Monday, February 27, 2006


At the end of Kevin Moriarty's first year as artistic director of the Hangar Theatre, someone asked him what it was like. He told a wonderful story of his memory of getting new Clark Kent type glasses when he was eight years old. The glasses, naturally, made him want to be Superman. His mother obligingly made him a cape and one day in school at lunchtime, he whipped off his glasses, donned the cape and raced around the playground doing superhero things: pushing kids on swings higher, giving the merry-go-round an extra shove, adding weight to the light end of the teeter-totter.

Yesterday was a day like that for me in the blog world. I found myself irresistibly drawn to give people advice. A suggestion to correct a grammar error on Weekend Wino; Instructions to David Brin about how to include active links in his posts; Advice to Curbstone Critic on how to keep his sidebar from slipping to the bottom (in fairness, Curbstone Critic did ask for advice); and more.

I'm over it. Anyone who was gritting their teeth and trying to avoid me can come out now.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

New Local Bloggers

A brand new site, Prepared Tompkins, started January 17, 2006 and is still underdevelopment. Building on a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary," this site has already covered a lot of information about emergency preparedness. Prepared Tompkins also links to a Webring: Green Living in the Finger Lakes, a collection of, so far, eight websites addressing environmental and political issues.

On a lighter note, Finger Lakes Weekend Wino, started in November 2005 to provide information about Finger Lakes wines and winery events. Weekend Wino quotes "Vintage Chart from Wine Enthusiast magazine that shows their vintage ratings for Finger Lakes wine. They rate the 2001 vintage for both reds and whites as the best in the 12 years of ratings listed." I'm looking forward to checking that out.

(Cross posted at Dryden Democrats)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Siouxsie Grady

Press release:

"Opening March 4, 2006 at the Avenue Art Gallery in Endicott, “The Whimsical Dreams of August” is a multimedia collaboration that navigates the slippery substance of our dream worlds. Ithaca theatre artist Siouxsie Grady and Binghamton visual artist Dianne Hodack present a showcase of theatre and visual art inspired by a daily reporting of dreams during the hot summer nights of August 2005. The opening reception, March 4th from 5:00-8:00pm, will feature live performance, light appetizers, and an opportunity for the public to share their dream stories. "

I know Siouxsie. I'm sure this show will be a delight.

Kitchen Theater

Thanks to Kit Wainer for asking me to see Wonder Woman, the Musical at the Kitchen Theatre. And thanks to Kit for putting Elizabeth Whitney and Rachel Lampert in touch.

You can catch this very funny memoir of Wonder Woman worship if you're quick, at The Kitchen Theatre tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dubai and the Ports

A week is a long time to be away from blogging. Last week I was tied up with planning for a weekend warrior project (more on that later) and my trip to New York for the NYS Association of Towns meeting (more on that later, too).

But right now it's all about Dubai and the ports. While I was in New York, I wasn't reading as much news as I usually do. But my superficial reaction was that the opposition to doing business with Dubai would mask more important issues. And I still feel that way. I never thought I'd come this close to agreeing with Mr Bush, but he's right that we can't avoid business with UAE simply because they're Arab. Don't get me wrong. Bush is a dismal leader in a dozen ways, some of which have led to this ridiculous story. But the knee jerk reaction of congress and the public is equally horrible.

I don't know how leaders gain trust or regain it once they've screwed up, but I'm sure psychologists and good leaders do know. I've said this before on this blog. I used to teach my kids that if you lie under pressure, or betray a friend or anything else that damages your reputation, you have to do ten right things, under similar pressure to regain the trust you lost. I was surprised when Bush's approval rating started to drop, that he didn't seem to care. I'm afraid it's the fundamentalist belief that "I'm right and to hell with the rest of you," that drives Bush. While there's something to be said for clinging to your principles in the face of public opposition, your principles have to be right for this to work. When you're doing things that deeply offend the people you're leading, you'd better have a really strong moral basis to overcome the popular reaction.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Selling Love

Sometimes things just sneak up on me. I don't pay much attention to what seems to me like the lighter side of women's image issues - cosmetics, fashion, etc. But I do pay attention to words. This ad says:

What extraordinary love looks like

I've got some grammatical issues here. But when it comes right down to it, love doesn't look like anything. And diamonds look like - well - diamonds.

The ad goes on to say: "Cartier has created the most beautiful diamond rings so that a woman can feel how extraordinary the love she inspires can be." You might need to reread that.

I sense how carefully these words were chosen. More grammer and style issues, but if a woman isn't already feeling how extraordinary the love she inspires is, I don't see how jewelry is going to make that happen. I do appreciate some jewelry for its intrinsic beauty. And I can wax poetic about love and the sentiment underlying gifts and tokens of love. But this just sounds crass to me. Now I'm going to go look up "crass."


Thanks to Science and Politics for pointing me to the post at Mixed Memory on framing analysis. Chris, at Mixed Memory says wearily: "This is all ground I've covered before, but what the hell? I'll cover it again." Maybe if we all repeat it at regular intervals more people will absorb it.
So frame analysis will consist of three stages ...

1.) Discovering the mental frames that people already have. If you don't do this, you won't know what information you should highlight or add, or what information you should de-emphasize.

2.) Developing an understanding of what it is you want to communicate. What do you want to make more salient in people's mental frames, and what do you want to add to their knowledge?

3.) Framing your speech and writing in such a way that it accomplishes the goals from 2) given 1).
Let's be clear that framing is not just marketing or just manipulation. It is: finding out what people are thinking and figuring out what you want to add. Note that you can only add, you can't take away. To make the great conversation meaningful, you have to understand the other speaker and you have to have something to add.

Note also step 3. I used to hate writing papers. I guess I still do. Once I've figured something out, I want to move on. But educating myself is a drop in the bucket compared to sharing ideas with others. I have to put my viewpoint out there to continue the conversation.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Catching up, this morning, with links in my 'favorites.' I've been reading Arcol-0-gist and the people in her "Folks with something in common" sidebar list. Laura may be the first blogger who linked to Five Wells and this morning I remembered how pleased I am to be counted as someone who has "something in common" with her. I don't have physical contact with many like-minded people. So I find it very helpful to have this online contact.

I've been doing this for so long, I take it for granted and I've lost the idealistic energy the self-reliance movement gave me decades ago. We subscribed to Mother Earth News with the first issue and continued for about a decade 'til our homestead was pretty well established and we found that reading Mother at the library was enough. It's great to get it online now. I need to remember the inspiration it gave me in those years.

There's some overlap between friends of Arco-o-gist and my reader/writer friends at Whorled Leaves. Political reading and writing are important to me, energizing and exhausting at the same time. I come back to people like Leaning Birch, Ontario Wanderer and Sand Creek Almanac for pleasure, for comfort and energy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Evaluation of Government Programs

In connection with the announcement of the 2007 budget, The Office of Management and Budget has announced a new web page,, which provides information about government programs judged by OMB to be successful or not. OMB rates 72% of Federal Programs to be Effective, Moderately Effective or Adequate, leaving 28% rated as Ineffective or "Results Not Demonstrated." It's worth browsing just to see the lists of hundreds programs with links to their budgets and home pages.

"The world is so full of a number of things..."

Pick a program you know something about to see how the site works. Example: Food Stamps. The program is performing moderately effectively. Purpose: "To alleviate hunger and improve nutrition by increasing food purchasing power of eligible low-income households." There's also a nutrition education goal. The program's own assessment shows participation rising from 54% of eligible households in 2002 to 56% in 2003, the most recent year for which data is complete. The overpayment error rate has fallen from 8.3% in 2002 to 5.9% in 2004.

Assessment Scores
Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 62%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/Accountability 67%

Program Funding Level (in millions)
FY2005 $33349
FY2006 $33890
FY2007 $36003

Check it out with your favorite program.

(Cross posted at Dryden Democrats)

Drinking Games

It's been a long time since I thought drinking games were funny. But if I'd had this one from Curbstone Critic before the SOTU address I'd definitely have had a party. Thanks to Rhetorica for the link.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Revolt on the Tigris

I go to the county library once every three weeks. I usually take out five or six books, expecting that one or two of them will turn out to be worth reading. The books I have now are all good. But it's Mark Etherington's book Revolt on the Tigris that I keep returning to. In October 2003, Etherington became the "Governorate Coordinator" in the Iraqi province of Wasit, just south of Baghdad. Wasit is one of four provinces for which the British assumed the awesome responsibility of reconstruction.
"What was needed was the broadest possible participation of Iraqis in the political and physical re-fashioning of the country. Where there was no civil society it should be created. Where we had established sets of regular interlocutors we should now add others to broaden and reinvigorate political debate. Councils should be established in towns and villages where there were none -- Iraqis should be given a stake in the democratic process. There was a caveat -- there should be no elections. We were not ready for them..."

I readily admit my anglophilia. Etherington hits the nail on the head with this description:
"One of the points about the British, I often explain to American friends, is that the cult of the amateur is historically important. Calm under-statement is also essential. One should not be seen to try too hard at anything, or ever to claim competence in any sphere at all. This gets the British into all kinds of difficulties, particularly when applying for jobs. A friend of mine insists that the only correct response when asked if one has any interests is to look one's interlocutor straight in the eye and firmly reply "None whatsoever." The late nineteenth-century British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury once characterized his view of British foreign policy as floating gently downstream in a boat and putting out one's oar at intervals to avoid collisions."
You have to love someone who describes Ambassador Paul Bremmer as "unclubbable," that is, "a man who would not mix or invite one for a beer in the evening."

But universal truths crop up repeatedly in Etherington's book.
"The principal moral danger of taking part in great endeavours is the human temptation to be an onlooker rather than to assume the active and evaluative role for which one has been employed."
"The Iraqis" seemed at once to long for change -- and to kick against the bondage of occupation while simultaneously avowing that Iraq was incapable of self-betterment. They wanted, I thought, a miracle; but almost without exception none saw themselves as a part of the solution."
Isn't that true of Americans, too, in the face of almost any problem?

Almanac and Poverty

I have a weakness for Almanacs. There's all sorts of information I never would have thought of looking for. Check out Infoplease. Or from the CIA, The World Factbook.

Lately I've been interested in population. I'm stuck in the 60's when I learned in high school that the US population was about 195,000,000. Not true anymore. Now it's about 297,000,000. And somewhere in the 80's I got the impression that the US was approaching ZPG, zero population growth. Not so. The World Factbook puts population growth at .92% per year. That's about 2,700,000 per year - about two-thirds from the birth/death rate ratio and one-third from immigration. So, last year the population was around 295,000,000 and next year it will be around 300,000,000.

One reason I'm interested in population is that when someone tells me that 37,000,000 people in the United States are below the "poverty level" it's good to know that that means about 12 of every 100 people. I don't know, that seems like a lot to me. Then, notice that one of those 12 people who is single is making less than $9,570 per year. If 8 of those 12 people are in the same family they're making altogether $32,390 per year.

2005 HHS Poverty Guidelines
Persons in Family Unit
1 $ 9,570
2 12,830
3 16,090
4 19,350
5 22,610
6 25,870
7 29,130
8 32,390

I'm pretty sure most of my readers are making more than $32,390 a year and are not supporting much more than themselves or maybe one other family member. Picture it for a minute: a spouse and six kids and $623 a week. For that matter picture living alone with $184 a week.

Depending where you go today, possibly one or two of the next ten people you walk past are "living in poverty." On that happy note...

Sidebar accessories

Note the National Debt counter now in the sidebar. You can get it at zFacts.

And the Threat Advisory, which you can get at

Don't ask me just why these fascinate me, but they do.