Saturday, May 31, 2008

Barn Raising, Part 1

Had we known my car would blow up, we probably wouldn't have started this project this year (or paved the 2/3 of the driveway we did two weeks ago). As it is, we'll probably end up with a carport, not a barn, at least for this year. Here is the site and some very large trusses that will hold the whole thing up.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Required Reading

Intellectual historian Susan Jacoby on our misuse of the term elite:
All the older forms of elite-bashing have now devolved into a kind of aggressive denial of the threat to American democracy posed by public ignorance.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Electoral Votes Daily

Here's an interesting, if alarming, site. It tracks daily the odds of McCain v. the Democratic candidates in electoral votes per state. I think it's interesting enough that I've replaced the delegate count in the right margin so folks can track this every day.
Click for


For the story of how we got here, see May 16, May 20, May 21, May 26, and May 27.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Successful Surgery

We have people on both sides of the family going in for surgery this week and having birthdays (one today, one yesterday), so happy/successful birthday/surgery to all!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Driving Less and Enjoying It Less

Gas is well over $4/gallon throughout Dryden and in most of Ithaca, with a couple of exceptions. The good news is that high prices seem to be affecting behavior, finally.

Sign of the Times

We've always given away our eggs. Lately, we have had quite a glut, as the chickens are putting forth two dozen or more per day. So Paul advertised on the listserve at school: Fresh eggs, $1/dozen. (At Wegman's this week, they're $2.38/dozen.) He must have heard back from everyone in the school.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Sold the Subaru in about a minute and a half on Craig's List. Listed it last night, had seven responses this morning, and sold it to the first guy we called back. His wife just drove off in it.

Now I REALLY need a new car.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Required Reading

Thomas Friedman on a lottery for a public boarding school in MD:
“We called one school counselor the next day and told her that so-and-so was chosen,” said Ms. Beck, “and she said: ‘Thank you. You have just saved this child’s life.’”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spring Building

Our neighbors, on the other hand, are upsizing. This is my former house, an 1830s farmhouse on four acres. They bought it from us just before O was born and went on to have two sons of their own. Now they're adding a great room with bath upstairs and a new entrance. It looks like it will add another one-third to the interior space. It's nearly entirely framed in. Very exciting.

Downsizing Everywhere

This article confirms what we've seen on the car lots: People are throwing in the towel on SUVs.

I'm down to a choice between a 3-door and 4-door Accent. Tiny; I can't buy a lot at Wegman's. But that suits today's economy, too.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Energy Costs

The Dryden Dems met last night to discuss dealing with energy costs at the local level. Lots of chat about alternative energy, park-and-rides, the evils of corn-based ethanol, and public transportation. I'd ride the bus if it came anywhere close by, but it doesn't. So I'm test-driving a Hyundai four-door Accent today. It's cute and drives well, and the trunk space is ample compared to the three-door hatchback, but the ceiling's low enough that I feel claustrophobic. Nevertheless, it may be my new car, although I refuse to pay for the XM-Radio in this particular model.

It irritates me that no one can do decent mileage in an AWD car (barring the few hybrid models, which are too pricey for me).

Other things we're doing to conserve this month: composting in our new composter, lugging Wegman's stuff in our cloth Wegman's bags, reducing plastic bags in O's lunchbox.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Interesting Idea

PZ likes this Washington Post article suggesting a way to keep HRC in the loop without giving her a VP slot.

One More Year

I won the one-year term again (by 4 votes!), and our budget passed by the greatest margin in a long time (state aid really helped). All good things: I think one year is what I need to help get our recent initiatives up and running and our policies revised and completed. Then it's on to other things, and maybe Paul L or Paul S will run next year! Thanks to everyone who came out to vote.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grading Schools by AP

PZ sent this from the Washington Post. It's a terribly problematic way to grade schools--poor, rural schools can't afford to offer a lot of AP courses, or even if they can (as Dryden has discovered), often kids won't or can't cough up the $85 fee to take the test. So once again, we have a methodology that is skewed to favor wealthier districts. It's nice to note that Ithaca (alone out of the TST schools) ranked 346. Check out YOUR high school!

LATER: Whoops, I lied, Tburg was 686th.

New Chicks

Here are the first chicks of 2008, hatched out by O in her bedroom. Suki, in the rear, hatched Sunday; Unnamed hatched early this morning. Both look to be bantam crosses; their eggs were among the smallest in the incubator.

LATER: Unnamed has a name: Yuwe.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Required Reading

Kristof has a piece today on the failed politics of peace, referring to the Dalai Lama.
“After he’s gone,” the monk added, “there definitely will be violent resistance.”
This notion of a Tibetan Hamas is a scary one and not something I'd considered before.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Vehicle Downsizing, or Having a Fit

Bell's Auto in Varna informs me that the Subaru I've owned since November of 2005 needs a new engine. It's a nine-year-old car with 123K miles on it, but still. I downsized to that from my Pathfinder, as Paul has downsized in recent years from a Bronco to a Subaru and now to a Hyundai. (Full disclosure: We have upsized in trucks, however, and we still have a tractor that uses diesel fuel.)

So I looked into Honda Fits (40 mpg), but none will be available in this area before July. The question now becomes, do I spring for the new engine and get another year or more out of the Subaru before selling it (it is perfectly fine other than the putt-putt and gray smoke thing), do I buy a cheap car that will get me through two years and then buy a new car, or do I get something reasonable now and give up the Subaru, which is worthless at this point?

I really hate not having a car. I did figure out that I could save close to $1000/year in gas if I had a car that got 40 mpg. That makes it worth having to climb up the driveway on certain winter days--I'd have to give up AWD to get that kind of mileage. These are the issues we juggle in spring of 2008.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Apathetic Turnout

SmileyCentral.comOr a pathetic turnout, perhaps. Our budget hearing had NO ONE from the public, same as Ithaca's. Meet the Candidates attracted three or four people besides school employees (three) and a current board member. I guess everything must be perfect. Good to know.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Bad for Our Side

SmileyCentral.comMy ex-state (well, I lived there for six months when I was four) gave the finger to Obama big time, apparently more out of racism than out of genuine affection for HRC.

Some of us are extremely nervous about HRC's domination of swing states. Her campaign hasn't been right about much, but it is right about one thing--swing states matter.

LATER: Looks like Edwards will endorse Obama tonight. Bet his wife won't. But still, that's all she wrote.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meet the Candidates

SmileyCentral.comDryden School District residents can meet the candidates for school board at an informal session tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7 PM in MS/HS lecture room C13. There are five candidates for four positions; three are incumbents and two are brand new. The candidate who comes in fourth will immediately be seated to take Jeff Bradley's old seat for a one-year term.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Red State Update

Required Reading

I found this op-ed by Edward Luttwak on the unrealistic expectations we have for Obama to improve relations with the Muslim world fairly eye-opening:
His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Busy Day in Ithaca

Saturday, we treated Mark to a total Ithaca day. We started with the Community Build at the Sciencenter, for which O and I planted 200+ daylilies and Paul and Mark worked on demolition and railings. (Workers were assigned duties less by sex than by facility with a circular saw.) Afterward, Mark and I visited the Farmers' Market and had lunch and shopped at Wegman's. We had an hour or two at home before we turned right around and headed down for the Sciencenter's Volunteer Thank You Dinner, catered admirably by Dinosaur BBQ. We had to drag O away from the facepainting and other fun.

SmileyCentral.comNow he's off to Philadelpha to cast one of Y's plays (Eggs). Paul's playing with a friend's backhoe (he planted all the fruit trees, fixed the chicken coop, and rototilled the back 40). O's baking cookies, and I'm cleaning up after Sadie, who is capable of leaving 50 pounds of stuffed toy fluff and chewed cardboard in her wake in any given hour. Mollie and Becky are coming to dinner for the last time this semester.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rewriting History

Here's why I never do social studies projects--too fuzzy. Grammar's nice; nothing changes, and nothing's open to interpretation. Now I'm working (as is D) on a series for Lerner. I'm writing about Syria's Assads. Leaving aside that the fact Lerner calls this their "Dictatorship Series" applies an instant POV, I'm finding that despite Assad the first's being born in 1930, fairly recently in human history, no two sources have the same information about him. He was the ninth of eleven children; he was the oldest boy in a family of eight. He went off to school out of town at age 9; no, he was 14. Seems to me a REAL strongman would have a pretty standardized bio.

Worse is the revisionist history--the folks who say that (for example) the leaders of the Arab Revolt lied about promises made them by the French and British vs. those who make it pretty darn clear that the Arabs were double-crossed by a European alliance that had always intended to partition and occupy their lands. Give me a nice pre-algebra lesson any day.

Of course, D's working on Than Shwe, whose country just up and blew away in the cyclone last week. That's harder, when history's happening as you write. (As I write, Lebanon's headed toward civil war, so there may be a new chapter in my book as well.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Various Plagues

SmileyCentral.comThere's rabies about in raccoons, saith the IJ. Our dogs treed a raccoon just the other day at around 5 PM. Meanwhile, today Sadie treed a tree frog in the laundry room. She was equal parts excited and terrified; the frog was just glum.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Heart NY

Hilarious, yet terribly sad. The new and improved logo for NY tourism, part of a $15 million/year campaign, is as shown here. The object was to suggest that NY is more than just NYC.

I knew downstaters thought upstaters were just a bunch of squirrels, but now here's proof. And is it just me, or is the grass growing up the letters in "NY" horrifyingly post-apocalyptic?

Current Events

PZ notes that in our "rush" to get Bin Laden, our CIA has pushed aside Pakistani tribesmen and their annual yak polo competition. Hearts and minds indeed.

Meanwhile, O tells me that for current events, they're no longer allowed to bring in stories about death or crime, so she'll probably do something about the primary Tuesday, because at least they're not killing each other. No, but they're killing me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Home Improvement

We bought most of our siding and deck wood online. Even trucked up from Louisiana, it cost far less than buying it locally. However, when Paul decided to add on an extended deck, which was a great idea, we matched the long-distance wood with wood from 84 Lumber in Dryden. Well, guess which wood lasted? Our feet went right through the deck in several places this spring. Paul is patching with leftover LA lumber, but when we can afford it, we'll go with Trex or another recycled synthetic.

In other projects, we're having the most horrible portion of the driveway redone, and Paul has found a guy to do the initial framing for the barn and leave the rest of the work for him. Now if I just had more work, we could afford all these little projects.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Move-On's Bush-McCain Challenge

Another quiz worth trying.

Canada vs U.S: Health Care

SmileyCentral.comThe IJ today published an op-ed from a dual Canadian/U.S. citizen, comparing both health care systems and finding Canada's greatly preferable. It's a very intelligent, clear-eyed discussion of a subject that usually devolves into partisan blather.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back Yard Stroll

Sadie and I took our hourly stroll around the yard this morning, stopping to admire the fruit trees Paul just bought (two cherries, a peach, and a Stanley plum, plus two blueberry bushes). Then we got aggressive with Mr. Reeves, who pecked and thrust his claws at us through the chicken wire. Finally, we admired the fully-fledged-for-spring Rama on his perch, and forestalled the tunneling escape of three chubby chickens.

Promoting from Within

It looks as though Tburg will follow Dryden's lead and hire a superintendent from inside their ranks. The person in question is Paul's boss's wife. I don't really know her, but I know she comes from the world of special ed, which makes her an asset to any district these days.

There are a lot of advantages to "growing your own," including historical knowledge, ready-made staff relations, and community buy-in. With the turnovers we've seen in this area, I suspect this will happen more often.