Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Carnival of the Green

I just can't do "all politics, all the time" like so many blogs do. More and more of my political thinking is going to end up at Dryden Democrats.

This morning I've been reading Carnival of the Green #12 at Urban Eco. Take a look at The Hip and Zen Pen and her post about supply and demand of green products.

My thoughts are starting to turn to gardening. Aaron at Powering Down writes about Victory Gardening with some good links.

I know it's not February yet. But the weather's been so mild it seems like March. I've gotten some nice seeds from the North American Rock Garden Society Seed Exchange. Nothing too exotic, but still things you can't get from commercial sources. Three varieties of Clematis and two of Heuchera. Probably the varieties won't come true from seeds but they'll be an adventure anyway. Tiny, tiny little Gentiana verna seeds. Why do I feel like they probably won't germinate but I'm planting them anyway. Well, if nothing else, Veronica gentianoides will probably grow and provide a deep blue for my "Blue and White" garden. Finally, Thalictrum rochebruneanum. What was I thinking? It will take me all summer to remember how to pronounce it.

Baloghblog, from Syracuse writes about the asesthetics of wind power.

I realize I've been neglecting the wealth of information at Groovy Green. Michael has kindly linked Five Wells on the sidebar under Local Green News. And I've hardly written anything green at all lately.

A Concerned Scientist posts the schedule for Cornell's five day celebration of Darwin's birthday and a great list of links to bloggers writing about the Republican War on Science.

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Saw Sharpening

I have this beautiful fabric. It's a really luxurious damask in the loveliest shades of bronze and copper with some pale sage green. It was a birthday gift. I've had it for more than six months.

It's destined to be a drape for this window of the West Wing. See that bit of it hanging on the valence? The drape will draw to the left 'cause there's a heater on the right. To avoid having the drape cover any of the window when it's open, it will pull back to that section of log wall on the left. All this means that the finished drape will be twelve feet wide.

Did I mention I actually have more than ten yards of fabric? And nearly that much lining fabric? And that Magda's helping me?

So here's where my thirty year old sewing machine puts its foot down, so to speak. I admit I don't take very good care of the poor old thing. So, today it just refused to go any further. In fairness, I should say the motor was running fine and the fabric was moving smoothly beneath the needle. It just wasn't stitching. So, although we were having a grand time, we weren't really getting anywhere.

Does everyone recognize this? Of course, you do. It's where the bobbin goes. There's a crescent shaped piece on the left that's supposed to catch the needle thread and loop it around the bobbin thread. This crescent piece is about 1/4 inch too far clockwise. So it gets to the spot where it's supposed to meet the loop of needle thread long before the needle gets there. The poor needle actually runs into it with every stroke and doesn't have a chance of getting its little thread looped around the bobbin thread.

Anyone who was feeling smug at having recognized where the bobbin goes should try this one. Give up? If you turn the machine upside down and take off the bottom this is what you see. Smack dab in the middle is a set screw which controls the position of the worm gear (lower left) which, in turn, controls the position of the above mentioned crescent, now lying on its side upper left. Tighten that set screw and you're good to go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Saw Sharpening

In time management, "saw sharpening" is a metaphor for taking time to get organized. I remember once being too busy to hire an assistant. You know the feeling, when you're struggling with inadequate tools but just can't stop to fix it.

I was nearly thirty years old when I realized that kitchen knives have to be sharpened more often than just at Thanksgiving. In my youth I remember seeing my father's elaborate knife-sharpening ritual only at Thanksgiving.

Last weekend I was cleaning up some fallen trees on the trail to the maple trees - it will be time to tap the maples soon. I have a love-hate relationship with the chain saw. We never seem to agree about when and how to start and how long to keep working. And besides, it's heavy and noisy. So, whenever possible, I use a bow saw.

Three bow saws have found their way into my life. I honestly have no idea when or how. But I do know I've never sharpened them. A year or more ago, with the best of intentions, I did pick up a couple of replacement blades at Agway for $4.89 each. It turns out there are different kinds of blades. I don't know why I didn't think of that. The kind I bought is described as "straight tooth" and claims to "retain razor-like cutting edge long after conventional blades have been sharpened 3 to 4 times." The blade now on two of my saws is "course tooth" - "For the toughest cutting jobs..."

Anyway, with some WD-40 to soften the rust, I got the old blade off. (Notice the broken tooth.) While it was off, I spray painted the saw a nice blood red. I put the new blade on. At one end there's a wing-nut and an obvious tensioning device. I have no idea how "tense" a bow saw blade should be so I just tightened it as much as I could by hand. It works like a charm. In ten strokes I can cut about twice as far as I can with one of the saws whose blade has not yet been changed.


Time Magazine asks Elie Wiesel: Where do we start? What do we need to focus on? Wiesel replies:
Two subjects. We should fight hatred. There should be a Biblical commandment: Thou shalt not hate. And then there is indifference. Everyone can fall into this trap. It's so easy to enter into indifference and stay there. An indifferent person remains indifferent unless shaken up. These are the most important subjects in the world.

I think this is why some of us blog. Still trying to shake up the indifferent and support those who are already shaken up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Koufax Awards, part 2

MB at Wampum, bless her heart, has posted "nearly 300" nominees in the "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" category of the Koufax Awards.

I should point out that everything else at Wampum is worth reading. Perhaps especially the three part series on Iran and the Bomb starting here with the lead:

When some moron like Charles Krauthammer claims Iran is now just “months” away from a bomb, you can pretty much ignore him: He has no idea what he is talking about.

Overall, Iran is probably a little less than a decade away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Evolution of News Media

First there was the printing press. Then radio and TV. But, man, the internet...

I was eight years old before we got a TV. I don't know what we were doing for news or entertainment before that. I don't remember sitting, Walton-style, around the radio. But early TV was a lot like radio - with pictures. There in northern New York in the fifties, we got two stations. They were physical stations, not just channels. One was affiliated with CBS and one with NBC. We watched Ed Sullivan and Bonanza on Sunday night (while my mother put curlers in my hair!) There was local and national news on weekdays and Carol Burnett on Wednesday night.

It was the eighties when I realized I couldn't really follow the show if I was knitting or sewing. I actually had to watch. TV had graduated from radio with pictures to, well, television. Still, news was limited to Tom Brokaw, David Brinkley, etc. And the stories were pretty much indistinguishable from those in Time Magazine and US News. A friend used to tell me that football was the only thing on TV that was true. While that may be an exaggeration, it was/is almost the only unedited thing on TV.

I have satellite TV now. With a hundred and twenty channels to choose from, my TV time has tapered off to C-SPAN, BBC and the occasional movie. That's largely because my need to be connected is met on the internet. Here's an example of one of the many amazing things happening online. Political Cortex like Daily Kos, has a core group of writers plus members (anyone can join) who have their own diaries. Apparently unlike Kos, Political Cortex members entries can become front page articles. The point is that anyone - anyone at all - can publish a news magazine. And many people do. Some of them are good and all of them contribute to a wide diversity of news never before available.

I continue to be grateful for C-SPAN and NPR for bringing me things I wouldn't have thought of searching for. But I'm stunned by the amount and quality of information I can find on the web.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Koufax Awards

MBW at Wampum has done a good thing with the Koufax awards. A hundred and twenty or so nominees for Best New Blog have been listed but comments, where voting takes place, will not be turned on right away to encourage people to read some of the nominees before voting. What an idea: get to know the candidates before voting.

I love to surf for new blogs and I spend way too much time at it. Any award process forces me to think about what constitutes a good "whatever." I started at the bottom of the alphabetical list of Koufax nominees.
  • The name should give me some idea of whether or not I might find anything of interest (I know "Five Wells" is nothing to write home about but it's mine and I'm sticking with it.)
  • If your raison d'etre is linking to Kos, don't bother. We already know where he is.
  • If you've been blogging for more than a month and your sidebar still includes "Google News" and "Edit-Me" you're really not trying hard enough.
  • It may seem self-evident, but you've got to have something to say to qualify as a "Best" of anything.

Having only worked back from the bottom to the S's, the only ones I've bookmarked are Stayin' Alive and Scout Prime.

More later. The sun's shining and I've got to get outside. Quick. It's the tyranny of good weather. Take a look at TroutGrrl's post about the second cloudiest city. Thanks to Feministe and the Carnival of Feminists.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More from the library

I is for Infidel, Kathy Gannon, 2005.

Gannon was an AP correspondent in Afghanistan from 1986-2005. I knew this would be a tough book when I saw the "Cast of Characters:" Rashid Dostum, Mohammed Farim, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, etc. I seem to need to pronounce words to remember them and I'm struggling with some of these.

But the story is compelling. In 1986 Gannon found a member of the radical mujahedeen group, Hezb-e-Islami, to help her get into Afghanistan from Pakistan. This involved walking for several days (well, nights really) through the mountains. She was carefully walking in the footsteps of the mujahed ahead of her, terrified, when the mujahed next to her was killed by the explosion of a mine.

The account of the confusion and violence following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union is vivid. The description of the men who struggled for power and the support they got from the U.S. through the nineties doesn't sound a bit like what I was hearing and reading in the news. That would be because I wasn't seeing much at all about Afghanistan in the news. As Gannon writes,
After the Soviet Union withdrew, the world's interest in Afghanistan flagged. When the Najibullah government didn't collapse, the international community did not have the wherewithal to deal with Afghanistan, plot its future, find sustainable leaders. World events quickly overshadowed Afghanistan. By the end of 1989, just months after the Soviet withdrawal, the Berlin Wall came crashing down, Reagan declared communism defeated, and the Soviet Union began to disintegrate. Afghanistan was yesterday's war. The wider world had done the most dangerous of things. It had stuffed this tiny country with massive amounts of weapons, including the precious Stingers, had turned over the countryside to the volatile discordant mix of mujahedeen factions, and then had walked away.
It's hard to get a grip on this incredibly foreign story. I'm looking for good guys and bad guys. But they're all bad guys.

But knowing the history of the early 1990s is essential because so many of the survivors of that era have recently been returned to power. Some have even been transformed into heroes. But among the Afghan mujahedeen leadership, there were no heroes.

Reviews at Foreign Affairs, Boston Globe.


Popular Science writes "The U.S. produces two million tons of e-waste every year." First, I'm surprised it's so little. Second, when did "e-waste" become a word?

From the February 2006 print edition of Popular Science"
Tough legislation scheduled to take effect in Europe this July could help dramatically curb the problem. The Restrictions of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, as the mandate is known, will force companies to eliminate nearly all of the hazardous substances -- including lead, mercury, cadmium and two forms of flame retardant - found in new electronics manufactured
or sold in the European Union. The directive is also expected to have serious implications for the rest of the world, since most manufacturers and suppliers will make their entire product lines RoHS compliant, instead of producing a "clean" version for Europe and "dirty" version for everyone else.
Once again, Europe leads the way.

Oh, my. A Google search on "e-waste" returns "about 527,000" hits. Once again, where have I been? For example, there's eWaste from Switzerland. From Just Say No to E-waste, a thought about why there's "only" two million tons of it per year:
"It has been estimated that over three-quarters of all computers ever bought in the USA are currently stored in people's attics, basements, office closets and pantries. If everyone disposed of these the US would face a huge waste problem all at once."
Thanks to Belinda, I'm happy to say I have no e-waste in my attic, basement, closet or pantry. I wish I had a pantry.

Contrary to the Popular Science article, Wired News reports that:
"The United States generates more e-waste than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. More than 4.6 million tons of it entered U.S. landfills in 2000, and that amount is projected to grow fourfold in the next few years.... some U.S. companies have a double standard when it comes to recycling. While some companies have implemented recycling policies in the European Union and Japan, where such programs are mandated, they've yet to do so in the United States. "

Let me say this about e-waste and every other kind of waste. We've got to stop producing, acquiring and disposing of so much stuff. Don't laugh. We've just got to stop it. That's all there is to it.

One of the reasons I could afford to retire in my fifties is that I embarked on a very frugal lifestyle long ago. I remember, years ago, walking through the cookie aisle of the grocery store (Come on, can you even believe there is a whole cookie aisle?) I was probably hungry and I was thinking "Yum." Then thinking, "Oh, well. If I really want cookies, I can bake them." Maybe to a tiny degree it's my Protestant work ethic reminding me that in order to deserve cookies I should bake them. But I started thinking that way about lots of things. "I could make that." Nine times out of ten, I don't actually make whatever it is. But I figure that means I didn't need it that much.

You know, if we each had to produce (or hunt) the meat we eat, almost none of us would eat as much of it as we do now. It's just too hard. If we had to spin or weave, we'd be a lot more careful with our clothes. I understand that specialization and mass production are good ideas. But somewhere in the middle there... some recognition of the costs of production could guide our choices.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ice Fishing

I almost never take pictures of people 'cause I rarely have the nerve to ask permission. But these guys, fishing on Dryden Lake, were friendly.

The thing about pictures is that you have to take a lot of them.

So I hung around and asked questions about the ice and the fish 'til they sort of forgot I was taking pictures. This is my favorite.

He's probably home now, watching TV and drinking more beer. He has no idea how much fun I've been having with these pictures.

From the Library

Understanding Iraq by William Polk (2005)
[M]ost observers believe it will take many years to rebuild what America has lost in what President Eisenhower called "the decent respect of mankind." While respect is ephemeral, it is not trivial. Nations depend as much or more on what has been aptly termed their "soft power" as on their economic or military strength. The respect, one is tempted to say the "love," others have felt toward America has been traditionally one of the country's most valuable assets. Finally, as the scandal of the torture of prisoners, the flouting of international law, and attacks on American civil liberties have demonstrated, this war, like all violent conflicts, has eroded America's most prized attribute; a national character that has arisen from a belief in liberty, justice and decency.

I used to teach my kids that when you screw up, you have to do at least ten good
things to regain your reputation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Scott Ritter

As if Carter's book wasn't making me nervous enough, I finished reading it just as Scott Ritter came on the radio. This is the third time I've heard him speak. The anger and passion behind his description of Bush's determination to send troops to Iran (that's right; Iran with an n), convince me that he's sincere. The prospect of a war in Iran with "usable" nuclear devices makes me want to start improvements on my survival shelter.

Ritter is a good speaker and I was pleased that he ended with a suggestion of what to do about this terrifying situation. That is, to change congress. He may be overly optimistic about how helpful that will be, but I agree that it's important. As he suggests, find a legislator you can support and put all your resources behind him/her.

With that in mind, I'm adding a couple of sites to the sidebar:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Our Endangered Values

A few weeks ago an interview with Jimmy Carter on C-SPAN gave me some understanding of the difference between evangelical (born again) Christians and fundamentalist Christians. Though there are things about which evangelicals Christians and I disagree, it seems they're not the dangerous ones. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, sound scary according to Carter's description.

You have to wonder why a book published in 2005 would even have a chapter entitled "Must Women Be Subservient?" But apparently that's an issue for disagreement between evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.

Troublesome as fundamentalist ideas about women's subservience, divorce or the death penalty are, they're a walk in the park compared to the effect fundamentalist beliefs may be having on American foreign policy. Carter writes:

One of the most bizarre admixtures of religion and government is the strong influence of some Christian fundamentalists on U.S.policy in the Middle East. Almost everyone in America has heard of the Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins, twelve books that have set all-time records in sales. Their religious premise is based on a careful selection of Bible verses, mostly from the book of Revelation, and describes the scenario for the end of the world. When the Messiah returns, true believers will be lifted into heaven, where, with God, they will observe the torture of most other humans who are left behind. This transcendent event will be instantaneous, and the timing unpredictable. There are literally millions of my fellow Baptists and others who believe every word of this vision, based on self-exaltation of the chosen few long with the condemnation and abandonment, during a period of "tribulation," of family members, friends and neighbors who have not been chosen for salvation.

It is the injection of these beliefs into America's governmental politics that is a cause for concern. These believers are convinced that they have a personal responsibility to hasten this coming of the 'rapture' in order to fulfill biblical prophecy. Their agenda calls for a war in the Middle East...

I haven't seen much coverage of Carter's book except at American Pundit. But I think that regardless of how Carter's presidency is viewed, there seems to be agreement that he's a highly ethical person. I don't think he's making this stuff up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Links 'n stuff

Read about my field trip to the Dryden Highway Department at Dryden Democrats. And another to Autumn Leaves used book store at Whorled Leaves.

I promised someone pictures of my latest craft project. Here are the flowers I made from tin can lids. Don't laugh. Well, okay. Laugh if you must.

The weather has been so much like March, I'm really enjoying it. The sun's actually shining. I'm going out for a walk.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Book reports in progress

Yesterday I mentioned my reading/writing friends at Whorled Leaves. Check my post there about Winter World, the book we're reading now.


The next few months of investigation into lobbying activities will be painful, I'm sure.

Not only for the scandalous exposure of people without ethics, but for the overgeneralizing, knee-jerk reactions of the public. I want to say, in my tiny voice, lobbyists are not the bad guys - any more than congressmen, senators or, for that matter, executive staffers and industrialists are. There are good ones and bad ones. Issues facing legislators are enormously complex. We would not want to pay legislators to have staffs large enough to research the issues they decide on every day. Lobbyists perform this function. It's not all about buying and selling votes. Most of the vast amount of money that's poured into lobbying activities pays salaries of people who do the research and present it to legislators.

This morning on C-SPAN Washington Journal covered the website of Lobbywatch, a project of the Center for Public Integrity. This incredibly rich database can be searched by issue, by agency, by industry and more. I'm looking forward to exploring it further. Sure I knew that Mobil/Exxon has more money in lobbying than the Union of Concerned Scientists. But who knew that the United Egg Association has a greater presence in Welfare lobbying than the Child Welfare League, or even the National Association of Social Workers. I know there are lobbyists for and against every issue. But where exactly do you think the Chocolate Manufacturers Association comes down on the welfare issue? If nothing else, this site is a treasure chest of names of organizations and agencies you never knew existed, much less lobbied for or against issues that affect you.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Time, time, time...

I'm slowly regaining some control of my schedule. I admit I'm working on the easy parts first. I know when I should be catching up on housework tasks. And now I'm scheduling reading time. It's altogether too easy to put off reading 'til bedtime 'cause I'm looking forward to it. But then, more likely than not, I'll fall asleep before I get to the second page of the chapter.

I'm leaving The History of the World and The Voyage of the Beagle on the sidebar 'cause I'll probably be reading them for a long time to come. In addition, I'm reading Winter World with my friends at Whorled Leaves. I'm also working on my book choice for Whorled Leaves in February.

My local bookclub is reading Time Traveler's Wife. I've read it and I'm happy to re-read it. And, by coincidence the February selection for this group is mine, too. I have chosen Jonathan Franzen's book The Corrections, which, even if it didn't tell a story, would be worth reading for the language alone. I picked up The Corrections at the local used booksale last fall. And I'm happy to avoid buying new books for the bookclub this month. (I'm hoping to choose something for Whorled Leaves from my shelf also.)

Dryden Town Board

Information about and reflections on yesterday's organizational meeting of the Dryden Town Board are here. (This is the second time in my life that spellcheck and I haven't disagreed about anything - except, of course, now it won't accept "spellcheck.")

Monday, January 02, 2006

So much to do, part 2

The combination of Christmas and New Years always inspires a big nesting/organizing drive. On the one hand, since I can't do much work outside, I focus on indoor improvement or repair projects. Yesterday Belinda put up the valance box I've been planning for about two years. Now I can make the drapes I've been planning for six months. Last July for my birthday, Belinda gave me the beautiful fabric I'd been wishing for. Watch this space for pictures.

Next project, replace the countertop range (which has only one fully working burner) and the cupboards that support it (which are pretty ugly.) I don't use the range in the winter 'cause I have the woodstove. So last year I just sort of forgot to take care of it. Then, in the summer when the electric range would be convenient, I don't have time for indoor projects. So, I'm resolved to finish that before I do any more fun projects like painting the bathroom floor and removing the bathroom wall paper.

Then there's the organizing problem. We just really love gift giving. So, lots of new things come into the house for Christmas. I have a pretty strict "one in, one out" policy. It's a big house, but without strict vigilance it would quickly fill up treasures of one sort or another. So, I'm on a closet cleaning rampage. Lots of donating, discarding and rearranging. I'm short of bookshelf space by about four feet. Tempting though it is to put up another shelf, I think I should really weed the collection.

This is the tip of the iceberg. So many projects are forming in my mind that I know the most important thing will be to organize my time. So, I'm off to do that now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So much to do

Good grief! So much to do -- so much really cool stuff.

In connection with my new job as town councilperson, the highway superintendent called to get my email address. We chatted a bit about snow removal on my tiny back road. Very interesting. And clearly I have a lot more to learn. So we made plans to meet next week for a tour of the highway department facility. I guess I'll get to meet the snowplows personally - not to mention the snowplowers. Unless, of course, it's snowing - in which case I suppose I'll still get to meet the lawnmowers. Funny, "lawnmower" means both the equipment and the operator.

The reason the superintendent wanted my email address was to send information about the equipment he plans to sell and buy for 2006. So now I know that a new ten-wheel dump truck with snowplow equipment is expected to cost up to $135,000. And a used grader with plow up to $115,000. I know, roughly what an asphalt paver is and now I know a five-year-old one may cost $60,000. I have no idea what a trench box is but it's going to cost $6,000.