Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Social Entrepreneurs

Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof of the NYT had a piece on social entrepreneurs, whom he considers "the most hopeful and helpful trend around." He asked for additional examples on his blog, so I put in a plug for Lisa's AIWR. Then I decided to begin linking to family sites from this blog, so I've started with the ones you see on the right.

Once More Unto the Breach, or not

Presidential Seal Think Dennis Kucinich is the antiwar candidate? Think again. Bet you didn't even know that Mike Gravel was running. The official edition of the Pentagon Papers from Beacon Press is still called "the Senator Gravel Edition."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

McCain Unable

Carrie sends this, which shows in a couple of minutes how attempting to straddle the center can impact your testicles.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A System in Need of Improvement

Cheating The Ithaca Journal has this article today on Freeville Elementary School's unfortunate "in need of improvement" rating, despite the fact that the kids in Freeville are too young to take the state tests that would earn them such a rating. Paul is convinced that there are enough checks in the system that it's the district's fault, and a close reading would tend to support that. However, it reveals more about the downside of NCLB, I think--schools spend so much time preparing and checking reports (Paul deals with data warehousing monthly), and the reports still don't reflect what's really going on at the schools. And the state holds regular meetings at OCM to teach administrators about preparing and checking reports, which means that those administrators are driving back and forth to Syracuse instead of overseeing what's going on at the schools. And the teachers prepare students for the tests instead of teaching, and the students take sample tests instead of learning, and so it goes down the line. Your tax dollars at work.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reorientation of Political Parties

He's not exactly my kind of candidate, but I was fascinated by what Chuck Hagel had to say in this interview in GQ (not exactly my kind of magazine, but I was led there by Frank Rich of the NYT).

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Discretionary Spending

Yoshi asked if I could post a counter for the Afghan war as I have for the Iraqi war. I don't have access to one, but I did like the National Priorities Project's chart of discretionary spending (that part of the budget that folks can wrangle over, as opposed to the much larger mandatory spending). It gives you a good sense of where the buck stops.

Off to DC

Peace Sign No, I'm not going to the United for Peace march today, although lots of our local Dems are. But I am going to the DNC Winter Meeting next week, where I hope to report back about ALL the 2008 Dem candidates (here's hoping Gore announces this week!) I had the opportunity to blog from the event, but I don't think I'll do that.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fear of Flying

Paul and O went skiing yesterday for the first time this season. O has been fearless to the point of recklessness in the past, so Paul was surprised that she wanted to snow plow down the slope and wept when her fingers got cold. I wonder if age produces wimpiness, in which case I was way ahead of my time. This bodes ill for our April trip to Aspen.

FDR, redux

PZ sends along this quote from Paul Krugman's column today, which I reproduce here for those who aren't on TimesSelect (let 'em sue me):
For the fact is that F.D.R. faced fierce opposition as he created the institutions — Social Security, unemployment insurance, more progressive taxation and beyond — that helped alleviate inequality. And he didn’t shy away from confrontation.

“We had to struggle,” he declared in 1936, “with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. ... Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

Krugman's point is that, despite Obama's insistence, partisanship is not necessarily an impediment to getting things done. The nasty divide in the U.S., Krugman says, is due to
economic polarization. Only when that is reversed will bipartisanship be possible. And those who attempt big things in the face of partisanship should welcome the hatred of the opposition.

As always, I think Krugman's right on the money. We had a meeting of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee last night that was ostensibly to create a diversity plan in response to alleged racism on the part of the membership, but some of us in the towns believe that diversity where we live has more to do with class than with race. It's another of those "problems" whose name we dare not speak.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cost of War

Money 3 Bill sent me something that wrongly calculated the cost of the war in Iraq. I've added a counter to this page to help people keep up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Neighbors?

Gossip Far be it from me to spread rumors, but Paul just called from work with a good one: an old winery near the Zs' house in Schuyler County has just been purchased for $900K by (wait for it) Hillary and Bill. A CNY estate to be their "Western White House"? We will try to confirm.

State of the Union

Presidential Seal The state of the union appears to be denial, judging by the lack of any mention of the Gulf Coast. I guess that's all fixed now. Paul and I watched on HDTV, which was refreshingly bad, with microphone glitches, a fisheye lens that showed the seams on Nancy Pelosi, and Dan Rather rambling incoherently. Paul wondered if he'd had a stroke. They focused on that idiot Randy Kuhl for a good five minutes prior to the speech, but luckily, no one could figure out who he was, so there was no label. At the end, they got nice footage of all the would-be 2008ers running all over each other to be first out of the room and in front of the cameras. Later, I went upstairs and watched CNN, which put me rapidly to sleep, and Paul watched CBS. He says Barack kicked Hillary's butt.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Good News from Central Asia

PZ sends this release. Not the kind of news we usually hear about Iran.

"A Picture of Afghanistan in Words" part 2

The young student continues:


Amongst all these disadvantages and all the things Afghans have gone through during the past three decades of war, there are still many people who are working round-the-clock, day in, day out for the betterment of our homeland.

They are sacrificing everything they have by risking their lives and any financial resources they may still have to repair and restore the country.

I met so many young and old Afghans that are working so hard just so they can rebuild the country and achieve progress in the current world that they have forgotten they also have personal lives to live.

All of this is done, knowing there is no guarantee that tomorrow will be not be the same, possibly even worst, meaning that all their efforts have gone to waste.

But they have so much courage and love for their motherland that they are willing to risk all and refuse to be discouraged by anything. This is a remarkable view of bravery and courage and if there is truly a jihad to be fought, then this is it.

These people are truly fighting a morally acceptable fight to get Afghanistan to a place where it can compete with other developing , or, even better, developed countries in the fields of education, technology and brotherhood.

Seeing the current generation working so hard and with so much courage and bravery makes every Afghan proud and provides them with the encouragement they need to solider on and keep up the good fight.

Among such great individuals, is a young man named Siddique Mansour Ansari. Ansari holds a degree in journalism and a master’s degree in political science. I have never seen a man so active and determined.

He has been offered ministries in Afghanistan but he has never taken them because he thinks they would tie him down and prevent him from what he is already doing in for his country, which is spreading the light of education in Afghanistan.

He is working on an institute to produce quality professionals that are so desperately needed. He is also working on a school system that has no equal on an international level. His aims are so high and his actions are even better.

I can give hundreds of examples of such honourable, brave, motivated and determined people - people who in simple words are ingenious and know how to put their thoughts in to action.

Every investor thinks twice before investing all of their capital into a project that does not have some kind of certainty but I met people who are risking this, not because they are stupid and don't know that they could lose everything they have but just because they don't care if they lose it because they feel so passionately about doing everything they can to improve their beloved country’s economy.

Again, this is not where it stops. I met professionals who, despite all of the discouragements and dangers are returning to Afghanistan to do whatever they can to help their country.

An example of this would be one of BBC's top journalist Ismail Fatimi who used to live comfortably in London with his family but who has returned to Afghanistan permanently after years of exile. He hasn't returned to claim a ministry like many others but to do everyday things which could benefit his country in greater ways.

Seeing a country so shattered and torn by war, still working so hard towards success is like looking at a miracle in action. Afghanistan and its people have gone through so much that few other countries have experienced in recent times.

One would think that all its people would be discouraged and ready to give in to all the misfortunes that they have faced but that is not the case. People are still fighting in the face of all the misfortunes, standing like rocks against all the discouragement,
working round-the-clock to take Afghanistan to a level that every Afghan dreams of, carrying within them so much love for their country all the time that it is hard to find the words to fully explain this phenomena.

Their morals are so high that they can not be shaken, even after three decades of war and they are ready and willing to face another three decades if they have to in
order to retain and activate their passion for rebuilding Afghanistan.

Seeing how there are people who are not afraid of any kind of failures and disappointments, who are willing to try as many times as they have to, to win through, it gives all Afghans everywhere around the world hope for a brighter future.

Long live Afghanistan !!! Afghanistan

Monday, January 22, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

It took no more than 2 hours from my post about Maurice before someone from DC with domain name was exploring my site. Why I love my sitemeter. . . .

"A Picture of Afghanistan in Words"

Peter's Central Asian work for WCS makes him privy to information the rest of us seldom see. I liked the recent letter from an Afghan student, now studying in Bahrain. I'll post The Happy Picture tomorrow.


Afghanistan, once taking big steps towards becoming a developed country, is now one of the world’s poorest countries. More than three decades of war have destroyed almost every thing including roads, parks, government buildings, houses, army bases, airports, museums , national heritage sites and much, much more.

The list includes everything that was man-made but the loss is not just limited to man-made things.

The natural habitat including forests and large tracks of once beautiful countryside have been decimated by the American bombing and rich agricultural lands used to cultivate crops, fruit and vegetables has been poisoned and useless for any kind of farming in the foreseeable future.

Three generations of Afghan youth have grown up in complete ignorance through a lack of education. The only skill or knowledge most young men have today is how to fight. For young women it is how to cook the recipes their mothers taught them.

Most women have spent their lives like prisoners in their own homes, cooking and cleaning, and the biggest achievement a typical Afghan man can claim to have mastered in his life is to serve food for their families.

Everyone, men and women, spend most of their time talking about things that they do not have control over. It has now become a habit, and can even be classed as culture. Gossiping, answering people back, and wishing people ill-will run through the veins of many Afghans now.

Talking has taken the place of action. Everyone wants to be in charge of bringing about changes and making everything better, but once they are in a position to do this and are given the opportunity to make a difference, they become blinded by selfishness.

Instead of working for their country and its people, they start lining their own pockets. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn’t use money stolen from Afghanistan. The first attempt for anyone with such opportunities is to try and guarantee that their money is in a safe place by transferring it to foreign banks in foreign countries.

Only some get out of their prestigious positions alive. The attempt at making more and more money eventually takes over their lives. Those who are lucky enough to live, leave the country once the government has changed and never hope to return.

However, such “refugee” ex-patriots retain the right to complain about the current government and the current collection of officials not doing anything for the country while forgetting that when they were in a similar position of power, they did exactly the same thing, if not worse.

Our country today lacks almost all those things that even some of the poorest countries in world have. A lonely, fully constructed building is sometimes seen amongst the vast majority of ruins. It still gives a patriot happiness and hope for a better Afghanistan but the culture of praising the last government that was hated by the majority of the population when it was in power, is sadly still at large.

The current government maybe using some of the aid money to rebuild but most people in power are too busy building their own personal profiles and improving their own finances to pay any attention to the needs of the country.

Intellectuals and those who really want to help the country are disappointed by this attitude so they never even consider returning to the country from years of exile. Most people discourage those who want to do something just out of habit or jealousy.

Just because they cannot do what others can, they refuse to support those who do what they can. Considering all of these shortcomings, it is easy to be discouraged, hence we are what we are, and where we are, today.

Why I Love Maurice Hinchey

I admit it, I wasn't a fan early on. Perhaps I didn't quite trust the hair. But lately, Congressman Hinchey (no longer my Congressman, thanks to redistricting) is the ONLY one to talk about issues like this. He gets it in a way that few do.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just Hideous

As politicos everywhere are wondering whether Obama and Hillary are colluding, and if so, why; or whether Richardson is just out there because he wants to be (a potentially great) VP; or whether Brownback just might be the anti-Giuliani--here comes Fox to remind us that none of it really matters, because the American electorate is a collective imbecile.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Keeping Score

With Hillary announcing today and Richardson probably tomorrow or Monday, it's getting harder to tell the players without a scorecard. I found this one useful.
Hockey 4
We all three (plus O's pal Erin) sat through CU vs. Yale at Lynah last night. Yale dominated the last two periods, but it ended in a tie, largely because the CU goalie fell down, knocking the puck into another player and caroming it into the CU net. Sad when your opponent's goal gets an assist from your own goalie. Students aren't back yet, so the stands weren't close to full.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Our Reading List: An Occasional Feature

Paul is working his way through
this well-reviewed tome on the
surprisingly bellicose Pilgrims.

Not exactly a 5th grade book, but O's mom
doesn't believe in readability, despite
having written a thesis on the topic.

Our DA, who shares my love of police procedurals, gave me this one, which introduces me to a new-to-me author, Michael Malone.

Energy Issues

This morning I went out to the woodpile with the sled, planning to move large quantities to the indoor woodpile in the garage, but I found that the boulders that hold the tarps over the woodpile had frozen solid into the ground, and I was completely unable to move them. I'm not sure what my next step will be.

Meanwhile, an oil and gas company from Denver, via their West Virginia representatives, has approached us about leasing/selling natural gas rights. As you can see from this story, we're not the only ones they've approached. Aside from the ethical issues of partnering with an evil oil conglomerate, I understand that noise pollution is a byproduct, which would not be good for our animal population. But we'll probably need to learn more to make a sensible decision.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day One, Nothing Changes

Money 3Our Dryden sup't was carrying on at yesterday's facilities committee meeting about the state Catch-22 that giveth and taketh away with the same slick motion. We get Excel aid for facilities, which, in Dryden's case, this year comes to $578,430. The state then gives us 82% (that percentage differs from district to district) on top of that, meaning that we can do a project that's over $3 million in cost. But then the state finagles the bonding, with cuts going to the Dormitory Authority and monies coming off for capitalized interest, which accumulates largely because the state doesn't pay up until the project is complete.

The actual money available for construction and incidentals must be figured by a formula so arcane that only one guy in the area (Bernie Donegan--Google him to see how many schools depend on his services!) understands it, so all the schools rely on him to do the math. I'm struggling to figure out what really happens to the money, but I'm not sure I'm getting it. I'll continue to try.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy BD, Ezra

It was Ezra Cornell's 200th birthday a few days ago, and the university is planning a year-long celebration. The Journal today had this long-lost letter, in which Ezra explains that it will not be a charity school but will cost $45 per annum.

All in all, I think Ezra and his pal Andrew D. White were pretty good guys. I wonder whether they'd be more inclined than the present leadership to grant the Town of Dryden an in-lieu-of-taxes donation. If we received monies on the land they own here, every resident's taxes would decrease by quite a bit more than $45 per annum.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The fairest meadow white. . .

Spoke too soon in yesterday's post.
2.5 inches on my purple ruler, and still coming down.

Obamarama, redux

Presidential SealSo Barack has formed an exploratory committee, meaning either that he's succumbed to his own hype, that he wants to be Veep, or that he truly thinks he's da man. Time to find out about being a delegate to the Denver convention. Shapin' up to be the Best. Primary. Evah.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This Year, the Grass Is Still Green

What a difference a year makes. This was late October, 2005.

Calling All Candidates

We had a nice little get-together at the Candlelight Inn yesterday afternoon (in the middle of playoffs! what were we thinking?) to talk about Dryden village issues and to encourage residents to run for office. Village elections are in March; there are two trustee seats and the mayor's position available. As always, Doris provided a nice spread and people supplemented with snacks. There were perhaps five new faces, about the same as last year. But five potential worker bees each year adds up.

Came home to find that the Bears had pulled out a last-minute win. Watched San Diego lose in a heartbreaker to a rather lame-looking Patriots team.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We're Number 3

Just back from my weekly trek to Wegman's, now touting its number 3 ranking in Fortune's 100 Best Places to Work. (1 & 2 are Google and Genentech). I'm always surprised at how low my Wegman's expenses are compared to those of other people in line. (Yes, I'm nosy.) I give credit to our attempts to buy locally, at least when it comes to meat. We buy half a pig and half a cow, and they last us for a couple of years. The initial outlay is large, but the weekly savings add up. Plus we raise our own Cornish game hens for roasting or grilling.
Along with this comes the vague satisfaction of not being a part of the hideous meat industry. Our cow and pig aren't raised in tiny crates or shipped in cattle cars. On the other hand, I eat fast food often enough to know I'm not really making any kind of political statement that holds water. It's better meat, it's cheaper, and it contributes to the local economy. That's the best I can say.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

21st Century Blues

The Ithaca Journal has this article today about broadband service and the dark spots in our county. This is something that Spitzer has promised to address, but it's not clear how he'll get past the lies (see Frontier's misstatement about why they can't extend service) or the short-term bottom line issues (see the comment about Time Warner and Dryden's lack of a franchise agreement).

Frontier gave us the same song-and-dance routine, but Paul convinced them to try by promising them other customers. Our experiment worked--we are officially too far from the switch, but the service does not stop "at a defined line"; it continues, albeit with a weaker signal as the distance grows. We have a DSL line on which I rely completely. I could not continue to do the work I do without it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Truth or Bushworld?

This interactive dissection of Bush's Wednesday address is worth a read.

Yes, But Does Character Count???

Philip writes, quite reasonably,
"I was struck by a NY Times chart compiling the responses of likely presidental candidates to the war in Iraq. Under Hillary Clinton, the caption reads (something like) 'voted in support of war but claims she was given unreliable intelligence,' while the caption under Edwards reads, 'voted in support of war but says he regrets decision.' I find it revealing that one Senator takes personal responsibility for an irresponsible vote, while the other blames misleading information."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

When Squirrels Attack

Caught this chubby guy just before he fell to the deck below--for the tenth time today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Fix-Up Is In

I attended this meeting as part of the facilities advisory committee. Paul is also a member. It's weird to watch board meetings from the other side. Karin's right about "tunnel vision"--the tendency is to focus very minutely on what's right in front of you. That's why it's a good idea to have a MISSION or PLAN, but right now, as far as I can tell, Dryden has none. And as a taxpayer whose school taxes come to just under $10K a year, I'm a little wary of these sudden "discoveries" of money.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

O, Politico

Now I'll never get anything done.

Obamarama, etc.

At dinner, Paul asked who would get my vote if the primary were held tomorrow and featured Barack, Hillary, and John Edwards. I was a little surprised to find that my opinion is split pretty evenly. I may be leaning a bit toward Obama, since I'm nearly done with his second book, and I'm a sucker for careful thinking and good writing. But I think each of them brings something to the table, and each of them has some serious flaws.

O wants Hillary, hands down, because "it's time a woman was President."

I think most Dems in NYS think Hillary's been a great senator for the state and a less-great one for the nation. The war and the appearance of pandering have been huge negatives in my feelings about her. Obama, however, writes
"A vote or speech by Hillary Clinton that runs against type is immediately labeled calculating; the same move by John McCain burnishes his maverick credentials."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Whistling in the Dark

If amphibians are truly the canaries in the mineshaft of climate change, then surely the frogs I had to slow for while driving down Mt. Pleasant this weekend had something important to tell me. From the back seat, O started singing

Global warming
Is coming to town
Global warming
The whole year 'round. . . .

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Web Power

Read in the Post-Standard today about a project that my namesake, Daily Kos, is developing to shed light on the workings of Congressional committees. It sounds like what Simon does in Dryden when he has time, and what the stated goal of the new Tompkins Weekly has been. I'm all for it!

I spent one day last week doing nothing but answering a question sent by a client. They wondered whether the Susan Nunes who wrote a story I'd recommended for a project, " A Moving Day," was the same Susan Miho Nunes who wrote children's books. They needed a biographical blurb but couldn't find enough information.

It took two search engines, back-and-forth emails to a publisher in Hawai'i, and finally, several back-and-forth emails with Susan herself in Berkeley, CA, for me to discover that she was in fact Susan Miho Nunes (and published under two other names as well). She was not, as I had already guessed, the Nevada Susan Nunes who had her own conservative blog, and she was not born in 1937, per a notation in an authors' website that threw me off for a couple of hours--that was a publisher's error. Susan wrote her own biographical blurb, and everyone was happy. And I made a new friend and never once got out of my chair.

Wee, slicket, cow'rin, flamin beastie

Nothing says "Winter Grilling" like a tell-tale crackling noise followed by a burst of activity as a dozen mice abandon the smokin' ship and race all over the deck. Yuck. What would PETA say?

Saturday, January 6, 2007


I've resisted blogging for the usual reasons--the no-doubt-false modesty that keeps me from wanting to clutter the blogosphere with another slew of mindless opinions about issues du jour, the uneasy sense that blogging is masturbatory and hubristic, the vague recollection of snail mail and the remembered joys of putting pen to paper. But you know what? I'm over it. For a couple of years now, I've sent out a biweekly or monthly email to family and friends, complete with yawn-worthy minutiae about our lives on the mountain in Freeville. I'm on the computer six or more hours daily anyway. This is an easier form of communication, and in theory it's not as intrusive as email--there's no obnoxious sound; you can log on or not as you wish.

I chose Blogger from all my options because it seemed easiest, and they have a bunch of new features that make it easier still. There are so many ways to go with a blog, and I had lots of great models to work with, just here in Dryden. I could be completely objective and informative and local, a la Simon, but I'm probably too opinionated and full of myself to pull off the objectivity, although I'm sure I will talk about local issues. I could expound brilliantly on books and nature per Mary Ann, and I'm sure there will be some of that in Daily KAZ, tho' perhaps less brilliance. I could include tons of pictures the way Dave does, but my life is not that thrilling, and I'm not that cute. So the blog will probably be a mishmash of opinions, trivia, factoids, local and state and national politics, education issues, and family life on the mountain. I'll try to post daily. We'll see how it goes.