Thursday, May 31, 2007

Evolution on My Mind

Geez, I've been on the school board a week, and already I have a letter from a concerned parent worrying about inconsistencies in the way we teach evolution. It's not entirely clear whether she's pro or con, but I'd be willing to take a guess. Heck, even Sam Brownback believes in evolution. Sort of. The New York State Standards are very clear about what's to be taught and how.

It's cowardly of me, I know, but this really isn't something I want to get into with the board.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Well, the authors are a lot more optimistic than I am, but this cover article in TIME has a lot of the arguments for and against No Child Left Behind and is worth reading.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Caging" and the Elections of '04 and '08

Will sent me this very interesting essay on something that emerged from Monica Woodling's testimony and was ignored by the ignoramuses on the committee.

I should point out that our local committee voted in favor of impeachment at last week's meeting. I wasn't on the winning side, because I think it's a masturbatory exercise when we don't even have the votes to end the war. But I have to admit, if it were in any way possible, this is the administration to impeach.

Especially for Phil

Paul's pic of one of our nymphs at its release into the wild.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Required Reading

Paul Krugman in today's NYT on the responsibility of the public to demand trustworthiness in their politicians:
Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Death and Life on Memorial Day

It is the day before Memorial Day, and in our household, Sophie, the last of the hamsters, passed on. While she waited patiently for burial, Paul noticed that the jar of praying mantis eggs had hatched, and baby praying mantises were clamoring to be set free. The circle of life, right on our dining room table.

Free Advertising

Every so often, someone will try to post a comment to the blog that is really advertising a book on a topic related to something I've written. I reject all such comments out of hand.

However, it's an interesting way to advertise for free. Since I recently resurrected an old YA manuscript and plan to start sending it around (to show you how old it was, it was typed, and I had to input the entire thing), perhaps I'll start posting little hints that encourage publishers to pick it up. But maybe not.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Required Reading

Guest columnist Atul Gawande in the NYT on "A Katrina Health Care System":
So this is the picture of American health care you get after watching for a few weeks: it’s full of holes, it’s slowly bankrupting us and we’re kind of used to it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How They Voted on the War Funding Bill

Arcuri: No
Hinchey: No
Hall: No
Kucinich*: No
Gillibrand: Yes

Clinton*: No
Dodd*: No
Obama*: No
Kerry: No
Biden*: Yes
McCain*: Yes
Schumer: Not voting
Brownback*: Not voting

For a complete list, see this for the House and this for the Senate.

* = running for President

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pregnancy Schools

I found this article on the closing of NYC's "pregnancy schools" interesting. In my day, pregnant highschoolers had a choice--stay in school and deal, or go away and hide. Nowadays, TST BOCES has a program for pregnant teens, and most or all of the local districts hold places for a handful of students in that program. I would be interested in learning whether that program is as useless as the NYC schools appear to have been.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Our fundraiser has been postponed, not because of lack of Rsvp's--we ended up with nearly 50--but because the guest of honor has to stay in DC and vote on the stupid Iraq $ bill.

Turkey Season

You wouldn't know it was turkey season from the way this big tom strutted across the lawn this morning. Click on pix for more detail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


My first meeting was uneventful. I made a stink about the cafeteria deficit. We chose to table the technology use policy until more stakeholders could be there. We had reports from the Dryden Youth Commission and the principals talked about the 2005-2006 School Report Card, particularly focusing on the lack of "4s" in 8th grade. A teacher/community member rose to say that we shouldn't freak out about that, because "3s" were just fine. Love the attitude.

Uneventful or not, the saddest thing to see is the lack of coverage. The Journal no longer covers Dryden Schools at all. Ida Pease of the Cortland Standard was promoted, so no one from the Standard comes to meetings. Tompkins Weekly is rarely there. WHCU can't be bothered. Only Matt Cooper from the Dryden Courier attends with any regularity. It's no wonder I had to get back on the board to find out what was happening.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Memorial Tree, redux

It just keeps getting prettier. Today there's a swallow in the right tall branch. You can zoom to see it. Sorry I don't have Microsoft Paint to circle it.

Internet Down

No Internet yesterday, thus no post. Spent part of Saturday at the Simon-Angelika nuptials, held in a gorgeous spot I'd never seen--the Hector Meeting House. It could not have been more beautiful and peaceful.

Tonight is my first Board meeting. I plan to make enemies right away by b*tching about the Cafeteria deficit, which has blossomed from $60K to over $200K since I first started complaining five years ago--despite the Board's creation of a committee to study it. We should also have some interesting discussion of the district's technology acceptable use policies. The whole notion of what happens to intellectual property online is fascinating. The upshot, I believe, is that there is no expectation of privacy in public schools. If they can open your locker, they can seize your emails. Paul's had interesting cases where kids have downloaded materials in direct violation of Newfield's acceptable use policies (in one case jamming the server by filling it to the brim with illegal music downloads), and he's gone into their accounts and erased everything. And he can.

Kids in Virginia are now challenging some of this in a case that should prove useful, if not definitive.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scarlet Tanagers

Yesterday Paul saw a couple of these on Hammond Hill. I was so jealous; I hadn't seen a tanager in years. Then today, one appeared on our hummingbird feeder! He and his spouse are hanging around in a birch tree nearby. And the hummingbirds are wildly feeding--the feeders just went up yesterday, and we already have swarms.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Instant Rep

Because I got the fewest votes, I replace the appointee who replaced the departed rep and then complete the departed rep's term. The upshot is that I was sworn in this morning and start my official duties at Monday's meeting. Lucky for me I'm not really a "newcomer."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Boo Hoo

Awww. We know she could have made it on her own merits. But she didn't.

Why I'll Never Vote for Kucinich

He may be the best antiwar candidate we've got, but that isn't the only issue out there, as Katha Pollitt reminds us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Elected, Barely

Good thing there were only four people running. I got the fewest votes in a terrible turnout, which means I get the one-year position. I'm actually very glad. I think I can do more in one year of lame duck-ness than in three where I have to behave.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leo Lutwak Memorial Tree


The IJ editorial today calls on everyone to vote down all the school budgets--ignoring the fact that to do so in several cases leads to a contingency budget HIGHER than the budget proposed. They're so rabid on the issue that they even put a little box on their minimal story on page 1 saying, "Voters should understand the ramifications of voting 'yes' on local school budgets." My alter ego felt compelled to respond. The IJ is rapidly heading downhill, not that it was ever very good.

When Turkeys Attack

Paul got some amazing shots this morning of two jakes fighting in the backyard. They were so involved that they didn't notice his getting to within six feet of them. More pix to come once he reviews them.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Rude

Everyone I know who's hosting a fundraiser, including us, is having trouble getting anyone to RSVP. We noticed this new phenomenon a while ago, related to birthday parties. It doesn't necessarily mean people won't just show up, which makes planning really difficult. What's up with this?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why Can't Lansing Retain an Administrator?

Superintendent Mark Lewis survived fewer than two years. Lansing has had three superintendents in five years. Tiffany Phillips served as interim superintendent there three times, which has to be some kind of record. Middle School Principal John Gizzi lasted three years. Elementary School Principal Chris Pettograsso starts work July 1. Lansing has a new business administrator. Etcetera, etcetera.

It's one thing to be a stepping-stone district. Dryden is one of those, and you get used to it. It's another thing to have an atmosphere so toxic that no one can survive it. Is it the union? the board? a combination of the two?

Every time I feel jealous that Lansing has so much more in the way of tax base and offerings, I remember the turnover issue. You have to start wondering, after all this, who is going to apply for those positions?

Keuka Instead

Instead of our traditional Seneca Wine Trail, we did a minor run around the southern end and east side of Keuka. We visited McGregor*, Ravines, Bully Hill*, Heron Hill, Chateau Renaissance, Heron Hill, and Keuka Spring*, and bought wine from the asterisked ones.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wine Trail

Tomorrow we're off for our annual Seneca Wine Trail tour, meeting friends at the Red Brick Inn and setting out around the lake for the day. Then it's murder mystery night, with good food and more wine.

Catalina, We Hardly Knew Ye

Looks like O and I saw Catalina this year for the first and last time, as they evacuate citizens in front of a massive fire.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Racist Town

The story of the week is this, in which Ithaca City Schools will likely be sued by the state for failing to protect a Dewitt Middle School girl who was a regular victim of bias crimes while riding the school bus.

It reminds me of when PZ and Sabrina lived on Titus Street, and Sabs, who had lived all over the world, told me that she had never seen a more hate-filled, racist community than Ithaca, NY. She could not walk home from work without being taunted and having things thrown at her from passing cars.

It was eye-opening to those of us, myself included, who thought this was a peace-loving, progressive community.

I'm telling you, it's all about class.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Leaning Toward Edwards

I was put on the spot yesterday at lunch, and I said my standard, "I haven't picked a candidate yet," but I have to admit I'm leaning toward Edwards. He's the only one who's talking about what I believe is the number one threat to America--the class divide. For more, see Bob Herbert in today's NYT.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Dynasty Argument

In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristof posits the same argument that we heard whispered in DC--that electing Hillary Clinton will mean that the same two families will have owned the White House for close to 30 years.

It's a chilling argument, one that aims right at the heart of our small-r republican ethos. But I find it peculiar that the same people who would have followed Bobby (or in smaller numbers, Ted) Kennedy to the ends of the earth are raising it now.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Peace, B-School Style

Remember what peace coalitions used to look like? You might go to a rally, say, for "U.S. out of El Salvador," and see tables set up for random groups from labor unions to old timer ban-the-bomb guys to folks selling beads or yoga tapes. Come the revolution, and now we have this: regular boardroom meetings with peaceniks making conference calls to the legislative leadership and conducting nationwide polls.

It remains to be seen whether this is any more effective than the old, haphazard means of protesting.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Tree Swallow of Happiness

Paul put up a birdhouse at the edge of the lawn, hoping to entice the bird on the left to nest.

Yesterday, he noticed that the bird on the right was checking out the neighborhood, complete with mate. Paul is not pleased. I consider his attitude discriminatory.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Re: The Republicans

Is it possible that Jim Gilmore doesn't have a web site? I certainly can't find one. Sad to say, despite my good intentions, I missed the debate. But from what I hear this morning, either Gingrich or Thompson could get in now and take the reins. Stupid questions, though.

LATER: "Anonymous" pointed out that I just didn't look hard enough. Jim's now on my list on the (far) right.

Cool Site

Courtesy of my neighbor Steve, here's a site you never knew you needed. It shows traffic situations throughout NYS in real time, updated every two minutes.

On the one hand, it's scary to know that there are this many cameras watching your every move. On the other hand, it's kinda cool.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Just Wrong

We have a couple of hens who have taken to roosting in trees at night, low in the branches, perhaps to escape the evil roosters. It looks very odd to me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Order from Randomness

Kris sent me this link, which is a demographer's dream. As promised, it delivers order from randomness, showing correlations positive and negative between and among seemingly unrelated attributes and cohorts. I have not yet begun to play, but I can imagine wasting hours and millions of braincells exploring the possibilities.

Angry White Men

I wonder if the Ithaca Journal knew when they set up their blog that they were tapping into a vein of anger that apparently runs unheard through the underground conservatives in the county. There are half a dozen people who remark on just about every story. To hear them tell it, global warming only affects scaredycats, elected officials are pickpockets and losers, gay marriage violates "G-D's" rules, etc. It's kinda sad to watch them vent to one another, but perhaps it's a safe way to keep them occupied.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Diversity, Dryden Style

The Tompkins County Democrats have been looking at how to increase diversity on the committee, and we Drydenites have been arguing to include/focus on economic diversity among the parameters. Here's some support for that, courtesy of the New York State School District Report Card. All reporting categories are for the school year 2004-2005.

Grade 4 Enrollment (ELA test): 139

  • White: 129
  • Black: 6
  • Hispanic: 1
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 3
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0
  • Economically Disadvantaged: 54

Grade 8 Enrollment (ELA test): 159

  • White: 151
  • Black: 4
  • Hispanic: 2
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 1
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 1
  • Economically Disadvantaged: 45

Graduating Seniors: 125

  • White: 123
  • Black: 1
  • Hispanic: 0
  • Asian/Pacific/Islander: 1
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0
  • Economically Disadvantaged: 1

Leaving aside the obvious question of what happened to all those economically disadvantaged kids (the Regents test numbers show 17 in 12th grade, compared to 1 graduate??), it's pretty clear that racial diversity is low in Dryden, whereas economic diversity is variable. (The way schools count this is iffy; it relies too much on free-and-reduced lunch numbers, which tend to diminish as kids get older and no longer care to be stigmatized this way.)

Retirement Planning

PZ sends this thoughtful analysis:
If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1000.00. With WorldCom, you would have had less than $5.00 left. If you had purchased $1000.00 of Delta Air Lines stock you would have $49.00 left. But, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have had $214.00. Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle. It's called the 401-Keg Plan.