Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cat and Mouse

So... the cat's sitting on my lap. And a mouse is making its way toward the door along the edge of the floor. It's probably the same mouse Maggy discovered in her dressing table drawer when she was home for Easter. I had been keeping her bedroom door closed to keep the cats off her black duvet. So that was pretty much the only room the cats didn't have access to. And the mouse was apparently making a pretty good living off the cough drops in Maggy's drawer. Magda dutifully stood watch under the dressing table the rest of the time Maggy was home. But now she's blissfully unaware.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kentucky Derby Fun!

The Magnolia I talked about the other day is associated in my mind with Derby Day. About this time of year I start thinking about the "most exciting two minutes in sports" - the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

You can learn about the contenders here. See what races they've won so far this season here.

Did I mention I really don't like Mint Juleps? But if anyone wants to join me for bourbon on the rocks about 5:00 on May 6, come with ten bucks and the name of your favorite.

Earth Week

From Carnival of the Green at The Evangelical Ecologist comes this link to National Downshifting Week.

'Slow Down & Green Up - A Beginners' Guide to Downshifting'

If you are fed up running the rat race in search of a happier, more fulfilled existence, slowing life down a gear could hold the solutions for you.

It's packed with ways to simplify and enrich your life simultaneously and reduce your impact on the planet all at the same time. You can download their new twelve-month planner (designed to start in May) to encourage you to try new things and break old habits. [People like me, with modems, should plan to go take a walk while it downloads.]

Last week, on my regular grocery shopping day, I found I didn't really need anything. Since then I've been thinking about cutting my regular shopping down from once a week to once every three weeks. Bill and I go to the Public Library every third week. The grocery store is only a few blocks from the Library but both are about ten miles from home. So cutting out thirty-four trips a year is nothing to sneeze at.

In the 1980's I used to shop once a month. I must say we were more food self-sufficient then. The biggest factor was buying milk from neighbors. On the other hand, we had kids at home then. Seems like it will be lots simpler now that I'm just planning for myself.

So, let's see... I'll be saving twenty miles and two hours of shopping and driving for each trip I skip. Not to mention that I'll probably avoid two-thirds of all impulse items. Then I can use the two hours a week to bake bread more often or grow more fruits and vegetables. Or, hey, just read a book. And the $$ I save? Hmm....

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Youth Program in Etna

I spent a couple of hours today with a bunch of kids and volunteers at 4-H acres. See the story at Dryden Democrats.


I was disappointed when I heard that Simon, of 75 Degrees South was returning to the UK. But there's something truly wondrous about the fact that he can refer us to eight other bloggers in Antarctica.

Things Take Time - and luck

There was a bit of Forsythia behind Bill's house before I knew him. Thirty years of benign neglect allowed it to spread. But it's borderline hardy and although it grows steadily, most years it only blooms at the bottom where it's been protected by snow in the winter. This past winter was extraordinarily mild and last week we were stunned by this display.

About thirty years ago Bill and I planted a two-foot tall Magnolia joking that someday we'd be able to sit under it drinking mint juleps. Looks like this is the year for it.

Every year I swear I won't plant anything more. And every year I do anyway. We're disappointed that some plants don't thrive, the deer eat some and a few just "take themselves off" as a gardening friend used to say. But many do survive and thrive and remind us of good times we've had and gardening friends who've shared things with us.

All this scilla must have started as seeds in the soil of something we transplanted from Bill Hamilton's garden. He died years ago and we miss him. But every spring this scilla, and many other plants around the yard remind us of him.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Why Girls Matter

In view of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit this week, a few people are writing and talking about China's one-child policy.

For example, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) scheduled a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations to:
...examine China's human rights record, especially such areas as China's censorship of the internet, implementation of the right of Chinese citizens to worship freely, protection of minority rights, compliance with international labor standards, China's barbaric practice of organ harvesting, and the destructive effects on Chinese society - especially on women - of its government's coercive one-child policy. (emphasis added)

Note that the one-child policy and its effect on women ranks sixth in Smith's concerns. I'm always interested in how people prioritize social or scientific causes. How do people decide what causes are worth their time, money or political capital?

Smith goes on to list twenty-one areas of concern in Chinese human rights violations. Forced abortion and sterilization rank tenth, right after electronic surveillance and before media censorship.

Smith is on the right track with his outrage against the unintended consequences of China's one-child policy:
Coercive family-planning policy in China has slaughtered more innocent children than any war in human history. Coercive family planning has wounded Chinese women by the millions and one psychological consequence is that 500 women commit suicide every day. Every Day!

Smith's Congressional voting record is scored 100% by the Christian Coalition so it's no surprise that his outrage focuses on abortion:
China's one-child per couple policy, decreed in 1999, has killed hundreds of million babies by imposing Draconian fines - up to ten times annual salaries - on their parents to force them to abort. Brothers and sisters are illegal.

Although he doesn't mention the killing of infant girls, Smith acknowledges the widespread gender discrimination as it relates to abortion:
Sex selection abortions - a direct consequence of allowing only one baby per couple, has led to gendercide - approximately 100 million girls are missing - in China.

And why is this important? Because:
...forty million Chinese men won't be able to find wives because Beijing's weapon of mass destruction - population control - destroyed the girls. (emphasis obviously added)

From UK's New Statesman article "What if it's a Girl:"
If such trends continue, the future could be nightmarish. In their 2004 book Bare Branches: the security implications of Asia's surplus male population, the political scientists Andrea den Boer and Valerie Hudson argue that the existence of all these millions of frustrated Asian bachelors will boost crime and lawlessness. They speculate that, to find an outlet for the continent's sex-starved males, Asian governments might even need to resort to fomenting wars. (emphasis added)
(New Statesman allows only one free article per day - read the whole thing or bookmark it for tomorrow.)

Valerie Hudson, Brigham Young University, is quoted again in CBS's Sixty Minutes report China: Too Many Men:
In world history, there has never been a bride shortage as large as is about to hit China...When there are more men than women, social instability and crime increases in society. ...Psychologists have talked about what they call the pacifying effect of marriage. Young men who have been pretty extreme criminals - upon marriage - and when the children begin to come, their criminal careers more or less end.

You know that I'm adamantly pro choice. Despite incredible problems that China and the world face as a consequence of overpopulation, China's forced abortion policy is just as wrong as US efforts to prevent abortion. But China's one-child policy forces abortion of second pregnancies regardless of gender. It's cultural pressure that makes people choose to abort first pregnencies if the fetus is female, or even to kill infant girls to get a second chance at having a boy baby.

Maybe we can't agree that there are moral absolutes and devaluing girls is just wrong. But if we have to be stuck in Utilitarianism, could we please look for an intrinsic value of girls beyond pacifying barbarian men?

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Omigod. The fanfare, the flags, the marines. First time I've seen Bush arrive to "Hail to the Chief" instead of "Stars and Stripes." It's the arrival of Hu Jintao.

They're playing a waltz as Bush and Hu review the troops. The marines are wearing sabres. There's a unit of redcoats complete with tricorns countermarching with their fifes and drums and Yankee Doodle. There's Bush squinting into the sun, Hu not squinting. Maybe his glasses have non-glare lenses.

There's loud protesting in the background. I think in Chinese. Now Bush is really scowling. Yes, there's a woman with an Asian photographer. And there's a security guard taking her away. Didn't take MSNBC long to get this up. CNN reports the ceremony, and the presence of protesters, but not the gist of the woman's shouting. (edit - twenty minutes later CNN has a hyperlink to a full story about the protester.) Fox News has the story, complete with a hyperlink to a search for Falun Gong, the group the woman is shouting about. It's worth noting that the first non-sponsored link in the search is to wikipedia. Likewise, the C-SPAN link to Hu's biography is to wikipedia.

Hu is reading his speech, as did Bush, pausing frequently for the translator. "Win-win outcomes" were mentioned at least twice. It took me a minute to figure it out 'cause it sounded more like "wing-wing." "Respect each other as equals..." That might be a challenge

Oh, damn, there it is, Stars and Stripes as Bush exits.

I have to say, if this were anyone but Bush I'd be optimistic. I can't imagine Bush's "my way or the highway" method working in this situation (or any other, frankly.) Then there's the inevitable mangling of the language that makes it hard to respect what he's saying. One can only hope that if Bush has to say anything unscripted, Hu doesn't speak english and the translator is generous.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Earth Day

First: Happy birthday, Belinda. See you later.

Second: Saturday is Earth Day. Interesting concept compared to, say, Sunday.

Local bloggers NYCO, Groovy Green and Simon at Living in Dryden talk about walking and connecting with the land and landscape. Since Dryden Democrats have scheduled our highway cleanup for April 29, we leave Earth Day open for individual celebrations and I agree that walking provides just the right opportunity for reflection on the state of the world.

If your own backyard doesn't offer enough temptation to walk, there are many other opportunities in Tompkins County including, Taughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Treman Park, Cornell Plantations, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Dryden Lake.

Groovy Green repeats a conviction that politicians should walk their districts. I admit that my ongoing effort to get to know my 100 square mile constituency involves quite a bit of driving, still it's a point well taken. The view on foot is much richer.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gray Squirrels

We have a record number of Gray Squirrels at the feeders this morning. I count ten in all (and one Red Squirrel). I long ago made peace with the fact that the feeders are not solely bird feeders. Squirrels have to make a living, too. I pity people who have to try to exclude squirrels. It must be endlessly frustrating. Yes, it's expensive to feed the squirrels but, frankly, they're fun to watch, too.

Maggy's here for the weekend - and for the B&B Birthday dinner. Planning to meet her at the bus station at 1:30AM Thursday (Friday?) took the sting out of the Town Board meeting that lasted 'til midnight.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Carnival of the Liberals

If you don't read Pharyngula on a regular basis, you've been missing a lot of fun and today would be a great time to jump in. The current issue of The Carnival of the Liberals is there, and PZ has clung boldly to his own tendency "to promote godless secularism and grappling with real world issues in science," in the process of selecting ten blog posts from forty-five submissions. Science and godless secularism go hand in hand for me. Throw in some politics and I'm hooked on reading and following links for an hour or two.

A soft starting place at the carnival is Am I a liberal? from The Questionable Authority.

For more of a challenge, read Unholy Alliances and the Monolith at The Intelligent Party addressing how to deal with Evangelical Christians from a political standpoint.

Really, every article is good and important. Choose your own favorite.

And if you still have blog reading time on your clock, go look at I and the Bird with Mike's brother-in-law's clever theme of birds and books.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monach Migration

Thanks to milkriverblog for the link to this map of Monarch migration. Looks like the butterflies have moved from their Gulf Coast wintering sites, north toward Oklahoma and Arkansas. Check out the map to see when to expect to find Monarchs in your neighborhood.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


It's great to have a compelling book and a free afternoon at the same time. I picked this up at the Library 'cause the dust jacket said "Trespassing sets the standard for a new generation of Pakistani novelists." I don't know the old generation of Pakistani novelists, but Uzma Aslam Khan has woven some strong characters into the background of Pakistan in the 1990s. Dia and Daanish are exploring their relationships with each other and with their mothers - Daanish's traditional mother and Dia's more modern mother - amid threat of kidnapping and sporadic violence.

Daanish's uncles ask him to tell them about his experience in college in America. He replies that some things are different and some are the same. They say, "Tell us about the difference. We don't care about same, same." Khan has given us two young people trying to imagine their places in the world against what their families have taught them to expect. What could be more universal? But Dia and Daanish are finding their way through a cultural overlay of acceptance - "What will be, will be."

The book's flyleaf mentioned that Khan's husband is David Maine. So, I picked up his book Fallen, a new interpretation of Adam and Eve. I'm looking forward to that for next week.

(Edit. 4/12/06. Yesterday fifty-seven people died in a bombing in Karachi. And I understand that better than I would have before I read Khan's book.)

Friday, April 07, 2006


Carnival of Feminists #12 is up at Written World and it's fabulous. Go take a look.

Happy Birthday, Ronni

Time Goes By is one of the first blogs I found when I discovered the blog world. I bookmarked it in my category called "grownups." Since then I've moved the bookmark to a category I call "women I like."

This week I was interviewed for a documentary about retirement. Ronni's post and my thoughts about it were fresh in my mind. It was good to know I'm not the only person having trouble with the label "retired."

Thank you, Ronni, for your writing and for facilitating this group.

Happy Birthday and best wishes with your house hunting.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Solar Calendar

I've been noticing the sunrise move around from the south-facing windows to the east facing windows. It's already rising eight degrees north of due east. Heavens Above, which can be customized with your location, gives sun and moon data including time and direction of sunrise.

In the winter, at its lowest, the sun shines in my south windows through the house nearly all the way to the back door on the north. I've occasionally thought about designing a mosaic calendar for the kitchen floor.

Today, I'm thinking about an outdoor solar calendar. Picture a tall vertical object (maybe a Maypole) casting a shadow which points to an object symbolizing each time of year.

Here's an example being planned in Berkeley

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006


There are winter aconites, maple syrup, peepers and warm temperatures. But I don't truly feel like it's spring 'til I hear phoebes singing. I don't really listen for them, or expect them. Just suddenly one day, like yesterday, I hear them and think, "Oh, yeah. It's spring." I trust them 'cause they eat insects. The phoebe's appearance means that enough insects have appeared to support him. I guess it's really the insects I trust, but they're harder to notice. Early birds, early flowers may be mistaken. But that many insects can't be wrong. Granted we may still get hit with a late snow storm and the phoebes will be stuck eating berries for a day or two. But it's really spring.

So, I started spreading compost on the vegetable beds - at least as much as I could shovel 'til I hit the solidly frozen core. Then I turned to cleaning out the chicken coop - unused for about ten years. We were never able to trust the dog around poultry. But as some of you've heard, King died two weeks ago. My consolation is to be able to raise hens again. So I'll be getting baby chicks from Agway in a couple of days. Maybe I'm nuts to take this on again, but I like hens. And I love fresh eggs.