Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Some may not realize it, but April is National Poetry Month, and April 30 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I heard about it this morning on the radio.

So rather than carrying a poem around in my pocket, I figured I'd share one here. But first, a little background.

When we were in the Adirondacks two weekends ago, there still was not a lot of evidence of Spring; the leaves weren't really out yet and the flowers weren't blooming as they already were down here in New Jersey. But the birds were singing, and I enjoyed hearing them, knowing that they were heralding the coming of Spring even before it was obvious to our eyes.

While we were over at our cabin in the afternoon, we started to hear this strange shrieking noise; it sounded like a bird. Then there were more of them, louder and louder. It was kind of eerie, but I just figured there was a flock of birds that I wasn't seeing, up in the trees somewhere.

As part of our afternoon's adventures, we finally drove the Jeep all the way to the end of the road that goes past our cabin. It's an unimproved gravel road that has not been maintained for many years. It is shown on maps as a Jeep trail. So we decided to prove that our Jeep was up for the challenge. We made it up and down every hill, rock and boulder that we came across with no problem. It was fun riding past areas we had never seen before since our car wouldn't have been able to make it through. But all along the deserted road, lined on either side with ponds, brush and trees, we heard the shrieking noise. It was really getting scary - like being inside an Alfred Hitchcock movie! And still I could see nothing that was making this noise.

We finally went back to the place we were staying and as I was sitting there I suddenly said "Spring Peepers!" DH looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "Spring Peepers," I repeated. "That's what that noise was." He had never heard of Spring Peepers, but I had a vague memory of such a thing. I Googled it (thank goodness for Blackerries, as the cabin we were staying in has no wi fi) and sure enough, that's what they were. They are little frogs (only about an inch long!) that come out in the spring and make this amazing sound.

Here's a video I found that will let you hear what they sound like, plus the terrain is very similar to what we were driving past. (However, the road is in better shape than ours!)

Spring Peepers from Ali B on Vimeo.

So after all of this research I suddenly remembered this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay and now I finally understand what she meant by it.


I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Eventful Week

There is certainly a lot going on this week. I just heard the news that Arlen Specter has switched parties - becoming the 59th Democratic seat in the Senate. He is facing re-election in Pennsylvania this year and decided to run as a Democrat.

On one hand, this is good news for the Democrats, because if Al Franken finally wins in Minnesota, the Democrats could have a filibuster-proof majority of 60. (Assuming all 60 agree on the issue at hand, of course, which isn't always the case).

On the other hand, it is a sad day for the so-called Grand Old Party. That leaves even fewer moderate Republicans in the party, concentrating it even more into the hands of the far right. If anyone was hoping for less partisan rancor, it just isn't going to happen.

Of course the other big news right now is the swine flu, which may become a pandemic. Fears that it might be as bad as the 1918 pandemic that killed so many people are probably exaggerated. However, any time there is a new strain of flu that the vaccines can't prevent, it is a big concern. If you want to check out how many cases are in your area, here is a link to an interactive map.

President Obama is about to hit his first 100 days in office so be prepared for yet more analysis of "How's he doin'?" (as NY Mayor Ed Koch used to ask people about himself). As the linked article points out, most of the time the first 100 days don't really serve as a real indicator of the mettle of the President in question. Only Roosevelt accomplished a huge amount in his first 100 days - which would probably not be possible in modern times, since our modern Congress just doesn't do things that fast.

In a stunt of remarkable stupidity and insensitivity, one of the planes used as Air Force One made some low circles over the Statue of Liberty with an F-16 escorting it on Monday - just to provide a photo of the plane juxtaposed with the statue. Governor Corzine said that New Jersey was not notified of the plans and that it was "unacceptable."

Mayor Bloomberg's office was supposedly notified - but the word had not gotten out even to the Mayor, so he was furious about the incident, which caused workers in high-rise buildings to flee them in panic, thinking it was a reprise of September 11.

President Obama had nothing to do with the incident and was reportedly "furious" also.

But it isn't even a matter of notification - it's more like, "WTF WERE THEY THINKING?" How could anyone think this was a good idea given that New York's memories of 9/11 are like a raw wound that is just barely scabbing over? How could they even consider doing such a thing? I hope someone gets fired over this.

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Award-Meme!

Many thanks to Marie at the Attentive Aphorist for this "Honest Weblog" award! I am honored!

As part of the award, there is a meme.

These are the rules:

1.You must brag about the award
2.You must include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on you and link back to the blogger
3.You must choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
4.Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog.
5.List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself.
Then pass it on with the instructions!

So here are my 10 honest things about myself!

1. I bowled on my company bowling league for 14 years and had an average as high as 142 at one time.
2. I am known for being perpetually late for everything, particularly work in the morning. Morning is not my best time.
3. Nothing upsets me more than hearing about someone abusing an animal. I admit I literally would want to kill the person who did it. Luckily I don't have that opportunity since I'm usually reading about it in the paper or on a website. But if I ever caught someone, watch out.
4. I am most happy when I'm outdoors in nice weather, and tend to hibernate in the cold, gray winter days. I become less social and less apt to want to leave the house. Then as soon as spring comes I am a new person.
5. I love old houses and am a big supporter of historic preservation. I especially love old houses with stories to them. Ghosts are OK too.
6. I was so nearsighted as a child that I remember thinking to myself, "I don't know why they bother putting signs at the side of the road; nobody can read them." Luckily they figured it out when I was around 10 and I got glasses.
7. I have always been the kind of person who tries to stay in touch with all her friends and even former boyfriends. So I love all the new "social media" such as Facebook. I re-connected on Facebook with my really good friend from my earliest childhood. We hadn't been in touch for over 40 years. I am also still in touch with my best friend from 8th grade, and with my 4 closest high school friends, and several college friends, as well as work friends that have moved on to other endeavors.
8. I am lazy. Yes, I admit it. If it's something I am really into, I'll work my butt off. But if it's something I don't want to do? I'm bad. I procrastinate and hope someone else does it or it will go away. These things include projects I don't want to do at work, or walking the dog in the rain, or many forms of housework. DH complains he is always doing the dishes. Of course I DO do the laundry. I'm not totally useless. But I could do more, and I'm trying to correct my tendencies!
9. I love the smell of dog toes and ears. They smell strangely comforting, kind of like Fritos. I don't think I could sleep without my dog in the bed.
10. One of my favorite memories of my father is that when we lived up near Rochester, New York, he used to take me to classical concerts at the Eastman Theater on Thursday nights. I think sometimes it was just the two of us and other times my mother would come too. I remember we saw Vladimir Horowitz play the piano once.

So, that's my 10 honest things. Now, on to the awards. The following bloggers get this award! Looking forward to their 10 honest statements.

The ever-brilliant Randal
Annette over at Just My Little Piece of the World
DCap at Distributorcap NY
Fran at Ramblings
Robert Rouse over at Left of Centrist
Katie Schwartz
Sue J at Nailing Jello to the Wall.

Congratulations all!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. I apologize for my Female Human's long Absence from this Blog, and for the Lateness of my Weekly News Roundup. My Humans and That Dog all went up to the Adirondacks over the Weekend and left Me here Alone with no Help to Blog.

However, now that I am Here, I would like to wish You All a Very Happy Earth Day. I know it's Late in the day but as my Female Human likes to say, "Better Late than Never."

So, what did President Obama do for his first Earth Day? Actually, Quite a Lot:

"For his first Earth Day in office, President Obama has invited the Big Three automakers to display an eco-friendly fleet of cars on the White House south lawn."

He also appeared in Newton, Iowa with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, to tour a Wind Turbine Manufacturing Plant and give a Speech about his energy plans.

Back in Washington, the Agriculture Department opened its organic "People’s Garden" in the first Farm to Fork festival, which included demonstrations and "information about Composting, Organics and Beekeeping."

Last but not Least, the Democrats started three days of Hearings on the Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

Moving on to another Earth Day-Related Story, John Tierney defies the conventional wisdom that in order to Save the Environment, we need to have Fewer People, Less Technology and less Affluence. Apparently this is only True to a Point. Once Affluence and Technology reach a certain Amount, the amount of Environmental Impact actually goes Down. It's called a Kuznets Curve. I am only a Cat so I don't Understand All of it. But if you read the Article you'll see what he's Talking about. This is the Premise:

"As their wealth grows, people consume more energy, but they move to more efficient and cleaner sources — from wood to coal and oil, and then to natural gas and nuclear power, progressively emitting less carbon per unit of energy. This global decarbonization trend has been proceeding at a remarkably steady rate since 1850, according to Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station."

The thing that Struck Me the most was he contends that:

"There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology."

I couldn't Agree More. I have only been Around for Eight Years but my Female Human remembers Many More Years, and she does not believe that just because of this Recession, Humans will suddenly See the Light and become "Greener." After all, September 11 was supposedly the End of The World As We Knew It and Everything was supposed to Change afterward. And it did. For about 3 Months. But not Forever.

The Gas Crisis in the 1970s? Temporary effect. Everyone went back to the Big Cars and Gas Guzzling Engines the second the Gas Shortage went away and Prices Came Down.

So I figure, if He's right about that Part, Tierney may be right about the Kuznets Curves. Which is actually Encouraging because it means that as Civilizations all get Richer, eventually the Planet will Benefit. If we all Live that Long.

In More Good News for the Environment, New York City leaders are proposing initiatives to reduce energy consumption by requiring owners of thousands of older buildings to upgrade everything.

"Planners asserted that the package, drafted by the offices of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, would result in $2.9 billion in private investment in building improvements by 2022 and generate 2,000 new jobs in energy auditing and related fields as well as thousands of temporary construction jobs.

City officials estimated that it would save property owners roughly $750 million a year in energy costs, city officials said. The program would begin in 2013, with 2,200 buildings performing audits and beginning upgrades each year for a decade."

However, All is Not a Done Deal. Apparently there will be Opposition from Property Owners. Stay Tuned.

Of course, We Cats have always been Green in our Energy Consumption. We don't use any more Energy than we Need to get things Done. We sleep 20 Hours a Day or so, and only Move if we Have to. We process our Food very Efficiently and Clean Up using our own Tongues - no Water or Electricity needed. Humans could Learn a Lot from Cats. But of course, the Tongue thing would be a Bit Difficult for Them. They have so little Flexibility.

In Other News, Astronomers may have found another Planet that's a lot like Earth. It's about 20 Light Years Away, and it's more the Right Size and Location to possibly harbor Water and other elements needed for Life As We Know It than some of the Others they have located. We are probably Not Alone in the Universe. Of course, the Real Question is, are there Cats on other Planets?

On a Less Cheerful Note, General Motors is planning Close most of their Plants for 9 weeks this Summer to Save Money. They have enough Cars for Six Months as it is, so why make more? Of course, this will be Bad News for the local Economy around the Plants since all those poor Workers won't get Paid for those 9 weeks.

To end on a Lighter Topic, Maureen Dowd wrote about Twitter in today's NY Times. She is a Skeptic, and I can understand that. As a Cat, I still do not See the Fascination with Twitter. I do have a Catbook page on Facebook and I see why Facebook is Fun. But Twitter is more of a Chore as far as I can see. Who has time to log in and Tweet all the time? I would rather Catch Birds that Tweet than Tweet Myself! But of course I'm a Cat, and we have Different Needs from Humans.

With that, I will Sign Off and wish you a Happy Rest of the Week. Have some Catnip and play with your Mousie-Birds and I'll see you Next Week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Haiku Thursday

To all of Baxter's fans, he will be back after we return from our trip up to the Adirondacks this weekend. In the meantime, here is a quick roundup of some of the news - in haiku form!

Tax Day has now passed...
The "tea parties" are over
What a bunch of jerks.

True hypocrisy
To be protesting spending

Now that Bush is gone.

If you missed it all
Jon Stewart summarized it
Go check out the link.

Fox News can spin it
But this movement's not grass roots
It's right-wing sponsored.

It's pretty funny
They call themselves "teabaggers"
What were they thinking?

But there's crazy talk
It's not a laughing matter
There's danger afoot.

On to lighter news,
Obama keeps pleasing me
With his good ideas.

Our new president
Is a fan of high speed trains.

I think it's just great.

In beautiful France
Their high-speed trains go so far
In such a short time.

If I had my choice
Of an airplane or a train
I would take the train.

You can bring your dog
And maybe even your cat
Without a worry.

Not all is perfect
Obama's got some issues
We need to address.

In Afghanistan
Some prisoners are denied
Habeas Corpus.

Click on this link here
Colbert rips him a new one
Hope he was watching.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Theocracy and Why It's Not Christian

Although I'm a couple of days late with this, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to participate in the Blog Against Theocracy.

I thought I'd take a different tack this year and explain why embedding "Christianity" into our government is not a Christian thing to do. There are several reasons for this, straight out of the Bible.

First of all, Jesus said His kingdom "is not of this world." He also told His disciples to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." To me, these statements mean that the teachings of Jesus were separate from what the government was doing; He never expected people to revise the government's laws to reflect His teachings, but instead wanted His followers to live by them in their personal lives.

The other reason theocracy isn't a Christian idea is that it shows a lack of empathy for others. Jesus' teachings also include "love thy neighbor as thyself" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This means having empathy with people who are different from you and trying to see things from their point of view. Obviously people who have rigid beliefs that they want to enforce on everyone in the country are not thinking of the other person's point of view at all.

The Bible, and sadly, Christianity itself, have been used as an excuse for everything from outright war (the Crusades), to bigotry (saying the Bible forbade interracial marriage, for instance, in the past - and gay marriage now). Jesus never talked about any of this. He said "turn the other cheek." If He were here today He would be horrified at much of what is done in His name.

There is a distinct lack of imagination on the part of those who want to make THEIR "Christian" beliefs part of our federal laws. They perceive that their way is the "right" way and that all other beliefs are wrong. They are unable to imagine being in the other person's shoes, the person who is the minority, who has a different belief.

They don't realize that the separation of Church and State was created to protect the minority believers. If these good "Christians" lived in a Muslim country, their beliefs would be the minority beliefs and their freedom to believe would be threatened. But they can't imagine themselves in that same place so they are unable and unwilling to understand.

The founders of our nation separated Church and State for good reasons. They realized you can't have freedom OF religion without freedom FROM religion. Only when religion is not part of the governing body can religious people, of all kinds, thrive and believe (or not believe) as they wish.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blogging Difficulties!

I owe a blog post for the Blog Against Theocracy; and for that matter, it's been almost a week since my last post. To be honest, I just hadn't gotten the muse over the weekend what with getting ready for Easter dinner and grocery shopping and various other excursions.

Now I had determined to sit down and write my blog post against theocracy. But this is what my screen looks like right now (imagine that the screen behind Baxter is my blog in its current new format).

I had a whole theme in mind for what I was going to write about. But how can I concentrate with this in front of my screen?

So I guess I'll have to leave my theocracy post for tomorrow. In the meantime, isn't it great that the Obamas have finally gotten their dog? Here is the full story of how this particular Portuguese Water Dog ended up in the White House. Although the Obamas did not get the First Dog from a shelter, Bo was kind of a rescue - he was originally adopted by someone who had an older dog of the same breed and let's just say things didn't quite work out. (The older dog did not appreciate the puppy thinking that perhaps she was his mother).

So all was well that ended well - Bo is now the most famous dog in the country and the Obama girls have their puppy, which, after all, is the point of it all.

Tomorrow I hope to post my belated Theocracy blog post. Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Another Victory!

Great news from Vermont - the legislature there overrode the governor's veto and Vermont has now become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage. And, it's the first state to do so through the votes of the legislature rather than a court decision.

The dominoes are falling, one by one!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here, back for another Weekly Roundup of the news. As you see above, this is yet another New Picture of Me. Hope you like it.

Well, my Female Human has found yet Another Distraction: Blip. It's like Twitter but with Music. You can just upload songs All Day Long. And post them on Twitter. There is No End to this Sort of Thing.

It was finally Springlike today and That Dog spent a Lot of Time Outside, which was great for Me because I got to curl up next to the Male Human and enjoy some Companionship for a change, without being Bothered. Then for awhile all of Them were Outside and I got the House to Myself and had plenty of Time to Surf the Internet for News. So without Further Ado, here is my Weekly Roundup:

In international News, North Korea launched some kind of Rocket to show the Rest of the World how Powerful they are getting; but it kind of Fizzled. After all the Hype, the thing just went down in the Pacific. But it is still a Grave Threat since North Korea has Nukes and who knows when they may be able to reach Us? Something Must be Done.

Interestingly, President Obama got the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call about the Launch of the Missile; except it was at 4:30 a.m. Close Enough.

Those who doubt the Reality of Climate Change should be Aware that a big Chunk of Antarctica is about to Fall into the Sea. The Ice Shelf lost about 14% of its Mass last year, and has been melting since the 1990s. In a Somewhat-Related Development, the Obama Administration is working to Limit the size of Cruise Ships that tour Antarctica in order to Protect the Environment.

Global Warming is also Endangering a cute little Furry Creature called the Pika. These Pika things can't live in Hot Weather and their Habitat is getting Warmer, which is Bad News for Them. Of course, as a Cat, I look at a Pika as something Good to Eat. But being an Indoor Cat, I will never have a Chance to Eat one. They are probably going to put it on the Endangered Species List. Here is a Picture of one of the Little Fellows:

Here at Home, it has not been a Good Week in General. In Binghamton, NY, a Man gunned down 13 People in a Civic Association, while in Pittsburgh, another Man killed 3 Police Officers in a shootout. And those NRA People still think it's a Good Idea to have Guns? Please!

In More Positive News, the President and First Lady have been making a Tour of it in Europe, meeting the Royal Family, greeting Youthful Supporters, meeting other World Leaders at the G20 Meeting, and More. Michelle's Wardrobe was a Topic of Much Discussion in addition to the Political Stuff. It seems to have been a Successful Trip so far, which is a Good Thing.

And of course, the Best News of the Week was the Decision by Iowa's Supreme Court that legalized Gay Marriage. Marriages will begin as soon as April 24th. And more Good News - this Newly Won Right won't go away anytime soon:

"The county attorney who defended the law said he would not seek a rehearing. The only recourse for opponents appeared to be a constitutional amendment, which couldn't get on the ballot until 2012 at the earliest."

Now, you wouldn't think a Cat would be that Concerned about the Marriage Customs of Humans. But we Cats are very strongly Independent and believe in being Allowed to do Whatever We Want. And we feel that All Humans should have the Same Rights to do what they Want.

With that, I will Sign Off, and wish all of you Humans out there, and your Cats (and I suppose, your Dogs) a Very Good Week. I hear the Weather is going to be Cold and Rainy again on Tuesday. Have some Catnip and try to get through it. Spring will be here for Good sooner or later!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Playing, Whining and Thanking!

Well, first of all, you will notice I've changed my blog format. I just felt as if it needed a little freshening up for Spring. It's still a work in progress; I may fiddle with it some more.

As for the whining part, what is it with this weather? It is gray, depressing and really windy out today. It's April. Why isn't it springlike yet? I want to be out in the garden, cleaning up old leaves and other leftover debris from last year. But it's just not nice enough out. The trees and bushes are showing a few tentative buds and there are some crocuses poking up their heads in the yard but it just isn't warm enough yet for anything really impressive to bloom.

I feel as if I've been stuck in the house for months. Oh yeah, that's right - I have been stuck in the house for months.

I love the warm weather, love being able to be outside on the deck or in the garden. It isn't fair that we have winter 6 months a year here in New Jersey. Sure, you can get a nice day once in awhile as late as November or as early as March, but really, you can't enjoy the outdoors here until May, and can't really go outside after October. So why do I live here? A question for the ages.

Moving on...I am trying to catch up with all of the things I've been missing due to my recent addiction to Facebook and Scrabble. I realize that I have neglected to thank two people for awards! One is Utah Savage, and the other, Liberality. These fine bloggers have seen fit to bestow the Sisterhood Award on me so I am finally, belatedly, thanking them both! Rather than re-spread this award to people who have already gotten it anyway, I just want you to read all the bloggers I enjoy. There are so many wonderful female bloggers I read, please go visit all of the links on my sidebar that are written by women! And for that matter, there are a lot of great guys over there too. Go, read, enjoy!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Great News from Iowa!

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2007 ruling that marriage should not be limited to one man and one woman this morning!

This means that in Iowa, gay marriage will now be legal starting April 24th. And, no residency requirements. This is great news for the GLBT community and for everyone in this country who believes in equal rights for all.

New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire may be next if all goes well. However, Vermont will have to contend with a possible veto by the governor.

"Vermont's Senate this week joined the House in overwhelmingly voting in favor of gay marriage, though it's unclear whether a threatened veto by Gov. Jim Douglas can be overridden. New Hampshire's House passed a marriage bill in March, which now awaits a Senate vote. In New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine has pledged to sign a gay marriage bill that has been introduced in the legislature."

It's happening, people - one state at a time!