Thursday, April 30, 2009


Rather sad that the young folks at IC's Ithacan, journalism students who looked forward eagerly to careers in the biz, have the best local article on the demise of our paper of record.

I find the whole thing depressing in the extreme. And I can't get anyone to publish a single press release I send out. Ugh.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Failed States and the Death of Civilization

SAZ sends a sobering read from Scientific American. Every year, the Fund for Peace analyzes destabilized nations of the world and produces a list of failed states, a list that analyzes demographic pressures, economic decline, suspension of the rule of law, and intervention of other states, among other indicators. The 2008 top 20 are:
1. Somalia
2. Sudan
3. Zimbabwe
4. Chad
5. Iraq
6. D. R. Congo
7. Afghanistan
8. Cote d'Ivoire
9. Pakistan
10. Central African Republic
11. Guinea
12. Bangladesh
13. Burma
14. Haiti
15. North Korea
16. Ethiopia
17. Uganda
18. Lebanon
19. Nigeria
20. Sri Lanka
The SA article examines the role of food shortages in the potential for complete governmental collapse in failed states, leading in turn to worldwide disaster. It's well worth reading. The causes of food shortages are destruction of groundwater and topsoil and rising surface temperatures of the planet.
Of course, there is a plan to save the Earth--it's the Earth Policy Institute's Plan B, which cuts carbon emissions; stabilizes the population; eradicates poverty; and restores forests, soils, and aquifers. Given the alternative, it sounds pretty good to me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Switch

And we can see a filibuster-proof majority on the horizon.

Identity Theft

We got a call from a catalog company today asking for confirmation on an order we never placed (for over $600's worth of "African-American apparel and shoes for today's black woman"). Good thing they called, or we might never have known. Now we get to cancel our credit card and hope that's the end of it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Instant Summer

Thursday it snowed. Friday it got up to 76. Saturday, it hit 90. I haven't even had a chance to put the down comforter away, and we're sleeping with fans on. Bluebirds are building nests, turkeys are displaying, Paul's out fishing with Linc pre-season.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Money CAN Buy You Love

A few months ago, no one knew who he was. Now he's the Congressman from DZ's and PZ's district.

Changes at the Journal

Editorial page editor Andrew Tutino departs today, to be replaced with David Kubissa, who will somehow juggle Ithaca, Binghamton, and Elmira opinion pages. All the suffixes revert to, as the IJ heads down the road toward total consumption by the parent company.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Triumph for PZ

... and his co-workers at WCS. And the war-torn central Asian nation. And the Afghan snow finch.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

National Standards

Here's an article that pretty neatly sums up all the reasons I think we should have national standards. My favorite part is the chart of "strong" vs. "weak" standards (sadly, it seems only to show up in the print version)--the weak ones are EXACTLY what NYS standards look like--completely untestable, lamebrained ambiguities. Maybe not the worst in the 50 states, but surely the worst among the states whose standards I regularly use or check.

My only issue is the number of think tanks lining up to devise the plan. Someone is going to make money off it, and it should be as far away from people like Harold McGraw as possible. Maybe I'll volunteer my services to Arne Duncan. Well, not volunteer, exactly. . . .

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Equations of Life

Kris sent me this, which is LOL true:
1. Ennui= Boredom + thesaurus
2. Entitlement - experience = Teenager
3. Helpmate = Husband - recliner
4. Religion = Cult + 150 years
5. Eccentric = Insane/kind of amusing
6. Success = Failure + press secretary
7. Reality TV = Reality - real life
8. 401(k) + (2009-2008) = 201(k)
9. Crocs = sandals - dignity
10. Fun at 30-year reunion= (Football cap-tain's baldness + cheerleader's obesity)/Yours
11. Big Mac = Special sauce + lettuce + cheese + pickles + onion + cardboard
-- The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Justifying Jobs by the Numbers

The Chief of the Village of Dryden police wants to add an officer position, bringing her force to a level that far exceeds that of other similar-sized villages in NYS I can easily Google. Is there a crime wave in Dryden Village? Leaving aside whether we should even HAVE a village police force, when the town is covered by state police and sheriff, what is the justification for the increase? It doesn't appear that there's any need for justification when the goal is job creation, or where you can find a grant to snow the trustees into thinking this won't cost them much.

Our student population in Dryden has decreased by 250 students over the past decade, and we anticipate a further decline before it levels out. That fact, along with others, has provided justification for some eliminations of teaching jobs this year. It's hard, because the last hired are often the finest and most motivated, and we hate to lose them. Nevertheless, it makes sense--it's logical in light of the numbers.

O's cousins attend a well-respected charter school in Marblehead, MA, whose class sizes range from 25 to 28, well above what we accept in Dryden for anything other than certain HS courses. Nevertheless, kids there do spectacularly well, even though often they are students that for one reason or another did not succeed in the regular public school. So one starts to wonder whether class-size studies take enough information into account. It's pretty clear that class size matters in the primary grades but may have little to no effect as you move up the grades. Do college lecture courses really teach less than seminar classes? It probably depends on the type of learner you are and the quality of the lecturer or professor rather than on the numbers themselves.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bear's Routine

He comes twice a night and stays as long as an hour and a half each time. Sometimes his first visit is as early as 9:45 PM. Usually it's closer to 11:30. His last visit can be as late as 3:30 AM. There's nothing in that trash can; he ate all the birdseed on the first night. He messes around down near the basement door and then makes the rounds of the back yard. He has thoroughly destroyed the turkey feeders. There's nothing left to feed on. We have to assume he'll soon get bored and visit someone else.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Bear

Last night, he wandered in, pried off the lid of the can that used to hold the birdseed (see pic), and then lay on the patio near the basement door for hours, groaning and making other bear noises. Paul had a vision that he was living under our porch. I drove O down to the bus stop despite the milder weather.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Guns of Spring

PZ sent me this well-written blog post on gun violence and our mythologizing of the Old West, where often, in fact, you had to check your guns at the city gates and pick them up when you left town.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

End of the Syrup Run

The sap has stopped running, and Paul's finishing up the last of it. He designed and had built this bi-layered still, which sits atop two turkey fryers (one borrowed) and holds many gallons at once. Now if it would just stop snowing, I'd believe spring was really here.

On Cynicism

Maybe term limits are a good thing in that they call an abrupt end to that feeling that you've heard it all before. Or maybe other officeholders are able to view every budget year as a new awakening, filled to overflowing with opportunities. Maybe I'm just tired.

Following last night's BOE budget session, I breakfasted early, along with about 20 folks from Cortland, Broome, and Tompkins Counties, with our new senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. If she's tired of anything (and she must at least be weary of people's misspelling her name), it doesn't show. She's on what Hillary's people once christened a "listening tour" of upstate NY, and she skillfully handled our questions and comments on bank regulation, SUNY funding, single-payer health care, economic opportunities, NCLB reform (mine), and recent laws that favor corporate farmers over small farmers. She's incredibly articulate, which seems to me to be 90 percent of what a senator needs to succeed (or am I being cynical?) Especially because I bumbled through a very inarticulate evening (on my part) last night, I admire her dexterity enormously.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


The piled-on irony of a Vietnamese immigrant taking out fellow would-be American citizens from all over the world with semi-automatic handguns (permit, license, and registration required in NYS) is really too much for me. Will Binghamton now be known worldwide the way "Columbine" is, or are we now so used to this pattern of shared suicide that it'll just be a blip on the media radar? I guess it depends on how many books and documentaries we get out of it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reading List

In Hemingway prose, war correspondent Filkins tells tiny, breathtaking stories about Iraq and Afghanistan as he wanders hopelessly with the Marines. "Dispatches" for a new millenium. It made me want to lie down with my face to the wall.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That's What She Said

I always tell candidates to mind their tongues in public, but I don't always follow my own directions. Now I'm quoted (more-or-less accurately) in the IJ implying that come 2010, Paterson's out, and the three men in a room will be Republicans. That's not quite what I believe--I believe Cuomo can probably win both a primary and the election, and that only one of the men in the room will be Republican--but I do think people are enough up in arms about the opportunities lost with this proposed budget that the Dems are in trouble statewide and locally.