Friday, December 26, 2008
I'm pretty sure this will be my holiday card next year.
What is it with cats lying on things? Jake's on a piece of wrapping paper; Murphy's on a bit of black tissue paper and that's Tang in the back on a box.
Still Magda's got the best spot - on Bill's lap as he tries to eat his Christmas morning waffle.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
He found it several yards down the road in the snowbank. The steel is stronger than it looks. He couldn't bend it enough with his hands to get it open. So he brought it to me like this. Notice especially the package inside.
I should mention that the mailbox was mounted on a well designed pipe that's installed about five feet back from the shoulder of the road and extends horizontally far enough for the mailman to reach it. In fact, it's designed to swing aside if it gets hit. And it's survived this way for decades.
For some long forgotten reason, this part of Neimi Road is a county road. In the past, through a shared services agreement, the town has been responsible for plowing it. Maybe that's why the county has neglected to resurface the road for such a long time. This year , for reasons too complex to describe, the county is plowing it and so far I'm not that happy about it. Sigh.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
[T]here’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 protection.
A commenter at Dryden Democrats said, "Barak Hussien [sic] Obama's motto could be: 'From each according to his abilities. To each according to his needs.' I understand that this was meant as a warning. But I have to say, it's not the worst idea in the world.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I heard an ad on TV for a prepaid Visa card. "Low fees. No interest. Helps control overspending." Well, that sounds like a good idea in this credit crazy culture.
- Shop online or by phone
- Pay bills
- Easy way to track your spending and stay within budget
Oh, Wait. There may be a catch. Oh, yeah.
Oh, look: purchase transactions - free. Live customer service - free.
Monday, November 24, 2008
This may take her from my desk, to the dining table, to the wide windowsill obstacle course that requires her to wend her way between the houseplants and the window - often tipping one or more of the plants onto the floor.
If I'm not around to disqualify her, she's nearly home free with a stroll across the counter with the glass surface electric range, an easy hop to the kitchen table, a longer leap to the kitchen counter and perhaps onto the top of the refrigerator for the coup de gras, up through a ventilation space into the second floor bedroom (the door of which is closed to keep cats out. Sigh.)
Returning for a moment to that counter with the electric range... I'm resigned to wiping off the kitty footprints in the morning and picking up the pile of papers they've pushed onto the floor. But last night they apparently turned on the stove. I'm serious. See those knobs on the right side of the range?
I came down this morning to notice the little glowing light that warns, "Hot Surface." I know I don't use the electric range this time of year, so I couldn't have left it on. I thought maybe the sensor that turns that light on was broken. So, in my pre-coffee fog I didn't look at the burner knobs, I just put my hand on the burners, one by one. Sure enough, one of the back burners was HOT. And sure enough, its knob was turned to "medium." Even when I use the range in the summer, I only use the back burners if the front ones are already occupied, maybe for a dinner party.
Then I noticed that one of the little wicker bread baskets that normally hangs above the stove was on the floor. Now I'm imagining that basket having landed on the hot, or at least medium, burner. And I'm thinking of the pile of papers that the cats push onto the floor most mornings. It could almost as easily go the other way onto the stove. So, I'm thinking, "What are the chances?"
Googling "fire caused by cat" brings me lots of stories about cats dying in fires and a few of cats saving people from fires. But the ones about cats causing fires should more properly be headlined "Carelessness causes fire," tho' that isn't really so newsworthy. I'll skip the one from the NYT in 1884 caused by the cat knocking over a coal oil lamp. And I'm ruling out unattended candles and faulty electric strips. Uh oh, this one looks bad: Fire Officials Blame Cat for Fire:
The gray and white cat apparently jumped on an electric range in the basement of a two-story home at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and turned on the push-button control, said Darrell Christy, the fire department's chief of operations. Plastic containers on top of the range smoldered.
"We eliminated everything except for the cat," Christy said. A smoke detector alerted at least three people in the home, who were not hurt, Christy said.
Push button control?! Who thought that was going to be a good idea? At least I've got knobs. Plastic containers on top of the range? I don't know.
I'm going to check my smoke detector, right now!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
My first home computer in the 1980s, set up on a card table, gave me easy access to a little wordprocessing and a lot of Pac Man. In the 1990s I plunged into the internet with AOL and a dial-up connection (where I'm pretty much stuck.) My teenage daughter and a friend quickly figured out IRC chatrooms. But I stumbled around thinking, "There must be something interesting here somewhere."
Voila! Along came web logs. Very early web logs were literally simple lists of new web sites as they came on line. As the number of sites exploded, lists of favorites were born and the terms "web log" was shortened to weblog and blog. I still think the best feature of blogs is the links. (And one of these days, I really must update my sidebar.)
So, here's today's link. Last week Intercollegiate Studies Institute released the results of this year's America Civic Literacy Program quiz. Last year the quiz was given to 14,000 college students and the average score was about 53%. Pretty dismal. This year, for comparison, the quiz was given to 2,500 adults of various backgrounds. The average score was 49%. Even more troublesome, the average score of the 164 people who reported having held an elected government office at some time, was 44%.
As I took the quiz, I wasn't sure whether or not I'd share my result. But I'm happy to say I scored 91% (and apparently I need to know more about Puritans.) I will say that some of the questions are deliberately tricky. But how can it be that 83 of those people who said they'd held an elected office can't identify the three branches of government even in a multiple choice quiz?
My experience as an elected official and the 2008 campaign for president have shaped my thinking about qualifications for elected office. There was the Sarah Palin interview in which she said she'd consider becoming McCain's running mate if someone would tell her what the Vice President actually does. There is no job description for President of the United States and the only qualifications are age and birthplace and the ability to survive a two year campaign. No job description for Vice President. Or Congressman and on down the list. So, if we're making our choices based on, "Well, this person seems to know what (s)he's talking about..." no wonder we're sometimes disappointed.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I'm starting over. Bear with me while I get back into the habit of thinking like a blogger. That is, actually having something to say. Since the last time I wrote we started siding the new part of the house. We've finished the log part and will continue on the second floor with cedar shingles. I use the pronoun "we" very loosely. I actually had very little to do with the siding.
I judged the local Halloween costume contest.
There are lots of prizes. But this might be my choice for cutest.
And most elegant.
I baffled someone by saying Halloween's my favorite holiday - except for the candy and costumes. I don't like sweets and I don't like to dress up. But Halloween is New Year's Eve in the Pagan calendar and I grasp at every opportunity for a fresh start - New Year's Day, first day of spring, first day of school, Mondays, daybreak, whatever...
I campaigned for Barack Obama and for Congressman Arcuri (far right) as well as our local candidates Don Barber, Jason Leifer and Joe Valentinelli.
And voted, perhaps for the last time on our beloved lever machines.
The cats are reminding me that the weather's turning colder and they're no longer willing to spend all day outside. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Before I know it Christmas will be past and I can celebrate another New Year.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
First, a capsule analysis of the crisis.
1. It all starts with the bursting of the housing bubble. This has led to sharply increased rates of
default and foreclosure, which has led to large losses on mortgage-backed securities.
2. The losses in MBS, in turn, have left the financial system undercapitalized — doubly so, because levels of leverage that were previously considered acceptable are no longer OK.
3. The financial system, in its efforts to deleverage, is contracting credit, placing everyone who depends on credit under strain.
4. There’s also, to some extent, a vicious circle of deleveraging: as financial firms try to contract their balance sheets, they drive down the prices of assets, further reducing capital and forcing more deleveraging.
Starting with point #2 (I'll be returning to #1) let's unpack the language here. "The losses in mortgage-backed securities have left the financial system undercapitalized." Undercapitalized means short of cash. "...levels of leverage that were ... acceptable are no longer OK." leverage means borrowing or debt. Translation: we have too much debt and not enough cash. That's us - collectively, all of us. Sadly, we're all in this together.
Returning to point #1... Far be it from me to disagree with Paul Krugman, but it didn't start with the housing bubble. It started when we began to believe that it's acceptable to have more debt than cash. Even after the painful lessons of the 1930s, it was only ten short years before we began rewarding ourselves for the years of deprivation during World War II by turning to banks for mortgages for new homes. The Levittown housing boom was off and running. It was another ten short years before we began thinking, "Well, maybe if a home mortgage is okay, a car loan would be okay. After all, the car has value, too."
And then came credit cards. Yep. Just thirty short years after the worst credit crisis in history, came credit cards. At first they were loosely backed by bank accounts. I know this 'cause I had one of those first credit cards. I was seventeen years old when the bank where I had a checking and savings account sent me, unsolicited, a shiny new BankAmeriCard. Its credit limit was less than I had in my savings account. So, that was pretty safe. But, of course, as I used the credit card and paid the full balance every month, the bank increased the credit limit. By then I was a grad student. In those days, if you were smart and you worked hard enough, you could actually get through college and grad school without student loans.
It's been all downhill since then. And make no mistake about it, we're all in it together.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Today is Autumnal Equinox. At 15:44 GMT (or 11:44 EDT) the earth is at a point in its journey around the sun where it is not tilted toward or away from the sun. Everywhere on the earth today will have roughly twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. In that one respect, we're all equal today. I think that's worth celebrating.
Leaving my office near sunset last week, I noticed the sun coming straight in the west facing atrium window, all the way down the east-west hallway to the east facing back door. The United States is such a young country that many streets and roads laid out due east and west or north and south. Consequently, many buildings facing the road are mini-temples to the rising and setting sun.
Autumn Equinox means the busy summer season is drawing to a close and we're headed toward the shorter days of the season of rest and reflection. If you've been growing things, you'll now be celebrating the harvest, as I was yesterday.
I get a sort of mini spring cleaning drive this time of year. The housecleaning I haven't had time for all summer is glaring. There's plenty of outdoor clean-up to finish. Oh, my. It's time to get at it.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Belinda may be right that a lot of things I plant die. But the ones that don't, make the whole effort worthwhile.
I've tried unsuccessfully several times in several places to grow this Japanese Anemone. This is its third year in this spot. So, I'm beginning to think I've won and I'm really happy with it.
This birdbath is another great success.
There's something very warm and fuzzy about seeing the birds enjoying the running water. While they don't often bathe in it, they do regularly drink from it.
(P.S. The seed stalk in front of the birdbath is another gardening success. Like the Anemone above, I had tried to grow Cardinal Flower in several places. I finally hit on this spot where the water spashing out of the birdbath keeps the soil moist. Here the Cardinal Flower is thriving and self-sowing. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of it. Oh, well. Maybe next year.)
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Magda, the smallest of the four, still dominates - perhaps by seniority alone. Or perhaps by being cautious. She sometimes plinks across the piano to get from one side of the room to the other while maintaining the best possible vantage point. Last week Jake tried it. He didn't like the noise at all. But he finally just settled down, ignoring the weird sustained chord.
Murphy, also variously known as Winston, Rocky, White, Casper and, recently, Sneaker, continues to be King of the Cars.
Monday, August 04, 2008
The garage has become an equine sick bay.
Friday night I realized Charlie had a serious infection in his left rear foot. Belinda called a colleague who advised that Charlie would probably need antibiotics and Epsom Salts soaking.
By Saturday morning when I called the vet, it was clearly a terrible abscess. The vet, who could definitely use a lesson in bedside manner, kept repeating "This is really bad" before and after every other sentence.
By the time we got past the part about how we're not going to send Charlie to Cornell for an $8,000 treatment that may not help at all, Belinda's friend arrived to help us. With his quiet, serious reassurance, we agreed to an injection of antibiotic and a sedative (for Charlie) while the vet cleaned up the wound.
That done, the vet recommended a radiograph - like a digital x-ray - to assess to what extent the infection was affecting the fragile foot joints. Isn't it amazing the equipment is small enough to carry around to farm fields - or in this case at least to the lawn. So, the radiograph shows that there's little or no damage to the joint at this point. And we're back to the antibiotic and Epsom Salts treatment we were expecting.
The problem is that the area around Charlie's barn is really, really muddy. Belinda, who, since the garage was finished, has been dreading the possibility of the cats doing something smelly in it, promptly suggests keeping Charlie in the garage. It's really the only way we're going to be able to keep the foot clean. And it's a whole lot more convenient for us, too.
So here he is in the nicest stall he's had since we kept him at a stable where Maggy trained and showed him. Belinda's doing a great job of keeping it clean. But it does, of course, smell of straw and hay and - well - horse.
The cats have been very curious about all this. Here's Murphy watching from atop the firewood - tho' he wasn't at all prepared to meet Charlie close up.
I'm happy to say that the swelling in his foot is down, he's putting weight on it and walking well. We're cautiously optimistic and Charlie seems to be having the time of his life.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Here's a caterpillar who raises his head to present this caricature of a monster.
You can see, in profile, that what looks like eyes and mouth and are just spots and stripes.
I could spend some time online trying to identifying him. But I think he's looking for a place to pupate. So, I gave him a maple twig in a canning jar.
And sure enough. By the next day he had attached himself to the inside of the jar and shed his skin. I bet he'll emerge as a butterfly before I have a chance to research online and find who he is.
Among our other wild neighbors are lots and lots of birds. It seems early for the "confusing fall warblers." But I admit all warblers are confusing to me - as are most insect eating birds. If they don't sit on the seed feeder long enough for me to study them, I have trouble remembering them.
Anyway, it's a great hazard to our warbler neighbors and tourists that we have windows - and cats. I don't know what happens when we're not here watching, but last weekend, like last year around this time, we were there to protect a warbler who flew into a closed window.
Monday, July 21, 2008
ed 7/31/08 A friend, whose mother reads the blog, pointed out that the laugh I linked to above was - well - pretty vulgar. So here's another. And another. Maggy's been in New York long enough to be a bit snarky about tourists - including me and my inability to swipe my Metrocard. Though, I must say at least I know what a Metrocard looks like. It says METROCARD in huge letters across the front. Come to think of it... Maggy was only in NY about a week when she started being snarky about tourists.
And the comment from Anonymous is right. Overheard in Ithaca is funny too - and less vulgar. I should send in my favorite: Overheard in the toy aisle of Wegman's. Wistful five-year-old girl, "Mommy, why don't you like Barbie?" Exasperated mom, "Because no one really looks like that." I wonder if she feels that way about Cabbage Patch dolls, too.
Monday, July 14, 2008
As I understand it, last year the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are air pollutants subject to federal regulation under the Clean Air Act. If the EPA finds they are a threat to the public, the court said, the agency is required to produce regulations to reduce the risk. Apparently, the EPA report found that indeed, greenhouse gases are a public threat but that the Clean Air Act is inadequate to address the issues. Incidentally, the report released Friday called "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" triggers a 120 day period allowing for public comment.
All this relates to a comment Councilperson Makar made last week just prior to the Town Board meeting: "Why can't we get anything done?" (He might have said it louder than that.) His frustration surrounds a number of good ideas that have grown into proposals and stalled there. Several of these hinge on putting to use a substantial fund the town has accumulated from repayments of former HUD loans.
David did a great deal of research for these proposals last year. And Jason Leifer has joined in the effort to put together proposals for:
- teaming with Tompkins County Area Development to make at least one substantial economic development loan,
- teaming with AFCU in a program to make matching grants to small businesses
- small grants to low and moderate income households to make home improvements related to energy conservation.
(Crossposted at Dryden Democrats)
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
This picture was taken in January when I moved into the office.
In March, after I saw bluebirds swooping over the field, we contacted the local Bluebird Association and they came to put up bluebird nest boxes.
Bluebirds moved into one of the boxes, hatched eggs and are now busily feeding them.
I'd never seen a bluebird before March (tho' Bill insists he once pointed one out to me.) Now I have my very own picture.