Saturday, March 31, 2007

Preschool Political Ads

This made me laugh.

Goin' to the Chapel

Rings Monday at the crack of dawn (well, before that, actually--we fly out of Syracuse at 6 AM), we're heading for Aspen to witness Bill's marriage to Lela. We'll be there through Sunday; the wedding is Saturday, April 7. Paul is officiating at the wedding, thanks to the Internet certificate that makes him a legal Church of Paul minister in the state of Colorado. He has a new close-cropped crewcut in honor of the event (he was going to shave his head but chickened out). We are staying at the Mountain Chalet. The wedding is at Little Nell. O (Bill's goddaughter) and Lela's two kids, George and Isabella, are the only children allowed at the ceremony. O has already started calling the kids her "godbrother" and "godsister." And you can watch for us on Aspen Cam.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Money 3 That's how much we paid in school taxes last year. Actually $10 more, but it rounds off nicely to equal the exact amount of annual salary I made in my first publishing job in NYC.

I intend to use that figure often in my campaign. It compares rather neatly to the $0 paid by, say, our superintendent (who rents). Last year, Paul obtained the tax expenditures for every board member. You could add most of them together and not equal the amount we pay.

I guess we must be rich. Or something.

Learning from History

Carrie sent this comparison between Nixon and Gore, which is both brilliant and a little scary.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hurt Puppies

The Journal editorial today mentions the completely disproportionate response this community has given the torture of a dog by a CU student (compared, that is, to such things as the stomping of a toddler or the prolonged abuse of a woman). The DA tells me that she has never in her life received such praise as she did for pursuing a felony charge against the guy.

It's clear that if we really want a revolution in this country, we've got to catch the other side abusing small pets.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Five years ago, when Dryden was contending with the "small schools" issue--whether to maintain or close the two outlying primary schools--I said that there were serious questions of equity at Cassavant and Freeville, and that to answer those questions would cost serious dollars. I was widely poo-poohed and told in no uncertain terms that the little schools provided just as good (or even better) education as the big school did. (I was also told that enrollment was stable. It has since dropped by a substantial margin.)

Last night at the BOE meeting, Dr. Simons and Mary Ellen Bossack requested a .25 art teacher and a .25 music teacher for Freeville to equalize specials in the elementary schools and create better equity (phys. ed. is actually out of compliance at Freeville, and adding part-time music and art teachers will help improve scheduling and alleviate that issue as well).

It remains to be seen whether the BOE will agree to this, but they'd better put their money where their mouths are. Nearly all of them supported the expensive renovations of the outlying schools. Now they need to cough up the bucks to support the education they provide. And so, sadly, do the rest of us.

Final Four

NCAA Tournament It's worth noting that O picked three out of four of the Final Four teams--Florida, Georgetown, and UCLA, with UCLA winning it all. I picked two--Georgetown and Florida, but I had Texas A&M vs. Kansas in the finals, which is not gonna happen. And Paul has everything riding on the only pick he got right, OSU, which he has winning the national championship.

It's a tough battle for the traditional chocolate bunny. . . .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Required Viewing

Earth We watched some of "Planet Earth" on the HD Discovery Channel last night. Unbelievable footage--I kept saying, "Where's the camera? Where's the camera?" They use a little too much time-lapse and cute sound effects for my taste, but there were shots, as they continually remarked, that no one on Earth had seen before. They spent a good deal of time in the Karakoam, filming a snow leopard chasing and losing a young markhor. They showed a golden eagle that I swear had a woolly flying squirrel in its talons. They filmed in the Kalahari with infrared in pitch blackness and shot a troop of lions taking down a full-grown elephant. They worked with helicopters and new camera technology to show how African wild dogs (NOT feral dogs, PZ would note) divide and conquer when hunting impala. In many cases, it took eight weeks to get two minutes of usable film. I finally understand why we needed that big HDTV.

Required Reading

PZ sent along this from the Washington Post, in which Zbigniew Brzezinzki reveals the hype behind the hysteria.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Still Illin'

Paul's still hacking like an old man, and O now has a temp of 103. It may be spring, but you wouldn't know it at our house.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Un-Fun Unfunded Mandates

I'm having an email tiff with a local pol over whether unfunded mandates are, as he states, "the fundamental reasons for increased spending." That used to be my song five years ago, but I think it's gotten old. Now when people sing it, I hear, "We can't do anything for you. Suffer." I'd rather they told me, "We have a slew of unfunded mandates that we can't control, but we're working hard to cut spending anyway."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Crooks and Creeps in Publishing

Yesterday, while searching for my blog, DZ happened on this one:
A glance at the October 10th post shows a reference to a commercial Web site that bases itself on a book DZ and I wrote that is still in print. Many years ago, the owner of that site approached us with a flat fee proposal for using the material. Our publisher turned him down and said they would send him a cease and desist order, which either did not happen or made no impression.

It should be pointed out that this was not our original publisher, ARCO/Simon & Schuster, which did all it could to protect us. It was a publisher, Peterson's/Thomson, that bought ARCO, divested itself of many of its titles, and turned the rest into crappy versions of themselves, which they then tossed onto the market without any plan other than to reap any benefits remaining before letting them go O/P. I have been in communication with comptroller Daniel Toto for some years over Italian and Indonesian foreign rights that I discovered had been sold (or perhaps they weren't sold--either way, one of my books has been translated and sold there). I never received a dime for either sale, despite having a contract in hand.

The good news, perhaps, is that Peterson's is on its last legs and most of the people we had dealings with there have been fired. The bad news is that I'll have to get a lawyer to deal with all of the mishandled misuses of our various written works.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Off and Running

I collected 11 signatures at last night's band concert and the bus stop this morning. Only 17 to go. Am I nuts?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

School Daze

I stopped into the district office to pick up absentee ballots for the school vote April 3 and to get a petition in case I decide to run again this year. There are four positions open, and only one incumbent has committed to running again. (It's early, and that's bound to change, but Dryden has been known to have elections with too few candidates where the vote relied on write-ins, most recently in 1995, when Deb Drew was the write-in candidate [among 30] who won the seat on the school board.)

Village Returns

Lisa V won, beating all other candidates with 165 votes. Elizabeth lost to Randy Sterling by a heartbreaking 8 votes. (It was worse in Groton, where 1 vote separated the winners from losers.) But we now have two Dems on the Village Board, and I can pretty much guarantee that it will make a difference.

LATER: Journal reporting notwithstanding, it appears that there may be enough absentee ballots to make a difference in the results. We'll have to wait and see.

STILL LATER: There were, and it did. More to come. . . .

EVEN LATER: Well, Mike has called the candidates, so it's probably OK to post the bad news. After the absentee ballots were counted, Lisa lost by 1 vote to Bob Witty. Unbelievable. Eight votes is bad, but 1 vote makes you question everything--if only we'd made two more phone calls, registered another couple of voters, driven another two people to the polls, etc. Poor Lisa.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pigs at the Trough

Chinese New Year Simon remarked on the Journal's list of local pork the other day, but I've become more and more interested in Senator Seward's allotment of half a million to a group that's helping citizens fight NYRI. I mean, this is taxpayers' money. I don't support the building of a gigantic power line that will cut a swath through upstate to bring electricity downstate, but it is a political issue. I can't think of another occasion when pork has been used to choose sides in a political debate. Maybe I'm wrong, and others will set me straight.

Paul, on the other hand, wonders why legislators can continue to give our money to churches.

Women Runnin'

Today's the Village election. We'll see whether Elizabeth Gutchess and Lisa Valentinelli make a dent in the 4-to-1 Republican Village Board.

Our Assemblywoman has a brief editorial in the Journal today about redistricting, which seems to me a no-brainer. Although Texas got a lot of press about their redistricting in 2003, anyone who looks at the election figures for NYS incumbents can see that Texas is not alone. (And do try "Donkey Con" on that last link--very funny.)

I'm Not a Crook

SAZ worries that my last post condones plagiarism. It's not plagiarism if the same company owns the rights to all the books I'm plundering. They're essentially creating a database of lesson plans that they can then mix and match for most states.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Day, Another Fifty Cents

Studying Late post today, because I spent much of the day teaching myself to edit PDF files, and Paul spent the rest getting the taxes ready. The PDF thing is pretty slick with Adobe 8.0; I mark up manuscript just the way I would on paper, but more easily. It's especially good for this project, which involves cribbing from existing state test booklets to create a new test booklet for Illinois. I'm working on grade 6 math this week. Each book has lessons designed to teach all the skills tested on the state tests. Books have been created already for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Georgia, New York, and Florida. I've been through the IL TOC to determine which lessons from which states fit the IL standards, and I have written myself a roadmap. Now I just go into those PDF files and recreate them for IL. For example, IL Lesson 1 on Read and Write Whole Numbers is equivalent in most ways to PA Lesson 1 on Place Value. I change the title and the logos, pick up the instruction, pick up 3 practice items and create 3 new ones (because PA Lesson 1 deals with decimals, too, which aren't introduced in IL until Lesson 2), and revise another PA practice item to work as what IL calls a "Short Answer" question. Revise the footers and pagination, and I'm on to Lesson 2.

If nothing else, it's a great rationale for having national standards. The fact that there's SO much overlap, yet everyone reinvents the wheel to have "local control" is really illogical. In all of IL Grade 6, I have only four lessons (6%) I couldn't manufacture from existing lessons elsewhere.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Required Reading

Frank Rich today in the NYT on the days leading up to the Iraqi invasion. I'd link, but it's TimesSelect.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March Madness, March Badness

NCAA Tournament O just pulled ahead of me in the brackets, since she cleverly chose Butler to beat Maryland. Paul's still winning. . . .

Simon mentions this Laurel on his blog, but I feel the need to point out its "unfortunate" timing three days prior to an election in which some of us hope to replace some of that Village administration. There are a lot of "unfortunate" events surrounding this election that go beyond the usual scope of small-town politics. Irk.

Imperfect Storm

Snow Flake 2 Well, the nor'easter didn't do much here--maybe four inches on the mountaintop, and a lot of ice where there were puddles two days ago. PZ writes that he got 15 inches over in East Chatham, and Yoshi says that it hit hard in the Beantown area. We had ten deer in the back yard for most of the day yesterday. They're so comfortable that one of them regularly sleeps under a pine within the dogs' Invisible Fence range.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Pill Bottle Paul and I have been home sick for 3 days (him) and 2 days (me). Throat, chest, fever, aches and pains. Both of us had our flu shots. What's the deal? O's still healthy. She has two concerts coming up and hopes to remain so. Paul and I watched two Netflix movies yesterday--Frailty and Babel--in between college basketball games and naps. Meanwhile, I'm still working, sort of.

Lovin' It

For those of us having trouble following the U.S. Attorney story, NPR has this timeline. The story now implicates Karl Rove. I'm lovin' it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Media Reform

I caught a bit of this Bill Moyers speech on NPR yesterday. I think what he has to say about the coming monopoly in tech mergers and the value of a free Internet is especially relevant.

Playing Tech Catch-Up

Yesterday I got a job requiring software that can't run on my elderly Dell. Today Paul bought me a new Dell. (To be fair, buying a new computer was on the list for 2007--just not this soon in 2007.) But I'm happy about it. And my old one goes to O, so we don't have to share any more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Tornado Those of us old enough to remember Watergate remember the ho-hum quality of those first news reports about a break-in at Dem HQ. To be fair, I didn't bat an eye at the first "gay cancer" columns in 1981, either. Shows what I know.

But this U.S. Attorney thing has that same feel--a ho-hum story that just keeps growing, hour by hour, spinning faster and faster, drawing more and more (bad) people into its funnel. Could this be the final storm that brings down the whole House of Bush?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Signs o' Spring

A robin on Hurd Road. Two huge flocks of geese flying north. And turkeys under the bird feeders.

School Budget, Part 1

Money 3 I attended the school budget discussion at the BOE meeting yesterday. They're looking right now at a budget increase of around 5.73%. BOCES costs are significantly higher than anticipated (by around $111K!). Imagine that. Other irritants include the sewer rates in Dryden, which went up 22%, an unexpected $9,218 increase for the schools.

The Board had got rid of some items already--among them a lot of equipment requests, which they may be able to purchase with monies left over from the 2006 budget; a proposed transfer to the capital fund; some bus garage repairs; and staff development for exempt employees.

I did not see any additions of personnel, but the way Dryden presents their budget, it's often hard to tell.

It appears that they're trying to get down to a 4% increase, but that seems dubious. In Dryden, 1% of the tax levy = $130K.

Monday, March 12, 2007

SAZ Weighs In

Heard from SAZ, who points out correctly that I haven't chosen sides on where Congress should be headed on issues such as Iraq. He says, quite reasonably,
I'm not very happy about how the Dems are doing. I know (with more experience than you) that their thing is mainly to go off in all directions at once. Many of the things the Congress is doing are good things, but it would be preferable to have a united face. I don't think they're likely to gain a lot of votes for '08 by following Murtha's lead. But then, I'm an OLD Dem.
I am the first to admit that I have not the slightest idea what we should do about Iraq, although my knee-jerk reaction is to pull everyone out now. Nor am I tied to holding candidates accountable for their original vote on authorizing the executive branch to do whatever it wanted to do; I'd rather look at what they're doing now. Perhaps paradoxically, I would like to see Congress exercise its subpoena power, get rid of Gonzales, and start looking into the many impeachable offenses committed by this administration. Whether they can do that while moving the country forward remains to be seen, but I don't think the issues of the past six years can just be swept aside. We need to learn from them so as not to repeat them.

Erring on the Side of Openness

Last night the chair of the Dryden GOP called to try to talk me out of chatting on the radio this morning about the fake newsletter he put out on behalf of his village candidates. Although I choose to believe that he had no previous knowledge of the real village newsletter, I know that his candidates did. I also do not accept his premise that at the local level, we should just talk on the phone and shake hands over things rather than discussing them in a public way. It is a fundamental difference in philosophy. Yes, we are all neighbors, but we also owe it to the voters to keep them informed of everything that goes on, good or bad.

So I went on the radio, and the Dryden GOP had their County Rep talk about negative campaigning and diversions from the issues. But ultimately he did apologize on behalf of the candidates for using a campaign piece that looked like an official newsletter from the village government. And I tried to soften the blow by pointing out that I had complained just as bitterly when Democrats on the Freeville Board sent out opinions on a school referendum with their water bills. Wrong is wrong. Pointing it out is right. This I believe. . . .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

He's Number 3!

Knowlegis has released rankings of Congressional members, and our own Mike Arcuri (D-24th) is tied for third among freshmen in Congress, based on various categories including committees and region represented. More surprising, perhaps, is that he's 15th in the New York delegation (out of 29).

Knowing he has power may prevent our little freshman from responding as quickly as he recently did to a constituent complaint. I sent a letter on behalf of the school district to as many representatives as I could think of--County Reps, Assemblyperson, State Senator, and Arcuri--regarding the need for a stoplight at the entrance of the high school. I heard from no one local who might actually have helped in the situation, but the new Congressman wrote to say this was a matter of concern and that he'd sent his own letter with my note to the head of the NYS DOT and would let me know the moment there was a response.

I like having a newbie representing me. I live in fear that a high power ranking may undermine that freshman spirit and the will to respond at once to the most minor of constituent issues. Don't let it swell your head, Mikey, we need you here in the hinterlands!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fox Wins

Starting with Edwards, or maybe with Obama's early fight over being called "Osama," the candidates are dropping out of the scheduled Nevada debate, citing Fox News's bias like it's something that just occurred to them.

I think this is foolish. Debating on Fox opens up the audience. Do the candidates really think Fox is going to film up their noses or run a squib commenting on their makeup and wardrobe? Now, predictably, Fox is calling them out for fearing to appear on any venue that won't present them favorably, and they all look as lame as GW does when he packs his audience with pro-Bush donors. And all the debates will be candidates preaching to the converted, while the uncertain watch "American Idol" and hear the candidates' opinions only as voiced by Fox newscasters. Just stupid.

Snow Place Like Home

Took Roxie and the snowshoes and trekked around Paul's running track through the woods--maybe 1/4 or 1/3 mile, but the snow is still a foot deep or more. It was a lot harder on Roxie than on me. No signs of spring, but lots of bunny tracks.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Abuses of Power

In the NYT today, Krugman talks about the hearings on those eight federal prosecutors whom Alberto Gonzales fired, apparently for political reasons. He says:
Before the midterm election, I wrote that what the election was really about could be summed up in two words: subpoena power. Well, the Democrats now have that power, and the hearings on the prosecutor purge look like the shape of things to come. In the months ahead, we’ll hear a lot about what’s really been going on these past six years. And I predict that we’ll learn about abuses of power that would have made Richard Nixon green with envy.
Meanwhile, I will be on WHCU Monday morning to talk about the Village newsletter mini-scandal.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hate Circles

Just heard from Andy Young on the School Board that Paul wasn't eligible to run for BOCES rep anyway. School law says that no one who works for any school district may be a rep at BOCES. Clearly, they want to pack that board with people who know nothing about how things work--or don't work. But I feel bad--I had worked up a good irk over it all, and now I feel all that misplaced bile was for nothing. Simon notes that they still announced an opening following the filling of the position, so perhaps my irritation wasn't ALL for naught.

Grrr I'll take it out instead on the Village Board GOP candidates, who have resurrected the long-defunct Village Newsletter as a campaign organ. So wrong, despite their tiny notation "produced and printed by your friends neighbors (sic) on the Dryden Republican Committee."

Froggy Fun

Frog 3 Bill sent this brainteaser. If this is truly a 2nd-grade test in China (sounds like an urban legend to me), they're farther ahead than I thought. I solved it, but I'm ashamed to admit how many tries it took.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Marty sends along this interesting story, which is certainly not one I've read, except in bits, elsewhere. Despite the typos and the fact that the author is a bigwig in the impeachment cause, it sends shivers up the spine.

Peace Vigil

Peace Sign Tompkins County will join in a series of nationwide peace marches and rallies on Saturday, March 17. (I guess afterward, we can all adjourn to a sports bar and drink green beer.) Dryden's Martha Robertson is one of the keynote speakers.


Money 3 Well, the Ithaca bond passed with the highest-in-a-long-time turnout (17 percent), proving that cold weather is not a deterrent. The bond included many important fixes but also packed in a lot of ridiculous fluff--Paul's favorite is the very expensive Astroturf football field for a team that hasn't won since I was in high school. However, its passage is probably good news for Dryden's much less costly bond.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Great White North

Freezing It was -16 on the thermometer when I peeked at 8:30 AM. That's without the wind chill. The county declared a state of emergency, and all the schools were closed. We haven't yet checked to see whether all the birds survived the night. . . .

LATER: One ringneck died. The others were unhappy but fine.

It remains to be seen how this cold snap and closure will affect the Ithaca school bond vote today.

Obamarama, cont.

Nicholas Kristof gives Obama a kiss on both cheeks today with a column that asserts:
What sets Mr. Obama apart is the way his training has been at the grass-roots rather than in the treetops. And that may be the richest kind of background of all, yielding not just experience, but also wisdom.

Monday, March 5, 2007

They're All Big, and They're All Bad

Money 3 There's been so much to-do about NY's comptroller that I nearly forgot there was a U.S. comptroller, but he made quite a noise on 60 Minutes this week--noise that went largely unreported. Still, I found it pretty convincing and seriously alarming, tho' perhaps not as sexy as some mother-of-two cut into pieces by her frostbitten hubby. Here are some highlights.

"If nothing changes [by 2040], the federal government's not gonna be able to do much more than pay interest on the mounting debt and some entitlement benefits. It won't have money left for anything else – national defense, homeland security, education, you name it.

"The Medicare problem is five times greater than the Social Security problem.

"The prescription drug bill was probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s. With one stroke of the pen, the federal government increased existing Medicare obligations nearly 40 percent over the next 75 years. We’d have to have eight trillion dollars today, invested in treasury rates, to deliver on that promise."

Asked how much we actually have, Walker says, "Zip."

Major Disconnect

I suffered without phone and mostly without Internet for nearly 24 hours. Scary. I had to clean house and read a book, and I could feel the walls closing in.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Meier Fights Back

Our 24th Congressional District was the site last year of some of the worst campaign ads ever, nearly all perpetrated by the RNCC. Now Ray Meier, a smart, longtime GOP politician with a record of service to his district, is fighting back against the system that he believes may have lost him the election. More power to him.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Who's a F*ggot Now?

Gee, I wouldn't even KNOW that former Cornellian Ann Coulter had called John Edwards a nasty name if his campaign hadn't immediately emailed me to tell me so and to ask for money, I guess to make up for hurt feelings or something. Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd hints that this week's story is about Obama's white ancestors as slaveholders. Can we possibly survive till the primaries?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Don't Mess with Me

Grrr I was in SUCH a bad mood yesterday. I wrote a flaming letter trashing the school board for their lack of understanding of the basic principles of open government. I even wrote to the Spitzer people to scream at them for their inability to mail merge. Just hateful. But so gratifying.
Can't you set up your mail merge so that you don't refer to everyone as Dear [Last Name]? It's awfully prep school. I will say, however, it's better than referring to us all as you did before--by number, which was awfully Nazi death camp. Seriously. Just say, "Dear New Yorker." Otherwise, people will be annoyed, and will, as I have, remove themselves from your list.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Birthday Boy Does BOCES

It's Paul's birthday, and he's celebrating by working all day, attending a Newfield Board meeting, and applying for the position of Dryden BOCES rep. Currently, the BOCES board is made up of well-meaning rubber stamps. Meanwhile, the budget is out of control (affecting the budgets of all schools in the district), and the organization makes decisions like cutting vocational programs in nursing and hospitality in favor of more cosmetology classes. As we all know, the future for today's students lies in body waxing and chemical waves.

LATER: Well, this is SO par for the course. The school board noted in the February 27 Shopper that they were looking to fill this position. That Shopper reported on their February 13 meeting. Then, at their February 26 meeting, they filled the position with a board member (SUCH a conflict of interest). Thus, by the time the opening was public, it was already filled. Perfect.