "orange" concept matches the map of my property. (And Mary Magdelene and I share a birthday - but that's another story. Let's talk about coincidence someday)

I started looking at the links to blogs that Mixing Memory finds interesting. Some are ones I already read: Panda's Thumb, Shakespeare's Sister, Pandagon and others. Blogs Mixing Memory led me to that I bookmarked to return to include: The Valve, LogBlog, John Hawks, I Blame the Patriarchy, Here's What's Left, Ethical Werewolf, Cosmic Variance.

Those sites, of course, lead to others. And now it's 9:30 and things are being added to my "to do" list much more rapidly than things are being checked off.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


I've just finished reading Namesake. Gogol is named for the Russian writer to whom his father believes he owes his life. Throughout Gogol's youth he's embarrassed by the name. Before starting college he changes his name to Nikhil, which would have been his "good name" according to Bengali custom, had not American bureaucracy made it difficult for his parents. Nikhil later advocates that people choose their own names when they're eighteen.

I'm reminded of the effort some of us put into choosing screen names or user ids.

My daughter grew up as Margaret - a name she says everyone responds to with "My grandmother's name is..." After a summer of deliberation she chose to start college as Maggy. For some reason she registered as Margarette - a choice she backed away from two years later. But Maggy, though not as drastic a change as Gogol's, has worked for her despite the nearly universal tendency to spell it Maggie.

Many other wonderful thought in Namesake... The description of grace surrounding the family of the woman he dates "From the very beginning he feels effortlessly incorporated into their lives. It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratliffs are generous, they are people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, assured, in his case correctly, that their life will appeal to him."

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Here it is. This is the most nearly plumb it will ever be. This Chickadee was kind enough to land here just as I was taking the picture - confirming that the structure may remain plumb in use and making the picture much more than I'd planned.

This picture lacks the sense of the water flowing from near the top of the curve and overflowing from the dish. I'll tinker with the shape a bit. But I like the musical implication of the clef-like curve.

Also, yesterday a honeybee came for a drink from the fish pool on the deck.

And many thanks to Belinda for figuring out for me how to include images and links to "What I'm reading" in the sidebar.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Yesterday I was working on the "cup-runneth-over" bird bath I've been planning for a while. The idea is to create a gracefully curved copper tube to drip water into a shallow copper dish overflowing into a tub of stones. I got the parts into place yesterday but I found that the pump I was using couldn't lift the water to the height I wanted. On the plus side I accidentally created a much more graceful curve with the copper tube than I had originally envisioned.

As I sat back on the deck with a cocktail to contemplate the progress, a young Redstart landed on the wire fence near the project. He explored the parts, landing on the copper tube, the edge of the dish and finally plunging into the water to bathe for a few minutes. He didn't mind when I cautiously got up to get my camera. But I took a moment too long to grab the long lens. As I came back, he finished his bath and sat preening on a branch above the water.

I can hardly describe my pleasure watching the bird. I've never seen a Redstart this close. They eat insects, so naturally have never come to the feeder. Bill has told me again and again that running water is a magnet for birds. Hence the plan for the bird bath. But who knew it would work this fast? I can hardly wait to get another pump and finish the project.

I had trouble finding a picture that adequately conveys the grace of this tiny warbler. Peterson's Field Guide describes the Redstart as "the most butterfly-like of birds." This lovely photo is from Carol Edwards and copyrighted 2004.

These are the moments that restore my soul.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


This morning my sister sent me a link to this clock - you have to watch it to appreciate the digital irony. Not that I really need any more reminders of time passing. It's 10:30 and the sun is shining. Yet I'm sitting indoors.

A book I borrowed from Robin shows me how to make a neat little book. The cover includes an hourglass template, two pieces of acrylic and some sand.

I wanted to make the book for Maggy and use the pages inside for the Benjamin Franklin quote, "If you love life, do not squander time. For that is the stuff life is made of." But that sounds really nagging - and you're looking at the sand trickling away. Man, is that depressing.

So, I thought of Jim Croce, "If I could save time in a bottle, the first think that I'd want to do is to save every day 'til eternity passes away just to spend them with you." That's better, but way too needy for a mother-child thing.

I could work up a pretty good philosophical rant around "The fundamental things remain, as time goes by." Or an artistic presentation of "Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."

Still, it's 11:00 and I'm going outdoors now.

Monday, August 08, 2005


This may be why I can't get things done. I was replacing the worn out steps to my back door. Nearby there's a nice stand of Bee Balm and I'd been watching the hummingbirds coming and going for days. I got the project with the stairs roughed out. But I couldn't resist getting my camera.

Years ago I read, in a photography book, "When you're about to take a picture, ask yourself 'Why am I taking this picture?' and if you can't think of a reason, don't take the picture." So, the reason for this picture is to show that there are hummingbirds in my life and I can sit still long enough to get a picture of one.