Wednesday, December 20, 2006


My mother collected words which used to end in -ed but no longer use the ending. I know, some people collect thimbles or stamps. I even have a friend who collects Lincolns. But my mother collected words.

It piqued my interest but I tend to forget the words as soon as I notice them. I've got iced tea, waxed paper, barbed wire and here's a new one: hedged fund. Scroll down to "Origins and definitions." I've forgotten how to do that in the link.

Dropping the -ed may make pronunciation simpler. But it blurs the line between nouns and adjectives. No wonder young people have trouble diagramming sentences. Well, maybe that's not the main reason.

Okay. Some days start out stranger than others. But you go ahead with the day you've got, not the day you wish you had.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Just look at this weather! Temperature in the 50s. It makes it hard to stay on track with holiday preparations when it feels like I should be outside. I could be turning the compost, cleaning up fallen branches, clearing more of the saplings in the chicken yard...

But we are making some progress. Here's the tree with lights. I try not to rush into anything. That's a gentle way of saying that I procrastinate like crazy. Anyway, I'll be adding decorations bit by bit all week. I may even save a few for Maggy to put up when she gets home Friday.

And the disorder on the dining room table is more wrapping paper than crafts in progress. It's rare that I do this much wrapping before Christmas Eve. It's giving me the illusion that I'm on top of everything.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This is the gift I'm so proud of. These are four inch square glass coasters displaying my photos of a tree atop Mt Pleasant. The gift exchange was at a party on Mt Pleasant and probably everyone knows where the tree is, tho' no one has as close a relationship with it as I do.

My note accompanying the gift explains:

I take lots of pictures of this tree.
I call it "The Mt Pleasant Tree"
and we've kind of become friends.

P.S. You can use your own tree
or your own friend
or whatever...

I'm happy to say that the person who went home with the gift loves the photos and will probably not replace them with his own.

On the flip side, the gift I drew is this hilarious book by Amy Sedaris. The subtitle, "Hospitality under the Influence," says it all. I was second to draw a gift, giving the other eleven people a chance to steal my gift. (see my description of the gift exchange process) I managed to intimidate everyone to leave it with me. It helped that ten of the thirteen guests were men. To put them off I had only to hold up a few of the comical graphic illustrations of things only girls talk about and only in private. The other two women were the hosts and they were too kind to disappoint me by stealing the gift, tho' one said she's going to buy a copy for herself. In defense of my men friends, the gift was contributed by a man who said he spent an hour in Borders reading the book and laughing out loud.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Winter Festivity

I need to give more recognition to the beautiful wreath from Ludgates. I got my tree there, too - a delightfully fragrant fir. I understand some of their trees come from Ed Cope in Caroline. We visited him last summer when we were collecting information for the Renewable Energy Ordinance because his house is powered with wind and solar energy.

This door, by the way, was handcrafted by my father using a stained glass window made by my best friend from grad school. (Who'd guess that she was studying biology and I was studying labor relations. She's now an ASL interpreter and I'm, well, not a labor organizer.) The door is beautiful heavy cherry. I could never have afforded to buy a door this grand. I think my father enjoyed making it and was proud of it tho' it did cost him a couple of days in the hospital as a result of an instant of inattention to the miter saw.

So, I've got the one decoration up, but this is my dining table. I hope I don't have serve dinner on it before next week.

I've got a great photo of the gift I made for the party I'm going to this weekend, but I can't post it 'til Sunday. A couple of the people who will be at the party also read the blog.

The gift exchange is complicated and fun and secrecy is important. Everyone draws a number. The person who draws #1 chooses a wrapped present. The #2 person may choose a wrapped gift or "steal" the gift that #1 has unwrapped and revealed, in which case, #1 chooses another wrapped gift. And so on... It gets more complicated and more fun as more gifts are revealed and available for stealing. I can say modestly, that in past years there's been some mock fighting over the gift I brought. It may be second in popularity only to always coveted Home Depot gift certificate. I'm very happy with the gift I made this year. I hope it pleases someone as much as my past efforts have.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holidays for Cats

Well, I have no decorations up yet except a beautiful wreath. Thanks to, I think I've got the gift giving under control but I haven't done a bit of wrapping yet. Haven't made the Holiday brunch and dinner shopping lists yet. Oh, well. Plenty of time. It's all about savoring the season.

For cats, it's really all about the boxes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Word of the Year

Omigod! He wasn't kidding! Stephen Colbert pointed out tonight that "truthiness" is the Merriam Webster 2006 Word of the Year.

truthiness (noun)
1 : "truth that comes from the gut, not books" (Stephen
Colbert, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," October 2005)
2 : "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true" (American Dialect Society, January 2006)
Check out Merriam Webster for the rest of the top ten words of 2006:

Do we detect a theme?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bad Days

We've all had them. My favorite, in a twisted way, was Maggy's. But last week I overheard a friend unwinding at dinner. I didn't hear the whole saga, but when she said "... and I've got six missile launchers coming in and I've got to figure out where to put them..." I thought, well, that's a problem most of us aren't going to have this week.

Speaking of friends at dinner... Coconut cream pie is a really good thing. We had this one last week.

Chocolate Macaroon Crust
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Pinch of coarse salt
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine chocolate, butter, sugar, coconut, and salt. Using your hands, mix until well combined.

2. Press mixture into bottom and all the way up sides of prepared pie plate. Bake until firm but not yet browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Crust can be made up to 2 days ahead, and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap.

Coconut Cream Pie
1 teaspoon gelatin
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure coconut extract
Pinch of coarse salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 cup toasted shaved coconut, or as desired, for garnish

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, gelatin mixture, coconut extract, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with cornstarch until combined.

2. Slowly whisk one-fourth of the hot-milk mixture into egg yolks; return to saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture returns to a boil, about 1 minute. Stir in shredded coconut. Transfer to a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes.

3. Pour filling into the prepared crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours, and up to overnight. Spread whipped cream on top; garnish with toasted coconut, if desired.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Study Group

I would not have thought it was possible to feel as optimistic about national policy as I do this morning. I have a whole new list of names to research for possible inclusion in my list of heroes. One of the most wonderful aspects of yesterday's news about the report of the Iraq Study Group is the surprise factor. It's been a long time since Congress and the President accepted an independent report with such apparent open-mindedness as they have received the report of the Iraq Study Group. That indicates that the Iraq Study Group has done its job thoroughly. It's not enough to write the report if you can't get anyone to read it.

I'm comforted by the mere existence of United States Institute of Peace, facilitator of the Iraq Study Group; by the knowledge that not so long ago Congress acted on an idea, first stated in 1792, to establish "an office for promoting and preserving perpetual peace in our country." I am similarly comforted by the roles played by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP.)

From the Timeline page of the Institute of Peace:
In March, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) asks USIP to coordinate the Iraq Study Group and appropriates funds for its administration. Three other organizations are asked to assist: the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Congressional organizers select former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton as co-chairs of the ISG. The co-chairs, in consultation with the supporting organizations, choose the other members of the ISG.
I recognize problems with the process. Why did we wait three years to start the study? Why did we wait 'til after elections to release the results? I question the use of the term "bipartisan" instead of "non-partisan." I'm horrified at even the suggestion of committing more troops to Iraq. But at some point I'm prepared to accept the work of well qualified people who seem to done a thorough job of collecting the facts and exploring the alternatives. I haven't read the entire report yet. I'm printing it out now. So far, it seems to be an example of the clearest thinking and clearest writing I've seen in a long time.

This image is a tile I've had since I was in high school. I bought it at the drug store around the corner from my best friend's house. On the back it's got sticky tape with remnants of sheetrock from someplace I lived in the past.

Picasso painted many versions of peace doves. This one, with the many colored people dancing, has always been my favorite. Doves are not enough. In fact, as Bill has explained to me, doves are not inherently peaceful at all. Having no meaningful weapons, they haven't developed any behavioral inhibitions for aggressive behavior. You may have seen them beating on each other at your feeder. In fact, in captivity, they engage in bloody battles. (Sidenote: For some reason Bill met the Postmaster General of the United Nations in the fifties and this dove issue came up in conversation. The Postmaster was so impressed that he declined to use any dove designs for UN stamps for the duration of his term in office.)

So, with fervent hope and a grain of optimism, today I'm hanging the peace dancers where I'll see them every day. Perhaps in some magical way, the energy of being reminded daily of the possibility of peace will coalesce and contribute to the peace effort. Or perhaps it will remind me to talk to everyone I know and lots of people I don't know yet, about the possibility of peace and the importance of working for it.

(Cross posted at Dryden Democrats)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Winter Solstice

Most Americans - most people worldwide - celebrating a winter holiday will overlook the centuries old traditions surrounding the natural phenomenon of Winter Solstice. No matter what other cultural or religious traditions people embrace, we would do well to celebrate the relationship of the sun and the earth, the foundation of our existence. This year at about 7:20 PM Eastern Standard Time on December 21 the tilt of the earth's axis will bring the northern hemisphere to its farthest distance from the sun resulting in the shortest possible span of daylight. From that point on daylight will increase until the height of summer.

The winter celebration is all about light. For decades we've mounted bigger and bigger displays of electric lights. They're beautiful and I love them. But I'm increasingly returning to the centuries old traditions of candles and fire. It doesn't take much thought to stick a battery operated candle-looking light in the window. And I like the sense of welcome it gives me when I come home after dark. But lighting a candle requires some attention and gives me a much more satisfying opportunity to reflect on the meaning of light in my life.

Making ice candles has become an important detail in my Solstice preparation. It requires paying attention to the outside temperature. (Well, I suppose I could make them in the freezer - but that would defeat half the purpose) The candle molds have to be outside just long enough to freeze partially. So, it all depends on how cold it is and I have to watch them somewhat closely to get it right.

This year Solstice nearly coincides with the New Moon. So, it will be very dark. Just as, despite my best intentions, I usually failed to go to Midnight Mass, now I generally fail to manage a Solstice bonfire. Maybe this year...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More Carnivals

I'm still hooked on Blog Carnivals.

First there was the Festival of Under 30 Finances. There are links to some good writing. What grabbed me was how similar the writers' circumstances are to Maggy's. While I was reading those posts I was also listening to a Washington Journal guest talking about student loans. A caller commented that young people take student loan debt for granted and it's just a short jump to consumer debt. And then where are you?

The Working at Home Carnival led to some interesting blogs. My favorite is SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution. Take a look at the Top 10 Brain Teasers.

The Dragon Slayer's Guide to Life was worth a look for the name alone and it didn't disappoint me. The post "Think Money Wouldn't Change You? Think Again." Led me full circle back to my initial concern about young people and debt.

When did we start thinking that the reason to go to college was to command a higher salary? When did we decide that made college loans a good investment? I understand why economists measure everything in dollars. It's a convenient common denominator. But I think Ms Lauria's idea for high school english students was better. She gave them extra credit for every time they reported something they heard outside of class that they had previously studied in class. Many kids became aware of references they wouldn't have understood if they hadn't talked about them in class. And isn't that really the point? Education makes our lives richer.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Blog Connections

There's a box in my sidebar that announces current blog carnivals. Carnivals, collections of blog posts on specific topics, are a great way to find people who write about things you're interested in.

The carnival that caught my eye this morning is Festival of the Trees. JLS writes a lovely blog about "trees, forests, and wood, and everything in between."

One of the fun things about discovering an interesting new blog is finding blog friends already there. I found Lene, Roger, Cindy, Bev, Karen, Greenman Tim, and many others whose blog names I recognize but whom I don't really know well yet.

JLS also writes Brainripples "discussing writing, art, creativity, and entrepreneurship." I'm off to visit there now.

Another Change of Season

The weather has been just great the past few weeks. Well, way too much rain and not enough sun, but it's been warm. It really feels like April and I'm not the only one feeling that way. Last week peepers were singing in the yard.

But the forecast is dire. It was in the 50's today. By Sunday the daytime high will be in the 20's. So today I covered the roses, emptied the big outdoor flowerpots and firmed up the deer fencing around the rhododendron. Tomorrow I'll turn off the outdoor water faucet and that will be that. It's time to hunker down.

So my thoughts are turning to decorating for the holiday. I found a terrific silver spray paint and I'm collecting things that with a coat of paint will be shiny tree ornaments. This oak leaf shows every vein through the paint. The berries are Multiflora Rose hips. I know the birds like them, too. But there are plenty to share.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I And The Bird #37

It was a great holiday. Maggy was here to help me cook the Thanksgiving meal "that couldn't be beat." Friends joined us for dinner. It was a beautiful day.

Many cultures have harvest festival traditions. In the United States the tradition has drifted away from thoughts of the harvest. We use the day to take time to reflect on the many things we’re thankful for.

As I began to hear from birders around the world I realized that people who love birds are great people to share Thanksgiving with.

I'm especially thankful for conservationist heros working to make the world safe for the birds we love.

My own hero is George Archibald who has led the incredible, successful effort to save Whooping Cranes from threat of extinction.

Bill Eley highlights the work of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and asks How important is this habitat?

I also want to honor the work of Dr. Arthur Allen, his collegues and students. An example of their work is described by George Sutton in his book Birds in the Wilderness.

Birders give special thanks for the addition of each life list bird.

Kay at Don't Mess with Taxes gives Thanks for a Different Bird.

Mike was thankful for the mild Thanksgiving weather that he and the birds were enjoying. Still reaching for 10,000 birds, Mike added the Northern Shrike to his list.

John, from A DC Birding Blog was in New Jersey for the holiday where he also added the Northern Shrike to his life list.

Tho' Ben Cruachan didn't find the elusive Painted Snipe, his trip led to a surprise addition to his life list.

Likewise, Leigh's missed her intended target: the first recorded Ross's Gull in California but still garnered two lifers.

For lots of us there's a favorite bird or place or birdsong or photo opportunity to be thankful for.

From Snails Eye View A wonderful bird is the pelican

Trevor's Birding shares Great Birding Moment #18

Kevin at Natural Visions has gorgeous pictures of Vermilion Flycatchers at Whitewater Draw

Amy from Wildbird on the Fly has a great day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Roger at Words and Pictures got a glimpse of Urban Goldcrests apparently amused by the nearby installation of the city's Christmas tree.

Clare at The House and other Actic musings reports a Falcon Attack

Patrick at the Hawk Owl's Nest appreciates the humor in The Onion's satirical bird stories.

Lillian Stokes got great pictures of a Forked Tail Flycatcher in New Hampshire.

Don't forget the profound lessons that come with many birding experiences.

Karen at Rurality got a close look at the plumage of a Virginia Rail, tho' not by the preferred method.

At Find the River Paul grapples with "to help or not to help" a Bird in the Hand .

John at Birds Etcetera looks closely at Redefining Extinction

Rob, the Birdchaser shares a lesson we should all take to heart: To Bird, or Not to Bird.

Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis got an unexpected lesson in Peregrines' cuckoo tastes.

At the end of the day we’ll all be saying thanks for the memories.

Cindy's memories of The Gentle Snowflake Band are recent.

Jayne at Journey Through Grace shares Memories from when she was a novice birder.

Pam at Tortoise Trail remembers bird songs in Taiwan from long before she was interested in birds at all.

I thank everyone for sharing their stories with me. It's been an honor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Three Degrees of Separation

I know someone who knew someone who sketched this Ivory-bill woodpecker from life. My friend Bill Dilger, retired Cornell biologist, recently shared his copy of George Sutton's book, Birds in the Wilderness, with me. The book is inscribed: "To my friend Bill Dilger in celebration of his twenty-third, the most important, birthday of his life." It was 1946. After years in the Army in Burma and India, Bill was back in school at Cornell. To help pay his way through school, Bill worked with Sutton in the vertebrate collection. A large collection of mostly unlabeled bird skins had been donated by a hobbyist and they were fully occupied identifying and labeling them. Over the years of their friendship, Bill learned a great deal about drawing and painting.

One chapter of Birds in the Wilderness is devoted to Kints -- Ivory-bill woodpeckers. In the Tinsaw valley of Louisiana, in 1935, Sutton and Dr. Arthur Allen were introduced to a local attorney, Mr. Spencer, who offered to put them in touch with friends who would help them find the Ivory-bills. Sutton writes:
"We were amazed to learn that mammalogists consider wolves more common in this section of Louisiana than in any other part of the United States. Wild Turkeys were abundant. White-tailed deer thronged the swamplands. I was still in some doubt, however, about the Ivory-bills. Fearing that Mr. Spencer might, in his eagerness to help us, be confusing the Ivory-bill with the Pileated, which is also a large and showy woodpecker, I said, "Mr. Spencer, you're sure the bird
you're telling us about isn't the big Pileated Woodpecker, the bird the Florida Crackers call the 'Lord God Almighty'?"

"Man alive!" answered Mr. Spencer hotly, "These birds I'm tellin' you all about is Kints! Why, the Pileated Woodpecker's just a little bird about as big as that" -- he indicated with his fingers an object a few inches long -- "and a Kint's as big as that!" He moved his arms generously apart, fisherman fashion, and glared at me. "Why, man, I've known Kints all my life. My pappy showed 'em to me when I was just a kid. I see 'em every fall when I go deer huntin' down aroun' my place on the Tinsaw. They're big birds, I tell you, big and black and white; and they fly through the woods like Pintail Ducks!"

This colorful discourse left no doubt in our minds that Mr. Spencer's 'Kints' were genuine Ivory-bills.

After three days of wading through the swamps Sutton and his companions found a pair of Ivory-bills and their nest!
"The whole experience was like a dream. There we sat in the wild swamp, miles and miles from any highway, with two Ivory-billed Woodpeckers so close to us that we could see their eyes, their long toes, even their strongly curved claws with our binoculars. The male bird sighted me, called more rapidly, and then, instead of flying off in alarm, swung to a tree above me, looked at me first with one eye then with the other, and stationed himself not more than than thirty feet away. What a splendid creature he was! He called loudly, preened himself, shook out his plumage, rapped defiantly, then hitched down the trunk to look at me more closely. As I beheld his scarlet crest and white shoulder straps I felt that I had never seen a more strikingly handsome bird. His crest was gorgeous. But somehow what struck me most was the rich whiteness of his beak and the staring whiteness of his eye."

Sutton returned the next day and sketched for hours. "The mosquitoes were not bothersome." Dr. Allen took photographs and plotted how to get their unwieldy sound-recording equipment to this remote location.

"We had found our Ivory-bills and made drawings of them. Mr. Spencer's 'Kints' were no longer a new and funny word; they were an experience, an achievement, a memory."

Cross posted at Whorled Leaves

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Long Time...

Good grief. It's been so long since I've written here, I feel like I'm starting from scratch. With apologies to my regular readers, let me introduce myself. Or at least my cats.

Clockwise from top left: Magda, the grey tiger who has a major seniority claim; Murphy the new SPCA cat; Tang, the old SPCA cat who really belongs to Maggy.

With toddlers, this would be called "parallel play" - doing the same thing side by side but not speaking to each other.

Murphy (who was Winston last week) watched Tang and learned to drink from the goldfish tub.

He's also learning to make himself perfectly comfortable every place he goes. This is the chair I'm trying to teach him not to scratch. It's a log house for heaven sake. He can scratch almost anywhere. Why does he have to choose the most expensive upholstery?

I wouldn't normally allow cats on a dining table. This is more like a writing table. I guess I can share, 'though it is an antique cutwork embroidered cloth centerpiece.

But I may have to draw the line at getting into the refrigerator every time I open it. For this I blame the person who fed him turkey in front of the open refrigerator. You know who you are.

All this talk of cats belies my sincere love for birds. I've been enjoying reviewing the submissions for I And The Bird #37 due out on Thursday. Eighteen articles so far. Today's the last chance to get yours in.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I And The Bird #36

The beautiful IATB #36 is up at Words and Pictures. Roger leads with a spectacular picture of a gray heron from the Netherlands. He continues with links to posts about birders' pursuit of life list birds from Brian at The Natural Stone and Otis at Another Place. There are tales of bird squabbles from Mike at 10,000 Birds and Ridger at The Greenbelt. Seth at Cup O'Books writes about the nearby Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Sharon at Birding in Maine supports legislation protecting shorebird habitat. Pam at Tortoise Trail has great pictures of the Cooper's Hawk hanging out around her feeders, giving new meaning to the concept of "bird feeder." And much, much more...

I will be hosting IATB #37. Please send me your best recent birding stories. Deadline for submissions is November 28 for the grand opening November 30.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Moving On

I'm elated over the results of the election. And I'm happy it's over for the moment and we can all talk about other things for a while.

On Monday, at Time Goes By, Ronnie posted a growing list of movies of interest to people over fifty. (She calls people over fifty "elders." I call them/us "grown-ups.") Each movie is linked to its entry on IMDB so you can easily get some information about it. Criteria for inclusion on the list are:

  • Films about being old or getting old
  • Films with elder characters that are well acted or portrayed
  • Films that may not be about aging overall, but include good scenes about or
    with elders
  • Films that add to our understanding of or celebrate what getting older is
    really like
  • A lot of my favorite movies are on this list. I'll definitely carry the list with me to the video store.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    New Kitty

    We have a new cat from the SPCA. Doesn't he look right at home? It hasn't really been that easy. He and Tang and Magda spent a couple of days creeping around sizing each other up.

    They seemed to have it worked out. So, the next lovely sunny day, when I knew I was going to be around the kitchen most of the day, I boldly let all three of them go out. They all promptly disappeared under the porch. An hour later Tang and Magda came back without the new cat. I'm thinking, "Oh, great. They've led him into the woods Hansel and Gretel style." And I started looking for him.

    When I still couldn't find him at dusk I was pretty frantic. Shortly after dark, Belinda spied him with a flashlight, sitting calmly about a hundred feet away at the edge of the woods. I tried to circle around him so that when I got closer to him he wouldn't panic and run toward the road. But still no luck. He fled into the woods.

    We returned to the house to regroup. I couldn't think what to do. But I left the kitchen door open and fretted. I think it always helps to worry. Maybe a half hour later Belinda said, "Don't move!" Of course, I moved. But just a tiny bit - enough to see him sneaking cautiously into the kitchen. Whew. I slammed the door.

    He started whirling on the floor and purring ever so loudly and quickly ate up his supper.

    There's a longer, more harrowing story about the second time I let him out. But suffice it to say I won't be letting him out again any time soon.

    Here's one of the most special things about him. Look at those eyes.

    Maggy called him White Cat, which we shortened to WC. But when you say it out loud, of course, it isn't shorter at all. So we settled on Winston. WC - Winston Churchill. Get it?

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Change of Season

    The barn is clean, the chicken house is clean, half the garden is cleaned up and spread with manure for a headstart next spring. I've fed the bees and spread more than half the mulch that was delivered last month. Most of the fruit trees and shrubs are protected from deer browsing. One and a half cords of wood are in the shed (another cord to go.) Jelly and jam are in the cellar and carrots and onions are stored.

    Still I'm absolutely nowhere compared to this red squirrel. He's intent on filling up the maple sugar house with black walnuts. He's covered the woodpile, filled every stray concrete block and syrup bucket.

    He's run out of nooks and crannies and taken to simply piling them up wherever he can.

    I particularly like this batch on the roof. What made him think that would work?

    Seriously, don't ever be tempted to plant a black walnut in your yard. My yard came with them and I've adapted. But I'd never choose it.

    Besides the fact that the roots exude a hormone that's toxic to many plants that you might want to include in your landscape, every season brings it's own particular black walnut mess. In the spring I'm still cleaning up the remains of the previous year's crop. In early summer the flowers drop and cover the sidewalk and the deck. In the fall, between the underfoot giant ball bearing effect and the nuts falling overhead, it's worth your life to walk through the yard. They drop their leaves practically all in one day after the first frost and the petioles, the little stems of the compound leaves, persist throughout the winter to be cleared away in the spring. And as if you weren't tired of them already, you find them germinating everywhere a squirrel stored them and didn't come back for them.

    On the plus side, they are beautiful. And I have eaten the nuts and used the husks to dye wool yarn. I've been forced to cut a few and gotten some beautiful lumber from the logs (which is good 'cause they're terrible as firewood.)

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Barack Obama

    This morning Washington Journal referred to the Time cover article on Barack Obama and asked "Should Obama run for president in 2008?" Most people calling in said they didn't know enough about him even to have an opinion on whether or not he should run - several people even slamming the media for making a big deal about Obama when nobody's heard of him. I have to wonder why someone would call in to a talk show just to say how completely ignorant they are. But let's set that aside for a moment.

    You've already heard me making a big deal about Obama and slamming the media for ignoring him. So as you can imagine, I'm please with the recent flood of coverage following the release of his book, The Audacity of Hope. If you know people who need some help getting to know Obama, try Americans For Democratic Action. Their 2005 scorecard evaluates voting records on twenty issues important to Democrats last year. Obama, along with twenty one other senators including Clinton and Schumer, voted for Democratic values on all these issues. The League of Conservation Voters ranks Obama 100% on seven key votes in 2006. The National Education Association gives Obama an A on 14 key votes in 2005 and 2006. Obama's Senate website and his professional website both include links to many of his speeches (but not the Iowa speech that so impressed me.)

    Should Obama run for president? That's really not the most important question. Just listen to him. If you can't remember what the Democratic Party is about, if you have trouble explaining the Democratic Party to your relatives around the Thanksgiving table, if you're tired of hearing "Democrats don't have a plan," listen to Obama and follow the link on his website to Do More Than Vote.

    [Cross-posted at Dryden Democrats]

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Gates and Buffett

    PBS aired a very funny and uplifting hour long program, "Buffett And Gates Go Back To School." The two business superpowers answered questions from students at University of Nebraska at Lincoln College of Business Administration. (A couple of the students identified themselves as "Actuarial Science" majors. Who knew that was a major at any school?)

    Buffett and Gates hesitated on the question "If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?" Maybe they've never encountered this icebreaker popular with college students. Gates answer was not "flying" or "invisibility" but "reading super fast." Buffett agreed saying he figures he's wasted ten years by reading slowly. I've long envied Maggy's super fast reading ability - a talent she seems to have inherited from her father. They both tend to read novels in just a couple of hours. I used to think they couldn't really be absorbing what they read. But I was wrong.

    One of Maggy's favorite children's books is "Petunia," the story of a goose who finds a book and carries it around the barnyard feeling superior 'til she learns it's not enough to own the book - she has to be able to read it.

    What I'm leading up to is that I came home from the Friends of the Library booksale yesterday with another dozen books.

    My new choices in fiction:
    Choices by Mary Lee Settle - "A narrative borne on the exhilarating currents of memory, Choices is the story of a courageous woman who puts compassion ahead of society's expectations of her."
    Anywhere But Here, Mona Simpson - "a moving, often comic portrait of wise child Ann August and her mother, Adele, a larger-than-life American dreamer."
    Clearcut, Nina Shengold - "Set in the gloriously rugged backwoods of the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, Nina Shengold's gripping debut novel follows three people in search of new lives deep into uncharted terrain of the body and heart."
    The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy - "Roy writes with extraordinary grace, creating a world so vivid and strangely beautiful that reading it is akin to entering a mirage."

    And essays:
    Adventures in Contentment, David Grayson - "...the Grayson stories shed light on the attempts of middle-class Americans to rethink gender norms during the progressive era"
    The Merry Recluse, Caroline Knapp - ""A potent blend of the very serious and the highly comical."
    Our Land, Ourselves, Peter Forbes, editor - "...a new way of viewing land conservation as the process of building values and positively shaping human lives. "
    In Deep, Maxine Kumin - "From a hillside farm in New Hampshire, a talented and perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning poet records the sprawl and benevolence of nature with intelligence, humor, and tenacity of spirit."
    On the Contrary, Mary McCarthy - "The electric snap and crackle of a literate mind and pen in contact with some of the striking intellectual and social currents of our time."
    Nora Ephron Collected, Nora Ephron - "As tart and refreshing as the first gin and tonic of summer."

    ...and a couple I won't list here in case they turn out to be Christmas gifts.

    The Friends of the Library sale continues this weekend with prices from a dime to a half dollar.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Getting (and Staying) Informed

    It has never been easier to learn about our elected representatives. In high school I discovered the Congressional Record - the tissue thin paper with tiny print reporting the proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives verbatim. It was the only way to read about what was going on in Congress.

    Now the Senate and the House and each and every Congressperson have their own websites. And there are non-partisan summary sites like this one powered by for the New York Times. There you can look up a particular legislator or piece of legislation and find a summary and links to further information. You can even sign up for email notification of upcoming votes and your legislators' records. I've added the "Write Congress" button site to my sidebar.

    I was on this site tonight to look up Olympia Snowe. Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By, on a "vote the bums out" rant today, said:
    Find out who the incumbent running in your district is and vote against him or her. It doesn’t matter if the other candidate is a Republican or a Democrat. They are all the same these days. (Remember the corruption voters rebelled against when they took the Congressional majority away from the Democrats in 1994.)

    They are most definitely not all the same. Ronni lives in Maine where the Seantor up for re-election is Olympia Snowe. I don't always agree with Snowe (I don't always agree with anyone.) But she is one of perhaps only two Republicans I would seriously consider voting for and she's definitely what Ronni Bennett is looking for:
    ...the candidate who comes closest to speaking with honesty, will be accountable for his/her actions and has an idea or two that can move the country forward.

    So, under the heading of "Be careful what you wish for," check it out.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Wegmans vs. Whole Foods

    Just as I appreciate Simon for pointing me to Ithaca Journal articles I might be missing, I'm glad I have Maggy to scan the New York Times for me. Among our favorite entertainments, when Maggy's here in Ithaca, is browsing in Wegmans. And when I'm in New York, chances are we'll shop in Whole Foods for dinner ingredients. So, this NYT Style article comparing Wegmans and Whole Foods is a natural interest for us.

    The Samurai Shopper is more put off by the "stink of Zen" than I am. There are those here in Ithaca who think Wegmans is too tree-hugger or granola-head and would be appalled by Whole Foods. But the culture of both Wegmans and Whole Foods suits me pretty well. Selection in Wegmans is much wider than Whole Foods, perhaps because of the physical size of the stores. Prices in Wegmans are more reasonable, partly because of the wide range of selection. This summer Wegmans made a greater effort to stock local produce. It will never compete with the Ithaca Farmers' Market on this score, but checking labels reveals a fair number of local products year round.

    But the clincher for me has always been service. The only eyebrow raising service I've ever encountered was the checkout clerk sobbing into her tissue as she passed my groceries over the scanner, because she'd just seen her boyfriend checking out with another girl. Otherwise, when I ask a clerk where to find something, they walk with me to where the item should be located. If it's missing from its spot on the shelf, they go to the warehouse to find it. Most clerks make pretty good small talk. They all seem to be happy with their jobs and proud of the store. It's no wonder Wegmans is repeatedly recognized as one of the best employers in the nation.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    International Crane Foundation

    I had the great pleasure, last night, of hearing Dr George Archibald at the Lab of Ornithology. George was a student of Bill Dilger's and over the years I've heard many stories about him. Bill's very proud of having contributed in whatever small way to George's incredible ability to change the world.

    George's life includes an number of examples of chance favoring the prepared mind. In 1967, already accepted to medical school in Canada, he hitchhiked from Montreal to Ithaca to visit the Ornithology Lab. There entirely by chance he met Dr Dilger and after an hour chatting about cranes, Bill asked, "Why don't you come to Cornell to study them?"

    Working in New York, George overheard a conversation in the hall outside his office including references to Aldo Leopold and Wisconsin. There he met Ron Sauey, coincidently a student of Dr Dilger’s whom George had not yet met in Ithaca. Ron’s family farm is a few miles from Leopold’s homestead in Wisconsin. George and Ron became friends and in 1973 co-founders of the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

    Getting his PhD may have taken George longer than usual because he kept pausing to save bits of the world. In 1972, he was studying Red-crowned Cranes in Japan. This flock, which winters at feeding stations, was thought to breed in Siberia. When George found that the flock was nesting in a marsh on the north end of Hokkaido and that the area was scheduled for development he launched a public awareness campaign to save the wetlands.

    In 1973 George traveled to Australia to rescue captured six Sarus Cranes in Australia and brought them to Wisconsin for captive breeding. The Eastern Sarus Crane, nearly extinct in 1973 is now being reintroduced in Thailand. In the mid-1970s, living in the Korean DMZ and studying white-naped cranes, Archibald spotted four Crested Ibis. Having received permission to take them to Wisconsin to attempt captive breeding, George spent several very cold winters in Korea in a vain effort to capture them. Later, as the Bamboo Curtain lifted, two breeding pairs were located in China leading to a successful captive breeding program.

    Not the least of the accomplishments of the International Crane Foundation is the captive breeding and reintroduction of Whooping Cranes, one of two North American Crane species. George achieved media notoriety courting Tex for several years. Tex had been hand-raised and was imprinted on humans. George's courtship dancing made her hormonally receptive to artificial insemination and eventually led to the hatching of her only offspring Gee Whiz.

    Researchers at ICF pioneered hand-raising techniques which avoid imprinting the chicks and enable the young birds to be reintroduced to the wild. Finally, ICF has established Crane School where young Whooping Cranes learn to fly with an ultra-light. Eventually the cranes are able to migrate with the ultra-light to wintering grounds in Florida. The current ultra-light led Whooping Crane migration began last week. You can follow it's progress here.

    George Archibald is the 2006 recipient of the Indianapolis Prize. designed "to be a great, enthusiastic, spectacular celebration of victories. ... to inspire the general public to start caring in a way they’ve never cared before, and to place heroes who often live in tents, in danger from both wild beasts and human enemies, on the same pedestal that we usually reserve for sports and entertainment stars.” I'm proud to count George Archibald among my heroes.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions

    Maggy sent me a link to Andrew Postman's article "The Energy Diet." Don't know how soon it will disappear behind the pay-wall so take a look. It's a light hearted narrative describing Postman's motivation, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, to do something - anything - to help. He rushed out to buy 50 compact fluorescent light bulbs. (Yes, some people have asked why he has 50 lights to put them in.) But he found he didn't like the color of the light from them, so he stashed them in the basement and brooded over his guilt.

    Weeks later, after hearing about President Clinton's Global Initiative, Mayor Bloomberg's plans for an Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and California's legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Postman conceived the Energy Diet. He knew, from having taken the “Calculate Your Impact” survey on, that his household produced nearly 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide - nearly 5,000 pounds more than average. With the help of information from, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Postman set about trimming his household energy use to achieve a 25% reduction in production of carbon dioxide. He found several simple ideas he could use - involving practically no sacrifice at all. Rinsing laundry in cold water, getting off the mailing list of several catalog companies, putting his computer and entertainment electronics on power strips to save the energy they use in standby mode.

    Will this save the world? Probably not. But Postman learned at least one important thing:
    “It’s all about attitude,” said Laurie David, the founder of the Stop Global Warming Web site ( and a board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Change one or two things, you end up changing four or five things. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Before you know it, you start influencing people around you.”

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Website Advertising

    I have honestly never before clicked on an ad on any website. But I couldn't resist this one this morning. Why Mommy Is a Democrat.
    In the true spirit of Heather Has Two Mommies here's a child's eye view of a political issue. From my adult viewpoint, this is really amusing - the nurturing, protective mommy squirrel making sure "we all share our toys" and "children can go to school." I want someone to write the counterpart: Why Daddy Is a Republican.

    But the thought of reading this to a toddler feels pretty sleezy. While Heather Has Two Mommies and books like it are about breaking down stereotypes, Why Mommy Is a Democrat is all about stereotypes. I think it's a great idea to teach children - and adults - about Democratic values. But I'm pretty tired of the black hat/white hat view of the world.

    Still, I want this book for Christmas. No, wait. Wouldn't it look great in Maggy's stocking?

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Poem on My Desktop

    Early in this blogging project I wrote about a poem I cherish: "reprimand" by Dick Lourie. I wrote not that I like the poem, which I do, but I like the actual printed copy I have of it which continues to remind me of the friend who sent it to me.

    I was reminded of it this morning reading Poem in my Pocket by Endment and her link to "The Unwritten" by W.S. Merwin.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006


    I knew when I saw this photo of Fran Townsend, White House advisor on homeland security, a reference to her diminutive stature couldn't be far behind. I mean, look at those shoes. Look at the photographer's perspective on them. Why would a person working in the White House wear shoes like that? Sure enough. Third paragraph. Townsend is 5 feet tall. And for some reason, it's important that we know that.

    Perhaps even more surprising to me is that apparently Maggy's right about stockings. (Maybe that's really where the photographer's gaze is focused.) Call me old fashioned, but I thought women in professional positions who wear dresses, also wore stockings.

    Community Science Institute

    Last night I went to a presentation by the Community Science Institute. (At the moment their old website, featuring contact information and a "Welcome" link, is still up. But I hope by the time you're reading this the new one they were demonstrating last night, with links to each watershed feeding the southern end of Cayuga Lake, will be up.)

    CSI coordinates an extensive volunteer effort to test and monitor water quality of Virgil Creek, Fall Creek, Six Mile Creek, Taughannock Creek, Trumansburg Creek, Salmon Creek and the Cayuga Inlet. About eight times a year, volunteers measure temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen, phosphate and nitrate levels at several specific points on each creek. Water samples are submitted to CSI's certified professional lab for verification and analysis of additional parameters including E. Coli, Phosphorus and Nitrate.

    In addition to water sampling, which provides a snapshot of a specific moment in the life of the creek, once a year volunteers sample Benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI) present in stream water. BMI are collected and identified to order and family and compared to a model developed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Each type of BMI is sensitive to different characteristics of water quality. So analysis of the number of each type of BMI reveals a useful picture of the water quality over the recent past history of the creek.

    In the past government agencies have not used data collected by volunteers because the accuracy of the data was not verifiable. CSI has developed "simple yet effective protocols for volunteers that were field-tested and shown to assure data quality when they were applied consistently." Extensive volunteer training as well as independent verification by CSI's lab have resulted in a high degree of confidence in the data.

    Data collected over the past few years show streams in the Cayuga Lake watershed to be healthy. Scored on a ten point scale, local streams score around 7.5 - about what would be expected on a body of water with a moderate amount of human activity around it. As executive director, Stephen Penningroth, put it, Six Mile Creek is "not wilderness, but it's not New Jersey either."

    Community water quality testing often only begins when there is a known problem. This project provides useful data on a healthy watershed. In addition, it provides baseline data for the Lake Cayuga watershed so that problems can be recognized as they begin to develop and mitigated in the early stages. Finally, extensive involvement of community volunteers helps educate the public and encourages residents to get to know their streams, develop a sense of protectiveness and take pride in their quality.

    [Cross posted at Dryden Democrats.]

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Cornell University Press

    Belinda brought me the Cornell University Press catalog yesterday. I didn't expect the catalog itself to be so interesting. I was surprised to find two books I've read (Revolt on the Tigris and Third-Sector Development) that I didn't know were published at Cornell.

    Some titles are pretty far down my list of "Things I want to read" like The Vanishing Hectare. The title has possibilities, but the subtitle... Well, judge for yourself.

    And there are some that I'll probably never understand, like Reason and the Heart. Again, the title is great. But when the subtitle has two words I can barely pronounce and have little chance of defining even if you make it multiple choice, well, I won't be running out for that book today.

    But there are lots I'd like to read. How about The Field Guide to Bacteria? Or Front-Page Girls about women journalists around the turn of the 20th century? Or Visions of Belonging: New England Art and the Making of American Identity. How about this, or this, or this which I'd buy for the cover design alone.

    But I really can't afford them. And the library doesn't have them. I know the public library budget is limited and facing further cuts. Maybe the publisher could donate...

    Monday, October 02, 2006


    I have a huge pile of woodchips in the driveway and a dozen mulching projects to tackle. The project yesterday was to mulch the fruit trees.

    I wanted to pull up the landscape fabric we used under the mulch when we planted the trees 'cause it made the clay soil look like this.

    In the process, we found this spotted salamander under the fabric. He's a bit slow moving 'cause the weather is cool. Bill tells me his bright colors show that he's young. Both the black and the yellow will fade next year.

    At the end of the day (by the way, this is the only context in which that phrase should be used) the fruit garden looked like this. The generous layer of woodchips will begin adding its micronutrients to the soil and decomposing to improve soil texture.

    Sunday, October 01, 2006


    Last spring I was thinking of reviving my beehives, but the cost of packaged bees made me think twice. So, in June when I heard a swarm in the air, I scrounged up some old beehive parts and hurriedly put them near where the swarm was scouting. I knew that the bottom board I'd found in my rush was deteriorating. And, still in a hurry, I put the hive directly on the ground instead of on a hive stand.

    Still, happily, the swarm did choose my hive. All summer the bees struggled with the grass growing in front of the hive and I procrastinated about fixing it. Now, with (dare I say it) winter approaching, I wanted to see if the bees have enough honey to survive and to get the hive up off the ground to give them a chance in the snow.

    Good thing I checked. They've barely started filling the top super, which should be full before winter if they are to make it through.

    If this super were full, it would weigh about 45 pounds. So I move them one at a time.

    Knowing that the top super isn't full yet, I can provide some diluted honey for them. They will store and evaporate it just like they do with nectar. So, although we will not get any honey from them this season, I have high hopes that they'll be in good shape to start working early next spring.

    Folklore has it that "A swarm in May is worth a load of hay. A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon. A swarm in July isn't worth a fly." The idea is that a swarm in May will have time to get established and possibly provide surplus honey for the beekeeper. A swarm in July won't have time to get settled enough to survive the winter. This swarm was in June. I'm never sure whether a load of hay is worth more than a silver spoon. But these bees, with a little care and luck, will be worth at least the $70 that packaged bees cost.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    I and the Bird

    I'm very excited. I've agreed to host I and the Bird #37 on November 30. I'm a bit intimidated. I've contributed a couple of times to IATB. But generally it seems the participants are better or more serious birders and bloggers than I have been lately.

    Mike's first tip for hosts is "Sign up." Done. His second tip is "Tidy the place up!" Okay. I really need to do that.

    And the third tip is "Recruit." I admit when I considered doing this I thought the entries would just come. And they probably will. But in addition, I want to encourage birder friends to plan to send entries directly to me in time for my deadline - probably 11/28. Of course, the earlier you send them, the easier it will be for me.

    In the meantime, take a look at the current I and the Bird at Don't Mess With Taxes. [Check the I and the Bird page for an index to earlier issues.] And don't miss I and the Bird #34 October 12 with Pam at Tortoise Trail; I and the Bird #35 October 23 with Dan at Migrations; and I and the Bird #36 November 9 with Roger at Words & Pictures.

    Friday, September 29, 2006

    Friday *** Blogging

    Much as I love the concept of Friday Cat Blogging, I also really look forward to Science Friday every week. Here's just one random thought about how people perceive science.

    The writer of a letter to the editor in Mother Earth News this month wrote:
    I am not going to support major policy initiatives that involve huge expenditures of funds and resources on a problem based on a scare, when the science is still suspect at the very best. Most, if not all, that is being observed can be attributed to the natural warming and cooling cycles of the planet.
    So, with consensus reached only weeks ago that, in fact, warming is occurring, we're moving on to whether or not human activity is affecting it. I'm here to say, maybe it doesn't matter so much.

    While some of us focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the unbelievers can focus on know problems arising from warming. Whether you believe that human activity is insignificant in causing global warming or you believe that we're past the point where we can correct the effect human actively has had on global warming, we should be looking closely on the effect global warming will have on coastal population, agriculture, extreme weather, fresh water supply and more.

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Field Trip

    Yesterday was a gorgeous day for a field trip. I spend most of the day with the Town of Dryden Highway Superintendant visiting the new town hall construction site, the Virgil Creek Stabilization project and the Virgil Creek flood control dam. Complete story at Dryden Democrats.

    One fun unexpected detail was the discovery of this Volvo collection on the long neglected property adjacent to the new town hall site. The town purchased this property to facilitate design of access to the new town hall.

    I counted seven cars, tho' I think at least one of them was not a Volvo. We're applying for a grant to restore the house and return it to residential use. Sadly, the Volvos will probably be sold for salvage.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Homemade Mayonnaise

    It's been a long time since I made mayonnaise at home. But now that I have fresh eggs, I'm happy to do it again. With the "stick" blender, it's easier than ever. It starts with an egg, an ounce of vinegar, a pinch of salt and ground mustard.

    A few minutes of blending while drizzling in a cup and a third of vegetable oil and voila - mayonnaise.

    The mayonnaise can be varied by using different oils and vinegars and one begins to understand how, in earlier times, some cooks came to be known for their skill. Homegrown eggs might be of different quality. Homegrown mustard might have a different flavor. And homemade vinegar - the possibilities are delightful.

    I like the flavor of my mayonnaise. And I like that when it's gone I'll make more and refill the jar rather than throwing away (recycling) a mayonnaise jar. I don't know the environmental impact of a single mayonnaise jar but what if ten people made mayonnaise at home? Before you know it, it would be an honest to goodness Alice's Restaurant movement.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    These Things Are Clues

    The sun is rising a bit south of due east and setting slightly to the south of due west. More and more deer are showing up close to the house. Jars of tomato sauce and jelly are piling up on my kitchen counters. Black walnuts are crashing down all around. And the sidewalk is covered with hickory nut husks. Think it's the end of summer?

    I'm kind of in denial 'cause there's so much to do. Clean the chicken coop and add straw. Turn compost and add horse manure. Raise the beehive up off the ground and replace the rotting bottom board. See if they have enough honey for the winter and offer them a shallow super to fill with goldenrod honey for me. Find a way to stop the roof leak over the tool room. Spread the woodchips around the fruit trees and on the woodland garden path. Dig the Gladiolus bulbs. Put fencing around the shrubs that deer are likely to eat. Move the firewood into the shed. Tractor engine maintenance and replacing the mower deck with the snowblower. Oh,dear. I just can't think that far ahead. I know it's going to be a long, lovely autumn.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Obama and the Media

    I wish news coverage of Barack Obama's speech in Iowa focused on what he said and not on speculation about his 2008 candidacy. And I wish that more reporters had actually heard the speech. The speech was televised. You can see it here. (Fast forward to about 23 minutes to hear the section quoted below.) How hard would it be to write an original article about it? Yet dozens of newspapers and TV and radio stations carried the AP story with the headline "Dems Need Tough Security Stance" and the quote "What Democrats have to do is to close the deal." And dozens more carried the Chicago Tribune article with the headline, "Obama greeted like a rock star in Iowa" ('though the Tribune's headline was "Iowa Democrats see contender in Obama.")

    The New York Times at least picked up the line that caught my attention. Obama says, "I don’t think that George Bush is a bad man.” He goes on to say that Bush and Republicans "believe in different things” and to underscore the party’s agenda by explaining the variety of ways Americans have “had enough” of Republican and Bush administration policies.

    (cross posted at Dryden Democrats)

    Had Enough?

    In case you don't have time to listen to Barack Obama, here's part of the speech:
    I don’t think George Bush is a bad man. I don’t. I think George Bush wants to do right by America. I think he’s a patriotic person. I don’t think the people who work for him are stupid people. I think a lot of them are smart - in their own way. I think the problem is that they’ve got a different idea of America than we’ve got. They believe in different things.

    They have a sense that, in fact, Government is the problem, not the solution. And that if we just dismantle government piece by piece, if we break it up in tax cuts to the wealthy and if we make sure we privatize social security and we get rid of public schools and we make sure that we don’t have police on the streets, we have private security guards and we don’t have public parks, we’ve got private parks, if we just break everything up that, in fact, everybody’s going to be better off. That we don’t have obligations to each other, that we’re not in it together but, instead, you’re on your own. That’s the basic concept behind the ownership society. That’s what George Bush and this Republican Congress have been arguing for, for the last six years. And it’s a tempting idea. Because it doesn’t require anything from each of us. It’s very easy for us to say that I’m going to think selfishly only about myself.

    That I don’t have to worry about the fact that 46 million people don’t have health insurance. I don’t have to make any effort to deal with the fact that our children don’t have opportunity to go to college because student loans have been cut. I don’t have to worry about the guy just who lost his job after working 30 years in a plant because his plant’s moved to Mexico or out to China, despite the fact that he has been producing profits on behalf of that company this whole time and he’s lost his health care and he’s lost his pension as a consequence. I don’t have to worry about those things.

    But here’s the problem. The problem is that that idea won’t work. Because despite the much vaunted individual initiative and self reliance that has been at the essence of the American Dream the fact of the matter is that there’s always been this other idea of America. This idea that says we have a stake in each other. That I am my brother’s keeper. That I am my sister’s keeper. That I’ve got an obligation. Not just for my self, not just for my family, but also for you. That every child is my child and every senior citizen deserves

    That simple notion is one that we understand in our churches, in our synagogues, in our mosques. It’s an idea we understand in our own families, in our own blocks, in our workplaces. But it also has to reflect itself in our government.

    You know, nobody here expects government to solve all our problems for us. We don’t want government to solve our problems. What we do expect is that government can help. The government can make a
    difference in all of our lives. And that is essentially the battle that we’re going to be fighting in this election. It is a battle about education, it is a battle about health care. It is a battle about energy. But it is also a battle about what America is going to be about, America’s future, about how we relate to each other and how we understand our place in this world.

    Now the fact is, if you look at the record of the last six years, we shouldn’t have a problem in this election. I know, Tom, you wouldn’t normally hear this quoted at one of your steak fries. But, you know, the other day I heard Newt Gingrich speak. I don’t normally quote Newt Gingrich – at least at Democratic events. But I’ve gotta say Newt caught my attention. ‘cause folks were asking him, you know, given all the problems Republicans have had managing the country, managing the economy, managing the war in Iraq, what do you thinks going to happen in this election? And Newt Gingrich said to the commenter, “If I was advising the Democrats, I gotta admit I would just use two words to campaign.” And the reporter said “What are the two words?” and he said “Had enough.”

    Had enough! And I don’t know about you. But I think old Newt’s on to something. Because I’ve had enough…

    Of Drug companies writing the prescription plan….
    Of Oil companies writing the energy bill…
    Of A Bill like no child left behind that left the money behind…
    Of a do nothing, not even trying, effort to deal with the health care crisis that every single American is affected by…

    And let me tell you something else I’ve had enough of. I’ve had enough of using terrorism as a wedge issue in our politics. I’ve had enough of that.

    Cross posted at Dryden Democrats

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    Constitution Day

    It's Constitution Day again. Thanks to Senator Byrd's 2004 amendment to a spending bill, Constitution Day is an educational event. So, some celebration events will be held on Monday - including the reading of the Preamble by Colin Powell - at 2:00 PM EDT.
    We The People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I don't really understand the pledge of allegiance. But I do understand the preamble (with the possible exception of the word "ordain") and I wish this was the thing we say in public to declare our loyalty. For one think, it starts with "We" instead of "I." Can't you just imagine standing up at a football game and saying "We the people..." Wouldn't you like to hear the US House of Representatives start each day's business with "We the people.." Wouldn't it be good in both these situations to emphasize that we're all in this together - we're all trying to solve the same problems?

    Last year I wrote about C-SPAN coverage of the Constitution. Whatever criticism I may have of cable/satellite TV, I thank the industry for creating and funding C-SPAN. I wish there were more commercial-free channels carrying similar quality educational programming in other topics. There's PBS. And The History Channel and The Discovery Channel with commercials. Why no special channel for literature? Think of the possibilities.

    But I, for one, would like to see a channel about logic, ethics and semantics. This would add up to an exercise in clear thinking. I'd be the first to admit I could use some practice. And I think there are lots of people who need it more than I do. And I think that, on the imaginary level playing field, people with knowledge and skills in logic, ethics and semantics have a huge advantage. On the other hand, it would take me a long time to prove that.

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Friday Cat Blogging

    For years, the cats have feigned disinterest in the goldfish. They drink from the goldfish tub apparently unaware of the fish. The fish, on the other hand have been openly curious about the cats, particularly their tongues. But lately Magda's adopted this Snoopy vulture pose. She sometimes makes a swipe at the water resulting in a wet paw and sometimes motivating that quick fishy maneuver that splashes a half a cup of water on the innocent bystander - usually me, not Magda.

    Every other day or so one of the eggs is a regular large size rather than the mini pullet size. I thought it was just that one of the hens was bigger. But it turns out that the larger ones are double yolk. Two of the three eggs I broke this morning were twins.

    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Apples and Clouds

    If you're thinking of adding a crabapple to your landscape, look for a Dolgo crabapple. The apples are an inch or more in diameter and intensely flavored. We picked a couple of bushels yesterday. I'm going to use some for applesauce. Bill's making jelly. But the bulk of them are going to Greg for cider!

    These are the kind of clouds you usually only see from the window of an airplane. But yesterday they were rushing by to the north accompanied by some pretty serious thunder.
    We never got more than a few big drops of rain, but the clouds were great to watch.